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On the banks of a little river so shrunken by the suns of summer that it seems fast passing into a tradition, but swollen by the autumnal rains with an Italian suddenness of passion till the massy bridge shudders under the impatient heap of waters behind it, stands a city which, in its period of bloom not so large as Boston, may well rank next to Athens in the history which teaches come l'uom s' eterna.
Originally only a convenient spot in the valley where the fairs of the neighboring Etruscan city of Fiesole were held, it gradually grew from a huddle of booths to a town, and then to a city, which absorbed its ancestral neighbor and became a cradle for the arts, the letters, the science, and the commerce t of modern Europe.
* The Shadow of Dante, being an Essay towards studying Himself, his World, and his Pilgrimage. By MARIA FRANCESCA ROSSETTI.
“Se Dio te lasci, lettor prender frutto
Di tua lezione.
+ The Florentines should seem to have invented or re-invented banks, book-keeping by double-entry, and bills of exchange. The last, by endowing Value with the gift of fern-seed and enabling it to walk invisible, turned the flank of the baronial tariff-system and made the roads safe for the great liberalizer Commerce. This made Money omnipresent, and prepared the way for its present omnipotence. Fortunately it cannot usurp the third attribute of Deity, omniscience. But whatever the consequences, this Florentine inven.
For her Cimabue wrought, who infused Byzantine formalism with a suggestion of nature and feeling; for her the Pisani, who divined at least, if they could not conjure with it, the secret of Greek supremacy in sculpture ; for her the marvellous boy Ghiberti proved that unity of composition and grace of figure and drapery were never beyond the reach of genius ;* for her Brunelleschi curved the dome which Michel Angelo hung in air on St. Peter's ; for her Giotto reared the bell-tower graceful as an Horatian ode in marble ; and the great triumvirate of Italian poetry, good sense, and culture called her mother. There is no modern city about which cluster so many elevating associations, none in which the past is so contemporary with us in unchanged buildings and undisturbed monuments. The house of Dante is still shown; children still receive baptism at the font (il mio bel San Giovanni) where he was christened before the acorn dropped that was to grow into a keel for Columbus; and an inscribed stone marks the spot where he used to sit and watch the slow blocks swing up to complete the master-thought of Arnolfo. In the convent of St. Mark hard by lived and labored Beato Angelico, the saint of Christian art, and Fra Bartolommeo, who taught Raphael dignity. From the same walls Savonarola went forth to his triumphs, short-lived almost as the crackle of his martyrdom. The plain little chamber of Michel Angelo seems still to expect his return; his last sketches lie upon the table, his staff
tion was at first nothing but admirable, securing to brain its legitimate influence over brawn. The latter has begun its revolt, but whether it will succeed better in its attempt to restore mediæval methods than the barons in maintaining them re ins to be seen.
* Ghiberti's designs have been criticised by a too systematic æstheticism, as confounding the limits of sculpture and painting. But is not the rilievo precisely the bridge by which the one art passes over into the territory of the other?
leans in the corner, and his slippers wait before the empty chair.
On one of the vine-clad hills, just without the city walls, one's feet may press the same stairs that Milton climbed to visit Galileo. To an American there is something supremely impressive in this cumulative influence of the past full of inspiration and rebuke, something saddening in this repeated proof that moral supremacy is the only one that leaves monuments and not ruins behind it. Time, who with us obliterates the labor and often the names of yesterday, seems here to have spared almost the prints of the care piante that shunned the sordid paths of worldly honor.
Around the courtyard of the great Museum of Florence stand statues of her illustrious dead, her poets, painters, sculptors, architects, inventors, and statesmen ; and as the traveller feels the ennobling lift of such society, and reads the names or recognizes the features familiar to him as his own threshold, he is startled to find Fame as commonplace here as Notoriety everywhere else, and that this fifth-rate city should have the privilege thus to commemorate so many famous men her sons, whose claim to pre-eminence the whole world would concede. Among them is one figure before which every scholar, every man who has been touched by the tragedy of life, lingers with reverential pity. The haggard cheeks, the lips clamped together in unfaltering resolve, the scars of lifelong battle, and the brow whose sharp outline seems the monument of final victory, this, at least, is a face that needs no name beneath it. This is he who among literary fames finds only two that for growth and immutability can parallel his own. The suffrages of highest authority would now place him second in that company where he with proud humility took the sixth place.
* Inferno, IV. 102.
Dante (Durante, by contraction Dante) degli Allghieri was born at Florence in 1265, probably during the month of May.* This is the date given by Boccaccio, who is generally followed, though he makes a blunder in saying, sedendo Urbano quarto nella cattedra di San Pietro, for Urban died in October, 1264. Some, misled by an error in a ew of the early manuscript copies of the Divina Commedia, would have him born five years earlier, in 1260. According to Arrivabene, t Sansovino was the first to confirm Boccaccio's statement by the authority of the poet himself, basing his argument on the first verse of the Inferno,
“ Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita."; the average age of man having been declared by the Psalmist to be seventy years, and the period of the poet's supposed vision being unequivocally fixed at 1300.1 Leonardo Aretino and Manetti add their testimony to that of Boccaccio, and 1265 is now universally assumed as the true date. Voltaire, ß nevertheless, places the poet's birth in 1260, and jauntily forgives Bayle (who, he says,
écrivait à Rotterdam currente calamo pour son libraire) for having been right, declaring that he esteems him neither more nor less for having made a mistake of five years. Oddly enough, Voltaire adopts this alleged blunder of five years on the next page in saying that Dante died at the age of 56, though he still more oddly
* The Nouvelle Biographie Générale gives May 8 as his birthday. This is a mere assumption, for Boccaccio only says generally May. The indication which Dante himself gives that he was born when the sun was in Gemini would give a range from about the middle of May to about the middle of June, so that the 8th is certainly too early.
† Secolo di Dante, Udine edition of 1828, Vol. III. Part I. p. 578
| Arrivabene, however, is wrong. Boccaccio makes precisely the same reckoning in the first note of his Commentary (Bocc. Comento, etc., Firenze, 1844, Vol. I. pp. 32, 33).
§ Dict. Phil., art. Dante.