Aspirational Poverty

Paradiso 11 begins with an apostrophe to the senseless cares of mortals from which Dante has now been released. In the apostrophe Dante lists the senseless cares that grip men’s souls:

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 a l’ozio,                   
quando, da tutte queste cose sciolto,               
con Beatrice m’era suso in cielo                
cotanto gloriosamente accolto.           (Par. 11.1-12)
O senseless cares of mortals, how deceiving               
are syllogistic reasonings that bring               
your wings to flight so low, to earthly things!
One studied law and one the Aphorisms
of the physicians; one was set on priesthood
and one, through force or fraud, on rulership;
one meant to plunder, one to politick;               
one labored, tangled in delights of flesh,              
and one was fully bent on indolence;                  
while I, delivered from our servitude               
to all these things, was in the height of heaven               
with Beatrice, so gloriously welcomed. 

This passage lists all the forms of professional attainment to which a man could then aspire (a list that has changed remarkably little; what has changed is the membership of the caste of aspirants): the law, medicine, priesthood, rulership, business and politics. The list is framed negatively from the outset, by being placed under the rubric “insensata cura de’ mortali.” Moreover, a negative spin enters the catalogue of professions when we reach the word “rubare” (to plunder) in verse 7 and continues in the next two verses, which describe delights of the flesh and indolence. Nonetheless, despite the negative framing, the opening of Paradiso 11 does in fact provide a run-through of the various professions available to the educated male elite of Dante’s day. In this way the poet offers a fascinating contrast to Paradiso 8, where professional attainment is viewed not negatively—as a mortal care from which to be released—but positively, as the glue of the life of the polis. In Paradiso 8 the context is Aristotelian, and Carlo Martello explicitly refers to Aristotle’s Politics. “Would it be worse for man on earth if he were not a citizen?” in Paradiso 8.115-16 is a question that hearkens back to Aristotle, Politics I.1.2: “homo natura civile animal est” (“Man is by nature a social animal”). In Paradiso 8, the question that follows is: can man be a citizen if there are not different ways of living in society, requiring different talents and duties? The answer is that we need difference in the social sphere, and therefore men are born with different dispositions and talents:

«E puot’ elli esser, se giù non si vive               
diversamente per diversi offici?               
Non, se ’l maestro vostro ben vi scrive».      (Par. 8.118-20)                    
“Can there be citizens if men below                
are not diverse, with diverse duties? No,                
if what your master writes is accurate.”

Paradiso 8 offers a celebration of different types of professional attainment, while Paradiso 11 views the same professional aspirations as burdensome concerns and celebrates the pilgrim’s release from all such cares.   There is, however, one aspiration that Paradiso 11 will view kindly, and that is the aspiration to live a life of militant poverty in the mode of St. Francis of Assisi. It is to that aspiration and to that lifestyle that the canto now transitions.   Paradiso 11 offers a great tribute to St. Francis, lover of poverty and founder of the Franciscan order, while Paradiso 12 offers a great tribute to St. Dominic, scholar-warrior and founder of the Dominican order. Neither Francis nor Dominic is present in the heaven of the sun. Rather, two renowned and exemplary members of the orders that they founded, St. Thomas the Dominican and St. Bonaventure the Franciscan, are present and each speaks to the pilgrim. In the chiastic fashion that is typical of the circularized discourse of this heaven, St. Thomas the Dominican will celebrate the life of St. Francis (in Paradiso 11) and St. Bonaventure the Franciscan will celebrate the life of St. Dominic (in Paradiso 12).   How do we get to this point? The “plot” moves forward, as is typical in Paradiso, by way of the articulation of the pilgrim’s dubbi. The hyper-literariness of this heaven, as discussed in Chapter 9 of The Undivine Comedy, is evident from St. Thomas’ presentation of the pilgrim’s queries in the form of verbatim quotations. Dante’s dubbi take the form of confusion over two obscure statements from St. Thomas’s previous discourse as recorded in Paradiso 10.   The first question regards the meaning of the cryptic phrase “U’ ben s’impingua” (where they fatten well) from Paradiso 10.96, here repeated verbatim in Paradiso 11.25. The second question regards the meaning of “Non surse il secondo” (There never rose a second) from Paradiso 10.114:

Tu dubbi, e hai voler che si ricerna
in sì aperta e ’n sì distesa lingua
lo dicer mio, ch’al tuo sentir si sterna,
ove dinanzi dissi “U’ ben s’impingua”,   
e là u’ dissi “Non nacque il secondo”;
e qui è uopo che ben si distingua.      (Par. 11.22-27)
You are in doubt; you want an explanation
in language that is open and expanded,
so clear that it contents your understanding
of two points where I said, “They fatten well,”               
and where I said, “No other ever rose”—               
and here one has to make a clear distinction. 

The second dubbio as expressed above, “Non nacque il secondo” (A second was never born [Par. 11.26]), is a slight variation on Paradiso 10.114, where we found “surse” rather than “nacque”: “a veder tanto non surse il secondo” (a second never rose with so much vision). The second dubbio will not be addressed until Paradiso 13, so we will put it aside.   The replies of the Paradiso frequently range quite far into prehistory before focusing on the target. In this case the answer to the first dubbio takes the form of a history of the two great orders founded in the thirteenth century, the Franciscans and the Dominicans. We should bear in mind that, when Dante is writing, these two orders are still new among the great religious orders: the Franciscan order was founded in 1209, in which year St. Francis obtained from Pope Innocent III an unwritten approbation of his rule; the Order of Preachers (also known as the Dominican order) was approved in 1216.   The two great mendicant orders, founded recently and contemporaneously, were important rivals in the fabric of urban life in Dante’s time. We think of Florence: on one side of the Duomo is Santa Maria Novella, the Dominican church, and on the other side is Santa Croce, the Franciscan church. The heaven of the sun offers a testimonial to the importance of these orders in cultural terms, an importance that causes Dante to respond to their histories at great length.   St. Thomas explains that God ordained two saints to support his church. Embarking on the theme of the equality of these two saints, St. Thomas says that he will speak of Francis, with the understanding however that to praise one of the two great saints is tantamount to praising both:

De l’un dirò, però che d’amendue               
si dice l’un pregiando, qual ch’om prende,               
perch’ad un fine fur l’opere sue. (Par. 11.40-42)   
I shall devote my tale to one, because               
in praising either prince one praises both:               
the labors of the two were toward one goal.

Chapter 9 of The Undivine Comedy analyzes the metanarrative motifs of this heaven, devoted to problematizing narrative and language: the canti of this heaven explore the impossibility of the trope “to speak of one is to speak of both”. Due to the inescapable temporality of narrative it is not possible to speak of the two saints simultaneously or in the same language; they must be praised sequentially and in different language.   Dante allocates rhetorical tropes in the life of Francis and the life of Dominic according to a complex compensatory system of “checks and balances”:

If the geographical periphrasis introducing Francis’s birthplace points to the east, “Orïente,” Dominic’s periphrasis points west; if there is etymological wordplay regarding Assisi in canto 11, canto 12 refers to the etymologies of the names of Dominic, his father, and his mother; if Francis’s birthplace is a rising sun, an “orto” (11.55), Dominic is the cultivator of Christ’s garden, Christ’s “orto” (12.72, 104). This same principle of balance informs the metaphors that govern the vite : if Francis is portrayed chiefly as a lover and a husband, and if we think of his life in terms of the mystical marriage to Poverty, nonetheless Dominic’s baptism is characterized as an espousal of faith and he is “l’amoroso drudo / de la fede cristiana” (“the amorous lover of the Christian faith” [12.55-56]); if Francis’s life is modeled on Christ’s, nonetheless the poem’s first triple rhyme on “Cristo” belongs to the life of Dominic (12.71, 73, 75). In writing the life of Dominic, Dante seems to have been intent on picking up the rhetorical and metaphorical components of the life of Francis: if Francis is an “archimandrite” (11.99), a prince of shepherds in an ecclesiastical Greek locution, Dominic is not only “nostro patrïarca” (11.121), a term that displays the same linguistic provenance, but also a “pastor” (11.131), whose sheep are wandering from the fold. Although we think of Dominic as the more military, and of Francis as the more loving, in fact Francis is a campione as well as Dominic, and Dominic is a lover as well as Francis. Even the agricultural images of Dominic as the keeper of Christ’s vineyard and as a torrent sent to root out heretical weeds are anticipated by Francis’s return “al frutto de l’italica erba” (to the harvest of the Italian fields [11.105]) and reprised in the image of the Franciscans as tares that will be excluded from the harvest bin. (The Undivine Comedy, p. 199)

Below is a chart that breaks down the eulogies to Francis and to Dominic (p. 217 of The Undivine Comedy), showing how carefully Dante orchestrates the rhetorical balancing of the two saints.   The life of St. Francis parses the major milestones of the saint’s life, stressing always his passionate love affair with Lady Poverty. It is followed by a coda on the decadence of the Dominican order, which will finally address directly the pilgrim’s dubbio (“U’ ben s’impingua” in Par. 10.96 and Par. 11.25). The Dominicans used to “fatten” when they were good sheep, before they began to stray.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 9, “The Heaven of the Sun as a Meditation on Narrative,” entire.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Paradiso 11: Aspirational Poverty.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/paradiso/paradiso-11/

About the Commento

1O insensata cura de’ mortali,
2quanto son difettivi silogismi
3quei che ti fanno in basso batter l’ali!

