by Dante Alighieri
Purgatorio Pride Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto, Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
[Oderisi]: O empty glory of the powers of humans!
How briefly green endures upon the peak –
unless an age of dullness follows it.
In painting Cimabue thought he held
the field, and now it’s Giotto they acclaim –
the former only keeps a shadowed fame.
So did one Guido, from the other, wrest
the glory of our tongue – and he perhaps
is born who will chase both out of the nest.
Worldly renown is nothing other than
a breath of wind that blows now here, now there,
and changes name when it has changed its course. (Purg. XI, 91-102)
Oderisi condemns human pride and glory as “empty” and “brief.” He compares them to foliage on a mountain: “how briefly green endures upon the peak.” He adds the example from his own life as a celebrated illuminator, in which his fame was fleeting and was soon passed on to the freshest face – Cimabue, Giotto, and now Guido.
As oxen, yoked, proceed abreast, so I
moved with that burdened soul as long as my
kind pedagogue allowed me to; but when
he said: “Leave him behind, and go ahead;
for here it’s fitting that with wings and oars
each urge his boat along with all his force,”
I drew my body up again, erect –
the stance most suitable to man – and yet
the thoughts I thought were still submissive, bent. (Purg. XII, 1-9)
As a self-proclaimed prideful sinner, Dante finds himself so sympathetic to the sufferings of the Prideful that he assumes their humble, bent-over stance. Even when Virgil orders him to stand up straight so he can speed up his pace, Dante’s “thoughts…[are] still submissive, bent,” indicating that the lesson of humility has stayed with him mentally, even if he no longer shows the physical signs of it.
[Forese]: “But tell me if the man whom I see here
is he who brought the new rhymes forth, beginning:
‘Ladies who have intelligence of love.’”
I answered: “I am one who, when Love breathes
in me, takes note; what he, within, dictates,
I, in that way, without, would speak and shape.”
“O brother, now I see,” he said, “the knot
that kept the Notary, Guittone, and me
short of the sweet new manner that I hear.
I clearly see how your pens follow closely
behind him who dictates, and certainly
that did not happen with our pens; and he
who sets himself to ferreting profoundly
can find no other difference between
the two styles.” (Purg. XXIV, 49-63)
This passage is designed to feed Dante’s ego. Donati Forese, a fellow poet and friend, recognizes Dante by quoting the opening line of Dante’s “Vita Nuova,” suggesting that the poem is already considered a classic, widely memorized by scholars and students alike. As if this were not self-serving enough, author-Dante has his friend admit that his own work is not as good as his own: “I clearly see how your pens follow closely behind him who dictates, and certainly that did not happen with our pens.” This unambiguously sets up Dante’s dolce stil novo style of poetry as the supreme form, not to be rivaled by anyone else.