Adam’s Fall and the Big Bang

Paradiso 7 begins with Justinian’s prayer in a divine mixture of Hebrew and Latin, preserved by Mandelbaum untranslated because indeed untranslatable:

Osanna, sanctus Deus sabaòth,
 superillustrans claritate tua
 felices ignes horum malacòth. (Par. 7.1-3)

In discussing the monstrous language used by Plutus at the beginning of Inferno 7, I alluded to the instability caused by the melding of Dante’s committed and muscular Christianity with his pre-humanism: while Dante is praising Aristotle and Vergil and using the Bible, he is simultaneously making Plutus’ degraded language out of Hebrew and Greek, based on the rudimentary knowledge of these languages that he obtained from medieval glossaries.

In Paradiso 7, Justinian’s celestial language is similarly concocted, from Hebrew and Latin. Clearly, there is a certain amount of cognitive dissonance in Dante’s thinking about the makers of these languages.

I need here to record the development of my own thinking on Dante’s treatment of Jews in the Commedia. In the Introduction to Dante and the Origins of Italian Literary Culture (2006), I wrote that Dante’s poem is certainly not without “historical stain” and elaborated as follows on the work of Sylvia Tomasch on Jews in the Commedia:

For a painful demonstration of a deep stain, we need only read Sylvia Tomasch’s discussion of “Judecca, Dante’s Satan, and the Dis-placed Jew.” Tomasch’s use of the The Undivine Comedy in her essay exemplifies what that book is most fundamentally about: I was trying to create a framework of readerly resistance that would allow us to get beyond the Commedia’s masterful self-presentation, and it was deeply gratifying to me—as someone who has not written on the ethnic communities of the Commedia (in the case of the Jews an absent community, since, as Tomasch writes, “the whole of the Commedia does not include even one postbiblical Jew”)—to learn from another scholar who used that programmatic resistance to go in directions that I certainly did not explicitly foresee. (Dante and the Origins, p. 9)

Later, in my 2011 essay “Dante’s Sympathy for the Other or the Non-Stereotyping Imagination,” I was struck by Dante’s non-stereotyping of Jews as usurers, so common in the Europe of his day, and modified my view somewhat:

In ethnic terms as well, I believe we can see Dante pushing at the normative boundaries of inclusion and exclusion. In Dante and the Origins of Italian Literary Culture, I wrote that Dante was not “immune from the blind spots of his time nor his poem without historical stain” (p. 9): as an example, I cited Sylvia Tomasch’s essay on the “erasure” of Jews, who “never appear as Jews anywhere in the Divine Comedy”. While there are remarks in the Commedia that I would classify as anti-Jewish (I am thinking in particular of the acceptance of the deicide charge in Paradiso 7), I am no longer convinced by Tomasch’s argument that the absence of Jews from the Commedia is itself a negative. Once I had viewed the virulent visual evidence on Jews (coming it is true from Germany, England, and France) laid out in Debra Strickland’s Saracens, Demons, and Jews: Making Monsters in the Medieval Art, I decided that in this case exclusion is a good thing. In a context in which visual representations of hell were full of contemporary Jews, depicted with the visual stereotypes that serves as markers for Jews (hooked noses, Phrygian caps, and moneybags) (figs. 9-11), the absence of any contemporary Jews in Dante’s hell may again indicate the non-stereotyping nature of his imaginative processes. Maybe this is why the prominent Jewish writer and scholar, Immanuel ben Solomon, contemporary of Dante, (c. 1270-c. 1330), so admired Dante that he wrote a Hebrew imitation of Inferno and Paradiso. (“Dante’s Sympathy for the Other,” pp. 185-86)

I do not now disagree with what I wrote in “Dante’s Sympathy for the Other”: Dante’s avoidance of Jews among his usurers in hell is indeed singular and noteworthy. However, we have arrived at Paradiso 7, which includes the charge of deicide leveled against the Jews. While I could legitimately place that charge in a parenthesis in a treatment focused on usury—“While there are remarks in the Commedia that I would classify as anti-Jewish (I am thinking in particular of the acceptance of the deicide charge in Paradiso 7)”—the charge cannot be treated as parenthetical in this Introduction.

As of this writing, in November 2014, I would say the deicide charge of Paradiso 7 cannot in any way be made parenthetical or marginal to a discussion of Dante’s view of Providential history as he expounds it in Paradiso 5, Paradiso 6, and Paradiso 7. The charge of Paradiso 7 is embedded within a vision of history that Dante—advanced as he is in some respects—cannot shake. At best, perhaps one could infer some lack of complacency from Dante’s need to buttress the “legality” of that vision, dramatized through the choice of Justinian, the codifier of law, as presenter of the concept of the “vendetta . . . / de la vendetta del peccato antico” (Par. 6.92-93).

