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Dante's Lyric Poetry

Dante's Lyric Poetry: Poems of Youth and of the 'Vita Nuova'

Dante Alighieri
Edited with a general introduction and introductory essays to the lyrics by TEODOLINDA BAROLINI
With new verse translations of Dante’s lyric poetry by Richard Lansing
Commentary translated into English by Andrew Frisardi
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 344
  • Book Info
    Dante's Lyric Poetry
    Book Description:

    A wide-ranging and intelligent examination of one of the most important poets in the Western tradition, this book will be of interest to scholars and poetry-lovers alike.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-1689-9
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-2)
  3. Dante’s Lyric Poetry: From Editorial History to Hermeneutic Future
    (pp. 3-28)
    Teodolinda Barolini

    This commentary offers critical readings of Dante’s youthful lyrics (rimein Italian), spanning the years circa 1283 – circa 1292, and including the poems eventually inserted by Dante in theVita Nuova. My aim is to illuminate the conceptual itinerary that led a young courtly poet of the final decades of the thirteenth century to become the writer of the vast and visionaryCommedia. My readings of the poems work to shed light on the relationship of therimeto theCommedia, to show how the first inklings of thepoema sacrocan be found in the lyrics. Indeed, my...

  4. Editions Cited in the Introductory Essays and Notes
    (pp. 29-30)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. 31-32)
  6. Note on Italian Versification
    (pp. 33-34)
  7. RIME

    • Tenzone between Dante Alighieri and Dante da Maiano
      (pp. 37-42)

      The sonnetSavete giudicar vostra ragioneis Dante Alighieri’s response to a riddle-sonnet,Provedi, saggio, ad esta visïone, sent by Dante da Maiano to fellow poets requesting that they provide the “vera sentenza [true significance]” (2) of the vision he recounts.¹ Commonly held to be one of Dante Alighieri’s earliest poetic forays,Savete giudicaris generally dated to a little before 1283. This is the date indicated by Dante Alighieri in theVita Nuovafor his own erotic visionary riddle,A ciascun’alma presa e gentil core, a poem that also belongs to the correspondence between the two Dantes: Dante da...

    • La tenzone del duol d’amore
      (pp. 43-54)

      This exchange of sonnets between Dante Alighieri and Dante da Maiano is known as the “tenzone del duol d’amore [poetic exchange on the suffering of love],” so named by Flaminio Pellegrini in an essay of 1917. This set of sonnets compels us to confront a problem of attribution that arose because of an error in the text that contains them, the collection ofSonetti e canzoni di diversi antichi autori toscani (Sonnets and canzoni of diverse ancient Tuscan authors), printed by the publishing house of the Giunti brothers in Florence in 1527. The “Giuntina,” as it is known, is the...

    • Tenzone between Dante Alighieri and Dante da Maiano
      (pp. 55-57)

      This third and finaltenzonebetween the two Dantes poses the question of the ability of the will to withstand love. Although embedded in an exquisitely courtly dialogue, the theme here broached is fundamentally ethical, and is rooted in classical philosophy, in for instance Aristotle’s treatment of the will and compulsion (see Aristotle,Nicomachean Ethics3.1, for the distinction between voluntary and involuntary action).

      In the sonnetAmor mi fa sì fedelmente amareDante da Maiano wants to get Dante Alighieri to “agree” (“Provedi, amico saggio, se l’appruovi[Consider, learned friend, if you agree]” [14]) with the following proposition: it...

    • 5 A ciascun’alma presa e gentil core
      (pp. 58-62)

      In the sonnetA ciascun’alma presa e gentil coreDante addresses two categories of readers: all those who are in love – all the souls “prese,” seized, made captive by love – and all hearts that are “gentili,” noble. In another sonnet,Amore ’l cor gentil sono una cosa, Dante, following Guinizzelli, will explicitly state what here remains implicit: that these two categories are in truth one. If “Love and the noble heart are one sole thing,” as stated in the incipitAmore ’l cor gentil sono una cosa, it follows then that “every captive soul” is necessarily also a...

    • 6 Se Lippo amico sè tu che mi leggi
      (pp. 63-66)

      While on one handSe Lippo amicodemonstrates the evident immaturity of the poet, on the other hand it highlights his precocious literary sensibility.

      The poet’s youth shows in his use of non-Florentine rhymes and forms, such as rhyming theiof “scritto” with theeof “imprometto” and “metto” (defined by Contini as “Aretine, or better, Guittonian rhymes” [p. 22]), the past participle in the form “cognosciuda” (19), and, above all, in his deployment of the metrical form known assonetto rinterzato(literally “layered sonnet”) orsonetto doppio. The “layering” of thesonetto rinterzatois achieved by insertingsettenario...

