Meditations on the Divine Comedy: Index STUVWXYZ
MedLXIV:1 The Saints will rise ‘ready’ from their tombs at the Day of Judgement, singing ‘Halleluiah’. This is the Christian promise of the spirit re-united with the flesh, and therefore the continuance of the individual soul and body.
MedXXXIX:2 Dante gives an account of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation illustrating the learning appropriate to a right use of human reason, which will later be extended by Divine knowledge.
MedXLIX:1 Reflected light rays (the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection). Astronomical knowledge.
MedLIX:1 Statius explains the origin of the individual, unified, soul and its nature in the afterlife. This involves some ‘immature’ knowledge of embryology, and, importantly, the location of the rational intellect and the unified soul in the brain. There is also a comment on the refraction of light into component colours in saturated air. The process of fermentation however is seen as the direct effect of sunlight on grape-juice.
MedLXII:2 Dante evidences his knowledge of the water cycle of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation, and gives contemporary though spurious interpretations of seedless plant propagation, and wind formation due to the rotation of the atmosphere around a fixed earth.
MedLXVIII:2 The Medieval concept of the four elements (derived from the Greek) is evidenced. Also the harmony of the spheres. Neither view is in any real sense ‘scientific’ but passed for Medieval science.
MedLXVIII:3 Dante’s ‘instincts’ provide a rudimentary concept of physical forces, the movers of natural phenomena.
MedLXIX:1 The interpenetration of solid bodies is inconceivable in nature, but realised in the divine Essence.
MedLXIX:2 Dante questions Beatrice as to the dark shadows on the Moon. Her reply uses scientific reasoning from observation and experiment, and indicates that the answer lies in qualititative rather than merely quantitative variation. The specific ‘three mirrors’ experiment in optics is quoted.
MedLXXIV:2 Corruptible matter is composed of the four elements, earth, air, fire and water. The effect of the heavenly influences mediated by the planets and the sun forms vegetable and animal life from compounds of elemental matter. (Human life is directly breathed into it by God.)
MedLXXV:2 The variability seen among and between generations is perceived but explained at this early date not on the basis of genetics but by Divine Providence.
MedLXXX:1 A reference to Euclid’s Elements iii.31, a triangle drawn within a semi-circle always contains a right-angle.
MedLXXXIX:2 An apparent recognition of the law of gravity, as a ‘natural’ law.
MedXCVI Light requires no time to travel through a translucent medium in the Aristotelian teaching.
MedC:1 The irrational nature of pi intuited, the inability to exactly measure a circle’s circumference in terms of its radii.
MedV:1 The sinners in the upper section of Hell from Minos downwards are guilty of weakness, incontinence, lack of self-control. See also Temperance, and Freedom.
MedXVI:1 The sodomites betray their shame in their attitude.
MedXXX:1 Dante reveals his shame at too avidly watching a quarrel. The evident blush proclaims his shame, though he himself is too tongue-tied, despite his wish, to apologise.
MedXXXIII:1 Pisan actions in tormenting the children are condemned by Dante as shameful.
MedXXXIX:1 Dante is shamed by Virgil’s admonition to ignore the crowd and focus his thoughts.
MedXL:3 The Hapsburg Emperor Albert should be ashamed at the state of Italy and the Empire.
MedLXIV:1 Beatrice shames Dante with her knowledge of his failings, moral and intellectual, following her death. The shame manifests itself as an inner frozenness that is melted by the compassion of the Angels, who echo his shame in the Psalm they sing.
Simile, Analogy, Metaphor
MedII:3 Beatrice: ‘no one on earth was ever so quick’. Dante makes constant use of simile and analogy, as well as example, and symbol.
MedV:1 Dante employs extended bird similes, starlings, cranes, and doves to describe the carnal sinners.
MedVII:2 Dante makes use of a Virgilian simile, of the snake in the grass.
MedXII:1 Dante uses a topographical reference, the landslide by the Adige, to compare with the gully leading down to the Seventh circle.
MedXIV:2 The Old Man of Crete is an extended metaphor (or allegorical representation) of the degeneracy of Empire, Papacy and the race.
MedXV:1 A cluster of metaphors and similies around the incident of Brunetto Latini: the sea-walls, the moonlight, the tailor, the fig-tree, the goat, the sacred seed, Fortune’s wheel, and the race at Verona.
MedXVI:1 A trio of similes: the sound of water like a beehive, the three famous Florentine sodomites like cautious wrestlers, their winged feet.
MedXVI:2 The sodomite trio vanish as quickly as an Amen. Dante uses an extended topographical and river simile to qualify the noise of the plunging water. And then the simile of the diving man to illustrate our and Geryon’s passage through the depths.
MedXVII:1 Much use of natural and mythological simile to liven the scene, boats, beavers, and scorpion, dogs, eel, and falcon, Phaethon and Icarus (both fire and flight myths, to complement the fiery rain and Geryon’s descent), and an arrow from a bow.
MedXIX:1 A comparison to assassins executed by being buried in the ground, who would try to delay their moment of burial by calling back the priest performing the last rites.
MedXXI:1 Another cluster of similes: the boiling pitch in the Venetian Arsenal, the pitch a metaphor for barratry, the cook’s boys pushing down the hunks of meat, dogs attacking a beggar, the surrendering soldiers at Caprona.
MedXXII:1 A naturalistic simile cluster: dolphins, frogs, otter, boar, cat and mouse, duck and sparrowhawk. And a further reference to Dante’s military observations.
MedXXIII:1 Continuous use of similes: the minor friars, a comparison to an Aesop’s fable, hounds and hare, mirror glass, mother and child, father and son, water in a mill race.
MedXXIV:1 Winter and the peasant: swiftly written letters: the phoenix: falling sickness: life vanishes like smoke in air, foam on water.
MedXXV:1 Ivy on a tree: melted wax and burning paper: a lizard in the Dog Days, black as peppercorn: a snail and its shell.
MedXXVI:1 The flames veiling the spirits of evil counsellors, Ulysses etc, are likened to summer fireflies, and to the dwindling fire of Elijah’s chariot.
MedXXVIII:1 Comparison of the scene with the aftermath of famous battles. Mahomet split like a wine-cask.
MedXXIX:2 The tenth chasm likened to a vast hospital.
MedXXX:1 Parallels drawn with myth. (Athamas and Hecuba)
MedXXXI:1 Achilles’s spear and Virgil’s words: Roland and his horn: The towers of Montereggione: The Pine-cone of St Peter’s and the Frieslanders:
the leaning tower of Bologna: the mast of a boat.
MedXXXII:1 Icy rivers and mountains: frogs at the edge of a pond.
MedXXXV:1 The metaphor of the intellect as a little boat.
MedXXXV:2 A simile of lost travellers, returning to their road.
MedXXXVI:1 Travellers contemplating their journey: Mars reddening: the bird-like Angel.
MedXXXVI:2 The spirits like doves, scattered at a signal.
MedXXXVII:2 The spirits like a flock of sheep, alarmed.
MedXXXVIII:1 The peasant hedging, steep tracks in Italy, desire as a swift bird, the steepness of the slope, the sun as a mirror.
MedXXXIX:1 The steadfast man is like a tower unshaken by the blasts of wind. The crowd of spirits wheel like cavalry, swift as evening cloud.
MedXL:1 An extended analogy of the gambling game, to depict the crowd of spirits who died of violence.
MedXL:3 Sordello is like a couchant lion: Italy as slave, inn of grief, ship without helmsman, brothel mistress: an extended analogy of Italy as a riderless horse: Italy as the garden of the Empire that has become a wasteland: an ironic comparison of Florence with Athens and Sparta: Florence as a sick patient.
MedXLI:2 The description of the colours in the valley of Negligent Rulers.
MedXLII:1 Evening: absent friends, the pilgrim hearing the distant chimes. Sight like a sense confounded by excess.
MedXLII:3 The Angels are like falcons, driving off the serpent. The serpent licks itself like a beast grooming.
MedXLIV:1 The carving of the first cornice compared with the art of Polycletus: the clashing rocks like a wave ebbing and flowing: the cornice lonelier than a desert road.
MedXLIV:2 The proud spirits in Purgatory are hunched like the figures on Medieval corbels: the Christian soul is a weak caterpillar that can become the butterfly of the transformed soul, l’angelica farfalla. The image of the soul as a butterfly is ancient and pre-classical.
MedXLVI:1 The proud bowed like oxen under the yoke: each man a journeying boat: the reliefs like floor-tombs carved in relief.
MedXLVI:2 The steps at San Miniato: a man groping at something on his face.
MedXLVII:1 The envious with eyes sealed like blind beggars, or wild hawks.
MedXLVII:2 Metaphor: conscience is a dark film, memory is a stream that may flow clear.
MedXLVIII:1 Virtue, persecuted like a snake: the citizens of the Val d’Arno transformed to beasts: Fulcieri as a hunter of the Florentine wolves: the Romagna as a choked garden.
MedXLIX:1 The zodiac skips like a child: the splendour of light is reflected to Dante’s eyes like a light ray from water: goodness is drawn to love like a light ray: understanding and love reflect each other like a mirror.
MedL:1 The smoke of the Third Terrace and the Inferno’s gloom compared: a blind man with his guide: the ‘knot’ of anger: the soul as a little child: the Shepherd and the flock: the ‘two Suns’ of Empire and Church.
