Benvenuto Rambaldi Da Imola Illustrato Nella Vita E Nelle Opere, E Di Lui Comento Latino Sulla Divina Commedia Di Dante Allighieri Voltato in Italiano Dall' Avvocato
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
GIOVANNI TAMBURINI. Imola. 1855-56. 3 VOLL. in 8vo. [The Commentary of Benvenuto Rambaldi of Imola on the Divina Commedia, translated from Latin into Italian, by Giovanni Tamburini.]
ALMOST five centuries have passed since Benvenuto of Imola, one of the most distinguished men of letters of his time, was called by the University of Bologna to read a course of lectures upon the " Divina Commedia ” before the students at that famous seat of learning. Prom that time till the present, a great part of his “Comment” has lain in manuscript, sharing the fate of the other earliest commentaries on the poem of Dante, not one of which, save that of Boccaccio, was given to the press till within a few years. This neglect is the more strange, since it was from the writers of the fourteenth century, almost contemporary as they were with Dante, that the most important illustrations both of the letter and of the sense of the “ Divina Commedia” were naturally to be looked for. When they wrote, the lapse of time had not greatly obscured the memory of the events which tiie poet had recorded, or to which he had referred. The studies with which he had been familiar, the external sources from which he had drawn inspiration, had undergone no essential change in direction or in nature. The same traditions and beliefs possessed the intellects of men. Similar social and political influences moulded their characters. The distance that separated Dante from his first commentators was mainly due to the surpassing nature of his genius, which, in some sort, made him, and still makes him, a Stranger to all men, and very little to changes like those which have slowly come about in the passage of centuries, and which divide his modern readers from the poet.
It was the intention of Benvenuto, as he tells us, “ to elucidate what was dark in tlie poem being veiled under figures, and to explain what was involved in its multiplex meanings.” But his Comment is more illustrative than analytic, more literal than imaginative, and its chief value lies in the abundance of current legends which it contains, and in the number of stories related in it, which exhibit the manners or illustrate the history of tlie times. So great, indeed, is the value of this portion of his work, that Muratori, to whom a large debt of gratitude is due from all students of Italian history, published in 1738, in the first volume of his “ Antiquitatos Italicæ Medii _Ævi,” a selection of such passages, amounting altogether to about one half of the whole Comment. However satisfactory this incomplete publication might be to the mere historical investigator, the students of the “ Divina Commedia” could not but regret that the complete work had not been printed,— and they accordingly welcomed with satisfaction the announcement, a few years since, of the volumes whose title stands at the head of this article, which professed to contain a translation of the whole Comment. It seemed a pity, indeed, that it should have been thought worth while to translate a book addressing itself to a very limited number of readers, most of whom were quite as likely to understand the original Latin as the modern Italian, while also a special value attached to the style and form in which it was first written. But no one could have suspected what “ translation” meant in the estimation of the Signor Tamburini, whose name appears on the title-page as that of the translator.
Traduttore — traditore, “ Translator — traitor,” says the proverb; and of all traitors shielded under the less offensive name, Signor Tamburini is beyond comparison the worst we have ever had the misfortune to encounter. A place is reserved for him in that lowest depth in which, according to Dante’s system, traitors are punished.
It appears from his preface that Signor Tamburini is not without distinction in the city of Imola. He has been President of the Literary Academy named that of “ The Industrious.” To have been President of an Academy in the Roman States implies that the person bearing this honor was either an ecclesiastic or a favorite of ecclesiastics. Hitherto, no one could hold such an office without having his election to it confirmed by a central board of ecclesiastical inspectors (la Sacra Congregazione degli Studj) at Rome. The reason for noticing this fact in connection with Signor Tamburini will soon become apparent.
In his preface, Signor Tamburini declares that in the first division of the poem he has kept his translation close to the original, while in the two later divisions he had been meno Ileyato, “less exact,” in his rendering. This acknowledgment, however unsatisfactory to the reader, presented at least an appearance of fairness. But, from a comparison of Signor Tamburini’s work with the portions of the original preserved by Muratori, we have satisfied ourselves that his honesty is on a level with his capacity as a translator, and what his capacity is we propose to enable our readers to judge for themselves. For our own part, we have been unable to distinguish any important difference in the methods of translation followed in the three parts of the Comment.
