IN the far-off days when Dante lived, those who wrote books wrote them in the Latin tongue. Dante himself wrote the first seven cantos of his great poem in Latin. But like many another poet, he was not satisfied with his first attempt. He flung the seven Latin cantos aside and seemingly forgot all about them, for when he was banished from Florence the poem he had begun was not among his treasures.
His wife, however, found the seven cantos and tossed them into a bag among her jewels. Then she also seemed to forget all about them. Five years later a nephew of Dante chanced to find the long-forgotten verses. He at once sent them to his uncle, who was still living in exile.
When Dante received the cantos he had written so long ago, he believed that their recovery was a sign from Heaven that he should complete the great poem he had begun.
He therefore set to work afresh, but this time he wrote, not in Latin, but in his own beautiful mother-tongue, which was, as you know, Italian. When at length the great poem was finished, Dante named it simply, "The Comedy," and it was not until many years after his de-ath that the title was changed into "The Divine Comedy."
A comedy was a tale which might be as sad as tale could be, so only that it ended in gladness.
In "The Divine Comedy," then, about which this little book tells, you may expect to find much that is sad, much that is terrible. Yet you may be certain that before the end of the tale you will find in it gladness and joy..
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