by Dante Alighieri
Inferno Compassion and Forgiveness Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
I answered him: "Ciacco, your suffering
so weights on me that I am forced to weep;
but tell me, if you know, what end awaits
the citizens of that divided city;
is any just man there? Tell me the reason
why it has been assailed by so much schism." (Inf. VI, 58-63)
Even though Ciacco does not tell a pathetic story or even attempt to gain Dante’s mercy, our poet is "forced to weep" for Ciacco’s horrible punishment. Ciacco – because of his terseness – is not considered a likeable character, so it is strange that Dante feels so deeply for him. On second thought, perhaps Dante does not. Instead of asking Ciacco to tell his story, to elicit greater sympathy, Dante does not ask any personal questions, but instead focuses on the fate of their shared city, Florence.
And I to him [Filippo Argenti]: "I’ve come, but I don’t stay;
but who are you, who have become so ugly?"
He answered: "You can see – I’m one who weeps. "
And I to him: "In weeping and in grieving,
accursed spirit, may you long remain;
though you’re disguised by filth, I know your name."
Then he stretched both his hands out toward the boat,
at which my master quickly shoved him back,
saying: "Be off there with the other dogs!"
That done, he threw his arms around my neck
and kissed my face and said: "Indignant soul,
blessed is she who bore you in her womb!" (Inf. VIII, 34-42)
Finally, in the fifth circle of the wrathful, Dante comes to condemn a sinner, taking pleasure in his pain. However, Dante’s reasoning still does not ring true. Instead of condemning Argenti for his rage, Dante makes it personal by raging at Argenti for refusing to identify himself. However, Virgil sees the slow development of Dante’s judgment and rejoices at his harsh words to the sinner. Dante is learning.
[Virgil]: "Now I would have you know: the other time
that I descended into lower Hell,
this mass of boulders had not yet collapsed;
but if I reason rightly, it was just
before the coming of the One who took
from Dis the highest circle’s splendid spoils
that, on all sides, the steep and filthy valley
had trembled so, I thought the universe
felt love (by which, as some believe, the world
has often been converted into chaos);
and at that moment, here as well as elsewhere,
these ancient boulders toppled, in this way." (Inf. XII, 34-45)
Virgil brings the etymology of the word "compassion" to new heights with his description of Christ’s love literally moving mountains. If "compassion" means "to move/feel with," Christ’s love for his followers during the Harrowing of Hell proves so intense that it moves not only the worthy members of the Old Testament with him to Heaven, but shakes the very earth itself, causing part of the valley of violence (appropriately) to topple.