Monday, December 10, 2007

"Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare"

Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare
La donna mia quand'ella altrui saluta
Ch'ogne lingua deven tremando muta,
E li occhi no l'ardiscon di guardare.
Ella si va, sentendosi laudare,
Benignamente d'umilta' vestuta;
E par che sia una cosa venuta
Da cielo in terra a miracol mostrare.

Mostrasi si' piacente a chi la mira,
Che da' per li occhi una dolcezza al core,
Che 'ntender non la puo' chi no la prova;
E par che de la sua labbia si mova
Uno spirito soave pien d'amore,
Che va dicendo a l'anima: "Sospira."

-Dante Alighieri

And for those of us who do not read fluently in Italian, here is the English translation taken from the book Introduction to Italian Poetry by Luciano Rebay;

"So gentle and virtuous she appears"

So gentle and virtuous she appears,
My lady, when greeting other people
That every tongue tremblingly grows silent,
And eyes do not dare gaze upon her.
She passes by, hearing herself praised,
Graciously clothed with humility,
And she appears to be a creature who has come
From heaven to earth to show forth a miracle.

She shows herself so pleasing to her beholders,
That she gives through the eyes a sweetness to the heart,
Which no one can understand who does not feel it;
And it appears that from her lip moves
A tender spirit full of love,
Which says again and again to the soul: "Sigh."

I was given a copy of this poem in my ideas and cultures class last Friday, and when I read it I was struck by how well it fits into what I have been reading in Captivating. This poem, written by Dante for his love Beatrice, beautifully illustrates the essence of a woman. Captivating talks a lot about the soul of women and how God created us to reflect the beauty and glory of God. We are called to reflect this beauty from the inside out. If you own a copy of Captivating I would suggest reading through chapter 8: Beauty to Unveil.

The woman described in the poem reflects many of the qualities Godly women should possess.
Her beauty does not merely come from her outward appearance, but from "the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4b)."
She is 'clothed with humility' which I can only imagine means that she was not trying to show off her God-given physical qualities (I thought that was a diplomatic way to express that, haha).
"I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God."
- 1 Timothy 2:9-10
The most striking part of this poem to me is the last line. This woman has the power to calm everyone around her. Their souls are merely left to sigh in her presence. They feel at ease around her, like everything is well in the world.
As a woman I wish that I possessed this power all the time. When my world is not chaotic I think I do have the ability to calm those around me, but when I am busy, stressed or sitting in traffic I tend to reflect a very different attitude. I become tense, shrewd and angry. The only way I will ever be like the woman in that poem, or similarly the woman in Proverbs 31, is if I present all of my emotions and frustrations to God. He can and has been changing me into a more peaceful person to be around. Whenever I feel like I am going to lose my mind, I repeat the verse from 1 Peter that I cited above. It does not mean that I need to be silent, because those who know me know that I can be very VERY loud at times, HA! But my spirit needs to reflect my acceptance of God's will for me and show others that they should accept it for themselves as well.

Don't be afraid to show the world the beauty that God has instilled in you. Allow Him to quiet your chaotic mind and fill you with the peace of His love.

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."
- Proverbs 31:30


Lauren said...

Hi, I am an italian student studying at MD and I really enjoyed this post on "Tanto Gentile e Tanto Onesta Pare". Your comments concerning Dante's vision of spiritual love and the ideal woman as an instrument of God instead of a magnet for lust and idolatry were really helpful to me. I have to present an analysis of La Vita Nova and the language was really interfering with my comprehension of the message, so grazie mille for your insights!

Marco said...

Hi I am Italian too and i say "Nay" to that translation. First: it does the poem no justice, therefore study Italian if you want to read Dante (i am however aware it was to prove a point), as i "learnt" English to read Milton's Paradise Lost. Second: NO your point is off, but so off-mark that Dante himself must have turned in the grave when you conceived the thought. This has NOTHING to do with God, the Bible, or the Gospels (or religion for what matters) WHAT-SO-EVER! this is about what a man physically and spiritually feels when he truly Loves a woman AS IS (without all that bullocks about how she should or shouldn't behave or be). Religion to Dante (his poetry) was but a mask, THINK!
That said, I bid you farewell and Good Luck, may God be with you.

carlofierens said...

Hi Marco, I'm Italian as well and I can say that you are wrong. For the richness of dante is that you can read his poems in many different keys. spiritual (and religious) can be a key to understand deeply his words. surely not "the key", but a valid access. Don't forget we are talking about the author of "divina commedia"! Second, don't be so hard with translations. Do we all have to learn japanese to read a Haiku? or russian for Puskin? of course with poetry it's highly recommended, but you have to be more understanding.

Marcus Li said...

Hi, I'm Marcus- I read German and Italian. I would have to agree with Carlo on this. In line 8 for instance, the reference to "cielo" and terra" as well as the abstract nouns in the final tercet: "spirito" and "anima" --> there is a reverberation of religiosity and transcendence. And let's not forget that the mode of address in line 2: "la donna mia" --> ambiguity without consideration of context, could be interpreted as Madonna. Slightly taken aback by your concrete dismissal of other people's opinion of what is, rightly aforementioned, as a multi-faceted poem, capable of an array of interpretations.

Marcus x

Leonardo said...

"Which no one can understand who does not feel it" Would sound much more realistic as "Which no one can understand if is unable to feel it".