David Bruce: Dante’s PURGATORY: A Discussion Guide — “Canto 18: Fourth Ledge — Sloth (Abbot of San Zeno)”

Canto 18: Fourth Ledge — Sloth (Abbot of San Zeno)

  • Do we also need faith in addition to intellect?

Intellect will not solve all of our problems or tell us everything that we ought to know. We have had an intellectual discussion of the different kinds of love, but we still need to have faith as well as intellect.

Virgil represents human reason, but Beatrice represents faith, and Beatrice will be able to take Dante further than Virgil can.

Quite simply, intellect is not able to understand everything. Some things will remain a mystery and must be accepted on faith.

Virgil himself points this out to Dante. Virgil is aware of his own limits, and he is aware that Beatrice will be able to answer some questions that he is unable to answer. Virgil, of course, will soon turn Dante over to Beatrice. Beatrice will be Dante’s next guide.

Virgil tells Dante:

And he to me: “What reason seeth here,

Myself can tell thee; beyond that await

For Beatrice, since ’tis a work of faith.”

(Longfellow 18.46-48)

Of course, I have been saying that Virgil represents Human Reason. This passage supports that. Beatrice, of course, goes beyond Human Reason and represents Faith.

  • What is the importance of ethics?

We human beings do have Free Will, and what we choose is important.

Virgil says that “you [Dante and Humankind in general] have the innate faculty of reason, / which should defend the threshold of consent” (Musa 18.62-63).

What we choose is what we love. However, we have reason, and we can use our reason to understand the difference between good loves and bad loves. We also have freedom of the will, and we can use our freedom of the will to choose good loves.

Philosophers write books about morality and ethics. These books help explain what we ought to choose to do in certain situations.

Virgil says,

“Those who, in reasoning, to the bottom went,

Were of this innate liberty aware,

Therefore bequeathed they Ethics to the world.”

(Longfellow 18.67-69)

Philosophers recognized that we have the power to choose between courses of action, and they wrote books to help us determine which course of action to choose.

  • Briefly describe the exempla (examples) of Zeal that are presented in Canto 18.

Dante lets his thoughts wander late at night, but suddenly a group of spirits runs up to and passes him and Virgil. These are the spirits who are being purged of sloth. They are the only penitents who are busy purging their sin both day and night with no rest.

These are the exempla of zeal:

1) Christ’s Pregnant Mother, Mary, Went in Haste to Visit Her Cousin Elizabeth, Who was Pregnant With John the Baptist

After the Annunciation, in which an angel told Mary that she would bear Christ, Mary hurried to visit her cousin, Elizabeth (sometimes spelled Elisabeth), who was pregnant with John the Baptist. We read this story in the first chapter of Luke (King James Version):

24: And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,

25: Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

26: And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27: To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

28: And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29: And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30: And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31: And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

32: He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34: Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35: And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36: And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

37: For with God nothing shall be impossible.

38: And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

39: And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;

40: And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.

41: And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

42: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

2) Caesar Sped to Spain for a Showdown with the Spanish Army of Pompey the Great

Julius Caesar warred against Pompey. Eager to meet Pompey in battle, Caesar left some of his army to besiege Marseilles, and then he took the rest of his soldiers to the showdown with the Spanish army of Pompey. Caesar won the Battle of Ilerda.

  • Briefly describe the exempla (examples) of Sloth that are presented in Canto 18.

These are the exempla of sloth:

1) The Followers of Moses Who Never Reached the Holy Land

Many of the followers of Moses never reached the Promised Land because they were slothful after God opened the Red Sea so that they could escape from Egypt. The story of their not reaching the Promised Land is told in Numbers, chapter 14:

11: And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?

12: I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.

13: And Moses said unto the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;)

14: And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou LORD art among this people, that thou LORD art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night.

15: Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying,

16: Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.

17: And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying,

18: The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

19: Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.

20: And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word:

21: But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.

22: Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;

23: Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:

24: But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.

[…]

38: But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still.

39: And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly.

2) The Followers of Aeneas Who Never Reached Italy

Many of the followers of Aeneas never reached Italy. When they were on the island of Sicily, some of the women set fire to some ships because they were tired of wandering and wanted to stay on Sicily. Some of the ships burned, and therefore Aeneas did not have enough ships to take all of the Trojan refugees to Italy. As a result, he left nearly all of the women on Sicily (he did take to Italy at least one mother) and all of the men who desired to stay there rather than going to glory in Italy. We read this story in Book 5 of Virgil’s Aeneid:

Then Nautes, old and wise, to whom alone

The will of Heav’n by Pallas was foreshown;

Vers’d in portents, experienc’d, and inspir’d

To tell events, and what the fates requir’d;

Thus while he stood, to neither part inclin’d,

With cheerful words reliev’d his lab’ring mind:

“O goddess-born, resign’d in ev’ry state,

With patience bear, with prudence push your fate.

