Imagens das páginas

we shall fiml the demon of avarice in the shape of a male wolf and all the favourites of his infernal seraglio said to be Popes and their train (0. The association in latin of she wolf with harlot and of both with avarice moreover implies, that, when Dante (like so many other devout Catholics, and even ecclesiastics, indignant at the corruption of the heads of their Religion ) directed against Boniface and his immediate rivals in impiety a celebrated reproach of the Apocalypse, he could hardly fail of having present to his mind, besides the idea of lewdness and lucre, that, likewise, of the incestuous sister of the brute, whom, as I have just said, we shall find selected to personify the money-fiend:

Oh! loathing breeds

Your lust of lucre, Pastors! Knaves!
Whom did the scribe of Patmos view
In ber, the harlot throned on wav«'s

And whoring with the Kings of earth, but you (»)?

Petrarch ( himself a church-man and a zealous one) links together the same notions, whoredom, avarice and Rabylon, and applies them in precisely the same manner 'Avaricious, Babylonian

jade! may fire from heaven consume thy braided Iresses! (3) Here, without circumlocution, is the

[ocr errors]

aiirro I.

unworthy Pope said to be typified by a whore: could the same voice have hesitated to call him a she wolf? Or is this latter a less decorous title? Or rather must they not both have been synonimes to Dante, as in the original latin? Pure latin he inserts continually in almost every Canto, as well as in the present one (0: he could not then have overlooked the latin signification of she wolf (lupa); nor had he any reason to deem his readers ignorant of it. In fine since all agree, that the she wolf must represent something lewd and avaricious, and Dante was neither, and,even if he were, could never have been so hyperbolical, as to talk of his friend chasing that avarice from State to State; since he must then have meant by the she wolf some avaricious power and a mighty one, to avoid derogating from his Scriptural model; and since he elsewhere declares avarice to be the characteristic of bad Popes, and calls them a mercenary whore, which, translated into latin, is lupa or she wolf, and puts them in the exclusive favour

of a he wolf, 1 presume it will be allowed, that

such a body of circumstantial evidence bears me out in considering the she wolf, as a personification of the profaned Pontificate, just as unequivocally as if my author were to spring to life and affirm it directly with his own lip. Nor should this shock any one who knows of what unworthy

(i) Nacqui sub Julio . v. 70.

Cino i.

Popes it is advanced; and with what warmth holy zeal is wont to reprehend the profanation of holy things.

As I have premised, my explanation is not entirely new; though its detailed developement certainly is so. How, it maybe inquired, could such an important discovery have failed to have been made long ago by the numerous commentators? But these, it is avowed, are guilty of many errors (some of which are pointed out every day) and therefore it is no hardiness to assert, they may err here: their verbose elucidations are too frequently not at all lucid; many of them were ignorant of their author's meaning; and, if some had penetrated it, they were unwilling, or unable to

hazard its publication, for reasons not unap

parent to an Italian historian. Both of Dante's sons show the utmost embarassment on the matter, and evidently labour with either complete ignorance of their father's intention, or fear to avow it: and Boccaccio himself, when interpreting the three wild beasts,as voluptuousness, ambition and avarice, said he did so in conformity with popular fame, rather than his own conviction; and his expressions seem even to disclose a kind of mysterious dislike of hazarding any individual opinion (0. Nor is this as strange as what is observed of the pastorals of Virgil, compositions studied

(i) Com. vol. i. p. •}.

cUETO 1.

during ages and unimplicated with faction,

that, up to the days of Dryden , « the only riddle they contain had never yet been solved by any of the commentators » . (') Nothing obstructed the full explication of the pastorals; no antagonists political or theological, no charges of Ghibel1 in is in or irreverence. An allegory is only a longer riddle. Yet Dante might not have aspired to much mystery; but might have deemed, that even the considerations adduced by me were enough to unveil his intent; and no doubt but, at the period when he wrote, there were others still more evident. He did not foresee what an oblivious effect timidity, party and professional scruples were to have over a poem destined, by its very nature, to have churchmen for its critics. Should it please any one, however, to prefer either of the interpretations of others, there is nothing in my translation more than in the Original to prevent him; and, in the course of these comments, he has been informed what both those interpretations are. Yet to reconcile the whole is not hard; only let the text and history be kept in view together. One is a single allegory, a Canto which is merely an introduction to the poem; but the latter is to be our guide throughout the whole poem. However each beast be understood, the historical facts remain the same; and it is with these I wish to impress

(i) Preface to Dryden'* translation.

CI»TO t,

the reader. Explain the forest as you will, still it is true, that in i3oo (the year in which the poem opens) Dante was involved in political tumults; whatever be the panther, Florence, like it, was noted for beauty,voluptuousness, and cruelty; whatever the lion, it was with the ambition of France, Dante long struggled, and to which he at last fell victim; and whatever the she wolf, the Papal court was the one characterized in that age as essentially avaricious, and inimical to both Dante and his native country . Ambition , avarice and voluptuousness were the three favourite daughters left by our Cceur-de-Iion, on his departure for the East, to « the Templars and the English Prelates (0 ». They seem however to have been too royal a patrimony for any but sovereign powers; and so, in about the lapse of a century, we thus find it divided between a diadem, a coronet and a tiara.

[ocr errors]

The silence of the sun is from the luna silet, and silentia lunae of the Latins: thus Milton

The sun to me is dark
And silent 00.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »