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This review is taken from PN Review 263, Volume 48 Number 3, January - February 2022.

Cover of The Foreign Connection: Writings on Poetry, Art and Translation
Chris MillerReopened Eyes
Jamie McKendrick, The Foreign Connection: Writings on Poetry, Art and Translation (Legenda) £75
Let’s begin with Naiads, surfacing for a prodigious spectacle: Argo, the first ship. Now to Dante, for whom a single point in all that he has learned in Paradiso is more trouble to expound than the twenty-five centuries since Neptune was amazed at the inaugural navigation. Here, it is Catullus’s Nereides admirantes from his epyllion (64:15); there, his echo is heard in Paradiso XXXIII.96, che fe’ Nettuno ammirar l’ombra d’Argo. Time has passed, not quite that between the Argo and Dante, but enough for Catullus’s works to have been cast into one seemingly perpetual night; they re-emerged in Verona in time for Dante’s residence there. So there are grounds for thinking that this is not coincidence. That merest point – un punto solo m’e maggior letargo – has its own progeny: in Tasso’s La Gerusalemme Liberata, God looks down on the earth e in un sol punto, e in una / vista mirò ciò ch’in sé il mondo aduna (‘And in a single point, and one / glance saw that which the world contains in itself’, I.vii.7–8). This is a beautiful vein of poetic continuity, if rightly seen.  Is it rightly seen? None of the Dante scholars, ‘steeped in the Classics’, as McKendrick rightly says, acknowledges Dante’s debt to Catullus. The Nereids stand nutricum tenus exstantes e gurgite cano, in Michie’s translation ‘nipple-naked in the grey-green swell’, while Neptune sees the Argo float over his head in Dante. Admirantes / ammirar unite Catullus and Dante. Dante’s un punto solo becomes in un sol punto; Neptune’s upward amazement becomes God’s downward all-seeing. ...


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