The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri. The Italian Text with a Translation in English Blank Verse and a Commentary by Courtney Langdon, vol. 1 (Inferno) (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1918). Italian version. https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2309,
Dante’s masterwork is a 3 volume work written in Italian rather than Latin. It embraces human individuality and happiness in a way which suggests the beginning of the Renaissance. This edition contains the Italian original and the Notes. Vol. 1 (Inferno (Hell) describes what happens to the souls of the wicked who are condemned to suffer the torments of Hell.
The text is in the public domain.
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The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
THROUGH the following notes of an Analysis which has been made as brief as possible, with due regard to the needs of the general reader of the translation, there runs an Interpretation for which, as a whole, its author is alone responsible. While all notes of a linguistic or historical character are based upon the researches of the most accredited scholars in the field, others, which progressively develop the Interpretation, are based rather upon the belief that for the non-professional reader — the reader who belongs to the great class of honnêtes gens, for whom French literary men proudly claim that they prefer to write — it is far more important to try to show what a great work of art means, or can self-consistently be seen to mean, now, than what it may seem to have meant to its author’s contemporaries, or even to the author himself, when viewed from afar in the dim and dry light of time-hampered research. Its permanent truth and beauty, and their present-day suggestions, being after all what is most valuable and enjoyable in such a poem as the Divine Comedy, it should be remembered that spiritual truth is seedlike, and grows, and therefore increases and Edition: current; Page: [[xx]] deepens in significance with the progress made in spiritual appreciation by the ages which in turn receive it. Even great poets build better than they consciously know, and better, certainly, than their outclassed contemporaries are aware of; hence it would seem to be no part of loyalty to insist that the inspirations of a supreme poet’s genius shall be narrowed down in meaning to the relatively little which a later century can intellectually learn from the painful limitations of the age from which he had to procure their clothing. Let the reader, then, separate, if he must, what seems scholarly in these fragmentary and purposely succinct notes from what their writer, who confesses to be more concerned with the poem’s flowers and their implications than with its roots and sources, claims is only a self-consistent, personal interpretation, which at least may spur those that cannot accept it in parts, or as a whole, to realize the value of drawing from the poet’s inexhaustibly fertile suggestions an edifying interpretation of their own, and, in their own way, of “heeding carefully the teaching which lies hidden beneath the veil of the poet’s mysterious lines.”
Since, then, linguistic, historical and geographical notes to a poem are a necessary evil, and only justified by the ordinary reader’s natural unfamiliarity with its illustrative allusions, they have not been forced upon his attention any more than need be. For a similar reason almost all references to authorities or sources, as well as all linguistic notes to the Italian text, have been relegated to the pages of the prospective Edition: current; Page: [[xxi]] Commentary, in which an attempt will be made to show what Dante did not get from any of his “sources,” and what few of his commentators, and then only sporadically, got from him. As to the Interpretation of the teaching, instead of being formulated in an Introduction, which “would have vainly boasted” of vying, in their method, with the Introduction and Arguments of Dr. Grandgent’s Dante, it will be found to follow step by step the natural evolution of the poem’s thought. It is, therefore, suggested that the corresponding part of what follows be read by those who do not claim to be Dante scholars between a first and a second reading of each canto’s translation; a reference to the line-numbers on the Italian page will guide the reader to the answers furnished to all questions that will probably be asked, while those in the Analysis will lead its more leisurely students to the lines of the text upon which comment is made.
Of this progressive Interpretation the fundamental contentions are: that Dante, while frequently drawing illustrations of his teaching from his own personal experience, is throughout the poem making himself a representative of Man in general as he is brought face to face with those universal moral, and spiritual problems of life, which change only in their intellectual clothing from age to age, from race to race, and even from man to man; that spiritually sin and virtue are, respectively, their own all-sufficient punishment and reward; that what in the letter of the allegorical story is said of the fate of individuals is to be taken only as illustrative Edition: current; Page: [[xxii]] of the significance of states of moral and spiritual consciousness; that neither Hell, Purgatory nor Heaven are places, but states of which all men can at any time have experience; that the moment of physical death has no special eternal significance, except in so far as it symbolizes those critical spiritual moments when man’s spirit is eclipsed by entering the shadow of the Wrath of God, or swims into the ken of His Love; that Eternity is something infinitely more, and other, than endless astronomic time; and that, finally, the Divine Comedy, while very significant as a supreme Italian, Catholic, Scholastic and fourteenth-century work of art, has an import for all men and for all ages which breaks through the bonds of the language, theology, philosophy and times which gave it form, far more victoriously and often than is generally realized — an import which can be grasped only by emphasizing the high-water marks of its insight into Reality, and by never letting its teaching’s spirit drop to the level of its avowedly hampered letter, whose latent spiritual significance needs translation into terms of twentieth century appreciation far more than its Italian does into English.
To help bring into clearer light these eternal spiritual aspects of the world’s greatest single poem is the object of this translation, and especially of its accompanying interpretative notes.
Introduction to the Allegory of the Divine Comedy. Dante, Man. The Wood and the Mountain. The Three Wild Beasts. Virgil, Man’s Reason 2–13
In the translation it will be noticed that line 15 has been printed in two parts, which together form a regular blank verse line; this was done here, as elsewhere in the book, so as to avoid padding the thought, and leaving a blank line on the printed page.
The usual rendering of line 37 is: “The time was at the morning’s first beginning,” which, while a possible meaning of the Italian, does not seem as apposite as the permissible translation adopted.
Introduction to the Inferno. The Mission of Virgil. The Three Blessed Ladies. Beatrice, Man’s Spiritual Nature 14–25
In this canto Man’s three spiritual friends are contrasted with the three brutal enemies from which his Reason rescued him in Canto I, while Beatrice, who represents God’s spirit in Man, is by the poet identified in line 105, as frequently in the poem, with the historical Florentine girl, Beatrice Portinari, whom Dante had loved since his childhood, of whom he had written in his Vita Nuova, and to say of whom “what had never been said of any woman” he had prepared himself in every way ever since her death in 1290.
The Gate and Vestibule of Hell. Moral and Spiritual Cowards and Neutrals. Pilate. Acheron 26–37
Of this, which is one of the strongest, though least frequently appreciated, cantos of the whole Inferno, the outstanding figure is the Pilate whom Dante, in contrast to the Cowards whom he “recognized,” “knew” at once, as unmistakably the greatest conceivable illustration of the despicable class, which does not understand that human tears, and even blood, are made sublime, when shed for a noble cause.
The First Circle. The Limbo, or Borderland, of Unbaptized Innocents and Worthies, and Illustrious Pagans. Virgil. Aristotle 38–49
The picture of the negative punishment (?) of the pagan-minded in this canto should be understood as applying to the pagan-minded in modern and contemporary, as well as in ancient times. It is merely a poetical statement of an obvious and acknowledged Edition: current; Page: [[xxviii]] fact. A materialistic or merely intellectualistic conception of life, necessarily involves a lack of happiness open only to those who can accept the joyous Christian view of life. The fate of individuals in “another world” is, in this case as in all others, on the knees of a Justice whose other name is Love, to which can be also left the little children whom Dante describes as being in the border state.
