And that which most shall weigh upon thy shouldersHere both context and grammatical construction (infallible guides in a writer so scrupulous and exact) imply irresistibly that Dante had become a party by himself before his exile. The measure adopted by the Priors of Florence while he was one of them (with his assent and probably by his counsel), of sending to the frontier the leading men of both factions, confirms this implication. Among the persons thus removed from the opportunity of doing mischief was his dearest friend Guido Cavalcanti, to whom he had not long before addressed the Vita Nuova.2 Dante evidently looked back with satisfaction on his conduct at this time, and thought it both honest and patriotic, as it certainly was disinterested. ‘We whose country is the world, as the ocean to the fish,’ he tells us, ‘though we drank of the Arno in infancy, and love Florence so much that, because we loved her, we suffer exile unjustly, support the shoulders of our judgment rather upon reason than the senses.’3 And again, speaking of old
Will be the bad and foolish company
With which into this valley thou shalt fall;
Of their bestiality their own proceedings
Shall furnish proof; so 't will be well for thee
A party to have made thee by thyself.
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1 Paradise, XVII. 61-69.
2 It is worth mentioning that the sufferers in his Inferno are in like manner pretty exactly divided between the two parties. This is answer enough to the charge of partiality. He even puts persons there for whom he felt affection (as Brunetto Latini) and respect (as Farinata degli Uberti and Frederick II.). Till the French looked up their Mss., it was taken for granted that the beccajo di Parigi (Purgatorio, XX. 52) was a drop of Dante's gall. ‘Ce fu Huez Capez ca on apelle bouchier.’ Hugues Capet, p. 1.
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