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“ The other three expired, one after the other, between the “ fifth and fixth days, famished as you see me now. And I “ being seized with blindness began to crawl over them, sovra “ cigsouno, on hands and feet; and for three days after they “ were dead, continued calling them by their names. At length, “ famine finished my torments.” Having said this, the poet adds, with distorted eyes he again fixed his teeth on the mangled feull . It is not improbable, that the shades of unfortunate men, who described under peculiar situations and with their proper attributes, are introduced relating at large their histories in hell to Dante, might have given the hint to Boccace's book DE CAs IBus VIRoRUM ILLUSTRIUM, On the Misfortunes of Illustrious Personages, the original model of the MIRRouR of MAGIs TRATEs. Dante's PURGA Tory is not on the whole less fantastic than his Hell. As his hell was a vast perpendicular cavity in the earth, he supposes Purgatory to be a cylindric mass elevated to a prodigious height. At intervals are recesses proječting from the outside of the cylinder. In these recesses, some higher and some lower, the wicked expiate their crimes, according to the proportion of their guilt. From one department they pass to another by steps of stone exceedingly steep. On the top of the whole, or the summit of Purgatory, is a plat-form adorned with trees and vegetables of every kind. This is the Terrestrial Paradise, which has been transported hither we know not how, and which forms an avenue to the Paradise Celestial. It is extraordinary that some of the Gothic painters should not have given us this subjećt. ! Dante describes not disagreeably the first region which he traverses on leaving Hell. The heavens are tinged with sapphire, and the star of love, or the sun, makes all the orient laugh. He sees a venerable sage approach. This is Cato of Utica, who, astonished to see a living man in the mansion of ghosts, questions Dante and Virgil about the business which brought them hither.
* Ibid. See supr. vol. i. 390, And Essay on Pope, p.254. 7 Purcat. Cant. i. Virgil
Virgil answers: and Cato advises Virgil to wash Dante's face,
Dante thus translated 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 persons recognised in Virgil's fixth 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
OWI) timeS. Dante sees some of the ghosts of Purgatory advancing forward, more meagre and emaciated than the rest. He asks how this could happen in a place where all live alike without nourishment. Virgil quotes the example of Meleager, who wasted with a firebrand, on the gradual extinétion of which his life depended. He also produces the comparison of a mirror reflecting a figure. These obscure explications do not satisfy the doubts of Dante. Statius, for his better instruction, explains how a child grows in the womb of the mother, how it is enlarged, and by degrees receives life and intellect. The drift of our author 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 Tesoretro of Brunetto. Unintelligible solutions of a similar sort, drawn from a frivolous and mysterious philosophy, mark the writers of Dante's age. The PARAD Ise of Dante, the third part of this poem, resembles his Pu R GAT or Y. Its fićtions, 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 scripture. Our author's vision ends with the deity, and we know not by what miraculous assistance he returns to earth. It must be allowed, that the scenes of Virgil's fixth book have many fine strokes of the terrible. But Dante's colouring is of a more gloomy temperature. There is a sombrous cast in his imagination : and he has given new shades of horror to the classical hell. We may say of Dante, that 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 pračtices 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 so respectful a compliment to Dante as to acknowledge no other model, and with his excellencies, to transcribe and perpetuate all his extravagancies.
. . Vol. III. K k S E c T.