The Day I Met Dante
Written by Sophia Klomparens
One clear March morning my freshman year, I sat curled up in an armchair in the back corner of the library. My English professor had assigned a hundred pages of Paradiso for class, and here I was, twenty pages in with an hour left to read. It had been snowing all week, but even though I was sitting right in front of a huge window, I couldn’t have told you what the weather was like. I didn’t look up.
A lifelong perfectionist, I had struggled all semester with trying to accomplish each and every task in an increasingly difficult workload. The girl who had started her first Great Books class excited to read every word of the Odyssey now skimmed Dante with blurry vision, highlighting anything that seemed like it might be on the final. My tired and hungry brain had long ago given up hunting for any joy in these words.
But somewhere in the middle of Canto X, I was struck by a few lines in the haze of words:
“Lift up then, Reader, to the lofty wheels
With me thy vision….
And there begin to contemplate with joy
That Master’s art, who in himself so loves it
That never doth his eye depart therefrom.”
I hesitated before reading the lines over again. “Lift up with me thy vision…” Frustrated, I tried to read past the poem’s call to action. After all, I didn’t have time to lift up my vision! I had tests to take and papers to write and hundreds of pages to read. But Dante’s words were tugging at my tired heart, and after struggling with myself for a few more seconds, I finally gave in. “Okay, Dante,” I said out loud, and looked up through the window.
For the first time all week, the snow had stopped falling. The pale sun hung in a baby blue sky, lighting the piles of snow still sparkling on the branches outside the window in front of me. I inhaled sharply, shocked at the brilliant effect of white glittering against a clear blue background. For a minute or two, I stared in awe at the beauty before me.
Even then, I thought the moment was just that—a moment. But when I finally turned reluctantly back to my book, Dante stopped me again: “Remain now, Reader, still upon thy bench,” he wrote further down the page, “if thou wouldst jocund be instead of weary.”
And weary I was—so I set my book down, sat back in my chair, and watched the breeze blow flurries of snow off the dusted trees. Instead of worrying about schedules and numbers and pages, I really listened to Dante for the first time in my life. The reading could wait. Dante and I were friends now, and we spent some quality time getting to know each other in the library that day.
Hillsdale is full of driven people who fight to accomplish their dreams. But when the beauty of those dreams disappears in the rush of life, we lose the meaning of everything we came here to learn. Set goals and work hard—but every now and then, listen to Dante and lift up your vision. You might be surprised at what you’ve been missing.
Sophia Klomparens, ’21, studies English and Latin. Most days you’ll find her in AJ’s drinking coffee, obsessing over the Aeneid, and listening to unreasonably angsty music. If you ever want to have a passionate discussion about Virgil, let her know—she’s running out of people who will listen.
Published in February 2020