I would like to forget

Group of students going to school. The idea of imparting notions without developing a critical sense is as dangerous as ignorance

I would like to forget that useless string of notions,
That furious catechism,
I bear on my skin like a mark of heresy.
I do not repudiate those who gave them to me,
lined up like toy soldiers:
I repudiate the me who stood mute to listen.
Two arms are needed to live,
the lucid gaze,
The stubbornness of hunger.
To die, perhaps,
It’s needed to do like Ulysses.
But it is only the slip of an instant,
The glory of a May cloud,
Which is already changed, and does not return.
Now, I have to scout out a junk dealer,
My cargo is worth less than the sand,
But I would like to feed one more day.
How long did Ulysses, the real father, live,
The man who still feared hell,
Before you give yourself to the love of the waves?

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Some considerations on the figure of Dante’s Ulysses

Dante Alighieri (- 1321), the celebrated Florentine poet, vividly portrayed the character of Ulysses in the first part of the Divine Comedy, Canto XXVI of the Inferno. In this extraordinary work, Dante masterfully captured the essence of Ulysses’ insatiable thirst for knowledge and adventure, even at the risk of eternal damnation. It is the Greek hero who speaks these extraordinary words of incitement:

“Bethink you of the seed
whence ye have sprung; for ye were not created
to lead the life of stupid animals,
but manliness and knowledge to pursue.

In Dante’s Inferno, Ulysses is depicted as a symbol of unquenchable curiosity and relentless ambition. Despite the dangers that await him, he relentlessly pursues his desire to explore, discover, and understand the unknown. The poet appropriately portrays Ulysses as a beacon of intellectual curiosity, always seeking to push the boundaries of human knowledge.

Dante’s portrayal of Ulysses resonates with readers as it reflects man’s innate desire to explore and delve into the world’s mysteries. The poet recognizes and conveys the universal truth that pursuing knowledge often involves significant risk and sacrifice.

Odysseus’ determination to venture into uncharted territory, even though he knows it could lead to his downfall, serves as a poignant reminder of the indomitable nature of the human spirit. Dante captures the essence of this adventurous spirit, painting a picture of a motivated and imperfect man who embodies the complexities of the human condition.

Illustration by Gustave Doré for Canto XXVI of Inferno. It depicts the flaming spirits of Odysseus and Diomedes.
Illustration by Gustave Doré for Canto XXVI of the Inferno (contained in the illustrated version of the first canticle of the Divine Comedy). It depicts the flaming spirits of Odysseus and Diomedes.

Through his vivid description of Ulysses, Dante highlights the potential consequences of unbridled ambition and the dangers of succumbing to one’s desires without considering all its ramifications. In the depths of Hell, Ulysses serves as a cautionary tale to remind readers that even the noblest of activities can lead to ruin if not tempered with wisdom and moderation.

Dante’s portrayal of Ulysses is a testament to his unparalleled narrative ability. Through his words, he evokes a vivid picture of a character torn between his insatiable thirst for knowledge and the potential destruction that awaits him. As readers, we need to reflect on the depth of our desires and how much we are willing to do to fulfill them.

In conclusion, Dante’s portrayal of Ulysses in the Inferno showcases the poet’s extraordinary imagination and depth of understanding of the human psyche. Through the character of Odysseus, Dante reminds us of the risks and rewards inherent in pursuing knowledge and the eternal quest for understanding.

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