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I. \B ro I.
same Prophet are similar personifications; and in
another of the sacred scribes we read: » her
Princes within her are roaring lions » (I). The lion in Daniel (a) is said, by sir Isaac Newton, to denote the kingdoms of Babylonia and Media . In fine, it is an animal employed throughout the Bible to personify great realms and Monarchs. It being then so probable, thai here too it represents some powerful crowned head at that time in Europe, there is none to whom it can with any plausibility be applied but the Ring of France; whose house were active persecutors of Dante, and whom we shall find Dante's muse does not spare. But, to set the matter at rest, we have Dante's own word for it; and he tells us plainly who the lion is, when, addressing one of the French Princes, he speaks of his elder brother, the Sovereign, as 'a still loftier lion'(3). Indeed the ambitious views of the French Court had been long calculated to inspire every Florentine patriot with dread; and , a few years later, brought the Republic to ruin, by invading it under the pretence of amity. Since one of the most ancient scholiasts here remarks, that the lion resemblelh, in one particular, the most timorous of all animals, the hare, for both of them sleep with their eyes open (*), it is possible,
(i) Zephaniah 3. 3.
(?) Observations on the Prophecies . Chap. 4 Dan. Vil 4.
(3) Pii'i alto Icon . Parad. Canto vi (',) Bib. Rice. M.S. Cod. i0i6.
that, this observation being common in Dante's clay, there1 might be a sarcasm here implied, which is now not obvious.
Although I must not pretend to develope my author's character in this incipient comment, but shall often have to beg of my readers to concede for a while positions, that shall be clearly proved hereafter, ( otherwise I should have to write a volume on this first Canto) yet when I deny, not only that Dante ever avowed he was an ambitious citizen, but also that he was one, it may be necessary to cite something as cursory evidence of his patriotism and general morality -—qualities precludingambition: meaning, of course, selfish, iniquitous ambition , and not an honorable love of fame; for to this he was always tremblingly alive. Now listen to Philelfo speaking an oration in the Florentine cathedral, by the side of the high Altar, to an audience, who well knew Dante's moral reputation, and would not certainly (whatever they might think of his poetry ) have tolerated an exaggerated encomium of the man whom their fathers had proscribed. 'There are, as you are aware, O my fellow-townsmen, four principal virtues that concur to the human welfare: prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. In the first of these, consisting, according to Tully, in the knowledge of good and evil, I do not hesitate to pronounce that no philosopher of either Greece or Rome, excelled I do not say, but
I. IMU I.
equalled our Dante. As to his justice, you are all acquainted with it; and certainly this Republic never was blessed with a more meritorious magistrate, or one that enforced the laws more impartially without distinction of parties or of rich and poor. Yes! you yourselves, grave and distinguished citizens, will extol our poet as the most devoted lover , the most rigorous observer of that divine justice, which is defined by Justinian to be a constant and perpetual inclination to administer equity to every one lofty, celestial attribute! Above all words of mine was our Dante's temperance. And as to his fortitude, what better can I do than conjure you, O countrymen, to imitate it? And so shall you possess the constancy and boldness, that are requisite in this perilous war, we are now waging against tyrants, who menace our liberties. You then I cite as witnesses to establish this incontestible truth, that our great bard was conspicuous, above his generation, in pure patriotism and a holy culture of all the four cardinal virtues1 .
If the usual interpretations put on the panther and lion be unsatisfactory, still more so are they that are put on the she wolf. With her is connected the idea of lewd avarice; and mercenary strumpets were called she wolves by the Latins,
and a brothel, a wolf-lair (0. But to make her
here denote an abstract vice of that kind as
most of the ancient Commentators do is liable
to the objections already pointed out with regard to the two other wildbeasts; and some cruel, unchaste, avaricious, human power must have been intended. Hence many moderns have made our poet designate his own enormities. Who was ever so pursued by calumny? His most deadly antagonists could desire no more complete justification of their severity towards him, than to find his very admirers obliging him to confess himself guilty of such manifold iniquities unparalleled voluptuousness, rabid ambition, and lewd, all-devouring avarice . This is in curious contrast with the quotation in the preceding Article. To pretend ( as some have) that Dante debases his own reputation through humility is preposterous. No one ever spoke so much of himself, and applied to his individual person the three noble metaphors of a Prophet through humility: nor did any one ever pretend to be a dangerous villain through humility. To have banished such a fiend from the commonwealth were a mercy. But this interpretation renders him not only hateful, but absurd. To cause him to predict, that a patron should destroy his avarice by enriching him (as is done a few
lines lower) might,possibly, pass; although in con tradiction with the proverb alluded to a moment
after 'whom food but makes more ravenous
still' ('): but really to make him affirm, that, that patron shall expel his avarice'from State to State' (as is the necessary consequence) is too ridiculous. For the same reasons given in arguing about the lion and panther,this she wolf also must personify some potent Sovereign, or realm; and one characteristically avaricious, if (as is vulgarly and, I think, rightly supposed) she have a necessary connection with that sordid sin . This consideration alone might suffice to prove the Papacy of that day was meant; because under the then reigning pontiffs (Boniface and a few of the worst of his immediate predecessors and successors) the court of Rome became so scandalously tainted with avarice, that this was denounced as its ruling passion above every other European Government; and , as such, was anathematized by none more severely than various holy writers of its own communion: but not only such indirect testimony establishes, beyond cavil, that the Popedom, and no other, was the she wolf, but the direct positive affirmation of Dante himself, in different passages of this very poem . In Canlo vii., for instance,
(i) Largis rum potius inuneribus fluent
Boetius Consul. I. t cap.2.