« EdellinenJatka »
As a test of the correctness of Rossetti's views, we would challenge his opponents to prove that the lion, the wolf, and the panther which the poet sees in the first canto of the Inferno, do not denote France, Rome, and Florence; that the exclamation of Plutus at the beginning of the seventh canto
that the Città di Dite and what is related of it do not mean Florence and the approach to it of the Emperor Henry VII.; that it is not the same city and the embassy of the Cardinal di Prato that is the subject of the broad, contemptuous, and biting satire of the twenty-first and following canto; and, finally, that the deep well which occupies the middle of the Inferno, with its floor of ice and Lucifer in the centre of it, do not represent Rome and Guelfic Papacy. We will develope this last a little. When Dante and Virgil, his guide, have been carried down by the demon of fraud, the triple Geryon, i.e. the Papacy, into the inclined plain named Malebolge, where in ten concentric hollow circles the fraudulent are punished, the poet— giving one of his usual hints—compares those whom he sees moving in the first circle to the pilgrims passing the bridge of St. Angelo at Rome, at the time of the Jubilee. He also compares these circles and the bridges that cross them, to the fosses surrounding a fortress: the ninth of them, he says, is twenty-two, and the tenth eleven miles, in circuit; as they approach the central well he sees towers, as it were, all round it, and he asks what town it is they are approaching. When he comes nearer he finds that these supposed towers are giants, and he compares the head of the first of them that he discerns, to the ball of St. Peter's at Rome. He is let down into the well by one of these giants, and there he beholds in the centre Lucifer with three faces, red, black, and yellow, and with a traitor in each mouth. Now the circuit of the walls of Rome is about eleven miles, and in the time of Dante there was, or was supposed to be, a fosse twenty-two miles in compass at some distance from the walls. Dante's whole poem is founded on Scripture, especially the writings of St. John, and in the Apocalypse, Satan, the beast, and the false prophet are combined, and unclean spirits come out of their mouths. Moreover the Whore of . Babylon—a usual term at the time for the Papacy—is represented as seated upon many waters, represented here as frozen by the chilling blasts from the wings of Lucifer, to denote the evil effects of the influence of Guelfic-Papism. The reader who reflects seriously on these coincidences will probably hesitate before he absolutely rejects the new theory. We could multiply proofs, were not this a kind of digression, and our work devoted to another subject. We will only add, that the Purgatory is the opposite of the Hell, and teaches how to escape from its evils; that the grand scene in the terrestrial Paradise, and the descent of Beatrice, represents the condition of the Church down to the fourteenth century; and that—let not the reader start—the Paradise is “the grandiose image of a Masonic Lodge.” w The tenable + portions of Rossetti's theory seem to us to be as follows. The Manicheans, who derived their origin from Persia, used a language of double sense, regarding their own system as the religion of the Spirit or of Love. They settled in Italy and the South of France, and, gradually changing many of their tenets, became the sect known under the names of Albigenses, Paterini, etc., so hostile to the Papacy, and so anxious for a reform in the Church. The Troubadours were mostly of this reformed religion; and their love-verses, which appear so forced and unnatural to critics, were in general of a mystic nature, the mistress whom they celebrated being the Reformation, or pure religion, after which they languished.* At the close of the twelfth century, this style of poetry was transferred to Italy, and was adopted by the Ghibellines, who made it political as well as religious, seeking a reform in politics also, and the establishment of the Imperial power in Italy. All the Italian poetry of the thirteenth century is of this kind; but at the beginning of the next century, as the clergy had discovered the true nature of this pretended love, Dante gave it a new form, and invested his Commedia in the garb of religion. A return to love was however made by Petrarca and Boccaccio. These various sects and parties were, in the opinion of Rossetti, a secret society, with signs, a conventional language, etc. From comparing the ritual books of the Free Masons with Dante's poem and other works, and finding a marvellous similarity, he infers that these last are only a continuation of the former, all descended from the original Manicheism. He also sees in the various works on alchemy and astrology of the Middle Ages, only different forms of the same doctrine.f Our space does not permit us to trace the subject any further; but we again require the reader to believe that we could not be convinced if there were not some weight in the evidence, and not to reject without careful examination.f * It is very remarkable that the Sûfees $f Persia, the country of Manes, take a similar view of the poetry of Hāfeez, and the other Persian poets the contemporaries of the Troubadours. We first discovered and directed Rossetti's attention to this coincidence. Of the Italian Cantori d'Amore Ginguené says, “Ils sont tous occupés du mème sujet, qui est l'Amour, et l'on pourrait, en quelque sorte, les croire tous amoureur du méme objet.” This is exactly what Rossetti says. t Rossetti terms Swedenborg the Dante of the eighteenth century, regarding his works as Masonic; and certainly, with the key which he gives, the interpretation of them is easy. t E quel che più ti graverale spalle Sara la compagnia malvagia e scempia, Colla qual tu cadrai in questa valle, Chè tutta ingrata, tutta matta ed empia
* The discovery was made by a young lady with whom Rossetti was reading Dante, and the same thing happened in two instances to ourselves. The explanation is : these ladies, being unacquainted with Latin, were not misled by papa and as they had been told that Dante's Satan was the Pope, they easily discerned the true meaning of the word.