Paradiso 7 recounts a very different kind of history from the previous canto, though linked both substantively and rhetorically by the crucifixion of Christ as a punishment for mankind’s original transgression. The link to Paradiso 6 is stated by Beatrice in Paradiso 7.20-21:

Secondo mio infallibile avviso,
come giusta vendetta giustamente 
punita fosse, t’ha in pensier miso (Par. 7.19-21)
According to my never-erring judgment,
the question that perplexes you is how 
just vengeance can deserve just punishment

Let me note in passing, to remind us of Dante’s capacities for radical distance from cultural norms in this canto where he accepts the worst of cultural normativity, that the use of the word “infallible” in the above terzina for female speech is stunning, given the long and documented tradition of female speech as the special focus and target of misogyny. Beatrice’s “secondo mio infallibile avviso” constitutes the Commedia’s only use of “infallibile” for human speech of any sort, male or female. (See Dante and the Origins of Italian Literary Culture, p. 368.)

The question that perplexes the pilgrim is: How can a just punishment be justly punished? In other words, if it was just to kill Christ, how can it have been just to punish the Jews for killing Christ?

The answer requires a somber and poetically very beautiful Dantean retelling of the fundamental Christian narrative: the story of how Adam sinned and of how Christ died to redeem Adam’s sin. In terms of the polarities of Paradiso that we have been discussing, this canto skews toward the Augustinian rather than toward the Aristotelian. It is not so much a celebration of difference as a theological discussion of the ways in which we became unlike God: the ways in which we entered what Augustine calls the regio dissimilitudinis.

Here is a breakdown of Beatrice’s discourse:

  • Paradiso 7.25-33: Adam damned himself by accepting no limits to his will. In the Ulyssean overlay and lexicon that Dante adds to the Adamic myth, Ulysses damned himself through his “folle volo” (Inf. 26.125), and the word “follia” will be used for mankind’s sin in Par. 7.93. In damning himself, Adam damned all his progeny. As a result, mankind lived in great error until it pleased the second person of the Trinity (“the Verb of God”) to descend and to unite to Himself the human nature that had so distanced itself from God. So: God became man in the person of Christ.
  • Paradiso 7.34-51: The dual nature of Christ (a discussion prefigured by Justinian’s conversion to belief in Christ’s dual nature; see Paradiso 6.13-21; this in turn is prefigured by Paradiso 2.42, “come nostra natura a Dio s’unìo”) provides the distinction that helps to “resolve” the apparent contradiction of the just punishment that is justly punished. In as much as we are speaking of Christ’s human nature, the punishment of the crucifixion was merited; in as much as we are speaking of Christ’s divine nature, it was not. The result is an action, the killing of Christ, that pleased both God and the Jews—but for different reasons. Paradiso 7.47, “ch’a Dio e a’ Giudei piacque una morte” (God and the Jews were pleased by one same death) is an acceptance of the deicide charge leveled at the Jews and is the most anti-Semitic verse in the Commedia.
  • Paradiso 7.52-64: Dante doesn’t understand (and neither do I!) why God willed our redemption to take place in the arduous way that he chose: “perché Dio volesse . . . / a nostra redenzion pur questo modo” (56-57).  What follows is the “explanation”.
  • Paradiso 7.64-78:  On a backdrop of creation theology—verses 64-66 are a medieval description of the Big Bang—Beatrice explains that God created humans directly, without mediation (“sanza mezzo”). Our im-mediate or un-mediated creation by God (similarly, God directly breathes life and soul into the human embryo in Purgatorio 25) is a joyous interlude in the tragic story of the fall that Beatrice is recounting, for that which is created “immediately” by God receives from Him the gifts of eternity, liberty, and conformity:
Ciò che da lei sanza mezzo distilla
non ha poi fine, perché non si move
la sua imprenta quand’ella sigilla.
Ciò che da essa sanza mezzo piove
libero è tutto, perché non soggiace
a la virtute de le cose nove. (Par. 7.67-72)
All that derives directly from this Goodness
is everlasting, since the seal of Goodness
impresses an imprint that never alters.
Whatever rains from It immediately
is fully free, for it is not constrained
by any influence of other things.

These exceptionally beautiful lines affirm in solemn cadences that what is made directly by God is immortal—“non ha poi fine” (68)—and free: “libero è tutto” (71). Liberty is the result of not being subject to the power of the heavens—the “new things” of Par. 7.72—as Beatrice affirmed in Paradiso 4, following Marco Lombardo in Purgatorio 16. The verb soggiacere in “non soggiace / a la virtute de le cose nove” (Par. 7.71-72) recalls the paradox of free will and our willing subjection to God as expressed by Marco Lombado: “liberi soggiacete” (Purg. 16.80).

The good news however turns bad. Humans received those gifts but they lost those original gifts as a result of original sin, which caused us to fall from our native nobility.

