the sixth and seventh circles of Purgatory

after having managed with Dante first the seven circles of lurid Hell,
then five in the much more tolerable Purgatory, I’ve reached the sixth
and seventh circles there of Lust and Gluttony, sins I have been more
particularly prone to
  
the egregious crimes of murder, fraud, treason, blasphemy, the stuff 
of very Hell, were never a concern for me, while the venial imperfections 
of pride, envy, wrath, sloth, Purgatory’s more tempered lot, would never,
surely, transcendentally confound me, I thought, should there be indeed
a Hell, a Heaven, or a Purgatory, notions incidentally that were first made
explicit by Dante himself in his “Divine Comedy“, no earlier topographical
description of the place had ever been written, later Bosch would paint his
Garden of Earthly Delights”  
 
we owe our notions of the Christian afterlife even still to Dante 
  
  
but where of course does all this fit in a universe we know to be infinite,
an idea itself, that last, that is no less awesome
 
somewhere above Olympus, the home of the Greek Gods, is where it sits,
I think, but beneath the canopy of the stars, which enclosed the earth then, 
but which dispersed, it would seem, of its own incorporeality when we’d
reached beyond  
 
  
at the terrace of Gluttony, a level that winds around the mountain,
Dante meets among emaciated shades – “shades”, he says, “that
seemed things dead twice over”, who hunger for instead of victuals
eternal life – Forese Donati, an old flame 
  
“how did you come so far so fast?”, he asks his bosom friend who’d died
only a short four years earlier  
  
“It is my Nella”, he replies, his wife
  
        “whose flooding tears so quickly brought me 
         to drink sweet wormwood in the torments. 
  
         With her devoted prayers and with her sighs,
         she plucked me from the slope where one must wait  
         and freed me from the other circles.”
   
but I think it was Dante himself who could never have consigned such a
privy buddy to anything short of Purgatory   
 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    and that was the terrace of Gluttony
 
tomorrow I do Lust   
 
 
upon moving towards that terrace, the last before reaching the
circles of Paradise, an angel blinds Dante with its radiance so that
he must turn away his eyes  
 
        “And as, announcing dawn, the breeze of May
          stirs and exudes a fragrance
          filled with the scent of grass and flowers,
 
          just such a wind I felt stroking my brow  
          and I could feel the moving of his feathers,
          my senses steeped in odor of ambrosia.” **

 

I wish you angels, and Heaven 
 
Richard 
 
 
*    “Purgatorio“, XXIII, 85-90 
**  “Purgatorio“, XXIV, 145-150 
 
                           translations by Robert and Jean Hollander

 

 

 

 

 

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