by Dante Alighieri
Paradiso Time Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
The one who guides me so from good to better
is Beatrice, and on our path her acts
have so much swiftness that they span no time. (Par. X, 37-39)
The journey from one heaven to another takes no more than a moment's time. This gives the illusion of a fluid heaven, with no boundaries, where the blessed can come and go as they please.
[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)
This passage describes Dante's claim that the passage of time leads to the degeneracy of the human race. The ancient times were the golden age. In the case of ancient Florence, when the city was Christian, "sober and chaste," women were modest, raising a family was everyone's first priority, and everything was in "the proper measure."
[Cacciaguida]: "All things that you possess, possess their death,
just as you do; but in some things that last
long, death can hide from you whose lives are short.
And even as the heaven of the moon,
revolving, respiteless, conceals and then
reveals the shores, so Fortune does with Florence;
therefore, there is no cause for wonder in
what I shall tell of noble Florentines
of those whose reputations time has hidden." (Par. XVI, 79-87)
Although "all things…possess their death," in things that last a long time – like bloodlines – time can hide the truth. In this case, we can take the hiding "death" to mean the roots of a family's later degeneracy. This is why, like the waxing moon, Cacciaguida will shed light on the true nature of the early Florentine families, so Dante may see them in their original glory and also divine the causes of their decline.