The walls of the presence-chamber have fallen away. Imaginary faces are crowding around him. He turns to these. He shows them human life as the poet’s mirror reflects it: in its varied masquerade, in its mingled good and evil, in its steady advance; in the rainbow brightness of its obstructed lights; the deceptive gloom of its merely repeated shadows. He enforces in every tone that continuity of the plan of creation to which the poet alone holds the clue. Finally, in the name of the unlimited truth, the limited opportunity, the one duty which confronts him now, the People whose support, in his performance of it, he may claim for the first time, he forbids the Emperor’s coming, and invokes Salinguerra’s protection for the Guelph cause.
Salinguerra is moved at last, though not in the intended way. He does not yield to Sordello’s enthusiasm, but he sees that it is worth employing. There is no question of his becoming a Guelph, but why should not Sordello turn Ghibelline? The cause requires a youth to “stalk, and bustle, and attitudinize;” and he clearly thinks this is all the youth before him wants to do, whether conscious of the fact or not. He thinks the thought aloud. “Palma loves her minstrel; it is written in her eyes; let her marry him. Were she Romano’s son instead of his daughter, she could wear the Emperor’s badge. Himself fate has doomed to a secondary position. To contend against it is useless.” Before he knows what he has done, without really meaning to do it, he has thrown the badge across Sordello’s neck, and thus created him Eccelino’s successor.
It was a prophetic act. At the moment of its performance
each looked on each:
Up in the midst a truth grew, without speech.” (vol. i. p. 243.)
Palma’s moment is come, and she relates the story, as she received it from Adelaide, of Sordello’s birth. With blanched lips, and sweat-drops on his face, the old soldier takes the hand of his poet-son, and lays its consecrating touch on his own face and brow. Then, recovering himself, with his mailed arms on Sordello’s shoulders, he launches forth in an eager survey of the situation as it may shape itself for both. Palma at last draws him away, and Sordello, exhausted and speechless, is left alone. The two are in a small stone chamber, below the one they have left. Half-drunk with his new emotions, Salinguerra paces the narrow floor. His eyes burn; his tread strikes sparks from the stone. The future glows before him. He and Sordello combined will break up Hildebrand. They will rebuild Charlemagne; not in the brute force of earlier days; but as strength adorned with knowledge, as empire imposing law. Palma listens in satisfied repose; her task is done.