“Whose great verse blares
Like your own trumpeter at Marathon,—” (vol. i. p. 169.)
He recalls his readers to the “business” of the poem:
fate of such
As find our common nature—overmuch
Despised because restricted and unfit
To bear the burthen they impose on it—
Cling when they would discard it; craving strength
To leap from the allotted world, at length
They do leap,—flounder on without a term,
Each a god’s germ, doomed to remain a germ
In unexpanded infancy, unless....” (pp. 170, 171.)
admits that the story sounds dull; but suggests the possibility of its containing an agreeable surprise. An amusing anecdote to this effect concludes the chapter.
We are now introduced to Taurello Salinguerra: a fine soldier-like figure; the type of elastic strength in both body and mind. We are told that he possesses the courage of the fighter, the astuteness of the politician, the knowledge and graces of the man of leisure. He has shown himself capable of controlling an Emperor, and of giving precedence to a woman. He is young at sixty, while the son who is half his age, is “lean, outworn and really old.” And the crowning difference between him and Sordello is this: that while Sordello only draws out other men as a means of displaying himself, he only displays himself sufficiently to draw out other men. “His choicest instruments” have “surmised him shallow.”
He is in his palace at Ferrara, musing over the past—that past which held the turning-point of his career; which began the feud between himself and the now Guelph princes, and which naturally merged him in the Ghibelline cause. He remembers how the fathers of the present Este and San Bonifacio combined to cheat him out of the Modenese heiress who was to be his bride—how he retired to Sicily, to return with a wife of the Emperor’s own house—how his enemies surprised him at Vicenza. He sees his old comrade Eccelino, so passive now, so brave and vigorous then. He sees the town as they fire it together: the rush for the gates: the slashing, the hewing, the blood hissing and frying on the iron gloves. His spirit leaps in the returning frenzy of that struggle and flight. It sinks again as he thinks of Elcorte—Adelaide’s escape—her rescued child; his own doom in the wife and child who were not rescued.
“And now! he has effaced himself in the interests of the Romano house. Its life has grafted itself on his own; and to what end? The Emperor is coming. His badge and seal, already in Salinguerra’s hands, bestow the title of Imperial Prefect on whosoever assumes the headship of the Ghibellines in the north of Italy; and Eccelino, its proper chief, recoils; withdraws even his name from the cause. Who shall wear the badge? None so fitly as himself, who holds San Bonifacio captive—who has dislocated if not yet broken the Guelph right arm. Yet, is it worth his while? Shall he fret his remaining years? Shall he rob his old comrade’s son?” He laughs the idea to scorn....