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as the twelfth century. About the same period Peter Waldo lifted up his voice at Lyons, with a success that called forth the anathema of the pope ;-and the valleys of the Alps were peopled, from an age the most remote, with a race of hardy mountaineers, whose seclusion had preserved their faith from corruption, and whose protestant tenets are the subject of authentic record to this day. It is the testimony of an enemy (Raynerius) and, therefore, above suspicion, that they did not believe in modern miracles, rejected extreme unction and offerings for the dead, denied the doctrines of transubstantiation, purgatory, and the invocation of saints, and, to sum up all, regarded the church of Rome as the woman of the Revelations. It is true, that he mixes up these accusations of heresy with heavy charges against their morals; but this has ever been the artifice both of pagans and of catholics, to crush a rising sect. In the present instance, nothing is wanted to expose the futility of such charges, but to compare them with those of others no less hostile (as the learned Usher has done,) when it will be found that their testimony agreeth not together.' On the other hand, the more friendly voice of La Nobla Leyçon, a Waldensian document written about the year 1100, and the authority of which has never been questioned, enforces the law of the ten commandments, that against idols not excepted -the duty of searching the scriptures-as also of praying to the Trinity, though without a word in favour of the invocation of saints or the Virgin, and represents confession and absolution as unavailing, the power of forgiving sins, though claimed by the priest, belonging to God alone. With the history of this heroic band of brothers the public has, of late, been made familiar; but whilst the sufferings and the constancy of the original stock of the Vaudois have claimed and received the sympathy of every man who has a heart, the fate of a colony, which it sent forth to seek its fortunes in the south of Italy, has been unworthily overlooked :
In the year 1370,' writes the learned and able author now before us, the Vaudois, who resided in the valleys of Pragela, finding themselves straitened in their territories, sent some of their number into Italy, to look out for a convenient settlement. Having discovered in Calabria a district uncultivated and thinly peopled, the deputies bargained with the proprietors of the soil, in consequence of which a number of their brethren emigrated thither. Within a short time, the place assumed a new appearance: villages rose in every direction; the hills resounded with the bleating of flocks; and the valleys were covered with corn and vines. The prosperity of the new settlers excited the envy of the neighbouring villagers, who were irritated at the distance which they preserved, and at their refusal to join with them in their revels and dissipation. The priests finding
that they received nothing from them but their tithes, which they paid regularly, according to the stipulation entered into with the proprietors; and perceiving that they practised none of the ceremonies usual at the interring of their dead, that they had no images in their chapels, did not go in pilgrimage to consecrated places, and had their children educated by foreign teachers, whom they held in great honour, began to raise the cry of heresy against the simple and inoffensive strangers. But the landlords, gratified to see their grounds so highly improved, and to receive large rents for what had formerly yielded them nothing, interposed in behalf of their tenants; and the priests, finding the value of their tithes yearly incresse, resolved, prudently, to keep silence. The colony received accessions to its numbers by the arrival of their brethren, who fled from the persecutions raised against them in Piedmont and France; it continued to flourish when the reformation dawned on Italy; and, after subsisting for nearly two centuries, it was basely and barbarously exterminated.'-p. 4.
Thus do we find, that at either extremity of Italy itself, (to say nothing of other heretical countries, which were in constant communication with Italy,) bodies of men were living depositories of the true faith, more or less complete, during a period which, as the Roman catholic church would persuade us, exhibited universal concurrence in her doctrines and submission to her decrees.
Meanwhile, in spite of the jealousy with which the clergy endeavoured to keep exclusive possession of the scriptures, several translations into the Italian, ill done indeed, but still indicating the latent spirit, whose workings we are examining, made their appearance in the fourteenth century, if not earlier; while that of Malermi, a monk of Camaldovi, was printed at Venice in 1471, and is said to have gone through no less than nine editions in the ensuing thirty years. Indeed, the establishment and continuance of the Inquisition, a contrivance expressly for the extinction of freedom of opinion in matters of faith, is of itself most distinct acknowledgment, on the part of the Roman catholic curch, how early there existed a formidable opposition to her dogmas; and, accordingly, when that opposition developed itself more fully after the preaching of Luther, those sanguinary tribunals were proportionally multiplied, as the legitimate and approved extinguishers of heresy.
The limits of a review will not allow us to enter into details necessary to do justice to this part of our subject; sufficient, however, has been said to show, that long before the era of the reformation, commonly so called, many of the sentiments of the reformers were cherished in several places to our certain knowledge, and, probably, in still more, where the tyranny of the times has left us in ignorance of them. Dante, undoubtedly, was not speaking at random, in his assertion, (and it is worthy of
attention, if it were only for its very early date,) that the burning sepulchres of his heretics were far more abundantly stocked with victims than was commonly supposed:
'Qui son gli eresiarche Co' lor seguaci d'ogni setta, e molto
Più, che non credi, son le tombe carche.'—Infern. ix.
Thus were the doctrines which they call heresy,' ready at all times, as it were, to be slipped from the couples, and to supplant the superstitions and idolatries of the papal system, whenever, by any intrepid assailant and propitious crisis, that system could be overthrown.
It is probable, however, that it would have been long before the mere force of truth could have prevailed against a fabric constructed with the worldly wisdom of the Roman catholic church; but it was cankered at heart, and its corruptions cried aloud to heaven. Here was the secret of its weakness-the lives of the clergy, both regular and secular, were disgusting multitudes, and preparing mankind to hail the day when they should be exposed and put to shame. In a history of the progress of the reformation, whether in Italy or elsewhere, the feelings of disaffection to the established forms of worship, which the sight of gross abuses occasioned, ought not to be passed over. Dr. M'Crie might have added to the interest, and indeed to the value of his volume, by more ample reference to the poets and novelists of Italy, who lived during those ages in which the papacy was filling up the measure of its iniquities. We single out this class of authors, because they afford a fair sample of the state of public opinion in the times when they lived; and because their own incidental reflections on the condition of religion and its professors, ought to have that weight which belongs to undesigned and unobtruded testimony. Of the novelists we shall not stay to say more, than that, in general, those innocent fairy tales in which they abound, and many of which our nurses still teach us, are usually made to relate to some lucky peasant or luckless prince, whilst any discreditable adventure is as sure to be saddled upon a priest or a nun. The poets will engage more of our attention, and are better worth it.
