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survey the course of the great judgment of tarry longest in Hell, because this part of the world. In doing this he does not per- the poem has generally been considered mit himself to be influenced by any sub- the best. jective feelings or personal considerations, He commenced his journey in the year but by his conception of Divine Justice 1300, at the dawn of a new century, in alone. Thus, with incorruptible severity, in the middle of his life,* that is, in his thirthe fifth Canto of the Inferno, he assigns a ty-fifth year; for in Psalm xc. 10, the esplace in Hell to the beautiful Francesca of tent of human life is said to be threescriure Rimini, who had been guilty of adultery years and ten. The day was Good Fridar, with her brother-in-law, Paolo Malatesta, the day of the death of our Lord.+ Two although he was under great obligations to days he spent in Hell, precisely as long as her friends, and especially her nephew, in Christ remained in spirit in the lower whose house he breathed his last. Reso- world, according to Thomas Aquinas, who lute belief had not yet come to be con- for this purpose combined the two pasfounded with the idea of uncharitable sages, Luke xxiii. 43 and 1 Pet. iii. 19. bigotry.
He needs one day to pass from Hell to In the case of an ordinary mind, the Purgatory. On Easter morning he agaia mere thought of such an undertaking would rises to the light, in four days of toiling have been considered ridiculous impudence. ascends the mountain of Purgatory, anh In a spirit like that of Dante, it is the evi- | flies through Paradise in one day. The dence of a great and noble boldness of ge- duration of the whole journey then is eigt: nius. The successful execution of the idea days, which Dante, by a significant fictina, proves that Dante had an internal call to has distributed into the week of our Lord's such a work, that he acted under a com- passion and resurrection. mission from the spirit of history and the The poet transports us first into : Church. In this great picture we meet gloomy forest, which is to represent the with the most distinguished personages human heart as ing in sin and error, and that flourished before and during the time at the same time the condition of the world of Dante, famous either for their vices or in the age of Dante. With the dawn of their virtues, and who were thus a bless- | day he reaches its end, and seeks now to ing or a curse to humanity. He leads us ascend a mountain illumined by the sun, in succession by poets and learned men, the symbol of divine revelation, but in vain, heroes and conquerors, princes and kings, for he is confronted and driven back bs i monks and priests, prelates and popes, as three animals, a deceitful leopard, a haughby so many statues of brass ; illumines ty lion, and a ravenous wolf. I These are them by the glance of his fancy and the intended to represent three sins, which, bedoctrine of the Church ; exhibits to us the sides being actualized in every human irreversible result of their life upon earth heart, were also prominently displayed in as the just doom of God; and fills us with the chief powers of that age ; namely. horror in view of the sins and punishments Cunning, which had its seat then especial of the inhabitants of Hell, with tender sym- / ly in Florence, Violence, which was then pathy for the penitent in Purgatory, and threatening the Church from the direction with an earnest and holy longing for the of France, from Philip IV., and Avarice
, bliss of the pure and blessed in Paradise. which had its seat in Rome, in the world. We may say indeed that a grander theme ly-minded and domineering popes, such as never entered into the imagination of a
Boniface VIII. According to this, the alpoet. But it well suited the character of legory has not only a moral but also a hishis
age, which, in all its strivings, aimed at torical sense. Just as the poet is about the infinite. As little able as our age would be to create the conception of a
* Inf. i. 1.
+ Inf. xxi. 112. The subject of the determination dome like that of Cologne, or a cathedral of the dates of the poem has been fully investigated like that of Strasburg, so little could it give by Kannegieser, in his German translation of the birth to a “Divina Commedia."
Divina Commedia, Vol. I. p. lviii.
