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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/294

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256
[CANTO II.
THE PROPHECY OF DANTE.

And make thee Europe's Nightingale of Song;[1]
So that all present speech to thine shall seem30
The note of meaner birds, and every tongue
Confess its barbarism when compared with thine.[2]
This shalt thou owe to him thou didst so wrong,
Thy Tuscan bard, the banished Ghibelline.
Woe! woe! the veil of coming centuries
Is rent,—a thousand years which yet supine
Lie like the ocean waves ere winds arise,
Heaving in dark and sullen undulation,
Float from Eternity into these eyes;
The storms yet sleep, the clouds still keep their station,
The unborn Earthquake yet is in the womb,41
The bloody Chaos yet expects Creation,
But all things are disposing for thy doom;
The Elements await but for the Word,
"Let there be darkness!" and thou grow'st a tomb!
Yes! thou, so beautiful, shalt feel the sword,[3]
Thou, Italy! so fair that Paradise,
Revived in thee, blooms forth to man restored:
Ah! must the sons of Adam lose it twice?
Thou, Italy! whose ever golden fields,50
Ploughed by the sunbeams solely, would suffice
For the world's granary; thou, whose sky Heaven gilds[4]

With brighter stars, and robes with deeper blue;
  1. [In his defence of the "mother-tongue" as a fitting vehicle for a commentary on his poetry, Dante argues "that natural love moves the lover prinapally to three things: the one is to exalt the loved object, the second is to be jealous thereof, the third is to defend it ... and these three things made me adopt it, that is, our mother-tongue, which naturally and accidentally I love and have loved." Again, having laid down the premiss that "the magnanimous man always praises himself in his heart; and so the pusillanimous man always deems himself less than he is," he concludes, "Wherefore many on account of this vileness of mind, depreciate their native tongue, and applaud that of others; and all such as these are the abominable wicked men of Italy, who hold this precious mother-tongue in vile contempt, which, if it be vile in any case, is so only inasmuch as it sounds in the evil mouth of these adulterers."—Il Convito, caps, x., xi., translated by Elizabeth Price Sayer, 1887, pp. 34-40.]
  2. —— when matched with thine.—[MS. Alternative reading.]
  3. [With the whole of this apostrophe to Italy, compare Purgatorio, vi. 76-127.]
  4. From the world's harvest ——.—[MS. Alternative reading.]