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then you are to reckon the year to be but the mind of every man is the man, complete. But be assured that the and not that form which may be detwentieth part of such a year is not yet lineated with a finger. Know there. elapsed.
fore that you are a divine person. “If, therefore, you hope to return to Since it is divinity that has consciousthis place, toward which all the aspi- ness, sensation, memory, and foresight, rations of great and good men are tend- — that governs, regulates, and moves ing, what must be the value of that that body over which it has been aphuman fame that endures for but a little pointed, just as the Supreme Deity rules part of a single year? If, then, you this world ; and in like manner as an would fain direct your regards on high, eternal God guides this world, which and aspire to this mansion and eternal in some respect is perishable, so an eterabode, you neither will devote yourself nal spirit animates your frail body. to the rumors of the vulgar, nor will “For that which is ever moving is you rest your hopes and your interest eternal; now that which communion human rewards. Virtue herself cates to another object a motion which ought to attract you by her own charms it received elsewhere, must necessarily to true glory; what others may talk of cease to live as soon as its motion is at you, for talk they will, let themselves an end. Thus the being which is consider. But all such talk is confined self-motive is the only being that is to the narrow limits of those regions eternal, because it never is abandoned which you see. None respecting any by its own properties, neither is this man was everlasting. It is both ex- self-motion ever at an end; nay, this is tinguished by the death of the indi- the fountain, this is the beginning of vidual, and perishes altogether in the motion to all things that are thus suboblivion of posterity.”
jects of motion. Now there can be on Which, when he had said, I replied, commencement of what is aboriginal, “ Truly, O Africanus, since the path for all things proceed from a beginning; to heaven lies open to those who have therefore a beginning can rise from no deserved well of their country, though other cause, for if it proceeded from anfrom my childhood I. have ever trod in other cause it would not be aboriginal, your and my father's footsteps without which, if it have no commencement, cerdisgracing your glory, yet now, with tainly never has an end; for the primeso noble a prize set before me, I shall val principle, if extinct, can neither be strive with much more diligence.” reproduced from any other source, nor
“Do so strive,” replied he, “and do produce anything else from itself, benot consider yourself, but your body, cause it is necessary that all things should to be mortal. For you are not the be- spring from some original source." ing which this corporeal figure evinces;
HELL, PURGATORY, AND HEAVEN.
Milman's History of Latin Christianity. Book XIV. ch. 2.
Throughout the Middle Ages the world after death continued to reveal more and more fully its awful secrets. Hell, Purgatory, Heaven became more distinct, if it may be so said, more visible. Their site, their topography, their torments, their trials, their enjoyments, became more conceivable, almost more palpable to sense: till Dante summed up the whole of this traditional lore, or at least, with a Poet's intuitive sagacity, seized on all which was most imposing, effective, real, and condensed it in his three co-ordinate poems. That Hell had a local existence, that immaterial spirits suffered bodily and material torments, none, or scarcely one hardy speculative mind, presumed to doubt. Hell had admitted, according to legend, more than one visitant from this upper world, who returned to relate his fearful journey to wondering man: St. Farcy, St. Vettin, a layman Bernilo. But all these early descents interest us only as they may be supposed or appear to have been faint types of the great Italian Poet. Dante is the one authorized topographer of the mediæval Hell. His originality is no more called in question by these mere signs and manifestations of the popular belief, than by the existence and reality of those objects or scenes in external nature which he describes with such
