The cadence of this metaphor has the abundance and freshness of clear, flowing water. It likens Virgil, whom Dante views as the poet who taught him how to write, to multiple sources of inspiration: spring, well, fountain and river.
This liquid idea cascades naturally into James’ seashell simile which is ascribed memory of both the sea and the rainbow.
“Are you Virgil? Are you the spring, the well,
The fountain and the river in full flow
Of eloquence that sings like a seashell
Remembering the sea and the rainbow?”
‘Or se’ tu quel Virgilio e quella fonte
che spandi di parlar sì largo fiume …’
See another instance of Dante’s homage to Virgil and our illustrated quote-rich celebration of the Divine Comedy in Clive James’ superb translation.
Source: Dante,The Divine Comedy (Inferno, Canto 1), trans. Clive James (New York: Liveright Publishing, 2013), p. 6
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