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Umbrarum hie locus est
Corpora viva nefas stygia vectare carina (0... and an approaching verse will explain the passage still more, by showing he was not wont to receive any virtuous soul (»). According however to the hypothesis on which this poem is built, the favoured Aeneas,who was both virtuous and alive (J), had long before crossed in Charon's boat; so he could not have meant to say that it was quiteincapable of sustaining a human body a remark which removes much of the mysticism of the commentators by giving to the ' other ways, havens, and shore 'and the 'lighter bark 'in the next tiercet a mere literal meaning, and making them indisputably allude to the beauteous, airy pinnace, which we shall see skimming over the waters, which it scarcely wrinkles, and, laden with virtuous souls, sail to Purgatory under the superintendance of a 'divine bird ', a 'celestial pilot (*) .' Charon then means plainly to inform Virgil and Dante that there is such a heavenly wherry, which better becomes piu convien such guiltless creatures
than his own .
(t) Aeneid. Lib. vi. v. J90.
(a) Quinci nnn passa mai anima buona. Inf Canto ill. T. i17.
(3) Corruttibile ancora. Inf. Canto ii. v. i4.
(4) L'uccel divino
The whole is, in substance, from the Aeneid:
but how far sublimer is the simple assertion of the
Italian 'It's willed thus, where power and will
are one! Enough!' That is, such is the pleasure of Omnipotence.
In comparison with these few unadorned words how trivial is the bribe of a golden twig, and, if it were not for habitual veneration, I might add how childish! It may be urged in support of the Roman, that our modern is indebted for this superior beauty to the more refined nature of his creed, rather than to his own taste. And without controverting the position entirely, I may be permitted to remark, that most lofty notions of the Divinity were held by many Pagans, as we see even in the hyperbole of Horace nee viget quicquam simile aut secundum. So that it would not have been strange had the majestic Epic Muse exhibited her pious Aeneas as authorized to visit the world of shades, not by any secondary contrivance, but by the direct will of an all-powerful Providence. ' The boatman of the livid lake' is clearly from the vada
(i) Lib. Ti. Y. 40S.
ciato in. livida (0 of Virgil: but it seems no more than just, in noticing how much Dante copied , nut to conceal what he improved; in almost all his imitations of the Classics he introduces alterations that appropriate them to himself; and, in the present pas. sage at least, it will surely be confessed, that he struck out what was feeble, ( the gold rod) and replaced it with a figure of peculiar grandeur.
Terribili squalore Charon cui plurima memo
This burst of agony of the forlorn ghosts, on hearing, not the debate between Virgil and Charon, but the denunciation of their own lasting woe, is (as well as their pacing along with sobs the bank where the guilty congregate as soon as their mortal frames expire ) a circumstance added to the Latin original: with these exceptions, the entire is from the Aeneid.
That to put our mental faculties on wing it is first necessary to make an impression upon our senses, is one of the oldest ethical axioms: and
from it originate all our descriptions of a future state. It is superfluous to repeat citations from S. Paul and the Fathers to prove-that they considered such a state as above human comprehension; which is, in other words, to say, that what they describe there is to be received as merely allegorical : but it may be proper to inculcate a similar truth with regard to the Ancients. They also certainly understood the persons in futurity as ideal. So Cicero, alluding to the very particular we are
now considering the representation of Hell:
'Who does not see that the prodigies talked of are nothing but the inventions of poets and painters , and that it would be insanity to suppose their possessing any real existence? (')' The descriptions then on this head in Virgil and Homer were considered quite as imaginary before, as after their insertion in a poem; they were first the machinery of religion , and, after being so hallowed, were adopted in poetry; in both cases they were artificial resources never believed in as actually true, but as very efficacious in moving the mind; theological, or poetical, they were always allegoriesW. It remains to inquire, whether the Christian, or the Pagan allegories be the more conducive to the
(i) . . . Adrone me del'rare tenses ut !>ta esse credam? Tuirn. i-iti i. cap. 6.
(») The abuse of allegory may merit the lordly irony of Mr. Gibbon (Decline and Fall. Vol. iv. p 7i.); but when we attempt picture* fl Aii.ii we know is incomprehensible, it seems to me both sensible and caulirl u> present them, not as truths, bnt as types of the truth.
proposed end, of making an impression on the intellect through the senses? Here it is the end alone that is of importance, and whatever means are hest calculated to attain it are the best: for these in each of the Creeds of which we treat are equally accidental modes, and in themselves pretend to no greater weight, than any other' unsubstantial fabrics of a Vision .' The Paradise of Christianity has a moral purity of its own, and consequently has given rise to a celestial imagery of a very lofty nature. The fables of Greece and Rome are too unrefined ever to be admitted round the throne of the First wise and fair; and a man of mighty genius who attempted it succeeded badly. A reader of the Lusiad must have acquired a full knowledge of its many beauties, before he can forgive the introduction of Bacchus and Mars into a Christian poem; and their appearance there gives rise to some petulancy among critical wits, who can readily ridicule that incongruity, without perhaps being able, as linguists, to taste the merits that redeem it amply.
Even the nod of Jupiter shaking his ambrosial curls is a sorry figure in comparison with the attributes of Jehovah; and a view of Heaven by one of our Divines of moderate talents is finer than the
finest in the classics. But not so in hell; where
the belief of a disciple of Jesus differs in little from that of a follower of Polytheism: for they equally profess the doctrine of some guilt being capable