'Dante vivo', 1997-2016 © Julia Bolton Holloway, Carlo Poli, Società Dantesca Italiana, Federico Bardazzi, Ensemble San Felice, Richard Holloway, Akita Noek, Eric McLuhan, Ted Nelson

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DANTE ALIGHIERI

COMMEDIA. PARADISO III



Londra, British Library, Yates Thompson 36, fol. 133


uel sol che pria d'amor mi scaldò 'l petto,     1
di bella verità m'avea scoverto,
provando e riprovando, il dolce aspetto;

   e io, per confessar corretto e certo                        4
me stesso, tanto quanto si convenne
leva' il capo a proferer più erto;

   ma visïone apparve che ritenne                             7
a sé me tanto stretto, per vedersi,
che di mia confession non mi sovvenne.

   Quali per vetri trasparenti e tersi,                        10
o ver per acque nitide e tranquille,
non sì profonde che i fondi sien persi,

   tornan d'i nostri visi le postille                             13
debili sì, che perla in bianca fronte
non vien men forte a le nostre pupille;

   tali vid' io più facce a parlar pronte;                    16
per ch'io dentro a l'error contrario corsi
a quel ch'accese amor tra l'omo e 'l fonte.

   Sùbito sì com' io di lor m'accorsi,                         19
quelle stimando specchiati sembianti,
per veder di cui fosser, li occhi torsi;

   e nulla vidi, e ritorsili avanti                                   22 
dritti nel lume de la dolce guida,
che, sorridendo, ardea ne li occhi santi.

   «Non ti maravigliar perch' io sorrida»,               25
mi disse, «appresso il tuo püeril coto,
poi sopra 'l vero ancor lo piè non fida,

   ma te rivolve, come suole, a vòto:                         29
vere sustanze son ciò che tu vedi,
qui rilegate per manco di voto.

   Però parla con esse e odi e credi;                          31
ché la verace luce che le appaga
da sé non lascia lor torcer li piedi».

   E io a l'ombra che parea più vaga                         34
di ragionar, drizza'mi, e cominciai,
quasi com' uom cui troppa voglia smaga:

   «O ben creato spirito, che a' rai                             37
di vita etterna la dolcezza senti
che, non gustata, non s'intende mai,

   grazïoso mi fia se mi contenti                                40
del nome tuo e de la vostra sorte».
Ond' ella, pronta e con occhi ridenti:

   «La nostra carità non serra porte                         43
a giusta voglia, se non come quella
che vuol simile a sé tutta sua corte.

   I' fui nel mondo vergine sorella;                            46
e se la mente tua ben sé riguarda,
non mi ti celerà l'esser più bella,

  ma riconoscerai ch'i' son Piccarda,                        49
che, posta qui con questi altri beati,
beata sono in la spera più tarda.

   Li nostri affetti, che solo infiammati                     52
son nel piacer de lo Spirito Santo,
letizian del suo ordine formati.

   E questa sorte che par giù cotanto,                       55
però n'è data, perché fuor negletti
li nostri voti, e vòti in alcun canto».

   Ond' io a lei: «Ne' mirabili aspetti                         58
vostri risplende non so che divino
che vi trasmuta da' primi concetti:

   però non fui a rimembrar festino;                         61
ma or m'aiuta ciò che tu mi dici,
sì che raffigurar m'è più latino.

   Ma dimmi: voi che siete qui felici,                         64  
disiderate voi più alto loco
per più vedere e per più farvi amici?».

   Con quelle altr' ombre pria sorrise un poco;     67
da indi mi rispuose tanto lieta,
ch'arder parea d'amor nel primo foco:

   «Frate, la nostra volontà quïeta                             70
virtù di carità, che fa volerne
sol quel ch'avemo, e d'altro non ci asseta.

   Se disïassimo esser più superne,                           73
foran discordi li nostri disiri
dal voler di colui che qui ne cerne;

   che vedrai non capere in questi giri,                     76
s'essere in carità è qui necesse,
e se la sua natura ben rimiri.

   Anzi è formale ad esto beato esse                          79
tenersi dentro a la divina voglia,
per ch'una fansi nostre voglie stesse;

   sì che, come noi sem di soglia in soglia               82
per questo regno, a tutto il regno piace
com' a lo re che 'n suo voler ne 'nvoglia.

   E 'n la sua volontade è nostra pace:                     85
ell' è quel mare al qual tutto si move
ciò ch'ella crïa o che natura face».

   Chiaro mi fu allor come ogne dove                       88
in cielo è paradiso, etsi la grazia
del sommo ben d'un modo non vi piove.

   Ma sì com' elli avvien, s'un cibo sazia                  91
e d'un altro rimane ancor la gola,
che quel si chere e di quel si ringrazia,

   così fec' io con atto e con parola,                           94
per apprender da lei qual fu la tela
onde non trasse infino a co la spuola.

