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consigned to the bottomless pit, because their presence there would not have been consistent with the glory in which th$ wicked but yet mighty fiends dwell. This, in fact, is both the most literal construction of the passage , as well as what best agrees with the context; and it prepares the reader for that sublime picture of Satanic majesty, of which we shall see Dante was the inventor, and Milton the noble imitator. The commoner explanation is given at the foot of Mr. Gary's page correctly ("Lest the rebellious angels should exult at seeing those who were neutral and therefore less guilty, condemned to the same punishment with themselves" but in his translation that gentleman is wrong; for his verses are unsusceptible of the meaning which is probably the true, but is certainly the literal one. Word for word the line
is Because the wicked could acquire no glory
from them; and this is metamorphosed by him into what seems diametrically opposite, viz: that their
presence would confer glory on the wicked
"Lest th' accursed tribe
L. — ux.
Virgil, whom we shall find almost continually
del testo, it quale si e questo: perchi gli Angeli rei non avrebbero alcana gloria nella compagnia di essi. Comento vol. i. p. 55. — It may not be superflous to observe that alcuna in the text means none, niuna, in consequence of being proceded by the particle ne. See Ve«ab. $. i.
exciting, rather than repressing the curiosity of his pupil, had told him not to mis-employ his time in enquiring ahout these crowds; for that they
were unworthy his attention 'look and along'.
In this he is obeyed; and of the innumerable multitudes that run round after the flag ( whose whirling is no bad emblem of their worthless levity ), only one individual is'in any way noticed, and even that one without deigning to state his name. It is not difficult to ascertain the person meant; although some moderns have ( as usual ) done their best to render it so. Dante speaks of one whom, having been personally known to him, he
recognises at the first glance ebbi riconosciu
to; and who had renounced some elevated post
through baseness of spirit fece il gran rifiuto
per villa . Now the only renunciation of any thing meriting the epithet great, during the life of Dante, was that of the Papacy by Celestine V an
individual whum he must have seen frequently . This were enough, if we had not (which we have ) the direct evidence of Dante's own children, and of all the earliest of the commentators; fur it is only from the lmolese downwards that there are any doubts suggested.
On the fourth of April 1292 died Nicholas IV,and left the sacred college in alarming confusion to the scandal of all Christians; but, above the rest, of the Italians , who were not only religiously interested but politically. Nothing, I think presents •AUTO III. ,
a more piteous spectacle than their country then
did. Civil discord at its most cruel height every
State, every town, every family in dissension
nearly one half of the population ejected from their homes and living openly by rapine — every castle become a fortress , every house a tower, no
law but the sword treasons, rapes, robberies,
slaughter in fine in every imaginable form almost deprive Italy at that period of the appearance of a nation of rational beings. There appeared to be no remedy half so plausible in that convulsive paroxysm of society as the •lection to the Popedom of a good and able man, who should change the impious system introduced by many of his predecessors, and, instead of fomenting, endeavour to restrain the factions of the Guelphs and Ghibellines, and re-establish something like law and morals. To succeed in this it was also necessary that he should be an Italian: and to engage the conclave to close so shameful an interregnum in the Church by making such an election, our poet (who, although only in his twenty-eighth year(0and in the freshness of mourning for his Beatrice, had been already on several important embassies and, amongst other places, at Rome) directed a solemn letter to the Cardinals (*). Whether this awakened
(i) Hell. Comment. Canto II. p. i33.
(a) Negri. 1st. Scritt. Fior. — This seems to have been unknown to Sismondi (Hist. des Republiqnes Italiennes. Tome iv. p. 73—i8a. ) whose account of Dante, otherwise not very inexact, is obscured by a theory to be supported against irrefragable testimony.
r, i Xto ittt
their consciences, or that the majority had already become ashamed of their ambitious disputes, or that it entered into the scheme of one of them to insure his own preferment by deferring it for a few months, or that they were terrified by the Roman fever of which several of them had already
died and of which others were ill, their votes
were at length united in favour of Peter Morrone, a hermit of fair reputation; who on the fifth of July, i294, assumed the mantle by the title of Celestine V. Great was the satisfaction caused by this event, and our aftthor joined in it most cordially; not only on account of Peter's blameless manners, but also because thus seemed baffled the wiles of one of the purpled candidates, whose foul conduct and guilty principles could not by any mask have been entirely concealed from so penetrating an eye as Dante's. Three dignitaries ('->
(i) An Archbishop, and two bistiops. The mode of his nomination is a good example of what Mr. Gibbon calls the uncertain breath of a Conclave. Cardinal Latino having told his brethern one day that a holy man had had a dream that they should all die before two months unless they agreed on some one to fill the vacant chair of S. Peter, he who was afterwards Boniface VIII replied sneeringly ' 1 suppose this is one of the visions of vour Peter Morrone.' ' It is '( answered Latino) ' and the revelation thus made to that man of God proves that the gifts of the Holy-ghost render him worthy to rule over the faithful:'— on which he was voted Pope. The threat of death to men who bad seen their companions expire and were themselves ill of the same fever had no doubt much effect; but the whole seems to have been a plot of Boniface VIII, who, not being able to gain his election at that moment, had formed a plan of insuring it shortly after . Sismondi. Hist. des Bcpub. Ital. Vol. Iv. p. 76.
were sent in procession to the mountain where the hermit had his cell to inform him of his election, and, when the poor mendicant in astonishment at their rank would have prostrated himself at their feet, they flung themselves down at his to crave a benediction from his Holiness; innumerable were the crowds that flocked along the roads leading to his retirement (0; as he past, all bent their knees before him, many from reverence for his sacred character, and some too from wonder at seeing a beggar transformed into a Monarch; and , that his entry into the decorated streets of Aquila might want no possible brilliancy ecclesiastical or civil, two troops of royal guards in various and rich uniforms, and mounted on caparisoned horses of the two finest breeds of the south and north of Europe, were super added to the usual costly ones of the Papacy; and, while the ass, on which the 'servant of the servants of God' rode, proceeded in slow pomp amid Princes and Bishops and Cardinals, to the sound of every kind of sweet music and amid clouds of incense, over a carpet of flowers profusely strewed by white-robed youths in many vivid emblematic patterns, (the balconies overflowing with groups of the noblest and most
(i) In fact it was they prevented his escape: for his first impulse wa» to run away; but finding every avenue crowded , he was compelled to return to his cell. He indeed appears to have been a man of the weakest intellects; so that Boccaccio calls him huomo idiota . Comellto . Vol. i. p. H».