"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Let Them All In

Gates of Paradise, after Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378 - 1455)
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
[I took this photo on Halloween 2012]

"Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire."
curse from which
Everyman is saved ~ 15th C
[See also Spring ~ Time]

"Now hast thou but one bare hour to live
And then thou must be damned perpetually!"

curse describing the fate of
Christopher Marlowe's Faustus ~ 16th C

“Abandon all Hope, Ye Who Enter Here”
curse inscribed above
the Gate to Hell in Dante’s Inferno ~ 14th C
translated by John Ciardi in 1954
Dante Illuminating Florence with His Poem
by Domenico di Michelino (1417–1491)

In his essay "Pure Evil," Notre Dame thelogian Lawrence S. Cunninghman explains Dante's system of punishment in the Circles of Hell:

When Dante found himself in hell, he was so appalled by what he saw that he asked his guide Virgil about those who inhabited such a horrible place. Virgil's answer was economical but clear: The inhabitatnts of hell were those who had "lost the good of intellect." They were, in other words, those who never understood that they were destined to be perfectly satisfied in mind and will with the fullness of God, who is the source of what satisfies the restless hearts of human beings. They freely chose something less than their final end and they were given what they chose. Their damnation was the result of a "loss," and not of anything they "did" in life.

(Notre Dame Magazine, Summer 1994, 42 - 44).

Just inside the gate, Dante and Virgil encounter the uncommitted Opportunists who can go no farther and are doomed to spend eternity in the Vestibule of Hell. They are so repugnant, they don't even get to enter Hell, let alone Heaven! They are the lukewarm, the self - interested fence-sitters, wafflers, and neutrals. As they lived, so are they punished, racing around in pursuit of a waving banner, pursued by swarms of wasps and hornets. They took no side and are therefore vanquished to an eternal darkness of indecision. After years of working with Dante's Divine Comedy, twentieth - century poet John Ciardi was inspired, in this poem, to offer an alternative fate:

In Place of a Curse
by John Ciardi (1916 - 86)

At the next vacancy for God, if I am elected,
I shall forgive last the delicately wounded
who, having been slugged no harder than anyone else,
never got up again, neither to fight back,
nor to finger their jaws in painful admiration.

They who are wholly broken, and they in whom
mercy is understanding, I shall embrace at once
and lead to pillows in heaven. But they who are
the meek by trade, baiting the best of their betters
with extortions of a mock-helplessness,

I shall take last to love, and never wholly.
Let them all in Heaven—I abolish Hell—
but let it be read over them as they enter:
“Beware the calculations of the meek, who gambled nothing,
gave nothing, and could never receive enough.”

Peace To All Who Enter Here!
mantra at our backdoor

As Jack Handey says:
"Life is a constant battle
between the heart and the brain.
But guess who wins.
The skeleton."

Next Fortnightly Post
Friday, November 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

1 comment:

  1. Friends write:

    Kathleen O'Gorman: I adore this poem. "They who are wholly broken, and they in whom / mercy is understanding. . . ." Beautiful.

    Leonard Orr: Rare photo of Dante reading from his poem in progress at the open mic (Guelph Espresso Shop, Florence, 1309). Haha!