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The Nolan

The Heroic Frenzies

Dedicated to that most illustrious and excellent knight

Sir. Philip Sidney



l'anno 1585.

A Translation with Introduction and Notes by Paulo Eugene Memmo, Jr., 1964



Dedicated to the Most Illustrious Sir Philip Sidney

Most illustrious knight, it is indeed a base, ugly and contaminated wit that is constantly occupied and curiously obsessed with the beauty of a female body! What spectacle, oh good God, more vile and ignoble can be presented to a mind of clear sensibilities than a rational man afflicted, tormented, gloomy, melancholic, who becomes now hot, now cold and trembling, now pale, now flushed, now confused, or now resolute; one who spends most of his time and the choice fruits of his life letting fall drop by drop the elixir of his brain by putting into conceits and in writing, and sealing on public monuments those continual tortures, dire torments, those persuasive speeches, those laborious complaints and most bitter labours inevitable beneath the tyranny of an unworthy, witless, stupid and odoriferous foulness!

What a tragicomedy! What act, I say, more worthy of pity and laughter can be presented to us upon this world's stage, in this scene of our consciousness, than of this host of individuals who became melancholy, meditative, unflinching, firm, faithful, lovers, devotees, admirers and slaves of a thing without trustworthiness, a thing deprived of all constancy, destitute of any talent, vacant of any merit, without acknowledgment or any gratitude, as incapable of sensibility, intelligence or goodness, as a statue or image painted on a wall; a thing containing more haughtiness, arrogance, insolence, contumely, anger, scorn, hypocrisy, licentiousness, avarice, ingratitude and other ruinous vices, more poisons and instruments of death than could have issued from the box of Pandora? For such are the poisons which have only too commodious an abode in the brain of that monster! Here we have written down on paper, enclosed in books, placed before the eyes and sounded in the ear a noise, an uproar, a blast of symbols, of emblems, of mottoes, of epistles, of sonnets, of epigrams, of prolific notes, of excessive sweat, of life consumed, shrieks which deafen the stars, laments which reverberate in the caves of hell, tortures which affect living souls with stupor, sighs which make the gods swoon with compassion, and all this for those eyes, for those cheeks, for that breast, for that whiteness, for that vermilion, for that speech, for those teeth, for those lips, that hair, that dress, that robe, that glove, that slipper, that shoe, that reserve, that little smile, that wryness, that window-widow, that eclipsed sun, that scourge, that disgust, that stink, that tomb, that latrine, that menstruum, that carrion, that quartan ague, that excessive injury and distortion of nature, which with surface appearance, a shadow, a phantasm, a dream, a Circean enchantment put to the service of generation, deceives us as a species of beauty.

This is a beauty which comes and goes, is born and dies, blooms and decays; and is eternally beautiful for so very short a moment and within itself truly and lastingly contains a cargo, a store-house, an emporium, a market of all the filth, toxins and poisons which our step-mother nature is able to produce; who having collected that seed of which she makes use, often recompenses us by a stench, by repentance, by melancholy, by languor, by a pain in the head, by a sense of undoing, by many other calamities which are evident to everyone, so that one suffers bitterly, where formerly he suffered only a little.

But what am I doing? What am I thinking? Do I perhaps despise the sun? Do I regret perhaps my own and others having come into this world? Do I perhaps wish to restrict men from gathering the sweetest fruit which the garden of our earthly paradise can produce? Am I perhaps for impeding nature's holy institution? Must I attempt to withdraw myself or any other from the beloved sweet yoke which divine providence has placed about our necks? Have I perhaps to persuade myself and others that our predecessors were born for us, but that we were not born for our descendents? No, may God not desire that this thought should ever come into my head! In fact, I add, that for all the kingdoms and beatitudes which might ever be proposed or chosen for me, never was I so wise and good that there could come to me the desire to castrate myself or to become a eunuch. In fact I should be ashamed, whatever may be my appearance, if I should desire ever to be second to any one who worthily breaks bread in the service of nature and the blessed God. And that such participation can be of assistance to one's good intentions I leave for the consideration of him who can judge for himself. But I do not believe I am caught. For I am certain that all the snares and nooses which those people devise and have devised who specialize in knotting snares and entanglements will never suffice for my enemies to ensnare and entangle me. They would avail themselves (if I dare say it) of death itself, in order to do me mischief. Nor do I believe myself to be frigid, for I do not think that the snows of Mt. Caucusus or Ripheus would suffice to cool my passion. See then if it is reason or some insufficiency which makes me speak.

What then do I mean? What conclusion do I wish to arrive at? What do I wish to decide? What I would conclude and say, oh illustrious knight, is that what belongs to Caesar be rendered unto Caesar and what belongs to God be rendered unto God. I mean that although there are cases when not even divine honors and adoration suffice for women, yet this does not mean that we owe them divine honors and worship. I desire that women should be honored and loved as women ought to be loved and honored. Loved and honored for such cause, I say, and for so much, and in the measure due for the little they are, at that time and occasion when they show the natural virtue peculiar to them. That natural virtue is the beauty, the splendor, and the humility without which one would esteem them to have been born in this world more vainly than a poisonous fungous occupying the earth to the detriment of better plants, more odious than any snake or viper which lifts its head from the dust. I mean that everything in the universe, in order that it have stability and constancy, has its own weight, number, order and measure, so that it may be ordered and governed with all justice and reason. Therefore Silenus, Bacchus, Pomona, Vertunnus, the god of Lampsacus and similar gods of the drinking hall, gods of strong beer, and humble wine, do not sit in heaven to drink nectar and taste ambrosia at the banquet of Jove, Saturn, Pallus, Phoebus and similar gods; and their vestments, temples, sacrifices and rites must differ from those of the great gods.

Finally, I mean that these heroic frenzies have a heroic subject and object, and therefore can no more be esteemed as vulgar and physical loves than one can see dolphins in the trees of the forests or savage bears under the rocks of the sea.

However, to deliver all from such suspicion, I thought at first of giving this book a title similar to the book of Solomon which under the guise of lovers and ordinary passions contains similarly divine and heroic frenzies, as the mystics and cabbalistic doctors interpret; I wished, in fact, to call it Canticle. But in the end I restrained myself for many reasons, of which I shall report but two. One for the fear which I conceived of the austere frown of certain Pharisees, who would judge me profane for usurping sacred and supernatural titles in my natural and physical discourse, while they, consummate scoundrels, and ministers of every ribaldry, usurp more basely than one can say the names of holy ones, of saints, of divine preachers, of the sons of God, of priests, of kings. But then we await that divine judgment which will make manifest their malicious ignorance and doctrines; our simple liberty and their malicious rules, censures and institutions. The other for the great dissimilarity which is seen between the appearance of this work and that one, even though the same mystery and psychic substance is concealed under the shadow of the one and the other; for no one doubts that the first idea of the Sage was to represent things divine rather than to present other things; with him the figure is openly and manifestly a figure, and the metaphorical sense is understood in such a way that it cannot be denied to be metaphorical, when you hear of those eyes of doves, that neck like a tower, that tongue of milk, that fragrance of incense, those teeth that seem a flock of sheep returning from the bath, those tresses that resemble goats descending the mountain of Galaad. But this poem does not show us a face which so keenly invites one to seek a latent and occult sense; so that through the ordinary mode of speech and by similitudes more adapted to the sentiments which gentle lovers usually employ, and experienced poets put in verse and rime, sentiments are expressed similar to those used by the poets who spoke of Cythereida, or Licoris, or Doris or Cynthia, Lesbia, Corynna, Laura and other such ladies. Thus anyone could be easily persuaded that my primary and fundamental intention may have been to express an ordinary love, which may have dictated certain conceits to me, and afterwards, because it had been rejected, may have borrowed wings for itself and become heroic; for it is possible to convert any fable, romance, dream and prophetic enigma, and to employ it by virtue of metaphor and allegorical disguise in such a way as to signify all that pleases him who is skillful at tugging at the sense, and is thus adept at making everything of everything, to follow the word of the profound Anaxagoras. But think who will as it seems to him and pleases him, in the end, willy nilly, if one is to be just, each must understand and define it as I understand and define it, and not I as he would understand it and depict it; for just as the passions of that Hebrew have their own proper modes, succession and names, which no one has been able to understand and could never explain better than he, if he were present, so these canticles of mine have their own names, succession and modes which no one can explain better and understand than myself, since I am not absent.

Of one thing I wish the world to be assured: what I have essayed in this preliminary preface, wherein I address you in particular, excellent sir, and in the dialogues formed upon the subsequent articles, sonnets and stanzas, is to have everyone know that I should deem myself most shameful and bestial, if with much thought, study and labor I should have ever delighted or relished imitating (as they say) an Orpheus who adores a living woman, and proposes after her death (if it be possible) to rescue her from hell; when in fact I would hardly esteem her (without blushing) to be worthy of being loved naturally even in that instant when her beauty is in flower and when she has the power of bringing offspring to nature and to God: so much the less would I desire to appear similar to certain poets and versifiers who glory in a perpetual perseverance in such love, as in such a pertinacious madness, which can certainly compete with all the other species of folly that can reside in a human brain. So much, I say, am I removed from that most vain, most vile and most infamous glory, that I cannot believe any man who possesses a grain of sense and spirit can expend any more love on such a thing than I have spent in the past and intend to spend in the present. And, by my faith, if I wish to employ myself in defending the nobility of that Tuscan poet, who showed himself so distraught on the banks of the Sorgue for a lady of Valclusa, and not say that he was a madman fit to be chained, I shall have to believe and force myself to persuade others, that for lack of genius apt for higher things he set himself the task of nourishing his melancholy, and belaboring his wit in confusion, by analyzing the effects of an obstinate vulgar love, animal and bestial, as so many others have done who formerly have sung the praises of a fly, a beetle, an ass, of Silenus, of Priapus, of apes, and those who have in our time sung the praises of urinals, of the shepherd's pipe, of beans, of the bed, of lies, of dishonor, of the furnace, of the knife, of famine, and of the plague, things which perhaps give the appearance of being no less lofty and proud by reason of the celebrated voices of those who sing of them than these and other ladies I have mentioned are, perhaps by reason of the poets who have celebrated them.

Yet (that there be no mistake) I do not wish that here should be taxed the dignity of those ladies who have been worthily praised and who are praiseworthy: and those, especially, who may and do reside in this British land, to whom we owe the love and fidelity of the guest; for even if one were to find fault with the whole worold, one could not find fault with this nation, which in this respect is not the terrestrial world, nor a part of it, but is entirely separated from it, as you know: so that any discourse regarding the whole feminine sex could not and would not include any of your women, who must not be considered part of that sex; because they are not women, they are not ladies, but, in the guise of ladies, they are nymphs, goddesses and of celestial substance, among whom it is permitted to contemplate that unique Diana, whom I do not desire to name in the rank or category of women. [Queen Elizabeth] Let it be understood, then, that I mean only the ordinary genus. And I should unworthily and unjustly persecute any individual of this class: because to no particular person ought the weakness and condition of the sex be imputed, just as as defect or vice of constitution, assuming there is some fault or error there, must be attributed to the species or to nature, and not in particular to the individuals of the class. Truly, with respect to that sex, what I abominate is that zealous and disordered venereal love which some are accustomed to expend for it, so that they come to the point of making their wit the slave of woman, and of degrading the noblest powers and actions of the intellectual soul. If my intentions are understood, far from being saddened and becoming vexed with me because of my natural and truthful discourse, every honest and chaste woman will rather agree with me and love me the more because of it; and they will allow that the venereal love women have for men is a dishonorable thing, as I actively reprove the venereal love men have for women. Therefore, with a determined heart, mind, opinion and purpose, I affirm that my first and principal, secondary and subordinate, final and ultimate design in this work to which I have been called, was and is to signify divine contemplation and present the eye and ear with other frenzies, not those caused by vulgar love, but those caused by heroic love. These frenzies will be explained in two parts, each of which will be divided into five dialogues.

The argument of the five dialogues of the first part

In the first dialogue of the first part there are five articles, [9] whence, in order: in the first is shown the causes and principal intrinsic motives under the names and figures of the mountain, and the river, and of the muses which declare themselves present, not because they have been summoned, invoked, and searched for, but rather as if they had often importunately offered themselves. By this is signified that the divine light is ever present, that it forever offers itself, ever calls and knocks at the doors of our senses and other powers of cognition and apprehension, as it is indicated in the Song of Solomon where it is said, "En ipse stat post parietem nostrum, respicinse per cancellos et prospiciens per fenestras", [Cant. 2:9: "Behold He standeth behind our wall, looking through the windows, looking through the lattices..."] which light very often through various occasions and impediments remains excluded and withheld. In the second article is shown what are those subjects, objects, affections, instruments, and effects by which this divine light enters, shows itself, and takes possession of the soul, in order to raise it and convert it unto God. In the third, the intention, definition, and determination which the well-informed soul makes with regard to the one, perfect and ultimate end. In the fourth, the civil war which follows and breakis out against the spirit after such determination, whence the Canticle says, "Noli mirare, quia nigra sum: decoloravit enim me sol, quia fratres mei pugnaverunt contra me, quam posuerunt custodem in vineis". [Cant. 1:5: "Do not consider me that I am brown, for the sun has altered my color: for my brothers have fought against me, whom they have made the keeper in the vineyards..."] In that place are represented as four standard bearers the affection, the fatal impulse, an appearance of the good, and the conscience, which are followed by the numberless cohorts of the many, contrary, varied and diverse powers, together with their ministers, intermediaries, and organs which exist in this organization. In the fifth is described a natural contemplation through which it is shown that every contrary is reduced to friendship, whether through the victory of one of the contraries, or through harmony and conciliation, or by some vicissitude, every discord to concord, every diversity to unity; which doctrine has been developed by us in the discourses of other dialogues.

In the second dialogue is more explicitly described the order and action of the conflict which is in the substance of this complex of the frenzied one, to wit: in the first article are shown three sorts of contraries. The first is the conflict of two opposed affections or acts, as for example where hopes are cold and desires hot. The second treats of the same desires and acts in themselves, not only that different times, but at the same time, when each one, for instance, dissatisfied with himself, looks to another, and at the same time loves and hates. The third is between the power that follows and aspires and the object which flees and eludes it. In the second article is described the opposition which results from two impulses which are opposed in general, to which are related all the particular and subordinate contraries, for example, when one climbs or descends toward two opposite places or goals at the same time. Thus it happens to the complex being by reason of the diversity of the inclinations which are in his several parts and the variety of dispositions which result from these, that he rises men and falls at the same time, goes forward and backward, withdraws himself from himself and also withdraws into himself. The third article discusses the consequence of such oppositions.

In the third dialogue is disclosed how much power belongs to the will in this combat, for to the will alone pertains the organizing, the initiating, the execution and completion; for it is the will the Canticle addresses when it says, "Arise, hasten, my dove, and come: for already winter is passed, the rain is gone, the flowers have appeared in our land; the time of pruning is come." (Cant. 2:10-12) It is the will that in any ways bestows power to the other potencies; and bestows power especially to itself, when it reflects upon itself and increases itself two-fold, when it wishes to desire, and is pleased with what it desires; it withdraws itself, on the contrary, when it dislikes the object of its desire, and is displeased to desire it. Thus everywhere and in everything it approves what is good and what the justice of natural law prescribes for it, and never approves at all what deviates from that law. And this is how much the first and second article explain. In the third article is seen the double fruit of a similar power. Accordingly, as the result of the passion which draws and ravishes them, lofty things become base, and base things become lofty. Thus it is customary to say that by the force of vicissitude and vertiginous attraction, the element of fear is condensed into air, vapor and water, while water is refined into vapor, air, and fire.

In the seven sections of the fourth dialogue are contemplated the impetus and vigor of the intellect which carries the affection away without it; the development of the thoughts into which the frenzied lover is divided, and the sufferings of the soul under the government of this so turbulent republic. There it becomes clear who the hunter is, the birdcatcher, the wild beast, the dogs, offspring, the cave, the noose, the rock, the prey, the issue of so many labors, peace, rest, and the desired end of so laborious a conflict.

Into the fifth dialogue is further described the state of the frenzied one and is shown the order, condition and reason for his labors and fortunes. In the first article is shown what pertains to the pursuit of the object which withdraws itself; in the the second is shown the continuous and relentless competition of the passions; in the third the lofty and cold, because vain purposes; in the fourth the voluntary desire; in the fifth the prompt rescue and powerful bulwark. In the following articles are shown in their variety, according to their reasons and appropriateness, the vicissitudes of his fortune, condition, and labors, each article expressing them by antitheses, comparisons, and similitudes.

Argument of the five dialogs of the second part

In the first dialogue of the second part is offered the origin of the modes and reasons for the state of the frenzied lover. In the first sonnet is described his state beneath the wheel of time; in the second is described the defense he offers for his esteem of ignoble occupations and for the unworthy squandering of time which is so brief and narrowly measured; in the third he confesses the impotence of his studies, which, although illumined within by the excellence of their object, begin to obscure and cloud that object when they come in contact with it; in the fourth he complains of the profitless strain of the faculties of the soul as his soul seeks to rise with powers unequal to the state it desires and venerates; in the fifth is recalled the contrariety and familiar conflict found in him, a conflict which may hinder him from applying himself entirely to his end or goal. In the sixth is expressed the aspiration of desire; in the seventh is considered the poor correspondence found between him who aspires, and that to which he aspires; in the eighth is seen the distraction the soul suffers because of the conflict between external and internal things, internal things among themselves, and a similar conflict of external things among themselves; in the ninth is explained the age and the time in the course of life most propitious for the act of lofty and profound contemplation, a time when the soul is not disturbed by the ebb and flow of its vegetative constitution, but finds itself in a state of immobility and in a sort of tranquility; in the tenth is described the order and matter in which heroic love sometimes attacks, wounds, and awakens us; in the eleventh is explained the multitude of species and particular ideas which show the excellence of the mark of their unique source and are the means by which the desire toward the heavenly is aroused; in the twelfth is expressed the state of every human effort toward the divine enterprises. Much is presumed before one engages himself in them, and much during the engagement itself. But, then, when one is engulfed and penetrates more and more into the depths, this fervent spirit becomes extinguished by presumption, the nerves begin to yield, the strength is slackened, thoughts discouraged, all intentions vanish, and the soul remains confused, vanquished and reduced to nothing. Pertinently, therefore, was it said by the Sage, "he that is a searcher of majesty shall be overwhelmed by glory" (Prov. 25:27). In the last article is more clearly expressed what the twelfth demonstrated by similitude and figure.

In the second dialogue, in a sonnet and in the dialogue which is a commentary upon it, is made specific the first cause which subdued the strong one, softened the hard one, and reduced him to an amorous servitude under the command of Cupid, but in that way raised and disposed him to celebrate his zeal, ardor, election, and purpose.

In the third dialogue in four questions and four answers of the heart to the eyes and the eyes to the heart is explained the being and mode of the appetitive and cognitive faculties. In this dialogue is shown how the will is reawakened from sleep, given direction, urged and led by the cognition; and reciprocally how the cognition is aroused, formed, and revived by the will, the one proceeding from the other, alternately. It is doubted if the intellect or the cognitive power in general, or even the act of cognition is greater than the will or appetitive power in general, or even greater than the affection. If one cannot love more than one can understand, and if everything which in a certain mode is desired, in a certain mode is also understood, and the reverse also be true; then it is fitting to call the appetite cognition. For we see that the doctrine of the Peripatetics, which has raised and nourished us from our youth, goes so far as to call the appetite in potency and natural act cognition, so that they distinguish all effects, means and ends, principles, causes and elements into those primarily, intermediately, and ultimately known according to nature, in which, they conclude, the appetite and the cognition concur. Thus is proposed the infinite potency of matter, and the assistance of the act thanks to which that potency is not in vain. For just as the act of the will is infinite with respect to the good, so is the act of cognition infinite and endless with respect to the true: accordingly, being, truth, and goodness take on the same significance when they are referred to in the same way, that is: as infinite goals.

In the fourth dialogue are represented and in some manner explained the nine reasons for the ineptitude, disproportion, and deficiency of the human sight and apprehensive potency toward things divine. The first lover, who is blind from birth, is blind because of the nature which debases and humiliation him. The second lover, blinded by the poison of jealousy, is blind because of the irascible and concupiscible which diverts and misleads him. The third, blinded by the sudden appearance of intense light, is blind because of the brilliance of the object which dazzles him. The fourth, received and nourished for a long time in the light of the sun, is blind because of much lofty contemplation of the unity which removes him from the multitude. The fifth, whose eyes are forever filled with dense tears, is blind owing to the disproportion of means between the potency and the object which impedes him. The sixth, who through much weeping has extinguished the organic visual humour, is blind because of a lack of the true intellectual nourishment, a lack which weakens him. The seventh whose eyes are reduced to ashes by the ardor of his heart, symbolizes the burning passion which disperses, weakens, and sometimes devours the power of discernment. The eighth, blinded by the wound of an arrow's point, is blind through the very act of union with the form of the object that conquers, alters, and seduces the apprehensive potency, which is oppressed by the weight of the form and falls under the impetus of its presence; therefore, not without reason is the appearance of this object sometimes represented in the form of a penetrating thunderbolt. The ninth, because he is mute and is unable to explain the cause of his blindness, is blind for the highest reason, the secret design of God, who has given man this zeal and solicitude to search, so that he may never be able to reach higher than to the knowledge of his own blindness and ignorance, and no higher than to deem silence more worthy than speech. But this does not suggest that common ignorance is to be excused or favored, for he is doubly blind who does not see his own blindness. And there is a difference between the profitably zealous and the stupidly idle. The stupidly idle are buried in the lethargy of the incapability of judging their own blindness, and the profitably zealous are aware, awakened, and prudent judges of their own blindness, and for that reason are in quest and of the threshold of the attainment of the light from which the others are banished for a long time.

