Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ Cacciàrli il oiel, per non esser men belli, ment in the hope of the Messianic salvation, Nè lo profondo inferno li riceve

namely, Adam, Abel, Enoch, Moses, AbraChe alonna gloria i rei avrebber di elli.”*

ham, Jacob, (together with Rachel and his The biblical foundation of this represen; the first partakers of the everlasting salva

children,) and lastly David. These became tation rests upon Rev. ïïi. 15, 16: “I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because tion, but only after the completion of the

atonement. thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

In the first circle we do not yet meet with The names of these contemptible beings for this can only be perfectly unfolded in

sin properly so called and fully developed, have been lost ; they are never spoken of. opposition to the positive and written law Hence Virgil exclaims to Dante,

of God, and against the preached and "Non ragionam di lor, ma guarda e passa !"; known grace of Christianity. These are

yet in the natural state of man as affected He recognizes but one shade, that of one by original sin, but at the same time enof bis cotemporaries, who from fear per- dowed also with a certain natural virtuousmitted himself to be led astray into the ness, and are such as have not yet come “ great refusal,” (il gran rifinto.) Com- into any contact with the Churcả. Their mentators have generally understood this condition hence is only that of negative to refer to Pope Celestine V., who knew punishment, the being deprived of seeing nothing of the government of the Church, God, (pæna damni,) the absence of blessand took no interest in it, and who was edness, and an indefinite longing for it. hence easily persuaded by his cunning The poet first meets with a forest-like successor, Boniface VIII., to abdicate the crowd of unbaptized children and undistinpapal power only a few months after his guished heathen. But he soon perceives election in the year 1294, and to retire in the distance those of the heathen world again to his quiet monkish life. If this in- who were “rich in honor,” the heroes of terpretation be correct, Dante comes here in natural virtue. A glimmer of light beams direct collision with his Church, which has around them, but it is only the reflection enrolled Celestine among its saints. of their own glory, this highest aim of the

The poet, in company with Virgil, passes heathen according to the maxim of Cicero: rapidly by these miserable beings torment “Optimus quisque maxime gloria ducitur." ed by flies and wasps, their truest repre- So also in the other world honor is still sentatives. He is then, in sleep, safely the element in which they live, and hence transported across Acheron by a divine they are constantly complimenting one anmiracle; and a boundless cry of woe, sound- other, enjoying themselves in the rememing up from the deep abyss, announces to brance of their glorious deeds. Hence him that now he is indeed in Hell. The first their countenances also bear the stamp of circle, which he describes in the fourth song, a lofty self-feeling, and a stoical indifferis Limbus, the abode, according to the doc- ence, which is neither joy nor sorrow. He trines of the Romish Church, of unbaptized first sees the shades of the four poets, Hochildren and of heathen, and hence of Virgil mer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan.

So soon also. Here the fathers too of the old cove as these perceive Virgil again, they bow nant originally abode, but were released and themselves reverently before this their colraised to blessedness by Christ, when he league and exclaim : descended in triumph into Hell, i. e. into “ Onorate l' altissimo poeta !" this limbus patrum, between his death and bis resurrection. Among these, Dante After a short conversation they also receive draws attention to those (v. 55 ff.) who Dante into their midst as the sixth of the represent the different stages of develop tuneful band. Next in order they reach

the heroes and sages of antiquity, who re

main forever upon an open and verdant *" Heaven thrusts out the hateful companions as oasis, the reflection of Elysium : a stain ; the deep Hell rejects them, else might the hearts of the wicked swell with pride.” Inf. iii.

“ With slow and solemn eyes, 42. † " We will not speak of them; look only, and

And great authority in their countenance, pass."

Who speak but seldom with soft,pleasant voices.”

