« AnteriorContinuar »
was to be learnt; and therefore this its close retains neither the delicacy nor the sublimity of the Italian text. It is the effect of the transposition: for in the Divine Comedy the same expressions are full of mystery, but placed, as they are in the Story Of Rimini, after all mystery is removed, they add nothing to the sense of the passage, and almost appear to be halting up for the sole purpose of filling a vacancy in the measure . The feebleness of Mr. Cary's translation here proceeds from its verbal infidelity: for he interpolates " in its leaves, " which gives the line a verbosity quite in contrast with the characteristic simplicity of the text (0. M. Ginguen6 succeeds better, for he follows it verbatim, ce jour-la nous n' en lumes pas davantage .
This (Irepeat) is the verse which Boccaccio asserts to be the only foundation whereon the accusation of adultery against Francesca rests; and which he thinks insufficient to prove either that she was guilty of such a crime, or that Dante thought so. And, fairly weighed, does it indeed imply any such enormity? The answer ought not to be influenced by the circumstance of the poet's putting them here in Tartarus, or the hell-of-thedamned; for an impure thought, much more a
(i) "In it* leaves
That day we read no more
That day we did not read it more — is the original, word for word.
CAH TO T.
criminal kiss, is denounced by the Roman Church as a mortal transgression, if unrepented of; so that our Author, not making them repent, might place them in their actual situation without any idea of branding them with an incestuous adultery. To whatever slight extent they erred , their death was the consequence of that error; and this is quite enough to render the line infinitely affecting , without condemning the brother and sister-in-law beyond what can be established hy history. It may be inquired, how one so rigorous as Dante in proportioning penalties to faults could consign the pair to Tartarus for such a venial misdemeanor as a kiss; because, although the real guilt of that, as well as of every transgression^ even the most heinous, depends less upon the acl itself, than upon the mental disposition of the actor, yet of this internal disposition in another no one can have knowledge; so that if a poet, for example sake, is permitted to make awards on appearances, he is bound to use that permission in an exemplary manner, and not to present us with sentences that appear harsh. But ( first remarking that the lovers, though within Tartarus, are in the uppermost, and therefore least severe circle of it, and that they are even accompanied by Achilles and other glorious personages ) the question may
fairly be retorted by another, where else could
he have placed them? Not in any other part of his hell certainly. In its vestibule would have been O4VTO V.
ignominious: Elysium has nothing in common with them as Christians: a lower circle would have been worse. In Purgatory? But that were to strip them of what confers their chief poetic dignity, constancy; for the tenants of Purgatory are repentant sinners. In Paradise? Bui that were to deprive them of our pity; for no such feeling can be excited hy the blissful Saints in Paradise . It follows that he had no choice, and that he must have placed them in this identical circle of hell, or rejected altogether the idea of uniting inseparably the name of Francesca da Rimini with some
of the holiest of mortal emotions admiration ,
sympathy, and pity. Dante, aware that his readers would receive his judgments, not as beyond appeal , but as quite fanciful, hoped probably to engage them to question the propriety of blaming so sternly his friend's youthful daughter; and to doubt whether, on finding her error circumscribed to a single kiss, that kiss could have been received by her with that entire consciousness which alone could render it highly guilty; or whether the shedding of her life-blood was not, in truth, a perfect reparation of that her lenient offence. Dante by this even inculcates an additional moral ; for he keeps us in mind of deeds being to be estimated by (what is beyond the poet's power to descry) the interior of the doer; and thus habituates us to weigh the poet's decisions, and not hesitate to reverse them, whenever they appear unsatisfactory ctin r.
to ourselves: and indeed there may be something • herein intended as an imitation of Virgil, who teaches the same moral (although in a different manner) by putting a most notorious unnatural adultress, Pasiphae, not in the region appropriated to such flagitious criminals, Tartarus ('), but in one of the purgatorial circles of his hell (»). If Dante believed Francesca's error to have exceeded that witless kiss, no one can blame him of overseverity; since his expressions are so studied that they are as capable of an interpretation that exculpates , as of one that condemns her. If he thought it had been truly limited to a kiss, it remains to see, whether the public was also of bis opinion, or not. If it was, then the above reasoning applies, and he must have written in the expectation that it would have dissented from his sentence, however it admired his poetry: if it on the contrary had already condemned her far beyond the truth, and stained her reputation with that jaundice-hue which scarcely admits of cure, then his mode of defending her was perhaps the only one likely to benefit her memory. Scandal that no opposition can control, may be soothed into silence; this Dante knew, and he moreover knew that facts of the nature advanced against his fair client are not
(i) Hie thalamum invasit alia vetitosque hymeneoa: Quique ob adulterium cassi.
Aeneid. Lib. vi. v. 6ia.—6a3. (a) Cernit . . . Evadnenque et Pasiphaen. Id. V. 447.
only difficult to prove, but impossible to refute. On these accounts, he might have preferred to making a formal defence, the appealing to our compassion in such a forcible manner, that no feeling mind should ever consent to her condemnation, but on the clearest proofs; so that, upon no such being discoverable, she should, by the consent of the kindest (that is most respectable and virtuous) portion of society, be acquitted of the charges against her, and be deplored, and cherished as an honourable, abused lady. I am sensible of having dwelt on this matter with an earnestness that may appear exaggerated, considering the remoteness of the events; but if my remarks clear an inimitable poet from the reproach of not having performed the solemn duties of friendship as he ought, I seek for no other excuse. The last verse of the Canto in Italian is cited as very imitative of what it speaks of, the falling of a corpse (0: an attempt to produce the same effect may perhaps be perceptible in my translation .
(i) Questo v«rso dipinge, non solo per le parole, ma pei numeri e picdi ond'e composto . Biagioli Comento, Vol. i. p. ii5.