A second soul to speak to Dante the Pilgrim is Buonconte [who dismissed his title ‘Montefeltro’ – for the ground is level at the Cross]. We hear his story, then there is this remarkable tale of a last second confession of faith.
97 '…I made my way,
98 wounded in the throat, fleeing on foot,
99 and dripping blood across the plain.
100 'There I lost sight and speech.
101 I ended on the name of Mary and there I fell,
102 and only my flesh remained.
103 'I will tell the truth--you tell it to the living.
104 God's angel took me…
With his last breath, Dante the Poet tells us he cried out the name of the Blessed Virgin, and was saved. Line 102 reads that just the husk of his wounded body remained for his soul was claimed by God, much to Satan’s devil’s disgust! He’d come from Hell to pick up a delivery and suddenly, it was snatched from his claws…
104 … and he from Hell cried out:
105 "O you from Heaven, WHY DO YOU ROB ME? [italics and caps added}
Dante the Poet spends not much time with this, but rather goes on to tell how in anger and frustration the demon buried the body at the bottom of the river. And yet, throughout history, this has been a sticking point for many scholars, readers, believers as well as unbelievers. How can this be right? A lifetime of unbelief and evil recovered and redeemed by a dying breath? Goethe surely had this Canto V in mind when he wrote Faust Part 2. In the First Part, Faust is taken to Hell by Mephistopheles with great fury and fanfare. Serves him right! And yet, in the OTHER Faust, written late and published in 1832, the year of his death, Goethe reveals a last second conversion on the part of the Bad Doctor Faustus: and he is saved by God, Who sends angels to retrieve the soul before Mephistopheles can get it. In one translation we read:
Mephistopheles (Looking round him.)
How then? – Where did they vanish to?
You took me by surprise, you adolescents.
Now with what they’ve salvaged from the tomb,
As their own prize, they’ve flown off to heaven:
They’ve stolen a great, a unique treasure:
That noble soul, mortgaged to my pleasure…
That “noble soul” had been promised to the Evil One, and yet, due to Faust’s last second conversion, the angels have “stolen a great, a unique treasure…”
In one paraphrase, Mephistopheles lets out a primal howl, fiercely crying ‘UNFAIR! HE WAS MINE!” And of course, Dante the Poet is a great, great theologian and he knows indeed that his story in Canto V is “unfair” in the eye-for-an-eye or "quid-pro-quo" morality of today. Yet, in God’s Kingdom Economy, with a word, we are forgiven if we turn and repent. The word from the Cross confirms that: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” – “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” What was that Newsboys song: ‘When you get what you don’t deserve, it’s a real good thing?’