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Not so, however, the angelic gulde with the bodily vision, seen what Virof the spirits newly arrived in Purga- gil, in one of the most pathetic of his tory. Seeing them "fissi ed attendi alle lines, calls the further shore. Moresue note," enthralled by Casella's sing. over, for awhile, and in what may be ing, he begins to rate them soundly as termed the exordium of the episode, "spiriti lenti," lazy, loitering spirits, Dante surrenders himself wholly to asks them what they mean by thus this Ideal, and treats it idealistically. halting on the way, and bids them First he discerns only two wings of hasten to the spot where they will be pure white light, which, when he has gradually purged of their earthly grown
accustomed their offences, and be admitted to the face brightness, he perceives to be the of God. The canto closes with the fol. Angel of the Lord, the steersman of lowing exquisite lines:
the purgatorial bark:
“Come quando, cogliendo biada “Vedi che sdegna gli argomenti umani, loglio,
Si che remo non vuol, nè altro velo Gli colombi adunati alla pastura, Che l'ale sue, tra liti si lontani
Queti, senza mostrar l'usato orgoglio, Se cosa appare ond elli abbian paura
Trattando l'aere con l'eterne penne"Subitamente lasciano star l'esca, Perchè assaliti son da maggior cura;
lines that for ethereal beauty, are, I Cosi vid'io quella masnada fresca think, unmatched; and I will not preLasciar il canto e fuggir ver la costa, sume to render them into verse. But Com uom che va nè sa dove riesca."
what they say is that the Angel had
no need of mortal expedients, of sail, "As when a flight of doves, in quest of food,
or oar, or anything beside, save his Have settled on a field of wheat or
own wings, that fanned the air with tares,
their eternal breath. The bark, thus And there still feed in silent quietude, driven and thus steered, is equally un. If hy some apparition that they dread substantial and ideal, for it makes no Asudden scared, forthway desert the ripple in the wave through which it meal,
glides. But at length-not, you may Since by mere strong anxiety assailed,
be quite sure, of purpose prepense, but So saw I that new-landed company Forsake the song and seek the moun.
guided by that unerring instinct which tain side,
is the great poet's supreme giftLike one who flees, but flies he knows Dante gradually passes from idealistic not whither."
and realistic treatment of the episode,
thereby compelling you, by what Now, if we consider this episode in Shakespeare, in “The Tempest," its integrity, do we not find ourselves, through the mouth of Prospero, calls from first to last, essentially in the re- “my so potent art,” to believe imgion of the Ideal? Whether you believe plicitly in its occurrence, even if your in the existence of a local habitation incapacity to linger too long in the named Purgatory, or you do not, none rarefied atmosphere of the Ideal have of us, not even Dante himself, has begun to render you incredulous conseen it, save with the mind's eye. It cerning it. For all at once he introwas said of his austere countenance duces Casella, Florence, his own past by his contemporaries that it was the cares and labors there, the weariness face of the man who had seen Hell. of the spirit that comes over all of us, But the phrase, after all, was figura- even from our very spiritual efforts, tive, and not even the divine poet had, and the soothing power of tender
music. Then, with a passing touch of and purifying power. But, read where happy egotism, which has
such a you will in the pages of the “Divina charm for us in poets that are dead, but Commedia," you will find this is one which, I am told, is resented, though of the main causes of its permanent perhaps not by the gracious or the hold on the attention of the world. Its wise, in living ones, Dante enforces theology may to many seem open to our belief by representing Casella as question, to some obsolete and out of forthwith chanting a line of the poet's date; its astronomy necessarily labors own that occurs in a canzone of the under the disadvantage of having been "Convito":
prior to the discoveries of Copernicus,
Galileo, and Newton, not to speak of "Amor che nella mente mi ragiona."
the great astronomers of later date, in
cluding our own times; and its erudi"Love that holds high discourse within my mind."
