Make Italy Yours

A blog of Italian Culture and Nature

Category: Italian poets

T. S. Eliot on Dante

Tim Miller

Is there atctcnything better than T. S. Eliot talking about his debt to Dante? Here is the majority of his famous essay “What Dante Means to Me” (hence my own “What Eliot Means to Me”), which can be found in his collection of essays, To Criticize the Critic and Other Writings. The essay was originally presented as a speech given at the Italian Institute of London, on July 4, 1950, when Eliot was sixty-one:

May I explain first why I have chosen, not to deliver a lecture about Dante, but to talk informally about his influence upon myself? What might appear egotism, in doing this, I present as modesty; and the modesty which it pretends to be is merely prudence. I am in no way a Dante scholar; and my general knowledge of Italian is such, that on this occasion, out of respect to the…

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Dante’s Anniversary

Joseph Luzzi

On the anniversary of his journey in THE DIVINE COMEDY, it’s a pleasure to share my piece on “reading Dante today” in THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR! [read here]

dante-hell

Photo Credit: Illustration from Sandro Botticelli’s portrait of Dante by Stephanie Bastek (Wikimedia Commons)

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Giuseppe Ungaretti: Mother

 

When the heart has not a beat

When the dark wall drops,

Mother brings me to the Lord,

Hands in hands as in my young years.

[…]

 

 

 

 

 

Giacomo Leopardi, “CANTO XXVIII a se stesso / CANTO XXIII for my own myself”.

Nearly midnight

by Stefania Bufano

 

Quasi mezzanotte

 

Il giorno dopo è ora

e domani sempre

nei respiri unici che vorrei cogliere

e non posso

come le rotondità

di musiche ininterrotte

e l’addio che non potei darti.

 

Il giorno dopo è già qui,

non ho fatto nulla

che potrà renderti immortale

perché è già di nuovo quasi mezzanotte

e io, tra i suoi bagliori incerti

in uno stesso lampo

ho visto me invecchiare,

in un lampo tutto avere e perdersi in quelle luci.

 

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Nearly midnight

 

The day after is now

and tomorrow always

in the unique breaths that I would like to take

and I can not,

like the roundnesses of unbroken musics

and the good bye I couldn’t give to you.

 

The day after is here already,

and nothing I have done

to make you immortal

’cause it’s again nearly midnight

and among its trembling beams,

in the same flash

I have seen myself grown old,

to get everything in a flash, and to get lost in those lights.

 

 

(Caterham, May 28, 1996 – Translated by M. Del Bigo)

DSCN2599 (800x518) (640x414) - Copia (2)

Manuscript. Quasi mezzanotte, 1996

Dante and his secret love for Beatrice

by Mauro Savino

Dante Sculpture by Enrico Pazzi

Dante. Sculpture by Enrico Pazzi in front of the Basilica Santa Croce

The references to Fioretta and Violetta are only a few examples of the importance of women in Dante’s poetry often considered by many scholars a shield to hide his secret love for Beatrice. In his Work Vita Nova, Dante speaks about his love representing her as an angel or a kind of miracle. In fact, her name means beatitudo, that is “she who gives bliss”, an angelic being coming down from Heaven thus it’s difficult to understand whether their relationship is real or divine representing a recurrent question by scholars and common people. Notwithstanding, it’s possible to identify Beatrice. Her name was Bice, she was Folco Portinari’s daughter, a Florentine wealthy banker. Dante made her acquaintance around 1285 and she died five years later.

Dante's Church florence

Dante’s Church – Chiesa di Santa Margherita de’ Cerchi

Did Dante really love Beatrice? He dedicated her Vita Nova, but we are unable to state if it is the story of a physical relationship since Beatrice represented something sacred. Influenced by the Franciscan spirit of his time, Dante considered Beatrice a literary and symbolic figure, a way to reach God representing the role of Christ thus her death is like the Ascension into Heaven. It is relevant to understand if Dante really loved Beatrice only just as an anecdote whilst it is less important to the author’s aims. Our curiosity is not satisfied but it should be evidenced that Dante lived during the Middle Ages and at that time the body itself was considered insignificant. Dante himself considered his love for Beatrice a supreme and unique love and although he loved her only in this way, he certainly loved her a lot.

(English revision by Silvia Maiella)

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Letters to Beatrice Dante's Church florence

Letters to Beatrice

Letters to Beatrice Dante's Church florence

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Chiesa di Santa Margherita de’ Cerchi (Dante’s Church)

Piazza Santa Croce

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Dante's Church florence

Visitors. Dante’s Church – Chiesa di Santa Margherita de’ Cerchi

[Special thanks to Alberto Gherardini, SB]

Dante as a politician

Firenze

 

by Mauro Savino

During the first half of his life Dante Alighieri was an important politician of Florence, his hometown. He left it in 1302, because of the allegations of the Black Guelphs (sided with the Pope), the party opposed to the one in which Dante was engaged, namely that of the White Guelphs (sided with the Emperor). Thus the Black Guelphs, thanks to the complicity of Boniface VIII, who wanted to extend his domain on Florence, and the King Philip IV of France, get the power in the city and condemned Dante to the exile for two years and to pay a huge fine but the poet refused to pay. In fact he didn’t consider himself guilty at all. Finally he was condemned to the perpetual exile and if he had returned to Florence without paying the fine, he would have sentenced to death.

The story of Dante’s exile is quite complicated and refers to the bloody struggle between Papacy and Empire for the political power in Italy. It marked the end of communal era and prepared the advent of the Signoria.

In this scenario we focus on some Dante’s attitude as a politician before his exile.

In 1295 Dante proposed a mitigation of the Ordinances of Justice created by Giano della Bella. Also in 1300, after a battle between the White and Black Guelphs, the Priors of Florence, including Dante, decided to condemn to the exile eight members of both parties. Among the White Guelphs there is Guido Cavalcanti, friend of Dante and his political ally. In another circumstance Dante opposed to Boniface VIII who wanted soldiers at his disposal allocated to Florence.

On one hand if we try to see these facts as a whole we may say Dante was probably concerned for the nobility to which he belonged, so he thought the White Guelphs were more willing to find a solution to the conflict between magnates and peoples that made difficult the position of the nobility itself.

On the other hand, Dante was certainly interested in a preservation of the communal liberty, against the temporal power of Papacy. Also we may see in his attitude a sort of Franciscan spirit that postulated the necessity of a Spiritual Church.

Dante dreamed a political era in which Papacy and Empire were distinct in their prerogatives and the cities were ruled by a democratic and rigorous government. He decided to condemn his friend Cavalcanti for the good of his city despite his personal interests.

Finally he gave us a great example of a politician who has both a practical attitude and a moral depth.

Unfortunately the contemporary political world has forgotten this lesson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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