Argument and Allegory of the Fifth Dialogue

In the fifth dialogue two women are introduced, for whom (according to my country's custom) it is unbecoming to comment, expound, decipher, or to be so wise and learned as to usurp the office of teaching and giving men institutions, rules, and doctrines, but for whom it is fitting, when their bodies are found to have a soul, to divine well and to prophecy. Therefore the author has been content to make them merely recite the allegory, leaving to some male intelligence the care and labor of interpreting it. And even to him (in order to lighten his task, or I should say, discharge him of it), I shall explain how these nine blind men, by reason of their role, of the external causes of their blindness and of many other subjective differences, take on significance other than the nine of the preceding dialogue. According to the common imagination of the nine celestial spheres these blind men symbolize the number, order, and diversity of all things which are subsistent within an absolute unity, and in and over all of them are ordered those intelligences which, by a certain analogy, depend upon the first and the unique intelligence. The Cabalists, Chaldeans, Magi, the Platonists and Christian theologians hold that these intelligences are distinct in nine orders through the perfection of the number which governs the universality of things and in a certain way informs everything. They also hold that it is by a simple number that the divinity is symbolized, whose extension and square represents the number and substance of all things which depend upon it. All the more illustrious thinkers, whether philosophers or theologians, who speak either by reason and their own light, or by faith and a superior light, recognized in these intelligences the cycles of ascent and decent. Thus the Platonists say that by a certain revolution it happens that those who are above the fatality of time and change submit themselves once again to this fatality, while others rise and take their place. A similar revolution is alluded to by the Pythagorean poet, when he says:

All these, where the wheel of a thousand years comes round, a god summons to the river Lethe in vast train, so that they may begin again to desire the return to the body. (Virgil Aeneid vi. 748-751)
Some say that thus are to be understood the words of Revelation in which it is said that the dragon shall be conquered by chains for a thousand years, and after that period released. To this interpretation adhere those who speculate upon the many passages of Revelation which express the millenium literally, represent it by a year, by a season, by one night, or by one span time or another. Beyond a doubt the millenium itself is not to be taken according to the revolutions called solar years, but according to more than one method of calculating the order and measure upon which the fate of things depends. For the years of the stars are as different as are their particular species. As for the fact of revolution, it is given out among the Christian theologians that from each of the nine orders of spirits, a multitude of legions were cast down to low and obscure regions; and so that those seats do not remain vacant, divine Providence wishes the spirits who now live in human bodies to be drawn up to that eminence. But among the philosophers Plotinus alone, to my knowledge, has seen fit to agree with all the great theologians that such a revolution does not concern all beings, nor take place at all times, but takes place only once. And among the theologians only Origen, following all the great philosophers, has dared to say, after the Saducees and other reproved sects, that the revolution is vicissitudinal and yet eternal, and that all those who ascend must decend to the bottom; as one can see in all the elements, and in all the things which exist on the surface, in the bosom and womb of nature. For my part, I confess and confirm as very appropriate the opinion of the theologians and those whose task it is to give laws and institutions to the people; just as I do not fail to affirm and except the opinion of those who, speaking according to natural reason, address themselves to the small number of the good and wise. The latter opinion has been justifiably reproved for having been exposed to the eyes of the multitude, for since it is only with great difficulty that they can be restrained from vices and spurred to virtuous action by belief in eternal punishment, what would happen were they persuaded of some lighter condition for the reward of heroic and human deeds, and the punishment of crimes and villainies? But to conclude this progression of mine, I say that now begins an explanation and discourse upon the blindness and the light of these nine men, first clairvoyant, then blind, and finally illumined. At first they are rivals in the shadows and vestiges of the divine beauty; then they are completely blind, and finally they enjoy themselves peacefully in the more open light. While they are in the first condition, they are led to the dwelling of Circe, who represents the generative matter of all things. She is called the daughter of the sun, because from the father of forms she has inherited the possession of all those forms which, by a sprinkling of the waters -- that is to say by the act of generation and by the power of enchantment -- that is by reason of a secret harmony -- she transforms all beings, making those who see become blind. For generation and corruption are causes of oblivion and of blindness, as the ancients explain by the figure of souls who bathe and inebriate themselves in the waters of Lethe. Then by that which the blind men lament, when they say, Daughter and mother of darkness and horror, is signified the dismay and sadness of the soul which has lost its wings, but will be relieved when it regains hope of recovering them. By Circe's words, Take another one of my fatal vases, is signified that men carry with themselves the decree and destiny of a new metamorphoses, which is, however, said to be offered to them by Circe herself; for although one contrary has its origin in the other, it may not be efficaciously uncovered by them. For that reason she said that although her own hand was unable to open it, it could entrust the vase to them. The other meaning is that there are two kinds of water. There are the inferior waters under the firmament which enlighten. These are the waters which the Pythagoreans and the Platonists symbolized by the descent from one tropic and the ascent to another. Then by her words, Traverse the width and depth of the world, seek out all the many kingdoms, is signify that there is no immediate progress from one contrary form to another, nor immediate regression to the first form, but that it is necessary to traverse, of not all, at least a very great number of the forms contained in the wheel of natural species. Then will they be enlightened by the sight of the object in which concur the three perfections, beauty, wisdom, and truth, revealed through the sprinkling of the waters, called in the sacred books the waters of wisdom and the rivers of eternal life. These waters are not found on the mainland of the globe, but separated entirely from the earth, in the bosom of the Ocean, of the Amphitrite, of the divinity, where that river rises which takes its source from the divine throne, whose flow is not at all like the ordinary flow of natural rivers. In that river are the nymphs, who are the blessed and divine intelligences which assist and administer to the first intelligence, similar to Diana among the nymphs of the wilderness. She alone among all the others has by her triple virtue the power to open every seal, untie every knot, uncover every secret and bring to light whatever is hidden. By her unique presence, by her double splendor of goodness and truth, benevolence and beauty, she pleases all wills and intellects, sprinkling them with the salutary waters of purgition. Then there follows a long chant and song by the nine intelligences, the nine muses, whose chorus is ordered according to the number of the nine spheres, so that the harmony of each one is continued by the harmony of the following one. And that there may be no vacuum interposed among them, the end of one song coincides with the beginning of the other, and the end of the last song concurs with the beginning of the first, as the circle is closed. For the most brilliant and the most obscure, the beginning and the end, the greatest light and the most profound darkness, infinite potency and infinite act coincide, as our method of argument has explained elsewhere.

Finally one observes the harmony and concert of all the spheres, intelligences and muses in a concert of instruments, so that the heaven, the movement of worlds, the works of nature, the discourse of intellects, the contemplation of the mind, the decree of divine Providence celebrate in complete accord that lofty and magnificent vicissitude which raises the inferior to the superior waters, changes night into day, and day into night, so that the divinity may be in all, according to the mode in which the infinite goodness is infinitely communicated according to the entire capacity of each thing.

These are the discourses, then, which it seems to me cannot be conveniently addressed and recommended to anyone than to you, excellent Sir. For I would not risk doing again what I think at times I have done inadvertently, and what many others ordinarily do who present a lyre to a deaf man and a mirror to a blind one. To you then these discourses are presented without fear, because here the Italian reasons with one who understands him. My verses are submitted to the censure and the protection of a poet. My philosophy stands naked before so pure an intellect as yours. Heroic things are addressed to the heroic and generous spirit with which you are endowed. My services are offered to one who knows how to accept them graciously, and my homage to a gentleman who has ever shown myself worthy of such. And in that which particularly concerns me, I know that through your good services you have guided me with a magnanimity far greater than any recognition you may have given to others who may have since come to you. Farewell.

The Apology of the Nolan

To the most glorious and virtuous ladies

Oh glorious and enchanting nymphs of England,
my spirit neither shuns nor disdains you, nor dishonors
you when it deprives you of the traditional name of women,

by neither counting you among them nor excluding you.
I am sure the name of goddesses are more meet for you,
because you are endowed with more than common life,
and are upon the earth what the stars are in heaven.

Oh, Ladies mine, your sovereign beauty my sincerity
can never harm, nor does it wish to do so, because it
cannot reach your superhuman kind,

but by bitter torment, it aspires to that place
where Diana is queen above all, who is among you
what the sun is amid the stars.

Labor and art humbly offer you by invention, my
words and the strokes of my pen such as they may be.

Giordano Bruno


Translation by Paulo Eugene Memmo, Jr., 1964

First Dialogue

Tansillo Cicada

Tansillo: The frenzies, then, most worthy of being placed in the first rank and considered first are those I present to you in the order that has seemed to me most convenient.

Cicada: Begin to read them then.


Muses, whom I have so often rejected, importunate cohorts of my suffering, alone consoling me in my woes by such verses, rimes, and frenzies

the like of which you never showed to others who boast of the myrtle and the laurel; now let the wind, anchor, and port keep me close to you, if I am forbidden to cruise elsewhere.

Oh mountains, oh goddesses, oh streams, where I live, converse, and nourish myself; where I learn in quiet and find beauty;

through whom I rise, reawaken, adorn my heart, spirit, and brow; maybe you transform death, cypresses and infernos into fire, into laurels, into eternal stars.

One may infer that he rejected the muses often and for many reasons, among which perhaps are these. First, because he was not able to be idle, as the priest of the muses must be; for one cannot be idle who must defend himself against the ministers and servants of envy, ignorance, and malice. Second, because he had received no assistance from worthy protectors and defenders, who might have given him security. As it is said by the poet:

Oh Flaccus, there will be no want for Maros, if there is no lack of Maecenae.
Another reason was that he regarded himself obligated to devote himself to the contemplation and philosophical studies, which if not more advanced in maturity, ought none the less, as mothers to the Muses, to come before them. Moreover, because the tragic Melpomene drew him on the one hand with more matter than talent, and the comic Thalia drew him on the other hand with more talent than matter, it happened that as one took from the other, he stood between the two weak and idle, rather than doubly active. Besides, he had become a victim of the authority of the censors, who, turning him from the more worthy and noble things to which he was naturally inclined, shackled his intellect, in order to enslave him beneath the rule of a most vile and senseless hypocrisy, from the freedom he had under the rule of virtue. But finally, because of the great heat of annoyance into which he fell, it happened that having nothing else from which to draw consolation, he accepted the call of those who are said to have inspired him with certain frenzies, verses, and rimes, the like of which they never shared with anyone else. It is for that reason that this work sparkles with originality more than with imitation.

C. Tell me, what is meant by those who praise themselves by means of the myrtle and the laurel?

T. Those who can and do win praise for themselves by the myrtle are those who sing of love. If these bear themselves nobly, they win the crown of that plant concecrated to Venus who inspires them with her frenzy. Those who can praise themselves by the laurel are those who sing worthily of heroic things, who instruct heroic souls through speculative and moral philosophy, or who celebrate those heroic souls and present them as exemplary mirrors of political and civil action.

C. Are there still other species, then, of poets and awards?

T. There are not only as many as there are Muses, but a great many more besides. For, although one can distinguish certain sorts of poets and awards, one would not know how to define certain modes and species of human genius.

C. I know certain makers of poetic rules who accept with difficulty Homer as a poet, and who reject Virgil, Ovid, Martial, Hesiod, Lucretius, and many other versifiers, after having examined them according to the rules of Aristotle's Poetics.

T. You can be sure, my friend, that these are veritable blockheads, for they do not considered that those rules serve chiefly to make clear the nature of the poetry of Homer, or the nature of some other particular poet. They do not consider that those rules are there only to show us the kind of epic poet Homer was, and not to serve as modes of instruction to other poets who could in other veins, skills, and frenzies be in their several kinds equal, similar, or even greater than Homer.

C. If I understand you correctly, then, Homer in his genre was not a poet who depended upon rules, but he is the cause of the rules which serve others who are more adept at imitating than inventing. And these rules were drawn up by an author who was not a poet of any sort, but who knew how to assemble rules of that particular kind (that is, rules of Homeric poetry) for the benefit of one who would wish to be not another poet with a muse of his own, but an imitator of Homer and the ape of Homer's muse.

T. You conclude well that poetry is not born of the rules, except by the merest chance, but that the rules derived from the poetry. For that reason there are as many genres and species of true rules as there are of true poets.

C. How will the true poets, then, be recognized?

T. By our singing their verses, and by this, that when they are sung, either they will be delightful, or they will be useful, or they will be useful and delightful at the same time.

C. Whom then to the rules of Aristotle serve?

T. Those who cannot, as Homer, Hesiod, Orpheus, and others could, be a poet without the aid of Aristotle. And they serve him who, not having a muse of his own, prefers to court the muse of Homer.

C. Then certain dismal pedants of our own day are wrong, who exclude some from the rank of poets because they do not conform their speech and metaphors or the introductions of their books and songs to those of Homer or Virgil, or because they do not observe the traditional use of the invocation, or because they entwine one story with another, or end their songs with summaries of what has been said already, and with announcements of what is to come; and because of other reasons drawn from a thousand methods of examination, of censures and rules in virtue of that text. Therefore it appears that they themselves would be the true poets (should they so decide), and would easily attain the end toward which the others tend only with effort. But, if the truth were known, these pedants are nothing but worms, who do not know how to do anything well, as are born only to gnaw, soil, and hurl their dung upon the studies and labors of others; and being incapable of becoming illustrious through their own talent virtue and talent, they seek to advance themselves through the vices and errors of others.

T. Now to return to the point from which passion has led us to digress to some extent, I say that there are and can be so many kinds of sentiment and human creations, which one can adorn with garlands not only of all sorts and species of plants, but also of all types and species of material. As a result, crowns for poets are made not only of myrtle and laurel but also of the vine branch for scurrilous verses, of ivy for Bacchic verses, of olive for sacrifices and laws, of the poplar, elm and corn for agriculture, of cypress for funerals, and other garlands without number for as many other occasions; and, if you will permit, even of that material which a gallant gentleman designated, when he said:

Oh Brother Porro, poet of flukes, at Milan you girdle yourself with a garland of pudding, tripe, and sausage.
C. Therefore, through various talents which he displays in various meanings and purposes, this poet certainly will be able to adorn himself with branches of various plants, and be able to speak worthily with the muses, because near them he finds the air which comforts him, the anchor which sustained him, and the poet that welcomes him in time of fatigue, turmoil, and tempest. Thus he says, Oh mount Parnassus where I live, Muses with whom I converse, stream of Helicon (or some other) where I nourish myself, mount which gives me tranquil abode, Muses who inspire me with profound doctrine, font which refreshes me and cleanses me of every stain, mount where I lift up my heart as I ascend, Muses conversing with whom I revive my spirit, font reposing under whose shadows I adorn my brow -- change my death into life, my cypresses into laurels, and my infernos into heaven. That is to say, destine me to immortality, make me a poet, render me illustrious, the while I sing of death, cypresses, and infernose. T. Good. Because for those who are favored by heaven, the greatest evils are converted into even greater good; for necessity nourishs labors and studies, and these as a rule nourish the glory of immortal splendor. And so the death of one century brings life to all the others.

C. Continue.

T. Next he says:

My heart is in the place and form of Parnassus, which I must ascend for my safety; my muses are the thoughts which at every hour reveal to me their glorious tale;

my fount of Helicon is there, where my eyes often pour forth profuse tears. Through such mountains, through such nymphs and waters, as it pleased heaven, I was born a poet.

Now let no king or favorable hand of any emperor, or highest priest, and sovereign shepherd

give me such favors, honors, and privileges. My heart, my thoughts, and my tears themselves cause the laurel to bear leaves for my adornment.

Here first he declares what his mount is, speaking of it as the lofty passion of his heart; secondly, what his muses are, speaking of them as the beauties and prerogatives of his object; third, what his founts are, and these he speaks of as his tears. Upon that mount his passion is enkindled, out of beauties proceeds his frenzy, and by these tears is made manifest his passion.

In this way he deems himself no less able to be crowned illustriously through his own heart, thoughts and tears, than others who are crowned by the hands of kings, emperors, and popes.

C. Make clear to me what he means when he speaks of the heart in the form of Parnassus.

T. By these words he means that the human heart contains two summits, which rise progressively from one root; and in the spiritual sense, from a single passion of the heart proceed the two contraries of hate and love. For Mount Parnassus has two summits rising from the one foundation.

C. Continue.

T. He says:

The Captain summons all is warriors beneath a banner by the sound of the trumpet; where, if it happens that for some of them it sounds in vain, and they come not promptly,

those who are traitors he kills, the madmen he banishes from his camp or he scorns them: so the soul with those of its intentions which come not to assemble under one standard, either it wishes them dead or removed.

I regard one object, which absorbs my mind, and it is a single visage. I remain fixed upon one beauty,

which has so pierced my heart, and is a single dart; by one flame only I burn, and know but a single paradise.

The captain is the human will which sits at the stern of the soul and with the little rudder of reason governs the affections of the inferior potencies against the surge of their natural violence. With the sound of the trumpet, that is to say, by determined election, he summons all his warriors; that is, he calls forth all the potencies of the soul (warriors we call them because they are in continuous conflict and opposition), or the effects of those potencies, which are the conflicting thoughts, some of which incline toward one, and others toward the other contrary; and he seeks to assemble them beneath a single banner for a determined end. If it happens that some of these thoughts which are required to present themselves promptly and obediently are called in vain, (especially those which proceed from the natural powers that either do not obey the reason at all or obey it very little), the captain is forced at least to prevent those thoughts from taking action, and if this cannot be accomplished, he condemns them; it is thus that he is shown as one who would put some of them to death and banish the others, proceeding against the former with the sword of anger, and against the latter with the whip of distain.

Here he regards one object to which he is turned by his intention. A single visage pleases him and absorbs his mind. In a single beauty he is delighted and pleased, and is said to remain fixed upon it, because the work of the intelligence is not an operation of motion, but one of rest. And from that beauty only does he conceive the dart which kills him; that is, which summons him to the ultimate end of perfection. He burns by one flame only, that is, he is sweetly consumed by a single love.

C. Why is love symbolized by fire?

T. Putting aside many other reasons for the moment, let this suffice for you now. Love converts the thing loved into the lover, as the fire, among all the most active elements, is able to convert all the other simple and complex elements into itself.

C. Now continue.

T. He knows a paradise, that is, a principal end; because paradise commonly means the end; and here one must distinguish between the end which is absolute in truth and essence, and that end which is so by similitude, shadow, and partipation. According to the first mode, there cannot be more than one end, just as there is only one ultimate and prime good; according to the second mode, there are an infinite number.

Love, fate, the object, and jealousy are for me pleasure, torment, content, and distress.

The senseless boy, the blind and guilty one, the supreme beauty and my one sole death

shows me paradise, and snatches it away, presents me with every good, and withdraws it from me; so much so that the heart, mind, spirit, and soul have joy, have discomfort, have refreshment, and a heavy burden.

Who will rescue me from the conflict? Who will make me enjoy the fruit of my good in peace?

Who will put that which wearies me far from that which delights me, so as to cause my ardors and my tears to become happy ones?

In this verse he shows the cause and the origin whence his frenzy is conceived and his enthusiasm is born -- by ploughing the field of the Muses, by scattering the seeds of his thoughts there, by aspiring to love's harvest, and discovering the fervor of the sun in the heat of his own passions and the humour of the rain in his own tears. He places four things first: love, his fate, the object, and jealousy. Here love is not a base, ignoble and unworthy mover, but a heroic lord and his guide. Fate is nothing else than the fatal disposition and order of mishaps to which he is subjected by his destiny. The object is the lovable thing and the correlative of the lover, and it is clear that jealousy is the zeal of the lover concerning the thing loved; it is not necessary to explain this to him who has tasted love, and in vain shall we strain ourselves to explain it to others. Love pleases because to him who loves it is pleasant to love; and he who truly loves would not wish not to love. Wherefore I do not wish to omit referring to that which I have shown in this sonnet of mine:

Dear, gentle, and revered wound of that sweet dart, which love ever chooses; lofty, gracious, and precious ardor, which makes the soul toss in ever burning delight,

what virtue of herb, or force of magic art, will ever release you from the center of my heart, since the fresh onslaught which strikes there at every hour, delights me the more it torments me?

My sweet pain, new in the world and rare, when shall I ever escape from your burden, since the remedy is weariness to me, and the pain delight?

Eyes, flames, and bow of my lord, twofold fire in the soul, and arrows in the heart, because the languishing is sweet to me, and the fire is dear.

His fate torments because of the unhappy and unwished for events, or because it causes the subject to be esteemed less worthy of enjoying its object, and less proportioned to its dignity; or because it does not permit reciprocal relation between the lover and his object; or for other reasons and obstacles which confront him. The object makes the subject content, who does not nourish himself with anything else, who seeks nothing else, occupies himself with nothing else and because of that objects banishes every other thought. Jealousy distresses inasmuch as it is the daughter of that love from which it derives, the inseparable companion and sign of that love, -- and where love manifests itself jealousy is understood as a necessary consequence, a counter-proof of which one can find among generations which, from the frigidity of the climate and backwardness of spirit, comprehend less, love little and thus know nothing of jealousy -- inasmuch, I say, as it is the daughter of love, its companion and its sign, it never ceases to disturb and poisons everything found beautiful and good in loves. Therefore as I have said in another one of my sonnets:

Oh daughter so guilty of love and envy, that you turn the joys of your father into pain, the adroit Argus to disaster, and the blind idiot to well being, minister of torment, Jealousy,

infernal Tisiphone, fetid harpy, who seizes and poisons the sweets of others; cruel Auster, through whom the loveliest flower of my hope must languish;

wild beast odious to yourself, bird foreboding of nothing but mourning, pain which enters the heart through a thousand gates,

if one could deny you entrance, the kingdom of love would be as sweet as a world without hate and without death.

Add to what has been said that Jealousy is not only sometimes the death and ruin of the lover, but on many occasions kills love itself, especially when it nurtures contempt; for then jealousy becomes so dominated by its offspring that it extinguishes love and puts the object to scorn; in fact, makes it no longer the object.

C. Now explain the other particulars which follow; that is, the reason why love is called the senseless boy.

T. I shall explain everything. Love is called the senseless boy, not because it is foolish of itself, but because it makes most lovers foolish and in such lovers is a foolish thing. But in those who are the more intellectual and speculative, love raises the mind the more and purifies the intellect the more, awakening it, filling it with zeal and prudence, developing a heroic ardor of the soul, and an emulation of virtue and magnanimity in the desire to please and become worthy of the thing loved. By the majority love is understood as crazy and stupid, for love makes most men pour forth their peciliar sentiments and urges them on in exaggeration, because it finds their spirit, soul, and body badly constituted and incapable of considering and distinguishing what has is fitting for them from what renders them more deformed, and thus makes them subjects of scorn, laughter, and vituperation.

C. They say commonly and proverbially that love makes old men mad, and young men sages.

T. The former unseemliness does not fall to all old men, nor does the latter advantage fall to all young men; but it is true of the latter who are well constituted, and of the former who are badly constituted. And therefore it is certain that whoever is accustomed in youth to love with discernment, in old age will love without going astray. But derision and laughter belong to those who at a mature age would, as it were, begin to learn their alphabet.

C. Now tell me, why is his destiny or fate called blind and guilty?

T. Fate is called blind and even guilty not of itself, for it is the very number and measured order of the universe; but with respect to its subjects it is called blind and is blind because it renders them blind to its view by being itself most uncertain. And similarly fate is called guilty because there is no mortal whose lamentations and complaints do not accuse it in some way. Thus the Apulian poet said:

How is it Maecenas, that no one in the world seems happy with the lot he has chosen or that heaven reserved for him? (Horace, Satires i. 1. 1-3)

He then calls the object supreme beauty because to him it is unique and most eminent and efficacious for drawing him to itself, and for that reason does he deem it most worthy and most noble; and yet he feels the object to be dominant and superior over him, as he is rendered subject and enslaved by it. My one sole death he says of jealousy because just as love has no more inseparable companion than jealousy, so love has no sense of any greater enemy; just as nothing is more an enemy to iron than rust, though that rust is generated of the same iron.

C. Now since you have begun by this method, proceed to show point by point what remains.

T. I shall do so. Next he says of love, It shows me paradise. By this he means that love is not blind of itself, and renders certain lovers blind not because of its nature, but because of the ignoble dispositions of the subject as it happens that the nocturnal birds become blind in the presence of the sun. With respect to itself, therefore, love illumines, makes clear, opens the intellect, makes all things penetrate and spurs miraculous impulses toward the good.

T. I'm quite certain the Nolan shows this in another one of his sonnets:

Love who shows me so high a truth that it opens black portals of diamond, enters its deity through the eyes and by the sight is born, lives, is nourished, and reigns eternally

and makes me perceive how much heaven, earth, and hell conceal. Love brings to light the true forms of absent things, regains force and with a sure dart stabs and ever wounds the heart, uncovers what is within.

