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Divine Comedy, Dante > Purgatorio 1: Not in Kansas Anymore

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message 1: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Into that hidden passage my guide and I

entered, to find again the world of light,

and, without thinking of a moment's rest,

we climbed up, he first and I behind him,

far enough to see, through a round opening,

a few of those fair things the heavens bear.

Then we came forth, to see again the stars.


--Inferno 34.133-139, Holland

We have popped out of Hell, the land of despair, and find ourselves in a ship, under the sky, in a hopeful place.


To run its course through smoother water

the small bark of my wit now hoists its sail,

leaving that cruel sea behind.

Now I shall sing the second kingdom,

there where the soul of man is cleansed,

made worthy to ascend to Heaven.


--Purgatorio 1.1-6, Holland

An old man with a long beard greets us. He is not named, but we know from his description that he is Cato, and we wonder why Dante put him here rather than in Limbo. Any ideas? Why is he so stern with the travelers?

We also encounter Four Stars, shining on Cato's face. What are they, and what do they symbolize? Cato instructs Virgil to wash Dante's face with the dew of the grass and pluck a pliant reed to place around Dante's waist.

Here is Holland's outline of the canto:

Introduction
1-6exordium: metaphor of little ship
7-12invocation: holy Muses, especially Calliope
I. The setting at the shore
13-18the restored delight caused by the sky before sunrise
19-21to the east: Venus in Pisces
22-27to the south: the four stars (apostrophe: "widowed hemisphere")
28-30to the north (direction of Ursa Major)
II. Cato the Younger
31-39a fatherly figure to be revered, bearded, his face aglow
40-48the challenge of this old man (Cato) to their presence
49-51Virgil: Dante must kneel and bow his head
52-84Virgil's responses to Cato:
52-54 I come, guiding this man, by agency of a lady
58-66he is still alive, but was almost dead when I was sent to bring him through hell to here
67-69my guidance is in turn guided from above
70-75he seeks liberty, as you once did, dying for it in Utica on your way to Heaven
76-80we break no law, since he is still alive and I am not in hell proper but share your wife's abode
81-84for love of Marcia let us proceed; then I will report to her your kindness to us when I return
85-108Cato's rejoinder to Virgil:
85-90I loved Marcia in the life below; now the new law that accompanied my release forbids further feeling
91-93if a heavenly lady leads you there is no need for flattery
94-99gird and bathe him so that he may approach the angel with his vision clear
100-108descend to the edge of the sea to the rushes in the mud; then ascend an easier path, guided by the sun
109-111Cato's departure and Dante's acquiescence
III. The shore again
112-114Virgil urges Dante to descend the slope toward the sea
115-117Dante makes out the waves of the sea
118-121their going compared to that of a man who finds the path he had lost
122-133in a place still moist with dew Virgil cleanses Dante's face and, at the shore, girds Dante as he had been bidden
134-136a wonder: the plant, once plucked, grows back again


message 2: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments By way of introduction, Longfellow tells us this about Dante's Purgatory:

"The Mountain of Purgatory is a vast conical mountain, rising steep and high from the waters of the Southern Ocean, at a point antipodal to Mount Sion in Jerusalem. In Canto III. 14, Dante speaks of it as

"The hill That highest tow'rds the heaven uplifts itself";

and in Paradiso, XXVI. 139, as "The mount that rises highest o'er the wave." Around it run seven terraces, on which are punished severally the Seven Deadly Sins. Rough stairways, cut in the rock, lead up from terrace to terrace, and on the summit it the garden of the Terrestial Paradise.

The Seven Sins punished in the Seven Circles are, -- 1. Pride; 2. Envy; 3. Anger; 4. Sloth; 5. Avarice and Prodigality; 6. Gluttony; 7. Lust.

The threefold division of the Purgatorio, marked only by more elaborate preludes, or by a natural pause in the action of the poem, is, -- 1. From Canto I. to Canto IX.; 2. From Canto IX. to Canto XXVIII.; 3. From Canto XXVIII. to the end. The first of these divisions describes the region lying outside the gate of Purgatory; the second, the Seven Circles of the mountain; and the third, the Terrestrial Paradise on its summit."


message 3: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Are you suggesting by the title that Kansas is the Inferno?


message 4: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments Nemo wrote: "Are you suggesting by the title that Kansas is the Inferno?"

