Stories from the Italian Poets: With Lives of the Writers, Volume 1
by Leigh Hunt
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Story of Rimini.]

[Footnote 15:

"Mentre che l'uno spirto questo disse, L'altro piangeva si, che di pietade I' venni men cosi com'io morisse, E caddi come corpo morto cade."

This last line has been greatly admired for the corresponding deadness of its expression.

While thus one spoke, the other spirit mourn'd With wail so woful, that at his remorse I felt as though I should have died. I turn'd Stone-stiff; and to the ground, fell like a corse.

The poet fell thus on the ground (some of the commentators think) because he had sinned in the same way; and if Foscolo's opinion could be established—that the incident of the book is invention—their conclusion would receive curious collateral evidence, the circumstance of the perusal of the romance in company with a lady being likely enough to have occurred to Dante. But the same probability applies in the case of the lovers. The reading of such books was equally the taste of their own times; and nothing is more likely than the volume's having been found in the room where they perished. The Pagans could not be rebels to a law they never heard of, any more than Dante could be a rebel to Luther. But this is one of the absurdities with which the impious effrontery or scarcely less impious admissions of Dante's teachers avowedly set reason at defiance,—retaining, meanwhile, their right of contempt for the impieties of Mahometans and Brahmins; "which is odd," as the poet says; for being not less absurd, or, as the others argued, much more so, they had at least an equal claim on the submission of the reason; since the greater the irrationality, the higher the theological triumph.]

[Footnote 16: Plutus's exclamation about Satan is a great choke-pear to the commentators. The line in the original is

"Pape Satan, pape Satan aleppe."

The words, as thus written, are not Italian. It is not the business of this abstract to discuss such points; and therefore I content myself with believing that the context implies a call of alarm on the Prince of Hell at the sight of the living creature and his guide.]

[Footnote 17: Phlegyas, a son of Mars, was cast into hell by Apollo for setting the god's temple on fire in resentment for the violation of his daughter Coronis. The actions of gods were not to be questioned, in Dante's opinion, even though the gods turned out to be false Jugghanaut is as good as any, while he lasts. It is an ethico-theological puzzle, involving very nice questions; but at any rate, had our poet been a Brahmin of Benares, we know how he would have written about it in Sanscrit.]

[Footnote 18: Filippo Argenti (Philip Silver,—so called from his shoeing his horse with the precious metal) was a Florentine remarkable for bodily strength and extreme irascibility. What a barbarous strength and confusion of ideas is there in this whole passage about him! Arrogance punished by arrogance, a Christian mother blessed for the unchristian disdainfulness of her son, revenge boasted of and enjoyed, passion arguing in a circle! Filippo himself might have written it. Dante says,

"Con piangere e con lutto Spirito maladetto, ti rimani. Via costa con gli altri cani," &c.

Then Virgil, kissing and embracing him,

"Alma sdegnosa Benedetta colei che 'n te s'incinse," &c.

And Dante again,

"Maestro, molto sarei vago Di vederlo attuffare in questa broda," &c. ]

[Footnote 19: Dis, one of the Pagan names of Pluto, here used for Satan. Within the walls of the city of Dis commence the punishments by fire.]

[Footnote 20: Farinata was a Ghibelline leader before the time of Dante, and had vanquished the poet's connexions at the battle of Montaperto.]

[Footnote 21: What would Guido have said to this? More, I suspect, than Dante would have liked to hear, or known how to answer. But he died before the verses transpired; probably before they were written; for Dante, in the chronology of his poem, assumes what times and seasons he finds most convenient.]

[Footnote 22:

"Si che la pioggia non par che 'l maturi."

This is one of the grandest passages in Dante. It was probably (as English commentators have observed) in Milton's recollection when he conceived the character of Satan.]

[Footnote 23: The satire of friarly hypocrisy is at least as fine as Ariosto's discovery of Discord in a monastery.

The monster Geryon, son of Chrysaor (Golden-sword), and the Ocean-nymph Callirhoe (Fair-flowing), was rich in the possession of sheep. His wealth, and perhaps his derivatives, rendered him this instrument of satire. The monstrosity, the mild face, the glancing point of venom, and the beautiful skin, make it as fine as can be.]

[Footnote 24: "Malebolge," literally Evil-Budget. Bolgia is an old form of the modern baule, the common term for a valise or portmanteau. "Bolgia" (says the Vocabolario della Crusca, compendiato, Ven. 1792), "a valise; Latin, bulga, hippopera; Greek, ippopetha [Greek]. In reference to valises which open lengthways like a chest, Dante uses the word to signify those compartments which he feigns in his Hell." (Per similitudine di quelle valigie, che s'aprono per lo lungo, a guisa di cassa, significa quegli spartimenti, che Dante finge nell' Inferno.) The reader will think of the homely figurative names in Bunyan, and the contempt which great and awful states of mind have for conventional notions of rank in phraseology. It is a part, if well considered, of their grandeur.]

[Footnote 25: Boniface the Eighth was the pope then living, and one of the causes of Dante's exile. It is thus the poet contrives to put his enemies in hell before their time.]

[Footnote 26: An allusion to the pretended gift of the Lateran by Constantine to Pope Sylvester, ridiculed so strongly by Ariosto and others.]

[Footnote 27: A truly infernal sentiment. The original is,

"Qui vive la pieta quand' e ben morta." Here pity lives when it is quite dead.

"Chi e piu scellerato," continues the poet, "di colui, Ch'al giudicio divin passion porta."

That is: "Who is wickeder than he that sets his impassioned feelings against the judgments of God?" The answer is: He that attributes judgments to God which are to render humanity pitiless.]

[Footnote 28: Ne' fianchi cosi poco. Michael Scot had been in Florence; to which circumstance we are most probably indebted for this curious particular respecting his shape. The consignment of such men to hell is a mortifying instance of the great poet's participation in the vulgarest errors of his time. It is hardly, however, worth notice, considering what we see him swallowing every moment, or pretending to swallow.]

[Footnote 29: "Bonturo must have sold him something cheap," exclaimed a hearer of this passage. No:—the exception is an irony! There was not one honest man in all Lucca!]

[Footnote 30:

"Intorno si mira Tutto smarrito da la grande angoscia Ch'egli ha sofferta, e guardando sospira."

This is one of the most terribly natural pictures of agonised astonishment ever painted.]

[Footnote 31: I retain this passage, horrible as it is to Protestant ears, because it is not only an instance of Dante's own audacity, but a salutary warning specimen of the extremes of impiety generated by extreme superstition; for their first cause is the degradation of the Divine character. Another, no doubt, is the impulsive vehemence of the South. I have heard more blasphemies, in the course of half an hour, from the lips of an Italian postilion, than are probably uttered in England, by people not out of their senses, for a whole year. Yet the words, after all, were mere words; for the man was a good-natured fellow, and I believe presented no image to his mind of anything he was saying. Dante, however, would certainly not have taught him better by attempting to frighten him. A violent word would have only produced more violence. Yet this was the idle round which the great poet thought it best to run!]

[Footnote 32: Cianfa, probably a condottiere of Mrs. Radcliffe's sort, and robber on a large scale, is said to have been one of the Donati family, connexions of the poet by marriage.]

[Footnote 33: This, and the transformation that follows, may well excite the pride of such a poet as Dante; though it is curious to see how he selects inventions of this kind as special grounds of self-complacency. They are the most appalling ever yet produced.]

[Footnote 34: Guido, Conte di Montefeltro, a celebrated soldier of that day, became a Franciscan in his old age, in order to repent of his sins; but, being consulted in his cloister by Pope Boniface on the best mode of getting possession of an estate belonging to the Colonna family, and being promised absolution for his sins in the lump, including the opinion requested, he recommended the holy father to "promise much, and perform nothing" (molto promettere, e nulla attendere).]

[Footnote 35: Dolcino was a Lombard friar at the beginning of the fourteenth century, who is said to have preached a community of goods, including women, and to have pretended to a divine mission for reforming the church. He appears to have made a considerable impression, having thousands of followers, but was ultimately seized in the mountains where they lived, and burnt with his female companion Margarita, and many others. Landino says he was very eloquent, and that "both he and Margarita endured their fate with a firmness worthy of a better cause." Probably his real history is not known, for want of somebody in such times bold enough to write it.]

[Footnote 36: Literally, "under the breastplate of knowing himself to be pure:"

"Sotto l'osbergo del sentirsi pura."

The expression is deservedly admired; but it is not allowable in English, and it is the only one admitting no equivalent which I have met with in the whole poem. It might be argued, perhaps, against the perfection of the passage, that a good "conscience," and a man's "knowing himself to be pure," are a tautology; for Dante himself has already used that word;

"Conscienzia m'assicura; La buona compagnia che l'uom francheggia Sotto l'osbergo," &c.

But still we feel the impulsive beauty of the phrase; and I wish I could have kept it.]

[Foonote 37: This ghastly fiction is a rare instance of the meeting of physical horror with the truest pathos.]

[Footnote 38: The reader will not fail to notice this characteristic instance of the ferocity of the time.]

[Footnote 39: This is admirable sentiment; and it must have been no ordinary consciousness of dignity in general which could have made Dante allow himself to be the person rebuked for having forgotten it. Perhaps it was a sort of penance for his having, on some occasion, fallen into the unworthiness.]

[Footnote 40: By the Saracens in Roncesvalles; afterwards so favourite a topic with the poets. The circumstance of the horn is taken from the Chronicle of the pretended Archbishop Turpin, chapter xxiv.]

[Footnote 41: The gaping monotony of this jargon, full of the vowel a, is admirably suited to the mouth of the vast, half-stupid speaker. It is like a babble of the gigantic infancy of the world.]

[Footnote 42:

"Ne si chinato li fece dimora, E come albero in nave si levo."

A magnificent image! I have retained the idiomatic expression of the original, raised himself, instead of saying rose, because it seemed to me to give the more grand and deliberate image.]

[Footnote 43: Of "mamma" and "babbo," says the primitive poet. We have corresponding words in English, but the feeling they produce is not identical. The lesser fervour of the northern nations renders them, in some respects, more sophisticate than they suspect, compared with the "artful" Italians.]

