Injustice On The Banks Of The Indus

Paradiso 19 is one of my favorite canti in the Commedia. It begins with a dramatization of the one/many problematic, viewed through a linguistic, indeed grammatical, lens: how can the eagle of Justice speak in the first person singular and yet express the thoughts and ideas of a first person plural?

The pilgrim hears the eagle use the words “I” and “mine” when it is in fact articulating the idea (“concetto [12]) typically indicated by “we” and “ours”:

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 «nostro». 	(Par. 19.10-12)
for I did see the beak, did hear it speak
  and utter with its voice both “I” and “mine”
when “we” and “ours” were what, in thought, was meant.

The pilgrim then speaks to the eagle and poses his dubbio with a greater urgency than usual, confessing what he calls the “great fast that has kept me hungering so long” (25-26), a fast that has never been relieved by satisfactory intellectual nourishment:

solvetemi, spirando, il gran digiuno
  che lungamente m’ha tenuto in fame,
  non trovandoli in terra cibo alcuno.		 (Par. 19.25-27)
do let your breath deliver me from that
  great fast which kept me hungering so long,
  not finding any food for it on earth.

The pilgrim repeats himself, insisting to the eagle on a hunger that has never been sated:

Sapete come attento io m’apparecchio
  ad ascoltar; sapete qual è quello dubbio
  che m’è digiun cotanto vecchio.		 (Par. 19.31-33)
You know how keenly I prepare myself
  to listen, and you know what is that doubt
  which caused so old a hungering in me.

And what is this deep hunger, this void that Dante feels so acutely and expresses so insistently?

It is the gnawing need to understand what he perceives as the unjust damnation—alienation from God—of virtuous nonbelievers. To make matters worse, these are unbelievers who are defined in terms that exacerbate Dante’s perplexity, because:

  1. They are perfectly virtuous, good in everything that they do.
  2. They had no access to the teachings of Christianity; they were thus geographically disadvantaged.

Is God unjust? How can a just God permit the damnation of a perfectly virtuous soul who was not exposed to the teachings of Scripture or to the knowledge of Christ and who has no way of accessing this knowledge?

We know this problem of yore. Indeed, it has been in front of us through the whole Commedia, from Inferno 1, where Dante encounters a pagan Roman poet who becomes his guide. The focus on this issue tightens in Inferno 4, where we learn that the souls of Dante’s Limbo are adult virtuous non-believers who did not sin (and see the Introduction to Inferno 4 for a discussion of Dante’s radical choice in conceiving Limbo thus):

Or vo’ che sappi, innanzi che più andi,
  ch’ei non peccaro; e s’elli hanno mercedi,
  non basta, perché non ebber battesmo,
ch’è porta de la fede che tu credi;
  e s’e’ furon dinanzi al cristianesmo,
  non adorar debitamente a Dio:
e di questi cotai son io medesmo.	 (Inf. 4.33-39)
I’d have you know, before you go ahead,
  they did not sin; and yet, though they have merits,
  that’s not enough, because they lacked baptism,
the portal of the faith that you embrace.
  And if they lived before Christianity, 
  they did not worship God in fitting ways;
and of such spirits I myself am one.

The problem that Dante poses to the eagle of justice in paradise is thus what we have been calling the problem of the virtuous pagan. It is an issue that Dante has kept by his side for two-thirds of the Commedia, always present in the figure of Virgilio. However beloved Virgilio is—or, rather, precisely because he is so beloved—his very presence conveys a painful and gnawing concern that Dante has never been able to overcome or resolve.

The issue of the virtuous pagan has invaded our consciousness heretofore in reading the Commedia fundamentally as the problem of those who lived before Christ and consequently did not know Him: the virtuous pagans of antiquity. It has touched us as readers mainly as a problem that affects our beloved Virgilio.

However, if we think back to Dante’s Limbo, we realize that the poet had in fact already conceived the problem of the virtuous pagan in not exclusively temporal terms. He had already conceptualized the problem of exclusion from salvation along a geographical axis as well as a temporal one. We know this because Dante includes selected Muslim moderns among his virtuous pagans of antiquity. His Limbo includes Saladin, the renowned twelfth-century Muslim general and re-conqueror of Jerusalem (1189), as well as the great Muslim philosophers Avicenna (980-1037) and Averroes (1126-1198).

In Paradiso 19 Dante completely transposes the problem of the virtuous pagan from the temporal axis to which we are accustomed—the problem of those who do not know Christ’s teachings because they lived before He did—to the geographical axis: the problem of those who do not know Christ’s teachings because they are born far away from Him.

Picking up from St. Francis’ preaching at the court of the Sultan from Paradiso 11 (it is worth bearing in mind that Franciscan missionaries were going east in this period), Dante here poses the question of the man born on the banks of the Indus (verses 70-71). This man is defined as perfectly virtuous in all his acts, but living in a place in which no one has ever spoken of Christ, read of Christ, or written of Christ:

           Un uom nasce a la riva
  de l’Indo, e quivi non è chi ragioni
  di Cristo né chi legga né chi scriva;
e tutti suoi voleri e atti buoni 
  sono, quanto ragione umana vede,
  sanza peccato in vita o in sermoni. 	(Par. 19.70-75)
          A man is born along 
  the shoreline of the Indus River; none
  is there to speak or teach or write of Christ.
And he, as far as human reason sees, 
  in all he seeks and all he does is good:
  there is no sin within his life or speech.

Dante’s emphasis in this passage is squarely on the transmission of ideas. He offers as his test case the example of someone condemned to an absolute lack of access to information about Christ, for there is no one in the specified geographical location who speaks or reads or writes of Him.

