Family Ties

The heaven of Mars is a long heaven, comprising the last section of Paradiso 14, and then Paradiso 15, 16, 17, and the first half of canto 18. The transition to Jupiter occurs in Paradiso 18.61-62. It is not quite as long as the heaven of the sun: the heaven of the sun comprises four complete canti and about two-thirds of a fifth canto, while the heaven of Mars comprises three complete canti, about one-third of canto 14 and one-third of canto 18.

The heaven of Mars is the heaven of personal affect and personal history. Looking at Beatrice, Dante feels that he has reached the extreme “of my glory and of my paradise”:

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.  	(Par. 15.34-36)
for in the smile that glowed within her eyes,
I thought that I—with mine—had touched the height
of both my blessedness and paradise.

The heaven of Mars is prefaced by the discussion of the resurrected body in the first part of Paradiso 14 (still in the heaven of the sun), a discussion that leads the souls to exclaim “Amen” in joy at the thought that they will get their bodies back. In fact, they experience “disio de’ corpi morti” (Par. 14.63), a desire for their dead bodies that is not just for themselves but for their beloveds:

forse non pur per lor, ma per le mamme, 
per li padri e per li altri che fuor cari 
anzi che fosser sempiterne fiamme.	(Par. 14.64-66)
not only for themselves, perhaps, but for
their mothers, fathers, and for others dear
to them before they were eternal flames.

The mothers and fathers desired by the souls of Paradiso 14.64-65 are historicized in the heaven of Mars, where they are the mothers and fathers of Florence, and where Dante meets his own great-great-grandfather.

Dante’s paternal ancestor, Cacciaguida (we learn in Par. 16.34-39 that he was born in 1091), is described in a simile where his affection is compared to that of Anchises, father of Aeneas, on greeting his son:

Sì pia l’ombra d’Anchise si porse,
se fede merta nostra maggior musa,
quando in Eliso del figlio s’accorse.  	(Par. 15.25-27)
With such affection did Anchises' shade
reach out (if we may trust our greatest muse)
when in Elysium he saw his son.

We note the stipulation of verse 26: “if we may trust our greatest muse” refers to the description offered by Vergil and the poetry of the Aeneid (“nostra maggior musa”) of the affectionate encounter between Anchises and Aeneas in Book 6 of the Aeneid. This verse constitutes the first, albeit indirect, reference to Vergil in the poem since the disappearance of Virgilio in Purgatorio 30. In Purgatorio 30, in recounting the moment of his loss, Dante-poet refers to the Latin poet as “Virgilio dolcissimo patre” (Virgilio sweetest father [Purg.30.50]). Thus, true to the dialectical terza-rima texture of this poem, ever spiraling forward and back, the arrival of a new father, Cacciaguida, elicits from Dante the memory of the father whom he has lost.

The heaven of Mars is the heaven of the bloodline, of the lineage, of ancestry, of the family root and tree. Cacciaguida’s first words to Dante are “o sanguis meus”—“O blood of mine” (Par. 15.28)—and canto 16 begins with Dante’s celebration of his family lineage, his “nobiltà di sangue” (nobility of blood [Par. 16.1]).

Cacciaguida explains Dante’s family to him, where he fits into the lineage and who he, Cacciaguida, is in relation to the pilgrim:

Poscia mi disse: «Quel da cui si dice
tua cognazione e che cent’anni e piùe 
girato ha ’l monte in la prima cornice,  
mio figlio fu e tuo bisavol fue:
ben si convien che la lunga fatica
tu li raccorci con l’opere tue.» (Par. 15.91-96)
then said: “The man who gave your family
its name, who for a century and more 
has circled the first ledge of Purgatory, 
was son to me and was your great-grandfather;
it is indeed appropriate for you
to shorten his long toil with your good works.”

The above verses showcase Dante’s genial method of buttressing important moments by using the fictional truth of the text itself, supporting textual reality with more textual reality. Here Cacciaguida tells the pilgrim that his son, Dante’s great-grandfather, is still circling the first ledge of purgatory, the terrace of pride. Cacciaguida thus lets his descendant know that pride is a family trait: we remember the pilgrim’s stated fear (in Purgatorio 14) that he will be spending much time on the terrace of pride when he returns to purgatory.

A lot of affect enters the Paradiso when we enter the heaven of Mars. We are plunged into a world of human feeling and human history: when Dante meets his ancestor Cacciaguida, the conversation becomes very personal, both about Dante’s family and about Florence, a place that elicits great passion from our poet throughout the Commedia.

In Paradiso 15 Cacciaguida paints for his descendant the picture of the idyllic Florence of old in which he, Cacciaguida, lived, before Florentine society was overtaken by decay and corruption. Dante’s description of an earlier Florence is full of real history, and at the same time it is an idealized vision of the city when it was pure and at peace:

Fiorenza dentro da la cerchia antica,
ond'ella toglie ancora e terza e nona,
si stava in pace, sobria e pudica.
Florence, within her ancient ring of walls—
that ring from which she still draws tierce and nones—
sober and chaste, lived in tranquility.

