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The Divine Comedy.
I. A--Florence. "Florence the beautiful,” at the time Dante Alighieri became a mortal, was a very
unique city and had much in it to create a OF
poet; and call forth the peculiar genius of this most intense man.
Other cities had feuds, crimes, and stirring patriotism in their midst, but, Florence excel
led them all. Other cities had works of art, As studied in Prof. Edward A. Grigg's class in Ethical Literature in Stanford University. The treatment will be of interest to those who have not had the advantages of a modern university education in
but Florence excelled in this respect also. that it shows how complele a study is made of a single poem.
The Florentine who was banished from home felt that no sentence could be more cruel,
and he lived only in the hope of retnrning. Bibliography.
The insecurity of life and property in Florence at this time, is Symonds, John Addington.
almost beyond our conception, the constant strife between EmIntroduction to the Study of Dante.
peror and Pope, City and City, Father and Son, Brother and Adam Edinbrugh and Charles Black, li 9.
Sister was the cause of the condition. Strife and turmoil, public Rosseti, Maria Francesca. A Shadow of Dante.
fight and private brawl on the one side, and art flourishing under Roberts Brothers, Boston, 1889.
the protection of the party in power, on the other, made an atmosRossetti, Dante Gabriel.
phere conducive to intensity of character. Dante and His Circle. Moore, Edward.
C-Dante's Early Life. Studies in Dante.
Dante's early life, tho spent in this atmosphere, was purified Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1896.
by an intense idealized love for a human being. At the age of Harris, W. T.
nine he saw and loved Beatrice Portinari, a young girl nearly his Spiritual Sense of Dante's Divina Commedia. Riverside Press, Houghton Mifflin & Co. 1896.
own age. Kulius, L. Oscar,
Tho his real life began in the year 1265, at this time, the Treatment of Nature in Dante's Divinia Commedia.
time of seeing the sweet girl in “modest crimson,” his ideal life Edward Arnold, London and New York, 1897.
began, and from the first look into the beautiful eyes sprang his Moore, Edward.
His Later Life.
"The poet found himself in middle life, (1300) without a Hallam, Henry:
path, in the midst of Guelph and Ghibelline, Bianchi and Nerè, View of the State of Europe during Middle Ages.
Cerchi and Donati, Secchi and Verdi” and the numerous other London, Ward, Lock & Tyler.
factions that made Florence at times a veritable counterWilstach, John Augustine, Boston, 1888.
part of Dante's Inferno. At one time about to be made Butler, Arthur John, London, 1891. Translations
Podesta, then, by a turn of fortune's wheel banished with
a death sentence hanging over him, Dante wandered far Essays:
away from his beautiful Florence and his “Bel San Giovani.” Macaulay, T. B. Vol. I. Dante.
His homeless wanderings call from us deep sympathy but Lowell, J. R. Vol. IV. Dante.
not regret, for had fortune turned in the other direction, Carlyle, Thomas, Heroes and Hero Worship.
Florence would have had, for a brief space, a great Podesta, but Dean Church, Dante.
the world might have lost “The Divine Comedy."* Syllabus.
Lowell on Dante's Life. i. Introduction.
Lowell says of Dante's life: “Looked at outwardly, the life a. The world into which Dante was born.
of Dante seems to have been an utter and disastrous failure. What b. Political, ecclesiastic, and social strife. Dante's early love, sorrows and wanderings.
its inward satisfaction must have been, we, with the Paradise open II. Sources from which he derived his ideas.
before us, can form some faint conception. a. Classical Writings.
To him longing with an intensity which only the word b. Mysticism and Superstition of the Middle Ages.
Dantesque will express, to realize an ideal upon earth and continIII. Definitions of the Divine Comedy,
ually baffled and misunderstood, the far greater part of his mature 1 Villari, 2 Harris, 3 Longfellow, 4 Dante's letter to Can
life must have been labor and sorrow.t Grande Scala. IV. Story briefly told.
We can see how essential all that sad experience was to him, a. General Divisions.
Dante gives an idea of his sorrows in the following lines: b. Some sins and people.
"Thou shalt abandon everything beloved V. Style.
Most tenderly, and this the arrow is
Which first the bow of banishment shoots forth
Thou shalt have proof how savoreth of salt,
The bread of others, and how hard a road
The going down and up another's stairs.” e. Use of words. VI. His Creed.
*Symonds Study of Dante, p. 53.
f1. Dr. Krien's lectures. VII. Its message to.us.
