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eerely he became attached seems proved by the many children he had by her in the course of ten years; of whom six certainly, and perhaps seven, grew up to man's estate. The imperious cruelty of his fate separated him from her for ever on his exile; but that forced separation is unfairly adduced as a proof of their domestic unhappiness (0. Boccaccio is improperly represented as blaming her; but he does no such thing , his words being aimed against matrimony in itself, because of its peculiar unfitness for the followers of polite literature, and not against her in particular. She, on the contrary, seems to have performed all the duties of a faithful partner; remaining in Florence to save some of their fortune for their common children , and acting in a character still more interesting to the world, in that of careful preserver of her husband's writings, as we shall have occasion to unfold. Of those who, like Dante, passed their liyes in public, and consequently afforded more matter for correct biography than literary men in general, there are few who have been persecuted
with so many fables not invented in his own
age, but by the ingenuity of times comparatively recent. Amongst these fables is to be enumerated that of his having been married thrice; for which I do not discover a shadow of authority. I presume it originated in the ladies we have noticed , who
(i) Manettr. ec. ec.
were mistaken for three wives. Another person tells us (I imagine, by way of joke) that one of Dante's mistresses had a wen, which we may credit, or not: for there surely is no testimony either to prove , or disprove it. It is certain he had but one wife, and she appears to have survived him: her name was Gemma de' Donati, and the names
of their children were Peter, Jacob, Gabriel,
Aligero , Eliseo, and Beatrice . This last, his only daughter, was called after his early flame: it is dubious whether he had not a sixth son, Francis (0.
The same Horatian vulgar profanum vul
gus is found in the Convito: ' I am not, it is
true , entitled to a seat at the banquet of wisdom; but I have at least retired from the vulgar, and am busy in gathering the scraps that fall from that divine table (»).'
This triplet is entirely Scriptural. The ever-flowing flood that never finds an ocean to arrest it, and which is evidently another symbol for that called a forest, vale, or wilderness in Canto the first (the ills besetting a politician), is only the torrent of iniquity so often introduced in the Bible: as
(i) Viu — Leon. Arret. —Bocc. —Landino, ec. Both Gabriel and Francis must have died in infancy. Petrarch mentions Dante's amor conjugis. Epist. Lib. xi i. ep. I a. —. Dionisi, Prep. Vol. a. p. 6. (») p- H.
"the wicked came upon me like a wide breaking in of waters; in the desolation they rolled themselves upon me Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul, the proud waters had gone over our soul CO." Death is put for guilt and folly; bearing again the same identical sense which it does in the former Canto (as I have shown on the authority of Dante himself) and which is indeed one of the commonest Biblical metaphors (»).
M. Biagioli,in his late comment, calls the passage about the three ladies the most obscure and difficult of any throughout the whole Divine Comedy (3): and although I am not in this exactly of his opinion, yet it is certain that the various allegorical subtilties introduced by those who pretend to expound it, suffice to confuse any head. Taking the obvious literal meaning however (in conformity to the unpresuming spirit, of which these comments made candid profession, from the first) I trust, I have been able to divest it of all obscurity. I suppose there is no man at Dante's time of life without some dear deceased friends, who, it is soothing to think, are employed in watching over him from
(i) Job, xxx. i4. — Psalms, Cxxiv. 4. (a) Comment, Hell, Canto i. p. i3.
(3) Ecco il piu difficile, e sin ora il meno inteso luogo della Dirina Commedia. Comento, Vol. i. p. 40.
that lofty region of light and happiness whither their spirits are gone. We all, I hope, share such a pleasing though melancholy persuasion . Dante then, in expressing it, did nothing hut what was natural; and, if'there is any singularity in his doing so, it is only that he is singularly true to nature. It was an encomium on his own virtue as well as theirs, to represent the three females whom he had admired on earth as become three Saints. in Paradise. One of them, he tells us, is there a personification of supreme Philosophy; and what virtues the other two personify (or whether any) he does not say. The first explanation was necessary for his literary purposes; the others were not. Gentucca and Lucia may be held to symbolize Charity and Grace, or any other divine attributes, at the reader's good pleasure. No confusion is produced by it. But what is manifest, is, that they, as well as Beatrice, were once earthly charmers and are now celestial Saints. This is highly poetic, because highly tender, natural and sublime. There is nothing in this hard to understand; and this, and no more than this, is in the text. If the comments on it are unintelligible, that is the fault of those who wrote them, and not of the poet. Were it true then, that this were 'the most difficult and least intelligible passage in the Divine Comedy,' no eminent poet were ever less liable to a charge of obscurity than Dante.
In the last-cited comment are noted the verses which Alfieri had transcribed from this poem; and it is certainly not uninteresting to be thus informed of the opinion of so distinguished a personage as Alfieri: although that opinion is much qualified by his declaration, on a re-perusal of the Divine Comedy some years later, that if he were then to write down every line in it that struck him as worthy of remark, he would not omit 'a single iota of the whole composition; being persuaded more is to be learned from even its very errors, than from the beauties of othersCi).' The triplet before us is one of the transcribed. Nothing in fact can be more finished aud elegant; and it exhibits a fair proof, that, if harmony and polish are not the characteristics of Dante, it is because he chose they should not be so;and threw them designedly into the back ground, in order that his sublimity and learning might stand more prominent.
(i) piii s'impara negli errori di questo, che nelle hellezze
degli altri. Biagioli. Comento. Pief. p. xxxiv.