Cover Art

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Frontmatter

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Contents

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p. vii

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Prologue

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pp. ix-xiv

One of the marvels of art is that our appreciation of it does not require that we share the outlook of the artist. There must, of course, be sympathy, and more than sympathy, with the protagonist and with his manner of viewing his plight. A reader in the third millennium can be drawn into a Greek tragedy ...

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Note on Translations, Editions, and Abbreviations

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pp. xv-xvii

Prosaic language easily gives way to translation, to a restatement in equally impersonal words. Euclid alone may have looked on beauty bare, as Edna St. Vincent Millay said, but who has not learned his Euclid in translation? Logicians speak disdainfully of natural languages, supposedly rife with ambiguity, ...

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ONE A New Life Begins

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pp. 1-12

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the key to Dante. We find her there behind the scenes at the very beginning of the Commedia, since it is her compassion for the wandering poet that sets the great journey in motion, through intermediaries; we find her there at the end in the magnificent closing cantos of the Paradiso, ...

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TWO In the Midst of My Days

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pp. 13-34

The Commedia is divided into three parts, each called a “cantica”— Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise—and contains a total of one hundred cantos. The second and third parts have precisely thirty-three cantos each; the first has the extra canto. The first canto of the first cantica is a prologue to the entire poem. ...

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THREE The Seven Storey Mountain

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pp. 35-100

In the second canto of the Purgatorio, the souls who disembark on the island where the great mountain rises sing from Psalm 113(114), “When Israel went out of Egypt,” and we are of course reminded of the way in which Dante used its verses in the letter to Can Grande to illustrate the senses of Scripture. ...

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FOUR Queen of Heaven

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pp. 101-142

In the final cantica of the Commedia, Beatrice and Dante fall upward, as it were. The highest good draws them magnetically—gravitas defies gravity—because of Beatrice’s sanctity and the purging of Dante that has taken place as he clambered up Mount Purgatory. ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 143-144

The great French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal had a mystical experience, a kind of private revelation, that changed his life. He wrote down a description in French and Latin and wore a copy next to his heart for the rest of his life. It is known as Pascal’s Memorial:1 ...

Notes

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pp. 145-154

Index

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pp. 155-164