The Cambridge Companion to Dante

Chapter 10, "A poetics of chaos and harmony"by Joan Ferrante

THAT DANTE PRESENTS Hell as a realm of chaos and confusion, and Paradise as one of harmony and union, a reader of the Commedia recognizes in the first reading. The astonishing variety of settings and of infernal guards in Hell, the rapid shifts from one of the many damned souls to another, their hostility to Dante and to their companions, all contrast sharply with Paradise, where the heavens seem to differ only in intensity of light and joy, where the souls come to meet and to share their joy with Dante, and the movement from one soul to another seems slow and dignified. Purgatory is transitional, with fewer changes in setting, guards who instruct rather than control, souls fixed only temporarily where Dante sees them, trying to be helpful to him and to each other. Perhaps because it is transitional, Purgatory is more given to formal and visual patterns which fix it in the mind if not in reality.

These large differences are suggested by the action of the plot, but are reinforced by a whole range of formal elements. I shall consider a number of these here: the length of individual cantos, the relative proportions of narrative and speech, enjambment, and the varieties of rhyme and of rhyme sounds within and beyond terza rima. In each case, the question I put to the poem gave me the expected answer, but sometimes in unexpected ways. I came to see that the apparent increase in the poet's control over formal techniques as he proceeds is an illusion carefully created by Dante, that he exercises as much control and skill to craft the chaos of Hell as the harmony of Paradise.

The three canticles are symmetrical, with thirty-three cantos each, except that Inferno has one more, an introduction to the whole poem, which prevents it from having the numerologically significant thirty-three, and gives Dante the ideal total of one hundred. Within that larger symmetry, however, there is considerable variety in the length of lines per canto, and in the differences in length between cantos (see charts 1 and 2). The differences, as one would expect are the greatest in Inferno contributing to the sense of chaos; the smallest in Paradiso, reinforcing the sense of unity. In Purgatorio, on the other

Note: Enrico De'negri suggested the structure for the terraces of Purgatory, "Tema e iconografia del Purgatorio ," Romanic Review 49 (1958): 81-104. I extended it to the canticle.]

hand, the differences are frequently used to establish patterns (See chart 3. Singleton pointed out one pattern of seven cantos in the middle of the canticle, with Virgil's discussion of love as the motivation of all action, good and bad, at its center (see chart 01] At the end of the canticle, there is a similar rise and drop of fifteen lines on either side of canto 32, the longest in the poem (160 lines), which describes the action of the griffin and the relations between church and empire, a subject of prime importance to the poet. The longest canto in Inferno is 33, the canto of Ugolino, the traitor, the arch symbol of the damned who all in some way betray society and destroy themselves and those around them In Paradiso, the longest cantos (three of 154 lines) include descriptions of a state of innocence in the polis (the old Florence, canto 16), in the church (the beginnings of monasticism, canto 22), and in the individual (Dante's statement of faith -to St. Peter, canto 24).

The same sorts of distinctions are found in the distribution of descriptive narrative, dialogue, and long speeches (See chart 4): in Inferno, there is greater difference in the number that fall into one category or another, more cantos that are both narrative and dialogue, and generally shorter speeches within the dialogue; in Purgatorio there is more balance between the number of cantos dominated by long speeches, dialogue, or narrative, but still a considerable number (ten) that are divided; while in Paradiso, only two cantos are divided, and the number dominated by long speeches is more than double that of Inferno 4. Except for Virgil, who speaks at length in two cantos (canto 11 on the categories of sin, and canto 20 correcting himself on the origin of Mantova), the long speeches of Inferno are delivered by major sinners: Ulysses (fifty-three lines), Guido da Montefeltro (sixty-nine lines), and Ugolino (seventy-two lines); others who leave a strong impression on the reader, like Francesca, Brunetto Latini, and Pier della Vigna, do not in fact speak at length. The long speeches in Purgatorio are given by statesmen and women, and epic poets: Virgil (in canto 17, again on the division of sins), Guido del Duca, Marco Lombardo, Hugh Capet, Statius, and Matelda. The only non-epic poet to speak at length is Sordello, who was concerned with the responsibilities of European rulers; other vernacular poets, Bonagiunta da Lucca, Guido Guinizzelli, and Arnaut Daniel, are not permitted to say much. Beatrice, who dominates the last canto of Purgatorio, makes relatively short speeches (the longest is forty-eight lines) compared to Paradiso. There, her speeches (from 80 to 136 lines) dominate five cantos, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 29, but the only figure whose words occupy an entire canto (in all of the Commedia) is

[Note: I have not included in the cantos dominated by long speeches in Paradiso several which would have qualified in Inferno or Purgatorio because speeches of 39 to 62 lines are not long by the standards of Paradiso]

the emperor Justinian (canto 6). The other major speakers are Thomas Aquinas (cantos 11 and 13), Bonaventure (canto 12), Cacciaguida (canto 16), and Bernard (canto 32), three saints (authors), and Dante's crusader ancestor, whose presence dominates three cantos.

