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were being propounded in it, for the teaching of Duns Scotus had already, early in the reign of John XXII, become a detestable thing. It would moreover, we suggest, have been dangerous to lift a corner of the veil under which much else, obnoxious to the foreign Papal Court and the foreign. tyrant of Italy, Robert of Naples, lay hid.
John of Duns as a saintly master of Divinity belonged, if anywhere in Paradise, to the Heaven of the Sun. It is here that we find a conspicuous but unnamed figure hailed with reverent affection as the Fifth Light, a figure described with a passionate enthusiasm very rarely to be traced in the Divina Commedia. When the passages relating to the Fifth Light are closely scrutinized a great many points start into view which tend to support the theory that not Solomon but John of Duns is here concealed from sight.
When Beatrice introduced Dante into this part of Paradise, she shewed him two shining crowns of light composed of flaming jewels within each of which was enclosed the soul of some celebrated theologian. The great Franciscan doctor, Bonaventura, was in one crown; the great Dominican, Thomas Aquinas, in the other. And in order to emphasize their lack of rivalry in Heaven, it was Bonaventura who was set to relate the life of St. Dominic while Thomas eulogized St. Francis.
Thomas Aquinas passed in review the names of the twelve saints who composed the crown. When he came to the Fifth Light he refrained from naming it. He seemed to expect that the saint who lay hid within would be easily recognized from the circumstance that he was shrouded in a more brilliant light than that of any other, for he said of him with affectionate pride that his radiance, the most beautiful among them all, was inspired by such
1 Par. x 109:
La quinta luce, ch'è tra noi più bella,
great love that everyone down on earth was greedy for news of him. Then, still pointing to this peerless jewel of light, he went on to tell Dante that within it was shrouded a lofty intellect in which so profound a knowledge was implanted that, if the truth be true, no second ever rose to such full vision.' If commentators have followed each other in identifying this Unnamed Saint as Solomon, assuredly it was not because they failed to perceive the incongruity of introducing the King whose thousand wives and concubines find mention in Holy Writ into this ascetic group of celibates; it was because none but Solomon seemed equal in their eyes to the bold declaration of Thomas that his wisdom had risen to a fullness of vision surpassing that of all other men. By introducing a long digression to prove that Adam, our first father, no less than Jesus Christ, were to be excepted from this category because they had not risen to wisdom but had been fully endowed with it on entrance into the world, Dante gave his readers to understand that this statement was no empty hyperbole but a deliberate assertion that the Saint enclosed in the Fifth Light was wiser than the Holy Apostles, wiser than all the Fathers of the Church.
Now St. Bernard,1 controverting the theory that God had by the spiritual gift of prophecy made all the Old Testament saints equal in knowledge to saints who lived in times of grace, had quoted as conclusive the words: 'Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.' The stress three times artfully laid in the passages relating to the Unnamed on the word 'rose' (surse) suggests that Dante had in mind the above reference to John the Baptist, and intended to press it on
1 S. Bernardi Abbatis-Ad Hugonem de Sancto Victore— Epistola de Baptismo. Dante was familiar with this Epistle or treatise, for in introducing the figure of St. Bernard in Par. xxxi and xxxii, he put into his mouth words which directly recall the arguments used in it by the Saint.
2 St. Matt. xi II.
his readers' attention. It cuts at the root of Solomon's pre-eminence.
It was in no way specially remarkable that Dante should elect to place the author of the Books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus in Paradise. very remarkable indeed that he should commit St. Thomas to the statement that Solomon had attained to a truer vision of eternal verities, not yet in his time revealed, than that vouchsafed to the Apostles themselves. This position was the more extraordinary from the fact that orthodox opinion, founded on the judgement of Tertullian, St. Cyprian and St. Augustine, strongly leaned to the theory that Solomon was altogether damned.2
Taking the eulogy as spoken by the Dominican Thomas of the Franciscan John, whose fame was eclipsing his own, it has a peculiar beauty. For Duns, as has been shewn, had not scrupled to point out that every now and then Thomas himself had made a mistake in his reasoning. This the Dominicans could not forgive, and it was owing to their bitter slanders that the name of Duns came in the course of time first to be a synonym for one who resists the truth, and later for one who is unable to learn-a dunce. There is a sweet saintliness about Thomas in setting himself to declare for all time that this, his bitterly maligned rival, was actually far beyond himself in wisdom, peerless indeed among all seekers after truth. This is an attitude recalling the glowing humility of St. Francis and gives true insight into the atmosphere of Paradise. Men are notoriously disposed to over-estimate the achievements of their contemporaries, and we may believe Dante to have erred on the side of generosity towards a revered Master, without questioning the sincerity of his estimate. It is an estimate which he shared in common with many who knew John in
