The Divine Comedy
To preface this page of The Divine Comedy I have
borrowed a couple lines from Dante's "Convivio" which I
think are most appropriate: “Since knowledge is the
ultimate perfection of our soul, in which resides our
ultimate happiness, we are all therefore by nature
subject to a desire for it.” -Canto I
Metaphorically speaking what connects Starlight Tower to
the "Divine Comedy" at this time, is the coincidence of
events that took place for the former and take place for
the later presently. Just like Dante's primal figure
faces a midlife crisis and embarks on his quest to find
himself and God, our own protagonist, Starlight Tower
having also reached midway to his own life is in search
to find qualified people that will restore him to all
the glory he is famous for. Certainly we are no way near
the dire straights poor Dante was, we already know of
the happy ending that awaits our beloved Starlight Tower
but I thought it could be a good morale-boost injection
refreshing our collective memories and inspire us to be
patient while events seemingly taking for ever resolute
successfully and our productive board of directors
chooses wisely the rehab contractors. And on the other
hand if you happen to side on the extra-optimists
category (to which I belong) you can envision the task
already completed since we already reside in "Paradiso"
with our Nine Heavens (happy to be on the ninth!) and
our Empyrean. It just can not get better than that!
The "Inferno", although
is only a part of Dante's "Divine Comedy", a masterful
poem considered as one of the greatest masterpieces of
literature in the world comparable with the best epic
poems ever written "Iliad" and "Odyssey" works by the
Ancient Greek poet Homer, has become famous as sole
entity and is published as "Dante's Inferno".
The "Divine Comedy" was not titled so by Dante but
simply "La Commedia" (The Comedy) which at his era did
not meant funny (like today) but a story with a happy
ending. After his death the word "Divina" was added by
Giovanni Boccaccio (Italian poet and author born in
Florence 1313 - 1375) who was a big admirer and lecturer
of Dante's work making it "La Divina Commedia".
The "Gates of Hell"
"Abandon all hope, you who enter here"
The "Divine Comedy" is divided
into three canticas (cantiche) that correspond to the
three realms of the afterlife used as physical divisions
in the story line: Inferno (Hell),
(Purgatory), Paradiso (Paradise). Each cantica consists
of thirty three cantos except the Inferno that has
thirty four making it a total of one hundred cantos.
The cantos are written in "terza rima" which utilizes
three-line "tercets" (stanzas)
The first and third
lines rhyme, then the second line rhymes with the first
line of the next tercet. This establishes a melodic
overlapping continuation that produces a soft iambic
rhythm very pleasant in reading. (and my personal
favorite in writing, example my farewell poem to a
beloved uncle in twenty nine, four-line tercets, written
Dante subdivides his realms as
* The Inferno: which is composed of
levels plus the Vestibule making it ten.
Inferno, the sinners are divided according to three
vices: Incontinence, Violence, and
Fraud and then are
further subdivided by the seven deadly sins.
The Purgatory: which is composed of
seven terraces, plus
two ledges in the Ante-Purgatory and the
Paradise making it ten. In the Purgatory,
ordered on the basis of three types of
* The Paradiso: which is composed of
plus the Empyrean heaven making it ten. The Paradise is
divided according to three types of
Divine Love and then
is further subdivided according to the three theological
and four cardinal virtues.
As you see the
3 plays a major role in these divisions. Some say is
related to Dante's fascination with numerology whereas
others say is the Triad of the Father the Son and the
The poem is a narration of Dante's
imaginary journey to find God after suffering a terrible
personal misfortune (see mini bio at end of page),
feeling the need to understand why and find answers.
He starts the poem saying how he found himself
spiritually lost. (-Inferno, I, 1-3)
mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una
ché la diritta via era smarrita.
|Midway upon the journey of our life
myself in a dark wood,
where the right way was lost.
Beatrice (who is dead and the woman Dante loved
when he was only nine years old and idolized the rest of
his life) listens to him and asks Virgin Mary for help
by sending him a guide so he can see the errors he has
done and find his way. She agrees and sends Virgil (the
ancient Roman poet that has written the "Aeneiad").
Dante starts his three-day trip on Good Friday by
descending to Hell then climbing up Mount Purgatory on
the other side of the world and finally arriving to
Heaven in the sky. Virgil acts as his first guide
through the Inferno and Purgatory, his second guide is
Beatrice herself and finally last guide is Saint Bernard
who takes him to see God.
The Inferno is filled
with unforgettable scenes that are given to us so
vividly and in such detail describing the circles in
Hell, characters doomed there and their punishment
according to the degree of their sin which makes easy to
understand why it has been for centuries such endless
source of inspiration to artists of all media.
Focusing briefly on the poetic and aesthetic qualities
of the work in order to get the full flavor because
there are numerous translation versions is worth
investigating until you come across the one you enjoy
the most. But which ever version you read make sure to
have the melodic original as well even if your Italian
are not so good or you don't speak the language at all.
