In De Vulgari Eloquentia (I.XV and II.VII ) Dante identifies the aesthetic value of the Bolognese vernacular in its pleasant suavitas. The Poet had familiarity with Bologna, where it seems that he stayed several times, and in the Divine Comedy we find different Bolognese characters and politicians from the late thirteenth century. Among them there is Venedico Caccianemici, whom Dante encounters in the bolgia of panders (Inf., XVIII, 46-63). In fact, this man was not a particularly recommendable guy: he was native of Bologna, but supported the dynastic ambitions of Ferrara’s Este family on Bologna and, in order to please the whims of the Marquis Obizzo d’Este, he even brought his sister Ghisolabella to the thalamus of him, so as to allow the nobleman to abuse her. Venedico himself confesses his sin to Dante and says that many of his fellow citizens are there in the same bolgia. The relevant verses are shown here both in the original language and in the Bolognese dialect translation of Giulio Veronesi (sipa, or sepa, means yes in this dialect).
I’ fui colui che la Ghisolabella
condussi a far la voglia del marchese,
come che suoni la sconcia novella.
E non pur io qui piango bolognese;
anzi n’è questo luogo tanto pieno,
che tante lingue non son ora apprese
a dicer ’sipa’ tra Sàvena e Reno…
Me a fù quèll, che Ghisola, mi surèlla,
A condusè a fár voja dèl Marchèis
Ubezzi, com la dis anch la nuvèlla.
Però an zigh megga què sòul me Bulgnèis;
Anzí ste sit l’è pein ed lòur tant bèin,
Che tanti lèinghv ch’ein què lòur n’han intèis
A dir èl Seppa tra i fiùm Sávna e Rèin…
The same lines were translated into English by Henry Francis Cary as follows:
Know then ’twas I who led fair Ghisola
To do the Marquis’ will, however fame
The shameful tale have bruited. Nor alone
Bologna hither sendeth me to mourn
Rather with us the place is so o’erthrong’d
That not so many tongues this day are taught,
Betwixt the Reno and Savena’s stream,
To answer Sipa in their country’s phrase…