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deep enough, there is music everywhere. not because he is world-wide, but because A true inward symmetry, what one calls he is world-deep. Through all objects an architectural harmony, reigns in it, he pierces as it were down into the heart proportionates it all: architectural; which of Being. I know nothing so intense as also partakes of the character of music. Dante. Consider, for example, to begin The three kingdoms, Inferno, Purgatorio, with the outermost development of his Paradiso, look out on one another like intensity, consider how he paints. He compartments of a great edifice ; a great has a great power of vision ; seizes the supernatural world-cathedral, piled up very type of a thing ; presents that and there, stern, solemn, awful ; Dante's nothing more. You remember that first World of Souls! It is, at bottom, the view he gets of the Hall of Dite : rei sincerest of all Poems; sincerity, here too, pinnacle, red-hot cone of iron glowing we find to be the measure of worth. It through the dim immensity of gloom ; so came deep out of the author's heart of vivid, so distinct, visible at once and for hearts; and it goes deep, and through ever! It is an emblem of the whole long generations, into ours. The people genius of Dante. There is a brevity, an of Verona, when they saw him on the abrupt precision in him : Tacitus is not streets, used to say: "Eccovi l' uom ch' è briefer, more condensed; and then in stato all' Inferno, See, there is the man Dante it seems a natural conden that was in Hell !” Ah, yes, he had spontaneous to the man. One smiting been in Hell !-in Hell enough, in long, word ; and then there is silence, nothing severe sorrow and struggle; as the like more said. His silence is more eloquent of him is pretty sure to have been. Com- than words. It is strange with what a medias that come out divine are not ac- sharp, decisive grace he snatches the true complished otherwise. Thought, true likeness of a matter ; cuts into the matter labour of any kind, highest virtue itself, as with a pen of fire. Plutus, the blus. is it not the daughter of Pain ? Born as tering giant, collapses at Virgil's rebuke; out of the black whirlwind ; true effort, it is 'as the sails sink, the mast being in fact, as of a captive struggling to free suddenly broken.” Or that poor Bru. himself: that is Thought. In all ways netto, with the cotto aspetto, "face baked," we are to become perfect through parched brown and lean; and the “fiery suffering.” But, as I say, no work snow” that falls on them there, a “fiery known to me is so elaborated as this of snow without wind,” slow, deliberate, Dante's. It has all been as if molten, in never-ending ! Or the lids of those . the hottest furnace of his soul. It had Tombs ; square sarcophaguses, in that made him “lean” for many years. Not silent dim-burning Hell, each with its the general whole only ; every compart- Soul in torment; the lids laid open there; ment of it is worked out, with intense they are to be shut at the Day of Judge earnestness, into truth, into clear visuality. ment, through Eternity. And how Each answers to the other ; each fits in Farinata rises ; and how Cavalcante falls its place, like a marble stone accurately -at hearing, of his Son, and the pas hewn and polished. It is the soul of tense fue?” The very movements ir Dante, and in this the soul of the Middle Dante have something brief ; swift, deAges, rendered for ever rhythmically cisive, almost military. It is of the visible there, No light task; a right inmost essence of his genius this sort of intenze one : but a task which is done. painting. The fiery, swift Italian nature
Perhaps one would say intensity, with of the man, so silent, passionate, with the much that depends on it, is the its quick abrupt movements, its silen! prevailing character of Dante's genius. "pale rages," speaks itself in these things Dante does not come before us as a large For though this of painting is one of catholic mind; rather as a narrow, and the outermost developments of a man, even sectarian mind: it is partly the fruit it comes like all else from the essential of his age and position, but partly too of faculty of him ; it is physiognomical of his own nature. His greatness has, in the whole man. Find a man whose all senses, concentred itself into fiery words paint you a likeness, you have eriphasis and depth. He is world-great found a man worth something i mark
