« PreviousContinue »
Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell, papale, I. 75, Miss Ward's Tr., sayg'
“The three spirits, who hang from the Invests the sea, and wished morn delays.
mouths of his Satan, are Judas, Brutus, So stretched out huge in length the Arch-fiend and Cassius. The poet's reason for se. lay
lecting those names has never yet been Chained on the burning lake.”
satisfactorily accounted for; but we have “He, above the rest In shape and gesture proudly eminent,
no hesitation in pronouncing it to have Stood like a tower: hís form had yet not lost
been this,-he considered the Pope not All her original brightness, nor appeared only a betrayer and seller of Christ, Less than archangel ruined, and the excess
Where gainful merchandise is made of Of glory obscured : as when the sun new-risen Looks through the horizontal misty air,
Christ throughout the livelong day,' Shorn of his beams; or from behind the moon, (Parad. 17,) and for that reason put Judas In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds into his centre mouth ; but a traitor and On half the nations, and with fear of change
rebel to Cæsar, and therefore placed Perplexes monarchs: darkened so, yet shone Alove them all the Archangel."
Brutus and Cassius in the other two “As when far off at sea a fleet descried
mouths; for the Pope, who was ori. Hangs in the clouds, by equinoctial winds
ginally no more than Cæsar's vicar, be. Close sailing from Bengala or the isles
came his enemy, and usurped the capital of Ternate and Tidore, whence merchants bring of his empire, and the supreme authoTheir spicy drugs: they on the trading food Through the wide Æthiopian to the Cape
rity. His treason to Christ was not dis. Ply, stemming nightly toward the pole: so covered by the world in general; hence seemed
the face of Judas is hidden, — He that Far off the flying fiend."
hath his head within, and plies the On the other side, Satan, alarmed, feet without' (Inf. 34); his treason to Collecting all his might, dilated stood,
Cæsar was open and manifest, there Like Teneriff or Atlas, unremoved : His stature reached the sky, and on his crest
fore Brutus and Cassius show their Sat horror plumed ; nor wanted in his grasp
faces.” What seemed both spear and shield.'
He adds in a note: “The situation o. 38. The Ottimo and Benvenuto both Judas is the same as that of the Popes interpret the three faces as symbolizing who were guilty of simony: Ignorance, Hatred, and Impotence.
68. The evening of Holy Saturday. Others interpret them as signifying the
77. Iliad, V. 305 : “ With this be three quarters of the then known world, struck the hip. of Æneas, where the Europe, Asia, and Africa.
thigh turns on the hip.” 45. Æthiopia; the region about the 95. The canonical day, from sunrise Cataracts of the Nile.
to sunset, was divided into four equal 48. Milton, Parad. Lost, II. 527:- parts, called in Italian Terza, Sesta,
Nona, and Vespro, and varying in length "At last his sail-broad vans He spreads for flight, and in the surging smoke hours,” says Pante, Convito, III. 6,
with the change of season. “ These Uplifted spurns the ground."
are short or long .. . .. according as 55. Landor in his Pentameron, 527, day and night increase or diminish." makes Petrarca say:
“This is atro- Terza was the first division after sunrise, cious, not terrific nor grand. Alighieri and at the equinox would be from six is grand by his lights, not by his shadows; till nine. Consequently mesza terza, hy his human affections, not by his in- or middle tierce, would be half-past fernal. As the minutest sands are the seven. labours of some profound sea, or the 114. Jerusalem. spoils of some vast mountain, in like 125. The Mountain of Purgatory, rising manner his horrid wastes and wearying out of the sea at a point directly oppominutenesses are the chafings of a turbu- site Jerusalem, upon the other side of ient spirit, grasping the lostiest things, the globe. It is an island in the South and penetrating the deepest, and moving Pacific Ocean. ind moaning on the earth in loneliness 130. This brooklet is Lethe, whose und sailness.
source is on the summit of the Mountain 62. Gabriele Rossetti, Spirits Anti- (of Purgatory, flowing down to mingle
with Acheron, Styx, and Phlegethon, the stars;" at the end of the Purgatorio and form Cocytus. See Canto xiv. he is "ready to ascend to the stars;" at 136.
the end of the Paradiso he feels the 138. It will be observed that each of power of " that Love which moves the the three divisions of the Divine Comedy sun and other stars." He is now look. ends with the word “Stars," suggesting ing upon the morning stars of Easter anui symbolizing endless aspiration. At Sunday. the end of the Inferno Dante "re-heholds
L' OTTIMO COMENTO. perfect in prose and verse as he was in
public speaking a most noble crator ; in Inferno, X. 85
rhyming excellent, with the most polished i, the writer, heard Dante say that and beautiful style that ever appeared in never a rhyme had led him to say other our language up to this time or since. than he would, but that many a time and He wrote in his youth the book of The oft he had made words say in his rhymes Early Life of Love, and afterwards when what they were not wont to express for in exile made twenty moral and amorous other poets.
