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so many noxiqjas beasts? — for those of a cert
considered then, as now, that the world wj
wholly for man, and that all the animals wer
to serve him. The first difficulty was obvi
enlarging the ark.^ The second was explain
in various fashions. Peter Damian dedicated
monks of Monte Cassino a treatise De bono
status et variorum anitnantiutn tropologia^ w
Gaspary says, is nothing else than one of th
allegorical beast books. ' Nature changes, for 1
logian, into a mistress of moral science. God
ing to Damian, endowed the animals with thei
and qualities to the end that man, from the co:
tion and explanation of them, may derive prec
the salvation of his soul.'^ Such a theory dc
with the superfluous animals. St. Augustine
confess I am ignorant why mice and frogs were
or flies and worms. . . . All creatures are eithe
hurtful, or superfluous to us. . . . As for the
creatures, we are either punished, or discip'
terrified by them, so that we may not cherish
then: life.** These or like doctrines held

1 Purg. XXVIII, 97-102 ; XXIX, 136-138. Inf. XX
Conv. Ill, xii, 59 fF.

2 Cf. A. D. White, Warfare of Science with Theology
» A. Gaspary, Storia delta Letteratura Italianaj I, 29
* De Genesiy de Trinitate, passim, cited by White.



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22 DANTE AND THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

Christendom for nearly eighteen hundred years, and
hold sway still over the majority, who have not yet
learned that various creatures appeared on our globe
ages before man, and that everything, from the rat-
tlesnake to a hundred thousand mysterious beings
under the sea, from the lacerating nettle to the love-
liest rose, exists without divine reference to man ;
that man battled with other animals for untold ages
before he got a few of them into his power ; and that
now, as of old, millions of species exist that have noth-
ing to do with man. Neither were they created to fur-
nish material for sermons, nor, as used to be thought,
to embody the Evil One, but exist, each and every one,
for their own sake alone. And that very science which
has afforded mankind a defence against 'noxious beasts'
and sickening germs has also taught the more intelligent
part of us to look upon Nature kindly, and to wonder,
with truly religious reverence, at her infinite complexity
and the never ceasing reign of law.

Dante Alighieri uttered only a few words bearing on
the noxious and superfluous beasts. He says of the
giants: —

Sure, Nature, when her hand forebore the skill
To make such monsters, had a wise intent.
Taking from Mars those ministers of ill ;
And if she do not of her whales repent,
And elephants, who closely thinks will find
That she herein a just discretion shows :
For, were ill will and strength gifted with mind,
Vainly would men such argument oppose.^

— Parsons.
1 Inf. XXXI, 49-57.



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MAN

Here the theory as to the * noxious beasts ' 1
still, but in a form modified, perhaps, by the ine^
choice of the hugest, rather than of the most fere
animals known.

Dante had a vague theory on what we now ca
struggle for life. 'Every animal,' he writes, 'as
as bom, both rational and brute, loves itself, f(
and shunning those things which are contrary to
and hates them.' And Dante recognises one feat
the differentiation of species by adding that there 1
among animals a dissimilarity in the advance o
instinct, for one goes one road, one goes anoth<

The most important of Dante's tenets hang up(
legend of Adam. Dante, as we have seen, hek
Adam and Eve began life in the Terrestrial Pa
opposite Jerusalem. Since the Terrestrial Paradij
completely surrmmded by sea, how did Adam's off!
and the animals arrive in Europe and otherwise s
over the earth.? In his treatise De Vulgari Eloqi
Dante affirms that God chastised the builders of
by making them speak as many languages as then
kinds of artisans ; and to this confusion he attribul
dispersion of mankind.^ That the root of human pr
was planted in the East, but that after Babel ma
were scattered over the earth,^ agrees well enoug]
the theory as to the situation of the Terrestrial Pai
but when Dante says that men came at length
West, wherefore then for the first time some or
the rivers of Europe slaked the thirst of rational tl

1 Conv. IV, xxii, 48-56. ' ^^ ^- ^- 1» V"' -

s D^ y, E. I, viii, ad init.



