Page 3, 7th June 1957

7th June 1957
Page 3
Page 3, 7th June 1957 — She's Blown the Dust off Dante

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She's Blown the Dust off Dante

ByFr. ....... Kenelm Foster 0.P.

FUR THER PAPERS ON DANTE, by Dorothy L. Sayers (Methuen, 25s.).

-FIR. Sayers tells us that it is 1-0 hardly more than a dozen years since she blew the dust off her grandmother's copy of the " Temple Classics " Dante, and so discovered the poet.

From that day to this she has never stopped talking about him. Dante fascinates her; and being at once an exceedingly clever woman. a practised writer and a very demon for work. she has already, in this short time, produced a very considerable Dantean output -two thirds of a closely annotated and intricately rhymed verse

" translation of the " Divine

Comedy" and two substantial volumes of criticism, of which this

is the second.

Obviously a remarkable achieve, ment; of which in general one can 7 say that, while it is aimed at the

1 widest possible audience, it gives

' evidence of a great deal of hard : thinking and of the uncommonly .: rich literary culture possessed by this fiery prophetess.

The studies in the present r , volume have to do with Dante in

relation to St. Thomas, to Virgil, to Milton and. last and least, one is

*Ind to say. to Charles Williams.

We arc also shown Dante as a

s " miraculous storyteller," with a T. particular and. I think. really

penetrating attention to the great Ulysses canto of the " Inferno."

Then there is a lucid account of the poet's " cosmos," apparently addressed to an audience of scientists, and a not so satisfactory explanation of the philosophical cantos in the middle of the " Purgatorio."


IT is all bold, downright, wide' ranging and original. It is not always convincing, because although Dr. Sayers usually gives reasons for her opinions, the reasons are occasionally mere ingenious rationalisations; and when they have some weight, they have

not always as much as she appears to think.

Her virtues are energy of thought and clarity of speech; but she does not always avoid cocksureness.

However it is only fair to say that she is the best popular interpreter of Dante actually writing in English and perhaps in any language.

She takes him seriously, as a Christian poet; she is not afraid (to put it mildly) of his theology. Above all, she has a genuine capacity for admiration, that is to say a real sense of greatness in life and literature, which is always drawing her upwards to the height of her great argument and which, all in all easily compensates for an occasional cocksureness and had taste.

It will be interesting to see what she finally makes of the " Paradiso "; it is the part of Dante's work on which so far she has never been at her best. And if she were to ask me why she does not satisfy me on this part of the "Comedy," 1 would ask her to reread it in the light of a text from St. Paul which Dante had in mind as he wrote it (Corinthians 2, xii).

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