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from Paradise can be united with that of bliss;
Dante (as his few words reveal) had his mind full of contending sentiments — sorrow that the honored spirits of Antiquity should be shut out from the superior bliss of Paradise, and the more so because, not being as yet within the second division, he does not exactly know what their actual portion of bliss is; terror on thinking on the line which he had seen over hell's gateway, “Leave ye that enter every hope behind; ' and satisfation from the reflection, that this line is
contradicted by the fact of Christ having descended
as far as this very circle and borne away from it many that were here hoping for his arrival. All this is implied by his asking whether it be indeed true that none ever left this region ? Boccaccio
morevoer suggests, that he might have meant to infer the possibility of its not being to any an eternal doom (since it was not so to those Patriarchs), and to hint obscurely that also his master Virgil might perhaps hope one day to get out. If however this question is to be understood, it is followed by no answer; and the matter is mildly
can to 17, consigned back to its pristine darkness. Had our poet hazarded any reply, it would surely have been the same burst of indignation which we shall find him, on another almost similar occasion, direct against the presumption of seeking to scrutinize matters that lie totally beyond human comprehension :
And who is he who thus presumes to scan
But as to the demand about Christ's descent, Virgil answers it at great length; marking the epoch at which it occurred by referring to that of his own death. — This is supposed to have taken place about half a century before the Christian era (*). Whatever had been Dante's reason for putting his question in so covert a shape, (whether delicacy towards his master, or in order to avoid pronoun. cing in any part of hell the hallowed name of Jesus) his master replies with the frankness in which a noble mind delights, that the Gospel story is most correct, and runs over the roll of the Jewish Sages, as if to show they had become well known to him. Dante not content with inculcating this doctrine here by mouth of his duke, repeats it in his own person in his Creed—"then the Saviour descended
(1) Parad. Canto xix.
(2) This the second time the date of Virgil's career is refered to; yet exact Chronologists disagree about it. Hell, Comment, Canto 1. p. 38.
4-Anto tw. to liberate the ancient Fathers (). 'One of these
—Moses — had been already commemorated by
At last we enter the second division; and the verses that introduce us are impressive, although not so sonorous as those of which they are a manifest imitation:
Largior hic campos acther et lumine vestit
Beautiful in itself it surely is, and great proof of the learning and correct taste of Dante, that he was able to produce so many points of similitude between two systems apparently so discordant as the Christian and the Pagan, and, uniting much of the imagery of both, make no attaint upon either: by which happy selection an ancient poet and theologian (without any of that discrepancy which nothing less than prodigious erudition and genius could have avoided) is represented as conducting a modern one through that future world, which many imagine was depicted formerly in a
(1) . . . discese per cavar gli antichi Padri. Credo. p. 139.
(2) Nisi, ut arbitrantur aliqui, Musæus et Moyses unum et idem sint. Genealogia Deor. Lib. xiv. Cap. viii.
- & Arto iv. very different manner from what it is at present,
and recording with admirable fidelity the dogmas of that modern's religion, without swerving from his own; — so that he not only does not confuse our ideas of Antiquity, but rather throws new light on the subject. Let us moreover recollect that this, monument of multifarious science was raised in the first years of the fourteenth Century, and then turn to our own history —— yet without a blush, for the rest of Europe lay plunged in an equal barbarism. This then is the Virgilian Elysium, whose description is too long to insert here entirely: but who, on re-perusing those melodious Latin strains, will regret, that the Italian copy has left out the specification of some of its details, such as the chariots, lances, and coursers? If the rest of the picture enraptures the fancy, are not those figures misplaced that recall it back to daily misery by alluding to such mere earthly occupations 2 This is that Abraham's bosom where Lazarus was comforted. This is that tranquil Limbo called “ of the-holyfathers’ by Catholics— Hic genus antiquum . . . . pulcherrima proles Magnanimi heroes, nati melioribus annis (). — and by many of their Divines described in glowing colours, as blest with celestial visitations and the inexhaustible study of philosophy and virtue. This
(1) Aeneid. Lib. vi. v. 548.
is that blissful region of hell to which even the Divinity himself descended without repugnance, (according to the Angelical doctor) but not beyond it (1). This in fine is that al Arāf of the Mahometans, which contains “many Patriarchs, prophets, martyrs, and Angels in the form of men (*). "I know the eternal nature of the Virgilian Elysium has been doubted: and as for the al Aräf, it is certainly not eternal, although of indefinite duration. But such obscurity is only a new instance of their resemblance to this Catholic Hell-of-the-holy-fathers: for on the one hand, I find its eternity not declared in any positive statute; and on the other, it is made an article of faith that it was not eternal to all its occupants, viz: to those liberated Patriarchs. The Aeneid does not inform us absolutely whether Elysium was eternal or not. Tartarus, it tells us, was eternal (eternumque sedebit infelix): but if that state of punishment was eternal, some one of reward must have been so too. Then, if Elysium was not eternal it dwindles into a mildest kind of Pürgatory; and not only for a few deified personages, but for all virtuous men there must have been some higher bliss in reserve. That many Pagans held this latter opinion, and amongst them Cicero and Virgil himself, I have already said (3);
(1) Solum ad locum Inferni in quo justi detinebantur. D.T. Aquini, Sen. 1. dist. 22. quaest. a. art. 1. (2) Sale Sect. Iv. p. 125.-Koran, Chap. vii. (3) Hell, Comment, Canto 1. p. 59- 1 1. p. 88.