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London Quarterly Review.
contributed. It was the gathering of THE DANTE COMMEMORATION.* all Italy around her constitutional
king, to do honor to the genius and The celebration of the Dante Festi- patriotism of her greatest poet; whose val, so long enthusiastically anticipat- name is one of her chief glories, and ed and prepared for by all Italy, was who has done so much to form her held in Florence on the fourteenth and language and literature, to develop two following days of May last. It is her national spirit, and to aid in adworthy of observation, that this fes- vancing her to the position she now tival on the six hundredth birthday so proudly occupies. Even Venice of the Florentine Poet, should so near- and Rome, not yet politically united ly synchronize with the elevation of with the kingdom of Italy, though his birthplace to the dignity of a royal united with her in spirit and hope, city, and its promotion to be the me- were represented on the recent austropolis of Italy. It is equally grati- picious occasion, alike in the splendid fying that this festival should occur procession moving from the square of so soon after the establishment of Ital- | Santo Spirito, and in the multitudinous ian Unity; an object of Dante's de- and enthusiastic assemblage and imvout aspiration, and to which his im- pressive ceremonies in the Piazza di mortal works have in some measure Santa Croce.
* 1. The Dante Festival. From our own Cor 4. Critical, Historical, and Philosophical Conrespondent. The Times, May 19, 1865.
tributions to the study of the Divina Commedia. 2. The Daily Telegraph, (Leading Article,) By Henry Clark Barlow, M.D. Williams and Co., May 17, 1865.
14 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. 3. The Inferno of Dante, Translated in the 5. The Trilogy; or, Dante's Three Visions : Metre of the original. By James Ford, M.A., Translated, with Notes and Illustrations. By Rev. Prebendary of Exeter. Smith and Co., Cornbill. J. W. Thomas. Bobn. 1861. NEW SERIES—Vol. III. No. 1
The spirit of Dante, though intense that of sovereign princes, and their ly Italian, was also cosmopolitan. He dominion operated as a blight on publoved his country with an ardent af- lic and private virtue and happifection, but he lived and breathed in ness. The commandments of God were an atmosphere far above his cotem- made void by the traditions of men; poraries; and although born in the and the system of clerical celibacy thirteenth, and flourishing in the be- and priestly absolution tended to unginning of the fourteenth century, he dermine and deprave the morals of belonged not to one age, but to all society, while the traffic in indultime. He had in his nature and char- gences, introduced by Urban the Secacter so much of the Vates—the pro- ond in the eleventh century, under phet poet- that he anticipated 'the pretense of raising funds for rescuing future of his country, and influenced the Holy Land from the infidel, gave her destinies through every subsequent direct encouragement to licentiousness age, preserving in his immortal verse and crime.
These evils were aggrafor posterity the knowledge of his vated by the violence of party-spirit, own times, and transmitting to us a which appeared to rage without conmore correct conception of them than trol. Every town and city was rent their own prolix and discordant an- by the contending parties of Guelph nals have afforded. Though“his soul and Ghibeline, and whenever either was like a star and dwelt apart," it of these prevailed the other was drivshed its lustre on the scene above en into exile. The
endeavored which it rose, and rendered attractive to maintain their political ascendency events which history overlooked, and by encouraging the animosities of the which the pen of the mere historian two factions, and sometimes by invitcould not have endowed with interest, ing the assistance of foreign potenor invested with importance.
tates. Thus Italy became the theatre The name of Dante is not only the of bloody and desolating wars; and most conspicuous in medieval history, the German emperor, the Frenchman, but as a poet he takes rank among the and the Spaniard, successively made foremost in any age or nation. Ma- her their prey.
