Eros and Astral Influence

As a prelude to Paradiso 8 and 9, let us note that we are now in the heaven of Venus, named after the classical goddess of love and eros. In some ways this heaven might seem anticlimactic, and certainly I wish that Boccaccio’s Esposizioni alla Comedia di Dante had reached Paradiso 9, so that we might possess the account of Cunizza da Romano’s loves that the great novella writer might have offered us. Dante’s Cunizza refers to her loves, but she talks to us only about politics. Something detailed and embroidered about her amours from Boccaccio, like the fanciful story he tells about Francesca da Rimini in his Esposizioni on Inferno 5, would have been delightful. But the absence of a romantic story-line does not signify the absence of love in this heaven.

Indeed, Dante offers a typology of many kinds of human love in this heaven. Let us count the ways:

  1. eros: “il folle amor” that is featured at the beginning of this canto, in Paradiso 8.2; the irrational and erotic love of the vernacular courtly lyric, originating in Provence; also, as stated here, of classical inspiration;
  1. classical eros, as in Vergil’s Eclogue 10, “omnia vincit amor, et nos cedamus amori” (love conquers all, and we too yield to love); “la bella Ciprigna” (Par. 8.2), an alternate name for Venus and another alternate, “Dione” (Par. 8.7); see also references to Cupid, Dido, Phyllis, and Hercules as lovers;
  1. love poets and lovers: Dante (poet of the canzone Voi che ’ntendendo, cited in this canto ), Cunizza da Romano (lover of Sordello), Folchetto (= the Occitan troubadour Folquet de Marselha), Raab (the biblical prostitute Rahab);
  1. friendship: Dante’s friendship with Carlo Martello, announced by Carlo in Paradiso 8:
Assai m’amasti, e avesti ben onde;
che s’io fossi giù stato, io ti mostrava
di mio amor più oltre che le fronde.   (Par. 8.55-57)
You loved me much and had good cause for that;
for had I stayed below, I should have showed
you more of my love than the leaves alone.
  1. marital love: Dante insinuates marital love by the use of the affectionate pronoun “tuo” in “Carlo tuo”, in the apostrophe to Carlo’s wife, ”bella Clemenza”, from the beginning of Paradiso 9:              
Da poi che Carlo tuo, bella Clemenza,
m’ebbe chiarito, mi narrò li ’nganni
che ricever dovea la sua semenza . . .           (Par. 9.1-3)
Fair Clemence, after I had been enlightened
by your dear Charles, he told me how his seed
would be defrauded . . .
  1. rhetorical copulation: in Paradiso 9 mystical union and co-penentration is expressed in coinages based on pronouns, like inluiareintuareinmiare (Par. 9.72 and 81). For the importance of pronouns in Dante’s lexicon of love and unity, see my essay “Amicus eius: Dante and the Semantics of Friendship,” cited in Coordinated Reading.

However, although studded with many references to love of all sorts — beginning with the seductive and promising “folle amore” of Paradiso 8.2 — the heaven of Venus is in fact devoted to civic life and politics.

Charles Martel (1271-1294) discusses his family, the French house of Anjou, and refers to his brother, Robert of Anjou, King of Naples (1277-1343), in Paradiso 8.76. This is the very Re Roberto of whose Neapolitan court both Petrarca and Boccaccio make complimentary mention. Petrarch calls King Robert the “only ornament of our age” — “unicum seculi nostri decus” — in Familiarium rerum libri 1.2.9. But in Paradiso 8 Charles, whom we will call Carlo along with Dante, is not complimentary, accusing his brother of miserliness.

Paradiso 8 features a lengthy and complex discourse on heredity and human nature that makes the case for difference as a prerequisite for a healthy society.

The observation that King Robert’s “natura . . . di larga parca discese” (his nature descended from generous ancestors [Par. 8.82-83]) prompts the question posed in Paradiso 8.93: “Com’esser può, di dolce seme, amaro?” “How can a bitter fruit come from a sweet seed?” The next question shows that the pendulum has swung from the Augustinian focus of Paradiso 7 back to Aristotle:

Ond’elli ancora: «Or di’: sarebbe il peggio
per l’omo in terra, se non fosse cive?»
«Sì», rispuos’io; «e qui ragion non cheggio». (Par. 8.115-17)                   
He added: “Tell me, would a man on earth
be worse if he were not a citizen?”
“Yes,” I replied, “and here I need no proof.”

“Would it be worse for man on earth if he were not a citizen?” is a question that hearkens back to Aristotle, Politics I.1.2: “homo natura civile animal est” (Man is by nature a social animal). From this principle flows the corollary that difference is required in the social sphere as it is in the metaphysical.

The question that follows is: can man be a citizen — in other words, can he live a full life as a member of a social group — if there are not different ways of living in society, requiring different talents and duties?

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

The answer is that we need difference in the social sphere, and therefore men are born with different dispositions and talents.

Sì venne deducendo infino a quici;
poscia conchiuse: «Dunque esser diverse
convien di vostri effetti le radici:
per ch’un nasce Solone e altro Serse,
altro Melchisedèch e altro quello
che, volando per l’aere, il figlio perse.» (Par. 8.121-26)
Until this point that shade went on, deducing;
then he concluded: "Thus, the roots from which
your tasks proceed must needs be different:
so, one is born a Solon, one a Xerxes,
and one a Melchizedek, and another,
he who flew through the air and lost his son.” 