  • Paradiso 7.79-120:  Sin is what un-frees humans, makes us dissimilar to God; we will never return to our original dignity unless we fill where sin has emptied. That can be done either by God forgiving us, or by humans on our own paying back the debt (91-93). But we don’t have the means to make reparations on our own, so God has to use his methods to restore mankind “to his full life”: “a sua intera vita” (104).  God’s methods are two: the way of mercy and the way of justice. He decides to use both (“di proceder per tutte le sue vie”, verse 110). There is no greater event in all of time (112-113) than when God gives himself in order to raise mankind back up.
  • Paradiso 7.121-148:  Going back to the theme of creation, Beatrice adds a corollary that clarifies and reinforces mankind’s position as a being created directly by God. Even our bodies are created directly by God; from this fact we can deduce our resurrections.

The strangely “happy” ending to a theologically gloomy canto reminds us of the joyfulness of the linguistic play on “d” in Paradiso 7.10-12, which echo a similar play in Paradiso 5.119-23:

e però, se disii
di noi chiarirti, a tuo piacer ti sazia.»
Così da un di quelli spirti piidetto mi fu; e da Beatrice: «Dì, dì
sicuramente, e credi come a dii.»(Par. 5.119-23)
thus, if you
would know us, sate yourself as you may please.”
So did one of those pious spirits speak
to me. And Beatrice then urged: “Speak, speak
confidently; trust them as you trust gods.”
Io dubitava e dicea «Dille, dille!»
fra me, «dille», dicea, «a la mia donna
che mi diseta con le dolci stille».(Par. 7.10-12)
I was perplexed, and to myself, I said:
“Tell her! Tell her! Tell her,
the lady who can slake my thirst with her sweet drops.”

The poet’s play on the “d” sound connects the urgency of speech—“Dì, dì / sicuramente” (Par. 5.122-23) and “Dille, dille!” (Par. 7.10)—with the urgency of the desire to know: “se disii / di noi chiarirti” (Par. 5.119-20). In these luminous and playful verses disio is not transgressive. Disio and dire are here joined in a happy delirium of expression and sweetness that seems to belong to a different universe from Adam’s sin.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 8, “Problems in Paradise: The Mimesis of Time and the Paradox of più e meno,” pp. 190-91; “Notes toward a Gendered History of Italian Literature, with a Discussion of Dante’s Beatrix Loquax”, in Dante and the Origins of Italian Literary Culture; “Dante’s Sympathy for the Other or the Non-Stereotyping Imagination: Sexual and Racialized Others in the Commedia.”

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Paradiso 7: Adam’s Fall and the Big Bang.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/paradiso/paradiso-7/

About the Commento

1«Osanna, sanctus Deus sabaòth,
2superillustrans claritate tua
3felices ignes horum malacòth!».

4Così, volgendosi a la nota sua,
5fu viso a me cantare essa sustanza,
6sopra la qual doppio lume s’addua;

7ed essa e l’altre mossero a sua danza,
8e quasi velocissime faville
9mi si velar di sùbita distanza.

10Io dubitava e dicea ‘Dille, dille!’
11fra me, ‘dille’ dicea, ‘a la mia donna
12che mi diseta con le dolci stille’.

13Ma quella reverenza che s’indonna
14di tutto me, pur per Be e per ice,
15mi richinava come l’uom ch’assonna.

16Poco sofferse me cotal Beatrice
17e cominciò, raggiandomi d’un riso
18tal, che nel foco faria l’uom felice:

19«Secondo mio infallibile avviso,
20come giusta vendetta giustamente
21punita fosse, t’ha in pensier miso;

22ma io ti solverò tosto la mente;
23e tu ascolta, ché le mie parole
24di gran sentenza ti faran presente.

25Per non soffrire a la virtù che vole
26freno a suo prode, quell’ uom che non nacque,
27dannando sé, dannò tutta sua prole;

28onde l’umana specie inferma giacque
29giù per secoli molti in grande errore,
30fin ch’al Verbo di Dio discender piacque

31u’ la natura, che dal suo fattore
32s’era allungata, unì a sé in persona
33con l’atto sol del suo etterno amore.

34Or drizza il viso a quel ch’or si ragiona:
35questa natura al suo fattore unita,
36qual fu creata, fu sincera e buona;

37ma per sé stessa pur fu ella sbandita
38di paradiso, però che si torse
39da via di verità e da sua vita.

40La pena dunque che la croce porse
41s’a la natura assunta si misura,
42nulla già mai sì giustamente morse;

43e così nulla fu di tanta ingiura,
44guardando a la persona che sofferse,
45in che era contratta tal natura.

46Però d’un atto uscir cose diverse:
47ch’a Dio e a’ Giudei piacque una morte;
48per lei tremò la terra e ’l ciel s’aperse.

49Non ti dee oramai parer più forte,
50quando si dice che giusta vendetta
51poscia vengiata fu da giusta corte.

52Ma io veggi’ or la tua mente ristretta
53di pensiero in pensier dentro ad un nodo,
54del qual con gran disio solver s’aspetta.

55Tu dici: “Ben discerno ciò ch’i’ odo;
56ma perché Dio volesse, m’è occulto,
57a nostra redenzion pur questo modo”.

58Questo decreto, frate, sta sepulto
59a li occhi di ciascuno il cui ingegno
60ne la fiamma d’amor non è adulto.

