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Can I not everywhere gaze upon the mirror of the sun and stars? Can I not everywhere under heaven mirror forth the most precious truths …? -Dante

‘Dante Alighieri and four other[s] … were summoned to appear before the Podesta, on charges of fraud and corruption while in office, and of conspiracy against the Pope, Charles, and the Guelf party, and the peace of Florence. … On 27 January 1302, sentence was passed: a fine of 5,000 florins … exile for two years; perpetual deprivation of office. On 10 March, a second and severer decree was proclaimed against the original five and ten others; it ended with the ominous words: “and if any of the aforesaid should come into the hands of the said commonwealth, such an one shall be burned with fire till he be dead.”

‘. . . To gaze upon the mirror of the sun and stars and in himself to mirror forth the truth. This was the task which Dante had set himself – as Milton was to do some three hundred years later – in the wreck of all his earthly hopes. He had lost love and youth and earthly goods and household peace and citizenship and active political usefulness and the dream of a decent world and a reign of justice. He was stripped bare. He looked outwards upon the corruption of the Church and Empire, and he looked inwards into the corruption of the human heart; and what he saw was the vision of Hell. And, having seen it, he set himself down to write the great Comedy of Redemption and of the return of all things by the way of Self-Knowledge and Purification, to the beatitude of the Presence of God.’

-Dorothy Sayers, Introduction to The Divine Comedy

( We are all exiles here, really.  But that doesn’t preclude the possibility of doing something meaningful or even lasting.)

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