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Told to the Children
Illustrated by R. T. Rose
e-KİTAP PROJESİ & CHEAPEST BOOKS
Copyright, 2017 by e-Kitap Projesi
© All rights reserved. No part of this book shell be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or by any information or retrieval system, without written permission form the publisher.
DANTE AND BEATRICE
DANTE'S DREAM JOURNEY
THE GREEN MEADOW
THE DISMAL SWAMP
THE CLOSED GATES
THE LIVING FOREST
THE MONSTER GERYON
THE MOUNT OF PURGATORY
THE GATE OF PURGATORY
THE TREMBLING MOUNT
THE CLEANSING FIRE
* * *
IN the far-off days when Dante lived, those who wrote books wrote them in the Latin tongue.
Dante himself wrote the first seven cantos of his great poem in Latin. But like many another poet, he was not satisfied with his first attempt. He flung the seven Latin cantos aside and seemingly forgot all about them, for when he was banished from Florence the poem he had begun was not among his treasures.
His wife, however, found the seven cantos and tossed them into a bag among her jewels. Then she also seemed to forget all about them.
Five years later a nephew of Dante chanced to find the long-forgotten verses. He at once sent them to his uncle, who was still living in exile.
When Dante received the cantos he had written so long ago, he believed that their recovery was a sign from Heaven that he should complete the great poem he had begun.
He therefore set to work afresh, but this time he wrote, not in Latin, but in his own beautiful mother-tongue, which was, as you know, Italian.
When at length the great poem was finished, Dante named it simply, "The Comedy," and it was not until many years after his death that the title was changed into "The Divine Comedy."
A comedy was a tale which might be as sad as tale could be, so only that it ended in gladness.
In "The Divine Comedy," then, about which this little book tells, you may expect to find much that is sad, much that is terrible. Yet you may be certain that before the end of the tale you will find in it gladness and joy.
MORE than six hundred years have passed since a little Italian boy, named Durante Alighieri, was born in Florence.
The boy grew under the sunny skies, even as the flowers grew in the beautiful city of his birth, tall, straight, strong.
While he was still a little lad, his school-fellows, as schoolboys will, found a name of their own for their comrade.
Dante they called him, finding thus a shorter, easier name than his baptismal one, Durante. Dante was the name that clung to the lad when schooldays were left behind, and Dante was still the name by which he was known when in long after years he became Italy's most famous poet.
Spring was a gladsome time in the City of Flowers, as Florence was often called. Spring! She was welcomed with the smiles and the laughter of little children; she was greeted with the tears and the memories of the old.
Early in the month of May, when cold winds no longer blew down from the mountains, when green leaves danced and flowers bloomed fragrant in the sunlight, early in the month of May merry festivals were held.
May-day, indeed, in the City of Flowers, was the children's day.
When Dante was nine years old his father took him to one of these May-day festivals.
At the feast Dante saw among the boys and girls one little maiden, so fair, so beautiful, that his eyes had no sooner fallen upon her than he loved her with all his heart.
Beatrice was the maiden's name, and she was but a year younger than Dante himself.
The little boy watched Beatrice as she ran hither and thither among the bright spring flowers, but no word did he speak. Perhaps he was too shy.
However that may be, it was many years later that he first heard the voice of Beatrice. Yet never did he forget the May-day when his eyes had lighted on the little maid and love had sprung up in his heart. The colour of her frock, the girdle which she wore, the ornaments that bedecked her simple beauty, Dante could tell you all about them in long after years.
And because he remembered so well, we have a picture of Beatrice, the little Florentine maiden, clad in her frock of rich dark crimson. We can see the girdle that held the little gown in place fastened around her waist; we can catch the gleam of her necklace as she tosses back her long, fair hair.
Though Dante and Beatrice both lived in Florence they did not often see one another. Yet so great was Dante's love for the maiden that he would watch the narrow streets for many a long hour, that he might catch if it were but a glimpse of her whom he reverenced and adored.
Once, nine long years after the May-day when first he saw her, Dante heard the voice of Beatrice. She was walking in the street between two ladies, when, seeing him, she turned to greet him graciously ere she passed onward. Dante stood quite still when Beatrice had left him, glad, bewildered.
A few days later Dante grew ill, so ill indeed that he lay in bed suffering great pain. And as he lay thus a terrible thought crept into his mind, perhaps because he himself was so weak.
"Beatrice, the most noble Beatrice, must one day die," was the thought that came to trouble Dante as he tossed upon his bed. Nor would it leave him, but ever as he grew weaker he cried, "Beatrice must one day die, the noble Beatrice must die."
