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Title: Dante. An essay. - To which is added a translation of De Monarchia.
Author: Church, R. W. (Richard William), 1815-1890
Language: English
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[Transcriber's Note: Spelling and punctuation have been retained as
they appear in the original, but obvious printer errors have been
corrected without note. Printer errors in Italian passages from _The
Divine Comedy_ have been corrected using the Italian-English Princeton
University Press edition (trans. Charles S. Singleton, 1973).

A Table of Contents has been added for the reader's convenience. The
original contains a separate Contents of De Monarchia at the end of De






_An Essay._


R. W. CHURCH, M.A., D.C.L.


_To which is added_









The following Essay first appeared in the "Christian Remembrancer" of
January, 1850, and it was reprinted in a volume of "Essays and
Reviews," published in 1854.

It was written before the appearance in Germany and England of the
abundant recent literature on the subject. With the exception of a few
trifling corrections, it is republished without change.

By the desire of Mr. Macmillan, a translation of the _De Monarchia_ is
subjoined. I am indebted for it to my son, Mr. F.J. Church, late
Scholar of New College. It is made from the text of Witte's second
edition of the _De Monarchia_, 1874. The _De Monarchia_ has been more
than once translated into Italian and German, in earlier or later
times. But I do not know that any English translation has yet
appeared. It is analysed in the fifteenth chapter of Mr. Bryce's "Holy
Roman Empire."

Witte, with much probability, I think, places the composition of the
work in the first part of Dante's life, before his exile in 1301,
while the pretensions and arguments of Boniface VIII. (1294-1303) were
being discussed by Guelf and Ghibelline partisans, but before they
were formally embodied in the famous Bull _Unam Sanctam_, 1302. The
character of the composition, for the most part, formal, general, and
scholastic, sanguine in tone and with little personal allusion, is in
strong contrast with the passionate and despairing language of
resentment and disappointment which marks his later writings. As an
example of the political speculation of the time, it should be
compared with the "_De Regimine Principum_," ascribed to Thomas
Aquinas. The whole subject of the mediæval idea of the Empire is
admirably discussed in Mr. Bryce's book referred to above.


  _November_, 1878.


[JAN. 1850.]

[Footnote 1: _Dante's Divine Comedy, the Inferno; a literal Prose
Translation, with the Text of the Original._ By J.A. CARLYLE, M.D.,
London: 1849. I have never quite forgiven myself for not having said
more of the unpretending but honest and most useful volume which stood
at the head of this essay when it first appeared as an article. It was
placed there, according to what was then a custom of article writers,
as a peg to hang remarks upon which might or might not be criticisms
of the particular book so noticed. It did not offer itself specially
to my use, and my attention was busy with my own work. But this was no
excuse for availing myself of a good book, and not giving it the
notice which it deserved. To an English student beginning Dante, and
wishing to study him in a scholarly manner, it is really more useful
than a verse translation can be; and I have always greatly regretted
that the plan of translating the whole work was dropped for want of
the appreciation which the first instalment ought to have had.

The _Divina Commedia_ is one of the landmarks of history. More than a
magnificent poem, more than the beginning of a language and the
opening of a national literature, more than the inspirer of art, and
the glory of a great people, it is one of those rare and solemn
monuments of the mind's power, which measure and test what it can
reach to, which rise up ineffaceably and for ever as time goes on,
marking out its advance by grander divisions than its centuries, and
adopted as epochs by the consent of all who come after. It stands with
the _Iliad_ and Shakspere's Plays, with the writings of Aristotle and
Plato, with the _Novum Organon_ and the _Principia_, with Justinian's
_Code_, with the Parthenon and S. Peter's. It is the first Christian
poem; and it opens European literature, as the _Iliad_ did that of
Greece and Rome. And, like the _Iliad_, it has never become out of
date; it accompanies in undiminished freshness the literature which it

We approach the history of such works, in which genius seems to have
pushed its achievements to a new limit, with a kind of awe. The
beginnings of all things, their bursting out from nothing, and gradual
evolution into substance and shape, cast on the mind a solemn
influence. They come too near the fount of being to be followed up
without our feeling the shadows which surround it. We cannot but fear,
cannot but feel ourselves cut off from this visible and familiar
world--as we enter into the cloud. And as with the processes of
nature, so it is with those offsprings of man's mind, by which he has
added permanently one more great feature to the world, and created a
new power which is to act on mankind to the end. The mystery of the
inventive and creative faculty, the subtle and incalculable
combinations by which it was led to its work, and carried through it,
are out of the reach of investigating thought. Often the idea recurs
of the precariousness of the result; by how little the world might
have lost one of its ornaments--by one sharp pang, or one chance
meeting, or any other among the countless accidents among which man
runs his course. And then the solemn recollection supervenes, that
powers were formed, and life preserved, and circumstances arranged,
and actions controlled, that thus it should be: and the work which man
has brooded over, and at last created, is the foster-child too of that
"Wisdom which reaches from end to end, strongly and sweetly disposing
all things."

It does not abate these feelings, that we can follow in some cases and
to a certain extent, the progress of a work. Indeed, the sight of the
particular accidents among which it was developed--which belong
perhaps to a heterogeneous and widely discordant order of things,
which are out of proportion and out of harmony with it, which do not
explain it, which have, as it may seem to us, no natural right to be
connected with it, to bear on its character, or contribute to its
accomplishment, to which we feel, as it were, ashamed to owe what we
can least spare, yet on which its forming mind and purpose were
dependent, and with which they had to conspire--affects the
imagination even more than cases where we see nothing. We are tempted
less to musing and wonder by the _Iliad_, a work without a history,
cut off from its past, the sole relic and vestige of its age,
unexplained in its origin and perfection, than by the _Divina
Commedia_, destined for the highest ends and most universal sympathy,
yet the reflection of a personal history, and issuing seemingly from
its chance incidents.

The _Divina Commedia_ is singular among the great works with which it
ranks, for its strong stamp of personal character and history. In
general we associate little more than the name--not the life--of a
great poet with his works; personal interest belongs more usually to
greatness in its active than its creative forms. But the whole idea
and purpose of the _Commedia_, as well as its filling up and
colouring, are determined by Dante's peculiar history. The loftiest,
perhaps, in its aim and flight of all poems, it is also the most
individual; the writer's own life is chronicled in it, as well as the
issues and upshot of all things. It is at once the mirror to all time
of the sins and perfections of men, of the judgments and grace of God,
and the record, often the only one, of the transient names, and local
factions, and obscure ambitions, and forgotten crimes, of the poet's
own day; and in that awful company to which he leads us, in the most
unearthly of his scenes, we never lose sight of himself. And when this
peculiarity sends us to history, it seems as if the poem which was to
hold such a place in Christian literature hung upon and grew out of
chance events, rather than the deliberate design of its author.
History indeed here, as generally, is but a feeble exponent of the
course of growth in a great mind and great ideas. It shows us early a
bent and purpose--the man conscious of power and intending to use
it--and then the accidents among which he worked: but how that current
of purpose threaded its way among them, how it was thrown back,
deflected, deepened, by them, we cannot learn from history. It
presents but a broken and mysterious picture. A boy of quick and
enthusiastic temper grows up into youth in a dream of love. The lady
of his mystic passion dies early. He dreams of her still, not as a
wonder of earth, but as a Saint in Paradise, and relieves his heart in
an autobiography, a strange and perplexing work of fiction--quaint and
subtle enough for a metaphysical conceit; but, on the other hand, with
far too much of genuine and deep feeling. It is a first essay; he
closes it abruptly as if dissatisfied with his work, but with the
resolution of raising at a future day a worthy monument to the memory
of her whom he has lost. It is the promise and purpose of a great
work. But a prosaic change seems to come over this half-ideal
character. The lover becomes the student--the student of the 13th
century--struggling painfully against difficulties, eager and hot
after knowledge, wasting eyesight and stinting sleep, subtle,
inquisitive, active-minded and sanguine, but omnivorous, overflowing
with dialectical forms, loose in premiss and ostentatiously rigid in
syllogism, fettered by the refinements of half-awakened taste, and the
mannerisms of the Provençals. Boethius and Cicero, and the mass of
mixed learning within his reach, are accepted as the consolation of
his human griefs: he is filled with the passion of universal
knowledge, and the desire to communicate it. Philosophy has become the
lady of his soul--to write allegorical poems in her honour, and to
comment on them with all the apparatus of his learning in prose, his
mode of celebrating her. Further, he marries; it is said, not happily.
The antiquaries, too, have disturbed romance by discovering that
Beatrice also was married some years before her death. He appears, as
time goes on, as a burgher of Florence, the father of a family, a
politician, an envoy, a magistrate, a partisan, taking his full share
in the quarrels of the day. At length we see him, at once an exile,
and the poet of the _Commedia_. Beatrice reappears--shadowy, melting
at times into symbol and figure--but far too living and real,
addressed with too intense and natural feeling to be the mere
personification of anything. The lady of the philosophical Canzoni
has vanished. The student's dream has been broken, as the boy's had
been; and the earnestness of the man, enlightened by sorrow,
overleaping the student's formalities and abstractions, reverted in
sympathy to the earnestness of the boy, and brooded once more on that
Saint in Paradise, whose presence and memory had once been so
soothing, and who now seemed a real link between him and that stable
country, "where the angels are in peace." Round her image, the
reflection of purity, and truth, and forbearing love, was grouped that
confused scene of trouble and effort, of failure and success, which
the poet saw round him; round her image it arranged itself in awful
order--and that image, not a metaphysical abstraction, but the living
memory, freshened by sorrow, and seen through the softening and
hallowing vista of years, of Beatrice Portinari--no figment of
imagination, but God's creature and servant. A childish love,
dissipated by study and business, and revived in memory by heavy
sorrow--a boyish resolution, made in a moment of feeling, interrupted,
though it would be hazardous to say in Dante's case, laid aside, for
apparently more manly studies, gave the idea and suggested the form of
the "Sacred poem of earth and heaven."

And the occasion of this startling unfolding of the poetic gift, of
this passage of a soft and dreamy boy, into the keenest, boldest,
sternest of poets, the free and mighty leader of European song, was,
what is not ordinarily held to be a source of poetical inspiration,--the
political life. The boy had sensibility, high aspirations, and a
versatile and passionate nature; the student added to this energy,
various learning, gifts of language, and noble ideas on the capacities
and ends of man. But it was the factions of Florence which made Dante
a great poet. But for them, he might have been a modern critic and
essayist born before his time, and have held a high place among the
writers of fugitive verses; in Italy, a graceful but trifling and idle
tribe, often casting a deep and beautiful thought into a mould of
expressive diction, but oftener toying with a foolish and glittering
conceit, and whose languid genius was exhausted by a sonnet. He might
have thrown into the shade the Guidos and Cinos of his day, to be
eclipsed by Petrarch. But he learned in the bitter feuds of Italy not
to trifle; they opened to his view, and he had an eye to see, the true
springs and abysses of this mortal life--motives and passions stronger
than lovers' sentiments, evils beyond the consolations of Boethius and
Cicero; and from that fiery trial which without searing his heart,
annealed his strength and purpose, he drew that great gift and power,
by which he stands pre-eminent even among his high compeers, the gift
of being real. And the idea of the _Commedia_ took shape, and expanded
into its endless forms of terror and beauty, not under the roof-tree
of the literary citizen, but when the exile had been driven out to the
highways of the world, to study nature on the sea or by the river or
on the mountain track, and to study men in the courts of Verona and
Ravenna, and in the schools of Bologna and Paris--perhaps of Oxford.

The connexion of these feuds with Dante's poem has given to the middle
age history of Italy an interest of which it is not undeserving in
itself, full as it is of curious exhibitions of character and
contrivance, but to which politically it cannot lay claim, amid the
social phenomena, so far grander in scale and purpose and more
felicitous in issue, of the other western nations. It is remarkable
for keeping up an antique phase, which, in spite of modern
arrangements, it has not yet lost. It is a history of cities. In
ancient history all that is most memorable and instructive gathers
round cities; civilisation and empire were concentrated within walls;
and it baffled the ancient mind to conceive how power should be
possessed and wielded, by numbers larger than might be collected in a
single market-place. The Roman Empire indeed aimed at being one in its
administration and law; but it was not a nation, nor were its
provinces nations. Yet everywhere but in Italy, it prepared them for
becoming nations. And while everywhere else parts were uniting and
union was becoming organisation--and neither geographical remoteness,
nor unwieldiness of numbers, nor local interests and differences, were
untractable obstacles to that spirit of fusion which was at once the
ambition of the few and the instinct of the many; and cities, even
where most powerful, had become the centres of the attracting and
joining forces, knots in the political network--while this was going
on more or less happily throughout the rest of Europe, in Italy the
ancient classic idea lingered in its simplicity, its narrowness and
jealousy, wherever there was any political activity. The history of
Southern Italy indeed is mainly a foreign one, the history of modern
Rome merges in that of the Papacy; but Northern Italy has a history of
its own, and that is a history of separate and independent
cities--points of reciprocal and indestructible repulsion, and within,
theatres of action where the blind tendencies and traditions of
classes and parties weighed little on the freedom of individual
character, and citizens could watch and measure and study one another
with the minuteness of private life.

Two cities were the centres of ancient history in its most interesting
time. And two cities of modern Italy represent, with entirely
undesigned but curiously exact coincidence, the parts of Athens and
Rome. Venice, superficially so unlike, is yet in many of its
accidental features, and still more in its spirit, the counterpart of
Rome, in its obscure and mixed origin, in its steady growth, in its
quick sense of order and early settlement of its polity, in its grand
and serious public spirit, in its subordination of the individual to
the family, and the family to the state, in its combination of remote
dominion with the liberty of a solitary and sovereign city. And though
the associations and the scale of the two were so different--though
Rome had its hills and its legions, and Venice its lagunes and
galleys--the long empire of Venice, the heir of Carthage and
predecessor of England on the seas, the great aristocratic republic of
1000 years, is the only empire that has yet matched Rome in length and
steadiness of tenure. Brennus and Hannibal were not resisted with
greater constancy than Doria and Louis XII.; and that great
aristocracy, long so proud, so high-spirited, so intelligent, so
practical, who combined the enterprise and wealth of merchants, the
self-devotion of soldiers and gravity of senators, with the uniformity
and obedience of a religious order, may compare without shame its
Giustiniani, and Zenos, and Morosini, with Roman Fabii and Claudii.
And Rome could not be more contrasted with Athens than Venice with
Italian and contemporary Florence--stability with fitfulness,
independence impregnable and secure, with a short-lived and troubled
liberty, empire meditated and achieved, with a course of barren
intrigues and quarrels. Florence, gay, capricious, turbulent, the city
of party, the head and busy patroness of democracy in the cities round
her--Florence, where popular government was inaugurated with its
utmost exclusiveness and most pompous ceremonial; waging her little
summer wars against Ghibelline tyrants, revolted democracies, and her
own exiles; and further, so rich in intellectual gifts, in variety of
individual character, in poets, artists, wits, historians--Florence in
its brilliant days recalled the image of ancient Athens, and did not
depart from its prototype in the beauty of its natural site, in its
noble public buildings, in the size and nature of its territory. And
the course of its history is similar and the result of similar
causes--a traditional spirit of freedom, with its accesses of fitful
energy, its periods of grand display and moments of glorious
achievement, but producing nothing politically great or durable, and
sinking at length into a resigned servitude. It had its Peisistratidæ
more successful than those of Athens; it had, too, its Harmodius and
Aristogeiton; it had its great orator of liberty, as potent and as
unfortunate as the antagonist of Philip. And finally, like Athens, it
became content with the remembrance of its former glory, with being
the fashionable and acknowledged seat of refinement and taste, with
being a favoured dependency on the modern heir of the Cæsars. But if
to Venice belongs a grander public history, Florentine names and
works, like Athenian, will be living among men, when the Brenta shall
have been left unchecked to turn the Lagunes into ploughland, and when
Rome herself may no longer be the seat of the Popes.

The year of Dante's birth was a memorable one in the annals of
Florence, of Italy, and of Christendom.[2] The year 1265 was the year
of that great victory of Benevento, where Charles of Anjou overthrew
Manfred of Naples, and destroyed at one blow the power of the house of
Swabia. From that time till the time of Charles V., the emperors had
no footing in Italy. Further, that victory set up the French influence
in Italy, which, transient in itself, produced such strange and
momentous consequences, by the intimate connexion to which it led
between the French kings and the Popes. The protection of France was
dearly bought by the captivity of Avignon, the great western schism,
and the consequent secularisation of the Papacy, which lasted on
uninterrupted till the Council of Trent. Nearly three centuries of
degradation and scandal, unrelieved by one heroic effort among the
successors of Gregory VII., connected the Reformation with the triumph
of Charles and the Pope at Benevento. Finally, by it the Guelf party
was restored for good in Florence; the Guelf democracy, which had been
trampled down by the Uberti and Manfred's chivalry at Monteaperti,
once more raised its head; and fortune, which had long wavered between
the rival lilies, finally turned against the white one, till the name
of Ghibelline became a proscribed one in Florence, as Jacobite was
once in Scotland, or Papist in England, or Royalist in France.

[Footnote 2: May, 1265. (Pelli.) Benevento: Feb. 26, 1265/6. The
Florentine year began March 25.]

The names of Guelf and Ghibelline were the inheritance of a contest
which, in its original meaning, had been long over. The old struggle
between the priesthood and the empire was still kept up traditionally,
but its ideas and interests were changed: they were still great and
important ones, but not those of Gregory VII. It had passed over from
the mixed region of the spiritual and temporal into the purely
political. The cause of the popes was that of the independence of
Italy--the freedom and alliance of the great cities of the north, and
the dependence of the centre and south on the Roman See. To keep the
Emperor out of Italy--to create a barrier of powerful cities against
him south of the Alps--to form behind themselves a compact territory,
rich, removed from the first burst of invasion, and maintaining a
strong body of interested feudatories, had now become the great object
of the popes. It may have been a wise policy on their part, for the
maintenance of their spiritual influence, to attempt to connect their
own independence with the political freedom of the Italian
communities; but certain it is that the ideas and the characters which
gave a religious interest and grandeur to the earlier part of the
contest, appear but sparingly, if at all, in its later forms.

The two parties did not care to keep in view principles which their
chiefs had lost sight of. The Emperor and the Pope were both real
powers, able to protect and assist; and they divided between them
those who required protection and assistance. Geographical position,
the rivalry of neighbourhood, family tradition, private feuds, and
above all private interest, were the main causes which assigned
cities, families, and individuals to the Ghibelline or Guelf party.
One party called themselves the Emperor's liegemen, and their
watchword was authority and law; the other side were the liegemen of
Holy Church, and their cry was liberty; and the distinction as a broad
one is true. But a democracy would become Ghibelline, without scruple,
if its neighbour town was Guelf; and among the Guelf liegemen of the
Church and liberty the pride of blood and love of power were not a
whit inferior to that of their opponents. Yet, though the original
principle of the contest was lost, and the political distinctions of
parties were often interfered with by interest or accident, it is not
impossible to trace in the two factions differences of temper, of
moral and political inclinations, which though visible only on a large
scale and in the mass, were quite sufficient to give meaning and
reality to their mutual opposition. These differences had come down,
greatly altered of course, from the quarrel in which the parties took
their rise. The Ghibellines as a body reflected the worldliness, the
licence, the irreligion, the reckless selfishness, the daring
insolence, and at the same time the gaiety and pomp, the princely
magnificence and generosity and largeness of mind of the house of
Swabia; they were the men of the court and camp, imperious and haughty
from ancient lineage or the Imperial cause, yet not wanting in the
frankness and courtesy of nobility; careless of public opinion and
public rights, but not dead to the grandeur of public objects and
public services. Among them were found, or to them inclined, all who,
whether from a base or a lofty ambition, desired to place their will
above law[3]--the lord of the feudal castle, the robber-knight of the
Apennine pass, the magnificent but terrible tyrants of the cities, the
pride and shame of Italy, the Visconti and Scaligers. That renowned
Ghibelline chief, whom the poet finds in the fiery sepulchres of the
unbelievers with the great Ghibelline emperor and the princely
Ghibelline cardinal--the disdainful and bitter but lofty spirit of
Farinata degli Uberti, the conqueror, and then singly and at his own
risk, the saviour of his country which had wronged him, represents the
good as well as the bad side of his party.

[Footnote 3: "Maghinardo da Susinana (_il Demonio_, Purg. 14) fu uno
grande e savio tiranno ... gran castellano, e con molti fedeli: savio
fu di guerra e bene avventuroso in più battaglie, e al suo tempo fece
gran cose. Ghibellino era di sua nazione e in sue opere; ma co'
Fiorentini era Guelfo e nimico di tutti i loro nimici, o Guelfi o
Ghibellini che fossono."--G. Vill. vii. 149. A Ghibelline by birth and
disposition; yet, from circumstances, a close ally of the Guelfs of

The Guelfs, on the other hand, were the party of the middle classes;
they rose out of and held to the people; they were strong by their
compactness, their organisation in cities, their commercial relations
and interests, their command of money. Further, they were professedly
the party of strictness and religion, a profession which fettered them
as little as their opponents were fettered by the respect they claimed
for imperial law. But though by personal unscrupulousness and
selfishness, and in instances of public vengeance, they sinned as
deeply as the Ghibellines, they stood far more committed as a party to
a public meaning and purpose--to improvement in law and the condition
of the poor, to a protest against the insolence of the strong, to the
encouragement of industry. The genuine Guelf spirit was austere,
frugal, independent, earnest, religious, fond of its home and Church,
and of those celebrations which bound together Church and home; but
withal very proud, very intolerant; in its higher form intolerant of
evil, but intolerant always to whatever displeased it. Yet there was a
grave and noble manliness about it which long kept it alive in
Florence. It had not as yet turned itself against the practical
corruptions of the Church, which was its ally; but this also it was to
do, when the popes had forsaken the cause of liberty, and leagued
themselves with the brilliant tyranny of the Medici. Then Savonarola
invoked, and not in vain, the stern old Guelf spirit of resistance, of
domestic purity and severity, and of domestic religion, against
unbelief and licentiousness even in the Church; and the Guelf
"_Piagnoni_" presented, in a more simple and generous shape, a
resemblance to our own Puritans, as the Ghibellines often recall the
coarser and worse features of our own Cavaliers.

In Florence, these distinctions had become mere nominal ones, confined
to the great families who carried on their private feuds under the old
party names, when Frederick II. once more gave them their meaning.
"Although the accursed Guelf and Ghibelline factions lasted amongst
the nobles of Florence, and they often waged war among themselves out
of private grudges, and took sides for the said factions, and held one
with another, and those who called themselves Guelfs desired the
establishment of the Pope and Holy Church, and those who called
themselves Ghibellines favoured the Emperor and his adherents, yet
withal the people and commonalty of Florence maintained itself in
unity, to the well-being and honour and establishment of the
commonwealth."[4] But the appearance on the scene of an emperor of
such talent and bold designs revived the languid contest, and gave to
party a cause, and to individual passions and ambition an impulse and
pretext. The division between Guelf and Ghibelline again became
serious, involved all Florence, armed house against house, and
neighbourhood against neighbourhood, issued in merciless and
vindictive warfare, grew on into a hopeless and deadly breach, and
finally lost to Florence, without remedy or repair, half her noble
houses and the love of the greatest of her sons. The old badge of
their common country became to the two factions the sign of their
implacable hatred; the white lily of Florence, borne by the
Ghibellines, was turned to red by the Guelfs, and the flower of two
colours marked a civil strife as cruel and as fatal, if on a smaller
scale, as that of the English roses.[5]

[Footnote 4: G. Villani, vi. 33.]

[Footnote 5: G. Villani, vi. 33, 43; _Parad._ 19.]

It was waged with the peculiar characteristics of Italian civil war.
There the city itself was the scene of battle. A thirteenth century
city in Italy bore on its face the evidence that it was built and
arranged for such emergencies. Its crowded and narrow streets were a
collection of rival castles, whose tall towers, rising thick and close
over its roofs, or hanging perilously over its close courts, attested
the emulous pride and the insecurity of Italian civic life. There,
within a separate precinct, flanked and faced by jealous friends or
deadly enemies, were clustered together the dwellings of the various
members of each great house--their common home and the monument of
their magnificence and pride, and capable of being, as was so often
necessary, their common refuge. In these fortresses of the leading
families, scattered about the city, were the various points of onset
and recovery in civic battle; in the streets barricades were raised,
mangonels and crossbows were plied from the towers, a series of
separate combats raged through the city, till chance at length
connected the attacks of one side, or some panic paralysed the
resistance of the other, or a conflagration interposed itself between
the combatants, burning out at once Guelf and Ghibelline, and laying
half Florence in ashes. Each party had their turn of victory; each,
when vanquished, went into exile, and carried on the war outside the
walls; each had their opportunity of remodelling the orders and
framework of government, and each did so relentlessly at the cost of
their opponents. They excluded classes, they proscribed families, they
confiscated property, they sacked and burned warehouses, they levelled
the palaces, and outraged the pride of their antagonists. To destroy
was not enough, without adding to it the keenest and newest refinement
of insult. Two buildings in Florence were peculiarly dear--among their
"_cari luoghi_"--to the popular feeling and the Guelf party: the
Baptistery of St. John, "il mio bel S. Giovanni," "to which all the
good people resorted on Sundays,"[6] where they had all received
baptism, where they had been married, where families were solemnly
reconciled; and a tall and beautiful tower close by it, called the
"Torre del Guardamorto," where the bodies of the "good people," who of
old were all buried at S. Giovanni, rested on their way to the grave.
The victorious Ghibellines, when they levelled the Guelf towers,
overthrew this one, and endeavoured to make it crush in its fall the
sacred church, "which," says the old chronicler, "was prevented by a
miracle." The Guelfs, when their day came, built the walls of Florence
with the stones of Ghibelline palaces.[7] One great family stands out
pre-eminent in this fierce conflict as the victim and monument of
party war. The head of the Ghibellines was the proud and powerful
house of the Uberti, who shared with another great Ghibelline family,
the Pazzi, the valley of the upper Arno. They lighted up the war in
the Emperor's cause. They supported its weight and guided it. In time
of peace they were foremost and unrestrained in defiance of law and in
scorn of the people--in war, the people's fiercest and most active
enemies. Heavy sufferers, in their property, and by the sword and axe,
yet untamed and incorrigible, they led the van in that battle, so long
remembered to their cost by the Guelfs, the battle of Monteaperti

     Lo strazio, e 'l gran scempio
     Che fece l'Arbia colorata in rossa.--_Inf._ 10.

[Footnote 6: G. Villani, vi. 33, iv. 10; _Inf._ 19; _Parad._ 25.]

[Footnote 7: G. Villani, vi. 39, 65.]

That the head of their house, Farinata, saved Florence from the
vengeance of his meaner associates, was not enough to atone for the
unpardonable wrongs which they had done to the Guelfs and the
democracy. When the red lily of the Guelfs finally supplanted the
white one as the arms of Florence, and the badge of Guelph triumph,
they were proscribed for ever, like the Peisistratidæ and the
Tarquins. In every amnesty their names were excepted. The site on
which their houses had stood was never again to be built upon, and
remains the Great Square of Florence; the architect of the Palace of
the People was obliged to sacrifice its symmetry, and to place it
awry, that its walls might not encroach on the accursed ground.[8]
"They had been," says a writer, contemporary with Dante, speaking of
the time when he also became an exile; "they had been for more than
forty years outlaws from their country, nor ever found mercy nor pity,
remaining always abroad in great state, nor ever abased their honour,
seeing that they ever abode with kings and lords, and to great things
applied themselves."[9] They were loved as they were hated. When under
the protection of a cardinal one of them visited the city, and the
chequered blue and gold blazon of their house was, after an interval
of half a century, again seen in the streets of Florence; "many
ancient Ghibelline men and women pressed to kiss the arms,"[10] and
even the common people did him honour.

[Footnote 8: G. Villani, vi. 33, viii. 26; Vasari, _Arnolfo di Lapo_,
i. 255 (Fir. 1846).]

[Footnote 9: _Dino Compagni_, p. 88.]

[Footnote 10: _Dino Compagni_, p. 107.]

But the fortunes of Florentine factions depended on other causes than
merely the address or vigour of their leaders. From the year of
Dante's birth and Charles's victory, Florence, as far as we shall have
to do with it, became irrevocably Guelf. Not that the whole commonalty
of Florence formally called itself Guelf, or that the Guelf party was
co-extensive with it; but the city was controlled by Guelf councils,
devoted to the objects of the great Guelf party, and received in
return the support of that party in curbing the pride of the nobles,
and maintaining democratic forms. The Guelf party of Florence, though
it was the life and soul of the republic, and irresistible in its
disposal of the influence and arms of Florence, and though it embraced
a large number of the most powerful families, is always spoken of as
something distinct from, and external to, the governing powers, and
the whole body of the people. It was a body with a separate and
self-constituted existence;--in the state and allied to it, but an
independent element, holding on to a large and comprehensive union
without the state. Its organisation in Florence is one of the most
curious among the many curious combinations which meet us in Italian
history. After the final expulsion of the Ghibellines, the Guelf party
took form as an institution, with definite powers, and a local
existence. It appears with as distinct a shape as the Jacobin Club or
the Orange Lodges, side by side with the government. It was a
corporate body with a common seal, common property, not only in funds
but lands--officers, archives, a common palace,[11] a great council, a
secret committee, and last of all, a public accuser of the
Ghibellines; of the confiscated Ghibelline estates one-third went to
the republic, another third to compensate individual Guelfs, the rest
was assigned to the Guelf party.[12] A pope, (Clement IV., 1265-68)
had granted them his own arms[13]; and their device, a red eagle
clutching a serpent, may be yet seen, with the red lily, and the
party-coloured banner of the commonalty, on the battlements of the
Palazzo Vecchio.

[Footnote 11: Giotto painted in it: Vasari, _Vit. di Giotto_, p. 314.]

[Footnote 12: G. Villani, vii. 2, 17.]

[Footnote 13: _Ibid._ vii. 2.]

But the expulsion of the Ghibellines did but little to restore peace.
The great Guelf families, as old as many of the Ghibellines, had as
little reverence as they for law or civic rights. Below these, the
acknowledged nobility of Florence, were the leading families of the
"people," houses created by successful industry or commerce, and
pushing up into that privileged order, which, however ignored and
even discredited by the laws, was fully recognised by feeling and
opinion in the most democratic times of the republic. Rivalries and
feuds, street broils and conspiracies, high-handed insolence from the
great men, rough vengeance from the populace, still continued to vex
jealous and changeful Florence. The popes sought in vain to keep in
order their quarrelsome liegemen; to reconcile Guelf with Guelf, and
even Guelf with Ghibelline. Embassies went and came, to ask for
mediation and to proffer it; to apply the healing paternal hand; to
present an obsequious and ostentatious submission. Cardinal legates
came in state, and were received with reverential pomp; they formed
private committees, and held assemblies, and made marriages; they
harangued in honeyed words, and gained the largest promises; on one
occasion the Great Square was turned into a vast theatre, and on this
stage one hundred and fifty dissidents on each side came forward, and
in the presence and with the benediction of the cardinal kissed each
other on the mouth.[14] And if persuasion failed, the pope's
representative hesitated not to excommunicate and interdict the
faithful but obdurate city. But whether excommunicated or blessed,
Florence could not be at peace; however wise and subtle had been the
peace-maker's arrangements, his departing _cortège_ was hardly out of
sight of the city before they were blown to the winds. Not more
successful were the efforts of the sensible and moderate citizens who
sighed for tranquillity within its walls. Dino Compagni's interesting
though not very orderly narrative describes with great frankness, and
with the perplexity of a simple-hearted man puzzled by the continual
triumph of clever wickedness, the variety and the fruitlessness of the
expedients devised by him and other good citizens against the resolute
and incorrigible selfishness of the great Guelfs--ever, when checked
in one form, breaking out in another; proof against all persuasion,
all benefits; not to be bound by law, or compact, or oath; eluding or
turning to its own account the deepest and sagest contrivances of
constitutional wisdom.

[Footnote 14: G. Villani, vii. 56.]

A great battle won against Ghibelline Arezzo[15] raised the renown and
the military spirit of the Guelf party, for the fame of the battle was
very great; the hosts contained the choicest chivalry of either side,
armed and appointed with emulous splendour. The fighting was hard,
there was brilliant and conspicuous gallantry, and the victory was
complete. It sealed Guelf ascendancy. The Ghibelline warrior-bishop
of Arezzo fell, with three of the Uberti, and other Ghibelline chiefs.
It was a day of trial. "Many that day who had been thought of great
prowess were found dastards, and many who had never been spoken of
were held in high esteem." It repaired the honour of Florence, and the
citizens showed their feeling of its importance by mixing up the
marvellous with its story. Its tidings came to Florence--so runs the
tale in Villani, who declares what he "heard and saw" himself--at the
very hour in which it was won. The Priors of the republic were resting
in their palace during the noonday heat; suddenly the chamber door was
shaken, and the cry heard: "Rise up! the Aretini are defeated." The
door was opened, but there was no one; their servants had seen no one
enter the palace, and no one came from the army till the hour of
vespers, on a long summer's day. In this battle the Guelf leaders had
won great glory. The hero of the day was the proudest, handsomest,
craftiest, most winning, most ambitious, most unscrupulous Guelf noble
in Florence--one of a family who inherited the spirit and recklessness
of the proscribed Uberti, and did not refuse the popular epithet of
"_Malefami_"--Corso Donati. He did not come back from the field of
Campaldino, where he had won the battle by disobeying orders with any
increased disposition to yield to rivals, or court the populace, or
respect other men's rights. Those rivals, too--and they also had
fought gallantly in the post of honour at Campaldino--were such as he
hated from his soul--rivals whom he despised, and who yet were too
strong for him. His blood was ancient, they were upstarts; he was a
soldier, they were traders; he was poor, they the richest men in
Florence. They had come to live close to the Donati, they had bought
the palace of an old Ghibelline family, they had enlarged, adorned,
and fortified it, and kept great state there. They had crossed him in
marriages, bargains, inheritances. They had won popularity, honour,
influence; and yet they were but men of business, while he had a part
in all the political movements of the day. He was the friend and
intimate of lords and noblemen, with great connexions and famous
through all Italy; they were the favourites of the common people for
their kindness and good nature; they even showed consideration for
Ghibellines. He was an accomplished man of the world, keen and subtle,
"full of malicious thoughts, mischievous and crafty;" they were
inexperienced in intrigue, and had the reputation of being clumsy and
stupid. He was the most graceful and engaging of courtiers; they were
not even gentlemen. Lastly, in the debates of that excitable republic
he was the most eloquent speaker, and they were tongue-tied.[16]

[Footnote 15: _Campaldino_, in 1289. G. Vill. vii. 131; _Dino Comp._
p. 14.]

[Footnote 16: _Dino Comp._ pp. 32, 75, 94, 133.]

"There was a family," writes Dino Compagni, "who called themselves the
Cerchi, men of low estate, but good merchants and very rich; and they
dressed richly, and maintained many servants and horses, and made a
brave show; and some of them bought the palace of the Conti Guidi,
which was near the houses of the Pazzi and Donati, who were more
ancient of blood but not so rich; therefore, seeing the Cerchi rise to
great dignity, and that they had walled and enlarged the palace, and
kept great state, the Donati began to have a great hatred against
them." Villani gives the same account of the feud.[17] "It began in
that quarter of scandal the Sesta of Porta S. Piero, between the
Cerchi and Donati, on the one side through jealousy, on the other
through churlish rudeness. Of the house of the Cerchi was head Messer
Vieri de' Cerchi, and he and those of his house were people of great
business, and powerful, and of great relationships, and most wealthy
traders, so that their company was one of the greatest in the world;
men they were of soft life, and who meant no harm; boorish and
ill-mannered, like people who had come in a short time to great state
and power. The Donati were gentlemen and warriors, and of no
excessive wealth.... They were neighbours in Florence and in the
country, and by the conversation of their jealousy with the peevish
boorishness of the others, arose the proud scorn that there was
between them." The glories of Campaldino were not as oil on these
troubled waters. The conquerors flouted each other all the more
fiercely in the streets on their return, and ill-treated the lower
people with less scruple. No gathering for festive or serious purposes
could be held without tempting strife. A marriage, a funeral, a ball,
a gay procession of cavaliers and ladies--any meeting where one stood
while another sat, where horse or man might jostle another, where
pride might be nettled or temper shown, was in danger of ending in
blood. The lesser quarrels meanwhile ranged themselves under the
greater ones; and these, especially that between the Cerchi and
Donati, took more and more a political character. The Cerchi inclined
more and more to the trading classes and the lower people; they threw
themselves on their popularity, and began to hold aloof from the
meetings of the "Parte Guelfa," while this organised body became an
instrument in the hands of their opponents, a club of the nobles.
Corso Donati, besides mischief of a more substantial kind, turned his
ridicule on their solemn dulness and awkward speech, and his friends
the jesters, one Scampolino in particular, carried his gibes and
nicknames all over Florence. The Cerchi received all in sullen and
clogged indifference. They were satisfied with repelling attacks, and
nursed their hatred.[18]

[Footnote 17: G. Vill. viii. 39.]

[Footnote 18: _Dino Compagni_, pp. 32, 34, 38.]

Thus the city was divided, and the attempts to check the factions only
exasperated them. It was in vain that, when at times the government
and the populace lost patience, severe measures were taken. It was in
vain that the reformer, Gian della Bella, carried for a time his harsh
"orders of justice" against the nobles, and invested popular vengeance
with the solemnity of law and with the pomp and ceremony of a public
act--that when a noble had been convicted of killing a citizen, the
great officer, "Standard-bearer," as he was called, "of justice,"
issued forth in state and procession, with the banner of justice borne
before him, with all his train, and at the head of the armed citizens,
to the house of the criminal, and razed it to the ground. An
eyewitness describes the effect of such chastisement:--"I, Dino
Compagni, being Gonfalonier of Justice in 1293, went to their houses,
and to those of their relations, and these I caused to be pulled down
according to the laws. This beginning in the case of the other
Gonfaloniers came to an evil effect; because, if they demolished the
houses according to the laws, the people said that they were cruel;
and if they did not demolish them completely, they said that they were
cowards; and many distorted justice for fear of the people." Gian
della Bella was overthrown with few regrets even on the part of the
people. Equally vain was the attempt to keep the peace by separating
the leaders of the disturbances. They were banished by a kind of
ostracism; they departed in ostentatious meekness, Corso Donato to
plot at Rome, Vieri de' Cerchi to return immediately to Florence.
Anarchy had got too fast a hold on the city, and it required a
stronger hand than that of the pope, or the signory of the republic,
to keep it down.

Yet Florence prospered. Every year it grew richer, more intellectual,
more refined, more beautiful, more gay. With its anarchy there was no
stagnation. Torn and divided as it was, its energy did not slacken,
its busy and creative spirit was not deadened, its hopefulness not
abated. The factions, fierce and personal as they were, did not hinder
that interest in political ideas, that active and subtle study of the
questions of civil government, that passion and ingenuity displayed in
political contrivance, which now pervaded Northern Italy, everywhere
marvellously patient and hopeful, though far from being equally
successful. In Venice at the close of the thirteenth century, that
polity was finally settled and consolidated, by which she was great as
long as cities could be imperial, and which even in its decay survived
the monarchy of Louis XIV. and existed within the memory of living
men. In Florence, the constructive spirit of law and order only
resisted, but never triumphed. Yet it was at this time resolute and
sanguine, ready with experiment and change, and not yet dispirited by
continual failure. Political interest, however, and party contests
were not sufficient to absorb and employ the citizens of Florence.
Their genial and versatile spirit, so keen, so inventive, so elastic,
which made them such hot and impetuous partisans, kept them from being
only this. The time was one of growth; new knowledge, new powers, new
tastes were opening to men--new pursuits attracted them. There was
commerce, there was the school philosophy, there was the science of
nature, there was ancient learning, there was the civil law, there
were the arts, there was poetry, all rude as yet, and unformed, but
full of hope--the living parents of mightier offspring. Frederick II.
had once more opened Aristotle to the Latin world; he had given an
impulse to the study of the great monuments of Roman legislation which
was responded to through Italy; himself a poet, his example and his
splendid court had made poetry fashionable. In the end of the
thirteenth century a great stride was made at Florence. While her
great poet was growing up to manhood, as rapid a change went on in her
streets, her social customs, the wealth of her citizens, their ideas
of magnificence and beauty, their appreciation of literature. It was
the age of growing commerce and travel; Franciscan missionaries had
reached China, and settled there;[19] in 1294, Marco Polo returned to
Venice, the first successful explorer of the East. The merchants of
Florence lagged not; their field of operation was Italy and the West;
they had their correspondents in London, Paris, and Bruges; they were
the bankers of popes and kings.[20] And their city shows to this day
the wealth and magnificence of the last years of the thirteenth
century. The ancient buildings, consecrated in the memory of the
Florentine people, were repaired, enlarged, adorned with marble and
bronze--Or San Michele, the Badia, the Baptistery; and new buildings
rose on a grander scale. In 1294 was begun the Mausoleum of the great
Florentine dead, the Church of S. Croce. In the same year, a few
months later, Arnolfo laid the deep foundations which were afterwards
to bear up Brunelleschi's dome, and traced the plan of the magnificent
cathedral. In 1298 he began to raise a Town-hall worthy of the
Republic, and of being the habitation of its magistrates, the frowning
mass of the Palazzo Vecchio. In 1299, the third circle of the walls
was commenced, with the benediction of bishops, and the concourse of
all the "lords and orders" of Florence. And Giotto was now beginning
to throw Cimabue into the shade--Giotto, the shepherd's boy, painter,
sculptor, architect, and engineer at once, who a few years later was
to complete and crown the architectural glories of Florence by that
masterpiece of grace, his marble Campanile.

[Footnote 19: See the curious letters of _John de Monte Corvino_,
about his mission in Cathay, 1289-1305, in Wadding, vi. 69.]

[Footnote 20: _E.g._ the _Mozzi_, of Greg. X.; _Peruzzi_, of Philip le
Bel; _Spini_, of Boniface VIII.; _Cerchi del Garbo_, of Benedict XI.
(G. Vill. vii. 42, viii. 63, 71; _Dino Comp._ p. 35).]

Fifty years made then all that striking difference in domestic habits,
in the materials of dress, in the value of money, which they have
usually made in later centuries. The poet of the fourteenth century
describes the proudest nobleman of a hundred years before "with his
leathern girdle and clasp of bone;" and in one of the most beautiful
of all poetic celebrations of the good old time, draws the domestic
life of ancient Florence in the household where his ancestor was born:

     A così riposato, a così bello
     Viver di cittadini, a così fida
     Cittadinanza, a così dolce ostello
     Maria mi diè, chiamata in alte grida.--_Par._ c. 15.[21]

[Footnote 21:

     Florence, confined within that ancient wall,
       Whence still the chimes at noon and evening sound,
     Was sober, modest, and at peace with all.
     Myself have seen Bellincion Berti pace
       The street in leathern belt; his lady come
     Forth from her toilet with unpainted face.
           *      *      *      *
     Oh happy wives! each soon to lay her head
       In her own tomb; and no one yet compelled
     To weep deserted in a lonely bed.
           *      *      *      *
     To such pure life of beauty and repose--
       Such faithful citizens--such happy men--
     The virgin gave me, when my mother's throes
       Forced her with cries to call on Mary's name.--WRIGHT.]

There high-born dames, he says, still plied the distaff and the loom;
still rocked the cradle with the words which their own mothers had
used; or working with their maidens, told them old tales of the
forefathers of the city, "of the Trojans, of Fiesole, and of Rome."
Villani still finds this rudeness within forty years of the end of the
century, almost within the limits of his own and Dante's life; and
speaks of that "old first people," _il primo Popolo Vecchio_, with
their coarse food and expenditure, their leather jerkins, and plain
close gowns, their small dowries and late marriages, as if they were
the first founders of the city, and not a generation which had lasted
on into his own.[22] Twenty years later, his story is of the gaiety,
the riches, the profuse munificence, the brilliant festivities, the
careless and joyous life, which attracted foreigners to Florence as
the city of pleasure; of companies of a thousand or more, all clad in
white robes, under a lord, styled "of Love," passing their time in
sports and dances; of ladies and knights, "going through the city with
trumpets and other instruments, with joy and gladness," and meeting
together in banquets evening and morning; entertaining illustrious
strangers, and honourably escorting them on horseback in their passage
through the city; tempting by their liberality, courtiers, and wits,
and minstrels, and jesters, to add to the amusements of Florence.[23]
Nor were these the boisterous triumphs of unrefined and coarse
merriment. How variety of character was drawn out, how its more
delicate elements were elicited and tempered, how nicely it was
observed, and how finely drawn, let the racy and open-eyed
story-tellers of Florence testify.

[Footnote 22: G. Vill. vi. 69 (1259).]

[Footnote 23: G. Vill. vii. 89 (1283).]

