LD owes no one an account of its «finances». It never asked for support from learned or unlearned societies; it always assumed that NEH was the negative of YEH. We hasten, however, to assure concerned friends: LD's situation is sound. With the present issue, subscription reached the level of covering printing expenses. __ Another friendly query regards the lack of an «editorial board» or such. The editor, having ascertained that such boards seldom have a role in preparing or supervising the product, and having therefore in the past declined inclusion in such lists, deemed it fair to assume in turn full responsibility for all decisions regarding the Journal.

      In the course of our editorial work we notice that some American Dante scholars, especially those in the early phases of their career, whether of the Singletonian school or not (query: Is there such a school anymore? Most pupils have packed their Summae and set up shop slightly off the premises), indicate as their source for Dante's text the Bollingen reprint (essentially unretouched) of Giorgio Petrocchi's vulgata. Thus the acknowledgments give the impression that it was Charles Singleton who established the current critical text of the Comedy. Reputable UPs now allow this practice, flying in the face of everything their MLA and its hallowed Style Sheets legislate, and depriving Petrocchi of credit for his monumental work.

      Two guest editorials. __ By Jonathan Swift: In the Kingdom of Tribnia, called by the Natives Langden [now also, let us add, in the oligarchy of Mercaia, called by the Natives Acremia], there is a «Set of Artists very dexterous in finding out the mysterious Meanings of Words, Syllables and Letters. For instance, they can decypher a Close-stool to signify a Privy Council; a Flock of Geese, a Senate; a Lame Dog, an Invader...»., etc. __ By Zygmunt Baranski [on such «Artists»]: «Their very success has led to a tendency in the USA to overemphasize and overelaborate the Comedy's reliance on allegorical techniques of communication. Many American contributions in this area pay little attention to the fact that the "comedía" is a poem rather than a puzzle to be unlocked through the discovery of the appropriate allegorical keys».

      Dante's «misquotes» have the same effect on the reader's mind as Dante's «broken idiom». «Anzi maravigliose», «Vexilla regis inferni», «auri sacra fames», etc., produce a mnemonic jolt similar to that produced by «speranza di morte», etc. («hope for life» is the ossified idiom, «hope for death» is the infernal twist of it; an extreme example is Pope Nicholas who «makes a wry ... foot»). In fact, both of these stylistic tricks (tricks as in «magician's tricks»: deceit practised to exalt admiration), i.e., the «interfering with» the reader's cultural patrimony (direct quote) and linguistic patrimony (retouched idiom), have at their roots an anagogic process. Aren't both of them close relations, in essence, of such similes as «come il pan per fame si manduca»? Similes in which something gray and everyday (for the reader and the «earthling» traveler) is absurdly «compared with» (in order to «illustrate»? Not at all, of course) the utterly unearthly horror (here, tecnofagia in aeternum) of the Beyond. __ Go one step farther. Ugolino's wiping his mouth (oh, the table manners of the well bred aristocrat), in napkin-less hell, with Roger's hair, chewed raggy, has a similar effect, of linguistic shock. The effect of a rapid mental zoom, a «placing side by side» of what is peacefully, innocently ordinary and what is horrifyingly, monstrously extra-ordinary. __ Eliot so understood Dante's art of misquoting. His reader of course remembers what «non avrei creduto / che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta» means. It is part of Dante's vicarious demography, implicit medieval statistics (skewed a little perhaps by the politician's ageless resentment against «abstainers»). The poet of Paese Guasto superimposed his vision of the bustling metropolis (a pre-'29 London, truly a cité de lumière, of ragtime, strawhats, youthful hope) upon the rapidly evoked picture of the ignavi. The crowd flowing over London Bridge are the survivors, but the poet «had not thought death had undone so many».

