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devoting themselves to the greatest sacri- of that time, whose vibration was still felt fices and difficulties, not for the sake of in the fourteenth century, collected themworldly advantage, but to be enabled to selves in this wonderful work, to receive weep, at the grave of their Redeemer, their poetical consecration, and to repretears of repentance and gratitude, and to sent a picture of human life under the

from the profane hands of the character of Eternity. A thorough knowlenemies of Christianity.

edge of that age, especially of the schoThink as one may of this age, no im- lastic theology and philosophy, is hence partial historian will venture to deny, that indispensably necessary for the full underit bears the character of gigantic power standing of Dante. One may call him the and boldness, a devotion to the objective poetical Thomas Aquinas, who was, so to interests of the church almost without speak, the Christian Aristotle, and the parallel in history, ruling as it did all the proper church theologian of the thirteenth relations of life at the time. And such a century. wealth of romantic poetry lay in all these We have thought proper to premise thus events, that one would have been aston- much before entering upon a consideration ished, had Providence not taken care to of the poem itself. We will now, in the provide a master-hand to embody them in first place, contemplate its external form, a worthy manner, in indelible lineaments then seek to gain a clear conception of its for all ages. “The owl of Minerva,” says contents and object, and lastly, examine ils a deep thinker, with reference to the rela- relation to Catholicisin and Protestantism. tion of philosophy to life, which she rep I. Dante himself, in accordance with resents, commences her flight with the the somewhat strange phraseology of the first blush of dawn.” The lyre of Apollo, time, termed his poem a comedy,* partly we may add, sounds mellowest and clearest on account of its contents, commencing as in the cool evening. So the singer of me it does in a sad strain, with the contemdiæval Catholicism made his appearance, plation of Hell, and ending joyfully with not in the moment of its highest bloom Paradise ; partly also on account of its and power, but when the dissolution of form, because it is written in the common the gigantic edifice was visibly approach- language of the country, (locutio vulgaris.) ing, and was filling the friend of the Past Its additional name, The Divine, has with deep sadness, but at the same time been added by an admiring posterity, also calling him to gaze, full of hope, into a with reference both to its form and conbetter Future. As the setting sun casts tents. It is difficult to decide to what his loveliest and softest glance yet once class of poetry it properly belongs. Romore upon the tops of the mountains, or senkranzt regards it as an allegorical poem. into the mirror of the ocean, to make his Generally, however, it is considered as bedeparture more heavily felt, and to waken longing to epic poetry. Solger calls it a more lively desire for his return, so the didactic epos. I The materials are cerphilosophy, theology, and religion of the tainly not drawn from the subjective feelmiddle ages, were reflected yet once more ings as in lyric poetry, but are objective before their departure, in a poem fully and historical. But on the other hand, worthy of its high subject.

this epic matter is not merely a single act We have thus designated the historical or a series of events, but the whole worldstand-point from which we must proceed, history, so to speak; and then again, it is if we would reach a proper understanding of the Divine Comedy. It is the swan * In his dedicatory letter to Cangrande della Scala, song of the thirteenth century, and with and again in the poem itself, Inf. xvi. 128, per le note

di questa commedia ; xxi. 2, la mia commedia. it, of mediæval Catholicism in the fullness + Manual of General History of Poetry, Halle, of its world-power.* All the great ideas 1832, Part 11. p 221.

* This epos may be called a didactic one, inas

much as it siarts from a scientific, dogmatic stand* Hence Carlyle's otherwise striking judgment point. The most important, however, is the revemust be corrected accordingly : “ Dante is the lation of the idea through the universe, whereby spokesman of the Middle Ages; the thought they the poem on the whole becomes allegorical, while lived by, stands here in everlasting music. These at the same time it has quite a mystical character, sublime ideas of his, terrible and beautiful, are the inasmuch as the symbol coincides altogether with fruit of the Christian meditation of all good men the allegory.". (Lectures on Esthetics, Leipsig, who had gone before.”

