Thursday, February 11, 2010


Dante and Virgil, his guide, have just reached the first circle of hell. This is where all the good people who lived before Jesus hang out now, as well as those virtuous folk who neglected to be baptized while alive. Since they didn't go through Jesus, they can't get into heaven, but since they weren't bad, they don't actually go to hell either.

I'm no biblical scholar, but I have in my mind that that was the standard view back in those days. These lines from Virgil, however, seem to me like Dante thought this was lame.

"They did not sin; and yet, though they have merits,
That's not enough, because they lacked baptism,
the portal of the faith that you embrace.
And if they lived before Christianity,
they did not worship God in fitting ways;
and of such spirits I myself am one.
For these defects, and for no other evil,
We now are lost and punished just with this:
We have no hpe and yet we live in longing."
Great sorrow seized my heart on hearing him,
For I had seen some estimable men
Among the souls suspended in the limbo.

Of course, Dante could just be lamenting that the accident of when they were born causes them to suffer for all of their days, but there's not much to be done about it. Also, since I am unable to read this in its original Italian, perhaps I am losing something in the translation.

1 comment:

Mom said...

Didn't Abbie learn Italian when she was a classics major?
You know what occurred to me today--if you and I both check your blog more than once a day to see if anybody left any comments, maybe we are the only readers?! (Except Sarah, Abbie, and Mrs. Haid) I am going to click on "Email follow-up comments to myself" from now on so I won't keep checking and skew your statistics! I never noticed that before.