"The New Life" of Dante



THE year 1289 was one marked in the annals of Florence and of Italy by events which are still famous, scored by the genius of Dante upon the memory of the world. It was in this year that Count Ugolino and his sons and grandsons were starved by the Pisans in their tower prison. A few months later, Francesca da Rimini was murdered by her husband. Between the dates of these two terrible events the Florentines had won the great victory of Campaldino; and thus, in this short space, the materials had been given to the poet for the two best-known and most powerful stories and for one of the most striking episodes of the “ Divina Commedia.”

In the great and hard-fought battle of Campaldino Dante himself took part. “ I was at first greatly afraid,” he says, in a letter of which but a few sentences have been preserved,1—“ but at the end I felt the greatest joy,—according to the various chances of the battle.” When the victorious army returned to Florence, a splendid procession, with the clergy at its head, with the arts of the city each under its banner, and with all manner of pomp, went out to meet it. There were long-continued feasts and rejoicings. The battle had been fought on the 11 th of June, the day of St. Barnabas, and the Republic, though already engaged in magnificent works of church-building, decreed that new church should be erected in honor of the Saint on whose day the victory had been won.

A little later in that summer, Dante was one of a troop of Florentines who joined the forces of Lucca in levying war upon the Pisan territory. The stronghold of Caprona was taken, and Dante was present at its capture; for he says, (Inferno, xxi. 94-96,) “ I saw the footsoldiers, who, having made terms, came out from Caprona, afraid when they beheld themselves among so many enemies.” 2

Thus, during a great part of the summer of 1289, Dante was in active service as a soldier. He was no lovesick idler, no mere home-keeping writer of verses, but was already taking his part in the affairs of the state which he was afterwards to be called on for a time to assist in governing, and he was laying up those stores of experience which were to serve as the material out of which his vivifying imagination was to form the great national poem of Italy. But of this active life, of these personal engagements, of these terrible events which took such strong possession of his soul, there is no word, no suggestion even, in the book of his “New Life.” In it there is no echo, however faint, of those storms of public violence and private passion which broke dark over Italy. In the midst of the tumults which sprang from the jealousies of rival states, from the internal discords of cities, from the divisions of parties, from the bitterness of domestic quarrels,—this little book is full of tenderness and peace, and tells its story of love as if the world were the abode of tranquillity. No external excitements could break into the inner chambers of Dante’s heart to displace the love that dwelt within them. The contrast between the purity and the serenity of the “ Vita Nuova” and the coarseness and cruelty of the deeds that were going on while it was being written is complete. Every man in some sort loads a double life,—one real and his own, the other seeming and the world’s,— but with few is the separation so entire as it was with Dante.

But in these troubled times the “ New Life” was drawing to its close. The spring of 1290 had come, and the poet, now twenty-five years old, sixteen years having passed since he first beheld Beatrice, was engaged in writing a poem to tell what effect the virtue of his lady wrought upon him. He had written but the following portion when it was broken off, never to be resumed:—

“ So long hath Love retained me at his best,
And to his sway hath so accustomed me,
That as at first be cruel used to be,
So in inv heart lie now doth sweetly rest.
Thus when by him my strength Is dispossessed,
So that the spirits seem away to flee,
My frail soul feels such sweetness verily,
That with it pallor doth nay face invest.
Then Love o’er me such mastery doth seize,
lie makes my sighs in words to take their way,
And they unto my lady go to pray
That she to give me further grace would please.
Where’er she sees me, this to me occurs, Nor can it be believed what humbleness is heres."

“ ‘ Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo! facta est quasi vidua domina gentium ! ’ [How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people! how is she become as a widow, she that was great among the nations !] 3

“ I was yet engaged upon this Canzone, and had finished the above stanza, when the Lord of justice called this most gentle one unto glory under the banner of that holy Queen Mary whose name was ever spoken with greatest reverence by this blessed Beatrice.4

“ And although it might give pleasure, were I now to tell somewhat of her departure from us, it is not my intention to treat of it here for three reasons. The first is, that it is no part of the present design, as may be seen in the proem of this little book. The second is, that, supposing it were so, my pen would not be sufficient to treat of it in a fitting manner. The third is, that, supposing both the one and the other, it would not be becoming in me to treat of it. since, in doing so, I should be obliged to praise myself,—a thing altogether blameworthy in whosoever does it, — and therefore I leave this subject to some other narrator.

