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View From Your Dante Table

St. Francisville, Louisiana
St. Francisville, Louisiana

It doesn’t look so nice because this was shot by candlelight, but you see what Julie and I had for dinner tonight: filet of drum sautéed in butter, garlic, and fresh marjoram; preserved lemon risotto, green salad and Pommery Champagne. Above, Noodle Boy, your chef for the evening, reads aloud from the Vita Nova, translated by Andrew Frisardi. I read the opening, in which Dante talks about the dazzling moment when he first met Beatrice.

The whole family sat around the table after Dad worked his Dante thing out, and we ate tiramisu and told stories. Julie asked Nora how come she didn’t smile easily in photos, though she’s always laughing in real life. “Because y’all don’t amuse me enough,” she said. Umm…

Here’s something so very tragic and beautiful, as told to me on e-mail by a professor with whom I correspond. He explained how the Commedia helped its first American translator, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, to emerge from the darkest of dark woods:

He was leading a harmonious life, until the morning that his wife, ironing in the kitchen saw her voluminous skirt catch on fire. She burned to death essentially in his arms.   His grief was so intense he could not go on. Nothing mattered any more. It was then that he started the project of translating the entire Commedia, and arranging weekly meetings of friends to read to them the lines he had done each week, and talk about them. Thus was born both his translation, and the Dante  Society of America. Both helped him to heal, to go on.

Think of it!

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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