The ability to create a believable false reality rules movie making today. ‘Computer Generated Images’ [CGI] often take center stage while plot, intelligent dialogue and believable characters who come from fine acting are all left far behind. Indeed, all one has to do is look at the sorry lot of disaster movies that depend solely on CGI rather than on the quality of script, plot and acting. [The 2012 disaster movie stable would be a good place to start… ugh….] What is created and that which looks stunningly real is, in fact, false, changeable and often wrong. This is what happens with these two cantos in remarkable ways, but with a remarkable script as well as a thoroughly believable backstory and reason for the metamorphoses. The punishment of the thieves in these cantos deals with disappearing reality, unwilling and forced transformations, painful recovery and blatant rejection of all that is holy and true.
Indeed, this reflects exactly what gross thievery inflicts upon individuals and society when property, goodness, security and safety are stolen away and the innocent must attempt in pain and struggle to rebuild their lives and hope. The thieves who turned upside down the concept of yours and mine, rightful ownership in fact, now cannot even call themselves or their own individuality their own as each attacks the other in vicious transference, stealing each other’s’ identities and forms.
16 Thus the master caused me to lose heart
17 when I saw how troubled was his brow
18 and just as quickly came the poultice to the wound,
19 for no sooner had we reached the broken bridge
20 than he turned to me with that gentle glance
21 I first saw at the mountain's foot.
I am personally reminded of how many times I have looked at my own reality with despair only to discover that, in point of fact, all was well, and all was well, and every manner of thing was well.
“Dante makes extensive use of equivocal rhyme: two words rhyming with each other, which are spelled the same way but mean different things. One example (out of at least three instances in the first twenty-four lines) occurs in lines 11 and 13:
11 Come ‘I tapin che non sa che si faccia;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
13 veggendo il mondo aver cangiata faccia.
‘Che si faccia’ in line 11 means ‘what to do’ (from fare, verb. ‘to do ’) while ‘aver cangiata faccia ’ in line 13 means ‘has changed its face’ (la faccia, noun. ‘face’). Thus words themselves in this passage undergo metamorphosis.”
[Dante Alighieri (1995-06-22). Dante’s Inferno, The Indiana Critical Edition (Indiana Masterpiece Editions) (Kindle Location 3860). Indiana University Press. Kindle Edition.]
I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading Canto XXV in every translation I could find [six in all]. It is a tour-de-force. From the blatant and obscene insult flung at God to the vicious attacks and multiple transformations I am fascinated. Of course, this can also be a bad thing, but Dante apparently knew that what he was creating would stand in eternity alongside the finest and best of all writing known to humanity. When Dante the Poet is almost through describing the various transformations he stops, almost in wonder at himself and writes this:
94 Let Lucan now fall silent where he tells
95 of poor Sabellus and Nasidius,
96 and let him wait to hear what comes forth now!
97 Let Ovid not speak of Cadmus or Arethusa,
98 for if his poem turns him into a serpent
99 and her into a fountain, I grudge it not,
100 for never did he change two natures, face to face,
101 in such a way that both their forms
102 were quite so quick exchanging substance.
And he is correct to do so, for the power and the pain of his poetry are all palpable. But this is all for a reason, for I am forced to remind myself that this is, even so, a moral geography, and what I am reading and ‘witnessing’ is highly significant for my spiritual formation and perception of truth. I must not simply glory in gory descriptions, but reflect on how many ways I have stolen another’s integrity and honor and love and then left them desolate. The insult and thievery may not have been intentional, but without conscious care and appreciation and concern, I too can become a thief of time and beauty and love, only worried about my final ‘score’. Dante’s genius is that in The Purgatorio and The Paradiso his poetry and use of language continues to reflect the moral geography around him, hence becoming more sublime as Dante the Poet climbs higher toward the Holy God. This fierce description here is counter-balanced by profound descriptions further up. The more I read the Commedia, the more I too am changed and am excited to go higher. As C. S. Lewis writes concerning Narnia in The Last Battle: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now...Come further up, come further in!”