LAC 1000C: Italian
Dante’s Inferno: A Detailed Look Into Canto XXIV, Lines 1-57
Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy is an allegorical epic novel describing Dante’s journey through the Inferno, to Purgatorio and finally to Paradiso. The purpose of this journey, particularly the journey through the Inferno, is to expose people to the recognition and rejection of sin (Casagrande). Dante, being that he is human, must first pass through the Inferno to witness the sinners and their according contrapasso, before he can enter Purgatorio towards his final pursuit to Paradiso. The Divine Comedy is a metaphorical journey of bringing the light of ...view middle of the document...
This metaphor is related to Dante’s state of worry after seeing Virgil’s distress because of Malacoda’s deceit, quickly followed by Dante’s regainment of hope when Virgil regains his self-confidence and composure (Dante Worlds).
Lines 1 - 6
“In that part of the youthful year wherein1
The Sun his locks beneath Aquarius tempers,
And now the nights draw near to half the day
What time the hoar-frost copies on the ground3
The outward semblance of her sister white,
But little lasts the temper of her pen…”
In Lines 1-6, Dante uses symbolic language to paint a clear picture of the setting to his metaphor, referring to the time of year when the Winter cold of the world is warmed up by the early months of Spring. Dante mentions Aquarius deliberately, as the Aquarius zodiac takes place during the months of late January to early February. In ancient Italy, the months of late January to early February was the beginning of Springtime, when the frost (which he indicates with the use of the words, “hoar-frost copies on the ground, the outward semblance of her sister white”) begins to disappear, the earth warms and starts to flourish again. The use of such details to hint at a very specific time of years is an example of Dante’s well-rounded genius and his background knowledge of an endless amount of subjects.
“The husbandman whose forage faileth him7,
Rises and looks, and seeth the champaign
All gleaming white, whereat he beats his flank,
Returns in doors, and up and down laments10,
Like a poor wretch, who knows not what to do;
Then he returns and hope revives again,
Seeing the world has changed its countenance13
In little time, and takes his shepherds’ crook,
And fourth the little lambs to pasture drives.”
Lines 7-15 contain the metaphor Dante uses to describe Virgil and Dante’s situation. The shepherd has been waiting for the passing of winter to come – during winter he cannot venture outside to take care of his flock, and not being able to do this, the shepherd is “like a poor wretch, who knows not what to do” as he cannot make use of himself which causes his dispair. The shepherd looks out into the morning, and seeing the white frost that blankets the pastures, he becomes upset that Winter is so long. Then the sun comes out and the frost melts (portrayed with Dante’s words when he writes, “Seeing the world has changed its countenance in little time”) and the shepherd regains happiness and hope about the fact that he can now go out and accomplish his life meaning, as a shepherd leads his flock of sheep. This is a further example of Dante’s genius use of language: Spring gives way to Easter, and Easter is the notorious symbol of rebirth.
“Thus did the Master fill me with alarm16,
When I beheld his forehead so disturbed,
And to the ailment came as soon the plaster.
For we came unto the ruined bridge19,
The Leader turned to me with that sweet look
Which at the mountains foot I first beheld.”