Unity, alone, was caulay places him above all the ancient wanting, to make the Alps impassable poets, except Homer. Many a name, to the invader, and to preserve Italian illustrions during the middle ages, has freedom from the yoke of the stranger; been obscured by the lapse of time but the consummation of this obvious and the change of circumstances; but means of security was delayed for six that of Dante still holds its place in hundred years by virulent hatreds, and the literary firmament, and shines with by the rivalry and furious passions of undiminished lustre. Of middle sta- contending republics which led them ture and grave deportment, his dress to sacrifice material prosperity, and plain, and his manner at times a little civil and political freedom and welabsent and abstracted, he was endowed fare, to native tyrants and foreign inwith extraordinary powers of mind; vaders; thus preparing the way for the mould in which he was cast was ages of ignominy and bondage. one of the choicest
Yet these Italian states had been “The master-mould of Nature's heavenly hand, civilization, laws, literature, arts, and
the birth-place and cradle of European Wherein are cast the heroic and the free, The beautiful, the brave."
sciences. We are more indebted to
their example and influence than most The moral and political condition persons are aware. When the rest of of Italy in Dante's time was very la- Europe was comparatively poor and mentable. Its Christianity had long barbarous, Italy was prosperous and been debased by error and supersti- civilized. The open country round tion. From the Church the glory had each city was cultivated by an indusdeparted, and the Ark of God was in trious peasantry, whose labor placed captivity among its enemies. The them in easy and often afluent cirpretended successors of St. Peter had cumstances. The citizen proprietors risen from the condition of subjects to advanced them capital, and shared
their harvests. At vast expense and it“Il bel mio san Giovanni,” (My beauwith immense labor, embankments tiful St. John.) On the south side were constructed to preserve the of the piazza or square, common to plains from inundation by the rivers the Baptistery and Duomo, is a flagannually swollen through the melting stone inscribed Sasso di Dante, where of the Alpine snows. They are al formerly stood a stone seat on which luded to by Dante, Inferno, xv. 7-9. he used to sit and contemplate the The Naviglio Grande of Milan, which cathedral and its magnificent campaconnects the Ticino and the Po, was nile. In the same age
the art of paintconstructed in the twelfth century, ing was revived by Cimabue and his chiefly for the purpose of irrigation, greater disciple Giotto, and that of and was the earliest artificial canal in music by Casella, both of whom were Europe, with the possible exception friends of Dante, and are all three of that between Bruges and Ghent. celebrated by him in the Divina ComIt is still useful for its original pur- media. Throughout Italy the study pose, the country on each side, which of the classics, of history, philosophy, is the finest part of Lombardy, being and ethics, was now revived; but it watered by its numerous branches. was in Florence that the love of liberAt a time, too, when the inhabitants ty was most pervading and persistent; of London and Paris could not step her judicial institutions were the first out of their houses without plunging that guarded the welfare of the citideep into mud, the cities of Italy, zens; here improvement in legislation walled and terraced, were for the most soonest appeared, and mental cultivapart paved with broad flagstones; the tion was carried farthest. rivers were spanned by bridges of bold The poetry of Dante was greatly inand elegant structure, and the palaces fluenced by the early poetry of France. of the magistracy united strength with The Romance language in Gaul pregrandeur. One of the most magnifi- ceded that of Italy, and was divided cent of them, the Palazza Vecchio, or into two dialects. The Provençal, the old palace, was built in 1298 by Ar- earliest of the European languages that nolfo, as the residence of the Gonfalo- sprang out of the decay of Latin, was niere and the Priori. There were the one employed by the Troubadors, commenced by him before A.D. 1300, the instructors of Europe in the rules the Church of Santa Croce, which has of modern versification. At the bebeen called the Westminster Abbey ginning of the twelfth century, Italian and the Pantheon of Florence, in front was not believed capable of becoming of which the Dante Celebration was a polished language, or worthy to be held in May last; and the Church of employed in the composition of poetry. Santa Maria Fiore, which is the Ca- The first lispings of the Italian muse thedral of the city. The cupola of were but faint echoes and humble imithe latter is the largest dome in the tations