4Chi dietro a iura e chi ad amforismi
5sen giva, e chi seguendo sacerdozio,
6e chi regnar per forza o per sofismi,

7e chi rubare e chi civil negozio,
8chi nel diletto de la carne involto
9s’affaticava e chi si dava a l’ozio,

10quando, da tutte queste cose sciolto,
11con Bëatrice m’era suso in cielo
12cotanto glorïosamente accolto.

13Poi che ciascuno fu tornato ne lo
14punto del cerchio in che avanti s’era,
15fermossi, come a candellier candelo.

16E io senti’ dentro a quella lumera
17che pria m’avea parlato, sorridendo
18incominciar, faccendosi più mera:

19«Così com’ io del suo raggio resplendo,
20sì, riguardando ne la luce etterna,
21li tuoi pensieri onde cagioni apprendo.

22Tu dubbi, e hai voler che si ricerna
23in sì aperta e ’n sì distesa lingua
24lo dicer mio, ch’al tuo sentir si sterna,

25ove dinanzi dissi: “U’ ben s’impingua”,
26e là u’ dissi: “Non nacque il secondo”;
27e qui è uopo che ben si distingua.

28La provedenza, che governa il mondo
29con quel consiglio nel quale ogne aspetto
30creato è vinto pria che vada al fondo,

31però che andasse ver’ lo suo diletto
32la sposa di colui ch’ad alte grida
33disposò lei col sangue benedetto,

34in sé sicura e anche a lui più fida,
35due principi ordinò in suo favore,
36che quinci e quindi le fosser per guida.

37L’un fu tutto serafico in ardore;
38l’altro per sapïenza in terra fue
39di cherubica luce uno splendore.

40De l’un dirò, però che d’amendue
41si dice l’un pregiando, qual ch’om prende,
42perch’ ad un fine fur l’opere sue.

43Intra Tupino e l’acqua che discende
44del colle eletto dal beato Ubaldo,
45fertile costa d’alto monte pende,

46onde Perugia sente freddo e caldo
47da Porta Sole; e di rietro le piange
48per grave giogo Nocera con Gualdo.

49Di questa costa, là dov’ ella frange
50più sua rattezza, nacque al mondo un sole,
51come fa questo talvolta di Gange.

52Però chi d’esso loco fa parole,
53non dica Ascesi, ché direbbe corto,
54ma Orïente, se proprio dir vuole.

55Non era ancor molto lontan da l’orto,
56ch’el cominciò a far sentir la terra
57de la sua gran virtute alcun conforto;

58ché per tal donna, giovinetto, in guerra
59del padre corse, a cui, come a la morte,
60la porta del piacer nessun diserra;

61e dinanzi a la sua spirital corte
62et coram patre le si fece unito;
63poscia di dì in dì l’amò più forte.

64Questa, privata del primo marito,
65millecent’ anni e più dispetta e scura
66fino a costui si stette sanza invito;

67né valse udir che la trovò sicura
68con Amiclate, al suon de la sua voce,
69colui ch’a tutto ’l mondo fé paura;

70né valse esser costante né feroce,
71sì che, dove Maria rimase giuso,
72ella con Cristo pianse in su la croce.

73Ma perch’ io non proceda troppo chiuso,
74Francesco e Povertà per questi amanti
75prendi oramai nel mio parlar diffuso.

76La lor concordia e i lor lieti sembianti,
77amore e maraviglia e dolce sguardo
78facieno esser cagion di pensier santi;

79tanto che ’l venerabile Bernardo
80si scalzò prima, e dietro a tanta pace
81corse e, correndo, li parve esser tardo.

82Oh ignota ricchezza! oh ben ferace!
83Scalzasi Egidio, scalzasi Silvestro
84dietro a lo sposo, sì la sposa piace.

85Indi sen va quel padre e quel maestro
86con la sua donna e con quella famiglia
87che già legava l’umile capestro.

88Né li gravò viltà di cuor le ciglia
89per esser fi’ di Pietro Bernardone,
90né per parer dispetto a maraviglia;

91ma regalmente sua dura intenzione
92ad Innocenzio aperse, e da lui ebbe
93primo sigillo a sua religïone.