The issue of justice is thus tied up for Dante with the fact that there is no oral or written transmission of Christ’s teaching available on the banks of the Indus: “quivi non è chi ragioni / di Cristo né chi legga né chi scriva” (none is there to speak or teach or write of Christ [Par. 19.71-72]). We remember that Dante conceives his Stazio in ancient Rome as able to learn of Christianity because of both biblical and Vergilian texts that were transmitted and received, as discussed in the Introduction to Purgatorio 22. Dante’s Stazio is thereby materially advantaged with respect to Dante’s man born on the banks of the Indus.

Dante’s sense of the radical importance of access to knowledge is already expressed in the first chapter of Convivio, where Dante describes himself as one who knows firsthand the misery of deprivation and exclusion.

At the beginning of the Convivio Dante stipulates that men can be deprived of knowledge because of material defects in their places of birth, such as the lack of a University:

L’altra è lo difetto del luogo dove la persona è nata e nutrita,che tal ora sarà
da ogni Studio non solamente privato, ma da gente studiosa lontano.
 (Conv. 1.1.4)
The other is the handicap that derives from the place where a person is born and bred, which
at times will not only lack a university but be far removed from the company of educated persons.
(Richard Lansing translation)

In the above passage Dante demonstrates a profound appreciation for the material causes and circumstances that condition and limit our lives: the significance of where we are born and where we are raised, and the deprivation caused by physical distance from and lack of access to educational resources. Dante is aware of his own good fortune in having been born not “da gente studiosa lontano” (far from the company of educated persons).

Dante’s sensitivity to deprivation caused by limitations in one’s material circumstances is further reflected in his keen awareness of the material transmission of knowledge. The concern that we see in this Convivio passage for the inequities that result from the uneven distribution of access to knowledge reappear in Paradiso 19. Again Dante considers “lo difetto del luogo dove la persona è nata e nudrita” (the handicap that derives from the place where a person is born and bred), this time with respect to a man born outside of the reach of Christian teachings, on the banks of the river Indus.

As in the Convivio passage, what is at stake for Dante is lack of knowledge, lack of access to the sources of knowledge, lack of access to the ragionare di Cristo, leggere di Cristo, and scrivere di Cristo that could produce knowledge.

And this is not just any knowledge: this is the knowledge that produces salvation. When, in Purgatorio 22, Stazio thanks Virgilio for the passage in Book 3 of the Aeneid from which he learned that prodigality is a sin, he states clearly that lack of such knowledge—“ignoranza” in Purg. 22.47—does not protect one from damnation as a prodigal: “Quanti risurgeran coi crini scemi / per ignoranza” (How many are to rise again with heads / cropped close, from ignorance [Purg. 22.46-47]).

In these circumstances, Dante’s concern for justice leads to two searing questions that pose a dramatic challenge to God’s perceived injustice. The pilgrim wants to know “Where is the justice that could condemn such a man?” and “Where is his fault if he does not believe?”

Muore non battezzato e sanza fede: 
  ov’è questa giustizia che ’l condanna?
  ov’è la colpa sua, se ei non crede? 		(Par. 19.76-78)
And that man dies unbaptized, without faith.
  Where is this justice then that would condemn him?
  Where is his sin if he does not believe?

The eagle of justice responds by shutting down all dissent, and tells the pilgrim categorically that he, like all humans, is incapable of judging divine justice:

Or tu chi se’, che vuo’ sedere a scranna,
  per giudicar di lungi mille miglia
  con la veduta corta d’una spanna? 		(Par. 19.79-81)
Now who are you to sit upon the bench,
  to judge events a thousand miles away,
  when your own vision spans so brief a space?

In my opinion, however, Dante’s agonized questioning over this issue should not be dismissed because he is ultimately unable to condemn Christian orthodoxy. He is genuinely agonized, and he deserves credit for posing the questions that he poses.

My view is strengthened by the extraordinary passage at the end of this extraordinary canto. Paradiso 19 ends with an indictment of the kings of Europe who have failed to love justice, an indictment that comes back to the question of “knowing Christ” and turns it on its head.

Here Dante provocatively claims that at the Judgment Day there will be many Christians (those who “now cry ‘Christ, Christ’” in Par. 19.106) who will be less near to Him than “he who does not know Christ” (“tal che non conosce Cristo” [Par. 19.108]), and indeed that the Ethiopian will condemn such a Christian (Par. 19.109). Whether one takes this passage restrictively, to mean that the virtuous but damned heathens will castigate the damned Christians who neglected to hear the gospel and to be saved, or—as I prefer[1]—expansively, to mean that through their meritorious works pagans may yet be saved, in any case Dante’s passage is one that dignifies the Ethiopian.

A personal note. When I accepted the Premio Flaiano in Pescara in 2007 I used my two minutes on Italian television to bring to the Italian public precisely the verses from Paradiso 19 on the Ethiopian who will be closer to God at the Judgment Day than many Christians.

 

Appendix on Indians and Ethiopians in the Commedia,

Including a Plausible Source in Aristotle

On Indians and Ethiopians—that is, Asians and Africans (“Asyani et Affricani” in Monarchia 3.14.7)—Dante offers interestingly coordinated references in the Commedia, referring three times to India/Indians and three times to Ethiopia/Ethiopians. These references are balanced among the three cantiche: one set of references belongs to Inferno, a second set to Purgatorio, and a third set to Paradiso. You will find a table of the precise references below.

While the Inferno references to Indians and Ethiopians belong to different canti (Inferno 14 and Inferno 24 respectively), the Purgatorio references are not only in the same canto, but indeed in the same verse: Purgatorio 26.21 refers to both Indians and Ethiopians. The Paradiso references to Indians and Ethiopians are both found in Paradiso 19.

