Purgatory, Canto 13
THE Poets reach the Second Cornice, where the sin of Envy is purged, and hear voices crying through the air examples of the virtue of Generosity. Presently they come to where the Envious sit like blind beggars, dressed in sackcloth, and having their eyes stitched up with wire. Dante talks with Sapìa of Siena, who tells him her story.
The Prepatory Lecture
Questions for Reflection
The Canticle in this Canto
Purgatory, Canto 13 © Jan Hearn
Lower Purgatory: Love Perverted. (See below for the general summary of Lower Purgatory.)
The Penance of the Envious: the Sealed Eyes. The sin of Envy (Invidia) differs from that of Pride in that it contains always an element of fear. The proud man is self-sufficient, rejecting with contempt the notion that anybody can be his equal or superior. The envious man is afraid of losing something by the admission of superiority in others, and therefore looks with grudging hatred upon other men’s gifts and good fortune, taking every opportunity to run them down or deprive them of their happiness. On the Second Cornice, therefore, the eyes which could not endure to look upon joy are sealed from the glad light of the sun, and from the sight of other men. Clad in the garments of poverty and reduced to the status of blind beggars who live on alms, the Envious sit amid the barren and stony wilderness imploring the charity of the saints, their fellow-men. Because they are blind, the Whip and Bridle of Envy are brought to them by the voices of passing spirits.
Sapìa, the spirit who converses with Dante in this canto, is the image of Envy’s malicious delight in the misfortune of others.
Lower Purgatory: Love Perverted: There is no actual existing person or thing that is not, in some degree, a proper object of love. The only wrong object of love is the love of harm, which results when love for object A is perverted into hatred for object B. Since God is the source of all good, to hate Him is a delusion and to harm Him is impossible; neither does anyone really hate or want to harm himself. In practice, therefore, Perverted Love is love of injury to one’s neighbour, springing from the evil fantasy that one can gain good for one’s self from others’ harm.
Mark Vernon's Lecture