“Nevertheless, since in what precedes there has been occasion to make frequent mention of the number nine,and apparenty not without reason, and since in her departure this number appeared to have a large place, it is fitting to say something on this point, seeing that it seems to belong to bur design. Wherefore I will first tell how it had place in her departure, and then I will assign some reason why this number was so friendly to her. I sav, that, according to the mode of reckonling in Italy, her most noble soul departed in the first hour of the ninth day of the month ; and according to the reckoning, in Syria, she departed in the ninth month of the year, since the first month there is Tisinim, which with us is October; and according to our reckoning, she departed in that year of our indietion, that is, of the years of the Lord, in which the perfect number 5 was completed for the ninth time in that century in which she had been set in the world ; and she was of the Christians of the thirteenth century.6

One reason why this number was so friendly to her may be this: since, according to Ptolemy and the Christian truth, there are nine heavens which move, and, according to the common astrological opinion, these heavens work effects here below according to their relative positions, this number was her friend, to the end that it might be understood that at her generation all the nine movable heavens were in most perfect conjunction,‡ This is one reason ; but considering more subtilely and according to infallible truth, this number was she herself,—I speak in a similitude, and I mean as follows. The number three is the root of nine, since, without any other number, multiplied by itself, it makes nine,—as we see plainly that three times three are nine. Then, if three is the factor by itself of nine, and the Author of Miracles7 by himself is three,—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are three and one,—this lady was accompanied by the number nine that it might be understood that she was a nine, that is, a miracle, whose only root is die marvellous Trinity. Perhaps a more subtle poison might discover some more subtile reason for this; but this is the one that I see for it, and which pleases me the best.” After thus treating of the number nine in its connection with Beatrice, Dante goes on to say, that, when this most gentle lady had gone from this world, the city appeared widowed and despoiled of every dignity; whereupon he wrote to the princes of the earth an account of its condition, beginning with the words of Jeremiah which he quoted at the entrance of this new matter. The remainder of this letter he does not give, because it was in Latin, and in this work it was his intention, from the beginning, to write only in the' vulgar tongue; and such was the understanding of the friend for whom he writes,—that friend being, as we may suppose, Guido Cavalcanti, whom Dante, it may be remembered, has already spoken been since his lady went away to heaven.

of as the chief among his friends. Then succeeds a Canzone lamenting the death of Beatrice, which, instead of being billowed by a verbal exposition, as is the ease with all that have gone before, is preceded by one, in order that it may

seem, as it were, desolate and like a widow at its end. And this arrangement is preserved in regard to all the remaining poems in the little volume. In this

poem he says that the Eternal Sire called Beatrice to himself, because he saw that this world was not worthy of such a gentle thing; and he says of his own life, that no tongue could tell what it has

Among the sonnets ascribed, to Dante is one which, if it he his, must have been written about this time, and which, although not included in the “ Vita A nova,’' seems not unworthy to find a place here. Its imagery, at least, connects it with some of the sonnets in the earlier portion of the book.

One day came Melancholy unto me,
And said/ With thee I will awhile abide';
And, as it seemed, attending at her side,
Anger and Grief did bear her company.
“ Depart! Away ! 'I cried out eagerly.
Then like a Greek she Unto me replied;
And while she stood discoursing in her pride,
I looked, and Love approaching us I see.
“ In cloth of black full strangely was he clad,
A little hood he wore upon his head,
And down his face tears flowing fast he had.
'“Poor little wretch! what ails thee? ' then I said.
And he replied, 'I woful am, and sad,
Sweet brother, for our lady who is dead.' ”

About this time, Dante tells us, a person who stood to him in friendship next to his first friend, and who was of the closest relationship to his glorious lady, so that we may believe it was her brother, came to him and prayed him to write something on a lady who was dead. Dante, believing that he meant the blessed Beatrice, accordingly wrote, for him a sonnet; and then, reflecting that so short a poem appeared but a poor and bare sendee for one who was so nearly connected with her, added to it a Canzone, and gave both to him.

