Dante and Virgil walking past the point of no return into Hell. One can’t return from Hell just as one can’t unsee and unhear something seen and heard. The way goes on, hopefully upwards and out, but never back. London, British Library, Egerton MS 943

Yesterday, the Italian government instituted the Dante National Day. From this year on, 25 March will be known as Dantedì – Dante Day – the putative day in 1300 when the Florentine poet started his downward pilgrimage into Hell.

Dantedì is probably meant to be more than a commemorative day in the calendar. The word itself suggests that its claim to public and national relevance goes straight to the heart of the Italian week. After Monday (lunedì), Tuesday (martedì), etc, to Friday (venerdì) – Dantedì proceeds to the conquest of Italian time. This is not at all inappropriate, as Time is a central feature in the construction of the Divine Comedy – the oppression thereof in Inferno, and its thinness in Paradiso.

Dantedì is Dante’s Day, but it is also a celebration of the human mind’s last historical attempt to seize upon the totality of available knowledge in one tour-de-force and one man’s desire to rise above, go beyond and describe what cannot be put into words.

Dantedì deserves a place in all calendars, not just the Italian, and a platform whence one may again one day scrutinize the heavens in search of truth and beauty.

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