Addressing Dante, by William Blake
the Mountainside freely, now takes lead of his two teachers who are now
following him silently from behind. He enters the Divine wood, dark and
beautiful in the nature, and meets a clear dark water stream. Across it he sees
a beautiful lady is gathering flowers while singing. It is Matilda (another symbol of active spiritual life). Dante questions
her about the nature of the Garden, and she explains that it is the Garden that
God created before Adam and Eve fell into sin. The Garden is created for
goodness, as Man is destined for goodness. It was raised above the storms of
Earth as a place of peace, a divine pledge. The Man did not stay there long
because of his own fault. The water flows from God, and the one at one side
washes away the memory of sin, while the other one keeps the memory of good
deeds. This place is the Earthly Paradise;
a place of peace, beauty, humanism, and classical wisdom.
journey following Matilda’s step, Dante sees a glowing light flooding into the
forest, accompanied by a sweet melody. Dante condemns Adam’s fall that unveiled
his eyes from these beauteous scene. Then suddenly the air turns to blazing
fire. Seven branched candlesticks appear, representing seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are singing ‘Hosanna’. Behind
them, Dante sees people bringing seven banners, representing the seven sacraments as the works of the
seven gifts of Holy Spirit. Behind them are twenty
four elders (representing books of Old Testament) and four creatures (as in the books of Revelation and Ezekiel).
also two-wheel chariot (representing
contemplative and active life in Church). After that, Dante sees two old men:
Luke and Paul, followed by the four writers of the epistles: Paul, James, Peter and Jude. On their back is John the Divine, author of book of Revelation.
Then suddenly Dante hears a clap of thunder that the procession into a halt.
The Elders turns to the Chariot, singing the Song of Solomon. The Saints will
rise from their tombs and reunite with their bodies singing Hallelujah on the
Day of Judgment; so as a hundreds spirit inside the Chariot.
is now fit to have a visionary revelation, sees Beatrice appears among the
cascade of flowers. But as Beatrice appears, Virgil vanishes from Dante’s side.
Dante cries at the separation. Beatrice warns him not to cry, and that he would
weep more soon. She scowls at Dante’s temerity to approach the Mount, and when
he turns his look at the water of Lethe (that is supposed to erase memories) he
could still see his memories (symbol of seeing into one’s soul), which makes
him ashamed. Beatrice explains to the Angels how Dante was good in his virtues
when Beatrice was alive and guiding him, but he turned to the opposite side
after her death. Even when she appeared in his dream, Dante kept unchanged. The
only way Beatrice could save him was by asking Virgil to guide him through
Inferno. And now to pass the Lethe, Dante must repent by shedding tears.
come to the threshold of his purification. Here he confesses his weakness of
worldly distractions that had led him to moral failing, while Beatrice rebukes
him. Dante is ashamed to the accusation, and repents. At last Matilda comes and
takes Dante with her over the Lethe, where he hears Asperges Me (symbol of baptism). Matilda forces him to drink the
Lethe water which will wash away any memory of sin from his mind. Cleansed,
Dante is brought by four ‘cardinals’ to see Beatrice’s eyes, through which he
sees Christ in the shape of double
nature of a Grifon.
his sight, Dante then watches the Divine Pageant turns away to the right.
Dante, Matilda and Statius follow the right wheel of the Chariot through the
forest of Earthly Paradise. Beatrice descends from the Chariot, and all of them
surround a bare tree which is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
(symbolizing earthly empire). The Grifon (Christ) is blessed for not taking
anything from the tree (temporal powers of the earth). Grifon then takes the
Chariot pole within the Tree which appears to be the Cross, and binds it to the
Tree (linking the Church and the empire but maintaining each in its sphere).
a hymn that Dante doesn’t understand; and he soon falls asleep. He awakes just
like the three disciples: Peter, John
and James has been brought at the
Transfiguration. Dante finds Matilda bending over him, showing him that
Beatrice is sitting on the root of the Tree (Rome—after the Church and the
Empire has been united), watching the four cardinals and three theological who
carries Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirits. Beatrice then instructs Dante to write
about the Chariot as he would see it, when he returns on earth (these would be
symbolizing the history of the Church and the Empire).
Dante sees consecutively: the eagle (ten
persecutions of the Church by Roman emperors from Nero to Diocletian), the vixen (heresies of the early Church,
suppressed by the writings of the Fathers), then the eagle descends (the donation from Constantine to the Church in
the era of Pope Sylvester I, which Dante sees as the source of involvement of
the Church in temporal power, and Constantine involvement to the Church). Then
the ground under the Chariot is opened, and from it emerges the dragon with its spiteful tail
(Islamic schism), leaving feathers cover
the Chariot when it leaves (temporal power and worldly wealth) which makes
Church becomes the Monster with the
seven capital sins as its heads. Seated on the Monster, the whore (corrupted Papacy under Boniface VIII and Clement V); the giant kisses the whore (French
dynasty, especially Philip the Fair who connived with Clement V to move the
papal court to Avignon), but when she turns her eyes to Dante, the giant
scourges her and looses the monster. Beatrice then implies that the Church is
corrupted but will be cleansed.
Beatrice prophecies that the Church will gain its power and its Divine origin once
more; that a new leader will come and get the Church rid of its corruption. She
says it’s a blasphemy, that the tree of the Empire has been twice despoiled (by
Adam, by taking the apple, and by the wood, the chariot pole, being taken to
form the Cross). Beatrice reminds Dante to write all about it.
reach the source of Lethe and Eunoë; Dante is amazed at the nature of the
streams. Beatrice reminds Dante that the confession and the revelation of
Divine Pageant have erased his memory of virtuous actions. Matilda then leads Dante
and Statius to drink the water from Eunoë to restore the memory of it. The
water refreshes Dante, renews and purifies him, so that he is ready now to climb