and familiar with few, and most assiduous in study as far as he could find time for it. Dante
was also of marvellous capacity and the most tenacious memory.’
Various anecdotes of him are related by Boccaccio
, Sacchetti, and others, none of them verisimilar, and some of them at least fifteen centuries old when revamped.
Most of them are neither veri
nor ben trovati
. One clear glimpse we get of him from the Ottimo Comento
, the author of which says:1
‘I, the writer, heard Dante
say that never a rhyme had led him to say other than he would, but that many a time and oft (molte e spesse volte
) he had made words say for him what they were not wont to express for other poets.’
That is the only sincere glimpse we get of the living, breathing, word-compelling Dante
Looked at outwardly, the life of Dante
seems to have been an utter and disastrous failure.
What its inward satisfactions must have been, we, with the Paradiso
open before us, can form some faint conception.
To him, longing with an intensity which only the word Dantesque
will express to realize an ideal upon earth, and continually baffled and misunderstood, the far greater part of his mature life must have been labor and sorrow.
We can see how essential all that sad experience was to him, can understand why all the fairy stories hide the luck in the ugly black casket; but to him, then and there, how seemed it?
Come sa di sale
Thou shalt relinquish everything of thee,
Beloved most dearly; this that arrow is
Shot from the bow of exile first of all;
And thou shalt prove how salt a savor hath
The bread of others, and how hard a path
To climb and to descend the stranger's stairs!
Inferno, X. 85.
! Who never wet his bread with tears, 2