It’s no secret that I’m in love with a brilliant Florentine. He’s quite a bit older than me, but in love, age does not matter.
See his picture on the right? Red is a good color for him, don’t you think? What? You think he’s not very handsome and he looks far too serious? But it’s not his looks that captivate me. It’s his poetry. His poems, written over 7 centuries ago, still speak to me, to all of us, in this age of uncertainty and political divisiveness.
All right. You’re still skeptical. You’re wondering how words written in the 1300’s can still resonate in our modern technological world. In this post about the prolific Florentine genius Dante Alighieri, I’ll try to convince you.
Here’s a little background: Dante was born into a family of wealth and privilege in a powerful region of what is now modern Italy. However, his beloved Florence was rocked by a political struggle between two parties, vying for the control of the city. At the same time, the papacy was trying to solidify its own political power, as well as the Holy Roman Emperor.
The path to paradise begins in hell.― Dante Alighieri
In this maelstrom of conflicting interests and jostling for power, Dante fought as a soldier in battles against the Ghibellines–who wanted to control the city. When Dante’s party won, he held several political offices and at one point he was sent to Rome to negotiate with the pope. That’s when his life dramatically changed.
O human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fall?― Dante Alighieri,
The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.~Dante Alighieri
While Dante was in Rome, the opposition party attacked Florence and took control of the city. That’s when Dante realized that the pope was backing the opposition. With the pope’s support, the opposition party established control of Florence. The new ruling party fined Dante a large sum and sentenced him to 2 years of exile from his beloved city. When he refused to pay, he was condemned to permanent exile. In the next few years, he took part in numerous attempts to oust the ruling party, but became embittered by the infighting among his political allies and the treachery of his enemies. He decided to became a party of one.
Midway along the journey of our life I woke to find myself in a dark wood, for I had wandered off from the straight path.~Dante Alighieri
What power does one person have to impact the world? Dante provides an answer. In his magnum opus, The Divine Comedy, he strikes out in a totally new direction. He writes a series of epic poems about an imaginary journey through hell, purgatory and paradise, filled with his heroes, his enemies and his allies. Through this allegorical journey, he weaves great philosophical and political commentary and finds inspiration and support from his guide Virgil and his childhood sweetheart, Beatrice Portinari, whom he had fallen in love at first sight when he was just 9 years old. Unfortunately, their love was destined to be bittersweet.
There is no greater sorrow than to recall happiness in times of misery. Dante Alighieri
As was the custom, Beatrice and Dante’s families had betrothed them at a very young age to other people, whom they married. But Dante continued to love Beatrice who died when she was still very young. His love for her would last throughout his entire life. She became his muse, his inspiration.
A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark.~Dante Alighieri
Dante’s legacy has endured for over 700 years. The poet T.S. Eliot, who was greatly influenced by him, elevated Dante to the highest stature, joined by only one other poet–Shakespeare. He said that they ”divide the modern world between them. There is no third.”
So, what do you think? Have I convinced you? Do you share my love of Dante? Or, are you at least more curious about him now? I hope so! And have an inspiring week, everyone!