    • 7 Lo meo servente core
      (pp. 67-69)

      This canzone, which consists of a single stanza, is plausibly Dante’s first canzone. Dante wrote two other single-strophe canzoni, also early compositions:Madonna, quel signor che voi portateandSì lungiamente m’ha tenuto Amore. The latter was placed inVita NuovaXXVII (18). The fact thatLo meo servente coreis the only canzone in Dante’s canon to open with asettenario(seven-syllable verse) is another indication of immaturity; later, in the post-exilic treatiseDe vulgari eloquentia, Dante formulates the principle whereby a canzone ought to begin with a hendecasyllable. For Contini, the incipit composed of asettenario“is a...

    • 8 O voi che per la via d’Amor passate First Redaction
      (pp. 70-73)

      Thissonetto rinterzato, judged by Barbi, precisely because asonetto rinterzato, to be “one of Dante’s oldest poems” (36), was placed by Dante in chapter VII (2) of theVita Nuova. Here it is printed not in the version of theVita Nuovabut in an earlier version written before that work, published by De Robertis in his edition of Dante’s lyrics. (See the Introduction to this volume for discussion of the thirteenVita Nuovapoems that exist in a first redaction.) It is a “lamentanza,” according to the definition of thelibello, where we are told that the sonnet...

    • 9 Piangete, amanti, poi che piange Amore
      (pp. 74-76)

      The sonnetsPiangete, amantiandMorte villanaare in the same chapter (VIII [3]) of theVita Nuova, where the prose is presented as occasioned by the death of a young woman who had been sometimes in Beatrice’s company. The sonnet is aplanctus: the word “Piangete” initiates the poem and the incipit then repeats the wordpiangere, subsequently reinforced by “plorare” (to cry) (2) and by “lamentare” (to lament) (10). The two poems placed together inVita NuovaVIII (3) are thus closely related to each other: the expression “villana Morte” that Dante uses at line 5 ofPiangete,...

    • 10 Morte villana, di pietà nemica
      (pp. 77-78)

      In thissonetto rinterzatomany of the same motifs that we found in the two preceding poems come together again; the three poems form a compact group within theVita Nuova. Morte villana, placed inVita NuovaVIII (3), shares withO voi che per la via d’Amor passate(Vita NuovaVII [2]) both the metrical form of asonetto rinterzatoand the typically courtly lexicon. Symptomatic, from this point of view, is the presence in both poems of the nounleggiadria/adjectiveleggiadro. InO voi che per la viathe “legiadro cor” of the courtly lover is destroyed when...

    • 11 La dispietata mente che pur mira
      (pp. 79-86)

      If we take the canzoneDonne ch’aveteas gauge of Dante’s fullstil novo, both from a stylistic point of view (exclusion of all obvious virtuosity, in order to achieve a paradoxical rhetoric of hyperbole that is not showily hyperbolic, of hyperbole that is somehow purified and plain) and from a thematic point of view (nothing is required of the lady, who is simply praised), the canzoneLa dispietata mentecan easily be placed in a period that precedes thestil novo. La dispietata mentenot only addresses the lady, asking her for her greeting, but it does so with...

    • 12 Madonna, quel signor che voi portate
      (pp. 87-89)

      This is a canzone stanza likeLo meo servente core, with whichMadonna, quel signorshares much more than the “archaic” metre already indicated as a point of convergence by Contini (p. 40) (the rhyme scheme is archaic in having only two rhymes in thefronte, in the repetition of rhymes of thefrontein thesirma, and in dividing thesirmainto twovolte). Contini follows Barbi in placing it between the two floral balladsPer una ghirlandettaandDeh, Vïoletta, both Cavalcantian in tone and style. He does so on the basis of the syntagma “soave fiore [delightful...

    • 13 Deh ragioniamo insieme un poco, Amore
      (pp. 90-93)

      Dante, while travelling, invites Love to converse with him: “ragioniamo insieme” (1). Convivial conversation will distract him from the “ira” (a Provençalism for “suffering,” “sorrow”) that makes him “feel anguish” (“pensare”): “Deh ragioniamo insieme un poco, Amore, / e tra’mi d’ira, che·mmi fa pensare [Come, Love, let’s set aside some time to talk, / to rescue me from thinking of my pain]” (1–2). In the company of Love the lover will exchange pain for pleasure, and the two will delight each other, talking together of the lady they share in common, “our lady” (“nostra donna”): “e se vuol l’un...