Dante allows his characters' words to take over the poem more and more as he progresses through it, both by longer speeches and by giving them, rather than the narrator, the first or last word of a canto. Sixteen of the cantos in Paradiso end with a spoken word, with Beatrice having the last word in six, Cacciaguida in three, Thomas in two, Bonaventure, Adam, Justinian, the eagle, and Charles Martel in one each. Five cantos begin with a character speaking: Beatrice twice, Justinian, Bernard, and "tutto paradiso" once each. Bernard's opening words in canto 33 complete the sentence Dante had begun at the end of the previous canto. Four of the cantos in Purgatorio begin with a spoken voice, souls praying, Guido del Duca, the nymphs in the Earthly Paradise, and Beatrice continuing from the previous canto (as Dante notes {31, 1, 4,] saying she began again without a pause, though his words create a pause). Fifteen cantos end with a character speaking, seven a minor character: two women (Pia and Sapia), an excommunicated prince (Manfred), a pope (Hadrian), an illuminator (Oderisi), and the two poets who make long speeches (Sordello and Statius) are permitted to have the last word. In Inferno, only three cantos begin with someone speaking: Pluto, and Virgil describing the monsters, Geryon and Lucifer. Eleven cantos end with a spoken word: five times souls command our attention - the anonymous suicide and Ulysses both describing their chilling ends, Vanni Fucci attacking Dante, Bertran de Born defining his punishment, Capocchio boasting of his gifts - and the deceptive offer of the pilgrim Dante to avenge Ugolino ends one canto, while Virgil's words of assurance, direction, or correction end five.

Transitions from one canto to another are, as one would expect, sharper in Inferno, where there are clear endings or new beginnings fourteen times, while six cantos look ahead to the next at their end, and fourteen carry over the action or comment on it. In Purgatorio, Dante begins to extend the divisions well beyond cantos to whole sections of the mountain: only six cantos here have distinct endings or changes of section. The extensions are even greater in Paradiso, where one heaven can take up four cantos, and all but four of the cantos are continuous in setting or scene.[02] In addition, two characters come back to speak to Dante after others have spoken, Thomas Aquinas after a break of one canto, and Peter after a break of two, which seems to extend those sections. Forese had also resumed a conversation with Dante after Bonagiunta's, but within the next canto (Purgatorio 24), and of course Farinata continued to speak to Dante after Cavalcanti's brief interruption in the same canto (Inferno 10).

The extension beyond cantos that begins in Purgatorio and intensifies in Paradiso is echoed on a smaller scale by enjambment. A device that in Inferno Dante uses mainly for surprise or shock, to unsettle the reader, is used in the other canticles primarily to extend the thought further and further beyond the line. Enjambment occurs much less frequently in Inferno where each line tends to be a unit even when it is intimately connected to another. The primary effect of enjambment in Inferno is to force the reader to rethink a previous notion, or to take in an uncomfortable new thought, for example, "Mal dar e mal tener lo mondo pulcro / ha tolto lor" (7, 58-59), where "lo mondo pulcro" seems to be the object or "dar" and "tener," seducing us into making the same error the misers and prodigals made, until we come to the next line and discover it is the object of "ha tolto," what they have lost not what they gave and held. Enjambments in Inferno are often emphasized by alliteration: "infin che 'l Veltro / verra" (1, 101-02); "coloro / che corrono" (15, 121-22); "grazie / grandi" (18, 134-35); "l'imagine perversa / parea" (25, 77-78); "qual mozzo / mostrasse" (28, 19-20).

The enjambments in Inferno are usually between noun and modifier, subject and verb, transitive verb and object, participle and auxiliary; occasionally a line ends with "quando" or "forse," but only once, I believe, with a pronoun subject ("ch'ello / non s'apparecchi," 22, 92-93). In Purgatorio, Dante ends more lines with pronouns, as well as articles and an occasional preposition, creating a greater sense of suspension and drawing the thought out: "ch'io / non potea" (Purgatorio 28, 23-24), "ne la / via" (17, 55-56). Although enjambment is occasionally used to startle in Purgatorio ("O e preparazion che ne l'abisso / del tuo consiglio," 6, 121-22), where we expect the abyss to be Hell, rather than divine counsel), it is most often used as it will be in Paradiso, to extend the thought, to lengthen the poetic unit beyond the line, ultimately to the terzina (and further in Paradiso):

E io a lui: "I'mi son un che, quando

(Purgatorio 24 52-54)

The presence of other poets, particularly Sordello and Statius, seems to move Dante to a greater use of enjambment (cantos 6 and 7, 21 and 22), as does the departure of Virgil: "Virgilio n'avea lasciati scemi / di se" (30, 49-50). As he did in Inferno but proportionally less frequently, Dante sometimes uses alliteration to emphasize the surprise: io stavo / stupido" (Purgatorio 4, 5859); "passo / possibile" (11, 50-51); "vita nova / virtualmente" (30, 11516); "poco / piu" (33, 5--6); "mosse / me ' (33, 14-15).

