Dante’s Purgatory: Canto 14 Retelling — Second Ledge — Envy (Guido del Duca, Rinier da Calboli

Chapter 14: Second Ledge — Envy (Guido del Duca, Rinier da Calboli (Purgatory)

Dante heard a saved soul say to another saved soul, “Who is this living man who can open and shut his eyes as he wishes?”

The other saved soul replied, “Who knows? I do know that someone is with him. What don’t you ask nicely who the living man is? If you ask nicely, perhaps he will tell you.”

Dante looked at the souls, who raised their heads as if preparing to speak to him.

The first saved soul said, “Living man, who nevertheless is climbing the Mountain of Purgatory, please tell us your name and where you are from. God must love you if He allows you to climb the mountain before you have died. We have never seen that before.”

Dante made an effort to be modest and replied, “A little river has its source in Falterona and wanders through Tuscany for over one hundred miles. I come from a city by that river. I need not tell you my name because I am not yet famous.”

Virgil thought, You are making an attempt to be modest, Dante, but you have not fully succeeded. You say that you are not yet famous.

The first saved soul said, “If I have correctly understood you, you are speaking of the Arno River.”

The second saved soul asked the first, “Why did he not name the river? It is as if the name of the river is too horrible to say aloud.”

The first saved soul said, “I don’t know why he did not name the river, but I know that if the name of the valley the river runs through were to die, it would be a blessing. From its source to the place where the river runs into the sea, the inhabitants of the valley the river runs through hate virtue as they hate a snake. The valley may be cursed, or the inhabitants may be affected by the corruption that has long existed, but for whatever reason, the inhabitants have changed their nature. They used to be human beings, but now it is as if they are like Ulysses’ men who were transformed into pigs by the sorceress Circe and thereafter lived in sties and ate from troughs.

“This river first flows past the hoggish brutes of Casentino. Instead of eating food prepared for human consumption, they should be eating acorns, a food for pigs.

“Next the river flows past people who are the equivalent of undesirable mongrels who snarl often and bite occasionally. Usually, they snarl and turn away.

“Then the river — or more accurately, the sewer-ditch — flows past Florence, in which exist humans who are more like wolves than dogs.

“And finally the river flows past Pisa, whose inhabitants are like foxes. They are frauds, and they are experts at evading traps.

“I will continue speaking because the spirit of prophecy is upon me. Although you, my companion on this ledge, will feel pain, it is good for you to know my prophecy.

“I see your grandson, Fulcieri da Calboli, cruel and proud and famous for both qualities, committing atrocities against the White Guelfs of Florence. He will hunt the wolves. Through his actions, he will take away their lives and at the same time take away his honor. He is bloody.”

The second saved soul grieved. He was not envious of the inhabitants of Florence, and he did not rejoice in their pain and death and he did not rejoice in Fulcieri’s evil.

Dante was curious about these two saved souls, and so he asked them for their names.

The first saved soul replied, “Although you declined to tell me your name when I asked for it, I will tell you our names because God has honored you. I am Guido del Duca. I was envious, and I hated to see the happiness of another person. I sowed envy; now I reap purgation. Now I wonder why Humankind wants those things that either cannot be shared or are lesser when they are shared instead of wanting those things that are greater when they are shared.

“The saved soul beside me is Rinier da Calboli, whom Guido da Montefeltro defeated in battle in 1276. He has no heirs to inherit his very great worth. Throughout the entire region of Romagna, many families are lacking good and chivalrous people. All who remain are evil.

“Where are the good people of Romagna? Dead. Gone.

“Where are Mainardi, Lizio da Valbona, and Pier Traversaro?

“Where is Guido di Carpigna, who was so hospitable that he once sold half of a valuable quilt in order to pay for a banquet, saying that all he needed was half a quilt because in winter he slept curled up and in summer he did not cover his feet?

“Where are Fabbro de’ Lambertazzi, Bernardo di Fosco, Ugolin d’Azzo, Guido da Prata, Federigo di Tignoso, members of the Traversaro clan, and members of the Anastagi clan? These two clans have no heirs.

“Where are these people? They were models of chivalry and virtue, but they are no more.

“Which people exist now? Only the bad.

“Bretinoro is a town in Romagna that ought to no longer exist because no longer do good people live in it. It is best that families in this town have no sons. The heirs of families in this town are degenerate. Only families with no sons have a chance of retaining the goodness of their name.

“But now, living man from Tuscany who is climbing the mountain by the will of God, continue your journey. I am so disgusted by the degeneracy of the inhabitants of Romagna that I need to cry rather than to speak.”

Dante thought, Guido del Duca has come a long way in being purged of the sin of envy. Envious people are saddened when other people have good fortune, and they are made happy when other people have bad fortune. If Guido were still envious, he would be happy at the bad fortune of living people — being evil is bad fortune because evil people run the risk of eternal damnation unless they repent.

Virgil thought, Guido del Duca has come a long way in being purged of the sin of envy. Guido is not envious of Dante, to whom God is showing special grace by allowing him to travel through Purgatory although he is still alive.

Dante and Virgil walked away. The saved souls were silent, and so Dante and Virgil knew that they were traveling in the right direction. If they had gone in the wrong direction, the saved souls would have told them. Souls in Purgatory are helpful.

As Dante and Virgil walked, they heard a voice say, “Anyone who finds me shall slay me.”

Dante thought, According to the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, both brothers gave offerings to God. Cain was a farmer, and his offering was “the fruit of the ground.” Abel was a shepherd, and his offering was “the firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof.” God liked Abel’s offering, but God did not like Cain’s offering. Out of envy, Cain killed Abel. Of course, God knew that Cain had killed Abel, and God punished Cain by sending him into exile. Cain then said the words that appear here in Purgatory: “Anyone who finds me shall slay me.” However, God is merciful, and He marked Cain as a sign that no one should kill him. Cain was so envious of Abel that he killed him.

Then Dante and Virgil heard another voice: “I am Aglauros, and I was turned to stone.”

Dante thought, I have read this story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Aglauros was envious of her sister, whom the god Mercury loved. Aglauros attempted to keep Mercury from seeing her sister, and Mercury turned her into a stone statue.

Virgil said to Dante, “You have just heard two examples of people infected with envy. Learn from them why envy must be avoided. Too often, Humankind gives in to sin, and neither positive examples of virtues nor negative examples of sins educate them and affect their actions. Paradise is above, but Humankind looks below. God is aware, and God strikes down those who focus their attention in the wrong place.”

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce

This is an excerpt from Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Retelling in Prose by David Bruce, available here:






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11 Responses to Dante’s Purgatory: Canto 14 Retelling — Second Ledge — Envy (Guido del Duca, Rinier da Calboli

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