Dante – Purgatorio/Purgatory from the Divine Comedy, 4-6

Canto 4

  • Sometimes a soul is overtaken its faculties that all of its attention has to be devoted to one thing & it means that other faculties are put on the back burner or completely neglected. We forget about time ticking on. That was how Dante was feeling as he suddenly realized how high the sun had gotten when the souls announced to him that here was what he was looking for.
    • This was where the flock left him to look at a seemingly insurmountable ascent. You’d have to fly up, not climb up. But Dante follow Virgil who’d never steered him wrong before. However, Dante asked him what they’d do. Virgil said they would not be turning around. They would go up the mountain the hard way until an easier way appeared or help arrived.
      • Dante looked down at the shore & the towards the sun. Virgil explained a bit of Medieval astronomy/astronomy to Dante. Dante asked for clarifications & he got some.
    • They then turned their attention to a boulder that a group of people lying around on it, looking extremely tired. Dante noted how lazy they looked.
      • After speaking to one of them, he recognized him as Belacqua, a lazy Florentine musical instrument maker with whom Dante had often crossed swords. Belacqua didn’t see any point in climbing the mountain. He didn’t think he was going to get into Heaven anyway. It would take people’s prayers to get in & that didn’t seem likely. Virgil shifted their focus on the time, as it was getting late.

Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • The Late-Repentant – (1) The Indolent. The whole of the Second Terrace is occupied by those who, while remaining in the fold of the Church, yet for one reason or another postponed repentance until their last hour (in articulo mortis). Like the Excommunicate, they are punished by a delay, extending in this case for a period equal to the length of their earthly lives. This first & lowest group comprises those who have their own laziness to blame for their procrastination, & who therefore spend their time sitting about, enduring the indolence in which they used to indulge. Like the Excommunicate, they have no prayer allotted to them: even in this they must remain idle.

Canto 5

  • After they’d left the people behind, one of them called out to the others that Dante looked like he was alive because he had a shadow. Dante slowed down to look. Virgil told him to ignore them. He was his guide & the chattering of others was a distraction.
    • Dante couldn’t say anything other than “I’m coming”. On the slope ahead was a group of souls. Singing a song asking God for mercy. Once they saw that he was living, they changed their tune. 2 of them came forth asking who he was. Virgil told them Dante indeed alive & to report that back to the others. Dante had never seen the stars come out so fast before. Since it was getting late, Virgil told him to ignore the others & move on.
      • They asked him to stay awhile. What was the rush? One explained they were all sinners who died from violence but in their last moments, God or Heaven had opened their eyes. They were penitent of their own sins & pardoning of the sins of others against them. They died with a desire to see the face of God.
      • Dante replied that he wasn’t able to recognize anyone in the crowd but if he could so anything for them he’d be happy to help. One said they didn’t need a ton of help. But if Dante ever went to Faro (Northern Italy), he could pray for him. He was born there but the turmoil in the region caused by Azzo VIII of Este uprooted his life. If he’d gone to La Mira after being ambushed at Oriago, he’d still be alive. But he got tangled up in the marsh & died.
      • Another said he was known as a lord of Montefeltro but now he was just Buonconte. Nobody cared for him now, not even his wife. So, he was forced to walk with this group.
    • Dante replied with a question: What happened to him when he died & why was his resting place unknown.
      • Buonconte answered he was stabbed at Casentino near a convent. He ran off into a field & bled to death. With his last breath, he began a prayer to Mary. When he died, God’s angel took him & the Devil accused him of theft. Why was he being taken away? He’d lived such a horrible life but because the last seconds were spent in prayer, he belonged to God.
      • The devil, a fallen angel, was upset about this & made it rain so hard that it flooded the plain where he’d died. His body was carried off in the flood to the Arno & eventually to the sea. It shook off the cross of his folded arms on his chest, the last act of his life.
    • A 3rd soul asked that once Dante returned to the living world that she was name Pia dei Tomolei. She asked him to go to her betrothed & have him honor his promise to her.
      • The fiancé, Nello dei Pannocchieschi, had spurned her in favor of a richer woman.

Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • The Late-Repentent – (2) The Unshriven. This second group consists of those who were cut off in their sins by battle or murder, & so died unshriven. Since circumstances are partly responsible for their death, they occupy a slightly higher position than the Indolent, & have a prayer of their own, but they are still surrounded by the atmosphere of haste & agitation which attended their last moments.

Canto 6

  • After meeting that horde, Dante walked away having made a ton of promises to them to do things once he got back to the living world.
    • Among those were people who died being sinful yet were feeling repentant in their last moments. They asked for prayers to help them to get to Heaven. Dante mentioned to Virgil that he’d written in the Aeneid that Heaven wouldn’t change its mind due to prayer to trying to persuade it to be forgiving of sins.
    • Virgil responded when someone takes on another’s debt & pays it off out of charity, High Justice is not diminished. This is all because all of its demands have fulfilled. In the case of the Aeneid, specifically between Palinurus & Aeneas, they weren’t Christians. Neither the person praying, nor the recipient of the prayer could that faults could or could not be rectified through prayer, because as non-Christians, the prayer had been divorced from God. The delay in the Pre-Purgatory stage is purely penal & could be remitted when someone else fulfills the debt.
      • This was a heavy subject. It would be best for Dante just to think about it without forming any conclusions. Dante would get more on this from Beatrice.
    • Virgil spotted a soul on his own looking their way. Maybe he’d be of some help to them. They went over to him. Like most Lombards, he had an ir of haughtiness, & didn’t speak to them as they passed by.
      • Virgil broke the silence & asked if he knew the way up. But he didn’t answer. He just asked them where they were from & who they were. Virgil answered cautiously, “Mantua”. The spirit leapt up eagerly saying he was also from Mantua, & his name was Sordella. They hugged.
  • Dante started bemoaning the fact Italy was in such a sad state of affairs. It was a captainless ship, a mistress of a brothel. While it was nice to see 2 Mantuans embrace in a brotherly manner. There was no such general attitude amongst the people of Italy as a whole.
    • Not one part of it had been at peace. Justinian’s laws were no the books but often ignored. The clergy ought to leave worldly affairs to the politicians & stick to their own calling.
    • The Holy Roman Emperor & his crew were running riot all over Italy & no one could do a thing about it. They had been motivated by greed & let the place fall into ruins. The old families were feuding with one another. The nobles had been chased out by the nouveau riche. Rome had fallen into disrepair. It seemed that although Jesus had been sacrificed to atone for the sins of the world, it was completely in vain because the sins came back with a vengeance in Italy, leaving it a dump. Maybe we can never know why.
    • Every town in Italy was a hive filled with potential tyrants, ready to stab one another in the back when convenient. Florence is not spared of this. Every single citizen was a willing participant in its corruption. It had put Athens & Sparta to shame as far as how to do arts & make laws. But Florence changed its laws, money & customs with the seasons. If its citizens weren’t blind, they’d see themselves as sick patients in need of medicine.

Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • Sordello: Since Virgil (whether considered literally as an Ancient & a heath, or allegorically as the Natural Man) cannot of himself know all the inhabitants of Mount Purgatory or explain its organization in detail, an interpreter is provided at each stage of the journey to supply the deficiency. Sordello performs this office in Ante-purgatory, as does Statius late on in Purgatory Proper, & Matilda in the Earthly Paradise.

Author: knowit68

Leave a Reply