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fantastic image, without the grossest perversion? What biography of love is to be credited, if this is not ? I know of no relation of the kind that carries with it so many internal marks of truth. Were the name of Beatrice unrecorded any where else, her existence and her story are sufficiently made known in this work. This alone, without other reference, (although, if such be sought, there is plenty in Boccaccio and the ancient commentators) is enough to make me consider further argument as quite superfluous. There are points which it is worse than useless to argue; if one believes it is midnight and another that it is noon-day, why discuss their difference? Neither can be conviuced, one roust have lost his eyesight or his reason or both. I were as decidedly at issue with a person, who could read the Vita nuova and still doubt as to Beatrice's mortality. That book had ended thus: 1 had a vision of my glorious lady, such as she appeared before she left us, prima che si partio
danoi and she seemed clad in the same members
of the same sanguine complexion and the same tender age , as when I saw her for the first time — giovane in simile eta a quella in che prima la Miii; but, shortly after, she favoured me with a still more marvellous visitation, and I saw things that made me resolve to write no more of the dear saint, until I should be able to do so in a manner less unworthy of her; and she looking down upon me knows , that I verily study for that purpose
without intermission as closely as I can e di venire a cio io studio quant'io posso: so that, if it but pleaseth the Almighty to spare me my life for some years longer, I hope to say that of her which was never yet said of any female' sperodi dire
di lei quello, che mai non fu detto d'alcuna.
Such is the promise so gloriously redeemed in the present poem; which,even at that early period, was probably begun, viz. in 1a9i; for this is about the date of the publication of the Vita Nuova: earlier it could not have been finished, since it contains verses written on the anniversary of Beatrice's death; nor much later, without doing too much violence to Boccaccio's testimony, who affirms Dante terminated it towards his twenty-sixth
year quasi nel suo ventesimo sesto anno (0.
At least, this peremptory annunciation of a great work prevents its being absurd to conjecture that it was already partly in existence, if not upon paper, at any rate in its author's mind . That his affections were dedicated to a real lady, that that lady was deceased, and that it was his long-cherished wish to immortalize her name, are then facts above controversy: and it is also a fact, easily collected from a little attention to his life and writings, that it was his paramount ambition to render all his productions useful to mankind in general. How were such various objects to be reft) Bucc. Vita di Dante, p. a54.
conciled? I know not if there was another mode than that which he selected and which, as he rightly says, had never been adopted by any one before. It was in truth one of his noblest inventions, this of making his lady a personification of that knowledge, which, if not quite illimitable, is at least without other superior than the uncreated fountain whence it emanates. Former poets had treated of wars and the founding of empires: had he sung simply of a girl, could all his genius have exalted his compositions to a level with theirs? In taking so circumscribed a flight, would he not have been unjust to his own powers,and conferred less honor even upon her memory? Could he then have benefited society at large, by showering out his treasures of science? Or have called, as we shall find him do, upon the God of verse to crown him with the laurel, affirming with honest pride that the subject-matter of his song rendered him worthy of it (')? He had at one time intended to write a comment on his poem; in which case he would himself have explained all this: but pecuniary difficulties, and at last death, prevented him. He had in fact scarcely finished the text when he expired. But, in default of his own comment on the Divine Comedy, we have what he probably intend
(i) Veuir vedrami al tuo diletto legno,
ed as its model his comments oil his Odes or
Canzoni; and these (under the title ofConvito or Banquet) leave nothing to be desired, as far at least as Beatrice is concerned . They tell us that, whatever she may signify literally , that which most interests the reader is to be aware of her allegorical sense, and know that Beatrice, though she is the same lady whom he had celebrated and whose deatii he had wept in the Vita nuova, is to be received as the personification of the divinest philosophy: and that in fine his audience should for the future invariably deem her such . The selfsame, admirable Beatrice' ( he writes ) 'of whom I discoursed in the Vita nuova, in that fervid effusion of my boyhood , which were no longer in character with these my mature years, yet not one syllable of which I would be understood as retracting, but rather as confirming, in what I am about to say at present; for as the age of man varies, so should his language and conduct vary; there are manners which sit well and handsomely on youth, and yet would be awkward and even highly blameable in an elderly person ; I composed the Vita nuova with the passionate heat of one not yet arrived at manhood , and I begin these comments in the sober tone that becometh me
now that that season of life is quite over Se
nella presente opera vo' piu virilmente parlare che nella Vita nuova, non intendo pero a quella in parte alcuna derogare, ma maggiormeute gio
vare; e se quella e fervida e passionata, e questa temprata e virile, cosi conviene essere; io in quella dinanzi ali'entrata di mia gioventute parlai, e in questa di poi quella gia trapassata; altro si conviene e dire e operare a una etade , e altro a un'altra; e certi costumi sono idonei e laudabili a una etade ,cbe sono sconci e biasimevoli ad'altra: the same glorious Beatrice in whose praise I then expatiated , she whose corporeal charms are no more, but whose spirit remains in secure possession of the fortress of my mind, la rocca
della mia mente the Saint that passed away
indeed, but that lives in heaven with the angels and on earth in union with my soul, is not henceforth to be considered simply as a female, but as a creature personifying the loftiest portion of philosophy , the eldest daughter of Jehovah, the universal queen, the spotless dove of Solomon, the wisdom most happy and supreme, which at last resigned me to the irreparable loss of her who was my first love. No other than that celestial study could ever have assuaged my anguish, inconsolable as I was when she became lost to me who was
my soul's first delight quando per me fu per
duto quel primo diletto della mia anima. It was the constant perusal of Boetius and Cicero that at length induced me to wean my affections from every earthly care and raise them to an exclusive reliance on that noblest philosophy, which I henceforth presented to my imagination in the form of