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r.iaTo ?b liate the infamy of intemperance: and when men are reduced by it to the level of brutes they usually sink below them,and hurry from the licentious board into outrageous guilt and peril, civil anarchy, murder, atheism. The picture drawn by Boccaccio of the profligate intemperance of Florence, if it be in the least correct ( as I presume there is no doubt but it is, since it was composed to be exhibited to the Florentines themselves ), proves both that Dante's remonstrances were as unattended to as those of Cassandra, and portends the fast dissolution of the corrupt republic. 'Here' (cries Boccaccio) 'are to be seen suppers consisting of luxuries drawn from the most distant countries; on the same table fish from the Atlantic Ocean,and from the Red sea, and wildfowl brought from beyond the Alps; so that the repasts of our private citizens far surpass those known at any court in Europe, not excepting even that of the Emperor's or the Pope's. That those feasts always end in drunkenness and riot, is bad; but a much worse evil is, that such festive hours are selected for consulting about the weightiest affairs of the Commonwealth. Thus these are too often decided on by men out of their senses; as the world may surmise from the measures it sees adopted and their consequences (').' If the last Canto was written partly, or perhaps principally, through mo
(i) Comeuto, Vol. i. p. S73.
tives of private friendship, this one and all those that are to follow spring from genuine patriotism and love of justice. But luxury and intemperance were not to be checked; in a few years Florence annihilated her aristocracy, and, instead of nobles and commoners, she became divided into the bribed and the bribers; on the money-market, not the field of battle, the Tuscans henceforth calculated for power and protection; so that the time came, when a merchant becoming master of the money-market, bought and sold them all at pleasure.
Cerberus haec ingens latratu regna trifauoi
It is unnecessary to remark more on this introduction of the Viigilian Cerberus, than that Dante gives it a somewhat less definite shape; by which it is rendered fitter for admittance as an allegorical demon into a Christian poem. In the1 Aeueid, the hell-dog is a watch; here, he is rather a tormenting fiend: in the former, his watchfulness is the quality that is most dwelt upon; in the latter, it is his cruel voracity.
(t) At-neid, Lib. »». T. 4'7
<! IHTO TI.
II gran vermo, ' the huge worm ' is Scriptural; and is introduced again by Dante in his translation of the sixth psalm ' defend me, O Lord, from the huge worm! (0' Some may consider this expression taken from Alberies vision, a monkish rhapsody ridiculously extolled as the origin of the Divine Comedy; for that Dante had perused it may be true, (although there is no testimony proving any such thing) but that he could have gleaned any useful hints from that unreadable foolery, will not, I am sure, be allowed by any reasonable man who examines it. The passage to which I just now allude, is indeed the only tolerable one in it: 'attheentrence of hell I beheld a worm of infinite magnitude tied by a mighty chain, and it seemed that, that chain was fastened to another head within-side of hell. And before the mouth of the worm stood a multitude of souls, all of whom were sucked in like so many flies when he inhaled his breath; and when he breathed from him, they rushed out again half-burned, like a shower of sparks. By this penalty are fulfilled the words of
(i) Defendimi, o Signor, AMogran Vermo. p. i9. Shakespere uses the word twice as synonimous with serpent — "The mortal worm might make the sleep eternal". ( Henry vi. Part. a. Act. 3. v. 467 ) "Hast thou the pretty worm of Nilos here? "( Ant. and Cleop. Act. 5. v. 376 ) —" worm" ( says Johnson, Com.:to Id. ) " is the Teutonic for serpent, and the Norwegians call a huge monster sometimes seen in the nothern sea, the sea worm."
the Prophet," their worm shall never die and their fire shall never be extinguished (0. " As for this Vision , it is so absurd that it could have only excited a feeling of contempt in Dante, had he seen it(»). The'spasms' of Cerberus (thus expressed in the Italian, non avea membro che tenesse fermo) engage me to remark that in the translation of the above-mentioned psalm Dante repeats nearly the same verse, and, in order to do so, quits the Vulgate and adopting the original Hebrew version, writes
Non ho osso
Che conturbato possa omai star fermo (3). The throwing of' lumps of sordid soil' into the hellish monster's throat is more appropriate than
"Virgil's soporific cake; the more so, because they, who were journeying under the guidance of l'ro
(i) Juxta infernum vermis erat infinite magnitudinis ligatus maximal catena, cujua catena alteimu caput in inferno ligatum esse vitlebatur. Ante os ipsius vermis animarum stabat multitude) , quaa omnes quasi muscas simul absorbebat, ita ut cum flatutn traberel omncs simul deglutiret; cum flatum emitteret omnes in favillarum mod uin rclicrrct exustas. .. Impleturque sermo Propbeticus, Vermis coram non morietur et ignis non extinguetur. Fra: Alberici Visio. cap. 9.
(») Nothing so disproportioned as its punishments: those tender with their own wives on the sabbath or fast-days, or festivals, are boiled in a cauldron of oil and pitch. Tunc beatus Petrus Apostolus dixit: isti quos vides cruciari idcirco taliter torquentur, quonfoin Dotninicis diebus, vel Sanctorum festivitatihus, atque prsecipuis jejuniis a carnali voluptate et a suis uxoribus se nequaquam refrcnare studuerunt. Sunt enim quidam, qui omni tempore licita et inculpabiliter enm conjugibus suis se luxuriam posse conh'dunt: omnino tamen talibus diebus ab uxoribus abstinendum est. Id. cap. 5.
(3) v. a.
vidence, had no need of putting the brute to sleep; so that those lumps of clay are not to appease, but to punish his voracity.
'1 have elsewhere said' (it is Boccaccio's note on the present passage )' that spirits are incorporeal and as such are invisible to human eyes: nevertheless our Author endows them in this poem with bodies,and herein imitates Virgil who adopts throughout the sixth of the Aeneid the same contrivance of making incorporeal substances and punishments appear corporeal , in order to be more easily understood (0.' But here Virgil followed Plato who supposed them not wholly immaterial, but in a middle state between body and pure spirit; and Dante, not only Virgil ,butS. Austin (»).
Messer Ciacco was a respectable Florentine gentleman , ' a man ' (writes Landino) 'of pleasing manners and singularly winning eloquence, distinguished for his urbanity, wit and facetiousness, and altogether most amiable in society (3).' Such a character is so contrary to that given by M.Ginguend, that it invalidates all his criticisms on the
(i) Comento p. 346.
(a) . . . inter corpus et spiritum msediam . Dc Cir. Dei , Lib. Viii. tap. i4. and i5, and Lib. xxi. cap. i0.
(S) Eloquente e pieno d'urbanita t di tnotti e di facezit c di aeaviss'una cooversatione.