Dante – Inferno/Hell from The Divine Comedy, 19-21

Canto 19

  • “O Simon Magus! O disciples of his! Miserable pimps & hucksters that have sold the things of God… for silver & gold.” This was the 3rd bowge.
    • Dante was clearly a religious man & this section of Hell really affect him. The landscape with with holes about the size of a baptismal font (He mentioned a story of where he had to break a baptismal font to free a boy stuck inside. This got him a reputation of being a vandal against Church property which he felt compelled to clear up in the middle of this work) where the sinner was buried head down up to the calf. The soles of their feet were on fire making their legs flail around in pain.
    • Dante asked who this guy was. Virgil suggested that they go down all the crags to see him. Dante asked the man to speak if he could, listening to him as a priest would hear a murderer’s confession.
    • The man asked him if he was Pope Boniface VIII. He was surprised to see him dead already. Wasn’t he still alive betraying the masses & raping women? Dante was stunned to hear that. Virgil told Dante to tell the man he wasn’t talking to who he thought he was. Dante obeyed.
      • The soul was upset, & then sighed & wept. He wanted to know what Dante wanted to ask him. He had been Pope Nicholas III & buried beneath him were many other Popes who’d committed the same sin of Simony. He would be pushed down when the next crooked Pope, Boniface VIII came down to Hell. There would be plenty more coming later.
      • Dante responded with a question of how much St. Peter paid Jesus to receive the keys to Heaven. Peter didn’t demand money of Matthias when he was chosen to replace Judas. Dante declared the Pope to be worthy of his doom. Nicholas had conspired against Charles of Anjou on top of all his other reprehensible behavior. It was only out of respect for the Papacy that Dante was restraining his contempt for him.
    • Nicholas was exactly what St. John the Evangelist was writing about in Revelations with respect to greed. All the corrupt clergy were a major problem back on earth.
      • Once Dante’s tirade had ended, Nicholas writhed around. Virgil seemed to approval of what he’d said. They decided to move on.

Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • The Simoniacs – Simony is the sin trafficking in holy things, e.g. the sale of sacraments or ecclesiastical offices. The sinners who made money for themselves this way out of what belongs to Gods are “pouched” in fiery pockets in the rock, head downwards, because they reversed the proper order of things & subordinated the heavenly to the earthly. The image here is ecclesiastical, but in the allegory, we don’t need to suppose that the traffic in holy things is confined to medieval people or even to modern clergyman. A mercenary marriage, for example, is also the sale of a sacrament.

Canto 20

  • Dante saw the sinners in the 4th bowge walking around with their heads backwards & their teardrops fell down through their ass cracks. Dante wondered aloud why these souls had to do this. Virgil told him that they were not worthy of any pity. He told Dante to lift his head & look at those who were wicked that they were agonized by God’s equity. Virgil told him to look at them:
    • Amphiaräus had participated in the siege of Thebes but left it when he had predicted his own death. He ended up being betrayed by his wife & later swallowed up by an earthquake.
    • Tiresias used his sight to gain status. He was changed into a woman for untangling snakes & was changed back after doing it again.
    • Aruns of Tuscany (Carrara) performed his visions in a cave.
    • Manto, Tiresias’s daughter, had wandered around after the siege of Thebes & eventually settled in what would later become Mantua – Virgil’s hometown.
      • This started Virgil to speak wistfully about his neck of woods. Mantua was founded where she was buried. He mentioned that Dante ought to write down so people back home didn’t believe some nonsense made up about it.
  • Dante asked if there were any other seers he would know. Virgil pointed out some of the oldest known seers of Greece.
    • There was Eurypylus who’d convinced the Greeks to go to war against the Trojans, the war which ravage the Greek population.
    • Colchas was the one who convinced the Greeks to commit all sorts of atrocities to win the war.
    • There was Magician Michael Scott, Astrologer Guy Bonatti, & Asdente. All of these people were accompanied by witches, fortune tellers, soothsayers, false prophets & magicians.
      • As time was getting on, they moved on.

Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • The Sorcerers – The primary image of sorcery here is that of the fortune tellers, who, having attempted to usurp God’s prerogative by prying into the future, are now so twisted that eyes & feet face in opposite directions. More generally, there is an image of the twisted nature of all magical  arts, which is a deformation of knowledge, & especially of the psychic powers, to an end outside the unity of the creation in God. It is in the misuse of knowledge so as to dominate that environment (including not only material things but the personalities of others) for the benefit of the ego. Magic today takes many forms, ranging from actual Satanism to attempts at “conditioning” other people by manipulating their psyche, but even when it uses the legitimate techniques of the scientist or the psychiatrist, it is distinguished from true science by the “twisted sight” which looks to the self instead of to God for the source & direction of its power.

Canto 21

  • They moved on to the next bowge filled with boiling pitch like what they use to plug up the seams in ships. At first, there was nothing to see but Virgil told Dante to move aside when he saw a demon carrying a sinner on his shoulders, saying he was going to throw him in with all the other barrators. He threw him into a pit & going to get others.
    • His fellow demons unlocked the sinner while jabbing & poking him with hooks like cooks making a stew. Virgil told Dante he’d better not be seen & pointed to a crag so he could behind it. Then he told Dante that whatever the demons did, he’d be able to handle it as he’d done it before.
    • Virgil went up to the demons only to be threatened in return, asking for Belzecue. Virgil told them that he’d be protected by Heaven in his journey through Hell.
    • One demon acquiesced & told his colleagues to let him pass. Virgil then called Dante & told him that the coast was clear. Dante rushed over towards him afraid the demons would change their minds.
      • The demons again threatened Dante with their hooks. The lead devil told them to stop it. Then he turned to Dante & Virgil giving them directions on how to get down to the 6th bowge & offered to send escorts with them.
    • Dante didn’t like this & asked not to be escorted. Why wasn’t Virgil more cautious? Virgil was disappointed with him because the devils were only doing their jobs & weren’t going to harm them. They accepted the escort on to the next bowge.

Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • The Barrators & The Pitch – The Barrators are to the City what the Simoniacs are the Church: they make profit out of the trust put in them by the community – & what they sell is justice. As the Simoniacs are embedded in the burning rock, so these are plunged beneath the black & boiling stream, for their dealing were secret. Money stuck to their fingers: so now the defilement of the pitch sticks fast to them.


Author: knowit68

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