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ICHABOD CHARLES WRIGHT, M.A.,
LATE FELLOW OF MAGDALEN COLLEGE, OXFORD.
A NEW EDITION, REVISED AND CORRECTED,
LONGMAN, ORME, BROWN, GREEN, AND LONGMAN.
“In exhibiting the works of great Poets in another language,
- the force and beauty as regards sense, but even the external
By a course of allegorical representations, Dante conducts us through the three stages of human existence.In the Inferno, we witness the misery of sin: in the Purgatorio, the struggles of virtue. Those who have laboured up the hill,—who have surmounted the tempta
tions of this world, and begun to taste the pleasures of Hey the next, are described as enjoying that peace of mind
which is imaged by the terrestrial Paradise. It is not, however, in the delights of Eden that the high destiny of man finds its full accomplishment. Verdant bowers and peaceful streams may be the emblem, but are not the reward, of holiness. As through the transgression of Adam all forfeited the blissful state of innocence; so, all who are justified, through the merits of Christ, not only recover the original happiness of their first parents, but are exalted to a higher state of felicity than that from which they fell. The task of the Poet in approaching such a theme becomes more arduous.-In describing the abodes of guilt or of virtue upon earth, he could avail
himself of images furnished by his senses; and had a foundation, as it were, for the exercise of his imaginative powers. But since "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive the things that God hath prepared for them that love him," by what similitude shall be described the mansions of heaven ? The attempt, indeed, may at first appear presumptuous. If, however, in this world we are directed to “walk by faith,” and not “ by sight;"—if, “where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also," then it surely becomes us to raise our minds to some faint anticipations of the pure and perfect joys of the world to come. Meditating on such subjects, Dante realized in. his conceptions the vision of St. Paul; and, “rapt to the third heaven,” was favoured with a sight of things which his unaided imagination would have failed to conceive. And although it is perhaps difficult to grasp the full meaning of those burning thoughts which are frequently thrown forth from the mind of the poet, we can scarcely doubt that he was gifted with an extraordinary measure of grace, when we regard the lucid manner in which he has expounded the truths of the Gospel, and opened unto us a vision of superhuman felicity.
He enters upon the subject by declaring at once his intention of describing the glorious kingdom of which he had been vouchsafed a sight. The novelty of his attempt he freely confesses; nor does he undertake it through
any confidence in his own abilities or peculiar advantages, but from a strong sense of the privilege of man to hold communion with his Maker.* Hence he combats the fallacy that we are of necessity bound down to earthvindicates our prerogative of soaring upwards; and declares, that did we not allow ourselves to be acted upon by false pleasures, our tendency would be to an union with Him, in whom “we live and move and have our being.”+ But since few avail themselves of this high privilege, he warns those “who have not tasted Angel's food betimes,” lest they venture to follow him in his sublime aspirations. I
His elevation is thus described :-Gazing upon Beatrice, he is endued with power to bear awhile the intensity of the Divine Light. This so wonderfully increases, that “suddenly day seem'd added unto day;" || as though Omnipotence had lighted up the sky with another sun; and he is insensibly translated from earth to heaven.
The first planet, to which in company with his celestial guide he finds himself exalted, is the Moon.—The appearance of its inhabitants, dimly and faintly seen through an atmosphere likened unto clear and tranquil water, is beautifully described; and the contentment of those to whom this lowest sphere is assigned, proves that however the mansions of heaven may differ in glory,—still, * Canto i. 109. + Ib. i. 136. Ib. ii. 5, 10. § Ib. i. 54. || Ib. i. 6).
Ib. iii. 10.