A Dip in the Classics

Classics: “La Divina Commedia”

28_divina commedia’Per me si va ne la città dolente,
per me si va ne l’etterno dolore,
per me si va tra la perduta gente. 

Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore;
fecemi la divina podestate,
la somma sapïenza e ’l primo amore. 

Dinanzi a me non fuor cose create
se non etterne, e io etterna duro.
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate’. [1]

 

 

The Divine Comedy is the most famous Italian opera in the world, perhaps the one to which we are most linked, yet I know so many Italians who have never read it. Not really. Not with the necessary passion.

 

Most Italians studied it at school, and maybe even hated it a little, having to apply hours and hours and hours paraphrasing it, analysing it, copying its verses or having to memorise it.

 

And that’s why most people haven’t really read it.

(I hope that also in your country it is a subject to study, but if not I strongly suggest you find it and read it.)

 

Those who have read it seriously, without the difficulty of school questions, without the fear of failing the tests, those who have enjoyed it for simple pleasure, cannot but love it.

 

 

14317375_1140497842696330_1655297640253292547_n

Già eravam là ’ve lo stretto calle
con l’argine secondo s’incrocicchia,
e fa di quello ad un altr’arco spalle. 

Quindi sentimmo gente che si nicchia
ne l’altra bolgia e che col muso scuffa,
e sé medesma con le palme picchia. 

Le ripe eran grommate d’una muffa,
per l’alito di giù che vi s’appasta,
che con li occhi e col naso facea zuffa. 

Lo fondo è cupo sì, che non ci basta
loco a veder sanza montare al dosso
de l’arco, ove lo scoglio più sovrasta. 

Quivi venimmo; e quindi giù nel fosso
vidi gente attuffata in uno sterco
che da li uman privadi parea mosso.[2]

 

 

What could I say that has not already been said by people wiser than me?

What is an immense and immeasurable masterpiece? What is the most complete work ever written?

The textual structure of the Comedy matches exactly with the cosmological representation of the medieval imaginary. The journey to Hell and to the mountain of Purgatory represent in fact the crossing of the entire planet, considered as a sphere, from its depths to the highest regions; while Paradise is a symbolic-visual representation of the Ptolemaic cosmos[3].
All said.
But it is so. It really is, it has an immortal charm that captures not only in the infernal part, so gothic and fascinating, but in the complexity of Purgatory, in which we all feel a bit … that middle ground between the eternal curse and happiness.

 

 

14484805_1147820915297356_1162645500068998643_nLi raggi de le quattro luci sante
fregiavan sì la sua faccia di lume,
ch’i’ ’l vedea come ’l sol fosse davante. 

“Chi siete voi che contro al cieco fiume
fuggita avete la pregione etterna?”,
diss’el, movendo quelle oneste piume. 

“Chi v’ ha guidati, o che vi fu lucerna,
uscendo fuor de la profonda notte
che sempre nera fa la valle inferna? 

Son le leggi d’abisso così rotte?
o è mutato in ciel novo consiglio,
che, dannati, venite a le mie grotte?”. 

Lo duca mio allor mi diè di piglio,
e con parole e con mani e con cenni
reverenti mi fé le gambe e ’l ciglio. 

Poscia rispuose lui: “Da me non venni:
donna scese del ciel, per li cui prieghi
de la mia compagnia costui sovvenni.[4]

 

Perhaps not everyone knows that Dante chooses Virgil as a guide in Hell and Purgatory both for the example that the Aeneid (written by Virgil) represents for journeys in the ethereal realms – in the sixth book Aeneas descends to the Ades to hear from the shadow of father as glorious fate would have waited for the city he was preparing to build – both for a misunderstanding occurred in the Middle Ages about Virgil himself: in fact, despite having lived before the Christian evolution (70 BC-19 BC) within the pagan world and of his set of values, he was seen as a prophet of the imminent coming of Christ for having exposed, in the fourth eclogue of the “Bucoliche”, the imminent coming into the world of a miraculous child.
I loved this Opera so much that I took it at the Maturity exam[5], and even today on the gloomy days, I find myself leafing through it and re-reading a few passages, wondering how he managed to write such a powerful thing, as actual then as now, everlastingly contemporary!!!

 

 

ulisse

Noi eravamo al sommo de la scala,
dove secondamente si risega
lo monte che salendo altrui dismala. 

