Monday, February 8, 2016

Dante's Lyric Poetry (University of Toronto Press)

When people say Dante, the first thing that comes to mind is his Divine Comedy, as it should. However, few people realize that Dante actually wrote much more than this. It is just much less well-known. For the first time in 50 years, the University of Toronto Press published all of Dante's poetry from his youth (1283-1292), as well as the Vita Nuova. The book, Dante's Lyric Poetry, begins with notes on the poetry of Dante, the translation, and his plan for future volumes. We then dive into the actual poetry.

The first four poems are duels (tenzone) between Dante Alighieri and Dante da Maiano. We then arrive at Vita Nuova III. For those unfamiliar with the Vita Nuova, it is a combination of prose and verse which Dante wrote on medieval courtly love. One then sees the Vita Nuova throughout this book, with his poetry scattered between it. With each poem, we receive Italian (not the original, but very similar) and a more scholarly translation that improves on previous translations and gets closer to the original meaning than we've read before. With each poem, we receive an essay which is very scholarly and feels like something one would hear in a classroom setting. There are also receive copious footnotes, which are the editor's notes on why he translated words a certain way as well as references to other translations and works.

This was a very interesting and challenging read. It is definitely a scholarly book and one that is not for the novice, like myself. Being a big fan of The Divine Comedy, it was fascinating to read Dante's early works and see his writing style develop into his epic masterpiece. If you are a serious student of Dante and poetry, then you will want this book in your collection. If you are just a casual fan, then stick with The Divine Comedy as this book is very tough. I am intrigued if there will be another volume published after this one, but doubtful if I will be at the literary level to appreciate it.

This book was provided to me for free by the University of Toronto Press in exchange for an honest review.