So far as we are aware, this book has not met with its dues in Europe. The well-known Dantophilist, Professor Blanc
of Halle, speaks of it in a note to a recent essay ( Versuch einer blos philologischen Erklärung der Göittlichen Komödie, von Dr. L. G. Blanc, Halle, 1860, p. 5) as “a miserably unsatisfactory translation,” but does not give the grounds of his assertion. We intend to show that a grosser literary imposition has seldom been attempted than in these volumes. It is an outrage on the memory of Dante not less than on that of Benvenuto. The book is worse than worthless to students ; for it is not only full of mistakes of carelessness, stupidity, and ignorance, but also of wilful perversions of the meaning of the original by additions, alterations, and omissions. The three large volumes contain few pages which do not afford examples of mutilation or misrepresentation of Benvenuto’s words.
We will begin our exhibition of the qualities of the Procrustean mistranslator with an instance of his almost incredible carelessness, which is, however, excusable in comparison with his more wilful faults. Opening the first volume at page 397, we find the following sentence, which we put side by side with the original as given by Muratori. The passage relates to the 33d and succeeding verses of Canto XVI.
Qui Danto fa menzione di Guido Guerra, e meravigliano molti della modestia dell’ autore, che da costui e dalia di lui moglie tragga l’ origins sua, mentre poteva derivarla da piu nobile fonte. Ma io in tale modestia trovo merito muggiore perchè non volle mancare di gratitudine affettuosa a quella, — Gualdrada, — stipite suo,—danddle nome e tramandandola quasi all’ eternita, mentre per SE stessa sarebbe forse rimasta sconosciuta.
Et primo incepit a digniori, scilicet a Guidone Guerra; et circa istius descriptioncm lectori est aliqualiter immoranduru, quia multi mirantur, umno truffuntur ignoranter, quod Dantes, qui poterat describes istura præclarum virum a Claris progenitoribus et ejus Claris gestis, describit eum ab una fernina, avita sua, Domna Gualdrada. Sed certe Auctor fecit talem descriptioncm tarn laudabiliter quam pnulenter, ut heic implicite tnngeret originem famosæ stirpis istius, et ut daret meritam famam et laudem huic mulieri dignissimiæ.
A literal translation will afford the most telling comment on the nature of the Italian version.
Here Dante makes mention of Guido Guera, and many marvel at the modesty of the author, in deriving his own origin from him and from his wife, when he might have derived it from a more noble source. But I find in such modesty the greater merit, in that he did not wish to fail in affectionate gratitude toward her,— Gualdrada,'—his ancestress,— giving her name and handing her down as it were to eternity, while she by
In the first place he began with the worthiest, namely, Guido Guerra: and in regard to the description of this man it is to be dwelt upon a little by the reader, because many wonder, and even in their ignorance scoff at Dante, because, when he might have described this very distinguished man by his distinguished ancestors and his distinguished deeds, he does describe him by a woman, his grandmother, the Lady Gualherself would perhaps have remained unknown.
It will be noticed that Signor Tamburini makes Dante derive his own origin from Gualdrada,— a mistake from which the least attention to the original text, or the slightest acquaintance with the biography of the poet, would have saved him.
Another amusing instance of stupidity occurs in the comment on the 135th verse of Canto XXVIII, where, speaking of the young king, son of Henry II. of England, Benvenuto says, “ Note here that this youth was Like another Titus the son of Vespasian, who, according to Suetonius, was called the love and delight of the human race.” This simple sentence is rendered in the following astounding manner : “ John [the young king] was, according to Suetonius, another Titus Vespasian, the love and joy of the human race ” !
Again, in giving the account of Guido da Montefelteo, (Inferno, Canto XXVII.,) Benvenuto says on the lines,
— e poi fui Cordeliero, Credendomi si cinto fare ammenda,
“ And then I became a Cordelier, believing thus girt to make amends,”—“That is, hoping under such a dress of misery and poverty to make amends for my sins ; but others did not believe in him [in his
drada. But certainly the author did this not less praiseworthily than wisely, that he might here, by implication, touch upon the origin of that famous family, and might give a merited fame and praise to this most worthy woman.
repentance]. Wherefore Dominus Malatesta, having learned from one of his household that Dominus Guido had become a Minorite Friar, took precautions that he should not be made the guardian of Bimini.” This last sentence is rendered by our translator, — “ One of the household of Malatesta related to me (!) that Ser Guido adopted the dress of a Minorite Friar, and sought by every means not to he appointed guardian of Rimini.” A little farther on the old commentator says, — “He died and was buried in Ancona, and I have heard many things about him which may afford a sufficient hope of his salvation ”; but he is made to say by Signor Tamburini, — “ After his death and burial in Ancona many works of power were ascribed to him, and I have a sweet hope that he is saved.”
