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Dante's Vita Nuova Paperback – April 22, 1973
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"La Vita Nuova" is a series of poems and anecdotes centering around the life-changing love of Dante for a young woman named Beatrice. The two first met when they were young children, of about eight. Dante instantly fell in love with her, but didn't really interact with her for several years. The two married others, but those spouses are paid no attention.
Over the years, Dante's almost supernatural love only increased in intensity, and he poured out his feelings -- grief, adoration, fear -- into several poems and sonnets. During an illness, he has a vision about mortality, himself, and his beloved Beatrice ("One day, inevitably, even your most gracious Beatrice must die"). Beatrice died at the age of twenty-four, and Dante committed himself to the memory of his muse.
It would be a hard task to find another book overflowing with such incredible love and passion as "La Vita Nuova". It's probably the most romantic book I have ever seen. It's brief and only includes one part of Dante's life overall, but it's a truly unique love story -- especially as Dante and Beatrice were never romantically involved. In fact, both of them married other people.
But Dante's love for Beatrice shows itself to be more than infatuation or crush, because it never wanes -- in fact, it grows even stronger, including Love manifested as a nobleman in one of Dante's dreams. There is no element of physicality to the passion in "La Vita Nuova" -- Dante talks about how beautiful Beatrice is, but that's only a sidenote. And Dante's grief-stricken state when Beatrice dies (of what, we're never told) leads him to deep changes in his soul, and eventually peace. And though Beatrice died, because of Dante's love for her and her placement in the "Comedia," she has achieved a kind of immortality.
One of the noticeable things about this book is that whenever something significant happens to Dante (good, bad, or neither), he immediately writes a poem about it. Apparently that was his way of dealing with his emotions. Some readers may be tempted to skip over the carefully constructed poems, but they shouldn't. Even if these intrude on the story, they show what Dante was feeling more clearly than his prose.
It's virtually impossible to read this book and come out of it jaded about love or true passion. Not the sort of stuff in pulp romance novels, but love and passion that come straight from the heart and soul, in a unique and unusual love story. Every true romantic should read this book.
Scholars have previously looked at La Vita Nouva as a set of poems written in honor of a woman named Beatrice. Such scholarship dishonors Dante Alighieri memory because he himself was married and never a poem written in honor of his own wife. Yet, we are to believe he is said to have written of a woman he bearly ever spoke to. The New Testament warning is that if you covet with your eyes you have already sin. Scholars say Dante while submitting to the embrace of marriage he loved yet another woman. This is gross and the vilest kind of love. It not only debases him but is a continuous lie to his wife. Are we to declare that Dante is in constant sin during this time that he is writing La Vita Nouva and La Divina Commedia? Nay, I say that Beatrice represented the high ideal of the Church or even to declare that Beatrice was symbolically a representation of Dante's own soul. The love he speaks of is not carnal it is divine. Love of this kind never has to be passionate to be the deepest kind of love.
The mathematics in La Vita Nouva is rightly called The Vital Life because knowing is infinitely greater than believing.
There are 31 poems with 23 of them with only 14 lines and 8 of them have more than 14 lines. The #23 is reduced to 5 giving off a play on the numbers 8 & 5. In La Divina Commedia Dante has 13 base numbers ranging from 115-160. The central 5 numbers 136-148 have 13 or 16 cantos collectively totaling to 71 cantos leaving the other 8 base numbers to divide up the other 29 cantos. So we see that Dante uses this device in both La Vita Nouva & La Divina Commedia.
The First Chapter of Genesis has 31 verses as does La Vita Nouva have 31 poems. The First Four Days of Creation have 17 (8) verses and the rest of the First Chapter of Genesis has 14 (5) verses. The First Four Days of Creation are separated from the remainder of the First Chapter of Genesis because the 1st Day of Creation has 31 Hebrew words and the 2nd Day of Creation has 38. Both Days combined has 69 Hebrew words. The 3rd & 4th Days of Creation both have 69 Hebrew Words. This pattern of 3 x 69 breaks off at the 4th Day of Creation. The 207 words in the First Four Days of Creation has the same value as the word LIGHT does in gemetria in the 1st Day of Creation: "Let there be light."
The point being made here is that those that study La Vita Nouva will grasp that there is a greater love here than carnal love and that that love has to do with spirituality and the salvation of the soul.
There is of course a great deal more mathematics in Genesis, La Vita Nouva, and La Divina Commedia that correspond but this review was merely to point out that there is more to the 31 poems and their commentaries in La Vita Nouva than the agony of unrequited love. This is so perfectly clear to those that study the book rather than reading it at the speed of summer lightning.