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This article is taken from PN Review 264, Volume 48 Number 4, March - April 2022.

Arnaut, ara vos prec Michael Freeman
Anno Dantesco celebrations ran apace, not least with Ned Denny’s refashioning of the Commedia triptych into a sequence of blaze, bathe and bliss [B After Dante, Carcanet May 2021]. But now there’s time to recall that singular moment in the Purgatorio when Dante doffs his cap to Arnaut Daniel. Arnaut: métier a troubadour-poet, manner the trobar clus, reputation il miglior fabbro del parla materno – the phrase which Guido Guinicelli coined about him, or rather which Dante coined for Guido to coin. I’ll ask – ara vos prec – scholars to indulge a flâneur’s unscholarly stroll round the block, folding Arnaut into layers of later writers, not least the bloc [sic] of totemic High Modernism. So then, just a ruminative homage for Arnaut, plainly unscholarly in not tabulating fairly obvious sources and side-stepping the hermeneutic thickets [absit omen!] of the Commedia’s allegorical schemata.

In the lockdown protocols of Dante’s variant on Thomist eschatology, Arnaut is in  purgatory on a charge of luxuria. Dante as the hard-travelling, hard-pressed participant-observer has just been lobbied by Guido Guinicelli, to whom he deferred as one ahead of the game in nurturing their dolce stil nuevo, to pause for a word with Arnaut. But then Dante as stage-manager goes so far as to frame Arnaut’s intervention not in the Commedia’s Tuscan – the linguistic hegemony Dante was working to establish – but in Arnaut’s own Occitan, or at least in Dante’s pastiche of Arnaut’s langue d’oc, albeit still in the Commedia’s terza rima, and taking the last line of the canto back into the narrator’s Tuscan: Poi s’ascose nel foco ...

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