Most texts read in line 36, parte, “a part,” instead of porta, “gateway,” which latter, however, best describes the symbolic function of baptism.
The Second Circle. Minos. The Hell of Incontinence. Sexual Intemperance. The Lascivious, and Adulterers. Francesca 50–61
With this circle Dante enters upon the first of the three main parts of Hell, that of Incontinence, or Intemperance, which deals with four sins due to a lack of rational control over necessary human appetites, upon whose use depend the birth, the physical nourishment of individuals, and the development of Man’s material, and moral civilization.
Many scholars think that the del costui piacer of line 104 should be taken to mean “for his charming looks,” but, apart from the involved lack of contrast with line 101, line 103 seems to suggest as more correct the version given in the text.
The Third Circle. The Hell of Incontinence. Intemperance in the Use of Food. Cerberus. Gluttons. Ciacco 62–71
In view of the Italian people’s well known temperance in the use of wine, etc., it is interesting to note that it did not occur to Dante to mention intoxication in this canto, or anywhere in the Inferno, except in the case of Pope Boniface VIII. (xxvii, 99.)
While no one this side of the experience can know what a “future life” will be like, one can imagine that it will involve a fuller consciousness of the eternity in which one is already living in this life, and of which one is at times aware.
The Fourth Circle. The Hell of Incontinence. Intemperance in the Use of Wealth. Plutus. Misers and Prodigals. Fortune 72–78
Judging from a hint dropped in line 25, Dante deemed that man’s wrong attitude toward wealth — which he thought of as an outer body, upon the proper use of which material civilization’s interests depended — was the most prevalent of all the sins in Hell. In this connection the symbolic Wolf of materialistic Greed is brought in, not in her own capacity as representing malicious Fraud, but as “mated” to Incontinence.
The Fifth Circle. The Hell of Incontinence. Intemperance in Indignation. The Wrathful and Sullen. Styx 78–81
The Sixth Circle. The Vestibule to the Hell of Bestiality or Unreason. Disbelief in a Spiritual World, Immortality, etc. Heretics 100–103
The Sixth Circle (continued). The Distribution, or Ethical Classification of the Damned 116–125
With reference to the note to line 66 it could be urged that a punishment that was literally endless would be one that would attain no conceivable object but the unworthy one of revenge, and Edition: current; Page: [[xxxvii]] hence is no more imaginable than are endless time or space. Spiritual truths must one and all of them be grasped qualitatively and not quantitatively.
The Seventh Circle. The Hell of Bestiality. Violence. The First Ring. Violence against one’s Fellow Man and his Property. Tyrants. Murderers, Highway Robbers, and Devastators. The Centaurs. Attila 126–137
The Seventh Circle (continued). The Second Ring. Violence against One’s Self and Property. Suicides and Squanderers. The Harpies. Pier delle Vigne 138–149
The Seventh Circle (continued). Third Ring. Violence against God. Blasphemers. Capaneus. The Old Man of Crete 150–161
The Seventh Circle (continued). The Third Ring. Violence against Nature. Sodomites; Clerics and Literary Men. Brunetto Latini 162–171
The Seventh Circle (continued). The Third Ring. Violence against Nature. Sodomites; Warriors and Statesmen. Guido Guerra. The Cord of St. Francis 172–183
The Seventh Circle (continued). The Third Ring. Violence against Art (Industry). Usurers. Geryon 184–195
The dominant figure of this canto is that of Geryon, the wonderfully drawn symbol of Fraud, the sin of perverted Reason, which is described as stronger by far than all defensive or offensive armor, and as spiritually the most foully corruptive of all classes of sin. Recalling the fact that one is now in the domain of the Wolf of fraudulent Greed, Dante’s method of handling it reminds one of the Gospel teaching that when “in the midst of wolves” one should be as “wise as serpents” while remaining as “harmless as doves.” Until civilization comes to realize that Fraud is, as Dante here teaches, morally and spiritually more deleterious to man than any form of Incontinence, such as even drunkenness, or than any kind of Violence, such as even murder, little real ethical progress will be made.
The Eighth Circle. The Hell of Malice. Fraud. The First Trench. Pandars and Seducers. Caccianimico. Jason 196–203
The Eighth Circle (continued). The Second Trench. Flatterers and Prostitutes. Interminei. Thais 204–207
The Eighth Circle. The Hell of Malice. Fraud. The Third Trench. Simoniacs, Spiritual Prostitutes. Nicholas III. Boniface VIII. Clement V 208–219
The Eighth Circle. The Hell of Malice. Fraud. The Fourth Trench. Diviners, Soothsayers and Practicers of Magic. Manto 220–229
The Eighth Circle. The Hell of Malice. The Fifth Trench. The Evil Claws. Corrupt Politicians and Grafters, Political Prostitutes 230–241
The Eighth Circle. The Hell of Malice. Fraud. The Fifth Trench (continued). Corrupt Politicians and Grafters. Cianpolo 243–253
The Seventh Circle. The Hell of Malice. Fraud. The Sixth Trench. Hypocrites. Caiaphas. Fra Catalano 254–265
The Eighth Circle. The Hell of Malice. Fraud. The Seventh Trench (continued). Thieves. Cacus 278–289
The Eighth Circle. The Hell of Malice. Fraud. The Eighth Trench. Fraudulent Counselors and Insincere Rhetoricians. Ulysses 290–301
The Eighth Circle. Fraud. The Eighth Trench (continued). Fraudulent Counselors. Romagna in 1300. Guido da Montefeltro 302–313
The Eighth Circle. The Hell of Malice. Fraud. The Ninth Trench. Sowers of Discord between Churches, States, and Individuals. Mohammed. Mosca. Bertran de Born. 314–325
The Eighth Circle. The Hell of Malice. Fraud. The Ninth Trench (continued). Sowers of Discord Geri del Bello 326–329
The Eighth Circle. The Hell of Malice. Fraud. The Tenth Trench. Falsifiers (1) of Metals. Alchemists. Griffolino 328–337
Students who are interested in the deeper meaning of “eternity,” “eternal” and “eternally” will surely agree that what might be called a sense of spiritual humour ought to prevent any misunderstanding of “eternally” in line 89.
The Eighth Circle. The Hell of Malice. Fraud. The Tenth Trench (continued). Falsifiers (2) of Persons; (3) of Money, Counterfeiters; and (4) of Words, Liars. Gianni Schicchi. Master Adam. Sinon 338–349
In line 51 of this canto instead of dal lato the Vandelli 1914 text prefers the reading dall’altro, which would change the translation to: “from man’s remaining portion, which is forked.”
The Edge of the Bank overlooking the Central Well. Titans, Giants, or Supermen. Nimrod. Antæus 350–361
Lovers of Dante recently visiting Bologna will have seen on the wall of the still standing, though much shortened, Carisenda tower, a marble slab with Dante’s words carved upon it. Similarly all over Florence and throughout Italy slabs will be found commemorating his famous references to historic sites.
