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Vertical Readings in Dante's Comedy. Volume 2

 | 
George Corbett
, 
Heather Webb

22. Truth, Autobiography and the Poetry of Salvation

Giuseppe Ledda

Texte intégral

Vertical Diptychs

1Many of the ‘vertical readers’ who have come before me have examined the reasons that make the experiment of a complete vertical reading of the Commedia compelling, while also remarking on the care with which this critical exercise must be approached. Without adding to the valid reflections that have already been offered on these methodological issues, I will concentrate on the three twenty-second cantos, which are of extraordinary interest. Reading them vertically will allow us to identify particular trajectories of meaning that are developed throughout the three canticles.

  • 1 Interesting readings of the two cantos are offered by Michelangelo Picone, ‘Baratteria e stile comi (...)

2The first element common to all three is the close relationship that each twenty-second canto has with the preceding canto, the twenty-first. In fact, the critical tradition assigns to cantos xxi and xxii the classification of closely connected canto pairs. Inferno xxi and xxii are both dedicated to the bolgia of the barrators, the fifth in the eighth circle. In the first canticle, this is an exceptional fact, because up to this point only one canto, or merely one part of a canto, has been dedicated to one individual region. The extended attention to a single region is counterbalanced by the complexity of the episode dedicated to this bolgia and by the movement Dante and Virgil have been forced into by the trickery of the Malebranche demons. The latter, at the instruction of their leader Malacoda, guides them along the embankment between the fifth and sixth bolgia looking for a bridge over the sixth bolgia that hasn’t collapsed — in reality a bridge that does not exist. But it is thanks to this deception that the travellers can observe the condition of the damned, who emerge from the boiling pitch seeking a moment’s relief, and then immediately sink back down so as not to be caught by the demons. Furthermore, they are able to witness the capture of one of the damned, and talk to him, and find out about his other fellow sufferers.1

  • 2 For exellent examples of conjunct readings of these two cantos see Andrea Battistini, ‘L’acqua dell (...)
  • 3 See Teodolinda Barolini, Dante’s Poets: Textuality and Truth in the ‘Comedy’ (Princeton, NJ: Prince (...)

3In Purgatorio xxi–xxii the movement is from the fifth to the sixth terrace. The ceremony of the encounter with the angel, which includes the recitation of the Beatitude and the erasure of the P from Dante’s forehead, however, is skipped over, evoked as having already taken place at the beginning of canto xxii. All of the attention is concentrated on the encounter between Virgil and Statius, the narrative object that makes cantos xxi–xxii a unit, defined by critics as ‘the Statius cantos’.2 Statius has finished serving his sentence in the terrace of the avaricious and prodigal. He introduces himself as a poet influenced by Virgil; then as indebted to Virgil also for his moral conversion from the vice of prodigality to virtue, and finally from paganism to the Christian faith. These are cantos of great importance for their reflections on poetry, on the relationship between classical and Christian culture, and between Virgil and Dante.3

  • 4 For an exemplary conjunct reading of these two cantos see Giuseppe Mazzotta, ‘Contemplazione e Poes (...)

4In Paradiso, the unity of the xxi–xxii pair is apparent as well: they are the two cantos dedicated to the seventh sphere, Saturn, and the encounter with a pair of contemplative spirits who represent the sanctity of monasticism: Peter Damian (xxi) and Benedict (xxii).4 This part completes a fundamental structure of Paradiso: the double hagiographic diptych found in the cantos dedicated to the fourth and the seventh spheres, in perfect symmetry. In the sphere of the sun there is in fact the diptych of Francis (xi) and Dominic (xii), both founders of the mendicant orders.

5Reading these three pairs of cantos vertically, with particular attention to the Twenty-Twos, I was surprised, indeed, by the number of commonalities. Often these are thematic elements that are spread throughout the entire poem, but in these three cantos the repetitions are evident, numerous and significant. For instance, one first element is provided by the presence of the otherworldly ministers of the various realms, devils and angels. This is only a seemingly obvious fact, because the presence of Malebranche devils is exceptional, insofar as in Dante’s Hell there are very few devils. Another pervasive theme in the poem is that of flight and vertical movement, of descent and ascent, a theme which has original and interesting developments in these cantos. Furthermore, all three of the Twenty-Twos are cantos of movement. In the Inferno canto, the movement takes place within the bolgia of the barrators; in Purgatorio, from the fifth to the sixth terrace; in Paradiso, after their encounter with Benedict, Dante and Beatrice ascend from Saturn to the Fixed Stars. I cannot approach all these topics here. Instead, in what follows, I shall focus on a series of correspondences and oppositions which I consider inter-related and of particular relevance to truth, autobiography and the poetry of salvation.

Infernal Darkness and the Light of Paradise

  • 5 See Simon A. Gilson, Medieval Optics and Theories of Light in the Works of Dante (Lewiston, NY: Edw (...)
  • 6 See also Marco Ariani, Lux inaccessibilis. Metafore e teologia della luce nel ‘Paradiso’ di Dante ( (...)

6The opposition between infernal darkness and the light of Paradise is a common motif.5 In cantos xxi–xxii of the Inferno, the darkness of the shadows is emphasized by the blackness of the pitch: thus the bolgia seems from the very beginning ‘mirabilmente oscura’ [wondrously dark] (Inf., xxi. 6). In cantos xxi–xxii of Paradiso, the theme of the divine light reflected in the blessed recurs many times.6

7In Purgatorio xxi–xxii there is no trace of the usual purgatorial discussions of the theme of light, related to the position of the sun or the brightness of the angel. Here, there are only metaphorical uses related to the knowledge of truth and faith. Virgil, having registered Statius’s conversion from vice to virtue, asks him to explain his conversion from paganism to the Christian faith, without which virtue is insufficient for attaining eternal salvation. Virgil asks Statius which ‘lume’ [light] took him from the shadows to illuminate him with: ‘qual sole o quai candele / ti stenebraron […]?’ [what sun or what candles dispelled / your darkness?] (Purg., xxii. 61–63). The answer is that it was Virgil himself who illuminated Statius, whereas he himself remained in the dark:

     Ed elli a lui: ‘Tu prima m’invïasti
verso Parnaso a ber ne le sue grotte,
e prima appresso Dio m’alluminasti.
     Facesti come quei che va di notte,
che porta il lume dietro, e sé non giova,
ma dopo sé fa le persone dotte,
     quando dicesti: “Secol si rinova,
torna giustizia e primo tempo umano,
e progenie scende da ciel nova”’. (Purg., xxii. 64–72)

[And he to him: ‘You first sent me to Parnassus to drink from its springs, and you first lit the way for me toward God. You did as one who walks at night, who carries the light behind him and does not help himself, but instructs the persons coming after, when you said: “The age begins anew; justice returns and the first human time, and a new offspring comes down from Heaven”’.]

  • 7 See Picone, ‘Canto XXII’, pp. 340–42. On Dante’s treatment of Virgil see also Robert Hollander, Il (...)
  • 8 For some hypothetical sources of the image see De Vivo, p. 667.

