David Bruce: Dante’s PURGATORY: A Discussion Guide — “Canto 28: Forest of Eden — Matelda”

Canto 28: Forest of Eden — Matelda

  • Dante is now getting ready for his visit to Paradise, so we should expect a lot of changes.

Dante has now spent three days in Purgatory and is now beginning his fourth day. Most critics believe that the rest of Dante’s journey, including his visit to Paradise, takes place on this day.

The 33 cantos of Purgatorycan be broken down in this way:

9 cantos (Cantos 1-9): Prepurgatory

18 cantos (Cantos 10-27): Purgatory Proper

6 cantos (Cantos 28-33): The Earthly Paradise

These things will happen in the Earthly Paradise:

1) Virgil will leave Dante and return to Limbo. Virgil has guided Dante well through the Inferno and up the Mountain of Purgatory, but his job is over, although he will stay with Dante a while longer.

2) Beatrice will take over as Dante’s guide. Beatrice will help guide him through the Earthly Paradise and will be his guide for most of his journey in the Heavenly Paradise.

3) Dante will confess his sins.

4) Dante will drink from the river of Lethe, which will take away the sting of his sins.

5) Dante will drink from the river of Eunoë, which will revive the memory of his good deeds.

6) Dante will embark on his journey to Paradise. This journey, of course, Dante will describe in the Paradise.

  • Describe the Earthly Paradise (the Garden of Eden) as it appears in Canto 28. (It is not called a garden; what is it?)

Dante calls the Garden of Eden the Forest of Eden. Italy is by the Mediterranean Sea, and it can grow hot there, so a forest is invitingly cool.

Dante comes to an incredibly clear stream and stops, and he sees a woman on the other side of the stream.

  • Write a character analysis of Matelda. (She is the young woman in Canto 28; we do not discover her name until Canto 33, line 118.)

The woman on the other side of the incredibly clear stream is Matelda, who smiles and sings. She is the caretaker of the Forest of Eden.

Matelda is beautiful, and Dante compares her to two goddesses:

1) Proserpina

Proserpina was kidnapped by Hades, god of the Underworld, who wanted her to be his wife.

2) Venus (Aphrodite)

Venus’ son is Cupid, whose arrows make people (and gods/goddesses) fall in love. Venus bent over to kiss Cupid one day, accidentally scratching herself with one of his arrows, which were in a quiver. Thereupon, she fell in love with Adonis.

The stream between him and Matelda also reminds him of the Hellespont, and of the myth of the priestess Hero and Leander, who loved her. Leander used to swim across the Hellespont to be with Hero.

Dante asks Matelda to come near to him so that he can understand the words of the song she is singing.

Matelda is helpful, as so many beings on the Mountain of Purgatory tend to be. She tells Dante,

And thou who foremost art, and didst entreat me,

Speak, if thou wouldst hear more; for I came ready

To all thy questionings, as far as needful.”

(Longfellow 28.82-84)

Dante asks her about the breezes in the Earthly Paradise because Statius has told him that the breezes of the Earth’s atmosphere have no effect on the Mountain of Purgatory. Matelda explains that the breezes that Dante feels are caused by the movements of the Heavenly spheres. In addition, the breezes cause seeds from the Earthly Paradise to spread across the world. The Earthly Paradise is a fruitful place.

  • Compare and contrast the two streams that are found in Canto 28.

Two streams flow in the Earthly Paradise, aka the Forest of Eden. Both streams have a supernatural source. Matelda explains,

“The water which thou seest springs not from vein

Restored by vapour that the cold condenses,

Like to a stream that gains or loses breath;

But issues from a fountain safe and certain,

Which by the will of God as much regains

As it discharges, open on two sides.”

(Longfellow 28.121-126)

These are the two streams:

1) The Lethe

“Lethe” means oblivion. Drinking from this stream will remove the sting of sin. We read here that drinking from this stream will “erase sin’s memory” (Musa 28.128); however, in Paradise, the souls realize that they have been forgiven although they have sinned. Also, some of the souls whom Dante speaks to in Paradise remain aware of their sins. Therefore, it is more accurate to say that this stream erases the sting of our sins. Souls in Paradise are aware that they have sinned, and they are grateful to have been forgiven for their sins.

2) The Eunoe

“Eunoe” means well-minded. Drinking from this stream revives the memory of all good deeds that one has performed in one’s life.

Matelda tells Dante,

“The water here on this side flows with power

to erase sin’s memory; and on that side

the memory of good deeds is restored;

it is called Lethe here, Eunoe there

beyond, and if one does not first drink here,

he will not come to know its powers there — ”

(Musa 28.127-132)

Matelda adds,

“Those who in ancient times have feigned in song

The Age of Gold and its felicity,

Dreamed of this place perhaps upon Parnassus.

Here was the human race in innocence;

Here evermore was Spring, and every fruit;

This is the nectar of which each one speaks.”

(Longfellow 28.139-144)

Hearing this, Dante turns around and looks at two “poets of long ago” (Musa 28.139) — Virgil and Statius — and he sees that they are smiling.

  • Dante is now getting ready for his visit to Paradise, so we should expect a lot of changes.

Dante has now spent three days in Purgatory and is now beginning his fourth day. Most critics believe that the rest of Dante’s journey, including his visit to Paradise, takes place on this day.