The Ninth Circle. The Hell of Malice. Treachery. The First Ring. Caina. Traitors to their Relatives. Mordred. Camicion de Pazzi 362–367
The Ninth Circle. The Hell of Malice. Treachery. The Second Ring. Antenora. Traitors to their Country. Bocca degli Abati 366–373
The Ninth Circle. The Hell of Malice. Treachery. The Second Ring (continued). Traitors to their Country or Party. Count Ugolino 374–381
The Ninth Circle. The Third Ring. Tolomea. Traitors to their Guests. Frate Alberigo. Branca d’Oria 380–385
The Ninth Circle. The Hell of Malice. Treachery. The Fourth Ring. Giudecca. Traitors to their Benefactors. Traitors to Human and Divine Majesty. Brutus. Cassius. Judas. LUCIFER 386–391
With the allegory of Lucifer’s three faces it will be seen that Dante has returned to the allegory of the three Wild Beasts with which he started. In Satan, Man has seen the reality of the three dangers which prevented his access to the Mountain of Delight. The sensual Leopard of Incontinent Appetite, the arrogant Lion of Bestial Violence, and the greedy, materialistic Wolf of Malicious Fraud and Treachery are seen to have been adumbrations of the Impotence, Ignorance, and Hatred that spring from rebellion against the equally Almighty, All-wise, and All-loving Spirit of the Universe.
From the Center of the Earth to its Surface on the Island of Purgatory. The Fall of Lucifer 390–397
Proemio della Divina Commedia
La Selva e il Monte
Proemio dell’ Inferno
La Missione di Virgilio
La Porta e il Vestibolo dell’ Inferno
Ignavi e Neutri. Acheronte
Cerchio Primo. Il Limbo
Innocenti non battezzati. Pagani illustri
Cerchio Secondo. Incontinenza. Lussuria
Lussuriosi ed Adulteri
Cerchio Terzo. Incontinenza. Gola
Cerchio Quarto. Incontinenza. Avarizia
Avari e Prodighi. Cerchio Quinto
Cerchio Quinto. Incontinenza. Ira
Iracondi ed Accidiosi. Stige. La Città di Dite
La Porta della Città di Dite
Cerchio Sesto. Eresia
Cerchio Sesto. Eresia
Cerchio Sesto. Eresia
Distribuzione dei Dannati nell’Inferno
Cerchio Settimo. Girone Primo. Violenza contro il Prossimo. Omicidi e Guastatori. Flegetonte
Cerchio Settimo. Girone Secondo. Violenza contro Sè
Suicidi e Scialacquatori
Cerchio Settimo. Girone Terzo
Violenza contro Dio. Bestemmiatori
Cerchio Settimo. Girone Terzo
Violenza contro Natura. Sodomiti
Cerchio Settimo. Girone Terzo
Violenza contro Natura. Sodomiti
Cerchio Settimo. Girone Terzo
Violenza contro l’Arte. Usurai
Cerchio Ottavo. Frode. Bolgia Prima. Ruffiani e Seduttori. Bolgia Seconda. Adulatori e Meretrici
Cerchio Ottavo. Frode
Bolgia Terza. Simoniaci
Cerchio Ottavo. Frode
Bolgia Quarta. Indovini
Cerchio Ottavo. Frode
Bolgia Quinta. Barattieri
Cerchio Ottavo. Frode
Bolgia Quinta. Barattieri
Cerchio Ottavo. Frode
Bolgia Sesta. Ipocriti
Cerchio Ottavo. Frode
Bolgia Settima. Ladri
Cerchio Ottavo. Frode
Bolgia Settima. Ladri
Cerchio Ottavo. Frode
Bolgia Ottava. Consiglieri Frodolenti
Cerchio Ottavo. Frode
Bolgia Ottava. Consiglieri Frodolenti
Cerchio Ottavo. Frode
Bolgia Nona. Seminatori di Discordie
Cerchio Ottavo. Frode
Bolgia Decima. Falsatori di Metalli
Cerchio Ottavo. Frode. Bolgia Decima
Falsatori di Persone, di Monete e di Parole
L’ Orlo del Pozzo Centrale
Cerchio Nono. Tradimento. Cocito
Traditori dei Congiunti, e della Patria
Cerchio Nono. Tradimento. Cocito
Traditori della Patria e de’ Commensali
Circolo Nono. Tradimento. Cocito
Traditori de’ Benefattori. Lucifero
Dante, representing Man, astray in the Wood of Sin, at the age of thirty-five. Dante having been born in 1265, the date of the Vision recorded in the Poem is 1300.
The Mountain of the ideal life of Virtue.
The sun, a planet in the Ptolemaic system of astronomy.
The three symbolic Beasts: the sensual Leopard of Incontinent Appetite; the arrogant Lion of Bestial Violence; and the greedy, materialistic Wolf of Malicious Fraud and Treachery.
Later than the time of line 13, early in the morning of Good Friday, 1300, at the beginning of Spring, when the sun was in the constellation of Aries, where it was believed to have been on the day of Creation.
Virgil, Dante’s first Guide and Teacher, the symbol of Man’s Reason, or of his intellectual, aesthetic and moral faculties, of which the University and State may be the organized collective instrumentalities.
Virgil, as author of the Aeneid, the poem of Rome’s civilizing mission, acknowledged as the Poet of poets, and as his inspiring Teacher by Dante, who asks his help against the insatiable Wolf of Materialism and Greed.
The Wolf, evidently the most dangerous of the three Beasts to Dante, represents the class of sins spiritually the most dangerous to Man.
The prophecy of the Veltro, or Hound, a vaguely described future deliverer of Italy, Can Grande (the great Dog) della Scala, of Verona, which lies between two Feltros, being possibly intended.
Italian heroes who, on one side or the other, died in the Trojans’ war under Aeneas for the conquest of Italy.
That the source of the Wolf is Envy, the offspring of Pride, falls in with the above interpretation of the worst of the three animals, Greed.
The course of Salvation through Hell, and Purgatory, the eternal states of Disobedience and Slavery, and of the humble Reconquest of Liberty, under the guidance of Virgil, or Reason; and, later, through Paradise, the state of loving Obedience and Freedom, under the guidance of Beatrice, the symbol of Man’s Spiritual faculty, whose functions are Faith, Hope and Love, and of which the Church may be the organized Edition: current; Page: [[xxiv]] collective instrumentality.
Virgil’s incompetence as a Pagan signifies that mere Reason is not qualified to make Man’s higher nature spiritually happy.
The Gate of Purgatory proper, which ultimately leads to Paradise.
The evening of Good Friday.
Invocation of the Muses, who represent the Arts and Sciences, upon a knowledge of which a poet must draw, as well as upon his own Genius and Memory.
Aeneas, who descended into Hades to get the help, which led to his conquest of Italy, and eventually to the glories of Imperial and Papal Rome.
Saint Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, who claimed to have been “caught up into Paradise.”
Cowardice on Dante’s part disguised as Modesty.
Virgil, the Magnanimous, reproving him for his spiritual Pusillanimity, gives an account of his Mission from Beatrice, sent to Dante’s help by the Gentle Lady (the Virgin Mary) and Lucìa, the representatives, respectively, of Divine Mercy and Light.
