Dante’s love for the stars was largely scientific; he knew thoroughly the Ptolemaic system of astronomy, which forms the framework of the whole structure of the Paradiso. We find constant and accurate allusions to the constellations, their various shapes and positions in the heavens; while the hour of the day and the season of the year are often referred to in terms of astronomical science, frequently interwoven with mythology. But besides this scientific interest, he was deeply touched by the beauty, the mystery and the tranquilizing power of the celestial orbs. There is hardly a phase of them that he has not touched upon; many of his descriptions and allusions have a truth and vividness unsurpassed even in this present day of nature worship. Here, as elsewhere in the Divina Commedia, science and learning and poetry go hand in hand. We have no mere dry catalogue of facts, but the wonderful mechanism of the starry heavens is brought before our eyes, rolling its spheres in celestial harmony, radiant with light and splendour, while the innumerable company of angels and the ‘spirits of just men made perfect’ raise the chorus of praise to the Alto Fattore.

L. Oscar Kuhns, The Treatment of Nature in Dante’s ‘Divina Commedia’ (1897)

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