8The reference is to Virgil’s fourth eclogue, which announces the birth of a puer, the renewal of the era, and the return of the golden age and justice. Virgil appears in the guise of the prophet unaware of Christianity, who presages Christ yet attributes a limited and terrestrial meaning to his own words, without understanding their true significance.7 The image to represent this condition is that of the torch-bearer who in the night has the light in his hand, but rather than holding it forward to light his own way, holds it behind, continuing to walk in the shadows while those who come behind him are able to make use of the light that he carries.8 Virgil was not able to be illuminated by his own words. For this reason he is relegated to Limbo, defined as a ‘luogo […] non tristo di martìri, / ma di tenebre solo’ [a place […] not saddened by torments but only by darkness] (Purg., vii. 28–29). Yet despite Virgil’s personal failure, the redemptive power of his poetry is exalted, which ‘stenebra’ or dispels the darkness for Statius, enlightening him to the truth and the faith.

‘La vera credenza’: The Theme of Truth

9Another crucial theme in these cantos is truth. In Purgatorio xxii, in the tercet at the exact centre of the canto, after having praised the role of Virgil’s poetry in his conversion, Statius adds, however, that, ‘la vera credenza’ [the true belief] was spread throughout the world by the apostles:

     Già era il mondo tutto quanto pregno
de la vera credenza, seminata
per li messaggi de l’etterno regno;
     e la parola tua sopra toccata
si consonava a’ nuovi predicanti’. (Purg., xxii. 76–80)

[Already the whole world was pregnant with the true belief, sown by the messengers of the eternal kingdom, and your word, touched on above, agreed with the new preachers.]

10Thanks to the ‘vera credenza’ and the preaching of the apostles and disciples the conquest of the ‘etterno regno’ [eternal kingdom] is possible. Only due to its ‘consonance’ with this truth is Virgil’s word able to take on redemptive value.

  • 9 See also Landoni, ‘San Benedetto e il modello di lettura della Commedia’, pp. 105–07.

11Spreading the truth is emphasized even more in Benedict’s selfpresentation in Paradiso xxii.9 As in many other instances, the biographical section begins with a geographical marker. For Francis and Dominic, it is their places of birth, while for Peter Damian and Benedict it is the monasteries where they spent their lives in contemplation. In Benedict’s case, it is the Abbey of Monte Cassino, previously a site of pagan worship:

     Quel monte a cui Cassino è ne la costa
fu frequentato già in su la cima
da la gente ingannata e mal disposta;
     e quel son io che sù vi portai prima
lo nome di colui che ’n terra addusse
la verità che tanto ci soblima;
     e tanta grazia sopra me relusse,
ch’io ritrassi le ville circunstanti
da l’empio cólto che ’l mondo sedusse’. (Par., xxii. 37–45)

[The mountain that bears Cassino on its side was once frequented, at the summit, by folk deceived and ill disposed, and I am he who first carried there the name of him who brought to earth the truth that so exalts us; and so much grace shone down upon me that I drew the surrounding towns away from the wicked cult that had seduced the world.]

  • 10 See Gregory the Great, Dialogi, ii. 8, 10.

12This description exhibits specific correspondences with the hagiographic story of Benedict’s life as related by Gregory the Great in book two of the Dialogues, where he recalls an ancient temple to Apollo, a place still visited for pagan worship, and the work of evangelism and conversion carried out by the saint.10

13The second hagiographic diptych concludes by linking back to the eulogy of St Francis in Paradiso xi. In fact, Benedict’s work of converting pagans is presented like that of Francis, who to the infidels ‘predicò Cristo’ [He preached Christ] (Par., xi. 102). Just as Dante’s Francis is also an evangelist and a preacher, so too Benedict is not only an ascetic and monk, but also a holy preacher who promotes conversion. In the case of Benedict there is a strong emphasis on truth: Francis’s ‘predicò Cristo’ becomes now Benedict ‘carried’ [portai] (Par., xi. 40) the name of Christ, indicated periphrastically as ‘colui che ’n terra addusse / la verità che tanto ci soblima’ [the name of him who brought to earth the truth that so exalts us] (ll. 41–42).

  • 11 ‘Vasel’, ‘vaso’ is a scriptural epithet for St Paul, defined as ‘Vas electionis’ (Act 9, 15). Dante (...)
  • 12 For the reference in the Gospels see John 8: 44.

14The emphasis on the truth brought by Christ and spread by the apostles and the ‘novi predicanti’ [new preachers], then brought by Benedict in his mission of conversion is opposed by the emphasis on fraud and deceit that characterises the cantos in Inferno. Thus, in pseudo-scriptural language, the barrator Frate Gomita is defined as the ‘vasel d’ogne froda’ [vessel of every fraud] (Inf., xxii. 82),11 while later, in canto xxiii, albeit in reference to the bolgia of the barrators, there is mention of the evangelical saying that the devil is ‘bugiardo e padre di menzogna’ [a liar and the father of lies] (Inf., xxiii. 144).12 Deceit unites the damned and the demons in the bolgia of the barrators, just as both are joined by defeat and damnation, and under the illusion of the simulacra of false salvation.

  • 13 See also Teodolinda Barolini, The Undivine ‘Comedy’: Detheologizing Dante (Princeton, NJ: Princeton (...)
  • 14 See DVE i. viii. 3–6; i. ix. 2; i. x. 1. See also Inf., xviii. 61; xxxiii. 80. On the political fun (...)

15Barratry is a falsification of the truth in public office through the perverse and deceitful use of language.13 Its strongest definition appears at the beginning of the episode: ‘del no, per li danar, vi si fa ita’ [for money there they turn ‘no’ into ‘yes’] (Inf., xxi. 42). Recalling the importance given to the affirmative particle for the classification of languages in De vulgari eloquentia,14 we can understand just how radical is the contortion of language these sinners commit. The fraudulent use of language twists truth and destroys political community.

16We can note a syntactical and structural similarity between the verse that defines barratry and the one with which Saint Benedict concludes his condemnation of corruption in the Church. He cites the three great initiators: Peter, founder of the Church; himself, father of western monasticism; and Francis, founder of the mendicant orders. The holy beginnings, characterized by poverty, prayer, asceticism and humility, are overturned in the corrupt actions of their current successors:

      ‘Pier cominciò sanz’oro e sanz’argento,
e io con orazione e con digiuno,
e Francesco umilmente il suo convento;
     e se guardi ’l principio di ciascuno,
poscia riguardi là dov’è trascorso,
tu vederai del bianco fatto bruno’.
(Par., xxii. 88–93)

[Peter began without gold and without silver, I with prayer and fasting, and Francis his convent in humility, and if you look at each one’s beginning and then see where it has run awry, and will see white has turned black.]

17The present corruption of the Church is the fraudulent contortion of the original truth: ‘del bianco fatto bruno’ [white has turned black] and ‘del no […] si fa ita’ [the ‘no’ into ‘yes’].

Hunger for Gold: Greed, Virtue and Contemplation

  • 15 See Filippo Zanini, ‘“Simulacra gentium argentum et aurum”. Parodia sacra e polemica anticlericale (...)

