Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord

Paradiso 6 tells the story of the history of the Roman Empire, viewed as Providential/Christian history.

Dante is tracing various genealogies. In the Introduction to Paradiso 5, I discussed the way that Dante took a question about the economics of vows as an opportunity to consider the genealogy from the Old Testament to the new dispensation. I also discussed Dante’s harsh assessment of the Jews in Paradiso 5, viewed not as progenitors but rather as a rival team within Providential history. This harsh assessment will continue in Paradiso 6 and Paradiso 7, where the history that Dante is delineating cannot fail to include the Jews. One wishes that Dante showed in his treatment more of the tolerance and advanced thinking that he shows elsewhere, for instance with regard to pagans (Inferno 4) and homosexuals (Purgatorio 26), and for that matter in his consideration of usury in hell, where all the usurers are Christian despite the cultural associations of usury with Jews (Inferno 17). But he does not.

In the same way that the Old Testament was a precursor to the New Testament and a precursor to the Christian dispensation that will follow and surpass it, so Roman history was intended by God as a preparation for the birth of Christ.

We recall that the sixth canto of each cantica deals with politics and history from the perspective of a progressively larger social entity: Florence in Inferno 6, Italy in Purgatorio 6, and now the Empire in Paradiso 6. The speaker is Justinian I, Roman Emperor from 527-565, based in Byzantium. If you have seen the Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna, you have seen images of Justinian and his wife Teodora. Dante treats him as the type of the perfect Emperor, focusing in particular on the great legal work, Corpus Iuris Civilis.

The Corpus Juris (or Iuris) Civilis (“Body of Civil Law”) is the modern name for a collection of fundamental works in jurisprudence, issued from 529 to 534 by order of Justinian. Though the work as a whole is sometimes referred to as the Code of Justinian, this name is more properly reserved for the first part, which is titled Codex.

The story of the Roman Empire is told by Dante, through the mouth of Justinian who speaks for the entire canto, as the exploits of the eagle, the “aquila” of the Paradiso 6’s first verse. The eagle is the emblem of the Roman Empire, the “sacrosanto segno” (sacred standard [Par. 6.32]), as it races through history. This narrative is complex, because it will encompass the birth of Christ and it is also framed by Justinian in such a way as to be an explicit condemnation of the way that the Empire is used in contemporary politics. Justinian condemns both those who appropriate the standard on their own behalf and those who oppose it, in other words both the Ghibellines and the Guelphs:

perché tu veggi con quanta ragione
si move contr’al sacrosanto segno
e chi ’l s'appropria e chi a lui s’oppone. (Par. 6.31-33)
you may see with how much reason they attack 
the sacred standard—those who seem to act 
on its behalf and those opposing it.

Dante’s account of Roman history, drawn from classical sources, features the eagle—the “segno” or standard of Empire—as the subject of every verb, the critical actor in Providential history:

Rhetorically, moreover, Dante’s use of segno as a personified subject in Paradiso 6 has the effect of making the sign an actor, of achieving a conflation between the signum that represents and the res that does. The string of tercets in which segno governs the verb fare (“Tu sai ch’el fece” [Par. 6.37], “E sai ch’el fé” [40], “Sai quel ch’el fé” [43], “E quel che fé” [58], “Quel che fé” [61], “Di quel che fé” [73]) culminates in the lines where the segno, far from being a word, is the active force that constrains Justinian to find the words with which he now speaks: “Ma ciò che ’l segno che parlar mi face / fatto avea prima e poi era fatturo” (But that which the sign that makes me speak had done before and after was to do [82-83]). (The Undivine Comedy, p. 128)

The brisk pace of the narrative slows down at Paradiso 6.82, as Justinian builds to a climax: Dante is preparing to insert the birth of Christ into Roman history. The Providential nature of Roman history is about to become fully apparent.

Nothing that the eagle/Roman Empire did compares to what it did during the time of the third Emperor, Tiberius. At this time, God’s justice conceded to Tiberius and thus to the Roman Empire the glory to exact vengeance for God’s wrath:

ché la viva giustizia che mi spira,
li concedette, in mano a quel ch’i’ dico,
gloria di far vendetta a la sua ira.(Par. 6.88-90)
for the true Justice that inspires me
granted to it—in that next Caesar’s hand—
the glory of avenging His own wrath.

God was wrathful because of human disobedience, human trespass. Dante here refers to original sin and to the eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We recall the despoiled tree in the earthly paradise, surrounded by the procession calling out “Adamo” and the griffin-Christ that refuses to eat of the tree (see Purgatorio 32). We recall too the gloss of the tree in Purgatorio 33: it is “la giustizia di Dio, ne l’interdetto” (God’s justice, in His interdict [Purg. 33.71]). All these issues now resurface.

