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 Canto XV
      The spirit of Cacciaguida, our Poet's ancestor, glides rapidly to the
 foot of the cross; tells who he is; and speaks of the simplicity of the
 Florentines in his days, since then much corrupted.
 True love, that ever shows itself as clear
 In kindness, as loose appetite in wrong,
 Silenced that lyre harmonious, and still'd
 The sacred cords, that are by Heaven's right hand
 Unwound and tighten'd. How to righteous prayers
 Should they not hearken, who, to give me will
 For praying, in accordance thus were mute?
 He hath in sooth good cause for endless grief,
 Who, for the love of thing that lasteth not,
 Despoils himself forever of that love.
 As oft along the still and pure serene,
 At nightfall, glides a sudden trail of fire,
 Attracting with involuntary heed
 The eye to follow it, erewhile at rest;
 And seems some star that shifted place in Heaven,
 Only that, whence it kindles, none is lost,
 And it is soon extinct: thus from the horn,
 That on the dexter of the cross extends,
 Down to its foot, one luminary ran
 From mid the cluster shone there; yet no gem
 Dropp'd from its foil: and through the beamy list,
 Like flame in alabaster, glow'd its course.
 So forward stretch'd him (if of credence aught
 Our greater muse may claim) the pious ghost
 Of old Anchises, in the Elysian bower,
 When he perceived his son. "O thou, my blood!
 O most exceeding grace divine! to whom,
 As now to thee, hath twice the heavenly gate
 Been e'er unclosed?" So spake the light: whence I
 Turn'd me toward him; then unto my dame
 My sight directed: and on either side
 Amazement waited me; for in her eyes
 Was lighted such a smile, I thought that mine
 Had dived unto the bottom of my grace
 And of my bliss in Paradise. Forthwith,
 To hearing and to sight grateful alike,
 The spirit to his proem added things
 I understood not, so profound he spake:
 Yet not of choice, but through necessity,
 Mysterious; for his high conception soar'd
 Beyond the mark of mortals. When the flight
 Of holy transport had so spent its rage,
 That nearer to the level of our thought
 The speech descended; the first sounds I heard
 Were, "Blest be thou, Triunal Deity!
 That hast such favour in my seed vouchsafed."
 Then follow'd. "No unpleasant thirst, though long,
 Which took me reading in the sacred book,
 Whose leaves or white or dusky never change,
 Thou hast allay'd, my son! within this light,
 From whence my voice thou hear'st: more thanks to her,
 Who, for such lofty mounting, has with plumes
 Begirt thee. Thou dost deem thy thoughts to me
 From Him transmitted, who is first of all,
 E'en as all numbers ray from unity;
 And therefore dost not ask me who I am,
 Or why to thee more joyous I appear,
 Than any other in this gladsome throng.
 The truth is as thou deem'st; for in this life
 Both less and greater in that Mirror look,
 In which thy thoughts, or e'er thou think'st, are shown.
 But, that the love, which keeps me wakeful ever,
 Urging with sacred thirst of sweet desire,
 May be contented fully; let thy voice,
 Fearless, and frank, and jocund, utter forth
 Thy will distinctly, utter forth the wish,
 Whereto my ready answer stands decreed."
 I turn'd me to Beatrice; and she heard
 Ere I had spoken, smiling an assent,
 That to my will gave wings; and I began:
 "To each among your tribe, what time ye kenn'd
 The nature, in whom naught unequal dwells,
 Wisdom and love were in one measure dealt;
 For that they are so equal in the Sun,
 From whence ye drew your radiance and your heat,
 As makes all likeness scant. But will and means,
 In mortals, for the cause ye well discern,
 With unlike wings are fledged. A mortal, I
 Experience inequality like this;
 And therefore give no thanks, but in the heart,
 For thy paternal greeting. This howe'er
 I pray thee, living topaz! that ingemm'st
 This precious jewel; let me hear thy name."
 "I am thy root,[1] O leaf! whom to expect
 Even, hath pleased me." Thus the prompt reply
 Prefacing, next it added: "He, of whom[2]
 [1: "I am thy root." Cacciaguida, father to Alighieri, of whom our
 Poet was the great - grandson.]
 [2: "He, of whom." "Thy great - grandfather, Alighieri, has been in
 the first round of Purgatory more than a hundred years; and it is fit that
 thou by thy good deserts shouldst endeavor to shorten the time of his
 remaining there." His son Bellincione was living in 1266; and of him was born
 the father of our Poet, whom Benvenuto da Imola calls a lawyer by profession.]
 Thy kindred appellation comes, and who,
 These hundred years and more, on its first ledge
 Hath circuited the mountain, was my son,
 And thy great - grandsire. Well befits, his long
 Endurance should he shorten'd by thy deeds.
