Growing up to Dante’s poem

When arguably one of the greatest modern poets, T. S. Eliot, reflects upon the greatest medieval poet, Durante Alighieri, I pay attention.

The experience of a poem is the experience both of a moment and of a lifetime. It is very much like our intenser experiences of other human beings. There is a first, or an early moment which is unique, of shock and surprise, even of terror (Ego dominus tuus); a moment which can never be forgotten, but which is never repeated integrally; and yet which would become destitute of significance if it did not survive in a larger whole of experience; which survives inside a deeper and calmer feeling. The majority of poems one outgrows and outlives, as one outgrows and outlives the majority of human passions: Dante’s is one of those which one can only just hope to grow up to at the end of life.

– “Dante” in Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot

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