One man is born with a disposition for law and governance (Solon), another with the disposition to be a warrior (Xerxes), another has inborn talents that lead him to be a priest (Melchisidech), and, finally, there is one who is born an artist, prone to reckless and daring creativity (Daedalus).

Dante in Paradiso 8.125-26 gives us a second perspective on the myth of Icarus and Daedalus, complementing the vignette of Inferno 17.109-11. There Icarus feels his wax wings unfeathering, and his father Daedalus desperately warns his son “Mala via tieni!” — “You’re going the wrong way!” (Inf. 17.111). In both passages the focus is more on the father than the son, here even more than in Inferno 17. In Paradiso 8 the story is telescoped into the paternal drama of a father who failed to sufficiently protect his son, and consequently lost him: “e altro quello / che, volando per l’aere, il figlio perse” (he who flew through the air and lost his son [Par. 8.125-26]).

Just as we saw that the creation of the universe requires differentiation in Paradiso 2, now we see that the creation of society requires difference as well. The answer to this question confirms that the pendulum has swung back from stressing the tragedy of our lost similitude with the One in Paradiso 7 to praise of necessary difference in Paradiso 8.

Carlo explains that providence has to correct nature, which if left unguided would turn out children who were exact replicas of their parents. Providence has to intervene to make sure that we are not all identical to our parents:

Natura generata il suo cammino
simil farebbe sempre a’ generanti,
se non vincesse il proveder divino. (Par. 8.133-35)
Engendered natures would forever take
the path of those who had engendered them,
did not Divine provision intervene.

Thus Providence corrects nature in order to ensure difference, guaranteeing that we not be like our parents. And yet society is coercive, and tries to force a man to comply with a predetermined idea of what he should be, thus producing terrible results:

Ma voi torcete a la religione                
tal che fia nato a cignersi la spada,               
e fate re di tal ch’è da sermone;                   
onde la traccia vostra è fuor di strada. (Par. 8.145-48) 
But you twist to religion one whose birth               
made him more fit to gird a sword, and make                
a king of one more fit for sermoning,                  
so that the track you take is off the road. 

In other words, human beings act against their best interests and against the requirements of a healthy society. God makes sure that we are all different, and yet we try to force our sons into the pathways of their fathers.

Here now is an extended analysis of the discourse summarized above, extending from verse 93 to the canto’s end.

Paradiso 8: Carlo’s Speech

The question is posed in verse 93: “com’esser può, di dolce seme, amaro” (how from a sweet seed, bitter fruit derives)?

This question will be answered thus. The heavens, which impress different characteristics on different human beings, do not distinguish in doing so between one “home” (“ostello” in verse 129): one family of birth and another. As a result, the members of a family can be, indeed are likely to be, completely different. As proof, he cites the example of the biblical twins Jacob and Esau (130-1): twins are as much in the same family as it is possible to be, since they are born in the same womb, and are yet completely different.

In effect, Dante is going back to principles about heredity stated in Purgatorio 7 and 8, and before that in his canzone Le dolci rime, where he discusses the nature of nobility and argues that it does not depend on lineage and family. Here he is expanding on the idea that virtue is not passed down through a lineage, as stated in Purgatorio 7.121-3: God does not allow virtue to be passed by blood in order that we might know that it is given to an individual directly by Him.

The answer to the question posed in verse 93 comes to its conclusion in verse 135 (which marks the conclusion by circling back to the beginning of the discourse with its emphasis on providence: “proveder divino”). What follows, from 136 to the end, is a corollary that explains that what goes wrong happens not because the heavens do their work badly but because of humans, who of their own free will (not stated but always implied) force their family members to go in a direction that does not accord with their natural inclination.

Below is a breakdown of Carlo’s speech, which brings in many issues before answering the question posed in verse 93. Dante specifically labels this speech an example of deductive reasoning: “Si venne deducendo infine a quivi” in verse 121.

Verse 93: “com’esser può, di dolce seme, amaro” (how from a sweet seed, bitter fruit derives?)

The above question picks up from verses 82-83 about Carlo’s brother, King Robert: ”La sua natura, che di larga para / discese” (His miserly nature is descended from a nature that was generous [Par. 7.82-3])

I. Verses 94-114:

The heavens operate under the guidance of divine providence — note repetition of “provedenza” (99), “le nature provedute” (100), “proveduto fine” (104) — four repetitions that are echoed at the end of the discourse in verse 135: “proveder divino”.

If the heavens were not guided by providence, they would create not order but chaos and ruination (verse 108), and this cannot be (argument per absurdum). The fact that the heavens operate well but need the guidance of providence in order not to make a mess (“ruine”) will come back in verses 127-35.

II. Verses 115-126:

Introduction of Aristotle on whether man is a “cive”, citizen, and what is required for man to be a citizen in a well-regulated society. In effect Dante here, where he invokes Aristotle, is constructing a syllogism, a form of deductive reasoning that moves from a major premise to a minor premise and hence to a conclusion: to be happy man must be a citizen, to be a citizen requires different duties, therefore difference is necessary. Conclusion: Difference is necessary: men cannot be citizens if they do not live “diversamente per diversi offici”: diversely, with different duties (119). And “diversi offici” — different offices and duties in society — require different roots, i.e. different origins and births. This is stated in verses 122-3: “Dunque esser diverse / convien di vostri effetti le radici”, to be construed thus: “diverse radici” — different roots — are required to produce “vostri effetti”: your [different] effects.