    • 14 Sonetto, se Meuccio t’è mostrato
      (pp. 94-96)

      LikeSe Lippo amico sè tu che mi leggi, this sonnet is sent to a friend (perhaps Meuccio Tolomei of Siena). The sonnet to Lippo accompanies the canzone stanzaLo meo servente core(“ti guido esta pulcella nuda [I bestow on you this unclothed girl]” [Se Lippo amico, 13]); similarly,Sonetto, se Meucciohas the task of bringing other poems as gifts. The sonnets are both personified, but while the one to Lippo speaks in the first person (“io che m’apello umil[e] sonetto [a humble sonnet I am called]” [10]), here it is the poet who speaks and gives instructions...

    • 15 Com più vi fere Amor co’ suo’ vincastri
      (pp. 97-99)

      The more Love hits you with his rods, his “vincastri” (vincastriare the staffs used by shepherds, as inInf. 24.14–15, where the shepherd “prende suo vincastro / e fuor le pecorelle a pascer caccia [takes his staff and drives the sheep out to pasture]”), the more he makes you ready and willing to obey him (“più li vi fate in ubidirlo presto” [2]). In other words, the more pain Love inflicts, the more we are obedient and compliant. This forceful and sexually suggestive opening is the advice (“consiglio” [3]) that Dante offers to an unknown interlocutor (in line...

    • 16 No me poriano zamai far emenda [Non mi poriano già mai fare ammenda] Two Redactions
      (pp. 100-103)

      This sonnet with a playful, anecdotal tone, called “la Garisenda” from the name of the famous tower in Bologna that it mentions, was transcribed, in Bolognese and without attribution, by the Bolognese notary Enrichetto delle Querce in his city record of 1287 (Memoriale Bolognese 69 [1287], c. 203v). It was then preserved under the name of Dante in various codices, of which the oldest is Chigiano L VIII 305 (a Tuscan codex produced between 1350 and 1375).37The attribution ofNo me porianoto Dante is accepted by Barbi, whose reasons, based on the authority of the Chigiano codex, are...

    • 17 Sonar bracchetti e cacciatori aizzare
      (pp. 104-109)

      To understandSonar bracchetti e cacciatori aizzareit is necessary to consider two other texts. I begin with the sonnetE di febbraio vi dono bella cacciafrom the sonnet cycle on the courtly pastimes enjoyed during each of the months of the year, written by Folgore da San Gimignano, Dante’s contemporary (ca. 1270–ca. 1332). InE di febbraio, his sonnet on February, Folgore writes about the chivalrous pleasures of the hunt:

      E di febbraio vi dono bella caccia

      di cerbi, cavriuoli e di cinghiari,

      corte gonnelle con grossi calzari,

      e compagnia che vi diletti e piaccia;

      can da...

    • 18 Volgete gli occhi a veder chi mi tira
      (pp. 110-112)

      Volgete gli occhiopens with an existential drama: the poet must choose between his friends and Love. This sonnet is thematically connected withSonar bracchetti, where the poet feels obliged to be with the ladies instead of participating in the hunt with his friends. As inSonar bracchetti, Volgete gli occhitakes its cue from the internal conflict of the poet, who is here literally tugged in two opposing directions: his friends are on one side beckoning to him to come with them and Love is on the other, pulling him. He had intended to be with his friends; hence...

    • 19 Guido, i’ vorrei che tu e Lapo ed io
      (pp. 113-121)

      In this sonnet Dante writes about friendship, a subset of love.⁴⁵ Friendship is one of Dante’s great themes, with roots in his earliest lyrics, as discussed in the introductory essays toDeh ragioniamo, Sonar bracchetti, andVolgete gli occhi. The social life of a group of male friends is common toGuido, i’ vorrei, Sonar bracchetti, andVolgete gli occhi; only inGuido, i’ vorrei, however, do we find Dante linking friendship to poetry. The friends named inGuido, i’ vorreiinclude at least one poet, Guido Cavalcanti, and more than one poet if we take “Lapo” to refer, as...

    • 20 Amore e monna Lagia e Guido ed io
      (pp. 122-126)

      My decision to include this sonnet despite the not complete certainty of its textual tradition is based on various considerations.Amore e monna Lagiais, among the lyrics of uncertain attribution, the one traditionally held to be most certain: Barbi places it first in a list that moves from more to less certainty of Dantean paternity; and Contini, while following Barbi in placing it among the “Rime dubbie,” writes that “the attribution to Dante can be considered secure” (p. 229). Two codices give the sonnet to Cavalcanti, only one (less authoritative) to Dante, but, “if the problem is to choose...

    • 21 Per una ghirlandetta
      (pp. 127-130)

      The commentators, De Robertis included, usually place this poem, aballata, in a small cluster that also containsMadonna, quel signor che voi portateandDeh, Vïoletta, che ’n ombra d’Amore. The canzone-stanzaMadonna, quel signoris traditionally included in this group on the strength of the “soave fiore [delightful flower]” of line 15, but its decidedly Sicilian and Occitan-inspired manner has convinced me to move it forward.Per una ghirlandettaandDeh, Vïolettaremain together in my order, and in a position in which they can bear witness to the increasing importance of Guido Cavalcanti’s poetry in the production...

