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Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in The Comedy's LiveJournal:

Saturday, November 19th, 2011
8:42 pm
Divine Comedy Fanfiction...
Hello all--

In visiting this LJ, I've been wondering if adult fanfiction based on the Comedy is okay here (if behind a cut or link)? If not, I'll delete this post; but I wanted to share links to the first one I've completed: "Thrice Purified", as well as Part 1 of one that's nearly finished. That one is called "The Shade Trees of Lucca", and is set post-Commedia (in the literary sense, not in the exact chronological sense). Both were set in motion by a marvelous short Inferno fanfic by one mayhap, posted a few years ago.

Anyway, I thought I'd share my "Dante/Virgil OTP" fixation here, if it's okay with the mods...

Current Mood: devious
Wednesday, August 20th, 2008
4:52 pm

Hello... I've been reading Dante for several years now,  and have some questions

1. Did anyone else find it hardest to get through Paradise?  I've read that, in general, the Third segment of the Divine Comedy is the hardest to get through because Dante had no basis for his writing... he could empathize with those suffering in Hell or struggling through Purgatory, but when it came to unadulterated bliss and happiness... he was lost.  And how exactly does one describe God the Trinity?  Good effort with the glowing rings, but i felt it lacked the jaw-dropping mind-melting intensity of his writings on Hell... 

2.  Which translation is your favorite?  So far the best I've found was Lawrence Grant White... but i've read Charles Eliot Norton as well and bits of John Ciardi... opinions?

Thursday, July 10th, 2008
4:06 pm
Divine Comedy tattoos?

I took a philosophy course on The Divine Comedy in college, and four years later I'm still obsessed. Lately I've been thinking about getting the opening lines of Inferno (Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, che la diritta via era smarrita) tattooed in the form/style of 14th century middle Italian. I've run into a few problems so far, and since none of my friends have any idea what I'm talking about, I thought someone on here might.

1) I can't seem to find any images of an early Divine Comedy manuscript that clearly show the opening lines of Inferno. I have seen this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:MS_Trivulziano_1080_incipit.jpg but the lines are all in caps and broken up to fit around the decorative first letter. I got really excited when the Bodlien library posted images of their manuscript online, only to discover that they only showed a partial image of it: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/medieval/jpegs/holkham/misc/48/500/04800374.jpg. All the later prints and manuscripts I've found lack the decorative font of the early ones, and the spelling/spacing of words differ. 

Since this is a lifetime commitment--and my first tattoo-- I'm pretty rigid about the font and lettering. Does anyone have any advice about how to go about doing this?

Current Mood: contemplative
Friday, June 6th, 2008
1:27 pm
Monkey Wrenches: Evil and Free Will

[I have just finished writing this paper, for the last meeting of my Dante class, tonight.]

Dante poses the Question of Evil in Canto 16 of Purgatorio:

The world is surely as barren of every virtue as you say,
pregnant with malice and covered with it;
but I beg you to point out the cause . . . (58-61)
To which Marco Lombardo responds with perhaps the most eloquent explication of God’s Plan for Evil:

You who are alive still refer every cause up to the heavens,
just as if they moved everything with them by necessity.

If that were so, free choice would be destroyed in you,
And it would not be justice to have joy for good and mourning for evil.

The heavens begin your motions;
I do not say all of them, but, supposing I say it,
a light is given you to know good and evil,

and free will, which,
if it lasts out the labor of its first battles with the heavens,
afterwards overcomes all things, if nourished well.

To a greater Power and a better Nature you lie subject and therefore free,
and that creates the mind in you, which the heavens do not govern.

Thus, if the present world has gone astray,
in you is the cause, in you let it be sought . . . (67-83)
But there are a few problems with this logic, as eloquently expressed as it might be.

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Saturday, May 24th, 2008
6:09 pm
Dante Paper Six: All You Need is Love

“O human race, why do you set your heart where sharing must be forbidden?” Guido del Duca asks in lines 85 through 87 of Canto 14 of Purgatorio, meaning, “Why do you desire office, power (where nepotism is forbidden), more than anything else?” This is of course an indictment of pride, envy, wrath, and any number of sins. But the primary moral crime of such desire is that it leads one away from love and kindness.

Virgil, asked in Canto 15 of Purgatorio for an explanation of this question, responds to the pilgrim that love and kindness garner the greatest heavenly rewards:

. . . The more [persons] say ‘our’ [conveying generosity] up there [on the surface of mortal Earth], the more good each one possesses, and the more charity burns in that cloister [that of “the highest sphere”, Paradise].” (Purgatorio, XV, 55-57)
An abundance of love, therefore, yields the greatest divine reward(s), whereas a lack of love yields the greatest suffering. If we accept the idea that Hell and Heaven are metaphors for our own internal conditions, it is our own dispositions that create and maintain our afterlife realities. The extent to which we feel love is the extent to which we will be close to God after death, or the extent to which we will have to find it. Those in Hell who have given up hope never will.