In a patrilineal and honor-based society like that of Dante’s Florence, the honor of the society is measured by the comportment of its women. Here the city is gendered female, and the chastity and sobriety of Cacciaguida’s “Fiorenza” contrasts with the current sordid scene, where all facets of female behavior are without misura (a word whose importance as a social barometer we remember from another discussion of Florentine corruption, in Inferno 16). In today’s Florence, there is no misura in female dress, and there is no misura in female dowry requirements, which bankrupt contemporary Florentine fathers:

Non avea catenella, non corona,
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 quinci e quindi la misura.	(Par. 15.100-05)
 	
No necklace and no coronal were there,
and no embroidered gowns; there was no girdle
that caught the eye more than the one who wore it.
No daughter’s birth brought fear unto her father,
for age and dowry then did not imbalance—
to this side and to that—the proper measure.

The war in which Dante’s ancestor Cacciaguida participated was not with his fellow citizens in the kind of factional strife that plagued Florence in Dante’s lifetime (and that caused him to be exiled from Florence). From Dante’s perspective, Cacciaguida fought in an honorable cause and acquitted himself well: he became a knight under the emperor Conrad III, and was killed in the Second Crusade. Thus, Cacciaguida was a Crusader, and the end of Paradiso 15 offers the most conventional medieval Christian anti-Muslim rhetoric that you will find in the Commedia.

***

Chapter 10 of The Undivine Comedy, “The Sacred Poem Is Forced to Jump: Closure and the Poetics of Enjambment,” analyzes the latter half of Paradiso from a meta-narrative perspective. Paradiso 15 offers a foundational passage in this regard, verses that provide a philosophical key to reading Paradiso. In answer to Cacciaguida’s exhortation to sound forth his will and his desire (in other words, to speak), Dante replies by explaining the diegetic problems—problems of disequality and difference—that beset all mortals:

Poi cominciai così: «L'affetto e ’l senno,
come la prima equalità v’apparse,
d’un peso per ciascun di voi si fenno,
però che ’l sol che v’allumò e arse,
col caldo e con la luce è sì iguali,
che tutte simiglianze sono scarse.
Ma voglia e argomento ne’ mortali,
per la cagion ch’a voi è manifesta,
diversamente son pennuti in ali;
ond’io, che son mortal, mi sento in questa
disagguaglianza, e però non ringrazio
se non col core a la paterna festa.      (Par. 15.73-84)
Then I began: “As soon as you beheld
the First Equality, both intellect
and love weighed equally for each of you,
because the Sun that brought you light and heat
possesses heat and light so equally
that no thing matches His equality;
whereas in mortals, word and sentiment—
to you, the cause of this is evident—
are wings whose featherings are disparate.
I—mortal—feel this inequality;
thus, it is only with my heart that I
can offer thanks for your paternal greeting.

As I write in The Undivine Comedy:

The pilgrim cannot express his thanks because he is mortal and, being mortal, a creature of difference; never (in a typically Dantesque move) have the disadvantages of mortality been more stunningly expressed than in the simplicity of “ond’io, che son mortal” followed by the enjambment that isolates and highlights the word that forms a hemistich, the magnificently protracted “disagguaglianza”. (p. 219)

This passage tells us clearly that mortality is “disagguaglianza” (Par. 15.83), disequality, while God / paradise / transcendence are divine Equality: “la prima equalità” (Par. 15.74).

And yet, this is very much the story of the latter half of Paradiso: the poet is empowered by the very disagguaglianza that is forsworn by the pilgrim. Equality, in the linguistic sphere, is silence. Language (poetic life) is disequality; language (poetic life) is difference:

What obtains for the pilgrim within the possible world of paradise is, as is frequently the case on Dante’s circular scales, precisely the opposite of what obtains for the poet within the reality of praxis and the written poem: while the pilgrim is blocked by his disequality, the poet is empowered by the very disagguaglianza that he must, in the third canticle, nonetheless forswear. As the poem heads toward the uguaglianza of its ending, as it is deprived of the fuel of disagguaglianza, it stutters; early instances of such stuttering are the first sets of “Cristo” rhymes, located in the life of Dominic in Paradiso 12 and in the passage, toward the end of Paradiso 14, relating the miraculous appearance of Christ within the cross of Mars. These triple rhymes of Cristo / Cristo / Cristo signify not only the incommensurability of Christ to anything other than himself but also the inevitable death of terza rima; as difference in the form of three different rhymes gives way to identity, homology, and stasis, the poem begins to die.
(The Undivine Comedy, p. 219)

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: on the canti of the heaven of Mars as the poem’s “epic core,” see The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 6, “Re-Presenting What God Presented,” pp. 137-40; Dante’s Poets, pp. 252-53; on this canto and Chapter 10 of The Undivine Comedy, see the end of this Introduction.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Paradiso 15: Family Ties.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/paradiso/paradiso-15/

About the Commento

1Benigna volontade in che si liqua
2sempre l’amor che drittamente spira,
3come cupidità fa ne la iniqua,

4silenzio puose a quella dolce lira,
5e fece quïetar le sante corde
6che la destra del cielo allenta e tira.

