By Fr. Brocard Sewell, O.Carm.
THE LADDER OF VISION: A Study of Images in Dante's Divine Comedy, by Irma Brandeis (Chatto and Windus, 25s.).
AS far as epic poetry is concerned I am something of an " outsider "-perhaps as the result of an overdose of Vergil at school. Neither the earlier nor the later Mantuan has ever drawn me to close perusal, any more than has Milton.
Hence I approached this book warily, and with doubt as to whether I should be able to make anything of it at all. However, remembering the late Dorothy L. Sayers's alleged achievement in translating Dante without knowing the Italian language-a feat dealt with very caustically by Montague Summers in his unpublished memoirs-I started to read, encouraged by the publishers' assurance that this book is directed to the general reader rather than the specialist.
It is certainly a work of learning and scholarship, and as a beautifully-written piece of literary criticism and poetic interpretation it lures the reader on through the six chapters on "Substance and Idea", "The Image of Sin in Action", "Four Images of Fraternal Love", " Beatrice ", " Aspects of Minor Imagery " and "The Ladder of Vision ".
Dante scholars are likely to find " The Ladder of Vision " an important addition to their studies; but it deserves special success as an interpretation of the " Divine Comedy " as a masterpiece of poetry-and not as a repository of medieval theological and political lumber.