Love is the guiding principle of the Christian God, “primal love” in fact (Inferno, III, 6), though of course His love allows the hopeless sinner to languish in Hell for all eternity, even after Judgment Day. After Judgment Day, the punishment in Hell becomes worse, as is indicated by the testimony of the suicide in Inferno Canto 13, lines 103-108:

Like the others, we will come for our remains, but not so that we may put them on again . . . here we will drag them, and through the sad wood our corpses will hang, each on the thornbush of the soul that harmed it.
This can only be considered an increase in punishment after Judgment Day.

Love rewards itself, but is love a function of free will, nature, or nurture? Dante is not clear on this, though he seems to suggest it is a function of free will. We choose whether or not to be generous in our dealings with others. Our generosity, he says, will be returned to us many times over:

That infinite and ineffable Good which is up there runs to love just as a ray comes to a shining body.

It gives itself according to the measure of the love it finds, so that however great is the charity that reaches out, by so much the eternal Worth grows upon it.

And the more people bend toward each other up there [on the mortal surface of Earth], the more there is to love well and the more love there is, and, like a mirror, each reflects it to the other. (Purgatorio, XV, 67-75)
This is the first description in The Comedy of God’s love and how that love works. Dante makes it sound very appealing, and fair. But is it? How can we reward someone for feeling what he feels? Is anyone the origin of his own sentiments; i.e., do we choose what to feel? No. But we choose what to do, how to act. This, however, is not love. We may pretend to love by acting as lovers do. We may give a great deal not out of love but a desire to deceive. The reader of Dante is to assume that the divine power, the highest wisdom, is able to see through all such false attempts.

The Lord, similarly, loves in mysterious ways. His love ranges from eternal torment to eternal bliss, all seemingly dependent on forces beyond one’s control. Is the Christian God mad, as Sean Davis argues? I think not. I find the Christian God described by Dante and the Roman Catholic Church to be merely malicious, and consciously so. He controls the entire afterlife. He created and runs Hell, without giving those in it the hope of redemption unless they find it on their own—there are no pointers or hints. He imposes penance in Purgatory upon those who have already lived and died—I know of no religion other than Catholicism that imposes conditions upon souls after death, though they may exist. (Hindus believe in reincarnation, in which case souls go through suffering in subsequent lives if they behaved badly in former ones, but those are subsequent lives, not souls in an afterlife.)

I was going to argue here that the Christian concept of Love is different from my own, but I have realized just now that it is not. Love, as tolerant as it is, requires good faith effort on the part of the loved one; love can be damaged, even destroyed, by evil behavior. This is true in Christianity as much as it is in my heart. If you cross me, I will love you less, as much as I may still love you. This is an important point, because it is upon this rationale that the entire system of the afterlife that Dante depicts rests. Punishments occur in proportion to, and accordance with, crimes. “Contrapasso” is the term for this fitting of punishment to crime. Rewards, too, occur in proportion to, and accordance with, good deeds.

Therefore, the policy of conditional love is comparable to my own—only the specific crimes and good deeds differ. I, for example, do not require that anyone place no other gods before me, or create no images of me. I am not jealous, though I like attention.
Tuesday, May 6th, 2008
9:42 pm
Dante Paper Five: "It's Not Easy Being Black"

Today I pushed seventeen bribe-takers back under the boiling pitch. I don’t know why they keep emerging; they know we will push them back down. There is no escape. We never rest.

We enjoy our work. These sinners were among the worst of the worst above, among the living, taking bribes to silence their consciences. They do not deserve more mercy than they receive from me, and they will not receive it. To fail to punish these criminals would be to commit a crime myself, to fail in my duty to the One who rules us all.

I am a servant of the Lord, executing His will. I execute it gleefully, because it is a pleasure—punishing evil is satisfying work. Some might consider this a dirty job, but I do not. I attack my work with gusto.

I was flaying a barrator with my fork the other day, another soul who dared to attempt a complete escape by jumping out of the pitch and onto the bank of the river, with Big Pig, who was picking sinews out of the flank of one over his shoulder. Then Big Pig said to me, “I grow weary of this tending, this pursuit and punishment.” He continued to pick absently at the flesh writhing in pain.

I was mortified by this blasphemy, and expressed outrage as well as confusion. “What?” I cried. “You dare to oppose the Divine Will? How can you lose ardor for the pursuit of Justice? We are its agents!”

