« PreviousContinue »
payment of which he was further punished by the sequestration of all his property. The republic. however, was not content with this satisfaction, for in 1772 was discovered in the archives at Flo. rence a sentence in which Dante is the eleventh of a list of fifteen condemned in 1302 to be burnt alive; Talis perveniens igne comburatur sic quod moriatur. The pretext for this judgment was a proof of unfair barter, extortions, and illicit gains, Baracteriarum iniquarum, extorsionum, et illicitorum lucrorum i), and with such an accusa. tion it is not strange that Dante should have al. ways protested his innocence, and the injustice of his fellow - citizens. His appeal to Florence was accompanied by another to the Emperor Henry; and the death of that sovereign in 1313 was the signal for a sentence of irrevocable banishment. He had before lingered near Tuscany with hopes of recall; then travelled into the north of Italy, where Vérona had to boast of his longest residen ce; and he finally settled at Ravenna, which was his ordinary but not constant abode until his death. The refusal of the Venetians to grant him a public audience, on the part of Guido Novello da Polenta, his protector, is said to have been the principal cause of this event, which happened in 1321. He was buried ("in sacra minorum aede) at Ravenna, in a handsome tomb, which was erected by Guido, restored by Bernardo Bembo in 1483, praetor for that republic which had re fused to hear him, again restored by Cardinal Corsi in 1692, and replaced by a more magnifi
. cent sepulchre, constructed in 1780 at the expense of the Cardinal Luigi Valenti Gonzaga. The of fence or misfortune of Dante was an attachment to a defeated party, and, as his least favourable biographers allege against him, too great a freedom of speech and haughtiness of manner. But the next age paid honours almost divine to the exile. The Florentines, having in vain and frequently 1) Storia della Lett. Ital. tom. v. lib. iii. par. 2. p. 448. Ti
raboschi is incorrect : the dates of the three decrees against Dante are A. D. 1302, 1314, and 1316.
attempted to recover his body, crowned his image in a church ?), and his picture is still one of the idols of their cathedral. "They struck medals, they raised starues to him. The cities of Italy, not being able to dispute about his own birth, contended for that of his great poem, and the Flo. rentines thought it for their honour to prove that he had finished the seventh Canto before they drove him from his native city. Fifty-one years after his death, they endowed a professorial chair for the exnounding of his verses, and Boccaccio was appointed to this patriotic employment. The example was imitated by Bologna and Pisa, and the conimentators, if they performed but little service to literature, augmented the veneration which beheld a sacred or moral allegory in all the images of his mystic muse.
His birth and his infancy were discovered to have been distinguished above those of ordinary men: the allthor of the Decameron, liis earliest biographer, relates that his mother was warned in a dream of the importance of her pregnancy: and it was found, by others, that at ten years of age he had manifested his precocious passion for that wisdom or theology, which, under the name of Beatrice, had been mistaken for a substantial mistress. When the Divine Comedy had been recoguized as a mere mortal production, and at the distance of two cen. turies, wben criticism and competition had sobered the judgment of Italians, Dante was seriously de. clared superior to Homer ?); and though the preference appeared to some casuists “an heretical blasphemy worthy of the flames., the contest was vigorously maintained for nearly fifty years. In later times it was made a question which of the Lords of Verona could boast of having patronized him 3).
1) So relates Ficino, but some think his coronation only au al.
legory. See Storia, etc. ut sup. p. 453. 2) By Varchi in his Ercolano. The controversy continued from
1570 to 1616. See Storia, etc. tom. vii. lib. iii. par. iii.
3) Gio. Jacopo Dionisi Canonico di Verona. Serie di Aneddoti,
n. 2. See Storia, etc. tom. v. lib. i. p. 24.
and the jealous scepticism of one writer would not allow Ravenna the undoubted possession of his bones. Even the critical Tiraboschi was inclined to believe that the poet had foreseen and foretold one of the discoveries of Galileo. — Like the great originals of other nations, his popularity has not always maintained the same level. The last age seemed inclined to undervalue him as a model and a study; and Bettinelli one day rebuked his pupil Monti, for poring over the harsh and obsolete extravagances of the Commedia.
The present generation, having recovered from the Gallic ido. latries of Cesarotti, has returned to the ancient worship, and the Danteggiare of the northern Italians is thought even indiscreet by the more moderate Tuscans.