As the months passed on, his grief still continued fresh, and the memory of his lady dwelt continually with him. It happened, that, “on that day which completed a year since this lady was made one of the citizens of eternal life. I was seated in a place where, remembering her, I drew an Angel upon certain tablets. And while I was drawing it, I turned my eyes, and saw at my side certain men to whom it was becoming to do honor, and who were looking at what I did ; and, as was afterward told me, they had been there now some time before I perceived them. When I saw them, I rose, and, saluting them, said, ‘Another was just now with me, and on that account I was in thought.’ When these persons had gone, I returned to my work, that is, to drawing figures of Angels; and while doing this, a thought came to me of saying words in rhyme, as for an anniversary poem for her, and of addressing them to those who had come to me. Then I said this sonnet, which has two beginnings ;—


“ Unto my mind remembering had come
The gentle lady, with sue!} pure worth graced,
That by the Lord Most High she had been placed
Within the heaven of peace, where Mary hath her home.’


“ Unto my mind had come, indeed, in thought,
That gentle one for whom Love's tears are shed.
Just at the time when, by his power led,
To see what l was doing you were brought.
“ Love, who within rav mind did her perceive,
Was roused awake within my wasted heart.
And said unto my sighs, ‘ Go forth! depart! ’
Whereon each one in grief did take its
“ Lamenting they from out m v breast did go,
And uttering a voice that often led
The grievous tears unto my saddened eyes.
“ But those which issued villi the greatest woe.
' 0 nobte. soul,' they in departing said,
‘ To-day makes up the year since thou to heaven didst rise."

The preceding passage is one of the many in the “ Vita Nuova ” which are of peculiar interest, as illustrating the personal tastes of Dante, and the common modes of his life. “ I was drawing,” he says, “the figure of an Angel”; and this statement is the more noticeable, because Giotto, the man who set painting on its modern course, was not yet old enough to have exercised any influence upon Dante.8 The friendship which afterwards existed between them had its beginning at a later period. At this time Cimabue still held the field. He often painted angels around the figures of the Virgin and her Child; and in his most famous picture, in the Church of Sta. Maria Novella, there are certain angels of which Vasari says, with truth, that, though painted in the Greek manner, they show an approach toward the modern style of drawing. These angels may well have seemed beautiful to eyes accustomed to the hard unnaturalness of earlier works. The love of Art pervaded Florence, and a nature so sensitive and so sympathetic as Dante’s could not but partake of it in the fullest measure. Art was then no adjunct of sentimentalism, no encourager of idleness. It was connected with all that was most serious and all that was most delightful in life. it is difficult, indeed, to realize the delight which it gave, and the earnestness with which it was followed at this period, when it seemed, as by a miracle, to fling off the winding-sheet which had long wrapped its stiffened limbs, and to come forth with new and unexampled life.

The strength and the intelligence of Dante’s love of Art are shown in many beautiful passages and allusions in the “Divina Commedia.” There was something of universality, not only in his imagination, but also in his acquisitions. Of the sources of learning which were then open, there was not one which he had not visited ; of the fountains of inspiration, not one out of which he had not drunk. All the arts—poetry, painting, sculpture, and music — were alike dear to him. His Canzoni were written to be sung; and one of the most charming scenes in the great poem is that in which is described his meeting with his friend Casella, the musician, who sang to him one of his own Canzoni so sweetly, that “ the sweetness still within me sounds.’’ 9

“ Dante took great delight in music, and was an excellent draughtsman,” says Aretino, his second biographer; and Boccaccio reports, that in his youth he took great pleasure in music, and was the friend of all the best musicians and singers of his time. There is, perhaps, in the whole range of literature, no nobler homage to Art than that, which is contained in the tenth and twelfth cantos of the “ Purgatory,” in which Dan I e represents the Creator himself as using its means to impress the lessons of truth upon those whose souls were being purified for the final attainment of heaven. The passages are too long for extract, and though their wonderful beauty tempts us to linger over them, we must return to the course of the story of Dante’s life as it appears in the concluding pages of the “ New Life.”