Oh, therefore, vile herd, heed the truth, lend your ear to my words that are not fallacious, senseless and squint-eyed ones, open, open your eyes, if you can.

You believe the boy, because you understand little; because you change swiftly, to you he seems fleeting; in your blindness, you call him blind.

Love therefore shows him paradise because it makes him know, understand, and accomplish the highest things, or because it gives grandeur at least in appearance to the things loved. Fate snatches paradise away he says, for often fate does not concede to the deceived lover all love has shown him, inasmuch as what he sees and longs for is distant and opposed to him. It presents me with every good, he says of the object, because the thing which love points out to him seems to him unique, principal, and ultimate. It withdraws it from me, he says of Jealousy, not because it actually wrings every good from his presence and from his view, but because it makes the good no longer a good but an agonizing evil; the sweet no longer sweet but an agonizing languor. Therefore the heart, that is to say, the will find joy, and finds it in that very will through the power of love regardless of the outcome. The mind, in that part that recognizes that it partakes of an ungracious fate has grief. The spirit, otherwise called the natural affection, finds refreshment in being captivated by that object which gives joy to the heart and can satisfy the intellect. The soul as the passive and sensitive substance has a heavy burden because it finds itself oppressed by the heavy weight of the jealousy which torments it.

After a consideration of his state, he adds a woeful lament, and says, Who will rescue me from the conflict and give me peace; who will separate that which wearies me and condemns me from that which pleases me, and open heaven's gates to me, so that the burning flames of my heart may be sweet and my tears be happy? Then, continuing his proposal, he adds:

O, Destiny, my enemy, go torment others. And you, Jealousy, go forth from the world. That noble visage and insatiable Love alone, assisted by their royal attendants can accomplish everything;

for love snatches me from life, she from death, she gives me wings, he burns my heart; he kills my soul; she revives it; she is my systainer and he is my bereaved burden.

But what have I to say of Love, if Love and her noble visage are only one being or one form, if by the same command and law

they leave one imprint in the center of my heart? They are not two then. They are one which make my lot joyous and melancholy.

Four principles and extremes of two contraries he would reduce to two principles and one contrariety. This is why he says, Ah me, torment the others, which is to say, it is enough, oh my destiny, that you have oppressed me to this extent, and (since you cannot exist without activity) turn your fury elsewhere. And you, Jealousy, go forth from the world, because one of the other two which remain will be able to take your vicissitudes and functions upon itself: for you, my destiny, are not other than my Love, and you, Jealousy, are not foreign to Love's substance. Therefore it is Love that remains to deprive me of life, to burn me, to give me death and to put all its weight upon my bones. As for her noble visage, it remains there to snatch me from death, to give me wings, to revise and sustain me. Finally, these two principles and one contrariety he reduces to a single principal and to a single efficacy, when he says: but what have I to say of Love? If her visage belongs to his empire, which is none other than that of Love; if then the law of Love is the same as her law; if the impression of Love sealed in my heart is certainly none other than her impression, what need is there, then, having called it a noble visage, to speak of it again as an insatiable Love?

Second Dialogue

T. Here the frenzied one begins to reveal his passions and disclose the wounds which are represented as wounds of the body, but are substantially or essentially wounds of the soul; and he speaks thus:

I who carry the lofty banner of love, have frozen hopes and burning desires: at one and the same time I tremble, freeze, burn, and sparkle, I am dumb, and I fill the sky with ardent shrieks.

My heart throws off sparks, while my eyes distil water; and I live and die, laugh and lament; the waters remain living, and the fire does not die, because I have Thetis in my eyes and Vulcan in my heart.

I love another and despise myself; but if by spread my wings, the other is changed to stone; the other is raised to heaven, if I am thrust below;

the other always flees, if I ceaselessly pursue; if I call, there is no reply, and the more I seek, the more is hidden from me.

A propos of this poem I would like to return to what I was saying a little while ago. It is not necessary to tire one's self out proving what is so evident:

nothing is pure and unmixed (and, as some used to say, nothing that is a composite is a true entity; for composite gold is not pure gold and mixed wine is not true and pure wine); moreover, all things are made of contraries, and because of this composition in all things never do the affections which engage us bring us delight without also bringing something bigger. In fact, I shall go further; if it were not for the bitter in things there would not be delight, just as hard labor makes us find delight in rest; separation is the cause of our finding pleasure in union; and if we investigate the matter generally, it will always be found that one contrary is the occasion for the other contrary's desirability and pleasure.

C. Then there is no delight without its contrary?

T. Definitely not, just as without its opposite there is no pain, as the Pythagorean poet expresses it when he says:

They fear and desire, sorrow and rejoice; nor do their eyes pierce the air while barred in the blind darkness of their prison house (Virgil, Aeneid vi. 733-734)

Such are the consequences of the composition of things. This is how it happens that none is satisfied with his lot, except some insensate and stupid person, satisfied so much the more as he finds himself in the last degree of the obscure phase of his folly; for then he has little or no apprehension of his evil, he enjoys the present without fear of the future, he is fully content with himself and with the world which surrounds him, and he has no remorse or care for what is or may be; and finally, he as no sense of the contrariety represented by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

C. From this we see that ignorance is the mother of felicity and sensuous happiness; and this same happiness is the garden of paradise of the animals, as it is made clear in the dialogues of the Cabala of the Pegasian Horse and in that which the wise Solomon says: Who increases wisdom, increases sorrow (Eccl. 1.18).

T. From this we learn that heroic love is a torment, because it does not rejoice in the present as animal love does but in the future and the absent; and its contrary awakens in it ambition, emulation, suspicion, and fear. Thus one of our neighbors said one evening after dinner: Never was I so happy as I am now; -- Giouanni Bruno, father of the Nolan, replied: -- Neither were you ever more mad than now. --

C. Do you mean then, that he who is sad, is wise, and he who is sadder is even wiser?

T. No, in fact I mean that in these is another species of madness, and one much worse.

C. If he who is content is mad, and he is who is sad is mad, then who has wisdom?

T. He who is neither content nor sad.

C. Who then? He who sleeps? He who has no feeling? He who is dead?

T. No; but he who endures, observes, and understands; who, considering the evil and the good, holding the one and the other as something variable and subject to movement, mutation, and change (so that the end of one contrary is the beginning of the other, and the extreme stage of one is the commencement of the other), takes care neither to humiliation himself, nor becomes puffed up with pride, moderates his inclinations and tempers his desires; for him it is an established fact that pleasures not pleasure, because he is ever aware of its limits, and in the same way pain to him is not pain, because he is aware of its limits by the power of reflection. In this manner the wise holds all mutable things as things which do not exist, and he believes these are nothing else but vanity and nothingness, because the same proportion exists between finite time and eternity that exists between mere point and the line.

C. So that never can we appropriately hold the view that we are content or discontent without also holding that we are mad and without expressly confessing it; and no one who debates the question and thus participates in it will be wise. Consequently in the end everyone will be mad.

T. I do not intend this conclusion; for I would call him most wise who could truly express one of his contrary states occasionally by means of the other: -- Never have I been less happy than now; -- or again: -- Never have I been less sad than now --.

C. But where two contrary feelings are evident, how is it that you do not see two contrary qualities? I mean, why do you understand the minimum happiness and the minimum sadness and two virtues and not as one vice and one virtue?

T. For the reason that both contraries in excess (that is, when they begin to go beyond their limits) are vices, for they exceed their range; and inasmuch as these move toward the lesser degree they become virtue because they are contained and enclosed within their extremes.

C. How is the state of lesser content and the state of lesser sadness not one virtue and one vice, but two virtues?

T. I say further that they are one and the same virtue; for where there is contrariety there is vice; and contrariety is there above all where the extreme is; the greater contrariety is nearest to the extreme, and least contrary or no contrary at all is in the middle where the extremes meet and become one and indifferent. For example, between the extremes of hot and cold is the more cold, and in the middle is the point you can call either hot or cold, or neither hot nor cold, a point at which no extremes are found. In the same way he who is the least content and the least happy is at the degree of indifference, and finds himself in the house of temperance where virtue resides and the condition of a strong soul, which does not give way to the south wind for the north.

This is the reason why, to come to our point, the heroic frenzy, which our present discourse somewhat clarifies, differs from other more ignoble frenzies not as virtue differs from vice, but as vice practiced in a divine way by a more divine subject differs from vice practiced in a bestial way by a more bestial subject. Therefore, the difference is not according to the form of vice itself, but according to the subjects who practice it in different ways.

C. From what you have said, I can very will infer the state of this frenzied lover who says, I have frozen hopes, and burning desires, because he is not in the temperance of indifference, but in the excess of contraries, his soul in discord; if he trembles in frigid hopes, he burns in hot desires; and if his insatiability wrings shrieks from him, fear renders him dumb; he throws off sparks from his heart for the love of another, and in compassion for himself tears flow from his eyes; he dies in the laughter of another, lives in his own complaints; and as one who no longer belongs to himself, he loves another and despises himself. Similarly physicians say that matter hates its present form in proportion to its love of the form that it does not have. And thus the eighth verse concludes with the war which the soul has within itself; and then, when the poet says in the sestet, but if I spread my wings, the other is changed to stone, and in what follows, he shows the suffering imposed upon him by the war he wages with the contraries external to him.

I recall having read this sentence in Iamblicus, where the Egyptian mysteries are treated, Impiously he has a divided will; therefore he can live neither with himself nor with others.

T. Now listen to another sonnet whose import follows upon what has been said:

Ah, what a condition, what a nature, or what a destiny is mine! I endure a living death, and a dead life! Ah me! love has killed me by such a death, so that I am deprived of both life and death.

Drained of hope at the gates of hell, overflowing with desire, I reach out to heaven; and as an eternal slave to two contraries, I am banished from heaven and from hell.

There is no respite for my pain, because between two burning wheels, one which draws me here, the other there,

like Ixion, I must pursue myself and escape myself, because the spur and the bit provide a contrary lesson to my doubtful fifth discourse.

He shows how he endures the division and discord within himself. The discord occurs when the affection, leaving the middle region and final goal of temperance, tends to one and the other extreme; and when the affection is transported high or to the right, it is also transported below and to the left.

C. How does that affection which is neither exactly at one or the other extreme fail to come within the state or bounds of virtue?

C. Affection is in the state of virtue when it establishes itself in the mean, departing from the one and the other extreme; when it tends to be extremes, inclining to one or the other of them, it falls short of virtue so much that it becomes a double vice; and vice consists in this, that a thing deviates from its own nature whose perfection consists in unity; and the composition of virtue is at the point where the contraries unite.

Here, then, is how he is dead though living, and alive while dying; as when he says, I endure a living death and a dead life. He is not dead, because he lives in the object, he is not alive, because he is dead to himself; he is deprived of death, because he nurtures thoughts in the object; he is deprived of life, because in himself he neither can vegetate nor sense anything. Besides, he is most base when he considers the loftiness of the intelligible object and realizes the weakness of his power. He is most lofty through the aspiration of the heroic desire that carries him far above the limit of his own nature, most lofty through the intellectual appetite whose operation and design is not to join his desire to its object; and he is most base because of the violence brought upon him by the contrary sensuality weighing down toward the inferno. Therefore, finding himself rising and falling, in his soul he feels the greatest discord possible, and he remains confused by the rebellion of the sensuality which spurs him to the point where reason, acting in a contrary way, restraints him. This is precisely what is shown in the following dialogue. Here reason interrogates in the name of Filenio, and the frenzied lover replies in the name of Pastore, who labors to watch over the flock of his thoughts, which he feeds in the homage and service of his nymph, that is, in the service of the affection of that object to which he has become enslaved.

F. Shepherd boy!
P.      What do you wish?
F.           What are you doing?
P.                I suffer.
F.                     Why?
P. Because both life and death reject me.
F. Who is responsible?
P.      Love.
F.           That mischievous one?
P.                That mischievous one.
F.                     Where is he?
P. In the center of my heart, strongly fixed.
F. What does he do there?
P.     He stabs.
F.         Whom?
P.             Me.
F.                 You?
P.                     Yes.
F.                         With what means?
P. With her eyes, portals of heaven and hell.
F. Do you have hope?
P.     I do.
F.         Pity?
P.             Pity.
F.                 The pity of whom?
P. Of her who tortures me night and day.
F. Does she have it too?
P.     I don't know.
F.         You're mad.
P. But what if such madness is pleasant to the soul?
F. Does she promised anything?
P.     No.
F.         Does she refuse?
P.             Not even that.
F.                 Is she silent?
P. Yes, because decorum has taken the boldness from me.
F. Your raving.
P.     Why?
F.         Because you suffer.
P. I fear her disdain more than I do my torments.

He tells of his intense pain, he laments of his love certainly not because he loves (for new no lover really dislikes loving) but because he loves unhappily and has submitted to the arrows which are the rays of those eyes, which, accordingly as they express disdain and refusal, or on the contrary as they express benevolence and favor, become the portals which lead to heaven, or, on the other hand, to hell. Therefore he is maintained in the hope of future and uncertain mercy, and in the condition of present and certain martyrdom. And even though his own madness may be clearly evident to him, never does he managed to correct himself of it is at any point; nor can he even conceive of it as unpleasant; and the more he errs because of that madness the more he delights in it, and he shows us where he says:

May it never be that I lament of love, for without love I never would be happy.

Next he shows another species of frenzy, nourished by a certain light of reason, a species which excites fear and destroys the madness already mentioned, so that it does not lead to any act that would irritates or disdain the thing loved. Therefore, he says his hope is founded upon the future, although nothing is promised or denied him; for he is silent and asks nothing for fear of offending chastity. He does not dare explain himself or make any proposal which could avail to exclude him by a rejection, or assure him by a promise; for in his mind the evil that could come to him in the one case weighs more than the good that could come to him in the other. He shows himself, then, more readily dispose to suffer his particular torment forever than to risk opening the door to what might be an occasion of trouble and sadness to his beloved object.

C. This proves his love is truly heroic, for he wishes for himself the favor of her spirit and the good will of affection as objects more important than her corporeal beauty, a beauty in which the love he has for the divine is not satisfied.

T. You know very well that there are three species of Platonic raptures. One tends to the contemplative or the speculative life; one toward the active or moral life and the last toward the life of idleness and voluptuousness; similarly there are three species of love: one which from the aspect of the corporeal form rises to a consideration of the spiritual and the divine; another which perserveres only in the delight of the sight and in conversation; and finally another which descends from a sight to the concupiscence of the touch. Of these three modes others are composed, accordingly as the first is accompanied by the second or by the third, or as all three concur together; and beyond this each one of these is multiplied into others besides, according to the affections of the frenzied lovers which tend either more to the spiritual or more toward the corporeal object or toward both of them equally. As a result, among those who are found in this band, imprisoned as they all are in love's snare, some propose for the accomplishment of their desire to gather the fruit of the tree of corporeal beauty, and, failing in this satisfaction (or at least in some hope of it), they deem decisive and vain every other amorous labor. This is the way of those who are of a barbarous mind, who neither can nor desire to attain greater dignity for themselves by loving worthy things, by aspiring toward illustrious things, and higher still, by applying their ardors and their deeds to divine things; for to such ardors and deeds nothing but heroic love can more generously and efficaciously supply the wings. The goal others propose for themselves is the fruit of gratification they take from the aspect of beauty and grace of spirit which shines and radiates in bodily charm; and although some of these love the body and long very much for union with a body, lament its inaccessibility and are saddened by separation from it, they always fear their claim to it might deprive them of the affability, conversation, friendship, and concord most important to them; for the assurance of the success of their efforts could not be greater than the fear of losing the favor they looked upon as a thing so glorious and worthy.

C. Because of the many virtues and perfection found in the human mind, Tansillo, it is worthy to seek, accept, nourish, and preserve such a love; but one must still take great care not to debase himself by becoming obligated to an unworthy and degraded object, lest he participate in its ignobility and indignity. I believe this was the significance of the counsel given by the poet of Ferarra:

Seek to rescue him who steps into love's snare without having your wings entangled.

T. To tell the truth, an object of no greater splendor than beauty of the body is not worthy of being loved for any other purpose than to propagate the species (as they say); and it seems to me proper to the swine and the horse to be tormented for that purpose; as for myself never have I been more fascinated by such a beauty than I am now over some statue or painting, for these, it seems to me, are things of the same order. It would be then a great shame for a noble spirit to say, speaking of a filthy, vile, sluggish, and ignoble soul (no matter how excellent its corporeal dress), I fear her scorn more than my torment.

Third Dialogue

T. There are many species of frenzies and these may be all reduced to two sorts. The first accordingly displays only blindness, stupidity, and an irrational impulse which tends to bestial folly; the second consists in a certain divine rapture which makes some become superior to ordinary men. The frenzies of the last sort are divided into two species; for some of those who experience them, because they have become habitations of the gods or divine spirits, speak and do admirable things for which neither they themselves nor anyone else understand the reason; and these commonly have been raised to this state from having first been undisciplined and ignorant and void of any spirits and sense of their own; in them, as in a room which has been scoured, is introduced a divine sense and spirit which has less chance of revealing itself in those who are endowed with their own sense and reason, for sometimes it is necessary that the world devoutly believe that it is given to some men to speak and act under the influence of a superior intelligence, inasmuch as their speech does not arise from their own study and experience; consequently, the multitudes may justly show her greater admiration and faith in men so endowed. Others, because of a custom or habit of contemplation, and because they are naturally endowed with a lucid and intellectual spirit, when under the impact of an internal stimulus and spontaneous fervor spurred on by the love of divinity, justice, truth and glory, by the fire of desire and inspired purpose, they make keen their senses and in the sulphurous cognitive faculty enkindle a rational flame which raises their vision beyond the ordinary. And these do not go about speaking an acting as mere receptacles and instruments, but as chief inventors and authors.

C. Which of these two species do you esteem the superior?

T. Those who are of the first sort have within them a great dignity, power, and efficacy inasmuch as they harbor the dignity. But those who belong to the second class are of their very selves more worthy, powerful, and efficatious; they are divine. Those who belong to the first are worthy in the same way as the ass who carries the sacraments; those who belong to the second have a worthiness that is truly sacred. In those of the first class the divinity is considered and viewed according to its effect and is admired, adored, and obeyed; in those of the second, the excellence of their special humanity is considered and brought to light.

Now we come to our purpose. These frenzies of which we speak, and whose manifestations are seen in these dialogues, do not arise from forgetfulness, but from a remembrance. They are not undirected frenzies, but love and desire for the beautiful and the good, a model of perfection one proposes to attain for himself by being transformed into its likeness. It is not the rapture of one caught in the snare of bestial passion under the law of an unworthy fate; but a rational force following the intellectual perception of the good and the beautiful comprehensible to man to whom they give pleasure when he conforms himself to them, so that he is enkindled by their dignity and light, and is invested with the quality and condition which makes him illustrious and worthy. By intellectual contact with that godlike object he becomes a god; and he has thoughts of nothing but things divine and shows himself insensible and impassible to those things which ordinary men feel the most and by which for they are most tormented; he fears nothing, and in his love of divinity he scorns other pleasures and does not give any thought to his life. It is not the melancholy frenzy which -- beyond counsel, reason, and prudence -- will make him stray at the mercy of chance and carry him in the flow of its ruinous tempest, as those who, having transgressed certain laws of the divine Adrastia, were condemned to the butchery of the Furies and to the loss of all peace by a conflict that was physical, arising from seditions, ruin, and maladies, as well as spiritual, arising from the loss of harmony between the rational and appetitive powers; but it is a heat enkindled in the soul by the sun of the intellect, and a divine force which sets wings upon him; so that always bringing him closer to the intellectual sun, rejecting the rust of earthly cares he becomes gold proven and pure, acquires the feeling of divine and internal harmony, and conforms his thoughts and acts to the common measure of the law innate in all things. He is not as one inebriated by the vessel of Circe who goes from ditch to ditch and from rock to rock, plunging and stumbling; nor is he like a variable Proteus always changing himself from one appearance to another, without ever finding any place, or mode, or manner of settling or fixing himself, but without disturbing his balance he conquers and overcomes the terrible monstrous; and if he happens to decline, he returns easily to the sixth sphere, thanks to those profound instincts within him which are like the nine Muses who dance and sing around the splendor of the universal Apollo; and beneath sensible images and material objects he perceives the laws of divine wisdom. It is true that sometimes, having for an escort Love, who is twofold, and because he sees himself often defrauded of the fruits of his efforts by some rising obstacle, then, like one insensible and frenzied, he overthrows the love of what he cannot understand; and thus confused by the abyss of divinity, sometimes he gives up the contest. Then he returns, nevertheless, and forces himself to attain by his will what he cannot obtain by his reason. It is also true that he usually wanders at random and transports himself now toward one and now toward another form of twofold Eros, for the chief lesson love teaches him is to contemplate the shadow of the divine beauty (when he cannot contemplate its direct reflection), as, for example, the suitors of Penelopy amused themselves with her servants when they were not permitted to converse directly with the mistress herself. Now to conclude, you can understand from what has been said, of what species this frenzied one is, whose image is shown us in these verses:

If the butterfly wings its way to the sweet light that attracts it, it is because it knows not that the fire is capable of consuming it; if the thirsty stag runs to be brook, it is because he is not aware of the cruel bow.

If the unicorn runs to its chaste nest, it is because he does not see the noose which is prepared for him. In the light, at the fount, in the bosom of my love's light, I see the flames, the arrows and the chains.

If my languishing is so sweet to me, it is because the heavenly face delights me so, and because the heavenly bow so sweetly wounds;

And because in that knot is bound up my desire, I suffer eternally through the fire of my heart, the arrow in mind brest, and the yoke upon my soul.

Here he shows that his of is not like that of the butterfly, the stag or the unicorn, who would run away if they had some idea of the fire, of the arrow and the noose, and who perceive nothing but what pleases them. He, on the contrary is guided by a most keenly felt and only too lucid frenzy, which makes him love that fire more than any other consideration, that wound more than any state of health, those chains more than any other freedom. For this evil is not an evil absolute; it is an absolute evil only with respect to what is held good according to a certain opinion. And this opinion is as fallacious as the condiment old Saturn used (for his dinner), when he devoured his own sons. For this evil in the eyes of the absolute and of eternity is understood either as a good, or as a guide leading us to the good; for this fire is the burning desire for divine things, this arrow is the impact of the ray of the beauty of the divine light, these yokes are the species of the true and the good which unite and join our minds to the primal truth and the supreme good. I spoke in this sense when I said:

By so beautiful a fire and so noble a yoke, beauty enkindles me, and chastity entangled me, so that I must be happy in fire and in slavery; liberty I must flee and I must dread the ice.

The conflagration is such that I burn yet am not consumed, and the yoke is such that the world celebrates it with me; neither am I frozen by dread, nor undone by grief; but my ardor is tranquil, my burden sweet.

I perceive so lofty a light that I am enkindled by it, and a noose devised of such rich yarn, that as contemplation grows, desire dies.

Because so beautiful a flame enkindles my heart, and the desire for so sweet a bond compels me, darkness is my servant and my ashes glow.

