Now Dante himself, we think, gives us the clew, by following which we may reconcile the contradiction, what Miss Rossetti calls ‘the astounding discrepancy,’ between the Lady of the Vita Nuova who made him unfaithful to Beatrice, and the same Lady in the Convito, who in attributes is identical with Beatrice herself. We must remember that the prose part of the Convito, which is a comment on the Canzoni, was written after the Canzoni themselves. How long after we cannot say with certainty, but it was plainly composed at intervals, a part of it probably after Dante had entered upon old age (which began, as he tells us, with the forty-fifth year), consequently after 1310. Dante had then written a considerable part of the Divina Commedia, in which Beatrice was to go through her final and most ethereal transformation in his mind and memory. We say in his memory, for such idealizations have a
I led him with me turned in the right way.
As soon as ever of my second age
I was upon the threshold and changed life,
Himself from me he took and gave to others.
When from the flesh to spirit I ascended,
And beauty and virtue were in me increased,
I was to him less dear and less delightful,
And into ways untrue he turned his steps,
Pursuing the false images of good
That never any promises fulfil1
Nor prayer for inspiration me availed,2
By means of which in dreams and otherwise
I called him back, so little did he heed them.
So low he fell, that all appliances
For his salvation were already short
Save showing him the people of perdition.
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1 That is, wholly fulfil, rendono intera.
2 We should prefer here,
Nor inspirations won by prayer availed,as better expressing Ne la impetrare spirazion. Mr. Longfellow's translation is so admirable for its exactness as well as its beauty that it may be thankful for the minutest criticism, such only being possible.
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