The souls in the Limbo, or Borderland.
Beatrice, described with ever increasing emphasis throughout the poem as “beautiful and happy,” thus establishing the difference between her and Virgil, who is only learned and wise.
The circle referred to being that of the Moon, this new definition of Beatrice means that Man’s spiritual, and not his rational, nature is what makes him greater than anything else on earth.
A statement which may possibly, though not probably, have been intended to mean (much more sublimely): “Of those things only should one be afraid, that have the power of doing others harm.”
The Virgin Mary, Edition: current; Page: [[xxv]] the Mercy of God.
Divine “kindly Light.”
Dante thought of Rachel as being Beatrice’s counterpart in the symbolism of the Old Testament.
Beatrice defined as “true Praise of God,” which is not intellectual knowledge, but spiritual appreciation.
The river of Sin, which does not flow into the sea.
The materialistic Wolf.
God’s Mercy, and Light, and His Spirit in Man.
Fearlessness and Freedom, here as elsewhere, the great spiritual qualities.
Virgil (Reason) accepted by Dante as his Leader, Lord and Teacher, titles with which he addresses, or refers to, him appositely in each case. Herewith the two poets enter upon the rough road which leads them underground to the outer Gate of Hell.
Inscription on the Gate, describing Hell as being a spiritual state, (in the letter of the allegory, a place) eternally created by the Power, Wisdom, and even the Love of God, wherein Pain is the eternal concomitant of Disobedience of a Will inspired by perfect Justice.
Fearlessness the initial quality requisite of whoever would know Reality.
The vision of God the real goal of Man’s life.
The stars, here as elsewhere, the symbols of the Hope, abandoned by whoever enters Hell.
Cowards, Neutrals, and the Lukewarm in moral and spiritual concerns, who, held in contempt by the universe, are rejected by Heaven and Hell alike. The Lower World’s Vestibule, its largest circle, is devoted to these characterless souls, who form the great majority.
The restless Flag of Fashion followed by those whose deeds, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are not self-determined.
He “who through his cowardice the great Refusal made,” most satisfactorily (though not generally) interpreted as Pilate, who through fear of the Jews washed his hands of responsibility for the fate of Jesus, whose innocence he had officially acknowledged. Most commentators take him to be Celestine V, who was induced to abdicate the Papacy through humility by the fraudulent intrigues of his successor, Boniface VIII.
Never spiritually alive, they act only under external compulsion, while their blood and tears serve only to feed lower forms of life.
The river Acheron, crossed by all who, in willing sin, will its equivalent and inseparable punishment.
Charon, the Ferryman of Acheron, who refuses to receive Dante, because he is not, as are the others, spiritually dead.
The boat that takes repentant souls to the Island of Purgatory.
The password which prevails in the realm of Incontinence, where Reason, though neglected, is respected.
One of several references to the art of Falconry.
Not fearing the sin, they do not fear its punishment.
Under the symbolism of earthquake, wind, and lightning Dante describes his mysterious birth by a flash of intuition, as it were, into a first appreciation of the truth which pervades the whole of his Inferno, that any state of Sin is one with its accompanying, or equivalent Pain. While unconscious, he passes across Acheron, to see with his mind’s eye what nonobedience and disobedience of the laws of the spiritual or real world mean in terms of pain.
A first confused impression of the World of Evil.
Specially deserving of notice are the occasions when Virgil and Dante show Edition: current; Page: [[xxvii]] sympathy, or refuse it, for sinners in the lower world.
Dante’s Hell is physically conceived as being a vast inverted cone extending from immediately below the surface of the earth to its centre, and divided into nine concentric and ever diminishing circles.
This outermost circle portrays the spiritual state of the innocent and worthy, but pagan-minded, who, not having attained the Christian conception of life, cannot, while in that state, share in its happiness, and who therefore, though desiring, have no hope.
The legend of Christ’s descent into Hades, and His removal of the Hebrew Worthies who had believed in the Redemption that was to be — a conception probably based upon consciousness that spiritual apprehension of a truth is the essential saving thing.
The light surrounding these illustrious Pagans is only a hemisphere, because their loyalty to Reason was unquickened by spiritual faith.
Honor, the outstanding quality in this canto.
In spite of Homer’s traditional supremacy, Dante probably thought of Virgil as “the loftiest of poets,” and hence, as such, greater, and better fitted to be his guide than Aristotle, “the Teacher of those that know.”
Homer and the three Latin poets whom, with Virgil, Dante thought the greatest of Antiquity, and whom he yet describes as “neither sorrowful nor glad.”
Dante received among them as an equal, a claim on his part more than confirmed by the verdict of posterity.
The Castle of Wisdom and Glory, with its seven walls, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance, Intelligence, Learning, and Wisdom; its stream of Eloquence; and its gates, Grammar, Dialectics, Rhetoric, Music, Arithmetic, Geometry, and Astronomy, through which was entered the domain of Knowledge.
The military and political Heroes of the Trojan-Roman civilization, with the chivalric Saladin as the only representative of Mohamedanism.
Philosophers and men of Science, presided over by Aristotle, the “Teacher of those that know.”
The qualities of plants.
A commentary on Aristotle, followed by the great medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas.
Dante here enters the real Hell of Sin and Pain, whose darkness is nowhere mitigated even by the half light of Reason.
As, in descending, the circles grow narrower, the sins they reveal and the pain the latter involve are conceived as growing in intensity.
Minos, the classic Judge of the Dead, is grotesqued by Dante, and made the symbol of Man’s guilty Conscience.
His tail is with grim humor conceived as long enough to girdle him eight times.
A suggestion of the danger of contamination in an unguarded examination of Sin.
Contrasting with the sighs of the first Circle.
Carnal sinners in general; their punishment being merely a picture of their sin, they are swept around in the dark by the aimless winds of sexual passion uncontrolled by Reason.
Blaming God, or others, and not themselves, characteristic of those held in Hell.
Two more pictures from bird life.
No rest in disloyal love.
Semiramis leads those who sinned through brutal lasciviousness, or incest.
For the usual text succedette “succeeded,” the variant sugger dette, “gave suck to,” has here been boldly substituted, as being significant, more Dante-like, and in perfect harmony with the context.
In marked contrast with Semiramis, Dido of Carthage, who, faithless to her plighted loyalty to her dead husband, gave herself to Aeneas, leads those who weakly yielded to a genuine, though illegal, love for one person.
Love characterizes this canto as much as Honor the last.
Dante’s bestowal or refusal of sympathy differentiates sins springing from good nature from those caused by meanness or ill Edition: current; Page: [[xxix]] will.
The pitiful story of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta, which has made its fifth canto one of the most popular of the Inferno, is treated by Dante with his utmost poetic charm and sympathy, because though sinful, theirs was the sin of a genuine love.
God’s name is not used by any one speaking in Hell, except in a case of defiance.
Love answers love.
Noteworthy is the contrast between the love of the man and that of the woman.
