Dante Alighieri

Italian poet, writer, and philosopher (c. 1265–1321)
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Dante Alighieri (c. 30 May 126513 September 1321), most likely baptized Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri, was an Italian poet, writer and philosopher. His Divine Comedy, originally called Comedìa (modern Italian: Commedia) and later christened Divina by Giovanni Boccaccio, is widely considered one of the most important poems of the Middle Ages and the greatest literary work in the Italian language.

E'n la sua volontade è nostra pace.

In His will is our peace.

See also: Divine Comedy

Quotes edit

La Vita Nuova (1293) edit

Here begins a new life.
To her perfection all of beauty tends.
Love hath so long possessed me for his own
And made his lordship so familiar.
  • In quella parte del libro de la mia memoria... si trova una rubrica la quale dice: Incipit vita nova.
    • In that book which is
      My memory...
      On the first page
      That is the chapter when
      I first met you
      Appear the words...
      Here begins a new life.
    • Chapter I, opening lines (as reported in The 100 Best Love Poems of All Time by Leslie Pockell)
  • Ecce deus fortior me, qui veniens dominabitur mihi.
    • Behold a God more powerful than I who comes to rule over me.
    • Chapter I (tr. Barbara Reynolds); of love.
  • ne le braccia avea
    madonna involta in un drappo dormendo.
    Poi la svegliava, e d'esto core ardendo
    lei paventosa umilmente pascea:
    appresso gir lo ne vedea piangendo.
    • In his arms, my lady lay asleep, wrapped in a veil.
      He woke her then and trembling and obedient
      She ate that burning heart out of his hand;
      Weeping I saw him then depart from me.
    • Chapter I, First Sonnet (tr. Mark Musa)
  • Ella è quanto de ben pò far natura;
    per essemplo di lei bieltà si prova.
    • She is the sum of nature's universe.
      To her perfection all of beauty tends.
    • Chapter XIV, lines 49–50 (tr. Barbara Reynolds)
  • Amore e 'l cor gentil sono una cosa...
    e così esser l'un sanza l'altro osa
    com'alma razional sanza ragione.
    • Love and the gracious heart are a single thing...
      one can no more be without the other
      than the reasoning mind without its reason.
    • Chapter XVI (tr. Mark Musa)
  • Sì lungiamente m'ha tenuto Amore
    e costumato a la sua segnoria
    • Love hath so long possessed me for his own
      And made his lordship so familiar.
    • Chapter XXIV

Il Convivio (1304–1307) edit

  • Amor che ne la mente mi ragiona
    de la mia donna disiosamente...
    che lo 'ntelletto sovr'esse disvia.
    • Love with delight discourses in my mind
      Upon my lady's admirable gifts...
      Beyond the range of human intellect.
    • Trattato Terzo, line 1.
  • La moralitade è bellezza de la filosofia.
    • Morality is the beauty of Philosophy.
    • Trattato Terzo, Ch. 15.

De Monarchia (1312-1313) edit

  • Nam in omni actione principaliter intenditur ab agente, sive necessitate naturae, sive voluntarie agat, propriam similitudinem explicare, unde fit, quod omne agens, in quantum huiusmodi, delectatur; quia, quum omne quod est appetat suum esse, ac in agendo agentis esse quodammodo amplietur, sequiturde necessitate delectatio... Nihil igitur agit, nisi tale existens, quale patiens fieri debet...
    • For in every action what is primarily intended by the doer, whether he acts from natural necessity or out of free will, it is the disclosure of his own image. Hence it comes about that every doer, in so far as he does, takes delight in doing; since everything that is desires its own being, and since in action the being of the doer is somehow intensified, delight necessarily follows... Thus, nothing acts unless [by acting] it makes patent its latent self.
    • Libri iii, Caput XIII, (XV.) emendati Johann Heinrich F. Karl Witte (1874) p. 25. Translation as quoted by Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (1958) p. 175.