his manner of doing it, as very charac. Nature is made ; it is so Dante discerned teristic of him. In the first place, he that she was made. What a paltry notion could not have discerned the object at is that of his Divine Comedy's being a all, or seen the vital type of it, unless he poor splenetic, impotent, terrestrial libel; bad, what we may call, sympathised with putting those into Hell whom he could R, - had sympathy in him to bestow on not be avenged upon on earth! I sup. objects. He must have been sincere pose if ever pity, tender as a mother's, about it too; sincere and sympathetic : was in the heart of any man, it was in a man without worth cannot give you Dante's. But a man who does not know the likeness of any object ; he dwells in rigour cannot pity either. His very pity vague outwardness, fallacy and trivial will be cowardly, egotistic,- sentimen hearsay, about all objects. And indeed tality, or little better. I know not in may we not say that intellect altogether the world an affection equal to that of expresses itself in this power of discern- Dante. It is a tenderness, a trembling, ing what an object is ? Whatsoever of longing, pitying love : like the wail of faculty a man's mind may have will come Æolian harps, soft, soft ; like a child's out here. Is it even of business, a matter young heart ;-and then that stern, soreto be done? The gifted man is he who saddened heart! These longings of his sees the essential point, and leaves all the towards his Beatrice ; their meeting rest aside as surplusage; it is his faculty, together in the Paradiso; his gazing in too, the man of business's faculty, her pure transfigured eyes, her that had that he discern the true likeness, not the been purified by death so long, separated false, superficial one, of the thing he from him so fár:--one likens it to the has got to work in. And how much of song of angels; it is among the purest morality is in the kind of insight we get utterances of affection, perhaps the very of anything; "the eye seeing in all purest that ever came out of a human soul. things what it brought with it the faculty For the intense Dante is intense in all of seeing !" To the mean eye all things things ; he has got into the essence nt are trivial, as certainly as to the jaundiced all. His intellectual insight, as painter, they are yellow. Raphael, the painters on occasion too as reasoner, is but the tell us, is the best of all Portrait-painters result of all other sorts of intensity. withal. No most gifted can exhaust Morally great, above all, we must call the significance of any object. In the him ; it is the beginning of all. His commonest human face there lies more scorn, his grief, are as transcendent as than Raphael will take away with him. his love ;--as, indeed, what are they but
Dante's painting is not graphic only, the inverse or converse of his love ?" A brief, true, and of a vividness as of fire Dio Spiacenti, ed a' nemici sui, Hateful to in dark night; taken on the wider scale, God and to the enemies of God: " lofty it is every way noble, and the outcome scom, unappeasable silent reprobation of a great soul. Francesca and her Lover, and aversion : "Non ragionam di lor, We what qualities in that! A thing woven will not speak of them, look only and as out of rainbows, on a ground of pass.' Or think of this: “ They have eternal black. A small flute-voice of not the hope to die, Non han speranza di infinite wail speaks there, into our very morte.” One day, it had risen sternly heart of hearts. A touch of womanhood benign on the scathed heart of Dante, in it too : della bella persona, che mi fu that he, wretched, never-resting, worn as tolta; and how, even in the Pit of woe, he was, would full surely die; that it is a solace that he will never part from Destiny itself could not doom him noi her! Saddest tragedy in these alti guai. to die.” Such words are in this man. And the racking winds, in that aer bruno, For rigour, earnestness, and depth he is whirl them away again, to wail for ever! not to be paralleled in the modern Strange to think: Dante was the friend of world ; to seek his parallel we must go this poor Francesca's father ; Francesca into the Hebrew Bible, and live with the herself may have sat upon the Poet's knee, antique Prophets there. as a bright innocent little child. Infinite I do not agree with much modern pity, yet also infinite rigour of law: it is so I criticism, in greatly preferring the In.
ferno to the two other parts of the veracity as in this of Dante's; a man sent Divine Commedia. Such preference to sing it, to keep it long memorable. belongs, I imagine, to our general By: Very notable with what brief simplicity ronism of taste, and is like to be a he passes out of the every-day reality, transient feeling. The Purgatorio and into the Invisible one ; and in the second Paradiso, especially the former, one or third stanza, we find ourselves in the would almost say, is even more excellent World of Spirits; and dwell there, as than it. It is a noble thing that Pur. among things palpable, indubitable ! To zatorio, "Mountain of Puriñcation;" an Dante they were so; the real world, as emblem of the noblest conception of that it is called, and its facts, was but the age. If Sin is so fatal, and Hell is and threshold to an infinitely higher Fact must be so rigorous, awful, yet in Re- of a World. At bottom, the one was as pentance too is man purified; kepent- preternatural as the