The lover of beauty, nowadays shrinks from the Utopias of the Renaissance, but the practical men of that age cherished beauty with an affection we can hardly conceive. It was bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. It was the one guest ever sure of welcome. Dante, in the tornata of his first ode, says: “Ode! I believe that they shall be but rare who shall rightly understand thy meaning, so intricate and knotty is thy utterance of it. Wherefore, if perchance it come about that thou take thy way into the presence of folk who seem not rightly to perceive it; then I pray thee to take heart again, and say to them, O my beloved lastling: ‘Give heed, at least, how beautiful I am.’” They would give heed, and to such extremes did many Renaissance men go in their worship of beauty that they prostituted her and debased themselves. The majority remained sound of heart, and though tortured with doubts, and stumbling again and again, they succeeded in making themselves worthy of communion with God.

Last of all, the question might be asked: is the Renaissance more than a period of storm and stress, a link between the Middle Ages and Modern Times? Like every age, it is one of transition, but it is also one of glorious achievement. If any one doubts this, let him remember only a few names of the imposing roll call—Petrarch, Boccaccio, Ariosto, Machiavelli, Rabelais, Montaigne, Calderon,〖H. C., xxvi, 5ff.〗 Lope de Vega, Cervantes,〖H. C., xiv.〗 Shakespeare,〖For works by Shakespeare and his contemporaries in the Elizabethan drama, see H. C., xlvi and xlvii.〗 and in their ranks Dante〖H. C., xx.〗 takes his place with the same serene and august confidence with which he joined the company of Virgil and Homer.

All Directories