Page images
PDF

dilection for his native kingdom, for

the bright cities reflected in the blue Mediterranean, over the dark barbaric towns of Germany, of itself characterizes the man. The summer skies, the more polished manners, the more elegant luxuries, the knowledge, the arts, the poetry, the gayety, the beauty, the romance of the South, were throughout his life more congenial to his mind, than the heavier and more chilly climate, the feudal barbarism, the ruder pomp, the coarser habits of his German liegemen. . . . . And no doubt that delicious climate and lovely land, so highly appreciated by the gay sovereign, was not without influence on the state, and even the manners of his court, to which other circumstances contributed to give a peculiar and romantic character. It resembled probably (though its full splendour was of a later period) Grenada In its glory, more than any other in Europe, though more rich and picturesque from the variety of races, of manners, usages, even dresses, which prevailed within it.” Gibbon also, Decline and Fall, Chap. lix., gives this graphic picture:– “Frederick the Second, the grandson of Barbarossa, was successively the pupil, the enemy, and the victim of the Church. At the age of twenty-one years, and in obedience to his guardian Innocent the Third, he assumed the cross; the same promise was repeated at his royal and imperial coronations; and his marriage with the heiress of Jerusalem forever bound him to defend the kingdom of his son Conrad. . But as Frederick advanced in age and authority, he repented of the rash engagements of his youth : his liberal sense and knowledge taught him to despise the phantoms of superstition and the trowns of Asia: he no longer entertained the same reverence for the successors of Innocent; and his ambition was occupied by the restoration of the Italian monarchy, from Sicily to the Alps. But the success of this project would have reduced the Popes to their primitive simplicity; and, after the delays and excuses of twelve years, they urged the Emperor, with entreaties and threats, to fix the time and place of his

departure for Palestine. In the harbours of Sicily and Apulia he prepared a fleet of one hundred galleys, and of one hundred vessels, that were framed to transport and land two thousand five hundred knights, with horses and attendants; his vassals of Naples and Germany formed a powerful army; and the number of English crusaders was magnified to sixty thousand by the report of fame. But the inevitable, or affected, slowness of these mighty preparations consumed the strength and provisions of the more indigent pilgrims; the multitude was thinned by sickness and desertion, and the sultry summer of Calabria anticipated the

mischiefs of a Syrian campaign. At length the Emperor hoisted sail at

Brundusium with a fleet and army of forty thousand men; but he kept the sea no more than three days; and his hasty retreat, which was ascribed by his friends to a grievous indisposition, was accused by his enemies as a voluntary and obstinate disobedience. For suspending his vow was Frederick ex. communicated by Gregory the Ninth; for presuming, the next year, to accomplish his vow, he was again excommunicated by the same Pope. While he served under the banner of the cross, a crusade was preached against him in Italy; and after his return he was compelled to ask pardon for the injuries which he had suffered. The clergy and military orders of Palestine were previously instructed to renounce his communion and dispute his commands; and in his own kingdom the Emperor was forced to consent that the orders of the camp should be issued in the name of God and of the Christian republic. Frederick entered Jerusalem in triumph ; and with his own hands (for no priest would perform the office) he took the crown from the altar of the holy sepulchre.” Matthew Paris, A.D. 1239, gives a long, letter of Pope Gregory IX. in which he calls the Emperor some very hard names; “a beast, full of the words of blasphemy,” “a wolf in sheep's clothing,” “a son of lies,” “a staff of the impious,” and “hammer of the earth”; and finally a ccuses him of being the author of a work De Tribus Ampostorious, which, if it ever existed, is no longer to be found. “There is one thing,” he says in conclusion, “at which, although we ought to mourn for a lost man, you ought to rejoice greatly, and for which you ought to return thanks to God, namely, that this man, who delights in being called a forerunner of Antichrist, by God's will, no longer endures to be veiled in darkness; not expecting that his trial and disgrace are near, he with his own hands undermines the wall of his abominations, and, by the said letters of his, brings his works of darkness to the light, boldly setting forth in them, that he could not be excommunicated by us, although the Vicar of Christ; thus affirming that the Church had not the power of binding and loosing, which was given by our Lord to St. Peter and But as it may not be easily believed by some people that he has ensnared himself by the words of his own mouth, proofs are ready, to the triumph of the faith; for this king of pestilence openly asserts that the whole world was deceived by three, namely Christ Jesus, Moses, and Mahomet ; that, two of them having died in glory, the said Jesus was suspended on the cross; and he, moreover, presumes plainly to affirm (or rather to lie), that all are foolish who believe that God, who created nature, and could do all things, was born of the Virgin.”

