A poet’s prayer

A poet’s prayer

In fact, a prayer for any writer. Having just read John Drury’s marvelous appreciation of George Herbert’s life and his vivifying skills of poetry, I am more conscious than usual of the need for such fortifying.  Drury’s Music at Midnight is, among...
Slow words emerging

Slow words emerging

A halting mode of speech, the words slow-emerging, like the tearing of pages from a long-closed book. That is how Dante’s translator presents us with the first encounter with Virgil, who would be his guide through much of his journey.’His words emerged: as...
All-encompassing flow

All-encompassing flow

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...
The urge of bees

The urge of bees

A charming way to convey the genesis of ideas or desires, likening them to the urge of bees to make honey. They are already buzzing about our garden, prodding nooks and crannies for suitable nests.’It follows that the human intellectCan’t have the first...
The sin of fence-sitting

The sin of fence-sitting

Clearly, sitting on the fence, hedging your bets, watching which way the wind blows, is a sin which leads to hell and a suitably inverted punishment.For having never run in one direction or another in your life (‘never-living sprinters’), you are condemned...
Frayed by sin

Frayed by sin

A surprising one, this, as sin is often presented, nowadays, as socially acceptable, even desirable ‘vice’ – something naughty-but-nice, essentially pleasurable and barely tainted by guilt (or is guilt the only sin left?)Dante suggests instead that...
As the falcon flies

As the falcon flies

Even the rhythm of this simile conveys something of a great bird’s single, confident swoop to land precisely on a specific, awaiting glove.’But flying, as the falcon to the gloveSwoops home when signalled.’For another sleek and powerful bird in...
As dogs in summer

As dogs in summer

Desperate people, condemned to eternal infernal cruelties, are likened to dogs failing to fight off the tiny tormenting assaults of insects.’On either side their hands beat in defenceNow from the flames, now from the burning sand,As dogs in summer fight the...
And this is anger

And this is anger

Dante’s description of Anger is gloriously conveyed in Clive James’ translation by the delicious echo of ‘plots and plans’ in ‘pots and pans’.  And reduced to but a clattering din in the house, you have to wonder if it’s worth...
As it sounded, so it looked

As it sounded, so it looked

In the preface to his marvelous translation of Dante, Clive James mentions the poet’s pithiness.  I can’t judge it in the original Italian, but it certainly comes through his English version.So I liked this example, a summary conclusion that things really...
Light-stream interplay

Light-stream interplay

The dancing dust of a sunbeam also glimmering as a mirror hall for fireflies.  What a bright image. ‘A light-stream interplay, a mirror hallFor fireflies…’ (Paradise, Canto 22)See also our illustrated quote-rich celebration of Dante’s Divine...
Well-ordered spirit

Well-ordered spirit

Three simple words perhaps summing up the pinnacle of much spiritual seeking, especially if once reached, it spills over with positive energy.  Or call it love, Dante did, and George Herbert would have.’So sweetly the well-ordered spirit swellsWith...
New-grown green

New-grown green

At the precocious signal of spring, I see new-grown green peeping all about. And isn’t that a sweet scene, sitting on a tree root surrounded with ‘just’ the seven virtues. So understated, so immense. ‘Look there beneath that new-grown...
Synaesthetic sound

Synaesthetic sound

An early evocation of synaesthesia – I like Dante’s portrayal of a voice in terms of visibility. This is from Clive James’ superb translation. ‘And yet He said these wise things visibly -I mean that you could see the sound …’ ...

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