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Dante: "The Central Man of All the World"
Dante The Man
by Slattery, John T.

Fifty-five years ago when called on for a poem to celebrate the sixth hundredth anniversary of Dante's birth, Tennyson, feeling his own littleness before "this central man of all the world," wrote:
"King, that has reigned six hundred years and grown
In power and ever growest
I, wearing but the garland of a day,
Cast at thy feet one flower that fades away."
New tributes to the genius of Dante will be offered by our generation, for already great preparations are under way in all parts of Italy and the literary world to commemorate in 1921, the six hundredth anniversary of the death of the author of the greatest of all Christian poems. The question naturally suggests itself: Has not the world moved forward many centuries from Dante's viewpoint and lost interest in many things regarded as truths or at least as burning issues by Dante? Who is now concerned with the Ptolomaic system of astronomy, which is so often the subject of Dante's thought? Who is now interested in the tragic jealousies and injustices suffered by the people of Florence which led to the bitter feuds that helped to make Dante the great poet? Who, in this twentieth century so intent upon making the world safe for democracy, has sympathy with Dante's advocated scheme of a world-wide absolute monarchy as the cure for the ills of the society of his day? Is this generation which sees Italy united as a result of the overthrow of the Papal states, so universally concerned with Papal claims which were matters of vital importance to Dante and his generation? Is our era, which unfortunately looks upon religion as a negligible factor and not as the animating principle of life, interested in the golden age of faith of which Dante is the embodiment, and his message in which the eternal is the object?

Yet, Dante's following is today larger than ever before; his empire over minds and hearts is more extensive. The moving pictures feature his Inferno; the press issues, even in languages not his own, such a mass of books and articles concerning him that a specialist can hardly keep track of the output. In the universities, especially of Harvard, Cornell and Columbia, not to speak of those in other lands, the courses on Dante attract an unusually large number of students. Outside of the academic atmosphere there are thousands of readers who still find in his writings, a solace in grief, a strength in temptation, a deep sense of reality, permanent though unseen, of the love of God and of His justice. The reasons are not far away.

"Our poet," says Grandgent "was a many sided genius who has a message for nearly everyone."

Dante's compelling renown among us, is due says Dr. Frank Crane both "to the intrinsic greatness of the man's personality and to the sheer beauty of his craftsmanship."

"The secret of Dante's power" writes James Russell Lowell "is not far to seek. Whoever can express himself with the full force of unconscious sincerity will be found to have uttered something ideal and universal."

Whether one or all these reasons are the true explanation of the twentieth century's great interest in Dante, the fact remains, as Tennyson said, that far from being a waning classic, Dante "in power ever grows," and the interest he calls forth constitutes, as James Bryce observed in his Lowell Institute lectures "the literary phenomenon of England and America."

Now to Dante as the man let us turn. To know the fibre of his manhood will help us to appreciate the genius of his art. "It is needful to know Dante as man" wrote Charles Elliot Norton, "in order fully to appreciate him as poet." The thought is expressed in another way by James Russell Lowell: "The man behind the verse is far greater than the verse itself and Dante is not merely a great poet but an influence, part of the soul's resources in time of trouble. From him the soul learns that 'married to the truth she is a mistress but otherwise a slave shut out of all liberty'" (The Banquet). But that knowledge is dependent upon our intimacy with the life and spirit of Dante. In many other cases the knowledge of the life and personality of an author may not be essential to either our enjoyment or our understanding of his work. In the case of Dante "he faces his own mirror and so appears in the mid-foreground of his reflected word." Before looking into that mirror for Dante's picture, let us first recall some of the established facts in his life and then see what manner of man he appeared to those who were his contemporaries or who lived chronologically near him.

Dante was born in Florence in the year 1265. His father was a notary belonging to an old but decadent Guelph family, his mother, named Bella, was a daughter of Durante Abati, a Ghibelline noble. Whether his own family was regarded among the first families of nobility or not, it is certain that Dante enjoyed the honor of knowing that one of his forebears, Cacciaguida, had been knighted by Emperor Conrad II on the Second Crusade. Precocious Dante must have been, as a boy, with faculties and emotions extraordinarily developed, for in his ninth year, while attending a festal party, he fell in love with a little girl named Beatrice Portinari, eight years old. "Although still a child" to quote Boccaccio his earliest biographer "he received her image into his heart with such affection that from that day forward never so long as he lived, did it depart therefrom." She became the wife of Simone dei Bardi, and died in her twenty-fourth year, the subject of many sonnets from her mystic lover who, if he had never written anything else, would have been entitled, by his book of sonnets, his New Life, to rank as a poet of the first class.

Two years after the death of Beatrice, Dante married Gemma Donati, a member of an old aristocratic family of Florence and by her had four children. In the period between the death of Beatrice and his marriage he had seen military service, having borne arms as a Guelph at the battle of Campaldino (Purg. V, 91-129) in which the Florentines defeated the Ghibelline league of Arezzo and he took part at the siege of Caprona and was present at its surrender by the Pisans (Inf., XXI, 95.) When he was thirty years old he became a member of the Special Council of the Republic, consisting of eight of the best and most influential citizens and in 1300, at the age of thirty-five, midway in the journey of his life, he was elected one of the six Priors (chief magistrates of his city) for the months of June and July. Shortly after this Dante with three others went to Rome on an embassy to Pope Boniface VIII to get that pontiff's veto to the intervention of Charles de Valois, brother of Philip IV of France, in the affairs of Florence. But there was delay in the transaction of the business and that gave the stranger time to win the city by treachery. When the news reached Dante, he hurried homeward. At Sienna he learned that his house had been pillaged and burned and he himself had been accused of malfeasance in office. Without a trial he was condemned to a heavy fine and to perpetual banishment under penalty that if he returned he would be burned alive. Then began his twenty years' exile—years in which he went sometimes almost begging and at all times even when he was an honored guest in the home of nobility—knowing as only an exile can know "how bitter is the bread of dependence and how steep the stranger's stairs." It was during his exile that Dante completed his immortal Divina Commedia, the child of his thought "cradled into poetry by wrong." Dante never again saw Florence for which he yearned with all the intensity of the Hebrew captives weeping on the rivers of Babylon for a sight of Jerusalem. Death came to free his undaunted soul in the year 1321 while he was a guest at Ravenna of Guido Novello da Polenta, a nephew of Francesca da Rimini. At Ravenna the last seat of Roman arts and letters, in a sepulchre attached to the convent of the Franciscan monks, he was buried with the honors due to a saint and a sage. The inscription on his epitaph said to have been composed by him on his deathbed, is paraphrased by Lowell in the following words:

"The rights of Monarchy, the Heavens, the stream of Fire, the Pit In vision seen, I sang as far as to the Fates seemed fit. But since my soul, an alien here, hath flown to nobler wars, And happier now, hath gone to seek its Maker with the stars, Here am I, Dante, shut, exiled from the ancestral shore Whom Florence, the fairest of all-least-loving mothers, bore."

Such is the brief outline of the outward life of him of whom Michelangelo declared:
"Ne'er walked the earth a greater man than he."
It will help us to a better understanding of that man if his likeness is impressed upon our memory. The portrait made by his friend Giotto, shows him as a young man perhaps of twenty to twenty-five years, with a face noble, beardless, strong, intelligent and pensive—a face which would not lead one to suspect an appreciation of humor. Yet writers find two distinct forms of that quality—a playfulness in his eclogues and a grotesqueness in certain of his assignments to punishments in Hell. Contrasting with this picture of his early life is the face of his death mask and of the Naples bust, suggesting the lines
"How stern of lineament, how grim
The father was of Tuscan song."
Here we see him mature with strength of character in every feature and a seriousness of mien which shows a man with whom one might not take liberties. It was of Dante in mature life that Boccaccio wrote: "Our poet was of moderate height and after reaching maturity was accustomed to walk somewhat bowed with a slow and gentle pace, clad always in such sober dress as befitted his ripe years. His face was long, his nose aquiline and his eyes rather large than small. His jaws were large and his lower lip protruded beyond the upper. His complexion was dark and his expression very melancholy and thoughtful. His manners, whether in public or at home, were wonderful, composed and restrained, and in all ways he was more courteous and civil than any one else."

Bruni, on the other hand, who wrote a century later describes Dante as if he had in mind Giotto's fresco of the poet. This is Bruni's word-picture: "He was a man of great refinement, of medium height and a pleasant but deeply serious face. It was remarkable that although he studied incessantly, none would have supposed from his happy manner and youthful way of speaking that he had studied at all." However well these pictures may visualize the poet for us, I cannot help thinking that Dante himself, after the manner of great artists who paint their own pictures, gives us a far better portrait of himself. What we know of him from others is as nothing compared to the revelation he has made of himself in his writings. For, as Dr. Zahm, in his Great Inspirers, has said: "Dante, although the most concealing of men was, paradoxical as it may seem, the most self-revealing." The indirect recorder of his own life, he discloses to us an intimate view of his spiritual struggles, of the motives which actuated him, of the passions he experienced, not to speak of the judgments he formed upon all great questions. "So true is this that if it were possible to > meet him, we should feel that he was an intimate friend who had never concealed anything from us—who had discoursed with us on all subjects; science, literature, philosophy, theology, love, poetry, happiness, the world to come and all that of which it most imports us to have accurate knowledge." Let us then see the man as reflected in his writings.

First of all he reveals himself as a man profoundly animated by religion. He is not a Huysmanns or a François Coppée, a Brunetiere, a Paul Bourget, forsaking the religious teachings of his youth only to embrace them in mature life. Never for a moment did he deflect from the Catholic doctrine, though his studies led him to the consideration of the most subtle arguments raised against it. He was indeed the defender and champion of faith, having no sympathy for a mind which would lose itself in seeking the solution of the incomprehensible mysteries of religion. So he has Virgil say:
"Insensate he who thinks with mortal ken
To pierce Infinitude which doth enfold
Three persons in one substance. Seek not, then,
O Mortal race, for reasons, but believe
And be content, for had all been seen
No need there was for Mary to conceive.
Men have ye known who thus desired in vain
And whose desires, that might at rest have been,
Now constitute a source of endless pain.
Plato, the Stagerite, and many more
I here allude to. Then his head he bent,
Was silent and a troubled aspect wore."
	(Purg., III, 34.)
Guided by the wisdom he thus enunciated Dante from youth to death maintained a child-like faith that satisfied his intellect and animated his sentiments. His faith really grew into a passion. His fidelity to the truth of the doctrines of the Church or to the sacred offices of the papacy was never shaken either by the scandals of clerical life or the opposition of different popes to his political ideals. Frequently he raised his voice in protest yet, notwithstanding his censures against what he considered abuses in the external administration of the Church and the policy of her popes, on his part there was not the least suspicion of unsettled faith or revolutionary design. Strongly convinced of the divinity of the Church, his passionate nature could not help execrating the human element that would weaken her influence. "He teaches that the mystical Vine of the Church still grows and Peter and Paul who died for it, still live. He holds by that Church. He begs Christians not to be moved feather-like by every wind of doctrine. 'You have' he tells them 'the Old Testament and the New. The Pastor of the Church guides you, let this suffice for your salvation'" (Brother Azarias). In his devotional life Dante is just as ardent as he is firm in his adherence to dogma. While all Catholics are held to profess a common creed, each may follow the bent of his disposition and sympathy in pious practices, theologically called devotions. It seems to me that Dante had three such devotions which he practised intensely in his inner life.

First, devotion to the sacred Humanity of Christ. In eleven places does he speak at length of Christ's two-fold nature as God and Man; in ten places does he refer to Christ as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and wherever Cristo occurs at the end of a line, Dante out of reverence for the Sacred Person does not rime with it, but repeats the name itself. The climax of the Purgatorio is the apparition of the Griffin, the symbol of Christ. Further, on the stellar white cross of red-glowing Mars the poet shows the figure of the Redeemer. In the Empyrean Christ is represented in the unveiled glory of His human and divine natures. So teaching the doctrine of the Incarnation most clearly and most ardently Dante seeks to promote this cultus as the soul of the Catholic religion.