# Doubtless he had in mind here the passage in Let us follow the daring poet on the Jeremiah v. 6: “Wherefore a lion out of the fores journey which, in spirit and in a vision, he sha!!slay them, and a wolf of the evening sha! made through the other world. We will spoil them a leopard shall watch over their cities
$ Dante himself distinguishes between the literal
turning back again into the gloomy forest, | resting place for his feet. Hence, with all the singer of the Æneid, sent by Beatrice, the undeniable sublimity, the tiresomeness suddenly appears to him, predicts, under also of the poetry of Milton and Klopthe form of a grayhound, a reformer in the stock, whom few even of their most enthuChurch, and invites him to make a jour-siastic admirerssucceed in reading through ; ney through Eternity in his company. He while Dante keeps the fancy constantly himself would attend him through Hell enchained in a lively interest by the fixed and Purgatory, in order to view in the first and clearly defined outline of his figures. the terrible consequences of sin, and in the The shape of Hell is that of a vast funsecond the voluntary sufferings of those nel, constantly narrowing, its apex standwho desired to escape the wrath of God ing exactly in the central point of the and to be saved. Through Paradise he earth. The inside of this funnel, or invertshould be conducted by a worthier spirit, ed cone, consists of different circular terBeatrice herself.
races, which, with the increasing depth, Dante determines to undertake the jour- also grow narrower and narrower. These ney, under the guidance of his honored terraces are occupied by sinners, according master Virgil. Passing through a portal, to the grade of their wickedness; the over which the meaning of Hell and the lowest place of all, the apex of the funnel, doom of its inhabitants is inscribed in fear- being assigned to the Devil. This form of fully sublime characters, they reach the Hell corresponds with the nature aud prodomain of Hell itself. This, according to gress of sin, which consists in ever narDante, is situated in the centre of the earth. rowing and contracting selfishness.
As In this respect he followed the view of the number of slight and ordinary sinners Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and the pre- is larger than that of great transgressors, vailing conceptions of his Church, which the upper circles are broader and more probably arose from taking in its literal densely crowded. It is also very expressense the article of the Apostolic Creed, sive, that over these regions of Hell there descendit ad inferos. Besides, he could reigns a constant darkness,* growing not well devise any other locality for Hell, denser with the depth. Still, a faint gleam 1 since he held the Ptolemaic view of the of light overspreads the gloomy terraces ;
world, that the earth formed the centre of and the lower portions are illumined by the the universe, and that all the bodies by unquenchable fire, but only to increase which it was surrounded belonged to one the horror of the damned, by rendering of the different heavenly regions. In like their misery mutually visible. Thomas nanner he gives Purgatory and Paradise Aquinas also permits the inhabitants of ilso a definite locality, as we shall see Hell to see their misery sub quadam umbroiereafter. This is plainly in much better sitate. I iccordance with the nature of poetry, In consequence of the deep meaning of vbich should always give us concrete the number three, reaching as it does even iews, than the method chosen by Milton, to the lower world, Dante divides Hell rho removes his spiritual scenes into an into three regions, each one comprising indefined and abstract infinitude, in which three of the before-mentioned circular terhe fancy speedily tires, like a bird on the races, so that it consists on the whole of cean, that, wearied by his flight, finds no nine circles ; to which must be added
also a preliminary circle, the vestibule of nd spiritual sense of his poem, and divides this Hell. The different regions are separated itter again into an allegorical one, (in a narrower ense of the term,), which has reference to Faith, * See Matt. viii. 12. moral one, which has reference to Love or Chris- + Comp. Mark ix. 44, Matt. iii. 12. an Action, and an anagogical one, which has re- * Milion too sings : rence to Hope.
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round, Littera gesta refert, quid credas, allegoria
As one great furnace, flam'd; yet from those flames Moralis, quid agas, quid speres, anagogia.
No lighi, but rather darkness visible, (See his letter to Cangrande.)
Servd only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace The fact that the poem is intended to convey so And rest can never dwell, hope never comes any different meanings makes it difficult to be That comes to all, but torture without end aderstood, and injures its simplicity and natural- Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed ess, but is in accordance with the spirit of that With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed. ge, and especially its theology.
