I think there is a confusion here. Limbo is the first circle of Hell. The
second circle is the circle of the lustful, in which are Paolo and Francesca.
Both are in what you call "Inferno proper." The prior circle is the vestibule
which holds those who never chose. But Dante and Virgil pass over
Acheron from the vestibule of Hell into the first of nine circles before both
Limbo and the Circle of the lustful.
What is the source of the claim here about a separate status of Hell after
the first and second circles?
Date sent: Tue, 29 Jan 2002 22:38:37 -0500 (EST)
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From: Venus Freeman <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Thoughts on "La Figlia che Piange"
sorry I took a couple of days to get back to this. I can't recall where I
got this notion that Paolo and Francesca never touched--I am sure that one
of my professors somewhere along the line passed this bit of information
on to me. And looking again at my Mandelbaum, I do find that Francesca
says that "this one, who never shall be parted from me, while all his body
trembled, kissed my mouth" (not bad even in a translation)(lines 135-6).
ANd this "never shall be parted from me" does support the reading you have
offered (supported by many translators). However, I am a little dubious,
and only partly because I don't readily give up long-held convictions :).
As Dante describes the torment of the circle at the beginning of the
Canto, he says
I reached a place where every light is muted
which bellows like the sea beneath a tempest
when it is battered by opposing winds
The hellish hurricane, which never rests,
drives on the spirits with its violence:
wheeling and pounding, it harasses them.
When they come up against the ruined slope,
then there are cries and wailing and lament,
and there they curse the force of the divine.
Now, while this isn't even the Inferno proper yet (but as you note, the
2nd ring of Limbo), it still sounds pretty harsh to me, and clearly
indicates that those who dwell there do so in misery. ANd Francesca is
clearly depicted as miserable, so much so that Dante is "moved to tears of
sorrow and pity" (line 117) When asked to tell her tale, she says "there
is no greater sorrow / than thinking upon a happy time / in misery . . ."
(121-123). And she tells her tale "as one who weeps and speaks" (126).
Now, perhaps it's only the romantic in me, but it seems to me that if one
could spend eternity with the beloved, bound together, even in torment,
then even torment would not truly be torment, and surely the misery would
not be so great as that of which she speaks. Granted, I can only infer,
but the opposing winds of great force would seem to me not to allow the
binding of these two together, though she does say that Paolo will never
be parted from her. Maybe I got my image of the two eternally blown near
but never allowed to touch from the first translation I read, on which I
can't lay hands at the moment, and admmittedly was quite a cheap
translation by no one of any authority on the matter. But I have
maintained that image of their suffering very vividly in my imagination.
And I still maintain that they are suffering punishment, which surely
would not include being bound together. it seems much more appropriate to
me for them never to touch, like Tantalus in Greek mythology is
"tantalized" by food and drink almost at his very lips until he reaches to
consume it. Such a punishment would seem to me to typify the sort of
suffering dante depicts here, which does seem rather severe, especially
for this early rung that isn't even in the Inferno proper (and actually
the sins of some of the others, as well as Paolo and Francesca would seem
to me, given the Catholic midset, to warrant something more severe than
Limbo! But perhaps once again Dante is playing with things a bit: is
Ulysses' crime so much worse--as a false counselor, confined much further
down, as described in Canto 26--so much worse than adultery and lust?
Anyway, these are my thoughts. I am almost tempted to ask an old
prof of mine who specializes in Dante. I would guess he would cite the
same sources as you, but I can't help but think that I didn't entirely
invent such a vivid image that has stayed with me for nearly 20 years
(yes, I am just barely old enough to have been reading dante 20 years ago,
and NOT been a prodigy :). Does it really make sense to you that such
misery as Dante describes coincides with the kind of satisfaction you
attribute to Francesca? genuinely curious, Venus
On Sun, 27 Jan 2002,
Richard Seddon wrote:
> Marcia and Venus
> Venus: I second Marcia welcome in hearing your voice again. You were
> I was careless in my remarks about the book. A not unusual occurrence.
> One of the major themes of the Divine Comedy is that admittance and
> repentance is what defines whether a soul is assigned to hell or
> purgatory. If the soul admits to their sin and repents it is assigned to
> purgatory regardless of the sin. If the soul does not admit and repent
> then it is assigned to a circle of hell dependent upon the sin.
> Francesca blames the book for getting her involved in sin. She never
> has admitted or repented of the sin itself. She does not repent
> therefore she is in hell.
> Venus: I find no mention in any of the translations I have that
> Francesca and Paolo can't touch. I do find that they are together being
> blown around in the noise and winds along with the souls of Dido and
> others. I cannot find separation as a condition of their punishment
> anywhere. What Pinsky translates as "those two who move together" the
> temple classics gives as "those two that go together", Ciardi gives it
> as "with those two swept together" and in fact Dorothy Sayers says "And
> hand in hand on the dark wind drifting go". Furthermore, Ciardi
> translates line 100-102 as (Francesca is speaking)
> Love, which permits no loved one not to love
> took me so strongly with delight in him
> that we are one in hell, as we were above.
> Rick Seddon
> McIntosh, NM, USA
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Marcia Karp" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Sunday, January 27, 2002 11:09 AM
> Subject: Re: Thoughts on "La Figlia che Piange"
> > Venus Freeman wrote:
> > > I also appreciate the
> > > point (whoever made it first--forgive me for forgetting and thus
> > > being unable to give credit where it's due (was it Marcia?)) that it
> > > is the
> > > that kills them. But is it really? The problem, the reason for
> > > their death and condemnation is because, as Mandelbaum translates
> > > it, "they
> > > no more that day." I do see the point that it was the reading
> > > together that brought them to the moment of their sin. And I have
> > > always loved
> > > perfect understatement of the line: it conveys a great deal by
> > > simply telling us they put the book down.
> > Dear Venus,
> > How nice to hear your voice again.
> > I didn't say that the book killed them, I think Rick S did, but
> > that
> > calls the book a pander -- that is, the story of Launcelot's being
> enthralled to
> > love excited (to be coarse) Paolo and Francesca to their own illicit
> > acts.
> > resisted until their feelings were enacted in the story. As you and
> > Rick
> do, I
> > think it important that they were reading. Compare this from Auden's
> > "In
> > of W. B. Yeats":
> > For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
> > In the valley of its saying where executives
> > Would never want to tamper; it flows south
> > From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
> > Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
> > A way of happening, a mouth.
> > I like the happy coincidence of Auden's mouth with the fatal kiss.
> Anyway, Rick,
> > here's a paper waiting for you to write in your semester's leave.
> > You make a nice point in your observation on the tact and power of
> > giorno pił non vi leggemmo avante» ("that day we read no more").
> > Marcia