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could make him run the hazard of incurring the suspicion of undue partiality, or a want of morals: his scope was too lofty to permit his doing so for the sake of any individual gratification ; besides , his judgment told him it would not have answered his purpose, and his confidence in his own genius that it was not necessary. The feelings of the heart engaged him to weep for her disaster; and a still more sacred sentiment (if there be one) to avoid advocating even the appearance of immorality . Hence he has at the same time made her an object of tender pity, and her lapse of the fullest measure of an ultra-orthodox severity: or rather he has converted that severity from its tendency to awaken dislike, into one of the most delicious sensations of our nature, pity (I). The stern moralist was well aware of the fount he could command; that in proportion as the writer was rigid, the reader would be compassionate; thatby not acting himself as her apologist, he insured her many; and that
his reserve would engage generous minds to be indefatigable in searching for documents that might, if not prove her innocence entirely, at least palliate her weakness. No female then ever had an abler advocate ; no friend, a trustier guardian. In their roost pathetic passages we rather admire Homer, Virgil , Milton , Tasso, than sympathize deeply with the sorrows of their personages. "To melt the heart" was not a primary object with them, nor with Dante. With tragedians it is; and on this plea alone (if he had no other) Shakespere deserves the dramatic laurel: but if Dante (amid so many still more urgent, epic duties) produced in this multifarious poem a scene or two as pathetic as any in the drama, it is a great merit.
This Circle is i4 miles deeper down than the former one (0. It is not divided like it"; but,like it, if presents all round a walk i7 J miles broad , with a wall i4 miles high on one hand, and on the other the brink of the horrid, central orifice that leads below into the ever-deepening horrors of hell. It is clear, that, by calling it in the approaching verses a 'narrower room'(men luogo cinghia), Dante means only that its extreme dimensions across from wall to wall (the orifice included) are less; which is certain, for as we descend towards the arena of the Coliseum the general space neces
(i) Hell, Comment, Canto Iv. p. »ae>.
sarily narrows at every step, whatever be the size of each particular tier.
Quaesitor Minos uruain movet: ille silentum Conciliumque vocat, vitasque et crimina discit (0. Having already vindicated this employment of classical allegories (»), I shall only remark the particulars in which Dante varies here what he imitates. He puts Minos within Tartarus, where all who come before him are really guilty of some transgression; Virgil, on the contrary,sets Gnossius and Rhadamanthus over Tartarus, and makes Minos preside near the entry of hell; whence it seems that all the souls who come into any part of hell, (even Elysium ) are judged by him; which implies the error of reproaching them all with crimes
crimina discit, and of saying nothing about
their virtues . Dante preferred uniting the two tribunals of the Latin into one, as is manifest by
his description of the self-confession subigit
que fateri (3). The Master gave Minos a human shape and invested him with the usual insignia of a Roman judge, an urn: the pupil, attending to the more horrible station assigned by him to Minos, clothed him in the form of a demon ; and substituted for that antiquated urn (which would
(i) Aeneid. Lib. vi. v. 43a.
(a) Hell, Comment, Canto in. p. aoG.
(3) Aeneid. Lib. vi. v. 567.
now suggest an idea quite remote from the unerring nature of true justice) the silent curling of an enormous tail, which the frightful inquisitor wreathes round his own loins in as many rings as is the number of the circle to which the culprit under examination is sentenced. With both poets, Minos is a personification of remorse of conscience, of Isaiah's ' undying worm', of the secret spy whom, as Juvenal tells us, we have clinging night and day within our bosoms, and who thus prevents the possibility of any malefactor's being acquitted
in his own opinion nemo se judice nocens
absolvitur . To entitle this accusing voice Minos, is equally licit in every persuasion, Pagan or Christian: Dante selected that title because it had been sanctified by the muse; and Virgil, because it was the usual imagery of his day . Progeny of a Phenician mother and a Cretan Sovereign , (whom for his virtues whatever his name, whether Jnpiter, or Asterius, men honoured after his death as a divine being) Minos became himself king of Crete; and ennobled the island with laws and cities (0. As Numa did afterwards, he used to retire to a grotto for celestial advice; and there be favoured by visitations, not of a Goddess, but (as he affirmed) of his own Sire, the Sire of Gods and men. There is perhaps less attraction in this fable, than in that of Egeria ; but it is more in harmony with the
lofty notion of universal jurisprudence: and in somewhat of a similar proportion was testified the gratitude of their fellow-kind to the two beneficent monarchs; for one was raised to the rank of a royal Saint by vulgar opinion , and the other to presidency in that future court, whose decisions are unerring in their justice, and in their operations irrevocable.
C. —•— CXT.
From this tiercet is necessarily deduced what I affirmed a little above, that all the remainder of hell is Tartarus; and that every soul who passeth the tribunal at the entrance of this second circle is consigned to some degree of everlasting pain son giii volte .
D. — xx.
Facilis descensus Averni
The Italian is rather an allusion to this, than an imitation of it. Rapidity and condensation, better than the Sybil's metrical harmony, became the Judge of the abyss, and Dante here again displays his usual correct taste. He might too have had in mind ( particularly in the recommendation to
(i) Aeneid. Lib. Ti. T. iaf.