Meditations on the Divine Comedy: Index CD


MedIV:1 Christ harrowed Hell, according to legend, entering it to remove the spirits of the deserving to Paradise. This was in 33AD, fifty-two years after Virgil’s death and entry to Limbo.

MedXII:1 The earth thrilled with Love, and Hell shook, at Christ’s entry there.

MedXXXVII:1 The advent of Christ was needed in order to reveal the Truth of Faith to human beings. Human knowledge is otherwise limited.

MedLXXX:1 As in the Purgatorio, with the symbol of the Grifon, Dante stresses the twofold nature of Christ, human and divine, and also highlights the Arian and Sabellian heresies. Sabellius, denied the separate persons of God and his son Christ though they are unified in essence, and Arius denied the essential unity of God and his Son though they differ in person.

MedLXXXI:2 A vision on Christ on the Cross in the sphere of Mars, signifies the Crucifixion and the Church Militant.

City, The City

MedI:4 Dante’s primary social entity of the civilized human being. Exemplified in Florence and the Italian city-states, Rome past and present as Imperial and Papal city, Dis, the city of Hell, and Paradise, the city of God.

MedII:1 An amplification of the above.

MedVIII:2 The City of Dis is an analogue of Florence and Rome, and a parody of the City of God.

MedX:1 Farinata implicitly compares the City of Fire, Dis, with Florence,

Dante’s city and his own.

MedXVI:1 Florence, the perverse city, evoked by another cluster of famous Florentines in the city of Dis.

MedXXVI:1 Florence’s citizens are present throughout Hell, making the city notorious and a mirror of the City of Dis.

MedXXIX:2 Dante adds Siena to the list of Italian cities from which he has drawn examples to people the Inferno, including Florence itself, Pistoia (Canto XXV), Bologna (Canto XXIII), and Lucca (Canto XXI).

MedXXXIII:1 Pisa is added to the list of shameful cities.

MedXXXIII:2 Genoa is added to the list, and cursed, as was Pisa.

MedXXXIX:2 Dante through Jacopo del Cassera points the finger at Padua. The Paduans are called Antenori after the treacherous Antenor, founder of the city, who betrayed Troy to the Greeks.

MedXL:3 Mantua is Virgil’s and Sordello’s birthplace, now like other cities racked by civil dissent. Verona and Orvieto are riven by feuding. Siena and Santifiora have an uneasy peace.

MedXLV:2 Another reference to Santafiora and Siena, through Omberrto and Salvani.

MedXLVII:2 The city of God is the ‘true city’. The Sienese given to envy of other cities’ harbours and streams wasted their efforts trying to obtain both. Also a further reference to the battle at Colle where Salvani died.

MedXLVIII:1 Guido del Duca compares the citizens in the Val d’Arno to beasts transformed by a latter-day Circe: Casentino, Arezzo, Florence and Pisa are characterized, their inhabitants being hogs, curs, wolves and foxes.

MedLI:3 The city is Dante’s fundamental unit of community (Aristotle’s community of citizens), divided and damaged in Inferno, restored in Purgatory through the Individual, and expressed in the city of God of the Paradiso.

MedLX:1 Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities of the plain, as places of lust. The simple mountain dweller dumbfounded by the city complexity. In both cases the city represents potential sinfulness compared with simplicity and virtue.


MedXLIX:1 Purgatory is a community of spirits. The greater the understanding of love, the greater the shared love. Shared is not less but more.

MedLI:2 Purgatory is a place eager for relationship and community. The Angel of the third terrace shares its knowledge and assists the Poets without prompting, not holding back in divisiveness or denial. Hell by contrast is a mirror of the divided city: of Florence, God and Man.

MedLI:3 Inferno is lost relationship, Purgatorio a re-orientation of the individual towards true relationship, Paradiso an expression of the community of spirits.


MedXLIII:2 Signified by the second step of the Gate of Purgatory.

MedLXV:1 Dante undergoes the sacrament with Beatrice as confessor, the three stages of penitence, confession and forgiveness.


MedXXXVII:1 Virgil reproaches himself for being seduced by Casella’s music. Conscience is the sensitive moral instrument of the self-questioning intellect.

MedLXI:1 Dante is troubled by his conscience when he reaches the purging fire of the seventh terraces of the Mount that cleanses the spirit of lust.


MedI:2 The whole of history is in a sense contemporary within the Divine Comedy, and within Christianity, and within Poetry: it is all the spiritual Moment.

MedIV:2 The eternal recurrence of punishment in Hell creates the effect of contemporaneousness, since dead spirits from all ages co-exist. In Purgatory there is however a progression forwards to Paradise where true contemporaneousness exists in the ever-present eternal moment of God in which all ages are visible.

MedXXXVI:2 The Christian eternal Moment is vividly felt in the Commedia where literary, mythical, historical and contemporary characters mingle on an equal footing, in a simultaneous existence. This is highlighted by the presence of recently dead friends of Dante, like Casella, in the same scene with the historical Virgil, and the literary construct of Dante’s own self on the journey. Or again by Virgil and Dante interrogating Ulysses, and then passing on to Guido da Montefeltro. Dante is writing epic poem, history, autobiography and intellectual treatise all in one.