Dante's second special devotion is to the Blessed Virgin. His Paradiso contains the best treatise on Mariology. The whole Divine Comedy indeed is the poet's loving testimonial of gratitude to the Madonna. It was through Mary that his visionary voyage to the other world was made possible. She rescued him when he was enslaved by sin and sent as his successive guides Virgil, Beatrice and St. Bernard. She of all creatures is proclaimed on every terrace of Purgatory first in virtue and highest in dignity and her example is exhibited as an unfailing source of inspiration to the Souls, to endure suffering cheerfully and to make themselves, like her, the exemplars of goodness in the highest degree. In Paradiso she is seen by the poet in all her unspeakable loveliness and beatitude and as Queen of Angels and of Saints her intercession is favorably invoked that Dante might enjoy the Vision of God himself. In the last canto of the poem her super-eminence and incomparable excellence are sung "with a sweetness of expression, a depth of philosophy and a tenderness of feeling that have never been surpassed in human language."
"Thou Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son,
Humble and high beyond all other creatures,
The limit fixed of the eternal counsel;
Thou art the one who such nobility
To human nature gave that its Creator
Did not disdain to make Himself its creature.
Within thy womb rekindled was the love
By heat of which in the eternal peace,
After such wise, this flower was germinated.
Here unto us thou art a noonday torch
Of charity, and below there among mortals
Thou art the living fountainhead of hope.
Lady, thou art so great and so prevailing,
That he who wishes grace nor runs to thee,
His aspirations without wings would fly.
Not only thy benignity gives succor
To him who asketh it, but oftentimes
Forerunneth of its own accord the asking.
In thee compassion is, in thee is pity,
In thee magnificence; in thee unites
Whatever of goodness is in any creature."
The third private devotion of Dante is devotion to the Souls in Purgatory—a pious practice founded upon the scriptural words: "It is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins." Not only does Dante answer the objection raised as to the efficacy of prayer offered for the souls in Purgatory (VI, 28) but in many passages he promises his own prayers and works and seeks to arouse in others on earth a helpful sympathy for those souls. "Truly" he says, "we ought to help them to wash away their stains which they have borne hence, so that, pure and light, they may go forth to the starry spheres," (Purg. VI, 34.)

To sum up Dante's attachment to his religion we can truly say not only his life but his great poem radiates the spirit and doctrine of the Church. Hettinger says of Dante: "In truth he anticipated the most pregnant developments of Catholic doctrine, mastered its subtlest distinctions and treated its hardest problems with almost faultless accuracy. Were all the libraries in the world destroyed and the Sacred Scripture with them, the whole Catholic system of doctrine and morals might be almost reconstructed out of the Divina Commedia."

Intensity, indeed, is the characteristic of Dante's spiritual life. In bringing that quality to his faith and religious practice he was only manifesting the operation of the dominating quality which regulated his whole life and shaped all his mental and emotional habits. The realm of his thought and feeling was truly the land of the strenuous life. Having once set out to say of Beatrice what had never been said of any woman, Dante applied himself to his prodigious task with a consistency of purpose that was unmoved by persecution and unshaken by time. In all the years that he spent in the composition of the Divina Commedia there was no flagging of interest, no indication of weakness. No one ever applied himself with more complete absorption or with greater power of unfaltering concentration, just as no one ever felt more deeply the outrageous arrows of fortune or the transcendent supremacy of love. It is precisely because of this intensity that his thoughts and feelings affect us so profoundly six centuries later.

Intense in his own life Dante had no sympathy with slackers or the lukewarm whom he characterizes as never having been alive, i.e. of never having awakened to responsibility to take part in good or evil. As a consequence they never contributed anything to society. Because in this life they shifted from one side to another, they are now depicted running perpetually after an aimlessly dodging banner. Here is the description of the punishment of the lukewarm:

"Now sighs, cries, and shrill shrieks rang through the starless air: Whereat at first I began to weep, strange tongues, hurried speech, words of pain, accents of wrath, voices loud and weak, and the sound of hands accompanying them, made a tumult which revolves forever in that air endlessly dark, like sands blowing before a whirlwind. And I, whose head was hooded with horror, exclaimed: 'Master, what is it I hear? What kind of people is it that seems so vanquished by grief? And he replied: 'This is the miserable way followed by the sorry souls of those who lived without infamy and without glory. They are mingled with the mean choir of those angels who were not rebels and were not faithful to God, but were for themselves. Heaven cast them out lest its beauty should be spoiled; and deep Hell will not receive them, because the damned might derive some satisfaction from them.'

"'Master,' I said, 'what is so grievous to them which makes them complain so loud?' 'I shall tell thee right briefly' he answered. 'These people have no hope of death and their blind life's so vile that they are envious of any other lot. The world allows no report of them to last: mercy and justice disdain them. Let us not speak of them but look and pass by!' And I, looking, saw a banner which ran circling so swift that it seemed scornful of all rest: and after it there came trailing such a long train of people that I should never have thought death had undone so many. When I had made out one or two of them I saw and recognized the shade of him who, for cowardice, made the great refusal. Forthwith I understood and was convinced that this was the sect of poltroons, obnoxious both to God and to God's enemies. These luckless creatures who never had been really alive, were naked and badly stung by flies and wasps which were there. These insects streaked their faces with blood which, mixed with tears, was caught by disgusting worms at their feet—" (Inferno III, 33. Grandgent's translation.) In reading that description of the punishment of the lukewarm, one cannot fail to observe that not one is called by name. Because they "lived without infamy and without glory" their name deserves to be lost forever to the world.

Of the renown of Dante's own name our poet has no misgivings. He reveals himself as a man having supreme confidence in his own powers. Boccaccio represents him as saying when he was with his party at the head of the government of the republic of Florence, and when there was question of sending him on an embassy to Rome, "If I go, who stays? And if I stay, who goes?" "As if he alone," is the comment of Boccaccio, "was worth among them all, and as if the others were nothing worth except through him." It is certain that Dante put a high valuation upon his genius, an estimate due, perhaps, to the belief he held, like Napoleon, in the potency of his star. He was born under the constellation of the Gemini and to them in gratitude for his self-recognized talent he gives praise:
"O glorious stars, O light impregnated
With mighty virtue, from which I acknowledge
All of my genius whatso'er it be,
With you was born, and hid himself with you,
He who is father of all mortal life,
When first I tasted of the Tuscan air."
	(Par. XXII, 112)
Certain it is that Dante acted on the counsel which, addressed to himself, he puts into the mouth of his beloved teacher, Brunetto Latini, "Follow thy star and thou cans't not miss the glorious port." (Inf., XV, 55.) In Purgatorio Dante says: "My name as yet marks no great sound," but he boasts that he will surpass in fame the Guidos, writers of verse: "Perchance some one is already born who will drive both from out the nest." He is so sure that posterity will confer immortality upon his work that he does not hesitate to make himself sixth among the greatest writers of the world. This passage occurs when he enters Limbus accompanied by Virgil to whom a group of spirits, Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan, make salutation. (Inf., IV, 76.) Posterity has bestowed greater renown on Dante's name than even he presumed to hope, for it has placed him in the Court of Letters with only one of the writers of antiquity, Homer, and with two subsequent writers, Cervantes and Shakespeare.