While the instances of strict enjambment in Purgatorio number in the tens and twenties per canto, and are usually fewer than fifteen per canto in Inferno, they rise to the thirties, forties, and fifties in Paradiso. The line is no longer a sufficient unit for Dante's thought here, and even the terzina must occasionally be extended. Names are divided ("Alberto / e di Cologna," Paradiso 10, 98--99; "Bonaventura / da Bagnoregio,"' 12, 127--28), as are Latin phrases ("superinfusa / gratia Dei, ' 15, 28-29, even one of great sanctity, "Ave. / Maria," 3, 121-22), numbers (cinquecento cinquanta / e trenta fiate," 16, 37-38), and most startling, a word ("differente- / mente," 24, 16-17), as though the end of the line had no significance (despite the rhyme, but even the rhyme is subject to extension in Paradiso, see below). This is not to say that enjambment is not still used to startle ("la entro si tranquilla / Raab," 9, 115-16), but its primary purpose in Paradiso is to destroy the boundary of the poetic line, sometimes with perfect symmetry, noun/verb . . . verb/ noun:

Ne per ambage, in che la gente folle

(Paradiso 17, 31-33)

The extension of the poetic unit begins at the beginning of the canticle ("Nel ciel che piu de la sua luce prende / fu' io, e vidi cose che ridire / ne sa ne puo chi di la su discende," 1, 4-6) and continues throughout, extending often beyond the terzina, as in 14, 118-23, where a "come/cosi construction makes a unit of two terzine, and enjambment connects the lines within them.

The unusual Latin enjambments in Paradiso - there is one in Purgatorio, "Beati / pacifici" (17, 68-69), less startling because of the way it continues "che son sanz'ira mala" - are typical of the way Dante uses Latin in the canticle. Not only are there more Latin words in the text in Paradiso, but they are more at home in it, part of the Italian sentence and rhyme scheme, rather than a distinct quote as they usually are in Purgatorio. In Paradiso, Dante seems to be moving towards a kind of universal language, incorporating Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and French elements, as well as Italian words he creates. In Inferno, on the other hand, language usually gets in the way of communication. There is little Latin in Inferno,[03] but there are dialect words, which emphasize the isolation and limited vision of the damned ("sipa," 18, 61; "co," 20, 76; "otta," 21, 112; mo, 23, 7 and 27, 20; "issa," 23, 7; and "Istra ten va; piu non t'adizzo," 27, 21), and gibberish, which points up their inability to interact rationally (Pluto's Pape Satan, pape Satan aleppe," 7, 1; Nembrot's "Raphel mai amecche zabi almi," 31, 67). Even the souls who speak elegantly, like Francesca, Farinata, and Ulysses, attempt to deceive with their words, the worst abuse of speech.

Purgatorio, in contrast, makes a successful effort to reclaim speech, to use it for prayer and guidance, compassion and love, to overcome, by ignoring, the obstacles to understanding in different languages. Here Latin, French, Provencal, and Italian are still distinct languages, but they are all "ours": the Italian-born, French-dwelling, Provencal poet, Sordello, says of Virgil: "he showed what our tongue could do" ("mostro cio che potea la lingua nostra," Purgatorio 7, 17). Hugh Capet and Dante use "Frenchisms," "giuggia" (20, 48) and "alluminar" (11, 81), and Arnaut Daniel speaks in his native Provencal for eight lines within the Italian rhyme scheme (26, 140-47). Latin is scattered throughout the canticle, mainly citations from the Bible, beginning with "In exitu Israel de Aegypto" (2, 46), and one from the Aeneid, "Manibus oh date lilia plenis!" (30, 21). Pope Hadrian identifies himself using Latin, presumably as suitable to the dignity of his position ("scias quod ego fui successor Petri," 19, 99), and Dante echoes the elevated spirit of the procession with the gratuitous "ad vocem tanti senis" (30, 17). The loss of Virgil also inspires Latin from Dante, "Virgilio dolcissimo patre" (30, 50, rhyming with "matre"; my emphasis).

Like "patre," the Latin words in Paradiso seem to be an integral part of Dante's thought. He speaks of "latino" in this canticle as the equivalent of clarity, of the highest level of discourse (Paradiso 3, 63; 10, 120; 12, 144; and 17, 35), and he uses Latin precisely, as in 1, 70: "trasumanar significar per verba / non si poria," where he means, I think, it cannot be done in Latin words; cf. "necesse" and "esse" in 3, 77 and 79, which carry a weight of scholastic thought (cf. 13, 98-100), and the 'velle" of 33, 143, with the full theological meaning of the "will." Dante also incorporates a few words from God's language, Hebrew, into a Latin hymn ("sabaoth" and "malacoth," 7, 1-3), which, because the first alliterates ("Osanna, sanctus Deus sabaoth") and the second rhymes, do not seem alien. Dante adopts Greek words, "archimandrita" (11, 99), and "latria" (21, 111), and makes one up, "teodia" (25, 73), from theos, apparently by analogy with salmodia, but all of them sit well within the Italian text.