unrivalled truth. In Dante meet unreconciled (who thought of or cared for their reconciliation ?) those strange contradictions, immaterial souls subject to material torments: spirits which had put off the mortal body, cognizable by the corporeal sense. The mediaval Hell had gathered from all ages, all lands, all races, its imagery, its denizens, its site, its access, its commingling horrors; from the old Jewish traditions, perhaps from the regions beyond the sphere of the Old Testament; from the Pagan poets, with their black rivers, their Cerberus, their boatman and his crazy vessel ; perhaps from the Teutonic Hela, through some of the earlier visions. Then came the great Poet, and reduced all this wild chaos to a kind of order, moulded it up with the cosmical notions of the times, and made it, as it were, one with the prevalent mundane system. Above all, he brought it to the very borders of our world; he made the life beyond the grave one with our present life ; he mingled in close and intimate relation the present and the future. Hell, Purgatory, Heaven, were but an immediate expansion and extension of the present world. And this is among the wonderful causes of Dante's power, the realizing the unreal by the admixture of the real: even as in his imagery the actual, homely, every-day language or similitude mingles with and heightens the fantastic, the vague, the transmundane. What effect had Hell produced, if peopled by ancient, almost immemorial objects of human detestation, Nimrod or Iscariot, or Julian or Mohammed ? It was when Popes all but living, Kings but now on their thrones, Guelfs who had hardly ceased to walk the streets of Florence, Ghibel lines almost yet in exile, revealed their awful doom, - this it was which, as it expressed the passions and the fears of mankind of an instant, immediate, actual, bodily, comprehensible place of torment; so, wherever it was read, it deepened that notion, and made it more distinct and natural. This was the Hell, conterminous to the earth, but separate, as it were, by a gulf passed by almost instantaneous transition, of which the Priesthood held the keys. These keys the audacious Poet had wrenched from their hands, and dared to turn on many of them selves, speaking even against Popes the sentence of condemnation. Of that which Hell, Purgatory, Heaven, were in popular opinion during the Middle Ages, Dante was but the full, deep, concentred expression; what he embodied in verse, all men believed, feared, hoped.
Purgatory had now its intermediate place between Heaven and Hell, as unquestioned, as undisturbed by doubt; its existence was as much an article of uncontested popular belief as Heaven or Hell. It were as unjust and unphilosophical to attribute all the legen
dary lore which realized Purgatory to the sordid invention of the Churchman or the Monk, as it would be unhistorical to deny the use which was made of this superstition to exact tribute from the fears or the fondness of mankind. But the abuse grew out of the belief; the belief was not slowly, subtly, deliberately instilled into the mind for the sake of the abuse. Purgatory, possible with St. Augustine, probably with Gregory the Great, grew up, I am persuaded, its growth is singularly indistinct and untraceable,) out of the mercy and modesty of the Priesthood. To the eternity of Hell torments there is and ever must be — notwithstanding the peremptory decrees of dogmatic theology and the reverential dread in so many religious minds of tampering with what seems the language of the New Testament — a tacit repugnance. But when the doom of every man rested on the lips of the Priest, on his absolution or refusal of absolution, that Priest might well tremble with some natural awe — awe not confessed to himself— at dismissing the soul to an irrevocable, unrepealable, unchangeable destiny. He would not be averse to pronounce a more mitigated, a reversible sentence. The keys of Heaven and of Hell were a fearful trust, a terrible responsibility ; the key of Purgatory might be used with far less presumption, with less trembling confidence. Then came naturally, as it might seem, the strengthening and exaltation of the efficacy of prayer, of the efficacy of the religious ceremo
nials, of the efficacy of the sacrifice of to return and to reveal the secrets the altar, and the efficacy of the inter- of remote and terrible Hell, there cession of the Saints : and these all were those too who were admitted within the province, within the power, in vision, or in actual life to more of the Sacerdotal Order. Their au accessible Purgatory, and brought back thority, their influence, their interven- intelligence of its real local existence, tion, closed not with the grave. The and of the state of souls within its departed soul was still to a certain de penitential circles. There is a legree dependent upon the Priest. They gend of St. Paul himself ; of the had yet a mission, it might be of French monk St. Farcy ; of Dritmercy; they had still some power of helm, related by Bede; of the Emsaving the soul after it had departed peror Charles the Fat, by William from the body. Their faithful love, of Malmesbury. Matthew Paris retheir inexhaustible interest, might yet lates two or three journeys of the rescue the sinner; for he had not Monk of