God’s wrath was “avenged” by the killing of Christ (who died for the sins of mankind) during the reign of Tiberius (18 September 14 AD – 16 March 37 AD). But the killing of Christ in turn had to be avenged. And so the eagle/Roman empire went with Titus, a military commander who later became emperor, to destroy Jerusalem in 70 AD.

The destruction of Jerusalem is thus the “vengeance” for the “vengeance” of “the ancient sin”, the “vendetta . . . / de la vendetta del peccato antico” (92-93):

Or qui t’ammira in ciò ch’io ti replìco:
poscia con Tito a far vendetta corse
de la vendetta del peccato antico.(Par. 6.91-93)
Now marvel here at what I show to you:
with Titus—afterward—it hurried toward
avenging vengeance for the ancient sin.

The killing of Christ, viewed as a form of “vengeance” exacted by God on humankind for original sin, is itself “avenged” by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The language expressing this concept, “vendetta / de la vendetta del peccato antico” (Par. 6.92-93), is deliberately compact and thorny, and Dante-pilgrim will ask Beatrice to explain it in the next canto.

The pilgrim’s query in Paradiso 7 leads to an account of the theology of the Redemption, which is the theology of why Christ had to die to “redeem” or “buy back” humankind after its fall. Indeed, as the theology of the Redemption reminds us, these issues can be framed economically, as in Paradiso 5, rather than militarily, as in Paradiso 6. In other words, rather than referring to “vengeance” we might refer to “payment of debt”.

To reframe the “vengeance of the vengeance of the ancient sin” in economic terms, we should recall that, as Matelda explained in Purgatorio 28, God gave to us humans the earthly paradise as a down payment on blessedness, but we defaulted on the loan:

Lo sommo Ben, che solo esso a sé piace,
fé l’uom buono e a bene, e questo loco
diede per arr’a lui d’etterna pace.
Per sua difalta qui dimorò poco;
per sua difalta in pianto e in affanno
cambiò onesto riso e dolce gioco.(Purg. 28.91-96) 
The Highest Good, whose sole joy is Himself,
made man to be—and to enact—good; He
gave man this place as pledge of endless peace.
Man's fault made brief his stay here; and man's fault
made him exchange frank laughter and sweet sport
for lamentation and for anxiousness.

Therefore, the “peccato antico” of Par. 6.93 is our original defaulting on God’s loan. Christ’s death (the first “vendetta”) is the payment made to redeem that loan. And the destruction of Jerusalem (the second “vendetta”) is the payment exacted from the Jews as compensation for the killing of Christ.

We note the strange centrality of the economic issues of Paradiso 5: the divine pawnshop set up for the redemption of vows in Paradiso 5 sets the stage for a discourse on Christ’s redemption of human nature in Paradiso 7. In this economic history the Jews are required to pay for an act—the killing of Christ—that was required by Providence to redeem original sin. We will come back to the great injustice of this view in the next canto.

After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE the history of the eagle jumps 700 years: all the way to 773 CE and to Charlemagne’s battles with the Longobards, arriving ultimately at the contemporary Guelphs and Ghibellines. Justinian, the greatest of lawmakers, concludes by inveighing against the Guelphs and the Ghibellines of Dante’s day (Par. 6.103-08). There must have been some consolation for Dante in imagining that the lawmaker-Emperor in heaven condemns both political parties with which he was so disillusioned.

Justinian’s Providential history ends at verse 108. In the last part of the canto Justinian shows the pilgrim the soul of Romeo, born around 1170 in Provence, and exiled from the court of the lord he faithfully served despite his faithful service. Many have seen in Dante’s poignant evocation of the exiled Romeo, reduced to poverty, a reference to his own life after exile from Florence, a city he served as Romeo served the count of Provence. Again, in Justinian’s concluding affirmation of the praise due to the faithful servitor, who was cast out old and poor to beg his bread, we see the consolations that fantasia can give.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 6, “Re-Presenting What God Presented,” pp. 127-28; Chapter 8, “Problems in Paradise: The Mimesis of Time and the Paradox of più e meno”, p. 190.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Paradiso 6: Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/paradiso/paradiso-6/

About the Commento

1«Poscia che Costantin l’aquila volse
2contr’ al corso del ciel, ch’ella seguio
3dietro a l’antico che Lavina tolse,

4cento e cent’ anni e più l’uccel di Dio
5ne lo stremo d’Europa si ritenne,
6vicino a’ monti de’ quai prima uscìo;

7e sotto l’ombra de le sacre penne
8governò ’l mondo lì di mano in mano,
9e, sì cangiando, in su la mia pervenne.