   «Perfetta vita e alto merto inciela                         97
donna più sù», mi disse, «a la cui norma
nel vostro mondo giù si veste e vela,

   perché fino al morir si vegghi e dorma               100
con quello sposo ch'ogne voto accetta
che caritate a suo piacer conforma.

   Dal mondo, per seguirla, giovinetta                     103
fuggi'mi, e nel suo abito mi chiusi
e promisi la via de la sua setta.

   Uomini poi, a mal più ch'a bene usi,                     106
fuor mi rapiron de la dolce chiostra:
Iddio si sa qual poi mia vita fusi.

   E quest' altro splendor che ti si mostra              109
da la mia destra parte e che s'accende
di tutto il lume de la spera nostra,

   ciò ch'io dico di me, di sé intende;                        112
sorella fu, e così le fu tolta
di capo l'ombra de le sacre bende.

   Ma poi che pur al mondo fu rivolta                      115
contra suo grado e contra buona usanza,
non fu dal vel del cor già mai disciolta.

   Quest' è la luce de la gran Costanza                     118
che del secondo vento di Soave
generò 'l terzo e l'ultima possanza».
                                                                                    

   Così parlommi, e poi cominciò `Ave,                    121
Maria
' cantando, e cantando vanio
come per acqua cupa cosa grave.

   La vista mia, che tanto lei seguio                          124
quanto possibil fu, poi che la perse,
volsesi al segno di maggior disio,

   e a Beatrice tutta si converse;                                127
ma quella folgorò nel mïo sguardo
sì che da prima il viso non sofferse;

   e ciò mi fece a dimandar più tardo.                      130




Londra, British Library, Yates Thompson 36, fol. 134


 
Maria Grazia Beverini Del Santo, Piccarda Donati nella storia del Monastero di Monticelli (Firenze: Pagliai, 2007)



University of Pennsylvania, 'The Monk, The Priest, The Nun', 22-23 March 2013

Piccarda: Monasticism and Neuro-Humanities (Lived Monasticism as Contextual Research)
Julia Bolton Holloway, Mediatheca ‘Fioretta Mazzei’, Florence

The brain is divided into two hemispheres, the left hemisphere being linear, logical, categorizing, consciously in the present remembering the past, planning the future, centred on the self, separate from the other, while the right hemisphere responds to circularity, sound, colour, music, image, the present moment containing all time and space, and universalizes, sharing in the cosmos. Ideally these balance. The academic world of prose, of the mind, tilts too far to the left and therefore the monastic world of the soul, of poetry, the cyclic chanting of David’s psalms, with the ringing of bells, with incense swung, with gold-leafed images, with the tasting, the swallowing of the Eucharist, that Julian describes (sound, smell, sight, taste, touch), with inclusiveness, is alien and unacceptable.

Fleeing Hitler, Eric Auerbach, from just a suitcase of books in Istanbul, wrote Mimesis. Its first chapter, ‘Odysseus’ Scar’ contrasts the left brain linear narration of Abraham’s sacrificing of Isaac with the right brain simultaneous recalling by Anticleia and Odysseus of the scar he acquired when a boy at a boar hunt and whose feet, years later, she is now washing. In the left brain mode the Crucifixion happened long ago and far away. In the right brain mode it is intensely resurrected in contemplation, in prayer, at Mass.

Twice I have been castigated by academics: the first where in translating Luke from Greek into English I mentioned in an aside that the St Peter’s Fish one is served with large fresh lemons in a kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee is delicious but bony (sight, taste, smell, touch, sound); the second where our diplomatic edition of the manuscripts of Julian of Norwich was emotionally belittled and condemned by a Harvard Professor in the pages of Speculum as mere ‘devotionalism’. Academically, neither going on pilgrimage nor entering a convent, to study data in context, in situ, is ‘done’. Things of the mind are to be divorced from the soul, - and from the senses. One must be clinically detached. The left hemisphere must dominate – deadening the material one studies in formaldehyde.

However, at Princeton University I was contaminated by the researches of the anthropologist Victor Turner, then at the Institute for Advanced Study, who asked me to share with him my study of medieval pilgrimage in Dante, Langland and Chaucer, and also by the research of the Princeton University philosopher/ psychologist Julian Jaynes, whose book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, I helped write. Thomas Day, Julian Jaynes and I for hours together discussed Day’s Professor at Trinity College, Dublin, W.B. Stanford, and his studies of the Greek of the Odyssey as sung, as music, as right hemisphere, the accents as pitchmarks, and of Odysseus’ hallucinations of Athena in moments of stress, as right-hemisphere responses. The monsters under the bed of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are being terrifyingly real to children of unbelieving parents, that unbelief compounding their terror.

