Some alert readers (ARs) are undoubtedly familiar with La Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy), the narrative poem by Dante Aleghieri that is credited by many with having standardized the Italian language. Some of these same ARs may even have read it in the original Italian, which is still comprehensible to contemporary Italian speakers seven centuries after it was written. I must confess to having read it in translation, though the edition I read had Dante’s original verses on the pages opposite the English translation. I’m writing about this now because the world today is replete with reprehensible characters who in my humble opinion ought to be consigned to the lowest circle in Dante’s Inferno.
The poem begins on the night of Maundy Thursday, April 7, 1300, when the narrator, Dante himself, embarks on a journey that takes him into Inferno the following morning on Good Friday. As he descends through the circles of Inferno Dante encounters increasingly more heinous sinners until he runs into Satan at the very bottom, along with the men Dante regarded as the three greatest sinners in human history: Judas Iscariot, who had betrayed Jesus; and Brutus and Cassius, who had assassinated Julius Caesar in the Roman Senate. Following this face to face meeting with Lucifer, Dante climbs out of Inferno over the rest of the Easter weekend, passing through Purgatorioon Holy Saturday and then into Paradiso on Easter Sunday.
Seven hundred and twenty-two years later, April 7th still represents a relief from torment and passage into a happier time. As ARs will recall, it was on April 7, 1933 that Prohibition was repealed with respect to beer. While Prohibition might not qualify as Inferno, given that it was temporary and not eternal, it was certainly an annoying Purgatorio while it lasted (over 13 years). ARs who have been Schlafly fans for a while will recall that it was on April 7, 2003 that we opened Bottleworks and celebrated the 70th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.
Nineteen years later, April 7, 2022 is the day on which baseball is scheduled to return to Busch Stadium, having been threatened by the Purgatorio of a labor dispute between players and management. While I am among the baseball purists who consider the National League’s adoption of the Designated Hitter rule as an enduring aspect of Purgatorio, I have to admit that it’s probably responsible for Albert Pujols’s return from Purgatorio in Los Angeles (among fallen Angels and others) to Paradiso in St. Louis.
One hundred and fifty-seven years ago, it was on April 7, 1865 that General Ulysses S. Grant took an important step towards ending the Inferno of the American Civil War. It was on this day that he sent a letter to Confederate General Robert E. Lee requesting his surrender. Lee formally accepted Grant’s terms two days later on April 9th. As all ARs assuredly know, this taste of post-war Paradiso was very short-lived, coming to an abrupt halt five days later, when John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln on April 14th, which happened to be Good Friday, plunging the nation back into Inferno.
Abraham Lincoln, like Adolf Hitler 80 years later, was 56 years old when he died. Like Hitler, Lincoln died at the close of his country’s most horrific war ever. Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, a few days before the beginning of Lent and died on Holy Saturday at the conclusion of Lent in 1865. Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, which also happened to be Holy Saturday.
Hitler, like Lincoln, was the target of an assassination attempt dubbed Operation Valkyrie, which was led by Claus von Stauffenberg in July of 1944. With the benefit of hindsight one can only wonder how many hundreds of thousands of lives would have been spared if Stauffenberg had succeeded., One can also wonder with the benefit of hindsight how much discord would have been avoided if Booth’s assassination attempt had failed.
Fast forward to 2022. I suspect some ARs may be wondering whether there’s a modern-day Brutus or Cassius somewhere in the Kremlin. If there is, I would guess most ARs would be more likely to place such an individual in Paradiso than in Inferno.
Chairman – The Saint Louis Brewery