Imágenes de páginas

Butter for thee that pleasure to forego:

to express the idea of the Deity. They worship no my duty to risk the consequences of that great joy at thing in heaven or earth; and no fragments or ruins which I tremblo-not because I value it not, or because remain, that could indicate that their fathers knew I do not appreciate it, but because I rate it so highly as beyond their descendants,” Questions 'as to any thing! to fear that the mind might be overwhelmed, and estaa superintending Providence being put to one whose blished habits broken up, by the mighty influx of new iñemory was tenacious as his judgment was now en sensations, new ideas, and new hopes." lightened, answered, “ We had no idea that an unseen eye saw us, or that an unseen ear heard us. What

Several cases of the spontaneous recovery of hearing could we know beyond ourselves, or of another world, are on record; one of the most ancient is that of the son before life and immortality were brought to us by the of Croesus, as related by Herodotus. word of God. This declaration was followed by a flood

« Croesus had a son, who although in other respects of tears, while he added—you found us beasts, and not i

not deficient, was dumb. During his prosperity, the men."

father bad used for his relief, every means in his power, After Africaner's mind was irradiated by the revel.

and among other things bethought him of sending to ations of the sacred volume, however, Mr Moffat thus

consult the oracle at Delphi. states the remarkable impulse given to his earlier intel

To his inquiries the Py

thian thus replied :lect.—_Often have I seen him under the shadow of a great rock, nearly the live-long day, eagerly perusing

O man unwise, of Lydia's realms the king,

Wish Dot bis voice within thy balls to ring; the pages of Divine inspiration; or in his hut he would sit unconscious of the affairs of a family around, or the

The day he speaks shall be a day of woo.' entrance of a stranger, with his eye gazing on the bles

When the fortifications (of Sardis, his capital city) sed book, and his mind wrapt up in things divine. were taken, a Persian, not knowing Croesus, was about Many were the nights he sat with me on a great stone, to kill him ; and he, seeing himself invaded, and not cart at the door of my habitation, conversing with me till the ing to survive his misfortunes, would have met the dawn of another day, on creation, providence, redemp stroke of death. But his speechless son, seeing the Pertion, and the glories of the heavenly world. He did not sian approach, moved with fear and agony, cried out confine his expanding mind to the volume of revelation, • Man, kill not Cræsus ! These were his first words, though experience had taught him that it contained and from that time forward he continued to speak. lieights and depths, and lengths and breadths, which no Larcher and others argue that the son of Crosus had man comprehends. He was led to look upon the book been speechless only, and not deaf and dumb. Most of nature, and he would regard the heavenly orbs with certainly, his dumbness only is mentioned in any of the an inquiring look, cast his eye on the earth beneath his recorded circumstances, and in the application to and tread, and regarding both as displays of creative power, response from the oracle. Another response of the and intelligence, would inquire about endless space, and same oracle on a different occasion, contains a line which infinite duration. I have often been amused,” adds Mr appears to allude to the same youthMoffat, “when sitting with him, and others who wished to "I understand tho dumb; and I lear him who speaketh not.” hear his questions answered, and descriptions given of

The proof does not, however, appear to me very conthe majesty, extent, and wonders of the works of God,

clusive. As dumbness is generally the effect of want of he would at last put his hand on his head, exclaiming,

hearing, and is more conspicuous than the primary and I have heard enough; I feel as if my head was too

greater privation, it is usually taken to represent both Small, and as if it would swell with these great sub

conditions; and if we say that a man is dumb, we are

understood to mean that he is both deaf and dumb. To return to Dr Kitto.

Thus our usage would go for nothing, were the case not “ Cases," says he, "of persons born deaf obtaining

justly the same in the use of the Greek word xwpós. In the use of hearing, are exceedingly rare; aud it has

the Gospel of St Mark, the deafness of the deaf and

dumb men whom Christ cured is expressed by this very very seldom occurred that one who has become thoroughly

word (Mark vii. 32, 37; ix. 25); while in the parallel deaf at any time of life, has recovered the lost sense. The recovery of the blind is much less infrequent. For

passages in other Gospels, the same men are described my own part, many long years have passed since I have

simply as ' dumb:' and in all those places their dumb

ness is expressed by this same word xwpés, which deg. abandoned the slightest hope which I might once have

cribes their deafness in these cited texts in which they entertained, of ever more hearing a sound in this world.