Because this necessary difference is instituted in society by divine providence, we have a Solon, a Xerxes, a Melchesidech, and a Daedalus: all offices are represented, in that we have a governor, a warrior, a priest, and an artist.

III. Verses 127-135

Two key points are made here:

1) verses 127-132: “circular natura” (the heavens), in impressing a particular inclination on “cera mortal” (human wax) does not distinguish between one home and another: “non distingue l’un dall’altro ostello” (129). The heavens do not distinguish between family/lineage. This is why the members of a family can be completely different, like Jacob and Esau, and (the plot premise of this discourse) like Carlo and Roberto.

2) verses 133-135: to achieve this necessary difference (this is the key premise, not stated but carried over from the previous verses), divine providence overrides nature, since left to its own devices the nature that is generated would always reproduce the generator: sons would be like fathers. Which, as has already been shown, providence does not want.

IV. Verses 136-148: Corollary

Here Dante pits natura — what the heavens, with the guidance of providence, have imprinted on each individual mortal — versus fortuna: the social position into which we are born and the pressures caused by that social situation. Nature will always yield poor results if it finds fortuna discordant to it. If we on earth were to pay attention to the “fondamento che natura pone” (143), to the inclination imposed by nature on a given individual, and if we were to follow that inclination (144), then we would have “buona gente” (144), good people: society would have good results, we would flourish.

But instead we, and here we have the implicit presence of free will, with which we freely choose to go in the wrong direction, twist (“torcete”) people against their inclination, making a person who should be a warrior into a priest (forcing a Xerxes to become a Melchesidech), and making a person who should be a priest into a king (forcing a Melchesidech to become a Solon). Therefore we — our society — goes off the path!

* * *

I will conclude this commentary by turning to Dante’s canzone Voi che ’ntendendo il terzo ciel movete, cited by Carlo Martello in Paradiso 8.37. 

Judging from the dialogue between the pilgrim and Carlo Martello, there was a friendship between them that could only have been kindled during Carlo’s brief visit to Florence in 1294. One of the ways that Carlo shows his intimacy with the pilgrim is by citing Dante’s early canzone Voi che ’ntendendo il terzo ciel movete, written, according to Dante in the Convivio, in 1293. Carlo declares his whereabouts — the third heaven — by citing his friend’s canzone, appropriately addressed to the angelic intelligences of this very third heaven:

Noi ci volgiam coi principi celesti               
d’un giro e d’un girare e d’una sete,               
ai quali tu del mondo già dicesti:                   
‘Voi che 'ntendendo il terzo ciel movete’ . . .     (Par. 8.34-37)
One circle and one circling and one thirst               
are ours as we revolve with the celestial               
Princes whom, from the world, you once invoked                  
‘You who, through understanding, move the third heaven’ . . . 

One might wonder why Dante would cite here a canzone, Voi che ’ntendendo il terzo ciel movete, in which he turns away from Beatrice to another love. This is a complex question which I first attempted to unravel in the first chapter of Dante’s Poets, dedicated to the Commedia’s autocitations. More recently, I have returned to the problem, which I now frame within the discourse on compulsion and determinism — astral influence — that is so prominent a topic in the early canti of Paradiso.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: The Undivine Comedy (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1992), Chapter 8, “Problems in Paradise: The Mimesis of Time and the Paradox of più e meno”, pp. 191-92; Dante’s Poets (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1984), pp. 57-84.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Paradiso 8: Eros and Astral Influence.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2014. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/paradiso/paradiso-8/
<paragraph number>

Commento Table of Contents

1Solea creder lo mondo in suo periclo
2che la bella Ciprigna il folle amore
3raggiasse, volta nel terzo epiciclo;

4per che non pur a lei faceano onore
5di sacrificio e di votivo grido
6le genti antiche ne l’antico errore;

7ma Dïone onoravano e Cupido,
8quella per madre sua, questo per figlio,
9e dicean ch’el sedette in grembo a Dido;

10e da costei ond’ io principio piglio
11pigliavano il vocabol de la stella
12che ’l sol vagheggia or da coppa or da ciglio.

13Io non m’accorsi del salire in ella;
14ma d’esservi entro mi fé assai fede
15la donna mia ch’i’ vidi far più bella.

16E come in fiamma favilla si vede,
17e come in voce voce si discerne,
18quand’ una è ferma e altra va e riede,

19vid’ io in essa luce altre lucerne
20muoversi in giro più e men correnti,
21al modo, credo, di lor viste interne.

22Di fredda nube non disceser venti,
23o visibili o no, tanto festini,
24che non paressero impediti e lenti

25a chi avesse quei lumi divini
26veduti a noi venir, lasciando il giro
27pria cominciato in li alti Serafini;

28e dentro a quei che più innanzi appariro
29sonava ‘Osanna’ sì, che unque poi
30di rïudir non fui sanza disiro.

31Indi si fece l’un più presso a noi
32e solo incominciò: «Tutti sem presti
33al tuo piacer, perché di noi ti gioi.

34Noi ci volgiam coi principi celesti
35d’un giro e d’un girare e d’una sete,
36ai quali tu del mondo già dicesti:

37‘Voi che ’ntendendo il terzo ciel movete’;
38e sem sì pien d’amor, che, per piacerti,
39non fia men dolce un poco di quïete».

