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Communing with the Masters

February 19th, 2012

It’s about community, not competition.

A number of people have submitted emails in response to the news post I put up yesterday, and some have asked about the meaning of the Dante quote:

e più d’onore ancora assai mi fenno,
ch’e’ sì mi fecer de la loro schiera . . .

The lines are from The Inferno, Canto 4, a scene in which Dante leaves the dark wood to find himself in a pastoral region that sits apart from the errors of the world and the terrors of Hell. Here, in a place beyond time, he joins with five masters of his craft:  Homer, Horace, Ovid, Lucan, and Virgil. These are the writers he has long admired, and he sums up his feelings about finding himself among them with the aforementioned lines, which can be translated thus:

And more honor still, much more, they did me
In that they made me one of their own band . . .

It occurs to me now, particularly after seeing the cover of Voices displayed alongside five other Stoker Nominees at SF Signal, that I might have included one more line in yesterday’s quote.

Here are the full three lines of Dante’s tercet:

e più d’onore ancora assai mi fenno,
ch’e’ sì mi fecer de la loro schiera,
sì ch’io fui sesto tra cotanto senno.

 And in English:

And more honor still, much more, they did me
In that they made me one of their own band,
So that I was the sixth, amid so much wisdom.

I think that’s fitting. It’s not about the competition, about winning or losing against the other works in the collection category. It’s enough to be allowed to stand alongside five of my favorite writers, counted as a member of their band. It’s community, not competition.

Do you agree?