1829, p. 293.

ers.

not merely poetically related and described, to reach an even measure, or to make use as, for example, in the Iliad of Homer or of a certain economy in the form, we may the Jerusalemme Liberata of Tasso, or the mention the circumstance that each of the Orlando Furioso of Ariosto, but serves three parts closes with the word “stelle,' everywhere as a foundation only for philo- or stars ; for these are, according to him, sophical and theological ideas, which are the blessed abodes of peace, whither his veiled under the form of profound allego- view is ever directed, and to which he ry, and at the same time are difficult to be would also gladly draw with him his readunderstood. It is perhaps best then to It is with still deeper meaning that term it an allegorical, philosophical epos he always makes the name of Christ to of world and church history.

rhyme only with itself, using it of course The whole poem consists of three parts for this purpose three times* in every -Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, (Inferno, case. The reason of this cannot be that Purgatorio, and Paradiso.) Each of these the Italian language affords no rhymes to parts consists again of nine subdivisions and the word Christo. Such are numerous, thirty-three songs or cantos. Hell, howev as acquisto, misto, visto, &c. It is his iner, is prefaced by a canto as a general intro- tention rather to indicate the matchlessduction to the whole, so that the poem ness and singleness of this name, which is consists altogether of one hundred cantos exalted above all names, and beside which and 14,230 verses. The system of versifi- there is no name given whereby men can cation chosen by Dante for the expression saved. It is remarkable also that Christ of his thoughts was the Terza Rima, which does not come forward at all in Hell under combines the character of earnestness and this name, (for the damned cannot endure solemnity with that of gracefulness and it) but is only distantly indicated. The musical fullness, and is admirably adapted language of the poem is everywhere made to the contents of the poem. Each terza to correspond with the character of the rima is composed of thirty-three syllables. thoughts : in Hell it is awfully earnest ; Everywhere then we meet with the num in Purgatory affectingly pensive; in Paraber three. It is the symbolic number of dise transportingly charming ; always full Divinity. The whole Paradise is full of of images, and graphic, powerful, and methe praise of the Triune. The superscrip- lodious, simple and noble, chaste and tion of Hell, consisting of three verses, worthy of the subject, solemn and eleva(Canto iii. 1-9,) reminds us already of ted. Dante was the creator of Italian him with fearful earnestness, and the whole poetry, as Boccaccio of Italian prose. poem closes in the 33d Canto of Paradise, II. This interesting form now is but the with seeing him face to face. Even with body of still more interesting contentsthe Aristotle everything consists of beginning, silver shell of a golden fruit. middle, and end. According to Thomas The poet chose the highest and most Aquinas and Dante, this fundamental idea comprehensive theme for his poem, even of Christianity pervades the whole consti- eternity itself with its three domains. He tution of the world. The name of the Holy exhibits to us the world as it exists there, Trinity' is written upon creation and with its doings and sufferings; the bad stamped upon eternity. Our poet even re damned by Divine Justice, the good made presents Satan with three faces, as the terri- happy by Divine Love. In the full conble antitype of the Triune God. The fact sciousness of his poetical power, he venthat the whole consists of one hundred songs tures to assign his cotemporaries, and the has reference to the perfection of the work, mighty dead of past centuries, according which the poet would wish to have con to their moral worth, a place in one of the sidered complete in itself, as a true picture three divisions in which, according to the or copy of the harmonious universe. The Catholic faith, men must take up their number ten is the symbol of perfection- abode hereafter, and thus undertakes to numero perfetto, as Dante himself designates it in his Vita Nuova-and its square,

* For ex. Paradiso xiv. 101, 103, 103; xix. 104, one hundred, (numero perfettissimo,) de- 106, 108 ; xxxii. 83, 85, 87. signates absolute perfection or completion. toria incoronato ; Xxxiv. 115, fu l' uom che nacque

