Our Voyage in the Comedy ContinuesCanto IX ContinuesDante comes to Saint Peter’s Gate. The light is unbearably bright. He sees himself in the reflections there as he is. He walks up the three steps quickly (too quickly says Adam). He is marked with the seven “P’s” removal of which will mark his purgation. Passing through this Gate means that you cannot even look back. (The gate of Hell is open. The gate of Purgatory is closed but can be opened. Hell is easy to enter and impossible to leave. Purgatory has qualifications to enter and no one leaves.)The seven P’s are the sins and the memories of them. At some point, he loses the very memory of his sin. This loss of the pain and burden of sin, even in the memory, is completed at the top of Purgatory. You cannot look back, because it would undue the work of Purgatory. Canto XIXDante dreams of a siren. He wakes to find himself with the covetous. He carries on a conversation with Pope Adrian. This is the second dream in Purgatory. An ugly siren begins to approach the poet. Dante changes her looks by looking on her. She seems to be telling lies about Ulysses. She claims to have drawn the Greek sailor aside. Perhaps, if we think that hearing her music, which Ulysses went out of her way to do, is being drawn aside. Perhaps not, if the listening is what makes her music beautiful. This is an odd dream, in which Dante is fooled in his own dream.Who is the woman who is not named? We cannot know, of course, so it is better to ask who she is? What is the relationship of a man to his dreams? Without going the route of Freud at all, it still seems safe to think that they mean something. From 64 forward, Dante lifts his eyes up from this dream to the higher, heavenly things. This becomes another step in his progress. The things of earth are not attractive and cannot provide nourishment. It may be that the transformation of the Siren is redemption on the cheap. Dante looks at the siren and transforms her, but only superficially. It is not deep, she still stinks. And so the one who will not keep his eyes on the stars, will appear (after a certain point) to redeem. This quick and easy redemption can be deceptive. He has a slothful religion. How common that is! We want an instant transformation without the hard soul work. Dante cannot look up. . . he is looking down at the Siren. The Siren, later called an ancient witch, is the archetype of the evil and deceptive woman. The unknown woman, the Donna, is the archetype of every redemptive woman in the Comedy. She comes and triggers Virgil (the Virgil of the dream) who may himself be controlled the Siren.
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