In the mid-nineteenth century Francesco De Sanctis1 had polemically inaugurated our modern rediscovery of Dante by quarrying Farinata's flame-lit torso out of its Inferno tomb and raising it onto a secular pedestal for us to admire regardless of its ambiance; and there the powerfully sculpted monolith stayed for a long time, to affect the judgment of subsequent readers like Benedetto Croce2, Ernesto Parodi3, or Mario Sansone4. Even Erich Auerbach's penetrating analysis5 shows indebtedness to this substantially Romantic tradition. But already in 1931 Antonio Gramsci's caveat6 privately intervened to deny Farinata such a monopoly of Canto X's stage. For Gramsci, that Canto is shared by Farinata and Cavalcante, as it indeed is for us after the diversified contributions that followed (nor should we forget that strong intimations of this view had emerged in G. A. Borgese's vigorous essay7 on Dante's wrath).

      Another issue that De Sanctis' posterity has raised against his interpretation is a refusal to limit the poetical validity of Farinata's figure to the first part of the Ghibelline leader's exchange with Dante; the refusal, in other words, to accept De Sanctis' splitting of Farinata in two mutually irrelevant pieces. Cesare Bozzetti8, Mario Sansone, Gianfranco Contini9, Ettore Paratore10 have beautifully shown how far from monolithic Farinata is, and how subtly modulated in his transition from the belligerent to the didactic. All things told, although criticism has moved well beyond De Sanctis' one-sided position, it was that very onesidedness, along with the brilliance of his writing, that made him provocatively seminal to later readers of Dante, some of whom __ like Momigliano, Sapegno, or Salinari11 __ either agree with him on certain points or find it advisable to quote him extensively. Even a critic like Rocco Montano12, who has no use for De Sanctis, or like the very sensitive Irma Brandeis13, who denies Farinata's magnanimity because in him she sees only the heretic, has been dialectically motivated by De Sanctis' bold deconstruction of Dante's Inferno world to radicalize such basic dissent. On some of the above named interpreters (the Italian ones that came no later than 1965) Aurelia Accame Bobbio's review essay in Cultura e scuola14 offers a helpful perspective.

      If there is anything like progress in the interpretation of poetry, this would seem to be one salient case. We cannot go back to a pre-Desanctisian stance, whatever our standards; and the sophistication of critical analysis has reached so far and deep into this Canto X of Inferno that it threatens to leave very little to say that is «new». Philology has done its part to clear the ground of some exegetical tangles. Bozzetti and Scott15, for instance, have alerted us to a qualifying nuance in the meaning of the modifier «magnanimo» as applied to Farinata at line 73, while since Pagliaro's decoding16 the pronoun «cui» at line 63 can no longer refer to Virgil as a direct object of Guido's «disdain» but must point to Beatrice, «to whom» Virgil is here credited with taking Dante. Minority dissent persists on other points, like Farinata's self-definition as «troppo molesto» to his country, at line 27, for against the general consensus of readers equating that modifier with «obnoxious», Paratore, and Ronconi before him17, read it the other way around as an equivalent of Italian «inviso» (disliked, unwelcome).

      Whatever the approach, however, the text still confronts us with its inexhaustibility and invites a re-reading. It included us from the start as potential readers, for that is part of the Comedy's prophetic dimension, if we but heed Dante's intermittent addresses to the reader. We owe him a dialogue. And this prompts me to take sides with Bozzetti against Sansone in the matter of the Dantean text's interpretive jurisdiction. Bozzetti maintains that to do justice to Dante's writing we must heed the innuendoes, the unwritten counterpart of what is actually stated, while Sansone follows Croce in rebutting that only what is fully expressed counts. In this he could find support from an authoritative Dante philologist like Michele Barbi18, who in turn had disputed De Sanctis' argument that at line 33 («da la cintola in su tutto 'l vedrai») the modifier «tutto» involves far more than a sober physical description to suggest Farinata's great moral stature. For Barbi this would be forcing the text, but we must note that Barbi's limitation has remained unpopular with later critics.

      If Sansone and Barbi may usefully remind us of the dangers of overreading, they in turn incur the fault of underreading, a glaring fault vis-à-vis a poem like the Comedy which happens to be avowedly polysemous and referentially meshed in with so many historical facts, figures, and ideas. In the case of Inferno X the scruple of semantically circumscribing the text may end up flattening or mutilating it, in flagrant disregard of the clues planted by Dante at its very surface. Silences, innuendoes, ambiguities, and attendant misunderstandings seem to punctuate the exchanges between Dante and Virgil, between Dante and Cavalcante and even, at least momentarily, between Dante and the outspoken Farinata, to propel the dramatic utterance by sheer suspense.

