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session. To sit down slothful, and renounce our task and work, relying only upon the Infinite Providence to bring out all, is base, licentious, impious. It is the chronic fault of an inordinate and unchecked speculating tendency, of lazy theorizing and contemplation. It characterizes far too many sects in philosophy, religion, and philanthropy, so reputed. The upper kingdom is one of conditions. The voice of duty is sovereign and absolute. This is a world of causes; and every day brings stakes, imposing high necessity, and involv. ing work vital to be done. “ The Divine Sovereignty works by means," as in boyhood we used sometimes to hear Calvinists say; and, while the Father works, we also must work with him.
Philosophy becomes, at last, one with poetry. It is the epic of the soul, -celebrates its recovery and return to the bosom of the One, the home of its being and possession for ever. It is the song of deliverance, of enfranchisement, and quenchless joy.
Here is a contribution towards the solution of the endless problem. Fichte gives us his method. It is of the best result the human soul has yet been able to gain. It essays the higher and final synthesis, — points to the attainment of freedom and felicity in renunciation and devotion, surrender and pursuit, resignation and anxious wish; co-ordinating these and blending into one, through the systole and diastole of life.
THE CHARACTER OF DANTE.
Dante as Philosopher, Patriot, and Poet. With an Analysis of the
Divina Commedia, its Plot and Episodes. By VINCENZO BOTTA. New York: Scribner & Co. 1865.
WASHINGTON ALLSTON once said, “Fame is only known to exist by the echo of its footsteps in congenial minds.” The work named above is adapted to multiply in the minds of the readers of English such an echo of the tread of the greatest
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Italian. In spite of the translations of the writings of Dante and his historical importance, his celebrity has chiefly haunted the heights of literary mind. His patriotic and scholarly countryman, now a valued American citizen, has thought to render a good service by placing in the hands of the people — not of exclusive scholars — the means of a more familiar knowledge of the great, solitary Bard of the Middle Age. Professor Botta has discharged his labor of love with ample learning, insight, skill and taste. The biographical sketch is full and precise; the analysis is made interesting and instructive by the clear firmness of statement with which it is presented, and the judicious critical reflections with which it is interspersed. This analysis of writings which are so much more distinguished than popular is calculated to be extremely useful to that large class of intelligent readers who are not likely to grapple with the original compositions themselves. We thauk the author, and invoke a large circulation for his hand
Dante Alighieri is the most monarchic figure in literary history. Awe and Love now accompany the shade of the untamable Ghibelline on the journey of his fame, as he pictured Virgil guiding his steps through the other world. That stern, sad, worn face, made so well known to us by art, looks on the passing generations of men with a woful pity, masking the pain and want which are too proud to beg for sympathy, extorting, chiefly from the most royal souls, a royal tribute of wonder and affection.
Some one has said that Dante was "a born solitary, a grand, impracticable solitary. He could not live with the Florentines; he could not live with Gemma Donati; he could not live with Can Grande della Scala." The truth in the remark is, perhaps, a little misleading.
a little misleading. It is certainly not strange that an exile should be unable to live at home with the victorious party of his persecutors; that a man absorbed in an ideal world should ill agree with a prosaic and shrewish wife; or that the demeaning favors of a patron should gall a generous spirit. Dante was no separatist, either in theory or in native temper of soul, though he was lonely in experience and
fate. The inward life was to him the only constant end ; the ecstacy of the divine vision, the only sufficing good. Memory, thought and faith were his three cities of refuge. His intellect was too piercing, his disposition too earnest, his affections too sensitive and tenacious, his prejudices and resentments too vehement and implacable, for satisfactory intercourse with others to be easy. “He delighted,” Boccaccio says," in being solitary and apart from the world, that his contemplations might not be interrupted. And when he was in company, if he had taken up any subject of meditation that pleased him, he would make no reply to any question asked, until he had confirmed or rejected the fancy that haunted him.” Benvenuto da Imola speaks of his having been seen to stand at a book-stall in Siena, studying a rare work, from matins till noon; so absorbed in it as to be unconscious of the passing of a bridal procession with music and love-poems, such as he especially delighted in. Owing to the extraordinary scope, intensity, and pertinacity of his states of consciousness, he was both an exceedingly loving and magnanimous, and an exceedingly irascible and revengeful, man. If he was sensitively exacting, he could also be regally selfsufficing. To such a nature fit society would be delicious, but hard to find; unfit society, easy to find, but insufferable; solitude, a natural refuge, not less medicinal than welcome.
