La Vita Nuova, or The New Life, was written by Dante in 1295 about his love for Beatrice. I did some research on Dante and Beatrice, mainly because I'm a hopeless romantic. Also, I'm attempting to stop criticizing Dante. In a way, the history of Beatrice and Dante kind of humanizes Dante for me. Here we see a completely different side of Dante (a not at all self-righteous one).
So Dante first saw Beatrice when she was eight and he was nine. According to all accounts, it was love at first sight for him, but he never got the chance to talk to her. So, like any lovestruck adolescent, he basically attempted to stalk her, but their paths never crossed. Nine years later, Dante recognized her on a street in Florence and she greeted him. Dante wrote this about her acknowledgement of him:
"When so many days had passed that exactly nine years were completed since the appearance of this most gracious being I have written of above, it happened, on the last of these days, that this marvellous lady appeared to me, dressed in the whitest of white, between two gracious ladies who were of greater age: and passing through a street she turned her eyes to the place where I stood greatly fearful, and, with her ineffable courtesy, that is now rewarded in a greater sphere, she greeted me so virtuously, so much so that I saw then to the very end of grace. The hour at which her so sweet greeting welcomed me was exactly the ninth of that day, and because it was the first time that her words deigned to come to my ears, I found such sweetness that I left the crowd as if intoxicated, and I returned to the solitude of my own room, and fell to thinking of this most gracious one (La Vita Nuova III)."
This is the famous painting by Henry Holiday of the first time Beatrice greeting Dante.
Unfortunately, that was the last time BeDante (or Deatrice) saw each other. As if that isn't sad enough, Beatrice died at 24, and Dante married Gemma di Manetto Donati in an arranged marriage set up by their families. Sadly for Gemma, Dante never mentioned her in any of his works. However, after his encounter with Beatrice, Dante had a dream about Beatrice, which ended up being his inspiration and plot for La Vita Nuova. Most importantly, Beatrice eventually came to be the metaphor Dante used as a search for God, and his way of reaching the Divine. She essentially "removed all evils" from him.
In La Vita Nuova XLII, Dante writes:
"After writing this sonetto a miraculous vision appeared to me, in which I saw things which made me decide to write nothing more of this blessed one until such time as I could treat of her more worthily.
And to achieve this I study as much as I can, as she truly knows. So that, if it pleases Him by whom all things live, that my life lasts a few years, I hope to write of her what has never been written of any woman.
And then may it be pleasing to Him who is the Lord of courtesy, that my soul might go to see the glory of its lady, that is of that blessed Beatrice, who gloriously gazes on the face of Him qui est per omnia secula benedictus: who is blessed throughout all the ages."