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that Dante took the liberty to depart from the general belief of the church in which he was born and educated, since the first person he meets in Purgatory is a pagan, Cato of Utica.
In the third and last part of his poem, in which he paints Paradise, he exalts ali his friends and ali the famous men and great writers of Christian antiquity, his favourites; but above ali them one Beatrix, the lady he was in love with, whom he feigns to be his guide from one circle of glory to another.
If I was desirous of finding some resemblance between Homer and Dante, I might say that his poem is an imitation of the Odyssey, since it is only the travels of a person over Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, as the Odyssey is the travel of Ulysses through many seas and lands, poetically described. But this resemblance, which has been carried very far by some Italians, hath always seemed to me very much strained. So I will content myself with only extracting some passages from this Tuscan poet to give an idea of his poetical genius, without drawing by vain ostentation of erudition any parallel between him and the Greek.
The principal hero in the poem is Dante himself, if the shade of Virgil (who acts the same part for him as Mentor does for Telemachus) may not dispute the first place.
He begins his poem with relating that in the strength of his age he found himself in a horrid forest among terrible wild beasts, who, seeing him, came forward with open mouths to devour him; to avoid them he fled over a desert plain; there he met the shade of Virgil, who conducted him to the gate of Tartarus, over which these tremendous words were written:
Per me si va nella cittá dolente,
per me si va nell’eterno dolore, ecc. (i).
Thus englished; «Through me lies the way to the doleful city. Through me lies the way to everlasting woe. Through me lies the way to those doomed to perdition. Eternai justice, omnipotent power, consummate wisdom, and all-creating love
(i) III, vv. 1-9 [Ed.].