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Dante : Purgatory last call.

Original painting by Gianni Russomando[1].



"To any high imagination here any power did lack;

but my wish by then turned on and did will,

like a wheel which similarly is moved,

love who turns sun and other stars."

Paradise, Canto XXXIII 142-145.


It is not in the present article that the ‘Paradise’ by Dante Aligheri gets its place[2] : but the choice of the poet to fulfill a work where the absence of work in the experience of women and men is going on, did persuade me to cite that mechanical ‘wheel’ representing in Dante the humankind, docile or rebel to the master of cart. 

As a matter of fact I do appreciate the man Dante – in his exile since 1302 when he wrote ‘Purgatory’, which would be published in 1305 after the last political disappointment[3] - because in uncertainty and violence of the time he lived in, he risked not only a difficult text in a ‘new’ by then language[4] which would be ours and mine – our present Italian language indeed – but also he did venture in projecting a reliable place for expiation which could give, once admitted into, a further chance to avoid the ultimate sentence to which on the other hand the Christian Middle Age allowed just a little way out or nothing at all : and the Purgatory by Dante does include a largest range of sinners condemned for sloth, laziness[5] and to that melencholic uncertainty which make them brothers as they are called to a stronger will – “and did will” above – but so similar to that one where they fulfilled their earthly existence. 

We can therefore surely lighten Dante by a too much heavy weight for only one man : however asking the poet who was a lucid supporter of Thomistic[6] how it would be possible that – reasonably and humanly – when any thinking imagination does miss[7] - “my wish and “did will” – can instead – and by which way then ? – be touched, brought and finally ‘turned’[8] if just hardly “as a wheel”, which – as a mechanical item can’t look for and then can’t either ‘wish’ ‘Paradise’.


                                     Marina Bilotta Membretti - Cernusco sul Naviglio December 1, 2021


[1] Gianni Russomando, biography : “I’m born in Vercelli (1956). Graduated at ‘Istituto di Belle Arti di Vercelli’, I can describe me as a simple ‘amanuense’ (medieval hand-painter). Far from expositions and competitions, it’s not a long time I’m on social media with a very personal aim : to give just a flash of quiet to anyone watching at my simple works.”

[2] In this 2021 the 700th anniversary from Dante Alighieri death, I commented his :  ‘Hell’ (‘What children don’t tell’/ www.tutorsalus.net - ‘Thinking as a partner’ May 25, 2021) and ‘Paradise’ (‘…all the people stop at the whistle of their chief’/ www.tutorsalus.net – ‘Events’ June 28, 2021).

[3] Between 1308 and 1312 Dante is writing ‘Purgatory’ from his exile which moves him to Paris, Milan, Genoa and then again to Milan in 1311 in order to pay his own respects to the emperor Arrigo VII, crowned ‘King of Romans’ also if he didn’t succeed in unifying Italy. It is remarkable that almost all the characters in ‘Purgatory’ are from Tuscany, so linked with the previous period of Dante exile.

[4] ‘De vulgari eloquentia’, was written between 1303 and 1305 at the beginning of Dante exile and it is already a formal matter he put, also politically to his contemporaries, about a only one language in Italy.

[5] Nino Visconti for example, as a main character in ‘Purgatory’ I commented in ‘Johanna Vicecomites Galure comitissa’ www.tutorsalus.net / ‘Thinking as a partner’ September 14, 2017.

[6] “…essentia beatitudinis in actu intellectus consistit : sed ad voluntatem pertinet delectatio beatitudinem consequens”( ‘Summa Theol. I II 3, 4)

[7] “To the high imagination here any power did lack…”

[8] “…but my wish by then turned on”