Imagens das páginas


the dusty shelves, or crumbling in the lumberrooms of the Monasteries. To restore these to light was a primary, perhaps indispensable step towards the revival of letters; and to this therefore Dante more particularly applied himself, with a judgment that needs no better vindication than the astonishing rapidity with which they quickly began to flourish throughout the whole of the south of Europe. To Virgil, Ovid, Livy and Cicero the productions of Athens naturally succeeded: and that the most indefatigable promoter of the cultivation of Greek, Boccaccio, looked up to Dante as his prime leader in the career of universal literature is testified both by his conduct and his writings; for he dedicated a portion of his life to the public explanation of the Divine Comedy , and in his most learned lucubrations never tired lavishing on the Author such venerable titles as, 'the divine poet and philosopher,othe awful, sapient father, the unquestionable authority, my chief guide in this my review of the theology of ancient Greece and Rome (').' Happily for the world, a desire of benefitting it 'is so kindled in noble minds that it is nearly impossible to damp their ardour; misfortunes, wrongs, neglect, ingratitude are vain; such injustices only expand, not enfeeble that gratuitous love which repulsed by individuals attaches itself to human nature in the abstract, and finds in that ideal object something more commensurate

(t) Genealogia Deor. passim.

<uhto lit.

with its own boundlessness and purity. Boccaccio, persecuted while he lived, and now only represented as the author of his most juvenile, though beautiful production,the Decameron, (by writers who revile him for the levities that stain it, without •adding that he sincerely repented of them in his manhood , or saying any thing of his highest qualities, patriotism and erudition ) condemned his old age to grief and penury in order to bequeath a collection of Greek M. S. S. to his not sufficiently thankful country . Dante acted still more like a patriot, and fared worse; this is not the occasion to dwell on either the sufferings of his life, or the chastness of his pen: but I am forced to remark, that the hope of being useful was among his inducements for employing continually the fables of Antiquity, and such must be his excuse should any one accuse him of doing so too immoderately. His aim was forwarded by uniting classical allusions with the most interesting occurrences of his own day, and the whole machinery of the ancients with verses so popular from their topics that they were in the mouths of every one as soon as published. In a short period the fictions of Heathenism became nearly as well known to the modern Tuscans, as to their Pagan ancestors, and even at this day the lowest class retain vestiges of that knowledge which astonish foreigners, and are not discoverable in any country but Italy.

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O. — MXXT.

Nothing can be clearer than the original

'never hope to see heaven,' non isperate mai veder lo cielo. ' Heaven' is here not a mere Iatinism synonimous with sky, or day; but evidently means Paradise: for to tell the souls they shall never see day has no Christian propriety; but to pronounce their eternal exile from Paradise is a fearful , orthodox malediction. It is strange a Divine should so mis-conceive it; but Mr. Cary not only translates cielo sky, but interpolates an again , so that if he gives the passage any meaning, it is at least totally different from what the author wrote: . . . . " Hope not Ever to see the sky again1. "... This might do in Virgil's hell, where such a return to life was held possible; but what has it in common with this Catholic poem?

In the last line of the tiercet Dante seems to have thought on the Koran, which exactly points out the same things, " eternal darkness, intense heatt and excessive cold " as the three great instruments of torture in hell (0 .


Charon could embark no living being in general;

(i) Sale, Sect «.


etlTO nr.

Umbrarum hie locus est

Corpora viva nefas stygia vectare carina Ci)... and an approaching verse will explain the passage still more, by showing he was not wont to receive any virtuous soul 00. According however to the hypothesis on which this poem is built, the favoured Aeneas,who was both virtuous and alive (*), had long before crossed in Charon's boat; so he could not have meant to say that it was quite incapable of sustaining a human body a remark which removes much of the mysticism of the commentators by giving to the ' other ways, havens, and shore ' and the 'lighter bark ' in the next tiercet a mere literal meaning, and making them indisputably allude to the beauteous, airy pinnace, which we shall see skimming over the waters, which it scarcely wrinkles, and, laden with virtuous souls, sail to Purgatory under the superintendance of a 'divine bird ', a 'celestial pilot M .' Charon then means plainly to inform Virgil and Dante that there is such a heavenly wherry, which better becomes piu convien such guiltless creatures

than his own .

(i) Aeneid. Lib. vi. v. 390.

(a) Quinci non passa mai anima buona. Inf Canto ui. V. i*7.

(3) Corruttibile aocora. Inf. Canto ii. v. i4.

(4) L'uccel divioo

...,,•'.. ..,
Con un vasello snelletto e leggiero
Tanto, che l'acqua nulla nc 'nghiottiva.
Da poppa stava'l celestial noccbieru. Purgatorio, Canto ii.

man nr.


The whole is, in substance, from the Aeneid:
. . . rnmum hunc ( aperit ramum qui veste latebat)
Agnoscas. Tutnida ex ira turn corda residunt.
Nec plura his (0....

but how far sublimer is the simple assertion of the

Italian 'It's willed thus, where power and will

are one! Enough!' That is, such is the pleasure of Omnipotence.

In comparison with these few unadorned words how trivial is the bribe of a golden twig, and, if it were not for habitual veneration, I might add how childish! It may be urged in support of the Roman, that our modern is indebted for this superior beauty to the more refined nature of his creed, rather than to his own taste. And without controverting the position entirely, I may be permitted to remark, that most lofty notions of the Divinity were held by many Pagans, as we see even in the hyperbole of Horace nec viget quicquam simile aut secundum. So that it would not have been strange had the majestic Epic Muse exhibited her pious Aeneas as authorized to visit the world of shades, not by any secondary contrivance, but by the direct will of an all-powerful Providence. ' The boatman of the livid lake' is clearly from the vada

(i) Lib. vi. T. 406.

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