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AT. . LXXIII.
The city, which Dante '■unbars' ( sbarro ) his eyes to see, is named Dis after the Aeneid: perque domos Ditis: (0 and it forms as it were a great division in Tartarus; for up to this moment, both the inflictions and the guilt which earned them are bearable if compared with the horrid spectacles to be found after passing within its walls. To this city, and not to any of the portions of Hell which we have yet traversed, Boccaccio was of opinion that the scroll above the gate of the Vestibule particularly referred and however that be ( for my own opinion is that it applies to all within the Hell-of-the-damned, which begins with the second Circle ), yet this much is certain , that in all the future Circles we shall discover no mild offenders like poor Franceses or Ciacco, or even Argenti; but perpetrators of the most enormous wickedness. The minarets and walls glowing at a distance remind one of the Aeneid ( the specification of minarets, instead of turrets, being nothing more than for the purpose of giving a profaner turn to the passage, not of throwing a slur on
The chirj cause was his withstanding Ch.nl.s de Vulois ( Hell. Cum ment, Canto vi. p. 3H3): but the enmity of so powerful a familv as the Adimaii was no slight adjunct. Queslo essendo la principal cagione, da iri a poco fu per Bianco cacciato da Firenze.. Franco Sacchetti, Nor. n4.
(i) Aeneid. Lib. vi. v. 168.
(a) Per me si va nella Cilia dolente — cioi ntlla cilia di Diu. Boccaccio, Comento, Vol. i.p. i38.
any religion , which would be entirely out of Dante's way:
Respicit Aeneas subito, et sub rupe sinistra
Moenia lata videt triplici circumdata muro,
Quae rapidus flam mis ambit torrentibus amnis (i).
The fallen, or 'heaven-showered' angels, who are now the demons that guard Dis, were once (as we shall learn presently ) the guards of the hellish Vestibule : from whose gate they were dislodged, on the descent of Jesus into the first, or Elysian circle of hell.
The indignation of the fiends is directed entirely against Dante; or at least no otherwise against Virgil (who being a spirit was not an intruder) than as the guide of a Mortal. There is severe irony in telling Dante to 'retrace ' his steps ' alone ; not merely because it were hard for him to find the road, but because of the impossibility of retracing it whether alone or in company . That it was impossible , seems to have been the notion entertained by the Roman as well as the Tuscan : so we find Aeneas and the Sybil go from one new scene to another, and at last, without turning back , emerge by a different door-way than that by which
(i) Aeneid. Lib. n. 548.
• CAKTO TIII.
they had entered; and as to Virgil and Dante, they are to traverse the interior of the earth right forward, and come out at the antipodes.
What I translate ' oft \ is in the original 'more than seven times' words which some expounders (I think neither very naturally or poetically) would make not an indefinite number, but an exact specification ( yet certainly no very exact one ) of nine distinct perils, which Dante had
hitherto affronted the panther, lion, wolf,
Charon, Minos, Cerberus, Plutus, Phlegyas, and
The rede , or counsel which directed their unearthly journey (da tal n'e dato ) was manifestly that recounted by Virgil in Canto the second: counsel, which he had affirmed proceeded from three saints, once Dante's mortal mistresses; one of whom was certainly intended for an immortal personification of supreme Philosophy, and the others, probably, for Mercy and Grace (0.
The words whispered to the infernal Cherubim were, it is presumable, the same which had been
(i) Hell, Comment, Canto ii. p. i53.
addressed with such an effect to Charon, Minos ,
and Phlegyas an assertion of the will and omni ■
potence of the Deity; and in now conveying them in a whisper, the poet shows much sublimity of judgment: for by this veil of mystery he is enabled to represent the fiends as rejecting with disdainful hardihood that solemn invocation,and at the same time to preserve all its force and solemnity. These could scarcely have escaped undiminished, had it been openly exposed to rejection (0. Perhaps even the invocation, instead of being enfeebled in our recollection, ( which would have been the necessary consequence of noisy altercation) is invested by this obscurity with additional grandeur. Milton is reported to have studied closely the parliamentary orators of his day, and to have faithfully delineated their peculiarities in the debates of his Pandemonium . That he whom he imitated frequently, Dante, did similarly in his Divine Comedy may be; but it must have only been in those short
exclamatory phrases, which occur occasionally
at least if we may judge of the speeches of the Florentine leaders, by what remains of them. Cer
(i) Thit blind fury and recklesness of the damned must remind us of the Miltonic Moloch:
What fear we then ? What doubt we to incense
On this side nothing
And with perpetual inroads can alarm ,
tainly the remnants of their speeches are few; but tbey suffice to give an idea of their manner, because we know them to be authentic. Dino Compagui (who was one of the chief political men of the day, deeply engaged in the Government of Florence) has himself left us parts of his own orations and of those of his companions. Short yet confused, in the very lowest style of colloquial asseveration , nothing can be more unhappily devoid of any thing approaching to eloquence. Certainly it is beyond calculation immense, the distance between them and the diffusive energy and majesty, which Dante displays so very often in all his prose works, whether Latin or Italian. In his Vita Nuova, his Convito, and his Monarchia we find passages utterly astonishing when compared with Dino Compagni.lt was then most justly that Dante's eloquence was rated so high in his time, and that its force enabled him to succeed in the generality of his many embassies. His manner also (without speaking) appears to have possessed something of gentle gravity, which was very attractive; and conciliated his audience, before a word had fallen from a voice said to have been of singular sweetness. The interview between him and Ilarius, as recounted by that monk himself, impresses one with the truth of this remark. After Dante had finished the first Canticle of his poem , or Hell, that is, after he left Malaspina, he passed by the monastery of Corvo, on his way, it would ap