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Here he sees the Trojan heroes, Hector, -<3£neas, and then their descendant Csesar, with other heroes and heroines of eternal Rome; and among them also, though apart by himself, the magnanimous Mohammedan, Saladin; lastly also the philosophers, who stand highest. The leader of the band is Aristotle, the pinnacle of all extra-Christian wisdom, according to the conception of the middle ages. Dante does not mention him by name, because the whole world is supposed to know him. He merely designates him as "the master of those who know," to whom all pay the tribute of admiration and reverence. Nearest to him stand Socrates and Plato, and then in proper gradation the other worldsages of Greece and Rome. The series ends with Averrois, the Arabian expounder of Aristotle.
From this region of noble heathen, Dante with his companion now descends to ever deeper and heavier sins and severer punishments, until he reaches the middle point of the earth, the seat of the absolute bad. In the lowest circle sit the traitors. He divides these into such as betrayed their blood-relations, those who were traitors to their father-land, to confidants, and to benefactors. The first of these divisions is hence called Caina, from Cain, the murderer of his brother; the second Antenora, from Antenor, the betrayer of his Trojan father-land; the third Ptolemrea, (Tolcmea,) either from Ptolemy the Egyptian king, who betrayed Pompey when fleeing to him for protection, or more probably from Ptolemy who betrayed Simon and his son at a feast, (1 Mace. xvi. 15-17 ;) and lastly Judecca, from Judas Iscariot. Here are found Cassius and Brutus, the murderers of C;esar, the betrayers of their human benefactor. Dante regards them as both offenders ajrainst divine arrangements, and transgressors against the Roman empire, in which he recognizes a divine order and the type of the Roman papacy. Still more culpable than these is Judas, the betrayer of his heavenly benefactor, the offender against the visible likeness of the invisible Divinity. Lastly, sunk to the lowest depth, is Satan, the emperor of Hell, the traitor towards God himself. He is represented as a hideous monster, half immersed in a frozen lake, the image of his own life-element, absolute selfishness, with three faces, one red,
one pale, and one yellow, referring* as some suppose to three sins which concentrate themselves in him, but according to others, to the three grand divisions of the world as then known, over which his dominion extends; with six weeping eyes, every mouth crushing a sinner, but most grievously the traitor Judas; and with three pairs of plumeless, bat-like wings, which, constantly flapping, bear the pestilential breath of seduction into all regions of the world.
In the presence of such a horrible monster even Virgil becomes fearful and afraid. and bearing his protege, slides down the shaggy, icy sides of the monster, who still in the end must be of service to the good; whence passing through a cavern, they ascend to the opposite side of the earth, and come forth to see the stars again.
In attempting to present an idea of the Purgatory and Paradise of Dante, we musi be brief.
Purgatory Dante conceives to be a steep, spherical mountain on the western hemisphere, which according to the original pl« of Providence, was to have been the abode of the human race. Its summit is crowned with the Terrestrial Paradise, out of which Adam was thrust on account of his transgression, forming thus the direct antipodes of Zion, the mountain of salvation, on the inhabited hemisphere, and being at the same time the threshold of Heaven. Boti mountains rise, in a direct line, above!:' middle point of Hell. Christ, the sees: Adam, has again recovered, by his deaih upon Golgotha, the Paradise lost by the sin of the first. But the way thither leads now through Hell, i. e. through the den knowledge of sin, and through Purgatory i. e. the purifying pains of penitence.
