« AnteriorContinuar »
t.Anto it, but satisfied a still dearer propensity by permitting him to unite a rigid conformity to the tenets of his own church, with a respectful deference to that of his predecessors in elegant literature. It is then S. Thomas's hell (of which what is vulgarly called hell only makes a part) that is followed in this poem. According to this plan, this present Canticle, Hell, contains three hells, as we shall see — the hell-of-the-damned, the hell-of-children, and the hell-of-the-holy-fathers; which correspond to the first, sixth and ninth circles of Virgil's hell: and there is dedicated the entire of the second Canticle, or Purgatory, to a description of the hell-of expiation, (infernus purgandorum) a region which resembles, in essentials, the other six circles which Virgil's hell is lent by scholiasts. The fire seen by Beatrice is then that of the neighbouring hell of the-damned, and not of Limbo.
Whether this lady be intended as a personification of divine Charity, as is said, I cannot exactly aver, nor is it much to our purpose to inquire : that the explications of the commentators are deduced rather from their own fancies than from anything in the text is apparent from their disagree. ing with each other. Many contend for Clemency; Jacob Alighieri for the profound mind of the Deity—la profonda mente della Deita (); his brother
(1) Bib. Laurenziana. Plut. xl. Cod. to.
Peter for operating Grace — gratia operans (...); and the latest of them all (M. Biagioli) for 'the Soul, that is, the Reason'; in which discovery he is surely not much happier than his predecessors, notwithstanding the immense fatigue which, he declares, it cost him — l’immensa fatica che m'é costato il rinvenirla (*). That it is a holy, clement ,
sainted, female spirit who speaks is obvious.
Dante might have meant her to personify some particular divine virtue; but it is out of my province to decide which. She is rendered sufficiently sublime by being put in Paradise. Without further search after her allegorical, I therefore descend to her literal meaning — on which no comment with which I am acquainted, either in writing or in print, has ever deigned to say a syllable, except the M. S. in the Riccardi library, 'She who is now noticed' (affirms the M. S.) was a lady of Lucca, of whom Dante became an admirer about ten years after Beatrice's decease and for whom he wrote the song, Io mi son pargoletta ec. (3). 'It seems necessary to remark that pargoletta is not a noun proper, but common, and means merely a young dittle girl: therefore is there nothing in the appellation to prevent her being considered as the individual once slightly named Gentucca in Canto xxiv. of Purgatory, and again alluded to by the
- (1) Bib. Laurenziana. Plut. xi. Cod. 38.
conto so. pretty diminutive pargoletta in Canto xxxi. of the same Canticle. In the date seems to lie some impediment. Certainly from Beatrice's death (1290) to the opening of this poem (13oo) leaves ten years, or space enough to shelter both the poet and his commentator from anachronism. But the difficulty is, that in Purgatory we shall find Gentucca spoken of as on earth, and that here she is represented as already in Paradise. There is one way of reconciling these things, conjecturing that the author here ventures on her apotheosis before her death: as to his allusions to her there, they are quite transient. Nor were this anticipated spirituality any novelty in the fine arts, nor without instance in this very Canticle (). It may be objected that in that instance, the poet apprizes us of the truth, but not so in the present one; and that I therefore hazard a perfectly gratuitous supposition; which were, I allow, very blamable if hazarded in opposition to authority; but not surely in this actual case, where it is employed to justify authority. For the writer of the M. S. I have quoted makes the unrestricted affirmation, that the allusion here is to a lady of Lucca whom Dante had celebraed with the song, I am pargoletta; and adds, that she was one of the only three ladies whom he ever professed to admire — the other two being his Beatrice and a maid of Prato
(1) Canto xxxiii.
on to 11.
vecchio. I may add that (pargoletta)' a young little girl' is quite synonymous with the phrase used to designate Gentucca (che non porta ancor benda) who wears not yet the veil of a woman', that is, is still attired like a young girl. Thus she called Gentucca, and pargoletta, and here simply donna (a fair') is no more than one and the same person — that beautiful Lucchese, that innocent, tender sylph-like maiden, whom, if these verses anticipate her salvation, that song also describes as a passing, ethereal guest, descended for a moment from her celestial abode. 'I am a young little girl, a lovely creature descending to show you a specimen of the beauties that dwell in my home. My home is Paradise, whither I shall again return. The man capable of remaining unenamoured in my presence shall never know what love is: for when nature obtained me from the Creator, and I was permitted to be during a season lent you, fair ladies, as your companion, no charm was denied to me. Into my eyes doth every star shower its light and influence: nor are my perfections of this world, but quite new and come down freshly from above. Such are the verses legible on the forehead of yonder, pretty angel (‘). There is also one of
(1) Io mi son pargoletta bella e nuova;
E son venuta per mostrarmia vui
Io fui del Cielo e tornerovvi ancora;
canto it. his sonnets addressed to the same young beauty, which begins — 'who shall ever gaze without trembling on the eyes of this lovely little girl ()?' It ends by comparing her to a star and a pearl. It is observable that all this, though expressive of delight and admiration, is void of a trace of amatory passion: and is therefore the very reverse of his manner when mentioning Beatrice. She it was that was graven on his heart: the praises extorted from him by other females seem not so much inspired by attachment to the individual, as by an abstract sentiment, by a moral enthusiasm, (like that of Plato, M. Angelo, and a few others of affections less clay-clogged than our own) by a yearning after ideal loveliness 'éonsidered apart from the object to which it is united', (as Condivi says of his great master)'a doating on beauty for itself, an adoration of that eternal fairness which presents us, under various shapes, with celestial emations: for he who gazed on a beauteous woman, or a
Ciascuna stella negli occhi mi piove
Perocchè di lassú mi son venute.
Queste parole si leggon nel viso