MedLI:1 Mist in the mountains: moles breathing through their skin: imaginative vision bursting like a bubble.
MedLI:3 The Poets grounded like boats (see also the Geryon episode in Inferno)
MedLII:1 Desirte burning like a fire: the seal and the wax: the spirit’s stance in walking: life in green leaves: the bees drive to make honey: judgement sieving the desires.
MedLIII:1 The angel’s wings like a swan’s: Dante like a falcon lured by its food.
MedLIV:3 A comparison of the earthquake to that at the birth of Apollo and Artemis: the Poets as still as the shepherds hearing of Christ’s birth.
MedLV:1 Metaphor: the water of Truth.
MedLVI:1 The sunlight and candlelight of Truth: the lamp held by a spiritual leader: the world pregnant with belief: the Inferno a dark goal.
MedLVI:2 The hours as handmaidens of the day.
MedLVIII:1 They move onwards like a ship in a favourable wind.
MedLVIII:2 Birds that winter on the Nile flying in files: Forese like a straggler from a crowd of runners: Corso Donati’s death evokes an equine metaphor of ambition as a runaway horse: Forese as a different kind of horseman galloping after honour.
MedLVIII:3 The Angel of Temperance glowing like molten glass or metal: the wind of its wings like the perfumed May breeze.
MedLIX:1 The young stork’s tentativeness: the arrow of speech: Meleager’s life linked to the firebrand, the reflection in the mirror linked to the object reflected: sunlight and grape juice forming wine: light refracted into its colours in saturated air.
MedLX:1 The spirits like ants: like flights of cranes (compare the starlings of Inferno V): the mountain man amazed by the city: beasts that follow their appetites: the spirit in the flames like a fish diving through water. And a metaphor of Christ as the head of the college of redeemed spirits.
MedLXI:1 Dante like a child tempted by an apple, and like a once-lustful goat between the two shepherds.
MedLXII:1 The breeze likened to the Sirocco near Ravenna: Matilda like Proserpine: the contrast in the wood here to that dark wood of Inferno I: the water of Lethe purer than earthly waters: the amazement of a new sight.
MedLXII:2 Matilda turns like a lady dancing, like a modest virgin.
MedLXIII:1 Matilda sings like a lady in love, since forgiveness is an aspect of love: she is like a classical nymph: the candlesticks are like seven golden trees: the procession moves slower than a new bride: the water is like a mirror: the flames are like trailing banners coloured like the rainbow or the moon’s halo: the sky is as lovely as he could describe: the creatures resembling those in Ezekiel and Revelations follow each other as star follows star: the eyes of their wings are like those of Argus: the sun’s chariot is referenced, more magnificent than those of Scipio or Augustus, or the sun’s in the myth of Phaethon: the ladies are red as fire, green as emerald and white as snow.
MedLXIV:1 The candlesticks spiritual guides as Ursa Minor guides sailors: the saints at the Last Judgement: the sight of Beatrice like the dawn sky veiled with cloud: Beatrice like an admiral, inspecting the ships: like a mother admonishing a child: Dante melting into tears like the melting snow on the Apennines: the untrue ‘road’ of illusions.
MedLXV:1 Beatrice’s accusation like a sharp blade: Dante stressed like a breaking crossbow: the grindstone of confession blunting the sharpness of the sword of Justice: the young bird compared with mature knowledge: Dante like a child mute with shame: his head lifted more easily than an uprooted tree: the ‘nettle’ of repentance: remorse ‘gnawing’ the heart.
MedLXV:2 Matilda speeds along like a shuttle ovewr the loom: Beatrice’s eyes are bright emeralds: knowledge is a food that satisfies and causes more hunger.
MedLXVI:1 The Pageant like a military formation: the vegetation in Spring: Argus’s many eyes falling into sleep: the Disciples waking after the Transfiguration.
MedLXVII:1 Themis and the Sphinx and Oedipus’s solving of the riddle: life as ‘a race towards death’: the petrifying waters of the River Elsa: the stain like Pyramus’s blood staining the mulberry: Dante’s mind like a stone: the symbol like the symbol of the palmer’s staff: wax imprinted with a seal: fire deduced from smoke.
MedLXVIII:2 The earthly wax stamped by the impress of the divine: Beatrice gazing like an eagle: the reflected ray like a pilgrim wishing to return: the sun sparkling like molten iron: the second sun: Dante transformed like Glaucus: the light greater than the widest expanse of water: they ascend like lightning.
MedLXVIII:3 Beatrice like a mother over her child: the sea of being: beings fired like arrows from the Divine bow: the signature, stamp and sometimes imperfect impression of the Maker: the natural order like a river falling under gravity: the ‘living’ flame.
MedLXIX:1 The reader’s little boat, the Commedia as a voyage: divine knowledge as the ‘bread of angels’: desire as a thirst: swiftness likened to an arrow’s speed: the Moon like diamond, or pearl.
MedLXIX:3 Dante’s mind stripped like snow by the light: the living light: the ‘organs of the universe’ in analogy with human structure: the pass and ford of knowledge: the blacksmith’s art derived from his effort: analogy between the human soul and body and the cascade of virtue in the universe: the mingling as an ‘alloy’, pursuing the blacksmith’s image: the angelic virtue shining joyfully like joyful light in the eye.
MedLXX:2 God’s will as the ‘sea’ to which all the things he has created flow: answering questions is like the passage of a shuttle through the warp in weaving: Constance’s vows are her heart’s ‘veil’: Piccarda vanishes like a heavy weight through water.
MedLXXI:1 Dante between doubts like a man between foods, or a lamb between wolves, or a dog between hinds.
MedLXXII:1 The light of intellect: ‘digesting’ tough knowledge: the gold and silver keys of knowledge and authority: feathers blown in the wind: the Pope as the shepherd of the Church: the foolish like mindless sheep or silly lambs.
MedLXXII:2 Beatrice and Dante like arrows ascending: feeding fish: the anguish of expectation: the spirit ‘nested’ in its own light: the sun burning away thick cloud.
MedLXXV:1 Sparks in flames, voices among voices: a silkworm cocooned in its own silk.
MedLXXVI:2 Folco shining like a ruby.
MedLXXVII:1 The twelve spirits like a coronet: like a halo round the moon: like stars around the pole: like a clock movement. Aquinas a lamb of Dominic’s flock.
MedLXXVIII:2 Francis as a ‘master shepherd’: the Dominican ‘sheep’ straying: the Church as Peter’s boat.
MedLXXIX:1 The sacred millwheel: song beyond that of the Muses and Sirens: the double rainbow, the echo, the covenant with Noah: the compass needle: Dominic as holy wrestler: the vineyard and the vine-dresser: the torrent and the watered garden: the two Orders as wheels of the Chariot: the harvest and the tares.
MedLXXX:1 The double ring of stars, Ariadne’s crown (Corona Borealis): the wax and the stamp: feet weighed with lead: fishing for the truth and the angler’s skill: the prematurely counted harvest, the latent rose, the doomed ship.
MedLXXXI:1 The water vibrating in a dish: the festival of Paradise.
MedLXXXI:2 The whitening horizon: rays like the Milky Way: the spirits like motes in a ray of sunlight: the melody of harp and viol tuned in harmony: one who hears but does not understand: Beatrice’s eyes like living seals.
MedLXXXII:1 The Divine lyre: Cacciaguida’s spirit like a meteorite, like fire through alabaster: the bow of love: the wings of desire: the living topaz.
MedLXXXII:2 Dante a leaf of the ancestral tree: the body as a robe.
MedLXXXIV:1 Phaethon: obtuse angles in a triangle: the eyes and the river: sweet harmony from an organ: Hippolytus: the bow and arrow of exile.
MedLXXXV:1 The mirror of the blessed: the tree of the universe: the whip and spinning top.
MedLXXXV:2 Virtue increased by delight in virtue: the changing light like a lady’s blushing face: Jupiter like a joyous torch: the spirits like a flock of birds (cranes? See Lucan Pharsalia V 711-716): sparks used for numeric augury: the Christian vineyard.
MedLXXXVI:1 The spirits like rubies, like flowers: the hawk un-hooded: the labyrinth of knowledge: human perception lost like the sight of the seafloor in deep water: the stork sweeping over her nest.
MedLXXXVII:1 The stars when the sun vanishes: divine chimes and flutings: sound like a river: form from the lute’s neck, or the unstopped pipe: the pupil of the eye shining: the lark ascending in sweetness: Dante’s doubts transparent through glass: words as sweet medicine: the harpist matching notes to the singer.
MedLXXXVIII:1 Beatrice’s smile would be like Jupiter’s fire destroying Semele, or thunder shattering the leaves: Saturn coloured like gold: the spirits like a flock of rooks: the sweet symphony of Paradise: the abyss of Eternal law: the shepherds of the Church.
MedLXXXIX:1 Beatrice and Dante like Mother and child: the Sun expanding the rose: images of waste and neglect.
MedXC:1 Beatrice the bird of dawn: the full moon: lightning: the singing of Polyhymnia and her sister Muses: the bold keel of Dante’s poetic boat: the Garden of Christ, the meadow full of flowers: Gabriel like a coronet: the Primum Mobile a royal mantle: the child and the mother: the saints as rich coffers: earthly life as an exile in Babylon.