MedLV:1 Virgil and Statius represent the pre-Christian and post-Christian Roman worlds meeting together in the eternal moment.


MedX:1 Farinata and Dante demonstrate the virtues of courteous speech, even in Hell. Dante is emphasizing an older Florentine tradition.

MedXVI:1 Virgil reminds Dante of the courtesy owed to famous and worthy spirits despite their sins. And the exchanges with Rusticucci and the others reveal that courtesy in action.

MedXXVII:1 Guido da Montefeltro, like Farinata, shows the courteous speech of the ancient nobility.

MedXXXVI:2 As with Brunetto Latini, Dante shows Casella the courtesies of friendship and affection in his speech.

MedXXXVII:2 Virgil’s courtesy in his manner of speech to the excommunicated spirits in Purgatory.

MedXXXIX:1 Dante’s courtesy in addressing the crowd of late-repentant spirits.

MedXLII:4 Mutual courtesy between Dante and Conrad Malaspina, the family hosting him in 1306.

MedXLV:2 Virgil’s courtesy obtains a courteous reply and assistance.

MedXLVII:1 Dante feels the discourtesy, the lack of generosity and brotherly love, in passing the envious in silence, and unseen.

MedLV:3 Mutual courtesy between Statius and Virgil, symbolizing Rome pre and post the Incarnation, the equality of the spiritual world, and the respect of Statius for the poetic master.

MedLIX:1 Statius again demonstrates courtesy to his master Virgil.

MedLX:1 Excessive courtesy is displayed on the terrace of Lust, implying the cortesia of the School of Courtly Love.

MedLXX:2 Paradise overflows with courtesy, which represents order, respect and love. Dante’s speech with Piccarda gives the first example of a meeting in Paradise.

MedLXXI:2 Another example of Dante’s elaboprate courtesy of speech towards Beatrice.


MedLXV:2 The cardinal and theological virtues dance to express the delight of their spiritual essence.

MedLXXVII:1 The twelve spirits introduced by Aquinas dance around Dante and Beatrice signifying the measure dance of practical wisdom around Beatrice who is Divine wisdom and revelation.


MedIII:3 Charon is told that Dante’s journey is willed above. He is in the tradition of Aeneas and Paul, asserting Imperial and Ecclesiastical values, and they too visited Hell according to legend. He though is the un-heroic questioning, humble student, who will learn from examples and responses as he travels.

MedV:1 Minos is told the same, again by Virgil.

MedVII:1 And Plutus hears the third affirmation.

MedXVII:1 Dante’s unheroic heroism, his natural fears, his shame. Stressing the Christian nature of this spiritual ‘epic’.

MedXXI:1 Dante again fearful and unheroic. A fourth affirmation of Dante’s journey being willed. Reference to Dante’s military experiences.

MedXXVI:1 Dante’s prophetic role indicated, setting him in the line of the true prophets. Also Dante, a Medieval Ulysses like the noble pagan, found human knowledge alone to be inadequate for the final spiritual journey.

MedXXVII:2 The inadequacy of human reason alone in Dante’s life, and his resistance to the corrupt Papal authority.

MedXXVIII:1 Endlessly self-aware of his poetic and prophetic role.

MedXXXVI:2 Dante is writing epic, but also history, and more importantly autobiography. His characters are mythical, historical and literary, but some are also immediate, contemporary and to him, real and compelling shades of the recent dead.

MedXXXVII:1 Dante as a penitent climbs towards Beatrice, in a rejection of his errors of lust and pride, neglect of her, and over-reliance on human philosophy and the powers of the intellect. Beatrice represents a stage beyond merely spiritualised human love and human philosophy, as an embodiment of Divine philosophy. Cantos II and III of the Purgatorio shows that rejection, both in Dante’s choice of the poem for Casella to sing, and in Virgil’s stressing the limitations of knowledge.

MedXXXVII:2 Dante uses numerous keywords, like ‘joyful’ and ‘hope’, to create the changed atmosphere of Purgatory compared with Hell. Virgil confirms his presence there in the living body, and the willing of his journey from above.

MedXXXVII:3 A slightly ambiguous attitude to the ‘noble warrior’ is perhaps evident, or is this merely Dante’s sometimes maddening reticence, his refusal to pass explicit judgement on historical characters?

MedXXXVIII:1 In his flourishes of learning Dante is still showing intellectual pride in Purgatory. He needs to leave this behind in progressing towards Divine wisdom.

MedXXXIX:2 Dante was supposed to have been present at the battle of Campaldino in the Val d’Arno, in 1289. He again makes no personal comment or judgement on the worth of Buonconte, the Ghibelline leader.

MedXLII:4 Dante was hosted by the Malaspini in Valdimagra in 1306.

MedXLIII:1 The Eagle in Dante’s dream is symbolic of regeneration and of Rome and Imperial law, therefore of the purgation of lust from himself and from the world.

MedXLV:2 Dante asserts his superiority among the Italian poets, in his usual strange mixture of innate pride and Christian humility.