Not perhaps in these troops of revellers, but amid music and song, and
in the pleasant places of social and private life, belonging to the
Florence of arts and poetry, not to the Florence of factions and
strife, should we expect to find the friend of the sweet singer,
Casella, and of the reserved and bold speculator, Guido Cavalcanti;
the mystic poet of the _Vita Nuova_, so sensitive and delicate,
trembling at a gaze or a touch, recording visions, painting angels,
composing Canzoni and commenting on them; finally devoting himself to
the austere consolations of deep study. To superadd to such a
character that of a democratic politician of the middle ages, seems an
incongruous and harsh combination. Yet it was a real one in this
instance. The scholar's life is, in our idea of it, far separated from
the practical and the political; we have been taught by our experience
to disjoin enthusiasm in love, in art, in what is abstract or
imaginative, from keen interest and successful interference in the
affairs and conflicts of life. The practical man may sometimes be also
a _dilettante_; but the dreamer or the thinker, wisely or indolently,
keeps out of the rough ways where real passions and characters meet
and jostle, or if he ventures, seldom gains honour there. The
separation, though a natural one, grows wider as society becomes more
vast and manifold, as its ends, functions, and pursuits are
disentangled, while they multiply. But in Dante's time, and in an
Italian city, it was not such a strange thing that the most refined
and tender interpreter of feeling, the popular poet, whose verses
touched all hearts, and were in every mouth, should be also at once
the ardent follower of all abstruse and difficult learning, and a
prominent character among those who administered the State. In that
narrow sphere of action, in that period of dawning powers and
circumscribed knowledge, it seemed no unreasonable hope or unwise
ambition to attempt the compassing of all science, and to make it
subserve and illustrate the praise of active citizenship.[24] Dante,
like other literary celebrities of the time, was not less from the
custom of the day, than from his own purpose, a public man. He took
his place among his fellow-citizens; he went out to war with them; he
fought, it is said, among the skirmishers at the great Guelf victory
of Campaldino; to qualify himself for office in the democracy, he
enrolled himself in one of the Guilds of the people, and was
matriculated in the "Art" of the Apothecaries; he served the State as
its agent abroad; he went on important missions to the cities and
courts of Italy--according to a Florentine tradition, which enumerates
fourteen distinct embassies, even to Hungary and France. In the
memorable year of Jubilee, 1300, he was one of the Priors of the
Republic. There is no shrinking from fellowship and co-operation and
conflict with the keen or bold men of the market-place and
council-hall, in that mind of exquisite and, as drawn by itself,
exaggerated sensibility. The doings and characters of men, the
workings of society, the fortunes of Italy, were watched and thought
of with as deep an interest as the courses of the stars, and read in
the real spectacle of life with as profound emotion as in the
miraculous page of Virgil; and no scholar ever read Virgil with such
feeling--no astronomer ever watched the stars with more eager
inquisitiveness. The whole man opens to the world around him; all
affections and powers, soul and sense, diligently and thoughtfully
directed and trained, with free and concurrent and equal energy, with
distinct yet harmonious purposes, seek out their respective and
appropriate objects, moral, intellectual, natural, spiritual, in that
admirable scene and hard field where man is placed to labour and love,
to be exercised, proved, and judged.

[Footnote 24: _Vide_ the opening of the _De Monarchia_.]

In a fresco in the chapel of the old palace of the Podestà[25] at
Florence is a portrait of Dante, said to be by the hand of his
contemporary Giotto. It was discovered in 1841 under the whitewash,
and a tracing made by Mr. Seymour Kirkup has been reproduced in
fac-simile by the Arundel Society. The fresco was afterwards restored
or repainted with no happy success. He is represented as he might have
been in the year of Campaldino (1289). The countenance is youthful yet
manly, more manly than it appears in the engravings of the picture;
but it only suggests the strong deep features of the well-known
traditional face. He is drawn with much of the softness, and
melancholy pensive sweetness, and with something also of the quaint
stiffness of the _Vita Nuova_--with his flower and his book. With him
is drawn his master, Brunetto Latini,[26] and Corso Donati. We do not
know what occasion led Giotto thus to associate him with the great
"Baron." Dante was, indeed, closely connected with the Donati. The
dwelling of his family was near theirs, in the "Quarter of Scandal,"
the Ward of the Porta S. Piero. He married a daughter of their house,
Madonna Gemma. None of his friends are commemorated with more
affection than the companion of his light and wayward days, remembered
not without a shade of anxious sadness, yet with love and hope,
Corso's brother, Forese.[27] No sweeter spirit sings and smiles in the
illumined spheres of Paradise, than she whom Forese remembers as on
earth one,

     Che tra bella e buona
     Non so qual fosse più--[28]

and who, from the depth of her heavenly joy, teaches the poet that in
the lowest place among the blessed there can be no envy[29]--the
sister of Forese and Corso, Piccarda. The _Commedia_, though it
speaks, as if in prophecy, of Corso's miserable death, avoids the
mention of his name.[30] Its silence is so remarkable as to seem
significant. But though history does not group together Corso and
Dante, the picture represents the truth--their fortunes were linked
together. They were actors in the same scene--at this distance of time
two of the most prominent; though a scene very different from that
calm and grave assembly, which Giotto's placid pencil has drawn on the
old chapel wall.

[Footnote 25: The Bargello, a prison (1850); a museum (1878). _V._
Vasari, p. 311.]

[Footnote 26: He died in 1294. G. Vill. viii. 10.]

[Footnote 27: _Purgat._ c. 23.]

[Footnote 28: _Ibid._ c. 24.

     My sister, good and beautiful--which most I know not.--WRIGHT.]

[Footnote 29: _Parad._ c. 3.]

[Footnote 30: _Purg._ c. 24, 82-87.]

The outlines of this part of Dante's history are so well known that it
is not necessary to dwell on them; and more than the outlines we know
not. The family quarrels came to a head, issued in parties, and the
parties took names; they borrowed them from two rival factions in a
neighbouring town, Pistoia, whose feud was imported into Florence; and
the Guelfs became divided into the Black Guelfs who were led by the
Donati, and the White Guelfs who sided with the Cerchi.[31] It still
professed to be but a family feud, confined to the great houses; but
they were too powerful and Florence too small for it not to affect the
whole Republic. The middle classes and the artisans looked on, and
for a time not without satisfaction, at the strife of the great men;
but it grew evident that one party must crush the other, and become
dominant in Florence; and of the two, the Cerchi and their White
adherents were less formidable to the democracy than the unscrupulous
and overbearing Donati, with their military renown and lordly tastes;
proud not merely of being nobles, but Guelf nobles; always loyal
champions, once the martyrs, and now the hereditary assertors, of the
great Guelf cause. The Cerchi with less character and less zeal, but
rich, liberal, and showy, and with more of rough kindness and vulgar
good-nature for the common people, were more popular in Guelf Florence
than the "Parte Guelfa;" and, of course, the Ghibellines wished them
well. Both the contemporary historians of Florence lead us to think
that they might have been the governors and guides of the Republic--if
they had chosen, and had known how; and both, though condemning the
two parties equally, seemed to have thought that this would have been
the best result for the State. But the accounts of both, though they
are very different writers, agree in their scorn of the leaders of the
White Guelfs. They were upstarts, purse-proud, vain, and
coarse-minded; and they dared to aspire to an ambition which they were
too dull and too cowardly to pursue, when the game was in their
hands. They wished to rule; but when they might, they were afraid. The
commons were on their side, the moderate men, the party of law, the
lovers of republican government, and for the most part the
magistrates; but they shrank from their fortune, "more from cowardice
than from goodness, because they exceedingly feared their
adversaries."[32] Boniface VIII. had no prepossessions in Florence,
except for energy and an open hand; the side which was most popular he
would have accepted and backed; but "he would not lose," he said, "the
men for the women." "_Io non voglio perdere gli uomini per le
femminelle._"[33] If the Black party furnished types for the grosser
or fiercer forms of wickedness in the poet's Hell, the White party
surely were the originals of that picture of stupid and cowardly
selfishness, in the miserable crowd who moan and are buffeted in the
vestibule of the Pit, mingled with the angels who dared neither to
rebel nor be faithful, but "_were for themselves_;" and whoever it may
be who is singled out in the "setta dei cattivi," for deeper and
special scorn--he,

     Che fece per viltà il gran rifiuto--[34]

the idea was derived from the Cerchi in Florence.

[Footnote 31: In 1300. G. Villani, viii. 38, 39.]

[Footnote 32: _Dino Comp._ p. 45.]

[Footnote 33: _Ibid._ p. 62.]

[Footnote 34: _Inf._ c. 3, 60.]

A French prince was sent by the Pope to mediate and make peace in
Florence. The Black Guelfs and Corso Donati came with him. The
magistrates were overawed and perplexed. The White party were, step by
step, amused, entrapped, led blindly into false plots, entangled in
the elaborate subtleties, and exposed with all the zest and mockery,
of Italian intrigue--finally chased out of their houses and from the
city, condemned unheard, outlawed, ruined in name and property, by the
Pope's French mediator. With them fell many citizens who had tried to
hold the balance between the two parties: for the leaders of the Black
Guelfs were guilty of no errors of weakness. In two extant lists of
the proscribed--condemned by default, for corruption and various
crimes, especially for hindering the entrance into Florence of Charles
de Valois, to a heavy fine and banishment--then, two months after, for
contumacy, to be burned alive if he ever fell into the hands of the
Republic--appears the name of Dante Alighieri; and more than this,
concerning the history of his expulsion, we know not.[35]

[Footnote 35: Pelli, _Memorie per servire alla vita di Dante._ Fir.
1823, pp. 105, 106.]

Of his subsequent life, history tells us little more than the general
character. He acted for a time in concert with the expelled party,
when they attempted to force their way back to Florence; he gave them
up at last in scorn and despair: but he never returned to Florence.
And he found no new home for the rest of his days. Nineteen years,
from his exile to his death, he was a wanderer. The character is
stamped on his writings. History, tradition, documents, all scanty or
dim, do but disclose him to us at different points, appearing here and
there, we are not told how or why. One old record, discovered by
antiquarian industry, shows him in a village church near Florence,
planning, with the Cerchi and the White party, an attack on the Black
Guelfs. In another, he appears in the Val di Magra, making peace
between its small potentates: in another, as the inhabitant of a
certain street in Padua. The traditions of some remote spots about
Italy still connect his name with a ruined tower, a mountain glen, a
cell in a convent. In the recollections of the following generation,
his solemn and melancholy form mingled reluctantly, and for awhile, in
the brilliant court of the Scaligers; and scared the women, as a
visitant of the other world, as he passed by their doors in the
streets of Verona. Rumour brings him to the West--with probability to
Paris, more doubtfully to Oxford. But little certain can be made out
about the places where he was an honoured and admired, but it may be,
not always a welcome guest, till we find him sheltered, cherished,
and then laid at last to rest, by the Lords of Ravenna. There he still
rests, in a small, solitary chapel, built, not by a Florentine, but a
Venetian. Florence, "that mother of little love," asked for his bones;
but rightly asked in vain.[36] His place of repose is better in those
remote and forsaken streets "by the shore of the Adrian Sea," hard by
the last relics of the Roman Empire--the mausoleum of the children of
Theodosius, and the mosaics of Justinian--than among the assembled
dead of S. Croce, or amid the magnificence of S. Maria del Fiore.[37]

[Footnote 36: See Dr. Barlow's _Sixth Centenary Festivals of Dante_.

[Footnote 37: These notices have been carefully collected by _Pelli_,
who seems to have left little to glean (_Memorie_, &c. Ed. 2da,
1823). A few additions have been made by _Gerini_ (_Mem. Stor. della
Lunigiana_), and _Troya_ (_Veltro Allegorico_), but they are not of
much importance. _Arrivabene_ (_Secolo di Dante_) has brought together
a mass of illustration which is very useful, and would be more so, if
he were more careful, and quoted his authorities. _Balbo_ arranges
these materials with sense and good feeling; though, as a writer, he
is below his subject. A few traits and anecdotes may be found in the
novelists--as Sacchetti.]

The _Commedia_, at the first glance, shows the traces of its author's
life. It is the work of a wanderer. The very form in which it is cast
is that of a journey, difficult, toilsome, perilous, and full of
change. It is more than a working out of that touching phraseology of
the middle ages, in which "the way" was the technical theological
expression for this mortal life; and "_viator_" meant man in his
state of trial, as "_comprehensor_" meant man made perfect, having
attained to his heavenly country. It is more than merely this. The
writer's mind is full of the recollections and definite images of his
various journeys. The permanent scenery of the _Inferno_ and
_Purgatorio_, very variously and distinctly marked, is that of travel.
The descent down the sides of the Pit, and the ascent of the Sacred
Mountain, show one familiar with such scenes--one who had climbed
painfully in perilous passes, and grown dizzy on the brink of narrow
ledges over sea or torrent. It is scenery from the gorges of the Alps
and Apennines, or the terraces and precipices of the Riviera. Local
reminiscences abound:--the severed rocks of the Adige Valley--the
waterfall of S. Benedetto--the crags of Pietra-pana and S. Leo, which
overlook the plains of Lucca and Ravenna--the "fair river" that flows
among the poplars between Chiaveri and Sestri--the marble quarries of
Carrara--the "rough and desert ways between Lerici and Turbia," and
those towery cliffs, going sheer into the deep sea at Noli, which
travellers on the Corniche road some thirty years ago may yet remember
with fear. Mountain experience furnished that picture of the traveller
caught in an Alpine mist and gradually climbing above it; seeing the
vapours grow thin, and the sun's orb appear faintly through them; and
issuing at last into sunshine on the mountain top, while the light of
sunset was lost already on the shores below:

     Ai raggi, morti già nei bassi lidi:--_Purg._ 17.

or that image of the cold dull shadow over the torrent, beneath the
Alpine fir--

                   Un'ombra smorta
     Qual sotto foglie verdi e rami nigri
     Sovra suoi freddi rivi, l'Alpe porta:--_Purg._ 33.[38]

or of the large snow-flakes falling without wind, among the

             d'un cader lento
     Piovean di fuoco dilatate falde
     Come di neve in Alpe senza vento.--_Inferno_, 14.[39]

[Footnote 38:

                       A death-like shade--
     Like that beneath black boughs and foliage green
     O'er the cool streams in Alpine glens display'd.--WRIGHT.]

[Footnote 39:

     O'er all the sandy desert falling slow,
       Were shower'd dilated flakes of fire, like snow
       On Alpine summits, when the wind is low.--IBID.]

He delights in a local name and local image--the boiling pitch, and
the clang of the shipwrights in the arsenal of Venice--the sepulchral
fields of Arles and Pola--the hot-spring of Viterbo--the hooded monks
of Cologne--the dykes of Flanders and Padua--the Maremma, with its
rough brushwood, its wild boars, its snakes, and fevers. He had
listened to the south wind among the pine tops, in the forest by the
sea, at Ravenna. He had watched under the Carisenda tower at Bologna,
and seen the driving clouds "give away their motion" to it, and make
it seem to be falling; and had noticed how at Rome the October sun
sets between Corsica and Sardinia.[40] His images of the sea are
numerous and definite--the ship backing out of the tier in harbour,
the diver plunging after the fouled anchor, the mast rising, the ship
going fast before the wind, the water closing in its wake, the arched
backs of the porpoises the forerunners of a gale, the admiral watching
everything from poop to prow, the oars stopping altogether at the
sound of the whistle, the swelling sails becoming slack when the mast
snaps and falls.[41] Nowhere could we find so many of the most
characteristic and strange sensations of the traveller touched with
such truth. Everyone knows the lines which speak of the voyager's
sinking of heart on the first evening at sea, and of the longings
wakened in the traveller at the beginning of his journey by the
distant evening bell[42]; the traveller's _morning_ feelings are not
less delicately noted--the strangeness on first waking in the open air
with the sun high; morning thoughts, as day by day he wakes nearer
home; the morning sight of the sea-beach quivering in the early light;
the tarrying and lingering, before setting out in the morning[43]--

     Noi eravam lunghesso 'l mare ancora,
     Come gente che pensa al suo cammino,
     Che va col cuore, e col corpo dimora.[44]

[Footnote 40: _Inf._ 31, 18.]

[Footnote 41: _Ibid._ 17, 16, 31; _Purg._ 24; _Par._ 2; _Inf._ 22;
_Purg._ 30; _Par._ 25; _Inf._ 7.]

[Footnote 42: _Purg._ 8. "Era già l'ora," &c.]

[Footnote 43: _Purg._ 19, 27, 1, 2.]

[Footnote 44:

     By ocean's shore we still prolonged our stay
     Like men, who, thinking of a journey near,
     Advance in thought, while yet their limbs delay.--WRIGHT.]

He has recorded equally the anxiety, the curiosity, the suspicion with
which, in those times, stranger met and eyed stranger on the road; and
a still more characteristic trait is to be found in those lines where
he describes the pilgrim gazing around in the church of his vow, and
thinking how he shall tell of it:

       E quasi peregrin che si ricrea
     Nel tempio del suo voto riguardando,
     E spera già ridir com'ello stea:--_Parad._ 31.[45]

or again, in that description, so simple and touching, of his thoughts
while waiting to see the relic for which he left his home:

       Quale è colui che forse di Croazia
     Viene a veder la Veronica nostra,
     Che per l'antica fama non si sazia,
       Ma dice nel pensier, fin che si mostra;
     Signor mio Gesù Cristo, Dio verace,
     Or fu sì fatta la sembianza vostra?--_Parad._ 31.[46]

[Footnote 45:

     And like a pilgrim who with fond delight
       Surveys the temple he has vow'd to see,
       And hopes one day its wonders to recite.--IBID.]

[Footnote 46:

     Like one who, from Croatia come to see
       Our Veronica (image long adored),
       Gazes, as though content he ne'er could be--
     Thus musing, while the relic is pourtray'd--
       "Jesus my God, my Saviour and my Lord,
       O were thy features these I see display'd?"--WRIGHT.

     Quella imagine benedetta la quale Gesù Cristo lasciò a noi
     per esempio della sua bellissima figura.--_Vita Nuova_, p.

He speaks of the pilgrims going to Rome to see it; compare also the
sonnet to the pilgrims, p. 355:

     Deh peregrini, che pensosi andate
     Forse di cosa, che non v'è presente,
     Venite voi di sì lontana gente,
     Com'alla vista voi ne dimostrate.]

Of these years then of disappointment and exile the _Divina Commedia_
was the labour and fruit. A story in Boccaccio's life of Dante, told
with some detail, implies indeed that it was begun, and some progress
made in it, while Dante was yet in Florence--begun in Latin, and he
quotes three lines of it--continued afterwards in Italian. This is not
impossible; indeed the germ and presage of it may be traced in the
_Vita Nuova_. The idealised saint is there, in all the grace of her
pure and noble humbleness, the guide and safeguard of the poet's
soul. She is already in glory with Mary the queen of angels. She
already beholds the face of the Everblessed. And the _envoye_ of the
_Vita Nuova_ is the promise of the _Commedia_. "After this sonnet,"
(in which he describes how beyond the widest sphere of heaven his love
had beheld a lady receiving honour, and dazzling by her glory the
unaccustomed spirit)--"After this sonnet there appeared to me a
marvellous vision, in which I saw things which made me resolve not to
speak more of this blessed one, until such time as I should be able to
indite more worthily of her. And to attain to this, I study to the
utmost of my power, as she truly knows. So that, if it shall be the
pleasure of Him, by whom all things live, that my life continue for
some years, I hope to say of her that which never hath been said of
any woman. And afterwards, may it please Him, who is the Lord of
kindness, that my soul may go to behold the glory of her lady, that
is, of that blessed Beatrice, who gloriously gazes on the countenance
of Him, _qui est per omnia secula benedictus_."[47] It would be
wantonly violating probability and the unity of a great life, to
suppose that this purpose, though transformed, was ever forgotten or
laid aside. The poet knew not indeed what he was promising, what he
was pledging himself to--through what years of toil and anguish he
would have to seek the light and the power he had asked; in what form
his high venture should be realised. But the _Commedia_ is the work of
no light resolve, and we need not be surprised at finding the resolve
and the purpose at the outset of the poet's life. We may freely accept
the key supplied by the words of the _Vita Nuova_. The spell of
boyhood is never broken, through the ups and downs of life. His course
of thought advances, alters, deepens, but is continuous. From youth to
age, from the first glimpse to the perfect work, the same idea abides
with him, "even from the flower till the grape was ripe." It may
assume various changes--an image of beauty, a figure of philosophy, a
voice from the other world, a type of heavenly wisdom and joy--but
still it holds, in self-imposed and willing thraldom, that creative
and versatile and tenacious spirit. It was the dream and hope of too
deep and strong a mind to fade and come to naught--to be other than
the seed of the achievement and crown of life. But with all faith in
the star and the freedom of genius, we may doubt whether the
prosperous citizen would have done that which was done by the man
without a home. Beatrice's glory might have been sung in grand though
barbarous Latin to the literati of the fourteenth century; or a poem
of new beauty might have fixed the language and opened the literature
of modern Italy; but it could hardly have been the _Commedia_. That
belongs, in its date and its greatness, to the time when sorrow had
become the poet's daily portion, and the condition of his life.

[Footnote 47: _Vita Nuova_, last paragraph. See _Purg._ 30; _Parad._
30, 6, 28-33.]

The _Commedia_ is a novel and startling apparition in literature.
Probably it has been felt by some, who have approached it with the
reverence due to a work of such renown, that the world has been
generous in placing it so high. It seems so abnormal, so lawless, so
reckless of all ordinary proprieties and canons of feeling, taste, and
composition. It is rough and abrupt; obscure in phrase and allusion,
doubly obscure in purpose. It is a medley of all subjects usually kept
distinct: scandal of the day and transcendental science, politics and
confessions, coarse satire and angelic joy, private wrongs, with the
mysteries of the faith, local names and habitations of earth, with
visions of hell and heaven. It is hard to keep up with the
ever-changing current of feeling, to pass as the poet passes, without
effort or scruple, from tenderness to ridicule, from hope to bitter
scorn or querulous complaint, from high-raised devotion to the
calmness of prosaic subtleties or grotesque detail. Each separate
element and vein of thought has its precedent, but not their
amalgamation. Many had written visions of the unseen world, but they
had not blended with them their personal fortunes. S. Augustine had
taught the soul to contemplate its own history, and had traced its
progress from darkness to light;[48] but he had not interwoven with it
the history of Italy, and the consummation of all earthly destinies.
Satire was no new thing; Juvenal had given it a moral, some of the
Provençal poets a political turn; S. Jerome had kindled into it
fiercely and bitterly even while expounding the Prophets; but here it
streams forth in all its violence, within the precincts of the eternal
world, and alternates with the hymns of the blessed. Lucretius had
drawn forth the poetry of nature and its laws; Virgil and Livy had
unfolded the poetry of the Roman empire; S. Augustine, the still
grander poetry of the history of the City of God; but none had yet
ventured to weave into one the three wonderful threads. And yet the
scope of the Italian poet, vast and comprehensive as the issue of all
things, universal as the government which directs nature and
intelligence, forbids him not to stoop to the lowest caitiff he has
ever despised, the minutest fact in nature that has ever struck his
eye, the merest personal association which hangs pleasantly in his
memory. Writing for all time, he scruples not to mix with all that is
august and permanent in history and prophecy, incidents the most
transient, and names the most obscure; to waste an immortality of
shame or praise on those about whom his own generation were to inquire
in vain. Scripture history runs into profane; Pagan legends teach
their lesson side by side with Scripture scenes and miracles; heroes
and poets of heathenism, separated from their old classic world, have
their place in the world of faith, discourse with Christians of
Christian dogmas, and even mingle with the Saints; Virgil guides the
poet through his fear and his penitence to the gates of Paradise.

[Footnote 48: See _Convito_, 1, 2.]

This feeling of harsh and extravagant incongruity, of causeless and
unpardonable darkness, is perhaps the first impression of many readers
of the _Commedia_. But probably as they read on, there will mingle
with this a sense of strange and unusual grandeur, arising not alone
from the hardihood of the attempt, and the mystery of the subject, but
from the power and the character of the poet. It will strike them that
words cut deeper than is their wont; that from that wild uncongenial
imagery, thoughts emerge of singular truth and beauty. Their
dissatisfaction will be chequered, even disturbed--for we can often
bring ourselves to sacrifice much for the sake of a clear and
consistent view--by the appearance, amid much that repels them, of
proofs undeniable and accumulating of genius as mighty as it is
strange. Their perplexity and disappointment may grow into distinct
condemnation, or it may pass into admiration and delight; but no one
has ever come to the end of the _Commedia_ without feeling that if it
has given him a new view and specimen of the wildness and
unaccountable waywardness of the human mind, it has also added, as few
other books have, to his knowledge of its feelings, its capabilities,
and its grasp, and suggested larger and more serious thoughts, for
which he may be grateful, concerning that unseen world of which he is
even here a member.

Dante would not have thanked his admirers for becoming apologists.
Those in whom the sense of imperfection and strangeness overpowers
sympathy for grandeur, and enthusiasm for nobleness, and joy in
beauty, he certainly would have left to themselves. But neither would
he teach any that he was leading them along a smooth and easy road.
The _Commedia_ will always be a hard and trying book; nor did the
writer much care that it should be otherwise. Much of this is no doubt
to be set down to its age; much of its roughness and extravagance, as
well as of its beauty--its allegorical spirit, its frame and scenery.
The idea of a visionary voyage through the worlds of pain and bliss is
no invention of the poet--it was one of the commonest and most
familiar medieval vehicles of censure or warning; and those who love
to trace the growth and often strange fortunes of popular ideas, or
whose taste leads them to disbelieve in genius, and track the
parentage of great inventions to the foolish and obscure, may find
abundant materials in the literature of legends.[49] But his own
age--the age which received the _Commedia_ with mingled enthusiasm and
wonder, and called it the Divine, was as much perplexed as we are,
though probably rather pleased thereby than offended. That within a
century after its composition, in the more famous cities and
universities of Italy, Florence, Venice, Bologna, and Pisa, chairs
should have been founded, and illustrious men engaged to lecture on
it, is a strange homage to its power, even in that time of quick
feeling; but as strange and great a proof of its obscurity. What is
dark and forbidding in it was scarcely more clear to the poet's
contemporaries. And he, whose last object was amusement, invites no
audience but a patient and confiding one.

       O voi che siete in piccioletta barca,
     Desiderosi di ascoltar, seguiti
     Dietro al mio legno che cantando varca,

       Tornate a riveder li vostri liti:
     Non vi mettete in pelago, chè forse
     Perdendo me rimarreste smarriti.

       L'acqua ch'io prendo giammai non si corse:
     Minerva spira, e conducemi Apollo,
     E nuove muse mi dimostran l'Orse.

       Voi altri pochi, che drizzaste 'l collo
     Per tempo al pan degli angeli, del quale
     Vivesi qui, ma non si vien satollo,

       Metter potete ben per l'alto sale
     Vostro navigio, servando mio solco
     Dinanzi all'acqua che ritorna eguale.

       Que gloriosi che passaro a Colco,
     Non s'ammiraron, come voi farete,
     Quando Jason vider fatto bifolco.--_Parad._ 2.[50]

[Footnote 49: _Vide_ Ozanam, _Dante_, pp. 535, _sqq._ Ed.]

[Footnote 50:

     O ye who fain would listen to my song,
       Following in little bark full eagerly
       My venturous ship, that chanting hies along,

     Turn back unto your native shores again;
       Tempt not the deep, lest haply losing me,
       In unknown paths bewildered ye remain.

     I am the first this voyage to essay;
       Minerva breathes--Apollo is my guide;
       And new-born muses do the Bears display.

     Ye other few, who have look'd up on high
       For angels' food betimes, e'en here supplied
       Largely, but not enough to satisfy,--

     Mid the deep ocean ye your course may take,
       My track pursuing the pure waters through,
       Ere reunites the quickly-closing wake.

     Those glorious ones, who drove of yore their prow
       To Colchos, wonder'd not as ye will do,
       When they saw Jason working at the plough.

     WRIGHT'S _Dante_.]

The character of the _Commedia_ belongs much more, in its excellence
and its imperfections, to the poet himself and the nature of his
work, than to his age. That cannot screen his faults; nor can it
arrogate to itself, it must be content to share, his glory. His
leading idea and line of thought was much more novel then than it is
now, and belongs much more to the modern than the medieval world. The
_Story of a Life_, the poetry of man's journey through the wilderness
to his true country, is now in various and very different shapes as
hackneyed a form of imagination, as an allegory, an epic, a legend of
chivalry were in former times. Not, of course, that any time has been
without its poetical feelings and ideas on the subject; and never were
they deeper and more diversified, more touching and solemn, than in
the ages that passed from S. Augustine and S. Gregory to S. Thomas and
S. Bonaventura. But a philosophical poem, where they were not merely
the colouring, but the subject, an _epos_ of the soul, placed for its
trial in a fearful and wonderful world, with relations to time and
matter, history and nature, good and evil, the beautiful, the
intelligible, and the mysterious, sin and grace, the infinite and the
eternal--and having in the company and under the influences of other
intelligences, to make its choice, to struggle, to succeed or fail, to
gain the light, or be lost--this was a new and unattempted theme. It
has been often tried since, in faith or doubt, in egotism, in sorrow,
in murmuring, in affectation, sometimes in joy--in various forms, in
prose and verse, completed or fragmentary, in reality or fiction, in
the direct or the shadowed story, in the _Pilgrim's Progress_, in
Rousseau's _Confessions_, in _Wilhelm Meister_ and _Faust_, in the
_Excursion_. It is common enough now for the poet, in the faith of
human sympathy, and in the sense of the unexhausted vastness of his
mysterious subject, to believe that his fellows will not see without
interest and profit, glimpses of his own path and fortunes--hear from
his lips the disclosure of his chief delights, his warnings, his
fears--follow the many-coloured changes, the impressions and workings,
of a character, at once the contrast and the counterpart to their own.
But it was a new path then; and he needed to be, and was, a bold man,
who first opened it--a path never trod without peril, usually with
loss or failure.

And certainly no great man ever made less secret to himself of his own
genius. He is at no pains to rein in or to dissemble his consciousness
of power, which he has measured without partiality, and feels sure
will not fail him. "Fidandomi di me più che di un altro"[51]--is a
reason which he assigns without reserve. We look with the distrust and
hesitation of modern days, yet, in spite of ourselves, not without
admiration and regret, at such frank hardihood. It was more common
once than now. When the world was young, it was more natural and
allowable--it was often seemly and noble. Men knew not their
difficulties as we know them--we, to whom time, which has taught so
much wisdom, has brought so many disappointments--we who have seen how
often the powerful have fallen short, and the noble gone astray, and
the most admirable missed their perfection. It is becoming in us to
distrust ourselves--to be shy if we cannot be modest; it is but a
respectful tribute to human weakness and our brethren's failures. But
there was a time when great men dared to claim their greatness--not in
foolish self-complacency, but in unembarrassed and majestic
simplicity, in magnanimity and truth, in the consciousness of a
serious and noble purpose, and of strength to fulfil it. Without
passion, without elation as without shrinking, the poet surveys his
superiority and his high position, as something external to him; he
has no doubts about it, and affects none. He would be a coward, if he
shut his eyes to what he could do; as much a trifler in displaying
reserve as ostentation. Nothing is more striking in the _Commedia_
than the serene and unhesitating confidence with which he announces
himself the heir and reviver of the poetic power so long lost to the
world--the heir and reviver of it in all its fulness. He doubts not
of the judgment of posterity. One has arisen who shall throw into the
shade all modern reputations, who shall bequeath to Christendom the
glory of that name of Poet, "che più dura e più onora," hitherto the
exclusive boast of heathenism, and claim the rare honours of the

     Sì rade volte, padre, se ne coglie
     Per trionfare o Cesare o poeta,
     (Colpa e vergogna dell'umane voglie),
       Che partorir letizia in su la lieta
     Delfica deità dovrìa la fronda
     Peneia quando alcun di sè asseta.--_Parad._ 1.[52]

[Footnote 51: _Convito_, 1, 10.]

[Footnote 52:

     For now so rarely Poet gathers these,
       Or Cæsar, winning an immortal praise
       (Shame unto man's degraded energies),
     That joy should to the Delphic God arise
       When haply any one aspires to gain
       The high reward of the Peneian prize.--WRIGHT.]

He has but to follow his star to be sure of the glorious port:[53] he
is the master of language: he can give fame to the dead--no task or
enterprise appals him, for whom spirits keep watch in heaven, and
angels have visited the shades--"tal si partì dal cantar
alleluia:"--who is Virgil's foster child and familiar friend. Virgil
bids him lay aside the last vestige of fear. Virgil is to "crown him
king and priest over himself,"[54] for a higher venture than heathen
poetry had dared; in Virgil's company he takes his place without
diffidence, and without vain-glory, among the great poets of old--a
sister soul.[55]

[Footnote 53: Brunetto Latini's Prophecy, _Inf._ 15.]

[Footnote 54: See the grand ending of _Purg._ 27.

       Tratto t'ho qui con ingegno e con arte;
     Lo tuo piacere omai prendi per duce:
     Fuor se' dell'erte vie, fuor se' dell'arte.
       Vedi il sole che 'n fronte ti riluce.
     Vede l'erbetta, i fiori, e gli arboscelli
     Che questa terra sol da sè produce.
       Mentre che vegnon lieti gli occhi belli
     Che lagrimando a te venir mi fenno,
     Seder ti puoi e puoi andar tra elli.
       Non aspettar mio dir più nè mio cenno;
     Libero, dritto, sano è tuo arbitrio,
     E fallo fora non fare a suo senno:
       Perch'io te sopra te corono e mitrio.]

[Footnote 55: _Purg._ c. 21.]

     Poichè la voce fu restata e queta,
     Vidi quattro grand'ombre a noi venire:
     Sembianza avean nè trista nè lieta:

           *      *      *      *

       Così vidi adunar la bella scuola
     Di quel signor dell'altissimo canto
     Che sovra gli altri come aquila vola.
       Da ch'ebber ragionato insieme alquanto
     Volsersi a me con salutevol cenno
     E 'l mio maestro sorrise di tanto.
       E più d'onore ancora assai mi fenno:
     Ch'essi mi fecer della loro schiera,
     Sì ch'io fui sesto tra cotanto senno.--_Inf._ 4.[56]

[Footnote 56:

     Ceased had the voice--when in composed array
       Four mighty shades approaching I survey'd;--
       Nor joy, nor sorrow did their looks betray.

           *      *      *      *

     Assembled thus, was offered to my sight
       The school of him, the Prince of poetry,
       Who, eagle-like, o'er others takes his flight.
     When they together had conversed awhile,
       They turned to me with salutation bland,
       Which from my master drew a friendly smile:
     And greater glory still they bade me share,
       Making me join their honourable band--
       The sixth united to such genius rare.--WRIGHT.]

This sustained magnanimity and lofty self-reliance, which never
betrays itself, is one of the main elements in the grandeur of the
_Commedia_. It is an imposing spectacle to see such fearlessness, such
freedom, and such success in an untried path, amid unprepared
materials and rude instruments, models scanty and only half
understood, powers of language still doubtful and suspected, the
deepest and strongest thought still confined to unbending forms and
the harshest phrase; exact and extensive knowledge, as yet far out of
reach; with no help from time, which familiarises all things, and of
which, manner, elaboration, judgment, and taste are the gifts and
inheritance;--to see the poet, trusting to his eye "which saw
everything"[57] and his searching and creative spirit, venture
undauntedly into all regions of thought and feeling, to draw thence a
picture of the government of the universe.

[Footnote 57: "Dante che tutto vedea."--_Sacchetti_, Nov. 114.]

But such greatness had to endure its price and its counterpoise. Dante
was alone:--except in his visionary world, solitary and companionless.
The blind Greek had his throng of listeners; the blind Englishman his
home and the voices of his daughters; Shakspere had his free
associates of the stage; Goethe, his correspondents, a court, and all
Germany to applaud. Not so Dante. The friends of his youth are already
in the region of spirits, and meet him there--Casella, Forese;--Guido
Cavalcanti will soon be with them. In this upper world he thinks and
writes as a friendless man--to whom all that he had held dearest was
either lost or embittered; he thinks and writes for himself.

And so he is his own law; he owns no tribunal of opinion or standard
of taste, except among the great dead. He hears them exhort him to
"let the world talk on--to stand like a tower unshaken by the
winds."[58] He fears to be "a timid friend to truth," "--to lose life
among those who shall call this present time antiquity."[59] He
belongs to no party. He is his own arbiter of the beautiful and the
becoming; his own judge over right and injustice, innocence and guilt.
He has no followers to secure, no school to humour, no public to
satisfy; nothing to guide him, and nothing to consult, nothing to bind
him, nothing to fear, out of himself. In full trust in heart and will,
in his sense of truth, in his teeming brain, he gives himself free
course. If men have idolised the worthless, and canonised the base, he
reverses their award without mercy, and without apology; if they have
forgotten the just because he was obscure, he remembers him: if "Monna
Berta and Ser Martino,"[60] the wimpled and hooded gossips of the
day, with their sage company, have settled it to their own
satisfaction that Providence cannot swerve from their general rules,
cannot save where they have doomed, or reject where they have
approved--he both fears more and hopes more. Deeply reverent to the
judgment of the ages past, reverent to the persons whom they have
immortalised for good and even for evil, in his own day he cares for
no man's person and no man's judgment. And he shrinks not from the
auguries and forecastings of his mind about their career and fate. Men
reasoned rapidly in those days on such subjects, and without much
scruple; but not with such deliberate and discriminating sternness.
The most popular and honoured names in Florence,

       Farinata e 'l Tegghiaio, che fur sì degni,
     Jacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, e 'l Mosca
     E gli altri, ch'a ben far poser gl'ingegni;

have yet the damning brand: no reader of the _Inferno_ can have
forgotten the shock of that terrible reply to the poet's questionings
about their fate:

     Ei son tra le anime più nere.[61]

[Footnote 58: _Purg._ 5.]

[Footnote 59:

       La luce in che rideva il mio tesoro
     Ch'io trovai lì, si fe' prima corrusca,
     Quale a raggio di sole specchio d'oro;
       Indi rispose: coscienza fusca
     O della propria o dell'altrui vergogna
     Pur sentirà la tua parola brusca;
       Ma nondimen, rimossa ogni menzogna,
     Tutta tua vision fa manifesta,
     E lascia pur grattar dov'è la rogna:
       Che se la voce tua sarà molesta
     Nel primo gusto, vital nutrimento
     Lascerà poi quando sarà digesta.
       Questo tuo grido farà come vento
     Che le più alte cime più percuote:
     E ciò non fia d'onor poco argomento.
       Però ti son mostrate, in queste ruote,
     Nel monte, e nella valle dolorosa,
     Pur l'anime che son di fama note.
       Che l'animo di quel ch'ode non posa,
     Nè ferma fede, per esemplo ch'aja
     La sua radice incognito e nascosa,
       Nè per altro argumento che non paja.--_Parad._ 17.]

[Footnote 60:

     Non creda Monna Berta e Ser Martino
     Per vedere un furare, altro offerere,
     Vederli dentro al consiglio divino:
     Chè quel può surger, e quel può cadere.--_Ibid._ 13.]

[Footnote 61: _Inf._ 6.]

If he is partial, it is no vulgar partiality: friendship and old
affection do not venture to exempt from its fatal doom the sin of his
famous master, Brunetto Latini;[62] nobleness and great deeds, a
kindred character and common wrongs, are not enough to redeem
Farinata; and he who could tell her story bowed to the eternal law,
and dared not save Francesca. If he condemns by a severer rule than
that of the world, he absolves with fuller faith in the possibilities
of grace. Many names of whom history has recorded no good, are marked
by him for bliss; yet not without full respect for justice. The
penitent of the last hour is saved, but he suffers loss. Manfred's
soul is rescued; mercy had accepted his tears, and forgiven his great
sins; and the excommunication of his enemy did not bar his salvation:

       Per lor maladizion sì non si perde
     Che non possa tornar l'eterno amore
     Mentre che la speranza ha fior del verde.--_Purg._ 3.

[Footnote 62:

     Che in la mente m'è fitta, ed or m'accuora,
       _La cara buona imagine paterna._--_Inf._ 15.]

Yet his sin, though pardoned, was to keep him for long years from the
perfection of heaven.[63] And with the same independence with which he
assigns their fate, he selects his instances--instances which are to
be the types of character and its issues. No man ever owned more
unreservedly the fascination of greatness, its sway over the
imagination and the heart; no one prized more the grand harmony and
sense of fitness which there is, when the great man and the great
office are joined in one, and reflect each other's greatness. The
famous and great of all ages are gathered in the poet's vision; the
great names even of fable--Geryon and the giants, the Minotaur and
Centaurs, and the heroes of Thebes and Troy. But not the great and
famous only: this is too narrow, too conventional a sphere; it is not
real enough. He felt, what the modern world feels so keenly, that
wonderful histories are latent in the inconspicuous paths of life, in
the fugitive incidents of the hour, among the persons whose faces we
have seen. The Church had from the first been witness to the deep
interest of individual life. The rising taste for novels showed that
society at large was beginning to be alive to it. And it is this
feeling--that behind the veil there may be grades of greatness but
nothing insignificant--that led Dante to refuse to restrict himself to
the characters of fame. He will associate with them the living men who
have stood round him; they are part of the same company with the
greatest. That they have interested him, touched him, moved his
indignation or pity, struck him as examples of great vicissitude or
of a perfect life, have pleased him, loved him--this is enough why
they should live in his poem as they have lived to him. He chooses at
will; history, if it has been negligent at the time about those whom
he thought worthy of renown, must be content with its loss. He tells
their story, or touches them with a word like the most familiar names,
according as he pleases. The obscure highway robber, the obscure
betrayer of his sister's honour--Rinier da Corneto and Rinier Pazzo,
and Caccianimico--are ranked, not according to their obscurity, but
according to the greatness of their crimes, with the famous
conquerors, and "scourges of God," and seducers of the heroic age,
Pyrrhus and Attila, and the great Jason of "royal port, who sheds no
tear in his torments."[64] He earns as high praise from Virgil, for
his curse on the furious wrath of the old frantic Florentine burgher,
as if he had cursed the disturber of the world's peace.[65] And so in
the realms of joy, among the faithful accomplishers of the highest
trusts, kings and teachers of the nations, founders of orders, sainted
empresses, appear those whom, though the world had forgotten or
misread them, the poet had enshrined in his familiar thoughts, for
their sweetness, their gentle goodness, their nobility of soul; the
penitent, the nun, the old crusading ancestor, the pilgrim who had
deserted the greatness which he had created, the brave logician, who
"syllogised unpalatable truths" in the Quartier Latin of Paris.[66]

[Footnote 63: Charles of Anjou, his Guelf conqueror, is placed above
him, in the valley of the kings (_Purg._ 7), "Colui dal maschio
naso"--notwithstanding the charges afterwards made against him
(_Purg._ 20).]

[Footnote 64: See the magnificent picture, _Inf._ 18.]

[Footnote 65: _Ibid._ 8.]

[Footnote 66: Cunizza, Piccarda, Cacciaguida, Roméo. (_Parad._ 9, 3,
15, 6, 10.)

     ----La luce eterna di Sigieri
     Che leggendo nel vico degli Strami
     Sillogizzò invidiosi veri----

in company with S. Thomas Aquinas, in the sphere of the Sun. Ozanam
gives a few particulars of this forgotten professor of the "Rue du
Fouarre," pp. 320-23.]

There is small resemblance in all this--this arbitrary and imperious
tone, this range of ideas, feelings, and images, this unshackled
freedom, this harsh reality--to the dreamy gentleness of the _Vita
Nuova_, or even the staid argumentation of the more mature _Convito_.
The _Vita Nuova_ is all self-concentration--a brooding, not unpleased,
over the varying tides of feeling, which are little influenced by the
world without; where every fancy, every sensation, every superstition
of the lover is detailed with the most whimsical subtlety. The
_Commedia_, too, has its tenderness--and that more deep, more natural,
more true, than the poet had before adapted to the traditionary
formulæ of the "Courts of Love,"--the eyes of Beatrice are as bright,
and the "conquering light of her smile;"[67] they still culminate,
but they are not alone, in the poet's heaven. And the professed
subject of the _Commedia_ is still Dante's own story and life; he
still makes himself the central point. And steeled as he is by that
high and hard experience of which his poem is the projection and
type--"Ben tetragono ai colpi di ventura"--a stern and brief-spoken
man, set on objects, and occupied with a theme, lofty and vast as can
occupy man's thoughts, he still lets escape ever and anon some passing
avowal of delicate sensitiveness,[68] lingers for a moment on some
indulged self-consciousness, some recollection of his once quick and
changeful mood--"io che son trasmutabil per tutte guise"[69]--or half
playfully alludes to the whispered name of a lady,[70] whose pleasant
courtesy has beguiled a few days of exile. But he is no longer
spell-bound and entangled in fancies of his own weaving--absorbed in
the unprofitable contemplation of his own internal sensations. The man
is indeed the same, still a Florentine, still metaphysical, still a
lover. He returns to the haunts and images of youth, to take among
them his poet's crown; but "with other voice and other garb,"[71] a
penitent and a prophet--with larger thoughts, wider sympathies, freer
utterance; sterner and fiercer, yet nobler and more genuine in his
tenderness--as one whom trial has made serious, and keen, and
intolerant of evil, but not sceptical or callous; yet with the
impressions and memories of a very different scene from his old

[Footnote 67: Vincendo me col lume d'un sorriso.--_Parad._ 18.]