are said to have been both deaf and dumb. On these I have almost ceased to desire it; excepting on those

grounds we incline to think that the son of Croesus was rare occasions when I am enabled to realize a strong

both deaf and dumb; and the rather, as no difficulty perception of the advantages to be found in that kind of society in which I am, from my present position, entit

is removed by supposing him only speechless. Jed to mingle, but from which my privation does, in a Before leaving this subject we may be permitted to great measure, exclade me.

say that in this age of benevolence and wide extended Besides, the condition in which three-fourths of life

charities, few circumstances have struck us more than have been passed, has become in some sort natural to me; and I somewhat dread to contemplate the change the niggardly allowances which are made to deaf and of habits which restored hearing would necessitate or dumb, and we may add blind, institutions. We know produce, and the new responsibilities which it would im.

many cases of people so deprived, which remain unrepose. I fear that I should run wild under the influence

lieved simply from a deficiency of funds, perhaps of a of so great a change ; and that I should be no longer able to maintain the sedentary life which I have hither

few hundred pounds a-year. Let but benevolent perto led, or keep up the habits of close application and sons, who have the means, make one visit to such incessant study, in which I have been enabled to find places, and the delightful spectacle which they will there many sources of satisfaction and the means of some use see of human beings, often of the most intellectual and fulness. Upon the whole, therefore I am well content in

interesting class, snatched from utter solitude and the the prospect of spending my remaining years in silence. Still, if I knew that any operation or application

misery of ignorance, and placed in cheerful correspondwould awaken the aural nerve from its long rest, and ence with their fellow-beings, cannot but stimulate them restore the lost sense to me, I should probably think it to contribute to such a purpose.

[ocr errors]


By LEIGH Hunt. 2 Vols. London: 1846. The purpose of these volumes, says the author, is to add to the stock of tales from the Italian writers --to retain as much of the poetry of the originals, as it is in the power of the writer's prose to compass, and to furnish careful biographical notices of the authors. We think Mr Hunt has succeeded best in this last of his purposes. His biographies are carefully, candidly, and pleasingly written, and his estimates of his authors and critiques of their productions have that calm, dispassionate, and searching character which always approaches nearer to truth than the enthusiastic and often prejudiced admirations of less experienced and less staid and considerate critics. His prose versions of the poetry, however, have all the disadvantages that translations share, with this additional, that prose, however elegant, and however faithful, can never impart the charm of verse. We need not pause to convince a poet like Mr Hunt of this; and we fear his present labours are only offering a farther encouragement to the prosaic, mechani. cal, and frivolous tastes of the age. It is as if some of the Manchester mill-owners were to take the rich hangings and tapestries of Windsor and Hampton Court, and convert them, by the all-powerful operations of the steam spinning-jennies and weaving machines, into poplins and de-laines, for the multitude of fashionable belles who crowd our streets. The translator seems, however, to have been well aware of all this, and has intermixed with his prose abundance of choice quotations, both in the original Italian, and in poetic translations.

At present we mean to give a notice of Dante, somewhat abridged, as a good illustration of the biographical style to which we have just alluded. In a future number, we shall return to some of the other poets.