To illustrate this comment I put bellow an excerpt taken
upon Dante's encounter and exchange with Francesca and
three translation versions.
|Italian Original Inferno
- Canto V, Circle 2 , Carnal Sinners, 121 - 129
E quella a me: «Nessun
che ricordarsi del tempo felice
ne la miseria; e ciò sa 'l tuo dottore.
conoscer la prima radice
del nostro amor tu hai
dirò come colui che piange e dice.
Noi leggiavamo un giorno per diletto
Lancialotto come amor lo strinse;
soli eravamo e
sanza alcun sospetto.
|Translation Version A
And she to me: There is no greater sorrow
to be mindful of the happy time
In misery, and that
thy Teacher knows.
But, if to recognize the
Of love in us thou hast so great
I will do even as he who weeps and speaks.
One day we reading were for our delight
Launcelot, how Love did him enthrall.
Alone we were
and without any fear.
Translation Version B
And she told me, "Nothing is more
Than to recall the time of happiness
wretchedness: this truth your teacher knows.
"If, however, to learn the initial root
Of our own
love is now your deep desire,
I will speak here as
one who weeps in speaking.
"One day for our own
pleasure we were reading
Of Lancelot and how love
We were alone and innocent of
Translation Version C
And she to me: The is no greater woo
remembering in misery the happy time, and that thy
But if thou hast so great desire
to know the first root of our love, I will do like one
who weeps and tells
We were reading one day, for
of Lancelot how love constrained him.
were alone and without any suspicion.
"Inferno chart of Hell" by Italian painter
Botticelli (born Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi 1445
"Dante Alighieri" Fresco from "La Divina Commedia" by Domenico di Michelino (1465) in
the "Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore" or The "Duomo of
In this fresco, Dante Alighieri is
holding a copy of his Divine Comedy that on close up
reads the "Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita..." and
with his right hand points to a line of sinners going
down to the circles of Hell to the left. Behind him is
the Purgatory with Adam and
Eve on the top representing
the Terrestrial Paradise. Above them is the sun and the
moon representing the Heavenly Paradise. And finally to
Dante's left is the city of Florence with the Campanile
and Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore dominating the city
but who did not exist in Dante's time and was built
The "Basilica di Santa Maria del
Fiore" or The "Duomo of
The "Basilica di Santa Maria del
Fiore" or The "Duomo of Florence", was built in 1296 by
Arnolfo di Cambio also called di Lapo (born in Colle di
Val d'Elsa, Tuscany 1240 - 1302/1310) but its
construction continued for the next century and a half.
In 1334 the painter architect Giotto di Bondone (1267 -
1337) designed and built the Campanile. The Basilica
however became famous later for its colossal dome that
was designed by architect and sculptor Filippo
Brunelleschi (born in Firenze, 1377-1446) and build
without any wood framework in 1420 and finished in 1446.
It stands 177 feet above ground level, while its height
from the drum base to the top is about 108 feet and over
four million bricks were used for its construction!
On the bottom left you can see a corner of the
Battistery di San Giovanni that has the
bronze doors: one by Andrea Pisani and two by
one of them being the
Brief biography of Dante Alighieri
He was born in
Florence Italy in 1265 and died in Ravenna in 1321 where
he was buried at the Church of San Pier Maggiore that
later was called San Francesco and on his grave there
are a couple of verses from his friend Bernardo Canaccio
that read: Parvi Florentia mater amoris "Florence,
mother of little love".
He was an admired poet and
intellectual but also active in the turbulent politics
of Florence. He was raised in a family loyal to Guelphs
that supported the Papacy and in constant friction with
the Ghibellines of the neighbor town
supported the German emperor.
In 1289 he
participated in the battle of Campaldino against the
Ghibellines where the Guelphs defeated them and he makes
reference of this battle in his "Purgatorio". In 1300
the Guelphs who have started to bitterly fight among
themselves are divided in two factions the "Bianchi"
(White) and "Neri" (Black) Guelphs and in 1302 the Black
Guelphs seize power in Florence. Immediately, they
banish all the White Guelphs including Dante who
coincidentally was away on a political mission in Rome
so he was exiled and sentenced to death in absentia. He
never again returned to Florence.
So during the long
years of the exile he came to terms with his misfortune
hence the birth of this literary masterpiece "Divine
Comedy" where he found his spiritual catharsis.
big love of his life was Beatrice Portinari a woman he
met when he was only nine years old and idolized all his
life and some scholars say she may be the young woman he
writes about in his autobiographical "Vita Nuova". He
was married to Gemma di Manetto Donati and had 4
children. When he was condemned into exile, his wife did
not follow him but remained in Florence.
Doré's White Rose
Illustration to Dante's Divine Comedy, Paradiso by Gustave Doré.
Dante and Beatrice
staring the *Empyrean and the Nine Angelic
Circles in the
form of a rose
(Canto 31: The Saintly Throng in the
Form of a Rose)
*Empyrean: derives from the
Ancient Greek, "in fire" or "on fire" from the word "pyr"
fire. According to ancient cosmologies (cosmology:
from the Greek cosmologia product of two words: "cosmos"
= world and "logos" = words) the place in the highest
heaven is supposed to be occupied by fire hence
appropriate residence for God or Gods. Dante
incorporates this principal in his Empyrean Heaven
placing Beatrice and himself there.