Introduction to the Web Edition

Dante wrote lyric poetry throughout his life. He began when he was eighteen with compositions in the Guittonian style, which later he rejected as he became familiar with works of Guinizelli and Cavalcanti.

If Dante had not written the Comedy, we would still be familiar with his name, perhaps as the best predecessor of Petrarch (although the latter practically ignored him). However, because of the Comedy, we see his poetry in a special light.

But even if we consider Dante’s poetry by itself, we discover his uniqueness. He is the first poet of the Italian lyric tradition to select some of his poems, and through them write a story of his love for Beatrice as it developed through her life and death. Because of this uniqueness, we have the Vita Nuova. Later he attempted a similar project with his philosophical poems, and we have the Convivio, with the commentary of its three canzoni, and we know that more were planned for it.

The variety of style of his lyric poems is also versatile. We find sonnets of correspondence, vituperium (insults), and Latin Eclogues. No other poet of the time has been so inclusive.

Seven hundred years have passed since Dante wrote his poetry. A new millennium has come upon us, but new poets still express feelings through lyric poetry. Joseph Tusiani is one of the most recognizable figures of a modern poet. He has written poetry in English, Italian, and Latin. And he has translated into English from these languages. With this in mind, I approached him last fall to invite him to make his translation of Dante’s poems available on the Internet, along with Dante’s Comedy.

Tusiani was excited at the idea of offering his work of love and dedication to our web visitors. Then I approached his publisher, Gaetano Cipolla, a longtime friend, and I got the project under way. After five months, I am delighted to offer these poems as a companion to the Divine Comedy, which has been enthusiastically accepted by scholars and lovers of Italian literature in the year that it has been on-line.

To keep the spirit of the printed publication, I have kept the original text and Tusiani’s translation side by side, and moved the notes next to the poems. I also subdivided the sonnets into four sections, as in the original division of the Italian texts (4-4-3-3), instead of two divisions (8-6).

My thanks to both, Joseph Tusiani and Gaetano Cipolla, for allowing me to enrich the Stony Brook Dante Project with these poems. Now we are offering the entire body of Dante’s verses in English within one web site, enriched by a text search to facilitate scholars in their research.

Again I wish to acknowledge with gratitude the Hon. Kenneth LaValle, senator of the State of New York, for his assistance and support with a state grant that provides the necessary funds to the Center for Italian Studies at Stony Brook University, host of this site.

This edition of Dante’s Lyric Poetry is available in book format, published by Legas Books. Anyone who wish to purchase the book may e-mail Gaetano Cipolla, at cipollag@stjohns.edu

Charles Franco
Stony Brook University
March 2000