Starting with its #5, LD, born anglophone, carries one opening essay or lectura in Italian. In these overtures «form» is as significant, in our opinion, as «content»: écriture is part of, or is, the message. In translation, the piece would lose some of its value. This was the case with Sanguineti's excursus on Hugolin; such is the case with the Italian essay in the current issue. Fredi Chiappelli sent us the text (dated «Los Angeles, gennaio-marzo 1988») in December 1988, as his intended guest lecture for the NEH Seminar (the «Virginia Dante Institute») in June 1989. Illness prevented Fredi from traveling to Charlottesville __ as well as from revising or smoothing the typescript, which is, however, clearly meant to be a «printer's copy». In preparing the text for publication, our editorial interventions (mainly correcting typos, uniformizing quotes and references, and straightening out a couple of minor oversights) were kept at a minimum.

      Is it possible to discuss literary influence without reference to the ups and downs of the concept of originality (and the precept of imitation) throughout the ages? H. Bloom knows Lichtenberg's maxim on «influence» in poetry as an oxymoron; but he also knows that «soft-headed descriptions of anxiety are marketable». In his own marketable oxymoron of a booklet he feigns (we hope he feigns) to believe that Shakespeare's exemption from The Anxiety of Influence is due to his «coming before the flood»; that Dante's, Milton's, and Goethe's «freedom» from A-of-I is just a «miracle» __ a rather ahistorical category. Please let someone tell Bloom that the cult of originality (and hence an «anxiety» to preserve oneself un-influenced) is endemic to all «silver» (adolescential? senile?) ages in the history of human civilization. Shakespeare, Dante, Milton (and Vergil, Horace, etc., set aside by Bloom as everything that would disturb Bloomism) belong to «golden» ages devoted to the cult of tradition and imitation. But Bloom (as De Man noted) has no time for detail: he is busy fabricating an nth Greco-Latin terminology: clinamen and misprision and... __ but these misbegotten little monsters are already all over Yale. Bloom is busy asking himself such intriguing questions as «What is the Primal Scene for the poet as poet?» [pedantic italics by H. B.] And giving himself such answers as: «It is his Poetic Father's coitus with the Muse». Q: «There he was begotten?» A: «No __ there they failed to beget him» [Ed.'s query: «Interruptus? Praecox? Headache?»]. Bloom explains: «He [the poet] must be selfbegotten». Autocoitus? No, just an ornery incest: «He must engender himself upon the Muse his mother». Suspicion: Harold, at least periodically, must be pulling the reader's leg. We for one like to imagine him bending over, in his Sterling Chair, with silent fits of laughter, at our expense.

      And so, the authorship perplex having exhausted everything and everyone, the Cangrande letter, it seems, can cede its long-abused function as Dante's own how-to book __ to take on the role, of general usefulness, as one medieval manifesto expressing tenets probably close to (a minor) Dante's way of thinking. The demise of the fourfold obsession cannot but cause a fin-de-siècle sigh of relief. Early 21st-c. Dantology can come up with its own new brand of madness. (LD will be there [under new editorship, but it shall be there {dear Ed: sad or glad, quote our prediction at an appropriate anniversary}].) Yet we feel a little sorry having to file as forgery the Letter's most cited phrase, about statu miserie turned into statu felicitatis. Little we care about Dante's messianic mission. The Comedy has never saved a soul. Except in this sense: in virtue of its complex magic, it has often «led» one soul, ours, de statu miserie in statum felicitatis.

      So godlike he is in his Creation! No wonder his Theologians (the Sunday School school of Dante exegesis) confuse him with God. And not, at that, with amusing old lecher Zeus, or smily obese Buddha, or lucid whimsical Benamuki, but proprio with no-nonsense Yaweh, right out of the King James. __ Can we abuse this filler page, and one-up the Dantheologians? (We, a contented heathen, absentmindedly respect all religions.) The Comedy, as to inventio, and storytelling, and écriture, and..., is far superior to the quae extant of the Holy Spirit.

      At our latitude, in Virginia, the Voyager reached its perigee (peri-Poseidic?) at 4 am. Only two spectators were left, watching the immense gray globe on the screen in our College auditorium: a colleague from Astronomy, ex officio, and ourself __ still expecting a cosmic jolt, an astral throb, an interstellar surge. But Neptune remained alien. The coordinates making up the slowly shifting picture arrived exhausted after their four-hour lightspeed rush among the stars. We had hoped for a shot of our faraway aiuola, no more than a speck on Neptune's horizon; or for a view of the bright star, our distant Sun. No: nothing to relate to on this forbidding planet unknown to Ptolemy and Dante, unknown to Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler. __ But then, suddenly, a small detail jolts us alive. «What is that dot, there, to the left and below the big storm: the black spot, round, not bigger than a penny?» The sleepy Astronomer doesn't see it at first, then: «Oh you mean the dot to SSE, at about eight o'clock? Must be a shadow: the shadow of a satellite of Neptune». Suddenly the picture comes to life: the shadow has «humanized» Neptune. Voyager, too, then, must slowly drag its weak shadow across the face of the planet. __ Here is the sidereal adventure we had expected. Is the shadow more alive, credible, than the thing? Skias onar anthropos: Aeschylus? «Man, the dream of a shadow». And the shadow of Dante (the Voyager!) in Purgatory, and Vergil's «missing» shadow... Ombra d'Argo! Neptune! «Un punto solo m'è maggior letargo che venticinque secoli all'impresa...». The ancient Sea God, Poseidon, emerges once more from the depths, to witness another intrusion. The old myth, and Dante's dream of a shadow, have brought to life the cold gray globe on the screen. The stars are suddenly near.