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24 DANTE AND THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

one IS prone to inquire what had become of the throats
that were not rational. Perplexity changes to suspicion
when Dante says that men brought with them a three-
fold language, ' whether they came, then, for the first
as strangers or were returning to Europe as indigenes.'
How could they have been indigenes of Europe if they
originated in Adam.?

Mankind became frail through the sin of Adam. No
wonder, therefore, that mankind was so ready to sin
again at the persuasion of the giant Nimrod, who was
really responsible for the building of Babel and the
consequent confusion of tongues.^ Why did God at
the beginning grant speech to man, and why was speech
not given to the angels and to the lower animals.?
Speech was given to men in order that they might
exchange ideas. The lower animals, devoid as they
were of reason, had no need of language. Dante dis-
poses of Ovid's magpies by saying that Ovid was speak-
ing figuratively. ' It is false that any birds speak, for
such an act is not speech, but, as it were, an imitation of
the human voice.' As to the serpent that tempted Eve,
we learn that its organs were so operated by the devil
that a voice resulted like true speech. It is interesting
to learn from what Dante says later that the serpent
must have spoken Hebrew. Balaam's ass, on the other
hand, could not have protested had her organs not been
operated by an angel. Yet neither angels nor devils
have a language. The angels need none because they
know everything through God ; the devils have none, for
in order to make their perfidy known to one another

1 De V. E. I, vii, 1-33.



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MAN 25

they need only to know each of the other that he exists
and what is his rank ; which they do know, for they
knew one another before their fall.^ It seems that
medieval thinkers differed in this matter; for Richal-
mus, a Cistercian, credits them with knowing Latin,^ and
it would be easy to show from contemporary documents
that they knew and could speak every idiom in Europe,
though they often did so with a certain huskiness, or
even whinnying.

Of all Dante's seriously propounded quillets and quod-
libets as to man's place in nature almost nothing re-
mains. They have slowly faded from the minds of
thinking men, and in their stead have come theories
founded, not on the turning of a verbal kaleidoscope, but
on the fearless study of all those great truths that exist
for those who know how to find them ; not in oracles,
but in the bosom of the earth, and in the millions of
creatures whose complexity is everywhere and always
governed by law.

1 De V, E, 1, 11, passim, Cf. Conv, III, vll, 101-124.

2 Cap. LXIII. Cf. p. 31, n. 5.



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From a MS. of the * Hortus Deliciarum/ XII century. After Didron

CHAPTER III
The Angels

God created all the angels, both the good and the
bad,^ but the good alone he created intentionally ; the
wickedness of the bad angels arose outside of God's
design. Nevertheless he foresaw their wickedness.^
Those that fell became demons, and they must have
numbered thousands.^ Those that were loyal continued
in their various hierarchies to move the nine heavens,
and thence they exert a certain influence on the destiny
of men.*

These angels are ' substance separated from matter ' ^
(a scholastic subtlety), and are diaphanous.® Through

1 Parad. VII, 130-132 ; XXIX, 22-33. ' Conv. Ill, xii, 66-72.
» Parad. XXIX, 49-63. Conv, II, vi, 95-98. Inf. VIII, 82 ff.
* See chapter on * Man,' pp. 19-20. • Conv. Ill, vii, 47-50.

6 Conv. II, V, 4-8. Cf. Parad. IV, 46-48.

26



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THE ANGELS 2/

the mirror God they know all things ; nor do they need
language, for they have an ineffable and ready suffi-
ciency of understanding.^ They have also immutable
free will.^ So much for theology. What, now, are the
poet's ideas ?

Remote though angels are, they sympathise, not with
Jews nor Saracens, but with Christians, and seek to
defend them from evil.' An angel of God saved Buon-
conte from a demon,* and when Virgil and Dante were
hampered and almost dismayed by a band of fiends,
there came flying to the rescue through the dank thick
gloom of Hell an angel.

