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let him restore us to each other, and I will love and praise him with all my soul.""
There is more of this kind, but of so exalted a quality that we do not venture on a translation. If there were need we might easily descant
on the mental and moral condition of the reading folk who have elected George Sand, and such as George Sand, for their guides in matters affecting their present and future well-being.
NOTES ON DANTE.-EPIC POETRY.
JUDGING from the portrait of the "melancholy Florentine," as Milton calls him, and from the psychical faculties displayed in his works, Dante clearly possessed rather an intense than an ample and various intellect. The lofty crowned head manifests largely the venerative sentiments and the power of will; but the forehead, accurately marked in the observing, memorial, and reasoning regions, is rather high than broad. Unlike that of Shakespeare, in which fancy and imagination were equally developed, and who was thus able to intensify and amplify the inferior surface-conceptions of the former into the depth and vastness characteristic of the latter, Dante possessed little fancy, but we are inclined to think that high up in the region of ideality the imaginative organ was largely developed; hence it displayed itself, as we find in his poetry, rather in brief, intense flashes, than in pictures heightened by sublimity or beauty of detail-in a word, a narrow imagination, to which his concentrated intellect and force of feeling gave intensity. Unlike Milton, he had no sense of the infinite. His Hell is arranged in a series of circles descending into the centre of the earth; his Purgatory a mountain; his Heaven a number of planets, each spirally ascending higher than the other in the empyrean, in which the degrees of blessedness are indicated by varying gradations of light and sound. But although too many of the conceptions by which he has endeavoured to work out his picture of the celestial regions exhibit a prosaic barrenness and want of fancy, nevertheless, in its best passages, he displays a greater sense of the divine than Milton, whose Heaven is quite an inferior conception to his Pandemonium; and this may be attributable to two causes-first, that he had a greater power of love in his nature
than the English poet; and secondly, a personal aspiration to deify his passion for Beatrice.
In its sublime but rude ideal, its power, beauty, grotesqueness, and the realistic prosaic spirit in which much of it is laboured out, Dante's Vision resembles a Gothic cathedral, which was alike a contemporary embodiment of the religious spirit of Catholicism in a one-idead Europe, full of aspiration, but still barbarous. Mighty and immense in its design, like the "poems built in stone" by the masons of the middle ages, it is like them in its abundant and accurate chiselling of details; and as in executing the architectural work, it happened that some sculptor, elaborating a nichehis mind the while in a happy, creative mood-embodied his sensitive recollection of some beautiful or terrible face he had seen or conceived, or his feeling for some scriptural story, in statue or bas-relief-so it was with Dante during the progress of his poem. This sacred song
"Al quale ha posto mano e cielo e terra, Si che m' ha fatto per piu anni macro," which lines are in the Paradiso was a great labour, spiritual and personal, which he ambitioned to accomplish; and while in it, especially the latter portion, there is much that is mere work, intentive and unideal, so, throughout, its happiest passages have taken form in transient, felicitous moods, in which he threw some observation, recollection, feeling, or conception into its texture. Just as the interest attaching to Homer's “Iliad”
the representative mental monument of heroic Greece-is, and was intended to be, as much historic as poetic, so is it with the "Divina Commedia," in which the politician, polemic, poet, united the contemporary life of his country with the legends of the past; but unlike the work of the
Ionian, reflecting everything through the arbitrary colours of personality and passion. Dante was a scholar, like Milton; but how great is the difference between the poems of a rude and a cultivated age-how wonderfully the English genius has infused the spirit of learning into the creations of his imagination; how nakedly, and with a few exceptions, in which he has made such materials vital with his peculiar fire, Dante has inserted them among the hard, brief, engravings of his pages. Dante's poem appears rather the work of a great half barbaric, half cultivated-of a half heathen, half Christian genius, than that of a supreme, civilized man, as Milton was, or of an universal, genial, potent spirit, such as Shakespeare. Throughout it, indeed, there appears primeval hugeness, a giant rudeness, an awfulness and beauty, a plainness and homeliness as well, resembling that manifested in the religious and poetic myths of Scandinavia and Hindostan. Dante is said to