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• 4*T0 III.
If it be correct (as I think it generally is) to compare the various fine arts with each other, and judge them mutually by the analogy which certainly exists between them , then are the questions that I have just been putting doubly solved, and the decision of a Father in poetry is confirmed by a Father in painting. Michael Angelo, who scorned imitatiou, and far from copying seemed studious to avoid the antique, so that it is likely he even sometimes swerved consciously from the rules of taste in order to preserve his originality, not only took a part of the main plan of his famous picture, the Last Judgment, from Dante by a mixture of Pagan and Christian allegories (as I remarked before (0), but, imitating him exactly in many of its minute items, put the lines we are now commenting into action; and Charon 'with eyes like living coals' is seen busy receiving the ghosts into his little bark, and beating with his oar those who attempt to lie or sit down in it (»). Neither of such inventive and learned men could discover, in their own capacious fancy, or in the records of their Religion, any contrivance so well calculated as this union of theological images, to awake the mind to meditation on the most terrible mysteries of Christianity: yet the one was composing a poem
(i) Hell, Comment, Canto i. p. »3.
(2) Sadagia a sodere o in altra guisa ( Boccaccio . Co men to, Tot. i. p. i55) — not linger as Mr. Gary has it The ghosts, far from lingering, mere pressing to embark ... . di trapatsar si proote ,
strictly Christian, and the other a picture for a most celebrated Christian temple . I know not whether such authorities are decisive: but it will be pardonable to think so , until some poet, painter, philosopher,or preacher present us with a less imperfect emblem of a region of everlasting misery than any of which the world is yet possessed .
U. —— cm.
This metaphor is from the Aeneid — Quatn multa in sylvis autumni frigore primo Lapsa cadunt foglia (').... but it has not so perfect an application there, as here: for Virgil designates only the number of the ghosts by it, but Dante both their number and the gradual manner in which they drop down into the boat; for autumnal leaves do not fall together,
but by little and little ad una ad una
according as they acquire full maturity, until at last each branch has rendered up all its rol>es to mother earth: so that I think M. Biagioli has a right to call this passage superiore di gran lunga a quella del Poeta Latino (a).
IV. — CXTII.
The original of this too belongs to Virgil, and forms the continuation of the verses cited in the last comment
.... aut ad terrain gurgite ab alto
Quam maltaa glomeranlur aves, ubi frigidus annus
Trans pontum fugat et terris imtnittit apricis.
The common way of understanding com' augel per suo richiamo CO (and in my opinion certainly the true one) is 'as birds to their decoy.' For augel is here a noun collective, as avis is in Aquino's translation of the same passage
inque arctos sociae velut illice cantu
Se laqueos adstringit avis, mala gurgitis atri Progenies sic complet aquas: and richiamo means not only what hawkers call technically a lure, but a bird-call, or anything used to decoy birds (»). Here then Dante alluded to a field sport, which was, and is still common in Italy: and if his phraseology must be allowed to be inharmonious and jejune in comparison with his sweet original (3), yet the idea suggested by him is more apposite as a metaphor, and as poetical in itself. It was bold and good taste to
(i) Come gli uccelletti si gittano al paretajo, o al boschetto inritati dal canto degli augelli di gabbia, o per altro suono . Biagioli, Veuluri, cc, ec.
(a) Qualunque allettamento al quale si gittano per natura gli uccelli. Vocabolario §. i.
(3) It may not however be fastidious criticism to remark, that arricis in the Latin introduces a confusion of images. The sorrowful condition of the ghosts was the matter to be impressed, and therefore any thing suggesting a pleasing notion was at best superfluous. Tha Homeric application of the similitude is liable to no such objection. In leaving out apricis, did not Dante borrow from Virgil with more discrimination, than Virgil from Homer?
• IRTO II/>
substitute a usual Italian pastime, for a sight rather belonging to Greece or Egypt than to Italy, a flight of birds beyond sea: and the observation made in the preceding Article (of Dante's simile expressing not only the number, but the mode of embarcation of the souls) is still more applicable here. Nor do I apprehend that any one, who has ever witnessed the diversion to which I allude will deny that few things can bear more resemblance with each other than the picture intended to be given , of the spirits fluttering along the bank, or causeway , and at last dropping down one by one into the river, with the little birds, that,after chirping and flitting about for a while, are seen to dip almost always one by one into the decoy-grove.
Those who would translate it'as a falcon to the lure (>)' deprive it of its best qualities, whether considered with reference to the purpose for which Dante employed it, or to the Latin of which it is clearly an imitation. A. falcon gives no idea of th«
(0 Mr. Cary , whose version is " as falcon at his call," cites Velu« tello as his authority; but he might have cited a far better one, Boc*caccio ( Comeuto. Vol. l.p. i55). But Boccaccio was no fowler: nor Mr. Cary an Italian one, or he would have known that the commou explanation is what I have given , and not as his note avers " as a bird that is enticed to the cage by the call of another ". One bird inveigling another to the cage would he as liable, as a falconer with his hawk, to the objection of individualizing what was meant to be general. They would equally reduce the simile within inadequate dimensions. Had he even consulted his dictionary , he would have learned that neither paretajn nor boschetto means cage but 'the place where nets are placed to catch birds' — dove si distendono le reti per prendere uccelletti. Vocabolario.
crowds of souls; nor of quam multce glomerantur aves . I might have remained unaware of the peculiar justness of the figure, as it is usually received, had I never been out fowling with Tuscans: but the very first time I was so, it was my irresistible conviction that Dante here alluded to their mode of decoying; and that nothing could better represent at once both the multiplicity and the movements of his airy personages. A smalhround bushy
grove Boschetto on an easy eminence is
preserved for this amusement, and (being smeared with bird-lime, and prepared with decoy-birds, and nets, and men artfully concealed, who keep sounding their bird-calls) any one who stands outside of the treacherous grove soon sees the poor, deceived , feathery family gather on the neighbouring trees and after hopping about from branch to branch with many chirps', begin to fly into the
vocal ambush exactly one after another una ad
una — in a hurried, half-reluctant, and very remarkable manner. Prodigious flocks of them are sometimes thus caught; and, although there be varieties amongst them, yet one may well specify thrushes, because these are what are mostly taken; so that the grove itself is named 4 a grove to catch thrushes (0.•
(i) Boschetto dictimo taehe ill'uccelUre dove ti pigliano i tordl. Vocabolario. %.