MedXCI:1 The Feast of the Lamb: wheels turning in a clockwork mechanism: Dante a student before examination: the water of the inner fountain: the coins and purse of the mind: miracles beyond nature’s anvil and iron: the Church a vine and now a thorn.
MedXCII:1 Florence the sheepfold: the Apostles like doves cooing and billing: the journey from Egypt to Jerusalem signifying the redemption and liberation of the soul from the earthly life: the palm of martyrdom.
MedXCII:2 A star in Cancer: the virgin at the dance: the bride: Christ the Pelican: temporarily blinded by gazing at a solar eclipse: resting oars.
MedXCIII:1 Sieve, bow and target: the Garden of God.
MedXCIII:2 A man waking from sleep: a branch in the wind: the Glass of God.
MedXCIV:1 The Universe’s smile: Peter like Jupiter, and the planets like birds: the Vatican made a sewer: the blush of dawn: the modest woman hearing another’s fault: wolves and shepherds.
MedXCIV:2 The spirits like snowflakes: the Earth as a threshing-floor: Gemini as Leda’s fair nest of the Twins: rain ruins plums: the lisping babe as an adult: The Human Race as the daughter of the Sun: the reversed fleet.
MedXCV:1 A candle in a mirror: moon size comparison: a halo in vapour: the size of the rainbow: the angelic temple: clear skies in a north-easterly wind: the sparks from molten iron: the doubling of the chessboard: the eternal spring: the dance-circles of the Orders.
MedXCVI: The sun and full moon rising and setting together.
MedXCVII:1 The stars at dawn: the brightness of the sun: the limitations of the artist: the fanfare: a flash of lightning: the candle and its flame: the River of Light: the child wanting to be fed: the hillside and its reflection: the eternal rose: the wedding feast: the child that chases its nurse away.
MedXCVIII:1 The angels like bees: the pilgrim gazing: the sea’s depths: the Eternal fountain: the Garden: the pilgrim seeing Veronica’s cloth: the rising Sun: the flame of peace.
MedC:1 Similes for the Virgin: the dreamer’s impressions: snow in the sun, the Sybil’s leaves: the universal volume and its leaves: the universal bond: the Argo’s ancient voyage: the babe’s speech: the rainbow: the geometer and the circle: the rolling wheel.
Singing, Biblical and Classical Quotation
MedXXXVI:1 Psalm 114 is sung by the spirits arriving at Purgatory, a song of liberation from the flesh, and in the Poets’ case from the journey through the Inferno.
MedXXXVI:2 Casella’s singing of Dante’s poem seduces the listeners.
MedXXXIX:1 The crowd of penitents chant the Miserere, Psalm 51, a psalm of repentance.
MedXLI:2 The souls in the valley of Negligent Rulers sing the Salve Regina (Salva Regina, mater misericordiae:Save us, O Queen, mother of mercy), the antiphon sung after Vespers, invoking the aid of the Virgin.
MedXLII:1 A spirit among the late-repentant sings the ‘Te lucis ante terminum: We pray to You before the ending of the light’ the Ambrosian hymn sung at Compline, the last office of the day, which is appropriate for evening, but also for those who repent at the last.
MedXLIII:2 The great cathedral of the Mount is alive with an indistinct music, with the Te Deum Laudamus: We praise You Lord, the Ambrosian hymn sung at Matins, and on solemn occasions, appropriate therefore for this Tuesday dawn in Dante’s Vision, and his entry into Purgatory proper.
MedXLVI:2 ‘Beati pauperes spiritu, Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven’, the First Beatitude from (appropriately) the Sermon on the Mount, see Matthew v 3. A Beatitude is voiced on each of the terraces of the Mount, signifying the virtue opposing the sin purged on that terrace. Here humility counters pride.
MedXLIX:1 ‘Beati misericordes, Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy’, the Fifth Beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount Matthew v 7. (For the words ‘Rejoice you who conquer’ refer to Matthew v 12, Romans xii 21 and Revelation ii 7.) Mercy, a reciprocal virtue counters envy.
MedL:1 A prayer from the Latin Mass is heard, ‘Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis, dona nobis pacem: Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, give us peace.’ See John i 29. The lamb signifies meekness, the reciprocal virtue to wrath.
MedLI:2 The Third Beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount Matthew v 5, is spoken, not sung. ‘Beati pacifici: blessed are the meek’ (for they shall inherit the earth.) Meekness counters wrath.
MedLIII:1 The Siren sings in Dante’s dream. The Second Beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount Matthew v 4, is affirmed by the Angel of Zeal. ‘Beati qui lugent: blessed are they that mourn’ (for they shall be comforted.)
MedLIII:2 The avaricious repeat Psalm 119 v25. ‘Adhaesit pavimento anima mea, my soul cleaveth unto the dust, quicken thou me according to thy word.’
MedLIV:3 The spirits shout out the ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo, pax hominibus bonae voluntatis: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to all men.’ See Luke ii 8-14.
MedLVI:1 The Angel of Liberality says ‘Sitiunt’: this is in the Fourth Beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew v 6,‘Beati qui esuriunt et sitiunt justitiam: Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.’ The Beatitude both approves Dante’s hunger and thirst for knowledge and virtue, and anticipates the excessive hunger and thirst of the gluttonous on the next terrace.
MedLVII:1 The spirits purging their gluttony sing: ‘Labia mea Domine: O Lord open thou my lips (and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise).’ Psalm 51 verse 15. A verse of the Miserere, see above. The mouths once dedicated to gluttony are now freed for praise.
MedLVIII:3 A second reference, see above, to the Fourth Beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew v 6, ‘Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.’
MedLIX:2 The Poets walk along the narrow path by the cliff, hearing the spirits singing in the fire: they sing the Matin hymn, with its opening words, as given prior to the revision of the Breviary by Pope Urban VIII in 1631: ‘Summae Deus Clementae: God of supreme mercy,’ which contains a prayer for protection against lustfulness. The third verse ran ‘Lumbos iecurque morbidum Flammis adure congruis, Accincti ut artus excubent Luxu remoto pessimo: burning the loins and unwholesome passion with like flames, so that the limbs purged might sleep free of evil Lust.’
MedLXI:1 The Angel of Chastity sings ‘Beati mundo corde: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ The Sixth Beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew v 8. And its voice beyond the fire sings the division of the sheep and goats at the last day, when the King shall say to the sheep on the right: ‘Venite benedicti patris mei: Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ Matthew xxv 34. Dante contrasts Lust and righteousness.
MedLXII:2 ‘Delectasti me, Domine in factura tua: For, thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work.’ Psalm 92 v4 is referred to by Matilda.
MedLXIII:1 Matilda confirms her role as the keeper of the threshold of forgiveness by singing: ‘Beati, quorum tecta sunt peccata: Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.’ Psalm 32: verse 1.
MedLXIII:1 ‘Hosanna’ is being sung, the word with which the Jews hailed Jesus on entering Jerusalem (Matthew xxi:9, Mark xi:9, John xii:13). The Elders sing ‘Blessed art thou among women’ the words of the Angel Gabriel, and of Elizabeth, to Mary. See Luke i 28 and 42.
MedLXIV:1 The Elder representing the books of Solomon sings ‘Veni sponsa de Libano: Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon.’ from the Song of Solomon iv 8. Dante mentions that the Saints will sing Alleluia, on the Day of Judgement, an un-translated Hebrew word used as a chant of praise, taken over from synagogue usage (the Hebrew halleluyah meaning ‘praise ye Jehovah’)
Those in the chariot, sing the Benedictus, prescribed for Lauds, the first day-hour, by St Benedict: ‘Benedictus qui venit: Blessed is he that comest in the name of the Lord.’ See Matthew xxi 9, Mark xi 9, Luke xix 38, John xii 13.
The Angels sing Psalm 31 lines 1-8. ‘In te, Domine, speravi: In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust, let me never be ashamed...thou hast set my feet in a large room.’
MedLXV:2 The singing: ‘Asperges me: Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.’ Psalm 51 verse 7.
MedLXVII:1 The virtues sing Psalm 79: ‘Deus, venerunt gentes: O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled..’
MedLXX:2 Piccarda sings the ‘Ave Maria: Hail Mary’.
MedLXXIV:1 Justinian sings the Hosanna. ‘Osanna Sanctus Deus Sabaoth, superillustrans claritate tua felices ignes horum malachoth! Hosanna, Holy God of Sabaoth, illuminating the blessed fires of these kingdoms, with your brightness from above!’ to introduce Beatrice’s speech regarding the Incarnation.
MedLXXV:1 The spirits in the sphere of Venus sing the Hosanna.
MedLXXVII:1 The spirits in the sphere of the Sun sing as they dance around Beatrice and Dante.
MedLXXXI:1 The spirits sing of the Trinity.
MedLXXXVIII:1 There is no singing in the seventh sphere since it would overpower Dante’s mind.
MedXC:1 The Regina Coeli laetare: O Queen of Heaven: the Easter antiphon of the Blessed Virgin is sung by the Apostles in the Stellar Heaven.
MedXCV:1 The angelic Orders sing Hosanna.
MedXCIX:1 Gabriel sings the ‘Ave Maria:Hail Mary’ accompanied by the ranks of the redeemed.
