Thursday, February 12, 2004

The heart is truly an instrument de precision. My father's Virtual 1221 is both a labor of love and a testament to the measurability our dreams can have at times.

In The Divine Comedy Dante's words are weighted (no pun intended) by the wealth of detail he put into his stories. he describes, even down to the measurements the things he saw, making his hell as real and as vividly imagined as any other far off place that exists in space or memory.

This next bit is from Canto XXXI in the Pinsky translation of the Inferno. In it, Dante describes one of the giants set to guard the gates of hell:

To me his face appeared as long and full
As the bronze pinecone of St. Peter's of Rome
With all his other bones proportional

So that the bank, which was an apron for him
Down from his middle, showed above it such a height
Three men of Friesland could not boast to come

Up to his hair. Extending down from the spot
Where one would buckle a mantle I could see
Thirty spans of him. . .

Dante's detailed description of the afterlife gives it a reality beyond fable. The space is mesurable, the account measured. This is a place that matters, and every detail, no matter how sensational or insignificant, has its own wieght. This is no frivious vision, no flight of fancy. Here, every detail bears equal weight.

Of course, Dante didn't invent this sort of trancendental spatial descriptiveness. Witness John's description of the Heavenly City in the book of Revelation:

And he who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies four-square, its length the same as its breadth; and he measured the city with his rod, twelve thousand stadia; its length and breadth and height are equal. He also measured its wall, a hundred and forty-four cubits by a man's measure, that is, an angel's. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. ( Revelation. 21:15-18)

Luckily, my father's palaces of memeory are not so horrific as Dante's underworld, nor as awesome/awful as St. John's vision. But his labor flows from the same stream as Dante's.

We are all given to our own visions, and while our underworlds and palaces of memory are not as epic as Dante's or as Divinely inspired, they are our own, and the responsibity for their upkeep ours alone. And the walls are built of jasper, and pure gold, clear as glass.

No comments: