Imágenes de páginas

significant fact that the resolves in
the Florentine Councils for the re-
building of Santa Maria del Fiore are
practically contemporaneous
Dante's entrance into public life. We
have the sasso di Dante, the stone on
which he used to sit and watch the
progress of the work, that stone
which is a memorial of his interest in
the rebuilding of the Cathedral. We
know that Dante was old enough to
have been present on the alleged occa-
sion when Ceinabue's picture of the
Virgin, just completed for the church.
of Santa Maria Novella, was 'carried
in solemn procession through the
streets of Florence, with sound of
trumpets and other festal demonstra-
tions, from the house of Cimabue to
the church portals.' It is even said
that he took lessons from Cimabue in
drawing, and perhaps painting. We
know that when he was an exile at
Ravenna, he brought it about that Gi-
otto should be sent for from Ferrara,
and should be given a commission at
Ravenna that would enable the two
friends to renew their intimacy. But
how little there is of all this in the
Divina Commedia! Just the few fa-
mous lines in the Purgatorio:
"Credette Cimabue nella pintura
Teneo lo campo, ed ova ha Giotto il

Si che la fama di colui oscura."
(Purg. xi-94-96)

In painting Cimabue thought that he
Should hold the field, now Giotto has

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tation of the mission of art. Indeed, he could not truly interpret his era without taking account of the spirit of art and beauty that was moulding it. It was the age of Cathedral building, commencing even as far back as the eleventh century. It was the age when Niccola and Giovanni Pisano were creating modern sculpture. And so Dante has made those wondrous carvings beneath the feet and by the side of those who are toiling up the steeps of Purgatory. Virgil and Dante have come up from a hazardous passage through a rifted rock, and, as they reach the plain, they see the embankment round about"To be of marble white, and adorned With sculptures, that not only Polycletus,

But nature's self, had there been put to shame."

There was the angel who came down to earth with the glad tidings of peace, and there the Holy Virgin Mary. The ark of the covenant is seen, drawn by oxen, and surrounded by people singing, who are so lifelike that the senses hesitate and say "No," and then, "Yes, they sing!" So with the smoke of the frankincense, though the eyes and nose are not discordant here but both say "Yes." David, the Psalmist, goes before, dancing, with girded loins, while Michael from the window of a The palace looks on disdainfully. Emperoro Trojan next is seen, with his cavalieres about him, and with golden banners on which the eagles seem moving visibly in the wind. At his bridle stands a poor woman, in an attitude of grief, and demanding vengeance for her dead son.

And, further on, the pathway beneath them is similarly adorned. Pallas and Mars, clad in armor, and gazing at the severed members of the giants; Nimrod, standing as if bewildered at the foot of the tower of Babel; Niobe, with her twice seven children slain; Saul, fallen upon his

sword; Arachne, even then half spider, in the web she has wrought; The rout of the Assyrians; Troy in ashes -where were ever seen such works as these? Well does Dante exclaim: "Who e'er of pencil master was or stile,

That could portray the shades and traits which there

Would cause each subtle genius to admire?

Dead seemed the dead, the living seemed alive;

Better than I saw not who saw the truth,

All that I trod upon while bowed I went."

Purg. xii-64-69)

And now an angel, beautiful, and clad in white, with countenance like "the tremulous morning star," comes to meet them. And, after that, Dante feels the ascent to be easy, as though some weight had been lifted from him.

And when he turns to Virgil for the reason, he finds that one of the seven P's, the signs of guilt, has been removed from off his forehead by the Angel who smote him with its wings. Through the ministry of art and beauty, the first step in purification has been accomplished.

The Purgatorio is full of beauties and of deep spiritual meanings. How sweet the melody that brings before us the tender melancholy of the new pilgrim on the sea, who has just left his dear friends behind him: "Eva gia l'ora che volge 'l disio

A' naviganti e intenerisce il cuore, Lo di c' han detto a' dolciamici addio;

E che lo nuovo peregrin d'amore Punge, se ode squilla di lontano, Che paia ' giorno pianger che si muore."

(Purg. viii-1-6) Now was the hour that turns back desire

In the travellers by sea, and melts the heart,

The day that they have said to

their sweet friends adieu; And the new pilgrim feels the tender sting of love,

If in the distance he doth hear a bell

That seems as if it mourns the dying day.

What would we not give to hear the strains of music which Casella set to Dante's Song of Love:

"Amor, che nella meute mi ragiona, Commincio egli allor si dolcemente, Che la dolcezza ancor dentro mi snona."

(Purg. II 112-114) Love, that within my mind to me doth speak,

Thus did he then commence to sing so sweetly,

That doth the sweetness still within me sound."

How the prophetic hour, just before the dawn, is brought to us: "And in the hour, before the morn, When wakes the swallow's note forlorn,

Happly amid her singing

Her woes to memory bringing, The hour when loosed from thought our mind

Leaves pilgrim-like her flesh behind,
And borne along in dreams
Almost a prophet seems,
Even then to me was vision given."

(Purg. ix-13-19 Shadwell's tr.)

How we rejoice in "the trembling light on the distant sea;" and how gently "il mio maestro" spreads his hands upon the dewy grass, and then wipes from Dante's tearful cheeks the stains the Inferno had left there. And when at length Dante beholds once more the face of Beatrice, when he is plunged within the waters of Lethe and Eunoe, he returns from that most holy water, as he tells us: "Regenerate, in the manner of new

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Comedy is much less read than either of the others. Perhaps it is as well. so. It is no place for irreverent feet to tread. Let whosoever approaches here remember it is holy ground. Let the eye be sure it can endure the intensity of light. St. Augustine tells us that the parent eagle is wont to take its young far up into the air, in its talons, and turn their eyes towards the sun. The eaglet that can endure the light is recognized as of the true brood; but the one whose eye quivers and fails, is allowed to drop from the height, and thus perish. So it is only those of the true brood of spiritual insight who can endure or appreciate the radiance of the Paradiso. But to the rightful heirs of the inheritance, it brings the keenest joy. Dante himself felt that he was beholding glories too great for speech to reveal, that he was dealing with thoughts and themes too profound for utterance, with things that cannot be put into words:

"Within that heaven which most his light receives

Was I, and things beheld which to repeat

Nor knows, nor can, who from

above descends."

