Still sitting within the terrace of sloth, Dante asks Virgil to further explain what love is. The mind, Virgil says, created to react to love moves toward what is pleasing. The soul will never rest until it bends itself toward what it loves. This is desire and it is innate. Though it can appear that all things loved are good, this is not the case. There is, however, within man the innate power of reason to restrain desire for what is not good. Virgil tells him this is all based on philosophic reasoning, and that Beatrice will eventually further explain how faith of revelation will augment this understanding. It is midnight now and rushing by are penitents who to be cured of sloth are required to be in constant running motion. Here the countering virtue is spoken aloud by the penitents themselves, echoing Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and Julius Caesar’s military quickness to Spain. The Abbott of San Zeno rushes by, marveling at a living person. More souls rush by, unable to stop, but giving examples of lack of zeal, those that were swallowed by the Red Sea because they did not rush through while it parted and those in Troy who did not flee when the city was burned to the ground. Finally Dante overcome with drowsiness falls asleep.
Still at the terrace of sloth and now asleep, Dante has a disturbing dream. A siren came before him, a hideous woman stammering but filtered through his mind she appears beautiful and mellifluent. She says she provides content to all those who dwell with her. As Dante is about to be seduced by her charms, another woman, a holy one, exhorts Virgil to take action. Virgil rips open the Siren’s garments, letting out a stench, which wakens Dante from the dream. As they exit the terrace, the angel of the terrace beckons him to come and swooshes his face with his wing. They enter the fifth terrace, that of avarice, where souls lay with their faces into the dirt, weeping. They cry out the line from Psalm 118 about cleaving to the dust. Dante meets Pope Adrian V, who explains the therapy of this terrace. The penitents are to cleave to the dirt like they cleaved to material things in life to realize that cleaving to material things is turning your back to God.
The pilgrims leave Pope Adrian V, cursing the she-wolf that represents avarice. As they proceed they hear one penitent cry out the positive proclamations of the terrace of greed, which are proclamations of generosity. He cries out on Mary in her labor being taken in at the Inn, the ancient Roman statesman Fabricius, who lived in austerity over wealth, and St. Nicholas, who provided dowry for poor girls so they wouldn't have to go into prostitution. They meet the soul of Hugh Capet, the Frankish king who founded the Capet dynasty in France. Capet goes on a long screed to how France and his descendants to his throne had committed grave sins of avarice. He further explains how during the day the penitents chant the positive proclamations while at night they chant the negative examples of greed. He gives several examples of the negative proclamations from myth and Biblical history, culminating with the Roman general Crassus known for accumulating wealth. Suddenly an earthquake is heard that rocks purgatorial island and all the penitents began shouting together, "Gloria in excelsis Deo."
Dante stood wondering the meaning of the earthquake and the shout of all the penitents, which had reached down to the shore below when a soul comes up to the pilgrims and gives them a holy greeting. The soul is taken aback when he learns they are not penitent souls in purgatory. Virgil asks about the tremor and the shouts, and the soul explains it occurs every time a soul in purgatory completes a purgation, and this earthquake was for his completion of the terrace. The soul explains he has just completed five hundred years on the terrace of avarice and having had his will freed from the constraint of sin can now rise upward. Virgil asks the penitent who he was in life, and the soul explains he was the first century Roman poet Statius and that he owes whatever he accomplished to his Roman predecessor, Virgil. He says Virgil’s Aeneid was the flame that shone a light to the world. Virgil finally gives Dante permission to say who is standing before him, and upon hearing it Statius drops to his knees at Virgil’s feet.
After completing the terrace of avarice and after the angel of that terrace wiped another “P” off Dante’s forehead, the three souls continued on, Dante trailing behind while Virgil and Statius converse. Dante hears Virgil ask Statius why he a man of such noble character suffered the vice of averice. Statius explains that he was not there in the fifth terrace to cure him of greed but of its opposite, prodigality, the inability to control one’s spending. Virgil then asks, how could Statius, a pagan, come to have true faith? Statius explains that Virgil wasn’t just a poetic inspiration that shaped his poetry but that Virgil’s prophesy of Christ in the Eclogue and combined with the first century Christian preachers, led to a conversion and was baptized. But he hid that baptism for fear, and so was not martyred with the early martyrs but had to spend four hundred years in the ante purgatory section. The two continue discussing poetry with Dante listening when they came to a tree with fruit, “You shall not eat of this fruit,” the tree says. Then the tree goes on to give positive proclamations countering the vice of gluttony, speaking of Mary more concerned with the newlyweds than of food at Cana, of ancient Roman women who were ascetic, Daniel who scorned food, and of John the Baptist eating honey and locust.
The pilgrims and Statius continue on into the terrace of gluttony when a penitent sings out “O Lord, open my lips.” The penitent is emaciated, eyes sunken and skin tight against the bones. The face shaped by the two eye sockets and cheek and nose bones formed into the word OMO, which is Italian for man. Finally Dante recognizes the penitent. It is Forese Donati, an old friend, and cousin to Dante’s wife. Dante, shocked by his friend’s disfigurement, asks him what has happened. Forese explains that all those on this terrace satisfied their appetites on earth beyond “all measure,” and so here are to learn the thirst and hunger of holiness. Dante asks, since it’s only been five years since he passed away, how has he made it so far so fast on the mountain? Forese explains that his wife Nella’s devoted prayers for him has sped his course. He predicts that Florence will pass some laws to prevent women from immodest dress and cautions Dante to renounce that wild life they shared as young men. Dante says it is now painful to recall those days and says that because of Virgil he has left all that behind.