Writing title: Dante’s Inferno
Canto: Canto 14; CIRCLE SEVEN: Round Three The Violent Against God, Nature, and Art
Artwork: Salvador Dali
Canto 14 summary:
Dante, in pity, restores the torn leaves to the soul of his countryman and the Poets move on to the next round, a great PLAIN OF BURNING SAND upon which there descends an eternal slow RAIN OF FIRE. Here, scorched by fire from above and below, are three classes of sinners suffering differing degrees of exposure to the fire. The BLASPHEMERS (The Violent against God) are stretched supine upon the sand, the SODOMITES (The Violent against Nature) run in endless circles, and the USURERS (The Violent against Art, which is the Grandchild of God) huddle on the sands. The Poets find CAPANEUS stretched out on the sands, the chief sinner of that place. He is still blaspheming God. They continue along the edge of the Wood of the Suicides and come to a blood-red rill which flows boiling from the Wood and crosses the burning plain. Virgil explains the miraculous power of its waters and discourses on the OLD MAN OF CRETE and the origin of all the rivers of Hell. The symbolism of the burning plain is obviously centered in sterility (the desert image) and wrath (the fire image). Blasphemy, sodomy, and usury are all unnatural and sterile actions: thus the unbearing desert is the eternity of these sinners; and thus the rain, which in nature should be fertile and cool, descends as fire. Capaneus, moreover, is subjected not only to the wrath of nature (the sands below) and the wrath of God (the fire from above), but is tortured most by his own inner violence, which is the root of blasphemy.