Paradiso -- Canto XVIII

Jupiter, Just Rulers



1 Cacciaguida is a mirror of God’s power and love.























38 Dante sees a number of God’s holy warriors in Mars: Joshua, Moses’ successor who led Israel to the promised land; Judas Maccabaeus, Israel’s defender against the Syrians in the second century; Charlemagne, first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (800-814), and Roland his nephew and hero of the medieval French Chanson; William of Orange and Rinoardi Renouart, legendary Christian knights who also fought against the Moors; Godfrey of Boulogne (1061-1100), leader of the First Crusade and conqueror of Jerusalem of which he was crowned king; and Robert Guiscard (d. 1085) of the Norman Tancreds, Duke of Apulia and Calabria, who defeated the Saracens in Sicily and Southern Italy.











68 Dante reaches the sixth sphere of Jupiter where the temperate rulers are found. The poet puns on "Jovial" in line 70.








82 Pegasus, the winged horse, struck the ground on Mount Helicon and the Hippocrene spring, a favorite place for the Muses, gushed forth.




91 The Latin translates "Love justice, you rulers of the earth"; it is the opening verse of the Wisdom of Solomon. The final letter M is the first letter of "monarchy" and is in turn visualized as a lily (l. 98) and then as an eagle in the next lines. The emblem reconciles the standards of the Guelph and Ghibelline parties, and, on another level, those of France and the Holy Roman Empire.
























134 The image of Saint John the Baptist was stamped on the Florentine florin.

          By now that blissful mirror only brightened
          At his own thoughts, and I too tasted mine,
          Tempering the bitter with the sweet,
          When the lady who was leading me to God
5        Said, "Shift your thoughts and think on how I am
          Near Him who lifts the burden of all wrongs."
          I turned around at the melodious sound
          Of my soul’s comfort, and what love I saw
          Then in those saintly eyes I leave unsaid:
10       Not only do I distrust my own speech,
          But memory cannot turn back so far
          Above itself, unless Another guide it.
          This much I can recount about that moment,
          That while I looked upon her my affection
15       Was liberated from all other longing,
          While the eternal joy that rayed straight down
          On Beatrice filled me with contentment in
          The lovely eyes with their reflected joy.
          She overwhelmed me with light from her smile,
20       And said to me, "Turn around and listen,
          For paradise is not just in my eyes."
          As here on earth one sometimes notices
          Affection in a look that is so striking
          That the whole soul is swept up in one glance,
25       So in the flaming of that holy brilliance
          To which I turned I recognized in him
          The wish to talk to me a short time longer.
          He spoke, "In this, the fifth tier of the tree
          Which takes life from the top and which bears fruit
30       Forever and which never sheds its leaves,
          "Bloom blessed spirits who, before they came
          To heaven, had below such wide renown
          That any muse would find a wealth in them.
          "Gaze, therefore, on the bright horns of the cross,
35        And he whom I shall name there will flash forth
          Swift as the fire of lightning from a cloud."
          I saw a light streak out along the cross
          The instant Joshua was named aloud,
          Nor did I catch the sound before the motion.
40       And at the name of the high Maccabee
          I saw leap out another spinning light —
          Elation was the whip that spun that top!
          Two more I followed with my craving sight
          When Charlemagne and Roland were called out,
45       As the eye tracks the falcon in its flight.
          William of Orange next, and Renouart,
          And then Duke Godfrey, drew my eager gaze
          Along that cross, and Robert Guiscard too.
          Then moving and mingling with the other lights,
50       The soul who’d spoken to me let me hear
          His art among the singers of that heaven.
          I turned around once more to my right side
          To see in Beatrice what I ought to do
          By giving me a sign in word or gesture,
55       And I saw her eyes light so joyfully,
          So clearly, that her likeness now outshone
          All it had been till then, even the latest.
          And as a man, through feeling more delight
          In doing good, from day to day becomes
60       Aware that he advances in his virtue,
          Even so was I aware my circling round
          With heaven went in ever widening arcs
          When I perceived her wonder still more dazzling.
          And like the change that comes on in a moment
65       In a fair-skinned lady, when her face is free
          From the burden of its bashfulness,
          Such was the change for my eyes when I turned,
          Because of the soft whiteness of the sixth
          Star which enfolded me within itself.
70       I saw the Jovial torch within its cresset
          Shoot sparks of love that had its dwelling there,
          Patterning out our language to my eyes.
          And as birds, risen from a river bank,
          As though rejoicing in their pasture, fly
75       Now in a circle, now in one long line,
          So in those lights were holy creatures singing
          While they were flying, and in their figures
          Formed letters: now D, now I, and now L.
          At first they moved in rhythm with their song,
80       But then, as they became one of those letters,
          They stopped for a brief interval in silence.
          O Pegasean goddess, you give glory
          To the talented and offer them long life
          Which by your aid they give to kingdoms, cities,
85       Shed your light on me that I may set forth
          These figures as I have conceived their shape,
          And let your power show through these few verses!
          In five times seven vowels and consonants
          They then displayed themselves, and I took note
90       Of characters that I seemed to see spoken.
          DILIGITE JUSTITIAM were the first
          Verb and noun of all depicted there;
          QUI JUDICATIS TERRAM were the last.
          After, they formed the M of the fifth word,
95       Which stayed so placed that Jupiter appeared
          Silvery behind that spot stitched out with gold.
          And I saw other lights descend to where
          The top of the M rose, and come to rest
          There, singing, I believe, the Good that draws them.
100     Then, as innumerable sparks fly up
          With a striking blow at burning logs
          (From this the foolish try to tell their fortunes),
          More than a thousand lights appeared to rise
          From there and soar, some higher and some lower,
105     To where the Sun that kindles them appoints.
          And when each one had nestled in its place,
          I saw the head and shoulders of an eagle
          Presented in the patterned points of flame.
          He who paints there has no need of a guide:
110     He guides Himself, and from Him has derived
          That instinctive power that builds nests.
          The rest of the blest souls who seemed at first
          Content to form a lily on the M
          With a slight movement finished the design.
115     O dulcet star! how numerous and bright
          The gems that made it clear to me our justice
          Comes from the heaven which you so bejewel!
          Therefore I pray the Mind in which begin
          Your motion and your power to attend
120      To where the smoke that blocks your rays arises,
          So that once more he may be angry with
          The buying and the selling in the temple
          Whose walls were built by miracles and martyrs.
          O soldiery of heaven on whom I gaze,
125      Pray for all who stray from the straight path
          By following bad example down on earth!
          Men used to make war at one time with swords,
          But now they make it by taking here and there
          The bread the kindly Father keeps from no one.
130     But you, who inscribe only to cross out,
          Recall that Paul and Peter, who died for
          The vineyard you lay waste, are still alive!
          You may well say, "I have so set my passion
          On him who wished to live alone and who
135      For a girl’s dance was dragged to martyrdom
          "That I don’t know the Fisherman or Paul."
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