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would allow me to remain longer; for in the pit, on which I fixed my eyes, I thought I beheld one of my kinsmen.' "Truly,' rejoins Virgil, • I marked him pointing his finger at you, with a menacing and haughty air.' 'Oh! my master,' exclaims Dante; he was killed by an enemy, and his death has not been yet revenged by any of those to whom that insult was given ; and therefore he disdained to speak to me!'$

From those considerations, which we have been tempted to · expand perhaps more than was necessary, it is, we think, evi

dent, that the episode of Francesca was every way congenial to the principles, the poetry, and the affections of Dante, as well as to the age in which he lived. To satisfy Divine Justice, he, in fact, places her in Hell; but he introduces her in such a manner, that human frailty must pity her. Nature had given to her character the poetic cast. Her story, he knew, was one that could not be concealed ;--and he gave the daughter of his friend the celebrity which popular tradition could not bestow. The husband of Francesca was living and powerful when Dante wrote; but the fearless vengeance of the poet devotes him to infamy; and foretels, that his place, named after Cain, among the fratricides, awaits him in the very centre of Hell. Indeed, the father of Francesca continued to afford protection to Dante, and not only attended his remains to the tomb, but composed and recited a funeral oration over them. His successors, too, defended the Poet's sepulchre against the power of Charles de Valois king of Naples, and the Church—when John the XXIII sent Cardinal Bernardo di Poggetto from Avignon to Ravenna, with orders to drag forth the bones of the poet from the repose of the grave, that they might be burned, and their ashes scattered before the wind. This, indeed, is mentioned only by Boccacio in the life of Dante; and that piece of biography has been generally regarded as a romance. But the fact, we think, is completely verified in the works of Bartolo, a celebrated civilian, who was living at the time, and alludes to it very distinctly in treating of the law de Rejudicandis Reis. (ad cod. 1. 1, cod. de Rejudic. &c.)

The celebrity of the episode of Francesca, and the little light hitherto thrown upon it has engaged us in a discussion, the unavoidable length of which is an additional proof that a commentary upon Dante, which should be useful in a historical and poetical view, still remains to be executed. We hasten now to the close of these desultory observations. But sew literary men are acquainted with his lyric compositions; and his prose is

♡ Hell, Cant. 29.

scarcely ever mentioned. The elegant treatise written by him, to prove that in a nation, divided by so many dialects as Italy, it must be impossible to adapt the dialect of Florence exclusively, was the principal cause of the little value set by the academy of La Crusca and its adherents upon the prose of our poet. For La Crusca always maintained that the language should not be cailed Italian, or even Tuscan, but Florentine. Nevertheless, the literary language of Italy, though founded upon the Tuscan, is a distinct language, created by the commonwealth of authors, never spoken, but always written; as Dante had seen and foreseen. His own prose is a fine model of forcible and simple style, harmonious without studied cadences, and elegant without the affected graces of Boccacio and his iinitators. We venture upon a short specimen, extracted from the Convito, upon the subject to which we have alluded.

• Siccome non si può bene manifestare la bellezza d'una donna, quando li adornamenti dell'azzimare e delle vestimenta la fanno più annumerare che essa medesima. Onde chi vuole bene giudicare d'una donna, guardi quella, quando solo sua naturale bellezza si sta con lei, da tutto accidentale adornamento discompagnata; Sicome sarà questo volgare ; nel quale si vedrà l'agevolezza delle sue sillabe, le proprietà delle sue condizioni, e le orazioni che di lui si fanno :-le quali chi bene guarderà, vedrà essere piene di dolcissima e d'amabilissima bellezza.