Many months had passed since Beatrice’s death, when Dante happened to be in a place which recalled the past time to him, and filled him with grief. While standing here, he raised his eyes and saw a young and beautiful lady looking out from a window compassionately upon his sad aspect. The tenderness of her look touched his heart and moved his tears. Many times afterwards he saw her, and her face was always full of compassion, and pale, so that it reminded him of the look of his own most noble lady. But at length his eyes began to

* This Canzone, to the exposition of which the third Trattato of the Conrito is devoted, has been inimitably translated by the Reverend Charles T. Brooks. We believe it, to be the happiest version of one of Dante’s minor poems that exists in our language,—-and every student of the poet will recognize the success with which very great difficulties have been overcome. It appeared in the Crayon, for February, 1858. delight too much in seeing her; wherefore

he often cursed their vanity, and esteemed himself as vile, and there was a hard battle within himself between the remembrance of his lady and the new desire of his eyes.

At length, he says, “The sight of this lady brought me into so new a condition, that I often thought of her as of one who pleased me exceedingly,—and I thought of her thus: ‘ This is a gentle, beautiful, young, and discreet lady, and she has perhaps appeared by will of Love, in order that my life may find repose.’ And often I thought more amorously, so that my heart consented in it, that is, approved my reasoning. And alter it had thus consented, I, moved as if by reason, reflected, and said to myself, ‘ Ah, what thought is this that in so vile a way seeks to console me, and leaves me scarcely any other thought ? Then another thought rose up and said, ‘ Now that thou hast been in so great tribulation of Love, why wilt thou not withdraw thyself from such bitterness? Thou seest that this is an inspiration that sets the desires of Love before thee, and proceeds from a place no less gentle than the eyes of the lady who has shown herself so pitiful toward thee.’ Wherefore, I, having often thus combated with myself, wished to say some words of it. And as, in this battle of thoughts, those which spoke for her won the victory, it seemed to me becoming to address her, and I said this sonnet, which begins, ‘ A gentle thought ’; and I called it gentle because I was speaking to a gentle lady,—but otherwise it was most vile.

“ A gentle thought that of you holds discourse
Cometh now frequently with me to dwell,
And in so sweet a way of Love doth tell,
My heart to yield unto him he doth force.
"'Who, then, is this,’ the soul says to the heart,
'Who cometh to bring comfort to our mind ?
And is his virtue of so potent kind,
That other thoughts he maketh to depart ? ’
" 'O saddened soul,’ the heart to her replies,
'This is a little spirit fresh from Love,
Whose own desires he before me brings;

“ ‘His very life and all his power doth move
Forth from the sweet compassionating eyes
Of her so grieved by our sufferings.’ ’’

“ One day, about the ninth hour, there arose within me a strong imagination opposed to this adversary of reason, For I seemed to see the glorified Beatrice m that crimson garment in which she had first appeared to my eyes, and she seemed to me young, of the same age as when I first saw her. Then I began to think of her, and, calling to mind the past time in its order, my heart began to repent bitterly of the desire by which it had so vilely allowed itself for some days to be possessed, contrary to the constancy of reason. And this so wicked desire being expelled, all my thoughts returned to their most gentle Beatrice, and I say that thenceforth I began to think of her with my heart possessed utterly by shame, so that it was often manifested by my sighs ; for almost all of them, as they went forth, told what was discoursed of in my heart, — the name of that gentlest one, and how she had gone from us. And I wished that my wicked desire and vain temptation might be known to be at an end; and that the rhymed words which I had before written might induce no doubt, I proposed to make a sonnet in which I would include what I have now told.”

