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can to 1. desert abstract vice be rather inconsistent, it may not be so with regard to a particular species of it. But of no species of it can this be so well predicated, as of the identical vice with which Dante was surrounded, sanguinary faction. A soldier, a diplomatist, ten times ambassador, and once amongst the supreme Magistrates of one of the most stormy of democracies, he must, at an early age, have had to deal with criminality enough, too disgusting to partake half as much of the seduction of vice, as of its thorns; and therefore better described as a brambly wilderness, than as a way of flowers, the proper symbol of vice taken in general. Boccaccio calls the forest the hell of human life when defiled with wickedness; adding, that some Catholic Saints speak of three hells, two beneath the surface of the earth, and one in the heart of the living sinnera doctrine which I find in Macrobius, but not in Dante. Even this however introduces a difference rather in names, than things. The hell he meant must have been that around him : but he was then in turbulent Florence embroiled in politics. In these then was he lost, whatever name or image, you give to the scene of his wanderings; whether a forest or a hell.
His weal we shall find brought about by the pity caused by his mishaps; so that, by specifying these, and showing how they were converted by heaven
GANTO I. into instruments of felicity (his political career
being renounced for philosophy and the tranquil Muses) we are informed, that a principal branch of his sublime undertaking is to glorify Providence, and prove that our mortal miseries are often made the causes of our immortal happiness. There is still extant a portion of the latin ver. sion in which Dante had begun to write, when his better judgment induced him to relinquish a dead for the merit of building a living tongue: – then a daring generosity, which Petrarch had not the courage to follow in his Africa ().
Nel lago del cuor, in the lake of the heart', has become a favourite with Italians, and by Redi is used very beautifully. I dare say however, Dante employed the expression less as a figure of speech, than scientifically as an anatomist, in order to af. firm, that fear had the dangerous effect of accumulating the blood violently in the ventricles of the heart. It is a matter on which Fontanini and others quote our poet: but I need not enter into the discussion.
Surely there are few similes superior to this one: and, if it be taken from the Odyssey, it is im:
(*) Ultima regna Canam etc.
t.A.M to 1. proved too; for Homer does not give that 'scowl back' upon the furious element () – guata – and that this particularity adds incomparably to the spirit and fidelity of the sketch, will, I believe, be apparent to every reader. I must warn those who are familiar with M. Ginguéné's Literary history, that, however meritorious a compilation it be in many points, it mistranslates this passage altogether, (2) as M. Biagioli very justly remarks: and, although a french review (?) is too partial to allow it, it was quite natural in an Italian to reprehend an error tending to deform one of the fine metaphors of his renowned Countryman in the eyes of strangers. The fleeing of the spirit is from the Aeneid—ani. mus meminisse horret luctuque refugit (4): and Dante's translation of one of the psalms – persecutt's est inimicus animam mean — repeats the same figure, my spirit is put to flight (5).
The text, word for word, is 'the pass that never left any one alive'. What else is the obvious signifi
(1) If one more happy while the tempest raves
(2) Hist. Litt. d’Italie. Vol. 2.
(4) Lib. 2. v. 12.
c.Anto 1. cation of this, but the worldly uproar which never
left any one perfectly virtuous, that is, in the eastern style, perfectly alive; guilt and folly being the death, as virtue and reason the life of the soul? Many are the passages in Scripture that inculcate this : for even & the just man falleth seven times a day a and it is written there is no righteous, not one o. Here then we have a mere orientalism, of which we shall discover others frequently: and, to corroborate my statement, that 'the pass leaving no one alive means simply 'scenes that deprive the soul of her purity', which is to kill her, I refer to Dante's own expressions in the Convito:—"when a man is said to live, that means, that he acts in conformity with reason, which is his true life’ (‘).
'So that the firm foot was always the lowest' is the original: which was manifestly employed to denote the vacillation of purpose, with which Dante made his first fruitless attempts at extricating himself from the guilt and bustle of public life, or, in the language of allegory, from the dark vale or wilderness, and at ascending the sun-clad mountain of wisdom and virtue. This unsteadiness of mind being the principal thing, I took care in the first place to mark it; after which I introduced
(1) Quando si dice i. uomo vivere sidee intendere l'uomo usar la ragione, ch' e sua special vita. p. 88.
CoA. Noto nas much of the metaphor of my original, as I well could. And if any of it has escaped me, I regret it the less from the persuasion, that it can only be some blameable quaintness, which causes the disputes between interpreters about the precise metaphorical solution of the verse; – quaintness that I am authorized to avoid. It used to be lauded as happily expressive of the act of climbing: but this has been controverted lately by the remark, that the firm foot, that is to say the foot on which the weight of the body reposes, is so far from being always the lowest in ascending, that it is in descending that it is so; —a criticism esteemed so cogent, that the defenders of Dante think it necessary for his honor to change the entire face of the allegory, and deny that there is a question about climbing. He was still on the level plain, say they, and the line describes the walking on a plain perfectly well; for there the lower foot is always the firm foot, being on the ground, while its companion is in the air, whether moving back or forward. This is indeed self-evident; but not so its applica. tion: for the context unequivocally implies, that the Wanderer was not on the dead level, but beginning to make the height. But may I not arraign the commentators for error? The weight is not always upon the lower foot, either in ascending, or descending; but, in both cases, is sometimes upon the lower and sometimes upon the higher one: when in ascending I put forward one foot,