Dante Casually Running Into Beatrice In Art History

 

The Toast knocks it out of the park again with a reflection on quite how creepy the premise of the Vita nova and Dante’s subsequent Beatrice-oriented work could be…

“Maybe the idea of a gentleman who beheld your visage but the twice writing a series of time-alteringly famous books where you are forced to guide him through Heaven and gaze beatifically on his bed a’nights is just exactly what gets you going, though. What this post presupposes, though, is: what if it wasn’t awesome?”

Source: Dante Casually Running Into Beatrice In Art History

Dante, Eünoè, and The Future of Higher Education

Dante’s imagery crops up in the unlikeliest of places. Here, in Marina Warner’s impassioned defence of the Humanities, the freedom of learning and enquiry, and the importance of ‘good, active knowledge’, the river Eünoè in Dante’s Purgatorio appears as an image for the best kinds of engaged learning, research, and teaching.

I’ve noticed a lot of tricolons in this introductory spiel, perhaps I’ve been ensnared by thoughts of Dante’s terza rima… Here are his lines describing his experience of the waters of Eünoè in the Earthly Paradise:

“Ma vedi Eünoè che là diriva:

menalo ad esso, e come tu se’ usa,

la tramortita sua virtù ravviva.”

Come anima gentil, che non fa scusa,

ma fa sua voglia de la voglia altrui

tosto che è per segno fuor dischiusa;

così, poi che da essa preso fui,

la bella donna* mossesi, e a Stazio**

donnescamente disse: “Vien con lui.”

S’io avessi, lettor, più lungo spazio

da scrivere, i’ pur cantere’ in parte

lo dolce ber che mai non m’avria sazio;

ma perché piene son tutte le carte

ordite a questa cantica seconda,

non mi lascia più ir lo fren de l’arte.

Io ritornai da la santissima onda

rifatto sì come piante novelle

rinovellate di novella fronda,

puro e disposto a salire a le stelle.

   ‘But see Eunoe streaming forth there.

Bring him to it and, as you are accustomed,

revive the powers that are dead in him.’

   As a gentle spirit that makes no excuses

but makes another’s will its own

as soon as any signal makes that clear,

   so, once she held me by the hand, the lady* moved

and, as though she were mistress of that place,

said to Statius**: ‘Now come with him.’

   If, reader, I had more ample space to write,

I should sing at least in part the sweetness

of the drink that never would have sated me,

   but, since all the sheets

readied for this second canticle are full,

the curb of art lets me proceed no farther.

   From those most holy waters

I came away remade, as are new plants

renewed with new-sprung leaves,

pure and prepared to rise up to the stars.

Purgatorio XXXIII, 127-145 (text and translation, as ever, from the Princeton Dante Project)

* The lady here is Matelda, an enigmatic figure who plays I vital role in helping Dante navigate the Earthly Paradise at the top of the mountain of Purgatory.

** Statius is a Roman poet of the Silver Age whose works include The Thebaid and The Achilleid

Marina Warner · Learning My Lesson · LRB 19 March 2015.

St. Francis Manuscripts Headed to U.S., in First Trip Out of Italy in 700 Years – NYTimes.com

This exhibition is definitely filed under ‘times I wish I lived in New York’…

Not only does it engage my general manuscript nerdery, but it also ticks the ‘birth of the Italian language’ and ‘roots of Italian poetry’ boxes to make a trifecta of medievalist joy.

St. Francis Manuscripts Headed to U.S., in First Trip Out of Italy in 700 Years – NYTimes.com.

In Dante’s Paradiso (XI, 55-57), Francis gets this glowing write-up:

‘Non era ancor molto lontan da l’orto, / ch’el cominciò a far sentir la terra / de la sua gran virtute alcun conforto.’

‘Not much time as yet had passed / when he first lent his comfort to the earth / by the greatness of his virtuous power.’

For Dante, Francis may have been a model of exile and of the humility of which Dante himself keenly felt the lack. In this episode in the Divine Comedy, Dante gives us a biography of Francis that hinges on the image of Francis in love with an oft-scorned lady, who is a symbol for poverty. The importance of the poverty of priests to Dante’s view of the ideal church is paramount and the cause of much ranting in both the Divine Comedy and in the Monarchia in particular.

To see the early manuscripts of such a significant figure as Francis would be truly exciting.

Oh well, here’s hoping they bring it on tour, or indeed, that I get the chance to visit the archives at some point! (If the Vatican Library let me in, I may have a shot!).