7Come saranno a’ giusti preghi sorde
8quelle sustanze che, per darmi voglia
9ch’io le pregassi, a tacer fur concorde?

10Bene è che sanza termine si doglia
11chi, per amor di cosa che non duri
12etternalmente, quello amor si spoglia.

13Quale per li seren tranquilli e puri
14discorre ad ora ad or sùbito foco,
15movendo li occhi che stavan sicuri,

16e pare stella che tramuti loco,
17se non che da la parte ond’ e’ s’accende
18nulla sen perde, ed esso dura poco:

19tale dal corno che ’n destro si stende
20a piè di quella croce corse un astro
21de la costellazion che lì resplende;

22né si partì la gemma dal suo nastro,
23ma per la lista radïal trascorse,
24che parve foco dietro ad alabastro.

25Sì pïa l’ombra d’Anchise si porse,
26se fede merta nostra maggior musa,
27quando in Eliso del figlio s’accorse.

28«O sanguis meus, o superinfusa
29gratïa Deï, sicut tibi cui
30bis unquam celi ianüa reclusa?».

31Così quel lume: ond’ io m’attesi a lui;
32poscia rivolsi a la mia donna il viso,
33e quinci e quindi stupefatto fui;

34ché dentro a li occhi suoi ardeva un riso
35tal, ch’io pensai co’ miei toccar lo fondo
36de la mia gloria e del mio paradiso.

37Indi, a udire e a veder giocondo,
38giunse lo spirto al suo principio cose,
39ch’io non lo ’ntesi, sì parlò profondo;

40né per elezïon mi si nascose,
41ma per necessità, ché ’l suo concetto
42al segno d’i mortal si soprapuose.

43E quando l’arco de l’ardente affetto
44fu sì sfogato, che ’l parlar discese
45inver’ lo segno del nostro intelletto,

46la prima cosa che per me s’intese,
47«Benedetto sia tu», fu, «trino e uno,
48che nel mio seme se’ tanto cortese!».

49E seguì: «Grato e lontano digiuno,
50tratto leggendo del magno volume
51du’ non si muta mai bianco né bruno,

52solvuto hai, figlio, dentro a questo lume
53in ch’io ti parlo, mercè di colei
54ch’a l’alto volo ti vestì le piume.

55Tu credi che a me tuo pensier mei
56da quel ch’è primo, così come raia
57da l’un, se si conosce, il cinque e ’l sei;

58e però ch’io mi sia e perch’ io paia
59più gaudïoso a te, non mi domandi,
60che alcun altro in questa turba gaia.

61Tu credi ’l vero; ché i minori e ’ grandi
62di questa vita miran ne lo speglio
63in che, prima che pensi, il pensier pandi;

64ma perché ’l sacro amore in che io veglio
65con perpetüa vista e che m’asseta
66di dolce disïar, s’adempia meglio,

67la voce tua sicura, balda e lieta
68suoni la volontà, suoni ’l disio,
69a che la mia risposta è già decreta!».

70Io mi volsi a Beatrice, e quella udio
71pria ch’io parlassi, e arrisemi un cenno
72che fece crescer l’ali al voler mio.

73Poi cominciai così: «L’affetto e ’l senno,
74come la prima equalità v’apparse,
75d’un peso per ciascun di voi si fenno,

76però che ’l sol che v’allumò e arse,
77col caldo e con la luce è sì iguali,
78che tutte simiglianze sono scarse.

79Ma voglia e argomento ne’ mortali,
80per la cagion ch’a voi è manifesta,
81diversamente son pennuti in ali;

82ond’ io, che son mortal, mi sento in questa
83disagguaglianza, e però non ringrazio
84se non col core a la paterna festa.

85Ben supplico io a te, vivo topazio
86che questa gioia prezïosa ingemmi,
87perché mi facci del tuo nome sazio».

88«O fronda mia in che io compiacemmi
89pur aspettando, io fui la tua radice»:
90cotal principio, rispondendo, femmi.

91Poscia mi disse: «Quel da cui si dice
92tua cognazione e che cent’ anni e piùe
93girato ha ’l monte in la prima cornice,

94mio figlio fu e tuo bisavol fue:
95ben si convien che la lunga fatica
96tu li raccorci con l’opere tue.

97Fiorenza dentro da la cerchia antica,
98ond’ ella toglie ancora e terza e nona,
99si stava in pace, sobria e pudica.

100Non avea catenella, non corona,
101non gonne contigiate, non cintura
102che fosse a veder più che la persona.

