by Dante Alighieri
Paradiso Politics Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
[Cacciaguida]: "Florence, within her ancient ring of walls –
that ring from which she still draws tierce and nones –
sober and chaste, lived in tranquility.
No necklace and no coronal were there,
and no embroidered gowns; there was no girdle
that caught the eye more than the one who wore it.
No daughter's birth brought fear unto her father,
for age and dowry then did not imbalance –
to this side and to that – the proper measure.
There were no families that bore no children;
and Sardanapalus was still a stranger –
not come as yet to teach in the bedchamber.
Not yet had your Uccellatoio's rise
outdone the rise of Monte Mario,
which, too will be outdone in its decline.
I saw Bellincione Berti girt
with leather and with bone, and saw his wife
come from her mirror with her face unpainted.
I saw dei Nerli and del Vecchio
content to wear their suits of unlined skins,
and saw their wives at spindle and at spool.
O happy wives! Each one was sure of her
own burial place, and none – for France's sake –
as yet was left deserted in her bed. (Par. XV, 97-120)
Ancient Florence is described by Cacciaguida as the epitome of a good society, whose political priorities are pure. Here is a society whose life centers on Christianity, as evidenced by the "walls" which surround a church clock tower marking the canonical hours of "tierce and nones." The women of Florence are not concerned with fancy clothes or makeup, but with raising children. And families are concerned only with raising their children prudently and arranging proper marriages for their virtuous daughters.[Cacciaguida]:
"There were the families, and others with them:
the Florence that I saw – in such repose
that there was nothing to have caused her sorrow.
These were the families: with them I saw
her people so acclaimed and just, that on
her staff the lily never was reversed,
nor was it made bloodred by factious hatred." (Par. XVI, 148-154)
One of the major motifs of Paradiso is that the rituals of the past are often thought superior to those of the present. The Florentine families are no exception; in ancient Florence, they were "acclaimed and just," but in the present-day Florence, they are corrupt, (i.e. dividing into political factions, inverting the noble standard of Florence (the lily), and staining their symbolic lily red with the blood of their brothers).
Therefore I pray the Mind in which begin
your motion and your force, to watch that place
which has produced the smoke that dims your rays,
that once again His anger fall upon
those who would buy and sell within that temple
whose walls were built by miracles and martyrs…
Men once were used to waging war with swords;
now war means seizing here and there the bread
the tender Father would deny to none.
But you who only write to then erase,
remember this: Peter and Paul, who died
to save the vines you spoil, are still alive. (Par. XVIII, 118-132)
The Church has brought a whole new level to political corruption: waging war on the virtuous and denying people the "bread / the tender Father would deny to none." By "bread" Dante means the Sacraments, the first steps towards repentance for one's sins.