From The London Times:
Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy was considered by T. S. Eliot to be “the highest point that poetry has ever reached or ever can reach”. While in his A Defence of Poetry Shelley declared: “Dante was the first awakener of entranced Europe; he created a language in itself music and persuasion out of chaos of inharmonious barbarisms . . . he presided over the resurrection of learning.”
But such plaudits were not always forthcoming. For years Dante was largely unknown to English audiences. Certainly there are references to him in Chaucer, who had learnt of “the greate poete of Ytallie” on diplomatic missions to Italy in the 1370s. But English readers did not have much stomach for his ghastly tales of journeys through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. “Good sire, namoor of this!” cried Chaucer’s knight after the monk had shared some of Dante’s more gut-churning travails with his fellow pilgrims. So for the next 400 years Dante was hardly known except by the few who saw his fresco in the Duomo in Florence while travelling Europe.
How, then, did this 14th-century Florentine poet come to have such an influence on later generations of artists and poets, particularly the Romantics and the PreRaphaelites?
More here. Note: This post is dedicated to my daughter Sheherzad Raza Preisler who memorized the entire 146 lines of the XXXIII Canto from Dante’s Paradiso when she was not quite 9 years old.