~The Divine Comedy

The Inferno by Dante Alighieri

translated by Robert & Jean Hollander

(New York: Anchor/Penguin, 1320/2000), 694

Inferno Canto 1 - Prologue

Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
for the straight way was lost.
Inferno Canto 1. 1-3

  • the first line echoes Is-38: !Is-38
  • "half" his life is 35 or half of 3 score and ten cf. Ps-90: !Ps-90
  • journey of "our" life: his journey is ours as well

And then a she-wolf who, all hide and bones,
seemed charged with all the appetites
that have made many live in wretchedness
Inferno Canto 1. 49-51



'Have mercy on me, whatever you are,'
Inferno Canto 1. 65

Inferno Canto 2 - Prologue

We should fear those things alone
that have the power to harm.
Inferno Canto 2. 88-89 (Beatrice)

Inferno Canto 3 - The Gates of Hell

Abandon all hope, you who enter here.

And he to me: 'This miserable state is borne
by the wretched souls of those who lived
without disgrace yet without praise.
Inferno Canto 3. 34-35

  • This is the "anti-inferno" or vestibule of hell for the neutrals who never took a side, cf. Rv-03. But mustn't we ultimately embrace God or reject Him?

They have no hope of death,
and their blind life is so abject
that they are envious of every other lot.
Inferno Canto 3. 46-48

  • 52-57: Dante's contrapasso: punishment in his hell is the application of the opposite of the sin
  • 58-60: "the great refusal" perhaps refers to Pope Celestine V who abdicated the papacy in 1294 (followed by Benedict XVI in 2013) and was later canonized

Inferno Canto 4 - Limbo

Limbo for Dante includes the virtuous pagans and unbaptized infants (compare with St. Thomas Aquinas's limbo including the Hebrew saints and unbaptized infants), who are aware of the better life that is denied them:

They did not sin. Though they have merit,
that is not enough, for they were unbaptized,
denied the gateway to the faith that you profess.




And if they lived before the Christians lived,
they did not worship God aright.
Inferno Canto 4. 34-38



When I understood, great sadness seized my heart,
for then I knew that being of great worth
were here suspended in this Limbo.
Inferno Canto 4. 43-45

First reference to Christ:

I was new to this condition when I saw
a mighty one descend, crowned, with a sign of victory.
Inferno Canto 4. 53-54

Inferno Canto 5 - Lust

We can either confess our sins to a priest (and obtain absolution), or to Minos to assign our place in hell:

There stands Minos, snarling, terrible.
He examines each offender at the entrance,
judges and dispatches as he encoils himself.


I mean that when the ill-begotten soul
stands there before him it confesses all,
and that accomplished judge of sins


decides what place in Hell is fit for it,
then coils his tail around himself to count
how many circles down the soul must go.
Inferno Canto 5. 4-12

Echoes Mt-07:

Don't let the easy entrance fool you.
Inferno Canto 5. 20

Dante's definition of lust is making "reason subject to desire". Hollander's notes reference the lust of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land 222-248

they who make reason subject to desire.
Inferno Canto 5.39

There is no intercession in hell:

if the King of the universe were our friend
we would pray that he might give you peace
Inferno Canto 5. 91-92

This is the sad analogy to Jb-01 (Hollander's notes also reference Consolation of Philosophy by Boëtius: "among fortune's many adversities the most unhappy kind is once to have been happy"):

And she said to me: 'There is no greater sorrow
than to recall our time of joy
in wretchedness—and this your teacher knows.
Inferno Canto 5. 121-123

Inferno Canto 6 - Gluttony

For the pernicious fault of gluttony,
as you can see, I'm prostrate in this rain.
Inferno Canto 6. 53-54



Pride, envy, and avarice are the sparks
that have set the hearts of all on fire.
Inferno Canto 6. 74-75

Inferno Canto 7 - Avarice & Prodigality

And why do our sins so waste us?
Inferno Canto 7. 21



No you see, my son, what brief mockery
Fortune makes of goods we trust her with,
for which the race of men embroil themselves.


All the gold that lies beneath the moon,
or ever did, could never give a moment's rest
to any of these wearies souls.
Inferno Canto 7. 61-66

The three kinds of anger for Aristotle and Thomas: choleric (comes and departs quickly), bitter (not released easily), and difficult (hostile and directed against those it should not be):

And I, my gaze transfixed, could see
people with angry faces in that bog,
naked, their bodies smeared with mud.


They struck each other with their hands,
their heads, their chests and feet,
and tore each other with their teeth.
Inferno Canto 7. 109-114

Inferno Canto 8 - Anger & Sullenness

Reader, how could I not lose heart
at the sound of these accursèd words?
I thought I would never make it back.
Inferno Canto 8. 94-96

Inferno Canto 9 - Heresy

The Furies represent the three main categories of sin: incontinence, violence, and fraud.

O you who have sound intellects,
consider the teaching that is hidden
behind the veil of these strange verses.
Inferno Canto 9. 61-63



Why do you kick against that will
which never can be severed from its purpose?
Inferno Canto 9. 94-95



For here the graves were strewn with flames
that made them glow with heat
hotter than iron is before it's worked.