have commenced the "Commedia" in his twentyfourth year, and then, in consequence of the events of his tumultuous career, to have thrown it by, resuming its composition after a long interval. Whether, at the epoch above mentioned, he had conceived the general ideal of the poem, is not certain; the story of Francesca and that of Ugolino are said to have been written from contemporary impressions, at the early period referred to; the major proportion of the poem was, of course, the work of his years of exile and wanderings; and having obtained a plan to work on from Alberico's "Vision," he began to embody a series of sketches and impressions, whose dates spread over many years, in an allegoric framework. That such appears to have been the case, this poem itself affords several evidences. For instance, in the first canto of the Inferno, speaking to Virgil, he says:—
sion, been already achieved; except, perhaps, we are to infer that he set a greater value on the sonnets and canzoni of the Conviva than his Life Poem. To us, indeed, it appears, that having conceived his design of the Vision of the three regions, Dante, whose soul, during his wanderings through Italy, was always intent on this theme, threw into verse such pictures as, during his particular moods, arose in his imagination and afterwards turned the mass of material thus accumulated into shape in the respective, portions of his Vision. The poem itself is a journey, and one can fancy that the various descriptions of morning and evening which commence and terminate so many of the cantos (several of these are among his most beautiful passages, and are impressed with the natural truth of direct observation) --were introduced during this shaping process, and mark, as it were, the beginning and end of his daily work while thus engaged. This appears, of course, chiefly in the most spontaneous portions of the poem, the Inferno and Purgatorio, in which the evidences of working out an idea are less apparent than in the Paradiso, whose region is almost wholly removed from the phenomena of earth. It is notable also that the scenery and similes of the two first divisions are just such as, with some exceptions, might have been observed in various parts of Italy during different seasons, and exaggerated and intensified by his imagination pondering over the conceptive localities of his poem. As to the similies, they are exclusively derived from objects which he had visited, or such as presented themselves to his daily observation. Thus one giant is compared to the leaning tower of Pisa; another, buried to the middle in ice, is yet as high as the dome of St. Peter's; the burning tombs are like the sarcophagi of Arqua and Pola; and the greater number of his less shadowy and more beautiful images are derived from animals, birds, and children.
While Dante purposed to make his Life Poem a medium for expressing his entire knowledge, historic, temporal, theologic, poetic, personal, he doubtless intended it also as a satire on his age and country, using the materials derived from his reading for
filling up the lacunæ. The Inferno was first shaped, and bears the impress of the initiatory impetus of the genius which, with passions exacerbated and intensified by the wrongs and events of his life, constituted itself the poetic judge, punisher and redeemer of humanity, historic and contemporary. Satire he intended in several of his delineations, but satire in his hands became deepest tragedy. In some of the inventions of torture during his imaginary wanderings through hell, he becomes himself as infernal as his conceptions. The passions of disdain and hatred which inflamed the soul of this wrathful spirit when a subject occurred to elicit and concentrate them, occasionally approach the verge of madness. Such (Dante as we know had suffered deeply from the arrogance of mankind after his exile)-is the scene in the Inferno (c. 8), when he sees Fillippo Argento, a Florentine, who had been noted for his arrogance and overbearing demeanour, and it is one in which the poet is lost in the hater. The figure appearing immersed in the muddy pool,-"Who art thou," asks Dante, "who art become so foul?" One of those that mourn. To which Dante replies, "In mourning and in woe tarry thou accursed spirit!" When the latter strives to lay hold of the boat in which they are crossing, the mild Virgil is represented by the poet as thrusting him back and crying "Away! down to the other dogs!" and then encircling Dante in his arms and kissing his cheek, he exclaims, "Oh, soul! justly disdainful; blessed was she by whom thou wast conceived!" Dante then says, "Oh, master! how rejoiced would I be to behold him whelmed in those dregs before we quit the lake ;" upon which Virgil assures him his desire shall be satisfied :
"Scarce these words Were ended, when I saw the miry tribes Set on him with such violence, that still
For that I render thanks to God and praise, 'To Fillippo Argento!' cried they all; And on himself the moody Florentine Turned his avenging fangs."
