Before me things create were none, save things Eternal, and eternal I endure. All hope abandon, ye who enter here. Here they are shown entering the Gate of Hell. Once inside, they shall first pass through the region where the souls of the uncommitted those who lived their lives without doing anything notably good or bad reside.
They shall then be ferried by Charon across the river Acheron into Hell proper. Virgil is the right-hand figure in blue, Dante the left-hand one in grey. Notice how the greenery framing the outside of the gate contrasts with the bleak panorama of fire and ice inside. If you look carefully you can see tiny figures in torment on the hills.
These successive hills represent the different circles of hell, where the souls of people guilty of different sins are punished in an appropriate manner. Those guilty of the sin of lust, for example, are buffeted about by the winds of passion and desire in the second circle. In this circle people guilty of the sin of lust are whirled round and round in an unending storm. The storm, of course, represents irresistible passion. Among those being blown about are mythic and historical queens such as Helen of Troy and Cleopatra of Egypt. Dante, however, chooses to speak to Paolo and Francesca, famous lovers from Rimini.
Francesca had been married to the brave, but physically deformed Gianciotto. She was reading an Arthurian romance with his better-looking brother, Paolo, when passion got the better of them. Gianciotto, enraged, murdered them both, for which he was consigned to the deepest circle of Hell where Dante shall later meet him.
Dante is so moved by this romantic tale that he faints, hence his position flat on his back. Blake disapproved of Dante for depicting God as a vengeful judge, whose role was to inflict ingenious punishment similar to his own Urizen , and these details are his subtle protest. As we can see in poems such as The Garden Of Love , Blake himself believed that suppressing desire was a far worse crime than yielding to it.
Cerberus, cruel monster, fierce and strange, Through his wide threefold throat, barks as a dog Over the multitude immersed beneath. Cerberus is a monstrous three-headed dog who stood guard over Hades, the Hell of classical mythology.
Here in the Divine Comedy he stands guard over the third circle of Hell. He is always hungry, and will only allow Dante and Virgil to pass after they have placated him by throwing earth into his three mouths. It is the gluttons who are punished in this circle. Their fate is to lie wallowing in the mud like pigs, pelted by an endless storm of hail and snow, in the very opposite of luxury. The rest beneath was hid. On either foot The soles were burning; whence the flexile joints Glanced with such violent motion, as had snapt Asunder cords or twisted withes. As flame, Feeding on unctuous matter, glides along The surface, scarcely touching where it moves; So here, from heel to point, glided the flames.
Their punishment is to be thrust upside down in a stone hole, with the soles of their feet on fire. Dante has just been ranting against the corruption of the church, and against Nicholas in particular. Notice how Dante seems to have literally shrunk from fear.
Notice also the blue-lighting that gives an atmosphere of unworldly horror to this dynamic picture. In this picture Dante standing in the right hand corner finally meets Beatrice, who is the crowned figure on the chariot. She died when she was only 25 years old — hence her presence in the afterlife as the central figure of The Divine Comedy. Anxious that Dante had gone astray after her death, it was Beatrice who, in the scheme of the poem, arranged for Virgil to guide him through Hell and Purgatory.
She is veiled but Dante nonetheless senses who she is and begins to tremble. Beatrice, however, represents more than love. In the scheme of the poem she is divine revelation and grace. He is reunited with his lady-love, and at the same time is experiencing a revelation of the divine.
Imag(in)ing Dante: an illustrated manuscript of the Divine Comedy (with complete set of drawings)
Thus swift Follow their hoops, in likeness to the point, Near as they can, approaching; and they can The more, the loftier their vision. They are now close to God, and so nearly at the end of their journey.
This picture shows the angels arranged in concentric circles of light around the deity. Beatrice explains to Dante that the closer to God they stand, the brighter and the more powerful they are. God at the center is depicted as a bearded old man resembling Urizen. He steered straight for the shore, his ship so light and swift it drew no water; it did not seem to sail so much as soar. Astern stood the great pilot of the Lord, so fair his blessedness seemed written on him; and more than a hundred souls were seated forward,.
Verse after verse they made the air rejoice. The angel made the sign of the cross, and they cast themselves, at his signal, to the shore. Then, swiftly as he had come, he went away. The poets begin their laborious climb up the Mount of Purgatory. Partway up the steep path, Dante cries out to Virgil that he needs to rest.
The climb had sapped my last strength when I cried: "Sweet Father, turn to me: unless you pause I shall be left here on the mountainside! He pointed to a ledge a little ahead that wound around the whole face of the slope. His words so spurred me that I forced myself to push on after him on hands and knees until at last my feet were on that shelf.
THE DIVINE COMEDY Complete & Illustrated
Having ascended at last to the Garden of Eden, Dante is immersed in the waters of the Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, and helped across by the maiden Matilda. He drinks from the water, which wipes away all memory of sin. She had drawn me into the stream up to my throat, and pulling me behind her, she sped on over the water, light as any boat.
Nearing the sacred bank, I heard her say in tones so sweet I cannot call them back, much less describe them here: " Asperges me. Then the sweet lady took my head between her open arms, and embracing me, she dipped me and made me drink the waters that make clean. In the translation by Allen Mandelbaum, he writes:.
As in a fish pool that is calm and clear, the fish draw close to anything that nears from outside, it seems to be their fare, such were the far more than a thousand splendors I saw approaching us, and each declared: "Here now is one who will increase our loves. Upon reaching the Ninth Heaven, the Primum Mobile, Dante and his guide Beatrice look upon the sparkling circles of the heavenly host.
The Christian Beatrice, who personifies Divine Love, took over for the pagan Virgil, who personifies Reason, as Dante's guide when he reached the summit of Purgatory. And when I turned and my own eyes were met By what appears within that sphere whenever one looks intently at its revolution, I saw a point that sent forth so acute a light, that anyone who faced the force with which it blazed would have to shut his eyes, and any star that, seen from the earth, would seem to be the smallest, set beside that point, as star conjoined with star, would seem a moon.
Around that point a ring of fire wheeled, a ring perhaps as far from that point as a halo from the star that colors it when mist that forms the halo is most thick.
Divine Comedy Illustrated by Botticelli - Wikipedia
It wheeled so quickly that it would outstrip the motion that most swiftly girds the world. In the Empyrean, the highest heaven, Dante is shown the dwelling place of God. It appears in the form of an enormous rose, the petals of which house the souls of the faithful. Around the center, angels fly like bees carrying the nectar of divine love. So, in the shape of that white Rose, the holy legion has shown to me -- the host that Christ, with His own blood, had taken as His bride.
The other host, which, flying, sees and sings the glory of the One who draws its love, and that goodness which granted it such glory, just like a swarm of bees that, at one moment, enters the flowers and, at another, turns back to that labor which yields such sweet savor, descended into that vast flower graced with many petals, then again rose up to the eternal dwelling of its love.
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