We pass over many instances of similar misunderstanding of Benvenuto’s easily intelligible though inelegant Latin, to a blunder which would be extraordinary in any other book, by which our translator has ruined a most characteristic story in the comment on the 112th verse of Canto XIV. of the “ Purgatory.” We must give here the two texts.
Et heic nota, ut videos, si magna nobilitas vigebat paulo ante in Bretenorio, quod tempore istius Guidonis, quando aliquis vir nobilis et honorabills applicabat ad terram, magna contentio erat inter multos nobiles de Bretenorio, in cujus domum illc tails forensis deberet declinare. Propter quod concorditer.convenerunt inter se, quod columns, lapidea figeretur in medio plateæ cum multis annulis ferreis, et omnis superveniens esset hospes illius ad cujus annulum alligaret equurn.
And here take notice, that you may see if great nobility flourished a little before this time in Brettinoro, that, in the days of this Guido, when any noble and honorable man came to the place, there was a great rival-
A1 tempo di Guido iu Brettinoro anche i nobili aravano le terre; ma insersero discordie fra essi, e sparve la innocenza di vita, e con essa la liberalita. I brettinoresi determinarono di alzare in piazza una colonna con intorno tanti anelli di ferro, quanto le nobili famiglie di quel castcllo, e chi fosse arrivato ed avessc legato il cavallo ad uno de’ predetti anelli, doveva osser ospite della famiglia, che indicava 1’ anello cui il cavallo era attaccato.
In the time of Guido in Brettinoro even the nobles ploughed the land; but discords arose among them, and innocence of life disappeared, and with it liberality. The people of Brettiuoro determined to erect in the pubry among the many nobles of Itrettinoro, as to which of them should receive the stranger in his house. Wherefore they harmoniously agreed that a column of stone should be set up in the middle of the square, furnished with many iron rings, and any one who arrived should be the guest of him to whose ring he might tie his horse.
Surely, Signor Tamburini has fixed the dunce’s cap on his own head so that it can never be taken off. The commonest Latin phrases, which the dullest schoolboy could not mistranslate, he misunderstands, turning the pleasant sense of the worthy commentator into the most selfcontradictory nonsense.
“ Ad confirmandum propositum,” says Benvenuto, “ occurrit mihi resjocosa,” 1 — ’ In confirmation of this statement, a laughable matter occurs to me ” ; and he goes on to relate a story about the famous astrologer Pietro di Abano. But our translator is not content without making him stultify himself, and renders the words we have quoted, “ A maggiore conferma referirò un fatto a me accaduto ” ; that is, he makes Benvenuto say, “ I will report an incident that happened to me,” and then go on to tell the story of Pietro di Abano, which had no more to do with him than with Signor Tamburini himself.
We might fill page after page with examples such as these of the distortions and corruptions of Benvenuto’s meaning which we have noted on the margin of this so-called translation. But we have given more than enough to prove the charge of incompetence against the President of the “ Academy of the Industrious,” and we pass on to exhibit him now no longer as simply an ignoramus, but as a mean and treacherous rogue.
Among the excellent qualities of Benvenuto there are few more marked than his freedom in speaking his opinion of rulers and ecclesiastics, and in holding up their vices to reproach, while at the game time he shows a due spirit of respect for proper civil and ecclesiastical authority. In tins he imitates the temper of the poet upon whose work he comments,— and in so doing he has left many most valuable records of the character and manners especially of the clergy of those days. He loved a good story, and he did not hesitate to tell it even when it went lie square a column with as many iron rings upon it as there were noble families in that stronghold, and he who should arrive and tie his horse to one of those rings was to be the guest of the family pointed out by the ring to which the horse was attached.
hard against the priests. He knew and he would not hide the corruptions of the Church, and he was not the man to spare the vices which were sapping the foundations not so much of the Church as of religion itself. But his translator is of a different order of men, one of the devout votaries of falsehood and concealment; and he has done his best to remove some of the most characteristic touches of Benvenuto’s work, regarding them as unfavorable to the Church, which even now in the nineteenth century cannot well bear to have exposed the sins committed by its rulers and its clergy in the thirteenth or fourteenth. Signor Tamburini has sought the favor of ecclesiastics, and gained the contempt of such honest men as have the ill-luck to meet with his book. Wherever Benvenuto uses a phrase or tells an anecdote which can be regarded as bearing in any way against the Church, we may be sure to find it either omitted or softened down in this Papalistic version. We give a few specimens.
