The New Life (NYRB Poets) (Paperback)
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The New Life is the masterpiece of Dante’s youth, an account of his love for Beatrice, the girl who was to become his lifelong muse, and of her tragic early death. An allegory of the soul’s crisis and growth, combining prose and poetry, narrative and meditation, dreams and songs and prayers, The New Life is a work of crystalline beauty and fascinating complexity that has long taken its place as one of the supreme revelations in the literature of love.
The New Life is published here in the beautiful translation by the English poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti, an inspired poetic re-creation comparable to Edward Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and a classic in its own right.
About the Author
Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) was born into a noble family in Florence. He fought as a cavalryman, served in a variety of civic and diplomatic positions, and in 1300 attained a preeminent place in the administration of his native city. Florence was at the time caught in a bitter struggle between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines—as well as between contending factions within those political parties—and in 1301, having been sent on an embassy to the Pope in Rome, Dante learned that his enemies had come to power. He was never to see Florence again, and was later banished from the city and sentenced to death. After years of a wandering and uncertain life, Dante finally settled in Ravenna in 1318. Celebrated as a poet from his youth, when he was among those whose writings in Italian were applauded for their “sweet new style,” Dante was also an influential literary and political theorist. His most famous works are The New Life (circa 1293); De vulgari eloquentia (circa 1304–7), a defense of the use of the vernacular in literature; and his epic vision of the afterlife, The Divine Comedy, which he began in 1307 and finished shortly before his death.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–82), the son of an exiled Italian scholar and revolutionary, studied painting at the Royal Academy of Arts and was one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Though he is best known as a painter, Rossetti was also a poet, and his poems, along with his translations of Dante and François Villon, made a lasting impression on such writers as Oscar Wilde, Walter Pater, and Ezra Pound.
Michael Palmer was born in New York City in 1943 and has lived in San Francisco since 1969. He has published ten collections of poetry and has taught at universities in the United States and Europe. He has worked extensively with contemporary dance for twenty-five years and has collaborated with numerous visual artists and composers. His most recent collections are At Passages (1995), The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems 1972–1995 (1998), The Promises of Glass (2000), and Codes Appearing: Poems 1979–1988 (2001).
“Rossetti made a remarkable translation of the Vita Nuova, in some places improving (or at least enriching) the original. He was indubitably the man ‘sent,’ or ‘chosen,’ for that particular job.” —Ezra Pound
“[Rossetti’s translation is] the fruit of countless hours of brooding over Italian painting, Italian images, Italian sounds and thoughts.” —John Wain