When found together, Francesca and Paolo were killed, without a chance of repentance, by her husband, Gianciotto Malatesta, lord of Rimini.
The legally justified, but treacherous and murderous husband is here condemned to Caìna Cain’s ring in the ice of Cocytus reserved for traitors to their relatives at the bottom of Hell.
The Italian dottore is best taken here, as above, as meaning not teacher, but leader.
A reference to Virgil’s previous happiness on earth, or to his having in the Aeneid made Aeneas say to Dido: “Thou bidst me, Queen, recall a grief unspeakable.”
The Arthurian legends were the favorite reading of the nobility then.
Sir Gallehault, the go-between in the case of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere.
Dante’s sympathy not reproved here by Virgil, as it will be on another occasion.
Dante’s frequently mysterious passage from one circle or spiritual state to another resembles the mysterious way in which the Edition: current; Page: [[xxx]] mind shuts out a previous thought or feeling by an act of will, and gives itself wholly to another.
The cold and dirty rain in which the Gluttons are submerged, and the three-mouthed monster, Cerberus, who torments them, represent their disgusting abuse of the natural and necessary appetite for Food.
Profaners of their body, the temple of the spirit.
Ciacco, Jimmy, the pig, apparently the twofold nickname of a clever, good-natured Florentine glutton in Dante’s time. To the “empty shades” of spirits in Hell, Dante attributes the power of being seen, heard, and touched, but without solidity.
Dante was born before Ciacco had died.
Dante had not yet seen some of the lower circles.
Sympathy, because gluttony and the like are sins to which the social and good-natured are peculiarly tempted.
The political vicissitudes of Florence after 1300, the date of Dante’s Vision. The Bianchi and Neri are the factions referred to. The Neri were driven out in 1301 by the Bianchi, who in turn were exiled in 1302 (and with them Dante) largely as a result of the intrigues of Boniface VIII, who in 1300 was “hugging the shore,” or “on the fence.” The poem having been written at different times later than its feigned date, historical events posterior to 1300 are, as here, narrated in the form of prophecies. Three suns are three years.
Of the two just men in Florence, it is quite like Dante to have had himself in mind as one.
Peculiarly noteworthy are the three sparks, “overweening Pride, Envy, and Greed,” which were the cause of trouble in the limited sphere of Florence six centuries ago!
Illustrious citizens of Florence, whom Dante respected for their civic virtues, but whom he will see lower down in Hell, because of their personal sins.
Punishment in Hell is graded by a law of spiritual gravitation.
Almost all sinners wish to be remembered on earth, except traitors, who have wholly broken the social bond.
Christ at the Final Judgment. Men are justly judged by a comparison of their lives with that of the moral and spiritual Record-holder of the race.
Man’s spirit being thought to be wholly itself only when embodied, it follows that when reëmbodied its happiness or unhappiness will be more keenly felt.
Gluttony suddenly vanishing from Dante’s mind, he sees before him the symbol of Intemperance in the Use of Wealth, Plutus, Man’s great enemy.
What it was probably intended to be, incomprehensible jargon, or a clucked out appeal to Satan.
Another definition of Virgil.
Man will ultimately solve the problems presented by Wealth.
The monster Plutus being called a Wolf would seem to strengthen the interpretation, whereby the Wolf of the first canto stood for materialistic Greed, born of Envy, the child of Pride, a view enforced by the following reference to Michael’s defeat of Satan’s rebellion against a spiritual God.
It is because of the perfection of Divine Justice that sin is self-punished.
Misers and Prodigals represented as wasting their lives in selfishly amassing and holding, or in squandering Wealth; Abuse and Nonuse, here, as elsewhere in the realm of Incontinence, being opposed to rational Use. Charybdis in the Strait of Messina.
Avarice a besetting sin of churchmen in Dante’s age.
Dante sees Emperors and Ghibellines in Hell, as well as Popes and Guelphs.
Dante uses unrecognizability to describe sins which result in, or are due to, lack of character.
Avarice and Prodigality mutually punishing each other.
Mediaeval mythology conceived of Angels and Intelligences in somewhat the same way that Laws are conceived of in the intellectual mythology of modern Science.
Fortune is thought of as the personification of the law controlling the waxing and waning of the prosperity of individuals, families, nations, and races.
Gods, Angels, and Laws are all mythological attempts to express observed correlations in Nature.
As when she is blamed as Edition: current; Page: [[xxxii]] Luck, or worse.
This means, in the language of the stars, whose positions Virgil sees in his mind, that it is now past midnight, over six hours since the evening of Good Friday, when the poets entered Hell.
This is the overflow of Acheron, since Dante conceives of all the rivers of his Hell as interconnected.
Styx, the marshy river, or fen, which with its banks forms the Fifth Circle.
The Wrathful and the indolent Sullen, who, by abuse or nonuse, failed in the rational use of that natural Indignation, upon which the higher interests of Man’s civilization as much depend, as the lower do upon the rational use of Wealth.
Not the angry, but “those whom anger overcame.”
Those who have not character enough to have the courage to voice their convictions, and fight for them like men.
One of the distant towers on the walls surrounding the City of Dis, or Nether Hell.
Phlegyas, the wrathful local boatman of Styx, blinded by anger, does not see as clearly as Charon did.
The effect of Dante’s material body on Phlegyas’ boat is used as a means of reminding the reader that Dante is the only living being in the poem.
Filippo, nicknamed Argenti (Silver), an arrogant and irascible Florentine of the Adimari family.
No sympathy for ill-natured sinners.
In Virgil’s approval of his righteous indignation Dante makes the only mention Edition: current; Page: [[xxxiii]] in the poem of a member of his immediate family.
“Sbarro,” “unbar,” one of Dante’s many rhyme words which lend lucidity to his thought.
The City of Dis, or Nether Hell, which contains the realms of Bestiality and Malice, classes of Sin far worse than Incontinence.
Mosques, possibly to suggest the Heresy just inside, Mohammedanism being thought to be as heretical as it was schismatic.
The Devils, or demons of Biblical mythology, being the guardians of the irrational domain of Bestiality, are naturally inaccessible to the claims of Virgil, or Reason.
Virgil’s ultimate dependence upon Beatrice is suggestive of that of Art and Science upon Inspiration and Intuition.
Reference to the legend of Christ’s Descent to Hades, and of the Devils’ opposition to His entrance.
Reason undivorced from Spirituality is sure of receiving the help of Inspiration or Intuition, when at the end of its natural resources.
Beatrice, Man’s spiritual nature, of which his Reason is the prime minister.
A spirit from Limbo; a “covert” way of asking whether Virgil knew his way.
Compare with this classical legend of the Thessalian sorceress, Erichtho, that of the biblical witch of Endor, who called up the soul of Samuel.
Giudecca, the central ring of Cocytus, the Circle of Traitors.
The Furies of Remorse and Disbelief — another instance of classic mythology put at the service of Christian philosophy.
Proserpine, the wife of Pluto, the King of the classic Hades.
The Gorgon’s head, symbolizing the petrifying result of Despair, or of utter disbelief in a spiritual world, the fundamental heresy punished inside.
