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Worst When It’s Poetry

Frederick Seidel, 5 May 2016

... that I’m cured of snoring and now I snore No more. There’s an Emily I met downtown recently. Dante’s Beatrice suddenly appeared to me! I don’t know her last name. Dante famously never was the same. A maiden I don’t know transfigured me In one brief moment for eternity. From one brief meeting with someone so ...

Homer and Virgil and Broch

George Steiner, 12 July 1990

Oxford Readings in Vergil’s ‘Aeneid’ 
edited by S.J. Harrison.
Oxford, 488 pp., £45, April 1990, 0 19 814389 3
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... societies, of Homer and Virgil. The actual Homeric texts come late into European Christendom. Dante knew of the ‘sovereign poet’ only by hearsay and via derivative epics. The Virgilian presence is continuous. Christological readings of the Fourth Eclogue bestow on Virgil an aura of prophetic illumination. He is known as a magician and sibylline ...

Hybrid Heroes

Janette Turner Hospital, 12 December 1996

The Conversations at Curlow Creek 
by David Malouf.
Chatto, 214 pp., £14.99, September 1996, 0 7011 6571 5
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... and transcribed in tranquillity; the other distrusts words but lives avidly. In Johnno, there is Dante, the bright student and budding writer, cautious, restrained, insipid and judgmental, a detached note-taker of life; and there is Johnno, his wild and risk-addicted friend, who gives him in high school – just to make the Apollo/Dionysus axis quite clear ...

Complete with spats

A.N. Wilson, 27 May 1993

Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul 
by Barbara Reynolds.
Hodder, 398 pp., £25, March 1993, 0 340 58151 4
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... written up in her book The Passionate Intellect: Dorothy L. Sayers’s Encounter with Dante) and she has an encyclopedic knowledge of, and evident affection for, Sayers’s fiction – the detective stories about Lord Peter Wimsey especially. And now, she comes forward with what will surely rank as the definitive biography of Sayers. It is not a ...

Want-of-Tin and Want-of-Energy

Dinah Birch: The lives of the Rossettis, 20 May 2004

The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Formative Years 1835-62: Charlotte Street to Cheyne Walk. Volume One 
edited by William Fredeman.
Brewer, 464 pp., £95, July 2002, 9780859915281
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The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Formative Years 1835-62: Charlotte Street to Cheyne Walk. Volume Two 
edited by William Fredeman.
Brewer, 640 pp., £95, July 2002, 0 85991 637 5
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William and Lucy: The Other Rossettis 
by Angela Thirlwell.
Yale, 376 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 300 10200 3
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... were born in consecutive years in the late 1820s: Maria, Gabriel Charles (later to call himself Dante Gabriel), William and Christina. Their father, Gabriele Rossetti, was a political exile, driven out of Italy as a result of his activities as a nationalist. A poet, an ardent Dante scholar and the centre of a group of ...

So Much More Handsome

Matthew Reynolds: Don Paterson, 4 March 2004

Landing Light 
by Don Paterson.
Faber, 84 pp., £12.99, September 2003, 0 571 21993 4
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... another language. The longest translation in Landing Light is from the most challenging of poets: Dante, Inferno, Canto XIII. In the opening lines, Paterson tests out various ways of relating to the medieval Italian. Looking around him in the pathless wood, Dante saw branches that were ‘nodosi e’nvolti’ (‘knotty and ...

The Monster in the Milk Bowl

Richard Poirier, 3 October 1996

Pierre, or The Ambiguities 
by Herman Melville, edited by Hershel Parker.
HarperCollins, 449 pp., £15.99, May 1996, 0 06 118009 2
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... exactingly literary than his mother, Pierre is haunted early on less by Romeo and Juliet than by Dante’s Inferno, and even as he looks forward to an evening with Lucy when they plan to look through a book of Flemish prints and Flaxman’s illustrations of Homer – yet further references to copies and reflections – he emphatically rules out in his mind ...


