Chapter

The Holy Stone where Dante Sat: Memory and Oblivion<sup>*</sup>

Graham Smith

in Dante in the Long Nineteenth Century

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199584628
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739095 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199584628.003.0006
The Holy Stone where Dante Sat: Memory and Oblivion*

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This chapter begins by focusing on the practice — adumbrated by Cicero — of venerating sites associated with great figures of the past, and considers the rituals practised at such sites. William Beckford's account of his pilgrimage to Petrarch's house at Arquà is considered as a template for this practice. The chapter then considers how responses to the ‘Sasso di Dante’ conformed to this model, and examines particularly how English poets expressed their veneration of Dante's resting-place. The first such tribute occurs in ‘Florence’, a poem published by Samuel Rogers in 1822; the second is William Wordsworth's 1842 sonnet ‘At Florence’; and the third is provided by John Ruskin in a letter of 1845 to his father. In essence, the ‘Sasso’ functioned as a secular shrine where ordinary travellers, as well as writers, could venerate the poet and realize their wish to connect with him. An important consequence of the inspiration provided by this locus was the creation of a powerful literary identity for Florence as it was perceived by British visitors. Beyond this, Dante's stone contributed to the creation of an international fellowship of poets, writers, and literati.

Keywords: Sasso di Dante; English poets; Samuel Rogers; William Wordsworth; John Ruskin; shrine

Chapter.  7793 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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