Imagens das páginas


we shall have continual occasions for observing; and in his Convito he tells us, that the Philosophical Consolation of Boetius and Cicero's treatise on friendship were for ever in his hands, and much imitated by him while composing the greater part of that volume from which I extracted so amply in the preceding article L, that dream of his love, the

Vita Nuova quasi sognando come nella Vita

Nuova si puo vedere (0.


I have said (») that this Limbo is that called by Catholics, 'ofthe-boly-fathers'; that it resembles the Virgilian Elysium, and that it forms part of Hell. But let us here establish the meaning of the word Hell, or Inferno, Infernus. It is vulgarly employed as denoting exclusively a region of torment : but such is not the acceptation given it in the modern Romish Church; nor was it in the ancient one. The Platonic Virgil divided his hell into four distinct parts distinct from their very nature; not artificially, like the little better than imaginary ones pointed out by his expositors Servius and Ascensius (3). The first division contains the souls of children the second, those undergoing expiation in a variety of ways the third,

those who merit enjoyment and the fourth,

(i) Convito. p. J)5.

l») p »7

(3) Com. ap. Aeneid. 1. 6. T. 414.


such as, like Salmoneus or Ixion, are doomed to horrible tortures during eternity. This remains still the doctrine of Rome: on which head no testimony can be clearly than that of S. Thomas Aquinas, surnamed the Angelical doctor, whose opinion is received as undeniably orthodox by the Catholics of this day, as well as it was by those of Dante's age Infernus est quadruplex, scilicet damnatorum, puerorum , purgandorum, et sanctorum patrum ('). 'Hell is fourfold; of the damned, of children, of souls under expiation, and of the holy fathers. In the first' (he continues) 'is never ending woe'—that is Tartarus: 'in the second is no actual pain, although it suffer privation of

glory and grace' a condition preferable to that

allotted to children (infantum animae flentes in limine primo) in the Aeneid: 'in the third sinners

expiate their offences' as they do in many parts

of Virgil's hell: 'and in the fourth, there not only is no sensible punishment, but there are all the delights of grace and glory that can be attainable out of Paradise itself which conveys a perfect picture of the Campi Elysii of antiquity. Dante was a warm admirer of S. Thomas Aquinas, and indeed looked up to him as his master in theology: hence it was quite natural for him to adopt those four distinctions of Hell; and the more so, because they were, not only highly poetic in themselves,

(i) D. Tom. Aquini. Sen. i. dist. xu etc

(uim ilbut satisfied a still dearer propensity by permitting him to unite a rigid conformity to the tenets of his own church, with a respectful deference to that of his predecessors in elegant literature. It is then S- Thomas's hell (of which what is vulgarly called hell only makes a part) that is followed in this poem. According to this plan, this present Canticle, Hell, contains three hells, as we shall see —the hell-of-the-damned, the hell-of-children, and the hell-of the-holy-fathers; which correspond to the first, sixth and ninth circles of Virgil's hell: and there is dedicated the entire of the second Canticle, or Purgatory, to a description of the hell-ofexpiation,( iufernus purgandorum) a region which resembles, in essentials, the other six circles which Virgil's hell is lent by scholiasts. The fire seen by Beatrice is then that of the neighbouring hell of the-damned,and not of Limbo.

P. xr.iv.

Whether this lady be intended as a personification of divine Charity, as is said, I cannot exactly aver, nor is it much to our purpose to inquire: that the explications of the commentators are deduced rather from their own fancies than from any thing in the text is apparent from their disagreeing with each other. Many contend for Clemeucy; Jacob Alighieri for the profound mind of the Deity la profunda mentedella Deita(0; his brother

(i) Bib. Laurenziam . Plut. XL. Cod. i0.

cujrro ii.

Peter for operating Grace gratia operans (,);

and the latest of them all (M. Biagioli) for'the Soul, that is, the Reason'; in which discovery he is surely not much happier than his predecessors, notwithstanding the immense fatigue which, he

declares, it cost him l'immensa fatica che m'e

costato il rinvenirla (*).That it is a holy,clement > sainted, female spirit who speaks is obvious. Dante might have meant her to personify some particular divine virtue; but it is out of my province to decide which. She is rendered sufficiently sublime by being put in Paradise. Without further search after her allegorical, I therefore descend to

her literal meaning on which no comment

with which I am acquainted, either in writing or in print, has ever deigned to say a syllable, except the M. S. in the Riccardi library. 'She who is now noticed' ( affirms the M. S.) 'was a lady of Lucca, of whom Dante became an admirer about ten years after Beatrice's decease and for whom he wrote the song, Io mi son pargoletta ec. (3). 'It seems necessary to remark that pargoletta is not a noun proper, but common, and means merely a young little girl: therefore is there nothing in the appellation to prevent her being considered as the individual once slightly named Gentucca in Canto xxiv. of Purgatory, and again alluded to by the

(i) Bib. Laurenziana. Plut. Xl. Cod. 38.
(?) Com. Inf. p. (i. Ed. i8ao.
(3) Bib. Rice. Cod. i0i6.

i;«.itn ii,

pretty diminutive pargoletta in Canto xxxi. of the same Canticle. In the date seems to lie suine impediment. Certainly from Beatrice's death (1290) to the opening of this poem (i3oo) leaves teu years, or space enough to shelter both the poet and his commentator from anachronism. But the difficulty is, that in Purgatory we shall find Gentucca spoken of as on earth, and that here she is represented as already in Paradise. There is one way of reconciling these things, conjecturing that the author here ventures on her apotheosis before her death: as to his allusions to her there, they are quite transient . Nor were this anticipated spirituality any novelty in the fine arts, nor without instance in this very Canticle (0. It may be objected that in that instance, the poet apprizes us of the truth, but not so in the present one, and that I therefore hazard a perfectly gratuitous supposition; which were, I allow, very blamable if hazarded in opposition to authority; but not surely in this actual case, where it is employed to justify authority. For the writer of the M. S. I have quoted makes the unrestricted affirmation, that the allusion here is to a lady of Lucca whom Dante had celebraed with the song, I am pargoletta; and adds, that she was one of the only three

ladies whom he ever professed to admire the

other two being his Beatrice and a maid of Prato

(i) Canto Xxxiii.

« AnteriorContinuar »