Pagina:Baretti - Prefazioni e polemiche.djvu/112



the cursed shore, to which every mortai is doomed who fears not God».

Virgil and Dante pass the river also and enter the infernal regions, in the description of which the poet exerts a wonderful imagination. He divides Hell into many places of punishment, each of which contains a distinct class of sinners and transgressors of the laws of God, But his usuai uncatholic vein transports him into a corner of it, where there is a place designed for the souls of the ancient sages and pagan heroes, who were virtuous and pious when in the world. The place, although it is in Hell, is nevertheless most delightful; and there he finds that Brutus, who delivered Rome from the tyranny of the Tarquins, with Socrates, Plato, Anaxagoras, Thales, Hipocrates, Tully, Lavinia, Lucretia, Portia and many other ancient men and women, who dwell there in happiness.

The episodes of the poem in this part, called Hell, are made up of several stories related by the damned, one of which I will transcribe.

Dante meets with a Fiorentine count, named Ugolino, who is furiously gnawing the scull of a human body. He asks him the cause of his canine rage, and

La bocca sollevò dal fero pasto

quel peccator, forbendola a’ capelli, ecc. (i).

Thus englished: «Then the fell wretch, taking his mouth from the horrible repast, and wiping it with the hairs of that head, that with his teeth he had ali crashed hehind, began: — Must I then renew my black despair and speak what tears my heart but in reflection only? Yet, if my words will fix eternai infamy on the memory of the villain, whose head I am gnawing thus, I shall speak and weep at once... Know then that I am the count Ugolino, and this scull that thou beholdest was once the archbishop Ruggieri ’s. Thou shalt judge if I have not reason for this fell revenge. It is not necessary to teli thee in what manner he

(i) XXXIII, vv. 1-9, 13-21 [Ed.].