tion, weighty and wonderful as it is,
can occasionally be shown by more For a moment we seem to be again recent and more advantageously cirtransported into the pure realm of the cumstanced scholarship to be faulty Ideal, as not Dante and Virgil alone, and inaccurate. But so long as these but the souls just landed on the shores are presented to us nimbused by the of Purgatory, are described as being wizard light that fuses the Real and so enthralled by the song-tutti fissi ed the Ideal, we believe while we read attenti—that they can think of and and listen, and that is enough. The heed nothing else. But quickly comes very first line of "Divina Commedia," another realistic touch in the reproof so familiar to everyone, though it is to to the spell-bound spirits not there to introduce us to the horrors of the Inloiter listening to the strain, but to ferno, is so realistic, so within the hurry forward to their destined range of the experience of all who bourne. Finally, as if to confirm the have reached the meridian of life or impression of absolute reality, while even looked on that period in others, not removing us from the world, or
at one predisposed to withdrawing from us the charm, of yield our imagination passively to the Ideal, the poet ends with the ex. what follows. But I must allow that quisite but familiar simile of the the passage which does immediately startled doves already recited to you. follow, and which discourses of the
What is the impression left, what panther, the lion, and the wolf, is so the result produced, by the entire symbolic, and has lent itself to so canto? Surely it is that the poet's many suggestions and interpretations, imagination, operating through the that, had the poem generally been conpoet's realistic treatment of the Ideal, ceived and composed in that fashion, and his idealistic treatment of the it would not only have fallen short of Real, has taken us all captive, so that immortality, it would long since have we feel nothing of the Increduius odi been buried in the pool of Lethe, disposition, the unwillingness to be- which is the predestined resting-place lieve, and the mental antipathy en- of all untempered and unredeemed gendered by that unwillingness, SO symbolism in verse. I smile, and I tersely and so truly described by Hor- have no doubt you will smile also, ace, but yield credence wholly and when I say that I too have my own absolutely to the existence of a place interpretation of the inner meaning of called Purgatory, with its circles, its those three menacing beasts. But, denizens, its hopes, its aspirations, be assured, I have not the smallest in.
tention of communicating it to you. I Could you have more realistic gladly pass on, gladly and quickly, as touch? So realistic, so real, is it, in Dante himself passes on, to a more the Realm of the Ideal, that, just as welcome and less disreputable appari- Dante followed Virgil, so we follow tion, who answers, when questioned both, humble and unquestioning beas to who and what he is, that man he lievers in whatever may be told us. is not, but man he was; that his par. I am not unaware that, in an age in ents were of Lombardy, and all his which the approval of inflexibly folk of Mantuan stock; that he lived avenging justice consequent on wrong. in the age of the Great Cæsar and the doing is less marked and less frequent fortunate Augustus; that he was than sentimental compassion for the poet-Poeta fui—sang of the just and wrongdoer, the punishments inflicted in right-minded son of Anchises, the the Inferno for the infraction of the pious Æneas, who came to Italy and Divine Law, as Dante understood it, founded a greater city even than Troy, are found repellent by many persons, when proud Ilium was levelled to the and agreeable to few. I grant that dust. In the presence of Virgil, we for- they are appalling in their sternness; get the embarrassing symbolism of the nor was Dante himself unconscious of preceding passage, and believe once this, for does he pot describe Minos more; and, when Dante addresses him as "scowling horribly" as the souls of in lines of affectionate awe, that you the damned came before him for judgall know by heart, and with repeating ment, and for discriminating consignwhich all lovers of poets and poetry ment to their alloted circle of torture. console themselves when the prosaic Always terse, and therefore all the world passes on the other side, every more terrible, he nevertheless exhausts doubt, every misgiving, every linger- the vocabulary of torment in describing remnant of incredulity is dis- ing the doloroso ospizio, the dolorous missed, and we are prepared, nay, we home from which they will never reare eager, to take the triple journey, turn. As Milton speaks of the “darkalong two-thirds of which Virgil tells ness visible" of Hell, so Dante, before Dante he has been sent by the him, writes of it as “loco d' ogni luce Imperador che lassù regna, the Ruler of muto," a place silent of light, but that the Universe, to conduct him. Pre- wails and moans like a tempestuous pared we are, nay, eager, I say, to sea, battered and buffeted by jarring hear the disperate strida of the spiriti winds, finally designated dolenti, the wailings of despair of the eternally lost, and the yearning sighs
"La bufera infernal, che mai
resta.” of those "che son contenti nel fuoco," who are resigned to purgatorial pain,
“The infernal hurricane that ceases and scarce suffer from it, since they
never." are buoyed up by the hope of finally joining the beate genti, and, along with
Of those who are whirled about by it, the blessed, seeing the Face of God.
"di qua, di là, di giù, di su," hither
and thither, upward and downward, "Allor si mosse, ed io gli tenni dietro,"
he writes the awful line:says Dante in the closing line of this, the First Canto of the “Divina Com. “Nulla speranza gli conforta mai." media."
“They have no hope of consolation “Then moved he on, and I paced after ever, him."
Or even mitigation of their woe.”
