Paradiso Canto XII
So Thomas Aquinas praised Francis and his chivalric love of Lady Poverty and chastened his own order for wandering astray, a second garland or ring comes wit h Bonaventure. Interestingly, Dante gives the classical comparison first – “When the clouds are fine/and Juno sends her herald to earth” (Par XII.10-11) precedes “Rainbows that make us mortals early wise / by the pact God made Noah” (Par XII.16-17). I sometimes think our students wonder about Dante’s devotion to the classics. Is he emulating? Rivaling? Showing off? I tend to think a little of all of those.
So Bonaventure joins them, and praises the mendicant founders together. And where Thomas’s talk was full of chivalry, Bonaventure’s is full of military and imperial terms – even to calling God “the high Emperor who rains forever” (Par XII.40). Bonaventure describes Dominic’s (miraculous) birth and then the military zeal with which he fought heresy:
Then armed with zeal and doctrine and the charge
of apostolic duty, he fell quick
as torrents bursting from a mountain vein
And slammed the thickets of the heretic,
pummeling onward with his surging drive
where the resistance was most harsh and thick (Par XII.97-102).
Dominic must indeed have been some kind of force! And then Bonaventure turns to deprecating his Franciscans and how far they have turned from Francis’s path.
Bonaventure’s list of those lights who accompany him includes a few names that interest me. A second Hebrew appears – the prophet Nathan. Aelius Donatus the grammarian – I didn’t know he was a Christian, but he’s certainly late enough (mid 4th C). Rabanus Maurus, Carolingian abbot of Fulda! And finally and weirdest, Joachim of Fiore, the Calabrian abbot and apocalypticist. Odd company.
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