He acquired, perhaps, the better part of it in the streets of Florence, and later, in those homeless wanderings which led him (as he says) wherever the Italian tongue was spoken.
His were the only open eyes of that century, and, as nothing escaped them, so there is nothing that was not photographed upon his sensitive brain, to be afterward fixed forever in the Commedia. What Florence was during his youth and manhood, with its Guelphs and Ghibellines, its nobles and trades, its Bianchi and Neri, its kaleidoscopic revolutions, all parties loving liberty and doing their best to destroy her, as Voltaire says, it would be beyond our province to tell even if we could.
Foreshortened as events are when we look back on them across so many ages, only the upheavals of party conflict catching the eye, while the spaces of peace between sink out of the view of history, a whole century seems like a mere wild chaos.
Yet during a couple of such centuries the cathedrals of Florence, Pisa, and Sien