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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri - Barron's Booknotes
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CANTO XIV

Dante and Virgil gather the leaves and branches of the
nameless Suicide before finding their way to the edge of the
wood. Here they find a wide moat of sand on which herds of
souls lie flat or hunched. All of them writhe, trying to avoid
great sheets of flame that fall continually on the sand. Dante
questions Virgil about the place and is answered vehemently
by Capaneus who, in the war against Thebes, boasted that not
even Jove could stop him. Virgil warns Capaneus that, since
he won't quiet his blasphemy, he will suffer even more.

Careful not to step onto the Burning Sands, the poets walk at
the edge until they come to a horrible, bubbling red brook
with banks of stone. Virgil explains the source of this stream
and its path. Dante asks questions about the sources and paths
of all the rivers in Hell, which pleases Virgil. He explains
some and tells Dante that he will shortly see the rest for
himself. They head for a safe crossing place across the
Burning Sands.



NOTE: The river Phlegethon, the Wood of the Suicides, and
the Burning Sands are all part of the punishment for the
various ways that man can be violent. The sands are sterile, as
were the trees of the Suicides. Those that are violent against
God, Nature, and Art make sterile what should be fruitful. The
wrath of the flames of fire are reminiscent of the wrath shown
by God in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

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