Danteblogging Purgatory XXVIII

Purgatory Canto XXVIII
The Inferno began in a dark forest, the selva oscura of Inferno I.2. Purgatory is ending in another dark forest, but one without fear and threats. Dante is wandering into the Earthly Paradise, la selva antica, the ancient forest (Purg XXVIII.23), when he finds a stream.

Dimly and darkly here it rushes by
  under the everlasting shade that never
  allows a ray of sun or moon within.
(Purg XXVIII.31-33)

On the other side of the stream Dante sees a lady whose name will not be revealed until Beatrice names her in Canto XXXIII. She is Matelda, and Esolen assures us that no one has been able to pin her to any historic person. She takes over as guide here. Virgil has fallen silent.
Matelda tells Dante about this place, which is Paradise, lifted up after the expulsion of Adam and Eve. The two streams, though, rather than the Biblical four rivers, are Lethe, the classical river of forgetfulness, and Eunoe, “good memories” (Purg XXVIII.131). That’s another burst of inventiveness from Dante – and a pseudo-Greek word at that!
The canto ends with a typical linking of Dante’s cosmos with the classical world – Matelda says that insofar as the classical poets sang about Parnassus and a golden age they were talking about this place,

For here the human race was innocent;
  forever spring, and fruit upon the vine.
  This is the nectar which the poets meant.
(Purg XXVIII.142-144)

In a moment of remarkable intimacy, Dante looks back at Statius and Virgil and names them miei poeti, “my poets” (146). The relationship has changed from Virgil as guide, protector, and father and Statius as interlocutor and companion to something different. “My poets.”
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Danteblogging Purgatory XXVII

Purgatory Canto XXVII
Canto XXVII begins with Dante’s greatest personal pain in the Commedia. The angel guardian of the next door says to the pilgrims, “Holy souls, you pass no farther on / unless you’re bitten by the fire” (Purg XXVII.10-11). He names Dante a “holy soul!” Talk about progress and healing! But Dante is still afraid, scared to death.

So did he say to us when we drew near,
  and I was like a corpse put in the grave,
  the words I heard so touched my heart with fear.
I joined my hands and stretched them to the flames,
  gazing, seeing too sharply in my mind
  bodies I’d seen die burning at the stake.
(Purg XXVII.13-18).

At the stake is a little strong for the Italian, which is only “which I had seen burned,” già veduti accessi. But maybe that “burned” is to be understood as more actively done to the bodies than people who happen to have been caught in fires. Certainly Dante could have seen people burned.
Virgil reminds Dante of all the troubles they’ve been through to no effect, until he brings up Beatrice. Then Dante is willing to test the flame. Virgil goes first, Statius brings up the rear.

The blazes there inside did so surpass
  all measure, that to feel the cool again
  I’d haveflung myself into boiling glass.
But my sweet father spoke of Beatrice
  with every step he took, to comfort me:
  “I think I can already see her eyes.”
(Purg XXVII.49-54)

I’ve played with boiling glass at the Corning Museum of Glass. That’s vivid.
The pilgrims pass out of the fre and start up the last flight of stairs just as the sun sets – so they each take a step and go to sleep. Dante has a detailed dream of Leah, who talks about her sister Rebecca — and Leah is to Rebecca as Martha is to Mary, active and contemplative.
When they wake they finish that final staircase. Standing at the top, Virgil speaks his last words to Dante (though he will accompany Dante and Statius silently for a few more canti). Virgil tells Dante that he has led him by strength of mind (reason) and art (poetry?), but can go no further. He pushes Dante to accept his freedom as priest, prophet, and king — the baptismal promises.

No longer wait for what I do or say.
  Your judgment now is free and whole and true;
  to fail to follow its will would be to stray.
Lord of yourself I crown and miter you.
(Purg XVII.139-142).

