7. We believe all Dante's other Ladies to have been as purely imaginary as the Dulcinea of Don Quixote, useful only as motives, but a real Beatrice is as essential to the human sympathies of the Divina Commedia as her glorified Idea to its allegorical teaching, and this Dante understood perfectly well.
How Dante himself could allegorize even historical personages may be seen in a curious passage of the Convito (Tr.
c. 28), where, commenting on a passage of Lucan, he treats Martia and Cato as mere figures of speech. Take her out of the poem, and the heart of it goes with her; take out her ideal, and it is emptied of its soul.
She is the menstruum in which letter and spirit dissolve and mingle into unity.
Those who doubt her existence must find Dante's graceful sonnet
of the Canzoniere.
See Fraticelli's preface. to Guido Cavalcante as provoking as Sancho's story of his having seen Dulcinea winnowing wheat was to his master, so alien is it from all that which eminent p