that the veneration of Dantophilists for their master is that of disciples for their saint.
Perhaps no other man could have called forth such an expression as that of Ruskin
, that ‘the central man of all the world, as representing in perfect balance the imaginative, moral, and intellectual faculties, all at their highest, is Dante
The first remark to be made upon the writings of Dante
is that they are all (with the possible exception of the treatise De Vulgari Eloquio
) autobiographic, and that all of them, including that, are parts of a mutually related system, of which the central point is the individuality and experience of the poet.
In the Vita Nuova
he recounts the story of his love for Beatrice Portinari
, showing how his grief for her loss turned his thoughts first inward upon his own consciousness, and, failing all help there, gradually upward through philosophy to religion, and so from a world of shadows to one of eternal substances.
It traces with exquisite unconsciousness the gradual but certain steps by which memory and imagination transubstantiated the woman of flesh and blood into a holy ideal, combining in one radiant symbol of sorrow and hope that faith which is the instinctive refuge of unavailing regret, that grace of God which higher natures learn to find in the trial which passeth all understanding, and that perfect womanhood, the dream of youth and the memory of maturity, which beckons toward the forever unattainable.
As a contribution to the physiology of genius, no other book is to be compared with the Vita Nuova
. It is more important to the understanding of Dante
as a poet than any other of his works.
It shows him (and that in the midst of affairs demanding practical ability and presence of mind) capable of a depth of contemplative abstraction, equalling that of a Soofi who has passed the fourth step of initiation.
It enables us in some