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by Dante Alighieri

Inferno Justice Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.

Quote #7

[Farinata]: "We see, even as men who are farsighted,
those things," he said, "that are remote from us;
the Highest Lord allots us that much light.
But when events draw near or are, our minds
are useless; were we not informed by others,
we should know nothing of your human state." (Inf. X, 100-105)

Following the philosophy of the Epicureans, who deny the existence of an afterlife and thus live with a "seize the day" mentality, the heretics make their decisions based purely on the whims of the present, with no regard for the future. In Hell, then, such heretics cannot see the present state of affairs in the mortal world. They can only see into the future, a time period that they ignored while alive.

Quote #8

[Pier della Vigna]: … "When the savage spirit quits
the body from which it has torn itself,
then Minos sends it to the seventh maw.
It falls into the wood, and there’s no place
to which it is allotted, but wherever
fortune has flung that soul, that is the space
where, even as a grain of spelt, it sprouts.
It rises as a sapling, a wild plant;
and then the Harpies, feeing on its leaves,
cause pain and for that pain provide a vent.
Like other souls, we shall seek out the flesh
that we have left, but none of us shall wear it;
it is not right for any man to have
what he himself has cast aside. We’ll drag
our bodies here, they’ll hang in this sad wood,
each on the stump of its vindictive shade." (Inf. XIII, 93-108)

Suicides (those who have committed violence against themselves), by rejecting the gift of human life, renounce their right to the human body. For such souls, "there’s no place / to which it is allotted, but wherever fortune has flung [it]," because suicides make the presumption of changing God’s plan for them by taking their own lives, thus forfeiting their rightful place in God’s schema. Entrapped in the forms of trees, rooted forever in a single spot, the suicides basically endure a living death, in which they are helpless against their attackers, the Harpies. Even when Judgment Day comes, they will not be allowed to reunite with their human bodies, but must watch as they hang just out of reach.

Quote #9

Above that plain of sand, distended flakes
of fire showered down; their fall was slow –
as snow descends on alps when no wind blows.
Just like the flames that Alexander saw
in India’s hot zones, when fires fell,
intact and to the ground, on his battalions,
for which – wisely – he had his soldiers tramp
the soil to see that every fire was spent
before new flames were added to the old;
so did the never-ending heat descend;
with this, the sand was kindled just as tinder
on meeting flint will flame – doubling the pain. (Inf. XIV, 28-39)

Those violent against God and nature (the blasphemers, sodomites, and usurers) receive not the nourishing and life-giving rain from Heaven, but the opposite – a killing cascade of fire-flakes. The falling flames are not extinguished on contact with the ground, but their heat is absorbed and radiated by the hot sand, "doubling the pain" of those who would offend God.

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