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THE CHRISTIAN PARLOR MAGAZINE.
of the poem with Catholic Italians, of its spe- as bad, high monarchism. These are the affeccious and artful desence by that prince of con- tions, and principles, and purposes, which enter troversialists, the Cardinal Bellarmine, and of into his great poem: and they glow there like its ingenious believe-nothing, and doubt-nothing liquid gold in every line, every image, every analysis by that prince of bistorical critics, word. As Protestants we follow the GhibelBayle. Dante has impressed upon it his own line with our hopes and prayers through all the signet, and that signet does not read Popery, changes of his allegory: and at every step we nor Christianity, nor Paganism, nor fiction, nor are conscious that a Catholic garb is concealing caprice, but---Dante. It is in lividual, with an evangelical person, because in every light a dash of the monomaniac; religious, with a jus! and under every circumstance, he is acting upon detestation of a horde of usurpers and apostates, the fundamental principle of evangelicism, indiand Christian-like, with as much of the Sprit viduality as opposed to massive organism. as could eke through the turmeric of Missals Dante was a fourteenth century man with his and Pontificals. His inner life was fed by face toward the millenium instead of the deluge: principle, instead of form : he loved truth, he an inhabitant of a dark age, but not like the eschewed hypocrisy, and he clung with rapture obscure bat bending its wings towards the dens and enthusiasm around the living and life-giv- and caves of the earth, but like a young eagle ing doctrines, which even through a spurious peering for light and setting his eye full upon Christianity and a tyrannical government, he the dazzling sun : he was leaving confusion could catch a glimpse of, and could discern to and death behind him, and had hope before to be the only, and the sure safeguard of spiritual cheer and enliven his pathway: and when he and political liberty. He was a Catholic-a lacked wisdom, his heart did not turn towards Romanist, if you please—because the Bible was any Mecca to worship and ask, but he bent his a sealed book, and he knew no other form of eyes upwards and looked upon heaven through Revelation. But in his poem he chose of Ca. its own veil of pure ether, and made the air the tholicism what was best, and most approxi. glad communicator of his orisons, the omnipremating to Evangelicism. He was a poet; and
sent confessional for his trespasses. as such sought communion with kindred spirits of former days, and with the lovelier and purer
There is in heaven a light, who e goodly shine
Makes the Creator visible to all shapes of nature. He was a sworn adherent to Created, that in seeing him alone his holy faith, but he shrank from its impure Have peace: and in a circle spreads so far exposition at Rome, to hold sweet converse
That the circumference were too loose a zone
To girdle in the sun. with the scholastics, and ventured with them 10 the farthest verge of the catholic circle, to en- The poetry of the Divine comedy is that of a joy the healthful exercise of that liberiy, fertile imagination and varied learning, under wherewith God makes free. He was a gene. the conduct of eloquence and honest indignarous spirit, and a bruised one: and far from tion. The theme, and the minor parts, were rebuking the dejection of his latter years, we those which stirred and animated his soul of are moved to prize the more highly that humane souls: they brought up strange pictures with temperament which could suffer continued ex
dark colorings of bitter wrongs before his haustion from such miscreants and ingrates as
memory, and melancholy threw her sable gasthose, with whom his lot was cast, without ment over his fancy. Now he is carried away drying up for ever the fountains of sympathy by an impassioned eulogy of the good and and kindness. He loved the pure poetry of his the noble, now he pours forth torrents of Virgil, the angelic vision of his Beatrice, the scorching rebuke upon
the vices of Italy, and truthful doctrines of freedom and the holy con. now he brands the sloth and tetchy wantonness solations of revealed religion. He hated Popes, of the Pope and his minions with epithets of Cardinals, and bishops; intriguers and despots; biting sarcasm. With a lively sympathy for lechers, gluttons, and misers: but, what is far the beautiful and the gentle, he seldom views above all this, he heartily detested the union of them in their feminine attitudes, and never Church and State. He denounced it in didactic paints them. Alone of all the poets of Italy he essays, and in the rapid eloquence of song : he never wrote a line of twattle or slip-slop. Hell preached against it to his countrymen, and drew in his vision is gloomy, frowning, malignant ; his own good blade in evidence of his sincerity vice has lost its seductive charms, and is bold and trust : and it was his ardor to subvert the and froward in despair. Suffering only nourishes papacy which carried him over to what is just the fiendlike hate of the tenants of that nether
pit: horror, like a glare of fire in murky darkness, rests upon every countenance. The heavy hand of fortune had almost identified Dante's thoughts with gloom and sullenness: and it may truly be said of him, what Johnson unjustly said of Milton, that · hell grew darker at his frown.
It is the poetry of learning, erudite, scholastic, and occasionally ostentatious. His era was that of the revival of Roman letters; those of Greece and the East being yet unknown. It was the age of angelic and seraphic Doctors in subtle theology : when thought began to recover the use of its limbs, but had to turn infant again, creeping along the ground, and amusing itself with rattles and rubbish.
But the marks of a towering genius are manifest in the selection that is made of materials, and the groups into which they are disposed. Dante poured the lifeless dogmas into the crucible of his heart, and purified and vivified reason by passion. In the peculiar province of the poet he stands unrivalled in rich variety of images, and in the picturesque character of language. The ordinary actors upon the same stage with him are introduced with great skill, and neither
their numbers nor their obscurity are suffered to act as dead weights upon the interest of the composition. The chief events of history are sketched with a few brilliant strokes of which the only blemish is that they are suggestive rather tha: didactic: a few brief notes, how. ever, are sufficient to guide the reader, and the fewer and briefer they are made the better for the object of the poem and the memory of its author.
Dante is blessed with a translation into every tongue, whose literature is worth the mention, and is cursed with a thousand dull commentators, who are seeking, like barnacles upon the hull of a mighty ship, to traverse the ocean of time. To the English reader the translation of Cary, which we have employed in our extracts, offers as correct a notion of the spirit of the man and the genius of the poet, as a translation can. It is polished, and sometimes labored : animated and frequently brilliant; always full, without overrunning the measure of its office. Dante deserves a wider acquaintance with Americans, for it may be safely said, that an American Protestant can alone echo the fervor and the spirit of the Anti-papal poet.
That holy calm thy breast shall feel,
On earth below, in heaven above,
the joy, the praise are one, And to thine inmost soul shall steal
And soon these souls from earth remove, The presence of the COMFORTER.
Where naught but heaven remains alone.
C. A. G. * Milton.