Purple seems to be the color of Envy in the Commedia. We are now on the second level of the Seven-Storey Mountain, and there must be some clarification between the Medieval definition of Envy as opposed to the 21st century expression of it. In the modern era, green is the color of Envy, because it is basically the result of wanting something that someone else possesses. This could be cars, houses, physical attributes, portfolios or corner offices. However, in the modern mindset, Envy has been reduced in destructive power and presence. It seems, in point of fact, to be expected and even accepted. Envy is the prime motivating factor for the advertising world or, even, most of the political candidates in the West. You deserve to get what you Envy others having…
115 'My townsmen were near Colle,
Eran li cittadin miei presso a Colle
116 engaged in battle with their enemies, and I prayed
in campo giunti co' loro avversari,
117 that God let happen what in fact He willed.
e io pregava Iddio di quel ch'e' volle.
118 'When they were routed and turned back
Rotti fuor quivi e vòlti ne li amari
119 in bitter steps of flight, I watched the chase,
passi di fuga; e veggendo la caccia,
120 my heart filled with such boundless joy
letizia presi a tutte altre dispari,
121 'that recklessly I turned my face to God,
tanto ch'io volsi in sù l'ardita faccia,
122 crying: "Now I do not fear you any more,"
gridando a Dio: 'Omai più non ti temo!'
And of course, the punishment is also appropriate, for Envy enters the soul through the eyes; therefore they are sewn shut. Being blind, they are forced to other means of support and spiritual growth: leaning on each other, listening to the voices of love floating on the wind. I am reminded yet again that, while this is a gruesome image, it is one that leads toward healing and wholeness. We are not in Hell any longer where pain and punishment is the only reality. There is no change in Hell, just as there is no change in Heaven: all is stasis. Only in Purgatory do we find time and transformation at work: there is change. Pain is not punishment, but it is a tool. This is the pain of purgation and renewal. Dante the Poet reminds us of this in the first quatrain:
1 We were at the summit of the stair
Noi eravamo al sommo de la scala,
2 where the mountain that unsins us as we climb
dove secondamente si risega
3 is for the second time cut back.
lo monte che salendo altrui dismala.
Some of you may remember that at Augustine of Hippo’s point of conversion, he heard a voice in the garden that said: “Tolle Lege” … that is, “Take Up And Read.” This led him to scripture and to his conversion. I want to remind any of you who have happened upon this blog to do the same. I am simply sharing my thoughts as I read my varying translations of the Commedia. I am hoping and assuming that all of you are reading the full Canto and the subsequent notes in your own translation. The ones I use are:
Purgatory by Dorothy L. Sayers
The Purgatorio by John Ciardi
Purgatorio by Robert and Jean Hollander
Purgatorio by Mark Musa
I have found any of these to be more than satisfactory, and I will almost always read each Canto in each translation, taking time to reflect and soak in their varying insights, and they do vary indeed! Please, choose one of these or one you found in a used bookstore, and come along for the ride. My comments are a poor substitute for the richness of primary text. Dante Rocks!