I suspect Laurele is making some allusion to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , but if she is, I haven't quite figured it out yet. A little dense, starting the New Year?


message 5: by Lily (last edited Jan 01, 2013 09:19AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/ima..."

Blake_Purgatorio_Canto_1

William Blake: Purgatorio Canto 1. "Dante with Virgil and Cato." c. 1824-27.

"William Blake's picture displays only the three characters: Dante, Virgil, and Cato, focusing only on their characters. Cato is portrayed the way Dante described him. The glory of his very being is even portrayed with the halo like cloud around him. However, Cato is pointing downwards showing where he came from, displaying that his soul is not completely pure. However, because Cato was taken from Limbo by that higher power than his moral character was worthy. [sic] Therefore, he received this position based on his moral character... Although Cato committed suicide, he was such a believer in freedom during his life that, now, here in Purgatory, he has the opportunity to show the souls that come through Purgatory the feeling of freeing one's soul from the burden of sins. Dante is pictured as pointing up, displaying that he has not yet completed his journey."
Slightly edited version. Still not entirely clear. From: https://www2.bc.edu/~shammom/honors2f...


message 6: by Lily (last edited Jan 01, 2013 08:08AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/ima...
Blake_Purgatorio_Canto_1. 122ff

William Blake: Purgatorio Canto 1.122-133. "Virgil Girding Dante's Brow with a Rush." c.1824-27.

Although, in Line 95, Cato directs girding Dante's waist with "a smooth green reed", Blake seems to have taken artistic liberties here, unless there is some ambiguity among translations. (I am looking at Ciardi.)


message 7: by Lily (last edited Jan 01, 2013 06:31AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments "http://www.worldofdante.org/media/ima..."
Dore_Purgatorio_1.22

Gustave Doré: Purgatorio Canto I.22 “Heavens.” c.1868. Engraving.


message 8: by Lily (last edited Jan 01, 2013 06:30AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments http://www.worldofdante.org/media/ima...
Dore_Purgatorio_1.49_Cato

Gustave Doré: Purgatorio Canto I. 49 “Dante Kneeling before Cato.” c.1868. Engraving.

Note the four stars in the sky.


message 9: by Lily (last edited Jan 01, 2013 06:41AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments I hadn't realized that Blake's work preceded that of Doré by a little over 40 years. All of this artwork reinforces for me again and again how visual Dante's writing is, to be able to evoke these images from these talented men.

But, I should have liked an image of the ship of Dante's wit. (Smile.)

Msg 1. Laurele wrote: "We have popped out of Hell, the land of despair, and find ourselves in a ship, under the sky, in a hopeful place."

To run its course through smoother water
the small bark of my wit now hoists its sail,
leaving that cruel sea behind.



message 10: by Lily (last edited Jan 01, 2013 08:31AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments Laurele wrote: " ...We also encounter Four Stars, shining on Cato's face. What are they, and what do they symbolize?..."

I would have no idea from the text alone, but this is what one source gave me:

"Nearly unanimously, commentators hold these four 'holy stars' to represent, for Dante, the four cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice, all of which Cato is said to have possessed 'in a superlative degree.'"
(Bold added.)

http://www.academia.edu/1537394/A_Sui...

This same text expounds on "why Cato here" and the extent of his command. I am still reading it and have no summary yet to share.

A tidbit: "...Dante likely draws from Virgil’s depiction of Cato as the lawgiver for the righteous souls in Elysium...."

Another: "Freedom, let us remember, is the central theme of Purgatorio, and Cato, by opting for liberty at the cost of his life, is seen as the greatest upholder of this cause." Limentani.

Comment: The commentary I cite here emphatically holds that Dante does not in any way condone Cato's suicide as somehow belonging to an "acceptable" category.

This 1795 French painting by Guillaume Lethiere seems to be one of the more famous depictions of Cato of Utica's suicide in 46BCE: http://www.arthermitage.org/Guillaume...

A lovely Carrara marble statute in the Louvre depicts a fiercely and thoughtfully stalwart Cato with his self-immolating short sword or knife in hand: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia... (Use zoom to note facial features.)


message 11: by Lily (last edited Jan 01, 2013 09:45AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments http://www.worldofdante.org/media/ima...
Botticelli_Purgatorio_Canto_1_Island_Plain

Sandro Botticelli: “The Island Plain, Mountain of Purgatory, and Meeting with Cato.” c.1480 - c.1495. Drawing.

Here we get a sense of the cone-shaped mountain of Purgatory. Dante bows for girding with rushes before Virgil in much the same manner as Blake uses several centuries later. I presume that is a boatload of penitents on the left.


message 12: by Lily (last edited Jan 01, 2013 09:22AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments https://www2.bc.edu/~shammom/cato%20o...

Ivo_David_Purgatorio_Canto_1

Ivo David: Purgatorio Canto 1. "Ante-Purgatory. The Shore of the Island. Cato of Utica." 1975.

Is that the bark (ship) of Dante's wit we see on the water behind Cato?


message 13: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments I find some of these simple engravings of John Flaxman quite charming:

http://www.worldofdante.org/media/ima...
Flaxman_Purgatorio_1.49_Cato

John Flaxman: Purgatorio Canto I.49 "Dante and Virgil Show Reverence to Cato." 1793. Engraving.


message 14: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments http://www.worldofdante.org/media/ima...
Flaxman_Purgatorio_1.133

John Flaxman: Purgatorio Canto I.133 "Virgil Girts Dante with a Bullrush." 1793. Engraving.


message 15: by Christina (new)

Christina (cjcourt) | 26 comments Thanks for these. I had no idea that Dante's work had inspired so much visual art. Of course, it makes sense but my knowledge of art history is so limited.

Everything about the entry into purgatory from the language to the imagery seems lighter and brighter than the first canto of the Inferno. I'm looking forward to this journey quite a bit more. ;-)

I was struck by how divorced Cato is from mortal feelings. Not even his once beloved wife's words or prayers can move him.


message 16: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Great pictures, Lily! They really help us ...uh...get the picture. Nemo, I was just referring to the great atmospheric change in this book over the last, as Christina mentioned. I have especially enjoyed listening to Heathcote Williams's narration on the Naxos production. I think we have a fascinating story unfolding.


message 17: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Holland's note on the difference that is immediately discernible between the two books:

"The “harsh and rasping” verse (Inf. XXXII.1) used to describe in particular the bottom reaches of hell is mainly lacking here, for the most part replaced by a more harmonious tone and diction. And the themes we encounter now are by and large quite different, as, entering the realm of the saved, we might expect. We need but think of the opening images of sunlight (unseen in Inferno), of the sense of divine grace operating before our eyes, of the fraternal love that replaces the hatred found in hell, of the light of the stars, of the singing so often heard and the smiling so often seen in this place, and, in general, of the theological virtue of hope (and its color, green), missing in even the best part of hell, Limbo (where, in Virgil’s words, “without hope we live in longing” [Inf. IV.42])."


message 18: by Lily (last edited Jan 01, 2013 02:12PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments http://www.worldofdante.org/media/ima...

Not certain whether this beautiful letter from the Yates Thompson manuscript, 1444-1452, in the British Library encapsulates the ferrying of the saved souls to Purgatory or the bark of Dante's wit, but somehow my fancy wants to assign it the latter meaning, as it introduces Purgatorio, although the greater probability probably is that it is the ferry for penitents.


message 19: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Dorothy Sayers' opening sentence in her Introduction reads: "Of the three books of the Commedia, the Purgatorio is, for English readers, the least known, the least quoted--and the most beloved."

I found that heartening as when my book group read Inferno, the most academic member of the group said that no one ever read beyond Inferno these days.

Hurray for us!


message 20: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Lily wrote: "http://www.worldofdante.org/media/ima...

Not certain whether this beautiful letter from the Yates Thompson manuscript, 1444-1452, in the British Library encapsulates the fe..."


