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‘ [61] the intellectual virtue be well abstracted and absolved from every corporeal shadow, the Divine bounty is multiplied in it as in a thing sufficient to receive the same.’1 ‘And there are some who believe that if all the aforesaid virtues [powers] should unite for the production of a soul in their best disposition, so much of the Deity would descend into it that it would be almost another incarnate God.’2 Did Dante believe himself to be one of these? He certainly gives us reason to think so. He was born under fortunate stars, as he twice tells us,3 and he puts the middle of his own life at the thirty-fifth year, which is the period he assigns for it in the diviner sort of men.4

The stages of Dante's intellectual and moral growth may, we think, be reckoned with some approach to exactness from data supplied by himself. In the poems of the Vita Nuova, Beatrice, until her death, was to him simply a poetical ideal, a type of abstract beauty, chosen according to the fashion of the day after the manner of the Provencal poets, but in a less carnal sense than theirs. ‘And by the fourth nature of animals, that is, the sensitive, man has another love whereby he loves according to sensible appearance, even as a beast. . . . . And by the fifth and final nature, that is, the truly human, or, to speak better, angelic, that is, rational, man has a love for truth and virtue. . . . . Wherefore, since this nature is called mind, I said that love discoursed in my mind to make it understood that this love was that which is born in the noblest of natures, that is, [the love] of truth and virtue, and to shut out every false opinion by which it might be suspected that

1 Convito, Tr. IV. c. 21.

2 Convito, Tr. III. c. 7.

3 Inferno, X. 55, 56; Paradiso, XXII. 112-117.

4 Convito, Tr. I. c. 23 (cf. Inferno, I. IV).

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Jacopo Di Dante (2)
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