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  • Dante Alighieri

    May/June c.1265 - September 14, 1321
    Part 10 of 13: Eclogues, De Aqua et Terra & Letters

    Eclogues
    Boccaccio mentions in his life of Dante that he wrote two eclogues in Latin in answer to Johannes de Virgilio, who invited him to come from Ravenna to Bologna and compose a great work in the Latin language. The most interesting passage in the work is that in the first poem, where he expresses his hope that when he has finished the three parts of his great poem his grey hairs may be crowned with laurel on the banks of the Arno. Although the Latin of these poems is superior to that of his prose works, we may feel thankful that Dante composed the great work of his life in his own vernacular. The versification, however, is good, and there are pleasant touches of gentle humour. The Eclogues have been edited by Messrs Wicksteed and Gardiner (Dante and Giovanni del Virgilio, London, 1902).

    De aqua et terra
    A treatise De aqua et terra has come down to us, which Dante tells us was delivered at Mantua in January 1320 (perhaps 1321) as a solution of the question which was being at that time much discussed - whether in any place on the earth's surface water is higher than the earth. It was first published at Venice in 1508, by an ecclesiastic named Moncetti, from a MS. which he alleged to be in his possession, but which no one seems to have seen. Its genuineness is accordingly very doubtful; but Dr Moore has from internal evidence made out a very strong case for it.

    Letters
    The Letters of Dante are among the most important materials for his biography. Giovanni Villani mentions three as specially remarkable - one to the government of Florence, in which he complains of undeserved exile; another to the emperor Henry VII., when he lingered too long at the siege of Brescia; and a third to the Italian cardinals to urge them to the election of an Italian pope after the death of Clement V. The first of these letters has not come down to us, the two last are extant. Besides these we have one addressed to the cardinal da Prato, one to a Florentine friend refusing the base conditions of return from exile, one to the princes and lords of Italy to prepare them for the coming of Henry of Luxembourg, another to the Florentines reproaching them with the rejection of the emperor, and a long letter to Can Grande della Scala, containing directions for interpreting the Divina Commedia, with especial reference to the Paradiso. Of less importance are the letters to the nephews of Count Alessandro da Romena, to the marquis Moroello Malespina, to Cino da Pistoia and to Guido da Polenta. The genuineness of all the letters has at one time or another been impugned; but the more important are now generally accepted. They have been translated by Mr C. S. Latham, ed. by Mr G. R. Carpenter (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, 1891).

    Dante's reputation has passed through many vicissitudes, and much trouble has been spent by critics in comparing him with other poets of established fame. Read and commented upon with more admiration than intelligence in the Italian universities in the generation immediately succeeding his death, his name became obscured as the sun of the Renaissance rose higher towards its meridian. In the 16th century he was held inferior to Petrarch; in the 17th and first half of the 18th he was almost universally neglected. His fame is now fully vindicated. Translations and commentaries issue from every press in Europe and America, and many studies for separate points are appearing every year.

    Part 11: Authorities, Editions & Commentaries


    In this biography:
    Part 1: Introduction
    Part 2: Political Life, Part 1
    Part 3: Political Life, Part 2
    Part 4: Dante's Ghibellinism
    Part 5: Wanderings
    Part 6: Old Age and Death
    Part 7: Divina Commedia
    Part 8: Convito, Vita Nuova & Canzoniere
    Part 9: De Monarchia & De Vulgari Eloquentia
    Part 10: Eclogues, De Aqua et Terra & Letters
    Part 11: Authorities, Editions & Commentaries
    Part 12: Translations, Other Aids & Bibliography
    Part 13: Related Articles, Sites, etc.


    This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

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