by Dante Alighieri
Purgatorio Suffering Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto, Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
Beseeching, thus, good penitence for us
and for themselves, those shades moved on beneath
their weights, like those we sometimes bear in dreams –
each in his own degree of suffering
but all, exhausted, circling the first terrace,
purging themselves of this world’s scoriae. (Purg. XI, 25-30)
Dante’s point here is that a penitent soul's punishment is exactly tailored to fit his vices, just like the sinners’ punishments in Hell. God assigns each soul “his own degree of suffering” in accordance with Divine Justice. So the suffering that each soul undergoes is fair and is no more than he deserves. Of course, Purgatory is built on this idea of Divine Justice. In the first terrace, this justice means that each soul drags around a different amount of weight on its back, but each individual is appropriately bent over so that his eyes face the ground in a gesture of humility – a fitting punishment for excessive pride.
[Omberto Aldobrandeschi]: “And were I not impeded by the stone
that, since it has subdued my haughty neck,
compels my eyes to look below, then I
should look at this man who is still alive
and nameless, to see if I recognize
him – and to move his pity for my burden.
I was Italian, son of a great Tuscan:
my father was Guiglielmo Aldobrandesco;
I do not know if you have heard his name.
The ancient blood and splendid deeds of my
forefathers made me so presumptuous
that, without thinking on our common mother,
I scorned all men past measure, and that scorn
brought me my death – the Sienese know how,
as does each child in Campagnatico.
I am Omberto; and my arrogance
has not harmed me alone, for it has drawn
all of kin into calamity.
Until God has been satisfied, I bear
this burden here among the dead because
I did not bear this load among the living.” (Purg. XI, 52-72)
Here, Omberto emphasizes the just nature of his suffering. In the last line, he says, “I bear / this burden here among the dead because / I did not bear this load among the living.” This is the exact nature of punishment here in Purgatory; one repents for what one has done wrong in life and then works to correct it in the afterlife. Omberto suffers for his “scorn” and “arrogance” that he thought befitted him as a nobleman in life. One of the consequences of being proud is shown here, in the first few lines: Omberto cannot lift his head to look at Dante because his punishing weights keep his face firmly fixed downward. Thus, he is so shamed that he cannot even bring himself to the same level as a normal standing man.
Those souls – it seemed – were cloaked in coarse haircloth;
another’s shoulder served each shade as prop,
and all of them were bolstered by the rocks:
so do the blind who have to beg appear
on pardon days to plead for what they need,
each bending his head back and toward the other,
that all who watch feel – quickly – pity’s touch
not only through the words that would entreat
but through the sight, which can – no less – beseech.
And just as, to the blind, no sun appears,
so to the shades – of whom I now speak – here,
the light of heaven would not give itself;
for iron wire pierces and sews up
the lids of all those shades, as untamed hawks
are handled, lest, too restless, they fly off. (Purg. XIII, 58-70)
For allowing their eyes to wander to others’ possessions in life, the Envious are forced into blindness in the afterlife. Their eyes are sewn shut by “iron wires” so that they need to lean on each other for support. As a result of their blindness, the Envious cannot see the greatest gift of all – the light of Heaven – until they purge themselves of their vice.