40Poscia che li occhi miei si fuoro offerti
41a la mia donna reverenti, ed essa
42fatti li avea di sé contenti e certi,

43rivolsersi a la luce che promessa
44tanto s’avea, e «Deh, chi siete?» fue
45la voce mia di grande affetto impressa.

46E quanta e quale vid’ io lei far piùe
47per allegrezza nova che s’accrebbe,
48quando parlai, a l’allegrezze sue!

49Così fatta, mi disse: «Il mondo m’ebbe
50giù poco tempo; e se più fosse stato,
51molto sarà di mal, che non sarebbe.

52La mia letizia mi ti tien celato
53che mi raggia dintorno e mi nasconde
54quasi animal di sua seta fasciato.

55Assai m’amasti, e avesti ben onde;
56che s’io fossi giù stato, io ti mostrava
57di mio amor più oltre che le fronde.

58Quella sinistra riva che si lava
59di Rodano poi ch’è misto con Sorga,
60per suo segnore a tempo m’aspettava,

61e quel corno d’Ausonia che s’imborga
62di Bari e di Gaeta e di Catona,
63da ove Tronto e Verde in mare sgorga.

64Fulgeami già in fronte la corona
65di quella terra che ’l Danubio riga
66poi che le ripe tedesche abbandona.

67E la bella Trinacria, che caliga
68tra Pachino e Peloro, sopra ’l golfo
69che riceve da Euro maggior briga,

70non per Tifeo ma per nascente solfo,
71attesi avrebbe li suoi regi ancora,
72nati per me di Carlo e di Ridolfo,

73se mala segnoria, che sempre accora
74li popoli suggetti, non avesse
75mosso Palermo a gridar: “Mora, mora!”.

76E se mio frate questo antivedesse,
77l’avara povertà di Catalogna
78già fuggeria, perché non li offendesse;

79ché veramente proveder bisogna
80per lui, o per altrui, sì ch’a sua barca
81carcata più d’incarco non si pogna.

82La sua natura, che di larga parca
83discese, avria mestier di tal milizia
84che non curasse di mettere in arca».

85«Però ch’i’ credo che l’alta letizia
86che ’l tuo parlar m’infonde, segnor mio,
87là ’ve ogne ben si termina e s’inizia,

88per te si veggia come la vegg’ io,
89grata m’è più; e anco quest’ ho caro
90perché ’l discerni rimirando in Dio.

91Fatto m’hai lieto, e così mi fa chiaro,
92poi che, parlando, a dubitar m’hai mosso
93com’ esser può, di dolce seme, amaro».

94Questo io a lui; ed elli a me: «S’io posso
95mostrarti un vero, a quel che tu dimandi
96terrai lo viso come tien lo dosso.

97Lo ben che tutto il regno che tu scandi
98volge e contenta, fa esser virtute
99sua provedenza in questi corpi grandi.

100E non pur le nature provedute
101sono in la mente ch’è da sé perfetta,
102ma esse insieme con la lor salute:

103per che quantunque quest’ arco saetta
104disposto cade a proveduto fine,
105sì come cosa in suo segno diretta.

106Se ciò non fosse, il ciel che tu cammine
107producerebbe sì li suoi effetti,
108che non sarebbero arti, ma ruine;

109e ciò esser non può, se li ’ntelletti
110che muovon queste stelle non son manchi,
111e manco il primo, che non li ha perfetti.

112Vuo’ tu che questo ver più ti s’imbianchi?».
113E io: «Non già; ché impossibil veggio
114che la natura, in quel ch’è uopo, stanchi».

115Ond’ elli ancora: «Or dì: sarebbe il peggio
116per l’omo in terra, se non fosse cive?».
117«Sì», rispuos’ io; «e qui ragion non cheggio».

118«E puot’ elli esser, se giù non si vive
119diversamente per diversi offici?
120Non, se ’l maestro vostro ben vi scrive».

121Sì venne deducendo infino a quici;
122poscia conchiuse: «Dunque esser diverse
123convien di vostri effetti le radici:

124per ch’un nasce Solone e altro Serse,
125altro Melchisedèch e altro quello
126che, volando per l’aere, il figlio perse.

127La circular natura, ch’è suggello
128a la cera mortal, fa ben sua arte,
129ma non distingue l’un da l’altro ostello.

130Quinci addivien ch’Esaù si diparte
131per seme da Iacòb; e vien Quirino
132da sì vil padre, che si rende a Marte.

133Natura generata il suo cammino
134simil farebbe sempre a’ generanti,
135se non vincesse il proveder divino.

136Or quel che t’era dietro t’è davanti:
137ma perché sappi che di te mi giova,
138un corollario voglio che t’ammanti.

139Sempre natura, se fortuna trova
140discorde a sé, com’ ogne altra semente
141fuor di sua regïon, fa mala prova.

142E se ’l mondo là giù ponesse mente
143al fondamento che natura pone,
144seguendo lui, avria buona la gente.

145Ma voi torcete a la religïone
146tal che fia nato a cignersi la spada,
147e fate re di tal ch’è da sermone;

148onde la traccia vostra è fuor di strada».

The world, when still in peril, thought that, wheeling,
in the third epicycle, Cyprian
the fair sent down her rays of frenzied love,

so that, in ancient error, ancient peoples
not only honored her with sacrifices
and votive cries, but honored, too, Dione

and Cupid, one as mother, one as son
of Cyprian, and told how Cupid sat
in Dido’s lap; and gave the name of her

with whom I have begun this canto, to
the planet that is courted by the sun,
at times behind her and at times in front.