Wanting my students at Princeton to enter the medieval world I had them perform liturgical dramas as a way of learning both Latin and Gregorian chant simultaneously as would have medieval oblates, both male and female. The music was directed by the Benedictine Chant Master from St John’s Abbey, Father Gerard Farrell, who had lost that post following Vatican II and who came to teach at Westminster Choir College. I learned of him because I had written to Father Dunstan Tucker at his abbey concerning his scholarly essays on Dante and Benedictine liturgy. Later, I studied the Fleury manuscript in Orléans, and found, as I read it, my right brain remembered perfectly its song. I could hear it in my mind.

Then, because of my work on pilgrimage, Jane Chance asked me to research and edit Birgitta of Sweden. I was before the generation of Women’s Lib, and when I first read Julian of Norwich, I despised and rejected her for forever talking of menstrual blood. But Sir Richard Southern at Berkeley had had us study women and Jews, Heloise and Abelard, Christina of Markyate, Petrus Alfonsi. And also to help my father I edited Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

As I travelled from library to library studying manuscripts of Brunetto Latino and Dante Alighieri, Birgitta of Sweden and Catherine of Siena I kept coming across, in the same contexts, material related to Julian of Norwich. In one case a Julian manuscript I sought was lost. Then found, wrapped in brown paper, at the back of a safe. I came back to England to see it. Not only was I travelling from library to library with a Eurailpass but also from convent to convent, chasing down manuscripts. It was in their cloisters that the vocation I had always had from convent school came flooding back overwhelmingly. Reading the Julian Westminster Manuscript I knew I now had to give up all to edit it. That I had to enter the convent to do so in Julian’s own context of prayer; to enter the context Dom Jean Leclercq described and lived in The Love of Learning and the Desire for God, the world Paul Mayvaert left but also relived in his splendid Gesta essay on the medieval claustrum, which describes the oblates studying with their Novice master in the cloister, the monks’ washing flapping about them.

For four years I was in my Anglican convent, veiled, participating in the Offices, the daily Eucharist, scrubbing floors, sewing my clothes, embroidering and washing altar linens and chalices, and, as their librarian, binding and shelving books, Also, because my nineteenth-century Oxford Movement Mother Foundress had her nuns study to the level of priestly ordination, I was reading Greek and Hebrew, rising at 4:00 a.m., to do so, then ringing the Angelus bell at 6:00, 12:00 and 6:00. The monastic world is about eternity, yet intensely aware of cyclical time, being both right and left brain - combining work, study, prayer. I would wake to hear in my brain the chant, to hear it too as I read, realizing this was Julian’s world, Birgitta’s world, Langland’s world, Dante’s world, on a deeper level than I could have known as a mere academic.

I had already made the four great medieval pilgrimages, to Canterbury, Rome, Compostela, Jerusalem, before I entered the convent as a nun. Then disaster hit. Anglican bishops coveted our wealth and were threatened by our bluestocking history and ended us, bulldozing our chapel, our cloister, my cell, sending us away. I was able to invoke our Customary, where the Mother Foundress allowed scholar sisters if they left the community to have their books. I brought my books I had had as a professor, first from America to Sussex, then from Sussex to Florence, adding to these one basket of Hebrew books, with their permission. I became a Catholic hermit, living for four years in one unheated room in the countryside under the aegis of the contemplative monk Don Divo Barsotti. At the end of that time I was asked to look after Florence’s Swiss-owned so-called ‘English’ Cemetery, where Elizabeth Barrett Browning is buried, my Benedictine spiritual director advising me to take the post, and where I now teach the ABC to Roma families from Romania who garden and restore the tombs. So had Julian taught the ABC to children in her Norwich graveyard, while another anchorite in nearby Lynn wrote the first Latin/English dictionary for the schoolboys he taught there. Hermits must be self-sustaining.

During the years in the Sussex convent and the years in the one unheated room I continued editing all the known manuscripts of Julian of Norwich. In 2001, Sister Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P. whom I visited in St Bridget’s Kilcullen, County Kildare, and I published the edition of Julian of Norwich’s Showing of Love with SISMEL, the University of Florence’s Società Internazionale per lo Studio del Medio Evo Latino.

I had thought I would never see Florence again when I entered my convent. Instead, I work again on Brunetto Latino and his student Dante Alighieri, in situ, in Florence. In Florence my focus on Birgitta and Julian has shifted to also include St Umilta and Dante’s Piccarda. Both Umilta and Piccarda had to leave their monasteries, Umilta fleeing St Perpetua’s monastery in Faenza, becoming a hermit, next an abbess, Piccarda being seized by her brother Corso Donati from her monastery in Bellosguardo founded by St Clare’s sister, Agnes, and given St Francis’ saio. In the sleepy countryside beyond Florence one can see Umilta’s actual body in a glass coffin, in her nuns’ chapel, likewise in Pisa one can see that of Chiara Gambacorta, and also stand on a chair to open the cabinet in which is the miraculous cross brought to her by a Florentine condottiere.

