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The greatness of Italy in the past and the painful situation under his eyes lead Dante to a violent invective against Italy. In Divine Comedy (Purgatory, VI) the affectionate meeting of two Mantuan fellow citizens, Sordello and Virgilio, arouses in Dante a bitter and ruthless apostrophe against Italy of its time, land of tyrants, of pain and malpractice, similar to a ship without captain in the stormy sea. The inhabitants of the same city hate ...

and tear each other and there is no peace in any area. The work of Emperor Justinian, who gave adequate laws to Italy, is useless, because the laws are not enforced. Instead of dedicating themselves to sacred things, ecclesiastics take possession of secular power, in the absence of the political authority desired by God himself to curb Italy, like a wild mare. The imperial authority is lacking, because Rodolfo d'Asburgo and his son Alberto do not care about Italy, the garden of the Empire. Dante then invites their successor, Henry VII of Luxembourg, to come and see the discord that reigns in Italy, a country that, like an abandoned bride, awaits him weeping night and day. It seems that even Christ has forgotten it, perhaps for a greater future good. The invective against Italy ends with an ironic lash in Florence, which makes laws that do not last from October to November.
The lash to Italy is born of a boundless love of the Florentine poet for what he called “The Beautiful Country” (“Il Bel Paese”). "What Dante did not love Italy, who will ever want to say? He too was forced, as any other has ever truly loved her, or never will love her, to scourge her in blood, and show her all her nudity, so that she feels shame” (so the poet Ugo Foscolo in Discourse on the text of the Divine Comedy).
Italy (humble) dreamed of by Dante has a model: Camilla, the legendary warrior virgin, mentioned in the book XI of Virgil's
Aeneid. Camilla recalls the Amazzoni Ippolita and Pentesilea, Giuturna the sister of Turno loved by a god, the Saracen Clorinda, the maiden of Orleans Santa Giovanna d'Arco. Emulous of Diana, to whom her father consecrated her still in swaddling clothes. Camilla represents the Italian people who fight for their freedom and Dante honors her in the Divine Comedy, remembering her as the first martyr for the freedom of our homeland: “of that humble Italy health / for which the virgin Cammilla died" (Hell, I, 106-107).
But let's see the passionate lash by Dante in
Purgatory.

 

THE DIVINE COMEDY - PURGATORY

VI: 76-151

O Italy, you slave, you inn of grief,

ship without helmsman in a mighty tempest,

mistress, not of provinces, but of a brothel!

 Ahi serva Italia, di dolore ostello,

nave sanza nocchiere in gran tempesta,

non donna di province, ma bordello!

 

That gentle spirit was quick,

then, to greet his fellow-citizen,

at the mere mention of the sweet name of his city,

  Quell'anima gentil fu così presta,

sol per lo dolce suon de la sua terra,

di fare al cittadin suo quivi festa;

 

yet, now, the living do not live there without conflict,

and, of those, that one wall and one moat

shuts in, one rends the other. 

 e ora in te non stanno sanza guerra

li vivi tuoi, e l'un l'altro si rode

di quei ch'un muro e una fossa serra.

 

Wretched country, search the shores of your coastline,

and then gaze into your heart,

to see if any part of you is at peace.

  Cerca, misera, intorno da le prode

le tue marine, e poi ti guarda in seno,

s'alcuna parte in te di pace gode.

 

What use is it for Justinian to have renewed,

the law, the bridle, if the saddle is empty?

The shame would be less if it were not for that.

  Che val perché ti racconciasse il freno

Iustiniano, se la sella è vota?

Sanz'esso fora la vergogna meno.

 

Ah, race, that should be obedient,

and let Caesar occupy the saddle,

if only you understood what God has told you!

  Ahi gente che dovresti esser devota,

e lasciar seder Cesare in la sella,

se bene intendi ciò che Dio ti nota,

 

see how vicious this creature has become,

through not being corrected by his spurs,

since he has set his hand to the bridle.

  guarda come esta fiera è fatta fella

per non esser corretta da li sproni,

poi che ponesti mano a la predella.

 

O Albert of Germany, you abandon her,

she, who has become wild and wanton,

you, who should straddle her saddle-bow,

  O Alberto tedesco ch'abbandoni

costei ch'è fatta indomita e selvaggia,

e dovresti inforcar li suoi arcioni,

 

may just judgement fall on your blood,

from the stars, and let it be strange and obvious,

so that your successor may learn to fear it,

  giusto giudicio da le stelle caggia

sovra 'l tuo sangue, e sia novo e aperto,

tal che 'l tuo successor temenza n'aggia!