+ Inferno iv. 53, 54, un possente con segno di vitTo show how strictly he made it his object le visse senza pecca.

survey the course of the great judgment of | tarry longest in Hell, because this part of the world. In doing this he does not per- the poem has generally been considered mit himself to be influenced by any sub- the best. jective feelings or personal considerations, He commenced his journey in the year but by his conception of Divine Justice 1300, at the dawn of a new century, in alone. Thus, with incorruptible severity, in the middle of his life,* that is, in his thirthe fifth Canto of the Inferno, he assigns a ty-fifth year ; for in Psalm xc. 10, the explace in Hell to the beautiful Francesca of tent of human life is said to be threescore Rimini, who had been guilty of adultery years and ten. The day was Good Friday, with her brother-in-law, Paolo Malatesta, the day of the death of our Lord. Two although he was under great obligations to days he spent in Hell, precisely as long as her friends, and especially her nephew, in Christ remained in spirit in the lower whose house he breathed his last. Reso- world, according to Thomas Aquinas, who lute belief had not yet come to be con for this purpose combined the two pasfounded with the idea of uncharitable sages, Luke xxiii. 43 and 1 Pet. iii. 19. bigotry.

He needs one day to pass from Hell to In the case of an ordinary mind, the Purgatory. On Easter morning he again mere thought of such an undertaking would rises to the light, in four days of toiling have been considered ridiculous impudence. ascends the mountain of Purgatory In a spirit like that of Dante, it is the evi- flies through Paradise in one day. The dence of a great and noble boldness of ge- duration of the whole journey then is eight nius. The successful execution of the idea days, which Dante, by a significant fiction, proves that Dante had an internal call to has distributed into the week of our Lord's such a work, that he acted under a com- passion and resurrection. mission from the spirit of history and the The poet transports us first into a Church. In this great picture we meet gloomy forest, which is to represent the with the most distinguished personages human heart as lying in sin and error, and that flourished before and during the time at the same time the condition of the world of Dante, famous either for their vices or in the age of Dante. With the dawn of their virtues, and who were thus a bless- day he reaches its end, and seeks now to ing or a curse to humanity. He leads us ascend a mountain illumined by the sun, in succession by poets and learned men, the symbol of divine revelation, but in vain, heroes and conquerors, princes and kings, for he is confronted and driven back by monks and priests, prelates and popes, as three animals, a deceitful leopard, a haughby so many statues of brass ; illumines ty lion, and a ravenous wolf.f These are them by the glance of his fancy and the intended to represent three sins, which, bedoctrine of the Church ; exhibits to us the sides being actualized in every human irreversible result of their life upon earth heart, were also prominently displayed in as the just doom of God; and fills us with the chief powers of that age; namely, horror in view of the sins and punishments Cunning, which had its seat then especialof the inhabitants of Hell, with tender symly in Florence, Violence, which was then pathy for the penitent in Purgatory, and threatening the Church from the direction with an earnest and holy longing for the of France, from Philip IV., and Avarice, bliss of the pure and blessed in Paradise. which had its seat in Rome, in the worldWe may say indeed that a grander theme ly-minded and domineering popes, such as never entered into the imagination of a Boniface VIII. According to this, the alpoet. But it well suited the character of legory has not only a moral but also a hishis age, which, in all its strivings, aimed at torical sense. Just as the poet is about the infinite. As little able as our age would be to create the conception of a

* lof. i, 1.

Inf xxi. 112. The subject of the determination dome like that of Cologne, or a cathedral of the dates of the poem has been fully investigated like that of Strasburg, so little could it give by Kannegieser, in his German translation of the birth to a “ Divina Commedia."

Divina Coinmedia, Vol. I. p. lviii.

# Doubtless he had in mind here the passage in Let us follow the daring poet on the Jeremiah v. 6: “ Wherefore a lion out of the forest journey which, in spirit and in a vision, he shall slay them, and a wolf of the evening shall made through the other world. We will spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities."

