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[187] text-book was named, ‘The Four Poets’ (I Quattro Poeti). But Ariosto and Tasso are now practically dropped out of the running; and those who still read Petrarch are expected to treat rather deferentially those for whom Italian literature means Dante only. Yet Voltaire wrote of Dante, only a century and a half ago, that although occasionally, under favorable circumstances, he wrote lines not unworthy of Tasso or Ariosto, yet his work was, as a whole, ‘stupidly extravagant and barbarous.’ ‘The Italians,’ he says, ‘call him divine, but it is a hidden divinity; few people understand his oracles. He has commentators, which is perhaps another reason for his not being understood. His reputation will go on increasing, because scarce anybody reads him.’ How little he was known in England a hundred years ago may be seen from the fact that Dr. Nathan Drake, who had quite a name as a critic a century ago, spoke of Dr. Darwin's placid and pedantic poem, ‘The Botanic Garden,’ as showing ‘the wild and terrible sublimity of Dante.’ A hundred years from this have ended in Ruskin's characterization of Dante as ‘the ’

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Alighieri Dante (4)
Torquato Tasso (2)
Lodovico Ariosto (2)
M. Voltaire (1)
John Ruskin (1)
Francesco Petrarch (1)
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