In Paradiso, Dante sees the White Rose

by cheri block

My guide Virgil has been weakened this month, so we could not meet at Elephant Bar to discuss the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso this past week. Looking more like a shade than a robust Italian, he answered the door in his sweatpants and sweatshirt.

For a moment, I felt myself swoon as I had when I saw the She-Wolf, but I regained my strength and we moved together into the kitchen.

The table was set for two.

Virgil began the conversation in a direct way.  You have a problem with duality, Dante. You want to talk about the nature of evil, but you also have a political axe to grind.

A perfect pairing, I comment.

Virgil nods. Yes, but the quality of mercy is emotional and humane, whereas the quality of justice is intellectual and abstract. You, Dante, want to talk about justice, but your mercy hangs you up. Now Machiavelli—there was a guy, an Italian,  who could make an analytical incision.

I am tired, too, trying to balance mercy and justice, revelation and logic, the Virgin Mary and you, Virgil. Thank God I have something to look forward to in Paradiso, I think.

Virgil reads my mind. Is it time for our lunch?

Virgil has ordered a sandwich called the Italian from Togo’s.

We skip our usual coffee and opt for water.

I look deeply into my guide’s dark brown eyes.

The mystery of irony takes me away from the moment. Irony connects me to the power of the universe.

You want some grapes, Baby? My neighbor across the street, an 84-year old woman, has adopted me. She went to Trader Joe’s yesterday and brought me all this fruit. You why I am still alive, don’t you? It’s my Mediterranean diet.

Virgil, although Beatrice will replace you as my guide in Paradiso, when I see the White Rose there, I will think of you.

Dante, the White Rose will be a symbol of everything you yearn for, Virgil says.

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in Life, On fiction, People and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to In Paradiso, Dante sees the White Rose

  1. andreaskluth says:

    Oh wow: Virgil, Dante AND The White Rose, too, in one post!

    People will think we’re each other’s blog alter egos. 😉

    But it’s very bold to name-drop the White Rose here, without explanation: Even people who’ve read Dante won’t know the White Rose (unless they’ve read your previous posts).

    BTW, it is that White Rose, we’re talking about, right? Ie, Dante does not mention some other white rose in the Paradiso?

    • Cheri says:

      The celestial white rose is indeed in the final three cantos of the Paradiso. When I read these three for the first time last week, I couldn’t help but notice the relevance of the German White Rose and Dante’s. In short, before Dante finally reaches the Empyrean, the home of God, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints, he sees the White Rose, a circle of light (the light of God’s glory).

      To quote the notes in my edition, ” The rose in medieval literature was the symbol of earthly love; Dante’s white rose is the symbol of divine love.”

      So you can imagine my delight in coming upon such a heady symbol in light of my recent thoughts about the group of young brave German students and their professor who called themselves The White Rose.

  2. Peter G says:

    I have a problem with duels, too. Hang on … duality … whatever.

    As always, your post is beautifully composed, but for non-academics like the individual typing these lines, it might as well be about sypersymetric quantum mechanics or deal with the pros and cons of high throughput gene sequencing technologies.

    Anyhow, I just wanted to leave a response. It’s the best I could do without having read Dante or Virgil. I didn’t even see any typos or zeros substituting for o’s that I could have milked and woven into some sort of infotaining commentary.

    • Cheri says:

      Hello Peter,
      You are too funny. Do any standup in NYC?

      Let me summarize what I was attempting to do with this post:

      Joe, my mentor and guide, has been ill, so naturally I am worried about him and hope he recovers fully.

      I tried to pair Joe and me, he as Virgil (Dante’s guide through Hell in the Inferno) and I as Dante himself.

      Dante was a deeply religious man, but also one who had great respect for the Greek and Roman classics. In his Commedia, he struggles with many dualities.

      One of them is the rational response to life, often embodied by the pagans of ancient Greece and Rome (philosophy, history, literature). The other, of course, is the emotional response represented by all things Biblical, religious history, and literature, as well.

      Dante had been a vigorous activist in local politics in Florence. Politically, Dante was a proponent of a type of governance similar to Imperial Rome, the type under Augustus. (Perhaps Andreas can weigh in here.) Dante was exiled from his city and wrote the Commedia from afar.

      He was concerned about the problem of evil, but also concerned with the smarmy politics of Florence. He deals with both of these elements in the Inferno.

      Dante’s entire spiritual life, he directs toward his eternal ideal, a woman named Beatrice. She is the reason that the pagan Virgil has come out of Hell to guide Dante (who is going through a mid-life crisis).

      Of course, I am also messing around with some symbolism known only to me, and maybe a few others.

      Perhaps I should get back to my old humorous storytelling blogs…

      G0d f0rbid I sh0uld leave any hidden zer0s…

      In fact, I just got back from the ATT Golf tournament at Pebble Beach. Saw Bill Murray, Tony Romo, Tom Brady, and all kinds of other celebrities…Fun!

  3. Peter G says:

    Bill Murray on a golf course. Caddyshack. Now we’re talking.

    Dante’s Commedia … is that also, like, a manual? Does he give pointers on how to do standup, or is he just discussing his dualiticism?

    I’m very concerned about the problem of evil as well, credit card being at the top of my list. First they loan me all this money, and now they want it BACK. I, too, may need Virgil to emerge from hell to guide me through my crisis. Do you happen to have his e-mail?

    Not sure religious people will agree that all things Biblical represent the “emotional” response. Surely they see themselves as the most rational segment of society.

  4. andreaskluth says:

    I’ve never read the Paradiso, but I’ve been told that it’s not nearly as “fun” as the Inferno. Do you agree?

    What synchronicity (as Jung would say) to stumble upon “another” White Rose at this stage.

  5. lichanos says:

    I read the Divine Comedy about ten years ago, and I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed the Purgatorio and Paradiso. All of the popular commentary and references seem to go to Inferno.

  6. Cheri says:

    I enjoyed the Inferno, for the obvious reasons. The imagery and stories kept me in the descent. You are correct in your last sentence Lichanos.

    The sad creatures mucking around in Hell!

    Paradiso is very bright, very bright! For me the imaginative capacity of Dante kept me reading. An amazing piece of writing for the 14th century.

  7. lichanos says:

    An amazing piece of writing for the 14th century.

    Not sure what you mean by this…

  8. Cheri says:

    Well, maybe that was a stupid statement.

    I am amazed always when I read literature written during extremely difficult times/circumstances.
    The breadth of knowledge (without our modern day libraries and online databases) and creative genius of those people like Dante seem to be all the more impressive given the time in which they wrote and under the circumstances.

    That’s kinda, sorta, maybe, stuff-like of what I meant….


    Thanks for reminding me to think about what I write before I hit the submit button.

  9. lichanos says:

    My mother is prone to making statements like:

    I’m glad I’m on my way out…you people have such horrible things to deal with now…”

    She’s 85 and in fine health. She’s upset by the terror attacks, current politics, etc. etc…

    I tell her, Mom, what are you saying? You lived through the Depression, the rise of Hitler, WWII, the threat of nuclear obliteration…

    My point is, “difficult times” is pretty subjective – times always seem difficult to some. Artists are always just artists doing their thing, starting from where they are. Perhaps “bloggers” of the distant future will bemoan the difficult circumstances of today in which artists must work.

    Yea, the Black Death was bad, but on the other hand, plus ça change…

  10. lichanos says:

    Oops – I meant exile is bad…his living death.

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