Then, as he grew yet more feeble, Dante had a strange vision. He beheld many ladies passing along a road, and they were weeping and wondrous sad. The sun grew dark and the stars grew pale, and birds, even as they spread their wings for flight, fell stricken to the ground, while the earth shook as with a great storm.
And it seemed to Dante that a man stood by his bed and said to him, "Hast thou not heard the tidings? Dead is thy lady that was so fair."
Hearing these words Dante wept and gazed toward heaven, and behold, a multitude of angels were flying upward, and before them they bore a little cloud of exceeding whiteness.
BEFORE THEM THEY BOR A LITTLE CLOUD OF EXCEEDING WHITENESS.
In his dream Dante knew that the little cloud was the soul of Beatrice. He heard also the angels, as they floated upward, singing Hosanna, Hosanna!"
Then said the man who stood beside his bed, "Come and behold thy lady." And Dante saw the body of Beatrice, and her women were covering her head with a white veil.
Now those who were nursing Dante saw the tears falling from his eyes, and they wondered why he wept. And he, waking from his dream, told them how he had seen his lady's soul, as a little white cloud, soaring upward, and his lady's body lying quiet and still on earth.
Then they who tended him soothed his trouble and told him he had but dreamed, and Dante, knowing their words were true, rested, and ere long grew strong and well.
But he did not forget his dream. He would sit in his own room writing love-songs in honour of his lady and thinking of the vision he had seen. And then one day as he wrote he heard that Beatrice was indeed dead.
Dante was crushed with grief. Florence, the city that was so full of people, seemed all at once to have become empty. Beatrice was dead.
He would sit for long hours quiet and listless, caring for nothing, heedless too of all that was passing in his beloved city. Beatrice had left him, and to Dante nothing seemed of any worth.
Then, when his sadness was deepest, Dante dreamed a wonderful dream. In this dream he saw once more the lady whom he loved so well. She was dwelling in the Paradise of God, among the angels, more fair, more radiant than of old.
Dante awoke, sad no longer. He had seen his lady, and he believed that she could see him and could help him too, though she no longer dwelt upon earth.
He knew he would never forget the wonderful vision he had seen, yet he determined to write his dream in a book. It should be a book singing the praises of his lady who dwelt beyond the stars.
And in after years, when Dante had studied, that he might write more worthily than ever before of her he loved, he did indeed tell his dream in a wonderful poem. It was thus that the Divine Comedy was given to the world.
BUT before Dante wrote his great poem trouble befell him.
In those days there was no King of Italy, for each Italian city had its own ruler.
The city of Florence was governed by magistrates chosen by the people, but their power lasted only for two short months.
There were, as you may easily suppose, many quarrels among the citizens of Florence as to who should rule over them, and often they would be divided into two great parties.
So fierce was the strife between these two parties, that the one which was in power would avenge itself on the other by banishing it from the city. Such banishment brought with it great loss and sorrow, for to the citizens of Florence their city was very dear. How could they work for her welfare when they had been robbed of their property and were without her walls?
Dante grew up amid the strife of his countrymen, and their quarrels grieved him so greatly that when he was old enough he tried to make peace prevail among the citizens. But the strife was too fierce to be overcome by his efforts.
Now when Dante was about thirty-five years of age, a Florentine, named Donati, invited Charles, a brother of the King of France, into Florence.
Donati hoped, with the aid of Charles, to secure the government of Florence for himself and his party.
Charles came, as he was invited, into Florence, and Donati and his followers joined the French prince and fought against those who were opposed to him.
When they were victorious Donati and his party sent many of the Florentines who had fought against them into exile.
Dante was among these banished citizens, and, for he loved his city well, he was overcome with grief and indignation at his sentence.
It was indeed a cruel one, for it not only sent him into exile, but it said that should he ever attempt to enter Florence again he would be burned alive.
Now about three years after the death of Beatrice Dante had married Gemma, a kins woman of Donati. When he was forced to leave Florence he left Gemma and his children in the city, knowing that they would be safe with Donati the victorious citizen.
Year after year Dante hoped that he would be allowed to return to the city of his birth. But the years passed and still he was a wanderer, enduring many hardships, for he had no money to make his journeys less toilsome.
Yet Dante could bear the hardships of his lot better than he could bear his poverty, for he had a proud spirit, which chafed and grew bitter when he was forced to accept help from others.
Sometimes Dante taught in the universities as he journeyed through Italy, sometimes he did work for the government of his country. Often he was the guest of princes and nobles, yet however kindly he was treated, Dante suffered, for ever his pride whispered to him that he was but a servant, dependent on the whims and fancies of these princes and nobles.