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No sooner ceased the sound, than I beheld
When thus my master kind began : “ Mark him,
So I belield united the bright school
When they together short discourse had held,
Far as the luminous beacon on we pass'ı,
1 Of semblance neither sorrowful nor glad.]
She nas to sober ne to glad. Chaucer's Dream. 2 The monarch of sublimest song.] Homer. It appears from a passage in the Convito, that there was no Latin translation of Homer in Dante's time. “Sappia ciascuno," etc. p. 20. “Every one should know, that nothing, harmonized by musical cuchainment, can be transmuted from one tongue into another without breaking all its sweetness and harmony. And this is the reason why Homer has never been turned from Greek into Latin, as the other writers we have of theirs." This sentence, I fear, may well be regarded as conclusive against the present undertaking. Yet would I willingly bespeak for it at least so much indulgence as Politian claimed for himself, when in the Litin translation, which he afterwards made of Homer, but which has since unfortunately perished, he ventured on certain liberties both of phraseology and metre, for which the nicer critics of his time thought fit to call him to an account: “Ego vero tametsi rullis in primis non adeo tamen obtusi sum pectoris in versibus maxime faciundis, ut spatia ista morasque non sentiam. Vero cum mihi de Græco pæne ad verbum forent antiquissima interpretanda carmina, fateor affectavi equidem ut in verbis obsoletam vetustatem, sic i:2 mensurá ipsâ et numero gratam quandam ut speravi novitatem.” Ep. lib. 1. Baptiste Guarino.
3 Fitter left untold.] Che'l tacere è bello. So our Poet, in Canzone 14: La vide in parte che'l tacere è bello. Ruccellai, Le Api, 789: Ch' a dire è brutto ed a tacerlo è bello. Anil Bembo: Vie più bello è il tacerle, che il favellarne. Gli Acol. lib. 1.
Defended by a pleasant stream. O'er this
There dwelt a race, who slow their eyes around
We to one side retired, into a place
Electra” there I saw accompanied
Then when a little more I raised my brow, 1 Green enamel.] “Verde smalto.” Dante here uses a metaphor that has since become very common in poetry.
O'er the smooth enamel'd green. Milton, Arcades. “Enameling, and perhaps pictures in enamel, were common in the middle ages," etc. Warton, Hist. of Eng. Poetry, vol. i. cap. xiii. p. 376. “ This art flourished most at Limoges, in France. So early as the year 1197, we have duas tabulas æneas superauratas de labore Limogiæ. Chart. ann. 1197 apud Ughelin. tom. vii. Ital. Sacr. p. 1274.” Warton, ibid. Additions to vol. i. printed in vol. ii. Compare Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting in England, vol. i. cap. ii.
- Electra.) The daughter of Atlas, and mother of Dardanus, the founder of Troy. See Virg. Æn. lib. 8. 134, as referred to by Dante in the treatise De Monarchia, lib. 2. “Electra, scilicet, nata magni nominis regis Atlantis, ut de ambobus testimonium reddit poeta noster in octavo, ubi Æneas ad Evandrum sic ait, 'Dardanus. Iliacæ,' etc.”
3 Julia.] The daughter of Julius Cæsar, and wife of Pompey. 4 The Soldan fierce.] Saladin, or Salaheddin, the rival of Richard Caur de Lion. See D'Herbelot, Bibl. Orient., the Life of Saladin, by Bohao'edin Ebn Shedad, published by Albert Schultens, with a Latin translation ; and Knolles's llist. of the Turks, p. 57 to 73. “About this time (1193) died the great Sultan Saladin, the greatest terror of the Christians, who, mindful of man's fragility and the vanity of worldly honours, commanded at the time of his death no solemnity to be used at his burial, but only his shirt, in manner of an ensign, made fast unto the point of a lance, to be carried before his dead body as an ensign, a plain priest going before, and crying aloud unto the people in this sort, Saladin, Conqueror of the East, of all the greatness and riches he had in his life, carrieth not with him anything more than his shirt.' A sight worthy so great a king, as wanted nothing to his cternal commendation more than the
I spied the master of the sapient throng,
Galenus, Avicen, and him who made true knowledge of his salvation in Christ Jesus. He reigned about sixteen years with great honour.” He is introduced by Petrarch in the Triumph of Fame, c. ii.; and by Boccaccio in the Decameron, G. x. N. 9.
i The master of the sapient throng.] Maestro di color che sanno. Aristotle. --Petrarch assigns the first place to Plato. See Triumph of Fame, c. iii.