Epistolae (Letters) edit

The subject of the whole work, then, taken in the literal sense only is "the state of souls after death" without qualification, for the whole progress of the work hinges on it and about it. Whereas if the work be taken allegorically, the subject is "man as by good or ill deserts, in the exercise of the freedom of his choice, he becomes liable to rewarding or punishing justice."
  • Hiis visis, manifestum est quod duplex oportet esse subiectum circa quod currant alterni sensus. Et ideo videndum est de subiecto huius operis, prout ad litteram accipitur; deinde de subiecto, prout allegorice sententiatur. Est ergo subiectum totius operis, litteraliter tantum accepti, status animarum post mortem simpliciter sumptus. Nam de illo et circa illum totius operis versatur processus. Si vero accipiatur opus allegorice, subiectum est homo, prout merendo et demerendo per arbitrii libertatem iustitie premiandi et puniendi obnoxius est.
    • When we understand this we see clearly that the subject round which the alternative senses play must be twofold. And we must therefore consider the subject of this work [the Divine Comedy] as literally understood, and then its subject as allegorically intended. The subject of the whole work, then, taken in the literal sense only is "the state of souls after death" without qualification, for the whole progress of the work hinges on it and about it. Whereas if the work be taken allegorically, the subject is "man as by good or ill deserts, in the exercise of the freedom of his choice, he becomes liable to rewarding or punishing justice."
    • Letter to Can Grande (Epistle XIII, 23–25), as translated by Charles Singleton in his essay "Two Kinds of Allegory" published in Dante Studies 1 (Harvard University Press, 1954), p. 87.
  • Genus vero philosophie, sub quo hic in toto et parte proceditur, est morale negotium, sive ethica; quia non ad speculandum, sed ad opus inventum est totum et pars.
    • Now the kind of philosophy under which we proceed in the whole and in the part is moral philosophy or ethics; because the whole was undertaken not for speculation but for practice.
    • Letter to Can Grande (Epistle XIII, 40), as translated by Charles Latham in A Translation of Dante's Eleven Letters (1891), Letter XI, §16, p. 199.

Misattributed edit

  • The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality.
    • Henry Powell Spring in 1944; popularized by John F. Kennedy misquoting Dante (24 June 1963). Dante placed those who "non furon ribelli né fur fedeli" [were neither for nor against God] in a special region near the mouth of Hell; the lowest part of Hell, a lake of ice, was for traitors.
    • According to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum President Kennedy got his facts wrong. Dante never made this statement. The closest to what President Kennedy meant is in the Inferno where the souls in the ante-room of hell, who "lived without disgrace and without praise," and the coward angels, who did not rebel but did not resist the cohorts of Lucifer, are condemned to continually chase a banner that is forever changing course while being stung by wasps and horseflies.
    • See Canticle I (Inferno), Canto 3, vv 35-42 for the notion of neutrality and where JFK might have paraphrased from.