All loves (if they are heroic, and not purely animal, the physical means by which those enslaved by nature are called to procreation) have divinity for their object and tend to the divine beauty, a beauty which first communicates itself to the souls and is resplendent in them, and then, from the soul, or better still, through the souls, is communicated to the body. Thus a well-ordered passion loves the body, or corporeal beauty, only because it is a sign of the beauty of spirit. In fact we become enamoured of the body because of a certain spirituality we see in it, a spirituality called beauty, and a beauty which does not consist in larger or smaller dimensions, in determined colors or forms, but in a certain harmony and concordance of the bodily members and hues. To the most acute and penetrating senses, this harmony of members shows a certain sensible affinity to the spirit; consequently, those who are so endowed fall in love more easily and more intensely and they also fall out of love more easily and are more intensely provoked. This ease and intensity can be explained by a change that takes place in the beloved object as it expresses an ugly spirit made evident in some gesture or in some expressed intention; so that as such ugliness passes from the soul to the body, the body no longer seems beautiful as it once seemed. The beauty of the body, then, has the power to enflame, but certainly does not have the power to bind the lover and keep him from fleeing from it, if that body is not assisted by the grace of spirit he desires or by chastity, courtesy, and sagaciyy.

C. Do not believe that this is always so, Tansillo; for sometimes, although we discover a vicious spirit, we remain none the less enflamed and ensnared by it; or although the reason recognizes the evil and baseness of such love, it does not have the virtue of throwing off the disordered appetite. I believe the Nolan found himself in a like disposition when he wrote:

Ah me, a frenzy constraints be to cling to my evil; which makes love appear to me as a supreme good.

Ah me, my soul is not troubled that it is always bound by contrary counsels; with that cruel tyranny which nourishes me in torment and has had power to exile me from myself, I am content more than with my freedom.

I hoist my sails to the wind, which pulls me toward the odious good and leads me to sweet tempestuous damnation.

T. This occurs when both souls are vicious and as though spotted by the same ink, so that, because of their likeness love is aroused, enkinded, and confirmed. Thus the vicious meet each other in a practice of the same vice. And here I shall not be silent about what I know from experience. I have had occasion to discover in a certain soul vices particularly abhorrent to me such as sordid avarice, a most gravelling appetite for gain, ungrateful disregard of favors and courtesies granted, and an affinity for certain thoroughly vile persons (the most displeasing of all vices, because it leaves the lover with no hope of ever being or becoming more worthy of his beloved, or of becoming more acceptable to her); none the less I did not fail to burn for her corporeal beauty. But the reason? I loved her without good will, and if this had not been the case, I would have been made sad rather than happy by her shamefulness and wretchedness.

C. That distinction between loving and having good will toward the beloved is very apt and to the point.

T. Yes. For toward many do we have good will, which is to say, that we wish them to be wise and just, but we do not love them, because they are iniquitous and ignorant. And many we love because they are beautiful, but we do not wish them well because they do not merit it; and among those things he deems his beloved does not merit, the first is the love he as for her. For that reason he regrets loving her the more he is unable to refrain from doing so. This is the regret he refers to when he says, Ah me, a frenzy constrains me to cling to my evil. But he was in an opposite frame of mind when he said, either referring to another corporate object in similitude, or to a truly divine subject:

Though you inflict upon me such cruel tortures, even so I thank you, and owe you much, Love, for you opened my breast with so generous a wound and have so mastered my heart,

that it truly adores a divine and living object, most beautiful image of God on earth. Let him who will, think my fate cruel because it kills in hope and revives in desire.

I am nourished by my high enterprise; and although the soul does not attain the end desired and is consumed by so much zeal,

it is enough that it burns in so noble a fire; it is enough that I have been raised to the sky and delivered from the ignoble number.

Here his love is completely heroic and divine. And I would understand it as heroic and divine, even though because of it he speaks of himself as afflicted by such cruelty tortures; for every lover who is separated from the beloved (to which, joined by his desire, he would also be joined in act) finds himself in anguish and pain, crucifies himself and torments himself. He is so tormented, not only because he loves and is conscious that his love is most worthily and nobly employed, but because his love is deprived of that fruition which it would attain if it had arrived at the end toward which it tends. He does not suffer because of that desire which enlivens him, but because of the difficulty of the labor which martyrs him. Thus others consider him as being in an unhappy condition because of the fate which seems to have condemned him to these torments; as for himself, despite these torments, he will not fail to recognize his debt to Love and will not fail to render thanks to it, because it has brought an unintelligible form before his mind. For in that intelligible form, although he is enclosed within the prison of the flesh during this earthly life, bound by his sinews and confined by his very bones, he has been permitted to contemplate an image of the divinity more exalted than would have been possible had some other species and simitude of it been offered him.

C. The god-like and living object of which he speaks, then, is the highest intelligible aspect of the divinity he is able to experience for himself; and it is not some corporeal beauty which would obscure his thought as it appears superficially to the sense.

T. True, because no sensible thing or species of it can be elevated to so much dignity.

C. Then hope is it that he mentions the intelligible form as the object (of his love) if, as it seems to me, the true object is the divinity itself?

T. The divinity is the final object, the ultimate and the most perfect object, but it certainly cannot be found here below where we can see God only as in a shadow or a mirror; and for that reason the divinity can be the object only in similitude, and not a similitude abstracted and acquired from corporeal beauty and excellence by virtue of the senses, but a similitude the mind can discern by virtue of the intellect. When it has reached this state, the mind begins to lose love and affection for every other sensible as well as intelligible object, for joined to that light it becomes that light, and consequently becomes a god. For the mind draws the divinity unto itself, being in God by the effort to penetrate the divinity (as much as it can); and God is in that mind, for after having penetrated the divinity the mind will conceive the dignity and (as much as it can) will receive the divinity and retain a concept of it. Now the human intellect feeds itself upon species and similitudes in this inferior world, inasmuch as it is not permitted to contemplate the beauty of the divinity with purer eyes. Thus he who arrives at some most excellent and most beautifully adorned edifice and considers it in each detail, is pleased, contented, and filled with a noble wonder; but then should it happen that he also see the lord of these images in his incomparably greater beauty, he would abandon every concern and thought of such images, turn and become completely intent upon the contemplation of that lord. Such is the difference between the state in which he see the divine beauty in its intelligible aspects which are drawn from the divine beauty's effects, operations, designs, shadows, and similitudes, and that other state in which we might be permitted to see it in its own unique being.

Then he says, I am nourished by my high enterprise because (as the Pythagoreans knew) in this way the soul is turned and moves toward God, as the body moves toward the soul.

C. The body, then, is not the abode of the soul?

T. No; for the soul is not in the body locally, but is in it intrinsically as its form, and extrinsically as creator of its form, similar to that which forms the members and shapes the composite from within and from without. It is the body, then, that is in the soul; the soul is in the mind, and the mind either is God or is in God, as Plotinus said. And just as by its essence the mind is in God who is its life, similarly by its intellectual operation and the consequent operation of the will, the mind refers itself to its own light and its beatific object. It is therefore with dignity that this passion of the heroic frenzy feeds itself upon so high an enterprise. Although the beatific object is infinite, and in act perfectly simple, and although our intellective potency is unable to comprehend the infinite, except in speech or in a certain manner of speaking, or, as otherwise said, by a certain potential reason and natural disposition, he of whom we speak does not differ from one who would aspire toward the immeasurable as an end where in fact there is no end

C. And this is most nobly as it should be; for, in fact, the last end ought not to have an end, otherwise it would not be the last. Therefore it is infinite in purpose, in perfection, in essence, and in every matter possible.

T. You speak the truth. Now in this life the peculiarity of such nourishment is that it enflames the desire more than it can satisfy it, as that divine poet shows us well in the words, My soul languishes in the desire for the living God; and elsewhere when he who says, "My eyes are diminished as they gaze into the heavens" (Isaiah 38:14). This is why our own poet says, And though the soul does not attain the end desired and is consumed in so much zeal, it is enough that it burns in so noble a fire. He means the soul is consoled in this ardor and receives all the glory possible to it in its present state, and participates in that ultimate frenzy of man, inasmuch as he is a man in the state in which he finds himself presently as we see him.

C. I imagine the Peripatetics (as Averroes explained) have this in mind, when they say the ultimate happiness of man consists in attaining perfection in the speculative sciences.

T. It is true, and they put it very well. For in this condition of ours we cannot desire or attain greater perfection than that which is ours when our intellect through the medium of some noble intelligible species is united either to the separate substances, as some say, or to the divine mind, if we employ the idiom of the Platonists. And I shall omit discussion about the soul, or man in another state and mode of existence in which he may find or believe himself.

C. But what perfection and satisfaction can man find in a cognition which is not perfect?

T. Cognition can never be perfect to the extent that it shall be able to understand the highest object; but only to the extent that our intellect has the power to understand this object. It suffices that in this state of ours and in any other our intellect may perceive be divine beauty to the degree that it extends the horizon of its vision.

C. But all man cannot reached that point, but only one or two.

T. It is enough that all attempt the journey. It is enough that each one do whatever he can; for a heroic mind will prefer falling or missing the mark nobly in a lofty enterprise, whereby he manifests the dignity of his mind, to obtaining perfection in things less noble, if not base.

C. Certainly a worthy and heroic death is preferable to an unworthy and vile triumph.

T. A similar thought inspires the following sonnet:

Since I have spread my wings toward sweet delight, the more do I feel the air beneath my feet, the more I spread proud pinions to the wind, and contemn the world, and further my way toward heaven.

Nor does the cruel fate of Daedalus's son burden me, on the contrary I follow his way the more: that I shall fall dead upon the earth I am well aware; but what life compares with this death?

I hear the voice of my heart upon the wind: Where do you take me, adventurous one? Resign yourself, for too much temerity is rarely without danger.

I reply: fear not boble destruction, burst boldly through the clouds, and die content, if heaven destines us to so illustrious a death.

C. I understand when he says, It is enough that I have been raised to the sky; but not when he says, and delivered from the ignoble number; unless he means that he has come out of the Platonic cavern, removed from the condition of the stupid and most vile multitudes; for it is understood that those who profit from this contemplation can be only a very small number.

T. You have understood it very well. Moreover, by the ignoble sod it is possible that he means the body and the sensual cognition from which he who would become united to a nature of a contrary kind must raise and disengage himself.

C. The Platonists speak of two kinds of knots with which the soul is tied to the body. One is a certain vivifying act which like a ray descends from the soul to the body; the other is a certain vital quality in the body which results from this act. Now in what manner do you understand that this most noble moving number called the soul is disengaged from that ignoble number which is the body?

T. It certainly was not meant that the soul can detach itself from the body in some physical way, but in a way peculiar to its potencies, which, not enclosed and enslaved within the bosom of matter, are sometimes as though lulled and inebriated and find themselves nevertheless occupied in the formation of matter and in the vivifaction of the body. Sometimes these potencies, as though reawakened and remembering themselves, recovering consciousness of their principle and origin, turn themselves to superior things and force themselves toward the ineligible world as to their native home; but sometimes the potencies tumble from the intelligible world by a conversion to inferior things beneath the fate and necessities of generation. These two drives are represented by the two kinds of metamorphoses which the present sonnet describes:

That god who wields the resounding thunderbolt Asteria saw as a furtive eagle, Mnemosyne saw as a shepherd, Danae saw as gold, Alcmena saw as a fish, and Antiope as a satyr;

to the sisters of Cadmus he was a white bull, to Leda he was a swan, and a dragon to the daughter of Demeter. I, because of the loftiness of my object, from the most vile subject become a god.

Saturn was a horse, Neptune a dolphin, Ibis took the form of a heifer, and Mercury became a shepherd,

Bacchus a grape, Apollo a raven; and I by the mercy of love, am changed from a base thing into a deity.

There is in nature a revolution and a circle in virtue of which, for the perfection and aid of others, superior things incline toward the inferior, and for their own excellence and felicity inferior things are raisedto the superior. But the Pythagoreans and the Platonists hold that souls, not only by a spontaneous will which brings them to an understanding of natures, but also by the necessity of an inward law written and recorded by a fatal decree, at certain times set out to seek their own destinies justly determined. And these say that if souls separate themselves from the divinity, it is not so much from a rebellious will of their own, as from a certain order in virtue of which they become inclined toward the material. Therefore, not from a voluntary intention, but from a certain mysterious consequence, they begin to fall. And this is why their tendency leads them toward the lesser good called generation. (I will use the word lesser insofar as it pertains to a particular nature; but not at all as it pertains to universal nature, where nothing happens without the highest purpose which disposes of all things according to justice.) Once they and occupied themselves with generation, the souls (by a new conversion which follows in turn) return once again to their superior states.

C. Would those have it, then, that the souls are impelled by the necessity of fate, and that they have no counsel of their own to guide them at all?

T. Necessity, fate, nature, counsel, will, in things justly and impeccably ordered, all concur. Besides, according to the inference of Plotinus, some would have it that certain souls can escape their peculiar evil, those souls which, before they are confirmed in their corporeal garb, recognizing the danger, take refuge in the mind. Because the mind raises them to sublime things, as imagination debases them to interior things; the mind maintains them in rest and identity as the imagination in movement and diversity; the mind forever understands the one, as the imagination forever goes about inventing varied images. In the middle is the rational faculty which is composed of everything, as that in which concurs the one and the many, the same with the diverse, motion with position, the interior with the superior.

Now this conversion and change is symbolized in the wheel metamorphoses, in which a man is placed at the top, a beast lies at the bottom, one half-man and half-beast descends from the left, and one half man and half beast ascends from the right. This transformation is shown in which Jove, according to the diversity of the affections and their manifestations toward inferior things, invests himself in varying appearances, which assume the forms of beasts; and the other deities likewise transform themselves into ignoble and alien forms. And on the other hand, because of the sense of their own dignity, they recover their own divine forms; just as the heroic lover, raising himself by his conception of the species of divine beauty and goodness upon the wings of his intellect and intellectual will exalts himself toward the divinity, abandoning the form of more ignoble thing. And for that reason he said: From a more vile creature I become a God, I change into a deity from a base creature.

Fourth Dialogue

T. Now is described the path taken by heroic love, as it tends toward its proper object, the supreme good, and the path taken by the heroic intellect as it strives to attain its proper object, the primary or absolute truth. All of the above is summarized in the first poem which expresses the purpose to be developed in the following five. Thus he says:

The youthful Actaeon unleashes the mastiffs and the greyhounds to the forests, when destiny directs him to the dubious and perilous path, near the traces of the wild beasts.

Here among the waters he sees the most beautiful countenance and breast, that ever one mortal or divine may see, clothed in purple and alabaster and fine gold; and the great hunter becomes the prey that is hunted.

The stag which to the densest places is wont to direct his lighter steps, is swiftly devoured by his great and numerous dogs.

I stretch my thoughts to the sublime prey, and these springing back upon me, bring me death by their hard and cruel gnawing.

Actaeon represents the intellect intent upon the capture of divine wisdom and the comprehension of the divine beauty. He unleashes the mastiffs and the greyhounds; of these the greyhounds are swifter and the mastiffs more powerful, for the operation of the intellect precedes the operation of the will; but the latter in turn is the more vigorous and efficacious; since divine goodness and beauty are more lovable than comprehensible to the human intellect, and besides love moves and spurs the intellect to go before it, like a lantern, to the forests, uncultivated and lonely, very rarely visited and explored, with the result that few men have left the traces of their steps there. The youth is of little experience and practice, as one whose life is brief and whose frenzy is unstable. In the dubious path refers to the uncertain and the ambiguous reason and passion which the letter Y of Pythagoras symbolized. On the right this path shows him the more thorny, uncultivated and deserted arduous path upon which he unleashes the greyhounds and mastiffs near the traces of the wild beasts, which are the intelligible modes of ideal concepts. These are hidden, are pursued by few men, and visited most rarely, and do not offer themselves to everyone who seeks them. Here among the waters, that is to say, in the mirror of similitudes, in the works in which is resplendent the efficacy of the divine goodness and splendor -- these works are represented by the symbol of the superior and inferior waters over and beneath the firmament. He sees the most beautiful countenance and breast, that is to say, he sees the power and external operation which can be seen in the state and act of diligent contemplation of a mortal or divine mind, by a man, or by some deity.

C. If he compares divine and human comprehension and places them within the same class, I believe that he does so not with respect to the two modes of comprehension, which are very different, but with respect to the object of contemplation which is one and the same.

T. That is it exactly. He says in purple, alabaster and gold, meaning the purple of divine power, the gold of divine wisdom, the alabaste of divine beauty, in the contemplation of which the Pythagoreans, Chaldeans, Platonists, and others attempt to rise as best they can. The great hunter sees: he as understood as much as he can, and he himself becomes the prey; that is to say, this hunter set out for prey and became himself the prey through the operation of his intellect whereby he converted the apprehended objects into himself.

C. I see. For he gives shapes according to his mode to the intelligible species and proportions them to his capacity inasmuch as they are received according to a mode of him who receives them.

T. And he becomes the prey by the operation of the will whose act converts him into the object.

C. I understand; for love converts and transforms into the thing loved.

T. You know very well that the intellect understands things intelligently, that is, according to its own mode; and the will pursues things naturally, that is, according to the manner in which things exist in themselves. Therefore, Actaeon, who with these thoughts, his dogs, searched for goodness, wisdom, beauty, and the wild beast outside himself, attained them in this way. Once he was in their presence, ravished outside of himself by so much beauty, he became the prey of his thoughts and saw himself converted into the thing he was pursuing. Then he perceived that he himself had become the coveted prey of his own dogs, his thoughts, because having already tracked down the divinity within himself it was no longer necessary to hunt for it elsewhere.

C. Then it is well said that the kingdom of God is within us, and that divinity lives within us by virtue of the regenerated intellect and will.

T. Precisely. Actaeon becomes the prey of his own dogs, pursued by his own thoughts, turns his feet and directs his new steps; is renewed for a divine course -- that is, with greater facility and with a more efficatious inspiration -- toward the densest places, toward the deserts, toward the region of incomprehensible things: from the vulgar and common man he was, he becomes rare and heroic, rare in all he does, rare in his concepts, and he leads the extraordinary life. It is there that his great and numerous dogs bring him death; thus he stops living according to the world of folly, of sensuality, of blindness, and of illusion, and begins to live by the intellect; he lives the life of the gods, he feeds upon ambrosia and is drunk with nectar. Now, in the form of other similitude, he describes the manner in which Actaeon arms himself for the attainment of the object, and he says:

My solitary sparrow, no longer delay making your nest in that place which clouds and fills all my thought. There, above, give the full measure of your labor, your industry, and art.

Find new life there and raise your lovely offspring. Now that cruel destiny has run its full course, it no longer impedes you from your enterprise, as it used to do.

Go, a more noble refuge I desire for you -- and you shall have as a guide a god who by those who see nothing is called blind.

Go, and may every god of this immense creation be merciful to you; and return not to me, since you are no longer mine.

The lover's former progress symbolized by the hunter stirring his dogs here is symbolized by a winged heart; and from the cage in which it reposed in idleness and quiet it is dispatched to build its nest up on high, and to raise its little ones there -- its thoughts -- the time having come in which the obstacles posed by a thousand lures without and by the natural feebleness within are no longer present. He gives the heart permission, then, to attain a more noble state for itself, and turns it to a more lofty design and purpose, now that those powers of the soul which the Platonists have already represented by the two wings are more firmly developed. And as a guide to the heart he designates that god whom the vulgar in their blindness call blind and mad; and that god is love who by the mercy and favor of heaven has the power to transform the heart into that other nature to which it aspires, or, after its voyage of exile, to restore it to that state from which it was banished. That is why he said, and return not to me since you are no longer mine, so that not unworthily I may say with that other poet:

You have left me, my heart, and light of my eyes, you are no longer with me. (Ps. 37.11)

Next he describes the death of the soul, called by the Cabalists death of the kiss, symbolized in the Canticle of Solomon, where the beloved lady speaks these words:

Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth, because by his blows too cruel a love makes me languish; (Cant. 1: 1, 5:6-8)

by others this death is called sleep, as in the Psalmist's words:

If I shall give sleep to my eyes, slumber to my eyelids, I shall find in him peaceful repose. (Ps. 131: 4,5)

He then speaks for the soul as languid inasmuch as it is dead in itself, and alive in its object:

O frenzied ones, take care of your hearts; for mine, too much estranged from me, led away by a harsh and pitiless hand, finds its happy sojourn where it is smitten and dies.

My thoughts call it back at every hour; and in revolt, foolish falcon, it no longer knows that friendly hand, from which it has flown forth not to return.

Wild beast, who satisfies while giving pains, you ensnare the heart, the spirit, and the soul by your spurs, your flames, and your chains,

by your glances, accents, and lures; and the one who lanquishes and burns and does not return, who shall heal him, who shall cool his fire and unloose his chains?

Here the sorrowing soul, not in real discontent, but in the passion of a certain amorous martyrdom, speaks as though addressing its discourse to those who are similarly impassioned. It has dismissed its heart, as it were, against its will, for the heart directs its course toward an impossible goal, extends itself where it cannot reach and would embrace what it cannot grasp; and the more the heart is estranged from the soul, the more does it enkindle itself toward the infinite.

C. Tansillo, how does it happen that the soul in this stage of its development is happy in its own torment? Where does that spur come from which always stimulates it beyond what it possesses?

T. From this which I shall tell you now. Although the intellect has arrived at the apprehension of a certain definite intelligible form, and the will to a desire in proportion to that apprehension, the intellect does not stop there; for its own light impels it to think of that which contains every genus of be intelligible and appetitive, until it is about to apprehend the eminence of the source of ideas, the ocean of all truth and good. Thus it happens that whatever species is represented to the intellect and comprehended by the will, the intellect concludes there is another species above it, a greater and still greater one, and consequently it is always impelled toward new motion and abstraction in a certain fashion. For it ever realizes that everything it possesses is a limited thing which for that reason cannot be sufficient in itself, good in itself, or beautiful in itself, because the limited thing is not the universe and is not the absolute entity, but is contracted to this nature, this species or this form represented to the intellect and presented to the soul. As a result, from that beautiful which is comprehended, and therefore limited, and consequently beautiful by participation, the intellect progresses toward that which is truly beautiful without limit or circumscription whatsoever.

C. This procedure seems vain to me.

T. Not at all, in fact, because it is neither fitting nor natural that the infinite be understood, or that it present itself as finite, for then it would cease to be infinite; but it is perfectly in accord with nature that the infinite, because of its being infinite, be pursued without end, in that mode of pursuit which is not physical movement, but a certain metaphysical movement. And this movement is not from the imperfect to the perfect, but it goes circling through the degrees of perfection to reach that infinite center which is neither form nor formed.

C. I would like to know how by circling you can arrive at the center.

T. This I cannot imagine.

C. Then why do you say it?

C. Because I can say it and leave it for you to consider.

C. If you don't mean that he who pursues the infinite is like one who, moving along the circumference, seeks the center, I don't know what you mean.

T. It is other than that.

C. Now if you don't wish to explain it, we'll not speak of it any more. But tell me, if you will, what he means when he says that his heart is led away by a harsh and pitiless hand?

T. He uses here a similitude or metaphor borrowed from common usage, which calls cruel the object that gives no fruition, or, at best partial fruition, and is more an object of desire than of possession, so that he who has partial possession of it cannot rest in full happiness, because he still desires it with an ardor which brings him to the point of a swooning, and to the point of death.

C. What are those thoughts which call back the heart to retard it from so noble an enterprise?

T. The sensitive and other natural affections which looks to the preservation of the body.

C. What have these affections to do with the body which can in no way be of any aid or assistance to them?

T. They have nothing to do with the body, but with the soul which, too intent upon a single effort or goal, becomes remiss and shows little zeal for anything else.