103Non faceva, nascendo, ancor paura
104la figlia al padre, che ’l tempo e la dote
105non fuggien quinci e quindi la misura.

106Non avea case di famiglia vòte;
107non v’era giunto ancor Sardanapalo
108a mostrar ciò che ’n camera si puote.

109Non era vinto ancora Montemalo
110dal vostro Uccellatoio, che, com’ è vinto
111nel montar sù, così sarà nel calo.

112Bellincion Berti vid’ io andar cinto
113di cuoio e d’osso, e venir da lo specchio
114la donna sua sanza ’l viso dipinto;

115e vidi quel d’i Nerli e quel del Vecchio
116esser contenti a la pelle scoperta,
117e le sue donne al fuso e al pennecchio.

118Oh fortunate! ciascuna era certa
119de la sua sepultura, e ancor nulla
120era per Francia nel letto diserta.

121L’una vegghiava a studio de la culla,
122e, consolando, usava l’idïoma
123che prima i padri e le madri trastulla;

124l’altra, traendo a la rocca la chioma,
125favoleggiava con la sua famiglia
126d’i Troiani, di Fiesole e di Roma.

127Saria tenuta allor tal maraviglia
128una Cianghella, un Lapo Salterello,
129qual or saria Cincinnato e Corniglia.

130A così riposato, a così bello
131viver di cittadini, a così fida
132cittadinanza, a così dolce ostello,

133Maria mi diè, chiamata in alte grida;
134e ne l’antico vostro Batisteo
135insieme fui cristiano e Cacciaguida.

136Moronto fu mio frate ed Eliseo;
137mia donna venne a me di val di Pado,
138e quindi il sopranome tuo si feo.

139Poi seguitai lo ’mperador Currado;
140ed el mi cinse de la sua milizia,
141tanto per bene ovrar li venni in grado.

142Dietro li andai incontro a la nequizia
143di quella legge il cui popolo usurpa,
144per colpa d’i pastor, vostra giustizia.

145Quivi fu’ io da quella gente turpa
146disviluppato dal mondo fallace,
147lo cui amor molt’ anime deturpa;

148e venni dal martiro a questa pace».

Generous will—in which is manifest
always the love that breathes toward righteousness,
as in contorted will is greediness—

imposing silence on that gentle lyre,
brought quiet to the consecrated chords
that Heaven’s right hand slackens and draws taut.

Can souls who prompted me to pray to them,
by falling silent all in unison,
be deaf to men’s just prayers? Then he may grieve

indeed and endlessly—the man who leaves
behind such love and turns instead to seek
things that do not endure eternally.

As, through the pure and tranquil skies of night,
at times a sudden fire shoots, and moves
eyes that were motionless—a fire that seems

a star that shifts its place, except that in
that portion of the heavens where it flared,
nothing is lost, and its own course is short—

so, from the horn that stretches on the right,
down to the foot of that cross, a star ran
out of the constellation glowing there;

nor did that gem desert the cross’s track,
but coursed along the radii, and seemed
just like a flame that alabaster screens.

With such affection did Anchises’ shade
reach out (if we may trust our greatest muse)
when in Elysium he saw his son.

“O blood of mine—o the celestial grace
bestowed beyond all measure—unto whom
as unto you was Heaven’s gate twice opened?”

That light said this; at which, I stared at him.
Then, looking back to see my lady, I,
on this side and on that, was stupefied;

for in the smile that glowed within her eyes,
I thought that I—with mine—had touched the height
of both my blessedness and paradise.

Then—and he was a joy to hear and see—
that spirit added to his first words things
that were too deep to meet my understanding.

Not that he chose to hide his sense from me;
necessity compelled him; he conceived
beyond the mark a mortal mind can reach.

And when his bow of burning sympathy
was slack enough to let his speech descend
to meet the limit of our intellect,

these were the first words where I caught the sense:
“Blessed be you, both Three and One, who show
such favor to my seed.” And he continued:

“The long and happy hungering I drew
from reading that great volume where both black
and white are never changed, you—son—have now

appeased within this light in which I speak
to you; for this, I owe my gratitude
to her who gave you wings for your high flight.

You think your thoughts flow into me from Him
who is the First—as from the number one,
the five and six derive, if one is known—

and so you do not ask me who I am
and why I seem more joyous to you than
all other spirits in this festive throng.

Your thought is true, for both the small and great
of this life gaze into that mirror where,
before you think, your thoughts have been displayed.

But that the sacred love in which I keep
my vigil with unending watchfulness,
the love that makes me thirst with sweet desire,

be better satisfied, let your voice—bold,
assured, and glad—proclaim your will and longing,
to which my answer is decreed already.”

I turned to Beatrice, but she heard me
before I spoke; her smile to me was signal
that made the wings of my desire grow.