By suff’ring well, our Fortune we subdue;

Fly when she frowns, and, when she calls, pursue.

Your friend Acestes is of Trojan kind;

To him disclose the secrets of your mind:

Trust in his hands your old and useless train;

Too num’rous for the ships which yet remain:

The feeble, old, indulgent of their ease,

The dames who dread the dangers of the seas,

With all the dastard crew, who dare not stand

The shock of battle with your foes by land.

Here you may build a common town for all,

And, from Acestes’ name, Acesta call.”

Source:http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/v/virgil/v5a/part5.html

Translator: John Dryden

  • What information do the two poets get from the former Abbot of San Zeno in Verona?

Virgil inquires about the passage upward, and the former Abbot of San Zeno in Verona answers that the two poets should follow the footsteps of the rushing shades, and they will find the passage leading upward.

The former Abbot of San Zeno also points out that he and the other shades do not wish to be discourteous, but that their zeal for purging their sin keeps them running day and night.

  • What is the purgation given to the Slothful, and why is it fitting?

Those who were slothful while they were alive are now purging their sin by staying busy day and night. The other souls we have seen so far purge their sins only during the day, but these spirits purge their sin in a double shift. (Some progress at purging one’s sins can occur at night. Later, we will see the Avaricious: By day all the penitents cite examples of generosity, but at night, they cite examples of avarice. The penitents on all levels can think about purgation and the education necessary to purge their sins, but only the Slothful are active — they are running — at purging their sins during the night.)

Because they are so busy running, these souls appear only briefly to the two poets. Apparently, Dante was not guilty of sloth (as The Divine Comedy, a long and great poem, demonstrates). Therefore, Dante the Pilgrim does not talk to souls on this terrace.

Dante does not hear praying here, nor does he hear hymns here. Also, he does not receive any requests that he pray for these penitents.

The slothful purge their sin by running and running, both day and night.

Some of the souls cry,

“Quick! quick! so that the time may not be lost

By little love!” forthwith the others cried,

“For ardour in well-doing freshens grace!”

(Longfellow 18.103-105)

After this discussion, Dante continues up the Seven-Storey Mountain. Again, one of the P’s on his forehead is removed.

 

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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PURGATORY: CANTO 16 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/dantes-purgatory-canto-16-retelling-third-ledge-anger-marco-lombard/

PURGATORY: CANTO 17 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/19/dantes-purgatory-canto-17-retelling-fourth-ledge-sloth/

PURGATORY: CANTO 18 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/dantes-purgatory-canto-18-retelling/

PURGATORY: CANTO 19 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/21/dante-purgatory-canto-19-retelling-fifth-ledge-avarice-and-wastefulness/

PURGATORY: CANTO 20 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/dantes-purgatory-canto-20-retelling-avarice-and-wastefulness-hugh-capet/

PURGATORY: CANTO 21 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/dantes-purgatory-canto-21-retelling-fifth-ledge-avarice-and-wastefulness/

PURGATORY: CANTO 22 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/dantes-purgatory-canto-2-retelling-sixth-ledge-gluttony-statius/

PURGATORY: CANTO 23 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/dantes-purgatory-canto-23-retelling/

PURGATORY: CANTO 24 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/dantes-purgatory-canto-24-retelling/

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PURGATORY: CANTO 16 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/dantes-purgatory-canto-16-retelling-third-ledge-anger-marco-lombard/

PURGATORY: CANTO 17 RETELLING

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PURGATORY: CANTO 18 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/dantes-purgatory-canto-18-retelling/

PURGATORY: CANTO 19 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/21/dante-purgatory-canto-19-retelling-fifth-ledge-avarice-and-wastefulness/

PURGATORY: CANTO 20 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/dantes-purgatory-canto-20-retelling-avarice-and-wastefulness-hugh-capet/

PURGATORY: CANTO 21 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/dantes-purgatory-canto-21-retelling-fifth-ledge-avarice-and-wastefulness/

PURGATORY: CANTO 22 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/dantes-purgatory-canto-2-retelling-sixth-ledge-gluttony-statius/

PURGATORY: CANTO 23 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/dantes-purgatory-canto-23-retelling/

PURGATORY: CANTO 24 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/dantes-purgatory-canto-24-retelling/

 

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