« AnteriorContinuar »
is easier,” says Madame de Staël, “to convey
Due time shall tell. The circle, that remains, ileas of suffering than those of happiness; for
Throughout its round, between the gulf and base
Of the high craggy banks, successive forms the former are too well known to every heart, Ten bastions, in its hollow bottom raised." the latter only to a few."
CARY's Dante, c. xviii. The melancholy tone which pervades Dante's writings was doubtless, in a great measure, the worst place of punishment in hell. It had
This is the outward appearance of Malebolge, owing to the misfortunes of his life; and to many frightful abysses; what follows is the we are also indebted for
picture of the first:
Di Malebolge e gli altri pianti vani:
E vidila mirabilmente oscura. persecuted and exiled him, by exhibiting its Quale nell'arzana de' Veneziani leaders suffering in the torments of hell. In
Bolle l'inverno la tenacé pece, his long seclusion, chiefly in the monastery
A rimpalmar li legni lor non saniof Santa Croce di Fonte Avellana, a wild and Tal non per fuoco ma per divina arte, solitary retreat in the territory of Gubbio, and
Bollia laggiuso una pegola spessa,
Che 'nviscava la ripa d'ogni parte. in a tower belonging to the Conte Falcucci, in
l' vedea lei, ma non vedeva in essa the same district, his immortal work was writ- Ma che le bolle che 'l bollor levava, ten. The mortifications he underwent during
E gonfiar tutta e riseder compressa. this long and dismal exile are thus described
E vidi dietro a noi un diavol nero by himself:-“Wandering over almost every Correndo su per lo scoglio venire.
Ahi quant' egli era nell'aspetto fiero! save
E quanto mi parea nell'atto acerbo, gone about like a mendicant; showing against Con l'ali aperte e sovre i pie leggiero! my will the wound with which fortune has L'omero suo ch' era acuto e superbo smitten me, and which is often falsely imputed
Carcava un peccator con ambo l'anche,
Ed ei tenea de' piè ghermito il nerbo. to the demerit of him by whom it is endured. I have been, indeed, a vessel without sail or Laggiù il buttd e per lo scoglio duro
Si volse, e mai non fu mastino sciolto steerage, carried about to divers ports, and
Co tanta fretta a seguitar lo furo. roads, and shores, by the dry wind that springs Quei s'attufto e tornd su convolto; out of sad poverty.'
Ma i demon che del ponte avean coverchio In the third circle of hell, Dante sees those
Gridar: qui non ha luogo il Santo Volto.
Qui si nuota altramenti che nel Serchio who are punished by the plague of burning Pero se tu non vuoi de' nostri graffi, sand falling perpetually on them. Their tor- Non far sovra le pegola soverchio.
Poi l'addentar con più di cento raffi, ments are thus described
Disser: coverto convien che qui balli,
Si che se puoi nascosamente accafii.” “Supin giaceva in terra alcuna gente;
Inferno, c. X Alcuna si sedea tutta raccolta; Ed altra andava continuamente.
To the summit reaching, stood Quella che giva intorno era più molta ;
To view another gap, within the round E quella men che giaceva al tormento;
Of Malebolge, other bootless pangs. Ma più al duolo avea la lingua sciolta.
Marvellous darkness shadow'd o'er the place. Sovra tutto 'I sabbion d'un cader lento
In the Venetians' arsenal as boils Piovean di fuoco dilatate falde,
Through wintry months tenacious pitch, to smear • Come di neve in alpe senza vento.
Their unsound vessels in the wintry clime.
So, not by force of fire but art divine,
Boil'd here a glutinous thick mass, that round
Lined all the shore beneath. I that beheld,
But therein not distinguish'd, save the bubbles « Of naked spirits many a flock I saw,
Raised by the boiling, and one mighty swell
Heave, and by turns subsiding fall.
Behind me I beheld a devil black,
That running up, advanced along the rock. More numerous, those fewer who beneath
Ah! what fierce cruelty his look bespake. The torment lay, but louder in their grief.
In act how bitter did he seem, with wings O'er all the sand fell slowly wafting down
Buoyant outstretch'd, and feet of nimblest tread. Dilated flakes of fire, as flakes of snow
His shoulder, proudly eminent and sharp, On Alpine summit, when the wind is hush'd.
Was with a sinner charged; by either haunch
He held him, the foot's sinew griping fast.
Him dashing down, o'er the rough rock he turn'd; Came down."