• A perpetuale infamia e depressione degli malvagi uomini d'Italia che commendano lo volgare altrui e il loro proprio dispregiano, dico, che la loro mossa viene di cinque abominevoli cagioni. La prima, è cecità di discrezione. La seconda, maliziata scusazione. La terza, cupidità di vanagloria. La quarta, argomento d'invidia. La quinta e l'ultima, viltà d'animo, cio è pusillanimità. E ciascuna di queste reïtà ha si gran setta che pochi son quelli che sieno da essi liberi. Della prima si può cosi ragionare. Siccome la parte sensitiva dell'anima ha i suoi occhi co' quali apprende la differenza delle cose in quanto eile sono di fuori colorate, così la parte razionale ha il suo occhio, col quale apprende la differenza delle cose in quanto sono ad alcun fine ordinate, e questa è la discrezione. E siccome colui che è cieco degli occhi sensibili va sempre secondo che già altri, così colui che è cieco del lume della discrezione, sempre va nel suo giudizio secondo il grido o diritto o falso. Onde qualunque ora lo guidatore è cieco, conviene che esso e quello anche cieco che a lui s'appoggia vengano a mal fine. Però è scritto ch' il cieco al cieco farà guida e cosi caderanno amendue nella fossa. Questa guida è stata lungamente contro a nostro volgare per le ragioni che di sotto si ragioneranno. Appresso di questa i ciechi sopra notati, che sono quasi infiniti, con la mano in su la spalla a questi mentitori sono caduti nella fossa della falsa opinione, della quale uscire non sanno. Dell'abito di questa luce discretiva massimamente le popolari persone sono orbate, però che occupate dal priņ, cipio della loro vita ad alcuno mestiere, dirizzano si l'animo loro a quella persona della necessità che ad altro non intendono. E però che l'abito di virtù, si morale come intellettuale, subitamente avere non si può, ma conviene che per usanza s'acquisti, e elli la loro usanza pongono in alcuna arte, e a discernere l'altre cose non curano, impossibile è a loro discrezione avere. Perchè incontra che molte volte gridano viva la lor morte e muoja la lor vita, pur che alcuno cominci. E questo è pericolosissimo difetto nella loro cecità. Onde Boezio giudica lo popolare gloria vana perche la veda senza discrezione. Questi sono da chiamare pecore e non uomini. Che se una pecora si gettasse da una ripa di mille passi, tutte le altre l'anderebbono dietro. E se una pecora per alcuna cagione al passare d'una strada salta, tutte l'altre saltano, eziandio nulla veggendo di saltare. E io ne vidi già molte in un pozzo saltare per una che dentro vi saltò, forse credendo saltare un muro, non ostante ch'il pastore piangendo e gridando con le braccia e col petto dinanzi si parava. La seconda setta contro al nostro volgare si fa per una maliziata scusa. Molti sono che amano piu d'essere tenuti maestri, che d'essere; e per fuggire lo contrario cio è di non essere tenuti, sempre danno colpa alla materia dell'arte apparecchiata, ovvero allo strumento. Siccome il mal fabro biasima il ferro appresentato a lui; e lo mal Cetarista biasima la cetra ;-cre dendo dar la colpa del mal coltello e del mal suonare al ferro e alla cetra, e levarla a sè. Cosi sono alquanti, e non pochi, che vogliono che l'uomo gli tenga dicitori, e per scusarsi del non dire, o dal dire male, accusano e incolpano la materia, cio è lo volgare proprio, e com. mendano l'altro, lo quale non è loro richiesto di fabricare. E chi vuole vedere come questo ferro si dee biasimare, guardi che opere ne fanno gli buoni e perfetti artefici e conoscerà la maliziata scusa di costoro che biasimando lui si credono scusare. Contro questi cotali grida Marco Tullio nel principio d'un suo libro che si chiama libro del fine de'beni. Però che al suo tempo biasimavano lo latino romano, e commendavano la grammatica Greca. E così dico per somiglianti cagioni che questi fanno vile lo parlare Italico; e prezioso quello de Provenza,' &c. &c. ..

The lyric poetry of Italy was not indeed invented or perfected, though greatly improved, by Dante. It is mentioned by himself in his prose works, that lyric composition had been in• troduced above a century before, by Sicilian poets, into Italy;' from which time it was gradually cultivated, down to Guido Cavalcanti, who produced some very fine essays—the finest until those of Dante, who in that kind was, in his turn, surpassed by Petrarca. But still the germs of all that is most enchanting in the strains of Laura's lover, may be found in the verses which had previously celebrated Beatrice. The following is the opening of the canzone which his friend Casella so courteously sang w him in Purgatory.

Amor che nella mente mi ragiona
Della mia donna si soavemente,
Move cose di lei meco sovente
Che l'intelletto sovr' esse disvia :
Lo suo parlar si dolcemente suona,
Che l'anima che lode e che lo sente
Dice; oh me lassa! ch' io non son possente
Di dir quel che odo della donna mia :

Perchè il nostro pensier non ha valore

Di ritrar tutto ciò che dice amore. One of his sonnets begins with these four exquisite lines, to which nothing equal can be found in Petrarca in his happiest moments.