[Footnote 44: Alessandro and Napoleon degli Alberti, sons of Alberto, lord of the valley of Falterona in Tuscany. After their father's death they tyrannised over the neighbouring districts, and finally had a mortal quarrel. The name of Napoleon used to be so rare till of late years, even in Italian books, that it gives one a kind of interesting surprise to meet with it.]

[Footnote 45:

"Se voler fu, o destino o fortuna, Non so."

What does the Christian reader think of that?]

[Footnote 46: Latrando.]

[Footnote 47: Bocca degli Abbati, whose soul barks like a dog, occasioned the defeat of the Guelfs at Montaperto, in the year 1260, by treacherously cutting off the hand of the standard-bearer.]

[Footnote 48: This is the famous story of Ugolino, who betrayed the castles of Pisa to the Florentines, and was starved with his children in the Tower of Famine.]

[Footnote 49: I should be loath to disturb the inimitable pathos of this story, if there did not seem grounds for believing that the poet was too hasty in giving credit to parts of it, particularly the ages of some of his fellow-prisoners, and the guilt of the archbishop. See the Appendix to this volume.]

[Footnote 50: This is the most tremendous lampoon, as far as I am aware, in the whole circle of literature.]

[Footnote 51: "Cortesia fu lui esser villano." This is the foulest blot which Dante has cast on his own character in all his poem (short of the cruelties he thinks fit to attribute to God). It is argued that he is cruel and false, out of hatred to cruelty and falsehood. But why then add to the sum of both? and towards a man, too, supposed to be suffering eternally? It is idle to discern in such barbarous inconsistencies any thing but the writer's own contributions to the stock of them. The utmost credit for right feeling is not to be given on every occasion to a man who refuses it to every one else.]

[Footnote 52: "La creatura ch'ebbe il bel sembiante."

This is touching; but the reader may as well be prepared for a total failure in Dante's conception of Satan, especially the English reader, accustomed to the sublimity of Milton's. Granting that the Roman Catholic poet intended to honour the fallen angel with no sublimity, but to render him an object of mere hate and dread, he has overdone and degraded the picture into caricature. A great stupid being, stuck up in ice, with three faces, one of which is yellow, and three mouths, each eating a sinner, one of those sinners being Brutus, is an object for derision; and the way in which he eats these, his everlasting bonnes-bouches, divides derision with disgust. The passage must be given, otherwise the abstract of the poem would be incomplete; but I cannot help thinking it the worst anti-climax ever fallen into by a great poet.]

[Footnote 53: This silence is, at all events, a compliment to Brutus, especially from a man like Dante, and the more because it is extorted. Dante, no doubt, hated all treachery, particularly treachery to the leader of his beloved Roman emperors; forgetting three things; first, that Caesar was guilty of treachery himself to the Roman people; second, that he, Dante, has put Curio in hell for advising Caesar to cross the Rubicon, though he has put the crosser among the good Pagans; and third, that Brutus was educated in the belief that the punishment of such treachery as Caesar's by assassination was one of the first of duties. How differently has Shakspeare, himself an aristocratic rather than democratic poet, and full of just doubt of the motives of assassins in general, treated the error of the thoughtful, conscientious, Platonic philosopher!]

[Footnote 54: At the close of this medley of genius, pathos, absurdity, sublimity, horror, and revoltingness, it is impossible for any reflecting heart to avoid asking, Cui bono? What is the good of it to the poor wretches, if we are to suppose it true? and what to the world—except, indeed, as a poetic study and a warning against degrading notions of God—if we are to take it simply as a fiction? Theology, disdaining both questions, has an answer confessedly incomprehensible. Humanity replies: Assume not premises for which you have worse than no proofs.]




Purgatory, in the system of Dante, is a mountain at the Antipodes, on the top of which is the Terrestrial Paradise, once the seat of Adam and Eve. It forms the principal part of an island in a sea, and possesses a pure air. Its lowest region, with one or two exceptions of redeemed Pagans, is occupied by Excommunicated Penitents and by Delayers of Penitence, all of whom are compelled to lose time before their atonement commences. The other and greater portion of the ascent is divided into circles or plains, in which are expiated the Seven Deadly Sins. The Poet ascends from circle to circle with Virgil and Statius, and is met in a forest on the top by the spirit of Beatrice, who transports him to Heaven.


When the pilgrims emerged from the opening through which they beheld the stars, they found themselves in a scene which enchanted them with hope and joy. It was dawn: a sweet pure air came on their faces; and they beheld a sky of the loveliest oriental sapphire, whose colour seemed to pervade the whole serene hollow from earth to heaven. The beautiful planet which encourages loving thoughts made all the orient laugh, obscuring by its very radiance the stars in its train; and among those which were still lingering and sparkling in the southern horizon, Dante saw four in the shape of a cross, never beheld by man since they gladdened the eyes of our first parents. Heaven seemed to rejoice in their possession. O widowed northern pole! bereaved art thou, indeed, since thou canst not gaze upon them![1]

The poet turned to look at the north where he had been accustomed to see stars that no longer appeared, and beheld, at his side, an old man, who struck his beholder with a veneration like that of a son for his father. He had grey hairs, and a long beard which parted in two down his bosom; and the four southern stars beamed on his face with such lustre, that his aspect was as radiant as if he had stood in the sun.

"Who are ye?" said the old man, "that have escaped from the dreadful prison-house? Can the laws of the abyss be violated? Or has Heaven changed its mind, that thus ye are allowed to come from the regions of condemnation into mine?"

It was the spirit of Cato of Utica, the warder of the ascent of purgatory.

The Roman poet explained to his countryman who they were, and how Dante was under heavenly protection; and then he prayed leave of passage of him by the love he bore to the chaste eyes of his Marcia, who sent him a message from the Pagan circle, hoping that he would still own her.

Cato replied, that although he was so fond of Marcia while on earth that he could deny her nothing, he had ceased, in obedience to new laws, to have any affection for her, now that she dwelt beyond the evil river; but as the pilgrim, his companion, was under heavenly protection, he would of course do what he desired.[2] He then desired him to gird his companion with one of the simplest and completest rushes he would see by the water's side, and to wash the stain of the lower world out of his face, and so take their journey up the mountain before them, by a path which the rising sun would disclose. And with these words he disappeared.[3]

The pilgrims passed on, with the eagerness of one who thinks every step in vain till he finds the path he has lost. The full dawn by this time had arisen, and they saw the trembling of the sea in the distance.[4] Virgil then dipped his hands into a spot of dewy grass, where the sun had least affected it, and with the moisture bathed the face of Dante, who held it out to him, suffused with tears;[5] and then they went on till they came to a solitary shore, whence no voyager had ever returned, and there the loins of the Florentine were girt with the rush.

On this shore they were standing in doubt how to proceed,—moving onward, as it were, in mind, while yet their feet were staying,—when they be held a light over the water at a distance, rayless at first as the planet Mars when he looks redly out of the horizon through a fog, but speedily growing brighter and brighter with amazing swiftness. Dante had but turned for an instant to ask his guide what it was, when, on looking again, it had grown far brighter. Two splendid phenomena, he knew not what, then developed themselves from it on either side; and, by degrees, another below it. The two splendours quickly turned out to be wings; and Virgil, who had hitherto watched its coming in silence, cried out, "Down, down,—on thy knees! It is God's angel. Clasp thine hands. Now thou shalt behold operancy indeed. Lo, how he needs neither sail nor oar, coming all this way with nothing but his wings! Lo, how he holds them aloft, using the air with them at his will, and knowing they can never be weary."

The "divine bird" grew brighter and brighter as he came, so that the eye at last could not sustain the lustre; and Dante turned his to the ground. A boat then rushed to shore which the angel had brought with him, so light that it drew not a drop of water. The celestial pilot stood at the helm, with bliss written in his face; and a hundred spirits were seen within the boat, who, lifting up their voices, sang the psalm beginning "When Israel came out of Egypt." At the close of the psalm, the angel blessed them with the sign of the cross, and they all leaped to shore; upon which he turned round, and departed as swiftly as he came.

The new-comers, after gazing about them for a while, in the manner of those who are astonished to see new sights, inquired of Virgil and his companion the best way to the mountain. Virgil explained who they were; and the spirits, pale with astonishment at beholding in Dante a living and breathing man, crowded about him, in spite of their anxiety to shorten the period of their trials. One of them came darting out of the press to embrace him, in a manner so affectionate as to move the poet to return his warmth; but his arms again and again found themselves crossed on his own bosom, having encircled nothing. The shadow, smiling at the astonishment in the other's face, drew back; and Dante hastened as much forward to shew his zeal in the greeting, when the spirit in a sweet voice recommended him to desist. The Florentine then knew who it was,—Casella, a musician, to whom he had been much attached. After mutual explanations as to their meeting, Dante requested his friend, if no ordinance opposed it, to refresh his spirit awhile with one of the tender airs that used to charm away all his troubles on earth. Casella immediately began one of his friend's own productions, commencing with the words,

"Love, that delights to talk unto my soul Of all the wonders of my lady's nature."

And he sang it so beautifully, that the sweetness rang within the poet's heart while recording the circumstance. The other spirits listened with such attention, that they seemed to have forgotten the very purpose of their coming; when suddenly the voice of Cato was heard, sternly rebuking their delay; and the whole party speeded in trepidation towards the mountain.[6]

The two pilgrims, who had at first hastened with the others, in a little while slackened their steps; and Dante found that his body projected a shadow, while the form of Virgil had none. When arrived at the foot of the mountain, they were joined by a second party of spirits, of whom Virgil inquired the way up it. One of the spirits, of a noble aspect, but with a gaping wound in his forehead, stepped forth, and asked Dante if he remembered him. The poet humbly answering in the negative, the stranger disclosed a second wound, that was in his bosom; and then, with a smile, announced himself as Manfredi, king of Naples, who was slain in battle against Charles of Anjou, and died excommunicated. Manfredi gave Dante a message to his daughter Costanza, queen of Arragon, begging her to shorten the consequences of the excommunication by her prayers; since he, like the rest of the party with him, though repenting of his contumacy against the church, would have to wander on the outskirts of Purgatory three times as long as the presumption had lasted, unless relieved by such petitions from the living.[7]

Dante went on, with his thoughts so full of this request, that he did not perceive he had arrived at the path which Virgil asked for, till the wandering spirits called out to them to say so. The pilgrims then, with great difficulty, began to ascend through an extremely narrow passage; and Virgil, after explaining to Dante how it was that in this antipodal region his eastward face beheld the sun in the north instead of the south, was encouraging him to proceed manfully in the hope of finding the path easier by degrees, and of reposing at the end of it, when they heard a voice observing, that they would most likely find it expedient to repose a little sooner. The pilgrims looked about them, and observed close at hand a crag of a rock, in the shade of which some spirits were standing, as men stand idly at noon. Another was sitting down, as if tired out, with his arms about his knees, and his face bent down between them.[8]

"Dearest master!" exclaimed Dante to his guide, "what thinkest thou of a croucher like this, for manful journeying? Verily he seems to have been twin-born with Idleness herself."