Ivi così una cornice lega
dintorno il poggio, come la primaia;
se non che l’arco suo più tosto piega. 

Ombra non lì è né segno che si paia:
parsi la ripa e parsi la via schietta
col livido color de la petraia. [6]

 

I have faith that we all recognise Dante’s constant black out: not only in Hell, but also in other Cantiche and even in other poetic works. And let’s face it, they also seemed a bit exaggerated. Whether they are the fruit of divine inspiration, of great poetic talent, or rather … of epileptic seizures?
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Lombrosian psychiatry had identified that Dante had been suffering from epilepsy. But this was never mentioned in schools. And yet, Dante represents the symptoms of those attacks very truthfully and with pathos and it seems that he suffered from the disease from a very young age.[7]

Perhaps, if the students had the chance to be inspired by  curiosity and parallelisms instead of just studying it in the traditional way, limiting themselves to just interpret it everyone would be strongly influenced and we would have students not only more prepared, but more enquiring.

It is impossible not to find a Canto in which one does not mirror himself, in which one does not see himself, of which one does not have a certain fear.

 

 

Itinerari danteschi - Beatrice - John William Waterhouse, L'incontro di Dante con Beatrice (1915)

e Bëatrice disse: «Ecco le schiere
del trïunfo di Cristo e tutto ’l frutto
ricolto del girar di queste spere!». 

Pariemi che ’l suo viso ardesse tutto,
e li occhi avea di letizia sì pieni,
che passarmen convien sanza costrutto. 

Quale ne’ plenilunïi sereni
Trivïa ride tra le ninfe etterne
che dipingon lo ciel per tutti i seni, 

vid’ i’ sopra migliaia di lucerne
un sol che tutte quante l’accendea,
come fa ’l nostro le viste superne; 

e per la viva luce trasparea
la lucente sustanza tanto chiara
nel viso mio, che non la sostenea. 

Oh Bëatrice, dolce guida e cara!
Ella mi disse: «Quel che ti sobranza
è virtù da cui nulla si ripara. 

Quivi è la sapïenza e la possanza
ch’aprì le strade tra ’l cielo e la terra,
onde fu già sì lunga disïanza». [8]

I was pretty lucky because I read the Divine Comedy before going to school, thanks to my parents, and next the teacher was also good at making us understand that it is an unparalleled Italian legacy without successors. No one was able to write something so epic! The construction, the narration, the style, are all amazing and unique.

 

I have the same feeling of wonder every time I listen to it, read it, think about how many emotions, sensations, actions, Dante Aligheri succeeded to convey with words.
The words.
What an incredibly powerful weapon!!!

 

When on September 13, 1321, Dante died in Ravenna, far from his beloved but conflicted Florence, he still hadn’t had time to publish the last canticle. It was thanks to his son Iacopo that we were able to read the Paradise, and he also consolidated the fame of La Commedia making it the most read and known book in the history.

 

 

Qual è ’l geomètra che tutto s’affige
per misurar lo cerchio, e non ritrova,
pensando, quel principio ond’ elli indige, 

n

tal era io a quella vista nova:
veder voleva come si convenne
l’imago al cerchio e come vi s’indova; 

ma non eran da ciò le proprie penne:
se non che la mia mente fu percossa
da un fulgore in che sua voglia venne. 

A l’alta fantasia qui mancò possa;
ma già volgeva il mio disio e ’l velle,
sì come rota ch’igualmente è mossa, 

l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.[9]

 

 

 


[1] Inferno, Canto III
[2] Inferno, Canto XIX
[3] From wikipedia.
[4] Purgatorio, Canto II
[5] The final exam we do in Italy when we finish the High school.
[6] Purgatorio, Canto XIV
[7] Source: tgcom24
[8] Paradiso, Canto XXIV
[9] Paradiso, Canto XXXIII

Una risposta a "Classics: “La Divina Commedia”"

  1. L’ha ripubblicato su Thr0ugh The Mirr0re ha commentato:

    I loved this Opera so much that I took it at the Maturity exam[5], and even today on the gloomy days, I find myself leafing through it and re-reading a few passages, wondering how he managed to write such a powerful thing, as actual then as now, everlastingly contemporary!!!

    "Mi piace"

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