David Bruce: Dante’s PARADISE: A Discussion Guide — “Canto 23: Gemini — Christ, Mary, and the Saints”

“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!”

(Longfellow 23.19-21)

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.

Ineffability

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;

(Longfellow 23.55-63)

“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.

(Musa 23.64-69)

Mother Mary

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.

(Longfellow 23.88-90)

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:

Literal translation:

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.

  1. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
  2. 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.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regina_Coeli

Date Accessed: 8 August 2013

Coming up next is an examination of Dante. What does he know about the virtues faith, hope, and love?

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https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/dantes-paradise-canto-22-retelling-saturn-saint-benedict/

PARADISE: CANTO 23  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/dantes-paradise-canto-23/

PARADISE: CANTO 24  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/dantes-paradise-canto-24-retelling/

PARADISE: CANTO 25  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/dantes-paradise-canto-25-retelling-gemini-saint-james-examines-dantes-hope/

PARADISE: CANTO 26  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/02/dantes-paradise-canto-26-retelling-gemini-saint-john-examines-dantes-love-adam/

PARADISE: CANTO 27  RETELLING

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PARADISE: CANTO 28  RETELLING

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PARADISE: CANTO 29  RETELLING

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PARADISE: CANTO 30  RETELLING

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PARADISE: CANTO 31  RETELLING

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PARADISE: CANTO 32  RETELLING

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PARADISE: CANTO 33  RETELLING

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