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[67] from the Convito.1 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

1 Tr. IV. c. 22.

2 Purgatorio, 100-102.

3 Such is the selva oscura (Inferno, I. 2), such the selva erronea di questa tvita (Convito, Tr. IV. c. 24).

4 Convito, Tr. I. c. 13.

5 Convito, Tr. II. c. 2.

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