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From Jacob Burckhardt's 2nd edition of the Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy; edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
Part Two: Development of the Individual
» Full Contents of this PartPage 2
Here, again, as in all essential points, the first witness to be called is Dante. He strove for the poet's garland with all the power of his soul.33 As publicist and man of letters, he laid stress on the fact that what he did was new, and that he wished not only to be, but to be esteemed the first in his own walks.34 But in his prose writings he touches also on the inconveniences of fame; he knows how often personal acquaintance with famous men is disappointing, and explains how this is due partly to the childish fancy of men, partly to envy, and partly to the imperfections of the hero himself. And in his great poem he firmly maintains the emptiness of fame, although in a manner which betrays that his heart was not free from the longing for it. In Paradise the sphere of Mercury is the seat of such blessed ones as on earth strove after glory and thereby dimmed 'the beams of true love.' It is characteristic that the lost souls in hell beg of Dante to keep alive for them their memory and fame on earth, while those in Purgatory only entreat his prayers and those of others for their deliverance.37 And in a famous passage, the passion for fame - 'lo gran disio dell'eccellenza' (the great desire of excelling)--is reproved for the reason that intellectual glory is not absolute, but relative to the times, and may be surpassed and eclipsed by greater successors.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
The Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * The Making of Europe