Evesham, of Thurkill, an reached those gates - over which Essex peasant, very wild and fantastic. alone was written, “ There is no The Purgatory of St. Patrick, the PurHope" - the gates of Hell. That gatory of Owen Miles, the vision of which was a mercy, a consolation, be. Alberic of Monte Casino, were among came a trade, an inexhaustible source the most popular and wide-spread leof wealth. Praying souls out of Pur- gends of the ages preceding Dante; and gatory by masses said on their behalf, as in Hell, so in Purgatory, Dante became an ordinary office, an office sums up in his noble verses the whole which deserved, which could demand, theory, the whole popular belief as to which did demand, the most prodigal this intermediate sphere. remuneration. It was later that the If Hell and Purgatory thus dimly Indulgence, originally the remission of divulged their gloomy mysteries, if so much penance, of so many days, they had been visited by those who weeks, months, years, or of that which returned to actual life, Heaven was was the commutation for penance, so unapproached, unapproachable. To much almsgiving or munificence to be wrapt to the higher Heaven rechurches or Churchmen, in sound at mained the privilege of the Apostle ; least extended (and mankind, the high the popular conception was content to and low vulgar of mankind, are gov- rest in modest ignorance. Though erned by sound) its significance: it was the Saints might descend on beneficent literally understood as the remission missions to the world of man ; of the of so many years, sometimes centuries, site of their beatitude, of the state of of Purgatory.
the Blessed, of the joys of the supernal If there were living men to whom world, they brought but vague and init had been vouchsafed to visit and definite tidings. In truth, the notion of Heaven was inextricably mingled and the firmament above, or the Priup with the astronomical and cosmo- mum Mobile - with those who are gonical as well as with the theological admitted to a progressively advancing notions of the age. Dante's Paradise state of glory and blessedness. All blends the Ptolemaic system with the this, it should seem, is below the asnine angelic circles of the Pseudo Dio cending circles of the Celestial Hienysius ; the material heavens in their rarchies, that immediate vestibule or nine circles ; above and beyond them, fore-court of the Holy of Holies, the in the invisible heavens, the nine Hi- Heaven of Heavens, into which the erarchies; and yet higher than the most perfect of the Saints are admitted. highest heavens the dwelling of the They are commingled with, yet unabIneffable Trinity. The Beatific Vis- sorbed by, the Redeemer, in mystic union, whether immediate or to await ion; yet the mysticism still reverently the Last Day, had been eluded rather endeavors to maintain some distinction than determined, till the rash and in regard to this Light, which, as it has presumptuous theology of Pope John descended upon earth, is drawn up XXII. compelled a declaration from again to the highest Heavens, and has the Church. But yet this ascent to a kind of communion with the yet Inthe Heaven of Heavens would seem communicable Deity. That in all the from Dante, the best interpreter of the Paradise of Dante there should be a dominant conceptions, to have been an dazzling sameness, a mystic indistinctespecial privilege, if it may be so said, ness, an inseparable blending of the of the most Blessed of the Blessed, the real and the unreal, is not wonderful, Saint of Saints. There is a manifest if we consider the nature of the subject, gradation in Beatitude and Sanctity. and the still more incoherent and inAccording to the universal cosmical congruous popular conceptions which theory, the Earth, the round and level he had to represent and to harmonize. earth, was the centre of the whole sys- It is more wonderful that, with these tem. It was usually supposed to be few elements, Light, Music, and Mysencircled by the vast, circumambient, ticism, he should, by his singular talent endless ocean; but beyond that ocean of embodying the purely abstract and (with a dim reminiscence, it should metaphysical thought in the liveliest seem, of the Elysian Fields of the poets) imagery, represent such things with was placed a Paradise, where the souls the most objective truth, yet without of men hereafter to be blest awaited disturbing their fine spiritualism. The the final resurrection. Dante takes the subtilest scholasticism is not more subother theory : he peoples the nine ma- tile than Dante. It is perhaps a bold terial heavens - that is, the cycle of assertion, but what is there on these the Moon, Venus, Mercury, the Sun, transcendent subjects in the vast theMars, Jupiter, Saturn, the fixed stars, ology of Aquinas, of which the essence