Heaven of the Fixed Stars continued. St. James examines Dante on Hope.
Florence the Fair, Fiorenza la bella. In one of his Canzoni Dante says:--
" 0 mountain song of mine, thou goest thy way;
Florence my town thou shalt perchance behold,
Which bars me from itself,
Devoid of love and naked compassion."
In one of Dante's Eclogues, written at Ravenna and addressed to Giovanni del Virgilio of Bologna, who had invited him to that city to receive the poet's crown, he says: "Were it not better, on the banks of my native Arno, if ever I should return thither, to adorn and hide beneath the interwoven leaves my triumphal gray hairs, which once were golden ?. . . . . When the bodies that wander round the earth, and the dwellers among the stars, shall be revealed in my song, as the infernal realm has been, then it will delight me to encircle my head with ivy and with laurel."
It would seem from this extract that Dante's hair had once been light, and not black, as Boccaccio describes it.
See also the Extract from the Convito, and Dante's Letter to a Friend, among the Illustrations in Vol. I.
This allusion to the church of San Giovanni, where Dante was baptized, and which in Inf.XIX. 17 he calls " il mio bel San Giovanni " is a fitting prelude to the canto in which St.John is to appear.
As described in Canto XXIV.152 :--
"So, giving me its benediction, singing,
Three times encircled me, when I was silent,
The apostolic light."
The band or carol in which St. Peter was. James i. 18: "That we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures."
St. James, to whose tomb at Cornpostella, in Galicia, pilgrimages were and are still made. The legend says that the body of St. James was put on board a ship and abandoned to the sea; but the ship, being guided by an angel, landed safely in Galicia. There the body was buried; but in the course of time the place of its burial was forgotten, and not discovered again till the year 800, when it was miraculously revealed to a friar .
Mrs. Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art I. 211, says : "Then they caused the body of the saint to be transported to Compostella; and in consequence of the surprising miracles which graced his shrine, he was honoured not merely in Galicia, but throughout all Spain. He became the patron saint of the Spaniards, and Compostella, as a place of pilgrimage, was renowned throughout Europe. From all countries bands of pilgrims resorted there, so that sometimes there were no less than a hundred thousand in one year. The military order of Saint Jago, enrolled by Don Alphonso for their protection, became one of the greatest and richest in Spain.
"Now, if I should proceed to recount all the wonderful deeds enacted by Santiago in behalf of his chosen people, they would fill a volume. The Spanish historians number thirty-eight visible apparitions, in which this glorious saint descended from heaven in person, and took the command of their armies against the Moors."
James i. 5 and 117: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. . . . . .Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness; neither shadow of turning."
In this line, instead of largezza, some editions read allegrezza; but as James describes the bounties of heaven, and not its joys, the former reading is undoubtedly the correct one.
St.Peter personifies Faith; St.James, Hope; and St. John, Charity. These three were distinguished above the other Apostles by clearer manifestations of their Master's favour, as,for example, their being present at the Transfiguration.
These words are addressed by St. James to Dante.
In the radiance of the three theological virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity.
To the three Apostles luminous above him and overwhelming him with their light. Psalm cxxi. I : " I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help."
With the most august spirits of the celestial city. See Canto XXIV. Note 115.
In God, or, as Dante says in Canto XXVI.42:--
"There where depicted everything is seen.",
And again, Canto XXVI. 106:--
"For I behold it in the truthful mirror,
That of Himself all things parhelion makes,
And none makes Him parhelion of itself."
"Say what it is," and "whence it came to be."
The answer to these two questions involves no self-praise, as the answer to the other would have done, if it had come from Dante's lips.
This definition of Hope is from Peter Lombard's Lib. Sent., Book III. Dist. 26 : "Est spes certa expectatio futura beatitudinis, veniens ex Dei gratia, et meritis praecedentibus."
The Psalmist David.
In his divine songs, or songs of God. Psalm ix. 10: "And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee."
