Paradiso -- Canto XII

Saint Bonaventure on Saint Dominic









12 Iris, the rainbow, was Juno’s handmaiden and the messenger of the gods.

14 Echo, frustrated by her love for Narcissus, wasted away into a mere voice (Metamorphoses III, 305-411).









29 The voice belongs to Saint Bonaventure (1221-1274), the "Seraphic Doctor," general of the Franciscan order in 1257 and Cardinal Archbishop of Albano in 1273.













52 Calaroga is in Old Castile whose shield displays lions in alternating quarters, one lion above a castle and one below (l. 54).

55 Saint Dominic (1170-1221), founder of the Order of Preachers, which was approved in 1216 by Honorius III, attempted to convert the Albigensian heretics in Provence.

60 Dominic’s mother, the legend goes, dreamed she would give birth to a black and white dog with a firebrand in its mouth: the colors of the Preachers’ habit.


69 Dominicus ("of the Lord") is the possessive adjective of Dominus.




75 The first counsel of the religious life is poverty.



79 Felix in Latin means "happy," and Joanna in Hebrew means "graced."


83 Enrico di Susa became the prosperous bishop of Ostia in 1271, and Taddeo d’Alderotto was a well-to-do physician in Florence. Other identifications have also been suggested.




















124 Acquasparta and Casale, two Franciscan monasteries or two leaders from these monasteries, here represent the controversy between the relaxed or strict (the "Spirituals" of Casale) observation of the rule of poverty.

133 Hugh of Saint Victor (1096?-1141) taught theology at the abbey of Saint Victor in Paris. He joins two of Saint Francis’s first disciples here (l. 131).

134 Peter Comestor (d. 1179) was chancellor of the University of Paris, and Peter of Spain (1226-1277) wrote a twelve-volume study on logic and became Pope John XXI in 1276.

136 Nathan the prophet accused King David of adultery (2 Samuel 12). Saint Anselm (1033-1109) was Archbishop of Canterbury and an author of theological tracts. Saint John Chrysostom (d. 407) was Patriarch of Constantinople and a Church Father.

139 Rabanus Maurus (d. 856) was Archbishop of Mainz, a poet and religious writer.

140 Joachim of Flora (d. 1202), a Cistercian abbot and mystic, wrote a commentary on the Apocalypse which divided history into three stages according to the Three Persons of the Trinity. His teachings strongly influenced the Franciscan Spirituals whom Bonaventure opposed.

