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variety of ways, and l)equeathing her an immortal language, both prose and verse, in his Vita Nuova, merited a far different requital than he received. How much he exerted himself in both her home and foreign affairs may be gathered, not only from his having been so often ambassador and once a Prior of the Republic, but from the story circulated by his enemies, and which may very well be true without doing him an)' discredit; for none can result from his being so immersed in meditation on his public duties, as to fall into absence. A vain desire of dividing himself into two, in order to serve his country more effectually, was the enthusiasm of patriotism , not arrogance (0. Dante was a Florentine by birth, education, and predilection; was long its most distinguished minister; was in his thirty-seventh year when forced from it by political misfortunes; ere which, he had already published enough to prove him the most learned character of his age. Nothing subsequent can make him more or less a Tuscan; and whether he composed a few Cantos during his rambles, or ere he left home, neither detracts from nor adds to the just pride of his countrymen. He adopted not any other land: nor even ever fixed his abode in another for any considerable period. To excuse the iniquitous return made by their ancestors to such devotedness; to show there was at least some
(i) Hell, Comment, Canlo vi. p. 357—.Note.
reasonable pretext for expelling their excellent citizen with contumely; for disregarding his letters ( one of which opens so affectingly,' O my people! what have I done to thee ? CO'); for decreeing his exile should be perpetual, unless he bought his recall with his dishonor; for confiscating his property; and for sentencing him to be burnt alive
without further trial, if taken to endeavour to
disprove, or soften down these opprobrious misdeeds would be more creditable to Florentines , than to contend that a few Cantos of this poem were composed within their walls. It would even be more to the purpose, did they erect at this day some lardy monument to the memory of the most famous personage their City ever produced. But Florence, is and always was characteristically ungrateful to its heroes; and has not yet attempted to propitiate the insulted manes of any one of its illustrious triumvirs, Dante, Petrarch , Boccaccio. Their bones repose at a distance from their native town; where the traveller is amazed at not finding the slightest sepulchral memorial to recall their names:
And Santa Croce wants their mighty dust;
(i) Popule mi! quid feci tibi? Manetti , Vita DaDtia.
\ CtKTO TIII.
The Veronese, (though in a much slighter degree) are in a predicament of a similar kind: and it better becomes them to explain away the insults which Dante suffered in their town, than to blazon their own ancestors' ingratitude by representing the visit with which he honored them as long, or the verses which he composed during it as numerous. That at the board of a tyrant whom they misname great, such scurrility should have been directed against the greatest man of that age, is what requireth explanation; and to show that this was not so grossly the case as is usually recorded, is what would really exculpate both Verona and the family of La Scala . The ingenuity of the Marchese Maffei would have been patriotically employed, had it sought, either to liberate Verona at the expense of its boy-despot, by showing that not being a free republiculike Florence, it were not fair to hold the people responsible for his inurbanity; or to controvert the authority of Petrarch ('), and make us disbelieve the tales of the servants at Court receiving orders to gather the bones round the table and fling them under Dante's chair, and of Can's having asked Dante publicly on another occasion, how it came to pass that he was less admired by every one than the court jester or fool Or if
(i) Rer. Mem. 1. 4.
(a) To such ribaldry the Poet certainly replied in the sarcastic tone it merited — that if his appetite was greedy in leaving much bones, theirs was greedier in tearing none; and that as to predilection for a OHTO nn.
those unworthy tales be too substantiated for controversy, and that Maffei still preferred to be the apologist of that sovereign , it would have been a more effectual plea to have remiuded us of his youth, and of how pardonable are levities in the spring of life, when it is exposed to intrigues of flatterers and heart-hardening power; and to have assured the readers (instead of leading them astray by a conscious subversion of chronology ) that when Can extolled his buffoon over the aimable gravity of an all-accomplished guest, it was less from congeniality of disposition than festive distraction; that if his coarse jests necessitated the departure of the distinguished stranger, he lost no time in expressing compunction and soliciting his return; and that if in a moment of forgetfulness he spurned an 'Angel visit,' lasting regret almost compensated for the gross error. Throwing aside the many considerations, that are either irrelative, or ill-timed, or both; adding, that wherever the Cantos were written, they could not have been written in Verona, for that their Author did not go there till i3o8, and that he had finished the
buffoon, it was natural for people to like those best whom they retern bled most. Yet though Dante was not deficient in the wit of a man of the world , it must have cut him to have been obliged to make such ate of it; and the conscious dignity of genius suffering alike by the insult and the repartee, he was soon engaged to leave Verona for ever — as soon as Can attained the full sovereignty. Hell, Comment, Cant* i. p. 48.
whole Canticle of Hell before that time ('): I say, rejecting every vain conjecture and coming to plain matter of evidence, we first discern, from comparing dates, that these seven first Cantos, of thirty that were published at latest in i3o8, must have been written before the summer of i3o7; and then comes the absolute affirmation of half a dozen inconteslible witnesses, all of them the contemporaries, and one of them the nephew of Dante, that they were committed to paper previous to his exile. It is the most authentic information we ha*e concerning the composition of any part of the Divine Comedy, ( and is indeed curious from being more authentic, than almost any thing else we know about any epic poem whatever) and it leads to the precise dates of Dante's movements during the first five years of his exile . If we add them to those after his coming to Verona(i3o8(»)), we have a chronological series surprisingly entire
(i) They who pretend otherwise make many breaches in chronology . I have quoted from the legal documents themselves that his exile was in i3oa ( Hell, Comment, Canto vi. p. 363 ): and he was then in his thirty-seventh year ( Hell, Comment, Canto it. p. i33). Yet Bettinelli writes ' Dante's exile happened in i3oo' (it Sho esilio avvennto al i3oo. Risorgimento, Cap. 5 ); and Maffei, that ' it happened in i3oi wheu be was thirty-five years of age '— dopo the fn in esilio il quale segui net t3oi, quando era in eta. di 35 anni. Verona Illus. It is hard to give much credit to writers, who, on the very points they profess to elucidate, make such mistakes — mistakes, which however trivial in themselves, become of consequence as proofs of inaccuracy; for to have looked into Villani, Macchiavelli, or any of the principal Italian historians would have prevented them.
(a) Hell, Comment, Canto I. p. it.