Of Dante's hostility to the church of Rome, we had recently occasion to say something in our review of Mr. Todd's edition of Milton. His feelings, however, towards it were perfectly distinct from those of the parties with whom we have been hitherto dealing. These latter denounced the doctrines of the church; the poet embraced its doctrines, but execrated their abuse.
Signor Rosetti, indeed, in a most elaborate, learned, and ingenious commentary on the Inferno, recently published, pro
nounces the Divina Commedia to have nothing to do with theology; that it is a purely political poem; that it attacks the pope as the head of the Guelphic party, without any reference to his spiritual character; that it is, in short, a covert enterprise of the Ghibellin against the Guelph; and that its language is a kind of freemason's phraseology, only to be understood by the initiated. Thus amor, for instance, stands for Roma, by inversion; or, if it be written amore, then it stands for amo-re, by division; and in these senses combined, it implies, that the Ghibellin loved a king for Rome, or, in other words, thought that Italy would prosper best under the single sceptre of the emperour;-Donna, or Madonna, is the power of the emperour;-salute is the emperour himself, for, like the Marquis of Carabas, the emperour is here and there and everywhere;-I morté are the Guelphs; I vivi are the Ghibellins, &c. With these keys, and some others of the same sort, Signor Rosetti unlocks all the mysteries of Dante for a considerable time-till at length it pleases the poet, for some reason or another, to lay aside these symbols and adopt a fresh set, which are discovered, however, by the commentator with the same sagacity as before, and the treasure-house is opened with the same success as before. Nor is this all other secrets are to be got at by piecing syllables together which are scattered throughout a whole line, or even half a dozen lines, when up starts a Ghibellin, or your old friend the emperour-like harlequin, whose limbs being collected from different quarters of the stage, combine at once into a perfect and living man. For example, that glorious passage in the ninth canto, descriptive of the approach of the angel to the city of Dis, of which we spoke in the article already alluded to, wraps up the emperour in a way which certainly might have escaped an ordinary reader;-non altrimenti è fatto che d'un vento impetuoso per gli avversi ardori Che fier la selva; e senz alcun rattento, &c., where it will be perceived by the letters in italics, that the emperour Enrico is very intelligibly expressed.
Now, supposing this scheme to be as sound as we are afraid it is visionary, we should think it a misfortune to be thoroughly versed in it. In our eyes, it would be the utter ruin of Dante as a poet, and sundry curious conundrums would be all that we should get in exchange for those noble bursts of inspiration which we had found in him, or thought we had found in him, in the days of our happier ignorance of these rabbinical expositions. Besides, to us it is an offensive idea, that the sublime scenes of an invisible world of souls, a hell, a purgatory, and a paradise, should, after all, be only parables relating to a factious squabble in Italy. This seems to us to be reversing the order of things grievously, and making the thing typified of ten-fold less consequence than the type. Who, for instance, (to advert once again to the passage
in the ninth canto,) would not rather believe that the city of Dis meant the city of Dis than the city of Florence? That the heretics it contained were really heretics than Guelphs? That the angel who descended to open the gates which were shut against Dante and Virgil, was actually a messenger of God, empowered with his wand to smite the portals, and make a way into that infernal town, than that it was the Emperour Henry, with his sceptre, demanding admission for the Ghibellins into Florence? We do not dispute the ingenuity of Signor Rosetti; we are only contending that it is misapplied; indeed, when this, his favourite theory, does not cross his path, his commentary is excellent, keeping close to the text, completing the ellipses, and leading his reader by the hand, step by step, through the rough places of his difficult author, with an admirable knowledge of the road. For the reasons, therefore, which we have given, we shall continue to regard Dante more as the theologian than the politician, and proceed, as we were about to do before this digression, to say a word or two on the view he took of his church.
Its doctrines, we repeat, he allowed, and only exclaimed against their perversion. For the accommodation of heretics in another world, he provides, like a good son of his intolerant mother, sepulchres glowing with fervent heat, and no suspicion seems to cross his mind that they were thus out of their proper element. A purgatory, he admits, and stations at its gate an angel duly armed with his keys and commission from St. Peter: yet he tells us that the apostle had cautioned him against opening too freely, and admitting a herd of miscreants who would trample him to death, (Purg. xi.) He believes it to be the duty of those who are alive, to pray for the souls that are therein, and he represents them, in their turn, making supplication for their friends on earth (Purg. xi.); but he adds, in direct opposition to all excessive merchandise of souls, that purgatory did, in fact, receive very few-that its doors creaked on their hinges for want of use, and that mankind, in general, rushed headlong, and at once to the bottomless pit, (Purg. x.) Priestly absolution he does not dispute, yet he reckons it profitless without repentance; and a luckless friar, who had sinned at the pope's suggestion, and upon the faith of his promise that he would open heaven for him notwithstanding, finds himself, to his surprise, amongst the damned, (Infern. xxvii.) He condemns to a joyless abode, among the spirits in prison (as his church taught him) all who had died without baptism, however innocent their lives, (Infern. iv.) He constantly addresses the Virgin in language of the most chivalrous devotion, and sometimes with the most touching tenderness, (Purg. xx.) He kindles at the thought of a crusade, and bitterly reproaches the pope and cardinals with