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occupation , or he who squanders his treasures in debauchery that unmans his soul and in inciting others to crime. From the former, it is in vain to expect charity, or honor in paying,or tenderness in requiring payment; and with regard to the other, the case is quite as hopeless: for though most lavish in indulging his own caprice, he is often to be found more shamelessly ungenerous towards
a worthy object, than the miser himself more
tenacious of a trifle that woidd rescue a fellowcreature from misery, more dishonest as a debtor, more inhuman as a creditor. In the twentieth Canto of Purgatory we shall find those opposite failings again associated , and undergoing one chastisement. ' With the utmost justice ' ( says the Florentine Landino)' was the demon of riches termed by our author, the mighty foe: for what else produceth such desolation upon earth? What causeth such discord between the nearest relatives and friends and fellow-countrymen? Such violations of equity? Such tumults, seditions, and civil and foreign wars? Such infesting of the seas with pirates, and of the land with highway-men! Such filling of cities with robberies, homicides, and murders, by poison, false-witnesses, and corrupt judgments? Such converting of fathers and husbands into domestic tyrants cruel to .their wives and children and even to themselves? Such exposing to auction of the chastity of our virgins, and of all the decorums of life, public and private? r.into Vit.
And such putting to sale of the very laws and magistrates? O money in different shapes these are thy doings! Oh! What a perpetuity of peace and virtue were amongst mankind, but for thee; who lettest none be content with what they legitimately possess , or with the acquisition of the little that sufficeth nature!'
Quid non mortalia pectora cogis
Auri sacra fames! (0
/*. — „.
The opening of this Canto was long an enigma explained in various capricious ways by various commentators: who all judged themselves at freedom to allow their fancies full rein on such a subject, and give what sense they pleased to a line which seemed to them to have none of its own. That scholars should have been so long duped, may be considered strange; yet it is much more so, that plain, but reasonable men should have condescended to bear their pertness, allowing them to sacrifice their Author in order to conceal their own ignorance, and to accuse him of indulgence in an unmeaning jargon, because they did not
understand his language; a language, one of
the grandest and probably the most ancient in the world. How unworthy alike of the poet and of his poem and of his readers were childish gab
ble! rendered still more ridiculous by his making the 'omniscient Gentile' (Virgil) understand it perfectly and reply to it at once. What a miserable compliment to represent him as comprehending and answering nonsense! Nonsense may intrude upon a writer, and be mistaken for something fine; but what is to be thought of him who knowingly introduces it into a serious composition for ornament? With this puerility has Dante continued to be taxed: and since it was not deemed an inconsistency "that such a king should play bo-peep," neither was he left unprovided of distinguished litterary characters, who blushed not to misemploy their ingenuity at different periods in labouring to uuriddle sounds which they assured us had no real signification. One (0 tells us to receive it as a kind of bastard Gallicism, which Dante had learned in the French law courts,where the Crier endeavouring to maintain order and silence is continually calling out Paix, paix, Satan, allez, Satan, paix! That these words when written bear small resemblance to the text, or that it requires much faith to believe that Criers maintain throughout revolving centuries one uniform phrase in chiding the disorderly multitude, is unworthy of notice; every reader, I think, will concede this interpretation its proper praise of being burlesque. Others derive the line from a
(i) Cellini, etc.
most barbarous medley of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew barbarisms: for according to them, pape is an ejaculation of wonder and indeed nothing more than xttirui or papa?; in which, add they, Dante followed 'the example of Christians, who name the Pope Papa, because he is the most wonderful thing upon earth (0.' As to the word aleppe, they say that the poet wishing to express the interjection Ah! and finding it more convenient for the rhyme to use the first letter of the Hebrew, than the first of the Roman alphabet, assumed to himself the licence of substituting for A, aleph; and (again for rhyme sake) clipping the final h off both, and replacing it withpe, the Italian Ah became at last metamorphosed into aleppe: by how elegant a process, we may all judge. Hence they concluded, Plutus amazed at seeing the iutruders, Virgil and his pupil, cries out 'Wonder, Satan! Wonder,
Satan! Ah!' One would think such a meaning
might be as easily aud efficaciously conveyed in some real tongue, as in an offensive jargon . But curious are the make-shifts to which a rhymester
is supposed to be frequently reduced ant
insanit, aut versus facit; nor do I apprehend, that the rythmical mania ever bred any thing more ricketty than this thrice distorted
Ah !~~A! Aleph! Aleppe!;
although he on whom it is fathered is recorded to
(i) Onde il sommo Poutefice, come cosa maraviglioaiuima tra Criitiani, • chiamato Papa. Landiao, Couieiilo, p. 40.
have declared, in a conversation a little before his death, that he had never once found himself constrained by an attention to rhyme to write a verse otherwise than he would have written it. The late learned Lombardi, though he assented in the main to the interpretation just given , proposed an amendment with regard to aleppe; for aleph, he observed, is never an interjection in Hebrew, but an adjective meaning great: so he contends that the whole is a soliloquy of Plutus who exclaims 'Wonder, Satan! Wonder, great Satan!' Herein he certainly does not accuse Dante of any more monstrous medley than had been attributed to him before; but rather the contrary, since he makes him give aleppe pretty nearly its legitimate signification: but by representing Plutus as soliloquising and calling himself Satan, he introduces an additional confusion ; the one already pointed out in my last comment of the preceding Canto, that of indentifying the demon of riches with the king of hell.
Truth is, that all such conjectures are now worse than nugatory; for the verse in question is no medley of any kind, but a simple, uncorrupted Hebrew one; as, upon seeing it in its natural characters , Oriental scholars will avow at once. How far more generally versed in the languages of the East were the Italians of the middle ages than these of the present day, is historically proved: so that Dante's knowledge of Hebrew presents nothing