At the foot of the mountain of purrsc*tion is a lake, guarded by Cato of Uiia. the stoic friend of liberty. Dante and Virgil must first wash from their countess ces the filth of Hell. Then an angeL tie direct reverse of the fearful Charon, wV. conducts the dead across Acheron, bra? them in a light bark to the opposite shore. Purgatory has also, like Hell, a vestibuJ* where all those are required to tarry, »' have postponed repentance while ^<*
• Comp Milton, P. L. B. iv. 114:
"Each passion dimmed his f»"
Thrice chang'd with pale ire, envy, and di «|»if
earth to the last moment. An angel escorts the wanderers over three thresholds, which represent the three stages of penitence, (confessio, contritio, and satisfactio,) through the gate of repentance, and, in order that he may think of the seven mortal sins, cuts the letter P (peccata) seven times upon his forehead with his sword. The mountain itself has seven broad terraces cut into its sides, and on these dwell the penitent. The different penances correspond with the punishments of Hell, in inverted order. In Hell Dante descended Yom the lesser to the greater transgresions; in Purgatory he leads us from the greater sins and penances upwards to those )f less enormity. The sins for which pentnce is done here, are the same which are mnished there; but with this difference, hat we have to do here with contrite, but here with obdurate souls. As in Hell, in and punishment, so in Purgatory, sin nd penance, stand in a causal relation vard one another; but the relation here ; one of opposition, sin being destroyed, nee the will is brought to break and yield, 1 direct contrariety to what it was before. he proud, who fill the first and lowest ^rrace, are compelled to totter under huge ones, in order that they may learn huility. The indolent, in the fourth terrace, e compelled to be constantly and activewalking. In the fifth, the avaricious id prodigal, their hands tied together, i with their faces in the dust, weeping d wailing. In the sixth, gluttons are mpelled to suffer hunger and thirst, in ?w of a tree richly laden with fruits, and a fresh flowing fountain, like Tantalus, til they have learned moderation. In e seventh, the licentious wander about flames, that their sensual passion may purged from them by fire. At the entrance into every circle, the gel who conducts them obliterates one the P's upon the forehead of the poet, the same measure also his ascent benes easier at every terrace. In place the fearful darkness, he is here lighted his way by the three stars of the theoical virtues, Faith, Love and Hope. In ce of the heart-rending lamentations of : damned, he hears here the ever sweetsounding tones of the hymns of salvaI, as sung by the souls which are longly gazing towards Paradise, and step by
step approach nearer to its confines. Whenever a soul has completed its purification, a trembling of the whole mountain announces its entrance into Heaven.* Having reached the Terrestrial Paradise, on the summit of the mountain, Dante sees in a great vision, the Church triumphant, under the image of a triumphal car drawn by a griffon, representing Christ. Beatrice now descends from Heaven, and appears to him in the car, and takes the place of Virgil, who is not permitted to tread the courts of Heaven, as his conductor. She represents to him, in strong language, his errors, and exhorts him to bathe in the brook Lethe, that he may forget all evil and all past afflictions. A second vision displays to him the corruption of the Church. In this Beatrice prophecies to him its restoration, and causes him to drink conversion from the brook Eunoe, whereby he becomes capable of rising upward to Heaven.
Lightly now, as upon the wings of light, Dante flies upward through the different portions of the Celestial Paradise, and marks his progress only by the higher glory of his exalted companion.\ In accordance with the Ptolemaic system, he places Paradise in the heavenly bodies known at that time, and views them as transparent spheres, rolling around the earth with different degrees of velocity, so that those which are nearest move slowest, while the most distant revolve with the greatest rapidity. He reminds us, however, that the Planet-Heaven indicates only the different stages of felicity, and that the proper seat of blessedness is the Empyrean.J Between the different abodes and their inhabitants, and the grade of their felicity, there is again an intimate correspondence. Paradise consists of three chief regions, the Star-Heaven, the Crystal Heaven, and the Empyrean. With the seven subdivisions of the first, it comprehends ten places of abode for the blessed, whereby is indicated the fullness and perfection of Paradise. The Star-Heaven consists of the seven planets, and the fixed stars. According to the view and arrangement of that age, the seven stars were the following :—First the moon; this is first reaohed