MedXLIII:1 Dante passes through the Inferno without sleeping, and therefore without dreaming also. He sleeps the night of Easter Monday, and has his first dream, of the three in Purgatory, that of the Eagle of regeneration and justice.
MedLXI:1 Dante falls asleep on his third night on the Mount and has his third and final dream.
MedLXVI:1 Overpowered by the burden of trying to understand the hymn sung, he falls asleep.
MedXXIV:1 Virgil exhorts Dante to avoid sloth and seek fame.
MedXXXVIII:2 Belacqua illustrates the lazy mind, unprepared for the effort of learning or purgation.
MedXLIX:2 Virgil exhorts Dante to evade sloth and exert himself to achieve purgation.
MedLI:3 The fourth terrace of the Mount is where sloth is purged. It is classified as an aspect of inadequate love. The rational mind should see the good and be drawn to it. Sloth is a failed response to this attraction.
MedLII:1 Dante’s intellectual eagerness contrasted with the sloth purged on the fourth terrace.
MedLII:2 The slothful spirits appear running like a Bacchic chorus in their new zeal.
MedXXXVI:2 The start of the Purgatorio is marked by Dante’s meeting with his beloved friend Casella, who smiles. Beatrice’s smile is that of the theological virtues and the smile in general indicates empathy, hope, and trust, reflecting charity, hope and faith.
MedXXXVII:3 Manfred smiles, indicating the hopes of the repentant spirits in Purgatory, and perhaps seeking Dante’s goodwill in speaking to his daughter Costanza on his behalf when Dante returns to the world.
MedXL:2 Virgil promises Dante he will see Beatrice again, and she will be smiling and blessed, the smile denoting virtue, forgiveness, encouragement and faith.
MedXLVI:2 At the conclusion of the visit to the first terrace of the Mount, Virgil smiles as Dante finds one of the seven letter P’s erased from his forehead, signifying the victory of hope and will.
MedLV:3 Dante smiles at Statius’s not realising that it is Virgil before him. The smile can be misinterpreted, and Dante hastens to explain when Virgil allows.
MedLVI:1 Statius smiles at Virgil’s mistaking his major sin for Avarice. The smile expresses error, but is softened by love.
MedLXII:2 Matilda smiles at Dante, and makes clear to him that her smile is at the works of God around her.
MedLXII:2 Matilda suggests that ancient poetic ideas of the Golden Age were dreams of the Earthly Paradise. This invokes a smile from Virgil and Statius, poets who referenced the Golden Age in their works.
MedLXV:2 Beatrice reveals her smile, that of the theological virtues, now that Dante has confessed and has regained his state of innocence.
MedLXX:1 Beatrice’s smile (associated with the theological virtues: here, faith) expresses compassion for Dante’s lack of trust and belief in the truth revealed directly to him.
MedLXXVII:1 Beatrice smiles with laughing eyes, her smile being a symbol of the theological virtues, her eyes of the cardinal virtues.
MedLXXXII:1 Beatrice’s smile in her eyes overpowers Dante. The depth of emotion unites the physical presence with the intellectual symbol, in a profound way that suggests the incarnation of grace, and the elevation, rather than transcendence, of earthly love within the divine.
MedLXXXIII:1 Beatrice smiles at Dante’s intimate acknowledgement of Cacciaguida, as the Lady Malehaut coughed when Guinevere acknowledged Lancelot.
MedLXXXV:1 An intense moment where Dante is overcome by Beatrice’s eyes and smile, so that she has to draw his attention away to other aspects of Paradise. The active life complements the contemplative life, and Divine Philosophy is not the only path to God, as the presence of the warriors evidences.
MedLXXXVIII:1 In the seventh sphere of contemplation Beatrice’s smile is too intense to allow Dante to see it.
MedXC:1 In the stellar heavens Dante having seen the vision of Christ is able to see her smile once more.
MedXCIV:1 As the Trinity is celebrated Dante seems to see the Universe’s smile. The Trinity is identified also with the three theological virtues.
MedVI:2 Hell is a place of spiritual stasis. The doomed spirits can neither go backwards nor forwards, but effectively repeat their punishment in an eternal recurrence. The descent into it is also a narrowing and confining. Space becomes more constrained as the Poets travel downwards.
MedIII:3 The souls blaspheme, a misuse of language, the use of which is a facet of free will.
MedVII:1 Language itself is abused annd corrupted in Hell. Plutus speaks a debased tongue.
MedVIII:1 Dante’s use of dramatic conversation, monologue, examination etc to bring life to the situations and personalise the Commedia.
MedXXVIII:1 Language is inadequate to the task of description.
MedXXXI:1 Nimrod speaks a corrupted language, representing the Babel of tongues.
MedXXXII:1 Dante is unable once more to find a suitable language to describe the extremes of Hell.
MedXXXIV:1 In the deepest level before Satan, Dante’s words are once more inadequate.
MedXLII:1 Dante builds word patterns in the ante-Purgatory to express the radical change from the language of Hell: words like sweet, love, tender, devout, humble, eternal, hope, trust, joy.
MedXLVII:1 The voices that signify fraternal love. Also Dante’s courtesy and generosity in using speech to make himself known to the blind spirits purging themselves of envy.
MedXLVIII:1 In Hell the spirits use language against one another, here in Purgatory they enjoy fraternal conversation, across the divides of factional strife, Ghelph and Ghibelline. At the end of the Poets’ visit to the terrace, the voices in the air signify envy.
MedLVII:2 A strong desire for something else takes away the power of fluent speech.
MedLXIII:1 Once more it is hard to express in words the things seen, in this case the Divine Pageant.
MedLXV:2 The singing is so sweet, the sweetness evades the powers of speech to describe it.
MedLXVI:1 Dante cannot understand the nature of the hymn sung, which overpowers his mind.
MedLXVIII:2 Speech cannot communicate the nature of Dante’s inward transformation, gazing at Beatrice.
MedLXXII:2 Beatrice urges Dante to speak, in the sphere of Mercury the messenger god, and planet of communication.
MedLXXIV:1 Dante urges himself to speak to Beatrice, in the same sphere of Mercury the planet of communication, with a three times repeated dille.
Christ was God’s Word, his messenger to Earth, incarnated as Man, mingling divine and human nature.
MedLXXVII:1 Dante is unable to express the brightness of the sphere of the Sun by any known means, intellect, art, or knowledge, but it can be a subject of faith and hope.
MedLXXXI:2 The vision of Christ on the Cross is beyond Dante’s powers of description.
MedLXXXII:1 Cacciaguida’s speech (after its Latin opening) is initially beyond Dante’s understanding. This should be compared with Nimrod’s appearance in the three Cantiche. In Babel speech cannot be understood because it has been corrupted. Here the lack of understanding is because language has been elevated beyond mortal comprehension.
MedLXXXIII:1 Cacciaguida speaks in the ancient Tuscan dialect of two hundred years previously. Dante indicates how language changes with time, a theme acknowledged by Chaucer after him, in Troilus and Criseyde.
MedLXXXVI:1 Dante is trying to express what has never been written, spoken or imagined before.
MedXC:1 Beatrice’s smile is beyond his powers and those of the Muses, to describe, even the powers of Polyhymnia the Muse of sacred song.
MedXCIII:2 Human language changes with time. Examples of word-change are the names of God.
MedC:1 The final Vision is beyond speech and memory.
Spirits, the Soul
MedX:3 Farinata explains the nature of the prophetic abilities of the souls in Hell, they can see distant events but not current ones. Their ability will cease when earthly time ceases at the Last Judgment, and futurity is no more.
MedXXXIII:2 The spirits of the treacherous may be dragged down to the Ninth Circle, while their bodies inhabited by demons continue to live on above until physical dissolution.
MedXXXVI:2 The spirits who await purgation linger by the shores of the Tiber, until the Angel of God ferries them across the ocean to the Mount. They are amazed at Dante’s breathing form. His attempts to embrace Casella reveal their insubstantial nature (see Homer: Odyssey II 205, and Virgil: Aeneid VI 700, for the triple clasp).
MedXXXVII:1 The spirits cast no shadows, transparent like the heavenly spheres, yet their pseudo-bodies are capable of undergoing punishment and feeling pain. This is a divine mystery.
MedXXXVII:2 These excommunicated spirits, dying in repentance, have entered Purgatory. Virgil comments that they are chosen, have ended their lives well by repenting, and are destined to find peace at last.
MedXLVII:2 The spirits in Purgatory are chosen or of the elect.
MedXLIX:1 Love increases through mutual understanding, and understanding through love. Shared is not less. The more spirits with shared understanding the more love there is in the universe.
MedL:1 The soul as a child, issuing from the hands of God, in primal simplicity.
MedLIII:2 Adrian V reminds Dante that all formal relationships, such as the Papal Offices or the insitution of marriage are meaningless beyond the grave.
MedLVII:1 The cavernous faces of the spirits purging themselves of gluttony form the word ‘omo’ or ‘Man’.
MedLIX:1 Statius explains the origin of the individual, unified, soul. After death it retains intellect, memory and will, and around it a ‘shadow’ or ‘shade’ is manifested that reflects its desires and affections.
MedLXI:3 At the summit of the Mount, radical moral innocence is recovered, and the institutions of earth are superseded by Divine Philosophy. Empire and Church are therefore symbolically superseded by the freed, innocent spirit, with control over itself, and directed towards the good.
