« AnteriorContinuar »
bated. Gaspary is of opinion that it was produced in the last years of Dante's life, and the words " sicut in Paradiso Comedise jam dixi," which appear in the majority of the MSS., support this view. On the other hand, Boccaccio affirms that the book was written at the time of the Emperor Henry's visitation, when the subject was engaging all minds, and the interest felt in it was wrought up by practical events to fever-pitch. The question, however, is extremely complicated, and the pros and cons as stated by Dr Scartazzini1 are so evenly balanced that it is next to impossible to arrive at a definite conclusion. On the face of it probability inclines to Boccaccio's conjecture. I say "conjecture," but it may of course be that Boccaccio possessed positive information. The value of Boccaccio's testimony is always an unknown quantity.
Leaving this point undecided, the De Monarchia is a contribution to the burning controversy of the age regarding the limits and the mutual
High policy. . .... . . . , ,
relations o1 civil and spiritual authority. St Thomas Aquinas had dealt with the theme in his day, and had found, as was natural in a churchman, for the Pope. Moreover, two contemporaries of Dante—John of Paris in his De Potestate Regia et Papali, and Engelbert of Admont in his De Ortu et Fine Romani Imperii—had embarked on the same topic; but, apart from any consideration of authorship, neither of these writings has a tithe of the interest attaching to the De Monarchia. Nor
1 Dantologia, p. 289 ct seqq.
is this due wholly and solely to the greater profundity of the latter, its wider scope, its more vigorous handling. The antagonism between pope and prince was general, but in Italy the friction attained to white heat. In the small autonomous republics of the peninsula the question of papal or imperial supremacy had a vital effect on the fortunes of individuals and families, forming as it did the dividing line between the two great parties, the Guelfs and the Ghibellines. So far as the protagonists—those mighty spirits who in bygone days had sought to bring the question to an issue—were concerned, the quarrel had already spent itself. Henry and Hildebrand, Adrian and Alexander, Frederick Eedbeard and Frederick of Sicily, the two Innocents and Gregory IX., had been succeeded by the weak Henry and the unworthy Boniface. But the hatred and bitterness remained, and the condition of Italy at this time might be fairly set forth as one of " wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores."
The vehemence of the Italians is easily understood. Italy was not a nation—it was only a geographical shade of expression; and yet common descent, comcassar. mon speech, common traditions, impelled the people to seek some rallying-point, some palladium, which, while gratifying their pride, might be useful also in preserving their liberties, and procuring for them protection. The idea of the Eoman Empire, in however shadowy a form, had never ceased to operate, and from the time of Charlemagne had been linked with the Emperors of Germany, who claimed to inherit the sceptre of the Ccesars. On the other hand, the Pope, with his seat at Rome, and exercising by virtue of his office universal jurisdiction, might be regarded as standing for the present against the dead past. The Italian nobility naturally bent to the central figure of feudalism, while the free burghers were staunch adherents of the Papacy. In the hour of need the latter could count also on the effective support of France.
In the De Monarchist1 Dante probes the whole question to its bottom. By "monarchy" he understands single and supreme dominion, and
Compromise. ° * . .
by "temporal monarchy" imperial as distinct from ecclesiastical rule. He then proceeds to state the principal divisions of the inquiry, which are as follows: First, whether monarchy is needful for the wellbeing of the world. Secondly, whether the Roman people has rightfully taken upon itself the office of monarchy. And, thirdly, whether the authority of monarchy depends immediately on God, or on some minister or vicar of God. These points are discussed in as many books, in which scholastic deductions are buttressed by quotations from Scripture and the Church Fathers. Dante's general conclusions may be inferred from the following sentences: "Wherefore man had need of twofold guidance answering to the twofold end—namely, the Supreme Pontiff, who, according to Eevelation, should conduct the humau race to the life eternal; and the Emperor, who, according to the teachings of philosophy, should guide the human race to temporal happiness. . . . Which
1 Translated by F. J. Church (London: Macinillan).
truth, indeed, as regards the last question, is not to be received so strictly, but that the Eoman Prince is subject in some degree to the Eoman Pontiff, since mortal happiness is ordained in a certain sense to happiness immortal. Therefore let Caesar observe towards Peter that reverence .which the first-born son ought to observe towards a father, so that, illumined by the light of paternal favour, he may irradiate with the greater efficacy the world over which he has been set by Him alone who is governor of all things both spiritual and temporal."
Closely connected with the De Monarchia are certain Latin epistles. According to Boccaccio there existed in his time a quantity of such epistles, and
it is much to be deplored that he was not at the pains of transcribing them instead of filling his sheets with vaguely eloquent periods that rather tantalise than satisfy. It is somewhat singular that during the present century the tale of letters has fluctuated considerably. Witte in 1827 knew of six, and previously there were only four. In 1842 the number had risen to fourteen, but at least eight of this total were afterwards demonstrated to be forgeries. To-day Signor Casini is ready to admit the authenticity of the following epistles: (i) that to the princes and peoples of Italy on the descent of Henry VII., between September 1310 and January 1311; (ii) that to the Emperor Henry, April 16, 1311; (iii) that to the Florentines, May 31, 1311; (iv) that to the Italian cardinals, 1314; (v) that to a friend at Florence, 1316; and perhaps (vi), that to Can Grande del la Scala (very important, if genuine), describing the aim and fundamental ideas of the Commedia.
Dr Scartazzini, however, is sceptical. Villani mentions by name "three noble epistles"—one to the Government of Florence, another to the Emperor Henry, and a third to the Italian cardinals—as having been written by Dante; and, while treating with scant consideration some of the fourteen pretenders, Scartazzini would fain allow the genuineness of the epistles purporting to be those mentioned by Villani, but cannot reconcile it with his conscience to say, with Poletto, that they are beyond all controversy "fattura di Dante." As Eenier had before pointed out, Villani's words might have inspired in some humanist the whim of composing scholastic exercises befitting the circumstances. For my own part, I have failed to discover any trustworthy criterion, though the character of the MSS. is by no means reassuring.
The authenticity of the Latin eclogues has also been called in question, but with immeasurably less reason, and except by critics like Prompt, ready to
'doubt anything and everything, the verses are usually received as genuine. In the spring of 1319, when Dante was at Eavenna, he was invited by a learned professor, Giovanni di Virgilio, to visit Bologna, and reproached in a Latin "carmen" for casting pearls before swine, i.e., writing poetry in the vernacular. Dante replied in an eclogue—curiously enough, the first since the days of Virgil—in which he styled himself Tityrus, Giovanni Mopsus, and a certain Dino Pierini, with whom he was staying,