by Dante Alighieri
Purgatorio Suffering Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto, Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
Then certain of them [the Lustful] came as close to me
as they were able to while, cautiously,
they never left the boundaries of their burning. (Purg. XXVI, 13-15)
Interestingly, the Lustful – who you might think would want to jump out of the fire at any given moment – do not take the excuse of greeting Dante as an opportunity to step out of the flames. Indeed, they seem to enjoy their punishment; it is the non-burning places they seem to fear, because they “cautiously / …never left the boundaries of their burning.”
But Virgil had deprived us of himself,
Virgil, the gentlest father, Virgil, he
to whom I gave my self for my salvation;
and even all our ancient mother lost
was not enough to keep my cheeks, though washed
with dew, from darkening again with tears.
“Dante, though Virgil’s leaving you, do not
yet weep, do not weep yet; you’ll need your tears
for what another sword must yet inflict.” (Purg. XXX, 49-57)
The penitents are not the only ones who suffer in Purgatory. Dante, a living being simply visiting the place, seems to take on the punishments as well. (Remember how he bends over with the Prideful in the first terrace?) Here, he is introduced to a different kind of suffering: the loss of a friend. Virgil, who has faithfully guided Dante through the horrors of Hell and the lessons of Purgatory, suddenly disappears. As a pagan, Virgil is no longer useful to the purged Dante and so he disappears, bringing “tears” to Dante’s eyes. Dante must suffer something the penitents have experienced long before: the loss of loved ones. But, as Dante is warned, this isn’t the worst of what is to come; he is destined for even greater pain from “another sword.”
[Beatrice]: “He [Dante] fell so far there were no other means
to lead him to salvation, except this:
to let him see the people who were lost.
For this I visited the gateway of
the dead; to him who guided him above
my prayers were offered even as I wept.
The deep design of God would have been broken
if Lethe had been crossed and he had drunk
such waters but had not discharged the debt
of penitence that’s paid when tears are shed.” (Purg. XXX, 136-145)
Beatrice, in mercilessly describing Dante’s faults, reinforces the concept that sinners must suffer. It is a “debt of penitence” that they owe to God for their bad behavior. Like all the penitents, Dante must earn his purging drink at the rive Lethe through sweat, blood, and tears. He must suffer before being allowed entry into Heaven.