Imágenes de páginas


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 esta-
a superintending Providence being put to one whose blished habits broken up, by the mighty influx of new
nemory 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 Crosus, 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

not deficient, was dumb. During his prosperity, the After Africaner's mind was irradiated by the revel.

father had used for his relief, every means in his power, ations of the sacred volume, however, Mr Moffat thus

and among other things bethought him of sending to

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

thian thus replied :l'ect.--" 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,

Wisb not his voice within thy balls to ring; the pages of Divine inspiration; or in his liut he would

Butter for thee that pleasure to forego:sit unconscious of the affairs of a family around, or the

The day he speaks sball be a day of woe.' entrance of a stranger, with liis 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 såt 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 Crcesus ! These were his first words, though experience had taught him that it contained and from that time forward he continued to speak. heights and depths, and lengths and breadths, which no Larcher and others argue that the son of Croesus 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 utiderstand the dumb; and I licar 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 jects.'”

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 “ Casės," 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 very seldom occurred that one who has become thoroughly

dumb men whom Christ cured is expressed by this very deaf at any time of life, has recovered the lost sense.

word (Mark vii. 32, 37; ix. 25); while in the parallel 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 dumbabandoned the slightest hope which I might once have

ness is expressed by this same word xwpis, which deg.

cribes their deafness in these cited texts in which they entertained, of ever more hearing a sound in this world. I have almost ceased to desire it; excepting on those

are said to have been both deaf and dumb. On these rare occasions when I am enabled to realize a strong

grounds we incline to think that the son of Crosus was

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 have been passed, has become in some sort natural to

charities, few circumstances have struck us more than 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.



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

he 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 lady63 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 homar, 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

to be burnt alive, in case he returned ever. He never the battle of Campaldine, which 'his countrymen gained did return. against the people of Arezza, and the year after it he From that day forth, Dante never beheld again his 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 fall as he 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 bebind, 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.

known is, that she never lived with him more. It seems not improbable, from

Dante now certainly did what his enemies had 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 Ghibellines. 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 intellec

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

differences with him, and for their self-seeking; he union, nothing is known to the disadvantage of the

hated the Pope for deceiving him; he hated the Pope's wife,--but two years after his inarriage, Dante wrote

French allies for being his allies, and interfering with án 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, or nu mean trial to the temper of the mother.

and making her the restorer of himself, and the mistress

of the world. Italy, in those days, was divided into the parties of With these feelings in his heart, no money in his Guelphs 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 Cæsar, and paramount grudging in his great disdaiņ.' 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 dea voaring 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 handsomely 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 pláce 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 hostile 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 Vernacular 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 hand 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. disputos, 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 bis. 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, coptensions. 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 mortify. the 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

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 nobler 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 Car. against 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 ban. impression, 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, bnt 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 Decam. you 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 impartiality 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- hairma 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 whereiu, 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 Dot seek and contemplate, in overy and girls in the street, who plagued him with party

words, as to throw stones at them,-a thing that would be incredible, if persons acquainted with his great but ultra-sensitive nature did not know what Italians could do in all ages, from Dante's age down to the times of Alfieri and Foscolo. Pride, scorn, and revenge, were his great faults; his Christianity, at least as shown in his poem, was not that of Christ, but of a furious polemic. We learn from Boccaccio, that when he was asked to go ambassador from his party to the Pope, he put to them the following useless and mortifying queries: If I go, who is to stay? And if I stay, who is to go ?'

Neither did his pride make him tolerant of pride in others. A neighbour applying for his intercession with a magistrate, who had summoned him for some offence, Dante, who disliked the man for riding in an overbearing manner along the streets, (stretching out his legs as wide as he could, and hindering people from going by,) did intercede with the magistrate, but it was in behalf of doubling the fine in consideration of the horsemanship. The neighbour, who was a man of family, was so exasperated, that Sacchetti the novelist says it was the principal cause of Dante's expatriation. This will be considered the less improbable, if, as some suppose, the delinquent obtained possession of his derider's confiscated property; but, at all events, nothing is more likely to have injured him. The bitterest animosities are generally of a personal nature; and bitter indeed must have been those which condemned a man of official dignity and of genius to such a penalty as the stake.

The poem on which rests his fame, but which he did not live to publish in any formal manner, he called “ The Comedy of Dante Alighieri, a Florentine by nation not by habits." He called this, the saddest poem in the world, a comedy, because it was written in a middle style,—the epithet divine was added afterwards by some transcriber.