    • 22 Deh, Vïoletta, che ’n ombra d’Amore
      (pp. 131-133)

      Thisballatais less delicately ornamental and more passionate thanPer una ghirlandetta. With the exception of the lady’s name, Violetta, which is mentioned two times, the floral motif is absent and now the lover, instead of “sospirare ogni fiore” (sighing at all flowers) (Per una ghirlandetta, 3), more conventionally asks the lady to have “pietà del cor che tu feristi, / che spera in te e disïando more [pity on the heart that you did wound, / which trusts in you and dies now of desire]” (Deh, Vïoletta, 3–4).

      The dominant motif inDeh, Vïolettais the fire...

    • 23 Cavalcando l’altr’ier per un cammino
      (pp. 134-137)

      This sonnet, placed by Dante inVita NuovaIX (4), describes a journey and an encounter between the lover and Love. Perhaps because of the journey motif, its pace is more narrative than lyrical. The lover is unhappy because he finds the journey that he is taking unpleasant; he is “pensoso de l’andar che mi sgradia [taking little pleasure as (he goes)]” (2). The sonnet does not explain why the journey is disagreeable, but one presumes that the cause of suffering is the distance from the lady about whom Love speaks: “e disse: ‘Io vegno di lontana parte, / ov’era...

    • 24 Ballata, i’ voi che tu ritrovi Amore
      (pp. 138-142)

      The longest of Dante’s sixballate, Ballata, i’ voiis the onlyballataincluded in theVita Nuova, where Dante places it in chapter XII (5). With the sonnetCavalcando l’altr’ierthat precedes it and the four sonnets that follow, it is part of an arc of texts that together constitute the most manifestly Cavalcantian section of theVita Nuova. In the case of this composition, the Cavalcantian turn is further marked by the presence of a genre much favoured by Guido, as is underscored by the first word, which is both technical and metapoetic: “Ballata.”

      However, differently from the...

    • 25 Tutti li miei penser parlan d’Amore
      (pp. 143-145)

      The incipit ofTutti li miei penserannounces the theme, dear to the troubadours, of conflicting thoughts: among the examples of similar Occitan verses proposed by Barbi-Maggini (p. 60), critical attention has settled on the incipit by Peire Vidal,Tuiz mei cossir son d’amor et de chan. The poet’s thoughts are united in all talking of Love – “Tuttili miei penser parlan d’Amore [Allmy thoughts now speak to me of Love]” – but they show great variety of perspective: “e hanno in lor sì gran varietate [and yet they share such great diversity]” (2).

      The various points of...

    • 26 Con l’altre donne mia vista gabbate First Redaction
      (pp. 146-148)

      In this sonnet, based on the motif, conventional in the Occitan lyric, of the “gabbo” (the act of making fun of, teasing), the poet addressesmadonnadirectly. That lack of screens or mediators is notable; not only does the poet talk tomadonnawithout intermediaries but he does it in a particularly sharp way, expressing himself in the present as if the action he is complaining about were contemporary to the act of writing: “Con l’altre donne mia vista gabbate / e non guardate, donna, onde si mova [With other ladies you deride my looks, / not thinking, lady, how...

    • 27 Ciò che m’incontra, nella mente more First Redaction
      (pp. 149-152)

      This sonnet, placed by Dante inVita NuovaXV (8) but here printed in the earlier redaction put forward by De Robertis, is at the centre of the Cavalcantian section of thelibello. The motif of thegabbo, dominant inCon l’altre donne mia vista gabbate, is here taken up again in a minor key: thus “ ’l vostro gabbo” at line 12. The dominant motif is now the erotic death of the courtly lyric: thus, “il vostro gabbo ancide [your mocking slays].” De Robertis comments that the verb “more” (dies) of the incipit, “which is, in any case, a...

    • 28 Spesse fiate vegnonmi a la mente
      (pp. 153-155)

      Spesse fiate vegnonmi a la menteis the last poem of the Cavalcantian section of theVita Nuova, which stretches fromCavalcando l’altr’ierto the discovery of the new style inDonne ch’avete. LikeCiò che m’incontra, it places the narrating self at the centre of the discourse. Placed by Dante inVita NuovaXVI (9), this sonnet leaves behind the theme of thegabboto focus on the “dark” state of the lover – the “oscure qualità” inflicted on him by Love – and on the consequent pity that he feels for himself. The motif of self-pity, very Cavalcantian...

