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Dante Six Sermons   By:

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DANTE

DANTE

SIX SERMONS

BY

PHILIP H. WICKSTEED

M.A.

[Illustration]

LONDON C. KEGAN PAUL & CO., 1 PATERNOSTER SQUARE 1879

( The rights of translation and of reproduction are reserved )

PREFACE.

The five Sermons which form the body of this little book on Dante were delivered in the ordinary course of my ministry at Little Portland Street Chapel, in the autumn of 1878, and subsequently at the Free Christian Church, Croydon, in a slightly altered form.

They are now printed, at the request of many of my hearers, almost exactly as delivered at Croydon.

The substance of a sixth Sermon has been thrown into an Appendix.

In allowing the publication of this little volume, my only thought is to let it take its chance with other fugitive productions of the Pulpit that appeal to the Press as a means of widening the possible area rather than extending the period over which the preacher's voice may extend; and my only justification is the hope that it may here and there reach hands to which no more adequate treatment of the subject was likely to find its way.

The translations I have given are sometimes paraphrastic, and virtually contain glosses or interpretations which make it necessary to warn the reader against regarding them as in every case Dante's ipsissima verba . For the most part the renderings are substantially my own; but I have freely availed myself of numerous translations, without special acknowledgment, whenever they supplied me with suitable phrases.

I have only to add the acknowledgment of my obligations to Fraticelli's edition of Dante's works (whose numbering of the minor poems and the letters I have adopted for reference), to the same writer's 'Life of Dante,' and to Mr. Symonds' 'Introduction to the Study of Dante.'

P. H. W.

June 1879.

CONTENTS.

PAGE

I. DANTE: AS A CITIZEN OF FLORENCE 1

II. DANTE: IN EXILE 29

III. HELL 59

IV. PURGATORY 89

V. HEAVEN 119

APPENDIX 145

I

DANTE'S LIFE AND PRINCIPLES

I. AS A CITIZEN OF FLORENCE

There are probably few competent judges who would hesitate to give Dante a place of honour in the triad of the world's greatest poets; and amongst these three Dante occupies a position wholly his own, peerless and unapproached in history.

For Homer and Shakespeare reflect the ages in which they lived, in all their fullness and variety of life and motive, largely sinking their own individuality in the intensity and breadth of their sympathies. They are great teachers doubtless, and fail not to lash what they regard as the growing vices or follies of the day, and to impress upon their hearers the solemn lessons of those inevitable facts of life which they epitomise and vivify. But their teaching is chiefly incidental or indirect, it is largely unconscious, and is often almost as difficult to unravel from their works as it is from the life and nature they so faithfully reflect.

With Dante it is far otherwise. Aglow with a prophet's passionate conviction, an apostle's undying zeal, he is guided by a philosopher's breadth and clearness of principle, a poet's unfailing sense of beauty and command of emotions, to a social reformer's definite and practical aims and a mystic's peace of religious communion. And though his works abound in dramatic touches of startling power and variety, and delineations of character unsurpassed in delicacy, yet with all the depth and scope of his sympathies he never for a moment loses himself or forgets his purpose.

As a philosopher and statesman, he had analysed with keen precision the social institutions, the political forces, and the historical antecedents by which he found his time and country dominated; as a moralist, a theologian, and a man, he had grasped with a firmness that nothing could relax the essential conditions of human blessedness here and hereafter, and with an intensity and fixity of definite self conscious purpose almost without parallel he threw the passionate energy of his nature into the task of preaching the eternal truth to his countrymen, and through them to the world, and thwarting and crushing the powers and institutions which he regarded as hostile to the well being of mankind... Continue reading book >>




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