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Dante and the Adimari 06/12/2010

Posted by florencecapital in Uncategorized.
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A story (114) of Franco Sacchetti, c. 1390.

That most excellent vernacular poet, whose fame will never grow less, Dante Alighieri the Florentine, was neighbour in Florence to the family of the Adimari. It came to pass that a certain young cavalier of that family fell into difficulty, I know not on account of what offence, and was about to come up for sentence, in the due course of justice, before a certain magistrate, who was, it seems, upon terms of friendship with Dante. The cavalier therefore besought the poet that he should intercede for him with the magistrate; and this Dante replied he would willingly do.

So when the poet had dined, he left home and set out upon his way to accomplish the business; but just as he was passing by the gate of San Piero, a smith, hammering an iron upon his anvil, was singing Dante, as one sings a ditty, jumbling his verses together, clipping them and adding to them, in such a manner that it seemed to Dante they were suffering the greatest injury. He said nothing, however, but approached the smithy, where were lying the various tools with which the owner plied his trade. Dante seized the hammer and threw it into the street; seized the tongs and threw them into the street; seized the balances and threw them into the street, and so on with the remaining irons. The smith, turning about with an angry gesture, cried: ‘What the devil are you doing? Are you mad?’ Said Dante: ‘And you, what are you doing?’ ‘Working at my trade,’ the smith replied, ‘and you are spoiling my tools, throwing them into the street’. Said Dante: ‘If you do not wish that I should spoil your things, do not spoil mine.’ ‘How am I injuring you?’ said the smith. Said Dante: ‘You sing my book, but not as I have made it. I also have a trade, and you are spoiling it for me.’ The smith, swelling with rage, knew not what to reply, but gathered together his scattered tools and returned to his forge, and when he wished again to sing, he sang of Tristan and of Launcelot, but left Dante alone; and Dante went his way to the magistrate.

But when he came into the presence of that official, it occurred to him that the cavalier of the Adimari, who had asked the favour of him, was a haughty youth with scant courtesy, who, when he went through the city, especially on horseback, rode with his legs outspread, until they filled the street, if it happened to be narrow, so that passers-by were compelled to brush the toes of his shoes; and to Dante, who was a close observer, such behaviour was always displeasing. Thereupon Dante said to the magistrate: ‘You have before your court a certain cavalier, charged with a certain offence. I wish to speak a word for him. His manners however are such that he deserves a severe penalty, for I believe that to trespass upon the rights of the public is the greatest of offences.’

Dante did not speak to deaf ears, and the magistrate asked in what respect the young man has trespassed upon the rights of the public. Dante replied: ‘When he rides through the city, he rides with his legs wide from his horse, so that whoever encounters him has to turn back, and cannot continue upon his way.’ Said the judge : ‘This may appear to you a trifle, but it is a greater offence than the other of which he is accused.’ ‘But see,’ said Dante, ‘I am his neighbour. I intercede for him with you.’

And Dante returned home, where he was asked by the cavalier how the affair stood. ‘He replied favourably,’ said Dante. Some days afterwards the cavalier was summoned to appear and answer the charge against him. He made his appearance, and after he had been informed of the nature of the first charge, the judge ordered that the second charge, concerning the loose manner of his riding, be read to him. The cavalier, feeling that the penalty would be doubled, said to himself: ‘I have done a fine thing indeed, when through Dante’s visit I believed I should go free, and now I am to be doubly fined!’ Having been dismissed, accused as he was, he returned home, and finding Dante, said: ‘You have indeed done me a good turn. Before you went to him the judge was disposed to condemn me for one offence, and after your visit he wished to condemn me for two’; and much angered at Dante, he added : ‘If he condemns me I am able to pay, and when it is over I will settle with him who is the cause of it.’ Said Dante: ‘I have given you such a recommendation that if you were my own child I could not have given you a better. If the judge is ill-disposed toward you, I am not the cause of it.’ The cavalier, shaking his head, went home. A few days afterward he was condemned to pay a thousand lire for the first offence and another thousand for the careless riding; and neither he nor any of the house of Adimari were able to forget the injury. And this was one of the chief reasons that a short time after he was driven as a Bianco from Florence, not without disgrace to the city, and died an exile in the city of Ravenna.

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