As affording illustration of the Commedia
, and of Dante
's style of thought, it is invaluable.
It is reckoned by his countrymen 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
and one might as well attempt to dethrone Newton
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.
is assumed by many to have been a Platonist, but this is not true, in the strict sense of the word.
Like all men of great imagination, he was an idealist, and so far a Platonist, as Shakespeare
might be proved to have been by his sonnets.
's direct acquaintance with Plato
may be reckoned at zero, and we consider it as having strongly influenced his artistic development for the better, that transcendentalist as he was by nature, so much so as to be in danger of lapsing into an Oriental mysticism, his habits of thought should have been made precise and his genius disciplined by a mind so severely logical as that of Aristotle.
This does not conflict with what we believe to be equally true, that the Platonizing commentaries on his poem, like that of Landino, are the most satisfactory.
Beside the prose already mentioned, we have