MedLXVIII:2 The soul is a new creation of God’s, not generated by nature, but breathed into the embryo.
MedLXVIII:3 The blessed spirits manifest themselves in the sphere of the stars, the Stellar Heaven, and in the planetary spheres but are really existent in the Empyrean. They manifest themselves to Dante in the lower spheres as appropriate.
MedLXXI:1 The blessed spirits, including Piccarda, all inhabit the Empyrean along with other great souls, though they differ in the degree to which they experience God’s power. Piccarda for example does not inhabit the sphere of the Moon but has manifested there in human semblance to allow Dante’s intellect to receive information through the senses.
MedLXXVI:2 The outward appearance of the spirits reflects their inner state: their brightness revealing joy in Paradise: their darkness revealing sadness in Hell.
MedLXXXI:1 Solomon confirms the resurrection of the body, and the retention of complete individuality.
MedLXXXII:1 The spirits who see God possess intelligence equal to their love, and execution matches will.
MedLXXXIX:1 Benedict confirms that saints like himself will be visible in the other spirits in the Empyrean, which is outside space.
Stars, Constellations, Astrology, Astronomy, Planets
MedII:2 Beatrice’s eyes compared to stars, like those twin stars of Dante’s Gemini birth-sign.
MedXV:1 Beatrice is Dante’s star, but his star represents his fate also.
MedXX:1 The astrologers are in Hell. Dante elsewhere acknowledges the power of the stars over fate, but this is a facet of God’s will, while using astrology for specific prophecy is against the teachings of the Church.
MedXXXV:1 Dante sees Venus, the planet of Love, in Pisces, as the sun rises in Aries, at the foot of the Mountain of Purgatory. Pisces is associated with the Christian era as the constellation in which the spring equinox fell. The four stars of the Southern Cross represent the cardinal virtues.
MedXXXVI:1 Dante determines place and time by use of his astronomical knowledge. He uses Jerusalem and the Ganges as reference longitudes and latitudes, and the position of the zodiacal constellations to confirm the chronology.
MedXXXVIII:1 The reason the sun appears in the north, south of the equator. Dante displays his knowledge of the Ecliptic and Equatorial Circles, the solstices, equinoxes, and effect of the seasons due to the tilt of the earth. The sun is a mirror that reflects the heavenly light downwards.
MedXLII:3 The stars near the pole travel shorter arcs in the same time so travel less quickly to the observer. Three unknown stars represent the theological virtues, replacing the four dawn stars of the Southern Cross.
MedXLV:1 The starry spheres are closer to God.
MedXLVI:2 The Angel of Humility has a face that shines like the Morning ‘star’, the planet Venus once attributed to Lucifer, but now to Divine Love.
MedXLIX:1 The zodiac ‘skips like a child’ as the circle of the sun’s daily path tilts higher or lower with respect to the celestial equator. Here at the spring equinox the noonday sun lies on the Celestial Equator.
MedL:1 Dante attributes divine influence to the planetary spheres, but insists on free will. Prophecy through astrology is against the traditional teachings of the Church. Divine goodness creates mind in us and therefore moral awareness and free will. The causes of events are in ourselves.
MedLIII:1 A reference to Fortuna Major, the geomancer’s formation of the last stars in Aquarius and the first in Pisces.
MedLXI:1 At the exit from the seventh terrace, Dante sees the promise and hope of the stars which appear bigger and brighter, as he understands more deeply and nears the Heavens.
MedLXIII:1 Dante invokes Urania, the muse of Astronomy, the Heavenly Spheres, and their Music.
MedLXIV:1 Ursa Minor as a guide to sailors.
Dante acknowledges the power of the stars within their heavenly spheres to influence human disposition. This is a Neo-Platonic vision of the Universe, where the Divine influence permeates through the spheres. It is not therefore a simplistic belief in astrological destiny where free-will is negated, but a sophisticated belief in which the Divine influence creates pre-dispositions which interact with free choice and events to determine individual fate. Astrological prediction of events is condemned in Inferno.
The Angels are tuned to the harmony of the Eternal Spheres.
MedLXV:2 The cardinal virtues are the fours stars of the Southern Cross in the heavens.
MedLXVI:1 Springtime in the Christian era coincides with the vernal equinox occurring in the constellation of Pisces, the Fishes.
MedLXVIII:2 Dante displays his knowledge of the intersection of the celestial circles with the circle of the Horizon at the equinox. The equinox was in Aries at the Creation and in the Vision.
MedLXX:1 Dante uses traditional associations of the planets. Here the Moon’s variability and inconstancy.
MedLXXI:1 Dante accepts the view that the stars influence human propensities, but not the idea, an interpretation of Plato’s Timaeus, that would imply the soul beng split from a star at birth, and returning to it at death. He is always concerned to follow the ‘soft’ astrological view of planetary influence on human life but not pre-determination of it, so leaving room for the key human attribute of free will.
MedLXXII:2 Dante refers to the Sun at the equinox as it meets the celestial equator, the swiftest circle (see Convivio ii 4 52-62). Mercury is its close companion, on its ‘inner’ orbit within that of Earth, and so is rarely visible, and is hidden in the Sun’s light. Mercury is associated with intellect, changeability, and communication as Mercury was the messenger of the gods in Greek Mythology.
MedLXXV:1 Venus is in inner orbit around the sun and therefore appears close to it in the sky, either as an evening star setting after the sun, or as a morning star in the dawn sky. Venus is associated with love, and Venus Aphrodite was the goddess of Love in Greek Mythology.
MedLXXVII:1 Dante shows his knowledge of the tilted ecliptic, and indicates the Divine necessity of the angle, in order to produce the varying effects of the planets on earthly things (including creating the seasons). The Sun is associated with Prudence, or practical wisdom.
MedLXXX:1 The double crown of stars likened to components of the heavens including Ursa Major and Minor, and to Ariadne’s Crown, the Corona Borealis.
MedLXXXI:2 Mars is associated with Fortitude, and with the Church Militant through its traditional associations with the war god.
MedLXXXII:1 Dante suggests the planet Mars was in Leo (signifying courage and pride) at the birth of Christ, and calculates Cacciaguida’s birth date from the known periodicity of Mars orbit. In fact Mars was in Aries the Ram, the sign ruled astrologically by Mars, and signifying Christ the Lamb. It is conceivable, but unlikely, that Dante may have been aware of this from calculation, and that this is what he means by ‘his own Lion’.
MedLXXXV:2 Jupiter is associated with Justice and Wisdom, with Jupiter the Roman god, and therefore with the Roman Emperors, and with the Christian God.
MedLXXXVIII:1 Saturn is associated with self-control, moderation, temperance and the Golden Age of simplicity and innocence. Saturn in Leo indicates strength of will in astrology.
MedLXXXIX:2 Dante and Beatrice enter the stellar heavens in the sign of Gemini, Dante’s birth sign, associated with intellect and language. The seven ‘planetary spheres’ signify the seven virtues. Dante looks back to see the full structure of the solar system in the Ptolemaic arrangement.
MedXC:1 Beatrice looks eastwards towards the vision of Christ in Cancer the place of the summer solstice.
MedXCII:2 A star in Cancer would be in the midwinter sky, the Sun being in Capricorn.
MedXCIV:2 Gemini separated by Taurus from the sun in Aries.
MedC:1 All three Cantiche end with the same word stelle: stars.
Symbol, Symbolic Metaphor, Allegory
MedXXXIV:1 Satan’s three faces have an allegorical role, signifying Hatred, Powerlessness and Ignorance. The three winds generated by his wings signify lust, pride and avarice.
MedXXXV:1 The four stars of the Southern Cross, symbolise the four cardinal virtues, Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude. The Poets stand on the eastern shore at the foot of the Mount of Purgatory, the east being the direction of the rising sun and symbolically of the risen Christ.
MedXXXV:2 The marsh rush is a symbol of humility.
MedXLII:3 Three unknown evening southern polar stars represent the theological virtues.
MedXLIII:1 The Eagle in Dante’s dream is symbolic of regeneration and of Rome and Imperial law. Lucia’s eyes signify the cardinal virtues, by whose light the Poets can climb the Mount.
MedLVI:2 The fruit tree and stream, symbolic of tempting (cultivated?) plenty whose perfume causes the desire for food and drink in those spirits who are purging themselves of gluttony.
MedLXI:2 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.
MedLXI:3 At the summit of the Mount, radical moral innocence is recovered, and the institutions of earth are superseded by Divine Philosophy. Empire and Church are therefore symbolically represented by the freed, innocent spirit, with control over itself, and directed towards the good.
MedLXII:1 Matilda symbolises the active life of the spirit, and is Leah to Beatrice’s Rachel. She counterpoints St. Bernard’s position in Paradise, as a symbol of the contemplative life. The historical Matelda also signifies pardon and reconciliation, with Church and Empire independent within their proper spheres.
MedLXIII:1 The Divine Pageant is a symbolic representation of the Church.
MedLXVI:1 The Mystic Tree represents Justice and the Empire, bound to the Chariot of the Church.
MedLXVI:2 Dante watches a symbolically enacted history of the Church and Empire. The Church is attacked, corrupted and divided, acquiring temporal power in a fatal confusion of the spiritual and earthly spheres. The vision culminates in the whorish mating of a French pope to the French court, and the transfer of the Papacy from its true home, Rome, to Avignon.
