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Domenico di Michelino, La Divina Commedia di Dante. 1465 fresco in Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence.

Rhymes and reasons

It was 700 years ago, many scholars believe—in the 12th year of Dante’s exile from Florence—that the Inferno first saw the light of day. Thirteen fourteen: the year has a sprightly sound, hinting at upcoming sequels, and the Italian l’anno mille trecento quattordici has just the right number of syllables (11) to form the first line of a Dantean tercet. I imagine a second year following and a third year rhyming until, year by year, carried along by Dante’s ingenious interlocking terza rima, we are brought to the present moment, duemila quattordici, still marveling at a poem that from link to link makes paradise rhyme with hell.


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