Dante Alighieri: A Brief Biography
Written by: New Gresham Encyclopedia
Dante Alighieri, the great poet of Italy, "the voice of ten silent centuries," born in Florence; was of noble birth; showed early a great passion for learning; learned all that the schools and universities of the time could teach him "better than most"; fought as a soldier; did service as a citizen; at thirty-five filled the office of chief magistrate of Florence; had, while but a boy of ten, "met a certain Beatrice Portinari, a beautiful girl of his own age and rank, and had grown up in partial sight of her, in some distant intercourse with her," who became to him the ideal of all that was pure and noble and good; "made a great figure in his poem and a great figure in his life"; she died in 1290; he married another, "not happily, far from happily; in some civic Guelf-Ghibelline strife he was expelled the city, and his property confiscated; tried hard to recover it, even 'with arms in his hand,' but could not, and was doomed, 'whenever caught, to be burned alive'; invited to confess his guilt and return, he sternly answered: 'If I cannot return without calling myself guilty, I will never return.'" From this moment he was without home in this world; and "the great soul of Dante, homeless on earth, made its home more and more in that awful other world ... over which, this time-world, with its Florences and banishments, flutters as an unreal shadow." Dante's heart, long filled with this, brooding over it in speechless thought and awe, bursts forth at length into "mystic unfathomable song," and this, his "Divine Comedy" (q. v.), the most remarkable of all modern Books, is the result. He died after finishing it, not yet very old, at the age of 56. He lies buried in his death-city Ravenna, "shutout from my native shores." The Florentines begged back his body in a century after; the Ravenna people would not give it (1265-1321). See Carlyle's "Heroes and Hero-Worship," and Dean Plumptre's "Life of Dante."