2. Lowell's Prose Vol. IV, p. 140.
A-Source of His Inspiration.
rived from the things signified by the letter. The first is called Dante's attainments, as well as his experience in life, fitted literal, the second allegorical or moral..... him to write, he was a classical scholar and drew inspiration from The subject then, of the whole work taken literally, is the Homer, Cicero, Ovid, Plato, Aristotle, the Bible and Virgil; to condition of souls after death, simply considered for on this and the latter he paid high tribute when they met in the nether around this the whole action of the work turns. world—:
But if the work be taken allegorically, the subject is man, "Now art thou that Virgilius and that fountain
how by actions of merit or demerit, thru freedom of the will he
IV The Story,
The story briefly told is that Dante while yet a mortal was Dante continues to sing Virgil's praises and is willing to
conducted by the shade of Virgil thru Inferno and Purgatorio, follow him thru the deepest, darkest part of the Inferno. Not
then after being drawn thru Lethe, the river of forgetfulness withstanding this veneration for his master as he calls Virgil, he
and thru Eunce the river which restored his memory of good, he leaves him to sigh eternally in Limbo with the unbaptized.
was taken by Beatrice to the very presence of God. B-Mysticisms of His Time.
The first superficial reading of the poem makes one almost Besides Dante's familiarity with authors, he was abreast of willing to say with Voltairé "That few people understand his his time in astronomy, astrology, and science in general, the isms oracles'' and agree with him when he writes to Father Bettinelli: can all be found in his writings, Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, 2" I estimate highly the courage with which you have dared Mysticism, Monasticism, Scholasticism, and Pagan Mythology. to say that Dante was a madman and his work a monster.” We might expect to find, as we do, that he places great stress on A second reading and close study begin to reveal the depth the mystic numbers three and nine, accordingly the Divine of earnestness and the marvelous fitness of words and imagery. Comedy is divided into three parts, each of these divided into Everything fits together and produces a mosaic of life that three parts and the whole number of cantos without the prelude never has been equalled. is ninety-nine. So in each canto the most minute descriptions Other poets have written down the development of one or a and details are all worked out and these mystic numbers appear dozen souls, but Dante in the Divine Comedy works out in bewildering frequency. It is not the province of a short thesis hundreds. Every sin in the decalog is pictured in all its phases, to work out the intricacies i of philosophic structure, but we are every circle in hell is filled with shades writhing in torment suited told by energetic authors that the three fold rhyme in which the to the sin committed. ** poem is written suggests the Trinity, and the thirty-three cantos And such torment!!i in each general division suggest the number of years that Christ One turns from it with nausea and horror, but if we stop to lived on earth.
analyze it, soon this feeling gives place to one of surprise at Dante's III–Definition.
deep insight into the effect of sin on the human soul. What is the Divine Comedy ? Many have tried to answer
W. T. Harris says: “I Human defect as sin must be this question, and many more will try, for it contains truth uttered adjudged and recompensed differently from human defect as by genius.
crime." Dante makes these cestinctions so clear in his Divine A-1 Vallari
Comedy, the punishment for the sin of anger is different from 2Vallari says: “In this great poem the reality of human
the punishment for the crimes which grow out of the sin of passion and human life breaks thru the mystic clouds of the anger. So the punishment for the crimes which grow out of the Middle Ages and finally disperses them forever. I
sin of lust are different.fi 2 Harris
B-Sins and People. Harris says: “Dante's poem differs from all other works of . Dante punishes Francesca da Rimini with eternal death beart in the fact that he does not limit himself to the development cause she gave way to all absorbing love. This beautiful woman of a single event or a single collision of an individual, but shows was the daughter of one of Dante's friends, and as a child, perus in a three fold series more than half a thousand tragic and epic haps, was dear to him. Yet he places her where she belongs aocharacters, so foreshortened in the perspective of the divine pur- cording to his scheme of punishment. pose of his poem as to be seen each at one glance of the eye as w In his own purification for this particular sin Dante passed pass on our way.”
thru a flame so fierce that he tells us
"When I was in it, into molten glass I would have cast me 3 Longfellow.
to refresh myself, so without measure was the burning there." Longfellow says: “2 The Divine Comedy is not strictly an
Dante believed so utterly in the scenes he described that his allegorical poem in the sense in which the Færie Queene is; and yet roem becomes more than an allegory, and to him at least his it is full of allegorical symbols and figurative meanings.
journey thru hell was an actual fact and he spares no one, popes, 4 Dante's Letter To Can Grande.
peasants, captains, lords, ladies, men of his own time, men of the Dante himself in a letter to Can Grande della Scala wrote:
earliest times are all marshalled into their proper places according $3“'It is to be remarked, that the sense of this woik is not simple, to their deeds done in the body. II but on the contrary one may say manifold. · For one sense is that 1 Every educated person at the mention of Dante's name which is derived from the letter, and another is that which is de thinks of Francesca da Rimini and Ugolino, Virgil, Beatrice, Bun.
conti, Sordello and a host of others. His genius was so great *1. Paradiso XVII-55 All my quotations are from Longfellow's translation.
that with a few lines he burns these different characters into our †1. Purgatorio VII—4 to 8
memory. , w. , p. 11. 2. History of Florence, Vol. II-p. 201.
