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formers have permitted themselves to be impelled by circumstances somewhat beyond the limit , which their cool judgments had at first traced out: but he, without once swerving, continued on his work so steadily true to his ecclesiastical
tenets, justum et tenacem propositi virum —
that this poem has defied the most microscopic inquisition; and, with all its severity against the Roman See, no Pope has, I believe, ever ventured to insert it in the nearly endless Index of condemned books. Yet surely nothing can be more tremendous than its denunciations. The opposer of every servitude, Dante was peculiarly so of the one which was the worst, because the most feared and the most general; other despotisms left at least part of society free, and, if there were multitudes of slaves, there were many masters also: but that of the Papacy spared no one, and kings and subjects were equally degraded by it. In assailing it, he felt he was on perilous ground; and that conviction buoyed him up to a constancy and fearlessness that must have seemed nearly supernatural to his contemporaries. A lion exulting in his strength, a Hercules redoubling his strokes on the hydra, he at last came off complete victor. But it required an implacable perseverance; and, in proceeding, even we, perhaps, shall be astonished at such inextinguishable animosity: contempt, irony , invective, (not only in Hell and Purgatory, but in the very Holy-of-holies, teh most sacred precincts of Paradise) all the weapons of eloqnence are put in requisition; not even excepting daring sarcasms, which, were it not for the important cause in which they are employed, would not escape reproof, as unworthy of the majesty of the place. For instance, after threatening the iniquitous Pontiff ^whose wars, he says, were carried on not by the sword, but by a denial of the bread of life, that is, by an abuse of excommunications written , as he adds, only for the purpose of being razed as soon as their political object was gained) with the anger of the Apostles, who though martyred are not dead, he suggests to him, as a characteristic reply, the gross impiety, that he cared nothing about the Apostles; his hopes being all placed in S. Iohn-the-Baptist who was put to death for a dancing girl (Herod's daughter): by which is meant that they were placed in the gold florins of Florence, a coin that bore the image of that eremite:
What once was sword-work now is done
By a denial of that bread
The Sire of Mercy keeps from non's:
The planters of the vine thou seek'st to cut!
Nor Paul nor martyred Peter's dead.
In the great Eremite alone,
Who bled in Jewry for a slut;
(i) Parad. Canto XTiir.
And, reproving the luxury of the priesthood, who, however, had not as yet learned to loll in their chariots, as they did afterwards:
Came Cephas, and came poor and bare
Not such our modern Pastors' state
With squires and toilets and to saddle-bow
Whose mantles down their palfreys flow,
A single hide upon a pair of brutes!
How far thy patience, Heaven, can go (01
But, since the subject on which we are touching is so necessary to be fully comprehended before going farther, I will not apologize for illustrating it by a passage from the Monarchia; both because the words are of Dante himself, and because I know no words of any writer which put the matter in a clearer light. «.
Having shown, in the preceding two books, that the Emperor is the rightful successor to the Imperial dignity, he, in the third, undertakes to prove, that there is no earthly Sovereign superior to him. But let me observe that, when he advocates that Imperial jurisdiction , he lays distinctly down what he understands by it; that is , an acknowledged superiority, not absolute power: and, far from any thing like military sway, he
(i) Parad. Canto xxi.
jealously contends, that the Emperor should not even be permitted to interfere with the particular
constitutions of the country animadvertendum
sane, quod cum dicitur humanum genus potest regi per unum supremum principem, non sic intel. ligendum est, ut ab illo uno prodire possint municipia et leges municipales. Habent namque nationes, regna, et civitates inter se proprietates quasdegibus differentibus regulari oportet. If the various nations, realms, and states of Italy were thus to have their own legislatures, and that there only was to be, for the common utility, a common chief to maintain the public concord, (as is continually repeated by Dante in pre-conformity to the sound, whig principle , cited more than once in the same page, that the people is not created for the sovereign , but on the contrary the sovereign
for the people, non enim gens propter regem,
sed e converso rex propter gentem ) then
indeed the Emperor was, in point of substantial force, to be little more than what the President is in the United States, and the desire of our poet was really that of a federal commonwealth; which, if it had taken place, would have insured the independence of Italy and have suppressed the intestine conflicts between those 'democracies , oligarchies, and tyrannies that equally reduce the human kind into servitude, as is every where most
evident' democratic, oligarchic, at que tyran ni
des quae in servitutem cogunt genus humanum, ut CIKTO II.
ubique patet. It is no fault of his, therefore, if we must traverse the Atlantic for a model of federalism; which alone, perhaps, could have conferred durability on those turbulent republics and principalities, always in revolution and with a large portion of their population exiled, and whose sanguinary rapacity was at such a pitch, that they could never rest from petty yet cruel and obstinate wars undertaken, if there was no more plausible pretence to be discovered, for any thing however ridiculous, even for an old water-bucket (0. The reason for selecting the Emperor as that common Italian chief was obviously, because, as legitimate heir to the Roman diadem, he was the only individual in whose favour it was possible that the Italians might have united. In the third book he thus continues: 'Confiding in the promises made to Daniel, that the Divinity will be himself a buckler to the advocates of truth; putting on the armour of faith, according to the admonition of S. Paul; heated with that burning coal, which one of the Seraphim took from the celestial altar and applied to the lip of Isaiah ; and strengthened by the arm of Him , who, with his blood, redeemed us from the powers of darkness ; I advance to the struggle in order to chase iniquity and lies from the face of the earth. Why should I fear? Spoke not the spirit of the co-eternal Father and Son, by the
(i) La Secchia R a pita .