In the comment on Canto II. of the “ Inferno,” Benvenuto says, speaking of Dante's great enemy, Boniface VIII.,— “ Auctor sæpissime dicit de ipso Bonifacio magna mala, qui de rei veritate fuit magnaniuius peccator”: “ Our author very often speaks exceedingly ill of Boniface, who was in very truth a grand sinner.” This sentence is omitted in the translation.
Again, on the well-known verse, (Inferno, xix. 53,) “ Se’ tu già costì ritto, Bonifazio'?” Benvenuto commenting says, — “Auctor quando ista scripsit, viderat pravam vitam Bonifacii, et ejus mortem rabidam. Ideo bene judicavit eum damnation. . . . Heic dictus Nicolaus improperat Bonifacio duo mala. Primo, quia Sponsam Christi fraudulenter assumpsit de manu simplicis Pastoris. Secundo, quia etiam eam more meretricis tractavit, simoniace vendendo earn, et tyrunniec tractando ” : "The author, when he wrote those things, had witnessed the evil life of Boniface, and his raving death. Therefore he well judged him to he damned....And here the aforementioned Pope Nicholas charges two crimes upon Boniface: first, that he had taken the Bride of Christ by deceit from the hand of a simple-minded Pastor; second, that he had treated her as a harlot, simoniacally selling her, and tyrannically dealing with her.”
These two sentences are omitted by the translator; and the long further account which Benvenuto gives of the election and rule of Boniface is throughout modified by him in favor of this “ magnanimus peccator.” And so also the vigorous narrative of the old commentator concerning Pope Nicholas III. is deprived of its most telling points : “ Nam fuit primus in cujus curia palam committeretur Simonia per suos attinentes. Quapropter multum ditavit eos possessionibus, pecuniis et castellis, super omnes Romanos ” : "For he was the first at
whose court Simony was openly committed in favor of his adherents. Whereby he greatly enriched them with possessions, money, and strongholds, above all the Romans.” " Sed quod Cleriei capiunt raro dimittunt” : “ What the clergy have once laid hands on, they rarely give up.” Nothing of this is found in the Italian, — and history fails of her dues at the hands of this tender-conscieneed modernizer of Benvenuto. The comment on the whole canto is in this matter utterly vitiated. "In my judgment,” says Benvenuto, who speaks with the authority of long experience and personal observation, " it seems to me that four things have brought that noble province to so great desolation. The first of which is, the avarice of the Pastors of the Church, who now sell one tract of its land, and now another; while one favors one Tyrant, and another another, so that the men in authority are often changed. The second is, the wickedness of the Tyrants themselves, who are always tearing and biting each other, and fleecing their subjects. The third is, the fertility of the province itself, which by its very richness allures barbarians and foreigners to prey upon it. The fourth is, that spirit of jealousy which flourishes in the hearts of the inhabitants themselves.” It will be noticed that the translator
In the comment on Canto XXIX. of the "Inferno,” which is full of historic and biographic material of great interest, but throughout defaced by the license of the translator, occurs a passage in regard to the Romagna, which is curious not only as exhibiting the former condition of that beautiful and long-suffering portion of Italy, but also as applying to its recent state and its modern grievances.
Judicio meo mihi videtur quod quatuor deduxerunt earn nobilem provinciam ad tantam desolationem. Primum est avaritia Pastomm Ecclesise, qui nunc vendunt unam terrain, nunc aliam; et nunc unus favet uni Tyranno, nunc alius alteri, secundum quod sæpe mutantur officiales. Secundum est pravitas Tyrannorum suornm, qui semper inter se se lacerant et roduut, et sulxlitos excoriant. Tertium est fertilitas locorum ipsins provinciæ, cujus pinguedo allicit barbaros et externos in prsedam. Quartum est invidia, quæ viget in cordibus ipsorum incolarum.