Given that the coordination of Indians and Ethiopians—the “Asyani et Affricani” of the Monarchia—is a consistent part of Dante’s program, it is very interesting to discover that Aristotle offers a coordinated reference to Indians and Ethiopians in his On Sophistical Refutations, in a passage that Dante certainly knew. Dante cites On Sophistical Refutations in Monarchia 3.1.4. In Book 3 chapter 4 of Monarchia Dante follows Aristotelian precepts from On Sophistical Refutations to refute his opponents both absolutely and in a certain respect (simpliciter et secundum quid). It is precisely in a discussion of this fallacy, in chapter 5 of On Sophistical Refutations, that Aristotle uses the coordinated examples of Indians and Ethiopians:

In like manner when something is predicated in a certain respect and absolutely; for example, ‘If an Indian, being black all over, is white in respect of his teeth, then he is white and not white.’ Or if both attributes belong in a certain respect, they say that the contrary attributes belong simultaneously. In some cases this sort of fallacy can be easily perceived by anyone; if, for example, after securing an admission that the Ethiopian is black, one were to ask whether he is white in respect of his teeth, and then, if he be white in this respect, were to think that he had finished the interrogation and had proved dialectically that he was both black and not black. (On Sophistical Refutations, ch. 5, translation of E. S. Forster in the Loeb Classical Library edition [London: Heinemann and Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1955])

The examples of the secundum quid fallacy that Aristotle offers in On Sophistical Refutations chapter 5 are examples based on the blackness of both Indians and Ethiopians: “If an Indian, being black all over, is white in respect of his teeth . . . if, for example, after securing an admission that the Ethiopian is black, one were to ask whether he is white in respect of his teeth” (On Sophistical Refutations, 5 166b 29). Aristotle here coordinates references to Indians and Ethiopians, as Dante always does in the Commedia.

The coordination of Indians and Ethiopians in a passage of Aristotle’s work that Dante uses in Monarchia—a text where he refers, moreover, to “Asyani et Affricani” (3.14.7)—plausibly provides a model and a source for Dante’s program of coordinated references to Indians and Ethiopians throughout the Commedia.


TABLE OF REFERENCES TO INDIANS

AND ETHIOPIANS IN THE COMMEDIA

Below is a table, organized by cantica, of the coordinated references to Indians and Ethiopians in the Commedia. I exclude the Commedia’s many references in astronomical periphrases to the river Ganges. In my view, Dante seems to use the river Ganges as a spatial marker, and the river Indus as an ethnic marker.

Inf. 14.32 d’India vide sopra ’l suo stuolo Inf. 24.89 mostrò già mai con tutta l’Etiopia
Purg. 26.21 che d’acqua fredda Indo o Etiopo Purg. 26.21 che d’acqua fredda Indo o Etiopo
Par. 19.71 de l’Indo, e quivi non è chi ragioni Par. 19.109 e tai Cristian dannerà l’Etiòpe

The above references can be synthesized as follows:

  1. Dante refers to the places “India” and “Ethiopia” in Inferno, in Inferno 14 and Inferno 24 respectively
  2. Dante refers to the people “Indians” and “Ethiopians” in Purgatorio 26.21, where both populations are cited for their desire for cold water, in other words, as denizens of torrid lands
  3. Dante refers to the people again in Paradiso 19, where we find coordinated references to both groups as examples of non-Christians who may well be more virtuous than Christians

Since I have emphasized the dignity accorded to Ethiopians in Paradiso 19, I should mention as well the negative invocation of black people in Inferno 34. The blackness of one of Lucifer’s three faces is indicated by a periphrasis, designating the color black by conjuring “those / who come from where the Nile, descending, flows”: “quali / vegnon di là onde ’l Nilo s’avvalla” (Inf. 34.44-5).

The place referred to through the periphrasis about the Nile is the area from which Ethiopians come. Chiavacci Leonardi glosses the periphrasis thus: “cioè di tal colore, quali sono coloro che provengono dalla regione (l’Etiopia) dove il Nilo scende dai monti in pianura (s’avvalla): quindi di colore nero” (of such a color as those who come from the region, Ethiopia, where the Nile descends from the mountains to the plain: thus the color black).

Although the periphrasis of Inferno 34 is not a negative remark about Ethiopians per se, the use of the Ethiopians’ color to describe Lucifer’s face can hardly be viewed as positive. Similarly, there is no negative comment about Jews in Inferno 34, but the use of the name “Giudecca” for the zone of the ninth circle that encompasses Lucifer cannot be taken as a positive indicator.

In her 2007 commentary to Othello, Kim Hall notes that “in early modern Europe ‘Ethiopian’ frequently referred to black peoples in general”; see Othello, the Moor of Venice: Texts and Contexts, ed. Kim F. Hall (Boston 2007, p. 185). For the man on the banks of the Indus, the Bosco-Reggio commentary notes: “Si designa inoltre, in modo generico l’Oriente” (p. 324); see Paradiso, ed. Umberto Bosco and Giovanni Reggio (Florence 1979). And note the similarly generic word “Perse” or “Persians”, used in the same canto that contains the Ethiopians and the man on the banks of the Indus: “Che poran dir li Perse a’ vostri regi” (What shall the Persians say to your kings [Par. 19.112]).

 

[1] The restrictive interpretation may be found in the commentary of Robert Hollander, while the expansive interpretation may be found in the commentary of Anna Maria Chiavacci Leonardi, with whose position I wholeheartedly agree.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: “‘Only Historicize’: History, Material Culture (Food, Clothes, Books), and the Future of Dante Studies,” Dante Studies 127 (2009): 37-54; “Dante's Sympathy for the Other, or the Non-Stereotyping Imagination, Sexual and Racialized Others in the Commedia,” in Critica del Testo 14.1 (2011): 177-204 (=Dante, oggi, vol. 1., eds. Roberto Antonelli, Annalisa Pandolfi, and Arianna Punzi [Roma: Viella, 2011] 3 vols.).