With this sonnet Dante ends the story in the “Vita Nuova” of the wandering of his eves, and the short faithlessness of his heart; but it is retold with some additions in the “Convito” or “Banquet,” a work written many years afterward; and in this later version there are some details which serve to fill out and illustrate the earlier narrative A The same tender and refined feeling which inspires the “Vita Nuova” gives its tone to all the passages in which the poet recalls his youthful days and the memory of Beatrice in this work of his sorrowful manhood. In the midst of its serious and philosophic discourse this little story winds in and out its thread of personal recollection and of sweet romantic sentiment. It affords new insight into the recesses of Dante’s heart, and exhibits (he permanence of the gracious qualities of his youth.

Its opening sentence is full of the imagery of love-. '“ Since the death of that blessed Beatrice who lives in heaven with the angels, and on earth with my soul, the star of Venus had twice shone iti the different seasons, as the star of morning and of evening, when that gentle lady, of whom I have made mention near the close of the “ New Life,” first, appeared before my eyes accompanied by Love, and gained some place in my mind.

. . . And before this love could besome perfect., there arose a great battle between the thought that sprang from it and that which was opposed to it, and which still held (he fortress of my mind for the glorified Beatrice.”10

And so hard was this struggle, and so painful, that Dante took refuge from it in the composition of a poem addressed to the Angelic Intelligences who move the third heaven, that is, the heaven of Venus; and it is to the exposition of the true meaning of this Canzone that the second book or treatise of the “ Convito” is directed. In one of the later chapters he says, (and the passage is a most striking one, from its own declaration, as well as from its relation to the vision of the “Dhina Commedia,”)—“The life of my heart was wont to be a swget and delightful thought, which often went t.o the feet of the Lord of those to whom I speak, that is, to God,—for, thinking, I contemplated the kingdom of the Blessed. And I tell [In my poem] the final cause of my mounting thither in thought, when I say,

'There I beheld a lady in glory'" and I say this] in order that it may be understood that I was certain, and am certain, through her gracious revelation, that she was in heaven, whither I in my thought oftentimes went,—as it were, seized up. And this made me desirous of death, that I might go there where she was.”11 Following upon the chapter in which this remarkable passage occurs is one which is chiefly occupied with a digression upon the immortality of the soul, — and with discourse upon this matter, says Dante, “ it will be beautiful to finish speaking of that living and blessed Beatrice, of whom I intend to say no more in this book. . .

. . . And I believe and affinn and am certain that I shall pass after this to another and better life, in which that glorious lady lives of whom my soul was enamored.” 12

But it is not from the “Convito” alone that this portion of the “Vita Nuova” receives illustration. In that passage of the “ Purgatory ” in which Beatrice is described as appearing in person to her lover the first time since her death, she addresses him in words of stern rebuke of Ins fickleness and his infidelity to her memory. The whole scene is, perhaps, unsurpassed in imaginative reality ; the vision appears to have an actual existence, and the poet himself is subdued by the power of his own imagination. He tells the words of Beatrice with the same feeling with winch he would have repeated them, had they fallen on his mortal ear. His grief and shame are real, and there is no element of feigning in them. That in truth he had seemed to himself to listen to and to behold what He tells, it is scarcely possible to doubt. Beatrice says,—

“ Some while at. heart my presence kept him sound; My girlish eyes to his observance lending i led him with me on' the right way bound. When of my second age the steps ascending. I bore my life into another sphere, Then stole he from me, after others bendWheti I arose from flesh to spirit clear,

When beauty, worthiness, upon me grew, I was to him less pleasing and less dear.” 13

But although Beatrice only gives utterance to the self-reproaches of Dante, we have seen already how fully he had atoned for this first and transient unfaithfulness of his heart. The remainder of the “Vita Nuova ” shows how little she had lost of her power over him, how reverently he honored her memory, how constant was his love of her whom he should see never again with his earthly eyes. Returning to the “ New Life,”—