DANTE'S LIFE AND GENIUS. DANTE ALIGHIERI, who has always been known by that innocent and adoring time of life, made him fancy his Christian rather than his surname, partly owing to be had discovered a goddess in the object of his love, the Italian predilection for Christian names, and partly and strength of purpose, as well as imagination, made to the unsettled state of patronymics in his time, was him grow up in the fancy. He disclosed himself as the son of a lawyer of good family in Florence, and was life advanced only by his manner--received complaborn in that city on the 14th of May 1265. This was cent recognitions in company from the young lady 63 years before the birth of our English poet Chaucer. offended her by seeming to devote himself to another Dante traced his descent to a family of the house of --rendered himself the sport of her and her young Elesei, one of whom, Caccaguida, he mentions in the friends by his adoring timidity-in short, constituted Paradiso. Of his mother nothing is known, except that her a paragon of perfection, and enabled her, by so she was his father's second wife, and that her Christian doing, to show that she was none. He says, that finding name was Bella. It might be conjectured, from the himself unexpectedly near her one day in company, he only remarkable allusion that the poet makes to her, trembled so and underwent such change of countenance, that he derived his disdainful character rather from his that many of the ladies present began to laugh with her mother than father. The latter appears to have died about him. He thus addresses her in verse, "you mock during the boyhood of his son. The future poet, before my appearance, and do not think lady, what it is that he had completed his ninth year, conceived a romantic renders me so strange a figure at sight of your beauty;" attachment to a little lady who had just entered hers, and in another sonnet accuses her of such “ tattling and who has attained a celebrity of which she was des mockery" as makes him wish for death. Alas! the fair tined to know nothing. This was the famous Beatrice Portinari laughs and marries another. Some less mePortinari, daughter of a rich Florentine, who founded lancholy face,--some more intelligible courtship triumphmore than one charitable institution. She married ano ed over the questionable flattery of the poet's gratuitous ther man, and died in her youth. But for her Dante worship,—the idol of Dante became the wife of Messer ever after retained, as it may be assumed, a Platonic Simone de'Bardi. Meantime, though the young poet's homa", and she became the heroine of his great poem. father had died, nothing was wanting on the part of his It iii pleasant to reduce any portion of a romance to guardians, or perhaps his mother, to furnish him with an The events of ordinary life, but with the exception of excellent education. It was so complete as to enable those who merely copy from one another, there has been him to become master of all the knowledge of his time, such a conspiracy on the part of Dante's biographers to and he added to this learning, more than a taste for overlook at least one disenchanting conclusion to be drawing and music. He studied both at the universities drawn to that effect from the poetry of his own writings, of Padua and Bologna. At eighteen, or perhaps sooner, that the probable truth of the matter must here for the he had shown such a genius for poetry, as to attract the first time be stated. The case, indeed, is clear enough friendship of Guido Cavalcante, a young noble of a philfrom his own account of it. The natural tendencies of osophical as well as poetical turn of mind, and it was proa poetical temperament not only made the boy-poet fall bably at the same time that he became acquainted with in love, but, in the truly Elysian state of his heart in Giotto, who drew his likeness, and with Casella, the

musician, whom he greets with so much tenderness in administrator of affairs, guilty of peculation; was sethe World of Shades. Nor were his duties as a citizen verely muleted; banished from Tuscany for two years; forgotten. The year before Beatrice's death he was at

| and subsequently, for contumaciousness, was sentenced the battle of Campaldine, which his countrymen gained

to be burnt alive, in case he returned ever. He never

did return. against the people of Arezza, and the year after it he From that day forth, Dante never beheld again bis was present at the taking of Caprona from the Pisans. home or his 'wife. Her relations obtained possession Report also states that he began the study of medicine,

of power, but no use was made of it, except to keep him as also that he became for a short time, an inmate of a

in exile. He had not accorded with them; and perhaps

half the secret of his conjugal discomfort was owing to Franciscan monastery. At the age of twenty-six he

politics. It is the opinion of some, that the married married; but full as be is in the praises of his lost Beat couple were not sorry to part; others think that the wife rice, he never utters the name of her who became his remained behind, solely to scrape together what prowife. Gemma Donati was a kinswoman of the powerful

perty she could, and bring up the children. All that is family of that name. It seems not improbable, from

known is, that she never lived with him more.

Dante now certainly did what his enemies bad aceassome passages in his works, that she was the young lady

ed him of wishing to do: he joined the old exiles whom he whom he speaks of as taking pity on him on account of had helped to make such, the party of the Ghibellinek. his passion for Beatrice; and in common justice to his He alleges, that he never was really of any party but his feelings, as a man and a gentleman, it is surely to be

own; a naïve confession, probably true in one sense, concluded that he felt some sort of passion for his bride,

considering his scorn of other people, his great intellee

tual superiority, and the large views he had for the if not of a very spiritual sort, though he afterwards did

whole Italian people. And, indeed, he soon quarrelted not scruple to intimate that he was ashamed of it, and in private with the individuals composing his new party, Beatrice is made to rebuke him in the other world for however stanch he apparently remained to their cause, thinking of anybody after herself. It was not a happy

