Imagens das páginas


substitute a usual Italian pastime, for a sight rather belonging to Greece or Egypt than to Italy, a flight of birds beyond sea: and the observation made in the preceding Article ( of Dante's simile expressing not only the number, but the mode of embarcation of the souls ) is still more applicable here. Nor do I apprehend that any one, who has ever witnessed the diversion to which I allude will deny that few things can bear more resemblance with each other than the picture intended to be given, of the spirits fluttering along the bank, or causeway , and at last dropping down one by one into the river, with the little birds, that, after chirping and flitting about for a while, are seen to dip almost always one by one into the decoy-grove. Those who would translate it'as-a falcon to the lure (0' deprive it of its best qualities, whether considered with reference to the purpose for which Dante employed it, or to the Latin of which it is clearly an imitation. A falcon gives no idea of the


(0 Mr. Gary, whose version is " as falcon at his call," cites Velutell'i as his authority; but he might have cited a far better one , Boccaccio ( Comeuto. Vol. i. p. i55 ). But Boccaccio was no fowler: nor Mr. Cary an Italian one, or he would have known that the common explanation is what I have given, and not as his note avers " as a bird that is enticed to the cage by the call of another". One bird inveigling another to the cage would be as liable, as a falconer with bis hawk, to the objection of individualizing what was meant to be general. They would equally reduce the simile within inadequate dimensions. Had he even consulted his dictionary , he would have learned that neither paretajo uor boschetto means cage but 'the place where nets are placed to catch birds' — dove ai diatendono le reti per prendere uccelletti. Vocabolario.

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crowds of souls; nor of quam multce glomerantur aves. I might have remained unaware of the peculiar justness of the figure, as it is usually received, had I never been out fowling with Tuscans: but the very first time I was so, it was my irresistible conviction that Dante here alluded to their mode of decoying; and that nothing could better represent at once both the multiplicity and the movements of his airy personages . A small round bushy

grove Boschetto on an easy eminence is

preserved for this amusement, and (being smeared with bird-lime, and prepared with decoy-birds, and nets, and men artfully concealed, who keep sounding their bird-calls) any one who stands outside of the treacherous grove soon sees the poor, deceived, feathery family gather on the neighbouring trees and after hoppingabout from branch to branch with many chirps', begin to fly into the vocal ambush exactly one after another una ad una — in a hurried, half-reluctant, and very remarkable manner. Prodigious flocks of them are sometimes thus caught; and, although there be varieties amongst them, yet one may well specify thrushes, because these are what are mostly taken; so that the grove itself is named ' a grove to catch thrushes W.'


(i) Boschetto diciimo anode all' uecellire dove ti pigliano i tordi. Vocabolario. §.

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This self-sacrifice of the conscious culprits in order to be poetically fine must be allegorical of something morally true. Is it then morally true that bad men after death court the eternal castigation of their wickedness? So at least Dante held, upon many great authorities, but particularly Origen, who attributes even the devil's innability of salvation to want of will rather than of power (0. The types of future rewards and punishments are various in various ages and countries; and are better, or less calculated to affect the imagination. The grossest perhaps are the most impressive on gross minds: but those who have meditated on the human soul will require that the emblem of her retribution should partake of her immaterial nature; the more they spiritualize this, the more they will labour to make that also purely spiritual; and the higher the fancy is elevated, the less capable it becomes of furnishing sensible images of that soul, that Paradise, that Hell: so that at last we may have recourse to considering Paradise and Hell as qualities which the soul may acquire in perpetuity. When intimately connected with infinite joy, she will be her own Paradise with

infinite woe, her own Hell. Our conceptions at least (for the mystery is inscrutible) can scarcely

(i) . . . . nolit magis quam no» pnssit, riuiu scelerum rabies jam libido est et delectat. De Priucipiis. Lib. i. Cap Tilt.


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attain nearer the reality; because in no other mode can they be more abstracted from matter; and almost the only certainty we have is this, that as the soul is immaterial, so whatever is to affect her, when liberated from the flesh and every extraneous impediment, must be immaterial too. But whether there shall be a profusion of immaterial objects hereafter, or whether Providence shall continue that sublime parsimony, which we observe in the natural world, and, instead of a sinner and a hell, shall make (as I have conjectured) the sinner his own hell, we know not. Yet there can be nothing wrong in the conjecture; and it were to render the moral allegorized by Dante more striking: and to argue unavoidably, both that those who are deeply guilty will press on to their own punishment, and that that punishment will be everlasting. For if the soul' on shuffling off this mortal coil' follows her bent with uncontrolled vehemence, and, having held a course of love and virtue even through the perils and lempla lions of an earthly banishment, springs up to that first principle of goodness and bliss for which she had long panted as for her original home, or as if she felt that she was a particle once torn from it; then the habitual indulger of hateful propensities must in a like manner rush with renovating ardour towards those terrible delusions in the pursuit of which he had been before restrained by the weight and feebleness of a corporeal texture. He must


continue in his wickedness, and habit must harden him in it every hour in spite of accumulating pain; vice growing older grows only more hideous and inflexible; and that guilt can never be expiated which never ceases to be aggravated.

Y. cxxix.

Since this bank is the rendez-vous of the guilty, thou (cries Virgil) should'st feel no displeasure, but satisfaction at Charon's refusal to receive thee

Nulli fas casto sceleratum insistere limen (').

The text may have been suggested by the Aeneid

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Thraca pedum (»): but was certainly taken from Dante by Milton Earth felt the wound Earth trembled from her entrails. . .. (3).

(t) Aeneid- Lib. vr. T. 563.

(a) Lib. xn. v. 334.

(3) Paradise Lost. ix. The chief beauty in these passages from our own bard, as well as in those from the Roman, and the Tuscan, consists in the personification of the earth. Therefore though Mr. Ginguene's (Hist, de 1'Italie. Toi. II. p. 3g) la terre baignee des larrnes des damnes exhale un vent impetueux may be a correct explication, it is no fair translation: a mere physical phenomenon being substituted for noble figurative language. Mr. Cary preserves the personification by borrowing a phrase from Dryden: " Groans the tad *»rth . "S— Trans. Aen. xu. 5e{.

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