      One instance of the flattening distortion perpetrated on the multidimensional text can be seen in Barbi's denial that Dante's and Guido Cavalcanti's parting of the ways, so unmistakably connoted at line 63 in the expression «forse cui Guido vostro ebbe a disdegno», is attributable to Guido's heretical or Averroist leanings. Barbi motivates this restrictive skepticism by lack of external evidence, but Bruno Nardi's work19 and Maria Corti's reading20 of Cavalcanti's doctrinal canzone «Donna me prega» (along with her documented discussion of radical Aristotelianism in Florence during Guido's time) seem now to go a long way toward filling that gap. Nor can we ignore the implications of Dante's placing his brother in art within the narrative (if not topographic) compass of Canto X. More cogently, Dante has inscribed Guido in the lexical texture of this Canto by reproducing at lines 65-67-69 a pivotal rhyme from «Donna me prega» in exactly the same rhyming words: nome: come: lume. Guido is thereby intensely evoked by his very absence, an absence dictated by the technical circumstance that the fictional time of Dante's meeting with his «first friend»'s father in Hell occurs about four months before Guido's death in August 1300. Heinrich Kuen, Charles Singleton, and Gianfranco Contini21 saw the intertextual presence of Cavalcanti in Dante's poetry, but we now owe the finest analysis of this theme to Teodolinda Barolini22. It is one accomplishment of Dante's dramatic genius to have made his erstwhile friend and literary mentor a hidden interlocutor in the animated conference that takes place among Virgil, himself, Farinata and Cavalcante père. Dante's complex relationship to Guido, from closeness to estrangement and ineradicable memory, becomes part of the resonance of this climactic passage, which banks on allusiveness no less than on firm directness of statement.

      The implicit subtends the explicit in an episode where Dante the pilgrim of the Beyond confronts a future that, to Dante the writer of the poem in progress, is already time past, fraught __ as Giorgio Petrocchi23 has pointed out __ with the responsibilities, both personal and communal, that have undergone some change with no loss of poignancy. In the act of writing Dante is privileged to turn the clock back, to undo the premature death of the friend who had presided over his literary initiation and whom he had eventually had to leave behind and, worse, to concur in exiling. Thus the explicitness of the irrevocable becomes the implicitness of potentiality, and the poet who was his only peer in «altezza d'ingegno» (great genius) is given his due while the man whose radical Averroist Aristotelianism had risked eternal damnation for him obtains a reprieve, a chance of salvation. Barolini is right in reading lines 110-111 (addressed to a by now reconciled Farinata): «Or direte dunque a quel caduto / che 'l suo nato è co' vivi ancor congiunto», as something more than the reassuring message to an aggrieved father that Guido is still physically alive; the overtone of Divine mercy is to be overheard in the expression « still linked to the living». The reconversion of time past into time present and future could never have poetically succeeded if it had failed to observe the vagueness of things glimpsed from a distance; if, in other words, it had indulged in spelling everything out without tact or tactic.

      In turn the dispute with Farinata about the communal past of that city which has such a strong claim on his, and Dante's, personal destiny, eventually retrieves the most recent part of Dante's own past from its historical finality to project it into a dim, threatening future through Farinata's prophecy of exile:

      Ma non cinquanta volte fia raccesa
la faccia de la donna che qui regge,
che tu saprai quanto quell'arte pesa.

But the face of the queen who reigns down here will glow not more than fifty times before you learn how hard it is to master such an art (vv. 79-81)

What remains implicit, and therefore indeterminate, are the specific circumstances of that exile, as well as of the vain attempts to reenter Florence, which existentially identifies Dante the White Guelph with the hapless Uberti Ghibellines whose harsh fate Farinata laments, and who in fact made common cause with the exiled White Guelphs.

