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   'Ich habe unter meinen Papieren ein Blatt gefunden,
   
   wo ich die Baukunst eine erstarrte Musik nenne.'
   
   (Johann Wolfgang Goethe, 1829 March 23)
   	 I found Dante in a bar. The Poet had indeed lost the True Way to be
   found reduced to party chatter in a Capitol Hill basement, but I had found
   him at last. I must have been drinking in the Dark Tavern of Error, for I
   did not even realize I had begun the dolorous path followed by many since
   the Poet's journey of A.D. 1300. Actually no one spoke a word about Dante or
   his Divine Comedy, rather I heard a second-hand Goethe call architecture
   "frozen music." Soon I took my second step through the gate to a people
   lost; this time on a more respectable occasion--a lecture at the Catholic
   University of America. Clio, the muse of history, must have been aiding
   Prof. Schumacher that evening, because it sustained my full three-hour
   attention, even after I had just presented an all-night project. There I
   heard of a most astonishing Italian translation of 'la Divina Commedia' di
   Dante Alighieri. An Italian architect, Giuseppi Terragni, had translated the
   Comedy into the 'Danteum,' a projected stone and glass monument to Poet and
   Poem near the Basilica of Maxentius in Rome.
   
   	 Do not look for the Danteum in the Eternal City. In true Dantean form,
   politics stood in the way of its construction in 1938. Ironically this
   literature-inspired building can itself most easily be found in book form.
   Reading this book I remembered Goethe's quote about frozen music. Did
   Terragni try to freeze Dante's medieval miracle of song? Certainly a
   cold-poem seems artistically repulsive. Unflattering comparisons to the lake
   of Cocytus spring to mind too. While I cannot read Italian, I can read some
   German. After locating the original quotation I discovered that 'frozen' is
   a problematic (though common) translation of Goethe's original 'erstarrte.'
   The verb 'erstarren' more properly means 'to solidify' or 'to stiffen.' This
   suggests a chemical reaction in which the art does not necessarily chill in
   the transformation. Nor can simple thawing yield the original work. Like a
   chemical reaction it requires an artistic catalyst, a muse. Indeed the
   Danteum is not a physical translation of the Poem. Terragni thought it
   inappropriate to translate the Comedy literally into a non-literary work.
   The Danteum would not be a stage set, rather Terragni generated his design
   from the Comedy's structure, not its finishes.
   
   	 The poem is divided into three canticles of thirty-three cantos
   	 each, plus one extra in the first, the Inferno, making a total of
   	 one hundred cantos. Each canto is composed of three-line tercets,
   	 the first and third lines rhyme, the second line rhymes with the
   	 beginning of the next tercet, establishing a kind of overlap,
   	 reflected in the overlapping motif of the Danteum design. Dante's
   	 realms are further subdivided: the Inferno is composed of nine
   	 levels, the vestibule makes a tenth. Purgatory has seven terraces,
   	 plus two ledges in an ante-purgatory; adding these to the Earthly
   	 Paradise yields ten zones. Paradise is composed of nine heavens;
   	 Empyrean makes the tenth. In the Inferno, sinners are organized by
   	 three vices--Incontinence, Violence, and Fraud--and further
   	 subdivided by the seven deadly sins. In Purgatory, penance is
   	 ordered on the basis of three types of natural love. Paradise is
   	 organized on the basis of three types of Divine Love, and further
   	 subdivided according to the three theological and four cardinal
   	 virtues.
   
   	 (Thomas Schumacher, "The Danteum," Princeton Architectural Press,
   	 1993)
   
   	 By translating the structure, Terragni could then layer the literal and
   the spiritual meanings of the Poem without allowing either to dominate.
   These layers of meaning are native to the Divine Comedy as they are native
   to much medieval literature, although modern readers and tourists may not be
   so familiar with them. They are literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical.
   I offer you St. Thomas of Aquinas' definition of these last three as they
   relate to Sacred Scripture:
   
   	 . . .this spiritual sense has a threefold division. . .so far as
   	 the things of the Old Law signify the things of the New Law, there
   	 is the allegorical sense; so far as the things done in Christ, or
   	 so far as the things which signify Christ, are types of what we
   	 ought to do, there is the moral sense. But so far as they signify
   	 what relates to eternal glory, there is the anagogical sense.
   	 (Summa Theologica I, 1, 10)
   
   	 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
   Gutenberg's first milleditio and to begin its second thousand e-texts.
   Although distinctly medieval, its continuum of influence spans the
   Renaissance and modernity. Terragni saw his place within the Comedy as
   surely as Dante saw his own. We too fit within Dante's understanding of the
   human condition; we differ less from our past than we might like to believe.
   T. S. Eliot understood this when he wrote "Dante and Shakespeare divide the
   modern world between them, there is no third." So now Dante joins
   Shakespeare (e-text #100) in the Project Gutenberg collection. Two works
   that influenced Dante are also part of the collection: The Bible (#10) and
   Virgil's Aeneid (#227). Other major influences--St. Thomas of Aquinas' Summa
   Theologica, The Metamorphoses of Ovid, and Aristotle's Nicomachean
   Ethics--are available in electronic form at other Internet sites. If one
   searches enough he may even find a computer rendering of the Danteum on the
   Internet. By presenting this electronic text to Project Gutenberg it is my
   hope that in will not rest in a computer unknown and unread; it is my hope
   that artists will see themselves in the Divine Comedy and be inspired, just
   as Dante ran the paths left by Virgil and St. Thomas that led him to the
   stars.
   
   	 Dennis McCarthy, July 1997
   	 Atlanta, Georgia USA
   	 imprimatur@juno.com
   
   	 TECHNICAL NOTES
   
   	 Text that was originally in italics has been placed within single
   quotes ('italics'). Where italic text coincided with existing quotation
   marks it was not given any additional markup. Extended characters, used
   occasionally in the original, have been transcribed into 7-bit ASCII. To
   view the italics and special characters please refer to the HTML version of
   this e-text.
   
   	 End of the Project Gutenberg Etext of The Divine Comedy of Dante as
   translanted by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
   
   
   
   
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