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salvation, when theologically considered and reduced to its accurate meaning, does not in the least interfere with the personages of the Divine Comedy; and, however terrible to the inattentive hearer, and however often abused by the ambitious and malignant, is, in itself, a harmless, abstract, general rule with so many tacit exceptions of which we cannot judge, that, in spite of all the ingenuity of speculation, we cannot employ it to condemn a single human being without great absurdity as well as guilt (0. Church dogmas then did they meddle with the affair at all, would not have regulated Dante's awards, but would have prohibited his making any on ground so deceptions as appearances: if a poet were not permitted to do so, beifia5. — Dame Indeed pays small attention to individual Doctors, but bis Muse records every one of those paramount tenets universally taught by the Roman Catholics.
(i) Even the Council of Trent notwithstanding the violence of its debates, and the religious virulence that then raged every-where, was obliged, when it came to propound an actual decree, to lessen its asperity in order to preserve its orthodoxy; aud the consequence was, that it left the matter of exclusive salvation as undecided as it had found it. For as to the universal acclamation of "anathema to all heretics ancient and modern, " it was indeed a sound full of fury and too capable of being converted at that unhappy season to direful purposes ; but, however badly timed or wickedly intended by wicked inviduals, it was in truth nothing more than a repetition of the theological maxim we have been discussing. Being likely to be most uncharitably explained, it was most uncharitable to repeat it gratuitously: but if explained with the mildness of an impartial looker on and with reference not to angry declaimers, but the letter of the Catholic recorded Articles of faith , it would have never authorized the condemnation of one single individual alive or dead, as I hope I have proved. Sarpi, Storia del Con. Trid. 1. 8. p. 4i5.
cause it is only from them he can cull examples, which he gives not as serious decisions, but as specious reveries. The only rule that bound him was to abstain from supposing any thing impossible to be true; and however improbable it be that his Pagans etc. are as he has placed them, it is a theological verity that they possibly may be so. This being the case, the question is no longer one of Divinity, but of poetical justice: it is not whether he observed an orthodox rule ( for I have shown he had none, except with regard to a few canonized saints, and the still fewer Biblical characters), but whether he applied morally the licence conceded to his fancy for a very moral purpose? This M. Meriau has partly answered by saying, 'his punishments are in general proportioned to his crimes:' but, since there is little about punishments in this Canto, does he present us with rewards proportioned to merits (0?
To reward a good action by realizing the hopes that induced the actor to perform it is a first principle of equity among men. The nature and proceedings of eternal justice lie far beyond our comprehension : but, in our ignorance of them, we may safely apply to the tribunal of a future world the rules which are acknowledged to be just in this. Now a Christian is taught to look forward to a Paradise of ineffable bliss; while the Pagans
(i) Pramia nveriti* sunt mensurauda. Monarchia. Lib. a. p. 3a,
in general appear to have been contented with their subterranean Elysium. I say in general, because a few of them professed brighter hopes; and appear, because (I repeat it once more ) we can only descry appearances, and not the truth; and a poet is licensed to decide on appearances. He may limit the Christian Paradise to those who seem to have participated a Christian's hopes; and place in Elysium those who seem to have expected it as their eternal recompense . He can vouch for nothing certainly: he cannot tell how any of those individuals died; nor whether the principle that is equitable here is so hereafter, but by placing the worthy followers of Jesus in Paradise, and the virtuous Heathens in that Elysian Limbo on which their own theologians dwelt with rapture (and to which Dante could not have consigned them without high veneration,since his ownChurch men taught that it had been long hallowed by the presence of the Fathers of Christianity , and, at last, by that of Christ himself) is exemplified one great
moral lesson, that which teaches our heart
and fancy to expand each other mutually, for that in some proportion with their expansion shall be their reward . But it is well known, some of the Pagans openly professed sublimer expectations than those that were then usual; it was therefore exemplary to represent some of them as participating the glories of Christianity, and judicious
not to select Cicero (0; lest the reader should mistake that for exception, which was intended as illustration; and for a serious decision of what actually is a given mortal's lot in futurity, that which was meant as a fanciful supposition of what it possibly may be; in short lest he should receive as a particular sentence, that which was imagined as a general example, or allegory;
and those who find allegories every-where throughout the Divine Comedy, ought not to have been silent as to this one. Ought not then the academical sentence to have rather run thus: 'Dante is
not only equitable in proportioning punishments to crimes and rewards to merits, but is at the same time so scrupulously exact in conforming to the dogmas of his Church, that, were all the tomes of Catholicism lost, posterity would still have a correct idea of its tenets from this poem?'
Some say Dante is to be suppposed to have been borne over by an Angel during sleep: but certainly the words of Virgil to Charon rather imply that they came over in his boat (as Aeneas had done before); for if they were to be transported not by him, but by an Angel, to what purpose their altercation?
(i) . . . Sic babeto, certain esse in av/o ac definitum locum ubi beati min sempiterno fruantur. Soinouin Scip. How many Christian* have excelled this definition of a Christian Paradise?
Boccaccio says very correctly 'the first Circle borders the abyss(').'It is then no part of that abyss, that pit, that blind domain, (cieco mondo) that glen, that mortal den. These are all Synonimes for Tartarus, or Hell-of-the-damned, with which this first Circle has nothing whatever in common.In the Aeneid Elysium is not more strikingly separated from Tartarus, than in this poem. Virgil here turns pale with pity while looking down into it, as Aeneas while looking towards it(respicit Aeneas): but the latter, hurrying on, leaves it upon his left hand (sub rupe sinistra (»)); and the former descends into it in the next Canto.
D. xxx.This first division of this first Circle is the Hell or Limbo-of-Children ( Infernus puerorum ) in the language of Dante's Church (3), and exactly corresponds to the first circle of the Virgilian hell: Continu6 audita' voces, vagitus et ingens, Infantumque animae flentes in limine primo, Quos dulcis vitae exsortes et ab ubere raptos Abstulit atra dies, et funere mersit acerbo: Nee vero has sine sorte datae, sine judice, sedes (4).
(i) II primo cercbio, o Limbo, attornia Tabisso, cioe il profunda Iuferno. Comento, vol. i. p. i73. (.>) Aeneid. Lib. vi. v. S48.
(3) Hell, Comment, Canto ii. p. i3g.
(4) Aeneid. Lib. vi. v. <a6. '•