      At this point, following Petrocchi's philologically buttressed considerations, we may have something to gain if we bypass the given text to steal a look into the biographical information that Dante the writer must perforce withhold out of respect to the historical situation of April 1300, the poem's fictional time. The pre-exilic Dante of 1300, involved though he was in the factional strife between White and Black Guelphs, still acted as an uncompromising Guelph who saw in Farinata and his family and party the traditional enemy. This comes through in Dante the character's rejoinders to Farinata. But after the heinous condemnation inflicted upon him by the finally victorious Blacks, Dante was among the Whites that joined forces with Ghibelline exiles to try and regain entrance into Florence; moreover, he had very probably met one of them, Lapo degli Uberti, also a poet, and his political views had changed considerably from factional Guelphism to a pro-Imperial stance attested by his ardent espousal of Henry VII's campaign in Italy and by the division-of-power theory set forth in De Monarchia. In recreating his younger, callower self for the climactic scene of Canto X he takes his distance from his later self, or rather brackets him for the sake of dramatic plausibility. Of course we cannot help sensing the changed attitude of Dante the writer in the moving recognition of a shared fate that marks a reconciliation with Farinata after the confrontation that verbally reenacted the seesaw of partisan fortunes, the bloody battles, the unhealing rift of civil war.

      Rehearsing his personal past and making it, through Farinata's voice, an offshoot of the earlier communal past that carried the seeds of fatal discord, the poet brings to a head for the first time all the major motifs of his newfangled epos: autobiographical, literary, political, and apocalyptic, focally convergent in the theme of the unforgiven beloved city that gave him birth and bitterness. Here in Hell, in this added exile which is temporary for its visitor and final for its denizens, Florence is first of all her language:

      «O Tosco che per la città del foco
vivo ten vai così parlando onesto,
piacciati di restare in questo loco.
      La tua loquela ti fa manifesto
di quella nobil patrïa natio
a la qual forse fui troppo molesto».

"O Tuscan walking through our flaming city, alive, and speaking with such elegance, be kind enough to stop here for a while. Your mode of speech identifies you clearly as one whose birthplace is that noble city with which in my time, perhaps, I was too harsh" (vv. 22-27).

      After so much perceptive commentary there is little need to expatiate on the poetical power of this famous passage and its sequel; yet certain aspects still invite analysis. To begin with, the force of the unexpected. Although Dante had already mentioned to Ciacco, in an earlier circle, his wish to know Farinata's whereabouts in Hell, and then intimated to Virgil in the present context his eagerness to see the Ghibelline hero (without naming the name), in the midst of the latter conversation he is taken completely by surprise. After all, Ciacco had simply told him that Farinata and the other distinguished fellow citizens were «among the blackest souls» in the lower circles of Hell, and Dante was merely guessing when he obliquely expressed his circumspect wish to Virgil. In this way the stage is set for the appearance of the formidable hero, and yet nothing lets pilgrim or reader expect it at this particular juncture. Farinata breaks into the conversation with the suddenness of lightning, and already in this gesture of the voice he delineates his character, the more so as, again quite unexpectedly, this forceful gesture ushers in a courteous, aristocratic eloquence instead of the rudeness it might have heralded. The mode of his entrance on stage is quite his own, as we can see by comparing it to Ciacco's, which was also memorable in its rhetorically elaborate way:

      «O tu che se' per questo 'nferno tratto»,
mi disse, «riconoscimi, se sai:
tu fosti, prima ch'io disfatto, fatto».

"O you there being led through this inferno," he said, "try to remember who I am, for you had life before I gave up mine" (VI. 40-42).

May we, however, note that Ciacco and Farinata alike, and later on Ser Brunetto Latini (Canto XV), each address Dante first, leaving to him the burden of recognition; this common trait marks the choreography of the intermittent Florence cantos, which set up a sequence of their own within the overall narrative system,24 for they are special stations of the journey into personal and ancestral memory. Temps perdu has a way of ambushing a man.

      Farinata is heard before he is seen, and his speech creates him for us before we have a chance, with Dante the pilgrim, to know who he is. As with so many Shakespearean characters, speech is portrayal and self-portrayal, speech is indeed dramatic action, a prime function of language in an eerie context of closure and estrangement where the doomed heretical sinner comes to life in his recognition of the Tuscan language as the common bond between himself and the unknown fellow-citizen with whom he will now have the unhoped-for chance to evoke their lost city right here, in the anti-city, the «city of fire» («la città del foco»). The estranging displacement of the familiar sharpens it and at the same time makes it strange in turn; an effect Dante managed at least as well as the best writers of science fiction. You wouldn't expect to hear a voice from your own hometown if you were temporarily or permanently confined to an infernal dungeon or to another planet.

