Friday, February 24, 2006

The green hills of Casentino

In Dante’s Inferno the landscape of Hell is carefully described and is sometimes instrumental in the punishment of souls. Examples include the Wrathful, mired beneath the swamp-like river Styx, Userers squatting on fiery sand, and Grafters sunk within a ditch of burning pitch. In the Wood of Suicides, the dead are actually part of the landscape: Dante breaks off a branch and the tree starts to bleed (the tree is the soul of Pier Delle Vigne, chief counsellor of Frederick II of Sicily). But there is a different kind of landscape torture in Canto XXX. Here, the poet encounters Master Adam, a counterfeiter, who explains that he is permanently thirsty and that his punishment comes from the memory of “the little brooks which down from the green hills of Casentino splash towads the Arno”, an unattainable landscape that hangs continually before him.

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