of the Provençal lyrics. It world; it was erected in 1420 by Bru- was after the long night of ages that nelleschi, who was born several years these stars of the dawn had risen, so after Dante's decease. This dome famous in their time; but they were served Michael Angelo as a model soon made to pale their ineffectual for St. Peter's. His admiration of it fires before the superior splendor of was so great, that he used to say: Dante's genius. Besides the Trouba“Come te non voglio, meglio di te dors, whose genius was lyric, and who non posso,” (Like thee I will not build, sang of "faithful ” or faithless “loves," better I can not.) In the year 1300, there were the Trouveurs of Northern that of Arnolfo's death and Dante's France, whose genius was epic, and vision, Andrea di Pisa cast the admir- who in the Wallon dialect (Norman able bronze gates of the Baptistery of French) sang “fierce warres." In St. John standing opposite the Duomo three different parts of his poem, at Florence, which Michael Angelo Dante alludes to the romance of Lanpronounced “worthy to be the gates celotte du Lac, and besides these alluof Paradise.” Dante's attachment to sions to the romances of the Trouveurs, this building appears from his calling their spirit may be recognized in thó
majestic allegories of Dante, who, ac- character. Such early attachments cording to Sismondi, took for his model are often the purest, and the most the most ancient and celebrated of lasting in their influence : how often them, the Romance of the Rose, which, has some object of boyish passion, rehowever, he has infinitely surpassed. moved by death, been enshrined in the
memory, and visited the dreams to the
end of life! DANTE was born at Florence, May
But never was the early ourteenth, 1265. His baptismal name love of human genius immortalized like
Dante's. The vision of Beatrice Porwas Durante, afterward abbreviated to Dante. Ilis ancestry, connections, tarini, seen at a festival given by her and the incidents of his life, are best father to the young people of the city,
on May-day, 1274, never departed from father, Cacciaguida D'Elisei, married him. In La Vita Nuova, the earliest a lady of the Aldighieri or Alighieri of his known productions, he relates, family of Ferrara, whose children as with infinite delicacy, the incidents of sumed the arms and name of their that youthful passion which helped to mother. Cacciaguida accompanied the stamp his destiny as a poet, and inEmperor Conrad the Third in his cru- spired his hymn of the eternal rest.
As in the case of another great poetsade to the Holy Land, was knighted for his valor, and died in battle against
one of our own country—the object the Saracen Infidels, A.D. 1147. Hence of this first and passionate love could the poet, in his Paradiso, exalts him not be his. Yet to the rank of a martyr, and makes
“She was his life ; him relate his adventures and describe The ocean to the river of his thoughts." the condition of Florence, and the simple and primitive manner of its health, she died at the age of twenty
After several years of declining inhabitants, before the breaking out five; 'unconscious, probably, or but of the great feud between the Guelphs half-conscious of 'the interest which and Ghibelines. While Dante was yet she had awakened in the breast of her a child, his father died and left him to the care of his mother, who, being name with his own in the immortality
youthful admirer, who has linked her wealthy and a woman of sense, gave of his great poem. To her he consehim the best education that could be crated the earliest strains of his lyre; procured. One of his preceptors was Brunetto Latini, an eminent scholar through the regions of blessedness,
in his maturer age, when passing and poet, who from the early indica- she is his chosen guide; and while he
, tions of his pupil's genius, appears to listens to celestial harmony, amidst have prognosticated his preöminence the shining company of saints and and renown.
Dante relates his meeting with him angels, her presence heightens heain the Shades below:
Dante's youth was distinguished by “A glorious port thou canst not miss, thy star a noble and contemplative disposition,
So thou but follow,' he to me replied, and that enthusiasm for study which 'If well I judged thee in the life more fair.'' is the surest presage of distinction, Dante's gratitude to his preceptor
and which accompanied him through is shown in his reply:
every period of his life. Among his
most intimate friends were some of “For in my memory fixed, now grieves my heart the distinguished men of his time
The dear and good paternal image known philosophers, poets, and artists. In Of you on earth, where with a master's art
the pursuit of wisdom, he not only You taught me how eternity is won.
studied in the famous universities of How dear I hold the lesson, while I live 'Tis fit should by my eloquence be shown.”