MedLXVII:1 Beatrice has explicitly used the symbolism of the Divine Pageant and the Mystic Tree to impress a complex truth on Dante’s mind. Dante is both inviting interpretation of the symbolism and implying the true prophetic nature of its purpose.
MedLXVIII:1 Apollo is symbolically equated with Christ.
MedLXXI:1 Dante emphasises that the representation of God, the Angels etc in human form is symbolic and not actual.
MedLXXVI:2 Rahab, as a symbol of the victory of the Crucifixion, for her recognition of the Jewish God, elevated by Christ and redeemed.
MedLXXXI:2 The triple circles signify the Trinity. The Cross within Mars signifies both the Crucifixion and the blood of Christ, and the Church Militant.
MedLXXXV:2 The eagle symbolises the Empire, Divine Justice and Power, the Roman Emperors, God Himself, and Can Grande via his coat of arms. The letter M symbolises Monarchia, kingship, as in Dante’s treatise so titled, and Mente, the Mind of God that inspires the intellect to justice.
MedLXXXIX:2 The mystic ladder symbolises Contemplation. The planetary spheres signify the seven virtues, theological and cardinal.
MedXC:1 The Sun is Christ, the Rose Mary, and the lilies are the Apostles.
MedXCVII:1 The ranks of the blessed are the glowing petals of an eternal Rose.
MedXCVII:1 The river of the water of life symbolises the flow of Divine Grace.
MedXCVIII:1 The angels’ colours flame, gold and white symbolise love knowledge and purity. Bernard is a symbol of loving contemplation, and adoration of the Virgin.
MedC:1 The triple rainbow symbolising the Trinity.
MedLXXXVIII:1 The fourth cardinal virtue, temperantia, indicating self-control, patience, simplicity and contemplation.
MedLXXXIX:1 Saint Benedict signifies the temperance and self-discipline of religious order.
MedII:1 Dante’s triple rhyming verses symbolic of the Trinity, and compounding the recurrence of the numbers three and nine throughout his works. For example the thirty-three Cantos of each section of the DC to which is added the introductory Inferno Canto I. And the nine-fold plus one structure of the three spaces of the Vision themselves, Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. See also the Vita Nuova II for the significance of number in the first meeting of Dante and Beatrice, and Vita Nuova XXIX for the significance of number in the date and time of her death.
The terza rima verse form consists of verses of three eleven-syllable lines (the three Cantiche consist of thirty three, = three times eleven, cantos of these triplets, plus the introductory canto to Inferno). The rhyme scheme of ABA BCB CDC etc means that each verse links to and embraces the following verse’s middle line, almost like hands clasping. The triplets mirror the Trinity.
MedIII:1 The Gate of Hell is the first threshold Dante passes. (Earth)
MedIII:3 The Acheron is the second barrier into Hell proper. Charon is the ferryman. (Water)
MedV:1 Minos sits at the threshold of the Second Circle, judging the spirits and sending them onwards to their appropriate place. He judges the sinners, those who have abused freewill through lack of self-control, or through violent or fraudulent malice. (Mythological Human/Monster)
MedVI:1 Cerberus guards the threshold of the Third Circle, his cruel greed
corresponding to the sin of Gluttony punished there. (Mythological Monster)
MedVII:1 Plutus guards the threshold of the Fourth Circle, his derivation from gods of wealth and the underworld corresponding to the sins of avarice and prodigality. (Pseudo-Mythological Monster)
MedVIII:1 The Styx is the threshold of the Fifth Circle and the city of Dis. Phlegyas, who scorned Apollo, is its boatman. (Water/Earth)
MedVIII:2 The gate guarded by the Fallen Angels is the entrance to the City of Dis and the lower circles of Hell. (Earth/Fire/Mythological Figures)
MedIX:1 The Furies and Medusa also guard the gate of Dis, and a Heavenly Messenger is required to open it and aid the poets. (Mythological figures)
MedXII:1 The unnatural Minotaur guards the way down to the seventh circle of the violent. The bull signifies violent rage, and also the deceit attending his conception, as well as hinting at the labyrinth of Hell. (Mythological Hybrid)
MedXII:2 The unnatural Centaurs are the police of the first ring of the seventh circle, that of the violent against others. (Mythological Hybrid). They fought the Lapiths and signify violence themselves.
MedXVII:1 Geryon is the guardian of the threshold of the Eight Circle.
(Mythological semi-human). He signifies Fraud.
MedXXXI:1 The Giants are the guardians of the Ninth Circle, signifying pride and the malicious abuse of power.
MedXXXV:2 Cato is the guardian of the Mount of Purgatory. Dante is cleansed by Virgil at the foot of the Mount, in a rite of passage.
MedXXXVI:2 The Tiber is a threshold for those spirits who do not sink to Acheron. They wait there for the Angel to carry them across the ocean to the Mount of Purgatory. The Jubilee provides a time for transit. The Angel of God is the ferryman, the guardian of the sea passage.
MedXLII:1 The two Angels, dressed in green robes, sent by the Virgin, protect the ante-Purgatory, where the will can still be assailed by doubt. Their faces dazzle the observer.
MedXLIII:2 An Angel with a face again too bright to endure sits at the threshold of Purgatory, its three steps signifying the stages of Penance.
MedXLIX:1 Each terrace of the Mount of Purgatory is watched over by an Angel, of the opposite virtue to the sin purged there.
MedLXII:1 Matilda (historically Matelda di Canossa, Grancontessa of Tuscany) attends the threshold of the Earthly Paradise, the River of Lethe. She symbolises the active spiritual life, the active religious will, the spirit of forgiveness, and the reconciliation of an independent Church and State each in their proper sphere.
MedLXXVII:1 Aquinas acts as intellectual guardian of the threshold to the four higher spheres, those beyond the shadow of the Earth in the Prolemaic system.
MedXC:1 After his journey and his ‘education’ below, Dante is examined by the Apostles (Saints Peter, James and John) concerning his understanding of the theological virtues. The Saints hold the threshold of the Primum Mobile of the Angels.
MedXCVIII:1 Bernard the symbol of loving contemplation stands at the final threshold of the Divine.
MedIV:2 The Vision is set at a specific point in time (April 1300) and time passes to a careful chronology, yet time for the dead spirits is also in a sense contemporaneous in the Commedia, allowing historical characters to appear together from all the ages. In Hell time can be said to be an eternal recurrence, in Purgatorio it is a progress towards redemption, and in Paradise it is an eternal moment of true contemporaneousness where all the ages are ever-present. Earthly time however unfolds normally and Dante takes care to avoid anachronism, through the use of prophecies, and expectation, otherwise concealing the knowledge of events after the time of the Vision.
MedX:3 Earthly time will end at the Last Judgement when futurity ceases.
MedXXI:1 Virgil frequently asserts (Cantos VII, XI, XX) the position of moon and stars, invisible in Hell, but here it is the Demon Malacoda who enables the chronology to be established.
MedXXXIV:2 Virgil once more shows his special knowledge of the time. The Poets’ journey through Hell has taken from dawn of Good Friday to the evening of Saturday. The climb to the foot of the Mountain of Purgatory takes till the dawn of Easter Monday.
MedXXXVIII:1 Dante’s argument for the unity of the soul. A multiple soul would not lose track of time when absorbed in a topic of interest.
MedXL:2 Purgatory takes a length of human time to traverse. Virgil warns Dante that purgation is not a matter of hurrying through. A carefully established chronology sees the Poets climb the Mount, from East through North to finally ascend the Western Slope between Monday and Thursday morning.
MedXLIV:2 Purgatory is bounded in time and its sufferings cannot last beyond the Day of Judgement. Hell is eternal recurrence.
MedLIII:2 The anti-clockwise journey round the Mount signifies the soul’s return to first innocence, and childhood purity, ‘setting the clock back’, though in the southern hemisphere it does in fact follow the sun.
MedLXVIII:2 Dante rises into Heaven at midday on Thursday (in Purgatory: it is midnight at Jerusalem). He then goes round the world with the day, so that, for him, it remains mid-day, and no ‘earth-time’ passes.
MedLXXVII:1 The sun measures time, and Dante complements the timeless nature of Beatrice’s grace and movement with the regularity of practical wisdom and order as measured by solar time and the clock.
MedXCIV:2 Time has its origin in the Primum Mobile, the moving sphere ‘below the Empyrean’ (or in the Mind of God).
MedXCVI Time was created in the instant of God’s Creation.
MedXI:1 The lowest form of malicious fraud and therefore punished in the deepest circle of Hell, the Ninth. It breaks both natural and human bonds.
MedXXXII:1 Treachery breaks the bond of trust which is an aspect of Faith. Treachery is an un-faith, and therefore represents an intellectual and emotional opposite to the heights of Paradise, placing it in the deepest parts of Hell.
MedXXXII:2 Dante chooses traitors near to home to people the lower reaches of Hell. Treachery, which is composed of un-faith and malice, engenders other sinful behaviours, anger, pride, violence and cruelty, as though the deepest sin encompasses wider sin.
MedXXXIII:1 The Ninth Circle is full of Italian examples of treachery. Ugolino’s is the most powerful tale that shows innocent children dragged within the net of evil.
