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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, 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 fifty-six, though he still more oddly omits the undisputed date of his death (1321), which would have shown Bayle to be right. The poet's descent is said to have been derived from a younger son of the great Roman family of the Frangipani, classed by the popular rhyme with the Orsini and Colonna :
“Colonna, Orsini, e Frangipani,
Prendono oggi e pagano domani.” That his ancestors had been long established in Florence is an inference from some expressions of
1 Arrivabene, however, is wrong. Boccaccio makes precisely the same reckoning in the first note of bis Commentary (Bocc Comento, etc., Firenze, 1841, vol. i. pp. 32, 33). 2 Dict. Phil., art.
the poet, and from their dwelling having been situated in the more ancient part of the city. The most important fact of the poet's genealogy is, that he was of mixed race, the Alighieri being of Teutonic origin. Dante was born, as he himself tells us," when the sun was in the constellation Gemini, and it has been absurdly inferred, from a passage in the Inferno,2 that his horoscope was drawn and a great destiny predicted for him by his teacher, Brunetto Latini. The Ottimo Comento tells us that the Twins are the house of Mercury, who induces in men the faculty of writing, science, and of acquiring knowledge. This is worth mentioning as characteristic of the age and of Dante himself, with whom the influence of the stars took the place of the old notion of destiny. It is supposed, from a passage in Boccaccio's life of Dante, that Alighiero the father was still living when the poet was nine years old. If
So, he must have died soon after, for Leonardo Aretino, who wrote with original documents before him, tells us that Dante lost his father while yet a child. This circumstance may have been not without influence in muscularizing his nature to that character of self-reliance which shows itself so constantly and sharply during his after-life. His tutor was Brunetto Latini, a very superior man (for that age), says Aretino parenthetically. Like Alexander Gill, he is now remem bered only as the schoolmaster of a great poet, and that he did his duty well may be inferred from Dante's speaking of him gratefully as one who by times “taught him how man eternizes himself.” This, and what Villani says of his refining the Tuscan idiom (for so we understand his farli scorti in bene parlare ?), are to be noted as of probable influence on the career of his pupil. Of the order of Dante's studies nothing can be certainly affirmed. His biographers send him to Bologna, Padua, Paris, Naples, and even Oxford. All are doubtful, Paris and Oxford most of all, and the dates utterly undeterminable. Yet all are possible, nay, perhaps probable. Bologna and Padua we should be inclined to place before his exile; Paris and Oxford, if at all, after it. If no argument in favor of Paris is to be drawn from his Pape Satan 2 and the corresponding paix, paix, Sathan, in the autobiography of Cellini, nor from the very definite allusion to Doctor Siger, we may yet infer from some passages in the Commedia that his wanderings had extended even farther ; 4 for it would not be hard to show that his comparisons and illustrations from outward things are almost invariably drawn from actual eyesight. As to the nature of his studies, there can be no doubt that he went through the trivium (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy) of the then ordinary university course. To these he afterward added painting (or at least drawing, - designavo un angelo sopra certe tavo lette ?), theology, and medicine. He is said to have been the pupil of Cimabue, and was certainly the friend of Giotto, the designs for some of whose frescos at Assisi and elsewhere have been wrongly attributed to him, though we may safely believe in his helpful comment and suggestion. To prove his love of music, the episode of Casella were enough, even without Boccaccio's testimony. The range
1 Paradiso, XXII. 2 Canto XV. 3 Purgatorio, XVI.
1 Though he himself preferred French, and wrote his Trésor in that language for two reasons, “l' una perchè noi siamo in Francia, e l' altra perchè la parlatura francesca è più dilettevole e più comune che tutti li altri linguaggi.” (Proemio, sul fine.) 2 Inferno, Canto VII.
8 Paradiso, Canto X. • See especially Inferno, IX. 112 et seq ; XII. 120; XV. 4 et seq.; XXXII. 25-30.
of Dante's study and acquirement would be encyclopedic in any age, but at that time it was literally possible to master the omne scibile, and he seems to have accomplished it. How lofty his theory of science was, is plain from this passage in the Convito: “ He is not to be called a true lover of wisdom (filosofo) who loves it for the sake of gain, as do lawyers, physicians, and almost all churchmen (li religiosi), who study, not in order to know, but to acquire riches or advancement, and who would not persevere in study should you give them what they desire to gain by it. . . And it may be said that (as true friendship between men consists in each wholly loving the other) the true philosopher loves every part of wisdom, and wisdom every part of the philosopher, inasmuch as she draws all to herself, and allows no one of his thoughts to wander to other things."2 The Convito gives us a glance into Dante's library. We find Aristotle (whom he calls the philosopher, the master) cited
1 Vit. Nuov., p. 61, ed. Pesaro, 1829. 2 Tratt. III. cap. xi.
seventy-six times ; Cicero, eighteen; Albertus Magnus, seven ; Boëthius, six ; Plato (at second-hand), four; Aquinas, Avicenna, Ptolemy, the Digest, Lucan, and Ovid, three each; Virgil, Juvenal, Statius, Seneca, and Horace, twice each ; and Algazzali, Alfrogan, Augustine, Livy, Orosius, and Homer (at second-hand), once.
Of Greek he seems to have understood little ; of Hebrew and Arabic, perhaps more. But it was not only in the closet and from books that Dante received his education. He acquired, perhaps, the better part of it in the streets of Florence, and later, in those homeless wanderings which led him (as he says) wherever the Italian tongue was spoken. His were the only open eyes of that century, and, as nothing escaped them, so there is nothing that was not photographed upon his sensitive brain, to be afterward fixed forever in the Commedia. What Florence was during his youth and manhood, with its Guelphs and Ghibellines, its nobles and trades, its Bianchi and Neri, its kaleidoscopic revolutions, " all parties loving liberty and doing their best to destroy her," as Voltaire says, it would be beyond our province
, to tell even if we could. Foreshortened as events are when we look back on them across so many ages, only the upheavals of party conflict catching the eye, while the spaces of peace between sink out of the view of history, a whole century seems like a mere wild chaos. Yet during a couple of such centuries the cathedrals of Florence, Pisa, and Siena got built; Cimabue, Giotto, Arnolfo, the Pisani, Brunelleschi, and Ghiberti gave the im