Volsimi da man manca, e vidi Plato
Che ’n quella schiera andò piu presso al segno
A qual aggiunge, a chi dal cielo è dato.
Aristotile poi pien d'alto ingegno. Pulci, in his Morgante Maggiore, c. xviii. says,
Tu se' il maestro di color che sanno. The reverence in which the Stagirite was held by our author cannot be better shown than by a passage in his Convito, p. 142: “Che Aristotile sia ignissimo," etc. “ That Aristotle is most worthy of trust and obedience, may be thus proved. Amongst the workmen or artificers of different arts and operations, which are in order to some final art or operation, he, who is the artist or operator in that, ought chiefly to be obeyed and trusted by the rest, as being the one who alone considers the ultimate end of all the other cnds. Thus he, who exercises the occupation of a knight, ought to be obeyed by the sword-cutler, the bridle-maker, the armourer, and by all those trades which are in order to the occupation of a knight. And because all human operations respect a certain end, which is that of human life, to which man, inasmuch as he is man, is ordained, the master or artist, who considers of and teaches us that, ought chiefly to be obeyed and trusted: now this is no other than Aristotle ; and he is therefore the most deserving of trust and obedience."
-Democritus, JVho sets the world at chance.] Democritus, who maintained the world to have been formed by the fortuitous concourse of atoms.
3 Avicen.] See D'Herbelot Bibl. Orient, article Sina. He died in 1050. Pulci here again imitates our Poet:
Avicenna quel che il sentimento
Averrois che fece il gran comento. Morg. Mag. c. xxv. Chaucer, in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, makes the Doctour of Phisike familiar with
That commentary vast, Averroes.?
Of all to speak at full were vain attempt ;
Coming into the second circle of Hell, Dante at the entrance beholds Mincs
the Infernal Judge, by whom he is admonished to beware how he enters those regions. Here he witnesses the punishment of carnal sinners, who
Fuit Avicenna vir summi ingenii, maguus Philosophus, excellens medicus, et summus apud suos Theologus. Sebastian Scheffer, Introd, in Artem. Medicam, p. 63, as quoted in the Historical Observations on the Quadriregio: Ediz. 1725.
-Him who made
Il gran Platone, e l' altro che sta attento
Mirando il cielo, e sta a lui a lato
Frezzi, Il Quadrir. lib. 4. cap. ix. Averroes, called by the Arabians Roschd, translated and commented the works of Aristotle. According to Tiraboschi (Storia della Lett. Ital. t. v. lib. 2. c. ii. sec. 4) he was the source of modern philosophical impiety. The critic quotes some passages from Petrarch (Senil. lib. 5. ep. iii. et Oper. v. ii. p. 1143) to show how strongly such sentiments prevailed in the time of that poet, by whom they were held in horror and detestation. He adds, that this fanatic admirer of Aristotle translated his writings with that felicity, which might be expected from one who did not know a syllable of Greek, and who was therefore compelled to avail himself of the unfaithful Arabic versions. D'Herbelot, on the other hand, informs us, that “ Averroes was the first who translated Aristotle from Greek into Arabic, before the Jews had made their translation ; and that we had for a long time no other text of Aristotle, except that of the Latin translation, which was made from this Arabic version of this great philosopher (Averroes), who afterwards added to it a very ample commentary, of which Thomas Aquinas, and the other scholastic writers, availed themselves, before the Greek originals of Aristotle and his commentators were known to us in Europe.” According to D'Herbelot, he died in 1198 ; but Tiraboschi places that event about 1206. “Averroes,” says Warton, “as the Asiatic schools decayed by the indolence of the Caliphs, was one of those philosophers who adorned the Moorish schools erected in Africa and Spain. He was a professor in the University of Morocco. He wrote a commentary on all Aristotle's works. He was styled the most Peripatetic of all the Arabian writers. He was born at Cordova, of an ancient Arabic family." Hist. of Eng. Poetry, vol. i. sec. 17, p. 441.
are tost about ceaselessly in the dark air by the most furious winds. Amongst these, he meets with Francesca of Rimini, through pity at whose sad tale he falls fainting to the ground.
From the first circle 1 I descended thus
“O thou ! who to this residence of woe
Ask thou no more.”
I understood, that to this torment sad
The carnal sinners are condemn'd, in whom i From the first circle.] Chiabrera's twenty-first sonnet is on a painting, by Cesare Corte, from this Canto. Mr. Fuseli, a much greater name, has lately employed his wonder-working pencil on the same subject. ? Grinning with ghastly feature.] Hence Milton :