canzonets very excellent, and amongst other things three noble epistles: one hc
sent to the Florentine Government, comVILLANI'S NOTICE OF DANTE. plaining of his undeserved exile ; another
to the Emperor Henry when he was at Cronica, Lib. IX. cap. 136. Tr. in Napier's the siege of Brescia, reprehending him Florentine History, Book I. ch. 16.
for his delay, and almost prophesying ; In the month of July, 1321, died the the third to the Italian cardinals during Poet Dante Alighieri of Florence, in the the vacancy after the death of Pope city of Ravenna in Romagna, after his Clement, urging them to agree in electreturn from an embassy to Venice for ing an Italian Pope ; all in Latin, with the Lords of Polenta with whom he re- noble precepts and excellent sentences sided ; and in Ravenna before the door and authorities, which were much com: of the principal church he was interred mended by the wise and learned. And with high honour, in the habit of a poet he wrote the Commedia, where, in and great philosopher. He died in polished verse and with great and subtile banishment from the community of arguments, moral, natural, astrological, Florence, at the age of about fifty-six. philosophical, and theological, with new This Dante was an honourable and and beautiful figures, similes, and poetiancient citizen of Porta San Piero at cal graces, he composed and treated in a Florence, and our neighbour ; and his hundred chapters or cantos of the existexile from Florence was on the occasion ence of hell, purgatory, and paradise ; of Charles of Valois, of the house of so loftily as may be said of it, that whoFrance, coming to Florence in 1301, and ever is of subtile intellect may by his said the expulsion of the White party, as has treatise perceive and understand. He already in its place been mentioned. was well pleased in this poem to blame The said Dante was of the sapreme and cry out, in the manner of poets, in governors of our city, and of that party some places perhaps more than he ought although a Guelf; and therefore with to have done ; but it may be that his out any other crime was with the said exile made him do so. He also wrote White party expelled and banished from the Monarchia, where he treats of the Florence ; and he went to the University office of popes and emperors. And he of Bologna, and into many parts of the began a comment on fourteen of the world. This was a great and learned above-named moral canzonets in the person in almost every science, although vulgar tongue, which in consequence of a layman; he was a consummate poet his death is found imperfect except on and philosopher, and rhetorician ; as three, which, to judge from what is seen,
would have proved a lofty, beautiful, when he had given me the book, J subtile
, and most important work; be pressed it gratefully to my bosom, and in cause it is equally ornamented with noble his presence fixed my eyes upon it with opinions and fine philosophical and astro- great love. But I beholding there the Logical reasoning. Besides these he com vulgar tongue, and showing by the fashior posed a little book which he entitled De of my countenance my wonderment there: Talari Eloquentia, of which he pro at, he asked the reason of the same. I mised to make four books, but only two answered, that I marvelled he should are to be found, perhaps in consequence sing in that language; for it seemed a of his early death ; where, in powerful difficult thing, nay, incredible, that those and elegant Latin and good reasoning, most high conceptions could be expressed he rejects all the vulgar tongues of Italy. in common language ; nor did it seem to This Dante, from his knowledge, was me right that such and so worthy a scisomewhat presumptuous, harsh, and dis- ence should be clothed in such plebeian dainful, like an ungracious philosopher; garments. “You think aright," he said, he scarcely deigned to converse with lay: 1 * and I myself have thought so. And men; but for his other virtues, science, when at first the seeds of these matters, and worth as a citizen, it seems but perhaps inspired by Heaven, began to Teasonable to give him perpetual re- bud, i chose that language which was membrance in this our chronicle ; never most worthy of them : and not alone theless, his noble works, left to us in chose it, but began forth with to poetize writing, bear true testimony of him, and therein, after this wise : honourable fame to our city.
Ultima regna canam fluido contermina mundo,
Pro meritis cuicumque suis.'
