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Reading the Divine Comedy at seventeen was, for me, to see the world sub specie aeternitatis. Apparently thats not okay in the Worlds eyes. Writing it, in the 14th Century, was not considered okay either. So Dante was banished for life from Florence. In the Comedy eternal flame is the just deserts of corrupt conformity.
That doesnt seem quite right in the eyes of the comfortably politically correct, back then as now. And they, like it or not, always have the final say. And what they say, goes! And Dante had to go. So reading this literary landmark for the first time, when I was seventeen, marked the inauguration of a colossal climacteric in my life.
What we have to do to find it is pacify our dark impulses, work out our emotional trauma with diligence and awareness, and then aspire to reach the gates of Real and Lasting Happiness in the crown of our emotions and intellect - Faith.
The faith that Dante has finally received from God when he reaches the summit of Purgatory is contained in its ultimate vision - that of the Giant and the Whore being cast, by the Gryphon, into the Pit. In our times, the Giant is, of course, the controlling robotic Big Brother of us moderns, and the Whore, its eternally driving Desire.
The one feeds the other. And so dawns the new Heaven and Earth, inexorable and ultimately Victorious, as Dante attains Paradise. That sums it up: Hell. And Paradise. And it all takes place right here on the face of this unforgiving planet. The cthonic pull of the Inferno is just too intense!
But Dante did it. So, while enduring his cruel vision in the daily life of ruthlessly divided Florence, he kept his rational cool throughout. It speaks volumes of his character. By the next summer I had graduated to a library loan of the much less bulky-sized John Ciardi translation, in a limited edition with abstract modernistic illustrations. At university, it was the must-own tiny Everyman Library dual-language edition, with its graceful Pre-Raphaelite line drawings - very easy to stick into my shirt pocket going to and from lectures So, as well as the print edition pictured above - another excellent translation - THAT is the story of my life But knowing the dangers, how do we make that first step out of this City of Destruction and forever escape the maws of the ravenous Beasts that keep us from ascending out of its Dark Wood?
The answer is simple.
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