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OHIO III.

miserable demons, who once were that class of angels represented by the then popular theologians as having been neutral in the celestial war ( unfaithful to their Maker, and at the same time too cowardly to join with Satan) was perhaps the sole invention completely answering his purpose: the unnatural punishment of an unnatural crime. The miserable crowds on the infernal froutier in the Aeneid are expiating no errors of their own , but the chance, or negligence, which leaves their,

bodies without burial: an instance of the an

cientness of the doctrine, that the conduct of the living may have some influence over the destinies of the dead . But those condemned by Dante to a similar doom in the same place are far from being displayed as objects of pity; and, on the contrary, are guilty of the sin most irremissible in the eye

of a legislator selfishness. To whatever extent

Montesquieu be right in affirming that without much virtue there is no freedom, this at least is certain, that without great public spirit no popular government can long subsist a pure democracy not one moment. A law of Solon pronounced death against the citizen who should retire into bis house during a tumult in the streets. Of all treasons neutrality was declared the worst; factious demagogues were to be easily pardoned, but temporizing politicians never. That wise man saw that to violence and ambition there was a remedy, but that luke-warmness deprived society of its vital

«isro in.

principle; and that in no State worth preserving the evil-minded are numerous enough to be very dangerous, if the well-disposed are alert and bold. To be persuaded of this Dante had as good reason as Solon could have: they were both chiefs for a season of their native lands, and were both badly requited(0; nor was it a less arduous undertaking to defend the liberty of stormy Florence, than to legislate for Athens. Nothing but an uncommon share of widely diffused patriotism could have long preserved the valuable institutions of either of those cities; and therefore their sage leaders by every means in their power laboured to foster it. Yet the verity of which they had so clear an apprehension belonged not to their own commonwealths alone, but to all times and countries: nor is it indeed merely political, but a general position of ethics. When Man, permitting his passions to overwhelm his reason, falls into vice, the light of his understanding is misdirected,or perhaps dimmed, but not extinguished; he may be reclaimed from his errors and that flame again hallowed may beam with even more than its pristine beauty: but when selfishness has debauched the mind the very passions (which are less ignoble) die, and the intellectual spark is quenched; that fountain of life is not muddied, but dried up. It is a melancholy fact of which the Creator himself informs us, " I would thou wert cold or hot; but because

(i) Both died in exile .

C1RT0 Hi;

thou art luke-warm,and neither cold nor hot,I will spue thee out of my mouth (0."

The principle, on which it is our duly to act, is the same by whatever phrase it may be designated, whether by enlightened self-love, or charity: it is an active persuasion that our least valuable quality is our individuality that, like the minor wheels of a watch, we should be most prized not for our own insignificant worth, but for our contributing

towards an excellent aggregate and, in short,

that we are all parts of one whole and tend to one end; that no individual advantage should be put in competition with the universal good, and that, in fact, such mere individual advantages are always a fallacy, from their being either very instable or quite imaginary: it is an habitual preference of general to particular interests, of permanent to temporary,from a conviction that in reality the general and particular interests must be the same in spite of appearances, and that none who endeavour to advance the mighty plan of Providence can eventually be losers; since their account shall be equitably wound up, probably even in this life (if not exteriorly, yet interiorly by the remuneration of conscience); but that in case it be not so here, it must be so some way or

other hereafter. It is this principle which

produces self-devotcdness, the virtuous sentiment

(i) Rev. C in. T. i5-«

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GtSiTO III.

whence we may derive almost every great or good action that has ever been executed; while its opposite vice, selfishness, is, I repeat, the moral and political sin beyond redemption. By others this may be discussed theoretically and quietly in their closets: but our Dante had it practically in view from his first entrance into public life to his decease; and that base cowardice of preferring private security to the national felicity, which he severely stigmatised in the present Canto brought Florence during his own career to much shame and anguish, and in process of time to slavery. Freedom indeed knows no other such bane. We rail at parties, ( and degenerated into such sanguinary factions as the Guelphs and] Ghibellines they certainly are odious, though even they are perhaps less so, than the ungenerous torpor which has replaced them in Italy ) yet are parties the very life-spring of a popular government. A partisan may be a sterling patriot: and he should be judged less on a minute dissection of his votes, than on the avowed system of his party. Such a man will ponder long before he espouses any; and, on the recurrence of some paramount question involving the existence of the State, will put his judgment to a new trial: but he will not be unsteady, nor, under the pretence of independence , discover an indifference more dangerous than the machinations of traitors and parasites; and, estimating too highly for trifling the sanctity

Oasto fir. of his civil union, he will sacrifice lo it many minor considerations, will occasionally through

deference to his associates change his own opinion, and even sometimes act against it, rather than desert those on whom (although they may decide erroneously on certain points) he believes that his country may, in the main, best rely. These sentiments were so rooted in the breast of our philosophical poet, that he could not restrain himself from venting them in the very place where it was most dangerous, as well as most useless to do so, in the papal court. It was during one of his journeys through France thai \isiting Clement V. at Avignon and being permitted to be present at a consistory, he felt so indignant at the craft and un-citizenlike tergiversation of the Cardinals, that, rising up, he impetuously apostrophised them in the verses which we are commenting, and left the city (0#

(i) Bib. Rice. M. S. Cod. loifi. It was this authority which enabled me ( Hell, Comment, Canto i. p, 48 ) to fix the date of his jonrney into France. For Clement V. died in April i3' 4; so it must have preceded that; and on the other hand, a letter of Dante's shows he had not yet left Venice on the thirtieth of March i3i3; it must then have been between these periods: for Clement's pontificate began subsequently to Dante's exile in 1 >o>, from which to his letter in i3i3, we trace him too rapidly up and down Italy to allow time for any long journey beyond the Alps . That he made one visit to France during bis exile is then sure, and that it was on the same occasion he went into England is probable; but not certain, for he was in France previous to his exile and in the quality of Florentine ambassador. That he filled that embassy is asserted by too good an authority to admit of doubt; and Manetti asaures us that when be went there during

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