« AnteriorContinuar »
idle accusation is without foundation; his writings present us with no incongruity between his religious and political creed. We shall find him displaying traitors to their country as suffering in the lowest region of the abyss; and the complete identity of public utility with the law of God seems to have been as favourite a thesis with him, as with Paley himself. Theology, taken as an absract science, is scarce to be noticed in his compositions; his usual word being Supreme Philosophy, ( as I mentioned heretofore (0) in which was included all knowledge and goodness, sacred and profane. 1 see him invariably treating his faith, as if it were a main portion of his philosophy; and he advances nothing to awake a reasonable suspicion of his ever having considered his ecclesiastical tenets as at variance with his civil duties. It were difficult not to concede, that when he so deeply damns public traitors, he does so both as a Divine and a Patriot. To prove the dangerous vices of the men that have been named, I shall mention their histories in a few lines; for we shall have occasion to say much more of them hereafter. Tegghiajo (which must be pronounced as a word of only two syllables, the iajo being a double dipthongW) was a Guelph captain who had made a famous figure in the battle of MonteAperti, which was fought about
(i) Hell, Comment, Canto ii. p. i »o.
(») Mr. dry is guilty of a false quantity, fur be makes it a word of three syllables.
five years before Dante was born. Tegghiajo was therefore a twofold scourge to his native land* by his sanguinary disposition, and his unnatural propensities; for we shall find him among the Sodomites. Jacob Rasticucci was deep tainted with the same crime against nature, and we shall find him in the same cavern . Arrigo said to be of the Fifanti, is now personally unknown; and it is prob able he died young, or that he amended his life, or that our poet forgot him; for he is the only one of them of whom we shall see no more throughout the poem , and of whose guilt we cannot therefore judge. The family of Fifanti itself however was one of the pests of Tuscany; and its ancestral honours were quite out-balanced by its factious nature: it is included in Machiavelli's list of Ghibellines. Mosca we shall discover lacerated at the bottom of the infernal pit; and he was indeed not only a murderer himself, but the original cause of more murders than ever were deduced from any single source: for by a barbarous and premeditated assassination he was the first who gave a sanguinary birth to the Guelphs and the
Ghibellines in Florence; factions destined to
last longer and spill more blood than any others that ever existed. Farinata was the Ghibelline General opposed to Tegghiajo in that same great battle of Monte-Aperti between Guelphs and Ghibellines; and this pairing off together of the leaders of both the bloody parties may be received as the
first of many instances which overturn vulgar prejudices,and make good my assertion that Dante was neither Guelph nor Ghibelline, but a steady patriot detesting their mutual enormities. This Farinata entered Florence after the battle, overset the Government, exiled the Guelphs, and reduced the city under a foreign yoke . He will appear hereafter among the materialists; for he was of * Epicurus' sty,' not only in living, but in disbelieving. In what tone but in sarcasm, or indignation, could Dante have named these? was the question 1 first pronounced within myself. But when I read over again the passages where those characters are named in the future Cantos, and pondered on the deep emotion and reverence which accompany his severe reproof and reflected on the
eminent, though disastrous, talents of those men, who were leaders of great, though terribly destructive, factions among the Florentine republicans during their least corrupted period and recognised for a truth, that the chiefs of the worst factions have in general ( what their followers have not) some high qualities, if not virtues, to redeem their evil; all these considerations oblige me to leave the matter (as to whether Dante meant this passage as ironical, or not) undecided. Or rather ttiy Opinion is, that he intended it should be indecisive; and was willing to couple a vindictive anathema against their vices with an affectionate recollection of their lofty powers; and penned his
phrases purposely so, as to challenge doubt and discussion as to their final doom — a mode of writing both philosophically sceptical in itself, and sufficiently familiar to his style; being somewhat akin to what we already observed in the case of Francesco, da Rimini (0.
j This desire that Ciacco is made to express, of being remembered on earth, were alone sufficient proof that it was not intended to represent him as vile. If Mr. Ginguen^ thought this Canto inferior to the preceding, it was, perhaps, because he did not understand it (»). It must have been a consciousness of having been, not despised, but beloved and courted during life, as an aimable private gentleman, that instigated Ciacco's wish to be recollected: his inoffensive manners were no slight recommendation in that desperate age; and his luxurious habits, not having betrayed him into any consummate iniquities, would have scarcely merited reprehension, if it were not for example's sake in a republic not to be upheld without prudence and sobriety; virtues that were already on the decline in Florence, and on whose final disappearance that free city was to be enslaved by one of its own subjects a plebeian merchant soon
(i) Hell, Comment, Cinto v. p. 33S.
(a) Ce Chant est tres-infeiirur mix precedents Hist. Litt. d"Italic Vol. i. p. 53.
tlktll VI. #
swelled into a Ducal one. Dante ill performed this request of preserving Ciacco's memory; whether from judging further explanation superfluous with regard to a man well known, or from tenderness to the individual, or from a belief that the satire would be more generally useful by being less particularly applied (').
Alheri remarks (and with good reason) that in the original the rhythm of this tiercet is very imitative of the drowsy fall it describes. We are to recollect Ciacco was only sitting, not standing, up.
The abrupt exclamation of Virgil is surely sublime; and as such,equally beyond praise and controversy, it is pointed out by M. Merian 00.' I willingly apply to the poet himself (writes a French reviewer)'his own magnificent verse:' for strains, that are fated to live eternally, may be well pronounced
His voice that rolls
Echoing through ages, through the age unending (3).
(i) 1 find the very nme reasons for the selection of Ciacco in the
Ouimo — perche fu di leggiadri costumi, molto famoso in delectatio
ne, e di belli motti. Such a character may be reprehended by a rigid
republican and moralist, but what has it to merit M. Giugueue'i. viWi
(») Mem. de I'Acad. de Berlin. i7K4.
(3) J'applique volontiers a Dante lui inerne sou vers sublime: Udira quel che in eterno riinbomba.
Journal des Savaua. Nov. i8i8.