Summer 1995

Religion and the Artist: Introduction to a Poem on Dante

Paul Claudel

The outstanding poets have received from God such vast things to express that only the entire universe will suffice for their work.


Dante is one of five poets who, I believe, deserves the adjective sovereign or catholic and whose work encompasses the three following traits: 

First, inspiration. There is not a single poet who does not need to inspire before he respires; who does not receive from elsewhere that mysterious breath which the ancients called the Muse and which does not resist comparison to the theological charism that the manuals designated as gratia gratis data. This inspiration is not without analogy to the prophetic spirit, which the Holy Scriptures take great care to distinguish from sanctity. 


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