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Summary

Purgatorio Purgatory Canto XXX (The Earthly Paradise) Summary Page 1

  • Calling the candelabra the “Seven-Stars,” Dante compares them to the constellation of the Bear, which guides sailors home.
  • The twenty-four elders between the candelabra and the chariot turn toward the candelabra and one sings a hymn three times: “Veni, sponsa, de Libano,” which translates as “Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse.”
  • In response, all the elders rise to sing back, as though they’re at the Final Summons singing the Alleluia. They cry “Benedictus qui venis” (Blessed art thou that comest) and as they scatter flowers around, they call out “Manibus, oh, date lilia plenis” (With full hands, give me lilies).
  • This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. Out of the cloud of falling flowers – which Dante beautifully compares to mist veiling the face of the rising sun – a woman appears, wearing a white veil, green cape, and a flame-red dress. Her head is crowned by olive branches.
  • At the first sight of her, even veiled, Dante trembles, feeling within himself a familiar sensation, “the mighty power of old love.” Yes folks, this is Beatrice.
  • Like a scared little child, Dante turns to Virgil to tell him who this is, but finds – to his chagrin – that Virgil is gone. Where has Virgil gone?
  • We feel like crying, but Dante does it for us, mingling the dew on his cheeks with tears again.
  • For the first time, we hear Beatrice’s voice. She implores Dante not to cry because he’ll need to keep his tears ready for yet another wound from another sword. Well, that sounds promising.
  • As he turns to look at Beatrice, Dante compares her to an admiral stepping down to check on her fellow sailors. Indeed, she stands beside the chariot, her face obscured by the veil.
  • As he gazes both with admiration and a little fear, she announces, “Look here! For I am Beatrice, I am!”
  • Without mercy, she scolds Dante for crying here in the Earthly Paradise, where men are supposed to be happy.
  • Ashamed, Dante bends his head and catches sight of his reflection in the stream, where he seems so incredibly shame-faced that he diverts his eyes back to the grass.
  • Beatrice is compared to a mother scolding her child.
  • Suddenly the angels surrounding Beatrice intervene, singing in Latin and then begging their lady to have pity on poor Dante.
  • At this plea for mercy on his behalf, Dante is so moved that his tears burst forth like a stream fed by the melting runoff from the mountain snows.
  • Beatrice turns to them, reprimands them gently for interrupting and explains to them why she wants Dante to understand and heed her words.
  • She explains to them (though her speech is clearly meant for Dante) that when Dante was young, all the spheres and godly graces favored him so much that he could’ve succeeded with his great poetic talent.
  • But, Beatrice says, Dante neglected to till his seed well and it has grown “wilder and more noxious.” In other words, his talent has thus far been misguided.
  • She goes on: when I was young, I used to lead him down the right path by virtue of his love for me. But as soon as I died, he abandoned me to follow someone else and began going down a crooked path where he “followed counterfeits of goodness.” I tried to come to him in dreams and lead him back, but he never heeded me again. Finally, he strayed so far from the true path that the only way to save his soul was to show him all the horrors of Hell. For that task, I requested Virgil. He is meant to drink of the Lethe and to purge his soul in order to match the “deep design of God” destined for him.
  • Way to go, Dante. You’ve gotten your true love upset with you.

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