Imagens das páginas
[ocr errors]

X —- CXXvi.

This self-sacrifice of the conscious culprits in order to be poetically fine roust be allegorical of something morally true. Is it then morally true that bad men after death court the eternal castigation of their wickedness? So at least Dante held, upon many great authorities, but particularly Origen, who attributes even the devil's innability of salvation to want of will rather than of power (0 . The types of future rewards and punishments are various in various ages and countries; and are better, or less calculated to affect the imagination. The grossest perhaps are the most impressive on gross minds: but those who have meditatedvon the human soul will require that the emblem of her retribution should partake of her immaterial nature; the more they spiritualize this, the more they will labour to make that also purely spiritual; and the higher the fancy is elevated, the less capable it becomes of furnishing sensible images of that soul, that Paradise, that Hell: so that at last we may have recourse to considering Paradise and Hell as qualities which the soul may acquire in perpetuity. When intimately connected with infinite joy, she will be her own Paradise with

infinite woe, her own Hell. Our conceptions at least (for the mystery is inscrutible) cau scarcely

(i) . . . . nolit magis quatu non possit, dura scelerum rabies jam libido est et delectat. De Principiit. Lib. i. Cap- tin.


attain nearer the reality; because in no other mode can they be more abstracted from matter; and almost the only certainty we have is this, that as the soul is immaterial, so whatever is to affect her, when liberated from the flesh and every extraneous impediment, must be immaterial too. But whether there shall be a profusion of immaterial objects hereafter, or whether Providence shall continue that sublime parsimony, which we observe in the natural world, and, instead of a sinner and a hell, shall make (as I have conjectured) the sinner his own hell, we know not. Yet there can be nothing wrong in the conjecture; and it were to render the moral allegorized by Daute more striking: and to argue unavoidably, both that those who are deeply guilty will press on to their own punishment, and that that punishment will be everlasting. For if the soul' on shuffling off this mortal coil' follows her bent with uncontrolled vehemence, and, having held a course of love and virtue even through the perils and temptations of an earthly banishment , springs up to that first principle of goodness and bliss for which she had long panted as for her original home, or as if she felt that she was a particle once torn from it; then the habitual indulger of hateful propensities must in a like manner rush with renovating ardour towards those terrible delusions in the pursuit of which he had been before restrained by the weight and feebleness of a corporeal texture. He must <H*TO III.

continue in his wickedness, and habit must harden him in it every hour in spite of accumulating pain; vice growing older grows only more hideous and inflexible; and that guilt can never be expiated which never ceases to be aggravated.


Since this bank is the rendez-vous of the guilty, thou (cries Virgil) should'st feel no displeasure, but satisfaction at Charon's refusal to receive thee

Nulli fas casta sceleratum insistere limen (')'.

Z. —— Cxxxiii.

The text may have been suggested by the Aeneid

gemit ultima pulsu

Tliraca pedum (»): but was certainly taken from Dante by Milton

Earth felt the wound

Earth trembled from her entrails.. .. (3).

(0 Aeneid. Lib. vi. T. 5BJ.' (a) Lib. Xii. v. 334.

(3) Paradise Lost. ix. The chief beauty in these pas»ages from our own bard , as well as in those from the Roman, and the Tuscan, consists in the personification of the earth. Therefore though Mr. Ginguene"s (Hist, de I'ltalie. vol. n p. 3g) la terre baignee des larmcs des damnes exhale un vent impetueux may be a correct explication, it is no fair translation: a mere physical phenomenon being substituted for uoble figurative language. Mr. Cary preserves the personification by borrowing a phrase from Drydeu: " Groaus the sad earth . "Ste Trans. Aen. xu. 5o4.



A. i.

At the close of the preceding Canto Dante had fallen down in a stupor; during which he is evidently supposed to have been conveyed across Acheron, and landed on the first Circle (0. The entire of this circle is exempt from pain ; and is divided into two unequal portions . The first of these is the Angelical doctor's 'Hell-of-children' ( Infernus puerorum ; (and the second, his (Infernus sanctorum Patrum ) ' Hell-of-the holy fathers'; divisions, as is noticed in the margin, which answer to two circles (the first and ninth ) of the Virgilian hell. While traversing the first division , Virgil makes many observations to his pupil, not about the crowds of children round them, who could scarcely merit any, but about the former and pregent inhabitants of the second division to which they

(i) The subterranean circus, Hell, deepens from a state of Elysian

tranquillity to one of infinite suffering the vestibule being an

•xception, partly to inflict an unnatural penalty on a despicable crime, and partly to imitate Origen and Virgil, as was said before. Hell, Comment, Canto, in. p. i56, i73,and i79.

aiwto iv.

are approaching; and within which they at last step. There they find a numerous assemblage of the heroes and heroines of Antiquity, whom they pass in review from the top of a luminous hill to which they retire in company with four other eminent bards: after which, these four take leave of Dante and Virgil who continue their journey; and the Canto closes. This Circle is computed to be i4 miles below the Vestibule, and to present a circular walk of i7 J miles broad. In its middle yawns the monstrous aperture of the abyss - miles wide. So going round it, Dante has on one hand a precipice 14 miles high, and on the other that fearful gulf into which the eye cannot pierce, 'its murky clouds so boil and hiss (0 .'

Since I have not hesitated to advance that Dante was still more distinguished as a man of science , a politician, and a theologian , thau as a poet (»);

(i) The extreme width of the vestibule was 3i5 miles ( Hell , Comment , Canto iti. p. i6i ): the extreme of this circle is »8o: remain 35, but (as a line of diameter drawn from one extremity to another of a circular body perforated in the centre must cross the body twice, once before the perforation and again after) that leaves only its moiety i7 and a half for the net width . The extreme of this Circle if 380; the extreme of the second a45: remain 35, or i7 and a half, as before. But in a sketch the walk of the Vestibule must be narrowed by whatever breadth is allowed to Acheron; which flows round the orifice leading to the first Circle and then takes a subterranean, invisible course : with this exception , the Vestibule and the first Circle are of similar dimensions. See Manetti Giambullari Velutello. Keeping a Roman Amphitheatre in one's mind , we have now stept down a tier.

(») Bonus enim poeta (says Ascensius of Virgil) non tam delectare — quod tamen pluriiuum facit — quam prodesse pretendit. Com. itt Aeneid. Lib. vi. v. 657.

« AnteriorContinuar »