by Dante, after passing through the region of air and fire, and he here sees the souls of those who did not quite fulfil their spiritual vows. Second, Mercury, where dwell the souls of those who, although virtuous, yet strove in their bodily life after earthly fame. Third, Venus, which contains those spirits that in their pious strivings were not sufficiently free from earthly love. Fourth, the Sun, which holds a middle position among the stars, sending forth its rays equally in all directions, and which is the clearest mirror of God for the inhabitants of the earth. Here reside the most worthy theologians and doctors of the Church, (comp. Dan. xii. 3, Matt. viii. 43.) Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventura, Francis of Assissi, instruct the poet in the mysteries of salvation, and the depth of the Divinity. Fifth, Mars, the abode of the blessed heroes who have fought for the true faith. These shine as stars, and are arranged in the form of a bright cross, from the midst of which beams forth the form of Christ. Sixth, Jupiter, the star of justice, (a Jove justitia,) where are found the souls of just and righteous princes. These are arranged so as to express, in the first place, the words, Diligite justitiam, qui judicatis mundum; afterwards in the form of an eagle, as the symbol of the German empire, in which Dante saw the concentration of secular power according to divine institution. Seventh, Saturn, where reside the pious hermits and contemplative souls, which like flames are constantly ascending and descending a ladder. Dante reaches now the fixed-star-heaven. Here, in a vision, he sees the triumph of Christ and the Virgin Mary, and is instructed in the nature of Faith by the apostle Peter, in the nature of Hope by James, and in the nature of Love by John. This last Dante explains to be that which gives Heaven its peace—the Alpha and the Omega of the Holy Scriptures. It arises from a knowledge of God, who is Love itself. It is with transport that he becomes aware of being in possession of the true apostolic faith, over which Heaven exults, and the blessed spirits shout for joy. In the ninth sphere, the Crystal Heaven, or primum mobile, he sees the eternal hierarchy of angels who rule the nine heavenly spheres, and move in nine concentric circles around a bright, light-giving central
point—the Divinity. Now Dante Ki"> the pinnacle of glory and blessedness, tin Empyrean, which, in itself immovable, B yet the original cause of all movement. For God is without longing for anything that is without him, but yet gives forth slife from himself. The poet here sees d. those blessed spirits, which, like innunwv ble leaves, form an endless sweet-sceatoi rose. Beatrice now leaves him, to result her place among the blessed. The go«ir Shystic, the holy Bernard of Clairvaux, Lot stands by his side, and, on his request, permits him one fearful gaze upon the Godhead. He beholds three circles of eqail circumference, but of different colors; oat of these exhibits a human countenance The pen refuses its office; his spirit i». a it were, electrified by a sudden shock; ssd he is inexpressibly happy in the Coombplation of the Love of the Trinity, wbict illumines the sun and the stars, gives h*av« and earth their motions, fills Time and Eic:nity, and draws from the choir of the ble»a and angels an endless song of praise.
Thus have we attempted to give a brw sketch of this poem, in its organic utmr It is a mirror of the universe; a "my* unfathomable song," as Tieck calls it Iti "encyclopaedic" in its very nature, as Fift main well remarks in his tableau de la Hat rature du Moyen Age, because it carries i its bosom "a complete history of the sck« and poetry of its time." II we cast a glaw once more at the mutual relation of tk separate parts, we shall be struck with A profound truth of the hint first given '•■) Schelling, that the first is sculptural, ti second picturesque, and the third musk'*! in accordance with the subjects thercs treated.* Hell is an immense group" sharply defined statues, of dusky, shade*] forms, fearful monuments of Divine j» tice, illuminated by the torch of poetry Purgatory is a gallery of variegated p* tures, opening, in an endless perspeow into Heaven. Paradise is a harmcciou unison of the music of the spheres, *iii the song of praise of the blessed raaow creation: here all swims in light; here >1 is feeling, sound, Hallelujah. The pora opens with the cry of despair; it fi"* forward through the sadness of longuy it closes with the jubilee of bliss.
* In the Critical Journal of Philosophy, maei* him in conjunction with Hegel, Vol. 11.
