Sunday, March 26, 2017

Fortnightly Book, March 26

Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam.

The next fortnightly book is Dante's Purgatorio, the second part of the Divine Comedy. By the internal chronology of the Comedy, Dante's journey had begun, depending on which interpretation you prefer, on March 24 or April 7, and lasts a week. The year for the journey is 1300; March 25, of course, would have been the Annunciation, and also the start of the Florentine year, while April 8, 1300 would have been Good Friday. While there are evidences that suggest the former, the poem's explicit statements seem usually to require the latter, and it makes somewhat more sense theologically. If we take that chronology, all of Good Friday is spent in Hell, and then it takes all of Holy Saturday at the very end of the Inferno to ascend from the bottomless pit to come out and see the stars on the other side of the earth; they arrive at the Island of Purgatory at 6 AM on Easter Sunday, April 10. Dante will find himself the gates to the Mountain of Purgatory at 8 AM on Easter Monday. The ascent up the mountain is laborious, and Dante will finally be at the Earthly Paradise atop the mountain at noon on Wednesday, April 13. (If one assumes the March date, the arrival will be Wednesday, March 30.)

Souls arrive at Purgatory singing In exitu Israel de Aegypto, which is Psalm 113 in the Vulgate (the quoted verse above is the best known verse from the Psalm) and that makes it Psalms 114 & 115 in most modern Bibles. It is precisely the first verse of this psalm that Dante uses in the Letter to Cangrande to explain the fourfold sense of Scripture, which he claims the Comedy imitates:

If we look at it from the letter alone it means to us the exit of the Children of Israel from Egypt at the time of Moses; if from allegory, it means for us our redemption done by Christ; if from the moral sense, it means to us the conversion of the soul from the struggle and misery of sin to the status of grace; if from the anagogical, it means the leave taking of the blessed soul from the slavery of this corruption to the freedom of eternal glory.

The translation I will be using will be Henry Francis Cary's, because it's the most convenient one I happen to have. It's a fairly solid blank verse translation, more concerned with accuracy than with style. It was highly praised by Coleridge, and received good reviews from the Italian poet, Ugo Foscolo, who discovered it while spending eleven years in London.

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