This poem is partly a system of theology, partly an abstract of the knowledge of the day, but chiefly a series of passionate and imaginative pictures, altogether forming an account of the author's times, his friends, his enemies, and himself, written to vent the spleen of his exile, and the rest of his feelings, good and bad, and to reform church and state by a spirit of resentment and obloquy, which highly needed reform itself. It has also a design strictly self-referential. The author feigns, that the beatified spirit of his mistress has obtained leave to warn and purify his soul, by showing him the state of things in the next world. She deputes the soul of his master Virgil to conduct him through hell and purgatory, and then takes him herself through the spheres of heaven, where Saint Peter catechises and confirms him, and where he is finally honoured with sights of the Virgin Mary, of Christ, and even a glimpse of the Supreme Being!

The boundaries of the old and new theology were so confused in Dante's time, and such was the reverence for the Latin poets, that there is a continual mixture of Pagan deities with the religious belief of the times. Throughout the poem, his own spleen, hatred, and avowed sentiments of vengeance are manifest. It is a poem to excite wonder and shuddering awe,-not admiration or delight, and thus it has been viewed by the great minds of after ages. Chaucer evidently thought him a man who would spare no unnecessary probe to the feelings. Spenser says not a word of him, though he copied Tasso, and eulogised Ariosto. Shakspere would assuredly have sent him into the list of those presumptuous lookers into eternity who “take upon themselves to know.”

Milton calls him “that sad Florentine," a lamenting epithet by which we do not designate a man whom we desire to resemble. Warton, admirably applying to him a passage out of Milton, says, that “ Hell grows darker at his frown." Walter Scott could not read him, at least not with pleasure, as the plan, says he, is unhappy, the personal malignity and strange mode of revenge presumptuous and uninteresting.” As a specimen of the present prose translation, we subjoin the opening of the

Journey through Hell.

Dante says, that when he was half-way on his pilgrimage through this life, he one day found himself, towards nightfall, in a wood where he could no longer discern the right path. It was a place so gloomy and terrible, every thing in it growing in such a strange and savage manner, that the horror he felt returned on him whenever he thought of it. The pass of death could hardly be more bitter. Travelling through it all night with a beating heart, he at length came to the foot of a hill, and looking up, as he began to ascend it, he perceived the shoulders of the hill clad in the beams of morning; a sight which gave him some little comfort. He felt like a man who has buffeted his way to land out of a shipwreck, and who, though still anxious to get farther from his peril, cannot help turning round to gaze on the wide waters. So did he stand looking back on the pass that contained that dreadful wood.

After resting a while, he again betook him up the hill; but had not gone far when he beheld a leopard bounding in front of him, and hindering his progress. After the leopard came a lion, with his head aloft, mad with hunger, and seeming to frighten the very air; and after the lion, more eager still, a she-wolf, so lean that she appeared to be sharpened with every wolfish want. The pilgrim fled back in terror to the wood, where he again found himself in a darkness to which the light never penetrated. In that place, he said, the sun never spoke word. But the wolf was still close upon him.

While thus flying, he beheld coming towards him a man, who spoke something, but he knew not what. The voice sounded strange and feeble, as if from disuse. Dante loudly called out to him to save him, whether he was a man, or only a spirit. The apparition, at whose sight the wild beasts disappeared, said that he was no longer man, though man he had been in the time of the false gods, and sung the history of the offspring of Anchises.

And art thou, then, that Virgil,' said Dante, who has filled the world with such floods of eloquence? 0 glory and light of all poets, thou art my master, and thou mine author; thou alone the book from which I have gathered beauties that have gained me praise. Behold the peril I am in, and help me, for I tremble in every vein and pulse.'

Virgil comforted Dante. He told him that he must quit the wood by another road, and that he himself would be his guide, leading him first to behold the regions of woe underground, and then the spirits that lived content in fire, because it purified them for heaven; and then that he would consign him to other hands worthier than his own, which should raise him to behold heaven itself; for as the Pagans, of whom he was one, had been rebels to the law of him that reigns there, nobody could arrive at Paradise by their means.

So saying, Virgil moved on his way, and Dante closely followed. He expressed a fear, however, as they went, lest being neither Æneas nor St Paul,' his journey could not be worthily undertaken, nor end in wisdom. But Virgil, after sharply rebuking him for his faintheartedness, told him that the spirit of her whom he loved, Beatrice, had come down from heaven on purpose to commend her lover to his care; upon which the drooping courage of the pilgrim was raised to an undaunted confidence, as flowers that have been closed and bowed down by frosty nights rise all up on their stems in the morning. " Through me is the road to the dolorous city: Through me is the road to the everlasting sorrows; Through me is the road to the lost people, Justice was the motive of my exalted maker; I was made by divine power, by consummate wisdom, and by primal

love; Bofore me was' no created thing, if not eternal; and eternal am I also. Abandon hope, all ye who enter.'

Such were the words which Dante beheld written in dark characters over a portal.

« AnteriorContinuar »