His former associates he had learned to hate for their union,-nothing is known to the disadvantage of the

differences with him, and for their self-seeking; he

hated the Pope for deceiving him; he hated the Pope's wife,—but two years after his marriage, Dante wrote French allies for being his allies, and interfering with 'an adoring account of his first love, and called one of Florence; and he had come to love the Emperor for behis daughters Beatrice, in honour, it is understood, of ing hated by them all, and for holding out (as he fancied) the fair Portinari, which was either a great compliment,

the only chance of reuniting Italy to their confusion,

and making her the restorer of himself, and the mistress or no mean trial to the temper of the mother.

of the world. Italy, in those days, was divided into the parties of With these feelings in his heart, no money in his Guelpbs and Ghibellines; the former, the advocates of purse, and no place in which to lay his head, except * general church-ascendancy and local government; the such as chance patrons afforded him, he now began to latter, of the pretensions of the Emperor of Germany, wander over Italy, like some lonely lion of a man, who claimed to be the Roman Caesar, and paramount grudging in bis great disdain.' At one moment he was over the Pope. In Florence, the Guelphs had for a conspiring and hoping; at another, despairing and enlong time been so triumphant as to keep the Ghibellines deavoaring to conciliate his beautiful Florence: now in a state of banishment. Dante was born and bred a again catching hope from some new movement of the Guelph; he had twice borne arms for his country against Emperor's; and then, not very bandsomely threatening Ghibelline neighbours; and now, at the age of thirty and re-abusing her; but always pondering and grieving, five, in the ninth of his marriage, and last of his resi or trying to appease his thoughts with some composidence with his wife, he was appointed chief of the tem tion, chiefly of his great work. It is conjectured, that. porary administrators of affairs, called Priors;—func whenever anything particularly affected him, whether tionaries who held office only for two months.

with joy or sorrow, he put it, hot, with the impression, Unfortunately, at that moment his party had become into his sacred poem. Every body who jarred against subdivided into the factions of the Whites and Blacks, his sense of right or his prejudices he sent to the infernal or adherents of two different sides in a dispute that took regions, friend or foe: the strangest people who sided place in Pistoia. The consequences becoming serious, with them (but certainly no personal foe) he exalted to the Blacks proposed to bring in, as mediator, the French heaven. He encouraged, if not personally assisted, two Prince, Charles of Valois, then in arms for the Pope ineffectual attempts of the Ghibellines against Florence; against the Emperor; but the Whites, of whom Dante wrote, besides his great work, a book of mixed prose and was one, were bostile to the measure; and in order to poetry on Love and Virtue ;' a Latin treatise on prevent it, he and his brother magistrates expelled for Monarchy, recommending the divine right of the Ema time the heads of both factions, to the satisfaction of peror; another in two parts, and in the same language, neither. The Whites accused them of secretly leaning on the Verpacular Tongue; and learns to know meanto the Ghibellines, and the Blacks of openly favouring while, as he affectingly tells us, “how hard it was to the Whites; who being, indeed, allowed to come back climb other people's stairs, and how salt the taste of before their time, on the alleged ground of the unwhole bread is that is not our own.' It is even thought not someness of their exile, which was fatal to Dante's improbable, from one awful passage of his poem, that he friend Cavalcante, gave a colour to the charge. Dante may have placed himself in some public way,' and, answered it by saying, that he had then quitted office; stripping his visage of all shame, and trembling in his but he could not show that he had lost his influence. very vitals,' have stretched out his band for charity' Meantime, Charles was still' urged to interfere, and an image of suffering which, proud as he was, yet conDante was sent ambassador to the Pope to obtain his sidering how great a man, is almost enough to make disapprobation of the interference; but the Pope (Boni one's common nature stoop down for pardon at his feet; face the Eighth), who had probably discovered that the and yet he should first prostrate himself at the feet of Whites had ceased to care for any thing but their own that nature for his outrages on God and man. disputes, and who, at all events, did not like their ob Several of the princes and feudal chieftains of Italy jection to his representative, beguiled the ambassador, entertained the poet for a while in their houses; but and encouraged the French prince; the Blacks, in con genius and worldly power, unless for worldly purposes, sequence, regained their ascendancy; and the luckless find it difficult to accord, especially in tempers like his. poet, during his absence, was denounced as a corrupt There must be great wisdom and amiableness on both

sides to save them from jealousy of one another's pre- | corner of the earth, under the canopy of heaven, contensions. Dante was not the man to give and take in soling and delightful truth, without first rendering mysuch matters on equal terms; and hence he is at one self inglorious, nay infamous, to the people and republic time in a palace, and at another in a solitude. Now he of Florence. Bread, I hope, will not fail me." is in Sienna, now in Arezzo—now in Bologna-in Pa Had Dante's pride and indignation always vented dua-in Paris--some say in Germany, and at Oxford, themselves in this truly exalted manner, never could the in England.