C. Why does he called his heart that foolish falcon?

T. Because it knows of things above.

C. Usually one calls foolish those who know less than others.

T. No. As a matter of fact those are called foolish whose knowledge does not conform to the common rule, whether they tend to base things, having less sense, or to higher things, having more intellect.

C. I believe you are right. Now tell me further. What are the spurs, the flames, and the chains?

T. The spurs are those new pricks which stimulate and re-awaken the affection in order to render it attentive; the flames are those rays of beauty which enkindle the man who is ready to contemplate it; the chains are the details and circumstances which fix the eyes of the attention and firmly unite the intellectual powers to their object.

C. What are the glances, accents, and lures?

T. Glances are the persuasions whereby the object (as though it gazed at us) presents itself to us; the accents are the persuasions the object uses to inspire and inform us; if the lures are the circumstances which please and attract us. So that the heart which sweetly languishes, gently burns, and constantly perserveres in its enterprise, fears that its wound may heal, that its fire will go out, and its knot be untied.

C. Now recite what follows.


Lofty, profound, and living thoughts of mine, ready to flee the maternal bonds of the afflicted soul, and disposed as archers to aim where the lofty idea is born;

along these steep paths, heaven allows you to encountered the cruel beast. Remember to return and recall the heart which lies concealed in the hand of a savage goddess.

Arm yourselves with the love of the domestic fires, and curb your sight so forcefully, that

these companions of my heart shall not make you stranger to it. At least bring tidings of its delight and joy.

Here is described the natural solicitude of the soul made attentive to generation by the friendship it has contracted with matter. The soul dispatches its armed thoughts which, stimulated and spurred on by the complaint of the inferior nature, are commanded to call back the heart. The soul instructs its thoughts how they are to behave, for charmed and attracted by the object as they are, they are not too easily seduced to remain captives and companions of a heart. Therefore the soul tells them they ought to arm themselves with the love which burns with domestic fires, that is, the love friendly to generation to which they have an obligation, and of which they are to be the messengers, ministers, and soldiers. The soul, then, orders its thoughts to curb their sight, to close their eyes, in order not to gaze upon any other beauty or goodness than the one present to them, their friend and mother. And the soul finally concludes that, should its thoughts not wish to be recalled for any other duty, they at least can return to give the soul some news of the condition and state of its heart.

C. Before you proceed further, I should like you to explain what the soul means when it says to its thoughts, Curb your sight so forcefully?

T. I will tell you. All love proceeds from the sight, intellectual love from the eye of the mind; sensible love from the view of the senses. Now the word sight has two meanings. If it can mean the visual potency, that is, the power of seeing of the intellect or of the eye; or it can also mean the visual act, the application which the eye or the intellect makes upon the material or intellectual object. Thus when the thoughts are advised to curb the sight, it is not to be understood in the first way, but in the second, because it is the visual potency become act which begets the affection of the appetite, whether sensitive or intellectual.

C. This is what I desired to hear you say. Now if the visual act is the cause of the evil or of the good which proceeds from the sight, how is it that we love and desire the sight? And how does it happen that in the matter of divine things our love is greater than our understanding?

T. We desire the sight because in some way we know the good of seeing, and that the act of seeing offers us beautiful things. Therefore, we desire that act because we desire beautiful things.

C. We desire the beautiful and the good, but the sight is neither beautiful nor good; in fact, it is rather an instrument of comparison or light whereby we see not only the beautiful and good, but also the wicked and the ugly. It seems to me that the sight can be beautiful or good, as we can see either white or black. Therefore, if the sight (which actively perceives) is neither beautiful or good, how can it be desired?

T. It is not desired for itself, but surely because of some object, inasmuch as the apprehension of an object cannot take place without it.

C. What will you say if the object is neither one of sense nor of intellect? How, I ask, can the object be desired, or even seen, if there is no knowledge of it at all, if it has not occasioned any act of intellect or sense, in fact if one doubts whether it is an intelligible or sensible, incorporeal or corporeal object, or whether it is one or two or more objects, or of one or the other nature?

T. To that I would say that there exists in the sense and in the intellect an appetite and impulse towards the sensible in general. This is because the intellect desires to know all of the truth, in order to grasp all that is beautiful and good in the intelligible world. The sensitive potency wishes to be informed of all that comes within the class of the sensible, and to grasp all that appears as beautiful and good to the senses. Thus we desire no less to see things we have never seen than things we have already understood and seen. But it does not follow from this that desire does not proceed from cognition, and consequently that we desire things which we do not know. On the contrary, I hold it to be well established that we do not desire what is unknown. For if things are unknown with respect to their particular natures, they are not unknown with respect to their general natures; in the visual potency one finds everything which is visible in aptitude, and in the intellective potency everything which is intelligible. Therefore, because the inclination to act is in the aptitude, both the visual and the intellectual potency are inclined to act toward the universal, as toward something naturally understood as good. It follows, then, that the soul was not addressing itself to the deaf or the blind, when it counseled its thoughts to curb the sight; for although the sight may not be the proximate cause of desire, it is nevertheless the primary and underlying cause of it.

C. What do you mean by this last statement?

T. I mean that it is not the sensible or intelligible appearance of a form or species which of itself moves the soul, for he who contemplates the form as it is manifest to the eyes does not yet come to love it; but from the instant when the soul conceives the form as an object no longer of sight but of thought, no longer divisible but indivisible, no longer under the species of a particular thing, but under the species of the good and the beautiful, then at once love is born. Now this is the object from which the soul would divert the eyes of its thoughts. This sight is wont to encourage the inclination to love more than it sees; for as I said a little while ago, the affection always considers -- by its universal knowledge of the beautiful and the good -- that beyond the species of the good and the beautiful, which it has been able to attain, there are infinitely more and more species.

C. But how does it happen that having abstracted a species of beauty which is a conception of the soul we still desire to feed upon its external appearance?

T. Because the soul always desires to love more than it loves and to see more than it sees. Moreover the soul desires that this species which the sight has engendered in it should not become attenuated, enfeebled, or lost. The soul therefore wishes to see even more and more, so that what might become darkened to the soul's internal affection might be frequently illumined by the external aspect of the species, which, having been the beginning of its existence ought to be the beginning of its conservation. A similar analogy exists between the act of seeing and the act of understanding, for the sight is proportioned to visible objects exactly as the intellect is proportioned to intelligible objects. I believe, then, that you now understand the intention and sense of the words the soul speaks when it says, curb your sight. C. I see very well. Now proceed to relate what comes of these faults.

T. There follows the complaint of the mother against her sons who, having opened their eyes and fixed them upon the splendor of the object, contrary to her command, now wander in the company of the heart. Thus she says:

And you, cruel sons, you abandon me to embitter my pain the more; and because you constantly oppose me, you carry off with you my every hope.

For what reason do I remain conscious, oh covetous heavens? For what reason are these powers mutilated and wasted, if not to make of me the subject and example of so heavy a martyrdom and of so long a punishment?

Oh, in the name of God, dear sons, let even my winged fire become a prey, and let me see some one of you again

returned to me from those tenacious claws. Alas, no one returns, a party consolation for my woe.

Here am I miserable, deprived of a heart, abandoned by my thoughts, bereft of the hope I had entirely placed in them. Nothing else remains but the sense of my poverty, unhappiness, and wretchedness. And what am I not deprived of this sense too? Why does death not come to my aid, now that I am deprived of life? For what purpose are my natural faculties deprived of their power? How shall I be able to feed upon the intelligible species alone, the food for the intellect, if my substance is a composite? How shall I be able to remain in the company of these dear and friendly members, which I have woven around myself; how shall I order them according to the symmetry of their elements, if I am abandoned by my thoughts and passions because they are intent on immaterial and divine food? Come, come, oh my fleeting thoughts, my rebellious heart. Let the sense live on sensible things and the intellect upon intelligible things. Let matter and the corporeal subject be the support of the body, and the intellect be satisfied by its own objects; so that this complex continue to subsist, so that there be no dissolution of this machine, whose spirit unites the soul to the body. Why, wretched that I am, rather by my own doing than through external violence, do I witness this horrible divorce within my parts and members? Why? Because the intellect meddles by ruling the sense and depriving it of its nourishment; the sense, on the contrary, resists the intellect, for it would live according to its own rules, and not according to those of the other. Only its own rules and not those of the other can assure its existence and its happiness, because it must care for its own and not the other's convenience and life. There are no harmony and concord where there is that uniformity whereby one nature wishes to absorb the whole being; but harmony and concord are present where there is order and due proportion among diverse things and where each thing serves its own nature. Therefore let the sense feed itself according to the law of sensible things, the flesh according to the law of the flesh, the spirit according to the law of the spirit, the reason according to the law of the reason; let them not be confused or troubled with one another. It suffices that one does not at all alter or prejudice the law of the other. For if it is unjust that the sense outrage the law of reason, it is equally blamable that the reason tyrannize over the law of the senses, inasmuch as the intellect is the greater wanderer and the sense more domestic and as though in its own abode.

This is why it is then, oh my thoughts, that some of you are obligated to care for your home, while others can set out to seek other cares elsewhere. Such is the law of nature and such consequently is His law who is the author and the principle of nature. Therefore you transgress when, seduced by the beauties of the intellect, you leave the other part of me in danger of death. Whence have you engendered this perverse and melancholy humour of breaking certain natural laws of the true life, a life you hold in your power, for an uncertain life that is nothing if not a shadow beyond the limits of the imaginable? Does it seem natural to you that creatures should refuse the animal or the human life in order to live the divine life when they are not gods but only men and animals?

It is a law of fate and of nature that each thing work according to the condition of its nature. Why, therefore, in pursuit of coverting the nectar of the gods do you lose that nectar which is proper to you, afflicting yourself perhaps with the vain hope of some other nectar? Do you not believe that nature should disdain to accord you this other good, when you so stupidly disdain the good she offers you?

Heaven scorns giving a second good
To one who has not held first one dear.

By these and similar arguments the soul, pleading the cause of its more infirm part, seeks to recall the thoughts to the care of the body. But those, although late, return and show themselves to it not in the form in which they formerly departed; they return only to declare their rebellion and to force the whole soul to follow them. That is why the soul utters the dolorous complaint:

Oh, dogs of Actaeon, oh ungrateful beasts, whom I had directed to the refuge of my goddess, you return to me devoid of hope; and coming to the maternal shore,

too grievous a pain do you bring back. You tear me to pieces and wish me deprived of life. Then leave me, life, become a double stream deprived of its source, that I may reascend to my sun.

When will nature agree to release me of my grievous burden? When will it come to pass that from here I too may raise myself

and swiftly be delivered to the lofty object and together with my heart and common offspring dwell there?

The Platonists hold that with respect to its superior part the soul consists only in the intellect, so that it is more reasonably called intelligence than soul; for it is called soul only in so far as it vivifies the body and sustains it. Therefore here the same essence which nourishes the thoughts and maintains them on high in the vicinity of the exalted heart experiences a sadness in its inferior part and recalls those thoughts as rebels.

C. So that there are not two contrary essences, but only one essence subject to two extremes of contrariety?

T. Exactly. As the ray of the sun reaches the earth and touches the inferior and obscure elements it illuminates, vivifies and enkindles, but is for all this no less in contact with the element of fire, that is, with the star whence it proceeds, is diffused and has its principle and own original subsistence, similarly the soul which is in the horizon of its corporeal and incorporeal nature, raises itself to superior things and inclines to inferior things. And you can see that this happens not by reason and order of local motion, but only through the impulse of the one and the other potency or faculty. For example when the sense mounts to the imagination, the imagination to the reason, the reason to the intellect, the intellect to the mind, then the whole soul converts itself to God and inhabits the intelligible world. From there by a contrary conversion the soul descends to the sensible world by the degrees of the intellect, the reason, imagination, sense, and the vegetative faculty.

C. Indeed, I have been told that the soul that finds itself in the ultimate degree of divine things, justly descends to the mortal body and from there climbs again the divine degrees; and also that there are three degrees of intelligences -- those in which the intellectual dominates over the animal, called celestial intelligences; those in which the animal prevails over the intellectual, called human intelligences; and others in which the two balance each other as in the intelligences of demons or heroes.

T. In exercising its faculty, then, the mind can desire an object only to the extent that it is near, proximate, known and familiar to it. Thus a pig cannot wish to be a man nor desire anything appropriate to the appetite of a man. He prefers to wallow in the mud rather than in a bed of fine linen; he would sooner mate with a sow than with the most beautiful woman nature produces, because the desire conforms to the nature of the species. And among men one can see it is the same, according as some men are more or less similar to one or another species of brute animals. Some men have something of the quadruped, others something of the volatile animals and perhaps these men have an affinity -- one I would not wish to describe -- which draws them to the love of certain kinds of beasts. Now, if the mind, finding itself oppressed by the soul's tie to the body is permitted to raise itself to the contemplation of another state which the soul can attain, it certainly will be able to see the difference between one state and the other, and to disdain the present for the sake of the future one. Similarly, if a beast were sensible of the difference between his own condition and that of man, between the state of his own ignobility and the nobility of the human state which he would not deem impossible to achieve, then, as a way out, he would prefer death to a life that would detain him in his present existence. Therefore at this point when the soul laments, saying, O dogs of Actaeon, it is introduced as something constituted only of the inferior potencies, and the mind has revolted against it, and carried the heart away, that is, it has carried away all the affections and the entire army of thoughts. For that reason, perceiving its present state, and in ignorance of any other, believing none other any longer exists, and having no knowledge of it, the soul laments that its thoughts, in their tardy return, come back rather to draw it up with them than to find any refuge in it. And because of the distraction it if suffers from the double love of material and intelligible things, the soul feels itself lacerated and torn to pieces, so that it must finally yield to the more vigorous and powerful attraction. Now if the soul ascends by virtue of contemplation, or is transported above the horizon of the natural affections, perceiving with a most pure eye the difference between the life of contemplation and the life of passion, then, conquered by its most lofty thoughts, as though dead to the body, it aspires to the superior regions; and although it continues to live in the body, the soul vegetates there as if dead and is present in the body as an animate potency incapable of any action; not that it is inoperative so long as the body exists, but that the operations of the soul as a composite are delayed, enfeebled, and debilitated.

C. This, then, is the sense in which a certain theologian, who is said to have been transported to the third heaven, was dazzled by the heavenly vision, and desired the dissolution of his body.

T. In this manner, although the soul at first launches complaints against its heart and thoughts, it now desires to be raised with them and manifestly deplores the union and familiarity contracted with corporeal matter. Leave me then, it cries, corporeal life, and do not trouble me, so that I may reascend to my native home, to my sun. From now on leave me to dry the tears from my eyes, eyes I can no longer aid, separated as I am from my good. Leave me, for it is neither proper nor possible for a doubles stream to flow deprived of its source, that is deprived of its heart; for how can I form two rivers of tears here below, if my heart, the source of those rivers, has flown above with its nymphs which are my thoughts? Therefore, little by little from its disaffection and regret the soul progresses toward a hatred of inferior things which it expresses by the words, When will nature agree to release me of my grievous burden?

C . I understand this very well, and even what you would infer with respect to the principle point of this discourse, that there are degrees of loves, affections, and frenzies, according to the degrees of greater or lesser light of cognition and intelligence.

T. You understand me well. This should lead you to that doctrine commonly borrowed from the Pythagoreans and the Platonists according to which the soul makes the double progress of ascent and decent, corresponding to the double concern it has for itself and for matter, inasmuch as it is moved by the appetite for its proper good on the one hand, and as its material part on the other hand is directed by the providence of fate.

C. But please tell me briefly what you think about the world soul. Can it too ascend and descend?

T. If you speak of the world as the vulgar refer to it, when they call it the universe, I reply that this world being infinite and without dimension or measure appears to be immobile, inanimate, and unformed, even though it is the place of an infinite number of movable worlds and has infinite space in which are all those large animals we call stars. If you speak of the world according to the meaning held among the true philosophers for whom the world is every globe, every star, this our earth, the sun's body, the moon and even others, I reply that the soul of each of these worlds not only ascends and descends but moves in a circle. Because each of these souls is composed of superior and inferior powers, the superior powers lead it toward the divinity, the inferior ones toward the material mass which becomes vivified by that divinity and maintained among the tropics of generation and corruption of the living things of these worlds; and each soul eternally serves its own life; and the action of divine providence always in the same measure and order, by warmth and divine light always maintains it in the same, customary state.

C. This suffices me on this subject.

T. Just as these particular souls according to the diverse degrees of their ascent and descent are diversely affected in their behavior and inclinations, so they manifest a diversity of matter and degree of frenzy, love and sensitivity; and there is this diversity not only in the ladder of nature according to the order of the diverse lives the soul assumes in diverse bodies as expressly held by the Pythagoreans, the Saducees and others and implicitly by Plato and those who have more profoundly penetrated his meaning, but also in the ladder of human affections which has as many degrees as the ladder of nature, inasmuch as man in all his potencies represents every species of being.

C. For that reason souls can be known to ascend or decend by their affections, to come from above or from below, to be on the way of becoming beasts or gods, according to their specific natures, as the Pythagoreans understood it. Or one may understand it simply by the similitude of the affections held by common opinion; for the human soul need not have the power to become the soul of a brute, as Plotinus and other Platonists justly maintain, following the lesson of their master.

T. Good. Now, a to come to the point, this soul of which we speak having advanced from an animal to an heroic frenzy, expresses itself in these words: When will it come to pass that I raise myself to the lofty object, and dwell there in the company of my heart and common offspring? It continues with the same proposal when it says:

Destiny, when shall I be allowed to ascend the mount, which for my perfect blessing shall bring me to the lofty gates where I shall know those rare beauties? When will my tenacious pain be strongly comforted

by him who reassembles my dislocated members and preserves my failing powers from death? My spirit will prevail over its enemy, if it ascends where error assails it no longer,

and attains the end it waits for, and ascends where the lofty object is, and seizes the good which one alone possesses,

whereby so many faults are remedied and happiness is found -- as he declares who alone predicts all things.

O destiny, oh fate, oh divine and immutable providence,

when shall I be allowed to ascend that mount, when will I reach so much loftiness of mind that I may transport myself and reach those high portals and enter to see those rare beauties, beauties that in some way shall be explained and understood? When will he accord efficacious comfort to my pain (releasing me from the rigorous knots of care), he who read reassembles and unites my members, till then disunited and dislocated? The question is asked of Love, who brings about the union of these corporeal members, till then divided from each other as much as one contrary is divided from another; all Love, who, besides, preserves from death these intellectual potencies which have been failing to act, and provides them with the spirit whereby they may aspire to ascend. When, I say, shall I be fully comforted by giving these potencies free flight, so that my whole substance can fix its home in that place where by my own effort I may amend all my faults? Arriving at that summoned my spirit will prevail over its enemy, for nothing is present there that may outrage it, no contrary that may conquer it, no error that may assail it. Oh, if my spirit attains and reaches the place which with all its power it desires, if it climbs and arrives at the summit where its object is and settles itself to remain there; if it manages to possess the good which cannot be possessed except by one alone (that is, by that good itself, inasmuch as everything else has goodness only in the measure of its own capacity, and that good alone has it in all its plenitude), then I shall be permitted to be happy according to the mode in which he declares who predicts all things, that is, he who declares this loftiness and in whom declaring and accomplishing are the same thing. I will be happy according to the way in which he declares or acts, who predicts everything; that is to say, he who is the principle and efficient cause of all things, for whom to declare and to order is the true making and undertaking. This is how Love's affection makes its way from above and from below upon the ladder of superior and inferior things, and how the intellect and the sense make their way from above and from below in the order of intelligence and sensible things.

C. Therefore the greater number of philosophers hold that nature delights in the vicissitude which is seen in the revolution of its wheel.

Fifth Dialogue


C. Let me have a look here, so than by my own effort I may be able to consider the states of these frenzies, according to the arrangement of the militia presented here.

T. Notice how the warriors carry the emblems of their affections and their fortunes. Let us consider their names and their dress. Let it suffice us to give our attention to the meaning of the emblems and to the meaning of what is written, as well as to the motto which accompanies the emblematic figure and the poem which completes the figure by clarifying its sense.

C. This is most agreeable. Here then is the first one. He carries a shield divided in four colors; on the crest of the shield is painted a flame underneath a head of bronze, from whose apertures a smoky wind issues with great force and written above are the words, At regna senserunt tria ('But three realms afflict him').

T. I shall give you some clarification of the above. As one can see, the presence of the flame warms the globe, in which water is contained, and causes this humid element, rendered lighter and less dense by virtue of the heat, to resolve itself into vapor and consequently to demand a much greater space to contain it. If the water does not find an easy exit, it bursts forth with the greatest force and destruction to crack the vessel; but if an easy exit is procured for it, it issues out little by little with less violence and according to the extent of its evaporation exhales and expands into air. This figure represents the frenzied one's heart whose organization has been well disposed to the contact of love's flame, and consequently from its vital substance one part (of the heart) sparkles in flames, another part is transformed into abundant weeping rising from the breast, and still another sends up a wind of sighs to incense the air.

And that is the reason for the words, At regna senserunt tria. Here the word at has the virtue of implying difference, diversity, and opposition, as if to say that there is some one else who is capable of experiencing the same feelings, and yet does not experience them. This is very well explained in the verse placed underneath the emblematic figure:

From my twin lights I, a little earth, am wont to pour forth no sparing humor to the sea; the sighs hidden within my breast the avid winds receive in no small measure;
and the flame loosed from my heart mounts to the sky without diminishing. With tears, sighs, and my ardor I render a tribute to the sea,
to the air and to the fire. Water, air, and fire receive some part of me; but my goddess shows herself so iniquitous and cruel,
that my tears find no solace in her, nor does she hear my cries, nor does she ever turn in pity toward my ardor.

Here the material subject represented by the earth is the substance of the frenzied lover. From twin lights, that is to say, from his eyes, he pours forth copious tears which flow into the sea; from his breast he sends an abundance and multitude of sighs to the immense receptacle of the air; and the fire of his heart does not abate upon the stream of air like a small or weak flame, does not resolve into smoke and transmigrate into another essence, but, powerful and vigorous (rather nourishing itself upon some other substance than abandoning anything of its own), it joins a kindred sphere.

C. I have understood it well. Now to the other.


T. He who comes next has on his shield, also divided into four colors, a crest in which the sun extends its rays upon the back of the earth; and there is the motto, Idem semper ubique totum ('always and everywhere the same.)

C. I see that this cannot be easy to interpret.

T. The meaning is the more excellence, as it is the less vulgar, and you will see that it is single, unified, and not strained. You must consider that although the sun appears different with respect to different regions of the earth according to time and place, nevertheless with respect to the entire globe it acts always and everywhere in the same way, for in whatever point of the ecliptic it may find itself, it causes winter, summer, autumn, and spring, and the entire earthly globe receives these four seasons because of it. For it is never hot in one part but it is cold in an other. When it is hottest for us in the topic of Cancer, it is coldest in the tropic of Capricorn, so that the sun is the cause of the summer here, the winter there, and the cause of the spring and autumn according to the disposition of the middle and temperate regions. Therefore the earth is always subject to rain, wind, heat, cold; in fact the earth would not be wet in one part, if it were not dry in the other, and the sun would not heat it from one side, if it had not withdrawn its heat from the other.

