Mounting Geryon

27 March 2019

Dante’s status as a simple observer of punished souls is beginning to break down. As he travels deeper, he engages more and more with both the dangers and the inhabitants of Hell. Virgil tells Dante, “Now follow me; and mind for your own good/you do not step upon the burning sand” (Alighieri 14.70-71.) Virgil’s warning to Dante signals that the further the two go away from God the less influence God has to protect them on their trip through Hell. In fact, the summary at the beginning of canto 15 attributes the safety of Virgil and Dante in the desert of the seventh circle to the magical properties of the river and not the power of God (Alighieri and Ciardi 119.)


The rivers of Hell all stem from the tears of the giant of Crete. According to the notes for line 97, the Giant of Crete represents the ages of man deteriorating as they reach the base of the statue (Alighieri and Ciardi 118.) The tears that travel down from the golden section of the statue become the rivers of Hell. If the golden section of the statue represents the civilization of man that was closest to God, then the rivers of Hell must bring the authority of God in a secondary and corrupted form in order to give protection along the borders of the stream that Virgil and Dante follow.


As Dante continues deeper into the depths of Hell, the danger he is in continues to increase. When Dante asks to sit and visit with Bruno Latino, Bruno warns him, “[W]hoever of this train/pauses a moment, must lie a hundred years/forbidden to brush off the burning rain” (Aligheri 15.37-39.) In earlier cantos, Dante is warned that he does not belong in Hell and should return the way he came. Yet, now that he has traveled so far away from the protection of God, he is in danger of being corrupted by the influences of Hell and kept there forever despite the fact that he is still alive. And by the time he reaches the edge of the waterfall, Dante must discard the Franciscan chord, a symbol of God’s authority, and rely on the infernal power of Geryon to continue descending into the depths of Hell. Finally, there is something at stake for Dante as he is at risk of losing his immortal soul.


On a different note, I have been thinking about the connection between Dante’s vision of hell and the hellish imagery of heavy metal music. I know that there is a connection but I am not sure how to articulate it just yet.


The silly tone of this ukulele cover of a Slayer song matches the tone of Dante’s Hell of silliness matched with horrifying imagery. The video is from a series of videos where two ukulele players join a church sponsored ukulele group and play songs inappropriate to the setting.



Work Cited

Alighieri, Dante, and John Ciardi. The Inferno. New American Library, 2003.

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