The Commedia has many neologisms, the exact number depending on who is counting, but everyone finds twice as many in Paradiso as in the other canticles. Most of them are verbs, made from other verbs, or nouns, or numbers, or adjectives, or pronouns, all an attempt to describe an action which cannot be adequately described with the available vocabulary. This is particularly evident in Paradiso, where words like "imparadisa," "inciela," "ingigliarsi," "sempiterni," and particularly "inmii," "intuassi," "inlei," and "inluia," approximate the deep union of souls with heaven or with each other. The most interesting made-up words in Purgatorio describe the mountain or the setting: it "dislakes" itself ("si dislaga, 3, 15), that is, rises from the sea towards heaven but with the added sense of leaving the sea behind; it "disevils" ("dismala," 13, 3) those who climb it; the third step at the gate "amasses" itself ("s'ammassiccia," 9, 100) over the others, as satisfaction must loom larger than contrition and confession. The best known neologism in Inferno is "contrapasso," the Aristotelian name Bertran de Born gives to the relation of his punishment to his sin (28, 142), but a number of others are worth noting. Virgil refuses to beautify words to describe the misers and prodigals ("parole non ci appulcro," 7, 60); the tears of the old man of Crete "derock" themselves down through Hell ("lor corso in questa valle si diroccia," 14, 115); one simoniac pope speaks of another who preceded him "simonizing" ("simoneggiando," 19, 74); Virgil tells Dante to "unbed" himself ("omai convien che tu cosi ti spoltre," 24, 46 and the ice of Cocytus is so thick that it would not "creak" if a mountain fell on it ("non avria . . . fatto cricchi," 32, 30; my emphasis), an onomatopoeic coinage.

Many of these neologisms are also rhyme words, bringing them all the more to the reader's attention. Dante's rhymes are the last, and perhaps the most important, of the formal elements to be discussed. I will not talk about terza rima per se, since the scheme of three interlocking rhymes and their relation to the Trinity is by now a truism. I will, instead, look at the variations of terza rima, the use of equivocal and "core' rhymes within a rhyme group, the extension of a group by fourth and fifth rhymes, or by alliteration, assonance, and consonance, which connect it to other rhymes outside it. Dante uses equivocal rhymes, the same word with different meanings, in all three canticles, with decreasing frequency (about thirty-five in Inferno, twenty-six in Purgatorio (not counting the two repeated rhymes, "per ammenda" and "me"), and twenty-two in Paradiso (not counting "vidi" or "Cristo"). In Paradiso, Dante seems to move instead towards the unity of repeated rhymes, "vidi" as the sole rhyme word in one group, "Cristo" in four (always meaning the same thing except when Christ is repeated within the line by false followers who negate his meaning, Paradiso 19, 106); there are no repeated rhymes in Inferno. Seven equivocal rhymes are repeated in Inferno ("volto," "ombra," "volse," "legge," "anche," "piglio," "porta"), four in Purgatorio ("sue," "parte," "sole," "volto"), one in Paradiso ("parte"); three occur in all three canticles ("volto," "porta," parte"), six in two of the three ("volte," "legge," "noi" in Inferno and Purgatorio; "porti" in Inferno and Paradiso; "punto" and "lievi/levi" [spelled differently but the same word} in Purgatorio and Paradiso). This means that of the eighty-three equivocal rhymes I have identified, forty-two are never repeated: fifteen occur only in Paradiso, twelve in Purgatorio, and fifteen in Inferno.

As one might expect, Dante uses the equivocal rhymes differently in different canticles. In Inferno, the same sound with different meaning contributes to a sense of confusion, while in Paradiso, and frequently in Purgatorio, the apparently different meanings turn out, on closer study, to be related if not identical. "Parte" means "political party" and "physical direction' in Inferno 10, 47 and 49, Farinata's party, opposed by Dante's, which was able to return from all directions as Farinata's was not; in Purgatorio 10, 8, 12, it is both noun and verb, but both refer to the apparent motion of the rock (moving on both "sides," one side "departing"); in Paradiso, too, both verb and noun refer to the same thing, the place in heaven in which the two motions of the sun meet, revealing the art of God whose eye never departs from it (10, 8, 12). "Legge" means "law" and "reads" in Inferno 5, 56, 58, the law by which Semiramis "made her libido licit," the ruler abusing the laws she should protect, about whom one reads, and in 19, 83, 85, a pope without law will be a new Jason of whom one reads-in Maccabees, the repetition of the rhyme with the same meanings making an unflattering comparison of the pope with the scandalous queen; in Purgatorio 26, 83, 85, it is the lustful souls, who did not observe human law, in whom one "reads" (literally in the words they speak) the name of Pasiphae, the arch example of their sin. "Porti" means "harbors" and "carries": in Inferno 3, 91, 93, Dante must go to different harbors carried by a different boat, Charon tells him; in Paradiso 1, 112, 114, all natures move to different harbors, determined by the instinct which carries them, both motivation and destination inspired by God.

Equivocal rhymes are a demonstration of skill, but they can also reveal the dangers in human cleverness. The greatest concentration of equivocal rhymes in Inferno is in canto 24, where Dante begins the metamorphosis that will lead him to challenge Ovid and Lucan; there are five equivocal rhymes, two in the opening simile about confused perception. Three equivocal rhymes are found in the cantos of the blasphemers (canto 14) and the heretics (canto 10), where thought is particularly confused; in the latter, all three occur without an intervening rhyme and in the same grammatical form, both nouns or verbs, rather than verb and noun as is usually the case. In contrast, in Purgatorio, human cleverness is positive: "arte" is Virgil's "art" which got them through the "narrow" ways (27, 130, 132); "versi," like "arte," is an equivocal rhyme only in Purgatorio (29, 40, 42) the muses must "pour out" what Dante needs for his "verses."