61Veramente, però ch’a questo segno
62molto si mira e poco si discerne,
63dirò perché tal modo fu più degno.

64La divina bontà, che da sé sperne
65ogne livore, ardendo in sé, sfavilla
66sì che dispiega le bellezze etterne.

67Ciò che da lei sanza mezzo distilla
68non ha poi fine, perché non si move
69la sua imprenta quand’ ella sigilla.

70Ciò che da essa sanza mezzo piove
71libero è tutto, perché non soggiace
72a la virtute de le cose nove.

73Più l’è conforme, e però più le piace;
74ché l’ardor santo ch’ogne cosa raggia,
75ne la più somigliante è più vivace.

76Di tutte queste dote s’avvantaggia
77l’umana creatura, e s’una manca,
78di sua nobilità convien che caggia.

79Solo il peccato è quel che la disfranca
80e falla dissimìle al sommo bene,
81per che del lume suo poco s’imbianca;

82e in sua dignità mai non rivene,
83se non rïempie, dove colpa vòta,
84contra mal dilettar con giuste pene.

85Vostra natura, quando peccò tota
86nel seme suo, da queste dignitadi,
87come di paradiso, fu remota;

88né ricovrar potiensi, se tu badi
89ben sottilmente, per alcuna via,
90sanza passar per un di questi guadi:

91o che Dio solo per sua cortesia
92dimesso avesse, o che l’uom per sé isso
93avesse sodisfatto a sua follia.

94Ficca mo l’occhio per entro l’abisso
95de l’etterno consiglio, quanto puoi
96al mio parlar distrettamente fisso.

97Non potea l’uomo ne’ termini suoi
98mai sodisfar, per non potere ir giuso
99con umiltate obedïendo poi,

100quanto disobediendo intese ir suso;
101e questa è la cagion per che l’uom fue
102da poter sodisfar per sé dischiuso.

103Dunque a Dio convenia con le vie sue
104riparar l’omo a sua intera vita,
105dico con l’una, o ver con amendue.

106Ma perché l’ovra tanto è più gradita
107da l’operante, quanto più appresenta
108de la bontà del core ond’ ell’ è uscita,

109la divina bontà che ’l mondo imprenta,
110di proceder per tutte le sue vie,
111a rilevarvi suso, fu contenta.

112Né tra l’ultima notte e ’l primo die
113sì alto o sì magnifico processo,
114o per l’una o per l’altra, fu o fie:

115ché più largo fu Dio a dar sé stesso
116per far l’uom sufficiente a rilevarsi,
117che s’elli avesse sol da sé dimesso;

118e tutti li altri modi erano scarsi
119a la giustizia, se ’l Figliuol di Dio
120non fosse umilïato ad incarnarsi.

121Or per empierti bene ogne disio,
122ritorno a dichiararti in alcun loco,
123perché tu veggi lì così com’ io.

124Tu dici: “Io veggio l’acqua, io veggio il foco,
125l’aere e la terra e tutte lor misture
126venire a corruzione, e durar poco;

127e queste cose pur furon creature;
128per che, se ciò ch’è detto è stato vero,
129esser dovrien da corruzion sicure”.

130Li angeli, frate, e ’l paese sincero
131nel qual tu se’, dir si posson creati,
132sì come sono, in loro essere intero;

133ma li alimenti che tu hai nomati
134e quelle cose che di lor si fanno
135da creata virtù sono informati.

136Creata fu la materia ch’elli hanno;
137creata fu la virtù informante
138in queste stelle che ’ntorno a lor vanno.

139L’anima d’ogne bruto e de le piante
140di complession potenzïata tira
141lo raggio e ’l moto de le luci sante;

142ma vostra vita sanza mezzo spira
143la somma beninanza, e la innamora
144di sé sì che poi sempre la disira.

145E quinci puoi argomentare ancora
146vostra resurrezion, se tu ripensi
147come l’umana carne fessi allora

148che li primi parenti intrambo fensi».

“Hosanna, sanctus Deus sabaoth,
superillustrans claritate tua
felices ignes horum malacoth!”

Thus, even as he wheeled to his own music,
I saw that substance sing, that spirit—flame
above whom double lights were twinned; and he

and his companions moved within their dance,
and as if they were swiftest sparks, they sped
out of my sight because of sudden distance.

I was perplexed, and to myself, I said:
“Tell her! Tell her! Tell her, the lady who
can slake my thirst with her sweet drops”; and yet

the reverence that possesses all of me,
even on hearing only Be and ice,
had bowed my head—I seemed a man asleep.

But Beatrice soon ended that; for she
began to smile at me so brightly that,
even in fire, a man would still feel glad.

“According to my never—erring judgment,
the question that perplexes you is how
just vengeance can deserve just punishment;

but I shall quickly free your mind from doubt;
and listen carefully; the words I speak
will bring the gift of a great truth in reach.

Since he could not endure the helpful curb
on his willpower, the man who was not born,
damning himself, damned all his progeny.

