Bishop William Boyd-Carpenter, Canon of Westminster Abbey, delivered the last and culminating lecture, under the William Belden Noble foundation, on "Dante's Verdict on Life: Its Significance and Value," last evening in New Lecture Hall. In this final lecture, Bishop Boyd-Carpenter summed up with deep impressiveness and remarkable clearness the essence and significance of the "Divina Commoedia" in "The Message of Dante."
One all-pervading principle throughout the "Divina Commoedia" is the personal revelation which it signifies in the personal experiences of Dante. At the very outset, Dante is shown that he cannot take the direct route he had chosen, towards the light of God, because of the obstacles he had created through his own sin. Beatrice, later, reproaches him for losing his brilliant ideal, at her death, and falling into sin, such that he can find Heaven only through Hell. One of the great motifs of the poem lies in this fall of Dante, under the pressure of circumstances, from a high spiritual life to a somewhat lower level. And yet Dante shows his great and characteristic personality in his agony of self-reproach and his honest acknowledgment of his sins, even though not as dreadful as some try to make out.
Parallel to Experience.
The week which Dante passes in his journey through the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso is synchronical of the time
of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. "Its significance lies in this," said Bishop Boyd-Carpenter, "that a true Christian life is a repetition of what happened to our Master. It is the story of the necessity of fighting evil, after firmly resolving to fight it, and then of the acceptance of the soul in the presence of the Redeemer."
Spiritual Climax of the Poem.
Vorgil and St. Lucian in the "Inferno" are significant of the necessity of the presence of reason and faith throughout our lives. Hell is the revelation of evil, by means of the reason given us by the divine grace of faith. The great lesson of the "Inferno" is that only through the grace of God can we see evil. As he goes on with his great pilgrimage, Dante learns the lessons of the joy of sacrifice, of progress only through present dissatisfaction, and of the salvation of souls by God alone. Life consists, if we but allow it, in the education of our souls by God through love. Love is the great message of Dante. Love is inexorable in her tests of the constancy of the soul. "But," said Bishop Boyd-Carpenter, "love will never leave you nor forsake you. She may carry you through Hell, she may make you despair of your very soul, but, at the last, she will lift you and put you in the presence of God." "Your life and mine," he concluded "are in the hands of God, and God is Love.