Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Murder in Florence - Paradiso 16

I've been wrestling with Mario's question of two weeks ago: Why, he asked, does Dante put this long, historically detailed image of Florence at the center of the Paradiso?

As I understood his question, the strangeness is not the inclusion of this material, but rather its placement. Why at this moment in the journey, when one would think that mind, heart and soul would be reaching a point of ardor, turning to a sublime apprehension that will eclipse the Earth, let alone one city?

Florence is Dante's patria -- the body politic, the seed plot of the poet's broken earthly life. For some reason, he now has to turn and look close up at it with Cacciaguida, the radice, root of his life. Why?

It's a rich portrait, with much to ponder. Dante tells a story that has remarkable elements. Florence begins imagined as a modest young woman, and after the catalog of famous families, the tale culminates in the tale of the betrayal of a modest young woman. 

Why does Dante make the murder of Buondelmonti the climactic moment of his narrative? Here's the tale as told in a chronicle attributed appropriately enough to a "pseudo Brunetto Latini":
In the year 1216, when Messer Currado Orlandi was podestà, Messer Mazzingo Tegrimi of the family Mazzinghi had himself knighted at a place called Campi, some six miles from Florence, and invited there all the best people [tutta la buona gente] of the town. 
When all the knights had sat down to meat, a buffoon snatched away the full plate set before Messer Uberto dell’Infangati, who was paired at table with Messer Buondelmonte de’ Buondelmonti. This angered Messer Uberto greatly, and Messer Oddo Arrighi de’ Fifanti, a man of valor, roughly reproved him on this account. In reply Messer Uberto told him he lied in his throat, at which Messer Arrighi tossed a full plate in his face. The whole assembly was in an uproar. When the tables had been removed, Messer Buondelmonte struck Messer Oddo Arrighi with a knife and wounded him severely.

As soon as all the company had returned to their homes, Messer Oddo Arrighi took counsel with his friends and relatives, among whom were the counts of Gangalandi, the Uberti, the Lamberti and the Amidei. Their advice was that peace should be concluded over the matter, as a sign of which Messer Buondelmonte should take for wife the daughter of Messer Lambertuccio de’ Amidei, who lived at the head of the bridge. The bride-to-be was the niece of Messer Oddo Arrighi. Accordingly the marriage contract was drawn up and the peace arranged; on the following day the wedding was to be celebrated.

Then Madonna Gualdrada, wife of Messer Forese Donati, sent secretly for Messer Buondelmonte and when he came spoke to him as follows: “Knight, you are forever disgraced by taking a wife out of fear of the Uberti and the Fifanti; leave her you have taken and take this other [i.e. her own daughter] and your honor as knight will be restored.” 
As soon as he had heard, he resolved to do as he was told without taking counsel with any of his kin. And when on the following day, the morning of Thursday February 11, the guests of both parties had assembled, Messer Buondelmonte passed through the gate of Santa Maria and went to pledge his troth with the girl of the Donati family, and left the Amidei girl waiting at the church door.

This insult enraged Messer Oddo Arrighi greatly and he held a meeting with all his friends and relatives in the church of Santa Maria sopra Porta. When all were assembled he complained in strong terms of the disgrace put upon him by Messer Buondelmonte. Some counseled that Buondelmonte be given a beating, others that he be wounded in the face. At this spoke up Messer Mosca de’ Lamberti: “Whoever beats or wounds him, let him first see that his own grave has been dug; a thing done has its own head [cosa fatta capo ha].” They then decided that the vendetta was to be carried out at the very place where the injury had been done, when the parties had gathered for the exchange of the marriage vows.

Murder of Buondelmonte
 And so it came about that on Easter morning, with his bride at his side, Messer Buondelmonte came riding over the bridge in a doublet of silk and mantle, with a wreath around his brow. No sooner had he arrived at the statue of Mars [at Ponte Vecchio], than Messer Schiatta degli Uberti rushed upon him and, striking him on the crown with his mace, brought him to earth. At once Messer Oddo Arrighi was on top of him and opened his veins with a knife. And having killed him, they fled. 
The ambush had occurred at the houses of Amidei, who lived at the head of the bridge. Immediately there was a tremendous tumult. The body of the murdered man was placed on a bier, and the bride took her seat next to him, holding his head in her lap and weeping aloud. In this manner the procession moved through all Florence. And on this day, for the first time, new names were heard, those of the Guelf party and the Ghibelline party.

From a Cronaca attributed to a "pseudo Brunetto Latini": Ferdinand Schevill, Medieval and Renaissance Florence (1961), pp. 106-107 
 Mosca and Dante exchange words in Inferno 28. 
See also this this account and here's another telling, by Thomas Adolphus Trollope.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Paradiso 16: Some help from John S. Carroll

The dense texture of Florentine family names in Paradiso 16 is truly a thick wood, yet there are traces in it of an argument developed by Cacciaguida that has larger implications. Here's one particularly thorny passage, followed by a comment found among the Dartmouth commentaries.
Had not the folk, which most of all the world
Degenerates, been a step-dame unto Caesar,
But as a mother to her son benignant,
Some who turn Florentines, and trade and discount,
Would have gone back again to Simifonte
There where their grandsires went about as beggars
At Montemurlo still would be the Counts,
The Cerchi in the parish of Acone,
Perhaps in Valdigrieve the Buondelmonti.
Ever the intermingling of the people
Has been the source of malady in cities,
As in the body food it surfeits on;
And a blind bull more headlong plunges down
Than a blind lamb; and very often cuts
Better and more a single sword than five. (16.58-72)

Robert Hollander helpfully points to the Expositions by John S. Carroll on this passage from Paradiso 16. Carroll adduces several other sources, including Villani, Villari, and John Richard Green:


It is to this 'confusion of persons' – this contamination of a pure citizenship by the introduction of inferior blood from the surrounding country , . . .  that Cacciaguida traces the evil that had befallen the city, and the blame of this he lays upon the Church, 'the people that on earth degenerates most.' Had the Church acted the part of a mother instead of a stepmother to Caesar, there had been no need for the Cerchi, the Buondelmonti, and others to have been brought within the city walls [Par. xvi. 58-66]. 

It is not known who was the incomer from Simifonti, now a Florentine banker and merchant, but whose grandfather went round begging in his native village. Simifonti is in the Val d'Elsa. For the taking and destruction by the Florentines in 1202, see Villani, Chron. v. 30; Villari, Flor. History, 163-166

The Cerchi came from Acone, a village near Florence whose exact stituation is uncertain. They rapidly became one of the richest families, lived in grand style, yet remained rustic and uncultured in manners: Villani calls them 'luxurious, inoffensive, uncultured and ungracious, like folk come in a short time to great estate and power' (viii. 39). As the leaders of the White Guelphs, Dante calls that party la parte selvaggia (Inf. vi. 65), the savage, rustic, boorish party. For the futher reference to them in the present Canto (94-99) see note* [below]. 

The Montemurlo of l. 64 was a castle near Pistoja, which the Conti Guidi were forced to sell to Florence because they were not able to hold it against the Pistojans. See Villani, v. 31]. To understand this, we must remember that the strife in Florence sprang from the existence within her of two races. Villani and Dante alike trace the origin of this difference to the conquest of Fiesole by Florence, and the consequent mingling of the two peoples. According to Villani, 'the Florentines are to-day descended from two peoples so diverse in manners, and who ever of old had been enemies, as the Roman people and the people of Fiesole; and this we can see by true experience, and by the divers changes and parties and factions which, after the said two people had been united into one, came to pass in Florence from time to time' [Chronicle, iv. 7. See also i. 38]. In the denunciation of the Florentines which Dante puts into the mouth of Brunetto Latini, the same view is taken of the contrast between
'That ungrateful and malignant people
Which of old time from Fiesole descended,
And smacks still of the mountain and the granite,'
[Inf. xv. 61-78.]

and 'the holy seed of the Romans,' from which the poet undoubtedly believed himself descended. Even if we put aside much of this as legendary, it remains true, as Prof. Villari says, that 'the diversity between the Germanic strain in the nobility and the Latin blood of the people, really constituted a strong element of discord.... Its whole territory bristled with the castles of feudal barons of Germanic descent, all hostile to Florence, and many of whom, safely ensconced on the neighbouring hill of Fiesole, were always ready to swoop down on Florentine soil' [The First Two Centuries of Florentine History, p. 73 (Eng. transl.) – an invaluable book for the understanding of the ever-changing factions of early Florence]. 

As the commerce of the city grew, it became necessary to make the roads safe for traffic, and the only way of doing this seemed to be by compelling the robber-barons to come inside the city-walls. But, as Green says, 
'it was equally perilous for an Italian town to leave its nobles without the walls or to force them to reside within. In their own robber-holds or their own country estates they were a scourge to the trader whose wains rolled temptingly past their walls.  