[Footnote 68: For instance, his feeling of distress at gazing at the
blind, who were not aware of his presence--

     A me pareva andando fare oltraggio
     Vedendo altrui, non essendo veduto:--_Purg._ 13.

and of shame, at being tempted to listen to a quarrel between two lost

       Ad ascoltarli er'io del tutto fisso,
     Quando 'l Maestro mi disse: or pur mira,
     Che per poco è, che teco non mi risso.
       Quando io 'l senti' a me parlar con ira
     Volsimi verso lui con tal vergogna,
     Ch'ancor per la memoria mi si gira, &c.--_Inf._ 30.

and the burst,

       O dignitosa coscienza e netta,
     Come t'è picciol fallo amaro morso.--_Purg._ 3.]

[Footnote 69: _Parad._ 5.]

[Footnote 70: _Purg._ 24.]

[Footnote 71: _Parad._ 25.]

     After that it was the pleasure of the citizens of that
     fairest and most famous daughter of Rome, Florence, to cast
     me forth from her most sweet bosom (wherein I had been
     nourished up to the maturity of my life, and in which, with
     all peace to her, I long with all my heart to rest my weary
     soul, and finish the time which is given me), I have passed
     through almost all the regions to which this language
     reaches, a wanderer, almost a beggar, displaying, against my
     will, the stroke of fortune, which is ofttimes unjustly wont
     to be imputed to the person stricken. Truly, I have been a
     ship without a sail or helm, carried to divers harbours, and
     gulfs, and shores, by that parching wind which sad poverty
     breathes; and I have seemed vile in the eyes of many, who
     perchance, from some fame, had imagined of me in another
     form; in the sight of whom not only did my presence become
     nought, but every work of mine less prized, both what had
     been and what was to be wrought.--_Convito_, Tr. i. c. 3.

Thus proved, and thus furnished--thus independent and confident,
daring to trust his instinct and genius in what was entirely untried
and unusual, he entered on his great poem, to shadow forth, under the
figure of his own conversion and purification, not merely how a single
soul rises to its perfection, but how this visible world, in all its
phases of nature, life, and society, is one with the invisible, which
borders on it, actuates, accomplishes, and explains it. It is this
vast plan--to take into his scope, not the soul only in its struggles
and triumph, but all that the soul finds itself engaged with in its
course; the accidents of the hour, and of ages past; the real persons,
great and small, apart from and without whom it cannot think or act;
the material world, its theatre and home--it is this which gives so
many various sides to the _Commedia_, which makes it so novel and
strange. It is not a mere personal history, or a pouring forth of
feeling, like the _Vita Nuova_, though he is himself the mysterious
voyager, and he opens without reserve his actual life and his heart;
he speaks, indeed, in the first person, yet he is but a character of
the drama, and in great part of it with not more of distinct
personality than in that paraphrase of the penitential Psalms, in
which he has preluded so much of the _Commedia_. Yet the _Commedia_ is
not a pure allegory; it admits, and makes use of the allegorical, but
the laws of allegory are too narrow for it; the real in it is too
impatient of the veil, and breaks through in all its hardness and
detail, into what is most shadowy. History is indeed viewed not in its
ephemeral look, but under the light of God's final judgments; in its
completion, not in its provisional and fragmentary character; viewed
therefore but in faith;--but its issues, which in this confused scene
we ordinarily contemplate in the gross, the poet brings down to detail
and individuals; he faces and grasps the tremendous thought that the
very men and women whom we see and speak to, are now the real
representatives of sin and goodness, the true actors in that scene
which is so familiar to us as a picture--unflinching and terrible
heart, he endures to face it in its most harrowing forms. But he wrote
not for sport, nor to give poetic pleasure; he wrote to warn; the seed
of the _Commedia_ was sown in tears, and reaped in misery: and the
consolations which it offers are awful as they are real.

Thus, though he throws into symbol and image, what can only be
expressed by symbol and image, we can as little forget in reading him
this real world in which we live, as we can in one of Shakspere's
plays. It is not merely that the poem is crowded with real personages,
most of them having the single interest to us of being real. But all
that is associated with man's history and existence is interwoven with
the main course of thought--all that gives character to life, all that
gives it form and feature, even to quaintness, all that occupies the
mind, or employs the hand--speculation, science, arts, manufactures,
monuments, scenes, customs, proverbs, ceremonies, games, punishments,
attitudes of men, habits of living creatures. The wildest and most
unearthly imaginations, the most abstruse thoughts take up into, and
incorporate with themselves the forcible and familiar impressions of
our mother earth, and do not refuse the company and aid even of the

This is not mere poetic ornament, peculiarly, profusely, or
extravagantly employed. It is one of the ways in which his dominant
feeling expresses itself--spontaneous and instinctive in each several
instance of it, but the kindling and effluence of deliberate thought,
and attending on a clear purpose--the feeling of the real and intimate
connexion between the objects of sight and faith. It is not that he
sees in one the simple counterpart and reverse of the other, or sets
himself to trace out universally their mutual correspondences; he has
too strong a sense of the reality of this familiar life to reduce it
merely to a shadow and type of the unseen. What he struggles to
express in countless ways, with all the resources of his strange and
gigantic power, is that this world and the next are both equally real,
and both one--parts, however different, of one whole. The world to
come we know but in "a glass darkly;" man can only think and imagine
of it in images, which he knows to be but broken and faint
reflections: but this world we know, not in outline, and featureless
idea, but by name, and face, and shape, by place and person, by the
colours and forms which crowd over its surface, the men who people its
habitations, the events which mark its moments. Detail fills the sense
here, and is the mark of reality. And thus he seeks to keep alive the
feeling of what that world is which he connects with heaven and hell;
not by abstractions, not much by elaborate and highly-finished
pictures, but by names, persons, local features, definite images.
Widely and keenly has he ranged over and searched into the world--with
a largeness of mind which disdained not to mark and treasure up, along
with much unheeded beauty, many a characteristic feature of nature,
unnoticed because so common. All his pursuits and interests contribute
to the impression, which, often instinctively it may be, he strives to
produce, of the manifold variety of our life. As a man of society, his
memory is full of its usages, formalities, graces, follies,
fashions--of expressive motions, postures, gestures, looks--of music,
of handicrafts, of the conversation of friends or associates--of all
that passes, so transient, yet so keenly pleasant or distasteful,
between man and man. As a traveller, he recalls continually the names
and scenes of the world;--as a man of speculation, the secrets of
nature--the phenomena of light, the theory of the planets' motions,
the idea and laws of physiology. As a man of learning, he is filled
with the thoughts and recollections of ancient fable and history; as a
politician, with the thoughts, prognostications, and hopes, of the
history of the day; as a moral philosopher he has watched himself, his
external sensations and changes, his inward passions, his mental
powers, his ideas, his conscience; he has far and wide noted
character, discriminated motives, classed good and evil deeds. All
that the man of society, of travel, of science, of learning, the
politician, the moralist, could gather, is used at will in the great
poetic structure; but all converges to the purpose, and is directed by
the intense feeling of the theologian, who sees this wonderful and
familiar scene melting into, and ending in another yet more wonderful,
but which will one day be as familiar--who sees the difficult but sure
progress of the manifold remedies of the Divine government to their
predestined issue; and, over all, God and His saints.

So comprehensive in interest is the _Commedia_. Any attempt to explain
it, by narrowing that interest to politics, philosophy, the moral
life, or theology itself, must prove inadequate. Theology strikes the
key-note; but history, natural and metaphysical science, poetry, and
art, each in their turn join in the harmony, independent, yet
ministering to the whole. If from the poem itself we could be for a
single moment in doubt of the reality and dominant place of religion
in it, the plain-spoken prose of the _Convito_ would show how he
placed "the Divine Science, full of all peace, and allowing no strife
of opinions and sophisms, for the excellent certainty of its subject,
which is God," in single perfection above all other sciences, "which
are, as Solomon speaks, but queens, or concubines, or maidens; but she
is the 'Dove,' and the 'perfect one'--'Dove,' because without stain of
strife--'perfect,' because perfectly she makes us behold the truth, in
which our soul stills itself and is at rest." But the same passage[72]
shows likewise how he viewed all human knowledge and human interests,
as holding their due place in the hierarchy of wisdom, and among the
steps of man's perfection. No account of the _Commedia_ will prove
sufficient, which does not keep in view, first of all, the high moral
purpose and deep spirit of faith with which it was written, and then
the wide liberty of materials and means which the poet allowed himself
in working out his design.

[Footnote 72: _Convito_, Tr. 2, c. 14, 15.]

Doubtless, his writings have a political aspect. The "great Ghibelline
poet" is one of Dante's received synonymes; of his strong political
opinions, and the importance he attached to them, there can be no
doubt. And he meant his poem to be the vehicle of them, and the record
to all ages of the folly and selfishness with which he saw men
governed. That he should take the deepest interest in the goings on of
his time, is part of his greatness; to suppose that he stopped at
them, or that he subordinated to political objects or feelings all the
other elements of his poem, is to shrink up that greatness into very
narrow limits. Yet this has been done by men of mark and ability, by
Italians, by men who read the _Commedia_ in their own mother-tongue.
It has been maintained as a satisfactory account of it--maintained
with great labour and pertinacious ingenuity--that Dante meant nothing
more by his poem than the conflicts and ideal triumph of a political
party. The hundred cantos of that vision of the universe are but a
manifesto of the Ghibelline propaganda, designed, under the veil of
historic images and scenes, to insinuate what it was dangerous to
announce; and Beatrice, in all her glory and sweetness, is but a
specimen of the jargon, cant, and slang of Ghibelline freemasonry.
When Italians write thus, they degrade the greatest name of their
country to a depth of laborious imbecility, to which the trifling of
schoolmen and academicians is as nothing. It is to solve the enigma of
Dante's works, by imagining for him a character in which it is hard to
say which predominates, the pedant, mountebank, or infidel. After that
we may read Voltaire's sneers with patience, and even enter with
gravity on the examination of Father Hardouin's Historic Doubts. The
fanaticism of an outraged liberalism, produced by centuries of
injustice and despotism, is but a poor excuse for such perverse

[Footnote 73: In the _Remains of Arthur Henry Hallam_ is a paper, in
which he examines and disposes of this theory with a courteous and
forbearing irony, which would have deepened probably into something
more, on thinking over it a second time.]

Dante was not a Ghibelline, though he longed for the interposition of
an Imperial power. Historically he did not belong to the Ghibelline
party. It is true that he forsook the Guelfs, with whom he had been
brought up, and that the White Guelfs, with whom he was expelled from
Florence, were at length merged and lost in the Ghibelline party[74];
and he acted with them for a time.[75] But no words can be stronger
than those in which he disjoins himself from that "evil and foolish
company," and claims his independence--

                          A te fia bello
     _Averti fatto parte per te stesso_.[76]

[Footnote 74: _Dino Comp._ pp. 89-91.]

[Footnote 75: His name appears among the White delegates in 1307.
Pelli, p. 117.]

[Footnote 76: _Parad._ 17.]

And it is not easy to conceive a Ghibelline partisan putting into the
mouth of Justinian, the type of law and empire, a general condemnation
of his party as heavy as that of their antagonists;--the crime of
having betrayed, as the Guelfs had resisted, the great symbol of
public right--

       Omai puoi giudicar di que' cotali
     Ch'io accusai di sopra, e de' lor falli
     Che son cagion di tutti i vostri mali.
       L'uno al pubblico segno i gigli gialli
     Oppone, e _quel s'appropria l'altro a parte_,
     Sì ch'è forte a veder qual più si falli.
       _Faccian li Ghibellin, faccian lor arte
     Sott'altro segno; chè mal segue quello
     Sempre chi la giustizia e lui diparte._[77]

[Footnote 77: _Ibid._ 6.]

And though, as the victim of the Guelfs of Florence, he found refuge
among Ghibelline princes, he had friends among Guelfs also. His steps
and his tongue were free to the end. And in character and feeling, in
his austerity, his sturdiness and roughness, his intolerance of
corruption and pride, his strongly-marked devotional temper, he was
much less a Ghibelline than like one of those stern Guelfs who hailed

But he had a very decided and complete political theory, which
certainly was not Guelf; and, as parties then were, it was not much
more Ghibelline. Most assuredly no set of men would have more
vigorously resisted the attempt to realise his theory, would have
joined more heartily with all immediate opponents--Guelfs, Black,
White, and Green, or even Boniface VIII.,--to keep out such an emperor
as Dante imagined, than the Ghibelline nobles and potentates.

Dante's political views were a dream; though a dream based on what had
been, and an anticipation of what was, in part at least, to come. It
was a dream in the middle ages, in divided and republican Italy, the
Italy of cities--of a real and national government, based on justice
and law. It was the dream of a real _state_. He imagined that the
Roman empire had been one great state; he persuaded himself that
Christendom might be such. He was wrong in both instances; but in this
case, as in so many others, he had already caught the spirit and ideas
of a far-distant future; and the political organisation of modern
times, so familiar to us that we cease to think of its exceeding
wonder, is the practical confirmation, though in a form very different
from what he imagined, of the depth and farsightedness of those
expectations which are in outward form so chimerical--"_i miei non
falsi errori_."

He had studied the "infinite disorders of the world" in one of their
most unrestrained scenes, the streets of an Italian republic. Law was
powerless, good men were powerless, good intentions came to naught;
neither social habits nor public power could resist, when selfishness
chose to have its way. The Church was indeed still the salt of the
nations; but it had once dared and achieved more; it had once been the
only power which ruled them. And this it could do no longer. If
strength and energy had been enough to make the Church's influence
felt on government, there was a Pope who could have done it--a man who
was undoubtedly the most wondered at and admired of his age, whom
friend or foe never characterised, without adding the invariable
epithet of his greatness of soul--the "_magnanimus peccator_,"[78]
whose Roman grandeur in meeting his unworthy fate fascinated into
momentary sympathy even Dante.[79] But among the things which
Boniface VIII. could not do, even if he cared about it, was the
maintaining peace and law in Italian towns. And while this great
political power was failing, its correlative and antagonist was
paralysed also. "Since the death of Frederic II.," says Dante's
contemporary, "the fame and recollections of the empire were well-nigh
extinguished."[80] Italy was left without government--"come nave senza
nocchiero in gran tempesta"--to the mercies of her tyrants:

         Che le terre d'Italia tutte piene
     Son di tiranni, e un Marcel diventa
     Ogni villan, che parteggiando viene.--_Purg._ 6.

[Footnote 78: Benvenuto da Imola.]

[Footnote 79:

     Veggio in Alagna entrar lo fiordaliso,
     E nel vicario suo Cristo esser catto;
       Veggiolo un'altra volta esser deriso;
     Veggio rinnovellar l'aceto e 'l fele,
     E tra vivi ladroni essere anciso.--_Purg._ 20.

G. Villani, viii. 63. Come magnanimo e valente, disse, _Dacchè per
tradimento, come Gesù Cristo, voglio esser preso e mi conviene morire,
almeno voglio morire come Papa_; e di presente si fece parare
dell'ammanto di S. Piero, e colla corona di Constantino in capo, e
colle chiavi e croce in mano, e in su la sedia papale si pose a
sedere, e giunto a lui Sciarra e gli altri suoi nimici; con villane
parole lo scherniro.]

[Footnote 80: _Dino Compagni_, p. 135.]

In this scene of violence and disorder, with the Papacy gone astray,
the empire debased and impotent, the religious orders corrupted, power
meaning lawlessness, the well-disposed become weak and cowardly,
religion neither guide nor check to society, but only the consolation
of its victims--Dante was bold and hopeful enough to believe in the
Divine appointment, and in the possibility, of law and government--of
a state. In his philosophy, the institutions which provide for man's
peace and liberty in this life are part of God's great order for
raising men to perfection;--not indispensable, yet ordinary parts;
having their important place, though but for the present time; and
though imperfect, real instruments of His moral government. He could
not believe it to be the intention of Providence, that on the
introduction of higher hopes and the foundation of a higher society,
civil society should collapse and be left to ruin, as henceforth
useless or prejudicial in man's trial and training; that the
significant intimations of nature, that law and its results, justice,
peace, and stability, ought to be and might be realised among men, had
lost their meaning and faded away before the announcement of a kingdom
not of this world. And if the perfection of civil society had not been
superseded by the Church, it had become clear, if events were to be
read as signs, that she was not intended to supply its political
offices and functions. She had taught, elevated, solaced, blessed, not
only individual souls, but society; she had for a time even governed
it: but though her other powers remained, she could govern it no
longer. Failure had made it certain that, in his strong and quaint
language, "_Virtus authorizandi regnum nostræ mortalitatis est contra
naturam ecclesiæ; ergo non est de numero virtutum suarum_."[81]
Another and distinct organisation was required for this, unless the
temporal order was no longer worthy the attention of Christians.

[Footnote 81: _De Monarch._ lib. iii. p. 188, Ed. Fraticelli.]

This is the idea of the _De Monarchia_; and though it holds but a
place in the great scheme of the _Commedia_, it is prominent there
also--an idea seen but in a fantastic shape, encumbered and confused
with most grotesque imagery, but the real idea of polity and law,
which the experience of modern Europe has attained to.

He found in clear outline in the Greek philosophy, the theory of
merely human society; and raising its end and purpose, "_finem totius
humanæ civilitatis_," to a height and dignity which Heathens could not
forecast, he adopted it in its more abstract and ideal form. He
imagined a single authority, unselfish, inflexible, irresistible,
which could make all smaller tyrannies to cease, and enable every man
to live in peace and liberty, so that he lived in justice. It is
simply what each separate state of Christendom has by this time more
or less perfectly achieved. The theoriser of the middle ages could
conceive of its accomplishment only in one form, as grand as it was
impossible--a universal monarchy.

But he did not start from an abstraction. He believed that history
attested the existence of such a monarchy. The prestige of the Roman
empire was then strong. Europe still lingers on the idea, and cannot
even yet bring itself to give up its part in that great monument of
human power. But in the middle ages the Empire was still believed to
exist. It was the last greatness which had been seen in the world, and
the world would not believe that it was over. Above all, in Italy, a
continuity of lineage, of language, of local names, and in part of
civilisation and law, forbad the thought that the great Roman people
had ceased to be. Florentines and Venetians boasted that they were
Romans: the legends which the Florentine ladies told to their maidens
at the loom were tales of their mother city, Rome. The Roman element,
little understood, but profoundly reverenced and dearly cherished, was
dominant; the conductor of civilisation, and enfolding the inheritance
of all the wisdom, experience, feeling, art, of the past, it elevated,
even while it overawed, oppressed, and enslaved. A deep belief in
Providence added to the intrinsic grandeur of the empire a sacred
character. The flight of the eagle has been often told and often sung;
but neither in Livy or Virgil, Gibbon or Bossuet, with intenser
sympathy or more kindred power, than in those rushing and unflagging
verses in which the middle-age poet hears the imperial legislator
relate the fated course of the "sacred sign," from the day when Pallas
died for it, till it accomplished the vengeance of heaven in Judæa,
and afterwards, under Charlemagne, smote down the enemies of the

[Footnote 82: _Parad._ c. 6.]

The following passage, from the _De Monarchia_, will show the poet's
view of the Roman empire, and its office in the world:

     To the reasons above alleged, a memorable experience brings
     confirmation: I mean that state of mankind which the Son of
     God, when He would for man's salvation take man upon Him,
     either waited for, or ordered when so He willed. For if from
     the fall of our first parents, which was the starting-point
     of all our wanderings, we retrace the various dispositions
     of men and their times, we shall not find at any time,
     except under the divine monarch Augustus, when a perfect
     monarchy existed, that the world was everywhere quiet. And
     that then mankind was happy in the tranquillity of universal
     peace, this all writers of history, this famous poets, this
     even the Scribe of the meekness of Christ has deigned to
     attest. And lastly, Paul has called that most blessed
     condition, the fulness of time. Truly time, and the things
     of time, were full, for no mystery of our felicity then
     lacked its minister. But how the world has gone on from the
     time when that seamless robe was first torn by the claws of
     covetousness, we may read, and would that we might not also
     see. O race of men, by how great storms and losses, by how
     great shipwrecks hast thou of necessity been vexed since,
     transformed into a beast of many heads, thou hast been
     struggling different ways, sick in understanding, equally
     sick in heart. The higher intellect, with its invincible
     reasons, thou reckest not of; nor of the inferior, with its
     eye of experience; nor of affection, with the sweetness of
     divine suasion, when the trumpet of the Holy Ghost sounds to
     thee--"Behold, how good is it, and how pleasant, brethren,
     to dwell together in unity."--_De Monarch._ lib. i. p. 54.

Yet this great Roman empire existed still unimpaired in name--not
unimposing even in what really remained of it. Dante, to supply a
want, turned it into a theory--a theory easy to smile at now, but
which contained and was a beginning of unknown or unheeded truth. What
he yearns after is the predominance of the principle of justice in
civil society. That, if it is still imperfect, is no longer a dream in
our day; but experience had never realised it to him, and he takes
refuge in tentative and groping theory. The divinations of the
greatest men have been vague and strange, and none have been stranger
than those of the author of the _De Monarchia_. The second book, in
which he establishes the title of the Roman people to Universal
Empire, is as startling a piece of mediæval argument as it would be
easy to find.

     As when we cannot attain to look upon a cause, we commonly
     wonder at a new effect, so when we know the cause, we look
     down with a certain derision on those who remain in wonder.
     And I indeed wondered once how the Roman people had, without
     any resistance, been set over the world; and looking at it
     superficially, I thought that they had obtained this by no
     right, but by mere force of arms. But when I fixed deeply
     the eyes of my mind on it, and by most effectual signs knew
     that Divine Providence had wrought this, wonder departed,
     and a certain scornful contempt came in its stead, when I
     perceived the nations raging against the pre-eminence of the
     Roman people:--when I see the people imagining a vain thing,
     as I once used to do; when, moreover, I grieve over kings
     and princes agreeing in this only, to be against their Lord
     and his anointed Roman Emperor. Wherefore in derision, not
     without a certain grief, I can cry out, for that glorious
     people and for Cæsar, with him who cried in behalf of the
     Prince of Heaven, "Why did the nations rage, and the people
     imagine vain things; the kings of the earth stood up, and
     the rulers were joined in one against the Lord and his
     anointed." But (because natural love suffers not derision to
     be of long duration, but, like the summer sun, which,
     scattering the morning mists, irradiates the east with
     light, so prefers to pour forth the light of correction)
     therefore to break the bonds of the ignorance of such kings
     and rulers, to show that the human race is free from _their_
     yoke, I will exhort myself, in company with the most holy
     Prophet, taking up his following words, "Let us break their
     bonds, and cast away from us their yoke."--_De Monarch._
     lib. ii. p. 58.

And to prove this pre-eminence of right in the Roman people, and their
heirs, the Emperors of Christendom, he appeals not merely to the
course of Providence, to their high and noble ancestry, to the
blessings of their just and considerate laws, to their unselfish
guardianship of the world--"_Romanum imperium de fonte nascitur
pietatis_;"--not merely to their noble examples of private virtue,
self-devotion, and public spirit--"those most sacred victims of the
Decian house, who laid down their lives for the public weal, as
Livy--not as _they_ deserved, but as _he_ was able--tells to their
glory; and that unspeakable sacrifice of freedom's sternest guardians,
the Catos;" not merely to the "judgment of God" in that great duel and
wager of battle for empire, in which heaven declared against all other
champions and "co-athletes"--Alexander, Pyrrhus, Hannibal, and by all
the formalities of judicial combat awarded the great prize to those
who fought, not for love or hatred, but justice--"_Quis igitur nunc
adeo obtusæ mentis est, qui non videat, sub jure duelli gloriosum
populum coronam totius orbis esse lucratum?_"--not merely to arguments
derived "from the principles of the Christian faith"--but to
_miracles_. "The Roman empire," he says, "was, in order to its
perfections, aided by the help of miracles; therefore it was willed by
God; and, by consequence, both was, and is, of right." And these
miracles, "proved by the testimony of illustrious authorities," are
the prodigies of Livy--the ancile of Numa, the geese of the Capitol,
the escape of Clelia, the hail-storm which checked Hannibal.[83]

[Footnote 83: _De Monarch._ lib. ii. pp. 62, 66, 78, 82, 84, 108-114,
116, 72-76.]

The intellectual phenomenon is a strange one. It would be less strange
if Dante were arguing in the schools, or pleading for a party. But
even Henry of Luxemburg cared little for such a throne as the poet
wanted him to fill, much less Can Grande and the Visconti. The idea,
the theory, and the argument, are of the writer's own solitary
meditation. We may wonder. But there are few things more strange than
the history of argument. How often has a cause or an idea turned out,
in the eyes of posterity, so much better than its arguments. How
often have we seen argument getting as it were into a groove, and
unable to extricate itself, so as to do itself justice. The everyday
cases of private experience, of men defending right conclusions on
wrong or conventional grounds, or in a confused form, entangled with
conclusions of a like yet different nature;--of arguments, theories,
solutions, which once satisfied, satisfying us no longer on a question
about which we hold the same belief--of one party unable to comprehend
the arguments of another--of one section of the same side smiling at
the defence of their common cause by another--are all reproduced on a
grander scale in the history of society. There too, one age cannot
comprehend another; there too it takes time to disengage, subordinate,
eliminate. Truth of this sort is not the elaboration of one keen or
strong mind, but of the secret experience of many; "_nihil sine ætate
est, omnia tempus expectant_." But a counterpart to the _De Monarchia_
is not wanting in our own day; theory has not ceased to be mighty. In
warmth and earnestness, in sense of historic grandeur, in its support
of a great cause and a great idea, not less than in the thought of its
motto, [Greek: heis koiranos estô], De Maistre's volume _Du Pape_,
recalls the antagonist _De Monarchia_; but it recalls it not less in
its bold dealing with facts, and its bold assumption of principles,
though the knowledge and debates of five more busy centuries, and the
experience of modern courts and revolutions, might have guarded the
Piedmontese nobleman from the mistakes of the old Florentine.

But the idea of the _De Monarchia_ is no key to the _Commedia_. The
direct and primary purpose of the _Commedia_ is surely its obvious
one. It is to stamp a deep impression on the mind, of the issues of
good and ill doing here--of the real worlds of pain and joy. To do
this forcibly, it is done in detail--of course it can only be done in
figure. Punishment, purification, or the fulness of consolation are,
as he would think, at this very moment, the lot of all the numberless
spirits who have ever lived here--spirits still living and sentient as
himself: parallel with our life, they too are suffering or are at
rest. Without pause or interval, in all its parts simultaneously, this
awful scene is going on--the judgments of God are being
fulfilled--could we but see it. It exists, it might be seen, at each
instant of time, by a soul whose eyes were opened, which was carried
through it. And this he imagines. It had been imagined before; it is
the working out, which is peculiar to him. It is not a barren vision.
His subject is, besides the eternal world, the soul which contemplates
it; by sight, according to his figures--in reality, by faith. As he is
led on from woe to deeper woe, then through the tempered
chastisements and resignation of Purgatory to the beatific vision, he
is tracing the course of the soul on earth, realising sin and weaning
itself from it--of its purification and preparation for its high lot,
by converse with the good and wise, by the remedies of grace, by
efforts of will and love, perhaps by the dominant guidance of some
single pure and holy influence, whether of person, or institution, or
thought. Nor will we say but that beyond this earthly probation, he is
not also striving to grasp and imagine to himself something of that
awful process and training, by which, whether in or out of the flesh,
the spirit is made fit to meet its Maker, its Judge, and its Chief

Thus it seems that even in its main design, the poem has more than one
aspect; it is a picture, a figure, partially a history, perhaps an
anticipation. And this is confirmed, by what the poet has himself
distinctly stated, of his ideas of poetic composition. His view is
expressed generally in his philosophical treatise, the _Convito_; but
it is applied directly to the _Commedia_, in a letter, which, if in
its present form, of doubtful authenticity, without any question
represents his sentiments, and the substance of which is incorporated
in one of the earliest writings on the poem, Boccaccio's commentary.
The following is his account of the subject of the poem:

     For the evidence of what is to be said, it is to be noted,
     that this work is not of one single meaning only, but may be
     said to have many meanings ("_polysensuum_"). For the first
     meaning is that of the letter--another is that of things
     signified by the letter; the first of these is called the
     literal sense, the second, the allegorical or moral. This
     mode of treating a subject may for clearness' sake be
     considered in those verses of the Psalm, "_In exitu
     Israel_." "When Israel came out of Egypt, and the house of
     Jacob from the strange people, Judah was his sanctuary, and
     Israel his dominion." For if we look at the _letter_ only,
     there is here signified, the going out of the children of
     Israel in the time of Moses--if at the _allegory_ there is
     signified our redemption through Christ--if at the _moral_
     sense there is signified to us the conversion of the soul
     from the mourning and misery of sin to the state of
     grace--if at the _anagogic_ sense,[84] there is signified
     the passing out of the holy soul from the bondage of this
     corruption to the liberty of everlasting glory. And these
     mystical meanings, though called by different names, may all
     be called _allegorical_ as distinguished from the literal or
     historical sense.... This being considered, it is plain that
     there ought to be a twofold subject, concerning which the
     two corresponding meanings may proceed. Therefore we must
     consider first concerning the subject of this work as it is
     to be understood literally, then as it is to be considered
     allegorically. The subject then of the whole work, taken
     literally only, is the state of souls after death considered
     in itself. For about this, and on this, the whole work
     turns. But if the work be taken allegorically, its subject
     is man, as, by his freedom of choice deserving well or ill,
     he is subject to the justice which rewards and punishes.[85]

[Footnote 84:

     _Litera_ gesta refert, quid credas _allegoria_,
     _Moralis_ quid agas, quid speres _anagogia_.

     De Witte's note from _Buti_.]

[Footnote 85: Ep. ad _Kan Grand._ § 6, 7.]

The passage in the _Convito_ is to the same effect; but his remarks on
the _moral_ and _anagogic_ meaning may be quoted:

     The third sense is called _moral_; that it is which readers
     ought to go on noting carefully in writings, for their own
     profit and that of their disciples: as in the Gospel it may
     be noted, when Christ went up to the mountain to be
     transfigured, that of the twelve Apostles, he took with him
     only three; in which morally we may understand, that in the
     most secret things we ought to have but few companions. The
     fourth sort of meaning is called _anagogic_, that is, above
     our sense; and this is when we spiritually interpret a
     passage, which even in its literal meaning, by means of the
     things signified, expresses the heavenly things of
     everlasting glory: as may be seen in that song of the
     Prophet, which says, that in the coming out of the people of
     Israel from Egypt, Judah was made holy and free; which
     although it is manifestly true according to the letter, is
     not less true as spiritually understood; that is, that when
     the soul comes out of sin, it is made holy and free, in its
     own power.[86]

[Footnote 86: _Convito_, Tr. 2, c. 1.]

With this passage before us there can be no doubt of the meaning,
however veiled, of those beautiful lines, already referred to, in
which Virgil, after having conducted the poet up the steeps of
Purgatory, where his sins have been one by one cancelled by the
ministering angels, finally takes leave of him, and bids him wait for
Beatrice, on the skirts of the earthly Paradise:

       Come la scala tutta sotto noi
     Fu corsa e fummo in su 'l grado superno,
     In me ficcò Virgilio gli occhi suoi,
       E disse: "Il temporal fuoco, e l'eterno
     Veduto hai, figlio, e se' venuto in parte
     Ov'io per me più oltre non discerno.
       Tratto t'ho qui con ingegno e con arte:
     Lo tuo piacere omai prendi per duce;
     Fuor se' dell'erte vie, fuor se' dell'arte.
       Vedi il sole che 'n fronte ti riluce:
     Vedi l'erbetta, i fiori, e gli arboscelli
     Che quella terra sol da sè produce.
       Mentre che vegnon lieti gli occhi belli
     Che lagrimando a te venir mi fenno,
     Seder ti puoi e puoi andar tra elli.
       Non aspettar mio dir più nè mio cenno:
     Libero, dritto, sano è tuo arbitrio,
     E fallo fora non fare a suo senno:--
       Perch'io te sopra te corono e mitrio."[87]

[Footnote 87:

                    When we had run
     O'er all the ladder to its topmost round,
     As there we stood, on me the Mantuan fix'd
     His eyes, and thus he spake: "Both fires, my son,
     The temporal and the eternal, thou hast seen:
     And art arrived, where of itself my ken
     No further reaches. I with skill and art,
     Thus far have drawn thee. Now thy pleasure take
     For guide. Thou hast o'ercome the steeper way,
     O'ercome the straiter. Lo! the sun, that darts
     His beam upon thy forehead: lo! the herb,
     The arborets and flowers, which of itself
     This land pours forth profuse. Till those bright eyes
     With gladness come, which, weeping, made me haste
     To succour thee, thou mayest or seat thee down,
     Or wander where thou wilt. Expect no more
     Sanction of warning voice or sign from me,
     Free of thine own arbitrement to choose,
     Discreet, judicious. To distrust thy sense
     Were henceforth error. I invest thee then
     With crown and mitre, sovereign o'er thyself."

     _Purg._ c. 27--CARY.]

The general meaning of the _Commedia_ is clear enough. But it
certainly does appear to refuse to be fitted into a connected formal
scheme of interpretation. It is not a homogeneous, consistent
allegory, like the _Pilgrim's Progress_ and the _Fairy Queen_. The
allegory continually breaks off, shifts its ground, gives place to
other elements, or mingles with them--like a stream which suddenly
sinks into the earth, and after passing under plains and mountains,
reappears in a distant point, and in different scenery. We can,
indeed, imagine its strange author commenting on it, and finding or
marking out its prosaic substratum, with the cold-blooded precision
and scholastic distinctions of the _Convito_. However, he has not done
so. And of the many enigmas which present themselves, either in its
structure or separate parts, the key seems hopelessly lost. The early
commentators are very ingenious, but very unsatisfactory; they see
where we can see, but beyond that they are as full of uncertainty as
ourselves. It is in character with that solitary and haughty spirit,
while touching universal sympathies, appalling and charming all
hearts, to have delighted in his own dark sayings, which had meaning
only to himself. It is true that, whether in irony, or from that
quaint studious care for the appearance of literal truth, which makes
him apologise for the wonders which he relates, and confirm them by an
oath, "on the words of his poem,"[88] he provokes and challenges us;
bids us admire "doctrine hidden under strange verses;"[89] bids us
strain our eyes, for the veil is thin:

     Aguzza, qui, lettor, ben l'occhi al vero:
     Chè il velo è ora ben tanto sottile,
     Certo, che il trapassar dentro è leggiero.--_Purg._ c. 8.

But eyes are still strained in conjecture and doubt.

[Footnote 88:

       Sempre a quel ver, ch'ha faccia di menzogna,
     De' l'uom chiuder le labbra, quanto puote,
     Però che senza colpa fa vergogna.
       Ma qui tacer nol posso; e per le note
     Di questa _Commedia_, lettor, ti giuro
     S'elle non sien di lunga grazia vote, &c.--_Inf._ 16.]

[Footnote 89: _Inf._ 9.]

Yet the most certain and detailed commentary, one which assigned the
exact reason for every image or allegory, and its place and connexion
in a general scheme, would add but little to the charm or to the use
of the poem. It is not so obscure but that every man's experience who
has thought over and felt the mystery of our present life, may supply
the commentary--the more ample, the wider and more various has been
his experience, the deeper and keener his feeling. Details and links
of connexion may be matter of controversy. Whether the three beasts of
the forest mean definitely the vices of the time, or of Florence
specially, or of the poet himself--"the wickedness of his heels,
compassing him round about"--may still exercise critics and
antiquaries; but that they carry with them distinct and special
impressions of evil, and that they are the hindrances of man's
salvation, is not doubtful. And our knowledge of the key of the
allegory, where we possess it, contributes but little to the effect.
We may infer from the _Convito_[90] that the eyes of Beatrice stand
definitely for the _demonstrations_, and her smiles for the
_persuasions_ of wisdom; but the poetry of the Paradiso is not about
demonstrations and persuasions, but about looks and smiles; and the
ineffable and holy calm--"_serenitatis et æternitatis afflatus_"--which
pervades it, comes from the sacred truths, and holy persons, and that
deep spirit of high-raised yet composed devotion, which it requires no
interpreter to show us.

[Footnote 90: _Convito_, Tr. 3, c. 15.]

Figure and symbol, then, are doubtless the law of composition in the
_Commedia_; but this law discloses itself very variously, and with
different degrees of strictness. In its primary and most general form,
it is palpable, consistent, pervading. There can be no doubt that the
poem is meant to be understood figuratively--no doubt of what in
general it is meant to shadow forth--no doubt as to the general
meaning of its parts, their connexion with each other. But in its
secondary and subordinate applications, the law works--to our eye at
least--irregularly, unequally, and fitfully. There can be no question
that Virgil, the poet's guide, represents the purely human element in
the training of the soul and of society, as Beatrice does the divine.
But neither represent the whole; he does not sum up all appliances of
wisdom in Virgil, nor all teachings and influences of grace in
Beatrice; these have their separate figures. And both represent
successively several distinct forms of their general antitypes. They
have various degrees of abstractness, and narrow down, according to
that order of things to which they refer and correspond, into the
special and the personal. In the general economy of the poem, Virgil
stands for human wisdom in its widest sense; but he also stands for it
in its various shapes, in the different parts. He is the type of human
philosophy and science.[91] He is, again, more definitely, that spirit
of imagination and poetry, which opens men's eyes to the glory of the
visible, and the truth of the invisible; and to Italians, he is a
definite embodiment of it, their own great poet, "_vates, poeta
noster_."[92] In the Christian order, he is human wisdom, dimly
mindful of its heavenly origin--presaging dimly its return to
God--sheltering in heathen times that "vague and unconnected family
of religious truths, originally from God, but sojourning without the
sanction of miracle or visible home, as pilgrims up and down the
world."[93] In the political order, he is the guide of law-givers,
wisdom fashioning the impulses and instincts of men into the harmony
of society, contriving stability and peace, guarding justice; fit part
for the poet to fill, who had sung the origin of Rome, and the justice
and peace of Augustus. In the order of individual life, and the
progress of the individual soul, he is the human conscience witnessing
to duty, its discipline and its hopes, and with yet more certain and
fearful presage, to its vindication; the human conscience seeing and
acknowledging the law, but unable to confer power to fulfil
it--wakened by grace from among the dead, leading the living man up to
it, and waiting for its light and strength. But he is more than a
figure. To the poet himself, who blends with his high argument his
whole life, Virgil had been the utmost that mind can be to
mind--teacher, quickener and revealer of power, source of thought,
exemplar and model, never disappointing, never attained to, observed
with "long study and great love:"

     Tu duca, tu signor, e tu maestro.--_Inf._ 2.

[Footnote 91: "O tu ch'onori ogni scienza ed arte."--_Inf._ 4. "Quel
savio gentil che tutto seppe."--_Inf._ 7. "Il mar di tutto 'l
senno."--_Inf._ 8.]

[Footnote 92: _De Monarchia._]

[Footnote 93: Newman's _Arians_.]

And towards this great master, the poet's whole soul is poured forth
in reverence and affection. To Dante he is no figure, but a
person--with feelings and weaknesses--overcome by the vexation,
kindling into the wrath, carried away by the tenderness, of the
moment. He reads his scholar's heart, takes him by the hand in danger,
carries him in his arms and in his bosom, "like a son more than a
companion," rebukes his unworthy curiosity, kisses him when he shows a
noble spirit, asks pardon for his own mistakes. Never were the kind,
yet severe ways of a master, or the disciple's diffidence and
open-heartedness, drawn with greater force, or less effort; and he
seems to have been reflecting on his own affection to Virgil, when he
makes Statius forget that they were both but shades:

     Or puoi la quantitate
     Comprender dell'amor ch'a te mi scalda,
     Quando _dismento la nostra vanitate
     Trattando l'ombre come cosa salda_.--_Purg._ 21.

And so with the poet's second guide. The great idea which Beatrice
figures, though always present, is seldom rendered artificially
prominent, and is often entirely hidden beneath the rush of real
recollections, and the creations of dramatic power. Abstractions
venture and trust themselves among realities, and for the time are
forgotten. A name, a real person, a historic passage, a lament or
denunciation, a tragedy of actual life, a legend of classic times, the
fortunes of friends--the story of Francesca or Ugolino, the fate of
Buonconte's corpse, the apology of Pier delle Vigne, the epitaph of
Madonna Pia, Ulysses' western voyage, the march of Roman
history--appear and absorb for themselves all interest: or else it is
a philosophical speculation, or a theory of morality, or a case of
conscience--not indeed alien from the main subject, yet independent of
the allegory, and not translateable into any new meaning--standing on
their own ground, worked out each according to its own law; but they
do not disturb the main course of the poet's thought, who grasps and
paints each detail of human life in its own peculiarity, while he sees
in each a significance and interest beyond itself. He does not stop in
each case to tell us so, but he makes it felt. The tale ends, the
individual disappears, and the great allegory resumes its course. It
is like one of those great musical compositions which alone seem
capable of adequately expressing, in a limited time, a course of
unfolding and change, in an idea, a career, a life, a society--where
one great thought predominates, recurs, gives colour and meaning, and
forms the unity of the whole, yet passes through many shades and
transitions; is at one time definite, at another suggestive and
mysterious; incorporating and giving free place and play to airs and
melodies even of an alien cast; striking off abruptly from its
expected road, but without ever losing itself, without breaking its
true continuity, or failing of its completeness.

This then seems to us the end and purpose of the _Commedia_;--to
produce on the mind a sense of the judgments of God, analogous to that
produced by Scripture itself. They are presented to us in the Bible in
shapes which address themselves primarily to the heart and conscience,
and seek not carefully to explain themselves. They are likened to the
"great deep," to the "strong mountains"--vast and awful, but abrupt
and incomplete, as the huge, broken, rugged piles and chains of
mountains. And we see them through cloud and mist, in shapes only
approximating to the true ones. Still they impress us deeply and
truly, often the more deeply because unconsciously. A character, an
event, a word, isolated and unexplained, stamps its meaning
ineffaceably, though ever a matter of question and wonder; it may be
dark to the intellect, yet the conscience understands it, often but
too well. In such suggestive ways is the Divine government for the
most part put before us in the Bible--ways which do not satisfy the
understanding, but which fill us with a sense of reality. And it seems
to have been by meditating on them, which he certainly did, much and
thoughtfully--and on the infinite variety of similar ways in which
the strongest impressions are conveyed to us in ordinary life, by
means short of clear and distinct explanation--by looks, by images, by
sounds, by motions, by remote allusion and broken words, that Dante
was led to choose so new and remarkable a mode of conveying to his
countrymen his thoughts and feelings and presentiments about the
mystery of God's counsel. The Bible teaches us by means of real
history, traced so far as is necessary along its real course. The poet
expresses his view of the world also in real history, but carried on
into figure.

The poetry with which the Christian Church had been instinct from the
beginning, converges and is gathered up in the _Commedia_. The faith
had early shown its poetical aspect. It is superfluous to dwell on
this, for it is the charge against ancient teaching that it was too
large and imaginative. It soon began to try rude essays in sculpture
and mosaic: expressed its feeling of nature in verse and prose, rudely
also, but often with originality and force; and opened a new vein of
poetry in the thoughts, hopes, and aspirations of regenerate man.
Modern poetry must go back, for many of its deepest and most powerful
sources, to the writings of the Fathers, and their followers of the
School. The Church further had a poetry of its own, besides the poetry
of literature; it had the poetry of devotion--the Psalter chanted
daily, in a new language and a new meaning; and that wonderful body of
hymns, to which age after age had contributed its offering, from the
Ambrosian hymns to the _Veni, Sancte Spiritus_ of a king of France,
the _Pange lingua_ of Thomas Aquinas, the _Dies iræ_, and _Stabat
Mater_, of the two Franciscan brethren, Thomas of Celano, and
Jacopone.[94] The elements and fragments of poetry were everywhere in
the Church--in her ideas of life, in her rules and institutions for
passing through it, in her preparation for death, in her offices,
ceremonial, celebrations, usages, her consecration of domestic,
literary, commercial, civic, military, political life, the meanings
and ends she had given them, the religious seriousness with which the
forms of each were dignified--in her doctrine, and her dogmatic
system--her dependence on the unseen world--her Bible. From each and
all of these, and from that public feeling, which, if it expressed
itself but abruptly and incoherently, was quite alive to the poetry
which surrounded it, the poet received due impressions of greatness
and beauty, of joy and dread. Then the poetry of Christian religion
and Christian temper, hitherto dispersed, or manifested in act only,
found its full and distinct utterance, not unworthy to rank in
grandeur, in music, in sustained strength, with the last noble voices
from expiring Heathenism.

[Footnote 94: Trench, Sacred Latin Poetry, 1849.]