Theseus’ attempt to rescue Proserpine.
Reason’s duty to protect Man from despair and disbelief.
Dante’s great appeal to the appreciative imagination of his readers.
A poetic picture of the advent of spiritual Intuition to the rescue of Reason at the end of its resources.
Edition: current; Page: [[xxxiv]] Dante frequently uses frogs for the purposes of his grim humor.
The fog of spiritual ignorance and blindness.
The three-headed dog, Cerberus, tried to interfere with Hercules’ rescue of Theseus from Hades.
The Angel’s words were “holy” because expressing righteous indignation.
Roman graves at Arles long thought to be those of Christians fallen in battle with Saracens.
The popular Dante text which claims Istria for Italy.
Heretics seen in tombs, because disbelief in the Immortality of the Soul, the fundamental heresy, implies the belief that the end of Man’s life is the grave.
Dante’s Hell being a picture of perfect Justice, different grades of intensity are implied in the punishment of individual souls guilty of the same kind of sin. In this picture of the worst form of heresy as intellectual self-entombment, equity is provided for by the graded heat of the tombs.
The more usual text has, instead of stretto, secreto, or “hidden.”
The Valley of Jehoshaphat believed to be the site of the Final Judgment.
Disbelief in the Immortality of the Soul picked out by Dante as the fundamental archheresy.
His wish to see the great Farinata.
Dante’s Tuscan speech and accent are frequently recognized by Italians.
Farinata degli Uberti, a famous Ghibelline Florentine patriot, seen here by Dante, who greatly admired him, because tainted with the prevalent heresy of the age.
Dante’s family and ancestors belonged to the Guelph party opposed to Farinata’s.
In 1248 and 1260.
In 1251, and in 1266, after which the Ghibelline party never returned to power in Florence.
Cavalcante Cavalcanti, the father of Dante’s friend and fellow poet, Guido Cavalcanti, who had not yet died at the date of Dante’s Vision, the Spring of 1300.
This may mean that Guido did not admire Virgil, or, better, that he did not believe in a Reason that was subservient to Edition: current; Page: [[xxxv]] Spirituality, to which belief Dante here implies that he owed his great Vision.
By his use of the past tense Dante seemed to have implied that Guido was dead.
Proserpine, the Queen of Hades, identified with Luna, the Moon; in less than fifty moons, or months, from April, 1300, Dante found himself banished from Florence, never to return.
The Battle of Mont’ Aperti, on the river Arbia, won in 1260 by the Ghibelline forces under the leadership of Farinata, over the Guelphs of Florence.
Perpetual banishment from Florence decreed by the returning Guelphs against the Uberti family.
The Ghibelline Diet of Empoli, which followed the victory of Mont’Aperti.
Knowledge of the Present depends upon life in Time; that of the Future upon life in Eternity, remote events of a general nature depending predominantly upon moral and spiritual forces.
Again, sympathy for the man, and not for the sinner, as such.
The Hohenstaufen Emperor, Frederick II, whom Dante greatly admired, but condemned to be seen here for the heretical beliefs he shared with his contemporary Cardinal degli Ubaldini.
Farinata’s prophecy of Dante’s exile.
The meaning of the vicissitudes of Dante’s (Man’s) life not to be explained by Reason (Virgil), but by Spiritual Insight, the Beatrice who does not know intellectually, but “whose lovely eyes see” by a direct vision of spiritual Reality. One of the most significant definitions of Beatrice in the poem, for if Religion had always understood that it was exclusively concerned with Man’s conquest of the eternal world of spiritual reality; and had Science remembered that its sole function is the conquest of the spatial and temporal world of matter, there would have been no more “conflict” between them than there is between Virgil and Beatrice in our poem.
The stench arising from the abyss below symbolizes the greater moral and spiritual corruption characterizing the far more serious sins, whose nature is revealed in the three last Circles of Nether Hell.
Pope Anastasius II, wrongly believed in Dante’s age to have been led into heresy as to the nature of Christ by the Greek Edition: current; Page: [[xxxvi]] Photinus.
He who would know the inmost nature of evil must be willing to get used to its repulsiveness.
The Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Circles, small only in relation to the first six.
The following analysis is based upon Dante’s interpretation of Aristotle’s classification of sins under Incontinence (Intemperance), Bestiality and Malice, wherein Reason is, respectively, neglected, defied, or wrongly used.
Creatures lower than Man would not have sufficient intelligence, while any presumed to be higher would have too much, to make deceit effective.
The first of the last three.
The three persons are one’s own self, one’s fellow self, and the Universal Self.
Dante treats property as an outermost body of Man’s spirit.
A fine definition of a suicide; not one who kills himself, but a spirit who kills his own body.
Wasting one’s property, and pessimism, outer forms of suicide.
Respect for Nature, which is an outer manifestation of God, associated with reverence for the latter.
Sodom here stands for unnatural sexual sins, while Cahors, in France, in the middle age a nest of usurers, stands for Usury, conceived as sin against Industry.
The second of the last three Circles.
Stigmatized as “filth” are Evil Counsellors, and Promoters of Discord.
The Ninth Circle, the frozen lake of Cocytus, at whose center Dis, or Lucifer, is fixed.
Here, and elsewhere in the poem, eternally and eternal should be given a deeper significance than endlessness in Time, or something more like perfect, or absolute; Dante’s Lucifer represents the zero-stage of life.
The Wrathful and Sullen in Styx, the Carnal Sinners, the Gluttons, and the Misers and Prodigals.
The Ethics, Philosophy, and Physics referred to are those of Aristotle.
Man’s Industry is patterned after the operations of Nature.
Dante condemns Usury because it is contrary to God’s law that Man shall live “in the sweat of his face,” and because he believed it opposed to the interests of Industry, Man’s Art; the Usurer getting his living from neither Nature or his own toil.
Astronomical data signifying that the time is now about half past three a.m. on Saturday. Caurus, the Northwest wind, shows the Wain’s or Dipper’s position in the sky.
Descent into the Seventh Circle, suggestively imagined as being much lower and more inaccessible than were the previous circles from each other.
The Minotaur, symbol of Bestiality, the monster, half man and half bull, who was killed by Theseus with the help of Ariadne. His terrorizing fury defeats its own end.
Another reminder that Dante is the only physically living being in the Inferno.
When conjured down by Erichtho.
Christ, who when in Hades removed from the Limbo the believing Worthies of the Old Dispensation.
The earthquake at Jesus’ death, which, breaking open the outer Gate of Hell, furnished access to the Circle of Violence; the whole myth symbolizing the insight into Evil resulting from the life and death of Jesus.
Reference to the doctrine of Empedocles, who taught that Love restored to a happy Chaos the seeds of things that had been separated by Hate.
Phlegethon, the river of Blood, guarded by the semi-human Centaurs, symbols of human Brutality.
Wounded by a poisoned arrow by Hercules for trying to carry off Dejanira, Nessus left his shirt which, being poisoned, killed Hercules.
One of countless touches of convincing realism.
The human and the equine.
Beatrice, already defined as being herself the “true Praise of God, which is spiritual appreciation, and not intellectual understanding or servile flattery, of Him.