I saw above a thousand ruined souls
Flying from one who passed the Stygian bog,
With feet unmoistened by the sludgy wave ;
Oft from his face his left hand pushed the fog
Whose weight alone, it seemed, annoyance gave.
At once the messenger of heaven I kenned,
And toward my master turned who made a sign
That hushed I should remain and lowly bend.
Ah me, how full he looked of scorn divine !

He reached the portals ; with a little rod
Touched them : unbolted, instantly, they flew ;
Then, on the horrid threshold as he trod,
* O Heaven-expelled ! * he *gan, * accursed crew !
What frantic pitch of insolence is this ?
Why vainly kick against the Will supreme,
Whose mighty aim was never known to miss,
Who to your pangs adds oft a new extreme ? * *

— Parsons.

1 Conv. Ill, vii, 46-64. De V. E. I, ii, 12-22.

« De Mon, I, xii, 30-37. * Purg, V, 104.

« Epist. VIII, m, 33-38. fi Inf. IX, 79-96.



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28 DANTE AND THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

This rescuing angel seems to have a human body. He
speaks, and also carries a fairy wand. Thomas Aquinas
declares that angels have not by nature bodies united
to themselves, but may assume them, as when angels
appeared to Lot and the men of Sodom. Thus they
may seem to be living bodies but they are not so ; nor
do they really speak by means of the assumed body,
but it is something like speech in so far as they form
sounds in the air like human voices.^ It would be
hard to find a more lucid explanation than this of the
Angelic Doctor.

Although the angel seemed to fly, yet Dante says
nothing about wings. Elsewhere, however, he beheld
such an angel as painters fancy — an angel with wings
like a swan's,^ white wings, of course, for in Dante's
time no European had seen any but white swans.^ His
angels are often dazzling, are ' lights,' ' splendours,'
'fires.'* Some — and they are seraphim — have six
wings with which they make for themselves a cowl.^
Most curious of all are those angels that Dante saw
driving away the serpent from a garden in Purgatory,
— most curious, for they wore garments green as new-
bom leaves, and green feathers in their wings.

I saw that army of the gentle-born

Thereafterward in silence upward gaze

As if in expectation, pale and humble ;

And firom on high come forth and down descend,

1 Summaj Pr. pars, qu. 11, art. i, 3 ; qu. Hi, art. i, 2, 3.

* Purg. XIX, 46. « See chapter on * The Swan,' p. 299.

* Purg, XV, 26. Parad, XIV, 34 ; XXII, 46 ; XXIII, 28.

* Parad, IX, 77-78. Scartazzini cites Isaiah vi, 2, 3.



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THE ANGELS 29

I saw two angels with two flaming swords —

Truncated and deprived of their points,

Green as the little leaflets just now bom

Their garments were, which by their verdant pinions

Beaten and blown abroad, they trailed behind.

One just above us came to take his station,

And one descended to the opposite bank.

So that the people were contained between them.

Clearly in them discerned I the blond head ;

But in their feces was the eye bewildered,

As feculty confounded by excess.*

— Longfellow.

When Dante wrote these words the Byzantine period
had passed, and Cimabue and Giotto were painting
angels more like men from the waist upward, but for
spirituality's sake deprived them of feet. In the Vita
Nuova ^ Dante says that he was busy one day drawing
an angel, when he looked up and saw worthy men
watching him. After they had gone he returned to his
work, that is, of drawing angels. What were they?
Had they feet? Were they naked? or clad, like all
the angelic figures of Cimabue and Giotto ? Had they
beards or other evidence of sex ? We shall never know,
and yet it would not be amiss to suppose that they were
naive figures, winged fantasies, but far less spiritual
than the angels limned with a goose quill on the first
manuscript of the Divina Commedia,

1 Purg. VIII, 22-36. 2 § 35.



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CHAPTER IV

The Devil and His Brood ^

lo udV gid dire a Bologna *
Del Diavol vizii assai, tra i quali udV
Ch^ egli e bugiardo, e padre di menzogna?