C. Before you complete your argument, I understand what you and the frenzied lover mean. As the sun always directs its impressions upon the earth and as the earth always receives all of them entirely, so does the lover's object by its active splendor render him passively to tears, symbolized by the waters, to passions, symbolized by the flames, and to sighs, symbolized by these intermediate vapors which depart from the fire and proceed to the waters, or depart from the waters and proceed to the fire.

T. It is very well explained in the following sonnet:

When the sun sets in Capricorn, there is no torrent the rains do not enrich; when it returns through the Equinox, then are unleashed the messengers of Aeolus,
and it enkindles us by a more prolific day whenever it reascends to burning Cancer. But my tears, sighs, and ardors do not accord with these frosts, tempests, and hot seasons;
for I am always in tears, no matter how intense my sighs and fires. And though I know too much of water and fire,
never does it happen that I sigh the less, and there is no limit to my burning amid sighs and previous weeping.

C. The meaning of the emblem is explained less by this poem than by the preceding commentary; for the poem follows rather as a consequence and companion of the commentary.

T. Say rather that the emblem is implied in the commentary, and the motto is fully explained in the poem. For both the emblem and the motto are most appropriately represented by the symbol of the sun and the earth.

C. Let us proceed to the third.


T. The third lover carries upon a shield a nude boy lying upon the green meadow. The boy rests his head upon his arm, and turns his eyes to the sky toward certain edifices, houses, towers, landscapes, and gardens set above the clouds; and a castle is also to be found whose walls are made of fire, with the motto, Mutuo fulcimur ('Mutually we are sustained').

C. What does this mean?

T. You are to understand that the nude boy represents the frenzied lover, simple, pure, and exposed to all the accidents of nature and fortune, who with his powerful imagination builds castles in the air and, among other things, a tower, whose architect is love, whose walls are the amorous fires and whose builder is himself who says, Mutuo fulcimur. This is to say, I build and sustain you up there with my thoughts, and you sustain me here below with hope. You would not exist were it not for my imagination and my thought which forms and sustains you; and I would not be alive were it not for the consolation and the comfort I received because of you.

C. It is true that even the most vain and chimerical fancy can be a more real and genuine medicine to a frenzied heart than the herbs, stones, oils, or other products produced by nature.

T. Magicians can do more by means of faith than doctors by means of the truth, and in the gravest illnesses the sick profit more by believing all that the first say, than by understanding all that the second do. Now let us read the verse.

Beyond the clouds, in the highest region, sometimes when I burn in delirium, for the refreshment and deliverance of my spirit I form a castle of fire in the air.
If my fatal destiny incline a little, so that the sovereign grace bend without scorn and anger toward the flame which kills me, O happy my pain and my death!
Oh, youth, of your flames and of your snares -- because of which men and gods sigh and become slaves --
I do not feel the ardor, nor the burden, but, you, O love, can cause them to possess me, if your merciful hand will lead you to uncover my torment.

C. The lover in this poem shows that what nourishes his fancy and revives his spirit is the belief (for he lacks the boldness to explain and make known his pain to himself, profoundly subject as he is to martyrdom) that, if severe and rebellious fate bend somewhat (and finally decide to smile upon him) by making the lofty object reveal itself to him without scorn and anger, such good fortune would make him deem no joy so happy, no life so blessed as the happiness he would find in his pain and the blessedness he would find in death.

T. And thus he begins to explain to Love that, if it can ever have access to his heart, it will never be by using the armed might whereby he usually triumphs over men and gods; but only by uncovering his burning heart and tormented spirit; for only by such a sight will compassion be able to open the way to him and introduce him to that difficult abode.


C. What is the meaning of that fly which flies around the flame and is almost at the point of being burned, and the meaning of the motto, Hostis non hostis ('an enemy yet not an enemy')?

T. It is not difficult to understand that the fly, which is seduced by the beauty of the dazzling light, throws itself innocent and full of love into the deadly flame. For that reason hostis refers to the scalding effect of the flame; non hostis refers to the desire of the fly. Thus hostis, the fly as passive; non hostis (the fly) as active. Hostis, the flame because of its fire; non hostis, because of its splendor.

C. Now what is that written on the tablet?


May it never be that I lament of love, without which I do not wish felicity. Even if it be true that I toil for it in pain, I can only desire what it grants me.
Whether the sky is clear or obscured, cold or burning, I shall ever be a true phoenix, for another destiny or fate can hardly untie that knot which death cannot untied.
For the heart, for the spirit, and for the soul there is no pleasure, liberty, or life which smiles so much, rejoices, and is so welcomed,
is so sweet, so gracious, and so excellent as the hardship, yoke, and death provided for me by nature, will, and destiny.

This emblem shows the similarity between the frenzied lover and the fly drawn toward the light. But then the poem makes apparent their difference more than their similarity. For one ordinarily believes that if the fly could foresee its own ruin, it would rather flee the flame than pursue it as it does now, for it would hold it evil to lose itself by dissolving in the inimical fire. But the frenzied one would like to perish in a flames of love no less than he would like rapturously to contemplate the beauty of that rare splendor beneath whose sway by the inclination of nature, his own free choice and the disposition of fate he toils, serves, and dies, more joyful, more resolved, and more valiant than the influence of any other pleasure offered to his heart, liberty offered to his spirit, and life reawakened in his soul.

C. Tell me, why does he say, I shall ever be one?

T. Because he thinks it worthy to explain that the reason for his constancy is that the wise man does not change like the moon. It is the stupid man who changes as the moon does, but this lover is one and immovable, like the Phoenix.


C. Good. But what does that branch of palm mean, accompanied by the motto, Caesar adest ('Caesar is here')?

T. Without too much discussion all may be understood by reference to the writing on the tablet:

Unconquered hero of Pharsalia, although your warriors were almost extinct when they saw you, they rose again most potent in battle and subdued your haughty enemies.
Thus does my good, which is equal to heaven's blessedness, in revealing itself to the sight of my thoughts whose light was obscured by my scornful soul, revive them so that they are more powerful than love.
Its sole presence, or the memory of it, so revives them, that with sway and divine power
they reduce every contrary violence. My good governs me in peace, but does not abandon its snare nor its torch.

The inferior powers of the soul, like a valiant and inimical army which one finds disciplined, skilled, and well provided in its own country, sometimes turn against the foreign enemy, who descends from the high summit of the intelligence to dominate the people of the valley and the swampy plains. It happens that, because of the harassing presence of the enemy and the difficulty of the precipitous swamps, these people find themselves almost lost, and in fact would be lost, were it not for a certain conversion by the act of contemplation to the splendor of the intelligible species; for the act of contemplation there is a conversion from the inferior to the superior degrees.

C. What are these degrees?

T. The degrees of contemplation are like the degrees of light. Light, which is never in darkness but sometimes appears shadowy, is seen better in colors in the order of their progression from one extreme, black, to the opposite extreme, white; is more efficaciously in the refulgence diffused upon refined and transparent bodies as in the reflection of a mirror or the moon; is more vividly in the rays scattered from the sun, and in the highest and most principal degree, is seen in the sun itself. Now the potencies of comprehension and affection are ordered in such a way that a potency always has an affinity for the one immediately above it, and each potency by a conversion toward the one which raises it reinforces itself against the inferior one that draws it down (as the reason, converted to the intellect, is not seduced or conquered by the sensitive powers); consequently, when the rational appetite clashes with the sensual concupiscence and by the act of contemplation confronts the intellectual light, then it retrieves its lost virtue, reinforces its nerves, frightens the enemy and puts him to rout.

C. In what way do you mean that this conversion takes place?

T. By three preparations which the contemplative Plotinus notes in his book Of the Divine Intelligence [Enneads 5.8]. The first is by resolving to conform the vision to the divine likeness by turning the sight from things equal or inferior to its own perfection; the second is by applying the vision with every purpose and attention to the superior species; the third is by submitting the entire world and affection to God. For he who behaves in this way is beyond a doubt infused with the divinity, present everywhere and ready to penetrate him who turns himself to it by an intellectual act and offers himself to it by the will's affection without reserve.

C. Then it is not corporeal beauty which this lover longs for?

T. Certainly not; because not being true or constant, corporeal beauty cannot be the cause of true or constant love. The beauty one sees in a body is an accident and a shadow, and is like other things that are altered, tainted, and wasted by the mutation of the subject, which from beautiful often becomes ugly without any alteration taking place in the soul. The reason then apprehends the truest beauty by converting itself to the thing which gives the body its beauty and its form; and this thing is the soul, the modeller and sculptor of the body. After this, the intellect rises further and well understands that the beauty of the soul is incomparably superior to the beauty found in bodies; but it is not persuaded that the soul is beautiful essentially and in itself; for if it were, there would not be the differences one sees within the genus of souls, some of which are wise, amiable, and lovely, others stupid, odious, and ugly. It is necessary, then, to be raised to that superior intellect which is beautiful in itself and good in itself. This is that one and supreme captain, who alone, placed in the sight of militant thoughts, illuminates them, encourages them, reinforces them, and assures them of victory through scorn for every other beauty and the repudiation of every other good. This, then, is the presence which overcomes every difficulty and conquers every violence.

C. I understand completely. But what is the significance of, there it governs me in peace, but does not abandon its snare, nor its torch?

T. It means and proves that love of whatever sort, the stronger its empire and the more certain its power, makes its bonds more tight, its yoke more firm, and flames more ardent, unlike the ordinary prince or tyrant who uses the greatest force and constraint when his power is weakest.

C. Let us go to the next one.


T. Here I see an image of a flying phoenix toward which a little boy is turned who burns in the midst of flames, and I see the motto, Fata obstant ('Their fates run contrary'). But in order to understand this better, let us read the tablet:

Unique bird of the sun, lovely Phoenix, who are as old as the world in happy Arabia, you are still what you always were, while I am no longer the same.
Because of the fire of love I die unhappy, while you the sun revives with its rays. You burn in one, but I in every place. I from Cupid, but you from Phoebus have your flame.
You have predestined for you the term of a long life, and I have a brief one, whose end is offered me in ruins without number.
I know neither the life I shall live, nor the life I have lived. A blind destiny leads me, while you, assured of yours, turn once again toward your heart.

The sense of the verse shows us that the emblem represents the antithesis between the fate of the phoenix and the fate of the frenzied one, and that the motto, Fata obstant, does not mean the fates are contrary either to the boy or to the phoenix, or to the two of them, but that for each one of them the decrees of fate, far from being the same are different and opposite. For the phoenix is what it was, inasmuch as by the fire the body of the phoenix is renewed in the same material, and its form is renewed by the same spirit and soul. The frenzied one is what he was not, because as a human subject he belonged previously to some other species, separated from the human species by differences without number. Therefore one knows what the phoenix was and knows what it shall be, but only in terms of many and uncertain metamorphoses shall this lover be able to clothe himself again in a natural form identical or similar to the one which is his today. Besides, the phoenix in the presence of the sun changes death for life, and this subject in the presence of love changes life for death. And further, the phoenix consumes itself on the aromatic altar, and the lover finds his fire everywhere and takes it with him wherever he goes. Moreover the phoenix is assured of the terms of a long life, but the lover because of infinite vicissitudes of time and innumerable reasons of circumstance has only the uncertain term of a short life. The phoenix enkindles itself with certainty, the lover burns in the doubt of ever seeing the sun again.

C. What do you suppose this emblem represents?

T. It represents the difference between the inferior intellect (commonly called the intellect in potency, or the possible or passive intellect), which is uncertain, diverse, and multiform, and the superior intellect, the one perhaps called by the Peripatetics the lowest in the hierarchy of the intelligences, which, they say, immediately influences every individual of the human species and is the active and actual intellect. This intellect, unique for the human species, influences every individual and is comparable to the moon which is always of the same species and whose aspect ever renews itself as it turns toward the sun, the first and universal intelligence. However, the human intellect, individual and multiple, is turned like the eyes toward countless and most diverse objects, so that it is informed according to an infinity of degrees and an infinity of natural forms. That is why it happens that this particular intellect is frenzied, wandering, and uncertain, while the universal intellect is tranquil, stable, and certain with respect to the appetite as well as to the apprehension. Therefore (as you can easily decipher for yourself), this figure symbolizes the nature of the sensitive appetite and apprehension, changing, shifting, inconsistent, and uncertain, and the nature of the intellectual appetite and its concept, firm, stable, and definite. The figure also symbolizes the difference between sensual love, uncertain and undiscerning of its objects, and intellectual love which sees only a single object toward which it turns, whereby its thought is illumined, its passion enkindled, inflamed, illuminated, and maintained in unity, identity, and position.


C. But what is the meaning of that figure of the sun with a circle inside it and another circle outside of it, and of the motto, Circuit ('It revolves in a circle')?

T. I'm sure I would never have understood the meaning of the figure if the author himself had not explained it to me. Now it must be understood that Circuit refers to the motion the sun makes around the double circle drawn inside it and around it to signify that the sun both moves itself and is moved at the same time. Therefore, the sun is always found to be in every point of the traversed circle, for in the single instant of time, it both moves and is moved simultaneously and is equally present in the entire circumference of the circle in which motion and rest converge and become one.

C. This I have understood in the dialogues Of the Infinite Universe and Innumerable Worlds, where it is explained that the divine wisdom (as Solomon said) is movable to the highest degree and at the same time most stable, as it is declared and understood by all those who know. Now proceed to your explanation of it.

T. The author of the emblem means that his sun is not like that sun which (as is commonly believed) circles the earth in the daily motion of twenty-four hours and completes its planetary motion in twelve months, affecting the earth by the four distinct seasons of the year according to the regions in which it finds itself in the four cardinal points of the Zodiac. But his sun is such that, representing eternity itself and therefore in perfect possession of all, it comprises the winter, spring, summer, the autumn, the day, and the night together, for it is wholly everywhere and in all points and places.

C. Now apply your statement to the emblem.

T. Because it is impossible to design the whole sun at each point in the circle, two circles have been drawn here. One circle is drawn around the sun to show that the sun moves itself through it. The other circle is drawn inside the sun, to show that the sun is moved by it.

C. But this figuration seems to me obscure and not precise.

T. It is sufficient that it is as clear and precise as he was able to make it. If you can find a better one, you are given every authority to remove this one and replace it with one of your own. For this was presented only in order that the idea might not be without some concrete form.

C. What do you say about the word circuit?

T. That motto, according to its fullest meaning, represents as much as can be represented; for by the sun's revolving itself and being revolved in a circle is signified its present and perfect motion.

C. Most excellent. Granted that those circles express poorly the coexistence of movement and rest, we can nevertheless say that they have been put there to signify a single revolution. And so I am content with the subject and form of the heroic emblem. Now let us read the rime.


Sun, you send down temperate rays from Taurus, from Leo you ripen and burn all, and when you shed light from stinging Scorpio much of your fiery vigor you abandon,
until from proud Aquarius you consume everything with cold, and harden the humid bodies. -- But I in spring, summer, autumn, and in winter am eternally warmed, burned, inflamed, and enkindled.
So hot is my desire, that I am easily moved to contemplate that lofty object for which I burn so much,
that my ardor throws off sparks to the stars. The years have no moment which see any change in my anguish.

Notice here that the four seasons of the year are indicated not by the four movable signs of Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn, but by the four which are called fixed, that is to say, Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius, in order to represent the perfection, stability, and fervor of those four seasons. Note also that by virtue of those apostrophes found in the eighth verse, you may read mi scaldo, accendo, ardo, avvampo; or, scaldi, accendi, ardi, avvampi; or also, scalda, accende, arde, avvampa. Besides, you must consider, these are not four synonyms but four diverse terms which express so many degrees of the effects produced by the fire; for first, the fire warms, second, it inflames, third, it burns, fourth, it enkindles or sets him on fire who has been warmed, inflamed, and burned. And therefore are denoted in the frenzied one desire, intention, zeal, and the affection of love which he feels at every moment.

C. Why do you give it the name of anguish?

T. Because the divine light is in this life more an object of laborious emptiness than of tranquil fruition, since our minds move toward that light like birds of the night toward the sun.

C. Let us proceed. I have now heard enough to grasp everything.


T. The following crest presents a full moon with the motto, Talis mihi semper et astro ('Such is it always to me and to the sun'). It means that to the star, that is, to the sun and to him the moon is always such as it is here, full and free clear in the entire circumference of its circle. So that you may understand this better, I would have you read the poem written upon the tablet:

Inconstant moon, fickle moon, you who emerge from the horizon with your horns now empty, now full, your orb reascends now white, now dark; now you illuminate Boreas and the valleys of the Caucasus,
now you turn along your usual path to give light to the south and the last confines of Lybia. So the moon of my sky for my continual torment is ever steady, and is ever full.
And my sun is the same, which forever ravishes and restores me, which ever burns and is so resplendent,
always so cruel and so beautiful. This my noble torch ever martyrs me, and still it delights me.

It seems to me that this lover's particular intelligence is always thus with regard to the universal intelligence. In other words, the universal intelligence illumines the entire hemisphere, even though that intelligence appears sometimes obscure, sometimes more or less luminous, according to the impressions it makes upon the inferior potencies. Or perhaps it would mean that his speculative intellect (invariably in act) is always turned and drawn toward that human intelligence represented by the moon. For as the moon is called the lowest among all the planets and is found nearest to us, so the intelligence which illuminates all of us (in our present state) is the lowest in the hierarchy of intelligences, as Averroes and other more subtle Peripatetics note. With respect to the intellect in potency, the human intelligence represented by the moon sometimes seems to decline, insofar as it does not display itself in act, and sometimes it seems to rise from the valley, that is, from the bottom of the concealed hemisphere; sometimes it displays itself vacant and sometimes full, accordingly as it gives more or less light; sometimes its orb is obscure, sometimes brilliant, because sometimes it dispenses only a shadow, similitude, and vestige, or sometimes it pours out the light more openly; sometimes it declines toward the south, sometimes to the north; that is, sometimes it retires and alienates itself more and more from us, sometimes it returns and approaches. But the active intellect by incessant labor (for it is foreign to human nature and the human condition which is wearied, beaten, incited, solicited, distracted, and as though torn by the inferior potencies) always sees its object immobile, fixed and constant, and always in plenitude, and in the same splendor of beauty. Therefore the object always ravishes him insofar as he fails to offer himself to it, and always restores him insofar as he succeeds in offering himself to it. It always enflames his passion as much as it is resplendent in his thought; it is always as cruel to him by withdrawing itself as he similarly withdraws himself, and always so beautiful in communicating itself to the degree that he offers himself to it. It always martyrs him separated from him by space; and it always delights him because he is conjoined to it in his affection.

C. Now apply the meaning to the motto. T. He says then, Talis mihi semper; that is to say, by means of the constant application of my intellect, memory and will (for they alone do I remember, understand and desire), it is always such to me, and insofar as I can understand, it is entirely present and is never separated from me by distraction of my thought, never obscured by any deficiency of attention, for there is no thought that turns me from its light, no natural necessity that compels me to attend it less. Talis mihi semper, means further that, on its own part, the moon is itself invariable in substance, virtue, beauty, and efficacy with respect to all that shows and invariable constancy toward it. He says, then, et astro because with respect to the face of the sun which illumines it, the moon is always equally luminous inasmuch as it is equally turned to the sun and the sun equally diffuses its rays upon it. Although that moon which we see with our eyes appears to this earth sometimes dark and sometimes light, sometimes less brilliant and sometimes more brilliant, it nevertheless receives an equal measure of the sun's illumination, because it always receives the sun's rays at least upon the entire surface of its hemisphere. Similarly this earth is equally illuminated upon the surface of its hemisphere, even though from time to time from its watery area it sends up its light to the moon according to the variability of the light it receives from it. (We think of the moon, as well as each of the innumerable stars, as another earth). Thus both the earth and the moon change their positions toward one another as each one finds itself nearer to the sun.

C. How is this intelligence represented by the moon, which shines from its entire hemisphere?

T. All the intelligences are represented by the moon, inasmuch as they participate in potentiality and act, and inasmuch, I say, as they have the light unrefined and according to participation because they receive it from another. And these intelligences do not have the light of themselves and by their nature but have it by the view of the sun, the first intelligence, pure and absolute light, pure and absolute act.

C. Then everything dependent and not prime act and first cause is as though composed of darkness and light, matter and form, potency and act?

T. Exactly. Besides, our soul in its entire substance is symbolized by the moon. It shines through the hemisphere of the superior potencies when turned toward the light of the intelligible world; and it is darkened on the side of the inferior potencies when occupied with the government of matter.


C. It seems to me the emblem I see on the following shield may contain some issue and symbol relevant to what has already been said. The emblem is a rugged, branchy oak tree blown by the wind and is circumscribed by the motto, Ut robori robur ("strong as an oak"); and on the tablet attached to the emblem is the following poem:

Ancient oak which spreads its branches to the air and fixes its roots in the earth, neither the trembling of the earth, nor the powerful spirits the sky lets loose from the bitter north wind,
nor whatever the dreadful winter may send, can ever uproot you from the place where you stand firm; you demonstrate the true semblance of my faith, for which no external accident has ever shaken.
You ever embrace, nourish, and contain the same ground in whose depths you spread agreeable roots upon a generous bosom:
Upon one has single object I have fixed my spirit, sense, and intellect.

T. The motto is clear. The frenzied one is proud that he has the strength in robustness of the oak tree; like one of the lovers before him he is proud to be one and the same with the unique phoenix, and like the one who immediately precedes him, proud to be able to conform to the moon in its everlasting brilliance and beauty. Moreover, he is proud that he does not resemble the moon insomuch as it is variable to our eyes, but insomuch as it always receives an equal measure of the solar splendor. Therefore, he is proud of having remained so constant and firm against the north wind and the tempestuous winters, so strong in the unshakable attachment which fixes him to his sun where his desire and purpose root him, like the oak tree whose roots intertwine with the veins of the earth.

C. For my part I regard it better to remain in peace and free from any onslaught than to find myself in circumstances of such vigorous endurance.

T. There is an aphorism of Epicurus which, if understood properly, would not be judged so profane as the ignorant think it; for it does not deny virtue to be such as I have defined it and takes nothing from the perfection of constancy, but rather adds something to that protection which the vulgar comprehend; for he believes the true and complete virtue of sturdiness and constancy is not the constancy which resists discomforts and puts up with them, but the constancy which takes them upon oneself without feeling them. He does not hold perfect, divine, and heroic the love which feels the spur, the bit, remorse, or pain caused by that vulgar kind of love, but heroic that love which abolishes any sense of other affections, so that he attains the degree of pleasure which has no power to annoy him by diverting him or by making him stumble upon some obstacle; and this is to reach the highest beatitude in this state, to have desire and not to have any sense of pain.

C. The common opinion does not accept this interpretation of Epicurus.

T. That is because one does not read his books, nor read those books which report his arguments without prejudice, but those who read the story of his life and the circumstances of his death will understand his meaning in the words he dictated as the exordium to his testament: Having come to the last and most happy day of our live, we have planned for that day peace, health, and tranquillity of mind; for no matter how much, on the one hand, the greatest pain has tormented us with obstacles, that torment, on the other hand, has become completely absorbed by the pleasure we have taken in our creations and in the consideration of our end. And it is clear that he did not find more happiness than pain in eating, drinking, sleeping, and generating. His happiness consisted in feeling no hunger, no thirst, nor fatigue, nor sexual appetite. Consider, then, what we hold to be the perfection of constancy. Constancy does not consist in this, that the tree does not allow itself to be shattered, bend, or broken; but in this, that it does not even stir. In the likeness of that oak our hero holds fast his spirit, sense, and intellect, at that point where no tempestuous onslaught can move him.

