Divine Comedy: Paradiso Metaphors and Similes

Divine Comedy: Paradiso Metaphors and Similes

The Brightness of Heaven

In Canto I of Paradiso (ln 61-63, Longfellow translation), Dante writes, "And suddenly it seemed that day to day was added, as if He who has the power had with another sun the heaven adorned."

In this simile, Dante is attempting to express the extraordinary light with which Paradise shines (in stark contrast to the gloomy shroud of fog in Inferno). He describes the light as being so bright that it's like God made another sun and put it in Heaven.

Beatrice's Beauty

In Canto I (ln 64-69, Longfellow translation), Dante writes the following:

"With eyes upon the everlasting wheels stood Beatrice all intent, and I, on her fixing my vision from above removed, such at her aspect inwardly became as Glaucus, tasting of the herb that made him peer of the other gods beneath the sea."

Glaucus is a Greek mythological figure who, having eaten an herb that made him immortal, became a sea god, suddenly on equal footing with deities like Poseidon. In this simile, Dante is comparing himself to Glaucus: having suddenly arisen to the spheres of divine spirits like Beatrice, he is stunned and overwhelmed by her beauty as if by that of a goddess.

The Great Sea of Being

Beatrice, when explaining the nature of the universe in Canto I, says that all natures "move onward unto ports diverse O'er the great sea of being" (ln 112-113, Longfellow translation). This "sea" is a metaphorical image representing the oceanic vastness of the number and location of souls, all governed by God in the same way that He rules the waters of the earth.

The Clarity of the Spirits

In Canto III, when Dante is in the second sphere (the moon, the place of those who were forced to break their sacred vows), he sees the faces of spirits "such as through polished and transparent glass, or waters crystalline and undisturbed" (III.10-11, Longfellow translation). At first, since their faces were so clear, he thinks that he's looking into a mirror at spirits that are actually right beside him; he then finds out that their spectral appearance merely looks reflective in its clarity.

The Impact of Divine Knowledge

At the very end of Paradiso, Dante comes face-to-face with the holiness of God, and he grasps the truth he has been seeking all along his voyage - the aim of his journey. As he writes in lines 140-141 of Canto XXX (Longfellow trans.), "...the truth I longed for came to me, smiting my mind like lightning flashing bright." The impact of the divine revelation crashed into his consciousness like a thunderbolt; this simile emphasizes the world-shattering nature of divine knowledge.

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