The croucher, lifting up his eyes at these words, looked hard at Dante, and said, "Since thou art so stout, push on."

Dante then saw it was Belacqua, a pleasant acquaintance of his, famous for his indolence.

"That was a good lesson," said Belacqua, "that was given thee just now in astronomy."

The poet could not help smiling at the manner in which his acquaintance uttered these words, it was so like his ways of old. Belacqua pretended, even in another world, that it was of no use to make haste, since the angel had prohibited his going higher up the mountain. He and his companions had to walk round the foot of it as many years as they had delayed repenting; unless, as in the case of Manfredi, their time was shortened by the prayers of good people.

A little further on, the pilgrims encountered the spirits of such Delayers of Penitence as, having died violent deaths, repented at the last moment. One of them, Buonconte da Montefeltro, who died in battle, and whose body could not be found, described how the devil, having been hindered from seizing him by the shedding of a single tear, had raised in his fury a tremendous tempest, which sent the body down the river Arno, and buried it in the mud.[9]

Another spirit, a female, said to Dante, "Ah! when thou returnest to earth, and shalt have rested from thy long journey, remember me,—Pia. Sienna gave me life; the Marshes took it from me. This he knows, who put on my finger the wedding-ring."[10]

The majority of this party were so importunate with the Florentine to procure them the prayers of their friends, that he had as much difficulty to get away, as a winner at dice has to free himself from the mercenary congratulations of the by-standers. On resuming their way, Dante quoted to Virgil a passage in the AEneid, decrying the utility of prayer, and begged him to explain how it was to be reconciled with what they had just heard. Virgil advised him to wait for the explanation till he saw Beatrice, whom, he now said, he should meet at the top of the mountain. Dante, at this information, expressed a desire to hasten their progress; and Virgil, seeing a spirit looking towards them as they advanced, requested him to acquaint them with the shortest road.

The spirit, maintaining a lofty and reserved aspect, was as silent as if he had not heard the request; intimating by his manner that they might as well proceed without repeating it, and eyeing them like a lion on the watch. Virgil, however, went up to him, and gently urged it; but the only reply was a question as to who they were and of what country. The Latin poet beginning to answer him, had scarcely mentioned the word "Mantua," when the stranger went as eagerly up to his interrogator as the latter had done to him, and said, "Mantua! My own country! My name is Sordello." And the compatriots embraced.

O degenerate Italy! exclaims Dante; land without affections, without principle, without faith in any one good thing! here was a man who could not hear the sweet sound of a fellow-citizen's voice without feeling his heart gush towards him, and there are no people now in any one of thy towns that do not hate and torment one another.

Sordello, in another tone, now exclaimed, "But who are ye?"

Virgil disclosed himself, and Sordello fell at his feet.[11]

Sordello now undertook to accompany the great Roman poet and his friend to a certain distance on their ascent towards the penal quarters of the mountain; but as evening was drawing nigh, and the ascent could not be made properly in the dark, he proposed that they should await the dawning of the next day in a recess that overlooked a flowery hollow. The hollow was a lovely spot of ground, enamelled with flowers that surpassed the exquisitest dyes, and green with a grass brighter than emeralds newly broken.[12] There rose from it also a fragrance of a thousand different kinds of sweetness, all mingled into one that was new and indescribable; and with the fragrance there ascended the chant of the prayer beginning "Hail, Queen of Heaven,"[13] which was sung by a multitude of souls that appeared sitting on the flowery sward.

Virgil pointed them out. They were penitent delayers of penitence, of sovereign rank. Among them, however, were spirits who sat mute; one of whom was the Emperor Rodolph, who ought to have attended better to Italy, the garden of the empire; and another, Ottocar, king of Bohemia, his enemy, who now comforted him; and another, with a small nose,[14] Philip the Third of France, who died a fugitive, shedding the leaves of the lily; he sat beating his breast; and with him was Henry the Third of Navarre, sighing with his cheek on his hand. One was the father, and one the father-in-law of Philip the Handsome, the bane of France; and it was on account of his unworthiness they grieved.

But among the singers Virgil pointed out the strong-limbed King of Arragon, Pedro; and Charles, king of Naples, with his masculine nose (these two were singing together); and Henry the Third of England, the king of the simple life, sitting by himself;[15] and below these, but with his eyes in heaven, Guglielmo marquis of Montferrat.

It was now the hour when men at sea think longingly of home, and feel their hearts melt within them to remember the day on which they bade adieu to beloved friends; and now, too, was the hour when the pilgrim, new to his journey, is thrilled with the like tenderness, when he hears the vesper-bell in the distance, which seems to mourn for the expiring day.[16] At this hour of the coming darkness, Dante beheld one of the spirits in the flowery hollow arise, and after giving a signal to the others to do as he did, stretch forth both hands, palm to palm, towards the East, and with softest emotion commence the hymn beginning,

"Thee before the closing light."[17]

Upon which all the rest devoutly and softly followed him, keeping their eyes fixed on the heavens. At the end of it they remained, with pale countenances, in an attitude of humble expectation; and Dante saw the angels issue from the quarter to which they looked, and descend towards them with flaming swords in their hands, broken short of the point. Their wings were as green as the leaves in spring; and they wore garments equally green, which the fanning of the wings kept in a state of streaming fluctuation behind them as they came. One of them took his stand on a part of the hill just over where the pilgrims stood, and the other on a hill opposite, so that the party in the valley were between them. Dante could discern their heads of hair, notwithstanding its brightness; but their faces were so dazzling as to be undistinguishable.

"They come from Mary's bosom," whispered Sordello, "to protect the valley from the designs of our enemy yonder,—the Serpent."

Dante looked in trepidation towards the only undefended side of the valley, and beheld the Serpent of Eve coming softly among the grass and flowers, occasionally turning its head, and licking its polished back. Before he could take off his eyes from the evil thing, the two angels had come down like falcons, and at the whirring of their pinions the serpent fled. The angels returned as swiftly to their stations.

Aurora was now looking palely over the eastern cliff on the other side of the globe, and the stars of midnight shining over the heads of Dante and his friends, when they seated themselves for rest on the mountain's side. The Florentine, being still in the flesh, lay down for weariness, and was overcome with sleep. In his sleep he dreamt that a golden eagle flashed down like lightning upon him, and bore him up to the region of fire, where the heat was so intense that it woke him, staring and looking round about with a pale face. His dream was a shadowing of the truth. He had actually come to another place,—to the entrance of Purgatory itself. Sordello had been left behind, Virgil alone remained, looking him cheerfully in the face. Saint Lucy had come from heaven, and shortened the fatigue of his journey by carrying him upwards as he slept, the heathen poet following them. On arriving where they stood, the fair saint intimated the entrance of Purgatory to Virgil by a glance thither of her beautiful eyes, and then vanished as Dante woke.[18]

The portal by which Purgatory was entered was embedded in a cliff. It had three steps, each of a different colour; and on the highest of these there sat, mute and watching, an angel in ash-coloured garments, holding a naked sword, which glanced with such intolerable brightness on Dante, whenever he attempted to look, that he gave up the endeavour. The angel demanded who they were, and receiving the right answer, gently bade them advance.

Dante now saw, that the lowest step was of marble, so white and clear that he beheld his face in it. The colour of the next was a deadly black, and it was all rough, scorched, and full of cracks. The third was of flaming porphyry, red as a man's blood when it leaps forth under the lancet.[19] The angel, whose feet were on the porphyry, sat on a threshold which appeared to be rock-diamond. Dante, ascending the steps, with the encouragement of Virgil, fell at the angel's feet, and, after thrice beating himself on the breast, humbly asked admittance. The angel, with the point of his sword, inscribed the first letter of the word peccatum (sin) seven times on the petitioner's forehead; then, bidding him pray with tears for their erasement, and be cautious how he looked back, opened the portal with a silver and a golden key.[20] The hinges roared, as they turned, like thunder; and the pilgrims, on entering, thought they heard, mingling with the sound, a chorus of voices singing, "We praise thee, O God!"[21] It was like the chant that mingles with a cathedral organ, when the words that the choristers utter are at one moment to be distinguished, and at another fade away.

The companions continued ascending till they reached a plain. It stretched as far as the eye could see, and was as lonely as roads across deserts.

This was the first flat, or table-land, of the ascending gradations of Purgatory, and the place of trial for the souls of the Proud. It was bordered with a mound, or natural wall, of white marble, sculptured all over with stories of humility. Dante beheld among them the Annunciation, represented with so much life, that the sweet action of the angel seemed to be uttering the very word, "Hail!" and the submissive spirit of the Virgin to be no less impressed, like very wax, in her demeanour. The next story was that of David dancing and harping before the ark,—an action in which he seemed both less and greater than a king. Michal was looking out upon him from a window, like a lady full of scorn and sorrow. Next to the story of David was that of the Emperor Trajan, when he did a thing so glorious, as moved St. Gregory to gain the greatest of all his conquests—the delivering of the emperor's soul from hell.

A widow, in tears and mourning, was laying hold of his bridle as he rode amidst his court with a noise of horses and horsemen, while the Roman eagles floated in gold over his head. The miserable creature spoke out loudly among them all, crying for vengeance on the murderers of her sons. The emperor seemed to say, "Wait till I return."

But she, in the hastiness of her misery, said, "Suppose thou returnest not?"

"Then my successor will attend to thee," replied the emperor.

"And what hast thou to do with the duties of another man," cried she, "if thou attendest not to thine own?"

"Now, be of good comfort," concluded Trajan, "for verily my duty shall be done before I go; justice wills it, and pity arrests me."

