Canto 25 of Dante’s Paradise plays a key role in Dan Brown’s Inferno, as it is very important to solve one of the main mysteries.
Robert Langdon reads its stanzas in the modern rendition by American Professor Allen Mandelbaum.
If it should happen… if this sacred poem—
this work so shared by heaven and by earth
that it has made me lean through these long years—
can ever overcome the cruelty
that bars me from the fair fold where I slept,
a lamb opposed to wolves that war on it …
By then with other voice, with other fleece,
I shall return as poet and put on,
at my baptismal font, the laurel crown;
for there I first found entry to that faith
which makes souls welcome unto God, and then,
for that faith, Peter garlanded my brow.
(Paradiso, Canto XXV)
Paradise is the third part of The Divine Comedy, and in Canto 25 Dante—author and main character of the poem—deals with a kind of “examination” about the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity.
The poet is interrogated about the meaning of these virtues by St. Peter, St. James, and St. John. This is how Dante thinks about his beloved Florence from which he was exiled, his enemies who exiled him, and the merits of his poetry.
Paradise 25 is often called the Canto of Hope. Seeing Florence again is Dante’s greatest hope: He would like to symbolically return to his baptismal font, where he began his life as a Christian.
The “beautiful San Giovanni” that Dante refers to is precisely the Baptistry of Florence, or Baptistry of San Giovanni, where he was baptized.
Dante was convinced that the success of The Divine Comedy would have reopened the gates of his city to him, which would have honored him for his magnificent poetry.
In Paradise, Dante goes through the spheres of heaven with Beatrice—the woman he loved platonically all his life—who symbolizes Theology and leads him to discover goodness.
She comforts him by saying that no one has such high hopes as he does, and his wish will be accomplished.
Dante could have given to his detractors a letter with his declaration of guilt and have his exile annulled. His enemies wanted him to be publicly humiliated.
But Dante was perhaps the proudest among the Florentines and would have returned home only if his innocence and his merits were recognized.
Dante did not expect any recognition from his enemies, but he was conscious of the importance of his poetry.
Dante was old when he was writing his poem and probably also hoped that thanks to The Divine Comedy he would receive the highest recognition: the grace of divine benevolence.
Dante did not return to Florence; he died in exile, away from his beloved homeland.
He was never humiliated by his enemies and was glorified by history.
Pictures by Wikimedia and Socialde Signzine