More Then Than Now?!
What does the above title mean? To put it in context, examine this passage from page 63 of Dante’s Inferno: Dante’s teacher, Virgil, says to him, “For all that these accursed folk cannot come to their true perfection and man’s end, they look to be more ‘perfect’ then than now.” The description “then” confused me, so I thought it was describing the past, but it was actually describing the future. It took 10 minutes of analyzing this tricky passage for me to realize this. Virgil was at the time telling Dante that the nearly-residents of hell (the gluttons, who hell constantly rains sleet on in their mud-filled abode), whom Virgil and Dante had just encountered, were currently waiting for their final sentence of judgment from God. I had supposed the text meant the gluttons would “look to be more ‘perfect’ then…” (in past tense—in that they looked to—or perceived—as more perfect back when they were on earth, more than the gluttonous people they really were), but obviously the word “then” described the future time of their final sentence (which I had assumed had already occurred—their near-residency of hell seeming like their determined state of afterlife). I had misconnected the dots on the particular word “then” of this quote because of something the glutton Ciacco said about his time on earth. He sadly revealed to Dante, “You fellow citizens called Ciacco—‘Hog.’ For that sin of the throat that damns the soul, as you can see, I’m flattened by the rain” (59). I presumed he was blaming these his fellow citizen for their insults that (I thought) were what then caused Ciacco to sin and his soul to be damned…. Upon, however, more earnestly reading the rest of Ciacco’s quote, “…all these [other souls] suffer the same pain for the same fault,” I realized that the other souls were the gluttons, the “same pain” was the perpetual icy rain, and the “same fault” was (not being insulted of course! but) gluttony.