“Dante’s Vita Nova

“Frisardi has chosen to present his Vita Nuova as Dante’s readers encountered it—as a single book in a single language. In 1861, Dante Gabriel Rossetti made the same monolingual choice, but subsequent translations have usually been bilingual ones (or ones that gave the prose in English but the poems in both Italian and English). Frisardi wishes to offer us the Vita Nuova (which he calls, borrowing Dante’s introductory Latin, Vita Nova) in “contemporary American English”: we sink or swim in an American text. (An appendix reproduces the poems in their original Italian, with literal prose translations.) The monolingual page is the outcome of an understandable decision: few American readers would be much helped by a facing page in thirteenth-century Italian. And, after all, most foreign authors are offered to us in “straight English”—Herodotus, Cervantes, Pascal.

[. . .]

Poems such as those in the Vita Nuova (whatever the continuing efforts to translate their sentiments) entirely lose their function as poems when their constituting sound-chains, their word-notes, are made to disappear. The Vita Nuova has left many rhetorical and thematic legacies to Western poetry—the disturbances and vacillations of possessive love, the eye as the erotic organ par excellence,the refinement of the mixed genre of prose and poetry, the symmetry of the arrangement of the poetic sequence, the drama of direct address to a beloved, the power of simplicity in language in poems of complex interiority—and for all these bequests the Vita Nuova will continue to be remembered and debated. In their original Italian, the poems will be memorized, pondered, and loved. Andrew Frisardi—through his translation, introduction, and generous annotation—enables us to revisit this decisive step in the invention of the Western psyche, and reminds us, by the very difficulties of his attempt at rendering Dante’s verse in English rhyme, of the existence of one peculiar but fundamental species of poetry—ear-fixated, insistent, repetitive, hypnotic—that is resistant even to paraphrase, and, in the end, fatally insusceptible to translation.”    –Helen Vendler, The New Republic, October 5, 2012

Check out Andrew Frisardi’s translation, Vita Nova, on Amazon.

“Vita Nova,” Louise Glück (1999)

louise-gluck-vita-nova-1999From Louise Glück’s collection Vita Nova, published in 1999:

“You saved me, you should remember me.

The spring of the year; young men buying tickets for the ferry boats.
Laughter, because the air is full of apple blossoms.

When I woke up, I realized I was capable of the same feeling.

I remember sounds like that from my childhood,
laughter for no cause, simply because the world is beautiful,
something like that.

Lugano. Tables under the apple trees.
Deckhands raising and lowering the colored flags.
And by the lake’s edge, a young man throws his hat into the water;
perhaps his sweetheart has accepted him.

Crucial
sounds or gestures like
a track laid down before the larger themes

and then unused, buried.

Islands in the distance. My mother
holding out a plate of little cakes—

as far as I remember, changed
in no detail, the moment
vivid, intact, having never been
exposed to light, so that I woke elated, at my age
hungry for life, utterly confident—

By the tables, patches of new grass, the pale green
pierced into the dark existing ground.

Surely spring has been returned to me, this time
not as a lover but a messenger of death, yet
it is still spring, it is still meant tenderly.”

See “Vita Nova” and other poems by Glück at The Poetry Foundation.

Hannibal TV series, “Antipasto” (S03E01)

Hannibal-Antipasto-Dante-Vita-Nuova-TumblrIn the first episode of the third season of the TV series Hannibal (2015), “Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) recites a sonnet by Dante Alighieri, the first poem of Vita Nova, a collection of compositions published in 1295.

A ciascun’alma presa e gentil core is the description of a dream Dante had after meeting his beloved Beatrice for the second time. In the dream, the poet sees Amore (personification of love) holding Beatrice, asleep and wrapped in a cloth, in his arms. Amore holds the poet’s heart in one hand; after waking the woman up, he feeds her with the heart, which she doubtfully eats. After this, joy turns into pain and the poet sees Amore crying, disappearing in the sky with Beatrice in his arms.

“The poet Guido Cavalcanti interpreted Dante’s dream by writing the sonnet  Vedeste, al mio parere, onne valore.

“The reference to the symbolical act of cannibalism in the poem sounds ironic in Hannibal’s mouth.” — Cinematic Literature on tumblr, August 31, 2015

See also the animated GIFs posted by fringeofmadness on tumblr.

Hannibal-Antipasto-Dante-Vita-Nuova-Tumblr-GIF

 

Patrick Cassidy, Vide Cor Meum

Patrick-Cassiday-Vide-Cor-Meum-Hannibal-Dante-Vita-Nuova

“Vide Cor Meum” is an aria by Irish composer Patrick Cassidy. The aria, based on Dante’s sonnet “A ciascun’alma presa e gentil core,” was originally composed as a mini opera for the 2001 Ridley Scott film Hannibal. The aria was performed on the grounds of the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence for the production of the film, which stars Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter.