C. Do you mean then that to put up with torment is a desirable thing because it is a sign of strength?

T. To put up with torment, as you say, is a part of constancy, but it is not its complete virtue; and I call it putting up with it with hardiness, and Epicurus calls it, torment without feeling it. This privation of feeling results from this that everything has been entirely absorbed in the cultivation of virtue, the true good and happiness. Such was the insensibility of Regulus toward the tomb, of Lucrezia toward the dagger, of Socrates toward poison, of Anaxarcus toward the mortar (which bruised him), of Mucius Scaevola toward the fire, of Horatius Cocles toward the abyss of the Tiber, and of other virtuous men toward the things which greatly torment and horrify those who are ordinary and vile.

C. Now proceed.


T. Look at this other emblem which contains the image of an anvil and hammer and has the motto, Ab Aetna ('from Aetna'). But before we consider it, let us read the poem in which the prosopopoeia of Vulcan is introduced:

To my Sicilian mount where I may temper the thunderbolts of Jove now I shall not return. Here I shall remain, I, scabrous Vulcan, for here a prouder giant rebels,

a giant who is enflamed against the sky and rages in vain, as he attempts new labors and trials. A better forger of Aetna, a better smith, anvil, and hammer do I find

here in this breast which exhales sighs and whose bellows vivify the furnace, where the soul lies prostrate from so many assaults

of such long tortures and great martyrdoms, and brings a concert which divulges so bitter and cruel a torment.

This poem shows the pains and afflictions inherent in love, especially in vulgar love, which is nothing else than the smith's shop of Vulcan who forges the thunderbolts of Jove to torment delinquent souls. For disordered love bears within itself the germ of its own pain, inasmuch as God is near us, with us and inside us. There is found in us a certain consecrated mind and divine intelligence served by a peculiar passion, the vindicator of the intelligence, which with a certain remorse of conscience strikes the transgressive soul as with a heavy hammer. This intelligence observes our actions and passions, and as we treat it so are we treated in turn. I say that every lover has his Vulcan, for there is no man or lover who does not have God within him. God is most certainly in everyone, but the kind of god in everyone is not so easily known; and if it were at all possible to probe the question and shed light upon it, nothing I believe would clarify it for us more than love; for love is as one who pushes the oars, inflates the sail, and tempers this composite (which we are) to the end that it becomes affected for the better or for the worse.

I say affected for the better or for the worse inasmuch as love operates through moral or contemplative acts, and because there are common afflictions by which all lovers are wounded. For inasmuch as things come in mixtures, there is no intelligible or sensible good to which evil is not joined or opposed, nor is there any truth to which falsehood is not joined or opposed; similarly, there is no love without fear, zeal, jealousy, rancor, and the other passions proceeding from the one contrary which disturbs us, while the other contrary pleases us. Therefore, as the soul desires to recover its natural beauty, it seeks to purge itself, heal and reform itself; and for this purpose the soul uses fire, for like gold mixed with earth and shapeless, it wishes by a vigorous trial to liberate itself from impurities, and this end is achieved when the intellect, the true smith of Jove, sets to work actively exercising the intellectual powers.

C. This I believe is related to the passage in Plato's Symposium where it is said that Love from his mother Penury inherited aridity, leanness, pallor, destitution, submission, and homelessness, circumstances which represent the torment of the afflicted soul wearied by contrary passions.

T. It is exactly so; because the spirit affected by this frenzy is distracted by profound thoughts, tortured by pressing cares, burned by fervent longings, and solicited on occasions without number. As a result, because it finds itself suspended, the soul necessarily becomes less diligent and operative with respect to the government of the body and the activity of the vegetative potency. Consequently, the body becomes lean, undernourished, extenuated, deficient in blood, and overcome by melancholy humors; and if these humors do not become the instruments of a well disciplined soul and of a clear and lucid spirit, they lead to insanity, to stupidity, and to a bestial frenzy, or at least they lead to a negligence of the self and self-disdain which Plato represents by the figure of bare feet. Love becomes debased and flies close to the ground when it is attached to base things; it flies high when it is intent upon the more noble enterprises. In conclusion, then, whatever it may be, love is always afflicted and tortured, so that it cannot avoid becoming material for the furnace of Vulcan; for the soul, a divine thing and by its nature not the slave but the lord of the material body, is thrown into painful disturbance while it voluntarily serves the body where it does not find that which satisfies it. And no matter how much it may fix itself upon the beloved object, the soul cannot avoid being sometimes agitated and shaken by hopeful sighs, by fears, doubts, zeal, troubles of conscience, remorse, willfulness, contrition, and other tormentors represented by the bellowings, coals, anvils, hammers, pincers, and the other tools found in the workshop of this sordid and squalid spouse of Venus.

C. Now a good deal has been said of this subject. Be so good as to see what follows next.


T. Here is a golden apple tree which richly enameled with a variety of the most precious fruits, and this emblem is circumscribed by a motto which says, Pulchrioro detur ('it shall be given to the more beautiful one'). The allusion to the story of the three goddesses who submitted themselves to the judgment of Paris is most familiar. But let us read the verse which will inform us more precisely of the intention of this frenzied one.

Venus, goddess of the third sphere and mother of the blind archer, subduer of all men; that other, sprung from the forehead of Jove, and the proud wife of Jove, Juno,

call the Trojan shepherd to judge which of them, most beautiful, deserves the golden fruit. If my goddess were set among them, it would be awarded neither to Venus, Athena, or Juno.

The Cyprian goddess is beautiful by reason of lovely limbs, Minerva through her intellect, and Juno pleases by that worthy splendor

of majesty, which satisfies the Thunderer; but my goddess contains within herself all that is requisite of beauty, intelligence, and majesty.

In this poem the frenzied one compares his object, which contains and unites the qualities, characteristics, and species of beauty to other objects which can only offer one, and, besides, each one distributed among diverse individuals. For example, in the category of corporeal beauty Apollo cannot find every species united in one virgin but distributed among many. Now it happens that here there are three species of beauty, although all three are found in each of the three goddesses; for Venus is not deficient in wisdom and majesty, and Juno is not wanting in beauty and wisdom any more than Athena is wanting in majesty and beauty. Nevertheless, in each of the three goddesses one of these qualities happens to surpass the others and for that reason is considered proper to her, while the other qualities are considered mere accidents; moreover, with respect to the quality which predominates in her, each goddess appears sovereign and outweighs her rivals. And the reason for this difference is that certain qualities do not belong to each goddess primarily and according to its essence, but according to participation and derivation. Just as in all contingent things perfections exist more or less only according to inferior or superior degrees.

But in the simplicity of the divine essence all exists in all and not according to measure; and thus in the divine essence wisdom is not superior to beauty and majesty any more than goodness is superior to power. In fact all the attributes of the divine essence are not only equal, but they are even identical and are one simple thing. In a similar way all the dimensions of a sphere are not only equal (length being equal to depth and breadth) but even identical, because in a sphere that which you call depth you may at the same time call length and breadth. Analogously, in the divine essence the height of wisdom is one with depth of power and breadth of goodness. All these projections are equal because they are infinite. One must therefore measure the greatness of the one according to the greatness of the other. But where these things are finite, wisdom may surpass beauty and goodness, goodness and beauty may surpass wisdom, wisdom and goodness may surpass power and power may surpass both goodness and wisdom. But where there is infinite wisdom that wisdom can not exist without infinite power, otherwise that wisdom would not possess the power to know infinitely. Where there is infinite goodness that goodness must have infinite wisdom, otherwise that goodness would not know how to be infinitely good. Where there is infinite power that power must also have infinite goodness and wisdom, for the infinite power must have power to know as well as the knowledge of power. You see, then, how the beloved object of this frenzied one to is inebriated with drinking the divine nectar is incomparably higher than any other object. You see, I mean to say, how the intelligible species of the divine essence possesses the perfection of all the other species in the highest degree, so that the degree of participation in the form he can attain will give him the appropriate degree of potential comprehension and action and the appropriate degree of love for this single beauty and disregard and disdain for every other. Therefore, to that one alone who is all in all must the golden apple be consecrated; and it must not be consecrated to beautiful Venus whom Minerva surpasses in wisdom and whom Juno surpasses in majesty; not to Athene whom Venus surpasses in beauty and Juno in majesty; not even to Juno, who is neither the goddess of intelligence nor of love.

C. Certainly just as there are degrees in nature and in essences, so are there degrees of intelligible species and degrees of magnanimity in the affections and frenzies of love.


C. The following emblem has a head with four faces which blow toward the four corners of the sky. Four winds issue from that single head, and above those winds two stars are seen to rise. The emblem bears the motto, Novae ortae Aeoliae ('a new Aeolus is born'). I should like to know what this means.

T. It seems to me that the sense of the emblem follows that of the one just preceding; for, as the former emblem presented an infinite beauty as the object of love, this one presents a very great aspiration, zeal, affection, and desire for that infinite beauty; for that reason I believe these winds are meant to represent sighs, as we shall understand if we look and read the verse:

Zephyrs of the Titan Astraeus and of Aurora, who trouble the sky, the sea, and the land, as if discord had hurled you forth into space for having made proud war against the gods,

you no longer make your home in the Aeolian cave, where my power refrains and bridles you, but are confined within that breast I see constricted by so much sighing.

Turbulent cohorts of the tempests of one and the other sea, nothing else avails to assuage you

but those murderous and innocent lights. Those lights when clear, will render you tranquil; when dark, will render you bold.

It is easy to see that Aeolus is introduced as speaking to the winds, which he says are no longer governed by him in his cavern, but are now governed by two stars in the breast of frenzied one. Here the two stars do not represent the two eyes of a beautiful face but the two intelligible species of the divine beauty and goodness of the infinite splendor which influence the intellectual and rational desire and cause it to aspire infinitely to the extent that it understands the grandeur, beauty, and infinite goodness of that excellent light. For if love is finite, content, and fixed upon a certain limit, it will not approach the species of divine beauty but a species other than the divine beauty; but if love aspires higher and higher, one may say that it will expand toward the infinite.

C. How can the aspiration be appropriately represented by puffing out? How is desire symbolized by the winds?

T. He among us who aspires to this state, sighs, and also puffs out. And therefore the vehemence of aspiration is conveyed to that hieroglyphic of a powerful puffing out.

C. But there is a difference between sighing and puffing out.

T. The one is not meant to be identical to the other. There is only a similarity between them.

C. Then proceed with your argument.

T. The infinite aspiration, then, expressed by the sighs and symbolized by the winds is not under the government of Aeolus in the Aeolian caves but is under the government of the lights that are mentioned, which murder the frenzied one not only by their innocence but by their supreme benignity, for they make him die to all other things because of his zealous affection. Moreover, if these lights go out or conceal themselves, they render a tempest within him, and, if they are clear, they render him tranquil. Similarly, in a season when a veil of clouds darkens the eyes of the human body, then the zealous soul feels only turbulence and affliction; but if the veil is torn and thrown aside, the soul will enjoy a tranquillity noble enough to satisfy its nature.

C. But how can our finite intellect pursue an infinite object?

T. By the intellect's infinite potency.

C. A vain potency if it must remain unfulfilled.

T. The intellectual potency would be vain, if it moved toward a finite act in which its infinite potency would remain in privation; but it would not be vain if it moved toward an infinite act in which its infinite potency enjoys perfect fulfillment.

C. If the human intellect and action are finite by nature, how and why is the intellect endowed with infinite potency?

T. Because it is eternal and because its delight is not limited by time, it knows no end or limit of delight; and because, although finite in itself, it is infinite with respect to its object.

C. What is the difference between the infinity of the object and infinity of the potency?

T. The potency is finitely infinite, and the object is infinitely infinite. But to return to our discourse. The motto says, Novae ortae Aeoliae because we may believe that all the winds enclosed in the deep caves of Aeolus are converted into the lover's sighs, if we consider that these sighs are caused by the affection which ceaselessly aspires to the supreme good in infinite beauty.


C. Next let us see what the meaning is of that burning torch whose motto is, Ad vitam, non ad horam ('For always, not just for an hour').

T. It signifies the perseverance and love and the burning desire for the true good in which the frenzied one burns while in this temporal state. This, I believe, is what the following tablet teaches:

The peasant leaves his lodging when the day breaks from the bosom of the Orient, and when the sun strikes more intensely, tired and smitten by the heat he sits down in the shade.

Then he works and tires himself until a dark gloom covers the hemisphere; then he rests. But I am exposed to continual blows morning, noon, evening, and night.

Those fierce rays which issue from the two arcs of my sun (as my destiny wills) from the horizon of my soul

never depart, burning my afflicted heart at every hour from its meridian.

C. This verse interprets the emblem in a general way without explaining its meaning and detail.

T. And I do not have to strain to show you its precise meanings, for these can be understood if you give them a little consideration. The sun's rays are the forms whereby the divine beauty and goodness are manifest to us; and they are fiery because they cannot be apprehended by the intellect without consequently enkindling the desire. The two arcs of the sun are the two species of knowledge called by the scholastic theologians matins and vespers; so that the intelligence which illumines us through the medium of the air leads the species to us, either in virtue of our admiration of it for itself, or of our admiration for the efficacy contemplated in its effects. The horizon of the soul is the region of the superior potencies; and in this region the valiant intellectual apprehension is aided by the vigorous impulse of the affection represented by the heart, which is afflicted because it burns at every hour; for all the fruits of love we can gather in this (mortal) state are not so sweet that they are not mingled with certain affliction; at least the affliction that comes from the consciousness of fruition without plenitude. This is particularly the case in the fruits of natural love, whose condition I should not know how to express better than the Epicurean poet has:

Ex hominis vero facile pulchroque colore
Nil datur in corpus preater simulacra fruendum
Tenuia, qaue vento spes captat saepe misella.
Ut bibere in somnis sitiens cum quaerit, et humor
Non datur, ardorem in membris qui stinguere possit;
Sed laticum simulacra petit frustraque laborat
In medioque sitit torrenti flumine potans:
Sic in armore Venus simulacris ludit amantes,
Nec satiare queunt spectando corpora coram,
Nec manibus quicquam teneris abradere membris
Possunt, errantes incerti corpore toto.
Denique cum membris conlatis flore fruuntur
Aetatis; dum iam praesagit gaudia corpus,
Atque in eo est Vewnus, et muliebria conserat arva,
Adfigunt avide corpus iunguntque salivas
Oris et inspirant pressantes dentibus ora,
Nequicquam, quoniam nihil inde abradere possunt,
Nec penetrare et abire in corpus corpore toto.
(Lucretius De rerum natura iv. 1094-1111: '...The body is given nothing to enjoy by a pretty face or a pleasant complexion but tenuous images which all too often fond hope scatters to the wind. When a thirsty man tries to drink in his dreams, the liquid which can quench the fire in his limbs is not given him. But he seeks images of spring water with fruitless effort and thirsts nightly in the midst of torrential rivers. Even so in the midst of love Venus mocks her lovers with images, for they cannot satisfy their sight by looking upon her bodily form, nor can they snatch anything of her tender limbs with their hands, as they wander aimlessly over her whole body. Finally they pluck the fruit of life with their joined limbs. But even while their bodies thrill in the presentiment of joy, and unite in a fertile union, as they join the saliva of their mouths and press and breath with their tongues, it is all in vain. For they can glean nothing from the other, and they cannot penetrate and be wholly absorbed body in body...')

Similarly does that wise Hebrew judge the manner in which we can enjoy divine things here below. As we force ourselves to penetrate and unite with those divine things, we find we are more afflicted by our desire for them than pleased by our conception of them. And therefore that wise Hebrew [Eccl. 1:18] could say that he who increases wisdom increases pain, for the greater comprehension nurtures the greater and loftier desire, and the greater desire brings the greater scorn and pain because of the deprivation of the thing desired. Therefore Epicurus, who pursues the most tranquil life, says with respect to vulgar love:

Sed fugitare decet simulacra et pabula amoris
Abstergere sibi atque alio convertere mentem,
Nec servare sibi curam certumque dolorem:
Ulcus enim virescit et inveterascit alendo,
Inque dies gliscit furor atque aerumna gravescit,
Nec Veneris fructu caret is qui vitat amorem,
Sed potius quae sunt sine paena commoda sumit.
(Lucretius De rerum natura iv. 1055-1066: '...But one must fly from love's image and nourishment and deny oneself and divert the mind elsewhere and not become enslaved to sorrow and inevitable pain. For an ulcer grows and festers with nourishing, and, in time, the frenzy increases and burdens us with calamity. And he who avoids this passion does not miss the delights of Venus, but, instead, he reaps those profits which carry no burden with them...')

C. What does the meridian of the heart mean?

T. The meridian of the heart refers to the highest and most eminent part of the will which the strongest, most direct, and most luminous rays enflame. It means that the affection in question is not as though, in its initial movement, nor as though in its final repose, but is in a point between the two, when its fervor is most intense.


C. But what is the meaning of that arrow aglow with flames at the iron point, around which a noose is twisted, and of the motto, Amor instat ut instans ('Love persists as does the instant'). How do you understand it?

T. I would say it means that love never leaves him, and eternally afflicts him with invariable pain.

C. I well understand the noose, arrow, and the flame and I understand the words, Amor instat, but I cannot understand what follows: that love persists because it is both of one instant and is also insistent. This lacks as much sense as if one would say, -- he had imagined this emblem as he had imagined it, carries it as he carries it; I understand it as I understand it; it is worth what it is worth; or, I esteem it as I esteem it --.

T. The less one considers the more easily is he apt to judge quickly and condemn. Instans is not to be taken as the adjective which comes from the verb instare. It is to be understood as a substantive which means an instant of time.

C. Then what does he wish to express when he says that love persists as the instant persists?

T. What does Aristotle mean in his book on Time [Physics iv. 217b, 224a.], when he says that eternity is an instant and the whole of time is nothing but an instant?

C. How can this be, if there is no time so brief that does not have many instants? Would he mean to imply that a single instant encompasses the deluge, the Trojan war, and this very hour of our lives? I would like to know how this instant can be divided into so many centuries and years. I would also like to know why we could not affirm by a similar measurement that the line is no more than a point?

T. As time is one and yet is divided into diverse temporal subjects, so the instant is one in all the diverse parts of time. As I am the same one who was, who exists now, and who will exist in the future, so am I the same person here at home, in church, in the fields, and everywhere.

C. But why would you have the instant to be the whole of time?

T. Because if there were not the instant, there would not be time, which time in essence and substance is nothing more but an instant. And this will suffice -- if you have the wherewithal to grasp it (for I have no time to give you a pedantic discourse on the fourth book of the Physics) -- to make you understand that he means that love attends him by a presence which lasts for no less than the whole of time; for the word instans here is not to be taken to mean a mere atom of time.

C. This meaning ought to be specified one way or another, if we wish to avoid the motto's being viciously equivocal. Thus we ought to be free to understand him to mean either that his love is the love of one instant, that is, of one atom of time and of no consequence, or, on the contrary, as you interpret it, that his love is eternal.

T. Indeed if these two contrary senses had been implied, the motto would be a farce. But it is not a farce, if you consider it well; for it is impossible that love in one instant, if instant means a point or an atom of time, should persist with him forever; it is necessary, therefore, to understand the instant in another sense. In order to end this debate, let us read the verse:

One time it expands, another time it reassembles; one time it builds, another time it destroys; one time it weeps, at another it laughs; one time it is sad, at another it reposes; one time it stands upright, at another, it sinks down.

One time it lends a hand, another, it withdrawals itself; one time it moves us on, another, stops us; one time it brings life, another, death. Through all the years, months, days, and hours love is present, strikes, burns, and binds me.

Continually it shatters me, ever destroys me and keeps me in tears. It is my doleful languor in each and every hour.

It forever harasses and uplifts me, and is too powerful in despoiling me. There is no instant when it does not harass me, no instant when it does not bring me death.

C. I have understood the meaning perfectly; and I confess that everything corresponds very well. But I think it time to proceed to the next one.


T. Here you see a serpent languishing in the snow where a laborer has thrown it, a nude boy burning in the midst of flames, and some other details and circumstances, all accompanied by the motto, Idem, itidem, non idem ('The same, in the same way, yet not the same'). This emblem seems to me more enigmatic than the one before it. Thus I shall not flatter myself that I can give a perfect explanation of it. However, I should think it meant that the same molesting fate torments both the boy and the serpent in a similar way (with intensity, without mercy, and to the point of death) by those diverse and contrary principles of heat and cold. But I believe this requires longer and more detailed consideration.

C. Once again, read the verse.


Languid serpent, you writhe, shrink, rise, and sink in that dense humour; and to ease your intense pain, you move from one part of the cold to another.

If the ice had ears to hear you, you a voice to speak or to reply, I believe you would have an efficacious argument to render it merciful to your torment.

I am tossed, consumed, burned, scorched in the eternal fire, and in the ice of my goddess neither love of me nor pity finds any place for my delivery. Ah me, because she does not feel how great is the rigor of my ardent flame!

Snake, you seek to escape, but you are powerless. You cling to your shelter, but it is dissolved. You call back your own forces, but they are spent. Your hope is turned to the sun, but a dense midst conceals it.

You ask mercy of the laborer, and he hates your sting. You invoke fortune, but senseless, she does not hear you. Neither flight, refuge, force, the stars, man, nor fate can save you from death.

You are hardened by the cold, while I am liquefied by the heat; I wonder at your rigor, you wonder at my ardor; you lust after the evil I suffer, and I, after your desire.

Neither can I relieve your distress, nor can you relieve mine. Now, aware enough of our cruel fate, let us abandoned all hope.

C. Let us go now, so that as we walk we shall find a way to untie this knot, if possible.

T. Good.

End of the Fifth Dialogue
And the First Part of

Giordano Bruno


First Dialogue



CES. They say the best and most noble things in the world take place when the entire universe is in the most perfect harmony with respect to all its parts. And this harmony is believed to occur when all the planets under the sign of Aries in the eighth sphere reach out to become a part of the invisible and superior firmament where the other zodiac is. They maintain that the worst and the most vile things take place when an inverse order and a contrary disposition predominates. Moreover, because of a vicissitudinal force, extreme mutations of things are known to take place between similar and dissimilar and between one contrary disposition and the other. Therefore, the revolution and the great year of the world is that space of time during which there is a return to a certain state of things, after others, definitely varied and opposite, have been traversed; as among the particular years we see in the one called the solar year, that the beginning of one contrary season is the end of the other, and the end of that other is the beginning of a new season. This is why we who today are in the lowest ebb of the sciences, which have bred the scum of opinions, themselves the causes of the vilest habits and works, can certainly expect the return to better conditions.

MAR. Certainly this succession and order of things is most true, my friend. However, as for ourselves, whatever may be our circumstances, the present afflicts us more than the past does, and both present and past together please us less than the future can; for we always hold the future in expectation and hope, as you can see very well represented by this emblem borrowed from ancient Egypt. The Egyptians have left us a particular statue in which three heads rose from the same bust; one of a wolf who looked behind him, the other of a lion who looked to one side, and the third of a dog who looked ahead, in order to indicate that things of the past afflict us by the memory of them, but not as much as things of the present torment us in fact, while the future always promises better things. Accordingly this emblem contains a wolf who howls, a lion who roars and a dog who laughs.