Dante was proceeding to delight himself further with these sculptures, when Virgil whispered hint to look round and see what was coming. He did so, and beheld strange figures advancing, the nature of which he could not make out at first, for they seemed neither human, nor aught else which he could call to mind. They were souls of the proud, bent double under enormous burdens.

"O proud, miserable, woe-begone Christians!" exclaims the poet; "ye who, in the shortness of your sight, see no reason for advancing in the right path! Know ye not that we are worms, born to compose the angelic butterfly, provided we throw off the husks that impede our flight?"[22]

The souls came slowly on, each bending down in proportion to his burden. They looked like the crouching figures in architecture that are used to support roofs or balconies, and that excite piteous fancies in the beholders. The one that appeared to have the most patience, yet seemed as if he said, "I can endure no further."

The sufferers, notwithstanding their anguish, raised their voices in a paraphrase on the Lord's Prayer, which they concluded with humbly stating, that they repeated the clause against temptation, not for themselves, but for those who were yet living.

Virgil, wishing them a speedy deliverance, requested them to spew the best way of going up to the next circle. Who it was that answered him could not be discerned, on account of their all being so bent down; but a voice gave them the required direction; the speaker adding, that he wished he could raise his eyes, so as to see the living creature that stood near him. He said that his name was Omberto—that he came of the great Tuscan race of Aldobrandesco—and that his countrymen, the Siennese, murdered him on account of his arrogance.

Dante had bent down his own head to listen, and in so doing he was recognised by one of the sufferers, who, eyeing him as well as he could, addressed him by name. The poet replied by exclaiming, "Art thou not Oderisi, the glory of Agubbio, the master of the art of illumination?"

"Ah!" said Oderisi, "Franco of Bologna has all the glory now. His colours make the pages of books laugh with beauty, compared with what mine do.[23] I could not have owned it while on earth, for the sin which has brought me hither; but so it is; and so will it ever be, let a man's fame be never so green and flourishing, unless he can secure a dull age to come after him. Cimabue, in painting, lately kept the field against all comers, and now the cry is 'Giotto.' Thus, in song, a new Guido has deprived the first of his glory, and he perhaps is born who shall drive both out of the nest.[24] Fame is but a wind that changes about from all quarters. What does glory amount to at best, that a man should prefer living and growing old for it, to dying in the days of his nurse and his pap-boat, even if it should last him a thousand years? A thousand years!—the twinkling of an eye. Behold this man, who weeps before me; his name resounded once over all our Tuscany, and now it is scarcely whispered in his native place. He was lord there at the time that your once proud but now loathsome Florence had such a lesson given to its frenzy at the battle of Arbia."

"And what is his name?" inquired Dante.

"Salvani," returned the limner. "He is here, because he had the presumption to think that he could hold Sienna in the hollow of his hand. Fifty years has he paced in this manner. Such is the punishment for audacity."

"But why is he here at all," said Dante, "and not in the outer region, among the delayers of repentance?"

"Because," exclaimed the other, "in the height of his ascendancy he did not disdain to stand in the public place in Sienna, and, trembling in every vein, beg money from the people to ransom a friend from captivity. Do I appear to thee to speak with mysterious significance? Thy countrymen shall too soon help thee to understand me."[25]

Virgil now called Dante away from Oderisi, and bade him notice the ground on which they were treading. It was pavement, wrought all over with figures, like sculptured tombstones. There was Lucifer among them, struck flaming down from heaven; and Briareus, pinned to the earth with the thunderbolt, and, with the other giants, amazing the gods with his hugeness; and Nimrod, standing confounded at the foot of Babel; and Niobe, with her despairing eyes, turned into stone amidst her children; and Saul, dead on his own sword in Gilboa; and Arachne, now half spider, at fault on her own broken web; and Rehoboam, for all his insolence, flying in terror in his chariot; and Alcmaeon, who made his mother pay with her life for the ornament she received to betray his father; and Sennacherib, left dead by his son in the temple; and the head of Cyrus, thrown by the motherless woman into the goblet of blood, that it might swill what it had thirsted for; and Holofernes, beheaded; and his Assyrians flying at his death; and Troy, all become cinders and hollow places. Oh! what a fall from pride was there! Now, maintain the loftiness of your looks, ye sons of Eve, and walk with proud steps, bending not your eyes on the dust ye were, lest ye perceive the evil of your ways.[26]

"Behold," said Virgil, "there is an angel coming."

The angel came on, clad in white, with a face that sent trembling beams before it, like the morning star. He skewed the pilgrims the way up to the second circle; and then, beating his wings against the forehead of Dante, on which the seven initials of sin were written, told him he should go safely, and disappeared.

On reaching the new circle, Dante, instead of the fierce wailings that used to meet him at every turn in hell, heard voices singing, "Blessed are the poor in spirit."[27] As he went, he perceived that he walked lighter, and was told by Virgil that the angel had freed him from one of the letters on his forehead. He put his hand up to make sure, as a man does in the street when people take notice of something on his head of which he is not aware; and Virgil smiled.

In this new circle the sin of Envy was expiated. After the pilgrims had proceeded a mile, they heard the voices of invisible spirits passing them, uttering sentiments of love and charity; for it was charity itself that had to punish envy.

The souls of the envious, clad in sackcloth, sat leaning for support and humiliation, partly against the rocky wall of the circle, and partly on one another's shoulders, after the manner of beggars that ask alms near places of worship. Their eyes were sewn up, like those of hawks in training, but not so as to hinder them from shedding tears, which they did in abundance; and they cried, "Mary, pray for us!—Michael, Peter, and all the saints, pray for us!"

Dante spoke to them; and one, a female, lifted up her chin as a blind person does when expressing consciousness of notice, and said she was Sapia of Sienna, who used to be pleased at people's misfortunes, and had rejoiced when her countrymen lost the battle of Colle. "Sapia was my name," she said, "but sapient I was not[28], for I prayed God to defeat my countrymen; and when he had done so (as he had willed to do), I raised my bold face to heaven, and cried out to him, 'Now do thy worst, for I fear thee not!' I was like the bird in the fable, who thought the fine day was to last for ever. What I should have done in my latter days to make up for the imperfect amends of my repentance, I know not, if the holy Piero Pettignano had not assisted me with his prayers. But who art thou that goest with open eyes, and breathest in thy talk?"

"Mine eyes," answered Dante, "may yet have to endure the blindness in this place, though for no long period. Far more do I fear the sufferings in the one that I have just left. I seem to feel the weight already upon me."[29]

The Florentine then informed Sapia how he came thither, which, she said, was a great sign that God loved him; and she begged his prayers. The conversation excited the curiosity of two spirits who overheard it; and one of them, Guido del Duca, a noble Romagnese, asked the poet of what country he was. Dante, without mentioning the name of the river, intimated that he came from the banks of the Arno; upon which the other spirit, Rinier da Calboli, asked his friend why the stranger suppressed the name, as though it was something horrible. Guido said he well might; for the river, throughout its course, beheld none but bad men and persecutors of virtue. First, he said, it made its petty way by the sties of those brutal hogs, the people of Casentino, and then arrived at the dignity of watering the kennels of the curs of Arezzo, who excelled more in barking than in biting; then, growing unluckier as it grew larger, like the cursed and miserable ditch that it was, it found in Florence the dogs become wolves; and finally, ere it went into the sea, it passed the den of those foxes, the Pisans, who were full of such cunning that they held traps in contempt.

"It will be well," continued Guido, "for this man to remember what he hears;" and then, after prophesying evil to Florence, and confessing to Dante his sin of envy, which used to make him pale when any one looked happy, he added, "This is Rinieri, the glory of that house of Calboli which now inherits not a spark of it. Not a spark of it, did I say, in the house of Calboli? Where is there a spark in all Romagna? Where is the good Lizio?—where Manardi, Traversaro, Carpigna? The Romagnese have all become bastards. A mechanic founds a house in Bologna! a Bernardin di Fosco finds his dog-grass become a tree in Faenza! Wonder not, Tuscan, to see me weep, when I think of the noble spirits that we have lived with—of the Guidos of Prata, and the Ugolins of Azzo—of Federigo Tignoso and his band—of the Traversaros and Anastagios, families now ruined—and all the ladies and the cavaliers, the alternate employments and delights which wrapped us in a round of love and courtesy, where now there is nothing but ill-will! O castle of Brettinoro! why dost thou not fall? Well has the lord of Bagnacavallo done, who will have no more children. Who would propagate a race of Counties from such blood as the Castrocaros and the Conios? Is not the son of Pagani called the Demon? and would it not be better that such a son were swept out of the family? Nay, let him live to chew to what a pitch of villany it has arrived. Ubaldini alone is blest, for his name is good, and he is too old to leave a child after him. Go, Tuscan—go; for I would be left to my tears."

Dante and Virgil turned to move onward, and had scarcely done so, when a tremendous voice met them, splitting the air like peals of thunder, and crying out, "Whoever finds me will slay me!" then dashed apart, like the thunder-bolt when it falls. It was Cain. The air had scarcely recovered its silence, when a second crash ensued from a different quarter near them, like thunder when the claps break swiftly into one another. "I am Aglauros," it said, "that was turned into stone." Dante drew closer to his guide, and there ensued a dead silence.[30]

The sun was now in the west, and the pilgrims were journeying towards it, when Dante suddenly felt such a weight of splendour on his eyes, as forced him to screen them with both his hands. It was an angel coming to show them the ascent to the next circle, a way that was less steep than the last. While mounting, they heard the angel's voice singing behind them, "Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy!" and on his leaving them to proceed by themselves, the second letter on Dante's forehead was found to have been effaced by the splendour.

