Ponder & Prompt: Classical Voices–Crucial Choices

Ponder & Prompt Introduction: Dante Alighieri penned the Divine Comedy over a twelve year period of time between 1308 and 1320. He passed away in 1321, discovering how close his epic narrative poem was to the truth of the after-life he’d written about only one year after its publication. Largely held as the greatest of Italian literature–if not one of the greatest works in Western and world literature–this 14th century view of his journey after death also set the standard for the Italian language. Much like Shakespeare’s works and the King James Bible set the standard for the English language.

Divided into three parts–the InfernoPurgatorio, and Paradiso, the poem introduces Dante to two guides who help him navigate the varied levels of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. He chose as his guides on the journey the Roman pagan and poet Virgil, author of the ancient classic, The Aeneid, and a young woman of his personal acquaintance, Beatrice, whom he first met when he was a boy of nine, and she a girl of eight.

The allegorical poem tells the story of a soul journeying to God, drawing strongly on the accepted Christian theology and philosphical norms of the medieval age. To that end, the Summa Theologica, by Thomas Aquinas, is most notable as inspiration for drafting the “other world” in The Divine Comedy.

Homeschool student and musician, Haley Richardson, reviewed both the Dante narrative and an excellent essay on Dante’s work by Larry Allum in Invitation to the Classics. The following are her remarks and three meme quotes for pondering, followed by a journal prompt to further explore the concepts expressed.

How does this incredible vision of the other world

reveal so much about God’s will for one’s life in this world?

“Nothing is lost, no life lived, or action performed in futility, because both the greatest good and the greatest evil show forth divine truth and advance his plan.”

Larry Allum

The characters shown in each division of The Divine Comedy represent different parts of God’s plan. The success experienced, and mistakes made, by the individuals shown in the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, teach Dante the pilgrim how to improve in order to save himself from a doomed fate. The pilgrim and, consequently, the reader are taught that the choices made in this life greatly affect our lives after death. If we do not learn from our sins and improve ourselves because of them in life on Earth, we will certainly pay for those sins in the afterlife.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

Psalm 32:8

Love is at the center of all human life. It has the power to build us up and break us down.

“According to Dante, people cannot live without loving; because they have free will, however, they may choose to love the wrong object or to love the right object too much or too little.”

Larry Allum

To give love and joy to others is the ultimate gift of life. Love can also be destructive in the sense that it can be given in the “wrong way” as Dante discusses. The Divine Comedy encourages us to ruminate this ultimate subject of love in all of the classifications in which it is given and received—good and bad.

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Colossians 3:14

JOURNAL PROMPT: These teaser memes and quotes above are a poor substitute for taking the time to personally read through the 3000+ verses of this epic narrative with a myriad of allegorical twists and metaphorical turns to challenge your reading level–let alone your personal convictions about your own journey to the heart of God in both this life, and God’s promises of the afterlife, centered on your choices regarding the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Open your journal and explore these questions:

  • How does God’s promise of eternal life affect your understanding of His will for your life, here and now?
  • What’s love got to do with it?
  • Can you hear the exasperated voice of God saying, “O human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou fall.”? How do you suppose He delivers that line: frustrated sigh, disgust, anger, grief, passionate, indifferent? How does the way you hear Him say this line affect your desire for Him–to draw nearer to Him or to flee? Why?
  • Compare and contrast: practical, prudent intelligence v.s. blind, compulsory feelings (i.e. conscience). Which will be most useful on your own journey of The Divine Comedy?
  • Life IS perilous. A journey fraught with danger, toils, and snares. Yet, we are still responsible for the choices we make along the way. The Bible teaches that our choices determine our eternal destiny. Why is this just? How does God provide for us to rightly navigate the way? Dante’s guides were the metaphorical Virgil and Beatrice, and the varied individuals he meets who are living out the consequences of their choices in each part of the narrative–InfernoPurgatorio, and Paradiso. What guides has the Lord given to you on your journey?

For further study, order your own copy of The Divine Comedy. Your purchase through this link helps support the mission of literacy awareness writing and speaking programs by Kathryn Ross.

Sharing Ponder & Prompt: Classical Voices–Crucial Choices this week with:

Literacy Musing Mondays

Sitting Among Friends

Create with Joy

Booknificient

Mama’s Vintage Cottage

Faith Filled Friday

Spiritual Sundays

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About Miss Kathy

"I teach families how to restore their God-given authority as the primary educator in their child’s life through the experience of reading together as a family. Learn how to use literature to create teachable moments, build strong minds, and bind loving hearts."

Kathryn Ross, writer, speaker, and dramatist, ignites a love of literature and learning to equip young and old towards developing a Family Literacy Lifestyle—reading together, learning together, loving together. Her works challenge families to deepen their literacy skills and grow into the greater things God has purposed for them. She’s taught in Christian and homeschool circles, trained in the Principle Approach® through the Foundation for American Christian Education. Miss Kathy owns Pageant Wagon Publishing, producing homeschool enrichment materials, devotional works, study guides, and theatrical dramas for church, school, and community production. She podcasts at TheWritersReverie.com and blogs at PageantWagonPublishing.com.

Comments

  1. Sounds like a lovely lesson plan! Thanks for sharing : )

  2. What a great review of a classic! I am blessed to be your neighbor this week over at #LMMLinkup. And Dante’s two guides remind me of the two guides given to Much Afraid in Hind’s Feet on High Places. The question that I hear the Lord asking me then, is how willing am I to receive the guide of the Holy Spirit that He has brought to me? Thanks for these thoughtful ponderings today.

    • Thanks, Bettie! Yes–Hind’s Feet in High Places is a cherished work I hold dear, too. The allegorical narrative has always captivated me and is the foundational inspiration to my own writing and speaking. We suspend the gross reality of the material and journey to deeper places of thought and reason when we are swept into metaphorical worlds. I love being able to share these things with young Haley as we work thorough our classics overview this school year. Appreciate your stopping by.

  3. Kathy, I am delighted that you have chosen to write a post about Dante’s THE DIVINE COMEDY! I had the great privilege of reading this work in the original Italian language, and, as you say, it is one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written. Thank you so much for bringing this magnificent work to the attention of your readers. An excellent translation was done by John Ciardi.

    Blessings,

    MaryAnn

    • Thanks, MaryAnn! Haley and I are really enjoying our overview of Western literature from the ancients to today. I prefer the glories of the old rather than the shallow and despair modernism that surfaced in the 20th century. No era is perfect, but the richness of language and depth of thought in the classics have largely informed me as a thinker and writer. How wonderful that you have the gift of dual language and could enjoy Dante in the original! Blessings be yours!

  4. Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday at Mommynificent.com!
    Tina

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