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There is something so gloomy in the idea of the eternal separation of a pair who had heen long united most closely, that men (without any reference to the comparative veracity of their creeds) seem to have agreed in considering it unnatural: and the Platonists, Pythagoreans, Magi, and endless varieties of idolators, as well as Christians, speak of the body and soul being destined to meet again after their separation . It is indeed hard to convince ourselves, either of our own parting for ever from our present form , or of those we hold dear from theirs; and even if it were not a difficult, it would be a melancholy persuasion. But, in truth, what is melancholy is usually difficult; and what we sincerely wish, we readily believe: so we continue to cherish the soothing doc
Whether Mr. Gary intended to make this voice of the Eternal, instead of echoing tbougbout illimitable space, have the specific effect of rending the vaults of the dead, I do not know: but his version bears that aspect —
"And hear the eternal doom re-echoing rend
The vault" —
and it is not certainly the figure given hy Dante, nor ( in ray opinion ) half so majestic as his. Horn poor \sdoom instead of His —quel! For I translate verbatim 'shall bear Him who echoes through eternity:' making quel mean colui, or Iddio ( God), and not quel suooo — which last word is considered by some comment ators as understood bat unnecessarily and, I think, most injudiciously. If quel refers to sunno, the indicative ( rimbomba ) must be put for the future , rimbombera; but apply it as I do, and the words are to be construed preciselv as they aie written.
trine, that, though death separates us from that oldest of our friends, the body, with whose pains "we had sympathized and whose imperfections we had borne, we shall again find it; and rejoice that it has become incapable of suffering, and of more prompt and faithful service than ever. It will then be without murmuring (what it ought always to be) subservient to the spirit: and such an expectation the spirit may indulge when disrobing here below; and, though on flight towards beatitude, may linger for a moment to cast a look on its terrene brother; and, losing his present abjection in a clear foresight of his future glory, and the sorrow of farewell in the joyfulness of an endless meeting, it may, without affectation or offence, be represented as saluting him in the words of a fine imitator of Dante: 'Rest in peace, dear companion of my woes and toils, until the great day when the majestic trumpet shall summon thee to •rise! In the mean while, light be the turf about thee; gentle and pious, be the breezes and showers; and far be it from any passer-by to visit thee with an unkind word (i\ 'Whether, on their reu
(i) Poscia V ultimo sguardo al corpo affisse,
La Morte di Bass-ville. Canto i.
nion, the virtuous and beautiful spirit shall employ itself in beautifying its corporeal consort, and receive an increase of felicity from the occupation, is a speculation that will always interest mankind: although the shape in which we should put it may occasionally require changing; for fashion is often capricious in the dress, without alteration of the substance, of things. It is this same question which Dante starts ( under a different form ) when he asks, whether the evil spirit shall suffer more intensely when finding itself anew in conjunction with the body? For if this latter be demonstrated affirmatively, the former is so too. The spirit that is beautiful and virtuous will go on eternally increasing in beauty and virtue; and the deformed and wicked, in deformity and vice: the former will be always aspiring and attaining to higher beatitude; and the latter voluntarily (at least so Origen, as well as Dante held(O) sinking into profounder misery. If the bodies of these are to partake of their immortal abjection , it follows that the bodies of those shall partake of their immortality, light, and bliss.
It is an axiom of the Peripatetics that every animal in proportion as it reaches perfection is more sensible to joy,aud therefore to sorrow like
(i) Hell, Comment, Ohio Hi. p. ai6.
wise; but morally and accurately, it is only in the former case that we can call it true perfection, for the latter is spurious perfection, or rather the superlalive degree of imperfection . Philosophers affirm that the creature man, being compounded of body and soul, is naturally nearer his perfection when both are united properly (that is when the body is the servant of the soul), than when the soul is not incarnate; or rather it is asserted, that logically speaking the union of body and soul is necessary to human existence, and that the latter while deprived of the former is no longer in a state of man, but of widowhood: and therefore it is that Dante (who never fails to preserve a marvellous consistency in the minutest details of this long poem) took care to make Virgil say on his first appearance , that he is not now a man, though he once was such (0. S. Austin had thought proper to treat the question systematically, whether the word Man meant the soul, or the body, or both united: Homer and Plato were represented as at variance on the matter; Averroes plunged deep into the dispute; and at last the orthodox opinion both in logic and Divinity was decided to be, that by Man was to be understood a human body and human soul united together: anima rationalis et caro unus est homo. No doubt Dante wrote with this precision to record his sentiments on a point
(i) Inferno, Canto i. v. 67.
about which the literary people of his time condescended to dispute (0.
This answer to Dante's question follows as a consequence from the ethics of his master, Aristotle, as we have observed . If it were necessary to quote Christian authority also, it is to be had in S. Austin; of whose words this verse is nearly a literal translation 00.
Plutus, the mythological demon of riches, is to be the allegorical president over the next circle: and he may well be termed the' mighty foe,' since money is the great cause of strife amongst men. 'The descent into each infernal circle' (it is Boccaccio that speaks) 'is introduced by some object or circumstance of accumulating terror, as an earthquake or demon , which serves the double purpose of inflicting horror on the new comer, and of informing those that inhabit that circle of the arrival of another victim; whose presence is to augment their sufferings by augmenting the general mass of iniquity: and this is the reverse of Purgatory; for there we shall meet a comforting
(x) Ascensius, Com. in Aeneid. Lib. vi. v. iCtd De Civ. Dei, xix.
(a) Cum fiet resurrectio rarnis, et bouormn gaudia et milorum tormenta m.njora erunt. Id. Id.