The ‘good of the intellect,’ Dante tells us after Aristotle, is Truth.2 He says that Virgil has led him ‘through the deep night of the truly dead.’3 Who are they? Dante had in mind the saying of the Apostle, ‘to be carnally minded is death.’ He says: ‘In man to live is to use reason. Then if living is the being of man, to depart from that use is to depart from being, and so to be dead. And doth not he depart from the use of reason who doth not reason out the object of his life?’ ‘I say that so vile a person is dead, seeming to be alive. For we must know that the wicked man may be called truly dead.’ ‘He is dead who follows not the teacher. And of such a one some might say, how is he dead and yet goes about? I answer that the man is dead and the beast remains.’4 Accordingly he has put living persons in the Inferno, like Frate Alberigo and Branca d'oria, of whom he says with bitter sarcasm that he still ‘eats and drinks and puts on clothes,’ as if that were his highest ideal of the true ends of life.5 There is a passage in the first canto of the Inferno6 which has been variously interpreted:—
Thou shalt behold the people dolorous
Who have foregone the good of intellect.Inferno, III. 17, 18 1
The ancient spirits disconsolateMiss Rossetti cites it as an example of what she felicitously calls ‘an ambiguity, not hazy, but prismatic, and ’
Who cry out each one for the second death.