* We use this term because, in our opinion, many of his positions are utterly untenable; his imagination often led him astray, and thus laid him open to the scoffs and sneers of uncandid critics.
Si fara contrate.—Par. xvii. v. 61. Rossetti's most inveterate, most envenomed opponent, both in conversation
Rossetti was not merely a most sagacious critic, he was a man of true genius; in our opinion, the greatest lyric poet, perhaps the greatest general poet, that Italy has produced since Torquato Tasso. He was even an Improvisatore, as we can testify of our own knowledge; and in his Veggente in Solitudine will be found one of his improvisations in Malta, taken down in short-hand. He was also a man of the purest virtue, and every region of his mind was pervaded by the spirit of true religion, as appears in all his writings, especially his last work, L'Arpa Evangelica, a collection of sacred poems, the production of his declining years.” His mind was rather too sensitive, and he let the silly and ignorant or malignant attacks made on him give too much disturbance to his equamimity: he also suffered from infirmities and a partial loss of sight; but he attained a good old age, and he enjoyed what rarely falls to the lot of an exile—that greatest of blessings, domestic felicity.t To ourselves it is a matter of grateful recollection, that we were so happy as to enjoy for many years the friendship and intimacy of a man of such eminent genius, and we feel a melancholy pleasure in thus paying even this slight tribute to his memory;
Purpureos spargam flores, animamque beati
and in writing, was one of his “fellows in exile”! When we call to mind the genius, the virtues, the patriotism of Rossetti, and the uniform courtesy and urbanity of his language, we confess we wonder how his compatriot could, as he did, and in the coarsest terms, charge him with imposture, with ignorance of the poem he was commenting on and of the history of those times—and all without a shadow of proof; mere reckless and confident assertion, which Rossetti amply confuted. But, “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”
* He also published Versi and Il Tempo ovvero Dio e l’Uomo, Salterio.
+ Shortly after his arrival in England he married the daughter of his friend Polidori, a woman possessed of every mental, moral, and personal advantage, the best of wives and best of mothers. With her he passed seven-and-twenty years of uninterrupted harmony; he lived to see his children attain to maturity, all possessed of superior talent, dutiful and affectionate to their parents and attached to each other.
ERRORS IN PARADISE LOST.
MILTON undoubtedly had a strong memory, like every other man of genius; but he does not seem to have possessed one of that extreme fidelity which at times is given to inferior men. This, combined with his loss of sight, caused him occasionally to fall into errors; venial ones no doubt, but still such as should be noted. Such are the following.
As when to them who sail
What is here asserted is an impossibility. Any one who will look on a map of the world will see that when a vessel going to India has passed Mozambic, the coast of Arabia is due north to her, and at an immense distance, with a portion of the east coast of Africa interposed. In no case then, and in no part, could those who had sailed by the Cape of Hope and Mozambic meet with Sabean odours wafted by north-east winds. Milton's blindness amply excuses this mistake; but surely his commentators who had their sight might have looked at a map and so have discerned the error.
To the same cause may be assigned the error in the following passage:–
Or pilot from amidst the Cyclades,
Delos, or Samos, first appearing, kens
Samos is not one of the Cyclades.