Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dante 12

"When Cerberus perceived us, the great worm!
   His mouths he opened, and displayed his tusks;
   Not a limb had he that was motionless.

And my Conductor, with his spans extended,
  Took of the earth, and with his fists well filled,
  He threw it into those rapacious gullets.

Such as that dog is, who by barking craves,
  And quiet grows soon as his food he gnaws,
  For to devour it he but thinks and struggles,

The like became those muzzles filth-begrimed
  Of Cerberus the demon, who so thunders
  Over the souls that they would fain be deaf."

Cerberus; Blake's Plate  12 of his Ilustrations of Dante 

"The "great worm" Cerberus guards the gluttons, who are forced to lie in a vile slush produced by ceaseless foul, icy rain (Virgil obtains safe passage past the monster by filling its three mouths with mud). In her notes on this circle,Dorothy L. Sayers writes that "the surrender to sin which began with mutual indulgence leads by an imperceptible degradation to solitary self-indulgence."[11] The gluttons lie here sightless and heedless of their neighbors, symbolizing the cold, selfish, and empty sensuality of their lives.[11] Just as lust has revealed its true nature in the winds of the previous circle, here the slush reveals the true nature of sensuality – which includes not only overindulgence in food and drink, but also other kinds of addiction.[12]
In this circle, Dante converses with a Florentine contemporary identified as Ciacco, which means "hog."[13] A character with the same nickname later appears in The Decameron ofGiovanni Boccaccio.[14] Ciacco speaks to Dante regarding strife in Florence between the "White" and "Black" Guelphs. In one of a number of prophecies in the poem, Ciacco "predicts" the expulsion of the White party, to which Dante belonged, and which led to Dante's own exile. This event occurred in 1302, after the date in which the poem is set, but before the poem was written[13](Canto VI).

Blake extended himself in the Book of Job with this picture, shades of Behemoth and Leviathan:

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