18The motive for the fraud that contorts the truth, then, is money. This is the case for the barrators: ‘del no, per li danar, vi si fa ita’ [for money there they turn ‘no’ into ‘yes’] (Inf., xxi. 42), as well as Frate Gomita ‘danar si tolse’ [he took their money] (Inf., xxii. 85). But the same goes for the corrupt monks. According to Benedict’s condemnation, the monks, moved by foolish greed, took the earnings of the monasteries for themselves, forgetting that the riches obtained by the Church must only be used for the poor (Par., xxii. 79–85). Thus the reference to the original poverty of the Church is especially strong: ‘Pier cominciò sanz’oro e sanza argento’ [Peter began without gold and without silver] (Par., xxii. 88). The phrase ‘sanz’oro e sanza argento’ [without gold and without silver] recalls the opposite behaviour of the simoniacs: ‘le cose di Dio, […] per oro e per argento avolterate’ [you who the things of God, […] adulterate for gold and for silver] (Inf., xix. 2–4); and ‘Fatto v’avete dio d’oro e d’argento’ [You have made gold and silver your god] (Inf., xix. 112).15 Thus Benedict returns to the polemic against greed among the religious orders who corrupt the original truths and forsake their mission out of a desire for wealth. But in the fraudulent contortion of the truth, civil barratry is as serious as ecclesiastic simony and equally motivated by the greed for money.

19There is no need to recall the centrality of the reflection on the vicious or virtuous relationship with wealth in cantos xxi–xxii of Purgatorio. These cantos in fact constitute an appendix to the terrace of the avaricious. Canto xx ends with its examples of avarice punished, and contains multiple occurrences of the term oro. Among these examples is that of Polymnestor and Polydorus, which later is also mentioned by Statius, who admits that he was inspired by Virgil’s verse to convert from the vice of prodigality to virtue:

      ‘E se non fosse ch’io drizzai mia cura
quand’ io intesi là dove tu chiame,
crucciato quasi a l’umana natura:
     “Perché non reggi tu, o sacra fame
de l’oro, l’appetito de’ mortali?”
voltando sentirei le giostre grame.
Allor m’accorsi che troppo aprir l’ali
potean le mani a spendere, e pente’mi
così di quel come de li altri mali’. (Purg., xxii. 37–45)

[And had it not been that I straightened out my desires, when I understood the place where you cry out, almost angry at human nature: ‘Why do you, O holy hunger for gold, not govern the appetite of mortals?’ I would be turning about, feeling the grim jousts. Then I perceived that one’s hands can open their wings too much in spending, and I repented of that as of my other vices.]

  • 16 For the broader context of the Virgilian passage, see Aen., iii. 13–68.
  • 17 For this interpretation see for instance Ronald L. Martinez, ‘La “sacra fame dell’oro” fra Virgilio (...)

20In Virgil’s text, the exclamation ‘Quid non mortalia pectora cogis, / auri sacra fames’ [Dire lust of gold! how mighty thy control / To bend to crime man’s impotence of soul! Trans. Charles Symmons] (Aen., iii. 56–57,) addresses Polymnestor, who out of greed kills his brother-in-law Polydorus to take possession of his wealth.16 Dante transforms the Virgilian passage: the cursed hunger for gold censured by Virgil becomes a holy hunger for gold, a just and balanced hunger, neither excessive (avarice) nor too circumscribed (prodigality).17

  • 18 Virgil, Eclogues. Georgics. Aeneid, Books 16, trans. by H. Rushton Fairclough (Cambridge, MA: Harv (...)

21But the term ‘oro’ [gold] also refers to the relationship between Christian and classical culture by alluding to the myth of the golden age. Indeed, as I mentioned earlier, Statius’s conversion from paganism to Christianity takes place through his reading of Virgil’s fourth eclogue, which announces the birth of a puer, a new age, and a return to justice (see Purg., xxii. 67–72). The significance that Virgil attributed to these verses was bound within the horizon of paganism and only a Christian reading, able to notice its consonance with the evangelical ‘good news’, could be illuminated by these words. In fact, the verses of Virgil’s eclogue that immediately follow — which are not cited by Statius but activated in the reader’s memory — say that the divine birth will bring back to earth the ‘gens […] aurea’: ‘ac toto surget gens aurea mundo’ [and a golden race spring up throughout the world] (Egl., iv. 8–9).18

22The term oro is explicitly used in the reference to the golden age which closes Purgatorio xxii. Dante, Virgil, and Statius reach the sixth terrace where the gluttons are punished. First, they are presented with examples of virtue that are contrary to gluttony, that is alimentary temperance. One such example is indeed the golden age, though here reread not as an age of abundance, but of poverty, in which virtue made the poorest and most humble of foods taste good:

      ‘Lo secol primo, quant’oro fu bello,
fé savorose con fame le ghiande,
e nettare con sete ogne ruscello’. (Purg., xxii. 148–50)

[The first age was as lovely as gold: it made acorns tasty with hunger, and with thirst turned every stream to nectar.]

  • 19 For Dante’s identification of Saturn’s kingdom with the golden age see also Mon. i. xi. 1.

23Another revision of this myth can be found in the cantos of the sphere of Saturn, who was in fact the mythical king of the golden age.19 Dante indicates it as the sphere that bears the name ‘del caro suo duce / sotto cui giacque ogne malizia morta’ [of that dear ruler under whom every malice lay dead] (Par., xxi. 25–27): the realm of Saturn is remembered as an epoch of innocence and purity.

  • 20 On the theme of Jacob’s ladder, see also Georg Rabuse, ‘Saturne et l’échelle de Jacob’, Archives d’ (...)
  • 21 Peter Damian, Dominus vobiscum, xix: ‘Tu scala illa Jacob, quae homines vehis ad coelum, et angelos (...)

24Then, Dante sees a ladder that shines as if made of gold: ‘di color d’oro in che raggio traluce / vid’io uno scaleo’ [I saw a ladder, the colour of gold struck by the sun] (ll. 28–30). This golden ladder is the same one that Jacob saw, which the Christian scribes interpret as a symbol of the ascetic and contemplative life.20 More specifically, Peter Damian also introduces the adjective aureus in the Dominus vobiscum, defining the hermetic life as the Jacob’s ladder but also as a ‘via aurea’ [golden path].21 Right after the allusion to the reign of Saturn, referencing the golden ladder corrects the ancient myth: the true golden age is the one that leads the Christian towards his celestial homeland.

Foods and Alimentary Metaphors

25Furthermore, citing the golden age among the examples in the terrace of the gluttons (Purg., xxii. 148–50), Dante introduces the theme of alimentary temperance, which will become central in the sphere of Saturn. Thus Peter Damian praises the monastic and contemplative life, comprised of the renunciation of the world and its pleasures, as well as of fasting and humble food:

‘al servigio di Dio mi fe’ sì fermo,
     che pur con cibi di liquor d’ulivi
lievemente passava caldi e geli,
contento ne’ pensier contemplativi’. (Par., xxi. 114–17)

[there I became so fixed in the service of God that with but the juice of olives I easily survived heats and frosts, content in my contemplative thoughts.]

26And he evokes the model of the primitive Church:

      ‘Venne Cefàs e venne il gran vasello
de lo Spirito Santo, magri e scalzi,
prendendo il cibo da qualunque ostello’. (Par., xxi. 126–29).

[Simon came, and the great Vessel of the Holy Spirit came, thin and barefoot, taking their food in any hostel.]

27The apostles are thin and barefoot, they eat what they find if they are offered something: thus returns the theme of thinness, poverty and fasting. This model is the opposite of the degenerate custom of the ‘moderni pastor’ (Par., xxi. 130–32), so fat and heavy they are defined as beasts. And Benedict too recalls his holy beginnings in terms of fasting: ‘e io [iniziai] con orazione e con digiuno’ [I [began] with prayer and fasting] (Par., xxii. 89).

  • 22 See also the ll. 37–39, and 73–75. For the evangelical reference see Io., 4, 5–15. See also Ariani, (...)
  • 23 See. Purg., xxi. 88, 97–98; and xxii. 64–65, 101–02 and 105. Also the Beatitude is here connected w (...)

28The Statius cantos are opened by the alimentary metaphors, with the evangelical reference to ‘La sete natural che mai non sazia, / se non con l’acqua onde la femminetta / samaritana domando la grazia’ [The natural thirst that is never sated, except by the water of which the poor Samaritan woman begged the gift] (Purg., xxi. 1–3).22 Not only are such metaphors repeatedly used in these cantos with reference to poetry,23 but the theme of food is also fundamental, circularly, to the last part of Purgatorio xxii, which proclaims models of alimentary temperance, the last of which, at the end of the canto, is John the Baptist who sustains himself on nothing but honey and locusts in the desert:

      ‘Mele e locuste furon le vivande
che nodriro il Batista nel diserto;
per ch’elli è glorïoso e tanto grande
     quanto per lo Vangelio v’è aperto’.
(Purg., xxii. 151–54)

[Honey and locusts were the food that nourished the Baptist in the wilderness; therefore how glorious and great he is, is set forth for you by the Gospel.]

29The Baptist is the first ascetic and at the same time the first preacher, ‘vox clamantis in deserto’. In fact, his asceticism is always mentioned in the Gospels next to his preaching in the desert (Matthew 3.1–4; Maccabees 1.2–8). Thus in the conclusion of Statius and Virgil’s canto, the exemplar of John the Baptist also alludes to a stronger and more effective model of the word, which corrects the unknowingly redemptive word of Virgil and the indolent poetry of Statius, ‘chiuso cristian’ [secret Christian]. Whereas the Gospel openly proclaims the truth: ‘quanto per lo Vangelo v’è aperto’ [set forth for you by the Gospel].

  • 24 See Piero Camporesi, Il paese della fame (Milan: Garzanti, 2000), pp. 39–42.

30The Baptist, throughout the hagiographic tradition, is the archetype of monastic asceticism, and so the conclusion of Purgatorio xxii announces the type of holiness that will be exalted in cantos xxi–xxii of Paradiso. And the theme of alimentary temperance connects back to the insistent motif of deprivation and renunciation in the Saturn cantos. In Inferno xxi–xxii there is also heavy insistence on alimentary themes. This is one of the few passages where Dante brings together elements of the traditional hellkitchen:24 the damned submerged in the boiling pitch are called ‘li lessi dolenti’ [the sufferers in the stew] and the demons treat them like pieces of meat to be cooked:

     Non altrimenti i cuoci a’ lor vassalli
fanno attuffare in mezzo la caldaia
la carne con li uncin, perché non galli. (Inf., xxi. 55–57)

[Not otherwise do cooks have their servants push down with hooks the meat cooking in a broth, so that it may not float.]

31Finally the demons, butchers and cooks of the damned, are themselves transformed into well-cooked food when they fall into the boiling pitch: they too are ‘cotti dentro da la crosta’ [cooked within their crusts] (Inf., xxii. 150).

Concealment and Revelation

32In these cantos, the theme of truth and fraud is accompanied by the theme of concealment and its opposite: revelation, or discovery. In the cantos of Inferno and Paradiso, this motif unfolds in relation to the condition of the souls. The barrators always remain covered and hidden in the pitch. And Dante too has to hide in order not to be seen by the demons while Virgil introduces himself to negotiate with them (Inf., xxi. 58–60).

  • 25 See Par., v. 124–39; viii. 52–54; xvii. 34–36; xxvi. 97–102 (and also Purg., xvii. 52–57).

33In the cantos of the sphere of Saturn, a great deal of space is allotted to a motif that is frequently repeated in Paradiso, according to which the blessed appear to Dante not in their human guise, as do the spirits in the other realms of the afterlife, but surrounded and concealed by an intense, impenetrable light.25 Thus Peter Damian is addressed as ‘vita beata che ti stai nascosta / dentro a la tua letizia’ [O blessed life hidden within your gladness] (Par., xxi. 55–56; see also 82). And Dante asks Benedict if he can see him ‘con imagine scoverta’ [[his] countenance openly] (Par., xxii. 60). But the saint urges him to give up and be patient. Only in the Empyrean will he be able to fulfil his desire and see the blessed in their corporeal form (Par., xxii. 61–63).

34In Purgatorio the language of concealment is less frequent, but it is unusually emphasized in canto xxii, in parallel to the corresponding cantos in the other canticles. However, this is not because of the representation of the souls, but because of the theme of truth, falsehood and appearance (Purg., xxi. 28–30), and especially with regard to the communication of the truth and the faith. Statius admits that even after baptism, ‘per paura chiuso cristian fu’ mi, / lungamente mostrando paganesmo’ [out of fear I was a secret Christian, for a long time feigning paganism] (Purg., xxii. 90–91). Further, he attributes to Virgil the merit of having guided him towards the faith, in the language of covering and its opposite: ‘Tu dunque, che levato hai il coperchio / che m’ascondeva quanto bene io dico’ [You therefore, who raised for me the cover hiding all the good I speak of] (ll. 94–95), that is ‘the true belief’. But it is the last verse of Purgatorio xxii that applies the language of opening to the truth revealed by the Gospel: ‘quanto per lo Vangelio v’è aperto’ [set forth for you by the Gospel]. This stands in counterpoint to the concealment of faith, on Statius’s part, and to the opening to others of something that remains closed to himself on Virgil’s part.

Autobiography

35A theme of utmost importance is that of the modes Dante employs to speak about himself. Under the general term ‘autobiography’ I include not only all references to his real life, but also the representation of the self as the protagonist of the poem, a character who undertakes a journey through the afterlife, during which he is ordered to put into a book all that which has been shown and revealed to him; and finally, the representation of the self as a poet engaged in the verse narration of this transcendent experience.

  • 26 For the autobiographical implications of this section of Paradiso xxii, see also Barański, ‘Canto X (...)

36Let’s start at the end: the ascent into the sphere of the fixed stars, where he reaches the constellation Gemini, in the second part of Paradiso xxii.26 The passage from one sphere to the other always happens in an instantaneous movement, faster and swifter than any movement that could be made in terrestrial life (ll. 103–05). The ascent to the starry sphere is underscored by an address to the reader that is different from all the others, due to its personal and autobiographical character. The poet swears in the name of the final return to Paradise, in order to be worthy of which, he states that he often makes confession and repents for his sins:

     S’io torni mai, lettore, a quel divoto
trïunfo per lo quale io piango spesso
le mie peccata e ’l petto mi percuoto,
     tu non avresti in tanto tratto e messo
nel foco il dito, in quant’io vidi ’l segno
che segue il Tauro e fui dentro da esso.
(Par., xxii. 106–11)

[So may I return, reader, to that devout triumph on whose account I ever weep for my sins and beat my breast: you would not any sooner have withdrawn your finger from the fire and put it in, than I saw the sign that follows the Bull and was within it.]

37The poet represents himself as a sinner engaged in lamenting his sins and humbling himself in the hope of attaining eternal salvation. But it must not be forgotten that in the previous canto Peter Damian presented himself as ‘Pietro Peccator’ [Peter the Sinner] (Par., xxi. 121–23), as he did in life. Dante, admitting humbly to his own nature as a sinner, links back to Peter Damian’s model of sacred humility, thus continuing to construct his own identity after these saints.

  • 27 On the invocations, see Robert Hollander, Studies in Dante (Ravenna: Longo, 1980), pp. 31–38; Giuse (...)

38But the address to the reader is immediately followed by the invocation to the divinity: an invocation that is the most personal of the nine present in the poem, as it is addressed to the zodiac sign of Gemini under which the poet was born and to which he declares to owe all of his genius (Par., xxii. 112–23).27 It becomes evident, from this conclusion of the trajectory of the Twenty-Twos, how closely the autobiographical themes are connected to the metaliterary — to the representation of Dante as a poet engaged in an extraordinary literary enterprise.

  • 28 See Anna Maria Chiavacci Leonardi, ‘Canto XXI’, in Lectura Dantis Neapolitana. Inferno, ed. by Pomp (...)

39The presence or absence of an autobiographical thematic in the infernal cantos devoted to the bolgia of the barrators has been a topic of fierce scholarly debate.28 In fact, barratry was the primary accusation that led to Dante’s conviction and exile from Florence. In Inferno xxi–xxii no explicit reference to any such conviction is to be found. But there are other explicit autobiographical statements, inserted in an unessential way as vehicles for similes. There are no allusions to the accusations of barratry; on the contrary, there are implicit claims to being a model citizen and a patriot, one who served the country by fighting to defend it against the enemy Ghibellines.

40The first allusion is to the siege of Caprona, which took place in August 1289: ‘così vid’io già temer li fanti / ch’uscivan patteggiati di Caprona’ [thus once I saw the foot-soldiers fear, coming out of Caprona under safe-conduct] (Inf., xxi. 94–95). The second set of references is located, emphatically, at the beginning of canto xxii where there is another allusion to military events in 1289, to the war between Florence and Arezzo culminating in the battle of Campaldino, during which Dante fought among the cavalrymen: ‘corridor vidi per la terra vostra, / o Aretini’ [I have seen mounted men coursing your city, o Aretines] (Inf., xxii. 1–12). These allusions make a claim to his own military service to the nation, precisely in the cantos devoted to the sin of barratry.

Ancients Poets, New Preachers and the Poetry of Salvation

  • 29 See Rossi, ‘Canto XXI’, pp. 324–29.

41In cantos xxi–xxii of Purgatorio there are no autobiographical allusions in the narrative sense, and overt elements of direct self-representation of the poet do not appear either. Consideration of poetry through the figures of Statius and Virgil, however, has a clear value that reflects on the figure of Dante, poet of the Commedia. In fact, the acts of identity construction based on certain models are here intertwined with metaliterary reflection on the power and limits of poetry. Even in canto xxi, this theme is at the centre of Statius’s self-representation (ll. 82–93), which is structured like Virgil’s in Inferno i (ll. 67–75).29 Furthermore, Statius acknowledges that if he has become a poet, he owes it to the love with which he studied Virgil’s Aeneid, which taught him everything (Purg., xxi. 94–99). And thanks to Virgil’s poem, Statius turned away from the vice of prodigality (Purg., xxii. 37–45). Yet as I already mentioned, the text from Virgil that Statius cites is here profoundly transformed in meaning. Only thus does it become effective in promoting Statius’s moral conversion. Finally, Virgil’s poem enlightens Statius to the faith, in the passage I have already cited (Purg., xxii. 64–73). Statius’s translation of the beginning of Virgil’s fourth eclogue is substantially faithful, but the meaning that Virgil attributed to these verses was limited and reductive. Only a Christian reading, attentive to the consonance Virgil’s verses found with the good news spread by the Gospel, can render these verses able to illuminate the path to salvation.

42Alongside this reflection on Virgil’s poetry, there is, however, another on Statius’s poetry. Statius’s poem, in fact, does not make his faith manifest:

      ‘Or quando tu cantasti le crude armi
de la doppia trestizia di Giocasta’,
disse ’l cantor de’ buccolici carmi,
      ‘per quello che Clïò teco lì tasta,
non par che ti facesse ancor fedele
la fede, sanza qual ben far non basta’. (Purg., xxii. 55–60)

[‘Now when you sang of the cruel war that caused the double sadness of Jocasta’, said the singer of the bucolic songs, ‘by what Clio touches on with you there, it seems that faith, without which good works are not enough, had not yet made you faithful’.]

43And Statius himself admits to having been a ‘chiuso cristian’ [secret Christian], to not having displayed his faith openly and to having actually continued to feign his adherence to paganism:

      ‘E pria ch’io conducessi i Greci a’ fiumi
di Tebe poetando, ebb’io battesmo;
ma per paura chiuso cristian fu’ mi,
     lungamente mostrando paganesmo’.
(Purg., xxii. 88–91)

[And before I led the Greeks to the rivers of Thebes in my poetry, I was baptized; but out of fear I was a secret Christian, for a long time feigning paganism.]

  • 30 Dante expresses the desire for poetic laurels in the first canto of Paradiso (ll. 13–33) and then i (...)

44The long appendix on the poets in Limbo, Virgil’s fellow sufferers, who are always engaged in talking about poetry, confirms their eternal fate of failure and absence. Just as Virgil had presented himself to Statius as someone banished ‘ne l’etterno essilio’ [to eternal exile], so now all the great ancient poets are condemned to Limbo, ‘nel primo cerchio del carcere cieco’ [in the first circle of the blind prison], also Homer and the other ‘Greci che già di lauro ornar la fronte’ [Greeks who once adorned their brows with laurel]:30

      ‘dimmi dov’è Terrenzio nostro antico,
Cecilio e Plauto e Varro, se lo sai;
dimmi se son dannati, e in qual vico’.
      ‘Costoro e Persio e io e altri assai’,
rispuose il duca mio, ‘siam con quel Greco
che le Muse lattar più ch’altri mai
     nel primo ringhio del carcere cieco;
spesse fïate ragioniam del monte
che sempre ha le nutrice nostre seco.
     Euripide v’è nosco e Antifonte,
Simonide, Agatone e altri piùe
Greci che già di lauro ornar la fronte’. (Purg., xxii. 97–108)

[‘tell me where our ancient Terence is, Caecilius and Plautus and Varro, if you know: tell me if they are damned, and to which district’. ‘They and Persius, and I, and many others’, replied my leader, ‘are with that Greek to whom the Muses gave more milk than ever to any other, in the first circle of the blind prison; often times we speak about the mountain that forever holds our nurses. Euripides is with us and Antiphon, Simonides, Agathon, and many other Greeks who once adorned their brows with laurel’.]

45Now Dante is representing himself as intent on listening to Virgil and Statius’s discussion of the power, glory, and limits of poetry. He draws on these discussions for lessons that he will seek to apply to his own poetry:

     Elli givan dinanzi, e io soletto
di retro, e ascoltava i lor sermoni,
ch’a poetar mi davano intelletto.
(Purg., xxii. 127–29)

[They were walking ahead, and I all by myself behind them, listening to their talk, which instructed me in writing poetry.]

46But the lessons for Dante’s new poetry also come from Statius’s references to another activity of speech: the preaching by the messengers of the ‘vera credenza’ [true belief], the ‘novi predicanti’ [new preachers] who brought the truth of the Gospel into the world (Purg., xxii. 76–81).

  • 31 On the prophetic dimension of the Comedy see Nicolò Mineo, Profetismo e apocalittica in Dante. Stru (...)

47Cantos xxi and xxii of Paradiso display, in ways that are unexpected and thus particularly relevant, passages with strong metaliterary significance, important reflections on the poem, its structure, its function, its meanings. In Paradiso xxi we find a first confirmation of the prophetic mission assigned to Dante by Beatrice in Eden and solemnly reaffirmed by Cacciaguida in the sphere of Mars (Par., xvii. 124–42).31 Now, in the Heaven of Saturn, Dante the character asks the first blessed soul he encounters why he had been the one predestined by divine providence to carry out this task (ll. 76–78). But his response is that divine providence elects men, and also the blessed souls, to take on certain offices, according to an infallibly just will that no creature can fully know (ll. 82–96). And he adds that this response should be extended to all men:

     E al mondo mortal, quando tu riedi,
questo rapporta, sì che non presumma
a tanto segno più mover li piedi
’. (Par., xxi. 97–100)

[And when you return to the mortal world, carry this back, that it may no longer presume to move its feet toward so great a mark.]

48Dante’s mission is thus also to remind men of the limits of their knowledge and of the need not to presume beyond these limits, but to accept them humbly. This prophetic investiture is unexpected and therefore very significant; it confirms Cacciaguida’s solemn investiture and precedes a series of investitures entrusted to the apostles most beloved by Jesus: James (Par., xxv. 40–45), John (Par., xxv. 127–29), and Peter (Par., xxvii. 64–66).

  • 32 See Giuseppe Ledda, La guerra della lingua. Ineffabilità, retorica e narrativa nella ‘Commedia’ di (...)

49And canto xxii presents an equally significant metaliterary and structural intervention. This takes the form of an invocation — the third in Paradiso — of great structural import, since it begins a new part of the canticle, the part dedicated to the last three spheres: the Fixed Stars, the Primum Mobile, and the Empyrean. The difficulties that the poet is preparing himself to face in narrating the final part of his journey are emphasized with the invocation to the stars of the Gemini, to which he asks for the necessary virtue for this ‘passo forte’ [difficult pass] (Par., xxii. 112–23).32

50The metatextual import of Inferno xxi–xxii is announced from the beginning of canto xxi, when the title of the work, comedìa, is mentioned for the second time:

     Così di ponte in ponte, altro parlando
che la mia comedìa cantar non cura,
venimmo […] (Inf., xxi. 1–3)

[Thus we went from bridge to bridge, speaking of other things my comedy does not record.]

  • 33 See also Hollander, Studies in Dante, pp. 131–218.

51The title had already appeared at the end of canto xvi, ‘Ma per le note / di questa comedìa, lettor ti giuro’ (ll. 127–28) while in the canto of Inferno prior to this one, Virgil’s Aeneid is defined as ‘high tragedy’ (Inf., xx. 113). The Dantean and Christian comedìa is opposed to the Virgilian, pagan and classical tragedìa.33 The Christian comedy is not afraid to go down to the lowest levels of the humble style, down to the depths of vulgarity and triviality, as Dante does in the cantos of the barrators. In Christian culture in order to truly rise, one must come down, prostrate oneself, in order to then ascend to the sublime heights of Paradise.

  • 34 See Inf., xxi. 44–45, 67–71.

52In canto xxii, the animal similes which were present with a parodic function for the demons back in canto xxi, reappear.34 Here they refer to the damned, who are forced to remain under the boiling pitch so as not to be caught and further tormented by the demons:

     Come i dalfini, quando fanno segno
a’ marinar con l’arco de la schiena
che s’argomentin di campar lor legno,
     talor così, ad alleggiar la pena,
mostrav’ alcun de’ peccatori ’l dosso
e nascondea in men che non balena.
(Inf., xxii. 19–24)

[As dolphins do, when they signal to sailors, arching their spines, to take measures to save their ship: so from time to time, to lessen the pain, a sinner would show his back and hide it in less than a flash.]

53Just as dolphins leap out of water revealing their curved backs, so the sinners’ backs briefly emerge from the pitch and then immediately disappear back down. If the movement is similar, their motivations are completely different. The damned emerge in the attempt to relieve their own suffering, but this relief is fleeting and illusory.

  • 35 See for instance Isidorus of Seville, Etymologiae, xii. vi. 11; Rabanus Maurus, De universo, viii. (...)
  • 36 Bartholomaeus Anglicus, De proprietatibus rerum, xiii. 26.

54The medieval tradition attributed the movement of dolphins to their desire to inform sailors of a storm’s imminent arrival, so that they could allow enough time to reach shelter and keep the ship and themselves safe.35 Thus it is no surprise that extremely positive symbolic meanings were attributed to these animals. In Bartholomeus Anglicus’s De proprietatibus rerum, a text that is often close to Dante’s formulations, we find the gloss ‘Nota de sanctis’, which is an index of not only their positive symbolic value, but also of their redemptive value in a strictly religious sense: the ‘santi’ [saints] are in fact the holy writers.36

55The redemptive value of dolphins could thus be brought into dialogue with the metaliterary and metatextual reflections, which resound in these cantos with echoes brought about by the emphatic reference to ‘la mia comedìa’ [my comedy], placed at the beginning of the previous canto (Inf., xxi. 1–3), and of the autobiographical allusions to Dante’s military experiences, with the recollection of the barratry conviction Dante had faced in the background. As opposed to these barrators damned in the pitch who are false dolphins, Dante is a true dolphin who — through his Comedia — directs Christians to safety and salvation.

56The prophetic and potentially redemptive value of the poem is variously affirmed in the individual investitures; and even the first, where Beatrice commands Dante to write what he is shown in the afterlife ‘in pro del mondo che mal vive’ [for the good of the world that lives ill] (Purg., xxxii. 103), is affirmed with particular force by the investiture of Cacciaguida, who speaks of the ‘vital nodrimento’ [vital nourishment] (Par., xvii. 131) that the poem, with the alas bitter condemnation of the sins and the representation of the souls punished in the afterlife, would constitute for human sinners. In this framework, the phrase ‘fanno segno / a’ marinar […] / che s’argomentin di campar lor legno’ [they signal to sailors to take measures to save their ship] assumes particular significance. The readers of the poem, too, are sailors, who can, thanks to these signals, ‘campar lor legno’ [save their ship]. It is through the image of the dolphins that the reflection on the poetry in the Twenty-Twos intertwines with the model of the holy preaching of the apostles, of their followers, of Benedict. Based on these models, Dante presents himself as a holy preacher and claims the redemptive power of the poetry of his comedìa.

Notes

1 Interesting readings of the two cantos are offered by Michelangelo Picone, ‘Baratteria e stile comico in Dante (Inferno xxi–xxii)’, in Studi americani su Dante, ed. by Gian Carlo Alessio and Robert Hollander (Milan: Franco Angeli, 1989), pp. 63–86; Claude Perrus, ‘Le jeu des diables (Inferno, xxi–xxii)’, Chroniques Italiennes 17 (1989), 11–34; and Lino Pertile, ‘Canti XXI–XXII–XXIII. Un esperimento eroicomico’, in Esperimenti danteschi. Inferno 2008, ed. by Simone Invernizzi (Genoa: Marietti, 2009), pp. 157–72. See also Vittorio Panicara, ‘Canto XXII’, in Lectura Dantis Turicensis. Inferno, ed. by Georges Güntert and Michelangelo Picone (Florence: Cesati, 2000), pp. 305–19; and Claudio Vela, ‘Canto xxi. Il pellegrino fra diavoli e barattieri’, and Giuseppe Crimi, ‘Canto XXII. Demonî e barattieri nella pece’, both in Lectura Dantis Romana. Cento canti per cento anni. II. Inferno. 2. Canti XVIII–XXXIV, ed. by Enrico Malato and Andrea Mazzucchi (Rome: Salerno, 2013), pp. 682–707 and 708–39.

2 For exellent examples of conjunct readings of these two cantos see Andrea Battistini, ‘L’acqua della samaritana e il fuoco del poeta (Purg. xxixxii)’, Critica letteraria, 20.74 (1992), 3–25; Marco Ariani, ‘Canti xxixxii. La dolce sapienza di Stazio’, in Esperimenti danteschi. Purgatorio 2009, ed. by Benedetta Quadrio (Genoa: Marietti, 2010), pp. 197–224.

3 See Teodolinda Barolini, Dante’s Poets: Textuality and Truth in the ‘Comedy’ (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), pp. 258–70; Luca Carlo Rossi, ‘Canto XXI’, and Michelangelo Picone, ‘Canto XXII’, both in Lectura Dantis Turicensis. Purgatorio, ed. by Georges Güntert and Michelangelo Picone (Florence: Cesati, 2001), pp. 315–31 and 333–51; Albert Russell Ascoli, Dante and the Making of a Modern Author (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 327–29; Andrea Battistini, ‘Canto xxi. La vocazione poetica di Stazio’, and Arturo De Vivo, ‘Canto XXII. “Per te poeta fui, per te cristiano”’, both in Lectura Dantis Romana. Cento canti per cento anni. II. Purgatorio. 2. Canti XVIII XXXIII, ed. by Enrico Malato and Andrea Mazzucchi (Rome: Salerno, 2015), pp. 621–51, and 652–86.

4 For an exemplary conjunct reading of these two cantos see Giuseppe Mazzotta, ‘Contemplazione e Poesia’, in Esperimenti danteschi. Paradiso 2010, ed. by Tommaso Montorfano (Genoa: Marietti, 2010), pp. 201–12. See also Peter S. Hawkins, Dante’s Testaments: Essays in Scriptural Imagination (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), pp. 228–43 and 332–33; Georges Güntert, ‘Canto XXI’, and Zygmunt G. Barański, ‘Canto XXII’, both in Lectura Dantis Turicensis. Paradiso, ed. by Georges Güntert and Michelangelo Picone (Florence: Cesati, 2002), pp. 325–37 and 339–62; Elena Landoni, ‘San Benedetto e il modello di lettura della Commedia: Par. xxii’, L’Alighieri, 47 (2006), 91–111; Giuseppe Ledda, ‘San Pier Damiano nel cielo di Saturno’, L’Alighieri, 32 (2008), 49–72; Mira Mocan, L’arca della mente. Riccardo di San Vittore nella ‘Commedia’ di Dante (Florence: Olschki, 2012), pp. 191–231; Andrea Battistini, ‘Canto XXI. L’incontro con Pier Damiano’, and Carlo Vecce, ‘Canto XXII. San Benedetto e il “mondo sotto li piedi”’, both in Lectura Dantis Romana. Cento canti per cento anni. III. Paradiso. 2. Canti XVIIIXXXIII, ed. by Enrico Malato and Andrea Mazzucchi (Rome: Salerno, 2015), pp. 616–41 and 642–70.

5 See Simon A. Gilson, Medieval Optics and Theories of Light in the Works of Dante (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2000).

6 See also Marco Ariani, Lux inaccessibilis. Metafore e teologia della luce nel ‘Paradiso’ di Dante (Rome: Aracne, 2010), pp. 261–75; and Battistini, ‘Canto XXI. L’incontro con Pier Damiano’, pp. 624–25.

7 See Picone, ‘Canto XXII’, pp. 340–42. On Dante’s treatment of Virgil see also Robert Hollander, Il Virgilio dantesco: tragedia nella ‘Commedia’ (Florence: Olschki, 1983). For a discussion of the philological problems connected to Dante’s representation of Statius, see Luca Carlo Rossi, ‘Prospezioni filologiche per lo Stazio di Dante’, in Dante e la “bella scola” della poesia, ed. by Amilcare A. Iannucci (Ravenna: Longo, 1993), pp. 205–24.

8 For some hypothetical sources of the image see De Vivo, p. 667.

9 See also Landoni, ‘San Benedetto e il modello di lettura della Commedia’, pp. 105–07.

10 See Gregory the Great, Dialogi, ii. 8, 10.

11 ‘Vasel’, ‘vaso’ is a scriptural epithet for St Paul, defined as ‘Vas electionis’ (Act 9, 15). Dante repeatedly uses this expression for St Paul: ‘lo vas d’elezïone’ (Inf., ii. 28), ‘il gran vasello / de lo spirito santo’ (Par., xxi. 127–28). Paul is also a fundamental model for Dante’s self representation: see Giuseppe Ledda, ‘Modelli biblici nella Commedia. Dante e san Paolo’, in La Bibbia di Dante. Esperienza mistica, profezia e teologia biblica in Dante, ed. by Giuseppe Ledda (Ravenna: Centro Dantesco dei Frati Minori Conventuali, 2011), pp. 179–216. So it is not surprising that he uses the same word, ‘vaso’, also for himself (Par., i. 14). In Inferno xxii, the image of the ‘vasel’ is to be understood within the perspective of the sacred parody, but it is also one of the many aspects of the opposition between Dante and the barrators. Of course the parodic use of this formula is also a topos of the comic style, as noted by Saverio Bellomo, ‘Sul canto xxii dell’Inferno’, Filologia e critica 22 (1997), 20–36 (p. 26). It is to be noted also that the expression ‘vas malitiae’ is attributed by Patristic authors to the devil (see Crimi, p. 727).

