the first piece of Italian prose, and there are parts of it which still stand unmatched for eloquence and pathos.
The Italians (even such a man as Cantu among the rest) find in it and a few passages of the Commedia the proof that Dante, as a natural philosopher was wholly in advance of his age,— that he had, among other things, anticipated Newton in the theory of gravitation.
But this is as idle as the claim that Shakespeare had discovered the circulation of the blood before Harvey,
See Field's Theory of Colors. and one might as well attempt to dethrone Newton because Chaucer speaks of the love which draws the apple to the earth.
The truth is, that it was only as a poet that Dante was great and original (glory enough, surely, to have not more than two competitors), and in matters of science, as did all his contemporaries, sought the guiding hand of Aristotle like a child.
Dante is assumed by many to have been a Platonist, but this is not true, in the strict sense of the word.