“Without hope we live on in desire.”Dante, Inferno, Canto IV, line 42
Sanza speme vivemo in disio.
Love ran through his island heart
From springes freed took flight
Left swallows’ cries of yesteryears
Desire-torn in apple-bright
Bone-white his wings that beat the air
And strain bent low his neck
Wind beat hard his sinews bare
Yet Hope grew clear his sight
Quiet-warmed as kingly deer by brook
Calm shattered shivers of doubt
Drawn unseen through cloud and dark
Dew-quenched his thirsting heart
Love and Hope together sang
He heard their various strain
Not far the wing-breadths that remained
To reach the One he loved.
“That without hope we live on in desire”
The pagan poet found
But pity more each one whose fire
Burns for themselves alone.
Before Canto 4 of the Inferno where the pilgrim Dante is introduced to the virtuous pagans among whom is his guide through Hell, the poet Virgil himself, Dante first crosses the gate of Hell whereon he sees inscribed, “Abandon hope all who enter here” (Canto 3). Here, he sees the first sinners in Hell, a craven company who lived for themselves, filled with envious desires, whom Virgil describes as “the sorry souls of those who lived without infamy or praise. They are mingled with that base band of angels who were neither rebellious nor faithful to God, but stood apart.” Being disengaged from the battle, this endless line of souls have no hope of death’s oblivion, “mercy and justice disdain them. Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass on” (trans. Charles S. Singleton). Virgil won’t even name them for they have reduced reality, reduced the world to a show, a spectacle for their own amusement. These rage and wail as swarms of stinging wasps and flies follow them and worms engorge on their blood. In contrast the virtuous pre-Christian pagans whom Dante meets next in Limbo live in a bucolic garden, their great sadness, desiring yet remaining apart from God.
Björn at dVerse invites us to "Meet the Bar" with an invented aphorism around which to fashion our prose. I'm afraid I'm a complete failure with this attempt, the aphorism not being my own nor re-fashioned from the original, and blatantly accompanied by poetry not prose. Thankfully, I did manage to meet the bar at Shay's Word Garden from which I chose to use the following: islands, shiver, springes, various. Thanks to both Björn and Shay for their intriguing challenges.