The Inferno, Insight, and Inspiration
No matter what day and age, society will forever be influenced by literature of the past and the brilliant minds that are their creators. For both those writers and their stories have captivated us. The books that have made us laugh, made us cry, made us love and the novels that inspire us live on long after their authors gave way to time.

In Dante’s The Inferno, he guides his readers on an enthrallingly horrific journey through hell itself. Foreshadowing what is to come for those who opt to steer away from god. In the ambitious poem Dante prefigures many things, some unknown even to himself and not to be revealed for hundreds of years.

Throughout the detail rich cantos, Dante encounters many damned souls that foresee the future.

“‘And if,’ going on from his last words, he said

‘men of my line have yet to learn that art,

that burns me deeper than this flaming bed.

But the face of her who reigns in Hell shall not

Be fifty times rekindled in its course

Before you learn what grieves attend that art.

And as you hope to find the world again,

Tell me: why is that populace so savage

In the edict they pronounce against my strain?’” (X 75-84)

When the book had originally been published in Dante’s time, readers were astounded reading events prophesied in theses epic lines of poetry. Of course those proceedings had already taken place by the time his poem had hit the shelves, but it had been published years before anything had happened, for example Dante’s exile from Florence. Many alleged Dante himself was some kind of prophet. But was he? A prophet, no, but indubitably he was exceptionally clever and intelligent. He had convinced his publisher to change the copy write date, pushing it a few years back, making it seem like he had known the conclusion of the future, when in reality he was writing in retrospect.

Political prophecies aren’t the only precursors Dante relinquished in The Inferno. Some were rather arrogant in fact. Dante was a consummate and brilliant man, no doubt, and he was well aware of it. In his book he flaunts in knowledge of various subjects as well as his irrefutable talent as a poet.

“ So I saw gathered at the edge of light

the maters of that highest school whose song

outsoars all others like an eagle’s flight.

And after they had talked together a while

They turned and welcomed me most graciously,

At which I saw my approving Master smile.

And they honored me far beyond courtesy,

for they included me in their own number

making me sixth in that high company.” (IV 94-102)

In this passage Dante places himself amongst the ranks of the most intellectual and enlightened minds of all the generations. Singing his own praises, but in a sense proves his own words to be fact. Dante really is one of the most celebrated poets of all time. He is famous for his writing and contributions to literature, serving as an inspiration to many famous and great minds.

“ I saw a banner there upon the mist.

Circling and circling, it seemed to scorn all pause.

So it ran on, and still behind it pressed

a never-ending rout of souls in pain.

I had not thought death had undone so many

as passed before me in that mournful train.”

This passage has a powerful impact on the hearts of some, and has also been passed over by the eyes of many. This passage imparts upon the revulsion of how death and unscrupulous choices have destroyed the character and moral of theses people chastised.

T.S. Elliot, an illustrious poet of the 20th Century was undoubtedly one that was touched by this passage. It’s even safe to say he was so captured and pulled in by these few words that he himself will quote Dante in his renowned poem, The Waste Land.

“Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

I had not thought death had undone so many.”

(Elliot, The Waste Land)

Elliot was part of an epoch of writers known as The Lost Generation. These men incorporated in that group were destroyed by the horrors of WWI and consequently their writing reflects a tainted image of society