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Paradiso 19: Injustice On The Banks Of The Indus.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/paradiso/paradiso-19/

About the Commento

1Parea dinanzi a me con l’ali aperte
2la bella image che nel dolce frui
3liete facevan l’anime conserte;

4parea ciascuna rubinetto in cui
5raggio di sole ardesse sì acceso,
6che ne’ miei occhi rifrangesse lui.

7E quel che mi convien ritrar testeso,
8non portò voce mai, né scrisse incostro,
9né fu per fantasia già mai compreso;

10ch’io vidi e anche udi’ parlar lo rostro,
11e sonar ne la voce e «io» e «mio»,
12quand’ era nel concetto e ‘noi’ e ‘nostro’.

13E cominciò: «Per esser giusto e pio
14son io qui essaltato a quella gloria
15che non si lascia vincere a disio;

16e in terra lasciai la mia memoria
17sì fatta, che le genti lì malvage
18commendan lei, ma non seguon la storia».

19Così un sol calor di molte brage
20si fa sentir, come di molti amori
21usciva solo un suon di quella image.

22Ond’ io appresso: «O perpetüi fiori
23de l’etterna letizia, che pur uno
24parer mi fate tutti vostri odori,

25solvetemi, spirando, il gran digiuno
26che lungamente m’ha tenuto in fame,
27non trovandoli in terra cibo alcuno.

28Ben so io che, se ’n cielo altro reame
29la divina giustizia fa suo specchio,
30che ’l vostro non l’apprende con velame.

31Sapete come attento io m’apparecchio
32ad ascoltar; sapete qual è quello
33dubbio che m’è digiun cotanto vecchio».

34Quasi falcone ch’esce del cappello,
35move la testa e con l’ali si plaude,
36voglia mostrando e faccendosi bello,

37vid’ io farsi quel segno, che di laude
38de la divina grazia era contesto,
39con canti quai si sa chi là sù gaude.

40Poi cominciò: «Colui che volse il sesto
41a lo stremo del mondo, e dentro ad esso
42distinse tanto occulto e manifesto,

43non poté suo valor sì fare impresso
44in tutto l’universo, che ’l suo verbo
45non rimanesse in infinito eccesso.

46E ciò fa certo che ’l primo superbo,
47che fu la somma d’ogne creatura,
48per non aspettar lume, cadde acerbo;

49e quinci appar ch’ogne minor natura
50è corto recettacolo a quel bene
51che non ha fine e sé con sé misura.

52Dunque vostra veduta, che convene
53esser alcun de’ raggi de la mente
54di che tutte le cose son ripiene,

55non pò da sua natura esser possente
56tanto, che suo principio discerna
57molto di là da quel che l’è parvente.

58Però ne la giustizia sempiterna
59la vista che riceve il vostro mondo,
60com’ occhio per lo mare, entro s’interna;

61che, ben che da la proda veggia il fondo,
62in pelago nol vede; e nondimeno
63èli, ma cela lui l’esser profondo.

64Lume non è, se non vien dal sereno
65che non si turba mai; anzi è tenèbra
66od ombra de la carne o suo veleno.

67Assai t’è mo aperta la latebra
68che t’ascondeva la giustizia viva,
69di che facei question cotanto crebra;

70ché tu dicevi: “Un uom nasce a la riva
71de l’Indo, e quivi non è chi ragioni
72di Cristo né chi legga né chi scriva;

73e tutti suoi voleri e atti buoni
74sono, quanto ragione umana vede,
75sanza peccato in vita o in sermoni.

76Muore non battezzato e sanza fede:
77ov’ è questa giustizia che ’l condanna?
78ov’ è la colpa sua, se ei non crede?”.

79Or tu chi se’, che vuo’ sedere a scranna,
80per giudicar di lungi mille miglia
81con la veduta corta d’una spanna?

82Certo a colui che meco s’assottiglia,
83se la Scrittura sovra voi non fosse,
84da dubitar sarebbe a maraviglia.

85Oh terreni animali! oh menti grosse!
86La prima volontà, ch’è da sé buona,
87da sé, ch’è sommo ben, mai non si mosse.

88Cotanto è giusto quanto a lei consuona:
89nullo creato bene a sé la tira,
90ma essa, radïando, lui cagiona».

91Quale sovresso il nido si rigira
92poi c’ha pasciuti la cicogna i figli,
93e come quel ch’è pasto la rimira;

94cotal si fece, e sì leväi i cigli,
95la benedetta imagine, che l’ali
96movea sospinte da tanti consigli.

97Roteando cantava, e dicea: «Quali
98son le mie note a te, che non le ’ntendi,
99tal è il giudicio etterno a voi mortali».

100Poi si quetaro quei lucenti incendi
101de lo Spirito Santo ancor nel segno
102che fé i Romani al mondo reverendi,

103esso ricominciò: «A questo regno
104non salì mai chi non credette ’n Cristo,
105né pria né poi ch’el si chiavasse al legno.

106Ma vedi: molti gridan “Cristo, Cristo!”,
107che saranno in giudicio assai men prope
108a lui, che tal che non conosce Cristo;

109e tai Cristian dannerà l’Etïòpe,
110quando si partiranno i due collegi,
111l’uno in etterno ricco e l’altro inòpe.

112Che poran dir li Perse a’ vostri regi,
113come vedranno quel volume aperto
114nel qual si scrivon tutti suoi dispregi?

115Lì si vedrà, tra l’opere d’Alberto,
116quella che tosto moverà la penna,
117per che ’l regno di Praga fia diserto.

118Lì si vedrà il duol che sovra Senna
119induce, falseggiando la moneta,
120quel che morrà di colpo di cotenna.

