by Dante Alighieri
Paradiso Politics Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
[Piccarda]: "Brother, the power of love appeases our
will so – we only long for what we have;
we do not thirst for greater blessedness.
Should we desire a higher sphere than ours,
then our desires would be discordant with
the will of Him who has assigned us here,
but you'll see no such discord in these spheres;
to live in love is – here – necessity,
if you think on love's nature carefully.
The essence of this blessed life consists
in keeping to the boundaries of God's will,
through which our wills become one single will;
so that, as we are ranged from step to step
throughout this kingdom, all this kingdom wills
that which will please the King whose will is rule." (Par. III, 70-84)
That Piccarda has conformed her individual will to God's will can be put in legal terminology. God's will can be interpreted as law. Citizens like Piccarda – in agreeing to be governed – enter into a social contract with the state (or God). This social contract declares laws to which the citizens agree. Thus, to be a good citizen, one must adhere to the laws. If one does not adhere to the laws, there are consequences which are enumerated in the law, and which can legally be enforced. In Christianity, the same principle applies: to be a good "citizen" (one who makes it to Heaven), one must learn to follow God's law (or will). Sinners are those who act against His will, and are punished by spending eternity in Hell.
[Piccarda]: "This other radiance hat shows itself
to you at my right hand, a brightness kindled
by all the light that fills our heaven – she
has understood what I have said: she was
a sister, and from her head, too, by force,
the shadow of the sacred veil was taken.
But though she had been turned back to the world
against her will, against all honest practice,
the veil upon her heart was never loosed.
This is the splendor of the great Costanza,
who from the Swabians' second gust engendered
the one who was their third and final power." (Par. III, 109-120)
As political individuals, it is important that citizens be trusted to keep their word. Personal integrity is the basis of a contract between a state and its people. By violating her vows, Empress Constance proves herself somewhat untrustworthy. However, this passage also shows the contradictory pressures society places on its individuals, especially its rulers. Though Constance wants only to live as a nun, her royal blood makes her a tempting candidate for marriage so that some greedy prince can gain access to her lands and wealth.
[Justinian]: "See what great virtue made that Eagle worthy
of reverence, beginning from that hour
when Pallas died that it might gain a kingdom.
You know that for three hundred years and more
it lived in Alba, until, at the end,
three still fought three, contending for that standard.
You know how, under seven kings, it conquered
its neighbors – in the era reaching from
wronged Sabine women to Lucrece's grief –
and what it did when carried by courageous
Romans, who hurried to encounter Brennus,
Pyrrhus, and other principates and cities.
Through this, Torquatus, Quinctius (who is named
for his disheveled hair), the Decii,
and Fabii gained the fame I gladly honor.
That standard brought the pride of Arabs low
when they had followed Hannibal across
those Alpine rocks from which, Po, you descend." (Par. VI, 34-51)
Here is an example of God bestowing glory upon a nation whose people have converted to Christianity. Justinian tells of Rome's great conquests, which were caused by the "great virtue" (Christianity) of Rome's rulers and made "the Eagle [of Rome] worthy of reverence."