“Canto 23: Gemini — Christ, Mary, and the Saints”
- What does Dante see in the sphere of the fixed stars?
Christ in Triumph
Beatrice is very attentive at the beginning of this canto; she is eagerly waiting for something to arrive. She is like a mother bird awaiting dawn so that she can find food for her nestlings.
Soon, she sees what she was waiting to see:
And Beatrice exclaimed: “Behold the hosts
Of Christ’s triumphal march, and all the fruit
Harvested by the rolling of these spheres!”
Dante sees that Beatrice is very happy. He also sees “a myriad of lights” (Musa 23.28), and above those lights is “one Sun that lit them all” (Musa 23.29).
The light from that Sun is so bright that Dante is not able to endure looking at it.
Beatrice explains what Dante would see if his eyes could endure that sight. He would be looking at the Church Triumphant. He would be looking at Christ. He would be looking at the Triumph of Christ.
Dante’s mind is transformed, and he is now able to look at Beatrice, even when she smiles.
Occasionally in Paradise Dante will witness things that he is unable to describe in words. One of them is Beatrice’s beauty:
If at this moment sounded all the tongues
That Polyhymnia and her sisters made
Most lubrical with their delicious milk,
To aid me, to a thousandth of the truth
It would not reach, singing the holy smile
And how the holy aspect it illumed.
And therefore, representing Paradise,
The sacred poem must perforce leap over,
Even as a man who finds his way cut off;
“Polyhymnia and her sisters” (Musa 23.56) refers to the Muse of Song and the other Muses.
Of course, what Dante is doing in Paradise is something very difficult, so he says that we ought not to blame him if occasionally he cannot describe something in words:
Now bear in mind the weight of my poem’s theme,
think of the mortal shoulders it rests on,
and do not blame me if I stagger here:
this stretch of sea my vessel’s prow now dares
to cut is no place for a little boat
nor for a captain who would spare himself.
Christ has ascended, but many other splendid lights remain. Because his mind has been transformed, Dante can now look at the many splendors that are still before him. The brightest of all these splendors is Mary, the mother of Christ. (By the way, “Christ” means “Messiah.”)
We find that Dante is and has been devoted to Mary:
The name of that fair flower I e’er invoke
Morning and evening utterly enthralled
My soul to gaze upon the greater fire.
The angel Gabriel descends, circles Mary, and sings words of praise to her.
Mary then leaves, following in the path of Jesus. The remaining saints sing the hymn “Regina Coeli” (“O Queen of Heaven”).
Here are the lyrics of the Regina Coeli:
Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
For He whom thou didst merit to bear in your womb, alleluia.
Has risen, as He promised, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.
- Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
- For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Let us pray. O God, who through the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ gave rejoicing to the world, grant, we pray, that through his Mother, the Virgin Mary, we may obtain the joy of everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Date Accessed: 8 August 2013
Coming up next is an examination of Dante. What does he know about the virtues faith, hope, and love?
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
DANTE PDFs and LINKs
PARADISE: CANTO 22 RETELLING
PARADISE: CANTO 23 RETELLING
PARADISE: CANTO 24 RETELLING
PARADISE: CANTO 25 RETELLING
PARADISE: CANTO 26 RETELLING
PARADISE: CANTO 27 RETELLING
PARADISE: CANTO 28 RETELLING
PARADISE: CANTO 29 RETELLING
PARADISE: CANTO 30 RETELLING
PARADISE: CANTO 31 RETELLING
PARADISE: CANTO 32 RETELLING
PARADISE: CANTO 33 RETELLING
INFERNO KINDLE EBOOK
INFERNO SMASHWORDS (EBOOKS)
PURGATORY KINDLE EBOOK
PURGATORY SMASHWORDS (EBOOKS)
PARADISE KINDLE EBOOK
PARADISE SMASHWORDS (EBOOKS)
DIVINE COMEDY KINDLE EBOOK
DIVINE COMEDY SMASHWORDS (EBOOKS)
DIVINE COMEDY PAPERBACK