10Cesare fui e son Iustinïano,
11che, per voler del primo amor ch’i’ sento,
12d’entro le leggi trassi il troppo e ’l vano.

13E prima ch’io a l’ovra fossi attento,
14una natura in Cristo esser, non piùe,
15credea, e di tal fede era contento;

16ma ’l benedetto Agapito, che fue
17sommo pastore, a la fede sincera
18mi dirizzò con le parole sue.

19Io li credetti; e ciò che ’n sua fede era,
20vegg’ io or chiaro sì, come tu vedi
21ogni contradizione e falsa e vera.

22Tosto che con la Chiesa mossi i piedi,
23a Dio per grazia piacque di spirarmi
24l’alto lavoro, e tutto ’n lui mi diedi;

25e al mio Belisar commendai l’armi,
26cui la destra del ciel fu sì congiunta,
27che segno fu ch’i’ dovessi posarmi.

28Or qui a la question prima s’appunta
29la mia risposta; ma sua condizione
30mi stringe a seguitare alcuna giunta,

31perché tu veggi con quanta ragione
32si move contr’ al sacrosanto segno
33e chi ’l s’appropria e chi a lui s’oppone.

34Vedi quanta virtù l’ha fatto degno
35di reverenza; e cominciò da l’ora
36che Pallante morì per darli regno.

37Tu sai ch’el fece in Alba sua dimora
38per trecento anni e oltre, infino al fine
39che i tre a’ tre pugnar per lui ancora.

40E sai ch’el fé dal mal de le Sabine
41al dolor di Lucrezia in sette regi,
42vincendo intorno le genti vicine.

43Sai quel ch’el fé portato da li egregi
44Romani incontro a Brenno, incontro a Pirro,
45incontro a li altri principi e collegi;

46onde Torquato e Quinzio, che dal cirro
47negletto fu nomato, i Deci e ’ Fabi
48ebber la fama che volontier mirro.

49Esso atterrò l’orgoglio de li Aràbi
50che di retro ad Anibale passaro
51l’alpestre rocce, Po, di che tu labi.

52Sott’ esso giovanetti trïunfaro
53Scipïone e Pompeo; e a quel colle
54sotto ’l qual tu nascesti parve amaro.

55Poi, presso al tempo che tutto ’l ciel volle
56redur lo mondo a suo modo sereno,
57Cesare per voler di Roma il tolle.

58E quel che fé da Varo infino a Reno,
59Isara vide ed Era e vide Senna
60e ogne valle onde Rodano è pieno.

61Quel che fé poi ch’elli uscì di Ravenna
62e saltò Rubicon, fu di tal volo,
63che nol seguiteria lingua né penna.

64Inver’ la Spagna rivolse lo stuolo,
65poi ver’ Durazzo, e Farsalia percosse
66sì ch’al Nil caldo si sentì del duolo.

67Antandro e Simeonta, onde si mosse,
68rivide e là dov’ Ettore si cuba;
69e mal per Tolomeo poscia si scosse.

70Da indi scese folgorando a Iuba;
71onde si volse nel vostro occidente,
72ove sentia la pompeana tuba.

73Di quel che fé col baiulo seguente,
74Bruto con Cassio ne l’inferno latra,
75e Modena e Perugia fu dolente.

76Piangene ancor la trista Cleopatra,
77che, fuggendoli innanzi, dal colubro
78la morte prese subitana e atra.

79Con costui corse infino al lito rubro;
80con costui puose il mondo in tanta pace,
81che fu serrato a Giano il suo delubro.

82Ma ciò che ’l segno che parlar mi face
83fatto avea prima e poi era fatturo
84per lo regno mortal ch’a lui soggiace,

85diventa in apparenza poco e scuro,
86se in mano al terzo Cesare si mira
87con occhio chiaro e con affetto puro;

88ché la viva giustizia che mi spira,
89li concedette, in mano a quel ch’i’ dico,
90gloria di far vendetta a la sua ira.

91Or qui t’ammira in ciò ch’io ti replìco:
92poscia con Tito a far vendetta corse
93de la vendetta del peccato antico.

94E quando il dente longobardo morse
95la Santa Chiesa, sotto le sue ali
96Carlo Magno, vincendo, la soccorse.

97Omai puoi giudicar di quei cotali
98ch’io accusai di sopra e di lor falli,
99che son cagion di tutti vostri mali.

100L’uno al pubblico segno i gigli gialli
101oppone, e l’altro appropria quello a parte,
102sì ch’è forte a veder chi più si falli.

103Faccian li Ghibellin, faccian lor arte
104sott’ altro segno, ché mal segue quello
105sempre chi la giustizia e lui diparte;

106e non l’abbatta esto Carlo novello
107coi Guelfi suoi, ma tema de li artigli
108ch’a più alto leon trasser lo vello.

