I am still slowly…very slowly…plugging away at Dante's Inferno, which recounts Dante's (imagined) guided tour through Hell by his mentor, Virgil. It's a tough read with a lot of allegorical and obscure historical references – I'm thankful that I have an annotated edition. Nevertheless, it has been a worthwhile read. I have been asking myself "What is the good that we we learn from Dante's journey?" and nearly every Canto has given me a little nugget of wisdom to carry away.
"Like one so close to the quartanary chill
that his nails are already pale and his flesh trembles
at the very sight of shade or a cool rill –
so did I tremble at each frightful word.
But his scolding filled me with that shame that makes
the servant brave in the presence of his lord.
I mounted the great shoulder of that freak
and tried to say 'Now help me to hold on!'
But my voice clicked in my throat and I could not speak.
But no sooner had I settled where he placed me
than he, my stay, my comfort, and my courage
in other perils gathered and embraced me."
~Dante, trans. Ciardi, Inferno, Canto XVII, Lines 79-90
Virgil has enlisted the services of Geryon, the great monster of fraud, to carry him and Dante down to the next level of Hell. (Dante pictures Hell as a series of circles spiraling ever downward.) Dante is terrified to mount the beast, but he moves forward anyway so as not to be ashamed in front of Virgil, whom he looks up to as a mentor. But once he does, he finds that Virgil 'gathered and embraced' him. Really, he needn't have feared…just as we needn't fear in the face of new, unknown, or frightening circumstances because the everlasting God is the one who gathers and embraces us.
"The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand."
Psalm 37:23-24 (NASB)
My Bookbag This Week:
Devotional: Lent Devotions in Living the Christian Year (Gross), The Discipline of Grace (Bridges)
Theological or Christian Living: Age of Opportunity (Tripp), Kingdom Come (Storms)
Book Discussion Group Titles: Idylls of the King (Tennyson), Watership Down (Adams)
'Great Book': Inferno (Dante)
On Education: How to Read a Book (Adler), Beauty for Truth's Sake (Caledecott)
Topic of Special Interest: The New World (Churchill)
Novel/Biography/Memoir: Nicholas Nickelby (Dickens)
Read-Alouds with the Children: On the Banks of Plum Creek (Wilder), The Horse and His Boy (Lewis), Eric Liddell: Something Greater Than Gold (Benge), The Milly Molly Mandy Story Book (Brisley)
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