Pagina:Baretti - Prefazioni e polemiche.djvu/114



Gaddo falling extended at my feet cried: — My father, why do not you help me? — and died. The other three expired one after the other between the fifth and sixth days, famished as thou seest me now. And I, being seized with blindness, began to go groping upon them with my hands and feet. I continued calHng them by their names during three days after they were dead. Then hunger vanquished my grief! — Saying this, with eyes ali fierce and wild, he took again that detested scull between his teeth, crashing it as a hungry mastiff does his prey».

The poet rap’d as in an enthusiastic fít of rage by the horrible relation of Ugolino, closeth this story with this most heavy malediction on the city of Pisa, of which the barbarous Ruggieri was archbishop:

Ahi Pisa, vituperio delle genti

del bel paese la, dove il si sona! ecc. (0.

Thus englished: «Ah Pisa, disgrace of the blest Italian land! since thy neighbours are slow in punishing thee, oh may Capraia and Gorgona (2) move from their foundations and blocking up the river Arno, force back its streams to overwhelm the cursed race in thee!»

I have cited these few passages of Dante not only to give the English reader, who is not acquainted with him in the originai, some idea of his poetry; but also to shew him that the Italian is falsely accused of effeminacy by Mr. Voltaire, or rather by those from whom he has humbly copied this opinion. The verses I have transcribed are so little effeminate, that every one who hears them read by a person who gives them their proper emphasis, although they do not understand them, will be convinced by the sound that they are as strong and sonorous as those in any other language. And if the reader would have a stili greater proof of the strength of our tongue, he needs

(i) XXXIII, vv. 79-84 [Ed.].

(2) Capraia and Gorgona are two little islands at the mouth of tlie river Arno, near which Pisa is situated.