Dante and Me

As part of Writing 201: Poetry, we were asked to post our favorite poem.

Being as mine is The Divine Comedy, that would be a bit ambitious, though you can indeed find the full text online.

Now, you could be asking

Why on earth would a guy in his late twenties pick a Late Medieval / Early Renaissance Italian epic known for reflecting medieval Catholic theology as his favorite poem?

Well, I’m glad you asked!

I’ve always liked poetry. I loved learning poems in English class; I was the guy who asked to recite the great Shakespearean soliloquies (and made everyone else hate him for it). Before Dante, my favorite poem was Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

In college I took a course in Classical and Medieval Lit; what can I say – I wanted to make the most of my liberal arts education. By that time an interest in philosophy and theology and history had taken root. In Dante I found a poet that combined everything I found intriguing. I liked poetry well enough, but Dante made be love it.

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