Nor ever after thief a mastiff loosed
Sped with like eager haste. That other sank,
And forthwith writhing to the surface rose. The first appearance of Malebolge is de
But those dark demons, shrouded by the bridge, scribed in these striking lines
Cried-Here the hallow'd visage saves not: here
Is other swimming than in Serchio's wave, “ Luogo è in Inferno, detto Malebolge,
Wherefore, if thou desire we rend thee not, Tutto di pietra e di color ferrigno,
Take heed thou mount not o'er the pitch. This said, Come le cerchia che d' intorno il volge.' Nel dritto mezzo del campo maligno
They grappled him with more than hundred hooks,
And shouted-Cover'd thou must sport thee here; Vaneggia un pozzo assai largo e profondo, Di cui suo luogo conterà l' ordigno,
So, if thou canst, in secret mayst thou filch."
CARY's Dante, c. xxi. Quel cinghio che rimane adunque è tondo Tra 'l pozzo e 'l pie dell'alta ripa dura, E ha distinto in dieci valli al fondo."
Fraught as his imagination was with gloomy
Inferno, c. xviii. ideas, with images of horror, it is the fidelity “There is a place within the depths of hell
of his descriptions, the minute reality of his Call's Malehoige, all of rock dark-stained
pictures, which gives them their terrible power. With hue ferruginous, e'en as the steep
He knew well what it is that penetrates the That round it circling winds. Right in the midst Of that abominable region yawns
soul. His images of horror in the infernal A spacious gulf profound, whereof the frame
regions were all founded on those familiar to
every one in the upper world; it was from carried to the highest perfection, at the same the caldron of boiling pitch in the arsenal of time, the rival arts of architecture, sculpture, Venice that he took his idea of one of the pits fresco and oil painting.* He may truly be of Malebolge. But what a picture does he called the founder of Italian painting, as there exhibit! The writhing sinner plunged Homer was of the ancient epic, and Dante headlong into the boiling waves, rising to the of the great style in modern poetry. None surface, and a hundred demons, mocking his but a colossal mind could have done such sufferings, and with outstretched hooks tear- things. Raphael took lessons from him in ing his flesh till he dived again beneath the painting, and professed through life the most liquid fire! It is the reality of the scene, the unbounded respect for his great preceptor. images familiar yet magnified in horror, which None have attempted to approach him in constitutes its power: we stand by; our flesh architecture; the cupola of St. Peter's stands creeps as it would at witnessing an auto-da-fé alone in the world. of Castile, or on beholding a victim perishing But notwithstanding all this, Michael Anunder the knout in Russia.
gelo had some defects. He created the great Michael Angelo was, in one sense, the style in painting, a style which has made mopainter of the Old Testament, as his bold and dern Italy as immortal as the arms of the leaspiring genius aimed rather at delineating gions did the ancient. But the very grandeur the events of warfare, passion, or suffering, of his conceptions, the vigour of his drawing, chronicled in the records of the Jews, than his incomparable command of bone and musthe scenes of love, affection, and benevolence, cle, his lofty expression and impassioned mind, depicted in the gospels. But his mind was made him neglect, and perhaps despise, the not formed merely on the events recorded in lesser details of his art. Ardent in the pursuit antiquity: it is no world doubtful of the im- of expression, he often overlooked execution. mortality of the soul which he depicts. He is When he painted the Last Judgment or the rather the personification in painting of the Fall of the Titans in fresco, on the ceiling and soul of Dante. His imagination was evident- walls of the Sistine Chapel, he was incomly fraught with the conceptions of the Inferno. parable; but that gigantic style was unsuitaThe expression of mind beams forth in all his ble for lesser pictures or rooins of ordinary works. Vehement passion, stern resolve, un- proportions. By the study of his masterpieces, daunted valour, sainted devotion, infant inno- subsequent painters have often been led astray; cence, alternately occupied his pencil. It is they have aimed at force of expression to the hard to say in which he was greatest. In all neglect of delicacy in execution. This defect his works we see marks of the genius of an-, is, in an especial manner, conspicuous in Sir tiquity meeting the might of modern times: Joshua Reynolds, who worshipped Michael the imagery of mythology blended with the Angelo with the most devoted fervour; and aspirations of Christianity. We see it in the through him it has descended to Lawrence, dome of St. Peter's, we see it in the statue of and nearly the whole modern school of EngMoses. Grecian sculpture was the realization land. When we see Sir Joshua's noble glass in form of the conceptions of Homer; Italian window in Magdalen College, Oxford, we bepainting the representation on canvas of the hold the work of a worthy pupil of Michaei revelations of the gospel, which Dante clothed Angelo; we see the great style of painting in in the garb of poetry. Future ages should its proper place, and applied to its appropriate ever strive to equal, but can never hope to object. But when we compare his portraits, excel them.