Then I began: “As soon as you beheld
the First Equality, both intellect
and love weighed equally for each of you,

because the Sun that brought you light and heat
possesses heat and light so equally
that no thing matches His equality;

whereas in mortals, word and sentiment—
to you, the cause of this is evident—
are wings whose featherings are disparate.

I—mortal—feel this inequality;
thus, it is only with my heart that I
can offer thanks for your paternal greeting

Indeed I do beseech you, living topaz,
set in this precious jewel as a gem:
fulfill my longing—let me know your name.”

“O you, my branch in whom I took delight
even awaiting you, I am your root,”
so he, in his reply to me, began,

then said:”The man who gave your family
its name, who for a century and more
has circled the first ledge of Purgatory,

was son to me and was your great—grandfather;
it is indeed appropriate for you
to shorten his long toil with your good works.

Florence, within her ancient ring of walls—
that ring from which she still draws tierce and nones—
sober and chaste, lived in tranquillity.

No necklace and no coronal were there,
and no embroidered gowns; there was no girdle
that caught the eye more than the one who wore it.

No daughter’s birth brought fear unto her father,
for age and dowry then did not imbalance—
to this side and to that—the proper measure.

There were no families that bore no children;
and Sardanapalus was still a stranger—
not come as yet to teach in the bedchamber.

Not yet had your Uccellatoio’s rise
outdone the rise of Monte Mario,
which, too, will be outdone in its decline.

I saw Bellincione Berti girt
with leather and with bone, and saw his wife
come from her mirror with her face unpainted.

I saw dei Nerli and del Vecchio
content to wear their suits of unlined skins,
and saw their wives at spindle and at spool.

O happy wives! Each one was sure of her
own burial place, and none—for France’s sake—
as yet was left deserted in her bed.

One woman watched with loving care the cradle
and, as she soothed her infant, used the way
of speech with which fathers and mothers play;

another, as she drew threads from the distaff,
would tell, among her household, tales of Trojans,
and tales of Fiesole, and tales of Rome.

A Lapo Salterello, a Cianghella,
would then have stirred as much dismay as now
a Cincinnatus and Cornelia would.

To such a life—so tranquil and so lovely—
of citizens in true community,
into so sweet a dwelling place did Mary,

invoked in pains of birth, deliver me;
and I, within your ancient Baptistery,
at once became Christian and Cacciaguida.

Moronto was my brother, and Eliseo;
my wife came from the valley of the Po—
the surname that you bear was brought by her.

In later years I served the Emperor
Conrad—and my good works so gained his favor
that he gave me the girdle of his knighthood.

I followed him to war against the evil
of that law whose adherents have usurped—
this, through your Pastors’ fault—your just possessions.

There, by that execrable race, I was
set free from fetters of the erring world,
the love of which defiles so many souls.

From martyrdom I came unto this peace.”

A WILL benign, in which reveals itself
Ever the love that righteously inspires,
As in the iniquitous, cupidity,

Silence imposed upon that dulcet lyre,
And quieted the consecrated chords,
That Heaven’s right hand doth tighten and relax

How unto just entreaties shall be deaf
Those substances, which, to give me desire
Of praying them, with one accord grew silent ?

‘Tis well that without end he should lament,
Who for the love of thing that doth not last
Eternally despoils him of that love!

As through the pure and tranquil evening air
There shoots from time to time a sudden fire,
Moving the eyes that steadfast were before,

And seems to be a star that changeth place,
Except that in the part where it is kindled
Nothing is missed, and this endureth little;

So from the horn that to the right extends
Unto that cross’s foot there ran a star
Out of the constellation shining there;

Nor was the gem dissevered from its ribbon,
But down the radiant fillet ran along,
So that fire seemed it behind alabaster.

Thus piteous did Anchises’ shade reach forward,
If any faith our greatest Muse deserve,
When in Elysium he his son perceived.

_”O sanguis meus, O super infusa
Gratia Dei, sicut tibi, cui
Bis unquam Coeli janua reclusa?”_

Thus that effulgence; whence I gave it heed;
Then round unto my Lady turned my sight,
And on this side and that was stupefied;

For in her eyes was burning such a smile
That with mine own methought I touched the bottom
Both of my grace and of my Paradise!

Then, pleasant to the hearing and the sight,
The spirit joined to its beginning things
I understood not, so profound it spake;

Nor did it hide itself from me by choice,
But by necessity; for its conception
Above the mark of mortals set itself

And when the bow of burning sympathy
Was so far slackened, that its speech descended
Towards the mark of our intelligence,

The first thing that was understood by me
Was”Benedight be Thou, O Trine and One,
Who hast unto my seed so courteous been!”

And it continued: “Hunger long and grateful,
Drawn from the reading of the mighty volume
Wherein is never changed the white nor dark,

Thou hast appeased, my son, within this light
In which I speak to thee, by grace of her
Who to this lofty flight with plumage clothed thee.