      The effect, however, is no mere stage device in Dante's case but an intimate component of the poetry, of the transfiguring process that recovers time past and place lost by the double agency of distancing and reimmersion. That in the alienating distance of hell the image of Florence, the city both partners in the dialogue lost, should take shape aurally, as language, rather than visually, is imaginatively and logically congruous. It is also consistent with Dante's lifelong concern with language, a concern that runs through so much of his prose and poetry, from Vita Nuova to Convivio, from De Vulgari Eloquentia to Divine Comedy. As I have said elsewhere, one distinctive trait of the Divine Comedy within the epic tradition of the West is its focal emphasis on the function and phenomena of language. In this crowning poem, a poem whose several characters act chiefly by speaking, for the purpose of dramatic presentation Aristotle's man the political or social animal becomes man the speaking animal. Accordingly, action often occurs as speech act and speech transaction, with the remarkable power of overcoming (for the duration of each meeting with the damned souls) the isolation in which the sinners are locked. If not communion (a privilege reserved for the souls in Purgatory and Paradise) communication is temporarily restored.

      It is no wonder that, in deference to such powers of the word, lines 25-26 of Farinata's address to Dante should clearly echo a Gospel passage (from Matthew XXVI, 73), as Sapegno notes in his commentary: «loquela tua manifestum te facit». Farinata's homage is of course to his, and the unexpected visitor's, native city. Heretic he may be, and a damned soul, but his nobility, and the patriotic affection which enabled him to rise above fanatical factionalism in the Empoli showdown, are still with him, as can already be inferred from the muffled apology he proffers at the end of his first utterance (line 27). Dante is not interested in one-dimensional characters, but in the tragic plight of those whose earthbound magnanimity was not enough to avert mortal sin and consequent damnation.

      The sequel to Farinata's eloquent interruption of Virgil's and Dante's conversation is marked by a rise in dramatic pitch and an acceleration of rhythm into alternating units of vivid reportorial depiction and gusts of feverish staccato utterance. Rhythmic mimesis animates the tercet that follows the Ghibelline leader's peremptory if courteously worded self-introduction:

      Subitamente questo suono uscìo
d'una de l'arche; pero m'accostai,
temendo, un poco più al duca mio.

One of the vaults resounded suddenly with these clear words, and I, intimidated, drew up a little closer to my guide (vv. 28-30).

The breathless pace of the compact first line, unleashed by that strategic adverb «subitamente» and sustained by hissing alliteration, spills over into the second line to embody the suddenness of Farinata's address and its disconcerting impact on the unprepared pilgrim, whose shocked uncertainty comes rhythmically across in the strong pauses punctuating the second and the third line. The choice of a word like «suono» (sound) instead of the more specific «voce» (voice) contributes to the total impression of bewilderment on Dante's part. The next tercet in turn features Virgil's prompt reaction to his ward's response, a reaction conveyed by gestural language (emphatic imperative, «Volgiti!», followed by idiomatic rhetorical question, «Che fai?», and by a deictic expression, «Vedi là»), then by graphic description:

      Ed el mi disse: «Volgiti! Che fai?
Vedi là Farinata che s'è dritto:
da la cintola in sù tutto 'l vedrai».

[He] said, "What are you doing? Turn around and look at Farinata, who has risen, you will see him from the waist up standing straight" (vv. 31-33).

      It is part of the swift pacing that this first visual image of the great warrior should be relayed to the pilgrim by Virgil, along with the identifying name, rather than directly perceived by Dante himself in the story. When Dante does perceive Farinata, the impact is compounded:

      Io avea già il mio viso nel suo fitto;
ed el s'ergea col petto e con la fronte
com' avesse l'inferno a gran dispitto.

I already had my eyes fixed on his face, and there he stood out tall, with his chest and brow proclaiming his disdain for all this Hell (vv. 34-36).

In the interaction with his leader, Dante the character begins to recover from his shock so as squarely to face the overwhelming presence, but he still needs Virgil's energetic assistance and cautionary advice:

      E l'animose man del duca e pronte
mi pinser tra le sepulture a lui
dicendo: «Le parole tue sien conte».

My guide, with a gentle push, encouraged me to move among the sepulchers toward him: "Be sure you choose your words with care," he said (vv. 37-39).