or imaginary pieces, in oil, with those of Ti. Never did artist work with more persever- tian, Velasquez, or Vandyke, the inferiority is ing vigour than Michael Angelo. He himself manifest. It is not in the design but the said that he laboured harder for fame, than finishing; not in the conception but the exeever poor artist did for bread. Born of a no- cution. The colours are frequently raw and ble family, the heir to considerable posses- harsh; the details or distant parts of the piece sions, he took to the arts from his earliest ill-finished or neglected. The bold neglect of years from enthusiastic passion and conscious Michael Angelo is very apparent. Raphael, power. During a long life of ninety years, he with less original genius than his immortal prosecuted them with the ardent zeal of youth. master, had more taste and much greater deliHe was consumed by the thirst for fame, the cacy of pencil; his conceptions, less extensive desire of great achievements, the invariable and varied, are more perfect; his finishing is mark of heroic minds; and which, as it is always exquisite. Unity of emotion was his altogether beyond the reach of the great bulk great object in design ; equal delicacy of of mankind, so is the feeling of all others finishing in execution. Thence he has atwhich to them is most incomprehensible. tained by universal consent the highest place Nor was that noble enthusiasm without its in painting. reward. It was his extraordinary good for- « Nothing," says Sir Joshua Reynolds, “is tune to be called to form, at the same time, denied to well-directed labour; nothing is to the Last Judgment on the wall of the Sistine be attained without it." « Excellence in any Chapel, the glorious dome of St. Peter's, and the group of Notre Dame de Pitié, which now * The finest design ever conceived by Michael Angelo roof of that august edifice. The “Holy Fami- which summoned them to their standards in the war
buckling ly" in the Palazzo Pitti at Florence, and the between Pisa and Florence. It perished, however, in - Three Fates” in the same collection, give an remains of part, which justifies the eulogiums bestowed
the troubles of the latter city ; but an engraved copy idea of his powers in oil-painting: thus he
department,” says Johnson, “can now be at- Nor let it be said that great subjects for the tained only by the labour of a lifetime; it is painter's pencil, the poet's muse, are not to be ņot to be purchased at a lesser price." These found—that they are exhausted by former efwords should ever be present to the minds of forts, and nothing remains to us but imitation. all who aspire to rival the great of former days; Nature is inexhaustible; the events of men are who feel in their bosoms a spark of the spirit. unceasing, their variety is endless. Philosowhich led Homer, Dante, and Michael Angelo phers were mourning the monotony of time, to immortality. In a luxurious age, comfort or historians were deploring the sameness of station is deemed the chief good of life; in a events, in the years preceding the French Recommercial community, money becomes the volution on the eve of the Reign of Terror, universal object of ambition. Thence our ac- the flames of Moscow, the retreat from Russia. knowledged deficiency in the fine arts; thence What was the strife around Troy to the battle our growing weakness in the higher branches of Leipsic?-the contests of Florence and Pisa of literature. Talent looks for its reward too to the revolutionary war? What ancient naval soon. Genius seeks an immediate recom-victory to that of Trafalgar?. Rely upon it, pense: long protracted exertions are never subjects for genius are not wanting; genius attempted: great things are not done, because itself, steadily and perseveringly directed, is great efforts are not made.
the thing required. But genius and energy None will work now without the prospect alone are not sufficient; COURAGE and disinof an immediate return. Very possibly it is terestedness are needed more than all. Couso; but then let us not hope or wish for immor- rage to withstand the assaults of envy, to tality. “Present time and future," says Sir despise the ridicule of mediocrity-disinterestJoshua Reynolds, “ are rivals; he who solicits edness to .trample under foot the seductions of the one, must expect to be discountenanced by ease, and disregard the attractions of opulence. the other.” It is not that we want genius; An heroic mind is more wanted in the library what we want is the great and heroic spirit or the studio, than in the field. It is wealth which will devote itself, by strenuous efforts, and cowardice which extinguish the light of to great things, without seeking any reward genius, and dig the grave of literature as of but their accomplishment.