Quotes about Dante edit

Alphabetized by author
Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them; there is no third. ~ T. S. Eliot
  • And you, beloved children, whose lot it is to promote learning under the magisterium of the Church, continue as you are doing to love and tend the noble poet whom We do not hesitate to call the most eloquent singer of the Christian idea.
  • Dante does not come before us as a large catholic mind; rather as a narrow, and even sectarian mind: it is partly the fruit of his age and position, but partly too of his own nature. His greatness has, in all senses, concentred itself into fiery emphasis and depth. He is world-great not because he is world-wide, but because he is world-deep. Through all objects he pierces as it were down into the heart of Being. I know nothing so intense as Dante.
  • I wanted my illustrations for the Dante to be like the faint markings of moisture in a divine cheese. This explains their variegated aspect of butterflies' wings. Mysticism is cheese; Christ is cheese, better still, mountains of cheese!
  • For us Anishinaabe, Biskaabiiyang is a specific term that means “returning to the woods,” because we’re woodland peoples. For example, I grew up growing my “three sisters”—that is, corn, beans, and squash—along the edge of the forest, using what people now call sylvan culture or permaculture. It’s curious how this counters the perspective of classical authors like Dante in early modern Europe or, later, Edmund Spenser, an important Renaissance poet, who view the woods as this terrifying presence. Why is this decolonizing? Because through boarding schools and many other colonial experiences, that fear of the woods creeps in.
  • Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them; there is no third.
  • Dante as a poet performs miracles in some of the openings of his lyrics or some of his verses in the Commedia. In an age of convention and formalism he went to Virgil to school; in an age when nothing gave reason to hope for the appearance of a masterpiece of form and structure, he produced such a masterpiece. His creative work is immensely superior in merit to his theorizing, but even these show how, in spite of the limitations of contemporary philosophy and rhetoric he was able to slip through the meshes of the network which encircled him, and to bring the vernacular poetry of Italy, when it was still in its infancy, to heights of perfection and finish that have seldom been equalled and never surpassed.
    • Cesare Foligno (1921, Annual Italian Lecture): "Dante: The Poet". Proceedings of the British Academy, 1921–1923 10: 81–96. (quote on p. 96)
  • Dante was the first to sing of heaven and of hell, not as the dreams of mythological fiction, but as the objects of a real faith. He was the first who lanched from this promontory on which we stand, into the vast immensity of the universe, traversed the abyss amidst demons and infernal tortures, and mounting afterwards through angelic hosts and undiscovered worlds, gazed with stedfast eye upon the glories of the Highest... Dante was the Columbus who discovered this new world of poesy... Dante probably surpassed even Homer himself.
    • Edmund Dorr Griffin, in Remains of the Rev. Edmund D. Griffin (1831), p. 335.
  • Dante's corpus as a whole is in certain respects like a testament to the closing medieval age; it shows what the Western world would have been had it not broken from its tradition.
    • René Guénon, Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power (1929), p. 77
  • I love Dante almost as much as the Bible. He is my spiritual food, the rest is ballast.
    • James Joyce, as quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (1959), p. 226.
  • Dante has not deigned to take his inspiration from any other. He has wished to be himself, himself alone; in a word, to create. He has occupied a vast space, and has filled it with the superiority of a sublime mind. He is diverse, strong, and gracious. He has imagination, warmth, and enthusiasm. He makes his reader tremble, shed tears, feel the thrill of honor in a way that is the height of art. Severe and menacing, he has terrible imprecations for crime, scourgings for vice, sorrow for misfortune. As a citizen, affected by the laws of the republic, he thunders against its oppressors, but he is always ready to excuse his native city. Florence is ever to him his sweet, beloved country, dear to his heart. I am envious for my dear France, that she has never produced a rival to Dante; that this Colossus has not had his equal among us. No, there is no reputation which can be compared to his.
  • Time in culture is capable of many arrangements. Dante read today sets up different relations, very likely, from Dante read in his own decades, but the change is not in Dante nor in his truth, although many will say so. These truths, the truth of the voyage, of the skull-grinding horror, the white chance, leopard, star, and belief, are present. There is no particular question of death, since we are in a life where imaginative experience is given and taken.
  • In The Divine Comedy, Dante reserved a special place in the Seventh Circle of Hell for people who charged usurious interest rates. Today we don't need the hellfire, the pitchforks, or the rivers of boiling blood, but we do need a national usury law that caps interest rates on credit cards and consumer loans at 15 percent.
  • His very words are instinct with spirit; each is as a spark, a burning atom of inextinguishable thought; and many yet lie covered in the ashes of their birth, and pregnant with the lightning which has yet found no conductor.
  • That great genius conceived, in his vast imagination, the mysteries of the invisible creation, and unveiled them to the eyes of the astonished world.
  • Dante Alighieri wrote in the fourteenth century that the spirit of poetry abounds "in the tangled constructions and defective pronunciations" of vernacular speech where language is renewed and transformed. His vision resonates today with the faulty speech of migrants creating the sounds and intonations of the future.
  • Sa réputation s'affermira toujours, parce qu'on ne le lit guère. II y a de lui une vingtaine de traits qu'on sait par cœur: cela suffit pour s'épargner la peine d'examiner le reste.
    • His reputation will last because he is little read. Twenty pointed things in him are known by rote, which spare people the trouble of being acquainted with the remainder.
    • Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique, 'Dante' (1765), trans. William F. Fleming.
    • Variant translation: He enjoys an immortal reputation because he is seldom read. Everyone knows by heart some twenty quotations from his writings, and that relieves them of the necessity of examining the remainder.
  • Dante's Inferno was the first book to give me a real thrill. I thought Doré's drawings in it remarkable, and I became exceedingly curious about his work.

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