But Big Pig looked at me sadly and said, “I always wanted to be a musician. I just don’t have it in me to fight it anymore.” Pick, pick. I could see his heart wasn’t in the torture he was inflicting, and it pained me.

“A musician!” I spat. “Think of this as your music!” I urged, as I tore sinew off the screaming wretch on my fork. And what beautiful music his singing made! I indicated him with a gesture. “Hmm?”

“It’s no good,” Big Pig sighed and went away. I worried for him and what was clearly a case of mental illness, and a burning occurred in the pit of my stomach for the rest of the day. I could not understand it. Here was a cleric to torture! Oh, the hypocrisy. What a delight to give this corrupt soul its just desserts!

But that night I was troubled. I mentioned this disturbance to Evil Tail. I asked what would become of Big Pig. Such a subversive could disrupt our entire organization, which up to then had been a model of harmony, efficiency, and good morale. We had always performed well, but yet I felt myself distracted by this case. If this sickness had been allowed to spread, it could lead to negligence, even an escape. I had to prevent this possibility by speaking to Evil Tail of my concern.

“Oh, he’s already gone,” E. T. said.


“He submitted a transfer request. Paperwork gets signed fast here. He’ll be happier with his new assignment. He’s up there now, with a harp. Are you still happy in your work?”

“Am I!” I exclaimed, curling my tail, letting my tongue fall out between my teeth.

“You’re an inspiration, Harlequin! That’s why I want you to train our new recruit.”

I swelled with pride, noticing for the first time the young demon waiting eagerly behind Evil Tail. “Thank you for your confidence, Evil Tail!” I said. “I won’t let you down.”

“Just don’t let them out!” he joked, indicating the bribe-takers below with a wave of his fork. The three of us laughed.

After Evil Tail had left us, I began to instruct Foul Breath on the use of the fork. “Now, you hold the fork thus—grip the handle as if you are shaking hands . . . ”

The life of a demon is sweet.

Friday, April 25th, 2008
8:34 pm
Why Judgment Day is Meaningless: Dante Paper #3

I have just this evening submitted this paper to my Dante professor, on why Judgment Day means nothing even for repentant Christians.


Judgment Day Only Does the Limbo

“I think there’s an obligation for us as readers to be gracious with the writer.”

--Tony Wolk

I agree with you, Professor Wolk, and hopefully you will not take this paper as lacking in graciousness toward il Sommo Poeta, whose rich and beautiful works I admire greatly. This paper is not meant to criticize Dante in any way, but Catholic doctrine and the contortions it imposes upon any mind attempting to make sense of it.

Dante’s work is an epic poem, in which he may exercise creative license as he sees fit, and he does, differing from Catholic doctrine on some major points even as he depicts a supernatural system inspired by Catholic doctrine.

The major points relevant to this paper are those of Limbo and the Harrowing of Hell, as they relate to Judgment Day.

Limbo and “the Harrowing of Hell”

Limbo is a place in which the unbaptized reside, awaiting Judgment Day, and the Church and Dante agree that the unbaptized become aware of the afterlife system once they die. According to Wikipedia, medieval theologians divided the underworld into “four distinct underworlds: hell of the damned, purgatory, limbo of the fathers, and limbo of infants”. Dante is not explicit in his description of Limbo—we do not know where he places infants. We also do not know where he places the unvirtuous unbaptized.

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Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008
9:53 pm
Today's Class, Recapped
Today one of my classmates was sick, and asked me to recap today's class. I thought I'd share the recap.

Today the professor discussed:

--The Donation of Constantine, a document forged by the Church legitimizing its power as granted by Roman Emperor Constantine when he converted to Christianity and retired to Byzantium, which became Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey. The Church used this document as its excuse to exist and amass wealth and power, leading to the Vatican of today. Its power and influence diminished greatly in the nineteenth century.

--Italian politics of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The Guelfs represented the papacy, whereas the Ghibbelines represented the Italian State. They struggled for power, and the Guelfs eventually won, but immediately split into two factions of their own, at war with each other: the Whites and the Blacks. Dante, a White, wanted to see the power of the papacy curbed. His depiction of Lucifer represents a commentary on the divisions of church and state (the professor didn't say how, leaving us to discover this on our own).

--Dante's peace mission (as a prior of Florence) to Pope Boniface to mediate the dispute. Boniface appoints a false arbitrator, who is bribed to side with the Blacks. With the aid of the French, the Blacks overwhelm the Whites. At the end of his life, in letters to the public urging peace, Dante declares he is a man of no party, he is his own party.

--Dante dies of malaria in his fifties.