    • 29 Degli occhi della mia donna si move
      (pp. 156-157)

      We have reached the point in Dante’s trajectory in which Cavalcantian influence begins not so much to lose its grip as to mingle with Guinizzellian motifs. Contini definesDegli occhi della mia donnaas “a typical and one might say averagestil novosonnet,” because “to the general Guinizzellian motif of the salutary lady, of the extraordinary effects of her gaze,” with which the sonnet opens “is added the Cavalcantian motif of ‘paura’ [fear]” (p. 55), a theme that we have seen inCiò che m’incontraandSpesse fiate. This formula of uniting Guinizzellian and Cavalcantian motifs will be elaborated,...

    • 30 Ne le man vostre, gentil donna mia
      (pp. 158-160)

      The sonnet has an explicitly biblical opening, for the first words of the poet-lover, “Ne le man vostre, gentil donna mia, / raccomando lo spirito che more [My gentle noble lady, in your hands / I now entrust my spirit as it dies],” echo the words of Christ on the cross: “In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum [Into your hands I commend my spirit]” (Luke 23:46). The lover, as he “dies,” addresses his lady with the words that Christ – as he died – spoke to God. In the analogy established by these lines, the lover is compared to Christ...

    • 31 Lo doloroso amor che mi conduce
      (pp. 161-169)

      As clearly indicated by its first words, the canzoneLo doloroso amoris about “painful love.” Barbi placesLo doloroso amorimmediately after the other great early canzone of tormented and sorrowful love,E’ m’incresce di me sì duramente. Contini follows Barbi with respect to placement, here as elsewhere, noting, however, that “in an ideal chronology of therime dolorosefor Beatrice, this canzone is certainly the oldest” (p. 67). Features that support an early date of composition are the two unrhymed lines in every stanza and in thecongedo, thecongedothat does not correspond to thesirma, and...

    • 32 E’ m’incresce di me sì duramente
      (pp. 170-176)

      Whether or not as a result of its scandalous thematic content,Lo doloroso amorexperienced an anomalous reception: it was not included by Boccaccio in his group of fifteen heavily anthologized canzoni. In the case ofE’ m’incresce di me, such marginalization did not occur, but this canzone – also sorrowful, also theologized; if anything, even more theologized, with features that approach theVita Nuova– joins its fellow in its ability to provoke scholarly anxiety. Such anxiety was expressed in the futilequerelleon the identity of the murderous lady ofE’ m’incresce di me, and in the prolonged...

    • 33 Donne ch’avete intelletto d’amore
      (pp. 177-187)

      Among his own canzoni,Donne ch’avetewas Dante’s personal favourite. In two key moments of his writer’s life – in theVita Nuovaand then in theCommedia– Dante cites it and explicitly states that for him it holds a privileged place, and that he assigns it a central role in constructing his identity as poet, in his poetic autobiography. In the linguistic treatiseDe vulgari eloquentia, where Dante cites several of his own canzoni,Donne ch’aveteagain holds a prominent position, cited where the canzone genre is defined (2.8) and again as an example of a canzone whose...

    • 34 Amore e ’l cor gentil sono una cosa
      (pp. 188-190)

      Dante placed the sonnetAmore e ’l cor gentil sono una cosaright afterDonne ch’avete, inVita NuovaXX (11). This placement is significant; inPurgatorio24 the “nove rime” (new lyrics) are said to begin withDonne ch’avete intelletto d’amore: “Ma dì s’i’ veggio qui colui che fore / trasse le nove rime, cominciando /Donne ch’avete intelletto d’amore[But tell me if I see here the one who brought forth the new lyrics, beginningDonne ch’avete intelletto d’amore]” (Purg. 24.49–51). As noted previously, theVita Nuovais also the history of Dante’s poetic journey, the history...

    • 35 Negli occhi porta la mia donna Amore First Redaction
      (pp. 191-193)

      In the introductory prose to this sonnet inVita NuovaXXI (12), Dante linksNegli occhi porta la mia donna Amoreto the preceding sonnet,Amore e ’l cor gentil sono una cosa. While the “donna saggia” ofAmore e ’l cor gentilis capable of “awakening” love that “sleeps” in the heart of the noble lover, Beatrice operates so miraculously (“mirabilmente operando”) that she can cause love to come about even where it did not exist before: “Poscia che trattai d’Amore ne la soprascritta rima, vennemi volontade di volere dire anche in loda di questa gentilissima parole, per le...

    • 36 Voi che portate la sembianza umile
      (pp. 194-197)

      This sonnet and its companion piece,Se’ tu colui c’ hai tratto sovente, belong to the same narrative moment in theVita Nuova, where they are anthologized together by Dante in chapter XXII (13). They belong to a group of four sonnets, of which two are included in theVita Nuovaand two are left out of it, thus offering the critic a rare and important opportunity to reflect on Dante’s editorial choices with respect to thelibello. We will return to the question of inclusion/exclusion in the comments on the excluded sonnets,Onde venite voi così pensose? and Voi...