Looks like Winken, Blinken, and Nod to me.


message 21: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments Laurele asked why Cato is here. My guess is that it's because he represents the very pinnacle of pagan virtue. He is honored with the job of guarding the entry to Purgatory, the highest possible location not actually on the Christians-only conveyer belt to redemption.


message 22: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Cato represents Stoic virtue, if that is the pinnacle of pagan virtue, one would think that all the Stoic philosophers should be here too, but Seneca is in Limbo.

A side question: Why is Virgil able to enter Purgatory but not stay here?


message 23: by Adelle (last edited Jan 01, 2013 07:19PM) (new)

Adelle | 127 comments @1 Laurele wrote: "An old man with a long beard greets us. He is not named, but we know from his description that he is Cato, and we wonder why Dante put him here rather than in Limbo. Any ideas? Why is he so stern with the travelers?..."

I appreciated the painting Lily linked at 10. In that painting, Cato was portrayed as his actual age (middle age). So why did Dante make Cato an old man? Dante is "middle-aged"...in the midst of his journey. Perhaps Dante felt that for Cato to "have" more wisdom...more gravitas than Dante, Cate would have to be older than Dante?


Sterness. I read in one of the introductions (Sayers) that Cato exemplified the moral virtues. Think how immoral it would be for someone from the Inferno to escape and try to enter Purgatory! And yet, what a boring job. No one---except for Dante---ever manages to make it through Hell.

Another thing...regarding Cato representing a most moral man. He's at the bottom of Purgatory mountain. Dante, yes?, is making the point that morality alone can't get one into Heaven...only to the lowest foot...the outermost edge...of Purgatory. Like...Cato is at the base of Purgatory mountain; morality is at the base of a goodly life. ??


One take on WHY "here rather than in Limbo":

Esolen writes: "When it became clear that Caesar would triumph and would then rule Rome as dictator, Cato committed suicide. Remarkably, although Dante believed that the empire was divinely ordained and equal in authority with the Church (! that surprised me)...and placed Caesar among the virtuous pagans (Inf 4.123), while sending Caesar's killers Brutus and Cassius to the bottom of Hell to form, with Judas, the trio of wickedest sinners who ever lived (Inf 34.65), he does not condemn Cato.

Not only does he refuse to send him to the wood of suicides (Inf 13), he lifts him out of Limbo as well!

The explanation lies in Cato's motive and in the meaning of Purgatory. Dane insisted (De monarchia 2.5) that Cato's death was an act of devotion to freedom, a self-sacrificing witness to it's pricelessness.

It was an act, although Cato was not aware of it at the time, in imitation of Christ, who died that all men might be free. For this portrayal of the old republican, Dante could claim impressivie precedent from the poet Lucan, whose Cato, after decrying the injustice of the Roman gods in leading the nation into civil war, seems to wish to do what those gods would not, exclaiming, 'Would it were possible for me to lay my head down, condemned by the gods of Heaven and Hell, and take upon myself all punishment!' (Pharsalia 2.306-7). 'Let my blodd redeem the nations" (2.312) he cries, longing not to enjoy freedom himself but to restore freedom to others.

And freedom--the liberation of the will from sin--is the aim of Purgatory.

Thus Cato is the fitting guardian of the mountain, representing a grace-enabled link between the unsaved but virtuous pagans and the Christian sinners who, by their repentance, seek their freemdom in his custody."


message 24: by Adelle (last edited Jan 01, 2013 07:46PM) (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Notes I appreciated: (If your notes cover the same lines, ignore. I just liked these. I like the notes that reference the Bible verrses.) No spoilers.



(view spoiler)


message 25: by Nemo (last edited Jan 01, 2013 07:52PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments If Cato had made those remarks before the end of Civil War, it would have made more sense, but not after. How would his death be able to redeem the nation that was already under the rule of Caesar? It seems more likely that Cato committed suicide to free himself from tyranny, 'give me freedom or give me death'. In Stoicism, suicide is acceptable, even commendable, under certain circumstances, but not in Christianity, if I'm not mistaken.


message 26: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments This note from Hollander, in the midst of comparing Inferno and Purgatorio, caught my eye:

"... the way in which their stories are presented is essentially the same, brief narratives, perhaps best considered Ovidian in origin, of the defining moment in a person’s life. Perhaps no other feature of the Comedy is as reflective of the poetic essence of Dantean art as this one, as Robert Browning realized when he wrote his series of Dantesque monologues."


message 27: by Adelle (last edited Jan 01, 2013 08:11PM) (new)

Adelle | 127 comments :) I suppose that's why Lucan had him say "Would it were possible"...which seems but a lengthy Latin wording of "IF"

Putting *Lucan aside and speaking practically, yes, Cato's death struck me as an act to avoid living under tyranny.

