Dante is probably famous above all for three things: for his encounter at the age of nine with Beatrice, for his exile in 1301 from Florence (to which he never returned), and for his nothing if not graphic account of sin and suffering in hell. Each of these things, had we time and space, would benefit from an essay of its own, for each alike points on beyond itself to the still centre of Dante’s spirituality as a Christian poet, the anecdotal and the occasional everywhere being taken up in the analytical and the ontological, in an account of what it might mean for man as man fully and unambiguously to be as a creature of moral and eschatological self-determination. Thus his early encounter with Beatrice, far from being exhausted by its merely historical interest, provides the basis for a fresh enquiry into the nature of love precisely as such, as a matter by turns of acquisition and of disposition, of self-ingratiation and of self-transcendence, the historical thus shading off, as it always does in Dante, into the reflective and the philosophical. In the same way, the experience of exile furnishes in all its grim historicity the basis for an account of human experience generally as a matter of far-wandering and of homecoming in respect of the call to be in, through and for God, while the Inferno, for all its animated account of suffering in the next life, contains within itself, as, in fact, its point of arrival, an invitation to consider the no less tortured state of the soul in this life, the eschatological thus constituting (again as it always does in Dante) but a mode of the existential, the abiding truth of what is under the aspect of time and space. Everywhere, then, the pattern is the same. Everywhere the iconic moment points beyond itself to a more spacious meditation, in terms of which it stands ultimately to be interpreted.