“After this tribulatioin,” he says, “at that time when many people were going to see the blessed image which Jesus Christ left to us as the likeness of his most beautiful countenance, 14 which my lady now beholds in glory, it happened that certain pilgrims passed through a street which is almost in the middle of that city where the gentlest lady was born, lived, and died,—and they went along, as it seemed to me, very pensive. And thinking about them, I said to myself, ‘ These appear to me to be pilgrims from a far-off region, and I do not believe that they have oven heard speak of this lady, and they know nothing of her; their

“ As one that haply from Croatia came
To see our Veronica, and no whit
Could be contented with its olden fame,
Who in his heart saith, when they’re showing it,
'O Jesu Christ! O very Lord God mine!
Does truly this thy feature counterfeit? ’ ”


G. Villani says, that in 1300, the year of jubilee, for the consolation of Christian pilgrims, the Veronica was shown in St. Peter's every Friday, and on other solemn festivals.” viii. 36.

thoughts are rather of other things titan of her; for, perhaps, they are thinking of their distant friends, whom we do not know.’ Then I said to myself, ‘ I know, that, if these persons were from a neighboring country, they would show some sign of trouble as they pass through the midst of this grieving city.’ Then again I said, ’ If I could hold them awhile, I would indeed make them weep before they went out from this city ; for I would say words to them which would make whoever should hear them weep.’ Then, when they had passed out of sight, I proposed to make a sonnet in which I would set forth that which I had said to myself; and in order that it might appear more pity-moving, I proposed to say it as if I had spoken to them, and I said this sonnet, which begins, ‘ O pilgrims'

“ I called them pilgrims in the wide sense of that word ; for pilgrims may be understood in two wavs,—one wide, and one narrow. In the wide, whoever is out of his own country is so far a pilgrim; in the narrow use, by pilgrim is meant he only who goes to or returns from the house of St. James.15 Moreover, it is to be known that those who travel in the service of the Most High are called by three distinct terms. Those who go beyond the sea, whence often they bring back the palm, are called palmers. Those who go to the house of Galicia are called pilgrims, because the burial-place of St. James was more distant from his country than that of any other of the Apostles. And those are called romei who go to Rome, where these whom I call pilgrims were going.

* The shrine of St. James, at Compostella, (contracted from Giacomo Apostolo,) in Galicia, was a great resort of pilgrims during the Middle Ages,—and Santiago, the military patron of Spain, was one of the most popular saints of Christendom. Chaucer says, the Wif of Bathe

“ 0 pilgrims, who in pensive mood move slow,

Thinking perchance of those who absent are.

Say, do yo come from land away so far As your appearance seems to us to show? "For ye weep not, the while ye forward go Along the middle of the mourning town, Seeming as persons who have nothing known

Concerning the sad burden of her woe.

“ If, through your will to hear, your steps ye stay,

Truly my sighing heart declares to me That ye shall afterwards depart in tears. “For she16 her Beatrice hath lost: and ye Shall know, the words that man of her may say

Have power to make weep whoever hears."

Some time after this sonnet was writn, two ladies sent to Dante, asking him for some of his rhymes. That he might honor their request, he wrote a new sonnet and sent it to them with two that he had previously composed. In his new sonnet, he told how his thought mounted to heaven, as a pilgrim, and beheld his lady in such condition of glory as could not be comprehended by his intellect; for our intellect, in regard to the souls of the blessed, is as weak as our eyes are to the sun. But though he could not clearly see where his thought led him, at least he understood that his thought told of his lady in glory.

“ Beyond the sphere that widest orbit hath
Passeth the sigh that issues from my heart,
While weeping Love doth unto him impart
Intelligence which leads him on his path.
“ When at the wished-for place his flight he stays,
A lady he beholds, in honor dight,
And shining so, that, through her splendid light,
The pilgrim spirit upon her doth gaze.
“He sees her such that his reporting words
I understand not, for he speaketh low
And strange to the sad heart which makes him tell;
“ He speaketh of that gentle one, I know,
Since oft he Beatrice’s name records;
So, ladies dear, I understand him well.”