(Par. I-4-6)

And so at times he tells that he must needs pass on without describing, and at the close, speech and pen fail him to utter the final vision that he sees.

"How can the less the greater com-

Or finite reason reach infinity?
For what could fathom God is more
than He."

(Dryden, Religio Laici, 39) Yet we may with humble and teachable spirits strive to find interpretations in this supreme Cantica of the great Florentine. The theme of the Paradiso is the coming of the human will into harmony with the Divine Will, into harmony with God. This is indeed the theme of the whole

Divina Commedia. But in its previous divisions Dante shows us how he had to pass through the Inferno so that he might learn to see sin as it really is, and so that it should forever lose all taste of sweetness for him; and that he was forced to toil up the steep aspects of Purgatory in a process of gradual purification. He enters into the Paradiso only after this process of purification has been completed; after he has been girded with the smooth reed of repentance; after the stains have been washed from off his face; after Virgil has declared his will to be free, straight, and sound, and has crowned and mitred him ruler over himself; and, finally, after the waters of Lethe and Eunoe have purified and renewed him. And now he is ready for instruction as to the deeper things of human personality in its ascent to the divine.

How strange it seems! Here are Dante and Beatrice together, after all these years; the lightnings flash from her eyes into his, and he feels the blame of love, but it is a divine love that seeks for wisdom; and so their discourse is in the higher realm of Philosophy and Ethics. We must remember that if Beatrice was to Dante the same maiden he first saw at a May-day party at the house of her father, Folco Portinari, the same maiden from whom a glance more kindly than usual had sufficed to fill him with unutterable happiness, she was also to him the representative or embodiment of Theology, and of that Divine Love which links the human with God himself. And so their talk turns to the fundamental problem of the human will. Beatrice is the teacher, and in her argument she says to Dante:

"The greatest gift that in his largess God

Creating made, and unto his own goodness

Nearest conformed, and that which

he doth prize Most highly, is the freedom of the will

Wherewith the creatures of intel-

Both all and only were and are en-
(Par. v, 19-24.)

But this free dom of the will can only bring happiness as it comes into harmony with the Divine Will. Piccarda, the sister of Corso Donati, that Piccarda who had been snatched so violently from the convent, and with whom Dante conversed almost as soon as he reached the first star, had already declared this truth to Dante in what has been called the most famous line of the Paradiso: "In la sua volontade e nostra pace." (Par. iii, 8-5.)

"In His will is our peace."

How the high discourse rolls along in those wonderful talks of Dante with Beatrice! They have ascended to the second sphere, the Heaven of Mercury; Dante has had long converse with the Emperor Justinian; and now he turns again to Beatrice... like a little child who always


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The human creature, and if one be wanting,

From his nobility he needs must fall.

'Tis sin alone which doth disfranchise him,

And render him unlike the Good
Supreme." (Par. vii, 64-80.)

Dante was human, and as the Paradiso spreads out its cantos we come upon a cry for human recognition of his toils, that may well detain us for a moment. We find it in the famous opening lines of Canto xxv

"If ere it happens that the Poem Sacred

To which both heaven and earth have set their hand,

So that it many a year hath made me lean,

O'ercome the cruelty that bars me out From the fair sheepfold, where a lamb I slumbered,

An enemy to the wolves that war upon it;

With other voice forthwith, with other fleece,

Poet will I return, and at my font Baptismal will I take the laurel crown."

We know that the cry was unavailing, and the ashes of Dante still lie in exile at Ravenna, albeit his native Florence strove by tardy repentance to recover them. We pause at this human cry because Dante paused here in his Poem, and also to make note of the fact that this twenty-fifth Canto, to which we have now turned, is one of those last thirteen cantos of the Paradiso which were missing after the death of the Poet, but which were subsequently recovered.

The theme of these last cantos of the Paradiso, is Love, that Love whose transcendence only the purified can know. Dante has seen that love revealed in the smile of Beatrice which has been as heaven to him. But Beatrice is soon to leave him to another guide, that he may gaze direct upon another Love higher even

than hers. How much that smile of Beatrice has meant to him. It is like the smile on a mother's face which the child grown to manhood or womanhood, has watched so long, and when the hour comes that it is taken away the only comfort is to look up at the windows of Heaven and dream of that face as still looking down upon us and waiting for us, ever irradiated by that same tender light of love. Now that he is so soon to be parted from her, how Dante dwells upon that smile of Beatrice:

"For as the sun the sight that trembles most,

Even so the memory of that sweet smile

My mind depriveth of its very self. From the first day that I beheld her face

In this life, to the moment of this look,

The sequence of my sin has ne'er been severed:

But now perforce this sequence must desist

From following her beauty with my verse,

As every artist at his uttermost." (Par. xxx. 25-33)

And now Beatrice speaks to him: "We from the greatest


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Have issued to the heaven that is pure light;

Light intellectual replete with love, Love of true good replete with ecstasy,

Ecstasy that transcendeth every sweetness."

(Par. xxx. 38-42)

A living light flashes about Dante, of such effulgence that it takes from him the power of sight. And he hears again the voice of Beatrice, saying:

"Ever the Love which quieteth this heaven

Welcomes into itself with such salute,

To make the candle ready for its flame."

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