Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Florence in the Olden Time

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.


Florence in the Olden Time

By Dante Alighieri (c. 1265–1321)

(From Paradise, Canto XV)
Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

FLORENCE, within the ancient boundary

From which she taketh still her tierce and nones,

Abode in quiet, temperate and chaste.

No golden chain she had, nor coronal,

Nor ladies shod with sandal shoon, nor girdle

That caught the eye more than the person did.

Not yet the daughter at her birth struck fear

Into the father, for the time and dower

Did not o’errun this side or that the measure.

No houses had she void of families,

Not yet had thither come Sardanapalus

To show what in a chamber can be done;

Not yet surpassed had Montemalo been

By your Uccellatojo, which surpassed

Shall in its downfall be as in its rise.

Bellincion Berti saw I go begirt

With leather and with bone, and from the mirror

His dame depart without a painted face;

And him of Nerli saw, and him of Vecchio,

Contented with their simple suits of buff,

And with the spindle and the flax their dames.

O fortunate women! and each one was certain

Of her own burial-place, and none as yet

For sake of France was in her bed deserted.

One o’er the cradle kept her studious watch,

And in her lullaby the language used

That first delights the fathers and the mothers;

Another, drawing tresses from her distaff,

Told o’er among her family the tales

Of Trojans and of Fesole and Rome.

As great a marvel then would have been held

A Lapo Salterello, a Cianghella,

As Cincinnatus or Cornelia now.