Padua and Bologna, but is also said
to have visited those of Paris and OxIn the ninth year of his age, he first ford. He belonged to the Guelph saw a young lady a few months older party, which at that time ruled in than himself, an event which left an Florence; and although not a warrior indelible impression on his mind and by profession, was in the battle of
Campaldino; in which, June, 1289, the for the purpose of restoring peace; Ghibelines of Arezzo were defeated. but the ruling party thwarted his enThus le commences the twenty-se-deavors, and the legate retired, leavventh canto of Inferno :
ing the city a prey to anarchy; dur“I have seen horsemen shift their camp, and I
ing which, in June, 1304, nineteen Have seen them join in fight, and at review, hundred houses were destroyed by a And sometimes quit the battle-field and fly. conflagration. The Bianchi and GhiI've seen the light-armed squadrons riding belines, during the confusion, made an through
unsuccessful attempt to surprise and Thy plains, Arezzo, and the troopers fleet."
reënter the town. Soon after this he married Gemma Dante's life thenceforward was to Dinato, a lady of a powerful Guelph be a life of wandering and dependfamily; and 'in 1300, at the age of ence; and with that susceptibility thirty five, was elected chief magis- which belongs to poetic natures, he trate, or first of the Priori. It was felt the more keenly the miseries of not long, however, before a schism such a condition. Thus his grandfaoccurred in the Guelph party, which ther tells him : gave rise to the two factions of Bianchi and Neri, (whites and blacks ;) the
“Thou wilt leave every thing which thou most
dearly Donati, with whom the poet was al
Hast loved; and this first shaft which thou lied in marriage, taking part with the
must bear, Neri, while Dante himself, induced by Will from the bow of exile touch thee nearly.
Next thou wilt find how bard it is to share personal friendship and the claims of justice, united himself with the Bian
The bread of others, and how hard the wend
ing chi. Dante and his fellow magistrates To mount and to descend another's stair. having called the citizens to their pro- But the worst load thy shoulders then offending tection and aid, sent the chiefs of both
Will be the vile and senseless concourse
thrown factions into temporary banishment.
Along with thee, and in that vale descending, The Neri betook themselves to Pope
Which all ungrateful, mad, and impious growil, Boniface the Eighth, who sent Charles
Will turn against thee; but in little space, de Valois, brother of the French King, Not thy brows will be crimsoned but their to the help of that party in Florence.
own, This led to a general proscription of
Of their brutality with rapid pace
They'll give plain proof ; 'tis therefore well the Bianchi, many of whom were slain,
for thee and their houses plundered and burnt; That thou a party by thyself dost place.” others were driven into exile. Dante
Paradiso, canto xvii. 11. 55–69. (Thomas's tr.) had been deputed to Rome by the Bianchi, to counteract, if possible, the Dante endeavored to obtain a revomachinations of their adversaries. His cation of the sentence which had been house was plundered in his absence; pronounced against him ; for which and he, on hearing of the proscrip- purpose he addressed his countrymen tion, left Rome, and joined his exiled in a pathetic letter, commencing:“Pofriends at Arezzo. În January, 1302, pule mi, quid tibi fecisti?" (My peoa sentence was passed by the Floren- ple, what have I done to thee?) But tine magistrates, condemning him to it had no effect; the family of Adimari, two years' exile, and a fine of eight who had got possession of his estate, thousand florins. By a second sen- opposed with all their influence an act tence, he and others were condemned, of justice which would have deprived as barrattieri, (swindlers,) to be burnt them of their newly-won spoil. In 1306, alive! The sentence was grounded he resided at Padua, and in 1307 was on “publica fama," which, in this case, hospitably entertained at Sinigiana, meant the slander of his enemies. by the Narquis Morello Malespina.
On the death of Boniface the Eighth, Ile went thence to Gubbio, and reand the election of Benedict the Elev- mained some time with Busone, beenth, a man of mild and conciliating dis- tween whom and himself there existed position, some hopes of reconciliation a strict friendship. His next sojourn were entertained by the exiles. The was again at Verona, drawn thither new Pope sent a legate to Florence by the amiable and enlightened charac