III. What, we may now ask, in the ird place, is the proper object of the Dila Commedia? We do not mean to eak of its object or use, in the common rise of the term. Poetry, like Philosoiv and Religion, is no mere means to rve some object lying out of itself. It its own end, bearing its absolute worth itself, and hence to be sought after for
own sake. Nor does it aim at any ecial practical use, but is sufficient in elf, and moves in the ether of liberty. it precisely on account of this high poion, it is more than merely useful and ■viccable in the common sense. In using ; term object, then, we mean something manent, that cannot be separated at all no the poem itself, and is identical with proper sense. Dante himself makes it consist in this: to lead the living out of ; condition of misery into the condition happiness.* He himself had, out of ; errors, which he represents under the m of a dark forest, at the commence?nt of the poem, led by a higher hand, d through the contemplation of eternity d the whole world, sub specie Eeterniis, found rest for the out-goings of his iging soul, in the peace-giving garden of irist.f the object of his desire.J So far ; Divine Comedy is a history of his er■s and his deliverance. On this account
represents himself as in Hell, a particint and deeply interested spectator; in irgatory as a penitent, to whom the first ps were immensely difficult, and from lose heart the seven mortal sins, like the en P's upon his forehead, pass away ly gradually and through actual pence. Then first does he become worthy obtaining, as a foretaste, a glimpse of it blessedness, of which he also is once become a participant^ But to this sub:tive meaning of the poem, we must add o its objective. For in Dante's heart d life is mirrored forth the whole world, i in this view, the Divine Comedy is
In hie letter to Cangrande: Finis totius el par
(namely, Paradiso especially) est, removere ernes in hac vita de statu misenffi et perducere ■latum felicitatis, (Epist. Don lis, Ed. Witte, p. I The false views of the tendeucy of the poem re been carefully refuted by Blanc, in his article, >«dr cited, in Ersch and Gruber's Encyclopaedia, rol 23, p 64 ff.
Parad. xxiii. 8; xxvi. 64.
Purgat. xxiv. 76-78
Purgat. xxxii. 100; Parad. v. 103; xix. 135.
also a description of human life in general' in its course from the world towards God> from time towards eternity, from sin towards holiness, from misery towards bliss.* It is, we may say, a poetical "Pilgrim's Progress from this world to that which is to come." The way of salvation leads, for all, through the knowledge of sin, (Inferno,) through the pains of penitence, (Purgatorio,) and through the contemplation of the mercy and glory of God and the salvation of his saints, (Paradise) On this way towards saving knowledge, man is not left to himself, but, on the contrary, he has for his guide history, or tradition in its widest and best sense, which God himself uses as his instrument. This leads us to remark on the meaning of the companions of Dante in his journey to the other world. These are three: Virgil, Beatrice, and Bernard of Clairvaux. Virgil is the representative of human wisdom and natural virtue. The scholastic theology did not look upon heathenism as altogether without truth, but as irradiated in some measure, remotely at least, by the beams of the Logos; and the system of Roman Catholicism, as a whole, it is well known, has taken up into its own life much of heathenism itself even, under a Christian form. In general, too, classical literature still forms the foundation of all higher scientific culture. Dante has interwoven into the first part of his poem manifold elements of Grecian and Roman mythology, which is sufficient to show, that he did not regard it as purely error. Aristotle was generally regarded during the middle ages, as the highest representative of merely human wisdom. Hence his philosophy forms the foundation of the whole scholastic theology. It was usual to compare him with the morning-dawn, ushering in the sun of Christianity, Hence he was called the heathen John the Baptist.f the precursor Christi in naturalibus ; and there was no end to the praises of his acuteness and profundity. But Dante chose Virgil in preference to Aristotle as the representative of human wisdom, for the following reasons probably. In the first place Virgil was a poetical personage, and hence a much more suitable conductor and expounder in a poem than the abstract philosopher Aristotle. And then also, Dante stood to Virgil in the near relation of a grateful scholar.* By his means had he developed his poetical talent, and could hence call him "sweet father."f Further, Virgil, in the sixth book of the yEneid, gives a description of the spiritual world as far as Elysium, (which Dante regards as, to a certain extent, a shadowy picture of the Terrestrial Paradise,) and comes even to a certain kind of Purgatory. J Hence it was also customary to look upon this book as prophetical of Christianity. And lastly, Virgil was highly celebrated during the middle ages, as the singer of proud, heathen Rome, in which Dante saw a type of the world-dominion of the Christian Papacy.