In the first two lines of this tercet Virgil is all action, and for the protagonist and narrator he exists just as a pair of determined hands, then as a voice, because Dante at this point, being mesmerized by Farinata, cannot see the fatherly guide, he can only feel and hear him. Sleight-of-hand syntax contributes to the dynamism; we hardly notice the anacoluthon of the gerund «dicendo» apparently governed by «le animose mani», the feisty hands that here stand for all of Virgil. Dante the invisible writer is performing a remarkable job as stage director by thus managing the transition from the Virgil-Dante interaction to the Dante-Farinata one. In the process, Dante the character undergoes a change of mood and attitude from childish dismay to the self-collected stance in which he will be able to stand his ground against the formidable opponent and actually score on him.

      At the outset of the confrontation, when Dante is still awed by the now slightly disdainful interlocutor (who has looked him over with some disappointment at not recognizing in him a fellow Ghibelline), Farinata's challenge «Chi fuor li maggior tui?» («Who were your ancestors?») acts as a catalyst on Dante's own family pride and makes him rise to the occasion: «Io ch'era d'ubidir disideroso, / non gliel celai, ma tutto gliel' apersi» (And I who wanted only to oblige him held nothing back but told him everything..., vv. 43-44). The «obedience» in question, of course, is addressed to Farinata himself, but as the ensuing line clarifies, it bespeaks dynastic pride not humility and must therefore evince elegant irony. From now on the exchange becomes a duel as the two antagonists fight the old battles again, each throwing his own side's victories to the other's face:

      poi disse: «Fieramente furo avversi
a me e a miei primi e a mia parte,
sì che per due fïate li dispersi».

[He] then said, «Bitter enemies of mine they were and of my ancestors and of my party; I had to scatter them not once but twice» (vv. 46-48).

In this utterance Farinata's voice has an initial swiftness which the tercet's second line modulates into a staccato slowdown dictated by the metric need for two strong caesuras and three hiatuses (two of them coincide with the caesuras: «a mé // e / a miei prími // e a mia párte»). Needless to say, this stretching is no mere effort to fill the syllabic measure of a hendecasyllable; on the contrary, it serves expressiveness by letting the voice dwell on the three syntactically coordinated words that carry the burden of emotive significance, in heightening repetition («to me & to my next of kin & to my party»). In the third line, «fïate» again exploits to expressive advantage a metric device like diaeresis to focalize, through syllabic lengthening, the smug retributive import of the syntagm that means «twice».

      Dante's retort, as the sequel will eventually show, hurts Farinata to the quick, for he answers in kind and really, as the corresponding Italian idiom would put it, «per le rime»:

      «S'ei fur cacciati, ei tornar d'ogne parte»,
rispuos' io lui, «l'una e l'altra fïata;
ma i vostri non appreser ben quell'arte».

"They were expelled, but only to return from everywhere," I said, "not once but twice __ an art your men, however, never mastered!" (vv. 49-51).

Dramatic flair made Dante interrupt the ever more heated dialogue here at the climax which will prove to be a turning point, an Aristotelian katastrophé. Meanwhile the interruption at the hands of pathetic Cavalcante generates new suspense and widens the circle of speakers and listeners. This seems to be the canto of interruptions, and they propel the dramatized story; at the same time, on the level of discourse interruption cannot help mirroring the rifts that protracted civil war has inflicted on the body social of faction-ridden Florence. In Farinata's time, it was the unremitting strife of Guelphs and Ghibellines that tore it apart; in Dante's own time, it is the strife of White and Black Guelphs. Farinata and Cavalcante ignore each other; they relate to their Florentine visitor from the world of the living, but not to each other, and this noncommunication, too, reflects the social wounds that are Florence's heritage by now. Each is sealed in his own memories, in his own unhealed passion; they are juxtaposed to one another in the «city of fire» or even (as is the case with Cavalcante and Farinata) in the same flaming tomb, but they do not add up to a society. They are a self-atomized society. The apocalyptic scene of this infernal anti-city is the inverted but truthful image of Florence the self-destructive city, the place of political as well as philosophical or religious heresy.