Here he sees the Trojan heroes, Hector, one pale, and one yellow, referring* as Æneas, and then their descendant Cæsar, some suppose to three sins which concenwith other heroes and heroines of eternal trate themselves in him, but according to Rome; and among them also, though others, to the three grand divisions of the apart by himself, the magnanimous Mo world as then known, over which his dohammedan, Saladin ; lastly also the phi- minion extends; with six weeping eyes, losophers, who stand highest. The leader every mouth crushing a sinner, but most of the band is Aristotle, the pinnacle of all grievously the traitor Judas; and with extra-Christian wisdom, according to the three pairs of plumeless, bat-like wings, conception of the middle ages. Dante which, constantly flapping, bear the pestidoes not mention him by name, because lential breath of seduction into all regions the whole world is supposed to know him. of the world. He merely designates him as “the master In the presence of such a horrible monof those who know,” to whom all pay the ster even Virgil becomes fearful and afraid, tribute of admiration and reverence. Near and bearing his protégé, slides down the est to him stand Socrates and Plato, and shaggy, icy sides of the monster, who still then in proper gradation the other world in the end must be of service to the good ; sages of Greece and Rome. The series whence passing through a cavern, they asends with Averrois, the Arabian expound cend to the opposite side of the earth, and er of Aristotle.

come forth to see the stars again. From this region of noble heathen, Dante In attempting to present an idea of the with his companion now descends to ever Purgatory and Paradise of Dante, we must deeper and heavier sins and severer pun

be brief. ishments, until he reaches the middle point Purgatory Dante conceives to be a steep, of the earth, the seat of the absolute bad. spherical mountain on the western hemiIn the lowest circle sit the traitors. He sphere, which according to the original plan divides these into such as betrayed their of Providence, was to have been the abode blood-relations, those who were traitors to of the human race. Its summit is crowned their father-land, to confidants, and to with the Terrestrial Paradise, out of which benefactors. The first of these divisions is Adam was thrust on account of his transhence called Caina, from Cain, the mur- gression, forming thus the direct antipodes derer of his brother; the second Antenora, of Zion, the mountain of salvation, on the from Antenor, the betrayer of his Trojan inhabited hemisphere, and being at the father-land ; the third Ptolemæa, (Tole- same time the threshold of Heaven. Both mea,) either from Ptolemy the Egyptian mountains rise, in a direct line, above the king, who betrayed Pompey when Heeing middle point of Hell. Christ, the second to him for protection, or more probably Adam, has again recovered, by his death from Ptolemy who betrayed Simon and his upon Golgotha, the Paradise lost by the son at a feast, (1 Macc. xvi. 15–17;) and sin of the first. But the way thither leads lastly Judecca, from Judas Iscariot. Here now through Hell, i. e. through the deep are found Cassius and Brutus, the murder- knowledge of sin, and through Purgatory, ers of Cæsar, the betrayers of their human i. e. the purifying pains of penitence. benefactor. Dante regards them as both At the foot of the mountain of purificaoffenders against divine arrangements, and tion is a lake, guarded by Cato of Utica, transgressors against the Roman empire, the stoic friend of libertyDante and Virin which he recognizes a divine order and gil must first wash from their countenanthe type of the Roman papacy,

Still more ces the filth of Hell. Then an angel, the culpable than these is Judas, the betrayer direct reverse of the fearful Charon, who of his heavenly benefactor, the offender conducts the dead across Acheron, brings against the visible likeness of the invisible them in a light bark to the opposite shore. Divinity. Lastly, sunk to the lowest depth, is Purgatory has also, like Hell, a vestibule Satan, the emperor of Hell, the traitor to where all those are required to tarry, who wards God himself. He is represented as a have postponed repentance while upon hideous monster, half immersed in a frozen lake, the image of his own life-element, ab Comp Milton, P. L. B. iv. 114 :

"Each passion dimmed his face, solute selfishness, with three faces, one red, Thrice chang’d with pale ire, envy, and despair.”

