You shall leave everything you love most dearly:
that is the arrow that the bow of exile
shoots first. You are to know the bitter taste
of other’s bread, how salt it is, and know
how hard a path it is for one who goes
descending and ascending other’s stairs.
But the most grievous weight to bend your back
shall be the vicious and senseless company
with whom you shall fall into this vale.
Who all ungrateful, all mad and impious,
shall act against you: but in short time they,
not you, will have red cheeks. Their end
shall furnish proof of their own bestiality
so that it will appear a handsome deed
that you have formed a party of one.
The above passage from Dante’s Paradiso was invoked by the exiled Erich Auerbach in a March 1948 lecture at Pennsylvania State College (now Pennsylvania State University). Unbeknownst to Auerbach at the time of his lecture, the administration of the college had already decided, that due to a preexisting heart condition, he would be forced leave Penn State, his first American refuge, to seek sanctuary elsewhere (see chapter one, “Auerbach’s Scar” in Djelal Kadir’s 2011 book, Memos from the Besieged City).
Attached is the full text (including the Italian) of Paradiso Canto XVII.
|Paradiso Canto XVII.pdf||1.23 MB|