Claude Rawson, 1 October 1981

The Sinking of the Titanic 
by Hans Magnus Enzensberger.
Carcanet, 98 pp., £3.95, April 1981, 0 85635 372 8
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Paul Celan: Poems 
translated by Michael Hamburger.
Carcanet, 307 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 0 85635 313 2
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Talk about the Last Poet 
by Charles Johnston.
Bodley Head, 78 pp., £4.50, July 1981, 0 370 30434 9
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... the other money-men, but he cancelled the trip because of illness. ‘It was a fancy-dress ball in Dante’s Hell,’ a survivor said of the procession of passengers, life-belted, going up the Titanic’s regal staircase. Enzensberger’s hell is more like Bosch-and-blue-movies than it is like Dante, but ...


Alastair Fowler, 9 November 1989

Melodious Guile: Fictive Pattern in Poetic Language 
by John Hollander.
Yale, 262 pp., £20, January 1989, 0 300 04293 0
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Second World and Green World: Studies in Renaissance Fiction-Making 
by Harry Berger.
California, 519 pp., $54, November 1988, 0 520 05826 7
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... on sonnets shows. In ‘Scorn not the Sonnet’, chronological arrangement would have started with Dante: ‘that the chronology is so contorted by the zigzag line of Shakespeare – Petrarch – Tas – so – Camoens – Dante – Spenser – Milton must mean that it is Calliope’s list and that this is indeed poetic, or ...

You’ve listened long enough

Colin Burrow: The Heaneid, 21 April 2016

Aeneid: Book VI 
translated by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 53 pp., £14.99, March 2016, 978 0 571 32731 7
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... of the sixth book of the Aeneid are extraordinary. In them Virgil not only in effect invented Dante and his imaginary descent to the underworld, he evoked more aspects of death and of life than any poet has done before or since in a similar compass. The casual ubiquity and overwhelming force of death is registered in the great anonymous waves of souls ...

‘Kek kek! kokkow! quek quek!’

Barbara Newman: Chaucer’s Voices, 21 November 2019

Chaucer: A European Life 
by Marion Turner.
Princeton, 599 pp., £30, April 2019, 978 0 691 16009 2
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... ladies and gentlemen. Strangely, Chaucer never names him. The Italian poets he does mention, Dante and Petrarch, shaped him in altogether different ways. Chaucer was among the first English readers of Dante, although the mysterious Pearl Poet seems to have read him even earlier. During the 1370s and 1380s he engaged ...

Claudio Castiglione and Massimo Tamburini

Frederick Seidel, 22 January 2015

... crackles As it warms up to commit parricide. The power of the new machine Will devour the 916. Dante and his friend and mentor Guido Cavalcanti Are taking the museum tour at the Ducati factory. Here they can see everything that is beautiful. The motorcycles are displayed along the walls. The motorcycles are as beautiful as Merkel’s political will. The ...

Two Poems

Jamie McKendrick, 22 February 2018

... War fought in the near distance – is home to the blind salamander and the devil bat. They say Dante in exile visited and first dreamed up hell down here – they forget he spent his youth in ...

Bachelor Life

Peter Campbell, 28 January 1993

by Timothy Wilson-Smith.
Constable, 253 pp., £16.95, October 1992, 0 09 471270 0
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... a return to the point from which we set out. Delacroix’s early successes – from The Barque of Dante to the Death of Sardanapalus – have proved durable icons of the Romantic imagination. He didn’t like being described as a Romantic painter – though he undoubtedly was one. He was, equally plainly, a romantic figure. Being a loner, even a loner firmly ...

Christina and the Sid

Penelope Fitzgerald, 18 March 1982

Christina Rossetti: A Divided Life 
by Georgina Battiscombe.
Constable, 233 pp., £9.50, May 1981, 0 09 461950 6
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The Golden Veil 
by Paddy Kitchen.
Hamish Hamilton, 286 pp., £7.95, May 1981, 0 241 10584 6
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The Little Holland House Album 
by Edward Burne-Jones and John Christian.
Dalrymple Press, 39 pp., £38, April 1981, 0 9507301 0 6
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... contact with the outside world, admiring relatives to pet them and their mother to educate them. Dante Gabriel and Christina were the ‘storms’of the family, and, when in a rage, Christina could be a ripper and a smasher. The elder sister, Maria, and loyal William Michael were the ‘calms’. On ‘My heart is like a singing bird’ William’s editorial ...

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