But a long interval had passed since then. The _Commedia_ first
disclosed to Christian and modern Europe that it was to have a
literature of its own, great and admirable, though in its own language
and embodying its own ideas. "It was as if, at some of the ancient
games, a stranger had appeared upon the plain, and thrown his quoit
among the marks of former casts, which tradition had ascribed to the
demi-gods."[95] We are so accustomed to the excellent and varied
literature of modern times, so original, so perfect in form and rich
in thought, so expressive of all our sentiments, meeting so completely
our wants, fulfilling our ideas, that we can scarcely imagine the time
when this condition was new--when society was beholden to a foreign
language for the exponents of its highest thoughts and feelings. But
so it was when Dante wrote. The great poets, historians, philosophers
of his day, the last great works of intellect, belonged to old Rome,
and the Latin language. So wonderful and prolonged was the fascination
of Rome. Men still lived under its influence; believed that the Latin
language was the perfect and permanent instrument of thought in its
highest forms, the only expression of refinement and civilisation; and
had not conceived the hope that their own dialects could ever rise to
such heights of dignity and power. Latin, which had enchased and
preserved such precious remains of ancient wisdom, was now shackling
the living mind in its efforts. Men imagined that they were still
using it naturally on all high themes and solemn business; but though
they used it with facility, it was no longer natural; it had lost the
elasticity of life, and had become in their hands a stiffened and
distorted, though still powerful, instrument. The very use of the word
_latino_ in the writers of this period, to express what is clear and
philosophical in language,[96] while it shows their deep reverence for
it, shows how Latin civilisation was no longer their own, how it had
insensibly become an external and foreign element. But they found it
very hard to resign their claim to a share in its glories; with
nothing of their own to match against it, they still delighted to
speak of it as "our language," or its writers as "our poets," "our

[Footnote 95: Hallam's _Middle Ages_, c. ix. vol. iii. p. 563.]

[Footnote 96: _Parad._ 3, 12, 17. _Convit._ p. 108. "A più
_Latinamente_ vedere la sentenza letterale."]

[Footnote 97: _Vid._ the _De Monarchia_.]

The spell was indeed beginning to break. Guido Cavalcanti, Dante's
strange, stern, speculative friend, who is one of the fathers of the
Italian language, is characterised in the _Commedia_[98] by his
scornful dislike of Latin, even in the mouth of Virgil. Yet Dante
himself, the great assertor, by argument and example, of the powers of
the Vulgar tongue, once dared not to think that the Vulgar tongue
could be other to the Latin, than as a subject to his sovereign. He
was bolder when he wrote _De Vulgari Eloquio_: but in the earlier
_Convito_, while pleading earnestly for the beauty of the Italian, he
yields with reverence the first place to the Latin--for nobleness,
because the Latin is permanent, and the Vulgar subject to fluctuation
and corruption; for power, because the Latin can express conceptions
to which the Vulgar is unequal; for beauty, because the structure of
the Latin is a masterly arrangement of scientific art, and the beauty
of the Vulgar depends on mere use.[99] The very title of his poem, the
_Commedia_, contains in it a homage to the lofty claims of the Latin.
It is called a Comedy, and not Tragedy, he says, after a marvellous
account of the essence and etymology of the two, first, because it
begins sadly, and ends joyfully; and next, because of its language,
that humble speech of ordinary life, "in which even women

[Footnote 98: _Inf._ 10, and compare the _Vit. N._ p. 334, ed.

[Footnote 99: _Convito_, i. 5.]

[Footnote 100: Ep. ad Kan Grand. §9,--a curious specimen of the
learning of the time: "Sciendum est, quod _Comoedia_ dicitur a
[Greek: kômê], _villa_ et [Greek: ôdê], quod est _cantus_, unde
_Comoedia_ quasi _villanus cantus_. Et est _Comoedia genus quoddam
poeticæ narrationis_, ab omnibus aliis differens. Differt ergo a
Tragoedia in materia per hoc, quod Tragoedia in principio est
admirabilis et quieta, in fine foetida et horribilis; et dicitur
propter hoc a [Greek: tragos], i.e. _hircus_, et [Greek: ôdê], quasi
_cantus hircinus_, i.e. foetidus ad modum hirci, ut patet per
Senecam in suis tragoediis. _Comoedia_ vero inchoat asperitatem
alicujus rei, sed ejus materia prospere terminatur, ut patet per
Terentium in suis _Comoediis_.... Similiter differunt in modo
loquendi; elate et sublime Tragoedia, _Comoedia_ vero remisse et
humiliter sicut vult Horat. in Poët.... Et per hoc patet, quod
_Comoedia_ diciter præsens opus. Nam si ad materiam respiciamus, a
principio horribilis et foetida est, quia _Infernus_: in fine
prospera, desiderabilis et grata, quia _Paradisus_. Si ad modum
loquendi, remissus est modus et humilis, quia locutio Vulgaris, in qua
et mulierculæ communicant. Et sic patet quia _Comoedia_ dicitur."
Cf. de Vulg. Eloq. 2, 4, _Parad._ 30. He calls the Æneid, "_l'alta
Tragedia_," _Inf._ 20, 113. Compare also Boccaccio's explanation of
his mother's dream of the _peacock_. Dante, he says, is like the
Peacock, among other reasons, "because the peacock has coarse feet,
and a quiet gait;" and "the vulgar language, on which the _Commedia_
supports itself, is coarse in comparison with the high and masterly
literary style which every other poet uses, though it be more
beautiful than others, being in conformity with modern minds. The
quiet gait signifies the humility of the style, which is necessarily
required in _Commedia_, as those know who understand what is meant by

He honoured the Latin, but his love was for the Italian. He was its
champion, and indignant defender against the depreciation of ignorance
and fashion. Confident of its power and jealous of its beauty, he
pours forth his fierce scorn on the blind stupidity, the affectation,
the vain glory, the envy, and above all, the cowardice of Italians who
held lightly their mother tongue. "Many," he says, after enumerating
the other offenders, "from this pusillanimity and cowardice disparage
their own language, and exalt that of others; and of this sort are
those hateful dastards of Italy--_abbominevoli cattivi d'Italia_--who
think vilely of that precious language; which, if it is vile in
anything, is vile only so far as it sounds in the prostituted mouth of
these adulterers."[101] He noted and compared its various dialects; he
asserted its capabilities not only in verse, but in expressive,
flexible, and majestic prose. And to the deliberate admiration of the
critic and the man, were added the homely but dear associations, which
no language can share with that of early days. Italian had been the
language of his parents--"_Questo mio Volgare fu il congiugnitore
delli miei generanti, che con esso parlavano_"--and further, it was
this modern language, "_questo mio Volgare_," which opened to him the
way of knowledge, which had introduced him to Latin, and the sciences
which it contained. It was his benefactor and guide--he personifies
it--and his boyish friendship had grown stronger and more intimate by
mutual good offices. "There has also been between us the goodwill of
intercourse; for from the beginning of my life I have had with it
kindness and conversation, and have used it, deliberating,
interpreting, and questioning; so that, if friendship grows with use,
it is evident how it must have grown in me."[102]

[Footnote 101: _Convito_, i. 11.]

[Footnote 102: _Convito_, i. 13.]

From this language he exacted a hard trial;--a work which should rank
with the ancient works. None such had appeared; none had even advanced
such a pretension. Not that it was a time dead to literature or
literary ambition. Poets and historians had written, and were writing
in Italian. The same year of jubilee which fixed itself so deeply in
Dante's mind, and became the epoch of his vision--the same scene of
Roman greatness in its decay, which afterwards suggested to Gibbon the
_Decline and Fall_, prompted, in the father of Italian history, the
desire to follow in the steps of Sallust and Livy, and prepare the way
for Machiavelli and Guicciardini, Davila, and Fra Paolo.[103] Poetry
had been cultivated in the Roman languages of the West--in Aquitaine
and Provence, especially--for more than two centuries; and lately,
with spirit and success, in Italian. Names had become popular,
reputations had risen and waned, verses circulated and were
criticised, and even descended from the high and refined circles to
the workshop. A story is told of Dante's indignation, when he heard
the canzoni which had charmed the Florentine ladies mangled by the
rude enthusiasm of a blacksmith at his forge.[104] Literature was a
growing fashion; but it was humble in its aspirations and efforts. Men
wrote like children, surprised and pleased with their success; yet
allowing themselves in mere amusement, because conscious of weakness
which they could not cure.

[Footnote 103: G. Villani was at Rome in the year of jubilee 1300, and
describes the great concourse and order of the pilgrims, whom he
reckons at 200,000, in the course of the year. "And I," he proceeds,
"finding myself in that blessed pilgrimage in the holy city of Rome,
seeing the great and ancient things of the same, and reading the
histories of the great deeds of the Romans, written by Virgil, and by
Sallust, and Lucan, and Titus Livius, and Valerius, and Paulus
Orosius, and other masters of histories, who wrote as well of the
smaller matters as of the greater, concerning the exploits and deeds
of the Romans; and further, of the strange things of the whole world,
for memory and example's sake to those who should come after--I, too,
took their style and fashion, albeit that, as their scholar, I be not
worthy to execute such a work. But, considering that our city of
Florence, the daughter and creation of Rome, was in its rising, and on
the eve of achieving great things, as Rome was in its decline, it
seemed to me convenient to bring into this volume and new chronicle
all the deeds and beginnings of the city of Florence, so far as I have
been able to gather and recover them; and for the future, to follow at
large the doings of the Florentines, and the other notable things of
the world briefly, as long as it may be God's pleasure; under which
hope, rather by his grace than by my poor science, I entered on this
enterprise: and so, in the year 1300, being returned from Rome, I
began to compile this book, in reverence towards God and St. John, and
commendation of our city of Florence."--_G. Vill._ viii. 36.]

[Footnote 104: _Sacchetti_, Nov. 114.]

Dante, by the _Divina Commedia_, was the restorer of seriousness in
literature. He was so, by the magnitude and pretensions of his work,
and by the earnestness of its spirit. He first broke through the
prescription which had confined great works to the Latin, and the
faithless prejudices which, in the language of society, could see
powers fitted for no higher task than that of expressing, in curiously
diversified forms, its most ordinary feelings. But he did much more.
Literature was going astray in its tone, while growing in importance;
the _Commedia_ checked it. The Provençal and Italian poetry was, with
the exception of some pieces of political satire, almost exclusively
amatory, in the most fantastic and affected fashion. In expression, it
had not even the merit of being natural; in purpose it was trifling;
in the spirit which it encouraged, it was something worse. Doubtless
it brought a degree of refinement with it, but it was refinement
purchased at a high price, by intellectual distortion, and moral
insensibility. But this was not all. The brilliant age of Frederick
II., for such it was, was deeply mined by religious unbelief. However
strange this charge first sounds against the thirteenth century, no
one can look at all closely into its history, at least in Italy,
without seeing that the idea of infidelity--not heresy, but
infidelity--was quite a familiar one; and that side by side with the
theology of Aquinas and Bonaventura, there was working among those who
influenced fashion and opinion, among the great men, and the men to
whom learning was a profession, a spirit of scepticism and irreligion
almost monstrous for its time, which found its countenance in
Frederick's refined and enlightened court. The genius of the great
doctors might have kept in safety the Latin Schools, but not the free
and home thoughts which found utterance in the language of the people,
if the solemn beauty of the Italian _Commedia_ had not seized on all
minds. It would have been an evil thing for Italian, perhaps for
European literature, if the siren tales of the _Decameron_ had been
the first to occupy the ear with the charms of a new language.

Dante has had hard measure, and from some who are most beholden to
him. No one in his day served the Church more highly, than he whose
faith and genius secured on her side the first great burst of
imagination and feeling, the first perfect accents of modern speech.
The first-fruits of the new literature were consecrated, and offered
up. There was no necessity, or even probability in Italy in the
fourteenth century that it should be so, as there might perhaps have
been earlier. It was the poet's free act--free in one, for whom nature
and heathen learning had strong temptations--that religion was the
lesson and influence of the great popular work of the time. That
which he held up before men's awakened and captivated minds, was the
verity of God's moral government. To rouse them to a sense of the
mystery of their state; to startle their commonplace notions of sin
into an imagination of its variety, its magnitude, and its infinite
shapes and degrees; to open their eyes to the beauty of the Christian
temper, both as suffering and as consummated; to teach them at once
the faithfulness and awful freeness of God's grace; to help the dull
and lagging soul to conceive the possibility, in its own case, of
rising step by step in joy without an end--of a felicity not
unimaginable by man, though of another order from the highest
perfection of earth;--this is the poet's end. Nor was it only vague
religious feelings which he wished to excite. He brought within the
circle of common thought, and translated into the language of the
multitude, what the Schools had done to throw light on the deep
questions of human existence, which all are fain to muse upon, though
none can solve. He who had opened so much of men's hearts to
themselves, opened to them also that secret sympathy which exists
between them and the great mysteries of the Christian doctrine.[105]
He did the work, in his day, of a great preacher. Yet he has been
both claimed and condemned, as a disturber of the Church's faith.

[Footnote 105: _Vide_ Ozanam.]

He certainly did not spare the Church's rulers. He thought they were
betraying the most sacred of all trusts; and if history is at all to
be relied on, he had some grounds for thinking so. But it is confusing
the feelings of the middle ages with our own, to convert every fierce
attack on the Popes into an anticipation of Luther. Strong language of
this sort was far too commonplace to be so significant. No age is
blind to practical abuses, or silent on them; and when the middle ages
complained, they did so with a full-voiced and clamorous rhetoric,
which greedily seized on every topic of vilification within its reach.
It was far less singular, and far less bold, to criticise
ecclesiastical authorities, than is often supposed; but it by no means
implied unsettled faith, or a revolutionary design. In Dante's case,
if words have any meaning--not words of deliberate qualification, but
his unpremeditated and incidental expressions--his faith in the Divine
mission and spiritual powers of the Popes was as strong as his
abhorrence of their degeneracy, and desire to see it corrected by a
power which they would respect--that of the temporal sword. It would
be to mistake altogether his character, to imagine of him, either as a
fault or as an excellence, that he was a doubter. It might as well be
supposed of Aquinas.

No one ever acknowledged with greater seriousness, as a fact in his
position in the world, the agreement in faith among those with whom he
was born. No one ever inclined with more simplicity and reverence
before that long communion and consent in feeling and purpose, the
"_publicus_ sensus" of the Christian Church. He did feel difficulties;
but the excitement of lingering on them was not among his enjoyments.
That was the lot of the heathen; Virgil, made wise by death, counsels
him not to desire it:

       "Matto è chi spera, che nostra ragione
     Possa trascorrer la 'nfinita via
     Che tiene una sustanzia in tre Persone.
       State contenti, umana gente, al _quia_;
     Chè se potuto aveste veder tutto,
     Mestier non era partorir Maria:
       E disiar vedeste senza frutto
     Tai, che sarebbe lor disio quetato,
     Ch'eternamente è dato lor per lutto;
       I' dico d'Aristotile e di Plato,
     E di molti altri:"--e qui chinò la fronte,
     E più non disse, e rimase turbato.--_Purg._ c. 3.[106]

[Footnote 106:

     "Insensate he, who thinks with mortal ken
       To pierce Infinitude, which doth enfold
       Three Persons in one Substance. Seek not then,
     O mortal race, for reasons--but believe,
       And be contented; for had all been seen,
       No need there was for Mary to conceive.
     Men have ye known, who thus desired in vain;
       And whose desires, that might at rest have been,
       Now constitute a source of endless pain;
     Plato, the Stagirite; and many more,
       I here allude to;"--then his head he bent,
       Was silent, and a troubled aspect wore.--WRIGHT.]

The Christian poet felt that it was greater to believe and to act. In
the darkness of the world one bright light appeared, and he followed
it. Providence had assigned him his portion of truth, his portion of
daily bread; if to us it appears blended with human elements, it is
perfectly clear that he was in no position to sift them. To choose was
no trial of his. To examine and seek, where it was impossible to find,
would have been folly. The authority from which he started had not yet
been seriously questioned; there were no palpable signs of
doubtfulness on the system which was to him the representative of
God's will; and he sought for none. It came to him claiming his
allegiance by custom, by universality, by its completeness as a whole,
and satisfying his intellect and his sympathies in detail. And he gave
his allegiance--reasonably, because there was nothing to hope for in
doubting--wisely, because he gave it loyally and from his heart.

And he had his reward--the reward of him who throws himself with
frankness and earnestness into a system; who is not afraid or
suspicious of it; who is not unfaithful to it. He gained not merely
power--he gained that freedom and largeness of mind which the
suspicious or the unfaithful miss. His loyalty to the Church was no
cramping or blinding service; it left to its full play that fresh and
original mind, left it to range at will in all history and all nature
for the traces of Eternal wisdom, left it to please itself with all
beauty, and pay its homage to all excellence. For upon all wisdom,
beauty, and excellence, the Church had taught him to see, in various
and duly distinguished degrees, the seal of the one Creator. She
imparts to the poem, to its form and progressive development, her own
solemnity, her awe, her calm, her serenity and joy; it follows her
sacred seasons and hours; repeats her appointed words of benediction
and praise; moulds itself on her belief, her expectations, and
forecastings.[107] Her intimations, more or less distinct, dogma or
tradition or vague hint, guide the poet's imagination through the land
where all eyes are open. The journey begins under the Easter moon of
the year of jubilee, on the evening of Good Friday; the days of her
mourning he spends in the regions of woe, where none dares to
pronounce the name of the Redeemer, and he issues forth to "behold
again the stars," to learn how to die to sin and rise to
righteousness, very early in the morning, as it begins to dawn, on the
day of the Resurrection. The whole arrangement of the _Purgatorio_ is
drawn from Church usages. It is a picture of men suffering in calm and
holy hope the sharp discipline of repentance, amid the prayers, the
melodies, the consoling images and thoughts, the orderly ritual, the
hours of devotion, the sacraments of the Church militant. When he
ascends in his hardiest flight, and imagines the joys of the perfect
and the vision of God, his abundant fancy confines itself strictly to
the limits sanctioned by her famous teachers--ventures into no new
sphere, hazards no anticipations in which they have not preceded it,
and is content with adding to the poetry which it elicits from their
ideas, a beauty which it is able to conceive apart altogether from
bodily form--the beauty, infinite in its variety, of the expression of
the human eye and smile--the beauty of light, of sound, of motion. And
when his song mounts to its last strain of triumph, and the poet's
thought, imagination, and feeling of beauty, tasked to the utmost, nor
failing under the weight of glory which they have to express, breathe
themselves forth in words, higher than which no poetry has ever risen,
and represent, in images transcending sense, and baffling it, yet
missing not one of those deep and transporting sympathies which they
were to touch, the sight, eye to eye, of the Creator by the
creature--he beholds the gathering together, in the presence of God,
of "all that from our earth has to the skies returned," and of the
countless orders of their thrones mirrored in His light--

     Quanto è 'l convento delle bianche stole--

under a figure already taken into the ceremonial of the Church--the
mystic Rose, whose expanding leaves image forth the joy of the
heavenly Jerusalem, both triumphant and militant.[108]

[Footnote 107: See an article in the _Brit. Critic_, No. 65, p. 120.]

[Footnote 108: See the form of benediction of the "Rosa d'oro."
_Rituum Ecclesiæ Rom. Libri Tres._ fol. xxxv. Venet. 1516. Form of
giving: "Accipe rosam de manibus nostris ... per quam designatus
gaudium utriusque Hierusalem triumphantis scilicet et militantis
ecclesiæ per quam omnibus Christi fidelibus manifestatur flos ipse
pretiosissimus qui est gaudium et corona sanctorum omnium." He alludes
to it in the _Convito_, iv. 29.

     O isplendor di Dio, per cu' io vidi
       L'alto trionfo del regno verace,
       Dammi virtù a dir com'io lo vidi.
     Lume è lassù, che visibile face
       Lo creatore a quella creatura,
       Che solo in lui vedere ha la sua pace:
     E si distende in circular figura
       In tanto, che la sua circonferenza
       Sarebbe al Sol troppo larga cintura.

           *      *      *      *

     E come clivo in acqua di suo imo
       Si specchia quasi per vedersi adorno,
       Quanto è nel verde e ne' fioretti opimo;
     Sì soprastando al lume intorno intorno
       Vidi specchiarsi in più di mille soglie,
       Quanto di noi lassù fatto ha ritorno.
     E se l'infimo grado in sè raccoglie
       Sì grande lume, quant'è la larghezza
       Di questa rosa nell'estreme foglie?

           *      *      *      *

     Nel giallo della rosa sempiterna,
       Che si dilata, rigrada, e redole
       Odor di lode al Sol, che sempre verna,
     Qual'è colui, che tace e dicer vuole,
       Mi trasse Beatrice, e disse; mira
       Quanto è 'l convento delle bianche stole!
     Vedi nostra Città quanto ella gira!
       Vedi li nostri scanni sì ripieni,
       Che poca gente omai ci si disira.

           *      *      *      *

     In forma dunque di candida rosa
       Mi si mostrava la milizia santa,
       Che nel suo sangue Cristo fece sposa.--_Parad._ 30, 31.]

But this universal reference to the religious ideas of the Church is
so natural, so unaffected, that it leaves him at full liberty in other
orders of thought. He can afford not to be conventional--he can afford
to be comprehensive and genuine. It has been remarked how, in a poem
where there would seem to be a fitting place for them, the
ecclesiastical legends of the middle ages are almost entirely absent.
The sainted spirits of the _Paradiso_ are not exclusively or chiefly
the Saints of popular devotion. After the Saints of the Bible, the
holy women, the three great Apostles, the Virgin mother, they are
either names personally dear to the poet himself, friends whom he had
loved, and teachers to whom he owed wisdom--or great men of masculine
energy in thought or action, in their various lines "compensations and
antagonists of the world's evils"--Justinian and Constantine, and
Charlemagne--the founders of the Orders, Augustine, Benedict, and
Bernard, Francis and Dominic--the great doctors of the Schools, Thomas
Aquinas, and Bonaventura, whom the Church had not yet canonized. And
with them are joined--and that with a full consciousness of the line
which theology draws between the dispensations of nature and
grace--some rare types of virtue among the heathen. Cato is admitted
to the outskirts of Purgatory; Trajan, and the righteous king of
Virgil's poem, to the heaven of the just.[109]

[Footnote 109:

     Chi crederebbe giù nel mondo errante,
     Che Rifèo Trojano[A] in questo tondo
     Fosse la quinta delle luci sante?
       Ora conosce assai di quel, che 'l mondo
     Veder non può della divina grazia;
     Benchè sua vista non discerna il fondo.--_Parad._ c. 20.]

[Footnote A:

                   Rhipeus justissimus unus
     Qui fuit in Teucris, et servantissimus æqui.--_Æn._ ii.]

Without confusion or disturbance to the religious character of his
train of thought, he is able freely to subordinate to it the lessons
and the great recollections of the Gentile times. He contemplates them
with the veil drawn off from them; as now known to form but one whole
with the history of the Bible and the Church, in the design of
Providence. He presents them in their own colours, as drawn by their
own writers--he only adds what Christianity seems to show to be their
event. Under the conviction, that the light of the Heathen was a real
guide from above, calling for vengeance in proportion to
unfaithfulness, or outrage done to it--"He that nurtureth the heathen,
it is He that teacheth man knowledge--shall not He punish?"--the great
criminals of profane history are mingled with sinners against God's
revealed will--and that, with equal dramatic power, with equal feeling
of the greatness of their loss. The story of the voyage of Ulysses is
told with as much vivid power and pathetic interest as the tales of
the day.[110] He honours unfeignedly the old heathen's brave disdain
of ease; that spirit, even to old age, eager, fresh, adventurous, and
inquisitive. His faith allowed him to admire all that was beautiful
and excellent among the heathen, without forgetting that it fell short
of what the new gift of the Gospel can alone impart. He saw in it
proof that God had never left His will and law without their witness
among men. Virtue was virtue still, though imperfect, and
unconsecrated--generosity, largeness of soul, truth, condescension,
justice, were never unworthy of the reverence of Christians. Hence he
uses without fear or scruple the classic element. The examples which
recall to the minds of the penitents, by sounds and sights, in the
different terraces of Purgatory, their sin and the grace they have to
attain to, come indiscriminately from poetry and Scripture. The
sculptured pavement, to which the proud are obliged ever to bow down
their eyes, shows at once the humility of S. Mary and of the Psalmist,
and the condescension of Trajan; and elsewhere the pride of Nimrod and
Sennacherib, of Niobe, and Cyrus. The envious hear the passing voices
of courtesy from saints and heroes, and the bursting cry, like
crashing thunder, of repentant jealousy from Cain and Aglaurus; the
avaricious, to keep up the memory of their fault, celebrate by day the
poverty of Fabricius and the liberality of S. Nicolas, and execrate by
night the greediness of Pygmalion and Midas, of Achan, Heliodorus, and

[Footnote 110: _Inf._ c. 26.]

Dante's all-surveying, all-embracing mind, was worthy to open the
grand procession of modern poets. He had chosen his subject in a
region remote from popular thought--too awful for it, too abstruse. He
had accepted frankly the dogmatic limits of the Church, and thrown
himself with even enthusiastic faith into her reasonings, at once so
bold and so undoubting--her spirit of certainty, and her deep
contemplations on the unseen and infinite. And in literature, he had
taken as guides and models, above all criticism and all appeal, the
classical writers. Yet with his mind full of the deep and intricate
questions of metaphysics and theology, and his poetical taste always
owning allegiance to Virgil, Ovid, and Statius--keen and subtle as a
Schoolman--as much an idolator of old heathen art and grandeur as the
men of the _Renaissance_--his eye is as open to the delicacies of
character, to the variety of external nature, to the wonders of the
physical world--his interest in them as diversified and fresh, his
impressions as sharp and distinct, his rendering of them as free and
true and forcible, as little weakened or confused by imitation or by
conventional words, his language as elastic, and as completely under
his command, his choice of poetic materials as unrestricted and
original, as if he had been born in days which claim as their own such
freedom, and such keen discriminative sense of what is real, in
feeling and image;--as if he had never felt the attractions of a
crabbed problem of scholastic logic, or bowed before the mellow grace
of the Latins. It may be said, indeed, that the time was not yet come
when the classics could be really understood and appreciated; and this
is true, perhaps fortunate. But admiring them with a kind of devotion,
and showing not seldom that he had caught their spirit, he never
_attempts_ to copy them. His poetry in form and material is all his
own. He asserted the poet's claim to borrow from all science, and from
every phase of nature, the associations and images which he wants; and
he showed that those images and associations did not lose their poetry
by being expressed with the most literal reality.

But let no reader of fastidious taste disturb his temper by the study
of Dante. Dante certainly opened that path of freedom and poetic
conquest, in which the greatest efforts of modern poetry have followed
him--opened it with a magnificence and power which have never been
surpassed. But the greatest are but pioneers; they must be content to
leave to a posterity, which knows more, if it cannot do as much, a
keen and even growing sense of their defects. The _Commedia_ is open
to all the attacks that can be made on grotesqueness and extravagance.
This is partly owing, doubtless, to the time, in itself quaint,
quainter to us, by being remote and ill-understood; but even then,
weaker and less daring writers than Dante do not equally offend or
astonish us. So that an image or an expression will render forcibly a
thought, there is no strangeness which checks him. Barbarous words are
introduced, to express the cries of the demon or the confusion of
Babel--even to represent the incomprehensible song of the
blessed;[111] inarticulate syllables, to convey the impression of some
natural sound--the cry of sorrowful surprise:

     Alto sospir, che duolo strinse in _hui_;--_Purg._ 16.

or the noise of the cracking ice:

     Se Tabernicch
     Vi fosse sù caduto, o Pietra-pana
     Non avria pur da l'orlo fatto _cricch_;--_Inf._ 32.

even separate letters--to express an image, to spell a name, or as
used in some popular proverb.[112] He employs without scruple, and
often with marvellous force of description, any recollection that
occurs to him, however homely, of everyday life;--the old tailor
threading his needle with trouble (_Inf._ 15);--the cook's assistant
watching over the boiling broth (_Inf._ 21);--the hurried or impatient
horse-groom using his curry-comb (_Inf._ 29);--or the common sights
of the street or the chamber--the wet wood sputtering on the hearth:

     Come d'un stizzo verde che arso sia
     Dall'un de' capi, che dall'altro geme
     E cigola per vento che va via;--_Inf._ 13.[113]

the paper changing colour when about to catch fire:

     Come procede innanzi dall'ardore
       Per lo papiro suso un color bruno
     Che non è nero ancora, e 'l bianco muore:--_Inf._ 25.[114]

the steaming of the hand when bathed, in winter:

     Fuman come man bagnata il verno:--

or the ways and appearances of animals--ants meeting on their path:

     Lì veggio d'ogni parte farsi presta
     Ciascun'ombra, e baciarsi una con una
     Senza restar, contente a breve festa:
       Così per entro loro schiera bruna
     _S'ammusa l'una con l'altra formica_,
     Forse a spiar lor via e lor fortuna;--_Purg._ 26.[115]

the snail drawing in its horns (_Inf._ 25);--the hog shut out of its
sty, and trying to gore with its tusks (_Inf._ 30);--the dogs' misery
in summer (_Inf._ 17);--the frogs jumping on to the bank before the
water-snake (_Inf._ 9);--or showing their heads above water:

     Come al orlo dell'acqua d'un fosso
     Stan gli ranocchi _pur col muso fuori_,
     Sì che celano i piedi, e l'altro grosso.--_Inf._ 22.[116]

[Footnote 111: _Parad._ 7, 1-3.]

[Footnote 112: To describe the pinched face of famine;--

     Parean l'occhiaje annella senza gemme.
     Chi nel viso degli uomini legge OMO
     Ben avria quivi conosciuto l'_emme_ (M).--_Purg._ 23.


     Quella reverenza che s'indonna
     Di tutto me, pur per B e per ICE.--_Parad._ 7.

     Nè O sì tosto mai, nè I si scrisse,
     Com'ei s'accese ed arse.--_Inf._ 24.]

[Footnote 113:

     Like to a sapling, lighted at one end,
       Which at the other hisses with the wind,
       And drops of sap doth from the outlet send:
     So from the broken twig, both words and blood flow'd forth.--WRIGHT.]

[Footnote 114:

     Like burning paper, when there glides before
       The advancing flame a brown and dingy shade,
       Which is not black, and yet is white no more.--IBID.]

[Footnote 115:

     On either hand I saw them haste their meeting,
       And kiss each one the other--pausing not--
       Contented to enjoy so short a greeting.
     Thus do the ants among their dingy band,
       Face one another--each their neighbour's lot
       Haply to scan, and how their fortunes stand.--WRIGHT.]

[Footnote 116:

     As in a trench, frogs at the water side
       Sit squatting, with their noses raised on high,
       The while their feet, and all their bulk they hide--
     Thus upon either hand the sinners stood.
       But Barbariccia now approaching nigh,
       Quick they withdrew beneath the boiling flood.
     I saw--and still my heart is thrill'd with fear--
       One spirit linger; as beside a ditch,
       One frog remains, the others disappear.--IBID.]

It must be said, that most of these images, though by no means all,
occur in the _Inferno_; and that the poet means to paint sin not
merely in the greatness of its ruin and misery, but in characters
which all understand, of strangeness, of vileness, of despicableness,
blended with diversified and monstrous horror. Even he seems to
despair of his power at times:

     S'io avessi le rime e aspre, e chiocce,
       Come si converrebbe al tristo buco,
       Sovra 'l qual pontan tutte l'altre rocce;
     Io premerrei di mio concetto il suco
       Più pienamente; ma perch'io non l'abbo,
       Non senza tema a dicer mi conduco:
     Che non è 'mpresa da pigliare a gabbo
       Descriver fondo a tutto l'universo,
       Nè da lingua, che chiami mamma, o babbo.--_Inf._ 32.[117]

[Footnote 117:

     Had I a rhyme so rugged, rough, and hoarse
       As would become the sorrowful abyss,
       O'er which the rocky circles wind their course,
     Then with a more appropriate form I might
       Endow my vast conceptions; wanting this,
       Not without fear I bring myself to write.
     For no light enterprise it is, I deem,
       To represent the lowest depth of all;
       Nor should a childish tongue attempt the theme.--WRIGHT.]

Feeling the difference between sins, in their elements and, as far as
we see them, their baseness, he treats them variously. His ridicule is
apportioned with a purpose. He passes on from the doom of the sins of
incontinence--the storm, the frost and hail, the crushing
weights--from the flaming minarets of the city of Dis, of the Furies
and Proserpine, "Donna dell'eterno pianto," where the unbelievers lie,
each in his burning tomb--from the river of boiling blood--the wood
with the Harpies--the waste of barren sand with fiery snow, where the
violent are punished--to the Malebolge, the manifold circles of
Falsehood. And here scorn and ridicule in various degrees, according
to the vileness of the fraud, begin to predominate, till they
culminate in that grim comedy, with its _dramatis personæ_ and battle
of devils, Draghignazzo, and Graffiacane, and Malacoda, where the
peculators and sellers of justice are fished up by the demons from the
boiling pitch, but even there overreach and cheat their tormentors,
and make them turn their fangs on each other. The diversified forms of
falsehood seem to tempt the poet's imagination to cope with its
changefulness and inventions, as well as its audacity. The
transformations of the wildest dream do not daunt him. His power over
language is nowhere more forcibly displayed than in those cantos,
which describe the punishments of theft--men passing gradually into
serpents, and serpents into men:

     Due e nessun l'imagine perversa
     Parea.--_Inf._ 25.

And when the traitor, who murdered his own kinsman, was still alive,
and seemed safe from the infamy which it was the poet's rule to bestow
only on the dead, Dante found a way to inflict his vengeance without
an anachronism:--Branca D'Oria's body, though on earth, is only
animated by a fiend, and his spirit has long since fled to the icy

[Footnote 118:

     Ed egli a me: Come 'l mio corpo stea
       Nel mondo sù, nulla scienzia porto.
     Cotal vantaggio ha questa Tolommea,
       Che spesse volte l'anima ci cade
       Innanzi, ch'Atropòs mossa le dea.
     E perchè tu più volontier mi rade
       Le 'nvetriate lagrime dal volto,
       Sappi, che tosto che l'anima trade,
     Come fec'io, il corpo suo l'è tolto
       Da un Dimonio, che poscia il governa,
       Mentre che 'l tempo suo tutto sia volto.
     Ella ruina in sì fatta cisterna;
       E forse pare ancor lo corpo suso
       Dell'ombra, che di qua dietro mi verna.
     Tu 'l dei saper, se tu vien pur mo giuso:
       Egli è ser Branca d'Oria, e son più anni
       Poscia passati, ch'ei fu sì racchiuso.
     Io credo, diss'io lui, che tu m'inganni,
       Che Branca d'Oria non morì unquanche,
       E mangia, e bee, e dorme, e veste panni.
     Nel fosso sù, diss'ei, di Malebranche,
       Là dove bolle la tenace pece,
       Non era giunto ancora Michel Zanche;
     Che questi lasciò 'l diavolo in sua vece
       Nel corpo suo, e d'un suo prossimano,
       Che 'l tradimento insieme con lui fece.--_Inf._ 33.]

These are strange experiments in poetry; their strangeness is
exaggerated as detached passages; but they are strange enough when
they meet us in their place in the context, as parts of a scene, where
the mind is strung and overawed by the sustained power, with which
dreariness, horror, hideous absence of every form of good, is kept
before the imagination and feelings, in the fearful picture of human
sin. But they belong to the poet's system of direct and forcible
representation. What his inward eye sees, what he feels, that he means
us to see and feel as he does; to make us see and feel is his art.
Afterwards we may reflect and meditate; but first we must see--must
see what he saw. Evil and deformity are in the world, as well as good
and beauty; the eye cannot escape them, they are about our path, in
our heart and memory. He has faced them without shrinking or
dissembling, and extorted from them a voice of warning. In all poetry
that is written for mere delight, in all poetry which regards but a
part or an aspect of nature, they have no place--they disturb and mar;
but he had conceived a poetry of the whole, which would be weak or
false without them. Yet they stand in his poem as they stand in
nature--subordinate and relieved. If the grotesque is allowed to
intrude itself--if the horrible and the foul, undisguised and
unsoftened, make us shudder and shrink, they are kept in strong check
and in due subjection by other poetical influences; and the same power
which exhibits them in their naked strength, renders its full grace
and glory to beauty; its full force and delicacy to the most
evanescent feeling.

Dante's eye was free and open to external nature in a degree new among
poets; certainly in a far greater degree than among the Latins, even
including Lucretius, whom he probably had never read. We have already
spoken of his minute notice of the appearance of living creatures; but
his eye was caught by the beautiful as well as by the grotesque.

Take the following beautiful picture of the bird looking out for dawn:

     Come l'augello intra l'amate fronde,
       Posato al nido de' suoi dolci nati,
       La notte, che le cose ci nasconde,
     Che per veder gli aspetti desiati,
       E per trovar lo cibo, onde li pasca,
       In che i gravi labor gli sono aggrati,
     Previene 'l tempo in su l'aperta frasca,
       E con ardente affetto il sole aspetta,
       Fiso guardando, pur che l'alba nasca.--_Parad._ 23.[119]

[Footnote 119:

     E'en as the bird that resting in the nest
       Of her sweet brood, the shelt'ring boughs among
       While all things are enwrapt in night's dark vest--
     Now eager to behold the looks she loves,
       And to find food for her impatient young
       (Whence labour grateful to a mother proves),
     Forestalls the time, high perch'd upon the spray,
       And with impassion'd zeal the sun expecting,
       Anxiously waiteth the first break of day.--WRIGHT.]

Nothing indeed can be more true and original than his images of birds;
they are varied and very numerous. We have the water-birds rising in
clamorous and changing flocks:

       Come augelli surti di riviera
     _Quasi congratulando a lor pasture_,
     Fanno di sè or tonda or lunga schiera;--_Parad._ 18.[120]

the rooks, beginning to move about at daybreak:

       E come per lo natural costume,
     Le pole insieme, al cominciar del giorno
     Si muovono a scaldar le fredde piume,
       Poi altre vanno via senza ritorno,
     Altre rivolgon sè onde son mosse
     Ed altre roteando fan soggiorno;--_Parad._ 21.[121]

the morning sounds of the swallow:

       Nell'ora che comincia i tristi lai
     La rondinella presso alla mattina,
     Forse a memoria de' suoi primi guai;--_Purg._ 9.[122]

the joy and delight of the nightingale's song (_Purg._ 17); the lark,
silent at last, filled with its own sweetness:

       Qual lodoletta, che 'n aere si spazia,
     Prima cantando, e _poi tace contenta
     Dell'ultima dolcezza che la sazia_;--_Parad._ 20.[123]

the flight of the starlings and storks (_Inf._ 5, _Purg._ 24); the
mournful cry and long line of the cranes (_Inf._ 5, _Purg._ 26); the
young birds trying to escape from the nest (_Purg._ 25); the eagle
hanging in the sky:

     Con l'ale aperte, e a calare intesa;--

the dove, standing close to its mate, or wheeling round it:

       Sì come quando 'l _colombo si pone
     Presso al compagno_, l'uno e l'altro pande
     _Girando e mormorando_ l'affezione;--_Parad._ 25.[124]

or the flock of pigeons, feeding:

                   Adunati alla pastura,
     Queti, _senza mostrar l'usato orgoglio_.--_Purg._ 2.

[Footnote 120:

     And as birds rising from a stream, whence they
       Their pastures view, as though their joy confessing,
       Now form a round, and now a long array.--IBID.]

[Footnote 121:

     And as with one accord, at break of day,
       The rooks bestir themselves, by nature taught
       To chase the dew-drops from their wings away;
     Some flying off, to reappear no more--
       Others repairing to their nests again--
       Some whirling round--then settling as before.--WRIGHT.]

[Footnote 122:

     What time the swallow pours her plaintive strain,
       Saluting the approach of morning gray,
       Thus haply mindful of her former pain.--IBID.]

[Footnote 123:

     E'en as the lark high soaring pours its throat
       Awhile, then rests in silence, as though still
       It dwelt enamour'd of its last sweet note.--IBID.]

[Footnote 124:

     As when unto his partner's side, the dove
       Approaches near--both fondly circling round,
       And cooing, show the fervour of their love;
     So these great heirs of immortality
       Receive each other; while they joyful sound
       The praises of the food they share on high.--WRIGHT.]

Hawking supplies its images: the falcon coming for its food:

       Il falcon che prima a piè si mira,
     Indi si volge al grido, e si protende,
     Per lo disio del pasto, che là il tira;--_Purg._ 19.[125]

or just unhooded, pluming itself for its flight:

       Quasi falcon, ch'esce del cappello,
     Muove la testa, e con l'ale s'applaude,
     _Voglia mostrando, e facendosi bello_;--_Parad._ 19.[126]

or returning without success, sullen and loath:

       Come 'l falcon ch'è stato assai su l'ali,
     Che senza veder logoro, o uccello,
     Fa dire al falconiere: Oimè tu cali!
     Discende lasso onde si muove snello
     Per cento ruote, _e da lungi si pone_
     Dal suo maestro, _disdegnoso e fello_.--_Inf._ 17.[127]

[Footnote 125:

     And, as a falcon, which first scans its feet,
       Then turns him to the call, and forward flies,
       In eagerness to catch the tempting meat.--IBID.]

[Footnote 126:

     Lo, as a falcon, from the hood released,
       Uplifts his head, and joyous flaps his wings,
       His beauty and his eagerness increased.--WRIGHT.]

[Footnote 127:

     E'en as a falcon, long upheld in air,
       Not seeing lure or bird upon the wing,
       So that the falconer utters in despair
     "Alas, thou stoop'st!" fatigued descends from high;
       And whirling quickly round in many a ring,
       Far from his master sits--disdainfully.--IBID.]

It is curious to observe him taking Virgil's similes, and altering
them. When Virgil describes the throng of souls, he compares them to
falling leaves, or gathering birds in autumn:

       Quam multa in silvis auctumni frigore primo
     Lapsa cadunt folia, aut ad terram gurgite ab alto
     Quam multæ glomerantur aves, ubi frigidus annus
     Trans pontum fugat, et terris immittit apricis--

Dante uses the same images, but without copying:

       Come d'Autunno si levan le foglie,
     L'una appresso dell'altra, infin che 'l ramo
     Rende alla terra tutte le sue spoglie;
       Similemente il mal seme d'Adamo:
     Gittansi di quel lito ad una ad una
     Per cenni, com'augel per suo richiamo.
       Così sen vanno su per l'onda bruna,
     Ed avanti che sien di là discese,
     Anche di qua nuova schiera s'aduna.--_Inf._ 3.[128]

[Footnote 128:

     As leaves in autumn, borne before the wind,
       Drop one by one, until the branch laid bare,
       Sees all its honours to the earth consign'd:
     So cast them downward at his summons all
       The guilty race of Adam from that strand--
       Each as a falcon answering to the call.--WRIGHT.]

Again--compared with one of Virgil's most highly-finished and perfect
pictures, the flight of the pigeon, disturbed at first, and then
becoming swift and smooth:

     Qualis spelunca subito commota columba,
     Cui domus et dulces latebroso in pumice nidi,
     Fertur in arva volans, plausumque exterrita pennis
     Dat tecto ingentem, mox aere lapsa quieto
     Radit iter liquidum, celeres neque commovet alas--

the Italian's simplicity and strength may balance the "ornata parola"
of Virgil:

     Quali colombe dal disio chiamate,
     Con _l'ali aperte e ferme_ al dolce nido
     Volan per l'aer dal voler portate.--_Inf._ 5.[129]

[Footnote 129:

     As doves, by strong affection urged, repair
       With firm expanded wings to their sweet nest,
       Borne by the impulse of their will through air.--IBID.

It is impossible not to be reminded at every step, in spite of the
knowledge and taste which Mr. Cary and Mr. Wright have brought to
their most difficult task, of the truth which Dante has expressed with
his ordinary positiveness.

He is saying that he does not wish his Canzoni to be explained in
Latin to those who could not read them in Italian: "Che sarebbe sposta
la loro sentenzia colà dove elle _non la potessono colla loro bellezza
portare_. E però sappia ciascuno che nulla cosa per legame musaico
(_i.e._ poetico) armonizzata, si può della sua loquela in altra
trasmutare senza rompere tutta la sua dolcezza e armonia. E questa è
la ragione per che Omero non si mutò mai di Greco in Latino, come
l'altre scritture che avemo da loro."--_Convito_, i. c. 8, p. 49.

Dr. Carlyle has given up the idea of attempting to represent Dante's
verse by English verse, and has confined himself to assisting
Englishmen to read him in his own language. His prose translation is
accurate and forcible. And he has added sensible and useful notes.]

