« PreviousContinue »
ICHABOD CHARLES WRIGHT, M.A.,
LATE FELLOW OF MAGDALEN COLLEGE, OXFORD.
A NEW EDITION, REVISED AND CORRECTED.
LONGMAN, ORME, BROWN, GEEEN, AND LONGMAN.
“In exhibiting the works of great Poets in another language,
Printed by W. DEARDEN, Carlton Street.
The general design of the Divina Commedia has been sketched in the Introduction to the Inferno. A work,
however, so little known as the Purgatorio, seems to require separate consideration.
Having shown in the Inferno the evil effects of a corrupt Church, by representing sinners, immersed in darkness and misery, as one vast kingdom of the dead, Dante now proceeds to describe another state of existence, wherein those who enjoy the light of true religion submit themselves to its remedial discipline. For the purpose of exhibiting this "second kingdom" in an allegorical form, agreeably to his general design, he adopts the prevailing idea of Purgatory, which his imagination bodies forth as a lofty mountain, where souls, in the course of a toilsome ascent, are purified from sin, and Gitted to enter the heavenly mansions. *
* At first sight, reference appears to be made solely to the world of spirits. That Dante, however, had a more useful and instructive object in view, is evident, when he himself The beautiful mountain, destined to be the scene of his laborious journey, the poet had viewed afar off, when he first awoke to a sense of his miserable condition in the wilderness of the Inferno. In the lower region, at its foot, are found indolent spirits, who having delayed repentance to a late period, are doomed to wander during a term equal to thirty times the length of their procrastination, before they are admitted within the gate of Purgatory. While they continue in this state, they are placed under the superintendence of Cato of Utica, t a venerable old man, who appears to be introduced as a personification of self-control, or that true liberty, which consists in a perfect mastery over the passions. Among the spirits in these outskirts of Purgatory the poet spends a considerable time; and eight cantos are occupied in relating the various incidents that occur. In the ninth canto, Lucia or Grace, who originally interested herself in obtaining for our poet the aid of Beatrice and
tells us that the whole poem may be considered as an allegory of man in his capacity of meriting reward or punishment, “ Totius operis, allegoricè sumpti, subjectum est homo, prout merendo et demerendo, per arbitrii libertatem, est justitiæ præmianti et punienti obnoxius ”—Dedication of the Paradiso. This should be particularly borne in mind ; since from the title of the present work, it might be supposed that in adopting the term Purgatory, Dante had reference to the world of Spirits only, and intended not to represent the inhabitants of earth.
* Canto iii. 140 + Ib. i. 31.
Virgil, during the night assists Dante up the steep to the entrance of Purgatory;* when the Angel who guards the gate imprints on his forehead seven P's, as the mark of seven sins, from which he is to purify himself in the seven rounds of the inountain.
Admitted within the gate of Purgatory,t the poets proceed upward by a narrow way to the first circle or ledge. In this, Pride is punished with severe inflictions; and on the sides of the marble rock are displayed examples of Humility-wrought by Dante in so striking and picturesque a manner, as to show most forcibly the peculiar skill of the imaginative sculptor. The remaining six circles, each devoted to the punishment of a particular vice, occupy several cantos. The fourteenth is distinguished for the bitter sarcasm and heart-felt sorrow with which the poet laments the degeneracy of Italy.
Having effaced the stains of vice, and passed through the purifying fire, Dante is carried up a lofty stair to the summit of the mountain. . A new scene here opens before us. 1-The garden of Eden is discovered in all its pristine beauty-lovely and deserted, as it is supposed to bave remained since the expulsion of our first Parents ; and waiting in readiness to receive the Daughter of Jerusalem, on her descent from Heaven, and to admit the redeemed into the presence of their King, upon his
* Canto ix. 55. + lb. x. I.