Paradiso

Jamie McKendrick writes:

What do humans do in heaven? Not too much, though not too little, according to St Augustine, who foresees ‘leisure for the praises of God’ with ‘no inactivity of idleness, and yet no toil constrained by want’. But eternity is a fair stretch: over millennia, any activity might begin to pall. The 19th-century Roman dialect poet Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli claims in his sonnet ‘Er paradiso’:

                   in paradiso
Nun perdi tempo co ggnisun lavoro:
Nun ce trovi antro che vviolini, riso
E ppandesce`lo

                    in heaven
you don’t waste time with any work:
there’s nothing but violins, laughter
and heaven’s bread

For Belli’s Roman worker, heaven mainly means not having to graft, and there’s the bonus of free food - a cross between communion wafers and panettone, his ‘ppandescèlo’ probably a nod to the ‘pan de li angeli’ in Dante’s Paradiso.

(LRB 26 March 2009)