composing in silence

. mercoledì 3 marzo 2010

Once again, the Sommo Poeta hijacks my mind for a day. This time, the first terzina of the 18th canto of Paradiso:

Già si godea solo del suo verbo
Quello specchio beato, ed io gustava
lo mio, temprando col dolce l'acerbo.

And so that divine mirror
savoured his words, and I mine,
tempering the bitter with the sweet.

In contrast to Yeats and Pavese, I find that Dante actually conjures or creates silence with these lines, rather than just talking about silence. Cacciaguida, the divine mirror and ancestor of the pilgrim, seems withdrawn, statuesque, self-sufficient, probably because he is satisfied with his speech and his speech alone, solo del suo verbo. Since it originates from God, it is perfect and complete, it is all that could have been said, and thus the silence after the words is equally perfect. The pilgrim, as we mentioned above, tastes his fate, a bitter pill to swallow, and all Heaven seems to attend, in silence, on his musing.

Here we have a precursor to two themes of this blog: silence and the idea that words are eaten or consumed, as in the book 'Firmin'. Perhaps Dante succeeds in invoking silence with these lines since eating and silence go hand in hand; we have all been taught - don't speak with your mouth full!

Like Mandelstam, I like to think of the Alighieri as he walked the roads of his exile, alone with his horse and composing the Commedia in silence, to the rhythm of his footsteps.

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