His sympathy toward the serpents (Inf., c. 25) who transfix and torture Fucci, is of the same sort. After describing the fiery snake striking
and pursuing this blasphemer, Dante says, "from that moment the serpents and I were friends." In the 33rd canto, Dante, walking over the heads of murderers, visored with congealed tears, kicks one of them in the face that he may weep; and there are several other instances in which he represents himself as pitiless, ruthless, and demoniacal as the fiends themselves. Passion and imagination in Dante are intense in his hatred as his love ;-he becomes a devil with devils, an angel with angels. In his inventions of torture, too, he evidently took as great and savage a pride as in his disdain. Thus, after describing the scene in which the fiery serpent strikes Fucci, and the subsequent metamorphosis of snake into man and vice versa, an uncouth conception which is worked out with the hardest and intensest earnestness, he is so delighted with it, that he immediately exclaims, "Now, silence Lucan, and silence Ovid, for thy transformations I envy not." Just as Shakespeare gave equal nature, so Dante gave equal intensity to all his conceptions. When he expresses
disdain or contempt he is supreme and inimitable. Thus he makes Virgil briefly say of the angels who remained neuter in the battle between God and Satan, that "their punishment consists in their having lost the hope of death; from the earth their fame has vanished; pity and justice alike disdain them. Of those we will not speak, but look and pass."
Dante's similes are numerous, and, though commonplace, strikingly illustrative, but as they are almost always inferior to the subject, they do not exalt the imagination. The demon, Plutus, collapses at the reproof of Virgil, "like the wind-swelled sail, the mast being suddenly broken." The region in the city of Dis, where the heretics are punished in burning tombs, is like the cemetery of Arles or Pola. The place, guarded by the Minotaur, is like the mountain landslip on a certain part of the Adige. The ridge over which they walk along the side of Phlegathon is compared to the dykes of Ghent or the Brenta, and the spirits who meet him in the gloom look at him as those who strain their eyes under the dim light of the new moon, sharpening their
sight, "keen as an old tailor at a needle's eye." The lake of boiling pitch in Malebogue, in which peculators are punished, is like the place in the Venetian arsenal, in which the pitch is melted for maritime use, and the suffering spirits appear like dolphins following a vessel's track, and range themselves on the brink of the bank like frogs. The stench which rises from the region of Malebogue where the alchymists are punished with various diseases, is like that which comes from the lazar-house of Valdichiana in the sultry months of July and September. The visage of one of the giants bound to the waist in the ice, is as long as the spire that tops the dome of St. Peter's, and from the waist up his stature was so great that three Frieslanders would have striven in vain to reach his hair.' The lost spirits cast themselves from the bank into Charon's boat, "like the light autumnal leaves that fall, following one another, till the branch is bare."
In the Paradiso on the arrival of Dante and Beatrice, in Mercury, the splendrous spirits drew toward them, like fish in a clear lake toward any object they think is food. There are many more of the same appropriate but commonplace sort, derived from the daily objects which passed before Dante during the composition of the poem; but by far the most ideal and accurately beautiful simile in Dante is that of the spirits, who, seeing his shadow on the path when they encounter on the mountain of Purgatory, are compared to sheep :
"Come le pecorelle escon del chiuso,
Ad una, a due, a tre, e l' altre stanno
From the immense extent of the theme which he purposed to execute, --that of representing humanity contemporary and historic in the three regions of punishment, purgation, and blessedness, and inventing the peculiar degrees of each appropriate to the beings selected-but still more possibly from the essential character of his genius and imagination al
most all Dante's pictures are brief
Esser baciato da cotanto amante,
bocca mi baciò tutto tremante:—
Galeotto fu il libro e chi lo scrisse :-
The same brevity characterizes the
his hearing the gates barred, and knowing it was the sign that he and his children were left to perish; the daily details of the deadly effects of famine the instances of filial and paternal affection, the deepening despair, the deaths of his children one after another, and lastly, the dreadful alternative to which nature impelled the wretched father, who, now grown blind, goes groping over the carcases, "Then fasting got the mastery of grief."