This was the last of the poems which

17 The city. Dante composed in immediate honor and memory of Beatrice, and is the last of those which he inserted in the “ Vita Nuova.” It was not that his love grew cold, or that her image became taint in his remembrance ; but, as he tells us in a few concluding and memorable words, from this tune forward he devoted himself to preparation for a work in which the earthly Beatrice should have less part, while the heavenly and blessed spirit of her whom he had loved should receive more becoming honors. The lover’s grief was to find no more expression; the lamentations for the loss which could never be made good to him were to cease ; the exhibition of a personal sorrow was at an end. Love and grief, in their double ministry, had refined, enlarged, and exalted his spirit to the conception of a design unparalleled in its nature, and of which no intellectual genius, unpurged by suffering, and unpenetrated in its deepest recesses by the spiritualizing heats of emotion, would have been capable of conceiving. Moreover, as time wore on, its natural result was gradually to withdraw the poet from the influence of temporary excitements of feeling, resulting from his experience of love and death, and to bring him to the contemplation of life as affected by the presence and the memory of Beatrice in its eternal and universal relations. He tells us in the “ Convito,” that, “ after some time, my mind, which neither such consolation as I could give it, nor that offered to it by others, availed to comfort, determined to turn to that method bv which others in grief had consoled themselves. And I set myself to read that book, but little known, of Boethius, in which in prison and exile he had consoled himself. And hearing, likewise, that Tully had written a book, in which, treating of friendship, he had offered some words of comfort to La-lius, a most excellent man, on the death of Scipio, his friend, I read this also. And although at first it was hard for me to enter into their meaning. I at length entered into it so far as my knowlty as I had, enabled me ; by means of which capacity, I had already, like one dreaming, seen many things, as may be seen in the ‘ New Life.’ And as it might happen that a man seeking silver should, beyond his expectation, find gold, which a hidden chance presents to him, not, perhaps, without Divine direction, so I, who sought for consolation, found not only a remedy for my tears, but also acquaintance with authors, with knowledge, and with books.”

Nor did these serious and solitary studies withdraw him from the pursuit of wisdom among men and in the active world. Year by year, he entered more fully into the affairs of state, and took a larger portion of their conduct upon himself.

His heart kept fresh by abiding recollections of love, his faith quickened by and intermingled with the tenderesthopes, his imagination uplifted by the affection which overleaped the boundaries of the invisible world, and his intellect disciplined by study of books and of men, his experience enlarged by constant occupation in affairs, his judgment matured by the quick succession of important events in which he was involved,—every part of his nature was thus prepared for the successful accomplishment of that great and sacred design which he set before himself now in his youth. Heaven had called and selected him for a work which even in his own eyes partook somewhat of the nature of a prophetic charge. His strength was to be tested and his capacity

to be approved. Life was ordered for the fulfilment of his commission. The men to whom God intrusts a message for the world find the service to which they are appointed one in which they must be ready to sacrifice everything. Dante looked forward, even at the beginning, to the end, and saw what lay between.

The pages of the “New Life” fitly close with words of that life in which all things shall be made new, “ and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” The little book ends thus :—

“ Soon after this, a wonderful vision appeared to me, in which I saw things which made me purpose to speak no more of this blessed one until I could more worthily treat of her. And to attain to this, I study to the utmost of my power, as she truly knoweth. So that, if it shall please Him through whom all things live, that my life be prolonged for some years, I hope to speak of her as never was spoken of any woman. And then may it please Him who is the Lord of Grace, that my soul may go to behold the glory of its lady, the blessed Beatrice, who in glory looks upon the face of Him, qui est per omnia sæcula benedictus [who is Blessed forever] ! ”

In 1320, or perhaps not till 1321, the “ Paradiso” was finished; in 1321, Dante died.

18 See Lionardo Aretino’s Vita Dante.

“ O Death, delay not mercy, if 'tis thine!
For now I seem to see the heavens ope,
And Angels of the. Lord descending here,
Intent to bear away the holy soul
Of her whose honor there above is sung."