admirers of his genius have refused him their sympathy; It was probably in the middle period of his exile, and never, I conceive, need he either have brought his that in one of the moments of his greatest longing for exile upon him, or closed it as he did. To that close we his native country, he wrote that affecting passage in have now come, and it is truly melancholy and mortifythe Convito, which was evidently a direct effort at con ing. Failure in a negotiation with the Venetians for his ciliation. Excusing himself for some harshness and ob- patron, Guido Novello, is supposed to have been the last scurity in the style of that work, he exclaims, . Ah! bitter drop which made the cup of his endurance run would it had pleased the Dispenser of all things that this over. He returned from Venice to Ravenna worn out, excuse had never been needed; that neither others had and there died, after fifteen years' absence from his done me wrong, nor myself undergone penalty unde country, in the year 1231, aged fifty-seven. His life servedly—the penalty, I say, of exile and of poverty. had been so agitated, that it probably would not have For it pleased the citizens of the fairest and most re lasted so long, but for the solace of his poetry, and the nowned daughter of Rome-Florence-to cast me out glory which he knew it must produce hin. Guido gave of her most sweet bosom, where I was born, and bred, him a sumptuous funeral, and intended to give him a and passed half the life of man, and in which, with her monument; but such was the state of Italy in those good leave, I still desire with all my heart, to repose my times, that he himself died in exile the year after. The weary spirit, and finish the days allotted me; and so I monument, however, and one of a pobler sort, was subhave wandered in almost every place to which our lan sequently bestowed by the father of Cardinal Bembo, in guage extends, a stranger, almost a beggar, exposing 1483; and another, still nobler, as late as 1780, by Caragainst my will the wounds given me by fortune, too dinal Gonzago. His countrymen, in after years, made often unjustly imputed to the sufferer's fault. Truly, I two solemn applications for the removal of his dust to have been a vessel without sail and without rudder, Florence; but the just pride of the Ravennese refused driven about upon different ports and shores by the dry

them. wind that springs out of dolorous poverty; and hence Of the exile's family, three sons died young; the have I appeared vile in the eyes of many, who, perhaps, daughter went into a nunnery; and the two remaining by some better report had conceived of me a different brothers, who ultimately joined their father in his banimpression, and in whose sight not only has my person ishment, became respectable men of letters, and left become thus debased, but an unworthy opinion created families in Ravenna; where the race, though extinct in of every thing which I did, or which I had to do.

the male line, still survives through a daughter, in the

noble house of Serego Alighieri. No direct descent of Some time before his death he received permission to the other kind from poets of former times is, I believe, return to Florence, but on conditions which he justly re known to exist. fused and resented in the following noble letter to a The manners and general appearance of Dante have kinsman.

