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this our northern half of the globe. Into this subterranean Circus the only gate that leads is situated so near the roof that its position is not very dissimilar from that of one of the doors , or vomitoria (0, of the uppermost story of the Colisenm. And no doubt but the form attributed to this infernal dome is such, that, if it were not for the steams rising in the middle from the abyss , (which in many places obscure the numerous fires that would otherwise illuminate it perfectly) and if the eye could extend its vision enough, the spectator would command at once the entire prospect above, beneath, and around him, as well as a Roman of old in the said amphitheatre, or any other. He would indeed see that this underground rotunda is horridly vaulted above, whereas that of Rome stands with no other canopy than the glorious sky; but,with this exception, he would descry much resemblance in their architectural frame, viz: various seats, or rows, (or circles, as we shall denominate them) built one within the other and gradually narrowing down to the pit, or arena. But, though this first outline of the plans would be somewhat alike, yet their proportions would be very different. The diameter of the latin arena is far less out-measured by that of the upper seat, than is the diameter of the low
(i) Vomitoria'\n spectaculis uutle homines glomeratim ingredientes in sedilia se fundnnt. Macrobius. Saturnalia , Lib. vi. Cap. 4.
vtnTO litest infernal circle by that of the first; for this can scarcely be calculated at less than three hundred times the other, although there are only nine of them in all. It is matter on which' there are learned and voluminous essays CO; yet, though there are really several data in the poem , which to a certain degree lend plausibility to such calculations , (making it probable enough that Dante himself had them in his mind while writing) I do not think it requisite to enter into the discussion. It may suffice to remark that about a quarter of a mile diameter is allowed to the lowest, central pit, or ninth circle, where (as I have said) the head and shoulders of Belzebub emerge; and 3i5 miles to that of the first circle's vestibule, or corridor . It is in this vestibule we are to be during the present Canto, and it measures (according to calculators ) three hundred and fifteen miles across from its wall on one side to its wall on the other, for it runs quite round the first circle ; and thus it gives us the greatest width of the whole infernal cavern, exactly in the way that the greatest width of the interior of the Flavian amphitheatre would be ascertained , if a line were drawn from one of the vomitoria of the west side, in the uppermost story, to the eastern vomitorium, precisely facing it. So from this vestibule, all round
(i) Velutello, Comento —Antonio Manetti, circa al sito , forma, e misura dello inferno di D. A. — Giambulari, del sito, forma, e misure ec.
springs the dark, enormous, vaulted roof; and down from it descend the nine rows, or circles, one within the other, like those ancient theatrical benches; or like whatever you please in a conical shape, as, for example, the inside of a reversed extinguisher, or Opera glass. But to avoid the possibility of being misunderstood on a subject which it is so convenient to fix steadily in our imagination once for all, (and in order to have a clear idea of it at a few glances ) I subjoin two drawings: one of which is the inner facade, or front, that would be presented by each hemisphere, if the earth were cleft into two from pole topoleby a right line of longitude passing through Jerusalem ; and the other is the ground plan of the hellish circus. Nearly all the circles have subdivisions and some of them many ( as shall be explained separately hereafter); but to attempt to represent those subdivisions here together in any drawing of moderate size would produce confusion : and as to their measurements, they shall be occasionally noticed; but it would be quite impossible to sketch them intelligibly . That it was Dante's opinion that the sixth book of the Aeneid was intended not as allegorical of any human ceremonial, but as a dream, or rapture of spirit, purporting to convey some idea of what is to come to pass hereafter in hell, as the vision of S. Paul did of Paradise , I have already noticed (O.Here then we have Dante no
(i) Hell, Comment, Canto it. p. 84.