Equivocal rhymes combine harmony of sound with confusion in meaning, punning. I shall return shortly to harmony of sound, which is characteristic of all the remaining types of rhyme to be discussed, after a few words about other puns in the poem. They occur in all three canticles, with the expected differences. In Inferno, they point up a distortion of thought: "cherci," "chercuti," "querci" (7, 38-40), the tonsured clerics whose vision is distorted by their greed; "baratti," "baratro" (11, 60, 69), and "baratta" (21, 63), barrators, the chasm in which they throw themselves (and the state), and the strife they cause; "parlasia" (20, 16), the paralysis which is caused by the false seers' abuse of their gifts (including speech). In Purgatorio, the puns are more complex: even Sapia's play on her name, "savia non fui avvegna che Sapia / fossi chiamata" (13, 109-10) has a double edge, since the rhyme changes the accent on the name so that it suggests "pious, " which she was no more than she was "wise"; when Oderisi talks about the vanity of pride in human powers, he says how briefly it lasts on the peak ("in su la cima dura," 11, 92), and two lines later mentions Cimabue who thought he excelled, but has been eclipsed or driven from the peak by Giotto; and the next canto begins with Dante walking with another of the proud souls, like oxen in a yoke, "come buoi che vanno a giogo, " the words recalling the names of the two painters just discussed. The most striking pun in Purgatorio is the visual "OMO" that can be read in the face of a man (23, 32), the same word, in the form "uom," that emerges from the acrostic on pride (12, 25-63), another kind of visual pun. In Paradiso, the puns suggest deeper meanings and connections or reinforce the lesson: in canto 3, the equivocal rhyme "voto," the "vow" which is "empty" (3, 28, 30) is repeated within a line ("fuor negletti / li nostri voti, e voti in alcun canto," 3, 57); the "M" from which the eagle rises in Jove comes from earth ("terram") and turns into a symbol of monarchy, the manifestation of divine justice on earth, a kind of visual pun; "s'indonna," which rhymes with "donna, ' (7, 13, 11), and "donnea" ("La Grazia, che donnea / con la tua mente," 24, 118-19), and its obverse, "La mente innamorata, che donnea / con la mia donna," 27, 88-89), all pun on the word "lady" who is the source of the power over Dante in "indonna," the inspiration of the "courting" in the second "donnea," and implicitly the source of Dante's divine grace as well. Finally, the angels are the subject of a series of puns in canto 28: they are grouped in trios, because of the Trinity, and as he describes them Dante incorporates the word for three in several rhyme words: "terminonno" (28, 105), "sempiterna" 28, 116), "interna" (28, 120), and "tripudi" (28, 124).

Many of the puns occur in rhyming words, which calls added attention to them, just as equivocal rhymes can be accentuated because they are also core rhymes (in Inferno, never in Paradiso): "ombra," "arte," "anche," "tempo," "entro. " "Core rhyme" is the name I give to rhyme groups in which one of the rhyme words is contained within the other two as if it were their core. This device connects the three rhymes even more closely and focuses attention on the "core" word. Dante uses core rhymes throughout the Commedia: 189 in Inferno, 187 in Purgatorio, 183 in Paradiso, according to my count, while partial cores (in which the word is contained in only one of the other two rhymes) occur 91 times in Inferno, 139 in Purgatorio, and 127 in Paradiso, increasing the sense of harmonious sound that becomes more and more characteristic of the last two canticles.

Within the core rhymes Dante has a number of variations, not only equivocal rhymes, but also rhymes which pare down to, or build up from, the core: "ribelli," "belli," "elli" (Inferno 3, 38-42), the rebel angels, containing their former beauty, and within that the assertion of self that pitted them against God; "arte," "parte," "diparte" (Purgatorio 9, 71-75), Dante enhancing his "art" as they reach a "place" where an opening "parts" the wall, that is, when they reach the gate of Purgatory where Dante formally reverses the process that brought him to the center of evil and of sin within himself and begins to climb towards salvation, he uses a core rhyme that builds up. Paring down is not necessarily a function of Hell or Ante-Purgatory, indeed the movement from "melode," the music Dante hears from the martyrs which contains "lode," the praise which he can hear, "ode," but not yet fully understand (Paradiso 14, 122-26), is a paring down that is required by the limitations of the living human, a necessary lesson in Paradise.[04] Fewer core rhymes build up, and those that do occur only after Dante reaches the gate of Purgatory. The core word may also be set between the two that build up from it: "arte" between "parte" and "diparte" (Inferno 4, 71-75), where the art Virgil adorns both separates and unites the distance between Dante and the classical poets, and the distinction that sets them apart from the other noble pagans; in Paradiso 6, 101-05, the political art of the Ghibellines lies between their party and the separation of the eagle from justice; in 29, 50-54, the angelic art Dante is witnessing lies between the part of the angels who rebelled, and the eternal circling of those who did not, who never depart from circling.