been minutely recorded, and are in striking agreement

with his character. Boccaccio and other novelists are From your letter, which I received with due re the chief relaters; and their accounts will be received spect and affection, I observe how much you have at accordingly with the greater or less trust, as the reader heart my restoration to my country. I am bound to considers them probable; but the author of the Decamyou the more gratefully, inasmuch as an exile rarely eron personally knew some of his friends and relations, finds a friend. But after mature consideration, I must, and he intermingles his least favourable reports with by my answer, disappoint the wishes of some little expressions of undoubted reverence. The poet was of minds; and I confide in the judgment to which your middle height, of slow and serious deportment, had a impartially and prudence will lead you. Your nephew | long dark visage, large piercing eyes, large jaws, an and mine has written to me, what indeed had been men- | aquiline nose, a projecting under-lip, and thick curling tioned by many other friends, that, by a decree con- hair--a swarthy aspect announcing determination and cerning the exiles, I am allowed to return to Florence, melancholy. There is a sketch of his countenance, in provided I pay a certain sum of money, and submit to his younger days, from the immature but sweet pencil the humiliation of asking and receiving absolution; of Giotto; and it is a refreshment to look at it, though wherein, my father, I see two propositions that are ridi pride and discontent, I think, are discernible in its lineaculous and impertinent. I speak of the impertinence of ments. It is idle, and no true compliment to his nature, those who mention such conditions to me; for in your to pretend, as his mere worshippers do, that his face letter, dictated by judgment and discretion, there is no owes all its subsequent gloom and exacerbation to exsuch thing. Is such an invitation, then, to return to ternal causes, and that he was in every respect the poor his country glorious to Dante Alighieri after suffer victim of events--the infant changed at nurse by the wicking in exile almost fifteen years? Is it thus they would ed. What came out of him, he must have had in him, at recompense innocence which all the world knows, and least in the germ; an inconsistent nature, where the the labour and fatigue of unremitting study? Far sweet and bitter, the thoughtful and outrageous co-existfrom the man who is familiar with philosophy be the ed. He dressed with a becoming gravity, was temperate senseless baseness of a heart of earth, that could act like in his diet,-a great student, seldom spoke, unless spoken a little sciolist, and imitate the infamy of some others, to, but always to the purpose, and almost all the anecby offering himself up as it were in chains: far from the dotes recorded of him, except by himself, are full of man who cries aloud for justice, this compromise by his pride and sarcasm. He was evidently a passionate lover money with his persecutors. No, my father, this is not of painting and music,-his conduct towards the fair sex the way that shall lead me back to my country. I will less platonic than his poetry expresses or morality sancreturn with hasty steps, if you or any other can open to tions,—could be very social when young, and though his me a way that shall not derogate from the fame and poetry was of a grave and weighty cast, the minuteness honour of Dante; but if by no such way Florence of a biographer informs us that his hand-writing was can be entered, then Florence I shall never enter. neat and precise. Of his irascible temper, Boccaccio says, What! shall I not everywhere enjoy the light of the sun that he would get into such passions with the very boys and stars! and may I not seek and contemplate, in every and girls in the street, who plagued him with party words, as to throw stones at them,-a thing that would | Milton calls him “ that sad Florentine," a lamenting be incredible, if persons acquainted with his great but epithet by which we do not desiguate a man whom we ultra-sensitive nature did not know what Italians could

desire to resemble. Warton, admirably applying to him do in all ages, from Dante's age down to the times of

a passage out of Milton, says, that “ Hell grows darker Alfieri and Foscolo. Pride, scorn, and revenge, were

at his frown." Walter Scott could not read him, at his great faults; his Christianity, at least as shown in his poem, was not that of Christ, but of a furious polemic. least not with pleasure, as the plan, says he, is unhappy, We learn from Boccaccio, that when he was asked to go the personal malignity and strange mode of revenge preambassador from his party to the Pope, he put to them

sumptuous and uninteresting." As a specimen of the the following useless and mortifying queries: 'If I go,

present prose translation, we subjoin the opening of the who is to stay? And if I stay, who is to go ?

Neither did his pride make him tolerant of pride in “ Journey through Hell. others. A neighbour applying for his intercession with Dante says, that when he was half-way on his pilgria magistrate, who had summoned him for some offence, mage through this life, he one day found himself, towards Dante, who disliked the man for riding in an overbear nightfall, in a wood where he could no longer discern the

right path. It was a place so gloomy and terrible, every ing manner along the streets, (stretching out his legs as

thing in it growing in such a strange and savage manner, wide as he could, and hindering people from going by,)

that the horror he felt returned on him whenever he did intercede with the magistrate, but it was in behalf of

thought of it. The pass of death could hardly be more doubling the fine in consideration of the horsemanship. bitter. Travelling through it all night with a beating The neighbour, who was a man of family, was so exas heart, he at length came to the foot of a hill, and looking perated, that Sacchetti the novelist says it was the prin up, as he began to ascend it, he perceived the shoulders of cipal cause of Dante's expatriation. This will be consi

the hill clad in the beams of morning; a sight which gave

him some little comfort. He felt like a man who has buffeted dered the less improbable, if, as some suppose, the

his way to land out of a shipwreck, and who, though still delinquent obtained possession of his deritler's confis

anxious to get farther from his peril, cannot help turning cated property; but, at all events, nothing is more likely

round to gaze on the wide waters. So did he stand looking to have injured him. The bitterest animosities are back on the pass that contained that dreadful wood. generally of a personal nature; and bitter indeed must After resting a while, he again betook him up the hill; have been those which condemned a man of official

but had not gone far when he beheld a leopard bounding

in front of him, and hindering his progress. After the dignity and of genius to such a penalty as the stake.