Florence, like its fellow Italian States, was driven to the demolition of the feudal castles, and to enforcing the residence of their lords within its own civic bounds. But the danger was only brought nearer home. Excluded by civic jealousy, wise or unwise, from all share in municipal government, their huge palazzi rose like fortresses in every quarter of the city. Within them lay the noble, a wild beast all the fiercer for his confinement in so narrow a den, with the old tastes, hatreds, preferences utterly unchanged, at feud as of old with his fellow-nobles, knit to them only by a common scorn of the burghers and the burgher life around them, stung to madness by his exclusion from all rule in the commonwealth, bitter, revengeful, with the wilfulness of a child, shameless, false, unprincipled' [John Richard Green, Stray Studies from England and Italy, p. 162]. 

And this terrible state of things Dante traced to the Papacy. Had the Church given the temporal power to Caesar as it ought to have done, the Emperor, in Dante's belief, would have proved strong enough to have brought the territorial nobles under the restraint of law, and thus have obviated the necessity to which the cities were reduced of adding a new and dangerous element of discord to those already existing within their walls. (emphasis added)

*Note on the Cerchi: 

ll. 94-99 refer to the Cerchi (see note {in comm. to vv. 58- 66}). Their houses were above the Porta San Piero, and had been acquired by this wealthy family from the Conti Guidi, who sprang from the ancient house of the Ravignani, the head of which was the Bellincion Berti of Par. xv. 112. The fellonia or treason charged against the Cerchi seems to be their failure as leaders of the Whites to defend the city against the Blacks in Nov. 1301. Dino Compagni says 'their hearts failed them through cowardice': the Priors gave them orders to prepare for defence and urged them 'to play the man.' But 'from avarice' they refused to pay the hired troops, made practically no preparations, and so handed over the city to six terrible days of outrage and pillage. The exile of the Whites which followed is the 'lightening of the barque' to which Dante refers in l. 96. For a full account of this disastrous struggle between the Bianchi and the Neri, see Dino Compagni's Chronicle, Bk. II. and Villani's, viii. 38-49.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Boniface and Dante

As we get more deeply into the loving portrait of old Florence drawn by Cacciaguida in Paradiso 15-17, a couple of additional links to the biography of the poet have surfaced:

For whatever reason, here's a story about Boniface VIII, who according to this writer qualifies as "the worst pope in history:"
Not content with committing one mortal sin at a time, he was known for engaging in threesomes with a married woman and her daughter. If you’re keeping track, that’s three divine laws broken in a single night (adultery, incest, and breaking the vows of celibacy). Which is reprehensible or efficient, depending on your perspective. Link

And here's a snippet of another review of the new biography of Dante by Marco Santagata, a scholar from Pisa:

The central story, after all, is not the complexity of 13th- and 14th-century Italian politics. It is the extraordinary poet, with his endless ‘reflection on what he was doing’. Santagata teases out the many ways in which Dante was not merely self-obsessed, but also self-inventive. He came from relatively modest origins: his father was a moneylender. In Paradise, however, when Dante meets his crusading ancestor Cacciaguida, they both agree that Florence has been wrecked by mercantile shyster-bankers and money-men and that the world will only come to its senses when it is once again ruled by noblemen. So, though not himself an aristocrat, Dante writes as though he were one.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Paradisal roots: Canto 15

Paradiso 15 puts in place an elaborate setting for the meeting of Dante and Cacciaguida, the root (radice) of his Florentine stock. The great-great-grandfather invokes organic imagery, which we've seen elaborated in the Sun with the tale of St. Dominic, but radically simplified here:
“O fronda mia in che io compiacemmi 
pur aspettando, io fui la tua radice”
"O leaf of mine, in whom I pleasure took
E'en while awaiting, I was thine own root!"
Dante discovers that the root of his life was ahead of him, waiting for his arrival. Normally in organic systems, the leaves don't meet the roots. Here, on Mars, they connect. 

Faithful to the system of nourishment and energy that comes from a solar myth of gardens and flowers -- Cacciaguida emboldens the poet to let his voice resound secure, bold, and joyous:
la voce tua sicura, balda e lieta 
suoni la volontà, suoni 'l disio,
Now let thy voice secure and frank and glad
Proclaim the wishes, the desire proclaim,) (15.67-68)
Cacciaguida - the guide to the hunt - will go on to give Dante a view of the past of his city, how it changed as it absorbed people around it, and then divulge what the poet can expect in his future, which will involve a radical break with Florence. 

