Dante – Purgatorio/Purgatory from the Divine Comedy, 10-12

Canto 10

  • Once they crossed the threshold, Dante heard the door close behind him with an echo but he knew that he couldn’t turn around. Virgil warned him they had to be careful on the narrow & winding path. Doing that slowed them down quite a bit.
    • There they found a series of statures so lifelike that Dante had a hard time convincing himself they weren’t alive – all made of the same marble the mountain was made of, including:
      • Gabriel – the angel who’d made the Annunciation of Peace that would open the doors of Heave that had been closed for so long, seemed to be saying “Ave”.
      • Mary – the conduit of the highest of loves had an inscription below her: Behold the handmaid of God.
        • Virgil warned him not to focus too much on any one statue. They were all each just one part of the collection for a reason. Dante’s eyes moved on.
      • The ox & cart carrying the Ark of the Covenant that taught us by the example of Uzzah to fear the office that had not been committed to us.
      • King David was dancing in front of the Tabernacle just as he’d done when he was king. Michal was looking on with sadness & scorn.
      • Trajan, Roman emperor, who had been petitioned by the widow mother of a murdered man. When he said he’d adjudicate the case when he returned from a military expedition, she said he might not return & his heir might not be so obliging. Trajan decided that he’d do it before he left because Justice & Reverence required him to do so.
        • Dante had never seen such a collection of images of the great humilities.
  • Virgil pointed out a group of men higher up on the road who might be able to help them out. Dante didn’t think they looked like men but since they were so far off, he couldn’t see exactly why. Virgil said they were bent over because they were carrying such heavy loads on their backs.
    • Dante explained that we humans were “worms” or caterpillars whose insignificance lives only to form into angelic butterflies. Why do we let our pride soar when we are mere grubs that have finished developing. Our minds & souls can’t handle such a burden. Looking at the men with burdens on their backs, they looked as if they couldn’t take it anymore.

Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • Lower Purgatory: Love Perverted.
    • Cornice 1: Pride – Take in its wider aspect, Pride (superbia) is the head & root of all sin, both original & actual. It is the endeavor to be “as God”, making self, instead of God, the center about which the will & deserve revolve. In its narrower & more specific aspect, pride exhibits itself as Vainglory (Vana gloria) – an egotism so overweening that it cannot bear to occupy any place but the first, & hates & despises all fellow-creatures out of sheer lust of domination. Some theologians separate these two aspects, placing Pride in a class by itself, as the generic sin of which Vainglory & the rest are the species: But Dante follows the more usual arrangement whic puts Pride & Vainglory together as the first of the Seven Capital Sins.

Oderisi’s illumination of Christ as a middle-aged man named Bob (still called “Bobby” to his family & childhood friends)

Canto 11

  • The penitent recited an updated version of the Lord’s Prayer which included a small meditation on each line which had to do with humility.
    • That is how the souls prayed & wished Dante & Virgil well. They went back to carrying their loads, purging the tarnish of the world. Dante told us we ought to do all we can to help them get to heaven.
    • Virgil wished that justice & mercy relieved them of their loads. He then asked them how they (Dante & Virgil) would be able to go up but a less steep incline because since Dante was still alive & would get tired climbing up.
    • One of the crowd spoke up. He invited them to follow the group & they’d take him where they’d find a pass a living person could manage. He said he’d offer to help if he didn’t have a gigantic rock on his back.
      • The man presented himself as the son of Guillim Aldobrandesco of Tuscany, of an old, chivalrous family. These qualities went to his head. His pride was his sin & he’d forgotten that no matter what your station in life, we are all just people. For his sin, he was stuck there until God was satisfied.
    • Dante recognized one of the souls – Oderisi, the illuminator of manuscripts. Oderisi said he thought Franco of Bologna painted better. His desire to excel, while he was alive, obsessed him. He had to pay the debt for that there. It could have been much worse if he hadn’t turned to God on his deathbed.
      • Human power has an empty glory. Each artist was eclipsed by the next & it will continue to be that way. Fame was just a breath of wind & it changes name as it changes directions. In 1000 years, no one will remember or care.
    • Dante took the message of meekness & deflating his self-esteem on board. Oderisi said that Provenzan Salvini (who’d urged for the destruction of Florence) was also there led his presumption.
      • Dante asked him if Provenzan, who only repented on his deathbed, had to wait, & if no prayers came to help him, & he wasn’t allowed to ascend until he’d spent the equivalent of his life in Purgatory, why was he allowed in?
        • Oderisi said that Salvini went out of his way to break his friend out of Charles of Anjou’s prison. That act set him free with respect to salvation.

Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • The Penance of the Proud: The Heavy Stones – On this Cornice the penance consists in submission to the opposite virtue. The heads that were held high are now bowed in a necessary humility beneath the weight of sinfulness externalized as cold & heavy stone; & the eyes that looked down upon their neighbors are now unable to looks up. (That, incidentally, is why the “Whip” of Pride is place oppose the Mouth of the hollow way, so as to be seen by the soul on its arrival & before it assumes the burden.)
    • The Proud: (1) Pride of Race: Humber Aldobrandesco the aristocrat; (2) Pride of Achievement: Oderisi the artist; (3) Pride of Domination: Provenzano Salvani the despot.

Canto 12

  • Dante was plied away by Virgil because the souls had to be left to their penance. Then Virgil instructed to look at what was under his feet.
    • There were tombstones on the ground placed there to remind the passerby to perk up his mercy & sympathy. He saw the likeness of many engraved in the rock:
    • The Bridle of Pride:
      • Satan – God had given him so much but he fell from Heaven.
      • Briareus – who had tried to overthrow the gods of Olympus only to fall after being struck by a bolt of lightning.
      • Apollo, Mars & Minerva, with Jupiter – staring at the scattered limbs of the Giants.
      • Nimrod – looking at the Tower of Babel, & the people looking at both him & the tower in awe.
    • Hubris:
      • Niobe – wife of Amphion, king of Thebes, who had boasted that she was greater than Latona for bearing her 14 children, while Latona only Apollo & Diana. Diana killed all 14 of her children.
      • Saul – who was defeated by the Philistines on Mt. Gilboa & fell on his own sword.
      • Arachne – half-spider who’d woven herself into her own tatters because she had incurred the wrath of Minerva.
      • Rehoboam – King of Israel, who’d ended up a greater tyrant than Solomon, & ran off to Jerusalem.
    • Pride in the Face of Man:
      • Alcmaeon – whose mother was bribed with a necklace to betray him. His son killed her by his instructions.
      • Senncherib – King of Assyria was killed by his own sons after his defeat by Hezekiah.
      • Cyrus – who had been killed & the Assyrians ran off in a rout, leaving his body unattended to.
      • Troy – which was destroyed. Only ashes remained.
    • Dante wondered what master created all these images. The dead seemed & the living seemed alive. They really made the viewer feel he was there. Those who marched proudly would never see the evil road they were traveling on.
      • Virgil told Dante to snap out of it. There was an Angel coming towards them. He was to be reverent so the Angel would let them pass. The Angel was clothed in white, spreading his arms out to them, inviting them to pass on by the stairs. He brushed Dante’s forehead with his wings & promised him a safe journey.
      • As Dante & Virgil climbed up, voices sang out: “Beati pauperes spiritu” – Blessed are those poor in spirit. What a difference it was to change levels here compared to Hell. In Hell, they were given a concert.
      • Dante noticed his steps were getting easier & lighter. He no longer felt tired climbing up. Virgil told him when all the 7 Ps written on his forehead were gone, then only his will would control his feet & he’d more effortlessly. Dante felt his head & there were only 6 Ps on his head.

Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • The Pass of Pardon & the P of Pride: The passage from one Cornice to the next is by way of a staircase cut in the rock. Dante particularly emphasizes that by these steps “the steep grade’s eased” & “the cliff made less sheer”, by contrast with the painful scramble up the Terraces &, particularly with the zigzag & difficult “needle’s eye” leading to First Cornice. This is because when Pride, the root of all sin, is overcome, the conquest of the rest is easier. For the same reason he emphasizes the freedom & lightness which the pilgrim feels when the P of Price has been rased out.


Author: knowit68

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