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[36] an apotheosis of woman. Indeed, as Marvell's drop of dew mirrored the whole firmament, so we find in the Commedia the image of the Middle Ages, and the sentimental gyniolatry of chivalry, which was at best but skin-deep, is lifted in Beatrice to an ideal and universal plane. It is the same with Catholicism, with imperialism, with the scholastic philosophy; and nothing is more wonderful than the power of absorption and assimilation in this man, who could take up into himself the world that then was, and reproduce it with such cosmopolitan truth to human nature and to his own individuality, as to reduce all contemporary history to a mere comment on his vision. We protest, therefore, against the parochial criticism which would degrade Dante to a mere partisan, which sees in him a Luther before his time, and would clap the bonnet rouge upon his heavenly muse.

Like all great artistic minds, Dante was essentially conservative, and, arriving precisely in that period of transition when Church and Empire were entering upon the modern epoch of thought, he strove to preserve both by presenting the theory of both in a pristine and ideal perfection. The whole nature of Dante was one of intense belief. There is proof upon proof that he believed himself invested with a divine mission. Like the Hebrew prophets, with whose writings his whole soul was imbued, it was back to the old worship and the God of the fathers that he called his people; and not Isaiah himself was more destitute of that humor, that sense of ludicrous contrast, which is an essential in the composition of a sceptic. In Dante's time, learning had something of a sacred character; the line was hardly yet drawn between the clerk and the possessor of supernatural powers; it was with the next generation, with the elegant Petrarch, even more truly than

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