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[93] thought, and it need not surprise us therefore if we meet in it purely imaginary beings like Tristrem1 and Renoard of the club.2 His personality is so strongly marked that it is nothing more than natural that his poem should be interpreted as if only he and his opinions, prejudices, or passions were concerned. He would not have been the great poet he was if he had not felt intensely and humanly, but he could never have won the cosmopolitan place he holds had he not known how to generalize his special experience into something mediatorial for all of us. Pietro di Dante in his comment on the thirty-first canto of the Purgatorio says that ‘unless you understand him and his figures allegorically, you will be deceived by the bark,’ and adds that our author made his pilgrimage as the representative of the rest (in persona ceterorum).3 To give his vision reality, he has adapted it to the vulgar mythology, but to understand it as the author meant, it must be taken in the larger sense. To confine it to Florence or to Italy is to banish it from the sympathies of mankind. It was not from the campanile of the Badia that Dante got his views of life and man.

1 Inferno, V. 67.

2 Paradise, XVIII. 46. Renoard is one of the heroes (a rudely humorous one) in ‘La Bataille d'alischans,’ an episode of the measureless ‘Guillaume d'orange.’ It was from the graves of those supposed to have been killed in this battle that Dante draws a comparison, Inferno, IX. Boccaccio's comment on this passage might have been read to advantage by the French editors of ‘Alischans.’

3 We cite this comment under its received name, though it is uncertain if Pietro was the author of it. Indeed, we strongly doubt it. It is at least one of the earliest, for it appears, by the comment on Paradiso, XXVI., that the greater part of it was written before 1341. It is remarkable for the strictness with which it holds to the spiritual interpretation of the poem, and deserves much more to be called Ottimo, than the comment which goes by that name. Its publication is due to the zeal and liberality of the late Lord Vernon, to whom students of Dante are also indebted for the parallel-text reprint of the four earliest editions of the Commedia.

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