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We have reviewed the personal history of Dante. His great work, the one by which he is not only best known as an European writer, and as the first reviver of modern European literature, but by which, in Mr. Cary's translation, he is naturalized as an English poet, must now be considered. Not but that we have deep obligations to him, independently of the circumstances of this comparatively modern translation. Chaucer was well acquainted with his writings, together with those of Petrarch and Boccacio; and Milton had evidently not only read, but studied him thoroughly. Perhaps to no single writer is our early English literature more largely indebted, than to Dante. In days when poetry was less the language of passion and fancy, and far more the language of thought, bearing on its expressions the undeniable marks of mental cultivation and intellectual grandeur, the "Divina Commedia” of Dante was the book which they who felt in the inmost recesses of their nature that they also were poets, most frequently, and most intensely, studied. Some acquaintance with it, therefore, cannot but be interesting, not to say highly advantageous, to those who seek to be acquainted with the wonderful movements of mind, under all its phases of energy, and especially of poetic mind.

To the English reader, the Italian title of the work may appear both ambiguous and incongruous. The term comedy by no means prepares him, who is accustomed to its English use, for the work to which it is prefixed; and for a divine comedy he is still less prepared. Mr. Cary, therefore, has done well in giving to the English work a more suitable title. He calls it "The Vision; or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise." The entire work is a "Vision;" and its three great divisions, each containing numerous cantos, are "Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise."

The leading idea developed in the construction of the work, discloses the singular connexion subsisting between the classical and the Christian mind, at the dawn of what may be regarded as the modern literature of Europe. With the

establishment of Christianity, ancient literature had died away. Its authors belonged to a race of men now no longer existing. A new world of thought was opened by the Gospel; and even in this sense, by the reception of Christian facts and doctrines, men had become, intellectually, new creatures. Old things had passed away. All things had become new. The pantheon of Heathenism existed no longer, and a new style of thought, feeling, and expression, had become unavoidable; for God, who in time past had spoken unto the fathers by the Prophets, had at length spoken unto men by his Son. Poetry had to seek for a new imagery; and philosophy, instead of addressing men in the language of independent discovery, had to propound the expositions of a scholar of divine revelation. Between the departure of the ancient light and the sun-rising of a new day, a long and dreary blank occurred of what were called, and in many respects were, the dark ages. With Dante, the modern mind, having been completely formed, arose, and began to put forth its strength; but there was little to fall back upon, except the literature of Greece and Rome, and the sacred writings, and those of the Fathers and Schoolmen, and the history and biography of Italy, together, to a certain extent, with that of France and Germany. Dante draws largely from all these sources. Of the learning and history of his age, the "Vision" is a complete treasury : not, indeed, a mere miscellaneous accumulation; but the vast stores of a capacious mind connected and cemented by the vigorous exercises of his own independent thought, together with the rich emanations of a genuine poetic power, awfully sublime, or tenderly and delicately beautiful, as the occasion required. The leading idea of the work, however, at once discloses the position which, when he wrote, the heathen poet, Virgil, continued to occupy even in Christian Italy. This is shown by the "argument" prefixed by Mr. Cary to the first canto of the Inferno, the Hell, of the first book of the "Vision." "The writer, having lost his way in a gloomy forest, and being hindered by certain wild beasts from ascending a mountain, is met by Virgil, who promises to show him the punishments of Hell, and afterwards of Purgatory; and that he shall then be conducted by Beatrice into Paradise.

He follows the Roman poet." It is observable that the Heathen is his guide through the penal and purifying sufferings described in the first books; but to Paradise he is conducted by Beatrice, considered partly as the beatified spirit of one whom he had known and loved on earth, and partly as the impersonation of celestial wisdom, love, and blessedness. The "Vision" does not possess the regular unities of the epic poem, nor the regularly flowing procedure of the narrative. It is a sort of trilogy, in which the characteristics of epic, narrative, and dramatic poetry are strangely blended; following no model, and so occupying and filling the selected ground as to admit of no succeeding partner, but furnishing a work which the scholar may always study with advantage, and the lover of poetry peruse with pleasure.

