Purgatorio Canto XXIII

Purgatorio 23

‘What grace is granted to me now!
I never would have known him by his features,
but the sound of his voice made plain to me
what from his looks had been erased.

vv. 42-45

Sixth Ledge the Gluttonous. – Forese Donati. – Nella. – Rebuke of the women of Florence.

Dante stares at the strange tree, which seems almost to be upside down, but Virgil quickly goads him on. When the three see the penitents of this terrace, they find them with “eyes … dark and sunken, / their faces pale, their flesh so wasted that the skin took all its shape from bones.” These are the gluttonous, now ever-hungry. One shade, named Forese, recognizes Dante. Hunger has so distorted Forese’s face that Dante can only recognize him through his voice. Forese reveals that the tree makes a sweet scent that only increases their cravings as they are forced to circle the terrace. Yet he poses their hunger pains and thirst as “a solace.” When asked, he reveals that it is his widow’s “prayers” and “sighs” which have allowed him to climb so high in so little time. Dante, in response, tells the story of his journey.

The Poet meets his friend Forese Donati among the gluttonous of the sixth terrace. He’s so emaciated that the Poet doesn’t recognize him.
Dante had some devoted friends in Ravenna, two of which belonged to the local circle of poets: Menghino Mezzani, a notary, and Fiduccio de’ Milotti, a physician and philosopher. While the former wrote the epitaph for Dante’s Tomb “Inclita fama… “, the latter was transfigured into Alfesibeo, the shepherd, in Dante’s second Eclogue. Ravenna celebrated them in the exhibition “L’ultimo Dante e il Cenacolo Ravennate”, which took place at the Biblioteca Classense in 2018.

Canto adopted by Anna Fietta

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