Book IX., extending from the death of Henry to the death of Dante himself, are for the most part inserted for a very special reason, as to which some little detail is necessary. Strangely enough they derive their importance not from any interest Dante may have taken in the events they record, but from the fact that he did not take enough interest in them to satisfy one of his most ardent admirers. The editions of Dante's collected works include a correspondence in Latin hexameters between Johannes de Virgilio and Dante. Now in the poem that opens this correspondence Johannes refers to Statius and to Lethe in a manner that proves beyond all doubt that the whole of the Purgatorio
as well as the Inferno
was in his hands. But he alludes to the Paradiso
--the poem of the "super-solar" realms which is to complete the record of the "lower" ones--as not yet having appeared. It therefore becomes a matter of extreme interest to the Dante student to learn the date of this poem. Now one of the considerations that led Johannes to address Dante was the hope of inducing him to choose a contemporary subject for a Latin poem and so write something worthy of himself and of studious readers! With this object he suggests a number of subjects:--
"Dic age quo petiit Jovis armiger astra volatu: Dic age quos flores, quæ lilia fregit arator: Dic Phrygias damas laceratos dente molosso: Dic Ligurum montes, et classes Parthenopæas."
"Come! tell thou of the flight by which Jove's armour-bearer (the Imperial Eagle = Henry VII.) sought the stars. Come! tell thou of the flowers and lilies (of Florence)