[ocr errors]

In ac

earth to the last moment. An angel es- step approach nearer to its confines. corts the wanderers over three thresholds, Whenever a soul has completed its purifiwhich represent the three stages of peni- cation, a trembling of the whole mountain tence, (confessio, contritio, and satisfactio,) announces its entrance into Heaven.* Havthrough the gate of repentance, and, in or- ing reached the Terrestrial Paradise, on der that he may think of the seven mortal the summit of the mountain, Dante sees in sins, cuts the letter P (peccata) seven times a great vision, the Church triumphant, unupon his forehead with his sword. The der the image of a triumphal car drawn mountain itself has seven broad terraces by a griffon, representing Christ. Beatrice cut into its sides, and on these dwell the now descends from Heaven, and appears penitent. The different penances corre

to him

in the car, and takes the place of spond with the punishments of Hell, in in- Virgil

, who is not permitted to tread the verted order. In Hell Dante descended courts of Heaven, as his conductor. She from the lesser to the greater transgres- represents to him, in strong language, his sions ; in Purgatory he leads us from the errors, and exhorts him to bathe in the greater sins and penances upwards to those brook Lethe, that he may forget all evil of less enormity. The sins for which pen- and all past afflictions. A second vision ance is done here, are the same which are displays to him the corruption of the punished there; but with this difference, Church. In this Beatrice prophecies to him that we have to do here with contrite, but its restoration, and causes him to drink there with obdurate souls. As in Hell, conversion from the brook Eunoë, wheresin and punishment, so in Purgatory, sin by he becomes capable of rising upward and penance, stand in a causal relation to Heaven. tward one another; but the relation here Lightiy now, as upon the wings of light, is one of opposition, sin being destroyed, Dante flies upward through the different since the will is brought to break and yield, portions of the Celestial Paradise, and in direct contrariety to what it was before. marks his progress only by the higher gloThe proud, who fill the first and lowest ry of his exalted companion.t terrace, are compelled to totter under huge cordance with the Ptolemaic system, he stones, in order that they may learn hu- places Paradise in the heavenly bodies mility. The indolent, in the fourth terrace, known at that time, and views them as are compelled to be constantly and active transparent spheres, rolling around the ly walking. In the fifth, the avaricious earth with different degrees of velocity, so and prodigal, their hands tied together, that those which are nearest move slowlie with their faces in the dust, weeping est, while the most distant revolve with and wailing. In the sixth, gluttons are the greatest rapidity. He reminds us, compelled to suffer hunger and thirst, in however, that the Planet-Heaven indicates view of a tree richly laden with fruits, and only the different stages of felicity, and of a fresh flowing fountain, like Tantalus, that the proper seat of blessedness is the until they have learned moderation. In Empyrean. Between the different abodes the seventh, the licentious wander about and their inhabitants, and the grade of in flames, that their sensual passion may their felicity, there is again an intimate corbe purged from them by fire.

respondence. Paradise consists of three At the entrance into every circle, the chief regions, the Star-Heaven, the Crystal angel who conducts them obliterates one Heaven, and the Empyrean. With the seven of the P's upon the forehead of the poet. subdivisions of the first, it comprehends In the same measure also his ascent be- ten places of abode for the blessed, wherecomes easier at every terrace. In place by is indicated the fullness and perfection of the fearful darkness, he is here lighted of Paradise. The Star-Heaven consists of on his way by the three stars of the theo- the seven planets, and the fixed stars. logical virtues, Faith, Love and Hope. In According to the view and arrangement of place of the heart-rending lamentations of that age, the seven stars were the followthe damned, he hears here the ever sweet- ing :-First the moon; this is first reached er sounding tones of the hymns of salvation, as sung by the souls which are long

* Purgat. xvi. 58 ff. ingly gazing towards Paradise, and step by

| Parad. xxi. 7 ff.

* Parad. iv. 37.

