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canto win. vealed by one or many overt. corporeal actions. In every case the merit or demerit of the spirit (which is truly the only merit or demerit ) remains precisely the same. The law, that is the will of an eternal infinite Being must be infinite
and eternal. Its prescriptions may vary, but they are only its form . Its substance can know no
change. As long as those prescriptions exist, they partake of the infinitude that prescribes them.
To contravene them then is infinitely wrong; nor in that infinitude can I have a notion of any gradations. These may, perhaps, exist; but my finite powers cannot conceive them. If an infinite Being ordains a statute ( whatever it seem in our eyes, great or small) it must be infinite, and any breach of it be infinite too; nor can I have any conception of its deserving more or less than infinite punishment; in which I can recognise no degrees either of alleviation or severity. Such degrees may be; but they are not within the grasp of mortal perception. The only question then is whether an infinite Being has given a law, or not. If he has, it is a line in the “over-stepping of which (and in it alone) guilt consists; and however you advance after, this advance' (Cicero avers) “has nothing to do with your over-stepping of the line. In this consists guilt, in the infraction of the law (without a reference to its apparent importance or unimportance ); and when once this infraction takes place, the guilt is completed. Every sin to AN'ro win. overturns reason and order: but as soon as order and reason are overturned, I cannot imagine the addition of any greater sin ().’ I only speak of what seems; and indeed so does Cicero. But it seems as if one crime should incur infinite punishment, just as much as many; and as if the plucking of a blade of grass, or of an apple were quite as criminal when prohibited by the Creator, as any enormity whatever. This is the sublime verity shadowed forth by the catastrophe of Eve: and such a reflection (independent of every other) might suffice to secure veneration for the magnificent simplicity of the Genius, who put the whole world and an apple in one and the same ba-. lance, and found them of equal weight in the estimate of Omnipotence.
Not wild Charibdis, when the wildest masses
The misers and the prodigals drawn up face to face, one party on the interior circumference of the Circle (that is, round its central orifice) and the other on its exterior circumference (or under
f (1) Quam longe progrediare, cum semel transieris, ad augendum transeundi culpam nihil pertinet. . . . In eo est peccatum, quod non licuit. Cum quidquid peccatur, perturbatione peccatur ordinis atque rationis. Perturbatá autem semel ratione et ordine, nihil potest addi quo magis peccare posse videatur. Par. v.
carro vir. its wall), they ever and anon charge at each other with furious cries, and, meeting mid-way, strike
breasts and rebound back to their former lines;
where they prepare for similar encounters to be fol. lowed by similar discomfitures. Such, in substance, is the meaning of the present and following tiercets. During this eternal tilting (giostra) the shades also eternally move, or whirl like Charibdis during that violent concussion of its tides called by seamen its rintoppo (), or rather waltze, (as I translate it) that is, perform the ridda round the entire Circle. For the riddi of the text is from the verb riddare, “to dance the ridda;" and the ridda was ‘a dance of many persons turning round" — which is about the same thing as a waltze (*).
“Turning weights by force of breasts ' is the original, verbatim ; and it is indeed (as is also my
(1) Mr. Cary in translating onda not a mass of billows, but “a billow,” diminishes much the propriety of the metaphor: and the more so, because Dante by ouda s' intoppa alluded to a characteristic phemomenon of the straits of Messina, which he must have observed when he was Ambassador in Sicily. Not always, but frequently when the wind blows freshly from either the South or North-east, the currents meet with perilous but transient violence and are then said to intoppare. So, to warn ships not to approach while the danger lasts, there is (or at least was) a tall signal-tower where pilots are employed to keep a good look out. These being experienced, always can predict the rintoppo a little before it happens. E in questo modo sicuro è il passaggio. Daniello, Comento, p. 49.
(2) Ballo di molte persone fatto in giro. (Vocabolario). It seems to have been a lascivious dance, which was at last left to the peasantry, and is now no onger in use.
eanto wit. translation) capable of two interpretations: for it
may mean, either that each wretch had a stone, like Sisyphus, to roll with his breast; or that the weights in question were simply those of each ghost's own form, as well as that of his antagonist's, which, on the shocking of their mutual breasts, spun round. The former of these is the received solution and in many editions there is an engraving to elucidate it: but I myself prefer the latter; for, besides that tilting, waltzing and spinning like a whirlpool make quite images enough for one passage, these ideas of speed and lightness are not aided, but rather enfeebled by that of rolling huge stones. To talk of the aveight of the spirits implies no more incongruity than to talk of their turning weights; of the suffering of their breasts when striking together, no more than when striking against the stones. Poets are permitted to attribute corporeal functions to spiritual creatures, as well as to strip them of them when they please; for it were otherwise very hard to give a detailed picture of the joys or sorrows of spirits. Thus we find Atrides, in the self-same sentence, represented as an empty shade endeavouring vainly to embrace Ulysses, and as letting fall a shower of tears like one still incarnate (). The introduction of Charibdis into the present Canto, as a simile, is recognised as still more apposite, /
- dar.To win. if we remember, that some commentators of the Aeneid affirm that Virgil intended that whirlpool as allegorical of avarice: - - - - - - - , latus laevum implacata Charibdis Obsidet, atque imo barathriter gurgite vastos Sorbet in abruptum fluctus, rursusque sub auras Erigit alternos, et sidera verberat undá (*).
“Why keep your hands so clenched 2’ cry the prodigals to the misers: “Why yours so carelessly open 2' reply the misers to the prodigals. This is the literal signification of the text. For as to the first question: though ‘why keep?’ (perche tieni?) is all that is actually expressed, I am entirely of M. Biagioli's opinion that the “clenched hand' (pugno chiuso) of verse Lvil is to be understood. It gives precision to the picture. Those who explain it, “why keep fast your riches?’ retain the substance of the meaning certainly, but without any metaphor; and besides they give something of looseness to the phrase, for as the misers have no “riches' in hell, the present tense must thus be put for the past. Such as render it “why keep back my weight?” throw (to borrow an expression from M. Biagioli) a mortal coldness over the whole composition (*): and I may add, they make it necessarily
(1) Aeneid. Lib. iii. v. 420. (2) ... Sparge in tutto il quadro un ghiaccio mortale. Biagioli, Comento, Vol. 1. p. 143.