120. This is Cardinal Ottaviano degli Ubaldini, who is accused of saying, “If there be any soul, I have lost mine for the Ghibellines.” Dante takes him at his word.

CAN TO XI.

8. Some critics and commentators accuse Dante of confounding Pope Anastasius with the Emperor of that name. Is is however highly probable that Dante knew best whom he meant. Both were accused of heresy, though the heresy of the Pope seems to have been of a mild type. A few years previous to his time, namely, in the year 484, Pope Felix III. and Acacius, Bishop of Con

stantinople, mutually excommunicated each other. When Anastasius II. be: came Pope in 496, “he dared,” says Milman, Hist. Lat. Christ., I. 349, “to doubt the damnation of a bishop excommunicated by the See of Rome : * Felix and Acacius are now both before a higher tribunal ; leave them to that unerring judgment.” He would have the name of Acacius passed over in silence, quietly dropped, rather than publicly expunged from the diptychs. This degenerate successor of St. Peter is not admitted to the rank of a saint. The Pontifical book (its authority on this point is indignantly repudiated) accuses Anastasius of having communicated with a deacon of Thessalonica, who had kept up communion with Acacius; and of having entertained secret designs of restoring the name of Acacius in the services of the Church.” Photinus is the deacon of Thessalonica alluded to in the preceding note. His heresy was, that the Holy Ghost did not proceed from the Father, and that the Father was greater than the Son. The writers who endeavour to rescue the Pope at the expense of the Emperor say that Photinus died “before the days of Pope Anastasius. 50. Cahors is the cathedral town of the Department of the Lot, in the South of France, and the birthplace of the poet Clément Marot and of the romance-writer, Calprenède. In the Middle Ages it seems to have been a nest of usurers. Matthew Paris, in his Asistorie Major, under date of 1235, has a chapter entitled, Of the Usury of the Caursines, which in the translation of Rev. J. A. Giles runs as follows:-“In these days prevailed the horrible nuisance of the Colcsines to such a degree that there was hardly any one in all England, especially among the bishops, who was not caught in their net. Even the king himself was held indebted to them in an incalculable sum of money. For they circumvented the needy in their necessities, cloaking their usury under the show of trade, and pretending not to know that whatever is added to the principal is usury, under whatever name it may be called. For

it is manifest that their loans lie not in

the path of charity, inasmuch as they do not hold out a helping hand to the poor to relieve them, but to deceive them ; not to aid others in their starvation, but to gratify their own covetousness; seeing that the motive stamps our every deed.” 70. Those within the fat lagoon, the Irascible, Canto VII., VIII. 71. Whom the wind drives, the Wanton, Canto V., and whom the rain doth beat, the Gluttonous, Canto VI. 72. And who encounter with such bitter tongues, the Prodigal and Avaricious, Canto VII. 80. The Ethics of Aristotle, VII. i. “After these things, making another beginning, it must be observed by us that there are three species of things which are to be avoided in manners, viz., Malice, Ifcontinence, and Bestial. ity.” IoI. The Physics of Aristotle, Book II. 107. Genesis, i. 28: “And God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” 109. Gabrielle Rossetti, in the Comento Amalitico of his edition of the Divina Commedia, quotes here the lines of Florian :

"Nous ne recevons l'existence
Qu'afin de travailler pour nous, ou pour
autrui :
Dece devoir sacré quiconque se dispense
Est puni par la Providence,
Par i. besoin, ou par l'ennui."

110. The constellation Pisces precedes Aries, in which the sun now is. This indicates the time to be a little before sunrise. It is Saturday morning.

114. The Wain is the constellation Charles's Wain, or Boötes; and Caurus is the Northwest, indicated by the Latin uame of the northwest wind.

CAN TO XII.

1. With this Canto begins the Seventh Circle of the Inferno, in which the Violent are punished. In the first Girone or round are the Violent against their neighbours, plunged more or less deeply in the river of boiling blood.