Thou thinkest that to me thy thought doth pass
From Him who is the first, as from the unit,
If that be known, ray out the five and six;

And therefore who I am thou askest not,
And why I seem more joyous unto thee
Than any other of this gladsome crowd.

Thou think’st the truth; because the small and great
Of this existence look into the mirror
Wherein, before thou think’st, thy thought thou showest.

But that the sacred love, in which I watch
With sight perpetual, and which makes me thirst
With sweet desire, may better be fulfilled,

Now let thy voice secure and frank and glad
Proclaim the wishes, the desire proclaim,
To which my answer is decreed already.”

To Beatrice I turned me, and she heard
Before I spake, and smiled to me a sign,
That made the wings of my desire increase;

Then in this wise began I: “Love and knowledge,
When on you dawned the first Equality,
Of the same weight for each of you became;

For in the Sun, which lighted you and burned
With heat and radiance, they so equal are,
That all similitudes are insufficient.

But among mortals will and argument,
For reason that to you is manifest,
Diversely feathered in their pinions are.

Whence I, who mortal am, feel in myself
This inequality; so give not thanks
Save in my heart, for this paternal welcome.

Truly do I entreat thee, living topaz!
Set in this precious jewel as a gem,
That thou wilt satisfy me with thy name.”

“O leaf of mine, in whom I pleasure took
E’en while awaiting, I was thine own root!”
Such a beginning he in answer made me

Then said to me: “That one from whom is named
Thy race, and who a hundred years and more
Has circled round the mount on the first cornice,

A son of mine and thy great—grandsire was;
Well it behoves thee that the long fatigue
Thou shouldst for him make shorter with thy works.

Florence, within the ancient boundary
From which she taketh still her tierce and nones,
Abode in quiet, temperate and chaste.

No golden chain she had, nor coronal,
Nor ladies shod with sandal shoon, nor girdle
That caught the eye more than the person did.

Not yet the daughter at her birth struck fear
Into the father, for the time and dower
Did not o’errun this side or that the measure.

No houses had she void of families,
Not yet had thither come Sardanapalus
To show what in a chamber can be done;

Not yet surpassed had Montemalo been
By your Uccellatojo, which surpassed
Shall in its downfall be as in its rise.

Bellincion Berti saw I go begirt
With leather and with bone, and from the mirror
His dame depart without a painted face;

And him of Nerli saw, and him of Vecchio,
Contented with their simple suits of buff
And with the spindle and the flax their dames

O fortunate women! and each one was certain
Of her own burial—place, and none as yet
For sake of France was in her bed deserted.

One o’er the cradle kept her studious watch,
And in her lullaby the language used
That first delights the fathers and the mothers;

Another, drawing tresses from her distaff,
Told o’er among her family the tales
Of Trojans and of Fesole and Rome.

As great a marvel then would have been held
A Lapo Salterello, a Cianghella,
As Cincinnatus or Cornelia now.

To such a quiet, such a beautiful
Life of the citizen, to such a safe
Community, and to so sweet an inn,

Did Mary give me, with loud cries invoked,
And in your ancient Baptistery at once
Christian and Cacciaguida I became.

Moronto was my brother, and Eliseo;
From Val di Pado came to me my wife,
And from that place thy surname was derived.

r followed afterward the Emperor Conrad,
And he begirt me of his chivalry,
So much I pleased him with my noble deeds.

I followed in his train against that law’s
Iniquity, whose people doth usurp
Your just possession, through your Pastor’s fault

There by that execrable race was I
Released from bonds of the fallacious world,
The love of which defileth many souls,

And came from martyrdom unto this peace.”

Generous will—in which is manifest
always the love that breathes toward righteousness,
as in contorted will is greediness—

imposing silence on that gentle lyre,
brought quiet to the consecrated chords
that Heaven’s right hand slackens and draws taut.

Can souls who prompted me to pray to them,
by falling silent all in unison,
be deaf to men’s just prayers? Then he may grieve

indeed and endlessly—the man who leaves
behind such love and turns instead to seek
things that do not endure eternally.

As, through the pure and tranquil skies of night,
at times a sudden fire shoots, and moves
eyes that were motionless—a fire that seems

a star that shifts its place, except that in
that portion of the heavens where it flared,
nothing is lost, and its own course is short—

so, from the horn that stretches on the right,
down to the foot of that cross, a star ran
out of the constellation glowing there;

nor did that gem desert the cross’s track,
but coursed along the radii, and seemed
just like a flame that alabaster screens.

With such affection did Anchises’ shade
reach out (if we may trust our greatest muse)
when in Elysium he saw his son.

“O blood of mine—o the celestial grace
bestowed beyond all measure—unto whom
as unto you was Heaven’s gate twice opened?”

That light said this; at which, I stared at him.
Then, looking back to see my lady, I,
on this side and on that, was stupefied;

for in the smile that glowed within her eyes,
I thought that I—with mine—had touched the height
of both my blessedness and paradise.