Your rain; that is, of David and St. James.
According to the legend, St. James suffered martyrdom under Herod Agrippa.
"The mark of the high calling and election sure," namely Paradise, which is the aim and object of "all the friends of God;" or, as a St. James expresses it in his Epistle, I. 12: "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."
This expression is from the Epistle of James, ii. 23 : "And he was called the Friend of God.
The spiritual body and the glorified earthly body. Isaiah Ixi. 7: "Therefore in their land they shall possess the double; everlasting joy shall be unto them."
St. John in Revelation vii. 9: "After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands."
If Cancer, which in winter rises at sunset, had one star as bright as this, it would turn night into day.
Any failing, such as vanity, ostentation, or the like.
St. Peter and St. James.
This symbol or allegory of the Pelican, applied to Christ, was popular during the Middle Ages, and was seen not only in the songs of poets, but in sculpture on the portals of churches.
Thibaut, Roi de Navarre, Chanson LXV., says:--
"Diex est ensi comme li Pelicans,
Qui fait son nit el plus haut arbre sus,
Et li mauvais oseau, qui vient de jus
Ses oisellons ocist, tafit est puans;
Li pere vient destrois et angosseux,
Dou bec s'ocist, de son sanc dolereus
Vivre refait tantost ses oisellons;
Diex fist autel, quant vint sa passions,
Dc son douc sanc racheta ses enfans
Dou Deauble, qui tant parest poissans."
John xix. 27: "Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home."
St. John. Dante--bearing in mind the words of Christ, John xxi. 22, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee ?. . . . . Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die"--looks to see if the spiritual body of the saint be in any way eclipsed by his earthly body. St. John, reading his unspoken thought, immediately undeceives him.
Mrs. Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art I. 139, remarks : "The legend which supposes St. John reserved alive has not been generally received in the Church, and as a subject of painting it is very uncommon. It occurs in the Menologium Graecum, where the grave into which St. John descends is, according to the legend, fossa in crucis figuram (in the form of a cross). In a series of the deaths of the Apostles, St. John is ascending from the grave; for, according to the Greek legend, St. John died without pain or change, and immediately rose again in bodily form, and ascended into heaven to rejoin Christ and the Virgin."
Till the predestined number of the elect is complete. Revelation vi. I I : "And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled."
The spiritual body and the glorified earthly body.
Christ and the Virgin Mary. Butler, Lives of the Saints, VIII. 173, says: "It is a traditionary pious belief, that the body of the Blessed Virgin was raised by God soon after her death, and assumed to glory, by a singular privilege, before the general resurrection of the dead. This is mentioned by the learned Andrew of Crete in the East, in the seventh, and by St. Gregory of Tours in the West, in the sixth century. . . . . . So great was the respect and veneration of the fathers towards this most holy and most exalted of all pure creatures, that St. Epiphanius durst not affirm that she ever died, because he had never found any mention of her death, and because she might have been preserved immortal, and translated to glory without dying."
By the sacred trio of St. Peter, St. James, and St. John.
Because his eyes were so blinded by the splendour of the beloved disciple. Speaking of St. John, Claudius, German poet, says : "It delights me most of all to read in John: there is in him something so entirely wondefful, -- twilight and night, and through it the swiftly darting lightning,--a soft evening cloud, and behind the cloud the broad full moon bodily; something deeply, sadly pensive, so high, so full of anticipation, that one cannot have enough of it. In reading John it is always with me as though I saw him before me, lying on the bosom of his Master at the last supper: as though his angel were holding the light for me, and in certain passages would fall upon my neck and whisper in mine ear. I am far from understanding all I read, but it often seems to me as if what John meant were floating before in the distance; and even when I look into a passage altogether dark, I have a foretaste of some great, glorious meaning, which I shall one day understand, and for this reason I grasp so eagerly after every new interpretation of the Gospel of John. Indeed, most of them only play upon the edge of the evening cloud, and the moon behind it has quiet rest."