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VIRGIL, BEATRICE, AND THE POETRY OF DANTE ULRICH LEO AWARE as I am-and rather regretfully- that I have written many pages on Dante in which I have quoted his critics, often, but himself only 'here and there,' I should like for a while, to get away from theoretical discussion and scientific criticism of his poetry to the poetry itself. And so let us now speak about Dante and no longer of Dante science. And let us consider two of his most famous characters as poetical personages only, avoiding everything that has been said or can be said unpoetically as to their allegorical, philosophical, or theological significance, or as to their sources in previous literature and the history of ideas. In the above-mentioned articles such "problems" have their place, but now we are no longer concerned to know whether Beatrice is the Church, Inner Illumina'tion, the Active Intellect, Theology, Divine Grace, or ,perhaps Poetry;' or whether Virgil is Reason or the State; whether both of them are the Guardian Angels of the poet; whether Virgil belongs to the Middle Ages instead of to ancient Rome, or whether Beatrice v.-as a real woman or not, since there are busybodies who doubt even that. We are concerned only with the poetical and human representation of the two guides of Dante in his poem, and with the contrast between their poetical natures. For our own purpose we shall do our best to restrict our attention to that which any reader can read in the poem, without quoting commentaries or monographs, and, on the other hand, not caring whether we repeat things that haye already been said by others: by this time there cannot be many things that have 11 mean particularly the rece=:nt artide=:s: "DirJina Com~di4, re=:alidad e in_ tuicion" (EI UnjrJ~,.sal, Caracas, Oct. and Nov., 1938) and "Ensayo sabre la unidad poetica en Dan te" (Filosofia y I~t,.as, Revista de la Universidad Nacional de Mexico, IV, 1941 ). The=: present article on Virgil and Beatrice may be considered to be an essay in the practical application of the vi~ws previously ex_ pressed. . . '0f the many books dealing with these questions, it will be sufficient to mention one old one, Perez, La Beatrice S(}~/ata (Palermo, 1865), and one new one. Mandonnet, Dant~ l~ theologien (Paris, 1935). For Beatrice as Poetry, sec Theodor Absil in D~utsc!Jes Dante Jaflrbuch, XVIII (1936), 149,.and the review il"l. A rc!tivum Romanicum, 1938, 142. 48 VIRGIL, BEATRICE, AND THE POETRY OF DANTE 49 not been said. While thus confining our attention to the poetry of Dante, we shall nevertheless find, after noting some peculiarities and imperfections in the famous figure of Beatrice, that his poetry can bes,t be understood by turning again to consider the truth and reality of the other world, and the character of p'rophetic visionary which our Catholic poet has revealed in his personages. I. VIRGIL Virgil, the guide of Dante through Hell and up to the summit of the Mountain of Purgatory, is, considered in his entirety, a most . engaging person. He has all the qualities of a polished, humane gentleman. H e is modest, refined, eloquent or silent according to circumstances. He has tact and sensitiveness combined with strength and energy; he has historical, philosophical and literary culture. On rare occasions he astonishes the modern reader with a certain ruthlessness or cruelty which, however, can always be explained satisfactorily. He is a perfect tutor, he is an honn2te homme, three hundred and fifty years before the theoretical discovery of that type 'of social perfection. He knows how to be stern if it is necessary to hearten Dante to superhuman fortitude; he knows too how to comfort his hurt and humiliated pupil, with that very sternness. He is not ashamed to apologize sometimes; he is so high-minded, and feels himself so secure in his position 'of humanist and guide wi~h a supernatural mission, that he does not hesita~e at times to confess his own uncertainty. This is much to the credit, it is true, nat only of the master but also of the disciple...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 48-58
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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