Take, again, the _times of the day_, with what is characteristic of
them--appearances, lights, feelings--seldom dwelt on at length, but
carried at once to the mind, and stamped upon it sometimes by a single
word. The sense of _morning_, its inspiring and cheering strength,
softens the opening of the _Inferno_; breathes its refreshing calm, in
the interval of repose after the last horrors of hell, in the first
canto of the _Purgatorio_; and prepares for the entrance into the
earthly Paradise at its close. In the waning light of _evening_, and
its chilling sense of loneliness, he prepared himself for his dread

       Lo giorno se n'andava, e l'aer bruno
     Toglieva gli animai che sono 'n terra
     Dalle fatiche loro; ed io sol uno
       M'apparechiava a sostener la guerra
     Sì del cammino, e sì della pietate.--_Inf._ 2.

Indeed there is scarcely an hour of day or night, which has not left
its own recollection with him;--of which we cannot find some memorial
in his poem. Evening and night have many. Evening, with its softness
and melancholy--its exhaustion and languor, after the work, perhaps
unfulfilled, of day--its regrets and yearnings--its sounds and
doubtful lights--the distant bell, the closing chants of Compline, the
_Salve Regina_, the _Te lucis ante terminum_--with its insecurity, and
its sense of protection from above--broods over the poet's first
resting-place on his heavenly road--that still, solemn, dreamy
scene--the Valley of Flowers in the mountain side, where those who
have been negligent about their salvation, but not altogether
faithless and fruitless, the assembled shades of great kings and of
poets, wait, looking upwards, "pale and humble," for the hour when
they may begin in earnest their penance. (_Purg._ 7 and 8.) The level,
blinding evening beams (_Purg._ 15); the contrast of gathering
darkness in the valley or on the shore with the lingering lights on
the mountain (_Purg._ 17); the rapid sinking of the sun, and approach
of night in the south (_Purg._ 27); the flaming sunset clouds of
August; the sheet-lightning of summer (_Purg._ 5); have left pictures
in his mind, which an incidental touch reawakens, and a few strong
words are sufficient to express. Other appearances he describes with
more fulness. The stars coming out one by one, baffling at first the

       Ed ecco intorno di chiarezza pari
     Nascer un lustro sopra quel che v'era,
     A guisa d'orizzonte, che rischiari.
       _E sì come al salir di prima sera
     Comincian per lo Ciel nuove parvenze,
     Sì che la cosa pare e non par vera_;--_Parad._ 14.[130]

or else, bursting out suddenly over the heavens:

       Quando colui che tutto il mondo alluma,
     De l'emisperio nostro si discende,
     E 'l giorno d'ogni parte si consuma;
       Lo ciel che sol di lui prima s'accende,
     Subitamente si rifà parvente
     Per molte luci in che una risplende;--_Parad._ 20.[131]

or the effect of shooting-stars:

       Quale per li seren tranquilli e puri
     Discorre ad ora ad or subito fuoco
     Movendo gli occhi che stavan sicuri,
       E pare stella che tramuti loco,
     Se non che dalla parte onde s'accende
     Nulla sen perde, ed esso dura poco;--_Parad._ 15.[132]

or, again, that characteristic sight of the Italian summer night--the

       Quante il villan che al poggio si riposa,
     Nel tempo che colui che 'l mondo schiara
     La faccia sua a noi tien men ascosa,
       Come la mosca cede alla zenzara,
     Vede lucciole giù per la vallea
     Forse colà dove vendemmia ed ara.--_Inf._ 26.[133]

[Footnote 130:

     And lo, on high, and lurid as the one
       Now there, encircling it, a light arose,
       Like heaven when re-illumined by the sun:
     And as at the first lighting up of eve
       The sky doth new appearances disclose,
       That now seem real, now the sight deceive.--WRIGHT.]

[Footnote 131:

     When he, who with his universal ray
       The world illumines, quits our hemisphere,
       And, from each quarter, daylight wears away;
     The heaven, erst kindled by his beam alone,
       Sudden its lost effulgence doth repair
       By many lights illumined but by one.--IBID.]

[Footnote 132:

     As oft along the pure and tranquil sky
       A sudden fire by night is seen to dart,
       Attracting forcibly the heedless eye;
     And seems to be a star that changes place,
       Save that no star is lost from out the part
       It quits, and that it lasts a moment's space.--WRIGHT.]

[Footnote 133:

     As in that season when the sun least veils
     His face that lightens all, what time the fly
     Gives place to the shrill gnat, the peasant then,
     Upon some cliff reclined, beneath him sees
     Fire-flies innumerous spangling o'er the vale,
     Vineyard or tilth, where his day-labour lies.--CARY.]

Noon, too, does not want its characteristic touches--the
lightning-like glancing of the lizard's rapid motion:

       Come il ramarro sotto la gran fersa
     Ne' dì canicular cangiando siepe
     Folgore par, se la via attraversa;--_Inf._ 25.[134]

the motes in the sunbeam at noontide (_Par._ 14); its clear,
diffused, insupportable brightness, filling all things:

     E tutti eran già pieni
     Dell'alto dì i giron del sacro monte.--_Purg._ 19.

and veiling the sun in his own light:

       Io veggio ben sì come _tu t'annidi
     Nel proprio lume_.

           *      *      *      *

       Sì come 'l sol che si cela egli stessi
     Per troppa luce, quando 'l caldo ha rose
     Le temperanze de' vapori spessi.--_Parad._ 5.

[Footnote 134:

     As underneath the dog-star's scorching ray
       The lizard, darting swift from fence to fence,
       Appears like lightning, if he cross the way.--WRIGHT.]

But the sights and feelings of morning are what he touches on most
frequently; and he does so with the precision of one who had watched
them with often-repeated delight: the scented freshness of the breeze
that stirs before daybreak:

       E quale annunziatrice degli albori
     Aura di maggio muovesi ed olezza
     Tutta impregnata dall'erba e da' fiori;
       Tal mi senti' un vento dar per mezza
     La fronte;--_Purg._ 24.[135]

the chill of early morning (_Purg._ 19); the dawn stealing on, and the
stars, one by one, fading "infino alla più bella" (_Parad._ 30); the
brightness of the "trembling morning star"--

     Par tremolando mattutina stella;--

the serenity of the dawn, the blue gradually gathering in the east,
spreading over the brightening sky (_Parad._ 1); then succeeded by the
orange tints--and Mars setting red, through the mist over the sea:

       Ed ecco, qual sul presso del mattino
     Per li grossi vapor Marte rosseggia
     Giù nel ponente, sopra 'l suol marino,
       Cotal m'apparve, s'io ancor lo veggia,
     Un lume per lo mar venir sì ratto
     Che 'l muover suo nessun volar pareggia;--_Purg._ 2.[136]

the distant sea-beach quivering in the early light:

       L'alba vinceva l'ora mattutina
     Che fuggia innanzi, sì che di lontano
     Conobbi _il tremolar della marina_;--_Purg._ 1.[137]

the contrast of east and west at the moment of sunrise, and the sun
appearing, clothed in mist:

       Io vidi già nel cominciar del giorno
     La parte oriental tutta rosata
     E l'altro ciel di bel sereno adorno;
       E la faccia del sol nascere ombrata
     Sì che per temperanza di vapori
     L'occhio lo sostenea lunga fiata;--_Purg._ 3.[138]

or breaking through it, and shooting his beams over the sky:

       Di tutte parti saettava il giorno
     Lo sol ch'avea con le saette conte
     Di mezzo 'l ciel cacciato 'l Capricorno.--_Purg._ 2.[139]

[Footnote 135:

     As when, announcing the approach of day,
       Impregnated with herbs and flowers of Spring,
       Breathes fresh and redolent the air of May--
     Such was the breeze that gently fann'd my head;
       And I perceived the waving of a wing
       Which all around ambrosial odours shed.--WRIGHT.]

[Footnote 136:

     When lo! like Mars, in aspect fiery red
       Seen through the vapour, when the morn is nigh
       Far in the west above the briny bed,
     So (might I once more see it) o'er the sea
       A light approach'd with such rapidity,
       Flies not the bird that might its equal be.--WRIGHT.]

[Footnote 137:

     Now 'gan the vanquish'd matin hour to flee;
       And seen from far, as onward came the day,
       I recognised the trembling of the sea.--IBID.]

[Footnote 138:

     Erewhile the eastern regions have I seen
       At daybreak glow with roseate colours, and
       The expanse beside all beauteous and serene:
     And the sun's face so shrouded at its rise,
       And temper'd by the mists which overhung,
       That I could gaze on it with stedfast eyes.--WRIGHT.]

[Footnote 139:

     On every side the sun shot forth the day,
       And had already with his arrows bright
       From the mid-heaven chased Capricorn away.--IBID.]

But _light_ in general is his special and chosen source of poetic
beauty. No poet that we know has shown such singular sensibility to
its varied appearances--has shown that he felt it in itself the cause
of a distinct and peculiar pleasure, delighting the eye apart from
form, as music delights the ear apart from words, and capable, like
music, of definite character, of endless variety, and infinite
meanings. He must have studied and dwelt upon it like music. His mind
is charged with its effects and combinations, and they are rendered
with a force, a brevity, a precision, a heedlessness and
unconsciousness of ornament, an indifference to circumstance and
detail; they flash out with a spontaneous readiness, a suitableness
and felicity, which show the familiarity and grasp given only by daily
observation, daily thought, daily pleasure. Light everywhere--in the
sky and earth and sea--in the star, the flame, the lamp, the
gem--broken in the water, reflected from the mirror, transmitted pure
through the glass, or coloured through the edge of the fractured
emerald--dimmed in the mist, the halo, the deep water--streaming
through the rent cloud, glowing in the coal, quivering in the
lightning, flashing in the topaz and the ruby, veiled behind the pure
alabaster, mellowed and clouding itself in the pearl--light contrasted
with shadow--shading off and copying itself in the double rainbow,
like voice and echo--light seen within light, as voice discerned
within voice, "_quando una è ferma, e l'altra va e riede_"--the
brighter "nestling" itself in the fainter--the purer set off on the
less clear, "_come perla in bianca fronte_"--light in the human eye
and face, displaying, figuring, and confounded with its
expressions--light blended with joy in the eye:

     Come letizia in pupilla viva;

and in the smile:

     Vincendo me col lume d'un sorriso;

joy lending its expression to light:

     Quivi la donna mia vid'io sì lieta--
     Che più lucente se ne fè il pianeta.
       E se la _stella si cambiò, e rise_,
     Qual mi fec'io;--_Parad._ 5.

light from every source, and in all its shapes, illuminates,
irradiates, gives its glory to the _Commedia_. The remembrance of our
"serene life" beneath the "fair stars" keeps up continually the gloom
of the _Inferno_. Light, such as we see it and recognise it, the light
of morning and evening growing and fading, takes off from the
unearthliness of the _Purgatorio_; peopled, as it is, by the undying,
who, though suffering for sin, can sin no more, it is thus made like
our familiar world, made to touch our sympathies as an image of our
own purification in the flesh. And when he rises beyond the regions of
earthly day, light, simple, unalloyed, unshadowed, eternal, lifts the
creations of his thought above all affinity to time and matter; light
never fails him, as the expression of the gradations of bliss; never
reappears the same, never refuses the new shapes of his invention,
never becomes confused or dim, though it is seldom thrown into
distinct figure, and still more seldom _coloured_. Only once, that we
remember, is the thought of colour forced on us; when the bright joy
of heaven suffers change and eclipse, and deepens into red at the
sacrilege of men.[140]

[Footnote 140: _Parad._ 27.]

Yet his eye is everywhere, not confined to the beauty or character of
the sky and its lights. His range of observation and largeness of
interest prevent that line of imagery, which is his peculiar
instrument and predilection, from becoming, in spite of its brightness
and variety, dreamy and monotonous; prevent it from arming against
itself sympathies which it does not touch. He has watched with equal
attention, and draws with not less power, the occurrences and sights
of Italian country life; the summer whirlwind sweeping over the
plain--"_dinanzi polveroso va superbo_" (_Inf._ 9); the rain-storm of
the Apennines (_Purg._ 5); the peasant's alternations of feeling in

       In quella parte del giovinetto anno
     Che 'l sole i crin sotto l'Aquario tempra,
     E già le notti al mezzo dì sen vanno;
       Quando la brina in su la terra assempra
     L'imagine di sua sorella bianca,
     Ma poco dura alla sua penna tempra,
       Lo villanello a cui la roba manca
     Si leva e guarda, e vede la campagna
     Biancheggiar tutta; ond'ei si batte l'anca;
       Ritorna a casa, e qua e là si lagna
     Come 'l tapin che non sa che si faccia:
     Poi riede e la speranza ringavagna
       Veggendo 'l mondo aver cangiata faccia
     In poco d'ora, e prende il suo vincastro
     E fuor le pecorelle a pascer caccia:--_Inf._ 24.[141]

the manner in which sheep come out from the fold:

       Come le pecorelle escon del chiuso
     _A una a due a tre, e l'altre stanno,
     Timidette atterrando l'occhio e' l muso;
       E ciò che fa la prima, e l'altre fanno,
     Addossandosi a lei s'ella s'arresta_
     Semplici e quete, e lo 'mperchè non sanno:
       Sì vid'io muover a venir la testa
     Di quella mandria fortunata allotta,
     Pudica in faccia e nell'andare onesta.
       Come color dinanzi vider rotta
     La luce....
       Ristaro, e trasser sè indietro alquanto,
     E tutti gli altri che veniano appresso,
     Non sappiendo il perchè, fero altrettanto.--_Purg._ 3.

[Footnote 141:

     In the new year, when Sol his tresses gay
       Dips in Aquarius, and the tardy night
       Divides her empire with the lengthening day--
     When o'er the earth the hoar-frost pure and bright
       Assumes the image of her sister white,
       Then quickly melts before the genial light--
     The rustic, now exhausted his supply,
       Rises betimes--looks out--and sees the land
       All white around, whereat he strikes his thigh--
     Turns back--and grieving--wanders here and there,
       Like one disconsolate and at a stand;
       Then issues forth, forgetting his despair,
     For lo! the face of nature he beholds
       Changed on a sudden--takes his crook again,
       And drives his flock to pasture from the folds.--WRIGHT.]

So with the beautiful picture of the goats upon the mountain, chewing
the cud in the noontide heat and stillness, and the goatherd, resting
on his staff and watching them--a picture which no traveller among the
mountains of Italy or Greece can have missed, or have forgotten:

       Quali si fanno ruminando manse
     Le capre, _state rapide e proterve
     Sopra le cime_ avanti che sien pranse,
       _Tacite al ombra mentre che 'l sol ferve,
     Guardate dal pastor_ che 'n su la verga
     Poggiato s'è, e lor poggiato serve.--_Purg._ 27.[142]

[Footnote 142:

     Like goats that having over the crags pursued
       Their wanton sports, now, quiet pass the time
       In ruminating--sated with their food,
     Beneath the shade, while glows the sun on high--
       Watched by the goatherd with unceasing care,
       As on his staff he leans, with watchful eye.--_Ibid._]

So again, with his recollections of cities: the crowd, running
together to hear news (_Purg._ 2), or pressing after the winner of the
game (_Purg._ 6); the blind men at the church doors, or following
their guide through the throng (_Purg._ 13, 16); the friars walking
along in silence, one behind another:

       Taciti, soli, e senza compagnia
     N'andavam, _l'un dinanzi, e l'altro dopo
     Come i frati minor vanno per via_.--_Inf._ 23.

He turns to account in his poem, the pomp and clamour of the host
taking the field (_Inf._ 22); the devices of heraldry; the answering
chimes of morning bells over the city;[143] the inventions and
appliances of art, the wheels within wheels of clocks (_Par._ 24), the
many-coloured carpets of the East (_Inf._ 17); music and dancing--the
organ and voice in church:

     --Voce mista al dolce suono
     Che or sì or no s'intendon le parole,--_Purg._ 9.

the lute and voice in the chamber (_Par._ 20); the dancers preparing
to begin,[144] or waiting to catch a new strain.[145] Or, again, the
images of domestic life, the mother's ways to her child, reserved and
reproving--"che al figlio par superba"--or cheering him with her
voice, or watching him compassionately in the wandering of fever:

       Ond'ella, appresso d'un pio sospiro
     Gli occhi drizzò ver me, con quel sembiante
     Che madre fa sopra figliuol deliro.--_Parad._ 1.

[Footnote 143:

       Indi come orologio che ne chiami
     Nell'ora che la sposa di Dio surge
     A mattinar lo sposo perchè l'ami,
       Che l'una parte e l'altra tira ed urge
     Tin tin sonando con sì dolce nota
     Che 'l ben disposto spirto d'amor turge;
       Così vid'io la gloriosa ruota
     Muoversi e render voce a voce, in tempra
     Ed in dolcezza ch'esser non può nota
       Se non colà dove 'l gioir s'insempra.--_Parad._ 10.]

[Footnote 144:

       E come surge, e va, ed entra in ballo
     Vergine lieta, sol per farne onore
     Alla novizia, e non per alcun fallo.--_Ibid._ 25.]

[Footnote 145:

       Donne mi parver, non da ballo sciolte,
     Ma che s'arrestin tacite ascoltando
     Fin che le nuove note hanno ricolte.--_Ibid._ 10.]

Nor is he less observant of the more delicate phenomena of mind, in
its inward workings, and its connexion with the body. The play of
features, the involuntary gestures and attitudes of the passions, the
power of eye over eye, of hand upon hand, the charm of voice and
expression, of musical sounds even when not understood--feelings,
sensations, and states of mind which have a name, and others, equally
numerous and equally common, which have none--these, often so
fugitive, so shifting, so baffling and intangible, are expressed with
a directness, a simplicity, a sense of truth at once broad and
refined, which seized at once on the congenial mind of his countrymen,
and pointed out to them the road which they have followed in art,
unapproached as yet by any competitors.[146]

[Footnote 146: For instance:--_thoughts upon thoughts, ending in sleep
and dreams_:

     Nuovo pensier dentro de me si mise,
       Dal qual più altri nacquero e diversi:
     _E tanto d'uno in altro vaneggiai
     Che gli occhi per vaghezza ricopersi,
       E 'l pensamento in sogno trasmutai_.--_Purg._ 18.

_sleep stealing off when broken by light_:

       Come si frange il sonno, ove di butto
     Nuova luce percuote 'l viso chiuso,
     _Che fratto guizza pria che muoja tutto_.--_Ibid._ 17.

_the shock of sudden awakening_:

       Come al lume acuto si disonna,

           *      *      *      *

       _E lo svegliato ciò che vede abborre,_
     Sì nescia è la subita vigilia,
     Finchè la stimativa nol soccorre.--_Parad._ 26.

_uneasy feelings produced by sight or representation of something

       Come per sostentar solajo o tetto
     Per mensola talvolta una figura
     Si vede giunger le ginocchia al petto,
       _La qual fa del non ver vera rancura
     Nascer a chi la vede_; così fatti
     Vid'io color.--_Purg._ 10.

_blushing in innocent sympathy for others_:

       E come donna onesta che permane
     Di sè sicura, e _per l'altrui fallanza
     Pure ascoltando timida si fane_:
       Così Beatrice trasmutò sembianza.--_Par._ 27.

_asking and answering by looks only_:

       Volsi gli occhi agli occhi al signor mio;
     Ond'elli m'assentì con lieto cenno
     Ciò che chiedea la vista del disio.--_Purg._ 19.

_watching the effect of words_:

       Posto avea fine al suo ragionamento
     L'alto dottore, ad attento guardava
     Nella mia vista s'io parea contento.
       Ed io, cui nuova sete ancor frugava,
     Di fuor taceva e dentro dicea: forse
     Lo troppo dimandar ch'io fo, li grava.
       Ma quel padre verace, che s'accorse
     Del timido voler che non s'apriva,
     Parlando, di parlare ardir mi porse.--_Ibid._ 18.

_Dante betraying Virgil's presence to Statius, by his involuntary

       Volser Virgilio a me queste parole
     Con viso che tacendo dicea: "taci;"
     Ma non può tutto la virtù che vuole;
       Che riso e pianto son tanto seguaci
     Alla passion da che ciascun si spicca,
     _Che men segnon voler ne' più veraci.
       Io pur sorrisi, come l'uom ch'ammicca:
     Perchè l'ombra si tacque, e riguardommi
     Negli occhi ove 'l sembiante più si ficca._
       E se tanto lavoro in bene assommi,
     Disse, perchè la faccia tua testeso
     _Un lampeggiar a' un riso_ dimostrommi?--_Purg._ 21.

_smiles and words together_:

     Per le _sorrise parolette brevi_.--_Parad._ 1.

_eye meeting eye_:

               Gli occhi ritorsi avanti
     Dritti nel lume della dolce guida
     Che sorridendo ardea negli occhi santi.--_Ibid._ 3.

       Come si vede qui alcuna volta
     L'affetto nella vista, s'ello è tanto
     Che da lui sia tutta l'anima tolta:
       Così nel fiammeggiar del fulgor santo
     A cui mi volsi, conobbi la voglia
     In lui di ragionarmi ancora alquanto.--_Ibid._ 18.

_gentleness of voice_:

     E cominciommi a dir soave e piana
     Con angelica voce in sua favella.--_Inf._ 2.

       E come agli occhi miei si fe' più bella,
     Così con voce più dolce e soave,
     Ma non con questa moderna favella,
       Dissemi;--_Parad._ 16.


       _Te lucis ante_ sì divotamente
     Le uscì di bocca e con sì dolce note,
     Che fece me a me uscir di mente.
       E l'altre poi dolcemente e divote
     Seguitar lei per tutto l'inno intero,
     Avendo gli occhi alle superne ruote.--_Purg._ 8.

_chanting blended with the sound of the organ_:

       Io mi rivolsi attento al primo tuono,
     E _Te Deum laudamus_ mi parea
     Udire in voce mista al dolce suono.
       Tale imagine appunto mi rendea
     Ciò ch'io udiva, qual prender si suole
     _Quando a cantar con organi si stea;
       Ch'or sì, or no, s'intendon le parole_.--_Purg._ 9.

_voices in concert_:

       E come in voce voce si discerne
     _Quando una è ferma, e' l altra va e riede_.--_Parad._ 8.

_attitudes and gestures: e.g. Beatrice addressing him_,

     Con atto e voce di spedito duce.--_Ibid._ 30.

_Sordello eyeing the travellers_:

       Venimmo a lei: o anima Lombarda,
     Come ti stavi altera e disdegnosa,
     E nel muover degli occhi onesta e tarda.
       Ella non ci diceva alcuna cosa,
     Ma lasciavane gir, solo guardando,
     A guisa di leon quando si posa.--_Purg._ 6.

_the angel moving "dry-shod" over the Stygian pool_:

       _Dal volto rimovea quell'aer grasso
     Menando la sinistra innanzi spesso_,
     E sol di quell'angoscia parea lasso.
       Ben m'accorsi ch'egli era del ciel messo,
     E volsimi al maestro; e quei fe' segno
     Ch'io stessi cheto ed inchinassi ed esso.
       Ahi quanto mi parea pien di disdegno.

           *      *      *      *

       Poi si rivolse per la strada lorda,
     E non fe' motto a noi, ma fe' sembiante
     D'uomo cui altra cura stringa e morda
       Che quella di colui che gli è davante.--_Inf._ 9.]

And he has anticipated the latest schools of modern poetry, by making
not merely nature, but science tributary to a poetry with whose
general aim and spirit it has little in common--tributary in its
exact forms, even in its technicalities. He speaks of the
Mediterranean Sea, not merely as a historian, or an observer of its
storms or its smiles, but as a geologist;[147] of light, not merely in
its beautiful appearances, but in its natural laws.[148] There is a
charm, an imaginative charm to him, not merely in the sensible
magnificence of the heavens, "in their silence, and light, and
watchfulness," but in the system of Ptolemy and the theories of
astrology; and he delights to interweave the poetry of feeling and of
the outward sense with the grandeur--so far as he knew it--of order,
proportion, measured magnitudes, the relations of abstract forces,
displayed on such a scene as the material universe, as if he wished to
show that imagination in its boldest flight was not afraid of the
company of the clear and subtle intellect.

[Footnote 147: _La maggior valle_, in che l'acqua si spandi.--_Parad._

[Footnote 148: _E.g._ _Purg._ 15.]

Indeed the real never daunts him. It is his leading principle of
poetic composition, to draw out of things the poetry which is latent
in them, either essentially, or as they are portions, images, or
reflexes of something greater--not to invest them with a poetical
semblance, by means of words which bring with them poetical
associations, and have received a general poetical stamp. Dante has
few of those indirect charms which flow from the subtle structure and
refined graces of language--none of that exquisitely-fitted and
self-sustained mechanism of choice words of the Greeks--none of that
tempered and majestic amplitude of diction, which clothes, like the
folds of a royal robe, the thoughts of the Latins--none of that
abundant play of fancy and sentiment, soft or grand, in which the
later Italian poets delighted. Words with him are used sparingly,
never in play--never because they carry with them poetical
recollections--never for their own sake; but because they are
instruments which will give the deepest, clearest, sharpest stamp of
that image which the poet's mind, piercing to the very heart of his
subject, or seizing the characteristic feature which to other men's
eyes is confused and lost among others accidental and common, draws
forth in severe and living truth. Words will not always bend
themselves to his demands on them; they make him often uncouth,
abrupt, obscure. But he is too much in earnest to heed uncouthness;
and his power over language is too great to allow uncertainty as to
what he means, to be other than occasional. Nor is he a stranger to
the utmost sweetness and melody of language. But it appears, unsought
for and unlaboured, the spontaneous and inevitable obedience of the
tongue and pen to the impressions of the mind; as grace and beauty, of
themselves, "command and guide the eye" of the painter, who thinks not
of his hand but of them. All is in character with the absorbed and
serious earnestness which pervades the poem; there is no toying, no
ornament, that a man in earnest might not throw into his
words;--whether in single images, or in pictures, like that of the
Meadow of the Heroes (_Inf._ 4), or the angel appearing in hell to
guide the poet through the burning city (_Inf._ 9)--or in histories,
like those of Count Ugolino, or the life of S. Francis (_Parad._
11)--or in the dramatic scenes like the meeting of the poets Sordello
and Virgil (_Purgat._ 6), or that one, unequalled in beauty, where
Dante himself, after years of forgetfulness and sin, sees Beatrice in
glory, and hears his name, never but once pronounced during the
vision, from her lips.[149]

[Footnote 149:

     Io vidi già nel cominciar del giorno
       La parte oriental tutta rosata,
       E l'altro ciel di bel sereno adorno,
     E la faccia del sol nascere ombrata,
       Sì che per temperanza di vapori
       L'occhio lo sostenea lunga fiata;
     Così dentro una nuvola di fiori,
       Che dalle mani angeliche saliva,
       E ricadeva giù dentro e di fuori,
     Sovra candido vel cinta d'oliva
       Donna m'apparve sotto verde manto
       Vestita di color di fiamma viva.
     E lo spirito mio, che già cotanto
       Tempo era stato che alla sua presenza
       Non era di stupor, tremando, affranto.
     Senza degli occhi aver più conoscenza,
       Per occulta virtù, che da lei mosse,
       D'antico amor senti' la gran potenza.

           *      *      *      *

     Volsimi alla sinistra col rispitto,
       Col quale il fantolin corre alla mamma,
       Quando ha paura, o quando egli è afflitto,
     Per dicere a Virgilio: Men che dramma
       Di sangue m'è rimasa, che non tremi:
       Conosco i segni dell'antica fiamma.
     Ma Virgilio n'avea lasciati scemi
       Di sè, Virgilio dolcissimo padre,
       Virgilio, a cui per mia salute diemi:

           *      *      *      *

     Dante, perchè Virgilio se ne vada,
       Non piangere anche, non piangere ancora
       Chè pianger ti convien per altra spada.

           *      *      *      *

     Regalmente nell'atto ancor proterva
       Continuò, come colui che dice,
       E il più caldo parlar dietro reserva,
     Guardami ben: ben son, ben son Beatrice:
       Come degnasti d'accedere al monte?
       Non sapei tu, che qui è l'uom felice?--_Purg._ 30.

But extracts can give but an imperfect notion of this grand and
touching canto.]

But this, or any other array of scenes and images, might be matched
from poets of a far lower order than Dante: and to specimens which
might be brought together of his audacity and extravagance, no
parallel could be found except among the lowest. We cannot, honestly,
plead the barbarism of the time as his excuse. That, doubtless,
contributed largely to them; but they were the faults of the man. In
another age, their form might have been different; yet we cannot
believe so much of time, that it would have tamed Dante. Nor can we
wish it. It might have made him less great: and his greatness can
well bear its own blemishes, and will not less meet its due honour
among men, because they can detect its kindred to themselves.

The greatness of his work is not in its details--to be made or marred
by them. It is the greatness of a comprehensive and vast conception,
sustaining without failure the trial of its long and hazardous
execution, and fulfilling at its close the hope and promise of its
beginning; like the greatness--which we watch in its course with
anxious suspense, and look back upon when it is secured by death, with
deep admiration--of a perfect life. Many a surprise, many a
difficulty, many a disappointment, many a strange reverse and
alternation of feelings, attend the progress of the most patient and
admiring reader of the _Commedia_; as many as attend on one who
follows the unfolding of a strong character in life. We are often
shocked when we were prepared to admire--repelled, when we came with
sympathy; the accustomed key fails at a critical moment--depths are
revealed which we cannot sound, mysteries which baffle and confound
us. But the check is for a time--the gap and chasm does not dissever.
Haste is even an evidence of life--the brief word, the obscure hint,
the unexplained, the unfinished, or even the unachieved, are the marks
of human feebleness, but are also among those of human truth. The
unity of the whole is unimpaired. The strength which is working it
out, though it may have at times disappointed us, shows no hollowness
or exhaustion. The surprise of disappointment is balanced--there is
the surprise of unimagined excellence. Powers do more than they
promised; and that spontaneous and living energy, without which
neither man nor poet can be trusted, and which showed its strength
even in its failures, shows it more abundantly in the novelties of
success--by touching sympathies which have never been touched before,
by the unconstrained freshness with which it meets the proverbial and
familiar, by the freedom with which it adjusts itself to a new
position or an altered task--by the completeness, unstudied and
instinctive, with which it holds together dissimilar and uncongenial
materials, and forces the most intractable, the most unaccustomed to
submission, to receive the colour of the whole--by its orderly and
unmistakable onward march, and its progress, as in height, so in what
corresponds to height. It was one and the same man, who rose from the
despair, the agony, the vivid and vulgar horrors of the _Inferno_, to
the sense and imagination of certainty, sinlessness, and joy
ineffable--the same man whose power and whose sympathies failed him
not, whether discriminating and enumerating, as if he had gone through
them all, the various forms of human suffering, from the dull,
gnawing sense of the loss of happiness, to the infinite woes of the
wrecked and ruined spirit, and the coarser pangs of the material
flesh; or dwelling on the changeful lights and shades of earnest
repentance, in its hard, but not unaided or ungladdened struggle, and
on that restoration to liberty and peace, which can change even this
life into paradise, and reverse the doom which made sorrow our
condition, and laughter and joy unnatural and dangerous--the penalty
of that first fault, which

               In pianto ed in affanno
     Cambiò onesto riso e dolce giuoco:

or rising finally above mortal experience, to imagine the freedom of
the saints and the peace of eternity. In this consists the greatness
of his power. It is not necessary to read through the _Commedia_ to
see it--open it where we please, we see that he is on his way, and
whither he is going; episode and digression share in the solemnity of
the general order.

And his greatness was more than that of power. That reach and play of
sympathy ministered to a noble wisdom, which used it thoughtfully and
consciously for a purpose to which great poetry had never yet been
applied, except in the mouth of prophets. Dante was a stern man, and
more than stern, among his fellows. But he has left to those who
never saw his face an inheritance the most precious; he has left them
that which, reflecting and interpreting their minds, does so, not to
amuse, not to bewilder, not to warp, not to turn them in upon
themselves in distress or gloom or selfishness; not merely to hold up
a mirror to nature; but to make them true and make them hopeful. Dark
as are his words of individuals, his thoughts are not dark or
one-sided about mankind; his is no cherished and perverse
severity--his faith is too large, too real, for such a fault. He did
not write only the _Inferno_. And the _Purgatorio_ and the _Paradiso_
are not an afterthought, a feebler appendix and compensation,
conceived when too late, to a finished whole, which has taken up into
itself the poet's real mind. Nowhere else in poetry of equal power is
there the same balanced view of what man is, and may be; nowhere so
wide a grasp shown of his various capacities, so strong a desire to
find a due place and function for all his various dispositions. Where
he stands contrasted in his idea of human life with other poets, who
have been more powerful exponents of its separate sides, is in his
large and truthful comprehensiveness. Fresh from the thought of man's
condition as a whole, fresh from the thought of his goodness, his
greatness, his power, as well as of his evil, his mind is equally in
tune when rejoicing over his restoration, as when contemplating the
ruins of his fall. He never lets go the recollection that human life,
if it grovels at one end in corruption and sin, and has to pass
through the sweat and dust and disfigurement of earthly toil, has
throughout, compensations, remedies, functions, spheres innumerable of
profitable activity, sources inexhaustible of delight and
consolation--and at the other end a perfection which cannot be named.
No one ever measured the greatness of man in all its forms with so
true and yet with so admiring an eye, and with such glowing hope, as
he who has also portrayed so awfully man's littleness and vileness.
And he went farther--no one who could understand and do homage to
greatness in man, ever drew the line so strongly between greatness and
goodness, and so unhesitatingly placed the hero of this world
only--placed him in all his magnificence, honoured with no timid or
dissembling reverence--at the distance of worlds, below the place of
the lowest saint.

Those who know the _Divina Commedia_ best, will best know how hard it
is to be the interpreter of such a mind; but they will sympathise with
the wish to call attention to it. They know, and would wish others
also to know, not by hearsay, but by experience, the power of that
wonderful poem. They know its austere, yet subduing beauty; they know
what force there is, in its free and earnest and solemn verse, to
strengthen, to tranquillise, to console. It is a small thing that it
has the secret of Nature and Man; that a few keen words have opened
their eyes to new sights in earth, and sea, and sky; have taught them
new mysteries of sound; have made them recognise, in distinct image or
thought, fugitive feelings, or their unheeded expression, by look, or
gesture, or motion; that it has enriched the public and collective
memory of society with new instances, never to be lost, of human
feeling and fortune; has charmed ear and mind by the music of its
stately march, and the variety and completeness of its plan. But,
besides this, they know how often its seriousness has put to shame
their trifling, its magnanimity their faintheartedness, its living
energy their indolence, its stern and sad grandeur rebuked low
thoughts, its thrilling tenderness overcome sullenness and assuaged
distress, its strong faith quelled despair and soothed perplexity, its
vast grasp imparted the sense of harmony to the view of clashing
truths. They know how often they have found, in times of trouble, if
not light, at least that deep sense of reality, permanent, though
unseen, which is more than light can always give--in the view which
it has suggested to them of the judgments and the love of God.[150]

[Footnote 150: It is necessary to state, that these remarks were
written before we had seen the chapter on Dante in "Italy, past and
present, by L. Mariotti." Had we become acquainted with it earlier, we
should have had to refer to it often, in the way of acknowledgment,
and as often in the way of strong protest.]



I.--It very greatly concerns all men on whom a higher nature has
impressed[151] the love of truth, that, as they have been enriched by
the labour of those before them, so they also should labour for those
that are to come after them, to the end that posterity may receive
from them an addition to its wealth. For he is far astray from his
duty--let him not doubt it--who, having been trained in the lessons of
public business, cares not himself to contribute aught to the public
good. He is no "tree planted by the water-side, that bringeth forth
his fruit in due season." He is rather the devouring whirlpool, ever
engulfing, but restoring nothing. Pondering, therefore, often on these
things, lest some day I should have to answer the charge of the
talent buried in the earth, I desire not only to show the budding
promise, but also to bear fruit for the general good, and to set forth
truths by others unattempted. For what fruit can he be said to bear
who should go about to demonstrate again some theorem of Euclid? or
when Aristotle has shown us what happiness is, should show it to us
once more? or when Cicero has been the apologist of old age, should a
second time undertake its defence? Such squandering of labour would
only engender weariness and not profit.

[Footnote 151: "_In quos veritatis amorem natura superior impressit._"
On the ancient idea (Aug. _De Trin._ iii. 4; Aquin. _Summ._ 1, 66, 3)
of the influence or impression of higher natures on lower, cf.
_Parad._ i. 103, x. 29.]

But seeing that among other truths, ill-understood yet profitable, the
knowledge touching temporal monarchy is at once most profitable and
most obscure, and that because it has no immediate reference to
worldly gain it is left unexplored by all, therefore it is my purpose
to draw it forth from its hiding-places, as well that I may spend my
toil for the benefit of the world, as that I may be the first to win
the prize of so great an achievement to my own glory. The work indeed
is difficult, and I am attempting what is beyond my strength; but I
trust not in my own powers, but in the light of that Bountiful Giver,
"Who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not."

II.--First, therefore, we must see what is it that is called Temporal
Monarchy, in its idea, so to speak, and according to its purpose.
Temporal Monarchy, then, or, as men call it, the Empire, is the
government of one prince above all men in time, or in those things and
over those things which are measured by time. Three great questions
are asked concerning it. First, there is the doubt and the question,
is it necessary for the welfare of the world? Secondly, did the Roman
people take to itself by right the office of Monarchy? And thirdly,
does the authority of Monarchy come from God directly, or only from
some other minister or vicar of God?

Now, since every truth, which is not itself a first principle, becomes
manifest from the truth of some first principle, it is therefore
necessary in every inquiry to have a knowledge of the first principle
involved, to which by analysis we may go back for the certainty of all
the propositions which are afterwards accepted. And since this
treatise is an inquiry, we must begin by examining the first principle
on the strength of which deductions are to rest. It must be understood
then that there are certain things which, since they are not subject
to our power, are matters of speculation, but not of action: such are
Mathematics and Physics, and things divine. But there are some things
which, since they are subject to our power, are matters of action as
well as of speculation, and in them we do not act for the sake of
speculation, but contrariwise: for in such things action is the end.
Now, since the matter which we have in hand has to do with states,
nay, with the very origin and principle of good forms of government,
and since all that concerns states is subject to our power, it is
manifest that our subject is not in the first place speculation, but
action. And again, since in matters of action the end sought is the
first principle and cause of all (for that it is which first moves the
agent to act), it follows that all our method concerning the means
which are set to gain the end must be taken from the end. For there
will be one way of cutting wood to build a house, and another to build
a ship. That therefore, if it exists, which is the ultimate end for
the universal civil order of mankind, will be the first principle from
which all the truth of our future deductions will be sufficiently
manifest. But it is folly to think that there is an end for this and
for that particular civil order, and yet not one end for all.

III.--Now, therefore, we must see what is the end of the whole civil
order of men; and when we have found this, then, as the
Philosopher[152] says in his book to Nicomachus,[153] the half of our
labour will have been accomplished. And to render the question
clearer, we must observe that as there is a certain end for which
nature makes the thumb, and another, different from this, for which
she makes the whole hand, and again another for which she makes the
arm, and another different from all for which she makes the whole man;
so there is one end for which she orders the individual man, and
another for which she orders the family, and another end for the city,
and another for the kingdom, and finally an ultimate one for which the
Everlasting God, by His art which is nature, brings into being the
whole human race. And this is what we seek as a first principle to
guide our whole inquiry.

[Footnote 152: The common title for Aristotle from the first half of
the thirteenth century. _Vide_ Jourdain, _Recherches sur les
traductions d'Aristote_, p. 212, note.]

[Footnote 153: Arist. _Ethics_, i. 7.]

Let it then be understood that God and nature make nothing to be idle.
Whatever comes into being, exists for some operation or working. For
no created essence is an ultimate end in the creator's purpose, so far
as he is a creator, but rather the proper operation of that essence.
Therefore it follows that the operation does not exist for the sake of
the essence, but the essence for the sake of the operation.

There is therefore a certain proper operation of the whole body of
human kind, for which this whole body of men in all its multitudes is
ordered and constituted, but to which no one man, nor single family,
nor single neighbourhood, nor single city, nor particular kingdom can
attain. What this is will be manifest, if we can find what is the
final and characteristic capacity of humanity as a whole. I say then
that no quality which is shared by different species of things is the
distinguishing capacity of any one of them. For were it so, since this
capacity is that which makes each species what it is, it would follow
that one essence would be specifically distributed to many species,
which is impossible. Therefore the ultimate quality of men is not
existence, taken simply; for the elements share therein. Nor is it
existence under certain conditions;[154] for we find this in minerals
too. Nor is it existence with life; for plants too have life. Nor is
it percipient existence; for brutes share in this power. It is to be
percipient[155] with the possibility of understanding, for this
quality falls to the lot of none but man, either above or below him.
For though there are other beings which with him have understanding,
yet this understanding is not, as man's, capable of development. For
such beings are only certain intellectual natures, and not anything
besides, and their being is nothing other than to understand; which is
without interruption, otherwise they would not be eternal. It is
plain, therefore, that the distinguishing quality of humanity is the
faculty or the power of understanding.

[Footnote 154: "_Esse complexionatum._"]

[Footnote 155: "_Apprehensivum per intellectum possibilem._" _V.
Aquin._ I. 79, 1, 2, 10.]

And because this faculty cannot be realised in act in its entirety at
one time by a single man, nor by any of the individual societies which
we have marked, therefore there must be multitude in the human race,
in order to realise it: just as it is necessary that there should be a
multitude of things which can be brought into being,[156] so that the
capacity of the primal matter for being acted on may be ever open to
what acts on it. For if this were not so, we could speak of a capacity
apart from its substance, which is impossible. And with this opinion
Averroes, in his comment on [Aristotle's] treatise on the Soul,
agrees. For the capacity for understanding, of which I speak, is
concerned not only with universal forms or species, but also, by a
kind of extension, with particular ones. Therefore it is commonly said
that the speculative understanding becomes practical by extension; and
then its end is to do and to make. This I say in reference to things
which may be _done_, which are regulated by political wisdom, and in
reference to things which may be _made_, which are regulated by art;
all which things wait as handmaidens on the speculative intellect, as
on that best good, for which the Primal Goodness created the human
race. Hence the saying of the Politics[157] that those who are strong
in understanding are the natural rulers of others.

[Footnote 156: "_Generabilium._"]

[Footnote 157: Arist. _Polit._ i. 5, 6.--(W.)]

IV.--It has thus been sufficiently set forth that the proper work of
the human race, taken as a whole, is to set in action the whole
capacity of that understanding which is capable of development: first
in the way of speculation, and then, by its extension, in the way of
action. And seeing that what is true of a part is true also of the
whole, and that it is by rest and quiet that the individual man
becomes perfect in wisdom and prudence; so the human race, by living
in the calm and tranquillity of peace, applies itself most freely and
easily to its proper work; a work which, according to the saying;
"Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels," is almost divine.
Whence it is manifest that of all things that are ordered to secure
blessings to men, peace is the best. And hence the word which sounded
to the shepherds from above was not riches, nor pleasure, nor honour,
nor length of life, nor health, nor strength, nor beauty; but peace.
For the heavenly host said: "Glory to God in the highest, and on
earth, peace to men of goodwill." Therefore also, "Peace be with you,"
was the salutation of the Saviour of mankind. For it behoved Him, who
was the greatest of saviours, to utter in His greeting the greatest of
saving blessings. And this custom His disciples too chose to preserve;
and Paul also did the same in his greetings, as may appear manifest to

Now that we have declared these matters, it is plain what is the
better, nay the best, way in which mankind may attain to do its proper
work. And consequently we have seen the readiest means by which to
arrive at the point, for which all our works are ordered, as their
ultimate end; namely, the universal peace, which is to be assumed as
the first principle for our deductions. As we said, this assumption
was necessary, for it is as a sign-post to us, that into it we may
resolve all that has to be proved, as into a most manifest truth.

V.--As therefore we have already said, there are three doubts, and
these doubts suggest three questions, concerning Temporal Monarchy,
which in more common speech is called the Empire; and our purpose is,
as we explained, to inquire concerning these questions in their given
order, and starting from the first principle which we have just laid
down. The first question, then, is whether Temporal Monarchy is
necessary for the welfare of the world; and that it is necessary can,
I think, be shown by the strongest and most manifest arguments; for
nothing, either of reason or of authority, opposes me. Let us first
take the authority of the Philosopher in his Politics.[158] There, on
his venerable authority, it is said that where a number of things are
arranged to attain an end, it behoves one of them to regulate or
govern the others, and the others to submit. And it is not only the
authority of his illustrious name which makes this worthy of belief,
but also reason, instancing particulars.

[Footnote 158: Arist. _Polit._ i. 5.]