  1. 19 Landino, and most of the commentators after him, state that Dante refers in this passage to the fear of the garrison taken in the place when it was recaptured the next year by the Pisans. But us Florence and Pisa continued at desperate enmity, Dante could hardly have witnessed this latter scene.
  2. Lamentations, I. 1.
  3. There is among tire Cunzoni of Dante one beginning, “ Morte poich’ io non truovo a cui mi doglia,” which seems to have been written during tire illness of Beatrice, in view of her approaching death. It is a beautiful and touching poem. Death is besought to spare that lady, “ who of every good is the true gate.” —“ If thou extinguisheSt the light of those beautiful eyes, which were wont to ho so sweet a guide to mine, I see that thou desirest my death."
  4. In the earlier part of the Vita Nuova there are many references to. this number. TV e translate in full the passage given above, as one of the most striking illustrations of Dante's youthful fondness for seeking for the mystical relations and inner meanings of things. I he attributing such importance to the properties of the number nine, though it might at first view seem puerile and an indication of poverty of feeling, was a portion of the superstitious belief of the age, in which Dante naturally shared. The mysterious properties of numbers were a subject of serious study, and were connected with various branches of science and of life.
  5. Themistius vero, et Boethius, et Averre is Babylonius, cum Platone, sic numeros extollunt, ut neminem absque illis posse recte philosophari putent. Loquuntur autem de nultiero rationali et formali, non de materia li, sensibili, sive vocali ntimero rnercatoram. . . . Sed inteuduint ad proportioned ex illo. resultantem, quern numerum naturalem et formialem et rationalera vacant: ex quo magna sacramenta emanant, tain naturalibus quam divinis atque cœlestibus.In numeris itaque magnam latere efficaciam et virtutem tarm ad bonum quam ad malum, non modo splendidissimi philosophi unanimiter docent, sed etiam doctores Catholic;.” — Cornelii Agrippæ De Occutia Plilosophia, Liber Secundus, ee. 2, 3.
  6. The perfect number is ten.
  7. Thus it appears that Beatrice died on the, 9th of June, 1290. She was a little more than twenty-four years old. Compare with this passage Ballata v., “ Io mi son pargoletta. bella e nova,” and Sonnet xlv., “ Da quella luce die I suo corso giro”; th latter probably in praise of Philosophy.
  8. The point is here lost in a translation,— factor and author being expressed in the original by one word, fatiore.
  9. In this year, 1291, Giotto was but fifteen years old, and probably a student with Cimabue. Benvenuto da Imola, who lectured publicly at Bologna on the Divina Commedia in the year 1378, reports, that, while Giotto, still a young, man, was painting at Padua, Dante visited him. And Vasari says, that it was a tradition, that Giotto had painted, in a chapel at Maples, scenes out of the Apocalypse, from designs furnished him by the poet. If wo may believe another tradition, which there seems indeed little reason to doubt, Giotto went to Ravenna during the last years of Dante's life, that he might spend there some time in company with his exiled friend.
  10. The differences in the two accounts of this period of Dante’s experience, and the view of Beatrice presented in the Convito, suggest curious and interesting questions, the solution of which has been obscured by the dulness of1 commentators. We must, however, leave the discussion of these points till some other opportunity.
  11. Convito, Tratt. ii. c. 3.
  12. Convito, Tratt. ii. c. 8. † Id. c. 9.
  13. * Purgatory, c. xxx. vv. 118-126.&EMDASH;CAYLEY’S Translation.
  14. † The most precious relic at Rome, and the one which chiefly attracted pilgrims, during a long period of the Middle Ages, was the Veronica, or representation of the Saviour’s face, supposed to have been miraculously impressed upon the handkerchief with which he wiped his face on his way to Calvary. It was preserved at St. Peter's and shown only on special occasions. Compare with this passage the lines in the Paradiso, c. xxxi. 103-8:—
  15. “ Had passed many a straunge streem; At Rome sche hadde ben, and at Boloyne, In Galice at Seynt Jame, and at Coloyne.”
  16. And Shakspoare, in Alls Well that Ends Well, makes Helena represent herself as "St. Jacques’s pilgrim.”
  17. edge of language, and such little capaci-