Charles Williams on Dante, from his book The Figure Of Beatrice:
He defined the general kind of experience to which the figure of Beatrice belongs in one of his prose books, the Convivio (IV, xxv). He says there that the young are subject to a “stupor” or astonishment of the mind which falls on them at the awareness of great and wonderful things. Such a stupor produces two results — a sense of reverence and a desire to know more. A noble awe and noble curiosity come to life. This is what had happened to him at the sight of the Florentine girl, and all his work consists, one way or another, in the increase of that worship and that knowledge.
That happened to me when I stepped inside the Chartres cathedral at 17, and was no longer the same. I find these days I think about Chartres a lot; what I’m really thinking about is that experience of stupor, when I felt I saw the Truth, and it was marvelous. Charles Williams’s book — and by the way, bless the reader who put me onto it — arrived today, and I read the introduction this afternoon. He will discuss Dante’s work as a way of experiencing God through the iconography of the material world. It sounds great.
I am never happier than when I’m onto something, which is to say, when I’m discovering something that is true and beautiful and iconic. I’m onto the Divine Comedy now. What are you on to? What was your Beatrice, your Chartres?