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that with her prosperous activity might mingle more of the poetry of life.
But what the arrangements of society fail to provide, the individual is at liberty to seek. Nowhere are natural beauty and grandeur more lavishly displayed than on this continent. In no part of the world are there such noble rivers, beautiful lakes, and magnificent forests. The ermine robe of winter is, in no land, spread with more dazzling effect, nor can the woodlands of any clime present a more varied array of autumnal tints. Nor need we resort to the glories of the universe alone. Domestic life exists with us in rare perfection; and it requires but the heroism of sincerity and the exercise of taste, to make the fireside as rich in poetical associations as the terrace and verandah of southern lands. Literature, too, opens a rich field. We can wander through Eden to the music of the blind bard's harp, or listen in the orange groves of Verona, beneath the quiet moonlight, to the sweet vows of Juliet. Let us, then, bravely obey our sympathies, and find, in candid and devoted relations with others, freedom from the constraints of prejudice and form. Let us foster the enthusiasm which exclusive intellectual cultivation would extinguish. Let us detach ourselves sufficiently from the social machinery to realize that we are not integral parts of it; and thus summon into the horizon of destiny those hues of beauty, love and truth, which are the most glorious reflections of the soul !
236.—THE DIVINA COMMEDIA OF DANTE.-I.
[DANTE, or DURANTE, ALIGHIERI—the greatest of Italian poets—in some respects one of the greatest poets the world has produced—was born at Florence in 1265. He died in 1321. His life was rendered miserable by his connection with one of the two great factions that contended for supremacy at Florence. A long career of exile and wandering gave a solemn and even bitter character to his writings. His great poem
is essentially connected with the events of his life. The following abstract of The vina Commedia' is from the pen of Mr. A. Vieusseux, and was originally published in The Store of Knowledge. The quotations are from the admirable translation of the late Mr. Cary.)
The poet describes himself as having wandered out in a forest on
Good Friday of the year 1300, being then in his 35th year ( * Inferno,' Canto i. v. 1, and xxi. v. 109, 110), which he styles the middle period of man's natural life. Emerging from the forest, he found himself at the end of a valley with a mountain before him, the summit of which was lighted by the rays of the morning sun. He began to ascend the mountain, when three fierce animals, a panther, a lion, and a she-wolf, opposed his way. This
passage, which is evidently allegorical, has greatly puzzled the commentators. It is generally agreed that the panther means Lust; the lion means Ambition, or Pride; and the she-wolf is the emblem of Avarice. These three passions are those that most torment mankind, and stand in the way of that moral reform which it was the poet's object to promote. But there is also a political allegory contained in this passage, namely, that the three beasts represent the ruling vices of the Italian cities of the time. Some say that they represent the Guelph league of Florence, designated by a panther; Papal Rome, under the old political emblem of the wolf; and France represented by a lion.
Dante, in his perplexity at the foot of the mountain, meets with the soul of Virgil, who introduces himself as sent by Beatrice, Dante's early love, to guide him through the regions of Hell ;
Where thou shalt hear despairing shrieks, and see
and afterwards through Purgatory, where lie those who dwell
Content in fire, for that they hope to come,
After much hesitation on the part of Dante, through fear of his want of firmness to bear the fearful journey, being reassured by Virgil, he consents to follow him. Dante had studied the Latin classics only, for in his time Greek was nearly unknown in Italy; and from à passage in Dante's • Convito' it appears that there was no Latin translation of Homer. Dante, therefore, looked upon Virgil as the first of poets whom he knew, and he speaks of him as his master and model in the poetic art.
Virgil led the poet through a turning of the forest to a gate which opened into a subterranean road. Over the lofty arch of the portal Dante read the inscription :
Through me you pass into the city of woe:
fabric mov'd :
Passing the fatal threshold, Dante, led by Virgil's hand, found himself in an immense cavity of the earth, resounding with strange noises :
Here sighs and lamentations and loud moans
(Inferno,' Canto iii.)
In this place, which is like the entrance to the hall of Hell, and not Hell itself, are confined for ever the souls of those who, although they did no positive evil in this world, yet did no good.
Moving onwards, the poet beheld another crowd of spirits thronging towards the bank of a great stream, the Acheron, which forms the boundary of Hell, or the region of torments. A hoary old boatman ferries over the condemned souls of those who die in the wrath of God, and which gather here from every clime. They hurry on into the boat, goaded on to their fate by divine justice, so that their fear is turned into desire. Charon addresses them thus :
Woe to you, wicked spirits ! hope not
To take you to the other shore across
Dante and his guide having passed over to the other shore, the poet found himself on the brink of an unfathomable abyss, dark and overspread with thick clouds. The Hell described by Dante is in the shape of a hollow inverted cone, whose apex is at the centre of the earth. The condemned are placed in nine parallel belts, or circles, round the cone, one below the other, like the ranges of seats in an amphitheatre. Descending into the first circle, the poet found himself in the Limbo-a place assigned by Roman Catholics to the souls of those who die without baptism, and are guiltless of actual sin, such as infants. Dante places also here many great men of antiquity ; Homer and other poets ; Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, and other philosophers; many Roman heroes and matrons; the first Brutus, "hawk-eyed Cæsar,” Lucretia, Cornelia, &c.; and in one place, “ apart retired,” the famous Saleheddin. This was the place assigned to Virgil himself. These spirits are subject to no pain, except sorrow at not being admitted into the presence of God in Paradise.
Descending from thence into the second circle, Dante beheld at the entrance Minos, the judge of souls, who examines them all in turn, and consigns each to its respective place of punishment. Virgil having ex
plained Dante's mission, the living poet is allowed to pass the judgmentseat unquestioned ; after which
Into a place I came
· Inferno,' Canto v.
Here the poet saw, whirled round incessantly among the rest, Semiramis, Helen, Dido, Cleopatra, and other "dames and knights of ancient days " noted for being addicted to carnal lusts. He also saw two souls flying together before the gust, as if loth to part company. As they drew near to him, he addressed them thus:
• O wearied spirits ! come and hold discourse