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XV. BEING formed to love, Petrarch courted the good-will of others, sighed for more friendship than human selfishness is willing to allow, and lowered himself in the eyes, and possibly in the affections, of the persons most devoted to him. His disappointments in this respect often embittered his soul, and extorted from him the confession, "that he feared those whom he loved*." His enemies knowing that, if he readily gave vent to his anger, he was still more ready to forget injuries, found fair game for ridicule† in his passionate temper, and provoked him to commit himself even in his old age with apologies +.-Dante, on the contrary, was one of those rare individuals who are above the reach of ridicule, and whose natural dignity is enhanced, even by the blows of malignity. In his friends he inspired less commiseration than awe; in his enemies, fear and hatred - but never contempt. His wrath was inexorable; with him vengeance was not only a natural impulse but a duty§: and he enjoyed the certainty of that
* Senil. Lib. 13. Ep. 7.
+ Indignantissimi animi, sed offensarum obliviosissimi-ira mihi persæpe nocuit, aliis nunquam.-Epist. ad Post.
AGOSTINI, Scritt. Venez. vol. 1. p. 5.
§ Che bell' onor s'acquista in far vendetta. DANTE, Convito. -See also, Inferno, cant. xxix. vers. 31—36.
slow but everlasting revenge which "his wrath brooded over in secret silence"
Fa dolce l'ira sua nel suo secreto-
Sì ch'io non posso dir se non che pianto
Let the destined years come round:
One would easily imagine his portrait from these lines:
Egli non ci diceva alcuna cosa:
He spoke not aught, but let us onward pass,
As Petrarch without love would probably never have become a great poet-so had it not been for injustice and persecution which kindled his indignation, Dante, perhaps, would never have persevered to complete―
Il poema sacro,
A cui han posto mano e cielo e terra,
The sacred poem, that hath made
Both heaven and earth copartners in its toil,
And with lean abstinence, through many a year,
Faded my brow.
XVI. THE gratification of knowing and asserting the truth, and of being able to make it, resound even from their graves, is so keen as to outbalance all the vexations to which the life of men of genius is generally doomed, not so much by the coldness and envy of mankind, as by the burning passions of their own hearts. This sentiment was a more abundant source of comfort to Dante than to Petrarch
Mentre ch'i'era a Virgilio congiunto,
lo monte, che l'anime cura,
Dette mi fur di mia vita futura
Ben veggio, Padre mio, sì come sprona
O sacrosante Vergini! se fami,
Freddi, o vigilie, mai per voi soffersi,
Or convien ch' Elicona per me versi
Ed Urania m'ajuti col suo coro
E s' io al vero son timido amico,
I, the whilst I scal'd
With Virgil, the soul-purifying mount,
My father! well I mark how time spurs on
O ye thrice holy Virgins! for your sakes
Arise to aid me; while the verse unfolds
Things, that do almost mock the grasp of thought.—
And, if I am a timid friend to truth,
I fear my life may perish among those
To whom these days shall be of ancient date.
And from a letter of Dante lately discovered *, it appears that about the year 1316, his friends succeeded in obtaining his restoration to his
* APPENDIX, No. VI.
country and his possessions, on condition that he compounded with his calumniators, avowed himself guilty, and asked pardon of the commonwealth. The following was his answer on the occasion, to one of his kinsmen, whom he calls Father,' because, perhaps, he was an ecclesiastic; or, more probably, because he was older than the poet.
XVII. "FROM your letter, which I received with due respect and affection, I observe how much you have at heart my restoration to my country. I am bound to you the more gratefully, since an exile rarely finds a friend. But, after mature consideration, I must, by my answer, disappoint the wishes of some little. minds; and I confide in the judgment to which your impartiality and prudence will lead you. Your nephew and mine has written to me, what indeed had been mentioned by many other friends, that, by a decree concerning the exiles, I am allowed to return to Florence, provided I pay a certain sum of money, and submit to the humiliation of asking and receiving absolution; wherein, father, I see two propositions that are ridiculous and impertinent. I speak of the impertinence of those who mention such conditions to me; for, in your