Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/291

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CANTO I.]
253
THE PROPHECY OF DANTE.

Spread his—by him unheard, unheeded—fame;
And mine at least hath cost me dear: to die
Is nothing; but to wither thus—to tame
My mind down from its own infinity—160
To live in narrow ways with little men,
A common sight to every common eye,
A wanderer, while even wolves can find a den,
Ripped from all kindred, from all home, all things
That make communion sweet, and soften pain—
To feel me in the solitude of kings
Without the power that makes them bear a crown—
To envy every dove his nest and wings
Which waft him where the Apennine looks down
On Arno, till he perches, it may be,170
Within my all inexorable town,

Where yet my boys are, and that fatal She,[1]
  1. This lady, whose name was Gemma, sprung from one of the most powerful Guelph families, named Donati. Corso Donati was the principal adversary of the Ghibellines. She is described as being "Admodum morosa, ut de Xantippe Socratis philosophi conjuge scriptum esse legimus," according to Giannozzo Manetti. But Lionardo Aretino is scandalised with Boccace, in his life of Dante, for saying that literary men should not marry. "Qui il Boccaccio non ha pazienza, e dice, le mogli esser contrarie agli studj; e non si ricorda che Socrate, il puì nobile filosofo che mai fusse, ebbe moglie e figliuoli e ufici nella Repubblica nella sua Città; e Aristotile che, etc., etc., ebbe due moglie in varj tempi, ed ebbe figliuoli, e ricchezze assai.—E Marco Tullio—e Catone—e Varrone—e Seneca—ebbero moglie," etc., etc. [Le Vite di Dante, etc., Firenze, 1677. pp. 22, 23]. It is odd that honest Lionardo's examples, with the exception of Seneca, and, for anything I know, of Aristotle, are not the most felicitous. Tully's Terentia, and Socrates' Xantippe, by no means contributed to their husbands' happiness, whatever they might do to their philosophy—Cato gave away his wife—of Varro's we know nothing—and of Seneca's, only that she was disposed to die with him, but recovered and lived several years afterwards. But says Lionardo, "L'uomo è animale civile, secondo piace a tutti i filosofi." And thence concludes that the greatest proof of the animal's civism is "la prima congiunzione, della quale multiplicata nasce la Città."

    [There is nothing in the Divina Commedia, or elsewhere in his writings, to justify the common belief that Dante was unhappily married, unless silence may be taken to imply dislike and alienation. It has been supposed that he alludes to his wife, Gemma Donati, in the Vita Nuova, § 36, "as a young and very beautiful lady, who was gazing upon me from a window, with a gaze full of pity," "who remembered me many times of my own most noble lady," whom he consented to serve "more because of her gentle goodness than from any choice" of his own (Convito, ii. 2, 7), but there are difficulties in the way of