speak of England
, or America, as if they were real beings, so did Dante
He saw all his thoughts as distinctly as the hypochondriac sees his black dog, and, as in that, their form and color were but the outward form of an inward and spiritual condition.
Whatever subsidiary interpretations the poem is capable of, its great and primary value is as the autobiography of a human soul, of yours and mine, it may be, as well as Dante
's. In that lie its profound meaning and its permanent force.
That an exile, a proud man forced to be dependent, should have found some consolation in brooding over the justice of God, weighed in such different scales from those of man, in contrasting the outward prosperity of the sinner with the awful spiritual ruin within, is not wonderful, nay, we can conceive of his sometimes finding the wrath of God sweeter than his mercy.
But it is wonderful that out of the very wreck of his own life he should have built this three-arched bridge, still firm against the wash and wear of ages, stretching from the Pit
to the Empyrean, by which men may pass from a doubt of God's providence to a certainty of his long-suffering and loving-kindness.
The Infinite Goodness hath such ample arms
That it receives whatever turns to it.
Purgatorio, III. 122, 123.
A tear is enough to secure the saving clasp of them.2
It cannot be too often repeated that Dante
's Other World is not in its first conception a place of departed
It is the Spiritual World
, whereof we become denizens by birth and citizens by adoption.
It is true that for artistic purposes he makes it conform so far as