94Poi che la gente poverella crebbe
95dietro a costui, la cui mirabil vita
96meglio in gloria del ciel si canterebbe,

97di seconda corona redimita
98fu per Onorio da l’Etterno Spiro
99la santa voglia d’esto archimandrita.

100E poi che, per la sete del martiro,
101ne la presenza del Soldan superba
102predicò Cristo e li altri che ’l seguiro,

103e per trovare a conversione acerba
104troppo la gente e per non stare indarno,
105redissi al frutto de l’italica erba,

106nel crudo sasso intra Tevero e Arno
107da Cristo prese l’ultimo sigillo,
108che le sue membra due anni portarno.

109Quando a colui ch’a tanto ben sortillo
110piacque di trarlo suso a la mercede
111ch’el meritò nel suo farsi pusillo,

112a’ frati suoi, sì com’ a giuste rede,
113raccomandò la donna sua più cara,
114e comandò che l’amassero a fede;

115e del suo grembo l’anima preclara
116mover si volle, tornando al suo regno,
117e al suo corpo non volle altra bara.

118Pensa oramai qual fu colui che degno
119collega fu a mantener la barca
120di Pietro in alto mar per dritto segno;

121e questo fu il nostro patrïarca;
122per che qual segue lui, com’ el comanda,
123discerner puoi che buone merce carca.

124Ma ’l suo pecuglio di nova vivanda
125è fatto ghiotto, sì ch’esser non puote
126che per diversi salti non si spanda;

127e quanto le sue pecore remote
128e vagabunde più da esso vanno,
129più tornano a l’ovil di latte vòte.

130Ben son di quelle che temono ’l danno
131e stringonsi al pastor; ma son sì poche,
132che le cappe fornisce poco panno.

133Or, se le mie parole non son fioche,
134se la tua audïenza è stata attenta,
135se ciò ch’è detto a la mente revoche,

136in parte fia la tua voglia contenta,
137perché vedrai la pianta onde si scheggia,
138e vedra’ il corrègger che argomenta

139“U’ ben s’impingua, se non si vaneggia”».

O senseless cares of mortals, how deceiving
are syllogistic reasonings that bring
your wings to flight so low, to earthly things!

One studied law and one the Aphorisms
of the physicians; one was set on priesthood
and one, through force or fraud, on rulership;

one meant to plunder, one to politick;
one labored, tangled in delights of flesh,
and one was fully bent on indolence;

while I, delivered from our servitude
to all these things, was in the height of heaven
with Beatrice, so gloriously welcomed.

After each of those spirits had returned
to that place in the ring where it had been,
it halted, like a candle in its stand.

And from within the splendor that had spoken
to me before, I heard him, as he smiled—
become more radiant, more pure—begin:

“Even as I grow bright within Its rays,
so, as I gaze at the Eternal Light,
I can perceive your thoughts and see their cause.

You are in doubt; you want an explanation
in language that is open and expanded,
so clear that it contents your understanding

of two points: where I said, ‘They fatten well,’
and where I said, ‘No other ever rose’—
and here one has to make a clear distinction.

The Providence that rules the world with wisdom
so fathomless that creatures’ intellects
are vanquished and can never probe its depth,

so that the Bride of Him who, with loud cries,
had wed her with His blessed blood, might meet
her Love with more fidelity and more

assurance in herself, on her behalf
commanded that there be two princes, one
on this side, one on that side, as her guides.

One prince was all seraphic in his ardor;
the other, for his wisdom, had possessed
the splendor of cherubic light on earth.

I shall devote my tale to one, because
in praising either prince one praises both:
the labors of the two were toward one goal.

Between Topino’s stream and that which flows
down from the hill the blessed Ubaldo chose,
from a high peak there hangs a fertile slope;

from there Perugia feels both heat and cold
at Porta Sole, while behind it sorrow
Nocera and Gualdo under their hard yoke.

From this hillside, where it abates its rise,
a sun was born into the world, much like
this sun when it is climbing from the Ganges.

Therefore let him who names this site not say
Ascesi, which would be to say too little,
but Orient, if he would name it rightly.

That sun was not yet very distant from
his rising, when he caused the earth to take
some comfort from his mighty influence;

for even as a youth, he ran to war
against his father, on behalf of her—
the lady unto whom, just as to death,

none willingly unlocks the door; before
his spiritual court et coram patre,
he wed her; day by day he loved her more.

She was bereft of her first husband; scorned,
obscure, for some eleven hundred years,
until that sun came, she had had no suitor.

