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[40] of Dante's parsimony of epithet1) before Ozanam, who, if with decided ultramontane leanings, has written excellently well of our poet, and after careful study. Voltaire, though not without relentings toward a poet who had put popes heels upward in hell, regards him on the whole as a stupid monster and barbarian. It was no better in Italy, if we may trust Foscolo, who affirms that ‘neither Pelli nor others deservedly more celebrated than he ever read attentively the poem of Dante, perhaps never ran through it from the first verse to the last.’2 Accordingly we have heard that the Commedia was a sermon, a political pamphlet, the revengeful satire of a disappointed Ghibelline, nay, worse, of a turncoat Guelph. It is narrow, it is bigoted, it is savage, it is theological, it is medieval, it is heretical, it is scholastic, it is obscure, it is pedantic, its Italian is not that of la Crusca, its ideas are not those of an enlightened eighteenth century, it is everything, in short, that a poem should not be; and yet, singularly enough, the circle of its charm has widened in proportion as men have receded from the theories of Church and State which are supposed to be its foundation, and as the modes of thought of its author have become more alien to those of his readers. In spite of all objections, some of which are well founded, the Commedia remains one of the three or four universal books that have ever been written.

We may admit, with proper limitations, the modern

1 Rivarol characterized only a single quality of Dante's style, who knew how to spend as well as spare. Even the Inferno, on which he based his remark, might have put him on his guard. Dante understood very well the use of ornament in its fitting place. Est eninm exornatio alicujus convenientis additio, he tells us in his De Vulgari Eloquio (Lib. II. C. II.). His simile of the doves (Inferno, V. 82 et seq.), perhaps the most exquisite in all poetry, quite oversteps Rivarol's narrow limit of ‘substantive and verb.’

2 Discorso sul testo, ec., § XVIII.

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