Par. Lost, Book I. v. 61. et seq
from one another by the windings of a | the same also shall he be punished.” A large stream, which flows in circles through similar thought was supposed to be imHell. Of these circular windings there plied in the assertion of our Lord : “ With are four. The first, separating the fore- what measure ye mete it shall be measured court from Hell properly so called, is the to you again.' Mark iv. 24; Luke vi. 38. joyless Acheron, the second the marshy Sin itself, in the other world, is the punStyx, the third the burning Phlegethon, ishment of sin. Sinners flee from the punand the fourth the cold Cocytus. The ishment but desire the sin ; the desire is stream ends at last in an icy lake, in the present, but its satisfaction unattainable; centre of which sits the Devil. This is the desire itself has become a tormenting probably intended to represent the stream sting. This general idea of the close conof Belial, mentioned in 2 Sam. xxii. 5, as nection between sin and the form of its encompassing the dead in Hell. It rises, punishment is, however, carried out, not in according to Dante, in the island of Crete, a pedantic and literal, but in a very free from the confluence of all the tears which and manifold way. The lazy, for example, the human race has ever wept in conse- roll themselves about in mire ; the licenquence of sin, and will yet weep during tious are driven to and fro by a storm-wind; the different ages of its existence, which the irascible smite each other in the muddy increase in wickedness, and find their re-Styx; the Archbishop Ruggieri, who upja presentatives in these four streams. earth had denied food to Count Ugolino,
In the division of the sins our poet fol- is doomed to have his head chewed conlows Aristotle, who divides the bad into stantly by him in Hell. three classes, namely, incontinence, (arga- Our limited time will not permit us to día,) wickedness, (xaxia,) and violence or tarry separately in the different circles of beastly wildness, (ongsórns).* But, in ac- Heli. Dante has here brought together a cordance with his Christian stand-point, variegated mass of pictures from all ages Dante differs from Aristotle in that he and ranks. Poets, learned men, philosoplaces wickedness, or as he terms it, cun- phers, heroes, princes, emperors, monks, ning, (froda,) lowest in the scale. The first priests, cardinals, and popes—in short, al kind of sin, that of incontinence, is human; that truth and history, poetry and mythoithe second, violence, is bestial; the third, gy, have been able to afford of distinguishez cunning, is demoniacal. Each of these sins and vices, he causes to pass before us. genera comprises again a number of dis- living, speaking, and suffering ; until overtinct species. Under incontinence, for ex- come with fear and horror, we feel comfe. ample, he ranks licentiousness, avarice, led to bow ourselves in deep reverence before prodigality, wrath, &c.; under violence he the judgment-seat of that just God, 1 includes murder, blasphemy, &c.; under whom every sin is an abomination. There's cunning especially the different forms of opened here to the careful reader a witreachery.
field of the most interesting historie... The punishments of the damned are, psychological, metaphysical, theologica according to Dante, not only spiritual but and edifying observations. We shall bodily also. The spiritual punishments able only, by the way of example, to cu consist chiefly in an impotent hatred to template the beginning and the end wards God, in envying the happy condi- Hell, the lightest and the heaviest sins betion of the blessed, in dissensions among fore passing over to Purgatory. themselves, and in a continual lust for sin In front of Hell properly so called without the power or prospect of satisfy its vestibule or outer court, Dante vert ing it. This everlasting torment also ex- characteristically places the indiffereas presses itself externally, and Dante loves those lukewarm, honorless souls who bir most to tarry in describing these bodily no desire for the good and no courage f punishments. In doing this, he follows in the bad, who live rather like the irrao". general the principle laid down in Wisdom and slavish vegetable and animal wo: xi. 17, “Wherewithal a man sinneth, by and on this account are rejected alike
Heaven and Hell. As companions, bem
signs them those angels who in the gta * Ethics, vii. 1.
original apostacy remained neutral.