109Molte fïate già pianser li figli
110per la colpa del padre, e non si creda
111che Dio trasmuti l’armi per suoi gigli!

112Questa picciola stella si correda
113d’i buoni spirti che son stati attivi
114perché onore e fama li succeda:

115e quando li disiri poggian quivi,
116sì disvïando, pur convien che i raggi
117del vero amore in sù poggin men vivi.

118Ma nel commensurar d’i nostri gaggi
119col merto è parte di nostra letizia,
120perché non li vedem minor né maggi.

121Quindi addolcisce la viva giustizia
122in noi l’affetto sì, che non si puote
123torcer già mai ad alcuna nequizia.

124Diverse voci fanno dolci note;
125così diversi scanni in nostra vita
126rendon dolce armonia tra queste rote.

127E dentro a la presente margarita
128luce la luce di Romeo, di cui
129fu l’ovra grande e bella mal gradita.

130Ma i Provenzai che fecer contra lui
131non hanno riso; e però mal cammina
132qual si fa danno del ben fare altrui.

133Quattro figlie ebbe, e ciascuna reina,
134Ramondo Beringhiere, e ciò li fece
135Romeo, persona umìle e peregrina.

136E poi il mosser le parole biece
137a dimandar ragione a questo giusto,
138che li assegnò sette e cinque per diece,

139indi partissi povero e vetusto;
140e se ’l mondo sapesse il cor ch’elli ebbe
141mendicando sua vita a frusto a frusto,

142assai lo loda, e più lo loderebbe».

“After Constantine had turned the Eagle
counter to heaven’s course, the course it took
behind the ancient one who wed Lavinia,

one hundred and one hundred years and more,
the bird of God remained near Europe’s borders,
close to the peaks from which it first emerged;

beneath the shadow of the sacred wings,
it ruled the world, from hand to hand, until
that governing—changing—became my task.

Caesar I was and am Justinian,
who, through the will of Primal Love I feel,
removed the vain and needless from the laws.

Before I grew attentive to this labor,
I held that but one nature—and no more—
was Christ’s—and in that faith, I was content;

but then the blessed Agapetus, he
who was chief shepherd, with his words turned me
to that faith which has truth and purity.

I did believe him, and now clearly see
his faith, as you with contradictories
can see that one is true and one is false.

As soon as my steps shared the Church’s path,
God, of His grace, inspired my high task
as pleased Him. I was fully drawn to that.

Entrusting to my Belisarius
my arms, I found a sign for me to rest
from war: Heaven’s right hand so favored him.

My answer to the question you first asked
ends here, and yet the nature of this answer
leads me to add a sequel, so that you

may see with how much reason they attack
the sacred standard—those who seem to act
on its behalf and those opposing it.

See what great virtue made that Eagle worthy
of reverence, beginning from that hour
when Pallas died that it might gain a kingdom.

You know that for three hundred years and more,
it lived in Alba, until, at the end,
three still fought three, contending for that standard.

You know how, under seven kings, it conquered
its neighbors—in the era reaching from
wronged Sabine women to Lucrece’s grief—

and what it did when carried by courageous
Romans, who hurried to encounter Brennus,
Pyrrhus, and other principates and cities.

Through this, Torquatus, Quinctius (who is named
for his disheveled hair), the Decii,
and Fabii gained the fame I gladly honor.

That standard brought the pride of Arabs low
when they had followed Hannibal across
those Alpine rocks from which, Po, you descend.

Beneath that standard, Scipio, Pompey—
though young—triumphed; and to that hill beneath
which you were born, that standard seemed most harsh.

Then, near the time when Heaven wished to bring
all of the world to Heaven’s way—serene—
Caesar, as Rome had willed, took up that standard.

And what it did from Var to Rhine was seen
by the Isere, Saone, and Seine and all
the valley—floors whose rivers feed the Rhone.

And what it did, once it had left Ravenna
and leaped the Rubicon, was such a flight
as neither tongue nor writing can describe.

That standard led the legions on to Spain,
then toward Durazzo, and it struck Pharsalia
so hard that the warm Nile could feel that hurt.

It saw again its source, Antandros and
Simois, and the place where Hector lies;
then roused itself—the worse for Ptolemy.

From Egypt, lightning—like, it fell on Juba;
and then it hurried to the west of you,
where it could hear the trumpet of Pompey.

Because of what that standard did, with him
who bore it next, Brutus and Cassius howl
in Hell, and grief seized Modena, Perugia.

Because of it, sad Cleopatra weeps
still; as she fled that standard, from the asp
she drew a sudden and atrocious death.

And, with that very bearer, it then reached
the Red Sea shore: with him, that emblem brought
the world such peace that Janus’ shrine was shut.

