May 11, 2012

The Divine Comedy

A Medieval Journey Through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven

Loved the poetry.
Could have done with less
medieval astronomy.

This was my first reading of The Divine Comedy. I was blown away by some fragments of poetry. The amalgamation of classical and biblical references with modern (for Dante) political and religious intrigue was interesting. On the other hand, I kept losing the flow of the poem because I didn't recognize Dante's contemporary references--I had to either stop and check the notes or continue without understanding

The Divine Comedy takes a lot of its structure from Ptolemaic astronomy which I have very little familiarity with, so again, I depended heavily on the notes. It's kind of hard to know the constellations when you live in Tokyo and can usually see only a few stars at night.

After being totally engrossed by The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid, I found The Divine Comedy tough going. If it weren't for some insightful bits of beautiful poetry (like the one below on the inability for humans to fathom God's justice), I might have put the book down. A second reading will surely help, but I'm not interested enough in teh book to tackle it again right away.

"therefore, the vision that your world receives
can penetrate into Eternal Justice
no more than eye can penetrate the sea;
for though, near shore, sight reaches the sea floor,
you cannot reach it in the open sea;
yet it is there, but hidden by the deep."
Divine Comedy, Paradiso XIX, 58-63

The Divine Comedy - Dante Alighieri

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