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" Monsieur de Lucifer !
le Chef de l'Eglise.
J'ai fait souvent cette distinction
Vingt coups de fouet, dont bien fort il me cuit:
Dante thus tranflated would have had many more readers than at present. I take this opportunity of remarking, that our author's perpetual reference to recent facts and characters is in imitation of Virgil, yet with this very material difference. The perfons recognised in Virgil's sixth book, for instance the chiefs of the Trojan war, are the cotemporaries of the hero not of the poet. The truth is, Dante's poem is a satirical history of his wn timnes.
Dante sees some of the ghosts of Purgatory advancing forvard, more meagre and emaciated than the rest. He asks how his could happen in a place where all live alike without nouishment. Virgil quotes the example of Meleager, who wasted rith a firebrand, on the gradual extinction of which his life deended. He also produces the comparison of a mirror reflecting figure. These obscure explications do not satisfy the doubts of ante. Statius, for his, better instruction, explains how a ild grows in the womb of the mother, how it is enlarged, d by degrees receives life and intellect. The drift of our
author is apparent in these profound illustrations. He means to shew his skill in a sort of metaphysical anatomy. We see something of this in the TESORETTO of Brunetto. Unintelligible solutions of a similar fort, drawn from a frivolous and mysterious philosophy, mark the writers of Dante's age.
The PARADISE of Dante, the third part of this poem, resembles his PURGATORY. Its fictions, and its allegories which suffer by being explained, are all conceived in the same chimerical spirit. The poet successively views the glory of the saints, of angels, of the holy Virgin, and at last of God himself.
Heaven as well as hell, among the monks, had its legendary description ; which it was heresy to disbelieve, and which was formed on perversions or misinterpretations of fcripture. . Our author's vision ends with the deity, and we know not by what miraculous affiftance he returns to earth.
It must be allowed, that the scenes of Virgil's sixth book have many fine strokes of the terrible. But Dante's colouring is of a more gloomy temperature. There is a fombrous cast in his imagination : and he has given new shades of horror to the classical hell. We may say of Dante, that
Hell GrowS DARKER at his FROWN * The sensations of fear impressed by the Roman poet are less harrassing to the repose of the mind: they have a more equable and placid effect. The terror of Virgil's tremendous objects is diminished by correctness of composition and elegance of style. We are reconciled to his Gorgons and Hydras, by the grace
of expression, and the charms of versification.
In the mean time, it may seem a matter of surprise, that the Italian poets of the thirteenth century who restored, admired, and studied the classics, did not imitate their beauties. But while they poffessed the genuine models of antiquity, their
• PAR, L. j. 720.
unnatural and eccentric habits of mind and manners, their attachments to system, their scholastic theology, superstition, ideal love, and above all their chivalry, had corrupted every true principle of life and literature, and consequently prevented the progress of taste and propriety. They could not conform to the practices and notions of their own age, and to the ideas of the antients, at the same time. They were dazzled with the imageries of Virgil and Homer,' which they could not always understand or apply: or which they saw through the mist of prejudice and misconception. Their genius having once taken a false direction, when recalled to copy a just pattern, produced only constraint and affectation, a distorted and unpleasing resemblance, The early Italian poets disfigured, instead of adorning their works, by attempting to imitate the classics. The charms which we so much admire in Dante, do not belong to the Greeks and Romans. They are derived from another origin, and must be traced back to a different stock. Nor is it at the same time less surprising, that the later Italian poets, in more enlightened times, should have paid fo respectful a compliment to Dante as to acknowledge no other model, and with his excellencies, to transcribe and perpetuate all his extravagancies.
NOW return to the MIRROR OF MAGISTRATES, and
to Sackville's Legend of Buckingham, which follows his INDUCTION
The Complaynt of HENRYE Duke oF BUCKINGHAM, is written with a force and even elegance of expression, a copiousness of phraseology, and an exactness of versification, not to be found in
of the collection. On the whole, it may be thought tedious and languid. But that objection unavoidably refults from the general plan of these pieces. It is impossible that soliloquies of such prolixity, and designed to include much hiftorical and even biographical matter, should every where sustain á proper degree of fpirit, pathos, and interest. In the exordium are these nervous and correct couplets.
Whom flattering Fortune falsely so beguilde,
That loe, The New, where earst ful smooth the smilde. Again,
it forth, that all estates may knowe : Have they the warning, and be mine the woe. Buckingham is made to enter thus rapidly, yet with much address, into his fatal share of the civil broils between York and Lancaster,
But what may boot to stay the sisters three,
In these lines there is great energy.
O would to God the cruell dismall day
The anhappie hower, the time, and eke the day, &c. And the following are an example of the simple and sublime united.
And thou, Alecto, feede me with thy foode!
rage afresh thy venomd worme areare. Many comparisons are introduced by the distressed speaker. But it is common for the best poets to forget that they are describing what is only related or spoken. The captive Proteus has his fimile of the nightingale; and Eneas decorates his narrative of the disastrous conflagration of Troy with a variety of the most laboured comparisons.
Buckingham in his reproaches against the traiterous behaviour of his antient friend Banastre, utters this forcible exclamation, which breathes the genuine spirit of revenge, and is unloaded with poetical superfluities.
Hated be thou, disdainde of everie wight,
Leade thou thy life, till greater grief approch. The ingenious writers of these times are perpetually deserting ropriety for the sake of learned allusions. Buckingham exhorts ne peers and princes to remember the fate of some of the most