Page images
PDF
EPUB

PAIR ITALY, HOW SAD HAS BEEN THY STORY!
OF OLD THY CIVIL FACTIONS FORGED FOR THEE
THE STRANGER'S YOKE, THE ROD OF TYRANNY,

PURPLED THY PLAINS AND MADE THY RIVERS GORY. HOW LONG AND GRIEVOUS WAS THY PURGATORY!

BUT IT IS PAST :-FREE AND UNITED NOW,
AMONG THE NATIONS THOU HAST REAR'D THY BROW,

DECK'D WITH THE WREATH OF GARIBALDI'S GLORY. ILLUSTRIOUS CHIEF !-IF DANTE FROM THE SKIES LOOKS DOWNWARD ON THE LAND HE LOVED SO WELL,

IN THEE THAT VIRTUOUS HUNTER HE DESCRIES
WHO CHASED THE SHE-WOLF TO HER NATIVE HELL:

WHILE ITALY, FOR FREEDOM'S BATTLE WON,
HAILS THEE HER NOBLEST, BEST, AND BRAVEST SON.

PREFACE.

The Translator acknowledges with gratitude the very favourable manner in which his Version of DANTE's Inferno has been received by the Public, and criticised by * the Press. Encouraged and stimulated by the approbation which has been so decidedly pronounced, he has proceeded with the PURGATORIO to its completion, and has found it increasingly “a labour of love." His further study of the Trilogy has given him a more intense interest in the scenes and objects which it portrays, and a higher appreciation of the author's learning, wisdom, and genius.

The great Poem of Dante tends to familiarise us with the Mediæval history of Italy and of Europe; and that in the most effectual and delightful manner, by its vivid allusions and descriptions. It is a standing and mighty protest in favour of humanity, uttered at one time in whispers and anon in thunder, to the ear and heart of his country, against its oppressors—those crowned and incarnate plagues, whether domestic or foreign, by whom she has been so long distracted, plundered, and enslaved; and it greatly contributed to preserve unquenched the hope and energy of her children, to foster their hatred of oppression, and at length to produce that sudden outburst of opposition to spiritual and temporal tyranny which has been attended with such signal success. At a time, therefore, when the affairs of the Italian Peninsula have been brought so prominently before the public mind of Europe, and

the emancipation of its whole population from the chains of political and ecclesiastical thraldom is an object of such ardent hope to ourselves, DANTE's immortal work presents a stronger claim than ever to our attentive study and reverential admiration.

The love of tragic grandeur, so deeply implanted in the human mind, makes every tale of suffering popular, and has perpetuated through all ages the great themes of the Epic and Dramatic Muse,

“Presenting Thebes' or Pelops' line,

Or the Tale of Troy Divine.” It is this feeling that stirs within us in reading DANTE, and that has given to the scenes of misery described in the Inferno, their wonderful attraction and profound interest. Nor is this kind of interest wanting in the Purgatorio ; but its griefs and torments are chastened by repentance and mitigated by hope. It portrays the realm of penitence and hallowed grief. Opinions may perhaps differ as to the relative merits of the three Visions ; but, instead of deciding this point, we shall merely quote the language of two competent witnesses. The Atheneum (No. 1654, page 45) says, “ The Purgatorio is much more interesting than the Inferno; and the Paradiso in some respects surpasses them both." And a former interpreter of DANTE (Mr. Wright) says, “The gloom and severity which characterise the opening of the poem having deterred many from persevering in the study of DANTE, the translator begs to recommend his readers, not to dwell on the horrors of the Inferno, but to speed their flight with the poet to the calm regions of the Purgatorio, and the sublime rapture of the Paradiso.

LEEK; April 9th, 1862.

ON

THE CATHOLICISM OF DANTE.

The Catholicism of DANTE appears to have been equally removed from a blind acquiescence in the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, and a scornful rejection of the Faith once delivered to the Saints. “Dante's religion,” says his compatriot and co-religionist, Ugo Foscolo, “was directly derived from the First Fathers of the Church, from whose enlarged views the Roman Papacy of the thirteenth century had already departed. His ideas of human nature in its progress towards perfection in a future life, and of the Holy Spirit's influence on the minds of all men, opened the way for the still further display of Christian truth. To him the Papacy was nothing more than the instrument of spiritual organization.”-Discorso Storico sul Testo di Dante. The truth respecting Dante's religious opinions holds a place between two very different and opposite representations which have been made respecting them. On the one hand, Bellarmine and other adherents of the Papacy, discreetly unobservant of every adverse token, have claimed our Poet as its thorough partisan: and this claim has usually been conceded by his Commentators and Translators. So fully has its correctness come to be assumed, that by the writer of an article on “Dante and his English Translators,” which appeared in a recent Review, the Evangelical Character of Dante's Christianity is represented as a discovery of our own! But although the Reviewer considers it a total misapprehension on our part, the only argument he could think of to prove it so is, that the Poet has placed in the Inferno Mahomet, Vanni Fucci, the Centaur Cacus, and the two Roman conspirators Brutus and Cassius: an argument the force of which we fail to perceive; since none of these, that ever we heard of, were either Protestant or Evangelical.

In direct opposition, however, to this assumption, Rosetti, on the other hand, has described the Divina Commedia as a Political Allegory, and prefers against its author a charge of the deepest bypocrisy. “The voice of ages,” he writes, “proclaimed Dante to be no less profound as a theologian than matchless as a poet; deeply did I meditate on his works and compare one with another; I investigated historical facts. I confronted his opinions with those of other authors; and as doubt swelled to suspicion, and suspicion became certainty, I cannot describe the feelings with which the full consciousness (conviction ?) of his, hypocrisy overwhelmed me!”- ROSETTI; Disquisitions; vol. ii. p. 198.

The former of these representations can scarcely be admitted in its fullest extent; much less the still more injurious imputation contained in the latter, however plausibly and ingeniously supported. We believe that both do injustice to the character of the Poet, and are inconsistent with facts which are capable of being proved by the most satisfactory evidence. We have seen how largely DANTE partook of the Anti-papal Spirit which manifested itself during the Middle Ages, and at length deprived the Papacy of its dominion over one half of Europe, and greatly weakened it in the other; and how much his mind was imbued with Evangelical principles and sentiments. Let those who deem it surprising or incredible that he should have been so much of a Protestant more than two hundred years before the Reformation, remember that what is called Protestantism is essentially the Religion of the New Testament, —a book with which Dante was perfectly familiar. Those, on the other hand, who are prejudiced against his immortál poem, because he held most of the doctrines inculcated by the Church of Rome, and died in her communion, make no sufficient allowance for the time in which he lived and the circumstances in which he was placed. At the same time, both classes of objectors appear to forget, how much of truth and error may coexist and be blended together, in the same individual mind. This may, perhaps, be best illustrated, and our view of the Poet's Catholicism justified, by an example familiar to Englishmen. By all Protestants, Wichit has been considered - The Morning Star of the Reformation :" yet his religious opinions differed very little from those of our poet; although he had the advantage of living when, after a long night of ignorance and superstition throughout Christendom, the dawn was further advanced by half a century than it was in the age of DANTE.

This Historical Parallel is both interesting and instructive. It

1 Sir Isaac Wotton's answer to the question, “Where was your religion before Luther p is well known. When this question was put to him by a clerical acquaintance in Rome, he replied, “My Religion was then to be found, where yours is not to be found now,--in the written word of God.” We hope that the Italian people, now so nearly emancipated from the temporal yoke of Papal sovereignty, will take their Religion from the same hallowed source, the discourses of Christ and the writings of bis Apostles and Evangelists.

« PreviousContinue »