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Cut TO II.
conciled? I know not if there was another mode than that which he selected and which, as ha rightly says, had never been adopted by any one before. It was in truth one of his noblest inventions, this of making his lady a personification of that knowledge, which, if not quite illimitable, is at least without other superior than the uncreated fountain whence it emanates. Former poets had treated of wars and the founding of empires: had he sung simply of a girl, could all his genius have exalted his compositions to a level with theirs? In taking so circumscribed a flight, would he not have been unjust to his own powers, and conferred less honor even upon her memory? Could he then have benefited society at large, by showering out his treasures of science? Or have called, as we shall find him do, upon the God of verse to crown him with the laurel, affirming with honest pride that the subject-matter of his song rendered him worthy of it (0? He had at one time intended to write a comment on his poem; in which case he would himself have explained all this: but pecuniary difficulties, and at last death, prevented him. He had in fact scarcely finished the text when he expired. But, in default of his own comment on the Divine Comedy,we have what he probably intend
(t) Veuir vedrami al tuo diletto Iegno,
tun to II.
cd as its model his comments on his Odes or
Canzoni; and these (under the title of Convito or Banquet).leave nothing to be desired, as far at least as Beatrice is concerned . They tell us that, whatever she may signify literally , that which most interests the reader is to be aware of her allegorical sense, and know that Beatrice, though she isthesnme lady whom he had celebrated and whose death he had wept in the Vita nuova, is to be received as the personification of the divinest philosophy: and that in fine his audience should for the future invariably deem her such . The selfsame, admirable Beatrice' (he writes ) 'of whom I discoursed in the Vita nuova, in that fervid effusion of my boyhood , which were no longer in character with these my mature years, yet not one syllable of which I would be understood as retracting, but rather as confirming, in what I am about to say at present; for as the age of man varies, so should his language and conduct vary; there are manners which sit well and handsomely on youth, and yet would be awkward and even highly blameable in an elderly person ; I composed the Vita nuova with the passionate heat of one not yet arrived at manhood, and I begin these comments in the sober tone that becometh me
now that that season of life is quite over Se
nella presente opera vo' piu virilmente parlare che nella Vita nuova, non intendo pero a quella in parte alcuna derogare, ma maggiormeute gioCINTO II.
vare; e se quella è fervida e passionata , e questa temprata e virile, così conviene essere; io in quella dinanzi all'entrata di mia gioventute parlai , e-in questa di poi quella già trapassata; altro si conviene e dire e operare a una etade , e altro a un'altra; e certi costumi sono idonei e laudabili a una etade , che sono sconci e biasimevoli ad'altra: the same glorious Beatrice in whose praisè I then expatiated , she whose corporeal charms are no more, but whose spirit remains in secure possession of the fortress of my mind, la rocca
della mia mente the Saint that passed away
indeed, hut that lives in heaven with the angels and on earth in union with my soul, is not henceforth to be considered simply as a female, but as a creature personifying the loftiest portion of philosophy , the eldest daughter of Jehovah, the universal queen, the spotless dove of Solomon, the wisdom most happy and supreme, which at last resigned me to the irreparable loss of her who was my first love . No other than that celestial study could ever have assuaged my anguish, inconsolable as I was when she became lost to me who was my soul's first delight-— quando per me fu perduto quel primo diletto della mia anima. It was the constant perusal of Boétius and Cicero that at length induced me to wean my affections from every earthly care and raise them to an exclusive reliance on that noblest philosophy, which I henceforth presented to my imagination in the form of CtHTO II.
my own gentlest lady, now become an inmate of Paradise' e immaginava lei fatta come una donna gentile, quella gentil donna di cui feci menzione nella Vita nuova ('). Can any more satisfactory illustration be required? What is there to prevent our considering Beatrice in this two fold light? Do we not consider a human being as two fold viz. as body and as soul? This is quite natural; it is to figure them asunder that is abstruse and perplexing. Her form we are, as he tells us, to represent as that of his lovely mistress. We have seen she was a Florentine lady: to which I may add, that her father, Folcho Portinari, was celebrated for many princely acts of charity, but,above all, for having been the founder (a) of the magnificent hospital S. Maria Nuova , an establishment that still confers benefit on his native place. Boccaccio affirms that he was one of the most upright, most anciently descended, and every way most illustrious citizens of the Bepublic (3); and the line of Folcho is ranked by Mini among the oldest and noblest of Italy, having given, as he avers, 'a high admiral to the order of S. Iohn, since called of Bhodes, and now of Malta' (4). What insurmountable impediment there was to her union with our poet I cannot learn. It does not seem to have been
(i) Convito.pp. 55.—77.—78.-95.-^i0a. (a) Toscana Illustrata. vol. i.
(3) Comento. vol. i. p. na.
(4) Difeta . p. 140.
in her heart: for it is easily gathered, both that they never mutually revealed their passion, and that Dante flattered himself she secretly loved him; and indeed he makes her avow as much on their meeting in Purgatory, as we shall see. Neither was it from any disparity of rank; for his also was very distinguished, as shall be shown; so that when he married, it was into the family at that time confessedly the first in Florence both as to presentauthority and hereditary station, that of Donati. But there were so many domestic and political feuds during that tempestuous era, that there must have been almost innumerable bars to matrimonial alliances. She married a Florentine gentleman a cavaliere M. Simone de'Bardi, according to Boccaccio , as well as to the M. S. I have already quoted. These Bardi were people of highest consequence: one was elected head Prior on the first establishment of Priors in i282, others of their family were successively promoted to the same dignity, indeed their name appears on the roll of the Priorists above ten several times during a space of less than nine years (0; Mini says, that they were still in his time Lords of Vernia, as they had been for centuries (»); and I have myself the honor of being personally acquainted with one of them, who, even at this day, is a potent Count in Tuscany, and besides bears the lofty title of Perpetual Vicar of the.
(i) Priorista Florentine pp. 8.—a5 (a) Difesa. p. a4i.