Meter in Paradiso – Emphasis on the _____?

Hi all!

We have been talking a lot about how Dante is constantly romanticizing Beatrice, constantly proclaiming his love for her.  A great example of this occurs pages 213-214 when Dante says:

“Those loving words made me turn round to face/ my Solace.  What love within her holy eyes/ I just saw then–too much to be retold.”

Dante calls Beatrice his “solace” defined by as: “something that gives comfort, consolation, or relief.”  Therefore, Beatrice allows Dante to feel calm.  While looking up this definition, I notices that the stress for the word “solace” is at the beginning of the word: sol-is.

Something I find really interesting about the tercets in this poem is that the lines are almost always 10 syllables each–sometimes they can be 11 syllables.  I think we should pay attention to the meter happening here; I have bolded the stressed syllables:

“Those lov | ing words | made me|turn round | to face/ | my Sol- | ace.  What | love with-| in her | ho– ly | eyes/ I | just saw | then–too | much to | be re-told.”

So, the first 7 feet of this tercet are written in iambs (unstressed, stressed).  The following 7 feet are trochees (s, u), and the final foot is an anapest (u, u, s).

I am thinking that this use of meter is being used to emphasize the love between Dante and Beatrice.  “What love” are both stressed, indicating how immense Beatrice’s love is for Dante.

I also think it’s worth noting that words like “solace” and “holy” are trochees (s,u).  Because they are stressed at the beginning, the words stand out more.

I’d like to look at another example.  Here is the following tercet complete with bolded stressed syllables:

“not on | ly do | I fear | my words | may fail,/ | but to | such heights | my mind | can-not |re-turn/ |un-less | A-noth- |er guides | it from | a-bove.”

This is written more uniformly than my first example, all in iambs (u, s).  Again, the words that are seemingly most important are stressed.  “Heights” is stressed; Dante continues to rise and higher and higher in heaven.  “Guides” reiterates the importance of Beatrice; without her, Dante would not be on this journey.  “Fear…words…fail” are all stressed as well.  This is one of Dante’s largest fears–that his words will not be accepted–that the entirety of the poem will not be accepted.

I would like to look at one final example seeing as I am having so much fun!!!

“I can | re-call | just this | a-bout | that mo– |ment:/ as I | was gaz– | ing at | her there, I | know/ my| heart was | freed of | ev-ery | oth- er | long-ing…”

This one is a little more mixed then the other two, but most similar to the first example I gave.  The lines start in iambs but regress to trochees, just as they did in the first example.  I like how the stressed words in these lines demonstrate Dante’s whole attention to Beatrice.  “I know” consists of two stressed words–Dante is certain of his feelings for Beatrice.

I did label meter here myself, so they are not perfect!  I searched on all of the polysyllabic words to see which part of the word is stressed in pronunciation.

What do you make of this meter in Dante’s Paradiso?

Happy blogging!


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