Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri, portrait completed by Sandro Botticelli, 1495

“The spheres initiate your tendencies:

not all of them – but even if they did, 

you have the light that shows you right from wrong,

And your Free Will, which, though it may grow faint

in its first struggles with the heavens, can still

surmount all obstacles if nurtured well…”

Translated by Mark Musa

Dante Alighieri – although among modern day readers he is commonly known as just Dante – was an Italian poet. He is best known for his Divine Comedy, which was initially only titled ‘Comedia’ until it was branded as Divinia by Giovanni Boccaccio.

Dante’s Divine Comedy is held as one of the most important literary texts of the Middle Ages. Innovative in both style and substance, Dante was also inventive in his language use as many writers and poets of the time were still using Latin in their work. However, Dante famously commended the use of more accessible and everyday vernacular in writing, which is why he preferred to write his own masterpiece(s) in Italian.

Classic and contemporary literary art owes a great debt to Dante and his work. Many portrait and paint artists borrowed – and, indeed, still do borrow – from Dante’s Heaven, Hell and Purgatory writing. It is also commonly believed that the likes of John Milton and Geoffrey Chaucer took great inspiration from Dante for their own works, too.

To add a final credit to Dante’s contributions to poetry, he is also believed to be the first poet to ever use a terza rima – or rather, a three-line rhyme scheme.

In celebration of world poetry, we believe Dante is a worthwhile poet spending some time with this week, and we’re very grateful to Nic for this excellent suggestion.