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by Dante Alighieri

Paradiso Language and Communication Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.

Quote #1

[Justinian]: "Before I grew attentive to this labor,
I held that but one nature – and no more –
was Christ's – and in that faith, I was content;
but then the blessed Agapetus, he
who was chief shepherd, with his words turned me
to that faith which has truth and purity." (Par. VI, 13-19)

Here, Justinian shows the didactic quality of language. The 'true' words of the Christian canon teach its readers to see truth, and thus to convert to the true faith of Christianity.

Quote #2

[St. Thomas]: "From this hillside, where it abates its rise,
a sun was born into the world, much like
this sun when it is climbing from the Ganges.
Therefore let him who names this site not say
Ascesi, which would be to say too little,
but Orient, if he would name it rightly." (Par. XI, 49-54)

Dante puns on the name of St. Francis' birthplace, Assisi. Because Dante's metaphor compares St. Francis to a "sun," he transforms Assisi to Ascesi, which means "I rise" in Italian. But he has so much respect for St. Francis that he says even Ascesi is too humble a name for his birthplace; one "would name it [more] rightly" if he called it "Orient," which means "east." The eastern horizon is, of course, the exact place where one sees the rising sun.

Quote #3

[St. Bonaventure on St. Dominic]: "And that his name might echo what he was,
a spirit moved from here to have him called
by the possessive of the One by whom
he was possessed completely. Dominic
became his name; I speak of him as one
whom Christ chose as the worker in His garden." (Par. XII, 67-72)

Dante spins another pun, this time on St. Dominic's name. He calls "Dominic" the "possessive of the One by whom / he was possessed completely," referring to God, called Dominus in liturgical Latin. Churchgoers would understand "Dominic," then, as "God's [one]".

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