Thus far, I have been concerned with variations within the three rhymes. I will conclude with a look at Dante's extensions of terza rima beyond those three words, either by adding a fourth or fifth rhyme to the three, or by connecting them to other groups by alliteration or assonance. The four- and five-rhyme groups occur most often in Paradiso (thirty perfect four-rhymes, six imperfect, and two five-rhymes), least in Purgatorio (seventeen perfect four-rhymes, no imperfects, no fives); Inferno has twenty perfect fours, three imperfects, and one five-rhyme. What distinguishes these rhymes in Inferno from those in Paradiso, besides the smaller number, is that though they use four or five words, they never have fewer than three rhymed words; in Paradiso, however, the four-rhymes may involve only two different words (this also occurs twice in Purgatorio), or even one word, and the five-rhyme may involve only three. Thus while the added rhymed word or words reinforce(s) the rhymed sound in Inferno, they create greater unity only in Purgatorio and Paradiso. Since this technique is self-explanatory, I shall simply give some examples, first of perfect four-rhymes in Inferno: "a poco a poco / loco / fioco" (1, 59-63); "ratto / tratto / disfatto fatto" (6, 38-42); "quatto quatto / ratto / patto" (21, 89-93); and one which involves four distinct words, "tutti muti / venuti / aiuti" (33, 65-69), which is followed directly by "ad uno ad uno / ciascuno / digiuno" (33, 71-75); the one five-rhyme is "aguta / a muta a muta / aiuta aiuta" (14, 53-57); and an imperfect four-rhyme is "molto / volto / volte volto" (1, 32-36).

The repeated word comes in the middle four times in the seventeen four-rhymes in Purgatorio, only three of twenty in Inferno but ten of thirty, a third of those, in Paradiso. As in Purgatorio (1, 98-102), the first four-rhyme has the repeated word in the middle: "dintorno / giorno a giorno / addorno" (Paradiso 1, 59-63), Dante's first perception of heavenly light, which is perhaps echoed in the four-rhyme at his first sight of the rose (30, 110-14), "addorno / intorno intorno / ritorno". One four-rhyme in Paradiso involves four words, though the first two are intimately connected, "io e mio / pio / disio" (19, 11-15), three are based on two words or the equivalent, "luce / da luce a luce / produce" (2, 143-47), "voglia / di soglia in soglia / invoglia" (3, 80-84), "aduna / lacuna / ad una ad una" (33, 20-24), which is also a core rhyme (cf. 9, 53-57; 33, 116-20). One four-rhyme is all one word, "Cristo" (19, 104-08). The five-rhymes are "cotanto / canto / santo santo santo" (26, 65-69), the one instance of a triple repetition in the Commedia, and "doglia / soglia in soglia / foglia in foglia" (32, 11-15). Imperfect four-rhymes include "mille miglia / assotiglia / maraviglia (19, 80-84), and "Indi / bindi / quinci e quindi" (29, 101-05).

The movement towards greater harmony of sound to which the four-rhymes, particularly those formed from two words or from core rhymes, contribute is furthered in Paradiso by a variety of poetic techniques: inner rhyme, alliteration, and the connection of rhyme words by alliteration, assonance, and consonance. All these techniques are practiced in the other canticles as well, but they come together, beginning in the middle of Purgatorio, with increasing intensity, building to a climax of sound in the latter part of Paradiso, whereas in Inferno the connection of rhyme sounds beyond terza rima is sporadic, patches of sound in twos and threes, emphasizing a particular moment of horror or pain.

The dominant sound effects in Inferno are harsh and disturbing. What remains in the ear are the onomatopoeic "s" sounds, the hissing of flames or blood (cantos 13, 26), the harsh rhymes in the circle of misers and prodigals ("eppe," "occia, " "abbia, " "upo, "ucca, " "iddi, " "oppa, " "ozzi, " "uffa, "ocche,' "ozza," "ezzo," 7, 1-130), or of the flatterers (18, 101ff.), or scattered through the cantos of the barrators (cantos 21, 22, and 23, 1-18), or the thieves (24 and 25), and the "rime aspre e chiocce" Dante pretends not to have when he describes the circle of the traitors ("uco," "occe," "abbo," "ebe," "icchi, " "accia, " "ecchi, " "azzi, " "ezzo, " "occa, " "eschi, " "uca, " "ecca, " canto 32). The reader is struck by the contrasts of soft, romantic sound with the harshness of reality in the canto of Francesca, the sad lament of "n" sounds and diphthongs in: "e come i gru van cantando lor lai / faccendo in aere di se lunga riga / . . . traendo guai" (5, 46-48); Francesca's sweetsounding tale, climaxing in the desired kiss, "quando leggemmo il disiato riso" (5, 133) which is quickly subverted by the reality of that kiss, the hard "b" sounds of "la bocca mi bascio" (5, 136), just as Dante's sympathetic faint, the softly fading, "io venni men cosi com'io morisse" (5, 141) is contrasted with the hard sound of the body falling 'e caddi come corpo morto cade" (5, 142).

The hissing "s" sounds of canto 13, which take over strings of rhyme, do not let us forget that the sound is coming from the wound in the tree: "schiante," "sangue bruno," "scerpi," rhyming with "sterpi," and "serpi," followed by "arso sia," which climaxes two lines of "s"s: " 'se state fossimo anime di serpi. ' / Com d'un stizzo verde ch'arso sia"; the "s" sounds continue in the rhymes from 59-64 ("volsi," "si soavi," "tolsi," "offizio," "polsi," "ospizio"). The rhyme may emphasize the shocking aspect of what is described, as in the metamorphosis of the thief, Agnel, where the horror of the fusion of two beings into one is intensified by the core rhyme "uno," connected by assonance to "due" and the rhyme sound "uti":

Ome, Agnel, come ti muti!
Vedi che gia non se ne due ne uno.
Gia eran li due capi un divenuti,
quando n apparver due figure miste
in una faccia, ov' eran due perduti.

