Von der gegenwärtigen Danteforschung ignoriert: Arpad Steiner, St. Jerome and the first terzine of the Divine Comedy

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Arpad Steiner St. Jerome and the first terzine of the Divine Comedy [Modern Languge Notes 52 (1933)

Baldassare Lombard’s widely known commentary of the Divine Comedy [1], many times reprinted [ 2] and held in high esteem during more than a century [3] sees in the first terzina of the ‘Inferno’ an allusion to Isaiah XXXVIII, 10: “ego dixi: in dimidio dierum meorum vadam ad portas inferi”. This parallel, embracing the central theme of the poem, has been endorsed by many another commentator, e.g. Camerini [4], A. Kopisch [5], and G. A. Scartazzini [6], and has become part of the standard stock of Dantologia. So far as it has been possible to ascertain, however, none of the innumerable exegetes has chanced upon a paraphrase of Isaiah’s text by St. Jerome which comes closer to the wording of Dante’s first two lines than the scriptural passage itself. It is a well-known fact that even though St. Jerome was not among his favourites [7], Dante was familiar enough [8] with the works of the Maximus Doctor Ecclisae [9]. The passage in question is found in Jerome’s Commentarius in Isaiam Prophetam , 38 [10]: “In medio vitae cursu, et in errorum tenebris ducentur ad Tartarum.” The much-interpretated nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita appears to be a close transliteration of Jerome’s in medio vitae cursu, and the immediately following in errorum tenebris corresponds to the selva oscura of the second line. Thus, the Hieronymic passage confirms the interpretation laid on the “forest” as “the social influences which darken a man’s perception of the truth, and prevent him from seeing the right path” [11]
[1]La Divina Comedia, nuovamente corretta, spiegata e difesa da F. B. L. M. C., Roma, Fulgoni,1791]

[2]G. Mambelli, Gli annali delle edizioni dantesche, Bologna; Zanichelli, 1931]
[3] G. A. Scartazzini, Dantologia, 3rd ed. by Scarano, Milano, Hoepli, Milano 1906, p. 237]
[4]La Divina Commedia di Dante Alighieri, per cura di E. Camerini,Milano, Soszogno, since 1868-69 many editions.
[5] Die göttliche Komödie des Dante Alighieri, metrische Uebersetzung mit Erläuterugnen von August Kopisch, Berlin, 1842.
[6]Enciclopedia Dantesca, Milano, Hoepli, 1898, II, 1244; cf. also his edition of the Divine Aomedy, frequently reprinted since 1893.
[7]On St. Jerome and Dante, cf. Paget Toynbee, A Dictionary of Proper Names an Notable Matters in the Works of Dante, Oxford, Clarendon, 1898, p. 324.
[8] E. Noore, Studies in Dante, First Series, Oxford, Clarendon, 1896, p. 60.
[9] F. W. Farrar, Lives of the Fathers, New York, Macmillan, 1889, II, 296.
[10] Migne, Patrologia Latina, XXIV, 407 B.
[11] H. F. Tozer, Dante, La Divina Commedia, Notes on Infeno, Oxford, Clarendon, 1902, p.2.


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