a poem so long even as a single one of the three divisions of the Commedia would be accomplished very slowly.
But it is difficult to account for the great fame which Dante enjoyed during the latter years of his life, unless we suppose that parts, at least, of his greatest work had been read or heard by a large number of persons.
This need not, however, imply publication; and Witte, whose opinion is entitled to great consideration, supposes even the Inferno not to have been finished before 1314 or 1315.
In a matter where certainty would be impossible, it is of little consequence to reproduce conjectural dates.
In the letter to Can Grande, before alluded to, Dante himself has stated the theme of his song.
He says that the literal subject of the whole work is the state of the soul after death simply considered.
But if the work be taken allegorically, the subject is man, as by merit or demerit, through freedom of the will, he renders himself liable to the reward or punishment of ju