news reading

What to Read before Dante’s Paradise….

Today I have been trying (and mostly but not entirely failing) to rewrite a bit of Evernost. I know the problem (my main character bores me and so does the storyline) and I think I know the solution (write it anyway, trying to make it as smart as I can, because neither is inherently boring but rather boring only to me).

I also finished the Purgatorio. It’s hard to get into, even though I’ve started looking at the endnotes, which helped a tremendous amount with the allegorical dreams and the vision at the end. I am fascinated by the dream visions, the design of Purgatory, and the sequence at the end in the Earthly Paradise where Dante at last meets Beatrice.

Unfortunately, though, I couldn’t care less about the moral degradation of 14th century Italy and I find myself instinctively mistrusting Dante’s strong admiration of some and violent (literally and figuratively) execration of others, and all of this takes up so much of the Comedy that it’s trying. I wonder, though, if at the time people looked at the political commentary rather the way Americans today watch Saturday Night Live (I, um, think most even moderately thoughtful and aware people could name some Americans who will someday be frozen in Antenora, the part of Hell that is home to traitors to their countries….).

I’ve been dipping into several books other than the Divine Comedy right now, and I’m thinking of pausing between Purgatory and Paradise (for which I’m switching to the rhymed Ciardi translation—perhaps I’ll get on with it better than I did with the other) to read the entirety of one of:

  1. Early seventeenth-century poet George Herbert’s The Temple—love “Love (III),” and while I have to say that The Church-Porch, a collection of rhymed moral and practical advice that starts the book, has not to my eye stood the test of time, I trust I will find much more to love in the main work.
  2. Canadian critic Northrop Frye’s The Double Vision—I really enjoyed Fearful Symmetry and Anatomy of Criticism (I may write more about these later), and would like to read this short last book of his.
  3. Critic Gillian Beer’s The Romance—it deals with the tradition of romance (in the sense of medieval romance—basically fantastical quests—not love stories) and the various forms it has taken from the Middle Ages through Tolkien, which, as topics go, is as far up my alley as it’s possible to go, though at this point I know nothing about Beer or the series (The Critical Tradition) of which the 80-ish page book is a part.

I haven’t decided which book or books of these I will read before plunging into the Paradiso, but I’m excited for all of them.

Finally, here is “Love (III),” because people who don’t know it should:

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.