“ Cacciàrli il ciel, per non esser men belli, ment in the hope of the Messianic salvation, Nè lo profondo inferno li riceve
namely, Adam, Abel, Enoch, Moses, AbraChe alonna gloria i rei avrebber di elli.''*
ham, Jacob, (together with Rachel and his The biblical foundation of this represen
children,) and lastly David. These became tation rests upon Rev. ïïi. 15, 16:“I would
the first partakers of the everlasting. salvathou wert cold or hot. So then because
tion, but only after the completion of the thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor
atonement, hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”
In the first circle we do not yet meet with The names of these contemptible beings
sin properly so called and fully developed, have been lost ; they are never spoken of. opposition to the positive and written law
for this can only be perfectly unfolded in Hence Virgil exclaims to Dante,
of God, and against the preached and - Non ragionam di lor, ma guarda e passa !”;
known grace of Christianity. These are
yet in the natural state of man as affected He recognizes but one shade, that of one by original sin, but at the same time enof his cotemporaries, who from fear per
dowed also with a certain natural virtuousmitted himself to be led astray into the ness, and are such as have not yet come “ great refusal,” (il gran rifinto.) Com- into any contact with the Church. Their mentators have generally understood this condition hence is only that of negative to refer to Pope Celestine V., who knew punishment, the being deprived of seeing nothing of the government of the Church, God, (pena damni,) the absence of blessand took no interest in it, and who was edness, and an indefinite longing for it. hence easily persuaded by his cunning The poet first meets with a forest-like successor, Boniface VIII., to abdicate the crowd of unbaptized children and undistinpapal power only a few months after his guished heathen. But he soon perceives election in the year 1294, and to retire in the distance those of the heathen world again to his quiet monkish life. If this in- who were “rich in honor," the heroes of terpretation be correct, Dante comes here in natural virtue. A glimmer of light beams direct collision with his Church, which has around them, but it is only the reflection enrolled Celestine among its saints. of their own glory, this highest aim of the
The poet, in company with Virgil, passes heathen according to the maxim of Cicero: rapidly by these miserable beings torment- “Optimus quisque maximè gloria ducitur." ed by flies and wasps, their truest repre- So also in the other world honor is still sentatives. He is then, in sleep, safely the element in which they live, and hence transported across Acheron by a divine they are constantly complimenting one anmiracle; and a boundless cry of woe, soundother, enjoying themselves in the rememeng up from the deep abyss, announces to brance of their glorious deeds. Hence him that now he is indeed in Hell. The first their countenances also bear the stamp of circle, which he describes in the fourth song,
fourth song, a lofty self-feeling, and a stoical indiffers Limbus, the abode, according to the doc- ence, which is neither joy nor sorrow. He rines of the Romish Church, of unbaptized first sees the shades of the four poets, Hochildren and of heathen, and hence of Virgil mer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan.
So soon also. Here the fathers too of the old cove- as these perceive Virgil again, they bow
ant originally abode, but were released and themselves reverently before this their colaised to blessedness by Christ, when he league and exclaim : lescended in triumph into Hell, i. e. into
“ Onorate l' altissimo poeta !" his limbus patrum, between his death and is resurrection.
Among these, Dante After a short conversation they also receive raws attention to those (v. 55 ff.) who Dante into their midst as the sixth of the epresent the different stages of develop
tuneful band. Next in order they reach the heroes and sages of antiquity, who re
main forever upon an open and verdant Heaven thrusts out the hateful companions as oasis, the reflection of Elysium : stain; the deep Hell rejects them, else might the arts of the wicked swell with pride.” Inf. iii.