Per me ritengo, che quattro fossero le cagioni per cui la Romagna si ridusse a tanta desolazione; l’ abuso per avarizia di alcuni ecclesiastic!, che alienarono or uua, or un’ altra terra, e si misero d’ nccordo coi tiranni,— i tiranni stessi che sempre erano discordi fra loro a danno de’ sudditi, — la fertilita de’ terreni, che troppo alletta gli strain, ed i barbari, — l’ invidia, che regua fra gli stessi roma gnuoli.
changes the phrase, " the avarice of the Pastors of the Church,” into " the avarice of some ecclesiastics,” while throughout the passage, as indeed throughout every page of the work, the vigor of Benvenuto’s style and the point of his animated sentences are quite lost in the flatness of a dull and inaccurate paraphrase.
A passage in which the spirit of the poet has fully roused his manly commentator is the noble burst of indignant reproach with which he inveighs against and mourns over Italy in Canto VI. of the " Purgatory ”: —
Ahi serva Italia, di dolore ostello,
Nave senza nocchiero in gran, tempesta,
Non donna di provincie, raa bordello.
Nave senza nocchiero in gran, tempesta,
Non donna di provincie, raa bordello.
“ Nota metaphoram puleram : sient enim in lupanari venditur caro humana pretio sine pudore, ita meretrix magna. idest Cu ria Romana, ct Curia Imperialis, vendunt libertatem Italicam. . . . Ad Italiam concurrunt omnes barbaræ nationes cum aviditate ad ipsam conculcandam. . . Et
heic, Lector, me exeusabis, qui antequam ulterius procedam, cogor facere inveetivam contra Dantem. O utinam, Poeta mirifice, rivivisceres mode ! Ubi pax, ubi tranquillitas in Italia ? .... Nunc autem dicere possim de tota Italia quod Vergilius tuus de una Urbe dixit:
—'Crudelis ubiqua Luctus, ubiquo pavor, et plurima mortis imago.'
.... Quanto ergo exeusabilius, si fas esset, possem exelamare ad Omnipotentem quam tu, qui in tempora felicia incidisti, quibus nos omnes nunc viventes in misera Italia possumus invidere ? Ipse ergo, qui potest, mittat amodo Yeltrum, quem tu vidisti in Somno, si tamen umquam venturus est.”
“ Note the beauty of the metaphor : for, as in a brothel the human body is sold for a price without shame, so the great harlot, the Court of Rome, and the Imperial Court, sell the liberty of Italy. . . . All the barbarous nations rush eagerly upon Italy to trample upon her. . . . And here. Reader, thou shalt excuse me, if, before
going farther, I am forced to utter a complaint against Dante. Would that, O marvellous poet, thou wert now living again ! Where is peace, where is tranquillity in Italy ? . . . But I may say now of all Italy what thy Virgil said of a single city, — ‘Cruel mourning everywhere, everywhere alarm, and the multiplied image of death.’ . . . With how much more reason, then, were it but right, might I call upon the Omnipotent, than thou who fullest upon happy times, which we all now living in wretched Italy may envy ! Let Him, then, who can, speedily send the Hound that thou sawest in thy dream, if indeed he is ever to come! ” The mass of omissions such as these is enormous. We go forward to the comment on Canto XII. of the “ Paradiso,” which exhibits a multitude of mutilations and alterations. For instance, in the comment ou the lines in which Dante speaks of
It would be surprising, but for what we have already seen of the manner in which Signor Tamburini performs his work, to find that he has here omitted all reference to the Church, omitted also the address to Dante, and thus changed the character of the whole passage.
Again, in the comment on Canto XX. of the “ Purgatory,” where Benvenuto gives account of the outrage committed, at the instigation of Philippe le Bel, by Sciarra Colonna, upon Pope Boniface VIII., at Anagni, the translator omits the most characteristic portions of the original.
Sed intense dole re superante animun ejus, conversus in rabiem furoris, cæpit se rodere totum. Et sic verificata est prophetia simplicissimi Coelestini, qui prædixerat sibi: Intrâsti ut Vuipes, Regnabis ut Leo, Morieris ut Canis.
“ But his intense mortification overcoming the mind of the Pope, he fell into a rage of madness, and began to bite himself all over his body. And thus the prophecy of the simple-minded Celestine came true, who had predicted to him, Thou hast entered [into the Papacy] like a Fox, thou wilt reign like a Lion, thou wilt die like a Dog.”
