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C . NTO II.
commentator (who, I repeat, was apparently Dante's contemporary) or he would have explained the seeming incongruity. It was so easy to do, that his not doing it implies he thought it superfluous. But, instead of thus naturally interpreting his silence, it may be represented as overturning his authority by some, who appear to think, that a writer of the best reputation merits no confidence unless he anticipates each objection: which is surely the very reverse of what should be. For when any loophole is discoverable to reconcile such a person's assertions with each other, an ingenuous reader ought at once to catch at it; rather than question the veracity of one, who., from his situation, had better opportunities of information than others; and no visible inducement to invent falsehoods, and advance them as simple matters of fact. The precise dates of a man's amours, and still more of those of a Platonic lover like Dante, may be forgot easily; even supposing them once known, which is problematical: and the marvel is, that it is possible to come as near their verification as we do. It were indeed a waste of patience to attempt it, did it not afford assistance towards estimating his character. In this light it is interesting: for it proves the purity of his connexion with all three ladies. It is an error then to believe that he meant, that the disdainful expressions of Beatrice in Purgatory (0 should be considered asdirect
(i) Canto xxxi.
ed against either of the other two; and indeed their touching concert for his advantage in this present Canto ought to have prevented such mis-conjectures . Beatrice had left the earth 'about ten years' before he became acquainted with Gentucca; and it was long afterwards that he knew Lucia , when Gentucca probably was dead; for lie had known the one (whether in Florence, or her native town, Lucca) before his exile,and the other during it. They were not then contemporaries in this world; and in heaven (whether considered as blessed spirits simply, or as personifications of different exalted virtues) could not be made to feel or cause any but benign sentiments. But now it suffices toremark, th.it,even had they been contemporaneous and still here below subjected to earthly feelings, they would not have'been rivals; for Dante's heart belonged exclusively to Beatrice, however his lighter sentiments of admiration might be occasionally directed; and, that in heaven itself they are conscious of its being still her undivided property, is evident from their application to procure him succour from her as from the person
whom he had ever adored, and who therefore was bound in gratitude to intend his salvation. Less again (descending from romance to the dull survey of mortal existence) could his devotion to any of them be a slur on his connubial loyalty. Until alter Beatrice's loss he did not marry, as we have seen; and to the wife he then espoused how sin
cur To iice rely he became attached seems proved by the many children he had by her in the course of ten years; of whom six certainly, and perhaps seven, grew up to man's estate. The imperious cruelty of his fate separated him from her for ever on his exile; but that forced separation is unfairly adduced as a proof of their domestic u nhappiness CO. Boccaccio is improperly represented as blaming her; but he does no such thing , his words being aimed against matrimony in itself, because of its peculiar unfitness for the followers of polite literature, and not against her in particular. She, on the contrary, seems to have performed all the duties of a faithful partner; remaining in Florence to save some of their fortune for their common children , and acting in a character still more interesting to the world, in that of careful preserver of her husband's writings, as we shall have occasion to unfold. Of those who, like Dante, passed their lives in public, and consequently afforded more matter for correct biography than literary men in general, there are few who have been persecuted
with so many fables not invented in his own
age, but by the ingenuity of times comparatively recent. Amongst these fables is to be enumerated that of his having been married thrice; for which I do not discover a shadow of authority. I presume it originated in the ladies we have noticed , who
(i) Manetti. ec. ee.
were mistaken for three wives. Another person tells us (I imagine, by way of joke) that one of Dante's mistresses had a wen, which we may credit, or not: for there surely is no testimony either to prove , or disprove it. It is certain he had but one wife, and she appears to have survived him: her name was Gemma de' Donati, and the names
of their children were Peter, Jacob, Gabriel,
Aligero , Eliseo, and Beatrice . This last, his only daughter, was called after his early flame: it is dubious whether he had not a sixth son, Francis (0. r
The same Horatian vulgar profanum vul
gus is found in the Convito: '1 am not, it is
true, entitled to a seat at the banquet of wisdom; but I have at least retired from the vulgar, and am busy in gathering the scraps that fall from that divine table (»).'
This triplet is entirely Scriptural. The ever-flowing flood that never finds an ocean to arrest it, and which is evidently another symbol for that called a forest, vale, or wilderness in Canto the first (the ills besetting a politician), is only the torrent of iniquity so often introduced in the Bible: as
(i) Vita—LeOn. Arret. —Bocc.—Landino, ec. Both Gabriel and Francis must have died in infancy. Petrarch mentions Dante's amor conjugis. Epist. Lib. zn. ep. ia— Uionisi, Prep. Vol. a. p. 6. '(») p. 5%.
CI WTO II,
"the wicked came upon me like a wide breaking in of waters; in the desolation they rolled themselves upon me Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul, the proud waters had gone over our soul (0." Death is put for guilt and folly ; bearing again the same identical sense which it does in the former Canto (as I have shown on the authority of Dante himself) and which is indeed one of the commonest Biblical metaphors (»).
M. Biagioli, in his late comment, calls the passage about the three ladies the most obscure and difficult of any throughout the whole Divine Comedy (3): and although I am not in this exactly of his opinion , yet it is certain that the various allegorical subtilties introduced by those who pretend to expound it, suffice to confuse any head. Taking the obvious literal meaning however (in conformity to the unpresuming spirit, of which these comments made candid profession, from the first) I trust, I have been able to divest it of all obscurity. I suppose there is no man at Dante's time of life without some dear deceased friends, who, it is soothing to think, are employed in watching over him from
(i) Job,xxx. i4. — Psalms, Gxxiv. 4. (a) Comment, Hell, Canto l.p. i3.
(3) Ecco il piu difficile, e sin ora il meno inteso luogo delta DiWna Commedia. Comento, Vol. i. p. 40.