All their covers were propped open and from them
issued such dire lamentation it was clear
it came from wretches in despair and pain.
Inferno Canto 9. 118-123

Heresy is a sin of the will due to the obstinacy of error (cf. 2021-08-12-Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 5, a. 3).

Inferno Canto 10 - Epicurians

Epicurus: virtue was to be practiced because it led to happiness (the Stoics held that virtue should be cultivated for its own sake. To Dante, Epicurianism is "the pleasure principle", or "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die" (cf 1 Cor-15).

Here Epicurus and all his followers,
who hold the soul dies with the body,
have their burial place.
Inferno Canto 10. 13-15



We see, like those with faulty vision,
things at a distance, he replied. That much,
for us, the mighty Ruler's light still shines.
Inferno Canto 10. 100-102

Inferno Canto 11 - Order of Hell

Every evil deed despised in Heaven
has as its end injustice. Each such end
harms someone else through either force or fraud.


But since the vice of fraud is man's alone,
it more displeases God, and thus the fraudulent
are lower down, assailed by greater pain
Inferno Canto 11. 22-27

2021-10-16 Question on Usury:

That human toil, as far as it is able,
follows nature, as the pupil does his master,
so that it is God's grandchild, as it were.


By toil and nature, if you remember Genesis,
near the beginning, it is man's lot
to earn his bread and prosper.


The usurer, who takes another path,
scorns nature in herself and in her follower,
and elsewhere sets his hopes.
Inferno Canto 11. 103-111

Inferno Canto 12 - Violence

Progress & History: "This 'circular' theory of history is intrinsically opposed to the Christian view, in which Christ's establishment of love is as a universal principle redeemed history once and for all." (230)

The river of blood that scalds
those who by violence do injury to others.


O blind covetousness, insensate wrath,
which in this brief life goad us on and then,
in the eternal, steep us in such misery!
Inferno Canto 12. 47-51



Around the moat they go in thousands,
shooting arrows at any soul that rises
higher from the blood than guilt allows.
Inferno Canto 12. 73-75

Inferno Canto 13 - Suicide

Such pity fills my heart
Inferno Canto 13. 84

St. Jerome's comment on Ps-08: "Judas offended God more greatly by hanging himself than by betraying Him." (253)

Inferno Canto 14 - Blasphemy

And here the dreadful work of justice is revealed.
Inferno Canto 14. 6

Contrapasso:

What I was alive, I am in death.
Inferno Canto 14. 51



Because your pride remains unquenched
you suffer greater punishment.
In your own anger lies your agony,
a fitting torment for your rage.
Inferno Canto 14. 63-66

Inferno Canto 15

video: Primo Levi's Survival In Auschwitz tells of how he recited lines from the Inferno to remember his humanity in Auschwitz

By following your star
you cannot fail to reach a glorious port
Inferno Canto 15. 55-56

Writing:

You taught me how man makes himself immortal.
Inferno Canto 15. 85

Inferno Canto 16

The three...looked at one another
as men do when they face the truth
Inferno Canto 16. 76-78



Ah, how cautious we should be with those
who do not see our actions only,
but with their wisdom peer into our thoughts!
Inferno Canto 16. 118-120



To a truth that bears the face of falsehood
a man should seal his lips if he is able,
for it might shame him, through no fault of his
Inferno Canto 16. 124-126

Inferno Canto 17 - 2021-10-16 Question on Usury

Behold the one whose stench afflicts the world!
Inferno Canto 17. 3

Inferno Canto 18 - Seducers & Flatterers

I watched horned demons armed with heavy scourges
lashing them cruelly from behind.


Ah, how they made them pick their heels up
at the first stroke! You may be certain
no one waited for a second or a third.
Inferno Canto 18. 35-39

Inferno Canto 19 - Simoniacs

O Simon Magus, o wretches of his band,
greedy for gold and silver,
who prostitute the things of God.
Inferno Canto 19. 1-3



O Supreme Wisdom, what great art you show
in Heaven, on earth, and in the evil world,
and what true justice does your power dispense!
Inferno Canto 19. 10-12



Along the sides and bottom I could see
the livid stone was pierced with holes,
all round and of a single size.
...
From the mouth of each stuck out
a sinner's feet and legs up to the thighs
while all the rest stayed in the hole.


