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and, in 1306, the Marquis Francesco Malaspina availed himself of his services in the conclusion of a peace with the Bishop of Luni, Antonio di Canulla. These are the only intimations respecting the early years of his wanderings which can be properly regarded as certain. For the rest, the claims of various towns to have sheltered him are on a par with his many— mostly apocryphal — missions, with which in some cases the hospitalities may have been confused. Anyhow, for us, the period is densely obscure.
The account most generally received is that of Villani — namely, that Dante proceeded first to in journeying* Bologna, and then to Paris and other ofun. parts of the world, for purposes of study.
An old tradition has it that on his first disappointment—the death of his lady—the poet enrolled himself among the Frati Minori of the Order of St Francis. It is known, however, from his own description, that the source to which he then applied for consolation was neither Holy Scripture nor the pious exhortations of departed saints, but the writings of pagan moralists. Felled by this second disappointment, Dante may well have thought it a fit occasion for the resumption of his cherished studies. But here arises a question which touches in a greater or less degree the whole period of his exile-—Whence did he obtain the means to perform these long journeys and provide for his bodily needs? That he was for a time dependent on the generosity of strangers is proved by a famous passage, which shows also how bitterly he regretted the necessity. It has been suggested that he sought to minimise his obligations by teaching—that he repaired to the different universities as much in the character of a professor as in that of a student. But if this was so, why did he not avow it? Can it be that he was conscious of exposing himself to some vulgar taunt, like that levelled at Milton by Dr Johnson? It is possible.
Whether or not there occurred that notable incident narrated by Boccaccio, and recalling the prowess of the Admirable Crichton, it is beyond a
A mirage. _ - _ _ .
doubt that Dante sojourned at Pans. He himself alludes to this stay in the Paradiso, where he speaks of Sigier and the Eue du Fouarre.1 At Paris, it is believed, Dante heard of an event that filled him with the wildest joy, and caused him to decide on an immediate return to Italy. This was the descent into the peninsula of the Emperor Henry VII^ Dante, with the sanguine spirit of an exile long without a solitary ray of hope, beheld in a vision his own restoration to Florence in the wake of the Imperial arms; and in due course the forces of Henry actually beleaguered the city walls. Meanwhile the poet, with untimely confidence, threatened his enemies with the direst penalties. He thus sealed his own fate, for
1 Though the coincidence is probably accidental, there is a curious analogy between some verses of Rustebeuf and Dante, both imitated from Scripture :—.
"Vous qui etes parmi la voie,
"O voi che per la via d' Amor passate,
presently the besieging army drew off, the Emperor sickened and died, and Dante was once more abandoned to bis own apparently feeble resources.
There now began over again that tedious round of involuntary travel rendered, we may believe, all the
Prrprtuai harder by the memory of this third great disappointment. At first, indeed, he is said to have withdrawn to the monastery of Santa Croce di Fonte Avellana; but his vehement nature could not long support the monotony of the cloister. In 1313, on the death of Clement V., he wrote a burning epistle to the cardinals, firmly reproving their shortcomings, and exhorting them to a better choice; and, in 1316, he had the poor satisfaction of learning that his compatriots had been overthrown in a fearful battle at Montecatini by a noted captain of the age, Uguccione della Faggiuola. What lends immense dramatic interest to the circumstance is the probability that Dante was residing at Lucca at the time, under the protection of this very man! At Lucca also he formed a platonic acquaintance with a lady happily named, for rhyming purposes, Gentucca. Platonic, for it is absurd to suppose that Dante would have referred to the matter had the censure to which he alludes been just. The old commentators, construing too literally the self-reproaches of an exalted nature, readily admitted the grossest imputations on the poet, and, among other crudities, accused him of falling in love with a woman who had a goitre. That afflicted but too fascinating lady is now perhaps finally abolished; and the last blot of which it remains to clear his memory is that serious charge of embezzlement. On this subject all that can be said now is that his own protestations of innocence, and the trend and tenor of his writings, may well be set in the judicial scale against the weakness of human nature and the temptations and traditions of the office.
The words which Dante puts into the mouth of his ancestor Cacciaguida, "I came from martyrdom unto this peace," are applicable perhaps to the
Nunc dimittis. „ "r ,
close of his own earthly life, passed at Ravenna. There, honoured by the sincere friendship of Guido Novello da Polenta, and holding possibly some high position in the college, he gave himself to the completion of his great work. The last act of his career was eminently worthy of him, being a mission to Venice on behalf of his patron, and in the cause of peace. His efforts were repulsed, and on his way home he was seized with an illness. He died at Ravenna, the 13th of September 1321, and was buried in the chapel of the Madonna, hard by the Church of St Francis. His funeral lacked no element of distinction that could reasonably have been present— "the habit of a poet and a great philosopher," a sorrowful train of doctors, and a valedictory oration pronounced by Guido da Polenta himself.
From the gloom of Dante's life in the world we pass to the refulgency of that inner life of which he has Dante's traced for us the outlines in imperishable THlogy- art. The Vita Nuova, of which I have already spoken, is the first part of what has been excellently termed a literary and psychological trilogy. Dante's spiritual life exhibits three phases, and each phase is represented in his writings—more particularly, in the Vita Nuova, the Convivio, and the Commedia, severally. The credit of this discovery belongs primarily to Dionisi, but the analysis will always be associated with the name of an illustrious critic, Karl Witte, who not only adopted it, but, recognising its importance, developed and systematised it in his essays, Uber Dante; Tiber das Missverstandiss Dante's; and Dante's Trilogie.1 Those who espouse this doctrine consider that Dante, in relation to his inner experience, lived through three epochs which may be denned as the age of peace, the age of conflict, and the age of reconciliation. Already in the Vita Nuova we hear the ominous, but still distant, thunder of a "molta battaglia," but, as we have seen, the story ends with the benediction as of a calm and radiant sunset. Possibly this touch may have been added after the Convivio had been abandoned unfinished, and at the moment when the Commedia, typifying a complete change of view, was assuming definite shape in his mind. The Convivio or Convito is the memorial of the second or philosophising period to which Dante afterwards looked back with regret and disapproval. His recantation occurs in Canto xxx. of the Purgatorio, where Beatrice addresses the "pious substances ":—