The Divine Comedy of Dante by H. W. Longfellow

Part 11 out of 11

Within the Danteum the Poet's meanings lurk in solid form. An example: the
Danteum design does have spaces literally associated with the Comedy--the
Dark Wood of Error, Inferno, Purgatorio, and the Paradiso--but these spaces
also relate among themselves spiritually. Dante often highlights a virtue
by first condemning its corruption. Within Dante's system Justice is the
greatest of the cardinal virtues; its corruption, Fraud, is the most
contemptible of vices. Because Dante saw the papacy as the most precious of
sacred institutions, corrupt popes figure prominently among the damned in
the Poet's Inferno. In the Danteum the materiality of the worldly Dark Wood
directly opposes the transcendence of the Paradiso. In the realm of error
every thought is lost and secular, while in heaven every soul's intent is
directed toward God. The shadowy Inferno of the Danteum mirrors the
Purgatorio's illuminated ascent to heaven. Purgatory embodies hope and
growth where hell chases its own dark inertia. Such is the cosmography
shared by Terragni and Dante.

In this postscript I intend neither to fully examine the meaning nor the
plan of the Danteum, but rather to evince the power that art has acted as a
catalyst to other artists. The Danteum, a modern design inspired by a
medieval poem, is but one example. Dante's poem is filled with characters
epitomizing the full range of vices and virtues of human personalities.
Dante's characters come from his present and literature's past; they are
mythological, biblical, classical, ancient, and medieval. They, rather than
Calliope and her sisters, were Dante's muses.

'La Divina Commedia' seems a natural candidate to complete Project


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