The Illusion of the Sirens

The Pilgrim’s Second Dream.

At the ending of the Fourth Terrace on Mount Purgatory, the Slothful, the Pilgrim has a new dream which is prophesizing for the last part of the climb and its deeper symbolism. The terraces of misdirected Love and too little Love are now behind us, and the last three terraces will be about temptations and the excessive Love for Earthly Goods. And as Dante and Virgil have spend over six hours after sunset discussing the nature of Good and Bad Love, we are now past midnight, and the Pilgrim finally falls asleep.

The dream opens with a fascinating scene of a monster that suddenly starts changing into a seductive Siren right before our eyes, but only from the moment that the Pilgrim’s gaze has fallen upon it. The transformation of the monster is actively feeding upon and directly created by the eyes of the onlooker – symbolically meaning how some of the damaging and destructive temptations in life might appear glittering and shining when we turn our gazes upon them, but only as an illusion.

Dante is through this scene showing us the deeper nature of the temptations of Lust, Gluttony and Avarice/Greed. They might appear very different from their true and long term nature to us. And as the monster turned into a Siren says to him in the dream, the one “who dwells with me seldom departs, I satisfy so well”.

The dream ends with Virgil suddenly appearing in the dream, and ripping off the garments of the Siren, exposing the monster within. The suggestion from Dante the Writer is partly the same as in the previous Terrace of Wrath – that the way to manage these impulses in life is through developing your own Reason. It is the Reason that can cut through the alluring temptations and expose them for what they really are. So once again we see the role of Virgil in the symbolic sense; that which can guide and help us through life and should be built up as the threshold of consent for the impulses.

Once the Pilgrim wakes up, Virgil says to him that he had already tried to wake him up three times. Meaning that the forces of the Sirens can be very hard to break loose from, as the Pilgrim will witness in the last three terraces of the climb, of Mount Purgatory.


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