      This kind of background throws Cavalcante's hopelessness into sharper relief. Unlike Farinata, he is not defiant, just all-too-human; and the suspense he introduces in the action, over and above the suspense of Farinata's deferred response to Dante, touches the latter intimately, no matter how well he manages to conceal it by his posture of detachment. For Dante by now, having passed the test of the first encounter with Farinata, has the situation more or less in hand; yet he is far from insensitive to Cavalcante's upset, just as Dante the writer, from the wings, can hardly avoid concern for his by now dead friend and literary peer Guido, his early ally in the fight for a new way of poetry. As writer of the poem in progress, Dante delegates this concern to the distraught father who assails him with questions about the absent son, and as character in the story he actually passes judgment on that son, the difficult Guido Cavalcanti who by presumably persisting in an earthbound rationalism missed the chance to share with Dante the way to Beatrice, to the enlightenment of faith:

      piangendo disse: «Se per questo cieco
carcere vai per altezza d'ingegno,
mio figlio ov'è? e perché non è teco?».
      E io a lui: «Da me stesso non vegno:
colui ch'attende là, per qui mi mena
forse cui Guido vostro ebbe a disdegno».

He started weeping: "If it be great genius that carries you along through this blind jail, where is my son? Why is he not with you?" "I do not come alone," I said to him, "that one waiting over there guides me through here, the one, perhaps, your Guido held in scorn" (vv. 58-63).

      In this much discussed passage what I should like to point out is, first of all that while denying that his extraordinary privilege is due to personal intellectual merit Dante implicitly acknowledges Guido's intellectual equality with himself, and second, that by crediting Virgil and therefore Beatrice the intercessor with making his providential journey possible, Dante dispels any suspicion of undue pride on his part Pride, if anything, will have impelled Guido to «disdain» the choice of the right path along which he would have joined his old friend and fellow poet. That, of course, was the way to salvation, and there looms the great question that never occurred to poor Cavalcante in his anguish about his son's wrongly presumed death: Is Guido saved, or is he bound for the same flaming tomb that holds his father? Dante is ostensibly silent on this, but that is a matter of equity and tact: since in April 1300, the fictional time of the poem's action, Guido Cavalcanti is still alive, he has a chance to repent and be saved, and Dante the writer abstains from unverifiable assumptions about Guido's final status in God's eye. To appreciate this we only have to remember Dante's utterly different attitude to that other important personage who is likewise not yet dead at the time of his visit to the Beyond and whom he therefore cannot stick in Hell, head down and flame-licked feet up: Pope Boniface VIII. For in this notorious case Dante makes sure that no doubt is left on Boniface's post-mortem fate: he has Pope Nicholas III, in Canto XIX (from the bolgia of the simoniacs), foretell Boniface's damnation. The foresight attributed to the damned souls, which plays such a pivotal role both in Canto XIX, the canto manqué of Boniface, and in Farinata's and Cavalcante's Canto X, is cleverly exploited by writer Dante in the former episode to circumvent the impasse of chronology without regard for the privacy of last transactions between the broken Pope's conscience after the Anagni assault and God Himself, whose inaccessible knowledge our fiery poet seems to have inexplicably shared in this case. There can be no doubt that the reserve shown in Canto X vis-à-vis Guido Cavalcanti's ultimate fate, and the kind message entrusted to Farinata before taking leave of him, betray Dante's hope to see Guido among the saved souls one day:

      Allor, come di mia colpa compunto,
dissi: «Or direte dunque a quel caduto
che 'l suo nato è co' vivi ancor congiunto...»

Then I, moved by regret for what I'd done, said, "Now, will you please tell the fallen one his son is still on earth among the living..." (vv. 109-111).

      So much for the paramount role of the unspoken in the Canto that exemplifies, on the other hand, the power of speech. Dante's above mentioned reserve stands out by contrast to Cavalcante's apprehension and subsequent despair as conveyed through the reiterated, hammering questions he addresses to his son's unexpectedly present friend, and his tragic misinterpretation of the past tense used by Dante in referring to Guido, as well as of Dante's pensive silence in reply to his alarmed second question (or series of questions), shows how much can depend on one word choice and on an unintentionally ambiguous pause. Here again language is gesture, as the late R. P. Blackmur would certainly agree. And language could not be that without the support of rhythm, which in this canto evinces Protean versatility. We have seen how rhythmic elasticity modulates the flow of Farinata's eloquence, and we can overhear in Cavalcante's staccato lines the panting of anguish:

      sùbito drizzato gridò: «Come?
dicesti "elli ebbe"? non viv' elli ancora?
non fiere li occhi suoi lo dolce lume?».

