Dante – Purgatorio/Purgatory from the Divine Comedy, 13-15

Canto 13

  • They got to the 2nd terrace on the mountain. The ledge there had a sharper curve to it. There were no images, figure – nothing.
    • Virgil said if they waited for someone to come, they’d be there a while. He looked at the sun & spoke to it, asking for some sort guidance. In a short time, they had walked about mile when they heard spirits flying towards them, inviting them to love’s table. The first voice shouted that “They have no wine”. Another cried out “I am Orestes”. Dante wanted to know what was going on but a 3rd voice called out. “Love your enemies”.
      • Virgil told him this level was to scourge souls of the sin of Envy with a whip of love. There’d be counter cries before they got to the Pardon. He instructed Dante to look upwards & look at the crowd huddled on a cliff.
    • Dante looked to see souls wrapped up in grey cloaks. They cried out to Mary, Michael, Peter, & all the saints to pray for them. Nobody could be so hard-hearted not to be moved to tears by the sight. They were covered with a coarse haircloth, propping their heads on their neighbors’ shoulders, looking like the blind who sit on the stairs outside a church begging for alms. The sunlight of Heaven didn’t help these blind because their eyes were wired shut. Virgil anticipate Dante’s curiosity & told him to speak to them quickly.
      • Dante asked if there were any Italians among them. One voice state they were citizens of one city & some were “wanderers” of Italy.
      • One woman approached him stating she was Sienese. She was there to make her foul mouth clean, weeping to God for grace. Even though she wasn’t too bright, her name was Sapia. She’d gotten more joy out of others’ loss than from her own gain.
      • When she got older, she witnessed a battle between the Sienese & the Florentines at Colle. She watched the whole thing from a tower. The Sienese were beaten & started to rout. She took great joy in what she saw & yelled to God that she no longer feared him. Her debt was reduced by the charity given by Peter Combseller, who prayed intensely for her.
      • She asked Dante what his story was. He answered that he wouldn’t be blinded for long because his particular sin was not Envy. He was more in fear of Hell because he’d just been there. Since he was living, he asked if there was anything he could do for her back on earth. She was grateful for the offer, asking for a few prayers but mostly wanted him to speak of her to the people of Tuscany, who were just as vain as they were stupid.

Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • The Penance of the Envious: The Sealed Eyes – The sin of Envy (Invidia) differs from that of Pride in that it contains always an element of fear. The proud man is self-sufficient, rejecting with contempt the notion that anybody can be his equal or superior. The envious man is afraid of losing something by the admission of superiority in others, & therefore looks with grudging hatred upon other men’s gifts & good fortune, taking every opportunity to run them down or deprive them of their happiness. On the Second Cornice, therefore, the eyes which could not endure to look upon joy are sealed from the glad light of the sum, & from the sight of other men. Clad in the garments of poverty & reduced to the status of blind beggars who live on alms, the Envious sit amid the barren & stony wilderness imploring the charity of the saints, their fellow-men. Because they are blind, the Whip & Bridle of Envy are brought to them by the voices of passing spirits.


  • Sapia – The spirit who converses with Dante in this Canto, is the image of Envy’s malicious delight in the misfortunate of others.