The 33 cantos of Purgatorycan be broken down in this way:

9 cantos (Cantos 1-9): Prepurgatory

18 cantos (Cantos 10-27): Purgatory Proper

6 cantos (Cantos 28-33): The Earthly Paradise

These things will happen in the Earthly Paradise:

1) Virgil will leave Dante and return to Limbo. Virgil has guided Dante well through the Inferno and up the Mountain of Purgatory, but his job is over, although he will stay with Dante a while longer.

2) Beatrice will take over as Dante’s guide. Beatrice will help guide him through the Earthly Paradise and will be his guide for most of his journey in the Heavenly Paradise.

3) Dante will confess his sins.

4) Dante will drink from the river of Lethe, which will take away the sting of his sins.

5) Dante will drink from the river of Eunoë, which will revive the memory of his good deeds.

6) Dante will embark on his journey to Paradise. This journey, of course, Dante will describe in the Paradise.

  • Describe the Earthly Paradise (the Garden of Eden) as it appears in Canto 28. (It is not called a garden; what is it?)

Dante calls the Garden of Eden the Forest of Eden. Italy is by the Mediterranean Sea, and it can grow hot there, so a forest is invitingly cool.

Dante comes to an incredibly clear stream and stops, and he sees a woman on the other side of the stream.

  • Write a character analysis of Matelda. (She is the young woman in Canto 28; we do not discover her name until Canto 33, line 118.)

The woman on the other side of the incredibly clear stream is Matelda, who smiles and sings. She is the caretaker of the Forest of Eden.

Matelda is beautiful, and Dante compares her to two goddesses:

1) Proserpina

Proserpina was kidnapped by Hades, god of the Underworld, who wanted her to be his wife.

2) Venus (Aphrodite)

Venus’ son is Cupid, whose arrows make people (and gods/goddesses) fall in love. Venus bent over to kiss Cupid one day, accidentally scratching herself with one of his arrows, which were in a quiver. Thereupon, she fell in love with Adonis.

The stream between him and Matelda also reminds him of the Hellespont, and of the myth of the priestess Hero and Leander, who loved her. Leander used to swim across the Hellespont to be with Hero.

Dante asks Matelda to come near to him so that he can understand the words of the song she is singing.

Matelda is helpful, as so many beings on the Mountain of Purgatory tend to be. She tells Dante,

And thou who foremost art, and didst entreat me,

Speak, if thou wouldst hear more; for I came ready

To all thy questionings, as far as needful.”

(Longfellow 28.82-84)

Dante asks her about the breezes in the Earthly Paradise because Statius has told him that the breezes of the Earth’s atmosphere have no effect on the Mountain of Purgatory. Matelda explains that the breezes that Dante feels are caused by the movements of the Heavenly spheres. In addition, the breezes cause seeds from the Earthly Paradise to spread across the world. The Earthly Paradise is a fruitful place.

  • Compare and contrast the two streams that are found in Canto 28.

Two streams flow in the Earthly Paradise, aka the Forest of Eden. Both streams have a supernatural source. Matelda explains,

“The water which thou seest springs not from vein

Restored by vapour that the cold condenses,

Like to a stream that gains or loses breath;

But issues from a fountain safe and certain,

Which by the will of God as much regains

As it discharges, open on two sides.”

(Longfellow 28.121-126)

These are the two streams:

1) The Lethe

“Lethe” means oblivion. Drinking from this stream will remove the sting of sin. We read here that drinking from this stream will “erase sin’s memory” (Musa 28.128); however, in Paradise, the souls realize that they have been forgiven although they have sinned. Also, some of the souls whom Dante speaks to in Paradise remain aware of their sins. Therefore, it is more accurate to say that this stream erases the sting of our sins. Souls in Paradise are aware that they have sinned, and they are grateful to have been forgiven for their sins.

2) The Eunoe

“Eunoe” means well-minded. Drinking from this stream revives the memory of all good deeds that one has performed in one’s life.

Matelda tells Dante,

“The water here on this side flows with power

to erase sin’s memory; and on that side

the memory of good deeds is restored;

it is called Lethe here, Eunoe there

beyond, and if one does not first drink here,

he will not come to know its powers there — ”

(Musa 28.127-132)

Matelda adds,

“Those who in ancient times have feigned in song

The Age of Gold and its felicity,

Dreamed of this place perhaps upon Parnassus.

Here was the human race in innocence;

Here evermore was Spring, and every fruit;

This is the nectar of which each one speaks.”

(Longfellow 28.139-144)

Hearing this, Dante turns around and looks at two “poets of long ago” (Musa 28.139) — Virgil and Statius — and he sees that they are smiling.

***

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PURGATORY: CANTO 27 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/dantes-purgatory-canto-27-retelling/

PURGATORY: CANTO 28 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/dantes-purgatory-canto-28-retelling-forest-of-eden-matelda/

PURGATORY: CANTO 29 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/dantes-purgatory-canto-29-retelling-forest-of-eden-pageant-of-revelation/

PURGATORY: CANTO 30  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/04/dantes-purgatory-canto-30-retelling-forest-of-eden-exit-of-virgil-entrance-of-beatrice/

PURGATORY: CANTO 31 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/dantes-purgatory-canto-31-retelling-forest-of-eden-lethe/

PURGATORY: CANTO 32 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/06/dantes-purgatpry-canto-32-retelling-forest-of-eden-pageant-of-church-history/

PURGATORY: CANTO 33 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/dantes-purgatory-canto-33-retelling-forest-of-eden-purgation-completed/

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