MedXLVII:2 Dante anticipates his own sufferings as a penitent when he passes through Purgatory again after death, so placing himself as a sinful Christian, and no saint, but a true believer. He expects only brief purgation for envy, but fears his greater sin of pride and its associated punishment.

MedL:1 He must also purge himself of political anger, which here is catharsised in Marco Lombardo’s speech against the modern age.

MedLIII:1 Dante’s dream of the Siren leaves him grieving, perhaps for episodes in his own life where he fell victim to his weakness of lust.

MedLVII:2 The meeting with Forese Donati recalls the period of moral unworthiness following Beatrice’s death.

MedLVIII:2 The conversation with Forese anticipates Dante’s own death

and his anticipation of entering Purgatory ‘in reality’. A poignant moment. Dante uses it to point up the state of Florence, under the control of the Blacks, and of Italy.

MedLVIII:3 Dante portrays himself as the obedient student turning back to his teachers.

MedLIX:2 As Dante’s major failing of pride links Purgatory’s first terrace to the Inferno, so his purging of his major failing of Lust links the last terrace to Beatrice and Paradiso.

MedLX:1 Dante’s failings are highlighted by his exchange with Guido Guinicelli with its humility and ironic pride, and by Arnaut Daniel’s pointed call to remember his purgation of Lust.

MedLXI:1 Characterising himself as a lustful goat Dante reflects on his past failings. He fears the purging fire that he must enter again after death.

MedLXII:2 At Matilda’s look and smile Dante refers to the Hero and Leander story, and to Xerxes’s pride. There is a hint here that Dante may still not be quite free of his major failings pride and lust. Matilda clarifies that her smile is of delight in God’s works.

MedLXIV:1 Matilda guides Dante towards the ritual of Confession. He must repent his past life, confess to Beatrice, and be forgiven. This sacrament also finds its symbol in the three steps of the stair by which he entered the Gate of Purgatory proper. He is emotionally stricken by the revelation of Beatrice. This is the crucial moment of the Commedia, where past, present and future, the Inferno of failing, the Purgatory of repentance and forgiveness, and the Paradiso of promised redemption meet at a focal point, the Eternal Moment of exposure and contrition.

MedLXV:1 Dante is stunned as he was in Inferno Canto V, now with remorse rather than pity. Lust is the primary failing he confesses.

MedLXVII:1 Beatrice prophesies the coming of an Imperial saviour. Dante employs symbolism in the Pageant and the Mystic Tree to communicate a complex picture.

MedLXVIII:2 Beatrice is like a mirror which reflects wisdom, and love towards Dante. He feeds on her reflected power.

MedLXXII:2 Dante refers to his own birth sign Gemini, implying its influences on his nature, changeability, literary power, communication skills etc.

MedLXXV:1 His relationship to Beatrice is one of pupil to teacher, servant to mistress, as he seeks permission from her to speak. It mirrors the relationship with Virgil but on a higher plane.

MedLXXIX:1 Despite the concerns with theology and with the politics of Empire and Papacy, Dante’s aim remains the ethical path of the individual spirit culminating in the Vision of Divine Love.

MedLXXXII:1 The references to Aeneas and Anchises tie in the Trojan and Roman history to Christian history, and Dante’s role to that of Aeneas.

MedLXXXII:2 Dante, through Cacciaguida, asserts his own Florentine roots, and the ancient virtues.

MedLXXXIII:1 Dante is precise in placing Cacciaguida’s birth in time and space. The exile is asserting his roots, his pride in them and his rights.

MedLXXXIV:1 Cacciaguida reveals Dante’s future exile and fame.

MedLXXXIX:2 Dante and Beatrice enter the stellar heavens in the sign of Gemini, Dante’s birth sign, associated with intellect and language.


MedII:1. An aspect of Dante’s psyche, and an emblem of his humility denoting the pupil before the master, the child before the father/mother, the lover before the beloved, the inferior before the superior.

MedLVI:1 True reasons may be hidden, and their concealment causes doubt.


MedXLIII:1 Dante has passed through the Inferno without sleeping, and therefore without dreaming also. He now sleeps the night of Easter Monday, and has his first dream of three in Purgatory, that of the Eagle of regeneration and justice.

MedLIII:1 Dante’s second dream in Purgatory, of the Siren who symbolizes the temptation to excessive desires: avarice, gluttony and, in particular, Dante’s own weakness, lust.

MedLXI:2 Dante’s third dream, on the third night on the Mount. There are two paths to the good, that of the active and that of the contemplative life, symbolised by Leah and Rachel (or Martha and Mary). Convivio celebrates the supremacy of the contemplative life, but here Dante balances the two. Note that Beatrice, as a symbol of Divine Philosophy, sits with Rachel in Heaven.

MedLXII:2 Matilda suggests that ancient poetic ideas of the Golden Age were dreams of the Earthy Paradise. This invokes a smile from Virgil and Statius, poets who referenced the Golden Age in their works.

MedLXIV:1 Beatrice’s presence in Dante’s dreams was not enough to rouse him from his morally torpid state.