It will be observed that the prophecy is referred to by the translator, but that its stinging words are judiciously left out.
L’ augoscia per altro In vinsc sul di lui animo, per did fu preso da tal dolore, che si mordeva e lacerava le membra, e cosi terminò sua vita. In tal modo nel corso della vita di Lonifazio fu verificata la prolezia di Celestino.
St. Dominick as attacking heresies most eagerly where they were most firmly established, (dove le resistanze erun piu grosse,) our translator represents Benvenuto as saying, “ That is, most eagerly in that place, namely, the district of Toulouse, where the Albigenscs had become strong in their heresy and in power.” But Benvenuto says nothing of the sort; his words are, “ Idest, ubi erant majores Hæretici, vel ratione sciential, vel potential. Non enim fecit sicut quidam modern! Inquisitores, qui non sunt audaces nee solertes, nisi contra quosdam divites denariis, pauperes amicis, qui non possunt facere magnam resistentiam, et extorquent ab eis pecunias, quibus postea emunt Episcopatum.” “ That is, where were the greatest Heretics, either through their knowledge or their power. For he did not do like some modern Inquisitors, who are bold and skilful only against such as are rich in money, but poor in friends, and who cannot make a great resistance, and from these they squeeze out their money with which they afterwards buy an Episcopate.”
Such is the way in which what is most illustrative of general history, or of the personal character of the author himself, is constantly destroyed by the processes of Signor Tamburini. From the very next page a passage of real value, as a contemporary judgment upon the orders of St. Dominick and St. Francis, has utterly disappeared under his hands. “ And here take notice, that our most far-sighted author, from what he saw of these orders, conjectured what they would become. For, in very truth, these two illustrious orders of Preachers and Minorites, formerly the two brightest lights of the world, now have indeed undergone an eclipse, and are in their decline, and are divided by quarrels and domestic discords. And consequently it seems as if they were not to last much longer. Therefore it was well answered by a monk of St. Benedict, when he was reproached by a Franciscan friar for his wanton life, — When Francis shall be as old as Benedict, then you may talk to me.”
But there is a still more remarkable instance of Signor Tamburini’s tenderness to the Church, and of the manner in which he cheats his readers as to the spirit and meaning of the original, in the comment on the passage in Canto XXI. of the “ Paradise,” where St. Peter Damiano rebukes the luxury and pomp of the modern prelates, and mentions, among their other displays of vanity, the size of their cloaks, “ which cover even their steeds, so that two beasts go under one skin.” “Namely,” says the honest old commentator, “ the beast of burden, and the beast who is borne, who in truth is the more beastly of the two. And, indeed, were the author now alive, he might change his words, and say, So that three beasts go under one skin,— to wit, a cardinal, a harlot, and a horse; for thus I have heard of one whom I knew well, that he carried his mistress to the chase, seated behind him on the croup of his horse or mule, and he himself was in truth ‘ as the horse or as the mule, winch have no understanding.’ .... And wonder not, Reader, if the author as a poet thus reproach these prelates of the Church ; for even great Doctors and Saints have not been able to abstain from rebukes of this sort against such men in the Church.” Nothing of all this is to be found in the Italian version.
But it is not only in omission that the translator shows his devotion to the Church. He takes upon himself not infrequently to alter the character of Benvenuto’s narratives by the insertion of phrases or the addition of clauses to which there is nothing corresponding in the original. The comment on Canto XIX. of the “Inferno ” affords several instances of this unfair procedure. “ Among the Cardinals,” says Benvenuto, “ was Benedict of Anagni, a man most skilful in managing great affairs and in the rule of the world ; who, moreover, sought the highest dignity.” “ Vir astutissimus ad quæue magna negotia et imperia mundi; qui etiam affectabat summam dignitatem.” This appears in the translation as follows: “ Uomo astutissimo, peri to d’ affari, e conoseitore delle altre corti: affettava un coutcgno il più umile, e reservato.” “ A man most astute, skilled in aflairs, and acquainted with other courts ; he assumed a demeanor the most humble and reserved.” A little farther on, Benvenuto tells us that many, even after the election of Benedict to the Papacy, reputed Celestine to he still the true and rightful Pope, in spite of his renunciation, because, they said, such a dignity could not he renounced. To this statement the translator adds, “because it comes directly from God,”—a clause for the benefit of readers under the pontificate of Pius IX.