Tyrants, or wholesale slaughterers like Attila, the Hun, the most deeply immersed in the Blood of Phlegethon.
Italian thirteenth-century tyrants.
Nessus is put temporarily in charge of Dante, as being the local expert.
Guy de Montfort, who during Mass (“God’s bosom”) at Viterbo killed Prince Henry Edition: current; Page: [[xxxviii]] of England, whose heart King Edward I brought home, and buried in a shrine on London Bridge.
The famous King of Epirus, and a pirate son of Pompey.
Italian Highway Robbers apparently well known in Dante’s time.
The weird Forest of the Suicides.
A river and a town which bound the wild district of the Tuscan Maremma.
The Harpies, symbols of remorse and fear of the future, feed on bushes, to which are reduced the spirits of those who deprived themselves of human bodies.
Things unbelievable, if merely narrated.
Suicide, either by the killing of the body or by inaction, is here pictured as essentially vegetating, a self-lowering in the scale of life.
The perfection of psychological description.
A similar wonder told by Virgil in the Aeneid about Polydorus.
Pier delle Vigne, a Chancellor of Frederick II, who, according to Dante here, was unjustly accused of treachery, and took his own life in prison.
It is only as an illustration of the significance of Heresy that Dante sees him in the Sixth Circle.
Sympathy again unreproved.
The state of Suicides before and after the Final Judgment; the life of the body, of which the spirit of the suicide deprives himself, is considered as an instrument for the building of character for which he is responsible.
The suicide’s own conscience.
Those who were violent against their property, which Dante considered as an outer body, for which a spirit is also responsible.
Lano da Siena, and Giacomo da Sant’ Andrea, two thirteenth-century Italians famous as squanderers of their means.
Lano died in the battle of Pieve del Toppo, won in 1289 by the Aretines against the Sienese.
The Spendthrifts’ creditors.
Florence, whose patron Saint was John the Baptist, had been in its more warlike, and less commercial, Pagan times under the protection of Mars, a part of whose statue was said to have been set on the Ponte Vecchio, after the legendary destruction of Florence Edition: current; Page: [[xxxix]] by Attila. The whole passage is a warning to any people, which, in its eagerness for commercial prosperity, risks losing the military qualities which alone would enable them to keep it.
The speaker may have been a certain Lotto degli Agli, a prior of Florence who hanged himself in his own house.
Bitterly as Dante at times inveighed against Florence for her vices and ingratitude, no man ever loved his native place more tenderly and proudly than did Dante.
The Plain of burning sand on which nothing will grow, finely symbolizes sins against spiritual, human, and social growth.
The Libyan desert crossed by Cato of Utica with the remnants of Pompey’s army.
God’s Vengeance consists in causing sins to contain the seed of their own punishment.
Those prostrate on the ground are the violent against God directly; those seated without doing anything the violent against Industry, the economic art; and those restlessly running around with no results the violent against the procreative laws of Nature in Man.
The Rain of Fire, the symbol of God’s Wrath.
An Alexandrian legend probably the result of blending two experiences, one of a heavy snow fall, and the other of torrid heat.
Reason reminded of its limitations.
Capaneus, one of the famous seven kings who fought against Thebes; he was killed with a thunderbolt hurled by Zeus, whom he had arrogantly defied. This is the Dante character which most resembles the Satan of Milton.
Vulcan, who had his smithy in Mongibello, Mt. Aetna.
Phlegra, in Thessaly, the site of the mythical struggle between Zeus and the Giants, the Sky-god and the Sons of Earth, Spirit and Matter.
Capaneus’ blasphemous rage its own punishment.
The overflow of Phlegethon.
A pond of boiling mineral water near Viterbo.
This brook is peculiarly notable possibly because the fact that the flames falling upon the third ring which it crosses, are extinguished above it, shows that the punishment of one sin cannot extend to another; the overflow of Phlegethon is still a part of Edition: current; Page: [[xl]] the first ring.
The classic myth of the origin of Man in the island of Crete, and of the Golden Age under Saturn, whose wife, Rhea, secured the survival of Jupiter, by substituting a stone for him at his birth, thus concealing him from his father who would else have devoured him, because the Fates had declared that he would be dethroned by a son. The truth of this myth may consist in the fact that while there is only one God, conceptions of Him are continually dethroning each other in turn. The Hebraic Garden of Eden myth is saved by Dante for use in the Terrestrial Paradise at the top of Mount Purgatory.
The Old Man of Crete, the symbol of the ever deteriorating human race, whose tears furnish Hell with its rivers; Damietta, in Egypt, represents the ancient world of Man before the age of Imperial and Christian Rome.
In the Inferno the two poets, when not going down toward the center, regularly turn to the left around an arc of each circle, thus following the course of the sun.
Phlegethon means, in Greek, boiling; Lethe, the other infernal river of classic mythology, Dante saves for a higher purpose in the Terrestrial Paradise.
Another of countless instances of the way Dante makes his reader feel the concrete realism of the story with which he has clothed his Allegory; a definite time is allotted to each part of his journey.
The stone embankments protecting the overflow of Phlegethon compared to the Belgian dykes, and to the embankments along the river Brenta erected to meet the freshets from the Chiarentana mountains, both of which human constructions are declared to be larger than those in Hell; a realistic and masterly touch of self-restraint on Dante’s part.
A band of Sodomites who were famous literary men.
Brunetto Latini, a distinguished Florentine Guelph, a statesman and writer, and author of Li Livres dou Trésor (Tesoro) an encyclopaedic work written in French. He probably helped Dante in his studies, and died in 1294.
Dante uses the specially polite voi in addressing Brunetto, as he did in the case of Farinata and Cavalcanti.
Reverence for Edition: current; Page: [[xli]] the man, unaffected by condemnation of the sin he illustrated.
Not Italy, but Heaven.
Dante’s astrological “star” (unless his natural disposition be intended) was the constellation of Gemini, the Twins, in which the Sun was at the date of his birth, some unknown day in May or June, 1265; this was supposed to be a prognostic of literary ability.
Dante believed himself descended from the original Roman stock of Florence, and not from the alien element which later came into it from the older and rougher mountain town of Fièsole.
Again the Greed, the Envy and the overweening Pride!
One of the many passages in the poem which testify to Dante’s firm belief in his future fame, in spite of his rejection by his fellow Florentines.
Dante’s deep sympathy for Brunetto here and in what follows shows that he impartially put his friends, as well as his enemies, in Hell.
One of the greatest tributes ever paid a teacher by his pupil.
Those of Ciacco and Farinata.
Reason’s approval of Dante’s fearless attitude toward the impersonal vagaries of Fortune.
Priscian, a celebrated grammarian of the early sixth century; Francesco d’Accorso, a professor of law at Oxford and Bologna late in the thirteenth.
A bishop of Florence (on the Arno) transferred to Vicenza (on the Bacchiglione), by Pope Boniface VIII, to whom Dante here gives his humblest title, Servus servorum Dei, ironically.
A popular foot race at Verona, instituted in 1207, and still held in Dante’s time; a piece of green cloth was the prize contended for.
