Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

narro vl. first of many instances which overturn vulgar

prejudices, and make good my assertion that Dante was neither Guelph nor Ghibelline, but a steady patriot detesting their mutual enormities. This Farinata entered Florence after the battle, overset the Government, exiled the Guelphs, and reduced the city under a foreign yoke. He will appear hereafter among the materialists; for he was of “Epicurus' sty,’ not only in living, but in disbelieving. In what tone but in sarcasm, or indigna. tion, could Dante have named these? was the quesstion I first pronounced within myself. But when I read over again the passages where those characters are named in the future Cantos, and pondered on the deep emotion and reverence which accom. pany his severe reproof — and reflected on the eminent, though disastrous, talents of those men, who were leaders of great, though terribly destructive, factions among the Florentine republicans during their least corrupted period — and recog: nised for a truth, that the chiefs of the worst factions have in general (what their followers have not) some high qualities, if not virtues, to redeem their evil; all these considerations oblige me to leave the matter (as to whether Dante meant this passage as ironical, or not) undecided. Or rather my opinion is, that he intended it should be indecisive; and was willing to couple a vindictive anathema against their vices with an affectionate recollection of their lofty powers; and penned his

Garto wi. phrases, purposely so, as to challenge doubt and discussion as to their final doom a mode of writing both philosophically sceptical in itself, and sufficiently familiar to his style; being somewhat akin to what we already observed in the case of Francesca da Rimini ().

[ocr errors]

This desire that Ciacco is made to express, of being remembered on earth, were alone sufficient proof that it was not intended to represent him as vile. If Mr. Ginguené thought this Canto inferior to the preceding, it was, perhaps, because he did not understand it (•). It must have been a consciousness of having been, not despised, but beloved and courted during life, as an aimable private gentleman, that instigated Ciacco's wish to be recollected: his inoffensive manners were no slight recommendation in that desperate age; and his luxurious habits, not having betrayed him into any consummate iniquities, would have scarcely merited reprehension, if it were not for example's sake in a republic not to be upheld without prudence and sobriety; virtues that were already on the decline in Florence, and on whose final disappearance that free city was to be enslaved by one of its own subjects — a plebeian merchant soon

(1) Hell, Comment, Canto v. p. 335. (2) Ce Chant est très-inférieur aux précèdents. Hist. Litt. d'Italie.

[ocr errors]

canto wit. swelled into a Ducal one. Dante ill performed this request of preserving Ciacco's memory; whether from judging further explanation superfluous with regard to a man well known, or from tenderness to the individual, or from a belief that the satire would be more generally useful by being less

[merged small][ocr errors]

Alfieri remarks (and with good reason) that in the original the rhythm of this tiercet is very imitative of the drowsy fall it describes. We are to recollect Ciacco was only sitting, not standing, up.

[ocr errors]

The abrupt exclamation of Virgil is surely sublime; and as such, equally beyond praise and controversy, it is pointed out by M. Merian (2). “I willingly apply to the poet himself' (writes a French reviewer)“his own magnificent verse:’ for strains, that are fated to live eternally, may be well pronounced.

. His voice that rolls

Echoing through ages, – through the age unending (°).

(1) I find the very same reasons for the selection of Ciacco in the Ouimo-perché fu di leggiadri costumi, molto famoso in delectatione; e di belli motti. Such a character may be reprehended by a rigid republican and moralist, but what has it to merit M. Ginguené's vile?

(2) Mem. de l'Acad. de Berlin. 1784.

(3) J'applique volontiers à Dante lui même son vers sublime:

Udira quel che in eterno rimbomba.
Journal des Savans. Nov. 1818,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

There is something so gloomy in the idea of the eternal separation of a pair who had been long united most closely, that men (without any reference to the comparative veracity of their creeds) seem to have agreed in considering it unnatural: and the Platonists, Pythagoreans, Magi, and endless varieties of idolators, as well as Christians, speak of the body and soul being destined to meet again after their separation. It is indeed hard to convince ourselves, either of our own part‘ing for ever from our present form, or of those we hold dear from theirs; and even if it were not a difficult, it would be a melancholy persuasion. But, in truth, what is melancholy is usually dif. ficult; and what we sincerely wish, we readily believe: so we continue to cherish the soothing doc

Whether Mr. Cary intended to make this voice of the Eternal, instead of echoing thoughout illimitable space, have the specific effect of rending the vaults of the dead, I do not know; but his version bears that aspect—

“And hear the eternal doom re-echoing rend

The vault” and it is not certainly the figure given by Dante, nor (in my opinion) half so majestic as his. How poor is doom instead of His-quel! For I translate verbatim “shall hear Him who echoes through eternity: " making quel mean colui, or Iddio (God), and not quel suono which last word is considered by some commentators as understood but unnecessarily and, I think, most injudiciously. If quel refers to suono, the indicative (rimbomba ) must be put for the future, rimbombera; but apply it as I do, and the words are to be construed precisely as they are written.

canto wi. trine, that, though death separates us from that . oldest of our friends, the body, with whose pains we had sympathized and whose imperfections we had borne, we shall again find it; and rejoice that it has become incapable of suffering, and of more prompt and faithful service than ever. It will then be without murmuring (what it ought always to be ) subservient to the spirit: and such an expectation the spirit may indulge when disrobing here below; and, though on flight towards beatitude, may linger for a moment to cast a look on its terrene brother; and, losing his present abjection in a clear foresight of his future glory, and the sorrow of farewell in the joyfulness of an endless meeting, it may, without affectation or offence, be represented as saluting him in the words of a fine imitator of Dante : — ‘Rest in peace, dear companion of my woes and toils, until the great day when the majestic trumpet shall summon thee to arise! In the mean while, light be the turf about thee; gentle and pious, be the breezes and showers; and far be it from any passer-by to visit thee with an unkind word (). 'Whether, on their reu

(1) Poscia l'ultimo sguardo al corpo affisse,

Già suo consorte in vita . . . .

Dormi in pace, dicendo, o di mie pene
Caro compagno, infinche del gran die
L'orrido squillo a risvegliarti viene.

Lieve intanto la terra, e dolci e pie
Tisian l'aure e le pioggie, e a te non dica
Parole il passagier scortesi e rie!

La Morte di Bass-ville. Canto 1.

« AnteriorContinuar »