12 For the reference in the Gospels see John 8: 44.

13 See also Teodolinda Barolini, The Undivine ‘Comedy’: Detheologizing Dante (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 80–85 and 293–95.

14 See DVE i. viii. 3–6; i. ix. 2; i. x. 1. See also Inf., xviii. 61; xxxiii. 80. On the political function attributed to language by Dante in the De vulgari eloquentia, see Mirko Tavoni, Introduzione to ‘De vulgari eloquentia’, in, Opere. Rime, Vita Nova, De vulgari eloquentia, by Dante Alighieri. ed. by Claudio Giunta, Guglielmo Gorni and Mirko Tavoni (Milan: Mondadori, 2011), pp. 1067–116 (pp. 1068–69).

15 See Filippo Zanini, ‘“Simulacra gentium argentum et aurum”. Parodia sacra e polemica anticlericale nell’Inferno’, L’Alighieri 39 (2012), 133–47.

16 For the broader context of the Virgilian passage, see Aen., iii. 13–68.

17 For this interpretation see for instance Ronald L. Martinez, ‘La “sacra fame dell’oro” fra Virgilio e Stazio’, Letture classensi 18 (1989), 177–93; and Michelangelo Picone, ‘Canto XXII’, pp. 335–40. For a discussion of the various interpretations, see Massimiliano Chiamenti, Dante Alighieri traduttore (Florence: Le Lettere, 1995), pp. 131–37.

18 Virgil, Eclogues. Georgics. Aeneid, Books 16, trans. by H. Rushton Fairclough (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014).

19 For Dante’s identification of Saturn’s kingdom with the golden age see also Mon. i. xi. 1.

20 On the theme of Jacob’s ladder, see also Georg Rabuse, ‘Saturne et l’échelle de Jacob’, Archives d’Histoire Doctrinale et Littéraire du Moyen Âge: Volume 45 (Paris: Vrin, 1978), pp. 7–31; Claudia Di Fonzo, ‘“La dolce donna dietro a lor mi pinse / con un sol cenno su per quella scala” (Par. xxii. 100–101)’, Studi danteschi 63 (1991), 141–75; and, more generally, Salvatore Pricoco, Monaci, filosofi e santi. Saggi sulla storia della cultura tardonatica (Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino, 1992), pp. 207–37; and Christian Heck, L’échelle céleste dans l’art du Moyen Âge (Paris: Flammarion, 1997).

21 Peter Damian, Dominus vobiscum, xix: ‘Tu scala illa Jacob, quae homines vehis ad coelum, et angelos ad humanum deponis auxilium. Tu via aurea, quae homines reducis ad patriam’ (PL 145, 248).

22 See also the ll. 37–39, and 73–75. For the evangelical reference see Io., 4, 5–15. See also Ariani, ‘Canto XXI. La dolce sapienza di Stazio’, pp. 197–98 and 208–09.

23 See. Purg., xxi. 88, 97–98; and xxii. 64–65, 101–02 and 105. Also the Beatitude is here connected with the metaphor of thirst (see Purg., xxii. 4–6), as well as the discussion about the vice and the virtue, through the Virgilian quotation (Purg., xxii. 40–41).

24 See Piero Camporesi, Il paese della fame (Milan: Garzanti, 2000), pp. 39–42.

25 See Par., v. 124–39; viii. 52–54; xvii. 34–36; xxvi. 97–102 (and also Purg., xvii. 52–57).

26 For the autobiographical implications of this section of Paradiso xxii, see also Barański, ‘Canto XXII’, pp. 347–53.

27 On the invocations, see Robert Hollander, Studies in Dante (Ravenna: Longo, 1980), pp. 31–38; Giuseppe Ledda, ‘Invocazioni e preghiere per la poesia nel Paradiso’, in Preghiera e liturgia nella ‘Commedia’, ed. by Giuseppe Ledda, (Ravenna: Centro Dantesco dei Frati Minori Conventuali, 2013), pp. 125–54. It is also the fulfilment of an important path of astrological autobiography. See Inf., xv. 55–56; Inf., xxvi. 23–24; Purg., xxx. 106–17; and Elisa Maraldi, ‘“Ragionare di sé” (Conv. i. ii. 14) nella Commedia: alcune note autobiografiche-astrologiche’, L’Alighieri 43 (2014), 113–30.

28 See Anna Maria Chiavacci Leonardi, ‘Canto XXI’, in Lectura Dantis Neapolitana. Inferno, ed. by Pompeo Giannantonio (Naples: Loffredo, 1986), pp. 365–85 (pp. 370–73).

29 See Rossi, ‘Canto XXI’, pp. 324–29.

30 Dante expresses the desire for poetic laurels in the first canto of Paradiso (ll. 13–33) and then in canto xxv (ll. 1–12), in the middle of the sequence of the sphere of fixed stars. See Michelangelo Picone, ‘Il tema dell’incoronazione poetica in Dante, Petrarca e Boccaccio’, L’Alighieri 25 (2005), 5–26.

31 On the prophetic dimension of the Comedy see Nicolò Mineo, Profetismo e apocalittica in Dante. Strutture e temi profetico-apocalittici in Dante: dalla ‘Vita nuova’ alla ‘Divina Commedia’ (Catania: Università di Catania, Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia, 1968); and Robert Wilson, Prophecies and Prophecy in Dante’s ‘Commedia’ (Florence: Olschki, 2007).

32 See Giuseppe Ledda, La guerra della lingua. Ineffabilità, retorica e narrativa nella ‘Commedia’ di Dante (Ravenna: Longo, 2002), pp. 154–55.

33 See also Hollander, Studies in Dante, pp. 131–218.

34 See Inf., xxi. 44–45, 67–71.

35 See for instance Isidorus of Seville, Etymologiae, xii. vi. 11; Rabanus Maurus, De universo, viii. 5 (PL 111, 237–38); Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum naturale, xvii. 109; Alexander Neckham, De naturis rerum, ii. 27; Thomas of Cantimpré, Liber de natura rerum, vi. 16–17, and vii. 29; Brunetto Latini, Tresor, i. 134. For other references and more evidence in favour of the following interpretation, see Giuseppe Ledda, ‘Un bestiario metaletterario nell’Inferno dantesco’, Studi danteschi 78 (2013), 119–53 (pp. 127–33).

36 Bartholomaeus Anglicus, De proprietatibus rerum, xiii. 26.

Auteur

Associate Professor of Italian Literature at the University of Bologna. His main research field is Dante and medieval literature. His publications include the books La guerra della lingua: Ineffabilità, retorica e narrativa nella ‘Commedia’ di Dante (2002); Dante (2008); and La Bibbia di Dante (2015). He has also recently edited a series of volumes for the Centro Dantesco of Ravenna: La poesia della natura nella Divina Commedia (2009); La Bibbia di Dante (2011); Preghiera e liturgia nella ‘Commedia’ di Dante (2013); and Le teologie di Dante (2015). He is an editor of the peer-reviewed journal L’Alighieri.

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