The poet looked round in wonder on the new circle, where the sin of Anger was expiated, and beheld, as in a dream, three successive spectacles illustrative of the virtue of patience. The first was that of a crowded temple, on the threshold of which a female said to her son, in the sweet manner of a mother, "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing:"[31]—and here she became silent, and the vision ended. The next was the lord of Athens, Pisistratus, calmly reproving his wife for wishing him to put to death her daughter's lover, who, in a transport, had embraced her in public. "If we are to be thus severe," said Pisistratus, "with those that love us, what is to be done with such as hate?" The last spectacle was that of a furious multitude shouting and stoning to death a youth, who, as he fell to the ground, still kept his face towards heaven, making his eyes the gates through which his soul reached it, and imploring forgiveness for his murderers.[32]

The visions passed away, leaving the poet staggering as if but half awake. They were succeeded by a thick and noisome fog, through which he followed his leader with the caution of a blind man, Virgil repeatedly telling him not to quit him a moment. Here they heard voices praying in unison for pardon to the "Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world." They were the spirits of the angry. Dante conversed with one of them on free-will and necessity; and after quitting him, and issuing by degrees from the cloud, beheld illustrative visions of anger; such as the impious mother, who was changed into the bird that most delights in singing; Haman, retaining his look of spite and rage on the cross; and Lavinia, mourning for her mother, who slew herself for rage at the death of Turnus.[33]

These visions were broken off by a great light, as sleep is broken; and Dante heard a voice out of it saying, "The ascent is here." He then, as Virgil and he ascended into the fourth circle, felt an air on his face, as if caused by the fanning of wings, accompanied by the utterance of the words, "Blessed are the peace-makers;" and his forehead was lightened of the third letter.[34]

In this fourth circle was expiated Lukewarmness, or defect of zeal for good. The sufferers came speeding and weeping round the mountain, making amends for the old indifference by the haste and fire of the new love that was in them. "Blessed Mary made haste," cried one, "to salute Elizabeth." "And Caesar," cried another, "to smite Pompey at Lerida."[35] "And the disobedient among the Israelites," cried others, "died before they reached the promised land." "And the tired among the Trojans preferred ease in Sicily to glory in Latium."—It was now midnight, and Dante slept and had a dream.

His dream was of a woman who came to him, having a tongue that tried ineffectually to speak, squinting eyes, feet whose distortion drew her towards the earth, stumps of hands, and a pallid face. Dante looked earnestly at her, and his look acted upon her like sunshine upon cold. Her tongue was loosened; her feet made straight; she stood upright; her paleness became a lovely rose-colour; and she warbled so beautifully, that the poet could not have refused to listen had he wished it.

"I am the sweet Syren," she said, "who made the mariners turn pale for pleasure in the sea. I drew Ulysses out of his course with my song; and he that harbours with me once, rarely departs ever, so well I pay him for what he abandons."

Her lips were not yet closed, when a lady of holy and earliest countenance came up to shame her. "O Virgil!" she cried angrily, "who is this?" Virgil approached, with his eyes fixed on the lady; and the lady tore away the garments of the woman, and spewed her to be a creature so loathly, that the sleeper awoke with the horror.[36]

Virgil said, "I have called thee three times to no purpose. Let us move, and find the place at which we are to go higher."

It was broad day, with a sun that came warm on the shoulders; and Dante was proceeding with his companion, when the softest voice they ever heard directed them where to ascend, and they found an angel with them, who pointed his swan-like wings upward, and then flapped them against the pilgrims, taking away the fourth letter from the forehead of Dante. "Blessed are they that mourn," said the angel, "for they shall be comforted."

The pilgrims ascended into the fifth circle, and beheld the expiators of Avarice grovelling on the ground, and exclaiming, as loud as they could for the tears that choked them, "My soul hath cleaved to the dust." Dante spoke to one, who turned out to be Pope Adrian the Fifth. The poet fell on his knees; but Adrian bade him arise and err not. "I am no longer," said he, "spouse of the Church, here; but fellow-servant with thee and with all others. Go thy ways, and delay not the time of my deliverance."

The pilgrims moving onward, Dante heard a spirit exclaim, in the struggling tones of a woman in child-bed, "O blessed Virgin! That was a poor roof thou hadst when thou wast delivered of thy sacred burden. O good Fabricius! Virtue with poverty was thy choice, and not vice with riches." And then it told the story of Nicholas, who, hearing that a father was about to sacrifice the honour of his three daughters for want of money, threw bags of it in at his window, containing portions for them all.

Dante earnestly addressed this spirit to know who he was; and the spirit said it would tell him, not for the sake of help, for which it looked elsewhere, but because of the shining grace that was in his questioner, though yet alive.

"I was root," said the spirit, "of that evil plant which overshadows all Christendom to such little profit. Hugh Capet was I, ancestor of the Philips and Louises of France, offspring of a butcher of Paris, when the old race of kings was worn out.[37] We began by seizing the government in Paris; then plundered in Provence; then, to make amends, laid hold of Poitou, Normandy, and Gascony; then, still to make amends, put Conradin to death and seized Naples; then, always to make amends, gave Saint Aquinas his dismissal to Heaven by poison. I see the time at hand when a descendant of mine will be called into Italy, and the spear that Judas jousted with[38] shall transfix the bowels of Florence. Another of my posterity sells his daughter for a sum of money to a Marquis of Ferrara. Another seizes the pope in Alagna, and mocks Christ over again in the person of his Vicar. A fourth rends the veil of the temple, solely to seize its money. O Lord, how shall I rejoice to see the vengeance which even now thou huggest in delight to thy bosom![39]

"Of loving and liberal things," continued Capet, "we speak while it is light; such as thou heardest me record, when I addressed myself to the blessed Virgin. But when night comes, we take another tone. Then we denounce Pygmalion,[39] the traitor, the robber, and the parricide, each the result of his gluttonous love of gold; and Midas, who obtained his wish, to the laughter of all time; and the thief Achan, who still seems frightened at the wrath of Joshua; and Sapphira and her husband, whom we accuse over again before the Apostles; and Heliodorus, whom we bless the hoofs of the angel's horse for trampling;[40] and Crassus, on whom we call with shouts of derision to tell us the flavour of his molten gold. Thus we record our thoughts in the night-time, now high, now low, now at greater or less length, as each man is prompted by his impulses. And it was thus thou didst hear me recording also by day-time, though I had no respondent near me."

The pilgrims quitted Hugh Capet, and were eagerly pursuing their journey, when, to the terror of Dante, they felt the whole mountain of Purgatory tremble, as though it were about to fall in. The island of Delos shook not so awfully when Latona, hiding there, brought forth the twin eyes of Heaven. A shout then arose on every side, so enormous, that Virgil stood nigher to his companion, and bade him be of good heart. "Glory be to God in the highest," cried the shout; but Dante could gather the words only from those who were near him.

It was Purgatory rejoicing for the deliverance of a soul out of its bounds.[41]

The soul overtook the pilgrims as they were journeying in amazement onwards; and it turned out to be that of Statius, who had been converted to Christianity in the reign of Domitian.[42] Mutual astonishment led to inquiries that explained who the other Latin poet was; and Statius fell at his master's feet.

Statius had expiated his sins in the circle of Avarice, not for that vice, but for the opposite one of Prodigality.

An angel now, as before, took the fifth letter from Dante's forehead; and the three poets having ascended into the sixth round of the mountain, were journeying on lovingly together, Dante listening with reverence to the talk of the two ancients, when they came up to a sweet-smelling fruit-tree, upon which a clear stream came tumbling from a rock beside it, and diffusing itself through the branches. The Latin poets went up to the tree, and were met by a voice which said, "Be chary of the fruit. Mary thought not of herself at Galilee, but of the visitors, when she said, 'They have no wine.' The women of oldest Rome drank water. The beautiful age of gold feasted on acorns. Its thirst made nectar out of the rivulet. The Baptist fed on locusts and wild honey, and became great as you see him in the gospel."

The poets went on their way; and Dante was still listening to the others, when they heard behind them a mingled sound of chanting and weeping, which produced an effect at once sad and delightful. It was the psalm, "O Lord, open thou our lips!" and the chanters were expiators of the sin of Intemperance in Meats and Drinks. They were condemned to circuit the mountain, famished, and to long for the fruit and waters of the tree in vain. They soon came up with the poets—a pallid multitude, with hollow eyes, and bones staring through the skin. The sockets of their eyes looked like rings from which the gems had dropped.[43] One of them knew and accosted Dante, who could not recognise him till he heard him speak. It was Forese Donati, one of the poet's most intimate connexions. Dante, who had wept over his face when dead, could as little forbear weeping to see him thus hungering and thirsting, though he had expected to find him in the outskirts of the place, among the delayers of repentance. He asked his friend how he had so quickly got higher. Forese said it was owing to the prayers and tears of his good wife Nella; and then he burst into a strain of indignation against the contrast exhibited to her virtue by the general depravity of the Florentine women, whom he described as less modest than the half-naked savages in the mountains of Sardinia.

"What is to be said of such creatures?" continued he. "O my dear cousin! I see a day at hand, when these impudent women shall be for bidden from the pulpit to go exposing their naked bosoms. What savages or what infidels ever needed that? Oh! if they could see what Heaven has in store for them, their mouths would be this instant opened wide for howling."[44]

Forese then asked Dante to explain to himself and his astonished fellow-sufferers how it was that he stood there, a living body of flesh and blood, casting a shadow with his substance.

"If thou callest to mind," said Dante, "what sort of life thou and I led together, the recollection may still grieve thee sorely. He that walks here before us took me out of that life; and through his guidance it is that I have visited in the body the world of the dead, and am now traversing the mountain which leads us to the right path."[45]

After some further explanation, Forese pointed out to his friend, among the expiators of intemperance, Buonaggiunta of Lucca, the poet; and Pope Martin the Fourth, with a face made sharper than the rest for the eels which he used to smother in wine; and Ubaldino of Pila, grinding his teeth on air; and Archbishop Boniface of Ravenna, who fed jovially on his flock; and Rigogliosi of Forli, who had had time enough to drink in the other world, and yet never was satisfied. Buonaggiunta and Dante eyed one another with curiosity; and the former murmured something about a lady of the name of Gentucca.

"Thou seemest to wish to speak with me," said Dante.

"Thou art no admirer, I believe, of my native place," said Buonaggiunta; "and yet, if thou art he whom I take thee to be, there is a damsel there shall make it please thee. Art thou not author of the poem beginning

"Ladies, that understand the lore of love?"[46]

"I am one," replied Dante, "who writes as Love would have him, heeding no manner but his dictator's, and uttering simply what he suggests."[47]

"Ay, that is the sweet new style," returned Buonaggiunta; "and I now see what it was that hindered the notary, and Guittone, and myself, from hitting the right natural point." And here he ceased speaking, looking like one contented to have ascertained a truth.[48]

The whole multitude then, except Forese, skimmed away like cranes, swift alike through eagerness and through leanness. Forese lingered a moment to have a parting word with his friend, and to prophesy the violent end of the chief of his family, Corso, run away with and dragged at the heels of his horse faster and faster, till the frenzied animal smites him dead. Having given the poet this information, the prophet speeded after the others.