In the comment on Canto XIX. of the “ Purgatory ” occurs the following striking passage: “ Summus Pontificatus, si bene geritur, est summus honor, summum onus, summa servitus, summus labor. Si vero male, est summum periculum animai, summum malum, summa miseria, summus pudor. Ergo dubium est ex onmi parte negotium. Ideo bene præfatus Adrianus Papa IV. dicebat, Cathedram Petri spinosam, et Mantum ejus acutissimis per totum consertum aeuleis, ettantæ gravitatis, ut robustissimos premat et conterat humeros. Et coneludcbat, Nonne miseria dignus est qui pro tauta pugnat miseria ? ”
“ The Papacy, if it be well borne, is the chief of honors, of burdens, of servitudes, and of labors ; but if ill, it is the chief of perils for the soul, the chief of evils, of miseries, and of shames. Wherefore, it is throughout a doubtful affair. And well did the aforesaid Pope Adrian IV. say, that the Chair of Peter teas thorny, and his Mantle full of sharpest stings, and so heavy as to weigh down and bruise the stoutest shoulders ; and, added he, Does not that man deserve pity, who strives for a woe like this? ”
This passage, so worthy of preservation and of literal translation, is given by Signor Tamburini as follows : “ The tiara is the first of honors, but also the first and heaviest of burdens, and the most rigorous slavery; it is the greatest risk of misfortune and of shame. The Papal mantle is pierced with sharp thorns ; who, then, will excuse him who frets himself for it ? ”
But it is not only in passages relating to the Church that the translator’s faithlessness is displayed. Almost every page of his work exhibits some omission, addition, transposition, or paraphrase, for which no explanation can be given, and not even an insufficient excuse be offered. In Canto IX. of the “ Paradise,” Dante puts into the mouth of Cunizza, speaking of Poulques of Marseilles, the words, “Before his fame shall die, the hundredth year shall five times come around.” “And note here,” says Benvenuto, “that our author manifestly tells a falsehood ; since of that man there is no longer any fame, even in his own country. I say, in brief, that the author wishes tacitly to hint that he will give fame to him by his power, — a fame that shall not die so long as this book shall live; and if we may conjecture of the future, it is to last for many ages, since we see that the fame of our author continually increases. And thus he exhorts men to live virtuously, that the wise may bestow fame upon them, as he himself has now given it to Cunizza, and will give it to Foulques.” Not a word of this appears in Signor Tamburini’s pages, interesting as it is as an early expression of confidence in the duration of Dante’s fame.
A Similar omission of a curious reference to Dante occurs in the comment on the 23d verse of Canto XXVII. of the “ Inferno,” where Benvenuto, speaking of the power of mental engrossment or moral affections to overcome physical pain, says, “As I, indeed, have seen a sick man cause the poem of Dante to be brought to him for relief from the burning pains of fever.”
Such omissions as these deprive Benvenuto’s pages of the charm of naïveté, and of the simple expression of personal experience and feeling with which they abound in the original, and take from them a great part of their interest for the general reader. But there is another class of omissions and alterations which deprives the translation of value for the special student of the text of Dante, — a class embracing many of Benvenuto’s discussions of disputed readings and remarks upon verbal forms. Signor Tamburini has thus succeeded in making his book of no use as an authority, and prevented it from being referred to by any one desirous of learning Benvenuto’s judgment in any case of difficulty. To point out in detail instances of this kind is not necessary, after what we have already done.