Canto 14

  • 2 souls asked each others who their visitors were. They asked him to tell them about himself & why such a character in such a state of grace was there among the penitent in Purgatory.
    • Dante explained he was from a city on a river that flowed from Mt. Falterona & he was a nobody. The first guessed he was talking about the River Arno & Florence. The other wondered why he was being so vague as if it were a bad place.
    • The first said that it would be fitting to forget its name because the land around it was inhabited by people who think virtue is an enemy & is chased it was inhabited by people who think virtue is an enemy & is chased out like a snake. The place was filled with vice. Circe did a number on the people of Casentino, the pigs. The Arentines were snarling dogs. The Florentines were nasty wolves. The Pisans were treacherous foxes.
      • The man refused to stop speaking about it. He said the other man’s grandson, Fulcieri da Calboli, was killing many Florentines, ruining lives & his own image in others’ eyes. Things are so bad there, things wouldn’t be right for another 1000 years.
    • Dante saw the other soul get sad after hearing all that. He wanted to know their names. One didn’t want to say but since God had taken a shine to Dante, he couldn’t refuse. He was Guido del Duca. His heart burned with envy & would get routinely annoyed at seeing anyone happy.
      • He introduce the other soul as Rinier of the Calboli family of Romagna. He commented they were a useless lot from a poisonous region. Of all the notable Romagnol families of the past, where were they all? When would an actual noble take over again? The lords fled to escape any guilt.
      • He asked Dante to leave him alone to weep. The other spirits said nothing, so Virgil & Dante left. As they were moving on, a voice called out loudly: “Behold every one who finds me shall slay me.” After the sound had dissipated, another voice called out, “Aglauros, who was turned to stone”.
      • Virgil told him the voices were the iron bit in the bridle meant to keep men in bounds & out of harm. But when you take the bait, the enemy reels you in. The Heavens call you & surround you, showing you eternal beauties but all you see is what’s beneath your feet, & that is why God smites you.

Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • Guido del Duca – is the image of the grudging type of Envy, which resents joy in other people. To the penitent Guido, looking back on his life, the gay companionship which in the old days filled him with envy & uncharitableness now appears a thing full of happiness, to be wistfully regretted.

Canto 15

  • Time was moving on & so were Dante & Virgil. Dante felt the sun’s blaze on his face. He held his hands to his brow to shade the glare & get a better view. He saw stricken by another light. Dante asked what it was that his eyes couldn’t be shielded from it. Virgil explained that it was a herald sent to summon them. Soon, it wouldn’t be burdensome to see such a sight.
    • The angel called them to enter. They would be traveling on a less steep road. As the climbed, there was singing, “Beati misericordes”, Blessed are the merciful. The angel told them to be joyful that they’d prevailed.
    • As they climbed up, Dante asked what the one soul from Romagna meant by partnership & “forbid”. Virgil explained the man’s sins were deeply sore which was why he rebuked them so harshly. So the world would have less cause to weep. Sharing in a partnership all one’s desires become smaller. When you sigh, envy works like a bellows. If love God turned your desires to ascend, your hearts would be rid of all the fear. The more there are who can say “ours” instead of ones who say “mine”, the more goods each one has & charity grows.
    • Dante replied that didn’t satisfy him so much as made him hungrier than if he’d held his tongue. His mind was fully perplexed. How could it be that a larger group that divides something has more of it for each?
    • Virgil said Dante’s mind was stuck in “Earth mode”. God’s light gets multiplied when shared. The more enamored souls in a place at once, the better & more they love, compounding it & reflecting it. If that explanation didn’t work for Dante, Beatrice would explain it again. Right now, Dante had to work on the other 5 Ps.
  • Dante couldn’t answer all that. The next cornice left him speech less. He felt as if in a trance. There was a temple, crowded with people. A lady went through its gate. She asked in a motherly way, “Son, why are you dealing with us like this? Look how your father & I sought you sorrowing.” When she stopped speaking, the vision ended.
    • The next vision was another woman with tears on her cheek speaking in anger, “If you, Pisistratus, are indeed Lord of Athens, avenge yourself against the boy who embraced your daughter in public.” The lord’s face appeared & mildly answered, “What should we do with ones who wish ill on us when those who love us condemn us?” Then a vision appeared of a mob forming ready to stone the boy, shouting “Kill! Kill!” He fell to the ground, praying for forgiveness for his murderers.
    • Dante came to & began to understand the truth of the visions. Virgil asked him what was wrong with that he couldn’t control himself, as if he was drunk or asleep. Dante described the visions. Virgil replied, saying he knew about the vision, but why couldn’t Dante control himself? The visions were there to prevent him from having an excuse to shut his heart to the peace of the waters from the eternal fount. He asked Dante to strengthen his will.
      • They carried on until a dark cloud of smoke blocked their vision


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