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any intelligible traces to have been retained; and the Divine Comedy would have been really disfigured with the ridiculous mummery of which it has been so ridiculously accused. As things stand however, it is credible that we have the Hebrew verse free of any adulteration , and precisely as it came from the Author's pen; which is more than can be said of much of the Italian . His own expectations might have been still more flattering; and when he used these letters through condescension to tlie illiterate (who might have been disgusted at strange hieroglyphics totally illegible to them, but not so at a barbarous exclamation which they could read though without understanding it, that inhuman dissonance being uttered by a fiend ) I dare say he thought they would be no secret to the learned ; and, universal learning increased, it was not unnatural if he believed that his Hebrew would not only be explained, but at last be transcribed in its original form. As to the conservation of his verse,arguing thus, we see he argued rightly; but notxso, as to the flourishing of the tongue in which it was composed. Petrarch and Boccaccio instead of improving on his example, and so gathering in all the springs of ancient lore, turned the stream of fashion in a beautiful but narrowed channel; and consequently the erudition of the East has almost dried up, not acquired force in Italy. The illiterate solution, which it is probable Dante meant as a mere temporary tribute to euro vii.
the ignorance of his age, has not only contented his countrymen ever since, but when at last the discovery of the truth is made and published, they are so unprepared to appreciate it, that it is slightly or not at all mentioned in two or three editions of the Divine Comedy made quite recently: and my own (I mean this Comment) will be the first to present it in its clear light . Let then their bard have justice, albeit tardily, done to him: and without pretending that his Orientalisms enhance his reputation as a poet, let him have credit for
something superior to any gifts of imagination
devoted patriotism and learning; for the first may be given in vain, but each of the two latter argues virtuous cultivation of the mind. These engaged him to employ various incentives to quicken his fellow-citizens to knowledge and wisdom; and one road to wisdom was certainly to study the compositions of Asia, the birth-place of their religion and of every art and scieuce: for if with a similar patriotic intention we shall find him citing the Provencal, we must acknowledge that it agreed better with his own taste to cite Hebrew; since, though the former might have been more fitting for the intellects of his audience, and pleasing to his ear from its melody, it could never have been the favourite language of one, who, though sweet and tender when he pleased, was much oftener sublime; and who therefore rather belonged to the schools of Greece and of the East, than of France; OUW Tib
his Muse having far less relation to the playfulness of the sentimental Troubadours, than to the great epic and Biblical writers, whom he rivals in the union of daring fancy with profound scientific meditation.
This expression ' Wolf' directed to Plutus, the God of the Avaricious, proves Dante's distinct desire to prevent his being confounded with Pluto: for the Wolfish shape of the former is as remote as can be, from the giant bulk and all the infernal magnificence with which the latter is invested: Now wave the banners of the king of Hell CO.
As we descend, the guilt of the sufferers deepening leaves less room for commiseration: so that, although Virgil's reply to I'lutus be similar in substance to that already made to Charon aud Minosx'1), it is no longer limited (as it was then ) to a bare sublime assertion of omnipotent will, but adds ■contempt and menace, and reminds the falleo Cherub of
Of Michael from the armoury of God. The answer also, by naming Plutus * the swoln
(i) Hell, Canto Xxxit.
(a) Inferno, Canto in. v. 94. — Canto T. T. a). Hell, Comment to Id. Id. pp. ao5 — 275.
lips ' and ' the cursed wolf,' gives an idea of his form which corroborates the interpretation given of the she-wolf in Canto the first (0. As to the difference of sex, it only adds edge to the satire; and the * coupling obscene' ( molti son gli animali a cui s'ammoglia) of the one, and this 'whoredom proud' (superbo strupo) of the other, whose train is represented formed of 'Popes and Cardinals,' (as we shall see presently) testify that the ideas of avarice, wolfishness, lewdness, and a celebrated passage of the Apocalypse W were on every occasion connected in Dante's head, as referable to the rapacity of many unworthy Popes.
This tiercet, in the Original, is one of those noted by Alfieri as most beautifuHy imitative.
The Italian is lacca: about the etymology of which there is much controversy, although the Fooabolario takes no part in it. Landino derives it from the Latin verb labor, Velutello from the Lombard dialect, others ( quoting Dufresne ) make it low Latin; and I myself had imagined it taken from the Creek &uk)c, scissura , fissura cum crepitu facta (3): but it is now decided, it is an Orient*
(O Comment, p. Jo. (a) Rev. xvii. i, a, J. (3) Lexicon Ernest.
lism (0. The sense however remains, in all the cases where we shall find the word, pretty much the same; here quarto, lacca evidently signifies the fourth Circle. What is turned by me into ' down we plunge mid deeper throes'(in the text, preudendo piu della dolente ripa) gives ground for hesitation to some; but, in my opinion without any reason: for ripa is put with poetical freedom for regione; and then the clear meaning is ' achieving more of the dolorous region' or' descending still deeper into hell.'
C —— XTHI.
Now down we plunge ' mid wilder throes,
This lsack ' (che'l mal dell'universo tutto insacca) refers naturally to the entire of the 'Hell-of thedamned'; which is to contain eventually (since it does not so at present) all the evil which afflicts the universe. Some however, with over-scrupulous nicety of syntax, refer 'sack' to its' immediate antecedent 'the fourth stew' (quarta lacca); and thus make Dante affirm, what may seem rather hyperbolical, that all the vices of mankind are caused by money. Yet had such been really his intention, it were hard to prove it distant from truth, at least in modern history . To what but
(i) Ab. M. A. Lanci, ut supra.