By the year 1300 the Devil was in his prime. Minia-
turists painted him in as many shapes as tradition sanc-
tioned or imagination could devise. Hewn in stone, he
still haunts the spires and balconies of the great Gothic
cathedrals. Men fear him no longer, but he, being of
stone, still leers over towns and cities as in the days
when he shared with God the ever ripening harvest of
souls. Through the Devil's pride came his fall and the

^ The reader may like to consult the following useful and interest-
ing works on Demonology : Arturo Graf, // Diavoloy Milan, 3d
ed., 1890 (delightful, but fails to give sources), also his Demonolo-
gia di Dante, in Miti, Leggende e Supersiizioni del Medio Evo^
Turin, 1893 ; Dr. Paul Carus, The History of the Devil and the
Idea of Evil, London and Chicago, 1900 (scientific and richly illus-
trated) ; Andrew D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science
with Theology^ especially chapter on * Possession,^ and chapter entitled,
* From the " Prince of the Power of the Air " to Meteorology,' New
York, 1898. RosKOFF, Geschichte des Teufels, Leipzig, 1869, is
rather antiquated and makes dull reading.

* Giovanni Villani says that Dante went to Bologna. Cf. what
Dante says in Conv. I, iii, 20-33.

» Inf XXIIL 142-144.

30



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THE DEVIL AND HIS BROOD 31

fall of man.^ * Through envy of the Devil came death
into the world.' Men had free will, yet he was the cause
of their sins.^ Men were fondly watched by God and
his angels, but the Devil contrived somehow to get at
last the greater part of mankind, whom he carried off to
a region of ingenious sufferings that should never end.
Not only was he the Tempter, but he brought diseases,
poverty, drought, and storms.' Though Hell was his
lair, the Devil roved wherever there were men ; * some-
times in the shape of a monster, sometimes as a man
or embodied in the likeness of a noxious beast, he sought
his prey.^ There were few or none he had not tempted.
By many visionaries, and by churchmen whose word is
worthy of equal trust, he had actually been seen. Who
will doubt such authorities as St. Jerome, St. Augustine,
and Luther ?

The Devil, then, existed and was greedy for men's
souls. But how did he make shift to get them ? Had
he in general a real body made of * dust ' like yours and
mine ? Or was he incorporeal ? How much intelligence
had he ? Could he speak and converse with other devils
and with men ? The opinions of the theologians differed
considerably on all these points, though all — to a monk

1 Parad. XXIX, 55-56.

2 /nf. XXXIV, 36. De Mm. Ill, iii, 47-

» See A. D. White, op. cil. I, 323-372 ; H, 27-30.

* Lactantius, in Migne, Patrologia^ vol. 6, col. 332.

* Richalmus (1270 a.d.) opined that devils take on the shapes that
fit their enterprises. See Pezii, Thesaurus Anec. novis., t. I, pars ii,
col. 376 seq. ; Beati Richaltni . . . Abbatis ord. Cist, liber Revela-
tionum de insidiis et versutiis Dcemonium adv. Homines. See
RosKOFF, op. cit. I, 305, 342, and St. Jerome, Migne, Patrohgiay
vol. 26, col. 530 and 531.



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32 DANTE AND THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

— believed that he existed.^ That was the pivotal idea
on which all theories swung.

In the Middle Ages every sin was conceived by many
to have its special demon ; so Dante sets over the vari-
ous realms of Hell fiends whose habits match the wicked-
ness of the damned.^ His fiends, however, are never
beautiful, as they so often seemed to those they tempted
on earth ; but we come upon them, naked and horrible, in
their own domain, wherein, all occasion for temptation
being absent, they have no reason to assume bewitching
forms. Dante's fiends are not abstractions of evil, but
correspond corporeally to what various devils of folk-
lore and ancient mythology had come to be in his time.