 "Florence, within her ancient limit - mark,
 Which calls her still[3] to matin prayers and noon,
 Was chaste and sober, and abode in peace.
 She had no armlets and no head - tires then;
 No purfled dames; no zone, the caught the eye
 More than the person did. Time was not yet,
 When[4] at his daughter's birth the sire grew pale,
 For fear the age and dowry should exceed,
 On each side, just proportion. House was none
 Void[5] of its family: nor yet had come
 Sardanapalus,[6] to exhibit feats
 Of chamber prowess. Montemalo[7] yet
 O'er our suburban turret[8] rose; as much
 To be surpass in fall, as in its rising.
 I saw Bellincion Berti[9] walk abroad
 In leathern girdle, and a clasp of bone;
 And, with no artful colouring on her cheeks,
 [3: The public clock being still within the circuit of the ancient
 [4: When the women were not married at too early an age, and did not
 expect too large a portion.]
 [5: Through the civil wars and banishments. Or he may mean that
 houses were not formerly built merely for show, nor of greater size than was
 necessary for containing the families that inhabited them.]
 [6: The luxurious monarch of Assyria.]
 [7: Either an elevated spot between Rome and Viterbo; or Monte Mario,
 the site of the villa Mellini, commanding a view of Rome.]
 [8: Uccellatojo, near Florence, whence that city was discovered.
 Florence had not yet vied with Rome in the grandeur of her public buildings.]
 [9: "Bellincion Berti." Hell, Canto xvi. 38, and notes. "And observe
 that in the time of the said people (A. D. 1259), and before and for a long
 time after, the citizens of Florence lived soberly, on coarse viands, and at
 little cost, and in many customs and courtesies of life were rude and
 unpolished; and dressed themselves and their women in coarse cloths: many wore
 plain leather, without cloth over it; bonnets on their heads; and all, boots
 on the feet; and the Florentine women were without ornament; the better sort
 content with a close gown of scarlet cloth of Ypres or of camlet, bound with a
 girdle in the ancient mode, and a mantle lined with fur, and a hood to it,
 which was worn on the head; the common sort of women were clad in a coarse
 gown of Cambrai in like manner . . . and with their coarse way of living and
 poverty [the Florentines] did greater and more virtuous deeds than have been
 done in our times with greater refinement and wealth." - G. Villani, lib. vi.
 c. lxxi.]
 His lady leave the glass. The sons I saw
 Of Nerli, and of Vecchio,[10] well content
 With unrobed jerkin; and their good dames handling
 The spindle and the flax: O happy they!
 Each[11] sure of burial in her native land,
 And none left desolate a - bed for France.
 One waked to tend the cradle, hushing it
 With sounds that lull'd the parent's infancy:
 Another, with her maidens, drawing off
 The tresses from the distaff, lectured them
 Old tales of Troy, and Fesole, and Rome.
 A Salterello and Cianghella[12] we
 Had held a strange a marvel, as ye would
 A Cincinnatus or Cornelia now.
 [10: Two opulent families in Florence.]
 [11: "Each." "None fearful either of dying in banishment, or of being
 deserted by her husband on a scheme of traffic in France."]
 [12: The latter of shameless woman of the family of Tosa, married to
 Lito degli Alidosi of Imola: the former Lapo Salterello, a lawyer, with whom
 Dante was at variance. "We should have held an abandoned character, like
 these, as a great wonder, as ye would the contrary now."]
 "In such composed and seemly fellowship,
 Such faithful and such fair equality,
 In so sweet household, Mary[13] at my birth
 Bestow'd me, call'd on with loud cries; and there,
 In your old baptistery, I was made
 Christian at once and Cacciaguida; as were
 My brethren, Eliseo and Moronto.
 [13: "Mary." The Virgin was invoked in the pains of child - birth.
 Purgatory, Canto xx.21.]
 "From Valdipado[14] came to me my spouse;
 And hence thy surname grew. I follow'd then
 The Emperor Conrad:[15] and his knighthood he
 Did gird on me; in such a good part he took
 My valiant service. After him I went
 To testify against that evil law,
 Whose people,[16] by the Shepherd's fault, possess
 Your right usurp'd. There I by that foul crew
 Was disentangled from the treacherous world
 [14: Cacciaguida's wife, whose family name was Alighieri, came from
 Ferrara, called Val di Pado, from its being watered by the Po.]
 [15: "Conrad." The Emperor Conrad III, who died in 1152.]
 [16: The Mohammedans, who were left in the possession of the Holy
 Land, through the supineness of the Pope. See Canto iv. 123.]
 Whose base affection many a spirit soils;
 And from the martyrdom came to this peace."