MedXXXIII:2 More Italian examples people the Ninth circle, where some treacherous spirits have left behind their demon-inhabited bodies on earth. Treachery is an absence of soul, unlike the union of souls represented by faith and trust.
MedXXXIV:1 The arch-traitors to Empire and Religion, Brutus, Cassius and Judas, are tormented eternally by Satan, in the pit of Hell. Treachery is the antithesis to the trust and faith on which temporal and spiritual life must be founded, their institutionalised forms being Empire and Church.
MedI:3 The three predictions of ‘a saviour of Italy’.
MedII:1 The three strands of his life, Spiritual, Political, Personal (Soul, Mind and Body, Heart). The three cities corresponding, those of God, Rome and Florence. The terza rima structure of the verse. The handling of past, present and future. The triplicities in the whole work. All symbolic of the Trinity.
MedIII:1 The Gate of Hell was created by the Holy Trinity of Power, Wisdom and Love.
MedVI:1 Appearance of the personal, political and spiritual strands in the Francesca episode and Ciacco’s prophecy.
MedVII:1The Archangel Michael is mentioned, the first of the three archangels referred to in the Commedia.
MedXI:1 The violent are divided into those violent against God, the self, and society, reflecting the triple radiance of God’s love from the soul, to the self, to one’s neighbours.
MedXXXIV:1 Satan’s three faces signify Hatred, Powerlessness and Ignorance. The three winds generated by his wings signify lust, pride and avarice. The antithesis to faith and trust are the three greatest traitors, Brutus, Cassius and Judas, chewed by Satan’s three mouths.
MedXXXIV:2 The journey with Virgil to the foot of Purgatory takes the Poets three days. Each of the three cantica: Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso ends with the word stelle, stars, indicating that the Divine Love manifests itself as light. Each is also composed of thirty-three cantos (Christ’s age at the Crucifixion, by tradition, was thirty three in 33 AD.)
plus the initial introductory canto to Inferno, and written in terza rima, triplets of eleven syllable lines.
MedXXXVI:2 Dante clasps Casella three times, proving the insubstantial nature of the spirits, as in Homer (Odyssey XI) and Virgil (Aeneid VI). This makes the third use of the image in a major epic poem.
MedXXXIX:2 A trio of vivid vignettes of individuals who died by violence, Jacopo del Cassero, Buonconte, and La Pia.
MedXLI:1 Limbo is a place for those who did not attain the Christian triad of Faith, Hope, and Charity.
MedXLI:2 Sordello, Dante and Virgil form a trio of Poets.
MedXLII:2 Dante takes three paces down into the valley of Negligent Rulers.
MedXLII:3 Three unknown evening southern polar stars represent the theological virtues.
MedXLIII:1 The first of Dante’s three dreams in Purgatory, one for each night he spends on the Mount: the regenerative Eagle.
MedXLIII:2 The three steps of the Gate of Purgatory, signifying Confession, Repentance and Forgiveness.
MedXLVI:2 On each of the seven terraces of the Mount of Purgatory, the Poets encounter an Angel, a Beatitude is voiced, and one of the letter P’s on Dante’s forehead is erased.
MedL:1 Dante celebrates three virtuous contemporaries, Corrado, Gherardo and Guido.
MedLI:1 Dante continually winds together the three strands of history, Classical and Imperial, Biblical and Christian, and Contemporary.
MedLI:3 Inferno the divided community, Purgatorio the self re-oriented to community, Paradiso the expression of community.
MedLIII:1 The second of Dante’s three dreams, on the second night: the Siren. Virgil calls him ‘at least three times’ to wake him from it.
MedLV:1 Dante triply highlights Statius’s Christian status, referring to the Woman of Samaria and the water of Truth, Christ’s appearance on the road to Emmaus, and Statius’s Christian greeting to the Poets.
MedLVI:2 Statius, Virgil and Dante travel on: a trio of Poets.
MedLXII:1 The three days penance of Henry IV in the snow, prior to his pardon by Gregory VII, echoes Dante’s three day purgation on the Mount prior to his confession to Beatrice.
MedLXII:2 Dante and Matilda are three steps apart across the river, the ‘three steps’ of repentance, confession and forgiveness.
MedLXIV:1 The Elder representing the Books of Solomon, three times asserts the Church as the Bride of God. Beatrice is clothed in the colours white, green and red of Faith, Hope and Charity the three theological virtues. Beatrice asserts her reality with a triply repeated ‘ben’.
MedLXV:1 At this crucial moment of Dante’s personal and spiritual existence the triplicities are interwoven: Past, Present and Future: Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso: Repentance, Confession and Forgiveness.
MedLXV:2 The four cardinal virtues appear in three forms, as Beatrice’s eyes on earth: as nymphs her helpers in Purgatory: and as the stars of the Southern Cross in Heaven.
MedLXVI:1 Beatrice descends from the Chariot after three flights of an arrow.
MedLXXIV:1 Dante urges himself to speak to Beatrice, in the same sphere of Mercury the planet of communication, with a three times repeated dille.
Dante’s text links Word, Creator and Love in an expression of the Trinity.
MedLXXV:1 Dante refers indirectly to the three hierarchies of Angels, each of three Orders.
MedLXXVII:1 The trinity, referred to as Primal Power, the Son, and the breath, or holy spirit, of Love. The lights circle three times around Dante and Beatrice.
MedLXXXI:2 The triple circles signify the Trinity.
MedLXXXVII:1 The three theological virtues are celebrated again, in that faith can be generated through hope and love, as in the cases of Trajan and Ripheus. Note that faith, hope and charity or love, also correspond to the Trinity: the Father in whom faith is demanded, the Son who brought hope of redemption, and the Holy Spirit which infuses the mind with love.
MedXCI:1 Saint Peter sweeps round Beatrice three times, and after Dante’s successful explanation of faith and his belief, around Dante in the same manner. Dante expresses his belief in the Trinity, and the sources in Scripture from which the belief arose are given here.
MedXCII:1 The three occasions when Christ allowed the Apostles near to him: at the Transfiguration, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and the Agony at Gethsemane.
MedXCII:2 The three Apostles Peter, James and John representing faith, hope and love.
MedXCIV:1 Peter’s condemnatory triple repetition of ‘my place’.
MedXCV:1 The Angelic Orders are arranged in three triplets.
MedXCVI The Creation involved the triple creation of form, matter and being. Beatrce explains the triple where, when and how of the Angel’s creation.
MedXCVIII:1 The angels’ colours flame, gold and white symbolise love knowledge and purity. Dante has made a triple journey from from the human to the divine, from time to eternity, and from Florentine chaos to Heavenly order.
MedXCIX:1 Lucia has appeared three times in the Commedia, once in each of Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso.
MedC:1 The triple rainbow symbolising the Trinity. All three Cantiche end with the same word stelle: stars.
MedII:1 Dante inherited the poetic tradition of Provence influenced by Arabic sources.
MedV:1 Dante supersedes the Troubadour tradition of courty love. He retains and absorbs the concepts of that love as embodying Courtesy, Humility and a Religion of Love, but opposes its condonement of adultery.
MedXXVIII:1 Bertrand de Born, one of the greatest of the troubadour
MedXXXVII:1 Dante had gone beyond Courtly Love and Troubadour poetry, and the new sweet style of Tuscany, with its emphasis on unrequited irrational passion, and the tormented and depressed spirit, to a spiritualised celebration of human Love, still humble and still religious in feeling, but now focused away from the flesh and towards Lady Philosophy, Human Philosophy, enabling Love to be a question of reason as well as passion. The Purgatorio expresses his further movement beyond this to Divine Love and Philosophy embodied in Beatrice, and a rejection or transcending of his Troubadour heritage, of the pursuit of purely human reason, and of his earthly loves.
MedXL:3 Dante is inspired by Sordello’s famous Provençal lament for Blacatz to a prolonged invective against the current state of Italy.
MedXLVIII:1 Guido del Duca’s lament, like a Troubadour planh, for the lost virtues of the Romagna, a forerunner of many a medieval lament for the ‘ladies and the knights’ of ‘love and courtesy’.
MedLI:3 Virgil’s explanation of rational love goes beyond the tradition of Courtly Love. Love is not necessarily destructive or irrational. Where it is so it is due to a misuse of freewill and the choice of wrong objectives, or an inadequate or excessive desire. Natural love is error free, but Rational love may err. True love is creative. It nurtures relationship and generates spiritual community.
MedLII:1 The further explanation by Virgil that not all the objects of desire are acceptable, and that we have the power of self-control, and the freewill to withhold assent goes beyond the tradition of Courtly Love, where the lover is merely ravaged by the irrational external force.
MedLX:1 The representatives of the Troubadours and the school of adulterous love appear: Giraut de Borneil and Arnaut Daniel: as well as their successors Fra Guittone and Guido Guinicelli.
MedLXXVI:1 The troubadour Folco of Marseilles appears, as a follower of earthly love, subsequently penitent.
MedI:3 As an objective of the political saviour of Italy who is yet to come.
MedXL:2 Divine Philosophy, personified in Beatrice, is ‘the light linking truth to intellect’.
MedLV:3 In the truthful spirit feeling follows passion and is manifest (in laughter and tears etc) despite the controlling will.
MedLXIX:3 Dante (through Beatrice’s words) presents the Neo-platonic order of the Universe as a revealed Truth, a matter in which the intellect should trust (an aspect of faith), and which it will find realised self-evidently hereafter.