But what the standard that has made me speak
had done before or then was yet to do
throughout the mortal realm where it holds rule,

comes to seem faint and insignificant
if one, with clear sight and pure sentiment,
sees what it did in the third Caesar’s hand;

for the true Justice that inspires me
granted to it—in that next Caesar’s hand-
the glory of avenging His own wrath.

Now marvel here at what I show to you:
with Titus—afterward—it hurried toward
avenging vengeance for the ancient sin.

And when the Lombard tooth bit Holy Church,
then Charlemagne, under the Eagle’s wings,
through victories he gained, brought help to her.

Now you can judge those I condemned above,
and judge how such men have offended, have
become the origin of all your evils.

For some oppose the universal emblem
with yellow lilies; others claim that emblem
for party: it is hard to see who is worse.

Let Ghibellines pursue their undertakings
beneath another sign, for those who sever
this sign and justice are bad followers.

And let not this new Charles strike at it with
his Guelphs—but let him fear the claws that stripped
a more courageous lion of its hide.

The sons have often wept for a father’s fault;
and let this son not think that God will change
the emblem of His force for Charles’s lilies.

This little planet is adorned with spirits
whose acts were righteous, but who acted for
the honor and the fame that they would gain:

and when desires tend toward earthly ends,
then, so deflected, rays of the true love
mount toward the life above with lesser force.

But part of our delight is measuring
rewards against our merit, and we see
that our rewards are neither less nor more.

Thus does the Living Justice make so sweet
the sentiments in us, that we are free
of any turning toward iniquity.

Differing voices join to sound sweet music;
so do the different orders in our life
render sweet harmony among these spheres.

And in this very pearl there also shines
the light of Romeo, of one whose acts,
though great and noble, met ungratefulness.

And yet those Provencals who schemed against him
had little chance to laugh, for he who finds
harm to himself in others’ righteous acts

takes the wrong path. Of Raymond Berenger’s
four daughters, each became a queen—and this,
poor and a stranger, Romeo accomplished.

Then Berenger was moved by vicious tongues
to ask this just man for accounting—one
who, given ten, gave Raymond five and seven.

And Romeo, the poor, the old, departed;
and were the world to know the heart he had
while begging, crust by crust, for his life—bread,

it—though it praise him now—would praise him more.”

“AFTER that Constantine the eagle turned
Against the course of heaven, which it had followed..
Behind the ancient who Lavinia took,

Two hundred years and more the bird of God
In the extreme of Europe held itself,
Near to the mountains whence it issued first;

And under shadow of the sacred plumes
It governed there the world from hand to hand,
And, changing thus, upon mine own alighted.

Caesar I was, and am Justinian,
Who, by the will of primal Love I feel,
Took from the laws the useless and redundant;

And ere unto the work I was attent,
One nature to exist in Christ, not more,
Believed, and with such faith was I contented.

But blessed Agapetus, he who was
The supreme pastor, to the faith sincere
Pointed me out the way by words of his.

Him I believed, and what was his assertion
I now see clearly, even as thou seest
Each contradiction to be false and true.

As soon as with the Church I moved my feet,
God in his grace it pleased with this high task
To inspire me, and I gave me wholly to it,

And to my Belisarius I commended
The arms, to which was heaven’s right hand so joined
It was a signal that I should repose.

Now here to the first question terminates
My answer; but the character thereof
Constrains me to continue with a sequel,

In order that thou see with how great reason
Men move against the standard sacrosanct,
Both who appropriate and who oppose it.

Behold how great a power has made it worthy
Of reverence, beginning from the hour
When Pallas died to give it sovereignty.

Thou knowest it made in Alba its abode
Three hundred years and upward, till at last
The three to three fought for it yet again.

Thou knowest what it achieved from Sabine wrong
Down to Lucretia’s sorrow, in seven kings
O’ercoming round about the neighboring nations;

Thou knowest what it achieved, borne by the Romans
Illustrious against Brennus, against Pyrrhus,
Against the other princes and confederates.

Torquatus thence and Quinctius, who from locks
Unkempt was named, Decii and Fabii,
Received the fame I willingly embalm;

It struck to earth the pride of the Arabians,
Who, following Hannibal, had passed across
The Alpine ridges, Po, from which thou glidest;

Beneath it triumphed while they yet were young
Pompey and Scipio, and to the hill
Beneath which thou wast born it bitter seemed;

Then, near unto the time when heaven had willed
To bring the whole world to its mood serene,
Did Caesar by the will of Rome assume it.

What it achieved from Var unto the Rhine,
Isere beheld and Saone, beheld the Seine,
And every valley whence the Rhone is filled;

What it achieved when it had left Ravenna,
And leaped the Rubicon, was such a flight
That neither tongue nor pen could follow it.

