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stood literally, it treats of the state of souls after death, and allegorically it shows how man, being endowed with freewill, can merit, or by his good or his evil deeds, either reward or punishment':
Totius operis literaliter sumpti est subjectum
status animarum post mortem; allegorice sumpti, homo prout merendo et demerendo per arbitrii libertatem est justitiae praemiandi et puniendi obnoxius(0.
Here I cannot withold the general observation, that the old commentators were much more conversant with the minor works of Dante, than many people suspect: for not only the words of his which I have just cited, but almost the whole production from which I borrow them, may be found in Boccaccio's comment; although he either did not choose or did not think it necessary to tell his audience he was translating the latin of his Author (a). This dedication to Can was hailed as a discovery, and critics used it as something new when quoting it as evidence in the long contested dispute about the title, Divine Comedy: but had people relied, as they ought, on the authority of Boccaccio, they would have possessed Dante's own ideas on the matter from the beginning; for they are all in
(.) p. 35.
(a) £ dunque il suggetto, secondo il senso litterale, lo stato delle anime dopo la morte; secondo il senso allegorico, e, come l'uomo, per il libero arbitrio montando e dismoniando, e alia giuatizia di guidardonare edi punire obbligato. Comento. vol. i.p. 3.
the comment of Boccaccio, who, indeed, did little else than faithfully construe the latin before him into Italian, and fairly transcribe the Romanwritten Greek into, its proper Greek Characters . 'Comedy' (says Dante) 'means a country song, and therefore I call my poem a comedy; because it is written in no polished, learned language, but in the rude, living tongue intelligible to the lowest of the peasantry' Comaedia dicitur a Comos villa et Oda cantus; unde comaedia quasi villanus cantus. (0 Per hoc patet quod Comsedra dicitur prase Ds opus: nam humilis est loquendi modus, quia locutio vulgaris, in qua et mulierculae communicant. But he raised Italian from that abject state: and the Italians have raised the title of his poem by adding to comedy the epithet divine. The Comedy Of Dante Amghiebi, A Florentine Bt" Nation, NOTMonALs: was the title-page composed by the Author, who, not even on such an occasion, could refrain from proclaiming his home with the affectionate prrde of a patriot, though, at the same time, stigmatising the perverse factions that then dishonored it. This simple Comedy was long retained; at length some editors changed it into The Comedy Of The Divine Poet, and others into The Comedy Of The Most Divine Theologian Dante Alighieri ; and at last, by shifting the adjec
(,i) Comedia vuol dire Canto di Villa , da HiLpVI villa et (jtSIj canto.
Boer. Compute vol. i. p. 5.
tive from the writer to his work,was produced the
present form Divina Commedia Divine
Comedy, which is too generally adopted for me not to adopt it also; although well aware that it may displease many English readers at first sight.
Z , , (VXXXIT.
Landino , and some of his predecessors too, pretended that this gate was to be interpreted that of Purgatory; and, although they could advance nothing plausible in favour of their interpretation, it has been followed by almost all the modern commentators, except Daniello and Riagioli. Virgil had offered to lead through Hell and Purgatory; and had subjoined only that he could not enter Paradise, but by no means that he could not approach within sight of its gate . Dante accepts this offer and answers, as shortly and modestly as he can, calling all the inhabitants of Hell and Purgatory sorrowers, and implying Paradise by an allusion to the text « Thou art Peter and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven (0. » To refer forward, with Venturi and the rest, to a Canto of Purgatory, where there is an Angel with keys, is to create a difficulty: for how should Dante now know that there is to be such an Angel there? Why should Dante be made so simple as to ask his Master to take him to the gate of Purgatory,
(0 S. Mat. Xti i8—9.
after having heard him offer to take him through it? Milton considered it to mean the gate of Paradise certainly: for it is hard to believe, that the first English translator of Dante had not this poem uppermost in his memory, when writing
They pass the planets seven and pass the fixed
And the crystalline sphere
And now Saint Peter at heaven's wicket seems
(i) Parad. Lost. b. 3.
CANTO THE SECOND.
If the preceding Canto be a general introduction to the whole poem, this one is a prologue to its first Canticle, Hell; and prologue is the title it bears in some editions(0, which, in this particular, I follow ,as perhaps more methodical. Virgil, after having, in the first Canto, extricated Dante from the allegorical forest and proposed to him an unearthly journey, now finds him shrinking from the emprize as too sublime. Upon this he tells him his journey is sanctioned by Providence; and that it was his own adored and sainted mistress, Beatrice, who descended from heaven to Elysium and said so. On which the pupil, replete with confidence and courage, calls on his master to lead on: and the Canto ends. As to the time, it is clear that a day has been consumed in the first Canto: so that it is now night-fall, April the eighth i3oo(a).