I could not bring myself, and I am bad the gift of birth goes down sure you would not wish me, to cite to the grave without having read more minutely the magnificently mer- it. There is no such other loveciless phrases—all of them thoroughly story, no such other example of the realistic touches concerning ideal tor- lacrymæ rerum, the deep abiding tear. ment-wherewith Dante here makes fulness of things. Nothing should be bis terza rima an instrument or organ taken from, nothing can be added to on which to sound the very diapason it. To me it seems sacred, like the of the damned; and, did he dwell over- Ark of the Covenant, that no one must long on those deep, distressing octaves presume to touch; and I own I tremble of endless suffering, without passing as I presume, here and there, to at. by easy and natural gradation into the tempt, unavailingly, to translate it. It pathetic minor, he would end by was my good fortune to be in Florence alienating all but the austerer natures. in the month of May, 1865, when the But he is too great an artist, too City of Flowers, the City of Dante, human, too congenitally and rootedly which then seemed peopled with a poet, to make that mistake. I am nightingales and roses, was celebrating sure you all know in which canto of the six-hundredth anniversary of the the "Inferno" occur the terrific phrases birth of her exiled poet; and those of I have been citing, and need no tell- us who loved him assembled in the ing that they are immediately followed Pagliano Theatre to hear Ristori, by the most tender and tearful pas- Salvini, and Rossi repeat, to the acsage in the wide range of poetic litera- companiment of living pictures, the ture. While even yet the sound of best known passages of the “Divina "la bufera infernal" seems howling in Commedia." One of those supreme our ears, suddenly it all subsides, and elocutionists, who still lives, recited we hear instead a musically plaintive the story of Paola and Francesca; and voice saying:
from her gifted voice heard
I of the tempo de dolci 808piri and "Siede la terra, dove nata fui,
į dubbiosi desiri, the season of sweet Sulla marina dove il Po discende,
hesitating desires, the Per aver pace co' seguaci sui."
disiato riso, the longed-for smile, the “The land where I was born sits hy trembling kiss, the closing of the
volume, and then the final lines of the Unto whose shore a restless river rolls,
canto. To be at peace with all its followers."
“Mentre che l'uno spirto questo disse, Then comes the love-story of Paola L'altro piangeva si che di pietade Malatesta and Francesca da Rimini, To venni men cosi com' io morisse: told in such exquisite accents,
E caddi, come corpo morto cade." veiled in music, so transfigured by
“While the one told to us this dolorons verse, that even the sternest moralist,
tale, I imagine, can hardly bring himself to
The other wept so bitterly, that I call it illicit. I confess I think it the
Out of sheer pity felt as like to die; loveliest single passage in poetry ever And down I fell, even as a dead body written; yes, lovelier even than any. falls." thing in Shakespeare, for it has all Shakespeare's genius, and more than This unmatched tale of tender trang. Shakespeare's art; and I compassion- gression and vainly penitential tears ate the man or woman who having almost reconciles us to the more ab
stract description of punishment that to-day, as it was yesterday, and will
whither he transports us, the "Para
diso.” Some prosaically precise per"Ah me! for aught that ever I could would, perhaps, say that the read,
thirtieth canto of the “Purgatorio" is Could ever hear by tale or history,
not a portion of the "Paradiso." But The course of true love never did run
you know better, for in it Beatrice apsmooth."
pears to her poet-lover:It is the greatest of all masters of the human heart, the greatest and wis
"sotto verde manto,
Vestita di color di fiamma viva," est teacher concerning human life, who tells us that; and Dante, who in “In mantle green, and girt with living this respect is to be almost as much light," trusted as Shakespeare himself, makes Francesca, with her truly feminine
while angelic messengers and ministemperament, say:
ters from Heaven round her scatter
lilies that never fade; and when Dante, "Amor, che a nullo amato amar per
overcome by the celestial vision, turns dona,
to Virgil with the same instinctive Mi prese del costui piacer si forte, feeling of trust Che, come vedi, ancor non m'abban. dona."
“Col quale il fantolin corre alla
mamma, "Lore that compels all who are loved
Quando 'ha paura"-
trust such as is shown by a little child not."
hurrying to its mother when afraid,
and exclaims, translating a line of VirAs we hear those words, it is no longer gil's ownRimini, Ravenna, Malatesta, Paola, Francesca, that arrest our attention "Conosco i segni dell'antica fiamma," and rivet it by their reality. We are en.
“O how I know and feel, and recog. thralled by the ideal realism, or real
nize istic idealism, call it which you will, of The indications of my youthful love;"-the larger and wider world we all inhabit, of this vast and universal he finds that Virgil, dolcissimo padre, theatre, of whose stage Love remains his gentle parent and guide, has left