Nor did it help her when men heard that he
who made earth tremble found her unafraid—
serene, with Amyclas—when he addressed her;

nor did her constancy and courage help
when she, even when Mary stayed below,
suffered with Christ upon the cross. But so

that I not tell my tale too darkly, you
may now take Francis and take Poverty
to be the lovers meant in my recounting.

Their harmony and their glad looks, their love
and wonder and their gentle contemplation,
served others as a source of holy thoughts;

so much so, that the venerable Bernard
went barefoot first; he hurried toward such peace;
and though he ran, he thought his pace too slow.

O wealth unknown! O good that is so fruitful!
Egidius goes barefoot, and Sylvester,
behind the groom—the bride delights them so.

Then Francis—father, master—goes his way
with both his lady and his family,
the lowly cord already round their waists.

Nor did he lower his eyes in shame because
he was the son of Pietro Bernardone,
nor for the scorn and wonder he aroused;

but like a sovereign, he disclosed in full—
to Innocent—the sternness of his rule;
from him he had the first seal of his order.

And after many of the poor had followed
Francis, whose wondrous life were better sung
by glory’s choir in the Empyrean,

the sacred purpose of this chief of shepherds
was then encircled with a second crown
by the Eternal Spirit through Honorius.

And after, in his thirst for martyrdom,
within the presence of the haughty Sultan,
he preached of Christ and those who followed Him.

But, finding hearers who were too unripe
to be converted, he—not wasting time—
returned to harvest the Italian fields;

there, on the naked crag between the Arno
and Tiber, he received the final seal
from Christ; and this, his limbs bore for two years.

When He who destined Francis to such goodness
was pleased to draw him up to the reward
that he had won through his humility,

then to his brothers, as to rightful heirs,
Francis commended his most precious lady,
and he bade them to love her faithfully;

and when, returning to its kingdom, his
bright soul wanted to set forth from her bosom,
it, for its body, asked no other bier.

Consider now that man who was a colleague
worthy of Francis; with him, in high seas,
he kept the bark of Peter on true course.

Such was our patriarch; thus you can see
that those who follow him as he commands,
as cargo carry worthy merchandise.

But now his flock is grown so greedy for
new nourishment that it must wander far,
in search of strange and distant grazing lands;

and as his sheep, remote and vagabond,
stray farther from his side, at their return
into the fold, their lack of milk is greater.

Though there are some indeed who, fearing harm,
stay near the shepherd, they are few in number—
to cowl them would require little cloth.

Now if my words are not too dim and distant,
if you have listened carefully to them,
if you can call to mind what has been said,

then part of what you wish to know is answered,
for you will see the splinters on the plant
and see what my correction meant: ‘Where one

may fatten well, if one does not stray off.'”

O THOU insensate care of mortal men,
How inconclusive are the syllogisms
That make thee beat thy wings in downward flight!

One after laws and one to aphorisms
Was going, and one following the priesthood,
And one to reign by force or sophistry,

And one in theft, and one in state affairs,
One in the pleasures of the flesh involved
Wearied himself, one gave himself to ease;

When I, from all these things emancipate,
With Beatrice above there in the Heavens
With such exceeding glory was received!

When each one had returned unto that point
Within the circle where it was before,
It stood as in a candlestick a candle;

And from within the effulgence which at first
Had spoken unto me, I heard begin
Smiling while it more luminous became:

“Even as I am kindled in its ray,
So, looking into the Eternal Light,
The occasion of thy thoughts I apprehend.

Thou doubtest, and wouldst have me to resift
In language so extended and so open
My speech, that to thy sense it may be plain,

Where just before I said, ‘ where well one fattens,’
And where I said, ‘ there never rose a second ‘;
And here ’tis needful we distinguish well.

The Providence, which governeth the world
With counsel, wherein all created vision
Is vanquished ere it reach unto the bottom,

(So that towards her own Beloved might go
The bride of Him who, uttering a loud cry,
Espoused her with his consecrated blood,

Self—confident and unto Him more faithful,)
Two Princes did ordain in her behoof,
Which on this side and that might be her guide.

The one was all seraphical in ardour;
The other by his wisdom upon earth
A splendour was of light cherubical.

One will I speak of, for of both is spoken
In praising one, whichever may be taken,
Because unto one end their labours were.

Between Tupino and the stream that falls
Down from the hill elect of blessed Ubald,
A fertile slope of lofty mountain hangs,

From which Perugia feels the cold and heat
Through Porta Sole, and behind it weep
Gualdo and Nocera their grievous yoke.

