Of Hugelino, Pisa’s lord, no tongue
For pity may his sorrow well declare.
For he with his three sons, poor babes as yet,
Immured in a tower, was left to die.
Alas! to keep such birds in such a cage
Was cruel sport.
In prison is he now condemned to die,
On a false charge, that one assoiled him of,
And stirred the people’s wrath to doom him thus.
But up to now his food at least had he,
Though scant and poor, yet it might him suffice.
Upon a day befell it at the hour
When his jailer was wont to bring his food
He heard the gate shut, but none came him near,
And in his heart the thought upgrew that they
Would starve and bring him foully to his death.
“Alas,” he cried, “that ever I was born!”
And from his eyelids fell the heavy tears.
His little son, that was three years of age,
Cried unto him, “O father, will they bring
Our dinner? Father, give me food, I die.”
And so he cried and wept thus day by day,
Till at the last, within his father’s arms
He lay and died. The father all distraught
Began to bite his arms and gnaw his hands,
And rail on Fortune for her cruel deed.
His children thinking that for hunger he
Thus bit his flesh, said to him, “Eat of us.
Thou gavest us life, take thou that life again.”
Yet they ere ever many days were sped,
Lay down within his arms and breathed their last.
Himself, bereft of all, of hunger died,
Cast to such doom from fortune’s high estate.
If you would further read of all this tale,
Go look to Dante, for he will not fail.
Never did captain, servant of a king,
Subdue in battle kingdoms more and great,
Nor more prevail in the fierce shock of fight,
Nor win from all his age more high renown,
Than did great Holofernes. Fortune blest
His steps, and led him up the steep of fame,
Till suddenly he fell and lost his life,
Ere yet he wist that danger threatened him.
Not for the loss of life and wealth alone
Did men him dread, but throughout every land
He would make folk their own true god deny.
“Nebuchadnezzar is God,” did he proclaim,
“No other God may here adored be.”
So in the land none dared his wrath provoke
Save where Eliachim the priest held rule.
Heed now what death befell this captain proud.
Amid his host he drunk and sleeping lay
Within his tent, large hung as is a barn,
And yet for all his pomp and all his might,
Came Judith secretly, and from his neck
Smote off his head and bore it to her town.
And none of all the guards knew what befell.——