Ugolino's story has nothing sublime in it; but it is the ne plus ultra of horror. Dante's prevailing realism and love of definition interferes with his conceptions of their order, and hence, though such attempts are frequently powerful, they fail in effect compared with those of Milton, whose imagination was far vaster, more spiritual and abstract, and whose blindness had, doubtless, great influence in giving its objects the character of elevation, grandeur, immensity. Contrast, for example, Dante's Charon with Milton's Death: the first is painted by Dante as an old man blanched and white, inspired with demoniac rage, with wheels of flame round his
eyes, which glow like burning coal, hurrying the shades whom he strikes with his oar into the boat. Milton's Death is the most terrible of spectres, and every line in which he is painted increases the effect of unsubstantiality, phantom-awe, and terror. From the concluding portion of this picture-"Black he stood as night,
Terrible as hell, and shook a dreadful dart," we conjecture Milton obtained the nucleus of his conception from Homer's description of the phantom of Hercules, whom Ulysses meets in Hades. "But he, like dark night, holding a naked bow and an arrow on the string, terribly looking around like one about to shoot." As a ghostly conception, however, Milton's Death is unrivalled. Shakespeare's spirit of Hamlet's father has less terror, naturally, and much more visible distinctness. But to perceive the superiority of Milton, take the first glimpse he gave us of hell in the แ Paradise Lost," and in the Inferno. In the first we have a vision of an infinite fiery sea, whose awful waves on which the lost angels float, give no light, but rather a darkness visible, serving only to discover sights of woe, regions of sorrow, where hope never comes, &c., &c. In the Inferno, on the other hand, you look down a deep gulf from which sighs, moans, loud wails resound through the starless air, mingling with the sound of many languages, accents of grief and anger and "horrible smoke;" all is realistic, and this latter adjunct Milton has judiciously excluded from his picture and thereby heightened the idea of the supernatural flame of the ocean of hell. There are, nevertheless, several pictures in the Inferno of a very grand, but peculiar order of imagination, a couple of which seem to have afforded Milton the key-note for some of his finest conceptions. Such is that of the "huge spirit," Capeneus, who lies scorning his torment, under the fiery tempest; that in which Farinata raises himself from the fiery tomb with a brow that seems to hold hell itself in disdain; that in which the Furies who appear on the top of the red hot tower in the city of Dis, call for the head in the Gorgon, to turn the earthly visitor into stone. The glimpse we get of the giants imprisoned to the waist in
ice, who look like huge towers scattered over the icy desert, and dimly seen through its twilight, is not indeed sublime, but full of a sort of primeval grotesqueness. The apparition of Cain, however (whom Dante has placed, strange to say, in the Purgatorio, rather than in the Inferno-one of the many instances which indicate a instance of the sublime, but it is the want of revision in his poem), is an Dantesque sublime. He is represented as a Voice, a Voice only, which rushes past like a volley of lightning when it cleaves the air, crying "Whoever finds will slay me!" then flying vanishes, like a bolt launched from the cloud. And the same order of imagination appears in the succeeding passage, in which another voice of quick rattling thunder cries "Mark me, Aglauros turned to rock,"—which exclamation is followed by a stony silence. As regards the numerous inventions of torture in Dante, they seldom approach the sublime, but fully realize the horrible, as intended, though in those-which are chiefly physical not mental-he is almost everywhere inferior to Milton. It is only as far as the horrible enters into the sublime, and it is hardly possible to unite both, that any of them are so. But even Milton's picture of Sin, a fair woman above, ending in a serpent coil voluminous and vast, with the hell-hounds tearing her womb, is in its way more frightful than Dante's best conceptions of the semi-grotesque sort, such as the transformation of men into serpents, &c. The grotesque, indeed, was the element in which his imagination concentrated in conceptions of power, not beauty, produced the greatest originality, and he even manages to make some such fancies pathetic. Such is the passage in which he represents the evil counsellor, Bertrand of Born's punishment. He sees a headless figure approach, carrying his head by the hair in his hand, like a lantern, and the head looks piteously up, and exclaims, "Woe's me." The division was the retributive punishment for having divided and raised contention between father and son. In describing his angels, Dante displays frequently not only beauty but grandeur of the highest sort. Some appear in thunder, as the one which, hurries across the lake of hell to open its gates, through