I did not notice my ascent to it,
yet I was sure I was in Venus when
I saw my lady grow more beautiful.

And just as, in a flame, a spark is seen,
and as, in plainsong, voice in voice is heard
one holds the note, the other comes and goes

I saw in that light other wheeling lamps,
some more and some less swift, yet in accord,
I think, with what their inner vision was.

Winds, seen or unseen, never have descended
so swiftly from cold clouds as not to seem
impeded, slow, to any who had seen

those godly lights approaching us, halting
the circling dance those spirits had begun
within the heaven of high Seraphim;

and a Hosanna sounded from within
their front ranks such that I have never been
without desire to hear it sound again.

Then one drew nearer us, and he began
alone: We all are ready at your pleasure,
so that you may receive delight from us.

One circle and one circling and one thirst
are ours as we revolve with the celestial
Princes whom, from the world, you once invoked:

‘You who, through understanding, move the third
heaven.’ Our love is so complete to bring
you joy, brief respite will not be less sweet.

After my eyes had turned with reverence
to see my lady, after her consent
had brought them reassurance and content,

they turned back to the light that promised me
so much; and, Tell me, who are you, I asked
in a voice stamped with loving sentiment.

And how much larger, brighter did I see
that spirit grow when, as I spoke, it felt
new gladness added to its gladnesses!

Thus changed, it then replied: The world held me
briefly below; but had my stay been longer,
much evil that will be, would not have been.

My happiness, surrounding me with rays,
keeps me concealed from you; it hides me like
a creature that is swathed in its own silk.

You loved me much and had good cause for that;
for had I stayed below, I should have showed
you more of my love than the leaves alone.

The left bank that the Rhone bathes after it
has mingled with the waters of the Sorgue,
awaited me in due time as its lord,

as did Ausonia’s horn, which south of where
the Tronto and the Verde reach the sea
Catona, Bari, and Gaeta border.

Upon my brow a crown already shone
the crown of that land where the Danube flows
when it has left behind its German shores.

And fair Trinacria, whom ashes (these
result from surging sulphur, not Typhoeus)
cover between Pachynus and Pelorus,

along the gulf that Eurus vexes most,
would still await its rulers born through me
from Charles and Rudolph, if ill sovereignty,

which always hurts the heart of subject peoples,
had not provoked Palermo to cry out:
‘Die! Die!’ And if my brother could foresee

what ill—rule brings, he would already flee
from Catalonia’s grasping poverty,
aware that it may cause him injury;

for truly there is need for either him
or others to prevent his loaded boat
from having to take on still greater loads.

His niggard nature is descended from
one who was generous; and he needs soldiers
who are not bent on filling up their coffers.

My lord, since I believe that you perceive
completely where all good begins and ends
the joy I see within myself on hearing

your words to me, my joy is felt more freely;
and I joy, too, in knowing you are blessed,
since you perceived this as you gazed at God.

You made me glad; so may you clear the doubt
that rose in me when you before described
how from a gentle seed, harsh fruit derives.

These were my words to him, and he replied:
If I can show one certain truth to you,
you will confront what now is at your back.

The Good that moves and makes content the realm
through which you now ascend, makes providence
act as a force in these great heavens’ bodies;

and in the Mind that, in itself, is perfect,
not only are the natures of His creatures
but their well—being, too, provided for;

and thus, whatever this bow shoots must fall
according to a providential end,
just like a shaft directed to its target.

Were this not so, the heavens you traverse
would bring about effects in such a way
that they would not be things of art but shards.

That cannot be unless the Minds that move
these planets are defective and, defective,
the First Mind, which had failed to make them perfect.

Would you have this truth still more clear to you?
I: No. I see it is impossible
for nature to fall short of what is needed.

He added: Tell me, would a man on earth
be worse if he were not a citizen?
Yes, I replied, and here I need no proof.

Can there be citizens if men below
are not diverse, with diverse duties? No,
if what your master writes is accurate.

Until this point that shade went on, deducing;
then he concluded: Thus, the roots from which
your tasks proceed must needs be different:

so, one is born a Solon, one a Xerxes,
and one a Melchizedek, and another,
he who flew through the air and lost his son.

Revolving nature, serving as a seal
for mortal wax, plies well its art, but it
does not distinguish one house from another.

Thus, even from the seed, Esau takes leave
of Jacob; and because he had a father
so base, they said Quirinus was Mars’ son.

Engendered natures would forever take
the path of those who had engendered them,
did not Divine provision intervene.

Now that which stood behind you, stands in front:
but so that you may know the joy you give me,
I now would cloak you with a corollary.

Where Nature comes upon discrepant fortune,
like any seed outside its proper region,
Nature will always yield results awry.

But if the world below would set its mind
on the foundation Nature lays as base
to follow, it would have its people worthy.

But you twist to religion one whose birth
made him more fit to gird a sword, and make
a king of one more fit for sermoning,

so that the track you take is off the road.

THE world used in its peril to believe
That the fair Cypria delirious love
Rayed out, in the third epicycle turning;

Wherefore not only unto her paid honour
Of sacrifices and of votive cry
The ancient nations in the ancient error,

But both Dione honoured they and Cupid,
That as her mother, this one as her son,
And said that he had sat in Dido’s lap;

And they from her, whence I beginning take,
Took the denomination of the star
That wooes the sun, now following, now in front.

I was not ware of our ascending to it;
But of our being in it gave full faith
My Lady whom I saw more beauteous grow.

