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Sixth Centenary of Dante 18/08/2011

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c. 1910 remembering the 1860s

After all but six months spent in Florence, it was time for me to turn my thoughts homeward. But it was impossible to bid it farewell before witnessing the celebration of the Sixth Centenary of the Birth of Dante that was to be held on the 16th of May. By six o’clock on the morning of that day, Trollope and I were in our places in the Piazza Santa Croce, where a statue of the Poet by Fedi was to be unveiled, and eight thousand Italian municipalities were to be represented in the Square by deputations carrying the gonfalons of their respective cities and communes. As the sculptor, whom I had met more than once, has for many years been dead, I may say that the Statue disappointed our expectations, as it has that of many a one since. But the ceremony was most impressive.

After sundown, in the company of Charles Lever’s daughters and two American young ladies, I traversed all the principal thoroughfares, nowhere being crushed or jostled, though the streets were crowded, for gentle Tuscan manners, now, I fear, deteriorated there as elsewhere, made movement easy and agreeable. Not the palaces and bridges of the city alone, but the outlying Villas on the hill-slopes for miles around, were illuminated with oil-fed lamps. The Piazza of the Uffizi was covered in and its pavement boarded over for a Peasants’ Ball; and at the Pagliano Theatre were represented the most picturesque scenes from the Divina Commedia, Ristori, Salvini, and Rossi reciting the corresponding passages in the poem.

Then many friendly and some tender farewells had to be taken; and on the following morning I started for Paris, having as travelling companions, and very agreeable ones, Ristori, her husband, and their two young children. As the domes and towers of the Fair City faded from view, I recited to myself the lines I often had cause, again and again, to repeat: Benedetta sia la Madre, Che ti fece cosi bella. Che tu sei tanto graziosa, Che tu sei tanto vezzosa; Benedetta sia Tu!

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Boston to Florence! 11/01/2011

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Poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes (obit 1894) sent to The Philological Circle of Florence for its meeting in commemoration of Dante, January 27, 1881, the anniversary of his first condemnation.

Proud of her clustering spires, her new-built towers,

Our Venice, stolen from the slumbering sea,

A sister’s kindliest greeting wafts to thee,

Rose of Val d’ Arno, Queen of all its flowers!

Thine exile’s shrine thy sorrowing love embowers.

Yet none with truer homage bends the knee.

Or stronger pledge of fealty brings than we.

Whose poets make thy dead Immortal ours.

Lonely the height, but ah, to heaven how near!

Dante, whence flowed that solemn verse of thine

Like the stern river from its Apennine

Whose name the far-off Scythian thrilled with fear;

Now to all lands thy deep-toned voice is dear.

And every language knows the Song Divine!