September 2016

In my Italian class at The Ohio State University, I remember reading about a wedding that didn’t take place.

One of the greatest writers of all time, Dante Alighieri, born of a Florentine middle class family and recognized as the father of the modern Italian language, was my assignment. My studies embraced a chapter in Dante’s personal life.

During a walk at a May festival when he was nine-years-old, he first saw Beatrice, also age nine. It was love at first sight, not a word was spoken, but it was an afternoon he would never forget. Nine years later, he saw Beatrice again. She was walking with two lady friends and nodded to him graciously. She was not aware of his personal feelings. Beatrice and Dante never met again. Years later, Beatrice married and soon after died of the plague. In Dante’s grief, he always remembered the elegant lady.

Eventually, Dante married Gemma Donati who bore him two sons and two daughters. Through poetry, Dante was able to unify the Italian language, and in his noteworthy Tuscan mode, “Vita Nuova” (New Life), he composed 31 poems in which he described his mystical love for Beatrice.

Dante’s greatest work, 10 years in the making, was “Divina Commedia” (Divine Comedy), his imaginary journey through Hell and Purgatory and, in Paradise, Beatrice leads the excursion.

While I may not have earned an “A” in my Italian classes, I will never forget this story.