(Inferno, 25, 68-72)

The plight of Ugolino's children, offering themselves to satisfy their father's hunger is emphasized by the rhymes in "ti" ("isti," "uti, ' the closely related "edi," "orti," "enti," broken only by the significant core rhyme "uno"), which underline the distance between the father whose sin has involved supposedly innocent sons, and the sons who offer themselves to save him.

In Purgatorio, the sound effects are gentler, more comforting. We begin to get longer strings of connected rhymes and sounds, as in the meeting between Dante and Casella: "trarresi avante / per abbracciarmi . . . affetto / che mosse me . . . somigliante / . . . aspetto / . . . avvinsi / . . . con esse al petto. / Di maraviglia . . . mi dipinsi; / . . . sorrise e si ritrasse, / . . . oltre mi pinsi. / soavemente disse ch'io posasse; / . . . e pregai / che, per parlarmi, un poco s'arrestasse" (2, 76-87), where "a," "s, "p, ' or "r" bind the rhyme words and reinforce them through the passage. This, in increasing intensity, is characteristic of later Purgatorio and of Paradiso. As they approach the gate of Purgatory, Dante connects the rhyme sounds by assonance and consonance, occasionally reinforcing them with alliteration: "orto," "ore," "unto," "orno" (9, 41-54), sometimes alliterating with "d or soft "g," "giunto," "dintorno," "digiunto," "giorno,' "dormia," "addorno" (9, 49-54). In 10, 52-67, in the examples of humility, the rhyme words with one exception are connected by "s": "imposta," "presso," "disposta," "stesso," "santa," "commeso" ("quanta"), "sensi, " 'si canta, " " incensi, " "naso, " "fensi, " "vaso, " salmista," " "caso," "vista. " The beginnings of lines as well as the ends may be connected by alliteration, as in Purgatorio 19, 79-84, with "v"s and "p"s: "Se voi venite . . . / e volete trovar . . . / le vostre destre . . . / Cosi prego 'l poeta . . . /poco . . . / nel parlare. " Rhymes may be repeated within the line, as in 23, 13:

"0 dolce padre, che e quel ch'i'odo?" where the first sounds are also the rhyme word. Rhyme sounds that suggest first- and second-person pronouns, with echoes within the lines, lend excitement to the passage in which Virgil asks Statius about his conversion to Christianity: armi, asta, asti, otte (22, 53-69); "teco li tasta / non par che ti facesse . . . ti stenebraron si che tu drizzasti / . . . Ed elli a lui: tu prima m'inviasti / . . . e prima appresso Dio m'alluminasti," climaxing in "per te poeta fui, per te cristiano" (22, 58-73). Sounds of the first person pronoun, "ma," "mi," along with intense alliteration (and enjambment), heighten the excitement of Dante's encounter with Guido Guinizelli in 26, 95-99, along with the alliteration of "d" sounds (110-13), and of "p"s and "c"s, combined with a series of o rhymes (123-35).

In Paradiso, Dante does not introduce new sound effects, but he intensifies their use so that they come to dominate the canticle: repetition of words and sounds, long series of alliterated rhyme words or rhyme phrases, inner rhyme, rhymes linked by alliteration, assonance, or consonance (as many as twothirds of the rhymes in a canto),[05] alliteration of the beginning and end of a line, or the end of one line and the beginning of the next, diphthong rhymes. It is the piling up of these effects, often in combination with core and equivocal or four-rhymes, that makes the sound of Paradiso unique. A kind of frenzied joy is evoked in Paradiso, particularly by the use of "i"s, as in canto 5, 119-23 when Justinian first offers to satisfy Dante s curiosity: "disii / . . . chiarirti . . . ti sazia / . . . di quelli spirti pii / . . . / . . . Di, di / . . . credi come a dii." The "i" sounds in this passage are reinforced by the rhyme sounds from lines 103 to 1 27: "ori, " "ia," "izia, " "esti, " "oni, " "azia, " 'ii, " "idi, " "aggi "; every rhyme contains "i. " In canto 20, when Dante describes the songs of the living lights in the eagle, he uses "i" once again, but in combination with "u," and "1," and various secondary alliterations:

Pero che tutte quelle vive luci, v
vie piu lucendo, cominciaron canti v cc
da mia memoria labili e caduci. mm c
O dolce amor, che di riso t 'ammanti, am am
quanto parevi ardente in que flailli
ch'avieno spirto sol di pensier santi!
ss ps
Poscia che i cari e lucidi lapilli p
ond io vidi ingemmato il sesto lume s
puoser silenzio a li angelici squilli. p s s

(Paradiso 20, 10-18)

Although he claims that his memory cannot hold the songs, he captures something of their effect in his sounds.

