It is with regard to astronomy, of course, that Dante has given us the most convincing evidence of his knowledge of science, his interest in nature and natural phenomena, his questioning spirit in nature study, and the wonderful anticipations of his generation with regard to knowledge that has usually been supposed to have been hidden from them. The stars appealed to his poetic spirit, and then besides, his great poem occupied itself with all the visible universe, and especially with the parts outside this world. Professor Kuhns has said:

“One may confidently assert that no such perfect lines descriptive of the stars have ever been written. Shakespeare and others can furnish famous passages, but none, I think, equal to those of Dante. They have all the quality of his art–truth, clearness, possessing the power of touching deeply the imagination, yet terse and compact, containing not a word too much. We see the stars at all hours of the night, in all degrees of brilliancy, fading away at the approach of dawn, gradually appearing as twilight comes on, shining with splendor on a moonless night, keenly sparkling after the winds have cleared the atmosphere, or eclipsed by the greater effulgence of the moon. The motion of the constellations about the pole is referred to, those which are nearest to it never setting beneath the horizon.”

James J. Walsh, The Popes and Science (1908)


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