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/. —— XXXIX.
Although Milton did not employ the notion of angels that were neuter in the celestial war, I cannot think that Dante was wrong in availing himself of what was then a vulgar credence built on no less an authority than that of the ingenious and learned, but whimsical Origen. The summary of his doctrine is, that of the angels who neither joined God nor Lucifer there are three divisions
one inhabiting the stormy air, another the
hellish vestibule, and the third an outskirt of Paradise. These last, he says, come down from their station and return to it successively, until the Creator has finally determined on their eternal lot; and are indeed our souls that are employed to animate our bodies for a while, and ascend back into Paradise when our bodies die (•). This third position of Origen's was condemned by a general Council (0, and so Dante does not employ it; but both the former he does, ( the second on the present occasion, and the first hereafter (»)) because neither of them were ever declared heterodox, but were followed by many esteemed ancient
his exile it was in no public capacity, but solely for the purpose of study— studioruin dumtaxat gratia. Bib. Laurenziana. Plut. Lxiii. Cod. 3o.
(i) As for the bad Angels who inhabit the foggy air — (v Tw Ta^H ToiTU xou rtftyilu cup'l-be describes them as very vampires, living'on blood and greasy fumes, to catch at which they lurk about the earth; for these noxious substances are the natural al1ments w1thout which, they could not subsist - xotr«.XX»Xu)V Tpccpuv roi( cu,,xa.atv OUTtov: and even his commentator and critic, S. Jerome, is of a similar opinion as to their feeding on blood and offal -pasc, et sag1naricruore. E.ff M«PTUPI». P«- 45. Aristophanes has no better burlesque ou Platonism than these unintentional ones.
Divines; although I understand they are not
fashionable among modern ones, but have been generally superseded by the opinion of S. Thomas Aquinas, who consigns all the unfaithful spirits without exception to the same fate as their leader, Satan (3). If the destinies of those aerial creatures be representative of such as await ourselves, if Michael and his saints bear resemblance both in conduct and its reward to the followers of virtue, and the guilty be realizations of Satan and Belzebub, it appears to me that the imagining of an intermediate class 'whose only allegiance was not to rebel' and who are objects of scorn both to heaven and to hell, was to give no unnatural type of those ignominious mortals, who are so poisonous to society and so hateful to their Maker.
I follow the interpretation of Monti and Biagio »i W that those despicable spirits were not
(i) That of Constantinople, in 553. — Gibbon . Decline and Till. Tot. vin. p. 3a7. — Andres. Letteratura. vol. vi. p. 35. ('1 Purg. Canto v.
(3) D. Tom. Aquiui. Sen. p. a. dis. 3. and 4.
(4) Questa spiegazione si manifests pel scmplioe costrutto Irgolare
• into in.
consigned to the bottomless pit, because their presence there would not have been consistent with the glory in which the wicked but yet mighty fiends dwell. This, in fact, is both the most literal construction of the passage , as well as what best agrees with the context; and it prepares the reader for that sublime picture of Satanic majesty, of which we shall see Dante was the inventor, and Milton the noble imitator. The commoner explanation is given at the foot of Mr. Gary's page correctly ("Lest the rebellious angels should exult at seeing those who were neutral and therefore less guilty, condemned to the same punishment with themselves" ): but in his translation that gentleman is wrong; for his verses are unsusceptible of the meaning which is probably the true, but is certainly the literal one. Word for word the line is Because the wicked could acquire no glory from them; and this is metamorphosed by him into what seems diametrically opposite, viz: that their
presence would confer glory on the wicked
"Lest th' accursed tribe
L. . . MX.
"Virgil, whom we shall find almost continually
del testo, il quale si e questo: perchi gli Angeli rri non avrebbero alcuna gloria nella compagnia di essi. Comento vol. i. p. 55. — It may not be superflous to observe that alcana in the text means none, niuna, in consequence of being proceded by the particle ne. See Vo•ab. $. i.
exciting, rather than repressing the curiosity of his pupil,had told him not to mis-employ his time in enquiring about these crowds; for that they
were unworthy his attention 'look and along'.
In this he is obeyed; and of the innumerable multitudes that run round after the flag (whose whirling is no bad emblem of their worthless levity), only one individual is in any way noticed, and even that one without deigning to state his name. It is not difficult to ascertain the person meant; although some moderns have ( as usual.) done their best to render it so. Dante speaks of one whom, having been personally known to him, he
recognises at the first glance ebbi riconosciu
to; and who had renounced some elevated post
through baseness of spirit fece il gran rifiuto
per vilta . Now the only renunciation of any thing meriting the epithet great, during the life of Dante, was that of the Papacy by Celestine V an individual whom he must have seen frequently. This were enough, if we had not (which we have) the direct evidence of Dante's own children, and of all the earliest of the commentators; for it is only from the Imolese downwards that there are any doubts suggested.
On the fourth of April 1a9a died Nicholas IV,and left the sacred college in alarming confusion to the scandal of all Christians; but, above the rest, of the Italians , who were not only religiously interested but politically. Nothing, I think presents
a more piteous spectacle than their country then
did. Civil discord at its most cruel height every
State, every town, every family in dissension .
nearly one half of the population ejected from their homes and living openly by rapine — every castle become a fortress, every house a tower, no law but the sword —— treasons, rapes, robberies, slaughter in fine in every imaginable form almost deprive Italy at that period of the appearance of a nation of rational beings. There appeared to be no remedy half so plausible in that convulsive paroxysm of society as the election to the Popedom of a good and able man, who should change the impious system introduced by many of his predecessors, and, instead of fomenting, endeavour to restrain the factions of the Guelphs and Ghibellines, and re-establish something like law and morals. To succeed in this it was also necessary that he should be an Italian: and to engage the conclave to close so shameful an interregnum in the Church by making such an election, our poet (who,although only in his twenty-eighth year(0and in the freshness of mourning for his Beatrice, had been already on several important embassies and, amongst other places,at Rome) directed a solemn letter to the Cardinals (*). Whether this awakened
(i) Hell. Comment. Canto u. p. i 'J.J.
It) Negri. 1st. Scritt. Fior. —- This seems to Lave Iiccn unknown to Sismonili (Hist, des Republiques Italiennes. Tome iv. p. 73—i8a. ) whose account of Dante, otherwise not very inexact, is obscured by a theory to be supported against irrefragable testimony .