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LECTURE ON DANTE, Issue 15670, 8 December 1914
LECTURE ON DANTE
In the Octagon Hall List night, before an audience of about 600, the Kev. P. Jf. Knight, 8.A., of Christchurch, delivered .-> popular lecture on 'The Life and Work of Dante.' Tie Mayor (Mr Shacklock) acted as chairjuin.
The Rev. Mr Knight began by saying that he was there to discuss with the people of Dunedin his pet craze. In Melbourne he was known as the Dante maniac. He hoped that he would succeed in making other maniacs of the sumo sort, and thus dietributs pleasure and cu Urate the imagination. It was th> reading of a remark by John Ruskin, to the effect thai Dante .stood as a central himre amongst the great and intellectual thinkers of the world, that had started h.m upou the study of tho immortal poet, and as a result of his study he felt impelled to tell tile people of this glorious mine of wkdo.'n. It must bt- confes-ed that Dante wan pretty st.ff read ng. He only appealed to a cultured audience, but there were evidences in and about Dunedin that such at; audience could be found here. Tho .lecturer then plunged into hj s subject. He first dealt with Dante's history. He was born in 1265, at Florence. His name was Durante .Alighieri. '• Dante" was merely a eontriction. Beatrice Portinari who inspired his passion and ennobled him, died. Her influenco upon Dante was the influence that brought out the beet in every man who had experience of tho elevating effects of a pure woman's love, l'eafrieo was to Dante in his after life a spiritual presence. Mr Knight went on to speak of Dante as a pclit cian ; of his elevation to the Priory ; of the Florentine rows that led to his banishment and his wanderings; of his linal retreat to Ravenna, where his remains still lie. Then the audience were given a running commentary on Dante's chief work, 'The Divina Commed a.' Mr Knight had no time to speak of hit* other wr.tings. But of the work by which Dante is best known w? were afforded a comprehensive view. ;:klcd by enlargements on the screen of Gu?tar Doiie's wcndt'iful ilhi trations. Mr Knight devoted fully half his allotted time to 'The Inferno.' This, be explained, was not really "a vision of Hell." but an allegorical representation of tho human heart rilled with unrepented sin. Dante's theory was that men were punished not for their sins, but by their 6:ns, and tho poem taught in sober reality how men might be brought from a stite of misery to a state of happiness. After the 'lnferno' the lecta'er dealt with tho 'Purgatorio.' and finally with the 'Paradise.' The latter, Mr Kn'ght explained, was loaded with tho imperfect a tronomical science of his period. In the light oi n'cdern knowledge the progress of the purified soul through tho Moon, Mercnry, Venus, Mars, and ,Tup : tor, on to the fixtd stars, and thence to the ninth heaven of Hod's presence in eternal l'ght, wnssimoly grotesque, but it was of value because of its illustration of tho final attainment of soul. Mr Knight's method of treatment was hy no means lofty. llis illustrative roin.irks often -minded odd and cornmonjlace. As, for instance, when he spoke of the size of th:i Vatican g'ving *' the old gentleman a fair chance to stretch his Jesrs"; also th-> funny story of the visitor to",St. Paul's chapel who did not want to be bothered about the pedigree of the hens, but felt anxious as to whether they rould lay eggs; also the likeness between the of the po?m and the politicians of the present day. These references were homely, and not quite in the Dante atmosphere. Moreover, we have ;:n idea that Mr Knight put the Friar Alberico lines into canto 32, making that historical assassin one of the party in the frosen lake, instead of presenting* him as one of the punished ones in canto 33. VYe are here writing from memory, and we willing to accept Mr Knight's contrariictiDU if our mental note in the dark is wrong. Aml in this connection, by the way, what was it that th;> Friar actually did? From Mr Knight's commons il was KtipDCsed by some present that ho killed his" brotherhood with po-'soned wine; whereas Landino puts it llainly that Alberigo invilsd them to a banquet and made the calling for the fruity the signal for the entrance of the assnssins. But, apart from particulars of manner or fact, Mr Knight made last night's audience think ibout Dant**, and therefore he got to the end he professedly had in tW. He was epeaking to a mixed aud'ence, and that is his jtist-'ncation for treat : pg the subject in a popular rather than a learned style.
LECTURE ON DANTE, Issue 15670, 8 December 1914
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