All of this -- the organic sense of growth, of a family and a city as a living thing -- forms a strong metaphorical armature for these central cantos of Paradiso. But there is another kind of root, another skein of imagery interwoven throughout these cantos, and it begins with Cacciaguida's first speech -- the language of number:
Tu credi che a me tuo pensier mei 
da quel ch'è primo, così come raia 
da l'un, se si conosce, il cinque e 'l sei;
Thou thinkest that to me thy thought doth pass  
From Him who is the first, as from the unit,  
If that be known, ray out the five and six; (15.55-57) 

Dante believes, Cacciaguida says, that he need not speak, because all his thoughts radiate from that which is primal, or at the root, even as 5 and 6 derive from 1. All numbers are implicated in 1 -- so long as you have 1, you can produce the rest.

Numbers appear even earlier -- with the first thing Dante understands Cacciaguida to say;
“Benedetto sia tu,” fu, “trino e uno, 
che nel mio seme se' tanto cortese!”
"Benedight be Thou, O Trine and One,
Who hast unto my seed so courteous been!" (15.47-48)
The poet in turn speaks of the central mystery of the Trinity in noting how mortals differ from those with a vision of the triune God:
Poi cominciai così: “L'affetto e 'l senno, 
come la prima equalità v'apparse, 
d'un peso per ciascun di voi si fenno,
Then in this wise began I: "Love and knowledge, 
When on you dawned the first Equality, 
Of the same weight for each of you became; (15.73-75)
Clearly the language of numbers and geometric figures (in 17 Dante will say he's tetragono -- foursquare, or four-angled -- against the whims of Fortune) present a second set of images, parallel to the organic metaphors of plants, seeds, roots and leaves, but quite different.

Getting to the "root" of this dual series of figures -- one, organic, rich in natural attributes of nourishment, sunlight, and strength, the other a purely formal system that is nothing like Nature, and presents conceptions that Nature is incapable of -- is beyond this post. 

The only point to make here is that this second motif relates to the fact -- much remarked on in the canto -- that everyone who is moving along the radials of the cross is looking into a mirror that reflects what Dante thinks before he thinks it.

The poet will be emboldened to speak even though these thousands of militant warriors of the Church have already heard it. What's more, they will all grow silent in order to give him the will to speak:
Come saranno a' giusti preghi sorde 
quelle sustanze che, per darmi voglia 
ch'io le pregassi, a tacer fur concorde?
How unto just entreaties shall be deaf 
Those substances, which, to give me desire 
Of praying them, with one accord grew silent? (15.7-9)
The very act of speech is rendered unnecessary even as it it dramatically heightened by the vast, silent attention that presents itself. These armies present a thunderous silence. Radiating from one center, they will to hear Dante, redundant.

The irony and surprise, true to the Commedia, makes the ruddy martial sphere into that scene where the intimate, familial connectedness of all rises to our attention.

Friday, May 06, 2016

14th c. politics in new Dante bio

A new biography of Dante explores what it would be like for a man in exile, under sentence of death, to have the concentration to write one of the greatest long poems ever made amid the stresses and dangers of 14th century existence:
Santagata paints a dramatically different scene. We see a man with no fixed income, worried about that death sentence, dependent on the generosity of patrons who themselves are caught up in political turmoil. Dante is shown first scheming with White comrades to regain Florence, then currying favour with Black factions to be forgiven and allowed home, then switching allegiances to become a fervent Ghibelline. It is amazing he was able to concentrate enough to a write a sonnet, let alone the 14,233 lines of the Comedy.

The book, released in April, is Dante: The Story of His Life by Marco Santagata. Thanks to Peter D'Epiro for pointing us to Simon West's book review in the Australian.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Two predecessors to Cacciaguida

Many son-and-father stand behind Dante's encounter with Cacciaguida. He's certainly thinking of Phaethon's quest for knowledge of his father. And Brunetto Latini, Inferno 15, who, the poet says, taught come l'uom s'eterna (how man makes himself immortal) is highly relevant, if by contrast with the familial bond Dante discovers with Cacciaguida.

But the one that Cacciaguida's first words put before us is from Virgil. It's Aeneas's encounter with his father Anchises in the Underworld, Aeneid 6, 679 ff.

