Friday, April 3, 2015

Beatrice complains that Dante would not listen to his dreams

Dante has gone through all the cycles of hell. He has mounted the three dread steps to the Gate of Purgatory - the mirror step, which compels him to look at himself in all facets as he truly is; the black step cracked from side to side, that requires him to examine the darkness in his soul; the blood-red step that requites him to explore the meaning of sacrifice and choose the offering he will make.
    He has found that he can only pass the stern Gatekeeper of Purgatory, throned on a great rock hard and bright as diamond, by knocking on his heart.
    He has begun his slow ascent of the mountain of Purgatory.
    And at last he has come to the presence of the one he yearns for, the radiant Guide of his soul. She appears to him in the form of the lovely young woman he loved but could never have. But he sees in her eyes that this being is more than any mortal woman. In her eyes is reflected the terror and beauty of the griffin, the lion-eagle that pulls her chariot, which is accompanied by a host of angels.
    Beatrice addresses Dante by name, the only time the author of the Commedia identifies himself in the text. Then she turns to the angels to make this complaint: 

Ne l’impetrare inspirazion mi valse,
con le quali e in sogno e altrimenti
lo rivocai: si poco a lui ne calse

-      -  Purgatorio canto xxx, lines 133-136

Nor was it any use for me to inspire him,
calling him in dreams and other ways;
he would not heed them! [my free version]

This is a stunning moment. From the heart of Western literature, and of medieval Christendom, we are receiving the message that the Guide of the soul seeks us in dreams. For years before he fell into hell, Dante was dreaming of the Guide, but failed to remember or to heed what he was dreaming. Beatrice's complaint to the angels must resonate in our minds. If we are missing our dreams, we are missing a direct connection to the sacred Guide, the Beloved of the Soul that wishes to be with us everywhere.

Art: William Blake's vision of Beatrice addressing Dante from her griffin-drawn chariot.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I recognize those steps to the Gate of Purgatory that Dante is walking. Been there lately.