**1. Lowell's Essays Vol. IV, p. 144. 21. Spiritual Sense of Dante, p. 53
Hi. Spiritual sense of Dante, p. 54 2. Longfellow's translation notes to Inferno, p. 115. 3. Ibid,
111. Purgatorio XXVII-49.
2. Teferno I-79.
B-General Characteristics of Dante's Style.
mystic sense and often a combination of circumstances. The We find force, depth, definiteness, brevity, sincerity, inten color symbolism of the Middle Ages is carried out in his uses of sity and subordination to a fixed purpose all wonderfully dis words denoting color, and paragraphs are requ red to explain played in the Divine Comedy.
the meaning of a single word. This fixed purpose he has told us was to eulogize Beatrice
I "Green, the emerald, is the color of Spring, of hope, partiPortinari, to say of her what never had been said of woman and cularly hope in immortality; and of victory, as the color of the set up a glass wherein each human being might see the effect of palm and the laurel.” So where Dante speaks of the garments of sin and the way to eternal joy.*
2 "Green as the little leaflets just now born, B-Structure.
Their garments were,” The mechanical structure of the poem is so exact that we are We know that the particular shade of green described has a able to draw charts of the regions he visited and estimate the days deeper meaning than simple light green. and hours of his journey. I "He starts the evening before Good It signifies hope, this being the distinguishing virtue of purFriday, March 24th, 1300, and ends the tour of hell and purga gatory, he clothes these two angels in green tho they symbolize tory upon the 30th of the same month, Symonds tells us.
Who could ask for more justice, clothed in hope, carrying a Another tells us: 2 He starts the evening before Good Fri
sword tempered with mercy. day, March 24th, 1300. Good Friday morning goes up the hill
That thought alone ought to relieve Dante from the accusaand enters Inferno with Virgil in the evening. Saturday evening
tion of moroseness. they arrive at the last circle. Easter morning they find them
When Dante speaks of carnal sinners whose punishment isselves at the entrance of a great cavera leading to the other
"To be imprisoned in the viewless winds and blown with restless
violence round about-hemisphere. The whole day and night Sunday are spent in this
The pendent world,”** subterranean journey. †
lie describes them as going thru the "L'ær perso" or perse air. Monday before daybreak they come out on the side opposite Perse air with figures passing thru it, makes a striking picture to Hell at the foot of the mountain of Purgatory. It takes him
when we remember the definition of perse that Dante gave 3 "A four days to go thru Purgatory, Mon lay, Tuesday, Wednesday
cilor mixed of purple and black, but the black predominates." and Thursday after Easter. Friday and Saturday he traverses the
At other times he speaks of 3 "the embrowned air" and nine movable Heavens, and Sunday a week after Easter he rises
makes Malbolge in hell the color of stone and iron. Ruskin comto the Empyrean.” Did any one ever conceive a more eventful
menting upon this says: journey? D-Figures of Speech.
"The Appenine limestone is so gray and toneless that I
know not any mountain district so utterly melancholy as those Dante's power in the use of images was very great. One of
which are composed of this rock, when unwooded. the finest similes in literature is the one of the sheep:
Now as far as I can discover from the internal evidence in I "As sheep come issuing forth from out the fold
his poem nearly all Dante's mountain wanderings had been upon By ones and twos and threes and the others stand
this ground.it Timidly, bolding down their eyes and nostrils,
I do not know the 1“Fall at Forli,'' but every other scene to And what the foremost does, the others do, Huddling themselves against her, if she stops, I
which he alludes is among these Appenine limestones; Simple and quiet and the wherefore know not,
His idea therefore of rock color founded on these experiences So moving to approach us thereupon
is that of a dull or ashen gray, more or less stained by brown I saw the leader of that fortunate flock,
iron ochre, precisely as the Appennine limestones nearly always Modest in face and dignified in gait. As soon as those in the advance saw broken
are; the gray being peculiarly cold and disagreeable." The light upon the ground at my right side,
With such attention to shades of meaning in words we exSo that from me the shadow reached the rock,
pect to find accurate description of natural scenery, but, Macaulay They stopped, and backward drew themselves somewhat: in his essay on Dante says: And all the others, who came after them,
2'No person can have attended to the Divine Comedy withNot knowing why nor wherefore, did the same."