1 Par. x 114; xi 26; xiii 106.
2 Vide W. W. Vernon, Readings on the Paradiso, on Paradiso x 114. Augustine said of Solomon among other hard things, Nam ipse Salomon mulierum amator fuit et reprobatus est a Deo.' He pointed out moreover that Scripture nowhere records that Solomon repented.
his life-time and studied him after his death. Nor does it lack support in a later and more critical age.
It was moreover most appropriate for Thomas to assert that all the world was thirsting for news about John. For the monk was abruptly sent off to Cologne by his superiors in 1308, and died there not long after his arrival in a very mysterious manner. His disciples related that they found him dead when, after he had been wrapped for many hours in contemplation according to his usual custom, they ventured to address him. They believed his soul had escaped in a moment of ecstasy. His enemies did not fail to retort that he had not been dead as his disciples too hastily concluded, that he had been prematurely buried, and that his body, subsequently examined, betrayed the fact that he had made horrible struggles to escape from his tomb. Contortion after death was at that time deemed a sign of possession by the devil, so authentic tidings of John's soul, whether in heaven or hell, were very eagerly desired by all.
By a curious rhetorical device, a long interlude, which fills two cantos, the 11th and 12th, was woven into the narrative. Professing to read Dante's thoughts, St. Thomas taxed him with incredulity in regard to the statement that the way of Dominic still contained 'good fattening for souls if there be no straying from it.' This led up to a digression by means of which the original purpose of both Francis and Dominic, in founding their respective Orders, was recalled. There is some very plain speaking about both Orders, and the eulogy of Dominic,' who smote most vigorously where resistance was strongest among the stumps of heresy '—that is, against powerful nobles in Languedoc, and against the Saracens and other warlike peoples in the East-suggests a vivid contrast between the founder's early followers and those degenerate Inquisitors who were persecuting helpless peasants at the time when the Paradiso was being written.1
1 For the inferior condition of those selected for interrogation in the early Fourteenth century see Charles Molinier, L'Inquisition en France, pp. 116, 117.
Returning to the subject of the Fifth Light,1 St. Thomas proceeded, as has been shewn, to justify himself for the assertion that no second had ever risen to such full vision. It is impossible in brief space to comment adequately on the remarkable passage which follows. Had Dante merely meant to defend a commendation of Solomon which some might consider exaggerated he could have made it clear in a couple of lines that neither Christ nor Adam was to be understood as falling within the same category as he. But St. Thomas, with the air of removing a doubt dangerous to salvation, entered upon a closely reasoned argument designed to shew that thy belief and my own saying agree in the truth as doth the centre in the circle.' Seizing the slight pretext furnished by Dante's unacknowledged dissent, he proceeded to discourse on the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Creation of the world and the Angels, introducing by the way such Scholastic terms as Emanations, Ideas, Matter, Form, Contingencies, Generation, Habitus, with which to express his views. On some if not all of these subjects acute controversies were raging between Thomists and Scotists at the time when Dante was writing. The perplexing passage gains a new interest, even if it deepen in difficulty, by its recognition as an attempt to shew that the diversely expressed speculations of the two great Schoolmen were but different facets of truths about which they were in essential agreement.
There is one very interesting and telling allusion to the possibility of immaculate conception. Duns had created an immense impression by his demonstration that it was not inherently contrary to God's dealings with man for the Blessed Virgin to have been born without stain of original sin. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the 2 Par. xiii 49-78.
1 Par. xiii 34. 3 Oxon. III. dist. 3, q.1. 1. 3. nn. 9-10. Ad quaestionem dico quod Deus potuit facere, quod ipsa nunquam fuisset in peccato originali ; potuit etiam fecisse, ut tantum in uno instanto esset in peccato; potuit etiam facere ut per tempus aliquod esset in peccato. . . Quod autem horum trium factum sit, Deus novit; si auctoritati Ecclesiae vel auctoritati Scripturae non repugnet, videtur probabile quod eccellentius est, attribuere Mariae.