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with some degree of curiosity. It were not strange then , if England were desirous of having (what it has not) a full comment on a production which affords much more scope for one, and to which one is far more necessary, than any Greek or Latin poem whatever. My object is not to give a verbal explanation of the text; for this will be found in any version

of it with which my comment may be read

in the notes, if it be read with an Italian copy; and in the notes and the paraphrase of a translation , if read with a translation in French, German, Latin, English, or any language. An historical, philosophical, critical elucidation of my author's sentiments, allusions, and intentions is what I propose — an attempt to render not his words, but their purpose and full signification; which opens a wider, and on many occasions a more unexplored field, than may be imagined: for it necessarily takes in a quantity of facts and opinions either much mis-represented, or nearly forgotten —the history, religion, and science of the fairest and then the most civilized portion of Europe, Italy, during one of the most interesting periods of her annals; from the birth of the Florentine republic, up to its highest pitch of prosperity and the beginning of its decline; from the first seeds of the Guelphs and Ghibellines and the Blacks and Whites, up to the utter extinction of the two latter, and to what may be considered the end of the rivality between the former; — from the first dawnings of letters, up to the completion of what Italians still consider as the most glorious effort, the polar star of their entire literature; so that the productions of Petrarch and Boccaccio seem but the satellites that shine brightly in its train. Nor should the reader think that all this is a matter which has been developed by others: for the different works, historical or literary, to which he may recur, have too lengthened a way before them to allow of their delaying on the same topics more than more or less cursorily; whereas I attach myself entirely unto the chief of the celebrated Tuscan Triumvirate, and have no other pretension than that of laying fairly open all the matters of which he wrote, or in which he is known to have borne part — so that my task closes in i32 r, or previous to Petrarch and Boccaccio becoming illustrious in the world. Yet is that task, though so circumscribed as to time, sufficiently, and more than sufficiently momentous. To give the substance of the multitudinous Italian comments and treatises on Dante, many of them in print and some in M. S. to reconcile their opinions where they

jar, and, particulary, correct the modern by the ancient — to clear their literal interpretations , and often interesting remarks and recitals , from the ocean of allegory in which they are so immersed, as to be, for the most part,

unapproachable by ordinary readers to say

all they say that is worth knowing, and much that they do not say, by inquiring more closely into the foundation of Dante's ethical and political system — and to inweave with all this constant citations from his minor works, so that one shall at length become completely familiar with them, without the necessity of actual perusal; which would perhaps be impossible , from the very old-fashioned, I may add quaint, style in which they are frequently dressed — is a subject not deficient certainly in extent or in materials. To even an Italian there is matter in this comment not to be found in any other. I am the first of Dante's commentators who treat of his oriental acquirements. The explanation of Arabic and Hebrew verses (which hitherto passed for nonsense ) and of many words from the same sources (whose meanings, as well as roots, were never before ascertained) renders this comment richer than any Italian one; nor is there vanity in my saying so. For 'uch knowledge I am indeed indebted to an Italian (ihe learned Abate Lanci, public Professor of oriental tongues at Rome); but his observations have only appeared in a small pamphlet , so that this English comment will be the first one to do justice to Dante in that respect. It will be the fault of my execution, (and not of the plan) if this work fail to be interesting, not merely to students of Dante, whether in the original or in a translation, but even to such as never perused, or intend to peruse the Divine Comedy, but love desultory reading. The variety, shortness, and independence of its articles (if they were well executed ) would render it as fit to be taken up, and thrown down, and taken up again, as Montaigne's essays themselves, or even those treatises of Plutarch and Seneca of which he says: II ne fault pas grande entreprise pour m' y mettre, et les quitte ou il me plaist; car elles n' ont point de suite et dependance les unes aux aultres (LIv. a. chap. 10.). I suppose no one will be so ungenerous , as to suspect me of presuming to compare myself with Montaigne; except merely as to the unconnected nature of the parts of our compositions . There are few historical anecdotes to render a comment on ancient

poetry interesting; for all that can ever be


known about the Greeks and Romans, has long become generally known: whereas much may be yet discovered from MSS. and rare, pointed chronicles in Italy, which are scarcely known in Italy itself, far less in England. If Mr. Roscoe was able to throw light on so late and so enlightened an age as that of the Medici, it would merit small surprise if another Oltremontano could do so with regard to a period far remoter and less investigated. However curious a theme the Pagan mythology is, it has nothing ( speaking merely humanly ) to compete with Christianity. The Greek and Latin poets lead to a discussion on the former: but Dante to the latter also; for it can never be doubted but his creed (however some of its tenets be considered ) contains the fundamental Christian dogmas; and has been more universally professed, than any other form of Christianity. In the Histoire des Republiques Italiennes some doubts are hazarded as to the political consequence of Dante; but these seem much more suggested by a desire of novelty, than a judicious survey of events. A great authority,

a nation's voice has long since decided the contrary; and even the historian himself affords manifest grounds for an opinion very different from his own, by showing that Dante had to

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