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.
O good Apollo, for this final task,
make me the vessel of your excellence,
what you, to merit your loved laurel, ask.
Until this point, one of Parnassus' peaks
sufficed for me; but now I face the test,
the agon that is left; I need both crests…
O godly force, if you so lend yourself
to me, that I might show the shadow of
the blessed realm inscribed within my mind,
then you would see me underneath the tree
you love; there I shall take as crown the leaves
of which my theme and you shall make me worthy.
So seldom, father, are those garlands gathered
for triumph of a ruler or a poet –
a sign of fault or shame in human wills –
that when Peneian branches can incite
someone to long and thirst for them, delight
must fill the happy Delphic deity. (Par. I, 13-33)
Dante gives a nod to Classical literature as he invokes the Greek god Apollo and the Muses to help him remember the sights he sees in Heaven. Here, Dante shows how eager he is to become the classic poet-prophet figure often seen in Classical literature, who wears Apollo's crown of laurel leaves. He promises Apollo that if he grants inspiration to his pen, Dante will be worthy of the laurels. This passage foreshadows a similar passage in Canto XXV.
[Beatrice]: "Yet it is true that, even as a shape
may, often, not accord with art's intent,
since matter may be unresponsive, deaf,
so, from this course, the creature strays at times
because he has the power, once impelled
to swerve elsewhere; as lightning from a cloud
is seen to fall, so does the first impulse,
when man has been diverted by false pleasure,
turn him toward earth." (Par. I, 127-135)
In describing the order of the universe, Beatrice characterizes God as an artist whose perfect vision is not always realized.
[Justinian]: "Differing voices join to sound sweet music;
so do the different orders in our life
render sweet harmony among these spheres." (Par. VI, 124-126)
That the shades in the Heaven of Mercury are content with their relatively low position – in accordance with God's will – is expressed in music. Each with its different degree of blessedness, the individual souls' voices "join to sound sweet music." The harmony of the often-cited music of the spheres can thus be seen as the combined harmonious effect of vast numbers of singers – all individually different – but united in their conformity with God's will.