In the Footsteps of Dante: The Lives of Angels (28/34)

What language do angels speak? And how do they communicate? Over there ” spiritual contemplation “, answers the poet, who nourishes an intense reflection on their subject from his solid philosophical and theological training. In a form of synthesis, he dares to oppose past theologians, and advances several substantiated theories, including that which the angels have, ” to diffuse their sublime thoughts, with a capacity of the intellect, at once immediate and ineffable, by which they make themselves fully known to each other (…) either by themselves, or, at least, by this radiant mirror in which they are all reflected in their greatest beauty and contemplate each other with the greatest desire (EV, I, ii).

→ FILE. Dante Alighieri: our file on this Italian poet

It is his Beatrice who, when he arrives in Paradise, describes the angelic creatures to the poet. He perceives them around without however being able to see them, so much these “ intelligence defy his human understanding: From choir to choir I heard hosanning towards the Fixed point which in their place holds them and forever in what they were “, he says about this immense angelic praise turned to God. “ You must know that their delight is for all linked to their deep vision of the truth on which all reason rests.explains Beatrice. From there we can grasp how beatitude is founded in the act of seeing, not in that of loving, which supports it. (Par, XXVIII, 94-110).

The aesthetic challenge of representing angels

The question of the representability of angels torments Dante for a long time, and he intends to take up the aesthetic challenge of their representation. The theme of the angel also particularly crosses the work of the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, in an approach far removed from the Christian conception. Under his pen, the angel becomes a figure on which to project the demand for the absolute, like a divine substitution, ” guarantor of the highest degree of the Invisible “. In his first of Duino’s Elegies, he writes, for example: Who, if I cried out, who would hear my cry among the hierarchies of the Angels? And even if it were, one of them suddenly took me to his heart: his presence would be too strong and I would succumb to it. »

Dante, on the contrary, envisages angels in an eminently Christian way, these “ celestial servants forming for him the embassy and the antechamber of the divine. The experience of his journey is based on this principle: if the starting point of the path is sensitive, earthly, anchored in a historical reality, his arrival is an entry into eternity. It is therefore precisely the gradual appearance of the angels that signals it, their presence becoming more and more significant the closer they are.

Of individual – in particular with the archangels – the angelic meetings in the Commedia gradually become collective, until they become a humming choir of praise, in a divine abundance. “ Langel is spirit, nothing but spirit. Not hostile to the body, but incorporealwrites the theologian Romano Guardini, who offers the most complete study on the theme of the angel in the divine comedy. Truth, good, order, beauty determine its existence. He is “light” and “ardor”. Neither the limits of space nor those of time exist for him. Its domain is all the height, the depth, the breadth of being and of all meaning. It rises, penetrates, traverses the expanses, which is expressed by the wings. The angel is the one who flies (…) The life of angels has only one content: God “.

Next episode Friday, August 20: music, maestro!

All the bibliographical sources of this story can be consulted at the bottom of the article.

→ PLAY! Writing competition: in the footsteps of Dante


Bibliography on which this story is based:

* Works by Dante Alighieri:

The Divine Comedy (Hell, Purgatory and Paradise), translated from Italian, presented and annotated by Danièle Robert (Actes Sud, bilingual large format or Babel pocket); translated from Italian, presented and annotated by Jacqueline Risset (Flammarion, large format or pocket GF); translated and annotated by Joachim-Joseph Berthier (Desclée de Brouwer).

VitaNova, translated from Italian, annotated and introduced by Louis-Paul Guignes (Poetry/Gallimard); translated from Italian, annotated and introduced by René de Ceccatty (Points/Seuil)

Feasttranslated from Italian, annotated and presented by René de Ceccatty (Seuil)

rhymestranslated from Italian, presented and annotated by Jacqueline Risset (Flammarion, large format or pocket GF)

Eloquence in vulgartranslated from Latin and commented under the direction of Irène Rosier-Catach (Fayard)

The monarchytranslated from Latin by Michèle Gally (Belin)

Complete Works (New Life, Rhymes, Banquet, Eloquence in Vulgar, Monarchy, Epistles, Eclogues, Quarrel of Water and Earth, Divine Comedy), translated from Italian and Latin, presented and commented on by André Pézard (La Pléiade).

* Biographies of Dante Alighieri:

– Boccaccio, Life of Dante Alighieri: Florentine poet (Via Valeriano Editions)

-Elisa Brilli and Giuliano Milani, Dante, new lives (Fayard)

– Enrico Malato Dantetranslated from Italian by Marilène Raiola (Les Belles lettres)

– Jacqueline Risset Dante, a life (Flammarion)

* Tests:

– Giorgio Agamben, The Kingdom and the Gardentranslated from Italian by Joël Gayraud (Rivages)

-Erich Auerbach, Writings on Dantetranslated from German and English and presented by Diane Meur (Macula)

-Erich Auerbach, Mimesis, the representation of reality in Western literaturetranslated from German by Cornélius Heim (Tel Gallimard)

– Yves Bonnefoy, Preface to Hell translated from Italian by Lamennais (Rivages)

– Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory and the Cross – the aesthetic aspects of Revelation II, Styles. From Irenaeus to Dante, translated from German by Robert Givord and Hélène Bourboulon (Cerf)

-Samuel Beckett Band and sarabandtranslated from English and presented by Edith Fournier (Minuit)

– Jorge Luis Borges, Nine Essays on Dante, translated from Spanish (Argentina) by Françoise Rosset (Gallimard)

– Paul Claudel Jubilee ode for the six hundredth anniversary of the death of Dante (New French Review)

– Paul Claudel Introduction to a poem on Dante (in Complete Works, Gallimard)

– Umberto Eco, The search for the perfect languagetranslated from Italian by Jean-Paul Manganaro (Seuil)

– Etienne Gilson, Dante and philosophy (Vrin)

– Etienne Gilson, Dante and Beatrice (Vrin)

-Romano Guardini Dante, visionary of eternity (Threshold)

– Jacques Le Goff The Birth of Purgatory (Gallimard)

– Osip Mandelstam, Interview on Dantetranslated from Russian by Jean-Claude Schneider (La Dogana)

-Victoria Ocampo, From Francesca to Beatrice (Editions Rue d’Ulm)

– Carlo Ossola, Introduction to the Divine Comedytranslated from Italian by Nadine Le Lirzin and Pierre Musitelli (Le Félin)

– Didier Ottaviani, Dante, the pilgrim spirit (Wisdom Points)

– Jacqueline Risset Dante the writer or the Intelletto d’amore (Threshold)

– Jean-Baptiste Sebe, Christ, the writer and the world – Theology and literary works in Hans Urs von Balthasar (Stag)

– Philippe Sollers, Towards paradise (DDB/Bernardins College)

– Philippe Sollers, The Writing and the Experience of Limits (Threshold)

– Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memorytranslated from English by Daniel Arasse (Gallimard)

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In the Footsteps of Dante: The Lives of Angels (28/34)

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