Naturally we think that a writer who was so positively confident and boastful of his powers must have been given to pride and Dante indeed plainly indicates to us that he was guilty of this. But it was pride, we think, that was honorable and not a vice, a pride of which a lesser light, Lacordaire says, "By the grace of God, I abhor mediocrity." In the dark wood Dante represents the Lion (Pride) as preventing him from ascending the mountain—"He seemed to be coming to me with head upreared and with such raging hunger, that the air appeared to be in fear of him." (Inf., I, 43.)

And that the poet's trepidation was justified he later makes known (Purg. XI, 136) when he expresses the fear that for pride he may be eternally punished. Perhaps it was because Dante recognized the pride of his learning, of his ancestry, of his associations with distinguished personages as his besetting sin that he exercised his skill as a master in showing us profound imagery representing the characteristics of pride. Carved out of the mountain in the first circle of a terrace of Purgatory are scenes illustrative of humility. While looking on these scenes, which seem to live and speak in their beautiful and compelling reality, the poet turns and sees approaching the forms of the proud. On earth they had exalted themselves as if they had the weight of the world on their shoulders, so now they are seen bent under huge burdens of stone, crumpled up in postures of agonizing discomfort. The poet, to let us know that he shares in their punishment, says:
"With equal pace as oxen in the yoke,
I, with that laden spirit, journey'd on
Long as the mild instructor suffer'd me."
	(Purg. XII-I)
He apostrophizes them, but the words are really an upbraiding of himself for pride.
"O ye proud Christians, wretched weary ones,
Who in the vision of the mind infirm,
Confidence have in your backsliding steps,
Do ye not comprehend that we are worms
Born to bring forth the angelic butterfly
That flieth unto judgment without screen?
Who floats aloft your spirit high in air?
Like are ye unto insects undeveloped
Even as the worm in whom formation fails!
As to sustain a ceiling or a roof
In place of corbel, sometimes a figure
Is seen to join unto its knees its breast
Which makes of the unreal, real anguish
Arise in him who sees it: fashioned thus
Beheld I these, when I had ta'en good heed
True is it, they were more or less bent down
According as they were more or less laden
And he who had most patience on his looks
Weeping did seem to say I can no more."
	(Purg. X, 121)
Like all great men of undoubted sincerity Dante was intellectually big enough to change his mind when a new view presented itself in condemnation of an earlier judgment. So his "Vernacular Composition" retracts a statement he had made in the New Life where he had held that as amatory poems were addressed to ladies ignorant of Latin, Love should be the only subject the poet ought to present in the vernacular. He learned later and published his new view that there is good precedent for treating in the vulgar tongue not only Love but also Righteousness and War.

Other examples of his honesty of mind are furnished in the Paradise where he expresses through the mouths of his disembodied teachers views opposed to those he had already advanced in his other works. Thus his theory of the spots on the moon, his statement as to the respective rank of the angelic orders, his assumption that Hebrew was the language of Adam and Eve—all yield to a maturer conception in contradiction to his original views. He is, it is true, sometimes blinded by partisanship or lacking in the historical perspective necessary for a true judgment of his contemporaries—but Dante is naturally so sincere a man that he is eager to be just to every one. Perhaps there is no better instance of the exercise of this quality than in his assigning to the heaven of Jupiter, Constantine, to whose supposed donation of vast territories, then regarded as genuine, Dante ascribes the corruption of the Church.

Many readers, whose acquaintance with our poet does not extend beyond the Inferno, see in him only the incarnation of savagery and scorn. They fail to pay tribute to the wonderful power of his friendship or to recognize that his sufferings of adversity and injustice gave birth to deep passion. To them he seems only to place his few friends in Heaven and in Hell to roast all his enemies. It must be at once confessed that there are instances in the Divina Commedia which, taken by themselves, would lead one to so superficial an estimate of the man. In Canto VIII of the Inferno Dante with his guide, Virgil, enters a bark on the Styx and sails across the broad marsh. During the passage a spirit all covered with mud addresses Dante, who recognizes him as Filippo Argenti, a Florentine notorious for his arrogance and brutal violence. "Master," says Dante to Virgil, "I should be glad to see him dipped in this swill ere we quit the lake." And he to me, 'Before the shore comes to thy view thou shalt be satisfied.' A little while after this I saw the muddy people make such a rending of him that even now I praise and thank God for it. Such gloating over suffering surely seems to say to you: Here we have a man of a cruel vindictive nature.

Again, in the ice of Caina, the region where traitors are immersed up to their heads, Dante hits his foot violently against the face of Bocca degli Abati who betrayed the Florentines at the crucial battle of Montaperti. "Weeping it cried out to me: 'Why tramplest thou on me? If thou comest not to increase the vengeance for Montaperti, why dost thou molest me?' I said: 'What art thou who thus reproachest others?' 'Nay who art thou' he answered 'that through the Antenora goest, smiting the cheeks of others, so that if thou wert alive, it were too much.' 'I am alive' was my reply 'and if thou seekest fame, it may be precious to thee, that I put thy name among the other notes.' And he to me. 'The contrary is what I long for, take thyself away!' Then I seized him by the afterscalp and said: 'It will be necessary that thou name thyself or that not a hair remain upon thee here.' Whence he to me: 'Even if thou unhair me I will not tell thee who I am.' I already had his hair coiled on my hand and had plucked off more than one tuft of it, he barking and keeping down his eyes, when another cried, 'What ails thee Bocca?' Having thus learned the sinner's name, the poet releases him, saying: 'accursed traitor I do not want thee to speak, for to thy shame I will bear true tidings'" (Inf., XXXII, 97.) Some may say that it is to Dante's shame that he shows himself so devoid of pity.

Another example would seem to confirm this startling view of Dante's character. At the bottom of Hell, eager to learn the identity of a reprobate, a certain Friar Albergo, the poet promises him in return for the desired information to remove the ice from his eyes so that he may have "the poor consolation of grief unchecked."

