Imagens das páginas

GiHTO 1.

unnatural in our estimation, with quite as muck justice, as if they seemed natural: but as to a state of expiation, it is essential unto every system of social morals, and, under some shape or other, has been Universally taught by all the varieties of faiths, heavenly or unheavenly, that have been in vogue at any period since the creation . Whether on this earth, or fluttering round it, or cooped within it, or in the sphere of flame; whether migrating through human or other terrene, or marine, or aerial bodies; (0 whether in a state where the pains are common , but the periods various, or where the pains are various , but the periods fixed to a thousand (»), or to nine hundred, or to seven thousand years (3); whether suffering from the action of fire, or transformed into its nature W, or parching in the wind; or satisfying justice by the proportionate pangs of corporeal dissolution; in almost every hypothesis, ancient or modern , the soul must expiate the misdemeanors of mortality before she can enjoy God: and, to express this process, I see not why the term Purgatory be not at least as rational and classic as any. Dante necessarily adopted it; for it was the language of his day, which to change wantonly were, at best, af

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fectation. tfor did it put a rein upon his imagination; since even the Council of Trent has not presumed to expound either the nature or situation of Purgatory, only deciding that some such place exists a prudent reserve and surely somewhat rashly criticized (0.

X-—— cxx<i.

The purity of its Paradise is perhaps the most peculiarly sublime feature of Christianity. Yet was not profane Antiquity unfavoured by some glimpse of such celestial light; by which the divine mercy is fully exemplified: and it were erroneous to consider either the Olympus of the Iliad or Virgil's Elysium as intended to represent the seat of perfect felicity. In the latter are neither Gods nor Demi-gods: and as to the former, it is true it was the throne of Jupiter; but only of Jupiter son of Saturn, and not of the supreme Divinity under whatever names designated (for all of them, though differing in sound, conveyed but a single idea, that of an infinite, eternal Master) not of the World or Soul-of-the-world of the Stoics, not of the Deity of Plato, the Grecian UpSiTov Atrtov, not of the Jupiter of Horace or Macrobius, of Him to whom the Ancients never raised a statue, professing they were restrained by reverence (»). Homer made his

(i) Sarpi. Storia del Con. Tiid. I. 8. p. S97.

(») Qui prima causa et est et vocatur, et unni omnium qujeque »nut, quaeque videntur ette princepi et origo est... . ideo ut nullum


Jupiter only a secondary cause and evidently believed in one superior, whom he seems to denominate Fate; toa consideration of whose essence his Muse does not attempt ascending: but he could not have imagined such a Being without surrounding him with unequalled fairness and bliss. Therefore Olympus was not the Homeric Paradise, using this word, Paradise, (which I shall continue to do) as synonimous with the imagination of highest happiness. If then, with regard toHeH, Purgatory and many parts of the pagan creed, the two chief poetsof Greece .and Rome are adequate authorities, with regard to Paradise, (on which they are nearly silent) we must consult the prose writers; and the Dream of Scipio includes most of what is to be learned from them. We there find, that the final retreat of souls beatified, or in the latin phraseology deified, for their virtues, (that is Paradise) extended as far as the milky-way downwards; and how much higher, beyond the fixed stars, is not said: but this is clear, that neither Olympus, nor any thing terrestrial, formed part of it. That visible firmament too was only figurative of something

invisible, Nam si quid de his assignare co

nantur, quae non sermonem tantummodo, sed cogitationem quoque humanam superant, ad simi1 itudi nes et exempla confugiunt (0, in the same way as even the worthier conceptions of Christianity are but figures of that which a cannot enler into the heart of man »<0.

ci simulacrum cum diis aliis coustitueretur, finxit antiquitas.

Com. in Som. Srip. I. i. (i) Id. Id.

A splendid illustration of the goodness of the Creator it assuredly is, that the human race, notwithstanding their numerous iniquities, were enabled , partly by imperfect traditions, and partly by the mere force of unaided understanding, to retain so many vestiges of truth, that, after a similar preparation , nothing but corruption of heart, it would seem, could have prevented them from eagerly hailing the truth of truths, Christianity, the instant it was revealed to them. Hence to collate the multiplied religious allegories that have appeared on earth, and to reduce them to their real signification , as gathered, not from vulgar opinion but from their most enlightened professors, would be a discussion of great piety: for, as an illiterate man sees nothing in foreign tongues but confusion, while an expert linguist deduces order from their apparent disorder, and, possibly, arrives at the conclusion, that they have all sprung from a single root; so may a superficial consideration of dissonant creeds lead to infidelity, but, on the other hand, it appeared long ago to profound thinkers, that, that very diversity was a striking argument in favour of there being one true one (*).

(i) i. Cor. a. 9.

{%) De Nat. Deor. 1. a.

IUJ to I.

Such a work as I have hinted at, though a proper accompaniment to this poem, were obviously incompatible with comments, that, even without it, are likely to be too long. Yet shall I not fail, from time to time as the text suggests them, to enter into some cursory elucidations of my proposition: because the combination of allegories is one of the chief characteristics of Dante , particularly in the present Canticle; and because he has been arraigned for it, by some critics as irreligious, and by others as guilty of bad taste. But how it can be bad taste to bring in review the beautiful parables of Antiquity, I am at a loss to imagine: or how a writer, who dedicates his Muse to a confessedly orthodox exposition of the dogmas of his Church, can be condemned as deficient in religion; merely because he lavishes on it every artifice of decoration, and, faithful to its spirit, makes even those extraneous ornaments assist its lessons of benevolence and toleration, that social virtue too

frequently, too calamitously transgressed, and of which he was one of the early Apostles.

I take the liberty of using Duke continually in the sense which Dante gives to the Italian Duca, the old latin one of Dux , leader.

Our poet himself, in his dedicatory epistle to Can grande, expresses, as succinctly as can well be, the object of this entire, sacred poem; 'under

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