$ Dante himself distinguishes between the literal

turning back again into the gloomy forest, resting place for his feet. Hence, with all the singer of the Æneid, sent by Beatrice, the undeniable sublimity, the tiresomeness suddenly appears to him, predicts, under also of the poetry of Milton and Klopthe form of a grayhound, a reformer in the stock, whom few even of their most enthuChurch, and invites him to make a jour-siastic admirerssucceed in reading through; ney through Eternity in his company. He while Dante keeps the fancy constantly himself would attend him through Hell | enchained in a lively interest by the fixed and Purgatory, in order to view in the first and clearly defined outline of his figures. the terrible consequences of sin, and in the The shape of Hell is that of a vast funsecond the voluntary sufferings of those nel, constantly narrowing, its apex standwho desired to escape the wrath of God ing exactly in the central point of the and to be saved. Through Paradise he earth. The inside of this funnel, or invert-' should be conducted by a worthier spirit, ed cone, consists of different circular terBeatrice herself.

races, which, with the increasing depth, Dante determines to undertake the jour- also grow narrower and narrower. These ney, under the guidance of his honored terraces are occupied by sinners, according master Virgil. Passing through a portal, to the grade' of their wickedness; the over which the meaning of Hell and the lowest place of all, the apex of the funnel, doom of its inhabitants is inscribed in fear- being assigned to the Devil

. This form of fully sublime characters, they reach the Hell corresponds with the nature aud prodomain of Hell itself. This, according to gress of sin, which consists in ever narDante, is situated in the centre of the earth. rowing and contracting selfishness. As In this respect he followed the view of the number of slight and ordinary sinners Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and the pre- is larger than that of great transgressors, railing conceptions of his Church, which the upper circles are broader and more probably arose from taking in its literal densely crowded. It is also very expressense the article of the Apostolic Creed, sive, that over these regions of Hell there descendit ad inferos. Besides, he could reigns a constant darkness,* growing not well devise any other locality for Hell, denser with the depth. Still, a faint gleam since he held the Ptolemaic view of the of light overspreads the gloomy terraces; world, that the earth formed the centre of and the lower portions are illumined by the the universe, and that all the bodies by unquenchable fire,f but only to increase which it was surrounded belonged to one the horror of the damned, by rendering of the different heavenly regions. In like their misery mutually visible. Thomas manner he gives Purgatory and Paradise Aquinas also permits the inhabitants of also a definite locality, as we shall see Hell to see their misery sub quadam umbrohereafter. This is plainly in much better sitate. I accordance with the nature of poetry, In consequence of the deep meaning of which should always give us concrete the number three, reaching as it does even views, than the method chosen by Milton, to the lower world, Dante divides Hell who removes his spiritual scenes into an

into three regions, each one comprising undefined and abstract infinitude, in which three of the before-mentioned circular terthe fancy speedily tires, like a bird on the races, so that it consists on the whole of ocean, that, wearied by his flight, finds no nine circles ; to which must be added

also a preliminary circle, the vestibule of and spiritual sense of his poem, and divides this

Hell. The different regions are separated latter again into an allegorical one, (in a narrower sense of the term.) which has reference to Faith, * See Matt. viii. 12. a moral one, which has reference to Love or Chris + Comp. Mark ix. 44, Matt. iii. 12. tian Action, and an anagogical one, which has re

Milion too sings: ference to Hope.

A dungeon horrible, on all sides round, Littera gesta refert, quid credas, allegoria

As one great furnace, flum'd; yet from those flames Moralis, quid agas, quid speres, anagogia.

No lighi, but rather darkness visible, (See hís letter to Cangrande.)

Serv'd only to discover sights of woe,

Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace The fact that the poem is intended to convey so And rest can never dwell, hope never comes many different meanings makes it difficult to be That comes to all, but torture without end understood, and injures its simplicity and naturals | Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed ness, but is in accordance with the spirit of that With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed. age, and especially its theology.

