Welcome to Goat Rope's Fun with Dante series. You will also find links and comments about current events. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts.
El Cabrero's goal for all of this is to encourage you, Gentle Reader, to give the Divine Comedy a try, whether it's for the first or fifteenth time.
Here's how it's structured. There are three main canticles or parts (often published as separate volumes): Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, which describe the Pilgrim's guided tour of the afterlife. I heard once that all three had a total of 14,000 lines in the original, although I've never stopped to count.
Each canticle has 33 cantos, which are like chapters. Inferno has one extra one by way of introduction. In the original Italian, the canticles all rhymed and had the same meter. English translations vary.The canticles are fairly short, so it's no big deal to get through one a day.
Each of the three volumes or canticles ends with the word "stars." After going all the way through hell and coming up on the other side of the world, Inferno ends with "And we stood once more beneath the stars."
After climbing the mountain of Purgatory in that volume, the Pilgrim is "eager now to rise, ready for the stars" as he prepares to tour Heaven.
Finally, after gaining a vision of God at the highest heaven (or at least as much as he could handle), he describes himself as fully in tune with "the love that moves the sun and the other stars."
You'll probably be seeing stars as well by the time you make it through. El Cabrero sure did.
One other thing about the main characters of Dante, Virgil and Beatrice. They are themselves, but they are also more. Dante the poet is a character in his poem, but he kind of represents all of us. Virgil is the great Roman poet, but he also represents human reason and effort. As a pagan who died before Christian revelation, he lacks supernatural grace but is still pretty awesome. Beatrice, on the other hand, was a real woman in life but as a character in Heaven represents divine grace.
The point seems to be that to gain the vision of God in Paradise, we need divine grace but we also have to use our reason and make our own efforts. Reason can't get us all the way there, just as Virgil can't cross the threshold to Paradise, but it is important and can help us on the way. In fact, Virgil describes the souls in hell as "those who lost the good of intellect."
Next week: the tour continues.
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