by Dante Alighieri
Paradiso Fate and Free Will Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
[The Eagle]: "When these souls left their bodies, they were not
Gentiles – as you believe – but Christians, one
with firm faith in the Feet that suffered, one
in Feet that were to suffer. One, from Hell,
where there is no returning to right will,
returned to his own bones, as the reward
bestowed upon a living hope, the hope
that gave force to the prayers offered God
to resurrect him and convert his will.
Returning briefly to the flesh, that soul
in glory – he of whom I speak – believed
in Him whose power could help him and, believing,
was kindled to such a fire of true love
that, when he died a second death, he was
worthy to join in this festivity.
The other, through the grace that surges from
a well so deep that no created one
has ever thrust his eye to its first source,
below set all his love on righteousness,
so that, through grace on grace, God granted him
the sight of our redemption in the future;
thus he, believing that, no longer suffered
the stench of paganism and rebuked
those who persisted in that perverse way…
How distant, o predestination, is
your root from those whose vision does not see
the Primal Cause in Its entirety!" (Par. XX, 103-132)
Here, the Eagle shows Dante just how ignorant mankind is of God's predestination. Dante is surprised at seeing two notoriously pagan figures, the emperor Trajan and Ripheus of Troy, among the blessed souls in the heaven of Jupiter. The Eagle explains their salvation. They both reached heaven because God had ordained they would. Trajan, who died after the Crucifixion, was given the singular glory of returning from Hell to his body to die again absolved of his sins. The Trojan Ripheus, who died before the coming of Christ, lived so virtuously and that God allowed him a vision of the future—Ripheus promptly converted and was saved. Notice the emphasis on sight. In his second life, Trajan "believed in Him," a form of true sight," and Ripheus "thrust his eye to its first source" or saw God clearly. These purified visions saved them. The Eagle then laments that Dante's "vision does not see / the Primal Cause in Its entirety," which is the reason why man cannot see God's predestination.
[Dante to St. James]: I said: "Hope is the certain expectation
of future glory; it is the result
of God's grace and of merit we have earned. (Par. XXV, 67-69)
In the virtuous, then, hope tempers free will and helps to keep it intact. Hope comes from God's grace, which is unmerited love, and the "merit we have earned." Thus, hope is an expression of excessive love that colors the way man uses his free will.
[Beatrice]: "The will has a good blossoming in men;
but then the never-ending downpours turn
the sound plums into rotten, empty skins.
For innocence and trust are to be found
only in little children; then they flee
even before a full beard cloaks the cheeks.
One, for as long as he still lisps, will fast,
but when his tongue is free at last, he gorges,
devouring any food through any month;
and one, while he still lisps, will love and heed
his mother, but when he acquires speech
more fully, he will long to see her buried." (Par. XXVII, 124-135)
This passage hints at an interesting link between innocence and language. Only while man is a child (i.e. while he lisps) will he have "innocence and trust." Once he has grown (i.e. when he can speak properly), does he inherit his free will and lose his innocence. It seems, then, that free will and purity cannot exist simultaneously.