Seven hundred years ago today, very near the end of the day on 13 September 1321, Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri, one of the deepest souls, greatest minds, and greatest writers the human species has ever produced, drew his final breath in Ravenna, Italy. He was 56 years old, and was felled by a mosquito who infected him with quartan fever on his way home from a diplomatic mission. Had he returned by ship instead of on horseback, he might’ve avoided getting bitten by that lethal creature in the swampy marshes.
As I said in my review of the 1911 film L’Inferno:
It’s hard to put into words just how very, very much Dante means to me, how much I love and admire him. He represents the best the human race is capable of, a beautiful antidote against all the evil, ignorance, and cruelty that exists. No matter how far we might fall, how badly we’re lost, there’s always hope of finding our way back.
What more can I say about one of my literary idols, whom I’ve already written so much about this year and still have a few more posts yet to write about? A few well-chosen words from the heart often mean more than thousands of words belaboring the point.
Some people cynically, pessimistically beg for a meteor or asteroid to strike Planet Earth and end everything already, but we shouldn’t lose hope for the future of humanity. If we can produce someone like Dante, and many more people endowed with the same creative, intellectual, and spiritual potential, our species will be just fine as long as world there is.
And remember, despite how a lot of people only read the first third of his magnum opus, Dante didn’t want readers to stay in Hell or end on a low, sad, hopeless note. He and Virgil see stars when they emerge from the abyss, and soon begin the climb up Mount Purgatory.
Dante wanted to take his readers, both present and future, into the very heights of Paradise with him and experience his intense spiritual journey that culminates when he sees the light of God and with it the perfect union of all realities.
To the high force imagination now failed;
But like to a wheel whose circling nothing jars,
Already on my desire and will prevailed
The Love that moves the Sun and the other stars.