If we take the case of a single man, we shall see the same rule
manifested in him: all his powers are ordered to gain happiness; but
his understanding is what regulates and governs all the others; and
otherwise he would never attain to happiness. Again, take a single
household: its end is to fit the members thereof to live well; but
there must be one to regulate and rule it, who is called the father of
the family, or, it may be, one who holds his office. As the
Philosopher says: "Every house is ruled by the oldest."[159] And, as
Homer says, it is his duty to make rules and laws for the rest. Hence
the proverbial curse: "Mayst thou have an equal at home."[160] Take a
single village: its end is suitable assistance as regards persons and
goods, but one in it must be the ruler of the rest, either set over
them by another, or with their consent, the head man amongst them. If
it be not so, not only do its inhabitants fail of this mutual
assistance, but the whole neighbourhood is sometimes wholly ruined by
the ambition of many, who each of them wish to rule. If, again, we
take a single city: its end is to secure a good and sufficient life to
the citizens; but one man must be ruler in imperfect[161] as well as
in good forms of the state. If it is otherwise, not only is the end of
civil life lost, but the city too ceases to be what it was. Lastly, if
we take any one kingdom, of which the end is the same as that of a
city, only with greater security for its tranquillity, there must be
one king to rule and govern. For if this is not so, not only do his
subjects miss their end, but the kingdom itself falls to destruction,
according to that word of the infallible truth: "Every kingdom divided
against itself shall be brought to desolation." If then this holds
good in these cases, and in each individual thing which is ordered to
one certain end, what we have laid down is true.

[Footnote 159: _Ibid._ i. 2, 6, quoting Hom. _Od._ ix. 114.--(W.)]

[Footnote 160: Ficinus translates: "Uno proverbio che quasi
bestemmiando dice, _Abbi pari in casa_."]

[Footnote 161: "_Obliqua_" = [Greek: parekbaseis]. _V._ Arist. _Eth._
viii. 10; _Pol._ iii. 7.--(W.)]

Now it is plain that the whole human race is ordered to gain some end,
as has been before shown. There must, therefore, be one to guide and
govern, and the proper title for this office is Monarch or Emperor.
And so it is plain that Monarchy or the Empire is necessary for the
welfare of the world.

VI.--And as the part is to the whole, so is the order of parts to the
order of the whole. The part is to the whole, as to an end and highest
good which is aimed at; and, therefore, the order in the parts is to
the order in the whole, as it is to the end and highest good aimed at.
Hence we have it that the goodness of the order of parts does not
exceed the goodness of the order of the whole, but that the converse
of this is true. Therefore we find a double order in the world,
namely, the order of parts in relation to each other, and their order
in relation to some one thing which is not a part (as there is in the
order of the parts of an army in relation to each other, and then in
relation to the general); and the order of the parts in relation to
the one thing which is not a part is the higher, for it is the end of
the other order, and the other exists for the sake of it. Therefore,
if the form of this order is found in the units of the mass of
mankind, much more may we argue by our syllogism that it is found in
mankind considered as a whole; for this latter order, or its form, is
better. But as was said in the preceding chapter, and it is
sufficiently plain, this order is found in all the units of the mass
of mankind. Therefore it is, or should be, found in the mass
considered as a whole. And therefore all the parts that we have
mentioned, which are comprised in kingdoms, and the kingdoms
themselves ought to be ordered with reference to one Prince or
Princedom, that is, with reference to a Monarch or Monarchy.

VII.--Further, the whole human race is a whole with reference to
certain parts, and, with reference to another whole, it is a part. For
it is a whole with reference to particular kingdoms and nations, as we
have shown; and it is a part with reference to the whole universe, as
is manifest without argument. Therefore, as the lower portions of the
whole system of humanity are well adapted to that whole, so that whole
is said to be well adapted to the whole which is above it. It is only
under the rule of one prince that the parts of humanity are well
adapted to their whole, as may easily be collected from what we have
said; therefore it is only by being under one Princedom, or the rule
of a single Prince, that humanity as a whole is well adapted to the
Universe, or its Prince, who is the One God. And it therefore follows
that Monarchy is necessary for the welfare of the world.

VIII.--And all is well and at its best which exists according to the
will of the first agent, who is God. This is self-evident, except to
those who deny that the divine goodness attains to absolute
perfection. Now, it is the intention of God that all created things
should represent the likeness of God, so far as their proper nature
will admit. Therefore was it said: "Let us make man in our image,
after our likeness." And though it could not be said that the lower
part of creation was made in the image of God, yet all things may be
said to be after His likeness, for what is the whole universe but the
footprint of the divine goodness? The human race, therefore, is well,
nay at its best state, when, so far as can be, it is made like unto
God. But the human race is then most made like unto God when most it
is one; for the true principle of oneness is in Him alone. Wherefore
it is written: "Hear, O Israel; the Lord thy God is one God." But the
race of man is most one when it is united wholly in one body, and it
is evident that this cannot be, except when it is subject to one
prince. Therefore in this subjection mankind is most made like unto
God, and, in consequence, such a subjection is in accordance with the
divine intention, and it is indeed well and best for man when this is
so, as we showed at the beginning of this chapter.

IX.--Again, things are well and at their best with every son when he
follows, so far as by his proper nature he can, the footsteps of a
perfect father. Mankind is the son of heaven, which is most perfect in
all its works; for it is "man and the sun which produce man,"
according to the second book on Natural Learning.[162] The human
race, therefore, is at its best when it imitates the movements of
heaven, so far as human nature allows. And since the whole heaven is
regulated with one motion, to wit, that of the _primum mobile_, and by
one mover, who is God, in all its parts, movements, and movers (and
this human reason readily seizes from science); therefore, if our
argument be correct, the human race is at its best state when, both in
its movements, and in regard to those who move it, it is regulated by
a single Prince, as by the single movement of heaven, and by one law,
as by the single motion. Therefore it is evidently necessary for the
welfare of the world for there to be a Monarchy, or single Princedom,
which men call the Empire. And this thought did Boethius breathe when
he said: "Oh happy race of men, if your hearts are ruled by the love
which rules the heaven."[163]

[Footnote 162: Arist. _Phys. Ausc._ ii. 2.--(W.)]

[Footnote 163: _De Consol. Phil._ ii. met. 8.--(W.)]

X.--Wherever there is controversy, there ought to be judgment,
otherwise there would be imperfection without its proper remedy,[164]
which is impossible; for God and Nature, in things necessary, do not
fail in their provisions. But it is manifest that there may be
controversy between any two princes, where the one is not subject to
the other, either from the fault of themselves, or even of their
subjects. Therefore between them there should be means of judgment.
And since, when one is not subject to the other, he cannot be judged
by the other (for there is no rule of equals over equals), there must
be a third prince of wider jurisdiction, within the circle of whose
laws both may come. Either he will or he will not be a Monarch. If he
is, we have what we sought; if not, then this one again will have an
equal, who is not subject to his jurisdiction, and then again we have
need of a third. And so we must either go on to infinity, which is
impossible, or we must come to that judge who is first and highest; by
whose judgment all controversies shall be either directly or
indirectly decided; and he will be Monarch or Emperor. Monarchy is
therefore necessary to the world, and this the Philosopher saw when he
said: "The world is not intended to be disposed in evil order; 'in a
multitude of rulers there is evil, therefore let there be one

[Footnote 164: "_Sine proprio perfectivo._"]

[Footnote 165: Arist. _Metaphys._ xii. 10, who quotes from Hom. _Il._
ii. 204.--(W.)]

XI.--Further, the world is ordered best when justice is most paramount
therein: whence Virgil, wishing to celebrate that age, which in his
own time seemed to be arising, sang in his _Bucolics_:[166] "Now doth
the Virgin return, and the kingdom of Saturn." For Justice was named
"the Virgin," and also Astræa. The kingdom of Saturn was the good
time, which they also called the Golden Age. But Justice is paramount
only in a Monarchy, and therefore a Monarchy, that is, the Empire, is
needed if the world is to be ordered for the best. For better proof of
this assumption it must be recognised that Justice, considered in
itself, and in its proper nature, is a certain rightness or rule of
conduct, which rejects on either side all that deviates from it. It is
like whiteness considered as an abstraction, not admitting of degrees.
For there are certain forms of this sort which belong to things
compounded, and exist themselves in a simple and unchanging essence,
as[167] the Master of the Six Principles rightly says. Yet qualities
of this sort admit of degrees on the part of their subjects with which
they are connected, according as in their subjects more or less of
their contraries is mingled. Justice, therefore, is strongest in man,
both as a state of mind and in practice, where there is least
admixture of its opposite; and then we may say of it, in the words of
the Philosopher, that "neither the star of morning nor of evening is
so admirable."[168] For then is it like Phoebe, when she looks
across the heavens at her brother from the purple of the morning calm.

[Footnote 166: _Ecl._ iv. 6.]

[Footnote 167: Gilbert de la Porrée, [dagger symbol]1154. The "Six
Principles" were the last six of the Ten Categories of Aristotle, and
the book became one of the chief elementary logic-books of the Middle
Ages. _Vide_ Hauréau, _Philosophie Scolastique_, 1e Partie, p.

[Footnote 168: From Arist. _Ethics_, v. 1.--(W.)]

Now Justice, as a state of mind,[169] has a force which opposes it in
the will; for where the will of a man is not pure from all desire,
then, though there be Justice, yet there is not Justice in all its
ideal brightness; for there is in that man, however little, yet in
some degree, an opposing force; and therefore they, who would work on
the feelings[170] of a judge, are rightly repelled. But, in
practice,[171] Justice finds an opposing force in what men are able to
do. For, seeing that it is a virtue regulating our conduct towards
other men, how shall any act according to Justice if he has not the
power of rendering to all their due? Therefore it is plain that the
operation of Justice will be wide in proportion to the power of the
just man.

[Footnote 169: "_Quantum ad habitum._"]

[Footnote 170: "_Passionare._"]

[Footnote 171: "_Quantum ad operationem._"]

From this let us argue: Justice is strongest in the world when it is
in one who is most willing and most powerful; only the Monarch is
this; therefore, only when Justice is in the Monarch is it strongest
in the world. This pro-syllogism goes on through the second figure,
with an involved negative, and is like this: All B is A; only C is A;
therefore only C is B: or all B is A; nothing but C is A; therefore
nothing but C is B.

Our previous explanation makes the first proposition apparent: the
second is proved thus, first in regard to will, and secondly in regard
to power. First it must be observed that the strongest opponent of
Justice is Appetite, as Aristotle intimates in the fifth book to
Nicomachus.[172] Remove Appetite altogether, and there remains nothing
adverse to Justice; and therefore it is the opinion of the Philosopher
that nothing should be left to the judge, if it can be decided by
law;[173] and this ought to be done for fear of Appetite, which easily
perverts men's minds. Where, then, there is nothing to be wished for,
there can be no Appetite, for the passions cannot exist if their
objects are destroyed. But the Monarch has nothing to desire, for his
jurisdiction is bounded only by the ocean; and this is not the case
with other princes, whose kingdoms are bounded by those of their
neighbours; as, for instance, the kingdom of Castile is bounded by the
kingdom of Aragon. From which it follows that the Monarch is able to
be the purest embodiment of Justice among men.

[Footnote 172: _Eth._ v. 2.--(W.)]

[Footnote 173: _Rhetoric_, i. 1.--(W.)]

Further, as Appetite in some degree, however small, clouds the habit
of Justice, so does Charity, or rightly-directed affection, sharpen
and enlighten it. In whomsoever, therefore, rightly-directed affection
may chiefly dwell, in him may Justice best have place: and of this
sort is the Monarch. Therefore where a Monarch reigns Justice is, or
at least may be, strongest. That rightly-directed affections work as
we have said, we may see thus: Appetite, scorning[174] what in itself
belongs to man, seeks for other things outside him; but Charity sets
aside all else, and seeks God and man, and consequently the good of
man. And since of all the good things that men can have the greatest
is to live in peace (as we have already said), and as it is Justice
which most chiefly brings peace, therefore Charity will chiefly make
Justice strong, and the more so in proportion to its own strength.

[Footnote 174: "_Perseitas hominum_" = "_facultas per se

And it is clear that right affections ought to exist in a Monarch more
than in any other man for this reason: the object of love is the more
loved the nearer it is to him that loves; but men are nearer to a
Monarch than they are to other princes; therefore it is by a Monarch
that they are, or ought to be, most loved. The first proposition is
manifest if the nature of activity and passivity are considered. The
second is manifest because men are brought near to a Monarch in their
totality,[175] but to other princes only partially; and it is only by
means of the Monarch that men are brought near other princes at all.
Thus the Monarch cares for all primarily and directly, whereas other
princes only care for their subjects through the Monarch, and because
their care for their subjects descends from the supreme care of the

[Footnote 175: "_Secundum totum._"]

Again, a cause has the nature of a cause in proportion as it is more
universal; for the lower cause is such only on account of the higher
one, as appears from the Treatise on Causes.[176] And, in proportion
as a cause is really a cause, it loves what it effects; for such love
follows the cause by itself. Now Monarchy is the most universal cause
of men living well, for other princes work only through the Monarch,
as we have said; and it therefore follows that it is the Monarch who
will most chiefly love the good of men. But that in practice the
Monarch is most disposed to work Justice, who can doubt, except indeed
a man who understands not the meaning of the word? for if he be
really a Monarch he cannot have enemies.

[Footnote 176: A compilation from the Arabians, or perhaps Aristotle
or Proclus, which, under various names, passed for a work of
Aristotle, and is ascribed by Albert the Great to a certain David the
Jew. It is quoted in the twelfth century, and was commented on by
Albert and Thomas Aquinas. _Vide_ Jourdain, _Recherches sur les
traductions d'Aristote_ (1842), pp. 114, 184, 193, 195, 445;
_Philosophie de S. Thomas_ (1858), i. 94.]

The principle assumed being therefore sufficiently explained, the
conclusion is certain, to wit, that a Monarch is necessary that the
world may be ordered for the best.

XII.--Again, the human race is ordered best when it is most free. This
will be manifest if we see what is the principle of freedom. It must
be understood that the first principle of our freedom is freedom of
will, which many have in their mouth, but few indeed understand. For
they come so far as to say that the freedom of the will means a free
judgment concerning will. And this is true. But what is meant by the
words is far from them: and they do just as our logicians do all day
long with certain propositions which are set as examples in the books
of logic, as that, "the three angles of a triangle are equal to two
right angles."[177]

[Footnote 177: Cf. Arist. _Magna Moral._ i. 1: "It would be absurd if
a man, wishing to prove that the angles of a triangle were equal to
two right angles, assumed as his principle that the soul is

Therefore I say that Judgment is between Apprehension and Appetite.
First, a man apprehends a thing; then he judges it to be good or bad;
then he pursues or avoids it accordingly. If therefore the Judgment
guides the Appetite wholly, and in no way is forestalled by the
Appetite, then is the Judgment free. But if the Appetite in any way at
all forestalls the Judgment and guides it, then the Judgment cannot be
free: it is not its own: it is captive to another power. Therefore the
brute beasts cannot have freedom of Judgment; for in them the Appetite
always forestalls the Judgment. Therefore, too, it is that
intellectual beings whose wills are unchangeable, and souls which are
separate from the body, which have gone hence in peace, do not lose
the freedom of their wills, because their wishes cannot change; nay,
it is in full strength and completeness that their wills are

[Footnote 178: Cf. _Purgatorio_, xviii. 22.--WITTE.]

It is therefore again manifest that this liberty, or this principle of
all our liberty, is the greatest gift bestowed by God on mankind: by
it alone we gain happiness[179] as men: by it alone we gain happiness
elsewhere as gods.[180] But if this is so, who will say that human
kind is not in its best state, when it can most use this principle?
But he who lives under a Monarchy is most free. Therefore let it be
understood that he is free who exists not for another's sake but for
his own, as the Philosopher, in his Treatise of simple Being,
thought.[181] For everything which exists for the sake of some other
thing, is necessitated by that other thing, as a road has to run to
its ordained end. Men exist for themselves, and not at the pleasure of
others, only if a Monarch rules; for then only are the perverted forms
of government set right, while democracies, oligarchies, and
tyrannies, drive mankind into slavery, as is obvious to any who goes
about among them all; and public power[182] is in the hands of kings
and aristocracies, which they call the rule of the best, and champions
of popular liberty. And because the Monarch loves his subjects much,
as we have seen, he wishes all men to be good, which cannot be the
case in perverted forms of government:[183] therefore the Philosopher
says, in his _Politics_:[184] "In the bad state the good man is a bad
citizen, but in a good state the two coincide." Good states in this
way aim at liberty, that in them men may live for themselves. The
citizens exist not for the good of consuls, nor the nation for the
good of its king; but the consuls for the good of the citizens, and
the king for the good of his nation. For as the laws are made to suit
the state, and not the state to suit the laws, so those who live under
the laws are not ordered for the legislator, but he for them;[185] as
also the Philosopher holds, in what he has left us on the present
subject. Hence, too, it is clear that although the king or the consul
rule over the other citizens in respect of the means[186] of
government, yet in respect of the end of government they are the
servants of the citizens, and especially the Monarch, who, without
doubt, must be held the servant of all. Thus it becomes clear that the
Monarch is bound by the end appointed to himself in making his laws.
Therefore mankind is best off under a Monarchy, and hence it follows
that Monarchy is necessary for the welfare of the world.

[Footnote 179: "_Felicitamur._"]

[Footnote 180: "_Ut Dii_;" cf. _Paradiso_, v. 19.--WITTE.]

[Footnote 181: _I.e._ _Metaphys._ 1, 2.--(W.)]

[Footnote 182: "_Politizant reges._"]

[Footnote 183: "_Oblique politizantes._"]

[Footnote 184: _Polit._ iii. 4.]

[Footnote 185: _Ibid._ iii. 16, 17.--(W.)]

[Footnote 186: "_Respectu viæ ... respectu termini._"]

XIII.--Further, he who can be best fitted to rule can best fit others.
For in every action the main end of the agent, whether acting by
necessity of nature or voluntarily, is to unfold his own likeness; and
therefore every agent, so far as he is of this sort, delights in
action. For since all that is desires its own existence, and since the
agent in acting enlarges his own existence in some way, delight
follows action of necessity; for delight is inseparable from gaining
what is desired. Nothing therefore acts unless it is of such sort as
that which is acted on ought to be; therefore the Philosopher said in
his _Metaphysics_,[187] "Everything which becomes actual from being
potential, becomes so by means of something actual of the same kind,"
and were anything to try to act in any other way it would fail. Hence
we may overthrow the error of those who think to form the moral
character of others by speaking well and doing ill; forgetting that
the hands of Jacob were more persuasive with his father than his
words, though his hands deceived and his voice spake truth. Hence the
Philosopher, to Nicomachus: "In matters of feeling and action, words
are less to be trusted than deeds."[188] And therefore God said to
David in his sin, "What hast thou to do to declare my statutes?" as
though He would say, "Thou speakest in vain, for thou art different
from what thou speakest." Hence it may be gathered that he needs to be
fitted for his work in the best way who wishes to fit others.

[Footnote 187: _Metaphys._ ix. 8.--(W.)]

[Footnote 188: Arist. _Eth._ x. 1.--(W.)]

But the Monarch is the only one who can be fitted in the best possible
way to govern. Which is thus proved: Each thing is the more easily and
perfectly qualified for any habit, or actual work, the less there is
in it of what is contrary to such a disposition. Therefore, they who
have never even heard of philosophy, arrive at a habit of truth in
philosophy more easily and completely than those who have listened to
it at odd times, and are filled with false opinions. For which reason
Galen well says: "Such as these require double time to acquire
knowledge."[189] A Monarch then has nothing to tempt appetite, or, at
least, less than any other man, as we have shown before; whereas other
princes have much; and appetite is the only corrupter of
righteousness, and the only impediment to justice. A Monarch therefore
is wholly, or at least more than any other prince, disposed to govern
well: for in him there may be judgment and justice more strongly than
in any other. But these two things are the pre-eminent attributes of a
maker of law, and of an executor of law, as that most holy king David
testified when he asked of God the things which were befitting the
king, and the king's son, saying: "Give the king thy judgment, O God,
and thy righteousness unto the king's son."[190]

[Footnote 189: _De cognosc. animi morbis_, c. 10.--WITTE.]

[Footnote 190: Cf. _Parad._ xiii. 95.--(W.)]

We were right then when we assumed that only the Monarch can be best
fitted to rule. Therefore only the Monarch can in the best way fit
other men. Therefore it follows that Monarchy is necessary for the
best ordering of the world.

XIV.--And where a thing can be done by one agent, it is better to do
it by one than by several, for this reason: Let it be possible to do a
certain thing by means of A, and also by means of A and B. If
therefore what is done by A and B can be done by A alone, it is
useless to add B; for nothing follows from the addition; for the same
end which A and B produced is produced also by A. All additions of
this kind are useless and superfluous: all that is superfluous is
displeasing to God and Nature: and all that is displeasing to God and
Nature is bad, as is manifest. It therefore follows not only that it
is better that a thing should be done by one than by many agents, if
it is possible to produce the effect by one; but also that to produce
the effect by one is good, and to produce it by many is simply bad.
Again, a thing is said to be better by being nearer to the best, and
the end has the nature of the best. But for a thing to be done by one
agent is better, for so it comes nearer to the end. And that so it
comes nearer is manifest; for let C be the end which may be reached by
A, or by A and B together: plainly it is longer to reach C by A and B
together than by B alone. But mankind may be governed by one supreme
prince, who is, the Monarch.

But it must be carefully observed that when we say that mankind may be
ruled by one supreme prince, we do not mean that the most trifling
judgments for each particular town are to proceed immediately from
him. For municipal laws sometimes fail, and need guidance, as the
Philosopher shows in his fifth book to Nicomachus, when he praises
equity.[191] For nations and kingdoms and states have, each of them,
certain peculiarities which must be regulated by different laws. For
law is the rule which directs life. Thus the Scythians need one rule,
for they live beyond the seventh climate,[192] and suffer cold which
is almost unbearable, from the great inequality of their days and
nights. But the Garamantes need a different law, for their country is
equinoctial, and they cannot wear many clothes, from the excessive
heat of the air, because the day is as long as the darkness of the
night. But our meaning is that it is in those matters which are common
to all men, that men should be ruled by one Monarch, and be governed
by a rule common to them all, with a view to their peace. And the
individual princes must receive this rule of life or law from him,
just as the practical intellect receives its major premiss from the
speculative intellect, under which it places its own particular
premiss, and then draws its particular conclusion, with a view to
action. And it is not only possible for one man to act as we have
described; it is necessary that it should proceed from one man only to
avoid confusion in our first principles. Moses himself wrote in his
law that he had acted thus. For he took the elders of the tribes of
the children of Israel, and left to them the lesser judgments,
reserving to himself such as were more important, and wider in their
scope; and the elders carried these wider ones to their tribes,
according as they were applicable to each separate tribe.

[Footnote 191: _Eth._ v. 14.--(W.)]

[Footnote 192: Ptolemy, the mediæval authority on geography, divided
the known world into [Greek: klimata], zones of slope towards the
pole, or belts of latitude, eight of which from the equinoctial to the
mouths of the Tanais and the Riphæan mountains. The seventh "clima"
passed over the mouths of the Borysthenes. See Mercator's map in
Bertius' _Theatrum Geographiæ Veteris_ (1618), art. "Ptolemy" in
Smith's _Dictionary of Biography_, p. 577. Dictionary of Antiquities,
art. "Clima."]

Therefore it is better for the human race to be ruled by one than by
many, and therefore there should be a Monarch, who is a single prince;
and if it is better, it is more acceptable to God, since God always
wills what is best. And since of these two ways of government the one
is not only the better, but the best of all, it follows not only that
this one is more acceptable to God as between one and many, but that
it is the most acceptable. Therefore it is best for the human race to
be governed by one man; and Monarchy is necessary for the welfare of
the world.

XV.--I say also that Being, and Unity, and the Good come in order
after the fifth mode of priority.[193] For Being comes by nature
before Unity, and Unity before Good. Where Being is most, there Unity
is greatest; and where Unity is greatest, there Good is also greatest;
and in proportion as anything is far from Being in its highest form,
is it far from Unity, and therefore from Good. Therefore in every kind
of things, that which is most one is best, as the Philosopher holds in
the treatise about simple Being. Therefore it appears that to be one
is the root of Good, and to be many the root of Evil. Therefore,
Pythagoras in his parallel tables placed the one, or Unity, under the
line of good, and the many under the line of Evil; as appears from the
first book of the _Metaphysics_.[194] Hence we may see that to sin is
nothing else than to pass on from the one which we despise and to seek
many things, as the Psalmist saw when he said: "By the fruit of their
corn and wine and oil, are they multiplied."[195]

[Footnote 193: Arist. _Categ._, _e.g._: Priority is said in five
ways--1. First in _time_. 2. First in _pre-supposition_. 3. First in
_order_. 4. First in _excellence_. 5. First in _logical sequence_.]

[Footnote 194: _V._ Arist. _Metaph._ 1, 5; _Ethics_ i. 4; cf. Ritter
and Preller, _Hist. Philos._ sec. 105.]

[Footnote 195: Ps. iv. 8 (vulg.).]

Hence it is plain that whatever is good, is good for this reason, that
it consists in unity. And because concord is a good thing in so far as
it is concord, it is manifest that it consists in a certain unity, as
its proper root, the nature of which will appear if we find the real
nature of concord. Concord then is the uniform motion of many wills;
and hence it appears that a unity of wills, by which is meant their
uniform motion, is the root of concord, nay, concord itself. For as we
should say that many clods of earth are concordant, because that they
all gravitate together towards the centre; and that many flames are
concordant because that they all ascend together towards the
circumference, if they did this of their own free will, so we say that
many men are in concord because that they are all moved together, as
regards their willing, to one thing, which one thing is formally in
their wills just as there is one quality formally in the clods of
earth, that is gravity, and one in the flame of fire, that is
lightness. For the force of willing is a certain power; but the
quality of good which it apprehends is its form; which form, like as
others, being one is multiplied in itself, according to the
multiplication of the matters which receive it, as the soul, and
numbers, and other forms which belong to what is compound.[196]

[Footnote 196: On the scholastic doctrine of forms, _v._ Thom. Aquin.
_Summ._ I. 105, art. 4.]

To explain our assumption as we proposed, let us argue thus: All
concord depends on unity which is in wills; the human race, when it is
at its best, is a kind of concord; for as one man at his best is a
kind of concord, and as the like is true of the family, the city, and
the kingdom; so is it of the whole human race. Therefore the human
race at its best depends on the unity which is in will. But this
cannot be unless there be one will to be the single mistress and
regulating influence of all the rest. For the wills of men, on account
of the blandishments of youth, require one to direct them, as
Aristotle shows in the tenth book of his _Ethics_.[197] And this
cannot be unless there is one prince over all, whose will shall be the
mistress and regulating influence of all the others. But if all these
conclusions be true, as they are, it is necessary for the highest
welfare of the human race that there should be a Monarch in the world;
and therefore Monarchy is necessary for the good of the world.

[Footnote 197: Arist. _Eth._ x. 5.--(W.)]

XVI.--To all these reasons alleged above a memorable experience adds
its confirmation. I mean that condition of mankind which the Son of
God, when, for the salvation of man, He was about to put on man,
either waited for, or, at the moment when He willed, Himself so
ordered. For if, from the fall of our first parents, which was the
turning point at which all our going astray began, we carry our
thoughts over the distribution of the human race and the order of its
times, we shall find that never but under the divine Augustus, who was
sole ruler, and under whom a perfect Monarchy existed, was the world
everywhere quiet. And that then the human race was happy in the
tranquillity of universal peace, this is the witness of all writers of
history; this is the witness of famous poets; this, too, he who wrote
the story of the "meekness and gentleness of Christ" has thought fit
to attest. And last of all, Paul has called that most blessed
condition "the fulness of the times." For then, indeed, time was full,
and all the things of time; because no office belonging to our
felicity wanted its minister. But how the world has fared since that
"seamless robe" has suffered rending by the talons of ambition, we may
read in books; would that we might not see it with our eyes. Oh, race
of mankind! what storms must toss thee, what losses must thou endure,
what shipwrecks must buffet thee, as long as thou, a beast of many
heads, strivest after contrary things. Thou art sick in both thy
faculties of understanding; thou art sick in thine affections.
Unanswerable reasons fail to heal thy higher understanding; the very
sight of experience convinces not thy lower understanding; not even
the sweetness of divine persuasion charms thy affections, when it
breathes into thee through the music of the Holy Ghost: "Behold, how
good and how pleasant a thing it is, brethren, to dwell together in

[Footnote 198: Ps. cxxxii. 1.--(W.)]


I.--"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The
kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together
against the Lord and against His anointed, saying: 'Let us break their
bonds asunder, and cast away their cords from us.'"[199] As we
commonly wonder at a new effect, when we have never been face to face
with its cause; so, as soon as we understand the cause, we look down
with a kind of scorn on those who remain in wonder. I, myself, was
once filled with wonder that the Roman people had become paramount
throughout all the earth, without any to withstand them; for when I
looked at the thing superficially I thought that this supremacy had
been obtained, not by any right, but only by arms and violence. But
after that I had carefully and thoroughly examined the matter, when I
had recognised by the most effectual signs that it was divine
providence that had wrought this, my wonder ceased, and a certain
scornful contempt has taken its place, when I perceive the nations
raging against the pre-eminence of the Roman people; when I see the
people imagining a vain thing, as I of old imagined; when, above all,
I grieve that kings and princes agree in this one matter only, in
opposing their Lord, and His one only Roman Emperor. Wherefore in
derision, yet not without a touch of sorrow, I can cry on behalf of
the glorious people and for Cæsar, together with him who cried on
behalf of the Prince of heaven: "Why do the heathen rage, and the
people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth stand up, and the
rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His
anointed." But the love which nature implants in us allows not scorn
to last for long; but, like the summer sun that when it has dispersed
the morning clouds shines with full brightness, this love prefers to
put scorn aside, and to pour forth the light which shall set men
right. So, then, to break the bonds of the ignorance of those kings
and princes, and to show that mankind is free from _their_ yoke, I
will comfort myself in company with that most holy prophet, whom I
follow, taking the words which come after: "Let us break their bonds
asunder, and cast away their yoke from us."

[Footnote 199: Ps. ii. 1-3.--(W.)]

These two things will be sufficiently performed, if I address myself
to the second part of the argument, and manifest the truth of the
question before us. For thus, if we show that the Roman Empire is _by
right_, not only shall we disperse the clouds of ignorance from the
eyes of those princes who have wrongly seized the helm of public
government, falsely imputing this thing to the Roman people; but all
men shall understand that they are free from the yoke of these
usurpers. The truth of the question can be made clear not only by the
light of human reason, but also by the ray of God's authority; and
when these two coincide, then heaven and earth must agree together.
Supported, therefore, by this conviction, and trusting in the
testimony both of reason and of authority, I proceed to settle the
second question.

II.--Inquiry concerning the truth of the first doubt has been made as
accurately as the nature of the subject permitted; we have now to
inquire concerning the second, which is: Whether the Roman people
assumed to itself _of right_ the dignity of the Empire? And the first
thing in this question is to find the truth, to which the reasonings
concerning it may be referred as to their proper first principle.

It must be recognised, then, that as there are three degrees in every
art, the mind of the artist, his instrument, and the material on which
he works, so we may look upon nature in three degrees. For nature
exists, first, in the mind of the First Agent, who is God; then in
heaven; as in an instrument, by means of which the likeness of the
Eternal Goodness unfolds itself on shapeless[200] matter. If an artist
is perfect in his art, and his instrument is perfect, any fault in the
form of his art must be laid to the badness of the material; and so,
since God holds the summit of perfection, and since His instrument,
which is heaven, admits of no failure of its due perfection (which is
manifest from our philosophy touching heaven), it follows that
whatever fault is to be found in the lower world is a fault on the
part of the subject matter, and is contrary to the intention of God
who makes nature,[201] and of heaven; and if in this lower world there
is aught that is good, it must be ascribed first to the artist, who is
God, and then to heaven, the instrument of God's art, which men call
nature; for the material, being merely a possibility, can do nothing
of itself.[202]

[Footnote 200: "_Fluitantem._"]

[Footnote 201: "_Dei naturantis._"]

[Footnote 202: Witte refers to _Parad._ xiii. 67, xxix. 32, i.
127-130. Cf. Thom. Aquin. _Summ._ I., q. 66, art. 1-3; q. 110, art. 2;
q. 115, art. 3-6. This view satisfied thinkers to the time of Hooker
(_E.P._ I. iii.), but was criticised by Bacon, _Nov. Org._ i. 66.]

Hence it is apparent that, since all Right[203] is good, it therefore
exists first in the mind of God; and since all that is in the mind of
God is God, according to the saying, "What was made, in Him was
life;"[204] and as God chiefly wishes for what is Himself, it follows
that Right is the wish of God, so far as it is in Him. And since in
God the will and the wish are the same, it further follows that this
Right is the will of God. Again it follows that Right in the world is
nothing else than the likeness of the will of God, and therefore
whatever does not agree with the divine will cannot be Right, and
whatever does agree with the divine will is Right itself. Therefore to
ask if a thing be by Right is only to ask in other words if it is what
God wills. It may therefore be assumed that what God wills to see in
mankind is to be held as real and true Right.

[Footnote 203: "_Jus._"]

[Footnote 204: St. John i. 3.--(W.)]

Besides we must remember Aristotle's teaching in the first book of his
_Ethics_, where he says: "We must not seek for certitude in every
matter, but only as far as the nature of the subject admits."[205]
Therefore our arguments from the first principle already found will be
sufficient, if from manifest evidence and from the authority of the
wise, we seek for the right of that glorious people. The will of God
is an invisible thing, but "the invisible things of God are seen,
being understood by the things which are made." For when the seal is
out of sight, the wax, which has its impression, gives manifest
evidence of it, though it be unseen; nor is it strange that the will
of God must be sought by signs; for the human will, except to the
person himself who wills, is only discerned by signs.[206]

[Footnote 205: _Eth._ i. 7, from Thom. Aq. _Lect._ XI.--(W.)]

[Footnote 206: The image of the wax and seal was a favourite one. V.
_Parad._ vii. 68, viii. 127, xiii. 67-75, quoted by Witte, who also
refers to the _Epist. ad Reges_, § 8, p. 444, ed. Fraticelli.]

III.--My answer then to the question is, that it was by right, and not
by usurpation, that the Roman people assumed to itself the office of
Monarchy, or, as men call it, the Empire, over all mankind. For in the
first place it is fitting that the noblest people should be preferred
to all others; the Roman people was the noblest; therefore it is
fitting that it should be preferred to all others. By this reasoning I
make my proof; for since honour is the reward of goodness, and since
to be preferred is always honour, therefore to be preferred is always
the reward of goodness. It is plain that men are ennobled for their
virtues; that is, for their own virtues or for those of their
ancestors; for nobleness is virtue and ancestral wealth, according to
Aristotle in his Politics; and according to Juvenal, "There is no
nobleness of soul but virtue,"[207] which two statements refer to two
sorts of nobleness, our own and that of our ancestors.[208]

[Footnote 207: Arist. _Pol._ iii. 12; Juv. viii. 20.--(W.)]

[Footnote 208: Witte refers to Dante's commentary on his own Canzone
in the _Convito_ iv. 3, and the _Parad._ xvi. 1.]

To be preferred, therefore, is, according to reason, the fitting
reward of the noble. And since rewards must be measured by desert,
according to that saying of the Gospel, "with what measure ye mete, it
shall be measured to you again;" therefore to the most noble the
highest place should be given. The testimonies of the ancients confirm
our opinion; for Virgil, our divine poet, testifies throughout his
_Æneid_, that men may ever remember it, that the glorious king, Æneas,
was the father of the Roman people. And this Titus Livius, the famous
chronicler of the deeds of the Romans, confirms in the first part of
his work, which takes its beginning from the capture of Troy. The
nobleness of this most unconquerable and most pious ancestor not only
in regard to his own great virtue, but also to that of his forefathers
and of his wives, the nobleness of whom was combined in their
descendant by the rightful law of descent, I cannot unfold at length;
"I can but touch lightly on the outlines of the truth."[209]

[Footnote 209: "Sed summa sequar vestigia rerum." Virg. _Æn._ i. 342
("fastigia" in all good MSS. and edd.).]

For the virtue then of Æneas himself, hear what our poet tells us when
he introduces Ilioneus in the first _Æneid_, praying thus: "Æneas was
our king; in justice and piety he has not left a peer, nor any to
equal him in war." Hear Virgil in the sixth _Æneid_, when he speaks
of the death of Misenus, who had been Hector's attendant in war, and,
after Hector's death, had attached himself to Æneas; for there Virgil
says that Misenus "followed as good a man;" thus comparing Æneas to
Hector, whom[210] Homer ever praises above all men, as the Philosopher
witnesses in his _Ethics_, in what he writes to Nicomachus on habits
to be avoided.

[Footnote 210: _Æn._ i. 544, vi. 170. _Il._ xxiv. 258, quoted in
Aristotle, _Ethics_, vii. 1.--(W.)]

But, as for hereditary virtue, he was ennobled from all three
continents both by his forefathers and his wives. From Asia came his
immediate ancestor, Assaracus, and others who reigned in Phrygia,
which is a part of Asia. Therefore Virgil writes in the third _Æneid_:
"After that it had seemed good to Heaven to overthrow the power of
Asia, and the guiltless race of Priam." From Europe came the male
founder of his race, who was Dardanus; from Africa his grandmother
Electra, daughter of the great king Atlas, to both which things the
poet testifies in the eighth _Æneid_, where Æneas says to Evander:
"Dardanus, the father of our city, and its founder, whom the Greeks
call the son of Atlas and Electra, came to the race of Teucer--Electra,
whose sire was great Atlas, on whose shoulders rests the circle of
heaven." But in the third _Æneid_ Virgil says that Dardanus drew his
origin from Europe. "There is a land which the Greeks have named
Hesperia, an ancient land, strong and wealthy, where the Ænotrians
dwell; it is said that now their descendants have named the country
Italy, from the name of their king. There is our rightful home; from
that land did Dardanus come." That Atlas came from Africa, the
mountain called by his name, which stands in that continent, bears
witness; and Orosius says that it is in Africa in his description of
the world, where he writes: "Its boundary is Mount Atlas, and the
islands which are called 'the happy isles.'" "Its"--that is, "of
Africa," of which he was speaking.[211]

[Footnote 211: _Æn._ iii. 1, viii. 134, iii. 163; Oros. i. 2.--(W.)]

Likewise I find that by marriage also Æneas was ennobled; his first
wife, Creusa, the daughter of king Priam, was from Asia, as may be
gathered from our previous quotations; and that she was his wife our
poet testifies in the third _Æneid_, where Andromache asks Æneas:
"What of the boy Ascanius, whom Creusa bore to thee, while the ruins
of Troy were yet smoking? Lives he yet to breathe this air?"[212] The
second wife was Dido, the queen and foundress of Carthage in Africa.
That she was the wife of Æneas our poet sings in his fourth _Æneid_,
where he says of Dido: "No more does Dido think of love in secret.
She calls it marriage, and with this name she covers her sin." The
third wife was Lavinia, the mother of Albans and Romans alike, the
daughter of king Latinus and his heir, if we may trust the testimony
of our poet in his last _Æneid_, where he introduces Turnus conquered,
praying to Æneas thus: "Thou hast conquered, and the Ausonians have
seen me lift my hands in prayer for mercy; Lavinia is thine."[213]
This last wife was from Italy, the noblest region of Europe.

[Footnote 212: III. 339. The best MSS. of Virgil omit "peperit fumante

[Footnote 213: _Æn._ xii. 936.--(W.)]

And now that we have marked these things for evidence of our
assertion, who will not rest persuaded that the father of the Romans,
and therefore the Romans themselves, were the noblest people under
heaven? Who can fail to see the divine predestination shown forth by
the double meeting of blood from every part of the world in the veins
of one man?

IV.--Again, that which is helped to its perfection by miracles is
willed by God, and therefore it is of right. This is manifestly true,
for as Thomas says in his third book against the Gentiles, "a miracle
is something done by God beyond the commonly established order of
things."[214] And so he proves that God alone can work miracles; and
his proof is strengthened by the authority of Moses; for on the
occasion of the plague of lice, when the magicians of Pharaoh used
natural principles artfully, and then failed, they said: "This is the
finger of God."[215] A miracle therefore being the immediate working
of the first agent, without the co-operation of any secondary agents,
as Thomas himself sufficiently proves in the book which we have
mentioned, it is impious to say where a miracle is worked in aid of
anything, that that thing is not of God, as something well pleasing to
him, which he foresaw. Therefore it is religious to accept the
contradictory of this. The Roman Empire has been helped to its
perfection by miracles; therefore it was willed by God, and
consequently was and is by right.[216]

[Footnote 214: _Contra Gent._ iii. 101.--(W.)]

[Footnote 215: Exod. vii. 12-15.--(W.)]

[Footnote 216: Witte refers to the _Ep. ad Reges_, § 8, for the same

It is proved by the testimony of illustrious authors that God
stretched forth His hand to work miracles on behalf of the Roman
Empire. For Livy, in the first part of his work, testifies that a
shield fell from heaven into the city chosen of God in the time of
Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, whilst he was sacrificing
after the manner of the Gentiles. Lucan mentions this miracle in the
ninth book of his Pharsalia, when he is describing the incredible
force of the South wind. He says: "Surely it was thus, while Numa was
offering sacrifices, that the shield fell with which the chosen
patrician youth moves along. The South wind, or the North wind, had
spoiled the people that bore our shields."[217] And when the Gauls had
taken all the city, and, under cover of the darkness, were stealing on
to attack the Capitol itself, the capture of which was all that
remained to destroy the very name of Rome, then as Livy, and many
other illustrious writers agree in testifying, a goose, which none had
seen before, gave a warning note of the approach of the Gauls, and
aroused the guards to defend the Capitol.[218] And our poet
commemorates the event in his description of the shield of Æneas in
the eighth book. "Higher, and in front of the temple stood Manlius,
the watchman of the Tarpeian keep, guarding the rock of the Capitol.
The palace stood out clear, rough with the thatch which Romulus had
laid; here the goose, inlaid in silver, fluttered on the portico of
gold, as it warned the Romans that the Gauls were even now on the

[Footnote 217: Luc. ix. 477.--(W.)]

[Footnote 218: V. Liv. v. 47, and the _Convito_, iv. 5.--(W.)]

[Footnote 219: _Æn._ viii. 652.--(W.)]

And when the nobility of Rome had so fallen under the onset of
Hannibal, that nothing remained for the final destruction of the Roman
commonwealth, but the Carthaginian assault on the city, Livy tells us
in the course of his history of the Punic war, that a sudden dreadful
storm of hail fell upon them, so that the victors could not follow up
their victory.[220]

[Footnote 220: Liv. xxvi. 11; Oros. iv. 17.--(W.)]

Was not the escape of Cloelia wonderful, a woman, and captive in the
power of Porsenna, when she burst her bonds, and, by the marvellous
help of God, swam across the Tiber, as almost all the historians of
Rome tell us, to the glory of that city?[221]

[Footnote 221: Liv. ii. 13; Oros. ii. 5.--(W.)]

Thus was it fitting that He should work who foresaw all things from
the beginning, and ordained them in the beauty of His order; so that
He, who when made visible was to show forth miracles for the sake of
things invisible, should, whilst invisible, also show forth miracles
for the sake of things visible.

V.--Further, whoever works for the good of the state, works with Right
as his end. This may be shown as follows. Right is that proportion of
man to man as to things, and as to persons, which, when it is
preserved, preserves society, and when it is destroyed, destroys
society.[222] The description of Right in the Digest does not give the
essence of right, but only describes it for practical purposes.[223]
If therefore our definition comprehends well the essence and reason
of Right, and if the end of any society is the common good of its
members, it is necessary that the end of all Right is the common good,
and it is impossible that that can be Right, which does not aim at the
common good. Therefore Cicero says well in the first book of his
_Rhetoric_: "Laws must always be interpreted for the good of the
state."[224] If laws do not aim at the good of those who live under
them, they are laws only in name; in reality they cannot be laws. For
it behoves them to bind men together for the common good; and Seneca
therefore says well in his book "on the four virtues:" "Law is the
bond of human society."[225] It is therefore plain that whoever aims
at the good of the state, aims at the end of Right; and therefore, if
the Romans aimed at the good of the state, we shall say truly that
they aimed at the end of Right.

[Footnote 222: Cf. Aristotle, _Ethics_, v. 6.]

[Footnote 223: "Jus est ars boni et æqui." L. 1, fr. _Dig. De Justitia
et Jure_, i. 1.--(W.)]

[Footnote 224: _De Invent._ i. 38.--(W.)]

[Footnote 225: Not Seneca, but Martin, Bp. of Braga, [dagger
symbol]580.--(W.) V. _Biog. Univ._]

That in bringing the whole world into subjection, they aimed at this
good, their deeds declare. They renounced all selfishness, a thing
always contrary to the public weal; they cherished universal peace and
liberty; and that sacred, pious, and glorious people are seen to have
neglected their own private interests that they might follow public
objects for the good of all mankind. Therefore was it well written:
"The Roman Empire springs from the fountain of piety."[226]

[Footnote 226: "_Romanum imperium de fonte nascitur
pietatis._"--(WITTE.) He has not been able to trace the saying.]

But seeing that nothing is known of the intention of an agent who acts
by free choice to any but the agent himself, save only by external
signs, and since reasonings must be examined according to the subject
matter (as has already been said), it will be sufficient on this point
if we set forth proofs which none can doubt, of the intention of the
Roman people, both in their public bodies and individually.

