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1 ‘Wisdom of Solomon,’ VII. 26, quoted by Dante (Convito, Tr. III. c. 15). There are other passages in the ‘Wisdom of Solomon’ besides that just cited which we may well believe Dante to have had in his mind when writing the Canzone beginning,—
Amor che nella mente mi ragiona,and the commentary upon it, and some to which his experience of life must have given an intenser meaning. The writer of that book also personifies Wisdom as the mistress of his soul: ‘I loved her and sought her out from my youth, I desired to make her my spouse, and I was a lover of her beauty.’ He says of Wisdom that she was ‘present when thou (God) madest the world,’ and Dante in the same way identifies her with the divine Logos, citing as authority the ‘beginning of the Gospel of John.’ He tells us, ‘I perceived that I could not otherwise obtain her except God gave her me,’ and Dante came at last to the same conclusion. Again, ‘For the very true beginning of her is the desire of discipline; and the care of discipline is love. And love is the keeping of her laws; and the giving heed unto her laws is the assurance of incorruption.’ But who can doubt that he read with a bitter exultation, and applied to himself passages like these which follow? ‘When the righteous fled from his brother's wrath, she guided him in right paths showed him the kingdom of God, and gave him knowledge of holy things. She defended him from his enemies and kept him safe from those that lay in wait, .... that he might know that godliness is stronger than all. .... She forsook him not, but delivered him from sin she went down with him into the pit, and left him not in bonds till she brought him the sceptre of the kingdom, . . . . . and gave him perpetual glory.’ It was, perhaps, from this book that Dante got the hint of making his punishments and penances typical of the sins that earned them. ‘Wherefore, whereas men lived dissolutely and unrighteously, thou hast tormented them with their own abominations.’ Dante was intimate with the Scriptures. They do even a scholar no harm. M. Victor Le Clerc, in his ‘Histoire Litteraire de la France au quatorzieme siecle’ (Tom. II. p. 72), thinks it ‘not impossible’ that a passage in the Lamentations of Jeremiah, paraphrased by Dante, may have been suggested to him by Rutebeuf or Tristan, rather than by the prophet himself! Dante would hardly have found himself so much at home in the company of jongleurs as in that of prophets. Yet he was familiar with French and Provencal poetry. Beside the evidence of the Vulgari Eloquio, there are frequent and broad traces in the Commedia of the Roman de la Rose, slighter ones of the Chevalier de la Charette, Guillaume d'orange, and a direct imitation of Bernard de Ventadour.
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