For this, mankind lay sick, in the abyss
of a great error, for long centuries,
until the Word of God willed to descend

to where the nature that was sundered from
its Maker was united to His person
by the sole act of His eternal Love.

Now set your sight on what derives from that.
This nature, thus united to its Maker,
was good and pure, even as when created;

but in itself, this nature had been banished
from paradise, because it turned aside
from its own path, from truth, from its own life.

Thus, if the penalty the Cross inflicted
is measured by the nature He assumed,
no one has ever been so justly stung;

yet none was ever done so great a wrong,
if we regard the Person made to suffer,
He who had gathered in Himself that nature.

Thus, from one action, issued differing things:
God and the Jews were pleased by one same death;
earth trembled for that death and Heaven opened.

You need no longer find it difficult
to understand when it is said that just
vengeance was then avenged by a just court.

But I now see your understanding tangled
by thought on thought into a knot, from which,
with much desire, your mind awaits release.

You say: ‘What I have heard is clear to me;
but this is hidden from me—why God willed
precisely this pathway for our redemption.’

Brother, this ordinance is buried from
the eyes of everyone whose intellect
has not matured within the flame of love.

Nevertheless, since there is much attempting
to find this point, but little understanding,
I shall tell why that way was the most fitting.

The Godly Goodness that has banished every
envy from Its own Self, burns in Itself;
and sparkling so, It shows eternal beauties.

All that derives directly from this Goodness
is everlasting, since the seal of Goodness
impresses an imprint that never alters.

Whatever rains from It immediately
is fully free, for it is not constrained
by any influence of other things.

Even as it conforms to that Goodness,
so does it please It more; the Sacred Ardor
that gleams in all things is most bright within

those things most like Itself. The human being
has all these gifts, but if it loses one,
then its nobility has been undone.

Only man’s sin annuls man’s liberty,
makes him unlike the Highest Good, so that,
in him, the brightness of Its light is dimmed;

and man cannot regain his dignity
unless, where sin left emptiness, man fills
that void with just amends for evil pleasure.

For when your nature sinned so totally
within its seed, then, from these dignities,
just as from Paradise, that nature parted;

and they could never be regained—if you
consider carefully—by any way
that did not pass across one of these fords:

either through nothing other than His mercy,
God had to pardon man, or of himself
man had to proffer payment for his folly.

Now fix your eyes on the profundity
of the Eternal Counsel; heed as closely
as you are able to, my reasoning.

Man, in his limits, could not recompense;
for no obedience, no humility,
he offered later could have been so deep

that it could match the heights he meant to reach
through disobedience; man lacked the power
to offer satisfaction by himself.

Thus there was need for God, through His own ways,
to bring man back to life intact—I mean
by one way or by both. But since a deed

pleases its doer more, the more it shows
the goodness of the heart from which it springs,
the Godly Goodness that imprints the world

was happy to proceed through both Its ways
to raise you up again. Nor has there been,
nor will there be, between the final night

and the first day, a chain of actions so
lofty and so magnificent as He
enacted when He followed His two ways;

for God showed greater generosity
in giving His own self that man might be
able to rise, than if He simply pardoned;

for every other means fell short of justice,
except the way whereby the Son of God
humbled Himself when He became incarnate.

Now to give all your wishes full content,
I go back to explain one point, so that
you, too, may see it plainly, as I do.

You say: ‘I see that water, see that fire
and air and earth and all that they compose
come to corruption, and endure so briefly;

and yet these, too, were things created; if
what has been said above is true, then these
things never should be subject to corruption.’

Brother, the angels and the pure country
where you are now—these may be said to be
created, as they are, in all their being;

whereas the elements that you have mentioned,
as well as those things that are made from them,
receive their form from a created power.

The matter they contain had been created,
just as within the stars that wheel about them,
the power to give form had been created.

The rays and motion of the holy lights
draw forth the soul of every animal
and plant from matter able to take form;

but your life is breathed forth immediately
by the Chief Good, who so enamors it
of His own Self that it desires Him always.

So reasoning, you also can deduce
your resurrection; you need but remember
the way in which your human flesh was fashioned

when both of the first parents were created.”

“OSANNA sanctus Deus Sabaoth,
Superillustrans claritate tua
Felices ignes horum malahoth!”

In this wise, to his melody returning,
This substance, upon which a double light
Doubles itself, was seen by me to sing,

And to their dance this and the others moved,
And in the manner of swift—hurrying sparks
Veiled themselves from me with a sudden distance.

Doubting was I, and saying, “Tell her, tell her,”
Within me, “tell her,” saying, “tell my Lady,”
Who slakes my thirst with her sweet effluences;

And yet that reverence which doth lord it over
The whole of me only by B and ICE,
Bowed me again like unto one who drowses.

Short while did Beatrice endure me thus;
And she began, lighting me with a smile
Such as would make one happy in the fire:

According to infallible advisement,
After what manner a just vengeance justly
Could be avenged has put thee upon thinking,

But I will speedily thy mind unloose;
And do thou listen, for these words of mine
Of a great doctrine will a present make thee.