"Remove the hard veils from my face that I may vent the grief which stuffs my heart, a little ere the weeping freeze again! Wherefore I said to him. 'If thou woulds't have me aid thee, tell me who thou art, and if I do not extricate thee, may I have to go to the bottom of the ice.'" The poet of course knows that he must go thither to continue his journey to Purgatory, but the reprobate soul is unaware of such a course, and believes that the visitor has fortified his promise with a true oath. Both his name and the damning story of his life are soon told by the poor wretch, who then asks Dante for the fulfillment of the promise—the removal of the ice so that sight may be restored even for a minute. "'Open my eyes' he said—but I opened them not, to be rude to him was courtesy" (Inf., XXXIII, 148.) Does not Dante by his own words show himself deep-dyed in hatred and cruelty?

"The case against him" says Dinsmore, "is not so bad as the first reading would indicate. Part of the explanation of his apparent cruelty undoubtedly lies in the fact that the poet would teach us that character is influenced by environment. In the circle of wrath, he is wrathful, in the pit of traitors he is false. Then we are to recall that Dante undoubtedly laid to heart Virgil's reproof, when he wept at the sad punishment of the soothsayers: 'Who is more wicked than he who feels compassion at the Divine Judgment.' Passionate love of God, Dante holds, implies passionate hatred of God's enemies. That is a thought expressed by the Psalmist. 'Lord, have I not hated them that hate thee and pined away because of thy enemies? I have hated them with a perfect hatred and they are become enemies to me' (CXXXVIII, 21). So it may be said that Dante has the spirit of the psalmist and seeks to love, as God loves, and to hate as God hates."

Whether that explanation satisfy my readers or not, there is another side to Dante's character that is most attractive. "Dowered with the hate of hate, the scorn of scorn," he was a paradox,—gentle and tender. Failure to see this phase of Dante's nature led Frederick Schlegel to declare that Dante's "chief defect is the want of gentle feelings"—a statement that called forth this exclamation from Lord Byron: "Of gentle feelings. And Francesca of Rimini and the father's feelings in Ugolino and Beatrice and the Pia! Why there is a gentleness in Dante above all gentleness when he is tender!"

Let us see some examples of this tender quality in our poet. Only one endowed with gentleness and beauty of soul, could have conceived a Purgatory "not hot with sulphurous flames" remarks Dinsmore, "but healing the wounded spirit with the light of shimmering sea, the glories of morning, the perfume of flowers, the touch of angels, the living forms of art and the sweet strains of music."

Only a man of warm-heartedness and delicate susceptibility at the sight of a row of souls, temporarily blinded, would have been touched to such an extent that he would be filled with anxiety lest in looking upon them and silently passing them by who could not return his gaze, he would show them some discourtesy.
"It were a wrong, methought, to pass and look
On others, yet myself, the while unseen,
To my sage counsel therefore did I turn."
	(Purg. XIII,73)
Gentleness also reveals itself in lovely lines wherein the poet speaks of the relations of parent and child. He tells us, for instance, how
"An infant seeks his mother's breast
When fear and anguish vex his troubled heart."
	(Purg. XXX.)
He recalls how he himself with child-like sorrow stood confessing his sins:
"As little children, dumb with shame's keen smart,
Will listening stand with eyes upon the ground
Owning their faults with penitential heart
So then stood I."
	(Purg. XXXI, 66)
When overcome by the splendor of the heaven Saturn it is as a child he turns to Beatrice for assurance:
"Oppressed with stupor, I unto my guide
Turned like a little child who always runs
For refuge there where he confideth most,
And she, even as a mother who straightway
Gives comfort to her pale and breathless boy
With voice whose wont is to reassure him,
Said to me: 'Knowest thou not thou art in heaven?'"
	(Par. XXII, 1)
Again, it is the gentle heart of a fond father who speaks in the following lines:
"Awaking late, no little innocent
So sudden plunges towards its mother's breast
With face intent upon its nourishment
As I did bend."
	(Par. XXX, 85, Grandgent's trans.)
Another figure of beautiful imagery makes us appreciate Dante's understanding of infantile emotion. He is eager to tell us how bright souls flame upward towards the Virgin Mother and here is the simile:
"And as a babe which stretches either arm
To reach its mother, after it is fed
Showing a heart with sweet affection warm,
Thus every flaming brightness reared its head
And higher, higher straining, by its act
The love it bore to Mary plainly said."
	(Par. XXIII, 121 Grandgent's trans.)
Perhaps the most appealing example of Dante's kindly love for children springs from the fact that instead of following the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, who holds that in heaven the risen bodies of baby children will appear in the aspect of the prime of life, our poet discloses them with the charm of babyhood carrolling, as it were, the nursery songs of Heaven. Of those blessed infants he speaks:
"Their youth, those little faces plainly tell,
Their childish treble voices tell it, too,
If thou but use thine eyes and listen well."
	(Par. XXXII, 46. Grandgent's trans.)
Seeing so many examples of Dante's love for motherhood and children, one naturally wonders why he makes no mention of his own wife and children. But we have only to remember that a nice sense of delicacy may have restrained him from speaking of the sacredness of his family life. In this matter he exhibited the wisdom of the gentleman-Saint, Francis de Sales, who used to say, "Without necessity never speak of yourself well or ill." It was indeed a principle of propriety with our poet that talking about one's self in public is to be avoided as unbecoming unless there is need of self vindication or edification of others. Only once in the Divine Comedy does he mention his own name and at once he apologizes for the intrusion. It is true that the poem is autobiographical but it is that in so far as it concerns matters of universal interest from which the poet may draw the moral that what God has done for him He will do for all men if they will but let Him. That being so it was not necessary for him to exploit his family affairs.

