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and thus corroborates my former observations on perche tieni? (0.
O. ——. XLTI.
This is the second, and direct part of the reply to Dante's demand. ' All those whose crowns appear shaven were Popes and Cardinals; for it is with regard to these that avarice uses its fullest measure W. ' Lombardi accuses the Academy of introducing the false reading of' uses ' ( usa ) instead of ( uso )1 used;' but in this he seems to be very wrong. ' It was not merely on the authority of the majority of M. S. S. nor to avoid elision of an accented vowel ( for that such a poetic licence was sometimes admissable, they well knew), but because the context pointed it out as the true reading, that the Academicians preferred it. The clerical delicacy which thus interposes to lessen the 1 scandal' of Dante is futile; except it could at the same time erase the other much harsher invectives, which are up and down in the poem, against the clergy of his day. He must be justified not by softening down his expressions, but by showing he had reason to employ the harshest: and that his great ancestor tells him positively to speak the whole truth without reserve (3).'
(i) p. 4a8.
(a) Soverchio, quasi andante aopra lo cerchio, cioe all'orlo del vaso. Biagioli, Comento, Vol. i.p. i46. Mr. Gary leaves out this metaphor. Neither does he introduce the characteristic term ' tonsures' (chercuti) any where in his version of the passage.
(3) Paradise, Cantoxvi i. — Biagioli, Comento, vol. i. p. i46.
That a monstrous portion of the Catholic clergy, though free from the cares of wife and family, had so far receded from evangelical simplicity during several ages previous to the reformation, as to be a class notorious for avarice and prodigality, is a fact not more severely denounced by any than by Catholic writers themselves; and it is to those vices some of them attribute the reformation. ' Irresistible is the impulse' (says \ladame deStael) 'which men of talents feel to attack the strongest; and such indeed is the sign by which we may ever distinguish the effervescence of real genius .' When therefore we recollect the potency of the Church in Dante's day and his own rigid morals and profound piety, it is no wonder that he expressed himself with vehemence against Priests, Cardinals, and Popes; if their conduct was really ruinous to the State and disgraceful to religion. 'It was holy and honest indignation,' writes Landino, 'thalmade both Danteand Petrarch thunder against the dignitaries of their own communion. But Alas! the evils they combated exist still: for who does
not behold men rather brutes than men
without either learning or morals, who, though too ignorant and vicious to merit a curacy in the smallest village, are raised to elevated stations; which they prostitute in the vilest manner, amassing with most exorbitant avarice , by the most atrocious injustice, huge treasure; and soon spending it prodigally in such unheard-of debauchery and revels, that in comparison with them Sardanapalus and Heliogabalus were temperate Saints (0?' 1 If there exist in the world' (exclaims Boccaccio) 'people immersed beyond all measure in avarice they are our great Prelates; who give, nay fling away Archbishoprics, Bishoprics, Abbeys, and the other benefices of our sacred Church upon idiots, drunkards, gluttons, and wicked furious men contaminated with every description of enormoui vice; and these they are who lead Christendom to hell (*). ' This religious poet might well then have expressed himself as he did. But another line of
Madame de Stael's 'actions and writings should
be judged with a reference to their dates' may
imply that his asperity would have been otherwise directed, had he lived nearer to the present time. Wherever vice appeared with the most triumphant effrontery, thither would have been pointed his dauntless, heaven-inspired pen. Wherever justice was most grossly outraged, whether under pretence of religion , or of civil freedom, he would have resented the profanation: and if it be against pretenders to the former that we find him most emphatic, we shall discern ' the reason in the date.' The Clergy were the direst offenders during his life: but had they been persecuted in their turn, and exposed to at least as much violence and insult as ever they exerted, there is evidence
(i) Cotneuto, p. *3. (a) Id. Toti ii p. 49. ruirro Tii.
ver be the attributes imparted to that ethereal race , in this one point all men agree philosophers , Pagans, Jews and every sect of Christianity that they must be endowed with virtue
and happiness.' Thus far Dante.
Of those aereal substances, ideas, intelligences, deities, or angels, there is one (says Dante, culling a glorious figure for his poetry, from reasoning which I have just translated from his prose) whose duty it is to preside over the species of worldly honours, and to keep these (like the spheres themselves) in continual rotation: and this celestial regent, by men called Fortune, heedless alike of votaries and revilers, has her entire soul occupied in keeping up the revolution of the orb confided to her care by the universal Creator, and in the conscious enjoyment of her own immortal beatitude. Such, in substance, is the picture of Fortune which is about to be laid before us: and certainly it is with the utmost truth that it gained panegyrick as most grand; for, laying aside the blind-folded image of the Ancients, it presents us with another that preserves all the beauties of their Muse and remedies her oversights; by teaching her to unite most disordered chance with the most unlimited avowal of the superintendence of an omni-present Providence; and by thus reconciling (what never should have been divided ) the sweetest poetry, the best of ethics, and the loftiest philosophical speculations. Had Cibto vir.
this passage been seen by Cicero, he would not have any longer exclaimed against the unworthiness of attributing any thing divine to a being so rash and inconstant as fortune (0. A Goddess with banded eyes may be believed ignoble; but not so, this happy impassible handmaid of an infinite Jehovah. 'Nor is' (s.iys Landino) 'the impossibility of resisting Fortune any argument against the freedom of the will: for we are at liberty to court her favours or not. They are certainly most fugitive : but if, disregarding them, we apply ourselves to the cultivation of our own minds, we gain a treasure of which no power can deprive us . This only is what can truly be called our property: for of all the things in the world the soul alone, as Plato affirms, is independent. The variety of objects that we behold are kept in continual revolution by other created substances superior to them; even the inferior spheres of heaven are influenced by the higher ones; but our soul , though exiled for a moment into this fragile body, has no other superior than the Divinity himself of whom it is a particle. But if we choose to woo the gifts of Fortune, let us be prepared for the instability that is unavoidable: so, may a traveller choose whether to undertake his journey by laud or by water; but if he determines on the latter, it behooves him to steel his heart against the fluctua*
(i) Quam nemo ab inconstantia ft temeritate sejunget: qua digna eeite non sum Deo. Nat. Deor. 1. 3. p. xxtv.