Dante – Purgatorio/Purgatory from the Divine Comedy, 22-24

Canto 22

  • At that point, the Angel was behind them & another P was erased from Dante’s forehead. The Angel pronounced that those who thirst & crave righteousness would be blessed. This made Dante feel even lighter than before.
    • Virgil told him that love lit by virtue must kindle a love reciprocal to it. When Juvenal had gone down into Limbo & told him about Statius’s love for him, he felt a fondness for him. The time spent with him was going to feel very short. Then he asked Statius how he ended up ended up in the Avarice level Purgatory if he was so wise.
    • Statius chuckled & said every word spoken between them would be something he would cherish. It was perplexing because appearances can be deceiving… The question presumed that Statius was greedy in his past life, probably because they met there on that level. In fact, he was the complete opposite & paid his dues many years before for that. He still would have been in Hell if it weren’t for a line in the Aeneid where Virgil railed against humanity over its lust for gold. That made him a little too careless with money & possessions. He repented for his excessive spending, among other things. Many people were there for opposite of greed.
    • Virgil asked Statius if he had not yet become a Christian when he had written the Thebaid about Jocasta (the mother & wife of Oedipus). What caused him to convert? Statius said Virgil’s words first sent him to Parnassus to drink from its caverns & then they turned him on to God. While it wasn’t a direct inspiration, it was his works that pushed him to speak of the wisdom of the new Justice that would be coming.
      • So he became a Christian because of Virgil. The world was filled with messengers of the eternal kingdom & Virgil’s words went so well with what the priests were saying. It seemed so holy to him. Then when Domitian persecuted the Christians, the sighs were combined with tears. He helped them & began to think that all other religions were contemptible compared Christians’. He lent them his poetic skill & became baptized, but he was too afraid of being persecuted, so he kept it a secret. & that is why he was sent to the 4th Cornice where he stayed for over 4 centuries – for his moral sloth. He then asked what became of Terence, Plautus, Varius & Caecilius. Virgil answered that they were all stuck in Limbo along with many famous Greeks.
    • The conversation dwindled. They all looked around & noticed it was mid-morning. Virgil suggested they carry on around to the right. Virgil & Statius walked ahead & Dante followed behind them listening to their conversation, taking mental notes. They stopped when they came to a tree with ambrosial odors spreading. While they all stood there, a few voices cried out:
      • “You shall be famished of this food.”
      • “Mary thought more about how to make the wedding worthy & complete than her own mouth, which now speaks on your behalf.”
      • “In Ancient Rome, ladies asked for water for their drink instead of wine.”
      • “Daniel chose wisdom instead of meat.”
      • “The primal age was beautiful & hunger was satisfied by acorns & water.”
      • “Locusts & honey were enough to feed St. John the Baptist in the world”.

Canto 23

  • Dante stared at the tree for a while only to be called to attention by Virgil. They didn’t have time to waste. They ought to be more productive. Dante was happy to be kept on the straight & narrow.
    • Then a song was heard – “Labia mea Domine” which filled him with both grief & joy. He asked him what was going on. Virgil answered that souls on their way to paying their debts were nearby. They were passed by 3 souls who were quite preoccupied & unworried about who they were. Their eyes were dark & hollow, with pallid skin seemingly molded to the bone. Not even Erysichthon, who’d been punished by Ceres with hunger for cutting down a sacred oak, looked so frail & gaunt.
      • That reminded him of a story of Miriam, a Jew, who had eaten her baby because Titus’s siege of Jerusalem had starved the city.
      • The man’s face made a shape like the letters OMO (Homo Dei – man is of God). Who would have thought eating only fruit & drinking only water would do that to you? Dante saw that all of them looked famished.
      • One of the souls called out to Dante, who couldn’t recognize him to save his life because of his changed appearance. But finally, he knew who he was. Dante was upset by what he saw of his friend. He wanted to know why he was in such a state. The soul told him not to gaze at him. He’d come down with leprosy & had withered away to a frail frame. He wanted to know what Dante had been up to, why he was there, & who his 2 companions were.
      • His friend, Forese Donati, told him that he’d been refined by the eternal counsel that comes down on the tree there & the water behind it. The people there wept & sang, & were resanctified by hunger & thirst from their excessive greed for life’s good things. The sweet smell of food & the spray of water over the leaves intensified their craving for food & drink. It wasn’t just once but every time they walked around the path, the pain was renewed. It would only be relieved when Christ cried out “Eli…” (My God… why have you forsaken me?) in redeeming them with his blood.
    • Dante remarked that it’d not quite been 5 years since Forese had died. If he had been able to repent for his sins, how did he get there? Dante figured he’d been sent to the pre-Purgatory stage for a while.
      • Forese answered that his wife, Nella, through lots of prayers & tears, was able to move the Heavens to get him to this level. God really loved Nella & all her good works, answered her prayers.
      • The women of Barbagia in Sardinia were much more modest than those in Barbagia in Florence. It wouldn’t be long until the Church had to stop the women from going around in the altogether. Did the Turkish or Berber women ever need to be forced to cover up? If they only knew what they had in store for them.
      • Forese asked him why he & his companions were there, & why he seemed affected by the sunlight, while no one else was.
      • Dante answered in a roundabout way, eventually explaining that Virgil was his guide through Hell & Purgatory in an attempt to turn his life around. They were walking around circling the mountain which straightens you from the crookedness of the world. Virgil would guide him until he met up with Beatrice. Statius, who was being promoted from the current level to the next one, would be helping.


Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • The Penance of the Gluttonous: Starvation: The sin of Gluttony (Gula) is – specifically – an undue attention to the pleasures of the palate, whether by sheer excess in eating & drinking, or by the opposite fault of fastidiousness. More generally, it includes all over-indulgence in bodily comforts – the concentration, whether jovial or fretful, on a “high standing of living”. It is accordingly purged by starvation within sight of plenty.
    • Since Gluttony tends to be, on the whole, a warm-hearted & companionable sin, often resulting from, & in, a mistaken notion of good-fellowship, it is placed higher than the egotistical & cold-hearted sins. (Compare the corresponding classification in Hell.)

Canto 24

  • Talking didn’t make their journey faster or slower. But as they walked & talked, it felt quick. All the souls gawked at the living man among them. Dante spoke to Forese, “Maybe Statius is walking slowly out of courtesy to the rest of us.” due to his religious fervor. Then he asked about Forese’s sister, Piccarda, & if there were any other notables in the level.
    • His sister was virtuous & beautiful, & almost certainly was in Heaven. He then pointed out Bongiunta of Lucca (poet & big time boozer) & Simon de Brie (Pope Martin V, who’d stuffed himself with eels & wine). There were many others Ubaldin dalla (innovator of new cuisine to stuff yourself with), Boniface, Archbishop of Ravenna (a very hungry man), Lord Marchese (wino) & others.
    • Dante focused in on Bongiunta from Luccas since he had something in common with him, poetry. Bongiunta muttered something about a woman named Gentucca. Dante asked him to explain what he wanted to say. Bongiunta said if Dante went to Lucca, Gentucca would treat him well. He continued by praising Dante’s poem that began “Ladies, who have intelligence in love.” He praised Dante’s sweet new style that left other poets in the dust.
      • Dante lost track time & was neglecting Forese, who asked when they’d see each other again. Dante didn’t know how long he’d live. But he had to make every day count so he wouldn’t have to suffer too much in the afterlife.
      • Forese bid him farewell, mentioning the fact his brother, Corsi, would probably be condemned to Hell. Dante agreed – the longer Corsi was alive, the deeper he’d end up in Hell. Forese left them there.
  • Another tree appeared to Dante around the corner. People stood in front of it, reaching out & begging for something that won’t be given. When that occurred to them, they left.
    • A voice said “Pass on, avoid it. Farther up the mountain is a tree that fed Eve’s greed. This tree is an offshoot of that one.” Virgil, Statius & Dante continued on the path & the voice spoke again: “Think about the Centaurs, who’d been formed in the clouds & fought Theseus. Think of the soldiers chosen by Gideon because they gulped down their water before fighting the Midian army.”
    • These tales of gluttony were images of woe. The 3 moved forward 1000 paces & then reflected. The voice asked why they stood there in contemplation – they ought to be moving. Dante looked up to see who’d said it – the reddest thing ever said if they wanted to progress up the mountain, they had to turn right.
      • The Angel blinded Dante with a light, so he looked up to his instructors for direction. He felt a wind on his forehead from the wafting wings. The Angel said “Blessed are those whom so great illumes in their bosom’s core the palate’s lust kindles no craving fumes, & righteousness is all they hunger for.”

Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • The Trees & the Water: The punishment of the Gluttonous closely resembles the torment allotted in the Classical Tartarus to Tantalus, who stole the food of the gods. In Homer (Odessey, 11) he stands in water up to the chin beneath a laden fruit tree; but when he tries to drink, the water sinks from his lips, & when he tries to reach the fruit, it is carried away by the wind. This punishment by hunger & thirst captured the imagination of the Middle Ages; it nearly always figures in popular pictures of Hell, & even in illustrations to the Inferno, in which it was no place, Dante having substituted for it the wallowing in mud & the cold rain of the 3rd Circle, under the teeth & claws of Cerberus (Hell, 6).
    • On the 6th Cornice, Dante has retained the image of the water & the tree, turning the former into a sparkling cascade (doubtless emanating from the twin-spring of Lethe & Eunoë, Canto 33), & ingeniously making the latter a scion of the Tree of Knowledge, thus linking up the Sin of Gluttony with the sin of Eve & the Fall of Man (“all for an apple, an apple which he took”).
    • By another dexterous economy, he uses this Penance as a springboard for Statius’s discourse (Canto 25) on the nature of the soul.


Author: knowit68

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