I earlier said that a convent, a monastery, paradoxically dedicated to eternity, is intensely time conscious. Dante notes this when writing of Aquinas. It harmonizes left and right brains perfectly and provides an extraordinary non-biological timeless continuum. A convent and one’s cell in it is an ideal place for scholarship and charity combined. So also is an anchorhold. As well Desert Fathers and Mothers chose to live in cemeteries. A monastery is song-filled, singing being right-brained, and also carrying better than does ordinary speech in permanent stone structures. Words sung daily are those of the Magnificat, of the world-upside-down, Christianity’s quintessence.

Dante grew up beside the Florentine Badia and heard the Benedictines there sing the Offices, placing that Gregorian chant in his Commedia, his canti delle cantiche, his Song of Songs. In Florence he studied with the Franciscans and the Dominicans. His lay world willingly became oblates and tertiaries of these Orders and also formed Compagnie dei laudesi, meeting for Mass and singing laude in the vulgate Italian, building structures such as Florence’s Orsanmichele, knitting together sacred and profane worlds.

In Florence, concerned about contadini loving Dante, intellectuals hating him, I have spear-headed a project called ‘Dante vivo’ in which we restore Dante to the right-brained world he described, where I have recorded Carlo Poli, son of contadini in the Mugello, read the entire Commedia, now on the Web, and also where we perform the Commedia’s sacred Latin chant in motets juxtaposed with Dante’s profane vernacular love songs, resolved in Cistercian St Bernard’s Franciscan lauda, ‘Vergine Madre, figlia del tuo figlio’, words Bernard nowhere wrote, this actually, anonymously, being Dante’s own Magnificat lauda, his saintly prayer, composed in the humility of Florentine Italian.

 

 

Bibliography

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Approaching the Holy Mountain: Art and Liturgy at St Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai, eds. S.E. Gerstel, R.S. Nelson. Turnhout: Brepols, 2010.

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'DANTE VIVO'- LA COMMEDIA DI DANTE ALIGHIERI (Testo, lectura, musica, immagini dei manoscritti):

Inferno I, Inferno II, Inferno III, Inferno IV, Inferno V, Inferno VI, Inferno VII, Inferno VIII, Inferno IX, Inferno X, Inferno XI, Inferno XII, Inferno XIII, Inferno XIV, Inferno XV, Inferno XVI, Inferno XVII, Inferno XVIII, Inferno XIX, Inferno XX, Inferno XXI, Inferno XXII, Inferno XXIII, Inferno XXIV, Inferno XXV, Inferno XXVI, Inferno XXVIIInferno XXVIII, Inferno XXIX, Inferno XXX, Inferno XXXI, Inferno XXXII, Inferno XXXIII, Inferno XXXIV 

Purgatorio I, Purgatorio II, Purgatorio III, Purgatorio IV, Purgatorio V, Purgatorio VI, Purgatorio VII, Purgatorio VIII, Purgatorio IX, Purgatorio X, Purgatorio XI, Purgatorio XII, Purgatorio XIII, Purgatorio XIV, Purgatorio XV, Purgatorio XVI, Purgatorio XVII, Purgatorio XVIII, Purgatorio XIX, Purgatorio XX, Purgatorio XXI, Purgatorio XXII, Purgatorio XXIII, Purgatorio XXIV, Purgatorio XXV, Purgatorio XXVI, Purgatorio XXVII, Purgatorio XXVIII, Purgatorio XXIX, Purgatorio XXX, Purgatorio XXXI, Purgatorio XXXII, Purgatorio XXXIII

Paradiso
I, Paradiso II, Paradiso III, Paradiso IV, Paradiso V, Paradiso VI, Paradiso VII, Paradiso VIII, Paradiso IX, Paradiso X, Paradiso XI, Paradiso XII, Paradiso XIII, Paradiso XIV, Paradiso XV, Paradiso XVI, Paradiso XVII, Paradiso XVIII, Paradiso XIX, Paradiso XX, Paradiso XXI, Paradiso XXII, Paradiso XXIII, Paradiso XXIV, Paradiso XXV, Paradiso XXVI, Paradiso XXVII, Paradiso XXVIII, Paradiso XXIX, Paradiso XXX, Paradiso XXXI, Paradiso XXXII, Paradiso XXXIII

'Dante vivo', 1997-2016 © Julia Bolton Holloway, Carlo Poli, Società Dantesca Italiana, Federico Bardazzi, Ensemble San Felice