Then—and he was a joy to hear and see—
that spirit added to his first words things
that were too deep to meet my understanding.

Not that he chose to hide his sense from me;
necessity compelled him; he conceived
beyond the mark a mortal mind can reach.

And when his bow of burning sympathy
was slack enough to let his speech descend
to meet the limit of our intellect,

these were the first words where I caught the sense:
“Blessed be you, both Three and One, who show
such favor to my seed.” And he continued:

“The long and happy hungering I drew
from reading that great volume where both black
and white are never changed, you—son—have now

appeased within this light in which I speak
to you; for this, I owe my gratitude
to her who gave you wings for your high flight.

You think your thoughts flow into me from Him
who is the First—as from the number one,
the five and six derive, if one is known—

and so you do not ask me who I am
and why I seem more joyous to you than
all other spirits in this festive throng.

Your thought is true, for both the small and great
of this life gaze into that mirror where,
before you think, your thoughts have been displayed.

But that the sacred love in which I keep
my vigil with unending watchfulness,
the love that makes me thirst with sweet desire,

be better satisfied, let your voice—bold,
assured, and glad—proclaim your will and longing,
to which my answer is decreed already.”

I turned to Beatrice, but she heard me
before I spoke; her smile to me was signal
that made the wings of my desire grow.

Then I began: “As soon as you beheld
the First Equality, both intellect
and love weighed equally for each of you,

because the Sun that brought you light and heat
possesses heat and light so equally
that no thing matches His equality;

whereas in mortals, word and sentiment—
to you, the cause of this is evident—
are wings whose featherings are disparate.

I—mortal—feel this inequality;
thus, it is only with my heart that I
can offer thanks for your paternal greeting

Indeed I do beseech you, living topaz,
set in this precious jewel as a gem:
fulfill my longing—let me know your name.”

“O you, my branch in whom I took delight
even awaiting you, I am your root,”
so he, in his reply to me, began,

then said:”The man who gave your family
its name, who for a century and more
has circled the first ledge of Purgatory,

was son to me and was your great—grandfather;
it is indeed appropriate for you
to shorten his long toil with your good works.

Florence, within her ancient ring of walls—
that ring from which she still draws tierce and nones—
sober and chaste, lived in tranquillity.

No necklace and no coronal were there,
and no embroidered gowns; there was no girdle
that caught the eye more than the one who wore it.

No daughter’s birth brought fear unto her father,
for age and dowry then did not imbalance—
to this side and to that—the proper measure.

There were no families that bore no children;
and Sardanapalus was still a stranger—
not come as yet to teach in the bedchamber.

Not yet had your Uccellatoio’s rise
outdone the rise of Monte Mario,
which, too, will be outdone in its decline.

I saw Bellincione Berti girt
with leather and with bone, and saw his wife
come from her mirror with her face unpainted.

I saw dei Nerli and del Vecchio
content to wear their suits of unlined skins,
and saw their wives at spindle and at spool.

O happy wives! Each one was sure of her
own burial place, and none—for France’s sake—
as yet was left deserted in her bed.

One woman watched with loving care the cradle
and, as she soothed her infant, used the way
of speech with which fathers and mothers play;

another, as she drew threads from the distaff,
would tell, among her household, tales of Trojans,
and tales of Fiesole, and tales of Rome.

A Lapo Salterello, a Cianghella,
would then have stirred as much dismay as now
a Cincinnatus and Cornelia would.

To such a life—so tranquil and so lovely—
of citizens in true community,
into so sweet a dwelling place did Mary,

invoked in pains of birth, deliver me;
and I, within your ancient Baptistery,
at once became Christian and Cacciaguida.

Moronto was my brother, and Eliseo;
my wife came from the valley of the Po—
the surname that you bear was brought by her.

In later years I served the Emperor
Conrad—and my good works so gained his favor
that he gave me the girdle of his knighthood.

I followed him to war against the evil
of that law whose adherents have usurped—
this, through your Pastors’ fault—your just possessions.

There, by that execrable race, I was
set free from fetters of the erring world,
the love of which defiles so many souls.

From martyrdom I came unto this peace.”

A WILL benign, in which reveals itself
Ever the love that righteously inspires,
As in the iniquitous, cupidity,

Silence imposed upon that dulcet lyre,
And quieted the consecrated chords,
That Heaven’s right hand doth tighten and relax

How unto just entreaties shall be deaf
Those substances, which, to give me desire
Of praying them, with one accord grew silent ?

‘Tis well that without end he should lament,
Who for the love of thing that doth not last
Eternally despoils him of that love!

As through the pure and tranquil evening air
There shoots from time to time a sudden fire,
Moving the eyes that steadfast were before,

And seems to be a star that changeth place,
Except that in the part where it is kindled
Nothing is missed, and this endureth little;

So from the horn that to the right extends
Unto that cross’s foot there ran a star
Out of the constellation shining there;

Nor was the gem dissevered from its ribbon,
But down the radiant fillet ran along,
So that fire seemed it behind alabaster.

