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Monday, September 12, 2005

Dante Dies, September 13, 1321

Dante Alighieri was born in June 1264 and died today September 13th 1321. Dante, which translates as “the giver” towers over the middle ages as its most prominent literary figure, creating from medieval beliefs, a poetry that has claimed a captive audience ever since.

Dante’s poetry has the literary sense of Homer, the epic retelling of the culture’s values restored in the vernacular that Dante seemed to legitimize with the poetic legacy he passed on to Renaissance authors and to Shakespeare. No modern writer seems to define his age as Dante does to the Middle Ages. According to American author TS Eliot, Dante’s style is “the perfection of a common language”. Dante is a visionary and the conscience of his era.

So what made this man so remarkable that his is listed as #2 of “The Literary 100” written by Daniel S. Burt?

Dante hailed from Florence, which played a central role in his political life. As a youth, Dante studied poetry, painting and music. His early works showed an influence of both French and Italian vernacular poetry, which was in its infancy. After military service, Dante held several important political positions. In 1300, he served as chief magistrate in Florence. However, two years later while in Rome on a diplomatic mission, he was wrongfully accused of graft, which is defined as the “Unscrupulous use of one's position to derive profit or advantages; extortion”. Dante was fined and banished for two years, but he refused to pay his fine and immediately sentenced to execution at the stake. He fled Florence, and never returned.

Although his poetry is intensely private and concerned with the souls redemption, the political struggle of his era is also reflected in his art & sets the basic framework for his meditations on moral and spiritual issues. Dante became one of the most learned men in Europe which is evident in this monumental work Commedia, which was a scholarly reflection on his world. According to Burt, “Dante’s plan was unprecedented and unique: to dramatize in intensely personal terms, in a single poem, the Christian cosmology and doctrines that shaped the medieval worldview.” The poem includes all aspects of the human condition-the tragic and the comic-in a manner that redefines the epic as an inward, spiritual journey closer to a full understanding of God and his universe. The genius and power of Commedia is Dante’s ability to link the spiritual and the divine to the recognizable world. For his part in the creation of poetry that defines an age, Dante is appropriately named “The Giver”

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