Dante’s Prayer

I hear the call, Eternal, sound in my heart and in the stars.
Is it timeless or infinity itself? Is its Voice a song?
I do not question, so much yet to understand and I am not able.

I only respond in gratitude, though one-legged in faith still hobbling,
letting go finger by finger my pride,
and taking up, hand after hand, my cross of self-denial.

For this Eternal is Love.


By Purgatorio, Canto 11 of the Commedia, Dante the pilgrim has exited Hell and entered purgatory by permission of the angel at the gate who uses two keys, one silver (remorse) and one gold (reconciliation). As he and his guide, the poet Virgil, enter they are warned not to look back at any point in the journey up through the terraces of purgatory to the Garden of Eden. In Purgatorio, Canto 10, Dante had seen examples of humility. Now on the first and lowest terrace he sees souls of the proud bent over by large stones they carry on their backs, due penance for their sin of Pride, of which there are three kinds: pride of family, pride of art, and pride of power.

Federigo da Montefeltro, Divina Commedia, ca. 1478.
Purgatorio, Canto XI: The Prideful. – Source

Purgatorio is filled with the prayers of souls as they ascend the terraces. And Canto 11 opens with the only complete prayer which is really an expanded version or gloss of The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6: 9-13; Luke 11: 2-4).

“Our Father, You who dwell within the heavens

but are not circumscribed by them out of

Your greater love for Your first works above,


Praised be Your name and Your omnipotence,

by every creature, just as it is seemly

to offer thanks to Your sweet effluence.


Your kingdom’s peace come unto us, for if

it does not come, then though we summon all

our force, we cannot reach it of our selves.


Just as Your angels, as they sing Hosanna,

offer their wills to You as sacrifice,

so may men offer up their wills to You.


Give unto us this day the daily manna

without which he who labors most to move

ahead through this harsh wilderness falls back.


Even as we forgive all who have done

us injury, may You, benevolent,

forgive, and do not judge us by our worth.


Try not our strength, so easily subdued,

against the ancient foe, but set it free

from him who goads it to perversity.”

Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, Canto X1, lines 1-21, transl. Alan Mandelbaum
Gustave Doré, Dante Alighieri’s Commedia, The Beatific Vision (1880)

The Commedia ends with Paradiso where Dante receives the beatific vision: “The Love that moves the other stars” (l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle). As Giuseppe Mazzotta notes, Inferno and Purgatorio also end with stelle. “So when Dante says that love moves the sun and other stars, what he’s really doing is placing himself immediately right back on earth, back at the beginning of his quest. He’s here with us looking up at the stars.”

Join us at Rochelle's Friday Fictioneers photo prompt (100 words or less) and Denise's Six Sentence Story, "eternal"; top photo credit: © Starsinclayjars

54 thoughts on “Dante’s Prayer

    1. Thank you David. You wouldn’t be unhappy if you did. In one of my earlier posts, “I wonder where the lost have gone,” I think I provided a link to the critic I mention, his class on the Commedia being on a free Open Yale courses podcast, “Dante in Translation”.
      It might be helpful as a commentary if you do decide to read books 2 & 3. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Beautiful writing, Dora.
    And of course…La Commedìa…and Gustav Doré’s wood engravings! ( I have spent over six months in daily company of them in order to create a sculpture based on Dante’s poem)
    Thanks for bringing back those memories with your six.

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    1. Thank you so much. What a wonderful journey with Dante and Doré that must have been, spiritually and artistically! Every time I gaze at Doré’s engraving of the beatific vision, I wonder at its simple yet profound resonance, the three interlocking rings, what he put in what he left out, and how he came as close as Dante to describing the ineffable, and we are left with a lingering sweetness.

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      1. Tell you what…if you are interested in Dorè’s engravings I can photograph them and send them to you. I have a beautiful hand made edition of the Divine Comedy with GD’s engravings.
        My email is at the About section of my blog.
        Feel free to use it. It will be my pleasure, Dora, to share them.

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  2. Just as so many journeys end where they began, including the journey of The Fool in the tarot, this one does as well. I am intrigued by the proud being burdened with stones, and the three varieties of pride. I suppose I am polishing my stone of pride in art as we speak, but perhaps a Marley will appear in a few weeks to rehabilitate me? (And perhaps explain to me just what in the heck “figgy pudding” is.) Anyway, I have heard it said that all of life is a journey to our true selves, or in other words, back to where we began–and to the Divine source we came from.

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    1. I certainly don’t think a Marley will appear . . . unless you eat a bad potato! Life as a journey seems to be a universal metaphor (unsurprisingly), the point of divergence for many being whether it is linear or cyclical. As a Christian, Dante thinks of it ultimately in linear terms, though as a poet-prophet his feet were firmly planted on terra firma. Btw, your talk of Dickens and fig pudding reminds Christmas is just around the corner which cycle seems to shorten every year!. Scary ghost story time … and your intriguing prompt this week!

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    1. Dear Rochelle,

      Thank you! I admit that I do stretch your wonderful photo prompts to the limit and have a lot of fun doing it. Your appreciation is icing on the cake!

      Aleichem Shalom,
      Dora

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    1. Thank you so much for your comments. We seem bounded by time, our life “nasty, brutish and short” as one philosopher put it. When the Comedia opens, Dante is experiencing mid-life crisis in a sense (“midway through the journey of our life”), struggling with the temporal “wilderness”; it is only his encounter with the eternal that sets him back in the “straight path” as he puts it from which he had wandered off. It’s an intriguing journey he takes us on indeed.

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    1. I hadnytaken the “deep dive” into the Divine Comedy until my husband and I started reading it together. Then I began seeing how much of the literature I was already familiar had been influenced by it. Theologically, it’s quite a spiritual journey, purgatory for me as a Protestant being sanctification here on earth.

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