 

since you and your father, held back

by greed, over there, have allowed

the garden of the Empire to become a wasteland.

  Ch'avete tu e 'l tuo padre sofferto,

per cupidigia di costà distretti,

che 'l giardin de lo 'mperio sia diserto.

 

Careless man, come and look at the Montagues

and Capulets, the Monaldi and Filippeschi:

 those who are already saddened, and those who fear to be.

  Vieni a veder Montecchi e Cappelletti,

Monaldi e Filippeschi, uom sanza cura:

color già tristi, e questi con sospetti!

 

Come, cruel one, come and see the oppression

of your nobles, and tend their sores,

and you will see how secure Santafiora of the Aldobrandeschi is.

  Vien, crudel, vieni, e vedi la pressura

d'i tuoi gentili, e cura lor magagne;

e vedrai Santafior com'è oscura!

 

Come and see your Rome, who mourns,

widowed and alone, crying night and day:

‘My Caesar, why do you not keep me company?’

  Vieni a veder la tua Roma che piagne

vedova e sola, e dì e notte chiama:

«Cesare mio, perché non m'accompagne?».

 

Come and see how your people love each other:

and if pity for us does not stir you, come,

and be ashamed, for the sake of your fame.

  Vieni a veder la gente quanto s'ama!

e se nulla di noi pietà ti move,

a vergognar ti vien de la tua fama.

 

And, if it is allowed for me to say, O highest Jupiter,

who was crucified on earth for us,

are your just eyes turned elsewhere?

  E se licito m'è, o sommo Giove

che fosti in terra per noi crucifisso,

son li giusti occhi tuoi rivolti altrove?

 

Or are you preparing some new good,

that is completely hidden

from our sight?

 O è preparazion che ne l'abisso

del tuo consiglio fai per alcun bene

in tutto de l'accorger nostro scisso?

 

For the cities of Italy are full of tyrants,

and every peasant, that comes to take sides,

becomes a Marcellus, against the Empire.

  Ché le città d'Italia tutte piene

son di tiranni, e un Marcel diventa

ogne villan che parteggiando viene.

 

My Florence, you may well rejoice

at this digression, which does not affect you,

thanks to your populace that reasons so clearly.

  Fiorenza mia, ben puoi esser contenta

di questa digression che non ti tocca,

mercé del popol tuo che si argomenta.

 

Many people have justice in their hearts, but they let it

fly slowly, since it does not come to the bow without much counsel:

yet your people have it always at their lips.

  Molti han giustizia in cuore, e tardi scocca

per non venir sanza consiglio a l'arco;

ma il popol tuo l'ha in sommo de la bocca.

 

Many people refuse public office:

but your people answer eagerly

without being called, and cry: ‘I bend to the task.’

  Molti rifiutan lo comune incarco;

ma il popol tuo solicito risponde

sanza chiamare, e grida: «I' mi sobbarco!».

 

Now be glad, since you have good reason for it:

you who are rich, at peace, full of wisdom.

If I speak truly, the fact will not belie it.

  Or ti fa lieta, ché tu hai ben onde:

tu ricca, tu con pace, e tu con senno!

S'io dico 'l ver, l'effetto nol nasconde.

 

Athens and Sparta that framed

the ancient laws, and were so rich in civic arts,

gave a mere hint of how to live well,

  Atene e Lacedemona, che fenno

l'antiche leggi e furon sì civili,

fecero al viver bene un picciol cenno

 

compared to you, who makes such subtle provision

 that what you spin in October

does not last till mid-November.

  verso di te, che fai tanto sottili

provedimenti, ch'a mezzo novembre

non giugne quel che tu d'ottobre fili.

 

 How often in the time you remember,

you have altered laws, money, offices and customs,

and renewed your limbs!

 Quante volte, del tempo che rimembre,

legge, moneta, officio e costume

hai tu mutato e rinovate membre!

 

And if you consider carefully, and see clearly,

you will see yourself like the sick patient,

who finds no rest on the bed of down,

  E se ben ti ricordi e vedi lume,

vedrai te somigliante a quella inferma

che non può trovar posa in su le piume,

 

but by twisting about, escapes her pain.

  ma con dar volta suo dolore scherma.

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