Concerning those public bodies by which men seem in a way to be bound
to the state, the authority of Cicero alone, in the second book of the
_De Officiis_, will suffice. "So long," he says, "as the Empire of the
republic was maintained not by injustice, but by the benefits which it
conferred, we fought either for our allies or for the Empire. Our wars
brought with them an ending which was either indulgent, or else was
absolutely necessary. All kings, peoples, and nations found a port of
refuge in the Senate. Our magistrates and generals alike sought renown
by defending our provinces and our allies with good faith and with
justice. Our government might have been called not so much Empire, as
a Protectorate of the whole world." So wrote Cicero.[227]

[Footnote 227: _De Off._ ii. 8.--(W.)]

Of individuals I will speak shortly. Shall we not say that they
intended the common good, who by hard toil, by poverty, by exile, by
bereavement of their children, by loss of limb, by sacrifice of their
lives, endeavoured to build up the public weal? Did not great
Cincinnatus leave us a sacred example of freely laying down his office
at its appointed end, when, as Livy tells us, he was taken from the
plough and made dictator? And after his victory, after his triumph, he
gave back his Imperator's sceptre to the consuls, and returned to the
ploughshare to toil after his oxen.[228] Well did Cicero, arguing
against Epicurus, in the volume _De Finibus_, speak in praise of him,
mindful of this good deed.[229] "And so," he says, "our ancestors took
Cincinnatus from the plough, and made him dictator."

[Footnote 228: Liv. vi. 28, 29; Oros. ii. 12.--(W.)]

[Footnote 229: II. 4.--(W.)]

Has not Fabricius left us a lofty example of resisting avarice, when,
poor man as he was, for the faith by which he was bound to the
republic, he laughed to scorn the great weight of gold which was
offered him, and refused it, scorning it with words which became him
well. His story too is confirmed by our poet in the sixth
_Æneid_,[230] where he speaks of "Fabricius strong in his poverty."

[Footnote 230: VI. 844.--(W.)]

Has not Camillus left us a memorable example of obeying the laws
instead of seeking our private advantage? For according to Livy he was
condemned to exile, and then, after that he had delivered his country
from the invaders, and had restored to Rome her own Roman spoils, he
yet turned to leave the sacred city, though the whole people bade him
stay; nor did he return till leave was given him to come back by the
authority of the Senate. This high-souled hero also is commended in
the sixth _Æneid_, where our poet speaks of "Camillus, that restored
to us our standards."[231]

[Footnote 231: Liv. v. 46; _Æn._ vi. 826.--(W.)]

Was not Brutus the first to teach that our sons, that all others, are
second in importance to the liberty of our country? For Livy tells us
how, when he was consul, he condemned his own sons to death, for that
they had conspired with the enemy. His glory is made new in our poet's
sixth book, where he sings how "The father shall summon the sons to
die for the sake of fair liberty, when they seek to stir fresh

[Footnote 232: _Æn._ vi. 821.--(W.)]

Has not Mucius encouraged us to dare everything for our country's
sake, when after attacking Porsenna unawares, he watched the hand
which had missed its stroke being burnt, though it was his own, as if
he were beholding the torment of a foe? This also Livy witnesses to
with astonishment.

Add to these those sacred victims the Decii, who laid down their lives
by an act of devotion for the public safety, whom Livy glorifies in
his narrative, not as they deserve, but as he was able. Add to these
the self-sacrifice, which words cannot express, of Marcus Cato, that
staunchest champion of true liberty. These were men of whom the one,
that he might save his country, did not fear the shadow of death;
while the other, that he might kindle in the world the passionate love
of liberty, showed how dear was liberty, choosing to pass out of life
a free man, rather than without liberty to abide in life.[233] The
glory of all these heroes glows afresh in the words of Cicero in his
book _De Finibus_; of the Decii he speaks thus: "Publius Decius, the
head of the Decii, a consul, when he devoted himself for the state,
and charged straight into the Latin host, was he thinking aught of his
pleasure, where and when he should take it;--when he knew that he had
to die at once, and sought that death with more eager desire than,
according to Epicurus, we should seek pleasure? And were it not that
his deed had justly received its praise, his son would not have done
the like in his fourth consulship; nor would his grandson, again, in
the war with Pyrrhus, have fallen, a consul, in battle; and, a third
time in continuous succession in that family, have offered himself a
victim for the commonwealth." But in the _De Officiis_,[234] Cicero
says of Cato: "Marcus Cato was in no different position from his
comrades who in Africa surrendered to Cæsar. The others, had they
slain themselves, would perhaps have been blamed for the act, for
their life was of less consequence,[235] and their principles were not
so strict. But for Cato, to whom nature had given incredible firmness
and who had strengthened this severity by his unremitting constancy to
his principles, and who never formed a resolution by which he did not
abide, he was indeed bound to die rather than to look on the face of a

[Footnote 233: Witte quotes the _Convito_, iv. 5, where all these
examples are recounted, almost in the same language. He compares
_Parad._ vi. 46 (Cincinnatus), _Purgat._ xx. 25 (Fabricius), _Parad._
vi. 47 (Decii), _Purg._ i. where Cato guards the approach to

[Footnote 234: I. 31 (W.), carelessly quoted.]

[Footnote 235: "_Levior_" al. "_lenior_."]

VI.--Two things therefore have been made clear: first, that whoever
aims at the good of the state aims at right;[236] and secondly, that
the Roman people in bringing the world into subjection, aimed at the
public weal. Therefore let us argue thus: Whoever aims at right, walks
according to right; the Roman people in bringing the world into
subjection aimed at right, as we have made manifest in the preceding
chapter. Therefore in bringing the world into subjection the Roman
people acted according to right, consequently it was by right that
they assumed the dignity of Empire.

[Footnote 236: "_Finem juris intendit._"]

We reach this conclusion on grounds which are manifest to all. It is
manifest from this, that whosoever aims at right, walks according to
right. To make this clear, we must mark that everything is made to
gain a certain end, otherwise it would be in vain, and as we said
before this cannot be. And as everything has its proper end, so every
end has some distinct thing of which it is the end. And therefore it
is impossible that any two things, spoken of as separate things,[237]
and in so far as they are two, should have the same end as their aim,
for so the same absurdity[238] would follow, that one of them would
exist in vain. Since, then, there is a certain end of right, as we
have explained, it necessarily follows that when we have decided what
that end is, we have also decided what right is; for it is the natural
and proper effect of right. And since in any sequence it is impossible
to have an antecedent without its consequent, for instance, to have
"man" without "animal," as is evident by putting together and taking
to pieces the idea,[239] so also it is impossible to seek for the end
of right without right, for each thing stands in the same relation to
its proper end, as the consequent does to its antecedent; as without
health it is impossible to attain to a good condition of the body.
Wherefore, it is most evidently clear that he who aims at the end of
right must aim in accordance with right; nor does the contradictory
instance which is commonly drawn from Aristotle's treatment of "good
counsel" avail anything.[240] He there says: "It is possible to obtain
what is the right result from a syllogism, which is incorrect, but not
by an argument which is right, for the middle term is wrong." For if
sometimes a right conclusion is obtained from false principles, this
is only by accident, and happens only in so far as the true conclusion
is imported in the words of the inference. Truth never really follows
from falsehood; but the signs of truth may easily follow from the
signs of falsehood. So also it is in matters of conduct. If a thief
helps a poor man out of the spoils of his thieving, we must not call
that charity; but it is an action which would have the form of
charity, if it had been done out of the man's own substance. And so of
the end of right. If anything, such as the end of right, were gained
without right, it would only be the end of right, that is, the common
good, in the same sense that the gift, made from evil gains, is
charity. And so the example proves nothing, for in our proposition we
speak, not of the apparent but of the real end of right. What was
sought, therefore, is clear.

[Footnote 237: "_Per se loquendo._"]

[Footnote 238: "_Inconveniens._"]

[Footnote 239: "_Construendo et destruendo._" Technical terms of the
conditional syllogism, _constructive_ and _destructive_.]

[Footnote 240: [Greek: Euboulia]. _Ethics_, vi. 10.]

VII.--What nature has ordained is maintained of right. For nature in
its providence does not come short of men's providence; for if it were
to come short, the effect would excel the cause in goodness, which is
impossible. But we see that when public bodies are founded, not only
are the relations of the members to each other considered, but also
their capacities for exercising offices; and this is to consider the
end of right in the society or order which is founded, for right is
not extended beyond what is possible. Nature then, in her ordinances,
does not come short in this foresight. Therefore it is clear that
nature, in ordaining a thing, has regard to its capacities; and this
regard is the fundamental principle of right which nature lays down.
From this it follows that the natural order of things cannot be
maintained without right; for this fundamental principle of right is
inseparably joined to the natural order of things. It is necessary,
therefore, that it is of right that this order is preserved.

The Roman people was ordained for empire, by nature, and this may be
shown as follows: The man would come short of perfection in his art,
who aimed only to produce his ultimate form, and neglected the means
of reaching it; in the same way, if nature only aimed at reproducing
in the world the universal form of the divine likeness, and neglected
the means of doing so, she would be imperfect. But nature, which is
the work of the divine intelligence, is wholly perfect; she therefore
aims at all the means by which her final end is arrived at.

Since then mankind has a certain end, and since there is a certain
means necessary for the universal end of nature, it necessarily
follows that nature aims at obtaining that means. And therefore the
Philosopher, in the second book of _Natural Learning_,[241] well shows
that nature always acts for the end. And since nature cannot reach
this end through one man, because that there are many actions
necessary to it, which need many to act, therefore nature must produce
many men and set them to act. And besides the higher influence,[242]
the powers and properties of inferior spheres contribute much to this.
And therefore we see not only that individual men, but also that
certain races are born to govern, and certain others to be governed
and to serve, as the Philosopher argues in the _Politics_;[243] and
for the latter, as he himself says, subjection is not only expedient,
but just, even though they be forced into subjection.

[Footnote 241: Arist. _Phys. Ausc._ ii. 1.--(W.)]

[Footnote 242: _I.e._ of the heavens. Witte quotes _Parad._ viii. 97,
_Purg._ xiv. 38.]

[Footnote 243: I. 5, 11; 6, 9.--(W.)]

And if this is so, it cannot be doubted that nature ordained in the
world a country and a nation for universal sovereignty; if this were
not so, she would have been untrue to herself, which is impossible.
But as to where that country is, and which is that nation, it is
sufficiently manifest, both from what we have said and from what we
shall say, that it was Rome and her citizens or people; and this our
poet very skilfully touches on in the sixth _Æneid_, where he
introduces Anchises prophesying to Æneas, the ancestor of the Romans:
"Others may mould the breathing bronze more delicately--I doubt it
not; they may chisel from marble the living countenance; they may
surpass thee in pleading causes; they may track the course of the
heavens with the rod, and tell when the stars will rise; but thou,
Roman, remember to rule the nations with thy sway. These shall be thy
endowments--to make peace to be the custom of the world; to spare thy
foes when they submit, and to crush the proud."[244] And again, Virgil
skilfully notes the appointment of the _place_, in the fourth
_Æneid_, when he brings in Jupiter speaking to Mercury concerning
Æneas: "His fair mother did not promise him to us to be such as this:
it was not for this that twice she rescues him from Grecian arms; but
that there should be one to rule over Italy, teeming with empires,
tempestuous with wars." It has, therefore, sufficiently been shown
that the Roman people was by nature ordained to empire. Therefore it
was of right that they gained empire, by subduing to themselves the

[Footnote 244: _Æn._ vi. 848, iv. 227.--(W.)]

VIII.--But in order properly to discover the truth in our inquiry, we
must recognise that the judgment of God is sometimes made manifest to
men, and sometimes hidden from them.

It may be made manifest in two ways, namely, by reason and by faith.

There are some judgments of God to which the human reason, by its own
paths, can arrive; as, that a man should risk death to save his
country. For a part should always risk itself to save its whole, and
each man is a part of his State, as is clear from the Philosopher in
his _Politics_.[245] Therefore every man ought to risk himself for his
country, as the less good for the better; whence the Philosopher says
to Nicomachus: "The end is desirable, indeed, even for an individual,
but it is better and more divine for a nation and State."[246] And
this is the judgment of God, for if it were not so, right reason in
men would miss the intention of nature, which is impossible.

[Footnote 245: Arist. _Pol._ i. 2, 12.--(W.)]

[Footnote 246: _Ethics_, i. 1.]

There are also some judgments of God to which, though human reason
cannot reach them by its own powers, yet, by the aid of faith in those
things which are told us in Holy Scripture it can be lifted up: as,
for instance, that no one, however perfect he may be in moral and
intellectual virtues, both in habit and in action, can be saved
without faith; it being supposed that he never heard aught of Christ.
For human reason cannot of itself see this to be just, yet by faith it
can. For in the Epistle to the Hebrews it is written, "without faith
it is impossible to please God;"[247] and in Leviticus, "what man
soever there be of the House of Israel that killeth an ox, or lamb, or
goat in the camp, or that killeth it out of the camp, and bringeth it
not to the door of the tabernacle to offer an offering unto the Lord,
blood shall be imputed to that man."[248] The door of the tabernacle
stands for Christ, who is the door of the kingdom of heaven, as may be
proved from the Gospel: the killing of animals represents men's

[Footnote 247: Cf. _Parad._ xix. 70.--(W.)]

[Footnote 248: Heb. ii. 6; Levit. xvii. 3, 4.--(W.).]

[Footnote 249: Witte quotes from Isidore of Seville, a writer much
used in the middle ages, the following: "In a moral sense, we offer a
calf when we conquer the pride of the flesh; a lamb, when we correct
our irrational impulses; a kid, when we master impurity; a dove, when
we are simple; a turtle-dove, when we observe chastity; unleavened
bread, 'when we keep the feast not in the leaven of malice, but in the
unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.'"]

But the judgment of God is a hidden one, when man cannot arrive at the
knowledge of it either by the law of nature or by the written law, but
only occasionally by a special grace. This grace comes in several
ways: sometimes by simple revelation, sometimes by revelation assisted
by a certain kind of trial or debate. Simple revelation, too, is of
two kinds: either God gives it of his own accord, or it is gained by
prayer. God gives it of his own accord in two ways, either plainly, or
by a sign. His judgment against Saul was revealed to Samuel plainly;
but it was by a sign that it was revealed to Pharaoh what God had
judged touching the setting free of the children of Israel. The
judgment of God is also given in answer to prayer, as he knew who
spoke in the second book of Chronicles:[250] "When we know not what we
ought to do, this only have we left, to direct our eyes to Thee."

[Footnote 250: 2 Chron. xx. 12 (Vulg.).]

Revelation by means of trial is also of two kinds. It is given either
by casting lots, or by combat; for "to strive" (_certare_), is derived
from a phrase which means "to make certain" (_certum facere_). It is
clear that the judgment of God is sometimes revealed to men by casting
lots, as in the substitution of Matthias in the Acts of the Apostles.

Again the judgment of God is revealed to men by combat in two ways:
either it is by a trial of strength, as in the duels of champions who
are called "_duelliones_," or it is by the contention of many men,
each striving to reach a certain mark first, as happens in the
contests of athletes who run for a prize. The first of these methods
was prefigured among the Gentiles by the contests between Hercules and
Antæus, which Lucan mentions in the fourth book of his _Pharsalia_,
and Ovid in the ninth book of his _Metamorphoses_. The second is
prefigured by the contest between Atalanta and Hippomenes, described
in the tenth book of Ovid's _Metamorphoses_.[251]

[Footnote 251: _Phars._ iv. 593; _Metam._ ix. 183, x. 569.--(W.).]

Moreover, it ought not to pass unnoticed concerning these two kinds of
strife, that while in the first each champion may fairly hinder his
antagonist, in the second this is not so; for athletes must not hinder
one another in their strife, though our poet seems to have thought
differently in the fifth _Æneid_ where Euryalus so receives the
prize.[252] But Cicero has done better in forbidding this practice in
the third book of the _De Officiis_, following the opinion of
Chrysippus.[253] He there says: "Chrysippus is right here, as he often
is, for he says that he who runs in a race should strive with all his
might to win, but in no way should he try to trip up his competitor."

[Footnote 252: V. 335--(W.)]

[Footnote 253: III. 10.--(W.)]

With these distinctions, then, we may assume that there are two ways
in which men may learn the judgment of God, as we have on this point
stated; first by the contests of athletes, and secondly by the
contests of champions. These ways of discovering the judgment of God I
will treat of in the chapter following.

IX.--That people then, which conquered when all were striving hard for
the Empire of the world, conquered by the will of God. For God cares
more to settle a universal strife than a particular one; and even in
particular contests the athletes sometimes throw themselves on the
judgment of God, according to the common proverb: "To whom God makes
the grant, him let Peter also bless."[254] It cannot, then, be
doubted that the victory in the strife for the Empire of the world
followed the judgment of God. The Roman people, when all were striving
for the Empire of the world, conquered; it will be plain that so it
was, if we consider the prize or goal, and those who strove for it.
The prize or goal was the supremacy over all men; for it is this that
we call the Empire. None reached this but the Roman people. Not only
were they the first, they were the only ones to reach the goal, as we
shall shortly see.

[Footnote 254: Witte only gives a query (?). The saying expresses the
Ghibelline view of the relation of the Empire to the Pope; it may have
originated with the coronation of Charles the Great.]

The first man who panted for the prize was Ninus, King of the
Assyrians; but although for more than ninety years (as Orosius
tells[255]) he, with his royal consort Semiramis, strove for the
Empire of the world and made all Asia subject to himself, nevertheless
he never subdued the West. Ovid mentions both him and his queen in the
fourth book of the _Metamorphoses_, when he says, in the story of
Pyramus:[256] "Semiramis girdled the round space with brick-built
walls;" and, "let them come to Ninus' tomb and hide beneath in its

[Footnote 255: I. 4.--(W.)]

[Footnote 256: _Metam._ iv. 58, 88.--(W.)]

Secondly, Vesoges, King of Egypt, aspired to this prize; but though he
vexed the North and South of Asia, as Orosius relates,[257] yet he
never gained for himself one-half of the world; nay, when, as it
were, between the judges[258] and the goal, the Scythians drove him
back from his rash enterprise.

[Footnote 257: Oros. i. 14.--(W.)]

[Footnote 258: "Athlothetæ." The judges or umpires in the Greek games,
whose seats were opposite to the goal at the side of the stadium.
_Vide_ Smith's _Dictionary of Antiquities_, s.v. "stadium."]

Then Cyrus, King of the Persians, made the same attempt; but after the
destruction of Babylon, and the transference of its Empire to Persia,
he did not even reach the regions of the West, but lost his life and
his object in one day at the hands of Tamiris, Queen of the

[Footnote 259: Oros. ii. 7.--(W.)]

But after that these had failed, Xerxes, the son of Darius and king
among the Persians, assailed the world with so great a multitude of
nations, with so great a power, that he bridged the channel of the sea
which separates Asia from Europe, between Sestos and Abydos. And of
this wonderful work Lucan makes mention in the second book of his
_Pharsalia_:[260] "Such paths across the seas, made by Xerxes in his
pride, fame tells of." But finally he was miserably repulsed from his
enterprise, and could not attain the goal.

[Footnote 260: _Phars._ ii. 692.--(W.)]

Besides these kings, and after their times, Alexander, King of
Macedon, came nearest of all to the prize of monarchy; he sent
ambassadors to the Romans to demand their submission, but before the
Roman answer came, he fell in Egypt, as Livy[261] tells us, as it were
in the middle of the course. Of his burial there, Lucan speaks in the
eighth book of his _Pharsalia_,[262] where he is inveighing against
Ptolemy, King of Egypt: "Thou last of the Lagæan race, soon to perish
in thy degeneracy, and to yield thy kingdom to an incestuous sister;
while for thee the Macedonian is kept in the sacred cave...."

[Footnote 261: Not Livy. Cf. ix. 18, 3, where, speaking of Alexander
and the Romans, he says: "Quem ne famâ quidem illis notum arbitror
fuisse." The story is Greek in origin, coming from Cleitarchus
(according to Pliny, _Hist. Nat._ iii. 9), who accompanied Alexander
on his Asiatic expedition. Cf. Niebuhr, _Lectures on the History of
Rome_, lect. 52, Grote, _History of Greece_, vol. xii. p. 70, note,
who argue for its truth, and Mommsen, _History of Rome_, vol. i. p.
394, who argues against it. Dante, says Witte, used legends about
Alexander now lost. Cf. _Inf._ xiv. 31.]

[Footnote 262: VIII. 692.]

"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!"
Who will not marvel at thee here? For when Alexander was trying to
hinder his Roman competitor in the race, thou didst suddenly snatch
him away from the contest that his rashness might proceed no further.

But that Rome has won the crown of so great a victory is proved on the
testimony of many. Our poet in his first _Æneid_ says:[263] "Hence,
surely, shall one day the Romans come, as the years roll on, to be the
leaders of the world, from the blood of Teucer renewed; over the sea
and over the land they shall hold full sway."[264] And Lucan, in his
first book, writes: "The sword assigns the kingdom; and the fortune of
that mighty people that rules o'er sea and land and the whole earth,
admitted not two to rule." And Boethius, in his second book,[265]
speaking of the Roman prince says: "With his sceptre he ruled the
nations, those whom Phoebus beholds, from his rising afar to where
he sinks his beams beneath the waves; those who are benumbed by the
frosty Seven Stars of the north, those whom the fierce south wind
scorches with his heat, parching the burning sands." And Luke, the
Scribe of Christ, bears the same testimony, whose every word is true,
where he says: "There went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus that all
the world should be taxed;" from which words we must plainly
understand that the Romans had jurisdiction over the whole world.

[Footnote 263: I. 234.--(W.)]

[Footnote 264: I. 109.--(W.)]

[Footnote 265: _De Consol. Phil._ ii. 6.--(W.)]

From all this evidence it is manifest that the Roman people prevailed
when all were striving to gain the Empire of the world. Therefore it
was by the judgment of God that it prevailed; consequently its Empire
was gained by the judgment of God, which is to say, that it was gained
by right.

X.--And what is gained as the result of single combat or duel is
gained of right. For whenever human judgment fails, either because it
is involved in the clouds of ignorance, or because it has not the
assistance of a judge, then, lest justice should be left deserted, we
must have recourse to Him who loved justice so much that He died to
fulfil what it required by shedding His own blood. Therefore the
Psalmist wrote: "The righteous Lord loveth righteousness." This result
is gained when, by the free consent of the parties, not from hatred
but from love of justice, men inquire of the judgment of God by a
trial of strength as well of soul as of body. And this trial of
strength is called a duel, because in the first instance it was
between two combatants, man to man.

But when two nations quarrel they are bound to try in every possible
way to arrange the quarrel by means of discussion; it is only when
this is hopeless that they may declare war. Cicero and Vegetius agree
on this point, the former in his _De Officiis_,[266] the latter in his
book on war. In the practice of medicine recourse may only be had to
amputation and cauterising when every other means of cure have been
tried. So in the same way, it is only when we have sought in vain for
all other modes of deciding a quarrel that we may resort to the remedy
of a single combat, forced thereto by a necessity of justice.

[Footnote 266: _De Off._ i. 12; _De Re Milit._ iii. _prol._--(W.)]

Two formal rules, then, of the single combat are clear, one which we
have just mentioned, the other, which we touched on before, that the
combatants or champions must enter the lists by common consent, not
animated by private hatred or love, but simply by an eager desire for
justice. Therefore Cicero, in touching on this matter, spoke well when
he said: "Wars, which are waged for the crown of empire, must be waged
without bitterness."[267]

[Footnote 267: "Imperii _gloria_," not "_corona_," in _Cic. de Off._
i. 12.--(W.)]

But, if the rules of single combat be kept when men are driven by
justice to meet together by common consent, in their zeal for justice
(and if they are not, the contest ceases to be a single combat), do
not they meet together in the name of God? And if it is so, is not God
in the midst of them, for He Himself promises us this in the Gospel?
And if God is there, is it not impious to suppose that justice can
fail?--that justice which He loved so much, as we have just seen. And
if single combat cannot fail to secure justice, is not what is gained
in single combat gained as of right?

This truth the Gentiles, too, recognised before the trumpet of the
Gospel was sounded, when they sought for a judgment in the fortune of
single combat. So Pyrrhus, noble both in the manners and in the blood
of Æacidæ, gave a worthy answer when the Roman envoys were sent to him
to treat for the ransom of prisoners. "I ask not for gold; ye shall
pay me no price, being not war-mongers, but true men of war. Let each
decide his fate with steel, and not with gold. Whether it be you or I
that our mistress wills to reign, or what chance she may bring to
each, let us try by valour. Hear ye also this word: those whose valour
the fortune of war has spared, their liberty will I too spare. Take ye
them as my gift."[268] So spoke Pyrrhus. By "mistress" he meant
Fortune, which we better and more rightly call the Providence of God.
Therefore, let the combatants beware that they fight not for money;
then it would be no true single combat in which they fought, for they
would strive in a court of blood and injustice; and let it not be
thought that God would then be present to judge; nay, for it would be
that ancient enemy who had been the instigator of the strife. If they
wish to be true combatants, and not dealers in blood and injustice,
let them keep Pyrrhus before their eyes when they enter the arena, the
man who, when he was striving for empire, so scorned gold, as we have

[Footnote 268: Ennius in _Cic. de Off._ i. 12 (W.) "War-monger" is
Spenser's word. _F.Q._ 3, 10, 29.]

But, if men will not receive the truth which we have proved, and
object, as they are wont, that all men are not equal in strength, we
will refute them with the instance of the victory of David over
Goliath; and if the Gentiles seek for aught more, let them repel the
objection by the victory of Hercules over Antæus. For it is mere folly
to fear that the strength which God makes strong should be weaker than
a human champion. It is, therefore, now sufficiently clear that what
is acquired by single combat is acquired by right.

XI.--But the Roman people gained their empire by duel between man and
man; and this is proved by testimonies that are worthy of all
credence; and in proving this, we shall also show that where any
question had to be decided from the beginning of the Roman Empire, it
was tried by single combat.

For first of all, when a quarrel arose about the settling in Italy of
Father Æneas, the earliest ancestor of this people, and when Turnus,
King of the Rutuli, withstood Æneas, it was at last agreed between the
two kings to discover the good pleasure of God by a single combat,
which is sung in the last book of the _Æneid_. And in this combat
Æneas was so merciful in his victory, that he would have granted life
and peace to the conquered foe, had he not seen the belt which Turnus
had taken on slaying Pallas, as the last verses of our poet describe.

Again, when two peoples had grown up in Italy, both sprung from the
Trojan stem, namely, the Romans and the Albans, and they had long
striven whose should be the sign of the eagle,[269] and the Penates of
Troy, and the honours of empire; at last by mutual consent, in order
to have certain knowledge of the case in hand, the three Horatii, who
were brethren, and the three Curatii, who were also brethren, fought
together before the kings and all the people anxiously waiting on
either side; and since the three Alban champions were killed, while
one Roman survived, the palm of victory fell to the Romans, in the
reign of Hostilius the king. This story has been diligently put
together by Livy, in the first part of his history, and Orosius also
gives similar testimony.[270]

[Footnote 269: "_Il sacrosanto segno._" V. _Parad._ vi. 32.]

[Footnote 270: Liv. i. 24; Oros. ii. 4.]

Next they fought for empire with their neighbours the Sabines and
Samnites, as Livy tells us; all the laws of war were kept; and though
those who fought were very many in number, the war was in the form of
a combat between man and man. In the contest with the Samnites,
Fortune nearly repented her of what she had begun, as Lucan instances
in the second book of his _Pharsalia_:[271] "How many companies lay
dead by the Colline gate then, when the headship of the world and
universal empire well-nigh were transferred to other seats, and the
Samnite heaped the corpses of Rome beyond the numbers[272] of the
Caudine Forks."

[Footnote 271: II. 135.]

[Footnote 272:

                   "Romanaque Samnis
     Ultra Caudinas superavit vulnera furcas."

Another reading is "speravit."]

But after that the intestine quarrels of Italy had ceased, and while
the issue of the strife with Greece and Carthage was not yet made
certain by the judgment of God--for both Greece and Carthage aimed at
empire--then Fabricius for Rome, and Pyrrhus for Greece, fought with
vast hosts for the glory of empire, and Rome gained the day. And when
Scipio for Rome, and Hannibal for Carthage, fought man to man, the
Africans fell before the Italians, as Livy and all the other Roman
historians strive to tell.

Who then is so dull of understanding as not to see that this glorious
people has won the crown of all the world, by the decision of combat?
Surely the Roman may repeat Paul's words to Timothy: "There is laid up
for me a crown of righteousness," laid up, that is, in the eternal
providence of God. Let, then, the presumptuous Jurists see how far
they stand below that watch-tower of reason whence the mind of man
regards these principles: and let them be silent, content to show
forth counsel and judgment according to the meaning of the law.

It has now become manifest that it was by combat of man against man
that the Romans gained their empire: therefore it was by right that
they gained it, and this is the principal thesis of the present book.
Up to this point we have proved our thesis by arguments which mostly
rest on principles of reason; we must now make our point clear by
arguments based on the principles of the Christian faith.

XII.--For it is they who profess to be zealous for the faith of Christ
who have chiefly "raged together," and "imagined a vain thing" against
the Roman empire; men who have no compassion on the poor of Christ,
whom they not only defraud as to the revenues of the Church; but the
very patrimonies of the Church are daily seized upon; and the Church
is made poor, while making a show of justice they yet refuse to allow
the minister of justice to fulfil his office.

Nor does this impoverishment happen without the judgment of God. For
their possessions do not afford help to the poor, to whom belongs as
their patrimony the wealth of the Church; and these possessions are
held without gratitude to the empire which gives them. Let these
possessions go back to whence they came. They came well; their return
is evil: for they were well given, and they are mischievously held.
What shall we say to shepherds like these? What shall we say when the
substance of the Church is wasted, while the private estates of their
own kindred are enlarged? But perchance it is better to proceed with
what is set before us; and in religious silence to wait for our
Saviour's help.

I say, then, that if the Roman empire did not exist by right, Christ
in being born presupposed and sanctioned an unjust thing. But the
consequent is false; therefore the contradictory of the antecedent is
true; for it is always true of contradictory propositions, that if one
is false the other is true. It is not needful to prove the falsity of
the consequent to a true believer: for, if he be faithful, he will
grant it to be false; and if he be not faithful, then this reasoning
is not for him.

I prove the consequence thus: wherever a man of his own free choice
carries out a public order, he countenances and persuades by his act
the justice of that order; and seeing that acts are more forcible to
persuade than words (as Aristotle holds in the tenth book of his
_Ethics_),[273] therefore by this he persuades us more than if it were
merely an approval in words. But Christ, as Luke who writes His
story, says, willed to be born of the Virgin Mary under an edict of
Roman authority, so that in that unexampled census of mankind, the Son
of God, made man, might be counted as man: and this was to carry out
that edict. Perhaps it is even more religious to suppose that it was
of God that the decree issued through Cæsar, so that He who had been
such long years expected among men should Himself enroll himself with
mortal man.

[Footnote 273: _Eth._ x. 1.]

Therefore Christ, by His action, enforced the justice of the edict of
Augustus, who then wielded the Roman power. And since to issue a just
edict implies jurisdiction, it necessarily follows that He who showed
that He thought an edict just, must also have showed that He thought
the jurisdiction under which it was issued just; but unless it existed
by right it were unjust.

And it must be noted that the force of the argument taken to destroy
the consequent, though the argument partly holds from its form, shows
its force in the second figure, if it be reduced as a syllogism, just
as the argument based on the assumption of the antecedent is in the
first figure. The reduction is made thus: all that is unjust is
persuaded to men unjustly; Christ did not persuade us unjustly;
therefore He did not persuade us to do unjust things. From the
assumption of the antecedent thus: all injustice is persuaded to men
unjustly: Christ persuaded a certain injustice to man, therefore He
persuaded unjustly.

XIII.--And if the Roman empire did not exist by right, the sin of Adam
was not punished in Christ. This is false, therefore its contradictory
is true. The falsehood of the consequent is seen thus. Since by the
sin of Adam we were all sinners, as the Apostle says:--"Wherefore, as
by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death
passed upon all men, for that all have sinned,"--then, if Christ had
not made satisfaction for Adam's sin by his death, we should still by
our depraved nature be the children of wrath. But this is not so, for
Paul, speaking of the Father in his Epistle to the Ephesians, says:
"Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ
to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise
of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the
beloved, in whom we have redemption by His blood, the forgiveness of
sins according to the riches of His grace, wherein He has abounded
towards us." And Christ Himself, suffering in Himself the punishment,
says in St. John: "It is finished;" for where a thing is finished,
naught remains to be done.

It is convenient that it should be understood that punishment is not
merely penalty inflicted on him who has done wrong, but that penalty
inflicted by one who has penal jurisdiction. And therefore a penalty
should not be called punishment, but rather injury, except where it is
inflicted by the sentence of a regular judge.[274] Therefore the
Israelites said unto Moses: "Who made thee a judge over us?"

[Footnote 274: "_Ab ordinario judice._"]

If, therefore, Christ had not suffered by the sentence of a regular
judge, the penalty would not properly have been punishment; and none
could be a regular judge who had not jurisdiction over all mankind;
for all mankind was punished in the flesh of Christ, who "hath borne
our griefs and carried our sorrows," as saith the Prophet Isaiah. And
if the Roman empire had not existed by right, Tiberius Cæsar, whose
vicar was Pontius Pilate, would not have had jurisdiction over all
mankind. It was for this reason that Herod, not knowing what he did,
like Caiaphas, when he spoke truly of the decree of heaven, sent
Christ to Pilate to be judged, as Luke relates in his gospel. For
Herod was not the vicegerent of Tiberius, under the standard of the
eagle, or the standard of the Senate; but only a king, with one
particular kingdom given him by Tiberius, and ruling the kingdom
committed to his charge under Tiberius.

Let them cease, then, to insult the Roman empire, who pretend that
they are the sons of the Church; when they see that Christ, the
bridegroom of the Church, sanctioned the Roman empire at the beginning
and at the end of His warfare on earth. And now I think that I have
made it sufficiently clear that it was by right that the Romans
acquired to themselves the empire of the world.

Oh happy people, oh Ausonia, how glorious hadst thou been, if either
he, that weakener of thine empire, had never been born, or if his own
pious intention had never deceived him?[275]

[Footnote 275: Constantine the Great.--(W.)]


I.--"He hath shut the lions' mouths and they have not hurt me,
forasmuch as before Him justice was found in me."[276] At the
beginning of this work I proposed to examine into three questions,
according as the subject-matter would permit me. Concerning the two
first questions our inquiry, as I think, has been sufficiently
accomplished in the preceding books. It remains to treat of the third
question; and, perchance, it may arouse a certain amount of
indignation against me, for the truth of it cannot appear without
causing shame to certain men. But seeing that truth from its
changeless throne appeals to me--that Solomon too, entering on the
forest of his proverbs, teaches me in his own person "to meditate on
truth, to hate the wicked;"[277] seeing that the Philosopher, my
instructor in morals, bids me, for the sake of truth, to put aside
what is dearest;[278] I will, therefore, take confidence from the
words of Daniel in which the power of God, the shield of the defenders
of truth, is set forth, and, according to the exhortation of St.
Paul, "putting on the breast-plate of faith," and in the heat of that
coal which one of the seraphim had taken from off the altar, and laid
on the lips of Isaiah, I will enter on the present contest, and, by
the arm of Him who delivered us by His blood from the powers of
darkness, drive out from the lists the wicked and the liar, in the
sight of all the world. Why should I fear, when the Spirit, which is
co-eternal with the Father and the Son, saith by the mouth of David:
"The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance, he shall not
be afraid of evil tidings"?[279]

[Footnote 276: Dan. vi. 22. Vulg.--(W.)]

[Footnote 277: Prov. vii. 7. Vulg.--(W.)]

[Footnote 278: Arist. _Eth._ i. 4.--(W.)]

[Footnote 279: Ps. cxii. 7.--(W.)]

The present question, then, concerning which we have to inquire, is
between two great luminaries, the Roman Pontiff and the Roman Prince:
and the question is, does the authority of the Roman Monarch, who, as
we have proved in the second book, is the monarch of the world, depend
immediately on God, or on some minister or vicar of God; by whom I
understand the successor of Peter, who truly has the keys of the
kingdom of heaven?

II.--For this, as for the former questions, we must take some
principle, on the strength of which we may fashion the arguments of
the truth which is to be expounded. For what does it profit to labour,
even in speaking truth, unless we start from a principle? For the
principle alone is the root of all the propositions which are the
means of proof.

Let us, therefore, start from the irrefragable truth that that which
is repugnant to the intention of nature, is against the will of God.
For if this were not true its contradictory would not be false;
namely, that what is repugnant to the intention of nature is not
against God's will, and if this be not false neither are the
consequences thereof false. For it is impossible in consequences which
are necessary, that the consequent should be false, unless the
antecedent were false also.

But if a thing is not "_against the will_" it must either be willed or
simply "not willed," just as "not to hate" means "to love," or "not to
love;" for "not to love" does not mean "to hate," and "not to will"
does not mean "to will not," as is self-evident. But if this is not
false, neither will this proposition be false; "God wills what He does
not will," than which a greater contradiction does not exist.

I prove that what I say is true as follows: It is manifest that God
wills the end of nature; otherwise the motions of heaven would be of
none effect, and this we may not say. If God willed that the end
should be hindered, He would will also that the hindering power should
gain its end, otherwise His will would be of none effect. And since
the end of the hindering power is the non-existence of what it
hinders, it would follow that God wills the non-existence of the end
of nature which He is said to will.

For if God did not will that the end should be hindered, in so far as
He did not will it, it would follow as a consequence to His not
willing it, that He cared nought about the hindering power, neither
whether it existed, nor whether it did not. But he who cares not for
the hindering power, cares not for the thing which can be hindered,
and consequently has no wish for it; and when a man has no wish for a
thing he wills it not. Therefore, if the end of nature can be
hindered, as it can, it follows of necessity that God wills not the
end of nature, and we reach our previous conclusion, that God wills
what He does not will. Our principle is therefore most true, seeing
that from its contradictions such absurd results follow.

III.--At the outset we must note in reference to this third question,
that the truth of the first question had to be made manifest rather to
remove ignorance than to end a dispute. In the second question we
sought equally to remove ignorance and to end a dispute. For there are
many things of which we are ignorant, but concerning which we do not
quarrel. In geometry we know not how to square the circle, but we do
not quarrel on that point. The theologian does not know the number of
the angels, but he does not quarrel about the number. The Egyptian is
ignorant of the political system of the Scythians, but he does not
therefore quarrel concerning it.[280] But the truth in this third
question provokes so much quarrelling that, whereas in other matters
ignorance is commonly the cause of quarrelling, here quarrelling is
the cause of ignorance. For this always happens where men are hurried
by their wishes past what they see by their reason; in this evil bias
they lay aside the light of reason, and being dragged on blindly by
their desires, they obstinately deny that they are blind. And,
therefore, it often follows not only that falsehood has its own
inheritance, but that many men issue forth from their own bounds and
stray through the foreign camp, where they understand nothing, and no
man understands them; and so they provoke some to anger, and some to
scorn, and not a few to laughter.

[Footnote 280: "_Scytharum Civilitatem._" Cf. Arist. _Ethics_, iii. 5,
where [Greek: to bouleuton] is discussed, and thence come the first
and the third example, a little altered, the Egyptian being
substituted for the Spartan.]

Now three classes of men chiefly strive against the truth which we are
trying to prove.

First, the Chief Pontiff, Vicar of our Lord Jesus Christ and the
successor of Peter, to whom we owe, not indeed all that we owe to
Christ, but all that we owe to Peter, contradicts this truth, urged it
may be by zeal for the keys; and also other pastors of the Christian
sheepfolds, and others whom I believe to be only led by zeal for our
mother, the Church. These all, perchance from zeal and not from pride,
withstand the truth which I am about to prove.

But there are certain others in whom obstinate greed has extinguished
the light of reason, who are of their father the devil, and yet
pretend to be sons of the Church. They not only stir up quarrels in
this question, but they hate the name of the most sacred office of
Prince, and would shamelessly deny the principles which we have laid
down for this and the previous questions.

There is also a third class called Decretalists,[281] utterly without
knowledge or skill in philosophy or theology, who, relying entirely on
their Decretals (which doubtless, I think, should be venerated), and
hoping, I believe, that these Decretals will prevail, disparage the
power of the Empire. And no wonder, for I have heard one of them,
speaking of these Decretals, assert shamelessly that the traditions of
the Church are the foundation of the faith. May this wickedness be
taken away from the thoughts of men by those who, antecedently to the
traditions of the Church, have believed in Christ the Son of God,
whether to come, or present, or as having already suffered; and who
from their faith have hoped, and from their hope have kindled into
love, and who, burning with love, will, the world doubts not, be made
co-heirs with Him.

[Footnote 281: _Parad._ ix. 133.--(W.)]

And that such arguers may be excluded once for all from the present
debate, it must be noted that part of Scripture was _before_ the
Church, that part of it came _with_ the Church, and part _after_ the

_Before_ the Church were the Old and the New Testament--the covenant
which the Psalmist says was "commanded for ever," of which the Church
speaks to her Bridegroom, saying: "Draw me after thee."[282]

[Footnote 282: Ps. cxi. 9. Cant. i. 3.--(W.)]

_With_ the Church came those venerable chief Councils, with which no
faithful Christian doubts but that Christ was present. For we have His
own words to His disciples when He was about to ascend into heaven:
"Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world," to which
Matthew testifies. There are also the writings[283] of the doctors,
Augustine and others, of whom, if any doubt that they were aided by
the Holy Spirit, either he has never beheld their fruit, or if he has
beheld, he has never tasted thereof.

[Footnote 283: "_Scripturæ._"]

_After_ the Church are the traditions which they call Decretals,
which, although they are to be venerated for their apostolical
authority, yet we must not doubt that they are to be held inferior to
fundamental Scripture, seeing that Christ rebuked the Pharisees for
this very thing; for when they had asked: "Why do thy disciples
transgress the tradition of the elders?" (for they neglected the
washing of hands), He answered them, as Matthew testifies: "Why do ye
also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" Thus He
intimates plainly that tradition was to have a lower place.

But if the traditions of the Church are _after_ the Church, it follows
that the Church had not its authority from traditions, but rather
traditions from the Church; and, therefore, the men of whom we speak,
seeing that they have nought but traditions, must be excluded from the
debate. For those who seek after this truth must proceed in their
inquiry from those things from which flows the authority of the

Further, we must exclude others who boast themselves to be white sheep
in the flock of the Lord, when they have the plumage of crows. These
are the children of wickedness, who, that they may be able to follow
their evil ways, put shame on their mother, drive out their brethren,
and when they have done all will allow none to judge them. Why should
we seek to reason with these, when they are led astray by their evil
desires, and so cannot see even our first principle?

Therefore there remains the controversy only with the other sort of
men who are influenced by a certain kind of zeal for their mother the
Church, and yet know not the truth which is sought for. With these
men, therefore--strong in the reverence which a dutiful son owes to
his father, which a dutiful son owes to his mother, dutiful to Christ,
dutiful to the Church, dutiful to the Chief Shepherd, dutiful to all
who profess the religion of Christ--I begin in this book the contest
for the maintenance of the truth.

IV.--Those men to whom all our subsequent reasoning is addressed, when
they assert that the authority of the Empire depends on the authority
of the Church, as the inferior workman depends on the architect, are
moved to take this view by many arguments, some of which they draw
from Holy Scripture, and some also from the acts of the Supreme
Pontiff and of the Emperor himself. Moreover, they strive to have some
proof of reason.

For in the first place they say that God, according to the book of
Genesis, made two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and
the lesser light to rule the night; this they understand to be an
allegory, for that the lights are the two powers,[284] the spiritual
and the temporal. And then they maintain that as the moon, which is
the lesser light, only has light so far as she receives it from the
sun, so the temporal power only has authority as it receives authority
from the spiritual power.

[Footnote 284: "_Regimina._"]

For the disposing of these, and of other like arguments, we must
remember the Philosopher's words in his book on Sophistry, "the
overthrow of an argument is the pointing out of the mistake."[285]

[Footnote 285: _Soph. El._ ii. 3.--(W.)]

Error may arise in two ways, either in the matter, or in the form of
an argument; either, that is, by assuming to be true what is false, or
by transgressing the laws of the syllogism. The Philosopher raised
objections to the arguments of Parmenides and Melissus on both of
these grounds, saying that they accepted what was false, and that they
did not argue correctly.[286] I use "false" in a large sense, as
including the inconceivable,[287] that which in matters admitting only
of probability has the nature of falseness. If the error is in the
form of an argument, he who wishes to destroy the error must do so by
showing that the laws of the syllogism have been transgressed. If the
error is in the matter, it is because something has been assumed
which is either false in itself, or false in relation to that
particular instance. If the assumption is false in itself, the
argument must be destroyed by destroying the assumption; if it is
false only in that particular instance, we must draw a distinction
between the falseness in that particular instance and its general

[Footnote 286: Aristotle, _Phys._ i. 2.--(W.)]

