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Short Story: Born into a Guelph family (see Guelphs and Ghibellines) of decayed nobility, Dante moved in patrician society. He was a member of the Florentine cavalry that routed the Ghibellines at Campaldino in 1289. The next year, after the death (1290) of Beatrice, the woman he loved, he plunged into intense study of classical philosophy and Provençal poetry. This woman, thought to have been Beatrice Portinari, was Dante’s acknowledged source of spiritual inspiration.
Dante married Gemma Donati, had three children, and was active (1295–1300) as councilman, elector, and prior of Florence. In the complex politics of Florence, he found himself increasingly opposed to the temporal power of Pope Boniface VIII, and he eventually allied himself with the White Guelphs. After the victory of the Black Guelphs he was dispossessed and banished (1302). Exile made Dante a citizen of all Italy; he served various princes, but supported Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII as the potential savior of a united Italy. He died at the court of Guido da Polenta in Ravenna, where he is buried.
Dante’s reputation as the outstanding figure of Italian letters rests mainly on the Divine Comedy, a long vernacular poem in 100 cantos (more than 14,000 lines) composed during his exile. Dante entitled it Commedia; the adjective Divina was added in the 16th cent. It recounts the tale of the poet’s journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, and is divided accordingly into three parts. In Hell and Purgatory Dante is guided by Vergil, through Heaven, by Beatrice, for whom the poem is a memorial. The work is written in terza rima, a complex verse form in pentameter, with interlocking triads rhyming aba, bcb, cdc, etc.
A magnificent synthesis of the medieval outlook, the Divine Comedy pictures a changeless universe ordered by God; its allegorical theme is the gradual revelation of God to the pilgrim. It is also a religious dialogue on the gradations of earthly sin and piety as well as on such topics as predestination and classical philosophy. The symbolism is complex yet highly rational; the verse is musical; and the entire work is one of great imagination. Through his masterpiece Dante established Tuscan as the literary language of Italy, surpassed all previous Italian writers, and gave rise to a vast literature.
Dante’s works also include La vita nuova [the new life] (written c.1292), a collection of prose and lyrics celebrating Beatrice and illustrating his idealistic concept of love; the Convivio (c.1304), an encyclopedic allegory praising both love and science; De monarchia, a treatise on the need for kingly dominance in secular affairs; and De vulgare eloquentia, on rules for the Italian vernacular. In addition, he wrote numerous lyrics, eclogues, and epistles
Tag: European Biography
Everything is plundered, betrayed, sold,
Death's great black wing scrapes the air,
Misery gnaws to the bone.
Why then do we not despair?
By day, from the surrounding woods,
cherries blow summer into town;
at night the deep transparent skies
glitter with new galaxies.
And the miraculous comes so close
to the ruined, dirty houses -
something not known to anyone at all,
but wild in our breast for centuries.
Something of heavens ever burns in it,
I like to watch its wondrous facets' growth.
It speaks with me in fate's non-seldom fits,
When others fear to approach close.
When the last of friends had looked away
From me in grave, it lay to me in silence,
And sang as sing a thunderstorm in May,
As if all flowers began to talk in gardens.
Here is my gift, not roses on your grave,
not sticks of burning incense.
You lived aloof, maintaining to the end
your magnificent disdain.
You drank wine, and told the wittiest jokes,
and suffocated inside stifling walls.
Alone you let the terrible stranger in,
and stayed with her alone.
Now you're gone, and nobody says a word
about your troubled and exalted life.
Only my voice, like a flute, will mourn
at your dumb funeral feast.
Oh, who would have dared believe that half-crazed I,
I, sick with grief for the buried past,
I, smoldering on a slow fire,
having lost everything and forgotten all,
would be fated to commemorate a man
so full of strength and will and bright inventions,
who only yesterday it seems, chatted with me,
hiding the tremor of his mortal pain.
Somewhere there is a simple life and a world,
Transparent, warm and joyful. . .
There at evening a neighbor talks with a girl
Across the fence, and only the bees can hear
This most tender murmuring of all.
But we live ceremoniously and with difficulty
And we observe the rites of our bitter meetings,
When suddenly the reckless wind
Breaks off a sentence just begun --
But not for anything would we exchange this splendid
Granite city of fame and calamity,
The wide rivers of glistening ice,
The sunless, gloomy gardens,
And, barely audible, the Muse's voice.
How many demands the beloved can make!
The woman discarded, none.
How glad I am that today the water
Under the colorless ice is motionless.
And I stand -- Christ help me! --
On this shroud that is brittle and bright,
But save my letters
So that our descendants can decide,
So that you, courageous and wise,
Will be seen by them with greater clarity.
Perhaps we may leave some gaps
In your glorious biography?
Too sweet is earthly drink,
Too tight the nets of love.
Sometime let the children read
My name in their lesson book,
And on learning the sad story,
Let them smile shyly. . .
Since you've given me neither love nor peace
Grant me bitter glory.
When, in the night, I wait for her, impatient,
Life seems to me, as hanging by a thread.
What just means liberty, or youth, or approbation,
When compared with the gentle piper's tread?
And she came in, threw out the mantle's edges,
Declined to me with a sincere heed.
I say to her, "Did you dictate the Pages
Of Hell to Dante?" She answers, "Yes, I did."
They didn't meet me, roamed,
On steps with lanterns bright.
I entered quiet home
In murky, pail moonlight.
Under a lamp's green halo,
With smile of kept in rage,
My friend said, "Cinderella,
Your voice is very strange..."
A cricket plays its fiddle;
A fire-place grew black.
Oh, someone took my little
White shoe as a keep-sake,
And gave me three carnations,
While casting dawn eyes --.
My sins for accusations,
You couldn't be disguised.
And heart hates to believe in
The time, that's close too,
When he will ask for women
To try on my white shoe.
And as it's going often at love's breaking,
The ghost of first days came again to us,
The silver willow through window then stretched in,
The silver beauty of her gentle branches.
The bird began to sing the song of light and pleasure
To us, who fears to lift looks from the earth,
Who are so lofty, bitter and intense,
About days when we were saved together.
Short Story: Anna Akhmatova was the pen name of Anna Gorenko. She was interested in poetry from an early age but her father did not approve and this is why she was asked to use a pen name. She married Nikolai Gumilev a poet and critic in 1910. In 1912 Gumilev travelled to Abyssinia leaving Anna behind. During this period she wrote he first popular book “Evening”. With this and her 2nd book “Rosary” (1914) Anna become a well respected author, especially within the literary scene of St Petersburg.
Anna's poetry became associated with the movement of Acmeism. This praised the virtues of lucid, carefully-crafted verse. It was quite different to the previous symbolist style which was much more vague in its construction.
She divorced her husband N. Gumilev in 1918 and married twice more. Gumilev was executed by the Bolsheviks in 1921 and despite being divorced, through this association Akhamatova suffered from some degree of political censure for most of her life. One of her most famous works is “Requiem” This was written as a tribute to the many victims of Stalin. It was not published fully in the Soviet Union until 1987.
Despite the heavy censure Anna faced from the authorities throughout her life she remained deeply popular with Russian people. Through her poetry Anna was a link to the pre Communist past and she was also a personal witness to the political and cultural upheavals of Russian history.
She was awarded an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1965 and was awarded the Etna-Taormina prize in 1964.
Anna Akhamatova died in Lenningrad in 1966
"Anna Andreevna Akhmatova used poetry to give voice to the struggles and deepest yearnings of the Russian people, for whom she remains the greatest of literary heroines. She has lately come to symbolize for the world even beyond Russia the power of art to survive and transcend the terrors of our century."