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James Russell Lowell, Among my books, Dante. (search)
e came out of the Hell where he had beheld the results of sin, and arrived at the foot of the Mount of Purification. That these were the special virtues of practical goodness Dante had already told us in a passage before quoted from the Convito. Tr. IV. c. 22. That this was Dante's meaning is confirmed by what Beatrice says to him, Purgatorio, 100-102. Short while shalt thou be here a forester (silvano) And thou shalt be with me forevermore A citizen of that Rome where Christ is Roman; for by a forest he always means the world of life and action. Such is the selva oscura (Inferno, I. 2), such the selva erronea di questa tvita (Convito, Tr. IV. c. 24). At the time when Dante was writing the Canzoni on which the Convito was a comment, he believed science to be the ultimate perfection itself, and not the way to it, Convito, Tr. I. c. 13. but before the Convito was composed he had become aware of a higher and purer light, an inward light, in that Beatrice, already clar
James Russell Lowell, Among my books, Spenser (search)
ht sight or scent of them. If poems die, it is because there was never true life in them, that is, that true poetic vitality which no depth of thought, no airiness of fancy, no sincerity of feeling, can singly communicate, but which leaps throbbing at touch of that shaping faculty the imagination. Take Aristotle's ethics, the scholastic philosophy, the theology of Aquinas, the Ptolemaic system of astronomy, the small politics of a provincial city of the Middle Ages, mix in at will Grecian, Roman, and Christian mythology, and tell me what chance there is to make an immortal poem of such an incongruous mixture. Can these dry bones live? Yes, Dante can create such a soul under these ribs of death that one hundred and fifty editions of his poem shall be called for in these last sixty years, the first half of the sixth century since his death. Accordingly I am apt to believe that the complaints one sometimes hears of the neglect of our older literature are the regrets of archaeologis