[ocr errors]

by Dante, after passing through the region | point—the Divinity. Now Dante nears of air and fire, and he here sees the souls the pinnacle of glory and blessedness, the of those who did not quite fulfil their spir- Empyrean, which, in itself immovable, is itual vows. Second, Mercury, where dwell yet the original cause of all movement. the souls of those who, although virtuous, For God is without longing for anything yet strove in their bodily life after earthly that is without him, but yet gives forth all fame. Third, Venus, which contains those life from himself. The poet here sees all spirits that in their pious strivings were not those blessed spirits, which, like innumerasufficiently free from earthly love. Fourth, ble leaves, form an endless sweet-scented the Sun, which holds a middle position rose. Beatrice now leaves him, to resume among the stars, sending forth its rays her place among the blessed. The godly equally in all directions, and which is the Shystic, the holy Bernard of Clairvaux, now clearest mirror of God for the inhabitants stands by his side, and, on his request, perof the earth. Here reside the most worthy mits him one fearful gaze upon the Godtheologians and doctors of the Church, head. He beholds three circles of equal (comp. Dan. xii. 3, Matt. viii. 43.) Thomas circumference, but of different colors; one Aquinas, Bonaventura, Francis of Assissi, of these exhibits a human countenance. instruct the poet in the mysteries of salva- | The pen refuses its office; his spirit is, as tion, and the depth of the Divinity. Fifth, it were, electrified by a sudden shock; and Mars, the abode of the blessed heroes who he is inexpressibly happy in the contemhave fought for the true faith. These plation of the Love of the Trinity, which ilshine as stars, and are arranged in the form lumines the sun and the stars, gives heaven of a bright cross, from the midst of which and earth their motions, fills Time and Eterbeams forth the form of Christ. Sixth, nity, and draws from the choir of the blessed Jupiter, the star of justice, (a Jove justitia,) and angels an endless song of praise. where are found the souls of just and Thus have we attempted to give a brief righteous princes. These are arranged so sketch of this poem, in its organic unity. as to express, in the first place, the words, It is a mirror of the universe ; a “mystic Diligite justitiam, qui judicatis mundum; unfathomable song," as Tieck calls it. It is afterwards in the form of an eagle, as the “ encyclopædic” in its very nature, as Villesymbol of the German empire, in which main well remarks in his tableau de la LittéDante saw the concentration of secular rature du Moyen Age, because it carries in power according to divine institution. Sev- its bosom "a complete history of the science enth, Saturn, where reside the pious her- and poetry of its time.” If we cast a glance mits and contemplative souls, which like once more at the mutual relation of the flames are constantly ascending and de- separate parts, we shall be struck with the scending a ladder. Dante reaches now profound truth of the hint first given by the fixed-star-heaven. Here, in a vision, Schelling, that the first is sculptural, the he sees the triumph of Christ and the Vir- second picturesque, and the third musical, gin Mary, and is instructed in the nature in accordance with the subjects therein of Faith by the apostle Peter, in the treated.* Hell is an immense group of nature of Hope by James, and in the na- sharply defined statues, of dusky, shadowy ture of Love by John. This last Dante forms, fearful monuments of Divine jusexplains to be that which gives Heaven its tice, illuminated by the torch of poetry. peace—the Alpha and the Omega of the Purgatory is a gallery of variegated picHoly Scriptures. It arises from a knowl- tures, opening, in an endless perspective, edge of God, who is Love itself. It is into Heaven. Paradise is a harmonious with transport that he becomes aware of unison of the music of spheres, with being in possession of the true apostolic the song of praise of the blessed rational faith, over which Heaven exults, and creation : here all swims in light; here all the blessed spirits shout for joy. In the is feeling, sound, Hallelujah. The poem ninth sphere, the Crystal Heaven, or pri- opens with the cry of despair; it flows mum mobile, he sees the eternal hierarchy forward through the sadness of longing ; of angels who rule the nine heavenly it closes with the jubilee of bliss. spheres, and move in nine concentric cir

* In the Critical Journal of Philosophy, issued by cles around a bright, light-giving central | him in conjunction with Hegel, Vol. II.

