Saturday, February 05, 2005

Dante and scripture (7/1/02)

As I settle into middle age, two of the great loves of my life are Dante and the scriptures. I had an unusual experience today that involved both, that I thought might be worth passing along. Lately some passages of the Divine Comedy have insensibly begun creeping into my memory, and this very morning I began my latest rereading of the Book of Mormon. When I got to 1 Nephi 11:16-18, the first thing that popped into my mind was this passage, which in my view has to be one of the loveliest in all of the world's literature. (Or at least that portion with which I am familiar.) It consists of the first six lines of Canto XXXIII of Paradiso, and goes like this:

Vergine Madre, figlia del tuo Figlio,
umile e alta piu' che creatura,
termine fisso d'etterno consiglio,

Tu sei colei che l'umana natura
nobilitasti si', che 'l suo fattore
non disdegno' di farsi sua fattura.

I spent several minutes pondering both this and the scriptural passage, and may even write the Dante quotation into the margin in 1 Nephi, if I can find the space and a suitable pen with a fine enough point. I have often reflected on the verse in Ether, where Moroni says something about how the things the brother of Jared wrote were overpowering to those who read them; and in my view some of Dante's work comes close to being just that. The passage I just wrote out will lose something in my -- or anyone else's -- translation, but it may be rendered approximately thus in English:

Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son,
humble and exalted more than any other creature,
fixed goal of the eternal counsel,

Thou art she who so ennobled human nature
that its Maker did not disdain
to become its making.

Anyway, these are my late-Sunday-night musings for this week, and I hope they have been profitable to you, or at least interesting.




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