Commentary On HellWard By David Russell, Part 6: Beneath Them Deeper Pits

Canto X: Brexit

“Then, the Poet encounters the European Federalists and Anti-Brexiteers in their special Ward of Hell. It starts with Napoleon and the succession of fascists who have strived to control Europe, but this leads onto even the Brits who have betrayed their people and their country, manufacturing false, specious and well-sounding arguments to overturn Democracy itself.”

After the fall of Blair, others fall, others rise. More propping up from Dante. He feels re-energised. He encounters a ‘figureless voice’ which claims to offer assurance: “I know your thoughts and what you wish to know: With all this misery, where is heaven’s course?” Then, “. . . as it went / It seemed that I and Dante became one.

Then, through Dante, James goes beyond Physics, becomes an element:

“What Dante saw, was now what I looked on: 

Before, at some impossible height, a door 

That we might reach at last and all be done –

And as it opened suddenly its glare 

Of light flashed, blinding me – already mute – 

But now my mortal eyes could not endure 

The sight. So speechless, blind, I felt his feet 

Move forward into that light where mass

Evaporated; and instead a beat 

Began, all depth, a tuning fork in bass 

At which vibration what was is entrained, 

And will be too aligns in its light space.”

Dante feeds him a flood of joy. He hears sounds: another linguistic point: “My name, but not the name I knew myself – / A name unknown, yet one my being craves.” By acquiring this new name, he becomes a new entity. He was met by a loving group of men and women, who adopt him, as ‘their child’. With his euphoria, he feels that he somehow ‘defiled’ the gathering, was unworthy of them. With that thought, Dante’s footsteps go into reverse, and he recoils. He feels an immediate loss – “So heaven itself seemed subject to theft”. Should he now “loiter, with the damned”? His other choices are to go back, to “black heat”, or forward, to “deeper, desolate lands”.

Dante gives him his prompt, to go on, to where he will meet two dead souls who have gained eternal life. Dante refers to Him (God), whom “death dreads”.

More hope, more optimism. Dante sheds a touching tear, but then all must again be qualified:

“But with celestial spirits no such luck: 

For Dante knew, as his tear quite transformed 

Itself; and what was sorrow ís engraved track 

Now seemed a diamond – though rough carbon-wombed – 

With all the brilliance, clarity too,

Of something, simply, immortally born. 

I need say nothing now, for he just knew – 

His diamond like a lens absorbing light 

Which at the same time showed me through and through

And to myself therefore, still lost in night.

But moving forward meant repentance wait, 

For soon enough we’d be at our next plight.”

Now he was facing something “more than hate . . . some deeper level of evil “. He finds some dictatorially induced architecture:

“Symbolic of one who living had sought 

To build colossal unity which held 

Europe infected – a virus caught 

Through violence, swathes of levelling law 

By which mankind ís deceived and all ís sold short.”

Good analogy of regime and virus. The spectacle of Napoleon appears. Someone wails for his return. Dante points out that he has been inspired by Ares, the God of War. ‘Boney’ is terrified, and lets out a primordial scream. James’s mind wanders, to see massed soldiers, the historical progression of Napoleon, the Kaiser, Hitler – those ‘hateful has-beens’. James curses Ares, “That from his very loins all poison urged.”

Then on to Brexit. Some satire of the politicians involved in Europe, including Minor (John Major): “Europe had addled his wits, destroyed his mind.” An Inferno vision from Dante:

“All hospitals have beneath them deeper pits 

Where hot incinerators burn and try 

To rid the souls of their infectious fevers, 

But none of these so self-important Iíes 

Can ever be free. For them heaven is never 

Available. Like Arachne with her webs, 

Thinking to outwit the goddess as a weaver, 

So they rage with stories, seemingly with legs, 

Until at last caught out (compete with wisdom? 

Who would who ís sane?) they fade as power ebbs 

In death and that eternal law holds them; 

Forever spinning, but all pointless Babels, 

Building no living fabric, but a tomb 

In which all that is human is disabled. 

I felt a roaring heat ahead, approaching, 

That would consume all ‘woken’, self-labelled 

And virtue-signalling hypocrites, all cringing 

As fire that washes them to finer grey 

Advanced. We must be gone. No time for lingering.”

An attack on Heseltine, with which I would not altogether concur. I am not sure who is meant by Barquo.

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