2. Mr. Ruskin, Modern Painters, III.

242, has the following remarks upon Dante's idea of rocks and mountains:— “At the top of the abyss of the seventh circle, appointed for the ‘violent,’ or souls who had done evil by force, we are told, first, that the edge of it was composed of “great broken stones in a circle;’ then, that the place was ‘Alpine’; and, becoming hereupon attentive, in order to hear what an Alpine place is like, we find that it was “like the place beyond Trent, where the rock, either by earthquake, or failure of support, has broken down to the plain, so that it gives any one at the top some means of getting down to the bottom.’ This is not a very elevated or enthusiastic description of an Alpine scene; and it is far from mended by the following verses, in which we are told that Dante “began to go down by this great unloading of stones,’ and that they moved often under his feet by reason of the new weight. The fact is that Dante, by many expressions throughout the poem, shows himself to have been a notably bad climber; and being fond of sitting . in the sun, looking at his fair Baptistery, or walking in a dignified manner on flat pavement in a long robe, it puts him seriously out of his way when he has to take to his hands and knees, or look to his feet; so that the first strong impression made upon him by any Alpine scene whatever is, clearly, that it is bad walking. When he is in a fright and hurry, and has a very steep place to go down, Virgil has to carry him altogether.” 5. Speaking of the region to which Dante here alludes, Eustace, Classical Tour, I. 71, says:– “The descent becomes more rapid between Roveredo and Ala; the river, which glided gently through the valley of Trent, assumes the roughness of a torrent ; the defiles become narrower; and the mountains break into rocks and precipices, which occasionally approach the road, sometimes rise perpendicular from it, and now and then hang over it in terrible majesty.” In a note he adds : — “Amid these wilds the traveller cannot sail to notice a vast tract called the Slavini di Marco, covered with frag

ments of rock torn from the sides of the neighbouring mountains by an earthguake, or perhaps by their own unsupported weight, and hurled down into the plains below. They spread over the whole valley, and in some places contract the road to a very narrow space. A few firs and cypresses scattered in the intervals, or sometimes rising out of the crevices of the rocks, cast a partial and melancholy shade amid the surrounding nakedness and desolation. This scene of ruin seems to have made a deep imFo upon the wild imagination of

ante, as he has introduced it into the twelfth canto of the Infermo, in order to give the reader an adequate idea of one of his infernal ramparts.”

12. The Minotaur, half bull, half man. See the infamous story in all the classical dictionaries.

18. The Duke of Athens is Theseus. Chaucer gives him the same title in The Ánightes Zale :-

“Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was a duk that highte Theseus.
Of Athenes he was lord and governour,
That greter was ther non under the sonne.
Ful many a rich contree had he wonne.
What with his wisdom and his chevalrie,
He conquerd all the regne of Feminie,
That whilom was yeleped Scythia ;
And wedded the freshe quene Ipolita,
And brought hire home with him to his

contree

With mochel glorie and great solempnitee,
And else hire yonge suster Emelie.
And thus with victorie and with melodie
Let I this worthy duk to Athenes ride,
And all his host, in armes him beside.”

SWakespeare also, in the Midsummer Might's Dream, calls him the Duke of Athens.

2O. Ariadne, who gave Theseus the silken thread to guide him back through the Cretan labyrinth aster slaying the Minotaur. Hawthorne has beautifully told the old story in his 7anglewood Tales. “Ah, the bull - leaded villain ' " he says. “And O my good little people, you will perhaps see, one of these days, as I do now, that every human being who suffers anything evil to get into his nature, or to remain there, is a kind of Minotaur, an enemy of his fellow-creatures, and separated from all

39. Christ's descent into Limbo, and the earthquake at the Crucifix1On.

42. This is the doctrine of Empedocles and other old philosophers. See Ritter, History of Ancient Philosoz/21, Book V., Chap. vi. The following passages are from Mr. Morrison's translation :

“Empedocles proceeded from the Eleatic principle of the oneness of all truth. In its unity it resembles a ball ; he calls it the sphere, wherein the an o recognized the God of EmpedoCleS. . .

“Into the unity of the sphere all elementary things are combined by love, without difference or distinction : within it they lead a happy life, replete with holiness, and remote from discord:—

“They know no god of war nor the spirit of
battles,
Nor Zeus, the sovereign, nor Chronos, nor yet
Poseidon,
But Cypris the queen. . . .