But when I recalled the condition of the
present age, and saw the songs of the Hither he came, passing through illustrious poets esteemed almost as the diocese of Luni, moved either by naught, and knew that the generous men, the religion of the place, or by some for whom in better days these things other feeling. And seeing him, as yet were written, had abandoned, ah me! unknown to me and to all my brethren, the liberal arts unto vulgar hands, ! 1 questioned him of his wishings and threw aside the delicate lyre, which had his seekings there. "He moved not; but armed my flank, and attuned another stood silently contemplating the columns more befitting the ear of moderns ; --for and arches of the cloister. And again I the food that is hard we hold in vain to asked him what he wished, and whom the mouths of sucklings.” he sought. Then, slowly turning his Having said this, he added with emo. head, and looking at the friars and 21 tion, that if the occasion served, I should me, he answered “Peace!" Thence make some brief annotations upon the kindling more and more the wish to work, and, thus apparailed, should forknow ! : and who he might be, I led ward'it to you. Which task in truth, him asi e somewhat, and, having spoken although I may not have extracted all the a few words with him, I knew him ; for marrow of his words, I have neverthealthough I had never seen him till 'that less performed with fidelity; and the hour, his fame had long since reached work required of me I frankly send you, me. And when he saw that I hung upon as was enjoined upon me by that most his countenance, and listened to him with friendly man ; in which work, if it ap. Strange affection, he drew from his bosom pear that any ambiguity still remains, book, did gently open it, and offered it you must impute it to my insufficiency,
• Sir Friar, here is a for there is no doubt that the text is per portion of my work, which peradventure fect in all paints.
This remembrance I leave with thee. Forget me not.” And
to me, saying:
thou hast not seen.
certain sum of money, and submit to PASSAGE FROM THE CONVITO, the humiliation of asking and receiving I. iii.
absolution : wherein, my father, I see Leigh Hunt, Stories from the Italian Poets,
two propositions that are ridiculous and
impertinent. I speak of the imperti. Ah! would it had pleased the Dispenser of all things that this excuse had nence of those who mention such connever been needed ; that neither others iated by judgment and discretion, there
ditions to me; for in your letter, dic. had done me wrong, nor myself under- is no such thing. is such an invitagone penalty undeservedly,– the penalty, tion, then, to return to his country I say, of exile and of poverty, For it pleased the citizens of the fairest and glorious to Dante Alighieri, after suffermost renowned daughter of Rome–Flo-ing in exile almost fifteen years? Is it rence to cast me out of her most sweet which all the world knows, and the
thus they would recompense innocence bosom, where I was born, and bred, and labour and fatigue of unremitting study? passed' half of the life of man, and in Far from the man who is familiar with which, with her good leave, I still desire philosophy be the senseless baseness of with all my heart to repose my weary a heart of earth, that could act like a spirit
, and finish the days allotted me; little sciolist, and imitate the infamy of and so I have wandered in almost every some others, by offering himself up as place to which our language extends, a it were in chains : far from the man stranger, almost a beggar, exposing who cries aloud for justice, this comagainst my will the wounds given me by promise by his money with his persefortune, too often unjustly imputed to the sufferer's fault. Truly I have been a
cutors. No, my father, this is not the vessel without sail and without rudder, way that shall lead me back to my
I will return with hasty driven about upon different ports and
you or any other can open to shores by the dry wind that springs out of dolorous poverty; and hence have I me a way that shall not derogate from
the fame and honour of Dante ; but if appeared vile in the eyes of many, who, by no such way Florence can be enperhaps, by some better report had con; tered, then Florence I shall never enter. ceived of me a different impression, and what ! shall I not everywhere enjoy in whose sight not only has my person the light of the sun and stars ? and may become thus debased, but an unworthy I not seek and contemplate, in every opinion created of everything which Í
corner of the earth, under the canopy of did, or which I had to do.
heaven, consoling and delightful truth,
without first rendering myself inglorious, DANTE'S LETTER TO A nay infamous, to the people and republic FRIEND.
of Florence ? Bread, I hope, will no Leigh Hunt, Stories from the Italian Poets, p. 13.
From your letter, which I received with due respect and affection, I observe PORTRAITS OF DANTE. how much you have at heart my restora
By Charles E. Norton, tion to my country. I am bound to you the more gratefully, inasmuch as an exile In his Life of Dante, Boccaccio, the rarely finds a friend. But after mature earliest of the biographers of the poet, consideration I must, by my answer, dis describes him in these words : “Our appoint the wishes of some little minds; poet was of middle height, and after and I confide in the judgment to which reaching mature years he went somewhat your impartiality and prudence will lead stooping; his gait was grave and seo you. Your nephew and mine has written date; always clothed in most becoming to me, what indeed had been mentioned garments, his dress was suited to the by many other friends, that by a decree ripeness of his years ; his face was long, concerning the exiles I am allowed to his nose aquiline, his eyes rather large return to Florence, provided I pay a than small, his jaw heavy, and his