“A shadow of Dante, being an essay towards studying himself, his world and his pilgrimage” (Extrait/Excerpt)

Barry Allen is Dante and Caitlin’s the she-wolf.

IN A.D. 1300, the year of the Jubilee; at dawn on the
25th of March, the Feast of the Annunciation, then
reckoned as New Year’s Day, and happening that year to
be also Maundy Thursday ; Dante, then nearly thirty-five,
and approaching the time of his election to the Priorato,
perceived himself to have wandered while half asleep from
the right path, and to be actually entangled in the mazes of
a dark wood. Before him rose a hill whose sides were
clothed with sunshine ; but no man walked thereon. Dante
took courage to begin the ascent, and had made some little
progress in climbing, the lower foot being ever the firmer,
when he found himself successively withstood and repelled
by three wild beasts, a swift Leopard, a raging Lion, and a
craving greedy Wolf These, but chiefly the last, were
gradually and irresistibly forcing him back upon the sun-
less plain, when suddenly he became aware that he was no
longer alone.

That, by the effecting of his evil thoughts,
Confiding in him, I was captured,
And after done to death, I need not tell.
Nevertheless, what thou canst not have heard, —
That is, how much my death was cruel, — thou
Shalt hear, and know whether he^’s injured me.
A scanty opening within the mew
Which has from me the name of Famine, and
Wherein it needs that others too be shut,
Had shown me through its loophole several moons
Already, when I had the evil sleep
Which rent away for me the future’s veil.
Master and lord this man unto me seemed.
Chasing the wolf and wolf-cubs to the mount
Because of which the Pisans see not Lucca.^
With bitches lean, and eager, and well-trained,
He had Gualandi, with Sismondi and
Lanfranchi,^ stationed in the front of him.
In little course, the father and the young
Seemed to me tired, and with the sharpened fangs
I seemed to see the flanks of them ripped up.
When I before the morrow was awake.
Weeping amid their sleep I heard my sons
Which were along with me, and asking bread.
Sure thou art cruel if thou grievest not
Already, thinking what was told my heart ;
And, if thou weep’st not, when art wont to weep ?
We now were wakened, and the hour approached
When food was customed to be brought to us,
And each was doubting, on his dream’s account :
And I heard locked the exit underneath

* ‘ Mount San Giuliano, which stands between the two cities.’
‘^ ‘ Three of the Ghibelline auxiliaries of the Archbishop. ‘

and of his death by starvation. 99

The horrible turret ; whereupon I looked

In my sons’ faces, saying not a word.

I wept not, I so petrified within :

They wept ; and said my Anselmuccio, ” Thou,

Father, art looking so ? How is ‘t with thee ? ”

I shed no tear, however, nor replied

The whole of that day, nor the after night,

Till issued in the world the other sun.

Whenas some little ray had got itself

Into the painful dungeon, and I marked

My selfsame aspect upon faces four,

I bit for anguish into both my hands :

And they, supposing I did that for need

Of eating, of a sudden raised themselves,

And said : ” ‘Twill give us, father, much less pain

If us thou eat’st of: thou induedst us

This miserable flesh, and doff it thou.”

I, not to make them sadder, stilled me then :

That and the next day we remained all dumb ;

Ah ! hardened earth, why openedst thou not ?

When to the fourth day we were come, before

My feet, distended, Gaddo threw himself,

Saying, ” My father, why not give me help ? ”

Herewith he died ; and, as thou seest me,

I saw the three fall one by one, between

The fifth day and the sixth : whereat I took,

Already blind, to groping over each,

And three days called them after they were dead.

Then fasting more availed than sorrowing.’

When he had spoken this, with eyes askew
He took again the wretched skull with teeth
Which like a dog’s upon the bone were strong.

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