The long scene begins:
[679] But deep in a green vale father Anchises was surveying with earnest thought the imprisoned souls that were to pass to the light above and, as it chanced, was counting over the full number of his people and beloved children, their fates and fortunes, their works and ways. And as he saw Aeneas coming towards him over the sward, he eagerly stretched forth both hands, while tears streamed from his eyes and a cry fell from his lips: “Have you come at last, and has the duty that your father expected vanquished the toilsome way? Is it given me to see your face, my son, and hear and utter familiar tones? Even so I mused and deemed the hour would come, counting the days, nor has my yearning failed me. Over what lands, what wide seas have you journeyed to my welcome! What dangers have beset you, my son! How I feared the realm of Libya might work you harm!” 
But he answered: “Your shade, father, your sad shade, meeting me repeatedly, drove me to seek these portals. My ships ride the Tuscan sea. Grant me to clasp your hand, grant me, father, and withdraw not from my embrace!” So he spoke, his face wet with flooding tears. Thrice there he strove to throw his arms about his neck; thrice the form, vainly clasped, fled from his hands, even as light winds, and most like a winged dream.

Perseus VI.679-703:

At pater Anchises penitus convalle virenti
680inclusas animas superumque ad lumen ituras
lustrabat studio recolensomnemque suorum
forte recensebat numerum carosque nepotes,
fataque fortunasque virum moresque manusque.
Isque ubi tendentem adversum per gramina videt
685Aeneanalacris palmas utrasque tetendit,
effusaeque genis lacrimaeet vox excidit ore:
Venisti tandemtuaque exspectata parenti
vicit iter durum pietasDatur ora tueri,
natetuaet notas audire et reddere voces?
690Sic equidem ducebam animo rebarque futurum,
tempora dinumerans” nec me mea cura fefellit.
Quas ego te terras et quanta per aequora vectum
accipioquantis iactatumnatepericlis!
Quam metuine quid Libyae tibi regna nocerent!”
695Ille autem: “Tua megenitortua tristis imago,
saepius occurrenshaec limina tendere adegit:
stant sale Tyrrheno classesDa iungere dextram,
dagenitorteque amplexu ne subtrahe nostro.”
Sic memoranslargo fletu simul ora rigabat.
700Ter conatus ibi collo dare brachia circum,
ter frustra comprensa manus effugit imago,
par levibus ventis volucrique simillima somno.

More here and below

Translating up to Cacciaguida

The figure and voice of Cacciaguida holds forth for three cantos at the center of the Paradiso. He is an ancestor/father who call himself the radice, i.e., root, of Dante's bloodline. He'll have a good deal to say about blood as he describes old Florence and its early families in cantos 15 through 17.

Before Cacciaguida speaks, the poet modulates from the sublime thunder of Paradiso 14 to a hushed arena where the pilgrim is given the attention of a vast audience of souls, who grow quiet to help him acquire that which he needs to learn from his forebear.

Dante manages this transition to a pregnant calm as only he can. There is the remarkable moment, in 14, as he's already moving from the Sun to Mars, when he speaks within himself in a kind of universal tongue:
Con tutto 'l core e con quella favella
ch'è una in tutti, a Dio feci olocausto,
qual conveniesi a la grazia novella.
With all my heart, and in that dialect
Which is the same in all, such holocaust
To God I made as the new grace beseemed; (14.88-90)
It's a passing moment, but it's also a kind of exquisite play on the act of translation. Dante says he used "that speech that is one in all" to make his holocaust, and as Hollander notes, this harks back to the old idea that humans share a kind of universal vernacular:
Dante is evidently referring to mental constructions, pre-verbal thoughts, which match one another perfectly until they are put into expression in various languages, when they may have small resemblance to one another. See John of Serravalle (comm. to vv. 88-90): “Conceptus mentis sunt idem in omnibus hominibus, loquela vero non sic” (Mental constructs are identical in all humans, but not the words [that are used to express them]). Dante is perhaps suggesting that there exists an ideal universal vernacular innate in all of us.
In another formulation, Noam Chomsky's theory of grammar rests on the notion that we share a "deep structure" that is generative of and common to all languages, however superficially different they may seem. Another way of putting this is, at this moment of transition, or translation,* as Dante chooses to put it, the distinction between lexis and logos comes to the fore:
Quindi ripreser li occhi miei virtute
a rilevarsi; e vidimi translato
sol con mia donna in più alta salute. (14.82-84)
Lexis of course concerns the specific linguistic vesture that clothes the idea or meaning (the logos). Lexis is the entire complex of linguistic features -- the particular language, the choice of words, their specific phonemes, rhythm, pitch, tone, aural and even visual articulation -- that carries the ideational content intended by the speaker.