The waterfall of Phlegethon.
Dante wore the toga, a tradition from Roman times, to which he was ever proudly loyal.
Another strong instance of respect for the general character of individuals independent of a searching condemnation of the sin which they served to illustrate.
A scheme by which the three could keep moving, and yet converse with Dante.
The text here adopted is granted to be in every way the best, but is Edition: current; Page: [[xlii]] generally rejected on documentary grounds.
Three illustrious Florentines: Guido Guerra, of the Conti Guidi, a leader of the Guelphs of Florence; Tegghiaio Aldobrandi, whose warning, if heeded, would have saved the Florentine Guelphs the defeat of Mont’Aperti; Jacopo Rusticucci, an honored Florentine, apparently plagued by a shrewish wife; all three contemporaries of Dante’s father.
A compendium of Dante’s journey through the spiritual world.
A wonderfully succinct account of the causes of the troubled state of Florence in Dante’s time, which throws light upon the history of the United States since the Civil War — undigested Wealth, and undigested Immigration.
“As one looks at truth!”
Just such a hurriedly uttered Amen can still be heard in the rendering of the Latin liturgy in Florence!
Phlegethon, falling over the edge of the Seventh Circle into the profound abyss below to form the frozen lake of Cocytus at the bottom of Hell. Bloodthirstiness ultimately results in utterly cold-hearted Treachery.
The stream which at Forlì takes the name of Montone, and in Dante’s time flowed into the Adriatic, without becoming a tributary of the Po, as did all others on the northern slope of the Apennines, from the Po’s source in the Cottian Alps eastward.
A monastery rich enough to have accommodated more monks than it did. It is possible, however, to translate the passage: “because of falling o’er one ledge, when by a thousand it should be received.”
Thought to be the cord of St. Francis, Dante being reported as having intended in his youth to join the Franciscan order, as a means of resisting the temptations to Incontinence, represented by the allegorical Leopard of the first canto.
Virgil could read Dante’s mind.
Geryon’s appearance not a surprise to Dante.
An anticipation of Browning’s teaching in the Ring and the Book, XII, 845–857. Telling unfamiliar as well as unpopular truths is fraught with danger, but Dante dared to face it here. The dangerous truth is, that the cord of St. Francis actually brought up Geryon, the symbol of Fraud. Now Dante loved St. Francis, but, aware as he was of the degeneracy of his order, his own experience may have caused him to realize that joining an organization did not in itself accomplish what must be achieved by one’s own will. The cord itself had in Dante’s time become too frequently a symbol of Fraud, and so could attract Geryon. Hereafter Dante will wear no girdle but the reed of humility, assumed at the beginning Edition: current; Page: [[xliii]] of his course through Purgatory.
His Comedy, to which “both Heaven and earth had set their hand,” was to Dante as sacred as anything he could swear by.
Geryon, the symbol of Fraud, whose nature will be revealed by the punishment of its several forms in the following Circle.
A marvelous selection of illustrations of Fraud! Arachne a Lydian maiden who challenged Athene to weaving, and was turned by her into a spider.
They had to go to the right to avoid crossing the stream of blood; ten paces means a few.
Usurers; Usury being of all forms of violence the nearest to Fraud, they are next to the Abyss.
To understand the evil of Usury Dante does not need to be accompanied by Virgil.
Making money work for them, the usurers are represented as seated, with nothing to do but “avail themselves of the market,” and make money — spiritually a “melancholy” job.
One of several little instances in the poem of Dante’s grim sense of humor.
Being without character, which is inseparable from personal distinction, these usurers are distinguishable only by means of the money bags hanging from their necks, and hence, except in financial circles, are of no account.
The devices on the bags are the coats of arms of prominent Florentine and Paduan usurers.
Giovanni Buiamonte, said to have been the most infamous usurer in Europe in Dante’s time.
Hereafter the two poets can no longer descend from one Circle to another on foot; here, only by consenting to accept the help of Fraud itself in the person of Geryon, can insight into Fraud be acquired; but Man, in so doing, must be sure to let Reason sit between him and Fraud’s sting.
Phaëthon, the son of Apollo, who, misguiding the chariot of the Sun, burned the skies and produced the Milky Way.
Icarus, the son of the inventor Daedalus, the mythical Edition: current; Page: [[xliv]] founder of aëronautics.
The punishments of the Eighth Circle, which they are approaching.
Another simile drawn from the art of Falconry; Geryon had only grudgingly performed the service imposed on him by Virgil.
Malebolge, or the Circle of the Evil Pockets, in which are caught those who by one form of deceit or another tried to “bag” others, is conceived as a vast plain cut by ten concentric trenches bridged by a series of crags, the whole sloping toward a central well, at the bottom of which is the Ninth Circle, the frozen lake of Cocytus.
Pandars, pimps, or professional procurers of women, driven around the trench by devils armed with scourges, who represent the mean passions which restlessly goad them on to fraud.
Dante uses nakedness here and elsewhere to portray sins that are peculiarly indefensible.
The second band were moving faster than were the walking poets.
Immense crowds of pilgrims from all over Europe gathered at Rome for the Jubilee of 1300; Dante may himself have been there, and witnessed what he describes.
The Castle of Sant’ Angelo; the mountain opposite is Giordano.
A Bolognese, who for money is said to have betrayed his own sister to the lust of a Marquis da Esti of Edition: current; Page: [[xlv]] Ferrara.
A grim play upon the word salse, sauces, a name given to a place near Bologna, where the bodies of criminals were thrown.
In Bologna, which lies between the rivers Savena and Reno, sipa used to be the dialectic form of sì, yes.
Seducers of women, scourged around the trench in the opposite direction.
Jason, the royal leader of the Argonauts in their quest of the Golden Fleece of Colchos, and the seducer of Hypsipyle, Medea and other women.
Because, ever since cursed by Venus, they had been abandoned by their husbands. In the general massacre Hypsipyle had saved her father, King Thoas.
Here Flatterers and Prostitutes, viewed as men and women who, for personal advantage of one kind or another, prostituted their souls or their bodies by playing with friendship, affection, admiration, or love, are immersed in excrement, to signify the utterly disgusting and corrupt nature of their sin morally and spiritually; the boldest instance of Dante’s unflinching realism.
A contemporary of Dante, of whom little else is known.
The famous Athenian courtesan, said to have been the mistress of Alexander. Whatever prostitution may be from other points of view, physical or ethical, Dante’s marvelous insight saw that it was spiritually poisonous, because essentially the most corrupting form of Flattery.
Simon Magus, the magician who offered to pay St. Peter for spiritual gifts, the prototype of all who have been corrupt in the conduct of the Church’s organization, by buying or selling its offices, or by setting a monetary value on its spiritual gifts. In so far as Universities share with the Church in the same high field of spiritual responsibility for Man’s higher nature, they have been, and are, open to the same temptation.
The perfect Justice Edition: current; Page: [[xlvi]] of God, whereby sin is its own punishment, illustrated throughout the Inferno, as virtue being its own reward is throughout the Paradiso.