          The instant that the blessed flame had taken
          To speak this final word, the sacred millstone
          Started its rotation once again;
          And it had not yet turned completely when
5        A second circle closed around the first,
          Motion matched with motion, song with song:
          Song that surpassed in those sweet-sounding pipes
          The music of our Muses or our Sirens
          Much as a ray surpasses its reflection.
10       Just as, across the thinned-out clouds two rainbows,
          Parallel and alike in color, bend
          When Juno gives the order to her handmaid —
          The outer band formed by the inner one:
          The way the words were of the wandering nymph
15       Whom love consumed as sunlight consumes vapors —
          And let the people on earth forecast how,
          Through the covenant God made with Noah,
          Never again shall the world be flooded.
          Two garlands of sempiternal roses
20       Revolved around us, and in this manner too
          The outer circling answered to the inner.
          Now when the dance and all high festival
          Of singing and flaming scintillation
          Of light with light in gentleness and gladness
25       At the same moment and with one accord
          Had ended, like the eyes at pleasure’s prompting
          Compelled in unison to close and open,
          Out of the heart of one of these new lights
          There stirred a voice which made me like the needle
30       In a compass turning to the North Star:
          It began, "The love that makes me beautiful
          Draws me to speak about the other leader
          For whose sake mine is so well spoken of.
          "It’s fitting to bring one in with the other
35       That, where they waged war toward one common goal,
          Their glory likewise may shine out together.
          "Christ’s army, which had cost so dear to arm
          Afresh, was marching on behind the standard
          With slow and straggling steps and scanty numbers,
40       "When the one Emperor who reigns forever
          Provided for his troops who were in peril
          Through grace alone, not through their worthiness,
          "And, as you heard, to help his Bride he sent
          Two champions who by their words and actions
45        Rallied the people who had gone astray.
          "In that region where the West Wind rises
          Sweetly to open up the leaves in bud
          Which Europe sees herself dressed in anew —
          "Not too far from the crashing of the waves
50       Behind which, after his long course, the sun
          Sometimes conceals himself from everyone,
          "There lies the fortunate Calaroga
          Beneath the safeguard of the mighty shield
          Which bears the lion sovereign and subdued.
55       "Within this town was born the ardent lover
          Of Christian faith, the holy athlete,
          Kind to his friends and cruel to his foes.
          "His mind, as soon as it had been created,
          So filled with living virtue that he made,
60       From in the womb, his mother prophesy.
          "When he and Faith exchanged their marriage vows
          Before the sacred fountain where for dowry
          They pledged each other mutual salvation,
          "The lady who had acted as his sponsor
65       Saw in a dream the wonder-working fruit
          Which was to come from him and from his heirs.
          "And that his name might show his real self,
          A spirit from here went to christen him
          With the possessive of Him whose he would be:
70       "Dominic he was called, and I speak of him
          As of the husbandman whom Christ has chosen
          To help him in the tilling of his garden.
          "Clearly he seemed Christ’s messenger and friend,
          For the first love made manifest in him
75       Was after the first counsel that Christ gave.
          "Many times his nurse discovered him
          Quiet and awake upon the ground,
          As if to say, ‘It is for this I came.’
          "Oh his father — truly happy Felix!
80       Oh his mother — truly graced Joanna,
          If the roots of their names mean what men say.
          "Not for the world for whose sake men now toil,
          Aping the Ostian and Thaddeus,
          But only out of love of the true manna,
85       "In short time he became so great a teacher
          That he began to labor round the vineyard
          Which turns gray if the dresser shirks his work.
          "And of the Seat which once was kindlier
          To the devoted poor — not in itself
90       Degraded, but in him who’s seated there —
          "He did not ask to keep half of his payments,
          Nor for the funds of the first vacancy,
          Nor for the tithes belonging to God’s poor,
          "But for permission to fight the errant world
95       In defense of the seed from which there sprang
          The twenty-four plants that surround you here.
          "Then both with doctrine and determination,
          In the apostolic office he set out,
          Like a torrent gushing from a lofty vein;
100     "And his force struck the stocks of heresy
          With the most vehemence in those enclaves
          Where the resistance was most obstinate.
          "From him there flowed out those divergent streams
          With which the Catholic garden is so watered
105      That its small trees have a more vigorous life.
          "If such was one wheel of the chariot
          In which the Holy Church defends herself
          And in the field puts down her civil strife,
          "The excellence of the other wheel which Thomas
110     Extolled so courteously before I came
          Surely must be evident to you.
          "But the track taken by the topmost part
          Of that wheel’s rim has now been so abandoned
          That there is mold where once there was hard crust.
115     "His household, which marched out straight ahead
          With their feet in his footprints, so turns round
          That their toes come down where the heel has been.
          "And soon there shall be seen what sort of harvest
          Bad tillage causes, when the tare complains
120     Of being thrown out from the granary bin.
          "I say, however, should one search our volume
          Leaf by leaf, he might still find a page
          On which he’d read, ‘I am what I was always.’
          "But not from Acquasparta or Casale
125     Shall that page come, for one ignores the text,
          The other reads tight strictures into it.
          "I am the living soul of Bonaventure
          From Bagnorea, who in high office
          Always put the temporal cares behind.
130     "Here are Illuminato and Augustine,
          Who were among the first poor barefoot brothers
          Who with the cord made themselves friends of God.
          "Hugh of Saint Victor is here with them as well,
          And Peter Comestor and Peter of Spain
135     Who down on earth sheds light in his twelve books.
          "Nathan the prophet, Anselm, Chrysostom
          The metropolitan, and that Donatus
          Who stooped to put his hand to the art of grammar.
          "Here is Rabanus, and beside me beams
140      Joachim, the abbot of Calabria
          Who was endowed with a prophetic spirit.
          "The glowing courtesy of Brother Thomas
          And his well-advised discourse have moved me
          To celebrate so fine a paladin,
145     "And with me it has moved this company."
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