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Logos [3-6-2010]

It is right even if it is not quite proper to observe at the beginning of a discourse on Dante, that no writer has held in mind at one time the whole of The Divine Comedy: not even Dante, perhaps least of all Dante himself.  If Dante and his Dantisti have not been equal to the view of the whole, a view shorter than theirs must be expected of the amateur who, as a writer of verses, vainly seeks absolution from the mortal sin of using poets for what he can get out of them.  I expect to look at a single image in the Paradiso, and to glance at some of its configurations with other images.  I mean the imagery of light, but I mean chiefly its reflections.  It was scarcely necessary for Dante to have read, though he did read, the De Anima, to learn that sigh tis the king of the senses and that the human body, which like other organisms lives by touch, may be made actual in language only through the imitation of sight.  And sight in language is imitated not by means of “description”-ut pictura poesis-but by doubling the image: our confidence in its spatial reality is won quite simply by casting the image upon a glass, or otherwise by the insinuation of space between.

[From “The Symbolic Imagination,” by Allen Tate]

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