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Observations placeholder

Dante and Mary Coleridge [words that hurt]



Type of Spiritual Experience


I have grouped two observations here because they are related.

'Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me', is a phrase which could not be more wrong. Physical wounds heal with time, but words can stay and stay and stay. The wrong words at the wrong time can hurt a person for life.

There are many forms. Deceipt is the abuse of intellectual powers and the misuse of eloquence. Slander, gossip and libel are words used to defame or misrepresent someone with the objective of causing harm. The difference being that the former are spoken and the latter are written. And, as we all know from our newspapers, there are quite a few who are willing to make up whatever fabrications they please just to sell newspapers, with little care or thought as to the damage they do to the person.

Dante devised a hugely suitable form of punishment for those who hurt with words, he devised a flame representing the tongue and then consumed the person in it, they were burnt by their own words.

Mary Coleridge describes just what words can do.

A description of the experience

Mary Coleridge - He knoweth not that the Dead are Thine

The weapon that you fought with was a word
And with that word you stabbed me to the heart
Not once but twice you did it, for the sword
Made no blood start

They have not tried you for your life. You go
Strong in such innocence as men will boast.
They have not buried me. They do not know
Life from its ghost

Dante – The Divine Comedy INFERNO I

When flies give way to gnats, sees in the valley
Thousands of glow worms, perhaps in the very place
Where he has worked at harvest or at plough

There were as many flames there glittering
In the eighth cleft, which I perceived
As soon as I arrived where I could see the bottom.….........

So all those flames moved in the throat of the cleft
While every one of the flames concealed a sinner….............

My escort, when he saw me so attentive
Said 'In each fire there is a spirit
Each is wrapped in what is burning him'

The source of the experience

Dante Alighieri

Concepts, symbols and science items





Science Items

Activities and commonsteps