Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 10.djvu/111

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9 th S. X. AUG. 9, 1902.]


NOTES AND QUERIES.


103


gether contradict, the first half. If "alpe" means any "lofty mountain," how does it supply "another trace of distant wander- ings " ? But, apart from this looseness of language, I submit that the tendency to interpret all Dante's references to places as personal visits reaches positive bathos. The evidence of his journeys to Paris and Oxford is, in my judgment, fairly conclusive, but it is surely ultra crepidam to regard all allusions to localities as traces of his distant wanderings." " Alpe " probably signifies here (as elsewhere, 'Purg.,' xvii. 1, and xxxiii. 11) nothing more than, as Lombardi suggests, "per quasivoglia montagna general men te." Mr. Tozer notes that " whether used for ' the Alps,' or, as here, for ' mountains ' generally, 'alpe' is always singular in the ' Div. Com.' "

As a matter of minor criticism I am led to join issue here on the instance adduced from ' Purg.,' xvii. 1, where alpe rimes with talpe, which is certainly not singular, though, as Lombardi points out, frequently used as such in its plural form. It may, of course, be argued that talpe was made subservient for riming purposes to alpe. Nevertheless, I think the instance establishes my contention.

5. Ibid., 31-2.

Quali Alessandro in quelle parti calde D' India vide.

Here again Dante supplies a butt for the shafts of a not unreasoning criticism. But it was not altogether his fault. He had got hold of the wrong version or presentment of the fabled letter of Alexander to Aristotle, that was all. The real culprit was appa- rently Albertus Magnus. The letter afore- said did not state that " Nubes ignitse de aere cadebant, quas ipse militibus calcare prce- cepit" but that " visseque nubes de cselo ardentes tanquam faces decidere, jussi autem milites suas veste* opponere ignibus." The italicized words establish an antithesis and locate Dante's mistake. The soldiers tram- pled upon the snow, but used their clothes as a protection against the fiery flames. "Dante apparently mixes up the two facts in his memory," observes Plumptre. The same author is less happy, because misleading, in rendering "scalpitar' by " to plough." The word means, as Tomlinson correctly has it, " to trample 'neath the feet " a somewhat different operation. But can Dante be honestly charged with "confusion of facts" after all? The Nuovo Editore of Lom- bardi's notes evidently thinks not. He says :

" Ci pare che Alessandro dicesse a' soldati ' di mano in mano che cadoao in terra le fiamme, cal- pestatele e soffocatele, affinch^ le altre che ne pio-


vano appresso, non si uniscano a quelle ancor salde e vive, e non facciano un mare di fuoco.' " ~-

The verdict either way depends upon the accuracy or otherwise of the versions of the letter supplied by Albertus Magnus and Ben- venuto da Imola, while as to the facts implied one story is as good as the other. To trample on falling flakes of fire would be pretty much on a par to the soldiers with treading down those of snow. Dante's alleged mixing or confusion of facts is then both explainable and defensible. Nor is the alleged spuriousness of the fact, if not of the letter, altogether beyond question. " II comentatore della Nidobeatina," says Lom- bardi's Nuovo Editore,

"attesta leggersi cotal fatto nella vita di Ales- sandro : chi sa da chi scritta Quinto Curzio cer- tamente, come avverte anche il Landino, nulla ha di cio, come n6 Giustino, n& Plutarco. Nella let- tera di Alessandro ad Aristotele (qualunque abbiala scritta) fassi mentzione," &c.

Mr. Tozer remarks on " quelle parti calde d' India," "that hot region of the world, India": "This seems better than 'that hot district of India through which Alexander's march lay,' for the mediae vals regarded the whole of India as a hot region." This sugges- tion, I submit, implies both a censure on Dante's geography and a tampering with (in translation) the text> Verily, the ' D. C.' will soon come to be regarded as one connected mass of errors, theological, astronomical, his- torical, and geographical, with an emended text (!) and both sense and spirit eliminated. By all means let us have elucidatory notes, but not perversion of meaning. If Dante says "hot parts of India," let the phrase remain as written, and be translated as such without a distortion implying what he never wrote. Fidelity to sense, if not to literalness, is the prime canon of all honest translation. I do not know who the author of "that hot district of India" may be, but to me it is, because more accurate, preferable to the alter- native suggested. Plumptre renders the line in question as'" India's torrid climes "; Gary, " in the torrid Indian clime "; Tomlinson as "where those parts acquire great heat in Inde"; and Ford by "sultry Ind."

For the beauty and force of the illustration there can be nothing but admiration, be it true or false or confused. But there could only be, at the worst, " confusion " or falsity of facts, not of application which is im- material. It is a permissible and laudable poetic licence, even though it be a conscious distortion of either probability or history. All myths are such, and as such are lawful prey for the poet.

I trust the above remarks will not be