The different kinds of spiritual loneliness meet in a more striking combination in Dante than in almost any other man. He knew, in a distinguishing degree, the loneliness of individuality; for he had a most pronounced originality of character, all of whose peculiar features the circumstances of his age and life tended to exaggerate. Altogether, with his towering self-respect, his deep sense of his own prophetic office, his soft, proud, burning reveries, it would be hard to find a more intrinsically isolated personality. He knew the loneliness of genius, his mind being of a scale and altitude far aloof from those about him. Among the peaks of human greatness, the solitary cone of the intellect of Dante shoots highest into the sky, though several others touch a wider horizon and show a richer landscape. He knew the loneliness of love. The wondrous fervency and exaltation of his sacred passion for Beatrice, no one else could enter into: he could speak of it to no ordinary comrade. In his own words,“ The first time I heard her voice, I was smitten with such delight that I broke away from the company I was in, like a drunken man, and retired within the solitude of my chamber to medi. tate upon her.” He knew the loneliness of a passionate, idealizing grief. He says, “ I was affected by such profound grief, that, rushing away from the crowd, I sought a lonely spot wherein to bathe the earth with my most bitter tears ; and when, after a space, these tears were somewhat abated, betaking myself to my chamber where I could give vent to my passion unheard, I fell asleep, weeping like a beaten child.” And again he says, —
“ Ashamed, I go apart from men, And solitary, weeping, I lament,
And call on Beatrice, ‘Art thou dead ?'" He knew the loneliness of an absorbing aim. The production of his immortal poem, in which heaven and earth were constrained to take a part, and which, he says, kept him lean many years, implies immense studies and toil. Such an exhaustive masterpiece is not more a result of inspiration than of unwearied touches of critical art. He knew the loneliness of exile. Banished by party hate, he always yearned after his dear Florence; upbraided her that she “ treated worst those who loved her best;" and, in his very epitaph, called her the “of all, least-loving mother.” He wandered in foreign lands, from place to place, almost literally begging his way, “ unwillingly showing the wound of fortune,'' tasting the saltness of the bread eaten at other men's tables, and at last dying in a strange city. He knew the loneliness of schemes and dreams reaching far beyond his own time, embracing the unity and liberty of his country; over whose distraction and enslavement others slept in their sloth or revelled in their pleasures. And, finally, he knew the loneliness of a transcendent religious faith, which his imagination converted into a vision ever recalling his inner eye from the gairish vanities of the world.
Before Dante was driven out by his fellow-citizens, Beatrice had died; his best friend, Guido Cavalcanti, had died; and he had lost, by the plague, two boys, aged eight and twelve years. Carrying these scars, and another as dark, inflicted by the disappointment of his patriotic hopes, he went forth never to return. Although he awakened interest every. where, his tarryings were comparatively brief. He knew his own greatness. His unbending kingliness, his serious and persistent sincerity, unfitted him for intercourse either with vapid. triflers in the crowd, or with haughty mediocrities in high places. God made him incapable of fawning, or playing a part. He must appear as he was, act as he felt, speak as he thought. It is obvious from his history, that he profoundly attracted the superior men with whom he came in contact. This is not inconsistent with the fact, that speedy breaches occurred between him and nearly all of them. He broke with some because they betrayed the cause of his country; with others, on account of personal incompatibilities. Who possessed fineness and tenaciousness of spiritual fibre, richness and energy of mental resources, sobriety and loftiness of imaginative contemplation, to act and re-act in unison with the soul of Dante Alighieri ?
He had a warm intimacy with the imposing and brilliant military adventurer, Uguccione della Faggiuola, and offered him the dedication of the "Inferno." There appears to have been a strong attachment between him and Giotto. One cannot look on the recovered portrait of Dante by Giotto, without feeling that it must have been drawn by a hand of love. Benvenuto da Imola relates, that one day, when Giotto was painting a chapel at Padua, — the wondrous frescoes which at this day make the traveller linger on them with a sweet pain, unwilling to tear himself away, — Dante came in, and the painter took the poet home with him.
When first banished, he was generously welcomed in Lunigiana by the Marquis. Morello Malaspina. Before long, however, he went to enjoy the splendid hospitality of the young lord of Verona, Can Grande della Scala. In a letter to Can Grande, dedicating the first cantos of the “ Paradiso” to