« AnteriorContinuar »
iV. tXTIII. .
The text is amendui i parenti miei. But parente in Italian, like the frenchparent, means, not a father or mother, but any relation; and an illiterate Italian would not know what the text meant, for he would construe it 'my two relations'. Parenti here then, as well as frequently in Dante, is a latinism, answering to Out parent, a word that preserves its primitive, latin signification. Dante has been criticised for making Virgil call his parents, Lombards (0: but, although this name was unknown in "Virgil's life, it was well known to him at the time he was now speaking; and to make him use it towards his pupil exemplifies kind condescension.
Virgil, according to Donatus (*), was born during the first consulship of Pompey the great, and Crassus; that is, while Caesar was still an obedient servant of the State and General in Gaul. Some, referring'though late'to Caesar's dictatorship, make Virgil express a .regret at his not having been born under it; for, as I just said, his birth preceded hy several years Caesar's usurpation . Others will have Virgil apply 'though late' more immediately to himself, and lament that his birth had been too
late, to permit him to enjoy Caesar's juvenile triumphs; for, it is clear, some of these took place before Virgil existed, and some while he was too infantile to be conscious of them. But, I think, the
sentiment suggested by me sorrow for not
having been born much earlier, before the first disasters of the Republic (0 more characteristic of
Dante; and even of Virgil, who (as Dryden well observes ) was too sincere a commonwealth's-man to refrain, in the very book recited in the presence of Augustus, from blaming his uncle, Caesar, albeit in a covert, courtly guise, by the borrowed lip of his fabulous forefather, Anchises (a). Thus to represent Virgil as proud of having been born under the glorious Julius Caesar, yet as regretting he had not seen still more glorious times, those of undefiled freedom, was natural; whether we attend to the sentiments of that Roman poet himself, or to those of the Tuscan republican, Dante. Here however, as elsewhere, I only propose my opinion, without allowing it to interfere with my translation; for my 'though late' retains all the uncertainty of the original —ancorche fosse tardi; and, in this, I obey Ascensius, who, in speaking of a disputed passage in the Aeneid, affirms it is sometimes an artful beauty to arrange a phrase so,
(i) Hoi minim inter heroas natum tellus me prima tulisset!
Hor. Sat. a. Lib. >. (a) Proice tela manu, unguis mens!
Dryd. Notei. line ii48
that it becomes susceptible of a variety of explications (0 . The epithet given to Ilion in the Italian
is sup'erbo a literal translation of ceciditque
superbum Ilium (*).
P. ——— LXXXTII.
In this palhetical burst of encomium, of which the style is so beautiful, (3) Dante however is not unfair to himself; for, though he avows his having had a master in style, it is Style alone that is specified. He must have been conscious, that, in still higher qualities, he had neither the will nor the genius that employs itself in imitating others. As inventor, he could not but have felt himself vastly superior to Virgil; of whom Macrobius, nowise unjustly, remarks, that he scarcely inserted an incident in any of his works without having a model in Homer, Apollonius, Piudar, or some other Greek; and that on the only occasion when he ap pears to have been reduced to his own contrivance he succeeded badly; for that the wounding of a stag and a consequent tumult among country churls is no adequate cause for the breaking out of a war of such importance and all the mighty events to ensue the fall of Turnus and the foun
(i) Anis est interdum sic loqui ut in plureis scntentias trahi possujnus. Com.
(») Aeneid. lib. 3. v. a.
(3) Lo bello stile: Oui certrs un beau style, et le plus bean qn'ait employe1 aurnn poete rlepi.j- que Virgile lui meme avail cess- de sc faire entendre . Hist. I.itt. <l Italic . Vol. a. p. 3o.
ding of Rome (0. Indeed if invention be the highest gift of poetry, (and that it is we have the authority of Dryden) then has Dante but two rivals
in that art, Homer, and Shakespere. If the rest
are poets, this triumvirate are vates.
This verse is sometimes cited to prove the circulation of the hlood to be no recent discovery of Harvey; and the citation acquires speciousness from the fact of physic having been one of Dante's favorite studies. A french review (a). seems to think that M. Riagioli was the first to advance such a pretension; but therein it makes a mistake (3).
In one of the oldest comments, bearing date i3/|3, that is, only "xi years after Dante's decease, or indeed the very oldest, ( unless those left by Dante's own children , Peter and Jacob Alighieri, preceded it, which, in my mind, is improbable) it is asserted, that the best instructed men were then of opinion , that it was impossible to decide who was meant by the hound (*). Similar indecisi
(i) Saturn, lib 5. Cap. i7 Aeoeid. lib. 7.
(a) LeJpurnal des Savant. (3) Magalotti. Lett. Vol. i.
f 4) Chi sia questo Veltro non e difiinito, ed t- pr*lcrincs»<> da inolti falrnti Uomini.
Bib. Rice. Cod. 10»6.
on is displayed by both of the younger Alighieri: Peter, after observing it was a very contested point, de quo tan turn quaeritur adds, it was a prediction of the birth of some illustrious personage,
but whom he knows not praedicit nascere et
surgere quemdam plenum sapientiae; (0 Jacob is of opinion, that hound was inserted merely for the sake of its contra-distinction to wolf, these being animals naturally enemies,—-veltro per contrario della lupa (»). Boccaccio, a little later, owned equal ignorance; although hinting a suspicion of some individual being personified (3J. So true is my former observation, that this entire allegory was either mis-understood from the beginning, or soon en' tirely forgot, or sedulously kept secret by the early annotators; and was afterwards interpreted by the moderns, as best suited their own interests, caprice or prejudice. Landino and others say, that the hound means Christ; at whose second coming, between the heavens, (this being the mystical signification they give Feltri) avarice and every other vice shall be re-consigned to the bottomless pit: or else a certain benign conjunction of the planets calculated by Dante, who is reported even
(5) Bib. Laureuziana .
Plut. XL Cod. 38. 4
(fi) Id. Id. Cod. Io.
(7) Manifestamente confesso ch'io n0n l'iutendo,.. -. ma pare inlendere altro che noo dica la letters .
Com. Vol. i. pp. 47—88.