Neil White's Reviews > Vita Nuova

Vita Nuova by Dante Alighieri
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's review
Apr 09, 2011

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Read from March 05 to April 09, 2011

This review is mostly based on the translation of this particular volume, which seems to me a little sub-par. I've read Dante before, and while it's possible his romantic sonnets just weren't up to snuff compared to his later masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, it just seemed the translator wasn't able to get across the mood I think Dante was was going for. I can understand why he wouldn't be inclined to submit to the shackles of rhyme and meter, but the English blank verse doesn't come close to popping like original. It's a shame, though, because the brilliance of Dante's rhyme schemes and rigid meter are completely lost. To be fair, though, it's a hell of a lot easier to rhyme in Italian, when half of your words end in a vowel.

Some poems shone brighter than others, and to his credit, even Dante acknowledges at the end that he felt these sonnets were unworthy of his love, Beatrice, and that he would 'say no more about this blessed one until [he] would be capable of writing about her in a more worthy fashion.' Considering this more worthy fashion was the Divine Comedy, I'd say he succeeded.

Still, as great a poet as he was, Dante was not much for commentary. His commentary on these poems is pretty dry and boring, to be blunt - simply noting the reader of where the verses end and begin, and what his aim was, often before the poem itself appears in the text. This isn't to be confused with the intertwined narrative of his off and on 'relationship' with Beatrice, which is actually interesting, especially from Dante's point of view, who was probably a lot more interested in Beatrice than she was in him. Poor guy. I'd call him quixotic, but he beat the Don by over 300 years. Alighierian just doesn't have the same ring to it.

So while all told this wasn't the most exciting read, it's an interesting example of courtly love and troubadour poetry. And certainly plenty of credit goes to Dante for pretty much inventing the Italian language, starting with this work.

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