"Where is my son? and why is he not with thee?"

Dante with Farinata and Cavalcante
Public DomainDante with Farinata and Cavalcante - Credit: William Blake

(Canto 10, line 60)

Guido Cavalcanti (1255-1300) was one of the central figures in the cultural life of 13th century Florence, especially as a poet. Even Dante was influenced by him in his "Stil Nuovo" compositions and held him in the highest regard. Guido was also a philosopher whose regard for the Islam thinker Averro√ęs made him thought of as a heretic or an atheist, which is referred to in Boccaccio's story about him in the Decameron. He was also active in political circles, even though contemporary law forbade him, as an aristocrat, to take public office. As a White party leader, he participated in the June 1300 clashes with Black party members, after which he was banished to Sarzana. Dante himself was among those officials deciding this fate for him and certain Black party representatives as well. Soon thereafter, Guido came down with sickness and was permitted to return to Florence, but died in August the same year. Since Dante's journey took place during spring 1300, Guido was still alive at the time.