Any approach to a complete analysis of this wonderful work would far exceed our utmost limits. We can only endeavour to give a general notion of the whole, with a few illustrations of the manner in which the poet has executed the task which he has allotted to himself.

In the first book, which has thirty-four cantos, Dante describes, often with thrilling power, the awful sufferings of the children of perdition. These are arranged in nine circles, which he visits in order, the seventh having three compartments, the eighth ten gulfs, and the ninth four rounds. In these, various kinds of sinners are arranged, suffering variously, according to the various kinds and aggravations of their sins. The examples which are introduced, though not unfrequently taken from anterior history, are for the most part furnished by Italy, France, and Germany, in times closely connected with that in which the author himself lived. He was a true "Catholic," but he deals very plainly with the persons composing the "Church." Whatsoever was implied in its character of holiness, Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, Popes, are placed by him without ceremony among the lost. His descriptions are often tremendously powerful; but yet, as might be expected when the human imagination was employed on such a subject, they are likewise often both too material and too particular. The Bible does indeed stand alone on all questions relating to futurity; and this is no trivial proof of its

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divine origin. What but a perpetual control on the mind of the writers could have prevented that (except by that control) resistless tendency to speculation and minuteness which belongs to the essential curiosity of human nature? Not the whole Inferno of Dante so deeply affects the mind, as the brief, but solemn and fearful language of Christ, in the account of the rich man and Lazarus, "And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torment;" or in that admonition, which, though proceeding from the lips of Him who was then man with men, has an unearthly sound, and fixes attention on the speaker as one who was not exerting the power of a commanding imagination, to body forth some description that might arouse and move the hearer, but who surveyed the invisible world while he spoke, not only in its aspects as visible to a created spectator, but in the deep inward hell of spiritual agony and despair, "Where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched."

We say not this to diminish the power of the human eomposition, but only that we may, in passing, point out, by contrast, the divine characteristics of the volume which was written by human penmen, but by them as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. It is not that other works, even the greatest, are surpassed by Scripture, but they are evidently of a different kind.

The first book thus opens,

"In the midway of this our mortal life,

I found me in a gloomy wood, astray,
Gone from the path direct: and e'en to tell,
It were no easy task, how savage wild
That forest, how robust and rough its growth,
Which to remember only, my dismay
Renews, in bitterness not far from death.
Yet, to discourse of what there good befell,
All else will I relate discover'd there.

How first I enter'd it I scarce can say,
Such sleepy dulness in that instant weigh'd
My senses down, when the true path I left."

He comes, however, to the foot of a mountain, and is somewhat cheered by the return of day. The description of the

effect produced, furnishes one of the innumerable instances of the power of the poet to connect, by some felicitous illustration, the several stages, longer or shorter, of the progress of his work:

"And as a man, with difficult short breath,

Forespent with toiling, 'scaped from sea to shore,
Turns to the perilous wide waste, and stands
At gaze; e'en so my spirit, that yet fail'd,
Struggling with terror, turn'd to view the straits
That none hath pass'd and lived."

But this gloom is soon followed by a cheerful movement,—

"The hour was morning's prime, and on his way
Aloft the sun ascended, with those stars

That with him rose when Love Divine first moved

Those its fair works; so that with joyous hope
All things conspired to fill me."

He meets Virgil, as he desires to ascend the mountain before him, and thus addresses him :

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"And art thou then that Virgil, that well-spring,
From which such copious floods of eloquence
Have issued?' I with front abash'd replied.
'Glory and light of all the tuneful train!

May it avail me that I long with zeal

Have sought thy volume, and with love immense
Have conn'd it o'er. My master thou, and guide!
Thou he from whom alone I have derived

That style, which for its beauty into fame
Exalts me.'"

The last lines may be taken as a specimen of the manifold allusions contained in the work to the poet's own personal history and feelings. It was not with superficial gaze that he had studied the writings of antiquity, whether they referred to poetry, history, or philosophy.

His description of the gates of hell is fearful :

"Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain :
Through me, among the people lost for aye.

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