While the poetic effects evoke the harmony of Paradise, they also reinforce Dante's lessons. In the heaven of the moon, Beatrice introduces the sense of difference within sameness that runs through the canticle when she explains about difference in creation using repetition ("diversa," "avviva," "viva," and "vita," "lieta" and "letizia," "formal" and "conforme"), alliteration (of"v," "l, " and "d"), equivocal rhymes ("lega" and "luce"), and a four-rhyme ("luce / da luce a luce / produce"). When the souls of Venus first offer themselves to Dante's pleasure, a series of pronoun-related rhymes, including "noi" and "essa," and rhymes ending in "ti" or "te" (Paradiso 8, 31-39), subtly suggest the fusion of beings through love that will be intensified by the neologisms of the next canto, "s'io m'intuassi, come tu t'inmii" (9, 81). In the heaven of the sun, where Dante first sees the figure of the Trinity in circles of souls and describes the Trinity in the circular "Quell'uno e due e tre che sempre vive / e regna sempre in tre e 'n due e'n uno," he also makes close connections in sound between beginnings and ends of lines: del padre corse ... morte / la porta . . . diserra / e dinanzi . . . corte / et coram patre, " which brings us back to the beginning of the pattern (11, 59-62). When in the Empyrean Dante describes Beatrice's smile for the last time, he claims to be conquered more than any comic or tragic poet by a point in his theme, a "punto," the word associated in this realm with God; he alliterates the key rhymes, "tema," "tragedo," "trema," and though he says that the memory of her smile takes him out of himself, he does so in words which keep the self at the center of the experience, "lo rimembrar del dolce riso / la mente mia da me medesmo mi scema" (30, 26-27). The first sight of Beatrice and the last is contained in the alliterating "v" words, "vidi," "viso," "vita, 'vista' (30, 28-29), which associate her with Dante's first sight of the rose later in the canto ("vidi," "visibil," "vedere," 30, 94ff.).

Shortly before the end, Dante addresses God in a terzina which builds on a two-word phrase Bernard had addressed to the Virgin: "In te misericordia, in te pietate, / in te magnificenza, in te s'aduna ' (33, 19-20), and applies it to God, so that it reveals the essential oneness and circularity of God, always coming back on itself (while subtly emphasizing the intimate connection between God and the Virgin):

O luce etterna che sole in te sidi

Paradiso 33, 124-26)

This is, for me, the supreme example of the way Dante uses sound to impress a meaning on our subliminal minds, saying more with the sound than he says with the substance of the words.

All the material I have considered here suggests that Dante was a consummate poet at every stage of the poem, that all the techniques were available to him from the beginning and used as the setting demanded. There is no question that in the Paradiso Dante achieves the highest peak of technical success, using rhyme and all the other ways of connecting words by sound to enhance, and sometimes to carry, his meaning, to induce in us a sense of heavenly harmony that cannot be described. But this does not mean that he has greater control over his material, or that his skills as a poet have developed in the course of the poem. While this may be so, it is not necessarily the case, since all the techniques Dante uses to such effect in Paradiso are present in Purgatorio and even in Inferno, but they are used, in Inferno particularly, in very different ways and to very different ends. The same technique, equivocal rhyme and enjambment, can contribute to the confusion of Hell and the harmony of Heaven; that the cantos are of wildly varying lengths in Inferno means only that Hell is a realm of chaos, where order would be out of place, not that Dante was less in control of canto lengths when he wrote Inferno. With all the chaos and all the apparent variety, Hell is finally much more a realm of sameness, of aggressive selfishness with different trappings, while Paradise, with all the harmony, is, poetically, the realm of greatest variety. It is the diverse voices in Paradiso that create its sweet harmony.

Reading list

Baldelli, Ignazio, "Rima," in U. Bosco, ed., Enciclopedia dantesca (Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana, 1970-78), IV, pp. 930 49.

Barolini, Teodolinda, The Undivine Comedy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992).

Bianchi, Dante, "Rima e Verso nella Divina Commedia," Rendiconti dell'lstituto Lombardo, Accademia di Scienze e Lettere 95 ( 1961 ): 126-40 .

Ferrante, Joan M., "Words and Images in Dante's Paradiso: Reflections of the Divine," in Aldo S. Bernardo, and Anthony L. Pellegrini, eds., Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio (Binghamton: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1983), pp. 115-32.

Malagoli, Luigi, Linguaggio e poesia nella Divina Commedia (Genoa: Briano, 1949).

Migliorini, Bruni, "Gallicismi," in Enciclopedia dantesca, 111, pp. 90-91.

"Latinismi," in ibid., 111, pp. 588-91.

Parodi, Ernesto, "La rima e i vocaboli in rima nella Divina Commedia," in Lingua e letteratura (Venice: Pozza, 1957), II, pp. 203-84.

"La rima nella Divina Commedia," in Poesia e Storia nella Divina Commedia (Vincenza: Pozza, 1965), pp. 53-67.

Pretoro, P. A. Di, "Innovazioni Lessicali nella Commedia," Rendisonti delle Sedute dell'Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei 35 (1970): 263-97.

Salvio, Alfonso de, The Rhyme Words in the Divina Commedia (Paris: Champion, 1929).

Schildgen, Brenda, "Dante's Neologisms in the Paradiso and the Latin Rhetorical Tradition, " Dante Studies 107 (1989): 101- 19

Wlassics, Tibor, Interpretazioni di Prosodia Dantesaa (Rome: Signorelli, 1972).

"Note sull'anadiplosi nella Commedia," in Dante Narratore (Florence: Olschki, 1975).