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[76] questioned. She shifts, as the controlling emotion or the poetic fitness of the moment dictates, from a woman loved and lost to a gracious exhalation of all that is fairest in womanhood or most divine in the soul of man, and ere the eye has defined the new image it has become the old one again, or another mingled of both.

Nor one nor other seemed now what it was,
E'en as proceedeth on before the flame
Upward along the paper a brown color,
Which is not black as yet, and the white dies.

Inferno, XXV. 64-67.

As the mystic Griffin in the eyes of Beatrice (her demonstrations), so she in his own,

Now with the one, now with the other nature;
Think, Reader, if within myself I marvelled
When I beheld the thing itself stand still
And in its image it transformed itself.

Purgatorio, XXXI. 123-126.

At the very moment when she had undergone her most sublimated allegorical evaporation, his instinct as poet, which never failed him, realized her into woman again in those scenes of almost unapproached pathos which make the climax of his Purgatorio. The verses tremble with feeling and shine with tears.1 Beatrice recalls her

1 Spenser, who had, like Dante, a Platonizing side, and who was probably the first English poet since Chaucer that had read the Comnmedia, has imitated the pictorial part of these passages in the ‘Faerie Queene’ (B. VI. c. 10). He has turned it into a compliment, and a very beautiful one, to a living mistress. It is instructive to compare the effect of his purely sensuous verses with that of Dante's, which have such a wonderful reach behind them. They are singularly pleasing, but they do not stay by us as those of his model had done by him. Spenser was, as Milton called him, a ‘sage and serious poet’; he would be the last to take offence if we draw from him a moral not without its use now that Priapus is trying to persuade us that pose and drapery will make him as good as Urania. Better far the naked nastiness; the more covert the indecency, the more it shocks. Poor old god of gardens! Innocent as a clownish symbol, he is simply disgusting as an ideal of art. In the last century, they set him up in Germany and in France as befitting an era of enlightenment, the light of which came too manifestly from the wrong quarter to be long endurable.

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