Sunday, December 02, 2007

Purgatorio 29-31

John D. Sinclair notes an underlying relation within Purgatorio 29 - 31:
The twenty-ninth canto is occupied with revelation; . . . it is all public and impersonal. The next two cantos are the most intimately personal in the Divine Comedy. The pageant . . . is as if forgotten during the interview between Beatrice and Dante. Yet the thirtieth and thirty-first cantos are not only relevant but essential to the matter of the twenty-ninth. Revelation is not revelation unless it reveals a man to himself . . ..

One might quibble with some of Sinclair's terms, but his general point seems worth bearing in mind: the divine pageant, Scripture, enters the sacred wood, bringing light, seeming to reenact, in its Veni, sponsa de Libano and Benedictus qui venit, three moments of Biblical history: the prophetic promises of the Old Testament, the entrance of Christ in Jerusalem, and the Second Coming. For men who read the Word in the dark wood of the world, these are separate moments turning around the central fact of the junction of man and God, the marriage of Heaven and Earth. But from the perspective Beatrice brings sub specie aeternitate -- a point that underlies Augustine's confession of time, of history, and of Scripture -- these three epochs of human history, past, present and future -- are one indivisible moment.

For Dante the individual, Beatrice played a role not unlike that of Christ: she appears to him in the flesh, igniting an ardent love and devotion; she dies - the central fact that Dante misread, mistaking her change of form for the termination of her being; she returns, shows him his error, and the roots of his error in his soul, and in that recognition he begins his journey across Lethe to see the face of Beatrice, in whose eyes can be seen the reflected image of the Gryphon.

How far have we come from the union of Ouranos and Gaia in Hesiod's Theogony?

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