other. Has not each ance is the grand Christian act. It is man a soul? He will not only be a beautiful how Dante works it out. The spirit, but is one. To the earnest Dante tremolar dell'onde, that “trembling" of it is all one visible Fact; he believes it, the ocean-waves under the first pure sees it; is the Poet of it in virtue of that. gleam of morning, dawning afar on the Sincerity, I say again, is the saving merit, wandering Two, is as the type of an now as always altered mood. Hope has now dawned ; Dante's Hell, Purgatory, Paradise, never-dying Hope, if in company still are a symbol withal, an emblematic with heavy sorrow. The obscure sojourn representation of his belief about this of dæmons and reprobate is under foot; a Universe:-some Critic in a future 'age, soft breathing of penitence mounts higher like those Scandinavian ones the other and higher, to the Throne of Mercy itself. day, who has ceased altogether to think
Pray for me," the denizens of that as Dante did, may find this too all an Mount of Pain all say to him. “Tell "Allegory," perhaps an idle Allegory ! miy Giovanna to pray for me," my It is a sublime embodiment, our subdaughter Giovanna ; “I think her limest, of the soul of Christianity. It mother loves me no more ! They toil expresses, as in huge world-wide archipainfully up by that winding steep, tectural emblems, how the Christian "bent down like corbels of a building," Dante felt Good and Evil to be the two some of them, -crushed together so polar elements of this Creation, on which "for the sin of pride ; " yet nevertheless it all turns; that these two differ not by in years, in ages, and xons they shall preferability of one to the other, but by in. have reached the top, which is Heaven's compatibility absolute and infinite ; that gate, and by Mercy shall have been ad- the one is excellent and high as light and mitted in. The joy too of all, when one Heaven, the other hideous, black as Ge. has prevailed ; the whole Mountain henna and the Pit of Hell! Everlasting shakes with joy, and a psalm of praise Justice, yet with Penitence, with everrises, when one soul has perfected re- lasting Pity,—all Christianism, as Dante pentance, and got its sin and misery left and the Middle Ages had it, is emblemed behind! I call all this a noble embodi. here. Emblemed: and yet, as I urged ment of a true, noble thought.
the other day, with what entire truth of But indeed the Three compartments purpose, how unconscious of any emmutually support one another, are in- bleming! Hell, Purgatory, Paradise : dispensable to one another. The Pa. these things were not fashioned as emradiso, a kind of inarticulate music to blems; was there, in our Modern Eurome, is the redeeming side of the Inferno; pean Mind, any thought at all of their the Inferno without it were untrue. All being emblems! Were they not indubitthree make up the true Unseen World, able, awful facts; the whole heart of as figured in the Christianity of the man taking them for practically true, all Middle Ages ; a thing for ever memo Nature everywhere confirming them? So rable, for ever true in the essence of it, is it always in these things. Men do not to all men. It was perhaps delineated believe in Allegory. The future Critic, in no human soul with such depth of whatever his new thought may be, who
considers this of Dante to have been all noblest men. In the one sense and in got up as an Allegory, will commit one the other, are we not right glad to possore mistake !--Paganism we recognised sess it? As I calculate, it may last yet Rs a veracious expression of the earnest, for long thousands of years. For the awe-struck feeling of man towards the thing that is uttered from the inmost Universe ; veracious, true once, and parts of a man's soul differs altogether still not without worth for us. But mark from what is uttered by the outer part. here the difference of Paganism and The outer is of the day, under the emChristianism ; one great difference. pire of mode ; the outer passes away, in Paganism emblemed chiefly the Opera- swift endless changes ; the inmost is the tions of Nature ; the destinies, efforts, same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. combinations, vicissitudes of things and True souls, in all generations of the men in this world : Christianism em- world, who look on this Dante, will find blomed the Law of Human Duty, the a brotherhood in him; the deep sincerity Moral Law of Man. One was for the of his thoughts, his woes and hopes, will sensuous nature: a rude helpiess utter-speak likewise to their sincerity ; they ance of the first Thought of men, -the will feel that this Dante too was a chief recognised virtue, Courage, Supe. brother. Napoleon in Saint Helena riority to Fear. The other was not for is charmed with the genial veracity of the sensuous nature, but for the moral. old Homer. The oldest Hebrew ProWhat a progress is here, if in that one phet, under a vesture the most diverse respect only !