[Footnote 287: "_Inopinabili._"]

Having noted these things, to make it more clear how we destroy this
and the further fallacies of our adversaries, we must remark that
there are two ways in which error may arise concerning the mystical
sense, either by seeking it where it is not, or by accepting it in a
sense other than its real sense.

On account of the first of these ways, Augustine says, in his work _Of
the City of God_,[288] that we must not think that all things, of
which we are told, have a special meaning; for it is on account of
that which means something, that that also which means nothing is
woven into a story. It is only with the ploughshare that we turn up
the earth; but the other parts of the plough are also necessary.

[Footnote 288: Dante does not quote St. Augustine's words, but gives
his meaning, xvii. 2.--(W.)]

On account of the second way in which error touching the
interpretation of mysteries may arise, Augustine, in his book
"_concerning Christian doctrine_," speaking of those who wish to find
in Scripture something other than he who wrote the Scripture
meant,[289] says, that such "are misled in the same way as a man who
leaves the straight path, and then arrives at the end of the path by a
long circuit." And he adds: "It ought to be shown that this is a
mistake, lest through the habit of going out of the way, the man be
driven to going into cross or wrong ways." And then he intimates why
such precautions must be taken in interpreting Scripture. "Faith will
falter, if the authority of Scripture be not sure." But I say that if
these things happen from ignorance, we must pardon those who do them,
when we have carefully reproved them, as we pardon those who imagine a
lion in the clouds, and are afraid. But if they are done purposely, we
must deal with those who err thus, as we do with tyrants, who instead
of following the laws of the state for the public good, try to pervert
them for their own advantage.

[Footnote 289: I. 36, 37. Dante writes: "per gyrum." The Benedictine
text has: "per agrum."]

Oh worst of crimes, even though a man commit it in his dreams, to turn
to ill use the purpose of the Eternal Spirit. Such an one does not sin
against Moses, or David, or Job, or Matthew, or Paul, but against the
Eternal Spirit that speaketh in them. For though the reporters of the
words of God are many, yet there is one only that tells them what to
write, even God, who has deigned to unfold to us His will through the
pens of many writers.

Having thus first noted these things, I will proceed, as I said above,
to destroy the argument of those who say that the two great lights are
typical of the two great powers on earth: for on this type rests the
whole strength of their argument. It can be shown in two ways that
this interpretation cannot be upheld. First, seeing that these two
kinds of power are, in a sense, accidents of men, God would thus
appear to have used a perverted order, by producing the accidents,
before the essence to which they belong existed; and it is ridiculous
to say this of God. For the two great lights were created on the
fourth day, while man was not created till the sixth day, as is
evident in the text of Scripture.

Secondly, seeing that these two kinds of rule are to guide men to
certain ends, as we shall see, it follows that if man had remained in
the state of innocence in which God created him, he would not have
needed such means of guidance. These kinds of rule, then, are remedies
against the weakness of sin. Since, then, man was not a sinner on the
fourth day, for he did not then even exist, it would have been idle to
make remedies for his sin, and this would be contrary to the goodness
of God. For he would be a sorry physician who would make a plaster
for an abscess which was to be, before the man was born. It cannot,
therefore, be said that God made these two kinds of rule on the fourth
day, and therefore the meaning of Moses cannot have been what these
men pretend.

We may also be more tolerant, and overthrow this falsehood by drawing
a distinction. This way of distinction is a gentler way of treating an
adversary, for so his arguments are not made to appear consciously
false, as is the case when we utterly overthrow him. I say then that,
although the moon has not light of its own abundantly, unless it
receives it from the sun, yet it does not therefore follow that the
moon is from the sun. Therefore be it known that the being, and the
power, and the working of the moon are all different things. For its
being, the moon in no way depends on the sun, nor for its power, nor
for its working, considered in itself. Its motion comes from its
proper mover, its influence is from its own rays. For it has a certain
light of its own, which is manifest at the time of an eclipse; though
for its better and more powerful working it receives from the sun an
abundant light, which enables it to work more powerfully.

Therefore I say that the temporal power does not receive its being
from the spiritual power, nor its power which is its authority, nor
its working considered in itself. Yet it is good that the temporal
power should receive from the spiritual the means of working more
effectively by the light of the grace which the benediction of the
Supreme Pontiff bestows on it both in heaven and on earth. Therefore
we may see that the argument of these men erred in its form, because
the predicate of the conclusion is not the predicate of the major
premiss. The argument runs thus: The moon receives her light from the
sun, which is the spiritual power. The temporal power is the moon.
Therefore the temporal power receives authority from the spiritual
power. "Light" is the predicate of the major premiss, "authority" the
predicate of the conclusion; which two things we have seen to be very
different in their subject and in their idea.

V.--They draw another argument from the text of Moses, saying that the
types of these two powers sprang from the loins of Jacob, for that
they are prefigured in Levi and Judah, whereof one was founder of the
spiritual power, and the other of the temporal. From this they argue:
the Church has the same relation to the Empire that Levi had to Judah.
Levi preceded Judah in his birth, therefore the Church precedes the
Empire in authority.

This error is easily overthrown. For when they say that Levi and
Judah, the sons of Jacob, are the types of spiritual and temporal
power, I could show this argument, too, to be wholly false; but I will
grant it to be true. Then they infer, as Levi came first in birth, so
does the Church come first in authority. But, as in the previous
argument, the predicates of the conclusion and of the major premiss
are different: authority and birth are different things, both in their
subject and in their idea; and therefore there is an error in the form
of the argument. The argument is as follows: A precedes B in C; D and
E stand in the same relation as A and B; therefore D precedes E in F.
But then F and C are different things. And if it is objected that F
follows from C, that is, authority from priority of birth, and that
the effect is properly substituted for the cause, as if "animal" were
used in an argument for men, the objection is bad. For there are many
men, who were born before others, who not only do not precede those
others in authority, but even come after them: as is plain where we
find a bishop younger than his archpresbyters. Therefore their
objection appears to err in that it assumes as a cause that which is

VI.--Again, from the first book of Kings they take the election and
the deposition of Saul; and they say that Saul, an enthroned king, was
deposed by Samuel, who, by God's command, acted in the stead of God,
as appears from the text of Scripture. From this they argue that, as
that Vicar of God had authority to give temporal power, and to take it
away and bestow it on another, so now the Vicar of God, the bishop of
the universal Church, has authority to give the sceptre of temporal
power, and to take it away, and even to give it to another. And if
this were so, it would follow without doubt that the authority of the
Empire is dependent on the Church, as they say.

But we may answer and destroy this argument, by which they say that
Samuel was the Vicar of God: for it was not as Vicar of God that he
acted, but as a special delegate for this purpose, or as a messenger
bearing the express command of his Lord. For it is clear that what God
commanded him, that only he did, and that only he said.

Therefore we must recognise that it is one thing to be another's
vicar, and that it is another to be his messenger or minister, just as
it is one thing to be a doctor, and another to be an interpreter. For
a vicar is one to whom is committed jurisdiction with law or with
arbitrary power, and therefore within the bounds of the jurisdiction
which is committed to him, he may act by law or by his arbitrary power
without the knowledge of his lord. It is not so with a mere messenger,
in so far as he is a messenger; but as the mallet acts only by the
strength of the smith, so the messenger acts only by the authority of
him that sent him. Although, then, God did this by His messenger
Samuel, it does not follow that the Vicar of God may do the same. For
there are many things which God has done and still does, and yet will
do through angels, which the Vicar of God, the successor of Peter,
might not do.

Therefore we may see that they argue from the whole to a part, thus:
Men can hear and see, therefore the eye can hear and see: which does
not hold. Were the argument negative, it would be good: for instance,
man cannot fly, therefore man's arm cannot fly. And, in the same way,
God cannot, by his messenger, cause what is not to have been,[290] as
Agathon says; therefore neither can his Vicar.

[Footnote 290: As quoted by Aristotle, _Ethics_, vi. 3.--(W.)]

VII.--Further, they use the offering of the wise men from the text of
Matthew, saying that Christ accepted from them both frankincense and
gold, to signify that He was lord and ruler both of things temporal
and of things spiritual; and from this they infer that the Vicar of
Christ is also lord and ruler both of things temporal and of things
spiritual; and that consequently he has authority over both.

To this I answer, that I acknowledge that Matthew's words and meaning
are both as they say, but that the inference which they attempt to
draw therefrom fails, because it fails in the terms of the argument.
Their syllogism runs thus: God is the lord both of things temporal and
of things spiritual, the holy Pontiff is the Vicar of God; therefore
he is lord both of things temporal and of things spiritual. Both of
these propositions are true, but the middle term in them is different,
and _four_ terms are introduced, by which the form of the syllogism is
not kept, as is plain from what is said of "the syllogism
simply."[291] For "God" is the subject of the major premiss, and "the
Vicar of God" is the predicate of the minor; and these are not the

[Footnote 291: Arist. _Anal. Prior._, or rather, the _Summulæ Logicæ_,
l. iv., of Petrus Hispanus.--(W.)]

And if anyone raises the objection that the Vicar of God is equal in
power to God, his objection is idle; for no vicar, whether human or
divine, can be equal in power to the master whose vicar he is, which
is at once obvious. We know that the successor of Peter had not equal
authority with God, at least in the works of nature; he could not make
a clod of earth fall upwards, nor fire to burn in a downward
direction, by virtue of the office committed to him. Nor could all
things be committed to him by God; for God could not commit to any the
power of creation, and of baptism, as is clearly proved,
notwithstanding what[292] the Master says in his fourth book.

[Footnote 292: Peter Lombard, "magister sententiarum," iv. dist. 5, f.

We know also that the vicar of a mortal man is not equal in authority
to the man whose vicar he is, so far as he is his vicar; for none can
give away what is not his. The authority of a prince does not belong
to a prince, except for him to use it; for no prince can give to
himself authority. He can indeed receive authority, and give it up,
but he cannot create it in another man, for it does not belong to a
prince to create another prince. And if this is so, it is manifest
that no prince can substitute for himself a vicar equal to himself in
authority respecting all things, and therefore the objection to our
argument has no weight.

VIII.--They also bring forward that saying in Matthew of Christ to
Peter: "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven;"
which also, from the text of Matthew and John, they allow to have been
in like manner said to all the Apostles. From this they argue that it
has been granted by God to the successor of Peter to be able to bind
and to loose all things; hence they infer that he can loose the laws
and decrees of the Empire, and also bind laws and decrees for the
temporal power; and, if this were so, this conclusion would rightly

But we must draw a distinction touching their major premiss. Their
syllogism is in this form. Peter could loose and bind all things; the
successor of Peter can do whatever Peter could do; therefore the
successor of Peter can bind and can loose all things: whence they
conclude that he can bind and can loose the decrees and the authority
of the Empire.

Now I admit the minor premiss; but touching the major premiss I draw a
distinction. The universal "everything" which is included in
"whatever" is not distributed beyond the extent of the distributed
term. If I say "all animals run," "all" is distributed so as to
include everything which comes under the class "animal." But if I say
"all men run," then "all" is only distributed so as to include every
individual in the class "man;" and when I say "every grammarian runs,"
then is the distribution even more limited.

Therefore we must always look to see what it is that is to be included
in the word "all," and when we know the nature and extent of the
distributed term, it will easily be seen how far the distribution
extends. Therefore, when it is said "whatsoever thou shalt bind," if
"whatsoever" bore an unlimited sense, they would speak truly, and the
power of the Pope would extend even beyond what they say; for he might
then divorce a wife from her husband, and marry her to another while
her first husband was yet alive, which he can in no wise do. He might
even absolve me when impenitent, which God Himself cannot do.

Therefore it is manifest that the distribution of the term in question
is not absolute, but in reference to something. What this is will be
sufficiently clear if we consider what power was granted to Peter.
Christ said to Peter: "To thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of
heaven"--that is, "I will make thee the doorkeeper of the kingdom of
heaven." And then He adds: "Whatsoever," which is to say "all
that"--to wit, all that has reference to this duty--"thou shalt have
power to bind and to loose." And thus the universal which is implied
in "whatsoever" has only a limited distribution, referring to the
office of the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And in this sense the
proposition of our opponents is true, but, taken absolutely, it is
manifestly false. I say, then, that although the successor of Peter
has power to bind and to loose, as belongs to him to whom the office
of Peter was committed, yet it does not therefore follow that he has
power to bind and to loose the decrees of the Empire, as our opponents
say, unless they further prove that to do so belongs to the office of
the keys, which we shall shortly show is not the case.

IX.--They further take the words in Luke which Peter spake to Christ,
saying: "Behold, here are two swords;" and they understood that by
these two swords the two kinds of rule were foretold. And since Peter
said "here," where he was, which is to say, "with him," they argue
that the authority of the two kinds of rule rests with the successor
of Peter.

We must answer by showing that the interpretation, on which the
argument rests, is wrong. They say that the two swords of which Peter
spake mean the two kinds of rule which we have spoken of; but this we
wholly deny, for then Peter's answer would not be according to the
meaning of the words of Christ; and also we say that Peter made, as
was his wont, a hasty answer, touching only the outside of things.

It will be manifest that such an answer as our opponents allege would
not be according to the meaning of the words of Christ, if the
preceding words, and the reason of them, be considered. Observe, then,
that these words were spoken on the day of the feast, for a little
before Luke writes thus: "Then came the day of unleavened bread, when
the Passover must be killed;" and at this feast Christ had spoken of
His Passion, which was at hand, in which it was necessary for Him to
be separated from His disciples. Observe, too, that when these words
were spoken the twelve were assembled together, and therefore, shortly
after the words which we have just quoted, Luke says: "And when the
hour was come He sat down, and the twelve Apostles with Him." And
continuing His discourse with them, He came to this: "When I sent you,
without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they
said, Nothing. Then said He unto them: But now, he that hath a purse,
let him take it, and likewise his scrip; and he that hath no sword,
let him sell his garment, and buy one." From these words the purpose
of Christ is sufficiently manifest; for He did not say: "Buy, or get
for yourselves, two swords," but rather "twelve swords," seeing that
He spake unto twelve disciples: "He that hath not, let him buy," so
that each should have one. And He said this to admonish them of the
persecution and scorn that they should suffer, as though He would say:
"As long as I was with you men received you gladly, but now you will
be driven away; therefore of necessity ye must prepare for yourselves
those things which formerly I forbade you to have." And therefore if
the answer of Peter bore the meaning which our opponents assign to it,
it would have been no answer to the words of Christ; and Christ would
have rebuked him for answering foolishly, as He often did rebuke him.
But Christ did not rebuke him, but was satisfied, saying unto him: "It
is enough," as though He would say: "I speak because of the necessity;
but if each one of you cannot possess a sword, two are enough."

And that it was Peter's wont to speak in a shallow manner is proved by
his hasty and thoughtless forwardness, to which he was led not only by
the sincerity of his faith, but also, I believe, by the natural purity
and simplicity of his character. All the Evangelists bear testimony to
this forwardness.

Matthew writes that when Jesus had asked His disciples: "Whom say ye
that I am?" Peter answered before them all and said: "Thou art Christ,
the Son of the living God." He writes also that when Christ was saying
to His disciples that he must go up to Jerusalem and suffer many
things, Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying: "Be it far
from Thee, Lord; this shall not be unto Thee." But Christ turned and
rebuked him, and said: "Get thee behind me, Satan." Matthew also
writes that in the Mount of Transfiguration, on the sight of Christ,
and of Moses and Elias, and of the two sons of Zebedee, Peter said:
"Lord, it is good for us to be here; if Thou wilt, let us make here
three tabernacles, one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias." He
also writes that when the disciples were in a ship, in the night, and
Christ went unto them walking on the sea, then Peter said unto Him:
"Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water." And when
Christ foretold that all His disciples should be offended because of
Him, Peter answered and said: "Though all men shall be offended
because of Thee, yet will I never be offended;" and then: "Though I
should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee." And to this saying
Mark bears witness also. And Luke writes that Peter had said to
Christ, a little before the words touching the swords which we have
quoted: "Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison and to
death." And John says of him, that, when Christ wished to wash his
feet, Peter answered and said: "Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?" and
then: "Thou shalt never wash my feet." The same Evangelist tells us
that it was Peter who smote the High Priest's servant with a sword,
and the other Evangelists also bear witness to this thing. He tells us
also how Peter entered the sepulchre at once, when he saw the other
disciple waiting outside, and how, when Christ was on the shore after
the resurrection, when Peter had heard that it was the Lord, he girt
his fisher's coat unto him (for he was naked) and did cast himself
into the sea. Lastly, John tells that when Peter saw John, he said
unto Jesus: "Lord, and what shall this man do?"

It is a pleasure to have pursued this point about our Chief
Shepherd,[293] in praise of his purity of spirit; but from what I have
said it is plain that when he spake of the two swords, he answered the
words of Christ with no second meaning.

[Footnote 293: "Archimandrita nostro." Cf. _Parad._ xi. 99, of St.

But if we are to receive these words of Christ and of Peter typically,
they must not be explained as our adversaries explain them; but they
must be referred to that sword of which Matthew writes: "Think not
that I am come to send peace on the earth; I come not to send peace,
but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his
father," &c. And this comes to pass not only in words, but also in
fact. And therefore Luke speaks to Theophilus of all "that Jesus began
both to do and to teach." It was a sword of that kind that Christ
commanded them to buy; and Peter said that it was already doubly
there. For they were ready both for words and for deeds, by which they
should accomplish what Christ said that He had come to do by the

X.--Certain persons say further that the Emperor Constantine, having
been cleansed from leprosy by the intercession of Sylvester, then the
Supreme Pontiff, gave unto the Church the seat of Empire which was
Rome, together with many other dignities belonging to the Empire.[294]
Hence they argue that no man can take unto himself these dignities
unless he receive them from the Church, whose they are said to be.
From this it would rightly follow, that one authority depends on the
other, as they maintain.

[Footnote 294: On the Donation of Constantine, Witte refers to _Inf._
xxxviii. 94; xix. 115; _Purg._ xxxii. 124; _Parad._ xx. 35; _suprà_
ii. 12.]

The arguments which seemed to have their roots in the Divine words,
have been stated and disproved. It remains to state and disprove those
which are grounded on Roman history and in the reason of mankind. The
first of these is the one which we have mentioned, in which the
syllogism runs as follows: No one has a right to those things which
belong to the Church, unless he has them from the Church; and this we
grant. The government of Rome belongs to the Church; therefore no one
has a right to it unless it be given him by the Church. The minor
premiss is proved by the facts concerning Constantine, which we have
touched on.

This minor premiss then will I destroy; and as for their proof, I say
that it proves nothing. For the dignity of the Empire was what
Constantine could not alienate, nor the Church receive. And when they
insist, I prove my words as follows: No man on the strength of the
office which is committed to him, may do aught that is contrary to
that office; for so one and the same man, viewed as one man, would be
contrary to himself, which is impossible. But to divide the Empire is
contrary to the office committed to the Emperor; for his office is to
hold mankind in all things subject to one will: as may be easily seen
from the first book of this treatise. Therefore it is not permitted to
the Emperor to divide the Empire. If, therefore, as they say, any
dignities had been alienated by Constantine, and had passed to the
Church, the "coat without seam"--which even they, who pierced Christ,
the true God, with a spear, dared not rend--would have been rent.[295]

[Footnote 295: Each side in the controversy used the type of the
"seamless robe," one of the Empire (_suprà_ i. 16), the other of the
Church; _e.g._, in the Bull of Boniface VIII., "_Unam Sanctam_."]

Further, just as the Church has its foundation, so has the Empire its
foundation. The foundation of the Church is Christ, as Paul says in
his first Epistle to the Corinthians: "For other foundation can no man
lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."[296] He is the
rock on which the Church is built; but the foundation of the Empire is
human right. Now I say that, as the Church may not go contrary to its
foundation--but must always rest on its foundation, as the words of
the Canticles say: "Who is she that cometh up from the desert,
abounding in delights, leaning on her beloved?"[297]--in the same way
I say that the Empire may not do aught that transgresses human right.
But were the Empire to destroy itself, it would so transgress human
right. Therefore the Empire may not destroy itself. Since then to
divide the Empire would be to destroy it, because the Empire consists
in one single universal Monarchy, it is manifest that he who exercises
the authority of the Empire may not destroy it, and from what we have
said before, it is manifest that to destroy the Empire is contrary to
human right.

[Footnote 296: 1 Cor. iii. 11.--(W.)]

[Footnote 297: Cant. viii. 5.--(W.)]

Moreover, all jurisdiction is prior in time to the judge who has it;
for it is the judge who is ordained for the jurisdiction, not the
jurisdiction for the judge. But the Empire is a jurisdiction,
comprehending within itself all temporal jurisdiction: therefore it is
prior to the judge who has it, who is the Emperor. For it is the
Emperor who is ordained for the Empire, and not contrariwise.
Therefore it is clear that the Emperor, in so far as he is Emperor,
cannot alter the Empire; for it is to the Empire that he owes his
being. I say then that he who is said to have conferred on the Church
the authority in question either was Emperor, or he was not. If he was
not, it is plain that he had no power to give away any part of the
Empire. Nor could he, if he was Emperor, in so far as he was Emperor,
for such a gift would be a diminishing of his jurisdiction.

Further, if one Emperor were able to cut off a certain portion of the
jurisdiction of the Empire, so could another; and since temporal
jurisdiction is finite, and since all that is finite is taken away by
finite diminutions, it would follow that it is possible for the first
of all jurisdictions to be annihilated, which is absurd.

Further, since he that gives is in the position of an agent, and he to
whom a thing is given in that of a patient, as the Philosopher holds
in the fourth book to Nicomachus,[298] therefore, that a gift may be
given, we require not only the fit qualification of the giver, but
also of the receiver; for the acts of the agent are completed in a
patient who is qualified.[299] But the Church was altogether
unqualified to receive temporal things; for there is an express
command, forbidding her so to do, which Matthew gives thus: "Provide
neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses." For though we
find in Luke a relaxation of the command in regard to certain matters,
yet I have not anywhere been able to find that the Church after that
prohibition had licence given her to possess gold and silver. If
therefore the Church was unable to receive temporal power, even
granting that Constantine was able to give it, yet the gift was
impossible; for the receiver was disqualified. It is therefore plain
that neither could the Church receive in the way of possession, nor
could Constantine give in the way of alienation; though it is true
that the Emperor, as protector of the Church, could allot to the
Church a patrimony and other things, if he did not impair his supreme
lordship, the unity of which does not allow division. And the Vicar of
God could receive such things, not to possess them, but as a steward
to dispense the fruits of them to the poor of Christ, on behalf of the
Church, as we know the Apostles did.

[Footnote 298: _Eth._ iv. 1.--(W.)]

[Footnote 299: "_Dispositio; dispositus; indisposita._"]

XI.--Our adversaries further say that the Pope Hadrian[300] summoned
Charles the Great to his own assistance[301] and to that of the
Church, on account of the wrongs suffered from the Lombards in the
time of their king Desiderius, and that Charles received from that
Pope the imperial dignity, notwithstanding that Michael was emperor at
Constantinople. And therefore they say that all the Roman emperors who
succeeded Charles were themselves the "advocates" of the Church, and
ought by the Church to be called to their office. From which would
follow that dependence of the Empire on the Church which they wish to

[Footnote 300: A.D. 773.--(W.)]

[Footnote 301: "_Advocavit._"]

But to overset their argument, I reply that what they say is nought;
for a usurpation of right does not make right; and if it were so, it
might be proved in the same way that the Church is dependent on the
Empire; for the Emperor Otto restored the Pope Leo, and deposed
Benedict, leading him into exile to Saxony.[302]

[Footnote 302: Otto I. (964) deposed Benedict V. and restored Leo

XII.--But from _reason_ they thus argue: they take the principle laid
down in the tenth book of "_Philosophia Prima_,"[303] saying that all
things which belong to one genus are to be brought under one head,
which is the standard and measure of all that come under that genus.
But all men belong to one genus: therefore they are to be brought
under one head, as the standard and measure of them all. But the
Supreme Pontiff and the Emperor are men; therefore if the preceding
reasoning be true, they must be brought under one head. And since the
Pope cannot come under any other man, the result is that the Emperor,
together with all other men, must be brought under the Pope, as the
measure and rule of all; and then, what those who argue thus desire

[Footnote 303: Arist. _Metaph._ x. 1.--(W.)]

To overset this argument, I answer that they are right when they say
that all the individuals of one genus ought to be brought under one
head, as their measure; and that they are again right when they say
that all men belong to one genus, and that they are also right when
they argue from these truths that all men should be brought under one
head, taken from the genus man, as their measure and type. But when
they obtain the further conclusion concerning the Pope and the
Emperor, they fall into a fallacy touching accidental attributes.

That this thing may be understood, it must be clearly known that to be
a man is one thing, and to be a pope or an emperor is another; just as
to be a man is different from being a father or a ruler. A man is that
which exists by its essential form, which gives it its genus and
species, and by which it comes under the category of substance. But a
father is that which exists by an accidental form, that is, one which
stands in a certain relation which gives it a certain genus and
species, and through which it comes under the category of relation. If
this were not so, all things would come under the category of
substance, seeing that no accidental form can exist by itself, without
the support of an existing substance; and this is not so. Seeing,
therefore, that the Pope and the Emperor are what they are by virtue
of certain relations: for they owe their existence to the Papacy and
the Empire, which are both relations, one coming within the sphere of
fatherhood, and the other within that of rule; it manifestly follows
that both the Pope and the Emperor, in so far as they are Pope and
Emperor, must come under the category of relation; and therefore that
they must be brought under some head of that genus.

I say then that there is one standard under which they are to be
brought, as men; and another under which they come, as Pope and
Emperor. For in so far as they are men, they have to be brought under
the best man, whoever he be, who is the measure and the ideal of all
mankind; under him, that is, who is most one in his kind,[304] as may
be gathered from the last book to Nicomachus.[305] When, however, two
things are relative, it is evident that they must either be
reciprocally brought under each other, if they are alternately
superior, or if by the nature of their relation they belong to
connected species; or else they must be brought under some third
thing, as their common unity. But the first of these suppositions is
impossible: for then both would be predicable of both, which cannot
be. We cannot say that the Emperor is the Pope, or the Pope the
Emperor. Nor again can it be said that they are connected in species,
for the idea of the Pope is quite other than the idea of the Emperor,
in so far as they are Pope and Emperor. Therefore they must be reduced
to some single thing above them.

[Footnote 304: "_Ad existentem maxime unum in genere suo._"]

[Footnote 305: _Eth._ x. 5, 7.--(W.)]

Now it must be understood that the relative is to the relative as the
relation to the relation. If, therefore, the Papacy and the Empire,
seeing that they are relations of paramount superiority, have to be
carried back to some higher point of superiority from which they, with
the features which make them different,[306] branch off, the Pope and
Emperor, being relative to one another, must be brought back to some
one unity in which the higher point of superiority, without this
characteristic difference, is found. And this will be either God, to
whom all things unite in looking up, or something below God, which is
higher in the scale of superiority, while differing from the simple
and absolute superiority of God. Thus it is evident that the Pope and
the Emperor, in so far as they are men, have to be brought under some
one head; while, in so far as they are Pope and Emperor, they have to
be brought under another head, and so far is clear, as regards the
argument from reason.

[Footnote 306: "_Cum differentialibus suis._"]

XIII.--We have now stated and put on one side those erroneous
reasonings on which they, who assert that the authority of the Roman
Emperor depends on the Pope of Rome, do most chiefly rely. We have now
to go back and show forth the truth in this third question, which we
proposed in the beginning to examine. The truth will appear plainly
enough if I start in my inquiry from the principle which I laid down,
and then show that the authority of the Empire springs immediately
from the head of all being, who is God. This truth will be made
manifest, either if it be shown that the authority of the Empire does
not spring from the authority of the Church; for there is no argument
concerning any other authority. Or again, if it be shown by direct
proof that the authority of the Empire springs immediately from God.

We prove that the authority of the Church is not the cause of the
authority of the Empire in the following manner. Nothing can be the
cause of power in another thing when that other thing has all its
power, while the first either does not exist, or else has no power of
action.[307] But the Empire had its power while the Church was either
not existing at all, or else had no power of acting. Therefore the
Church is not the cause of the power of the Empire, and therefore not
of its authority either, for power and authority mean the same thing.
Let A be the Church, B the Empire, C the authority or power of the
Empire. If C is in B while A does not exist, A cannot be the cause of
C being in B, for it is impossible for an effect to exist before its
cause. Further, if C is in B while A does not act, it cannot be that A
is the cause of C being in B; for, to produce an effect, it is
necessary that the cause, especially the efficient cause of which we
are speaking, should have been at work first. The major premiss of
this argument is self-evident, and the minor premiss is confirmed by
Christ and the Church. Christ confirms it by His birth and His death,
as we have said; the Church confirms it in the words which Paul spake
to Festus in the Acts of the Apostles: "I stand at Cæsar's
judgment-seat, where I ought to be judged," and by the words which an
angel of God spake to Paul a little afterwards: "Fear not, Paul; thou
must be brought before Cæsar;" and again by Paul's words to the Jews
of Italy: "But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to
appeal unto Cæsar; not that I had aught to accuse my nation of," but
"to deliver my soul from death." But if Cæsar had not at that time had
the authority to judge in temporal matters, Christ would not have
argued thus; nor would the angel have brought these words; nor would
he, who spake of himself as "having a desire to depart and to be with
Christ," have made an appeal to a judge not having authority.[308]

[Footnote 307: "_Non virtuante._"]

[Footnote 308: "_Incompetentem._" Acts xxv. 10; xxvii. 24; xxviii. 19.
Phil. i. 23.--(W.)]

And if Constantine had not had the authority over the patronage of the
Church, those things which he allotted from the Empire he could not
have had the right to allot; and so the Church would be using this
gift against right; whereas God wills that offerings should be pure,
as is commanded in Leviticus: "No meat offering that ye shall bring
unto the Lord shall be made with leaven." And though this command
appears to regard those who offer, nevertheless it also regards those
who receive an offering. For it is folly to suppose that God wishes to
be received that which He forbids to be offered, for in the same book
there is a command to the Levites: "Ye shall not make yourselves
abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth; neither shall ye
make yourselves unclean with them, that ye shall be defiled
thereby."[309] But to say that the Church so misuses the patrimony
assigned to her is very unseemly; therefore the premiss from which
this conclusion followed is false.

[Footnote 309: Levit. ii. 11; xi. 43.--(W.)]

XIV.--Again, if the Church had power to bestow authority on the Roman
Prince, she would have it either from God, or from herself, or from
some Emperor, or from the universal consent of mankind, or at least of
the majority of mankind. There is no other crevice by which this power
could flow down to the Church. But she has it not from any of these
sources; therefore she has it not at all.

It is manifest that she has it from none of these sources; for if she
had received it from God, she would have received it either by the
divine or by the natural law: because what is received from nature is
received from God; though the converse of this is not true. But this
power is not received by the natural law; for nature lays down no law,
save for the effects of nature, for God cannot fail in power, where he
brings anything into being without the aid of secondary agents. Since
therefore the Church is not an effect of nature, but of God who said:
"Upon this rock I will build my Church," and elsewhere: "I have
finished the work which Thou gavest me to do," it is manifest that
nature did not give the Church this law.

Nor was this power bestowed by the divine law; for the whole of the
divine law is contained in the bosom of the Old or of the New
Testament, and I cannot find therein that any thought or care for
worldly matters was commanded, either to the early or to the latter
priesthood. Nay, I find rather such care taken away from the priests
of the Old Testament by the express command of God to Moses,[310] and
from the priests of the New Testament by the express command of Christ
to His disciples.[311] But it could not be that this care was taken
away from them, if the authority of the temporal power flowed from the
priesthood; for at least in giving the authority there would be an
anxious watchfulness of forethought, and afterwards continued
precaution, lest he to whom authority had been given should leave the
straight way.

[Footnote 310: Numbers xviii. 20. Cf. _Purg._ xvi. 131.--(W.)]

[Footnote 311: Matt. x. 9.--(W.)]

Then it is quite plain that the Church did not receive this power from
herself; for nothing can give what it has not. Therefore all that does
anything, must be such in its doing, as that which it intends to do,
as is stated in the book "of Simple Being."[312] But it is plain that
if the Church gave to herself this power, she had it not before she
gave it. Thus she would have given what she had not, which is

[Footnote 312: Arist. _Metaph._ ix. 8.--(W.)]

But it is sufficiently manifest from what we have previously made
evident that the Church has received not this power from any Emperor.

And further, that she had it not from the consent of all, or even of
the greater part of mankind, who can doubt? seeing that not only all
the inhabitants of Asia and Africa, but even the greater number of
Europeans, hold the thought in abhorrence. It is mere weariness to
adduce proofs in matters which are so plain.

XV.--Again, that which is contrary to the nature of a thing cannot be
counted as one of its essential powers; for the essential powers of
each individual follow on its nature, in order to gain its end. But
the power to grant authority in that which is the realm of our mortal
state is contrary to the nature of the Church.[313] Therefore it is
not in the number of its essential powers. For the proof of the minor
premiss we must know that the nature of the Church means the form [or
essence][314] of the Church. For although men use the word nature not
only of the form of a thing, but also of its matter, nevertheless, it
is of the form that they use it more properly, as is proved in the
book "of Natural Learning."[315] But the [essence or] form of the
Church is nothing else than the life of Christ, as it is contained
both in His sayings and in His deeds. For His life was the example and
ideal of the militant Church, especially of its pastors, and above all
of its chief pastor, to whom it belongs to feed the sheep and the
lambs of Christ. And therefore when Christ left His life unto men for
an example He said in John's Gospel: "I have given you an example that
ye should do as I have done to you." And He said unto Peter specially,
after that He had committed unto him the office of shepherd, the words
which John also reports: "Peter, follow me." But Christ denied before
Pilate that His rule was of this sort, saying: "My kingdom is not of
this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants
fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is my
kingdom not from hence."[316]

[Footnote 313: "_Virtus auctorizandi regnum nostræ mortalitatis est
contra naturam Ecclesiæ._"]

[Footnote 314: "_Forma._"]

[Footnote 315: Arist. _Phys. Ausc._ ii. 1.--(W.)]

[Footnote 316: John xiii. 15; xxi. 22; xviii. 36.--(W.)]

But this saying must not be understood to mean that Christ, who is
God, is not the lord of this kingdom, for the Psalmist says: "The sea
is His, and He made it, and His hands formed the dry land."[317] We
must understand it to mean that, as _the pattern of the Church_, He
had not the care of this kingdom. It is as if a golden seal were to
speak of itself, and say: "I am not the standard for such and such a
class of things;" for in so far as it is gold, this saying is untrue,
seeing that gold is the standard of all metals; but it is true in so
far as it is a sign capable of being received by impression.

[Footnote 317: Ps. xcv. 5.--(W.)]

It belongs, then, to the very form of the Church always to speak the
same, always to think the same; and to do the opposite of this is
evidently contrary to its essential form--that is to say, to its
nature. And from this it may be collected that the power of bestowing
authority on this kingdom is contrary to the nature of the Church; for
contrariety which is in thought or word follows from contrariety which
is in the thing thought and the thing said; just as truth and
falsehood in speech come from the being or the not-being of the thing,
as we learn from the doctrine of the _Categories_. It has then become
manifest enough by means of the preceding arguments, by which the
contention of our opponents has been shown to lead to an absurd
result, that the authority of the Empire is not in any way dependent
on the authority of the Church.

XVI.--Although it has been proved in the preceding chapter that the
authority of the Empire has not its cause in the authority of the
Supreme Pontiff; for we have shown that this argument led to absurd
results; yet it has not been entirely shown that the authority of the
Empire depends directly upon God, except as a result from our
argument. For it is a consequence that, if the authority comes not
from the vicar of God, it must come from God Himself. And therefore,
for the complete determination of the question proposed, we have to
prove directly that the emperor or monarch of the world stands in an
immediate relation to the King of the universe, who is God.

For the better comprehending of this, it must be recognised that man
alone, of all created things, holds a position midway between things
corruptible and things incorruptible; and therefore[318] philosophers
rightly liken him to a dividing line between two hemispheres. For man
consists of two essential parts, namely, the soul and the body. If he
be considered in relation to his body only, he is corruptible; but if
he be considered in relation to his soul only, he is incorruptible.
And therefore the Philosopher spoke well concerning the incorruptible
soul when he said in the second book "of the Soul:" "It is this alone
which may be separated, as being eternal, from the corruptible."[319]

[Footnote 318: In the _De Causis_ (_v._ above, i. 11), Propos. 9:
"Intelligentia comprehendit generata et naturam, et horizontem naturæ,
scilicet animam; nam ipsa est supra naturam."--(W.)]

[Footnote 319: Arist. _De Anim._ ii. 2.--(W.)]

If, therefore, man holds this position midway between the corruptible
and the incorruptible, since every middle nature partakes of both
extremes, man must share something of each nature. And since every
nature is ordained to gain some final end, it follows that for man
there is a double end. For as he alone of all beings participates
both in the corruptible and the incorruptible, so he alone of all
beings is ordained to gain two ends, whereby one is his end in so far
as he is corruptible, and the other in so far as he is incorruptible.

Two ends, therefore, have been laid down by the ineffable providence
of God for man to aim at: the blessedness of this life, which consists
in the exercise of his natural powers, and which is prefigured in[320]
the earthly Paradise; and next, the blessedness of the life eternal,
which consists in the fruition of the sight of God's countenance, and
to which man by his own natural powers cannot rise, if he be not aided
by the divine light; and this blessedness is understood by the
heavenly Paradise.

[Footnote 320: See _Purg._ xxviii.: and Mr. Longfellow's note ad loc.]

But to these different kinds of blessedness, as to different
conclusions, we must come by different means. For at the first we may
arrive by the lessons of philosophy, if only we will follow them, by
acting in accordance with the moral and intellectual virtues. But at
the second we can only arrive by spiritual lessons, transcending human
reason, so that we follow them in accordance with the theological
virtues, faith, hope, and charity. The truth of the first of these
conclusions and of these means is made manifest by human reason,
which by the philosophers has been all laid open to us. The other
conclusions and means are made manifest by the Holy Spirit, who by the
mouth of the Prophets and holy writers, and by Jesus Christ, the
co-eternal Son of God, and His disciples, has revealed to us
supernatural truth of which we have great need. Nevertheless human
passion would cast them all behind its back, if it were not that men,
going astray like the beasts that perish,[321] were restrained in
their course by bit and bridle, like horses and mules.

[Footnote 321: "_Sua bestialitate vagantes._" _V._ Ps. xxxii. 10.]

Therefore man had need of two guides for his life, as he had a twofold
end in life; whereof one is the Supreme Pontiff, to lead mankind to
eternal life, according to the things revealed to us; and the other is
the Emperor, to guide mankind to happiness in this world, in
accordance with the teaching of philosophy. And since none, or but a
few only, and even they with sore difficulty, could arrive at this
harbour of happiness, unless the waves and blandishments of human
desires were set at rest, and the human race were free to live in
peace and quiet, this therefore is the mark at which he who is to care
for the world, and whom we call the Roman Prince, must most chiefly
aim at: I mean, that in this little plot of earth[322] belonging to
mortal men, life may pass in freedom and with peace. And since the
order of this world follows the order of the heavens, as they run
their course, it is necessary, to the end that the learning which
brings liberty and peace may be duly applied by this guardian of the
world in fitting season and place, that this power should be dispensed
by Him who is ever present to behold the whole order of the heavens.
And this is He who alone has preordained this, that by it in His
providence He might bind all things together, each in their own order.

[Footnote 322: Cf. _Parad._ xxii. 151. "_L'ajuola che ci fa tanto

But if this is so, God alone elects, God alone confirms: for there is
none higher than God. And hence there is the further conclusion, that
neither those who now are, nor any others who may, in whatsoever way,
have been called "Electors," ought to have that name; rather they are
to be held as declarers and announcers of the providence of God. And,
therefore, it is that they to whom is granted the privilege of
announcing God's will sometimes fall into disagreement; because that,
all of them or some of them have been blinded by their evil desires,
and have not discerned the face of God's appointment.[323]

[Footnote 323: _V._ Hallam, _Middle Ages_, c. v. Bryce, _Roman
Empire_, c. xiv. Witte, _Præf._ p. xxxiv. xlv.]

It is therefore clear that the authority of temporal Monarchy comes
down, with no intermediate will, from the fountain of universal
authority; and this fountain, one in its unity, flows through many
channels out of the abundance of the goodness of God.

And now, methinks, I have reached the goal which I set before me. I
have unravelled the truth of the questions which I asked: whether the
office of Monarchy was necessary to the welfare of the world; whether
it was by right that the Roman people assumed to themselves the office
of Monarchy; and, further, that last question, whether the authority
of the Monarch springs immediately from God, or from some other. Yet
the truth of this latter question must not be received so narrowly as
to deny that in certain matters the Roman Prince is subject to the
Roman Pontiff. For that happiness, which is subject to mortality, in a
sense is ordered with a view to the happiness which shall not taste of
death. Let, therefore, Cæsar be reverent to Peter, as the first-born
son should be reverent to his father, that he may be illuminated with
the light of his father's grace, and so may be stronger to lighten the
world over which he has been placed by Him alone, who is the ruler of
all things spiritual as well as temporal.







CHAP.                                                             PAGE

I.--Introduction                                                   177

II.--What is the end of the civil order of mankind?                178

III.--It is to cause the whole power of the human intellect to
act in speculation and operation                                   180

IV.--To attain this end, mankind needs universal peace             184

V.--When several means are ordained to gain an end, one
of them must be supreme over the others                            185

VI.--The order which is found in the parts of mankind ought
to be found in mankind as a whole                                  188

VII.--Kingdoms and nations ought to stand in the same relation
to the monarch as mankind to God                                   189

VIII.--Men were made in the image of God; but God is one          _ib._

IX.--Men are the children of Heaven, and they ought to
imitate the footprints of Heaven                                   190

X.--There is need of a Supreme Judge for the decision of all
quarrels                                                           191

XI.--The world is best ordered when justice is strongest
therein                                                            192

XII.--Men are at their best in freedom                             198

XIII.--He who is best qualified to rule can best order others      201

XIV.--When it is possible, it is better to gain an end by one
agent than by many                                                 203

XV.--That which is most one is everywhere best                     206

XVI.--Christ willed to be born in the fulness of time, when
Augustus was monarch                                               209



CHAP.                                                             PAGE

I.--Introduction                                                   211

II.--That which God wills in human society is to be held as
Right                                                              213

III.--It was fitting for the Romans, as being the noblest
nation, to be preferred before all others                          216

IV.--The Roman Empire was helped by miracles, and therefore
was willed by God                                                  220

V.--The Romans, in bringing the world into subjection,
aimed at the good of the state, and therefore at the
end of Right                                                       223

VI.--All men, who aim at Right, walk according to Right            229

VII.--The Romans were ordained for empire by Nature                232

VIII.--The judgment of God showed that empire fell to the
lot of the Romans                                                  235

IX.--The Romans prevailed when all nations were striving
for empire                                                         239

X.--What is acquired by single combat is acquired as of
Right                                                              243

XI.--The single combats of Rome                                    247

XII.--Christ, by being born, proves to us that the authority of
the Roman Empire was just                                          250

XIII.--Christ, by dying, confirmed the jurisdiction of the Roman
Empire over all mankind                                            253



CHAP.                                                             PAGE

I.--Introduction                                                   256

II.--God wills not that which is repugnant to the intention
of Nature                                                          257

III.--Of the three classes of our opponents, and of the too
great authority which many ascribe to tradition                    259

IV.--The argument drawn by our opponents from the sun
and the moon                                                       264

V.--The argument drawn from the precedence of Levi over
Judah                                                              270

VI.--The argument drawn from the crowning and deposition
of Saul by Samuel                                                  271

VII.--The argument drawn from the oblation of the Magi             273

VIII.--The argument drawn from the power of the keys given
to Peter                                                           275

IX.--The argument drawn from the two swords                        278

X.--The argument drawn from the donation of Constantine            282

XI.--The argument drawn from the summoning of Charles
the Great by Pope Hadrian                                          287

XII.--The argument drawn from reason                               288

XIII.--The authority of the Church is not the cause of the
authority of the Empire                                            291

XIV.--The Church has power to bestow such authority neither
from God, nor from itself, nor from any emperor                    294

XV.--The power of giving authority to the Empire is against
the nature of the Church                                           297

XVI.--The authority of the Empire comes directly from God          299

       *       *       *       *       *


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       *       *       *       *       *

_Now Publishing, in Crown 8vo. Price 3s. 6d. each._

_The English Citizen._



This series is intended to meet the demand for accessible information
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CENTRAL GOVERNMENT. By H.D. TRAILL, D.C.L., late Fellow of St. John's
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History of England from 1815."






England from 1815."



THE LAND LAWS. By FREDERICK POLLOCK, M.A., late Fellow of Trinity
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Fellow of Queen's College, Oxford. II. THE COLONIES. By E.J. PAYNE,
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_In Preparation:--_



       *       *       *       *       *


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