And as within a flame a spark is seen,
And as within a voice a voice discerned,
When one is steadfast, and one comes and goes,

Within that light beheld I other lamps
Move in a circle, speeding more and less,
Methinks in measure of their inward vision.

From a cold cloud descended never winds,
Or visible or not, so rapidly
They would not laggard and impeded seem

To any one who had those lights divine
Seen come towards us, leaving the gyration
Begun at first in the high Seraphim.

And behind those that most in front appeared
Sounded _”Osanna!”_so that never since
To hear again was I without desire.

Then unto us more nearly one approached,
And it alone began: “We all are ready
Unto thy pleasure, that thou joy in us.

We turn around with the celestial Princes,
One gyre and one gyration and one thirst,
To whom thou in the world of old didst say,

_’Ye who, intelligent, the third heaven are moving;’_
And are so full of love, to pleasure thee
A little quiet will not be less sweet.”

After these eyes of mine themselves had offered
Unto my Lady reverently, and she
Content and certain of herself had made them,

Back to the light they turned, which so great promise
Made of itself, and “Say, who art thou ?” was
My voice, imprinted with a great affection.

O how and how much I beheld it grow
With the new joy that superadded was
Unto its joys, as soon as I had spoken!

Thus changed, it said to me: “The world possessed me
Short time below; and, if it had been more,
Much evil will be which would not have been.

My gladness keepeth me concealed from thee,
Which rayeth round about me, and doth hide me
Like as a creature swathed in its own silk.

Much didst thou love me, and thou hadst good reason;
For had I been below, I should have shown thee
Somewhat beyond the foliage of my love.

That left—hand margin, which doth bathe itself
In Rhone, when it is mingled with the Sorgue,
Me for its lord awaited in due time,

And that horn of Ausonia, which is towned
With Bari, with Gaeta and Catona,
Whence Tronto and Verde in the sea disgorge.

Already flashed upon my brow the crown
Of that dominion which the Danube waters
After the German borders it abandons;

And beautiful Trinacria, that is murky
‘Twixt Pachino and Peloro, (on the gulf
Which greatest scath from Eurus doth receive,)

Not through Typhceus, but through nascent sulphur,
Would have awaited her own monarchs still,
Through me from Charles descended and from Rudolph,

If evil lordship, that exasperates ever
The subject populations, had not moved
Palermo to the outcry of ‘ Death! death! ‘

And if my brother could but this foresee,
The greedy poverty of Catalonia
Straight would he flee, that it might not molest him;

For verily ’tis needful to provide,
Through him or other, so that on his bark
Already freighted no more freight be placed.

His nature, which from liberal covetous
Descended, such a soldiery would need
As should not care for hoarding in a chest.”

“Because I do believe the lofty joy
Thy speech infuses into me, my Lord,
Where every good thing doth begin and end

Thou seest as I see it, the more grateful
Is it to me; and this too hold I dear,
That gazing upon God thou dost discern it.

Glad hast thou made me; so make clear to me,
Since speaking thou hast stirred me up to doubt,
How from sweet seed can bitter issue forth.”

This I to him; and he to me: “If I
Can show to thee a truth, to what thou askest
Thy face thou’lt hold as thou dost hold thy back.

The Good which all the realm thou art ascending
Turns and contents, maketh its providence
To be a power within these bodies vast

And not alone the natures are foreseen
Within the mind that in itself is perfect,
But they together with their preservation.

For whatsoever thing this bow shoots forth
Falls foreordained unto an end foreseen,
Even as a shaft directed to its mark.

Ii that were not, the heaven which thou dost walk
Would in such manner its effects produce,
That they no longer would be arts, but ruins.

This cannot be, if the Intelligences
That keep these stars in motion are not maimed,
And maimed the First that has not made them perfect.

Wilt thou this truth have clearer made to thee ?”
And I: “Not so; for ’tis impossible
That nature tire, I see, in what is needful.”

Whence he again: “Now say, would it be worse
For men on earth were they not citizens ?”
” Yes,” I replied; “and here I ask no reason.”.

“And can they be so, if below they live not
Diversely unto offices diverse ?
No, if your master writeth well for you.’

So came he with deductions to this point;
Then he concluded: “Therefore it behoves
The roots of your effects to be diverse.

Hence one is Solon born, another Xerxes,
Another Melchisedec, and another he
Who, flying through the air, his son did lose.

Revolving Nature, which a signet is
To mortal wax, doth practise well her art,
But not one inn distinguish from another;

Thence happens it that Esau differeth
In seed from Jacob; and Quirinus comes
From sire so vile that he is given to Mars.

A generated nature its own way
Would always make like its progenitors,
If Providence divine were not triumphant.

Now that which was behind thee is before thee;
But that thou know that I with thee am pleased,
With a corollary will I mantle thee.

Evermore nature, if it fortune find
Discordant to it, like each other seed
Out of its region, maketh evil thrift;

And if the world below would fix its mind
On the foundation which is laid by nature,
Pursuing that, ‘twould have the people good.

But you unto religion wrench aside
Him who was born to gird him with the sword,
And make a king of him who is for sermons;

Therefore your footsteps wander from the road.”

The world, when still in peril, thought that, wheeling,
in the third epicycle, Cyprian
the fair sent down her rays of frenzied love,

so that, in ancient error, ancient peoples
not only honored her with sacrifices
and votive cries, but honored, too, Dione

and Cupid, one as mother, one as son
of Cyprian, and told how Cupid sat
in Dido’s lap; and gave the name of her

with whom I have begun this canto, to
the planet that is courted by the sun,
at times behind her and at times in front.

