Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

UlBTO lit. t

Sedes est Christi, pusilanimiter renuntiavit (O: Jacob.... Papa di Roma nominato Celestiuo per villa il grande ufficio Apost. Rom. rinnunzio (a). Boccaccio, and the Riccardian M. S. and the Ottimo are of a similar sentiment. These were all contemporaries of Dante, and therefore most likely to be conscious of his meaning. Later, but also very ancient, commentators proposed Esau, or Diocletian. But these, 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. Lombard i proposes one of the Cerchi, a Florentine W;

(i) Bib. Laurenziana . Plul. XL. Cod. 3S. (a) Id. Id. Id. Cod. i0.

(3) The M. S. comment so entitled by the Accademicians ( and which I forgot to enumerate in the note, Hell, Comment, Canto i. p. »S ) is Cod. i9. Plut. Xl. in the Laurentian library; bnt I have found 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 no blaming him; but when he allows Lombardi'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; hut 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 argnments of Dionisi, Serie di Auneddoti. 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. ioao. It is moreover a pity Mr. Cary did not word bis translation so as to he susR4HTO III'

but if there were nothing else to object, his obscurity is enough: whereas against Celestitie 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, wo shall see that it is against them his most acrimonious anathema is pointed; 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 beeu 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 man '0.

M. —— LXXlil. •

Die, ait, o virgo, quid vult concursus ad amnem?
Quidve petunt animae? C1)

iV. —— LXXvIIi.

Virgi| repeats that nothing is worthy of attention

erptible like the original of any of the above explications; but hit making villa ' bate/ear' prevents the possibility of applying the pai'ai^.'either to Esau, or Diocletian.

(i) Fue di sancta vita et aspra peniteutia. Bib Laurrnziana . Plnt, xt. Cod. i9.

(») Auneid. Lib. vi. v. 3at.

ClXTO til.

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 fluently spoken and worse written, served for little better thau 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 ingeniis Dan* tis, Petrarchae, et Boccaccii reviviscere caeperunt litterae Graecae et Latins (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 from Greek into Latin (»).' I presume it superfluous to show,

(i) Hump. Hod. Loud. i74a

(») Omero mai si mntb di Greco in I.atiuo. Convito . p. 64. Ia the Monorchia we read , et hujus, ut ait Humerus , est regulare ouiues, e{ leges imponere aliia — Lib. i. p. 8: and in the Vita Nuova, di lei si poteva dire quelle parole del poeta Omero, ella n0n pareva iigliuola d' uum mortale ma di Uio — p. a: and iu the Alunarchia we hare (coua • CIMO Ml

that the translations of Homer in any of onr modern languages were lung subsequent to those in latin . From what source then could any one have at that time quoted? ManettiCOin sayingDante was ignorant of Greek must therefore have only meant that he was not profoundly versed in it, which was no imprqpcr 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 along which his two illustrious successors pressed so eagerly a few years later: and he not 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 bis usual mode) even Greek !n Greek characters, f -riH/-:j: Lib. i. p. a». When Grndenigo then , recanting his first opinion, asserted he could not discover a single word unquestionably Grecian on a re-perusal of all Dante's compositions, he stamped himself a ieij careless peruser . Lett. Greco-Italiana. i739.

(i) Vita Dantis. M. S. Bib. Laureuziana. Plut. Lxiu. Cod. 3o. (a) See his sonnet in Lami's Delicx F.rud. vol. i7. p. ii8. It was addressed by Dante to his great friend, Bossone, congratulating him on the progress of young Bossone in Greek and French at the vcrv 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 Francesco!

•4*10 nr.

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 (0.' 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

vi) Genealngia Dcor. passim.

« AnteriorContinuar »