Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

CiHTO Til.

ting nature of the elements'i).'This metaphorical reasoning Landino borrowed from Boetius(a). I know, a rhymester of the age of Dante cavilled against this portrait of Fortune; as if the making her necessarily roll round her orb were an interference with the free will of man and the omnipotence of the Divinity. But I believe few philosophical minds but will allow, that it affords on the contrary the most conciliatory theory ever invented to reconcile opinions on the most difficult point which ever employed the human understanding.

The wisdom beyond wisdom beaming,

Who made the heavens, made each a guide
To minister the radiant streaming
And circles of creation wide;

And also placed a Queen o'er chance
Of mundane splendors with their tide

Of phantasms

Matter no whit your plots on plot;
She orders, sees, foresees the whole.
Guardian and Goddess of her lot,
Her orb that never finds a goal

She keeps — and must — still fleetly tost;
While human fates as fleetly roll.
Yea ! this is she whom slanders long have crost:
Pure, holy Fair so crucified!
And most by those who owe her most.

(i) Landino, Comento, p. 45.

(a) Si ventis vela coramiteres, non quo voluntas peteret, seel quo flatus impelleret, permovereris. De Consol. Lib. n. Cap. <•

CAXTO Tit.

But such she hears not: wheeling wide

Her sphere the primal race divine among;
Conscious, like them, of bliss and nought beside.

iS. — LXXXIT.

Latet anguis in herba(i). 'Gods 'applied to Fortune and similar ' intelligences' ( come gli altri Dei) was, in all likelihood, introduced by Dante as a repetition of what he observed in the passage which I just cited from the Convito, that the Gods and Goddesses of Paganism, however ignorantly adored by the vulgar, were not truly honored by the best of the Ancients otherwise than as secondary causes; and were indeed little more to them , than what Angels are to the Moderns. They were then, as they now are, instruments working the will of a single omnipotent Being, whether named Fate, or Destiny, Jove, or Jehovah. We must not be astonished at Dante's letting slip no occasion of apology for the Greeks and Romans; for it was his favourite theme to mingle fondest respect for Antiquity with a most enthusiastic attachment to Christianity. The former of these feelings rendered him very quick in apprehending any thing to the honor of Paganism, and perhaps somewhat blind to its defects: the latter, by being tempered with the other, produced that fervent but tolerating piety which I premised we should find to be

[ocr errors]

«lHTO Til.

one of bis distinguishing features; and which might Lave enslaved his reason to his imagination, had he not been a man of the world habitually conversant with business . As it was, it formed a rare compound of philosophy, theology, poetry and politics; in each of which departments he may have some rivals, but scarcely one superior.

T. XCIT.

Sua sapientia et virtute gaudet , says Cicero speaking of the life of the Deity.Ci); but it is of Boe'tius that the entire of this beautiful passage breathes much; whose volume we should recognise as one of Dante's habitual companions, even if he had not told us it. 'Riches, honors, and all such' f Boetius exclaims in the person of Fortune) 'are within my jurisdiction, and, like slaves, they know their Mistress (*).' How inferior to the verses of Dante, are rendered even these noble ones of Horace, by the mere epithets of reproval which they contain; reproval so severely stigmatized by the other, as the sacrilegious vociferation of men, who forget how much they are beholden to the Angel they insult.

Fortuna savo laeta negotio, et
Ludum insolentem luilere pertinax,

(i) Nat. Deor. lib. i. p. six.

(a) Dominam famola coguoscunt- Cornel. Phil. Lib. ii. cap. a.

tilHTO TII.

Transmutat incertos honores Nunc mihi, nunc aliis benigna (i)! This passage of the Divine Comedy appears manifestly to have been paraphrased byGuido Cavalcanti; and I remark it, because it furnishes an additional corroboration of Boccaccio's statement, that Dante had composed the seven first Cantos of this poem before his exile from Florence. Guido died ere then; but that he shonld have perused the Cantos, however secret they were kept from all other eyes, w*is natural. He was more of a philosopher than of a poet; so he gives rather the morality, than the sweet fancy of his friend

U. xoix.

The ' night is dropping ' of Virgil is here imitated , in order to mark the hour. Night is said to begin to drop, when it is past mid-night; forming what Macrobius tells us, under the name of mediae noctis inclinatio, was the first of the twelve parts into which the Romans divided their civil day. Dante therefore does nothing more than simplify the Virgilian phrase, and, instead of night, put

the stars themselves 'every star begins to drop:'

and this has the advantage of keeping the reader in mind of the time more effectually, by making

(i) Carm.l. 3. Od. »3.
(a) 11 moto, il corso, e l'opra di Fortuna
E quanto in lei s'aduna

Moto riceve dal primo Mot ore. ec. •
Rime p. 5a—6o.

CiHTO TII.

him recollect that those same stars were climbing up the nocturnal arch when Hell was entered. We have been in it then full six hours; or it is how about one o'clock in the morning of the ninth of April, i3oo (0. It follows, that it is not another verse of Virgil's (suadentque cadentia sidera somnos) that is refered to; for this were to indicate a much later hour, or what Macrobius calls conticinium Nor are we to suppose that Virgil points upward while he uses the words, or in any way imagine changes of day and night to be in hell ( which misconstruction were to introduce the same confusion into this poem, that some of the commentators do into the Aeneid ): but he avers that the stars are declining, precisely because ( though he is gifted with internal consciousness of it himself ) he knows they are invisible to his pupil: for we shall be told in positive terms hereafter, that our travellers see them again only . on emerging back to our world (5).

w. cm.

Crossing over towards the interior edge of this fourth Circle ( in which it was useless to tar

(i) Hell, Comment, Canto ii. p. 67.

(a) Primum tampus diei dicitur media] noctis inclinatio; deinde galliciivium; inde conticinium, cum et galli conticescunt et homines ttiam turn quiescunt; deinde diliculum, idett, cum incipit dignosci dies, etc. Saturnalia, Lib. i.eap. 3.

(3) Uscimmo a riveder le ttelle. Inf. Canto xxxiv. v. i39.

« AnteriorContinuar »