--Canto 27: the case of Guido, who Boniface bribed with a pardon in advance for sinning for him. Boniface wanted to know how to defeat a political enemy, so he went to Guido and asked, "What can I do to capture Palestrina?" Guido said, "If I tell you, I'll be sinning." Boniface said, "I can take care of that. Because I am the Pope, I can pardon your sin. Now go right ahead." But sins cannot be pardoned in advance; they can only be pardoned after the fact in response to sincere repentance.

This is the opposite of what a pope should be doing: exploiting believers rather than shepherding them wisely.

This Guido is a case of a person who never repents. His nephew, depicted in Purgatory, is a case of a person who repents late, but who repents.

--four students read papers

--Cato: killed himself. Why is he the greeter at the gate of Purgatory, instead of with the other suicides in Hell? The professor did not tell us, or, if he did, I missed it.
Thursday, April 17th, 2008
8:49 pm
The Internal Crisis of Faith: Canto 12

Tonight I wrote this short scene based on a moment in the Inferno's Canto 12, when Virgil and Dante have passed the Minotaur, are descending a landslide of rocks and gravel, and then . . . well, read it! The professor of the Dante class I am taking welcomes creative works as well as straight papers, as long as they convey an understanding of the material.

Robert Peate
ENG 548

“The Internal Crisis of Faith: Canto 12”

I stepped with a mixture of ginger and rapidity, breathing short, in my excitement to flee that creature raging behind us and to achieve the next new horror, of which I knew naught save that it would exceed all previous. I heard his bellow and looked back. He had regained himself and regarded us with bootless roars, eager to rend my flesh. The pebbles clattered beneath my feet; the soles of my leather shoes scuffing against the rock. I balanced carefully, as I had done as a boy, on logs over creeks. We trod downward through pale, grey gloom.

This seemed to go on a long time, during which I had another occasion to doubt my sanity. Could this be a dream, caused by that fever gripped me in the wood? Was I still there? And yet this rock felt cool and hard to the touch of my warm, soft foot; this air felt close and thick, as if choked by fire; this heart within my breast pounded, as if very much awake to its purpose, and to its danger.

My master discoursed on the earthquake and landslide; he could not know of He who caused the walls of Dis to shake.

I was listening, but not with both my ears, still reeling with amazement at all I had seen, all I had apprehended in so short a time. I longed for home, and happier times, and one who no more lived there. What kept me on was the promise of her fair visage envisaged once more.

But was I really here? It could not be true, and yet here I was. There the Minotaur was, braying his anger before returning to his silent road. There before me, the back and robes of my master, my protector, without whom I would be lost, or turned back to face again the forest of isolation.

The horizon glowed reddish, as we approached the leveling plain. Thoughts of that One seemed stifled, distant. Could my Lord see me? Did he try? My doubts, in the face of all I saw, filled me with burning shame. I would trust in my guide and my god. And here I saw the widest of rivers, as if a lake without end, flaming, red, filled with arms, screams, and bodies writhing in tormented agony.

The sights, the sounds, the feel of heat against our blackening faces! The stench! The bubbles of boiling blood! This sharpened my wit, and banished all doubt. I was in Hell. My body trembled, matching the sudden sound of rumbling hoofs by the thousand.

Between the shore and us were centaurs. Their presence comforted me; I know not why. They had always seemed noble beasts to me, in my reading of yore, though these launched arrows at the unfortunate souls fortunate enough to essay to escape, reminding, perhaps augmenting, their misfortune.

They stopped upon sight of us, and approached, arrows drawn and notched.

I steeled myself. My master moved to parley.

The first centaur challenged: “To what punishment do you come, you who are climbing down the bank? Speak from there; otherwise I draw my bow.”

My master indicated as he spoke: “The reply will we make to Chiron, close over there; to your harm has your will always been so hasty.”

My master nudged me, saying who they were. I trembled at the thought of Nessus.

Chiron noted my weight; my master confirmed me in it and explained our duty. They, these marvelous creatures in a unique place, marveled at my presence, but not at me.

In another moment I sat astride the one who challenged us; his back and body more powerful than any horse above. I embraced him so as not to lose my place as I rode.

Thoughts of uncertainty soon left me as we went along the shore, the cries only louder as closer. The despair and anguish rendered the faces frightening, and a part of me feared these apparitions might emerge from the fiery blood to accost me, out of jealousy or blind pain. But the larger part knew I was safe, despite my doubts, despite my sight, despite my knowledge of all about me.

My guide; my master and author; and the One on high would protect me.
7:49 pm
Made by Primal Love.

"Welcome to Hell. Please hold the handrail on your way down to the left."

This community exists to discuss Dante Alighieri and his works.

I am Robert, currently taking a course on the Comedy at Portland State University, in Portland, Oregon. I have loved Dante since before I loved Shakespeare.

More to follow.

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