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Among these poems is one of the finest love-lyrics extant. It is a canzone by Fazio degli Uberti, and gives a portrait of his lady, Angiola of Verona. It is throughout sensuous without being in the slightest degree sensual. Loveliness and • the soul's true excellence' are combined in her person. It would be hard to consider this and other lyrics of the kind, as allegorising only an abstraction ; nor do we believe that they are anything but genuine erotic poems. Mr. Rossetti has also ventured on a version of Dante's · Vita Nuova,' which was published about the same time with Mr. Theodore Martin's, but which we prefer before it. In his introduction to this he treats of Dante and his circle, comprising anecdotes and notices of thirteen poets, sonneteers, and song-writers. The chief of these is Guido Cavalcanti, who was Dante's senior by about fifteen years, but is yet supposed to be a fellow-pupil with him under Brunetto Latini. The father of this nobleman is placed by Dante in the sixth circle of the “Inferno' as a sceptic; and, according to Boccaccio, the son was also an unbeliever. But there is, after all, more of the devotional in his writings than of doubt, and it is known that he once undertook a religious pilgrimage. Self-reliant, moody, vehement, he was also distinguished by personal beauty, high accomplishments of all kinds, and daring nobility of soul. In Compagni’s ‘Chronicle,' he is described as full of courage and courtesy; but disdainful, 'solitary, and devoted to study. Various affectionate allusions to Guido Cavalcanti are made in the · Vita Nuova,' and also in the Purgatorio' and 'Inferno.' But Guido had not the same reverence for Virgil that Dante had, probably owing to his strong desire to see the Latin language give place in poetry and literature to a perfect Italian idiom.
Cino da Pistoia was also a friend of Dante, and wrote in modern Italian. He composed an elegy on Dante's death, and in some of his sonnets censures certain sins of omission and commission in the great poet's ‘Divina Commedia.'
To return to Guido Cavalcanti. There is one sonnet of his which is very interesting. In it he rebukes Dante for his way of life after the death of Beatrice. Dante, too, himself, as we have seen, makes Beatrice, in the thirtieth canto of his . Purgatorio,' rebuke him for his transgression. There was the usual difference between the ideal and the actual man which we find in most biographies. Whatever his spiritual fidelity to Beatrice, the natural man had also its demands, to which it appears
that Dante surrendered. He not only married, but his name is associated with the names of two ladies, each of whom had a share in his affection. The task that Dante had set him
self was indeed difficult, not to say impossible; and it is evident that he made that compromise between poetical aspiration and the business of life, to which in practice even the most devout and wise are compelled to consent. Mr. Martin, notwithstanding Guido's sonnet and Dante's confession, maintains that Dante kept his vows,' adding that his union with 'Gemma Donati, in spite of the assertions of those who believe 'it was unhappy, appears to have been calm and cold, rather 'the accomplishment of a social duty, than the result of an
irresistible impulse of the heart. His short fancies for Gentucca ' and Madonna Pietra passed over his soul like clouds — above ' them is the serene heaven ; and in this heaven the image of • Beatrice remains immovable, and shining like the sun of his
inner life.' This, however, is critical romance, not criticism, and may be permitted to pass just for what it is worth.
Besides what we have just stated, there are other respects in which Dante is also like Homer. Epic art attained in him at once perfection; but it is not, as in Homer, the art of primitive and comparatively simple ages, but that of an advanced epoch, when, as in middle life, much corruption had accumulated from which the individual and society had to be purified. The Divine Comedy is more conscious and less healthy than the Iliad or the Odyssey. The age and the man are sick, and need the physician; feel their complaint, and know their need. More than twenty centuries had elapsed between the two poets. The life of man, meanwhile, had become more complex, and so many various interests had grown up and arrived at the stage of conflict, that few could steer their course peacefully through life. The State and the Church had become developed as antagonistic forces, and it was yet uncertain on which side the victory would lie. Dante found himself in the midst of this corruption and strife, and partook of it himself in his inmost being. As was the age, such was the man; and the sympathy or identity between them it was which qualified him to become its prophet, or poet. It was as such, in its strictest meaning, that Dante recognised himself; and was conscious, from an early age, of being consecrated to the service by the power of a Divine love, whose regenerating influence he cherished from his early childhood to his latest manhood, and made the motivespring of his poetic labour. His defects were those of his age, and kept him from being too far before it, and thereby secured his hold on it. We must, therefore, not be surprised if we perceive in Dante's poem much of prevailing superstition, such as pertains to astrology, and a belief in visions, and a speedily approaching judgment. Neither could it be expected that he should have delivered his mind from the jungle of scholastic science. His very heart was with Thomas Aquinas, and he was fond of those disputations which always abound in those eras, when the spirit of a nation is newly awakened and anxious for improvement. Men in those days reasoned without facts, and lost themselves in verbal mazes. There was no critical philosophy to set them right, to define the limitations of their faculties, and to separate the known from the unknowable. Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise were as much the subjects of debate as material phenomena, and the difficulty of forming correct notions of the invisible world was underrated. Disputants pronounced dogmatically upon the state of the soul after death, and held it possible to obtain empirical knowledge sufficient to satisfy all reasonable doubt.