I did not notice my ascent to it,
yet I was sure I was in Venus when
I saw my lady grow more beautiful.

And just as, in a flame, a spark is seen,
and as, in plainsong, voice in voice is heard
one holds the note, the other comes and goes

I saw in that light other wheeling lamps,
some more and some less swift, yet in accord,
I think, with what their inner vision was.

Winds, seen or unseen, never have descended
so swiftly from cold clouds as not to seem
impeded, slow, to any who had seen

those godly lights approaching us, halting
the circling dance those spirits had begun
within the heaven of high Seraphim;

and a Hosanna sounded from within
their front ranks such that I have never been
without desire to hear it sound again.

Then one drew nearer us, and he began
alone: We all are ready at your pleasure,
so that you may receive delight from us.

One circle and one circling and one thirst
are ours as we revolve with the celestial
Princes whom, from the world, you once invoked:

‘You who, through understanding, move the third
heaven.’ Our love is so complete to bring
you joy, brief respite will not be less sweet.

After my eyes had turned with reverence
to see my lady, after her consent
had brought them reassurance and content,

they turned back to the light that promised me
so much; and, Tell me, who are you, I asked
in a voice stamped with loving sentiment.

And how much larger, brighter did I see
that spirit grow when, as I spoke, it felt
new gladness added to its gladnesses!

Thus changed, it then replied: The world held me
briefly below; but had my stay been longer,
much evil that will be, would not have been.

My happiness, surrounding me with rays,
keeps me concealed from you; it hides me like
a creature that is swathed in its own silk.

You loved me much and had good cause for that;
for had I stayed below, I should have showed
you more of my love than the leaves alone.

The left bank that the Rhone bathes after it
has mingled with the waters of the Sorgue,
awaited me in due time as its lord,

as did Ausonia’s horn, which south of where
the Tronto and the Verde reach the sea
Catona, Bari, and Gaeta border.

Upon my brow a crown already shone
the crown of that land where the Danube flows
when it has left behind its German shores.

And fair Trinacria, whom ashes (these
result from surging sulphur, not Typhoeus)
cover between Pachynus and Pelorus,

along the gulf that Eurus vexes most,
would still await its rulers born through me
from Charles and Rudolph, if ill sovereignty,

which always hurts the heart of subject peoples,
had not provoked Palermo to cry out:
‘Die! Die!’ And if my brother could foresee

what ill—rule brings, he would already flee
from Catalonia’s grasping poverty,
aware that it may cause him injury;

for truly there is need for either him
or others to prevent his loaded boat
from having to take on still greater loads.

His niggard nature is descended from
one who was generous; and he needs soldiers
who are not bent on filling up their coffers.

My lord, since I believe that you perceive
completely where all good begins and ends
the joy I see within myself on hearing

your words to me, my joy is felt more freely;
and I joy, too, in knowing you are blessed,
since you perceived this as you gazed at God.

You made me glad; so may you clear the doubt
that rose in me when you before described
how from a gentle seed, harsh fruit derives.

These were my words to him, and he replied:
If I can show one certain truth to you,
you will confront what now is at your back.

The Good that moves and makes content the realm
through which you now ascend, makes providence
act as a force in these great heavens’ bodies;

and in the Mind that, in itself, is perfect,
not only are the natures of His creatures
but their well—being, too, provided for;

and thus, whatever this bow shoots must fall
according to a providential end,
just like a shaft directed to its target.

Were this not so, the heavens you traverse
would bring about effects in such a way
that they would not be things of art but shards.

That cannot be unless the Minds that move
these planets are defective and, defective,
the First Mind, which had failed to make them perfect.

Would you have this truth still more clear to you?
I: No. I see it is impossible
for nature to fall short of what is needed.

He added: Tell me, would a man on earth
be worse if he were not a citizen?
Yes, I replied, and here I need no proof.

Can there be citizens if men below
are not diverse, with diverse duties? No,
if what your master writes is accurate.

Until this point that shade went on, deducing;
then he concluded: Thus, the roots from which
your tasks proceed must needs be different:

so, one is born a Solon, one a Xerxes,
and one a Melchizedek, and another,
he who flew through the air and lost his son.

Revolving nature, serving as a seal
for mortal wax, plies well its art, but it
does not distinguish one house from another.

Thus, even from the seed, Esau takes leave
of Jacob; and because he had a father
so base, they said Quirinus was Mars’ son.

Engendered natures would forever take
the path of those who had engendered them,
did not Divine provision intervene.

Now that which stood behind you, stands in front:
but so that you may know the joy you give me,
I now would cloak you with a corollary.

Where Nature comes upon discrepant fortune,
like any seed outside its proper region,
Nature will always yield results awry.

But if the world below would set its mind
on the foundation Nature lays as base
to follow, it would have its people worthy.

But you twist to religion one whose birth
made him more fit to gird a sword, and make
a king of one more fit for sermoning,

so that the track you take is off the road.

THE world used in its peril to believe
That the fair Cypria delirious love
Rayed out, in the third epicycle turning;

Wherefore not only unto her paid honour
Of sacrifices and of votive cry
The ancient nations in the ancient error,

But both Dione honoured they and Cupid,
That as her mother, this one as her son,
And said that he had sat in Dido’s lap;

And they from her, whence I beginning take,
Took the denomination of the star
That wooes the sun, now following, now in front.

