In which I peer into the passato remoto (like, molto molto remoto)
Dante, the poet of Italy, so famous the last name is basically superfluous, died seven hundred years ago today. Seven HUNDRED years. WHAT.
He had contracted malaria while staying in Ravenna at the request of its prince, Guido II da Polenta. Scholars estimate his age to have been about 56. The city gave him a funeral, which was attended by many friends and admirers as well as his own three children, followed by a proper burial at a church known then as San Pier Maggiore, now as San Francesco. A monument was built at the tomb in 1780 and stands to this day.
His relationship to government was notoriously fraught, but he was evidently already making a comeback by the time of his death. Il resto, as they say, è la storia.
I have, somewhat surprisingly, read only portions of his big hit, la Divina Commedia. Namely L’Inferno—in full in English, in part in Italian. And I read the English when I was eleven. (My teacher was a little concerned about me.) Maybe it’s disenchantment with Catholicism, maybe it’s a dearth of time and a wealth of other texts higher on my list of priorities. Maybe I will still get around to it. If somebody can receive his due seven hundred years after the fact, it’s clearly never too late for any of us. In any event, I owe a debt to him, as all writers in all native tongues do.
I will say this: if we do end up in the same circle of whatever afterlife there is, I expect him to tell me one hell of a story.
Image: the tomb at Ravenna, taken by somebody who is not me