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This article is taken from PN Review 5, Volume 5 Number 1, October - December 1978.

Dante Today and Yesterday Eugenio Montale

[This essay, originally delivered as a Dante centenary lecture in 1965, was included in a collection of Montale's, essays Sulla poesia (Mondadori, 1976). It forms part of Montale's Selected Essays, to be published next year.] translated by G. Singh.

. . . I HAVE agreed to speak on this occasion despite the fact that I lacked both time and opportunity to find in my poetry anything relating to my particular Dantesque experience which could at the same time be more than merely personal and hence worth discussing. It seemed to me, having overcome this original perplexity, that if Dante constitutes a universal patrimony (as indeed he does, even though he stated more than once that he was speaking only to the few worthy to listen to him) . . . then his voice can reach everyone today as never before and perhaps never again. For his message can reach the profane as well as the initiated, and probably in an altogether new way. Knowledge of Dante, after he had been crowned in his own lifetime, declined throughout the seventeenth century (the black century so far as interest in Dante is concerned), only to revive with the advent of romanticism and, at the same time, with the flowering of a totally mundane philosophy which saw in man his own master and indeed his own creator.

Of course I am aware of the differences between the two movements even if I can see how they converge. The ...


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