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Paradiso

Paradiso

by Dante Alighieri

Paradiso Paradise Canto XIX: (Sixth Heaven: Sphere of Jupiter) Summary

  • The Eagle is now complete. To Dante's bedazzled eyes, each of the souls seems like an individual ruby, reflecting the light of the sun so that it almost blinds him.
  • The Eagle speaks, saying it is honored here in Heaven because it is both just and merciful.
  • Dante notices that even though the Eagle's voice is formed from a combination of all the souls' voices, it sounds like just one voice.
  • Dante humbly asks the Eagle to answer his question. But he doesn't actually articulate the query, because he knows the Eagle can read his mind.
  • The Eagle shakes its head and flaps its wings and begins to speak.
  • It says that when God made the universe, He "could not imprint His power into all / the universe without His Word remaining / in infinite excess of such a vessel." The whole universe couldn't even contain all of God's goodness. This is proven, the Eagle says, by Adam's sinful fall. Dante's mortal sight, which is only one ray of God's Intelligence, cannot possibly perceive the entirety of Divine Justice.
  • Now the Eagle asks Dante's question for him: If a man is born in some foreign place, never hears of Christ, and lives as virtuous a life as a mortal can, how can it be just for God to condemn him to Hell at his death? The Eagle answers Dante's question with another question: indeed it is a just punishment, but only God can understand why.
  • The Eagle proceeds to lambaste evil Christian rulers. It says that nobody has ever risen this high in Heaven without belief in Christ, and that no one ever will. But of those that shout "Christ! Christ!" there are some so false that Ethiopians (or non-Christians) will be forgiven much sooner than they will.
  • The Eagle proceeds to name several such unjust Christian rulers and their crimes: Albert of Austria, whose reign will lay waste to the Bohemian lands; Philip the Fair, who counterfeits money and will be killed by a wild boar; various English and Scottish kings, who cannot keep within their countries' boundaries but constantly wage war on each other; Ferdinando IV of Castile, who will be known for his laziness; Wenceslaus IV, who will be famous for his lust; Charles of Anjou (called the "Cripple of Jerusalem"), whose bad deeds will outnumber his good ones one thousand to one; Fredrick II of Aragon, who will commit so many sins that they must be written in shorthand in God's book; Dionysius of Portugal; Hakaam V of Norway; and Stephen Urosh II of Serbia.

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