« PreviousContinue »
47. Themis, the daughter of Crelus tween Florence and Pisa. Its waters and Terra, whose oracle was famous in have the power of incrusting or petrify. Attica, and who puzzled Deucalion and ing anything left in them. “This power Pyrıha by telling them that, in order to of incrustation,” says Covino, Descriz. repeople the earth after the deluge, they Geog. dell'Italia, “is especially manifest must throw “their mother's bones be a little above Colle, where a great pool hind them.”
rushes impetuously from the ground.' The Sphinx, the famous monster born 69. If the vain thoughts thou hast of Chimæra, and having the head of a been immersed in had not petrified thee, woman, the wings of a bird, the body and the pleasure of them stained thec; of a dog, and the paws of a lion ; and if thou hadst not been whose riddle “What animal walks on
"Converted into stone and stained with sin." four legs in the morning, on two at noon, and on three at night?” so puzzled the 78. The staff wreathed with palm, Thebans, that King Creon offered his the cockle-shell in the hat, and the crown and his daughter Jocasta to any sandal-shoon were all marks of the pil. one who should solve it, and so free the grim, showing he had been beyond land of the uncomfortable monster ; a sea and in the Holy Land. Thus in feat accomplished by Edipus apparently the old ballad of The Friar of Orders without much difficulty.
Gray : 49. The Naiades having undertaken
“And how should I your true love know to solve the enigmas of oracles, Themis,
From many another one? offended, sent forth a wild beast to ravage O by his cockle-hat and staff, the flocks and fields of the Thebans;
And by his sandal-shoone." though why they should have been held
In the Vita Nuova, Mr. Norton's Tr., accountable for the doings of the Naiades p. 71, is this passage : “ Moreover, it is is not very obvious. The tradition is to be known that the people who travel founded on a passage in Ovid, Met., in the service of the Most High are called
by three distinct terms. Those who go “Carmina Naïades non intellecta priorum
beyond the sea, whence often they bring Solvunt."
back the palm, are called palmers. Those
who Heinsius and other critics say that the pilgrims, because the burial-place of St.
go to the house of Galicia are called lines should read,
James was more distant from his country “Carmina Laïades non intellecta priorum ihan that of any other of the Apostles. Solverat ;"
And those are called romei who go to referring to (Edipus, son of Laius. But Rome.” Rosa Moranda maintains the old read. 85. How far Philosophy differs from ing, and says there is authority in Pau. Religion. Isaiah lv. '8: “For my sanias for making the Naiades inter- thoughts are not your thoughts, neither preters of oracles.
are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 54. Coplas de Manrique :
For as the heavens are higher than the “Our cradle is the starting place,
earth, so are my ways higher than your Life is the running of the race.'
ways, and my thoughts than your
thoughts." 57. First by the Eagle, who rent its 04. Noon of the Fourth Day of Pure bark and leaves ; then by the giant, who gatory. bore away the chariot which had been 112. Two of the four rivers that bound to it.
watered Paradise. Here they are the 61. The sin of Adam, and the death same as Lethe and Eunoë, the oblivion of Christ.
of evil, and the memory of good. 66. Widening at the top, instead of 127. Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress :diminishing upward like other trees. “I saw then, that they went on their
68. The Elsa is a river in Tuscany, way to a pleasant river, which David rising in the mountains near Colle, and the king called 'the river of God ;' but Howing northward into the Arno, be John, the river of the water of life.
VII. 757 :
Now their way lay just upon the bank this meadow they lay down and slept : of the river : here therefore Christian for here they might lie down safely. and his companion walked with great When they awoke, they gathered again delight : they drank also of the water of of the fruits of the trees, and drank the river, which was pleasant, and enli. again of the water of the river, and then vening to their weary spirits. Besides, lay down again to sleep." on the banks of this river, on either side,
129. Sir John Denham says :were green trees for all manner of fruit ; and the leaves they ate to prevent sur. "The sweetest cordial we receive at last seits and other diseases that are incident Is conscience of our virtuous actions past." to those that heat their blood by travels. On either side of the river was also a of the poem, as in the other two, is the
145. The last word in this division meadow, curiously beautified with lilies; and it was green all the year long. In suggestive word “Stai;."