I was not ware of our ascending to it;
But of our being in it gave full faith
My Lady whom I saw more beauteous grow.

And as within a flame a spark is seen,
And as within a voice a voice discerned,
When one is steadfast, and one comes and goes,

Within that light beheld I other lamps
Move in a circle, speeding more and less,
Methinks in measure of their inward vision.

From a cold cloud descended never winds,
Or visible or not, so rapidly
They would not laggard and impeded seem

To any one who had those lights divine
Seen come towards us, leaving the gyration
Begun at first in the high Seraphim.

And behind those that most in front appeared
Sounded _”Osanna!”_so that never since
To hear again was I without desire.

Then unto us more nearly one approached,
And it alone began: “We all are ready
Unto thy pleasure, that thou joy in us.

We turn around with the celestial Princes,
One gyre and one gyration and one thirst,
To whom thou in the world of old didst say,

_’Ye who, intelligent, the third heaven are moving;’_
And are so full of love, to pleasure thee
A little quiet will not be less sweet.”

After these eyes of mine themselves had offered
Unto my Lady reverently, and she
Content and certain of herself had made them,

Back to the light they turned, which so great promise
Made of itself, and “Say, who art thou ?” was
My voice, imprinted with a great affection.

O how and how much I beheld it grow
With the new joy that superadded was
Unto its joys, as soon as I had spoken!

Thus changed, it said to me: “The world possessed me
Short time below; and, if it had been more,
Much evil will be which would not have been.

My gladness keepeth me concealed from thee,
Which rayeth round about me, and doth hide me
Like as a creature swathed in its own silk.

Much didst thou love me, and thou hadst good reason;
For had I been below, I should have shown thee
Somewhat beyond the foliage of my love.

That left—hand margin, which doth bathe itself
In Rhone, when it is mingled with the Sorgue,
Me for its lord awaited in due time,

And that horn of Ausonia, which is towned
With Bari, with Gaeta and Catona,
Whence Tronto and Verde in the sea disgorge.

Already flashed upon my brow the crown
Of that dominion which the Danube waters
After the German borders it abandons;

And beautiful Trinacria, that is murky
‘Twixt Pachino and Peloro, (on the gulf
Which greatest scath from Eurus doth receive,)

Not through Typhceus, but through nascent sulphur,
Would have awaited her own monarchs still,
Through me from Charles descended and from Rudolph,

If evil lordship, that exasperates ever
The subject populations, had not moved
Palermo to the outcry of ‘ Death! death! ‘

And if my brother could but this foresee,
The greedy poverty of Catalonia
Straight would he flee, that it might not molest him;

For verily ’tis needful to provide,
Through him or other, so that on his bark
Already freighted no more freight be placed.

His nature, which from liberal covetous
Descended, such a soldiery would need
As should not care for hoarding in a chest.”

“Because I do believe the lofty joy
Thy speech infuses into me, my Lord,
Where every good thing doth begin and end

Thou seest as I see it, the more grateful
Is it to me; and this too hold I dear,
That gazing upon God thou dost discern it.

Glad hast thou made me; so make clear to me,
Since speaking thou hast stirred me up to doubt,
How from sweet seed can bitter issue forth.”

This I to him; and he to me: “If I
Can show to thee a truth, to what thou askest
Thy face thou’lt hold as thou dost hold thy back.

The Good which all the realm thou art ascending
Turns and contents, maketh its providence
To be a power within these bodies vast

And not alone the natures are foreseen
Within the mind that in itself is perfect,
But they together with their preservation.

For whatsoever thing this bow shoots forth
Falls foreordained unto an end foreseen,
Even as a shaft directed to its mark.

Ii that were not, the heaven which thou dost walk
Would in such manner its effects produce,
That they no longer would be arts, but ruins.

This cannot be, if the Intelligences
That keep these stars in motion are not maimed,
And maimed the First that has not made them perfect.

Wilt thou this truth have clearer made to thee ?”
And I: “Not so; for ’tis impossible
That nature tire, I see, in what is needful.”

Whence he again: “Now say, would it be worse
For men on earth were they not citizens ?”
” Yes,” I replied; “and here I ask no reason.”.

“And can they be so, if below they live not
Diversely unto offices diverse ?
No, if your master writeth well for you.’

So came he with deductions to this point;
Then he concluded: “Therefore it behoves
The roots of your effects to be diverse.

Hence one is Solon born, another Xerxes,
Another Melchisedec, and another he
Who, flying through the air, his son did lose.

Revolving Nature, which a signet is
To mortal wax, doth practise well her art,
But not one inn distinguish from another;

Thence happens it that Esau differeth
In seed from Jacob; and Quirinus comes
From sire so vile that he is given to Mars.

A generated nature its own way
Would always make like its progenitors,
If Providence divine were not triumphant.

Now that which was behind thee is before thee;
But that thou know that I with thee am pleased,
With a corollary will I mantle thee.

Evermore nature, if it fortune find
Discordant to it, like each other seed
Out of its region, maketh evil thrift;

And if the world below would fix its mind
On the foundation which is laid by nature,
Pursuing that, ‘twould have the people good.

But you unto religion wrench aside
Him who was born to gird him with the sword,
And make a king of him who is for sermons;

Therefore your footsteps wander from the road.”

Related video

View all lecture videos on the Dante Course page.