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 Canto XX
      Among those of the fifth cornice, Hugh Capet records illustrious examples
 of voluntary poverty and of bounty; then tells who himself is, and speaks of
 his descendants on the French throne; and, lastly, adds some noted instances
 of avarice. When he has ended, the mountain shakes, and all the spirits sing
 "Glory to God."
 Ill strives the will, 'gainst will more wise that strives:
 His pleasure therefore to mine own preferr'd,
 I drew the sponge yet thirsty from the wave.
 Onward I moved: he also onward moved,
 Who led me, coasting still, wherever place
 Along the rock was vacant; as a man
 Walks near the battlements on narrow wall.
 For those on the other part, who drop by drop
 Wring out their all - infecting malady,
 Too closely press the verge. Accurst be thou,
 Inveterate wolf![1] whose gorge ingluts more prey,
 Than every beast beside, yet is not fill'd;
 So bottomless thy maw. Ye spheres of Heaven!
 To whom there are, as seems, who attribute
 All change in mortal state, when is the day
 Of his appearing,[2] for whom fate reserves
 To chase her hence? With wary steps and slow
 We pass'd; and I attentive to the shades,
 Whom piteously I heard lament and wail;
 And, 'midst the wailing, one before us heard
 Cry out "O blessed Virgin!" as a dame
 In the sharp pangs of childbed; and "How poor
 Thou wast," it added, "witness that low roof
 Where thou didst lay thy sacred burden down.
 O good Fabricius! thou didst virtue choose
 With poverty, before great wealth with vice."
 [1: "Wolf." Avarice.]
 [2: He is thought to allude to Can Grande della Scala. See Hell,
 Canto i. 98.]
 The words so pleased me, that desire to know
 The spirit, from whose lip they seem'd to come,
 Did draw me onward. Yet it spake the gift
 Of Nicholas,[3] which on the maidens he
 [3: An angel having revealed to him that the father of a family was
 so impoverished as to resolve on exposing the chastity of his three daughters
 to sale, Nicholas threw in at the window of their house three bags of money,
 containing a sufficient portion for each of them.]
 Bounteous bestow'd, to save their youthful prime
 Unblemish'd. "Spirit! who dost speak of deeds
 So worthy, tell me who thou wast," I said,
 "And why thou dost with single voice renew
 Memorial of such praise. That boon vouchsafed
 Haply shall meet reward; if I return
 To finish the short pilgrimage of life,
 Still speeding to its close on restless wing."
 "I," answer'd he, "will tell thee; not for help,
 Which thence I look for; but that in thyself
 Grace so exceeding shines, before thy time
 Of mortal dissolution. I was root[4]
 Of that ill plant, whose shade such poison sheds
 O'er all the Christian land, that seldom thence
 Good fruit is gather'd. Vengeance soon should come,
 Had Ghent and Douay, Lille and Bruges power;[5]
 And vengeance I of Heaven's great Judge implore.
 Hugh Capet was I hight: from me descend
 The Philips and the Louis, of whom France
 Newly is govern'd: born of one, who plied
 The slaughterer's trade[6] at Paris. When the race
 Of ancient kings had vanish'd (all save one[7]
 Wrapt up in sable weeds) within my gripe
 I found the reins of empire, and such powers
 Of new acquirement, with full store of friends,
 That soon the widow'd circlet of the crown
 Was girt upon the temples of my son,[8]
 He, from whose bones the anointed race begins.
 [4: "Root." Hugh Capet, ancestor of Philip IV.]
 [5: These cities had lately been seized by Philip IV. The spirit
 intimates the approaching defeat of the French army by the Flemings, in the
 battle of Courtrai, which happened in 1302.]
 [6: "The slaughterer's trade." This reflection on the birth of his
 ancestor induced Francis I to forbid the reading of Dante in his dominions.