Thus piteous did Anchises’ shade reach forward,
If any faith our greatest Muse deserve,
When in Elysium he his son perceived.

_”O sanguis meus, O super infusa
Gratia Dei, sicut tibi, cui
Bis unquam Coeli janua reclusa?”_

Thus that effulgence; whence I gave it heed;
Then round unto my Lady turned my sight,
And on this side and that was stupefied;

For in her eyes was burning such a smile
That with mine own methought I touched the bottom
Both of my grace and of my Paradise!

Then, pleasant to the hearing and the sight,
The spirit joined to its beginning things
I understood not, so profound it spake;

Nor did it hide itself from me by choice,
But by necessity; for its conception
Above the mark of mortals set itself

And when the bow of burning sympathy
Was so far slackened, that its speech descended
Towards the mark of our intelligence,

The first thing that was understood by me
Was”Benedight be Thou, O Trine and One,
Who hast unto my seed so courteous been!”

And it continued: “Hunger long and grateful,
Drawn from the reading of the mighty volume
Wherein is never changed the white nor dark,

Thou hast appeased, my son, within this light
In which I speak to thee, by grace of her
Who to this lofty flight with plumage clothed thee.

Thou thinkest that to me thy thought doth pass
From Him who is the first, as from the unit,
If that be known, ray out the five and six;

And therefore who I am thou askest not,
And why I seem more joyous unto thee
Than any other of this gladsome crowd.

Thou think’st the truth; because the small and great
Of this existence look into the mirror
Wherein, before thou think’st, thy thought thou showest.

But that the sacred love, in which I watch
With sight perpetual, and which makes me thirst
With sweet desire, may better be fulfilled,

Now let thy voice secure and frank and glad
Proclaim the wishes, the desire proclaim,
To which my answer is decreed already.”

To Beatrice I turned me, and she heard
Before I spake, and smiled to me a sign,
That made the wings of my desire increase;

Then in this wise began I: “Love and knowledge,
When on you dawned the first Equality,
Of the same weight for each of you became;

For in the Sun, which lighted you and burned
With heat and radiance, they so equal are,
That all similitudes are insufficient.

But among mortals will and argument,
For reason that to you is manifest,
Diversely feathered in their pinions are.

Whence I, who mortal am, feel in myself
This inequality; so give not thanks
Save in my heart, for this paternal welcome.

Truly do I entreat thee, living topaz!
Set in this precious jewel as a gem,
That thou wilt satisfy me with thy name.”

“O leaf of mine, in whom I pleasure took
E’en while awaiting, I was thine own root!”
Such a beginning he in answer made me

Then said to me: “That one from whom is named
Thy race, and who a hundred years and more
Has circled round the mount on the first cornice,

A son of mine and thy great—grandsire was;
Well it behoves thee that the long fatigue
Thou shouldst for him make shorter with thy works.

Florence, within the ancient boundary
From which she taketh still her tierce and nones,
Abode in quiet, temperate and chaste.

No golden chain she had, nor coronal,
Nor ladies shod with sandal shoon, nor girdle
That caught the eye more than the person did.

Not yet the daughter at her birth struck fear
Into the father, for the time and dower
Did not o’errun this side or that the measure.

No houses had she void of families,
Not yet had thither come Sardanapalus
To show what in a chamber can be done;

Not yet surpassed had Montemalo been
By your Uccellatojo, which surpassed
Shall in its downfall be as in its rise.

Bellincion Berti saw I go begirt
With leather and with bone, and from the mirror
His dame depart without a painted face;

And him of Nerli saw, and him of Vecchio,
Contented with their simple suits of buff
And with the spindle and the flax their dames

O fortunate women! and each one was certain
Of her own burial—place, and none as yet
For sake of France was in her bed deserted.

One o’er the cradle kept her studious watch,
And in her lullaby the language used
That first delights the fathers and the mothers;

Another, drawing tresses from her distaff,
Told o’er among her family the tales
Of Trojans and of Fesole and Rome.

As great a marvel then would have been held
A Lapo Salterello, a Cianghella,
As Cincinnatus or Cornelia now.

To such a quiet, such a beautiful
Life of the citizen, to such a safe
Community, and to so sweet an inn,

Did Mary give me, with loud cries invoked,
And in your ancient Baptistery at once
Christian and Cacciaguida I became.

Moronto was my brother, and Eliseo;
From Val di Pado came to me my wife,
And from that place thy surname was derived.

r followed afterward the Emperor Conrad,
And he begirt me of his chivalry,
So much I pleased him with my noble deeds.

I followed in his train against that law’s
Iniquity, whose people doth usurp
Your just possession, through your Pastor’s fault

There by that execrable race was I
Released from bonds of the fallacious world,
The love of which defileth many souls,

And came from martyrdom unto this peace.”