Round towards Spain it wheeled its legions;
Towards Durazzo, and Pharsalia smote
That to the calid Nile was felt the pain.

Antandros and the Simois, whence it started,
It saw again, and there where Hector lies,
And ill for Ptolemy then roused itself.

From thence it came like lightning upon Juba;
Then wheeled itself again into your West,
Where the Pompeian clarion it heard.

From what it wrought with the next standard—bearer
Brutus and Cassius howl in Hell together,
And Modena and Perugia dolent were;

Still doth the mournful Cleopatra weep
Because thereof, who, fleeing from before it,
Took from the adder sudden and black death.

With him it ran even to the Red Sea shore;
With him it placed the world in so great peace,
That unto Janus was his temple closed.

But what the standard that has made me speak
Achieved before, and after should achieve
Throughout the mortal realm that lies beneath it,

Becometh in appearance mean and dim,
If in the hand of the third Caesar seen
With eye unclouded and affection pure,

Because the living Justice that inspires me
Granted it, in the hand of him I speak of,
The glory of doing vengeance for its wrath.

Now here attend to what I answer thee;
Later it ran with Titus to do vengeance
Upon the vengeance of the ancient sin.

And when the tooth of Lombardy had bitten
The Holy Church, then underneath its wings
Did Charlemagne victorious succor her.

Now hast thou power to judge of such as those
Whom I accused above, and of their crimes,
Which are the cause of all your miseries.

To the public standard one the yellow lilies
Opposes, the other claims it for a party,
So that ’tis hard to see which sins the most.

Let, let the Ghibellines ply their handicraft
Beneath some other standard; for this ever
Ill follows he who it and justice parts.

And let not this new Charles e’er strike it down,
He and his Guelfs, but let him fear the talons
That from a nobler lion stripped the fell.

Already oftentimes the sons have wept
The father’s crime; and let him not believe
That God will change His scutcheon for the lilies.

This little planet doth adorn itself
With the good spirits that have active been,
That fame and honour might come after them;

And whensoever the desires mount thither,
Thus deviating, must perforce the rays
Of the true love less vividly mount upward.

But in commensuration of our wages
With our desert is portion of our joy,
Because we see them neither less nor greater.

Herein doth living Justice sweeten so
Affection in us, that for evermore
It cannot warp to any iniquity.

Voices diverse make up sweet melodies
So in this life of ours the seats diverse
Render sweet harmony among these spheres;

And in the compass of this present pearl
Shineth the sheen of Romeo, of whom
The grand and beauteous work was ill rewarded.

But the Provencals who against him wrought,
They have not laughed, and therefore ill goes he
Who makes his hurt of the good deeds of others.

Four daughters, and each one of them a queen,
Had Raymond Berenger, and this for him
Did Romeo, a poor man and a pilgrim;

And then malicious words incited him
To summon to a reckoning this just man,
Who rendered to him seven and five for ten.

Then he departed poor and stricken in years,
And if the world could know the heart he had,
In begging bit by bit his livelihood,

pard Though much it laud him, it would laud him more.”

“After Constantine had turned the Eagle
counter to heaven’s course, the course it took
behind the ancient one who wed Lavinia,

one hundred and one hundred years and more,
the bird of God remained near Europe’s borders,
close to the peaks from which it first emerged;

beneath the shadow of the sacred wings,
it ruled the world, from hand to hand, until
that governing—changing—became my task.

Caesar I was and am Justinian,
who, through the will of Primal Love I feel,
removed the vain and needless from the laws.

Before I grew attentive to this labor,
I held that but one nature—and no more—
was Christ’s—and in that faith, I was content;

but then the blessed Agapetus, he
who was chief shepherd, with his words turned me
to that faith which has truth and purity.

I did believe him, and now clearly see
his faith, as you with contradictories
can see that one is true and one is false.

As soon as my steps shared the Church’s path,
God, of His grace, inspired my high task
as pleased Him. I was fully drawn to that.

Entrusting to my Belisarius
my arms, I found a sign for me to rest
from war: Heaven’s right hand so favored him.

My answer to the question you first asked
ends here, and yet the nature of this answer
leads me to add a sequel, so that you

may see with how much reason they attack
the sacred standard—those who seem to act
on its behalf and those opposing it.

See what great virtue made that Eagle worthy
of reverence, beginning from that hour
when Pallas died that it might gain a kingdom.

You know that for three hundred years and more,
it lived in Alba, until, at the end,
three still fought three, contending for that standard.

You know how, under seven kings, it conquered
its neighbors—in the era reaching from
wronged Sabine women to Lucrece’s grief—

and what it did when carried by courageous
Romans, who hurried to encounter Brennus,
Pyrrhus, and other principates and cities.