 Hugh Capet, who came to the throne of France in 987, was, however, the
 grandson of Robert, who was the brother of Eudes, King of France in 888; and
 it may, therefore, well be questioned whether by Beccaio di Parigi is meant
 literally one who carried on the trade of a butcher, at Paris, and whether the
 sanguinary disposition of Hugh Capet's father is not stigmatized by this
 opprobrious appellation.]
 [7: The posterity of Charlemain, the second race of French monarchs,
 had failed, with the exception of Charles of Lorraine, who is said, on account
 of the melancholy temper of his mind, to have always clothed himself in black.
 Venturi suggests that Dante may have confounded him with Childeric III, the
 last of the Merovingian, or first, race, who was deposed and made a monk in
 [8: Hugh Capet caused his son Robert to be crowned at Orleans.]
 Till the great dower of Provence[9] had removed
 The stains, that yet obscured our lowly blood,
 Its sway indeed was narrow; but howe'er
 It wrought no evil: there, with force and lies,
 Began its rapine: after, for amends,
 Poitou it seized, Navarre and Gascony.
 To Italy came Charles; and for amends,
 Young Conradine,[10] an innocent victim, slew;
 And sent the angelic teacher[11] back to Heaven,
 Still for amends. I see the time at hand,
 That forth from France invites another Charles[12]
 To make himself and kindred better known.
 Unarm'd he issues, saving with that lance,
 Which the arch - traitor tilted with,[13] and that
 He carries with so home a thrust, as rives
 The bowels of poor Florence. No increase
 Of territory hence, but sin and shame
 Shall be his guerdon; and so much the more
 As he more lightly deems of such foul wrong.
 I see the other[14] (who a prisoner late
 [9: "The great dower of Provence." Louis IX and his brother Charles
 of Anjou married two of the four daughters of Raymond Berenger, Count of
 Provence. See Paradise, c. vi. 135.]
 [10: "Young Conradine." Charles of Anjou put Conradino to death in
 1268, and became King of Naples.]
 [11: "The angelic teacher." Thomas Aquinas. He was reported to have
 been poisoned by a physician, who wished to ingratiate himself with Charles of
 Anjou. "In the year 1323, at the end of July, by the said Pope John and by his
 cardinals, was canonized at Avignon, Thomas Aquinas, of the order of Saint
 Dominic, a master in divinity and philosophy. A man most excellent in all
 science, and who expounded the sense of Scripture better than anyone since the
 time of Augustin. He lived in the time of Charles I, King of Sicily; and going
 to the council at Lyons, it is said that he was killed by a physician of the
 said king, who put poison for him into some sweetmeats, thinking to ingratiate
 himself with King Charles, because he was of the lineage of the Lords of
 Aquino, who had rebelled against the king, and doubting lest he should be made
 cardinal; whence the Church of God received great damage. He died at the abbey
 of Fossanova, in Campagna." G. Villani, lib. ix.]
 [12: "Another Charles." Charles of Valois, brother of Philip IV, was
 sent by Pope Boniface VIII to settle the disturbed state of Florence. In
 consequence of the measures he adopted for that purpose, our Poet and his
 friends were condemned to exile and death.]
 [13: "_______ with that lance." If I remember right, in one of the
 old romances, Judas is represented tilting with our Saviour.]
 [14: "The other." Charles, King of Naples, the eldest son of Charles
 of Anjou, having, contrary to the directions of his father, engaged with
 Ruggieri de Lauria, the admiral of Peter of Arragon, was made prisoner, and
 carried into Sicily, June, 1284. He afterward, in consideration of a large sum
 of money, married his daughter to Azzo VIII, Marquis of Ferrara.]
 Had stept on shore) exposing to the mart
 His daughter, whom he bargains for, as do
 The Corsairs for their slaves. O avarice!
 What canst thou more, who hast subdued our blood
 So wholly to thyself, they feel no care
 Of their own flesh? To hide with direr guilt
 Past ill and future, lo! the flower - de - luce[15]
 Enters Alagna; in his Vicar Christ
 Himself a captive, and his mockery
 Acted again. Lo! to his holy lip
 The vinegar and gall once more applied;
 And he 'twixt living robbers doom'd to bleed.
