Purgatorio Canto VIII

Purgatorio 8

It was now the hour that melts a sailor’s heart
and saddens him with longing on the day
he’s said farewell to his belovèd friends,

vv. 1-3

Valley of the Princes. – Two Guardian Angels. – Nino Visconti. – The Serpent. – Corrado Malaspina.

The Canto opens with two justly famous tercets describing the sunset, that time of day that makes travellers think of home, especially when they hear the bell sounds of the Compline. One of the souls from the Valley of the Princes starts singing “Te lucis ante terminum” and everyone follows suit, their eyes to the sky.

Following their gaze, Dante catches sight of two splendid angels that are moving towards the edge of the valley, while holding flaming swords with broken tips. Sordello explains to the two pilgrims that they come from Heaven in order to defend the group of penitents from the attack of the Devil that is soon going to tempt them. He then invites Dante and Virgil to descend among the princes. A soul notices the Poet. It is Nino Visconti, a Pisan judge who was once his friend.

Dante reveals he is still alive and everyone looks at him in awe. Meanwhile, Nino invites one of the princes to come closer to take a better look at such wonder. He then begs his friend to remind his daughter Giovanna of him, since his wife forgot about him too soon and re-married. Sordello shows Virgil the tempting snake slithering forward in the valley, but the two angels, sweeping down like sparrowhawks, scare it off. Afterwards, the shadow Nino invited to come closer starts talking. It is Currado Malaspina, lord of Lunigiana, asking about his family, thus offering Dante the chance to exalt their liberality and bravery. The Canto ends with Malaspina’s solemn prophecy of the Poet’s exile from Florence.

Casa Dante is inside Casa Fabbri-Farini, a 13th-century dwelling with a garden and courtyard spaces, facing the Quadrarco di Braccioforte and next to Dante’s Tomb, the Franciscan Cloisters and the Dante Museum. This prestigious location extends the so-called “Zona del Silenzio” (Area of Silence), which encompasses and preserves Dante’s memory.
The Canto starts with a famous tercet that is linked to this very place and which describes both the twilight and the sadness he feels when he remembers sweet friends. These lines make us think of the Poet’s mood as an exile. But they also remind us of two things: first, the inscription on the commemorative plaque at the bottom of the bell donated by several towns of Italy, which tolls thirteen times every day at sunset in memory of 13th September, the day Dante died. Secondly, the “Perpetual Reading” which takes place every evening in front of Dante’s Tomb and which bears this tercet as a caption.
Casa Dante comprises an exhibition, which is complementary to the Dante Museum, a bookshop, a visitor’s centre and an area where people can rest, read, and meditate on Dante’s work and its role in guiding us towards a new Humanism.

Traduzione a cura della classe 5aC A.S.20/21 del Liceo Scientifico A. Oriani di Ravenna

Canto adopted by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Ravenna

For further information on Casa Fabri

View Dante’s itinerary on the map

Available Resources

Reading of the Canto