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CI TITO I.
then is my weight upon the hinder or lower one, making it the firm one for a moment; and while lam in the act of drawing up this latter, then is the upper foot for a moment the firm one in its turn : vice-versa in my descending. So neither of the one or the other are the words of the text strictly descriptive. Then if the context argues, that Dante was no longer on the plain, and his mode of stepping, that he was neither ascending nor descending , must he not have meant an unnatural, unavailing gait, something akin to the'I would and would not' — vorrei e non vorrei — of the Italians? Or, making lower synonimous with less worthy , ( a common mode of speech) have intended lower foot as symbolical of earthly cares and appetites, whence, by saying this foot was always the lower one, he avowed, that the cares of life continued to have more influence over his affections, than philosophy and virtue, even while he was forming some ineffectual resolutions to fly those and elevate his mind to these ? This unsteady product of disappointments and fears , which might well have sprung up in a patriot's bosom at that time, as will be acknowledged by the readers of Tuscan history, was beyond doubt what was intended to be inculcated ( whatever be held to be the precise metaphorical interpretation ) j and this abortive infirmity of heart is, I hope, conveyed by my version, 'with steps that backward hung'.
G. — xxzii.
In considering the Panther as a personification of Florence, I am, in at least a slight degree, at variance with the Commentators; for these say it personifies either the vice of voluptuousness in the abstract, or the voluptuousness of Dante. Still am I not without some authority for my interpretation (0; and, even were I, it renders so intelligible this Allegory (which otherwise has an air of perplexity, particularly when we come to the lion and wolf) and it tallies so exactly with history, that, I think, it ought to be adopted . There are three wild-beasts in the Canto, in imitation, as shall appear, of a passage in Jeremiah, where they are universally interpreted as three several nations. Now, whatever ideas of vice Dante intended to convey, he could never have so misled his readers a nd so rambled from his sacred original, as to have dropt all reference to nations, a grand conception adapted to the opening of a grand poem: but rather he would have connected both objects, and, faithful to the Biblical example with which he had set out, would have designated by each beast some particular State with its ruling passion. This would be the obvious contrivance of even an inferior poet, and would be the only way to avoid falling into the Bathos after having alluded to the sublime
(i) Gio. Marchetti Discor. Bologna iStg.
imagery of the old Testament. Of the two opinions of the Commentators, one indeed is not only not incompatible with this my interpretation, but, well considered, implies it: for if Dante meant Voluptuousness in the abstract, yet, to injure and plague him, it must have been such as immediately was round him; but he was then in Florence; he must then have meant the voluptuousness of Florence . As to the making of Dante accuse himself of that vice, it is in contradiction with every thing that has come down to us of his life and manners; which his enemies decried as stoically severe , while his friends contended they were only of a very laudable gravity (0 . Florentines may object to have their City represented by such an unchaste creature as the Panther (a): but they have so continually to complain of Dante, that to wince here were superfluous; and they would do better to avail themselves of the defence made for them by their contryman Mini (3). Strangers , at least, will have no difficulty in believing that Florence was remarkable for its voluptuousness , when they read it, not only in other parts of this
(i) Farono i tuoi cost ami gravi e laudevoli tutti. Bocc. Com. Vol. i. p. 8.
(a) Motto access nella lihidine. Land Com.
(3) Dante non hiasima giammai assolntamente ta sua patria e i Fiorentini, ma bensi alcuni Fiorentini di quei tempi, e il cattivo e tiranuico governo di essa: come hiaaimarono gia gli Scrittoii de'loro tempi le protcrizioni di Mario e di Silla, i vizi di Catilina , l' avarizis di Crasso, la crudelta del Triumvirato, e la afrroata lihidine di M. Antonio . Difesa p. a6.
poem , but in almost all the writings of Boccaccio; for it is not the Decameron alone, which dwells on
the licentious habits of his native town. 'There'
says he—'the ladies, unable to conceal the inextinguishable fire of their voluptuousness, seek by every artifice to increase that of the men. Lascivious in their gaze and half naked in their persons, they scatter vice and death itself through the town, and make it one reservoir of nastiness (0: while , on the other hand, they are more than rivaled in pro. fligacy by our debauched youth of the male sex, who, less civilized than the Ethiopians , Indians, or any of the new-discovered savages, will pro. bably soon be seen without any clothing whatever; and in that will imitate the brute beasts, whom in want of shame and reason they have long since surpassed'. But voluptuousness is not the only characteristic of the Panther , but also beauty and cruelty. This latter is proved to have belonged to Florence by her treatment of Dante himself; and as to the former, it still exists within her walls to speak for itself. If to an Oltremontano, a cool, casual visitor , she appears even now the loveliest town in Europe, what must she not have been in the days of her liberty to her own favoured child? On the beauty of the Panther he consequently dilates: and I know of no creature, that could have answered his purposes as well as
(i) 0»tel di lordura . Com. Vol. i. p. 33o.
this, who furnished mantles both to Paris and Venus (0; and of whom it is recounted, that she hath the craft to conceal her head, so that the most timid animals, when no longer repelled by a certain fierceness that is in her eyes, approach that charming wild beast, the fairness of whose dap pled hide is so alluring: and she, wheeling round, tears them in pieces without compassion (*). Itr may be even supposed that he used her in a good sense, as in his Volgare Eloquenza, or grammar, and so personified the beautiful Florence, without any reference either to cruelty or voluptuousness: for, meaning to affirm that the pure literary Italian is not to be found in any of the dialects of Italy, his words are : 'having beat all the groves and pastures of Italy without finding the desired Panther (»).
Although learned men have disputed whether the world was created in autumn or in spring, yet we know this latter to have been Dante's opinion : and he here inculcates it with an astrono. mical reference, to understand which, his readers must have acquired some principles of astronomy _ Two things are to be kept in mind: the low state
(i) Iliad. Lib. 3. i8.
(a) Plin. Ap. Land. Com.
(S) Postquam venati saltna et pascua sumus Italia: nec Panteram quatn sequiinur iovenimua p. 39.