In a Dark Wood
In a Dark Wood
What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love

When you lose your whole world in a moment, where do you turn? On a cold November morning, Joseph Luzzi, a Dante scholar and professor at Bard College, found himself racing to the hospital—his wife, Katherine, eight-and-a-half months pregnant, had been in a horrible car accident. In one terrible instant, Luzzi became both a widower and a first-time father.
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The Starlings of Santa Maria Novella

Originally posted on Joseph Luzzi:

In Inferno 5, the celebrated canto of Paolo and Francesca, Dante describes the lustful sinners – “che sommettono la ragione al talento,” “who sacrificed reason to desire” – as buffeted like starlings in a storm:

E come li stornei ne portan l’ali
nel freddo tempo, a schiera larga e piena,
così quel fiato li spiriti mali.

As, in cold weather, the wings of the starlings
bear them up in wide, dense flocks,
so does that blast propel the wicked spirits.
(trans. Hollander)

Dante’s lines recall some of the most famous birds in Florence. As many visitors to the city know, each day around dusk flocks of starlings descend on the gardens of the majestic Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, not far from the not-so-majestic Fascist-era train station and its subterranean shopping malls.

Here’s my photo of the scene:


Notice that swirling line of black specks above Santa Maria Novella? Those are the starlings. The…

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