Carlyle speaks of no one with more admiration than of Dante, recognising in the Italian his own intensity of love and hate and his own tenacity; but beyond this there is little evidence of the "Divina Commedia" having seriously attuned his thought: nor does he seem to have been much affected by any of the elder English poets.
Unfortunately he wrote a poem, which was never published, entitled Citta Divina, representing the soul released from the chains of the body, and freed from earthly stain, wandering through various places, and at last resting amid the company of the blessed in heaven.
The history of the study of the poet, of the comments on his meaning or his text, of the formation of the commonly received text, and of the translations of the "Divina Commedia," affords much curious and entertaining matter to the lover of purely literary and bibliographic narrative, and incidentally illustrates the general character of each century since his death.
When Dante had finished his terrible Inferno, when he had closed its doors and nought remained save to give his work a name, the unerring instinct of his genius showed him that that multiform poem was an emanation of the drama, not of the epic; and on the front of that gigantic monument, he wrote with his pen of bronze: Divina Commedia.
"That felucca is the craft which lay near the landing," quietly observed Raoul, who had now come on the forecastle with a view to converse with Ithuel; "her name is la Divina Providenza; she is given to smuggling between Leghorn and Corsica, and is probably bound to the latter at this moment. It is a bold step, too, to stand directly for her port under such circumstances!"
That is the doctrine which you will find stated most fully and clearly in the immortal poem of John Milton the English Divina Commedia "Paradise Lost."
For beatitude doth not consist in the knowledge of divine things, but in a divine life: for the Devils know them better than men. "Beatitudo non est divinorum cognitio, sed vita divina."
"But strange to say, the Divina Commedia seems to us moderns more remote than the speculations of Plato. For the modern world is founded upon science, and may be said to begin with the experimental philosophy of Bacon. The thoughts of Plato, the 'fair humanities' of Greek religion, are nearer to the scientific spirit than the untutored imaginings of Christ.
The felucca was not fifty yards distant when this clamor became the loudest, and the crisis was near. The cheers of the boats on the other side of her proclaimed the quick approach of Griffin and his party; the bows of la Divina Providenza having been laid, in a species of blind haste, directly in a line which would carry her athwart-hawse of le Feu-Follet.
Publicists, both Catholic and Protestant, sought to recur to the lex naturæ in contradistinction with the old lex divina. The natural rights of man, the rights of the people, the rationally conditioned rights of the State, a natural, prudential, utilitarian morality interested men.