Could the proscribed and exiled poet, as he wandered, isolated and alone, over the vine-clad hills of Italy, and as he stopped here and there at some friendly monastery, wearied and hungry, have cast his prophetic eye down the vistas of the ages; could he have seen what honors would be bestowed upon his name, and how his poem, written in sorrow, would be scattered in joy among all nations, giving a new direction to human thought, shining as a fixed star in the realms of genius, and kindling into shining brightness what is only a reflection of its rays; yea, how it would be committed to memory in the rising universities, and be commented on by the most learned expositors in all the schools of Europe, lauded to the skies by his countrymen, received by the whole world as a unique, original, unapproachable production, suggesting grand thoughts to Milton, reappearing even in the creations of Michael Angelo, coloring art itself whenever art seeks the sublime and beautiful, inspiring all subsequent literature, dignifying the life of letters, and gilding philosophy as well as poetry with new glories,—could he have seen all this, how his exultant soul would have rejoiced, even as did Abraham, when, amid the ashes of the funeral pyre he had prepared for Isaac, he saw the future glories of his descendants; or as Bacon, when, amid calumnies, he foresaw that his name and memory would be held in honor by posterity, and that his method would be received by all future philosophers as one of the priceless boons of genius to mankind!
Vita Nuova; Divina Commedia,—Translations by Carey and Longfellow, Boccaccio’s Life of Dante; Wright’s St. Patrick’s Purgatory; Dante et la Philosophie Catholique du Treizieme Siecle, par Ozinan; Labitte, La Divine Comedie avant Dante; Balbo’s Life and Times of Dante; Hallam’s Middle Ages; Napier’s Florentine History; Villani; Leigh Hunt’s Stories from the Italian Poets; Botta’s Life of Dante; J. R. Lowell’s article on Dante in American Cyclopaedia; Milman’s Latin Christianity; Carlyle’s Heroes and Hero-worship; Macaulay’s Essays; The Divina Commedia from the German of Schelling; Voltaire’s Dictionnaire Philosophique; La Divine Comedie, by Lamennais; Dante, by Labitte.
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ENGLISH LIFE IN THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY.
The age which produced Chaucer was a transition period from the Middle Ages to modern times, midway between Dante and Michael Angelo. Chaucer was the contemporary of Wyclif, with whom the Middle Ages may appropriately be said to close, or modern history to begin.