The companions now came to a second fruit-tree, to which a multitude were in vain lifting up their hands, just as children lift them to a man who tantalises them with shewing something which he withholds; but a voice out of a thicket by the road-side warned the travellers not to stop, telling them that the tree was an offset from that of which Eve tasted. "Call to mind," said the voice, "those creatures of the clouds, the Centaurs, whose feasting cost them their lives. Remember the Hebrews, how they dropped away from the ranks of Gideon to quench their effeminate thirst."[49]

The poets proceeded, wrapt in thought, till they heard another voice of a nature that made Dante start and shake as if he had been some paltry hackney.

"Of what value is thought," said the voice, "if it lose its way? The path lies hither."

Dante turned toward the voice, and beheld a shape glowing red as in a furnace, with a visage too dazzling to be looked upon. It met him, nevertheless, as he drew nigh, with an air from the fanning of its wings fresh as the first breathing of the wind on a May morning, and fragrant as all its flowers; and Dante lost the sixth letter on his forehead, and ascended with the two other poets into the seventh and last circle of the mountain.

This circle was all in flames, except a narrow path on the edge of its precipice, along which the pilgrims walked. A great wind from outside of the precipice kept the flames from raging beyond the path; and in the midst of the fire went spirits expiating the sin of Incontinence. They sang the hymn beginning "God of consummate mercy!"[50] Dante was compelled to divide his attention between his own footsteps and theirs, in order to move without destruction. At the close of the hymn they cried aloud, "I know not a man!"[51] and then recommenced it; after which they again cried aloud, saying, "Diana ran to the wood, and drove Calisto out of it, because she knew the poison of Venus!" And then again they sang the hymn, and then extolled the memories of chaste women and husbands; and so they went on without ceasing, as long as their time of trial lasted.

Occasionally the multitude that went in one direction met another which mingled with and passed through it, individuals of both greeting tenderly by the way, as emmets appear to do, when in passing they touch the antennae of one another. These two multitudes parted with loud and sorrowful cries, proclaiming the offences of which they had been guilty; and then each renewed their spiritual songs and prayers.

The souls here, as in former circles, knew Dante to be a living creature by the shadow which he cast; and after the wonted explanations, he learned who some of them were. One was his predecessor in poetry, Guido Guinicelli, from whom he could not take his eyes for love and reverence, till the sufferer, who told him there was a greater than himself in the crowd, vanished away through the fire as a fish does in water. The greater one was Arnauld Daniel, the Provencal poet, who, after begging the prayers of the traveller, disappeared in like manner.

The sun by this time was setting on the fires of Purgatory, when an angel came crossing the road through them, and then, standing on the edge of the precipice, with joy in his looks, and singing, "Blessed are the pure in heart!" invited the three poets to plunge into the flames themselves, and so cross the road to the ascent by which the summit of the mountain was gained. Dante, clasping his hands, and raising them aloft, recoiled in horror. The thought of all that he had just witnessed made him feel as if his own hour of death was come. His companion encouraged him to obey the angel; but he could not stir. Virgil said, "Now mark me, son; this is the only remaining obstacle between thee and Beatrice;" and then himself and Statius entering the fire, Dante followed them.

"I could have cast myself," said he, "into molten glass to cool myself, so raging was the furnace." Virgil talked of Beatrice to animate him. He said, "Methinks I see her eyes beholding us." There was, indeed, a great light upon the quarter to which they were crossing; and out of the light issued a voice, which drew them onwards, singing, "Come, blessed of my Father! Behold, the sun is going down, and the night cometh, and the ascent is to be gained."

The travellers gained the ascent, issuing out of the fire; and the voice and the light ceased, and night was come. Unable to ascend farther in the darkness, they made themselves a bed, each of a stair in the rock; and Dante, in his happy humility, felt as if he had been a goat lying down for the night near two shepherds.

Towards dawn, at the hour of the rising of the star of love, he had a dream, in which he saw a young and beautiful lady coming over a lea, and bending every now and then to gather flowers; and as she bound the flowers into a garland, she sang, "I am Leah, gathering flowers to adorn myself, that my looks may seem pleasant to me in the mirror. But my sister Rachel abides before the mirror, flowerless; contented with her beautiful eyes. To behold is my sister's pleasure, and to work is mine."[52]

When Dante awoke, the beams of the dawn were visible; and they now produced a happiness like that of the traveller, who every time he awakes knows himself to be nearer home. Virgil and Statius were already up; and all three, resuming their way to the mountain's top, stood upon it at last, and gazed round about them on the skirts of the terrestrial Paradise. The sun was sparkling bright over a green land, full of trees and flowers. Virgil then announced to Dante, that here his guidance terminated, and that the creature of flesh and blood was at length to be master of his own movements, to rest or to wander as he pleased, the tried and purified lord over himself.

The Florentine, eager to taste his new liberty, left his companions awhile, and strolled away through the celestial forest, whose thick and lively verdure gave coolness to the senses in the midst of the brightest sun. A fragrance came from every part of the soil; a sweet unintermitting air streamed against the walker's face; and as the full-hearted birds, warbling on all sides, welcomed the morning's radiance into the trees, the trees themselves joined in the concert with a swelling breath, like that which rises among the pines of Chiassi, when Eolus lets loose the south-wind, and the gathering melody comes rolling through the forest from bough to bough.[53]

Dante had proceeded far enough to lose sight of the point at which he entered, when he found himself on the bank of a rivulet, compared with whose crystal purity the limpidest waters on earth were clouded. And yet it flowed under a perpetual depth of shade, which no beam either of sun or moon penetrated. Nevertheless the darkness was coloured with endless diversities of May-blossoms; and the poet was standing in admiration, looking up at it along its course, when he beheld something that took away every other thought; to wit, a lady, all alone, on the other side of the water, singing and culling flowers.

"Ah, lady!" said the poet, "who, to judge by the cordial beauty in thy looks, hast a heart overflowing with love, be pleased to draw thee nearer to the stream, that I may understand the words thou singest. Thou remindest me of Proserpine, of the place she was straying in, and of what sort of creature she looked, when her mother lost her, and she herself lost the spring-time on earth."

As a lady turns in the dance when it goes smoothest, moving round with lovely self-possession, and scarcely seeming to put one foot before the other, so turned the lady towards the water over the yellow and vermilion flowers, dropping her eyes gently as she came, and singing so that Dante could hear her. Then when she arrived at the water, she stopped, and raised her eyes towards him, and smiled, shewing him the flowers in her hands, and shifting them with her fingers into a display of all their beauties. Never were such eyes beheld, not even when Venus herself was in love. The stream was a little stream; yet Dante felt it as great an intervention between them, as if it had been Leander's Hellespont.

The lady explained to him the nature of the place, and how the rivulet was the Lethe of Paradise;—Lethe, where he stood, but called Eunoe higher up; the drink of the one doing away all remembrance of evil deeds, and that of the other restoring all remembrance of good.[54] It was the region, she said, in which Adam and Eve had lived; and the poets had beheld it perhaps in their dreams on Mount Parnassus, and hence imagined their golden age;—and at these words she looked at Virgil and Statius, who by this time had come up, and who stood smiling at her kindly words.

Resuming her song, the lady turned and passed up along the rivulet the contrary way of the stream, Dante proceeding at the same rate of time on his side of it; till on a sudden she cried, "Behold, and listen!" and a light of exceeding lustre came streaming through the woods, followed by a dulcet melody. The poets resumed their way in a rapture of expectation, and saw the air before them glowing under the green boughs like fire. A divine spectacle ensued of holy mystery, with evangelical and apocalyptic images, which gradually gave way and disclosed a car brighter than the chariot of the sun, accompanied by celestial nymphs, and showered upon by angels with a cloud of flowers, in the midst of which stood a maiden in a white veil, crowned with olive.

The love that had never left Dante's heart from childhood told him who it was; and trembling in every vein, he turned round to Virgil for encouragement. Virgil was gone. At that moment, Paradise and Beatrice herself could not requite the pilgrim for the loss of his friend; and the tears ran down his cheeks.

"Dante," said the veiled maiden across the stream, "weep not that Virgil leaves thee. Weep thou not yet. The stroke of a sharper sword is coming, at which it will behove thee to weep." Then assuming a sterner attitude, and speaking in the tone of one who reserves the bitterest speech for the last, she added, "Observe me well. I am, as thou suspectest, Beatrice indeed;—Beatrice, who has to congratulate thee on deigning to seek the mountain at last. And hadst thou so long indeed to learn, that here only can man be happy?"

Dante, casting down his eyes at these words, beheld his face in the water, and hastily turned aside, he saw it so full of shame.

Beatrice had the dignified manner of an offended parent; such a flavour of bitterness was mingled with her pity.

She held her peace; and the angels abruptly began singing, "In thee, O Lord, have I put my trust;" but went no farther in the psalm than the words, "Thou hast set my feet in a large room." The tears of Dante had hitherto been suppressed; but when the singing began, they again rolled down his cheeks.

Beatrice, in a milder tone, said to the angels, "This man, when he proposed to himself in his youth to lead a new life, was of a truth so gifted, that every good habit ought to have thrived with him; but the richer the soil, the greater peril of weeds. For a while, the innocent light of my countenance drew him the right way; but when I quitted mortal life, he took away his thoughts from remembrance of me, and gave himself to others. When I had risen from flesh to spirit, and increased in worth and beauty, then did I sink in his estimation, and he turned into other paths, and pursued false images of good that never keep their promise. In vain I obtained from Heaven the power of interfering in his behalf, and endeavoured to affect him with it night and day. So little was he concerned, and into such depths he fell, that nothing remained but to shew him the state of the condemned; and therefore I went to their outer regions, and commended him with tears to the guide that brought him hither. The decrees of Heaven would be nought, if Lethe could be passed, and the fruit beyond it tasted, without any payment of remorse.[55]

"O thou," she continued, addressing herself to Dante, "who standest on the other side of the holy stream, say, have I not spoken truth?"

Dante was so confused and penitent, that the words failed as they passed his lips.

"What could induce thee," resumed his monitress, "when I had given thee aims indeed, to abandon them for objects that could end in nothing?"

