Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"As he well knows who took me as his wife"

Either Dante or Ciardi is great at these memorable canto endings. Here's another one that really gets me, at the end of Canto V (The Late-Repentant, Class Three: Those Who Died by Violence Without Last Rites). The souls here all want Dante to remind their living friends and relatives to pray for them, since the prayers of the devout can shorten their time in ante-Purgatory. (The indolent, you see, who for whatever reason delayed repentance till the end of their life, must wait -- as they made God wait -- before entering Purgatory.)

So anyway, Dante is surrounded by these souls:
A third spoke when that second soul had done:
"When you have found your way back to the world,
and found your rest from this long road you run,

oh speak my name again with living breath
to living memory. Pia am I.
Siena gave me birth; Maremma, death.

As he well knows who took me as his wife
with jeweled ring before he took my life." (V. 136-143)

Effective, right? Ciardi writes that Pia "has been traditionally identified as Pia de' Tomolei of Siena, who married a Guelph leader and was murdered by him. The identification is doubtful, however" (p. 212 note to l. 140).

Whoever she was, wow. What a way to be immortalized.

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