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Dante and the Rein of Avarice

The Divine Comedy with Dali's Illustrations: PURGATORIO

Part 4 of 6 (Cantos 19 to 24)


By B. John Zavrel



'THE HOARDERS AND WASTERS', woodcut # 54 by Salvador Dalí, illustrating Stanza # 20. This is the most mysterious of all the woodcuts in Dalí's series, which combines many elements of his style. He locates the souls in a rocky landscape, with stone arches which resemble a gate. On closer examination, the faces are recognizable. In the distance we can see mountains. On the left side of the picture, a fisherman is seen running with his net over his shoulder. It is a figure which we encounter often in Dalí's works, and which reminds us of the coasts of Port Lligat and Cadaques.


(19) Just before morning (when the truth is dreamed), Dante dreams of the Siren that lures the souls of men to crass worldliness. Hideous in her true form, the Siren grows irresistible in men's eyes as they look upon her. Aheavenly lady races in upon the dream and calls to Virgil. He strips the Siren, exposing her filthy body. Such a stench rises from her, that Dante wakens shuddering, and finds Virgil calling him to resume the journey. The Angel of Zeal shows them the passage. Arriving at the fifth cornice, Virgil inquires the way of one of the souls of the Hoarders and Wasters, who lie motionless and outstretched, bound hand and foot, with their faces in the dust.

(20) The poets walk on, and find the ledge so crowded with the souls of the Avaricious that only one narrow passage is left open to them. Dante hears a soul cry out the Whip of Avarice, a litany in praise of Mary, Fabricius and St. Nicholas. The sinner is Hugh Capet, who founded a dynasty which has degenerated into a succession of kings distinguished only by their bloodthirsty avarice. No sooner that they left Capet behind, Dante feels the mountain shake, as if stricken by an earthquake. He is frightened, but Virgil reassures him, as they move forward as fast as they can.


"THE FOUNTAIN", woodcut # 55 by Salvador Dalí, for stanza # 21.


(21) Burning with desire to know the cause of the "shock and shout," Dante hurries after Virgil along the narrow way. Sudenly, they meet a new soul. It is Statius, and he explains that these phenomena occur only when a soul rises from its final purification and begins its ascent to Heaven. The newcomer tells them his history, anding with a statement of his admiration of he works of Virgil. Dante cannot suppress a smile, and when Statius asks Dante to explains, he tells him that he is actually standing in the presence of Virgil.

(22) By now the Poets have passed the Angel who guards the ascent, and Dante has had one more P removed from his forehead. So lightened, he walks easily behind Virgil and Statius. Statius explains that his sin was that of Wasting. But it was Virgil's poetry that led him to see his error. Statius then names his favorite poets of qntiquity and asks where they are. Virgil replies that they are with him in Limbo. He then cites many who have not been mentioned before as being among his eternal companions. At this point, the Poets arrive at the sixth cornice. Moving to the right, they come upon an enormous tree laden with fruits. From its foliage a voice cries out the examples of abstinence and moderation that constitute the Whip of Gluttony.


"THE GLUTTONS", woodcut # 57 by Salvador Dalí, for stanza # 23.


(23) Dante stares up into the tree to see who has spoken, but he is called away by Virgil, who keeps going forward with Statius. Dante follows, drinking in their conversation. Suddenly, a band of Gluttons overcomes them. The souls are very emaciated. After some difficulty, Dante recognizes one of the hideously wasted souls as his old friend Forese, who had died only five years before. He made such fast progress due to the prayers of his widow, Nella, and praises her for her devotion. In response to Forese's plea, Dante explains how he has mounted into Purgatory and with whom he is traveling. 

(24) The Poets move on, as Dante continues his talk with Forese, who identifies many of the souls of the Gluttons. Then he questions Dante about his style of poetry, and finally, after his prophesy of the death of his brother, Corso Donati, leader of the Black Guelphs, he speeds away and disappears. The Poets move on, and come to the Tree of Knowledge, from which a voice cries the Rein of Gluttony, citing Eve, the Centaurs, and the army of Gideon. Having skirted the tree carefully, warned away by the voice, the Poets move ahead and meet the Angel of Abstinence, who shows them to the ascent.



 Dante Alighieri's & Salvador Dalí's "Divine Comedy": PURGATORY ...

Dante Climbs from Sin to Repentance, by B. John Zavrel (Part 1 of 6) 

Dante's passage through the Needle's Eye, by B. John Zavrel (Part 2 of 6)

Dante and the Whip of Wrath, by B. John Zavrel (Part 3 of 6)

Dante and the Rein of Avarice, by B. John Zavrel (Part 4 of 6)

Dante and the Lustful (Part 5 of 6)

Dante and Beatrice in the Earthly Paradise (Part 6 of 6)



© PROMETHEUS 112/2006

PROMETHEUS, Internet Bulletin - News, Politics, Art and Science. Nr. 112, October 2006