• In the letter of Dante, already quoted, he says: Est subjectum totius operis liiteraliier tantum accept! status animarum post mortem simpliciter sumptus. Nam de illo et circa ilium totius operis versatur processus. Si vero opus accipiatur aliegorice, subjectum est homo, prout mereudo et demerendo per arbilrii liberl&tem justitiae prsemiandi et puniendi obnoxius est.
t Comp. Inf. i. 65, where gran daerto, referring to Virgil, may perhaps allude to the "vox cla mantis in deserto; parate viam Domini."
Virgil, then, is the representative here of worldly wisdom. He comes not of his own accord to Dante, but as sent by Beatrice, who has been incited thereto by Saint Lucia, at the desire of the Virgin Mary, the symbol of sympathetic, preventing, and intercessory grace.§ This is intended to show that even heathen wisdom stands under the guidance of a higher influence, and is compelled to become subservient to revelation. He accompanies the singer of the Divine Comedy through Hell and Purgatory, for natural reason and philosophy may bring men to a certain knowledge of themselves in the state of sin, punishment, and penitence. But it is plain, at the same time, that Virgil is most at home in Hell. Here he takes sure steps. "Ben so il cammin," says he: ("I know the way well.")|| Only in that region where Hell has changed its form, by reason of the earthquake at Christ's death, is he forced to inquire the way.^J" In Purgatory, on the other hand, he finds himself more in the sphere of mere presentiment;
he makes uncertain and timid steps, a calls himself a stranger who is una quainted with the way.* Hence he Li self needs the guidance of angels ir: terrace to terrace. On the mountaia Purgatory Virgil is hence the represea! tive, not of the common Paganism, bet that which in prophetic anticipation gt beyond itself.
Having reached the summit of tl mount of purification, Virgil is compel to return, and the office of condut-w now fulfilled by a higher spirit. For Pt losophy can come only to the threshold revelation; God himself and the p:v:blessedness of the soul, the natural mas unable to comprehend. Beatric«, who > companies our poet through Paradk. evidently the representative of TheoL-(which rests upon Divine revelation,) ori Christian Wisdom.f Since the centre this, and the chief object of its knowlrcLT is the love of God, subjectively and si jectively, (that of God towards men. s; men towards God,) Beatrice is well suit* to be its representative; for in her, Dial as a boy had already seen the ideal » pure ethereal love, and through her in had his sense for poetry and a highl world unfolded itself.J Sainl Btn.cn lastly, is the representative of mystic cat temptation, which is required necessar? by the scholastic theology as its pre* complement. In opposition to the schJ* tic Abelard, who drew everything do* into the sphere of the dialectic underswa ing, his motto was: "God is known i far as he is loved." The contemptof the pious heart, according to hi* stands even higher than Faith M Hence it is he that leads Dante to gal upon the Trinity, after preparing his* for it by previous prayer.g
IV. In conclusion, it remains stil 1 cast a glance on the relation of Da^ti Protestantism. This sublime poet ha* i urally not been wanting in interpri
• Purg. ii. 61-63. E Virgilio nspose: voi credete Forse, che siutno esperti di esto loco; Ma uoi sem peregrin, come voi sieie. t Purgat. xviii. 46-48; xxxiii. 10. 0 xxxi. 130. where the three ao called uWo# virtues. Faith, Love, and Hope, daoce taj around Beatrice, i Inf. ii. 105; Purg xxx. 121-123. § Parad. xxx. 147-161.