“ With slow and solemn eyes, 7. We will not speak of them; look only, and And great authority in their countenance,
Who speak but seldom with soft,pleasant voices
Here he sees the Trojan heroes, Hector, one pale, and one yellow, referringe as Æneas, and then their descendant Cæsar, some suppose to three sins which concenwith other heroes and heroines of eternal trate themselves in him, but according to Rome; and among them also, though others, to the three grand divisions of the apart by himself, the magnanimous Mo- world as then known, over which his dohammedan, Saladin ; lastly also the phi-minion extends; with six weeping eyes, losophers, who stand highest. The leader every mouth crushing a sinner, but most of the band is Aristotle, the pinnacle of all grievously the traitor Judas; and with extra-Christian wisdom, according to the three pairs of plumeless, bat-like wings, conception of the middle ages. Dante which, constantly flapping, bear the pestidoes not mention him by name, because lential breath of seduction into all regions the whole world is supposed to know him. of the world. He merely designates him as “the master In the presence of such a horrible monof those who know,” to whom all pay the ster even Virgil becomes fearful and afraid, tribute of admiration and reverence. Near- and bearing his protégé, slides down the est to him stand Socrates and Plato, and shaggy, icy sides of the monster, who still then in proper gradation the other world in the end must be of service to the good; sages of Greece and Rome. The series whence passing through a cavern, they asends with Averrois, the Arabian expound-cend to the opposite side of the earth, and er of Aristotle.
come forth to see the stars again. From this region of noble heathen, Dante In attempting to present an idea of the with his companion now descends to ever Purgatory and Paradise of Dante, we must deeper and heavier sins and severer pun. be brief. ishments, until he reaches the middle point Purgatory Dante conceives to be a steep, of the earth, the seat of the absolute bad. spherical mountain on the western hemiIn the lowest circle sit the traitors. He sphere, which according to the original plan divides these into such as betrayed their of Providence, was to have been the abode blood-relations, those who were traitors to of the human race. Its summit is crowned their father-land, to confidants, and to with the Terrestrial Paradise, out of which benefactors. The first of these divisions is Adam was thrust on account of his transhence called Caina, from Cain, the mur-gression, forming thus the direct antipodes derer of his brother; the second Antenora, of Zion, the mountain of salvation, on the from Antenor, the betrayer of his Trojan inhabited hemisphere, and being at the father-land; the third Ptolemæa, (Tole- same time the threshold of Heaven. Both mea,) either from Ptolemy the Egyptian mountains rise, in a direct line, above the king, who betrayed Pompey when Heeing middle point of Hell. Christ, the second to him for protection, or more probably Adam, has again recovered, by his death from Ptolemy who betrayed Simon and his upon Golgotha, the Paradise lost by the son at a feast, (1 Macc. xvi. 15–17 ;) and sin of the first. But the way thither leads lastly Judecca, from Judas Iscariot. Here now through Hell, i. e. through the deep are found Cassius and Brutus, the murder- knowledge of sin, and through Purgatory. ers of Cæsar, the betrayers of their human i. e. the purifying pains of penitence. benefactor. Dante regards them as both At the foot of the mountain of purificaoffenders against divine arrangements, and tion is a lake, guarded by Cato of Utica transgressors against the Roman empire, the stoic friend of liberty. Dante and vir in which he recognizes a divine order and gil must first wash from their countensathe type of the Roman papacy. Still more ces the filth of Hell. Then an angel, the culpable than these is Judas, the betrayer direct reverse of the fearful Charon, who of his heavenly benefactor, the offender conducts the dead across Acheron, brings against the visible likeness of the invisible them in a light bark to the opposite sbore. Divinity. Lastly, sunk to the lowest depth, is Purgatory has also, like Hell, a vestibule Satan, the emperor of Hell, the traitor to- where all those are required to tarry, who wards God himself. He is represented as a have postponed repentance while upon hideous monster, half immersed in a frozen lake, the image of his own life-element, ab- * Comp. Milton, P. L. B. iv. 114: solute selfishness, with three faces, one red, Thrice chang’d with pale ire, envy, and despair."
-Each passion dimmed his face,