III. What, we may now ask, in the | also a description of human life in general, third place, is the proper object of the Di- in its course from the world towards God, vina Commedia ? We do not mean to from time towards eternity, from sin speak of its object or use, in the common towards holiness, from misery towards sense of the term. Poetry, like Philoso- bliss. * It is, we may say, a poetical phy and Religion, is no mere means to Pilgrim's Progress from this world to serve some object lying out of itself. It that which is to come.” The way of salis its own end, bearing its absolute worth vation leads, for all, through the knowledge in itself, and hence to be sought after for of sin, (Inferno,) through the pains of penits own sake. Nor does it aim at any itence, (Purgatorio,) and through the conspecial practical use, but is sufficient in templation of the mercy and glory of God itself, and moves in the ether of liberty. and the salvation of his saints, (Paradiso.) But precisely on account of this high po On this way towards saving knowledge, sition, it is more than merely useful and man is not left to himself, but, on the serviceable in the common sense. In using contrary, he has for his guide history, or the term object, then, we mean something tradition in its widest and best sense, which immanent, that cannot be separated at all God himself uses as his instrument. This from the poem itself, and is identical with leads us to remark on the meaning of the its proper sense. Dante himself makes it companions of Dante in his journey to the to consist in this : to lead the living out of other world. These are three : Virgil, the condition of misery into the condition Beatrice, and Bernard of Clairvaux. Virof happiness.* He himself had, out of gil is the representative of human wisdom his errors, which he represents under the and natural virtue. The scholastic theform of a dark forest, at the commence- ology did not look upon heathenism as ment of the poem, led by a higher hand, altogether without truth, but as irradiated and through the contemplation of eternity in some measure, remotely at least, by the and the whole world, sub specie æterni- beams of the Logos; and the system of tatis, found rest for the out-goings of his Roman Catholicism, as a whole, it is well longing soul, in the peace-giving garden of known, has taken up into its own life much Christ, the object of his desire. I So far of heathenism itself even, under a Christhe Divine Comedy is a history of his er tian form. In general, too, classical literrors and his deliverance. On this account ature still forms the foundation of all higher he represents himself as in Hell, a partici- scientific culture. Dante has interwoven pant and deeply interested spectator; in into the first part of his poem manifold Purgatory as a penitent, to whom the first elements of Grecian and Roman mythology, steps were immensely difficult, and from which is sufficient to show, that he did not whose heart the seven mortal sins, like the regard it as purely error. Aristotle was seven P's upon his forehead, pass away generally regarded during the middle only gradually and through actual pen- ages, as the highest representative of mereance. Then first does he become worthy ly human wisdom. Hence his philosophy of obtaining, as a foretaste, a glimpse of forms the foundation of the whole schothat blessedness, of which he also is once lastic theology. It was usual to compare to become a participant. But to this sub- him with the morning-dawn, ushering in jective meaning of the poem, we must add the sun of Christianity, Hence he was also its objective. For in Dante's heart called the heathen John the Baptist, the and life is mirrored forth the whole world, precursor Christi in naturalibus ; and there and in this view, the Divine Comedy is was no end to the praises of his acuteness

In his letter to Cangrande: Finis totius et par.

* In the letter of Dante, already quoted, he says: tis (oamely, Paradiso especially). est, removere Est subjecium totius operis litteraliter tantum acviventes in hac vita de statu miseriæ ei perducere cepti siatus animarum post mortem simpliciter ad statum felicitatis, (Epist. Dantis, Ed. Wille, p. sumptus. Nam de illo et circa illum totius operis 6.) The false views of the tendency of the poem versalur processus. Si vero opus accipiatur allegohave been carefully refuted by Blanc, in his article, ricè, subjectum est homo, prout merendo e demealready cited, in Ersch and Gruber's Encyclopædia, rendo per arbitrii libertatem justitiæ præmiandi et I. vol. 23, p. 64 ff.

puniendi obnoxius est, + Parad. xxiii. 8; xxvi. 64.

+ Comp. Inf. i. 65, where gran deserto, referring to 1 Purgat. xxiv. 76-78.

Virgil, may perhaps allude to the “vox clamantis $ Purgat. xxxii. 100; Parad. v. 103 ; xxx. 135. in deserto ; parate viam Domini."

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »