Inferno Canto IX lecture - University of St Andrews

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Inferno IX
Claire Honess
(University of Leeds)
A new relationship between reader
and poet...
O voi ch’avete li ’ntelletti sani,
mirate la dottrina che s’asconde
sotto ’l velame de li versi strani.
Oh you who have sound intellects,
consider the teaching that is hidden
Behind the veil of these strange verses.
(IX, 61-63)
Paradiso II, 1-6;10-13
O you, eager to hear more,
who have followed in your little bark
my ship that singing makes its way,
turn back if you would see your shores again.
Do not set forth upon the deep,
for, losing sight of me, you would be lost. [...]
You other few, who craned your necks in time
to reach for angels’ bread, which gives us life on
earth,
yet never leaves us satisfied,
you may indeed set out [...].
Non vi mettete in pelago...
Do not set forth upon the deep...
Paradiso XVII, 130-32
Ché se la voce tua sarà molesta
nel primo gusto, vital nodrimento
lascerà poi, quando sarà digesto.
For, if your voice is bitter at first taste,
it will later furnish vital nourishment
once it has been swallowed and digested.
Virgil’s ‘parola tronca’
“Pur a noi converrà vincer la punga”,
cominciò el, “se non... Tal ne s’offerse.
Oh quanto tarda a me ch’altri qui giunga!”
“Yet we must win this fight”, he began,
“or else... Such help was promised us.
How long it seems to me till someone comes!”
(IX, 7-9)
Inferno II, 67-69
Or movi, e con la tua parola ornata
e con ciò c’ha mestieri al suo campare,
l’aiuta sì ch’i’ ne sia consolata.
Set out, and with your polished words
and whatever else is needed for his safety,
go to his aid, that I may be consoled.
[...] con la tua
parola ornata
[...] with your
polished words
Virgil’s previous descent to Dis
In questo fondo de la trista conca
discende mai alcun del primo grado,
che sol per pena ha la speranza cionca?
Does ever anyone from the first circle,
where the only penalty is hope cut off,
Descend so deep into this dismal pit?
(IX, 16-18)
Purgatorio XXII, 67-69
Facesti come quei che va di notte,
che porta il lume dietro e sé non giova,
ma dopo sé fa le persone dotte.
You were as one who goes by night, carrying
the light behind him - it is no help to him,
but instructs all those who follow.
Erichtho
Haggard and loathly with age is the face of the witch;
her awful countenance overcast with a hellish pallor
and weighed down by uncombed locks, is never seen
by the clear sky [...].
“Unbar the gates of Elysium, summon Death himself,
and force him to reveal to me which among us must be
his prey.” [...]
She looped up her bristling locks with festoons of
vipers. [...]
“I invoke the Furies, the horror of Hell, the
punishments of the guilty, and Chaos, eager to blend
countless worlds in ruins.”
(Lucan, Pharsalia, Book VI)
Inferno II, 13-15; 28-33
You tell of the father of Sylvius
that he, still subject to corruption, went
to the eternal world while in the flesh. [...]
Later, the Chosen Vessel went there
to bring back confirmation of our faith,
the first step in our journey to salvation.
But why should I go there? who allows it?
I am not Aeneas, nor am I Paul.
Neither I nor any think me fit for this.
The journey in miniature
Quell’è ’l più basso loco e
’l più oscuro, | e ’l più
lontan dal ciel che tutto
gira.
That is the lowest place,
the darkest | and furthest
from the heaven that
encircles all.
Guarda [...] le
feroci Erine.
See the fierce
Erinyes.
Dante (Inferno IX):
All at once, erect, had risen
three hellish, blood-stained Furies:
they had the limbs and shape of
women,
their waists encircled by green hydras.
Thin serpents and horned snakes
entwined,
in place of hair, their savage brows.
[...]
Each rent her breast with her own
nails.
And with their palms they struck
themselves, shrieking.
Virgil (Aeneid VI):
An iron tower also rose high
into the air; and there sat
Tisiphone, with bloody robe
girt up, the never-sleeping
guardian of the entrance-court
by night and day. [...] High over
them her left hand threatens
them with hideous snakes,
while she calls to her ferocious
sisters to come in their hordes.
Statius (Thebaid, I)
A hundred horned snakes erect
shaded her face. [...] Then
both her hands are shaken in
wrath, the one gleaming with a
funeral torch, the other lashing
the air with a live water-snake.
Beneath the veil (1)
The Furies represent:
• wrath (circle 5)?
• heresy (circle 6)?
• wicked thoughts/words/deeds?
• Violence/Fraud/Treachery (divisions of Lower
Hell)?
• conscience?
• remorse?
Beneath the veil (2)
Medusa represents:
• heresy?
• paralysing fear?
• despair?
• stubborn adherence to sin?
• loss of hope of salvation?
• lust?
Simile (1)
And now there came, over the turbid waves,
a dreadful crashing sound
that set both shores to trembling.
It sounded like a mighty wind,
made violent by waves of heat,
that strikes the forest and with unchecked force
shatters the branches, hurls them away, and,
magnificent in its roiling cloud of dust, drives on,
putting beast and shepherd to flight.
(IX, 64-72)
Earthquake
But Jesus, again crying out in a loud voice,
yielded up his spirit.
At that, the veil of the Temple was torn in two
from top to bottom; the earth quaked; the rocks
were split.
(Matthew 27. 50-51)
‘passava Stige con le piante asciutte’
The boat [...] was battling with a heavy sea, for
there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of
the night [Jesus] went towards them, walking on
the lake, and when the disciples saw him
walking on the lake they were terrified.
(Matthew 14. 23-26)
Mercury
Meanwhile the winged son of Maia returns from the cold
shades, fulfilling the errand of great Jove; on every side
sluggish clouds hinder his way and misty air enfolds him,
no Zephyrs wafted his course, but the foul vapours of the
silent world. On this side Styx encircling its nine regions,
on that a barrier of fiery torrents encloses his path.
Behind him follows old Laius’ trembling shade, still
halting from his wound; for deeper than the hilt had his
kinsman’s impious swordthrust pierced into his life and
sped the first blow of Avenging Wrath; yet on he goes,
strengthening his steps with the healing wand. (Statius,
Thebaid, II)
Arles

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