From out that slope, there where it breaketh most
Its steepness, rose upon the world a sun
As this one does sometimes from out the Ganges;

Therefore let him who speaketh of that place,
Say not Ascesi, for he would say little,
But Orient, if he properly would speak.

He was not yet far distant from his rising
Before he had begun to make the earth
Some comfort from his mighty virtue feel.

For he in youth his father’s wrath incurred
For certain Dame, to whom, as unto death,
The gate of pleasure no one doth unlock;

And was before his spiritual court
_Et coram patre_ unto her united;
Then day by day more fervently he loved her.

She, reft of her first husband, scorned, obscure,
One thousand and one hundred years and more,
Waited without a suitor till he came.

Naught it availed to hear, that with Amyclas
Found her unmoved at sounding of his voice
He who struck terror into all the world;

Naught it availed being constant and undaunted,
So that, when Mary still remained below,
She mounted up with Christ upon the cross ?

But that too darkly I may not proceed,
Francis and Poverty for these two lovers
Take thou henceforward in my speech diffuse.

Their concord and their joyous semblances,
The love, the wonder, and the sweet regard,
They made to be the cause of holy thoughts;

So much so that the venerable Bernard
First bared his feet, and after so great peace
Ran, and, in running, thought himself too slow.

O wealth unknown! O veritable good!
Giles bares his feet, and bares his feet Sylvester
Behind the bridegroom, so doth please the bride!

Then goes his way that father and that master,
He and his Lady and that family
Which now was girding on the humble cord;

Nor cowardice of heart weighed down his brow
At being son of Peter Bernardone,
Nor for appearing marvellously scorned;

But regally his hard determination
To Innocent he opened, and from him
Received the primal seal upon his Order.

After the people mendicant increased
Behind this man, whose admirable life
Better in glory of the heavens were sung,

Incoronated with a second crown
Was through Honorius by the Eternal Spirit
The holy purpose of this Archimandrite.

And when he had, through thirst of martyrdom,
In the proud presence of the Sultan preached
Christ and the others who came after him,

And, finding for conversion too unripe
The folk, and not to tarry there in vain,
Returned to fruit of the Italic grass,

On the rude rock ‘twixt Tiber and the Arno
From Christ did he receive the final seal,
Which during two whole years his members bore.

When He, who chose him unto so much good,
Was pleased to draw him up to the reward
That he had merited by being lowly,

Unto his friars, as to the rightful heirs,
His most dear Lady did he recommend,
And bade that they should love her faithfully;

And from her bosom the illustrious soul
Wished to depart, returning to its realm,
And for its body wished no other bier.

Think now what man was he, who was a fit
Companion over the high seas to keep
The bark of Peter to its proper bearings.

And this man was our Patriarch; hence whoever
Doth follow him as he commands can see
That he is laden with good merchandise.

But for new pasturage his flock has grown
So greedy, that it is impossible
They be not scattered over fields diverse;

And in proportion as his sheep remote
And vagabond go farther off from him,
More void of milk return they to the fold.

Verily some there are that fear a hurt,
And keep close to the shepherd; but so few,
That little cloth doth furnish forth their hoods.

Now if my utterance be not indistinct,
If thine own hearing hath attentive been,
If thou recall to mind what I have said,

In part contented shall thy wishes be;
For thou shalt see the plant that’s chipped away,
And the rebuke that lieth in the words,

‘ Where well one fattens, if he strayeth not.”‘

O senseless cares of mortals, how deceiving
are syllogistic reasonings that bring
your wings to flight so low, to earthly things!

One studied law and one the Aphorisms
of the physicians; one was set on priesthood
and one, through force or fraud, on rulership;

one meant to plunder, one to politick;
one labored, tangled in delights of flesh,
and one was fully bent on indolence;

while I, delivered from our servitude
to all these things, was in the height of heaven
with Beatrice, so gloriously welcomed.

After each of those spirits had returned
to that place in the ring where it had been,
it halted, like a candle in its stand.

And from within the splendor that had spoken
to me before, I heard him, as he smiled—
become more radiant, more pure—begin:

“Even as I grow bright within Its rays,
so, as I gaze at the Eternal Light,
I can perceive your thoughts and see their cause.

You are in doubt; you want an explanation
in language that is open and expanded,
so clear that it contents your understanding

of two points: where I said, ‘They fatten well,’
and where I said, ‘No other ever rose’—
and here one has to make a clear distinction.

The Providence that rules the world with wisdom
so fathomless that creatures’ intellects
are vanquished and can never probe its depth,

so that the Bride of Him who, with loud cries,
had wed her with His blessed blood, might meet
her Love with more fidelity and more

assurance in herself, on her behalf
commanded that there be two princes, one
on this side, one on that side, as her guides.