“The actual separation of the elements one from another is produced by discord; sor originally they were bound together in the sphere, and therein continued perfectly unmovable. Now in this Empedocles posits different periods and different conditions of the world ; for, according to the above position, originally all is united in love, and then subsequently the elements and living essences are separated. . . . . “His assertion of certain mundane periods was taken by the ancients literally ; for they tell us that, according to his theory, All was originally one by love, but afterwards many and at enmity with itself through discord.” 56. The Centaurs are set to guard this Circle, as symbolizing violence, with some form of which the classic poets usually associate them. 68. Chaucer, Z'he Aon/es Tale

“A lemman had this noble champion,
That highte Deianire, as fresh as May :
And as thise clerkes maken mention.
She hath him sent a sherte fresh and gay :
Alas ! this sherte, alas and wala wa '
Envenimed was sotilly withalle,
That or that he had wered it half a day,

good companionship, as this poor monster was.”

It hade his flesh all from his boney faile.”

Chiron was a son of Saturn ; Pholus, of Silenus ; and Nessus, of Ixion and the Cloud. 71. Homer, Iliad, XI. 832, “Whom Chiron instructed, the most just of the Centaurs.” Hawthorne gives a humorous turn to the fable of Chiron, in the Tang/ewood Tales, p. 273 :— “I have sometimes suspected that Master Chiron was not really very difserent from other people, but that, being a kind-hearted and merry old fellow, he was in the habit of making believe that he was a horse, and scrambling about the school-room on all fours, and letting the little boys ride upon his back, And so, when his scholars had grown up, and grown old, and were trotting their grandchildren on their knees, they told them about the Sports of their school days; and these young folks took the idea that their grandfathers had been taught their letters by a Centaur, half man and half Orse. . . . . “Be that as it may, it has always been told for a fact, (and always will be told, as long as the world lasts,) that Chiron, with the head of a schoolmaster, had the body and legs of a horse. Just imagine the grave old gentleman clattering and stamping into the schoolroom on his foul hoofs, perhaps treading on some little fellow's toes, floufishing his switch tail instead of a rod, and, now and then, trotting out of doors to eat a mouthful of grass ''' 77. Mr. Ruskin refers to this line in confirmation of his theory that “all great art represents something that it sees or believes in ; nothing unseen or uncredited.” The passage is as follows, Modern Painters, III. 83 :— “And just because it is always something that it sees or believes in, there § the peculiar character above noted, almost unmistakable, in all high and true ideals, of having been as it were studied from the life, and involving pieces of sudden familiarity, and close specific painting which never would we been admitted or even thought of had not the painter drawn either from the bodily life or from the life of faith, For instance, Dante's Centaur,

Chiron, dividing his beard with his

arrow before he can speak, is a thing that no mortal would ever have thought of, if he had not actually seen the Cen. taur do it. They might have composed handsome bodies of men and horses in all possible ways, through a whole life of pseudo-idealism, and yet never dreamed of any such thing. But the real living Centaur actually trotted across Dante's brain, and he saw him do it.” Io?. Alexander of Thessaly and Dionysius of Syracuse. I Io. Azzolino, or Ezzolino di Ro: mano, tyrant of Padua, nicknamed the Son of the Devil. Ariosto, Orlando Aurioso, III. 33, describes him as

“Fierce Ezelin, that most inhuman lord,
Who shall be deemed by men a child of hell.”

His story may be found in Sismondi's Histoire des Republiques Italiennes, Chap. XIX. He so outraged the religious sense of the people by his cruelties, that a crusade was preached against him, and he died, a prisoner in 1259, tearing the bandages from his wounds, and fierce and defiant to the last. “Ezzolino was small of stature,” says Sismondi, “but the whole aspect of his person, all his movements, indicated the soldier. His language was bitter, his countenance proud; and by a single look, he made the boldest tremble. His soul, so greedy of all crimes, felt no attraction for sensual pleasures. Never had Ezzolino loved women; and this perhaps is the reason why in his punishments he was as pitiless against them as against men. He was in his sixty-sixth year when he died; and his reign of blood had lasted thirty-four years.” Many glimpses of him are given in the Cento Asozelle Antiche, as if his memory long haunted the minds of men. Here are two of them, from Novella 83. “Once upon a time Messer Azzolino da Romano made proclamation, through his own territories and elsewhere, that he wished to do a great charity, and therefore that all the beggars, both men and women, should assemble in his meadow, on a certain day, and to each he would give a new gown, and, abun

« PreviousContinue »