By not enduring on the power that wills
Curb for his good, that man who ne’er was born,
Damning himself damned all his progeny;

Whereby the human species down below
Lay sick for many centuries in great error,
Till to descend it pleased the Word of God

To where the nature, which from its own Maker
Estranged itself, he joined to him in person
By the sole act of his eternal love.

Now unto what is said direct thy sight;
This nature when united to its Maker,
Such as created, was sincere and good;

But by itself alone was banished forth
From Paradise, because it turned aside
Out of the way of truth and of its life.

Therefore the penalty the cross held out,
If measured by the nature thus assumed,
None ever yet with so great justice stung,

And none was ever of so great injustice,
Considering who the Person was that suffered,
Within whom such a nature was contracted.

From one act therefore issued things diverse;
To God and to the Jews one death was pleasing;
Earth trembled at it and the Heaven was opened.

It should no longer now seem difficult
To thee, when it is said that a just vengeance
By a just court was afterward avenged.

But now do I behold thy mind entangled
From thought to thought within a knot, from which
With great desire it waits to free itself

Thou sayest, ‘ Well discern I what I hear;
But it is hidden from me why God willed
For our redemption only this one mode.’

Buried remaineth, brother, this decree
Unto the eyes of every one whose nature
Is in the flame of love not yet adult.

Verily, inasmuch as at this mark
One gazes long and little is discerned,
Wherefore this mode was worthiest will I say.

Goodness Divine, which from itself doth spurn
All envy, burning in itself so sparkles
That the eternal beauties it unfolds.

Whate’er from this immediately distils
Has afterwards no end, for ne’er removed
Is its impression when it sets its seal.

Whate’er from this immediately rains down
Is wholly free, because it is not subject
Unto the influences of novel things.

The more conformed thereto, the more it pleases;
For the blest ardour that irradiates all things
In that most like itself is most vivacious.

With all of these things has advantaged been
The human creature; and if one be wanting,
From his nobility he needs must fall.

‘Tis sin alone which doth disfranchise him,
And render him unlike the Good Supreme,
So that he little with its light is blanched,

And to his dignity no more returns,
Unless he fill up where transgression empties
With righteous pains for criminal delights.

Your nature when it sinned so utterly
In its own seed, out of these dignities
Even as out of Paradise was driven,

Nor could itself recover, if thou notest
With nicest subtilty, by any way,
Except by passing one of these two fords:

Either that God through clemency alone
Had pardon granted, or that man himself
Had satisfaction for his folly made.

Fix now thine eye deep into the abyss
Of the eternal counsel, to my speech
As far as may be fastened steadfastly!

Man in his limitations had not power
To satisfy, not having power to sink
In his humility obeying then,

Far as he disobeying thought to rise;
And for this reason man has been from power
Of satisfying by himself excluded.

Therefore it God behoved in his own ways
Man to restore unto his perfect life
I say in one, or else in both of them.

But since the action of the doer is
So much more grateful, as it more presents
The goodness of the heart from which it issues,

Goodness Divine, that doth imprint the world,
Has been contented to proceed by each
And all its ways to lift you up again;

Nor ‘twixt the first day and the final night
Such high and such magnificent proceeding
By one or by the other was or shall be;

For God more bounteous was himself to give
To make man able to uplift himself,
Than if he only of himself had pardoned;

And all the other modes were insufficient
For justice, were it not the Son of God
Himself had humbled to become incarnate.

Now, to fill fully each desire of thine,
Return I to elucidate one place,
In order that thou there mayst see as I do.

Thou sayst: ‘ I see the air, I see the fire,
The water, and the earth, and all their mixtures
Come to corruption, and short while endure;

And these things notwithstanding were created;
Therefore if that which I have said were true,
They should have been secure against corruption.

The Angels, brother, and the land sincere
In which thou art, created may be called
Just as they are in their entire existence;

But all the elements which thou hast named,
And all those things which out of them are made,
By a created virtue are informed.

Created was the matter which they have;
Created was the informing influence
Within these stars that round about them go.

The soul of every brute and of the plants
By its potential temperament attracts
The ray and motion of the holy lights;

But your own life immediately inspires
Supreme Beneficence, and enamours it
So with herself, it evermore desires her.

And thou from this mayst argue furthermore
Your resurrection, if thou think again
How human flesh was fashioned at that time

When the first parents both of them were made.”

“Hosanna, sanctus Deus sabaoth,
superillustrans claritate tua
felices ignes horum malacoth!”

Thus, even as he wheeled to his own music,
I saw that substance sing, that spirit—flame
above whom double lights were twinned; and he

and his companions moved within their dance,
and as if they were swiftest sparks, they sped
out of my sight because of sudden distance.

I was perplexed, and to myself, I said:
“Tell her! Tell her! Tell her, the lady who
can slake my thirst with her sweet drops”; and yet

the reverence that possesses all of me,
even on hearing only Be and ice,
had bowed my head—I seemed a man asleep.