Still, Lucan's verse would have been around for 1200 years by Dante's time.

Mmmm, you know... "IF" ;) Dante WERE looking for a parallel -- a symbolic parallel -- then the point you raise [How would his death be able to redeem the nation that was already under the rule of Caesar? ] would actually lend support.... in that, you know, the same could have been asked about Jesus [How would his death be able to redeem the nation that was already under the rule of Caesar? ]

*I had to google him. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucan

Nemo wrote: In Stoicism, suicide is acceptable, even commendable, under certain circumstances, but not in Christianity, if I'm not mistaken.

Right you are. So not an exact parallel. But Cato wasn't a Christian. As you say, for him suicide was accaptable. That's why he wasn't in Hell.


message 28: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Adelle wrote: ":) I suppose that's why Lucan had him say "Would it were possible"...which seems but a lengthy Latin wording of "IF"

Putting *Lucan aside and speaking practically, yes, Cato's death struck me as..."


Hollander on Cato:

"It is vital to understand that no one other than Dante was of the opinion that Cato was saved. And that he is so to be construed escapes most early (and many later) commentators, who balk at this simple but offending notion and thus attempt to deal with Cato as an abstract quality rather than as a historical figure. Pietro di Dante’s gloss (1340) to vv. 85–90 is one of the few places in which one may find a clear statement of the better view: Christ harrowed Cato from hell along with the faithful Hebrews; the Holy Spirit inspired Cato to believe in Christ to come and to seek absolution for his sins—or so Dante would like us to believe."

........

"71–74. Virgil’s phrasing, which makes freedom (libertà) the key word connecting Dante and Cato, may also remind the reader of Christ, who gave His life for our freedom. For perhaps the first substantial understanding that there are significant figural relations between Christ and Cato see Raimondi (Raim.1962.1), pp. 78–83; for the compelling further notion that Dante would have seen confirmation of exactly such a reading in the text of Lucan itself, see Raimondi (Raim.1962.1, p. 80, and Raim.1967.2, p. 21) highlighting Cato’s words (Phars. II.312): “Hic redimat sanguis populos” (and let my blood ransom the people). Barberi Squarotti eventually summarized this view as follows: “Cato, finally, comes to take on the function of a lay figura of Christ” (Barb.1984.1), p. 33."


message 29: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Nemo wrote: "

A side question: Why is Virgil able to enter Purgagory but not stay ....?..."


A good question. Will have to remember to notice when/where/how/why he leaves.


message 30: by Nemo (last edited Jan 01, 2013 09:12PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments I was curious where Lucan got the idea of ransom by blood, especially the blood of an individual for a nation. In Greek mythology, the sacrifice of an individual must be ordained by the gods to be effective. If the Civil War were brought about by the gods, it would be presumptuous of Cato to try to stop it by offering his life as a sacrifice.

Cato may serve as a type of Christ in the sense that he obtained freedom through death, so Christians also are set free through the likeness of death and resurrection in Christ, in a spiritual sense. The end of the moral person is the beginning of redemption, so to speak; in a secular sense, Jesus didn't redeem the nation under the rule of Caesar, instead he told them to "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s."


message 31: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments Nemo wrote: "I was curious where Lucan got the idea of ransom by blood, especially the blood of an individual for a nation. In Greek mythology, the sacrifice of an individual must be ordained by the gods to be ..."

Lucan died in 65 AD, after Christian preaching had reached Rome. Perhaps he heard some.


message 32: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments Laurele wrote: "Lily wrote: "http://www.worldofdante.org/media/ima......"

Laurele wrote: "Looks like Winken, Blinken, and Nod to me."


(Laughing!) I am still taken with the image of Dante:

To run its course through smoother water
the small bark of my wit now hoists its sail...


or, in Ciardi:
For better waters now the little bark
of my indwelling powers raises her sails..."


