Canto 7: Prepurgatory — The Negligent Princes
- How does Sordello react when he learns that he has embraced the great Virgil?
Sordello asks Dante and Virgil more about who they are, and Virgil introduces himself:
“Or ever to this mountain were directed
The souls deserving to ascend to God,
My bones were buried by Octavian.
I am Virgilius; and for no crime else
Did I lose heaven, than for not having faith;”
This is a surprise to Sordello, and surprises in Purgatory are good. Sordello is astonished, and he is very happy because Virgil truly is a great poet. Sordello tells Virgil:
“O glory of the Latians, thou,” he said,
“Through whom our language showed what it could do
O pride eternal of the place I came from,”
In Purgatory, souls are very helpful. Virgil and Dante are looking for the gate to Purgatory Proper, and Sordello offers to be their guide. However, he does say that in Purgatory, souls cannot advance up the Mountain during the night. (We will see later that the Slothful run day and night to make up for lost time.)
However, we should note that Sordello pays more attention to Virgil than he does to Dante. Virgil may be in Limbo, but he is still a rock star to those in Prepurgatory who love poetry. Also, of course, this shows that Sordello is not a perfected soul yet. He is impressed by celebrity although he should be keeping his mind fixed on purging his sins.
- What made the Negligent Rulers negligent?
Most of the Negligent Rulers were negligent in taking care of their own souls. They were so occupied with Earthly matters that they had no time for Heavenly matters. In addition, they sometimes didn’t do all that well in taking care of Earthly matters. One ruler — Henry of England (Henry III) — was noted for his piety: His negligence was toward his kingdom.
Kings cannot be negligent if they are to be good. Kings must take care of their spiritual as well as of their secular matters. A good King can do much good for his people. Of course, a good King must also take care of his own soul.
All of the Negligent Rulers — and Sordello the troubadour — died while Dante was alive. Dante describes some of the eight Negligent Rulers in terms of the size of their noses. We should note that on Earth some of these rulers were enemies, but that they get along well here, of course. Ottokar II comforts in Purgatory Rudolf I, who was his enemy in life.
These Negligent Rulers made God wait, and God is going to make these Negligent Rulers wait before they are allowed to climb up the Mountain of Purgatory.
- Is nobility of character an inherited virtue?
No, it is not:
Not often does the sap of virtue rise
to all the branches. This is His own gift,
and we can only beg that He bestow it.
Bad sons are born to good fathers, and good sons are born to bad fathers. Nobility of character is acquired, not inherited. You form your own character by your own actions. In William Shakespeare’s history play 1 Henry IV, King Henry IV is afraid that he has a bad son — Prince Hal — who will be a bad King. Fortunately, Prince Hal reforms himself, stops hanging around with lowlifes, and becomes a good King: Henry V.
We find out in this canto that some of these Negligent Rulers have bad sons.
Each of us forms our own character, although we can certainly pray to God to help us become better people. The doing of good deeds is important. As a free person, you can choose to live your life as a good person or as a bad person. To be a good person, do good deeds. To be a bad person, do bad deeds. If you do good deeds, you will become good. If you do bad deeds, you will become bad. To become the person you want to be, act as if you already are that kind of person. Each of us chooses what kind of person we will become. To become a hero, do the things a hero does. To become a coward, do the things a coward does. The opportunity to take action to become the kind of person you want to be is yours.
- Are the various classes of the Spiritually Negligent treated properly by having to wait to climb the Mountain of Purgatory?
Yes, they have to wait to climb the Mountain of Purgatory, but waiting is proper for them.
The souls of dead sinners who sincerely repented arrive in Prepurgatory, where they wait until they are ready to pass through the Gates of Purgatory to Purgatory Proper. Some souls — the late repentant — must wait longer than others. The late repentant are these:
1) those who died while excommunicated.
2) the indolent (who kept putting off spiritual matters).
3) those who repented only in their final moments of life.
4) those who ignored spiritual matters while concentrating on worldly matters (the Negligent Rulers). Also in this group of Negligent Rulers are those who ignored worldly matters while concentrating on spiritual matters. Rulers need to take care of the people in the land they rule.
These souls kept God waiting, and God makes them wait to enter Purgatory Proper. However, these souls can enter Purgatory Proper more quickly if good people pray for them. This is good news.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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PURGATORY: CANTO 6 RETELLING
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PURGATORY: CANTO 8 RETELLING
PURGATORY: CANTO 9 RETELLING
PURGATORY: CANTO 10 RETELLING
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