Plutus; the fourth circle; the prodigal and avaricious; Fortune; the fifth circle; the wrathful and sullen

canto summary and diagram

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1 "Pape Satan, pape Satan aleppe," began * Plutus, in a voice which grated. * And my gentle Sage, the all–knowing man, inferno vii 4 Reassured me: "Don't be intimidated, For he cannot stop you, whatever his power; You will descend the rock as designated." 7 Then he turned to that face, bloated with anger, And said, "Accursed wolf, be silent! * Eat yourself up with your own rabid hunger! 10 Not without reason is this descent. It is willed on high, where Michael wrought His revenge on rebellious dissent." * inferno vii 13 As wind–swelled sails are brought Down in a tangle by a snapped mast, So that savage beast at once collapsed to nought. 16 Thus we went down to the fourth ledge, moving past Further scenes in that dismal cavity Which holds all the world's evils, from first to last. 19 Oh justice of God! What an enormity Of strange torture and penance! Why do we so waste ourselves with iniquity? inferno vii 22 Just as waves above Charybdis advance * Until they crash into earlier waves rolling back, So must the souls here do a similar dance. 25 Nowhere else were they in such a solid pack, Howling furiously while they shoved Weights with their chests in a perpetual attack 28 On each other; when they collided they moved Quickly back and screamed. " Why hoard what you own? " Someone shouted. " Why squander it? " another reproved. * inferno vii 31 They returned along the rim of that gloomy cone, Reaching the point opposite by going either left or right, Then screeching again in a reproachful tone. 34 Instantly they turned around and left that site For the former one where they jousted anew. And I, whose heart was pierced by this strange rite, 37 Inquired, "Master, I wish I knew Who these shades were, and whether all those With tonsures whom we view inferno vii 40 On our left were clergy." And he: " These are shadows Whose minds in their first life were so myopic That their spending was either stingy or grandiose. 43 Their voices clearly bark out how uneconomic They were, as you can hear when they reach that pair Of points where the one guilt confronts its diametric 46 Opposite; indeed to the left are priests, who lack hair, And popes and cardinals, who excelled in avarice." And I: "Master, the odds would seem fair inferno vii 49 That I should recognize at least someone whose vice Is punished at this level." But he: " You haven't a hope, for they paid the price 52 For an undiscerning life, which was to be So filthy and without dignity That they're unrecognizable to you and me. 55 They'll batter each other for eternity Until they all arise from the grave, These without hair, those in tight–fisted pugnacity. * inferno vii 58 Faulty giving and faulty hoarding have Denied them the bright world and produced this fighting. But instead of describing it any more I'll save 61 These words and say this: My son, you see the fleeting Mockery of Fortune's wealth, her empty line of credit For which humans are ceaselessly competing. 64 All the gold beneath the moon's orbit Couldn't buy a single restful moment For one solitary, exhausted spirit." inferno vii 67 "Master," I said, "tell me about this omnipotent Fortune to whom you've alluded. What is she, who controls all the world's content?" * 70 And he: "Oh foolish creatures, deluded By ignorance! Now I wish you to listen To my judgment on her. He, in whose wisdom is included 73 All things, set a guide in each heaven Which he created, so that each portion Would shine on all the others, making an even inferno vii 76 Pattern for the light's distribution. So too for worldly splendor did he create A guide, Fortune, for general administration. 79 From time to time she changes the state Of wealth in the world, shifting vain commodities Among families and nations, at a rhythm and rate 82 Beyond human grasp; thus some countries Are strong, others weak, but all obey her sentence, Which, like a snake in the grass, no one sees. inferno vii 85 Your knowledge exerts on her no influence, For like other gods she foresees, makes judgments, And maintains her kingdom without interference. 88 The speed of her change never relents; Necessity makes her fast; Thus men are caught up in quickly changing events. 91 This is she who is so reviled and cast As the evil one; she is even cursed out By those who should thank her; but she is past inferno vii 94 Caring, blessed, deaf to what they shout. Like any other joyful, primal creature, * She wheels her great sphere, her eternal roundabout. 97 But now let us descend to greater torture; Already every star which rose when I embarked is setting, * And our stay here nears its allotted measure." 100 We crossed the circle to where a foaming spring Spilled through the other bank, making its way Down a channel of its own carving. * inferno vii 103 The water was a dark, purplish gray, And we, following its somber undulation, Pursued a strange path down to where there lay 106 A marsh at the slope's culmination. Styx was the name that swamp bore. * And I, who stood there with all my attention 109 Focused upon it, saw people who wore Muddy smudges and looks of anger, But beyond this, wore nothing more. 112 These naked ones struck out at one another With hands, heads, chests and feet, biting Each other away piece by piece. Said the good teacher: 115 "My son, here you are witnessing * The souls of those over whom anger was victorious; And I want you to be sure of one other thing: 118 Beneath the water lie other souls in odious, Filthy slime, their sighs breaking the surface, As you can see all around, in odorous inferno vii 121 Bubbles of foul gas. Fixed in place, They lament: 'Sullen were we in the sweet air Gladdened by the sun, carrying the disgrace 124 Of sluggish vapor within us; now it's only fair That we lie sullen in this black, muddy liquid.' Deep in their throats they gurgle this hymn of despair, 127 Unable to mouth the words." Thus between the humid Swamp and the dry bank we circled most of that water, Our eyes on the swallowers of that slime most putrid, inferno vii 130 Until at last we arrived at the base of a tower.

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1. There are various interpretations of this gibberish; the most plausible are those which associate "pape" with pope, and "aleppe" with aleph. The words may, in fact, have no specific meanings at all. ^
2.   All–knowing Virgil does understand Plutus, even if we and 
Dante do not. ^
8.   Plutus, called "wolf" because he is a demon of avarice, 
recalls the she–wolf of Canto I. ^
11–12.   The Archangel Michael defeated the rebellious angels 
in Heaven. ^
22. Dante is referring to the dangerous Straits of Messina, which he knew from Virgil, Ovid and Lucan. ^
28–30. The misers and the prodigal, jointly punished, berate each other when they meet. ^
57. An Italian proverb says of prodigals, "they spend even their hairs." ^
69–96. The medieval image of Fortune was a woman with a wheel (tarot card ten of the major arcanum) whose turns symbolized the ups and downs of life. Dante Christianizes this pagan goddess by making her an intelligence—a minister of god who executes divine purposes among humans. ^
95. She is "primal" because she is one of those entities created at the same time as the heavens. ^
98.   It is past midnight—no longer Good Friday, but Holy 
Saturday. ^
100–102.   This is the river Acheron, which, underground for 
the first four circles, emerges here and channels down to create Styx. ^
107. The Styx, second river of Hell, was called a marsh in the Aeneid . ^
115–127. The wrathful were divided by Aristotle and Aquinas into three classes: the quick–tempered, the sullen, and the vindictive. Those of the first class are clearly the ones placed by Dante on the surface of the marsh. The second two seem to be combined into the ones submerged. The first gave voice to their anger, and still do, while the second bottled it up, and still do as well. ^

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