And Dante goes on to invoke the Muses, including the powerful sweet Calliope (muse of epics), even while alluding to the need for humility by recalling the story of the nine daughters (Perides) who dared challenge the Muses to a contest of song and were morphed into magpies for their failed audacity.

Some of the closest I have gotten to feeling Dante does have a sense of humor embedded (hidden?) in these verses. Or, have others been better able to ferret out the jest than I have?


message 33: by Lily (last edited Jan 02, 2013 07:52AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments Ciardi has, at least to me, an exceptional set of notes for Canto I of The Purgatorio, so even if you are not reading from that version but happen to have a copy on your shelves...


message 34: by Lily (last edited Jan 02, 2013 08:35AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments Christina wrote: "Thanks for these. I had no idea that Dante's work had inspired so much visual art...."

Christina -- I was just browsing through some books to attempt to find the goodreads link for Ciardi's translation (I wasn't successful. :-( ) As I did, I found several books on art related to The Comedy, for example:

Open for a list: (view spoiler)


message 35: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Lily wrote: "Ciardi has, at least to me, an exceptional set of notes for Canto I of The Purgatorio, so even if you are not reading from that version but happen to have a copy on your shelves..."

His introduction is excellent, too--a great help.


message 36: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Laurele wrote: "We also encounter Four Stars, shining on Cato's face. What are they, and what do they symbolize? "

I'm sure somebody else has answered this in the 35 posts I haven't yet read (we can see who wasn't watching Bowl Games yesterday!), but I know this one, so my hand is shooting up!

The four stars are the Southern Cross. Do they represent the cross? There should five to make a true cross, not just a square, but...

But it's interesting to me that he claims that Adam and Eve saw them, which means that Eden for Dante was in the Southern Hemisphere and not around the Fertile Crescent area where most Biblical scholars I've read tend to place it. (One recent theory is that at the time of Eden, before the flood, the Persian Gulf was landlocked and the northern end of the Gulf was indeed the meeting point of four rivers, was very fertile, and fit very nicely the description of Eden.)

Anyhow, Dante apparently places Eden in the Southern Hemisphere, from which point Adam and Eve wandered up to the Holy Land to raise their family so that nobody since has seen the Southern Cross. Or at least nobody who matters to Dante; presumably some Africans have seen it, but they apparently don't count.


message 37: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Nemo wrote: "Are you suggesting by the title that Kansas is the Inferno?"

That same thought crossed my mind. I hope nobody in this group is from Kansas!


message 38: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Adelle wrote: "I found that heartening as when my book group read Inferno, the most academic member of the group said that no one ever read beyond Inferno these days. "

I trust you've gone back and quoted Sayers to that sad member. He or she can hardly deny that Sayers is a consummate academic!


message 39: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Nemo wrote: "A side question: Why is Virgil able to enter Purgatory but not stay here? "

Presumably because he's not eligible to enter Heaven, Jesus not having (for whatever reason) brought him out of Hell.

Which partly begs the question, of course.


message 40: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Two things I didn't see mentioned above.

One, the Inferno starts with Dante looking up at a mountain, and the Purgatorio starts the same way. Is it possible that this is the same mountain but that Dante is now able to climb up it? I don't think so myself, but it's still interesting that both books start with Dante facing mountains.

Two, I was confused as to why Dante was supposed to tie a reed around his waist. Musa, I think it was, commented that this was a symbol of humility, but I've never heard if it being used as such. Is this a symbolism other people are aware of? Where does it come from? (Possibly something to do with the rushes strewn before Jesus???)


message 41: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments @ 40 Everyman wrote: "... the Inferno starts with Dante looking up at a mountain, and the Purgatorio starts the same way. Is it possible that this is the same mountain but that Dante is now able to climb up it? I don't think so myself, but it's still interesting that both books start with Dante facing mountains."

Geographically, I don't suppose it could be the same mountain.

I very much like your observation that Dante is now "able" to climb.