from ours, does yet, because he speaks And so in this Dante, as we said, had from the heart of man, speak to all ten silent centuries, in a very strange men's hearts. It is the one sole secret way, found a voice. The Divina Com- of continuing long memorable. Dante, media is of Dante's writing; yet in truth for depth of sincerity, is like an antique it belongs to ten Christian centuries, Prophet too ; his words, like theirs, only the finishing of it is Dante's. So come from his very heart. One need always. The craftsman there, the smith not wonder if it were predicted that with that metal of his, with these tools, his Poem might be the most enduring with these cunning methods,-how little thing our Europe has yet made ; for of all he does is properly his work ! All nothing so endures as a truly spoke: past inventive men work there with him; word. All cathedrals, pontificalities, —as indeed with all of us, in all things. brass and stone, and outer arrangement Dante is the spokesman of the Middle never so lasting, are brief in comparison Ages; the Thought they lived by stands to an unfathomable heart-song like this: here, in everlasting music. These sub- one feels as if it might survive, still of lime ideas of his, terrible and beautiful, importance to men, when these had all are the fruit of the Christian Meditation sunk into new irrecognisable combinaof all the good men who had gone be- tions, and had ceased individually to be. fore him. Precious they ; but also is not he precious ? Much, had not he spoken, would have been dumb; not
DANTE. dead, yet living voiceless. On the whole, is it not an utterance,
From the Essays of T. B. Macaulay. this mystic Song, at once of one of the greatest human souls, and of the highest The beginning of the thirteenth cen. thing that Europe had hitherto realised tury was, as Machiavelli has remarked, for itself ? Christianism, as Dante sings the era of a great revival of this extrait, is another than Paganism in the rude ordinary system. The policy of InnoNorse mind; another than “Bastard cent,--the growth of the Inquisition and Christianism half-articulately spoken the mendicant orders, -the wars against in the Arab Desert, seven hundred years the Albigenses, the Pagans of the East, before !- The noblest idea made real and the unfortunate princes of the house hitherto among men is sung, and em- of Swabia, agitated Italy during the two blemed forth abidingly, by one of the following generations. In this point
Dante was completely under the influ. smiling and radiant spirits with that ence of his age. He was a man of scowl of unutterable misery on his brow, a turbid and melancholy spirit. In early and that curl of bitter disdain on his youth he had entertained a strong and lips, which all his portraits have preunfortunate passion, which, long after served, and which might furnish Chanthe death of her whom he loved, con- trey with hints for the head of his protinued to haunt him. Dissipation, am-jected Satan. bition, misfortunes, had not effaced it.
There is no poet whose intellectual He was not only a sincere, but a pas. and moral character are so closely consionate, believer. The crimes and abuses nected. The great source, as it appears of the Church of Rome were indeed to me, of the power of the Divine loathsome to him ; but to all its doc. Comedy is the strong belief with which trines and all its rites, he adhered with the story seems to be told. In this enthusiastic fondness and veneration ; respect, the only books which approach and at length, driven from his native to its excellence are Gulliver's Travels country, reduced to a situation the most and Robinson Crusoe. The solemnity painful to a man of his disposition, con of his asseverations, the consistency and demned to learn by experience that no minuteness of his details, the earnestness food is so bitter as the bread of depen. with which he labours to make the dence, and no ascent so painful as the reader understand the exact shape and staircase of a patron, his wounded spirit size of everything that he «lescribes, give took refuge in visionary devotion. Bea an air of reality to his wildest fictions. trice, the unforgotten object of his early I should only weaken this statement by tenderness, was invested by his imagina quoting instances of a feeling which per: tion with glorious and mysterious attri- vades the whole work, and to which it butes ; she was enthroned among the owes much of its fascination. This is highest of the celestial hierarchy : Al. the real justification of the many pasmighty Wisdom had assigned to her the sages in his poem which bad critics have care of the sinful and unhappy wanderer condemned as grotesque. I am con who had loved her with such a perfect cerned to see that Mr. Cary, to whom love. By a confusion, like that which Dante owes more than ever poet owed often takes place in dreams, he has to translator, has sanctioned an accusa. sometimes lost sight of her human na- tion utterly unworthy of his abilities. ture, and even of her personal existence, His solicitude,” says that gentleman, and seems to consider her as one of the to define all his images in such a man. attributes of the Deity.
ner as to bring them within the circle of But those religious hopes which had our vision, and to subject them to the released the mind of the sublime enthu- power of the pencil, renders him little siast from the terrors of death had not better than grotesque, where Milton has rendered his speculations on human life since taught us to expect sublimity." It more cheerful. This is an inconsistency is true that Dante has never shrunk from which may often be observed in men of embodying his conceptions in determia similar temperament. He hoped for nate words, that he has even given happinesss beyond the grave : but he measures and numbers, where Milton feli none on earth. It is from this cause, would have left his images to Roat unde. more than from any other, that his defined in a gorgeous haze of language. scription of Heaven is so far inferior to Both were right. Milton did not profess the Hell or the Purgatory. With the to have been in heaven or hell. He might, passions and miseries of the suffering therefore, reasonably confine himself to spirits he feels a strong sympathy. But magnificent generalities. Far different among the beatified he appears as one was the office of the lonely traveller, who who has nothing in common with them, had wandered through the nations of the -as one who is incapable of compre- dead. Had he described the abode of hending, not only the degree, but the the rejected spirits in language resem. nature of their enjoyment. We think bling the splendid lines of the English hat we see him standing amidst those poet,- had he told us of