Friday, November 24, 2006

Canto 10: a few elements

This is the first terrace of Purgatory proper, with three images -- Dante calls them visibile parlare, speech made visible -- of antitypes of Pride: Mary, King David, Emperor Trajan.

Mary to the angel: "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

12 Now King David was told, "The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God." So David went down and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, 15 while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings [f] before the LORD. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!"

21 David said to Michal, "It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD's people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor."

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.
Trajan and the widow:

There was storied the high glory of the Roman prince whose worth moved Gregory to his great victory; Of Trajan the emperor I speak: and a poor widow was at his bridle in the attitude of tears and grief.

Round about him appeared a trampling and throng of horsemen and the eagles in gold above him moved visibly in the wind. The poor creature among all these seemed to say: 'Lord, do me vengeance for my son who is slain, whereby my heart is pierced.'

And he to answer her: 'Now wait until I return.' And she, like a person in whom grief is urgent: 'My Lord, if thou do not return?' And he: 'One who shall be in my place will do it for thee'. And she: 'What to thee will be another's good deed if thou forget thine own?'

Wherefore he: 'Now comfort thee, for needs must I fulfil my duty ere I stir: justice wills and pity holds me back

At the conclusion of the three scenes:

Colui che mai non vide cosa nova
Produsse esto visibile parlare
Novello a noi perche qui non si trova.

The canto ends comparing the encumbered proud souls to corbels - stone brackets, sometimes in the form of human figures, that support a cornice or arch, often in a cathedral:

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