    • 37 Se’ tu colui c’ hai trattato sovente
      (pp. 198-200)

      The narrative premise of the prose framework ofVita NuovaXXII (13) is the death of Beatrice’s father and the consequent suffering not only of thegentilissimabut also of her companions. In essence the framework of chapter XXII (13) is that of the “corrotto” (archaic term for funeral lament). Beatrice’s companions are the ladies with whom Dante imagines an encounter and dialogue not permitted in the social reality in which he lives. The dialogue not permitted in the prose ofVita NuovaXXII (13), but dearly wished for by him, is realized in a series of sonnets. These take...

    • 38 Onde venite voi così pensose?
      (pp. 201-202)

      In this sonnet, as inVoi che portate la sembianza umile, the poet sees some ladies pass by “pensose [distraught],” and he questions them to find out whence they come: “Onde venite voi così pensose? [Where have you been that makes you so distraught?]” Is a visit tomadonnathe cause of their grief?: “Ditemel, s’a voi piace, in cortesia, / ch’i’ ho dottanza che·lla donna mia / non vi faccia tornar così dogliose [Please tell me, in the name of courtesy, / because I fear my lady is the reason / your return is burdened with such pain]” (2...

    • 39 Voi donne, che pietoso atto mostrate
      (pp. 203-205)

      Voi donne, che pietoso atto mostrateconcentrates within itself the imaginarytenzoneenacted by the two sonnets set inVita NuovaXXII (13),Voi che portateandSe’ tu colui. The octave ofVoi donnecontains the questions that the poet addresses to the ladies (elaborated inVoi che portate), and the sestet contains their response (elaborated inSe’ tu colui), leading Contini to the conclusion that “Voi donneis certainly prior to the final arrangement” (p. 76). Even if generally considered superior to the preceding sonnet, given the excessive self-pity ofOnde venite, Voi donnestill demonstrates clear traces...

    • 40 Donna pietosa e di novella etate
      (pp. 206-218)

      OfDonna pietosa, Foster-Boyde write that it has been “since the nineteenth century the most admired of Dante’s early canzoni” (p. 114). This popularity says much about the challenge represented byDonne ch’aveteand its radical work of theologizing the courtly tradition, and by contrast indicates the more accessible nature ofDonna pietosa, a canzone of pronounced narrativity and remarkable dramatic flourish. AlthoughDonna pietosais also highly theologized, its visionary fabric renders its “theology” less severe (more “Gothic,” in the nineteenth-century sense) and more responsive to our tastes than the sermonizing divinity ofDonne ch’avete. Moreover, Dante’s dream of...

    • 41 Un dì si venne a me Malinconia
      (pp. 219-221)

      In the sonnetUn dì si venne a me Malinconia, Dante personifies his emotions – “Malinconia [Melancholy]” (1), “Dolore ed Ira [Sorrow and Distress]” (4), and “Amor [Love]” (8) – to express his “presentiment” of his lady’s death. Her pending death will be announced by Love at the end of the sonnet, in a concise dialogue between Love and the narrator: “Ed io li dissi: ‘Che hai tu, cattivello?’ / E lui rispose: ‘Io ho guai e pensero, / ché nostra donna muor, dolce fratello’ [I said to him: ‘What troubles you, poor man?’ / And he replied: ‘I mourn...

    • 42 Io mi senti’ svegliar dentro a lo core
      (pp. 222-225)

      The sonnetIo mi senti’ svegliar dentro a lo core, placed by Dante in chapter XXIV (15) of theVita Nuova, is among the most obvious examples of texts whose original sense is modified almost beyond recognition by the prose of thelibello. The sonnet celebrates Love and the beloved ladies who are named in it: calling the ladies by name is without a doubt the most original aspect of the poem. The content takes the form of a two-part procession: first arrives Love and then in a second installment arrive the two ladies who are celebrated and named by...

    • 43 Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare First Redaction
      (pp. 226-231)

      The sonnetTanto gentile e tanto onesta pareis among the most celebrated and anthologized in Italian literature. It was inserted into chapter XXVI (17) of theVita Nuova, where it exemplifies the resumption of thestilo de la sua loda, the style that Dante will later call thedolce stil novo, dedicated to the praise ofmadonna’s virtuous and miraculous effects. In this chapter of thelibelloDante returns to the theme of praise – developed earlier, in the great canzoneDonne ch’aveteand in the sonnetNegli occhi porta la mia donna Amore– but then put aside...

