P.S. Dante’s salty bread

Credit: Fastily

Credit: Fastily

While a Kirkus Review item on Prue Shaw’s Dante book praises Shaw for showing us the genius of Dante’s work, there’s something else I’d like to mention — more of an aside than anything else — that is just as worthy as her assessment of that mighty poem.

The poet’s biography, embedded in the lines.

Not the major elements of his biography — not his encounters with actual friends and family members, enough’s said about that — I’m thinking more of stray, little bits that dramatically illustrate his own circumstances.

One is especially moving to me, my friends. Maybe it will be to you, too.

In Paradiso, canto 17, Dante speaks of his exile from Florence. Following a gorgeously-stunning line that I can’t help but think inspired Cavafy — Tu lascerai ogne cosa diletta/piu caramente… (“You leave behind everything that you love most dearly”), he continues:

Tu proverai si come sa di sale
lo pane altrui, e come e duro calle
lo scendere e ‘l salir per l’altrui scale.

(“You will know how salty is the taste of another’s bread, and how demanding a road it is to climb up and down another’s stairs”)

There’s the real cost of being exiled — the realization that one is lost comes with every bite of food and every movement through another’s house. (I’m sure that anyone who’s ever  had to sleep on a friend’s couch for a few weeks  can appreciate this sentiment.)

Shaw is oh-so wise to include it. Yet another way to remind us of the poet’s circumstances.

 

 

Advertisements

8 responses

  1. So fortunate to have found your blog, midway through this poet’s journey! We named our child Dante for good reason after meandering along the same Arno that Dante once walked.

  2. Well, actually, CotS, that’s my daughter’s name and she was inspired to become a surgeon. Maybe names do have a skosh of power. We were living in Florence and one thing led to another and…

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: