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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/281

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PREFACE.

In the course of a visit to the city of Ravenna in the summer of 1819, it was suggested to the author that having composed something on the subject of Tasso's confinement, he should do the same on Dante's exile,—the tomb of the poet forming one of the principal objects[1] of interest in that city, both to the native and to the stranger.

"On this hint I spake," and the result has been the following four cantos, in terza rima, now offered to the reader. If they are understood and approved, it is my purpose to continue the poem in various other cantos to its natural conclusion in the present age. The reader is requested to suppose that Dante addresses him in the interval between the conclusion of the Divina Commedia and his death, and shortly before the latter event, foretelling the fortunes of Italy in general in the ensuing centuries. In adopting this plan I have had in my mind the Cassandra of Lycophron,[2] and the Prophecy of Nereus

  1. [Compare—

    "I pass each day where Dante's bones are laid:
    A little cupola more neat than solemn,
    Protects his dust."

    Don Juan, Canto IV. stanza civ. lines 1-3.]

  2. [The Cassandra or Alexandra of Lycophron, one of the seven "Pleiades" who adorned the court of Ptolemy Philadelphus (third century B.C.), is "an iambic monologue of 1474 verses, in which Cassandra is made to prophesy the fall of Troy ... with numerous other historical events,... ending with [the reign of] Alexandra the Great." Byron had probably read a translation of the Cassandra by Philip Yorke, Viscount Royston (born 1784, wrecked in the Agatha off Memel, April 7, 1808), which was issued at Cambridge in 1806. The Alexandra forms part of the Bibliotheca Teubneriana (ed. G. Kinkel, Lipsiæ, 1880). For the prophecy of Nereus, vide Hor., Odes, lib. i. c. xv.]