121Lì si vedrà la superbia ch’asseta,
122che fa lo Scotto e l’Inghilese folle,
123sì che non può soffrir dentro a sua meta.

124Vedrassi la lussuria e ’l viver molle
125di quel di Spagna e di quel di Boemme,
126che mai valor non conobbe né volle.

127Vedrassi al Ciotto di Ierusalemme
128segnata con un i la sua bontate,
129quando ’l contrario segnerà un emme.

130Vedrassi l’avarizia e la viltate
131di quei che guarda l’isola del foco,
132ove Anchise finì la lunga etate;

133e a dare ad intender quanto è poco,
134la sua scrittura fian lettere mozze,
135che noteranno molto in parvo loco.

136E parranno a ciascun l’opere sozze
137del barba e del fratel, che tanto egregia
138nazione e due corone han fatte bozze.

139E quel di Portogallo e di Norvegia
140lì si conosceranno, e quel di Rascia
141che male ha visto il conio di Vinegia.

142Oh beata Ungheria, se non si lascia
143più malmenare! e beata Navarra,
144se s’armasse del monte che la fascia!

145E creder de’ ciascun che già, per arra
146di questo, Niccosïa e Famagosta
147per la lor bestia si lamenti e garra,

148che dal fianco de l’altre non si scosta».

The handsome image those united souls,
happy within their blessedness, were shaping,
appeared before me now with open wings.

Each soul seemed like a ruby—one in which
a ray of sun burned so, that in my eyes,
it was the total sun that seemed reflected.

And what I now must tell has never been
reported by a voice, inscribed by ink,
never conceived by the imagination;

for I did see the beak, did hear it speak
and utter with its voice both I and mine
when we and ours were what, in thought, was meant.

And it began: “Because I was both just
and merciful, I am exalted here
to glory no desire can surpass;

the memory I left on earth is such
that even the malicious praise it there,
although they do not follow its example.”

Thus one sole warmth is felt from many embers,
even as from a multitude of loves
one voice alone rose from the Eagle’s image.

To which I said: “O everlasting flowers
of the eternal gladness, who make all
your fragrances appear to me as one,

do let your breath deliver me from that
great fast which kept me hungering so long,
not finding any food for it on earth.

I know indeed that, though God’s Justice has
another realm in Heaven as Its mirror,
you here do not perceive it through a veil.

You know how keenly I prepare myself
to listen, and you know what is that doubt
which caused so old a hungering in me.”

Just like a falcon set free from its hood,
which moves its head and flaps its wings, displaying
its eagerness and proud appearance, so

I saw that ensign do, that Eagle woven
of praises of God’s grace, accompanied
by songs whose sense those up above enjoy.

Then it began: “The One who turned His compass
to mark the world’s confines, and in them set
so many things concealed and things revealed,

could not imprint His Power into all
the universe without His Word remaining
in infinite excess of such a vessel.

In proof of this, the first proud being, he
who was the highest of all creatures, fell—
unripe because he did not wait for light.

Thus it is clear that every lesser nature
is—all the more—too meager a container
for endless Good, which is Its own sole measure.

In consequence of this, your vision—which
must be a ray of that Intelligence
with which all beings are infused—cannot

of its own nature find sufficient force
to see into its origin beyond
what God himself makes manifest to man;

therefore, the vision that your world receives
can penetrate into Eternal Justice
no more than eye can penetrate the sea;

for though, near shore, sight reaches the sea floor,
you cannot reach it in the open sea;
yet it is there, but hidden by the deep.

Only the light that shines from the clear heaven
can never be obscured—all else is darkness
or shadow of the flesh or fleshly poison.

Now is the hiding place of living Justice
laid open to you—where it had been hidden
while you addressed it with insistent questions.

For you would say: ‘A man is born along
the shoreline of the Indus River; none
is there to speak or teach or write of Christ.

And he, as far as human reason sees,
in all he seeks and all he does is good:
there is no sin within his life or speech.

And that man dies unbaptized, without faith.
Where is this justice then that would condemn him?
Where is his sin if he does not believe?’

Now who are you to sit upon the bench,
to judge events a thousand miles away,
when your own vision spans so brief a space?

Of course, for him who would be subtle with me,
were there no Scriptures to instruct you, then
there would be place for an array of questions.

O earthly animals, o minds obtuse!
The Primal Will, which of Itself is good,
from the Supreme Good—Its Self—never moved.

So much is just as does accord with It;
and so, created good can draw It to
itself—but It, rayed forth, causes such goods.”

Just as, above the nest, the stork will circle
when she has fed her fledglings, and as he
whom she has fed looks up at her, so did

the blessed image do, and so did I,
the fledgling, while the Eagle moved its wings,
spurred on by many wills in unison.

Wheeling, the Eagle sang, then said: “Even
as are my songs to you—past understanding—
such is Eternal Judgment to you mortals.”

After the Holy Ghost’s bright flames fell silent
while still within the sign that made the Romans
revered throughout the world, again the Eagle

began: “No one without belief in Christ
has ever risen to this kingdom—either
before or after He was crucified.

But there are many who now cry ‘Christ! Christ!’
who at the Final Judgment shall be far
less close to Him than one who knows not Christ;

the Ethiopian will shame such Christians
when the two companies are separated,
the one forever rich, the other poor.

What shall the Persians, when they come to see
that open volume in which they shall read
the misdeeds of your rulers, say to them?

There one shall see, among the deeds of Albert,
that which is soon to set the pen in motion,
his making of a desert of Prague’s kingdom.

There one shall see the grief inflicted on
the Seine by him who falsifies his coins,
one who shall die beneath a wild boar’s blow.

There one shall see the thirst of arrogance
that drives the Scot and Englishman insane—
unable to remain within their borders.

That book will show the life of Lechery
and ease the Spaniard led—and the Bohemian,
who never knew and never wished for valor.

