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

Walking across the dike that crosses Phlegethon, Dante and
Virgil see a group of shades running past, taking careful note
of them and of each other. These are the Sodomites, the
sexually unnatural. One of the pack recognizes Dante and puts
his hand out to him. Dante peers at the burned and scarred
shade and recognizes Brunetto Latini, a Florentine scholar and
author. Brunetto asks Dante how he happened to be there and
tells him that, if he had not died so soon, he would have
helped Dante achieve his fame. Brunetto also prophesies ill
for Dante: "For thy good deeds will be thine enemy." Dante
tells Brunetto that his fatherly image and his teachings remain
with Dante still. Then Brunetto has to return to the perpetual
running to which he is condemned.



Brunetto was Dante's intellectual mentor. His books embodied
medieval philosophy and intellectual order. It is obvious from
this canto that Dante had a great deal of affection and respect
for him. Dante put not only his enemies in Hell, but also any
of his friends whom he felt God would condemn. He wouldn't
put his own judgment against the principles of God's
judgment, but at the same time he wouldn't downplay or reject
the sincere respect he held for valuable contributions that may
pass between men.

The perpetual running of the shades here parallels the drifting
of the Lustful in Canto V. The Sodomites are violent against
nature, according to Dante, and have perverted the natural
powers of the body. They must run after that which they have
denied. Many of you may have objections to Dante's feeling
of sin here; it's good to keep in mind the values of the time
when it was written.

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