Par Lost, Book I. v. 61. et seq.

from one another by the windings of a the same also shall he be punished.” A large stream, which flows in circles through similar thought was supposed to be imHell. Of these circular windings there plied in the assertion of our Lord : “ With are four. The first, separating the fore- what measure ye mete it shall be measured court from Hell properly so called, is the to you again. Mark iv. 24 ; Luke vi. 38. joyless Acheron, the second the marshy Sin itself, in the other world, is the punStyx, the third the burning Phlegethon, ishment of sin. Sinners flee from the punand the fourth the cold Cocytus. The ishment but desire the sin ; the desire is stream ends at last in an icy lake, in the present, but its satisfaction unattainable ; centre of which sits the Devil. This is the desire itself has become a tormenting probably intended to represent the stream sting. This general idea of the close conof Belial, mentioned in 2 Sam. xxii. 5, as nection between sin and the form of its encompassing the dead in Hell. It rises, punishment is, however, carried out, not in according to Dante, in the island of Crete,

a pedantic and literal, but in a very free from the confluence of all the tears which and manifold way. The lazy, for example, the human race has ever wept in conse- roll themselves about in mire ; the licenquence of sin, and will yet weep during tious are driven to and fro by a storm-wind ; the different ages of its existence, which the irascible smite each other in the muddy increase in wickedness, and find their re- Styx; the Archbishop Ruggieri, who upon presentatives in these four streams. earth had denied food to Count Ugolino,

In the division of the sins our poet fol- is doomed to have his head chewed conlows Aristotle, who divides the bad into stantly by him in Hell. three classes, namely, incontinence, (expa Our limited time will not permit us to dia,) wickedness, (xoxía,) and violence or tarry separately in the different circles of beastly wildness, (ongiósns).* But, in ac- Heli. Dante has here brought together a cordance with his Christian stand-point, variegated mass of pictures from all ages Dante differs from Aristotle in that he and ranks. Poets, learned men, philosoplaces wickedness, or as he terms it, cun- phers, heroes, princes, emperors, monks, ning, (froda,) lowest in the scale. The first priests, cardinals, and popes—in short, all kind of sin, that of incontinence, is human; that truth and history, poetry and mytholothe second, violence, is bestial; the third, gy, have been able to afford of distinguished cunning, is demoniacal. Each of these sins and vices, he causes to pass before us, genera comprises again a number of dis- living, speaking, and suffering ; until overtinct species. Under incontinence, for ex come with fear and horror, we feel compelample, he ranks licentiousness, avarice, led to bow ourselves in deep reverence before prodigality, wrath, &c. ; under violence he the judgment-seat of that just God, to includes murder, blasphemy, &c.; under whom every sin is an abomination. There is cunning especially the different forms of opened here to the careful reader a wide treachery.

field of the most interesting historical, The punishments of the damned are, psychological, metaphysical, theological, according to Dante, not only spiritual but and edifying observations. We shall be bodily also.

The spiritual punishments able only, by the way of example, to conconsist chiefly in an impotent hatred to- template the beginning and the end of wards God, in envying the happy condi- Hell, the lightest and the heaviest sins, betion of the blessed, in dissensions among fore passing over to Purgatory. themselves, and in a continual lust for sin In front of Hell properly so called, in without the power or prospect of satisfy- its vestibule or outer court, Dante very ing it. This everlasting torment also ex- characteristically places the indifferent, presses itself externally, and Dante loves those lukewarm, honorless souls who have most to tarry in describing these bodily no desire for the good and no courage for punishments. In doing this, he follows in the bad, who live rather like the irrational general the principle laid down in Wisdom and slavish vegetable and animal world, xi. 17, “Wherewithal a man sinneth, by and on this account are rejected alike of

Heaven and Hell. As companions, he as

signs them those angels who in the great * Ethics, vii. 1.

original apostacy remained neutral.

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