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Turn we to speak of him that in a happy hour was born.
THE DIVINE COMEDY.
“ This Poem of the earth and air,
ANTE ALIGHIERI was born at Florence, in May,
1265. His family belonged to the Guelph, or Papal faction, and he early took part in the struggle between the parties. In 1274 he first saw Beatrice Portinari, and he says of this meeting in the “ Vita Nuova,” “I say
that thenceforward Love swayed my soul, which was even then espoused to him.” Beatrice died in 1290, and Dante married Gemma Donati, between 1291 and 1294. In 1295 he joined the Art of Druggists, in order to become a member of the Administrative Council. In 1300 he was made Prior, and in 1301, when the Neri entered Florence, he was exiled, his property confiscated, and himself sentenced to be burned, if found within the republic. After this he became a Ghibeline, and took up arms against the city with his fellowexiles, but withdrew from their council at last because of disagreements, and separating from them, spent his time at Verona, Padua, Sunigianda, and in the monastery of Gubbio. In 1316 the government of Florence issued a decree allowing the exiles to return on payment of a fine; but Dante indignantly refused to acknowledge thus that he had been in the wrong. He was in Ravenna in 1320, and died there Sept. 14, 1321, on his return from an embassy to Venice.
The “Commedia" was written during Dante's nineteen years of exile. The three parts, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, are emblematic of the threefold state of man, — sin, grace, and beatitude. The thirty-three cantos into which each part is divided, are in allusion to the years of the Saviour's life, and the triple rhyme suggests the Trinity.
The Divine Comedy is written in the terza rima, which consists of three verses arranged in such a way that the middle line of each triplet rhymes with the first or third verse of the succeeding triplet.
The entire time occupied in the “ Commedia” is eleven days, from March 25 to April 5, 1300.
Dante called the poem a comedy because of its prosperous ending. The prefix “ divine " was given it later by its admirers.
The Divine Comedy is sometimes called the epic of mediævalism, and again, the epic of man. Dante himself said: “The subject of the whole work, then, taken literally, is the state of the soul after death, regarded as a matter of fact; for the action of the whole work deals with this and is about this. But if the work be taken allegorically, its subject is man, in so far as by merit or demerit in the exercise of free will, he is exposed to the rewards or punishment of justice.”
For a time the Divine Comedy was neglected, and even in comparatively recent times the Inferno was the only portion read; but of late years there has been a re-awakening of interest in regard to the whole poem.
In no other of the epics has the author put so much of himself as Dante has in the “Commedia.” It was he himself who saw this vision ; he himself, proud, tortured, who carried the sense of his wrongs with him through Hell and Purgatory, even into Paradise. We learn the history of his times, all the crimes committed by men in high position, and we also learn the history of the unhappy Florentine, of whose poem it has been said, “none other in the world is so deeply and universally sorrowful."
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND CRITICISM, THE DIVINE COMEDY. J. Colomb de Batines's Bibliografia Dantesca, 2 vols., 1846 ; William Coolidge Lane's The Dante collections in the Harvard College and Boston Public Libraries (Bibliographical contributions of the library of Harvard University, 1885); William Coolidge Lane's Additions to the Dante collection
in the Harvard Library (see the Annual Reports of the Dante Society of Cambridge, Mass., 1887); Brother Azarius's Spiritual Sense of the Divina Commedia (in his Phases of Thought and Criticism, 1892, pp. 125-182); Henry Clark Barlow's Critical Contributions to the Study of the Divine Comedy, 1865; Herbert Baynes's Dante and his Ideal, 1891; Vincenzo Botta's Introduction to the Study of Dante, 1887; Oscar Browning's Dante, his Life and Writing, 1890, pp. 70-104; A. J. Butler's Dante, his Time and Work, 1895; Richard William Church's Dante and Other Essays, 1888, pp. 1-191; J. Farrazzi's Manuale Dantesco, 5 vols., 1865-77; William Torrey Harris's Spiritual Sense of Dante's Divina Commedia, 1890; Francis Hettinger's Dante's Divina Commedia, its Scope and Value, Tr. by H. S. Bowden, 1887 (Roman Catholic standpoint); J. R. Lowell's Essay on Dante (in his Among my Books, 1876); Lewis F. Mott's Dante and Beatrice, an Essay on Interpretation, 1892 ; Giovanni Andrea Scartazzini's A Companion to Dante, from the German, by A. J. Butler, 1892 ; Denton J. Snider's Dante's Inferno: a Commentary, 1892; Augustus Hopkins Strong's Dante and the Divine Comedy (in his Philosophy and Religion, 1888, pp. 501-524) ; John Addington Symonds’s An Introduction to the Study of Dante, Ed. 2, 1890; Paget Toynbee's Dictionary of the Divina Commedia, 2 parts; William Warren Vernon's Readings on the Purgatorio of Dante, chiefly based on the Commentary of Benvenuto da Imola; Intro. by the Dean of St. Paul's, 2 vols., 1889; Dr. Edward Moore's Time References in the Divina Commedia, London, 1887; Dr. E. Moore's Contributions to the Textual Criticism of the Divina Commedia, Cambridge, 1889.
STANDARD ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS, THE DIVINE COMEDY. The Divine Comedy, the Inferno, a literal prose translation with the text of the original collated from the best editions, with explanatory notes by J. A. Carlyle, Ed. 6, 1891 (contains valuable chapters on manuscripts, translations, etc.); Divina Commedia, edited with translation and notes by