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exertions of one of the greatest geniuses that has existed. Incalculable benefits thence accrued to society; but he himself lived not to witness them: for on him personally the controversy heaped calamities nearly as incalculable, the loss of home, fortune, friends, repose and health — leaving him no other consolation , than that of Milton for the sacrifice of his eyes:
Yet I argue not
The conscience, friend, to have lost them overplied
He sets out then by terming the Papal, a holy throne; and the Pope, the legitimate successor of S. Peter: in which he asserts the belief of Catholics. And these reverential expressions agree with many others of the same nature up and down through all his works: so that, when even that wicked Boniface, whose name he introduces so horridly in
the infernal gulf,
Se' tu gia costi ritto
Se' tu gia costi ritto Bonifazio ? (»)
aud indeed against whom he thunders unremittingly, is ignominiously put in prison by Sciarra Colonna,the poet, forgetting every thing else, and as if only alive to the insult done to the head of his
(i) Sonnet, xvn i>; Inf. Canto six. Oi.vm if.
church, and turning from a consideration of the unworthiness of the occupant, to horror at the impious attack upon the station , pronounces a malediction on the perpetrators of the sacrilege, and represents Christ himself as crucified anew in the person of his high-priest: I see my Jesus mocked again
And drench'd again with vinegar and gall And amid living robbers slain (0. No doubt,he felt that the impiety of the Pope was no excuse for that of the assassins. Besides all which, he was so persuaded of the truth of his own Creed, and so scrupulously desirous of manifesting that persuasion, that he composed a paraphrastic version of the whole Roman Catechism , to accompany this poem; along with which we find it bound up in the earliest printed editions (H Having thus shielded himself against attacks on his orthodoxy, he set out boldly on the achievement to which he seems to have thought it proper to dedicate, in a particular manner, his life and writings to distinguish between the authorities spiritual and temporal, and to reprobate the Papal pretensions to this latter, as an unchristian usurpation . It were necessary to transport ourselves far back, to evils now lost in time, if we would form a correct idea of the difficulties of his undertaking. Almost all other re
(i) Pnrg. Canto xx.
(a) Veoezia, Vendelin da Spira i477.
formers have permitted themselves to be impelled by circumstances somewhat beyond the limit, which their cool judgments had at first traced out: but he, without once swerving, continued on his work so steadily true to his ecclesiastical
tenets, justum et tenacem propositi virum
that this poem has defied the most microscopic inquisition; and, with all its severity against the Roman See, no Pope has, I believe, ever ventured to insert it in the nearly endless Index of condemned hooks. Yet surely nothing can be more tremendous than its denunciations. The opposer of every servitude, Dante was peculiarly so of the one which was the worst, because the most feared and the most general; other despotisms left at least part of society free, and, if there were multitudes of slaves, there were many masters also: but that of the Papacy spared no one, and kings and subjects were equally degraded by it. In assailing it, he felt be was on perilous ground; and that conviction buoyed him up to a constancy and fearlessness that must have seemed nearly supernatural to his contemporaries. A lion exulting in his strength, a Hercules redoubling his strokes on the hydra, he at last came off complete victor. But it required an implacable perseverance; and, in proceeding, even we, perhaps , shall be astonished at such inextinguishable animosity: contempt, irony , invective, (not only in Hell and Purgatory, but in the very Holy-of-holies, ten most sacred precincts
of Paradise) all the weapons of eloquence are put in requisition; not even excepting daring sarcasms, which, were it not for the important cause in which they are employed, would not escape reproof, as unworthy of the majesty of the place. For instance, after threatening the iniquitous Pontiff (whose wars, he says, were carried on not by the sword, but by a denial of the bread of life, that is, by an abuse of excommunications written , as he adds, only for the purpose of being razed as soon as their political object was gained) with the anger of the Apostles, who though martyred are not dead, he suggests to him, as a characteristic reply, the gross impiety, that he cared nothing about the Apostles; his hopes being all placed in S. Iohn-the-Baptist who was put to death for a dancing girl (Herod's daughter): by which is meant that they were placed in the gold florins of Florence, a coin that bore the image of that eremite:
What once was sword-work now is done
By a denial of that bread
The Sire of Mercy keeps from none:
The planters of the vine thou seek'st to cut!
Nor Paul nor martyred Peter's dead.
In the great Eremite alone,
Who bled in Jewry for a slut;
(i) Parad. Canto xym.
And, reproving the luxury of the priesthood, who, however, had not as yet learned to loll in their chariots, as they did afterwards:
Came Cephas, and came poor and bare
Not such our modern Pastors' state
With squires and toilets and to saddle-bow
Whose mantles down their palfreys flow,
But, since the subject on which we are touching is so necessary to be fully comprehended before going farther, I will not apologize for illustrating it by a passage from the Monarchia; both because the words are of Dante himself, and because I know no words of any writer which put the matter in a clearer light.
Having shown, in the preceding two books, that the Emperor is the rightful successor to the Imperial dignity, he, in the third, undertakes to prove, that there is no earthly Sovereign superior to him. But let me observe that, when he advocates that Imperial jurisdiction , he lays distinctly down what he understands by it; that is , an acknowledged superiority, not absolute power: and, far from any thing like military sway, he
(i) Parad Canto xxi.