Sunday, January 16, 2005

Dante's pride

Dante is widely considered to be one of the best poets of all time. This is a fact to which he seems to have been somewhat privy. Book III of Inferno, his guide leads him to meet the head of the poets, Homer, as well as the other masters of verse, Lucan, Ovid, and the immortal Publius Marco Virgilius himself. These men welcome Dante, after a brief conference by themselves, into their circle "as one of their number," not so subtly declaring him of equal poetic stature.
This seems prideful. On the literal level, one might disagree; if it happened, it happened. If, however, the contemporary interpretation is correct, that the Commedia is the creation of the imagination of a man from Florence, perhaps modelled in part after a mysterious "vision", but mostly a literary invention, created ex nihilo, then there seems to be no escape from descrying Dante as an overwhelmingly arrogant twit and a hopeless ass.
You can catch Dante in another work saying, and I paraphrase, "there is nothing so crass and uncivilised as to compliment oneself."How is the above narrative not a gross compliment to himself in story form?
If this is not pride, what is it?