Purgatory Canto XXIV (Sixth Terrace: the Gluttonous)
As they walk on, the Gluttonous penitents gather around Dante, incredulous that he casts a shadow.
Continuing to talk about Statius, Dante muses that perhaps he wouldn’t have climbed so fast had he not met Virgil.
Dante asks Forese about his sister Piccarda. Forese answers that she is already in Heaven, lucky lady.
Then he seems to remember his manners and introduces a few of the Gluttonous souls around him.
Dante is only interested in one—Bonagiunta da Lucca, a fellow poet and friend.
Upon seeing Dante, he immediately starts prophesying. He murmurs the name Gentucca, and tells Dante that when he visits his [Bonagiunta’s] home, the woman Gentucca will welcome him, even though the men of city are all no-accounts.
After he finishes his daily dose of foresight, Bonagiunta asks, in a complex poetic way, who Dante is. Which is rather strange, given that he has already prophesied for him and knows Dante’s identity. This is purely for show.
He asks if Dante was the man who wrote “Ladies who have intelligence of love” (which is the first line of Dante’s Vita Nuova).
Dante answers that yes, he’s that love poet.
Unexpectedly, Bonagiunta begins to humble himself and his writing before Dante. He says that he sees now how his own style of writing (along with those who practice it) is “short of the sweet new manner that I hear.” This is a reference to Dante’s innovative way of writing, called the dolce stil novo (the sweet new style). By calling his own work “short” of that, he’s admitting Dante’s superiority in poetry. Must be a nice ego boost for Dante.
It seems like their visit is over because all the souls suddenly turn in unison like a concerted flock of birds and hurry away.
Except Forese Donati; he stays for more small talk.
Forese asks Dante when they will see each other again; which is to say, when do you plan to die?
Dante replies that he doesn’t know, but that he will always long to come back here because his city on earth is a wretched place.
Forese tries to comfort him by foreseeing a Florentine sinner being punished—his own brother, Corso Donati. He prophecies that his brother—a violent Black Guelph—will die by being dragged by the tail of a horse and having his body smashed, all the way to Hell. Not much brotherly love here.
With those words, he tells Dante he must leave because he’s losing too much time by staying.
As he strides away, Dante compares Forese to a horseman riding out to seek glory ahead of his cavalry.
Dante strikes out yet again with his two companions. As they’re walking, they glimpse another tree, again heavy with fruit. Beneath it the Gluttonous are vainly reaching up towards the fruit on the branches. The tree seems to taunt them by keeping its branches just out of reach. Eventually, they give up and leave.
Again, there’s a disembodied voice that warns our heroes not to get close to the tree because it’s related to the one that Eve ate from (the Tree of Knowledge).
The voice then goes on to cite an example of gluttony being punished: Centaurs who gorged with the food and wine at a wedding feast abducted the bride and were later driven away by Theseus. It also references the Hebrews who “drank too avidly” and were thus abandoned by Gideon.
Dante, Virgil, and Statius listen as they walk and eventually run into the Angel of Temperance, who glows a brilliant red. He takes them by surprise; they don’t even see him until he speaks, warning them to turn right or else they’ll lose their way.
They obey, and as they turn, Dante feels the wind of the angel’s wing against his forehead.
The canto ends with the angel’s song. He finishes the Beatitude begun at the start of Canto XXIII, which praises those who use moderation when eating.