Arnaut Daniel ([aɾˈnawd daniˈɛl]; fl. 1180–1200) was an Occitan troubadour of the 12th century, praised by Dante as a "the best smith" (miglior fabbro) and called a "grand master of love" (gran maestro d'amore) by Petrarch. In the 20th century he was lauded by Ezra Pound in the The Spirit of Romance (1910) as the greatest poet to have ever lived.
According to one biography, Daniel was born of a noble family at the castle of Ribérac in Périgord; however, the scant contemporary sources point to him being a jester with pernicious economic troubles. Raimon de Durfort calls him "a student, ruined by dice and shut-the-box". He was the inventor of the sestina, a song of six stanzas of six lines each, with the same end words repeated in every stanza, though arranged in a different and intricate order. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow claims he was also the author of the metrical romance of Lancillotto, or Launcelot of the Lake, but this claim is completely unsubstantiated; Dante's reference to Daniel as the author of prose di romanzi ("proses of romance") remains, therefore, a mystery.
In Dante's The Divine Comedy, Arnaut Daniel appears as a character doing penance in Purgatory for lust. He responds in Old Occitan to the narrator's question about who he is:
«Tan m'abellis vostre cortes deman,
qu'ieu no me puesc ni voill a vos cobrire.
Ieu sui Arnaut, que plor e vau cantan;
consiros vei la passada folor,
e vei jausen lo joi qu'esper, denan.
Ara vos prec, per aquella valor
que vos guida al som de l'escalina,
sovenha vos a temps de ma dolor»
"Your courteous question pleases me so,
that I cannot and will not hide from you.
I am Arnaut, who weeping and singing go;
Contrite I see the folly of the past,
And, joyous, I foresee the joy I hope for one day.
Therefore do I implore you, by that power
Which guides you to the summit of the stairs,
Remember my suffering, in the right time."
In homage to these lines which Dante gave to Daniel, the European edition of T. S. Eliot's second volume of poetry was titled Ara Vos Prec. In addition, Eliot's poem The Waste Land opens and closes with references to Dante and Daniel. The Waste Land is dedicated to Pound as "il miglior fabbro" which is what Dante had called Daniel. The poem also contains a reference to Canto XXVI in its line "Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina" ("Then hid him in the fire that purifies them") which appears in Eliot's closing section of The Waste Land as it does to end Dante's canto.
Arnaut's 4th canto (see "Arnaut Daniel: Complete Works" external link below) contains the lines that Pound claimed were "the three lines by which Daniel is most commonly known" (The Spirit of Romance, p. 36):
"leu sui Arnaut qu'amas l'aura
E chatz le lebre ab lo bou
E nadi contra suberna"
"I am Arnaut who gathers up the wind,
And chases the hare with the ox,
And swims against the torrent."
There are sixteen extant lyrics of Arnaut Daniel; there is music for at least one of them, but it was composed at least a century after the poet's death by an anonymous author. No original melody has survived.