Paradiso -- Canto XV



















25 Anchises, king of Ilium, greeted his son Aeneas in the Elysian Fields (Aeneid VI, 684-688).

28 This stanza, in Latin, O sanguis meus, o superinfusa / gratia Dei, sicut tibi cui / his unquam celi ianua reclusa? introduces Cacciaguida, the poet’s great-great-grandfather, who lived in the twelfth century (1090?-1147). Dante says he was knighted by Emperor Conrad III and died during the Second Crusade.












52 The Book of Destiny is written in black and white.

























91 Cacciaguida’s son took his name Alighiero from his mother’s family.




98 The church of La Badia was built on the original Roman walls of Florence.





107 Sardanapalus, king of Assyria, was reputed to have maintained a huge harem.

109 Monternalo, a hill overlooking Rome, offered at that time a more imposing view than did Uccellatoio, overlooking Florence.

112 Bellincione Berti dei Ravignani, Florentine nobleman, and the lords of Vecchio and Nerli, leading citizens of the city, then lived simply, as did their wives. Today, Florentines travel to France on business and are unfaithful to their wives (l. 120).






127 Lapo Salterello, a White Guelph and exile like Dante, was a corrupt lawyer. Cianghella della Tosa, a contemporary Florentine, was a notorious shrew and gossip.

129 Cincinnatus, a popular name for Lucius Quinctius, left his farm in 458 B.C. to fight for Rome and returned there after his heroic exploits. Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, was a virtuous Roman matron.



139 Conrad III of Swabia, emperor 1138 to 1152, led the Second Crusade. Some think Dante has confused him with Conrad II (1024-1039) who spent some time in Florence.

          Gracious will — in which true-breathing love
          Always reveals itself, as evil greed
          Resolves itself into a grudging will—
          Hushed to silence the sweet-sounding lyre
5        And stilled the sacred strings that the right hand
          Of heaven either slackens or sets tight.
          How shall these beings be deaf to just prayers
          Who, to prompt me in my petitioning them,
          With one accord fell mute and left their music?
10       Rightly should he endlessly lament
          Who, for the love of what does not endure
          Forever, robs himself of that true love.
          As through the quiet cloudless evening sky
          There shoots from time to time a sudden flame,
15       Shifting the eyes that had stared steadily,
          And it seems that a star is changing place,
          Except that where it flares no star is missing
          And that it lasts for only a short instant:
          So from the right-hand tip down to the foot
20       Of that bright cross there darted out a star
          Of the resplendent constellation’s circle.
          Nor did that jewel tumble from its ribbon,
          But ran its course along the radial line
          And looked like fire seen through alabaster.
25       With like affection did Anchises’ shade
          Reach out (if we may trust our greatest muse)
          When, in Elysium, he saw his son.
          "O blood of mine! O overbrimming grace
          Of God! For whom was ever heaven’s gate
30       Thrown open twice, as it has been for you?"
          So spoke that light, and I gave it my attention.
          Then I turned my gaze once more to my lady
          And I was awestruck on one side and the other
          Since her eyes were ablaze with such a smile
35       That I thought with my eyes I’d touched the limit
              Of all my grace and all my paradise.
          Then, a pure joy for listening and for sight,
          The spirit added to his earlier words
          Things past my grasp, his speech was so profound.
40       Nor did he hide his sense from me by choice,
          But of necessity, because his thoughts
          Were far above the mark of mortal mind.
          But when the bow of his burning affection
          Was so relaxed that what he said flew downward
45       Toward the target of our intellect,
          This was the first thing that I understood:
          "Blessed are you, both Three and One, who show
          Such favor to the seed of my descendants."
          And he went on, "You have assuaged, my son,
50       Within this light through which I speak to you,
          The long and cherished hunger which derived
          "From reading the great book where black and white
          Are never changed: for this I give her thanks
          Who clothed you with the wings for this high flight.
55       "For you believe that your thoughts flow to me
          From Him who is the First, as five and six,
          If one is known, derive from unity.
          "And, therefore, who I am and why I seem
          To you more joyful than the other spirits
60       In this gay throng, you do not ask of me.
          "And you believe the truth, for least and greatest
          In this life always gaze into that mirror
          Where you reveal your thoughts before you think.
          "But that the holy love in which I watch
65       With ceaseless vision, and which makes me thirst
          With sweet desire, may sooner be fulfilled,
          "Let your own voice, assured and bold and glad,
          Ring out your will, ring out your heart’s desire,
          To which my answer is already ordered!"
70       I turned to Beatrice, and before I spoke
          She heard me, and she smiled me her assent
          Which made the wings of my desire grow.
          Then I began, "Love and intelligence,
          When the First Equality appeared to you,
75       Became in all of you equally balanced
          "Because the Sun that illumined and warmed you
          Has such equality of heat and light
          That all analogies fall short of it.
          "But mortal wishes and abilities,
80       For reasons that are evident to you,
          Do not have equal feathers in their wings.
          "I who am mortal feel myself in this same
          Imbalance, so that only with my heart
          May I give thanks for your paternal welcome.
85       "I do, however, beg you, living topaz
          That flames within this precious diadem,
          To satisfy my longing with your name."
          "O leaf of mine, in whom I found my pleasure
          Only awaiting you: I was your root."
90       In this way he began his answer to me,
          Then said, "The man from whom your family name
          Comes down, and who a hundred years or more
          Had trudged around the first ledge of the mountain,
          "Was my son, and your own grandfather’s father.
95       Surely it is right that you should shorten
          By your good works his long laborious trial.
          "Florence within her ancient rounded walls
          From which she still hears tierce and nones toll out
          Lived in peace, her people chaste and sober.
100     "There were no necklaces, no coronets,
          No lace-embroidered gowns, no silken girdles,
          Meant to be looked at rather than the person.
          "Nor did the daughter at her birth yet cause
          Fear to her father, for her age and dowry
105     Had not run to excesses either way.
          "No houses stood vacated by their families.
          No Sardanapalus had yet arrived
          To show what can be acted in one’s chamber.
          "Not yet had Montemalo been surpassed
110     By your Uccellatoio which in rising,
          Passed it, so shall it pass it in its fall.
          "I saw Bellincione Berti belted
          In simple bone and leather, while his wife
          Stepped from her mirror with her face unpainted.
115     "I saw the lords of Nerli and of Vecchio
          Content to wear a coat of plain-dressed skins,
          And their wives ply the spindle and the flax.
          "O happy women, each of them assured
          Of her own burial spot, and none abandoned
120     Yet in her bed because of trips to France!
          "One kept a constant watch to mind the cradle
          And soothingly employed that infant speech
          Fathers and mothers first delight in using.
          "Another, as she drew threads from the distaff,
125     Would tell her family household the old stories
          Concerning Troy and Rome and Fiesole.
          "Then Lapo Salterello and Cianghella
          Would have been held as strange a marvel as
          Are Cincinnatus and Cornelia now.
130     "To such a restful and a lovely life
          Among the citizens, to such a loyal
          Community, to such a cordial home,
          "Mary presented me, called by loud prayers:
          And I became, in your old baptistery,
135     At once a Christian and a Cacciaguida.
          "Moronto and Eliseo were my brothers;
          My wife came from the valley of the Po,
          And from that place your surname is derived.
          "I later served the Emperor Conrad,
140     And with his knighthood he invested me,
          So highly I won favor by good deeds.
          "I followed him to fight against the evil
          Religion of those people who usurp,
          By your shepherd’s negligence, your rightful lands.
145     "There finally falling to that filthy horde,
          I gained release from that deceitful world,
          The love of which debases many souls,
          "And to this peace I came from martyrdom."
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