Dante said, "Thy face was taken from me, and the presence of false pleasure led me astray."

"Never didst thou behold," cried the maiden, "loveliness like mine; and if bliss failed thee because of my death, how couldst thou be allured by mortal inferiority? That first blow should have taught thee to disdain all perishable things, and aspire after the soul that had gone before thee. How could thy spirit endure to stoop to further chances, or to a childish girl, or any other fleeting vanity? The bird that is newly out of the nest may be twice or thrice tempted by the snare; but in vain, surely, is the net spread in sight of one that is older."[56]

Dante stood as silent and abashed as a sorry child.

"If but to hear me," said Beatrice, "thus afflicts thee, lift up thy beard, and see what sight can do."

Dante, though feeling the sting intended by the word "beard," did as he was desired. The angels had ceased to scatter their clouds of flowers about the maiden; and be beheld her, though still beneath her veil, as far surpassing her former self in loveliness, as that self had surpassed others. The sight pierced him with such pangs, that the more he had loved any thing else, the more he now loathed it; and he fell senseless to the ground.

When he recovered his senses, he found himself in the hands of the lady he had first seen in the place, who bidding him keep firm hold of her, drew him into the river Lethe, and so through and across it to the other side, speeding as she went like a weaver's shuttle, and immersing him when she arrived, the angels all the while singing, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."[57] She then delivered him into the hands of the nymphs that had danced about the car,—nymphs on earth, but stars and cardinal virtues in heaven; a song burst from the lips of the angels; and Faith, Hope, and Charity, calling upon Beatrice to unveil her face, she did so; and Dante quenched the ten-years thirst of his eyes in her ineffable beauty.[58]

After a while he and Statius were made thoroughly regenerate with the waters of Eunoe; and he felt pure with a new being, and fit to soar into the stars.

[Footnote 1:

"Dolce color d'oriental zaffiro Che s'accoglieva nel serenoaspetto De l'aer puro infino al primo giro, A gli occhi miei ricomincio diletto, Tosto ch'io usci' fuor de l'aura morta Che m'avea contristati gli occhi e 'l petto.

Lo bel pianeta, ch'ad amar conforta, Faceva tutto rider l'oriente, Velando i Pesci, ch'erano in sua scorta.

Io mi volsi a man destra, e posi mente All'altro polo, e vidi quattro stelle Non viste mai, fuor ch'a la prima gente;

Goder pareva 'l ciel di lor fiammelle. O settentrional vedovo sito, Poi che privato sei di mirar quelle!"

The sweetest oriental sapphire blue, Which the whole air in its pure bosom had, Greeted mine eyes, far as the heavens withdrew;

So that again they felt assured and glad, Soon as they issued forth from the dead air, Where every sight and thought had made them sad.

The beauteous star, which lets no love despair, Made all the orient laugh with loveliness, Veiling the Fish that glimmered in its hair.

I turned me to the right to gaze and bless, And saw four more, never of living wight Beheld, since Adam brought us our distress;

Heaven seemed rejoicing in their happy light. O widowed northern pole, bereaved indeed, Since thou hast had no power to see that sight!

Readers who may have gone thus far with the "Italian Pilgrim's Progress," will allow me to congratulate them on arriving at this lovely scene, one of the most admired in the poem.

This is one of the passages which make the religious admirers of Dante inclined to pronounce him divinely inspired; for how could he otherwise have seen stars, they ask us, which were not discovered till after his time, and which compose the constellation of the Cross? But other commentators are of opinion, that the Cross, though not so named till subsequently (and Dante, we see, gives no prophetic hint about the name), had been seen, probably by stray navigators. An Arabian globe is even mentioned by M. Artaud (see Cary), in which the Southern Cross is set down. Mr. Cary, in his note on the passage, refers to Seneca's prediction of the discovery of America; most likely suggested by similar information. "But whatever," he adds, "may be thought of this, it is certain that the four stars are here symbolical of the four cardinal virtues;" and he refers to canto xxxi, where those virtues are retrospectively associated with these stars. The symbol, however, is not, necessary. Dante was a very curious inquirer on all subjects, and evidently acquainted with ships and seamen as well as geography; and his imagination would eagerly have seized a magnificent novelty like this, and used it the first opportunity. Columbus's discovery, as the reader will see, was anticipated by Pulci.]

[Footnote 2: Generous and disinterested!—Cato, the republican enemy of Caesar, and committer of suicide, is not luckily chosen for his present office by the poet who has put Brutus into the devil's mouth in spite of his agreeing with Cato, and the suicide Piero delle Vigne into hell in spite of his virtues. But Dante thought Cato's austere manners like his own.]

[Footnote 3: The girding with the rush (_giunco schietto_) is_ supposed by the commentators to be an injunction of simplicity and patience. Perhaps it is to enjoin sincerity; especially as the region of expiation has now been entered, and sincerity is the first step to repentance. It will be recollected that Dante's former girdle, the cord of the Franciscan friars, has been left in the hands of Fraud.]

[Footnote 4:

"L'alba vinceva l'ora mattutina Che fuggia 'nnanzi, si che di lontano Conobbi il tremolar de la marina."

The lingering shadows now began to flee Before the whitening dawn, so that mine eyes Discerned far off the trembling of the sea.

"Conobbi il tremolar de la marina" is a beautiful verse, both for the picture and the sound.]

[Footnote 5: This evidence of humility and gratitude on the part of Dante would be very affecting, if we could forget all the pride and passion he has been shewing elsewhere, and the torments in which he has left his fellow-creatures. With these recollections upon us, it looks like an overweening piece of self-congratulation at other people's expense.]

[Footnote 6:

"Amor che ne la mente mi ragiona De la mia donna disiosamente,"

is the beginning of the ode sung by Dante's friend. The incident is beautifully introduced; and Casella's being made to select a production from the pen of the man who asks him to sing, very delicately implies a graceful cordiality in the musician's character.

Milton alludes to the passage in his sonnet to Henry Lawes:

"Thou honour'st verse, and verse must lend her wing To honour thee, the priest of Phoebus' quire, That tun'st their happiest lines in hymn or story. Dante shall give Fame leave to set thee higher Than his Casella, whom he wooed to sing, Met in the milder shades of Purgatory." ]

[Footnote 7: Manfredi was the natural son of the Emperor Frederick the Second. "He was lively and agreeable in his manners," observes Mr. Cary, "and delighted in poetry, music, and dancing. But he was luxurious and ambitious, void of religion, and in his philosophy an epicurean." Translation of Dante, Smith's edition, p. 77. Thus King Manfredi ought to have been in a red-hot tomb, roasting for ever with Epicurus himself, and with the father of the poet's beloved friend, Guido Cavalcante: but he was the son of an emperor, and a foe to the house of Anjou; so Dante gives him a passport to heaven. There is no ground whatever for the repentance assumed in the text.]

[Footnote 8: The unexpected bit of comedy here ensuing is very remarkable and pleasant. Belacqua, according to an old commentator, was a musician.]

[Footnote 9: Buonconte was the son of that Guido da Montefeltro, whose soul we have seen carried off from St. Francis by a devil, for having violated the conditions of penitence. It is curious that both father and son should have been contested for in this manner.]

[Footnote 10: This is the most affecting and comprehensive of all brief stories.

"Deh quando to sarai tornato al mondo, E riposato de la lunga via, Seguito 'l terzo spirito al secondo,

Ricorditi di me che son la Pia: Siena mi fe; disfecemi Maremma; Salsi colui che 'nnanellata pria

Disposando m' avea con la sua gemma."

Ah, when thou findest thee again on earth (Said then a female soul), remember me,— Pia. Sienna was my place of birth,

The Marshes of my death. This knoweth he, Who placed upon my hand the spousal ring.

"Nello della Pietra," says M. Beyle, in his work entitled De l'Amour, "obtained in marriage the hand of Madonna Pia, sole heiress of the Ptolomei, the richest and most noble family of Sienna. Her beauty, which was the admiration of all Tuscany, gave rise to a jealousy in the breast of her husband, that, envenomed by wrong reports and suspicions continually reviving, led to a frightful catastrophe. It is not easy to determine at this day if his wife was altogether innocent; but Dante has represented her as such. Her husband carried her with him into the marshes of Volterra, celebrated then, as now, for the pestiferous effects of the air. Never would he tell his wife the reason of her banishment into so dangerous a place. His pride did not deign to pronounce either complaint or accusation. He lived with her alone, in a deserted tower, of which I have been to see the ruins on the seashore; he never broke his disdainful silence, never replied to the questions of his youthful bride, never listened to her entreaties. He waited, unmoved by her, for the air to produce its fatal effects. The vapours of this unwholesome swamp were not long in tarnishing features the most beautiful, they say, that in that age had appeared upon earth. In a few months she died. Some chroniclers of these remote times report that Nello employed the dagger to hasten her end: she died in the marshes in some horrible manner; but the mode of her death remained a mystery, even to her contemporaries. Nello della Pietra survived, to pass the rest of his days in a silence which was never broken." Hazlitt's Journey through France and Italy, p. 315.]

[Footnote 11: Sordello was a famous Provencal poet; with whose writings the world has but lately been made acquainted through the researches of M. Raynouard, in his Choix des Poesies des Troubadours, &c.]

[Footnote 12: "Fresco smeraldo in l'ora che si fiacca." An exquisite image of newness and brilliancy.]

[Footnote 13: "Salve, Regina:" the beginning of a Roman-Catholic chant to the Virgin.]

[Footnote 14: "With nose deprest," says Mr. Cary. But Dante says, literally, "small nose,"—nasetto. So, further on, he says, "masculine nose,"—maschio naso. He meant to imply the greater or less determination of character, which the size of that feature is supposed to indicate.]

[Footnote 15: An English reader is surprised to find here a sovereign for whom he has been taught to entertain little respect. But Henry was a devout servant of the Church.]

[Footnote 16:

"Era gia l'ora che volge 'l desio A' naviganti, e intenerisce 'l cuore Lo di ch' an detto a' dolci amici a Dio;

E che lo nuovo peregrin d'amore Punge, se ode squilla di lontano Che paia 'l giorno pianger che si muore."

A famous passage, untiring in the repetition. It is, indeed, worthy to be the voice of Evening herself.