One prince was all seraphic in his ardor;
the other, for his wisdom, had possessed
the splendor of cherubic light on earth.

I shall devote my tale to one, because
in praising either prince one praises both:
the labors of the two were toward one goal.

Between Topino’s stream and that which flows
down from the hill the blessed Ubaldo chose,
from a high peak there hangs a fertile slope;

from there Perugia feels both heat and cold
at Porta Sole, while behind it sorrow
Nocera and Gualdo under their hard yoke.

From this hillside, where it abates its rise,
a sun was born into the world, much like
this sun when it is climbing from the Ganges.

Therefore let him who names this site not say
Ascesi, which would be to say too little,
but Orient, if he would name it rightly.

That sun was not yet very distant from
his rising, when he caused the earth to take
some comfort from his mighty influence;

for even as a youth, he ran to war
against his father, on behalf of her—
the lady unto whom, just as to death,

none willingly unlocks the door; before
his spiritual court et coram patre,
he wed her; day by day he loved her more.

She was bereft of her first husband; scorned,
obscure, for some eleven hundred years,
until that sun came, she had had no suitor.

Nor did it help her when men heard that he
who made earth tremble found her unafraid—
serene, with Amyclas—when he addressed her;

nor did her constancy and courage help
when she, even when Mary stayed below,
suffered with Christ upon the cross. But so

that I not tell my tale too darkly, you
may now take Francis and take Poverty
to be the lovers meant in my recounting.

Their harmony and their glad looks, their love
and wonder and their gentle contemplation,
served others as a source of holy thoughts;

so much so, that the venerable Bernard
went barefoot first; he hurried toward such peace;
and though he ran, he thought his pace too slow.

O wealth unknown! O good that is so fruitful!
Egidius goes barefoot, and Sylvester,
behind the groom—the bride delights them so.

Then Francis—father, master—goes his way
with both his lady and his family,
the lowly cord already round their waists.

Nor did he lower his eyes in shame because
he was the son of Pietro Bernardone,
nor for the scorn and wonder he aroused;

but like a sovereign, he disclosed in full—
to Innocent—the sternness of his rule;
from him he had the first seal of his order.

And after many of the poor had followed
Francis, whose wondrous life were better sung
by glory’s choir in the Empyrean,

the sacred purpose of this chief of shepherds
was then encircled with a second crown
by the Eternal Spirit through Honorius.

And after, in his thirst for martyrdom,
within the presence of the haughty Sultan,
he preached of Christ and those who followed Him.

But, finding hearers who were too unripe
to be converted, he—not wasting time—
returned to harvest the Italian fields;

there, on the naked crag between the Arno
and Tiber, he received the final seal
from Christ; and this, his limbs bore for two years.

When He who destined Francis to such goodness
was pleased to draw him up to the reward
that he had won through his humility,

then to his brothers, as to rightful heirs,
Francis commended his most precious lady,
and he bade them to love her faithfully;

and when, returning to its kingdom, his
bright soul wanted to set forth from her bosom,
it, for its body, asked no other bier.

Consider now that man who was a colleague
worthy of Francis; with him, in high seas,
he kept the bark of Peter on true course.

Such was our patriarch; thus you can see
that those who follow him as he commands,
as cargo carry worthy merchandise.

But now his flock is grown so greedy for
new nourishment that it must wander far,
in search of strange and distant grazing lands;

and as his sheep, remote and vagabond,
stray farther from his side, at their return
into the fold, their lack of milk is greater.

Though there are some indeed who, fearing harm,
stay near the shepherd, they are few in number—
to cowl them would require little cloth.

Now if my words are not too dim and distant,
if you have listened carefully to them,
if you can call to mind what has been said,

then part of what you wish to know is answered,
for you will see the splinters on the plant
and see what my correction meant: ‘Where one

may fatten well, if one does not stray off.'”

O THOU insensate care of mortal men,
How inconclusive are the syllogisms
That make thee beat thy wings in downward flight!

One after laws and one to aphorisms
Was going, and one following the priesthood,
And one to reign by force or sophistry,

And one in theft, and one in state affairs,
One in the pleasures of the flesh involved
Wearied himself, one gave himself to ease;

When I, from all these things emancipate,
With Beatrice above there in the Heavens
With such exceeding glory was received!

When each one had returned unto that point
Within the circle where it was before,
It stood as in a candlestick a candle;

And from within the effulgence which at first
Had spoken unto me, I heard begin
Smiling while it more luminous became:

“Even as I am kindled in its ray,
So, looking into the Eternal Light,
The occasion of thy thoughts I apprehend.

