from the Convito
That this was Dante
's meaning is confirmed by what Beatrice
says to him,2
Short while shalt thou be here a forester (silvano）
And thou shalt be with me forevermore
A citizen of that Rome where Christ is Roman;
for by a ‘forest’ he always means the world of life and action.3
At the time when Dante
was writing the Canzoni
on which the Convito
was a comment, he believed science to be the ‘ultimate perfection itself, and not the way to it,’4
but before the Convito
was composed he had become aware of a higher and purer light, an inward light, in that Beatrice
, already clarified wellnigh to a mere image of the mind, ‘who lives in heaven with the angels, and on earth with my soul.’5
So spiritually does Dante
always present Beatrice
to us, even where most corporeal, as in the Vita Nuova
, that many, like Biscione and Rossetti
, have doubted her real existence.
But surely we must consent to believe that she who speaks of
The fair limbs wherein
I was enclosed, which scattered are in earth,
was once a creature of flesh and blood,—
A creature not too bright and good
For human nature's daily food.
When she died, Dante
's grief, like that of Constance, filled her room up with something fairer than the reality had ever been.
There is no idealizer like unavailing regret, all the more if it be a regret of fancy as much as of real feeling.
She early began to undergo