THE HERO AS POET. | life-long, unsurrendering battle, agair.si From Heroes and Hero Worship, by Thomas
the world. Affection all converted into Carlyle.
indignation; an implacable indignation ; Many volumes have been written by slow, equable, silent, like that of a god! way of commentary on Dante and his The eye too, it looks out as in a kind of Book ; yet, on the whole, with no great surprise, a kind of inquiry, Why the result. His biography is, as it were, world was of such a sort ? This is irrecoverably lost for us. An unimpor- Dante: so he looks, this “voice of ten tant, wandering, sorrow-stricken man, silent centuries," and sings us “his mys. not much note was taken of him while tic, unfathomable song.' he lived ; and the most of that has van. The little that we know of Dante's ished, in the long space that now inter- Life corresponds well enough with his venes. It is five centuries since he Portrait and this Book. He was bom ceased writing and living here. After at Florence, in the upper class of soall commentaries, the Book itself is ciety, in the year 1265. His education mainly what we know of him. The was the best then going ; much school. Book, -and one might add that Portrait divinity, Aristotelean logic, some Latin commonly attributed to Giotto, which, classics,-no inconsiderable insight into looking on it, you cannot help inclining certain provinces of things : and Dante, to think genuine, whoever did it. To with his earnest, intelligent nature, we me it is a most touching face ; perhaps, need not doubt, learned better than most of ali saces that I know, the most so. all that was learnable. He has a clear, Lonely there, painted as on vacancy, cultivated understanding, and of great with the simple laurel wound round it ; subtlety ; this best fruit of education he the deathless sorrow and pain, the known had contrived to realize from these schovictory which is also deathless ;-signifi. lastics. He knows accurately and well cant of the whole history of Dante! I what lies close to him ; but in such a think it is the mournfulest face that ever time, without printed books or free inwas painted from reality ; an altogether tercourse, he could not know well what tragic, heart-affecting face. There is in was distant : the small, clear light, most it, as foundation of it, the softness, ten- luminous for what is near, breaks itself derness, gentle affection as of a child ; into singular chiaroscuro striking on what but all this is as if congealed into sharp is far off. This was Dante's learning 'contradiction, into abnegation, isolation, from the schools. In life, he had gone sroud, hopeless pain. A soft etherial through the usual destinies ;- been twice sul looking out so stern, implacable, out campaigning as a soldier for the grim-trenchant, as from imprisonment of Florentine state ; been on embassy ; had thick-ribbed ice! Withal it is a silent in his thirty-fifth year, by natural gradapain too, a silent, scornful one: the lip tion of talent and service, become one of is curled in a kind of godlike disdain of the chief magistrates of Florence. He the thing that is eating out his heart,- had met in boyhood a certain Beatrice as if it were withal a mean, insignificant Portinari, a beautiful little girl of his own thing, as if he whom it had power to age and rank, and grown up thenceforth torture and strangle were greater than it in partial sight of her, in some distant The face of one wholly in protest, and intercourse with her. All readers know
his graceful, affecting account of this; curious document, some considerable and then of their being parted; of her number of years later, is a Letter of being wedded to another, and of her Dante's to the Florentine Magistrates, death soon after. She makes a great written in answer to a milder proposal of figure in Dante's Poems ; seems to have theirs, that he should return on condition made a great figure in his life. Of all of apologizing and paying a fine. He anbeings it might seem as if she, held apart swers, with fixed, stern pride : "If I can. from him, far apart at last in the dim not return without calling myself guilty, I Eternity, were the only one he had ever will never return, nunquam revertar. with his whole strength of affection For Dante there was now no home in loved. She died: Dante himself was this world. He wandered from patron to wedded ; but it seems not happily, far patron, from place to place ; proving, in from happily. I fancy, the rigorous, his own bitter words, “ How hard is the earnest man, with his keen excitabilities, path, Come e duro calle.” The wretched was not altogether easy to make happy are not cheerful company. Dante, poor
We will not complain of Dante's and banished, with his proud, earnest miseries : had all gone right with him nature, with his moody humours, was as he wished it, he might have been not a man to conciliate men. Petrarch Prior, Podestà, or whatsoever they call reports of him, that being at Can della it, of Florence, well accepted among Scala's court, and blamed one day for neighbours, and the world had wanted his gloom and taciturnity, he answered one of the most notable words ever in no courtier-like way. Della Scala spoken or sung. Florence would have stood among his courtiers, with mimes had another prosperous Lord Mayor; and buffoons (nebulones ac histriones) and the ten dumb centuries continued making him heartily merry; when, turnvoiceless, and the ten other listening ing to Dante, he said : “Is it not centuries (for there will be ten of them strange, now, that this poor fool should and more) had no Divina Commedia to make himself so entertaining; while you, hear! We will complain of nothing. a wise man, sit there day after day, and A nobler destiny was appointed for this have nothing to amuse us with at all ? " Dante ; and he, struggling like a man Dante answered bitterly: “No, not led towards death and crucifixion, could strange ; your Highness is to recollect not help fulfilling it. Give him the he proverb, ike to Like;"-given the choice of his happiness! He knew not, amuser, the amusee must also be given ! more than we do, what was really happy, Such a man, with his proud, silent ways, what was really miserable.
with his sarcasms and sorrows, was not In Dante's Priorship, the Guelph- made to succeed at court. By degrees, Ghibbeline, Bianchi-Neri, or some other it came to be evident to him that he confused disturbances, rose to such a had no longer any resting-place, or hope height, that Dante, whose party had of benefit, in this earth.