Out of the kindly heart of Dante sprang gratitude, one of the strongest virtues of his being. He never wearies in pouring forth thanks to his Maker for the gift of creation and His fatherly care of all beings in the universe. He is filled with unbounded gratitude to the Saviour for having become man and for having suffered and died for our salvation instead of taking an easier way of satisfying divine justice. In his works he mentions the name or the offices of the Holy Ghost eight times. To the Blessed Virgin, the saints and especially to Beatrice for their virtuous example and loving protection he is heartily grateful. His thankful affection is extended to those who showed him kindness particularly during the years of his homeless poverty. To them he offers the only thing he has to give—an undying tribute of praise. Tenderly he makes known his obligations to all those who taught him, both the teachers of his own day and the masters of past ages. But it is to Virgil, his ideal author, the guide whom he has chosen for his journey through Hell and Purgatory, that he offers his most touching tribute of gratitude. The occasion arises when he discovers his beloved Beatrice in the Garden of Eden and turns to Virgil to tell him of his overwhelming joy. But behold! his guide has vanished, his mission fulfilled. And all the joys of the earthly Paradise, originally forfeited by the sin of Eve, cannot compensate the disciple for the loss of his great master. In loneliness he weeps, staining again his face that had been washed clean with dew by Virgil when they emerged from Hell. Is there not genuine pathos in these lines?
"Virgil was gone! and we were all bereft!
Virgil my sweetest sire! Virgil who led
My soul to safety, when no hope was left.
Not all our ancient mother forfeited,
All Eden, could prevent my dew cleansed cheek
From changing whiteness to a tearful red."
	(Purg. XXX, 45, Grandgent's trans.)
One quality is still necessary to complete the picture which our poet gives of himself. So far we see him as a man of strong faith, of abiding intensity—a man having supreme confidence in himself with resulting pride of life, a man big with splendid sincerity and dowered with deep passion, yet manifesting a gentle, gracious and grateful spirit. So composed, he is a combination of virtues that may inspire and traits that may attract many readers. But this is not the finished picture of the strangely fascinating man who has for six hundred years exercised an irresistible sway over hearts and minds. What feature is lacking? The one which has made him master over willing subjects who love and admire him whether they live in a monarchy or republic, a hovel or a palace, whether they are of his faith or alien to it. Because the world ever loves a lover, and because Dante is The Lover par excellence whose love-story is one "to which heaven and earth have put their hand," he stands forth with a hold on humanity that is both enduring and supreme.

Love as a passion and a principle of action never left him to his dying day, from the time when he, a boy of nine years of age, became attracted by the sweet little girl Beatrice. "She appeared to me" he says, "clothed in a most noble color, a modest and becoming crimson, and she was girt and adorned in such wise as befitted her very youthful age." If we add to those few lines the brief statements made later in the New Life that her hair was light and her complexion a pearl-pink and that when he saw her as a maiden she was dressed in white, we have the only description that Dante ever gave of her personal appearance. It was love at sight. "I truly say that at that instant the spirit of life which dwells in the most secret chamber of the heart, said these words: 'Behold a god stronger than I, who coming shall rule over me.' From that time forward Love lorded it over my soul which had been so speedily wedded to him and he began to exercise over me such control and such lordship, through the power which my imagination gave him, that it behooved me to do completely all his pleasure."

If we are disposed to doubt Dante's capability of deep emotion at so tender an age we have only to remember that Cupid's darts pierced at an early age the hearts of others of precocious sensibilities. The love experience of Lord Byron, Victor Hugo, and Canova the sculptor, when they too were only children is a matter of history. This statement we shall the more readily accept if we recall the dictum of Pascal: "The passions are great in proportion as the intelligence is great. In a great soul everything is great." In the light of that principle we must say that if Dante's love attachment in early life runs counter to the experience of mankind, he is, even as a boy, exceptional in the power of imagination and peculiarly sensitive to heart impressions.

His experience as a nine year old boy loving with a depth of increasing emotion a girl with whom there probably had never been any communication except a mere greeting, a love reverential, persisting, even after her marriage to another, continuing through the married life of the poet himself, a love, the story of which is celebrated in matchless verse,—all that is so unique a thing that critics have been led to deny the very existence of Beatrice or to see in the story an allegory which may be interpreted in various ways.

Some critics see in Beatrice only the ideal of womanhood; others make her an allegory of conflicting things. Francesco Perez holds that Beatrice is only the figure of Active Intelligence, while Dante Gabriel Rossetti advances the fantastic theory that she is the symbol of the Roman Empire, and love—the anagram of Roma—on Dante's part is only devotion to the imperial cause. According to Scartazzini, Beatrice is the symbol of the Papacy. Gietmann denies the historicity of Beatrice and declares that she typifies the Church. The argument for this theory expressed by a sympathetic reviewer of Gietmann's book, "Beatrice, Geist und Kern der Danteshen Dichtung," follows: "Beatrice is the soul and center of the poet's works, his inspiring genius, the ideal which moulds his life and character. If we consider her as a mere historical personage we must look upon those works as silly and meaningless romances, and on the poet himself as a drivelling day-dreamer.

"But if we are able to assign to Dante's beloved an appropriate and consistent allegorical character, in keeping with the views of the poet's time, and with the quality of the varied material which goes to build up his poetic structures, his creations will appear not only intelligible and natural, but unfold a treasure of thought and beauty nowhere else to be found, while the poet himself will be shown to be not only one of the greatest masters of thought and imagination, but one of the noblest and loftiest minds to be met with in the history of letters" (John Conway, Am. Cath. Quar. Review, April, 1892).

The editor of the English Quarterly Review (July, 1896, p. 41) while not denying the real existence of Beatrice argues that she represents Faith, and affirms that the story of Dante's love for her, a love wavering at times, represents the conflict of Faith and Science. You will be interested in seeing, as a curiosity of literature, how that author attempts the translation into allegory of Dante's account of his first meeting with Beatrice.

This is the translation—Dante speaking in the first person says: "At the close of my ninth year I experienced strong impressions of religion. This was the time of my Confirmation and my First Communion. I was filled with reverence for the wondrous truths instilled into my mind by those whom I loved best: and my whole being glowed with the roseate glow of a first love. My feelings were rapturous yet constant; and from that time I date the beginning of a New Life. From that time forward I was so completely under the influence of this divine principle that my soul was, as it were, espoused to heavenly love, and it was in the precepts and ordinances of the Church that this passion found its proper satisfaction. Often and often did it lead me to the congregation of the faithful, where I had meetings with my youthful angel and these were so gratifying that all through my boyhood I would frequently go in search of a repetition of those pleasures and I perceived her so noble and admirable in all her bearings, that of her might assuredly be said that saying of Homer: 'She seemed no daughter of mortal man but of God.'"