That book will show the Cripple of Jerusalem—
his good deeds labeled with an I alone,
whereas his evils will be under M.

That book will show the greed and cowardice
of him who oversees the Isle of Fire,
on which Anchises ended his long life;

and to make plain his paltriness, the letters
that register his deeds will be contracted,
to note much pettiness in little space.

And all shall see the filthiness of both
his uncle and his brother, who dishonored
a family so famous—and two crowns.

And he of Portugal and he of Norway
shall be known in that book, and he of Rascia,
who saw—unluckily—the coin of Venice.

O happy Hungary, if she would let
herself be wronged no more! Happy Navarre,
if mountains that surround her served as armor!

And if Navarre needs token of her future,
now Nicosia and Famagosta offer—
as men must see—lament and anger over

their own beast, with his place beside the others.”

APPEARED before me with its wings outspread
The beautiful image that in sweet fruition
Made jubilant the interwoven souls;

Appeared a little ruby each, wherein
Ray of the sun was burning so enkindled
That each into mine eyes refracted it.

And what it now behoves me to retrace
Nor voice has e’er reported, nor ink written,
Nor was by fantasy e’er comprehended;

For speak I saw, and likewise heard, the beak,
And utter with its voice both _ I_ and _My,_
When in conception it was _We_ and _Our._

And it began: “Being just and merciful
Am I exalted here unto that glory
Which cannot be exceeded by desire;

And upon earth I left my memory
Such, that the evil—minded people there
Commend it, but continue not the story.”

So doth a single heat from many embers
Make itself felt, even as from many loves
Issued a single sound from out that image.

Whence I thereafter: “O perpetual flowers
Of the eternal joy, that only one
Make me perceive your odours manifold,

Exhaling, break within me the great fast
Which a long season has in hunger held me,
Not finding for it any food on earth.

Well do I know, that if in heaven its mirror
Justice Divine another realm doth make,
Yours apprehends it not through any veil.

You know how I attentively address me
To listen; and you know what is the doubt
That is in me so very old a fast.”

Even as a falcon issuing from his hood,
Doth move his head, and with his wings applaud him
Showing desire, and making himself fine,

Saw I become that standard, which of lauds
Was interwoven of the grace divine,
With such songs as he knows who there rejoices.

Then it began: “He who a compass turned
On the world’s outer verge, and who within it
Devised so much occult and manifest,

Could not the impress of his power so make
On all the universe, as that his Word
Should not remain in infinite excess.

And this makes certain that the first proud being,
Who was the paragon of every creature,
By not awaiting light fell immature.

And hence appears it, that each minor nature
Is scant receptacle unto that good
Which has no end, and by itself is measured.

In consequence our vision, which perforce
Must be some ray of that intelligence
With which all things whatever are replete,

Cannot in its own nature be so potent,
That it shall not its origin discern
Far beyond that which is apparent to it.

Therefore into the justice sempiternal
The power of vision that your world receives,
As eye into the ocean, penetrates ;

Which, though it see the bottom near the shore,
Upon the deep perceives it not, and yet
‘Tis there, but it is hidden by the depth.

There is no light but comes from the serene
That never is o’ercast, nay, it is darkness
Or shadow of the flesh, or else its poison.

Amply to thee is opened now the cavern
Which has concealed from thee the living justice
Of which thou mad’st such frequent questioning.

For saidst thou: ‘Born a man is on the shore
Of Indus, and is none who there can speak
Of Christ, nor who can read, nor who can write;

And all his inclinations and his actions
Are good, so far as human reason sees,
Without a sin in life or in discourse:

He dieth unbaptised and without faith;
Where is this justice that condemneth him ?
Where is his fault, if he do not believe ? ‘

Now who art thou, that on the bench wouldst sit
In judgment at a thousand miles away,
With the short vision of a single span ?

Truly to him who with me subtilizes,
If so the Scripture were not over you,
For doubting there were marvellous occasion.

O animals terrene, O stolid minds,
The primal will, that in itself is good,
Ne’er from itself, the Good Supreme, has moved.

So much is just as is accordant with it;
No good created draws it to itself,
But it, by raying forth, occasions that.”

Even as above her nest goes circling round
The stork when she has fed her little ones,
And he who has been fed looks up at her,

So lifted I my brows, and even such
Became the blessed image, which its wings
Was moving, by so many counsels urged.

Circling around it sang, and said: “As are
My notes to thee, who dost not comprehend them,
Such is the eternal judgment to you mortals.”

Those lucent splendours of the Holy Spirit
Grew quiet then, but still within the standard
That made the Romans reverend to the world.

It recommenced: “Unto this kingdom never
Ascended one who had not faith in Christ,
Before or since he to the tree was nailed.

But look thou, many crying are, ‘Christ, Christ! ‘
Who at the judgment shall be far less near
To him than some shall be who knew not Christ.

Such Christians shall the Ethiop condemn
When the two companies shall be divided,
The one for ever rich, the other poor.

What to your kings may not the Persians say,
When they that volume opened shall behold
In which are written down all their dispraises ?

There shall be seen, among the deeds of Albert,
That which ere long shall set the pen in motion,
For which the realm of Prague shall be deserted.

There shall be seen the woe that on the Seine
He brings by falsifying of the coin,
Who by the blow of a wild boar shall die.

There shall be seen the pride that causes thirst,
Which makes the Scot and Englishman so mad
That they within their boundaries cannot rest;

Be seen the luxury and effeminate life
Of him of Spain, and the Bohemian,
Who valour never knew and never wished;

Be seen the Cripple of Jerusalem,
His goodness represented by an I,
While the reverse an M shall represent;

Be seen the avarice and poltroonery
Of him who guards the Island of the Fire,
Wherein Anchises finished his long life;

And to declare how pitiful he is
Shall be his record in contracted letters
Which shall make note of much in little space.