leopard came a lion, with his head aloft, mad with hunger, The poem on which rests his fame, but which he did

and seeming to frighten the very air; and after the lion,

more eager still, a she-wolf, so lean that she appeared to be not live to publish in any formal manner, he called

sharpened with every wolfish want. The pilgrim fled back « The Comedy of Dante Alighieri, a Florentine by na in terror to the wood, where he again found himself in a

darkness to which the light never penetrated. In that tion not by habits.” He called this, the saddest poem in

place, he said, the sun never spoke word. But the wolf the world, a comedy, because it was written in a middle was still close upon him.. style,—the epithet divine was added afterwards by some While thus flying, he beheld coming towards him a man,

who spoke something, but he knew not what. The voice transcriber.

sounded strange and feeble, as if from disuse. Dante This poem is partly a system of theology, partly an

loudly called out to him to save him, whether he was a

man, or only a spirit. The apparition, at whose sight the abstract of the knowledge of the day, but chiefly a series

wild beasts disappeared, said that he was no longer man, of passionate and imaginative pictures, altogether form though man he had been in the time of the false gods, and ing an account of the author's times, his friends, his sung the history of the offspring of Anchises. enemies, and himself, written to vent the spleen of his And art thou, then, that Virgil,' said Dante, 'who exile, and the rest of his feelings, good and bad, and to

| has filled the world with such floods of eloquence? 0 reform church and state by a spirit of resentment and

glory and light of all poets, thou art my master, and thou

mine author; thou alone the book from which I have gaobloquy, which highly needed reform itself. It has also

thered beauties that have gained me praise. Behold the a design strictly self-referential. The author feigns, that

peril I am in, and help me, for I tremble in every vein and the beatified spirit of his mistress has obtained leave to

pulse.' warn and purify his soul, by showing him the state of Virgil comforted Dante. He told him that he must quit things in the next world. She deputes the soul of his the wood by another road, and that he himself would be master Virgil to conduct him through hell and purgatory,

his guide, leading him first to behold the regions of woe

underground, and then the spirits that lived content in fire, and then takes him herself through the spheres of heaven,

because it purified them for heaven; and then that he where Saint Peter catechises and confirms him, and

would consign him to other hands worthier than his own. where he is finally honoured with sights of the Virgin which should raise him to behold heaven itself; for as the Mary, of Christ, and even a glimpse of the Supreme Pagans, of whom he was one, had been rebels to the law of Being!

him that reigns there, nobody could arrive at Paradise by

their means. The boundaries of the old and new theology were so So saying, Virgil moved on his way, and Dante closely confused in Dante's time, and such was the reverence

followed. He expressed a fear, however, as they went,

lest being neither Æneas nor St Paul,' his journey could for the Latin poets, that there is a continual mixture of not be worthily undertaken, nor end in wisdom. But VirPagan deities with the religious belief of the times. gil, after sharply rebuking him for his faintheartedness,

told him that the spirit of her whom he loved, Beatrice, Throughout the poem, his own spleen, hatred, and avow

had come down from heaven on purpose to commend her ed sentiments of vengeance are manifest. It is a poem lover to his care; upon which the drooping courage of the to excite wonder and shuddering awe,-not admiration

pilgrim was raised to an undaunted confidence, as flowers

that have been closed and bowed down by frosty nights or delight, and thus it has been viewed by the great

rise all up on their stems in the morning. minds of after ages. Chaucer evidently thought him a Through me is the road to the dolorous city:

Through me is the road to the everlasting sorrows; man who would spare no unnecessary probe to the feel Through me is the road to the lost people,

Justice was the motive of my exalted maker; ings. Spenser says not a word of him, though he copied |

I was made by divine power, by consummate wisdom, and by primal Tasso, and eulogised Ariosto. Shakspere would assur Before me was no created thing, if not eternal; and eternal am I also.

Alandon hope, all ye who enter." edly have sent him into the list of those presumptuous

Such were the words which Dante beheld written in lookers into eternity who “take upon themselves to know."

dark characters over a portal.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »