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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.
Nothing can be clearer than the original
* never hope to see heaven,' non isperate mai veder lo cielo. ' Heaven' is here not a mere latinism syuonimous 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 again! "... 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 heat^ ami excessive cold " as the three great instruments of torture in hell (0 .
P. > XCIII.
Charon could embark no living being in general; ...
(i) Sale, Sect. 4.
Umbrarum hie locus est
Corpora viva nefas stygia vectare carina (')... and an approaching verse will explain the passage still more, by showing he was not wont to receive any virtuous soul (»). According however to the hy» pothesis on which this poem is built, the favoured Aeneas,who was both virtuous and alive (J), 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 (*) .' 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. 3go.
(a) Quinci nan passa mai anima buona. Inf. Canto in. r. i*7.
(3) Corruttibile ancora. Inf. Canto il. v. i4.
(4) L'uccel divino
Con un vasello snelletto e leggiero
The whole is, in substance, from the Aeneid:
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
livida (0 of Virgil: but it seems no more than just, in noticing how much Dante copied , not to conceal what he improved; in almost all his imitations of the Classics he introduces alterations that appropriate them to himself; and, in the present pas. sage at least, it will surely be confessed, that he • struck out what was feeble, ( the gold rod) and replaced it with a figure of peculiar grandeur.
Terribili squalore Charon cui plurima mento
This burst of agony of the forlorn ghosts, on hearing, not the debate between Virgil and Charon, but the denunciation of their own lasting woe, is ( as well as their pacing along with sobs the bank where the guilty congregate as soon as their mortal frames expire ) a circumstance added to the Latin original: with these exceptions, the entire is from the Aeneid.
That to put our mental faculties on wing it is first necessary to make an impression upon our senses, is one of the oldest ethical axioms: and
(i) Aeneid. Lib. n. w. 3iy. (») id. Id. v. SQ*.