, knows ye not, ye heavenly powers!
Our nineteenth century made an idol of the noble lord who broke his heart in verse once every six months, but the fourteenth was lucky enough to produce and not to make an idol of that rarest earthly phenomenon, a man of genius who could hold heartbreak at bay for twenty years, and would not let himself die till he had done his task.
At the end of the Vita Nuova
, his first work, Dante
wrote down that remarkable aspiration that God would take him to himself after he had written of Beatrice
such things as were never yet written of woman.
It was literally fulfilled when the Commedia
was finished twenty-five years later.
Scarce was Dante
at rest in his grave when Italy
felt instinctively that this was her great man. Boccaccio
tells us that in 13291 Cardinal Poggetto
(du Poiet) caused Dante
's treatise De Monarchid
to be publicly burned at Bologna
, and proposed further to dig up and burn the bones of the poet at Ravenna
, as having been a heretic; but so much opposition was roused that he thought better of it. Yet this was duringthe pontificate of the Frenchman, John XXII., the reproof of whose simony Dante
puts in the mouth of St. Peter
, who declares his seat vacant,2
whose damnation the poet himself seems to prophesy,3
and against whose election he had endeavored to persuade the cardinals, in a vehement letter.
In 1350 the republic of Florence
voted the sum of ten golden florins to be paid by the hands of Messer Giovanni Boccaccio
's daughter Beatrice
, a nun in the convent of Santa Chiara
In 1396 Florence
voted a monument, and begged in vain for the metaphorical ashes of the man