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liate the infamy of intemperance: and when men are reduced by it to the level of brutes they usually sink below them,and hurry from the licentious board into outrageous guilt and peril, civil anarchy, murder, atheism. The picture drawn by Boccaccio of the profligate intemperance of Florence, if it be in the least correct ( as I presume there is no doubt but it is, since it was composed to be exhibited to the Florentines themselves ), proves both that Dante's remonstrances were as unattended to as those of Cassandra, and portends the fast dissolution of the corrupt republic. 'Here* (cries Hoccaccio) 'are to be seen suppers consisting of luxuries drawn from the most distant countries; on the same table fish from the Atlantic Ocean,and from the Red sea, and wildfowl brought from beyond the Alps; so that the repasts of our private citizens far surpass those known at any court in Europe, not excepting even that of the Emperor's or the Pope's. That those feasts always end in drunkenness and riot, is bad; but a much worse evil is, that such festive hours are selected for consulting about the weightiest affairs of the Commonwealth. Thus these are too often decided on by men out of their senses; as the world may surmise from the measures it sees adopted and their consequences CO.' If the last Canto was Written partly, or perhaps principally, through mo
tives of private friendship, this one and all those that are to follow spring from genuine patriotism and love of justice. But luxury and intemperance were not to be checked; in a few years Florence annihilated her aristocracy, and, instead of nobles and commoners, she became divided into the bribed and the bribers; on the money-market, not the field of battle, the Tuscans henceforth calculated for power and protection ; so that the time came, when a merchant becoming master of the money market, bought and iold them all at pleasure.
*. XTIII. *»
Cerberus haec ingens tatratu regna trifauci
It is unnecessary to remark more on this introduc-
(i) Aeneid, Lib. vi. v. 4i7.
II gran vermo, ' the huge worm ' is Scriptural; and is introduced again by Dante in his translation of the sixth psalm ' defend me, O Lord, from the huge worm ! (')' Some may consider this expression taken from Alberics vision, a monkish rhapsody ridiculously extolled as the origin of the Divine Comedy; for that Dante had perused it may be true, (although there is no testimony proving any such thing) hut that he could have gleaned any useful hints from that unreadable foolery, will not, I am sure, be allowed by any reasonable man who examines it. The passage to which I just now allude, is indeed the only tolerable one in it: 'at theentrence of hell I beheld a worm of infinite magnitude tied by a mighty chain, and it seemed that, that chain was fastened to another head within-side of hell. And before the mouth of the worm stood a multitude of souls, all of whom were sucked in like so many flies when he inhaled his breath; and when he breathed from him, they rushed out again half-burned, like a shower of sparks. By this peualty are fulfilled the words of
(i) Defendimi, o Signor, dallogran Vermo. p. >9. Shakespere uses the word twice as tynonimoua with serpent— *'The mortal worm might make the sleep eternal ". ( Henry vi. Part. a. Act. 3 v. 467 ) "Hast thou the pretty worm of Nilus here?"( Ant. and Oleop. Act. 5. v . 37ft ) — " worm " ( says Johnson, Com. to Id. ) " is the Teutonic for serpent, and the Norwegians call a huge monster sometimes seen in the noluern sea , the tea worm ."
the Prophet," their worm shall never die and their fire shall never be extinguished (0. " As for this Vision , it is so absurd that it could have only excited a feeling Of contempt in Dante, had he seen it The' spasms' of Cerberus (thus expressed in the Italian, non avea membro che tenesse fermo) engage me to remark that in the translation of the above-mentioned psalm Dante repeats nearly the same verse, and, in order to do so, quits the Vulgate and adopting the original Hebrew version, writes
Non ho osso Che conturbato possa omai star fermo (3). The throwing of' lumps of sordid soil' into the hellish monster's throat is more appropriate than Virgil's soporific cake; the more so, because they, who were journeying under the guidance of I'ro
(i) Juxta infernum vermis erst infinite magnitudlnis ligatus maxima catena, cnjoi catena altcrum caput in inferno ligatum esse widebatur. Ante os ipsius vermis animarum stabat mulliludo , quas omnes quasi muscas simul absorh<-hat, ita ut cum flatum traherel omnes simul deglutiret; cum flatum emittfret omues in favilbrnm modum reliceret exustas. .. Irnpletnrque sermo Prupbeticus, Vermis eorum non morietur et ignis non extinguetur. Fta: Albcrici Visio. cap. 9.
(») Nothing so dispropnrtioned as its punishment: those tender with their own wives on the sahbath or fast-days, or festivals, are boiled in a cauldron of oil and pitch. Tunc beatus Pctrus Apostolus dixit: isti quos vides cruciari idcirco taliter torquentur, qnoniam Dominicis diebus, vel Sanctorum festivitatihus, atque prscipuis jejuniis a carnali voluptate et a snis uxoribus se nequaquam refienare studuerunt. Sunt enim quidam, qui omni tempore lieite et inculpabiliter cum conjngibus suis se luxuriam posse contidunt: omuino lamen talibus diebus ab uxoribus abstinendum est. Id. cap. 5.
(3) v. *.
vidence, had no need of putting the brute to sleep; so that those lumps of clay are not to appease , but to punish his voracity /
'I have elsewhere said' (it is Boccaccio's note1 en the present passage)' that spirits are incorporeal and as such are invisible to human eyes: nevertheless our Author endows them in this poem with bodies,and herein imitates Virgil who adopts throughout the sixth of the \eneid the same contrivance of making incorporeal substances and punishments appear corporeal , in order to be more easily understood (0.' But here Virgil followed Plato who supposed them not wholly immaterial, but in a middle state between body and pure spirit; and Dante, not only Virgil, but S. Austin <*).
Messer Ciacco was a respectable Florentine gentleman , ' a man ' ( writes Landino ) 'of pleasing manners and singularly winning eloquence, distinguished for his urbanity, wit and facetiousness, and altogether most amiable in society(3).' Such a character is so contrary to that given by M. Giriguene", that it invalidates all his criticisms on the
(i) Comento p. 34<J.
(a) . . . inter corpus rt sp'ritum nucdiam . Da Cir. Dei , Lib. Tin. cap. i4. iod i5, and Lib. xxi. cap. i0.
(3) Eioquente e pieuo d'urbanita e di motti e di facczi* e di ••avi»sima conversatiooe.