Ne gli occhi porta la mia donna amore . Perche si fa gentil cio ch'ella mira :

Ogrus che passa presso lei, sospira ;

E a chi saluta fa trenar lo core ! Unwearied reading, and a profound knowledge of the Italian language, and of the rise and progress of Italian civilization, are the essential requisites for illustrating the age, the genius, and the works of Dante. It requires active and persevering industry to ransack libraries, and peruse manuscripts of the 13th and 14th centuries, not even yet brought to light. We would further recommend, that the age of Dante should be accurately distinguished from that of Boccacio and Petrarca.

This distinction has never been observed in the literary history of Italy; and the consequence has been, that notions the most different have been confounded with each other. It was about the decline of Dante's life that the political constitution of the Italian Republics underwent a total and almost universal change, in consequence of which a new character was suddenly assumed by men, manners, literature, and the church.

it may be observerl, that Dante, notwithstanding the number of his biographers, has not yet had a historian. Among the pieces relating to this poet, either unpublished or but little known, which we have had occasion to sec, is an interesting letter, which we shall subjoin with the same orthography in which it may be read in the Laurentine library at Florence. *

About the year 1316, the friends of Dante succeeded in obtaining his restoration to his country and his possessions, on condition that he should pay a certain sum of money, and, entering church, there avow himself guilty, and ask zardon

* Those who wish to see the original, may find it in that library, by the following references. Pluteum 29, Codix 8, page 123.

of the Republic. The following was his answer on the occasion, to one of his kinsmen, whom he calls - Father,' because perhaps he was an ecclesiastic; or, more probably, because he was older than the poet. • From your letter, which I received with

due respect and affection, I observe how much you have at heart ! my restoration to my country. I am bound to you the more grate"fully, that an exile rarely finds a friend. But, after mature consi• deration, I must, by my answer, disappoint the wishes of some little * minds; and I confide in the judgment to which your impartiality • and prudence will lead you. Your nephew and mine has written • to me, what indeed had been mentioned by many other friends, • that, by a decree concerning the exiles, I am allowed to return to • Florence, provided I pay a certain sum of money, and submit to

the humiliation of asking and receiving absolution; wherein, my • Father, I see two propositions that are ridiculous and impertinent. • I speak of the impertinence of those who mention such conditions to

me; for, in your letter, dictated by judgment and discretion, there is ' no such thing. Is such an invitation to return to his country glorious • for Dante, after suffering in exile almost fifteen years? Is it thus

then they would recompense innocence which all the world knows, 6 and the labour and fatigue of unremitting study? Far from the man • who is familiar with philosophy, be the senseless baseness of a heart

of earth, that could do like a little sciolist, and imitate the infamy

of some others, by offering himself up as it were in chains. Far « from the man who cries aloud for justice, this compromise, by his 6 money, with his persecutors. No, my Father, this is not the way " that shall lead me back to my country. But I shall return with • hasty steps, if you or any other can open to me a way that shall í not derogate from the fame and honour of Dante ; but if by no such

way Florence can be entered, then Florence I shall never enter. " What! shall I not everywhere enjoy the sight of the sun and stars ? + and may I not seek and contemplate, in every corner of the earth 6 under the canopy of heaven, consoling and delightful truth, with.

out first rendering myself inglorious, nay infamous, to the people * and republic of Florence? Bread, I hope, will not fail me.'+

+ In licteris vestris et reverentia debita et affectione receptis, quam pepatriatio mea cure sit vobis ex animo. grata mente, ac diligenti animaversione concepi, etenim tanto me districtius obligastis, quanto rarius exules invenire amicos contingit, ad illam vero significata respondeo : et si non eatenus qualiter forsam pusillanimitas appeteret aliquorum, ut sub examine vestri consilii ante Judicium, affectuose deposco. ecce igitur quod per licteras vestri mei : que nepotis, necnon aliorum quamplurium amicorum significatum est mihi. per ordinamentum nuper factum Florentie super absolutione bannitorum, quod si solvere vellem certam pecunie quantitatem, vellemque pati. notam oblationis et absolvi possem et redire at presens. in quo qui:

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