Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

IUHTO TI.

of the Legates, who, sent under pretence of pacifying Florence, always left it in a more disturbed state than they had found it, must be observable enough throughout the preceding comment. Dante too must have been peculiarly aware of this treachery; as is clear, not only from his writings but from the fact, that he was in Rome busy in endeavouring to withstand it, at the very moment that the two sentences against him were promulgated in Florence. To understand Boniface here then is quite in character: but not so Charles. For it were ridiculous to make Ciacco predict that Charles should persecute the Whites long; since he did not stay above 6 months altogether in Tuscany (')• It were also as inapposite to talk of Charles 'lifting his sublime front; ' since he was so far from meriting any such pompous phraseology, that be became vulgarly designated as Lac/eland from his impotency and poverty: which remark is rendered more cogent, if we reflect that at whatever period the body of this Canto was composed, these lines at least of it must, as I premised, have been inserted at a late period; indeed

(i) The dates are thus, as verified by the Priorists: origin of Blackt and Whites, April i5, i3oo—, Dante, Prior from June i5, to August

i5, i3oo — suine Chiefs, Blackt and Whites, exiled Februarv, i3oi

Blaiks exiled June, i3oi—Chillies Valois enters Florence November, i3oi —Dante exiled January and March , i3oa — some White chiefs

exiled April, I3oj— Charles leaves Florence May, i3o» Whiles

all exiled July, i3o4. Thus Charles was only in Florence from November to May a

C»»to vi.

after i3o7, (for we shall see that Dante bad not in his power to alter or correct any part of his poem sooner ) that is, after Charles' misfortunes had made him the jest of all Europe (0. How consonant on the contrary is Boniface with those words of Dante! For, although that Pope died himself, the impulse which he had given to the Holy See did not: and the Church-party ( under whatever name known, Papists, Blacks, or Guelphs) still continued to 'crush' the Whites, with an acrimony that was in full vigour, not only when our poet wrote, but even when he expired. As to Dante's opinion of Boniface, we shall have it so often recorded that we shall be convinced he would not willingly have lost any occasion of reprimanding him. It could not then have been likely that he would have said nothing about him, when treating of circumstances during which he displayed the whole duplicity of his character: for it is generally thought that the whole of Charles' conduct in Florence was prompted by the Pope, notwithstanding his apparent disapproval of it. To warrant my interpretation, the authorities I set out by citing would have sufficed: but this lengthened exposition of the grounds which support it,will be excused on considering, that it is contrary to the opinions of the modern commentators.

(i) Carlo parti per seguire Pimpresa sua di Sicilia, nella quale non fu piu lavio ne migliore che si futse slato in Fireuze ; tanto che vituperate) coo perdita di molti de' tool ti tornA in Fraucia Mach. 1st. Lib. a. p. 9i.

[ocr errors]

K. — una

This is the answer to Dante's second question, which, as I have observed, is an allusion to Genesis. Who the two just were, is not easy to decide now; and no wonder, since even Boccaccio acknowledged his inability to do so five centuries ago(0. Many consider as meant Dante himself and his friend Guido Cavalcanti: but Dante had been so far from holding Guido to be a just, unprejudiced man unimplicated in either faction, that he had been the first himself to sentence him to exile in Sarzana, as we have seen . To recur to the allegories would not render the matter clearer. We may with Velutello cite a passage in the historian, Villani; who relates the demise of' two good and upright citizens in I33i, at whose tomb various miracles were performed (»).' Of their miracles (at least their posthumous ones) Dante could have • known nothing certainly; for he died ten years before . But for this difficulty, we might tenaciously adhere to Velutello's suggestion : and, no doubt, tranquil goodness was rare enough in that

(i) ... sarehbe gra»e lo indovinarr. Comento , Vol. I. p. 35a.— The Ottimo it as doubtful, non gli uomina: nor does any one of the oldest commentators decide.

(a) Moriron in Firenze due buoni e giusti uomini e di santa vita e

convrrsazione e di £>randi limosine, tutto che fossero lnici; e per

ciascuno mostr6 Iddio aperti miracoli di sanar infermi; ...c per ciascuno fu fatto solenne sepoltura e poste piu imagini di cera per voti fatti. 1st. Lib. x. Cap. i79.

factious age to merit distinct encomium; it must have been delightful to Dante to turn a moment from the barbarous manners of his day, and contemplate the philosophic and amiable dispositions of two of his fellow-countrymen, however private their stations; nor were they beneath the notice of a poet, who were commemorated by an historian.

L. . LXXXi.

• Dante, who had known those for whom he inquires to be adepts in the arts of luxurious revelling, asks where they are? because he expected to find them in this circle, where the crime of intemperance is punished; or, it may be, because their greatness of mind inspired him with a tenderness that struggled against the sentence of reprobation to which we shall find him at length consign them; and that wishing to testifiy this, he inquires after their destiny with hesitation. In this circle lie none of them; and we learn that they are far worse off, being in ' deeper dens,' as having been betrayed by luxurious living into various flagitious disorders. Our poet is not even content with inquiring whether they be in this circle; but asks whether they be not perhaps in Paradise, as if he considered that possible. Many imagine this to be irony, when they reflect, that we shall be presented hereafter with those of whom he speaks in different horrid situations, tor most monstrous malefactions: and such will argue G1XTO It'

that the moral poet could not have intended to lead his readers into the mistake of thinking, that such examples of iniquity could have been suspected of any other destination than a Tartarean one. Yet one annotator supposes, that Dante, writing sometimes as a theologian, and sometimes as a Patriot, gives two different opinions in those two characters; so that as a Patriot he extols the personages he at present names, although he afterwards condemns them as a theologian (0. But it is to be considered whether it were possible for a patriot to extol them. That they had some grand features in their characters merits them a place in this poem; for if they had been as feeble as wicked, it would not have been worth while to notice them: but if their superior talents were converted to bad purposes, a patriot must more severely condemn, not extol them; and that in the actual instance they were so converted is certain, except we can pretend that sodomy, atheism,and murder are patriotic attainments. It is an injustice, among the many flagrant ones done to this great man, to make him profess opposite sentiments on the same ethical

questions; and affirm one thing as a religionist and another as a citizen. Either the religion, or

politicsof such a person must be evil. But this

(i) Park per lo piu come Teologo, ma uiolte volte ancora come puro Cittjdino:... perci6 come Cittadint gli chiama degni, ma come uomini gli confina nell'Inferno per le loro teologicameute considerate colpe. Poggiali, Ed. Livor. Vol. i. p. 85.

« AnteriorContinuar »