And shall appear to each one the foul deeds
Of uncle and of brother who a nation
So famous have dishonoured, and two crowns.

And he of Portugal and he of Norway
Shall there be known, and he of Rascia too,
Who saw in evil hour the coin of Venice.

O happy Hungary, if she let herself
Be wronged no farther! and Navarre the happy,
If with the hills that gird her she be armed!

And each one may believe that now, as hansel
Thereof, do Nicosia and Famagosta
Lament and rage because of their own beast,

Who from the others’ flank departeth not.”

The handsome image those united souls,
happy within their blessedness, were shaping,
appeared before me now with open wings.

Each soul seemed like a ruby—one in which
a ray of sun burned so, that in my eyes,
it was the total sun that seemed reflected.

And what I now must tell has never been
reported by a voice, inscribed by ink,
never conceived by the imagination;

for I did see the beak, did hear it speak
and utter with its voice both I and mine
when we and ours were what, in thought, was meant.

And it began: “Because I was both just
and merciful, I am exalted here
to glory no desire can surpass;

the memory I left on earth is such
that even the malicious praise it there,
although they do not follow its example.”

Thus one sole warmth is felt from many embers,
even as from a multitude of loves
one voice alone rose from the Eagle’s image.

To which I said: “O everlasting flowers
of the eternal gladness, who make all
your fragrances appear to me as one,

do let your breath deliver me from that
great fast which kept me hungering so long,
not finding any food for it on earth.

I know indeed that, though God’s Justice has
another realm in Heaven as Its mirror,
you here do not perceive it through a veil.

You know how keenly I prepare myself
to listen, and you know what is that doubt
which caused so old a hungering in me.”

Just like a falcon set free from its hood,
which moves its head and flaps its wings, displaying
its eagerness and proud appearance, so

I saw that ensign do, that Eagle woven
of praises of God’s grace, accompanied
by songs whose sense those up above enjoy.

Then it began: “The One who turned His compass
to mark the world’s confines, and in them set
so many things concealed and things revealed,

could not imprint His Power into all
the universe without His Word remaining
in infinite excess of such a vessel.

In proof of this, the first proud being, he
who was the highest of all creatures, fell—
unripe because he did not wait for light.

Thus it is clear that every lesser nature
is—all the more—too meager a container
for endless Good, which is Its own sole measure.

In consequence of this, your vision—which
must be a ray of that Intelligence
with which all beings are infused—cannot

of its own nature find sufficient force
to see into its origin beyond
what God himself makes manifest to man;

therefore, the vision that your world receives
can penetrate into Eternal Justice
no more than eye can penetrate the sea;

for though, near shore, sight reaches the sea floor,
you cannot reach it in the open sea;
yet it is there, but hidden by the deep.

Only the light that shines from the clear heaven
can never be obscured—all else is darkness
or shadow of the flesh or fleshly poison.

Now is the hiding place of living Justice
laid open to you—where it had been hidden
while you addressed it with insistent questions.

For you would say: ‘A man is born along
the shoreline of the Indus River; none
is there to speak or teach or write of Christ.

And he, as far as human reason sees,
in all he seeks and all he does is good:
there is no sin within his life or speech.

And that man dies unbaptized, without faith.
Where is this justice then that would condemn him?
Where is his sin if he does not believe?’

Now who are you to sit upon the bench,
to judge events a thousand miles away,
when your own vision spans so brief a space?

Of course, for him who would be subtle with me,
were there no Scriptures to instruct you, then
there would be place for an array of questions.

O earthly animals, o minds obtuse!
The Primal Will, which of Itself is good,
from the Supreme Good—Its Self—never moved.

So much is just as does accord with It;
and so, created good can draw It to
itself—but It, rayed forth, causes such goods.”

Just as, above the nest, the stork will circle
when she has fed her fledglings, and as he
whom she has fed looks up at her, so did

the blessed image do, and so did I,
the fledgling, while the Eagle moved its wings,
spurred on by many wills in unison.

Wheeling, the Eagle sang, then said: “Even
as are my songs to you—past understanding—
such is Eternal Judgment to you mortals.”

After the Holy Ghost’s bright flames fell silent
while still within the sign that made the Romans
revered throughout the world, again the Eagle

began: “No one without belief in Christ
has ever risen to this kingdom—either
before or after He was crucified.

But there are many who now cry ‘Christ! Christ!’
who at the Final Judgment shall be far
less close to Him than one who knows not Christ;

the Ethiopian will shame such Christians
when the two companies are separated,
the one forever rich, the other poor.

What shall the Persians, when they come to see
that open volume in which they shall read
the misdeeds of your rulers, say to them?

There one shall see, among the deeds of Albert,
that which is soon to set the pen in motion,
his making of a desert of Prague’s kingdom.

There one shall see the grief inflicted on
the Seine by him who falsifies his coins,
one who shall die beneath a wild boar’s blow.

There one shall see the thirst of arrogance
that drives the Scot and Englishman insane—
unable to remain within their borders.

That book will show the life of Lechery
and ease the Spaniard led—and the Bohemian,
who never knew and never wished for valor.

That book will show the Cripple of Jerusalem—
his good deeds labeled with an I alone,
whereas his evils will be under M.

That book will show the greed and cowardice
of him who oversees the Isle of Fire,
on which Anchises ended his long life;

and to make plain his paltriness, the letters
that register his deeds will be contracted,
to note much pettiness in little space.

And all shall see the filthiness of both
his uncle and his brother, who dishonored
a family so famous—and two crowns.

And he of Portugal and he of Norway
shall be known in that book, and he of Rascia,
who saw—unluckily—the coin of Venice.