They all had both their soles on fire.
Inferno Canto 19. 13-25



Please tell me, how much treasure
did our Lord insist on from Saint Peter
before He gave the keys into his keeping?
Surely He asked no more than "Follow me"
Inferno Canto 19. 90-93

cf. Lk-16, Mt-06:

You have wrought yourselves a god of gold and silver.
How then do you differ from those who worship idols
except they worship one and you a hundred?
Inferno Canto 19. 112-114

Inferno Canto 20

Their faces were reversed upon their shoulders
so that they came on walking backward,
since seeing forward was denied them.
Inferno Canto 20. 13-15



Here piety lives when pity is quite dead.
Who is more impious than one who thinks
that God shows passion in His Judgment?
Inferno Canto 20. 28-30

Inferno Canto 21

Let us proceed, for it is willed in Heaven
that I guide another down this savage way.
Inferno Canto 21. 83-84



They aimed their hooks, and one said to another:
How about I nick him on the rump?
Inferno Canto 21. 100-101

Inferno Canto 22

Caught him with his grapple by the arm
and, ripping, gouged out a hunk of flesh.
Inferno Canto 22. 71-72

Inferno Canto 23

Caiaphas:

but said no more, for one there caught my eye,
fixed cross-wise to the ground by three short stakes
...
That man you see nailed down
advised the Pharisees it was the better course
that one man should be martyred for the people.
Inferno Canto 23. 110-111, 115-117

Inferno Canto 24

Now you must cast off Sloth, my master said.
Sitting on feather cushions or stretched out
under comforters, no one comes to fame.
Inferno Canto 24. 46-48



Their hands were tied behind their backs with snakes
that thrust their heads and tails between the legs
and joined, knotting themselves in front.


And behold, one of these souls was near our ridge
when a serpent launched and pierced him through
right were the neck and shoulders join.


Never has 'o' nor even 'i' been writ so quick
as he caught fire and burned, turned,
in the very act of falling, into ashes.


And as he lay unmade upon the ground,
the dust regathered of its own accord
and suddenly he was himself again.
Inferno Canto 24. 94-105

Inferno Canto 25

The soul just now become a brute takes flight,
hissing through the hollow, and the other,
by way of speaking, spits after him.
Inferno Canto 25. 136-138

Inferno Canto 26

Ulysses:

each flame conceals a sinner
Inferno Canto 26. 42

Inferno Canto 27

One may not be absolved without repentance,
nor repent and wish to since concurrently—
a simple contraction not allowed.
Inferno Canto 27. 118-210

Inferno Canto 28 - Scandal and Schism

Scandal and schism, cf. 2021-08-12-Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 43, a. 1

Mohammed:

Between the legs the entrails dangled. I saw
the innards and the loathsome sack
that turns what one has swallowed into shit.


While I was caught up in the sight of him,
he looked at me and, with his hands, ripped apart
his chest, saying: 'See how I rend myself'
Inferno Canto 28. 25-30



I truly saw, and seem to see it still,
a headless body make its way
like all the others in that dismal flock.


And by its hair he held his severed head
swinging in his hand as if it were a lantern.
The head stared at us and said: 'Oh, woe!'
Inferno Canto 28. 118-123

"The word contrapasso is generally understood to be based on an Aristotelian term in its Latin translation, contrapassum, used in the same sense that the biblical concept of retribution, expressed in the Latin lex talionis (the taking of an eye for an eye, etc.), is understood to have." (529)

Inferno Canto 29

And my leader: I am one who makes his way
down with this living man from ledge to ledge.
And my intention is to show him Hell.
Inferno Canto 29. 94-96

Inferno Canto 30 - Impersonators, Counterfeiters, Perjurers

For the wish to hear such things is degrading.
Inferno Canto 30. 148

Reference to hard money, cf. 2021-03-14-The Bitcoin Standard (560)

Inferno Canto 31 - Pride

The Song of Roland (cf. Inferno Canto 31. 18)

When you are nearer, you will understand
how much your eyesight is deceived by distance.
Therefore, push yourself a little harder.
Inferno Canto 31. 25-27



For when the power of throught
is coupled with ill will and naked force
there is no refuge from it for mankind
Inferno Canto 31. 55-57

Inferno Canto 32

As a famished man will bite into his bread,
the one above had set his teeth into the other
just where the brain's stem leaves the spinal cord.
Inferno Canto 32. 127-129

Inferno Canto 33

Father, we would suffer less
if you would feed on us: you clothed us
in this wretched flesh—now strip it off.


Then, not to increase their grief, I calmed myself.
That day and the next we did not speak a word.
O hard earth, why did you not engulf us?
Inferno Canto 33. 61-66



Know that the moment when a soul betrays
as I did, its body is taken by a devil
who has it then in his control
until the time allotted it has run.
Inferno Canto 33. 129-132

Inferno Canto 34

Satan:

If he was fair as he is hideous now,
and raised his brow in scorn of his creator,
he is fit to be the source of every sorrow.


Oh, what a wonder it appeared to me
when I perceived three faces on his head.
Inferno Canto 34. 34-37



With his teeth, just like a hackle
pounding flax, he champed a sinner
in each mouth, tormenting three at once.
Inferno Canto 34. 55-57


Source: 100 Days of Dante

New Words

  • Caduceus: the staff carried by Hermes in Greek mythology (9. 82-83)
  • Etiological myths: are those myths that explain origins and causes (272)
  • Poultice: also called a cataplasm, is a paste made of herbs, plants, and other substances with healing properties (437)

Created: 2021-09-16-Thu
Updated: 2022-02-16-Wed