How came there to be demons ? One answer, from
theology's point of view, is narve and plain. Inspired
by pride, Satan raised his brows against his Maker.^
For this he was cast out of Heaven with a host of re-
bellious or neutral angels, so soon after his creation that
you could not count twenty. As these angels had been
arranged in orders before the fall, so, afterward, they
maintained a kind of system. Dante's fiends hardly
seem to rove at will, but rather to be set over special
regions of Hell.

Nearly all his greater devils, such as Charon, Minos,
Cerberus, Pluto, the Furies, the Minotaur, the Centaurs,
the Harpies, and the Giants except Nimrod, had figured
as demigods or demons in Graeco-Roman mythology.

1 One offence laid at the door of Averroes was that he did not
believe in the devil. See Renan, Averrohs et PAverroisme, p. 299.

2 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa TheoU Pr. pars, sec, qu. cix,
art. I and 2. » Inf, XXXIV, 35.



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THE DEVIL AND HIS BROOD 33

The early fathers, following the sentence of St Paul,
made the gods of the Gentiles devils.^ To these we
may add certain demoniacal beasts ; for such are Dante's
ounce, lion, wolf, and also his black bitches, his serpents,
his dragon, as well as certain gadflies, and wasps that
torture the sluggards.^

Though Dante, in his treatise De Vulgari Eloquential
denies that devils speak, in the Divina Commedia he
not only endows them with language, but lends them
keen wits, as we shall see. Minos expresses his opinion
with his tail, Cerberus barks, the Minotaur is dumb, so
is Geryon ; Lucifer busies his three mouths crunching
three traitors ; but most of the other devils speak, and
one of them is a logician.*

Hardly had the two poets entered through the awful
Gate when they drew near to those sinners who had
lived without infamy or honour. They were mingled
with the wretched band of those that were neutral when
Lucifer fell.^ The out-and-out rebels were met at the
gate of Dis, whither Dante and Virgil had been ferried
by Phlegyas across the Stygian pool. How these fiends
look, Dante fails to say; but there were more than a
thousand that had rained down from heaven, and they
wrathf uUy tried to keep the two poets from going far-
ther.® It is of these that St. Augustine wrote as follows :
'That some angels sinned and were thrust into the

1 See, also, Vulgate and all early versions of Ps. xcvi, 5 ; and
Graf, Demonologia di Dante ^ pp. 86-87.

2 See separate chapters on these various animals.

« I^ ii, 22-33. « Inf. Ill, 37-42.

* Inf. XXVII, 122-123. « Inf VIII, 82-130.



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34 DANTE AND THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

lower part of this world which is to them as a prison
even to the final damnation to come on Judgment Day,
the Apostle Peter shows clearly by saying that God will
not spare the sinning angels, but thrusting them into the
prisons of nether darkness he will give them over to be
punished on Judgment Day.* By whom ? The query
is hard to answer. Dante's fiends are all wrathful, and
often quarrel, but seem to relish their business, which
they ply with an energy not outdone even in the heyday
of the Inquisition.

Dante's fallen angels, however, show a sense of justice
and are keen in making the penalty fit the crime. Se-
ducers and panders, for instance, are scourged by horned
demons. But why are they homed } Could not some
other kind have handled the scourge as well.^ Horns
were worn in the Bacchic orgies,^ and have been the
emblem time out of mind of those who have sullied
conjugal honour.^ This is why Dante saw horned de-
mons lashing seducers and panders with great whips.

This side and that, along the livid stone
Beheld I homed demons with great scourges,
Who cruelly were beating them behind.
Ah me ! how they did make them lift their legs
At the first blows ! and sooth not any one
The second waited for, nor for the third.^

— Longfellow.

1 Ovro, Afet. IV, 19. Catullus, LXIV, 263.

^ Cahier {Mllanges^ II, 35) reproduces a design of 1255 A.D.,
which shows Charity holding in her left hand a turtle dove, emblem
of conjugal fidelity. Beneath is a shameless woman astride a he-goat
labelled 'LUXURE.'