Through this, Torquatus, Quinctius (who is named
for his disheveled hair), the Decii,
and Fabii gained the fame I gladly honor.

That standard brought the pride of Arabs low
when they had followed Hannibal across
those Alpine rocks from which, Po, you descend.

Beneath that standard, Scipio, Pompey—
though young—triumphed; and to that hill beneath
which you were born, that standard seemed most harsh.

Then, near the time when Heaven wished to bring
all of the world to Heaven’s way—serene—
Caesar, as Rome had willed, took up that standard.

And what it did from Var to Rhine was seen
by the Isere, Saone, and Seine and all
the valley—floors whose rivers feed the Rhone.

And what it did, once it had left Ravenna
and leaped the Rubicon, was such a flight
as neither tongue nor writing can describe.

That standard led the legions on to Spain,
then toward Durazzo, and it struck Pharsalia
so hard that the warm Nile could feel that hurt.

It saw again its source, Antandros and
Simois, and the place where Hector lies;
then roused itself—the worse for Ptolemy.

From Egypt, lightning—like, it fell on Juba;
and then it hurried to the west of you,
where it could hear the trumpet of Pompey.

Because of what that standard did, with him
who bore it next, Brutus and Cassius howl
in Hell, and grief seized Modena, Perugia.

Because of it, sad Cleopatra weeps
still; as she fled that standard, from the asp
she drew a sudden and atrocious death.

And, with that very bearer, it then reached
the Red Sea shore: with him, that emblem brought
the world such peace that Janus’ shrine was shut.

But what the standard that has made me speak
had done before or then was yet to do
throughout the mortal realm where it holds rule,

comes to seem faint and insignificant
if one, with clear sight and pure sentiment,
sees what it did in the third Caesar’s hand;

for the true Justice that inspires me
granted to it—in that next Caesar’s hand-
the glory of avenging His own wrath.

Now marvel here at what I show to you:
with Titus—afterward—it hurried toward
avenging vengeance for the ancient sin.

And when the Lombard tooth bit Holy Church,
then Charlemagne, under the Eagle’s wings,
through victories he gained, brought help to her.

Now you can judge those I condemned above,
and judge how such men have offended, have
become the origin of all your evils.

For some oppose the universal emblem
with yellow lilies; others claim that emblem
for party: it is hard to see who is worse.

Let Ghibellines pursue their undertakings
beneath another sign, for those who sever
this sign and justice are bad followers.

And let not this new Charles strike at it with
his Guelphs—but let him fear the claws that stripped
a more courageous lion of its hide.

The sons have often wept for a father’s fault;
and let this son not think that God will change
the emblem of His force for Charles’s lilies.

This little planet is adorned with spirits
whose acts were righteous, but who acted for
the honor and the fame that they would gain:

and when desires tend toward earthly ends,
then, so deflected, rays of the true love
mount toward the life above with lesser force.

But part of our delight is measuring
rewards against our merit, and we see
that our rewards are neither less nor more.

Thus does the Living Justice make so sweet
the sentiments in us, that we are free
of any turning toward iniquity.

Differing voices join to sound sweet music;
so do the different orders in our life
render sweet harmony among these spheres.

And in this very pearl there also shines
the light of Romeo, of one whose acts,
though great and noble, met ungratefulness.

And yet those Provencals who schemed against him
had little chance to laugh, for he who finds
harm to himself in others’ righteous acts

takes the wrong path. Of Raymond Berenger’s
four daughters, each became a queen—and this,
poor and a stranger, Romeo accomplished.

Then Berenger was moved by vicious tongues
to ask this just man for accounting—one
who, given ten, gave Raymond five and seven.

And Romeo, the poor, the old, departed;
and were the world to know the heart he had
while begging, crust by crust, for his life—bread,

it—though it praise him now—would praise him more.”

“AFTER that Constantine the eagle turned
Against the course of heaven, which it had followed..
Behind the ancient who Lavinia took,

Two hundred years and more the bird of God
In the extreme of Europe held itself,
Near to the mountains whence it issued first;

And under shadow of the sacred plumes
It governed there the world from hand to hand,
And, changing thus, upon mine own alighted.

Caesar I was, and am Justinian,
Who, by the will of primal Love I feel,
Took from the laws the useless and redundant;

And ere unto the work I was attent,
One nature to exist in Christ, not more,
Believed, and with such faith was I contented.

But blessed Agapetus, he who was
The supreme pastor, to the faith sincere
Pointed me out the way by words of his.

Him I believed, and what was his assertion
I now see clearly, even as thou seest
Each contradiction to be false and true.