We need not be surprised that there is such divergence of opinion among critics as to the interpretation of Dante. He himself in The Banquet (bk. II, ch. 15), written some years after his New Life, tells us that there is a hidden meaning back of the literal interpretation of his words. That is especially true of the Divine Comedy, as he writes to Can Grande in explanation of the purpose of the poem. In the Paradiso he bids this lacking in power of penetration to pierce the symbolism, to accompany him no longer on his journey through the invisible world.
"O ye who in some pretty little boat
Eager to listen, have been following
Behind my ship, that singing sails along,
Turn back to look again upon your shores,
Do not put out to sea, lest, peradventure,
In losing me, you might yourselves be lost."
	(Par. bk. II, I.)
With obscurity thus acknowledged, is it any wonder that Dante is subjected to prolonged controversy by historical criticism which has not hesitated to cast doubt upon the authorship of the Iliad and the Synotic Gospels? In the face of this obscurity it is the opinion of such well known Dantian scholars as D'Ancona, Charles Eliot Norton, John Addington Symonds, Dean Plumtre, Edmund Gardiner, W.W. Vernon, Paget Toynbe, C.H. Grandgent, Jefferson B. Fletcher, James Russell Lowell—that Beatrice is both a real human being and a symbol.

The direct testimony, not to urge the subtle arguments furnished by internal evidence of Dante's works, as to the reality of Beatrice Portinari as the beloved of our poet is offered first by Boccaccio who was acquainted with Dante's daughter Beatrice, a nun who lived near enough to the poet to get information from the Portinari family. Certainly Boccaccio did not hesitate when chosen in 1373 by the Florentines to lecture on Dante, to make the very positive statement that the boy Dante, "received the image of Beatrice Portinari into his heart with such affection that from that day forward as long as he lived it never departed from him." That statement was doubtless made within the hearing of many relatives and friends of the families concerned, the Alighieri, the Portinari, the Bardi. "If the statement was false," argues Dr. Edward Moore, England's foremost Dantian scholar, "it must have been so glaring and palpable that its assertion could only have covered Boccaccio with ridicule." The second authority for the statement that Beatrice Portinari had a real existence and was the object of Dante's love is furnished by Dante's own son Pietro, who wrote a commentary on the Divine Comedy nineteen years after his father's demise—a commentary in which he declares "because mention is here first made of Beatrice of whom so much has been said, especially in the third book of the Paradiso, it is to be premised that there really was a lady Beatrice by name, greatly distinguished for her beauty and virtues who, in the time of the author, lived in the city of Florence and who was of the house of certain Florentine citizens called the Portinari, of whom the author Dante was a suitor. During the life of the said lady, he was her lover and he wrote many ballads to her honor. After her death in order that he might make her name famous, he, in this his poem, frequently introduced her under the allegory and style of theology."

The third witness quoted by W.W. Vernon, is Benvenuto da Imola who attended the lectures of Boccaccio and succeeded him as incumbent of the chair of Dantian literature, established by the government of Florence. This Florentine professor whose "commentary on Dante was written only fifty years after the death of the poet, expressly states that this Beatrice (he does not mention her family name) was really and truly a Florentine of great beauty and most honorable reputation. When she was eight years old she so entered into Dante's heart that she never went out from it and he loved her passionately for sixteen years, at which time she died. His love increased with his years: he would follow her where-ever she went and always thought that in her eyes he could behold the summit of human happiness. Dante in his works, at one time, takes Beatrice as a real personage and at another in a mysterious sense as Sacred Theology" (Readings on Inf., I, 61.)

The question now arises: Did Beatrice know of Dante's love and did she reciprocate his passion? Many critics answer in the negative, believing that an affirmative view must premise a guilty love since Beatrice was married to Simone de Bardi and Dante to Gemma Donati. But an opposite view holds that such a deduction overlooks the unique fact that the love of Dante and Beatrice was purely spiritual and mystical. Doctor Zahm says that Dante's passion was "a species of homage to the beloved which was common during the age of the troubadours but which has long since disappeared—a chivalrous devotion to a woman, neither wife nor mistress, by means of which the spirit of man, were he knight or poet, was rendered capable of self-devotion, and of noble deeds and of rising to a higher ideal of life" (Great Inspirers, p. 245.)

In any event we know that it was a most noble, exalting sentiment and if we accept the statement of Bishop de Serravalle, the love was mutual and lasting. This ecclesiastic while attending the council of Florence in 1414 was asked by the Bishops of Bath and Salisbury, England, to make a Latin translation of the Divine Comedy. In the preamble to his translation he not only declares that Dante historically and literally loved Beatrice ("Dantes delexit hanc puellam historice et literaliter") but he affirms that the love was reciprocal and that it lasted during the lifetime of Beatrice, ("Philocaptus fuit de ipsa et ipsa de ipso, qui se invicem dilexerunt quousque vixit ipsa puella").

Only by holding such a view can we really appreciate the significance and beauty of that episode in Purgatorio depicting the first meeting of the lovers in the invisible world after ten years' separation—a meeting said to be "one of the most touching and beautiful episodes in all literature."

In the Terrestrial Paradise a voice is heard after the sudden departure of Virgil. "Dante" it says "though Virgil leave thee, weep not, weep not yet, for thou must weep for a greater wound. I beheld that Lady who had erst appeared to me under a cloud of flowers cast by angel's hands: and she was gazing at me across the stream ... 'Look at us well. We are, indeed Beatrice. Hast thou then condescended to come to the mountain?' (the mountain of discipline)—Shame weighed down my brow. The ice that had collected about my heart, turned to breath and water and with agony issued from my breast through lips and eyes." Beatrice then proceeds to tell the angels of her love for the poet and of his faithlessness to her. "For some time I sustained him with the sight of my face. Showing to him my youthful eyes I led him toward the right quarter. As soon as I reached the threshold of the second age of man and passed from mortal to eternal life he took himself from me and gave himself to another."

Beatrice now turns to Dante and rebukes him: "In order the more to shame thee from thine error and to make thee stronger, never did nature and art present to thee a charm equal to that fair form now scattered in earth with which I was enclosed. And if this greatest of charms so forsook thee at my death, what mortal thing should thereafter have led thee to desire it? Verily at the first hour of disappointment over elusive things, thou shouldst have flown up after me who was no longer of them. Thou shouldst not have allowed thy wings to be weighed down to get more wounds, either by a little maid or by any other so short lived vanity." The effect of her rebuke is the overwhelming of his heart with shame and contrition. "So much remorse gnawed at my heart that I fell vanquished and what I then became she knoweth who gave me the cause" (Purg. XXXI, 49). He arose forgiven, the memory of his sin removed by the waters of Lethe. Then drinking of the waters of Eunoe he was made fit to ascend to Heaven.