 

 

Text and translation, as ever, from the Princeton Dante Project.

It’s been a while, so here’s some (translated) Petrarch!

A few friends, colleagues and students are getting together to sing musical settings of Petrarch’s poetry in St. John’s College, Oxford, on Thursday. For the occasion we’ve produced our own new translations of the poems we’ll be singing to go in the programme. I drew the not un-daunting lot of translating RVF 1, the first poem of Petrarch’s Canzoniere – his mission statement, if you will.

Here’s my attempt:

You, listening in scattered poems to the sound
of those sighs with which I nourished my heart
in my first flush of straying youth
when I was, in part, a different man than I am now,

for varied styles in which I weep and work out words
between vain hopes and pointless pain,
I hope I may find pity, forgiveness even,
in those who know love by ordeal.

But I can see clearly now how I’ve become
a long-told tale with folk at large
for which I am ashamed of me, myself;
and shame is the fruit of my meandering,
and regret, and clear bright understanding
that things which please the world are fleeting dreams.

And Petrarch’s original text:

Ritratto_di_francesco_petrarca,_altichiero,_1376_circa,_padova

A portrait of Petrarch from Padova

Voi ch’ascoltate in rime sparse il suono
di quei sospiri ond’io nudriva ‘l core
in sul mio primo giovenile errore
quand’era in parte altr’uom da quel ch’i’ sono,

del vario stile in ch’io piango et ragiono
fra le vane speranze e ‘l van dolore,
ove sia chi per prova intenda amore,
spero trovar pietà, nonché perdono.

Ma ben veggio or sí come al popol tutto
favola fui gran tempo, onde sovente
di me mesdesmo meco mi vergogno;

et del mio vaneggiar vergogna è ‘l frutto,
e ‘l pentersi, e ‘l conoscer chiaramente
che quanto piace al mondo è breve sogno.

I’ve tried to maintain, as much as the sense, the “mouthfeel” of the poem. The borrowing of this term from the language of coffee reviews perhaps reveals my other major vice apart from medieval Italian poetry…

What I mean is this: when I read a poem I get a certain subjective sensation of what it feels like to pronounce the words and I wanted to recreate that in my English version. I’m sure this is a common phenomenon. This sensation ties in with the sonic qualities of the text, the alliterations and assonances, the placement of plosives and nasals to put it in phonetic terms. So at heart, what I’ve aimed for in this version of RVF 1 is a phonic recreation, a sound translation as well as a sense translation. I hope you like it, and please to leave any thoughts, comments of responses below, I’d love to read them.

The last fragment falls into place

Fragments of Red

Fragments of Red

 

So, I’ve written about the Fragments Project before (herehere and here) and I’m about to embark on a trip back up to the Scottish Borders to sing in the last of the three ‘Fragments of…’ events, ‘Fragments of Red’. These events have staged audiovisual installations by The Red Field involving the performance of music from a C12th manuscript fragment alongside compositions inspired by the medieval chants.

There’s been music from Seán Doherty (for ‘Fragments of Blue’) and Michael Nyman (for ‘Fragments of Black’) and this time we’ll be singing new compositions by Grayston Ives in an event at Melrose Abbey alongside a variety of medieval tunes!

The music is beautiful and I can’t wait to join up with the choir in Scotland and hear it ring out in the abbey ruins.

Radio, what’s new?

So, I know I promised to say things about my trip to Leeds, and I certainly will, soon, I promise.
But in the interim… whattaya know? An adaptation of the Divine Comedy is the Classic Serial on BBC Radio 4 at the moment!

It’s got even got John Hurt for Who fans (playing the ‘older Dante’ by which I guess they mean the narratorial voice?)
Either way, it should be interesting and there’s also a short documentary on the making of the recording. They take a delightfully old school, radiophonic workshop approach to sound effects, which is interesting. Look out for the rice pudding!
Now, this isn’t entirely irrelevant to my Leeds Centre for Dante Studies visit, as I tried my hand at a bit of podcasting on a few poets, of which more later.
I will leave you now to have a bit of a listen!

Oxford Medievalism strikes again!

For anyone interested in Medievalism  (how ideas of the Medieval reappear in later cultures), this seminar on 26 February with Dr. William Whyte should be just the ticket:

Next meeting: Dr William Whyte (St John’s College, Oxford):Ecclesiastical medievalism in nineteenth-century Britain: architecture, faith, and time

Wednesday of 6th week, (26 February 2014), 5 pm,  in the Goodhart Seminar Room, Logic Lane, University College, followed by drinks.