There is still much curious information relatire to the life and writings of this great poet which has not as yet been collected even by the Italians; but the celebrated Ugo Foscolo meditates to supply this defect, and it is not to be regretted that this national work has been reserved for one so de voted to his country and the cause of truth.
31. Like Scipio, buried by the upbraiding shore; Thy factions, in their worse than civil war, Proscribed, etc.
Stanza lvii. lines 2, 3, and 4. The elder Scipio Africanus had a tomb if he was not buried at Liternum, whither he had retired to voluntary banishment. This tomb was near the sea-shore, and the story of an inscription upon it, Ingrata Patria, having given a name to : modern tower, is, if not true, an agreeable fiction. If he was not buried, he certainly lived there').
In così angusta e solitaria villa
1, Vitam Literni egit sine desiderio urbis. See T. Liv. Hist.
lib. xxxviii. Livy reports that sume said he was buried at
Liternum, others at Rome, Ib. cap. lv. 2) Trionfo della Castita.
Ingratitude is generally supposed the vice peculiar to republics; and it seems to be forgotten that for one instance of popular inconstancy, we have a hundred examples of the fall of courtly favou. rites. Besides, à people have often repented – a monarch seldom or never. Leaving apart many familiar proof of this fact, a short story may show the difference between even an aristocracy and the multitude.
Vettor Pisani, having been defeated in 1355 at Porto. longo, and many years afterwards in the more decisive action of Pola, by the Genoese, was recalled by the Venetian government, and thrown into chains. The Avvogadori proposed to behead him, but the supreme tribunal was content with the sentence of imprisonment. Whilst Pisani was suffering this unmerited disgrace, Chioza, in the vicinity of the capital"), was, by the assistance of the Signor of Padua, delivered into the hands of Pietro Doria. At the intelligence of that disaster, the great bell of St. Mark's tower tolled to arpis, and the people and the soldiery of the galleys were summoned to the repulse of the approaching ene. my: but they protested they would not move a step, unless Pisani were liberated and placed at their head. The great council was instantly as. sembled: the prisoner was called before them, and the Doge, Andrea Contarini, informed him of the demands of the people and the nece ities of the state, whose only hope of safety was reposed on his efforts, and who implored him to forget the indignities he had endured in her service. « 1 have submitted," replied the magnanimous repu. blican, “I have submitted to your deliberations without complaint; I have supported patiently the pains of inprisonment, for they were inflicted at your command: this is no time to inquire whether
deserved them - the good of the republic may have seemed to require it, and that which the re. public resolves is always resolved wisely. Behold me ready to lay down my life for the preservation
1) See note 8, page 253.
of my country., Pisani was appointed genera. lissimo, and by his exertions, in conjunetion with those of Carlo Zeno, the Venetians soon recovered the ascendancy over their maritime ri vals.
The Italian communities were no less unjust to their citizens than the Greek republics. Liberty, both with the one and the other, seems to have been a nation ıl, not an individual object: and. notwithstanding the boasted equality before the laws, which an ancient Greek writer 1) considered the great distinctive mark between his countrymen and the barbarians, the mutual rights of fellow. citizens seem never to have been the principal scope of the old democracies.
The world may have not yet seen an essay by the author of the Italian Republics, in which the distinction between the liberty of former states, and the siguification attached to that word by the happier constitution of England, is ingeniously developed. The Italians. liowever, when they had ceased to be free, still looked back with a sigh upon those times of turbulence, when every citizen might rise to a share of sovereign power, and have never been taught fully to appreciate the repose of a monarchy. Sperone Speroni, when Francis Maria II. Duke of Rovere proposed the quesion, "which was preferable: the republic or the principality - the perfect and not dnrable, or the less perfect and not so liable to change,» replied, " that our hap piness is to be measured by its quality, not by its duration; and that he preferred to live for ore day like a man, than for a hundred years like a brute, a stock, or a stone. » This was thought, and called, a magnificent answer, down to the last days of Italian servitude ?).
1The Greek boasted that he was ισονόμος. . See the last
chapter of the first book of Dionysius of Haliearnasssus. 2) « E intorno alla magnifica risposta , » ute.
Serassi Vita del Tasso, lib. iii. pag. 149. tom. ii. edit. 2. Bergamo.