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[43] passionless splendor of the empyrean, the city of our God, the Rome whereof Christ is a Roman,1 the citadel of refuge, even in this life, for souls purified by sorrow and self-denial, transhumanized2 to the divine abstraction of pure contemplation. ‘And it is called Empyrean,’ he says in his letter to Can Grande, ‘which is the same as a heaven blazing with fire or ardor, not because there is in it a material fire or burning, but a spiritual one, which is blessed love or charity.’ But this splendor he bodies forth, if sometimes quaintly, yet always vividly and most often in types of winning grace.

Dante was a mystic with a very practical turn of mind. A Platonist by nature, an Aristotelian by training, his feet keep closely to the narrow path of dialectics, because he believed it the safest, while his eyes are fixed on the stars and his brain is busy with things not demonstrable, save by that grace of God which passeth all understanding, nor capable of being told unless by far-off hints and adumbrations. Though he himself has directly explained the scope, the method, and the larger meaning of his greatest work,3 though he has indirectly pointed out the way to its interpretation in the Convito, and though everything he wrote is but an explanatory comment on his own character and opinions, unmistakably clear and precise, yet both man and poem continue not only to be misunderstood popularly, but also by such as should know better.4 That those who confined their studies to the Commedia should have interpreted it variously is not wonderful, for out of the first or literal meaning others open, one out of another, each of wider circuit and purer abstraction, like Dante's own

1 Purgatorio, XXXII. 100.

2 Paradiso, I. 70.

3 In a letter to Can Grande (XI. of the Epistoloe).

4 Witte, Wegele, and Ruth in German, and Ozanam in French, have rendered ignorance of Dante inexcusable among men of culture.

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