Imagens das páginas

as something exquisitely pure — a scene of glancing light, an abode of everlasting song. And that is how Dante does represent it. He is perpetually alternating between, or rather associating, these two conceptions, Here are two examples, culled at random:—

"Voices divine make up sweet melodies;
So in this life of oure the seats diverse
Render sweet harmonies among the spheres;
And in the compass of the present pearl
Shineth the sheen of Romeo, of whom
The grand and beauteous work was ill-rewarded."

—Par., vi. 124-129.

"' Glory be to the Father, to the Son,

And Holy Ghost!' all Paradise began,

So that the melody inebriate made.
What I beheld seemed unto me the smile

Of the universe; for my inebriation

Found entrance through the hearing and the sight.
O joy! O gladness inexpressible!

O perfect life of love and peacefulness!

O riches without hankering secure!"

Par., xxvii. 1-9.

Such lines suggest what is indeed the sovereign distinction of the Paradiso, its rhapsody. The Purgatorio holds at least one splendid lyrical passage; but the Paradiso is always, so to speak, on the verge of breaking away into the limitless expanse of song. If in some material sense the cantica does not show us Heaven, it shows us what Heaven might be; and, in musical phrase, renders its blissful crescendo in organtones of mingled sweetness and power.

With these general observations, it would be natural that the present section should close, but there are

certain prosaic details, dropped as it were by the way, which it is necessary to turn back and pick


up. As to the verse, there appears to be a technical name for it—serventese temario incatenato —and in all probability Dante was its inventor. It consists of even endecasillabi rhyming alternately, and each rhyme, except at the beginning and end of the cantos, is repeated thrice (ababcbcde). It is a great regret that Longfellow's translation, the best for ordinary use, does not reproduce the original rhyming, but Dante himself has declared that the bontd, is more than the bellezza. The rhythmical charm of the terzina is at once realised, but it may not be equally evident how well this metre combines the advantages of the couplet and the stanza. The couplet, as has been already remarked, lends itself to the gradual unfolding of the narrative, while the stanza is indulgent to the personal feeling of the narrator, who in this instance is actor also. Thus, even in particulars like these, the intuitive, or instinctive, certainty of Dante's genius triumphantly asserts itself. Indeed, generally, his artistic and spiritual triumph was as complete as his private and political failure.

A remark of Villemain's deserves to rank among the curiosities of literature. "II [the Divine Comedy]

est reste comme un monument original qui

"ServumjKcus." . . mi

na point servi de modele. The context indicates that what the great critic intended by this unguarded deliverance was that Dante has never been imitated successfully, whereas Shakespeare has—e.g., by Schiller. Waiving the latter question, it is allowable to believe that Villemain was entirely unaware to what an extent Dante's poem has served as a pattern, even if Petrarch and Boccaccio be utterly ignored. In 1860 Sefior Vidal y Valenciano Caytano contributed to the Rerista de Espaua an informing article on Spanish imitators, translators, and commentators of the Divine Comedy. In Italy, during the fourteenth century, friends and foes alike made him their model. Fazio degli Uberti, with his Dittamondo, an uninspired geographical study, may represent the former; Cecco d' Ascoli, with his insufferably dry "scientific" Acerba, the latter. This Cecco, who must on no account be confounded with that delightful rogue, Cecco Angiolieri, was transformed in popular fancy into a wizard—a high compliment, since Virgil was metamorphosed in precisely the same way. Cecco's conception of poetry was to exclude from it everything in the nature of fable, and he piques himself on the fact that his poem contains none of those passages of the Com/media which Voltaire and other hostile critics consider redeeming oases. Some lines of the conclusion are worth citing, in order to show the comfortable self-esteem of this pigmy, and his amusing depreciation of his mighty contemporary. Cecco's metre, it will be noticed, is a variation of the terzina.-—

"Qui non se canta al modo delle rane,
Qui non se canta al modo del poeta
Che finge immaginando cose vane;
Ma qui risplende e luce ogni natura
Che a chi intende fa la mente lieta.
Qui non se regna per la selva oscura.
Qui non vedo ne Paolo ne Francesca," &c.

[The list of works that might be recommended for the study of Dante is practically endless. The catalogue of Part I. of the Fiske collection in the library of the Cornell University—perhaps the best collection in the world—has been just issued, and numbers ninety-one quarto pages, closely printed in double columns. In England there has been a remarkable oscillation between prose translations and translations in Una rima. Mr A. J. Butler's labours deserve recognition. He has translated the whole of the Commedia into English prose, as well as Dr Seartazzini's Handbook (London : Macmillan), and has written an excellent little work on Dante and his Times (A. D. Innes). Mr Eugene Lee-Hamilton is the latest aspirant in the field of verse translations, most of which have been dismal failures. On the formal side, Longfellow's is a sham, while Cary's Miltonic effort, if it never sinks very low, is Dante adapted, rather than translated. The writer first studied Dante in Paolo Costa's annotated edition, and an excellent edition it is. In the present work the text of the Oxford Dante, revised and indexed by a group of devoted scholars, has been uniformly followed.]

[ocr errors]




In early times High Italy was famous as the seat of

Provencal verse and North French poetry, imported

literatures. It would be inaccurate to de

Eccerinis. -." . ."

scribe mediaeval or transitional Latin as imported; nevertheless, in relation to the blossoming volgare, it occupied the same antagonistic position as did they. This antagonism is first recognised as formidable in Petrarch's deliberate conspiracy to undo the work of his predecessor; but the Baptist of the Early Renaissance was Albertino Mussato (born, 1262; died, 1329). Mussato differs from Petrarch in that he is, in all but his choice of language, a thoroughly popular character. Outside literature, the aim of his life was to defeat the ambition of Dante's patron, Can Grande, and the production for which he is best

« AnteriorContinuar »