O happy Hungary, if she would let
herself be wronged no more! Happy Navarre,
if mountains that surround her served as armor!

And if Navarre needs token of her future,
now Nicosia and Famagosta offer—
as men must see—lament and anger over

their own beast, with his place beside the others.”

APPEARED before me with its wings outspread
The beautiful image that in sweet fruition
Made jubilant the interwoven souls;

Appeared a little ruby each, wherein
Ray of the sun was burning so enkindled
That each into mine eyes refracted it.

And what it now behoves me to retrace
Nor voice has e’er reported, nor ink written,
Nor was by fantasy e’er comprehended;

For speak I saw, and likewise heard, the beak,
And utter with its voice both _ I_ and _My,_
When in conception it was _We_ and _Our._

And it began: “Being just and merciful
Am I exalted here unto that glory
Which cannot be exceeded by desire;

And upon earth I left my memory
Such, that the evil—minded people there
Commend it, but continue not the story.”

So doth a single heat from many embers
Make itself felt, even as from many loves
Issued a single sound from out that image.

Whence I thereafter: “O perpetual flowers
Of the eternal joy, that only one
Make me perceive your odours manifold,

Exhaling, break within me the great fast
Which a long season has in hunger held me,
Not finding for it any food on earth.

Well do I know, that if in heaven its mirror
Justice Divine another realm doth make,
Yours apprehends it not through any veil.

You know how I attentively address me
To listen; and you know what is the doubt
That is in me so very old a fast.”

Even as a falcon issuing from his hood,
Doth move his head, and with his wings applaud him
Showing desire, and making himself fine,

Saw I become that standard, which of lauds
Was interwoven of the grace divine,
With such songs as he knows who there rejoices.

Then it began: “He who a compass turned
On the world’s outer verge, and who within it
Devised so much occult and manifest,

Could not the impress of his power so make
On all the universe, as that his Word
Should not remain in infinite excess.

And this makes certain that the first proud being,
Who was the paragon of every creature,
By not awaiting light fell immature.

And hence appears it, that each minor nature
Is scant receptacle unto that good
Which has no end, and by itself is measured.

In consequence our vision, which perforce
Must be some ray of that intelligence
With which all things whatever are replete,

Cannot in its own nature be so potent,
That it shall not its origin discern
Far beyond that which is apparent to it.

Therefore into the justice sempiternal
The power of vision that your world receives,
As eye into the ocean, penetrates ;

Which, though it see the bottom near the shore,
Upon the deep perceives it not, and yet
‘Tis there, but it is hidden by the depth.

There is no light but comes from the serene
That never is o’ercast, nay, it is darkness
Or shadow of the flesh, or else its poison.

Amply to thee is opened now the cavern
Which has concealed from thee the living justice
Of which thou mad’st such frequent questioning.

For saidst thou: ‘Born a man is on the shore
Of Indus, and is none who there can speak
Of Christ, nor who can read, nor who can write;

And all his inclinations and his actions
Are good, so far as human reason sees,
Without a sin in life or in discourse:

He dieth unbaptised and without faith;
Where is this justice that condemneth him ?
Where is his fault, if he do not believe ? ‘

Now who art thou, that on the bench wouldst sit
In judgment at a thousand miles away,
With the short vision of a single span ?

Truly to him who with me subtilizes,
If so the Scripture were not over you,
For doubting there were marvellous occasion.

O animals terrene, O stolid minds,
The primal will, that in itself is good,
Ne’er from itself, the Good Supreme, has moved.

So much is just as is accordant with it;
No good created draws it to itself,
But it, by raying forth, occasions that.”

Even as above her nest goes circling round
The stork when she has fed her little ones,
And he who has been fed looks up at her,

So lifted I my brows, and even such
Became the blessed image, which its wings
Was moving, by so many counsels urged.

Circling around it sang, and said: “As are
My notes to thee, who dost not comprehend them,
Such is the eternal judgment to you mortals.”

Those lucent splendours of the Holy Spirit
Grew quiet then, but still within the standard
That made the Romans reverend to the world.

It recommenced: “Unto this kingdom never
Ascended one who had not faith in Christ,
Before or since he to the tree was nailed.

But look thou, many crying are, ‘Christ, Christ! ‘
Who at the judgment shall be far less near
To him than some shall be who knew not Christ.

Such Christians shall the Ethiop condemn
When the two companies shall be divided,
The one for ever rich, the other poor.

What to your kings may not the Persians say,
When they that volume opened shall behold
In which are written down all their dispraises ?

There shall be seen, among the deeds of Albert,
That which ere long shall set the pen in motion,
For which the realm of Prague shall be deserted.

There shall be seen the woe that on the Seine
He brings by falsifying of the coin,
Who by the blow of a wild boar shall die.

There shall be seen the pride that causes thirst,
Which makes the Scot and Englishman so mad
That they within their boundaries cannot rest;

Be seen the luxury and effeminate life
Of him of Spain, and the Bohemian,
Who valour never knew and never wished;

Be seen the Cripple of Jerusalem,
His goodness represented by an I,
While the reverse an M shall represent;

Be seen the avarice and poltroonery
Of him who guards the Island of the Fire,
Wherein Anchises finished his long life;

And to declare how pitiful he is
Shall be his record in contracted letters
Which shall make note of much in little space.

And shall appear to each one the foul deeds
Of uncle and of brother who a nation
So famous have dishonoured, and two crowns.

And he of Portugal and he of Norway
Shall there be known, and he of Rascia too,
Who saw in evil hour the coin of Venice.

O happy Hungary, if she let herself
Be wronged no farther! and Navarre the happy,
If with the hills that gird her she be armed!

And each one may believe that now, as hansel
Thereof, do Nicosia and Famagosta
Lament and rage because of their own beast,

Who from the others’ flank departeth not.”