'Twas now the hour, when love of home melts through Men's hearts at sea, and longing thoughts portray The moment when they bade sweet friends adieu; And the new pilgrim now, on his lone way, Thrills, if he hears the distant vesper-bell, That seems to mourn for the expiring day.

Every body knows the line in Gray's Elegy, not unworthily echoed from Dante's—

"The curfew tolls the knell of parting day."

Nothing can equal, however, the tone in the Italian original,—the

"Paia 'l giorno pianger the si muore."

Alas! why could not the great Tuscan have been superior enough to his personal griefs to write a whole book full of such beauties, and so have left us a work truly to be called Divine?]

[Footnote 17:

"Te lucis ante terminum;"—a hymn sung at evening service.]

[Footnote 18: Lucy, Lucia (supposed to be derived from lux, lucis), is the goddess (I was almost going to say) who in Roman Catholic countries may be said to preside over light, and who is really invoked in maladies of the eyes. She was Dante's favourite saint, possibly for that reason among others, for he had once hurt his eyes with study, and they had been cured. In her spiritual character she represents the light of grace.]

[Footnote 19: The first step typifies consciousness of sin; the second, horror of it; the third, zeal to amend.]

[Footnote 20: The keys of St. Peter. The gold is said by the commentators to mean power to absolve; the silver, the learning and judgment requisite to use it.]

[Footnote 21: "Te Deum laudamus," the well-known hymn of St. Ambrose and St. Augustine.]

[Footnote 22:

"Non v'accorgete voi, che noi siam vermi, Nati a formar l'angelica farfalla, Che vola a giustizia senza schermi?"

"Know you not, we are worms Born to compose the angelic butterfly, That flies to heaven when freed from what deforms?"

[Footnote 23:

"Piu ridon le carte Che penelleggia Franco Bolognese: L'onore e tutto or suo, e mio in parte."

[Footnote 24: The "new Guido" is his friend Guido Cavalcante (now dead); the "first" is Guido Guinicelli, for whose writings Dante had an esteem; and the poet, who is to "chase them from the nest," caccera di nido (as the not very friendly metaphor states it), is with good reason supposed to be himself! He was right; but was the statement becoming? It was certainly not necessary. Dante, notwithstanding his friendship with Guido, appears to have had a grudge against both the Cavalcanti, probably for some scorn they had shewn to his superstition; far they could be proud themselves; and the son has the reputation of scepticism, as well as the father. See the Decameron, Giorn. vi. Nov. 9.]

[Footnote 25: This is the passage from which it is conjectured that Dante knew what it was to "tremble in every vein," from the awful necessity of begging. Mr. Cary, with some other commentators, thinks that the "trembling" implies fear of being refused. But does it not rather mean the agony of the humiliation? In Salvani's case it certainly does; for it was in consideration of the pang to his pride, that the good deed rescued him from worse punishment.]

[Footnote 26: The reader will have noticed the extraordinary mixture of Paganism and the Bible in this passage, especially the introduction of such fables as Niobe and Arachne. It would be difficult not to suppose it intended to work out some half sceptical purpose, if we did not call to mind the grave authority given to fables in the poet's treatise on Monarchy, and the whole strange spirit, at once logical and gratuitous, of the learning of his age, when the acuter the mind, the subtler became the reconcilement with absurdity.]

[Footnote 27: Beati pauperes spiritu. "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"—one of the beautiful passages of the beautiful sermon on the Mount. How could the great poet read and admire such passages, and yet fill his books so full of all which they renounced? "Oh," say his idolators, "he did it out of his very love for them, and his impatience to see them triumph." So said the Inquisition. The evil was continued for the sake of the good which it prevented! The result in the long-run may be so, but not for the reasons they supposed, or from blindness to the indulgence of their bad passions.]

[Footnote 28:

"Savia non fui, avvegna che Sapia Fosse chiamata." The pun is poorer even than it sounds in English: for though the Italian name may possibly remind its readers of sapienza (sapience), there is the difference of a v in the adjective savia, which is also accented on the first syllable. It is almost as bad as if she had said in English, "Sophist I found myself, though Sophia is my name." It is pleasant, however, to see the great saturnine poet among the punsters.—It appears, from the commentators, that Sapia was in exile at the time of the battle, but they do not say for what; probably from some zeal of faction]

[Footnote 29: We are here let into Dante's confessions. He owns to a little envy, but far more pride:

"Gli occhi, diss' io, mi fieno ancor qui tolti, Ma picciol tempo; che poch' e l'offesa Fatta per esser con invidia volti. Troppa e piu la paura ond' e sospesa L'anima mia del tormento di sotto Che gia lo 'ncarco di la giu mi pesa."

The first confession is singularly ingenuous and modest; the second, affecting. It is curious to guess what sort of persons Dante could have allowed himself to envy—probably those who were more acceptable to women.]

[Footnote 29: Aglauros, daughter of Cecrops, king of Athens, was turned to stone by Mercury, for disturbing with her envy his passion for her sister Herse.

The passage about Cain is one of the sublimest in Dante. Truly wonderful and characteristic is the way in which he has made physical noise and violence express the anguish of the wanderer's mind. We are not to suppose, I conceive, that we see Cain. We know he has passed us, by his thunderous and headlong words. Dante may well make him invisible, for his words are things—veritable thunderbolts.

Cain comes in rapid successions of thunder-claps. The voice of Aglauros is thunder-claps crashing into one another—broken thunder. This is exceedingly fine also, and wonderful as a variation upon that awful music; but Cain is the astonishment and the overwhelmingness. If it were not, however, for the second thunder, we should not have had the two silences; for I doubt whether they are not better even than one. At all events, the final silence is tremendous.]

[Footnote 30: St. Luke ii. 48.]

[Footnote 31: The stoning of Stephen.]

[Footnote 32: These illustrative spectacles are not among the best inventions of Dante. Their introduction is forced, and the instances not always pointed. A murderess, too, of her son, changed into such a bird as the nightingale, was not a happy association of ideas in Homer, where Dante found it; and I am surprised he made use of it, intimate as he must have been with the less inconsistent story of her namesake, Philomela, in the Metamorphoses.]

[Footnote 33: So, at least, I conceive, by what appears afterwards; and I may here add, once for all, that I have supplied the similar requisite intimations at each successive step in Purgatory, the poet seemingly having forgotten to do so. It is necessary to what he implied in the outset. The whole poem, it is to be remembered, is thought to have wanted his final revision.]

[Footnote 34: What an instance to put among those of haste to do good! But the fame and accomplishments of Caesar, and his being at the head of our Ghibelline's beloved emperors, fairly overwhelmed Dante's boasted impartiality.]

[Footnote 35: A masterly allegory of Worldly Pleasure. But the close of it in the original has an intensity of the revolting, which outrages the last recesses of feeling, and disgusts us with the denouncer.]

[Footnote 36: The fierce Hugh Capet, soliloquising about the Virgin in the tones of a lady in child-bed, is rather too ludicrous an association of ideas. It was for calling this prince the son of a butcher, that Francis the First prohibited the admission of Dante's poem into his dominions. Mr. Cary thinks the king might have been mistaken in his interpretation of the passage, and that "butcher" may be simply a metaphorical term for the blood-thirstiness of Capet's father. But when we find the man called, not the butcher, or that butcher, or butcher in reference to his species, but in plain local parlance "a butcher of Paris" (un beccaio di Parigi), and when this designation is followed up by the allusion to the extinction of the previous dynasty, the ordinary construction of the words appears indisputable. Dante seems to have had no ground for what his aristocratical pride doubtless considered a hard blow, and what King Francis, indeed, condescended to feel as such. He met with the notion somewhere, and chose to believe it, in order to vex the French and their princes. The spirit of the taunt contradicts his own theories elsewhere; for he has repeatedly said, that the only true nobility is in the mind. But his writings (poetical truth excepted) are a heap of contradictions.]

[Footnote 37: Mr. Cary thought he had seen an old romance in which there is a combat of this kind between Jesus and his betrayer. I have an impression to the same effect.]

[Footnote 38:

"O Signor mio, quando saro io lieto A veder la vendetta the nascosa Fa dolce l'ira tua nel tuo segreto!"

The spirit of the blasphemous witticism attributed to another Italian, viz. that the reason why God prohibited revenge to mankind was its being "too delicate a morsel for any but himself," is here gravely anticipated as a positive compliment to God by the fierce poet of the thirteenth century, who has been held up as a great Christian divine! God hugs revenge to his bosom with delight! The Supreme Being confounded with a poor grinning Florentine!]

[Footnote 39: A ludicrous anti-climax this to modern ears! The allusion is to the Pygmalion who was Dido's brother, and who murdered her husband, the priest Sichaeus, for his riches. The term "parricide" is here applied in its secondary sense of—the murderer of any one to whom we owe reverence.]

[Footnote 40: Heliodorus was a plunderer of the Temple, thus supernaturally punished. The subject has been nobly treated by Raphael.]

[Footnote 41: A grand and beautiful fiction.]

[Footnote 42: Readers need hardly be told that there is no foundation for this fancy, except in the invention of the churchmen. Dante, in another passage, not necessary to give, confounds the poet Statius who was from Naples, with a rhetorician of the same name from Thoulouse.]

[Footnote 43:

"Paren l'occhiaje anella senza gemme."

This beautiful and affecting image is followed in the original by one of the most fantastical conceits of the time. The poet says, that the physiognomist who "reads the word OMO (homo, man), written in the face of the human being, might easily have seen the letter m in theirs."

"Chi nel viso de gli uomini legge o m o, Bene avria quivi conosciuto l'emme."

The meaning is, that the perpendicular lines of the nose and temples form the letter M, and the eyes the two O's. The enthusiast for Roman domination must have been delighted to find that Nature wrote in Latin!]

[Footnote 44:

"Se le svergognate fosser certe Di quel che l' ciel veloce loro ammanna, Gia per urlare avrian le bocche aperte."

This will remind the reader of the style of that gentle Christian, John Knox, who, instead of offering his own "cheek to the smiters," delighted to smite the cheeks of women. Fury was his mode of preaching meekness, and threats of everlasting howling his reproof of a tune on Sundays. But, it will be said, he looked to consequences. Yes; and produced the worst himself, both spiritual and temporal. Let the whisky-shops answer him. However, he helped to save Scotland from Purgatory: so we must take good and bad together, and hope the best in the end.

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