      A propos. At the grand finale of his historic 1867 Preface to Capital, Marx rather gruffly headed off all future disagreement: «As to the prejudices of so-called public opinion, to which I have never made concessions, now as aforetime the maxim of the great Florentine is mine: "Segui il tuo corso, e lascia dir le genti"». Here is the rub: in that scorn for the vox populi, the future subjects of the oligarchy nicknamed dictatorship of the proletariat. But LD has a more urgent problem: Who is the great Florentine? One hemistich of the quote vaguely reminds you of Brunetto's «Se tu segui tua stella...» (and corso may be a stray from the Pilgrim's reply: «Ciò che narrate di mio corso scrivo»). The second half is from Vergil's purgatorial torre ferma speech («Vien dietro a me e lascia dir le genti...»). Since among the prejudices of the «so-called» public opinion we subscribe to, there is a distaste for forgeries, we wonder where did Marx get the stuff. On the face of it, it looks like a fabrication of his sidekick Engels. Fred may have casually made it up in conversation; Karl must have noted it down. Both of them scorning the prejudice of historical precision, they never checked the original. Now isn't that symbolic? The peroratio in the keynote of the one work that most surely has changed the face of the earth is a fake.

      Recommendation to Princeton UP. The Bollingen Dante should be redefined as a revision of John Sinclair's translation. Singleton's text reads as a more or less lightly edited version of the Oxford UP Dante. Apart from the you-ing of thou's, etc., the «changes» are curiously inconsistent and rarely improve on the Sinclair. Even more curiously, at times Singleton intrudes to make the Oxford don's English a bit more British. Here and there he reestablishes an archaic subjunctive. He refines Sinclair's excrement (Victorian for Dante's merda) into prim «ordure». Both translators are far more «solemn» than Dante. Especially Singleton. «Vedi che a ciò penso», Vergil answers the Pilgrim's request (Inf. XI). Nothing more colloquial, everyday, «modern»: you can hear the phrase any day in Florence. Singleton translates: «Know that I am so minded». I mention these (and a dozen other similar) peculiarities to a former Johns Hopkins pupil of the Master. With an awed tone she explains: «But you see, Singleton did speak like that». Well, Dante did not.

      «Il senso lor m'è duro». A recently reprinted interpretation of the Pilgrim's reaction to the inscription on Hell's gates gives, in nuce, the measure of its proponent's égarement in the labyrinths of (pseudo)referentiality. While the critic, apparently, does not seem to suspect that duro is indeed spectacularly ambivalent («hard» on the Pilgrim: «lasciate ogni speranza»; and, of course, hard to understand: it is a network of riddles), he suggests __ rather sheepishly, truth to tell __ that duro somehow refers (or words to that effect) to the stone into which the inscription is carved. Well, isn't stone hard? Isn't the inscription carved into stone? Moreover: had not Jesus Christ himself called Simon, His future gate keeper, Petrus (a «specular» reference to Hell's gate)? And had not Dante himself written the Petra cycle? Etc. etc. etc. Query: just how to explain, without appealing to common sense (not a category of American Dante scholarship), that not even in a nightmare should such an idea occur to Dante's reader __ unless you have material proof that senso may somehow mean (in Dante or in any writer, in the 14th century or in any period, on Earth or on Mars __ anything will do) «material on which there is writing».

      During the Q/A period after a lecture at Great Midwestern U we were asked what we thought of the idea that in Alighieri's name there is a hint at his trip through Paradise: aliger, «wing-bearer». In retrospect, our answer seems to us to have been too vexed. The idea somehow (we have no idea just how) implies that unborn (and as yet nameless) Dante was already planning the Comedy and had a choice as to his earthly destination at least as far as family alliances go. But why such gruffness in answering a Q proferred, truth to tell, with grace and much hesitation? Well, because. Because if you once allow your mind to entertain such ideas you are on your way to allow duro to refer to Hell's cinderblocks. Well, and what's wrong with that? Well, nothing, as long as you do it in private and with consenting adults; but if you're a teacher such ideas tend to infect your teaching too, and so to warp your students' minds. And the next thing you know is that a generation of mysteriosophists has grown up and comes to ask such questions at your lecture... Well, and what's wrong with that?