    • 44 Vede perfettamente ogne salute First Redaction
      (pp. 232-235)

      The sonnetVede perfettamente ogne saluteaccompanies and followsTanto gentile e tanto onesta parein chapter XXVI (17) of theVita Nuova, where it too is featured as an example of the praise style. In the case of this sonnet, as with its companion piece, the redaction reproduced here is not that of theVita Nuovabut the earlier redaction as it appears in De Robertis. As compared toTanto gentile, there are no interesting variants of an ideological nature between the first and second redactions ofVede perfettamente.

      Contini and De Robertis considerVede perfettamenteto be chronologically...

    • 45 Di donne io vidi una gentil schiera
      (pp. 236-238)

      While Contini labelsDi donne io vidi“a true anthology of the most ordinary stilnovist themes” (p. 71), I see it as rather more interesting. This sonnet is distinguished from other stilnovist poems by the temporal precision with which it situates itself on a specific date of the Florentine calendar. The action is immediately declared to have occurred on the most recent All Saints’ Day: “Di donne io vidi una gentil schiera / quest’Ognisanti prossimo passato [I saw a band of lovely ladies meet / on All Saints’ Day not very long ago]” (1–2). The specific reference to the...

    • 46 Sì lungiamente m’ha tenuto Amore
      (pp. 239-242)

      The poemSì lungiamente m’ha tenuto Amoreis placed by Dante inVita NuovaXXVII (18). From the thematic point of view,Sì lungiamentereturns to the effects thatmadonnahas on the lover. If, in the preceding chapter, the poet illustrates the effects that she has on everyone (“propuosi di dicere parole, ne le quali io dessi ad intendere de le sue mirabili ed eccellenti operazioni [I planned to compose a poem in which I would describe some of the wondrous and excellent effects she brought about]” [VNXXVI.4 (17.4)]), in chapter XXVII (18) he wants to compensate for...

    • 47 Li occhi dolenti per pietà del core
      (pp. 243-253)

      Li occhi dolenti per pietà del coreis the canzone in which Dante announces the death of Beatrice. Let me be clear: this is not the canzone that rehearses presentiments of the death of the beloved (Donna pietosa); this is the canzone that announces her death after it has in fact occurred. Placed in chapter XXXI (20) of theVita Nuova, where it assumes the position of the fourth canzone of thelibello, Li occhi dolentiis composed of five stanzas of fourteen lines each (the same stanza length of the earlier canzoni in theVita Nuova), plus a congedo....

    • 48 Venite a ’ntender li sospiri miei First Redaction
      (pp. 254-255)

      The sonnetVenite a ’ntender li sospiri mieiwas placed inVita NuovaXXXII (21), where it reprises the theme of mourning just treated in the great canzone that comes before it. In the sonnet the poet addresses himself to the “cor’ gentili [gracious hearts]” (2), as inLi occhi dolentihe had addressed the “donne gentili [gentle ladies]” (9), and invites them, since pity requires it, to “ ’ntender li sospiri miei … li quali sconsolati vanno via [listen to the sighs that issue forth in discontent]” (3). The adjective “sconsolati,” here applied to the lover’s sighs, echoes “disconsolata”...

    • 49 Quantunque volte, lasso!, mi rimembra
      (pp. 256-258)

      Quantunque volte, a canzone of two stanzas with thirteen lines each, was placed by Dante inVita NuovaXXXIII (22), as the fifth and final canzone of thelibello. The prose frame of theVita Nuovaemphasizes the relationship with Beatrice’s brother, established in the previous chapter:Venite a ’ntender, the sonnet offered (conjecturally) to Manetto Portinari in the preceding chapter, is not a sufficient homage, and therefore “dissi due stanzie d’una canzone, l’una per costui veracemente, e l’altra per me, avvegna che paia l’una e l’altra per una persona detta, a chi non guarda sottilmente [I wrote two stanzas...

    • 50 Era venuta nella mente mia [Era venuta ne la mente mia] First Redaction and Redaction of the Vita Nuova
      (pp. 259-264)

      The gloss proposed forQuantunque volteis valid as well forEra venuta nella mente mia: of this sonnet too we can say that theologized features have been grafted onto an originally quite Cavalcantian core. This sonnet exists in a pre–Vita Nuovaredaction, and so, as customary, it is presented here in the early redaction. There are, however, further complications in the case ofEra venuta, since in theVita Nuovaredaction Dante adds not only lexical touches but even what he calls a new “beginning” in the form of a new first quatrain. He does not substitute the...

    • 51 Videro gli occhi miei quanta pietate First Redaction
      (pp. 265-270)

      The sonnetVidero gli occhi miei quanta pietate, which is reproduced here in the version prior to the one in theVita Nuova, was placed by Dante in chapter XXXV (24) of thelibello. It is the first of the sonnets dedicated to the episode of the so-calleddonna gentileordonna pietosa, a label taken from the prose. (I will use the locutiondonna gentile, to distinguish this lady from the otherdonna pietosaof the canzoneDonna pietosa e di novella etate.) The episode of thedonna gentilecovers chapters XXXV–XXXIX (24–8) of theVita Nuova...