But Beatrice soon ended that; for she
began to smile at me so brightly that,
even in fire, a man would still feel glad.

“According to my never—erring judgment,
the question that perplexes you is how
just vengeance can deserve just punishment;

but I shall quickly free your mind from doubt;
and listen carefully; the words I speak
will bring the gift of a great truth in reach.

Since he could not endure the helpful curb
on his willpower, the man who was not born,
damning himself, damned all his progeny.

For this, mankind lay sick, in the abyss
of a great error, for long centuries,
until the Word of God willed to descend

to where the nature that was sundered from
its Maker was united to His person
by the sole act of His eternal Love.

Now set your sight on what derives from that.
This nature, thus united to its Maker,
was good and pure, even as when created;

but in itself, this nature had been banished
from paradise, because it turned aside
from its own path, from truth, from its own life.

Thus, if the penalty the Cross inflicted
is measured by the nature He assumed,
no one has ever been so justly stung;

yet none was ever done so great a wrong,
if we regard the Person made to suffer,
He who had gathered in Himself that nature.

Thus, from one action, issued differing things:
God and the Jews were pleased by one same death;
earth trembled for that death and Heaven opened.

You need no longer find it difficult
to understand when it is said that just
vengeance was then avenged by a just court.

But I now see your understanding tangled
by thought on thought into a knot, from which,
with much desire, your mind awaits release.

You say: ‘What I have heard is clear to me;
but this is hidden from me—why God willed
precisely this pathway for our redemption.’

Brother, this ordinance is buried from
the eyes of everyone whose intellect
has not matured within the flame of love.

Nevertheless, since there is much attempting
to find this point, but little understanding,
I shall tell why that way was the most fitting.

The Godly Goodness that has banished every
envy from Its own Self, burns in Itself;
and sparkling so, It shows eternal beauties.

All that derives directly from this Goodness
is everlasting, since the seal of Goodness
impresses an imprint that never alters.

Whatever rains from It immediately
is fully free, for it is not constrained
by any influence of other things.

Even as it conforms to that Goodness,
so does it please It more; the Sacred Ardor
that gleams in all things is most bright within

those things most like Itself. The human being
has all these gifts, but if it loses one,
then its nobility has been undone.

Only man’s sin annuls man’s liberty,
makes him unlike the Highest Good, so that,
in him, the brightness of Its light is dimmed;

and man cannot regain his dignity
unless, where sin left emptiness, man fills
that void with just amends for evil pleasure.

For when your nature sinned so totally
within its seed, then, from these dignities,
just as from Paradise, that nature parted;

and they could never be regained—if you
consider carefully—by any way
that did not pass across one of these fords:

either through nothing other than His mercy,
God had to pardon man, or of himself
man had to proffer payment for his folly.

Now fix your eyes on the profundity
of the Eternal Counsel; heed as closely
as you are able to, my reasoning.

Man, in his limits, could not recompense;
for no obedience, no humility,
he offered later could have been so deep

that it could match the heights he meant to reach
through disobedience; man lacked the power
to offer satisfaction by himself.

Thus there was need for God, through His own ways,
to bring man back to life intact—I mean
by one way or by both. But since a deed

pleases its doer more, the more it shows
the goodness of the heart from which it springs,
the Godly Goodness that imprints the world

was happy to proceed through both Its ways
to raise you up again. Nor has there been,
nor will there be, between the final night

and the first day, a chain of actions so
lofty and so magnificent as He
enacted when He followed His two ways;

for God showed greater generosity
in giving His own self that man might be
able to rise, than if He simply pardoned;

for every other means fell short of justice,
except the way whereby the Son of God
humbled Himself when He became incarnate.

Now to give all your wishes full content,
I go back to explain one point, so that
you, too, may see it plainly, as I do.

You say: ‘I see that water, see that fire
and air and earth and all that they compose
come to corruption, and endure so briefly;

and yet these, too, were things created; if
what has been said above is true, then these
things never should be subject to corruption.’

Brother, the angels and the pure country
where you are now—these may be said to be
created, as they are, in all their being;

whereas the elements that you have mentioned,
as well as those things that are made from them,
receive their form from a created power.

The matter they contain had been created,
just as within the stars that wheel about them,
the power to give form had been created.

The rays and motion of the holy lights
draw forth the soul of every animal
and plant from matter able to take form;

but your life is breathed forth immediately
by the Chief Good, who so enamors it
of His own Self that it desires Him always.

So reasoning, you also can deduce
your resurrection; you need but remember
the way in which your human flesh was fashioned

when both of the first parents were created.”

“OSANNA sanctus Deus Sabaoth,
Superillustrans claritate tua
Felices ignes horum malahoth!”

In this wise, to his melody returning,
This substance, upon which a double light
Doubles itself, was seen by me to sing,

And to their dance this and the others moved,
And in the manner of swift—hurrying sparks
Veiled themselves from me with a sudden distance.

