by Dante Alighieri
Paradiso Art and Culture Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
With each light settled quietly into place,
I saw that the array of fire had shaped
the image of an eagle's head and neck.
He who paints there has no one as His guide:
He guides Himself; in Him we recognize
the shaping force the flows from nest to nest. (Par. XVIII, 106-111)
The Eagle, formed by the souls in the sphere of Jupiter, is described as a work of art, and God is described as the artist. Since God designed the Eagle, he very well may also have written the message which came earlier, "Diligite iustitiam, qui iudicatis terram," suggesting that God is also a craftsman in the art of poetry.
I seemed to hear the murmur of a torrent
that, limpid, falls from rock to rock, whose flow
shows the abundance of its mountain source.
Even as sound takes shape at the lute's neck,
and even as the wind that penetrates
the blow-hole of the bagpipe, so – with no
delay – that murmur of the Eagle rose
straight up, directly through its neck as if
its neck were hollow; and that murmuring
became a voice that issued from its beak,
taking the shape of words desired by
my heart – (Par. XX, 19-30)
This seems to be a lesser version of the music of the spheres, in which a number of souls all sing in unison, but with their individual voices, to form a single song full of vibrant harmonies. Here, the individual voices of the souls form a murmuring which becomes the Eagle's thunderous voice. Dante compares this to the wind in the bagpipe.
Whatever melody most sweetly sounds
on earth, and to itself most draws the soul,
would seem a cloud, that, torn by lightning, thunders,
if likened to the music of that lyre
which sounded from the crown of that fair sapphire,
the brightest light that has ensapphired heaven. (Par. XXIII, 97-102)
The art in heaven – especially its music – far surpasses anything heard on earth. Indeed, mortals' music seems crude – a thundering "cloud, torn by lightning" – when compared to the angels' song as they hymn for Mary.