As soon as with the Church I moved my feet,
God in his grace it pleased with this high task
To inspire me, and I gave me wholly to it,

And to my Belisarius I commended
The arms, to which was heaven’s right hand so joined
It was a signal that I should repose.

Now here to the first question terminates
My answer; but the character thereof
Constrains me to continue with a sequel,

In order that thou see with how great reason
Men move against the standard sacrosanct,
Both who appropriate and who oppose it.

Behold how great a power has made it worthy
Of reverence, beginning from the hour
When Pallas died to give it sovereignty.

Thou knowest it made in Alba its abode
Three hundred years and upward, till at last
The three to three fought for it yet again.

Thou knowest what it achieved from Sabine wrong
Down to Lucretia’s sorrow, in seven kings
O’ercoming round about the neighboring nations;

Thou knowest what it achieved, borne by the Romans
Illustrious against Brennus, against Pyrrhus,
Against the other princes and confederates.

Torquatus thence and Quinctius, who from locks
Unkempt was named, Decii and Fabii,
Received the fame I willingly embalm;

It struck to earth the pride of the Arabians,
Who, following Hannibal, had passed across
The Alpine ridges, Po, from which thou glidest;

Beneath it triumphed while they yet were young
Pompey and Scipio, and to the hill
Beneath which thou wast born it bitter seemed;

Then, near unto the time when heaven had willed
To bring the whole world to its mood serene,
Did Caesar by the will of Rome assume it.

What it achieved from Var unto the Rhine,
Isere beheld and Saone, beheld the Seine,
And every valley whence the Rhone is filled;

What it achieved when it had left Ravenna,
And leaped the Rubicon, was such a flight
That neither tongue nor pen could follow it.

Round towards Spain it wheeled its legions;
Towards Durazzo, and Pharsalia smote
That to the calid Nile was felt the pain.

Antandros and the Simois, whence it started,
It saw again, and there where Hector lies,
And ill for Ptolemy then roused itself.

From thence it came like lightning upon Juba;
Then wheeled itself again into your West,
Where the Pompeian clarion it heard.

From what it wrought with the next standard—bearer
Brutus and Cassius howl in Hell together,
And Modena and Perugia dolent were;

Still doth the mournful Cleopatra weep
Because thereof, who, fleeing from before it,
Took from the adder sudden and black death.

With him it ran even to the Red Sea shore;
With him it placed the world in so great peace,
That unto Janus was his temple closed.

But what the standard that has made me speak
Achieved before, and after should achieve
Throughout the mortal realm that lies beneath it,

Becometh in appearance mean and dim,
If in the hand of the third Caesar seen
With eye unclouded and affection pure,

Because the living Justice that inspires me
Granted it, in the hand of him I speak of,
The glory of doing vengeance for its wrath.

Now here attend to what I answer thee;
Later it ran with Titus to do vengeance
Upon the vengeance of the ancient sin.

And when the tooth of Lombardy had bitten
The Holy Church, then underneath its wings
Did Charlemagne victorious succor her.

Now hast thou power to judge of such as those
Whom I accused above, and of their crimes,
Which are the cause of all your miseries.

To the public standard one the yellow lilies
Opposes, the other claims it for a party,
So that ’tis hard to see which sins the most.

Let, let the Ghibellines ply their handicraft
Beneath some other standard; for this ever
Ill follows he who it and justice parts.

And let not this new Charles e’er strike it down,
He and his Guelfs, but let him fear the talons
That from a nobler lion stripped the fell.

Already oftentimes the sons have wept
The father’s crime; and let him not believe
That God will change His scutcheon for the lilies.

This little planet doth adorn itself
With the good spirits that have active been,
That fame and honour might come after them;

And whensoever the desires mount thither,
Thus deviating, must perforce the rays
Of the true love less vividly mount upward.

But in commensuration of our wages
With our desert is portion of our joy,
Because we see them neither less nor greater.

Herein doth living Justice sweeten so
Affection in us, that for evermore
It cannot warp to any iniquity.

Voices diverse make up sweet melodies
So in this life of ours the seats diverse
Render sweet harmony among these spheres;

And in the compass of this present pearl
Shineth the sheen of Romeo, of whom
The grand and beauteous work was ill rewarded.

But the Provencals who against him wrought,
They have not laughed, and therefore ill goes he
Who makes his hurt of the good deeds of others.

Four daughters, and each one of them a queen,
Had Raymond Berenger, and this for him
Did Romeo, a poor man and a pilgrim;

And then malicious words incited him
To summon to a reckoning this just man,
Who rendered to him seven and five for ten.

Then he departed poor and stricken in years,
And if the world could know the heart he had,
In begging bit by bit his livelihood,

pard Though much it laud him, it would laud him more.”