There is another possible, and even probable, theory which would reconcile the Beatrice of the Purgatorio with her of the Vita Nuova. Suppose that even in the latter she signified Theology, or at least some influence that turned his thoughts to God? Pietro di Dante, commenting the pargoletta passage in the Purgatorio, says expressly that the poet had at one time given himself to the study of theology and deserted it for poesy and other mundane sciences. This must refer to a period beginning before 1290. Again there is an early tradition that Dante in his youth had been a novice in a Franciscan convent, but never took the vows. Buti affirms this expressly in his comment on Inferno, XVI. 106-123. It is perhaps slightly confirmed by what Dante says in the Convito,1 that ‘one cannot only turn to Religion by making himself like in habit and life to St. Benedict, St. Augustine, St. Francis, and St. Dominic, but likewise one may turn to good and true religion in a state of matrimony, for God wills no religion in us but of the heart.’ If he had ever thought of taking monastic vows, his marriage would have cut short any such intention. If he ever wished to wed the real Beatrice Portinari, and was disappointed, might not this be the time when his thoughts took that direction? If so, the impulse came indirectly, at least, from her. We have admitted that Beatrice Portinari was a real creature,
Which used to be the cause
First of a sad and then a gracious boon.Inferno, XXXI. 5, 6.
Col sangue suo e con le sue giunture;but how real she was, and whether as real to the poet's memory as to his imagination, may fairly be