What all had deemed possible, Dante was determined to make actual ; and by all those means which poets use, to put such descriptions into verse, as should bring home to the conception of every Italian the condition of the departed spirit. Не became the recipient of revelations which he realized by images drawn from experience and study, and which reduce the most sublime ideas to an almost tangible form. This is true in an especial sense of the ' Inferno;' in the 'Purgatorio,' and the Paradiso,' the dramatic is changed for the ethical, and we have syllogisms where we should have preferred episodes. For whole pages Dante ceases to be the poet, and becomes a School-Divine; and then again the poetic afflatus returns, and he gives us passages of poetic feeling and description, which redeem his cantos into beauty, even when they have long wandered after subtleties which have ceased to possess any signification for the modern reader. It is in spite of such wanderings, not because of them, that Dante was, and is still regarded as being one of the greatest poets of any country
Art. V.- Vonconformists and National Education. A HUNDRED years hence, in the pages of some cynical historian of our own times, our descendants may, perhaps, find some such paragraph as this :
* At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a few enthusiastic and courageous philanthropists began to call the attention of the educated portion of the English people to the deplorable and disgraceful ignorance of the great masses of their countrymen. Their enterprise severely tested the depth of their enthusiasm and the fibre of their courage. For many years the indifference and the prejudices of the most powerful classes in the State offered a successful resistance to their statistics, their arguments, and their eloquence. When at last the clergy, the country gentlemen, and the mercantile aristocracy, were convinced that the institutions of the country and the authority of religion would not be altogether ruined, even if agricultural labourers, domestic servants, and factory hands, were taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, the obstacles to the establishment of an effective national system of education appeared for a long time insuperable. Efforts for the reform of the tariff, and for securing or resisting the extension of the franchise, commanded a strenuous support, and determined the fate of Governments ; but neither of the great parties in the State had the resolution which was necessary to meet and subdue the religious jealousies and the hostility to innovation which stood in the way of the education of the people.
The common sympathies of the human heart might have constrained a nation that boasted of its justice and philanthropy, to secure the right of its own children to receive at least rudimentary instruction; and Christian preachers who maintained that the most wretched outcast was made in the image of God, and was capable of immortal glory, might have been expected to subordinate the special interests of their sects to the imperative claims of innumerable souls ; but vested interests, sectarian zea), and the blind attachment of the Philistines to English traditions, were too strong for both pity and faith. When the third quarter of the century had almost run out, and the great question still remained unsolved, there came a vast though peaceful political revolution ; and then the whole country rose and demanded that the
new masters” of the State should be taught to read and write. The rights of one generation after another of neglected children had asked in vain for protection ; a generous enthusiasm for intellectual culture had been powerless; the dignity with which the Christian revelation invests the humblest and meanest of the human race had commanded no reverence ; but when the security of property and of political institutions was supposed to be threatened by the ignorance of the new electors, ignorance became an intolerable
evil, and all the difficulties of removing it suddenly vanished. Then at last the nation demanded that, if necessary, martial law should be proclaimed against the public enemy, and all precedents and all "interests" disregarded, which stood in the way of securing the safety of the State.'
Such a view as this of the recent zeal for the extension of popular education would have more truth in it than we care to acknowledge; but it would not be altogether accurate. It is not an ignoble political panic which has originated and sustained the efforts of the true leaders of the present educational movement. But the lowering of the franchise has given them new power; it has brought into the constituencies a vast number of electors who have the keenest personal interest in the multiplication of good schools, and who have no sympathy with either the principles or the prejudices which have hitherto thwarted the efforts of those who have agitated for the extension and reform of our educational system. It has also excited the fears and almost paralyzed the energies of those who, on whatever grounds, have resisted more generous and more equitable educational measures.
The time has, therefore, come for Nonconformists to consider their position in relation to this great question, and carefully to review the controversies by which for nearly a generation they have been agitated and divided.
There is a very general impression for which we have ourselves to thank, that in consenting to consider how the State may render most effective aid to the education of the poor, Nonconformists are abandoning all their traditions, and consciously surrendering their principles under the pressure of irresistible necessity. We have heard and read with astonishment and pain very much that has been said during the last few months by some of the former advocates of pure voluntaryism, who have recently declared themselves in favour of accepting Government aid. They do not mean what they appear to say, but their language has been sometimes singularly unfortunate.
It has been urged, for instance, again and again, as a reason why we should agitate for a national system, that if we retain the position which the majority of Congregational Dissenters have conscientiously held during the last twenty years, the clergy of the English Church will soon have the whole education of the poor of the country in their own hands. No doubt that is a very serious consideration. But if there be anything in our Nonconformity which is inconsistent with our receiving or