« Inf, XVIII, 34-39-



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THE DEVIL AND HIS BROOD 35

Other demons have gaffs with which they hook sin-
ners bobbing in a pool.^ The Centaurs shoot arrows at
any one that emerges from the boiling blood ; ^ and the
schismatics, such as Mahomet and Bertran de Bom, are
forever being ripped open by sworded devils.® Not only
have these devils gaffs, swords, and arrows, but their
own claws or other unnamed weapons with which they
render eternal life unutterably dreadful for the damned.

In Antenora, — a pit of the traitor's hell, — Dante
grasped one sinner by the hair, saying, * Tell who thou
art or not a hair shall stay.' 'Though thou make me
bald, rU never tell thee.' With barks of pain the
sinner, fearing recognition, kept his eyes stubbornly
bent down, and Dante had already twisted and pulled
out more than one shock when another cried : —

'What doth ail thee, Bocca ?
Is it not enough to clatter with thy jaws
But thou must bark ? What devil touches thee ? * *

— Longfellow.

It is probable that Dante meant to have devils in most
parts of his hell, for here are devils at the very entrance,
others at the gates of Dis. Bocca's companion suspects
the presence of one near the bottom of Hell, and the soul
of Guido da Montef eltro was carried by a devil all the way
from Minos, who judges all the damned, to the eighth
bolgia of the eighth circle, or next to the last. The fres-
cos of Pisa show how these diabolical body-snatchers

1 Inf, XXI and XXII passim. « /«/. XII, 73-75 .

«/«/. XXVIII, 37-42. Cf. Tundafs Vision, Scelta di Curiosith
Lett., vol. 128, p. 43. * Inf. XXXII, 106-108.



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36 DANTE AND THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

carried off their burdens. Dante saw one laden with a
sinner come running to a pool of heaving pitch.

I saw it heave, and then, comprest, subside ;
And while I gazed intently as I could
Down in the den, ' Beware ! * my leader cried,
And drew me toward himself from where I stood.
I turned, like one who lingers to behold
Something that, seen, might well persuade his flight,
Yet, as his blood with sudden fear grows cold.
Checks not his speed to satisfy his sight ;
And saw a fiend not far behind our back,
Rushing up toward us o'er the rocky road.
How fell his aspect was ! how fierce and black !
And oh, what cruelty his gesture showed !
Swiftly, with outspread wings, he skimmed his way ;
Across his high and peaked shoulder cast,
A sinner's carcass on both haunches lay.
The fiend the ankle sinews griping fast.

* Ye of our bridge,' he cried, ' curst-claws ! I bear
One of Saint Zita's elders in my clutch ;

Plunge him down deep and back I will repair
To fetch you more. His land breeds plenty such :
There, save Bonturo, every man's a cheat ;
There yes of no for money they can make.'
Hurling him down, back o'er the hard rock, fleet
He sped like a mastifl* set some thief to take.
The sinner plunged, then, doubled up, arose
While underneath the bridge more demons cried :

* No sacred visage Malebolge knows !

Far different swimming this from Serchio's tide !
Unless by our fell forks thou wouldst be maimed.
Look lest thou get above the pitch by chance.'
More than a hundred prongs at him they aimed,
Crying, ' Here under cover thou must dance !
So, if thou'rt able, do thy filching hid ! '



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THE DEVIL AND HIS BROOD 37

And struck him down as cunningly as cooks.
Lest the meat rise above the cauldron, bid
Their scuIUons keep it under with their hooks.^

— Parsons.

This black devil with the sharp shoulders and wings
was a pet type of medieval artists,' but is none the less
extraordinary, for he seems to know all about the
Ancients of Santa Zita; yet how did he get his informa-
tion ? In verse 8 of canto V the damned are described
as confessing their sins, and in verses SSS? o^ canto
XXIII we learn that the band of devils to which our


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