Paradiso Canto XVIII

Paradiso 18

O soldiery of Heaven, whom I contemplate,
pray for those still on the earth,
those led astray by bad example!

vv. 124-126

The Spirits in the Cross of Mars.—Ascent to the Heaven of Jupiter.—Words shaped in light upon the planet by the Spirits.—Denunciation of the avarice of the Popes.

Beatrice chides Dante for worrying about his earthly fate when he has been brought so close to God, “who lifts all wrongs away.” Turning to face her, Dante the man is enraptured by her beauty and gazes into her eyes, unable to look away. Beatrice gently rebukes Dante and urges him to pay attention to his ancestor Cacciaguida. Resuming his speech, Cacciaguida points out several of the notable inhabitants of this, the fifth sphere of Heaven. As he calls out their names, the souls blaze brightly and whirl about like shooting stars. Those named include biblical heroes Joshua and [Judas] Maccabeus, along with such medieval worthies as Roland (d. 778) and Charlemagne (747?–814). Dante beholds the display with joy and admiration as Beatrice, too, looks on approvingly. Now, however, it’s time to ascend to Jupiter, the sixth sphere of Paradise. Here, the souls “wing around” like birds, forming the shapes of Latin letters. Diligite iustitiam, their skywriting reads, qui iudicatis terram: “Love justice, you rulers of the earth.” The “M” of iustitiam then morphs into the outline of an eagle’s head and neck. Rejoicing in this latest marvel, Dante utters a prayer for justice on Earth, where the corrupt Church is leading the laity (the people of the Church) astray.

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