Doubting was I, and saying, “Tell her, tell her,”
Within me, “tell her,” saying, “tell my Lady,”
Who slakes my thirst with her sweet effluences;

And yet that reverence which doth lord it over
The whole of me only by B and ICE,
Bowed me again like unto one who drowses.

Short while did Beatrice endure me thus;
And she began, lighting me with a smile
Such as would make one happy in the fire:

According to infallible advisement,
After what manner a just vengeance justly
Could be avenged has put thee upon thinking,

But I will speedily thy mind unloose;
And do thou listen, for these words of mine
Of a great doctrine will a present make thee.

By not enduring on the power that wills
Curb for his good, that man who ne’er was born,
Damning himself damned all his progeny;

Whereby the human species down below
Lay sick for many centuries in great error,
Till to descend it pleased the Word of God

To where the nature, which from its own Maker
Estranged itself, he joined to him in person
By the sole act of his eternal love.

Now unto what is said direct thy sight;
This nature when united to its Maker,
Such as created, was sincere and good;

But by itself alone was banished forth
From Paradise, because it turned aside
Out of the way of truth and of its life.

Therefore the penalty the cross held out,
If measured by the nature thus assumed,
None ever yet with so great justice stung,

And none was ever of so great injustice,
Considering who the Person was that suffered,
Within whom such a nature was contracted.

From one act therefore issued things diverse;
To God and to the Jews one death was pleasing;
Earth trembled at it and the Heaven was opened.

It should no longer now seem difficult
To thee, when it is said that a just vengeance
By a just court was afterward avenged.

But now do I behold thy mind entangled
From thought to thought within a knot, from which
With great desire it waits to free itself

Thou sayest, ‘ Well discern I what I hear;
But it is hidden from me why God willed
For our redemption only this one mode.’

Buried remaineth, brother, this decree
Unto the eyes of every one whose nature
Is in the flame of love not yet adult.

Verily, inasmuch as at this mark
One gazes long and little is discerned,
Wherefore this mode was worthiest will I say.

Goodness Divine, which from itself doth spurn
All envy, burning in itself so sparkles
That the eternal beauties it unfolds.

Whate’er from this immediately distils
Has afterwards no end, for ne’er removed
Is its impression when it sets its seal.

Whate’er from this immediately rains down
Is wholly free, because it is not subject
Unto the influences of novel things.

The more conformed thereto, the more it pleases;
For the blest ardour that irradiates all things
In that most like itself is most vivacious.

With all of these things has advantaged been
The human creature; and if one be wanting,
From his nobility he needs must fall.

‘Tis sin alone which doth disfranchise him,
And render him unlike the Good Supreme,
So that he little with its light is blanched,

And to his dignity no more returns,
Unless he fill up where transgression empties
With righteous pains for criminal delights.

Your nature when it sinned so utterly
In its own seed, out of these dignities
Even as out of Paradise was driven,

Nor could itself recover, if thou notest
With nicest subtilty, by any way,
Except by passing one of these two fords:

Either that God through clemency alone
Had pardon granted, or that man himself
Had satisfaction for his folly made.

Fix now thine eye deep into the abyss
Of the eternal counsel, to my speech
As far as may be fastened steadfastly!

Man in his limitations had not power
To satisfy, not having power to sink
In his humility obeying then,

Far as he disobeying thought to rise;
And for this reason man has been from power
Of satisfying by himself excluded.

Therefore it God behoved in his own ways
Man to restore unto his perfect life
I say in one, or else in both of them.

But since the action of the doer is
So much more grateful, as it more presents
The goodness of the heart from which it issues,

Goodness Divine, that doth imprint the world,
Has been contented to proceed by each
And all its ways to lift you up again;

Nor ‘twixt the first day and the final night
Such high and such magnificent proceeding
By one or by the other was or shall be;

For God more bounteous was himself to give
To make man able to uplift himself,
Than if he only of himself had pardoned;

And all the other modes were insufficient
For justice, were it not the Son of God
Himself had humbled to become incarnate.

Now, to fill fully each desire of thine,
Return I to elucidate one place,
In order that thou there mayst see as I do.

Thou sayst: ‘ I see the air, I see the fire,
The water, and the earth, and all their mixtures
Come to corruption, and short while endure;

And these things notwithstanding were created;
Therefore if that which I have said were true,
They should have been secure against corruption.

The Angels, brother, and the land sincere
In which thou art, created may be called
Just as they are in their entire existence;

But all the elements which thou hast named,
And all those things which out of them are made,
By a created virtue are informed.

Created was the matter which they have;
Created was the informing influence
Within these stars that round about them go.

The soul of every brute and of the plants
By its potential temperament attracts
The ray and motion of the holy lights;

But your own life immediately inspires
Supreme Beneficence, and enamours it
So with herself, it evermore desires her.

And thou from this mayst argue furthermore
Your resurrection, if thou think again
How human flesh was fashioned at that time

When the first parents both of them were made.”