The earthly seemed the stronger, was with his friends world had cast him forth, to wander; no cast unexpectedly forth into banishment; living heart to love him now; for his doomed thenceforth to a life of woe and sore miseries there was no solace here. wandering. His property was all confis The deeper naturally would the Etercated, and more; he had the fiercest nal World impress itself on him ; that feeling that it was entirely unjust, ne awful reality over which, after all, this farious in the sight of God and man. Time-world, with its Florences and banHe tried what was in him to get rein- ishments, only flutters as an unrea: stated ; tried even by warlike surprisal, shadow. Florence thou shalt never see: with arms in his hand; but it would not but Hell and Purgatory and Heaven thou do; bad only had becorre worse. There shalt surely see! What is Florence, Can is a record, I believe, stili extant in the della Scala, and the World and Life alto. Florence Archives, dooming this Dante, gether ? ETERNITY: thither, of a truth, wheresoever caught, to be burnt alive. not elsewhither, art thou and all things Burnt alive; so it stands, they say: a bound! The great soul of Dante, home. very curious civic document. Another less on earth, made its home more and
more in that awful other world. Natu. worded, of true rhythm and melody in rally his thoughts brooded on that, as on the words, there is something deep and the one fact important for him. Bodied good in the meaning too. For body and or bodiless, it is the one fact important soul, word and idea, go strangely togefor all men: but to Dante, in that age, ther here as everywhere. Song : we said it was bodied in fixed certainty of scien- before, it was the Heroic of Speech! All tific shape ; he no more doubted of that old Poems, Homer's and the rest, are Malebolge Pool, that it all lay there with authentically Songs. I would say, in its gloomy circles, with its alti guai, and strictness, that all right Poems are ; that that he himself should see it, than we whatsoever is not sung is properly no doubt that we should see Constantinople Poem, but a piece of Prose cramped into f we went thither. Dante's heart, long jingling lines, -to the great injury of the filled with this, brooding over it in grammar, to the great grief of the reader, speechless thought and awe, bursts forth for most part ! What we want to get at at length into “mystic, unfathomable is the thought the man had, if he had song; and this his Divine Comedy, the any : why should he twist it into jingle, most remarkable of all modern Books, is if he could speak it out plainly? It is the result. It must have been a great only when the heart of him is rapt into solacement to Dante, and was, as we can true passion of melody, and the very tones see, a proud thought for him at times, of him, according to Coleridge's remark, that he, here in exile, could do this become musical by the greatness, depth, work ; that no Florence, nor no man or and music of his thoughts, that we can men, could hinder him from doing it, or give him right to rhyme and sing ; that even much help him in doing it. He we call him a Poet, and listen to him as knew too, partly, that it was great ; the the Heroic of Speakers, -whose speech greatest a man could do. “If thou is song. Pretenders to this are many; follow thy star, Se tu segui tua stella,”: and to an earnest reader, I doubt, it is so could the Hero, in his forsakenness, for most part a very melancholy, not to in his extreme need, still say to himself: say an insupportable business, that of “Follow thou thy star, thou shalt not reading rhyme! Rhyme that had no fail of a glorious haven !” The labour inward necessity to be rhymed ; - it of writing, we find, and indeed could ought to have told us plainly, without know otherwise, was great and painful any jingle, what it was aiming at. I for him ; he says, This Book "which would advise all men who can speak has made me lean for many years." Ah their thought, not to sing it ; to under. yes, it was won, all of it, with pain and stand that, in a serious time, among sore toil, - not in sport, but in grim serious men, there is no vocation in
His Book, as indeed most them for singing it. Precisely as we good Books are, has been written, in love the true song, and are charmed by many senses, with his heart's blood. It it as by something divine, so shall we is his whole history this Book. He died hate the false song, and account it a after finishing it; not yet very old, at the mere wooden noise, a thing hollow, age of fifty-six ; broken-hearted rather, superfluous, altogether an insincere and as is said. He lies buried in his death offensive thing. city Ravenna: Hic claudor Dantes patriis I give Dante my highest praise when I extorris ab orris. The Florentines begged say of his Divine Comedy that it is, in all back his body, in a century after; the senses, genuinely a Song. In the very Ravenna people would not give it. sound of it there is a canto fermo ; it pro“Here am I Dante laid, shut out from ceeds as by a chant. The language, his my native shores.”
simple terza rima, doubtless helped him I said, Dante's Poem was a Song : it in this. One reads along naturally with is Tieck who calls it “a mystic, un. a sort of lilt. But I add, that it could fathomable Song"; and such is literally not be otherwise ; for the essence and the character of it. Coleridge remarks material of the work are themselves very pertinently somewhere, that wher- rhythmic. Its depth, and rapt passion ever you find a sentence musically and sincerity, makes it musical ;-go