Sunday, February 18, 2007

Is Dante Trying to Remind Us of Something...

While I was reading the Purgatorio in the Envy Canto's (XIIV, XIV, XV) I started to notice that they are numerous allusions to the sun, or to light. In fact, I found at least seven such occasions, of which I made note throughout the three Canto's of Envy. My first conclusion about Dante and his talk of the sun was, "the Sun is mentioned so often because the people in this level of the Purgatorio (I think in italics) are blind and so they can't see the sun. But they can feel it's warmth, so it serves as like the warmth of God, but since they are in the shadows of the cliff they cannot feel the sun, and therefore to feel God's touch they much get past their envy and step into the light." Pretty simple conclusion for most people, assuming you have been to a church sermon in the past. My thought was also spurred on further when I read Dante the characters personal thought which was what truly helped me com to my own conclusion, if only it is a translation of his own.

"Just as the sun does not reach to their sight,
so to those shades of which I spoke just now
God's rays refuse to offer their delight;" (Canto XIII, lines 67-69, p. 393)

This seems right on target...maybe. Much of what Dante writes is, as we all know, allegory and alludes to other things -at least according to scholars and Professor Anderson (present company not excluded)- much more far fetched than the suns rays being like the warming touch of God, right? But then I looked back at the first time that Virgil looks to the sun for guidance and I remembered that he, on Earth and still in the afterlife, was a Pagan. Which spurred on my thoughts.

What Virgil says about, or rather to, the sun is this;

"Then he looked up and stared straight at the sun...,

'O Blessed Lamp, we face the road ahead
placing our faith in you: lead us the way
that we should go in this new place,' he said

'You are the warmth of the world, you are its light;
if other cause do not urge otherwise,
your rays alone should serve to lead us right.' " (p. 392)

This is said before, not after, the quote above from Dante. Thinking further I remembered that Virgil, on Earth, was a Pagan. From my understanding of Pagan beliefs, they worshiped the Earth and the Sun was seen as one of, if not the most, central part to many Pagans' religious practices. It was almost as if Dante was pointing out that Virgil, even though a great man, is still a Pagan and that we as readers must remember that that is the reason he cannot enter heaven, or rather leave purgatory (Baptism being the main reason). Assuming that my thoughts are correct, or at least leaning in a good direction, I think that Virgil saying this in the level of Envy is fitting because he is, or possibly is, a little envious of Dante because he is getting what appears to be "special treatment" from God, and Virgil is still stuck in The Purgatorio. So it might be Virgil's way of cursing God because he feels that he is being treated unfairly and this may possibly be the point at which Dante begins to pull away from, or start to realize that Virgil can only teach him so much.
I don't know what everybody is going to think about this but hey, that is what the blog is here for.

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