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A. J. Butler, 1892 ; Vision of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, Tr. by H. F. Cary, 1888; The Divine Comedy, Tr. by H. W. Longfellow, 1887; The Divine Comedy, Tr. by C. E. Norton, 1891-92 (rhythmical prose translation); The Divine Comedy, Tr. of the Commedia and Lanzoniere, notes, essays, and biographical introduction by E. H. Plumptre, 1887 ; Divina Commedia, Tr. into English verse with notes and illustrations by J. A. Wilstach, 2 vols., 1888.
THE DIVINE COMEDY.
THE Hell conceived by Dante was made by the falling of Lucifer to the centre of the earth. It was directly under Jerusalem. The earth, displaced by Lucifer's fall, made the Mount of Purgatory, which was the antipodes of Jerusalem.
The unbarred entrance gate, over which stands the inscription, “ Leave hope behind, all ye who enter here,” leads into a Vestibule, or Ante-Hell, a dark plain separated from Hell proper by the river Acheron. Hell proper then falls into three great divisions for the punishment of the sins of Incontinence, Bestiality, and Malice, which are punished in nine circles, each circle sub-divided. Circle One is the Limbo of the Unbaptized. Circles Two, Three, Four, and Five are reserved for the punishment of the sins of Incontinence, Lasciviousness, Gluttony, Avarice with Prodigality, and Anger with Melancholy. In Circle Six is punished the sin of Bestiality, under which fall Infidelity and Heresiarchy, Bestiality having here its Italian meaning of folly. In Circles Seven and Eight is punished Malice, subdivided into Violence and Fraud. There are three divisions of Violence, - the Violent against their neighbors (Tyrants, Murderers, etc.); the Violent against themselves (Suicides); and the violent against God (Blasphemers, etc.); and ten divisions of Circle Eight, — Fraud, i. e., Seducers, Flatterers, Simoniacs, Soothsayers, Barrators, Hypocrites, Thieves, False Counsellors, Schismatics, and Forgers and Falsifiers. Below these ten pits yawns the well of the giants, above which the giants tower so that half their persons is visible. Within this well in Circle Nine is Cocytus, a lake of ice divided into four belts, — Caina, Antenora, Ptolemæa, and Judecca, where are punished, respectively, the Betrayers of their kindred, of their country, of their friends and guests, and of their benefactors. At the bottom of the pit is Lucifer, half above the ice and half below it, the centre of his body being the centre of gravity.
THE STORY OF THE DIVINE COMEDY.
The poet Dante, in the thirty-fifth year of his life, this being the year 1300 A. D., on New Year's day of the old reckoning, lost his way in a rough and thorny forest, and when he attempted to regain it by mounting a hill that rose before him resplendent in sunshine, encountered a leopard, a lion, and a wolf. Driven back by these, and utterly despairing of rescue, he met one who declared himself to be that Vergil who had sung the fall of Troy and the flight of Æneas, and who promised to take him through the lower world and Purgatory, even unto Paradise. Dante questioned why it was permitted to him to take the journey denied to so many others, and was told that Vergil had been sent to his rescuie by the beauteous Beatrice, long since in Paradise. When the poet, trembling with fear, heard that the shining eyes of Beatrice had wept over his danger in the forest, and that she had sought the gates of hell to effect his rescue, his strength was renewed, even as the flowers, chilled by the frosts of night, uplift themselves in the bright light of the morning sun; and he entered without fear on the deep and savage way.
This allegory, being interpreted, probably means that the poet, entangled in the dark forest of political anarchy, was driven from the hill of civil order by the Leopard of Pleasure (Florence), the Lion of Ambition (France), and the Wolf of Avarice (Rome), and was by divine grace granted a vision of the three worlds that he might realize what comes after death, and be the more firmly established in the right political faith, — Ghibellinism.
“ Through me is the way into the sorrowful city ; into eternal dole among the lost people. Justice incited my sublime Creator. Divine Omnipotence, the highest wisdom, and the Primal Love created me. Before me, there were no
created things. Only eternal, and I eternal, last. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here !"
Such was the inscription over the doorway, after the reading of which Dante's ears were assailed by words of agony and heart-rending cries. “ This,” said Vergil, “is the home of those melancholy souls who lived without infamy and without praise. Cowards and selfish in life, they are denied even entrance to hell.” As they looked, a long train passed by, stung by gadflies and following a whirling standard.
Charon, about whose eyes were wheels of flame, endeavored to drive the poet and his guide away as they stood among the weary and naked souls that gathered shivering on the margin of Acheron; but as a blast of wind and a burst of crimson light caused a deep sleep to fall on the poet, he was wasted across the river, and awaking he found himself in the Limbo of the Unbaptized, the first of the nine circles of hell, where were the souls of many men, women, and infants, whose only punishment was, without hope, to live on in desire. Here was no torment, only the sadness caused by the ever-unsatisfied longing for the ever-denied divine grace. This was Vergil's abode, and in the noble castles set among the green enamelled meadows dwelt Homer, Horace, and Ovid, Electra, Hector, and Camiila.
Passing down a narrow walk into a region of semi-darkness, they entered the second circle, where Minos stood, judging the sinners and girding himself with his tail as many times as was the number of the circle to which the spirit was to go. Here in darkness and storm were the carnal sinners, whose punishment was to be beaten hither and thither by the winds, – Semiramis, Dido, Cleopatra, Paris, Tristan, and all those who had sinned for love, and here Dante conversed with the spirit of Francesca da Rimini, whom he had known in life, and her lover Paolo, slain for their sin by her husband. Though there is no greater sorrow than to be mindful of the happy time in misery, she assured Dante that the sorrows of Hell were lightened by the presence of Paolo.
At the sight of Paolo's grief Dante fell swooning with pity, and awoke to find himself in the circle where a cold rain fell forever on the gluttons. Cerberus guarded the entrance, and now and again devoured the unhappy ones who lay prone on their faces in the murk and mire. Here Ciacco of Florence recognized and spoke with Dante, falling back in the mire as the poet passed on, to rise no more until the Day of Judgment.
Plutus guarded the fourth circle, where were confined the avaricious and prodigal, who, divided into two bands, rolled weights against each other, uttering wretched insults. Down the sloping banks to the marsh of the Styx the poets went, past the sullen and angry, who in life refused the comfort of the sweet air and gladdening sun, and were in consequence doomed forever to remain buried in the sullen mire. As Dante and Vergil passed over the Styx in the boat of the vile Phlegyas, Dante was saluted by the spirit of the once haughty and arrogant Philippo Argenti, whom he repulsed, and gladly saw set upon and torn by the people of the mire.
Then appeared to him the mosques of the city of Dis, within the valley, vermilion-hued from the fire eternal. Deep were the moats; the walls appeared to be of iron. Upon the flaming summit sat the Furies, stained with blood, begirt with Hydras. Here even Vergil trembled as they waited the arrival of one sent from Heaven to open the gate and admit them.
Within, over the plain, were scattered sepulchres heated red hot, with uplifted coverings, from which issued forth dire laments from the Infidels and Heresiarchs tormented within. To Farinata degli Uberti, who rose from his tomb to ask the news of Florence, Dante spoke, observing in the mean time a shade that, on hearing the Tuscan tongue, rose next Uberti, questioning, “ Where is my son, my Guido?” Fancying from the poet's delay in answering, and his use of the past tense, that his beloved child no longer enjoyed the sweet light, Cavalcante fell back and appeared no more.
Leaving the dismal plain, whose countless tombs would remain open until the Judgment Day, the poets entered upon the next and seventh circle, composed of three smaller circles