    • 52 Color d’amore e di pietà sembianti First Redaction
      (pp. 271-274)

      The sonnetColor d’amore e di pietà sembianti, which is reproduced here in the version that precedes the one in theVita Nuova, was later placed by Dante in chapter XXXVI (25) of thelibello, where it reprises the themes explored byVidero gli occhi mieiof the preceding chapter. It belongs to the cycle of lyrics that in theVita Nuovais dedicated to the encounter with thedonna gentile. If considered in a wider context, these poems treat “new love” and the fickleness of the will. This theme will be amply developed in Dante’s poetry, culminating in the...

    • 53 L’amaro lagrimar che voi faceste
      (pp. 275-279)

      L’amaro lagrimardoes not exist in a redaction prior to the one in theVita Nuovaand so is not included in his edition of theRimeby De Robertis, with the result that I reproduce the poem as it is printed in De Robertis’Vita Nuova. Interestingly, however, De Robertis goes out of his way to note, with respect to this poem and its successor, that an earlier redaction is probable: “it may be that this poem [L’amaro lagrimar] and the following poem,Gentil pensero, had their own tradition prior to the book [Vita Nuova], without however there being...

    • 54 Gentil pensero che parla di vui
      (pp. 280-285)

      LikeL’amaro lagrimar, the sonnetGentil penserois preserved only in the redaction in theVita Nuova, although for both these poems De Robertis does not exclude the possibility of a first redaction that has not reached us: “it may be that this poem [L’amaro lagrimar] and the following poem,Gentil pensero, had their own tradition prior to the book [Vita Nuova], without however there being any textual divergence” (ed. comm., p. 411). Even without the existence of a pre–Vita Nuovaredaction,Gentil penserohas a substantial part to play in reconstructing Dante’s poetic autobiography. The first canzone of...

    • 55 Lasso, per forza di molti sospiri First Redaction
      (pp. 286-289)

      The sonnetLasso, per forza di molti sospiriwas placed by Dante inVita NuovaXXXIX (28), where it signals the end of thedonna gentileepisode. A vision of Beatrice, in which he sees her wearing the same crimson clothes in which she first appeared, puts the poet again on thedritta via. After the vision, Dante’s heart repents the “desire by which it so basely had let itself be seized for a number of days against the constancy of reason” (“desiderio a cui sì vilmente s’avea lasciato possedere alquanti die contra la costanzia de la ragione”) (VNXXXIX.2...

    • 56 Deh pellegrini che pensosi andate First Redaction
      (pp. 290-293)

      This sonnet, reproduced here in the redaction prior to the one in theVita Nuova, was placed by Dante in chapter XL (29) of thelibello, where it signals the turn towards the book’s conclusion. The prose explains that the poet, now reconsecrated to Beatrice, sees pilgrims passing through Florence, “pensosi [absorbed in thought]” but not in tears, and deduces that they are coming from far away – otherwise they would be sad and weeping over the death of Beatrice: “Poi dicea fra me medesimo: ‘Io so che s’elli fossero di propinquo paese, in alcuna vista parrebbero turbati passando per...

    • 57 Oltra la spera che più larga gira First Redaction
      (pp. 294-300)

      The extraordinary nature of this sonnet, placed by Dante in chapter XLI (30) of theVita Nuovaas its last poetic text, is evident from its first word:Oltra la sperais the only Dantean lyric to begin with the adverboltra(a variant ofoltre, beyond).144InParadiso26 Dante has Adam confess that his sin consisted in “il trapassar del segno [going beyond the boundary]” (Par. 26.117), and Dante’s sublime “Ulyssean” adventure of going beyond –trapassare, or andare oltre– is already clearly glimpsed in the incipit of this sonnet.145De Robertis indicates that “Oltra” should be...

    • 58 Per quella via che la Bellezza corre [Per quella via che·lla Bellezza corre] Two Redactions
      (pp. 301-308)

      In his 2002 critical edition of theRime, De Robertis intervenes in the reception of this sonnet, printing two redactions of it: one with the heading “versione ar” and the other with the heading “il medesimo in lezione Am Mc¹” (“the same in the Am Mc¹ reading”) (vol. 3, pp. 350–1). In his introductory essay to the sonnet, De Robertis presents the two redactions as equally valid from a philological perspective: he states categorically that there are no reasons for considering one version preferable to the other. The philologist urges us to consistency, not choice. If we choose a...

  8. Alphabetic Index of First Lines
    (pp. 309-310)
  9. General Index
    (pp. 311-335)