That is to say, the very thing that gets in the way of perfect translation -- the lexical features of any specific utterance -- is here consumed, just as the lexical features of Dante's Italian verses are sacrificed in order to present their sense to speakers of Longfellow's tongue. The possibility of any translation whatsoever from one speaker to another in fact relies on our positing a third "tongue," a deep core of structure and meaning that is the shared basis and interface between any two sets of linguistic vestments. Any act of translation, after all is said and done, is an act of faith.

At the very moment of leaving the visual, circumscribed world of the Sun for something new and unknown, as a third circle begins to flicker and flash around Beatrice and Dante, the poet speaks of a third tongue that enables translation to occur. Without such a common "speech" -- invisible, inaudible, and unwriteable -- subtending all human languages, how else could translation occur? Remove the Logos and what's left is Babel.

The clothing metaphor I used a moment ago ("linguistic vesture") is traditional -- John of Serravalle resorts several times to it in his commentary on this tercet -- but here it also echoes another significant moment of this canto -- Solomon's remarkable account of the souls' condition -- first in the now, prior to the final resurrection, and then, when they will be reunited with their glorified bodies:
            “Quanto fia lunga la festa
di paradiso, tanto il nostro amore
si raggerà dintorno cotal vesta.

La sua chiarezza séguita l'ardore;
l'ardor la visïone, e quella è tanta,
quant' ha di grazia sovra suo valore.

Come la carne glorïosa e santa
fia rivestita, la nostra persona
più grata fia per esser tutta quanta;
                   "As long as the festivity
  Of Paradise shall be, so long our love
  Shall radiate round about us such a vesture. 
Its brightness is proportioned to the ardour,
  The ardour to the vision; and the vision
  Equals what grace it has above its worth. 
When, glorious and sanctified, our flesh
  Is reassumed, then shall our persons be
  More pleasing by their being all complete;  (14. 37-45)
The souls will radiate light as long as Paradise lasts; this light radiates from the love they have within -- it is the vesta, the garment that is the expression of each soul's love, which in turn is proportioned to its vision, itself an expression of grace. Grace is external, from above, and it sets in motion vision, love, and radiance in a generative chain. Put another way, each is a figure, a translation of each other -- in a sense, to be in Paradise is to be translated to a condition of always translating.

And this process -- the opposite of Babel -- doesn't end with the resurrection of the body, for the soul, which now wears light, will be covered -- rivestita -- with the body that is now covered by earth. But since the radiance will remain, we cannot see the glorified body as opaque, as another outside of mere flesh. It has at least to be translucent, a further fold in the series of vestments, or translations.

Obsessive types (guilty as charged) might ask at this point how the glorified persons (persona) will be "all complete." That is, the body that once held that soul is brought up and put on, like a new suit, and allows the light to come through, such that grace, vision, ardor and radiance are now complemented by glorified flesh. But since each is already a translation of the others, is there a sense in which we can find it meaningful to say the entities are now "all complete" (tutta quanta)?

The reunited body is yet another translation, no? It might be the perfect conclusion of the itinerary of the soul, from conception to resurrection, all rooted in the Annunciation and Resurrection of Christ, but it's still another outside, another covering, or expression. When something is a translation, what can it mean to say it's "all complete," given that the original of which it is the embodiment is precisely what is not present -- at least, not directly.

Somehow, Dante wants to have it both ways -- the souls reflect, emanate, translate grace which comes from God; yet once they have bodies, they will be "all complete." Translations as totalities, or as, in some sense, embodiments of what is not body, not soul, not measurable, not finite. There's a tension between the metaphor of dress, of translation, and the assertion of a total completeness in the phrase per esser tutta quanta.

Dante is treating of all this with concepts and images we can understand -- but the tools of his vocabulary might be approaching a critical moment, a breaking point. It's here that Cacciaguida -- the "guide of the chase" -- enters, and for three cantos inserts Dante, who still has his body, into the living context of history.

*Hollander notes that this is the sole instance of the word translato in the Commedia, and that it appears twice in the Pauline epistles, once in reference to Enoch (Hebrews 11.5), the other time in Colossians 1.13:
13 qui eripuit nos de potestate tenebrarum et transtulit in regnum Filii dilectionis suae
13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: