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Lectura Dantis

A forum for Dante research and interpretation


Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginian

Dante's Divine Comedy

Introductory Readings III: Paradiso

Edited by Tibor Wlassics

University of Virginia

This content downloaded from on Mon, 17 Feb 2020 23:06:43 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms

Lectura Dantis Tibor Wlassics, Editor A forum for Dante research and interpretation NUMBERS 16-17 SPRING-FALL 1995

Special Issue : Lectura Dantis Vi Dante's Paradiso: Introductory Paradiso I • Franco Ferrucci 3

Paradiso II • Jo Ann Cavallo 14

Paradiso III • Ruggero Stefanin 30

Paradiso IV • Lino Pertile 46 Paradiso V • Marina De Fazio 68

Paradiso VI • Guy Raffa 9 1

Paradiso VII • Paul Colilli 107 Paradiso VIII • Jean-Pierre Banicelli 1 15 Paradiso IX ♦ Mark Balfour 131

Paradiso X • Gary Cestaro 146

Paradiso XI • Mario Trovato 156 Paradiso XII ♦ Steven Botterill 172

Paradiso XIII • John Took 1 86 Paradiso XIV • Madison Sowell 198 Paradiso XV • Cristina Della Coletta 213

Paradiso XVI • Ricardo Quiñones 229

Paradiso XVII • Marianne Shapiro 246

Paradiso XVIII • Denise Heilbronn-Gaines 266

Paradiso XIX • Zygmunt Barański 277 Paradiso XX • Marguerite Chiarenza 300

Paradiso XXI • Peter Hawkins 308 Paradiso XXII • William Wilson 3 1 8 Paradiso XXIII • Franco Masciandaro 329

Paradiso XXIV • Giuseppe Di Scipio 352 Paradiso XXV • William Stephany 371

Paradiso XXVI • Kevin Brownlee 388 Paradiso XXVII • Peter Armour 402

Paradiso XXVIII • Regina Psaki 424 Paradiso XXIX • Rodney Payton 435 Paradiso XXX • Christopher Kleinhenz 456 Paradiso XXXI • Amilcare Iannucci 470

Paradiso XXXII • H. Wayne Storey 486

Paradiso XXXIII • Rebecca West 504 Editor's Note 519

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Lectura Dantis Editor : Tibor Wlassics (University of Virginia)

Editorial Board 1991-1993: Zygmunt Barański (University of Reading)', Amilcare Iannucci (University of Toronto)', Lino Pertile (University of Edinburgh)', Regina Psaki (University of Oregon)', Ricardo Quiñones (Claremont McKenna College)', William Wilson (University of Virginia)

Editorial Board 1994-1996: Peter Armour (Royal Holloway University of London)', Steven Botterill (University of California, Berkeley)', Franco Ferrucci (Rutgers University)', Deborah Parker (University of Virginia)', Michelangelo Picone (Universität Zürich)', Marianne Shapiro (Brown University)

Editorial Assistant 1995: Michael Papio (Brown University )

Lectura Dantis is a refereed journal of Dante research and interpretation. It is published twice a year, in the Fall and Spring, by the Italian Program, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia. The members of the Editorial Board agree to advise the Editor, for a biennium, on the contents of four issues. The Editorial Assistant is appointed for a single

issue. Lectura Dantis is an independent publication. Subscription for 1995 is $10 (back issues $10; supplementary volumes $20 each). Requests, as well as all editorial correspondence, should be addressed to: Lectura Dantis , 122 Wilson Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903.

ISSN 0897-5280

Printed by Bailey Printing, Charlottesville, VA 22903

This content downloaded from on Mon, 17 Feb 2020 23:06:43 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Front Matter Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995) Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806588 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:06 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

This content downloaded from on Mon, 17 Feb 2020 23:06:43 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms

Lectura Dantis

A forum for Dante research and interpretation


Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginian

Dante's Divine Comedy

Introductory Readings III: Paradiso

Edited by Tibor Wlassics

University of Virginia

This content downloaded from on Mon, 17 Feb 2020 23:06:43 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms

Lectura Dantis Editor : Tibor Wlassics (University of Virginia)

Editorial Board 1991-1993: Zygmunt Barański ( University of Reading)-, Amilcare Iannucci ( University of Toronto)-, Lino Perti (University of Edinburgh)-, Regina Psaki ( University of Oregon); Ricardo Quiñones (Claremont McKenna College); William Wilson (University of Virginia)

Editorial Board 1994-1996: Peter Armour (Royal Holloway University of London); Steven Botterill (University of Calif Berkeley); Franco Ferrucci (Rutgers University); Deborah Pa (University of Virginia); Michelangelo Picone (Universität Z Marianne Shapiro (Brown University)

Editorial Assistant 1995: Michael Papio (Brown University )

Lectura Dantis is a refereed journal of Dante research and interpr It is published twice a year, in the Fall and Spring, by the Italian Pro Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virgin

members of the Editorial Board agree to advise the Editor, for a bienn the contents of four issues. The Editorial Assistant is appointed for

issue. Lectura Dantis is an independent publication. Subscription 1995 is $10 (back issues $10; supplementary volumes $20 each). Re as well as all editorial correspondence, should be addressed to: Lectura Dantis, 122 Wilson Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903.

ISSN 0897-5280

Printed by Bailey Printing, Charlottesville, VÁ 22903

This content downloaded from on Mon, 17 Feb 2020 23:06:43 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms

Lectura Dantis Tibor Wlassics, Editor A forum for Dante research and interpretation NUMBERS 16-17 SPRING-FALL 1995

Special Issue : Lectura Dantis Vi Dante's Paradiso: Introductory Paradiso I • Franco Ferrucci 3

Paradiso II • Jo Ann Cavallo 14

Paradiso III • Ruggero Stefanin 30

Paradiso IV • Lino Pertile 46 Paradiso V • Marina De Fazio 68

Paradiso VI • Guy Raffa 9 1

Paradiso VII • Paul Colilli 107 Paradiso VIII • Jean-Pierre Banicelli 1 15 Paradiso IX ♦ Mark Balfour 131

Paradiso X • Gary Cestaro 146

Paradiso XI • Mario Trovato 156 Paradiso XII ♦ Steven Botterill 172

Paradiso XIII • John Took 1 86 Paradiso XIV • Madison Sowell 198 Paradiso XV • Cristina Della Coletta 213

Paradiso XVI • Ricardo Quiñones 229

Paradiso XVII • Marianne Shapiro 246

Paradiso XVIII • Denise Heilbronn-Gaines 266

Paradiso XIX • Zygmunt Barański 277 Paradiso XX • Marguerite Chiarenza 300

Paradiso XXI • Peter Hawkins 308 Paradiso XXII • William Wilson 3 1 8 Paradiso XXIII • Franco Masciandaro 329

Paradiso XXIV • Giuseppe Di Scipio 352 Paradiso XXV • William Stephany 371

Paradiso XXVI • Kevin Brownlee 388 Paradiso XXVII • Peter Armour 402

Paradiso XXVIII • Regina Psaki 424 Paradiso XXIX • Rodney Payton 435 Paradiso XXX • Christopher Kleinhenz 456 Paradiso XXXI • Amilcare Iannucci 470

Paradiso XXXII • H. Wayne Storey 486

Paradiso XXXIII • Rebecca West 504 Editor's Note 519

This content downloaded from on Mon, 17 Feb 2020 23:06:43 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms

Lectura Dantis Editor : Tibor Wlassics (University of Virginia)

Editorial Board 1991-1993: Zygmunt Barański (University of Reading)', Amilcare Iannucci (University of Toronto)', Lino Pertile (University of Edinburgh)', Regina Psaki (University of Oregon)', Ricardo Quiñones (Claremont McKenna College)', William Wilson (University of Virginia)

Editorial Board 1994-1996: Peter Armour (Royal Holloway University of London)', Steven Botterill (University of California, Berkeley)', Franco Ferrucci (Rutgers University)', Deborah Parker (University of Virginia)', Michelangelo Picone (Universität Zürich)', Marianne Shapiro (Brown University)

Editorial Assistant 1995: Michael Papio (Brown University )

Lectura Dantis is a refereed journal of Dante research and interpretation. It is published twice a year, in the Fall and Spring, by the Italian Program, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia. The members of the Editorial Board agree to advise the Editor, for a biennium, on the contents of four issues. The Editorial Assistant is appointed for a single

issue. Lectura Dantis is an independent publication. Subscription for 1995 is $10 (back issues $10; supplementary volumes $20 each). Requests, as well as all editorial correspondence, should be addressed to: Lectura Dantis , 122 Wilson Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903.

ISSN 0897-5280

Printed by Bailey Printing, Charlottesville, VA 22903

This content downloaded from on Mon, 17 Feb 2020 23:06:43 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso I Author(s): FRANCO FERRUCCI Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 3-13 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806589 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:01 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

This content downloaded from on Mon, 17 Feb 2020 23:01:10 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms


Rutgers University

I The opening canto of Paradiso shows the contiguity of two impulses which, at first, could be deemed to be contradictory: a will for metamorphosis and an urge for order. Their conjunction will shape the destiny of the third canticle; and Dante's hunger for both reveals the

composite texture of his creative experience. Paradiso is the elaborated justification of all that has happened up to this point and the luminous climax of the drama that has been called Comedy . The final act demands some changes in its very narrative structure, as we proceed from the search to the attainment, and from a desire to leave (a dominant feeling

in Inferno and Purgatorio) to a desire to possess the new land. From now on the Poem will be devoted to the unfolding of a most paradoxical

occurrence: a systematic metamorphosis - or an orderly miracle summing up the tension between diametrical poles which provides the main input to Paradiso' s inspiration. The first speech of Beatrice addresses the theme of universal order, reaching Dante's highest levels of philosophical poetry (109-1 17): Ne l'ordine ch'io dico sono accline

tutte nature, per diverse sorti,

più al principio loro e men vicine; onde si muovono a diversi porti per lo gran mar de l'essere, e ciascuna con istinto a lei dato che la porti. Questi ne porta il foco inver' la luna; questi ne' cor mortali è permotore; questi la terra in sé stringe e aduna...

Metamorphosis has already begun its course while Dante is staring at

Beatrice's eyes which are gazing into the sun: «Nel suo aspetto tal dentro mi fei, / qual si fé Glauco nel gustar de l'erba / che '1 fé consorto

in mar de li altri dèi» (67-69); and is traced by the crucial term of trasumanar (70), which is the Christian equivalent of the pagan transmutations described by Ovid in his poem. A segment of mortality will cross into Immortality, and in the kingdom of the unveiled reality Dante will be immediately recognized by every soul. The poet himself 3

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is the protagonist of the metamorphosis, since the landscape and the actors of the divine world have already been transformed into active and luminous fractions of an immortal arrangement. Dante's metamorphosis

will essentially consist in a deepening of vision;1 his body becomes almost undistinguishable from his soul and will fly upwards, with the natural impulse of a descending river or an agitated flame (136-141): Non dei più ammirar, se bene stimo, lo tuo salir, se non come d'un rivo,

se d'alto monte scende giuso ad imo. Maraviglia sarebbe in te se, privo d'impedimento, giù ti fossi assiso, com'a terra quiete in foco vivo.

A human bird and a human fire are the first examples of the assiduous metamorphosis of the self which governs Paradiso1 s narrative

venture.2 In the heaven of Mercury Dante will define himself as «trasmutabile per tutte guise» ( ParN , 99), which is quite an appropriate definition for a metamorphic hero. Yet this same hero is never lost in the new and wondrous landscape: he never misses a localization, he is always travelling with the ecstatic exactitude of a designer of Heaven. If

the Universe is «somigliante a Dio», Dante's Poem is similar to both the universe and God in its craving for a composite order. On the edge of his supreme attempt (entering the House of the Lord and describing it), Dante is forced to make a choice which is prompted

by the pressure to solve a creative problem. Quite simply, he has to abolish spatial infinity, which to us appears as a basic requirement in a religious perception of the world. Infinity is sacrificed on the altar of representation, because it cannot find its proper place in a Paradise as firmly constructed as a fortress and as accurate as a precision clock. Dante's universe seems to be a finished one, as is implicitly asserted in the first terzina of Paradiso : La gloria di colui che tutto muove per l'universo penetra, e risplende in una parte più e meno altrove. ^

The universe is everywhere visible and explorable, notwithstanding the different amount of divine light reaching the various provinces of its extent. Not differently from Hell and Purgatory, Paradise is conceived as a measurable space and is provided with external and internal boundaries. One can even surmise that the idea itself of infinity is at odds with the need for order - since there cannot be representation of order where 4

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there is no possible measurement.4 The notable exception is God Himself, Who is, at the same time, unmeasurable and perfectly orderly;

in fact, He is the creator of order.5 This paradox is at the heart of medieval discussions about the nature of the Infinite as a divine

connotation. God's Infinity, after all, is a post-scriptural elaboration,

starting with Plotinus and Pseudo-Dionysius;6 and a God Who is infinite per essentiam will become a cornerstone of the philosophy of

Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae , 1,7,2), as of Bonaventure and Albert the Great. Much less evident is the Bible's and the Gospels' and Saint Paul's stand on this matter, since every reference to God seems to indicate His formidable latitude of power more than His Infinity.7

The notion of infinity seems also to discredit the human mythopoieic activity as a profane imitation of God. This may be the reason why Dante's God has created a delimited universe: otherwise it

would be difficult, if not impossible, to control His «Glory», as is stated at the beginning of our canto, where Dante meets for the first time the paradox of a circumscribed infinity . We can proceed on this path, and observe that even the temporal form of infinity (eternity) is

continuously kept in check and balanced throughout Paradiso. The eternal means certainly the divine , but without a clear and indisputable sense of being infinite . In fact, the Divine World has a temporal limit: the day of the Last Judgment, an idea that outlines the world above as a reality which is still unfinished. When the bodies are reunited with the

souls, Paradise will be completed and supposedly will live only by itself without receiving any more contribution from the Earth; and human life

will be only a distant memory from that point on, with no more Emperors to hope for, and no more Popes to condemn. It will definitely be a different kind of Paradise from the one visited by Dante, which is

still vibrant with earthly passions and still so rooted in human temporality. Only Inferno will be there to remind human beings that they once existed and that they have sinned and have been condemned; on the other hand, Cacciaguida and St. Peter will have no more need for passionate speeches against the corruption of the times. Paradise will be memory-less and silent; and a new poet would be obliged to give us a somewhat different description from the one provided by Dante. To sum up: spatial infinity is not mentioned, and temporal infinity is postponed to a future date. The reason for this is an openly profane one: artistic necessity. The artist needs to frame and to possess his own territory. He is limited, but he is competitive vis-à-vis God's creativity, as Marsyas vis-à-vis Apollo - a mythological dispute evoked by Dante with the hidden irony of so many similar passages (19-21):


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Entra nel petto mio, e spira tue sì come quando Marsïa traesti de la vagina de le membra sue. . .

- with the obvious difference that Dante-Marsyas has swallowed God- Apollo into his own creativity system: obliging Divinity to play the human game of delimitation.

The anonymous author of the Liber de causis is quoted in the «Letter to Cangrande», in order to define the power of the «causa primaria» and the creative influence of divine intelligence. Although written in the typically clumsy and cursory way of the «Letter», this passage grasps one important characteristic of the Liber de causis : the

First Being's activity as unfolding through creation 8 - an idea that will deeply permeate the organism of the third canticle, which is a constant praise of God's supreme artistic talent mirrored in the talent of

the poet ascending toward Him. Creativity will be one of the propelling themes of Paradise - God's creativity and Dante's creativity, to be sure;

but also the talent of whoever can present himself as an artistic performer will be highly praised: including the gracious dance of the

souls in the Heaven of the Sun, masking itself as the rotating mechanism of a clock; and including the acrobatic transformations of the

Eagle in the Heaven of Jupiter; and the ballet-like diving and swimming in the eternal Rose. Dante's gamble appears more and more discernible.

To attempt the impossible is what the magicians dare attempt; and among the magicians we find the poets, as Vergil knew, having been reputed a magician throughout the Middle Ages; and as Dante knows by now.

The first canto of Paradiso announces an imminent celebration. T Easter function of the resurrected poetry is approaching its joyful

and is about to invade a Heaven which is conceived of as an o

cathedral inundated by the light of the Sun. Like a cathedral, Heav accurately describable, although the main rhetorical device of the can

will endlessly reaffirm that what is presented here is really

describable. The first statement of this kind refers to the human mi

and to its limitations: «appressando sé al suo disire, / nostro intellet profonda tanto, / che dietro la memoria non può ire» (7-9). In each

these lines we find a term of intense semantic implication: d intelletto memoria ; and their gathering at this point seems to topically motivated. We are dealing with three of the main wal Dante's conceptual building; and the absence of the fourth ter

amore , the master wall of the entire construction - can be explaine the fact that Love is the implicit reference word for each of these te


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the fact that Love is the implicit reference word for each of these terms: it is their real completion in meaning. Disire , intelletto , and memoria are all supported by Love, whose foundation rests in God. Desire is in

fact desiderio d'amore? and intelletto is intelletto d'amore ,10 and memoria is definitely memoria d'amore. Once more following a

neoplatonic theme, such a memory of love is linked to a divine state of our being before our birth to which we are destined to return, if we

deserve so. Viewed from the perspective of Paradise, human sin is a refusal to follow the right orders (starting with the rebellious Angel who

has become the Emperor of Evil); it is a disobedience , a soldier's retreat,

cowardice of the soul (viltà); «l'anima tua è da viltate offesa», says Vergil to Dante at his first vacillation (Inf. II, 45); and he will convince him to proceed by stating that no less than Beatrice has interceded for him. He knows how the function of the beloved lady is essential for a safe return of the stranded knight to the Court of Heaven.

The memory of Love (the memory of divinity which is rooted in the abyss of our intellect) operates in a twofold way. We are endowed with an archetypal memory according to which God exists in us even beyond our will; and we have to retrace it through desire and through

intellect until we can host it consciously in our personal memory. Revelation and Theology are essential in order to foster this vast human

sediment. But in Dante there is a second kind of memory: the poetic

memory of a journey towards Love which can only be rendered by writing a book. With the help of this alternative kind of memory Dante rebuilds the role of the poet as a special explorer of collective memory and as the Orpheus of a new Christian creativity. We are dealing with this special kind of memory in the terzina which immediately follows

(10-12): Veramente quant' io del regno santo ne la mia mente potei far tesoro, sarà ora materia del mio canto. 1111

The Vita Nuova had begun with a reference to the «libro della memoria»

which contains the story to be told; and both books tell the story of a different journey towards Love. While Dante is writing the fourth book

of the Convivio he realizes in a highly epiphanic way that what he really wants is to perform another journey to the Source Itself of Love;12 and therefore the Convivio will be soon abandoned, and Beatrice

will replace the «donna gentile», and Theology will supersede Philosophy. A special feature of the poetic memory is to be intermittent 1

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(anticipating Marcel Prousťs similar notion, so many centuries later). It

constantly progresses and recedes, and keeps fighting with its own boundaries, as if the ecstasy of inspiration constantly wavered between recollection and oblivion. This is already visible in the Vita nuova , as is shown in the closing lines of «Ne li occhi porta la mia donna Amore»: «Quel ch'ella par quando un poco sorride, / non si può dicer né tenere a

mente , / sì è novo miracolo e gentile». Poetic memory is certainly linked to the canons which rule the imagination and the experiences of the prophets and the mystics and the lovers - and this is not a minor point of originality on the part of Dante. Nothing basically different will be affirmed by Vico and by the Romantic theoreticians and poets. The long and elaborate invocation to Apollo (vv. 13-36) is a request

to be empowered with this special brand of poetic memory (13-15 & 22-24): O buono Appollo, a l'ultimo lavoro fammi del tuo valor sì fatto vaso, come dimandi a dar l'amato alloro...

O divina virtù, se mi ti presti tanto che l'ombra del beato regno

segnata nel mio capo io manifesti...

Why Apollo, and why a pagan God for such an investiture? Because there was simply no Christian figure that could take his place. Christian revelation had no deputy for such a role of the poet. Even Augustine, the greatest writer of the patristic tradition, had confined within the

Christian God all that is creatively worthy;13 and Dante, so deeply nourished by Augustine as a writer and as a thinker, would have never written his poem if he had closely followed such prescriptions - and in

fact his first guide for the journey could not have been Augustine himself but rather a Latin poet, Vergil, a believer in the «dèi falsi e bugiardi» (Inf. I, 72) - and one of them is Apollo, whom Dante is now profusely addressing.

A strictly figurai interpretation of this passage falls short of explaining the historical proportions of the creative and cultural drama of which Dante is the stunning protagonist. If Apollo is simply a figura

Dei ,14 the whole introduction to Paradise loses its deepest and most radical characteristic - a subtle self-interpretation which could not adequately be included in the scheme provided by the «Letter to Cangrande».15 After the Christianization of Vergil, Apollo is saluted as a minor Christian divinity (similar to a Saint not canonically recognized

but equally active and protective). The unrelenting dialogue between classic and Christian heritages has come to a conclusion which will 8

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mold the cultural panorama of the following centuries and which will transmit to us Christianity as we have known it from the moment its artistic expression became as important as its theological dogmas: pagan enough to describe God's Paradise! Dante knows what he is saying, and

no trace of a blasphemous spirit can be found in his invocation. The time has come for him to acknowledge that representation and belief are one thing for the very special kind of believer that he embodies; and to fully admit that the progress of his Comedy will be exactly parallel to the one of his faith; and that he will be a true believer only at the end of

the poem, and thanks to the accomplished poem. This would not have happened without the recreation of the cult of artistic beauty and of the classic idea of the poet; and, for such a renovation, Apollo (and what he stands for) has to be deeply praised.16

As a farewell to Canto One, I shall recall its most outstanding poetic moment - a pearl enclosed in its very heart. It is noon in Eden,

and the angelic concourse that has crowded the Earthly Paradise has silently and mysteriously disappeared, when Beatrice, almost literally becomes an eagle staring into the sun: «Beatrice in sul sinistro fianco /

vidi rivolta a riguardar nel sole» (46-47). An eagle, but more than an eagle, according to the allegorical reason for the beginning of the divine

flight: «aguglia sì non li s'affisse unquanco» (48). 17 For a particle of time, Dante is able himself to gaze into the sun («e fissi li occhi al sole oltre nostr' uso», 54); and, in this momentous instant of passage, the flight has already begun (61-63): e di sùbito parve giorno a giorno essere aggiunto, come quei che puote avesse il ciel d'un altro sole addorno.

A double sun in the skies! At this point Dante turns again towards his

guide; and the Comedy finds two of its unforgettable terzine, as perilously flashing and mysteriously distant as two gleaming stars (64-66 & 79-81): Beatrice tutta ne l'etterne rote

fissa con li occhi stava; e io in lei le luci fissi, di là sù rimote...

parvemi tanto allor del cielo acceso de la fiamma del sol, che pioggia o fiume lago non fece alcun tanto disteso.

It is the astonishing balance that precedes a portent - and in fact

the comparison between Dante and Glaucus will immediately follow 9

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these lines; and metamorphosis will take place beneath a surface of radiant immobility. Eternity is grasped in that fleeting instant. Even Dante has rarely reached such a burning tempo.


1 «Di cielo in cielo la vista di Dante si fa sempre più acuta e perfetta, pur senza mutar mai di natura» (Ernesto Giacomo Parodi, «La costruzione e l'ordinamento del Paradiso dantesco», in Poesia e storia nella «Divina

Commedia », Venezia, 1965 (repr. of 1921), p. 366). ¿E. Gardner {Dante and the Mystics , London, 1913) was the first to notice that the images used in these lines derive directly from Saint Augustine's Confessions , XXX, 9: «pondus non ad ima tantum est, sed ad locum suum . . . ignis sursum tendit, deorsum lapsis . . . aqua super oleum fusa infra oleum

demergitur...». It has been said that gloria is one and the same thing with God's light; but in fact the light seems to be only an important manifestation of such a glory. How can one define the substance, or essence, of glory itself? One should think of a close equivalent of the Latin word potent ia, which is a semantic recurrence in the Old and New Testament and in the language of liturgy. «Glory» would therefore be the divine power made visible and encompassing the universe. As for the general concept of these lines, see Convivio , III, vii, 2: «La divina bontade in tutte le cose discende, e altrimenti essere non potrebbero; ma avvegna che questa bontade si muova da simplicissimo principio, diversamente si riceve, secondo più o meno, da le cose riceventi». See also De vulg. eloq.y I,xvi,5: «Simplicíssima substanti arum, que Deus est, in homine magis redolet quam in bruto animali; in bruto animali quam in pianta; in hac quam in minera; in hac quam in elemento; in igne quam in terra». 4The definition of infinity as a «privation» is in Aristotle's Physics , III, 6, 207a: «the infinite turns out to be the contrary of what it is said to be. It is not what has nothing outside it that is infinite, but what always has something outside it»; and 208a: «its essence is privation» (I quote The Basic Works of Aristotle , ed. Richard McKeon, New York, 1941, pp. 266-268). See also De generatione animal i um: «Nature flies from the infinite, for the infinite is unending, and Nature ever seeks an end» (I, 715b, 15-16, p. 152). As for the First Mover, He «causes a motion that is eternal and does cause it during an infinite time. It is clear, therefore, that the first movent is indivisible and is without parts and without magnitude» Ç Physics , VIII, 10, 267b, 24-26, p. 394). See: Abraham Edel, Aristotle's Theory of the Infinite , New York, 1934; Rodolfo Mondolfo, L'infinito nel pensiero dell'antichità classica , Florence, 1956. ^ Ordo is also a key word for the two Christian philosophers so beloved by Dante and who will dominate with their presence the Heaven of the Sun:


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Hexaemeron ), and Thomas Aquinas refers to «ordo totius universi» {De Veritaté). For the belief in a universal order and the human need to conform

to it, see: William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience , London, 1903, chapter IH, «The Reality of the Unseen» (contrary to Dante's thought, for James such an order remains «invisible»). "In Plotinus «infinity in the Good is not that of quantity with its endless extension, but that of power» (Leo Sweeny, S.J., Divine Infinity in Greek and Medieval Thought , New York, 1992, p. 203). But infinity for Plotinus is still a synonym of non-being, and this will be a problem to solve for the

13th-century theologians. As late as 1243 Albert the Great, in his Commentary on Lombard's Sentences , affirms that God is infinite («Deus est infinitum, id est non finitum») in the sense that no other intellect can contain Him or comprehend Him or define Him (in I Sent., d.43,C,a2). The impossibility of defining God had already been forcefully proclaimed by Pseudo -Dionysius: «ñeque numerus est, ñeque ordo, ñeque magnitudo, ñeque parvitas, ñeque aequalitas, ñeque similitudo; ñeque stat, ñeque movetur, ñeque quiescit, ñeque habet po tenti am; ñeque est potentia, ñeque lumen, ñeque vivit, ñeque vita est, ñeque substantia est, ñeque saeculum, ñeque tempus ... nec unum, nec unitas, ñeque divinitas» {De mystica theologia , V,A,PG,m,1048). Even the infinity of God is a human way to say what He is not. - In Augustine a real theory of God's Infinity seems to be lacking, and its very notion is grasped poetically and emotionally in the Confessions : «tamquam si mare esset, ubique et undique per immensa infinitum solum mare, et haberet intra se spongiam quamlibet magnam, sed finitam, plena esset utique spongia ilia ex omni sua parte ex immenso mari; sic creaturam tuam finitam, te infinito pienam putabam» (VII, 5, 7). See Pierre Duhem, Medieval Cosmology: Theories of Infinity, Place, Time, Void, and the Plurality of the Worlds, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1985.

7The only use of «infinity» as a noun in Dante's work is in Convivium , IV, ix, 3: «la prima bontade, che è Dio, che solo con la infinita capacitade infinito comprende». Cesare Vasoli, in his commentary to this work, mentions a passage from Thomas Aquinas's Contra Gentiles (1,69): «Preterea, Esse Dei est suum intelligere ... Sicut igitur suum est infinitum ... ita suum intelligere est infinitum. Sicut autem se habet finitum ad finitum, ita se habet infinitum ad infinitum. Si igitur secundum intelligere nostrum, quod finitum est, finita capere possumus, et Deus, secundum suum intelligere infinitum, infinita capere potest». - As an adjective, «infinito» is used six times in the Comedy , and always as a clear synonym of «immense». As a contrast, «etterno» and its derivatives are extremely

frequent (see Carlo Chirico, «etterno», Enciclopedia dantesca, IV, 761-762).

8 «Et hoc dicitur in libro De Causis quod 'omnis causa primaria plus influit super suum causatum quam causa universalis secunda...' Et propter hoc dicitur in libro De Causis quod 'omnis intelligentia est piena formis'. Patet ergo quomodo ratio manifestât divinum lumen, id est divinam bonitatem, 11

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ergo quomodo ratio manifestât divinum lumen, id est divinam bonitatem, sapientiam et v ir tu tem, resplendere ubique» ( Ep . XIII, 56-61) - The neoplatonic pitch of such a passage may well be a heritage of Plotinus and Proclus if not of Plato himself ( Timaeus ); but, if this is certainly true for the author of the Liber de causis , as for Dante our uncertainty is total. A somewhat puzzling reference in the «Letter to Cangrande» is the one to «Dionysius» (a Greek author nowadays known as the Pseudo-Dionysius and familiar to Dante in a Latin translation). The work Dante is referring to is De Coelesti Hierarchia , where is outlined the system of celestial «mirrors» receiving the divine light throughout descending spheres. (Another reference to this work is to be found in Par. X,1 15-1 17: «Appresso vedi il lume di quel cero / che giù in carne più a dentro vide / l'angelica natura e 'l ministero»). One wonders where Dante was acquainted with other books of the same author (De Divinis Nominibus , De Mystica Theologia ), which represent the most radical declaration of «negative» or «apophatic» theology and where God is given as unknowable and unreachable and ununderstandable. The main point that I am trying to make here is that, before Dante, both neoplatonists and neoaristotelians share the same view about the impossibility of representing Divinity and Its world. - Another instance of neoplatonic thought (via Cicero's Somnium Scipionis , as has been documented since Benvenuto) is evident in the reference to the «armonia» of the celestial spheres (78). See: Piero Nardi, «La novità del suono e il grande lume», Saggi di filosofìa dantesca , Roma, 1930, pp. 79-88; and the long footnote in: L'esposizione di Bernardino Daniello da Lucca sopra la Comedia di Dante , ed. Robert Hollander & Jeffrey Schnapp,

Hanover, 1989, pp. 322-324. - On Dante's Platonism: Paul Renucci, L'aventure de l'humanisme européen au moyen-âge (IVe-XIVe siècle ), Paris,

1953; Joseph Anthony Mazzeo, Structure and Thought in the Paradiso,

Ithaca, N.Y., 1958, chapters I and V; Rudolf Palgen, «II Paradiso

platonico», Letteratura e Critica. Studi in onore di Natalino Sapegno , Roma, 1974, vol.1, pp. 197-211.

^For the theme of desire in Dante see my book: Il poema del desiderio : Poetica e passione in Dante , Milano, 1990 (especially the chapter: «La dialettica del desiderio»). See also the independent observations by Lino Pertile, «'La punta del disio': storia di una metafora dantesca», Lectura Dantis , 7 (Fall 1990), pp. 3-28; and «Paradiso: A Drama of Desire», in World and Drama in Dante: Essays on the Divine Comedy, ed. John C. Barnes & Jennifer Petrie, Dublin, 1993, pp. 143-180. ^In «Donne ch'avete intelletto d'amore» the two terms are tied one to the other from the very first line. This link will remain constant in all of

Dante's works.

1 * «Et quamvis inde aliquid in memoria teneamus, et quasi per medium velum

et velut in medio nebulae videamus, nec modum quidem videndi, nec qualitatem visionis comprehendere, vel recordari sufficimus» (Richard of Saint Victor, Benjamin major , IV, 23, in P.L., 196: Col. 167 B-C). Richard of Samt Victor is quoted in the «Letter to Cangrande» in order to prove the 12

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partial collapse of memory after a vision: «Intellectus humānus . . . quando

elevatur, in tantum elevatur, ut memoria post reditum deficiat propter transcendisse humanum modum ... Et ubi ista invidis non sufficiant, legant Richardům de Sancto Victore, ... et non invidebunt» (78-80). 12«Lo sommo desiderio di ciascuna cosa ... è lo ritornare allo suo principio. E però che Dio è principio de le nostre anime e fattore di quelle simili a sé

... essa anima massimamente desidera di tornare a quello» ( Convivio , IV, xii, 14).

For Augustine's reinterpretation of Plotinian ideas on the nature of beauty, see J.A.Mazzeo, cit., pp. 68-70.

14 As it is stated in some of the best known traditional commentaries to this canto: Guido Mazzoni, in Letture dantesche , ed. Giovanni Getto, Firenze,

1964, pp. 1354-1356; Cesare Federico Goffis, in Lectura Dantis Scaligera , Firenze, 1968, pp. 11-12; Alberto Chiari, m Letture classensi , 5, Ravenna, 1976, p. 64. l^In the «Letter to Cangrande» the reference to this passage (86) is almost discouraging in its flatness: «Deinde cum dicit: 'O bone Apollo', etc., facit invocationem suam. Et dividitur ista pars in partes duas: in prima invocando petit; in secunda suadet Apollini petitionem factam, remunerationem quandam prenuntians; et incipit secunda pars ibi: 'O divina virtus... '».

l"At the end of the invocation we find a moment of doubtful humbleness: «Poca favilla gran fiamma seconda: / forse di retro a me con miglior voci /

si pregherà perché Cirra risponda» (vv. 34-36). «I più sono persuasi che queste miglior voci ... siano di poeti prossimi venturi; i meno, che siano le voci di beati e d'angeli, destinate a caldeggiare di cielo in cielo la preghiera del poeta presso lo Spirito Santo, col prestigio delle loro intercessioni per soli e coro. Non sarebbe la prima volta, se i meno avessero ragione» (Vittorio Sermonti, Il Paradiso , rev. Cesare Segre, Milano, 1993, p. 14). 1 '«Aquila enim primo est avis magna valde, talis est haec sacra scientia ... Ad litteram ergo dicit poeta: aguglia sì , idest, tarn firmiter, non gli s'affisse

unquancOy quasi dicat: quod aquila corporalis non tam fixe intuetur solem corporalem, sicut ista scientia spiritualis solem spirituálem qui Deus est» (Benvenuti de Imola, Coment um, Florence, 1887, IV, pp. 312-313).


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso II Author(s): JO ANN CAVALLO Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 14-29 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806590 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:02 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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Columbia University

II Exactly 669 years before Neil Armstrong made his giant leap for mankind, Dante's fictive voyage lands him on the moon - or rather, inside the moon, since Dante explains that his body has penetrated the moon's surface. Yet Dante does not want to be linked to any myth about

«the man in the moon». In fact, Paradiso 2 pointedly ridicules such popular beliefs and notions concerning the moon (in particular the idea that moon spots were caused by Cain carrying a bundle of weeds across its surface). Dante presents himself instead as a worthy antecedent of

twentieth-century space travelers cognizant of the most advanced cosmological conceptions of the time. In Paradiso 2, from the privileged vantage point of the moon, Dante outlines his particular idea of outer space. Critics have often remarked that in this canto Dante privileges scientific and philosophical discourse over poetry. Actually, Dante puts the poet before the astronomer in a most radical way, that is, he gives a knowingly distorted view of the cosmos (as he conceived of it) in order to accommodate it to the demands of his fictional flight.

Before venturing into his celestial scheme, however, it is worth

turning to the warning with which Dante opens the canto. Using a navigational metaphor, Dante pictures himself in a «legno» covering uncharted waters, followed by a large number of philosophically illiterate sailors in a «piccioletta barca» as well as by a more restricted number of wisdom-seekers in a more sturdy «navigio». Dante warns the first group to head back to shore lest they lose sight of him and get lost,

while he encourages the second group to follow closely behind and remain in his wake.

As has been often noted in passing, this division of readership explicitly recalls the opening of the Convivio which distinguishes «quelli pochi che seggiono a quella mensa dove lo pane de li angeli si manuca» (1.1.7) from the larger number of those not versed in philosophy.1 But the comparison between the two passages merits a closer look. In the Convivio , these pochi are not only those who in general dedicate themselves to philosophy, but are also, in particular,

Dante's illustrious predecessors and authorities at whose feet Dante places himself in order to gather the crumbs of their wisdom: «E io 14

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adunque, che non seggio a la beata mensa, ma, fuggito de la pastura del

vulgo, a' piedi di coloro che seggiono ricolgo di quello che da loro cade». Dante, in turn, passes on these crumbs of wisdom to the miseri

who would otherwise remain deprived: «per la dolcezza ch'io sento in quello che a poco a poco ricolgo, misericordievolmente mosso, non me dimenticando, per li miseri alcuna cosa ho riservata, la quale a li occhi loro, già è più tempo, ho dimostrata» (1.1.10). The Convivio1 s descent of wisdom from the pochi to Dante to the miseri constitutes a model that Dante will later apply to the universal

organs in Paradiso 2 («che di sù prendono e di sotto fanno», 123).2 Within this vertical hierarchy, Dante conceives of himself as an intermediate being on the ladder of knowledge who links those above

(the pochi) and those below (the miseri). The guiding spirit is one of agape , or benevolence, which in the original Greek appropriately meant «banquet».

In the new navigational metaphor of Paradiso 2, the downward movement of imparting knowledge is replaced by an upward (actually, outward) movement of seeking knowledge. Dante no longer sits at the

feet of others, but is now the lone captain at the helm of a boat traversing uncharted waters. The pochi are no longer Dante's guides and

authorities, but his followers. They are apparently not considered competent enough to navigate on their own, since they will only be able to proceed by remaining close in Dante's wake. Implicitly placing themselves among the second group of seafarers, critics tend to incorporate Dante's warning into their own commentaries

of Paradiso 2 in various ways. Sapegno, for example, prefaces his explanation of the canto's philosophical content with a warning that retains the distinction between two types of readership, but changes it to

a distinction between Dante's knowing contemporaries and the baffled

modern day readers.3 Singleton echoes Dante's warning: he tells the reader that before venturing into the canto's philsophical passages, «he

might do well to read Grandgent's paraphrase and exposition of the whole argument» (which he then duly provides).4 One can only assume that after this crash course in medieval philosophy - a four-paragraph

quotation - those in their «piccioletta barca» can become part of the enlightened second group. In a more blatant attempt to make Dante's

metaphor seem less elitist, Irma Brandeis changes the meaning of Dante's warning to the reader when she tells us that according to Dante: «if [the reader] has not yet lifted up his neck for bread of angels , he must

wish to try».5 According to Dante, however, it is too late for the uninitiated to wish to try; they must turn back to shore.6

The critical attention devoted to the metaphor itself generally 15

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praises the poetic/aesthetic merits of the passage, points out its relation

to Dante's other navigational metaphors, and/or elaborates on the comparison that Dante makes between his own voyage and those of Ulysses and Jason. Critics who have mentioned its function vis-à-vis the reader generally take the metaphor to be «Dante's perfectly serious

warning».7 Yet if Dante's warning to the reader had had a practical purpose, it should have come at the very beginning of the poem, analogous to the inscription at the gate of Hell (Inf. 3. 1-9). 8 (For my

students in «Literature Humanities CI 002», the warning could be logically placed between the Inferno and Purgatorio , since each year they

read the entire first canticle and then abandon Dante just as he is about to emerge from Hell because the course requires that they move on to

the Decameron). The last possible place one could reasonably ask a

reader to turn back would be at the outset of Paradiso 1 before Dante's

ascent into the celestial spheres at a speed faster than that of lightning

(Par. 1.91-93). Had it been placed at the opening of the canticle, the warning could have been applicable to Paradiso as a whole. But to the reader who finds himself ascending with Dante at lightning speed into the first celestial sphere, turning back is no longer a viable option. In the letter to Cangrande (supposing it is of Dante's hand), Dante

divides the Paradiso into the prologue (Par. 1.1-36) and the executive part. If he had meant for his warning in Paradiso 2 to be taken at face value, he would have had to include it in the prologue which addresses and prepares the reader for the canticle which follows. Moreover, Dante states (following Cicero's Nova Rhetorica) that in a good exordium «the hearer, namely, should be rendered favorably disposed, attentive, and

willing to learn».9 If Dante, as he goes on to explain, took deliberate steps to render the hearer (or reader) «benevolum et attentum et docilem»

at the opening of Paradiso 1, it is hardly likely that he would have had a change of heart at the opening of the following canto.

If the warning cannot be a practical one, then, it is well to question the rhetorical strategy behind it and its intended effect on the reader. To

anyone who has traversed sixty-eight cantos of the Commedia , with the

experience of having chewed and swallowed several philosophical passages already, the only real option is to identify oneself with the

pochi that are invited to follow Dante. Once the reader has placed himself in this élite group, he is given instructions delimiting his mode of reading (i.e., following close behind Dante). Although he credits the

pochi with intellectual speculation («il pan de li angeli»), Dante dissuades them from exercising it. The «ideal» reader, it seems, is not only one who is able to follow Dante's reasoning, but one who restricts himself to following Dante's reasoning. 16

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Dante further inscribes the reader response into the text itself through his references to the voyages of Ulysses and Jason. It is clear that Dante has in mind his own version of the Ulysses story given in Inferno 26, but Jason's story also involves a new version. Dante revises Jason's story on the spot in order to create a precedent for the type of reader he desires. While in Ovid's Metamorphoses the natives of Colchis were amazed, Dante rewrites the tale so that it is the Argonauts, his fellow travelers, who are amazed.

What is there, then, in Paradiso 2 which causes amazement? Perhaps it is Dante's claim to have penetrated the moon. He does not use philosophical speculation to support his claim, however, but asks the reader to accept it as an article of faith. He does so by creating an

analogy between two bodies occupying the same space and the Incarnation in which the divine entered into a human body. Although

critics seem reluctant to admit it, this is a false analogy which lacks logical rigor. The impossibility of two physical objects occupying the same space does not prove the impossibility of two essences (human and divine) co-existing in the same body. But the point is this: since Dante supports his claim with recourse to the mysteries of the Christian faith rather than providing scientific or philosophical explanation, this

passage can neither lose the uneducated nor amaze those who feed on philosophical speculation. The question then needs to be rephrased: what is there in Paradiso 2 which causes amazement in the philosophically mindedl This brings us to the heart of the canto. Verse 49 begins a question on the origin of moon spots; the answer will occupy the remaining hundred verses of the canto. Beatrice is delegated as the voice of authority, taking the place of

the pochi at whose feet Dante placed himself in the opening of the Convivio , and she proceeds along the lines of a Scholastic argument by first refuting an erroneous opinion (pars destruens , 64-105) and then substantiating her own claim (pars construens , 112-48). In this case, the idea to be refuted is that the spots were caused by the rarity and density of the body of the moon, an opinion that Dante himself had sustained in book 2 of the Convivio . In the pars construens , Beatrice's argument goes beyond the topic of moon spots to discuss the heavenly bodies and the celestial intelligences who move them, as well as the effects these bodies have on the sublunar world. Beatrice begins her argument with the statement that the reason given for the variance of light on the surface of the moon must also account for the variance of light among all heavenly bodies. Since the other stars differ not only in the degree of brightness, but also in their

hue, the answer is to be found in quality as well as in quantity («nel 17

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quale e nel quanto», 65) of light. Beatrice has recourse to both observation and experimentation in her refutation of Dante's theory of rare and dense matter. If the moon had

layers of completely transparent areas, one would be able to observe the sun's light shining through these areas during a solar eclipse. If these so-called layers of rare matter did not traverse the entire body of the

moon, then light would be reflected back at the point in which it encountered dense matter, and, as her proposed experiment involving a light and three mirrors would show, the light which traveled farthest

before being reflected back would differ only in size but not in brilliance.

In the pars construens , Beatrice's discourse jumps from physics to metaphysics as she provides a spiritual explanation to the different hues

of physical light. She begins by tracing a trajectory in which the undifferentiated virtue of the Empyrean passes through the Primum Mobile (9th sphere) and into the Sphere of the Fixed Stars (8th sphere) where it becomes differentiated as it mingles with each individual star. Beatrice next more summarily attributes this pattern of differentiation and transmittal to the rest of the planets, «li altri giron» (1 18-123). She

then approaches the subject from a new angle - now looking to the active forces behind this celestial relay system. She posits the existence of Intelligences that govern each heavenly sphere like the soul in the

human body but remain distinct from it. The Intelligences are responsible for infusing virtues into the rays of light which then pass through the heavenly bodies of each sphere. Although Dante outlines

the process from the Empyrean to the heaven of the moon, it is understood that these distinct virtues ultimately reach the earth and influence the lives of its inhabitants. In the Convivio , which is also concerned with the heavenly bodies and the celestial intelligences who move them, Dante acknowledges the

authorities who have provided the philosophical backbone of this conception of the cosmos: Aristotle, Plato, and the Church fathers (i' Cattolici). Briefly tracing the principal sources of Dante's synthesis, we

can note that Aristotle posited a cosmos of eight concentric spheres consisting of the planets and fixed stars, to which Ptolemy added a ninth

(the Primum Mobile) and Christian teaching added a tenth sphere embracing all the others (the Empyrean). Aristotle attributed the movement of the celestial spheres to prime movers, which were later identified by Christian and Arab Neoplatonists as angels who regulated

the various spheres of the cosmos. While Aristotle was concerned primarily with motion, the Neoplatonists used the ordering of the heavens to expound an ontological ladder of being based on emanation 18

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from the One to the many.10 In the Convivio's explanation of the heavens and their movers, Dante also cites Pseudo-Dionysius's On the Celestial Hierarchy {De coelesti hierarchia) and the anonymous On Causes {Liber de causis ), both of which contain a Neoplatonic conception of emanation which had found its way into medieval Christian thinking. The emphasis in these works is no longer on the movement of the heavens, but on illumination and the reflection of light. Dante does not claim emanation as a model for the creation of the

universe, which would go against the Christian belief of creation ex nihilo , but rather he uses the language of emanation and light metaphysics to explain the continuous descent of virtue from the highest heaven.

For Dante, as well as for medieval culture at large, the ultimate destination of these virtues is the earth, and therefore one must add that

astrology, considered part of the science of astronomy in Dante's time,

has a part to play in Dante's view of the cosmos. The virtues passed down through the celestial bodies influence man's physical body, his mental faculties, and his general character. Although in Paradiso 2 Dante does not describe the various kinds of virtues he has in mind, we find as

he passes through each planet that they are principally connected to classical mythology (e.g., Venus bestows a disposition to love; Mars, a

warlike nature; Jupiter, temperance and justice). In Par. 22.112-17, Dante attributes his creative genius to the constellation Gemini under whose sign he was born.

To summarize, one could say that, in the wake of the on-going synthesizing of philosophy and theology undertaken by his predecessors, Dante combines a Neoplatonic emanation theory, Christian angelology, and the «science» of astrology in a fundamentally Aristotelian universeē So much for Dante's conception of the cosmos. But what does all of this have to do with moon spots? The concluding lines of the canto

(145-148), spoken by Beatrice, give the impression that all has been clarified. Indeed, Paradiso 3 opens with Dante's intention to 'confess' («confessar corretto e certo / me stesso», 4-5) after Beatrice, «provando e

riprovando» (3), had shown him the truth. It can be therefore easily overlooked that Dante-author has not yet provided the reader with an

explanation of moon spots. Perhaps Dante-pilgrim had intended to conclude the discourse on moon spots in his «confession», but just as he was about to speak, a «visione» made him forget all about his declaration («di mia confession non mi sovvenne», 9). While the

attention of Dante-pilgrim - and supposedly of the reader - is absorbed by this new wondrous sight, Dante's declaration as well as the answer to the original question are forgotten. After all, if Dante-pilgrim 19

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is completely satisfied, then so should the reader be who is following close in Dante's wake.

But Dante seems to have anticipated that some of those pochi who feed on intellectual speculation would not be satisfied without reaching the end of Beatrice's line of thought themselves. Inserted in-between the

passage on the hierarchy of the spheres and that of the celestial Intelligences are Beatrice's following words to the pilgrim: «Riguarda bene ornai sì com' io vado / per questo loco al ver che tu disiri, / sì che poi sappi sol tener lo guado» (124-126). As Singleton notes, «'loco' and 'guado' suggest, metaphorically, that Beatrice's disquisition is a kind of journey or fording to the final truth at which she means to arrive, and Dante must learn to follow the path of it and later be able to 'ford' it by

himself».11 In other words, it is a variation on the navigational metaphor that began the canto. Now, however, Dante-pilgrim and, by extension, any of the pochi who may not be swept away by the vision

in the next canto so as to forget the issue, are invited to follow Beatrice's reasoning in order to complete the argument.

Some of these pochi have endeavored to provide the rest of us with

Dante's (untold) explanation of moon spots. E. G. Parodi and Enrico Proto argue that since the moon is the lowest of the planets, all the virtues of all the superior heavens are assembled there.12 Thus, just as there is diversity between the light of one star and the next, there is also diversity of light among the various parts of the moon. Bruno Nardi comes to a similar conclusion, positing a different possible source: the Neoplatonist Giamblico, quoted in Simplicius's sixth-century treatise, De cáelo , rather than Albertus Magnus or St. Thomas Aquinas. Those who believed to have found the answer seemed satisfied to have located a

possible source. They thereby, albeit unwittingly, obeyed the instructions of Dante's opening metaphor and remained in Dante's wake.

Subsequent commentators and critics have merely repeated their «solution» without subjecting it to further investigation. What would happen if the reader were not content to remain in Dante's wake - not only with regard to the specific problem of moon spots but with his entire conception of the cosmos - and wanted instead to stop and take a better look at the pelago Dante had led him to?

The first difficulty in the theory is due to the fact that Dante attributes the difference in physical light one observes on the moon's surface to different spiritual virtues which rain down the heavens from star to star. The transmission of virtue is not separated from a discourse on the behavior of reflected light. Beatrice not only bases her refutation of Dante's theory on the behavior of reflected light in the pars destruens ,

but in the pars construens she goes on to claim that the virtue imparted 20

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by the Intelligences is within the light which shines from the heavenly bodies. Dante had already stated as much in the Convivio : «li raggi di

ciascuno cielo sono la via per la quale discende la loro vertude in queste

cose di qua giù» (2.6.9), and in Paradiso 22 he refers to the stars as «lume pregno / di gran virtù» (112-13).13 Beatrice's theory (as well as

its continuation by Parodi et al.) should therefore - but will not hold up to the same rigorous test to which Beatrice put Dante's earlier theory of rarity and density in the pars destruens of her exposition.

Beatrice opens her argument with the requirement that what holds good for the moon, must apply to the rest of the stars and planets as well. Dante states in the Commedia and elsewhere that each star or

planet has its own particular virtue, and that this different virtue is the

cause of a different hue of light. In the Questio de aqua et terra's discussion of the diverse virtues poured down by the diverse heavenly bodies, Dante specifically states that each star or constellation has its own particular virtue.14 Why, then, should one 'star' only - the moon - contain different virtues? The simple statement repeated by various critics that just as the different stars contain different virtues, different parts of the moon contain different virtues, may constitute a nice image,

but it contradicts Beatrice's own requirement of seeking the same explanation for the differences in color on the moon and the other stars.

The plot thickens. When Dante tells us that the virtue-filled light moves from star to star, he gives us the impression of a direct descent. Moreover, in the Convivio he states emphatically that this virtue travels exclusively from star to star, and not through the spheres themselves, which are transparent. This, however, goes against both the scientific understanding of the behavior of light and the astrological idea of the

influence of the stars. Regarding the physical aspect, how can one imagine a ray of light that reaches only each subsequent star and does

not filter down through the spheres themselves? The simplest experiment would show that light emanating from a single source extends over a great expanse and thus it would be impossible for the

light to reach only the planets without extending into the sphere as well. Regarding the astrological aspect, Dante claims elsewhere in the Commedia and in his other works a direct influence of stars on various

aspects of human life. In Convivio 2, for example, the virtue originating in Venus seems to pass directly to the sublunar world. The

pattern of transmission established in Paradiso 2, however, would require that this virtue pass through the two lower stars, Mercury and

the moon. Dante tells us in Paradiso 2 that as the virtue of any particular star passes from one celestial body to the next, it is further differentiated. If the particular virtue that the Intelligence of the third 21

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heaven imparts on Venus is VI, then Mercury will emit V2 as well as its own virtue, which we could call Mel; the moon will then emit V3,

Me2 as well as Mol. We would then have to expand this model to include not only all seven planets, but all the stars of the eighth heaven as well. Critics who have argued that for Dante moon spots result from

the fact that the moon is the depository of all the virtues of the other stars implicitly accept the final stage of this model. Yet one must accept or refuse the entire model. If indeed all the virtues of the cosmic

universe are congregated on the moon, then in the celestial body just

superior to the moon, Mercury, there must be congregated all the heavenly virtues minus one. Yet this is clearly not a feasible working

model. Dante never suggests that any of the other planets present various hues. On the contrary, as stated above, he insists that each star has its particular virtue and therefore its particular hue.

As we float around this celestial pelago , we come across yet another complication. Dante believed that the sun illuminated not only the moon, but all the celestial bodies as well.15 If we try to visualize this, we see that the direction of light would be from the fourth sphere both down toward the earth and up toward the fixed stars. But this would upset Paradiso 2's picture of virtue-laden light emanating along a ladder of being beginning with the First Cause. Dante never denies that the

sun lights the universe, and even acknowledges this implicitly in Beatrice's pars destruens as well as later in the canticle,16 but in Beatrice's pars construens , Dante is careful to draw attention away from

the sun. Not only does Beatrice insist on a pattern of emanation from the Empyrean downward («di grado in grado» and «de luce a luce»), she

never mentions any particular role the sun might play in the transmission of light, grouping it together with all the other planets («li

altri giron», 118). Thus, in the very act of outlining a process of

differentiation of the distinct virtues, Dante pointedly avoids differentiating the seven planets. To complicate matters further, Dante

believed that the stars and planets (including the moon) not only reflected the sun's light, but contained their own inner luminosity. One

can therefore legitimately ask the following question: to what extent is the differentiated light of the moon's surface the result of: 1) reflected sunlight; 2) the virtue-laden light descending from the higher heavens; 3) the moon's intrinsic light? Yet the principal problem has yet to be pointed out: Paradiso 2's

model for the celestial spheres is impossible (even) according to medieval standards. Dante's concept of the transmittal of virtue via reflected light suggests a linear descent from one heavenly body to the next; however, this alignment of the planets is a near impossibility, and 22

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was certainly not the case in 1300 or 1301. Applying the pattern of descent outlined in Paradiso 2 to the position of the planets at the time, one would have to imagine that stars ranging a full 360fi would all emit virtue-laden light that traveled directly to Saturn, at that time under the constellation of Leo, and then from there change direction as they head

toward Jupiter under the constellation of Aries, and so on.17 Yet this

accurate picture of the celestial spheres would upset the pattern of emanation that Beatrice outlines so insistently in Paradiso 2. More importantly, and this is ultimately the issue at stake, an accurate picture of the celestial spheres at this point would destroy the narrative of an individual's direct ascent through each planet to the stars that Dante is taking such pains to set up. Beatrice's entire discourse on the downward flow of virtue and light through the heavenly bodies is an extremely effective preparation for the illusion of Dante's direct ascent through those very same planets up to the stars.18 In the chapter «Problems in Paradise», Teodolinda Barolini argues

that the arrangement of the blessed souls in the various heavenly spheres, which Beatrice explains is a representational expedient used by

God to lead Dante-pilgrim to higher truths, is in actuality a representational expedient used by Dante-author in order to be able to narrate his story.19 Dante thus attempts to disguise the part he plays as

the fiction's constructor by displacing the responsibility of the arrangement of souls onto the poem's fictional constructs. Following

Barolini's «detheologized» line of reasoning rather than the wake to which Dante has tried to confine the readers of Paradiso 2, we can see that Dante not only arranges the souls in distinct spheres to accomodate his narrative in time , but he attempts to convey the even more radical impression that the planets have arranged themselves in a straight line to facilitate his travel in space. As Patrick Boyde notes, «we must remember that the whole action of the Comedy is conceived as an imitation of the Scale of Being, as it shows the protagonist climbing step by step, canto by canto, encounter

by encounter, truth by truth, until he comes into the presence of God».20 In Inferno and Purgatorio , the pilgrim's trajectory can be clear and orderly because Dante's landscape is of his own making. In Paradiso , however, he must work with a celestial landscape already set in place on the authority of Aristotle and accepted with slight modifications by the Christian church. The Neoplatonic idea of emanation turned out to be extremely useful in providing a model for gradational movement in this

fundamentally Aristotelian model of the physical universe, and its narrative usefulness, rather than its theological appropriateness, may very well be the reason why Dante uses it with such insistence in this 23

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canto. Both sections of Beatrice's pars construens describe a pattern of descent from the Empyrean through the successive spheres, a descent which is reinforced in the concluding words of each section. The first

conclusion not only presents the concept of gradation («di grado in grado»), but carries the vertical markers «di sù» and «di sotto» as well

(121-23): Questi organi del mondo così vanno, come tu vedi ornai, di grado in grado, che di sù prendono e di sotto fanno.

This imagined descent of virtue-filled light from planet to planet is then synthesized in the conclusion of the second section with the phrase: «da

luce a luce» (145) in which «luce» now refers to «lighted planet» or «star» rather than simply «light». In Neoplatonic and Christian thought, the descent of the One into the many was the premise for the ascent of the individual soul back to the One. Thus, the pattern of descent which

structures Beatrice's discourse in Paradiso 2 prepares the reader for Dante's account of a step-by-step («di grado in grado» and «da luce a luce») ascent from planet to planet in the following cantos. Dante employs various rhetorical strategies, both in Paradiso 2 and in the cantos adjacent to it, that serve not only to prepare a reader for the narrative of a direct ascent through the spheres but also to discourage the reader from questioning such a model. In this context, we can see that

Paradiso 2's opening warning was designed to put the reader on the defensive. When asked to decide whether he is in a «piccioletta barca» or

a «navigio», one is forced to question and then defend his own worthiness as reader and is thereby less apt to question the text's accuracy of presentation. Dante did not need a military tactician to tell him that the best defense is a good offense. But he further conditioned reader response through his opening indication to remain close to his

wake and his expectation of amazement. The reader is not given the option of questioning Dante's picture of the cosmos; the «worthy» reader must simply follow closely behind and be amazed. Later in the canto, in the middle of Beatrice's pars construens , she suggests that she will not directly provide the answer to Dante's question on moon spots, yet this is elided at the end of the canto (145-48) when she gives the impression that her explanation is complete. This impression is carried forward in the following canto in which, as noted above, Dante declares himself to have been completely won over by her argument. The reader

may thereby be expected to feel vicarious satisfaction even without being able to complete the exposition on moon spots left unanswered


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by Beatrice. Those pochi who did venture to complete the argument followed closely Dante's line of reasoning and believed they found a solution when they discovered a source which they could link to Dante's argument. They did not, however, go on to question the feasibility of

the «solution» according to Beatrice's (Dante's) own criteria. Perhaps Dante foresaw that the pleasure that the pochi would derive from bringing forth the solution would tend to dissuade them from testing it.

But that Dante did his very best to keep the pochi from speculating too much about the problem can be attested to by the narrative event(s) which surround Beatrice's discourse on moon spots. In Par . 2 Dante tells

us: «giunto mi vidi ove mirabil cosa / mi torse il viso a sé» (25-26). Since Dante does not actually see the moon but quite suddenly finds himself within it, the «mirabil cosa» that draws his attention cannot be

the moon spots. Inexplicably, then, even though there were no visual

stimuli to remind him of the moon spots, the origin of moon spots apparently becomes so pressing a question that it leads Dante-pilgrim to forget all about the «mirabil cosa» before his eyes.21 There was even

less reason for Dante-pilgrim to ask the question about moon spots given the fact that he believed he already knew the answer (59-60).

Yet this very same «mirabil cosa» becomes the «vision» that causes him to forget all about his answer to Beatrice in which he may

have been expected to continue her reasoning and provide the sought-after answer. By redirecting attention to the vision, Dante has picked up the narrative from a point just prior to his question about moon spots which now becomes a forgotten parenthesis in a voyage of

the marvelous. We can now see that Dante is using this vision as a deliberate rhetorical strategy: as the readers' curiosity propels them forward, the problem of the origin of moon spots can fade into the distance while, however, the image of a hierarchically ordered universe will remain stamped onto their imagination. Returning to the analogy to Jason with which Dante opened the canto, one can note that what caused amazement in the spectators was

not Jason's voyage, but the accomplishment of a seemingly impossible task: «quando Iasón vider fatto bifolco» (18). The scene to which Dante is referring is Jason's feat of plowing a field with fire-breathing bulls (Metamorphoses VII. 104-22). In broader terms, the source of amazement is Jason's making unpliable material pliable. Dante-author, likewise, is

attempting an impossible feat - to render in the imagination of the reader the impression of a trajectory that is impossible - not only in practical terms because man did not have the technological capability to

travel into outer space, but in theoretical terms as well, since, even following the notion that the planets were arranged in spheres around the 25

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earth, Dante would have never found the planets in a position to accomodate a direct ascent. As Jason domesticated the wild bulls so they

could plow the field, Dante is attempting to domesticate the cosmos so it can accommodate his imaginary space travel. The fact that Dante shaped the cosmos to his own poetic needs does

not mean that his concept of the heavenly spheres was vague or erroneous (given the knowledge of his time). On the contrary, it is precisely because of Dante's interest in astronomy (which in Convivio

2.13.29-30 he calls the highest of all the sciences) and his superior knowledge of it which he displays throughout his works, that his disregard for it in Paradiso 2 is so significant. That Dante is consciously disregarding - and not ignorant of - the latest scientific understanding of his day can be seen from the rhetorical strategies he undertakes to prevent the reader from realizing it. He abandons the fiction of a linear

ascent as soon as the apparatus is no longer necessary to his narrative. Once he has passed through the seven spheres containing planets and reached the heaven of the fixed stars, he can safely look down toward the earth and map out the position of the planets. Tellingly, he begins with a reference to the very same problem of moon spots (Par. 22.139-41), indirectly offering the picture that follows as a corrective to the necessary cosmic distortion carried out in Paradiso

2. Although he does not offer any great detail, we do see that while Mercury and Venus are near the sun (143-44), Saturn and Mars are on

opposite sides of Jupiter (145-46), and the planets are seen in their diversity - not only their different size, speed, and distance, but their

different positions as well («in distante riparo», 150). Dante's few planetary indications prove to be accurate according to the astronomical calculations provided in Dante's day in a perpetual almanac compiled by

Jacob ben Machir ben Tibbon (b. 1236) that gives the positions of the sun, moon and planets at intervals of a few days for whole cycles of years beginning in 1301. M. A. Orr notes that in the Latin translation of the original Hebrew almanac, all the cycles except for the sun and Venus begin in 1300, suggesting that Dante may have taken the 1301 positions to correspond to 1300.22 It is, therefore, difficult to map out with any certainty Dante's conception of the position of all the planets at the time of his fictional journey. What is certain, however, is that in Paradiso 2, at the onset of his flight through the first seven spheres, Dante ignores the various positions of the planets in order to create the fiction of a direct ascent, and that in Paradiso 22, having reached the heaven of the Fixed Stars, he can look back and offer a panoramic view

of the planetary positions in conformity with actual astronomical calculations.


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Yet for the reader who may chance to notice that for over twenty cantos of Paradiso the position of the heavenly bodies is distorted, Dante

plants a reminder that his text, despite its illusion of fact, is not to be

read as an account of a factual journey but as a moral allegory of enlightenment. This reminder, which comes while Dante-pilgrim is still

within the moon, is in reference to Plato's theory, found in the Timaeus , of the souls inhabiting stars. Of course, Beatrice tells us, for those that understand this in a literal sense the statement is false. But

those who read Plato literally, misread Plato. When she states that «forse sua sentenza è d'altra guisa / che la voce non suona, ed esser puote / con intenzion da non esser derisa» {Par. 4. 55-57), she is allowing for the truth of Plato's statement on an allegorical level. Dante

may well be implying that, as in the Timaeus , statements in the Commedia which are discovered to be incorrect on a literal level harbor

instead an allegorical truth.

In the letter to Cangrande, Dante says of his Paradiso: «if in certain

parts or passages the treatment is after the manner of speculative philosophy, that is not for the sake of speculation, but for a practical purpose» (paragraph 16). The practical purpose he is referring to here is that of bringing man to a state of happiness. However, we can now add that in Paradiso 2 speculative philosophy is at the service of his poetic,

aesthetic aim as well. The poetic challenge that Dante-author set for himself was to convey the physical reality of the space that Dante-pilgrim was traversing as though he were indeed a medieval antecedent of Neil Armstrong, while being faced, at the same time, with the impossibility of even theoretically imagining such a trajectory. Like

any good writer of science fiction, Dante made use of the latest understanding of the universe in order to give a sense of concreteness and

reality to his fictive voyage. As Paradiso 2 reveals, however, he was not adverse to distorting the scientific facts when they would have interfered

with his fictional project. He just did his best to prevent the reader from noticing.


1 Citations from the Convivio are from the critical edition of Maria Simonelli, Bologna, Patron, 1966. - Works consulted: Andriani, Beniamino, La forma del paradiso dantesco: il sistema del mondo secondo gli antichi e secondo Dante. Padua, Cedam, 1961; Barolini, Teodolinda, The Undivine Comedy: Detheologizing Dante , Princeton (NJ), Princeton

UP, 1992; Bemrose, Stephen, Dante's Angelic Intelligences: Their Importance in the Cosmos and in Pre-Christian Religion. Rome, Storia e 27

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Letteratura, 1983; Boyde, Patrick, Dante Philomythes and Philosopher : Man in the Cosmos. London, Cambridge UP, 1981; Brandeis, Irma, The Ladder of Vision : A Study of Dante's Comedy , 1960, Garden City (NY), Doubleday, 1962; Capasso, Ideale, L'astronomia nella Divina Commedia, Pisa, Domus Galilaeana, 1967; Ghisalberti, Alessandro, «La cosmologia nel Duecento e Dante», Letture cclassensi, voi. 13, Ravenna, Longo, 1984; Kay, Richard, «Astrology and Astronomy», in The Divine Comedy and the

Encyclopedia of Arts and Sciences , eds. Giuseppe Di Scipio & Aldo Scaglione, Amsterdam, Benjamins, 1988; Mazzotta, Giuseppe, Dante's Vision and the Circle of Knowledge, Princeton (NJ), Princeton UP, 1993; Nardi, Bruno, Dal Convivio alla Commedia: Sei saggi danteschi, Rome, Istituto storico italiano per il Medio Evo, 1960; Idem, «Il canto delle macchie lunari», Lecturae e altri studi danteschi , ed. Rudy Abardo, Florence, Le Lettere, 1990; Idem, «La dottrina delle macchie lunari nel secondo canto

del «Paradiso», Saggi di filosofia dantesca , Florence, La nuova Italia, 1967; Orr, Mary A. Dante and the Early Astronomers , London, Wingate, 1956; Parodi, Ernesto Giacomo, Il canto II del Paradiso, Florence, Sansoni, 1911; Proto, Enrico, «La dottrina dantesca delle macchie lunari», Scritti

varii di erudizione e di critica in onore di Rodolfo Renier , Turin, Bocca, 1912.

^Citations from the Paradiso follow La Commedia secondo l'antica vulgata , ed. Giorgio Petrocchi, Milan, Mondadori, 1967. 3 «Ecco lo schema del suo ragionamento, che risulta difficile in quanto presuppone tutta una serie di proposizioni che dovevano apparire evidenti alla coscienza filosofica dei lettori contemporanei». 4In his Commentary to Paradiso , Princeton (NJ), Princeton UP, 1975, p. 45 ^Brandéis, p. 212. "The most radical modification that I have come across occurs in a Spanish translation which misreads Dante's passage so that the author appears to be placing himself in the same little boat as the most ignorant reader: «perdendo me, rimarreste smarriti» is rendered as «perdiéndome yo, os arrastraría conmigo» [getting lost myself, I would drag you along with me]. Apparently, faced with the daunting task of translating this canto, the translator couldn't conceive how anyone - even its author - could rank among the pochi capable of understanding it: La Divina Comedia , tr. E. Rodríguez Vilanova & F. Sales Coderch, Barcelona, Editorial Bruguera, 1973.

^The words are those of Brandeis, pp. 212-13. "The Convivio presents such a warning in its introductory section (1.1.12). ^«Epistola XI», tr. Paget Toynbee, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1966, p. 203. 10For a more detailed account of this process, see Bemrose, pp. 29-31. H In his Commentary to Paradiso , cit., p. 58. l' ^Compare Parodi, Il canto II del Paradiso , and Proto, «La dottrina dantesca delle macchie lunari».

l^This convergence of light and virtue is stated more poetically near the end

of Paradiso 2: «la virtù mista per lo corpo luce / come letizia per pupilla 28

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viva» (143-44). The letter to Caiigrande is more cautious, using light as a simile for virtue, not as a means of its transmission: «Hence, mediately or immediately, everything that exists has its being from Him, because, inasmuch as the second cause has its effect from the first, its influence on

what it acts upon is like that of a body which receives and reflects a ray»

(«ad modum recipients et repercutientis radium», underlining mine). Whence it is evident that every essence and every virtue proceeds from a primal one; and that the lower intelligences have their effect as it were from

a radiating body, and, after the fashion of mirrors, reflect the rays of a higher to the one below them» («Propter quod patet quod omnis essentia et

virtus procedat a prima, et intelligent ae inferiores recipiant quasi a radiante, et reddant radios superioris ad suum inferius, ad modum speculorum», underlining mine), paragraphs 20-21. 14«Unde alia est virtus huius stelle et illius, et alia huius constellationis et illius» (I quote Opere minori, vol. II, ed. F. Mazzoni, Milan-Naples, Ricciardi, 1979). *5 «Nullo sensibile in tutto lo mondo è più degno di farsi essemplo di Dio che 'l sole; lo quale di sensibile luce sé prima e poi tutte le corpora celestiali e le dementali allumina» (Conv. 3.12.7; italics mine).

16See Par. 20.1-6 & Par. 32.107-8.

l 'Dante could have found the positions of all the planets in a perpetual almanac circulating at the time (discussed below). In Par. 21.14, Saturn's stated position «sotto '1 petto del Leone» is given thematic, rather than astronomical, relevance. *°If they take their cue from Dante rather than from astronomy, readers will naturally tend to conceive of Dante's flight through the spheres as a direct ascent without any movement in longitude. The illustration used in Musa's

translation (Paradise, Bloomington, Indiana UP, 1984), placed, significantly, along with his notes to Paradiso 2, is a case in point. The illustrator arranges the seven planets in an absolutely straight line which ascends from the earth to the heaven of the fixed stars. This visual aid is

highly inaccurate, but I would argue that it is exactly how Dante would like

us to conceive of the cosmos during his imaginary transit through it. Musa notes that the illustration is adapted frpm John S. Carroll, In Patria , London, 1971. l"ln The (Jndivine Comedy , p. 187.

2^In Dante Philomythes , p. 131. It is perhaps to justify in some way Dante's question that Mark Musa creates his own addition to the narrative in his commentary: «Since the surface of the moon seems smooth and flawless to Dante as he approaches it, he becomes curious about the appearance of this surface as it is seen from earth» (cit., p. 26). ^Orr, Dante and the Early Astronomers , p. 284. The almanac was edited by J. Boffito and C. Melzi d'Eril and printed as Almanach Dantis Aligherii , Florence, Olschki, 1908.


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso III Author(s): RUGGERO STEFANINI and Ruggero Stefanin Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 30-45 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806591 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:02 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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University of California at Berkeley

III Beginning and ending in the name of Beatrice,1 the third canto of the Paradiso is marked by two memorable creations: the character of Piccarda and the Heaven of the Moon. In its presentation of the «great Costanza», it also offers an inspired reprise of the celebration of the Empire and, finally, it touches upon certain theoretical issues of great importance, such as the true dwelling-place of the blest and the influence of the stars on the nature and deserts of human beings. But let us take each matter up in its turn. Piccarda

It would be a serious mistake to try to grasp the meaning of this character without undertaking a detailed comparison to the two other

great women of the Commedia , Pia and Francesca. These three characters exhibit a natural and an ideal affinity that the poet skillfully varies, adjusting it to the different moral and eschatological levels on which they figure (damnation, penitence, bliss), while taking care to leave many threads of style and meaning that knit them together in the

reader's mind. Indeed, we seem to be dealing with three versions (infernal, penitential, and heavenly) of a single type of woman - a type

that could easily rise to archetype or, just as easily, decline into stereotype.

To begin with, there are obvious links even in the pagination of the three episodes. The cantos in which Francesca and Pia appear (canto V of the Inferno and canto V of the Purgatorio) bear the same number,

and between Francesca and Piccarda there is at least a topographic similarity (the first circle of hell in the strict sense - the hell occupied by the damned whom Minos judges - and the first circle of Paradise). If these three women whom Dante has set on the threshold of the three

realms of the Christian afterlife, with that sense for complementary

exemplification that marks his didactic method (a casuistry with systematic tendencies), were taken from their habitations in the other world and restored to the world of the living, they would all occupy roughly the same ethical and cultural level. Remember that one descends 30

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in the Inferno , but ascends in the other two realms, which is why the souls of the damned that Dante first meets are always the least wicked (i.e., the least devilish and the most human). For the same reason, the spirits with whom he speaks on the lower slopes of Purgatory or in the first heavens of Paradise are certainly the least perfect (i.e., the least angelic, and yet again, the most human). Think too of the determinism of that precious «little tear», which essentially decided the soul's final destination, and against which (not without cause!) the devils of Dante and Bonvesin raise their bewildered protests.2 Then one will see that Francesca (damned by intemperance and lack of time), Pia (saved, but just barely), and Piccarda (blest in the most laggard sphere), despite the starry distances which seem a definitive barrier between them, are cast from much the same human mold, halfway between the heights of the

«peaceful oriflamme» (the Marian ideal) and the depths of the «foul trollop» (the abject pagan prostitute), and that in addition they have undergone much the same sufferings and misfortunes.

What type or what feminine ideal do these women iterately exemplify, so «human» and so liminal in their presentation? It looks very much as if we are already at the origins of the bourgeois concept of

womanhood: Violetta, whose morbid progress will later excite the machismo of our fathers (not to mention their children), is ultimately a

leaf from the same book. Our protagonists are thus expected to share certain distinguishing features and, as a matter of fact, if we set aside the

variations required by art and the different contexts in which they are presented, all three will prove to be gentle , weak , suffering, and humble.

Among these attributes, a dialectical relationship is established, from which a narrative plot or an exemplary parable immediately emerges. It begins with a positive quality (gentleness) which is compromised by an infraction or a fall, itself the result of weakness and the most human of impulses. This «fatal error» involves suffering that rehabilitates (in the

eyes at least of humans, starting with men) and through which the gentle lady is due to become the self-conscious, humble woman of the epilogue.3 This model (gentleness / weakness / suffering / humility),

which stems from hagiographie sources and a thoroughly Christian matrix (even though elements derived from the classical world are also

present), still shapes our vision of women today, in the wake of the romantic «boom» that reflected and repeated the image endlessly, both in opera and in literature.4 It is no accident that our three mal mariées have

enjoyed a prodigious popularity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, not only among poets, playwrights, and strolling singers, but

also among deeply involved and moved students of Dante (even if Piccarda, one must concede, fails to measure up to the other two). In the 31

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end, the religious vocation that is part and parcel of her being told against her - one may become a nun, but only after one's misstep (vide Suor Angelica), not before.

The three women reveal their gentleness, which is composed of warm charity and exquisite courtesy,5 in a greeting, in good wishes, or in a thoughtful advice that recurs without fail at the start of each of the three episodes and forms the first element (A) of this repeated portrayal. Francesca's greeting (vv. 88-93), rising tenderly and distressfully from a

gloomy pit of damnation, achieves the drama and pathos of a tragic appeal (in both the Attic and the universal sense of the word) where the judgment of the Christian God has assumed the role of Greek Fate. It is

always a surprise to read those opening lines: «O animal grazioso e benigno / che visitando vai per l'aere perso / noi che tignemmo il

mondo di sanguigno, / se fosse amico il re de l'universo, / noi pregheremmo lui de la tua pace, / poi c'hai pietà del nostro mal perverso». Entirely inappropriate from a theological standpoint as they

are (a damned soul, as such, is incapable of desiring the peace and salvation of a living person), these words clearly belong to the definition of a feminine ideal that judgment and damnation can turn into a Christian catharsis (not, banally, an example) but which (just for that reason) they are unable to deface. One can therefore understand why, in

the exegetical tradition, any attack on Francesca's dignity (which is also evidence of a disconcerting incapability to appreciate the rich sensibility and complex culture of the poet) is invariably destined to failure and grotesqueness.6

In Pia's speech, only one verse corresponds to Francesca's elaborate greeting, and it is, moreover, syntactically well hidden, being only the

second member of a dependent clause (though the reader of the Commedia is accustomed to culling in precisely these syntactical folds semantic kernels of great importance): «Deh, quando tu sarai tornato al

mondo / e riposato de la lunga via...» (v. 130f.). Against the background of the Purgatorio , Pia's loving solicitude, since it is a quality of the same realm, cannot assume dramatic dimensions, and as a result, her pathos must renounce the tragic note, descending instead to the elegiac; and the quietly affecting tone that it produces is in perfect harmony with the movement of the second cantica. Compared to the two that preceded it (Jacopo del Cassero and Buonconte da Montefeltro),

the «third spirit» (Pia) is evangelically humble and small , with her allusive, half-murmured story. Moreover, Dante illumines her with solitude, that austral morning solitude that blossoms, within Pia, in a purely psychological dimension. One does not find Paolo's weeping here [Francesca] or that smile of loving understanding shared with the fellow 32

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sisters [Piccarda], nor does it seem there are relatives on earth to whom it is worth remembering oneself: there is only the companionship of an infinitely bitter recollection in this forced vigil which knows neither the commitment nor the comfort of punishment. Rising to the first heaven,

we naturally find that Piccarda too offers an affectionate welcome (vv.

43-45), but in Paradise receptions of this kind, full of smiles and dignity, are so obligatory, so predictable that they must perforce remain

within the limits of refined ceremonial. Thus, the phrase in which Piccarda assures Dante how well-disposed she is vibrates with no particular pathos; rather, it sounds like an elegant explanation which can at most echo the religious lyricism that pervades the third cantica .

Pursuing the analysis of our pattern, after the greeting, good wishes, or thoughtful recommendation (A), we find three other elements: the story (B), the laconic sentence in which it culminates (C), and the reference to the husband or other responsible relative (D). The story is told much more fully and concretely in the case of Francesca. As a damned soul, she after all has nothing else to offer the Pilgrim. In

the circles of the Inferno , Dante certainly cannot imagine himself listening to the lectures on morality or theology which the spirits of the

Purgatorio and still more those of the Paradiso will lavish upon him. In

the «valley where there is no absolving», he can only be stung and deterred by disastrous stories of sin and death. Thus, Francesca's story

can be told in two sections (B and B1) neatly articulated within the structure of the whole episode, since the first section ends with D (the reference to the husband), while the second ends with C (the suggestive, climactic sentence).7 And yet, the two sections, though complementing

each other well, are also in thematic and stylistic contrast. B is paradigmatic - i.e., it proceeds via aphorism or pithy statements and synthetically comprises the whole affair (vv. 100-107). B1, turning

to the facts and circumstances (i.e., to the actual narrative), instead retraces, in the terms of an Ovidian catastrophe,8 the dramatic course of the episode which is the structural and moral core of the painful story

(between the spontaneous and still innocent awakening of amorous feelings, on the one hand, and the final execution at the hands of Gianciotto, on the other, lies the mutual avowal of the two lovers and, simultaneously, their act of transgression; vv. 121-138). Pia's story is lapidary, bounded by a single verse (v. 134) and tightened by a double,

syntactic and figurai antithesis. The verse («Siena mi fé, disfecemi Maremma») is laid out like a pediment, the two halves sharply outlined

by a syntactic inversion: [subject - > proclitic object + verb] versus [verb + enclitic object - > subject]. The verbal root fare and the personal pronoun mi are the constants on which the two dramatic 33

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variations rest (Siena / Maremma and, at a deeper level, fare / disfare)?

In Paradise, the brutal story of Piccarda has to be drastically censored - i.e., bowdlerized and abridged. The waters of Lethe have already cast a merciful obscurity over the crude details, which in any case the sublime modesty of the holy sister (not to mention the delicate gentlewoman) would not know how to confide to anyone, far less to her brother's friend, arriving happily, and so unexpectedly, on a visit to the convent. Her version of the crisis (vv. 97-108) is so much overshadowed by the charming monastic prelude (vv. 97-105) that instead of satisfying

the Pilgrim's curiosity, Piccarda seems to stray off into - or better, barricade herself inside - a standard panegyric to St. Chiara and the Clarists. The brightening introduction tends, touchingly, to replace the action of the story, to become itself the story, or non-story, of a person

who had in fact chosen never to leave her spiritual mirror (Purg. XXVII. 104f.). One could also say that Piccarda anxiously approaches the matter in a roundabout way. Unable in charity to evade Dante's request, the girl (so she remained in the poetic memory of the author and

consequently, so she remains for us) eagerly embarks upon the exercise of an innocent loquacity, as one might seize upon a providential detour, simply to allow herself to gather enough strength to utter that formal

tercet (vv. 106-108). After the indiscreet and (one would suppose) unexpected question (vv. 94-96) - which the poet reports to us discreetly, instead, with a hint of embarrassment, and without resorting

to direct speech as he did in the episode of Francesca (vv. 1 16-120) Piccarda's abrupt opening (the narrative introduction is in fact postponed and reduced to the parenthetical mi disse of the following verse) has always given me the impression, in its full and dignified relief, of a heroically disguised effort, of a painful if imperceptible contraction, of a quick prefatory gulp. The fact remains that the account by which the Pilgrim set such store (i.e., the actual story [B]) is handled in a couplet, anything but specific (v. 106f.), that also includes the reference to the brother and the husband (D) and immediately receives the seal (v. 108) of the implicit and ultimate statement (C). In the three stories, i.e., in the three versions of B, we can see the

following thematic progression: in the Inferno , the focus is on the adulterous relationship , which compromises a pre-existing marriage; in the Purgatorio , inversely, the focus is on a conjugal bond compromised by implied adulterous relations; in the Paradiso , one sees instead the most perfect union between the soul and Christ - the monastic state -

compromised by an improper marriage which is merely hinted.10 The reference underlying the triptych is the well-known Pauline opinion of marriage as a state that is superior to adultery but inferior to freely 34

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offered virginity.

The laconic sentence (C), that fearful dicere non dicendo in which the story unfailingly culminates, owns, by its very nature, a certain semantic flexibility, allowing it to allude in different directions as the case requires - that is, in accordance with the character and the cantica. Beyond an undeniable sense of modesty that all three women share at the moment when they must touch on so intimate a subject, one can also detect, in Francesca, the torment of memory; in Pia, a trace of sorrowful bitterness aimed at a husband who has debased and destroyed her (in this

version of the model, the allusion to the husband's or relative's responsibility is actually absorbed, not into the story [vide Piccarda], but into the seal of the conclusive sentence). In Piccarda, one encounters instead a further offering to God of her racking epilogue on earth; in fact, the subject of sapere , which for Pia, in an unstated polemic, is still her husband, for Piccarda it is God. By contrast, one feels the spiritual

blockage of Francesca, when noticing that she and Paolo, as accomplices, remain the subjects of the tragic final note (v. 138). All three of these women, let us not forget, have been betrayed -

not only in a general but also in a specific Dantean sense. They fell victim to the deceit of those who should have loved and protected them, even tried to understand them and forgive them, on occasion. Therefore, Caina awaits not only Gianciotto Malatesta, but Nello della Pietra and

that amiable brother, Corso Donati. Yet, only in Francesca does the reference to the husband (defined as killer - «chi a vita ci spense») have a tone of forceful accusation and pitiless judgment. It is no accident that only in the infernal version does the element D of the model fail to fuse

with any other (B or C) and stand on its own in plain view and syntactic independence. Francesca, as one of the damned, is not obliged to forgive and to extenuate like the other two women, and it is just in

this line (v. 107) that hell in a sense closes upon her again - always courteously, to be sure, since as curse or invective this anticipation of divine justice is restrained enough. Pia's painful reticence casts upon her husband (he, too, evoked periphrastically, but at the center of a festive

nuptial scene) at most the long shadow of her disappointment and nostalgia. For her brother and for the man who was later her husband (Rossellino della Tosa), Piccarda reserves instead a generic label, under which even their armed retainers might be comprehended:1 1 «uomini . . . a mal più ch'a bene usi». In short, the wicked and the violent, who have unfortunately always existed in this world and for whose conversion (as even Ser Ciappelletto zealously protests when he has decided to play the hypocrite) one must not cease to pray. And therefore, no longer this or that person or antagonist, but, by an edifying enlargement, a whole 35

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category of wretched sinners.

If, after this infratextual exploration of the archetype, we concentrate on the protagonist of our canto, one quickly perceives that Dante has intended to represent or, almost, perform her in a counterpoint of two eminently Franciscan virtues: charity («L'un fu tutto serafico in

ardore»: Par . XI.37) and humility («la mercede / ch'el meritò nel suo farsi pusillo»: ibid. 1 lOf.). But in the rendering of Piccarda's antecedents - her history of weakness and suffering, with the contrite reticence that derives from it - the poet inevitably privileged the muted, pale tones of humility (the humility of sister water, from which the girl's image seem

to surface without separating itself), rather than the burning hues of love. So, despite the gleam of a certain seraphic fire (v. 68f.) and the

repeated assurances by the blessed soul of her inherent charity, the general effect is of a rarefied, languid atmosphere that is not without a

sad sense of neoplatonic deprivation - that same atmosphere which emanates from so much Franciscan hagiography (/ fioretti) and from the lyric situations influenced by it (Vita Nuova J.1 2 There is no doubt that

Piccarda shows herself to be full of charity (nor will the other blessed

souls lag behind her in this respect). In fact, she is quite vaga di ragionare (v. 35); she is pronta (v. 42) and lieta (v. 68) in her answers, her eyes smile (v. 42), and her face lights up (v. 69). Carità , with the possessive pronoun that best befits it ( nostra ; cf. Purg. XV. 55-57), is also the first word she utters, the incipit of her whole discourse. In the tercets allotted her, the term recurs thrice more (vv. 71, 77, 102) in full

lexical evidence, and «charity» is also the meaning of two learned periphrases (the piacer de lo Spirito santo [v. 53] and d'amor il primo foco [v. 69] ) in which Dante develops and varies rhetorically the same notion, almost retrieving the labored conceits of his «our Father» (Purg. XI. 1-24). Clearly, one is dealing with a true leitmotif running through the whole episode. This continual outpouring of charity is accompanied, in Piccarda, by a trusting self-abandonment to the divine will, which assumes the accents of a quiet, almost quietistic humility: two spiritual

attitudes (charity and humility) that are easier to reconcile on the religious level than in a poetic representation caught between images of soaring flames and the reference to silent sheets of water. Piccarda's resigned humility, which her smiles of joy and assertions of complete contentment only render more touching, shows itself at the very outset in that uncertain, transparent gathering of countenances on a soundless glass screen. But it is above all at the end, in the elegy of her melting

vanishment, that the imperfect virgin receives her definitive characterization, indelibly marked by martyrdom, mildness, and love. 36

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Let us examine these verses a little more closely. If we take as a term of comparison, in the next higher heaven, the triumphal exit of Justinian (VII. 1-6), so extroverted and self-gratulatory, with choral dance and Latin hymn spangled with Hebrew gems, Piccarda's exit will appear a hasty, evasive decampment. Indeed, one feels a lapse in consciousness or presence: an ecstatic rapture unexpectedly reclaims the blessed soul and abstracts her, already forgetful, from the conversation decreed by grace and charity. It may seem odd, but one is inclined to remember

Ciacco («più non ti dico e più non ti rispondo»: Inf. VI.90) and his epileptic seizure, when the coma of his damnation (parodie antithesis of the beatific contemplation) brutally overwhelms him. Piccarda instead

turns back into the water of the opening image and gratefully re-immerses herself in her paradise, which is only clean and clear. To the

effect of slowly fading withdrawal contribute both the ecstatic enjambment (Ave / Maria : v. 121f.) and the inverted syntax of the two statements (ibid.), with an echoing (or is it a reflection?) of the gerund

(cantando, e cantando : v. 122), till what the rhetoric of speech has already suggested is directly stated in the final simile of the shape (cosa

grave , without further specification) which falls into the water and

disappears (v. 123). At the very end of the episode, the character of Piccarda receives its masterful final stamp in the prayer which the poet has chosen to assign to her. The Ave Maria is not a hymn of rejoicing,

a Gloria , or an alleluia-sequence; instead, it remains the prayer of someone who, still on earth, doubts and asks humbly to be heard. It is hard to believe that, as she intones these notes, Piccarda is preparing to reenter the «giro / pria cominciato in li alti Serafini» (Par. VIII.26f.); rather, one would say that after dallying at the grating of the parlatory, she is hurrying to rejoin her fellow sisters who have already assembled for vespers in the cloister chapel. We have already noted that Piccarda has been allotted three speeches

(vv. 43-57, 70-87, 97-120). The third is occupied by her story (see above) and the presentation of Costanza d'Altavilla (see below). In the first, she identifies herself and straight after introduces (excusado non

petita) the paradox of her bliss, slight and yet - we are guaranteed entirely satisfactory. To the explanation of this concept, which has understandably left the Pilgrim somewhat nonplussed, Piccarda dedicates the six tercets of her second speech. Edifying excursions meant to clarify the nature of the punishment and the condition of the souls have already occurred, it must be recalled, in the great encounters of the Inferno. Take

for example Farinata's discourse on the vision of the damned (X.94-108), in which the epic confrontation at last achieves resolution, or the account sighed out by Pier della Vigna (XIII.85-108) - the latter 37

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memorable for the pathos which is transferred onto it, after a story too

ornate and too paradigmatic to generate tragic emotions. In the Purgatorio , in the Forese episode and, in similar terms, in the Guinizelli episode, Dante had carried out a bold rearrangement of these explanations (or had he not imposed, at bottom, a variation of the same sort, however

motivated or semanticized, on the «divisions» of the Vita Nuova [ch. XXXI] as well?). As if seized by an access of Thomism (know first in order to be able to love afterwards), he moves these didactic sections up

toward the beginning of the episode - before the story (Forese, Piccarda) or even before the recognition (Guinizelli).13 When they are entrusted to characters built around biographical events of an especially

dramatic kind, such doctrinal passages can compromise or at least interrupt the creative process, with negative consequences on the artistic level. Yet, in defiance of the scholastic Latinisms, Piccarda succeeds in

remaining herself even when Dante puts her in the pulpit - that is, she

succeeds in preserving a tone in which the fervor of vocation (the character) asserts itself over the undeniable pleasure of demonstration (the author). Thus, the ample and consoling image of the sea, of which the Theologian can also be proud, when expressed with such humble and seraphic solidarity (remember Brother Galdino?), sheds any intellectual stiltedness and rather sounds as the cherished comparison which, tritely promoted by a motherly teacher, kept stirring the well-disposed novice in the Florentine convent.14 Costanza d'Altavilla

Once she has explained and concluded her own story, Piccarda proceeds - with a sense of relief, one would say, as well as affectionate solicitude - to present another spirit, with whom the Pilgrim will not

exchange one word, however. This model of narrative coupling and transmission, initiated among the Prideful of the Purgatorio (Oderisi - > [Provenzan]) and re-issued in the Heaven of Mercury (Justinian - >

[Romeo]) in the same terms as here, will produce, in the sphere of Venus, by duplication and overlapping, a richer and more intricate pattern (Cunizza - > [Folchetto] / Folchetto - > [Raab]). Costanza is part of a Guelph legendary that had its scriptura aurea and its scriptura nigra , and to which Dante, in his own family milieu, was exposed from infancy onward: Matelda, who had governed a mythical Tuscany with justice and love; Farinata, hated and yet fascinating foe; Sordello, the venturesome poet who, in spite of his Ghibelline failings, decided in the end for the just cause of Charles;15 and above all, Frederick the Terrible, the eccentric, heretical Emperor, born to his own shame and damnation 38

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from an aging nun, appropriately enough for the antichrist.16 Later,

Dante had time to revise, in the light of reason and philosophy, the chronicles of Guelph propaganda. The discovery of the two ends of human endeavor (eternal bliss and earthly happiness) also revealed to him «cardinal» values and merits which even hell cannot obliterate and

whose patron and guarantor he soon recognized in the Emperor. If the

poet still cannot manage to save Frederick II (cf. Inf. X.119), he nonetheless allows himself the pleasure of setting among the blessed both his benegenitus son Manfred, in open defiance of the Papal Curia, and his mother Costanza, even though, ironically, he still believes the old slander that she had taken the veil. Nor has Dante hesitated to

celebrate Frederick's exceptional gifts, damned though he may be. He has even had the most illustrious of his victims declare him «d'onor sì

degno» (Inf. XIII.75), and he himself has termed the learned Emperor

«loico e clerico grande» (Conv. IV.x.6), representing him, moreover, along with his well-born son, as champion of nobilitas , rectitudo , and

humanitas (VE I.xii.4). Yet it is here, from the pinnacle of the sublunary world which by right belonged entirely to him, that Frederick

II now receives the highest tribute: a mighty outpouring of laudes regiae , a genealogy deployed upon a great swell of biblical poetry. His panegyricist, unexpectedly inspired (here in effect begins her «trance»), is Piccarda, the sacrificed sister of a criminally anti-imperial Marcello. Up here, where the violent oppositions of earth are peacefully resolved, the empress Costanza, companion in glory and suffering, now shines benignly at her side.

Costanza d'Altavilla - as Piccarda tells us (v. 1 lOf.) - enjoys the highest degree of bliss accorded the holy souls of the Moon. A like primacy seems to be conferred upon Raab, in the Heaven of Venus, when Folchetto joyously introduces her (IX.llóf.). These differences, not only between one sphere and the next, but between spirits within

the same assemblage, are perfectly understandable, given that one's reward (i.e., the depth of one's vision) corresponds to one's strictly personal deserts. Even in the Heaven of the Sun, there will in fact be minor lights and more notable splendors, just as is the case in physical constellations. Costanza's pre-eminence, however, is not to be explained

with that «veil of the heart» of which the. daughter of Roger II, as Piccarda emphasizes, was never stripped (vv. 115-117). Above all, this is a compliment that Costanza could have easily returned (we will not in fact suppose, in the shadow of the cross set up by that dreadful verse [v.

107], that instead the toilettes bought her by a guilt-ridden Rossellin della Tosa made Piccarda forgetful of the sacred bands). In the second place, Beatrice explains clearly in the following canto (IV.94-114) that 39

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the fidelity of the absolute will is not enough to excuse the offense (the unfulfilled vow) and consequently that the «veil of the heart», no matter

how painful the nostalgia, can serve neither as amends nor as a specific

merit. Costanza's pre-eminence must be rather understood as Dante's homage to the imperial lady, as uncontested mistress of the convent; compare, in this connection, the great crowned throne already prepared for Henry (Par. XXX.136ff.) despite the neque nubent of Purg. XIX.137 - proclaimed, no doubt, with biased satisfaction for the sole benefit of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.17 The Heaven of the Moon In the representation of the first sphere, a curious and, in the last analysis, a felicitous opposition arises between the theorist and the poet. While the theorist deploys all his resources to convince the Pilgrim and the reader (and to this same end Piccarda and Beatrice in turn put forth their best efforts) that the souls encountered here also themselves belong

to the Empyrean and are therefore blissfully content, the poet instead

works at creating, in close analogy to the two preceding realms, a liminal, limbo-like milieu to which the transparent visages of the Moon are touchingly relegated. Besides, in the design of the third cantica , the

author has separated the first heaven quite sharply from those that follow, making use of distinctions that are either quantitative (narrative space) or qualitative (type of imagery). It is true that, from a strictly topographic viewpoint, one enters the Heaven of the Moon at the start of canto II (vv. 22-30) and leaves it only after the middle of canto V (vv. 88-96), but it is also undeniable that the narrative and poetic dividends of this first Dasein or Da-er scheinen are entirely contained, apart from a couple of introductory tercets (11.31-36), in the third canto, which into the bargain is the shortest in the Paradiso. Already the treatment of the

Heaven of Mercury (milieu and characters), though still modest by the measure of what is going to follow, spans three cantos (V-VII), without taking into account the enlargement of tone induced by an excited and «pindaric» (by flight upon flight) celebration of the Empire. But the most important and truly indicative fact, in the negative sense, is that in the Heaven of the Moon Dante has not yet kindled his fires. Here flames leap up only in some metaphorical phrase (cf. vv. 1, 24, 52, 69, 110) - one cannot yet warm oneself or stand astonished at literal flames and shining globes. Here the poet seems to linger over a perfectly acceptable representation of paradise that he has nonetheless

decided to reject and replace with a very different vision, more quicksilver and coruscant, inherently musical and a great deal harder to 40

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express. By contrast, the imagery selected for the Heaven of the Moon not only produces a more restrained and discreet atmosphere (which is perfectly appropriate), it also has something déclassé about it, rather like what happened to the tradition of the locus amoenus , on which literary Elysiums and Paradises were regularly drawn, but which Dante, in his

choreography, only uses for marginal and subordinate milieus (the Noble Castle, the Valley of the Princes, the Earthly Paradise), though wisely reserving the right to break apart the vemal decor of the old topos and raise its single elements up, on the figurai level, into what will be his new description or suggestion of true Glory. In the Heaven of the Moon, the representation of paradise gravitates, in a very particular way, toward the nacreous and opalescent, toward precious metals polished to a high gloss, toward the fixity of the mirror and its image. The planet itself is defined as an etterna margarita (11.34); that is, it is seen as a macro-pearl. The adjectives which insistently qualify the cloud-effect of the daring close-up ( lucida , spessa, solida e pulita) also evoke the cold,

heavy splendor of a silver altar-frontal (11.32), and immediately afterwards (v. 35f.) one encounters the simile of water (clear and still) with the sunbeam that plays within it. This image (the water-mirror) will be resumed and developed in the next canto (III) at the moment of the ghostly emergence of the souls, themselves pale-white and (to return to the point) mimetically nacreous or pearly (vv. 10-15). The reference (supplementary and casual as it may seem) to a main

symbol of amorous frustration and unfulfillment (the myth of Narcissus), although its terms are here necessarily inverted and corrected,

is full of implications - smuggled in, so to speak - for the existential condition of these naiads who silently crowd to the polished surface of

the spring. One must also consider that the blessed of the Moon constitute, relative to the other spheres, a very specific category and are therefore, one would think, rather small in numbers. The fact that only two deveiled nuns are identified does not prevent us, of course, from imagining that in their company may be a friar who returned to the world, or a pious lady who, once she regained her health, offered the

saint she called upon a less generous donation than promised, or a repentant usurer who after the first enthusiasm haggled over the dimensions of the reparative chapel. The statement of III. 56f. would permit us to do so, but less, or not at all, the poet, who only too clearly

intends to consume his representation in this discreet monastic atmosphere, among the sighs and smiles of a sublimed parlatory whose grating the sensible reader more or less perceives.18 Furthermore, the marked specialization of the group and also its definition - expressed and reconfirmed in purely negative terms (the «vóti vóti» and «negletti», 41

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w. 55-57), not even the reciprocal terms one at least finds in the

Heaven of Mercury (VI.112-117) - work to equate the monastic Heaven of the Moon with other Limbo-like abodes to which only certain categories of persons have access. At the beginning of the third cantica , the little sphere (or pond) of the insolvent nuns seems thus to

join the Castle of the deficient spiriti magni and the Valley of the Negligent Princes. One could turn at this point to the question of astral influences that Dante meant to resolve in the Purgatorio in order to be able to construct

and recount his Paradise on the basis of these mysterious and inescapable affinities between the Heavens and human beings. The opinion of Marco Lombardo ( Purg . XVI.73-81) holds true for the inconstancy of the spirits of the Moon as well, as Beatrice herself will

restate in the terms of an exacting, unyielding justice (IV.73-87), producing the examples of the Christian martyrs (St. Lawrence) and the

proto-imperial heroes (Mucius Scaevola). Her disciple might have objected, however, that those born under the sign of the Moon will always find themselves at a clear disadvantage. In fact, their instability will have to be combated and neutralized by constant efforts, for one cannot think of using it to good effect solely by directing it toward the

worthiest causes and objects, as is possible to do with amorous dispositions (Venus) or warlike energy (Mars). Still less can inconstancy be simply enjoyed in tranquillity, like, for instance, the

Olympian «joviality» dispensed by the sixth planet. The question, however one poses it, remains very difficult to square, especially because astral influences belong to a «scientific» and determinisi vision

of human nature (even the «gentle heart» of Guinizelli, one will not have forgotten, nascitur, non fit). Reconciling this psycho-cosmic assumption with the ethical freedom of the philosophers and the merit of the laboriously militant Christians would therefore be a difficult task for the logician, had not the artist intervened in the nick of time to

resolve and embody in poetry the unwanted residues and less cogent ergos of dialectical persuasion. The canto of Piccarda springs from this fortunate juncture as well.


^The two references to the charismatic guide underline the progressive phases of a rapturous learning-process: the model student, lovingly nourished with scholastic proof and counterproof (one recalls the blissfully satisfied young stork of Par. XIX.91-93) passes in fact from a euphoric rush of gratitude (III. 1-6) to the predictable emergence of fresh hunger and the 42

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anticipation of other substantial meals. M am thinking, naturally, of the furious devil of Buonconte ( Pur g . V. 104- 108), but also of the most likeable and dialectical medieval devil I have ever chanced to meet: the unquenchable antagonist of Mary in the D e

Sathana cum Virgine (cf. Bonvesin da la Riva, Volgari scelti / Select Poems , eds. P.S. Diehl and R. Stefanini, Bern and NY: Lang, 1987, pp. 12 f., 17-32 [English translation], and 281-300 [original text]). «Humble», one has to state, in a currently Christian, and therefore rather democratic sense - not in the spiritually aristocratic acceptation in which the word was used by the stilnovisti. In fact, the most «gentle» lady, just like the angels (and herein consists her superiority), is joyfully and lucidly aware of her own creaturely condition and therefore need not experience any moral discomfitures in order to understand where she belongs: a grateful, entranced adhesion to the hierarchy in force already places her beyond any

possible temptation. 4If one wished to indulge in a little psychoanalysis, it might also be said that this narrative pattern reveals a certain charge of masculine sadism. First, the man gladly profits by a woman's weakness, but then he makes her suffer and pay for it, with the chance of a final rehabilitation - usually in extremis. If one objects that the lady of lyric shows herself to be masterful and self-confident while the enamored minstrel begs and whimpers at her feet, the reason is that men have traditionally narrated women in a sadistic vein, but sung them in a masochistic one.

*In effect, the charity that the saved souls (with the unique addition of Francesca) show when they meet the Pilgrim is expressed in forms of aristocratic courtesy that seem to evoke the etiquette of castle or palace.

"Above all, it is forgotten how Dante had re-classified lust by explicitly making it spring from the same root as Charity and by connecting it, via a charitably Active Life, with Justice itself (cf. Par. VUI-IX, with theses and exempla , in addition to Purg. XVII. 85-139 and XVIII. 16-75). By restoring

a cursus amoris of Platonic type and origin, Dante in fact resolved a dilemma which continued to afflict both religious education (lust vs. Amor / Charitas) and the lyric tradition (base vs. refined love) with its distressing

dualism. Francesca simply did not know how to proceed in this insidious curriculum, nor, as a result, can she happily «indulge herself» now, like Cunizza, who was apparently able to escape from the maze of the early grades and tum her ardent desire toward worthier objects.

'Piccarda's discourse also is divided into more parts (three to be exact), as we

shall see - except that, in this case, the first two speeches develop entirely paradisal themes and therefore have nothing to do with the earthly history of the protagonist.

8The crescendo and the ensuing suspense of the tale («Per più fiate li occhi ci

sospinse», etc.) are of a purely Ovidian stamp («made in the Metamorphoses »), with more evident and characteristic parallels in the episode of Ulysses («Cinque volte racceso e tante casso / lo lume era di sotto da la luna»: XXVI. 130) and in that of Ugolino («Breve pertugio 43

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dentro da la muda /... m'avea mostrato per lo suo forame / più lune già»: XXXIII. 22-25).

^Before Pia, Jacopo del Cassero also named, as two notable sources of emotion, his own dear birthplace (Fano, v. 71) and the place (hostile, rather than foreign) of his tragic end (Oriaco, v. 80). In each of the three episodes, obviously, there are also links and mimicry of a horizontal, contextual kind, besides the more significant similarities of structure which tie them together vertically.

l^That Piccarda was able to preserve her virginity, thanks to a skin disease that disfigured her face, is a legend of hagiographie descent already adopted by Benvenuto (Comment um, ed. J.F. Lacaita, Florence: Barbera, vol. 4, 1887, p. 367), but which should not color our reading of Dante's text.

Benvenuto charges not only Corso but Forese with the abduction (Foresius frater eius, ... as suet us.... gulae ; cit., p. 376), whom Dante seems instead to consider entirely unconnected with the infamous deed.

l^The smile that passes between Piccarda and her companions (v. 67 f.) at the ingenuous question of the Pilgrim (vv. 64-66) is itself a survival and a sublimation of the gabbo , a well-known topos , in the lyric, already refined by Dante in VN XIV. l^The Pilgrim's question (such explanations are always furnished on request) might seem indiscreet here, as well as ingenuous - whence the amused and

loving smile that Piccarda quickly exchanges with the other souls (see above, n. 12). One should bear in mind, however, that Piccarda herself provoked the curiosity of the visitor (v. 55), who, after the information provided by an elated Forese («...triunfa lieta / ne l'alto Olimpo già di sua

corona»: XXIV.14f.), might have expected something a little more exciting (cf. F. Novati, «Golosi in Purgatorio», Freschi e minii del Dugento, Milan: L.F. Cogliati, 1925', p. 147).

14How appropriate the comparison to the sea is was deservedly underlined by Benvenuto (cit., p. 373f.): «sicut enim omnes aquae habent ortum a mari, et revertuntur ad illud et mare non redundat; ita omnia tarn creata quam

generata sunt a Deo, et ad ipsum inclinantur diversimode, sicut patuit primo capitulo huius Paradisi, et ideo nihil accrescit».

l^Cf. F. Novati, «Sordello da Goito», in Freschi e minii, cit., pp. 133-135.

^Posthumous daughter of Roger II (1095-1154), Costanza d'Altavilla (1154-1198) married Henry VI (1165-1197) in 1186 (when she was already thirty-two and her husband barely twenty-one). The couple had a solemn coronation in Rome in 1191, and three years later, the then forty-year-old empress brought her son Frederick into the world. The legend collected by Benvenuto (cit., p. 377f.) makes her the daughter of William the Good (her brother, in reality), increases the age when she gave birth to fifty-five, and, confusing history with mythology (cf. the story of Danae), specifies that her father shut her up in a convent because of a prophecy by Joachim of Fiore, who «spiritu prophetico dotatus, praedixit Guilelmo filiam natam Siciliae et Italiae desolationem futuram».

l^The fact that Dante puts the mother of that terribile monstrum (i.e., 44

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Frederick E) above Piccarda disconcerts and annoys Benvenuto, who lacks pro-imperial tendencies. He immediately begins to relate the reasons (of which he finds four) why the juvencula tusca ought instead to be «magis excusanda quam Constantia» (cit., p. 378f.).

l°Thus, we should not be amazed by the fact that Benvenuto, misunderstanding Dante's classification, takes the Heaven of the Moon for

the place where omnes sanctae virgines (Chiara included!) are assembled. «Sicut enim sol qui est pater caloris - he explains - facit viros sapientes, ita luna mater humoris facit mulieres honestas», and those who claim that

these souls have been put «in corpore lunae ex defectu voti ... falso exponunt» (cit., p. 370).


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso IV Author(s): LINO PERTILE Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 46-67 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806592 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:02 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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University of Edinburgh

IV If we did not know that canto IV of Paradiso is set in the heaven of

the Moon, we could easily imagine it as a dialogue taking place in some classroom of a medieval Faculty of Theology. Towards the end of the

canto the two speakers turn out to be a woman and a man whose feelings for each other seem hardly the stuff of everyday classroom experience. This, however, would be the only unusual detail ruffling somewhat the otherwise smooth surface of the text.

This is to say that canto IV has, at least apparently, very little narrative identity of its own. It is part of the long and, on the whole,

uneventful episode of Dante's visit to the heaven of the Moon, the lowest and slowest planet which circles around the earth in the Ptolemaic universe. The only event in this section of Paradiso is Dante's meeting with Piccarda which occupies the whole of canto III. Before this encounter there is Beatrice's disquisition on the spots of the Moon (II 46-148), and after it her lesson to Dante in canto IV, which we

are about to examine. This will be followed by Beatrice's discourse on the commutability of vows, which will cover two thirds of canto V.

The whole episode extends therefore over three and a half cantos which is just about the average length for Dante's treatment of any

heaven in Paradiso.

In Inferno there are huge differences in the narrative space allocated to different topographical divisions: the first three circles occupy one canto each and the fourth 99 lines only, but the seventh extends over six cantos and the eighth over thirteen. In Paradiso these differences are minimal. If we exclude the heaven of the Sun with over four cantos, and

the contiguous heavens of Saturn and of the Fixed Stars with respectively under two and five cantos, all the other heavens are dealt with in just under or over three cantos. This difference in the narrative organization of the two cantiche is due to the fact that, whereas Inferno is full to the brim of proper names and characters, which need to be classified and distributed according to their distinctive traits, Paradiso is very sparsely populated; it is full of doctrinal discussions, and these, as they are occasioned by the pilgrim's own questions and doubts, can be spread out in a much more even fashion throughout the cantica. 46

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In terms of narrative space this means, perhaps rather crudely, that the position of preeminence enjoyed by action and characters in Inferno is taken over in Paradiso by the debate on the pilgrim's doubts. Thus the didactic purpose of the poem, which in Inferno is fulfilled indirectly by

the exemplary nature of each character, emerges in Paradiso more often than not in an unmediated and pure form, as though Dante truly believed that, after the invigorating experience of the previous two cantiche , his

readers were more capable of confronting directly the intellectual challenges of doctrinal poetry.

As «the canto of Dante's metaphysical and moral doubts»,1 the fourth of Paradiso offers one of the most sustained examples of doctrinal

poetry in the Comedy. It analyzes essentially two questions: the first concerns the true seat of the blessed and the relationship between them and the heavens in which they appear; the second focuses on the role of the will in relation to the merit or demerit of human actions. As Dante

knew well, these questions had been dissected by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics (III, 1) and, more recently, systematically reconsidered by, among others, St. Thomas Aquinas within a few pages

of his Summa theologiae .2 Why raise them again, we may ask. Ostensibly, the reason is that, as a heavenly dweller, Beatrice is able to answer them with an authority that no philosopher can ever claim. The real reason, however, is another: these questions and their answers are essential for the very existence and legitimation of Paradiso as poem.

This is why, although philosophers might well be better equipped to interpret this canto, it is not inappropriate that literary critics look into it too. * * *

Canto III ended with Dante in a state of perplexity t intellectual and visual. As Piccarda vanished, unforgetta acqua cupa cosa grave» (III 123), Dante was left with bur in his mind which he could not ask, for Beatrice so flas that at first his eyes could not bear it.3 When the new c is no longer visually dazzled, but he is so caught betwee that, unable to decide which one to formulate first, he remain silent.

This state of indecision is expressed by means of as m

examples of paralysis of the will, three exempla fic

hypothetical situations pertaining to the world of natura Intra due cibi, distanti e moventi d'un modo, prima si morria di fame,


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che liber' omo l'un recasse ai denti; sì si starebbe un agno intra due brame di fieri lupi, igualmente temendo; sì si starebbe un cane intra due dame; per che, s'i' mi tacea, me non riprendo, da li miei dubbi d'un modo sospinto, poi ch'era necessario, né commendo.

Dante feels like a man who, placed between two equally distant and appetizing items of food, would starve himself to death before he could

decide which one to bring to his teeth first;4 like a lamb paralyzed by

equal fear of two fierce and famished wolves; like a hound unable to choose which of two does to pursue (1-6).5 Isn't this all too much, we may well ask. Isn't the situation itself paradoxical, and aren't the terms in which it is described hyperbolic? Why use three equally incredible exempla where one would surely be more than adequate? Some ancient commentators felt distinctly uneasy about this opening, and there are good reasons - though they may not be the same - for sharing their unease.6 The poet's mastery as wordsmith, supreme at this late stage of the poem, is placed here in full view, it is indeed too visible, bordering almost on the conceit.

The first example occupies exactly three lines, the second two, and the third one. The first begins with the indirect object («Intra due cibi») and ends with the predicate («recasse ai denti»); the reverse applies to the second and third examples. Thus the three homologous syntagms which exemplify the pilgrim's present concern - his two equal doubts - are placed at the beginning of line 1 («Intra due cibi») and at the end of line 4 and 6 where they are underscored by the rhyme («intra due brame» / «intra due dame»). Lines 4 and 6 are further paralleled by the repetition of their opening syntagm («sì si starebbe»), and this, combined with

their endings, make them perfectly homologous, if not totally homophonous. To achieve this balance the poet introduces a hypallage striding over lines 4 and 5 («intra due brame / di fieri lupi»), even at the cost of changing the viewpoint, for it is the food (i.e. the lamb) which

paradoxically is now paralyzed between its two potential, ravenous devourers (the wolves). As Trifon Gabriele noted, the third example should really come immediately after the first, as the verbs that apply to

it are those of the first, not of the second, example. To these structural details we may add Dante's insistence on latinate lexicon (intra, agno,

dame) and technical terminology (liber omo , necessario ), and his conspicuous recourse to assonance (line 1, -anti / - entiē, line 5, -mente ! -mendo) and allitteration (particularly in the crucial line 8), and we

realize that this text speaks beautifully but says little. We begin to 48

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suspect that the poet may be marking time, that the plot may be stuck. In fact, this impasse is itself a vital part of the plot. Indeed, the first six lines of the canto cleverly enact the meaning

the text strives to express. This becomes apparent in lines 7-9. Like the free man, the lamb and the wolves of the three examples, the pilgrim is

so torn between his two doubts that he is unable to speak - and it should be noted that the «d'un modo» of line 8 takes up both the «d'un

modo» of line 2 and the «igualmente» of line 5, while «da li miei dubbi» matches and explains the three syntagms «Intra due cibi», «intra due brame» and «intra due dame». More significantly, the indecision that

is being narrated spills over from the praesens narrati to affect Dante-the-writer who cannot choose even now, in the praesens narratoris, whether to blame or commend his old self for his silence, a silence which was «necessario», that is, beyond his will and control, and for which, therefore, neither blame nor praise can be apportioned. Opening the third book of his Nicomachean Ethics , Aristotle states

that «praise and blame are accorded only to voluntary actions», and then

he proceeds to define the difference between the voluntary and the involuntary in the conviction that «this will be of service also to legislators in assigning rewards and punishments».7 The apportioning of justice is a major concern in the Comedy , and therefore it is hardly surprising that the poet should avail himself in this canto of Aristotle's

Ethics. What is interesting is that this intertextual echo should be audible at this early stage, in advance, that is, of Beatrice's discussion of voluntary and involuntary actions (100-1 1 1). As we shall see, the whole canto is imbued with Aristotelean thought and terminology.8 «Io mi tacea» begins line 10, condensing in one sentence what the

poet had already said in the previous nine lines and explicitly stated in line 7 («s'i' mi tacea»). The new repetition underlines the situation of narrative impasse reached by linguistic discourse. That is why another kind of discourse is introduced, a visibile parlar («'l mio disir dipinto / m'era nel viso», 10-11) which is more intense and effective than speech itself. Quite simply, Dante cannot speak but his face speaks for him.

The way seems to be open for the resumption of the story; not, however, before a new simile is deployed, drawn this time from Scripture (13-15): Fé sì Beatrice qual fé Daniello, Nabuccodonosor levando d'ira, che l'avea fatto ingiustamente fello.

By reading the pilgrim's desire on his face, Beatrice did as Daniel when


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he appeased the wrath that made Nebuchadnezzar so cruelly unjust ( Daniel , II 1-46). What is striking about this terzina is that its main verb Fé assumes almost thematic value, as it is given pride of place in line 13 and then repeated symmetrically in line 15: Fé... fé... H ... l'avea fatto ...fello. Of course, the word fello, meaning 'felon', 'traitor', has

nothing to do semantically with fare. Nevertheless it happens to coincide in both spelling and sound with fello, an ordinary form of the verb fare (i.e. the past historic fé, already used twice in line 13) followed by the unstressed pronoun lo (with syntactic doubling - Ilo , i.e. fello, meaning 'made him/iť). This ambiguity is encouraged, indeed forced on

the reader, by the presence of the opposite construction (pronoun lo + pluperfect of fare) at the other end of the same line: l'ave a fatto ('made him'). It is quite clearly a pun which the poet could not resist, but its effect is to divert our attention from what the text says to how it says it,

from language to speech, from the signified to the signifier.

The text says that, by guessing Dante's desire, Beatrice acted like

Daniel, when, inspired by God, he both guessed and interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's dream and thus relieved the king of the rage that had

made him unjustly fierce (fello ) against his wise men. But the simile, not unlike the three exempla at the beginning of the canto, is hyperbolic and distracting rather than illuminating. There is no tyrant here, ready to

commit murderous felony against his sages. Beatrice might reasonably be compared to Daniel, but the analogy between Dante's tongue-tieing intellectual anxiety and Nebuchadnezzar's wrath is hardly fitting. The preeminence of the signifier conceals the simile's partial unsuitability for the situation at hand; at the same time, however, it underscores the poet's difficulty in effecting the conversion from the pilgrim's inner impasse to the open dialogue with Beatrice which is essential for the resumption of the story. It is this impasse that Beatrice registers with her first words: «Io veggio ben come ti tira / uno e altro disio, sì che tua cura / sé stessa

lega sì che fuor non spira» (16-18). Beatrice sees clearly how Dante's will, equally divided between two desires, cannot express either of them; how, by being equally pulled in two directions, his inner preoccupation

cannot be converted into words and, as it were, blown out as speech. She will then do this herself for him. But in order to do so, she will first have to show that Dante's two desires to know, though they may well feel to him equally balanced, are in fact substantially different.

Beatrice's discourse is calm, lucid, and systematic. It converts Dante's self-impeding anxiety into a smooth flow of syntactic units, each taking exactly one terzina. Having summarized Dante's predicament in her first introductory terzina (16-18), she articulates his first doubt in 50

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the second, giving it the form of a direct question, thus effectively restoring to the passage the dialogic structure of which the pilgrim's silence had deprived it (19-21); she then articulates Dante's second doubt in her third terzina (22-24); in the fourth she concludes, dubbing Dante's

doubts as questioni - a technical term of scholastic philosophy which weigh equally ( igualmente , again) on his will ( velie , another technical term), and announcing that she will deal first with the more poisonous one («quella che più ha di felle», 25-27). Beatrice sets out addressing Dante's questions according to the order of their gravity. This gradatio is reflected even in the number of terzine she devotes to each question: twelve to the first, nine to the second, and eight to a third, supplementary question which she anticipates. Thus, by introducing difference where Dante had reached an arresting equality, Beatrice restores the forward motion without which the plot could not continue.^ Being herself compelled to communicate in verbal terms, the acknowledgment of difference is as essential to Beatrice as it is to Dante.

The constraints of human discourse are at the very heart of Dante's concern in this canto, and the anxiety which we have attempted to unveil beneath its opening terzine is due entirely to that concern. * * *

The first doubt which Beatrice addresses (28-63

Piccarda's appearance to the pilgrim in the heaven of t seems to confirm to him Plato's notion, as expressed i that when we die our souls return to the stars whence we were bom. For Plato the souls live forever in separa

determine the quality of their life when for a shor

imprisoned in the human body on earth. This notion f

the Christian dogma according to which, as Statiu

Purgatorio (XXV 67-78), the soul of each individual is and directly infused into our bodies when we are still

womb.10 It is heretical and therefore, as Beatrice poisonous than Dante's other doubt.

At first sight this problem seems to be of a pur nature; yet, if it were so, it would not need to be

Piccarda has already solved it. In the course of their m explicitly asked her: «Do you who are happy here desir

that you may see more and become more dear?» ( Piccarda, expanding on a point she had already made (5

the blessed are all perfectly happy where they are as what they have and thirst after nothing else. «Nay - s 51

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the very quality of this blessed state that we keep ourselves within the divine will, so that our wills are themselves made one; therefore our

rank from height to height through this kingdom is pleasing to the

whole kingdom, as to the King who wills us to His will» (79-84). In other words, where Dante's human eyes had just begun to see difference,

gradation, and multiplicity, Piccarda stated that there was in fact sameness, equality and unity. Theologically speaking, her answer had been full and satisfying, as confirmed by the narrator himself who concludes: «It was clear to me then that everywhere in heaven is Paradise, although the grace of the Supreme Good does not rain there in one measure» (88-90). Why not stop at that then?

The reason why Dante must ask the question again, and do so urgently, is that, by writing his third canto as he did, he has inevitably predetermined the shape of all that is to follow. By placing Piccarda or - if we wish to go along with the fiction of the poem - 'finding' her

in the lowest heaven and portraying her in the third canto of his Paradiso , Dante realizes, as do we, that he has entered ipso facto into a recognizable, graduated structure which comprises eight more heavens for the pilgrim to visit and thirty more cantos for the poet to write. He has in fact visibly and paradoxically chosen difference and gradation where Piccarda says that there is sameness and equality. This paradox

demands some explaining. Clearly, however, the problem is narratological rather than theological, and as such it existed before the pilgrim met Piccarda as much as it exists now, except that now, with the completion of the third canto, it has been brought out into the open and can no longer be put off. The problem is how to fit the theology into the narrative; how to accommodate in a legitimate way unity with multiplicity and timelessness with time; how to translate into human

language a «beato esse» (III 79) of which human language itself is a pale, fallen, and inferior surrogate: indeed, how to convey a state of bliss

from which the very existence of human language is proof that we are tragically excluded.11

This is why Beatrice's reply is twofold. On the one hand she relieves Dante of his persistent doubt by making it clear that all the

blessed reside in the Empyrean; on the other she allows for the hierarchical structure of Paradiso - which actually is already in place by explaining that the blessed appear to the pilgrim each in his or her appropriate astronomical sphere. This works as a full legitimation of Dante's artistic project, because it allows both for the continuation in time of the fictional journey - in a dimension supposedly outside time and space, - and for the highest degree of integrated symmetry between

the three 'geographical' realms as portrayed in the three cantiche. 52

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Ultimately, it makes it possible for Paradise too, as for Hell and Purgatory, to be seen by human eyes and to be translated into words, to become, that is, the third part of the poem.

Beatrice's reply deserves a fuller analysis. She says that the blessed - the Seraph closest to God, Moses and the prophet Samuel, both John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, and even the Virgin Mary herself

- all have their seat in the same heaven, and will enjoy their bliss as long as those spirits who have just shown themselves in the heaven of the Moon (28-33). They all live forever in the first circle, but they possess different degrees of beatitude as they feel with different degrees of intensity the love that eternally breathes forth from God (34-36). In

other words, residing all in the Empyrean, they are all equally full of happiness, but the measure of their happiness in fact varies according to their individual capacity to receive it; they feel all absolutely happy even if the relative quantity of their individual happiness differs.12 The souls which Dante has just seen, Beatrice continues, appeared in the heaven of the Moon not because they were actually assigned to it, but in order to show sensibly to him that they enjoy the lowest degree of beatitude (37-39): this is the only way the transcendental reality of Paradise can be

communicated to human intelligence, as it is only through sense perception that man can grasp that which he then makes fit for the intellect (40-42). 13

We must pause to consider the implications of Beatrice's extraordinary discourse for the whole poem. Dante's representation of what he sees in Hell postulates the existence of a corresponding reality that is eternal: as it is written on the gates of Hell, «e io etterno duro»

{Inf. III 8). If we believe Dante's account, Julius Caesar stands, still today, «armato con li occhi grifagni» in Limbo {Inf. IV 123), and Count Ugolino is still today in Antenora gnawing at the skull of archbishop Ruggieri with his teeth strong as those of a dog {Inf. XXXIII 78). On the contrary Piccarda is no longer to be seen in the heaven of the Moon, for, as we know, she left as soon as her interview with Dante was over. Indeed it is not at all clear whether she actually ever was in that heaven, even though the Comedy says that she appeared to Dante there. If we believe the Comedy , the heaven of the Moon, like all other

heavens below the Empyrean, is empty now as it was before, and returned to being immediately after Dante's passage. What the poet describes in Paradiso , at least up to the Empyrean, is a series of unique events, a «command performance»14 that was put on only once for his benefit. Consequently, whereas in Inferno it is the pilgrim who moves on, leaving behind all the souls he encounters on his way, in Paradiso

he is the one who is left behind in time and space as the blessed, their 53

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mission completed, are spirited up to an Empyrean which is outside time and space.15 To be sure, Dante too will eventually make it to the

Empyrean, and there he will see again all the blessed together. But whereas in the Empyrean he sees them in unity, all at the same time and all absolutely happy (though still distributed in a gradational space), in the heavens below he sees them as individuals enjoying comparatively

different degrees of happiness. Thus, whereas his vision of Paradise in the Empyrean is general and external, the vision he is granted during his ascent is differentiated and internal in that it is based on the relative

degree of happiness which is felt by each individual soul.

Dante's Paradise is an exceptional manifestation, external, objective, and sensible - and therefore describable in human language - of an internal, subjective, and supra-sensible reality that is beyond

human language. «Così parlar conviensi al vostro ingegno», Beatrice says (40): indeed, the third cantica is not Paradise proper, but Paradise's own translation of itself into language, an «accommodation of spiritual reality to human faculties»,16 a compromise between God's superhuman and immediate system of communication, where sign and referent are always one and simul, and a human language which is temporally and spatially constricted. It has not been noted, as far as I know, that this «condescension» of Paradise to human faculties ensures that something analogous to the principle of contrapasso extends also to Paradise, in two ways. Firstly, at a moral and didactic level, the contrapasso is the mechanism whereby each soul is exactly allotted in Hell the punishment, and in Purgatory the penance, it deserves; likewise in Paradise the apparent location of the souls in different heavens shows that the blessed too receive the measure

of reward appropriate to each of them: venereal souls are in Venus, martial in Mars, saturnine in Saturn, and so on. Thus God's infallible justice is done, and is seen to be done, in all three realms of the afterlife. Secondly, at the narratological level the contrapasso functions as tragic fulfilment and realization of metaphors, that is to say, as the conversion to eternal reality of temporal linguistic constructs that in this life served to describe the inner, spiritual condition of the sinners: typically, the 'storm' of passion that possessed the lustful is now turned

into a real storm that will forever torment them; the 'mantle' that

figuratively masked the hypocrites in this life is now converted, following Hugutio's etymology,17 into an eternal cape of lead covered by a thin layer of gold; the 'divisions' perpetrated by the schismatics are now actually inflicted forever on their 'bodies', and so on. Likewise, in

Paradise too Dante finds a conversion, but one that works in the opposite direction, for in heaven the point of reference is not history but 54

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eternity. In Dante's Paradise the souls become visible and temporal conversions of spiritual realities that are eternal, intangible and ineffable; they become metaphoric enactments of their true selves. To

put it briefly, in Hell metaphors become real; in Paradise reality becomes metaphoric.18 In either case the overriding rule is - as Cacciaguida will explain {Par. XVII 124-42) - that what the pilgrim 'finds' must be amenable to linguistic representation. That the Paradise witnessed by the pilgrim is to be understood as a

form of God's writing is a point which Beatrice goes on to prove by comparing it to Scripture (43-48): Per questo la Scrittura condescende a vostra facúltate, e piedi e mano attribuisce a Dio e altro intende;

e Santa Chiesa con aspetto umano Gabriel e Michel vi rappresenta, e l'altro che Tobia rifece sano.

Scripture, Beatrice says, condescends to human intelligence by attributing feet and hands to God, and the Church represents in human

forms the archangels Gabriel, Michael and Raphael; but they intend other things than they say, a reality that in its true form would be incomprehensible to the human mind.19 Like Scripture then, the parlar of Paradise, as witnessed by Dante, intends other things than those its manifestations (i.e. the appearance of the blessed in different heavens)

ostensibly signify: its inner essence is not the same as its outer appearance. We should pay attention to this difference between appearance and reality, between expression and intention, for it is a notion which Beatrice brings to bear immediately afterward in her subtly

ambiguous confutation of Platonic theology (49-63).

What Plato argues in his Timaeus - Beatrice explains - does not correspond to what Dante sees in heaven {qui si vede), for Plato seems to hold as true {par che senta ) what he says {come dice)?® What Dante

sees is a fleeting appearance of the souls, each one in its appropriate sphere; Plato, on the contrary, says {dice) that the souls return to the stars when their bodies die, believing {credendo) that they come down from the stars when they are born. This means that for Plato the souls reside permanently in the stars except for the period they spend on earth (52-54), which is contrary to the Christian faith.

At this point, however, Beatrice qualifies what she has just explained suggesting that the link between expression and intention in the Timaeus may not be as straightforward as it sounds. Perhaps, she says, Plato's true opinion, his feeling {sentenza), is other than his words 55

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( la voce) sound:21 it may indeed have a meaning, an intention ( intenzion ), not to be despised (55-57); if he intends (intende) that only the honor or the blame of their influence revert to the heavenly spheres

(as Marco Lombardo explained in Purg. XVI 73-78), perhaps his bow strikes on a certain truth (58-60).22 This 'soft' interpretation of Plato's theology is carefully bracketed between two 'perhaps' (forse ). Moreover, the possible disjunction between Plato's inner intention and his outer voice is underscored by Beatrice's final metaphor with its allusion to the

distance that separates archer from target.23 Beatrice concludes this section of her discourse adding that this principle of the influence of the

stars, badly understood (significantly, male inteso)t once misled almost the whole world, so that it went astray giving the stars divine names such as Jupiter, Mercury and Mars: which proves that, when it is not

properly interpreted, i.e. when it is not interpreted in a Christian perspective, this same doctrine can lead the world away (i.e. «torcere», whence torse) from the truth. Thus Plato is refuted and at the same time saved.

What is significant throughout Beatrice's speech is the continuity of the opposition between outer expression (rappresenta, voce, parlar, dire) and inner meaning (sentenza, intenzion, intendere ), between literal and allegorical interpretation.24 To sum up: the Paradise experienced by Dante and narrated in the Comedy, like the divine beings described in Scripture, and perhaps like Plato's myth of the return of the souls, are all sensible, anthropomorphic representations of spiritual realities that are other than they seem. The implication is twofold: Dante's Paradiso has no ultimate literal validity, it represents an allegorical show which was divinely commissioned only once for the moral edification of Dante and, eventually, of his readers; none the less, the language of Paradiso, which is Dante's own creation, is of the same nature as that of Scripture and perhaps of Plato's myths.25 Characteristically, it is precisely when he seems to profess humility that Dante makes his boldest claims * * *

Having dealt with Dante's more serious problem, Bea

to discuss his less poisonous one (64-90). This concern

of heavenly justice. Why should one - Dante thinks - de reward for having failed to fulfil a vow because of exter this case what is at stake is not the orthodoxy of Dante when heavenly justice seems unjust, Beatrice seems to b human intellect, unable to understand it, can only react b

faith in it, rather than by embracing heretical depravity. case of Piccarda and Costanza, however, is one which ca 56

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by human intelligence, and therefore Beatrice will be able to answer in such a way as to satisfy fully Dante's desire to know (64-72). If violence proper, she goes on, is done when the victim does not in any way yield to its oppressor, what Piccarda and Costanza suffered was not violence, and therefore they cannot be excused for not fulfilling their vows. The will, if it does not want to be, will not be quenched, but it does as nature does in fire though violence may force it aside a thousand times (73-78). If it bends much or little, the will gives in to force; this is what Piccarda and Costanza did when they might have fled

back to their holy places. But if their will had been as absolute and unbending as that which kept the martyr Saint Lawrence on the grid and made the Roman hero Mucius Scaevola hold his hand firm on the flame,

that same will, as soon as the pressure of violence subsided, would have

driven them back on the path from which they had been dragged though Beatrice admits that a will so firm is rare indeed. Thus, if he has

taken in her words as he should, Dante's reasoning on this matter is once and for all quashed (79-90).

On the surface, moving from the first to the second of Dante's doubts, Beatrice seems to have changed subject. The manner and style of her argumentation seem different too: for example, in the twelve terzine she has devoted to Dante's first question we find only one conditional clause, whereas there are six of them in the eight terzine dealing with

Dante's second doubt. Nevertheless, the underlying theme, i.e. the contrast between appearances and truth, between human and divine perspectives - the former relative, the latter absolute - is still the same. The central image is now that of fire. At the semantic level the

image is already implicitly suggested in the verb s'ammorza ('is quenched') as this verb, which appears only one other time in the Comedy (with reference to Capaneus's unquenchable pride, Inf. XIV 63),

is normally associated in Italian with fire. When, therefore, the comparison between the behavior of the will and that of fire is explicitly

made in the following line (77), we are already prepared to take it in, as we are prepared to see the image of a flame beneath the abstract notion of the will that bends much or little («s'ella si piega assai o poco», 79). Not by chance then it is with fire that four lines later Saint Lawrence

and Mucius are shown to prove the steadfastness of their will, the implication being that Costanza's will, contrary to what her name signifies, was not of such a nature.

This serves to introduce and dispel Dante's new doubt which Beatrice intuits even before he has time to convert it into words.

Beatrice had said that the blessed cannot lie (III 31-33). Later, Piccarda had stated that Costanza kept her love for the veil even after she was 57

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forcibly turned back to the world (III 115-17), and this seems to contradict Beatrice's explanation about the weakness of Costanza's will. Dante's disturbing conclusion is that either Piccarda lied or Beatrice is wrong (94-99). Beatrice's rigorous argument starts this time from a general maxim

based on experience (100-02); she backs it with the authority of an

ancient example (103-05) and brings out its logical implications (106-08); she then states the general principle (109-11) which she finally applies to the particular case in hand (112-14). It is altogether an

impressive display of analytical skill. It has happened many times, Beatrice says, that to escape danger a man has done against his will something which he ought not to have done, like Alcmaeon who, killing his mother to comply with his father's prayer, turned pitiless in order not to fail piety. In these circumstances internal will and external

violence co-operate so that the sins that are committed cannot be excused. The will, if it is absolute, does not consent absolutely to wrong, but consents to it fearing that, if it resists, it will fall into greater harm. Thus, when Piccarda says that in her heart Costanza always kept her vow, she refers to Costanza's absolute will («de la voglia assoluta intende»), whereas Beatrice refers to her relative will («de

l'altra [voglia intende]», 113) which made her conform to the violence that kept her away from the cloister: therefore they both tell the truth

(100-114). The distinction between absolute and relative will derives from

Aristotle's analysis of voluntary (i.e. free) and involuntary (i.e. compulsory) actions.27 As Aristotle says, and Dante pointedly implies

apropos of his own silence at the beginning of this canto (7-9), only free actions can be accorded praise or blame. Now, since Costanza was

forced to break her vow against her will, it seems to Dante that she cannot be held to deserve less. Beatrice, however, shows that the issue is

less straightforward than her pupil thinks. Costanza's absolute will was to keep her vow.28 When this will was actually put to the test, she did not translate it into action, as Saint Lawrence and Mucius did who kept their «volere intero» (82), their «voglia salda» (87). She did instead what

she felt she could do in the circumstances, thereby yielding to the violence that was done to her. In so far as she consented, her choice was

not involuntary: she behaved according to her relative, or conditioned, will. When something of this kind happens, the operation of the will is

'mixed' («la forza al voler si mischia », 107), as in the tragic case of Alcmaeon who, while wanting to spare his mother's life («voglia assoluta»), chose to kill her in order to avenge his father of her betrayal.29 Naturally, Alcmaeon's action cannot be justified, but neither 58

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can Costanza's failure be totally overlooked. For this reason, like Piccarda, Costanza appears now in the lowest heaven. However, this does not imply that they are somehow punished by being deprived of a higher form of bliss. It means, rather, that they find in heaven a degree of happiness commensurate with that which they

were capable of while on earth.30 In other words Paradise does not change the character of the individual soul, but it enhances and brings it to fulfilment according to what it was in life. * * *

Beatrice's discourse is clear, logical, and exhausti

pupil could not wish for a more lucid master. Yet there persistent, dominating feature of her style which may r ear of a listener less enraptured than Dante the charact

turn of phrase of the kind which, for instance, Tr

stigmatized as being «più presto da spagnolo che da omo is to say: baroque, avant la lettre . We have already rema

in line 15: «che l'avea fatto ingiustamente fello». The

other, more straightforward examples of similar rhetori

Beatrice's language: line 67: «Parere ingiusta la nostra

76: «che volontà, se non vuol, non s'ammorza»; line 102: che far non si convenne»; and above all line 105: «per no

si fé spietato». The rhetorical device visibly deploy

one-line passages is that of repetition of word-stems, bu negation or antithesis. The resulting sentences are rema forceful compression and artificial preciosity. The ques we are to see in them anything more than Beatrice's m work.

As it happens, the supreme master of this style in t the infernal character of Pier della Vigna who can constr very close to Beatrice's in structure, sound, and conten

(Inf. XIII 70-72): L'animo mio, per disdegnoso gusto, credendo col morir fuggir disdegno, ingiusto fece me contra me giusto.

In a little classic of Dante criticism Leo Spitzer describe involved and twisted lines [...], which bear in themselve

self-torture and self-estrangement, and ultimately

paradoxy».32 Obviously, however, although the same de by both Beatrice and Piero, their significance must diffe


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with the radically different contexts in which they are brought to bear. As Spitzer was quick to observe (p. 95): if style must express a psychic content, it can do this by adapting the given

devices to the particular situation: repetition in itself is multivalent; its specific nuance is brought out in the specific situation through a kind of collaboration between the situation and the devices offered by language through an «adhesion» of language to the psychic content.

But what, we may ask, is the specific nuance, if any, brought out in Beatrice's discourse? The question is rather difficult for the simple reason

that no «psychic content» is involved in Beatrice's philosophical discourse, at least so long as we take it in isolation. If however we re-place this discourse within the context of Dante's initial self-impeding

doubts (1-9), we discover that it is indeed a response to that psychological situation. As we have noted, at the beginning of the canto Dante is so deeply

involved in his own doubts as to be unable to express himself: as Beatrice puts it, his «cura / sé stessa lega sì che fuor non spira» (17-18).

The rhetorical devices, then employed in overabundance, were - to borrow again Spitzer's words - «a sort of linguistic, or onomatopoeic rendition» (p. 92) of the pilgrim's deeply self-involved anxiety. It is to this psychic situation that Beatrice's language is designed to «adhere» and respond. After Dante's tortuous and frustrating copiousness, her

economical style exudes the compelling clarity and intellectual exhilaration of mathematical theorems. It resolves Dante's psychological impasse wiping away at a stroke his anxiety, and enabling him to reach higher than ever before. We are not surprised, therefore, if he reacts in

strongly lyrical terms (significantly, with another repetition) to Beatrice's apparently arid exposition, thus responding to schoolroom language with the language of courtly love: «O amanza del primo amante, o diva» (118). There is, however, another crafty user of words in Dante's Inferno

of whom we are reminded by Beatrice's discourse. This is Guido da Montefeltro, a convoluted but logical thinker {löico, Inf XXVII 123), who can compress his advice in statements such as «lunga promessa con l'attender corto / ti farà triunfar ne l'alto seggio» ( Inf. XXVII 110-11). What is interesting is that the image of the upstretching flame, which

envelopes Guido {Inf. XXVII 1-18 and 58-60), returns in our canto (77-80) as a metaphor of the unquenchable will, the will that does not

bend «assai o poco» (79). Moreover, Guido's case offers a perfect illustration of the operation of the 'mixed' will {Par. IV 106-08), for, when he yields to Boniface's veiled threats {Inf. XXVII 106-07), Guido 60

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- a friar by then, as Costanza was a nun - «consentevi in tanto in quanto teme, / se si ritrae, cadere in più affanno» {Par. IV 110-11). Thirdly and more generally, Guido is undoubtedly the most memorable

example in the Comedy of the gap between inner truth and outer appearance, between intention and expression,33 and consequently of the need for interpretation, which underlies the whole of Paradiso IV. Dante is too much of a conscious artist for us to assume that, since there is no structural correspondence between the eighth bolgia and the

heaven of the Moon, these intratextual echos are fortuitous or completely automatic. The least we can say is that they underscore Dante's constant concern with interpretation at two points of the journey

where signs - be they in the form of human actions, Scripture or Paradise as the pilgrim perceives it - demand to be interpreted. As much as that of Guido in the eighth bolgia, the condition of Piccarda and Costanza in the heaven of the Moon is rooted in this earth, in the tortuous ways human beings choose to live with one another. All three of them were compelled to break their vows; yet the friar is now in Hell, whereas the two former nuns are in Paradise. Scholastic doctrine, of the kind displayed by Beatrice's discourse, can help us to explain this

paradox. However, the workings of God's justice - that is to say, of the human mind - remain ultimately unfathomable, and Beatrice herself, bringing to a close her discussion on vows in the next canto, will have to defer us for guidance to the New Testament and the Old, and

to the Shepherd of the Church: «let that, she says, suffice for your salvation» (Par. V 73-78):34 Siate, Cristiani, a muovervi più gravi: non siate come penna ad ogne vento, e non crediate ch'ogne acqua vi lavi. Avete il novo e '1 vecchio Testamento, e 'l pastor de la Chiesa che vi guida; questo vi basti a vostro salvamento.

Beatrice's discourse ends, and Dante describes it as the rippling of a holy stream coming from the fountain whence every truth derives. The metaphor is biblical,35 but it is more than a mere adornment here, as it

responds to the pilgrim's original «dimandar ... più caldo» (11-12): the stream of Beatrice's words quenches Dante's thirst to know: it brings

peace where there were two desires that had reduced him to silence (115-17). However it is a peace that does not last. Having thanked Beatrice with all the affection of which he is capable - inferior though this be to the gift he has received - Dante reverts to the subject of his doubts. 61

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«Io veggio ben che già mai non si sazia / nostro intelletto» (124-25). The formula takes up again both the phrase with which Beatrice began her discourse («Io veggio ben», 16) and the metaphor of hunger with which Dante had described his own state of mind before her discourse

(«Intra due cibi», 1). Our intellectual hunger, Dante says, mixing significantly his metaphors,36 is never satisfied unless it is enlightened by that truth beyond which no truth can range, i.e. by the divine truth. We may notice the series of binary structures which, preserving the

peace of «uno e altro disio», balance Dante's speech throughout: «amanza - amante», «m'inonda / e scalda», «più e più», «grazia per grazia», «vede e puote», «ver - vero», «illustra - spazia», «giunto giugner». The sty leme takes us back to the beginning of the canto with

its «due cibi», «due brame / di fieri lupi», «due dame». The canto's opening is further echoed in the following simile comparing truth to the

lair where a wild beast goes back to rest. But whereas the wolves and the dog of Dante's exempla ficta were still in the middle of their search and unable to proceed, this wild beast is now resting in its lair, secure and fully satisfied: as in real life a beast can reach its lair, so can we reach

absolute truth, otherwise the desire for knowledge which nature implanted in us would be in vain («sarebbe frustra», 129).37 Now then the canto's initial movement comes to full resolution, and we understand the intensity of the double hunger that paralyzed the pilgrim's tongue at

that stage. Nevertheless, since the truth that our intellect can conquer is

always partial, a new search is kindled out of each stage of our progress.38 Clearly, Dante's emphasis is on this pursuit and this tension rather than on the repose following our temporary achievements. The nature of intellectual desire is such that, when one doubt is conquered, another is born, like a new shoot springing from the base of a tree. This is how nature constantly drives us upward, from height to height, until we

reach the summit (130-32). The human mind finds in each stage it reaches a new stimulus to climb higher; its thirst is never quenched except with the water which the woman of Samaria begged as a boon ( Pur g . XXI 1-3); its hunger is never satisfied, not even with the angels' bread by which men live in this world {Par. II 10-12) 39 It is the awareness of this natural law that now gives the pilgrim the courage to ask a new question in order to reach higher. Contrasting

with the «Io mi tacea» of line 10, the syntagm «Io vo' saper» of line 136 signals that a new desire is, as it were, unbalancing Dante's intellect. He wants to know now whether there are good works with which one can make adequate satisfaction for vows that are unfulfilled (136-38). As she is about to answer, Beatrice gazes at Dante with eyes 62

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so full of the sparkling of love that, totally overwhelmed, his power to see must turn back in retreat and, with eyes cast down, he feels almost lost.

The ending of canto IV parallels that of canto III, when Beatrice so

flashed on Dante's gaze that at first his eyes could not bear it. The difference is that here the question is already out, and we can expect the next canto to begin, as it does, with Beatrice's answer. Between the two

endings there is external analogy but internal difference. At the end of

canto III the balance of two apparently equal doubts threatened to immobilize both the pilgrim's mind and the poet's narrative; at the end of canto IV the difference between what the pilgrim has learned and what

he still wants to know allows a forward motion to prevail - which shows that the existence and articulation of intellectual desire, that is of difference, is essential for the existence of Paradiso itself.40

Difference, as concrete manifestation of unfulfilled desire, is the hidden theme that runs through this canto in its entirety: difference

between internal, absolute doubts that are paralyzing, and external, differentiated doubts which permit, indeed demand, a forward movement; difference between an internal, absolute beatitude which is impenetrable and undescribable, and an external, relative beatitude that can be

understood by the senses and portrayed in human terms; difference between an eternal, absolute and perfect form of communication that

does not need words, and a temporal, relative system that can only achieve communication by means of conventional words - which, however, do not necessarily correspond to their referents; difference between internal, absolute will (and vows), by which only martyrs and

heroes seem to live, and external, relative will which informs the choices of ordinary mortals and determines forever their destinies; finally, difference between the relative knowledge that the intellect achieves in each stage of its tireless quest for truth, and the absolute truth that can only come through Revelation and contains all truths. These are also some of the tensions that are at the core of the theology, the structure, and the poetry of Dante's Paradiso.

Thus this wholly doctrinal canto reveals itself as the true «grammar» of Dante's Paradiso 41 Contrary to the mimetic literalness

of both Inferno and Purgatorio , Dante's Paradiso articulates and interprets the distance between the human and the divine, between the

metaphoric and the real, a gap whose existence, paradoxically, is essential for the existence of the poem itself. In other words the Paradise

that Dante describes tells the drama of approaching, and the desire to reach, God; but Paradiso as poem is all, and can only be, on this side of that God; it is a preparation and an approximation to a vision and a bliss 63

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that remain unsaid and unrevealed.42 Dante's Paradiso is therefore as poetically elating as it is philosophically poignant, for it suggests that,

while being commensurate to the pains of Hell and Purgatory» the human intellect, desire, and will (and their language) are constitutionally inadequate to reach by themselves the fulfilment to which they aspire beyond time and space, that is, beyond language.43


* Giorgio Varanini, «II canto dei dubbi metafisici e morali», in L'acceso strale (Napoli: Federico & Ardia, 1984), pp. 136-55; originally in Nuove letture dantesche 5 (Florence: Le Monnier, 1970), pp. 317-39.

2See ST (= Summa Theologiae), la Ilae, q. 5, art. 2-3 (on degrees of beatitude; see also Ilia, suppl., q. 93); q. 6, art. 4-6 (on the voluntary, the involuntary and violence); q. 9, art. 4-5 (on the will and the heavenly bodies).

3 All quotations from the Commedia are from the edition by Giorgio Petrocchi, 4 vols (Milan: Mondadori, 1966-67). The English version is taken or adapted from John D. Sinclair's translation ( The Divine Comedy, New York: Oxford UP, 1971). Among the commentaries which I have most

frequently used are those by: Charles S. Singleton (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1975); Umberto Bosco & Giovanni Reggio (Florence: Le

Monnier, 1979); Natalino Sapegno (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 19853); Emilio Pasquini & Antonio Quaglio (Milan: Garzanti, 1986); and Bianca Garavelli con la supervisione di Maria Corti (Milan: Bompiani, 1993). 4This example is disputed by Thomas Aquinas, ST, la Dae, q. 13, art. 6.

^For this third example see Ovid, Met., 5, 164-67; also Seneca, Thy est., 707-11, and Virgil, Georg., 3, 539-40. The predicament here described by Dante became known later as that of the Ass of Buridan between two bales

of hay: see Bruno Nardi, Nel mondo di Dante (Rome: Ed. di Storia e Letteratura, 1944), pp. 297-303. "For Trifon Gabriele, though they may reflect some truth, Dante's three examples are so incredible that people could only ridicule them: see Annotationi nel Dante fatte con Messer Trifon Gabriele in Bassano, a cura di Lino Pertile (Bologna: Commissione per i Testi di Lingua, 1993), p. 275.

^For Dante's dependence on Aristotle's Ethics in this canto see in particular Patrick Boyde, Perception and Passion in Dante's 'Comedy' (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993), pp. 197-205.

8 See also line 59, «l'onor de la influenza e '1 biasmo», where the Aristo telean formula returns but in a Platonic context.

^On this point see Teodolinda Barolini, The Undivine Comedy: Detheologizing Dante (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992), pp. 183-89, an analysis to which I am much indebted. 64

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^Dante had already discussed at length this question in Conv. IV xxi for which see V asoli' s invaluable commentary in Dante, Opere minori, 1/2, ed. Cesare Vasoli and Domenico De Robertis (Milan-Naples: Ricciardi, 1988).

See De vulgāri eloquent ia, I iii, with Mengaldo's annotations in Dante, Opere minori , H, ed. Pier Vincenzo Mengaldo et al. (Milan-Naples: Ricciardi, 1979), and Par. XXVI 124-38 where Dante's earlier views appear substantially modified. l^This explanation is fully in line with Aquinas, ST, la Rae, q. 5, art. 2; see also ST, Dla, suppl. q. 93, art. 2 and 3. l3This is a common Aristotelean principle which Dante affirms also in Conv. n iv 17.

14 John Freccero, Dante : The Poetics of Conversion, ed. Rachel Jacoff (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1986), p. 221.

l^See Barolini, pp. 168-71. 1 ^Freccero, p. 223. 12 See Sapegno's note to Inf. XXIII 66. l°The parallel is meant to be only linguistic, not theological, for whereas Hell is within creation and under God's authority, Paradise proper is with God Himself. But with his ingenious expedient Dante saves both the theological orthodoxy and the narratability of his heavens.

l^See Aquinas ST, la, q. 1, art. 9 and 10, generally quoted by all commentators. The notion is however a commonplace: see e.g. Gregory the Great, Moralia in lob , ed. M. Adriaen (Turnholt: Brepols, 1979), 2, 20: «cum scriptura sacra temporaliter editis loquitur, dignum est ut verbis temporalibus utatur quatenus condescendendo levet», etc.; see also ibid.,

32, 5 and Expositio in Canticum C antic or um, ed. P. Verbraeken (Turnholt:

Brepols, 1963), 2-3; Richard of St. Victor, Benjamin Minor , 15: «Sed nec hoc praetereundum, quomodo Scripturae divinae huic speculationi alludant et humanae infirmitati condescendant. Res enim invisibiles per rerum visibilium formas describunt, et earum memoriam per quarumdam concupiscibilium specierum pulchritudinem mentibus nostris imprimunt» (Migne, PL 196: 10-11).

2^It is uncertain whether Dante knew the Timaeus, the only Platonic dialogue available in the Middle Ages through Chalcidius' translation and commentary. However, he could have known of it indirectly, as it is mentioned in some of his favorite authors, from Cicero to Augustine, Macrobius, and Albert the Great: see Sofia Vanni Rovighi, «II canto IV del Paradiso visto da uno studioso della filosofia medievale», Studi danteschi

48 (1971): 67-82 (pp. 72-75). This is a literal translation of Isidore of Seville's definition of allegory as

«alieniloquium. Aliud enim sonat et aliud intelligitur», Etymologiarum sive originum libri XX, I xxxvii 22, ed. W. M. Lindsay (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1911). 2^See Aquinas, ST , la Ilae q. 10, art. 5: the heavenly bodies can affect the senses but not the human will which is free to decide how to respond to the

stimuli of the senses. See also ST, la, q. 115, art. 4, and Summa contra 65

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Gentiles , DI, 85.

^lt should be noted that, as the verb tendere is used in Italian specifically to signify the drawing of the bow (see e.g. Purg. XVI 48, «disteso l'arco», and

XXXI 17, «la troppa tesa»), there is some measure of semantic convenientia between intende (58), though its primary meaning here is 'intends', and percuote (60).

^The contrast between expression and inner meaning is central also to Dante's epistemological project in the Convivio ; see e.g., Conv. I i 18: «E con ciò sia cosa che la vera intenzione mia fosse altra che quella che di fuori

mostrano le canzoni predette, per allegorica esposizione quelle intendo mostrare, appresso la littérale istoria ragionata»; I ii 17: «Intendo anche mostrare la vera sentenza di quelle [canzoni], che per alcuno vedere non si può s'io non la conto, perché è nascosa sotto figura d'allegoria». ^*On the problem of representation in Paradiso, with particular reference to

Par. IV 28-63, see Giuseppe Mazzotta, Dante's Vision and the Circle of Knowledge (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1993), pp. 34-55. This chapter is a revised version of Mazzotta's «Teologia ed esegesi biblica (Par. m-V)», in Dante e la Bibbia, ed. G. Barblan (Florence: Olschki, 1988), pp. 95-112.

^"This is how I interpret this difficult and traditionally much-debated tercet (67-69).

See Boyde, pp. 197-205; Aquinas ST, la Ilae, q. 6, art. 4-6; see also Purg. XXI 64-66.

2 8 On the etymological link between votum and voluntas and its develoDment in Par. V. see Mazzotta's illuminatine discussion, dd. 38-42.

^For Alcmaeon see Purg. XII 49-51. The example is deemed absurd by Aristotle in Nichomachean Ethics, 3, 1, for «there are some actions that a

man cannot be forced to do and he ought to undergo death of the cruelest

kind rather than do them», quoted in Singleton, ad locum. There is substantial difference between Costanza's and Alcmaeon's cases, in that Costanza chooses inaction, Alcmaeon action. Indeed, it seems to me that,

by carrying out his father's bidding, despite his devotion towards his mother, Alcmaeon acts according to his absolute will, like Saint Lawrence and Mucius, but in Dante's terms his choice is tragic, whereas theirs, or at

least Saint Lawrence's, is «comic». This is not implied in Dante's text (106-08), which however may be more ambiguous than the traditional reading would allow.


•^See Aquinas, ST, Ilia, q. 93, art. 3, 1: virtus est ejus vis naturalis. Ergo et don

secundum diversos gradus virtutis naturali

31 Annotat ioni, p. 79, with reference quand'è ben morta»). 3^Leo Spitzer, «Speech and Language in my quotations are from the version re Critical Essays, ed. John Freccero (Eng

1965), pp. 78-101 (p. 92). 66

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33 For a reading of the canto in this light see Lino Pertile, «Inferno XXVII», Lectura Dantis Virginiana, I: Dante's «Inferno», ed. Tibor Wlassics (suppl.

to Lectura Dantis , 6 [1990]), pp. 351-62; this is a much reduced English version of Id., « Inferno XXVII: il peccato di Guido da Montefeltro», Atti dell'Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti , 141 (1982-83): 147-78. 3 4 As Mazzotta has argued, these opening cantos of Paradiso may well reflect, albeit indirectly, the conflict which developed in the thirteenth century between theologians and biblical exegetes: see Mazzotta, especially pp. 34-35.

3 3 See Pompeo Giannantonio, «La poesia dottrinale {Paradiso IV)», in Endiadi : dottrina e poesia nella Divina Commedia (Turin: Genesi Editrice, 1989), pp. 183-96 (p. 194), originally in Critica letteraria 8 (1980): 3-23; also in Casa di Dante in Roma, Paradiso. Letture degli anni 1979 -'81 (Rome: Bonacci, 1989), pp. 121-43.

3"See Lino Pertile, « Paradiso : A Drama of Desire», in Word and Drama in Dante, ed. J. Barnes and J. Petrie (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1993), pp. 143-80 (pp. 155-64).

^The modern reader might well question this assertion; however, for Dante and his contemporaries it was axiomatic that «God and nature do nothing in vain»: this sentence belongs indeed to the Auctoritates Aristotelis : De cáelo et mundo , 18 see my ed. of Trifon Gabriele, p. 280 ad locum ; see also Aquinas, ST, la, q. 12, art. 1. For this theory of knowledge as common heritage in Dante's times, see Vanni Rovighi, pp. 81-82. 39See Conv. IV xii 17-18 and xiii 1 with Vasoli's commentary; see also Bruno Nardi, Dal «Convivio» alla «Commedia» (Rome: Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medio Evo, 1960), pp. 75-83, and Maria Esposito Frank, «La 'concreata e perpetua sete' del Paradiso », Esperienze letterarie 1 8 (1993): 41-55. On the function of doubt in Paradiso see Pertile, «Drama of Desire», particularly pp. 162-65, and «La punta del disio: storia di una metafora dantesca», Lectura Dantis 1 (1990): 3-28 (pp. 8-11). - Rather disappointing is an old and rare «opuscolo» entirely devoted to this theme by Alfonso Cerre tti, Valore filosofico ed estetico del dubbio nella Divina Commedia (Città di Castello: S. Lapi, 1931).

4^0n the role of 'difference' in Paradiso see Baro lini, pp. 174 ff. In linking the seven liberal arts with the seven planets Dante associates grammar with the heaven of the Moon: see Conv. II xiii 9-10 and, for an important discussion of this passage in relation to Par. M-V, see Mazzotta,

especially pp. 46-49. 4^See Pertile, «Drama of Desire», p. 172. 43 Among the lecturae of Par. IV not quoted above are those by Giuseppe Albini (Florence: Sansoni, [1903]; also in Letture dantesche , ed. G.

Getto, vol. III, Florence: Sansoni, 1967, pp. 1389-1409); Luigi Valli (Turin: G.B. Paravia, 1908); Luigi Pescetti (Florence: Sansoni, 1938); Francesco Gabrieli (Turin: SEI, 1961); Guido Di Pino, in Lectura Dantis Scaligera : Paradiso (Florence: Le Monnier, 1968), pp. 93-120. 67

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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso V Author(s): MARINA DE FAZIO Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 68-90 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806593 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:02 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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University of Kansas

V In the account of Dante's ascent with Beatrice to the Heaven of Mercury, presented in the final section of Paradiso V, the narrator briefly

interrupts the telling of his story with an intriguing remark. After

describing how the planet's already splendid brightness became even brighter in reaction to Beatrice's joy (94-96), he inserts a comment (97-99) intended to describe the pilgrim's own reaction to that joy: E se la stella si cambiò e rise,

qual mi fee' io, che pur da mia natura

trasmutabile son per tutte guise! ^

The polysemous significance of this narratorial remark becomes apparent once one attempts to answer a simple question: who is the transmutable protagonist of this specific tercet? At the level of the fabula , the adjective «trasmutabile» clearly refers to Dante the character,

and points to the instability and variability inherent in his human nature, «receptabilis», as Benvenuto glossed, «omnis influentiae».2 As the present tense of the verb that accompanies it indicates, however, the adjective «trasmutabile» refers also to the metamorphic nature of the narrator himself. «Trasmutabile son », he declares, thus admitting to the readers, who so far have entrusted themselves to his words, that his

vantage point in the poem is, after all, no less earthbound and permutable than the one of its protagonist. Finally, at a metapoetic

level, the adjective ultimately refers, by implication, to the

transmutability of the text that the narrator is producing: the fifth canto of the Paradiso itself.

The concept of transmutability is, indeed, a central one within the

narrative economy of Paradiso V. It is at the heart of the canto's doctrinal core: the specific subject of Beatrice's explanation is precisely the «trasmutar del carco» (55), the permutability of the matter of vows; the target of her final admonishment is the instability and variability of the human will, the inconsistent transmutability of men who, «come penna ad ogne vento» (74), think that they may break their promises to God and use again what they had offered to Him (32). This concept is


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also at the center of the areas of the canto that surround Beatrice's

doctrinal speech, and in which the notion of the transmutability of the protagonist, of the narrator, and of the text itself is foregrounded.

Scholarly contributions have generally focused on the canto's doctrinal core, and paid relatively little attention to its peripheral sections.3 I shall pursue instead a reading of the «marginal» areas of Paradiso V. I shall examine first Beatrice's short proemial explanation, and discuss it within the context of the final verses of the previous canto

to which it is intimately connected; and then proceed to analyze the intriguing interventions with which, in the opening and ending sections of the canto, the narrator interrupts the telling of his story to voice his

post factum comments to the reader. Beneath the surface of this «marginal» narrative there unfolds a metapoetic discourse that reveals

Dante's concern with two capital issues: the question of love's problematic status as a privileged object of literary representations and the question of the nature and purpose of literature itself. While these concerns are voiced, no permanent answers are offered to the problems they raise, as the first half of the canto points to a solution that is then overturned in the canto's second half.

The initial cantos of the Paradiso , dedicated to the Heaven of the Moon, are dominated by lengthy theological and doctrinal discourses and animated by a dramatic pattern of desire and fulfillment. As he enters Paradise, Dante is confronted by things he does not understand, and that raise many doubts and questions in his mind. His intellectual desire is

fulfilled each time by Beatrice, whose explanatory speeches dispel his uncertainties and answer his queries. The pilgrim's desire to know is the

propeller of the ascent through the Heaven of the Moon; Beatrice's answers are its fuel. Each truth that she reveals generates a new question

or a new doubt, that in turn leads to another truth, and so on. This narrative movement is continued in Paradiso V, where Beatrice's speech on the nature of vows responds to a question that Dante had posed at the end of the previous canto.

Between Dante's question in Paradiso IV (136-138) and Beatrice's answer in Paradiso V (19-84), however, a little interlude takes place, which temporarily suspends this narrative movement and disrupts the pattern of desire and fulfillment that so far has driven the story forward,

and the pilgrim upward along his intellectual ascent to truth. Instead of answering Dante's question about unfulfilled vows, Beatrice responds

with a look so dazzling, that he remains bewildered to the point of almost «losing himself» (IV, 139-142). This brief scene is resumed immediately in the proem of Paradiso V (1-12), where Beatrice explains 69

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the cause of her fiery look to Dante. In this little interlude a shift has taken place from the theme of intellectual desire, which has driven the narrative of the first four cantos, to the theme of love, the cardinal

theme of the poem. Beatrice's speech in the proem begins as an explanation of her «fiammeggiar nel caldo d'amore», and ends with a general statement on the nature of love. In the first tercet, she acknowledges the effect that her look has had on Dante. In the second, she begins her explanation, saying that her flaming look of love proceeds from «perfetto veder» (5), which, once it has apprehended the good, moves toward the good it has apprehended.

This first part of Beatrice's explication brings with it a longstanding interpretive problem: whose is the «perfetto veder»? This problem has divided readers, from the earliest commentators to contemporary critics. For according to some, the «perfetto veder» is to be attributed to Beatrice; according to others, to Dante.4 In either case, the following tercet makes it clear that Beatrice's look proceeds from her realization of the progress Dante has made in the intellectual quest that

has driven him since entering Paradise. In a fundamental passage (124-132) in the final section of Paradiso IV - where the narrative movement of these initial cantos is crystallized, turned into a theme, and

presented to the reader of the poem through the perception of its protagonist - Dante had voiced his recognition of the nature and purpose of that quest: the journey to salvation is an intellectual ascent from doubt to truth, from peak to peak, toward the summit of the ultimate truth. «Io veggio ben», he had begun, che già mai non si sazia nostro intelletto, se 'l ver non lo illustra

di fuor dal qual nessun vero si spazia. Posasi in esso, come fera in lustra,

tosto che giunto l'ha; e giugner puollo: se non, ciascun disio sarebbe frustra. Nasce per quello, a guisa di rampollo, a pie del vero il dubbio: ed è natura

ch'ai sommo pinge noi di collo in collo.

«Io veggio ben», now Beatrice echoes, «come già resplende / ne l'intelletto tuo l'etterna luce, / che, vista, sola e sempre amore accende»

(7-9), thus confirming the pilgrim's acquisition of that truth and indicating it as the reason for her dazzling look.

This third tercet of canto V is the pivotal point of Beatrice's proemial speech, where its subject changes from a specific explanation of her flaming look of love to a general exposition of the nature of love 70

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itself and of its role in the human journey toward salvation. The «etterna

luce», as Beatrice explains to Dante, is the sole source of love; and, once it has been seen, it and it alone always kindles love. But when only a trace of the eternal light shines through in the human intellect, and is ill-recognized, then love may be seduced away from its divine source by «other» (namely earthly) things. This statement on the nature of love is one of two in the Commedia that put it in such essential and clear terms. In Purgatorio XVII, Virgil had explained to Dante that love

is the source of all things, good and evil («Quinci comprender puoi ch'esser convene / amor sementa in voi d'ogne virtute / e d'ogne operazion che merta pene» [103-105]). If it is misdirected or misapplied,

it leads not to God, but to sin.5 Here, in Paradiso V, the same

paradoxical nature of love is expressed: love is both the principle vehicle toward God, and the primary obstacle on the path to salvation. The episode between Dante and Beatrice in the Heaven of the Moon

is itself an instance of the workings of love. While it resumes the poem's cardinal theme of love in the universal scheme of damnation and redemption, Beatrice's speech takes place nonetheless within the more

specific and personal context of the love between her and Dante. Beatrice's «fiammeggiar nel caldo d'amore» (2), her eyes so full of sparks of love (Par. IV, 139-140) are directed at Dante, and are a response to his progress. Within this context, the whole interlude in Paradiso IV and V can be seen as a new chapter in the unfolding story of the love between Dante and Beatrice that, begun in the Vita nuova , had found its first representation in the poem in the final cantos of the Purgatorio , where the two meet again in the afterworld. The relation

between Dante and Beatrice in this interlude appears radically transformed. In their encounter in the garden of Eden, Dante, who had

felt the old flame of his ancient love rekindled (Purg. XXX, 48), was still ensnared in the «antica rete» (Purg. XXXII, 6) of earthly love, and was sternly castigated by Beatrice, eager to redirect his desire toward the proper kind of love. In the Heaven of the Moon, by contrast, Dante's desire appears to be in perfect unison with Beatrice's will; and it is now Beatrice's own flame of divine love that is kindled.

To add to the complexity of Dante's treatment of the theme of love in this interlude is the presence of a metapoetic discourse that unfolds

beneath the surface of its narrative and places the notion of the dichotomy between earthly and divine love within a specifically literary setting. This discourse is brought to light by the markedly stilnovistic

subtext that underlies the narrative of this passage. Typically stilnovistic motifs appear in the brief scene that concludes canto IV: the

woman's dazzling look and the lover's inability to sustain it, the 71

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destructive effects of that look that produces the lover's loss of identity. Of Cavalcantian memory is the military metaphor of Dante's vanquished

«virtute» fleeing in retreat at the assault of Beatrice's overpowering look, which recalls Guido's anguished representations of the «battle of love» where the lover inevitably concedes defeat {Rime, IX, 9-14 & VII,

9-11): La mia virtù si partio sconsolata, poi che lassò lo core a la battaglia ove madonna è stata: la qual degli occhi suoi venne a ferire in tal guisa, ch'Amore ruppe tutti miei spiriti a fuggire... Per li occhi venne la battaglia in pria che ruppe ogne valore immantenente, si che del colpo fu strutta la mente.^

Stilnovistic echoes resound also throughout the proem of Paradiso V, not only in line 3 («sì che del viso tuo vinco il valore»), which resumes the motif of the woman's blinding look and of the lover's defeat, but also, and again through the mediation of a Cavalcantian echo, in line 7

(«Io veggio ben sì come già resplende») which, as Cesare Gárboli has noticed, is modeled upon a verse («Io veggio che negli occhi suoi risplende») from Guido's ballad «Posso degli occhi miei novella dire» (Rime, XXV, 11). What is the function and meaning of this revisitation of the stilnovo within the context of this paradisiac «storia d'amore» (Gárboli, 7)? Is its purpose uniquely to emphasize the difference between

the stilnovistic/Cavalcantian conception of love as fundamentally unknowable and therefore conducive to error, and the conception of love

that emerges in this canto, and throughout the Paradiso , according to which love is knowledge and leads to salvation? The revisitation of the stilnovo in Paradiso V is part of an ongoing

metapoetic discourse within the Commedia regarding the whole stilnovistic experience, including Dante's own. Initiated in Inferno V,

with Francesca's stilnovistic citation («Amor ch'ai cor gentil ratto s'apprende» [100]), 7 which brings into the narrative Dante's own poetry

of love, and carried on in Purgatorio XXIV and XXVI, where the

discussion on this poetry is continued in the encounters with Bonagiunta da Lucca and Guido Guinizzelli, this discourse is Dante's reassessment of a poetics of love that, within the context of the Commedia , is presented as flawed by a profound and dangerous ambiguity.8 A similar point has been recently made by Lino Pertile. 72

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Defying widely accepted interpretations of Dante's encounter with Bonagiunta, which relate the pilgrim's process of redemption to «the notion of Dante's recuperation of the stilnovo as an ideologically sound

philosophy of love» (5 7), 9 Pertile points to the gap that in fact separates the poetry of the stilnovo , which «in spite of all its spirituality and its power of sublimation [...] tends ultimately toward the active kind of love, in other words, toward lust» (69), and the poetry

of the Commedia , which is «a poetry that saves» (71). In his view, whenever «the dolce stil nuovo is revisited by the poet of the Comedy , [it is] not to recuperate it or to redeem it, but to reveal its limitations and to transcend it» (70). 10 When considered within the broader thematic context of the role

that the stilnovo plays in the Commedia , the narrative interlude that unfolds from Paradiso IV to Paradiso V acquires a deeper significance. It can be read not only as yet another rejection of the love poetics of the stilnovo , but also as an indication of the new poetics of love that has replaced it in the Commedia. In it, the ambiguous and morally risky juxtaposition of earthly and divine love that had marked the poetry of

the stilnovo is dispelled not only in Beatrice's authoritative and unequivocal explanation of what sets these two kinds of love apart, but also in the representation of the renewed «storia d'amore» between Dante and Beatrice. That story had found its first representation in Dante's stilnovistic libello , the Vita nuova ; and it is in terms of Dante's own

stilnovistic experience that his rejection of the stilnovo within the Commedia must be considered. In the Purgatorio , that chapter in the

author's exploration of the theme of love is brought to a definite conclusion. Object of the confrontation between Dante and Beatrice in

the garden of Eden is precisely the story of their past love. In the account of that encounter, Dante the character appears still projected backwards in time toward the Beatrice of the youthful libello. References

to time past abound: the time that has elapsed between their last encounter and this one (XXX, 34-36); the time that Dante has spent longing for one more chance to see Beatrice (XXXII, 1-2); the time when he first saw her (XXX, 41-42). Their past love is not only the object of the conversation that takes place in that encounter, it is also the filter through which Dante the character still perceives Beatrice. This can be seen in the account of his reaction at the first sight of Beatrice,

when he «felt the mighty power of old love» («d'antico amor sentì la gran potenza», XXX, 39); in the words that he intends for Virgil, who

is however gone, and will not hear them (XXX, 46-48); in the description of Beatrice's smile that draws his eyes to itself with the power of its «old net» (XXXII, 5-6). In the Earthly Paradise, Dante the 73

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character revisits his time past, the time of a love that can now be called

«old», the object of the narrative of the Vita nuova . Beatrice, instead, wants him to look forward, and to move on to a new kind of love. This new love is the object of the narrative of the Paradiso. A new chapter in the unfolding «storia d'amore» between Beatrice and Dante - and in the author's exploration of the theme of love - begins in the last cantica of the Commedia.

The representation of this new love in the Paradiso is achieved mostly through the novel characterization of Beatrice. Reinventing her is one of Dante's greatest challenges in the «ultimo lavoro» {Par. 1, 13). The Beatrice of the Commedia presents features that the Beatrice of the Vita nuova did not possess, and that no other stilnovistic woman had ever had the privilege of possessing. Unlike the speechless «angiola» of the libello , whose existence in the narrative is always mediated through the words of the narrator, and filtered through the perception of the protagonist (privileged focalizer of the entire narrative), the Beatrice of the poem exists mostly through her own words. She is the predominant speaker of the Paradiso , where she has become the «fonte onď ogne ver

deriva», whose «parlar ... inonda / e scalda ... e ... avviva» {Par. IV, 116, 119-120). Not anymore the silent, unlimitedly pliable object of the lover's desire as in the Vita nuova , she seems now to reject, through her own words, her former passive role to become the controlling subject of a renewed relation. She is not just a projection of the lover's mind, but a

self-defining character, whose representation in the poem is often autonomous from - and at times antagonistically contrasted to - the still earthbound perspective of the protagonist. The novelty of the poetics of love in the Commedia resides in the creation of this double

perspective, in which the ambiguous stilnovistic juxtaposition of the earthly and the divine is dissolved through the transfiguration of Beatrice

into an autonomous and self-defining figure, unequivocal manifestation of the divine and embodiment of the right kind of love.

While these features define in general the new Beatrice of the Paradiso in contrast with the stilnovistic Beatrice, an additional feature is presented in the narrative interlude between cantos IV and V. In it, for

the first time in this «storia d'amore», Beatrice is not anymore the beloved, but she is herself the lover. With this transformation of Beatrice who, from being the passive object of Dante's desire, becomes the dominant subject of a renewed relation, the inversion of the love

poetics of the stilnovo , within the new poetics of love of the Commedia , seems completed. But Dante daringly carries this transformation another step further: he has the narrator of Paradiso V hand the making of the poem over to Beatrice, and declare her the author 74

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of this «canto» (16). With this narratological sleight of hand, Dante makes of Beatrice the textual embodiment of his new poetics of love. Why does she need to explain the reason for her look to Dante? And why does she need to add that closing remark on the difference between earthly and heavenly love? A preliminary answer to these questions is

contained in Beatrice's own speech. The fact that she prefaces her explanation by telling Dante not to be surprised by her look («non ti maravigliar...», 4) is a clear indication that Dante was in fact surprised

by it, that he did not understand it, and that his reaction to it was inappropriate. For all his intellectual progress, Dante is not yet equipped to interpret the meaning of Beatrice's fiery look of love. He actually misreads it, and reacts to it in the guise of a typically stilnovistic lover. Another function of the stilnovistic subtext in Paradiso IV and V is

to reveal that the pilgrim's perception of Beatrice is still clouded by the risky ambiguity that was at the root of stilnovo love, and that the moral dangers of erotic desire are still a hazard for Dante the character.11 How

do we otherwise account for the strongly suggestive phrase «e quasi mi perdei» at the end of canto IV? Or for the otherwise gratuitous insistence with which Beatrice - after her prolonged and exhaustive exposition in the final cantos of the Purgatorio - returns, in the proem of canto V,

to the explanation of the difference between earthly love, which is seduction and error (10-12), and her own heavenly love, which is «di là dal modo che 'n terra si vede» (2)? Although pleased with the progress of her charge toward the achievement of the ultimate truth, Beatrice has

also seen in his near losing of himself «i segni de l'antica fiamma»

(Purg. XXX, 48), the «vestigio» (a momentous Virgilian reminiscence?)12 of the «antica rete» (Purg. XXXII, 6), and proceeds, with her explanation, to correct and redirect her lover's desire toward the proper kind of love.

The fundamental errancy of desire, which is at the root not only of

Cavalcantian love poetry, but also of Dante's own stilnovo , is still present in the Paradiso. In the pilgrim's «transmutable» perspective, Beatrice is not always the transparent and unambiguous symbol of divine love, the means through which the ultimate truth is revealed and explicated to him, she is also a symbol of earthly love, the object of a not always theologically sublimated desire.13 At the end of Paradiso IV, caught between these two antithetical modes of perceiving and desiring

his beloved, between the tenacious memory of the Beatrice he had created out of his stilnovistic imagination and the new Beatrice who now escorts him through the heavens of Paradise, Dante the character dangerously wavers. Beatrice's intervention, at the beginning of Paradiso

V, aims at saving him from that danger, at redirecting him from the 75

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intricate «selva» of erotic desire toward the «diritta via» of redemptive love. The conversion from the love poetics of the stilnovo to the love poetics of the Commedia , as it occurs in this narrative interlude, is not a smooth transition. While the new Beatrice in the poem clearly points to

the direction of its reformed poetics of love, the unpredictable «transmutability» of her all too human lover - conveyed by the presence of a markedly stilnovistic subtext - constitutes a disruptive thematic and formal counter-current that undermines the new «new

style» of the love poetry of Paradiso V.

Supporting this interpretation, and shedding new light on the significance of the interlude in Paradiso IV and V, is an additional parallel that can be drawn between it and Inferno V. What brings them

together is not only the fact that they are both part of Dante's reassessment of the stilnovo within the Commedia , but also the fact thai Inferno V itself is present as a subtext in this narrative interlude.14 Echoes from Inferno V resound both in Beatrice's explanation of the

cause of her flaming look in the proem of Paradiso V, and in the description of Dante's reaction to that look at the end of Paradiso IV. The phrases that describe Dante's reaction in the final verse of canto

IV - «e quasi mi perdei» and «con li occhi chini» (142) - recall the similar phrases - «e fui quasi smarrito» (72) and «china' il viso» (110) - that describe Dante's reactions in the fifth canto of the Inferno to the procession of illustrious «peccator carnali» (38) and to the first part of

Francesca's story of love and damnation.15 The identity of

psychological and physical signs that both sets of phrases describe becomes significant once the similarity of the thematic and formal contexts in which they appear is taken into consideration. Central in both Inferno V and the interlude in Paradiso IV and V is the fundamental theme of love;16 and in both, Dante's treatment of this theme occurs

through a revisitation of stilnovistic motifs that reveals his ongoing metapoetic concern with the problem of literary representations of love. Concealed behind the identity of the signs that the protagonist manifests

in both episodes, is, however, a significant dissimilarity. This dissimilarity allows us to read them as two discrete stages along the major itinerary that marks, throughout the poem, Dante's exploration of the theme of love. As several readers of Inferno V have pointed out, the bewilderment that overtakes Dante in the second circle of Hell results

not only from his realization of the fateful consequences of unchecked erotic desire, but also from his recognition of the moral ambiguity at the root of the representations of love that characterized a large sector of the literature of his times, including courtly romances and treatises, the 76

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poetry of the Provençal troubadours and of their Italian imitators, the lyric of the stilnovist poets and of Dante himself. His reaction therefore cannot be seen simply and generically as that of a Christian Everyman embarked upon a journey toward salvation, but also, and more precisely, as the response of a «character-poet», whose present identity as actor of

the Commedia comprises his past literary experience as auctor and singer of love.17 The phrases «e quasi mi perdei» and «con gli occhi chini» in Paradiso IV, describe identical psychological and physical

signs. Their subject, however, is not, as in Inferno V, the «personaggio-poeta» who ponders on the ethical implications of literary

representations of love and is emotionally overwhelmed at the realization of his responsibility in Francesca's tragedy of damnation, but

a Dante who, as we have seen, appears strikingly similar to the protagonists of many stilnovistic love poems. In Paradiso IV, the protagonist of the Commedia appears not, as in Inferno V, in the guise of a stilnovist auctor , but rather in the guise of a stilnovistic actor.

This substantial difference seems to mark a regression rather than a

progress along the pilgrim's educational journey. An explanation for this regression may be found once we realize that a major event has taken place between the two episodes: the definitive entrance of Beatrice on the scene of the poem, an event that brings into the narrative Dante's

own personal and direct involvement in the experience of love. In the Heaven of the Moon, Dante's love story with Beatrice resumes, and with it the errancy of desire that overtakes him and causes his near-losing of himself.18 Not unlike Francesca who had misread the love lyrics of the stilnovist poets and the narrative recounting the love between Lancelot and Guinevere, now Dante misreads Beatrice, whom he still perceives as the object of the «antico amor» that he had sung in his youthful libello . With unconscious easiness, he responds to Beatrice's dazzling look by sliding back into the old role that he had played in that same text, thus

revealing his temporary inability to read Beatrice outside of the stilnovistic framework into which he had first cast her. To learn how to

read her aright, as a transparent vehicle to divine love rather than as an object of earthly love, will remain one of the goals of the otherwordly traveller throughout the heavenly ascent.19 Echoes from Inferno V resound also in the proem of Paradiso V. They resonate not only in Beatrice's triple repetition, in the brief space of ten verses (1, 9, 10), of the word «amore», which mirrors Francesca's

famous triple anaphora of the same key word in the last three tercets

(100, 103, 106) of her first speech, but also in Beatrice's «comedie» exploitation of a distinctively stilnovistic subtext (the Cavalcantian verse in line 7), which closely parallels, and subverts, Francesca's tragic 77

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appropriation and conflation of the verses from Dante's and Guinizzelli's

love poems (100). Beatrice's echoing of Francesca's speech is a distinctively «corrective» one.20 While Francesca, in seeking a justification for her fatal action, had quoted verses from those stilnovist

poets who most had exalted the sweetness, nobility, and redemptive power of love, Beatrice, whose aim is to redirect her charge's desire away from earthly love, echoes a verse from the most tragic of the stilnovist poets for whom love is error and its object fundamentally unknowable. Francesca's misreading is inverted in Beatrice's purposeful manipulation

of Cavalcanti, whose verse she quotes only to turn its meaning in a markedly anti-Cavalcantian direction. While in its original context the

verse was used to express the concept that love is unknowable and conducive to error, in the new context of Beatrice's speech the verse is used to express exactly the opposite concept: that love and knowledge are inseparable. On the one hand, therefore, Beatrice's «emendation» of

the original text aims at unmasking the error that had flawed the discourse on love carried on not exclusively by Cavalcanti, but also witness, within the fabula of the Commedia , the tragic destiny of Francesca - by all stilnovist poets. That neither Francesca nor Beatrice should find it difficult to appropriate these texts, and to turn them each

to her own purpose is an additional authorial pointer to the risky pliability and ambiguity of the stilnovistic poetics of love. On the other

hand, Beatrice's «corrective» intervention, which is, within its immediate context, primarily intended as a lesson for her direct interlocutor, points to his error. Her revisitation of the stilnovo points, in other words, to the fact that the moral ambiguity inherent in its conception of love is still a risk for Dante the character who, even in the heights of heaven, cannot entirely elude his earthbound perspective, the «modo che 'n terra si vede», the inescapable errancy of desire.

Intimately connected to Beatrice's «authorial» interpolano of the

Cavalcantian verse in Paradiso V, 7, is the additional, and far more daring, process of metaphorization she undergoes in the first narratorial intrusion that ends the proem and leads to yet another revealing parallel with Inferno V. A symbol of Eros, both earthly and divine, Beatrice

becomes in this intriguing passage (16-18) also a symbol of the text


Sì cominciò Beatrice questo canto; e sì com' uom che suo parlar non spezza,

continuò cosi 'l processo santo. As some recent studies have indicated,22 the first verse of this tercet is


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not to be read, as the most widely accepted interpretation would have it,

as Dante's «modo ellittico» (Reggio) to mean simply that Beatrice «cominciò ad esporre il problema che costituisce la materia di questo canto» (Sapegno). The word «canto» in line 16 has a strictly technical meaning: it denotes one of the principal structural units into which the poem is divided. With the same meaning the word appears in three other

narratorial intrusions in the poem: the first in the opening lines of Inferno XX («Di nova pena mi conven far versi / e dar matera al ventesimo canto»), the second in Inferno XXXIII, 90 («e li altri due che 'l canto suso appella»), and the last one at the end of Paradiso V itself

(«nel modo che il seguente canto canta» [139]). In all these instances, the word points to the authorial role of the narrator engaged in the composition of the poem. What is remarkable about its occurrence in Paradiso V, 16 is that here the «canto» appears to be the product not of the narrator's, but of Beatrice's own doing. The formal structuring of this unit of the poem is, in other words, attributed directly to Beatrice, who thus appropriates the narrator's authorial role, while the narrator himself appears to be simply a scribe of her «canto».23 As Teodolinda Barolini has aptly pointed out, «he is a scribe ... who has resigned not only the content of his text but even its disposition, its arrangement

into beginnings, middles, and ends» (189-190): it is Beatrice who «begins» canto V. Dante presents us here with a daring juxtaposition of narrative levels: the diegetic level in which the events of the journey occur, and to which Beatrice and the reality of the otherworld belong; and the primary level in which the narrator's recording of those events takes place, and to which only the narrator and his narratee belong.24 By having a character cross the threshold that marks the boundaries between the two distinct narrative levels in the poem, Dante attempts, within the

fictional universe he has created, a bold conflation of «reality» (the fictional reality, that is, in which Beatrice exists) and «textuality» (the exclusively verbal dimension to which the narrator's voice belongs and in which, we are supposed to believe, the production of the text of the poem takes place).25 A similar conflation of textuality and reality takes place in Inferno V. Like Beatrice who, from being an actor in Dante's poem, becomes its

proclaimed auctor , Francesca too, although following an inverted trajectory, oversteps the boundaries that separate textuality from reality,

literature from life, and, from being a lector of a story about love, becomes an actor engaged in the real-life reenactment of that story. In Inferno V, the conflation of textuality and reality leads Francesca to

eternal damnation. In Paradiso V, it is, instead, part of a process intended to lead to salvation. What «lesson», if any, can then the reader 79

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of the Commedia learn from the apparently contradictory message that

these parallel cantos deliver about the relation of literature (and, in particular, literary representations of love) to life? On the one hand, the story of Francesca contains a warning to the reader regarding the dangers inherent in any attempt to recreate in real life what happens in books, and in particular a warning not to be seduced by literary representations of erotic love, a kind of love that may lead to error and damnation. As Susan Noakes observes, Francesca «does not realize that what she reads

is literature and not life, a convention with no necessary and direct applicability to herself» (47). Beatrice's «canto», on the other hand, seems to contain an open invitation to its readers (implicitly evoked in the second person plural pronoun «vostro» of line 10, which addresses

the readers of the poem, no less than the pilgrim) to do exactly the opposite: to strive to model their existences upon the principles it expounds, to seek to attain in life the kind of love it represents and that leads to salvation.

The resolution of this apparent contradiction lies not only in the obvious difference of content that distinguishes Beatrice's «canto» from Francesca's readings, and that makes of the first, which advocates the Tightness of divine love, an unequivocal reversal of the latter, which are representations of earthly, erotic love. Another, and no less fundamental, difference sets their texts apart, a difference that concerns opposite modes

of literary representation and antithetical conceptions of the relation that exists between literature and life. The discourse on love carried on in

Francesca's texts is marked by ambiguity, it is open to multiple interpretations, and may even be appropriated by readers who, like herself, can find in its pliable ideology a viable justification for their

own erotic escapades. Delivered from the point of view of eternity, Beatrice's authorial and authoritative discourse on love is a «processo santo» (18) that leaves no room for ambiguity. And if the possibility of

misreading Beatrice is, as we have seen, still present, the unreliable reader is not allowed to persist in error. For Beatrice not only detects the possibility of misreading, but actually incorporates it in her text in order to lead the reader toward her intended meaning. In Inferno V, Dante had

passed a judgment on the moral dangers of the love poetics of the romances and of the stilnovo ; in the Beatrician proem of Paradiso V, he offers the model of an alternative poetics of love in which all ambiguity

is set aside, in order to guide the reader, just as Beatrice guides the pilgrim, on the path to salvation. Paradiso V subverts the conception of the relation between reality and textuality, between truth and fiction, that both the pilgrim and the reader of the poem were led to infer from the story of Francesca. As 80

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Angelo Jacomuzzi remarks in his fine reading of Inferno V, the episode of Francesca points to the radical alterity that exists between life and literature, and is a reminder that the latter is nothing other than a system

of conventions and artifice, «nichil aliud quam fictio» (231). Behind Beatrice's appropriation of the authorial role that, within the poem, is

the exclusive prerogative of the narrator {qua figura auctoris ), one detects, on the contrary, Dante's effort to dissolve that alterity, an attempt to create, through this authorial self-effacing gesture, the effect

that «the fiction» of Paradiso V - one could say echoing Singleton's well-known formula - «is that it is not a fiction» (62), that the canto we read is indeed a «processo santo», a true artifact bearing the seal of a divine author.

In one of his «endpapers», the editor of this journal once proposed to append an addendum to Singleton's famous tenet, whose reverse, he

argued, is true as well: «the fiction of the Comedy is that it is a fiction». He explained his addendum by remarking how «great narrators always knew ... the universal need for suspension of ... belief », and how

«Dante's narrative, as all great narrative, is the result of the tension between believing and not believing». The presence of this tension in

Dante's poem, he concluded, is precisely what «separates his creation from God's», what «distinguishes his book from the Bible» (Wlassics, 143). One of the places in the poem in which this tension most clearly emerges is the first narratorial intervention in Paradiso V. We have seen how, by having the narrator delegate the ultimate responsibility of the text to Beatrice, Dante aims at creating the effect that the fiction of

Paradiso V is «that it is not a fiction». In the same intrusion by the narrator, however, Dante has him remind us that the opposite is also true, and that the fiction of Paradiso V is that it is indeed a fiction. The arbitrariness of the daring metaphorization of Beatrice as symbol of the text emerges, in fact, in the «authorial» gesture of the narrator who, at

the same time as he tells us of the continuity of Beatrice's speech (17-18), deems it necessary to interrupt that speech with his own intrusion.26 By overtly interrupting Beatrice's «continuous» text, the narrator manifestly points to his own authorial practice, to the need of structuring his canto into well defined sections, and of articulating his narrative with pauses and variety. One of the functions of this narratorial

intrusion is, in fact, to set aside the initial part of Beatrice's speech which is a continuation, as we have seen, of the interlude begun at the

end of Paradiso IV - from its remaining part, which constitutes the doctrinal core of the canto.

Displaying the same propensity for transmutability that 81

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characterizes his diegetic counterpart, the narrator too is caught wavering between two poles. He plays, in fact, two different and opposite roles in

this canto, whereby he appears at once as a scribe-figure, a mere transcriber of a text authored by one other than himself, and as an author-figure, whose presence in the narrative points to his own authorship of a text that he is not simply transcribing, but actually creating, shaping, and structuring according to the dictates of his art. The narrator-author is a subversive counter-function of the

narrator-scribe. The conflation of reality and textuality that marks the

scribe's attribution of the authorship of the canto to Beatrice is in fact undermined by the narrator's authorial gesture whose effect is precisely the opposite: that of emphasizing the difference, the gap, that exists between the «reality» in which Beatrice delivers her continuous speech and the purely textual nature of his discontinuous rendering of that speech. And if this gap seems to disappear in the second intrusion in the

canto, where the narrator seals Beatrice's doctrinal speech by underscoring his faithful transcription of her words («Così Beatrice a me come io scrivo» [85]), it is only to be reproposed, in a more forceful and unambiguous way, in the other self-conscious narratorial interventions that appear in the canto's final section, where the narrator decidedly

abandons his scribal pose and takes on a markedly authorial role. After Beatrice's long explanatory speech, the narrative of Paradiso

V takes an abrupt turn. Beatrice suddenly falls silent and «trasmuta sembiante» (88). Her sudden transmutation, which silences Dante's «cupido ingegno, / che già nuove questioni avea davante» (89-90), is soon explained to be the visible sign of a spatial transmutation: the ascent to the Heaven of Mercury, which the two travellers through Paradise enter with the speed of an arrow that hits its target even before

the bowstring has ceased vibrating (92). Moreover, Beatrice's joy at entering the Heaven of Mercury magnifies the already splendid brightness of the planet (97), and causes her lover, «trasmutabile per tutte guise» (99), to experience, in turn, a transmutation of his own. No sooner do the two extraordinary visitors enter the planet, than «ben più

di mille splendori» (103), the souls of this heaven, appear and start drawing toward them. Having built such a high degree of expectation with the swift unfolding of his narrative of transmutations, the narrator suddenly and unexpectedly interrupts the telling of his story and directly

addresses the reader to point to his own transmutation and to the transmutability of his text (109-1 14):27 Pensa, lettor, se quel che qui s'inizia non procedesse, come tu avresti


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di più savere angosciosa carizia; e per te vederai come da questi m'era in disio d'udir lor condizioni, sì come a li occhi mi fur manifesti.

Having set aside his humble scribal pose, the narrator takes on in this address a bold and unambiguous authorial role. He invites the reader to contemplate the shocking hypothesis of an authorial silence that would leave this new beginning («quel che qui s'inizia», namely the pilgrim's

new adventure in the Heaven of Mercury) with no middle or end to follow it. He goes even so far as to envision the reader's distress, his anguished and baffled desire («angosciosa carizia»), at this unexpected authorial gesture that would deprive him of his right «di più savere», of his desire for narrative closure.

The relation between narrator and reader in this address mirrors the relation between Beatrice and Dante the character in the interlude that

unfolds through the end of Paradiso IV and the beginning of Paradiso V: both are shaped by the dynamics of desire. We have seen how in that interlude a thematic shift comes about that marks the passage from the motif of Dante's intellectual desire to the contrasting motif of his erotic desire. In the address there comes a similar shift. In order to help his reader to envisage the pilgrim's desire to know about the conditions of the souls in the Heaven of Mercury, the narrator asks him to imagine what his own desire to know more about the story he is reading would be like, if he were to put a halt to his telling. The effect of the narrator's address, however, goes far beyond its declared intention, namely the satisfaction of the reader's intellectual desire for an effective and detailed

account of the events of the story, as it inevitably compels its readers to

reflect not only on the pilgrim's condition, but also on their own condition as readers, on the nature of their desire for narrative closure,

and on the intricate mechanics and pleasures of the process of reading. The narrator in this address seems to conduct the readers of the poem onto a route that leads in the opposite direction, and that takes them, at least momentarily, away from the events of the story narrated, and

allows them to linger in a sort of textual eroticism. By «almost roguishly» (Spitzer, 151) pointing to the decisional power he has to fulfill or baffle, as he wishes, the reader's desire for narrative closure and actually threatening him with a lectura interrupta , the narrator does not

only succeed in giving an adequate representation of the pilgrim's desire

to know about the souls of Mercury, he also creates, by simply supposing it (Spitzer, 152), the reader's own desire to go on with the reading of the story. He seduces, in other words, the readers, by creating


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in them an awareness of the pleasures of reading. A clever trick of the

narrator's art, the threat is not carried out, and the story resumes. Clearly, the canto that now draws to its end is not Beatrice's canto anymore. By formulating the hypothesis of a different unfolding of his

tale, and thus underscoring the conscious choice he has made among potentially limitless narrative possibilities, by pointing to the reader's total and inescapable dependence on his narrative choices, the narrator has powerfully regained his role as author. The canto has returned to the narrator's paternity.28

The parallel themes of Dante the character's intellectual desire and of the reader's desire for narrative closure return in the canto's last

tercets. After one of the souls of Mercury (whom we will later know to

be Justinian) invites the pilgrim to satiate his desire to know about them at his own pleasure (e però, se disii / di noi chiarirti, a tuo piacer

ti sazia» [119-120]), Dante heeds Beatrice's admonishment to speak securely («dì, dì / sicuramente» [122-123]), and asks the soul about his identity and his rank in that heaven. The canto ends with the pilgrim's question yet unanswered, and with the narrator's promise to the readers of the poem that the soul's answer will be offered to them «nel modo

che '1 seguente canto canta» (139). The narrator-author, master manipulator of the reader's desire for closure, reappears in this last intrusion to confirm again the passing of authorship from Beatrice to himself. The word «canto», which had appeared in the first narratorial intrusion (16) of Paradiso V, retums here to attest and seal this passage.

Not unlike the previous address to the reader, this «wholly artificial, metapoetically imposed transition» (Barolini, 264) re-establishes within the narrative of Paradiso V that alterity between literature and life that, in the first half of the canto, both the authorial role of Beatrice and the subservient scribal role of the narrator himself

had attempted to erase. The reformed poetics of Paradiso V, which Beatrice embodies, appears then to be doubly undercut: not only by the presence of her transmutable lover, but also, as we have just seen, by the presence of a no less transmutable narrator. The locus of conflicting

and unresolved tensions - between two kinds of love, two modes of literary representations, two conceptions of the nature of literature itself

- the fifth canto of the Paradiso is indeed, as Lionella Coglievina aptly

suggested, a «piccola summa» (58) of the Commedia in its entirety. «Trasmutabile per tutte guise», Paradiso V appears to be at once the work of heaven (the sacred and authoritative text of a heavenly author) and the work of earth (the supremely literary artifact of an all too human

author), a canto, in short, «al quale ha posto mano e cielo e terra» (Par.

XXV, 2) 84

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^The Commedia is cited from Petrocchi's edition. All quotations of the text in English are from the translation by Allen Mandelbaum. 2 All the commentaries to the Commedia referred to or quoted in this essay

were consulted on the Dante Dartmouth Project (DDP), available via TELNET through the Dartmouth Library (lib.dartmouth.edu). For the DDP, see Hollander.

■^For a detailed treatment of the «questione dei voti», see the studies by Pastore Stocchi (1972), Tartaro (1980), Oliva (1987), and the more recent contribution by Mazzotta (1993). The only exceptions to this consolidated critical practice are the lecturae by Cesare Gárboli (1971) and by Lionella Coglievina (1986) who, although not disregarding the theological content, direct their attention to other aspects of the canto as well. The first critic devotes a great part of his essay to a discussion of the renewed love story between Dante and Beatrice that takes place in the narrative interlude unfolding through the end of Paradiso IV and the proem of Paradiso V. The latter concentrates on the intertextual and intratextual

echoes that relate this canto to others in the poem and to other works by

Dante. For previous lecturae of Paradiso V, see Zardo (1903), Sacchetto (1943), Montanari (1961), Chiari (1964), and Pasquazi (1966).

^For a discussion, see Coglievina, 50. I believe, as she does, that the «perfetto vedere» is to be attributed to Dante. One additional textual pointer to the validity of this interpretation - besides the convincing

argumentations of Coglievina - is the passage in Paradiso III, 27-28: «poi sopra 'l vero ancor lo pie non fida, / ma te rivolve, come suole, a vóto...». In this passage, the same metaphor of the foot, which appears in Paradiso V («perfetto veder, che, come apprende, / cosi nel bene appreso muove il piede»), is used to describe Dante's laborious ascent through the Heaven of the Moon.

5The continuation of Virgil's discourse in the following canto, where the explanation of the nature of love turns into a discussion on the significance of free will, contains a double proleptic reference to Beatrice's own speech in Paradiso V: «Quanto ragion qui vede, / dir ti poss' io; da indi in là t'aspetta / pur a Beatrice ch'è opra di fede» «La nobile virtù Beatrice intende / per lo libero arbitrio, e però guarda / che l'abbi a mente, s'a parlar ten prende» ( [Pur g . XVIII, 46-48 & 73-75).

"Similarly suggestive with this regard are the following verses by Cino:

«[che già non oso sguardar] la sua cera, / dalla quale esce un ardente splendore / che toile a li occhi miei tutto valore» (LXXIV, 8-10 [Savona, 110]); and by Lapo: «Allor bassa' li miei / per lo tu' raggio che mi giunse al core / entro 'n quel punto ch'io la riguardai» (XI, 15-17 [Savona, 183]).

2 See, for all, Contini (43-44): «le terzine dell'anafora amorosa [...] si aprono su una citazione o parafrasi ad hominem : 'Amor ch'ai cor gentil ratto s'apprende.' Si dice citazione ad hominem perché, se essa rinvia allo stesso incipit guinizzelliano, 'Al cor gentil rempaira [...] sempre Amore', 85

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coniugato con l'inizio della seconda stanza, 'Foco d'amore in gentil cor s'apprende', essa può anche rimandare implicitamente, diciamo in secondo grado, alla citazione della Vita nuova : 'Amore e '1 cor gentil sono una cosa, / si come il saggio in suo dittare pone'». ° Commenting on this ambiguity, in his discussion of the stilnovistic subtext in Inferno V, Gioacchino Paparelli writes: «Il Dolce Stil Nuovo s'era in fondo alimentato di un'illusione alla cui base stava proprio un equivoco tra ragione estetica e ragione morale: l'illusione che l'amore, in quanto sintesi di gentilezza e virtù, non fosse peccato. Idealizzando la donna e facendone un mezzo di elevazione a Dio e di perfezione morale, aveva conferito movenze e aspirazioni religiose alla materia 'cortese' venuta di Provenza. ... Da ciò derivò quel clima di esasperato estetismo (una vera e propria mitologia dell'amore) in cui gli elementi profani tendevano continuamente a configurarsi in termini religiosi, l'amor sensibilis a confondersi con l'amor intellectualis. Or proprio nella reazione a questo ambiguo estetismo; nella denuncia di quell'equivoco che stava alla base del concetto di donna-angelo; nel ripudio della poetica cortese ...; e insomma in una netta distinzione tra amor sacro e amor profano, sta il senso della conversione di Dante: del lungo itinerario dalla Beatrice della Vita Nuova a quella del Paradiso» (179-180). An essentially polemical canto, Inferno V is for Paparelli «il punto di scontro tra la vecchia e la nuova poetica di Dante» (183). Its stilnovistic subtext marks the «sconfessione della poetica di amore e cor gentile », and the «denuncia della sua funzione 'galeotta'» (182). - See also Sapegno's gloss to Inferno V, 140: «dal caso di Francesca e di Paolo [il personaggio Dante] è condotto a riesaminare e valutare tutta una posizione sentimentale e culturale, della quale anch' egli ha lungamente accolto le ambigue soluzioni» (emphasis added). In the same vein, Contini reads the episode of Paolo and Francesca as a going beyond, within the reformed poetics of the Commedia , of the old poetics of love of the stilnovo : «Che Dante superi Paolo, e che Beatrice superi Francesca [...]. vuol dire che è oltrepassato lo stadio dell'amor cortese, della mera 'probitas,' dell'etica mondana, che perdura nello Stil Novo e si prolunga nella Vita nuova (45).

^Contini, Sanguineti, Sapegno, Bosco are the critics mentioned by Pertile. luFor further discussions of the moral ambiguity that underlies the love poetics of the stilnovo , see Barberi Squarotti (1972), and Avalle (1977). ^On the basis of the fundamental distinction between Dante the character and Dante the narrator, on which he bases his argument, Pertile attributes

the rejection of the love poetics of the stilnovo in Purgatorio XXIV to Dante the narrator only, and contends that this truth is in that episode not yet grasped by Dante the character, who will appropriate it only later, after undergoing the purge of fire and confronting Beatrice in the garden of Eden.

Even so, however, Pertile notices how the character's acquisition of this truth is not a permanent achievement, as proven, for example, by the episode of the encounter with Matelda (Purg. XXVIII, 70-75), or by the «troppo fiso!» warning of the divine women {Purg. XXXIII, 9) in the 86

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Earthly Paradise.

^On the significance of this Virgilian allusion in the Commedia , see Hawkins, 123.

l^On the symbolic ambiguity of Beatrice in the Commedia , see Carugati, 116-118.

14 The presence of this subtext in Paradiso IV and V has, to the best of my

knowledge, received little attention from critics. See Coglievina, 64; Hawkins, 123-124; Noakes, 55.

1^ While some commentators (Singleton, Torraca, Grandgent) have noticed the similarity between the two phrases in Inferno V, 72 and Paradiso IV, 142, they do not provide any explanation of its significance. 16For a recent and enlightening discussion of this theme and of its relation to the parallel theme of desire in the Commedia , see Ferrucci.

^Similarly, Jacomuzzi remarks: «La constatazione, angosciata fino allo 'smarrimento', del rovesciamento dell'amore in colpa e dannazione non emerge dall'osservazione diretta di una situazione esistenziale, non si esprime unicamente in termini di etica e psicologia, ma si definisce nel punto d'intersezione fra il dato naturalistico, la notizia di cronaca e la loro traduzione e trasfigurazione in termini di memoria storico-poetica: la partecipazione dantesca, proprio nella fitta trama dei segni mutuati alla tradizione letteraria in cui si dissimula, raggiunge il grado estremo d'intensità, dalla pietà all'ironia allo smarrimento totale, perché vi è sollecitata non nella forma generica dell'uomo e del cristiano, ma in quella specifica del lettore e del poeta, che registra il tragico scarto e le contraddizioni fra i risultati e le persuasioni della letteratura e il loro realissimo esito escatologico» (206).

l°In the instant of bewilderment that overtakes him, Dante seems momentarily to have forgotten not only the dramatic testimony of Francesca's tragic destiny, but also all that he had learned along his purgatorial ascent concerning the double nature of love. In two other important stages along the capital thematic itinerary that I have been tracing, Virgil first had explained to him the fundamental distinction between the «buoni e rei amori» ( Purg . XVIII, 66) and had exposed the falsehood of any doctrine predicating «ciascun amore in sé laudabil cosa» (Purg. XVIII, 36); Beatrice later had warned him about the vanity of earthly beauty («le belle membra in ch'io / rinchiusa fui, e che so' 'n terra sparte»,

Purg. XXXI, 50-51) and about the risk of his falling again into the net («rete», Purg. XXXI, 63) of erotic love: «e perché altra volta, / udendo le serene, sie più forte» (Purg. XXXI, 44-45).

For a similar discussion of Dante's misreading of Beatrice in the Commedia , see Hawkins, 129-130.

20 According to Noakes, Francesca's stilnovistic allusion finds in Paradiso V, 7-12 not only its «correction», but also its «fulfillment» (55). 21 For a different reading of Beatrice as symbol of the text in the Commedia , see Johnson-Haddad.

22ßaranski; Barolini, 189-190. Among the commentators, Porena and 87

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Chimenz share this intepretation. ^^The relation between Beatrice and the scribal function of the narrator had

already been brought to our attention in Purgatorio XXXII, when she enjoins her charge to write what he is about to see, namely the allegorical transformation of the chariot in the garden of Eden: «Però, in pro del mondo che mal vive, / al cano tieni or li occhi, e quel che vedi, / ritornato di là, fa che tu scrive» (103-105). Similarly, and more explicitly, in the following canto Beatrice bids her charge to set down in writing her obscure prophecy, thus confirming the scribal mission that awaits him upon his return on earth: «Tu nota; e sì come da me son porte, / così queste parole segna a' vivi» ( Pur g . XXXIII, 52-53). In Paradiso V, however, the nanator is not simply describing what he saw , or transcribing what he heard from Beatrice. He is actually transcribing a text. Beatrice's own «canto».

^^The narcological definitions of diegetic and primary narrative levels are taken from Prince. For an extended discussion of narrative levels, see Genette (1980, 1988).

2^0n the audacity of this tercet, Porena remarks: «Cosa strana è che qui Dante parli di 'canto' come se la divisione in canti non fosse cosa del suo racconto, ma ci fosse stata anche nei colloqui riferiti! Qui il sacrificio del senso al comodo della rima è in verità troppo arditol» (emphasis added). Similarly, Chimenz observes: «l'espressione, nella sua sintesi, risulta troppo ardita , attribuendo a Beatrice l'inizio del canto, che ovviamente appartiene alla struttura formale del poema» (emphasis added).

2°Worth quoting on this line Vittorio Sermonti's amusing commentary: «Ma se Beatrice non s'interrompe, perché la interrompe Dante, solo per dirci che non s'è interrotta? ingenerando, oltre tutto, un bell'equivoco, con

quella didascalia sull'inizio del 'canto' ... Come sarebbe? I canti non sono mica di competenza di Beatrice! Che cosa cerca di raccontarci il nostro, a questo punto? che, quando parla, la donna teologale sa in che canto e in che punto del canto sta parlando? che, magari, parla direttamente in terzine?» (74). 97 ^'This analysis of the address to the reader in Paradiso V is the revised version of a paper on «The Fictionalized Reader as Mediator in the Divine Comedy », presented at the 1992 A.A.I.S. conference at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I wish here to thank Amilcare Iannucci and Christopher Kleinhenz for their useful comments on that occasion.

For a different interpretation of this address to the reader, see Pastore Stocchi, 371-372. WORKS CITED

Alighieri, Dante. La Commedia secondo l'antica vulgata. Giorgio Petrocchi, ed. 4 voli. Milano: Mondadori, 1966-67. Idem, The «Divine Comedy» of Dante Alighieri: A Verse Translation with Introduction and Commentary by Allen Mandelbaum. Berkeley, Cal.: U of California P, 1982. Avalle, Silvio D'Arco. Ai luoghi di delizia pieni: saggio sulla lirica italiana 88

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del XIII secolo. Milano-Napoli: Ricciardi, 1977. Barański, Zygmunt. «The Poetics of Meter: Terza Rima , 'Canto', 'Canzon', 'Cantica'» (Lecture delivered at the University of Notre Dame, Fall 1993). Bàrberi Squarotti, Giorgio. L'artificio dell'eternità. Verona: Fiorini, 1972. Barolini, Teodolinda. The Undivine Comedy: Detheologizing Dante. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992.

Carugati, Giuliana. Dalla menzogna al silenzio: la scrittura mistica della «Commedia» di Dante. Bologna: Il Mulino, 1991. Cavalcanti, Guido. Rime. Con le rime di Iacopo Cavalcanti. Domenico De Robertis, ed. Torino: Einaudi, 1986. Chiari, Alberto. Il canto V del «Paradiso». Lectura Dantis Romana. Torino: SEI, 1964.

Coglievina, Leonella. «Strutture narrative e 'vera sentenza' nel Paradiso dantesco: l'esempio del V canto». Studi danteschi 58 (1986): 49-79. Contini, Gianfranco. «Dante come personaggio-poeta della Commedia». Un'idea di Dante: saggi danteschi. Torino: Einaudi, 1970. 33-62. Ferrucci, Franco. «La dialettica del desiderio». Il poema del desiderio: poetica e passione in Dante. Milano: Leonardo, 1990. 221-264. Gárboli, Cesare. «Il canto V del Paradiso». Paragone XXII.262 (1971): 3-19. Genette, Gérard. «Voice». Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. Transi, by Jane E. Levin. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1980. 212-262. Idem. «Voice». Narrative Discourse Revisited. Transi, by Jane E. Levin. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1988. 79-83.

Hawkins, Peter S. «Dido, Beatrice, and the Signs of Ancient Love». The Poetry of Allusion : Virgil and Ovid in Dante's «Commedia». Rachel Jacoff and Jeffrey T. Schnapp, eds. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1991. 113-130. Hollander, Robert. «The Dartmouth Dante Project». Dante Today. Amilcare Iannucci, ed. Quaderni d'italianistica X.l-2 (Special Spring and Fall Volume, 1989): 35-53.

Jacomuzzi, Angelo. «'Quando leggemmo': note sul canto V dell'Inferno» . L'imago al cerchio: invenzione e visione nella «Divina Commedia». Milano: Silva, 1968. 193-231. Johnson- Haddad, Miranda. «'Like the moon it renews itself': The Female Body as Text in Dante, Ariosto and Tasso». Stanford Italian Review 11 (1991): 203-215. Mazzotta, Giuseppe. «Sacrifice and Grammar: Paradiso DI, IV, V». Dante's

Vision and the Circle of Knowledge. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993. 34-55.

Montanari, Fausto. «Il canto V del Paradiso». Letture dantesche. Vol. HI. Giovanni Getto, ed. Firenze: Sansoni, 1961. 1421-1435.

Niccoli, Alessandro. «Trasmutare». Enciclopedia Dantesca. Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1976. Voi. 5. 699-670. Noakes, Susan. «Dante's Stories of Reading». Timely Reading: Between Exegesis and interpretation. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1988. 38-67. Oliva, Gianni. «Paradiso V: codici culturali sulla questione dei voti». Revue des études italiennes 33.1-4 (1987): 9-18. 89

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Paparelli, Gioacchino. «Ethos e pathos nell'episodio di Francesca da Rimini». Ideologia e poesia di Dante. Firenze: Olschki, 1975. 171-200. Pasquazi, Silvio. Il canto V del «Paradiso». Lectura Dantis Scaligera. Firenze: Le Monnier, 1966. Idem. «Dal cielo della Luna al cielo di

Mercurio». All'eterno dal tempo: studi danteschi. Roma: Bulzoni, 1985. 293-320.

Pastore Stocchi, Manlio. «Il canto V del Paradiso». Nuove letture dantesche. Firenze: Le Monnier, 1972.

Pertile, Lino. «Dante's Comedy Beyond the Stilnovo». Lectura Dantis 13 (Fall 1993): 47-77. Prince, Gerald. «Diegetic». A Dictionary of Narratology. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1987. 20.

Sacchetto, Aleardo. «Dottrina e poesia nel cielo della luna». Dieci letture dantesche. Firenze, 1960.

Savona, Eugenio. Repertorio tematico del dolce stil nuovo. Bari: Adriatica, 1973.

Sermonti, Vittorio. Il «Paradiso» di Dante. Milano: Rizzoli, 1993.

Singleton, Charles. Dante's «Commedia»: Elements of Structure. Dante Studies I. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1954. Spitzer, Leo. «The Addresses to the Reader in the Commedia». Italica 32.3 (1955): 143-165. Tartaro, Achille. «La questione dei voti». Letture dantesche. Roma: Bulzoni, 1980. 107-134.

Wlassics, Tibor, «endpaper». Lectura Dantis 9 (Fall 1991): 142-143. Zardo, A. Il canto V del «Paradiso». Firenze: Sansoni, 1903.


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso VI Author(s): GUY RAFFA Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 91-106 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806594 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:02 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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University of Texas at Austin

VI /

It is a critical commonplace in studies of Paradiso VI to note the poet's love of structural symmetry insofar as he places progressively expansive political material in the sixth cantos of the three canticles.1

Apart from the decidedly negative associations of this mapping of politics onto the number of the beast, the three sixes of the Commedia ,

Dante's intentions display at least a glimmer of optimism in the Paradiso. Justinian's «laudatio of the empire» represents, according to

Mazzotta, «the reversal of the vituperano of both city and Italy in Inferno VI and Purgatorio VI» (180). Less obvious perhaps is the progression of theological events through these corresponding sections of the three canticles. In the case of Paradiso VI, Dante seems to raise

the stakes of his poetic mission through a careful elaboration of Christological material. By dramatizing the evangelical image of the man-god as the «word made flesh» (John 1:14), the poet underscores the redemptive possibilities of language, particularly those of the «poema sacro / al quale ha posto mano e cielo e terra» (Par. XXV, 1-2).

Discussing Paradiso VIII and IX, Barolini maps out a process of conversion from eros to caritas that is brought to completion in canto

X. Showing how the characters in Venus exhibit a duality between personal and public concerns (68), she argues that such a dichotomy points to «an ideal state beyond dualism and dichotomy» (184-85). Barolini is surely right that the binary elements in these cantos serve to

highlight vestiges of earthly conflict. Her argument, in my view, applies not only to the celestial spirits in these two cantos but to a number of features in the nine cantos describing the spheres within reach

of the earth's shadow. Furthermore, just as Trinitarian doctrine lies at the heart of Dante's ternary architecture, so too an important theological

construct inspires and enriches his binary poetics. The incarnation, the

paradoxical unity of duality in the figure of Christ, simultaneously human and divine, emerges in the first nine cantos as a corrective to the

fundamental binary conflict between individual and socio-political concerns, between eros and caritas.

The incarnation, of course, figures in Dante's poetic imagination

both before and after Paradiso I-IX. During the elaborate allegorical 91

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pageant in the Terrestrial Paradise, for example, the wayfarer is allowed an intimation of Christ's mystery in the form of the shifting appearance of the dichotomous Griffin.2 Addressing the reader, Dante expresses wonder at seeing the Griffin's reflected image alternate between the eagle and the lion as the marvelous creature itself remains fixed in its hybrid form ( Purg . XXXI, 124-26). A primary goal of the celestial voyage is the unveiling of this allegory. Only in the Commedia! s final verses will the poet recall and record his direct perception of the interpénétration of

human and divine as the fit between «nostra effige» and one of the Trinitarian circles. Perhaps the most dramatic incarnational image occurs in the central cantos of the Paradiso. In canto XIV the poet effects a

transition from two (going on three) concentric rings of dancing theologians to the martyred spirits making up the flashing Martian cross. In at least one case, moreover, Dante seems to go out of his way to introduce a Christological context. At the start of his celestial voyage, he uses his uncertainty (as to whether he made the journey in corpore) as a pretext for presenting the man-god image in the lunar sphere {Par. II, 37-42): S'io era corpo, e qui non si concepe com' una dimensione altra patio, eh' esser convien se corpo in corpo repe, accender ne dovria più il disio di veder quella essenza in che si vede come nostra natura e Dio s'unio.

Appearing here as a theological aside, this Christological image nonetheless marks the first direct representation of the incarnation in the

Paradiso. The Christian foundational event, however, finds its first major thematic articulation in the canto of the Empire, Paradiso VI.

Mercury, as one of the spheres touched by the earth's shadow, presents the souls of the blessed who were characterized by excessive desire for earthly honor and fame. Although Justinian's speech occupies the entire canto, a singular textual strategy in the Commedia (Ferrante

267, Mazzoni 132-33), a co-protagonist of this episode is the Imperial Eagle as it takes the pilgrim and the reader through the course of Roman

history. Discussing his own place in the providential unfolding of this history, Justinian pointedly dates his belief that Christ's nature was wholly divine (the Eutychian or Monophysitic heresy) previous to his great accomplishment, the compilation of Roman law known today as the Justinian Code: «prima ch'io a l'ovra fossi attento, / una natura in Cristo esser, non piùe, / credea, e di tal fede era contento» (13-15). Later

in the canto, Justinian again calls attention to Christ, this time by 92

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describing the destruction of Jerusalem (under Titus) as revenge for the

crucifixion, itself retribution for original sin (91-93). These two

vendettas - the crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem -

represent climactic events within Dante's conception of universal Christian history. By having his speaker identify these moments with the Roman rulers of the time, the poet syncretically weaves JudaeoChristian and Imperial history into a single providential discourse. The incarnation, equivalent to Christ's first advent according to the triplex adventus as conceived by St. Bernard, thus plays an important

role in Justinian's monologue in Paradiso VI. In hhis Sermones de tempore: in adventu Domini (PL 183.35-56), the Abbot of Clairvaux characterizes Christ's three comings as «ad homines, in homines, contra

homines» (45.4). In the first advent, Christ came «in carne et infirmitate»; the second advent describes Christ's presence «in spiritu et virtute» in the secular lives of the elect; finally, at the end of time, he

will come to judge «in gloria et majestāte» (50.1). While Christ's first coming as «redemptio nostra» figures prominently in Paradiso VI, the second and third advents constitute a significant backdrop to the action of the sixth cantos of the first two canticles. Mark Musa has

demonstrated that Christ's second advent, his daily operation in the hearts of individuals, inspires the elaborate spectacle of the angels and the serpent in the Valley of the Princes (Purg. VIII, 85-108). This episode begins in Purgatorio VI when Virgil and the wayfarer meet Sordello, and Dante launches into his scathing apostrophe, «Ahi serva Italia».3 Likewise, Christ's third and final advent (the Last Judgment) figures in several episodes of the Commedia , most notably Beatrice's pageant and her rebuke of the pilgrim in the final cantos of the Purgatorio. The first allusion to the apocalypse, however, immediately follows Ciacco's disheartening prophecy of Florentine political strife in Inferno VI. Virgil informs Dante that the glutton will not rise again until the «suon de l'angelica tromba» (95). Virgil designates this event as a Christological advent with the verb venire : «quando verrà la nimica

podesta» (96). Hence, the three major Christological moments occur in reverse order, from last to first, over the sixth cantos of the poem. In

one sense, this reverse chronology might seem contrary to the increasing scope of the political theme, from city to Empire, over the same three cantos. Yet such a pattern of correspondences - with two crucial thematic clusters, civic life and spiritual redemption, moving in

opposite directions (and meeting in the middle) - could be seen as a quintessential poetic representation of the inextricability of temporal and spiritual fulfillment.

This inextricability topos is evident in Dante's presentation of 93

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Justinian. Here Dante follows the medieval legend that portrayed the sixth-century emperor as a reformed heretic, one whose great juridical achievement was seen as a specifically Christian accomplishment. Like

Brunetto Latini before him, Dante ascribes the emperor's turn to orthodoxy to the intervention of Pope Agapetus I (16-18).4 In point of fact, however, it was Justinian who held the upper hand in church-state relations. According to Jeffrey Richards, a historian of the medieval papacy, Justinian «took imperial interference to its highest level. He successfully deposed one pope, kidnapped a second, and forcibly installed

a third. He imposed his doctrinal changes with ruthless single-mindedness» (29). The historical record shows that the emperor actually took strong stands against the monophysitic heresy, or he at

least tried to reconcile it to orthodoxy (Richards 181). The empress, Theodora, it was true, firmly adhered to the single-nature doctrine, but Justinian seems to have devoted more energy attempting to eradicate Christian heresies than fighting paganism (Wallace-Hadrill 17).

Nevertheless, Justinian's heretical reputation allows the poet to develop an incarnational aesthetic that yokes together many of the themes and episodes that occur in the spheres still touched by the earth's shadow. To underscore the incarnational event in Justinian's canto,

Dante surrounds the emperor's speech with a narrative frame displaying an unusual emphasis on binary language. This frame results from the action immediately preceding and following the emperor's canto-length monologue. Justinian first appears in canto V in a passage that exhibits the poet's creative flexibility in turning out rhymes for his terza rima. In the space of twenty verses (110-29), Dante not only succeeds in ending fifteen of them with the vowel sound i but he creates a rhyme from the

doubling of this vowel (ii) as well as a rima composta based on this sound. The acoustic effect is dizzying (1 18-123): «Del lume che per tutto il ciel si spazia noi semo accesi; e però, se disii di noi chiarirti, a tuo piacer ti sazia». Così da un di quelli spirti pii detto mi fu; e da Beatrice: «Dì, dì sicuramente, e credi come a dii». ^

The insistent doubling of these rhyme-words eventually forms part of a

larger binary verbal pattern as Dante ends canto V by literally introducing canto VI: «e così chiusa chiusa mi rispuose / nel modo che

'1 seguente canto canta» (138-39). 6 If nothing else, this highly self-conscious reference to the next canto, a sort of narrative unveiling,

calls attention to the poem as a literary process. Such metaliterary 94

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commentary serves to reify Dante's poetry at the same time that it suggests the construction of the narrator's «lived» experience. Both the

text and the journey, in other words, follow a sequence, an order in which language and experience dynamically interact to shape one another.

Given the elevated themes of the Paradiso , such an emphasis on the poem's «literariness» aims to further the redemptive mission of Dante's poetry, its claim to quasi-scriptural truth. In the specific case, I agree

with Dragonetti, another critic interested in Paradiso VI's linguistic register, that such «double doubling would not be worth noting did not such language specifically characterize Justinian's long speech» (13). He goes on to list eight examples of such paired syntactic constructions in the canto, including two numerical doubles, «cento e cent' anni» (4) and

«i tre a' tre» (39), as well as a pair of striking repetitions from the emperor's presentation of Romeo toward the end of the canto: «dentro a la presente margarita / luce la luce di Romeo . . .», «se '1 mondo sapesse il cor ch'elli ebbe / mendicando sua vita a frusto a frusto , / assai lo loda,

e più lo loderebbe» (127-28 & 140-42). To this list of doubles should be added the equivocal rhyme falli (98, 102). Consistent with the political charge of the canto, this rare rhyme word indicates the crimes of the Guelfs and the Ghibellines combined («lor falli») as well as the difficulty in determining which group deserves greater blame («è forte a veder chi più si falli»). Indeed, the thrust of Justinian's political message in Paradiso VI

derives from a paired verbal repetition applied to the Guelfs and the Ghibellines. Having revealed his identity to the wayfarer by tracing the course of the Imperial Eagle from the time of Constantine to his own rule, the emperor prefaces his expanded history lesson with a bitterly ironic remark (28-33): Or qui a la question prima s'appunta la mia risposta; ma sua condizione mi stringe a seguitare alcuna giunta, perché tu veggi con quanta ragione si move contr' al sacrosanto segno e chi '1 s'appropria e chi a lui s'oppone.

In this way, the Ghibellines («chi '1 s'appropria») and the Guelfs («chi a

lui s'oppone») stand as the silent accused behind Justinian's 63 verse account of the eagle's flight, from Turnus' murder of Pallas (Aeneas'

ally, Aeneid X) to Charlemagne's defense of the church against the Lombard king, Desiderius, in 773. Both political groups, in spite of their conflicting claims, move against the divinely sanctioned Imperial 95

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Eagle, «contr' al sacrosanto segno» (32). Toward the end of his account, Justinian explicitly recalls this sarcastic condemnation of the Guelfs and

the Ghibellines. He lets his dramatic narration of the eagle's flight through history serve as the evidence upon which the wayfarer must judge the sorry state of current affairs (97-102): Omai puoi giudicar di quei cotali ch'io accusai di sopra e di lor falli, che son cagion di tutti vostri mali.

L'uno al pubblico segno i gigli gialli oppone , e l'altro appropria quello a parte, sì ch'è forte a veder chi più si falli.

The emperor takes no prisoners: the two major political factions are equally responsible for all that is wrong in contemporary society. And while the eagle has undergone a slight transformation from the

«sacrosanto segno» (32) to the «pubblico segno» (100), the Guelfs and Ghibellines reappear in their dubious roles as those who «oppone» and those who «appropria» the idea of the Empire. Rhetorically, Justinian's

repetition of the two verbs follows a chiastic order: «appropria ... oppone» (33) >< «oppone ... appropria» (101). The presence of this chiasmus in Justinian's canto imagistically calls to mind the cross, Dante's «sacrosanto segno» per eccellenza. Consistent with the poet's incarnational aesthetic in Paradiso VI, the Christological sign is formed from the intersection of Same and Different: two combative political parties that do considerable (and equal) harm to the Imperial Eagle, the secular sign of divine justice. Dante places the exclamation point on his binary linguistic display

immediately following the emperor's canto-length speech. In the opening verses of canto VII, the poet coins the reflexive numerical verb

adduarsi («to en-two oneself») to describe the action of the spirit's «doppio lume» (6). A subtle corrective, perhaps, to Justinian's supposed failure to recognize Christ's double nature, this neologism presents a

formidable challenge for commentators and translators alike.7 A plausible interpretation of Justinian's «doppio lume» might be found, as

Mazzoni argues, in the iconographical tradition of the imperial crown

inscribed within a halo, «la teoria dell'Imperatore Christomimetes » (141-42). 8 While, on the one hand, the verb adduarsi expresses the idea

of the incarnation numerically (two natures in one person), as a neologism it also calls considerable attention to language per se. The semantic resonance of the word adduarsi , combined with its linguistic novelty, concisely points to the simultaneous representation of Christ as man-god and Christ as Word. 96

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It is somewhat surprising, I think, that of the numerous allusions

to Christ in the poem - over 70 occur in the Paradiso alone - only two call attention to his divinity as the word. In the sphere of the Fixed

Stars, Beatrice echoes the evangelical conflation of Christ's dual-representation by exhorting Dante to shift his gaze from her to the splendor of «la rosa in che '1 verbo divino / carne si fece» (Par. XXIII,

73-74). But the first allusion to Christ in logocentric terms appears soon after Justinian's canto-length discourse. In fact, Beatrice's characterization of the second person of the trinity as «Verbo di Dio» in Paradiso VII relates directly to the previous canto. Dante yearns to know how Christ's crucifixion, a just punishment for original sin, could itself have been «giustamente punita» by Titus' destruction of Jerusalem (VI,

92-93; VII, 20-21). Here, too, Beatrice joins the linguistic sign of Christ's divinity with the incarnation (VII, 28-33): onde l'umana specie inferma giacque giù per secoli molti in grande errore, fin ch'ai Verbo di Dio discender piacque u' la natura, che dal suo fattore s'era allungata, unì a sé in persona con l'atto sol del suo ettemo amore.

The «grande errore» of humankind, extending from the Fall to the incarnation, appears here as an enlargement of Justinian's supposed heresy, his refusal to acknowledge Christ's humanity along with his divinity.

The Christological content of Paradiso V-VII follows two interrelated lines. First, the metaliterary commentary in canto V, much

of which points to Justinian's presentation in canto VI, signals the conflation of spirit and letter in Christ's manifestation as «Verbo di Dio». This linguistic expression of divinity is poetically represented by the unique status of canto VI in formal terms: it is the only time in the poem where each and every word in the canto comes from the mouth of

a single speaker. Dante's textual decision thus offers a theological corrective to Justinian's alleged heresy insofar as it was common in the patristic literature to associate heresy with the act of dividing, breaking or tearing something apart. For example, Peter Lombard links heresy to

division in his commentary on verse 19 of Psalm 21: «diviserunt sibi vestimenta mea, et super vestem meam miserunt sortem». Peter decries the divisive effects of heresies not only on the church sacraments but also on Scripture, the textual record of God's Word: «Sacramenta enim

illius et Scripturae potuerunt dividi per haereses» (PL 191. 235).9 Justinian's undivided speech stands in marked contrast to his mortal 97

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error, his divisive heresy.

The second major Christological line derives from the incarnation, mathematically expressed as the paradoxical unity of human and divine

in one person. Justinian singles out this representation by calling attention both to his monophysitic heresy, which downplayed Christ's

humanity, and to his interpretation of the crucifixion as a justly punished vendetta (the subject of canto VII). Ultimately, we could say that Dante aims to intertwine these two narrative threads - much as

Christ is simultaneously human and divine - by creatively shaping his verbal medium: rare bipartite rhymes, verbal repetitions, and especially the neologism adduarsi, all combine to blur distinctions between Christ as verbo and Christ as dio-uomo. Language and its referents, in other words, coalesce into an inseparable union. In medieval theories of representation, this conflation of the sign with its referent could be expressed as the causal relationship between

names and things, «nomina sunt consequentia rerum». Dante himself espouses this belief in the Vita nuova when the poet-lover relates the delights of Love to the word love itself (XIII, 4): lo nome d'Amore è sì dolce a udire, che impossibile mi pare che la sua propria operazione sia ne le più cose altro che dolce, con ciò sia cosa che li nomi seguitino le nominate cose, sì come è scritto: «Nomina sunt consequentia rerum». In two essays in the 1920s, Bruno Nardi traced Dante's source for the

Latin phrase to the Corpus iuris civilis , a work containing the fundamental texts of Roman jurisprudence.10 The compilation of these legal documents by Tribonius and sixteen collaborators ultimately owes to the will of the Emperor Justinian in the early sixth century. By the early thirteenth century, moreover, Accursius' glossa ordinaria , the

definitive edition of Justinian's legal works and their glosses, was a standard text in European law schools (Kantorowicz 37). By introducing

the Latin phrase in the Vita nuova with «sì come è scritto», Dante clearly implies an authoritative source, such as Scripture or Justinian's Corpus iuris (Nardi 178). No wonder, then, that the poet's presentation of the fame-seeking spirits in the sphere of Mercury seems to derive, in part, from the etymological associations of his characters' names.11 Justinian, the principal character and sole speaker in Paradiso VI, is

surely a fine choice as spokesman for the story of the Empire's illustrious history in his capacity as an outstanding ruler. But clearly his Christian name, which he takes pains to emphasize over and against his

title («Cesare fui e son Iustinïano», 10), must have influenced Dante's


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decision to select him (and him alone) for the all-important episode. Indicative of the significance of the emperor's name in the canto is his

two-fold allusion to God as «la viva giustizia» (88, 121). What better way for Dante to inscribe Imperial history into God's providential plan than to have Giustiniano pay homage to divine giustiziai We might say

that the two unheeded and unnamed «giusti» alluded to by Ciacco in Inferno VI, 73, and the many Florentines whom the poet sarcastically characterizes as having «giustizia in cuore» in Purgatorio VI, 130, now find their celestial realization in this emperor whose name matches his deeds.12

Likewise, the selection of Romeo di Villanova as the only other mercurial spirit presented seems to result from a suggestive etymological association between the character's name and his story.13 Commentators are quick to point out the relevance of Romeo's sad fate

at the hands of envy - his poverty and voluntary exile - to Dante's own undeserved banishment.14 Equally important, perhaps, are ways in which the character's very name expands the personal resonance of the episode. In the immediate context, the name Romeo provides a spatial

and cultural link to the speaker, for the centerpiece of Justinian's imperial history is the pax romana (80-81), the necessary political condition for redemption through Christ's crucifixion and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem (82-93).15 And Justinian's summary reference

to Romeo as «questo giusto» (137) further draws the two mercurial spirits together in one of the Commedia's most extensive portrayals of the Empire, the temporal manifestation of «viva giustizia».16 Yet the unfortunate set of similarities between Dante and Romeo in

Paradiso VI also fulfills a previous story. In chapter 40 of the Vita nuova , within a discussion of various types of pilgrims, Dante informs us that romei are pilgrims who travel to Rome (as opposed to palmieri ,

and peregrini in the strict sense). Significantly, he states that the pilgrims whom he met in Florence and with whom he thought to share news of Beatrice via his poetry were indeed romei , pilgrims on their way to the Holy City. Justinian's description of Romeo as «persona umile e peregrina» (135), serves to complete the circle begun in the Vita nuova

when Dante sent a sonnet relating the celestial experience of his own

«peregrino spirito» to a group of romei. Now traveling through the heavens in his (possibly) fictionalized flesh, Dante meets an exemplary

Romeo , a pilgrim who has found everlasting peace in «quella Roma onde Cristo è romano» ( Purg . XXXII, 102). The affinities between Justinian and Romeo and those between

Romeo and Dante strongly suggest a comparable relationship between

Dante and Justinian. Relating the word ovra in Paradiso VI 99

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designating both Justinian's juridical project (13) and Romeo's ministerial service to Raymond Berenger IV (129) - to Dante's ovra (his poem), Craig Kelly highlights the double-edged consequences of such a triangular arrangement (6):

By associating both Justinian and Romeo with himself, Dante identifies with the political-religious harmony manifested in Justinian's work while at the same time expressing a lament for his own situation of exile, which shows that the ideal of harmony is not yet realized.

There are, in fact, a number of linguistic and conceptual features of Paradiso VI that serve to gloss Dante's literary and spiritual itinerary.

Concerning the theme of religious conversion, Kelly perceptively remarks that Justinian's figurative walk with the Church («con la Chiesa

mossi i piedi», 22) recalls Dante's literal walk behind the «benedetto carro» in the Terrestrial Paradise ( Purg . XXXII, 28-30) (3). Further, since spiritual renewal and poetic inspiration are inseparable for Dante, we should not be surprised to find elements of Justinian's presentation

mirrored in the poet's notorious credo of the «dolce Stil novo» in Purgatorio XXIV: «I' mi son un che, quando / Amor mi spira , noto, e a quel modo / ch'e' ditta dentro vo significando» (52-54). In Justinian's

canto, this spiritualized process finds its mirror reflection in the emperor's obedience to the «voler del primo amor» (11). This divine love apparently inspires just rulers as well as poets of rectitude: «a Dio per grazia piacque di spirarmi / l'alto lavoro, e tutto 'n lui mi diedi» (23-24). Both poet and emperor, therefore, are literally inspired by a Love whose dictates they eagerly obey. There is a difference, however. Whereas the poet describes the process as he presently experiences it («mi spira»; «noto»; «vo significando»), Justinian recalls his obedience to divine inspiration as an accomplished fact («piacque di spirarmi»; «tutto 'n lui mi diedi»). We are thus reminded that though Dante's quest is in fieri he is at least on the right track. Yet even now, in the present time of the wayfarer's celestial journey, Justinian identifies the divine spirit as the source of his blessed speech. Significantly, he associates this personal recognition with the incarnation (and crucifixion), figured

in Paradiso VI as revenge for original sin. Justinian editorializes on Tiberius' glorious role as the emperor under whom Christ was crucified

(88-90): che la viva giustizia che mi spira , li concedette, in mano a quel ch'i' dico, gloria di far vendetta a la sua ira. 100

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Taken together, these three contexts of divine inspiration - the working poet, the accomplished Justinian Code, and the celestial breath

of «viva giustizia» - demonstrate the dynamic interplay of time and eternity, of secular and spiritual truth, in the Commedia .

The Imperial Eagle appears as a co-protagonist, or guide, in Paradiso VI. Its providential role, indicative of God's imprimatur on the

Roman Empire, is signaled by Justinian's reference to the eagle as «l'uccel di Dio» (4), soon to be synecdochically reduced to «sacre penne»

(7). Here, too, the language of Justinian's speech invites comparison with the wayfarer's experience, for flight metaphors are ubiquitous in the

poem as a measure of Dante's progress: spiritual, poetic, scientific, or

otherwise. In fact, we could return to Dante's conversation with Bonagiunta in Purgatorìo XXIV for a paradigmatic expression of Dante's spiritualized literary mission in avian terms. After the poet from Lucca attaches the famous «dolce Stil novo» label to Dante's poetic theory, he continues (58-60): Io veggio ben come le vostre penne di retro al dittator sen vanno strette, che de le nostre certo non avvenne.

Musa has identified these «penne» as «wings», with the possessive adjective vostre an honorific form indicating Dante alone ( Advent 123-28). According to this interpretation, the phrase «vostre penne» refers to Dante's wings and thus forms part of the major pattern of flight

imagery in the poem. But even if we insist on the reading of «vostre penne» in verse 58 as «your (pl.) pens», Justinian's monologue offers a verbal recall. He emphasizes the magnificence of the eagle's flight when Caesar crossed the Rubicon as something which «noi seguiteria lingua

né penna» (63). Ultimately, the appearance of both meanings of «penna» in Paradiso VI attests to the metaphoric intersections of «flight» (historical, spiritual) and «writing» (revelatory, prophetic) in Dante's poetic imagination. Justinian clearly means to draw Dante into his story. Rhetorically, he achieves this with repeated second person openings: «perché tu veggi con quanta ragione. ..»(31), «Vedi quanta virtù l'ha fatto degno. . .» (34), « Tu sai ch'el fece in Alba sua dimora. . .» (37), «E sai ch'el fé dal mal de

le Sabine...» (40), « Sai quel ch'el fé portato da li egregi / Romani...» (43-44). The emperor not only portrays the wayfarer as an informed

listener but he even involves him in the geography of his history lesson. Justinian's periphrasis for Fiesole (and its destruction by the Romans) hinges on Dante's birthplace, since the hill-top town is 101

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implicitly identified in relation to Florence: «quel colle / sotto 'l qual tu

nascesti» (53-54). More generally, Justinian's speech serves to illuminate Dante's experience in the story of the poem, the textual unfolding of his journey. The presentation of the fame-seekers in Paradiso VI figures as a monitory story for Dante, whose attempt to regain the «diritta via» constitutes the impetus of his poem/journey.

This becomes clear when Justinian answers the wayfarer's second question from canto V, his desire to know why the blessed spirit appears

in Mercury. The emperor's response a full canto later has strong implications for Dante himself (112-17): Questa picciola stella si correda d'i buoni spirti che son stati attivi perché onore e fama li succeda: e quando li disiri poggian quivi, sì disviando , pur convien che i raggi del vero amore in sù poggin men vivi.

A positive version of Dante's Ulysses, Justinian nonetheless highlights

the dangers of excessive earthly ambition. When such desire goes off-course («sì disviando»), the brightness of the «raggi del vero amore» necessarily diminishes. Justinian also establishes an implicit correspondence between the planet Mercury, «veiled» because of its proximity to the Sun, and the spirits who appear there for Dante's edification. These «buoni spirti», bright as they are, would appear even brighter and lighter if their mortal desires had been less earth-bound. The wayfarer previously identified

Mercury as «la spera / che si vela a' mortai con altrui raggi» (Par. V, 128-29), thereby suggesting the paradoxical image of a shadow due to excessive brightness.17 In this light, John Kleiner's observation that Justinian is the last celestial spirit referred to as «ombra» in the poem (Par. V, 107) takes on added significance (6). Justinian is not just any spirit whose mortal existence determines his celestial placement in a sphere touched by the earth's shadow, the so-called conical umbra. He is also, according to medieval tradition, a great emperor whose theological

beliefs once denied Christ his humanity, his possession of a mortal body capable of casting a shadow. Dante applies a sort of contrapasso by presenting Justinian, renowned skeptic of the incarnation, as the last celestial «ombra».

Of course, Justinian's qualified description of the mercurial spirits - their inordinate desire for fame - implies no diminishment of their celestial joy. Echoing Piccarda (Par. Ill, 70-87), the emperor affirms that it is precisely the correspondence between the merits and the awards of 102

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the blessed that partially determines their eternal happiness and acceptance of their place in the celestial hierarchy. With a musical metaphor, Justinian expresses the positive effect of the different ranks in

Paradise (124-26): Diverse voci fanno dolci note; così diversi scanni in nostra vita

rendon dolce armonia tra queste rote.

Once again, the emperor's words create a context that involves Dante, for «nostra vita» appears in rhyme position only one other time in the Commedia : «Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita». Justinian's

presentation thus suggests that the movement from time to eternity from the «nostra vita» of secular affairs to the «nostra vita» of celestial

glory - requires some restraint on human ambition. Dante himself articulates his struggle with excessive ambition for fame and glory when he claims to feel the punishment inflicted on the Proud in Purgatory already weigh heavy upon him ( Pur g . XIII, 136-38). 18 In the sphere assigned to spirits who were active «perché onore e fama li succeda» it

should therefore come as no surprise that our poet displays such affinities with the two celestial representatives. And it is fitting that the

themes of justice and undeserved exile find their linguistic sign in the Christological pattern of sacrifice and redemption.


^E.g., Giannantonio (108), Kelly (5), Mazzoni (132), Bosco-Reggio (72). Citations of the Commedia follow Petrocchi's vulgata. Bellomo (9) provides a long bibliographical note listing most of the twentieth-century lecturae of the canto.

zBut see Armour (57-63), who views Dante's Griffin as an image of Rome with no incarnational symbolism intended. ■^In fact, one of the poet's harshest remarks in this apostrophe concerns

Justinian's legal reforms: «Che val perché ti racconciasse il freno / Iustinïano, se la sella è vota? / Sanz' esso fora la vergogna meno» ( Pur g . VI, 88-90). This brief reference in Purgatorio VI thus anticipates the emperor's dominant role in Paradiso VI. ^Indeed, for Brunetto, the emperor* s conversion appears both as a condition for, and a confirmation of, the divinely sanctioned Roman laws: «Et jà soit ce que il fust au commencement en Terror des hereges, en la fin reconut il son error par le conseil Agapite, qui lor estoit apostoiles. Et lor fu la crestienne loi confermée, et fu dampnée la creance des hereges, selonc ce que on puet veoir sus les livres des lois que il fist» ( Tresor I, ii, 87). 103

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^The rare double-vowel rhyme reappears in Paradiso IX, 77-79-81: pii - disii - ťirunii. The doubling in this canto - the last describing the cosmos still touched by the earth's shadow - also includes four instances of equivocal and/or identical rhyme: fermi (16, 18), torna (104, 108), palma (121, 123), and pianta (127, 129). As in Paradiso VI, these poetic doublings occur in a rich Christological context.

^Wlassics cites this verse to support his observation that the Commedia «è anche un laboratorio linguistico per Dante che, pur cantando, non si stanca di girare e rigirare la parola, di mirarla e ammirarla da ogni lato» (85). This unusual emphasis on the poem's «textuality» begins earlier in canto V. Following Beatrice's opening speech, Dante offers a narrative statement that playfully conflates the experience of the journey with its poetic representation: «Sì cominciò Beatrice questo canto» (16). Coglievina explains the self-referential passages in canto V as indications of Dante's identification with his poetic invention, an identification that extends to each of his characters (63-64). This observation has particular relevance for Paradiso VI, where Dante sets up a strong pattern of identification between himself, Justinian, and Romeo.

'English translations of «sopra la qual doppio lume s'addua» include: «Twin-lustred with his two-fold luminance» (Sayers); «above whom double lights were twinned» (Mandelbaum); «Each of a double glory doubles each» (Fletcher); «With fourfold lustre to its orb again» (Cary); and «twin / lights fused, en-two-ed into one aureole» (Musa). This last attempt captures Mazzoni's notion of the imperial crown inscribed within a halo. Other interpretations include the «double light of natural intelligence and illuminating grace» (Singleton), «la luce di legislatore e di guerriero» (Bosco & Reggio), and the emperor and the lawgiver (Sayers).

°Mazzoni's ample discussion of the «dimensione cristologica di Giustiniano» (143) inspires and reinforces my attempt to highlight Dante's incamational poetic at work in Paradiso VI.

^Quoted by Stillinger (75) in his discussion of Dante's «divisioni» in the Vita nuova. I am indebted to Donatella Stocchi-Perucchio for pointing out the relationship between heresy and division in her paper at the 1992 AAIS conference in Chapel Hill. North Carolina.

l^Nardi's essays are reprinted in Dante e la cultura medievale , 173-78.

Dragonetti discusses Dante's interest in «the consonance of names and their meanings» with regard to several imperial figures in addition to Justinian: these include Frederick II, Constance, and Constantine (3-12). See Curtius (495-500) for an overview of names in the Middle Ages, and

Cervigni for a discussion of Beatrice's naminc of Dante in Purgatorio XXX.

1 ^Mazzoni (156-57) notes Dante's use of interpretatio nominis - relating «giustizia» to «Giustiniano» - in the Fiore (sonnet 110).

1^1 follow Bellomo (19-26) in this discussion of Dante's shared pilgrim-identity with Romeo.

E.g., Scartazzini (705), Bosco & Reggio (99-100), and Musa {Paradise



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^Characteristically, Dante associates the harmonizing, peace-bringing fùnction of the empire with Julius Caesar as well as with Augustus: «Poi, presso al tempo che tutto 'l ciel volle / redur lo mondo a suo modo sereno, / Cesare per voler di Roma il tolle» (55-57).

^Mariotti hears an evangelical echo in Justinian's description of Romeo as «questo giusto» (403-04). In Matthew 27:24 Pontius Pilate turns Christ over to be crucified with the words «Innocens ego sum a sanguine justi hujus ; vos videritis». More generally, Lenkeith draws an analogy between Christ and Justinian: «Just as Christ had given his teaching not to destroy but to fulfil the history of the Jews, the legal codes of Justinian were the fulfilment of manv centuries of Roman practice» (108).

^Similarly, Dante refers to Mercury in the Convivio as the sphere that «più va velata de li raggi del Sole che null'altra stella» (II, xiii, 11).

^Oderisi da Gubbio, we recall, associates pride with artistic fame and «la gloria de la lingua» (98) in his prescient allusion to Dante's supremacy over the two Guidos, Guinizzelli and Cavalcanti ( Purg . XI, 91-117).

WORKS CITED Armour, Peter. Dante's Griffin and the History of the World. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990.

Barolini, Teodolinda. Dante's Poets: Textuality and Truth in the Comedy. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1984. Bellomo, Saverio. «Contributo all'esegesi di Par. VI». Italianistica 19.1 (1990): 9-26.

Bosco, Umberto, and Giovanni Reggio, eds. La Divina Commedia: Paradiso. Florence: Le Monnier, 1979.

Cervigni, Dino S. «Beatrice's Act of Naming». Lectura D antis 8 (1991): 85-99.

Curtius, Ernst Robert. European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Trans. Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper & Row, 1963. Coglievina, Leonella. «Strutture narrative e 'vera sentenza' in Par. V». Studi danteschi 58 (1986): 49-79. Dragonetti, Roger. «Dante and Frederick II: The Poetry of History». Trans. Judith P. Shoaf. Exemplaria 1.1 (1989): 1-15. Ferrante, Joan M. The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1984.

Giannantonio, Pompeo. Endiadi : dottrina e poesia nella Divina Commedia. Florence: Sansoni, 1983. Kantorowicz, Hermann. «Note on the Development of the Gloss to the Justinian and the Canon Law». The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages. Ed. Beryl Smalley. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1941. 36-39. Kelly, Craig. «Law, Justice and Providence in Paradiso VI». Carte Italiane 1 (1979-80): 1-8. Kleiner, John. «The Eclipses in the Paradiso». Stanford Italian Review 105

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9.1-2 (1990): 5-32.

Lenkeith, Nancy. Dante and the Legend of Rome. Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Supplement II. Ed. Richard Hunt and Raymond Klibansky. London: The Warburg Institute, U of London, 1952. Mariotti, Scevola. «II canto VI del Paradiso». Nuove letture dantesche. Florence: Le Monnier, 1972. 375-404. Mazzoni, Francesco. «Il canto VI del Paradiso». Letture classensi 9-10

(1982): 119-59. Mazzotta, Giuseppe. Dante, Poet of the Desert: History and Allegory in the

Divine Comedy. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1979. Musa, Mark. Advent at the Gates: Dante's Comedy. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1974; Idem, ed. The Divine Comedy: Paradise. New York: Penguin, 1986.

Nardi, Bruno. Dante e la cultura medievale. 1942. Rome-Bari: Laterza, 1983.

Richards, Jeffrey. The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages: 476-752. London, Routledge, 1979. Scartazzini, G. A., ed. La Divina Commedia. Rev. G. Vandelli. Milan: Hoepli, 1920.

Stillinger, Thomas C.. The Song of Troilus : Lyric Authority in the Medieval Book. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1992.

Wallace-Hadrill, D. S. Christian Antioch: A Study of Early Christian Thought in the East. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1982.

Wlassics, Tibor. Dante narratore: saggi sullo stile della Commedia. Florence: Olschki, 1975.


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso VII Author(s): PAUL COLILLI Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 107-114 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806595 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:02 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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Laurentian University

VII Compared to many other cantos, Paradiso VII has attracted a paucity of exegetical attempts probably because, it would seem, a number of scholars find it to be lacking in any sort of existential or dramatic movement. For example, many readings of the canto underline two particulars: firstly, from the perspective of theological doctrine, it is probably the most difficult canto of the Divina Commedia ; secondly, Beatrice delivers her longest speech of the entire poem as her voice and words occupy one-hundred and thirty of the one-hundred and forty-eight verses that make up Paradiso VII. The doctrinal arduousness is coupled with a lack of any sort of «happening». In W. Theodor Elwerťs words, «Non c'è alcuna azione esteriore, non succede niente».1 To be sure, there is no reference to place, nor are there any chronological or topographical

signs, just Beatrice and Dante discussing theology. If one were to apply Croce's points of reference to the canto the conclusion would be that it is all structure and no poetry. Yet, with all of this in mind, one is tempted to ask the following question: is it not true that however philologically faithful one wishes to remain to the text, hermeneutical will-to-power will inevitably lead the exegete to disinter some interpretative relic of the text that pther remains hidden or that has been minimalized to a status 1 of unimportance? I am purposely using the archaeological metaphòr (the non-Foucauldian variety) to anticipate the answer: namely, Paradiso VII

is similar to a barren ground (as some critics would have it) where beneath there rests buried an ancient monument. The ground needs to be excavated so as to allow the monument to come to light before our very eyes. Moreover, it is not only a question of digging the ground in order

to see the monument, it is equally a question of deciphering the meaning that the ancient monument seeks to transmit to posterity.

The figurai monument that rests concealed below the textual ground of Paradiso VII is characterized by two elements: 1) the significance of Mercury (in whose heavens the canto takes place); 2) the logic of Dante's existentialism as implied in Beatrice's long speech. Beginning with the second point, we should note that the idea of

Dantean existentialism should not come to us as a surprise. One just 107

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has to recall Paul Tillich's observations on Dante:

The greatest poetic expression of the Existentialist point of view in the Middle Ages is Dante's Divina Commedia. It remains, like the depth psychology of the monastics, within the framework of scholastic ontology. But within these limits it enters the deepest places of self-destruction and despair as well as the highest places of courage and salvation, and gives in poetic symbols an all-embracing existential doctrine of man.^

John Took is convinced that such a view is justified, moreover it sets a vast expanse of light on places in Dante's poem that might otherwise be overlooked. In his existentialist reading of Dante, Took stresses that, everywhere Dante is concerned, not with the notion pure and simple, but with the totality of this or that individual's experience in terms of which the

idea represents but one pole of consciousness, a lively possibility to be appropriated or laid aside with correspondingly triumphant or tragic consequences for the whole. Understanding at every point serves the purpose either of estrangement or of reconciliation, of catastrophic self-loss or of glorious homecoming in the pilgrim spirit.^

The key term in this quote is «understanding», for hermeneutics is the central mode of measurement in any existential analytic, as Heidegger was to purport some six centuries after Dante. THE MEANING OF MERCURY

Paradiso VII is a fusion or marriage, so to speak, of hermeneutics and meditations upon the existential. The canto takes place in the heaven of Mercury; and the fact that this planet is a figure for knowledge and

discovery has not escaped Dante scholars. Trucchi concludes his 1936 commentary of Paradiso VII by stating:

Così ha fine la descrizione del cielo di Mercurio, in cui il poeta ... ci ha mostrato l'influsso del pianeta: in Giustiniano, influsso d'attività scientifica, e in Beatrice influsso d'indagazione di cose segrete, interpretazione di cose divine. However, it is no surprise to note that such a reading was undertaken by Dante's near-contemporaries. In the Anonimo Fiorentino commentary of 1400 we read (with specific reference in this case to Paradiso XXII) that «la casa di Mercurio ... si è significazione di scritture e di scienzia e di conoscibilità», thus a direct reference to the hermeneutical properties of Mercury. Even closer to Dante's own time there is the Lana commentary 108

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of 1324 where, in reference to Paradiso V, we read: Vero è ch'elli è da sapere che l'autore perchè intende trattare d'alcune anime beate, le quali fecero al mondo benefizio in scrittura, si fa menzione d'esse nel pianeto di Mercurio, lo quale secondo Astrologia ha significazione di scrittura e di letteratura.

This line of thinking is in consonance with what Dante has to say about the properties of Mercury in the Convivio. In a discussion that pivots

on how the arts and sciences of the trivium and the quadrivium correspond to the seven planets, Dante writes ( Conv . II, xiii, 1 1-12): lo cielo di Mercurio si può comparare a la Dialettica per due proprietadi: che Mercurio è la più picciola stella del cielo, che la quantitade del suo diametro non è più che di dugento trentadue miglia, secondo che pone Alfagrano, che dice quello essere de le ventotto parti una del diametro de la terra, lo quale è sei milia cinquecento miglia. L'altra proprietade si è che più va velata de li

raggi del Sole che null'altra stella. E queste due proprietadi sono ne la Dialettica: che la Dialettica è minore in suo corpo che null'altra scienza, ché perfettamente è compilata e terminata in quello tanto testo che ne l'Arte vecchia ne la Nuova si truova; e va più velata che nulla scienza, in quanto procede con più sofistici e probabili argomenti più che altra.

The hermeneutic art and science that Mercury displaces, according to

Dante and the tradition from which he is drawing his insights, is essentially twofold. It has the smallest body of knowledge because it is

a meta-science as it is primarily concerned with the process of discovering and inventing rather than with the accumulation of knowledge. It is the most veiled science. The root of this insight is found in Graeco-Roman mythology: Mercury-Hermes gives evidence of exceptional power of invention the very day of his birth. He robs and hides Apollo's herd, invents the lyre using strings made of cow's gut stretched across a tortoise shell, and then trades the instrument for Apollo's herd. Mercury-Hermes becomes the protector of heroes: he is the god who reassembled Zeus's mutilated body and saves his life from the monster Typhon, who had taken Zeus's tendons and had hidden them before Hermes stole them back and succeeded in reattaching them to Zeus's body. Among his many attributes, Mercury-Hermes is considered the god of commerce and of theft. Thus Mercury's trick consists in veiling and unveiling knowledge at the appropriate time.4 Mercury's twofold nature finds its counterpart in the linguistic and luminescent doubling present in the initial tercets. The first verses are characterized by linguistic hybridism as Dante fuses Latin with Hebrew 109

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(w. 1-3): « Osanna , sanctus Deus sabaoth,

superillustrans claritate tua felices ignes hor um malacòth!».

For some scholars the mixture of the two languages represents the ideal

union of Church and Empire, that is the language of the two chosen people: Hebrew and Latin (cf. the commentaries of Steiner 1921, Del Lungo 1926, Giacalone 1968). Other exegetes see the linguistic union as a symbol of the concordance between the Old and the New Testaments (cf. Trucchi), while some commentaries see it as belonging to an established liturgical practice of bilinguism (cf. Porena 1946).

Along with the linguistic doubling there is, in reference to Justinian, also the doubling of light in verse 6 («sopra la qual doppio

lume s'addua»). In his 1373 commentary of this verse, Benvenuto da Imola writes:

idest, ingeminatur et duplicatur, quia Justinianus fulget duplici gloria in coelo, sicut in mundo fuit dupliciter gloriosus, scilicet, utili editione legum, et justa gubernatione imperii reparati viribus armo rum.

Justinian shines twice because on earth he shone for his philological act and for his ability to establish and preserve political stability. But what is the link between the linguistic duality and the twofold light? The duality is a structural displacement of the duality of human experience; humans participate in the temporality of existence, but they

also have access to the immutability of the Divine. The Latin in the first tercet points to the events that occur in human time, the greatest of

which for Dante was the political advent of Rome. The Hebrew, on the

other hand, points to the divine essence of Christ, moreover it was considered a celestial language (cf. commentaries of Venturi 1732 and Tommaseo 1837). Similarly, the dual light of Justinian points to both

his achievements in establishing order within the context of temporality, and his work for the divine glory of God.

In fact, the entire canto pivots on the relationship between the condition humans experience within temporality and the promised state

of redemption in the «paese sincero» (v. 130). A dynamics, I am suggesting, between the authenticity of the state of grace and the inauthenticity of fallenness. But before I proceed to explore the logic of the existential that is buried in Beatrice's long speech, another remark about the hermeneutical nature of this canto is in order. In verses 7-9 there is a reference to the celestial dance of Justinian 110

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and his companions. Some critics have placed the dance in relation to the movement of thought. Trucchi, for example writes: Per San Tommaso la contemplazione in sè è quiete, ma le operazioni del contemplare sono moto, essendo il moto l'atto del perfetto, sicché «motus intelligibilum operationum ad ipsam quietem contemplationis pertinet ...» Il moto circolare appartiene all'atto contemplativo più perfetto, che ha semplicemente uniformità e consiste in un intuito ... Il moto circolare distingue l'atto contemplativo più eccelso e appartiene agli angeli come quelli che uniformemente e incessantemente, senza principio e senza fine, intuiscono Dio.

Thus, in this canto we will be witness to the thinking and to the understanding of the highest order. The most sublime contemplation and

the most sublime hermeneutics are necessary for a discussion that deals with the most essential and the most difficult feature of Christian

theology, namely, the mysteries of Salvation and of the Resurrection. But not only is the circular hermeneutics the most sublime, it is also moto , a movement, a 'hodòs', a wandering throughout the mind and the psyche. The celestial erring finds its counterpart in the notion of the wandering in human time as a trope for the hermeneutical process. THE LOGIC OF THE EXISTENTIAL

Having established the centrality of a hermeneutic thrust, we now need to explain how within the context of such a thrust the dynamics of the human/divine, authentic/inauthentic are rendered manifest in Beatrice's speech.

The point of departure for such an investigation is to be found in the opening tercet of Beatrice's speech (vv. 19-21): «Secondo mio infallibile avviso,

come giusta vendetta giustamente

punita fosse, t'ha in pensier miso...». Now in order to contextualize these verses we should observe that the

question that perplexes Dante is this: If Christ's crucifixion symbolizes appropriate vindication for man's original sin (as Justinian asserted in

his speech in Paradiso VI, vv. 88-90), how is it then possible that Christ's death exacts just punishment, that is the annihilation of Jerusalem by Titus (referred to by Justinian in Paradiso VII, vv. 91-93)

and the diaspora of the Jews as retribution for their role in the crucifixion? Rather than placing these issues into the thorny theological 111

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debate to which they belong, I will read Beatrice's long explanation of this complex problem as an otherness that is concerned with the elusive yet ever present question of authenticity versus inauthenticity. We are presented with Beatrice's never-erring judgment and Dante's state of perplexity; a contrast between the authenticity of a form of

knowing that is only possible in a divine state, and the confusion, uncertainty, and unpredictability that is typical of existence in human time. But what are the ontological parameters necessary to undertake a

hermeneutic descent into the existential question of the Divina Commedia ? In other words, what are Dante's own philosophical givens that will allow us to conceive of an existential analytic of the poema ? Under the influence of Thomas Aquinas, Dante understood of being in relation to its first and second perfections.5 The first perfection of

something entails it solely existing in accordance with the needs of substantial form; the second perfection rests in the sort of action that

lends itself to its appropriate fulfillment as a member of any given genera. Following this logic, in Convivio I, xiii, 3 we read: Onde, con ciò sia cosa che due perfezioni abbia l'uomo, una prima e una seconda (la prima lo fa essere, la seconda lo fa essere buono), se la propria loquela m'è stata cagione e de luna e de l'altra, grandissimo beneficio da lei ho ricevuto.

And in II, xiii. 5-6 of the same treatise we read: De la quale induzione, quanto a la prima perfezione, cioè de la generazione sustanziale, tutti li filosofi concordano che li cieli siano cagione... Così de la induzione de la perfezione seconda le scienze sono cagione in noi; per l'abito de le quali potemo la veritade speculare, che è ultima perfezione nostra, sì come dice lo Filosofo nel sesto de l'Etica, quando dice che '1 vero è lo bene de lo intelletto.

Thus, the ontological structure of human experience is twofold: the basic production of form denoted by the idea of essere ; the realization of

form by way of its appropriate activity denoted by the word benessere.

But it is precisely on the idea of being as articulated in the notion of

benessere - that someone operates on the basis of choices and is encouraged by free will with the purpose of moulding the ontological

essence - that our brief exploration into the Dantean ontological question should pivot. The hub of Beatrice's entire speech is the movement between the distortion of benessere and authentic benessere. Returning to verses

19-21, we see the benessere or authenticity as figured in Beatrice's 112

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never-erring judgement, while the distortion or inauthenticity as displaced in Dante's perplexed state. We see a similar interplay in the rest of the canto:

1) The «umana specie inferma» (v. 28) and the «Verbo di Dio» (v. 30) which descended to heal mankind.

2) The pre-lapsarian human nature («qual fu creata, fu sincera e buona» , v. 36), which was eventually banished from Paradise (vv. 37-39). 3) The clarity with which Dante understands Beatrice's discussion, but his difficulty in comprehending why God selected such a mode of redemption (vv. 55-57). 4) The human intellect that has not matured, and the flame of love in which it

is supposed to mature (vv. 58-60). 5) Envy and the Godly Goodness that has banished all envy from itself (vv. 64-66).

6) Sin makes humans unlike the Highest Good «per che del lume suo poco s'imbianca» (v. 81).

7) The void created by sin and the just amends needed to rediscover the Divine fullness (vv. 82-84).

This is only a partial list as the entire canto abounds with similar ontological counterpoints. But what is clear in the canto is that the correction of any existential distortion or inauthenticity rests in the nearest proximity to understanding. Beatrice's explanation of how God decided upon the proper form that redemption was to assume hinges upon Dante's temporally-bound hermeneutics (vv. 94-96): Ficca mo l'occhio per entro l'abisso de l'etterno consiglio, quanto puoi al mio parlar distrettamente fìsso.

Beatrice asks Dante to direct his mind's eye toward the fathomless dimension of Divine Truth in order to understand the logic of her explanation of Christian salvation. What Beatrice hopes that Dante is able to understand is the moral-existential space that differentiates the distortion of benessere from authentic benessere. After the fall it became

impossible for humans to atone for original sin; humans lacked the onto-theological depth needed to be able to envision and to make theirs the authentic state of benessere (vv. 97-102): Non potea l'uomo ne' termini suoi mai sodisfar, per non potere ir giuso

con umiltate obedïendo poi, quanto disobediendo intese ir suso;


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e questa è la cagion per che l'uom fue da poter sodisfar per sé dischiuso.

An existence characterized by fear, dread and despair was all that humans could expect.

In order to overcome this state of distortion, Beatrice finally suggests that Dante remember one thing in particular, namely, «come l'umana carne fessi allora / che li primi parenti intrambo fensi» (vv. 147-148). In other terms, the state of authenticity becomes a very strong possibility once the hermeneutic act becomes an archaelogical one at the same time, that is, by excavating and disinterring in the book of human

memory the semiotic traces of the chronologically remote moment

when human experience was first experienced in the authentic prelapsarian state.


^«11 canto VII del Paradiso », Letture dantesche , ed. Giovanni Getto (Florence: Sansoni, 1964), 1466. Cf. also, for example, U. Cosmo, L'ultima ascesa (Firenze: La nuova Italia, 1965), pp. 64-69; C. Galimberti, «Il Canto VII del Paradiso », Lectura Dantis scaligera (Firenze: Sansoni, 1968); B. Porcelli, «Il Canto VII del Paradiso» , Letture del «Paradiso», ed. V. Vettori (Milano: Marzorati, 1971); G. Padoan, «Il Canto VII del Paradiso », Nuove letture dantesche (Firenze: Sansoni, 1973); G. Fallani, «Il Canto VII», Paradiso : Letture degli anni 1979-81 , ed. S. Zennaro (Roma: Bonacci, 1989). 2 The Courage To Be (Glasgow, 1977), pp. 128-129. ^ John Took, «Dantean Existentialism: An Experimental Reading of the Commedia », Lectura Dantis 11 (Fall 1992), 54. 4"On the figure of Mercury-Hermes, see Michel Serres, Hermes. Literature, Science, Philosophy, ed. J. Harari and D. Bell (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1982). **My reading of the ontological question in Dante follows Took, op. cit.


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso VIII Author(s): JEAN-PIERRE BARRICELLI and Jean-Pierre Banicelli Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 115-130 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806596 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:02 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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University of California / Riverside

VIII From the spheres of the Moon and Mercury, Dante has now risen, in his Paradisal journey, to that of Venus, the Third Heaven. It is the last of the three tainted by Earth's shadow, the last in which the poet may still discourse about those who yielded to Earth's easy temptations,

most notoriously those of love and specifically love marred by wantonness - «folle amore», or «mad love» (v. 2): carnal love, as in the troubadour tradition. But the implicit motif of Venus, which becomes clear in the next canto, is redemptive, in that on it human passion, cleansed of error and returned to the right track, has been transfigured. The correction applies to the protagonists of Canto IX: Cunizza da Romano, the Venetian lady who in her later years repented her younger and looser life; Folquet, the amorous troubadour turned bishop of Marseilles; and the biblical harlot Rahab, who saved the lives of Joshua's two spies after they had slipped into Jericho before the city's famed walls fell.

But it applies as well - or so he might have wished - to the protagonist of the Commedia , Dante himself. The wayfarer, who had fainted out of compassion after hearing Francesca's story of passion in Inferno V, was all too aware of his own transgressions, and his meeting

here with Canto VIII's protagonist, Charles Martel of Anjou, King of Hungary, reminds him of the divergent possibilities of the same natural

disposition in human beings. Love may be at once abused and used: abused as an incentive for immoral excess or used as an inspiration for

moral elevation. Did the mythological goddess Aphrodite stand for anything else but this ambivalence? Charles, whom the poet had befriended in 1294 on the former's hailed passage through Guelph Florence,1 greets Dante by quoting the first verse of his canzone, «Voi che intendendo il terzo ciel movete»2 (v. 37), and there is more than a simple friendly recognition in the salutation. Canto VIII, then, presents several themes which, at first sight, may appear very loosely, at times even gratuitously, connected: the idea of

the Sphere of Venus, a tribute to his friend Charles, and, since the Anjou lineage and descendancy reveal questionable traits, the biological problematic of good seed engendering bad issue (and vice versa). What 115

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little time commentators have spent on this canto (it is not one of the most often discussed) has been devoted to the content: to investigating the historical and biographical (as well as astronomical) backgrounds of the canto's site and personae, and to explicating Dante's theory of the role providence plays with reference to heredity in the fashioning of human society. All this has been most profitable, for these inquiries remain fundamental to any reading of this canto. What remains to be done is to seek the aesthetic devices whereby a sequence of seemingly

gratuitously connected entities are unified in a coherent, artistic presentation in such a way as to give the themes, which by themselves

may lack the luster of those in many other cantos, an especially compelling appeal. To do this, we must first review the themes.

Venus. - Just before beginning his descent into Hell, Virgil had lured the doubting Dante into following him by referring to Beatrice's eyes

that «lucevan ... più che la stella» (Inf. II, 55) - Venus, of course, and as soon as he had left the dead air of Lucifer's realm and on Purgatory had contemplated the sky once again, the first thing he had seen was Venus, «Lo bel pianeto, che d' amar conforta» (Purg. I, 19). However, any expression of exaltation at having finally reached the fair planet's sphere in Canto VIII would have been misplaced. In Beatrice's presence

especially - the very lady who had reproached him in Purg. XXX-XXXI for having pursued worldly interests after her death (apart from his marriage to Gemma Donati, we are told in the Convivio of the

lure of Lady Philosophy, the donna gentile over to whom Dante had given himself, not to mention the more earthy Pargoletta and Lisetta and «Pietra», whatever their possible interchangeability), and who even before that knew of her lover's escapades with his friend Forese Donati, recalled in Purg. XXIII, with the gluttons (in this case those hungry for

life), with a sigh of «grievous memory» (vv. 115-117) - the poet needs to wam us of the ambivalent attractiveness of the goddess who can be associated with both divine and terrestrial love.

His tone is severe and austere in cautioning us against the erroneous opinions of the pagans, who had attributed to the stars the power of influence over man's dispositions: «l'antico errore» (v. 6), the

error that had put the ancients on a false track. Venus' love was responsible for blinding passion. And the multiple influences had created

a polytheistic universe, making divinities out of what the Christian world was to identify as Angelic Intelligences, mere ministers of the One God (vv. 1-3): Solea creder il mondo in suo periclo


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che la bella Ciprigna il folle amore raggiasse, volta nel terzo epiciclo... ^

The allusion may be to Plato's Timaeus , referred to in the Convivio (II,

iv, 4-6 & IV, xxi, 2). and earlier in the Paradiso (IV, 22-29 & 45-54) where we read of universal Ideas that reside in the moving stars, from there to descend into mortals and then return to their site. Thus Cupid, narrates Dante, lowered himself in human form onto Dido's lap,4 the prelude to her demise.

The reference to Dido, whose tragic experience made her a forerunner of the love-suffering-death erotology that engrossed the medieval world of courtly love, including that of Francesca da Rimini,5 and that in modern times has engulfed the lives of Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina, among many others, serves to mitigate the severity and

austerity of Dante's opening verses. More than compassion, a sympathetic tolerance creeps affectively into his language, what one critic calls «an ideal sympathy»,6 almost like another adumbration of the truth, like many others Dante recognized in his wholistic concept of human history and thought, provided by the pre-Christian pagans. With this in mind, the verses (10-12), e da costei onď io principio piglio pigliavano il vocabol de la stella che 'l sol vagheggia or da coppa or da ciglio...,

need not have become the topic of rival interpretations. To be sure, Dante opens his canto with a reference to «the fair Cyprian», but far from leaving matters with such an axiomatic platitude,7 he projects a sense of the myth's spiritual importance to himself, the poet of love

now engaged in writing a poem about the ultimate Love. He is, after all, not just on the planet but «inside» it («entro», v. 14). 8 In him, now, the dangerous falseness of ancient myths - the ancients knew only the name of the star - yields to their imaginative truth. For this reason, perhaps, even the Sun dances in courtship around Venus. Dante's arrival in the sphere of this «star» takes place so swiftly that he does not notice it, as if by virtue of a miraculous collapse of his mortal experience of time and space, except for the fact that Beatrice

seemed more radiant. This exquisite poetic fantasy, that of her ever-increasing radiance, will describe his ascent through all the remaining heavenly spheres, and begins quite symbolically in Venus. «Donne che avete intelletto d'amore», had said the stilnovista poet over

a decade before when he had invited knowledgeable womanhood to


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contemplate true beauty. But more cosmologically and metaphysically, Truth becomes more splendid the closer it moves to its divine origin. And with even greater celerity, a spiraling host of blessed souls descends toward Dante, like godly lights in gyrating dances, singing a «Hosanna»

whose loveliness is unknown to mortals (vv. 28-31). The musical quality, melopoieia , of verses 14-23, built around the alternating voiced and unvoiced fricatives «v» and «f», prepares with brilliant subtlety the advent of the transhuman choir.9

Charles Martel: affairs of state . - In no other heavenly sphere is human affection expressed more openly, more invitingly, more benevolently than in Venus. Dante's tribute to his friend may easily revert into a tribute to himself, judging from everyone's ardent desire to

pleasure him: «Tutti sem presti / al tuo piacer, perchè di noi ti gioi...» (vv. 32-33), «e sem sì pien d'amor, che, per piacerti / non fia men dolce un poco di quiete» (vv. 38-39). These are the loving words of someone who will not be identified in the canto, but all references to him,

implied or specific - son of Charles II of Anjou, the Crown of Hungary (1290), that of Puglie denied his son, that of Provence and Naples which awaited him, the loss of Sicily due to the bad governance of Charles I, the avarice of his brother Robert King of Naples - make it impossible not to point to Charles Martel. He had died at the young

age of 24, in 1295, much to Dante's grief, who might have found in him a veritable patron, someone whose love would have given him «more than fronds» (v. 57). Charles represents the love of friendship, amor amicitiae , and we have every reason to believe that his three- week

stay in Florence while awaiting his father's visit from Provence, reported sumptuously by Giovanni Villani in the Cronache (VIII, 13), bonded the two men's mutual admiration. At this point in the poem, and properly for the sphere of Venus, the prince moves from amor amicitiae

to amor patriae , making Dante aware that, had he lived longer, his brother Robert's errors (among them possibly the war with the Aragonese) would have been avoided: «Il mondo m'ebbe / giù poco tempo; e, se più fosse stato, / molto sarà di mal, che non sarebbe» (vv. 49-51). Indeed, «the bond that exists between friends does not differ from the one that binds the citizens of a state»,10 as Aristotle had intimated,

referring to the coexistence of friendship and justice among the same

people. Dante's contemporary reading public knew all about Charles Martel: grandson of Charles I of Anjou and son of Charles II (the Lame) and of Mary of Hungary, he was only 1 1 when, in a popular uprising on

Easter Day (1282), the Sicilian Vespers massacred most of the French 118

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rulers of Sicily - the «ill sovereignty» that «provoked Palermo to cry

out: 'Death! Death'» (v. 75). Provence, the land «bathed by the Rhone after its waters have mixed with the Sorgue», was to have come under his rule (vv. 58-60), as also was the triangle of the Kingdom of Naples,

«covered with towns [like] Bari, Gaeta, and Catona» (w. 61-62).11 After the death of his uncle Ladislav IV, he had been crowned King of

Hungary, the land «crossed by the Danube» (v. 65). And Sicily - «the fair Trinacria» (v. 67) - too would await its rulers through his marriage to Clemence and through him, the grandson of Naples' king Charles I and the son-in-law of Rudolph of Hapsburg, had not the House of Anjou misruled so badly.12 Charles becomes a pointed critic of his Angevin family down to the present - and Dante, we may note here, never had a word of praise for them.13 For his brother Robert, who had ascended to the throne of

Naples in 1309 and who, to administer his lands, had hired Catalan adventurers, known for their greedy and rapacious plundering that victimized the populace, ought not to add his avarice to that of his own ministers, but more than that, ought not «load his boat» (vv. 79-81), meaning the ship of state, by adding the weight of more faults than those already caused by his father and grandfather. While Charles II had

the reputation of being liberal and bountiful, whatever his shortcomings, his son Robert - alas - developed a woefully opposite reputation (vv. 82-84): La sua natura, che di larga parca discese, avria mestier di tal milizia che non curasse di mettere in arca.

The first Charles Martel section thus ends with the noblest of the

Angevins addressing a strong criticism of his family's misrule. As if to balance the scene with a positive note, Dante returns to the theme of affection which had surfaced when he had asked the illumined soul who

he was. Charles's original joy in pleasing the mortal Dante here becomes Dante's joy in exalting Charles's blessed state (vv. 85-90). 14 In other words, Dante's joy is augmented by recognizing that Charles discerns it clearly, and he also delights in knowing Charles among the blessed, for, being with God, these souls know how great and true this

kind of joy is. Implicit is the theological doctrine of the perfect knowledge of the blessed, who read in God the past, present, and future. The doctrine is enunciated more fully in later cantos, and need not delay us here.15

What we grapple with here is the question of why the poet's 119

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thought is so convoluted at this point that it has to be expressed in an

equally convoluted language? Two plausible explanations offer themselves. The first is the simpler one, namely, a touching case of «words fail me», the praise one gives through one's inability to express clear thanks in words. The second is more complex and architectural, a case of balancing, of parallel structure, which relates to Dante's canzone, quoted by Charles as he had made himself known earlier to the wayfarer: «Voi che intendendo il terzo ciel movete». The canzone contains

«subtlety in the analysis of concepts and complex mental states»,16 quite possibly appreciated by Charles when he read the poem in Florence, and the same subtlety and complexity are to be found in this

passage. Dante is speaking to Charles, then, in a language he had admired on earth. If this is so, a further parallel device comes into view: namely, the canzone bridges the Venus section of the canto and the first

Charles Martel section; similarly here, the passage bridges the first Charles Martel section and the second, the end of the canto devoted to the theme of heredity.

Charles Martel: heredity . - Since the blessed are in a «knowing condition» in Heaven, Dante's query to Charles, provoked by something the monarch said about his family, follows naturally (vv. 91-93): Fatto m'hai lieto, e così mi fa chiaro,

poi che, parlando, a dubitar m'hai mosso com' esser può, di dolce seme, amaro.

How could the liberal father Charles II beget the miserly son Robert? In beginning his explanation, Charles Martel visualizes Dante's ignorance as a case of not seeing the truth of the matter because he is not facing it:

«S'io posso / mostrarti un vero, a quel che tu dimandi / terrai lo viso come tien lo dosso» (vv. 94-96). The question aims at the attributes of

heredity and the variances of personal endowment. The reality of

variances seems to contradict St. Matthew in the New Testament

(7:17-18), who in the third part of the Sermon on the Mount quotes Jesus as saying that good seed can produce only good fruit: « A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good

fruit» (7:18). But Matthew's view coincides with the pure concept of Providence as linearly directed intentionality. In Dante's symbolic phanopoieia , the image of the archer's arrow - a divine teleology surfaces. God has provided for His creatures' well-being: «quantunque quest'arco saetta / disposto cade a proveduto fine, / sì come cosa in suo

segno diretta»(vv. 103-105). 17 Hence heredity - natura generata 120

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which would make a soldier's son a soldier and a poet's son a poet. Robert would then possess the same largesse as his father, Charles II. «Engendered natures», writes the poet, «would forever take the path of those who had engendered them» (vv. 133-34). However, such hereditary determinism is offset, fortunately, by

divine intervention («proveder divino», v. 135). Charles's response to Dante refers to the celestial influences that provide for the existence of

things in various states and that, revolving, direct all things to unpreordained ends. Heredity's straight-arrowed determinism establishes the miraculous order in the universe, much as in Newton's Principia and as alluded to in the Prologue in Heaven in Goethe's Faust , which results from the teleological harmony of things. But another force, like the wind that can alter the arrow's direction, makes the targets vary in their functions, and in this manner, in their revolutions or variations, they

ultimately shape the diversity of human society. Were this not so, Charles had already advised Dante, God's perfect instruments of distribution of the stellar influences, the Angelic Intelligences, would err - and this would be conceptually impossible - and their «effetti / . . . non sarebbero arti, ma ruine» (vv. 107-108) - the result would be not harmony but chaos. Providence, therefore, circular natura , is that conditioning force

acting upon heredity which we do not always perceive, but which provides needed talents among society's citizens. Therefore, there can be nothing worse, Charles and Dante agree, than not being a citizen («non

[essere] cive», v. 116). This «needs no proof» (v. 117), avers the poet. Dante's adamant tone makes us recall his active political involvements

and his corresponding aversion for those not so involved, like the opportunists on the outer rim of Hell, whom even the damned reject

because of their unaccountability in civic and religious matters, and among them the hermits who withdraw from society, for example the presumed Celestine V who had turned down the papacy, that highest citizenship within the Church. Citizenship, otherwise put, is the sine qua non of human existence, for only as a citizen can man realize his goals (Aristotle again: «Man is by nature a social animal» [Politics I, i, 2]) and therefore lend his talents, as we read in the Convivio (IV, iv, 1-2), to the cooperative support network of society. Society can be promoted only by diversity, and both creating and created nature provides the means. «No: I deem it impossible that nature

fall short of what she needs» (vv. 113-14). 18 The term «nature» is always ambiguous, of course.19 Here, to be sure, Dante is referring to universal nature, for particular nature, as it operates here and there in various subjects, may leave something to be desired (in the Quaestio de 121

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aqua et terra [XVIII] we read that «universal nature never deviates from its goal..., while sometimes particular nature, through unsuitability of the matter, deviates from the proposed goal»). To persist, society must

see to it that all walks of life are represented and share in its progress. As «your teacher [Aristotle] writes» (v. 120), «E puoť elli esser, se giù

non si vive / diversamente per diversi offici?» (vv. 118-19). Such personal endowments, or dispositions, derive direction from Heaven; they alter the pure course of heredity according to providential forces that

pay no attention to family or house or lineage (v. 129). The poet's son can become a soldier. Jacob, Charles reminds Dante, turned out quite different from his twin brother Esau ( Genesis 25:22-28), and legend converted Romulus' humble family background into descendancy from Mars (Livy, I, 3). Hence, the endowments of children come not from their parents but from the heavens. «Engendered nature» (v. 133) yields to «revolving nature» (v. 127), so that society diversifies: «one is born a Solon, one a Xerxes, and one a Melchizedek, and another, [a Dedalus]»

(vv. 124-26), in other words, a legislator, a warrior, a priest, and an inventor. This is the fundamental verity Charles Martel puts to Dante, who will now see it clearly as if in front of him, whereas he had not been able to see it with his back turned to it: «or quel che t'era dietro t'è

davanti» (v. 136). At this point, as Matelda had done before ( Purg . XVIII, 136), Charles finds it fitting to end with a «corollary» (v. 138), a truth derived from conclusions reached in the discussion. He has moved from the

personal to the political, from the amor amicitiae to the amor patriae , and now - totally within the spiritual drift of the planet of love - he moves to the universal, to the amor humanitatis .20 In another sense, Dante has moved his canto from sensuous pagan love to noble Christian charity. Whatever the case, the poet has Charles Martel modulate from his kindness to Dante to his respect for humankind. For this reason, though we know he is talking about his brothers Louis and Robert, he does not identify them by name in this corollary. The corollary is simply that if parents force their children into vocations for which they have no disposition, thus denying them the possibility of following their talents, the bad results harm both family

and society (vv. 139-148). Louis, who should have been a warrior, joined the Franciscan Friars Minor and later became an ineffectual Bishop of Toulouse; Robert, King of Naples, should have stuck to

preaching and writing erudite sermons (we have c. 289 titles), composing which he neglected matters of state.21 But by not mentioning either one by name, Charles alludes broadly, with typical Dantean subtlety, to the two highest of life's institutions, Church and 122

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State, gone awry. «Onde la traccia vostra è fuor di strada» (v. 148). This

dereliction informs Dante's most anguished lament throughout the Commedia : «onde sì svia l'umana famiglia» (Par.XXV II, 141), «the human family goes astray», because man's happiness on earth depends on the proper functioning of the spiritual and temporal enterprises. The recognition of man's spiritual and temporal decline had inspired

one of the most melancholy images in the poem: Hell's Old Man of Crete (Inf. XIV, 103ff), each of whose materials represents an age of man, progressively deteriorating from the head's gold of the Golden Age of Innocence down to the cruel iron foot of the Holy Roman Empire and

the fragile clay foot of the Roman Catholic Church. A depressing, existential quality colors the vision, a feeling that could be experienced

only by a person of integrity whose conscience weeps (the statue is streaked with flowing tears of woe) in the presence of human injustice. It stands to reason that Charles Martel, who loved the world and wished

he could have lived longer to spare humankind much pain, communicates the same sense of melancholy, implicitly rather than explicitly, in the canto's final words. Dante knows the sorrow of having followed the trail that has abandoned the correct highway, for he, too, had strayed away from the «straight road» (Inf. I, 3). The same warning

applies to the opening words of the canto: the pulses and impulses of

the beautiful Cyprian, who wheeled in the third epicycle. Though Dante's redemptive message permeates the canto through the singing and

dancing of the heavenly host, we must still note that his moral admonition is stern. Indeed, while aesthetically the canto moves on a positive note (we are, after all, in Heaven), the existential melancholy tends to move in an opposite direction, creating what might be called an epicyclic pull, and therefore an inner tension in the canto's evolution. For, joyful as it is, it opens with the «mad love» that drives humanity off the track and closes with the ill-considered «twisting» of talent that leads humanity off the road. In music, such as in César Franck's famous Symphony in D Minor , such framing is referred to as cyclic form. And when all is said and done, it is the canto's cyclic qualities that give it its special luster.

The metaphoric epicycle . - Clearly, the notion of Love holds the otherwise disparate elements of Canto VIII together conceptually. These are intellectual elements, and, we can now say, they are not gratuitously connected. But Dante was an artist, for whom conceptual connections

would be denied their desired emotional impact unless interrelated through the power of metaphoric images. For this reason, as at the outset in his mind's eye he sees the planet's cycle , he introduces the 123

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aesthetically generating image of an epicycle , accompanied by an essential word of motion - «volta» («wheeling», v. 3, repeated as if for

emphasis in v. 20 - «muoversi in giro» - as «moving in a circle»). The device enhances an otherwise dry cerebral discussion by giving the whole a compelling aesthetic coherence.

In its orbital or cyclic movement around the sun from East to West, according to the Ptolemaic system, each planet - Venus being the third - circles in a small epicycle, so that it alternates in traveling

with and against its orbital movement, assuming changing positions with reference to the sun, whose rays strike the planet at the «nape» and

at the «brow» (v. 12). Now as evening star, now as morning star, Venus in effect performs an epicyclic dance in its orbit, and through this allegory we come to understand the otherwise abstruse lines that frame

Charles Martel's speech about heredity: «you will then have / before you

what now lies behind you» (v. 96) and «now what stood behind you stands in front» (v. 136). If we analyze the images and the other nouns, verbs, and adjectives

in the canto, we detect the unfolding of a choreography through logopoieia , the dance of the intellect among words. One section involves a fixed or linear movement, call it the intention of the blessed, and one twirls or revolves around it, call it their joy. Abstractly, Dante is dealing with a spiral circling around an axis, and the choreography,

like the movement of an epicycle, turns out to be allegorically significant in itself. From their usual location in the Empyrean among the Seraphim, where they dance eternal joy, a turbinal host of glittering

souls gyrates downward with lightning velocity - so swift is the eagerness or «thirst» («sete», v. 35) of their love - to greet Dante and Beatrice. Their trajectory is linear or axial, but their constant dancing

«in turns» (v. 26) makes them twirl in a long, evolving spiral. Since Dante invites the reader to envision a dance (and if anything counters the

existential melancholy it is the redemptive message inherent in the dancing) his language focuses on movement. In a similar spirit, but with heavier intention, he had produced choreographic effects in the fourth circle of Hell (Inf. VII) with the avaricious and prodigals, who in opposite directions roll boulders in a «sorry circle», while «wheeling»

and «shouting at each other in chant» as if in a «round dance» and «joust» in «shameful rhythm» (vv. 24-33). We recall that in that same canto, Dame Fortune, for Dante an entity of angelic rank, who in the Middle Ages always held a revolving wheel of Chance, is described as

flitting carefree from human realm to human realm, whimsically «turning her sphere» as in a dance (v. 96). And in Purg. XXVIII, on the banks of Lethe, Matilda appears jollily to Dante «stepping and singing 124

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and gathering flowers» (vv. 40-41), her eyes bright like those of Venus. In Paradiso VIII, the dance is one of elation and joy: the recurrent verbs of wheeling, revolving, circling, turning, spinning, and dancing create

an atmosphere too recreative and sportive to be fortuitous. Having detected this fundamental metaphoric structure of the canto,

we note that other events interconnect to give the whole aesthetic coherence. Still - significantly - at the beginning of the canto, Dante

introduces two similes that correspond to epicyclic linear/spiral movement (vv. 16-21): E come in fiamma favilla si vede, e come in voce voce si disceme, quand' una è ferma e altra va e riede, viď io in essa luce altre lucerne

muoversi in giro più e men correnti, al modo, credo, di lor viste inteme.

The way tongues of fire envelop an incandescent center, flames dance

around a spark, and, analogously, in the polyphonic construction of motets, secondary voices keep moving around the primary theme. Music, after all, translates love and joy into the fullest possible measures of praise, upon which the tonality of this canto relies. And the

enwrapping flames anticipate the rays of happiness that will conceal Charles's presence «like a creature swathed in its own silk» (v. 54). In this manner, Dante perceives other lights, girating around the light of Venus with greater or lesser speed, according to each's inner vision of God which persists within them. Arguably, we might also venture to

say that, for those who know the language of the Mass's Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth , the «Osanna» (v. 29) sung by the Seraphic host provides a linguistic analogy. For the liturgical words speak in Latin of the brightness which illuminates the happy fires of the kingdom, and, like the «spark» by the «flame», the primary language in

the liturgy is surrounded by Hebrew terms: the words «sabaoth» («hosts») and «mamlacòth» («kingdoms»),22 together with «Hosanna» («Hail, O save») itself, weave in and out of the Latin text, as it were. The joy of the «Hosanna» chanters is transposed into the same linear/spiral figure: «Noi ci volgiam... / d'un giro e d'un girare» (vv. 34-35). As in a twofold movement, cycle and epicycle interplay, the former («giro») like an orbital trajectory, the latter («girare») circling around it.23 Thus this heavenly company twirls speedily in space, in circular motion yet in one determined direction - a dance around an axis. And when Charles Martel detaches himself from the dance to speak

with Dante, he resembles that spark hidden by the happy flames 125

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bounding about it: «La mia letizia mi ti tien celato / che mi raggia dintorno e mi nasconde...» (vv. 52-53). The metaphor now has an established architectural value in the canto.

Not that a general sense of circularity or spiral (incidentally, the basic abstract figure to represent dream, which all the Commedia is) does not inform the entire poem. It does. But the intense focus on the

device in Paradiso VIII makes these observations special. It gives movement to the biographical and doctrinal dissertations involving Charles Martel. The circling dance of the amorous («il giro», v. 26), who leave the Empyrean to visit Venus, with whose souls a sense of spiritual reciprocity exists, and by implication will then return to the upper realm, is a circular case in point. The ripresa (we may accept this term musically) of the affection motif between Charles and Dante (vv. 52-57 and 85-90), and the riprese of the erring «off the track/road» motif (vv. 6 and 148, like being out of step in the choreography), and of the «behind-and-before» motif (vv. 96 and 136) reinforced by the planet's epicyclic motion (v. 10), are, through their framing placement, further cases in point. Given its circularity, the device relates to the central

premise of the canto, which in turn relates to the metaphysical cosmography of the universe: the idea that through His love all good departs from God and returns to Him («s'inizia» and «termina», v. 87); that God sets the spheres in rounded motion and their joy in obeying is

inspirited with music (echoing Paradiso I's «wheel that [He] made eternal... with harmony», vv. 76, 78); and that in revolving around the earth the heavens «serve as a seal for mortal wax» (vv. 127-28), in that they give the human personalities their particular imprints.

Here lies the device's most important function. The wayfarer's narrative goes as far as it can go, but the poet's inspiration goes beyond that, making what is being expressed expressible in a superior way. The

logopoieic succeeds in subsuming the melopoieic and the phanopoieic. By applying the recently elaborated ekphrastic principle, we might consider Dante's brilliant epicycle an organicist metaphor, imbued with enargeia , «a vividness that. . . reproduces [the wheeling vision] before our

eyes» to effectuate an experience of both representing the sphere of Venus and telling of its implications.24 All great poets, we should be right in arguing, effectuate analogous experiences the moment their

emotion goes beyond mimetic representation. But in Dante's case, as Canto VIII eloquently demonstrates, the poetic diction coupled with the

organicist vision point - Romantically, Shelley would insist - to a creative manipulation of words which the post-moderns of our day, who

would deny language's permutability which «opens expressive opportunities», would be hard put to reject. As a construct shaped by 126

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time and space, by music and dance, the epicycle gives rise to a special

use of language - special because its source, as Shelley would have it, lies in the poet's imagination rather than in a mimetic response to an external object - and this, one theorist would say, must be related to

the Christian metaphor of the Word wherein historical time and metaphysical space are fused.25 Dante's is ultimate aesthetics, and he shows how wrong semiotics is in contesting the success of aesthetics in positing a separate poetic language, a verbal poiesis. Indeed, he leaves the post-moderns very short tether.

Hence, through a self-consciously aesthetic use of language, the metaphoric epicycle and its linear/spiral enargeia give visibility, in fact, tangibility, to heredity's relation to providence. For on the one hand heredity as engendered nature moves with the directionality of the arrow

when it leaves the archer's bow (tantamount to the cycle's linear trajectory around the planet26), and on the other hand providence as revolving nature acts upon it (in its epicyclic spiral motion), aided by

the windage of variance to modify its course.27 Dante's twofold organicist image could not be more effective. Indeed, his dominating metaphor has something contrapuntal about it, say polyphonic, in its

heavenly setting continuously enlivened by the antiphonal music of song and dance.28 Social diversity depends on this divine choreography. In balletic terms, Dante the poet choreographs the movement of our thoughts as readers by the way in which one image leads to another and still another in surprising yet related associative leaps. Without them, we would experience not a poem but a treatise. In this manner, he has transformed a page of cold reasoning into an intellectual - let us say musical - drama valorized by means of a consistent aesthetic vision.


* Charles Martel, who had just been crowned King of Hungary four years before, was to die at age 24, the year following his meeting with Dante, in 1295, thus destroying whatever hope of patronage Dante might have found in the young, sympathetic, and generous monarch. During his brief, three-week visit in Florence, while awaiting his parents to join him from Provence, it is believed that the two struck up a genuine, youthful friendship. This Charles Martel, son of Charles II of Anjou, must not be confused with the better-known historical figure by the same name, Charles

Martel, King of the Franks (688-741). 2This canzone is the first one analyzed in Book II of Dante's Convivio (II, ii, 7). Though the Angelic Intelligences moving Venus are later referred to as Thrones (Par. IX, 61), according to a suggestion by St. Gregory, here the 127

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poet ascribes the function in the Third Heaven to Principalities. These Intelligences are the movers that make the heavens, including that of Venus, rotate.

^Born in Cyprus, Venus is the Cyprian (Ovid, Metamorphoses , X, 270). Referred to in the coming verses, Dione is her mother, and Cupid her son. As in Convivio , II, vi, 9, the «raying» provides the path for the descent of influences among mortals: «The rays of each heaven are the path whereby their virtue descends upon things that are here below». Furthermore, not only Venus moves in epicycle, but also the Moon, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. It is the Venus epicycle, however, that Dante uses in its most metaphoric, poetic way. - All translations in this essay are by the author. 4See Aen.y I, 647ff. Dido is punished among the lustful in Inf. V, 61-62.

^Some have detected a parallel with Hell's second circle - Paolo's and Francesca's - where «mad love» is punished: Inf. V's «infernal storm» (v. 31) and Par. Vffl's «swift winds» (vv. 22-23); the lustful being blown «here and there» (v. 43) and the blessed «wheeling around, some more some less

swift» (v. 20); Paolo's and Francesca's leaving the pack to approach Dante and Charles Martels stepping forth from his dancers to address Dante; Inf.

V's eternal hurricane «that never pauses» (v. 31) and Par. VIII's «brief pause» (v. 39). This has led one critic to imagine Charles's wife, Clemence of Hapsburg, alluded to in Par. IX, to be standing at his side, by parallel implication with Paolo who stands by Francesca (see A. Pézard, «Il Canto Vni del Paradiso» y Letture dantesche , III: ParadisOy Firenze: Sansoni, 1961, 148). This speculation seems as thinly supportable as it is unnecessary. "See Pézard, cit., 145.


'«ond'io principio piglio» must mean more than the simplistic «with

reference to whom [the Cyprian, Venus] I began this canto». *In Par. II, 34-36, speaking of the Moon, Dante had explained how Paradisal visions do not occur in the heavens but inside the planetary body, «just as water takes in a ray of light while remaining intact». In similar fashion, he entered the Sun (Par. X, 41). 9 Another device is the insistent use of the high vowel «i» (verses 19-27), indicative of unreachable light, around which the ultimate canto, Paradiso XXXIII, is built. The terms melopoieiay as later phanopoieia and logopoieiay are of Ezra Pound coinage. Melopoieia is the musical property which directs the bearing and trend of the text's language; phanopoieia is the casting of images upon the visual imagination; and logopoieia is the dance of the intellect among words, the aesthetic content which is peculiarly the domain of verbal manifestation.

l^Rocco Montano (& Ugo Barra), Comprendere Dantey Napoli: G.B. Vico Editrice, 1976, 412.

Another boundary is «where the Tronto and the Verde reach the sea» (v. 63): where the Liri and Garigliano rivers (today's names) separate the Kingdom of Naples from the Papal States. Provence, where the Sorgue and Rhone rivers flow, was the dowry from Charles's grandmother Beatrice. The

Catona, Bari, Gaeta triangle covers the tip of Italy's toe (Catona), the 128

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Eastern land (Bari) on the Adriatic, and the Western (Gaeta) on the Tyrrhenian.

Anjou descendants, Charles complains, would have ruled Sicily, where volcanic ashes lie on the East between Cape Faro («Peloro») and Cape Passero («Pachino»). As if to contradict Ovid ( Metamorphoses V), who ascribes the ashes emitted by Mt. Ema to the anger of the titan Typhoeus buried under it, Dante interjects a scientific note: not Typhoeus but «surging sulphur» (v. 70). The reason for this interjection is unclear, except perhaps to point up another pagan error. In any event, Dante is scientifically correct, in that inside the mountain's caves, waves create powerful air currents which, in their movement, ignite the sulphur.

l^It is true, however, that Dante «saved» Charles I, stingy like his grandson Robert, by having Sordello point him out to him in Purgatory's Valley of the Princes ( Purg . VII, 113), because this Angevin had had a good reputation. Carlo Muscetta concurs with the identification, since Charles II had been deemed lavish, though he is judged avaricious in Purg. XX, 79-84 and never inspired Dante's good words (inb Lectura Dantis Scaligera: Paradiso , Firenze: Le Monnier, 1968, 255). But the «other Charles» of Purg. XX is not an Anjou but Charles of Valois, who was in league with the detested pope Boniface VID. l^These verses have confounded critics for a long time; disagreements abound, and all depends on whether the interpretive stress falls upon the word «joy» («letizia») or upon the word «welcome» («grata»), the joy at the encounter with Charles Martel or the welcome at knowing him among the blessed, and therefore in the company of God. But like all issues of this sort, nothing will ever be resolved by fine-tuning the semantics. Dante probably intended both views, given similar complex ambiguities that mark his love poetry, which ends by saying more than a single point of view permits.

^We might note that the poetic potential that Dante derives from this doctrine begins in the sphere of Venus/love.

l"Pézard, cit., 158. 1 'Dante liked the arrow image, which had already appeared in Par., I,

118-19. Sapegno in his commentary (Milano, 1957) gives several

meanings to «nature provedute» (v. 100), suggesting that the perfect divine Mind has various natures, provedute! prevedute, what they are and what their talents are, to fill out the roster of world order.

^The notion, dear to the Scholastics, is expressed variously: Plato's Republic (III, 415); Aristotle's De Anima (III, 14); Dante's Convivio (IV, xxxiv, 10); De Monarchia (I, x, 1); his Quaestio de aqua et terra (XVIII); etc.

^Norton correctly points to the variety of meanings the word natura assumes in this canto (and others). They are summarized in Singleton's last note (148) to the canto, in his Commentary, vol. 2 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975, 160). Quoting Charles Norton ( Paradise , rev. ed, , Boston: 1902): «First, in v. 100 natures signify the products of Nature in 129

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its generic sense; in v. 114 Nature stands for the personified order of the created world; in v. 127 'the circular nature' is equivalent to the system of the spheres; in vv. 133 and 139 nature is used for the individual creature, though in the latter instance it is held by many commentators to signify Nature with the same meaning which it has in v. 142, where the word is

employed in its generic and personified sense». But in the long run, without pedantic refinements, the contexts establish the likely meanings.

^«The love of humanity... is the only way to salvation that Providence can indicate to souls overcome by the light of the Venus star» (Muscetta, 270). Dante did not particularly like Robert, who tried to stop the coronation of Henry VII (in whom Dante had placed considerable hope for improving Italian affairs) in Rome, and who advocated the strong temporal power of the Church (which Dante, a supporter of Empire in temporal matters, vehemently opposed).


^See Allen Mandelbaum's note to this passage in his verse translation,

Paradiso , New York: Bantam Books, 1984, 333. 23 Criticism of Paradiso VID has never been abundant, but the little there has

been has never grasped the full aesthetic significance of passages like this one. See for example - and arbitrarily selected - early this century, John S. Carroll, In Patria: An Exposition of Dante's Paradiso (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1911, 129-144) and later, C.S. Singleton, cit., 147-160.

2^The ekphrastic principle has been presented by Murray Krieger, Ekphrasis: The Illusion of the Natural Sign , Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992. The quotation is from page 68.

2*Krieger, cit., 214. He talks of «open expressive opportunities» (168). I am injecting these few modern theoretical notions to suggest that, while Krieger must be lauded for any number of insights, the final result of theoretical speculation of this sort remains limited to the identical extent that its applicability to an individual text remains relative, and that, unless we «zero in» on a specific text and author, we keep floating on the vapors of pleasant ideas. 2°In a celestial context, a cyclic orbital motion may be considered «linear» in the sense of Albert Einstein's theory of the curvature of space. In any event, the planet's predetermined orbital course makes its direction linear in relation to its definitely circular rotation in the epicycle.

2^In the terminology of the Quaestio de aqua et terra , engendered nature might be likened to natura naturata (the order of creation, or heredity) and revolving nature to natura naturans (God, or providence).

28 Literary scholars frequently misuse technical musical terms. Paradiso VIH,

for example, has given rise to phrases like «polyphonic Gregorian plainsong». Gregorian chant is not polyphonic; it is monophonie. Dante was not hearing this Gregorian music when he wrote the canto. Rather, he

was hearing such polyphonic or contrapuntal sacred music, usually unaccompanied, popular in his day as motets. Also, here song and dance may be considered as responding antiphonally to each other, though their actuality was simultaneous. 130

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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso IX Author(s): MARK BALFOUR Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 131-145 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806597 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:02 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

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Royal Holloway University of London

IX Paradiso IX is the second and last canto dealing with the pilgrim's sojourn in the heaven of Venus.1 The heaven is populated, as Cunizza da Romano explains, by the souls of those who were overcome by the light of the star (32-33) and were, as a consequence, disposed to love excessively while on earth. Not surprisingly, therefore, canto VIII and, to a greater extent, canto IX explore the difference between right love -

or caritas - and wrong love - «folle amore» (Par. VIII. 2), or that motivated by cupiditas. As early in the Commedia as Inferno V, Dante

makes explicit the connection between trasgressive sexual desire and political instability or misrule. In Paradiso IX, the choice between right and wrong love is related to obedience or resistance to God's appointed rulers and furtherance or hindrance of the establishment on earth of the

ideal Roman Monarchy. This theme is explored across a wide geographical area, from the March of Treviso, a region whose degeneracy and corruption exemplify that of the whole of the «terra

prava / italica» (25-26), to the «discordanti liti» (85) of the Mediterranean, and finally to the three focal points of Dante's vision: the Holy Land, Florence, and Rome. Dante's address to «bella Clemenza» at the start of canto IX serves

partly as conclusion to the pilgrim's dialogue with Charles Martel in the

previous canto. The fact that both Charles's wife and daughter were called Clemence has led to debate about which of them is being addressed. The former died in 1295 and could therefore be discounted if

Clemence is to be understood as still alive in 1300, the fictional date of the poem. Some commentators, however, have pointed out that «Carlo tuo» would more appropriately designate a husband than a father (Bosco

& Reggio quote Del Lungo's opinion that it sounds «essenzialmente coniugale»). It is, of course, quite possible that Dante intended the identity of Clemence to be ambiguous: perhaps it is more important to note that he opens a canto which contains a sequence of female figures exemplifying right and wrong love with an address to a woman 'outside'

the poem, whose very name, «Clemenza», and whose description as «bella», convey the sense of physical beauty and moral virtue. In its veiled reference to past and future events on earth the canto's 131

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opening establishes the principle of past and present sinfulness answered by future judgement (1-6): Da poi che Carlo tuo, bella Clemenza, m'ebbe chiarito, mi narrò li 'nganni che ricever dovea la sua semenza; ma disse: «Taci e lascia muover li anni»;

sì ch'io non posso dir se non che pianto giusto verrà di retro ai vostri danni.

Most commentators agree that «li 'nganni» refers to Charles's brother Robert's usurpation in 1309 of the kingdom of Naples from Charles's son, Carobert, which act received approval from Pope Clement V. It is also generally agreed that lines 5-6 refer to the battle of Montecatini in 1315, at which Robert's brother and nephew died. Dante's condemnation of Robert of Naples, so central to the previous canto, is here continued. In a wider sense the word «inganni» points to the recurrent examples in

Paradiso IX of the trickery and deceit which characterize the power-struggles of Dante's Italy, and which are implicitly contrasted at

the end of the canto with a biblical example of «holy» deception. Moreover, Dante indicates with his following apostrophe that the majority of people on earth are themselves «anime ingannate» (10), self-deceived in their preoccupation with empty vanities. Charles Martel returns to the light from which he emerged and

another soul draws near. In what proves to be her only intervention in Paradiso IX, Beatrice sanctions Dante's desire to converse with this new soul. She communicates this through her eyes, and her silence accords with a connection that can be traced within the canto between the

relative status of a female figure and her silence. Cunizza da Romano, a character drawn from recent Italian history, is one of the heaven's main speakers; Rahab, a character from the sacred text of the Old Testament, remains silent; and the Virgin Mary, the culmination of this series of female figures, although present at an exemplary level at the canto's end, is not even named by the text. The more idealized and susceptible to allegorization or typological interpretation the female figure becomes, the more the possible trace of a potentially disruptive female voice is removed from the text. Informing the canto throughout is the idea of woman as either site and origin of trasgressive desire or object of true caritas . As will be seen, Cunizza, Rahab, and Mary are all presented as women who have chosen, or rather, have been chosen to serve God's purposes on earth.

Cunizza begins with a description of her locus natalis , the March of Treviso, defining it as «quella parte de la terra prava / italica che siede 132

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tra Rialto / e le fontane di Brenta e di Piava» (25-27). The adjective «prava» is applied to Italy in general, with the March a microcosm of the nation, the depravity of part symptomatic of that of the whole. Its boundaries are defined entirely by the topography of rivers and sea and this is a feature of all such geographical description in the cantoē Thus,

the people of the March are «la turba [...] / che Tagliamento e Adice

richiude» (43-44) and Treviso is the place «dove Sile e Cagnan s'accompagna» (49), while Folquet de Marseille employs a long, watery

periphrasis to indicate his place of birth (82-90). This continual reminder of the boundaries fixed by the topography of God's creation

throws into relief the violent struggles of a divided and rebellious humanity, which are consequently depicted in terms of pollution, particularly pollution of waters, and destruction of the natural world. Thus Ezzelino da Romano is described by his sister as «una facelia / che

fece a la contrada un grande assalto» (29-30), where «contrada» represents both the country and its people; the blood of the Paduans who resist the authority of the Imperial Vicar, Cangrande della Scala, will

stain «l'acqua che Vincenza bagna» (47); and Marseilles «fé del sangue suo già caldo il porto» (93), similarly resisting imperial authority in the

person of Caesar during the Roman Civil War. Indeed, Paradiso IX reaffirms a constant feature of the Commedia : any description of the geography of this fallen world almost inevitably contains traces of the bloody events of human history. Commentators have drawn attention to similarities in structure

between Cunizza's speech and that of Folquet. In fact, the two speeches

are almost parallel in structure and can be divided into five distinct


1) Self-introduction, commencing with geographical periphrasis and culminating in the revelation of their name (25-32; 82-95). 2) Explanation of why they are in the heaven of Venus (32-33; 95-102). 3) Explanation of the present condition of souls in Venus in relation to their past sinful life on earth (34-36; 103-108). 4) Introduction and praise of another soul, in Cunizza's case Folquet, in Folqueťs, Rahab; reference to that soul's continued fame, and implicit criticism of those who fail to follow their example (37-42; 109-126). 5) An explicit indictment of earthly wickedness ending with prophecy (Cunizza's speech also containing an affirmation of the justice of what she has said) (43-63; 127-142).

At the center of each speech is a striking statement concerning the radical difference that exists between celestial and earthly perspectives. Whilst acknowledging their prior sinfulness, Cunizza and Folquet are 133

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able to look back at their past life from a paradisical, and therefore comic, point of view.3 As Cunizza explains: «lietamente a me medesma indulgo / la cagion di mia sorte, e non mi noia; / che parria forse forte al

vostro vulgo» (34-36). Cunizza supplies little in the way of autobiographical detail and it remains difficult to say with any accuracy how much Dante knew about her life.4 Bom around 1 198, she was the sister of the infamous Ezzelino and Alberico da Romano. She married Rizzardo di San Bonifacio in

1222, from whom she was abducted by Sordello, possibly with her brothers' connivance, and lived with the troubadour for a while as his

concubine. Cunizza is mentioned by several poems dating from the beginning of the thirteenth century and originating from the court-circles

of Treviso.5 These include a poetic exchange between Peire Guilhem de Lusema and Uc de Saint Circ in which the former states that «sa beltatz

iesplan / E sos ricx prez seignoreia» (w. 4-5) and promises to defend her from her detractors with his sword. Uc replies that Cunizza's recent

actions have led to her eternal damnation (vv. 1-6), ironically prophesying that Peire will die defending her (13-20).6 Sordello's liaison with Cunizza occasioned satirical comment by at least two poets, Joanet

d'Albusson and Reforsat de Trets, and it is also referred to in two versions of his Occitan vida . After Sordello, Cunizza had at least one more lover and three more husbands, before ending her days in Florence.

Various commentators have speculated concerning her possible reputation for piety at the end of her life, even suggesting that Dante could have seen or heard about her, an old and saintly woman, in his childhood. However, there is no real evidence, literary or historical, to confirm her latter reputation, save for the record of her having freed the

family slaves in 1265. The only real «evidence» for Cunizza's conversion is the Commedia itself. Although Dante's knowledge of specific texts is open to question, he would arguably have been aware of the portrayal of Cunizza in vernacular poetic discourse and would almost certainly have known of her adulterous relationship with Sordello. Her presence in the heaven of Venus must therefore be interpreted in the context of Dante's continual critique of literary representations of love.

Her conversion entails a transcendence of her role as object of trasgressive desire; she becomes, instead, the vehicle through whom God's judgment is pronounced upon a sinful people.7

Most commentators on this canto have noted the passage in Purgatorio XVI where Marco Lombardo laments the passing of courtly values from that part of Italy where the March of Treviso is located: «In sul paese ch'Adice e Po riga, / solea valore e cortesia trovarsi, / prima

che Federigo avesse briga» (115-117). Although Dante may look back 134

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to that time with nostalgia, recognizing the courtly culture that flourished around Treviso to be of vital importance to the poetic tradition of which he is a part, he nevertheless makes it quite clear that

even then the region was contaminated by violence.8 Cunizza's description of the March of Treviso culminates with the destructive «facelia» of her brother, Ezzelino da Romano, its ruler from 1223 to 1259.9 A successful crusade was proclaimed against him by the Papacy which led to his death; if this were remembered by Dante's audience, Ezzelino's name would effectively introduce the canto's crusading theme.10 Ezzelino was infamous for his cruelty and frequently depicted in diabolic terms by contemporary chroniclers. Dante places him among the violent against others in the seventh circle of Hell, submerged up to Iiis eyebrows in a river of boiling blood as one of the «tiranni / che dier

nel sangue e ne l'aver di piglio» {Inf. XII. 104-105). In Albertino Mussato's EceriniSy his Senecan tragedy written in 1314, Ezzelino and Alberico are quite literally the devil's children, although Mussato does also make the point that Ezzelino is partly a «creation» of the people of the March.11 Although we cannot be sure that Dante knew the Ecerinis , it is quite probable that he knew of it and was aware of the legendary material that had accumulated around Ezzelino.12 Dante would also have been aware that Guelf propaganda in Padua and elsewhere depicted Ezzelino as a forerunner of the new Ghibelline

«tyrant», Cangrande della Scala: indeed, Mussato's play makes this comparison explicit. After the death of Henry VII of Luxembourg, the

emperor whom Dante had hoped would re-establish the Monarchy, Cangrande came to occupy a central place in Dante's political vision:

indeed Cacciaguida's prophecy in Paradiso XVII intimates that

Cangrande is himself ordained to become Roman emperor (76-90). In Paradiso IX, much of which may well have been written while Dante was lodged under Cangrande's protection, Dante distinguishes between the destruction brought by Ezzelino's tyranny and the bloodshed which results from the region's present degeneracy. Indeed, he implies that it is those who refuse to acknowledge Cangrande's imperial authority and the

stability which his rule would bring who are the true successors of Ezzelino.13 Cunizza prophesies three future events: the Paduans' defiance of Cangrande and subsequent defeat by the Ghibelline army outside Vicenza in 1314; the murder in 1312 of the proud and despotic lord of Treviso, Rizzardo da Camino;14 and the betrayal in 1314 by the bishop of Feltre, Alessandro Novello, of three Ghibelline refugees from Ferrara who had placed themselves under his protection. The second and third prophecies pick up the canto's theme of «inganni»: a net is spread

for Rizzardo; the bishop deceives those under his care. Whereas one 135

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tercet is allocated to each of the first two prophecies, three are devoted to

Alessandro Novello. Cunizza explains that his actions define those of the region as a whole, the generosity of «questo prete cortese» a typically infernal inversion of the «cortesia» that was once to be found there. The canto's use of liquid imagery is also given a new twist with

the picture of the «bigoncia» holding «il sangue ferrarese» (55-56), a juxtaposition of grape-harvest and blood that possibly alludes, again ironically, to biblical prophecy concerning God's destruction of the wicked (Joel 3. 13). Cunizza finishes by reassuring the pilgrim that her

words, although harsh, are in fact a revelation of God's justice, knowledge of which is mediated to the souls in Venus by the «Thrones», the angelic intelligences who move the sphere of Saturn. Then, like Charles Martel before her, she rejoins the celestial dance, and

it is Folquet's turn to speak.

Cunizza had described Folquet as «questa luculenta e cara gioia» (37), and this strand of imagery is picked up again with Dante likening him to a «fin balasso in che lo sol percuota» (69). The balas ruby is, as one would imagine, a stone highly appropriate to Folquet: a symbol of

ardent love, it was also supposed, at least by some lapidaries, to have the property of diminishing or curing lustful thoughts.15 As with Cunizza, the pilgrim asks Folquet to satisfy his longing for knowledge. His address contains three Dantean neologisms: «tuo veder s'inluia » (73), «s'io m'intuassi , come tu ťinmii » (81). Not merely rhetorical ornament or stylistic elevation, these verbs describing the unity between

souls in Paradise and God, and their intimate understanding of Dante's

hopes and desires, are a celestial counterpoint to the language of eroticism in which sexual union is depicted in terms of the joining of two souls. (The punishment suffered by Paolo and Francesca, joined as one for eternity, is an infernal literalization of this imagery).

Folquet's self-introduction furnishes a little more biographical detail than Cunizza's.16 Again the early commentators fill in the background, often paraphrasing the Occitan vida , which dates from the second half of the thirteenth century. His life on earth is divided into

two distinct parts and lends itself to interpretation as an example of conversion from wrong to right love. Born circa 1 160 in Marseilles, he was the son of an Italian merchant. He became a troubadour, writing

highly rhetorical and elaborate love poetry from which the vida imaginatively extrapolates details of his illicit love affairs.17 He ceased to write poetry when in 1200 he entered the Cistercian order. In 1205 he

became Bishop of Toulouse, in which capacity he supported the foundation of the Dominicans and was one of the main preachers of the

Albigensian Crusade. In contrast with Cunizza's speech, Folquet's is 136

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studded with classical allusions: the image of Marseilles's bloodied harbour taken from Lucan ( Phars . III. 572-573); «discordanti liti» (85) translating the Virgilian «litora litoribus contraria» ( ken . IV. 628); and the three exempla of foolish love, Dido, Phyllis, and Hercules, derived primarily from Ovid's Heroides , although informed by other texts.

The last two allusions need some comment. Jacopo della Lana, together with other early commentators, explains «discordanti liti» as

meaning «li abitatori di questi luoghi ... discordanti in fede, legge e usanze», the geographical detail pointing to the crusading theme developed later in the canto.18 The original context of the Virgilian allusion, however, has not yet been explored. When Dido awakens to discover that Aeneas is planning his departure, she calls upon her own

Tyrian people to carry out her revenge upon his descendants, prophesying the advent of Hannibal and the Punic wars ( Aen . IV. 622-629). She concludes: «litora litoribus contraria, fluctibus undas / imprecor, arma armis: pugnent ipsique nepotesque». Aeneas's love for Dido represented a diversion from his providential mission to found Rome and throughout the Commedia Dido is emblematic of misdirected or wrong love. Dante's allusion to Dido's curse, therefore, underlines the

far-reaching consequences of Aeneas's illicit love, for the conflict between Islamic East and Christian West is, for Dante, a continuation of

the enmity between Carthage and Rome.1^ Dido is also the first of the three classical figures to whose foolish and ultimately self-destructive

loves Folquet likens the desires of his youth. Dante's choice of three characters from the Heroides owes much to its conventional

interpretation in the Middle Ages as a text written to condemn amor

stultus (usually exemplified by Phyllis) and amor illicitus , whilst praising the legitimate or conjugal love exemplified by the chaste Penelope.20 Folquet is last in the series of troubadours encountered by the pilgrim in the Commedia and the only one to be found in Paradiso. Barolini notes that he «serves as a kind of summary» of the Occitan poets the pilgrim has already met: «not only is his political engagement forecast by Sordello and his love poetry by Arnaut, but he was in life a

good friend of Bertran de Born's, who should have emulated him in directing his energies toward holy rather than secular wars».21 Folquet's «Tan m'abellis l'amoros pensamen» is cited in the De vulgāri eloquentia (II. vi. 6), its incipit providing the main intertext for the first line of

Arnaut Daniel's Occitan speech (in Purg. XXVI. 140-147). Moreover, Picone and especially Rossi have argued for a dense intertextual relationship between Folquet's poetry and his representation in Paradiso IX and it is important to note that while a troubadour, Folquet wrote at 137

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least three chansons de croisade which, if known to Dante, would have

strengthened his case for being chosen to proclaim the crusade in Paradiso 22 The main reason for his being so chosen is likely to be his

preaching of the Albigensian Crusade while bishop of Toulouse.23 In all the early illuminated manuscripts of the Commedia , Folquet is depicted not as troubadour, but as bishop, with mitre and crozier.24 That

is to say, he was understood to have appeared to the pilgrim in his post-conversion guise, having abandoned the world and with it his poetry. Despite the uneasiness of some modern commentators, it is evident that the crusade waged against the Cathar heretics of the Languedoc would certainly have been perceived as legitimate by Dante, whose condemnation of intellectual heresy and political and religious schism is fierce.25 Indeed, later in the cantica Bonaventure praises St. Dominic's efforts in the Languedoc in no uncertain terms: «ne li sterpi eretici percosse / l'impeto suo, più vivamente quivi / dove le resistenze eran più grosse» {Par. XII. 100-102). Those who would characterize the

Albigensian Crusade as somehow being a perversion of the crusading ideal are largely subscribing to an anachronistic viewpoint. Indeed, the

war against the Cathars was consistent with papal crusading practice from the twelfth century onwards.26 Moreover, the extent to which the

Albigensian Crusade was criticized at the time has been exaggerated; only a few of the troubadours in the Languedoc make any reference to it and there is evidence that they fought on both sides in the conflict.27

In Paradiso IX Folquet's focus is the crusade to the Holy Land. He criticises the Papacy for failing to follow the example of Rahab, as he explains why she was the first soul harrowed from Hell to be raised to the third heaven (121-126): Ben si convenne lei lasciar per palma in alcun cielo de l'alta vittoria

che s'acquistò con l'una e l'altra palma, pérch' ella favorò la prima gloria di Iosiiè in su la Terra Santa,

che poco tocca al papa la memoria.

Dante here draws upon the conventional typological interpretation of the biblical story of Rahab. In return for her having sheltered the Israelite

spies, Joshua (Jesus Christ) saved the prostitute Rahab (the Church drawn from the Gentiles) from the destruction of the city of Jericho (this

world / eternal death), her house distinguished from those around it by a red thread (the blood of Christ).28 The victory won with both palms is

both the overthrow of Jericho, accomplished through prayer, and Christ's death on the cross. Rahab, as type of Ecclesia , is obviously an 138

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appropriate example with which to shame the Papacy. (Her hiding the spies, which led to the city's destruction but ensured her own salvation,

is a wonderful example of a holy «inganno»). In crusading discourse Joshua frequently appears as a figura crucesignati , a type for the crusaders to follow, and Dante reflects that typology not only in Paradiso IX, but also by placing Joshua among the heroes in the cross

of Mars (Par. XVIII. 37-39). Rahab is described as a «palma», and this is normally interpreted to mean a 'victory palm': that is, she is a sign in

the heaven of Venus of the salvation made possible by Christ's crucifixion. I would suggest that Dante is also likening Rahab to the Jericho palms brought back by the crusaders as a token of their armed

pilgrimage, thereby establishing a typological connection between Christ's Harrowing of Hell and crusade.29 Dante locates a call for crusade in the heaven of Venus and links it thematically to the question of right and wrong love, thereby reflecting a central theme of crusading discourse: from the very beginning crusades were represented by those preaching them and by the literature that grew up around them as an act of love - love first of all for God and then for one's fellow-Christians.30 Rahab stands as an alternative to the female

figures in crusade poems, love for whom is sometimes represented as being in direct opposition to the service of God in the Holy Land.31 It

would be no exaggeration to state that crusade is an integral part of Dante's political vision. The liberation of the Holy Land by the divinely elected Roman emperor would be necessary for the establishment of a worldwide Monarchy. However, the spiritual benefits that distinguished a crusade from other kinds of warfare could not be proclaimed by the emperor, whose authority was restricted to the temporal realm. It was rather the responsibility of the Papacy, whose authority was spiritual, to proclaim and preach a crusade. Hence Dante's criticism of Boniface VIII's misuse of crusade against the Colonna cardinals (Inf. XXVII. 85-90) and Cacciaguida's assertion that the Holy Land remains in 'Saracen' hands,

«per colpa d'i pastor» (Par. XV. 142-144). In a powerful piece of polemic, Dante has Folquet demonstrate that the Papacy's failure to remember the Holy Land results from cupidity, engendered and nurtured by the city of Florence (127-138): La tua città, che di colui è pianta che pria volse le spalle al suo fattore e di cui è la nvidia tanto pianta, produce e spande il maladetto fiore c'ha disviate le pecore e li agni, però che fatto ha lupo del pastore. Per questo l'Evangelio e i dottor magni 139

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son derelitti, e solo ai Decretali

si studia, sì che pare a' lor vivagni. A questo intende il papa e ' cardinali; non vanno i lor pensieri a Nazarene,

là dove Gabriello aperse l'ali.

The play on words between «Fiorenza» and «fiore», «fiorire», etc, was a frequent feature of Tuscan literature in the thirteenth and early fourteenth

centuries. It derived from the etymological origins of the city's name, various explanations for which were proferred in medieval Florentine

chronicles.32 Positive examples exist of this word-play: in the Tesoretto , for example, Brunetto Latini states that, «Lo tesoro comincia / Al tempo ke fiorença / Fioria e fece frutto» (113-115: referring to the Florence before the battle of Montaperti in 1260). 33 But the word-play

could also be used in a negative sense; Guittone d'Arezzo's «Ahi lasso, or è stagion de doler tanto», written after Montaperti, traces the city's decline with its successive references to the city first as «l'alta Fior» (5),

then as «la sfiorata Fiore» (16), and finally, ironically, as «Fiorenza, fior che sempre rinovella» (93). 3^ For Dante, the period when Florence truly flourished had nothing to do with growth in the city's population or expansion of its mercantile interests: indeed he sees those very things as having contributed to its degradation. Rather it was the «buon tempo antico» of Cacciaguida when great and noble families like the Lamberti, «fiorian Fiorenza in tutť i suoi gran fatti» (Par. XVI. 111). In Paradiso

IX Dante rewrites Florentine mythology: the 'flourishing' city was planted by Satan, and the florin, the coin which bolstered and symbolized Florence's growing wealth and influence, is in reality an evil bloom which changes shepherds into wolves.3^

The cupidity that has metamorphosed the shepherds of Christ's flock causes them to neglect the Gospels and Church Fathers, and to devote their time instead to the writings of the decretalists, in the hope of increasing wealth and power.36 Once again Folquet rebukes them for failing to remember the Holy Land, but this time it is not the wars of the Old Testament he recalls, but rather «Nazarette, / là dove Gabriello

aperse l'ali». It might seem surprising that Nazareth is chosen, rather than Jerusalem, the city where Christ was crucified, where he rose again

and to where it was believed he would return - the focal point of crusading discourse. There are, however, two important reasons for

Dante's choice of Nazareth: the etymology of its name and the momentous event that took place there. Of all the commentators on this

canto only Rossi, so far as I am aware, has noted the etymology of Nazareth as «fios», citing Bernard of Clairvaux's De laude novae


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militiae : Dante need not have known this text, however, since the etymology was conventional in his day.37 Instead of the florin («il maladetto fiore»), the Papacy's desire should be for the 'flower' of Nazareth. It is also possible that Nazareth is here meant to be seen as an anti-Florence.38 The representation of right and wrong desires in terms of good and evil flowers also plays with the conventions of medieval

love poetry, where the beloved object of desire is likened to or allegorized as a flower. The reference to the Annunciation supplies the canto's last and perfect example of a woman who was herself depicted in terms of a flower (lily, rose in Jericho), a female object of true and holy desire whose own act of right love, prefigured by that of Rahab, enabled God's redemptive plan to succeed. The canto ends with a prophecy and there can be little doubt that

this refers to the political savior, the «veltro» {Inf. I. 100-105) or «cinquecento diece e cinque» ( Purg . XXXIII. 40-45), whose coming is promised several times in the Commedia (139-142):39 Ma Vaticano e l'altre parti elette di Roma che son state cimitero

a la milizia che Pietro seguette, tosto libere fien de l'avoltero.

Before Jerusalem can be liberated, the Papacy must be freed from spiritual adultery, from the desire for temporal power that causes it to oppose the establishment of the Roman Monarchy which has as its goal «the universal love on earth which will transform mankind into the

image of God».40


4n addition to commentaries stored on the Dartmouth Dante database, I have

consulted the following readings of the canto: Roedel, Toja, Bergin,

Vallone, Picone, Pasquazi. Picone's in particular is an important and suggestive reading. All quotations from the Commedia are taken from the edition by Petrocchi as used in the edition of Bosco and Reggio.

^Picone, pp. 62, 78, assigns a tripartite structure to each speech. See also Vallone, pp. 52-53. 3See Jacoff (1980), pp. 119-120, on the theme of «looking back» in the ninth canto of each cantica.

4On what follows see, especially, Coletti. ^Folena, pp. 58-77; Picone, pp. 55-61.

^Bertoni, pp. 275-277 (text and Italian translation), pp. 523-524 (commentary). 141

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2 On the representation of women in troubadour lyric, see the excellent article by Burns.

^Folena (1990), pp. 78-83, on «Treviso e le "Corti d'Amore"». Dante's view of the Hohenstaufen court, praised in De vulgāri e loque nt ia, I. xii. 4, for nurturing the Sicilian precursors of Dante and his contemporaries, is similarly tempered by the Commedia 's representation of Frederick II as heretic and Manfred as excommunicated schismatic.

^For what follows, see especially Arnaldi and Raimondi (1966). ^Housley (1982), p. 167, describes it as «The Italian crusade which most insistently reminds one of the crusades in the Holy Land, both in the enthusiasm with which it was greeted and followed and in the atmosphere of

religiosity which enveloped it». See also pp. 54-55, 168-169. Mussato refers to the crusade in the Ecerinis , 1. 405.

H Ecerinis, 1. 169. For an introduction to the Ecerinis , see Raimondi (1970).

l^The image of the «facelia», for instance, may well owe something to the story, cited by Pietro di Dante, of Ezzelino's mother's dream that she had given birth to a burning torch. 13 See Hyde, pp. 252-282, for a clear account of the historical background. ^Rizzardo had set himself up as rival to Cangrande for the position of Imperial Vicar under Henry VII; Hyde, p. 255.

^Cioffari, pp. 152-153. l^The best introduction to Folquet's life and works remains that of Stronski. Suitner provides an excellent study of Dante's Folquet; see also Zingarelli, although many of his more fancyful arguments have since been refuted.

Stronski, pp. 61-68, demonstrates that the story of Folquet's amorous adventures is «une pure fable sans aucun fondement historique» (p. 64).

l^See also Roedel, pp. 186-187. l^In Par. VI. 49, Dante refers to Hannibal's Carthaginian troops as «li Arabi».

^Heinrichs, pp. 62-68, discusses medieval accessus to the Heroides. See also Ghisalberti. On Dante's use of the exempla , see Rossi.

^Barolini, p. 185. ^Numbered X, XVIII, and XIX in Stronski's edition. The razo to «Hueimais no y conosc razo» (XIX) likens it to a sermon (prezicansa ). 23 Suitner, p. 631, argues that although Dante would not have had a minute knowledge of Folquet's role in the Crusade, neither would he have been ignorant of it altogether. See Stronski for sources, including Vincent of Beauvais (pp. 102-103) and John of Garland (pp. 107-108) which mention Folquet's preaching of the Crusade. 24ßrieger, Meiss & Singleton, I, p. 189, and II, pp. 450-453. It is worth pointing out, however, that in illuminated Italian songbooks containing his poetry, it was also conventional to portray him as bishop; Kendrick, p. 110.

25 For an example of such critical uneasiness, see Picone, p. 86. Lambert, pp. 105-146, provides a clear introduction to the Cathars. See also Balfour 142

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(1993) regarding Dante and crusades against schismatics.

2°Villey, pp. 222-225; Housley (1985). 27Siberry (1985), pp. 158-168. Auerbach, pp. 482-484; see also Daniélou, pp. 244-260. Rahab also appears in the New Testament as an example of faith (Hebrews 11:31) and, seemingly in contradiction, as an example of justification by works (James 2:25).

2^In Purg. XXXin. 77-78 Dante is likened to a pilgrim to the Holy Land, «che si reca il bordon di palma cinto».

^See Riley-Smith's fundamental article on the subject.

31 Rahab can possibly also be seen as analogous to the figure of the converted Saracen princess in the chansons de geste' see Balfour, forthcoming.

32Villani, I. xxxviii (p. 62) summarizes various explanations, including the following: «in quello luogo e campi intorno ove fu la città edificata sempre nasceano fiori e gigli. Poi la maggiore parte degli abitanti furono consenzienti di chiamarla Floria, siccome fosse in fiori edificata, cioè con molte delizie [...] Ma poi per lungo uso del volgare fu nominata Fiorenze: ciò s'interpreta spada fiorita». See also Rubenstein.

33 See Armour (1991), for Brunetto's poem written in exile, «S'eo sono distretto jnamoratamente», and the reference to Florence as «lo bianco fioreauliso».

34Contini, pp. 206-209; see also in the same volume Chiaro Davanzati's, «Ahi dolze e gaia terra fiorentina», partially modelled on Guittone's poem and which uses the same imagery; pp. 414-416.

35 For a eulogy of the florin by Dante's contemporary, Remigio de' Girolami, see Davis pp. 206-207n (also, p. 74).

3^A parallel passage is found in Dante's Epistola XI, 15-16. 3 'Rossi, pp. 77, 93n. Delcorno, p. 185n, for instance, refers to a sermon delivered in Florence in 1305 by Giordano da Pisa which makes use of this etymology.

3®Wessley examines a fascinating application of Nazareth's etymology by Joachim of Fiore and the Florensian community.

39See, for example, Vallone, p. 169; Bergin, p. 141. Roedel, p. 193, interprets this as a reference to Boniface VIII's death in 1303. ^Armour (1989), p. 178. Armour outlines the importance of love to Dante's conception of the Roman Monarchy, in connection with the symbol of the Griffin in the Earthly Paradise; pp. 176-179. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Armour, Peter: Dante's Griffin and the History of the World (Oxford, 1989); «The Love of Two Florentines: Brunetto Latini and Bondie Dietaiuti»,

Lectura Dantis , 9 (1991), 11-33. Arnaldi, Girolamo: «La Marca Trevigiana "prima che Federigo avesse briga" e dopo», in V. Branca and G. Padoan, eds, Dante e la cultura veneta 143

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(Florence, 1966), pp. 29-37. Auerbach, Erich: «Figurative Texts Illustrating Certain Passages of Dante's Commedia '», Speculum , 21 (1946), 474-489. Barolini, Teodolinda: Dante's Poets : Textuality and Truth in the «Comedy» (Princeton, 1984). Balfour, Mark: «"Orribil furon li peccati miei": Manfred's Wounds in Purgatorio , HI», Italian Studies , 48 (1993), 4-17; «Moses and the Princess: Josephus's Antiquitates Judaic ae and the chansons de geste », Medium Aevum (forthcoming). Bergin, Thomas Goddard: «Paradiso IX», in idem, A Diversity of Dante (New Brunswick, NJ, 1969), pp. 112-142; also in the same volume, «Dante's Provençal Gallery», pp. 87-111. Bertoni, Giulio: I Trovatori d'Italia (Rome, 1967). Brieger, Peter, Millard Meiss and Charles S. Singleton: Illuminated Manuscripts of the Divine Comedy , 2 vols (Princeton, 1969). Brunetto Latini: Il Tesoretto , ed. and trans., Julia Bolton Holloway (New York and London, 1981). Burns, E. Jane: «The Man behind the Lady in Troubadour Lyric», Romance Notes , 25 (1985), 254-270. Cioffari, Vincenzo: «Dante's Use of Lapidaries: A Source Study», Dante Studies , 109 (1991), 149-162. Coletti, Fernando: «Cunizza da Romano», in Enciclopedia dantesca (Rome,

1970-1971), IV, pp. 1025-1028. Contini, Gianfranco, ed.: Poeti del Duecento , I (Milan-Naples, 1960). Danielou, Jean: From Shadows to Reality : Studies in the Biblical Typology of the Fathers (London, 1960). Davis, Charles T.: Dante's Italy and other essays (Philadelphia, 1984). Delcorno, Carlo: Giordano da Pisa e l'antica predicazione volgare (Florence, 1975). Folena, Gianfranco: «Tradizione e cultura trobadorica nelle corti e nelle città

venete», in idem, Culture e lingue nel Veneto medievale (Padua, 1990), pp. 1-137; also in the same volume «La presenza di Dante nel Veneto», pp. 287-308.

Ghisalberti, Fausto: «Medieval Biographies of Ovid», Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes , 9 (1946), 10-59.

Heinrichs, Katherine: The Myths of Love: Classical Lovers in Medieval Literature (University Park, PA, 1990). Housley, Norman: «Crusades against Christians, their Origins and Early

Development, c. 1000-1216», in Peter W. Edbury, ed., Crusade and Settlement (Cardiff, 1985), pp. 17-36; The Italian Crusades : The Papal- Angevin Alliance and the Crusades against Christian Lay Powers, 1254-1343 (Oxford, 1982). Hyde, J. K.: Padua in the Age of Dante (Manchester, 1966). Jacoff, Rachel: «Transgression and Transcendence: Figures of Female Desire in Dante's Commedia », Romanic Review , 79 (1988), 129-142; «The Post-Palinodic Smile: Paradiso VIII and IX», Dante Studies , 98 (1980), 144

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Kendrick, Laura: The Game of Love: Troubadour Wordplay (Berkeley and Los

Angeles, 1988). Lambert, Malcolm: Medieval Heresy , 2nd edition (Oxford, 1992). Mussato, Albertino: Ecerinis , in Emilio Faccioli, ed., Il teatro italiano, I, Dalle origini al Quattrocento , ii (Turin, 1975), pp. 293-333.

Pasquazi, Silvio: «Il canto IX del Paradiso », in idem, D'Egitto in Ierusalemme. Studi danteschi (Rome, 1985), pp. 157-180. Picone, Michelangelo: «Paradiso IX: Dante, Folchetto e la diaspora trobadorica», Medioevo Romanzo, 8 (1981-3), 47-89. Raimondi, Ezio: «Dante e il mondo ezzeliniano», in V. Branca and G.

Padoan, eds, Dante e la culture veneta (Florence, 1966), pp. 51-69; «Una tragedia del Trecento», in idem, Metafora e storia: studi su Dante e Petrarca

(Turin, 1970), pp. 148-162. Riley-Smith, Jonathan: «Crusading as an Act of Love», History , 65 (1980), 177-192.

Roedel, Reto: «Il canto IX del Paradiso », in G. Getto, ed., Letture dantesche , III (Florence, 1964), pp. 171-193.

Rossi, Albert L.: «ME pos d'amor plus no*m cai": Ovidian Exemplarity and Folco's Rhetoric of Love in Paradiso IX», TENSO : Bulletin of the Société Guilhem IX, 5 (1989), 49-102. Rubenstein, Nicolai: «The Beginnings of Political Thought in Florence», Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes , 5 (1942), 198-227.

Siberry, Elizabeth: Criticism of Crusading 1095-1274 (Oxford, 1985); «Troubadours, trouvères, minnesingers and the crusades», Studi Medievali , 29 (1988), 19-43. Strayer, Joseph R.: The Albigensian Crusades (Michigan, 1992). Stronski, Stanislav: Le troubadour Folquet de Marseille (Cracow, 1910). Suitner, Franco: «Due trovatori nella Commedia (Bertran de Born e Folchetto di Marsiglia)», Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei , Memorie , Classe di Scienze morali, storiche e filologiche , ser. VIII, vol. XXIV, fase. 5 (Rome, 1980), 579-645. Toja, Gianluigi: «Il canto di Folchetto da Marsiglia», Convivium , 34 (1966), 234-256. Vallone, Aldo: «Il canto IX del Paradiso », in Nuove letture dantesche , VI (Florence, 1973), pp. 45-68. Villani, Giovanni: Cronica , ed. by F. G. Dragomanni (Florence, 1845). Villey, Michel: La Croisade. Essai sur la formation d'une théorie juridique (Paris, 1942). Wessley, Stephen: «Female Imagery: A Clue to the Role of Joachim's Order of Fiore», in Julius Kirchner and Suzanne F. Wemple, eds, Women of the Medieval World (Oxford, 1985), pp. 161-178. Zingarelli, N.: La personalità storica di Folchetto nella Commedia di Dante (Bologna, 1899).


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso X Author(s): GARY P. CESTARO Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 146-155 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806598 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:02 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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De Paul University

X The elaborate architecture of numbers upon which Inferno and Purgatorio are erected casts a mere shadow in this region of Paradiso . For Dante, that Roman numeral X means, of course, perfection and new

beginnings. Thus as Inferno has its upper Hell and Purgatory its Antepurgatory, so Paradise has imaged forth, in its opening nine cantos, three heavens of «defective» beatitude: the heaven of the Moon, whose souls neglected to fulfil their vows; the heaven of Mercury, whose souls performed virtuous acts because driven, at least in part, by desire for human glory; and the heaven of Venus, whose souls had, at least for a

time, mixed a potentially perilous concoction of charity and lust. Cosmologically, the Earth's conical shadow extends only to the third

heaven (see Paradiso IX, 118-19). With canto X and the ascent to the fourth heaven, the heaven of the Sun, we are in complete light, utterly free of even the shadow of earthly imperfection. Thus as in Inferno X we

enter the city of Dis, and as in Purgatorio X we enter Purgatory proper, so in Paradiso X we leave all shadow behind to begin, as it were, anew. But the most intriguing aspect of this structural rigor regards the gradual dissolution of structure that is to some extent Paradiso' s theme

throughout; at this crucial juncture (the very Roman numeral says «crossroads»), the problematics of paradisiacal signification gain particular poignancy. Consonant with the poetics of the «pearl upon a milk-white brow», the architectural and poetic lines of canto X signify, but ever so delicately.1 There is no great stone battlement to demarcate one zone from the next, no nor even a wall of fire. The line we are asked

to contemplate has no physical substance at all: a shadow ends. This moment in the poem nicely recapitulates Paradiso1 s poetics of barely discernible difference, of ever lower relief soaring towards the ecstasy of tabula rasa. It gently recalls the difficult lessons of canto IV: that all souls have their proper and eternal seat in the divine mind/will that is Empyrean; that none of the divisions of Paradiso has any more than a metaphorical, which is to say re-presentational, reality; that all of the

Paradiso - text and «realm» - is in this sense a shadow of the only true, invisible reality. From this perspective, even the pure sunlight of

the fourth heaven will be outdone, as we know, by more intense 146

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varieties of light; thus, a kind of terrestrial and textual shadow will endure (as it must if there is to be any visible reality for the pilgrim and

a legible poem for us) well beyond canto X and the heaven of the Sun. After all, the poet has let us know from the start that Paradiso can

only hope to exist as the reflection of a shadow («l'ombra del beato regno / segnata nel mio capo»: Paradiso I.23-24).2 That he should again draw our attention to the problematics of signification upon entering the

heaven of the Sun is only appropriate, inasmuch as the sun represents for Dante the ultimate signifier: that word in the text of the created universe that we humans can barely, and only indirectly, contemplate; the preeminent representation of God in Nature; a perfect sign of the distance and possibility that lie between the human capacity to read and

the divine capacity to signify. Dante discusses the sun's signifying privilege in Convivio III.xii.7 and reminds us of the sun's extraordinary

semiotic status here in Paradiso X (see 43-54) and back in Paradiso I, where the pilgrim's direct, if momentary, contemplation of the sun in imitation of Beatrice played center stage (see in particular 43-66). The poetics of sunlight constitute only one of many instructive parallels that invite comparison between our canto and the first. In canto

X, the poet wants to signal new beginnings. As such, this canto (particularly in its opening 63 verses) replays in a solar key, if you will, many of the basic motifs sounded in canto I (X.l-6): Guardando nel suo Figlio con l'Amore che l'uno e l'altro etternalmente spira, lo primo e ineffabile Valore quanto per mente e per loco si gira con tant' ordine fé, ch'esser non puote sanza gustar di lui chi ciò rimira.

Above all, we are called upon to remember Beatrice's lecture on the perfect ordering of the world («Le cose tutte quante / hanno ordine tra

loro...», I. 103ff) and the mystical diversity that such an ordering comprises (1.109-1 14): Ne l'ordine ch'io dico sono accline

tutte nature, per diverse sorti,

più al principio loro e men vicine; onde si muovono a diversi porti per lo gran mar de l'essere, e ciascuna con istinto a lei dato che la porti.

The «diverse sorti» and «diversi porti» echo strongly the earlier «diverse


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foci» through which the sun rises on its annual gyre between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, and upon which Dante focuses our attention at the very beginning of the Paradiso' s narratio (I. 37-42): Surge ai mortali per diverse foci la lucerna del mondo; ma da quella che quattro cerchi giugne con tre croci, con miglior corso e con migliore stella esce congiunta, e la mondana cera più a suo modo tempera e suggella.

The pilgrim has now reached this point in his itinerary: the cosmologically propitious vernal equinox, the point that joins four heavenly circles (horizon, celestial equator, ecliptic, equinoctial colure)3

to form, somehow, three crosses, all united in the single image of a rising sun (X. 28-34): Lo ministro maggior de la natura, che del valor del ciel lo mondo imprenta e col suo lume il tempo ne misura, con quella parte che sù si rammenta congiunto, si girava per le spire in che più tosto ognora s'appresenta; e io era con lui...

And if Dante looked up and saw the sun as Nature's privileged signifier for God, there can be little doubt that he was captivated by that same sun's springtime positioning upon the enigmatic merger of three crosses and four circles as Nature's brilliant representation of the Trinity : one in three, three in one, the central mystery of Christian experience. The poet

thus invites us in the very opening verses to contemplate the intellectual challenge that is the Trinity and, shortly thereafter, to consider a visible manifestation of the same in the book of Nature: the

contrary, revolutionary harmony of celestial equator and ecliptic.4

Continuing our comparative analysis of canto X with canto I, however, it is surely also the case that this opening contemplation of the Trinity, and of spiratio in particular, amounts to no less than a new

invocation This time the poet appeals to no mythological

accommodation of poetic inspiration as he had at the beginnings of Inferno and Purgatorio by calling on the Muses generally and then the

epic Calliope in particular; nor does he even allow for the shadow of ambiguity that somewhat confused mythological accommodation and Christian revelation in Paradiso I, where he had called for inspiration 148

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(«Entra nel petto mio e spira...», 19) on the Muses and Apollo, the sun god, whom he characterized in verse 22, in decidedly Christian terms, as «divina virtù». That Dante wants the reader to recall the logic of poetic inspiration at the opening of canto X should be dramatically clear to any who have read Purgatorio XXIV. 52-54, Dante's manifesto of properly inspired poetry («I' mi son un che, quando / Amor mi spira, noto...»). Here at the opening of Paradiso X, in a radically different context, Dante again casts the capitalized, personified Love and the key verb «spira» in high profile at the end of the initial two verses. If back in Purgatorio XXIV, however, the evocation of transcendent inspiration in a courtly context made for a certain tension between conflicting concepts of love,

here in Paradiso X all conflict has disappeared. The poet now gazes directly (though not yet face to face) on the true source of all genuine inspiration. He invites us to gaze along with him, as he had been invited by the studious souls of the fourth heaven (7-12): Leva dunque, lettore, a l'alte rote meco la vista, dritto a quella parte dove l'un moto e l'altro si percuote; e lì comincia a vagheggiar ne l'arte di quel maestro che dentro a sé l'ama,

tanto che mai da lei l'occhio non parte.

This is, after all, the heaven of the «sapienti», of wisemen, professors

and scholars. These souls made a profession of intellectual contemplation or consideration;6 their lifelong ambition is configured in an upward gaze upon the stars; the mental puzzle of equator/ecliptic and

Trinity constituted their daily bread. Here in a kind of paradisiacal contaminano, pilgrim and reader are asked to feast on this bread.

Dante's language thus grows increasingly academic; it is the language of professional students. God is a magister who eternally contemplates the perfection of his «arte». We readers are students at our

desks, challenged by our master-poet to consider the necessity and sufficiency of contrary oblique circles (see vv. 13-21) and a God in whom one equals three (22-27): Or ti riman, lettor, sovra '1 tuo banco,

dietro pensando a ciò che si preliba, s'esser vuoi lieto assai prima che stanco. Messo t'ho innanzi: ornai per te ti ciba; ché a sé torce tutta la mia cura

quella materia ond' io son fatto scriba.


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At this stage of the poem's development the teacher-poet has no time for gradual pedagogy. To adopt a popular medieval grammatical metaphor, he no longer has time to nurse us along from milk to bread crumbs to solid food: such great distances must be covered!7 He has laid the table and we can either consume with adult appetite and digestion or grow weary and resigned. Dante the voyager eats with gusto (see vv. 55ff: «Cor di mortal non fu mai sì digesto...»); Dante the poet is completely taken up with his role as conduit and relator of divine reality, a human scribe of transcendent inspiration (and we recall Purgatorio XXIV). Now the bread metaphor boasts an illustrious academic past, from

Plato's Banquet to Dante's own Convivio. But here in Paradiso X the true and final object of that intellectual hunger and thirst has been revealed. The virtuous intellects that encircle Dante and Beatrice now

realize that the superficial philosophical differences that separated and even opposed them on Earth - and Thomas and Sigieri constitute only the most dramatic examples - all participated to varying degrees in the same inspired movement that aims to know divine will. They can now

look back in palinodie amusement on the sometimes tortuous particulars of their syllogistic argumentations and recognize there so

many material manifestations - visible signs - of a common invisible desire.8 Each followed his own specific gravity, that which Augustine considered the «weight» of his love.9 Indeed, the quasi oxymoronic notion of an intellectual or spiritual «fattening» informs the metaphorical structure of the entire canto and will be particularly evident in Thomas's self-presentation as one of the Dominican herd, «u' ben s'impingua se non si vaneggia» (96), a verse upon which poet and pilgrim will dwell in the following canto. Much of the poetic energy of canto X goes to revealing the larger teleology of these souls' desire for intellectual satisfaction; that is to say, of these souls' «studiousness», from the Latin «studeo»: to desire, to be eager or zealous for, to be enthusiastic about, to be a partisan for.10 Dante would have us participate in that specifically intellectual love or zeal («comincia a vagheggiar ne l'arte / di quel maestro che dentro a sé l'ama», 10-11). He hopes to convey the intensity and immediacy of what might appear to most a difficult, even obscure pursuit. We discover that intellectual «studiousness» simply represents one of the myriad, diverse reflections of that innate universal appetite to rejoin divinity. It is as urgent as hunger for bread, thirst for water, and

- as we shall see in extraordinary language at the canto's end - even erotic desire. In these powerful physical images, Dante communicates to the common mortal reader something of the primal energy that can drive

intellect: this is perhaps the most significant definition of 150

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accommodation in the canto. Moreover, this is a canto whose images aggressively rehearse Paradis&s underlying semiotic scale, from the

unity of pure white silence that is divinity in essence, to the «anti-shadows»11 that plot light against light, to somewhat more concrete astronomical bodies, to scenes from everyday life on Earth, down to the most basic physical drives. Canto X pushes us up and down this chain of accommodation. The pilgrim becomes aware of his ascent

to the fourth heaven only after having arrived (34-36). The philosopher-poet recalls the joy of spontaneous intellectual discovery, of being surprised without warning by the presence of a thought or idea already full-blown. Such a mental experience would have been familiar to the philosopher-souls who inhabit this heaven.

Only Beatrice can guide us at these lofty heights. She exists outside of time and yet she moves, for our sake, from heaven to heaven,

from vague shadow to sunlight, «di bene in meglio, sì subitamente / che l'atto suo per tempo non si sporge» (38-39). She bridges time and

eternity, visible and invisible, and is a crucial medium in the poet's continual focus on differences in light. The souls of this heaven outshine the sun itself (40-42), just as the pilgrim's momentary participation in pure divinity eclipses even Beatrice (59-60). ^ At this point in the canto the poet begins to step further down the ladder of signification as the crown of souls finally appears (64-69): Io vidi più folgór vivi e vincenti far di noi centro e di sé far corona,

più dolci in voce che in vista lucenti: così cinger la figlia di Latona vedem talvolta, quando l'aere è pregno, sì che ritenga il fil che fa la zona.

In literal cosmological condescension, the poet moves from sun to moon the better to speak to our senses: we shall soon (at least metaphorically) be on Earth again. But first Dante reminds us of the accommodational character of all his images and particulates the central semiotic truth of the canticle (70-75): Ne la corte del cielo, onď io rivegno, si trovan molte gioie care e belle tanto che non si posson trar del regno; e 'l canto di quei lumi era di quelle; chi non s'impenna sì che là sù voli, dal muto aspetti quindi le novelle.


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Our report of Paradise is delivered as if by a mute; signification proceeds from silence. Now the circular dance of stars can come into focus. The

philosophical garland wraps Dante and Beatrice three times before pausing to address the pilgrim. Metaphorically, Dante juxtaposes and conflates the most abstruse of astronomical images (the slow-moving stars around the celestial fixed poles) with the graceful human figures of

a popular Florentine dance (76-81). The poet intervenes to stop the dance midstep, to freeze the frame and suspend the harmony for one

extraordinary moment in order to give the pilgrim and us, mortal readers, the opportunity to glimpse and perhaps even comprehend in some degree that transhuman situation.13

The soul who speaks is the Italian Saint Thomas Aquinas (1226-74): author of the monumental Summa theologica , professor of theology at Cologne, Paris, and Naples, the imposing voice of authority for Dante on all matters Aristotelian and divine. Thomas continues the

nutritional metaphor in order to cast the pilgrim's intellectual curiosity in terms of the inborn existential gravity that informs all things in the universal scheme: «qual ti negasse il vin de la sua fiala / per la tua sete,

in libertà non fora / se non com' acqua ch'ai mar non si cala» (88-90).

The attuned reader picks up echoes, once again, of canto I Paradiso (136-38) and, somewhat more remotely, of Marco Lombardo' s discourse on free will in Purgatorio XVI. Not to satisfy the pilgrim's right-minded desire would constitute a violation of free will: a violation, that is, of a

will free to follow a pre-programmed desire (cf. Purgatorio XVI.80: «liberi soggiacete»). Thomas reviews the garland of studious souls with measured efficiency as these contemplators become themselves the object of contemplation: first his own colleague and teacher, Albertus Magnus (1193-1280); Gratian, author of the famed Decretum (ca. 1140) and father of canon law; Peter Lombard (d. 1164), master of theology and author of the hugely influential Sententiae. Proceeding on this journey

back through intellectual history, Thomas then leaves the twelfth-century theologians to start at the beginning with Solomon,

poet, lover, and author of the Old Testament Song of Songs, whose sometime lustful language of mystical love will be echoed at the canto's

end. Now the Middle Ages misattributed a number of important Christian Neoplatonic writings from the fifth century (foremost among which was a treatise on the angelic hierarchies, De coelesti hierarchia) to

the first-century martyr and bishop of Athens, Dionysius the Areopagite, whom Saint Paul converted to the Christian faith (see Acts

of the Apostles 17:34). All historical confusion aside, Thomas moves 152

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from Solomon to Dionysius, and thus from Old Testament to New, before pressing forward to the Church Fathers on back to the twelfth century and his contemporary and professional rival, Siger of Brabant. The cryptic identification of the soul after Dionysius (118-20) has left readers puzzled across the centuries. From a structural perspective, it is most important to recognize a figure from early Latin patrology, whether this be Saint Augustine's spiritual mentor and bishop of Milan, Saint Ambrose (340-97); or the fourth-century rhetorician and translator

of Plato, Marius Victorinus; or the fifth-century Spanish church historian, Paulus Orosius.14 Thomas then singles out for extraordinary attention (121-29) the soul of Boethius (ca. 480-526), wrongly accused victim of capricious political Fortune and author of the fundamental Consolation of Philosophy . Dante's depiction of Boethius as «martyr» and «exile» betrays his deeply personal attachment to this particular thinker. We next step briskly through the seventh and eighth centuries

en route back to the twelfth: Isidore (d. 636), bishop of Seville and author of the Webster's Unabridged / Encyclopedia Britannica of his day, the Etymologiae ; the Venerable Bede (674-735), author of a history of

the English people; and Richard of Saint Victor (d. 1173), prior of the famous monastery near Paris and major exponent of mystical theology.

Thomas thus completes the harmony of this philosophical circle by identifying (seated at his right hand) his ideological enemy in life,

Siger of Brabant: he, too, master of theology in Paris, and leading

partisan of that dangerously heretical strain of Averroistic

Aristotelianism whose central tenets were denounced by Bishop Tempier

of Paris in the 1270s. The poignancy of this heavenly reunion dramatized by the two souls' contiguous proximity in the ballet-like circle - is Dante the poet's masterstroke. Now distant from the mental

torture of academic discourse, Thomas and Siger rejoice in the commonality of appetite that could have united them on Earth.

The truncated violence and heavy phonetic density of verse 138 («silogizzò invidiosi veri») gives way to the ethereal sweetness and light of divine harmony as the garland renews its cosmic circling and celestial

song in the canto's final tercets. The concluding image (139-48) compares the souls' dance to the intricate workings of a mechanical clock, whose chiming awakes the bride that she may sing matins to her

groom. This complex simile functions on several levels at once and thus brilliantly recapitulates the gesture of accommodation in relation to

divine mystery that has in many ways been canto X's primary concern. The revolving garland - which of itself recalls the difficult harmony of equator/ecliptic and Trinity that was the canto's earlier focus - mirrors

the elaborate interaction of the gears in a mechanical clock working 153

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together towards a single purpose: chime, music, song. The clock simile alone moves nicely from the arduous intellectual realm of

philosophy to the affective realm of poetry. As canto X has demonstrated from the start, complex mental action must resolve in simple joyous harmony. But Dante goes beyond to bring the concept of

philosophical love down to Earth. Philosophical love participates, ultimately, in that same affective movement that leads the Church to proclaim her love for Christ (and here we recall the Song of Songs), that causes the lover to sing the praises of the beloved, that brings lovers together in perfect physical harmony.15 Intellectual, liturgical, lyrical, and physical in its various earthly forms, the impulse that carries souls to their perfect end has been revealed in its singular essence. Dante thus

leaves it to us readers - professors, lovers, poets, priests - to recognize that common aim in the difficult, diverse harmony of the sun and stars.


^ee Paradiso 111.14. For an introduction to the poetics of the Paradiso , see John Freccero, «An Introduction to the Paradiso », in: Dante: The Poetics of Conversion , ed. Rachel Jacoff (Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 1986), pp. 209-20. The translation «pearl upon a milk white brow» is John Ciardi's and was cited by Freccero in the original version of his introductory essay to The Paradiso , trans. J. Ciardi (New York: The New American Library, 1970). In The Poetics of Conversion, on canto X specifically see: «The Dance of the Stars: Paradiso X», pp. 221-44. In addition to Freccero 's essays and the commentaries of Sapegno (La Divina Commedia , vol. III, Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1983) and Singleton (The Divine Comedy , vol. Ill, pts. 1/2, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), I have also consulted the following lecturae : W. W. Vernon, Readings on the Paradiso of Dante, vol. I (London: Methuen, 1909), pp. 329-63; K. Vossler, Mediaeval Culture , trans. W. C. Lawton, vol. II (New

York: Ungar, 1929); L. Fassò, «Il Canto X del Paradiso» in Letture Dantesche, ed. G. Getto, vol. III (Florence: Sansoni, 1961); F. Forti, «Il Canto X» in Lectura Dantis Scaligera , vol. III (Florence: Le Monnier, 1968), pp. 349-86; K. Foster, «The Celebration of Order: Paradiso X», Dante Studies XC (1972), pp. 109-24; P. Dronke, «The First Circle in the Solar Heaven», in Dante and Medieval Latin Traditions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 82-102; T. Barolini, «The Heaven of the Sun as a Meditation on Narrative», in The Undivine Comedy: Detheologizing Dante (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 194-217.

2 All citations of the poem are from the critical text of G. Petrocchi.


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^For a thorough explanation of these cosmological structures, see P. Boyde, Dante Philomythes and Philosopher : Man in the Cosmos (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 132-71 and in particular the diagrams on pp. 150 and 155. ^For more on the interpretation of this image, see Freccero, «Dance of the Stars», and J. Kleiner, «The Eclipses in the Paradiso », Stanford Italian

Review IX (1990), pp. 5-32 and in particular pp. 12-13. Freccero has suggested that Dante conceived as metaphorical parallels the two motions of the heavenly spheres and the two intratrinitarian motions of sp irat io and

filiatio alluded to in the opening verses (and again in verses 49-51). **For earlier examples of Dantean invocatio, see Inferno II.7-9, Purgatorio 1.7-12, and Paradiso 1.13-36. "On the etymological resonance of «contemplado» and «considerado» as related to this canto, see Freccero, cit., pp. 226-27 and n. 10. 'Cf. Beatrice's words to the pilgrim back in Paradiso V.34-39. The metaphor of gradually increased digestive power was widespread in medieval grammatical and philosophical texts. For one particularly elaborate example, see Eberhard the German's Labor intus (esp. 175 and following) in Les arts poétiques du XII et du XIII siècle: Recherches et documents sur la technique littéraire du moyen âgey ed. E. Farai (Paris, 1924; repr. 1958); and of course the opening pages of Dante's own Convivio. °On the structure of the palinode in this general region of Paradiso , see R. Jacoff, «The Post-Palinodic Smile: Paradiso VIII and IX», Dante Studies XCVIII (1980), pp. 111-22. ^See Augustine, Confessions XlII.ix; cf. Paradiso 1.115-26. l^For a fuller discussion of the conflation of knowledge and love in this canto, see Dronke, pp. 82-90. Freccero coined the term «and-image» in «Introduction to the Paradiso» , p. 212. li¿For a sustained consideration of the structure of the eclipse in the Paradiso . see Kleiner.

l^This circling group of souls will of course be joined in canto XII by a second crown circling in the opposite direction, a configuration surely intended to reflect the contrary circular harmony of eclipdc and equator. For

a thorough consideration of possible antecedents to such imagery in a variety of Neoplatonic texts, see Freccero, «Dance of the Stars».

14 For a broader review of interpretations, see Sapegno and Singleton, ad loc. In support of Orosius, see Forti, p. 374n. and Dronke, p. 95. l^It would be difficult to overlook the physical, even erotic, suggestion of such verbs as «tira», «urge», «turge» (from the Latin «turgeo», to swell, become distended), and of course «gioir», widely attested in medieval Italian love lyric; see the Grande dizionario della lingua italiana , ed. S. Battaglia (Torino: UTET, 1970) and, for the Latin, DuCange, Glossarium Mediae et Infimae Latinitatis (Nort: L. Farre, 1887), s. v.


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso XI Author(s): MARIO TROVATO Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 156-171 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806599 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:04 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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Northwestern University

XI Paradiso XI opens with a pessimistic view of human behavior. Contrary to his own vertical flight toward the Supreme Good, the poet

envisions humans as «downward flying», moving toward their own individual, selfish goals. The sight from heaven makes the pilgrim express his exultant satisfaction at being not only physically, but morally distant from the earthly community (1-9): O insensata cura de' mortali,

quanto son difettivi silogismi quei che ti fanno in basso batter l'ali! Chi dietro a iura e chi ad amforismi

sen giva, e chi seguendo sacerdozio, e chi regnar per forza o per sofismi, e chi rubare e chi civil negozio, chi nel diletto de la carne involto

s'affaticava e chi si dava all'ozio...

In the exclamative sentence of the first three lines, the emphatic phrase

«o insensata cura de' mortali» is designed both to determine the quality of the common goal of various categories of people, and to associate

these categories in one large human family whose flight is «insensato», like the Ulyssean «mad flight» («il folle volo»).1 The métonymie phrase, «difettivi silogismi», standing for an imperfect philosophical science, connotes the nature of an ethical code which is

«false» («difettivo») because it is based on the «useful» («utilitade»). This kind of ethics enforces the «downward flight of mortals» («in

basso batter l'ali»).2 The anaphoric polysyndeton (six «e»

conjunctions) vividly portrays the conjunction of different professions in one activity having the same «insensate» goal.

Obviously, the pilgrim's flight is supposed to be determined by an

aim which makes it «sensato». To reach Beatrice, however, is not Dante's task; she is only the channel through which the divine fuel the «honest», divine science - energizes the wings - intelligence and will - of the protagonist's soul flying toward the Supreme Good, the ultimate end of human activity: «da tutte queste cose sciolto, / con 156

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Béatrice m'era suso in cielo / cotanto gloriosamente accolto» (10-12).

This exordium , therefore, portrays a dramatic social situation, represented by two different groups of people, two different activities (the down ward- flying and the upward-flying), and two different goals.

However, the propositio or theme, stated by St. Thomas («u' ben s'impingua» and «nacque il secondo», 25-26), seems to break the logical tie with the previous structure. First of all, the speaker pre-announces a complex subject which will be developed in this canto and the next two; moreover, Thomas's topics, rather than focusing on the deviant society, seem to restrict the social issue, suggested in the exordium , to the deviation of religious orders from their commitment to the Church. In point of fact, both the narratio (28-117), and the

conclusio (118-139) of canto XI present a theme which is primarily religious: respectively, the mystical marriage between St. Francis and Lady Poverty and the straying of the Dominican Order. In canto XII, the panegyrist St. Bonaventure eulogizes St. Francis's «colleague», St.

Dominic, and ends his discourse by blaming the unfaithful Franciscans. Finally, the second part of the propositio, regarding Solomon's wisdom, is discussed in canto XIII and appears to be a mere theoretical question: the explanation of why Christ and Solomon were

both perfect and what constitutes the limit of Solomon's wisdom. Hence, one wonders, what is the purpose of the exordiuml Is it a mere reflection complete in itself and therefore unrelated to the canto, or is it

a regular exordium connoting the meaning foreshadowing the propositio and shown through the narratiol What, then, is the thematic

epicenter of this canto and, I would say, of the three cantichel Is it the value of Poverty or is it political activity in the Church? I believe that at the center of cantos XI, XII, and XIII there is the

representation of the universal Ecclesia , the human-divine bride of

Wisdom Incarnate. She is introduced by the metonymical (not allegorical) name «Donna Povertà» and presented in her twofold aspects, contemplative, represented by St. Francis (canto XI), and active, represented by St. Dominic (canto XII). The Bridegroom of Lady Poverty, however, happens to be the direct source of political

power, represented by Solomon, who must be committed to the guidance of universal human society to its proper end (XIII).3 I will restrict my analysis to the first canto of the trilogy; I will argue that

the poet is not portraying the allegorical virtue of Poverty, but, by using «Povertà» as the qualifying attribute of the real «Donna», he sets two churches face to face: the «insensata» which «vaneggia», that is,

runs after vanities - composed of jurists, the religious («priests»), political leaders, thieves (simoniacs and grafters), and philosophers; and 157

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the real bride of Wisdom Incarnate, whose authenticity is certified by her original status: the poor Widow of Christ, who became the poor

Spouse of the «alter Christus», St. Francis.4 Hence, the panegyrist's conclusion, which is Dante's, is a statement which confirms that only

in the true Church may healthy food be found («impingua»); this Church is the one Dante names the «poor Lady», married by Christ, the poor, and re-married by the Saint of Assisi. To represent poetically his ideology, which runs through most of

his works,5 Dante, as usual, resorts to the historical documents

available to him. Being in the heaven of Sun, the habitat of those who

honored divine Wisdom, the poet chooses three characters, Francis, Dominic, and Solomon, whom, each in his own capacity, he considered strictly related to divine wisdom. Dante, of course, selects appropriate biographical material, suitable to reveal both the history of

the personages and his religious-political ideology. Just because the author picked Francis's love for poverty as the main characteristic of his life, the majority of criticism reflects the conviction that Dante wrote this canto to represent the allegorical virtue of poverty. Thus critics have attempted to discover the sources of St. Thomas's discourse on the mystical marriage between Francis and Lady Poverty in order to

establish the connection between Dante's thought subtending the allegorical marriage and the notion of poverty as it was reported in the

historical or legendary biographical material regarding St. Francis.

From Mestica, Cosmo and Barbi to Bosco and Ulivi,6 the main

concern of studies has focused on the similarities and differences

between Dante's poetical biography and historical, legendary, or pictorial biographies, like the anonymous Sacrum commercium beati

Francisci cum domina Pauper tate , Thomas Celano's Vitae , St. Bonaventure's Legenda Major, Ubertino da Casale's Arbor vitae , and Giotto's frescoes. The conclusive result of these historical studies may be summarized by Auerbach's statement: «The biography expounded by

Thomas contains very little of all those marvellous and extremely concrete details preserved by the Franciscan legend».7 Obviously, the poet was not interested in re-writing a poetical biography, which, like a fresco, should show the most characteristic details of the Saint's life.

He drew only what fitted his general, poetical plan. Dante's intepretation of Francis's Lady Poverty appears to be more profound than the notion of poverty shown by the contemporary historians and authors of legends. Raoul Manselli has convincingly demonstrated that

cantos XI and XII reflect in an unequivocal way Dante's view of the Church as it was promoted by the Franciscan Peter of John Olivi.8

Indeed, in canto XI «Lady Poverty» is not an allegorical figure 158

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similar to those of the «carmi allegorici della tarda antichità» (Auerbach, cit. p. 224). Lady Poverty is a metonym standing for the «Donna» of Christ, the «mystical body of Christ which is the society

of the saints» as defined by the speaker, Thomas, in his Summa Theologiae («corpus Christi mysticum, quod est societas sanctorum»,

III, 80, 4). This biblical and theological vision of the Church as «one mystical body» having «one head» constitutes the nucleus of Boniface VIII's Unam sanctam. Dante would have accepted the contents of the Bull excepting one paragraph which reads: «Therefore, the one and only

Church has one body, one head (not two heads, like a monster); namely, Christ and his Vicar Peter, and the successor of Peter; for the

Lord said to Peter himself, "Feed my sheep" (John 21: 17)». The politician-poet concedes that the Head of the universal Ecclesia is one, the incarnated Persona- Wisdom, who, however, operates through two natures: human and divine. In the Convivio , in fact, the poet envisages human-divine nature as two different organs of the Head: respectively

the «eyes» and the «smile». The Head communicates with other members of the «mystical body» through the «eyes» (Ratio) and «smile» (Fides). On this theological doctrine, the poet grounds his political theory, according to which the divine authority, flowing from

God, «bifurcates» («biffurcatur», Epist. V, 17). There is one authority, the Head of the Persona- Wisdom, who operates through two distinct

organs: the «Eyes» (Rational Power = Emperor) and the «Smile» (Supernatural Power = Pontiff). Two distinct authorities, two principles of activity, rational and spiritual; two directions leading, however, to the same end: human-divine perfection. Consequently, the

relationship of the Pontiff with the «mystical body» is essentially spiritual and constitutes the «spiritual Church» which is the place «u' ben s'impingua». For Dante this is the real Church which turned out to be an

«abandoned widow» after Christ's death. The poet's pessimism about the historical situation of the Church reveals his profound conviction that at the origin of the ecclesiastical corruption there is «Constantine's dowry»9 Qnf. XIX, 115-117). The poet settles the chronological terms within which the real «bride» of Christ was not only widowed, but

«dispetta» («despised») and «scura» («obscure»). He seems to be in agreement with the Cathars and Waldenses who saw Pope Sylvester (314-335), the receiver of the donatio , as the anti-Christ (64-66): 10 Questa, privata del primo marito, millecenť anni e più dispetta e scura fino a costui si stette sanza invito.


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These lines recall Letter XI written to the Italian cardinals: «Quomodo sola sedet civitas plena populo! . . . Quasi vidua domina gentium». Here Dante identifies the «vidua» with Rome, the Holy See of both Peter and the Emperor. Dante makes the supreme pastoral activity of Peter derive essentially from his love for Christ. He stresses that only after Peter had reaffirmed his love three times did Christ address him with a

specific order: «Peter feed my sacred sheepfold». The letter goes on to

say that the city of Rome, confirmed by Christ as the universal Ecclesia and consecrated by the blood of Peter and Paul, has turned out to be an «abandoned widow».

Dante's interpretation of the historical Church, the true Bride of

Christ, seems to be grounded on three main points: 1) the «sheep» belong to Christ («oves meas»); 2) Christ entrusts his sheep to Peter on the condition that Peter, through love, becomes one with Christ; 3) it follows that Peter will love the sheep as Christ did. By affirming that «millecenť anni e più ... / fino a costui si stette sanza invito», the poet implies that since Constantine's donation the Church has changed its nature: it is no longer the poor Church, originating from the Cross of «Him who, with loud cries, espoused her with the blessed blood», and entrusted to Peter. The Lady has been replaced by the Apocalyptic Whore. The tie linking Pastor and sheep is carnal rather than spiritual. In accord with the movement of pauperism, Dante sees Francis as the «alter Christus» who re-established the true nature of the relationship existing between the Caput , the Pastor, and the corpus Ecclesie , the Church.11

At this point, we wonder what the real meaning of the attribute

«poor» is? What, according to Dante, makes the Church to be the «Donna» of Christ? In the Monarchia , he writes: «Forma autem Ecclesie nichil aliud est quam vita Christi, tam in dictis quam in factis

comprehensa: vita enim ipsius ydea fuit et exemplar militantis Ecclesiae, presertim pastorům, maxime summi, cuius est pascere agnos et oves» (III, xv, 3). In interpreting Christ's life, Dante's emphasis falls on the fact that Christ has given up His life for the «sheep» without demanding anything in return. Indeed, the invectives in the Commedia are addressed against those prelates whose priority was their own well-being {Inf. XIX, 55-57): Se' tu sì tosto di quell' aver sazio per lo quai non temesti tórre a 'nganno la bella donna, e poi di farne strazio?


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And so too does Peter attack the Popes who outrage «la bella donna» by leading her astray (Par. XXVII, 40-42): Non fu la sposa di Cristo allevata del sangue mio, di Lin, di quel di Cleto, per essere ad acquisto d'oro usata. . . It follows that the Bride of Christ must be loved with unselfish

love. The spiritual meaning of poverty is strictly related to this kind of

love. In fact, the word 'poverty' connotes a lack of material wealth. In

the Platonic theory of «escape» from material things, voluntary poverty was considered an essential condition for growing intellectually

and spiritually. In the New Testament poverty is an imperative prerequisite for being a disciple of Christ («none can be my disciple

unless he gives up his possessions», Lk. 14: 33). In the Biblical context, to be poor does not imply the rejection of riches, but rather the estimation of the spirit above them («you cannot be the slave both

of God and of money», Mi. 6: 24). Dante is in line with the biblical meaning of poverty. For him the notion implies a modus vivendi whose purpose is determined by a value («onestade») which directly opposes «the insensate care of mortals» («utilitade») and asserts its identity with caritas , that is, the unselfishness of an individual whose priority is love for divine Wisdom in Itself as well as in Its mystical

body. Hence, the word 'poor' signifies a person empty of worldly matter and full of Divine Wisdom. Consequently, the character of Lady Poverty encompasses all those («la gente poverella») who are strictly related to Christ- Wisdom. Within this light, we can understand the

lines: «dove Maria rimase giuso, / ella con Cristo pianse in su la croce».12 1 believe that here Dante is indirectly referring to the biblical

distinction between blood-relationship and spiritual link. When Jesus affirmed: «Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother

and sister and mother», He was simply accentuating the true, spiritual

notion of love, which is even above maternal love. Thus, Dante's Lady Poverty or the spiritual Church is linked to Christ with a tie which is more divine than a natural one.

In fashioning the character of Francis, however, Dante does not subordinate it to his thesis; he has undoubtedly read documents regarding the Saint of Assisi and interpreted them within the light of history. The artistic result is a character made in part by history and in part by a personal interpretation of history. In canto XI, the function of

Francis's character is both to show the nature of the tie linking the Saint to «Donna Povertà», and, at the same time, to represent the true


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lover as opposed to the selfish lover. The contrasting lovers and their

respective beloved ladies will exactly represent Dante's theological conviction that in his contemporary Church the relationship existing

between Pastor and sheep was an inversion of the real relationship which should exist between Wisdom Incarnate and Its mystical body.

Hence, the poet introduces a historical Saint Francis who was providentially predestined to correct the contemporary religious confusion. The exordium of the panegyrist (28^42) evidences the divine concern, which is Dante's, regarding the misdirection of the Church. As all commentators note, Dante draws the story of the two divina signaculay Francis and Dominic, from the Franciscan tradition. Each of

the two, however, has a specific task which defines their respective

lives (37-42): L'un fu tutto serafico in ardore;

l'altro per sapienza in terra fue di cherubica luce uno splendore. De l'un dirò, però che d'amendue si dice l'un pregiando, quai ch'om prende, perch' ad un fine fur 1' opere sue.

Neither form nor content of these two tercets is contradictory; both express distinction and conjunction, but on two different accounts: the first tercet defines the two characters by their respective differentia

specifica («l'un ... serafico in ardore», «l'altro per sapienza... di cherubica luce»). The second tercet does not deny the difference between

the two, but focuses on the different activity of each in his respective

relationship to the same end.13 As St. Francis is the providential instrument designed to rejuvenate the contemplative life of the Church,

so St. Dominic is the device ordered to revitalize the practical activity

of the Church: the sapiential (theological-philosophical) teaching. These activities are both directed toward a common final, spiritual goal. In the Convivio , Dante writes: «Le quali due operazioni [«contemplazione» e «vita attiva»] sono vie espedite e dirittissime a menare a la somma beatitudine, la quale qui non si puote avere» (IV: xxii, 18). «Serafico in ardore» is the attributive phrase qualifying the character of Francis;14 the seraphic ardor is the inner spring moving Francis's activity within Dante's episode: he is 1) a divine Messenger, the Apocalyptic Angel (43-54); 2) a revolutionary character who moves in a direction which was considered absurd, being diametrically opposed to that of all his contemporaries whose earthly «care» held the priority

over the spiritual «care» (55-60); 3) a faithful and caring husband (61-117). 162

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As De Lubac has shown, in writing biographies the medieval historians reported facts as interpreted in the light of final causes to

convey a moral message.15 Dante follows this methodology; the background of St. Francis's portrait reproduces a geographical landscape

which is seemingly predetermined ab aeterno to be the Saint's birth-place. It is commonly noted that Dante draws from St. Bonaventure's Legenda , which identifies Francis with the Apocalyptic «Angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of living God»

(Rev. VII, 2). The two words the poet plays on are «Orient» and «Ascesi» (53-54: «rising where the sun rises»): he constructs an image suggesting that Francis has been generated from the same source as the divine sun.16 To present the revolutionary personality of Francis, Dante exploits the Bonaventurian episode telling of the inflexibility of the protagonist

against his father's mentality. Within the context of the canto, however, the Dantean episode (55-63) acquires a new semantic value.

Peter Bernardone is not only the real father of the Saint, but he personifies the abstract category of the «insensate care of mortals» and,

as the 'father', he is responsible for the deviation of his son. The allusion is obvious: the opposition between son and father raises the episode from a level of common domestic conflict to a level of a social

and religious differentiation. The contrast is between two opposite orders of ideas regarding the real «Donna»: for Francis the true «Donna» is the one «a cui, come a la morte, / la porta del piacer nessun disserra»; for his father the real «Donna» is she who satisfies

human concupiscence. Dante's interpretation of the Bonaventurian source (the dispute between father and son and the consequent victory of the son over the father) as a document foreshadowing the victory of

the real Church over the Apocalyptic Whore is evidenced by the description of Francis's first operation generating from the Saint's solar

«gran virtute» which was designed to bring «conforto» to «all the earth» (55-57): Non era ancor molto lontan da l'orto, ch'el cominciò a far sentir la terra

de la sua gran virtute alcun conforto.

To portray Francis as a faithful and caring husband, Dante presents him as a lover who holds his Donna in high esteem; the protagonist is aware of her intrinsic values; he knows that she is «la sposa di colui ch'ad alte grida / disposò lei col sangue benedetto» (32-33); therefore, Francis's Donna appears to represent the supreme value on earth, who,


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contrary to his paternal view, will be the «strength» of people (73-78). Francis will marry her to be not only her lover but the promoter of her

values within the limits of Christianity (79-90) as well as outside of

these limits (100-105). A.A. Bialas defines the mystical or spiritual marriage as «a figure to denote the state of a human soul living intimately united to God through grace and love».17 Dante describes the mystical marriage in a more realistic way; in the episode, the poet seems to reflect what the panegyrist Thomas wrote in his Summa (III,

Suppl. 44, 2): A marriage involves three things: 1) wedlock («coniuncüo» = «coniugium»); 2) betrothal («desponsatio»): «dinnanzi a la sua spiritai corte / et coram patre le si fece unito» (61-62); 3) offspring («proles»): «sen va quel padre e quel maestro / con la sua donna e con quella famiglia / che già legava l'umile capestro» (85-87). Dante's realism pictures the mystical marriage with images drawn from the real one. The recent article of Marguerite Chiarenza («Dante's Lady Poverty», cit., p. 168) confers a spiritual meaning on Auerbach's

«grottesco-carnale»18 interpretation of the «porta del piacere» and presents it as an «imagery of consummation» of Francis's mystical love of Poverty. Nevertheless, by representing his own poetical version of the mystical marriage between St. Francis and Lady Poverty, Dante's intention was not to compete with Giotto. I would

agree with Auerbach who affirms that St. Francis's marriage is a «figura capovolta», representing the marriage of Christ and the Church; but I would prefer to define it as a bifacial historical figuraģ. one face looks back (the marriage of Christ and His «Donna»), the other looks forward and represents a situation contemporary to the poet: the fight of Francis against paternal authority may prefigure the fight of a new Francis [Dante] struggling against political and religious authority in order to defend the real Church he loved with all his heart («La Chiesa

militante alcun figliuolo / non ha con più speranza», Par. XXV,

52-53) against the Church motivated by the «insensata cura». According to this view, Joachim's prophecy foreshadowed not only Francis, but Dante himself. The narrative structures of the whole canto are so co-ordinated that

if we cut St. Thomas's discourse from the introductory lines and from

the conclusion, Francis's biography loses all its significance and becomes a metahistorical biography. The character would then appear to be an abstract, surrealistic hero torn from the real world; but, ironically, the Saint has been destined ab ortu and through his life to capture the world and redirect its path.19 The Dantean biography of the Saint of Assisi seems to be designed to present neither a superman nor a «Lady Poverty» as an allegorical figure of the homonymous virtue. 164

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On the contrary, the poet portrays his protagonist as a human hero

who, wounded by the love of Christ's «Donna», dismisses his own father, who intended to interfere with his love. The protagonist marries

her, becomes one with her and, at the same time, succeeds in transforming others' opinions about the Lady, who, undesired at first by all («sanza invito», 66), turns out to be an attractive heroine. The activity between the two lovers evolves like a metamorphic process

activated by the power of love: the transfixing power of love, performed by «Donna Povertà», turns a man into a hero of poverty, whose recta ratio or wise judgment will act no longer according to the earthly code of values generating and justified by «insensata cura», but to an eternal law. Moreover, the man, transfixed by the loving Lady, does not remain passive, but, through a loving interaction, he acts on

his partner and makes her, «dispetta e scura» (65), turn into an attractive Lady («ignota ricchezza», «ben ferace», 82).20 Within the context of the canto, the marriage between «lo sposo» and «la sposa» represents a new institution, a new conjugal link betwen two juridical

persons, rather than a person (Francis) and an abstract allegory («Povertà»).21 In other words, Francis does not marry «Povertà» but «donna Povertà», who, within this context, is the «bride» of Wisdom Incarnate; she is the poor, that is, the Spiritual Church contrasted with the wealthy and worldly Church. The nature of the conjugal link is specified by a love which must necessarily be interpreted as unselfish,

pure love; in fact, the «Donna» is qualified with three adjectives («dispetta», «scura», and «povera») which portray her as a distasteful, repugnant «donna», an object of love which is absolutely unrelated to any of the human senses.

I doubt that Auerbach's question may be justified; the critic wonders why Dante, who meets the personages of history throughout

the Commedia , avoids presenting the most famous hero of the thirteenth century and talking with Francis face to face? Indeed, St. Francis appears in Inferno XXVII (1 12-120), defeated by a «logician»

black Cherub; moreover, he is only mentioned in Paradiso XIII (33) and XXII (90), and finally reappearing at the end of the poem among the other saints of the New Testament, within the white rose (XXXII, 35). Auerbach has no answer for this question, and concludes that this way of introducing St. Francis is a mistake. On the contrary, I would restate my conviction that in constructing this canto, designed to show

those who were related to Divine Wisdom, Dante envisioned the Church, the mystical Spouse of Wisdom Incarnate, in its historical process: the Bride of Christ («la sposa di colui ch'ad alte grida / disposò

lei col sangue benedetto», 132-133), the widow («privata del primo 165

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marito», 64), and the neglected Lady («stette sanza invito», 66), and finally the Bride rejuvenated by the heroes Francis and Dominic. With the marriage of Wisdom Incarnate, the mystical spouse has become the source of truth ( the «columna et fundamentům veritatis»), destined to

feed each member of the Christian body spiritually. Nevertheless, through its historical process, the Church has been misguided by those

representing the Head of the Body. The function of Francis and Dominic, therefore, was instrumental, in that they were destined to help the Church move toward its proper finality. Cantos XI and XII are not the cantos respectively of St. Francis and St. Dominic, but rather the cantos of the Church rejuvenated by both Saints. The two characters are inseparable from the same Lady Poverty, who happens to be represented through another well known biblical image, «la barca di Pietro». Throughout the Commedia , the poet has

shown himself to be an exceptional expert at portraying himself talking with, and interviewing directly, other characters; this time, however, his portrait is supposed to represent the liberation of the Church, passing from her previous state of misery to her original and

spiritual dignity. For this purpose, the poet assigns a role to two theologians, St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure, to add authority to his vision of the real Church and its relationship with politics. A direct meeting with St. Francis, therefore, would have stressed too much the presence of the Saint and would have observed the main representation of the portrait: the revival of the bride through a spiritual, rather than sensual marriage. Hence, the discourse is shaped as a panegyric, which

by definition is an oration in praise of a person who usually is not present; but at the same time the discourse incorporates biographical data of the absent person, which are essential to construct a strong argument in favor of the poet's vision of the Church. For the same

reason, the poet avoids a direct meeting with both St. Dominic and Solomon.

The conclusion of St. Thomas's discourse brings us back to the structures of the canto; in fact, it shows quite clearly how the hypothetical proposition: «U' ben s'impingua» [«se non si vaneggia», X, 96], links together the incipit and the narratio. The meaning of the

conditional phrase, «se non si vaneggia», poses as an absolute condition for «a good fattening»; if this condition fails, people «stray» and will be unhealthy. The canto develops both situations; it has been

composed in a chiastic form: by revealing his self-consciousness of flying towards a goal which opposes various goals sought by earthly people flying «downward», the pilgrim, from his altitude, sees the present world in action and describes human activity as a dissipating 166

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energy going astray, in that it deviates from («vaneggia»), rather than

converges on its proper goal. Instead, the main sentence, «u' ben s'impingua», is illustrated by Francis's biography. The panegyric reproduces the dramatic historical process of the Bride from the marriage with Christ on and, then, with Francis; from her widowhood following the death of Christ to that following the death of the Saint

of Assisi. Thus, the poet shows once again his insuperable ability in representing a poetical-historical synthesis; here we have the history of

the Church within a span of time which goes from Christ to St. Francis to Dante. Dante is the new Francis in whom God, through Mary and Beatrice, has vested both a spiritual and a political authority

(Paul's and Aeneas's authority) in order to restore the contemporary world.

The conclusion of the panegyric presents itself as a confirmation of

what is the cause generating the «gloom of hell, or night bereft of every planet» on the earth. In Purgatorio XVI the pilgrim had Marco Lombardo tell him why (58-60): Lo mondo è ben così tutto diserto

ďogne virtute, come tu mi sone, e di malizia gravido e coverto.

Marco's answer focused on the «libero voler», on the «miglior natura», that is, the divine origin of human nature, and, consequently, on the

divine goal of its activity. The conclusive answer was peremptory: «Però, se '1 mondo presente disvia, / in voi è la cagione, in voi si

cheggia» (82-83). Here, in the Paradiso , the same problem humanity going astray - is represented as opposed to humanity going on the right path to its proper goal. The rhetorician exploits the well known principle, opposita iuxta se posita magis elucescunt (opposites juxtaposed become more apparent): the two divergent lines on which

human activity runs («impingua» and «vaneggia») are juxtaposed in order to show more clearly what the cause of the present «vaneggiare» is. In Purgatorio , the ultimate reason («la cagione») determining the deviation of the world was ascribed to the absence of light, which once «made visible both the one road and the other»; instead now, the poet

continues, «the one [sun] has quenched the other»; the spiritual power is turned into a temporal power; hence «la gente, che sua guida vede / pur a quel ben fedire ond' ella è ghiotta, / di quel si pasce, e più oltre non chiede» (100-2). In Paradiso , the ultimate cause of the «insensata cura de' mortali» seems to be ascribed to the unfaithful inheritors of

Francis's «Donna». The conclusions of Cantos XI and XII suggest that


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the two Orders, Franciscan and Dominican, betrayed their mandate and

followed the ambitious plans of the Pope. As far as the Franciscan Order is concerned, Dante strongly disagrees, as Raoul Manselli has documented,22 with both Ubertino da Casale and the cardinal Matteo

ďAcquasparta; the former «contracts» («coarta») the Franciscan tradition, the latter «shuns it» («la fugge»). I believe that, in the context of canto XI, the implicit disagreement between Dante and the

two representing, respectively, one the Spirituals' movement (Ubertino), and the other the politics of the Papacy, is grounded on the

following lines (109-114): Quando a colui eh' a tanto ben sortillo piacque di trarlo suso a la mercede ch'el meritò nel farsi pusillo, a' frati suoi, sì corn' a giuste rede, raccomandò la donna sua più cara, e comandò che l'amassero a fede.

Dante rejects both Ubertino's and Matteo d'Acquasparta's attitude

towards the Pope; for him both positions were considered as contradictory to the spirit of Francis: Francis's love for the «Donna» would never have allowed him to fight against the sovereign authority of the Pope, and to declare the Pope an anti-Christ, as Ubertino did.23 At the same time, the religious politician cannot accept the Cardinal's standing: in his historical position, the cardinal, as a Franciscan and

consequently as an inheritor of the «Donna», should oppose, rather than compromise himself and tolerate the «insensata cura» of the Pope

who was pursuing «dominion by force and craft». The episode of the

Franciscan («cordigliero») Guido da Montefeltro is partly the representation of Dante's judgement regarding the contradiction existing

between the original purpose of the Franciscan Order within the Church, and its actual behavior. Guido's weak resistance to Boniface is a paradigmatic case of the connivance of Franciscans in the wrongdoing of the Pope.24 Hence, the ultimate reason of the «insensata cura de' mortali» turns out to be, not only the Pope, but the infidelity of both the Franciscan and Dominican Orders to their mother, the Bride of Christ and of Francis.

In concluding my commentary on Purgatorio XVI, I wrote25 that Dante's drama in the Commedia derives mostly from his vision of the contemporary Ecclesia , seen as the humana universitas in its historical

process; this drama, however, is not as bleak as it seems: faith and hope in the power of poetry dominate it. The medieval Dante believes in the traditional creed that poetry is a kind of natural (not supernatural) 168

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revelation shared by God among poets. Here in canto XI of Paradiso , the flying self takes a picture of human society from heaven. This picture is not less pessimistic than the others described in the previous realms; it reveals the poet's anxious concern about the sanctity of his Church which was involved in earthly matters. However, the pilgrim, through whom the poetry of faith and hope will reach other humans, looks at contemporary society as a hero fulfilling the double duty of

Paul and Aeneas. He, like a new Francis, will use his rhetorical and poetical genius to fight against his father, and against others who follow the «insensata cura» - in order to promote the object of his own «cura», the truth.


1 Vincenzo Valente interprets the adjective «insensato» as «privo di senso di ragione», sub voce, ED. ^Within the context, the notion of «difettivi silogismi» brings the reader back to the Convivio , where the author repeatedly focuses on the distinction between «onestade» and «utilitade». Referring to the Stoic philosophers, Dante reports Cicero's definition of honestas : «quello che, sanza utilitade e sanza frutto, per sé di ragione è da laudare» (IV.vi.10).

■^«[Eius bonitas ] a quo velut a puncto biffurcatur Petri Cesarisque potestas»

(Epist. V,17). ^The Spirituals were convinced that St. Francis was the «Angel» of the Book

of Revelation , the «alter Christus», prophesied by Joachim of Floris (1132-1202) as the promoter of the third age. This age, according to the author of the Expositio in Apocalypsim , ought to be started about the second part of the 13th century, when Christ would return to the earth to

defeat the Antichrist and have the Holy Spirit lead people to the contemplative life. During this third status, the Church would be guided by

«viri spirituales». For the relationship between Dante and the Spirituals, see Charles T. Davis, Dante and the Idea of Rome , Oxford, The Clarendon

Press, 1957, esp. 229-35; Raoul Manselli, «Dante e l'"Ecclesia spiritualis", in Dante e Roma , Firenze, Le Monnier, 1965, 115-135; Idem, «II concetto di povertà in Dante», in ED, v. IV, 630-34; Idem, «Dante e gli Spirituali Francescani», in Letture Classensi , XI, Ravenna, Longo, 1982, 47-61; Dabney G. Park, «Povertà», in ED, s.v.' Bruno Nardi, «La "Donatio Constantini" e Dante», in Nel mondo di Dante , Roma, Storia e Letteratura,

1944, 109-159; Paolo Brezzi, «Dante e la Chiesa del suo tempo», in Letture dantesche di argomento storico-politico , Napoli, Ferraro, 1983, 186-216; Antonietta Bufano, «La polemica religiosa di Dante», in Letture Classensi , XI, Ravenna, Longo, 1982, 25-46.

^Charles Davis, Raoul Manselli, and most critics believe that Dante's concern about Ecclesia pervades his masterpiece; it is my conviction that 169

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his solicitude is strongly present also in the Convivio , which is the first fruit of the teaching absorbed by the young philosopher listening to the lectures at Santa Croce.

^Giovanni Mestica, «S. Francesco, Dante e Giotto», in Nuova Antologia 27 (1881), 3-39; Umberto Cosmo, «Le mistiche nozze di Frate Francesco con Madonna Povertà», Giornale dantesco 6 (1898), 49-82; Michele Barbi, «Sulle fonti della vita di S. Francesco», in Problemi di critica dantesca,

prima serie , Florence, Sansoni, 1934, 323-57; Umberto Bosco, «S. Francesco», in Dante nella critica d'oggi , ed. U. Bosco, Firenze, Le Monnier, 1965, 600-14, rpt. in Dante vicino , Caltanissetta, Sciascia, 1972, 316-41; Ferruccio Ulivi, «San Francesco e Dante», in Letture classensL XI, Ravenna, Longo, 1982, 9-24.

^Erich Auerbach, «Francesco d'Assisi nella Commedia », in Studi su Dante , Milano -Roma, Feltrinelli, 1974^, 223. ^Raoul Manselli, «Il canto XII del Paradiso », in Nuove letture dantesche , Firenze, Le Monnier, 1973, 107-128. By the same author, cf. «Domenicani e Francescani», in L'Europa medievale , II, Torino, UTET, 1979. ^For Dante's limited knowledge about the inauthenticity of the donatio Costantini , see Bruno Nardi, «La "Donatio Constantini" e Dante», cit.

l^Nardi, «La "Donatio Constantini" e Dante», cit., p. 131. Hßy stressing the abandonment of the Church and her widowhood, Dante does not infer that, from the second century on, the ship of Christ is without a pilot. In all his works, the writer declared his devotion to the authority of the Pope: «veggio in Alagna intrar lo fiordaliso / e nel vicario

suo Cristo esser catto» ( Purg . XX, 86-87). Dante's concern is about the object and finality motivating the Pope's behavior. The Pope must be linked to the spiritual, rather than temporal, corpus Ecclesie.

^Commenting on these lines, Bosco writes: «È anche questa, hanno mostrato eccellenti studiosi, immagine tradizionale; ma bisogna pur notare che Dante la esaspera abolendo la giustificazione addotta dalle fonti francescane (propter altitudinem crucis) e conferendole la plasticità della sua fantasia». I believe that through this expression the poet stresses the difference between sensory and spiritual relationship.

In regard to these lines, Teodolinda Barolini has a view different from mine. She writes: «The form points to difference while the content denies it, insisting that to speak of one is to speak of two, that one can be two»

(The Undivine Comedy: Detheologizing Dante, Princeton, Princeton UP, 1993, p. 200). I do not see the contradiction, in that Dante considers the two as the organs (contemplative and active) of the same body, the Church.

^Marguerite Chiarenza («Dante's Lady Poverty», in Dante Studies , CXI (1993), 153-175) has already pointed out Bosco's negative comment on this phrase which, he believes, «non avrà sviluppi» («San Francesco», Dante nella critica d'oggi , cit., p. 602). I agree with Chiarenza that «serafico in ardore» is the foundation on which Dante builds the whole


^«Conception de l'histoire», in Exégèse médiéval : les quatre sens de 170

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l'écriture , II, Paris, Aubier, 1959-64, p. 469.

16For the genesis of this tercet, sees U. Bosco, «San Francesco», cit., p. 620.

^The Catholic Encyclopedical Dictionary. New York, Macmillan, 1958, p. 170.

l^This definition belongs to U. Bosco, «San Francesco», cit., p. 604. iyF. Ulivi attempts to investigate the impact of Franciscan history on the poet. For him Dante has cut the ties between Celano's Lives and his own biography. The Dantean version of St. Francis's portrait corresponds, according to Ulivi, to the author's proper moral historical law: the Saint of Assisi is a transcendent character. «Gli affetti appena disegnati, decampano

nel valore trascendentale. Le sue virtù rispondono alla consumata consapevolezza di chi sa di essere chiamato ab ortu, da Dio, a un destino incomparabile» («San Francesco e Dante», cit., p. 23).

2^This metamorphosis of a man into «Donna Povertà» and «Donna Povertà» into «ignota ricchezza» presents some elements in common, mutatis mutandis , with the transformations performed in canto XXV of the

Inferno. I am referring especially to the metamorphosis which occurs between Francesco Guercio de' Cavalcanti and Buoso; the result of this

infernal metamorphosis turns into a horrific effect: a man becomes a serpent which is ready to transform others into its own shape. In Paradiso XI the metamorphosis of the two lovers is directed towards transforming others into spiritual lovers. Contrary to my view, Ulivi, following the traditional interpretation of

«Povertà» as an allegorical figure, comments on 82-84: «E qui affiora in piena luce (qualunque sia il giudizio che poi se ne dà) la connotazione in chiave allegorica delle mistiche nozze del santo con la Povertà» («San Francesco e Dante», cit., p. 19). My point of view focuses on the «sposa» who, in the context, is «Povertà», equated, however, with the «sposa di colui ...».

2^In his «Dante e gli Spirituali Francescani», cit. Z:)Manselli. «Il canto XII del Paradiso», cit. p. 120. 2^Referring to Guillaume de Saint- Amour's De periculis novissimorum temporum, Giuseppe Mazzotta explains that the attack focused on identifying Franciscans with «the new Pharisees, who connive with popes under the habit of holiness to deceive the believers», Dante's Vision and

the Circle of Knowledge, Princeton, Princeton UP, 1993, p. 71. 25 «Purgatorio XVI», in Dante's Divine Comedy : Introductory Readings, II: Purgatorio , ed. T. Wlassics, suppl. Lectura Dantis 12 (1993), pp. 235-247.


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso XII Author(s): STEVEN BOTTERILL Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 172-185 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806600 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:04 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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University of California at Berkeley

XII For all its seductive plausibility as a means of facilitating the reader's approach to an extraordinarily challenging text, all too often, in Paradiso , the lectura Dantis simply does not work. Interpretation of the

Commedia1^ third, climactic cantica should not - arguably, cannot be constrained by its merely formal divisions, for the obvious reason that those divisions correspond to neither the narrative movement nor

the thematic development of Paradiso as an organic whole. It usually makes better sense, in fact, to approach Paradiso in terms of groups of cantos arranged around a dominant theme that is articulated through the speeches of the various heavenly personages and their interaction with their mortal visitor Dante (as well, in most cases, as being introduced,

given direction, and commented upon by Beatrice), rather than pedantically respecting the boundaries of each canto and attempting to identify some single stylistic feature, outstanding individual character, or prevailing concern characteristic of that canto and no other. Such an

approach helps (not least powerfully, be it said, as a pedagogical strategy) to deal with the notoriously static quality of the cantica1 s

narrative - based as it is on recapitulation and complementarity, circling around issues and individuals and moving in an upward-tending spiral rather than proceeding directly from «start» to «finish» - as well

as to highlight the way in which Dante's interest in and practice of narrative technique itself seems to have undergone modification, deliberately or otherwise, during the course of the Commedia1 s composition.1 By the time the (sequential) reader reaches Paradiso XII, the poem has come far indeed from the simplistic one-episode-per-canto structure of the early stages of Inferno ; and the exegetical techniques that

were so revealing back then - the traditional Boccaccian lectura Dantis foremost among them - may no longer be entirely adequate to their allotted task and its awesome responsibilities.

This canto has, indeed, traditionally been seen as the second element of a diptych whose first panel is Paradiso XI, and many a modern edition pays implicit tribute to the indissoluble linkage and obvious parallelism between the two cantos by not even bothering to equip Paradiso XII with introductory matter of its own.2 Nor is this 172

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unjustified: not only do the two cantos plainly have their substantially hagiographical subject-matter in common, not only does the allocation of speeches in them clearly reflect a conscious and deliberate patterning

(so that the Dominican Thomas Aquinas praises Saint Francis and criticizes his own Order in canto XI, while the Franciscan Bonaventure repays the compliment for Saint Dominic and speaks against his own brethren in canto XII), but the text itself repeatedly calls attention, at the

level of verbal detail, to the symbiotic relationship between the «canto

di Francesco» and the «canto di Domenico», and close analysis of the cantos' rhetorical organization reveals the extent to which sapient manipulation of the possibilities offered by an essentially binary principle - comparison, contrast, prospection, retrospection, symmetry, asymmetry, chiasmus - governs their structure.3

What happens in Paradiso XII is, in short, conceived as a response to, and a fulfillment of, what has already happened in Paradiso XI; and reading of the canto gains immeasurably in conviction and force if the reader's (ideally, recent) experience of its predecessor is kept constantly in mind. Furthermore, a thoroughly satisfactory interpretation of these

almost literally geminate cantos would require seeing them in the context of the whole Heaven of the Sun, since a continuity of narrative

progress and thematic preoccupation links each purely formal segment of this extended episode into a coherent whole, no one part of which can

be interpretatively self-sufficient. You might as well try to pass judgment on a vintage claret by eating a bunch of grapes. The first words of Paradiso XII stress the immediacy with which its

opening follows on the closure of canto XI. As soon as Thomas Aquinas's denunciation of his fellow Dominicans' moral failings ends in his quotation of the sardonic aphorism of XI, 139, his audience - made

up of the dazzling lights in which are animate the souls who are presented to Dante personaggio in this particular celestial sphere reacts with a joyous outburst of movement and song. As it does so, it forms another of the striking visual (and aural) patterns in which the text of Paradiso consistently images the order and harmony, dependent on God's indwelling in the universe that is His creation, which are the governing principles of both its poetry and its theology, and which are offered, above all, as a positive counterpart to the selfishly disordered chaos of Hell - and of human life on Earth (1-9):4 Sì tosto come l'ultima parola la benedetta fiamma per dir tolse, a rotar cominciò la santa mola;

e nel suo giro tutta non si volse prima ch'un'altra di cerchio la chiuse, 173

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e moto a moto e canto a canto colse; canto che tanto vince nostre muse,

nostre serene in quelle dolci tube, quanto primo splendor quel ch'e' refuse. But the text of Paradiso XII does not remain content with its

characteristically forthright assertion of the sheer incommensurability of

heavenly experience with any other kind available to mortals (other than

in circumstances as exceptional as those of the mystical raptus of a Saint Paul or a Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, or of Dante's journey itself); instead, it proceeds to render that experience comprehensible through comparison with familiar terrestrial reality (a note already struck, if unobtrusively, in the «mili» imagery of line 3), in an extended simile

whose verbal precision and rhythmic elaboration generate an almost ecstatic intensity, and whose typically Dantean grounding in a fusion of classical and Christian cultures reveals for the umpteenth time the extent

to which the «poema sacro» relies for the communication of its prophetic, Christian message on a lexicon and a symbolic code inherited directly from its own pagan predecessors (10-21): Come si volgon per tenera nube due archi paralelli e concolori, quando Iunone a sua ancella iube, nascendo di quel d'entro quel di fori, a guisa del parlar di quella vaga ch'amor consunse come sol vapori, e fanno qui la gente esser presaga, per lo patto che Dio con Noè puose, del mondo che già mai più non s'allaga: così di quelle sempiterne rose volgiensi circa noi le due ghirlande, e sì l'estrema a l'intima rispuose.

What should not be forgotten, as the culturally alert reader luxuriates in this marvelously eloquent intermingling of Ovid and Genesis, is that the simile's function is, in the strict sense, realistic: Dante is describing, through a self-consciously literary elaboration in

mythological and Biblical terms, a meteorological phenomenon - the double rainbow - and is relying on his reader's acceptance of this image, rare and spectacular as it is, as being, none the less, a scientific reality , whose attested existence in earthly experience helps to make

plausible the literally incredible scene that this passage is seeking to evoke. Here as so often elsewhere in the Commedia , Dante's habitually


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close attention to the sensuous particularities of life in this world is exploited both to represent the otherwise unthinkable possibilities of being in the next, and to cast a retrospective light on mundane reality

itself by drawing disparaging parallels (in Inferno) and contrasts (in Purgatorio and Paradiso) with the life of the world to come. Furthermore, within the overall context of the paired cantos XI and XII, precisely the stress here on doubleness and mutuality («paralelli e

concolori»; «nascendo di quel d'entro quel di fori»; «e sì l'estrema a l'intima rispuose») has the effect of reinforcing that very aspect of the

twinned speeches of Thomas and Bonaventure and the mutually reflective presentations of Francis and Dominic. The comparison of the moving, singing souls to a double rainbow implicitly reminds the reader that doubleness is of the essence here, and suggests that the coming canto will be called upon to complete a (representational and expository) process that the preceding canto could only begin.

As the souls' festive circling and chant die away into stasis and silence, a new phase of the canto's narrative is initiated with the appearance of an as yet anonymous speaker, one whose voice, for all that he himself (and thus any other clue to his identity) is hidden by the celestial effulgence in which he is swathed, has on Dante personaggio the compelling effect of the polar star on a compass-needle (22-3 1): Poi che 'l tripudio e l'altra festa grande, sì del cantare e sì del fiammeggiarsi luce con luce gaudiose e blande, insieme a punto e a voler quetarsi, pur come li occhi ch'ai piacer che i move conviene insieme chiudere e levarsi; del cor de l'una de le luci nove

si mosse voce, che l'ago a la stella parer mi fece in volgermi al suo dove; e cominciò [...]

Still prevalent here is the stress on mutuality of action and expression («luce con luce»; «insieme a punto e a voler quetarsi»; «conviene insieme chiudere e levarsi»), but now, replicating a narrative movement that frequently takes place at the beginning of a new episode

or encounter within the Commedia , an individual emerges from the faceless, univocal collectivity and undertakes on its behalf the supremely

important task of speaking. For the moment, as so often, the voice itself goes unidentified; its words are, for now, more important than their speaker's name, and the attention of Dante personaggio and reader

alike are clearly intended not to be distracted at this point by 175

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extra-textual considerations of the speaking character's historicity or qualifications for his role, or of Dante poeta* s putative understanding of

these matters.5 Indeed, the image of Dante turning to hear the speaker

like a needle swinging toward magnetic North declares as much: the compulsive force and immediacy of his reaction allow for no indulgence in speculation of this kind. It is the speaker's words alone that compel him.

From the start the newcomer's speech harks back to that of Thomas Aquinas in canto XI, making explicit once again the connection between the cantos. More interesting, perhaps, are the terms in which the central comparison between the two cantos' subjects is drawn (31-45): e cominciò: «L'amor che mi fa bella

mi tragge a ragionar de l'altro duca per cui del mio sì ben ci si favella. Degno è che, dov' è l'un, l'altro s'induca: sì che, com' elli ad una militāro,

così la gloria loro insieme luca. L'essercito di Cristo, che sì caro

costò a riarmar, dietro a la 'nsegna si movea tardo, sospeccioso e raro, quando lo 'mperador che sempre regna provide a la milizia, ch'era in forse, per sola grazia, non per esser degna; e, come è detto, a sua sposa soccorse con due campioni, al cui fare, al cui dire

lo popol disviato si raccorse.

The central metaphor in this passage is, of course, military («essercito di Cristo»; «riarmar»; «'nsegna»; «milizia»); and, although there is nothing especially original to Dante in the conception of the Church as an army fighting for its divine Emperor under the generalship

of Christ, the vocabulary of these lines helps to define a tone that will pervade most of the rest of canto XII, and will help to distinguish it sharply from its closely-related predecessor. In Paradiso XI, the story of

Francis of Assisi is recounted in language suffused with the languid grace and ardent emotion that underlie the presentation of the saint as the

spouse of Poverty, aflame with the passion of a (courtly) lover: «Ma perch' io non proceda troppo chiuso, / Francesco e Povertà per questi amanti / prendi oramai nel mio parlar diffuso. / La lor concordia e i lor

lieti sembianti, / amore e maraviglia e dolce sguardo / facieno esser

cagion di pensier santi...» (73-78). The subject of the discourse announced in XII, 37-45, however, is clearly more soldier than lover,


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more wedded to the military aspect of the chivalric ideal than the amorous;6 and even though the text insists on the identity of his role

and Francis's («con due campioni»), and even refers directly back to Thomas Aquinas's speech in canto XI («come è detto»), just in case we have missed the point, the keynote of canto XII's essay in hagiography

is unmistakably established in these lines. This «campione» is a true son of the Church Militant, his weapons will have sharper edges than the loving words of Francis, and even when he becomes «amoroso» (55)

- of the Christian faith, be it noted (56), not of Francis's beloved Poverty - he will be not a «sposo» but, once more in military vein, a «drudo», called not just to love and to serve but above all to defend (55). Even while drawing, indeed highlighting, the parallels between the two

heroes of cantos XI and XII, the text of Paradiso still subtly but repeatedly insists on their difference.

There follows, as in the earlier canto, a lengthy biographical account of the forebears, geographical origins, early life, and mature achievements of the individual chosen as the Church's champion, who is now, for the first time, revealed to be Saint Dominic (46-70): In quella parte ove surge ad aprire Zefiro dolce le novelle fronde

di che si vede Europa rivestire, non molto lungi al percuoter de l'onde dietro a le quali, per la lunga foga,

lo sol talvolta ad ogne uom si nasconde, siede la fortunata Calaroga sotto la protezion del grande scudo in che soggiace il leone e soggioga: dentro vi nacque l'amoroso drudo de la fede cristiana, il santo atleta

benigno a' suoi e a' nemici crudo; e come fu creata, fu repleta sì la sua mente di viva vertute

che, ne la madre, lei fece profeta.

Poi che le sponsalizie fuor compiute al sacro fonte intra lui e la Fede, u' si dotar di mutiia salute,

la donna che per lui l'assenso diede, vide nel sonno il mirabile frutto

ch'uscir dovea di lui e de le rede; e perché fosse qual era in costrutto,

quinci si mosse spinto a nomarlo del possessivo di cui era tutto. Domenico fu detto [...] 177

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There is much here that is conventional in late medieval

hagiography (above all the prophetic dream of Dominic's mother [64-66], a universal narrative topos if ever there was one), an

comparatively little that seems to emerge from a specifically Dantean interpretation of the importance of Dominic's life and career (though note the chivalric resonance of the «scudo» [53] - emblem of the king of Castile - under whose protection the future miles Christi was born

Indeed, many twentieth-century critics have found Paradiso XII

intellectually less substantial and artistically less achieved than Paradi

XI, and have not infrequently suggested that this is because Dant himself was less interested in, or knowledgeable about, Dominic than Francis, and that there is, as a result, a kind of undernourished, insufficiently heartfelt, quality about his presentation of the Spanish saint.

This is, of course, dangerous ground for the modern interpreter: if, on the one hand, there is ample evidence outside these cantos for Dante's

acute and perennial interest in, and sympathy with, Francis and (some

brands of) Franciscanism, it would still be absurd to suggest that a writer so clearly and profoundly influenced by Dominican thought (Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas) could have been so indifferent to

the historical status and symbolic connotations of those thinkers' archetype (and their Order's founder) as to settle for a merely mechanical and formulaic depiction inserted for no better reason than to achieve a

purely structural balance with the depiction of Francis. On the other hand, it is hard to deny that, here and elsewhere, Dante's engagement

with ideas and images emerging from a strictly Dominican context seems somehow less intense than his corresponding involvement with

the Franciscans; he is not completely insensible to the traditional association of the two saints, and their Orders, with two very different

approaches to their common faith: the highly emotional spirituality of the Franciscans versus the Dominicans' austere intellectualism.

Although neither of these characterizations is, of course, always and everywhere valid, there is in them a grain of truth that seems to have borne fruit in Dante's general understanding of the individual founders

(as courtly lover and chivalric champion, respectively) and of the collective character of their Orders as socio-religious phenomena (mystics and doers of good deeds versus teachers and preachers).7 The naming of Dominic in line 70 inspires a passage sustained on the one hand by a new metaphorical vision of him as individual, and on

the other by the hagiographer's typical interest in the revelatory messages encoded in personal names (70-81): 178

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Domenico fu detto; e io ne parlo sì come de l'agricola che Cristo elesse a l'orto suo per aiutarlo. Ben parve messo e famigliar di Cristo: che '1 primo che 'n lui fu manifesto,

fu al primo consiglio che die Cristo. Spesse fiate fu tacito e desto trovato in terra da la sua nutrice,

come dicesse: «Io son venuto a questo». Oh padre suo veramente Felice! oh madre sua veramente Giovanna,

se, interpretata, vai come si dice!

Dominic is so called because he belongs to the Lord ( Dominicus - the «possessivo di cui era tutto», 69); his prodigious infancy, with its manifest signs (76-78) of his election (72) to Christian mission, makes his father truly happy and his mother truly full of grace, as their

names would imply - if, adds the speaker with a scruple more theological than philological, it be legitimate to interpret the names in this etymological fashion. More individually Dantean, perhaps, is the

metaphor of Dominic as Christ's gardener («agricola»).8 This metaphoric connection of Dominic with organic wholeness, natural processes of growth and conditions of health, will be maintained throughout the remainder of Dante's miniature biography, acting as piquant counterpoint to the basic presentation of Dominic the armed and militant champion of the faith (82-96): Non per lo mondo, per cui mo s'affanna di retro ad Ostiense e a Taddeo, ma per amor de la verace manna in picciol tempo gran dottor si feo; tal che si mise a circüir la vigna

che tosto imbianca, se 'l vignaio è reo. E a la sedia che fu già benigna più a' poveri giusti, non per lei, ma per colui che siede, che traligna, non dispensare o due o tre per sei, non la fortuna di prima vacante, non decimas, quae sunt pauperum Dei , addimandò, ma contro al mondo errante licenza di combatter per lo seme del qual ti fascian ventiquattro piante.

This skillful, if partisan, summary account of Dominic's adult 179

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career interestingly fuses the two key images of him in Paradiso XII: the

agricola Christi (compared, in another characteristic piece of minute realistic observation, to the astute viticulturist taking good care of his vines, 86-87), and the heroic knight demanding «licenza di combatter»

against an errant world (94-96). Also pertinent here is the evident, though implicit, direct parallel with Francis, based on Dominic's own rejection of the material goods of this world and the contrast between this just and morally healthy attitude and that of a corrupt and deviant

papacy (88-94). Indeed, Dominic is seen not just as custodian of the garden of this world, entrusted to him by Christ, but as himself a force of nature, acting with devastating force against the (heretical) growths with which the garden is afflicted (97-105): Poi, con dottrina e con volere insieme,

con l'officio appostolico si mosse quasi torrente ch'alta vena preme; e ne li sterpi eretici percosse l'impeto suo, più vivamente quivi dove le resistenze eran più grosse. Di lui si fecer poi diversi rivi onde l'orto católico si riga, sì che i suoi arbuscelli stan più vivi. The metaphorical knight-gardener is thus transformed into a torrent,

forcefully sweeping aside the entangling undergrowth of heresy and then directing its headlong flow to irrigate and nourish the healthier plants in

the «orto católico». Here again, imagery and vocabulary alike («percosse»; «impeto»; «vivamente»; «resistenze») stress the centrality of rightly-directed and morally justifiable militancy in Dante's conception of Dominic: whether the metaphors applied to him be of human or meteorological origin, their essential violence is the same, and contrasts dramatically with the more pacific language and imagery consistently applied in Paradiso to Francis. The final section into which the canto's narrative falls begins from

that ineluctable comparison with the Christian faith's other great «campione», and restores to prominence the now-familiar military metaphor. Dominic is now seen as one of the wheels of a chariot supported on the other side by Francis and used by the Church to conquer her internal enemies (106-11 1): Se tal fu l'una rota de la biga in che la Santa Chiesa si difese

e vinse in campo la sua civil briga, 180

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ben ti dovrebbe assai esser palese l'eccellenza de l'altra, di cui Tomma dinanzi al mio venir fu sì cortese.

Once again the canto's metaphor-laden language reiterates its stress

on duality of function and the ideal of mutual co-operation - the excellence of one wheel implies that of the other, and the chariot would,

of course, not be able to function without making equal and simultaneous use of both. But the (still anonymous) speaker, like Thomas before him, has come to bury, not praise, the Order to which he himself belonged (1 12-120): Ma l'orbita che fé la parte somma di sua circunferenza, è derelitta, sì ch'è la muffa dov' era la gromma. La sua famiglia, che si mosse dritta coi piedi a le sue orme, è tanto volta, che quel dinanzi a quel di retro gitta; e tosto si vedrà de la ricolta

de la mala coltura, quando il loglio si lagnerà che l'arca li sia tolta.

Once more, images of natural process and organic growth are called upon, but this time to express not health but decay: the tracks left by one at least of the chariot-wheels are abandoned (1 12-1 14), while those

who once followed them so faithfully have headed off in the opposite

direction (115-117). But this metaphorically expressed failure of the Franciscan Order to persist in the arduous way laid down by its founder is not the worst of it. Barrel-mold («muffa») and tares («loglio») are the only living organisms in the Franciscan garden, the day of reckoning

(«la ricolta de la mala coltura») is at hand (118-120), and there is no competent gardener yet in sight - though mutually hostile aspirants to the role, each claiming unique fidelity to the Order's founding principles, have already presented themselves (121-126): Ben dico, chi cercasse a foglio a foglio nostro volume, ancor troveria carta

u' leggerebbe «I' mi son quel ch'i' soglio»; ma non fia da Casal né d'Acquasparta, là onde vegnon tali a la scrittura, ch'uno la fugge e altro la coarta.

This brief passage brings Dante (and his speaker) directly into the context of late medieval Franciscan history and the power-struggle that 181

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gripped the Order at the turn of Duecento and Trecento. The symptomatic place-names «Casal» and «Acquasparta» are obvious references to two leading Franciscan controversialists of the period, Ubertino da Casale and Matthew of Aquasparta, who here come to represent the opposing tendencies - toward (what Dante seems to see as) undue laxity and undue austerity in interpretation of the Franciscan rule - that were and are commonly associated with the division of the Order into «Officiai» and «Spiritual» factions. Paradiso XII chooses the

via di mezzo : neither the «Spiritual» Ubertino nor the «Officiai» Matthew is in the right, neither the liberals nor the rigorists have correctly understood Francis's original «scrittura» (125), for the former avoid its implications («uno la fugge») while the latter apply it all too strictly (« altro la coarta»). Though there are still those whose adherence to Francis's ideal is genuine (121-123), they need to be sought for, and

are not to be found among the Order's most vocal or visible representatives. From this passage's almost chaotic welter of scarcely

compatible metaphors - chariots, barrels, harvests, books - emerges, in fact, even at the risk of iconographical incongruity, a sharp and urgent sense that the Franciscan Order is deeply, perhaps fatally, compromised, and that time is running short for its salvation. By now the inexperienced reader of Paradiso XII must certainly be

wondering who this eloquent hagiographer of Dominic and outspoken critic of the Franciscans can be, and whence he derives the authority that so clearly supports his confident attributions of praise and blame. At this point, however, his long-preserved anonymity at last comes to an

end, initiating a whole series of namings that grows to include identification of the other lights that shine in this «corona de' beati»

(127-145): Io son la vita di Bonaventura

da Bagnoregio, che ne' grandi offici sempre pospuosi la sinistra cura. Illuminato e Augustin son quici, che fuor de' primi scalzi poverelli che nel capestro a Dio si fero amici. Ugo da San Vittore è qui con elli, e Pietro Mangiadore e Pietro Spano, 10 qual giù luce in dodici libelli; Natan profeta e 'l metropolitano

Crisostomo e Anselmo e quel Donato ch'a la prim' arte degnò porre mano. Rabano è qui, e lucemi dallato 11 calavrese abate Giovacchino


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di spirito profetico dotato. Ad inveggiar cotanto paladino mi mosse l'infiammata cortesia

di fra Tommaso e '1 discreto latino;

e mosse meco questa compagnia».

With Bonaventure's belated self-disclosure, much falls into place. The parallel with Paradiso XI is now complete: the most authoritative

Franciscan author of his generation has now appeared in the role adopted, in the former canto, by the most authoritative of his Dominican contemporaries.9 Like Thomas's, his discourse in praise of the rival Order's founder is accompanied by condemnation of the failings of his own. Moreover, in Bonaventure's case that condemnation acquires

a particular definitiveness from the circumstances of the historical Bonaventure's career: Dante's mouthpiece is able to condemn the rigorist and liberal wings of the Franciscan Order so effectively because that had been precisely the position taken by the Bonaventure of history. And so the Bonaventure of Paradiso XII is accompanied by other figures who,

like him, represent Franciscanism in its pristine state (130-132), representatives of a time when even a General of the Franciscan Order, raised to archiépiscopal rank and thence to the cardinalate, could still justly claim (128-129) that he had always treated worldly goods with the indifference they deserved. The disdainful contrast with the practice of contemporary Franciscanism could scarcely be clearer, as the text insists on the poverty central to the religious ideal of the first, and greatest,

Franciscans («ne' grandi offici / sempre pospuosi la sinistra cura»; «primi scalzi poverelli»). Alongside Illuminato and Augustin, however, appear a number of

other «luci» less closely connected, or not connected at all, with Franciscanism and its ideals, and the canto ends with an enumeration of

these. All that they have in common - though it is much - is that they represent, in diverse ways, the tradition of Christian thought: indeed, their diversity itself seems to be the vital point of their presence alongside Bonaventure, offering as it does an occasion for the text to celebrate the richness, variety, durability, and sheer truth-bearing power of intellectual activity within the tradition of Christianity.

A mystic like Hugh of Saint Victor, a historian like Petrus Comestor, a logician like Petrus Hispanus, a grammarian like Donatus, a preacher like John Chrysostom, a Mariologist like Rabanus Maurus, a theologian like Anselm, even an Old Testament prophet like Nathan all can join in the celebration, for what is important from the celestial perspective is not the manner or even the matter of their intellectual


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labor but the fact of its very existence; less important than what they thought or how they expressed it is the simple fact that they chose to

place their supremely human gifts of reasoning and language at the service of the (Judeo-)Christian message. In Paradise all divergences and discrepancies among individual thinkers, or individual ideas, are resolved in the light of the one great truth, given voice in the Word that is God,

and so all these exemplary spokesmen for Jewish prophecy and Christian thought can find a fulfilling place in the symbolic patterns

that move ecstatically across the heavens for Dante's - and our benefit.

Such images of celebration, reconciliation, and harmony are, of course, a staple of the whole episode of the Heaven of the Sun, and have already been exemplified with the similar group of Christian thinkers presented in canto X, in ways that can now clearly be seen to presage

this analogous movement in canto XII (which brings us back to our initial dissatisfaction with the lectura of a single canto, as an exegetical instrument applied to Paradiso ). And just as, among the glittering lights

surrounding Thomas Aquinas, there was one (Siger of Brabant, X, 133-138) whose historical counterpart's record of rivalry with, dissension from, and opposition to the celestial spokesman made of him, at first sight, a kind of specter at the feast, so too in canto XII

appears a figure of whom the historical Bonaventure thoroughly disapproved, and whose pernicious influence on thirteenth-century Franciscanism he spent considerable time and energy opposing: the «calavrese abate Gio vacchino» (140), the impassioned mystical writer Joachim of Fiore. But the point of Joachim's apparently anomalous presence, and of Bonaventure's remarkable admission (141) that Joachim was indeed «di spirito profetico dotato», is, of course, precisely that the rivalries, dissensions, and oppositions of (Christian) intellectual life on earth do not carry over into the life to come; in heaven all can recognize,

at last, the validity of their fellow-thinkers' (and fellow-writers') chosen path toward the truth.

In keeping with one of Paradiso1 s most profoundly formative assumptions, that the full worth and meaning of an individual's life can only be understood when he or she is seen in the context of the utterly transformed communal reality that is eternal bliss, the individuals in the Heaven of the Sun set aside what divided them in life and celebrate what

unites them in eternity. Saint Paul had already told the Galatians (3:28) that in Christ «there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus»;

now Dante makes it plain that in Paradise - though not yet, alas, on Earth - there will be neither Dominican nor Franciscan, neither 184

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philosopher nor theologian, neither discord, dissent, nor disputation only an endless ecstatic celebration of mutuality and truth.


^Two indispensable (if very different) reference-points for consideration of

Dante's narrative technique are Tibor Wlassics, Dante narratore : saggi sullo stile della « Commedia » (Florence: Olschki, 1975), and Teodolinda Barolini, The Undivine «Comedy»: Detheologizing Dante (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992). Barolini's brilliant reading of cantos

XI and XII (pp. 194-217) sees the episode, in the words of her chapter-title, as being above all a «meditation on narrative».

^The edition of Umberto Bosco and Giovanni Reggio (Florence: Le Monnier, 1988) is a convenient but by no means atypical example. ^For detailed schemes of this kind see Barolini, p. 217; Bosco, p. 206. ^Citations from the Commedia reproduce the critical text established by Giorgio Petrocchi, first published as La «Commedia» secondo l'antica vulgata (Milan: Mondadori, 1966-67). ^For this reason it is regrettable that so many modern editions identify this

and other paradisiacal speakers (Bernard of Clairvaux in canto XXXI is another egregious example) at the moment of their entry into the text rather than at the point at which they themselves declare their identity; to do so is to sabotage a carefully constructed narrative design that may be

attributed to authorial intention or simply to actually existing textual structure, but that deserves to be respected in either case.

"I hope it will be clear that I am not suggesting any incompatibility between the two images, or that either suffices alone to exhaust the potential range of Francis's or Dominic's symbolic meaning or meanings, or even that Dante himself feels or expresses more sympathy for the one

than the other. Throughout this episode, in fact, and indeed in the presentation of Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure themselves, elements of both images are present; but they do not always carry equal weight, and the preponderance , in the cases of Francis and Dominic, seems to me to be as described here.

'Due attention should also be paid to Bosco's suggestion (p. 179) that the differences in Dante's approach to the two saints can be attributed, above all, to the fact that the late Duecento had generated a considerable amount of biographical and devotional material connected with Francis, while Dominic's fortuna was, as yet, nothing like so extensive. °Bosco and Reggio, p. 199, point out that the metaphor is also used of Dominic by Guittone d'Arezzo; but Dante's elaboration of it goes far beyond anything attempted by his oft-disdained predecessor. ^On Bonaventure's importance to Dante outside the confines of Paradiso XII, see most recently Edward Hagman, «Dante's Vision of God: The End of the Itinerarium Mentis », in Dante Studies , 106 (1988): 1-20. 185

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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso XIII Author(s): JOHN TOOK Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 186-197 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806601 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:04 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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University College London

XIII Taken in isolation and considered from the point of view of its general economy - from the point of view of the functionality of the parts within the whole and of the balance subsisting between them -

Canto XIII seems to be one of the less satisfactory cantos of the Paradiso. Perfectly intelligible in respect of its individual emphases, these emphases somehow fail to yield a coherent whole, a discourse marked by the kind of uniformity and self-sufficiency characteristic of,

say, the other cantos in the heaven of the sun sequence. There is, to begin with, something oddly extravagant about the opening lines of the canto, as, in what amounts to one of the most complicated astronomical analogies in the whole of the poem, Dante attempts to establish in the mind of the reader an adequate impression of the two concentric circles of light by which he and Beatrice are now surrounded. The mechanism, which involves the reader's selecting and rearranging in a new and more regular pattern the fifteen stars of greatest magnitude in the sky plus the

seven stars of Ursa major plus the two brightest stars of Ursa minor (twenty-four in all), is nothing if not taxing on the imagination. The effort required of him, prompted and sustained by the insistent imagini of lines 1, 7 and 10 (not to mention the «ritegna l'image ... come ferma

rupe» of lines 2 & 3), seems out of all proportion to the relative simplicity of the task in hand.

Then, in lines 28-111, comes Thomas's curiously lengthy explanation of his own remarks in Canto X (109-14) to the effect that the fifth light in the first circle, the biblical Solomon, was second to none in respect of wisdom and understanding («a veder tanto non surse il secondo») - «curiously lengthy» in that this too seems to be out of all proportion to the relative weight of the point being made. The point at

issue is, after all, straightforward enough: given that all the light conceded to man was present in those most immediately a product of divine creativity - or, more precisely, of divine creativity in the case of Adam and of divine immanence in the case of Christ - then how is it

possible to speak of Solomon, noted certainly for his wisdom, as being second to none in point of understanding? His, surely, relative to that of Adam as fashioned immediately by God and to that of Christ as God incarnate, must be a qualified wisdom, a more modest perception and 186

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insight. But again Dante's procedure is strangely roundabout majestic, certainly, but indirect in approach. First comes the cosmological phase of the argument, recognizably Neoplatonist in character with the Areopagite (probably of the Divine Names) to the fore among Dante's auctores . Everything that is in the world, he says, is primarily in the mind of God as the first principle of all being. More exactly, everything that is in the created order is simply a reflection of the Idea generated in love by the Father from all eternity. Preceding from the Father, the light of the Idea is variously reflected by the nine orders of separate substances in the heavenly hierarchy, and, entirely without prejudice to its original unity, is differentiated and individualized to issue at last in the «brevi contingenze» (63) of the world here below

- where the term «brief contingencies» denotes the products of secondary causality subject to the processes of generation and decay. This essentially emanationist pattern of thought is already present in the

Convivio (at III. vi. 4-6), where, in keeping with the prominence of proximate causality in Dante's cosmology generally, the angels themselves are said to be «makers» in respect of whatsoever precedes from them,1 and it is there in Paradiso VII, where it is developed as a

corollary to Dante's theology of atonement. Here in Paradiso XIII, however, it is unfolded with an exquisite sense of the rhythmic procession of being from God, of the way in which, inaugurated in an ecstasy or flowing forth of light and love, everything in the world issues in a measured fashion from the One whose being is eternally undivided

(52-66). But the procession of being from God is qualified by the state both of the causal agent and of the matter upon which it acts, with the result

that the individual members of a species will differ one from another in

respect of their disposition and «fruitfulness» (71). Some are more perfectly representative of the species to which they belong than others.

Nature especially, as the efficient cause of whatever exists here below, works, Dante says, with a trembling hand, with the result that, in point of proper perfection, her handiwork relates only approximately to the original idea. This, at any rate, is the meaning of lines 67-78, concerned with the element of contingency at work within the procession of being from God.

With this, Dante goes on, it is possible to appreciate how it is that humanity as instantiated in Adam as the immediate creation of God and

in Christ as God incarnate lacked for nothing. In neither case was it compromised by the fallibility of Nature and thus by the mere approximation of the artefact to the idea. Solomon's wisdom, therefore, if set alongside that of Adam as the first man and of Christ as the new 187

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man was very definitely a qualified wisdom, a wisdom hedged about by the remote character of his creatureliness. But this, Dante has Thomas

say, is not what he, Thomas, means, for the wisdom of Solomon is that, not of man as man, but of man as wise ruler. It is the wisdom proper to the discreet counsellor and to the just governor. It does not stretch, Thomas says, to matters, say, of cosmology or of metaphysics

or of dialectics. It was not up to Solomon to pronounce on, for example, the number of heavenly movers, or on whether there is a prime mover in the universe, or on whether a contingent premiss coupled with a necessary premiss yields a necessary conclusion, for all

this was beyond his competence. Rather, his was the wisdom appropriate to a specific order of responsibility, to a particular vocation.

It was the wisdom of «kingly sufficiency» («acciò che re sufficiente fosse») that Solomon sought and received from God (88-108). In pursuit, therefore, of the truth on this issue, Thomas insists, a

distinction has to be drawn between wisdom in itself, in its generic totality, and the kind of wisdom specific to this or that particular calling. Relatively speaking - relative, that is to say, to his specific undertaking - Solomon's wisdom was second to none. As a king, but only as a king, he was wise beyond compare. Now, however, the argument takes a new turn. Standing back from its substance (the nature of Solomonic wisdom), Thomas turns now to its form , to its properties as an argument. He turns, more exactly, to the role of distinction in the pursuit of truth. For the pursuit of truth always

requires care in relation to the processes of affirmation and denial, negligence in this respect at once paralysing the act of understanding. This, as Dante learned from Aristotle,2 and as he notes in the Monarchia (III. iv. 4), was the trouble with Parmenides and Melissus, whose error as metaphysicians lay in their failure to categorize correctly in respect of the substance of their argument and to syllogize correctly in respect of

its form. The same applies to the Euclidean mathematician Bryson (also

subject to refutation in Aristotle), and, in the theological sphere, to Sabellius in respect of his antitrinitarianism, to Arius in respect of his denial of the consubstantiality of the Son and of the Father, and to the

many others who, as a more or less direct consequence of logical indiscrimination, reflect in a distorted fashion the deep and abiding truth of Scripture. Indifferent to the basic principles of careful thought, each

in his way was guilty of intellectual dereliction, of heedlessness in respect of what it is to form a sound proposition (1 12-129). But it is here, as Thomas develops further his thoughts concerning the need for careful distinction in the framing of propositions, that we

sense once more a certain disproportion in the canto as a whole, a 188

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certain anomalousness in tone and manner; for having stated and illustrated his point relative to the folly of indiscriminate predication, he now proceeds to its imaginative elaboration in the form of an injunction to the people at large to be similarly leaden-footed (112) when it comes to the business of evaluation. Do not be hasty, Thomas says, addressing himself now to the commonalty (the «donna Berta and ser Martino» of line 139), in making judgements, for «I have seen an apparently barren briar produce a rose in spring, and I have seen a ship negotiate the open sea only to flounder at the harbour mouth». Appearances deceive, and the truth on any issue has to be prized out through careful enquiry and deliberation (130- 142).3 How, then, is Canto XIII of the Paradiso to be interpreted?

Once located within the perspective of the sun cantos generally of the Paradiso , the anomalies of Canto XIII, if not eliminated, are to a great extent assuaged; for having celebrated in the first three cantos of this sequence the diversity of wisdom in its historical manifestation, Dante now comes, in this fourth canto, to explore its dialectical form,

its proper mechanism as specifically human wisdom. And this he does

in a way which testifies to his appreciation of one of the most fundamental structures of, in particular, Thomist discourse - its dependence on analogy as a means of correlating the discrete elements of human experience and thus of interpreting it in its totality. Indeed, it is not too much to say that what we witness here in Paradiso XIII is an exercise on Dante's part precisely in analogy as a means of affirming unity in the context of diversity, a means of affirmation fundamentally dependent for its efficacy on the capacity of the subject to discern and to

invoke significant distinctions. In this sense, the various «disproportions» of the canto, especially the central disproportion of

Thomas's attempt to explain how it is that, relatively speaking, Solomon's wisdom was second to none, serve the purpose - precisely in their disproportion, in their scrupulous observance of argumentative propriety - to illuminate the how (as distinct from the what) of human wisdom, its intimate discursive structure.

Let us begin, then, with the general perspective of the sun cantos as a whole, and, in particular, with the opening lines (1-21) of Canto X. In lines as sonorous in tone as they are strategic in importance, Dante

straightaway confirms the ultimate object of speculative concern in man: the triune principle of being from which all being flows in love. The Father, Dante says, contemplating the Son in the love which each eternally breathes forth, inspires over and beyond Himself the order which characterizes the created realm as a whole and which in turn

speaks of the orderliness of the Godhead. Implicit in the spectacle of 189

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order here below is an invitation to the spectator to lift his eyes towards

the first principle of that order and to exult in its ecstatic self-perpetuation, in the self-ardour (Par, VII. 65) whereby God is said radically and independently to subsist (Par. XXIX. 13-15). Straightaway, then, the first and final cause of human wisdom God Himself in His threefold aspect - is confirmed in its unqualified status as the primary object of meditative and speculative concern in man. Each narrative detail hereabouts in Canto X of the Paradiso

underlines the exclusiveness of this concern, the absolute character of its

claim to attention. The reader, Dante says, must for the time being feed himself, for he, Dante, is all bent on his theme (X. 25-7). Indeed, even Beatrice herself is momentarily eclipsed as the pilgrim-poet yields to his

divine forgetfulness, to his rapt oblivion as one in receipt of extraordinary grace (55-60). Both substantially and psychologically, therefore, - in respect both of the object and of the mood of concern the emphasis is absolute. The beginning and end of all wisdom, Dante maintains, lies in the contemplation of its Author, in man's spiritual

assimilation (as he has it in Convivio III. xiv. 2-3) to the One in whom wisdom is as of the essence.

But this is only the first phase of the argument, for what comes next introduces into this context of absolute concern the idea of variety, of the manifold character of human wisdom in its historical manifestation. For all of a sudden - with the breaking in upon him, in fact, of Beatrice's smile - Dante's divine forgetfulness gives way to a sense of multiplicity, to an awareness of the many lights now gathered around him. Unity gives way to diversity («lo splendor de li occhi suoi ridenti / mia mente unita in più cose divise», X. 62-3), and Dante the author embarks now on the way of distinction, on a celebration of the many and of the other. Indeed, this celebration of the many and of the other constitutes one of the most striking features of these sun cantos of the Paradiso y for the speculative citizenry of heaven as presented here by

Dante is nothing if not varied. Alongside the theologians and philosophers, those most obviously given to the pursuit of wisdom in its pure form, are lawyers, grammarians, dialecticians, historians and rulers of the people. First, then, come Thomas Aquinas and Albert the Great, representative between them of the new Christian Peripateticism, and the canon lawyer Gratian, responsible (if Pietro di Dante's gloss on

X. 104 is anything to go by) for the integration of ecclesiastical and civil law. Next come Peter Lombard, whose Libri quattuor sententiarum quickly became a fundamental text in dogmatic theology, and, following

him, Solomon, son of David, and author-poet of (in addition to the Sapiential texts of the Old Testament attributed to him) the biblical 190

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Song of Songs interpreted in the Middle Ages as a celebration of the mystic union of Christ and his Church. His, Thomas says, is the most exquisite light in the garland of elect spirits now gathered around the pilgrim poet. The loftiness of his mind and the depth of his wisdom are unprecedented and unparalleled among them (109-1 14). Next to Solomon is Dionysius the Areopagite, the Neoplatonizing mystic theologian of the fifth century identified in Dante's time with Paul's convert in Acts 17:34, and, along with the author of the Liber de

causis , one of Dante's principal authorities in this area of his own theological sensibility. Then comes a light who, if not St. Ambrose or

Marius Victorinus (both of whom answer to some extent to Dante's formula in X. 118-20), is probably Paul Orosius, advocate of the superior civility of Christian times in respect of the pagan era, and another of Dante's auc tores in, this time, the historical sector. Then comes the massively important figure as far as the shape and substance

of Dante's thought as a moral philosopher are concerned, Boethius, a victim like himself, Dante believed, of political injustice. And finally, as far as this first circle of learned spirits is concerned, come Isidore, grammarian, theologian and encyclopaedist; Bede the Venerable, noted for his history of Christianity in the British Isles; Richard of St.Victor,

the twelfth-century mystic theologian and psychologist of spiritual

ecstasy; and (at first sight curiously, given Thomas's erstwhile opposition to him) the radical Aristotelian philosopher Siger of Brabant. Before ever we reach cantos XI and XII, therefore, - between them the

most sustained study in Dante of spiritual otherness, - a primary

emphasis falls here in Canto X on diversity, on the intimate differentiation of wisdom as a function and property of human experience in time and space. The otherness of Cantos XI and XII is the otherness of Francis and

Dominic as God's response to the waywardness of the Church as redeemed through Christ's blood. Here, as in his identification at the beginning of Canto XII of yet a further company of speculative spirits, difference remains the keynote of Dante's discourse. What interests him is the endless variety of temperament and vocation among those most eagerly inclined to espouse God's purposes. At every point Francis and Dominic relate alternatively, by way of qualitative difference. Francis is

«all seraphic in ardor» (XI. 37) while Dominic is a «splendor of cherubic light» (XI. 39). Francis is the embodiment of evangelical simplicity while Dominic is a «holy athlete gracious to his own but pitiless to his enemies» (XII. 56-7). Francis proceeds by way of example, Dominic by way of disputation. Francis's was an invitation to likeminded spirits to embrace the way of humble renunciation, while 191

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Dominic's was an indictment of the heretics, a fulmination which

«struck most vigorously where resistance was most stubborn» (XII. 100-2). Each alike was moved by a common concern for the well-being) of the Church Militant, but in terms of the substance and style of their

historical existence each stood over and against the other as a complementary but utterly distinct presence. And the same applies to the select spirits of the second circle of learned souls. Standing over and against the Angelic Doctor, Thomas, as spokesman for the first circle,

is the Seraphic Doctor, Bonaventure, himself not untouched by the Aristotelian learning of the day but representative in the round of the accumulated wisdom of the Augustinians and Victorines. Then, among

others, come Hugh of St. Victor, responsible for the propaedeutic Didascalicon' Petrus Comestor, another Victorine compilationist; Peter of Spain, a dialectician noted for his Summa logicales ; the mystical and dogmatic theologian Anselm; the fourth-century grammarian Donatus; the biblical exegete and encyclopaedist Rabanus Maurus; and (again at first sight curiously, given Bonaventure's former hostility towards him) the prophetic spirit of Joachim of Flora. At every point, therefore, Dante's emphasis falls on the variety of Christian contemplation and erudition in its historical outworking. His preliminary emphasis in Canto X on the nature of God as the first and

unspeakable power («lo primo e ineffabile Valore», X. 3) from which all being flows at once gives way to a complementary emphasis on the diversity of cognitive discipline and temperament whereby this order is known and contemplated among men. Thus the theologian knows and celebrates the original order of things from the point of view of one seeking formally to elucidate the contents of faith (Thomas and Albert), while the philosopher knows and celebrates it from the standpoint of empirical observation and of reasonable inference (Siger and the radical Aristotelians). The historian knows and celebrates it as revealed in the event as testifying to the guiding hand of providence (Orosius and Bede),

while the grammarian and the dialectician know and celebrate it as confirmed in the structures of language and of orderly predication (Donatus and Peter of Spain). The lawyer knows and celebrates it as reflected in the institutions of man's collective existence in time and

space (Gratian), while poet-philosophers and prophets know and celebrate it as a principle of comfort in adversity and under the aspect of

eschatological resolution (Boethius and Joachim). Each of these disciplines, Dante is suggesting, offers a way into the original truth of things. Each in its way initiates the mind in a sense of the design which informs and sustains them all. And it is the «in its way» that matters here, for what, fundamentally, Dante is setting out to demonstrate in 192

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this, the speculative realm par excellence of his Paradiso is the way in

which each discipline, be it theological, philosophical, historical, ïalectical, mathematical, legal or whatever, though in one sense a mere shadow of the wisdom first and foremost in God as the author of all

wisdom, none the less aspires to a proper perfection, to - in the hands, at least, of the master and of the pious spirit - a proper sufficiency. Absolutely speaking, a partial and fragmentary representation of the

original wisdom of God, relatively speaking - or rather (for we are speaking here of the kind of indeterminate proportion said by the theologian to exist between the finite and the infinite) analogously speaking - it has about it its own incomparable light. We need, perhaps, by way of clarification, to dwell a little on the

notion of analogy, and to examine briefly how it works in Thomas himself as Dante's chief spokesman in these cantos.4 Analogy, as a property of significant discourse, figures most prominently in Aquinas

in the context of his ontology or philosophy of being.5 Thomist ontology, which introduces into the metaphysical question as conceived

in his time an existential dimension entirely absent from the Aristotelian metaphysic which it presupposes, turns on the notion of being (esse), as distinct from essence (essentia), as the decisive property of whatever is in the world, of whatever impinges on the consciousness of the beholder as existent or as being there (the German Dasein). Thus form, which enters into union with matter to determine the essence of a thing, is, for Thomas, in further potential to the act of existence (esse)

whereby that thing is said actually to be in a historically verifiable manner.6 Now being in the sense of existence (esse) is in one sense participational, for whatever exists determinately (as this or that object of perception) in the historical order merely shares in the indeterminate existence of God, in whom existence is of the essence.7 But at the same

time existence as verified historically is open to an analogical interpretation in the sense that whatever exists in the world exists relative to its specific form fully and incontrovertibly. In its way - by which we mean in a way determined and circumscribed by the properties

of form - it exists as fully and incontrovertibly (though not as necessarily) as God Himself, this precisely being the purpose of God's original creative intention, of the scriptural let it be. By virtue, in other

words, of the kind of analogy whereby whatever proceeds from something else preserves in a proportionate but none the less substantial fashion the properties of that from which it proceeds, everything which proceeds from God as original being (as the scriptural I AM) has about

it, «secondo alcuna proporzione» (the phrase is Dante's in the Vita nuova: XXV.4), the property of being, the status of standing out 193

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existentially ( ex-sistere ) over and against that which is not - a pattern of thought which, even in the context of total quantitative difference,

secures the possibility of ontological affirmation in respect of the created order.

Now the Thomist analogy of being plays no part in Dante. The terminology, certainly, is there, as are elements of the creationism presupposed by a specifically Christian philosophy of existence;8 but in the round, Dante's philosophy of being is unfolded in terms of a species of emanationism determined in its main lines by his reading in the Liber de causis and in the Pseudo-Dionysius.9 But this should not be taken to

imply unfamiliarity with, still less indifference to, the notion of analogy as a principle of significant discourse. On the contrary, it is

precisely in terms of analogy that he develops in Paradiso XIII his account of the nature of human wisdom in its innate viability and proper

fullness. For in one sense the wisdom of man is merely participational, with all this implies by way of partiality and provisionally. Wisdom,

absolutely speaking, is in God as its first principle. He Himself is wisdom, for wisdom pertains to Him as of the essence, which means that any creature disposed to share in this wisdom does so secondarily,

discontinuously and fragmentarily. This at any rate is the sense of Convivio, where Dante's task is precisely that of showing how, in his pursuit of philosophy, man is made over again in the image of God.10

Here, then, is the participational aspect of the question. We, as men, are wise to the extent in which we share in God's wisdom. But in the Paradiso - and by way of acknowledging not only a first principle of careful thought but a first principle of careful thought as deployed,

supremely, by Thomas11 Dante procedes by way of analogy, by way of the kind of distinction apt even within the context of radical difference

to enable an affirmation of equality; for given that, absolutely speaking, wisdom, as wisdom, is first and foremost in God as the alpha and omega

of all wisdom, none the less wisdom as determined in this or that discipline may properly lay claim, among the adept, to perfection. Relatively speaking - relative, that is, to the proper concerns of this or

that discipline or calling, - wisdom among men aspires to a completeness of its own, and the wise man to a unique form of blessedness.

It is, therefore, along these lines that we have to interpret this, in

some ways, most recalcitrant of cantos. Paradiso XIII, for all its apparent disproportion and, in respect of its incipit and explicit , diseconomy, is the true point of arrival for the sun cantos in general; for here, having celebrated the range and diversity of human wisdom as

instantiated historically, Dante looks beneath the surface of that wisdom 194

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in one at least of its most characteristic forms - the form represented by, or rather consequent on, specifically scholastic ratiocination - to

disclose and to rejoice in its basic mechanism. True, a point is being made, a point to do with the incomparability of Solomonic wisdom, and in this sense Dante is taking the opportunity to reply to a longstanding debate on the question of Solomon, his skills as a ruler and his eternal

destiny. But what matters here, and what accounts for the «disproportion» of Thomas's discourse in this canto, is not only perhaps not even primarily - the substance of what is being said, but its method , its how as distinct from its what. For Dante's overriding aim in this final canto of the sun sequence in the Paradiso is to confirm

what he himself understands to be the sine qua non , the necessary condition and guarantee, of properly human wisdom, namely its dependence on the capacity of the would-be seeker after truth correctly to

frame his argument. Few things are reducible to, but everything presupposes, this, namely the capacity of the enquirer to pursue the

argument with due dialectical care, for to fail here is to enslave the intellect and to reduce understanding to mere opinion (1 12-120): E questo ti sia sempre piombo a' piedi, per farti mover lento com' uom lasso e al sì e al no che tu non vedi:

che quelli è tra li stolti bene a basso, che sanza distinzione afferma e nega ne l'un così come ne l'altro passo; perch' elli 'ncontra che più volte piega l'oppinïon corrente in falsa parte, e poi l'affetto l'intelletto lega...

Only on the basis of sustained vigilance, Dante maintains (perfectly obedient in this sense at least to the example of Thomas), will the truth on any issue emerge untarnished and unprejudiced, and only on

this basis will man's God-given capacity for significant enquiry emerge triumphant. Care in division and composition is all. And with this we return to the «oddly extravagant» image, as we called it, of the opening lines of the canto, where even by medieval standards ingenuity seems to teeter on the edge of preciosity and longueur. For what, we may ask, is

involved here if not an exercise in division and composition, in the dismantling and reconstruction of a familiar object of sense impression for the purposes of a new and more glorious insight? As usual in Dante, the image is intrinsically functional.


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^Conv. III. vi. 6: «quelle menti angeliche che fabbricano col cielo queste cose di qua giuso». - On primary and secondary causality in the Paradiso see, in addition to XIII. 52-78, VU. 124 ff and XXIX. 10 ff. A useful

summary of the whole question is in S. Bemrose, Dante's Angelic

Intelligences , Rome, 1983. On the Neoplatonic shape of Dante's cosmology, see B. Nardi, «La dottrina dell'Empireo» in Saggi di filosofia dantesca , 2nd ed., Florence, 1967, 167-214.

L M etap h . I. ix (Thomas ad loc., n. 142); Phys. I. iii; De coelo III. i (for Parmenides and Melissus). For Bryson, Anal. post. I. ix, Soph, elench. xi. ^For the historical Thomas on intellectual presumption (though he has in mind probably not so much the commonalty as those philosophers of Pythagorean inspiration inclined to interpret the world in terms of sense impression, In metaph. IV, lect. 8, n. 637; lect. 9, nn. 661-2; X, lect. 2, n. 1959; XI, lect. 5, n. 2224), ScG I. v: «Sunt enim quidam tantum de suo ingenio praesumentes ut totam naturam divinam se reputent suo intellectu posse metiri, aestimantes scilicet totum esse verum quod eis videtur et falsum quod eis non videtur». Dante offers a version of this passage at Conv. IV. xv. 12.

4On analogy in Aquinas, H. Lyttkens, The Analogy between God and the

World, Uppsala, 1952; R. M. Mclnerny, The Logic of Analogy: An Interpretation of St. Thomas, The Hague, 1961. Aquinas himself on analogy and the divine names, ST la, 13 («Nomina de Deo et creaturis dicta, non univoce nec pure aequivoce, sed analogice dicuntur, secundum analogiam creaturarum ad ipsum», ibid. art. 5 conc.) and ScG I. 32-4 (probably more familiar to Dante). ^See in addition to the many general accounts of Thomism and Thomist

metaphysics (De Wulf, Gilson, Copleston etc.), G. Phelan, «The Existentialism of St. Thomas», Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 21 (1946), 25-40; J. Maritain, Existence and the Existent, New York, 1956 (1948); E. Gilson, Being and Some Philosophers , Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto, 1952; idem, L'Etre et l'essence, 2nd edn., Paris, 1962; P. T. Geach, God and the

Soul, London, 1969 (especially 42-74); C. Fabro, «Il nuovo problema dell'essere e la fondazione della metafisica», in St. Thomas Aquinas, 1274-1974 : Commemorative Studies, ed. A Maurer, C.S.B, 2 vols.,

Toronto, 1974; J. Owens, The Doctrine of Being in the Aristotelian «Metaphysics»: A Study of the Greek Background of Mediaeval Thought, 3rd ed., Toronto, 1978.

6ST la, 3, 4 resp.: «esse est actualitas omnis formae vel naturae ... oportet igitur quod ipsum esse comparetur ad essentiam, quae est aliud ab ipso, sicut

actus ad potentiam»; ibid. 8, 1 resp.: «Esse autem est illud quod est magis intimum cuilibet, et quod profundius omnibus inest; cum sit formale respectu omnium quae in re sunt»; Qu. disp. de anima, aa. 6 & 7 etc. So, for example, ST la, 45, 5 ad 1: «quodcumque ens creatum participai, ut 196

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ita dixerim, náturám essendi; quia solus Deus est suum esse»; De potentia 1, 2 ad 9 etc.

°Par. VII. 135-7, XXIX. 10-36. A. Mellone, La dottrina di Dante Alighieri sulla prima creazione, Salerno, 1950; idem, «Il canto XXIX del Paradiso », in Nuove letture dantesche ( Casa di Dante in Roma), VII, Florence, 1974, 193-213; idem, ad voc. «Creazione» in Eric. dant. II, 251-3; J.A. Mazzeo,

«The Analogy of Creation in Dante», Speculum 33 (1957), 706-21. ^B. Nardi, «Citazioni dantesche del Liber de causis», in Saggi di filosofìa, cit., 81-109; A. Mellone, «Emanatismo neoplatonico di Dante per le citazioni del Liber de causisi», Divus Thomas 54 (1951), 205-12. 10«Ché, se a memoria si reduce ciò che detto è di sopra, Filosofia è uno amoroso uso di sapienza, lo quale massimamente è in Dio, però che in Lui è somma sapienza e sommo amore e sommo atto; che non può essere altrove, se non in quanto da Esso procede. È dunque la divina Filosofia de la divina essenza, però che in esso non può essere cosa a la sua essenzia aggiunta ... E così si vede come questa è donna primamente di Dio, e secondariamente de l'altre Intelligenze separate, per continuo sguardare; e appresso de l'umana intelligenza per riguardare discontinuato» ( Conv . HI. xii. 12-13 & xiii. 7).

11 See especially K. Foster O.P., «St. Thomas and Dante» in The Two Dantes, London, 1977, 56-65, worth quoting at length for his particular (and particularly Dominican) combination of precision and perspicacity on this question: «these cantos [Paradiso X-XIII] sum up all that Dante personally owed to Aquinas . . . they present him as the image and synthesis of a special kind of saintly intelligence - the saintliness of the good friar

in the Dominican way of being a friar - and the intelligence of the good theologian according to the way of doing theology that gives full place and

honour to reason. The motif of sanctity appears especially in Thomas's tribute to St. Francis (reciprocated in Bonaventure's to St. Dominic in canto XII) and in his critique of unworthy Dominicans, in XI. 40-139; while the motif of intelligence appears in Thomas's being the spokesman of the first circle of Christian scholars and sages (X. 91-138), but more particularly in the recurrent stress - evidently intended as characteristic -

in his three discourses on the need for and the beauty of rational discrimination, measure and sobriety of judgement ... Thomas speaks all through as a "logician and a great clerk", because that is how Dante saw him and the value of his example» (63); idem, «The Tact of St. Thomas» in God's Tree, London, 1957, 141-9.


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso XIV Author(s): MADISON U. SOWELL Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 198-212 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806602 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:04 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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Brigham Young University

XIV This Canto ... is a gentle breath of seraphic poesy. W. W. Vemon quoting Angelo De Gubernatis^

Questo quattordicesimo Canto è un caso tipico del lato scabro, volutamente impervio della poesia dantesca;

questo è uno dei momenti in cui il poeta tace e parla il gran dottore da una ideale cattedra.

Mario Vinciguerra^

Prologue Caveat lector : readers who prefer their Dante «detheologized» would do well to skip both Paradiso XIV and this lectura.

Dante's Paradiso thrives on theological discourse and flows with elevated verse. Abounding in philosophical speculation and sublime poetry, the final canticle brilliantly fulfills a promise nascent in a technical term in the distant prologue to the entire Commedia - «per trattar del ben ch'i' vi trovai» (Inf. 1.8, emphasis mine here and later).3 The verb trattar carries with it the distinct connotation of a

philosophical tractate or treatise in prose, even though it appears as an accented (and, consequently, emphasized) word in a line of verse.4 The premise of the Commedia is that a poetic tractate - a fusion of poetic

expression and religious thought - is possible, desirable, and the highest form of Christian art. However, inspired possibly by Crocean distinctions of poesia and non poesia , some readers, such as the sharply critical Vinciguerra, tend to view the third canticle's cantos as falling primarily into one category or the other: poetry or theology.

I suppose a case can be made for such readings. Paradiso IV, for

example, does present a highly pedantic Beatrice responding at great length to the pilgrim's queries on the location of the saved souls and the nature of the human will. She even employs the technical verb trattare: «tratterò quella [questione] che più ha di felle» (27). In the eyes of some critics, therefore, the canto becomes one of those moments when the

poet is presumably silent and «parla il gran dottore». Paradiso XXX, by contrast, captures the ascent to the Empyrean in the loftiest poetry 198

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imaginable (cf. 61 ff., «E vidi lume in forma di ri vera / fui vido di fulgore ...», or 124 ff., «Nel giallo de la rosa sempiterna, / che si digrada e dilata e redole / odor di lode al sol che sempre verna ...»). Poetic expression appears to be paramount. Such schemata supposedly serve to isolate and highlight some of

the poem's chief theological and poetic concerns. But from my viewpoint this vision of a dyadic Paradiso ultimately obscures too many of its rich complexities. Readings that emphasize such dichotomies tend to gloss over the fact that theology and poetry are strands invariably intertwined in the third canticle, even in the cantos cited. This is true because the theological sections, whether lengthy or brief, are always interspersed with metaphorical, highly literary, or visionary passages. The resulting tapestry encourages the attentive reader to deal with the juxtaposition or fusion of theological treatise and visionary poetry. In cases where a significant section of a canto is devoted to theology we must ask, «Wherein lies the organic wholeness or the artistic unity?».

Or, to use Jeffrey Schnapp's apt vocabulary, «How is the dyad 'linked'?».5

Paradiso XIV offers an excellent case study in how Dante marries

ostensibly mismatched partners, achieving a masterly fusion of the theological and the poetical. In the end, whether judged as «intentionally

inaccessible» («volutamente impervio») because of a double dose of Thomistic doctrine and medieval iconography, or exalted as «seraphic poesy» because of exquisite figures of speech and sublime spectacle, this particular canto invites the reader to reflect on the process of Dante's supernal poeticizing. Precisely because at first glance the canto appears structurally, narratively, and even visually bipartite6 - beginning in the solar sphere of the Wise (arranged in concentric circles) and ending in the Martian sphere of the Soldiers of the Faith (arranged in a cross) - we ponder one central question throughout this lectura : How does the divine poet achieve unity of thought and vision in a canto invariably dubbed «transitional»?7 While previous lecturae have searched for coherency in Paradiso XIV via an examination of such aspects as its images of light and circularity or the figure of Beatrice, this reading attempts to focus on

rhetorical figures that pervade the canto. I shall attempt to connect stylistic aspects of the first part with the dominant iconographie image of the second. Divisions and Transitions

Paradiso XIV contains an odd (as opposed to an even) number of verses - 139, to be exact. While the number 139 carries numerological significance in and of itself as a reflection of the unity of the Trinity 199

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(whose mystery is alluded to in 28, «Queir uno e due e tre ... »),8 it also means that the canto has a central verse with an equal number of verses before and after: 70 («E sì come al salir di prima sera»). Although this verse serves as the first line of a simile describing the spirits in the third concentric circle of the Wise, it does not mark the canto's most significant transition, which is the movement between the two spheres. Therefore, ancient commentators and modern-day critics have focused on

dividing (and subdividing) Paradiso XIV in other (less symmetrical) ways, the largest and roughest division always being made between the events occurring in the sphere of the Sun and those transpiring in the sphere of Mars.

What is intriguing is that the line of demarcation between the spheres varies, more than one might expect, according to the commentator. Benvenuto da Imola, for example, includes 1-84 in the first part and sees the declaration in 85 («Ben m'accors' io ch'io era più

levato ...») as the opening line of the second part. Bosco and Reggio, on the other hand, regard 1-78 as constituting the initial part and have the latter section begin with the description of Dante's guide in 79 («Ma

Béatrice sì bella e ridente ...»). But the actual movement from one sphere to the next occurs in the second hemistich of 83 («e vidimi translato»), which means that the movement transpires in the middle of a tercet (82-84). Dante raises his eyes in 82-83 («Quindi ripreser li occhi miei virtute / a rilevarsi») while still in the solar sphere, and only after having done that is he «translated» (i.e., transported) to Mars. Perhaps for this reason Buti saw in 82 the start of the second section. The

different opinions over where exactly the canto should be divided for

purposes of exegesis is important in that it points to the somewhat blurred or shifting boundaries between the first and second parts of the canto and suggests that there may be significantly more overlap between the two parts than immediately meets the eye. The chief subdivisions of the canto are these: 1-18, Beatrice reveals

to the Wise a question Dante has not verbalized (Will the light radiated by the blessed spirits continue after they receive their resurrected bodies and, if so, how will their eyes tolerate the brightness?); 19-33, the Wise respond eagerly with joyous song and circular dance; 34-60, «la luce più

dia» (Solomon) answers Dante's query (The light will both continue and increase, and the glorified bodies - strengthened by increased grace will be capable of withstanding the greater light); 61-66, the two circles of the Wise voice their approbation of Solomon's words with an Amen ; 67-81, a third circle of the Wise appears and Beatrice responds with a smile; 82-90, Dante gazes upon Beatrice and is transported with her to Mars; 91-126, the blessed Soldiers of the Faith appear in the form of a 200

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cross; and 127-39, Dante is in ecstasy. Given the doctrinal topics and the spatial territory covered, Paradiso XIV is undoubtedly, on more than one level, a canto of transition. First, it dramatically marks both the end of the sphere of the sun (cantos X-XIII) and the entry into the sphere of Mars (cantos XV-XVII and first part of XVIII). The drama unfolds in two framing events, each of which defeats Dante's memory: the marvelous appearance of the third circle of spirits (67 ff.), which leads the poet to apostrophize «Oh vero sfavillar del Santo Spiro!» (76), and the revelation of the cross of fighting saints

(97 ff.), which causes him to lament, «Qui vince la memoria mia lo 'ngegno» (103). By definition, what occurs between these threshold events is telling, for «the passage of the threshold is a form of self-annihilation» that leads to greater knowledge.9 The self-annihilation

in this case is the failure of Dante's powers of recall and the total contrition of his heart. His memory of the third circle of spirits «tra quelle vedute / si vuol lasciar che non seguir la mente» (80-81); likewise

the flaming cross «lampeggiva Cristo, / sì ch'io non so trovare essempro degno» (104-105). The Paradiso succeeds as a poem in large part because the poet openly acknowledges the ineffability of the experience What Spirit and use of the

even as he musters all his genius to describe it. occurs in the liminal space between the sfavillar of the Holy the venerable sign of the cross is Dante's «translation». The Latinate term «translato» (83) greatly heightens the notion of

a major transition in the pilgrim's experience. It does so because the term clearly echoes the New Testament notion of «translation» as salvation in the kingdom of light. This terminology is found in Colossians 1:12-13 (Vulgate): «...gratias agentes Deo Patri, qui dignos nos fecit in partem sortis sanctorum in lumine: qui eripuit nos de potestate tenebrarum, et transtulit [translated us] in regnum Filii dilectionis suae». Dante's whole Paradise is a kingdom of «translation» and light, and more than one commentator has focused on the light imagery that abounds in Paradiso XIV - from the brightness of Solomon and the circles of the Wise to the radiance of the scintillating spirits who make up the cross of Christ.10 The «translation» in the case of the pilgrim in Paradiso XIV, however, is not from darkness to light but from lesser light to greater light. The greater light in this case is brought about by the epiphany of the cross. Chiasmus and the Cross

The rhetorical figure of chiasmus in the first part functions metaphorically to presage the presentation of the cross in the second. 201

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Chiasmus links the first and second parts of the canto in a way that

provides a unity of vision not previously demonstrated. Poetry and theology will reveal themselves as coexistent in Dante's conception of art. Referred to as antitesi in modern Italian and such terms as

commutatio in medieval grammatical handbooks, chiasmus derives its name from the Greek letter chi (i.e., a cross or a cross-over) and the

Greek verb chiazein (to mark with an X). The figure in its simplest form consists of two parallel clauses in which the order of words in the first is inverted in the second, the inversion giving the pattern ab:ba. A

chiastic figure may extend to many more elements and assume the pattern «abc ... x ... cba». In Latin it can also refer to the inversion of cases, rather than exact words, such as the opening lines of Venantius

Fortunatus's hymn, alluded to by Dante in Inferno XXXIV: «Vexilla regis prodeunt / fulget crucis mystérium». Here the pattern of nominative, genitive, verb in line one is inverted to become verb, genitive, nominative in line two.11

Chiasmus is fairly common in antiquity, both in the scriptura paganorum and in the liber scripturae. John W. Welch cites, for example, a study listing 1257 examples of chiasmus in Livy («che non

erra», Inf. XXVIII.12), 211 in Sallust, 365 in Caesar, 1088 in Tacitus, and 307 in Justinus, and then notes that «Vergil's use of chiasmus is perhaps one of the more ingenious aspects of his style».12 Numerous examples can be found in the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.13 Two verses found in the tenth chapter of Matthew offer a particularly fine example for my purposes because they juxtapose Christ's cross to a chiastic device. Matthew 10:38 introduces the image of the cross (Douay-Rheims): «And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me». Dante alludes indirectly

to this verse in Paradiso XIV (106) when he refers to «chi prende sua

croce e segue Cristo», even though Dante's line actually translates Matthew 16:24. The biblical verse quoted above, with its connection of worthiness and the cross, establishes a key context for what I have to

say not only about chiasmus in Paradiso XIV but also in Matthew 10:39, which reads (Douay-Rheims): «He that findeth his life, shall lose it: / and he that shall lose his life for me shall find it». In the Vulgate

version known to Dante, the chiastic nature of this particular verse comes through in the same way: «Qui invenit animam suam, perdei illam: / et qui perdiderit animam suam propter me, inveniet earn». In

truth, the rules of chiasmus are flexible enough to allow the phrase «animam suam» to count as a unit. This means that the pattern here is really abc: cba. The point to be made is that the biblical pronouncement

of the centrality of the cross to Christian discipleship is sustained 202

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rhetorically by the chiastic arrangement. One verse narratively introduces

the concept of the cross; the next contains a rhetorical figure that mirrors the cross.

George S. Tate, in his brief but penetrating essay on «Chiasmus as

Metaphor», avows that the Greek letter chi , «along with its Latin counterpart (X), was associated throughout the Middle Ages with the

Cross and with Christ».14 Citing such eminent authorities as Isidore

(«X littera ... figura crucem significai»), Alcuin, Hrabanus, Angelbertus, and others, Tate argues convincingly «that even though in the [medieval] rhetorical manuals the figure does not bear its more recent

name, chiasmus, it was perceived an an X-pattern and was used frequently as a structural metaphor celebrating Christ».15 If we accept the medieval metaphorical implications of chiasmus, the rationale for its abundant use in the canto under discussion becomes much clearer.

Paradiso XIV opens with a wonderfully simple and technically perfect chiasmus (1-9): Dal centro al cerchio , e sì dal cerchio al centro

movesi l'acqua in un ritondo vaso, secondo eh e percossa fuori o dentro: ne la mia mente fé sùbito caso

questo ch'io dico, sì come si tacque la gloriosa vita di Tommaso, per la similitudine che nacque del suo parlare e di quel di Beatrice, a cui sì cominciar, dopo lui, piacque.

The poet speaks in the present tense («questo ch'io dico») of the pilgrim's experience in the past («ne la mia mente fé sùbito caso»). The reverberating image is intended to capture, not only metaphorically but also visually, the enthralling interaction between Beatrice, who (along with Dante) is at the center of two concentric circles of the Wise, and Aquinas, who occupies a place in one of those circles.

Although Vinciguerra criticizes the image for being «poco accessibile», an English translator has labeled it, somewhat more sympathetically, as «the homely image of the water in a bowl rippling between the centre and the rim».16 What apparently has escaped all the commentators is the effect of the X-like figure of chiasmus (obviously intended to capture and echo the radiating lines from the center to the circumference and from the circumference to the center) superimposed on the image of the round bowl. The chiastic image of the opening verse overlays the image of circularity to produce a variation on the cruciform nimbus. Because the blessed in the concentric circles move in a circle 203

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dance, the lights that they project towards the center - where Beatrice

and Dante stand - are like the spokes of a wheel. To employ for a moment the language of the opening lines of Paradiso XIII, «let one imagine» ( imagini ) that a cruciform nimbus is rotated at a fast speed. The effect would parallel the experience that Dante and his guide have in the first part of Paradiso XIV. They are, in effect, in a double nimbus that becomes a triple halo just before they depart for the sphere of Mars.

The sign of the cross in a circle was first introduced in the Commedia in Virgil's description of the harrowing of Hell, when «un possente» (i.e., Christ) descended «con segno di vittoria coronato» {Inf,

IV.54). The sign is clarified, indeed defined, in Paradiso XIV. 101-102 as «il venerabil segno / che fan giunture di quadranti in tondo». This sign of the cross, made up of the Soldiers of the Faith, flashes forth

Christ (104-105): «quella croce lampeggiava Cristo, / sì ch'io non so trovare essempro degno». But it is presaged not only by the opening

tercet of Paradiso XIV but also by at least two other examples of chiasmus in the first part of the canto.17

A second chiasmus, this one of two verses and of a more complex pattern {abcde : edcba ), presents the Trinity (28-29): Quell' uno e due e tre che sempre vive e regna sempre in tre e 'n due e 'n uno , non circunscritto, e tutto circunscrive ...

Peter Dronke, in addressing these admittedly enigmatic verses, raises the question, «why first the ascending order, then the descending one?». He

even ventures to ask the unthinkable: «Is it a meaningless conundrum?»18 The answer is found most readily in the rhetorical figure itself, for chiasmus may mirror more than the cross of Christ. Tate cites

three examples - two from the Old English-Latin Exposition hymnorum and one from Chaucer's Troilus - as evidence that «Chiasmus is also a fitting figure for presenting the Trinity or the relationship between Father and Son».19 What is intriguing is, once again, the image of the cross in the context of a (metaphorical) circle. In

the example cited it is achieved by the chiastic presentation of the Trinity followed by the paradoxical «uncircumscribed circumscribing». The triune godhead, though itself uncircumscribed, circumscribes or encircles everything. In classical literature chiasmus quite frequently occurs, undoubtedly

for rhetorical effect and perhaps as a mnemonic device, in speeches. Certainly the most complicated chiasmus, not only in the canto under discussion but perhaps in the entire Commedia , occurs in the heart of


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Solomon's speech in the following four tercets (40-51): La sua chiarezza séguita l'ardore; ťardor la visione , e quella è tanta, quant' ha di grazia sovra suo valore.

Come la carne gloriosa e santa fia rivestita, la nostra persona più grata fia per esser tutta quanta;

per che s'accrescerà ciò che ne dona di gratuito lume il sommo bene, lume ch'a lui veder ne condiziona; onde la vision crescer convene, crescer l'ardor che di quella s'accende, crescer lo raggio che da esso vene.

The emphasized words pair up chiastically in this manner: a. chiarezza;

b. l'ardor; c. visione; d. grazia; e. fia rivestita; f. la nostra persona; e. grata fia; d. gratuito; c. vision; b. l'ardor; a. raggio. This pairing emphasizes the phrase la nostra persona , which lies appropriately at the center of Solomon's chiastic discourse on the resurrection of the body.

The emphasis results in no small part from the series of words or images that frame it. But these verses also contain smaller criss-crossing patterns within the larger framework outlined above. Worthy of note are these: chiarezza-l'ardore-l'ardor-visione (40-41); ne dona-lume-lume-ne

condiziona (46-48); visïone-crescer-crescer-l'ardor (49-50). In all the cases of chiasmus in Solomon's speech, the rhetorical figure underscores the centrality of Christ's redemption on the cross even as it anticipates the flaming forth of the cross later in the canto. In addition, the chiastic

figures in 40-51 join with those of the opening verse and 28-29 to present compelling evidence that Dante is intentionally using a poetical device to make a theological statement, one that will be expanded upon in the second part of the canto when the Soldiers of the Faith arrange

themselves (chiastically) in a bold iconographie presentation (104, «quella croce lampeggiava Cristo»).20 The image of the cross links the two parts of the canto in an imaginative way that stresses the croce' s centrality for Christianity. Similes

In part because of a longstanding fascination with the Dantean simile,21 1 cannot conclude this reading without reflecting on the use in Paradiso XIV of this rhetorical figure as well. This canto is, after all, the only canto in the entire Commedia to employ the term similitudine 205

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(7). Though used in a generalized sense of «likeness», the term, appearing at the beginning of the third tercet, nevertheless calls attention

to the similitudini in the canto. Because these figures appear in both parts of the canto and function in similar ways, they also stylistically and conceptually link the various sections of Paradiso XIV. Dante in the Paradiso and Milton in Paradise Lost faced a similar

problem and shared the same solution. Milton in the composition of his epic had to deal with the problem of describing prelapsarian events in

after-the-fall terms and images. He had to use seventeenth-century English vocabulary to narrate happenings that took place millennia earlier. He could not easily and naturally include in his text such items

as hammers and saws or robbery and death, for these were things brought about by the Fall and by the introduction of sin into the world.

But neither could he realistically and successfully recount the epic struggle between good and evil in general or non-specific terms. Milton

solved this problem by introducing scores of epic similes into his narrative. Therefore, although earthly battles did not exist before the Fall, the poet could depict and anticipate them. A fine example of this occurs in Paradise Lost 10.272-85:

So saying, with delight he [Death] snuff d the smell Of mortal change on Earth. As when a flock Of ravenous Fowl, though many a League remote, Against the day of Battle, to a Field, Where Armies lie encampt, come flying, lur'd With scent of living Carcasses design'd For death, the following day, in bloody fight. So scented the grim Feature, and upturn'd His Nostril wide into the murky Air,

Sagacious of his Quarry from so far. Then Both from out Hell Gates into the waste

Wide Anarchy of Chaos damp and dark Flew diverse, and with Power (thir Power was great) Hovering upon the Waters.

The «Both» in verse 282 refers to the personifications of Death and Sin. The prelapsarian excursions of these two foreboding characters move the reader about the Empyrean at an accelerated pace and require a suspension

of disbelief. But the Miltonie simile serves here and throughout the poem to slow down the acceleration and to provide the readers with needed touchstones with the real world.

In the Paradiso Dante also takes us on flights through the Empyrean at amazing speeds, and he encounters a problem that 206

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anticipates Milton's: how to depict extra-terrestrial sights convincingly

with this world's language and imagery. At times he claims, as in Paradiso XIV, that the feat is beyond him (105, «non so trovare essempro degno»). But more often he finds, like Milton centuries later, that his best recourse is in the form of the similitudine. That is why the Paradiso has more similes than either the Purgatorio or the Inferno', the more aethereal Dante's subject matter the more he needs this world's images to describe or approximate the unseen. Unlike Milton, Dante is not restricted to similes alone for the depiction of after-the-Fall objects because the Italian epic treats the Christian (not Adamie) dispensation, which would naturally include postlapsarian imagery. But Dante is like Milton in that both poets must describe the supernatural and that which is beyond time with the natural and that which is in time. In each case the simile - and often it is the extended simile - seems to be the best

approach to handling the problem of how to make the unknown known and the unseen seen.

In the case of Paradiso XIV, a review of five extended similes will

reveal the process by which Dante attempts to express the ineffable while stylistically and imagistically connecting various paradisiacal episodes. The first is the simile of the delighted round dancers, who are compared to the two revolving and exulting circles of the Wise (19-24): Come, da più letizia pinti e tratti, a la fiata quei che vanno a rota levan la voce e rallegrano li atti,

così, a l'orazion pronta e divota, li santi cerchi mostrar nova gioia nel torneare e ne la mira nota.

This comparison follows a stately, classical, balanced form ( come-così ), with the comparandum in the first tercet and the comparatum in the second. The holy circles reveal their increased joy

«nel torneare», which refers to a circle dance popular in the Middle Ages, and «ne la mira nota», which alludes to their marvelous singing.

The emphasis here is on harmonious joy, happiness that is enlivened from time to time but that remains within decorous bounds. The image

of the circle - captured in such words and phrases as «vanno a rota», «li santi cerchi», and «torneare» - will become a motif by the end of

the canto.

The second extended simile follows the pattern of the first (si come-così). It is evenly distributed in two tercets, and occurs in Solomon's speech on the faculties of the resurrected body (52-57): Ma si come carbon che fiamma rende, 207

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e per vivo candor quella soverchia, sì che la sua parvenza si difende; così questo folgór che già ne cerchia fia vinto in apparenza da la carne che tutto dì la terra ricoperchia . . .

Here the commonplace image of a hot burning coal, a white form visible within its own flame, is compared to the effulgence of the resurrected body, whose brightness will surpass that of the spirit body.

The image of light, so prevalent in this canto, shines through such expressions as «fiamma», «vivo candor», and «folgór». Once again, the

poet attempts to make comprehensible that which is beyond human comprehension, and his tool is the similitudine. It is important to note

that this highly poetic form occurs in a presumably «theological» discourse.

The third simile (sì come-parve ), also in two tercets, compares the stars that appear at twilight to the third circle of the Wise who join the first two circles just before Dante's ascent to Mars (70-75): E sì come al salir di prima sera comincian per lo ciel nove parvenze, sì che la vista pare e non par vera, parvemi lì novelle sussistenze cominciare a vedere, e fare un giro di fuor da l'altre due circunferenze.

This comparison addresses the ineffability of the experience through the tentativeness of its assertions in both the vehicle («la vista pare e non

par vera») and the tenor («parvemi ... / cominciare a vedere»). Also, the ubiquitous motif of the circle appears in both the description of the third group as «un giro» and in the reference to the first two groups as «l'altre due circunferenze». Dante's brilliance reveals itself in his ability to help the reader imagine the unimaginable by introducing a daily phenomenon

- the appearance of heavenly lights between twilight and dusk - and then comparing it to what the pilgrim witnessed. The next simile comes from the second part of the canto and is

similarly celestial in its orientation. With a structure identical to the

similes in the first part (come-si) and consisting of two terzine , it compares the stars of the Milky Way to the souls found in the sphere of Mars who form themselves in a Greek cross (97-102): Come distinta da minori e maggi lumi biancheggia tra ' poli del mondo


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Galassia sì, che fa dubbiar ben saggi; sì costellati facean nel profondo Marte quei raggi il venerabil segno che fan giunture di quadranti in tondo.

This comparison subtly blends both the image of light - «minori e maggi / lumi», «biancheggia ... / Galassia», and «quei raggi» - with the figure of the cross in a circle («il venerabil segno / che fan giunture di quadranti in tondo»). Its balanced pattern echoes that of the first three similes; and its images, though describing an event in a different sphere, sustain and reinforce those introduced earlier.

The final similitudine , of the viol and harp, describes the harmonious melody that the cross of spirits chimes (1 18-23): E come giga e arpa, in tempra tesa di molte corde, fa dolce tintinno a tal da cui la nota non è intesa,

così da' lumi che lì m'apparinno s'accogliea per la croce una melode che mi rapiva, sanza intender l'inno.

In this case the perfectly balanced structure of this two-tercet simile

( come-così ) seems to mirror the sweet harmony emitted by the hymn-singing souls. Notions of sweetness («dolce tintinno»), light («lumi»), the cross («la croce»), and ecstasy («mi rapiva») combine to prepare the reader for the pilgrim's ecstatic state in the concluding verses of the canto. Conclusion

The image of the viol and harp, both strung with so many cords and yet capable of chiming together in an inspiring melody, captures the

harmony that I see between poetry and theology in this canto and in Dante's conception of Christian art. Just as the extended similes in the

two parts of Paradiso XIV mirror each other in terms of structure, balance, theme, tone, and purpose, so poetical and theological concerns work in concert in this and all of Dante's cantos. Paradiso XIV proves inaccessible only when the reader insists on divorcing its poetry from its theology. To assume that the canto is only «a gentle breath of seraphic poesy» would be as much an injustice as to agree that it is one of those moments when the poet is silent and only the theologian holds forth.


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1 William Warren Vernon, Readings on the «Paradiso» of Dante (London:

Methuen, 1909), I, 456. The entire quotation reads: «De Gubernatis remarks that this Canto is woven throughout of the most minute and delicate threads, and is a gentle breath of seraphic poesy». The word seraphic calls to mind the description of St. Francis in Paradiso XI. 37 («L'un fu tutto serafico in ardore»).

^Mario Vinciguerra, Il canto XIV del «Paradiso» (Torino: SEI, 1959), 5. The quote contained in the epigraph is not isolated. Vinciguerra presents a variety of surprisingly negative judgments on Paradiso XIV: «Il Canto si apre con una similitudine poco accessibile» (8); the simile of the Milky Way is seen, «dal lato dell'arte, ... mal congegnata e complicatasi per via» (15); the entire second part of the canto «è artisticamente priva di un centro organico» and is filled with «zone di incertezza e, diciamo pure, di assenza di fantasia» (16). Vinciguerra justifies the supposedly unimaginative second part by concluding that it is not «un episodio, ma un prologo» (17) to the truly grandiose episode of Cacciaguida. This lectura , perhaps the most widely diffused in Italy, has even been anthologized for students: «La Divina Commedia» nella critica, III:«// Paradiso », ed. Antonino Pagliaro (Messina: G. D'Anna, 1971), 187-91. See also Questioni di critica dantesca , ed. Giorgio Petrocchi & Pompeo Giannantonio (Napoli: Loffredo, 1972, 5 ed.), 685-90. 3 All quotations of the Comedy come from the text established by Giorgio Petrocchi. Any translations of the poem, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from Charles S. Singleton's texts (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970-75).

^Cf. Emst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages , trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), 222: «Tractare is a technical term in medieval philosophy and means 'to treat philosophically'. We find the word at the beginning of the Divine Comedy : 'ma per trattar del ben ch'io vi trovai ...'. The final result of 'philosophical treatment' is the 'treatise' ( tractatus ). This, for example, is what Dante calls his Monarchia». The term trattare also appears in the concluding chapter of Dante's Vita nuova , when he records his significant decision to write no more of Beatrice «infino a tanto che io potesse più degnamente trattare di lei». ^Jeffrey T. Schnapp, The Transfiguration of History at the Center of Dante's «Paradise» (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), 5-6. "For a concise presentation of the bipartite nature of Paradiso XIV, see Dante Alighieri, La Divina Commedia , a cura di Umberto Bosco e Giovanni Reggio (Firenze: Le Monnier, 1985), 221: «Nella prima parte del canto è proposto e risolto un dubbio di Dante circa la luminosità dei beati dopo che

avranno rivestiti i loro corpi (1-66); poi si assiste all'apparizione, all'esterno delle due corone concentriche di spiriti precedentemente apparse, di uno sterminato numero di luci, cioè di altri 'sapienti' (67-78). 210

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Siamo sempre nel cielo del Sole. Nella seconda parte del canto (79-139) il poeta, salito nel cielo di Marte, ha la visione di beati, combattenti e martiri per la fede, che si dispongono in forma di croce nella quale balena Cristo»

(emphasis mine). Even more recently, Luigi Blasucci, in «Discorso teologico e visione sensibile nel canto XIV del Paradiso », La rassegna della letteratura italiana 95, No. 3 (1991): 5, refers to Paradiso XIV as a «canto, si direbbe, di transizione», even though he finds a rhetorical unity of the two parts that is achieved by the canto's pervasive similes.

'Previous lecturae of Paradiso XIV include, in chronological order, the following: Carlo Steiner, Il Canto XIV del «Paradiso» letto nella Sala di Dante in Orsanmichele (Firenze: Sansoni, 1912) and La «luce più dia» del Canto XIV del «Paradiso» dantesco e l'episodio del cielo del Sole (Padova: Randi, 1913); Luigi Calvelli, Intorno al S. Giacomo del «Paradiso» dantesco : nota al Canto XIV, 13-96 (Firenze: Picini, 1913); Luigi Pietrobono, Saggi danteschi (Torino: SEI, 1954), 261-73; Mario Vinciguerra, Il canto XIV del «Paradiso», cit; Giuseppe Berretta, «Il canto XIV del Paradiso », Filologia e letteratura XI (1965): 254-69; Edoardo Soprano, «Il Canto XIV del Paradiso», in Lectura Dantis Scaligera (Firenze: Le Monnier, 1968), III, 479-504; Gaetano Marcovaldi, Due letture dantesche (Roma: Multigrafica, 1968), 39-93; Ettore Bonora, «Struttura e linguaggio nel XIV del Paradiso », Giornale storico della letteratura italiana, a. 86 (1969): 1-17; Umberto Bosco, «Domesticità del Paradiso (Lettura del canto XIV)», in Studi in onore di Alberto Chiari (Brescia: Paideia, 1973), 217-34; Giovanni Fallani, Il canto XIV del «Paradiso», in Nuove letture dantesche (Firenze: Le Monnier, 1973), 7-62; Peter Dronke, «'Orizzonte che rischiari': Notes Towards the Interpretation of Paradiso XIV», Romance Philology XXIX (1975): 1-19; Salvatore Accardo, «Canto XIV del Paradiso», in Capitoli danteschi (Roma: Bonacci, 1976), 131-54; Gabriele Muresu, «La 'gloria della carne': disfacimento e trasfigurazione (Par. XIV)», La rassegna della letteratura italiana 91 (1987): 253-68; Enzo Esposito, «Il canto XIV del Paradiso», in Casa di Dante in Roma, Letture degli anni 1979-'81 (Roma: Bonacci, 1989), 381-95; and Luigi Blasucci, «Discorso teologico e visione sensibile nel canto XIV del Paradiso », La rassegna della letteratura italiana XCV (1991): 5-19. 8The poet's meditation on the numbers 1,3, and 9 is well known, and a key passage is found in Vita nuova, XXIX, 3: «Lo numero del tre è la radice del nove, però che, sanza numero altro alcuno, per se medesimo fa nove, sì come vedemo manifestamente che tre via tre fa nove. Dunque ... lo tre è fattore per se medesimo del nove, e lo fattore per se medesimo de li miracoli è tre, cioè Padre e Figlio e Spirito Santo, li quali sono tre e uno ...».

^Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), 91.

l^Cf. Blasucci, 16: «Se la luce è la condizione permanente del Paradiso dantesco, essa trova nel XIV una possibilità di condensazione e una

ricchezza di sviluppi, che la promuovono a tema principe del canto».

Esposito, 394, cites Paradiso XIV as the «Canto della resurrezione, della 211

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luce, della danza, della croce, e anche degli affetti familiari». AAFor this example from Venantius Fortunatus as well as the concept of chiasmus as metaphor that follows, I am indebted to a former professor and

current colleague: George S. Tate, «Chiasmus as Metaphor: The 'Figura Crucis' Tradition and 'The Dream of the Rood,'» Neuphilologische Mitteilungen LXXIX, No. 2 (1978): 122-23.

^«Chiasmus in Ancient Greek and Latin Literatures», in Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures, Analyses, Exegesis , ed. J. W. Welch (Hildesheim: Gerstenberg, 1981), 259, 261. Welch's examples from Virgil's writings refer not only to single chiastic lines in the Aeneid but also to Proteus's 65-line speech in Georgics 4: 453-527. A3See Chiasmus in Antiquity , ed. John W. Welch, 50-168, 211-49. A4Tate, 115. 15Tate, 118.

16 John D. Sinclair, trans., The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: UT.Paradiso (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977 [first published, 19391), 209.

Schnapp astutely observes that Paradiso XIV's «syntactical criss-crossings» are themselves narratively anticipated: «Prefigured by two

important criss-crossings in the heaven of the sun - the cosmological chiasmus of Paradise X.7-9 (the 'chi' in the sky formed by the intersecting

ecliptic and equator) and the chiastic narrative of cantos X-XIII with its alternation between Thomas and Bonaventure, Francis and Dominic -

these further point us towards the awaited sign [of the cross] and hint at its identity» (67).

l^Dronke, 7. l^Tate, 118. Tate does not point out that the Troilus passage he quotes (V, 1863-64) was directly inspired by Dante's tribute to the Trinity in Paradiso XIV. 28-29. See Howard H. Schless, Chaucer and Dante: A Revaluation (Norman, OK: Pilgrim Books, 1984), 101 and 146, for a review of the proof for this attribution.


711 ^The presence of so many chiastic patterns in Paradiso XIV that extend beyond a single verse would seem to run counter to the assertion made by

Francesco Tateo in the Enciclopedia dantesca (Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 1970-78), 1:958, that chiasmus «ricorre a volte, ma assai di rado, indipendentemente dai limiti del verso».

21 See Madison U. Sowell, «A Bibliography of the Dantean Simile to 1981», Dante Studies 101 (1983): 167-80. John Milton, Complete Poems and Major Prose , ed. Merritt Y. Hughes (Indianapolis: Bobbs-M errili, 1975), 412-13.


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso XV Author(s): CRISTINA DELLA COLETTA Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 213-228 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806603 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:04 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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University of Virginia

XV Dante critics present a united front in considering Canto XV of Paradiso 1 a fragment of the Cacciaguida trilogy.2 Placed at the center of the third cantica, the Cacciaguida episodes depict a striking historical tableau, unfolding from the rosy hues of a remote idyll, lingering on the

somber shades of present tragedy, and expanding into a prophetic panorama of a future shaped by providence and divine justice. Within this tableau, Dante reveals the transcendental significance of historical progress, clarifies the reasons for his own destiny and exile, and glorifies

his mission as scriba Dei . In spite of the dramatic scope of the Cacciaguida triptych, canto XV features a formal unity of its own. The canto frames a moral imperative that transposes history into myth, and personal autobiography into universal exemplum. Within the circular closure of a canto whose ending echoes its beginning, Dante stages his suspenseful encounter with Cacciaguida, his ideal father-figure and the originator of the Alighieri family. In canto XV, the man of war who fought and sacrificed his life for the glory of Christianity bends down to greet the man of letters, for whom writing has become another, albeit no less powerful, form of moral and political engagement.

It has been argued that Cacciaguida is merely a mirror image of Dante himself, an alter ego whose function is to give dramatic flair to what remains, essentially, Dante's very personal monologue.3 Although Cacciaguida's ideology verbalizes Dante's own, his function in Paradiso XV transcends the purely duplicatory. Dante and Cacciaguida engage, on Cacciaguida's cue, in a rhetorical exchange in which the ideal knight and epitome of the man of action reveals himself to be a polished orator whom Dante must emulate by summoning all his poetic skill. By doing so, Dante stages himself anew, directing his existing poetic persona to

play yet another role - that of the second Alighieri crusader, the authoritative mediator of the languages of sacred love and martial ardor.

The Comedy becomes both Dante's weapon and the source of his martyrdom in a quest for renovatio through teaching, reformation and

open prophecy. It is not without a reference to this episode that, in Paradiso XXV, Beatrice describes Dante's life as a form of engaged activism (52-57): 213

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La Chiesa militante alcun figliuolo non ha con più speranza com' è scritto nel Sol che raggia tutto nostro stuolo: però li è conceduto che d'Egitto vegna in Ierusalemme per vedere, anzi che '1 militar li sia prescritto.

Like his great-great-grandfather Cacciaguida, Dante presents himself as one of the true inheritors of Christ, the man-god who joined the power

of Words and the value of Deeds in one all-encompassing mission of salvation.4 Canto XV sings the rallying cry for the poet's enlistment in the Christian militia , giving him a new Holy Sepulcher to reclaim, a second Holy Land to conquer, and another personal holocaust to endure. When Dante ascends into the sky of Mars at the end of canto XIV,

he contemplates the shining icon of Christ, the visible sign of His passion and resurrection, and a symbol of triumphant self-sacrifice: the scudo crociato of those who chose to die for the glory of God. These souls' sweet and joyful melody, modulated by what Dante refers to as a «dolce tintinno» of «giga» and «arpa», accompanies a sternly aggressive

hymn climaxing in the «Resurgi» and «Vinci» (118-9 & 125) of Christ's victory over death. As the enthralling yet martial music reverberates through the closing lines of canto XIV and the opening of canto XV, so does the disquieting contrast between the mellow harmony

of the celestial instruments and the forbidding tone of the opening tercets. Against the background of the «dolce lira» and the «sante corde», Dante expresses with Manichaean finality the stern opposition of good and evil, the insurmountable chasm between those who follow «giusto amore» and those who pursue instead the love that passes and fades away (1-12, emphasis added):5 Benigna volontade in che si liqua sempre l'amor che drittamente spira, come cupidità fa ne la iniqua,

silenzio puose a quella dolce lira, e fece quietar le sante corde che la destra del cielo allenta e tira.

Come saranno a' giusti preghi sorde quelle sustanze che, per darmi voglia ch'io le pregassi, a tacer fur concorde? Bene è che sanza termine si doglia chi, per amor di cosa che non duri etternalmente, quello amor si spoglia.

This exordium orchestrates a severe confrontation between moral 214

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extremes. The rigor of the comparison (line 3) draws the line between two opposing camps: «il diritto amore» rises against «quello delle cose

mondane, cioè cupidigia» (Ottimo)6 just as «benigna volontade» emerges as the foil of its antonym, «iniqua». The finality marking these verses reiterates the black-and-white logic of infernal contrappasso , according to which eternal sorrow rightly awaits those who succumb to the sweet siren of ephemeral pleasure. Dante's doctrinal incipit sounds as a jarring chord in the paradisiacal symphony that connects the two cantos, an intrusive solo that does not

harmonize with the instrumental accompaniment of the piece. Yet Dante's assertive, even righteous tone is meant to stand out, as it emulates the words with which Cacciaguida concludes the tale of his earthly life, which Dante reports at the end of canto XV (145-148, emphasis added): Quivi fu' io da quella gente turpa

disviluppato dal mondo fallace, lo cui amor molt' anime deturpa; e venni dal martiro a questa pace.

Canto XV opens and closes, mirror-like, by condemning the love of transitory things. Why does Dante feel the need to reiterate a concept he approached as early as his encounter with Paolo and Francesca in the

second circle of Hell, translated into doctrinal tones in Virgil's exposition of love in Purgatory XVI, and fully addressed in his intense

meeting with Beatrice in the garden of Eden? While the dogmatic boundaries of canto XV place the evocation of ancient Florence and the poet's encounter with Cacciaguida in an idealized moral landscape, and thus justify one of the most mundane episodes of Paradiso , they also

reflect Dante's effort to provide an ideal synthesis of an aesthetic, theological, and political journey that he placed under the sign of Love.

In a seminal essay on the Cacciaguida cantos, Attilio Momigliano maintained that in them Dante utters «i discorsi più gelosi della Divina Commedia , quelli che toccano più addentro in lui l'uomo, il cittadino, il poeta: [Dante] parla, o ascolta, della Firenze d'un tempo, di ora, del suo

esilio, della sua missione di giudice» (33). Momigliano's statement is partially misleading, because it is only within the dogmatic justification of the superiority of transcendental to secular love that Dante inserts the

municipal and familial digression of the Cacciaguida episode. Within this digression, the theme of the concrete terrestrial homeland becomes most vivid only as long as it is de-historicized, sublimated, and clarified in mythical terms.7 As the Vita nuova had marked the metamorphosis


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of earthly Beatrice into «una cosa venuta / da cielo in terra a miracol mostrare»,8 so Paradiso XV presents the transformation of Florence as

historical fact into Florence as poetic idea. In the name of Beatrice, Dante embarked on a spiritual journey leading from the diffusive love for the world's creatures to the exclusive love for their creator; in the

name of Cacciaguida, he sublimates a political passion born from a first-person involvement in the strife of communal Florence into a philosophical affection for an ideal urbs and civilitasy a poetic construction molded in the crucible of nostalgia, remembrance, and desire. In the context set out by the doctrinal frame of canto XV, Dante

demonstrates having understood Virgil's lesson of Purgatory XVII in political terms: «mentre ch'elli è nel primo ben diretto, / e ne' secondi sé

stesso misura / esser non può cagion di mal diletto» (97-99). Setting aside the enticements of the earth also means repudiating an overly secular engagement in local factional unrest. The doctrinal beginning seals off a temptation that Dante has already overcome in «sentimental» terms, and that he is now ready to conquer in political terms. Ephemeral love and political passion are shaped, together, in the orderly itinerary for the trip from earth to heaven, from women as transitory temptation to Woman as mediator between time and eternity, and from ideological partisanship to the mythicizing of a historical scheme circumscribed by

two ideals: the bittersweet dream of old municipal Florence, and the triumphal utopia «di quella Roma onde Cristo è romano» ( Pur g . XXXII,

102). It is surprising that a canto reinscribing the law of transcendental Love should strike, as remote reverberations, some distinct dolce stil

novo notes. «Le dolci rime d'amor ch'i' solia / cercar ne' miei pensieri /

convien ch'io lasci...», Dante declared as early as the Convivio .9 Despite this programmatic announcement, the stilnovo experience survives in the sinews of the Commedia , and beats in the very heart of

Paradiso. In canto XV, Dante evokes the «sweet love rhymes» of his youthful poetry in order to embroider the martial canopy of the sky of

Mars. While Dante poetically constructs an ideal myth around the historical figure of his great-great-grandfather, and by extension around

the Alighieri lineage, he also orchestrates all of his earlier literary experiences within a newly created poetic persona, armed with a higher moral commitment, and empowered by a better-stocked stylistic arsenal. After staring into the mesmerizing spectacle of the shining cross, Dante turns toward Beatrice (32-36): poscia rivolsi a la mia donna il viso, e quinci e quindi stupefatto fui;


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ché dentro a li occhi suoi ardeva un riso

tal, ch'io pensai co' miei toccar lo fondo de la mia gloria e del mio paradiso.

Since Niccolò Tommaseo's commentary, critics have pointed out that these lines echo the «me parve allora vedere tutti li termini de la beatitudine» of the Vita nuova (Donadoni 1643, Binni 622). Exactly as in the libello , the stilnovistic topos of diletto entering through the poet's eyes to reach his heart is translated into mystical terms («grazia»

and «paradiso»). However, unlike that in the Vita nuova , canto XV's language of mysticism maintains, surprisingly, a very private accent through the repetition of the possessive «mio». Dante's very exclusive paradise, evoked by Beatrice's smile, has nothing to do with the nostalgic, earth-bound «disiato riso» referred to by Francesca in Inferno V (133), and shares little in common with Beatrice's «sacramental» and

«absolutive» smile of Purgatorio XXX.10 Rather, it evokes the «affocato riso» that greeted Dante's entrance into the heaven of the warrior god. This connotation of love marks the shift, in canto XV, from the figure of Beatrice to that of Cacciaguida, and designates a kind of love that, while fundamentally being «al primo ben diretto», creates a closely personal bond between Dante and his great-great-grandfather, a love so familial and so distinctive that it justifies pushing Beatrice to the margin of the heavenly scene.

After meeting Farinata degli Uberti in Dis, Virgil told Dante: «quando sarai dinanzi al dolce raggio / di quella il cui beli' occhio tutto

vede, / da lei saprai di tua vita il viaggio» {Inf. X, 130-132). Dante himself had confided to Brunetto Latini: «ciò che narrate di mio corso

scrivo, / e serbolo a chiosar con altro testo / a donna che saprà, s'a lei

arrivo» {Inf. XV, 88-90). The change in Dante's plan and the substitution of Beatrice with Cacciaguida may be ascribed, albeit sottovoce , to such unpoetic and trivial reasons as mere sbadataggine , or

infelicitous forgetfulness. More interesting is Dante's desire highlighted since the commentaries of Landino and Benvenuto - to establish a parallel between Aeneas's encounter with Anchises in Hades and Dante's meeting with Cacciaguida in Heaven, in what is interpreted as a process of Christianization of classical antecedents (Schnapp 1991, 147). I believe there are other reasons that justify Dante's correction. The dolce stil novo is present in canto XV as the marginal reminder of an initial aesthetics of love that must be reshaped to accommodate, in the martial cantica of Cacciaguida, a new «sentimental» experience that expresses neither secular affection nor mystical ardor, but militant love. This passion binds Dante and Cacciaguida to the Christian militia led by 217

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St. Peter and St. John, respectively «alto primipilo» (Par. XXIV, 59) and «alto preconio» (Par. XXVI, 44), and inspired by God, «sommo duce» (Par. XXV, 72) and «sanctus Deus sabaoth» (Par. VII, 1). This is the passion that inspired the crusades, whose spirit Dante saw disappearing in his age.11 It blessed the once happy marriage of the two institutions - Church and Empire - charged with guiding humankind

to salvation, and elevating power politics into the indisputable ideology of faith. * * *

The musical charm that mesmerized the poet

the heaven of Mars wanes into a silence fu

This intense pause dramatizes the suspense prec anticipates a mysterious epiphany. The Ovidian following the swift course of a falling star and the skies, introduce a shift from auditory fasc

a choreographic display of light moving wit inhabit the heaven of Mars align themselve holy cross. A flame descends along the right the cross to meet Dante, who looks up in rapt tale dal corno che 'n destro si stende

a pie di quella croce corse un astro

de la costellazion che lì resplende; né si partì la gemma dal suo nastro, ma per la lista radiai trascorse, che parve foco dietro ad alabastro. In harmony with the sacramental aura and Virgilian sottofondo that

set the atmosphere and tone for the encounter, Cacciaguida's speech begins in Latin, mixing classical echoes with ecclesiastical and mystical notes.13 Cacciaguida's Latin lines are a skillfully contrived exordium, an oratorical tour-de-force, and an intertextual patchwork (28-30): O sanguis meus, o superinfusa gratia Dei sicut tibi cui bis unquam celi ianiia reclusa?

This rhetorical alto volo , soaring up from the solemn invocation, initiates a swift succession of tropes: hypotyposis (celi ianiia) after metonymy (gratia Dei ), after synecdoche (sanguis meus) M A piece of

stylistic bravura, Cacciaguida's incipit , - and particularly the 218

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expression sanguis meus with its double Virgilian and New Testament

echoes, - proves that the martyr of the sword anticipates, here, his poetically gifted descendant. By filtering the classic authors through the colander of Christian thought, Cacciaguida shares Dante's literary and

moral mission. Moreover, by representing the Christian counterpart of

the pagan figure of Anchises, Cacciaguida suggests that Dante may incarnate the Christian metamorphosis of Aeneas. In this way Cacciaguida champions the right that both he and Dante have to pen the adjective holy before the noun war , in literal as well as literary terms.

There are, however, other implications to Cacciaguida's Latin debut, as it occurs on a stage which, apparently, shuts history outside

its curtain. Cacciaguida's Latin is a language blocked in its timeless classic perfection and the patrimonio comune of the ideal community of

scholars. Beyond its geographical determination and historical definition,15 Latin is the very language that the Provençal troubadour Sordello, in an emotional encounter with Virgil, could allow himself to

define as «nostra» {Pur g. VII, 17). Yet, with a cunningly Dantesque sleight of hand, Cacciaguida's Latin is at the same time a linguistic beacon from the past piercing the darkness of present history, expressing

Dante's demagogic faith that «l'Italia nuova si innestava sull'antica; e che la poesia e il pensiero e la storia nostra erano una magnanima ripresa, non un oscuro incominciamento» (Donadoni 1641).

A similar function is performed by the multiple Latinisms interspersed throughout canto XV. Generally speaking, as in the whole of Paradiso , Latinisms and archaisms elevate and ennoble the style.16 Here they provide the exemplary linguistic medium for a legendary and remote figure whose elegant and complex syntax (as well as stylistic choices) add severity and authority to his message (Momigliano 36). At the same time, as echoes of specific literary and linguistic bases, the

canto's Latinisms create a carefully planned mélange of classical, biblical, liturgical, and mystical sources.17 They reflect a legacy that

can be literarily and historically pinpointed and yet, in its new combination, becomes ideal, thus furnishing an ideological, ethical and linguistic compendium : the heritage of a classical and Christian past crushing an undeserving present.

Cacciaguida's elevated style forces Dante to raise his own (Momigliano 37). Dante achieves this stylistic ascension by repeating and developing his ancestor's metaphors. The «grato e lontano digiuno» (49) followed by «asseta / di dolce disiar» (65-66) opens a metaphorical range that, rather than marking a plunge into everyday colloquialism, introduces an excursion into biblical symbolism: the metaphorical field of spiritual drinking and eating that derives from the New Testament 219

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symbol of the supper.18 Expanding on the metaphor that also inspired the title and situation of the Convivio , Dante replies to Cacciaguida's

prompt by asking Cacciaguida to make him «sated of his name» («del tuo nome sazio», 87). The first half of canto XV, in its different dimensions of the direct speeches by Cacciaguida and Dante, and the poet's a posteriori narration, creates a composite metaphorical net in which the «convivial» metaphor is interlaced with the heavenly images of light and precious stones and, specifically in this canto, images of

flight19 and the genealogical tree.20 Arguably, the metaphorical interplay between Dante and Cacciaguida furnishes a figurai rendition of

the kind of ontological oneness Dante attempts to establish with his ancestor. Metaphor - a similitudo brevior , as Quintilian defined it is a semantic transference between two different terms that share a

common intermediate element. In other words, identity within difference is what triggers the metaphorical procedure. The relationship between

Dante and Cacciaguida is, by extension, a metaphorical one. Dante's «invention» of Cacciaguida responds to a need for unity, continuity, and

recurrence. It establishes an underlying pattern of similarities and identities within a world marked by movement and decline. This pattern resists the superficial flow of linear time, and exorcises the tyranny of change and the specter of difference. The canto's metaphors act as the

linguistic foundation for an atemporal paradigmatic unity that «poetically» alters the syntagmatic scheme of historical becoming and diversification.

Supersensible wholeness, however, still eludes Dante, who experiences Cacciaguida's otherness, and is unable to understand his ancestor's words (37-42).21 The esoteric and extralogical language of the

mystics (Donadoni 1643), the unity of «intelletto» and «senno», is untranslatable into human terms.22 Pure thought does not need linguistic mediation, as it is grounded in the paradox of absolute hermeticism combined with the purest transparency. Whether Cacciaguida is directly addressing the divinity (Momigliano) or is praising Dante by anticipating his glorious mission (Donadoni), the sequence has a dramatic effect, as it stresses the difference between human and superhuman ontologies. Cacciaguida emerges here as God's chosen, the angelic soul rather than the father and soldier. He is among the elect who can read the «magno volume / du' non si muta mai bianco né bruno» (50-51), the possessor of the supersensible language that does not unfold in succession and linear time, but exists all at once. It is this

language in which the anti-history of Paradise is written, the all-encompassing oneness in which «tutti li tempi son presenti» (Par. XVII, 18), the very unity that Dante will fully experience only at the 220

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end of his trip, in his vision of God (Par. XXXIII, 85-7): Nel suo profondo vidi che s'interna, legato con amore in un volume, ciò che per l'universo si squaderna.

Dante's response to Cacciaguida voices the poet's sorrow for an existential situation marked by separation and division, in which he is

entrapped in the rift between «affetto» and «senno», «voglia» and

«argomento» (73, 79). The adversative conjunction «ma» (79)

stylistically underscores the separation between mortal and immortal

dimensions. This separation, as well as the desire to exorcise it, is visually rendered by two opposite images of movement in canto XV.

The flight metaphor, recalling by means of contrast Ulysses's «folle volo» of Inferno XXVI, presents Dante's impatience with the pace of his own transumanar (Par. I, 70), and his desire to immediately achieve, both intellectually and emotionally, the celestial status of his ancestor. Conversely, Cacciaguida's descent from the top of the cross dramatizes his urge to establish closer contact with Dante, in Dante's own human terms. In this sense, the impassioned connection between Cacciaguida

and Dante is an exquisitely religious experience, in the etymological meaning of the word «re-ligare», meaning «to bind again». However, the gap between earth and heaven is a difficult one to close. While Cacciaguida masters, in a few tercets, Latin, the language

of mysticism, and a refined volgare , Dante is forced to admit the inadequacy of his words: «non ringrazio / se non col core a la paterna

festa» (83-84). Dante's first response to Cacciaguida provides what Walter Binni defines as a «mimesi faticosa» (623). Dante attempts to emulate Cacciaguida through what emerges as a piece of artificial oratorical virtuosismo , cloaking the poet's simple and authentic desire to

justify his insufficiency, thank the spirit's benevolence, and inquire about his identity.

Although Cacciaguida's speech continues in Italian, it does not descend into colloquialism, but remains solemn and syntactically complex. Cacciaguida's elevated eloquence contributes to the creation of a fabled character: the protagonist of a noble and holy histoire de gestes , the ideal courtier and Christian hero doubly removed from the present because he lives in the past and the transcendental (Momigliano 46-7). It

is only in canto XVI that Cacciaguida fully reverts to the archaic Florentine of his earthly existence («non con questa moderna favella»,

33), thus prompting Dante to act as the privileged «inheritor» and «translator» of his discourse (Schnapp 1986, 233). I believe, however, 221

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that before using the archaic Florentine of canto XVI, which requires

Dante's editorial tailoring, Cacciaguida employs a volgare which is elevated and rarefied enough to fit into the general tone of Paradiso 23 It is, in other words, the language that, in De vulgāri eloquentia, Dante

defines as illustre , cardinale, aulicum et curiale , the idiom that

synthesizes the best of all of the Italian vernaculars. Cacciaguida's plurilinguism reproduces, linguistically, his descent from the crossbar of

the cross. In canto XV Cacciaguida stops halfway, stressing his mythical stature: a synthesis of all that is best in human nature and a shining figura Christi , he urges Dante to reach upwards, and emulate him.

Cacciaguida's self-portrait, as well as his description of ancient Florence, reveals the sentimental legend which lies under a thin historical crust, and narrates a heavenly fable inspired by a past colored with melancholy and nostalgia. Noble descendant of the «sementa santa»

described by Brunetto Latini (Inf. XV, 76), Cacciaguida limits genealogical and familial references to a minimum: his son Alighiero,

residing in Purgatory, his two brothers Moronto and Eliseo and his wife, who came to him from «val di Pado» (Par. XV, 137). Similarly, Cacciaguida encloses his earthly existence within the fences of a fistful of notable ritual experiences: his birth in the name of the Virgin Mary;

his baptism, sealing his Christian identity («insieme fui cristiano e Cacciaguida», 135); his marriage, originating the Alighieris' cognomen ; and his final martyrdom, once again in Christ's name. In Cacciaguida's speech the family's tale is strictly tied to that of Florence, thus providing a poetic rendition of the ideal unity between

family, city, and ultimately, monarchy and Empire proposed in the Convivio (IV, 4). The significant moments of Cacciaguida's life have their counterparts in the meaningful places in the exemplary topography of ancient Florence: the old circle of the walls, the tower of the Badia

that «humanizes» time around the communal experiences of the beginning and ending of the working day,24 and the Batisteo , center of Florence's social and religious life.

The ancient city exists as the antithesis of fourteenth-century Florence. The anaphoric crescendo of the nine repetitions of the word

«non» pounds the beat of the tragic decline of human history, and underscores the separation of the present from the time when Florence

embodied civil perfection. These negations divide exterior wealth from true selfhood and inner worth, mundane excess from Franciscan thrift, social fragmentation from familial unity (100-1 1 1): Non avea catenella, non corona,


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non gonne contigiate, non cintura che fosse a veder più che la persona. Non faceva, nascendo, ancor paura la figlia al padre, che 'l tempo e la dote non fuggien quindi e quinci la misura. Non avea case di famiglie vote; non v'era giunto ancor Sardanapalů a mostrar ciò che 'n camera si pote. Non era vinto ancora Montemalo

dal vostro Uccellatolo, che, com' è vinto nel montar sù, così sarà nel calo.

Modern Florence becomes the nest of the very cupidity that Dante curtly

dismisses at the beginning of canto XV. Cacciaguida's speech verbalizes Dante's nostalgia for an irrevocable wholeness, and expresses the poet's

melancholia at the discovery that all that is left now is loss, fragmentation, and disarray. «Peu de gens devineront combien il a fallu être triste pour entreprendre de ressusciter Carthage!» argued Flaubert in a letter discussing his novel Salammbô.^ Dante's canto XV of Paradiso

anticipates the same emotions: resuscitating ancient Florence can be done only by means of contrast, and the harmony of the past can be experienced only vicariously through Cacciaguida's eyes and courteous words. Caught between the wholeness of a world that time has swept away and the fullness of a future that is still a promise to be fulfilled, Dante's present exists as a state of crisis, and as a fracture between the conflicting drives to anticipate what is to come or regress into what once was.

Rather than a laudator temporis acti , Dante is a Utopian thin

and his Florence represents the seduction of «another history» fou

on wish-fulfillment and constructed by the logic of poetic transfiguration. The reiterated «vid' io» that Cacciaguida employs in his description of Florence carries a documentary force (Binni, 629) which, together with the real characters and geographical places, grants the

city's historical foundations without hindering its poetic metamorphosis.26 City of Cities, and earthly préfiguration of Paradise (Consoli 420), Florence is a myth frozen in the perfection of its golden age, its order reflecting the supreme harmony of heaven («Le cose tutte quante / hanno ordine tra loro», Par. I, 103-4). It is, in other words, a Florence sub specie aeternitatis , the antithesis of the city viewed as the

mundane daughter of Satan (Par. IX, 127-8), 27 and the foil of the chaotic «nave sanza nocchiere in gran tempesta» (Pur g. VI, 77) with which Dante associated the whole of the Italian peninsula. Florence's walls encompass the absolute purity of a single people with similar 223

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elemental desires, and protect this Utopian sanctuary from the flow of

change. City of yearning, «il bello ovile ov' io dormi' agnello» (Par. XXV, 5) is the home of recurrence, continuity, stability, and harmonious concordance, the exact opposite of the city that undoes in

mid-November what was spun in October (Purg. VI, 143-44). It is a soothing maternal space constructed to satisfy an aristocratic and escapist fantasy, peopled with ideal figures endowed with refined feelings: «le donne e ' cavalier, li affanni e li agi / che ne Svogliava amore e cortesia» of the famous lines by Guido Del Duca (Purg. XIV, 109-10). Florence's women are the literary descendants of those Roman matrons who, with their ancillae, «domum servavit , lanam fecit» (Del

Lungo 9), and they are entrusted with the oral transmission of the legendary «Florentine cycle» built side by side with the Trojan and Roman models.28 These women carry the «maternum linguagium» (Benvenuto da Imola), 2^ another of the universal idioms to which canto XV refers, the atemporal language of natural affections and parental love, the same «parlar petèl» that poet Andrea Zanzotto refers to more than six centuries later.

There is no place for war within Cacciaguida's Florentine utopia. Cacciaguida's militant spirit flourishes outside the city limits, beyond the lands of the baptized. In the last tercets of canto XV, the perfect citizen changes into the Christian soldier who fought with Conrad III of Swabia during the second Crusade, was knighted by this emperor, and

probably died in the siege of Damascus in 1147. Just like the biblical and epic heroes parading at the end of canto XVIII, Joshua and Maccabeus, Charlemagne and Roland, Duke Godfrey and Robert

Guiscard, Cacciaguida concludes his heroic military mission by assuming the laurel of «quella pace che non aspetta mai guerra né remore» (Landino).30 By presenting himself as the emperor's civis , Christ's miles , and an accomplished clericus , Cacciaguida is no longer a historical character but the embodiment of Dante's ideal. He represents the father who greets Dante within the walls of his ideal city, tinting the poet's experience of

a fatal predestination. The continuity Dante establishes with Cacciaguida and, by extension, with the other men embodying the dream of a sober past,31 exorcises the negative course of linear history, inserting it into the perfect circularity of a canto which reinstates the harmonious unity of the created world. The ideal continuity between Dante and Cacciaguida

exemplifies the fusion of acts and words which characterizes «the

Christian construct» (Schnapp, 1986, 218). The material sword becomes, then, a discursive one, while eloquent crusaders and poets-in-arms join forces in the «essercito di Cristo» (Par. XII, 37), and 224

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dispatch a martial bulletin written in the sweet love rhymes of self-sacrifice leading to resurrection and peace.


1 Among the works I have consulted are the early and modern commentators

(Guido da Pisa, Benvenuto da Imola, Ottimo, Pietro di Dante, Anonimo Fiorentino, Tommaseo, Sapegno, Momigliano, Singleton, etc.). I have also consulted the following: Alfredo Amendola, «I tre canti di Cacciaguida», Gymnasium 39 (1963-64): 219-227; Walter Binni, «Il canto XV del Paradiso», Cultura e scuola 4 (1965): 615-633; Dino Cervigni, «I canti di Cacciaguida: Significato della storia e poetica della lingua», in Dante Alighieri: 1985 , eds. Richard Baum and Willi Hirdt, (Tübingen: Stauffenburg Verlag, 1985): 129-140; Andrea Ciotti, «Il canto XV del 'Paradiso'», Nuove letture dantesche 6 (Firenze: Le Monnier, 1973): 163-186; Domenico Consoli, «Il canto XV del 'Paradiso'», in Paradiso: Letture degli anni 1979-81 (Roma: Bonacci, 1989): 397-422; U. Cosmo, L'ultima ascesa

(Firenze: La Nuova Italia, 1965): 169-202; Stelio Cro, «Cacciaguida e l'utopia evangelica del 'sanguis meus'», Esperienze letterarie 14.4 (Oct.-Dec. 1989): 9-36; Terence Paul Logan, «Virgil in Dante's Fifth Heaven», Kentucky Romance Quarterly 15 (1986): 157-166; Eugenio Donadoni, «II canto XV del Paradiso», in Letture dantesche: Paradiso , ed. Giovanni Getto

(Firenze: Sansoni, 1962): 1637-1657; Fernando Figurelli, «I canti di Cacciaguida», Cultura e scuola 4 (1965): 634-661; Fiorenzo Forti, Cacciaguida , in Enciclopedia Dantesca , I: 733-39; Enrico Maria Fusco, Dante e Cacciaguida (Bologna: Vighi e Rizzoli, 1965); A. Garsia, «Dante e Cacciaguida», Il giornale di politica e letteratura 3 (1927): 1-16; Angelo Jacomuzzi, «Considerazioni sopra i canti di Cacciaguida», in L'Imago al cerchio: Invenzione e visione nella Divina Commmedia (Milano: Silva, 1968): 155-191; Attilio Momigliano, «La personalità di Dante e i canti di Cacciaguida», in Dante, Manzoni, Verga (Firenze, Messina: D'Anna, 1965): 33-57; Rocco Montano, «Il Paradiso di Dante e l'episodio di Cacciaguida», Delta 11-12 (1957): 30-60; André Pézard, «Les trois langues de

Cacciaguida», Revue des études italiennes 3 (1967): 217-238; Giovanni Pischedda, «Introduzione ai canti di Cacciaguida», in Tecnica e poesia in Dante (L'Aquila: Japadre Editore, 1970): 71-77; Manfredi Porena, «Cacciaguida», Conferenze e letture dantesche 5 (Milano: Hoepli 1898-1944): 29-51; and «La lingua di Cacciaguida», Questioni e questioncelle dantesche (Roma: Accademia d'Italia, 1962); Raffaello Ramat, «Il canto XV del Paradiso», Lectura Dantis Scaligera : Paradiso (Firenze: Le Monnier, 1971): 507-525; Jeffrey Schnapp, «Sì pia l'ombra d'Anchise si porse: Paradiso 15.25», in The Poetry of Allusion , Jeffrey Schnapp & Rachel Jacoff, eds. (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1991): 145-156; and The Transfiguration of History at the Center of Dante's Paradise (Princeton:


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Princeton UP, 1986); Alfredo Sisca, «La trilogia della nobiltà di Dante nel cielo di Marte», Letture dantesche (Messina-Firenze: D'Anna, 1960): 172-188; Aldo Vallone, «Il canto XV del Paradiso», Studi su Dante medievale (Firenze: Olschki, 1965): 247-266; Vittorio Vettori, «Il centro del Paradiso», Letture del Paradiso (Milano: Marzorati, 1970): 167-186; A. Viscardi, «La favella di Cacciaguida», Cultura neolatina II (1942): 311-355. 2 Alfredo Sisca considers cantos XV, XVI and XVII as a trilogy, for both their unitary development and their dramatic quality. These cantos originate «una specie di prologo e tre atti successivi» with Dante as the main actor and

Cacciaguida as the personification of ancient truth and virtue (173). Similarly, Raffaello Ramat deems canto XV to be a mere fragment, which must be evaluated in context with two other fragments, canto XVI and XVII. Together, Ramat explains, these cantos form a meeting point of the structural forces of the entire Commedia (508). Although Walter Binni concedes an «unità particolare» to canto XV, he nevertheless contends that this canto cannot be isolated as a «lirica a sé» (616): it exists as an integral part of the complex unity generated by the Cacciaguida trilogy, which sublimates the contingent episodes of municipal history and personal autobiography into the universal and absolute poetry of Paradiso (616-617).

^According to Momigliano, Cacciaguida is a «sdoppiamento del nipote... Dante che si consiglia con Cacciaguida è, veramente, Dante che si consiglia con la sua coscienza» (34). See also Bruno Maier's comments on the «pieno processo di identificazione» between Dante and Cacciaguida: «Ci troviamo di fronte a un Dante-Cacciaguida o a un Dante che tramite Cacciaguida si abbandona alla più ampia confessione, esplicazione, trascrizione autobiografica che egli si sia mai concesso» (127). 4On the relationships between «natural and supernatural genealogy» in the Cacciaguida episode see Schnapp (1991, 148-151). ^Note, however, that the celestial instruments are played by «la destra del ciel», a metaphor expressing the idea of justice. "Quoted from Biagi, La Divina Commedia nella figurazione artistica e nel secolare commento (Torino: Unione Tipografica Torinese, 1924-39): III, 335.

'See also Donadoni (1638) and Binni (616). ^Vita nuova , XXVI, 6 (w. 7-8). ^ln Canzone Terza (IV, 1-3).

l"See Ruggero Stefanini, «Purgatorio XXX», Dante's Divine Comedy: Introductory Readings , II: Purgatorio , Tibor Wlassics ed., supplement to Lectura Dantis 12 (Spring 1993): 453. H In Paradiso IX Dante claims that greed is all that preoccupies the Church, which has abandoned the defense of the Holy Land: «A questo intende il papa e ' cardinali; / non vanno i lor pensieri a Nazarene» (136-37).

l2Met. II, 321-322.

1^«0 sanguis meus» echoes the Virgilian line «Proice tela manu, sanguis meus» (. Aen . VI, 835) of Anchises's appeal that Julius Caesar end Rome's civil wars. On the manipulation of the Virgilian source, see Donadoni 226

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(1962), Binni (620), Ciotti (171-172), and Schnapp (1991, 147, 152-3). Cacciaguida's «grafia Dei» recalls God's answer to Paul: « Sufficit tibi gratia mea» (2Cor., XII, 9). Echoes may be found also in the second letter to the Corinthians (XII, 1-4) where Paul describes his ascension to Heaven. All of this witnesses Dante's synthetic ability to shape and revise an enormous reservoir of images and texts, and his will to combine the classical legacy with Latin and medieval Christianity (Ramat 509). The «sanguis meus», Schnapp observes, is «rich in liturgical associations» (1991, 153), as it recalls the words with which Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist:

«hic est enim sanguis meus novi testamenti» (Matt. 26:28).

^See also Pézard, 229. Pézard defines this opening as «une éloquence latine trop spéciale et savante, presque artificieuse» (229). ADSee Pézard 229, Sisca, 177, and Cervigni 132. i0See H. Gmelin, «I Latinismi del Paradiso », trans. E. Bonora, Antologia della critica dantesca , M. Fubini and E. Bonora eds. (Torino: Petřini, 1968): 518-27.

* 'Among the Latinisms of canto XV: « liqua » (1), «magno» (50), «mei» (55), « gaudioso » (59), « turba gaia» (60), « pandi » (63), « decreta » (69), « turpa » (145). l°Dante exploits this metaphor to its fullest in Beatrice's prayer in Paradiso XXIV: «O sodalizio eletto a la gran cena / del benedetto Agnello, il qual vi ciba / sì, che la vostra voglia è sempre piena» (1-3). Another example occurs in Paradiso V, when Beatrice suggests to Dante: «convienti ancor sedere un poco a mensa, / però che '1 cibo rigido c'hai preso, / richiede ancora aiuto a tua dispensa» (37-39). l^Dante echoes and amplifies Cacciaguida's flight metaphor («alto volo», 54) with his references to «ali» (72 & 81). 2UThe metaphor of the tree and its roots also has biblical origins: «Et egredietur virga de radice lesse et fios de radice eius ascended» (Is., 11. 1). 21 The Vita nuova is also echoed in Dante's response to Cacciaguida, when the poet explains that Cacciaguida spoke words he could not understand. Dante's «sì parlò profondo» (Par. XV, 39) recalls «io no lo intendo, sì parla sottile» (10) of «Oltre la spera che più larga gira» in Vita nuova (See Jacomuzzi, 166).

22 As Binni observes (621), here Dante is manipulating St. Paul's text: «audivit arcana verba quae non licet homini loqui» (2Cor., 12. 4).

2^For other interpretations of Cacciaguida's language see s.v. in Enciclopedia dantesca and, more specifically, the studies by Pézard (225) and Maier (125).

2^As Venturi suggests, «in quella parte della città v'era ancora l'oriuolo pubblico, da cui dipendeva, secondo il regolamento delle ore sue, la spedizione delle preci solenni e dei pubblici affari» (quoted from Biagi, 350). 2* Charles Car lut, La Correspondance de Flaubert (Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1968): 192.

2^ Dante artfully mingles history and legend in canto XV. The reference to Bellincion Berti, for instance, not only recalls the story of his daughter, the 227

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«buona Gualdrada» (Inf. XVI, 37), the heroine of a historically inaccurate tale of virtue (I. Del Lungo, Women of Florence , trans. Mary Steegmann, London: Chatto and Windus, 1907: 11-12). It also further supports Dante's glorious descent, as one of Cacciaguida's sons, Alighiero I, was married to one of the daughters of the same Bellincion Berti (G. Petrocchi, Il Paradiso di Dante , Milano: Rizzoli, 1978: 7-8). The legend of the city is interlaced with family history, and both are raised into the ordered realm of myth.

2 'On the mythical foundation of Florence, see Donadoni 1653 and Maier 128. «La Firenze di Cacciaguida [trascende] i limiti della piccola storia, la storia che non dura, per divenire segno di una verità senza tempo» (Consoli 414). ¿°On Cacciaguida's Florence as a «piccola Roma», a «perfect scale model of Augustan Rome», see Schnapp 1986, 42. ^Quoted from Biagi, 352. 30Idem, 365. 3*Not only Bellincion Berti and «quel d'i Nerli e quel del Vecchio» (Par. XV, 115) represent the ideal of a sober past, but also Guglielmo Borsiere (Inf. XVI), Marco Lombardo (Pur g. XVI) and Guido del Duca (Purg. XIV).


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso XVI Author(s): RICARDO J. QUINONES Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 229-245 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806604 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:04 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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RICARDO J. QUIÑONES Gould Center for Humanistic Studies Claremont McKenna College

XVI It is not possible to reach probable truths on great subjects without making use of large speculations.

Plutarch, On the Passing of the Oracles

Canto XVI is the centerpiece of the most imposing suite of cantos

in the entire Commedia. Extending from XIV, 82 into the opening section of canto XVIII, these cantos occupy the full center of the Paradiso , containing and capping many of the internal energies and issues of the poem - including a dominant plotline - and forming in themselves a vast lyrical meditation on historical change.1 To be in these cantos means to be caught in history, and at the same time to have found some liberation and even redemption. Poesie dei ricordi , il culto delle memorie .2 The sources of these

cantos derive from the same impulses that prompted the youthful-minded and eager Dante of Inferno VI to ask of Ciacco the whereabouts of the great figures of the previous generation, and to declare in canto XVI to some of these same souls that they are his heroes, that they comprise the center of his communal, mythic consciousness. Dante is engaged in large-scale rescue work. Like Proust

he is the recording-secretary of a society in dissolution, but unlike Proust, more than an internal émigré, he is a genuine exile. More like Joyce, then, Dante is the ever faithful heir of his city, the true son of memory, suffering external expatriation, but always harkening back, internally repatriated. It is as if Dante were a survivor of World War II, surveying a landscape of ruin and abomination, and yet remembering a

more integral world, a simpler one, to be sure, yet one possessing a higher degree of civility, one that even serves as a stay and support in the midst of degeneration. Among the many causes of the continued appeal and unsurpassed reputation of Dante in the second half of the twentieth century (and surely this is a judgment as astonishing as it is beyond dispute) this must figure prominently: his varied and compelling capacity to show the effects of massive historical change not only on the lives of individuals but on entire groups of people, to show history


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to be real and events significant and from the greatest personal involvement and pain to recall a lost world, to know the blessing of a personal confirmation while cherishing the hope of a public restoration. Indicating that the sweep of Dante's imagination had long passed beyond the confines of the individual canto, these cantos press on with

their own dramatic rhythms, composing something of a trilogy in themselves; the so-called «idyllic» of canto XV (which phrase will obviously come in for some revision), the tragic of XVI and the record

of vigorous restoration in XVII.3 Radiating from within the planet Mars, but more significantly bearing the stamp of its powers and responsibilities, the suite commences with the only act of sacrifice in the Paradiso and completes itself with Dante's full consummation as the martyr-hero of his own visionary and bold outspokenness. These cantos complete the grandest triptych in a poem of many

such parallel arrangements.4 At the center of each canticle, Dante conceives an encounter with great father-figures; with Brunetto Latini in

Inferno XV (but beginning with the old man of Crete and the stages of

historical decline that he epitomizes in canto XIV, and including the companion canto XVI where Dante encounters the great Florentine heroes of a prior generation); then in Purgatorio XIV and XVI with the combined presences of Guido del Duca and Marco Lombardo, and here in the Paradiso , with Dante's own great-great-grandfather (but not going as far as canto XXVI, where Dante devises the larger mythic return to the more primal father in the ancient garden - importantly not located in

the urban context of these earlier encounters). These cantos are remarkable for their projections of vast historical and even mythic import, told in the midst of a most familiar colloquy. They are even

more remarkable when we recall Zingarelli's poignant remark that Dante's own father seems to have passed silently into history .5 Ever in quest for a father, Dante reaches beyond history into myth to undergird these cantos; he goes back to the magisterial Book VI of

the Aeneid but even more deeply communicating a wish that that magical book conveyed of yet again holding converse with one's father. Normally to dream of the father is to dream of insufficiency, of falling

short, even of accusations of imputed and real or imagined betrayal (hence Hamlet and all that it imparts about failing to answer the call). But in Dante's case there is no such taint, and this should tell us much

about his purposes in these encounters: the reestablishment of genealogical connection is itself an indication of a larger faith and validation, its very historical consciousness reaching out to a fuller

communal identification.6

All of these interviews communicate a special order of information: 230

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they tell of time and change in relation to place, that is, they embody the voice of history. But these are histories of decline and deterioration,

and of personal wounding, information such perhaps as the father communicates to the male heir. They communicate messages from the father's domain; they tell us that history is real, that events occur. We must recall that contrary to the ever-ascending (with the exception of the Inferno) moral unfolding of the Commedia (what Jenni has termed «la

nota linea ascendente») the plot of the poem is one of disruption, separation, severance and wounding.7 But the genealogical link indicates the possibilities of restoration and reconstitution. And thus it is that the resolution of the series of dire announcements of future harm coming

Dante's way is achieved at the heights of the Paradiso when he has already acquired the fullest means for coping with the ghastly blow.

Telling of a terrible wounding, the voice of the father also tells of courage and resolution and independence. To achieve such full communication requires extraordinary effort on the part of the son. While it is the father who has moved away, who has departed, it is the son who must undertake the journey. And his journey is to recover the father, but this means a self-recovery in regard to place, a voice in regard to history. The journey to the father in effect means that one does not stand alone, but has in fact a history, an identity, a faith and a purpose. While the whole point of exile is to dispossess the individual of these constitutive parts of community, the movement of Dante's poem is toward the restoration of those elements of which he had been deprived. The voice of the father is a bulwark against such loss of faith and purpose. It is here that Dante recovers the fullest voice of his own story, his own history: «Voi siete il padre mio; / voi mi date a

parlar tutta baldezza; / voi mi levate sì, ch'i' son più ch'io» (16-18). While there are these similarities within the mythic pattern, there are also great differences, each of the great canticles having its own dispensations, which attention to parallel arrangements serves to reveal.

Brunetto Latini, whose own return from exile helped initiate the remarkable florescence of communal culture in the late Duecento, was the intellectual mentor to an entire generation of young Florentines,

instructing them in the ways of civic humanism, the culture of engagement. But as the canto so memorably recollects Dante's poetic

and cultural indebtedness, so it also records the experience of supersession. It is Latini's very local attachment, his dedication to the values of the homeplace without any higher vision, that provides no

support for Dante in surviving the bitter blow of physical exile. He must encounter the higher calling of spiritual exile, of estrangement and 231

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alienation. This is of course the master process so typical of the Purgatorio , where amidst Brunetto Latini's own heirs, the members of

his own generation, such as Nino Visconti and Forese Donati, Dante both learns and reveals the lessons of disaffection. If Brunetto Latini is a

marred exemplar, destined to be superseded by his spiritual heirs, this is also because his own Guelph attachments are more limited, unpossessed of that larger ideal vision to which both Beatrice and Virgil move Dante. It is thus fitting that in the very canto XV so dominated by pedagogic motif Dante should turn to the Imperial Virgil for better instruction in

the ways of coping with Fortune, and it is even more fitting that Cacciaguida should have achieved both knighthood and martyrdom in the

service of the Emperor engaged in what was for Dante the higher unifying purpose of a Crusade. But the insufficiency of the model does not invalidate the mold, the paternal form of the encounter. Better gain, higher vision is obtained from the combined meetings with Guido del Duca and Marco Lombardo, one representing the voice of melancholic decline and the other of gruff

no-nonsense resoluteness and freedom (both aspects that are joined together in Cacciaguida). In Purgatorio XIV where Dante commiserates

with the Romagnuolo - in this sense Tuscany and the declined Romagna are one - Guido's lament concerns the degeneration of an aristocratic culture (109-111): le donne e ' cavalier, li affanni e li agi

che ne Svogliava amore e cortesia là dove i cuor son fatti si malvagi...

Such admiration for nobility of heart and sentiment - elegiacally invoked - is always part of Dante's poem and works, seen in his praise

of the house of the Malaspina and coordinately of souls like Nino Visconti's daughter or Forese's wife, who seem able to withstand the

downward trend of all things, the large-scale dystrophy of human society. In the Purgatorio we have examples of such gestures of nobility, the holdouts and intransigents so dear to Dante's poetic imagination and his own self-conceiving, great-hearted souls who seem to throw up resistance against simple acceptance of the flow of things. His interlocutor in Inferno XVI inquires if «cortesia e valor» (67) are

still extant in Florence, and in Purgatorio XVI Marco avows his dedication to «quel valore» (47) that seems to have been abandoned. Greatness of soul and the commitment to rare virtues are signal qualities of Dante's exemplary figures. And these same qualities as virtues are resplendent in the central cantos of the Paradiso.


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If in Purgatorio XIV Dante through Guido bemoans the loss of an aristocratic culture, in Paradiso XV-XVII he returns home in more ways than one. His interlocutor is not a spiritual father but a real, biological one. His place is not the site of his wanderings, but the real community of Florence. This tells us many things. By reaching farther back into his own past, his own roots, Dante is able to rise higher. That is, the heroic properties of his poem are made more manifest the closer they get to his own home and line. This is incarnationism epitomized. It is as if both the heroic humanism of Dante's idealism and the validity of the divine creation could not be vitiated in Hell or even deferred in Purgatory. They must be realized. He could not rest content with even the consolations

of the Purgatorio , noble and wise as they might be. Estrangement must be superseded by reintegration, even by vindication, if not triumph. Consequently even Guido's evocation of a past aristocratic culture must be replaced by the recollection of the commune of more than a century

earlier. This recollection has been called «idyllic» and «Utopian».8 Actually it is neither. Dante is not randomly engaging in collective nostalgia nor is he projecting a future «nowhere» zone. This is a real community, a living past that he is evoking. Its material simplicity does not conceal the fact that in his opinion it attained a higher level of

civilization than that of the Florence of his day, with its own population explosion, and its people, richer, and more aggressively mobile (for whom the uprooted Ulysses is the suitable figurehead). It is

superior in culture, consciousness and civility. As his great-great-grandfather represents a genuine biological source for Dante's own qualities, so the civilization he recalls represents the better values of a culture, and the basis of his social faith.

These are the more mythic patterns into which canto XVI and its cohorts fit. But in itself, as an example of Dante's extraordinary and complex artistry, it is a canto of immense and yet subdued presences, of layer upon layer of unfolding powers, to such an extent, that one can speculate that while occurring in the Paradiso , the germ of these cantos may have been part of Dante's earliest conception of the poem - how else explain the predominant Virgilian imprint, well after the Roman poet had been officially excised from the poem.9

Canto XVI is marked by ever greater intensities of forces and concepts, those of nobility of house, of human effort and fame, of Time

and of Fortune. As we focus more pointedly on poetic form, we can see that buried within the structure of the canto, vestigially present, overlaid

and subdued but still powerfully available are two motifs dear to medieval imaginations, the de casibus Fall of Princes and the literature 233

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of Triumph, and in fact, largely responsible for the canto's heightened address, they come together and are conjoined.

Although submerged they still make their presence felt dramatically. We should note that each of these motifs poses an

aesthetic problem - they share a tendency to yield to passive description, that is to become mere inert lists and litanies, and to be monochromatic. By submerging them, by rendering them less palpable and obvious, Dante transforms them and imposes upon them his own imprint of a poetic and dramatic world, one bristling with vivid, vying, and powerful bodies. Hence the Fall of Princes is not a simple litany of decline, but rather a story of replacement, as houses and figures that are

in decline are being contested by newly-emergent houses. This is in keeping with Dante's socially dramatic imagination present throughout the poem. For instance, in Virgil's sustained description of Fortuna in

Inferno VII, the propelling force of Fortune is not an external mechanism but is instead provided by all the waves of newly emergent peoples struggling to find their places in the sun. The very process that brought a people into prominence is the same one that will push it to

the side of its own life. This same drama of replacement recurs in Purgatorio XI, where poetic reputation itself is described as a process of emulation, with each new generation and their reigning figure forcing out the preceding figure. As Febo Allevi writes, in perhaps the fullest and most insightful commentary on canto XVI, «la natura contiene in se stessa il germe dell'incessante e perenne trasformazione delle cose...».10

Dante's poetic and social world is dramatic, on the move and dynamic, with new forces always working to supplant those in decline. This is why then the motif of the Fall of Princes coincides so fully with what will later under Petrarch's influence be termed «triumph

literature», that is, the well-heralded series of contests between the aspirant and questing human spirit and its ever expanding system of

supporting values and reliances.11 As the glories of an aristocratic house are threatened by time, so fame and cities themselves are swept away: when Dante ponders what Fortune has done to cities he will not be surprised to hear «de li alti Fiorentini / onde è la fama nel tempo

nascosa». Such echo of the trionfi is so persistent because the motif itself indicates a contest, or better yet, a war, thus revealing its own

origins in the ancient Roman custom whereby victorious military leaders would bring back captives in triumph. In Dante's poem, vehicle

and inspiration are separated. The vehicle of the triumphal chariot appears in Purgatorio XXIX, where indeed the provenance is given: the carro pulled by the griffin is «triunfóle» (107) but this one, bearing the possibilities of the Church Triumphant, is superior to that in which 234

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Rome in its day would honor a Scipio Africanus or a Caesar Augustus.

But while suggesting the vehicle, this triumph does not contain the impulse and the habit of mind that gave rise to triumph literature. That

occurs here in canto XVI, which shows the substantive attributes of triumph literature: the heightened address, the contest of superior forces and values, the catalogue of names, the rhetoric of enumeration itself (and indeed some of the implied criticisms that this mode of poetry

almost necessarily calls forth).12 In Petrarch's Triumphs the two vehicle and habit of mind - are brought together. What this motif can bestow on literature, particularly in the hands of a receptive artist like Dante, is a dramatic world, where one is in need of ever more potent forces to rescue one from illusory or faulty reliances. This should also tell us that its favored proscenium is the fourteenth century, where

humanistic values are powerfully emergent, but where also the withering specters of Death, Fortune, and Time cast their daunting shadows and where the perspective of Eternity is needed to salvage the diminished human project.

The canto's opening address to «poca nostra nobiltà di sangue» shows that the last infirmity of the noble mind for Dante (unlike for

Milton), is nobility itself. To be sure, Dante indulges his own susceptibilities to nobility of bloodline, when he thrills at the revelation that his own great-great-grandfather was knighted for his services to the Emperor. But such reliance is itself shown to be tragically vulnerable when pitted against the destructive force of Time. When we trace the

first stirrings of the modern notions of Time, as The Renaissance Discovery of Time did, we are obligated to use Burckhardt's ever-ready phrase, «as usual, our first witness is Dante».13 Long before illustrators of Petrarch's Triumphi mistakenly joined Chronos and Kronos (as Erwin Panofsky memorably demonstrated), Dante (and, we have just seen, with very good reason) has already provided Time with a deadly instrument -

the force - that cuts away at any cavalier reliance on aristocratic origins.14 The very opening tercets thus reveal an immensely dramatic world, bristling with human challenge.

As elsewhere throughout the Paradiso , Dante's procedure is by interrogation, but here he refers to his queries as «blandimenti» (30), that is, questions of affectionate concern raised by a native son. Dante's questions are: Who were your ancestors? When did you live? What was the population of Florence in your time? and Who were the families of greatest note? Cacciaguida answers the second question first, presumably

out of some decorous modesty, and then coyly dismisses the first question while suggesting an appropriate response, uses the third question to expand on the sociological and political reasons for 235

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Florence's decline, and then in response to the fourth query replays the

previous answer but at a greater length and in larger philosophical perspective, giving us not only a roll-call of the greatest families as Dante had requested, but rather a larger temporal tableau of families fallen from their former greatness but also of newer families coming into the light. That is, his story is not only a de casibus refrain of how the mighty have fallen, but a strong drama of rising and falling, of the dynamics of social replacement. We sometimes forget that Dante, the first intellectual of Europe that is, the first poet and lay philosopher who presented a large synoptic vision of Europe - was also the first European intellectual: he was the

first poet who found it necessary to locate all events distinctly in history. There are very few introductions to major characters and events in his poem that are not provided with location in time. History, not so

much as event, but as circumstance, become part of the definition of a person, part of his makeup. To be sure, we live sub specie aeternitatis ,

but even more clearly, sub specie saeculi. But this history is never established by simple date alone - in fact it never is in Dante's poem - but rather by the confluence of forces present at the historical moment. So, in response to the second question as to when he lived, Cacciaguida provides a temporal siting where three areas converge: the Annunciation (the Florentine year commenced with the Incarnation, March 25th), as the great divide and starting point, zodiacal configurations, or the great universe of recurring nature, and the material

world (33-39). From the birth of Christ until that of Cacciaguida, Mars visited the Lion in the heavens 580 times, which figures out to setting

his birth in 1091. His birth is described in the most physical terms («parto in che mia madre, ch'è or santa / s'alleviò di me ond' era grave...»). This reminds us of the other description of his birth in canto XV: despite being called to the life of a citizen in the most hospitable of

communities, his birth was still an agony - his mother calling on Mary in «alte grida», as Christ also called out at his Crucifixion. The drama of the material world is always present in Dante's poem, and yet, involved in all of these vast processes and burdened with the heaviness of the flesh (as Christ was «umiliato ad incarnarsi», Par. VII, 120), his

mother is now a saint. The intervention of the world of grace into the world of matter, occurring under the abiding influence of the circling planets, this is the stage for the human drama of redemption in time. In his response to Dante's third query - concerning the population

of «l'ovil di San Giovanni» (25) - Cacciaguida (46-72) evidences again the canto's general tendency to push toward higher principles of understanding. He gives the then much smaller commune's geographic 236

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limits, stretching from the statue of Mars at the southern end by the river to the Baptistery of John as the northern limit. Such spatial limits indicate spiritual coordinates: the character of the Florentines may be

told by the competing claims of such rival patrons. While John is always and only described in endearing terms (with the possible and disputed exception of Inferno XIII. 143- 144), it does seem that at crucial moments the Florentines revealed a remarkable tendency to turn away from John and to revert to the ancient god of war and vengeance (who,

by the way, was also a tutelary protective deity). This points to the decisive and culminating moment of the canto, that turing point of Florentine history, when the assassination of Buondelmonte will be described as a sacrifice made to Mars. But this presents us with an anomaly: if the turning toward Mars was so disastrous, why should this entire drama of Florentine history, from its earlier and simpler model of

civility, through its painful historical devolution, to the clear pronouncement of Dante's exile as well as his justification, all take place from within the planet of Mars and its governing spirit? A proper understanding of the Commedia , in fact, of the nature of the Florentines, and preeminently Dante's own character, fortune, and mission, must show why both aspects of Mars are true, both disaster and regeneration deriving form the same inclinations of character.

The actual number of citizens inhabiting the earlier commune (by

modern calculation, probably not exceeding six thousand) is less important than the sense that they were a more cohesive unit and that they seemed to comport themselves in a simpler and more orderly way, that is, they seemed to be more in touch with the ruling principles of their communal life. Increased size brought with it a mixture of peoples that dissipated civic coherence. But once again the response seems eager

to go beyond the immediate point (which was size of population) to larger principles, those offering philosophical and historical understanding of why it is a city declines. They develop the largely sociological explanations offered in the parallel cantos, Inferno XVI and

Purgatorio XVI. In the former, the companion canto to that where Brunetto Latini is remembered (and he had his own humanistic understanding of the divisions in Florence and why Dante, the heir of the first Roman settlers, would be hounded), Dante responds to a not very hopeful question as to whether «cortesia e valor» continue to reside among its citizenry, by crying out prophet-like against «la gente nuova e i sùbiti guadagni» that have generated «orgoglio e dismisura» (73-75). To this more localized understanding, Marco Lombardo offers a larger historical explanation: in the valley of the Po «valore e cortesia» used to abound until the Emperor Frederick experienced his troubles caused by 237

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the Papacy. As it turns out, in the fuller picture of Paradiso XVI, the two explanations, the social-economic and the political are intimately connected in the degradation of Florence.

Make no mistake: as a historian, Dante does not accept historicism. History is made up of turning points, and these yield consequences. It is perfectly possible then for events to take a bad turn.

The driving force of history is not simple succession, but rather essential principle, or in this case, deviations therefrom. Of the two major defections invoked in Paradiso XVI the first is the loss of simpler

civic coherence due to «mixture» of peoples. This is not a racialist explanation, but continues Dante's earlier understanding that Florence suffered from an influx of people who did not live up to the codes of the earlier commune, and that moreover, some being warlords of Germanic descent and others from the more economically-motivated peasantry,

they seemed destined to be at odds with each other. But the second interpretation, while related to the first, seems more extensive: the unruly forces had been obliged to abandon the countryside because the local offices of authority, those appointed by the Emperor, had been left

vacant. The resulting lawlessness is thus attributed to the Papal intrusion in the political affairs of the Empire. «Se la gente ch'ai mondo più traligna / non fosse stata a Cesare noverca, / ma come madre a suo

figlio benigna...» (58-60). If the Papacy had not behaved as the notorious stepmother to the Emperor, but had instead regarded the secular office spiritually allied and related, then the Cerchi, the Buondelmonti and others would not have fled to Florence. One notices

the same dramatis personae , and how these events of the very early thirteenth century continued to yield bad fruit for Florence. One also

notices that habitually when Dante wishes to express the desirable relationship of those great powers of medieval society, Church and State, he has recourse to metaphor, as if so subtle and delicate is the relationship that it simply eludes precise theoretical formulation. One also notices that the Papacy has behaved toward the Emperor, the way Florence behaved toward Dante: as a «noverca».

The narrative response to Dante's fourth question (lines 73-147) is a replay in a much greater theater of understanding of the issues and even

some of the protagonists, for instance, the Cerchi and the Buondelmonti, that have already been presented. Dante asked who were

the people of the greatest note, but Cacciaguida proposes to reveal massive historical change - how houses are undone («come le schiatte si disfanno», 76). Such larger production requires greater address, so lines 73-87 go beyond sociology and history into a more universal understanding of the role of Fortuna in human affairs. This exposition 238

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completes the line of disclosure that was initiated in Inferno VII and that was utilized most dramatically in Dante's response to Brunetto Latini.

Here he comes into possession of the larger understanding that was promised by Virgil in canto XV.

This marvelous musical prelude to the litany of mutability and decline represents more than an enlargement of awareness; it represents a

heightening of sentiment, where Dante enacts his sense of the tragic,

that is, the fall of houses is told against the larger tableaux of the disappearance of cities. This was the first basis for the introduction of tragedy into the literature of the fourteenth century (one that Chaucer,

Dante's great English heir, fully appropriated in his Troilus and Criseyde). Individual passingness is elevated to the level of universal processes. Like Homer, like Chaucer, like Tolstoy, like any great writer, Dante is fixed on the tensions that exist between caring and not caring, between his involvement in the levels of history, politics, and ethics, and the distancing that comes from perceiving larger patterns in

time. To be sure, changing demographic growth, new people, fast money, the chaos created by lapse of Imperial power and the political intrusiveness of the Papacy hold his attention (and will always do so), but his vision also rises in true Augustinián fashion to a consideration of the essential weakness and collapse of all earthly cities. In fact, the vision moves out from its location in the city and human history, to anticipate the more fundamental perspective of Adam in canto XXVI:

«nullo effetto mai razionabile, / per lo piacere uman che rinovella / seguendo il cielo, sempre fu durabile» (127-129). Even the arguments are similar, calling on the sheer and absolute appearance of new peoples with different interests (operating under the influence of the heavens) that simply overwhelms and buries all that goes before. The penultimate

triumph of Time is here apprehended, massive, cosmic, requiring, pointing to the need for the last triumph, that of Eternity, if any human

enterprise is at all to be redeemed, or even preserved.

It would be otiose to offer a simple lectura of this canto without confronting the serious aesthetic problems raised by its enlistment in

the rhetoric of triumph, its catalogue of names appearing in the procession of history, the march of time. It is important to note that the same criticisms raised here are those offered against Petrarch's Triumphs,

and that we are dealing with a more substantial quarrel with a once prevalent aesthetic mode that has since declined in favor. Invariably, in

Dante's case, comparison is made with canto XV, to the subsequent canto's disfavor. Attilio Momigliano, one of our century's truly notable commentators, remarks that Cacciaguida adds nothing that is poetically

essential in canto XVI, that it is «una cronaca irta di puri nomi ... la 239

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più lunga e la più arida pagina di cronaca di tutto il poema». 15 And one

can see why he renders this judgment. In canto XV the actual names seem less important than the moral qualities they represent; that is,

while the names have been obscured the poetic quality of the presentation is clear to any understanding («vita affettiva», «interesse poetico» - these are qualities that Momigliano regards as persisting in

the drama of the encounter). Canto XVI seems to be quite different. From verses 88 to 141, approximately thirty-nine family groups are mentioned directly or by allusion.

This is a massive parade of names, and part of the triumphal rhetoric of enumeration. While each name is important, what is more important are the larger processes of decline and deterioration that the combined force of the names communicates. In its message of decline, this is a kind of anti-history triumphant, and certainly not the kind of triumphant and processional sweep, such as in one of the certain sources for Dante we saw Anchises recall for Aeneas in Book VI of the Aeneid ,

even with its warning signals. Nevertheless, one still is called to participate in higher processes, to observe massive historical change. Anti-history though it might be, it is still history on the grand scale. Of all the lines of defense this seems to be one that is most

effective against Momigliano's direct and valued critical judgment (that is, barring the possibility that Momigliano is after all right and that

Dante had miscalculated). This is the argument made by Febo Allevi, and which might simply be called that of the rhetoric of mutability. It would say that one does not need to know too much about the various names, although their import is clear, because they assume their parts in

the larger music of mutability, and give expression to the tone and impulse of Triumph literature (p. 29): Dall'alto d'un cielo purissimo, a contatto di pure trasparenze luminose, la considerazione della realtà terrena, delle espressioni più significative del suo divenire, delle sue trasformazioni ambientali si carica d'un afflato lirico che

il dramma di ogni singola famiglia raccoglie intorno ad un nudo semplice nome, flatus vocis , fantasma lontano ed evanescente, e come tale privo di chiaroscuri e di umani addentellati che richiederebbero singoli quadri poetici per un loro adeguato sviluppo sentimentale.

A book of names. A medley of names. Brave presentations of human endeavor, and yet all the more pathetic and fragile because simply a «breath». Names that once were so powerful, forces to be reckoned with,

clans and tribes of consortial powers and alliances, and now almost forgotten, unknown. Perhaps history in playing havoc with the names

that even in Dante's day continued to have some prominence has 240

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abundantly, albeit unwittingly, fulfilled the artistic and moral purposes of his canto.

Within the more manageable confines of urban history the program

of change that Dante presents is one of decline and deterioration. The offending Cerchi now reside where once the Ravignani did, with their great leader Bellincion Berti; the Chiaramontesi have been disgraced by

one of their clan who falsified the salt measures; while the haughty Uberti and the Lamberti have only themselves to blame, there are other aristocrats, the Visdomini and the Tosinghi, who profit from the vacant

bishopric and the Adimari, who are brave so long as they are not opposed. Giano della Bella was a descendant of those knighted by Count Ugo, but his «popular touch» is scorned as being ingratiating.

While these instances certainly stand out (Allevi is right in indicating that these historical descriptions are «sempre pieni di interesse

per chi sa coglierne il significato»), nevertheless the overall aim of this panorama is to promote the sense of shocking, startling, overwhelming

change. This is brought home by the rhetorical devices of Triumph literature, in particular the repetition for emphasis of key phrases. In the first six lines (88-93) where eleven family names are listed, Dante uses

«io vidi» or simply «vidi» three times. In thirty-three verses commencing with line 100, the word «già» is used seven times, to be

sure, communicating a kind of emphasis and historical similarity, engaging them all in the same process, but also indicating a kind of cinematic stop time, holding in a historical freeze frame the large instances of this enormous panorama. These are passing instances, but the power and startling nature of their eclipse are conjured up in special

momentous pictures, captured as it were in a moment of time, to emphasize their ultimate disappearance.

The panorama is too large (what with the lessons of Paradiso VI

behind us) to rest on partisan bases. Guelph and Ghibelline are intertwined, old history and current types (Cerchi and Giano della Bella),

aristocratic families undone by their own arrogance (lending confirmation to Inferno X) as well as arriviste families who have no sense of the civic culture that once prevailed. It is as if in the elevation of the rhetorical pitch, in the startling sweep of the transmutations brought by Fortune, Dante was eager to get at more fundamental causes.

This he does in the culminating and longest section, lines 133-147 (these fifteen lines forming a dramatic and fitting counterpoise to the fifteen lines of melodic address with which Dante introduces the lengthy response to the fourth query) where he describes the decisive event of Florentine history, the one that gave a tilt to all future developments,

the Buondelmonte murder. Contemporary chroniclers had already 241

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recognized this assassination to be a great divide in the city's affairs all future troubles seemed to flow from this event. But Dante does more.

He takes it out of its contemporary involvements, even its larger political ramifications, and makes it mythic, a reenactment in Florentine dress of an ancient event, the sacrifice of the other for the supposed preservation of the state.

Since I have already written abundantly of this event and its importance for Dante's poem (first in this journal and then more fully in

Foundation Sacrifice in Dantes «Commedia») ,16 I limit myself only to

some major points. Far from being a suspect refugee from anthropological criticism, foundation sacrifice enters most deeply into our understanding of politics and religion. It may even be a theological concept, particularly when acceptance of the contradiction imposed by foundation sacrifice becomes a hallmark for the earthly city. The earthly city is based upon this event, where sacrifice of the other is legitimized as a means for preserving the self and the state. Christian belief exists in

strong opposition to such acceptance, in fact, as it does in Dante's poem, converting it into an anti-myth, one which is understood and understood in order to be rejected. Foundation sacrifice proposes itself as a means of accommodation, whereby accelerating violence is curtailed by the death of the other, which is supposed to put an end to the cycles of retributive response. This was at the basis of Mosca dei Lamberti's prevailing counsel («capo ha cosa fatta»). This act, supposed to bring an end to further hostilities only led to further disaster, including, fittingly the extinction of his own line («e morte di tua schiatta»). The drama becomes Aeschylean, as Dante shows the fatal propensity of Florentines to have recourse to an extremity of response, thus making a pact with Mars, and making impossible any enduring social compact. The drama is thus mythic, imparting a revelation of character that looms perennial. Would to God that the Buondelmonti had been drowned in the river

Ema before being allowed to cross into Florence. The absolute unadorned simplicity of the language, home-grown, heart-felt, part of

the down-to-earth soldierly quality of Cacciaguida himself, breaks through to our attention and derives its strength from the force of the ensuing historical disaster. But it was not to be, and the «ma» (145) of the next tercet indicates that it was much more suitable for the Florentines to make a sacrifice to the God of War. The truncated

equestrian statue is presented as a suitable symbol of the rancorous round of murderous activity such sacrifice would bring to the city. If we

recall the words of Caiaphas in Inferno XXIII («consigliò i Farisei che convenia / porre un uom per lo popolo a' martìri», 1 16-1 17) we begin

to see that this event that stands at the origins of the disastrous 242

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developments of what for Dante was modern Florentine history was the same event (as well as counsel) that prevailed in the crucial moment of sacred history.17

Indicating the heightened rhetorical value Dante places on Cacciaguida's extraordinarily varied and complex discourse, he provides it with a peroration, as if indicating that we have come not only to the end of the presentation but to the end of the historical events as well;

what is in front of it will not be tragedy, but the entire complex measure of Dante's personal fortune and his vindication. The peroration summarizes the two cantos, harkening back to the time of urban peace,

with people that were at once «glorioso» and «giusto», in marked contrast to the present time of ignominious defeat, where the lily of Florence is dragged through the ground, or has changed its color to that of blood, brought on by its political divisions. In short, the actions of both Mars and John have been perverted; in military combat the new Florentines are not courageous and in peace they are not conciliatory. But the fundamental problem is that the sacrifice to Mars and the subsequent rounds of accelerating violence do not show the fullest role of Mars, who after all was the putative guardian of the bridge and in Roman mythology the protector of the fields. If, as a rival power to the tutelage of John the Baptist, the sway of Mars indicates a predisposition to extremity of response, here in the central cantos of the Paradiso the same primitive qualities are now transformed into the very qualities when fully directed from within the favoring sign of the cross - that typify outspoken defenders of ideal principle; that is, Mars becomes the

welcoming sign for martyrs.18 The new emphasis is on those who assume the risk, who take on the burden, and who consequently must suffer the consequences. It is for this reason that in the canto of Mars,

Dante learns from his knighted and martyred Crusader great-great-grandfather of the terrible blow heading toward him - toward

him who was not the false son, the overreacher, the Icarus, or the Phaeton, but rather the Hippolytus, the unjustly accused. To be sure, Dante, as a thoroughly modern hero is not Aeneas, is not Paul, nor is

he the god-man tragic warrior, Gilgamesh or Achilles, or the more modern Parzival or Roland; he is not even Cacciaguida, the gruff warrior-citizen from a simpler, and more civilized time. But he participates in all of these efforts, and by a miracle of miracles, the message he has to send, the changes he himself undrgoes, transforms this thoroughly modern man - whose outset was unassuming and even unpromising - into the hero of his own poem and of our time.


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borrow the phrase from F. Montanari, in the introduction to his edition of

the Commedia (Brescia: La Scuola, 1951), III, 179. ^From Febo Allevi, «Il canto XVI del Paradiso », Lectura Dantis Scaligera (Firenze: Le Monnier, 1965), p. 10. ^See Giambattista Salinari, Il canto XVI del Paradiso (Torino, SEI: 1975), pp. 21-22.

^See E. G. Parodi's always useful comments on Inferno XV, Letture dantesche , ed. Giovanni Getto (Firenze: Sansoni, 1962), pp. 285-86.

^See N. Zingarelli, Dante (Milano, 1914), p. 22. "See Allevi, cit., p. 8. ^ See my small appreciation published in this journal, «Adolfo Jenni and the Purgatorio» (forthcoming). "While Salinari has called canto XV «idyllic», Jeffrey T. Schnapp in his The Transfiguration of History at the Center of Dante's «Paradise» (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986) has termed the picture of Florentine life «Utopian».

^These are irresolvable but highly intriguing and engaging speculations, speculations that reveal a true aesthetic sense. See Parodi, cit. above. He refers to the «genialissima simmetria ... nella quale forse si manifesta la poderosa organizzazione d'una mente che fin dall'inizio aveva, di così vasto e molteplice poema, disposto armonicamente tutte le fila ... Chi sa? Forse gli episodi di Brunetto e di Cacciaguida sono fra quelli che prima balenarono alla mente di Dante e intorno ai quali, come intorno a fermi poli , s'avvolse e si svolse tutta l'azione della Divina Commedia» (pp. 286-87). This insight strikes one with the force of a sudden illumination that throws open large prospects. We pay very little attention to the compositional procedure of Dante's poem, and yet here is a very engaging hypothesis, one that makes some sense. At the center of the aesthetic conception of the poem, in Dante's mind are figured the great confrontations between the newer Florence and the older Florence, between

his master and his ancestor, with primal roots in an ancient Florence, each of them heavily modified by the presence of Virgil. It might be erroneous,

however, to suggest that Dante's own conception did not undergo some revision. For instance, later we shall be indicating the dimensions of triumph literature present here in canto XVI. One such dimension is the catalogue of names, the rhetoric of enumeration. These exist in a genuine sense in cantos IV ( Triumphus Famael) and V (Triumphus Cupidinisl) and here in XVI. As the poem developed, Dante seems to have modified that older and, shall we say, more primitive practice, and he became more interested in individual stories, rather than the more distancing catalogue of names.

* See Allevi, cit., p. 44. For the literature of Triumph, see Aldo Bernardo, Petrarch , Laura and the

«Triumphs» (Albany: SUNY Press, 1974); Marguerite Waller, Petrarch's 244

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Poetry and Literary History (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980) and most recently, and most fully, Petrarch's Triumphs, Allegory and

Spectacle , eds. Konrad Eisenbichler and Amilcare Iannucci (Ottawa: Dovehouse, 1990), a remarkable collection of essays, particularly where devoted to the «poetics» of Triumph and to the rhetoric of enumeration. I make the distinction between the «vehicle» and the habit of mind.

Obviously one can have the vehicle (as in Purgatorio XXIX) without the habit of mind, and here in canto XVI, the impulse without the physical chariot. Umberto Bosco has pointed out that already in the Africa Petrarch had acquired the triumphal habit of mind, indicating the consecutive victories, of Death, Fame, Time and Eternity. See Francesco Petrarca (Bari: Laterza, 1968), pp. 227-28. 1¿The same criticism leveled by Momigliano (see below) against Dante is rendered by Morris Bishop and Thomas Bergin against Petrarch's similar procedure in the Triumphs. «The endless parade of classical figures bores us...» (Eisenbichler and Iannucci, cit., p. xiii). Bergin sees the enumeration of names as serving an encyclopedic function, one that has long ceased to be necessary: the catalogue is apparently «interminable». The criticism also reveals a difference. In canto XVI, Dante presents a list of only modern figures who have risen to the level of historical. In Petrarch's poems, with the exception of the modern poets who are captives of love (Dante included), all the figures are from the classical world. (Laura and Robert of Sicily are major exceptions). Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy , trans. S. G. S. Middlemore (London: Phaidon, 1955), p. 87; R. Quiñones, The Renaissance Discovery of Time (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972).

l^In his essay, «Father Time», in Studies in Iconology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1939). 15In his commentary to Paradiso (Firenze: Sansoni, 1965), pp. 680 and 685. Parodi, for his part, refers to Cacciaguida's discourse as «uno stupendo pezzo di poesia», with only a few verses as «dead leaves». 16See «Foundation Sacrifice in Florentine History: Dante's Anti-myth»,

Lectura Dantis (Spring, 1989); Foundation Sacrifice in Dante's «Commedia» (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994).

l^For a fuller argument, see Foundation Sacrifice in Dante's «Commedia», cit., pp. 31 ff. ^See Schnapp, The Transfigurations of History, cit., p. 216 and passim.


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso XVII Author(s): MARIANNE SHAPIRO Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 246-265 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806605 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:04 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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Brown University

XVII Canto XVII confronts questions that can be answered only in the transcendental future and through a paradisiacal understanding, yet they are the questions of a living man. Here the personal drama of one man's destiny under God challenges the idea that the present world order within whose bounds poet and pilgrim both reside - is even now moving toward its telos. However, the canto is often read with only the transcendental imperative in mind. Cacciaguida's exalted rhetoric encourages us unilaterally to elevate and

dignify the progressive didacticism of the poem as if it had already established for the pilgrim a new life in the sublunary world. This dignification occurs at the grave expense of understanding: for the Dante-persona, even as the pathos of the Cacciaguida cantos seems to

embrace both him and his author in one sweep, is nonetheless irretrievably separate, at the moment of the encounter with Cacciaguida,

from the poet. There is indeed no gainsaying the splendor of Cacciaguida's prediction and stern advice. However it is precisely in deference to the seriousness of the pilgrim's own quandary that readers must withdraw from the attractions of a relentlessly optimistic pilgrim's progress to evaluate the crucial relationship of this canto to the context of the poem as a whole.

The pilgrim has already heard Farinata's and Brunetto's dire predictions (whose veracity cannot be refuted despite the infernal status

of the speakers). In addition, Forese Donati's evocation of his and Dante's rootless and raffish mode of life ( Purg . XXIII) was already couched as a reminiscence of past misbehavior. Nonetheless, the pilgrim

asks now for an amplificano , and the reason he gives is that «saetta prevista vien più lenta» (27). The metaphor has been appositely glossed

by a text from Aquinas which quotes Gregory's words, «jacula quae praevidentur minus feriunt», and goes on to say that we endure the evils of the world more easily if protected by the shield of foreknowledge.1

But as usual, Dante emends his «source». It is no cavil to distinguish between minus feriunt , or «wound less », and vien più lenta , «come more slowly », which betokens a postponement rather than a mitigation. The time element means that the pilgrim cannot desire Cacciaguida's 246

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explanation because an awaited calamity is lighter to bear. He has already heard about it in unequivocal terms, both in hell and in purgatory, so that his inquiring voice conveys inevitable apprehension;

and he knows (against all hope) that clarification will not come to denial. The need to hear and understand {intender, line 26) interposes itself as a retarding device between time's arrow and its mark. Habituation is of course a part of learning, and nowhere more so than in the case of bad news. In addition, the pilgrim needs to hear the details from one in whom he may place complete trust as an avatar of his spiritual family. He can expect Cacciaguida to be the first of the Comedy's «fathers» who cannot fail him in any respect. These factors notwithstanding, the pilgrim hopes that the words to be spoken may ward off an impact that the poet causes to occur in the poem cyclically, not once and for all. Beatrice is made to underscore the fact that foreknowledge is not only hers but to some extent the pilgrim's (and certainly the poet's, 7-12): Per che mia donna «Manda fuor la vampa del tuo disio», mi disse, «sì ch'ella esca

segnata bene de la interna stampa: non perché nostra conoscenza cresca per tuo parlare, ma perché t'ausi a dir la sete ...»

Beatrice seems simply to be referring to her own and Cacciaguida's paradisiacal intuition which functions with no need of words. But this instance of the topos of silent understanding particularly stresses the living man's primary thirst for speech, even in and of itself. It also thematizes the fact that only the discursive act of Dante's poem stands for the pilgrim's future in the world.

Each earlier instance of exile-prediction has been gathered up and propelled in spiroform to the central cantos of Paradiso. Granted that

every time is the first, still both prior and future times have to be implicitly accounted for in an itinerary of the mind to God which must remain incomplete precisely because the pilgrim will return to the world and set about the work of recording the journey. It is apposite, therefore, for the interaction and rivalry between linear and cyclical time (that were

implicit in the very invention of terza rima itself) to reach its crisis point at the center.

Knowing what he knows, the pilgrim asks whether there is a purpose or a pattern in his history that can serve him as a beacon of

God's love and care: yes, even at this juncture in Paradise. And the moment was chosen with a critical acumen and relentless logic that 247

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conceal themselves superbly. If Dante's declaration of purpose - at least that of bearing witness to and of the world - had occurred at the beginning of the Comedy , he would not have been able (other things equal) to class himself among martyrs without sacrificing the surprises

vouchsafed to readers by means of the poem's linear organization. Moreover, the Dante-persona could not easily have been presented as yet ignorant of the exile to come; and the worldly exile could easily have preempted (by reification) the force of the totalizing metaphor of the

dark wood. If, again, the self-statement had come in Purgatory, the interlocutor, and paragon for Dante, would have been by definition a less perfect soul than the martyr Cacciaguida. If the pilgrim had been made to meet his ancestor at the beginning of Paradiso , the centrality of the

episode would have been lost. This last is crucial, and so is the placement of the episode at the culmination and conclusion of the chain of invectives, upbraidings, lambastings, and exhortations addressed to all

who represent the political entity Dante comprehended within his conception of Italy.

As is well known, Boethius's De consolatione philosophiae enters into dialogue with every Dantean evocation of the fallacious world (cfr. Par. X, 124-129, where Dante brings the «martyrdom» of Boethius into

alignment with the complex trope of exile). But the pilgrim and his poet manifestly repudiate the markedly antihistorical position Boethius

instantiates. The world of deceptions, Dante recognizes, is the only world in which the poem will function upon its completion, and it is

only through an entirely private, internally directed and hence incomprehensible speech act that transcendental theory and earthly practice would be aligned. The part of Cacciaguida's own paradisiacal speech that the pilgrim could not interpret {Par. XV, 38-39) and the part that only he among mortals can interpret together with whoever among the blessed wishes to listen (XVII, 91-93) belong in different degree to this privileged, splendidly abstracted speech.

Now the pilgrim wonders: is the incomprehensible, halting series

of dire events oriented toward a goal? Does it indeed configure the progressive unfolding of a divine plan whose nature he can hope even partially to understand? How can the contingencies of earthly injustice, as they rain upon a man who still has the next half of his life to live, be

recognized on earth as manifesting God's design? And then to what extent should the remainder of the pilgrim's life reflect his singleness of

purpose, so that its own discontinuous stages become ordered into that harmonious pattern? These questions, central to the poem (insofar as they strike at its conceptual core) are ready to be extrapolated from

Cacciaguida's answers. To ask them so late in Paradise - so long after 248

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the discussion of the weak-willed in Paradiso IV and V, for instance -

means that all the foregoing terrors and pageantry, instruction and admonition, all the materia of the preceding eighty-three cantos, suddenly appear «contingent» insofar as they have not taught the pilgrim to bear his wrongs, once returned to earth.

As has been pointed out, the text bespeaks a Boethian stoicism that

mandates indifference to passing events on earth. Dante evokes the moment in De consolatione philosophiae (prose IV.6 ) when Lady

Philosophy distinguishes between Providential, simultaneous foreknowledge and the human limitation whereby we take things in only

serially and partially. This caveat, aside from the stipulation not to inquire into divine mysteries in general, usually suffices to turn the pilgrim's attention and dissipate any incipient rebellion. In Paradiso XVII, however, further poetic means are marshalled in the service of the climactic assault on the pilgrim's demurrals, fears, and

misgivings. One of the most important of these means is that of spatializing time. Geometrical figures come to play more important roles as one ascends in Paradise; and while the formations of lights have

always received their due scholarly tribute, critics have paid less attention to the geometric images of this canto in particular.

First, the pilgrim explicitly analogizes Cacciaguida's foreknowledge of contingencies to the knowledge, shared by living persons, that no triangle can contain two obtuse angles (14-15). The contrast between fallible human knowledge and Cacciaguida's foresight thus contracts triadic and Trinitarian associations. In turn, these work poetically to redound to the pilgrim's discredit. To understand fully the purpose of the geometric principle stated here, learners need to ask what

sort of figure does indeed comprise two obtuse angles. A parallelogram having two obtuse and two acute angles then projects itself into virtual existence. Whether the sides are equal or not in length, the two obtuse angles make equilibrium practically impossible: the figure cannot stand. That the unbalancing rhombus or rhomboid is obviously very different from the equilibrated triangle is nothing new; but a further contrast needs to be made between that parallelogram and the kind of figure the

pilgrim knows he should eventually resemble, «tetragono ai colpi di ventura» (24). For Dante's contemporaries a «tetragon»was a closed and compact cube, assumed to be the exemplum of perfect stability; yet the

pilgrim has been acting more like an obtuse-angled, precariously balanced parallelogram, displaying directed equivalences but unable to stand firm when pushed.2 It should be underscored in turn that the cross

in which Cacciaguida appears is not the cross of the Passion but the equal-armed symbol of quaternity, the «venerable sign traced in a circle 249

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by the quadrant-bars». If and when the pilgrim comes to be like a tetragon, he will thereby also reveal himself to be a genuine militant of Cacciaguida's true lineage. To stand firm, of course, means for the poet to tell the whole truth as the pilgrim has experienced and heard it, in defiance of the machinations of enemies and of the dreary deceptions that perenially litter any path to advancement and security - not to speak of

rehabilitation. It is only by bearing witness in his turn that «Dante» may yet be numbered among the martyrs and prophets. In addition to making geometry prominent, another means whereby

Dante imposes symmetry upon the unequal status of poet and pilgrim

- and even of poet and Cacciaguida - is to centralize the temporality of the episode by placing it so that the pilgrim's life may be seen to look both backward and forward to «exiles» of different degree: back to

the selva oscura , forward to the loss of citizenship. That Dante recapitulates the pilgrim's voyage twice in canto XVII, like a kind of refrain, contributes little to the narrative information but does much to

solidify the gravity of the episode by repetition and development. The

passage (19-23), mentre ch'io era a Virgilio congiunto su per lo monte che l'anime cura e discendendo nel mondo defunto, dette mi fuor di mia vita futura

parole gravi..., has an apparent echo in another passage, which actually recapitulates and develops its message (1 12-17): Giù per lo mondo sanza fine amaro, e per lo monte del cui bel cacume li occhi de la mia dorma mi lev aro, e poscia per lo ciel di lume in lume, ho io appreso quel che s'io ridico, a molti fia sapor di forte agrume...

The first passage refers to bad tidings about Dante's «future», the second to bad news the public will hear from his own mouth and for which it

will condemn him. Note also that while the first passage gives us a hysteron proteron , reversing the order of the worlds from purgatory back

to hell, the second passage takes us forward again, so that retraversing

the same ground always brings us back to the central point (17-18)

where we stand «now» with «Dante».

And what of that «punto», in which «all times are present?» This, 250

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too, can only remain a geometrical reality, and of an infinitely receding size; and the temporal dimension, to which it is simultaneously applied, only complicates matters by wiping out the conventional measurement

of time. It is only in the mathematical imagination that Dante's humanity can be fitted into divine centrality. And if we compare it with

the other spatio-temporal «punto» by which Paolo and Francesca were

vanquished {Inf. V, 132), the plea implicit in Francesca's narrative for sympathy in her confusion - seems to express the predicament of her readers: was the turning point the one that witnessed the kiss? the

rcognition of mutual passion? the slaying by Gianciotto? was it Francesca's unwitting index of God? Transferred to Paradise, the moment

that conquers is always and only imaginary, always «before» or «after» to human comprehension. The directional and temporal strategies that organize the canto (and indeed, the whole of the Comedy ), scrupulously seeming to differentiate between a human time that we know and a divine time we cannot know, can all too easily obscure our awareness as readers that Dante's work of prophecy here is already history, though newly present to every reading. While still prey himself to the «contingencies» of earthly life, Dante

posits a Cacciaguida in command of foreknowledge and implies his own

likeness to the ancestor; yet this character - no less than infernal Farinata or Brunetto - predicts, of necessity, only what has already occurred by the time it is written: that Dante's life, victim to insidious

plots, will turn to alienation and exile, that his food will taste of charity's bitter bread and salt, that his living will depend on the kindness

(or caprices) of hosts not necessarily as kind as the Scaligeri. The steep stairs, a «duro calle» to be continually climbed and descended, could be seen to mock the directionality of the greater, otherworldly journey.3

That Dante's history now appears as a prediction underscores a fundamental pathos present in all autobiography. But the paradisiacal

premise of Cacciaguida's seeing as through God's eyes increases the pathos by evoking the whole contrasting pattern of negative analogies to failed or interrupted journeys like those of Phaeton (or Ulysses or

Daedalus or Moses's lost people).4 The exordium of the canto immediately asks the question of whether Dante is worthy of claiming Cacciaguida to be his true father, and if so, must his poetic voyage end like Phaethon's if he flies too close to earth, that is, if he returns there to relay terrible truths to the world? This contrast with the much-evoked

flight of Icarus and Daedalus guides Dante's present choice: Phaeton ends

in disaster because he flies too low {Met. II. Iff.). With the simile of Phaethon Dante's decision to transfer to Mars some of the Sun's main

functions gains a particular aptness to describe his personal situation. In 251

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Ovid, the Sun objects at first to his son's request, for what he asks is not for mortals («non est mortale, quod optas», 56). The Sun describes the perils of the journey as three troublesome stages characterized by

levels: the first part steep («ardua prima via est», 63), the second, so high as to cause even the Sun to tremble («medio est altissima cáelo, / unde mare et terras ipsi mihi saepe videre / fit timor et pavida trépidât formidine pectus...», 64-66), the last is precipitous and requires certain

control («ultima prona via est et eget moderamine certo», 67). The course contains lurking dangers and fierce forms of beasts («per insidias iter est formasque ferarum», 78). The Sun urges Phaethon not to take the straight road through the five zones of the heavens; the path he recommends is slanted and curved, and is also the middle road (130-137). Phaethon among the predicted dangers, can neither seize the reins nor let

them go, with much of the sky behind him, but more yet to come («multum caeli post terga relictum, / ante oculos plus est», 187-188). And at the last, it is the destruction Phaethon causes in the world - not within the routines of the immortals - that compels the Father to hurl his thunderbolt. Then will Dante destroy himself in like fashion? As is

easily seen, Dante conserves the analogy of his poetic voyage to Phaethon's although the metaphorical ground moves to Mars. This move further enables Dante to depict in one image both the otherworldly

mystery of concordia discors and its lagging, worldly analogue rooted in human history, since both find their source in Mars.

In the Convivio (11.13.20) Dante had already written that as the fifth planet, Mars «è lo mezzo di tutti» at the vertical midpoint of the

heavens. Reading the passage in reverse shows next that this planet exemplifies for Dante the most beautiful numerical relationship (i relazione ) because it remains central among the others whether one counts from the bottom or the top: «annumerando li cieli mobili, da qualunque si comincia o da l'infimo o dal sommo, esso cielo di Marte è

lo quinto... ». For the reading of Paradiso XVII, this makes Mars a particularly appropriate vantage point from which to count time backwards and forwards, «up» and «down», and always get a perfectly balanced result close to the «punto / a cui tutti li tempi son presenti» (17-18). The link with Convivio is unproblematic, for Dante never abjures it, and other speaking evidence reinforces it. Continuing the passage in reverse produces the information that the beauty of balanced relation, together with the fiery planet's heat and color, make the heaven of Mars

comparable to music: «lo cielo di Marte si può comparare a la Musica per due proprietadi...» (11.13.20). Now turning back to Paradiso XVII, we read how Cacciaguida interprets the terrible fortune that awaits his 252

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descendant through his privileged understanding of the real ratio between

contingency and necessity. Because he is secure in this knowledge, Cacciaguida can smile at the comparative triviality of the bad news he has to impart. But Cacciaguida draws a further and far more explicit connection, «da indi» (43), between this happy certainty and his sight

(«a vista» [45]) of the pilgrim's ultimate end, which comes to him synaesthetically «sì come viene ad orecchia / dolce armonia da organo» (43-44). Music, which for the author of Convivio «inflames» all things

with reason and harmony remains a special property of Mars in the Comedy . Accordingly, the position of Mars at the center of Paradise acquires symbolic and multisensory power as a temporal vantage point where sweet music, always connoting the harmony of the spheres, may accompany harsh words without conceptual contradiction. Remember, though, that it is Cacciaguida who alone has heard this music and says so, not the listening pilgrim.

Dante's meditation on music throughout the heaven of Mars assimilates music to his ideal of political concord, and extends this relation to an entire cosmological model. Boethius's De institutione musica , accordingly, receives Dante's characteristic treatment of sources:

emendation and critique. Displacing the musical attributes of the Sun to

Mars, with all this implies about the martial ground of concordia discors , results in the superimposition of an added mystery to a music that is already mysterious: and how to listen to a harmony born of loss and strife? The pilgrim is vouchsafed only a hint, an avant-gout, of this

music - enough, it seems, to emphasize his difference from its symmetry, enough to make even plainer the dissonances of history in which he still lives. Note how Cacciaguida's discourse itself, despite the

«chiare parole» and «preciso latin» of his speech on contingency (34-35), swings in and out of intelligibility, showing how tenuous and

«relative» is the pilgrim's hearing by comparison with Cacciaguida's musically balanced reading of the divine text. The hermeneutic value of Cacciaguida's prophecies is therefore intermittent at best: Dante's future appears to him in stark clarity, without «ambages» (31), but when it

was «necessary» («né per elezïon mi si nascose, / ma per necessità», XV, 40-41) Cacciaguida had uttered «cose / ch'io non ... 'ntesi» (XV, 38-39). Cacciaguida is synonymous with «amor paterno», yet the same moment makes him both «chiuso e parvente» (XVII, 35-36), absent and

present, hermetic and open. Thus the pilgrim is raised to a higher understanding by a transfigured soul, but he himself is not transfigured.

For the space-time coordinates of his present existence impose an insuperable cognitive barrier to the synoptic view he seeks. The word tempo , used four times in this canto, is divided between 253

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the two speakers and their two different understandings of it. Again, at an analogous remove, the pilgrim sees Cacciaguida gazing (mirando) on the point to which all times are present (18). But for the pilgrim trapped

in contingencies, tempo , both proximate and distant, is only to be feared. The first, an enemy warrior, already «spurs itself» towards him

(«sì come sprona / lo tempo verso me, per colpo darmi» [106-107]). Here we have yet another directional reversal, for traditionally Time chases after us with Death in its wake:

La vita fugge e non s'arresta un'ora, E la morte vien dietro a gran giornate, E le cose presenti e le passate Mi danno guerra, e le future ancora,

writes Petrarch, on that order (Rime, 272). But Dante chooses an image that posits the clash of Time and himself as the new warrior. The choice is, of course, in keeping with the martial themes of the canto but more

specifically with the analogy between Dante and Cacciaguida, making present the general sense of martyrdom as an act of speech and of speech

as symbolic action. And if the pilgrim does not answer this challenge in a manner and degree worthy of this ancestor, then, judging himself in the full capacity of a poet-prophet, he will lose fame - even life itself

(«perder viver») - in the minds of those who will think one day of present times as ancient (1 19-20). As the problem is articulated, eternal life in Paradise is not now uppermost in the pilgrim's mind. In defiance

of all he has learned about the capriciousness and impermanence of reputation in the world, at this moment only earthly fame is present to

him, despite the lesson of Purgatorio XI that fame is brief and capricious.

Time flowing or time enduring - both concepts are somehow inaccessible to the pilgrim, not to speak of the need to reconcile them. As soon as he ceases to consider time in the abstract, as free from all content, and directs his attention to things which exist in time , he sees

those things ceaselessly altering themselves. Permanence in change which Cacciaguida advocates - may be predicated only of an existent that is centered in itself, and how is the self-centeredness of a conscious human subject to be anchored?

Under the rubric of meditation on the mystery of time the canto brings together discussions of fame, chance, and necessity, of durations and endings. The antinomy of transformation and duration, and with it the ambiguity of time itself, emerges as a form of experience and not merely the product of abstract reflection. If reason finds itself caught in


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the contradictions of time, it is because life itself is already thus entangled.

A longstanding controversy among readers has posited that in order to conform to the Comedy's plan, Dante's narrating voice must either reject or overcome the desire for fame. Exegesis of Inferno XXV and Purgatorio XI attests to the creation, care, and feeding of this problem.5

At the least, any reader who denies the insistent demand of the poet-pilgrim for earthly justice neglects the perennial moral fallibility that surely attaches to every living human being. Immodest statements

from the pilgrim - those appearing in quotation marks - can be discounted as preliminary to the fruition of the learning process, but

what of the voice of the poet who has been to Paradise and is now returned to earth? The text repeatedly displays variation in his states of mind. Florence has behaved towards him as a «perfida noverca» (47), but eight cantos later Dante will renew his hope of laurel-crowned return to that city, once again the «bello ovile» of his childhood (XXV.5).

On one side, Dante has been taxed by critics with lapses into vainglory. Others counter by finding for these exceptional moments the function of «dramatizing» a defect of character that will be healed in the course of the narrative. Both sides overlook the cumulative weight of reference and return borne by the narrative voice, which is that of a man still enmeshed in the world's desires and intrigues - one for whom even

to speak of his selva oscura is difficult and painful (Inf. I, 4). If, as canto XVII teaches, foreknowledge is not to be equated with determinism, why should that lesson carry less force when applied to the

projected future of the pilgrim and to the poet's present time of composing? New life in memory is a living desire to which nearly the whole of

this canto attests. Dante confers this privilege on his patrons, the Scaligeri, as well as on Cacciaguida (whose lineage, the Elisei, connects him even in terms of a polite sound-reference with Aeneas's father in the Elysian fields). The wish for rebirth in memory extends even to Empire

itself, precisely because the Veronese sojourn - by means of which Dante connotes a last vision of imperial glory - has by now come to a close. Within a context that accommodates both desire and

transcendence, Dante evokes the passage from Convivio I, in which he had decried those who blamed him for his own misfortunes. The word

grido in its first appearance echoes the same meaning it had in the prose passage when Cacciaguida warns the pilgrim: «la colpa seguirà la parte offensa / in grido, come suol» (52-53).

The second and final appearance of grido assimilates Dante's poem to a biblical prophet's «cry», climaxing a solemn investiture of dignity 255

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(133-35): Questo tuo grido farà come vento, che le più alte cime più percuote; e ciò non fa d'onor poco argomento.

This time grido refers to the actual poem, conceived as a symbolic action and instrument of redemption. And certainly the «honor» that accrues to the cry of a true prophet cannot be reduced to that sought after

by either poets or their patrons, at least partly because neither group is naturally or necessarily committed to bearing true witness. Cacciaguida's soldierly metaphor is in the line of congratulatory statements that will eventually rise to sacred legitimation by St. Peter himself (Par. XXVII,

64-66). The canto makes peace with the negatives attaching to the pursuit of fame by pointing to its necessity in order that the poem's redemptive message may reach its mark.

But the narrator's gaze, though not Cacciaguida's, is actually focused retrospectively. The past and present have to look like a prediction that parallels the prophetic work of the poem as a whole. Cacciaguida's function, in fact, is to direct him to do that work. At the moment of the encounter with Cacciaguida, Cangrande della Scala (b. 1291, as it happens, therefore nine years old at the posited time of the journey) is still too young to merit much notice (79-81): Non se ne son le genti ancore accorte per la novella età, che pur nove anni son queste rote intorno di lui torte...

Here the language evokes Dante's own New Life and the early manifestation of Beatrice at nine years of age. Cacciaguida promises that

the time will come, moreover, when even his enemies «non ne potran tener le lingue mute» (87), a development that would stand in marked contrast to the general effect of the lady («ogne lingua devien, tremando,

muta», Vita Nuova , sonnet 26). The praise of the patron seems to comprise another, independent «book of the memory» within the canto,

as Cacciaguida «prophesies» in further Vita Nuova terms. Even the hermetic aspect is to be found here, as Dante alludes to secrets only those present were told (91-93): E portera'ne scritto ne la mente di lui, e noi dirai; e disse cose

incredibili a quei che fier presente.


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There is surely no textual intention to feminize Dante's patron (in Mars, of all places!), or to spin an extended analogy to Beatrice. What we do have in this cluster of reminiscences is a return to certain modes of

praise in which Dante delighted as lyricist and «trovatore» ( Vita Nuova

III), with their attendant promise of renewal and beneficent transformation - but again, the object of praise is actually viewed in the recapitulating memory, making free of temporal directionality. The effect, especially as it accumulates, is to underscore the centrality of the (unfathomable) «point».

By the «future» time, which is that of writing, Cangrande will have come into his full powers, with good potential for the Heaven of

Mars: «per lui fia trasmutata molta gente» (89), in accord with the power of Mars registered in Convivio 11.13.22: «l'accendimento di questi vapori significa morte di regi e transmutamento di regni». In fact, his generosity will be such as to reverse the order of «fare» and «dire»; like

Virgil in hell and both Cacciaguida and Beatrice in Paradise, he will anticipate the wants of his suppliant on earth (74-57). Again, the now

familiar capacity of anticipation, proper in general terms only to Beatrice and other souls in Paradise, functions as a trope for the spatio-temporality of the canto's poetics. Dante's hope of political redemption by the agency of the Holy Roman Emperor is dead by this time, no less than the concrete reality of Beatrice in the world, no less than Virgil's failed wonderchild, Marcellus. What endures and is expected to live on in honorable fame is Dante's bearing of witness to these and further-reaching hopes in indestructible poetry. Indeed, independence

from the concrete referent (which is ever subject to the flux and cacophony of history) emerges - as it did in the Vita Nuova , though now in its maximal extension - as not only favorable but necessary to the intention of his text. In each case the removal of presence by death or loss foretells a poetic second coming. Undoubtedly, the reminiscences of earlier texts draw them into the orbit of the Dante-persona's directed,

linear development. Yet they also show, in their freewheeling - and often reversed - order of retrieval and adaptation, how Dante's poem, as

it advances, also turns on its own axis and how in so doing it gains momentum and force.

At the moment of fear, the pilgrim has in mind the dangers he will

incur from the highest ecclesiastical and secular powers. By the time of

writing these have already been realized, the risks once taken have yielded up their results, and the statements of mission are belated, the mandate to speak the truth nearly accomplished, so that Cacciaguida's «prophecy» constitutes the Comedy's apologia for its own existence and form.


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Gossip and malicious rumor, the more humble acceptance of grido , play no less portentous a role than the deserved and righteous epic fame the Comedy will win for its poet. In God's eye as projected here, fama includes every nuance from the latest silly chatter to the inscription of

an enduring historical name. There is no inconsistency between Cacciaguida's explanation that the pilgrim has been shown only «l'anime che son di fama note» (138) and the actual variety of the provenance of characters in the poem. (From the outset it is obvious that Dante does not deal with the rich, the famous, or the infamous exclusively. Many of the souls are famous, if at all, only because they turn up in the Comedy). Among the approximately 250 characters who

come from among the poet's near-contemporaries, no occupation or origin is too humble for a person to be projected by the poem's dynamism into one perspectivai focus with the great names of the Old and New Testaments and of classical antiquity. Cacciaguida has seemed to be saying that only characters of renown will produce the rhetorical effect of examples sufficient to draw readers into acquiescence with the poem's message. However, if one interprets

fama on the Virgilian scale, the discrepancy melts away.6 Public knowledge - that of potential readers of Dante's volgare - is the memorial desired even by those individuals and groups in the Comedy who are identifiable only for their sins and wretched shortcomings. But recognition can come from the chronicles of Villani, from municipal court records, from rumor and reinvented stories, and need amount to little more than the gasps that would have attended the Comedy's first

public readings. The souls in Paradise are in the main indifferent to fame, but the poet's choice confers it upon them volens nolens. Paradiso contains proportionally more magnificent names than do the other two canticles, yet the total scheme rejects a restricted meaning for fama

(rather than giving Dante the lie) - and analogizes fama to the two instances of gridoy which means both rumor and the prophet's «cry».

As often, Dante pursues «fame» to its final implication. Such recourse to first principles as he understands them means that, for example, he exemplifies the Papacy with St. Peter. Analogously, Dante has gone directly to Cacciaguida, saying nothing of his own father, to ask if he, Dante, is in the spirit of the crusader's lineage. For he has endured slanders like those suffered by Hippolytus from Phaedra, his

own «perfida noverca»; only Dante's wrongs are more general and diffuse, covering the spectrum from judicial accusation to muttered insults, all sources of unwanted «fame». Dante's apologia pro poema suo draws here from contrast as well as comparison with the ancient precedent: the poet can still only hope and aspire to be reborn like 258

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Hippolytus / Virbius. Placing himself in Cacciaguida's succession makes the past argue for the future.

However, even proleptically bypassing the bitter period of exile «predicted» by Cacciaguida, it is difficult to make precise what Dante

imagines might follow, together with the punishment of his compatriots' perfidies. Note that while Cacciaguida has claimed only to

«gloss» the hard words of others («chiose / di quel che ti fu detto» [94-95]), the narrating voice says that he has crossed the warp with the woof, which usually signifies the weaving of the main text: «tacendo, si mostrò spedita / l'anima santa di metter la trama / in quella tela ch'io le

porsi ordita» (100-102). This is to suggest, at least, that canto XVII «rewrites» much of the previous journey - in retrospect. But the pilgrim continues nonetheless in a state which commingles desire and fear of what he desires («come colui che brama, / dubitando» [103-104]).

He knows that what he has to impart about the journey to Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise will bring a «sapor di forte agrume» (117) to many of the powerful indicted there. Cacciaguida reassures him that time

will turn this sourness to «vital nodrimento» (131) when it is well digested. As is often noted, Dante brings to bear the message of Lady

Philosophy in the Consolatio : «Talia sunt quippe quae restant, et degustata quidem mordeant, interius autem recepta dulcescant» (De cons. phil. 3, prosa 13-14). Yet the bitter «pane altrui» (59) of exile will not taste better to the pilgrim in the world. When is the transformation into sweet and nutritious substance to occur, if not in the memory of future ages, when the poet is well and truly a part of «that Rome where Christ

is a citizen»? (Purg. XXXII, 102). The Comedy never abjures the hope of return to Florence, but how

is the necessary righting of Florentine wills to occur if not via the «Stepmother's» forgiveness? (As is known, one of Dante's epistles rejects the terms of a putative amnesty).7 But Paradiso XVII, well in advance of more explicit hopes for a triumphant «poema sacro» (XXV, 1), at least suggests that the poet's voice will cease to be molesta to his

compatriots during his lifetime. For readers to make light of this

conflict is either careless or disingenuous. The flexibility and oscillations of the narrator's stance should rather be understood as

instantiating one of the major «contingencies» to which the living man remains subjected. To face them down, to suffer Florence's indurated

opposition - as his poet well knows - the pilgrim, once returned to earth, will need all the courage he can remember from the Heaven of Mars and Cacciaguida's tetragonal certainty.

Among untold other possibilities, Dante could have made

Cacciaguida temper his exhortation of fortitude with a caution to 259

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exercise prudence, another cardinal virtue. This choice would not necessarily have made him stray from the moral universe otherwise limned by the Comedy ; it is entirely appropriate, then, for the pilgrim to go on invoking the advantages of compromise even when the fearful outcome of bearing full witness has been made perfectly clear to him. But the character of Cacciaguida is constructed so as to reject summarily

any trait that smacks of the mercantile trade or of the fawning functionary. The tradition he reestablishes poetically is not that of a former, more benevolent Florence but rather that of a renewed imperial Rome. Accordingly, he translates his hopes from the city where «Christ is bought and sold every day» («dove Cristo tutto dì si merca» [51]) to a

repository of unyielding permanence, to be actualized when Dante's poem achieves its full effect. But that terminus ad quern is projected into an indefinite moment, however greatly desired. The former Florence (evoked in canto XV) and

the future one (still awaited by the poet) bracket the present contingencies of political life and worldly revenge. The poem's impact is to burst like a butterfly out of the chrysalis of chronicle, history,

hearsay, and partisanship. To raise the Florentines - not to speak of the «double» papacy and the declining power of Empire - from the state of misery to that of blessedness seems now more than ever a bootstrap operation.

To accomplish this mission symbolically, the ship of the poem must not be carried downstream by the current but must cleave its way through the tossed waters of the mind (40-42): necessità però quindi non prende se non come dal viso in che si specchia nave che per torrente giù discende.

Contingency is «depicted» («tutta è dipinta» [39]) in divine speculation but must not be equated with necessity. This latest spur to free will

means that the poet must know himself - as gazing spectator - as distinct from both ship and sea («de la vostra matera» [38]), and that his act of watching is to be linked analogically to God's observation of the workings of the universe. Only such an analogy, however audacious or distantly related its terms might be, can work to reverse his spiritual fortunes against crushing odds that include both the fear of temporal

succession and the incomprehension of time as stasis. Note the resemblance of the ship headed downstream - loaded with traditional attachment to the endeavors of poets - which returns us to

the image in the first canto of a stream falling from a mountain's 260

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height, where Beatrice remarks (Par. 1, 136-138): Non dei più ammirar, se bene stimo, lo tuo salir, se non come d'un rivo

se d'alto monte scende giuso ad imo.

In both cases the text plays the contextual optimism of both images against the downward pull of the waters; both cases posit a nonactive

human spectator; both take the downstream direction as typically natural, if not inevitable. The two images describe divine marvels, but

in articulating them, Beatrice and Cacciaguida are allowed to carry a freight of human perplexities as well. This, too, is at least occasionally a part of paradisiacal truth-telling. Indeed, to see and to speak the truth devoid of the circumlocution and equivocation of pagan oracles, and also the ambages pulcherrimae of poets before the advent of Christ is a privilege Dante transfers to his

ancestor so as to claim it legitimately for himself. Dante's use of «gente» does double duty to signify both ancient and contemporary «heathens», in the sense of «Gentile». His present-day vocation will also stand in steadfast opposition to the perennial commerce between papacy and temporal rulers, which is ever attended by verbal hypocrisy and base evasions. It is only to the degree that worldly danger can be neutralized by the act of bearing witness that the «ship» of the Christian epic can navigate against the current to safe haven.8 Cacciaguida, like

his descendant, shows himself a clear speaker as well as a warrior. It might otherwise seem paradoxical for him to bid the pilgrim farewell as something of a musician: «mostrommi l'alma che m'avea parlato / qual

era tra i cantor del cielo artista» (Par. XVIII. 50-51). The passage reactivates Dante's prior association of Mars with music, and Cacciaguida, again like his descendant, distinguishes himself as an «artist» even among heavenly singers. The Convivio passage (11.13.23) which analogizes Mars and music, in that each occupies a central relation (with respect to other heavens,

other arts), goes on to posit the likeness of music to (Martian or earthly) fire: «esso Marte dissecca e arde le cose... E queste due proprietadi sono ne la Musica, la quale è tutta relativa, sì come si vede ne le parole armonizzate e ne li canti, de' quali tanto più dolce armonia

resulta, quanto più la relazione è bella». Dante's emphasis shifts from the patterning of notes in themselves to language, or signifying sound. As in De vulgāri eloquentia , music appears chiefly as a part of song or poetry. Accordingly, Cacciaguida's special expertise in music makes him a better poet, in complementary relation to his effect on the 261

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pilgrim, which makes him a better warrior. And yet, where Italian history is concerned, evidence abounds that this instrumental blend of noble qualities is being knowingly put in the service of a lost cause. Cacciaguida's Florence is a myth ilio tempore ;

Cangrande della Scala retains the title and function of imperial vicar although the pope, John XXI, has refused to recognize either of the two candidates to the succession. The seventeenth canto of Paradiso juxtaposes the praise of Cangrande to the denunciation of the church for having finally betrayed the last emperor and analogizes that betrayal to that by Florence of her poet. Although progress from the time of the false and lying gods has changed everything so that circuitous blandishments (in other words ambages) should no longer signify, the order of salvation history, or at least its pace, remains mysterious. The consistency of foreknowledge

with free will remains, in the apt words of De Sanctis, «non una concezione, ma una visione, uno spettacolo».9 Yet it is exactly in the terms of poetic endeavor that the mystery of time seen as from God's eye is to be imaged forth and the trace of Dante's vision preserved.

Consider, among his reordering of events at every level so as to

emphasize spatio-temporal centrality, the temporal inversions Dante wrought on the Phaeton legend (which have been well studied). In direct contrast to the Dantean journey, Phaeton's was a wild ride, unpowered

by any higher authority, and ended fatally. Again, on the level of narrative succession, the whole of the Phaeton comparison running through the seventeenth canto of each of the three books delineates a

major reversal of Ovid's sequence. In Dante, the fall comes first and Ovid's beginning - Phaeton approaching Clymene - last. Whereas Phaeton came to his mother to question her about his past, Dante confronts his «father», Cacciaguida, to consult him about his future, well within the paradigm of one who will fall but do so in order to rise. The temporal reversal of respective events in the two stories would have no place in a logical exposition - but in the new context, aligned with other reversals, it underscores the heroic effort to see in God's eye. And

the reversal, emphasizing the centrality in which both directions coincide, and the radiation of all events from one point, is echoed within

the canto itself: first the pilgrim summarizes in solemn cadences the sequence of his journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise (112-115),

then Cacciaguida retraces the path: «queste rote», «monte», «valle dolorosa» (136-137), in what would look like a palinode if the two speakers, «Dante» and Cacciaguida, were not so unequally placed. Dante's exemplary life would lack this highly significant tension without the great concession to cyclical temporality, part and parcel of 262

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any testamental first-person narrative («I saw, that I might write, that I

saw, that I might write, etc».) which is expected to end only simultaneously with the course of earthly life. If he were not immersed in the common predicament of «nostra vita», and in the imperfections of human nature, Dante's profession of that life itself as a guarantee of true intent would be bereft of exemplary value. It is well to remember that his purgation and ascent are still symbolic of a desired event, that they do not constitute that event itself; for Dante, the heaven of those who

gave the utmost devotion of their minds (as perhaps he has «already»

done) displays itself as subordinate to the more pragmatic heaven of those who were moved by the same devotion to shed their blood. So far the finality, for the pilgrim, that he must poetize from the margins of the polis and not from within, seems nearly unbearable. So

far, fame and fortune matter, although implicitly - and mostly

implicitly - they may yet submit to and merge with a true «olocausto», the martyr's complete offering of himself. Dante is not

given to pedestrian rehearsals of the metaphysics of absence; accordingly, he slights neither the tensions nor the alliances of poetry and politics.10 Nor does he make light of the difficulties besetting the entire plan of recording the data of true memory. The themes of the first

paradisiacal canto return - harmony, fire, divine intuition, all by way of showing us the contrast, rather than the likeness, between now and later. And the themes of the final canto are foreshadowed here as well:

Cacciaguida's admonition that contingency does not extend «fuor del quaderno / de la vostra matera» (37-38; emphasis added), the «volume of your material world», looks forward to the moment when, through sheer force of will, Dante will align these two in triumphant balance, imaging forth a hope of simultaneity that readers pursuing a linear reading cannot yet reproduce mentally (Par. XXXIII, 85-87; emphasis added): Nel suo profondo vidi che s'interna, legato con amore in un volume , ciò che per l'universo si squaderna.

The canto is illuminated by a hope of eventual understanding of real, concrete duration, expressed as an abiding coexistence of past, present,

and future, and in the foursquare terms that show the likeness of a «quaderno» to a «tetragono». But the poet knows the in medias res ambiguity of his present stance. He has had to double himself, into a being who cannot be «resolved» into one as long as he lives, and Dante as good as says so in a confession of fallibility that is for the depth and breadth of its honesty the most splendid of his «confessions».


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^Summa theologiae H.ii. qu. 123, art. 9, following which St. Thomas takes up the question of martyrdom. Paradiso XVII contains both parts of the quotation: the arrow at 27 and 56, the «forewarned is forearmed» aspect at 107-108. For this reading, where I discuss Mars and music I have benefited from Jeffrey T. Schnapp, The Transfiguration of History at the Center of Dante's Paradise (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986). ^Sapegno's Paradiso , p. 217, points out that the image of the cube as perfect stability goes back to Aristotle, N. Ethics I 101 and is illustrated by St.

Thomas Aquinas: «tetragonum nominat perfectum in virtute ad similitudinem corpus cubici, habendis sex superficies quadratas, propter quod bene stat in qualibet superficie. Et similiter virtuosus in qualibet fortuna bene se habet».

3 As noted by Giorgio Melloni, a student in my Dante seminar, the «scale» might be a specific and veiled allusion to his patrons; the wordplay would then suggest a certain ambivalence in Dante's recollections of it. ^Marguerite M. Chiarenza, «Time and Eternity in the Myths of Paradiso XVII», in Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio: Studies in the Trecento in Honor of

Charles S. Singleton, ed. Aldo Bernardo and Anthony L. Pellegrini (Binghamton: SUNY Press, 1983), pp. 133-150, has studied the Phaeton analogies in the light of the topos of death and rebirth afforded by Servius's commentary on the Aeneid , a source for Dante of Hippolytus's rebirth as

«Virbius» ( bis - vir , or «twice a man»). See also Kevin Brownlee, «Phaeton's and Dante's Ascent», DS, 102 (1984), 135 -144, which details the inversions Dante wrought upon the legend throughout the Comedy , with special attention to parallels among the seventeenth cantos of each canticle.

*For examples, see Richard Terdiman, «Problematical Virtuosity: Dante's Depiction of the Thieves {Inferno XXIV-XXV)», DS, 91 (1973), 27-45, esp. 44: «The poet's irrupting virtuosity and his triumphant pleasure in it ... create a crucial tension, as the personal here threatens to escape necessary subordination to the theological». Also David J. Baker, «The Winter Simile in Inferno XXIV», D S , 92 (1974), 77-91, which refers to Dante's «poetic smugness [sic] and gratuitous display» (79); and Peter S. Hawkins, «Virtuosity and Virtue: Poetic Self-Reflection in the Commedia », DS, 98 (1980), 1-18, which claims (2) that Dante «is using his own voice and activity as poet to dramatize the demonic possibilities open to poetry: the self-serving demon of 'Literature' ...». ®Fama as story and rumor is common in the Aeneid ; 11.17: «votum pro reditu

simulant, ea fama vigatur»; VII. 392-393: «fama volat, furiisque accensas pectore matres / idem omnis simul ardor agit ... »; III.55 1-552: «hic sinus Herculei, si vera est fama, Tarenti / cernitur».

^ Le opere di Dante , ed. Edward Moore (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1924), Epistle IX, p. 416: «Ecce igitur quod ... significatum est mihi ... super absolutione bannitorum, quod si solvere veļiem certam pecuniae 264

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quantitatem, vellemque pati notam oblationis, et absolvi possem et redire ad praesens. In qua quidem duo ridenda et male preconsilata sunt . . .

°For prophetic language in Par. XVII, see: N. Mineo, Struttura e temi profetico-apocalittici in Dante dalla Vita Nuova alla Divina Commedia

(Catania: Università di Catania, 1968); G. Sorni, «Spirito profetico

dantesco», Letture classensi , 13 (1984), 49-68; and esp. Isaiah VII.2: «Et commotum est cor eius et cor populi eius sicut moventur ligna silvarum a facie venti»; and Timothy IIA: «Praedica verbum, insta opportune, importune; argue, obsecra, increpa in omni patientia et doctrina ... ».

"Francesco De Sanctis, Dante (Perugia: Università per stranieri, 1930), p. 68.

I® For additional references to Dante's continued engagement with politics and the resulting tension within Par. XVII, see also Tobia R. Toscano, «Memoria storico e progetto politico nei canti di Cacciaguida (XV-XVIII)». in M. dell'Aquila et al., Lectura D antis Potenza (Potenza: Congedo, 1990),

pp. 95-114.


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso XVIII Author(s): DENISE HEILBRONN-GAINES Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 266-276 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806606 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:09 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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Northern Illinois University

XVIII The opening tercet of Canto XVIII marks the end of Cacciaguida's prophecy, which occupies most of Canto XVII and sheds light on Dante the pilgrim's future and on his mission as a poet (XVII.37-142). Falling silent Cacciaguida rejoices in his thought (verbo) while Dante «tastes» his own, tempering the bitter with the sweet. The important terms that

describe this moment of mutual inwardness, verbo on the one hand, temprando and dolce on the other, though on the surface they simply refer to the reflections of Cacciaguida and Dante on the words just spoken, have acquired expanded meanings in the linguistic and musical context of the preceding Cacciaguida cantos. As the Cacciaguida episode extends into Canto XVIII, these terms prepare for the thematic developments of the sixth sphere and play an important role in the transition from Mars to Jupiter.

Generally the commentators take verbo to mean speech, an interior

concept or thought (Thomas Aquinas, Sum. theol. 1.34.1), although Buti concedes that it can also be understood as «God» («Altramente si può intendere che quello spirito 'si godea solo' del suo concetto, che è Iddio...»).1 Not unreasonably the term verbo may be associated with the second person of the Trinity, Christ, the divine Word. In this connection

the reader may recall Dante's vision of Christ in the cross of Mars, scarcely had he ascended to the fifth heaven. The description of that sudden illumination takes up just five lines including a triple rhyme on Cristo (XIV. 104- 108). These brief verses deal with individual salvation for all those who take up their cross and follow Christ. Looking ahead in the narrative instead of backwards, the reader will find another triple

rhyme on Cristo in the sphere of Jupiter (XIX. 104- 108 - the same location as in the earlier occurrence). In essence the five lines in Canto

XIX concern the salvation of all humanity through faith in Christ: neither before nor after the crucifixion could anyone be saved without

Christ as mediator («né pria né poi ch'el si chiavasse al legno», XIX. 105). These verses point up the mystery of divine justice towards those whose circumstances of birth kept them ignorant of Christ, a subject that takes up much of Canto XIX.

Clearly the term verbo, appearing as it does shortly before the 266

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pilgrim ascends from Mars to Jupiter, has a pivotal function in the transition. It directs the reader's attention to Christ the Word, and at the

same time to the word as language. Looking back, we see the multi-faceted theme of human speech deployed throughout the Cacciaguida cantos, culminating in a mandate aimed at Dante's own truthful use of the word (his «parola brusca», «voce», «grido») for the spiritual nourishment of those who hear him (XVII.124-142).2 Whereas verbo refers retrospectively to the many aspects of the spoken word (from the singing of the blessed to Dante's poetry), prospectively the presence of that particular term in the first verse prepares the way for a

purely visual representation of language as written sign in the eighteenth canto. In both cases the importance of language for the salvation of mankind becomes evident.

The musical theme is closely related to the linguistic one. In fact, poetry may be thought of as a form of music (St. Augustine's treatise, De musica , deals with the metrics of classical Latin verse as a branch of

music). When the pilgrim «tempers» the knowledge of bitter future experiences with thoughts of the «sweet», the idea of mitigation is expressed musically. The terms temprare and dolce bring with them

from the Cacciaguida cantos their precise musical significance. In a simile that compares the song coming from the cross of Mars to instrumental music, the two terms appear in close association as they do

in XVIII.3: «E come giga e arpa, in tempra tesa / di molte corde, fa dolce tintinno ...» (XIV. 1 18-1 19). Each instrument produces harmonious sounds {dolce tintinno) because of the exact tension and perfect tuning {tempra) of its many strings.3

Used metaphorically, dolce can describe a state of the human soul.

Cacciaguida introduces his prophecy by explaining its origin in the divine mind musically (XVII.43-45): Da indi, sì come viene ad orecchia

dolce armonia da organo, mi viene a vista il tempo che ti s'apparecchia.

The term organo of the simile refers to vocal polyphony where two or

more voices carry several independent melodies that produce a harmonious whole.4 It is a fitting image for Dante's future with its many interweaving strands, whose dolce armonia implies that his will, though his life be harsh, is certain to be in harmony with the will of God, the «sweetness» of his life consisting precisely in that harmonious attunement. When thus concordant with the divine will, the soul can be

an «instrument» in the hand of God, as is the whole complex of souls


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in Mars. The concord of their will with the divine will takes the form of

silence (XV. 1-9): Benigna volontade in che si liqua sempre l'amor che drittamente spira, come cupidità fa ne la iniqua,

silenzio puose a quella dolce lira, e fece quietar le sante corde che la destra del cielo allenta e tira.

Come saranno a' giusti preghi sorde quelle sustanze che, per darmi voglia ch'io le pregassi, a tacer fur concorde?

Dante's soul too will be a well-tempered instrument because, as a poet, he will not be silent. His life is ordained to show forth the kind of

artistry that the martyr's life of Cacciaguida exemplifies. Having previously spoken of the demands of Dante's calling, Cacciaguida demonstrates its rewards as he takes leave just before the pilgrim enters the sphere of Jupiter (XVIII.49-51, emphasis mine): Indi, tra l'altre luci mota e mista,

mostrommi l'alma che m'avea parlato qual era tra i cantor del cielo artista.

Jupiter takes on its defining characteristics by virtue of the two words, tempra and dolce , that appear in the first tercet of Canto XVIII with their musical subtext, for it is called both «la temprata stella» and «dolce stella» (68, 115). Not to rule out the established interpretation based on Convivio II.xiii.25 (the star is temperate in that it is neither

hot nor cold), the musical connotations of «temperament» and «sweetness» cannot be ignored. Jupiter harbors the souls of the Just, and

justice is defined musically as consonance of the human with the divine

will («cotanto ë giusto quanto a lei [la prima volontà] consuona» (XIX. 86, 88).5 The underlying concept of such musical metaphors is that of musica mundana or world harmony, arising from the balanced turning of the celestial spheres. They are moved by God and embrace the angelic choirs and redeemed humanity, imparting their influence to the

world below (115-117). In this downward hierarchical movement the cosmos, like the individual soul moved by God, is a musical instrument.

The idea of motion as an element of music first presents itself in

the above-quoted tercet of Cacciaguida's farewell (49-51). His soul moves to its place in the cross of Mars, «mota e mista» among the 268

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other blessed souls. The latter term means literally that Cacciaguida mingles with his companion warriors. Beyond that, however, mistura (Latin mixtura ) with its variants also defines musical consonance (cf. «il

dolce mischio», Par . XXV.131).6 The more important term in the context of Jupiter is mota , for it contributes the idea of motion as an integral component of music and at the same time serves as a signpost

to guide the reader towards the visual aspect of the spectacle to be presented in Canto XVIII, where moto, once the pilgrim is in the sixth sphere, almost invariably accompanies canto (the only exception is in 98-99, to be considered below).7 The transition from Mars to Jupiter begins with a brief prelude

even before Cacciaguida departs from the scene. A gradual shift of emphasis from hearing to sight, from auditive to visual representation takes place, preparing for the consideration of language as writing rather

than speech. When Cacciaguida presents to the pilgrim his roster of great warriors, from Judas Maccabeus to Robert Guiscard, he does not commemorate their heroic deeds. There are eight heroes in addition to Cacciaguida himself. In rapid succession they are named, they move as lights along the arms of the cross, they are followed by the pilgrim's eye. In five tercets references to sight (two forms of vedere ; mirare , vista, sguardo, occhi ) occur six times (34-48). Once Cacciaguida rejoins his companions not another word is spoken in Canto XVIII. The first tercet of the actual transition confirms the substitution of

visual for auditive forms of language (52-54): Io mi rivolsi dal mio destro lato

per vedere in Beatrice il mio dovere, o per parlare o per atto, segnato...

Here speech is opposed to gesture (parlare, atto), and both are «signs» that communicate. Indeed, Beatrice does not speak but displays to the pilgrim her greater luminosity and joy (55-57). As is customary in the Paradiso , increasingly acute vision marks the ascent from a lower to a higher sphere.

Nevertheless, in the last two tercets of the transition the auditory sense once again comes into play, not through quoted speech or similes or a descriptive passage but through the versification itself (64-69): E qual è '1 trasmutare in picciol varco di tempo in bianca donna, quando 'l volto suo si discarchi di vergogna il carco, tal fu ne li occhi miei, quando fui vòlto, per lo candor de la temprata stella 269

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sesta, che dentro a sé m'avea ricolto.

These lines contain an equivocal rhyme ( volto / vòlto), an etymological figure ( discarchi / carco), some alliteration on the hard c and g, and several enjambments (il volto / suo, varco / di tempo, la temprata stella / sesta). Most noticeably in the last example a rhythmic irregularity

emerges as the enjambment forces the reader to pause between two words that ordinarily would flow smoothly one into the other. This is

only the beginning of a series of rhymes that draw attention to themselves through unusual rhythms. The next two tercets rhyme on lì era / rivera / schiera (71-75). The central three-syllable word, rivera, sets

the triple syllable-count of the other rhyme-words: lì era cannot be compressed through elision without destroying the hendecasyllable, but the stress on era causes lì to lose its normal emphasis (or creates a clash

between two adjacent stresses); in schiera the diphthong wants to break up (but does it?) to form a third syllable matching rivera and lì era. The following two tercets introduce the rhyme faciensi / moviensi / taciensi (77-81). Are these words to be pronounced faciènsi etc. (as in moviensi /

pensi / spensi, Inf. XII.29, 31, 33), or faciensi (as Singleton suggests, Commentary). ® Perhaps the ambiguity of the meter, the rhythmic playfulness that seems to be at work in these tercets, is meant to highlight the rhyme-words - or words (verbo) as such - illustrating their intrinsic fickleness (but also their malleability in the poet's hand). The limitations of human language deriving from an imbalance between expression and understanding, the desire to express and the means to do so, signum and res, were amply demonstrated in the Cacciaguida episode

(XIV.103-105, 120-126; XV.37-42, 79-84).9 In the sphere of Jupiter, by way of contrast, the focus is on authentic and unambiguous expression that is fully comprehensible. It appears visually to the pilgrim in the form of a text written through the instrumentality of the

souls but coming nonetheless directly from God. The process of sign-making and image-making, of writing and reading, of the visual transmission of speech therefore is clearly shown and at the same time validated in Canto XVIII.

In the second half of the canto the souls of the Just rise up collectively like a flock of birds to form a sequence of letters, each replacing the previous one, spelling out words. As the souls shape themselves into individual letters, song and motion coincide: volitando

cantavano; cantando, a sua nota moviensi (77, 79). Equally conjoined, once the souls are poised in a decipherable vowel or consonant, are silence and motionlessness: s arrestavano e taciensi (81). The absence of song and motion in effect underscores the letters, setting them apart as 270

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visual signs. The alternation of song/motion, silence/stasis, repeats itself (as Dante's poem tells us) thirty-five or five times seven times (88-89). Thirty-five times the souls move and sing, fall silent and freeze in the shape of a letter. The letters, though individually meaningless,

form words - nouns and verbs - that together finally compose a biblical text. The interplay between song and motion, silence and stasis

that the pilgrim watches and the poet minutely depicts can only be described as an elaborate dance choreographed by God to convey his unambiguously intelligible message. As in pantomimic dance, motion culminates in static poses that can be read «one by one like words in a sentence or glyphs in an inscription».10

By describing a written form of communication Dante deviates from his definition of language in De vulgāri eloquentia , or rather he broadens it, for the treatise breaks off in the midst of dealing with lyric

poetry and does not include a discussion of narrative or other prose forms. According to the treatise, in order to communicate their thought

human beings need a rational and sense-perceptible sign: rationale signum et sensuale. This sign is sense-perceptible inasmuch as it is sound: sensuale quid est in quantum sonus est (I.iii.2-3). The dance-like writing in Jupiter clearly shows that the sense-perceptible element of

language need not be sound but can equally well be a visual image, a written sign.

The divine writing in Canto XVIII is purely sensualis , consisting of the component parts of dissected words (the letters) and sentences

(verbs and nouns). It does not become rationalis until, once the five-word phrase is complete, all the signs have been gathered together in the pilgrim's mind and memory and only the final letter remains

visible to the eye. This final letter M then transforms itself in an exuberant display of sound, light and motion into the image of an eagle

figuring collective human justice. The souls, God's instruments, have written (and afterwards painted) directly in the beholder's intellect as the scribe does on parchment or paper. The completed written word together

with its meaning exists in the reader's mind as the original concept does in the writer's. The divine writer and image-maker needs no guide to

convey his thought, unlike the human poet, whose intellect and memory may be inadequate to the task (7-12, 109-1 1 1). For help in describing the formation of the divine text the poet

solemnly invokes the Muse, «O diva Pegasea...» (82-87). The invocation names no individual Muse, nor is the artist identified except generally as an «intellect» (ingegno). Dante's appeal specifies only that the Muses give long life and glory to intellects, cities, and kingdoms, a focus that seems strangely disconnected from the topic at hand, for 271

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Dante is not about to undertake a literary epic.11 Instead, the poet asks the Muse to preside over his effort to represent the divine writing that literally (letter by letter) took shape before his eyes, consisting of a

sequence of figures that enabled him to form a mental concept. The process resembles dictation: «notai / le parti sì, come mi parver dette»

(89-90) and comes close to the poetic process described in Purgatorio XXIV.52-54: «quando / Amor mi spira, noto, e a quel modo / ch'e' ditta dentro vo significando». In the case of the celestial writing, however,

rather than poetic inspiration Dante is describing the way in which knowledge of the divine can be instilled in the human mind by means of visual signs, the raw material for constructing the written text. The text

that Dante the pilgrim reads and the poet reproduces is DI LI G IT E IUSTITIAM QUI IUDICATIS TERRAMy the incipit of the Old Testament Book of Wisdom , which claims and was believed to have been written by Solomon.12

The attributes of wisdom described in Solomon's book (see especially 7.22-8.8) prepared the way for the trinitarian theology of New Testament writers. St. John (, John : 1; 3.16-17; 5.20) and St. Paul (Col.

1.15-16, Hebr. 1.3) were inspired by this text when they formulated their doctrine of the Verbum : Christ is the incarnate Word and the

Wisdom of the triune God. Christian tradition has almost always identified the Wisdom of this Old Testament text with the divine

Verbum , as the writings of Isidore of Seville, Rabanus Maurus, and St. Bonaventure attest.13 All three of these exegetes are among the Sapienti

in Dante's sphere of the Sun (X.131; XII. 139, 127-129). By their presence there they form a direct link between the souls of the Wise in the Sun and the souls of the Just in Jupiter, for Christ, as they wrote, is

the Wisdom of God and His Word (Rabanus: «Pater enim ipsam sapientiam dicit ut Verbum eius sit», col. 702A; Isidore: «Liber ... Sapientiae nominatur, quia in eo Christi adventus, qui est sapientia Patris, et passio eius evidenter exprimitur», Etym. VI.ii.30). The third

and most important connection between the Wise and the Just is Solomon, for his soul is in the Sun and his writing in Jupiter.

The Book of Wisdom clearly associates wisdom with justice. Wisdom teaches all the virtues: temperance, prudence, justice, courage; wisdom is the source of justice, and justice means the totality of all the

virtues.14 Thus by spelling out the opening verse of the Book of Wisdom , Dante has fused the three elements of a single constellation: Wisdom, Justice, the Word. These identify Christ, Who is at the center

of the heaven of Jupiter as mediator in bringing divine justice to mankind and teaching men to live justly. Furthermore, Scripture is shown to be an authentic and direct means of communication between


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God and man.

In fact, whereas in Paradise God can transmit truths directly to the pilgrim through His elect, in this world Scripture is the more reliable medium of communication with the living. As a living man the pilgrim repeatedly experiences difficulty in comprehending the spoken word or song (language as sonus ), so that the antithesis intendere / non intendere is a recurrent theme in the early Cacciaguida cantos (XIV. 120, 123, 126; XV.39-42, 46). Cacciaguida's prophecy on the other hand, seen directly in the divine mind and pronounced in order to fulfill the pilgrim's desire,

is perfectly intelligible. His «chiare parole» and «preciso latin» (XVII. 34-35) contrast with the obscure speech {ambage) that ensnared

the «gente folle» of pre-Christian times (XVII. 31). In Jupiter the auguries of «li stolti» who read visible signs in the sparks of burning logs are set in similar opposition to the unambiguous signs written and painted by God (XVIII. 100- 102). But even in Jupiter there are moments

when language as sonus fails to communicate clearly: when the souls alight on top of the letter M, halting their motion while continuing to sing, the pilgrim can only approximate their meaning (97-99): E vidi scendere altre luci dove

era il colmo de l'emme, e lì quetarsi cantando, credo, il ben ch'a sé le move.

Whether credo expresses a supposition or a firm belief, the «text» of the

souls' song is not self-evident. Only when the eagle speaks in the following canto (like Cacciaguida delivering the divine message directly to Dante) will audible speech again come into its own. But first it is the visible image of the eagle and not his speech that

teaches the pilgrim a fundamental lesson by way of demonstration: human justice is an effect of the heaven that Jupiter, «la dolce stella», adorns, and the heaven's motion and power originate in the divine mind (115-119). This realization provokes the outburst in the last six tercets

of Canto XVIII against the corrupt clergy and Pope John XXII in particular.15 With his apostrophe the writer steps out of the framework

of the fiction and into his contemporary reality, demonstrating the power of his own words and his ability to carry out his responsibility as a poet.

The apostrophe arises directly from the themes of the canto it concludes. It balances poetic condemnation with the poetry of praise by juxtaposing the injustice of corrupt spiritual leaders to the justice of virtuous secular leaders, the heroes enumerated in the first section of the

canto.16 Among the other heroes, Cacciaguida excelled in the art of 273

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living wisely. The apostrophe functions mainly by way of contrast. The profanation of the metaphoric temple of the Church may be opposed to

Judas Maccabeus's restoration and purification of the temple at Jerusalem, whose sanctity he defended (I Afacc.iii.4.36-51). The divine miracles and the sufferings of the martyrs («segni e martiri», 122-123), the building blocks of the Church that is being defiled, exemplify the ultimate divine sign-language and the highest human justice. The pope

writes only to cancel out, nullifying his message, in contrast to the celestial writing just witnessed where letters cancel each other out to

produce a text. The «birds» that spell out the text are well fed (74), whereas the pope, instead of feeding his flock, takes their bread away (128-129). By depriving the Christian people of their spiritual bread the pope wages an unjust war, the antithesis of that fought by Cacciaguida and the other warriors for the faith (127).

Finally the dance returns in the leaps of Herodias's daughter. Her

salti (135), instrumental in the Baptist's martyrdom, have always exemplified unholy behavior. For some writers her shameless twistings stand in opposition to David's dance before the ark, a mystical symbol

of movement that pleases God.17 In De finibus , a work known to Dante,18 Cicero defines wisdom through his spokesman Cato of Utica

as the art of living wisely, an act that engenders virtue and moral integrity. Just so in the Book of Wisdom the virtues, especially justice,

are «the fruit of her [Wisdom's] labors» (8.7). Cicero aligns wisdom with dancing, expressing intellectually a comparison that Dante develops visually through the imagery and action of his poem. Thus Dante's Sapienti rotate and sing in their circles (X. 139- 148; XII. 1-6,

19-27; XIII. 10-28), and the souls of the Just sing and dance their pantomime. Cicero considered dancing (, saltado ) and acting collectively

to be those among all the arts that most resemble the art of living wisely, an art comprised of «rightly performed actions»,1 ^ or those

actions that in the context of Jupiter can be called just. The mere mention of salti and the Baptist's martyrdom in Dante's apostrophe suffices to bring together the main themes and images of the canto through the allusi veness of harsh irony.


4 quote Guido Biagi, La Divina Commedia nella figurazione artistica e nel secolare commento , voi. 3, Paradiso (Torino: U.T.E.T., 1939), ad loc. The

Comedy is cited from the critical edition of Giorgio Petrocchi, La Commedia secondo l'antica vulgata (Milano: Mondadori, 1966-67). ^For two among many discussions of the subject, see Dino S. Cervigni, «I 274

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canti di Cacciaguida: significato della storia e poetica della lingua», in Dante Alighieri 1985: In Memoriam Hermann Gmelin , eds. Richard Baum and Willi Hirdt (Tübingen: Stauffenburg- Verlag, 1985), pp.129-140; Claire Honess, «Expressing the Inexpressible: The Theme of Communication in the Heaven of Mars», Lectura Dantis , 14-15 (1994): 42-60. 3 See my «Concentus musicus : the Creaking Hinges of Dante's Gate of Purgatory», Rivista di Studi Italiani , 2 (1984): 1-15 (esp. p. 4) on the concept of «sweetness» in music. throughout the Middle Ages the plural organi or Latin organa refers to the musical instrument, the organ, whereas the singular organo or Latin organum means vocal polyphony. See Rafaello Monterossi, «Organo», Enciclopedia dantesca (Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana, 1970-1978). ^Dante's definition is the established one and coincides with that in the «Jerusalem Bible». See La Sainte Bible traduite en français sous la direction

de l'École Biblique de Jérusalem (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1955), p.870 (note a] to the first verse of the Book of Wisdom): «Par 'justice' il faut entendre le plein accord de la pensée et de l'action avec la volonté divine». "«Consonanti a est acuti soni gr av isque mixtura, suaviter uniformiterque auribus accidens»: Boethius, De musica libri quinqué , I.ix {PL 63.1167-1300: see col.1176). ^ln St. Augustine's definition of music, Musica est scientia bene modulandi («Music is the science of mensurating well»), mensuration {modulatio) means movement or «a certain skill in moving ... For we can't say that

anything moves well unless it keeps its measure» {De mus. 1.2). Mensuration is proper to music when considered as song and dance (Book I), and to music as the rhythm and meter of poetry (Book Uff.). For the above translation see Saint Augustine, On Music , R.C. Taliaferro, tr., in Writings of Saint Augustine (New York: Cima, 1947), vol.2, 151-379. "Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy , translated, with a commentary, by

Charles S. Singleton, vol. Ill: Paradiso , parts 1 & 2 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975); second printing, with corrections, 1977. Does Singleton's placement of the stress lead to the remote possibility of a rima sdrucciola (fa-cì-en-si )?

^See Cervigni, cit., p. 136; Teodolinda Barolini, The Undivine Comedy: Detheologizing Dante (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 218-220. Barolini writes of the «eccentricity of language», p. 208. ^ J ame s Miller, Measures of Wisdom: The Cosmic Dance in Classical and Christian Antiquity (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986), p. 228 (in reference to Plotinus, Enneads 4.4.33). When considered collectively the Muses may be imagined as dancing around the fountain of Helicon, created by Pegasus's kick (cf. Miller, cit., 28-31); or telling the story of their victory over the Piérides to Minerva (Ovid, Metam. V, 250ff). In this case associations with the themes of Canto XVIII do exist: dancing (the Muses); wisdom, warfare (Minerva); speech (the Piérides). The ingegni could be rulers as well as poets, and 275

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cities and kingdoms may be associated with just government.

l^On the canonicity of the Liber Sapientiae and its influence on early Christian thought see «Sagesse», Dictionnaire de théologie catholique (Paris: Letouzey, 1939), vol. 14, pt. 1; and the «Bible de Jérusalem »,

introduction, pp. 868-869. The early ecclesiastical writers generally

affirmed its canonicity although Origen and St. Jerome expressed some doubts, and the book continued to keep its place in the canon of Sacred Scripture throughout the Middle Ages.

^Isidore of Seville, Etymologiarum sive originum libri XX , ed. W.M. Lindsay (Oxford: Clarendon, 1911), VI.ii.30; Rabanus Maurus, Comm. in lib. Sap. libri III , in PL CDC. 67 1-762; St. Bonaventure, Expos, in lib. Sap., in Opera (Quaracchi, 1893), vol. 6. ™ «Bible de Jérusalem », Sagesse 8.7 and note e, p. 877. l^The tu (130) of the apostrophe, as most commentators agree, is John XXII, 1316-1334, pope at the time when Dante was writing and not at the fictitious date of the Comedy .

l"The heroes of epic poetry, according to Isidore of Seville ( Ety m . I.xxxix.9), are worthy of heaven because of their wisdom and fortitude. 1 'Gregory of Naziansus, Oratio 5.35, cited in Miller, cit.„ p. 389. Dancing itself was not universally condemned, although some of the early Church Fathers held the art in great contempt (for example Origen and St. John Chrysostom): see Miller, p. 403, 412. ^Thomas Bergin, Dante (Ñ.Y.: Orion Press, 1965), p. 62. 19 De finibus 111.23-24, cited and discussed by Miller, cit., pp. 163-164.


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso XIX Author(s): ZYGMUNT G. BARAŃSKI Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 277-299 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806607 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:09 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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ZYGMUNT G. BARAŃSKI University of Reading

XIX As befits the grave importance of its subject-matter, human salvation, Dante adorns Paradiso XIX - the central canto of three dealing with the fundamental issue of the interrelationship between divine justice and the processes of redemption, and hence of the nature of

the contacts beween God and His creatures - with a lengthy and sophisticated proœmium which stretches as far as the pilgrim's plea for «food» to satisfy his «hunger» (22-33). 1 All this introductory part of

the canto, which reaches an obvious dramatic climax in the «gran digiuno / che lungamente m'ha tenuto in fame» (25-26), serves not just to contextualize narratively, but also to provide an ideological backcloth

to the eagle's momentous and varied pronouncements on the links between God and humanity (40-148). Thus, lines 1-33 are dominated by

a striking array of technical terminology and culturally significant references, all of which are connected to the matter of salvation and are

picked up elsewhere during the course of Paradiso XIX.2 These allusions range from the Bible to the Aeneid , from poetics (7-9) to exegesis (30),

from mysticism (2-3, 19-27) to natural science (4-6), from grammar (11-12) to historiography (16-18), and from psychology (9) to the lapidaries (4). For instance, simply in the first terzina («Parea dinanzi a

me con l'ali aperte / la bella image che nel dolce frui / liete facevan l'anime conserte») we find three semantically loaded locutions: image ? dolce ,4 and/ru/.5 Furthermore, to emphasize their gravity, and as a pointer to the canto's overall dependence on the vocabulary and ideas of the dominant discourses of its day, the three terms are packed into a single line and are preceded by an overt echo from the famous canticum which Moses intoned at the end of his life: the eagle «con l'ali aperte»

is modelled on the «aquila» which «expandit alas suas» (Deut. XXXII H). Paradiso XIX thus communicates in a complex manner. It deals, on three separate but interrelated levels, with the main repercussions of the human encounter with the divine which lies at the basis of redemption. First, within the narrative of the Commedia , the pilgrim's encounter

with the eagle constitutes an especially significant moment of his personal path to God. Second, this same encounter presents a symbolic 277

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and thereby universalizing enactment of the drama of salvation: it both

embodies the human mind, while alive, striving to catch a fleeting glimpse of «la mente / di che tutte le cose son ripiene» (53-54), and prefigures the inevitable face-to-face meeting, after death, between every human being and the Supreme Judge, the outcome of which will depend on how well the creature has been able and ready to appreciate what it

saw of its Maker. Third, by means of the «polysemous» force of his poetic «letter»,6 Dante investigates the ideological implications of the

celestial action he describes by making reference to the intricate historical, cultural, and epistemological ramifications of trying to «see»

the «invisible» (52-63). For instance, by alluding to the aquila of Deuteronomy, the first of many Scriptural citations in the canto, Dante hints at the primacy of the Bible in yielding a sense of the divinity,

thereby confirming the eagle's claim that «certo a colui che meco s'assottiglia, / se la Scrittura sovra voi non fosse, / da dubitar sarebbe a

maraviglia» (82-84). Despite the limitations of our earthly state, the means to acquiring the knowledge necessary to save our souls are made

available to us thanks to the intercessions of a just and loving God. Indeed, it was unanimously acknowledged in the Middle Ages that the vox Dei reached people not just through the Bible, but by means of a variety of different channels, whose communicative efficacy differed depending on their relative proximity to the divine, though all of them were united, via the archetype of the Verbum , to «linguistic» forms of textuality and hence to exegesis.

Knowledge and salvation, as Paradiso XIX underlines, are thus inseparable. And probably the principal reason why Dante introduced the

question of the salvation of pagans at this juncture of the Commedia was to underscore this fact. The whole focus of his presentation is on the Indian's lack of knowledge: «quivi non è chi ragioni / di Cristo né chi legga né chi scriva» (71-72). At the same time, precisely because he lacks enlightenment through Christ, the «man born on the banks of the Indus» (70-71) does not believe, and, as a result, cannot reach Heaven: «A questo regno / non salì mai chi non credette 'n Cristo» (103-4); and the eagle's repetition of the key terms ( Cristo-credere-non ) in both the exemplum and the general premise renders self-evident the logical links

between its two statements. IgnorantiaJ whether voluntary or involuntary, was another quaestio which taxed medieval reflection on salus , and hence must needs find space in our canto.

As the prologue to Dante's most sustained and wide-ranging analysis of redemption, Paradiso XIX 1-33 is necessarily made to bear a heavy load (hence the multilayered intricacy of its composition). Dante's

poetry, in these lines, as I have already mentioned, is technical and 278

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allusive; however in no way do its technicality and allusiveness lapse into obscurity, or even the kind of erudition which is the special preserve of those who sail in the «piccioletta barca» (Par. II 1). For instance, Moses's «song» and the connotations associated with the concepts of «imagery», «sweetness», and «delight» all enjoyed an extremely wide diffusion during the course of the Middle Ages. It was a

schoolroom notion that «omnibus quoque metris [heroic metre] prior

est. Hune primům Moyses in cantico Deuteronomii longe ante Pherecyden et Homerum cecinisse probatur».8 Similarly, «image» was a

basic notion of «symbolic» thought; «dolce» was to be found everywhere: in the language of the mystics, the poets, and the commentators; while «frui» was a standard technical term to describe paradisiacal beatitude.9 Dante's strategy is quite clear. The matters dealt with in Paradiso XIX 's prologue, and which are repeated and further exemplified during the whole course of the canto, are too important and close to the very

essence of human earthly existence to be concealed beneath the enigmatic forms of the trobar clus or the refined disquisitions of the doctores. Indeed, a striking tension exists between what, unfashionably, may be called the canto's form and its content. Regardless of the artistic

sophistication and originality of Paradiso XIX's opening (it is enough to note its typically Dantean lexical plurilingualism or its rich mix of tropes and similes), and beyond the unique narrative situation described therein (7-9), its proemial tercets are basically constructed out of a series

of clichés. Cliché, in fact, is only a partially satisfactory term here, since it does not accurately describe the full cultural significance of Dante's choices. In the Middle Ages, phrases, quotations, terms, images became commonplaces, and thereby «authoritative», because they were deemed to be especially revelatory, and thus highly successful at communicating important truths (and it is no surprise that the Bible should have provided the greatest storehouse of auctoritates ).10 As a result, topoi were valuable not just because they were immediately and widely accessible, but also because they were a highly effective route to knowledge. From this perspective, their use by Dante in Paradiso XIX is unexceptionable. In imitation of the vox Dei , by means of which God

makes His will known to the whole world, the poet, by drawing on commonplaces (many of which have the Divinity as their ultimate auctor ), declares as unambiguously as possible that the implications of salvation affect us all, while concurrently offering us the means with

which to reflect upon our immortality. Each of us, inexorably, will come face to face with «il giudicio etterno» (99), and so salvation is a question upon which we should constantly be meditating. Dante 279

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describes this concern via the highly popular commonplace which coupled together food and knowledge (25-27, 33). When the poet stresses the intensity of his salvific deliberations, he is making an important point whose positive inference Dantists have generally failed to grasp.11 They tend not to appreciate that the eagle does not condemn

the pilgrim for posing the question of the fate of the good Indian (70-75), namely, for thinking about salvation. It condemns him, instead, quoting his own words back at him, for casting doubts on the fairness of divine justice, which is a different matter all together: the Indian (76-81), according to the viator's sinful musings, muore non battezzato e sanza fede:

ov' è questa giustizia che '1 condanna? ov' è la colpa sua, se ei non crede? Or tu chi se', che vuo' sedere a scranna, per giudicar di lungi mille miglia con la veduta corta d'una spanna?

Scholars, like the pilgrim, have become mesmerized, and for perfectly understandable reasons, by the bewildering and moving question of the otherworldly destiny of the unbaptized.12 Yet, as is obvious from the eagle's speeches, this is simply one of the issues relating to salvation, and not even among the most pressing.13 It is crucial to remember that «la benedetta imagine» (95) places its answer

to this specific «dubbio» (33) inside a wide-ranging cornice. Before answering the pilgrim's question (70-81), the eagle deals (40-69) with the relationship between the Prime Mover and creation, with the limits of creaturely understanding and hence the essential «unknowability» of God and his justice, and with the divine sources of human knowledge. Then (82-90), having addressed the dubbio , it moves on to the authority of Scripture, to human presumption, and to the perfection of heavenly

justice. Finally (97-99, 103-48), it closes its lesson with allusions to the mystery of «il giudicio etterno» (99), to the impossibility of redemption without faith in Christ, to the Last Judgment, and to earthly

virtue and sinfulness. In fact, the eagle touches on all the basic topics

relating to salus ; and these constitute Paradiso XIX's fundamental purview. The fate of pagans, on which so much critical ink has been spilled, is, at best, an exemplum of a particular type of ignorando or of the need always to keep to the forefront of our attention the question of our salvation; at worst, it represents the kind of intellectual obsession which leads us away from the «diritta via» into the «selva oscura» (Inf. I

3, 2) of error and of questionable «doctrines».14 To achieve Paradise


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means to follow those forms of knowledge (82-84) which most closely echo the Verbum , and which thus can provide the insights necessary to facilitate salvation.

Given that Paradiso XIX totally revolves around the connections

between salvation, textuality, exegesis, and knowledge (the key ideological system of the Christian Middle Ages), it is a complex, demanding, and difficult canto. «Difficulty», in fact, could be proposed

as its defining hallmark: the difficulty of writing the poem, the difficulty of understanding God, the difficulty of comprehending the fate

of the good pagan, the difficulty of interpreting the eagle's sibylline prophecy regarding the situation of the «Etiope» (109) and the «Perse» (112) at and after the Last Judgment, and, finally, the difficulty which

human beings find in living well. Something of the difficulty of Paradiso XIX does begin to unravel, however, when one considers the

ways in which Dante presents and explores specific instances of the broad problematic of salvation in the single threads which intertwine to fashion the finely woven tapestry of the canto. Paradiso XIX' s raison d'être is entirely in the interplay between, on the one hand, the great

general divine doctrines it preaches and the large epistemological questions it raises, and, on the other, the details of its particular Dantean

poetic invention. Fittingly, the topos , which in its concise (formal) uniqueness connotes a large set of ideas, stands as an appropriate determining figure for the canto.

There is no greater cliché in Paradiso XIX than the eagle which

dominates its proœmium. Equally, none of the canto's other commonplaces are submitted to such a thoroughgoing re-presentation as the «bella image» (2). Eagles could be found flying in every corner of medieval culture.1^ It was the divine bird par excellence , identified with Rome, John the Evangelist, poetry, and a host of other key figures and

institutions; its characteristics too - such as the acuity of its vision and its soaring flight - were equally impressive. In Paradiso XIX, when Dante fashioned his eagle, he repeated and drew on these standard

associations and qualities. His «aguglia», for instance, is «benedetta» (95), it is the «segno / che fé i Romani al mondo reverendi» (101-2), and, as it instructs the pilgrim, it insists on the advantages of seeing

clearly (52-63). It is specifically modelled on Scriptural eagles - not just Moses's, in fact, but also the apocalyptic bird espied by St. John,

the Biblical author with whom it was most intimately allied. Yet, despite his debts to Deuteronomy, Dante is careful to give his own imprint to the eagle with «outstretched wings» (1). If, in the canto's opening line, he is faithful to his source, subsequently, he transforms the Old Testament eagle into a stork, fuses the original simile's vehicle 281

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and tenor into a single new image, and transfers the eye of the eagle to the viator. The differences and similarities between the two passages are

obvious and suggestive: «Sicut aquila provocans ad volandum pullos suos, et super eos volitans, / expandit alas suas ...» (Deut. XXXII 10-11); compare (91-96): Quale sovresso il nido si rigira poi c'ha pasciuti la cicogna i figli, e come quel eh' è pasto la rimira; cotal si fece, e sì levai i cigli,

la benedetta imagine, che l'ali movea sospinte da tanti consigli.

We have here, in a nutshell, evidence of Dante's ambition to rework the commonplaces of his culture, so as to give them new life and thus make them effective for his world.16 And his skilled inventio becomes even

more apparent when we consider the relationship between Dante's bird and St. John's. It is a critical commonplace to point out that «io vidi e

anche udi' parlar lo rostro» (10) echoes «vidi, et audivi vocem unius aquilae volantis per medium caeli dicentis voce magna» (Apoc. VIII 13). By drawing on the Evangelist, Dante is careful to reassure his readers that his fabulous talking bird is indeed a divine mirabile and not a poetic

fiction, and that, therefore, his account of the eagle's discussion of salvation is trustworthy. But what of its equally fantastic composite nature? To what extent can this be said to be «authoritative»? If we turn

to the Glossa ordinaria , the best-known of all the commentaries to the

Bible, we read the following gloss to Revelations VIII 13: «Aquila omnes praedicatores, qui mente longinqua conspiciunt, et Ecclesiam circumeuntes, praedicendo futura, muniunt: hie omnes unus, quia ad idem tendunt».17 The more potentially unbelievable his account (7-9), so Dante takes greater care to «fortify» it with well-known Scriptural details which would attest to its truthfulness. By recognizing the origins

of his verse we can also appreciate his originality. No other textual eagle speaks at such length and on such weighty matters as Dante's; no other eagle is the product of such a magnificent metamorphosis as that

described in Paradiso XVIII; and no other eagle embraces the souls of such great men as those evoked in Paradiso XX. A notable aspect of Dante's genius and modus operandi is apparent here: he allows us to see with new eyes what we already know. In a move of considerable ingenuity, the poet manages to remind us of the primary and lasting importance of the vox Dei while displaying his own artistic prowess. This is a fundamental point, especially in the light of Paradiso XIX' s preoccupation with salvation. Dante makes it very clear that 282

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«authoritativeness» does not lie with him, but that it resides firmly in God. As His «scribe», he simply gives form, thereby underlining their

communality of purpose and origin, on the one hand, to what the Divinity has proffered to him individually and, on the other hand, to

those things which belong to humanity in general - hence that synthesis, which characterizes this canto, of personal memories of the

afterlife and Biblical auctoritates. However, in itself, the «letter» of Scripture was commonly deemed only to present a very limited picture

of God's will. It was through interpretation, through the exegetical efforts to understand its other «senses», that better insights were achieved.18 This, in fact, is one of Paradiso XIX 's main points. The reference to the Glossa ordinaria which lurks behind Dante's

eagle recalls the fact that, beneath the words of the Bible, lie other, more important truths which need to be excavated. The same emphasis on the

value of exegesis is present in Paradiso XIX's other Scriptural intertexts. Time and again, it is the commentary tradition on an auctoritas rather than the auctoritas itself which elucidates the reasons

for Dante's choice of a particular Biblical quotation. By granting a position of privilege to the hermeneutic insights of the exegetes, the poet, in line with a practice that went back to St. Paul, affirmed that it is the «spirit» and not the «letter» of Scripture which «saves». 19 Thus, a major reason why Dante chose to open Paradiso XIX with an allusion

to Deuteronomy was because of the Book's conventional links with divine justice.20 The exegetical tradition to Moses's eagle also provides a range of more specific elements which bear upon Paradiso XIX. The bird, «secundum mysticum sensum», signifies Christ the Saviour and his resurrection, as well as the Christ who chooses between the saved

and the damned (cp. Par. XIX 91-1 II).21 In addition, it is the commentators on the aquila who, in part, suggest the comparison between the souls and the «rubinetto» (4), the choice of the word «rostro» (10) to refer to the eagle, and the equation between the sea and sight.22 The function of the commentaria is so crucial in Paradiso XIX that the very form into which Dante translates certain lines of Scripture cannot properly be appreciated unless we assume the mediation of the

gloss. For instance, scholars assert that «le genti lì malvage / commendan lei, ma non seguon la storia» (17-18) calques «Populus hic labiis me honorât: cor autem eorum longe est a me» (Mt. XV 8); yet, this claim only becomes probative if we add that commendare belongs to the exegesis on the line: «Vel exteriorem munditiam commendando, interior et quae vera est, in eis non est».23 The emphasis on interpretation, which is the activity to which the

eagle obviously refers when it states that the Indian does not have «chi 283

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ragioni / di Cristo né chi legga né chi scriva» (71-72), powerfully turns the attention to the problem of how we know, and, specifically, of how we can know God. In order to underscore the special character of our

earthly comprehension, Dante alludes to the divergence between a properly spiritualized form of knowledge, our reward if we are saved, but hints of which we can enjoy on earth by turning our attention to those

things which lead to God, and the type of knowledge which is besmirched by the flesh. He does this «poetically» by mixing his metaphors to present the character's intellectual perplexity regarding the

salvation of pagans. Dante evokes the «suon» (21), which is transformed into song (39, 97-98), and which emerges from the sweet-smelling «perpetüi fiori / de l'etterna letizia» (22-24), whose scent/sound - «solvetemi, spirando, il gran digiuno» (25) - can satisfy his «fame» (26) «in terra» (27). In his choice of imagery, the poet skilfully recalls one of the principal contemporary tropes by means of which distinctions in understanding were presented. For instance, in his commentary to Song of Songs II 12-13 («Flores apparuerunt in terra nostra. / Tempus putationis advenit; / Vox turturis audita est in terra nostra; / Ficus protulit grossos suos; / Vinae florentes dederunt odorem suum. / Surge, amica mea, speciosa mea, et veni»), Hugh of St. Victor

assessed the relative cognitive value of each of the senses, while describing the condition of the Bride slowly approaching her celestial goal.24 Like Hugh, Dante similarly relegates earthbound knowledge, via

the metaphor of food, to the sphere of the «physical» senses, while contrasting this to the pure knowledge of «odori» (24) and sounds; he in fact underlines how, paradoxically, terrestial food often cannot even

assuage hunger: «non trovandoli in terra cibo alcuno» (27). Dante develops his analysis of earthly and heavenly knowledge by

openly distinguishing between the viator's and the souls' types of cognition. At the same time, like the Bride, and in keeping with his human state, the pilgrim, thanks to his encounter with the eagle, is given, de lonh , a sense of the «eternal joys» enjoyed by the inhabitants of Paradise. The blessed communicate directly with their Maker: «Ben

so io che, se 'n cielo altro reame / la divina giustizia fa suo specchio, /

che '1 vostro non l'apprende con velame» (28-30). On the other hand, the pilgrim, trapped within his bodily prison can solely espy the things

of God through a «veil»; the living are only able to perceive divine justice indirectly as a «memoria» (16) or a «segno» (101), which, as occurs in the sacra rappresentazione of the canto, is filtered to them

through a divine «image» (2). Furthermore, precisely because such a signum only offers an indirect expression of the thing in whose stead it stands, it needs to be interpreted if information about the original is to 284

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be gleaned. Equally, as Hugh notes, it is our responsibility to seek out

those signs which most clearly reveal the invisibilia . The crux of salvation is basically all here - in our struggle, to use Paul's famous image, to see «per speculum in aenigmate» (I Cor. XIII 12); or, changing the metaphor to another which also enjoyed wide currency in

the Middle Ages, the dialectic of redemption may be found in the complex and inescapably problematic efforts of God and humankind trying to «speak» to each other in this life. And since this life is no more than a preparation for the next, it becomes imperative that the

«giustizia sempiterna» (58) effectively communicate Its will to humanity (16-17, 40-45, 82-84), and that, despite the distance separating them (40-45, 49-63, 97-99), humanity hear and understand God's voice (16-18, 82-84, 103-5), since He is the only source of truth and beatitude

(25-30, 64-69). At the same time, given the immeasurable gulf, so graphically evoked by Dante's maritime simile (58-63), between the

Creator and His creatures, this intercourse is anything but straightforward. As the eagle observes: God «non poté suo valor sì fare

impresso / in tutto l'universo, che '1 suo verbo / non rimanesse in infinito eccesso» (43-45).

Signs, therefore, are our means to salvation;25 and the most important source of signa is God. At the same time, the indirect manner

in which we acquire information about God is not unique; all our knowledge, because of the barrier erected by our body, is gained in a

similar manner. Dante succinctly presents our predicament and its solution in the De vulgāri eloquentia (I iii 1-3). The poet fills Paradiso XIX with references, or rather clichés, which enshrine our dependence on semiosis. The canto is almost a dictionary of terminology belonging to

the medieval reflection on signs: «image» (2, 21), «voce» (8, 11),

«concetto» (12), «memoria» (16), «suon» (21), «specchio» (29), «velame» (30), «voglia mostrando» (36), «segno» (37, 101), «impresso» (43), «verbo» (44), «creatura» (47), «imagine» (95), segnare (128, 129), «scrittura» (134), «lettere» (134). It also indicates some of the best-known signs which human beings have fashioned: language and

grammar (8, 11-12), writing and letters (8, 116, 134-35), numerals

(128-29), money (119, 141), and boundaries (123). God is most frequently presented in the standard guise of the Deus artifex («Colui che

volse il sesto / a lo stremo del mondo», 40-41), the auctor of three «books», of three collections of signa: «l'universo» (44), «la Scrittura»

(83), and «quel volume aperto / nel quai si scrivon tutti suoi [of the «regi»] dispregi» (113-14). These are texts which need to be read both allegorically and literally («dentro ad esso [the world] / [God] distinse tanto occulto e manifesto», 41-42), since the Creator leaves vestigia of 285

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Himself in His works: «la mente / di che tutte le cose son ripiene» (53-54). In addition, Dante conventionally recalls that divine history, too, is a kind of «book».26 We need to interpret the occurrences that constitute it, since these embody evidence of God's will. Salvation history is thus a series of symbolic vignettes, as the poet underlines by mentioning its most famous and densely symbolic moment, the crucifixion: «né pria né poi ch'el [Cristo] si chiavasse al legno» (105); and these great events are commemorated through time in two ways: in the sacraments (76) and in books, namely, in yet new systems of signs. The two references to the history of justice help to define more precisely this textual character of time. Dante remembers the providentiality of Roman power: the «segno

/ che fé i Romani al mondo reverendi» (101-2), as well as all the instances when justice appeared on earth: «in terra lasciai la mia memoria / sì fatta, che le genti lì malvage / commendan lei, ma non seguon la storia» (16-18). Inevitably, by hinting at these matters, the poet raises the question of how we know about them. The phrase «ma non seguon la storia» does not primarily mean «trascurano di imitarne

l'esempio tramandato»27 - as commentators normally claim - but, quite literally, means «they do not follow history», as is clear if we integrate these lines with the standard medieval definition, «historia est

narratio rei gestae, per quam ea, quae in praeterito facta sunt, dinoscuntur» (Isidore, Etym. I xli 1-2). Human beings sin, because they do not read and interpret their history books properly. In keeping with

the densely allusive character of this canto, Dante, in lines 16-18, manages to talk about the exemplary role of divine justice in history,

the sources of historical knowledge, and the semiotic and ethical character of history - its responsibility to teach utilia (Isidore, Etym. I xliii 1). The central position accorded to history in Paradiso XIX serves

as a reminder that salvation can only be achieved in time; it also confirms the strict relevance to the canto, which critics have not infrequently questioned, of the catalogue of contemporary corruption which acts as its coda. The «kings», the traditional subjects of history (Isidore, Etym. I xliii), who are among those most responsible for overseeing the proper development of human affairs according to the dictates of God, are in fact those who most obviously fail «to follow history». They neither reflect on the divine signa nor offer themselves as

good signs from which others can learn. Given the importance of history for salvation, great responsibility

weighs upon the shoulders of historical authors. During the course of

Paradiso XIX, Dante deepens his historiographical analysis by introducing further hints to the basic discussions de historia. By 286

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mentioning the creation of the world and the fall of Lucifer (40-48), he

recalls the historical «authority» of Scriptural ductores , since «Historiam autem apud nos primus Moyses de initio mundi conscripsit»

(Isidore, Etym. I xlii 1). Nevertheless, to claim, in the Middle Ages, that the Biblical littera recounts providential history was extremely ordinary fare. What is much more interesting is Dante's suggestion that

Roman history, too, was sacred (101-2); and hence that pagan historians, rather than simply the chroniclers of ethically useful events (Isidore, Etym. I xliii), could also be «divine» authors. As far as Dante was concerned, among non-Christian writers, this holy status was to be accorded primarily to Virgil and his «divina fiamma» ( Purg . XXI 95),

the Aeneid which records Rome's God-given origins. It is thus extremely appropriate that, along with its many Scriptural debts,28 Paradiso XIX should also be dependent on Virgil's great epic. In fact, just about all its borrowings from the Aeneid are taken from a highly significant section of Book VI, whose concerns fit in precisely with the subject-matter of this canto. Lines 724-85329 present Virgil's view of the life-principle of the Universe and its relationship to the Romans whose responsibility it will be to establish the glory of their city. On

the one hand, Virgil's belief in the Platonic anima mundi (724-51) reminds us, in keeping with one of the canto's main preoccupations, why he cannot be saved; at the same time, however, there are suggestive links between his «Spiritus intus alit totamque infusa per artus / Mens

agitat molem et magno se corpore miscet» (726-27) and Dante's «la mente / di che tutte le cose son ripiene» (53-54), showing how tragically close he had come to believing in the one true God, and explaining in part why the pilgrim should have been so troubled by the otherworldly state of virtuous unbelievers. On the other hand, the parade

of Roman heroes (756-846) and the epigrammatic proclamation of Rome's special duties (847-53) underscores his authoritativeness as the scriba of providential Roman history. Virgil, too, like the memorable encounter with Statius had illustrated, saves; or rather his signa have an illuminating role to play in the mystery of redemption.30

Cacciaguida had recently and starkly recalled {Par. XVII 124-42) that his great-great-grandson has been chosen by God to play a direct role in the scheme of salvation. Thus, if Dante were to fail to explain to the «mondo che mal vive» {Purg. XXXII 103) the demands of the divine purpose, this would mean that he had failed as a poet, and hence failed the salvific plans of Providence. Paradiso XIX does not just describe an actual crisis, the pilgrim's chastening by the eagle for his intellectual praesumptio which stems directly from his rational limitations, but also

raises the spectre of another, potential crisis, one whose origins also lie 287

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in the feebleness of the human mind (7-9). However, the fact that this

latter crisis, unlike the former, remains in potentiam - the poet overcomes the difficulty of his ineffable topic (7-12) by fashioning a

language fit for Paradise and writes the poem we are reading highlights the extent to which the auctor is the beneficiary of the divine

lessons learnt and retained by the viator. One of the effects of the poet

finding an orthodox way out of the impasse of «talking» about the «unspeakable» («Nel ciel che più de la sua luce prende / fu' io, e vidi cose che ridire / né sa né può chi di là sù discende», Par . I 4-6), is, of

course, to confirm his status as God's messenger. Thus, the flow of Dante's life as presented in the Commedia offers a telling example of how, by listening to God's word, we can be sure to fulfil our divinely ordained obligations. In addition, by creatively absorbing into his own verse the works of his illustrious divinely inspired predecessors, Dante shows himself to be their worthy successor, and further guarantees the

authenticity and authoritativeness of his particular account of providential history.

Dante displays his divine credentials in the fabric of his verse. He ensures that he successfully completes his universal mission of reform, which involves him in making his eschatological experiences accessible

to an earthly audience, by having recourse to the communal «authoritative» memory of his culture. At the same time, he revives what is old and worn by cloaking it in the resplendent new mantle of his Commedia. Clichés contain fundamental nuggets of truth. However, as

is clear from the reference to «le genti lì malvage» (17) and the catalogue of obsessive contemporary wrongdoing with which the canto

closes (115-48), familiarity seems to have blunted the force of their wisdom. It is therefore the responsibility of a poetic language modelled on the artistic practices of the Deus artifex (40-45) to give them back their original sharpness; and it thus also becomes clear why, in order to

revitalize the known, God should have chosen a poet to act as His messenger. Similarly, from this perspective, the apparent tension, in terms of the rhetorical rules of convenientia , between Paradiso XIX 's novel style and its recourse to commonplaces is resolved. Providential

history - as the examples of Francis and Dominic in Paradiso XI and XII demonstrate - involves a continual variano on certain basic

celestial decrees which humankind cannot ignore if it wishes to be saved. Thus, when the Commedia creatively reworks topoi , it once

again reveals both its links with the heavenly auctor , and its effectiveness, thanks to the skills of its se riba , at offering an eye-catching «imprint» (43) of God's will. In the same vein, the poet also employs other formal features in Paradiso XIX which recall the 288

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Deus artifex and His artistry. In order to suggest the miraculous visual-verbal character of divine art, God's «visibile parlare» ( Purg . X

95), Dante introduces an acrostic based on the word lue into his catalogue of sinful princes (115-39)31 and, in general, relies on anaphora to give his verse a recognizable visual patterning (1-16, 31-33, 77-78, 142-43). Ultimately, however, it is the canto's heavy dependence on metaphor and simile which most resembles God's «style», since it imitates the overwhelming symbolic qualities of his «books». And this is Paradiso XIX 's cardinal point: its stress that salvation

revolves around a mediated semiotic knowledge of the Divinity. The canto, on one level, is a great celebration, as well as a thoroughgoing investigation of the symbolic; indeed the Heaven of Jupiter as a whole,

with its «artistic» souls whom the Deus artifex «dipinge» (Par. XVIII 109) as letters, Scriptural phrases, a heraldic lily, and finally a bird, confirms this fact. Paradiso XIX both highlights the variety and efficacy

of signa , and recognizes their epistemological limitations. However, despite these limitations, the canto also makes it quite clear that symbolism represents the best path to reaching a sense of God in this life. The simple fact that the Commedia as a work of salvation is based so expressly on the semiotic-exegetical forms evolved by the Creator is evidence of this. Like the Bible and the Aeneid , it is an inspired work into which God has poured something of Himself; like the writings of the mystics, which Paradiso XIX recalls in some of its imagery,32 the «poema sacro» (Par. XXV 1) records its author's paradisiacal experiences

per analogiam , namely, indirectly by means of the semiotic approximations provided by reality and language.33

Dante's clear cut declaration of faith in symbolism and exegesis is not without its problems. To come out so strongly in the second decade of the fourteenth century in favour of signa meant taking a stand against the other dominant ideology of the day. As is well known, the latter part of the Duecento and the beginnings of the Trecento were marred by a

bitter epistemological struggle between, on the one side, the «philosophers» and the «theologians» and, on the other, the «exegetes».

To confuse matters further, the «philosophers» and «theologians», despite their shared Aristotelian provenance, were also at odds with each other. In very simple terms, the basic dispute was between a rationallyand «scientifically»-founded epistemology riven with internal divisions and a rather more homogeneous Scripturally-based symbolic theory of

knowledge.34 I do not have the space here to explore the implications

for Dante's intellectual history, especially for his supposed Aristotelianism, of his support for semiotics. Suffice it to say, first, that this is a position which Dante took up time and again during his 289

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career and, in particular, when he wrote the last two cantiche of the Commedia ; and, second, that, in Paradiso XIX, he not only made his

preference for signa perfectly explicit, but also overtly criticized rationalist epistemologies.35 Significantly, Dante's critique of rationalism revolves around the canto's most memorable detail: the question of the salvation of pagans,

which becomes a kind of test case for assessing the intellectual effectiveness of different epistemologies. This problem is dealt with in

two separate, but obviously interlinked, moments, both of which highlight the superiority of Scriptural symbolism over rational epistemologies. The first concentrates on the pilgrim's «doubt» concerning the Indian (25-33, 67-85); the second deals with the fate of the Ethiopians and the Persians (103-1 14). Let us examine each of these in turn.

The pilgrim informs the eagle that he has been unable to find earthly food to satiate his intellectual hunger concerning the fate of virtuous pagans (27). This is a crucial admission. It raises the question of which doctrines he had sought out on earth to help him resolve his

problem. The viator's use of alimentary metaphors to describe his unsatisfied condition immediately reveals, in line with the kind of exegesis offered by Hugh of St. Victor, that these ideologies had to be of a tainted, unspiritual type. Without going into specifics (there were in fact various different solutions circulating as regards the issue of the salvation of pagans),36 the eagle clarifies that the doctrines preferred by

the pilgrim on earth were rationally-based («quanto ragione umana vede», 74), the product of scholastic culture: «Or tu chi se', che vuo' sedere a scranna,37 / per giudicar di lungi mille miglia / con la veduta corta d'una spanna?» (79-81). The aquila then goes on to state that, in addition, these doctrines were not based on Scriptural authority, because, if they had been, they would have provided Dante-character with an

answer to his query: «Certo a colui che meco s'assottiglia, / se la Scrittura sovra voi non fosse, / da dubitar sarebbe a maraviglia» (82-84).

What the eagle makes plain is that the pilgrim could have found a solution to his «dubbio» «in terra». The motive he did not was because

he elected to listen to the siren songs of reason, rather than try to interpret the divine signs of the Verbum 38

While the first part of the blesseds' disquisition on the salvation of pagans, by emphasising the perfection of divine justice as evidenced by

the authority of Scripture (86-90), deals with the issue somewhat tangentially, its second part is much more to the point. It provides hard proof of how a correct reading of the Bible will offer solutions to our intellectual predicaments, especially as regards salvation (103-1 14): 290

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«A questo regno non salì mai chi non credette 'n Cristo,

né pria né poi ch'el si chiavasse al legno. Ma vedi: molti gridan "Cristo, Cristo!", che saranno in giudicio assai men prope a lui, che tal che non conosce Cristo;

e tai Cristian dannerà l' Etiope, quando si partiranno i due collegi, l'uno in etterno ricco e l'altro inope. Che poran dir li Perse a' vostri regi, come vedranno quel volume aperto nel quai si scrivon tutti suoi dispregi?»

The eagle begins by clarifying, in keeping with the lessons of Scripture, why belief in Christ is the necessary prerequisite for redemption, thereby implicitly confirming that limbo constitutes an eternal condition.39 It then goes on to describe a situation at the Last Judgment Ethiopians and Persians, both of them pagan peoples at the beginning of the Trecento, will read in the Book of Justice and concur with the divine judgment. As a result, they will necessarily be counted among the saved, since only the chosen, by being at one with God, are

able to read the «volume» (113) and «damn» (109) the damned. This vignette has been the source of considerable critical perplexity and ingenuity among Dantists; for instance, some have cited it as evidence that the poet intended all good pagans to be elevated to Paradise at the end of time. This is a view with which I cannot concur, although I do believe that the poet wished to suggest that some good Ethiopians and Persians would in fact be saved. A solution to this apparent riddle does

exist: it is to be found in the tenses40 and logic of the poet's presentation and, more importantly, it is to be found in the Bible.

No contradiction need exist between lines 103-5 (on salvation through Christ) and the future blessed condition of some members of the

two pagan nations (109-13). Let us examine the eagle's words, which can conveniently be divided into three main interlocking segments, (i)

Lines 103-5 describe the situation which holds good in Heaven at the moment of the eagle's speech, as is patent from the use of past tenses

(«salì», «credette», «chiavasse»). The absoluteness of the claim also suggests that it is to be taken as a general premise regarding the basic

condition for salvation (a fact which is confirmed by the stories of Trajan and Ripheus in the next canto).41 (ii) Lines 106-8 refer both to contemporary living Christian sinners and virtuous pagans, hence the

use of the present indicatives («gridan», «conosce»), and to their respective future positions in eternity. The reason why, at the Last 291

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Judgment, good non-believers will be («saranno») closer to God than bad believers is that the former will find themselves in limbo, while the latter will be cast further down the pit of Hell. These lines confirm that,

while salvation without Christ is impossible, a purely perfunctory acknowledgement of Christ is also not enough to guarantee salvation, (iii) Lines 109-114 bring together the «due collegi» (110) introduced in the preceding two tercets. However, while the damned continue to be personified by sinful Christians, the saved now seem to be represented

by «pagans». This is, of course, impossible, as (i) and (ii) both make clear. For the Ethiopian and the Persian to be among the «eternally rich» (111), they must have led not just good lives, but good lives in Christ. Surely, Dante's pronouncement regarding their salvation has to be pure fictio , a rhetorical ploy at most? By what authority could the

poet envisage Christian Ethiopians and Persians? The answer is straightforward: by the authority of Scripture, of course, as the eagle had already stated (82-84) and as Paradiso XIX as a whole reiterates. Thus, it

was not just a Biblical and exegetical commonplace that the Church had

a global mission,42 but, more specifically, on the basis of various passages taken from the Book of Revelations - one of our canto's principal intertexts - an hermeneutic tradition emerged which claimed that, in the period leading up to the Last Judgment, all the peoples of the world would convert to Christianity.43

The Ethiopians and the Persians evoked by the eagle, both of whom are closely associated with this momentous final event and with the future (note the verb tenses tied to them), belong to the universal earthly Church to come. The rational problems posed by the aquila' s

words dissolve before a proper reading of God's signa. Once again, Dante reveals his ideological allegiances; and such allegiances are no matter for levity, since our salvation is inextricably linked to the epistemologies we decide to embrace. In this instance, the eagle's presentation of future history pushes Dante into the arms of the apocalypticists (Joachimites, Franciscans, and even some Dominicans)

who, in the late Middle Ages, had developed, via a rich metaphorical sense, the most impressive exegesis of the «final times».44 And Dante confirms his sympathies for this intellectual current at this point of his

poem, by drawing directly on Joachim of Fiore when depicting the metamorphoses undergone by the souls of the just.45 With the apocalypticists, we are in the very depths of the medieval symbolic

jungle: a very long way from the rational structures of the Aristotelians.46

By fusing salvation so closely with signa , and both of these with

his own poem, Dante leaves little doubt as to his ideological 292

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preferences. These are extremely weighty matters, and not just as regards

the precision of the image of Dante the Aristotelian which scholars have painted. The overwhelming emotive, ethical, and intellectual burden of

salvation has a tremendous impact on the Heaven of Jove. However much the meeting between Cacciaguida and the viator may constitute

the core of the Commedia 's «biographical» preoccupations, Paradiso XVIII-XX, and canto XIX in particular, by focusing on salvation, serve as the ideological fulcrum of the poem's «universalizing» message. The

salvation of one individual, or even of one city, is understandably dwarfed by the salvation and damnation of the «due collegi» (110) and by the wonder of Providence (40-48, 101-5). Indeed, the Commedia as a whole, in line with all the major currents of Christian thought, reveals from its very first canto («A te con vien tenere altro viaggio, /[...]/ se

vuo' campar d'esto loco selvaggio», Inf . I 91, 93), that saving one's soul, by heeding God's word, is our most basic and fundamental human responsibility. Given its intimate interconnections with the life-giving matter of salvation, Paradiso XIX, to put it simply, cannot but beat as the ideological heart of the Commedia .47


Ipart of the research for this lectura was done thanks to a grant from the Leverhulme Trust. I am extremely grateful to the Trust for its generous help.

I should also like to thank my great friends, Giulio Lepschy, Lino Pertile, and Tibor Wlassics for the generosity of their advice on an earlier version of this article. All quotations from and references to Dante's works are taken from the following editions: De vulgāri eloquent ia , ed. P. V.

Mengaldo, in Dante Alighieri, Opere minori , 2 vols (Milan-Naples:

Ricciardi, 1979-88), II, 1-237; La Commedia secondo l'antica vulgata , ed. G. Petrocchi, 4 vols (Milan: Mondadori, 1966-67).

2Within the confines of Paradiso XIX, and thereby underlining its importance, lines 1-33 function like a conventional rhetorical proœmium to a complete work and yield a sense of the canto as a whole.

3 See R. Javelet, Image et ressemblance au douzième siècle , 2 vols (Paris: Letouzey & Ane, 1967). 4See J. Chatillon, «Dulcedo, Dulcedo Dei», in Dictionnnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique , eds M. Viller et al. , (Paris: Beauchesne, 1957), HI, 1777-795; S. Heinimann, «Dulcis. Ein Beitrag zur lateinisch-romanischen Stilgeschichte des Mittelalters», in Studia Philologica. Homenaje ofrecido

a Dámaso Alonso por sus amigos y discípulos con ocasión de su 60°

aniversario , 3 vols (Madrid: Gredos, 1961), I, 215-32; C. Villa, La « Lectura Terentii» (Padua: Antenore, 1984), pp. 39-42. ^See P. Agaësse & T. Koehler, «Fruitio Dei», in Dictionnnaire de spiritualité 293

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ascétique et mystique , eds M. Viller et al. (Paris: Beauchesne, 1962), V, 1546-69. The concepts of «sweetness» and «delight» were frequently linked together in mystical authors; see the reference to Guillaume de Saint

Thierry in footnote 32. Dantists normally cite passages from Aquinas, which omit references to dulcedo , to explain the poet's use of frui' this is almost certainly erroneous, since it ignores the evident mystic character of

Dante's phrase. "See G. Contini, Un'idea di Dante (Turin: Einaudi, 1976), pp. 119-20.

'See O. Lottin, Psychologie et morale aux XIIe et XIIIe siècles , 6 vols (Louvain: Abbaye de Mont César-Gembloux: J. Duculot Editeur, 1942-60), III, 9-96.

"Isidoři Hispalensis Episcopi, Etymologiae , 2 vols, ed. W. M. Lindsay (Oxford: at the Clarendon Press, 1911), I, xxxix, 11. ^See notes 3, 4, and 5. l"See A. J. Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1984), pp. 10-12, and see «Index of Latin Terms», s.v. auctor and auctoritas.

Among the studies which I have consulted the following may be exempted

from such criticism: E. Sanguineti, «Dante, Paradiso XIX [1964]», in II realismo di Dante (Florence: Sansoni, 1980^), pp. 103-32; A. Jacomuzzi, «Il canto XIX del Paradiso », L' Alighieri, 14/ii (1973), 3-24; K. Foster, «The Son's Eagle: Paradiso XIX», Dante Studies , 94 (1976), 47-60, and now reprinted in The Two Dantes (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1977), pp. 137-55; V. Russo, « Paradiso XIX: similis fictio numquam facta fuit per aliquem poetam », Dante Studies , 101 (1983), 87-110 (which makes several useful stylistic observations); A. Battistini, «"Se la Scrittura sovra voi non fosse...". Allusioni bibliche nel canto XIX del Paradiso », Critica

letteraria , 16 (1988), 211-35.

^Teodolinda Barolini has written important pages on the narrative strategies which Dante employs to make us become emotionally involved with the question of Virgil's damnation; see «Q: Does Dante Hope for Vergil's Salvation? A: Why Do We Care? For the Very Reason We Should

Not Ask the Question», MLN, 105 (1990), 138-44, 147-49. On Dante's treatment of the problem of the salvation of virtuous pagans, see at least T.

Bottagisio, II Limbo dantesco. Studi filosofici e letterari (Padua: Antoniana, 1898); F. Ruffini, «Dante e il problema della salvezza degli infedeli», Studi danteschi , 14 (1930), 79-92; G. Busnelli, «La colpa del "non fare" degl'infedeli negativi», Studi danteschi , 23 (1938), 79-97 ; M. Frezza, Il problema della salvezza dei pagani ( da Abelardo al Seicento) (Naples: Fausto Fiorentino, 1962), pp. 15-20; F. Mazzoni, «Saggio di un nuovo commento alla "Commedia": Il canto IV delPTnferno"», Studi

danteschi , 42 (1965), 29-206 (pp. 33-35, 69-93, 101-4, 130-36); G. Padoan, «Il Limbo dantesco», Lettere italiane , 21 (1969), 369-88, and now reprinted in II pio Enea, l'empio Ulisse (Ravenna: Longo, 1977), pp.

103-24; Foster, The Two Dantes , cit., pp. 137-55, 168-89, 208-53; S. Abbadessa, Trame e ragioni dantesche (Bologna: Patron, 1982), pp. 9-136; 294

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M. Allan, «Does Dante Hope for Virgil's Salvation?», MLN, 104 (1989), 193-205; N. Iliescu, «Will Virgil Be Saved?», Mediaevalia , 12 (1986 [but 1989]), 93-114; M. Picone, «La "viva speranza" di Dante e il problema della salvezza dei pagani virtuosi. Una lettura di Paradiso 20», Quaderni d' italianistica, 10/i-ii (1989), 251-68; M. Allan, «Two Dantes: Christian versus Humanist?», MLN, 107 (1992), 18-35; M. Allan, «Much Virtue in Ma: Paradiso XIX, 106, and St. Thomas's Sed contra », Dante Studies , 111

(1993), 195-211.

l^On salvation, see A. Michel, «Salut», in Dictionnaire de théologie catholique , ed. A. Vacant & E. Mangenot, 18 vols (Paris: Letouzey et Ané, 1935-72), Tables Générales, III, 3980-82; see also the studies cited at footnote 36.

l^See Z. G. Barański, «Dante's Signs: An Introduction to Medieval Semiotics and Dante», in Dante and the Middle Ages , eds. J. C. Barnes & C. O'Cuilleanain (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1995), forthcoming.

l^On medieval eagles, see J. Chierici, L'aquila d'oro nel cielo di Giove (Rome: de Luca, 1962); F. Salsano, Enc. dant I, 338-39. For a typical bestiary entry on the eagle, see Hugonis de S. Victore, De bestiis et aliis rebus , in Migne, PL, 175, 53-55. l"See, for instance, Z. G. Barański, «"Primo tra cotanto senno": Dante and the Latin Comic Tradition», Italian Studies, 46 (1991), 1-31. ^'Glossa ordinaria , in Migne, PL, 114, 726.

On the medieval allegorical tradition, see C. Spicq, Esquisse d'une histoire de l'exégèse latine (Paris: Vrin, 1944); B. Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages [1952], third edition (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983); M. -D. Chenu, La Théologie au douzième siècle (Paris: Vrin, 1957);

H. De Lubac, Exégèse médiévale , 2 vols (Paris: Aubier, 1959-64); A. Strubel, «Allegoria in factis et Allegoria in verbis », Poétique , 23 (1975), 342-57; Le Moyen Age et la Bible , ed. P. Riche & G. Lobrichon (Paris, Beauchesne, 1984); J. Pépin, La Tradition de l'allégorie de Philon d' Alexandrie à Dante (Paris: Etudes Augustiniennes, 1987). 19«Sed sufficientia nostra ex Deo est: qui et idoneos nos fecit ministros novi testamenti: non littera, sed Spiritu: littera enim occidit, Spiritus autem vivificai» (II Cor. HI 5-6). ^Rupert of Deutz, in the prologue to his influential commentary, elucidates this point: «Liber iste Deuteronomium, id est secunda lex , inscribitur. Brevissime autem, in cantico eiusdem Deuteronomii cuneta ab exitu Israhel de Aegypto numerantur et ponderantur. Cur hoc? Videlicet quia iudicium Domino praeparatur, et eis qui ante tribunal eius staturi et per legem iudicandi sunt, eis, inquam, immo contra eos qui per legem arguentem non audiunt, testimonia sufficientia providenda sunt». Ruperti Tuitiensis, In Deuteronomium , in CC, Continuado Mediaevalis, 22, 1014. ^Rabani Mauri, Enarrationis super Deuteronomium libri quatuor , in Migne, PL, 108, 974-75; Glossa ordinaria , in Migne, PL, 113, 489.

^Rabani Mauri, Enarrationis , 974-75: «Nam sicut aquila acuti intuitus est, ita ut super maria immobili penna sublata, nec humanis apparens 295

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aspectibus pisciculos de tanta sublimitate natantes videns in pelago». ^ Glossa ordinaria , in Migne, PL, 114, 138. ^Hugonis de S. Victore, De assumptione Beatae Mariae , in Migne, PL, 177, 1217-219: «Et videtur magna quaedam gaudia hic commendare in floribus, et odore et cantico. Nam haec tria solum commemorata sunt: flores, et odor

et canticum. Et seimus quod flores ad speciem pertinent, odor ad fragrantiam, canticum ad jucunditatem. Species autem ad visum refertur, fragrantia ad olfactum, melos ad auditum. Quare ergo hi soli prae cunctis sensibus electi sunt, et nominati? Nam habent singuli voluptates suas, et poterant interna gaudia etiam gustu designari [...]. Ideo flores commemorantur, et odor, et canticum, et in omnibus dulcedo illa bonorum

invisibilium et jucunditas designatur [...]. Ideo adhuc gustu non percipitur, neque tactu attrectatur, sed tanquam eminus constitutum auditur, odoratur, et

cernitur. [...] Aeterna itaque gaudia floribus, et odore, et cantico designantur. Et diximus quod idcirco de gustu taciturn est, quoniam voluit demonstrare, quod de longe adhuc erant, et needum ad ea sponsa pervenerat, sed invitabatur ut veniret, et demonstrata sunt ei ut videret et concupisceret et properaret. [...] Cum enim sint quinqué sensus corporei, duo, id est táctus

et gustus, magis sordibus appropinquat, et subjacent atramini, unde nec sinceram refectionem habere valent, sed quae purgatione egeat et defaecatione. Tres vero reliqui meram trahunt dulcedinem, et suas delicias magis ad jucunditatem animi convertunt, non enim ad necessitatem reficiunt, sed ad delectationem. Magna itaque rerum similitudo est, nec poterant invisibilia signis evidentioribus declarari. Sicut enim oculus rerum specie sine coinquinatione pascitur, et sicut auris vocum suavitate sine corruptione delectatur, sic, gaudia ilia aeterna suavitatem infundunt, et corruptionem non adducunt».

^The bibliography on medieval symbolism is enormous. Some important

studies are A. Michel, «Signe», in Dictionnaire de théologie, XlV/ii, 2053-61; Chenu, La Théologie , cit.; J. Chydenius, The Theory of Medieval Symbolism (Helsinki: n. p., 1960); B. D. Jackson, «The Theory of Signs in St. Augustine's De doctrina Christiana », Revue des études augustiniennes , 15 (1969), 9-49; R. Simone, «Semiologia agostiniana», La cultura , 7 (1969), 88-117; Settimane di Studio del Centro l'aliano di Studi sull'Alto Medioevo, Simboli e simbologia nell'alto medioevo , 2 vols (Spoleto: presso la sede del Centro, 1976); G. B. Ladner, «Medieval and Modem Understanding of Symbolism: A Comparison», Speculum , 54 (1979), 223-56, now reprinted in Images and Ideas in the Middle Ages , 2 vols (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1983), I, 239-82; J. B. Friedman, Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), pp. 108-30; A. Maierù, «Signum dans la culture medievale», in Sprache und Erkenntnis im Mittelalter , ed. J. P. Beckmann et al ., 2 vols (Berlin-New York: De Gruyter, 1981), I, 51-72; Archéologie du signe , ed. L. Briand' Amour & E. Vance (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1983); M. Colish, The Mirror of Language.

A Study in the Medieval Theory of Knowledge , second revised edition 296

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(Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 1983); Semiotica , 63/i-ii (1987), special issue on «Semiotica Mediaevalia», ed. J. Evans. See

also G. Manetti, Le teorie del segno nelV antichità classica (Milan:

Bompiani, 1987); and the works cited at footnote 18. For a more complete list of references, see Barański, «Dante* s Signs», cit. 2°On medieval notions of history, see de Lubac, Exégèse , cit., I/ii, 425-78; B. Guenée, Histoire et culture historique dans l'Occident médiéval (Paris: Aubier, 1980). 2 'Dante Alighieri, La Divina Commedia , ed. N. Sapegno, 3 vols, third revised edition, III, 242.

2^See Jacomuzzi, «II canto XIX», cit., pp. 10-17; Battistini, «"Se la Scrittura"», cit. Neither of these scholars pays attention to the influence of Scriptural exegesis on the canto.

29Compare Par. XIX 40 : Aen. VI 850; 40-66 : 724-37; 71 : 794; 102 : 851-53; 109 : 796. See also 103-4 : 719-20. It is also noteworthy that both Virgil's catalogue and Dante's are constructed around verbs of seeing.

30See R. Hollander, Il Virgilio dantesco (Florence: Olschki, 1983). See D. Santoro, «Due acrostici nella Divina Commedia», Giornale dantesco , 12 (1904), 21-24; K. Taylor, «From superbo Ilion to umile Italia : The Acrostic of Paradiso 19», Stanford Italian Review , 7 (1987), 47-65; T. Barolini, The Undivine Comedy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 126-30.

^Compare, for instance, Par. XIX 2-3, 22-24 and Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici prope Remos, Expositio altera super Cantica Canticorum , in

Migne, PL, 180, 595-6. On the use of the image of the eagle with widespread wings and its young of Deuteronomy in the mystical tradition, see Anon., Vitis mystica , in Migne, PL 184, 651.

^Overall, there have been few specific studies of Dante's semiotic ideas, and most of these, in my view, need to be approached with considerable caution, since they underestimate the complexity of the problem. See H. F. f Dunbar, Symbolism in Medieval Thought and its Consummation in the Divine Comedy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1929); E. Lugarini, «II segno in Dante: ipotesi sul primo libro del De vulgāri eloquentia », in Psicanalisi e strutturalismo di fronte a Dante , 3 vols, ed. E. Guidubaldi (Florence: Olschki, 1972), III, 79-86; A. Lanci, «segnare», in Enc. dant ., V, 127; D. Consoli, «segno», in Enc. dant., V, 127-30; M. Rak, «significanza - significare - significazione», in Enc. dant., V, 242-45; M. Corti, «La teoria del segno nei logici modisti e in Dante», in Per una storia della semiotica: teorie e metodi, eds. P. Lendinara & M. C. Ruta, Quaderni del circolo semiologico siciliano, 15-16 (1981), pp. 69-86; M. Corti, La felicità mentale (Turin: Einaudi, 1983), pp. 139-41; Colish, The Mirror, pp. 152-220; S. Noakes, «Dante and Orwell: The Antithetical Hypersign as Hallmark in Literature and Politics», Semiotica , 63/i-ii (1987), 149-61; G. Gorni, Lettera nome numero: l'ordine delle cose in Dante (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1990); M. Corti, Percorsi dell'invenzione (Turin: Einaudi, 1993), pp. 51-74, 86-87. See also E. G. Gardner, Dante and the Mystics (London: 297

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Dent, 1913); A. Marigo, Mistica e scienza nella «Vita Nuova» di Dante (Padua: Drucker, 1914); I. Brandeis, The Ladder of Vision (London: Chatto & Windus, 1960); F. Mazzoni, «Purgatorio XXXI», in Lectura Dantis Scaligera , 3 vols (Florence: Le Monnier, 1965), II, 1139-184; A. Mellone, «L' esempi arismo divino secondo Dante», Divinitas , 9 (1965), 215-43; V. Branca, «Poetica del rinnovamento e tradizione agiografica nella Vita Nuova », in Studi in onore di Italo Siciliano , 2 vols (Florence: Olschki, 1966), I, 123-48; G. Farris, Dante e «Imago Dei» (Savona: Sabatelli, 1985); A. Battis tini, «L'universo che si squaderna: cosmo e simbologia del libro», in Letture Classensi 15 (Ravenna: Longo, 1986), pp. 61-78; M. Colombo, Dai mistici a Dante: il linguaggio dell'ineffabilità (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1987); J. G. Demaray, Dante and the Book of the Cosmos (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1987); J. Ahern, «Dante's Last Word: The Comedy as a liber coelestis », Dante Studies , 102 (1984), pp. 1-14. ^4The bibliography on this dispute is vast. Important studies are those, quoted in note 18, by Spicq, Smalley, De Lubac; also: M. Grabmann, «II concetto di scienza secondo S. Tommaso d'Aquino e le relazioni della fede e della teologia con la filosofia e le scienze profane», Rivista di filosofìa

neo-scolastica , 26 (1934), 127-55; E. Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (London: Sheed and Ward, 1980 [1955]),

pp. 325-485; A. Ghisalberti, Medioevo teologico (Bari: Laterza, 1990), pp. 85-145. ^^See G. Mazzotta, Dante's Vision and the Circle of Knowledge (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992); Z. G. Barański, «Dante fra "sperimentalismo" e "enciclopedismo"», in L' enciclopedismo medievale , ed. M. Picone (Ravenna: Longo, 1994), pp. 373-94; «Dante commentatore e commentato: riflessioni sullo studio dell' iter ideologico di Dante», in Letture Classensi 23 (Ravenna: Longo, 1994), pp. 135-158. See also L. Pertile, «"La punta del disio": storia di una metafora dantesca», Lectura Dantis , 7 (1990), 3-28; «L'antica fiamma: la metamorfosi del fuoco nella Commedia di Dante», The Italianista 11 (1991), 29-60; « Paradiso : A Drama of Desire», in Word and Drama in Dante , eds. J. C. Barnes & J. Petrie

(Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1993), pp. 143-80. 3"See E. Dublanchy, «Eglise», in Dictionnaire, cit., IV/ii, 2108-224 (cols 2155-174); S. Harent, «Infidèles (Salut des)», in Dictionnaire de théologie , cit., Vil/ii, 1726-930; L. Capéran, Le Problème du salut des infidèles , 2 vols, rev. ed. (Toulouse: Grand Séminaire, 1934), vol. 1 in particular; Frezza, cit., pp. 5-35. 3 ' «Sedere a scranna: salire in cattedra, ergersi a giudice. Scranna è appunto il seggio del giudice o del maestro» (Dante Alighieri, La Divina Commedia ,

eds. U. Bosco & G. Reggio, 3 vols [Florence: Le Monnier, 1979], III, 324).

Thomas Aquinas 's solution to the question would belong fairly squarely among those criticized by the eagle. On Thomas's views regarding the salvation of pagans, see Foster, The Two Dantes , cit., pp. 153-54, 171-73, 298

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176, 251-52. •^Despite the clear statements to the contrary in the Commedia (e.g., Purg. HI 40-44), some Dantists insist that good pagans will ultimately be raised to Heaven.

40For an interesting analysis of the tenses of lines 103-11, see Iliescu, «Will Virgil Be Saved?», cit., pp. 109-11. 4^«D'i corpi suoi non uscir, come credi, / Gentili, ma Cristiani, in ferma fede» (Par. XX 103-4; but see all this part of the eagle's explanation of the salvation of Trajan and Ripheus, 11. 100-29).

4^See, for instance, I Tim. II 4 and Rabani Mauri Enarrationis super Deuteronomium , in Migne, PL 108, 973D.

4^See D. Burr, Olivi' s Peaceable Kingdom : A Reading of the Apocalypse Commentary (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), pp. 182-3, 189-94.

44See The Apocalypse in the Middle Ages , eds. R. K. Emmerson & B. McGinn (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1992), pp. 51-102 (essays by Lerner, Daniel, and Burr); Burr, Olivi' s Peaceable Kingdom , cit., pp. 182-3,. 190. 4^See M. Reeves, Joachim of Fiore and the Prophetic Future (London: SPCK, 1976), pp. 64-66; H. Grundmann, «Dante und Joachim von Fiore», DDJ , 14 (1932), 210-56; R. Manselli, «Dante e l'"Ecclesia Spiritualis"», in Dante e Roma . Atti del Convegno di studi (Florence: Le Monnier, 1965),

pp. 115-35; N. Mineo, Profetismo e Apocalittica in Dante ([Catania:] Università di Catania, Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia, 1968); R. Morghen, «Dante profeta», in Letture Classensi 3 (Ravenna: Longo, 1970), pp. 13-36; M. Reeves, «Dante and the Prophetic View of History», in The World of Dante , ed. C. Grayson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980), pp. 44-60.

4^In the Monarchia (II vii 4-5), too, Dante cites the authority of Scripture as the only one able to resolve the question of the salvation of good pagans.

4^On the relationship between Dante's attitude towards the good inhabitant of the Indus region and contemporary beliefs in Christian Indians converted by Thomas the Apostle and related mirabilia , see B. D. Schildgen, «Dante and the Indus», Dante Studies , 111 (1993), 177-93. A number of other studies have focused on the Heaven of Jove's stress on

signs and signification, though none of these tries to contextualize Dante's poetry in terms of medieval thinking on signa ; see J. Freccero, Dante. The Poetics of Conversion (Cambridge, MA-London: Harvard University Press, 1986 [1970]), pp. 212-15; Foster, «The Son's Eagle», cit.; J. Leavey, «Derrida and Dante: Differance and the Eagle in the Sphere of Jupiter», MLN , 91 (1976), 60-68; J. T. Chiampi, «Dante's Pilgrim and Reader in the "Region of Want"», Stanford Italian Review , 3 (1983), 163-82; J. Tambling, Dante and Difference (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 32-66.


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso XX Author(s): MARGUERITE CHIARENZA Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 300-307 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806608 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:09 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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University of British Columbia

XX E quel che mi convien ritrar tes teso,

non portò voce mai, né scrisse incostro, né fu per fantasia già mai compreso. ^

If traditional critics have often underplayed the Eagle's impossible nature, treating Dante's statement as little more than a rhetorical boost to his poetry, modern ones have focused precisely on the paradoxical nature of the events in the heaven of Jupiter. Recent definitions of the Eagle, such as a «non representation of its own reality»,2 a «paradigm of the self consuming artefact»,3 or a «nonfigure that figures»,4 reflect

our heightened interest in Dante's attempt to devise an image that corresponds to no possible reality. On the one hand, what the pilgrim sees is not an eagle at all, heraldic or natural, but a group of spirits. On the other hand, it is not the group of spirits either, for their identities disappear in the sign they form to express their shared meaning. Like

other images in the Paradiso , the Eagle strives to be rather than to represent that of which it is a representation. But, besides being a particularly good example of what critics have come to call the Paradiso1 s anti-images, this literally animated sign has characteristics peculiar to itself and worthy of attention for their own sake.

Dante not only tells us that his creation in the heaven of Jupiter is unimaginable, he also elaborates on the specific way in which it defies the imagination (XIX, 10-12): ch'io vidi e anche udi' parlar lo rostro, e sonar ne la voce e «io» e «mio»,

quand' era nel concetto e 'noi' e łnostro'

What astonishes the pilgrim is that the Eagle, whose voices are many, speaks in one voice that miraculously moves up through the throat and out of the beak. Just as physical laws determine the kind of sound made by a musical instrument, so the hollow space surrounded by the spirits composing the Eagle's throat determines the sounds that come out of its

beak as words (XX, 22-29):


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E come suono al collo de la cetra

prende sua forma, e sì com' al pertugio de la sampogna vento che penetra,

cosi, rimosso d'aspettare indugio, quel mormorar de l'aguglia salissi su per lo collo, come fosse bugio. Fecesi voce quivi, e quindi uscissi per lo suo becco in forma di parole...

This means that the souls speaking to the pilgrim do not simply compose an image; they actually become the anatomy of a single being

who expresses their meaning with one voice. This being is both singular and plural, both abstract and organic. Our experience of signs

cannot include this mode of significance. It is, as Dante stated, both unprecedented and unimaginable. Despite Dante's careful wording, the Eagle's unity has often been

taken to be a kind of cooperation, or metaphorical unity, such as is desirable in a nation or a society. Ken elm Foster was not satisfied that such an explanation accounted for the paradoxical way in which the poet describes the souls' unity, which he explained through the single and transcendent object of their shared fruition. The explanation of the nature of the souls' unity was theological and to be sought in its supernatural source.5 While Foster, in contrast to many others, at least addressed the problem of the oneness of the many souls in Jupiter, I find his answer unsatisfactory, for it does little more than state that souls' unity is not

merely political. Perhaps, in order to understand the nature of the miracle the pilgrim witnesses, we must begin with a very simple definition of the Eagle. Composed of the spirits of men who lived with

justice, emblematic of the Roman Empire and of the justice of Providence's design for it, it speaks of divine justice and of its pale reflection in human justice. The Eagle can be defined as justice itself.

Justice, however, is an attribute, not a substance. Like charity or prudence or any other attribute, it is the same in everything it characterizes, but it is not found anywhere as itself. We can know it only through its manifestations, through the just actions, like those of

the souls composing the Eagle, that we witness or hear about. That which makes justice the same every time it is practized is not a thing unto itself; it is an abstraction. And yet, in Dante's fiction, the pilgrim sees a real presence, in the creature that moves like a bird and speaks

with one voice. The many spirits whose lives each manifested justice partially, come together in a literal, not a metaphorical, unity to express the virtue itself. They become their message and, since they are really there, their message is also a real presence. 301

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The opening of Paradiso XX suspends for a moment the miraculous vision of the essence Of justice to show us and the pilgrim its relatively more imaginable counterpart, the many souls whose lives manifested that virture. Like the stars whose different lights are not visibly present while the sun is in the sky but which shine again when

night comes, so the souls return briefly to be themselves before disappearing again into the speaking sign of them all (1-7). As they regroup, the pilgrim hears a murmuring like that of a river rushing over

rocks (19-21). The probable source of this image is in the Aeneid (XI, 296-99), where a similar image describes Latinus's subjects responding to Diomedes's message urging them not to fight against the invincible and pious Aeneas. When the crowd's confused sounds die down, Latinus speaks in favor of peace with the divinely protected Aeneas and, therefore, with the unchangeable will of Providence. Appropriately or ironically, depending on the critic's point of view, a Virgilian image prepares the climax of the Eagle's response to the problem that is at the heart of Virgil's drama in the poem: how can a just God punish good men for not embracing a faith of which they knew nothing? The revelations of Canto XX demonstrate that the Eagle's message

is as incomprehensible as its nature is unimaginable. The Eagle introduces to the pilgrim six souls of special value to its composition, the six who form its eye. But, in seeming contradiction to its earlier statement that no soul can be saved except through belief in Christ, two of these souls are pagan. As Foster points out, the presence of pagans should not surprise us per se , since medieval theologians frequently speculated on the possibility of the salvation of the pagans.6 Especially noteworthy was St. Thomas' discussion of implicit faith,7 whereby a soul could be saved through faith in those manifestations of Providence or of God that were available to him, even if Christ's word were not. But it should surprise us in this context, as it does the pilgrim («Che

cose son queste?», XX, 82), because the Eagle has just affirmed the opposite of the doctrine of implicit faith, and, as well, because no such

doctrine is ever invoked in the Divine Comedy. Foster finds this omission surprising in view of the fact that the distinction between explicit and implicit faith, which stemmed from important principles of Christianity, was fairly widespread in Dante's time. I agree with Foster

that the omission is glaring, but I do not agree with his apparent assumption that it was made out of ignorance rather than by choice.8 But Robert Hollander takes a very different view indeed, for he interprets

the question of salvation of the pagans in general and this episode in particular as if the teachings on implicit faith were part of the poem's theology. Hollander's especially noteworthy and well argued view is that 302

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the presence of other pagans in heaven is part of the evidence that Dante assigned some relative guilt to Virgil, some failure by him to embrace what he could have known of the true God.^ Whatever our views, the

Eagle's presentation of its eye must be seen as Dante's final word on Virgil's placement in Limbo and, therefore, as particularly significant for our interpretation of Virgil's role in the poem.

The six souls are presented with the refrain «ora conosce» accompanying the introduction of each. The knowledge that these souls «now» possess is implicitly contrasted to what they knew on earth or,

more precisely, to what they or anyone could have known on earth. These souls know something, although not all, of the unfathomable mystery of divine Providence. David (37-42) and William (61-66) now know how God judged them as individuals, independently from their effectiveness in life, the one more effective than he deserved, the other less effective. Constantine (55-60) knows what evil his good intentions led to, but he also knows that God measured him by the authentic good will of those intentions, not by their effects, which he could not have foreseen. The other three, however, have learned something beyond the lesson that true worth is measured truly only in eternity; they have seen

God change the unchangeable laws of time and make possible that which is impossible. Hezekiah's inevitable death, veritably prophesied by Isaiah, was delayed by God, Who had Himself ordained it (49-54). 10 Powerful beyond His own laws, He was said to have turned the sun dial back fifteen years, extending the repentant Hezekiah's life beyond what was to have been its natural end. In the well known story of Trajan's conversion (43-48; 106-1 17), in answer to Pope Gregory's prayers, God broke another of His and nature's unbreakable laws by bringing back to

life a man who had been dead for centuries. Trajan died a Christian,

although he had already died a pagan.11 The last, and the most incredible, of the six is the Trojan Ripheus (67-72; 118-129), to whom the word of Christ arrived a thousand years before it had arrived on earth. Ripheus is undeniably the most significant inclusion in the list.

Dante's knowledge of Ripheus was entirely based on three lines in the Aeneid : «cadit et Ripheus, iustissimus unus / qui fuit in Teucris et servantissimus aequi / (dis aliter visum)» (II, 426-428). All Dante knew of him was that Virgil, or rather Aeneas, described him as possessing exemplary righteousness ( iustissimus unus). Of course, Dante did not

miss the editorial note following the brief description, «the gods thought otherwise» ( dis aliter visum ).12 Dante realized that Ripheus

was an expression of Virgil's bitterness that the Stoic order which protected the universe and even steered history cared nothing for the individual. Despite Ripheus' goodness, no power watched over him or 303

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protected him from his untimely death on the battlefield. The irony of the inclusion of Ripheus is that God thought like Virgil, not aliter , not

differently from him. What this means is that Virgil was both completely wrong about God and completely right about Ripheus. The difference is, and this is the main theme of the Eagle, that it was in his power to make a good judgment of Ripheus's actions, but it was not, and could not have been to do so with God's. Nor was Virgil bound by the trust in God that binds the Christian, at least not judging from the

Eagle's words (XIX, 82-84): Certo a colui che meco s'assottiglia, se la Scrittura sovra voi non fosse,

da dubitar sarebbe a maraviglia.

If the inclusion of Ripheus reflects on the poet of the Aeneid , it does so positively, for it shows that he was as right as he could have been. The problem addressed by the Eagle is the same problem raised by

the figure of Virgil in the poem, and it is intended to be an unanswerable one: if justice is promised by Christ, how can it be promised only to those fortunate enough to have heard His word? It is hard enough to accept injustice in this world. How can the Christian accept it in the next and perfect world as well? However, if he does not

accept this, then does the essential value of Christ as the Savior not collapse? How can Christ be the only way to salvation if there are also

other ways? I mentioned earlier that the possibility of salvation of virtuous pagans was not excluded by medieval theologians. But Dante either disapproved of such rationalizations, ignored them or chose to ignore them in his poem. The problem the pilgrim brings to the Eagle should be taken as a humanly unsolvable one and the Eagle's response to it as a contradiction to human logic. All of the six souls who form the Eagle's eye could reasonably be

used to make a case for Virgil's salvation. David, Constantine, and William are all rewarded for their own good will. They are explicitly immune from judgment concerning what was not within their control. And yet, Virgil is excluded precisely because of what he had no way of

changing. The other three, who all demonstrate God's unforeseeable power to supersede His own laws and to make possible that which is not possible, call out attention even more to God's seemingly uncaring treatment of Virgil. Virgil's drama is based on the contingency that he died just nineteen years before the birth of Christ. If God could extend Hezekiah's life by fifteen years, why did He not extend Virgil's by little

more? It was said that St. Paul, moved by the beauty and wisdom of 304

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Virgil's poetry, prayed at the poet's tomb for his salvation.13 If God could answer Gregory's prayers for Trajan, why did He reject the similar prayer of the great St. Paul? How could a very minor figure in Virgil's poem have caught the attention of God, while Virgil himself failed to? Although Virgil is never mentioned in the heaven of Jupiter, no reader should miss the irony of which he seems to be the victim. It is

this irony that leads Hollander to the conclusion that this episode is final proof that Dante represented Virgil as undeserving of salvation

because of some more personal guilt than that of original sin.14 It would seem that, through the Eagle, Dante has made it clear that God does reward the just and that it is possible for pagans to be saved. If Virgil is not included, then he must be personally at fault and we must seek the reasons in his writings or in his character as Dante presented it. As I read the passage, however, such an interpretation, by presuming

that we can find the reason that God did not make an exception for Virgil, misses the Eagle's repeatedly stated point that we cannot understand divine justice. What Dante actually submits to us is that no soul, including the one God chose to lead his pilgrim to salvation, can be saved except through Christian conversion and, at the same time, that there are some souls in heaven who could not have known Christ. In

other words, he presents God's ways as contradicting our logic. The inclusion of the pagans, and especially of Ripheus, should not make it easier for us to rationalize divine justice, but rather more difficult. For, if before we had to accept that, although worthy, a pagan could not be saved, now we must accept that this can be and not be at the same time. The primary function of the unexpected presence of Ripheus in heaven is to prove to the pilgrim, who still has doubts about Virgil's fate, that he cannot second-guess divine Providence. Its workings are far

beyond our imagination, but, and this is the most positive aspect of Ripheus' message, they are equally beyond our hopes. Ripheus, a symbol of despair in the Aeneid , is represented as a symbol of hope.

Had Virgil seen what the pilgrim sees, his tragic pagan vision, condensed in Aeneas' rebellious words about the uncaring gods, would

have evaporated.15 The pilgrim's grief over Virgil, analogous to Aeneas's over Ripheus, is answered by the miraculous and triumphant presence of the righteous Trojan soldier who seemed to have been left

unrewarded. The Eagle, by proving the Roman poet's despair to have been founded on his lack of understanding of the divine will, shows the pilgrim's to be equally shortsighted. It demonstrates that, although God

cannot be rationalized or made to fit the human terms of logic or predicted according to natural laws, He is nevertheless to be trusted. He fails to meet our expectations only because He is so much greater than 305

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they are. The «soave medicina» (141) that the pilgrim receives includes the consolation to him over Virgil's loss. He must continue to believe that Virgil's very great worth cannot save him but, at the same time, he must have no further shadow of a doubt that God Who was with

Ripheus all along commits no injustice. Virgil could not have accepted Ripheus' fate as he understood it, but the Christian can and must accept Virgil's. If the pilgrim mistakes understanding for faith, he cannot be cured by the Eagle's message that

all things are answered in God's mind and all things are possible to Him. The Eagle even offers a glimmer of hope for Virgil himself: «voi, mortali, tenetevi stretti / a giudicar: che noi, che Dio vedemo, / non

conosciamo ancor tutti li eletti...» (133-135). Perhaps St. Paul's prayer is still to be answered. Perhaps, had it been answered too soon, Virgil could not have fulfilled his role in the pilgrim's journey or carried the weighty message of Providence's mystery in the poem. And then again, perhaps Virgil is in Limbo forever. Dante's readers are not expected to

know the answer that the saints themselves do not know. They are simply asked to consider the relativity of even the clearest human understanding.

To imagine the Eagle and to hear its message requires the denial of the senses and even of the fundamental principles of logic. It requires imagining that what is plural can be single, that what is abstract can live and speak, that the past can be changed, that the future can already have been, and that he who does not know Christ can be saved through

faith in Him. If the Eagle's paradoxes point to the restrictions our understanding cannot escape, this is not to discourage the pilgrim but rather to reassure him that the solutions he cannot see are not absent; they are merely beyond his understanding. Only by clearly perceiving

his own shortsightedness can the pilgrim finally be consoled by the baffling image of divine and perfect justice (139-141): Così da quella imagine divina per farmi chiara la mia corta vista, data mi fu soave medicina. ^ ^

NOTES 1 Par . XIX, 7-9. The Italian text reproduced here is Petrocchi's (1966). ^John Freccero, «Introduction», The Paradiso , trans. John Ciardi (N.Y.: The

New American Library, 1970), p. 15. ■'Peter S. Hawkins, «Dante's Paradiso and the Dialectic of Ineffability», in Ineff ability : Naming the Unnameable from Dante to Beckett , ed. Peter 306

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Hawkins (New York: AMS Press, 1983), p. 14. 4 John Leavey, «Derrida and Dante: Difference and the Eagle in the Sphere of Jupiter», MLN 91 (1976), p. 67.

^Kenelm Foster, «Paradiso XIX», Dante Studies XCIV (1976), pp. 71-90. "Foster, pp. 84-85. 7 Summa Theol. II, ii, 2, 7.

"Foster, pp. 84-85: «the odd thing is that he [Dante] seems to know nothing

of all this; for does not his question here assume ... that there is not alternative to explicit faith? This, and not any ł audacity', is what I find surprising in the question».

^Robert Hollander's discussion of Virgil's exclusion from salvation is ongoing through several of his works, especially «The Tragedy of Divination in Inferno XX», in Studies in Dante (Ravenna: Longo, 1980) and II Virgilio dantesco : tragedia nella «Commedia» (Florence: Olschki, 1983). For Hollander, the irony of the salvation of the pagans in the Eagle's eye is confirmation of Virgil's un worthiness. Of the Eagle's speech

he says: «La risposta di Dante alle dure parole dell'aquila è di rinunciare finalmente al suo desiderio di fare della sua ammirazione per la cultura pagana la fonte di una persistente convinzione dell'innocenza di questa» (Il Virgilio dantesco , p. 99). 1"A. C. Charity points out the similarity of the words of Hezekiah - «In dimidio dierum meorum vadam ad portas inferi» (Isa. 38.10) - to the opening of the Divine Comedy : Events and Their Afterlife: The Dialectics

of Christian Typology in the Bible and Dante (Cambridge, 1966), p. 230. If Hezekiah can be seen as a figura of the pilgrim, the emphasis on his sinfulness or his miraculous salvation despite his sins adds further to the seeming irony in regard to Virgil.

In speaking of Trajan's salvation, St. Thomas explicitly extends the possibility to others (Summa Theol. Ill suppl. q. 71, a. 5, cd. 5). l^See my article «Boethian Themes in Dante's Reading of Virgil», Stanford Italian Review , ID (1983), pp. 25-35. l^See Domenico Comparetti, Virgilio nel Medioevo (Florence: La Nuova

Italia, 1937), vol. I, p. 121; Nancy J. Vickers, «Seeing is Believing: Gregory, Trajan, and Dante's Art», Dante Studies 101 (1983), p. 72; Charles T. Davies, Dante and the Idea of Rome (Oxford: Clarendon, 1957), pp. 103-104. 14// Virgilio dantesco , pp. 97-105.

l^ David H. Higgins's note to this effect: «The line of Virgil "yet the gods regarded not his righteousness" must, by its solemn pagan negativity, have tempted Dante to give it the lie, vindicating a new dimension of divine love that antiquity could not have conceived» (The Divine Comedy , transi. C. H. Sisson, comm. D.H. Higgins, London: Pan, 1981, p. 661). 16 A shorter version of this essay is to appear in the forthcoming Lectura Dantis Californiana. I am grateful to the University of California Press for permitting pre-publication of this work.


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso XXI Author(s): PETER S. HAWKINS Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 308-317 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806609 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:09 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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Yale University

XXI Paradiso 21 opens with a surprise. After spending two and a half cantos in the sphere of Jupiter, in a consideration of the inscrutable

justice of God and the mystery of divine election, both pilgrim and reader are ready for the next step. Up until this moment, arrival in each successive height of heaven has been signalled by the sudden growth in

Beatrice's beauty or by a new burst of paradisiacal music; each has been increasingly difficult to recall and describe. Paradiso 21 seems disposed to fulfill the expectation for more of the same by preparing us from its opening lines for a continuation of this pattern: from the outset Dante

has his attention already focused on Beatrice («Già eran li occhi miei rifissi al volto / de la mia donna»).1 What happens, however, is something else: Beatrice withholds her

smile and the «dolce sinfonia di paradiso» (59) falls silent. Both are «tempered» in order that the pilgrim not be overwhelmed by the supernatural abundance of the seventh heaven - lest Dante, like Semeie, be turned to ash by a thunderbolt of unveiled divinity. In a variation on the poem's theme of ineffability, we are led into the sphere of Saturn through the absence of what we have come to expect. Less

bespeaks more, and a disruption of procedure implies a leap into a higher realm. It is through quiet and restraint, therefore, that we enter the heaven of the contemplatives - the heaven of Saturn. Saturn is named here by periphrasis as the crystal «che '1 vocabol

porta /. . . del suo caro duce / sotto cui giacque ogne malizia morta» (25-27). This evocation of the Golden Age, renowned not only for moral innocence but for the radical simplicity of its lifestyle, introduces a number of antitheses that are developed throughout Paradiso 21 and 22: the contrast between then and now, austere beginnings and subsequent decadence, founders and descendants. The souls in the sphere signify themselves for Dante by means of a formation of lights similar to the Cross of Mars or the Eagle of Jupiter.

In this case we are shown a ladder, shining like a sunbeam on gold, from whose height a host descends: the cascade is such that Dante thinks

«ch'ogne lume / che par nel ciel, quindi fosse diffuso» (32-33). The

figure originates in Jacob's dream at Bethel (Genesis 28:12-13), 308

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subsequently spoken of by the Book of Wisdom (10:10) as the means by which Jacob was shown the kingdom of God and given knowledge of the holy («ostendit illi regnum Dei et dedit illi scientiam sanctorum»). This same emblem adorns the dress of Boethius's Lady Philosophy, to

show that Wisdom prompts us to climb ever higher, «gradus ab inferiore ad superius» ( Consolation 1, prose 1). At least since the Rule

of St. Benedict, moreover, the ladder was commonly associated with contemplation, and in particular with the way of humility: Unde fratres ... actibus nostris ascendentibus scala illa erigenda est quae in somnio Jacob apparuit, per quam ei descendentes et ascendentes angeli monstrabantur. Non aliud sine dubio descensus ille et ascensus a nobis

intelligitur, nisi exaltatione descendere et humilitate ascendere. Scala ver

ipsa erecta nostra est vita in saeculo, quae humilitato corde a Domino erigatur ad caelum. ^

Peter Damian also has the scala in mind when in Dominus vobiscum he

praises the hermit's life as a Jacob's ladder, a «golden way» by which to

return to one's true home in heaven: «Tu via aurea, quae homines reducis ad patriam» (PL 145: 248). Dante glosses this received emblem of the contemplative life with a simile: he asks us to imagine the blessed spirits descending the ladder as if they were a flock of jackdaws «al cominciar del giorno». In early morning the birds rise together as a flock; but then as the day warms, they fly off in their different directions: «altre vanno via sanza ritomo, /

altre rivolgon sé onde son mosse, / e altre roteando fan soggiorno» (37-39). While a more exotic bird might well have been chosen for the simile, the poet opts instead for the lowly jackdaw, as if to reinforce the

emphasis on humble simplicity celebrated throughout these cantos. It

has been assumed generally in the commentary tradition that Dante intends this figure to represent the various paths followed by the great contemplative monastics, some of whom never left the cloister, others of whom moved out to work actively in the world, while still a third

group left and then returned «to whence they had started». Such an interpretation accords with readings of Jacob's vision offered by Bernard,

Bonaventure, and Peter Damian, where the angels ascending and descending the heavenly ladder are seen to express the complexity of a

religious calling that led many religious alternatively in and out of

monastic seclusion, «ad contemplativam operationem, et ad


Whether or not the simile itself presses for such an interpretation,

it is clear that Dante's celebration of the contemplative life in these cantos is not undertaken at the expense of the active. On the contrary, he 309

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seems to value precisely the reciprocity between the two. From the beginning of the canto, when we enter the sphere of Saturn «sotto 'l petto del Leone ardente» (14), the poet is at pains to show how in the kingdom of heaven opposites complement one another. Just as the fiery constellation of Leo combines its influence with that of the «cold

planet» of Saturn, so among the contemplative spirits we are to find

ardor joined to serenity, fierce activity to silent meditation. In the heaven of the Sun, the contrasts betwen Francis and Dominic served to

make a common harmony between «l'uno e l'altro»; here Dante also draws attention to unity within diversity not as it might exist between

religious orders (as in Par . 10-12), but as it might be found within the monastic vocation itself. As dramatized through the life stories of those

represented in this heaven - Peter Damian and Benedict - an ardent concern for the world is by no means separate from a vocation to prayer and solitude. Rather, as shown in Paradiso 21 and 22, the contemplative makes a contribution to the mission of the church that extends beyond

the walls of any monastic enclosure. And not only to the church: Dante's chosen contemplatives are also builders of the larger society. As if to exemplify this point, the single light that interacts with

Dante throughout Paradiso 21 personifies just such a diversity of calling, a dialectic between withdrawal and engagement. Descending to the bottom step of the ladder, much as Cacciaguida made his way to the

foot of the Cross in Paradiso 15. 20, is the spirit of Peter Damian (1007-1072). As abbot of the Benedictine Camaldolese monastery at Fonte Avellana, he reorganized that community so as to combine the ideals of hermit and monk, solitude and community; in doing so, he claimed to be following the «mind» of St. Benedict, who respected the eremitical life but rejected it himself. At the behest of Pope Stephen IX

in 1057, Peter left Fonte Avellana to become (much against his will) bishop and cardinal. Dedicated to the reform of monasticism and a return

of the church to its first principles («ad instar primitivae Ecclesiae»), he travelled through France and Germany working tirelessly to this end. But he did not conceive of reform as only entailing the church: rather, he saw renewal as a joint project between papacy and empire, and one that required that he function as diplomat between the curia of Pope Gregory

VII and the imperial court of Henry III. In addition to these various forms of active engagement, he also produced an extraordinary number and range of writings that led to his reputation as one of the major Latin

stylists of the Middle Ages: letters, sermons, saints' lives, treatises, and

minor works of both prose and verse. The latter include epigrams, prayers, hymns, liturgical offices, and carmina sacra. Among his poems is a «Hymnus de gloria paradisi», as well as a hymn written in praise of 310

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St. Benedict, which celebrates the founder of western monasticism as one of the stars in heaven, as a fire lighting up God's «aurora aurea»: Gemma coelestis pretiosa Regis, Norma justorum, via monachorum, Nos ab immundi, Benedicte, mundi subtrahe coeno.^

After these varied activities in the world, he renounced the honors

previously given him and returned as a common monk to Fonte Avellana - like one of the jackdaws in Dante's simile, who after flying about «wheel to whence they had started».

From the moment of his appearance, which is kept anonymous until line 121, Peter Damian dominates the canto. His interaction with the pilgrim, moreover, is divided into three distinct speeches or sermoni. In the first of these (43-72), he resolves Dante's double uncertainty over

the initial silence of this heaven and the nature of the love that impels his descent from the ladder's height. In the second (73-102), he responds to the pilgrim's question of why he alone was chosen for this particular

«condescension». Finally in the third (113-135), the saint reveals his name, the story of his vocation, and his perspective on the corrupt (not

to say corpulent) «modern pastors» (131) of Dante's own day. This last speech, which mirrors the diatribe against clerical decadence in Peter's own Liber gomorrhianus , is followed by an unexampled uproar from the other spirits. No doubt this «grido di sì alto suono» (140) is a common cry of indignation, a call for divine deliverance that will also be echoed in the canto to follow (22: 94-96). Confronted with a sound which is as

mysterious as the silence that greeted his entrance into the seventh heaven, the pilgrim is left to await the clarifications (and thematic continuities) of canto 22. It has been argued that the writings of Peter Damian constitute one of Dante's «sources» not only in this canto but in the larger structures of the poem - for example, the disposition of the nine circles of hell,

the punishment of the simoniacal popes, even the itinerary of the voyage to the three realms of the afterlife.5 While the extent of this

indebtedness has been the subject of debate, there is little doubt concerning the bond of sympathy that unites the poet to this 11thcentury saint. Damian's zeal for the integrity of the church, his veneration for the monastic life, his positive affirmation of the imperial power, and his readiness to denounce corruption wherever he encountered

it - these convictions and responses are all to be found in the Commedia y from the denunciations of the papacy in Inferno 19 to the stinging rebukes delivered by St. Peter in Paradiso 27 and Beatrice in 311

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Paradiso 29. In the historical Peter Damian, Dante found a warrant for his own convictions, a model for fury over ecclesiastical corruption. But as if to prevent any undue preoccupation with Peter Damian the man - let alone Dante's indebtedness to this or that of his writings

- the pilgrim is told quite plainly in his first exchange with the saint that there was no particular bond or affection that impelled him to first descend the «scala santa» (64). Quite the contrary: when Dante asks the reason for the saint's mission to him, presuming a special connection between them, he is gently disabused (67-72): né più amor mi fece esser più presta, che più e tanto amor quinci sù ferve,

sì come il fiammeggiar ti manifesta. Ma l'alta carità, che ci fa serve pronte al consiglio che '1 mondo governa, sorteggia qui sì come tu osserve.

Damian's reply constitutes another lesson in the «mind» of paradise. With his emphasis on heaven's «deep charity» rather than on individual affection, he recalls Piccarda Donati's declaration in Paradiso 3 about the

resolution of each soul in God's rule, «and in His will is our peace» (85). Damian also shows a similar acceptance of his place in the divine hierarchy of vision, confessing without complaint that there are loves higher than his own. In the rarefied atmosphere of the seventh heaven,

whose height above the other spheres is noted more than once, this modesty is perhaps even more impressive than was Piccarda's in the heaven of the moon.

If the contentment of the blessed in whatever God wills is a theme

played throughout Paradiso , its presentation here in the context of predestination marks a significant variation. In what amounts to the doctrinal, as well as literal, center of the canto (73ff), the pilgrim asks why it was Damian in particular who was predestined to first speak to him. Even before the question is fully expressed, the saint is whirled like a wheel in response to the «luce divina» in which he is centered, and wherein, as Peter himself says, «I enwomb myself» (84: «in ch'io m'inventro»). After offering one of Dante's most striking neologisms, the saint then makes his reply; but in the manner of the Paradiso at large, what is given with one hand is taken away with the other. For

while Peter Damian assures the pilgrim that he looks directly at the «somma essenza» (87), that he burns clearly and brightly with eternal vision, he is nonetheless blind to the inner workings of that ultimate reality. Nor is he any different in this regard from any other of the blessed (91-102): 312

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Ma quell' alma nel ciel che più si schiara, quel serafin che 'n Dio più l'occhio ha fisso, a la dimanda tua non satisfarà, però che sì s'innoltra ne lo abisso de l'etterno statuto quel che chiedi, che da ogne creata vista è scisso. E al mondo mortai, quando tu riedi, questo rapporta, sì che non presumma a tanto segno più mover li piedi. La mente, che qui luce, in terra fumma;

onde riguarda come può là giùe quel che non pote perché '1 ciel l'assumma.

These lines recall earlier passages in the poem: Virgil's remorseful

«Be content, human race, with the quia» in Purgatorio 3; Solomon's warning against human presumption in Paradiso 13; the numerous charges to return to earth with the wisdom garnered in heaven (most

proximately in the words of Cacciaguida in Paradiso 17); and, more immediately still, the discussion of predestination in the heaven of Jupiter ( Paradiso 19-20). Rather than take up again the topic of God's

election of the blessed, however, the poet here shows he is more interested in providence than predestination. For the question posed to Peter Damian has nothing to do with salvation; it pertains, rather, to what goes on within God's counsel; why one of the blessed is chosen to enact the divine will in any given way; why, for example, Peter Damian should welcome the pilgrim into the company of the contemplatives

instead of the spirit one might have expected to meet first - Peter's predecessor and «mentor», St. Benedict.

This kind of knowledge is not available to the blessed, be they human or angelic, much less to the mortal mind not yet «imparadised». And so the pilgrim finds himself standing before Damian at an impasse, just as he will be once more in the following canto, when he asks to see Benedict's face unveiled and is told that such a vision awaits the

Empyrean. Here, however, the limitation placed on knowledge is eternal, a sign of the unbridgeable gap between creature and Creator. While the pilgrim acknowledges himself «curbed» in his questioning,

having been «prescribed» by Damian's words of correction (103: «prescrisser»), he is in no way discouraged from asking more. Drawing back from presumption, he changes the altitude of his direction and humbly asks who the light was . Peter's reply forms his third sermone. As with the biographies of Francis and Dominic, the life story begins with geographical siting. But 313

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whereas the great founders of the Mendicant Orders were grounded in

their place of birth, Peter Damian points to the Fonte Avellana hermitage just below mount Catria - his spiritual home both before and after his engagement in the world. He tells the pilgrim that this beloved retreat, «which once was wholly given to worship» (111: «che suole esser disposto a sola latria»), is not far distant from the poet's own homeland (107: «patria»). And yet, with Cacciaguida's prophecy of exile still fresh in memory from canto 17, the very notion of Dante's having

a stable home - patria is juxtaposed here with Catria and latria underscores the irony that runs throughout Damian's speech. In terms of geography alone, moreover, Ravenna, which was Dante's place of exile while writing these cantos of the Paradiso , is as close to Peter's former hermitage as is the Florence that exiled him.

Speaking of life in his beloved hermitage, Peter Damian says that

he was «content in contemplative thoughts» (117) - a line which in syntax and alliteration («contento ne' pensier contemplativi») suggests the happy enclosure of the eremitical life itself. Like the apostles Peter and Paul he lived simply, with olive oil his only spice; like them too,

he was barefoot and lean, learning in heat and frost alike to become «firm» (114), no doubt alluding thereby to the rootedness of the Benedictine votum stabilitatis. In the midst of this recollection, however, his thoughts turn abruptly away from then to now, from the Fonte Avellana he remembers to the infinitely diminished reality Dante might encounter in its stead (1 18-120): Render solea quel chiostro a questi cieli fertilemente; e ora è fatto vano, sì che tosto convien che si riveli.

The same cloister that used to render souls to God, and in doing so to

forge a link between our earth and the heaven represented by this company of contemplative spirits, has become a wasteland: «ora è fatto

vano». The monastic garden enclosed is now a desert, its paradise of prayer and work become yet another version of paradise lost.

The prophecy of disclosure and retribution contained in line 120 provides a transition to the remainder of Peter's sermone. In it we find the kind of invective characteristic of the Saint's Liber gomorrhianus merging with Dante's own indictment of the present day: together they mete out heaven's judgment before it is otherwise revealed. But the poet does not use Peter Damian to be nostalgic about a purity that never was; the saint also refers to an 11th-century church in which the curial hat also passed from bad to worse (126: «di male in peggio si travasa»). But


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if the church's hierarchy was corrupt in Peter Damian's time, which was itself already apostate from the era of the apostles Peter and Paul, how much greater is the falling off among «moderni pastori». In some of the broadest humor to be found in the Commedia , the successors of «lean

and barefoot» disciples almost beggar description (130-135): Or voglion quinci e quindi chi rincalzi li modemi pastori e chi li meni, tanto son gravi, e chi di rietro li alzi. Cuopron d'i manti loro i palafreni, sì che due bestie van sotť una pelle: oh pazienza che tanto sostieni!

Sapegno suggests that out of this grotesque portrayal of tottering

excess - of a hierarchy barely in the saddle and sorely in need of propping up - we are «indirectly» given Dante's own ideal of a good prelate: «a man mature in ascetical practices, rich in apostolic zeal, wholly dedicated to his spiritual mission and disdainful of honors and worldly comforts: a Peter Damian or a Bonaventure».6 Such a reading may well be possible, and yet the overwhelmingly direct impression left

by these lines is utterly negative. Damian etches in vitriol a church hierarchy become the «beast»; but instead of the apocalyptic vision afforded in Purgatorio 32 (where we find an actual transformation along these lines), Paradiso 21 scores a homiletic tour de force. Peter Damian fights the good fight with mockery.

The appeal to God's «patience» at the end of this discourse is in reality a call for reparation - a mysterious «vendetta» soon to be named as such (Par. 22.14), shortly to be anticipated, but (like the «soccorso» prophesied by Benedict in the next canto) never to be explained. «Oh

pazienza che tanto sostieni!» is also the last line spoken by Peter Damian, who suddenly resumes the spinning motion noted earlier in lines 80-81, when he was first «embosomed» in the divine light. This time, however, he is joined by a host of other souls, who like him are

made more beautiful with every turn (138: «e ogne giro le facea più belle»; 139-142): Dintorno a questa vennero e fermarsi, e fero un grido di sì alto suono,

che non potrebbe qui assomigliarsi; né io lo ntesi, sì mi vinse il tuono.

Thus the canto ends abruptly, with what Mark Musa's commentary

reminds us is «the loudest noise made in the Comedy». Lacking an 315

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exact earthly likeness for this incomparable sound, Dante falls back on thunder to describe how the cry of the blessed overcame him. Once again we return to the theme of Jove and Semeie, a narrative of transformation

that, as Kevin Brownlee has shown, continues to be reworked in the cantos that follow.7 At the outset of Paradiso 21 the pilgrim was told that Beatrice withheld her smile so that he not become like Semeie

when she was burned to ashes at the unmediated disclosure of a god, or

like the bough of a tree shattered by lightning (12: «che trono scoscende»). Having seen the pilgrim spared divine thunder at a time when he was not able to bear it, we realize now that he has grown in his

capacity to witness (if not fully to understand) its power. We watch him, so to speak, become a contemplative. Indeed, our awareness of the pilgrim's maturation of vision - his contentment in «pensier contemplativi» - is subtly enhanced by the peculiar quality of his interaction with Beatrice. When she tells him initially to make himself a mirror to all he sees, he rejoices in his obedience to her command (19-24). Likewise, when subsequently he burns with desire to address the light of Peter Damian descending to the

foot of the ladder, he holds his speech and waits upon Beatrice for indication of when he should speak and when be silent (46-48). A similar situation occurs in Paradiso 22.25-27, where Dante stands before the soul of Benedict «like one who in fear of being forward does not dare

to ask a question». This emphasis on obedience to a master, and on the need to discern the proprieties of speech and silence, recalls the Rule of

St. Benedict, «De taciturnitate»: «it becomes the master to speak and teach, but it is fitting for the disciple to be silent and to listen». ^ In this

sphere of Benedictine saints, it comes as no surprise to find their rule observed.

In the heaven of Saturn, therefore, Dante learns the difficult lesson

of silence, together with the art of prayerful «speculation». Without doubt, he is portrayed as a novice in both regards, breaking through the barrier of his own prudent hesitation to pose impossible questions about providence and (in Paradiso 22) to ask for what can only be glimpsed in the Empyrean. At best he is shown to be an imperfect disciple of these contemplative masters. Yet the fruit of his time spent in this cloister of contemplatives is soon to be made manifest in canto 23, with its vision of the Church Triumphant, as well as in the «vista nova» that concludes

the poem. Peter Damian mourns the loss of monasticism's abundant harvest, but in Paradiso 21-22 Dante provides the reader with his own golden ladder to heaven.9


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^he text of the Commedia is cited according to Petrocchi's vulgata ; the English translations are taken from The Divine Comedy , trans, with commentary, by Charles S. Singleton, 3 vols, in 6 parts, Bollingen Series 80 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970-75). - For readings of this canto, see P. Brezzi, Nuove letture 7 (Firenze: Le Monnier, 1974), pp. 15-33; F. P. Luiso (Firenze: Sansoni, 1912), pp. 5-68; G. Mesini, Letture

classensi 3 (1970), pp. 323-346; M. Pecoraro, Lectura Scaligera 3 (Firenze: Le Monnier, 1968), pp. 733-784; A. Seroni, Da Dante a Verga (Roma: Editori Riuniti, 1972), pp. 28-38. - For a consideration of Par. 21 and 22 together, see my essay, «"By Gradual Scale Sublim'd": Dante's Benedict and Contemplative Ascent», in Monasticism and the Arts , ed. T. G. Verdón (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1984), pp. 255-270. ^The Rule of Saint Benedict , ed. and trans, by J. McCann (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1952), pp. 38-39: «Wherefore, bretheren ... then must we set up a ladder by our ascending actions like unto that which Jacob saw in his vision, whereon angels appeared to him, descending and ascending. By that descent and ascent we must surely understand nothing else than this, that we descend by self-exaltation and ascend by humility. And the ladder erected is our work in the world, which for the humble heart is raised up by the Lord unto heaven».

^The cited phrase is from Bonaventure. See Bosco & Reggio (Florence: Le Monnier, 1985), 3: 346. ^Peter Damians «Carmina sacra et preces» are found in PL 145: 917-986; the quote from «De Benedicto abbate, hymnus, ad vésperas» is found in col.

957. See also O. J. Blum, New Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw Hill, 1967), 11: 214-215, and M. Lokrantz, L'opera poetica di S. Pier Damiani (Göteborg-Uppsala, 1964). ^ Arsenio Frugoni surveys this material in his entry on Peter Damian in the

Enciclopedia Dantesca (Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana, 1973), 4:491.

"N. Sapegno, in his comm. to the Commedia (Firenze: La Nuova Italia, 1973), 3: 270: «Indirettamente, il poeta lascia trasparire il suo ideale del buon prelato; un uomo maturato nelle pratiche ascetiche, ricco di apostolico zelo, tutto dedito alla sua missione spirituale e sprezzante di onori e agi mondani: Pier Damiano o Bonaventura». 'K. Brownlee, «Ovid's Semeie and Dante's Metamorphosis: Paradiso 21-22», in The Poetry of A llusion.Vir g il and Ovid in Dante's Commedia, ed. R. Jacoff and J. Schnapp (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991), pp. 224-232. °«Nam loqui et docere magistrům condecet: tacere et audire discipulum convenit» (op. cit., pp. 36-37).

^This essay is scheduled to appear in the forthcoming Lectura Dantis Californiensis.


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso XXII Author(s): WILLIAM WILSON Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 318-328 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806610 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:09 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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University of Virginia

XXII The abrupt twists and turns in the Comedy that so immediately defy interpretation - when the guide «puts his head where his feet had

been» (Inf. XXXIV, 79), when an earthquake shatters a conversation among poets (Purg. XX, 141) - generally occur at moments of sudden

transition in the story. In Paradiso XXII, where we leave the entire world of becoming to enter that of pure being, I count at least four such

events. As Canto XXI ends, contemplatives on Saturn give a deafening cry of prophetic judgment which leaves Dante, heretofore maturing in the ecstasy of Heaven, calling for Beatrice like a child for his mother

(1-6); the pilgrim is bidden for the first time to look down, not up (127-29); for the first time Dante asks to see a soul in his straight human form (58-60); and Beatrice, as she announced in Canto XXI, will not smile (10-12). One way to get a fast grip on these scenes is to recall

Jacques Maritain's thirty-two year old essay on the «innocence» of Dante.1 By innocence Maritain does not intend the strict theological meaning of a general ignorance about our fallen state in the created order. He means the more general sense of a childlike mind that springs from immediate delight, fear, unchecked curiosity, and the like. His

essay is a masterful case for the elusive presence of this category throughout the Comedy. For instance, Maritain shows that the pilgrim's delight in the simple order and clarity of philosophical argument, not the scholarly rigor of the case itself, alone accounts for Dante's ability to get away with what no other poet can - didacticism. In Canto XXII, of course, Dante's innocence is obvious: the blunt

request to see the humanity behind the poetic dress is almost an invasion of privacy; and he cowers to learn of the wrath of ascetics. But it is also employed in subtle ways. In the examples of the refusal of the

smile and the request that Dante look down, innocence is at work as a negative. Dante loses it in both of these events. He must see grace at work in some way other than in the beloved's smile of eros redeemed. He must see it in a direct gaze at the «threshing floor» of Earth. The action of Canto XXII begins at XXI, 28-30, when Dante sees a golden ladder rising and vanishing into the sphere of the fixed stars and beyond. In her celebrated study of the Comedy , The Ladder of Vision, 318

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Irma Brandeis notes that the higher into paradise the pilgrim proceeds «the more the literal journey thins away into the airiest remnant of

concreteness». He enters directly into the body of the moon; he is unscorched by the sun. Nothing «meets the eye but souls and soul formations... and there is no anchorage in the home world of solid things».2 The eye of the reader must move from heaven's own «solids», the social harmony of lights as garlands, crosses, eagles and the eyes of eagles, so that the act of straining-in-brilliance-to-see will be an aspect

of straining-in-truth-to-£nöw. Here again innocence is powerfully employed. We accept the truth of the lessons taught in these spheres through the simple delight, fear, or curiosity in which Dante learns them. We are (increasingly) affected too, that is, by their mere order and clarity; and this order and clarity is depicted by the poet in these celestial

forms of social harmony which present the lessons, and by their increasing «airiness», stretch the mind toward «thinner» abstractions. But though Brandeis cites the ladder in the title of her book, she fails to

note that this object breaks the pattern. Here we do have a «home world» solid, and it is not made up of soul-lights. We have a ladder, and

up and down it the souls move (XXI, 29-32). But innocence is still at work. It can be found both in the fact that the poet has selected a «homely» object to splice Being to Becoming, and it can be found in the pilgrim's ready acceptance of the ladder's presence. This readiness is underscored by the fact that the biblical story of «Jacob's Ladder» (XXII,

70-72) is the source of the standard medieval symbol for the virtue of Saturn, contemplation. At this point the poetry is so condensed that it is almost impossible to unravel. For the moment we must simply note that as Dante, though he is going higher into Heaven, is getting closer to his return to earth when he will write the poem, so the innocence through which we accept the poem is equally taking a turn homeward. He will soon be back in the real dark valley of Italy, and if he is to do

his job he must lose his innocence. To be sure, his «alta fantasia» (XXXIII, 142) must fail him. Richard of St. Victor notes that, whereas «thinking crawls» and «meditation marches», contemplation «circles around with marvelous

quickness ... and when it wishes suspends itself in the heights».-* So Dante has the contemplatives moving down the ladder in the playful

flight of jackdaws (XXI, 34-39). There is no single formation - no possibility that contemplation could be rendered in a single figure as is justice or wisdom or love. The mind of the contemplative by-passes all finite analogies. The birds are united as a «flock» only, as a direction of movement before and after the individual «strut», the «certo grado»

(XXI, 42) of each soul. Since the ladder is the chosen object around 319

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which this playfulness occurs, the movement is up and down. Contemplation stays the same whether it ascends higher or soars homeward. This two-fold direction is always prior to the shape or the teaching it renders.

The teaching toward which this symbol of the ladder focuses the

mind is simply that of divine grace itself. There is no punctuation between divine condescension and human uplifting. This teaching pervades the entire poem and the pilgrim specifically learns it in Paradiso XIX. In questioning whether the ways of predestination are simply capricious, Dante is taught not the logic of God's decrees - he is not shown the causal joint between election and inspiration; rather he is taught the nature of the single reality which makes such a response

nonsensical (88-90): Cotanto è giusto quanto a lei consuona: nullo creato bene a sé la tira

ma essa, radiando, lui cagiona.

The reality is ladder-like. Whatever accords with divine will (whatever is

uplifted) is a result of God's having caused such goods (is a result of God's condescension). Human agency is a coordination of divine and human wills in the single direction of the action.

This is not to say that there is no moral logic to the doctrine. Piccarda speaks to the issue in Cantos III-IV. Though she is seen by Dante in the lowest sphere of Heaven, she does so only because the «dirn» brilliance of her beatitude is all the new arrivals in Heaven can

bear. Accordingly, she is perfectly placed for the salvific work she must

do. And this means that she is equal to all others in Heaven who have a

special task to perform and dwells as an equal with them in the Empyrean where history's pilgrimage is over. Though she is low (better to say, because she is low), she is as good as exalted (IV, 34-42). In other words the moral logic of grace must be artificially split into two directions if it is at all to be analyzed. This entails a further

point: the split moral logic points out the split poetic logic. In Canto I, Dante realizes that he is unable to put his vision of Heaven into words (4-9), and so he prays for a second breath of inspiration (13-17) to render the vision through the glass of poetry. He renders his unsayable vision

by having all that he sees come down to him in Piccarda's way to accommodate his sight so that he may rise to the full reality of this prevenient grace. This also means that every metaphor or simile - and every «formation» of souls - artificially divides (divides by an artifact) this one dispensation of grace. The ladder then, as the figure of the unity


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of the directions, is behind every formation Dante devises. When he confronts the real object, as he does in Canto XXI, he is telling a tale of a poet's triumph over stiff literary odds. When he mounts the ladder in XXII, 100-101, he climbs the solid metaphor behind his own poetry.

Climbing the ladder also brings to a head two themes in the Paradiso . One of course is divine election. The poet who had to be a pilgrim and write his way to the end of vision, gains, through grace, his

goal. The other is more elusive though closely related. Throughout the poem salvation signals a discovery of vocation. To be among the elect requires the ecstasy of knowing that a task will employ the will's entire freedom. Piccarda is in the Empyrean because she has it within her to go and meet the pilgrim who is, as it were, squinting. And the theme is explicitly stated by Charles Martel in Canto VIII, 97-148. Every person is given, when created, he says, an inherent set of talents, and creation

will not be complete - salvation will not be realized - until these talents are put to work in some concrete activity to fit the entire providential scheme. To become what one is, then, is to fall into the story of a prior providential will at work for the good of all, as it is at work for the concrete good of each.

The mystery of the cooperation of divine and human wills, seen in the doctrine of election, is in fact heightened in the tale Charles Martel

tells. What could be more «improvident» than a man who holds the political hope of the future being cut down in his youth, only to be replaced by a brother who is totally unfit for the post? This foreboding

note about providence is repeated in several places. We see it in Cacciaguida's prophecy: though Dante will be a poet, his career will take place in exile (XVII, 55-66). We see it in Justinian's statement that the fall of Jerusalem was just vengeance for the crucifixion (VI, 92-93).

And we see it again in XXII. The contemplatives' deafening shout of execration is directed at God's providential people, the Church itself. By implication, Dante is shocked not only by the severity of the

contemplatives' wrath. The vision of swirling jackdaws is hardly a preparation for extreme anger; nor does such ire square with the general

conception of the monastic life. The outcry was a prophecy (which Dante was too deafened to hear), and this is a clue to how the passage

should be understood. Prophecy was always considered in the Middle Ages to be a gift of the ascetic life. Contemplano: one who practices the virtue is aware and focused in a special way to see the coinherence of

past, present, and future. In the Summa Theological St. Thomas explicitly links the ascetic life with the powers of the prophet. Contemplation, he says, leads to a concern to what God does in the world, and the power of contemplation, in turn, is a result of construing 321

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worldly actions to see how they might fit a plan made by a just and merciful God. But this entire sequence remains puzzling for the fact that none of this explanation (or any other) is given. After lengthy analyses of everything in Paradise - the spots on the moon, the nature of vows and sacrifice, the idea of justice, the mystery of election - no word of explanation is offered here. In the land of contemplation where a direct insight into God's ways is offered, the very nature of the life is left a puzzle. As Dante pulls himself together, he is asked to go speak to an approaching soul almost as if this might be a useful way to while away his time on a planet he by happenstance does not fathom (19-21): Ma rivolgiti omai inverso altrui; ch'assai illustri spiriti vedrai se com'io dico l'aspetto redui.

We will see that the reason the Poet does not give an explanation for these unexpected events is that the life of contemplation is attained more by grace and experience than by learning and understanding; and the experience is that of losing innocence - and winning a vocation. Before reaching this conclusion, however, we must examine one of the other puzzles we have noted earlier. Beginning in Canto XXI, where we first ascend to Saturn, Beatrice does not smile and Dante is not allowed to hear the music of the spheres. Beatrice explains the refusal by

reminding Dante of the story in Ovid when Semeie asks to see Jupiter in his pure divinity, without the incognito of his worldly appearance.

Like Semeie, Dante would be reduced to ashes if he were granted his request to behold what human eyes cannot bear (4-6). Commentators often contend that the tale is used to draw a distinction between the pagan and Christian powers over the vainglorious soul. One grants the wish, the other frees the will by denying the (ostensibly) free choice. But whatever we might make of such an explanation, it does not address the central problem: throughout the Paradiso the smile of Beatrice, the music of the spheres, the degrees of light reflected by the soul, are all exactly «measured», as we have seen, to accommodate the eyes and the ears of the pilgrim. Why then should the poet reverse the order and make the very method Heaven uses to safeguard the soul a liability? As we did above, we can scout out the sources for a preliminary answer. St. Thomas argues that since contemplation and prophecy are

the highest attainments of humankind (are the final virtues before attaining the realm of pure being), they must be accompanied by a new and more profound act of revelation. Prophetic contemplation, he says, is the result of a direct revelation, one which takes effect without the


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mediation of natural objects. Human faith or wisdom or knowledge, however much they may be availed of grace, share a life with what the

mind may attain by nature. But «knowing by God's light alone», St. Thomas says, «defines prophecy».5 On Saturn, then, a new mode of revelation is needed: revelation by

degrees. Light, smile, and music accommodate , add by an increasing planet by planet infusion, a knowledge that uplifts and perfects the natural mind of the pilgrim. Grace works on nature, but the continuum of knowledge is one. There are no punctuation marks between the two. Thus on Saturn, Dante must devise a different metaphor for revelation

and knowledge by way of grace; put another way, the smile of Beatrice on this planet does not accommodate, and the lesson which he hears (the cry of anger at the state of the Church with its prophecy of vengeance) shatters him and cannot be understood. This also explains the switch to a planetary emblem which is not composed of accommodating souls and formations, but which has its own life and source of illumination, and

upon which souls themselves must ascend and descend. As we have seen, the ladder represents in one symbol the unity of two-directional grace, one action that condescends as it uplifts, something which can be seen either as going up or going down.

Confused, and longing to see the smile of his beloved, Dante is ushered away to meet a soul just down from the ladder. As Dante is too timid even to ask his own mind's question (25-27), the soul approaches to help without request. In the Convivio , Dante says that true grace is clearly seen in those actions which bring aid faster than the request. This implies that the «grace-bringer» comes incognito, as one unexpected, as one whose real mission is other than the stated one, the stated one being

but a pretense. The soul in this scene says that he comes to satisfy Dante's (unstated) longing to know who he is, but what he offers, as we should expect from unbidden grace, is something entirely different. What he offers in fact is a discourse on the unity of grace.

This unity is already figured in the idea of the bringer coming disguised. What is more powerful than the soul in need, what can bring

aid, comes in the cloak of humble help. We see this throughout the Comedy , in the three ladies, the guiding angels on the terraces of Purgatory, in Vergil himself. But this soul does not simply figure the unity or point it out, rather he offers himself to be the reality itself. In answering the unasked question about his identity, he says (40-42): e quel son io che sù vi portai prima lo nome di colui che 'n terra addusse la verità che tanto ci soblima.


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His single identity is given in a series of directions in which a downward motion immediately implies its opposite. He is the one who carried up to a peak the name of another who came down with a truth that brings up all those who hear it. Whether Dante intended the reference, this passage recalls St. Paul's citation of the ancient «hymn to Christ» in Philippians 2: 6-11. It is a recollection not only of a similar two-fold structure, but of a structure that likewise signals a single identity. St. Paul says that the hymn is the very «mind of Christ» ( The Jerusalem Bible): His state was divine

yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave,

and became as men are;

and being as all men are, he was humbler yet,

even to accepting death death on a cross.

But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names

so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld should bend the knee at the name of Jesus

and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The sign of divinity is a choice to become humble, humble to the point of ignominious death. And when this is seen in its true exalted form, it will be registered in the uplifting of those who bend their knees. Dante's response to this soul's strange avowal of identity will be

equally scriptural. The entire evangelical response to the resurrection of Christ preserved the sense of this ancient hymn by proclaiming that,

though Jesus now appears in a resplendent glory and a body suited for eternal life «at the right hand of the Father», his identity as the humble carpenter's son remains. In the terms of the Comedy , the way in which Christ came to accommodate the lost, this «form of a servant», is not

simply poetry, is not simply a means of suiting the unready eyes of

new pilgrims. Rather, the means of accommodation, because it is humble, signals exactly the exultant reality it represents. In a manner of 324

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speaking, we need at this point neither the motif of Beatrice's smile nor a suggestive formation of graceful souls. As the ladder represents the unity of directions in Grace, so the shining soul coming down to give unrequested aid is quite enough. To come down or to go up, it matters not the least. The two are the same.

Another way of saying this is that Dante is leaving the land of his poetry, the land of his artifact, for his own destination as poety the destination he will attain when he climbs the ladder and finds himself on

his astral point of birth among the fixed stars, Gemini. The point of transition is marked in Dante's striking request to the soul he has met that he be allowed to see unveiled his human face (58-60). As we have seen, Dante has never made this request before. Until this point, he was content with the accommodating revelations of the souls who came with grace to see him. But now he desires to see them in their true human

reality. The soul he wishes so to see is St. Benedict, the first of the great western ascetics, who established his order on Monte Cassino (who «carried up» what the Son «brought down»). In commenting on this scene, Peter Hawkins6 argues that in asking the radical question the poet is beginning to anticipate the final beatific vision of the Comedy when he will look upon God Himself face to face. The single power of the true contemplative, which Dante is beginning to exercise in canto XXII, will be at the end the virtue that will sustain him. His alta

fantasia will fail him. Citing Buti's commentary, Hawkins says that the

contemplatives contemplate the Creator by a direct vision of the creature, made in the Creator's image. Thus when the beatific vision is attained in its fullness in Canto

XXXIII, one circle will bear «our image». Long before this though, Dante has prepared for this reversal, begun in XXII. Most notable is the illumination of the Rose caused by the river of light reflecting off the upper surface of the Primum Mobile, the «dome» of the created order (XXX, 100-108). Heaven does not here reflect light onto creatures, as has been the case throughout the Comedy ; now the created order reflects it onto Heaven. Even more bold is Dante's complete reversal, at XXIX, 15, of Exodus 3. The creature says to the Creator in this passage (not the other way around as the scripture has it), «subsisto». Just as the freedom of divinity is revealed, best revealed, by the extent to which it

will accomplish its mission, so the soul of the creature is a living embodiment of that freedom. And if the poet proposes this veil designed to reveal, in the very act of concealment by a narrative, that something natural (say the erotic smile of the beloved) can slowly, canto by canto, be redeemed in a pilgrimage towards a vision of God, then the poet is a

contemplative. If his business is, as Allen Tate said years ago, to 325

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«conduct an action through analogy of the human to divine ... of the low to the high ...», then the working hypothesis of the poet is that the

high is also like the low; and therefore that a story about the low seeking the high will also be one about the high seeking the low.7

Dante says as much in canto XXII when he lets us see his whirlwind flight up the golden ladder (100-102) by moving his narrative spotlight down to earth: «S'io torni mai, lettore, a quel divoto / triunfo per lo quale io piango spesso / le mie peccata e 'l petto mi percuoto...» (106-108). What he discovered in Canto I (that he would have to write his way through to the end of the vision), is coming to a close. Earthly poet and otherworldly pilgrim are again becoming one. When he gains the top of the ladder he will attain his vocation, and then be able, as St. Benedict promises (61-63), to look truly on the face of a fellow human being.

This unity between the majestic written poetry and the tough reality actually seen is the clue to the unity between the disinterested contemplation and stern prophecy. At the outset of the canto, Beatrice

almost seems amazed that the pilgrim should be so shaken by the prophetic outcry of those descending the ladder: «Non sai tu che tu se' in cielo / e non sai tu che '1 cielo è tutto santo / e ciò che ci si fa vien da

buon zelo?» (7-9). Not yet fully attuned to the full contemplative mind, still innocent, the Pilgrim is unable to hear the righteous echo of the

stern cry of outrage at the state of the Church. His request to St. Benedict that he be allowed to see his true human form is a sign that the

influence of the planet is beginning to take over. Upon the request Benedict says, «Frate, il tuo alto disio / s'adempierà in su l'ultima spera, / ove s'adempion tutti li altri e '1 mio» (61-63).

To desire to look straight at flesh is a «high desire»; and this high desire is a result of the unusual identification - the identification by

restating the double directions of grace - the saint has given. This along with a triumphal flourish on how at Monte Cassino he was able to redeem corrupted worship and morals (44-45), is sufficient to cause Dante to say (52-57): L' affetto che dimostri

meco parlando, e la buona sembianza ch'io veggio e noto in tutti li ardor vostri, così m'ha dilatata mia fidanza

come '1 sol fa la rosa quando aperta tanto divien quant' ell' ha di possanza.

Not only is the identification and the effect to which Benedict bears witness sufficient to cause Dante to believe the promise, but the grace 326

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by which he now believes is itself a figure of the fulfillment. Dante's confidence is expanding like a rose blessed with sunlight, and it will be

within the great Rose, as we will see in Canto XXXII, 35, that the promise is kept and Dante sees Benedict take his rightful place among the elect.

But the poet not only anticipates this scene with the metaphor of the rose; he points to it directly by having Benedict say that when the vision is granted it will be in a place where every desire is «perfetta, matura e intera» (64). He is speaking, of course, of the Empyrean, the final sphere beyond the created order where everything is in no «where» and thus all is in place and in time. Here, I would allege, is a supreme

instance of the poet's supreme genius (the «ingegno» he will in a moment ascend to discover). These elusive and highly suggestive lines

depict univocally the timelessness of Paradise. To see a single soul straight, a rose in full blossom, a saint in his place on it, is a kind of

witness to an ascent to being oneself in all one's interconnections. Poetically, then, this means that the contemplative/prophet can see through a low estate, something which for all others would be a veil (say a Church gone derelict), to the exalted decree that will judge it. Seeing it straight is all of a piece with divine will. These souls know what Beatrice will tell the shattered pilgrim, «everything in heaven is holy». And as she continues to say, in an otherwise enigmatic line (one we have not yet considered, 16-18): La spada di qua sù non taglia in fretta né tardo, ma' ch'ai parer di colui che disiando o temendo l'aspetta.

God's judgment comes on time for the contemplative. Just as Christ in the form of a servant reveals himself sub contrario , so the low

estate of humanity reveals the higher glories of the Father. Coming down the ladder the vision sounds like a cry of outrage; going up , as Dante will discover, it sounds like the music of the spheres. Put another way, when Dante is where (as Benedict has said) all desires are perfect, ripe and mature - when he is where will and desire are one and what one ought to want is wanted and what one ought to receive is received,

the sword of wrath will be desired in its divine righteousness, and received like any gracious gift. When Dante is escorted to the ladder and swirls upward, he says

that never here below, where up and down follow nature's rules, was there motion as swift as his (103-105). The «ascent» transcends nature's

«directions». Thus, when he is at the «top» he gains his vocation by 327

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looking «down». He sees the heavens now all together, and least of all, on the horizon, the «little threshing floor» of Earth (151). As a poet who has gained his genius, he is hung between seeing our world clearly, for what it is, something with a «vii sembiante» (135), and something

out of which he could make the Comedy : «poscia rivolsi li occhi a li

occhi belli» (154). He is the poet about to write again about the redemption of eros as the brightening smile of a lady.

The action of Canto XXII is simply that of a poet discovering the embedded structure of his own verse and rising to it. But the drama of these particular verses goes from the absence of his beloved's smile to its reappearance. He will not see her smile again until the next canto, but any reading of XXII must include these lines. For Beatrice smiles again when Dante is granted a vision of Christ himself ascending to the Empyrean. Christ is the new «ladder»: the condescension of God in the uplifting of the flesh of humanity. As Dante faces the vision, he feels his inspiration to be tantamount to lightning descending (XXIII, 40-45): Come foco di nube si diserra

per dilatarsi sì che non vi cape e fuor di sua natura in giù s'atterra,

la mente mia così, tra quelle dape fatta più grande, di sé stessa uscio, e che si fesse rimembrar non sape.

Dante's pen must take a leap over another abyss. When it comes to describing the indwelling of God in the incognito of flesh, his «alta fantasia» fails, as it will when God Himself is seen directly, in the final heaven.

NOTES 1 The Ladder of Vision, Garden City, N.Y., 1962, p. 214. ^«Dante's Innocence and Luck», The Kenyon Review, XIV (1952). ^I quote from The Mystical Ark , New York, Paulist Press, p. 263. 4 Summa , Da Ilae, 171, 1.

*Here I am using the new translation and arrangement of the Summa by Timothy McDermott, London, Methuen, 1991, p. 446. "«Dante's Benedict and Contemplative Ascent», Monastic ism and the Arts , Timothy Verdón, ed., Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, pp. 261-262. '«The Symbolic Imagination», The Kenyon Review, XIV (1952), p. 261.


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Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia

Paradiso XXIII Author(s): FRANCO MASCIANDARO Source: Lectura Dantis, No. 16/17, Special Issue: Lectura Dantis Virginiana, vol. III. Dante's "Divine Comedy" Introductory Readings III: Paradiso (SPRING-FALL 1995), pp. 329-351 Published by: Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44806611 Accessed: 17-02-2020 23:10 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [emailprotected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms

Michael Papio on behalf of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Lectura Dantis

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University of Connecticut

XXIII And we, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect ; this is the work of the Lord who is Spirit.

(2 Cor 3:18)

Beauty as light, or that which «dances as an uncontained splendor around the double constellation of the true and the good»,1 together with

love and vision to which it is bound inextricably, is the principal idea that informs Paradiso XXIII. While this is a distinctive feature of the

canto, often described as one of the most beautiful of the Commedia , it

also characterizes the third cantica and, more generally, the entire poem.2 The highest form and paradigm of beauty is the splendor of God

as manifested through Christ, to whom, according to Saint Thomas Aquinas and the various Patristic sources that had come down to him,

the name «Beauty» is most fittingly attributed.5 In Paradiso XXIII Dante represents the creative power of divine beauty - in the cosmos,

in human history, and in his own spiritual journey - through the triumph of Christ and through the actions that are an integral part of this theo-drama.

Reflecting the classical and medieval idea of beauty based on consonando, according to which, as Dante wrote in the Convivio , a beautiful thing is one whose parts appropriately correspond to one another, creating a harmony that gives delight,4 these actions at once point to the revealed and concealed beauty of Christ as to their necessary

end and first cause. My approach, dictated in part by the predominantly

theatrical form of Paradiso XXIII,5 is essentially dramatistic.6 By focusing on the sequence of scenes and the rupture or caesura2 marking

the point where one scene intersects another, I shall attempt to reconstruct the «tragic vision» provoked by the «tragic rhythm» that

these scenes engender. My argument is grounded in the Burkean definition of «tragic vision» as that moment of understanding and transcendence arising in the agent after «suffering» an opposition in the unfolding action, which he has «organized» through his own act and in

cooperation with other agents and the various elements connected with or surrounding his act, such as scene and motivation.8 329

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Toward the end of Paradiso XXII (124-132), Beatrice announces to Dante the imminent revelation of a divine drama in the form of a triumph, thus setting the stage for the scenes and actions represented in

the next canto. The pilgrim has just entered the heaven of the fixed stars, at the point of the constellation of Gemini, under whose influence he was born. In order to prepare himself for the final blessedness of the

vision of God, and, specifically, for the spectacle that is about to be played out under the vault of the ninth heaven - as a foreshadowing of

«l'ultima salute» (124) - he must purify and sharpen his vision by gazing upon the world below. Thus his heart, Beatrice tells him, will be

made joyful in a way that will be somewhat consonant with the gladness of the triumphal throng («sì che 'l tuo cor, quantunque può, giocondo / s'appresenti a la turba triunfante / che liela vien per questo

etera tondo», 130-132). This joy will result both from the pilgrim's realization of how far from the earth he has ascended and from his vision

of the order and beauty of the universe, or, to use St. Thomas's famous criteria of beauty, from his perception of its integrity , proportion , and clarity ?

The pilgrim's retrospective gaze provokes in him only an imperfect joy, as he notes what seems to be an irreconcilable opposition between the order and beauty of the universe and the adulterated beauty of the

earth. As he looks upon the sweeping vista of the seven spheres and corresponding planets (133-153), he momentarily focuses on the distant globe that they encircle. Its «vii sembiante» provokes an ironic smile that suggests a contemptus mundi (134-135). Yet, moments later, when the earth is seen as «l'aiuola che ci fa tanto feroci» (151), and thus as the cause of our savagery, it also reveals its place and participation in the order of the universe, and implicitly its beauty. As Dante surveys the

number, magnitude, and speed of the planets («tutti e sette mi si dimostraro / quanto son grandi e quanto son veloci / e come sono in distante riparo», 148-150), he in fact sees the earth in its totality and integrity («tutta m'apparve da' colli a le foci», 153). Thus, the poet presents us with a conflictual double vision: the order and beauty of the earth can only be seen as beauty and order that have been marred by our sin.

This opposition constitutes what Kenneth Burke has termed the «motivational force of the scene»,10 which dialectically calls forth as, for example, the condition of exile calls forth the nostalgia for one's homeland - the hope for and perhaps even the faith in the resolution of that opposition, and hence the hope for a restoration of what may be

dimly perceived as an original proportion and harmony between the 330

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beauty of the earth and the beauty of the universe. But how can such restoration or redemption take place? And how does the cosmic scene itself, which provoked the pilgrim's tainted joy, prepare him for the forthcoming triumph announced by Beatrice? Answers to these questions begin to take shape as soon as we turn our attention to* some of the scenes in the poem that the present scene clearly echoes. The one that first comes to mind is inscribed in Paradiso I, 103-105, where Beatrice tells Dante of the likeness that binds the universe to God: «Le cose tutte quante / hanno ordine tra loro, e questo è forma / che l'universo a Dio fa simigliarne». We may also remember the first scene of creation and its beauty evoked by the poet in Inferno I,

37-41, which, before the threatening presence of the «lonza», temporarily transformed the pilgrim's fear into hope. Following the trajectory of the line marked by these scenes into the space outside the

poem, we encounter a similar scene in the Book of Wisdom (11:21, 22-25): You ordered all things by measure, number, weight ... In your sight the whole world is like a grain of dust that does not even tip the scales, like a drop of morning dew falling on the ground. Yet you are merciful to all, because you can do all things and overlook mens sins so that they can repent. Yes, you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence, for had you hated anything, you would not have formed

it.1 1

This passage, which must be added to those usually adduced by the commentators as Dante's probable sources (Cicero's De re publica VI, xvi, 16; VI, xx, 21-22; and Boethius' De consol, philos. II, vii, 1-6), is especially relevant because, unlike these, it speaks not only of the relative insignificance of the earth, if compared with the vastness and beauty of the cosmos, but also of God's love of all that exists , including the grain of dust that is our world, and the sinners who inhabit it. We

may now have a better understanding of what is implicit in the cosmic scene viewed by the pilgrim and, more importantly, of how, secretly and

imperceptibly, it may contribute to the perfecting of his sight, so that he may be ready for the divine drama that awaits him. Yet, in a way that

is somewhat commensurate to the pilgrim's inner action, «ch'è moto spiritale, e mai non posa / fin che la cosa amata il fa gioire» ( Pur g . XVIII, 32-33), 12 this understanding can only be tentative, needing (and

seeking) elucidation and fulfillment in the actions and scenes that follow.

The closing verse of Paradiso XXII (154) speaks of a significant moment that at once advances and arrests the action: «poscia rivolsi li 331

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occhi a li occhi belli». The turn of the pilgrim's gaze from the seven planets circling below his feet, and, specifically, from «l'aiuola che ci fa tanto feroci» to Beatrice's beautiful eyes, may at first be interpreted as a sign of the pilgrim's total detachment from and indeed negation of our

«aiuola» and the whole visible universe.13 Yet, in the light of the preceding remarks, it seems at least plausible that, at a certain level of his consciousness, and if only obscurely, he is aware of the proportion between the special creative force of the beauty of Beatrice's eyes and that of the beauty of the universe. In short, the turning of his gaze from the order and beauty of the world that gave him an imperfect delight to the beauty of Beatrice's eyes that suggests the perfecting of that delight, while stressing an upward movement of transcendence, still constitutes

an action that, dialectically, calls forth the counter-assertion of a downward pull toward our world. Needless to say, in this moment of suspense, which at once joins and separates the end of Paradiso XXII and the beginning of canto XXIII, as the pilgrim gazes into the beautiful eyes of the beloved, thus arresting the preceding upward thrust of his glance, the opposition between time and eternity, and heaven and earth, is still hidden and only dialectically implied by the sequence of scenes that have led to the present one. The opening scene of Paradiso XXIII (1-12), evoked by the vehicle

of the augello simile, as it both announces and interprets the actual scene described by the tenor, of Beatrice's expectant gaze fixed upon the Zenith, represents an important first solution and transcendence of this

opposition, and hence, for the pilgrim and the reader, a luminous moment of «tragic vision» (1-12): Come l'augello, intra l'amate fronde, posato al nido de' suoi dolci nati la notte che le cose ci nasconde, che, per veder li aspetti disiati e per trovar lo cibo onde li pasca, in che gravi labor li sono aggrati, previene il tempo in su aperta frasca, e con ardente affetto il sole aspetta, fiso guardando pur che l'alba nasca; così la donna mia stava eretta

e attenta, rivolta inver' la plaga sotto la quale il sol mostra men fretta...

We now experience a sudden return to the familiar world of nature, with

its order and beauty. The pilgrim's perspective, as he fixes his eyes on 332

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the eyes of Beatrice, is abandoned by the poet in his attempt to give form to the present paradisal scene. In sharp contrast to «l'aiuola che ci fa tanto feroci», at least a part of this insignificant and violent world is now portrayed as significant, harmonious, and beautiful, in and of itself, but also significant in the larger sense of pointing, by analogy, to the ultimate, transcendent reality, with its order and beauty, as well as its mystery. This sudden shift of focus that the narrator shares with his

reader is especially remarkable, if we recall that he, more than the pilgrim who responded with a bitter smile, expressed his disdain for our

globe's «vii sembiante» («e quel consiglio per migliore approbo / che l'ha per meno...», Par. XXII, 136-137). Yet, as we follow the development of the action represented within the space of the vehicle, we observe that, charged as this action is with symbolic force, whereby we may see our human condition reflected in it

(signaled, for example, by the pronoun ci in «la notte che le cose ci nasconde»), it manifests and reasserts the heavenward movement. Significantly, it does this not by negating but rather by affirming both the order and beauty of the world and its spiritualization. This is clearly expressed by the phrases «amate fronde», «dolci nati», «aspetti disiati», «ardente affetto», and especially by the emphasis on the bird's desire to see the longed-for faces of its fledglings and the long-awaited sun. Here, the anticipation of what is to come coincides with the anticipation of the delight in seeing the radiance or beauty of the good inherent in the objects of the bird's love: its fledglings and the sun. As soon as our attention is directed to Beatrice, we are drawn into

the scene of the pilgrim whose gaze is fixed on his beloved: «veggendola io sospesa e vaga, / fecimi qual è quei che disiando / altro vorria, e sperando s'appaga» (13-15). The focus is now on the dramatic transformation brought about in the pilgrim by his mimetic response to the beloved's act of longing expectation: now he experiences at once the desire or love for something that is not present and the satisfaction in hoping for its manifestation. Thus he experiences faith, which is «the substance of the things we hope for, and the evidence of things not

seen», as he will affirm in Par. XXIV, paraphrasing Heb 11:1, in answer to St. Peter's question, «what is faith?». Here emphasis is also given to the universal human condition of longing expectation, as the pronoun quei clearly expresses («fecimi qual è quei. . .»).

Once again, the poet has cast a glance toward our world as he interprets the secret transformation that has now occurred within the pilgrim: the opposition between the perverted beauty of «l'aiuola che ci fa tanto feroci» and the beauty of the universe, which earlier he had «organized», is now transformed into the expectation of that which will 333

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resolve it - an expectation that we saw adumbrated as a «motivational force» in the scene that represented that opposition.

The shift from expectation to vision is almost instantaneous, suggesting the transcendent nature of the faith (and hope) implicit in that expectation and of God's answer to it (16-21): Ma poco fu tra uno e altro quando, del mio attender, dico, e del vedere

lo ciel venir più e più rischiarando; e Beatrice disse: «Ecco le schiere del triunfo di Cristo e tutto 'l frutto

ricolto del girar di queste spere!».

This scene marks the beginning of the second segment or act of the canto (16-45), which contains the vision of Christ's triumph.14 As it introduces this vision, it reveals the intimate relationship between light (and hence beauty), which is what the pilgrim first apprehends, and the good (of what is described as «troops» and «fruit») that Beatrice unveils to Dante. As the action of this vision unfolds, we observe that beauty as

light is at once the source and goal for the beholders, as well as the source and goal of the poetic representation. And within the economy of this representation, it is once again Beatrice who, with her heightened beauty, mediates between that source (and goal) and Dante, protagonist

and poet (22-24): Pariemi che 'l suo viso ardesse tutto,

e li occhi avea di letizia sì pieni, che passarmen convien sanza costrutto.

As Beatrice's transfigured face and joyful eyes mirror Christ's radiance and the radiance of the blessed souls, they reveal through beauty the paradoxical hidden revelation of the Incarnation and its fruitfulness in human history. The revelation of this mystery can only be experienced through

faith. If we glance back to the pilgrim's tacit faith underlying his expectation intensified earlier by Beatrice's concealment of the name of Christ, as she announced the coming of a «turba triunfante», we must observe that this faith finds its fulfillment in the pilgrim's present

vision of Christ who has come, revealing and concealing, in Eliot's words, the reconciliation of the «impossible union / of spheres of existence...».15 The special fruitfulness of this faith lies in the fact that it both is elicited by and is a response to Christ as the Incarnate God as 334

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well as to all the blessed saved by their faith in him.16 The faith represented in Beatrice, as she gazes into the radiant Christ whom she has longingly awaited, is revealed by her growing brighter and brighter as she is transformed into the image she reflects. Thus, she is no longer

only a mediator or a sign that points to Christ and the mystery of Incarnation, and, correspondingly, to the mystery of faith, but has become herself an ineffable source and goal of Dante's vision, to a degree that surpasses all previous manifestations of her mysterious goodness and beauty, including her equally mysterious salvific effect on Dante, as lover and poet (which can be traced within the Commedia and also back to the Vita Nuova). In perfect consonance with the pilgrim's experience of the mystery of faith as manifested through and in Beatrice, the narrator «leaps» into

silence, which is paradoxically expressed by his declaration that he cannot speak of this experience. As we turn our attention from the pilgrim's vision of Beatrice's transfigured face to his vision of Christ's triumph, which the poet introduces with the famous Trivia simile, we experience with the pilgrim the paradoxically creative empty moment or caesura which, although unutterable, at once reveals his inadequacy to

fathom the mystery of Beatrice's heightened beauty and the inner transformation arising in him at the sight of that beauty, which enables

him to gaze into the new, spiritual sun that shines above him. This movement from radiance to greater radiance, and from beauty to greater

beauty thus occurs in a timeless moment of both blindness and insight that the narrator «represents» through his utterance of the necessity to speak of it «sanza costrutto». Reflecting the theological aesthetics of

vision and rapture embodied in the words of St. Paul cited at the beginning of this lectura , here Dante is transformed by the object of his

vision. This scene thus represents the corrected version of his dream of

the «femmina balba», at the opening of Purgatorio XIX (7-33), in which, parodying the sun's and love's creative power, with his gaze he transforms the repulsive, stammering woman into a beautiful siren, who

sings the alluring promise of satisfying every desire («e qual meco s'ausa, / rado sen parte; si tutto l'appago!», 23-24).

Suddenly, the narrator's voice turns from the declaration of ineffability to fabulation (25-30): Quale ne' plenilunïi sereni Trivia ride tra le ninfe etterne

che dipingon lo ciel per tutti i seni, viď i' sopra migliaia di lucerne un sol che tutte quante l'accendea, come fa '1 nostro le viste superne. 335

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If one of the striking features of this passage is the disproportion and lack of logical relationship between vehicle and tenor, for Christ as a sun is here compared with Trivia the moon;17 and if these features are part of an appropriate mimesis or «figure» of the pilgrim's extraordinary experience as a spectator of the theo-drama of Christ's triumph, it does

not necessarily mean that the function of this figure «is purely emotional, and as such not only successful, but among the most 'convincing' in the poem...», or (citing the same critic) that «the finer level of Dante's communication with the reader . . . .is not the objective level but the sentimental one».18 This response - obviously rooted in

the Romantic fallacy - is not consonant with Dante's representation and its underlying medieval aesthetics. Contrary to the sentimental notion of aesthetic contemplation as merely a kind of heightened emotion and lyricism, this aesthetics is based on the idea that beauty is primarily connected with knowledge.19 While undoubtedly not absent from our passage, sentiment or emotion is rather of an intellectual kind,

being more the delight of vision, the inner radiance or, as in St. Thomas, the «aesthetic visio» which «comes to birth as the culmination and completion of intellectual knowledge at its most complex level».20

As we return to our passage, we witness the interplay of the knowledge of beauty and the knowledge of the truth and the good inherent in the Incarnation, with beauty now leading the way to this

good and this truth, and now appearing as their manifestation and splendor. In the vehicle of the Trivia simile the poet foregrounds the beauty of creation as the splendor experienced by humankind beholding a moonlit night. From this perspective, the moon appears as a goddess, whose beauty is manifested through her smile, and the stars are seen as

nymphs who share that smile. The special force of this metaphor, because of its pervasive presence in Dante's poetry - from the Vita Nuova to the Commedia - is too well known to review here. It will

suffice to recall this passage from the Convivio (III, viii, 11-12): «E che è ridere se non una corruscazione de la dilettazione de l'anima, cioè uno lume apparente di fuori secondo sta dentro?».21 Thus, we may see the smiling Trivia as the embodiment of the spiritualization of all creation through beauty: the beauty of the moon and of the stars and the beauty of the human soul by analogy are represented and experienced as one,

while remaining distinct. Does this point to the mystery of the Incarnation represented in the tenor? For the moment it appears only as a possible, veiled suggestion that may or may not be strengthened by the analysis of other features of the vehicle. One of these is that the moon, which is traditionally identified with 336

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the impermanence of temporal existence, in Dante's cosmology is also,

like all celestial bodies, everlasting (in Par . II, 34, the poet calls it «etterna margarita»). Another significant feature is that, as full moon, and thus at the height of its perfection or integritas , and therefore its beauty, it appears as a source of light that, like the sun, shines upon the other stars, which are identified with eternity (as «ninfe etterne»). This dual nature or «role» of the moon, symbolically reconciling time and eternity, the human and the divine, resembles the disproportion and paradox mentioned above as the form that characterizes the relationship between the vehicle and the tenor in the Trivia simile. The paradoxical union of opposites marks not only this relationship, but is evident in the vehicle itself, in a manner that more secretly embodies the form, and

hence the beauty that helps to bring to light the beauty of the Incarnation.

A close reading of the very texture of the Trivia simile brings out the same pattern of consonant disproportion, first within the vehicle itself, and then between the vehicle and the tenor. The former has already been brought to light, without however being linked to the mystery of Incarnation inscribed in the tenor, by Mario Fubini.22

The luminosity of the first term of the comparison (closely dependent on darkness and the nocturnal blue sky) is not described, in contrast with the second («vid'i' ... un sol...»), but is directly presented by the poet and immediately experienced by the reader as a content that lies within the form, at the moment of performance . The perception of the luminous /'s, in harmonious contrast with the dark m's and the blue e's, coincides with our inner vision of the luminous Trivia and the attendant nymphs. In fact, as we pronounce the verses, the sequence of ¿'s - lengthened by the enjambements and the diaereses - become for

us a thread of light that brightens us as we, like Trivia, smile. This «corruscazione de la dilettazione de l'anima» reminds us of the

spiritualization and beauty of creation identified above as a significant feature of the vehicle, which points to Christ as the new, spiritual sun represented in the tenor. Dante has thus given form to Christ's descent to the world and to the effect of his redemption in the world.

In the tenor of the Trivia simile the pilgrim appears as a confident beholder of Christ as a sun. The narrator in fact likens this to the

familiar, universal experience of seeing the sun here on earth. Remembering that in the preceding canto Dante had for the first time sustained the vision of the physical sun {Par. XXII, 142-143), we can be more certain of such confidence. Yet, this confidence suffers a sudden reversal. As Dante faces the spiritual sun, his vision lacks the power to sustain it: «per la viva luce trasparea / la lucente sustanza tanto chiara / 337

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nel viso mio, che non la sostenea» (31-33). Here the poet has constructed an image of light on light, the first symbolizing the radiance

of the blessed, through which the second light or glory of Christ's resurrected body appears to the pilgrim. Significantly, it is the light of Christ's glorified body that, surpassing the other light, Dante's eyes cannot sustain. Thus, while the stress here is on the beauty of Christ's

humanity, this is, paradoxically, beyond human comprehension. In this

paradox we are now tacitly invited to identify the disclosure of the pattern of consonant disproportion that characterized the Trivia simile.

Hence, what at first appeared incongruous or disproportionate, in relation to the event of Christ's appearance, now seems cogent and consonant to the representation of the concealed revelation of the mystery of the Incarnation.

By virtue of this mystery and in its presence the pilgrim experiences, accordingly, the creative paradox of blindness and insight. Once again, through the tragic opposition that he has helped organize, he attains tragic vision (34-39): Oh Beatrice, dolce guida e cara! Ella mi disse: «Quel che ti sobranza è virtù da cui nulla si ripara.

Quivi è la sapienza e la possanza ch'aprì le strade tra '1 cielo e la terra,

onde fu già sì lunga disianza».

The pilgrim's empty moment of failure and the corresponding rupture in

the action are filled by the narrator's exclamation, which like a prayer seems to express the pilgrim's faith and hope in Beatrice's intercession. Yet this comes not as a demonstration or an unveiling of a truth, but rather as an act of faith, which prompts Dante to continue gazing, with faith equal to that of his guide, into the mystery represented by the

triumph of Christ. Meanwhile, in the light of Beatrice's words, the pilgrim and the narrator should, if only tacitly, experience the transcendence of tragic vision, seeing resolved the previously organized

opposition between heaven and earth. They can no longer smile disdainfully at the earth's «vii sembiante», nor can they view it with despair or detachment as «l'aiuola che ci fa tanto feroci», for Christ is identified by Beatrice with the wisdom and the power that, as God's response to humanity's lunga disianza (as interpreted by the «augello», and by Beatrice and Dante in the first scenes of the canto), opened the roads between heaven and earth.

But what is this wisdom and this power of which Beatrice speaks,

paraphrasing St. Paul? And how are they part of the mystery of 338

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Incarnation, and, correspondingly, of the problem of faith? The answers may be found in the passage from which these words are taken (1 Cor

1:22-25): And so while the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here

are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

These words shed light on the pattern of paradox that so far informed Dante's representation of Christ's triumph. But, again, like Beatrice's words, theirs is not the light of demonstration of the truth and the good

of the Incarnation, for they only re-present it as mystery, whose concealed and revealed truth and goodness can be encountered through an

equally mysterious faith.23 Dante represents this encounter, in the passage that immediately follows Beatrice's words, through contrasting images of darkness and light, and through metaphors that seem to echo the mystical terminology of Richard of St. Victor's Benjamin Major , namely the dilatatio and excessus mentis 24 (40-45). The moment of fruition of this experience, which may be identified

with Richard of St. Victor's sublevado mentisi emerges suddenly, without solution of continuity, with these words that Beatrice addresses to Dante: «Apri li occhi e riguarda qual son io; / tu hai vedute cose, che

possente / se' fatto a sostener lo riso mio» (46-48). Dante's encounter with the Incarnate God and all the faithful has made him, like the blessed «lamps», capable of reflecting Christ's splendor, and thus His

«possanza». Beatrice, in fact tells Dante that he has now become «possente» in order to gaze upon her being («riguarda qual son io») through the radiance of her smile. In the general economy of Dante's journey, his erotic quest finds its fulfillment in the contemplation of the

beloved's spiritual beauty, as he, after the «decenne sete» he has endured, can finally sustain the vision of her «mirabile riso», of which he spoke in the Vita Nuova (XXI).26 Within the economy of the Commedia , this

is the epiphany (which foreshadows the final epiphany of Beatrice's

beauty of Par. XXX, 19-33) of the action whose prologue was represented in Purgatorio XXX, 73, where Beatrice addressed Dante with these words: «Guardaci ben! Ben son, ben son Beatrice».

Unlike Paolo-as-Lancelot, who experienced the fatal ambiguity of wishing carnally to possess Francesca-as-Guinivere's «disiato riso» {Inf. 339

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V, 133-136), Dante is now beyond such ambiguity of masking fol amor with fin amor, as he beholds the divine beauty of Beatrice's soul. Nor does he risk sharing Semele's fate, (Ovid, Met. Ill, 287-315), evoked by Beatrice in Paradiso XXI (4-12), for his «mortai podere» {Par. XXI, 1 1), which earlier would have been shattered if Beatrice had smiled, has now

been transformed into a new power that is both human and divine through his vision of Christ's splendor and the splendor of the blessed throng.27 Similarly, here the pilgrim appears as the corrected, Christian version of another Ovidian figure from classical mythology, Actaeon

{Met. III, 141-249).28 The Diana of the classical myth, who punishes Actaeon for having beheld her naked beauty, has been transformed by Dante into the smiling Trivia and the smiling Beatrice, whose beauty constitutes not a destructive but a creative force that mirrors that of

Christ's radiant beauty. But Dante's vision of his beloved's smile is ineffable (55-63): Se mo sonasser tutte quelle lingue che Polimnïa con le suore fero

del latte lor dolcissimo più pingue, per aiutarmi, al millesmo del vero non si verria, cantando il santo riso e quanto il santo aspetto facea mero; e così, figurando il paradiso, convien saltar lo sacrato poema, come chi trova suo cammin riciso.

Paradoxically, however, while admitting defeat, the poet sings Beatrice's smile and radiant face by calling them holy, and by the incantatory power of the iteration of this word, whereby the transcendent reality of

her beauty is appropriately rendered; and he does represent Paradise, as reflected by her beauty, through the daring image of the sacred poem that

leaps over an obstacle, thus continuing its journey.

The creative force of this image is then expanded as the poet presents himself to the reader at once as a wayfarer who trembles under

the weight he carries and as an unsparing helmsman who crosses the ocean's treacherous waters with his audacious prow (64-69): Ma chi pensasse il ponderoso tema e l'omero mortai che se ne carca, noi biasmerebbe se sott' esso trema:

non è pareggio da picciola barca quel che fendendo va l'ardita prora, né da nocchier ch'a sé medesmo parca.


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As we follow the movement of the action represented here - from the eminently tragic passion of trembling (and hence fear) to the daring élan

of the poet-helmsman - we ask: wherein lies the secret cause of this transformation? We may answer (as we tremble and yet dare attempt the

dangerous crossing of interpretation with our «picciola barca») that if an

unbridgeable gap separates the pilgrim's power to endure the sight of Beatrice's smile and the poet's power to represent this beauty, there must

also be some proportion between these two powers, for both have their

source in God's «sapienza» and «possanza». In fact, Dante calls his poem sacrato , suggesting that it is both a human and divine creation (cf. Par. II, 7-8: «L'acqua ch'io prendo già mai non si corse; / Minerva spira,

e conducemi Apollo»). The poem's leaping across the obstacle of making the invisible visible is at once a sign of failure and victory, for as verba , not unlike Christ the Verbum (as manifested in history and in the present paradisal scene), at once conceal and reveal the transcendent res.

Another sign that points to the secret cause of the poet's «leap» from fear and trembling to his audacity to continue representing Paradise

is given by his identifying himself with the daring helmsman who does not spare himself, and is therefore like one who imitates Christ, heeding

His words, «Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save

it» (Mk 9:35-36).2^ The figure of Dante the poet now appears as one who, resembling Christ and the pilgrim, is also possente. In fact, in the

words of St. Paul echoed by Beatrice (37-39), this is the power (and wisdom) of self-renunciation, of the Crucified Christ. Imitating this supreme paradigm of creative self-renunciation, the author's creative power, like the power to see the beauty of the Other (as the pilgrim sees the beauty of Beatrice), also coincides with self-surrender. Significantly, this self-surrender is bound indissolubly to showing humanity the way

to salvation, as Dante, pilgrim and poet, as well as the sacred poem itself, imitates Christ's «opening roads between Heaven and earth», for

He is «the Way, the Truth and the Life» (Jo 14:6). By virtue of the debita proportio or consonantia with its theme, we may experience the beauty of the poet's representation of Paradise mirrored by Beatrice's ineffable smile, provided that we also, with self-renunciation, if only approximately, be th & figura that the poet has portrayed.30

But the poet will not allow us to rest in our fruition of this figura of Paradise, fearing that, like the pilgrim, we may succumb to the allure

of a single vision. He forces us, along with the pilgrim, suddenly to shift focus, as he constructs this scene, which marks the beginning of 341

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the fourth segment of our canto (70-78): «Perché la faccia mia sì t'innamora,

che tu non ti rivolgi al bel giardino che sotto i raggi di Cristo s'infiora? Quivi è la rosa in che '1 verbo divino carne si fece; quivi son li gigli al cui odor si prese il buon cammino».

Così Beatrice; e io, che a' suoi consigli tutto era pronto, ancora mi rendei

a la battaglia de' debili cigli.

By virtue of the break in the action, the pilgrim is forced to recognize

the limits of identifying Paradise with Beatrice's beauty and, correspondingly, with his love of this beauty.31 As he suffers the opposition he has helped organize, between what appears to him as Paradise and the Paradise that Beatrice now discloses, he transcends his earlier view and experience, not by denying Beatrice's beauty and its power to reflect Paradise, but by seeing it as part of a greater beauty: the

«bel giardino» of all the blessed who participate in Christ's splendor, in whose midst stand out Mary as a rose and the Apostles as lilies.

But wherein lies the new beauty of the «garden» to which the pilgrim must now turn his gaze, and which will increase his love? And what are some of the formal elements that the poem offers us so that through them we may share the pilgrim's vision, and ultimately see as the poet sees? Finally, how does this beauty represent the splendor of the true and the good inherent in the object of Dante's vision? We may first answer, in general terms, that here, as in the preceding scenes, beauty shines forth in the space that at once separates and unites the thing seen and the thing named, attaining its epiphany when the two converge into a single vision. This beauty, or splendor formae , as the radiance of the thing-in-itself, is also the radiance of a mystery , which is

experienced together with the radiance of intelligibility, before our complete surrender to the secret, silent delight in the beautiful.3^

The pilgrim witnesses the manifestation of the mystery of Incarnation and the mystery of faith as represented by the blessed, the

Apostles, and especially Mary who as the Rosa Mystica soon will emerge as the central figure in the ensuing scenes of Dante's theo-drama. Significantly, here Beatrice's role is that of a co-creator of the divine

spectacle, as she transforms the blessed lamps into flowers by simply

naming them as she points to them («Quivi è la rosa ... quivi son li gigli»). Similarly, Christ is not like a sun, but is a sun, as she speaks

of His rays («i raggi di Cristo») that make the garden blossom. The 342

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deictic form of her discourse, which echoes and parallels the one used earlier when she pointed to Christ («Quivi è la sapienza e la possanza»), underscores the importance of looking at the scene directly, without commentary or interpretation, so that the beholder may experience the delight of apprehending the beauty or splendor of a rose, lilies, and all the other flowers in a garden, as he sees the divine spectacle of lights,

simply because these beautiful things are there, for «the beautiful fulfills itself in a kind of self-determination and enjoys its own self-representation».33 Since this beauty is universally recognized, eliciting at least a tacit assent, and hence the faith in its legitimacy or truth,34 Beatrice's words

and the images they evoke are thus the appropriate, consonant representation of the experience of faith, the human response to God's

revelation through the Incarnation. These remarks by Hans Urs von Balthasar on the interrelatedness of the beautiful and faith may be useful

to our reading: «The quality of 'being-in-itself which belongs to the beautiful, the demand the beautiful itself makes to be allowed to be what it is, the demand, therefore, that we renounce our attempts to control and

manipulate it, in order truly to be able to be happy by enjoying it: all of this is, in the natural realm, the foundation and foreshadowing of what in the realm of revelation and grace will be the attitude of faith».35

This is preeminently true of Mary, in whom the natural and the supernatural, the human and the divine are mysteriously joined through her faith in the Word («I am the handmaid of the Lord ... let what you

have said be done to me», Lk 1:38). Beatrice's words, «Quivi è la rosa in che '1 verbo divino / carne si fece» (73-74), capture the full force of the beauty of the mystery of Incarnation and faith that the pilgrim must

attempt to fathom, by suggesting that in Mary this mystery is not merely reflected on a spiritual level, as it is in Beatrice (and in all the blessed), but rather is experienced both in the depth of her soul and her body. Hers is not only the spiritual communion of a creature with the Creator, for in her the Word became flesh («carne si fece»). Through Mary, therefore, the beauty of Paradise is manifested both as an earthly and transcendent garden, whose unutterable reality, as witnessed by the pilgrim, at once encompasses and surpasses the one he saw reflected in

Beatrice's «santo riso». Mary's special beauty is expressed by the identity of the rose with the womb. Significantly, Mary's womb as a symbol of Paradise was announced, in another garden entered by the pilgrim, that of the valley of the negligent princes, which, as evening

falls, is guarded against the serpent by two angels who come from Heaven («Ambo vegnon del grembo di Maria», Purg. VIII, 37). While Beatrice's words help the pilgrim bridge the chasm between 343

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the natural and the supernatural, the human and the divine, as they again

turn his gaze to the drama he is witnessing («ancora mi rendei / a la battaglia de' debili cigli»), they cannot, however, enable him to fathom the mystery of Incarnation by beholding Christ's splendor. It is Christ Who helps him win the battle of his feeble brows, bringing him to the

threshold of this mystery, by withdrawing into the Empyrean («O benigna vertù che sì li 'mprenti, / sù ťessaltasti per largirmi loco / a li occhi lì che non ťeran possenti», 85-87). This power, adumbrated earlier

in Beatrice's words, is the power of self-renunciation, which, paradoxically, coincides with Christ's exaltation as he ascends to the Empyrean. As Christ disappears, the pilgrim focuses his attention on Mary (who has now become «lo maggior foco»), his mind totally absorbed by the object of his vision: «Il nome del bel fior ch'io sempre invoco / e mane e sera, tutto mi ristrinse / l'animo ad avvisar lo maggior foco...»

(88-90). The creative force of language as symbolic action lies in the fact that what moves the pilgrim, drawing him out of himself, is Mary as mirrored at once in her name and the image of the rose (the «beautiful flower» par excellence). Like Beatrice, he now participates in the divine creat