The Italian government has designated March 25 as “Dantedi,” a day set aside to honor and pay tribute to Dante Alighieri, “Il Sommo Poeta” (“The Supreme Poet”). According to scholars, Dante’s journey to Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, which he recounted in his masterpiece, “The Divine Comedy” began on March 25 (his travels in the afterlife began during Easter week in they year 1300).
This year, 2020, commemorates the 700th anniversary of the completion of “The Divine Comedy,” Unfortunately, Dante died in 1321, some 150 years before “The Divine Comedy” was published.
Dante’s epic poem influenced the literary works of John Milton, Geoffrey Chaucer, and Alfred Tennyson. His depictions of “Inferno” (Hell), “Purgatorio” (Purgatory), and “Paradiso” (Heaven) have inspired western art for centuries.
Dante Alighieri symbolizes many things to the Italian people. He is the universal thread that has been woven into the spiritual, moral, and social fabric of every Italian. Dante has been the heart and soul of Italian unity, even during to most troubling of times, such as now with the Coronavirus pandemic. Dante is the Father of the Italian Language. Essentially, Dante represents everything that is noble about Italy and the Italian people.
“Dantedi” reflects the spirit of the Fourth Canto of the “Inferno,” depicting Virgil’s welcome as he returns among the great ancient poets spending eternity in Limbo: “L’ombra sua torna, ch’era dipartita” (“His spirit, which has left us, returns”). Indeed, “Dantedi” is an opportunity for us to welcome Dante’s spirit back to our society – a spirit that encompasses innovation, imagination, inspiration, and intensity. Taken together, those “4-i’s” are the essential ingredients for hope and a brighter future for ourselves and our posterity. And, perhaps, embracing those “4-i’s” will help us to find a way to get through the current global health crisis – to stop this dreaded illness that continues to inflict our world.
Dante’s lesson to all of us: “Segui il tuo corso e lascia dir le gente” (“Follow your own road and let people talk”). Basically, Dante is telling us to follow our own star – to walk our own unique path. And, when things become challenging, Dante reminds us that “The path to Paradise begins in Hell.”
So, in the spirit of Dante: Follow your own unique path!
Very respectfully yours,
Albert J. Cupo
President, Dante Alighieri Society of Jersey City