I’ve been reading Dante’s Vita Nuova since the end of last year and finally finished it yesterday. It is where the inspiration for the New Year’s Eve & Day drink came from lol. Many who know the realm I write of know that Dante holds a dear place in my heart & artistic life due to the scope of his Divine Comedy. However, this is a much earlier work- in fact, the pages are purportedly pulled from journals when he was around 25, approximately ten years before he went into exile wherein which he actually wrote the trilogy.
It’s a tiny book, but the premise- pulling from his journals only the entries that belong to the period beginning his ‘new life” is so potent that I took my time with it. It rang true with me when I came across it because although written in 1292, it felt so “now,” so futuristic in scope in comparison to the world he lived in.
“Old things pass away, look- I do a new thing-” is heralded at us biblically, but actually doing that, letting the old pass so the new God brings you here for in the first place can have its way with you… is one of the hardest things in life for many of us to muster. I guess it warms me that even at the end of the 13th century God was sweetly goading those who turned out to be destined to be great across time amongst all of us to make that selfsame choice, for the new life over the old, and that there in that new life is where the treasure of your heart resides as it is.
This is a man who to this day is a literary giant. The grandeur of what he captured still has never been outdone in prose or poem. Even the Miltons that roamed the world after him give him props. But in Vita Nuova, we find a very real young, regular artsy guy who is as shamefaced & blistered by falling in love with a chick he can’t open his mouth to as he is inspired by the chaos loving her silently has brought to his life. Any who have loved, knowing it was returned no matter what it looked like to the outside world can get into the heart of the kid he basically was and the pain that birthed the artistic giant he became.
But what made my heart leap… were the last two entries in Dante’s Vita Nuova, which I have included below. Because I am not a historical buff. I’ve never been drawn to biographies and what-not…but reading the sonnet that burst out of his grieving chest at the end of the book that is the root for all that the divine comedy has become & seeing his response to that flowering…blew my heart and my mind. He sums up the goal of his life’s work at 27[by the end of the book]…and for me, sitting 700+ years on the other side of that declaration, aware of all the chaos that ensued in order to lead him to the space to achieve just that, line upon line….i’m just so encouraged that it makes me fly. And when things make me fly, I have to share them. I see his trust in Love, God and her, and I see that trust didn’t fail him once he got his heart in order to honor it.
So that is why I am including this sonnet selection and final entry into Vita Nuova by Dante in a post as ETHEREAL makes its way home. It reminds me to never despair small beginnings, and that you never know how the things that touch your heart will lead you to the shores of greatness you may not even grasp you are destined for…if only you have the courage to follow them.
I hope you enjoy it.
“Beyond the sphere that makes the widest round,
passes the sigh which issues from my heart;
a strange, new understanding that sad Love
imparts to it keeps urging it on high.
When it has reached the place of its desiring,
it sees a lady held in reverence,
splendid in light, and through her radiance
the pilgrim spirit gazes at her being.
But when it tries to tell me what it saw,
I cannot understand the subtle words
it speaks to the sad heart that makes it speak.
I know it talks of that most gracious one,
because it often mentions Beatrice;
this much is very clear to me, dear ladies.”
“After this sonnet there appeared to me a miraculous vision in which I saw things that made me resolve to say no more about this blessed one until I would be capable of writing about her in a more worthy fashion. And to achieve this I am striving as hard as I can and this she truly knows. Accordingly, if it be the wish of Him through whom all things flourish that my life continue for a few more years, I hope to write of her that which has never been written of any other woman. And then may it please that One who is the Lord of Graciousness that my soul ascend to behold the glory of its lady, that is, of that blessed Beatrice, who in glory gazes upon the countenance of the One who is through all ages blessed.”