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by Dante Alighieri

Paradiso Paradise Canto XVIII: (Fifth Heaven: Sphere of Mars, Sixth Heaven: Sphere of Jupiter) Summary

  • Not wanting to be left out of the emotional chaos, Beatrice catches Dante's eye and reminds him that she has the ear of "Him who lightens every unjust hurt." In other words, God is on Dante's side.
  • Upon looking at her, Dante is blown away by the untold love he sees shining from her eyes. He forgets all other worries when gazing at her.
  • But Beatrice quickly speaks to break the spell. She tells Dante that Cacciaguida has more to say.
  • Cacciaguida wants to introduce Dante to the rest of the souls forming the image of the cross. Their famous names would make great additions to your poem, he says to encourage Dante.
  • As Cacciaguida introduced the souls, they flash into Dante's view.
  • Here come the illustrious names: Joshua (who led the Hebrews to conquer the Jericho), Maccabeus (a Hebrew warrior who freed the Jews from a tyrant), Charlemagne (restorer of the Holy Empire), Roland (Charlemagne's nephew who once gave his life to save his uncle's in battle), William of Orange (a warrior turned cleric), Renouard (a Saracen giant who converted to Christianity), Duke Geoffrey of Bouillon (who successfully led the First Crusade), and Robert Guiscard (defender of Pope Gregory VII).
  • Finally, Cacciaguida disappears into the crowd of lights, where he starts to sing with the others.
  • Trying to keep the names straight in his head, Dante turns to Beatrice to see what to do next.
  • She's glowing more brightly, which means that they are rising into the next heaven.
  • Dante now sees only white Jupiter.
  • Even at first glance, Dante can tell that the souls of Jupiter think themselves artists, because they're already forming letters and words with their glowing bodies. He compares them to flocks of birds forming letters in the air.
  • The letters only appear for a moment before the souls break off and form new ones. So Dante invokes the Muses to help him remember the letters as they come so he can spell out their message in his mind.
  • His prayer is answered, and he gets this as the final message: DILIGITE IUSTITIAM, QUI IUDICATIS TERRAM. The Latin translates to, "Love justice, you who judge the earth."
  • After forming the last M, other souls descend to enhance the shape. Dante compares these acrobatics of light to the shower of sparks that arise when one pokes a burning log.
  • When the souls are done arranging themselves, Dante sees the M has become an eagle's head.
  • Now, massive crowds of other lights surge forward and he see an eagle with a body.
  • Dante thanks God that such justice appears in the Heavens. The Eagle is the emblem of Imperial Rome, and also the symbol for justice.
  • Dante prays to God to turn His mind against Rome because it has "produced the smoke that dims your rays," meaning that Rome houses many false and greedy Popes.
  • This leads into a general rant against the corrupt Church. Dante beseeches God to let His anger fall on clerics who buy and sell indulgences in the churches, and on pretentious men who only play at being virtuous.
  • Finally, Dante addresses his most scathing criticism at Pope John XXII, telling him to remember that his soul will burn in Hell, while the words of St. Peter and St. Paul—whom he tries to "erase"—will live forever.

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