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beware of one by whom he might be ' led astray,'
that is, of Virgil guarda... di cui tu ti fide )
the expressions of the Gospel, "wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction.... Beware of false prophets (0."
If the menace of Minos be sublime, far sublimer is the reply. For the first words of my translation of it I must crave excuse; they do not literally coustrue perche pur gride. But this simple check, when taken with the context, conveys such sense of mild command, that I, in three instances, found it forcibly recall to those perusing this Canto for the first time ( in the original I mean) the repulse given by our Saviour to Satan "Get thee behind me (»): " so that, despairing of suggesting that venerahle association of ideas by any other means, I was at last emboldened to introduce our Saviour's own words; and, since I could not retain both the expressions and the spirit of my author, I surrendered the former, in the hope of being able to preserve the latter (J). The rest of the reply is an exact Homeric repetition of the one before made to Charon in the third Canto; and all the
(t) Mathew. Til il—i5.
(a) Luke. Iv. 8.
(3) Mr. Cary'a " wherefore exclaimest?" preserves neither the one, nor the other: for it doet not render pur (which hat much significatioa here ); and it ii quite devoid of majesty .
grandeur attributed to it on that occasion is increased by its being thus formally repeated (0.
Here then they actually step into the hell-of thedamued ; and up to this moment, all the scenes of penalty or pleasure we witnessed had nothing to do with the home of infinite woe, the tartareau abode, usually, but incorrectly, designated by the generic term, hell (»). This dreaded portion of the infernal regions, 'we're now within,' and shall continue to be so until the end of the present Canticle.
The muteness of the light is a repetition of the figure already used in the first Canto : ' where the sun is mute' (?).
The ruin of the text is, in my opinion, the mouth of the abyss, which (as I have so often repeated (+)) stands yawning in the centre of each circle; until we arrive at the very bottom of the infernal amphitheatre. Whenever the cross-wind blows the shades into the vicinity of the brink of that horrific mouth,
they shriek, and shudder, and curse, from their apprehension of being blown within its ruinous ring, and so tumbling deeper into damnation . This is the obvious interpretation of quaudogiun gon davante alia ruina; so I translate it 'central ruin: but many think ruina rather implying, that there were sharp rocks in the face of the wall separating the first and second circles; and that it was when tost against those ruinous rocks, that the ghosts cried out.
That Dante asked who those suffering spirits were, and that Virgil told him, is supposed to be implied by the intesi in the text; 'although,'says M. Biaggioli,' the question and answer are omitted for sake of brevity (0.'It seems to me briefer to understand neither as made , and that this is a mere poetic pre-statement of what is literally asked and answered a few verses later 'Whom
does the black air so scourge?' It is superfluous to consider this question put and answered twice.
This simile, and the other that follows were evidently taken from Homer; as their juxta position still more than their mere versification, proves.
i1) Dimaod6 ■ Virgilio chi era no quegli afflitti, ed egli glielo aper•»J ma tace, per breviti, e la demands e la risposla. Goincoto, vol.
Homer had two objects to depict, the exultation
of the warlike Greeks while disembarking , and the noisy, un-soldierly array of the Trojans while advancing to battle; and it has been considered as a blemish, that he applies exactly the same metaphor to both: which criticism, though not precisely just (since the birds indeed are the same, but in very different situations) is not devoid of plausibility. Dante also had two things to inforce, the number and confusion of the fluttering souls, and their cries: for which purposes he imitated the Homeric similitudes, but with variations. In the first of them, instead of repeating cranes, he specifies starlings (0. These perhaps were better adapted than the others to express confusion ; he makes not any difference in their states, but evidently intends both starlings and cranes to be alike screaming under the influence of terror, and flying alike from an inclement climate; that is, that the i wintry jaunt' of the present tiercet, as well as ' the sorrowing lays' of the following one, should be common to both. In the Iliad the cranes, and other feathery tribes, are at one time by" the windings of Cayster's springs" chirping at liberty; and at another flying from winter with screams. Here both cranes and starlings are routed by winter (ye;a£v«
(i) As starlings through the winter jaunting
To every point etc.
Quyov ) and shriek piteously ( KXuyyVj ) and flydisorderly
TSiv J we;' cpvibwv TreTstjvUv 'ibvsu ToAAa ,
Huts vep xAayyt] yepuvwv niXst ipuvofa xp)>, A'i't Bts) ovv ^ttiiuivcc <p6yov Ku) ocQ&ircpuTov Q[l€pOV(*\ If the "XEi\iwva and the xXuyyh of this passage be, the one expressed , and the other understood in Ate preceding tiercets of the Italian, then is ' their disordered fluttering,' (which is taken from the first cited Greek verses 'e'y0« Ku) 5fvo«) to be, in its turn, considered as implied in the tiercet we are now commenting (3). Dante's interpreting of itt.uyyvj sorrowing lays ' proves he knew Greek, vindicates Homer from a charge of inconsistency, and shows clearly that these metaphors were drawn, not from the Aeneid, but directly from the Iliad itself. It proves he knew Greek, by his receiving KAetyyt] us a generic word , not exclusively meaning a cry of exultation, but simply a cry, which may signify either a shout of hilarity, or a scream of depression;
(i) Iliad. Lib. n. ▼. ^Sg.
(3) And as the cranes'long legions sloping
Drive querulous people warping by.