Page:The Oxford book of Italian verse.djvu/9

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for receiving or rejecting that heavenly gift. And although the poem, in one of its aspects, is the history of his soul's progress from darkness to light, his allusions to his own emotions during that strange journey are brief; he is absorbed in a drama of which he is primarily a spectator, only indirectly an actor. He gazes on the torments of Hell with the eyes of a judge, and on the mystic rose of Heaven with the eyes of a child, but in Hell it is of Florence rather than of himself that he is ever thinking, and in Paradise all that he loved on earth is forgotten in the contemplation of ‘the love which moves the sun and other stars’. The ancient flame which had burnt him so long sears his heart again when Beatrice appears at last to him in Purgatory, but when they pass together into Heaven she seems to have become merely a guide—a somewhat didactic guide, more potent and more austere than the dolcissimo padre, Virgil. His minor poems are harmonious expressions of tranquil and beautiful thought, not vivid revelations of a mood; the great personality that is involuntarily self-revealed in the Commedia is far less intense in the Canzoni; for the deep analysis of the mystery of the solitary soul and the noble expression of that analysis we must turn to the poet who stands first in the dawn of the Renaissance—to Petrarch.

In the Trecento, which was inaugurated triumphantly by the Jubilee of Boniface VIII, the figures of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio are the pre-eminent types of three aspects in the development of Italian civilization. Dante exemplifies the religious movement of the time, Petrarch the humanistic, and Boccaccio is the realist, the observer of the visible world who laughs at priestly inconsistencies