Imagens das páginas

Garto win. Satanasso' (). “Look out, Satan! Look out in the majesty of thy splendors, princely Satan!” What venerable concision is that of the Originall Two long lines — Forth, Satan, forth! Thine awful forehead shine! O princely Satan, for one gleam of thine ! — are scarcely a paraphrase. The first observation that occurs, on looking at the above, is the almost miraculous fidelity with which the verse has been handed down during five centuries, by a multitude of copyists and printers not one of whom knew what they were doing . It is in general printed thus: Pape Satan pape Satan, aleppe! Here we see are only two deviations from correctness: one of which (that of changing aleph into aleppe ) was clearly introduced by the Author himself; and the second (that of making a single word of pa and pe) was most natural, particularly among people so inimical to monosyllables as the Italians. Aleph (*r ) has no reference whatever to the interjection Ah: but it is the first Hebrew element, and therefore denotes unity and pre-eminence, and is synonimous with the latin primarius. Nor is the adjective chioccia (that comes immediately aster) properly interpreted as meaning hoarse (rauca); for its precise signification is guttural (gutturale), and no doubt but it was expressly

(1) Or exactly syllable by syllable: Splendi aspetto di Satano! Splendiaspetto di Satano primajo I *

[ocr errors]

- garro v1.1. employed by Dante, as an exact linguist, to inform

us of the true mode of pronouncing the words of Plutus who repeats so often that harsh guttural ain (9), which is quite characteristic of the Hebrew (*).

That such is the clear, indubitable solution of the verse under consideration, all Hebrew students will aver; and their astonishment at this disclosure not having been made long since, may be somewhat mitigated by the reflection of how strange in our eyes becomes even the tongue with which we are best acquainted (then much more a dead one) if written in letters not its own. For carro win. example, many Englishmen travelling in Greece and finding in a Greek poem Tael's Greav offs, eonui 3Ave might give their assent to the opinion of the natives, that the line was a jargon put together in mere wantonness by the author; but should some one either luckier, or more attentive than his predecessors, pronounce it English, and, as a proof, transcribe it correctly Glide, Ocean, with thy wavy blue; adding that evoet, for with thy, was so written to avoid monosyllables and not to repeat the theta, that in Ocean a sigma was substitued for c there being no c in the Greek alphabet, that so is the dipthong most resembling our w, that the a in wavy is changed into n because such is its pronunciation, and that it is with the same attention to pronunciation that the or in thy is made u, and that in wavy, i: I say that though here would be much more unavoidable alteration than in Dante's Hebrew, yet no Englisman coming after the first discoverer but would affirm the same, and treat every argument drawn from the improbability of the Greek poet's possessing any knowledge of English as ridiculous, when balanced with the other positive evidence; for it were cer. tainly easier to believe that a Greek knew English (although there were no records to inform as that either he or any of his countrymen at that time did) than to persuade ourselves that a verse nei\ carto wir. ther deficient in grammar or numbers should be produced by chance, and without its author being conscious of it. Let the present passage then be received as direct proof that Dante was tolerably versed in Hebrew: for although I know not to what amount his reputation as a poet may be concerned in the matter, it is certain that the conviction of his having been an Oriental scholar will assist us much in our criticisms, by letting us know where we are to seek for the elucidation of many a disputed phrase in his Divina Commedia, and in his version of the psalms for many a variation from the Vulgate. Let dispute about this pass. age end for ever: and if (as the Ab. Lanci's words imply) there be still a public Professor sufficiently shallow and pedantic to play the witling before his juvenile audience, and (God give him modesty!) attempt caricaturing this speech of the ancient bard, let him learn that henceforth such buffoonery can only have the effect of exposing his own want of taste and prudence, as well as of erudition. It is great, the Ab. Lanci's merit in doing this tardy service to the memory of his mighty countryman, and to his country, and (may I not add?) to the world at large; for can any be quite uninterested in the removal of an aspersion from so eminent a fellow-creature, as Dante? Whether he composed this verse himself, or borrowed it from some work that he had perused, it equally follows that he must have had a very competent familiarity canto win. with the language. In the first supposition indeed

(1) I think it now superfluous to mention another attempt at interpreting this passage; wherein aleppe is derived from a provincialism of Val d'Arno. It seems the country people there have a word of nearly similar sound to signify flee (fuggire); so that Plutus would be bidding Dante flee. But even were this interpretation less forced, it could merit no attention after the direct proof of the other: — which is corroborated by so many Hebrew translations and derivations up and down in Dante, and by those from the tongue most nearly related to it, the Arabic; as well as by an entire Arabic verse, which we shall find in Canto xxxi of this same Canticle; to none of which a provincial origin can be ascribed. The Hebrew scholar will observe that our Saviour himself uses Sathan for Lucifer; and that though pe means properly mouth, it may be taken in the larger sense of front, or the entire countenance - facies; and must be so on the present occasion, for we shall find Lucifer has three mouths. Ed & bene a rammaricarci de' Retori, ch'an uso nelle moderne scuole citareil Pape di Dante come verso da prendersia beffe; e Dio volesse che insegnassero a metter tanto concetto in un solo verso, quanto quel ne contiene: perciocché non *arebbe isolta la turba de' verseggiatori, che dalla prima Alpe all ultimo 4ppennino conventose parole rimbombano. Dissertazione dell’ Ab. M. A. Lancisui versi di Nembrotte, ec. p. 44. In fact, I have lately read a little M. S. tract, in which those verseggiatori are estimated as

*::: never less than three hundred thousand between Naples and ilan.

this would be more striking; for to combine in so narrow a compass so much force and pomp of thought, so perfectly adapted to the speaker and the occasion, and such a conflux of guttural letters and accurate syntax with a subserviency to the Italian rhyme, argues a person very conversant with the tongue which he employs. Heretofore when Orientalisms were averred to be detected occasionally in his phraseology, it used to be urged that he might have had them from the Paladins and Saracens then frequenting Europe. But this reply avails little or nothing; for in the first place, there is no reason to believe that those Paladins and Saracens had themselves any tincture of Hebrew; and even if they had, it must have been quite too small for the occasion. It could indeed have been only an oral smattering picked up among the Jews; though this supposition, of Mahometans and soldiers taking the trouble to do it, is less probable from the reflection that it was totally unnecessary for the purposes of common life, since the current dialect of those African Jews themselves was Arabic, not Hebrew. But to effect what is here performed (compose a Hebrew verse adapted to the occasion and write it in Roman characters) it were necessary that those rude soldiers knew not only Hebrew, but Italian perfectly well ; and to what incongruous a thesis that would

lead, needs no notice. If the line was borrowed

« AnteriorContinuar »