Instantly, he sprang to his full height and cried, "What did you say? He held? Is he not living? The day's sweet light no longer strikes his eyes?" (vv. 67-69).

      Petrocchi's critical edition has restored the punctuation that prevailed in the ancient vulgate tradition at lines 67-68, but I confess that I fully understand Tibor Wlassics' preference25 for the violent enjambment that used to appear in modern editions until Petrocchi's 1966 one: «Come / dicesti? "elli ebbe"?...». At any rate the driving tempo of those iterative questions energizes the metric pauses between line and line, assimilating them to the internal ones, the more so as meaning prevents our reading each line as self-contained; even the last line of this, Cavalcante's final and unanswered address, is propulsive rather than rounded out although it adds up to a complete clause.

      Cavalcante will then interrupt himself as he had interrupted Dante and Farinata, and will fall back into the tomb with the same suddenness with which he had risen from it; in asking Farinata to report to him the good news that Guido is indeed alive, Dante will refer to him (the father) as «quel caduto», that fallen man, with possible moral implications that enhance the pathos.

      Cavalcante's abrupt disappearance __ a hiatus that macrostructurally parallels the rhythmic hiatuses within his panting lines __ gives Farinata the chance to resume his argument with Dante and somehow get even with him. Farinata's straightforward «Touché!» is of a piece with his earlier utterances, and his fiber again shows in the dark prediction of exile that both pays back Dante in kind, restoring a balance of sorts, and acknowledges their shared lot. Then the proud vindication of his action in saving Florence from the destruction every other Ghibelline warrior had advocated after the Montaperti victory raises Farinata's moral stature to its highest point, and allows Dante to sympathize with his descendants' sufferings as a propitiatory gesture. A solidarity has arisen between them, and diplomacy is not hypocritical; Dante will now obtain from the respected adversary, with whom he has found himself to have something basic in common, the information he wants about the limits of the damned souls' power of foresight. With that, the theme has shifted totally from the past to the future, and after Farinata's leave (be it noted, he disappears in far more dignified fashion than Cavalcante: «s'ascose», he secreted himself, the same expression that will be used at the end of Purg. XXVI to denote Arnaut Daniel's leavetaking, «Poi s'ascose nel foco che li affina») it will be Virgil's task to reassure Dante about Farinata's gloomy prediction without gainsaying it. For it will be fully explained by Beatrice (actually Cacciaguida) when the time comes: «da lei saprai di tua vita il vïaggio» (from her you'll learn your life's itinerary, v. 132). Meanwhile, it will help Dante to steel himself against the trouble to come in this terrene life.

      If I haven't dwelt on the second part of the Canto as closely as I did on the first, it is because I have little to add on its stylistic and narrative qualities, after so much distinguished commentary by De Sanctis, Bozzetti, Sapegno, or Salinari. I would simply submit that as a whole the Canto seems an astonishing performance as it progresses from suspense to suspense, from interaction to character revelation to further unexpected revelation, and from one moral atmosphere to a different one. Its subtlety matches its explicit dramatic power, its range of tones is as wide as the variety of themes that are polyphonically interwoven. It accordingly shares with very few other climactic cantos (Purg. V for one) the prerogative of recapitulating and foreshadowing within its modular compass the thematic graph of the whole poem, from closure to liberation. Confrontation with the lacerated past modulates into confrontation with the disquieting future, but since the meeting with Beatrice is part of that future, an opening is envisaged onto serener spheres. In the process, Dante the character acquires individualization. And the poignancy of his quest reverberates in the worry about his city, which stands for all the cities man has ever built and destroyed, a far cry from the City of God. Robert Lowell's lines come to mind:

I saw my city in the scales, the pans
of judgment rising and descending.

Yes, Dante, politics is apocalyptical once more.*

Boston University

*Lecture given at the University of Virginia on October 9, 1987.


1 De Sanctis, Francesco, Saggi critici, ed. Luigi Russo, Bari, Laterza, 1965, II, pp. 320-348 («Il Farinata di Dante», originally published in 1869). __ The translations of Dante's text are taken from: Dante's Inferno, translated by Mark Musa, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1971.

2 Croce, Benedetto, La poesia di Dante, Bari, Laterza, 1921.

3 Parodi, Ernesto Giacomo, Poesia e storia nella «Divina Commedia», edd. G. Folena & P. V. Mengaldo, Venezia, Neri Pozza, 1965.

