121. Gianni Soldanier I believe beyond.
A Ghibelline who treacherously went over to the side of the Guelfs.
122. With Ganellon and Tebaldello.
“According to the romantic history of Charlemagne, Gano, or Ganellon, betrayed the Christian army at the battle of Roncesvalles, where Orlando and the peers of France were slain.”— Walter Scott, Note to Dryden’s Trans, of Chaucer, vol. xi. p. 343.
Tebaldello de’ Manfredi. He betrayed the city of Faenza, during the night, to the French.
130. Not otherwise jierce Tydeus in disdain.
Tydeus, being mortally wounded at the siege of Thebes by Menalippus, had his enemy slain and his head brought to him, upon which he exercised his revenge.—See Statins, Theb. 1. viii. CANTO XXXIII.
“In this last circle of hell, Dante beholds those who have betrayed their native land entombed in everlasting ice. One of them is Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, who by a series of treasons had made himself master of Pisa. The other head is that of Ruggieri degliUbaldini, Archbishop of that state, who by means no less criminal had effected the ruin of the count; and having seized him with four of his children or grandchildren, had left them to perish by famine in prison. Dante does not at first recognize them; and shudders when he sees Ugolino gnawing the skull of his murderer. He inquires into the motives of this savage enmity, and with the count’s reply this canto commences.”—Sismondi Ital. Lit. c. ix.
But to appreciate fully the beauties of this celebrated Canto, a fuller knowledge of the circumstances alluded to is required.
In the year 1284, the Guelfs of Tuscany conspired to take advantage of the great loss sustained by the Pisans, after their defeat by the Genoese, and destroy Pisa, the chief hold of the Ghibelline party. To dissolve this confederacy, the Pisans appointed as their Captain General for ten years, Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, a man of no principle, but possessing great talent and address, as well as great influence and connection with both parties.
The temptation offered by the situation he held was irresistible, and the intrigues he entered into to dissolve the league, were directed—not to preserve the independence of his country, but to secure to his own family the dominion of Pisa, by making friends with the neighbouring states. For this purpose several castles, it is said, were betrayed to Lucca and to Florence; and several Ghibelline families banished, who appeared most ready to oppose his ambitious views.
With the persecuted Ghibellines, his former friends, sided any Guelfs who viewed his proceedings with disgust; and at the head of the opposition was Nino, Judge of Gallura, a grandson of Ugolino himself. To overcome this opposition, Ugolino entered into alliance with Ruggieri, the Archbishop of the city. The combination succeeded, and the Judge of Gallura fled before their united forces. But Ugolino would not brook an associate; and the claim made by the Archbishop to a share in the government of the city, was haughtily refused. Ruggieri, however, was equally ambitious and crafty with the Count. He dissembled his resentment, and waited for an opportunity of revenge. This dissimulation he maintained on a subsequent occasion, when Ugolino, having established himself in power, stabbed one of Ruggieri’s nephews, who came with others to represent to the Count the scarcity of provisions, and reproached him as the cause. The Archbishop waited till he had conciliated Nino, and fully secured the assistance of the Ghibellines. Then having assembled the families of the Gualandi, Sismondi and Lanfranchi, with their adherents, (line 32,) he suddenly called the people to arms against the tyrant, accused him of betraying his country in surrendering its castles, attacked his palace, and after a long combat, took prisoners the Count Ugolino himself, two of his sons, and two grandsons, threw them into a dungeon, nailed the door, and starved them to death.
In the same year that the melancholy catastrophe of Francesca di Rimini took place, observes Ugo Foscolo, Dante heard of Count Ugolino and his children being starved to death in the tower of Pisa. “From that time,” says he, ” it is certain he meditated upon the stories, probably made sketches, and re-” touched them afterwards a thousand times; and after many years brought to perfection these two scenes so dissimilar; where neither the eye of the critic can discern the consummate art, nor the fancy of the poet reach it, nor any soul, how cold soever, not feel it; and where all appears simple nature, all ideal grandeur.”—Discorso, p. 317.
4. He then began: Thou bid’st me to renew
“Infandum, regina, jubes renovare dolorem.”—Am. ii. 3.
29. The he wolf and his young ones.
Count Ugolino is called a wolf, as being at the time a Guelf; the Ghibellines, his pursuers, are described as hounds.
30. Which shuts out Lucca from the Pisan’s view.
Mount Giuliano—situated between the two cities of Pisa and Lucca.
47. The entrance underneath with nails made fast.
“Ed io sentii chiavar l’uscio di sotto.”
An erroneous opinion prevails, that the gate of the tower was locked, and the keys thrown into the Arno; but the sound of locking the door had been heard every day, and was no novelty. The word “chiavare” means, to nail, and in the Paradiso (Canto xix. 105,) is used to express the nailing our Saviour to the cross.
4y. I wept not, for my heart was turned to stone.
“Even at this sight My heart is turned to stone.”
Second part, Henry VI. Act v. sc. 2.
80. Where ” Si” is spoken. Italy, where the affirmative ” Si” (yes) is used.
M. Let Capraia and Gorgona raise a mound.
Islands not far from the mouth of the Arno, on which the city of Pisa is situated.
91. We then arrived.
The circle of Ptolomea, so called, from Ptolemy, King of Egypt, who betrayed his friend Pompey.
105. Met hough t at such a depth all vapour failed.
As winds are caused by the influence of the sun, Dante expresses his surprise that in this low abyss, where the sun could not penetrate, any winds should prevail.
110. Exclaim’d: O souls, so cruel though ye be.
Virgil and Dante are taken for spirits proceeding to punishment in the nethermost abyss.
118. Friar Alberigo, be it known, he said.
One of the family of the Manfredi of Faenza, who feigning a wish to be reconciled to some of his brotherhood, (the Frati Gaudenti,) after a quarrel, invited them to a magnificent banquet. At the conclusion he called for the fruit, which was the signal for assassins to rush in and murder his guests. Hence one who had been stabbed was said to have tasted Friar Alberigo’s fruit. His fig being repaid with a date (line 120) is a proverbial expression—Thus we speak of repaying a man in his own coin.