MedLXX:1 Beatrice smiles at Dante’s inability to see as self-evidently true what appears to him in Paradise.
MedXCV:1 God is ultimate truth. Blessedness depends on the vision of truth, on seeing, rather on the degree of love. Love is a consequence of being blessed, rather than a cause of it. The extent of vision depends on grace and right use of the will.
MedXCVII:1 Dante unites Truth and Goodness, to be known by the intellect, out of which flows the transcendent joy of Love. Though Truth and Love coexist in God, intellect and knowledge in Man is the cause of human love.
MedV:1 One of the divisions of the malicious is those who are guilty of forms of violence.
MedXI:1 Virgil explains the nature of violence subdivided into violence against others, self and God.
MedXII:1 The Minotaur signifies violence and guards the way down to the seventh circle.
MedXII:2 Dante’s non-individualistic treatment of the violent against others suggests his implict recognition of the banality of that violence, and the lack of individuality it represents. It does not interest him intellectually.
MedXIII:1 Florence as a violent city.
MedXIV:1 Capaneus as a type of the violent against God.
MedXXXIX:2 A trio of vivid vignettes of individuals who died by violence, Jacopo del Cassero, Buonconte, and La Pia.
MedXL:1 Dante has no difficulty illustrating his violent times from the crowd of spirits around him. The Italy and France of poison, vendetta, factional fighting, murder and intrigue.
MedVII:3 Dante was highly indebted to Virgil’s Aeneid Book VI for the early imagery of the Inferno, and the concept of assigned punishments.
MedXIII:1 Dante uses the imagery of people turned to trees from Aeneid Book II.
MedXIX:1 Virgil is pleased at Dante’s support for Empire and Early Church, the Roman roots. He symbolically clasps him in his arms.
MedXX:1 Virgil gives an account of the founding of his birthplace Mantua that differs from his own version in the Aeneid. Also Virgil is aware of the moon and star positions, here and in Cantos VII and XI.
MedXXIII:1 Virgil’s attitude to Dante, like mother and child, father and son, reflecting the relationship of master and pupil, precursor and protégé. Dante denotes intellectual ‘paternity’ and ‘maternity’ as a dimension of the linkage of ideas, and causes, between individual related minds.
MedXXXVIII:1 Virgil lends Dante hope, and is a light to him.
MedXXXIX:2 La Pia’s words echo the inscription on Virgil’s tomb at Naples.
MedXLIX:2 Dante’s thoughts are visible to Virgil, who continually gives him hope and exhorts him to exert himself.
MedLIII:1 Virgil, representing earthly reason, alerted by a saintly lady representing heavenly grace, appears within Dante’s dream, and wakes him to true good from the seductive apparition of the Siren.
MedLV:1 Virgil is literary master, historian of Imperial Rome, prophet and guide, but is limited by his paganism to earthly knowledge. He therefore does not know the cause of the earthquake.
MedLXI:3 Virgil’s last speech sends Dante onwards, beyond his own knowledge, into the beatitude of the Earthly Paradise. His own art, skill and earthly philosophy have taken Dante as far as he himself can go. Beatrice will be the new guide through the Earthly Paradise and the Paradiso.
MedLXIII:1 Virgil, like Dante, is stunned, as a pagan, by the Divine Pageant of the Church.
MedLXIV:1 As Beatrice appears to guide Dante onwards, Virgil vanishes. Dante’s last words directed towards him are a quotation from the Aeneid.
The pagan Virgil’s presence is neither necessary nor possible from this point on. We are at the limit of earthly wisdom.
Virgin Mary, The Goddess, Feminine Influence
MedXXXIX:2 Buonconte dies repeating the Virgin’s name, a sign of his repentance.
MedXLI:2 The Virgin protects the lower slopes on the approach to Purgatory proper, where the will may still be assailed by doubt and temptation, and negligence is contrasted with her endless care.
MedXLIX:2 At the entrance to each terrace of the Mount, an incident from the life of the Virgin is referred to, demonstrating her role as the expression of all the virtues.
MedXCVIII:1 Bernard, who in life adored the Virgin, now brings Dante to the vision of her to receive the benefits of her grace, the feminine aspect of Divine protection.
MedC:1 Bernard’s prayer to the Virgin associates her with Love, Hope, Grace, Kindness, Pity, Generosity, and other human excellences. She is an embodiment of nurturing, empathetic, and loving humanity, taking on many of the positive and benign attributes of the ancient goddesses. Bernard asks the Virgin for her grace towards Dante so that he might see the final vision, and his protection afterwards.
MedXXXV:1 The cardinal virtues (Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude) are symbolised by the stars of the Southern Cross.
MedXXXV:2 The rays of the cardinal virtues strike Cato’s face.
MedXXVII:1 Guido da Montefeltro’s voice issues from the flame distorted like the belllowings of the Sicilian bull.
MedI:1 As a metaphor of spiritual effort, personally chosen direction, ascent and descent, speed or slowness, ease or difficulty. It is the nature of his progression in the Inferno and Purgatorio. Poetic and physical ‘feet’.
MedXXXV:2 A simile of lost travellers returning to their road.
MedXXXVI:1 Travellers contemplating their journey.
MedXXXVI:2 Travellers unsure where they will emerge.
MedXXXVII:1 Virgil slows his pace to one which lends dignity to action.
MedXXXVII:2 Dante’s knowledge of the rough tracks of Italy, here that between Lerici and Turbia in Liguria.
MedXXXVIII:1 Steep tracks in Italy, near Urbino and Reggio. Purgatory requires the effort of climbing, which eases nearer the summit.
MedLI:1 Dante measures his steps by those of his master, Virgil.
War, Civil Strife
MedVI:1 Ciacco prophesies continued civil strife between Blacks and Whites.
MedX:1 Farinata’s presence brings to mind Montaperti in 1260, and the bloodshed by the Arbia.
MedXII:2 The violent against others. A depressing list of historical tyrants, murderers, and war-mongers.
MedXIII:1 Various references to Florentine civil strife.
MedXXI:1 Dante as witness to the incidents at Caprona in 1289, and others on Aretine territory.
MedXXIV:1 The civil strife of 1302-6 between Whites and Blacks in Florence and Pistoia.
MedXXVII:2 Guido da Montefeltro, the mercenary captain, involved at Forli, and at Palestrina in 1297. A type, like Farinata, of the noble warrior, who could not be redeemed by wisdom, nobility and courtesy alone.
MedXXVIII:1 A string of famous wars and battles mentioned: the Roman Samnite and Punic Wars, including the Roman defeat by Hannibal at Cannae: the Sicilian wars of Robert Guiscard: the betrayal of the pass at Ceperano to Charles of Anjou leading to Manfred’s defeat and death at Benevento in 1266: and the defeat of Manfred’s nephew Conradin at Tagliacozzo in 1268.
MedXXVIII:1 Julius Caesar’s march on Rome, initiating Civil War, and Mosca’s involvment in the factional strife in Florence are mentioned.
MedXXIX:1 In this Canto and the previous one Dante has circled in from wider warfare and its history to Florence, and finally his own family, in giving examples of civil strife and discord. Conflict is ubiquitous.
MedXXXVII:3 Manfred died at Benevento in 1266, a defeat for the Italian Ghibelline cause in its struggle with the Papacy (Charles of Anjou being backed by Pope Clement IV).
MedXXXIX:2 Buonconte serves to remind the reader of Campaldino in 1289 and the Ghibelline defeat, where Dante is said to have fought on the Florentine Guelph side.
MedXLVII:2 One of a number of references to Sienese battles. The Sienese Ghibellines routed at Colle in 1269 by the Guelphs. Previously, Omberto Aldebrandesco’s death at Campagnatico in 1259.
MedLXXXV:1 The warriors of the old and new faith are honoured in Paradise. The sphere of Mars is that of the Church Militant.
MedIII:1 Divine Wisdom was one of the shaping forces of the Gates of Hell, and Hell itself.
MedLVIII:3 Dante associates excessive desire on the terrace where gluttony is purged, with the Tree of Knowledge in Eden, and the excessive desire for knowledge, and the disobedience, of the Fall. In turn this is linked to Satan’s disobedience, in the verses of the Inferno.
MedLIX:1 Statius explains the origin of the individual, unified, soul. After death it retains intellect, memory and will. The rational soul breathed into the individual by God persists after death, along with wisdom.
MedLXXVII:1 Dante is unable to express the brightness of the sphere of the Sun by any known means, intellect, art, or knowledge, but it can be a subject of faith and hope. The sphere of the Sun is that of prudence, practical wisdom.
MedVII:3 The Wrathful in the fifth circle are the last of the sinners punished for their lack of self-control in the upper reaches of Hell.
Lust, Gluttony, Avarice and Anger are these sins of incontinence.
MedXII:2 The Centaur Nessus signifies the anger involved in the violence of vengeance and other crimes involving force against others.
MedL:1 Marco Lombardo on the Third Terrace of the Mount of Purgatory expresses that anger that condemns the modern age, with its corrupted Empire and Papacy. This political wrath Dante must leave behind, untying the knot, and progressing to a calm understanding of existence.
MedLI:3 A sin arising from a wrong objective of rational Love. Related to Envy and Pride. An error in relationship in the presence of others, it is divisive of community. It wishes harm to others.