Thou doubtest, and wouldst have me to resift
In language so extended and so open
My speech, that to thy sense it may be plain,

Where just before I said, ‘ where well one fattens,’
And where I said, ‘ there never rose a second ‘;
And here ’tis needful we distinguish well.

The Providence, which governeth the world
With counsel, wherein all created vision
Is vanquished ere it reach unto the bottom,

(So that towards her own Beloved might go
The bride of Him who, uttering a loud cry,
Espoused her with his consecrated blood,

Self—confident and unto Him more faithful,)
Two Princes did ordain in her behoof,
Which on this side and that might be her guide.

The one was all seraphical in ardour;
The other by his wisdom upon earth
A splendour was of light cherubical.

One will I speak of, for of both is spoken
In praising one, whichever may be taken,
Because unto one end their labours were.

Between Tupino and the stream that falls
Down from the hill elect of blessed Ubald,
A fertile slope of lofty mountain hangs,

From which Perugia feels the cold and heat
Through Porta Sole, and behind it weep
Gualdo and Nocera their grievous yoke.

From out that slope, there where it breaketh most
Its steepness, rose upon the world a sun
As this one does sometimes from out the Ganges;

Therefore let him who speaketh of that place,
Say not Ascesi, for he would say little,
But Orient, if he properly would speak.

He was not yet far distant from his rising
Before he had begun to make the earth
Some comfort from his mighty virtue feel.

For he in youth his father’s wrath incurred
For certain Dame, to whom, as unto death,
The gate of pleasure no one doth unlock;

And was before his spiritual court
_Et coram patre_ unto her united;
Then day by day more fervently he loved her.

She, reft of her first husband, scorned, obscure,
One thousand and one hundred years and more,
Waited without a suitor till he came.

Naught it availed to hear, that with Amyclas
Found her unmoved at sounding of his voice
He who struck terror into all the world;

Naught it availed being constant and undaunted,
So that, when Mary still remained below,
She mounted up with Christ upon the cross ?

But that too darkly I may not proceed,
Francis and Poverty for these two lovers
Take thou henceforward in my speech diffuse.

Their concord and their joyous semblances,
The love, the wonder, and the sweet regard,
They made to be the cause of holy thoughts;

So much so that the venerable Bernard
First bared his feet, and after so great peace
Ran, and, in running, thought himself too slow.

O wealth unknown! O veritable good!
Giles bares his feet, and bares his feet Sylvester
Behind the bridegroom, so doth please the bride!

Then goes his way that father and that master,
He and his Lady and that family
Which now was girding on the humble cord;

Nor cowardice of heart weighed down his brow
At being son of Peter Bernardone,
Nor for appearing marvellously scorned;

But regally his hard determination
To Innocent he opened, and from him
Received the primal seal upon his Order.

After the people mendicant increased
Behind this man, whose admirable life
Better in glory of the heavens were sung,

Incoronated with a second crown
Was through Honorius by the Eternal Spirit
The holy purpose of this Archimandrite.

And when he had, through thirst of martyrdom,
In the proud presence of the Sultan preached
Christ and the others who came after him,

And, finding for conversion too unripe
The folk, and not to tarry there in vain,
Returned to fruit of the Italic grass,

On the rude rock ‘twixt Tiber and the Arno
From Christ did he receive the final seal,
Which during two whole years his members bore.

When He, who chose him unto so much good,
Was pleased to draw him up to the reward
That he had merited by being lowly,

Unto his friars, as to the rightful heirs,
His most dear Lady did he recommend,
And bade that they should love her faithfully;

And from her bosom the illustrious soul
Wished to depart, returning to its realm,
And for its body wished no other bier.

Think now what man was he, who was a fit
Companion over the high seas to keep
The bark of Peter to its proper bearings.

And this man was our Patriarch; hence whoever
Doth follow him as he commands can see
That he is laden with good merchandise.

But for new pasturage his flock has grown
So greedy, that it is impossible
They be not scattered over fields diverse;

And in proportion as his sheep remote
And vagabond go farther off from him,
More void of milk return they to the fold.

Verily some there are that fear a hurt,
And keep close to the shepherd; but so few,
That little cloth doth furnish forth their hoods.

Now if my utterance be not indistinct,
If thine own hearing hath attentive been,
If thou recall to mind what I have said,

In part contented shall thy wishes be;
For thou shalt see the plant that’s chipped away,
And the rebuke that lieth in the words,

‘ Where well one fattens, if he strayeth not.”‘