 Lo! the new Pilate, of whose cruelty
 Such violence cannot fill the measure up,
 With no decree to sanction, pushes on
 Into the temple[16] his yet eager sails.
 [15: "The flower-de-luce." Boniface VIII was seized at Alagna in
 Campagna, by the order of Philip IV, in the year 1303, and soon after died of
 grief. G. Villani, lib. viii. cap. lxiii. "As it pleased God, the heart of
 Boniface being petrified with grief, through the injury he had sustained, when
 he came to Rome, he fell into a strange malady, for he gnawed himself as one
 frantic, and in this state expired." His character is strongly drawn by the
 annalist in the next chapter. Thus, says Landino, was verified the prophecy of
 Celestine respecting him, that he should enter on the popedom like a fox,
 reign like a lion, and die like a dog.]
 [16: It is uncertain whether our Poet alludes still to the event
 mentioned in the preceding note, or to the destruction of the order of the
 Templars in 1310, but the latter appears more probable.]
 "O sovran Master! when shall I rejoice
 To see the vengeance, which Thy wrath, well - pleased,
 In secret silence broods? - While daylight lasts,
 So long what thou didst hear of her, sole spouse
 Of the Great Spirit, and on which thou turn'dst
 To me for comment, is the general theme
 Of all our prayers; but, when it darkens, then
 A different strain we utter; then record
 Pygmalion, whom his gluttonous thirst of gold
 Made traitor, robber, parricide: the woes
 Of Midas, which his greedy wish ensued,
 Mark'd for derision to all future times:
 And the fond Achan,[17] how he stole the prey,
 That yet he seems by Joshua's ire pursued.
 Sapphira with her husband next we blame;
 And praise the forefeet, that with furious ramp
 [17: "Achan." Joshua vii.]
 Spurn'd Heliodorus.[18] All the mountain round
 Rings with the infamy of Thracia's king,[19]
 Who slew his Phrygian charge: and last a shout
 Ascends: 'Declare, O Crassus![20] for thou know'st,
 The flavour of thy gold.' The voice of each
 Now high, now low, as each his impulse prompts,
 Is led through many a pitch, acute or grave.
 Therefore, not singly, I erewhile rehearsed
 That blessedness we tell of in the day:
 But near me, none, beside, his accent raised."
 [18: "Heliodorus." "For there appeared unto them an horse, with a
 terrible rider upon him, and adorned with a very fair covering, and he ran
 fiercely and smote at Heliodorus with his fore feet." 2 Maccabees iii. 25.]
 [19: "Thracia's king." Polymnestor, the murderer of Polydorus. Hell,
 Canto xxx. 19.]
 [20: "Crassus." Marcus Crassus, who fell miserably in the Parthian
 From him we now had parted, and essay'd
 With utmost efforts to surmount the way;
 When I did feel, as nodding to its fall,
 The mountain tremble; whence an icy chill
 Seized on me, as on one to death convey'd.
 So shook not Delos, when Latona there
 Couch'd to bring forth the twin - born eyes of Heaven.
 Forthwith from every side a shout arose
 So vehement, that suddenly my guide
 Drew near, and cried: "Doubt not, while I conduct thee."
 "Glory!" all shouted (such the sounds mine ear
 Gather'd from those, who near me swell'd the sounds),
 "Glory in the highest be to God." We stood
 Immovably suspended, like to those,
 The shepherds, who first heard in Bethlehem's field
 That song: till ceased the trembling, and the song
 Was ended: then our hallow'd path resumed,
 Eying the prostrate shadows, who renew'd
 Their custom'd mourning. Never in my breast
 Did ignorance so struggle with desire
 Of knowledge, if my memory do not err,
 As in that moment; nor through haste dared I
 To question, nor myself could aught discern.
 So on I fared, in thoughtfulness and dread.