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Danteblogging Purgatory XXVI

Purgatory Canto XXVI
So the pilgrims (including Statius) are walking gingerly in single file along the rim, air to the right and a wall of flame to the left. The sun casts his shadow onto the flame, and that stirs the interest of souls again. They put it two ways — talking among themselves they say “It loks as if his body is not false” (Purg XXVI.12). That fittizio, “fictitious, false,” is interesting so soonafter the disquisition in XXV on the airy bodies the souls assemble.
More beautiful comes a little later, when they address Dante directly. “Tell how you’re a wall / against the sun” (Purg XXVI.22-3). Wall against the sun! I like that.
Dante notes that the souls come to the edge of the flame to approach him, but never leave it. That’s a strong statement of their acceptance of their correction. The canto will end by calling the flame foco che li afina, “refining fire.” This fire hurts – but it hurts in a way they accept.
The souls here are being purged of lust. Interesting, though; Dante seems to have disposed of them in the Inferno in separate places. The Circle of the Lustful was the second circle of Hell, Canto V. Only heterosexual lust was mentioned, and Paolo and Francesca were the interlocutors. The sodomites were much further down — in the Circle of the Violent, Canti XV and XVI, where the interlocutor in one was Brunetto Latini and the other was the gang of fire-slick Florentines.
The souls here are both persuasions, being corrected together — and their correction has gone so far they can greet each other with a kiss that is the kiss of peace rather than of lust (Purg XXVI.31), and their striving is friendly There is shouting, but it’s jocular, claiming their shame (is this the only shouting in Purgatory?).
Dante makes another one of those odd jabs at Caesar here — Caesar, who Dante puts in Limbo and whose assassins he saw chomped by Satan. Still, Dante remembers Suetonius’s report that when Caesar entered Rome as a triumphator, his soldiers hailed him as Queen of Bithynia, because he had supposedly spent his hitch as a legatus in Bithynia having an affair with the king. Dante’s attitude toward emperors is no simpler than his attitude toward popes. He loves the idea of empire and would like a more ideal papacy, but he spots human weakness.
Dante’s interlocutors here, like Brunetto Latini among the sodomites, are poets and beloved teachers – Guinizelli and Arnaut Daniel. We last recalled Dante’s debt to Guinizelli in canto XXIV, when he talked with Bonogiunta of Lucca. Bonogiunta, who had dismissed the fancy love poetry of Guinizelli and Dante in life is the one now calls it dolce stil novo (Purg XXIV.57). Arnaut Daniel delivers the longest bit in a language other than Tuscan in the poem — 8 lines of Provençal.
Clearly these are two love poets who lived out their poetry. Perhaps Dante is suggesting that if Beatrice had been alive he would have tried? Certainly he will have to pass through the flame in the next canto.
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Branding from HELL

I was amused to see at a T.J. Maxx today that the Palm steak house has gone whole hog for branding. I almost bought a casserole, but it had a branded handle. I settled for le Creuset, which is at least not marked where you can see it.
This evening I’m perusing an Amazon sale on home goods and find this: Jeep Off Road 80-inch by 63-inch Tailored Panel Pairs. What can be Off Road about curtains? Lest you think I’m exaggerating, and that this is a mistake, one could also buy Jeep Extreme 80-inch by 63-inch Tailored Panel Pairs. I, for once, think that tailoring your panel pairs makes them automatically neither extreme nor off road.
I bought a mattress pad. It is just a mattress pad.

Danteblogging Purgatory XXV

Purgatory Canto XXV
Dante finally asks a question in Canto XXV that may have been bothering some of us — how can the souls of the Gluttonous get so skinny when they don’t need nourishment in Purgatory? Virgil says very briefly that it’s all about the link between you and your reflection in a mirror. Statius will explain at great length and with the medieval technical understanding of embryology, complete with refutation of Averroes and an acceptance of Thomist models. Funny, the process Statius describes reminds me of those old ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny diagrams. The generation by blood on blood is a little off, but then we become a plant – or have the vegetative soul. Then we are “like a sea sponge,” then we become an animal, and then a child (Purg XXV 52-61).
I still don’t quite see why, even given all this, the disembodied soul after death has to create a facsimile body while it waits for the resurrection, but there you go — I’m kind of theologically impaired.
More interesting is that at the end of the canto as they walk round a corner they see a blast of flame that almost reaches the rim. They are about to enter the place where “the last wound of all,” lust, is healed.
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What I mean is . . .


Here you go. I’m spending this whole semester explaining that I don’t hate William Blake or Gustave Doré for illustrating Dante rather than slavishly sticking to the text — they are autonomous artists. Secondary adaptations and performances aren’t wrong! They’re independent.
And if you don’t believe that listen to the intertextual referentiality about other people who’ve sung this version (Bobby Darrin and Louis Armstong) and Ella singing about the fact that’s she’s making a record and singing it (“We’ve swung it, we’ve sung it!”).