Imagens das páginas

Canto nr.

But such ethics are unsound ; and tend to deprive mankind of the hopes of ever having an upright magistrate, at least of one with purer sentiments than ambition. Of all masks the readiest to put on is religion: sloth, ignorance, selfishness may be concealed by it, not to say the basest passions; and sometimes the wearer deceives not only others, but himself. Celestine was, it is likely, an instance of the latter, fancying his deed to be one of Christian self-denial: yet he deserted his post in the moment of danger, left all the good undone which might have been effected by a worthy bishop and Sovereign, and (since his abdication was by many considered illegal) exposed his Church to the indecency of a civil war and schism, two Pontiffs to the degradation of a prison, and one to the guilt of murder and suicide. That he should have been stigmatised then as a mean spirit is surely neither unjust nor strange; but it is so, that after the lapse of ages and the subsidence of factions, Dante is still accused of sacrilege towards a canonized Pope, or badly defended by putting an incongruousexplanation on his words, and that to vindicate him it is necessary to recapitulate all the above circumstances.

Few points are surer than that Celestine was the person here meant by Dante. His son Peter says .... est Papa Celestinus quintus qui potens ita esse sanctus in Papatu ut in heremo, Papatui, qui VlHtO i11. •

Sedes est Christi, pusilanimiter renuntiavit (0: Jacob.... Papa di Roma nominato Celestino per villa il grande ufficio Apost. Rom. rinnunzio (a). Boccaccio, and the Riccardian M. S. and the Ottimo {V are of a similar sentiment. These were all contemporaries of Dante, and therefore most likely to he conscious of his meaning. Later, but also very ancient, commentators proposed Esau, or Diocletian. But ihese, who lived ages before him, he could scarcely have recognized; he might almost as reasonably be represented as recognizing the Emperor Charles V, who lived ages after him. Lombardi proposes one of the Cerchi, a Florentine(0;

(i) Bib. Lnurenziana . PluI. XL. Cod. 38. (a) Id. Id. Id. Cod. >0.

(3) The M. S. comment so entitled by the Academicians ( snd which I forgot to enumerate in the note, Hell, Comment, Canto i. p. a5 ) is Cod. i9. Plut. XL. in the Laurentian library; but I have fuund in the Riccardian a fairer copy of the same M. S. and quite complete, containing the three Canticles, Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso. It is Cod. i004.

(4) If Mr. Cary had confined himself to pointing out Celestine without entering at all into the controversy , there would be n0 blaming him; hut when be allows Lotnbardi's invention to take up so much precious space as four entire lines in his little notes, one regrets that he omits (what from its antiquity alone deserves more notice ) the hypothesis of Esau. I think it false certainly; but it seems to have existed even among Dante's contemporaries -—judging by the ut credo of Peter Alighieri (for as to him and his comment, they have been too long received as genuine to fall before the arguments of Dionisi, Serie di Anncddoti. Num. a.), and by the chi costui si fosse ec. of Boccaccio; while the Imolese, who was almost contemporaneous with our poet, absolutely asserts he meant Esau — dico brevius quod fuit Esau. Benvenuti Imol. Com. ap. Mur. Antiq. Ital. vol. i. p. i0a0. It ia moreover a pity Mr. Cary did not word his translation so as to be susC.AHTO Ills

but if there were nothing else to object, his obscurity is enough: whereas against Celestine there can be no objection chronologically, or otherwise. That he was a Pope is none ; when those installed in that elevated rank were notorious malefactors , Dante never spared them: on the contrary, we shall see that it is against them his most acrimonious anathema is poiitted ; as if to every other cry for vengeance was here added that of his disgraced religion. But with regard to poor Celestine, it is not improbable but it might have been respect for the Tiara which prevented his being directly named. The indications in the text identified him at the time; and as to handing his name to posterity, it might be spared without any material breach of equity; since it is acknowledged that, notwithstanding the calamities he occasioned, he was a holy, not a flagitious roan (').

M. Lxxiii.

Die, ait, o virgo, quid vult concursus ad aninem?
Quidve petunt aniaiae? (>)


Virgil repeats that nothing is worthy of attention

crptihle like the original of any of the above explications; but bit making villA ' base_/rar' prevents the possibility of applying the passage either to Esau, or Diocletian .

(i) Fue di sanctavita et aspra penitentis. Bib Lauren/.iana. Plat. Xl. Cod. i9.

(») Aeneid. Lib. vs. v. 3a<.

<UKro iu>

until the Vestibule is quite traversed, which it only is on arrival at Acheron, the infernal stream that incloses the first Circle.

Dante rose ere the age of Classical erudition. Latin, and even Greek were indeed still extant: but the latter was very imperfectly known; and the former, barbarously though flueutly spoken and worse written, served for little better than lawers and scholastic disputants, or for dull hymns, or at best some wretched mystical farce. It was Dante and his two successors that awoke the world to

ancient literature: illucentibus ingeuiis Dan

tis, Petrarehae, et Boccaccii reviviscere caeperunt litterae Graecae etLatinae (0. The two latter of those distinguished men claim a greater share in the cultivation of Greek; but the other did not neglect it. To prove this his numerous quotations from the Iliad and Odyssey sufficei; for whence but from the originals could he take them at a time when they yet lay untranslated? The fact of neither of those poems having been then translated is known to literary antiquaries; and we have an additional testimony in the declaration made by Dante himself: 'Homer has never been turned frotn Greek into Latin (a).' I presume it superfluous to show,

(i) Hump. Hod. Loud i749.

(a) Omero mai si rant6 di Greco in Latino. Convito . p. 64. In the Monorchia we read , et hujus, ut ait Humerus , est regulate omnea, e| leges imponere aliis — Lib. i. p. 8: and in the Vita Nnovj, di lei a) poteva dire quelle parole del poeta Omero, ella uou pareva figliuola, d' uciiu morule ma di Uio — p. a: and iu the Monarchia we hare ( Cqii. > C1MO Ml

that the translations of Homer in any of our modern languages were long subsequent to those in latin . From what source then could any one have at thai time quoted? ManettiCOin saying Dante was ignorant of Greek must therefore have only meant that he was not profoundly versed in it, which was no improper form of speech in so accomplished a hellenistasthat biographer. In fact Dante enriched his tongue by many greek phrases; and, by frequent references to the poets, historians, and philosophers of Greece, was the opener of the path which his two illustrious successors pressed so eagerly a few years later: and he nut only directed public attention to those ancient sages, but even condescending to interfere practically, laboured to give the education of youth a similar impulse (*). But there then existed circumstances to render it highly expedient that the study of latin should precede that of Greek . Very few greek books were in Italy, and the latin classics were yet asleep on

traiy lo his usual mode ) oven Greek in Greek characters, ntitiyitoLv— Lib. i. p. 22. When Gradenigu then , recanting his fiist opinion, asserted he could not discover a single word unquestionably Grecian on a re perusal of all Dante's compositions, he stamped himself a very careless peruser . Lett. Greco-Jtaliana. i73n.

(i) Vita Dantis. M. S. Bib. Laureuziana. Plut. LXIU. Cod. 3o. (a) See his sonnet in La mi's Delicx Erud. vol. i7. p. n8. It was addressed by Dante to his great friend, Bossone, congratulating him on the progress of young Bossone in Greekand French at the verv time Dante himself was his tutor, or at least superintended his education: . . . del car figliuol vedi presente II frutto che sperasti, e si repente S'avvaccia ne lo stil Greco, e Fraucesco!

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