He first makes three great divisions of the European languages. “One of these extends from the mouths of the Danube, or the lake of Maeotis, to the western limits of England, and is bounded by the limits of the French and Italians, and by the ocean. One idiom obtained over the whole of this space: but was afterwards subdivided into, the Sclavonian, Hungarian, Teutonic, Saxon, English, and the vernacular tongues of several other people, one sign remaining to all, that they use the affirmative io, (our English ay.) The whole of Europe, beginning from the Hungarian limits and stretching towards the east, has a second idiom which reaches still further than the end of Europe into Asia. This is the Greek. In all that remains of Europe, there is a third idiom subdivided into three dialects, which may be severally distinguished by the use of the affirmatives, oc, oil, and si; the first spoken by the Spaniards, the next by the French, and the third by the Latins (or Italians). The first occupy the western part of southern Europe, beginning from the limits of the Genoese. The third occupy the eastern part from the said limits, as far, that is, as the promontory of Italy, where the Adriatic sea begins, and to Sicily. The second are in a manner northern with respect to these for they have the Germans to the east and north, on the west they are bounded by the English sea, and the mountains of Arragon, and on the south by the people of Provence and the declivity of the Apennine.” Ibid. c. x. “Each of these three,” he observes, “has its own claims to distinction The excellency of the French language consists in its being best adapted, on account of its facility and agreeableness, to prose narration, (quicquid redactum, sive inventum est ad vulgare prosaicum suum est); and he instances the books compiled on the gests of the Trojans and Romans and the delightful adventures of King Arthur, with many other histories and works of instruction. The Spanish (or Provencal) may boast of its having produced such as first cultivated in this as in a more perfect and sweet language, the vernacular poetry: among whom are Pierre d’Auvergne, and others more ancient. The privileges of the Latin, or Italian are two: first that it may reckon for its own those writers who have adopted a more sweet and subtle style of poetry, in the number of whom are Cino, da Pistoia and his friend, and the next, that its writers seem to adhere to, certain general rules of grammar, and in so doing give it, in the opinion of the intelligent, a very weighty pretension to preference.”
v. 1. The sun.] At Jerusalem it was dawn, in Spain midnight, and in India noonday, while it was sunset in Purgatory
v. 10. Blessed.] Matt. c. v. 8.
v. 57. Come.] Matt. c. xxv. 34.
v. 102. I am Leah.] By Leah is understood the active life, as Rachel figures the contemplative. The divinity is the mirror in which the latter looks. Michel Angelo has made these allegorical personages the subject of two statues on the monument of Julius ii. in the church of S. Pietro in Vincolo. See Mr. Duppa’s Life of Michel Angelo, Sculpture viii. And x. and p 247.