Poetry of Dante Alighieri
The Divine Comedy - Paradiso

Paradiso: Canto XVI

O thou our poor nobility of blood,
  If thou dost make the people glory in thee
  Down here where our affection languishes,

A marvellous thing it ne'er will be to me;
  For there where appetite is not perverted,
  I say in Heaven, of thee I made a boast!

Truly thou art a cloak that quickly shortens,
  So that unless we piece thee day by day
  Time goeth round about thee with his shears!

With 'You,' which Rome was first to tolerate,
  (Wherein her family less perseveres,)
  Yet once again my words beginning made;

Whence Beatrice, who stood somewhat apart,
  Smiling, appeared like unto her who coughed
  At the first failing writ of Guenever.

And I began: "You are my ancestor,
  You give to me all hardihood to speak,
  You lift me so that I am more than I.

So many rivulets with gladness fill
  My mind, that of itself it makes a joy
  Because it can endure this and not burst.

Then tell me, my beloved root ancestral,
  Who were your ancestors, and what the years
  That in your boyhood chronicled themselves?

Tell me about the sheepfold of Saint John,
  How large it was, and who the people were
  Within it worthy of the highest seats."

As at the blowing of the winds a coal
  Quickens to flame, so I beheld that light
  Become resplendent at my blandishments.

And as unto mine eyes it grew more fair,
  With voice more sweet and tender, but not in
  This modern dialect, it said to me:

"From uttering of the 'Ave,' till the birth
  In which my mother, who is now a saint,
  Of me was lightened who had been her burden,

Unto its Lion had this fire returned
  Five hundred fifty times and thirty more,
  To reinflame itself beneath his paw.

My ancestors and I our birthplace had
  Where first is found the last ward of the city
  By him who runneth in your annual game.

Suffice it of my elders to hear this;
  But who they were, and whence they thither came,
  Silence is more considerate than speech.

All those who at that time were there between
  Mars and the Baptist, fit for bearing arms,
  Were a fifth part of those who now are living;

But the community, that now is mixed
  With Campi and Certaldo and Figghine,
  Pure in the lowest artisan was seen.

O how much better 'twere to have as neighbours
  The folk of whom I speak, and at Galluzzo
  And at Trespiano have your boundary,

Than have them in the town, and bear the stench
  Of Aguglione's churl, and him of Signa
  Who has sharp eyes for trickery already.

Had not the folk, which most of all the world
  Degenerates, been a step-dame unto Caesar,
  But as a mother to her son benignant,

Some who turn Florentines, and trade and discount,
  Would have gone back again to Simifonte
  There where their grandsires went about as beggars.

At Montemurlo still would be the Counts,
  The Cerchi in the parish of Acone,
  Perhaps in Valdigrieve the Buondelmonti.

Ever the intermingling of the people
  Has been the source of malady in cities,
  As in the body food it surfeits on;

And a blind bull more headlong plunges down
  Than a blind lamb; and very often cuts
  Better and more a single sword than five.

If Luni thou regard, and Urbisaglia,
  How they have passed away, and how are passing
  Chiusi and Sinigaglia after them,

To hear how races waste themselves away,
  Will seem to thee no novel thing nor hard,
  Seeing that even cities have an end.

All things of yours have their mortality,
  Even as yourselves; but it is hidden in some
  That a long while endure, and lives are short;

And as the turning of the lunar heaven
  Covers and bares the shores without a pause,
  In the like manner fortune does with Florence.

Therefore should not appear a marvellous thing
  What I shall say of the great Florentines
  Of whom the fame is hidden in the Past.

I saw the Ughi, saw the Catellini,
  Filippi, Greci, Ormanni, and Alberichi,
  Even in their fall illustrious citizens;

And saw, as mighty as they ancient were,
  With him of La Sannella him of Arca,
  And Soldanier, Ardinghi, and Bostichi.

Near to the gate that is at present laden
  With a new felony of so much weight
  That soon it shall be jetsam from the bark,

The Ravignani were, from whom descended
  The County Guido, and whoe'er the name
  Of the great Bellincione since hath taken.

He of La Pressa knew the art of ruling
  Already, and already Galigajo
  Had hilt and pommel gilded in his house.

Mighty already was the Column Vair,
  Sacchetti, Giuochi, Fifant, and Barucci,
  And Galli, and they who for the bushel blush.

The stock from which were the Calfucci born
  Was great already, and already chosen
  To curule chairs the Sizii and Arrigucci.

O how beheld I those who are undone
  By their own pride! and how the Balls of Gold
  Florence enflowered in all their mighty deeds!

So likewise did the ancestors of those
  Who evermore, when vacant is your church,
  Fatten by staying in consistory.

The insolent race, that like a dragon follows
  Whoever flees, and unto him that shows
  His teeth or purse is gentle as a lamb,

Already rising was, but from low people;
  So that it pleased not Ubertin Donato
  That his wife's father should make him their kin.

Already had Caponsacco to the Market
  From Fesole descended, and already
  Giuda and Infangato were good burghers.

I'll tell a thing incredible, but true;
  One entered the small circuit by a gate
  Which from the Della Pera took its name!

Each one that bears the beautiful escutcheon
  Of the great baron whose renown and name
  The festival of Thomas keepeth fresh,

Knighthood and privilege from him received;
  Though with the populace unites himself
  To-day the man who binds it with a border.

Already were Gualterotti and Importuni;
  And still more quiet would the Borgo be
  If with new neighbours it remained unfed.

The house from which is born your lamentation,
  Through just disdain that death among you brought
  And put an end unto your joyous life,

Was honoured in itself and its companions.
  O Buondelmonte, how in evil hour
  Thou fled'st the bridal at another's promptings!

Many would be rejoicing who are sad,
  If God had thee surrendered to the Ema
  The first time that thou camest to the city.

But it behoved the mutilated stone
  Which guards the bridge, that Florence should provide
  A victim in her latest hour of peace.

With all these families, and others with them,
  Florence beheld I in so great repose,
  That no occasion had she whence to weep;

With all these families beheld so just
  And glorious her people, that the lily
  Never upon the spear was placed reversed,

Nor by division was vermilion made."