The common epithets of critical justice fail in such a case as that of this work. The facts concerning it, as they present themselves one after another, are stronger in their condemnation of it than any words. It would seem as if nothing further could he added to the disgrace of the translator; but we have still one more charge to prove against him, worse than the incompetence, the ignorance, and the dishonesty of which we have already found him guilty. In reading the last volume of his work, after our suspicions of its character had been aroused, it seemed to us that we met here and there with sentences which had a familiar tone, which at least resembled sentences we had elsewhere read. We found, upon examination, that Signor Tamburini, under the pretence of a translation of Benvenuto, had inserted through his pages, with a liberal hand, considerable portions of the wellknown notes of Costa, and, more rarely, of the still later Florentine editor, the Abate Bianehi. It occurred to us as possible that Costa and Bianehi had in these passages themselves translated from BenYenuto, and that Signor Tamburini had simply adopted their versions without acknowledgment, to save himself the trouble of making a new translation. But we were soon satisfied that his trickery had gone farther than this, and that he had inserted the notes of these editors to fill up his own pages, without the slightest regard to their correspondence with or disagreement from the original text. It is impossible to discover the motive of this proceeding; for it certainly would seem to be as easy to translate, after the manner in which Signor Tamburini translates, as to copy the words of other authors. Moreover, his thefts seem quite without ride or order : he takes one note and leaves the next; he copies a part, and leaves the other part of the same note; he sometimes quotes half a page, sometimes only a line or two in many pages. Costa’s notes on the 98th and 100th verses of Canto XXI. of the “ Paradise" are taken out without the change of a single word, and so also his note on v. 94 of the next Canto. In this last instance we have the means of knowing what Benvenuto wrote, because, although the passage has not been given by Muratori, it is found in the note hy Parenti, in the Florentine edition of the “Divina Commedia” of 1830. “ Vult dicore Benedictus quod miraculosius fuit Jordanem converti retrorsum, et Mare Rubrum aperiri per medium, quam si Deus succurreret et provideret istis malis. Ratio est quod utrumque prædictorum miraculorum fuit contra naturam ; sed punire reos et nocentcs naturale est et usitatnnt, quamvis Deus punierit peccatorcs Ægyptios per modum inusitatum supernaturaliter. Jordanus sic nominatur a duobus fontibus, quorum unus vocatur JOR et alius vocatur DAN : inde JORDANUS, ut ait Hieronymus, locorum orientalium persedulus indagator. Volta ritrorso ; scilicet, versus ortum suum, vel contra: el mar fugire; idest, et Mare Rubrum fugere hine inde, quaudo fecit viam populo Dei, qui transivit sicco pede : fu qui mirabile a vedere. ; idest, miraeulosius, did soccorso que, idest, quam csset mirabile suceursum divinum hic venturum ad puniendos perversos.” Now this whole passage is omitted in Signor Tamburini’s work; and in its place appears a literal transcript from Costa’s note, as follows : “ Veramente fu più mirabile cosa vedere il Giordano volto all’ indietro o fuggire il mare, quando così volle Iddio, che non sarebbe vedere qui il prowedimento a quel male, cbe per colpa de’ traviati religiosi viene alia Cbiesa di Dio.”
Another instance of this complete desertion of Benvenuto, and adoption of another’s words, occurs just at the end of the same Canto, v. 150 ; and the Florentine edition again gives us the original text. It is even more inexplicable why the socalled translator should have chosen this course here than in the preceding instance ; for he has copied but a line and a half from Costa, which is not a larceny of sufficient magnitude to be of value to the thief.
We have noted misappropriations of this sort, beside those already mentioned, in Cantos II. and III. of the “Purgatory,” and in Cantos I., II., XV., XVI., XVIII., XIX., and XXIII., of the “ Paradise.” There are undoubtedly others which have not attracted our attention.
We have now finished our exposure of the false pretences of these volumes, and of the character of their author. After what has been said of them, it seems hardly worth while to note, that, though handsome in external appearance, they are very carelessly and inaccurately printed, and that they are totally deficient in needed editorial illustrations. Such few notes of his own as Signor Tamburini has inserted in the course of the work are deficient alike in intelligence and in object.
A literary fraud of this magnitude is rarely attempted. A man must be conscious of being supported by the forces of a corrupt ecclesiastical literary police before venturing on a transaction of this kind. No shame can touch the President of the “ Academy of the Industrious.” His book has the triple Imprimatur of Home. It is a comment, not so much on Dante, as on the low standard of literary honesty under a government where the press is shackled, where true criticism is forbidden, where the censorship exerts its power over the dead as well as the living, and every word must he accommodated to the fancied needs of a despotism the more exacting from the consciousness of its own decline.
It is to be hoped, that, with the new freedom of Italian letters, an edition of the original text of Benvenuto’s Comment will be issued under competent supervision. The old Commentator, the friend of Petrarch and Boccaccio, deserves this honor, and should have his fame protected against the assault made upon it by his unworthy compatriot.
- Comment on Purg. xvi. SO-↩