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The Contrasts In Dante

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MessagePosté le: Dim 9 Juil - 12:51 (2017)    Sujet du message: The Contrasts In Dante Répondre en citant

The Contrasts in Dante
by William Warren Vernon

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There is no question which students of Dante oftener put to each other than this: "Which do you like best, the Inferno, the Purgatorio, or the Paradiso?"

The enquiry is a very natural one, for what greater contrast can there be than between the dark and hopeless terrors of the Inferno, the tender consolations of the Purgatorio, and the serene splendours of the Paradiso, the very Holy of Holies of the Divine Comedy, where hope is no longer needed, because it has been already realized? In the Purgatorio alone does Hope exist, for be it remembered that Dante's examination on Hope by St. James in the Paradiso does not refer to either of the three Kingdoms of the dead, but only to Man living on earth. My answer then to the question would be the counter-question: "When you look at a grand landscape by Cuyp, by Ruysdael, by Rubens, or by Hobbema, which do you most admire, the dark shadows, the brilliant highlights, or the free and spirited middle-tints?" My questioner would of course retort: "How can one separate a complete picture into the various strata which go to make up one single and harmonious entirety? In a perfect whole there must of necessity be contrasts; variety, not sameness. In music, discords in one place bring out beauties and harmonies in another." It is this natural law that Dante has evidently wished to follow in the Divina Commedia, which is the mighty conception of such a master mind as has rarely been observed in the whole history of the human race. As we move from the Inferno to the Purgatorio, and pass on to the Paradiso, we read the record of the wandering, the awakening, the disciplining, and the emancipation of a soul.

I find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe that Dante ever sat down to write, first the whole Inferno, then the whole Purgatorio, and finally the whole Paradiso, consecutively one after the other. It is far more likely that when he began to write the first Canto of the Inferno, he had already decided, in his symmetrical mind, that there were to be one hundred Cantos in the Commedia, thirty-three to each Cantica, with Canto I. of the Inferno as the Introduction to the entire subject-matter of the Poem.

He had probably composed many hundreds of verses, including the leading passages, before he took the work in hand as a whole, during the last ten years of his life. In this way some of the now disputed readings may have originated in Dante himself; the earlier reading having been composed during the period of preparation, and the variant substituted later on by himself as better expressing the meaning of the passage. A notable instance of this is to be found in Inf. XIII., 63, where Pier delle Vigne tells Dante that he so gave up his whole being to the faithful discharge of the duties of his great office of Chancellor to the Emperor Frederick II,, that he lost his veins and his pulses (le vene e i polsi). But veins and pulses are practically synonymous terms, and the variant (lo sonno e i polsi) is considered by Dr. Moore to be by far the preferable reading, as it gives a much more appropriate sense to Pietro's speech. His devotion to his noble office was such as to destroy, not his life (lo vene e i polsi), but his repose by night, and his strength and mental power by day. Let us suppose then that lo vene e i polsi may have been composed by Dante during his period of preparation, and lo sonno e i polsi substituted by himself later, as better expressing the special point of his narrative.

During the twenty-four hours I have been in Manchester, I have seen another variant, i sensi e i polsi, in two magnificent manuscripts, the one in the Rylands Library, and the other at the house of my kind host, Dr. Lloyd Roberts, which belonged to Mr. Hughes.

We may also notice the remarkable way in which at times the number of a Canto in one Cantica, corresponds with the number of a Canto in another Cantica, when the subjects in both offer a parallel or a contrast..

The Contrasts in Dante William Warren Vernon
The Contrasts in Dante book in English

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