And then I wondered whether that first mountain Dante saw---even if it weren't the mountain of Purgatory--might also have led him to Heaven. Are there multiple mountains/paths to Heaven?


message 42: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Adelle wrote: "And then I wondered whether that first mountain Dante saw---even if it weren't the mountain of Purgatory--might also have led him to Heaven. Are there multiple mountains/paths to Heaven? "

Neat question. Though if Dante couldn't climb the first mountain, who could?


message 43: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Everyman could...at least potentially, yes? ;)

For Dante, Beatrice was the inspiration. His pure love for her. And as she's dead, she has merged-- in some inexplicable, unexplainable way-- with Love/God. Thoughts of her help him find his way and forge forward.


message 44: by Laurel (last edited Jan 02, 2013 08:15PM) (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Everyman wrote: "Two things I didn't see mentioned above.

One, the Inferno starts with Dante looking up at a mountain, and the Purgatorio starts the same way. Is it possible that this is the same mountain but tha..."


I think the mountain, or hill, in Inferno 1 is indeed Purgatorio. Dante cannot climb it until he has been through Hell and seen just what sin is and that he is a sinner in need of salvation.

I have often seen a reed used as a symbol of humility. A reed bends with the movement of wind and water and does not break as a stiff (stiff necked ?) plant would do. Aesop and Fontaine both have fables about the reed's humility and resilience. Here is one version of the Aesop:

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A very large Oak was uprooted by the wind and thrown across a stream. It fell among some Reeds, which it thus addressed: "I wonder how you, who are so light and weak, are not entirely crushed by these strong winds." They replied, "You fight and contend with the wind, and consequently you are destroyed; while we on the contrary bend before the least breath of air, and therefore remain unbroken, and escape."

Stoop to conquer.
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Here is a meditation on Dante's reed by the great teacher of medical students, Sir William Osler: http://clinical-excellence.blogspot.c...


message 45: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Laurele wrote: ..I think the mountain, or hill, in Inferno 1 is indeed Purgatorio. Dante cannot climb it until he has been through Hell and seen just what sin is and that he is a sinner in need of salvation. ."

I like the symbolism in that, and It's possible. But wouldn't that imply that Dante traveled through the Earth, experienced much, learned more...and returned to where he had started.

You may be right, but my thinking is that geographically it couldn't be te same mountain, and, now that I think about it, spiritually, I don't think it can be the same mountain--because ... it just seems that after all the experience and learning with Virgil, he just couldn't be in the same place he started from.

...on the other hand...maybe he could. Maybe it's like some old Twilight Zone episode (in black and white like the Dore drawings)...in which it doesn't matter how you much you have learned or traveled...you repeatedly find yourself at the foot of the same daunting mountain...you will ALWAYS find yourself at the foot of that mountain...

Perhaps in traveling away (like through the Inferno), one never really leaves the foot of the mountain--one only develops the strength to finally climb it.


message 46: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5015 comments Adelle wrote: "Perhaps in traveling away (like through the Inferno), one never really leaves the foot of the mountain--one only develops the strength to finally climb it...."

And perhaps the conviction one might possibly be able to do it?


message 47: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments I think the mountain from Inferno I represents worldly success, not Mount Purgatory. One, it's on the opposite side of the world, as Adelle says. Two, Dante is barred from the mountain by three beasts, one of which we learn will be chased from Italy by Gran Cano, a temporal leader. So the mountain seems to represent temporal, not spiritual, success.


message 48: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Roger wrote: "I think the mountain from Inferno I represents worldly success, not Mount Purgatory. One, it's on the opposite side of the world, as Adelle says. Two, Dante is barred from the mountain by three be..."

Those are good points, Roger and others.


message 49: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I'm less enamored of the same-mountain theory when I go back to Canto I of the Inferno where I read that that mountain is in a dark wood, no ocean being mentioned as anywhere near, that it is really a little hill rather than a tall mountain, and that Dante is able to start climbing it easily, all differences.

But even if it's not the same mountain, I think the imagery is meaningful that both books start with Dante at the foot of a hill or mountain looking up at it. There has to be, I think, some connective meaning even if the first hill is, as Roger suggests, worldly success. or if it represents something else (if worldly success, it shouldn't be the path to Heaven, should it?)


message 50: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments A few thoughts on the reed: http://transitionalhousing.wordpress....


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