“Florence, within her ancient limit-mark,
Which calls her still 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, that caught the eye
More than the person did. Time was not yet,
When 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 of its family; nor yet had come
Hardanapalus, to exhibit feats
Of chamber prowess. Montemalo yet
O’er our suburban turret rose; as much
To be surpass in fall, as in its rising.
I saw Bellincione Berti walk abroad
In leathern girdle and a clasp of bone;
And, with no artful colouring on her cheeks,
His lady leave the glass. The sons I saw
Of Nerli and of Vecchio well content
With unrob’d jerkin; and their good dames handling
The spindle and the flax; O happy they!
Each sure of burial in her native land,
And none left desolate a-bed for France!
One wak’d 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, lectur’d them
Old tales of Troy and Fesole and Rome.
A Salterello and Cianghella we
Had held as strange a marvel, as ye would
A Cincinnatus or Cornelia now.
“In such compos’d and seemly fellowship,
Such faithful and such fair equality,
In so sweet household, Mary 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.
“From Valdipado came to me my spouse,
And hence thy surname grew. I follow’d then
The Emperor Conrad; and his knighthood he
Did gird on me; in such good part he took
My valiant service. After him I went
To testify against that evil law,
Whose people, by the shepherd’s fault, possess
Your right, usurping. There, by that foul crew
Was I releas’d from the deceitful world,
Whose base affection many a spirit soils,
And from the martyrdom came to this peace.”
O slight respect of man’s nobility!
I never shall account it marvelous,
That our infirm affection here below
Thou mov’st to boasting, when I could not choose,
E’en in that region of unwarp’d desire,
In heav’n itself, but make my vaunt in thee!
Yet cloak thou art soon shorten’d, for that time,
Unless thou be eked out from day to day,
Goes round thee with his shears. Resuming then
With greeting such, as Rome, was first to bear,
But since hath disaccustom’d I began;
And Beatrice, that a little space
Was sever’d, smil’d reminding me of her,
Whose cough embolden’d (as the story holds)
To first offence the doubting Guenever.