The scene of the performance is available to view on YouTube.

See Dante Today‘s post on the film Hannibal here.

Orhan Pamuk, “The New Life” (1998)

orhan-pamuk-the-new-life-1998“. . .’My book,’ [Pamuk] says, ‘is my attempt at being visionary through the experience of love. It has a tongue-in-cheek quality about the effect of love on one’s spirit. The intensity of desire is so overwhelming that the narrator is in a new world, in a new life. It’s about maturing through love, reaching a higher level of consciousness.’
The title is appropriated from Dante’s ‘La Vita Nuova,’ Pamuk allows. ‘Dante’s is an account of how he fell in love, along with autobiographical digressions about the effect of love.’ Although it’s impossible to neatly summarize a Pamuk book, ‘The New Life’ is also a meditation on the way literature can affect — or afflict — a nation.” [. . .]    –Judy Stone, Orhan Pamuk

“Where Have All the Muses Gone?”

where-have-all-the-muses-gone

Carl Wilhelm Friederich Oesterly’s portrait of Alighieri Dante and his muse Beatrice Portinari.

“Whatever happened to the Muse? She was once the female figure — deity, Platonic ideal, mistress, lover, wife — whom poets and painters called upon for inspiration. Thus Homer in the Odyssey, the West’s first great work of literary art: ‘Sing to me of the man, Muse, of twists and turns driven time and again off course.’ For hundreds of years, in one form or another, the Muse’s blessing and support were often essential to the creation of art. . .
Yet for sheer chutzpah, you cannot beat Dante Alighieri’s invocation, in the Paradiso — the last part of his Divine Comedy — not just to the nine muses, but also to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, and Apollo, god of poetry and music and the muses’ boss, as it were.
Dante’s Divine Comedy, completed in the early 14th century, is a turning point for musedom. By the end of his massive poem, the muses have been left behind by the heavenly Christian music of the spheres, ‘a song,’ writes Dante, ‘that excels our muses.’ The pagan nine had been replaced by the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. That, in turn, freed artistic inspiration to go seek more earthly sources.
Dante’s source was an actual person, a young girl named Beatrice Portinari whom Dante claims he first saw on the street in Florence when they were both nine. He fell in love with her, but she died in her early 20s. Dante paid tribute to Beatrice first in a breathtaking volume of sonnets and prose poems he called La Vita NuovaThe New Life — and then made Beatrice a central figure in The Divine Comedy, where she is cast in the roles of teacher, guide and sacred ideal.
Beatrice symbolized both earthly love and Christian truth — the poet’s lust became ‘sublimated,’ as we would say, into spiritual longing.” [. . .]    –Lee Siegel, The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2009

Contributed by Aisha Woodward (Bowdoin, ’08)

“Vita Nuova” and “Inferno”: a Compact Operating System for Building Cross-Platform Distributed Systems

vita-nuova-and-inferno-2

“People often ask where the names Plan 9, Inferno, and Vita Nuova originated.
Allegedly, Rob Pike was reading Dante’s Divine Comedy when the Computing Science Research Group at Bell Labs was working on Inferno. Inferno is named after the first book of the Divine Comedy, as are many of its components, including Dis, Styx and Limbo.
The company name Vita Nuova continues the association with Dante: his first work, a book of poetry about his childhood sweetheart Beatrice, was called La Vita Nuova. The literal translation of Vita Nuova is ‘New Life,’ which in the circumstances is surprisingly prophetic.
Plan 9 is named after the famous Ed Wood movie Plan 9 from Outer Space. There are no other connections except that the striking artwork for the products is a retro, 60s SciFi image modeled on the Plan 9 movie poster.’    —Vita Nuova

vita-nuova-and-inferno

Contributed by Kavi Montanaro

Vladimir Martynov, “Vita Nuova” Opera

vladimir-martynov-vita-nuova-opera “Next season, Mr. Jurowski will return to Lincoln Center with the London Philharmonic, bearing Mozart, Mahler, Strauss, a full evening of Rachmaninoff and the American premiere of Vladimir Martynov’s opera Vita Nuova, after Dante’s neo-Platonic treatise on love in verse and prose.”    –Matthew Gurewitsch, New York Times, January 27, 2008 (retrieved January 27, 2008)

See also: “Love Poems With Musical Annotation” by Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, March 1, 2009