Dante and Beatrice – inseparable inferno-ites and love-mates. A great poet in the making since his early days in Florentine with his love in disguise & secrecy with heartthrob Beatrice. Alighieri was part aristocrat part merchant and straddled between one of the major fault lines of the then Florence where conflict between nobility and guilds were rampant. He participated in the triumphant Campaldino war which in due course provided some material for descriptions in his poems. Beatrice died at an young age when he was 25 and has to settle down with Donna Gentile. Later actively participated in local politics and went on a trip to Vatican and Rome during the advent of 14th century, exactly 1300, ‘the holy year’ as Pope Boniface baptized it to mark the beginning of the new century. The ascension of Pope Boniface after Celestine (a true ascetic) resignation happened during Dante’s time. Dante due to his diplomatic mistake and political affiliations, was ostracized by aristocratic gentry who triumphed in the battle to take over Florence from merchants and he was in exile conducting his business of diplomacy and love for poems.
From the book Dante’s Invention by James Burge:
The language Dante uses to tell his tale is direct, even simple, and his sentence structure is straightforward. If you know a little French, Latin, it’s possible to get the gist of Dante’s Italian. Even for someone who doesn’t know a single word of Italian its is worth listening toi the Comedy being read aloud at least once. The rhythmic pattern of consonant and vowel ripples like intricate music. The short elven-syllable lines of Comedy rhyme, following a pattern called terza rima which Dante devised for the purpose: interlocking triplets (the magic number 3 again) following the pattern ‘aba, bcb, cdc, ded, etc’ keep his verse rolling on and hold the listeners’ attention as the story unfolds over 14,000 lines. Dante’s language is perfectly crafted for the task. He gives the poem a powerful but unobtrusive voice, personal yet perfectly suited for a vision of the entire Universe.
It’s interesting to compare Dante’s verse with Shakespeare’s ten-syllable iambic pentameters. In both cases the effect is to produce a comforting world of rhythm which unifies poetry. The main difference between the two is that Dante’s verse rhymes.
Sample from Canto I:
nel mezzo del camin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
che la diritta via era smarrita
Ah quanto a dir qual era e cosa dura
esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
che nel pensier rinova la paura
Inferno Vocabulary that caught my eye:
Primum Mobile – adobe of Angels
The Empyrean – adobe of God