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This self-sacrifice of the conscious culprits in order to be poetically fine must be allegorical of something morally true. Is it then morally true that bad men after death court the eternal castigation of their wickedness? So at least Dante held, upon many great authorities, but particularly Origen, who attributes even the devil's innability of salvation to want of will rather than of power (). The types of future rewards and punishments are various in various ages and countries; and are better, or less calculated to affect the imagination. The grossest perhaps are the most impressive on gross minds: but those who have meditated on the human soul will require that the emblem of her retribution should partake of her immaterial nature; the more they spiritualize this, the more they will labour to make that also purely spiritual; and the higher the fancy is elevated, the less capable it becomes of furnishing sensible images of that soul, that Paradise, that Hell: so that at last we may have recourse to considering Paradise and Hell as qualities which the soul may acquire in perpetuity. When intimately connected with infinite joy, she will be her own Paradise—-with infinite woe, her own Hell. Our conceptions at least (for the mystery is inscrutible) can scarcely
(1) . . . . nolit magis quam non possit, dum scelerum rabies jam libido est et delectat. De Principiis. Lib. 1. Cap. wu.
attain nearer the reality; because in no other mode can they be more abstracted from matter; and almost the only certainty we have is this, that as the soul is immaterial, so whatever is to affect her, when liberated from the flesh and every extraneous impediment, must be immaterial too. But whether there shall be a profusion of imma. terial objects hereafter, or whether Providence shall continue that sublime parsimony, which we observe in the natural world, and, instead of a sinner and a hell, shall make (as I have conjectured) the sinner his own hell, we know not. Yet there can be nothing wrong in the conjecture; and it were to render the moral allegorized by Dante more striking; and to argue unavoidably, both that those who are deeply guilty will press on to their own punishment, and that that punishment will be everlasting. For if the soul' on shuffling off this mortal coil' follows her bent with uncontroll. ed vehemence, and, having held a course of love and virtue even through the perils and temptations of an earthly banishment, springs up to that first principle of goodness and bliss for which she had long panted as for her original home, or as if she felt that she was a particle once torn from it; then the habitual indulger of hateful propensities must in a like manner rush with renovating ardour towards those terrible delusions in the pursuit of which he had been before restrained by the weight and feebleness of a corporeal texture. He must o canto iii. continue in his wickedness, and habit must harden him in it every hour in spite of accumulating pain; vice growing older grows only more hideous and inflexible; and that guilt can never be expiated which never ceases to be aggravated.
Since this bank is the rendez-vous of the guilty, thou (cries Virgil) should'st feel no displeasure, but satisfaction at Charon's refusal to receive thee
Nulli fas casto sceleratum insistere limen (*).
The text may have been suggested by the Aeneid . . . . . gemit ultima pulsu Thraca pedum (2): but was certainly taken from Dante by Milton Earth felt the wound . . . . . Earth trembled from her entrails.... (3),
(1) Aeneid. Lib. vi. v. 563.
(2) Lib. xii. v. 334.
(3) Paradise Lost. IX. The chief beauty in these passages from our own bard, as well as in those from the Roman, and the Tuscan, consists in the personification of the earth. Therefore though Mr. Ginguené's (Hist. de l'Italie. vol. ii. p. 39) la terre baignée des larmes des damnés exhale un vent impétueux may be a correct explication, it is no fair translation: a mere physical phenomenon being substituted for noble figurative language. Mr. Cary preserves the personification by borrowing a phrase from Dryden: “Groans the sad earth.” See Trans. Aen. xii. 594.
At the close of the preceding Canto Dante had fallen down in a stupor; during which he is evidently supposed to have been conveyed across Acheron, and landed on the first Circle (). The entire of this circle is exempt from pain; and is divided intô two unequal portions. The first of these is the Angelical doctor's ‘Hell-of-children (Infernus puerorum ; (and the second, his (Infernus sanctorum Patrum) “Hell-of-the-holy-fathers’; divisions, as is noticed in the margin, which answer to two circles (the first and ninth) of the Virgilian hell. While traversing the first division, Virgil makes many observations to his pupil, not about the crowds of children round them, who could scarcely meritany, but about the former and present inhabitants of the second division to which they
(1) The subterranean circus, Hell, deepens from a state of Elysian tranquillity to one of infinite suffering the vestibule being an exception, partly to inflict an unnatural penalty on a despicable crime, and partly to imitate Origen and Virgil, as was said before. Hell, Comment, Canto. iii. p. 156, 173, and 179.
to Anto tw. are approaching; and within which they at last step. There they find a numerous assemblage of the heroes and heroines of Antiquity, whom they pass in review from the top of a luminous hill to which they retire in company with four other eminent bards: after which, these four take leave of Dante and Virgil who continue their journey; and the Canto closes. This Circle is computed to be 14 miles below the Westibule, and to present a circular walk of 17 g miles broad. In its middle yawns the monstrous aperture of the abyss 245 miles wide. So going round it, Dante has on one hand a precipice 4 miles high, and on the other that fearful gulf into which the eye cannot pierce, ‘ its murky clouds so boil and hiss ().’ Since I have not hesitated to advance that Dante was still more distinguished as a man of science, a politician, and a theologian, than as a poet (2);
(1) The extreme width of the vestibule was 315 miles (Hell, Comment, Canto 111, p. 161 ) : the extreme of this circle is a 80 : remain 35, but (as a line of diameter drawn from one extremity to another of a circular body perforated in the centre must cross the body twice, once before the perforation and again after) that leaves only its moiety 17 and a half for the net width. The extreme of this Circle is 28o; the extreme of the second 245: remain 35, or 17 and a half, as before. But in a sketch the walk of the Vestibule must be narrowed hy whatever breadth is allowed to Acheron; which flows round the orifice leading to the first Circle and then takes a subterranean, invisible course: with this exception, the Vestibule and the first Circle are of similar dimensions. See Manetti — Giambullari Velutello. Keeping a Roman Amphitheatre in one's mind, we have now stept down a tier.
(a) Bonus enim poeta (says Ascensius of Virgil) non tam delectarequod tamen plurimum facit - quam prodesse pretendit. Com. in Aeneid. Lib. vi. v. 657.