WeWriWa—The three physiological spirits


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now sharing from a brand-new project, an alternative history with the working title is A Dream of Peacocks. My synopsis is still a work in progress, but here’s the beginning:

What if one of the most famous love stories in history wasn’t unrequited?

When Dante Alighieri and Beatrice Portinari meet as children on May Day 1274, they’re instantly drawn to one another with a strong, precocious love. Their dreams of marriage come to an abrupt end when their fathers arrange their betrothals to other people, but an unexpected second chance comes when they’re both widowed in their early twenties.

The description of the three physiological spirits (drawn from the writings of Albertus Magnus), and what they say, are drawn from Chapter II of La Vita Nuova. I’d appreciate feedback on the inclusion of the Latin in addition to translations of those lines. They appear as such in the source material, but modern readers might find it redundant or pretentious.

This comes a few lines after last week’s snippet, after Dante and his father arrived at a May Day party in 1274.

A manservant in a bright yellow tunic led Babbo to another wing of the house, while a maidservant in a dusky lilac dress led me into a large room full of other children. Some of them I recognized from our neighborhood, San Piero Maggione, while others were strangers. They were engaged in a variety of amusements—table games including chess and backgammon, marbles, knucklebones, dice, flower weaving, spinning tops, stringing beads into jewelry.

And behold, at the back of the room near an open window, quietly arranging flower crowns and garlands, was a beautiful girl in a subdued crimson robe, with fluffy light brown hair and eyes the color of emeralds, a delicate build, and a garland of violets draped about her neck. She seemed not like a mortal human, but an angel or goddess. My entire body began trembling, helpless against the vital spirit dwelling in the heart, and I heard the Latin words Ecce deus fortiori me, qui venions dominabitur michi, “Here is a God stronger than I, who comes to rule over me.”

No sooner had the vital spirit released me than the animal spirit, dwelling in the brain, was overcome with amazement, and said to my eyes, Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra, “Now your bliss has appeared.” Finally, the natural spirit, which dwells in the liver, began weeping and said, Heu miser, quia frequenter impeditus ero deinceps!, “Alas, wretch, for I shall be disturbed often from now on!”

The combined form of the three physiological spirits, which are ultimately ruled by the soul, left me with an overpowering, suprarational longing to possess this girl. Not in the adult way of lovers, since I knew or cared nothing about such matters at such a young age, but to know all of her, for our souls, hearts, and minds to be entwined forevermore, even into the afterlife.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.

Already I knew she was destined to be my wife and the mother of my children, and that I had to convince Babbo to let to marry this one and no one else.

“Welcome to our home. I’m Beatrice, though you may also call me Bice.” Even her voice was angelic.

5 thoughts on “WeWriWa—The three physiological spirits

  1. It’s interesting how enticed he is with her.

    The Latin followed by the translation works, but the “said” before every instance feels a bit jarring.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A powerful excerpt. You clearly show how affected he is by her. I have to say that it seems to me if you’re just going to translate the Latin every time, why even have it? Once…maybe ok. Three times in one short section – really slows the reading down. It becomes awkward. He isn’t going to translate for himself in his own head after all and the modern reader needs it to be in English. Not sure what to suggest but overall I loved the snippet.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love at first sight–sigh…

    I really liked these lines. In your editing process, please don’t lose them. “Not in the adult way of lovers, since I knew or cared nothing about such matters at such a young age, but to know all of her, for our souls, hearts, and minds to be entwined forevermore, even into the afterlife.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I liked the Latin addition. But I wonder- if instead of offering an immediate translation, you couldn’t allow the Latin to instead be answered.

    For example- the spirit speaks in Latin, then the conscious, human thought could be the translation. Like the spirit in the liver says whatever the Latin words were and then the man responds as if the spirit is a different character.

    (Hopefully that makes sense!)

    Liked by 1 person

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