4 Sansone, Mario, Letture e studi danteschi, Bari, De Donato, 1975.

5 Auerbach, Erich, Mimesis, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1953. (Originally published in Germany in 1946.)

6 Gramsci, Antonio, Lettere dal carcere, Turin, Einaudi, 1947. (Letter of September 1931 to Tatiana; further developed in Gramsci's Letteratura e vita nazionale of 1950.)

7 Borgese, G. Antonio, Da Dante a Thomas Mann, Milan, Mondadori, 1958, pp. 80-151 («Della critica dantesca», originally published in 1936 as «On Dante Criticism», Report of the Dante Society, Cambridge, Mass.).

8 Bozzetti, Cesare, «Storia interna del canto X dell'Inferno», in Studia Ghisleriana II, 2 («Studi letterari per il 250mo anniversario della nascita di C. Goldoni»), Pavia, Tipografia del libro, 1957, pp. 79-127.

9 Contini, Gianfranco, «Cavalcanti in Dante», in Varianti e altra linguistica: una raccolta di saggi (1938-1968), Turin, Einaudi, 1970, pp. 433-445. (See also, ibidem, «Un'interpretazione di Dante», pp. 369-405.) Another critic who comments on the complexity of both Guido's and Farinata's characters is Arsenio Frugoni, in Nuove letture dantesche, Florence, Le Monnier, 1966, pp. 261-283.

10 Paratore, Ettore, «Il canto X dell'Inferno», in Letture classensi, V, ed. Aristide Canosani, Ravenna, Longo, 1976, pp. 217-225.

11 Dante Alighieri, Inferno, ed. Francesco Mazzoni, with commentary by T. Casini, S. A. Barbi, & A. Momigliano, Florence, Sansoni, 1972. __ Idem, La Divina Commedia, ed. (with commentary) N. Sapegno, vol. I: Inferno, Florence, La Nuova Italia, 1983 (orig. 1955). __ Idem, La Divina Commedia, edd. (with commentary) C. Salinari, S. Romagnoli, A. Lanza, vol. I: Inferno, Rome, Editori Riuniti, 1980.

12 Montano, Rocco, «Storia della poesia di Dante», in Delta, 1958, pp. l-93. Also: Suggerimenti per una lettura di Dante, Naples, Conti, 1956.

13 Brandeis, Irma, The Ladder of Vision: A study of Dante's Comedy, New York, Doubleday, 1961.

14 Accame Bobbio, Aurelia, «Il canto di Farinata», in Cultura e scuola, IV (1965), nn. 13-14 (special issue for the Dante centenary), pp. 433-445.

15 Scott, John Alfred, Dante magnanimo: studi sulla Commedia, Florence, Olschki, 1977 (Includes «Inferno X: Farinata as Magnanimo», originally published in 1962).

16 Pagliaro, Antonino, Ulisse: ricerche semantiche sulla Divina Commedia, Messina-Florence, D'Anna, 1967.

17 Ronconi, Alessandro, Interpretazioni grammaticali, Padua, Liviana, 1958.

18 Barbi, Michele, «Il canto X dell'Inferno», in Letture dantesche, ed. Giovanni Getto, Florence, Sansoni, 1964, pp. 175-184 (reprinted from Barbi's Dante: Vita opere e fortuna, Florence, Sansoni, 1940).

19 Nardi Bruno, Dante e la cultura medievale, Bari, Laterza, 1949.

20 Corti, Maria, Dante a un nuovo crocevia, Florence, Libreria commissionaria Sansoni, 1981. __ Idem, La felicità mentale: nuove prospettive per Cavalcanti e Dante, Turin, Einaudi, 1983.

21 Kuen, Heinrich, «Dante im Reimnot?», in Germanisch-Romanische Monatsschrift, XXVIII (1940), pp. 305-314: quoted in The Divine Comedy: Inferno, translated, with a commentary, by Charles S. Singleton, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1970, p. 154.

22 Barolini, Teodolinda, Dante's Poets: Textuality and Truth in the Comedy, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1984.

23 Petrocchi, Giorgio, Itinerari danteschi, Bari, Adriatica, 1969.

24 Ramat, Raffaello, Il mito di Firenze e altri saggi danteschi, Messina-Firenze, D'Anna, 1976.

25 Wlassics, Tibor, Interpretazioni di prosodia dantesca, Rome, Signorelli, 1972, p. 129.