To understand the allusion to his defection and to see the progressive development of his love of Beatrice as a woman, then as a living ideal and finally as an animated symbol—the various transfigurations in which Beatrice appears to him, we must go back to his New Life—the book of which Charles Eliot Norton says—"so long as there are lovers in the world and so long as lovers are poets this first and tenderest love-story of modern literature will be read with appreciation and responsive sympathy."

It is hardly to be supposed that the nine year old lover noted with minute care in his diary, his first meeting of Beatrice Portinari but as he looked back on the event years later he saw that the vision had been the the greatest crisis in his mental, moral and spiritual history. The story begins in the first page of the New Life. A real living child familiarly called Bice, the diminutive for Beatrice, enamoured Dante with a real, genuine love. "After that meeting," says the poet, "I in my boyhood often went seeking her and saw her of such noble and praiseworthy deportment that truly of her might be said the word of the poet Homer: 'She seems not the daughter of mortal man but of God.'" Nine years passed and the child, now a maiden, "blooming in her beauty's spring, saluted me with such virtue that it seemed to me that I saw all the bounds of bliss. Since it was the first time her words came to my ears I took in such sweetness that, as it were intoxicated, I turned away from the folk and betaking myself to the solitude of my own chamber I sat myself down to think of this most courteous lady."

A little later the wrapt expression of his loving eyes as he looks at Beatrice attracts the attention of others and to misdirect them, he feigns love for the lady he calls the screen of truth and writes verses in her honor. On the part of Beatrice there is misunderstanding of the amatory verses he writes at this period and she withholds her greeting. Then, more than ever, he realizes what that salutation meant to him. Deprived of it now, he dwells upon the sweet memory of the salutation: "In the hope of her marvelous salutation there no longer remained to me an enemy, nay, a flame of charity possessed me which made me pardon everyone who had done me wrong." Under the influence of her salutation, Dante tells us that he devised this sonnet:
"So gentle and so gracious doth appear
My lady when she giveth her salute
That every tongue becometh, trembling, mute:
Nor do the eyes to look upon her dare
Although she hears her praises, she doth go
Benignly vested with humility:
And like a thing come down, she seems to be,
From heaven to earth, a miracle to show.
So pleaseth she whoever cometh nigh.
She gives the heart a sweetness through the eyes,
Which none can understand who doth not prove
And from her countenance there seems to move
A spirit, sweet, and in Love's very guise,
Who to the soul, in going sayeth: 'Sigh.'"
	(Norton's translation.)
Because she now denies to him the bliss of salutation he says: "I went into a solitary place to bathe the earth with most bitter tears." But this misunderstanding is not his only torment. Almost from his second meeting he fears that his beloved will soon die. His prophetic vision becomes an agonising reality when in 1290 in her twenty-fourth year, the eyes that radiated bliss are closed in death.

So stunned was he by the blow that his life was despaired of. When he recovered it seemed to him that Florence had lost her gaiety and desolate is mourning the loss of his beloved one. Pilgrims passing on their way to Galicia do not appear to share the general grief. To arouse their sympathy in the loss which the city has sustained the heart-broken poet lover devises a sonnet "in which I set forth that which I had said to myself.
If through your will to hear, awhile ye stay,
Truly my heart with sighs declare to me
That ye shall afterwards depart in tears.
Alas her Beatrice now lost hath she.
And all the words that one of her way may say
Have virtue to make weep whoever hears."
	(Norton's translation.)
In his great affliction his grieving heart is sustained by his belief in immortality. His vision penetrates the skies and he sees his 'lady of virtue' in glory in the regions of the eternal.
"The gentle lady to my mind had come
Who, for the sake of her exceeding youth,
Had by the Lord most High been ta'en from earth
To that calm heaven where Mary hath her home."
In heaven indeed more than upon earth she enamours the poet. There divested of her mortal veil, to his eyes she
"grew perfectly and spiritually fair,"
leading him to fit himself to put on immortality. The passion of his boyhood has now become the ennobling ideal of his life. Sustaining and stimulating him, saving him from himself, ever leading him upward and onward, his angelicized lady is an abiding presence with him whether he is deep in the contemplation of the study of philosophy and the learning of the ancients, or engaged in the activity of military or political life, or as homeless wayfarer in exile, making his way from place to place. When he falls from grace it is Beatrice who disturbs his peace of mind by "a battle of thoughts." It is the "strong image" of Beatrice who comes to him as he had seen her as a child, raises him from moral obliquity, fills him with the very essence of the spiritual. Then he has a wonderful vision—"a vision in which I saw things which made me resolve to speak no more of this blessed one (Beatrice) until I could more worthily treat of her. And to attain to this I study to the utmost of my power as she truly knows: So that if it shall please Him through whom all things live that my life be prolonged for some years, I hope to say of her what was never said of any woman."

That promise, involving years of intense study and increasing devotion to his beloved, Dante kept. The Divine Comedy is his matchless monument to her who is the protagonist and muse of his poem and the love of his heart. "Not only has the poet made her" says Norton, "the loveliest and most womanly woman of the Middle Ages at once absolutely real and truly ideal," but he has done what no poet had ever before conceived, thereby achieving something unique in the whole range of literature—he has "imparadised" among the saints and angels his lovely wonder, Beatrice, "that so she spreads even there a light of love which makes the angels glad and even to their subtle minds can bring a certain awe of profound marvelling." He has given to her such a glorious exaltation that after Rachel and Eve she of all women is enthroned in the glowing Rose of Heaven next to the Virgin Mother, "our tainted nature's solitary boast," and so enthroned, Beatrice is at once his beloved and the symbol of revelation, the heavenly light that discloses to mankind both the true end of our being and the realities of Eternity.

Now with tremulous delight in his heart, admiration on his lips, ecstasy in his soul, he is able to render her perhaps the very purest tribute of praise and gratitude that ever came out of a human soul:
"O Lady, thou in whom my hope is strong
And who, for my salvation, didst endure
In Hell to leave the imprint of thy feet,
Of whatsoever things I have beheld,
As coming from thy power and from thy goodness
I recognize the power and the grace.
Thou from a slave hast brought me unto freedom,
By all those ways, by all the expedients,
Whereby thou hast the power of doing it.
Preserve towards me thy magnificence
So that this soul of mine, which thou hast healed
Pleasing to thee be loosened from the body."
Norton says: "It is needful to know Dante as a man in order fully to appreciate him as poet."

What manner of man then was he? Redeemed by love, he was, to quote John Addington Symonds, "the greatest, truest, sincerest man of modern Europe."


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