out observing how little impression the forms of the external Macaulay advises everyone who can muster sufficient Italian world appear to have made on the mind of Dante: His temper and to read the simile of the sheep." and continues: "I think it the his situation had led him to fix his observation almost exclusively most perfect passage of the kind in the world, the most imagina on human nature. The exquisite opening of the eighth canto of tive, the most picturesque and the most sweetly expressed.''S the purgatorio affords a strong instance of this:fi This like most of Dante's images loses somewhat by removal
'Twas now the hour that turneth back desire from the context. One must recall the fact that Dante a mortal
In those who sail the sea, and melts the earth, casts a shadow. The shades in Purgatory being nothing but
The day they've said to their sweet friends farewell shades do not cast a shadow, the sun shines thru them, seeing the
And the new pilgrim penetrates with love
If he doth hear from far away a bell shadow of Dante the foremost one stops affrighted, the others like
That seemeth to deplore the dying day.' sheep stop too. He employs imagery to give exact images to SSHe leaves to others the earth, the ocean and the sky. His his thought and the scenes he is describing, tho they often are
bnsiness is with man. To other writers evening maybe the seavery beautiful that is not their first use.
son of dews and stars and radiant clouds, to Dante it is E-Dante's Use of Words.
the hour of fond recollection and passionate devotion, the Few authors connote so much as Dante does in the use of
hour which melts the heart of the mariner and kindwords. When he uses a work denoting color, it also connotes a les the love of the pilgrim,-the hour when the toll of the
*1. Symond's Study of Dante, p. 164.
Mrs. Jameson's Sacred and Legendary Art. Int.
2. Courito IV.—20 3Inferno II–14–Modern Painters III 237
2. Macaulay's Essay I--II p. 72
Two frolicksome kittens were rolling around
With a Szt, Spts, Meiau
With a Szt, Spts, Meiau.
-Chas. H. ALLEN,
bell seems to mourn for another day, which is gone, and will return no more.”
i Ruskin remarks that Dante had little love for mountains or sky except in the "white clearness" characteristic of the sky of Italy.
Notwithstanding the opinions of these authors, it seems to me no one can read Dante's Divine Comedy without seeing that he was as keen an observer of nature, as he was of human character.
He is describing the other world but he is so skillful in explaining, that we see just what he sees and in order to make us know just how every inch of the ground looked he uses terms of the natural world, and if he had not been an accurate observer he could not have done this. He makes one feel the color of the air as not even Ruskin with all his love for cloud effects can do.*
IV-Love Incited Dante's Creed. Love roused Dante to write something greater, grander of Beatrice Portinari— than had ever been written of woman-Patriotism was the next strong characteristic of this virile being, and it sustained him in his purpose of writing a work that should be eternal, finally eternal love filled his life and paradiso was gained.
The steps are natural, love for a human being widens into love for country, or all humanity and God the author of all.
His Creed. A writer has the following to say of Dante's creed:--1. “The following then, is a summary of what in the thirteenth century, Dante believed. God is one, -the universe is one thought of God, —the universe therefore is one. All things come from God, they all participate, more or less, in the Divine nature, according to the end for which they are created. They all float toward different points over the great ocean of existence, but they are all moved by the same will. Flowers in the garden of God all merit our love according to the degree of excellence he has bestowed upon each; of these man is the most eminent. Upon him God has bestowed more of his own nature than upon any other creature. In the continuous scale of being, that man whose nature is the most degraded touches upon the animal; he whose nature is the most noble approaches that of the angel.†.
Mankind is one, God has made nothing in vain, and if there exists a multitude, a collection of men, it is because there is one aim for them all, -one work to be accomplished by them all. Whatever this aim may be, it does certainly exist, and we must endeavor to discover and attain it. Unity is taught by the manifest design of God in the external world, and by the necessity of an aim.
His creed simply stated is: "That which ye sow shall ye also reap, except for such as have faith in Christ and are pardoned after working their way thru purgatory, there is eternal punishment for the sinner.”
VII -Dante's Message to Us.
I "Modern thought carried out in evolution teaches us that Dante's idea of justice is true nature, tho we cannot accept a static Hell, there is no time in life when change is impossible.”
Each earnest student will glean as much from Dante's Divine Comedy as his culture enables him to see, and if life has come to him with broader significance he will find the germ, which expanded, fits his life and the creed of his time for Dante deals with the hell of sin; the Purgatory of repentance; and the Paradise of the perfect adjustment to the Source of Love. I
*1. Modern Painters III 248.
It's not the walking but the sweeping that wears the carpet out.
-Chas, H. ALLEN.