CES. What does the motto written above it express?

MAR. Notice that over the wolf is the word, Iam; over the lion, Modo, and over the dog, Praeterea, words which represent the three parts of time.

CES. Now read what is written on the tablet.

MAR. I intend to do precisely that.

A wolf, a lion, and a dog -- at dawn, in the brightness
of day, and in the dark of evening -- represent the
things I have spent, the things I retain, and the things
I shall gain of all that has been given me, is given to
me, and can be given to me.

For the things I have done, do now, and must do, in
the past, present, and in the future, I repent, am tormented,
and am assured, in regret, in suffering, and in expectation
The harshness of my past experience, the bitterness of its
fruit, and the sweetness of hope are a menace, an affliction, and a solace to me.

The years I have lived, the time I live now, and shall
live, -- the past, present, and future -- make me
tremble, excite me, and sustain me.

What has gone by, what happens now, and what will
follow, holds me in much fear, in too much martyrdom, and
yields me sufficient hope.

CES. This is precisely the head of a frenzied lover; and very likely of all mortals who are afflicted, whatever may be the manner or mode of their affliction; for we cannot say, nor ought we to say that such a destiny corresponds to all in general, but only to those destinies which were or are laborious. For example, it behooves one who has sought a kingdom and now possesses it to feel the fear of losing it; it behooves one who has labored to acquire the fruits of love and to know the special favor of the beloved to feel the bite of jealousy and suspicion. And with respect to our condition in this world, if we find ourselves in darkness and misfortune, we can safely prophecy light and prosperity; if we live in an era of felicity and enlightenment, without doubt we can expect a succession of affliction and ignorance. For example, Mercury Trismegistus saw Egypt in such a great splendor of science and of prophetic wisdom that he esteemed men to be the brothers of both demons and gods, and consequently to be most inspired; nevertheless to Asclepius he made that prophetic lamentation which announced that there must follow a dark age of new religions and cults, and that Egypt's present splendor would become only a fable and a matter for condemnation. Similarly, when the Hebrews were slaves of Egypt and exiled in the desert, they were comforted by their prophets who assured them of liberty and the conquest of a fatherland, but when they enjoyed a state of power and tranquillity, they were menaced by captivity and dispersion. And today there is no evil or dishonor to which we may be subject, that we may not expect honor and goodness tomorrow. The same befalls other generations and states. If these states endure and are not ever annihilated, they must pass from evil to good, from good to evil, from baseness to splendor, from splendor to obscurity by a necessary force of the mutations of things. For this vicissitude occurs in accordance with the natural order. And if one should find another order which would alter or correct the present one, then I would consent to it, and would have no way in which to dispute it, for I judge only by the light of my natural reason.

MAR. We know that you are not a theologian but a philosopher, and that you treat of philosophy, not of theology.

CES. That is the case. But let us see what follows.


CES. Next I see an arm upholding a smoking incense burner, bearing the motto, Illius aram ('His altar'); and following the emblem is the sonnet:

Who would deem that transport of my lofty passion less worthy of the divinity, because it is expressed in the painted flourish of my vows on tablets offered in the temple of fame?
Though I am called to another and more heroic enterprise who will ever deem it less becoming for this beauty to hold me captive of its external worship, when heaven itself so loves and honors it?
Leave me, leave me, other desires, importunate thoughts, leave me in peace! Why do you wish me to withdraw
from the sight of the sun that delights me so? But you, oh my thoughts, filled with pity, say to me: -- Why do you contemplate an object whose contemplation consumes you?
Why are you so smitten by that flame? I reply: Because this torment contents me more than any other pleasure.

MAR. With respect to this verse I tell you that, no matter how much one remains attached to corporeal beauty and to external veneration of it, he may still conduct himself honorably and worthily; for from material beauty, which reflects the splendor of the spiritual form and act and is its vestige and shadow, he will arrive at the contemplation and worship of divine beauty, light, and majesty. Thus from visible things he begins to exalt his heart toward those things which are so much the more excellent in themselves and pleasing to the purged soul, because they are more removed from matter and sense. Oh God, he will say, if a shadowy, cloudy, elusive beauty painted upon the surfaces of corporeal matter pleases me so much and so incites my passion, so influences my spirit with I know not what reverence of majesty, so captivates me and so sweetly binds me and draws me to it, that I find my senses offer nothing so agreeable to me, what would be the effect upon me of that which is the substantial, original, and primal beauty? What would be the effect of that beauty upon my soul, upon a divine intellect, and upon the order of nature? Therefore, the contemplation of this vestige of light must lead me by the purgation of my soul to a resemblance, a conformity, and a participation in that most worthy and most lofty light into which I am transformed and to which I am united. For I am sure that nature, having put this (corporeal) beauty before my eyes and having endowed me with an interior sense through which I can discern the most profound and incomparably superior beauty, wishes that from here below I become elevated to the height and eminence of that most excellent species. Nor do I believe that my true divinity, inasmuch as it is shown to me in its vestige and image, would be offended if I happened to honor it in its vestige and image and to offer sacrifices to it, provided the impulse of my heart remained, ordered and my affection remained intent upon the higher good; for who is that man who can honor the divinity in its essence and its own substance, if in its essence and substance he is unable to comprehend it?

CES. You have demonstrated quite well how men of heroic spirit convert everything to good and how from captivity they know how to nurture the fruits of a greater liberty, and in the experience of defeat how to find the occasion of the greatest victory. You know very well that to men who are well disposed the love of material beauty not only does not at all delay them from the greater enterprises, but rather gives them wings to accomplish them; for love's constraint is transformed into a virtuous zeal which forces the lover to progress to the point of becoming worthy of the thing loved, and perhaps worthy of some greater and still more beautiful object; so that either he begins to feel content that he has gained his desire, or he is gratified that the particular beauty of his object gives him just reason to scorn any other as a beauty that he has conquered and surpassed; consequently, either he rests in tranquillity, or bestirs himself to aspire to more excellent and more magnificent objects. For this reason the heroic spirit constantly renews its efforts, as long as it does not see itself uplifted toward the desire of the divine beauty in itself, that is, the beauty without similitude, analogy, image, or species, if such a beauty were possible; and if it were possible for the heroic spirit to know how to attain it.

MAR. You see then, Cesarino, how this frenzied one is right in resenting those who reprove him as captive of a base beauty to which he offers vows and tablets. For his captivity does not make him a rebel against the voices which call him to the higher beauties, inasmuch as ignoble objects derive from lofty objects and are dependent upon them, and it is from these base objects that he is able to have access to these higher objects in due degree. Those objects, if not God, are things divine and are living images of God, and he is not in the least offended at seeing himself adored in them, for have we not the command of the supernal spirit who says, Adorate scabellum pedum eius? (Ps.98.5: '...Exalt ye the Lord our God, and adore his footstool, for it is holy') And elsewhere has not the divine ambassador said, Adorabimus ubi steterunt pedes eius? (Ps.131.7: '...We will go into his tabernacle, we will adore in the place where his foot stood...')

CES. God, the divine beauty and splendor, shines and is in all things; but to me it does not seem erroneous to admire him in all things according to his mode of communication. What would certainly be erroneous would be to give others the honor due to him alone. But what does he mean when he says, Leave me, leave me, other desires?

MAR. He banishes certain thoughts from himself, because they present him with other objects which, though not having any power to move him, yet would steal from him the view of the sun, a view he can see through this window more than through any other.

CES. Why, troubled by these thoughts, does he remain constant in gazing on that splendor which ruins him and does not give him any pleasure unaccompanied with severe torment at the same time?

MAR. Because in this discordant life all our consolations are accompanied by discomforts which are equally abundant. For example, the fear of a king in the peril of losing his kingdom is greater than the fear of a beggar who risks the loss of ten farthings; the solicitude of a prince for his republic is more urgent than the care of a shepherd for his flock of sheep; but the pleasures and delights of the king and the prince are perhaps greater than the pleasures and delights of the shepherd. Therefore to love and aspire higher is accompanied by the greater glory and majesty, but is also accompanied by the greater care, sadness, and pain. I mean that in our present state where one contrary is always joined to the other, the greatest contrariety is always found in the same genus, and, consequently, with respect to the same matter, even though these contraries may not exist simultaneously. And similarly, in proportion one can apply to the love of superior Cupid those things which the Epicurean poet affirms of vulgar and animal love when he says,

Fluctuat incertis erroribus ardor amantum,
Nec constat quid primum oculis manibusque fruantur:
Quod petiere, premunt arte, faciuntque dolorem
Corporis, et dentes inlidunt saepe labellis
Osculaque adfigunt, quia non est pura voluptas
Et stimuli subsunt qui instigant laedere id ipsum,
Quodcunque est, rabies, nude illa haec germina surgunt.
Sed leviter paenas frangit Venus inter amorem,
Blandaque refraenat morsus admixta voluptas;
Namque in eo spes est, unde est ardoris origo,
Restingui quoque posse ab eodem corpore flammam.
(Lucretius, De rerum natura iv. 1077-1087: '... The passions of lovers fluctuate in wavering uncertainty and they cannot agree what things to enjoy with their eyes and hands. For as they seek their joy they press the object of love so tightly that they bring pain to the body. And they kiss so hard that their teeth drive into their lips, because their desire is not unmixed. They are goaded on by an instinct to injure whatever sprouts forth from this germinating madness. But in love Venus lightens the penalties she imposes, and moderates the anguish by blending pleasure with pain; for in love there is the hope that the flame of passion may be quenched by the same body that fanned it...')

It is by these enticements, then, that nature's power and skill cause one to be consumed by the pleasure of what destroys him, bringing him content in the midst of torment and torment in the midst of every contentment, for nothing results from an absolutely uncontested principle, but everything results from contrary principles through the triumph and conquest of one of the contraries. There is no pleasure of generation on the one hand without the displeasure of corruption on the other; and where things which are generated and destroyed are found to be conjoined and as though composed in the same subject the feeling of delight and sadness is found at the same time; but more readily is it called delectation rather than sadness, if it happens that delectation predominates and solicits the sensibility of the subject with greater impact.


CES. Now let us contemplate the emblem of a phoenix burning in the sun. By its smoke the phoenix almost obscures the splendor of the sun whose fire inflames it; and there is a motto which says, Neque simile, nec par ('Neither similar nor equal to it').

MAR. Let us read the verse first:

This phoenix which kindles itself in the golden sun and bit by bit is consumed, while it is surrounded by splendor, returns a contrary tribute to its star;
because that which ascends from it to the sky, becomes tepid smoke and purple fog, which cause the sun's rays to remain hidden from our eyes, and obscures that by which it glows and shines.
Thus my spirit (which the divine splendor inflames and illumines), while it goes about explaining that which glows so brightly in its thoughts,
sends forth verses from its high conceit, only to obscure the shining sun, while I am completely consumed and dissolved by the effort.
Ah me! This purple and black cloud of smoke darkens by its style what it would exalt, and renders it humble.

CES. This verse tells us then, that as the phoenix, set on fire by the splendor of the sun and accustomed to its light and flame, sends forth to the sky smoke which obscures the very sun that kindled it, so the frenzied one inflamed and illumined by his every effort to offer praises to the brilliant object that has enkindled his heart and enlightened his thought, succeeds more in obscuring the object than in giving it any of his own light; for like the phoenix, he sends up smoke caused by the flames in which his substance is dissolved.

MAR. Without wishing to weigh and compare the labors of this lover, I return to what I was telling you the other day, that praise is one of the greatest sacrifices human passion can offer to its beloved object. And, putting aside matters which touch of the divine, tell me this. Who would know about Achilles, Ulysses, and so many other Greek and Trojan captains, who would guard the memory of so many great soldiers, men of wisdom, and heroes of this world, if they had not been raised to the stars and deified by the sacrifice of praise upon an altar enkindled in the hearts of poets and other illustrious seers, a sacrifice which raises to the sky the celebrant, the victim, and the divine hero, canonized by the band and vow of a legitimate and worthy priest?

CES. You do well to say a worthy and legitimate priest, for there are many false priests in the world today, who, themselves unworthy, usually celebrate others who are as unworthy as they are, just as asini asinos fricant ('... jackasses mock jackasses...'). But according to the will of Providence, instead of both ascending to heaven, both will descend jointly into the darkness of Orcus; so that the glory which both the celebrant and the celebrated receive will be vain, for one has interwoven a statue of straw, or cut a trunk of wood, or cast a piece of cement; and the other, an idol of infamy and baseness, fails to realize that he will not have to wait for the bite of old age or the scythe of Saturn to cut him down, for he will be buried alive by his own panegyrist in the same hour of the eulogy that hails, elects, and exhibits him. A contrary recompense fell to the prudence of that most celebrated Maecenas. If this man had not had any other renown than a spirit inclined to the protection and favor of the Muses, that renown alone would have merited him the respect of so many illustrious poets whose genius set him among the most famous heroes who have walked the face of the earth.

His own studies and his own renown rendered him illustrious and most noble, and not his birth from a race of kings, nor his position as chief secretary and counselor of Augustus. What has made him most illustrious, I say, is to have rendered himself worthy of the fulfillment of the promise of that poet who said,

Fortunati ambo, si quid mea carmina possunt,
Nulla dies nunquam memori vos eximet aevo,
Dum domus Aenae Capitoli immobile saxum,
Accolet, imperiumque pater Romanus habebit.

(Virgil. Aeneid ix, 446-449: '...Both of us are fortunate, for if my verse can mean anything, no length of days shall ever blot you from the memory of time, while the house of Aeneas shall dwell by the steadfast Capitolian rock, and the Roman lord hold sovereignty...')

MAR. I am reminded of what Seneca says in a certain epistle in which he refers one of his friends to the following words of Epicurus: "If it is love of glory that moves your heart, my letters will render you more noteworthy and illustrious than all these other things you honor and which give you honor, and of which you may boast. Homer might have been able to say the same thing to Achilles, or to Ulysses if he could have faced them, and Virgil, the same thing to Aeneas and all his progeny. Therefore, as that moral philosopher well expressed it, "Idomeneus is better known because of the letters of Epicurus than are all the lords, satraps and kings upon whom his title depended, for the memory of those kings is obliterated in the deep darkness of oblivion. Atticus is known not because he was the son-in-law of Agrippa and the progenitor of Tiberius, but because of the letters of Tullius. Drusus, the great-grand-nephew of Caesar, would not be among the number of great men if Cicero had not placed him there. Indeed, the high flood of time submerges us, and above that flood few men of genius will raise their heads". (Seneca, Epistolae 21.3-5)

Now let us return to the argument of this frenzied one who, Seeing a phoenix burning in the sun, is reminded of his own zeal and laments that like the phoenix he returns the light and fire he receives in nothing but an obscure and tepid smoke of praise in the holocaust of his own dissolving substance. As a result, we can never make divine things the subject of our thought without detracting from them rather than adding any glory to them, so that the best thing a man can do with respect to them is to seek rather to ennoble himself in the presence of other men by his own zeal and ardor than to give praise to another by some complete and perfect act. For such an act cannot hope to make progress toward the infinite in which unity and infinity are one and the same, in the pursuit of which one vainly binds himself to any other kind of number; for the infinite is not a unit or any kind of unit, because it is not a number, or any unit of numbers, for no number or unit of numbers can be the same thing as the absolute or the infinite. Accordingly a theologian says well that, inasmuch as the fount of light not only far exceeds our finite intellect but also exceeds divine ones, it is proper to celebrate it not with speeches and discourses, but in silence. (Dionysius the Areopagite, Liber de Trinitate, ed. Ficino (Bale, 1561), p. 1021.)

CES. Yes. But not with the silence of brute animals and those who have but the image and likeness of men, but with the silence of those whose silence is more illustrious than all the screeches, noises, and uproars that can be heard.


MAR. But let us continue and see what the other emblems mean.

CES. Tell me if you have already seen and considered the meaning of this fire in the form of a heart with four wings, two of which have eyes. The entire figure is encircled by luminous rays and by the inscription, Nitimur in cassum? ('Are we searching fruitlessly?')

MAR. I recall well that this must represent the state of mind, heart, Spirit, and eyes of the frenzied one; but let us read the sonnet:

As these thoughts aspire to the holy splendor, no sublime effort delivers them of obscurity; and the heart which those thoughts would refresh is unable to withdraw itself from woe.
The Spirit, which would welcome a brief truce, is denied one moment of pleasure; and eyes that would be closed in sleep all the night long are wide with weeping.
Ah me, eyes of mine, by what labor and art can I calm my afflicted senses? Spirit of mine, when and where
shall I temper your intense pain? And you, heart of mine, how shall I offer you the appeasement to compensate for your grave torment?
When will the soul provide you with your due, oh afflicted mind whose heart, spirit, and eyes share your complaint?

Because the mind aspires to the divine splendor it flees association with the crowd and withdraws itself from the multitudes, but it also flees their pursuits, judgments, and opinions; for there is the greater danger of contracting ignorance and vice the greater the multitude with whom one becomes confounded. In public spectacles, says a moral philosopher, in the midst of pleasure the more easy it is to engender vices. (Seneca Epistolae 7.2) If this man desires the highest splendor, he retires as much as he can to the one and withdraws within himself as much as possible, so that he may not be like the multitude of men who constitute the majority; and he would not be their enemy because they are different from him; but he gains the good will of one and another of them if he can; otherwise he interests himself in the one that seems better to him.

He converses with those whom he can make better, or those who can make him better, by the light he can give them, or the light they can give him. He is happier with one worthy individual than with an inept multitude. Nor does he believe he has achieved little when he has become wise in himself, for he remembers the words of Democritus, Unus mihi pro populo est, et populus pro uno (Seneca Epistolae 7.10.: '...I prefer the one to the multitude, and so do the people...'); and those words which Epicurus wrote to a fellow student, Haec tibi, non multis; satis enim magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus (Seneca Epistolae 7.11: '...These things belong to you, not to the many; indeed we are a sufficiently magnificent mirror to each other...').

The mind, then, which aspires to raise itself first turns from the multitude, considering that the light above us scorns our strife and is to be found only where the intelligence is, and not where every intelligence is but that one which, of those that are few, principal, and first, is the unique, prime, principal, and one.

CES. How do you understand that the mind aspires to raise itself? For example, would it be by turning towards the stars, or the empyrean, or the crystalline heaven?

MAR. Certainly not, but by proceeding to the depths of the mind; and in order to accomplish this, it is not at all necessary to gaze wide-eyed toward the sky, to raise one's hands, to direct one's steps toward the temple, wearying the ears of statues with the sounds we make; but it is necessary to descend more intimately within the self and to consider that God is near, that each one has Him with him and within himself more than he himself can be within himself, for God is the soul of souls, the life of all lives, the essence of essences; and the planets you see above and below the canopy of heaven (as it pleases you to call it), are only bodies, creations similar to our earth, in which the divinity is present neither more nor less than it is present in this body which is our earth as well as in our very selves. These are the reasons why one must first of all leave the multitude and withdraw within himself. Then he must reach the state in which he no longer regards but scorns each struggle, so that the more passion and vice fight him from within and vicious enemies from without the more will he recover his breath and rise again, and with one exhalation (if possible) surmount the steep ascent. Then he is in no need of arms and shields other than the greatness of an unconquered soul and the endurance of spirit capable of maintaining his life in equilibrium and continuity, a spirit which proceeds from knowledge and is regulated by the art of speculating upon things lofty as well as base, upon things divine as well as human; and it is in this speculation that the highest good consists. Consequently a moral philosopher said, writing to Lucilius, that it was not necessary to pass through the straits of Scylla and Charybdis, or to penetrate the deserts of Candavia and the Appenines, or to leave the Syrtes behind; for our path is as secure and pleasant as nature herself could arrange. And he said that it is not gold or silver which makes man similar to God, because God does not amass such treasures; it is not adornments, for God is naked; it is not ostentation or fame, for very few are those to whom he exhibits himself, and perhaps no one knows him, and, indeed, many and more than many have a false idea of him; neither is it the possession of so many things we ordinarily admire, for it is not the desire for the abundance of these things that makes us rich, but our contempt for them.

CES. Good. But tell me now in what way our poet will calm his senses, and temper his spirit's pain, appease his heart, and give his mind its due, so that in his aspiration and zeal he shall not have to ask, are we searching fruitlessly?

MAR. He may accomplish all these things by realizing that his soul is in his body in such a way that its superior part may be removed to join and attach itself to divine things as by an indissoluble vow. In that state he will feel neither hate nor love of mortal things, for he will prefer to be the master rather than the servant and slave of a body he regards as nothing more than a prison which holds his liberty in chains, a snare which entangles his wings, a chain which holds fast his hands, shackles which have fixed his feet, and a veil which obscures his vision. But at the same time he will not feel himself a servant, captive, ensnared, enchained, impotent, impenetrable, and blind, because his body will not tyrannize over him any more than he himself allows it to, for now his body will be subjected to his spirit in the same way that matter and the corporeal world are subject to the divinity and to nature. Therefore, he will render himself strong against fortune, magnanimous before injuries, dauntless against poverty, diseases, and persecutions.

CES. Then this heroic frenzy is well integrated.


CES. Let us look at the following emblem which depicts a wheel of time moving about its own center, with the motto, Manens moveor ('While standing fixed, I am moved'). How do you understand this?

MAR. It means that the wheel turns upon itself, so that motion and rest concur, for the spherical motion of a body upon its own axis and its own center implies the rest and immobility associated with rectilinear motion; or, one may say, there is a certain repose of the whole and a motion of its parts; and the parts which are moved in a circle have two kinds of alternate movement, inasmuch as some parts ascend to the summit, while others in turn descend to the bottom; some parts remain in an intermediate position, and some remain in the extreme position either at the top or bottom. And it appears that all this has to do with the subject of the following sonnet:

That which my heart holds both clear and obscure, beauty engraves in me, but humility erases. Zeal sustains me, but another care brings me to the source of all the labors of my soul.
When I think of tearing myself away from the pain, hope revives me, (while) the vigor of another thought binds me; while love raises me, reverence debases me as I aspire to the noblest and the highest good.
Lofty thought, holy desire, and intense zeal of mind, heart, and labor, to the immortal, divine but immense object
join me, enwrap me in it, and cause it to nourish me. No longer may my mind, reason, and sense strive elsewhere, discourse, or become elsewhere entangled.
So that one may say of me: This one who has now fixed his eyes upon the sun, and, become a rival of Endymion, is grieved.

Therefore, the continual motion of the one part of the wheel supposes and leads with it the motion of the whole, and the hurling down of the upper parts causes a drawing up of the lower parts; thus, the impulsion given by the superior parts necessarily results in the inducement of the inferior ones, and from the descent of a potency follows the ascent of the opposite potency. At this point the heart (which represents all the affections in general) becomes obscure and translucent, restrained by its zeal, raised by magnificent thoughts, reinforced with hope, weakened by fear. And in this state and condition those who find themselves subject to the destiny of generation will ever be seen.


CES. Very good. Let us pass to the emblem which follows. I see a ship inclined upon the sea; its ropes are attached to the shore and it bears the motto, Fluctuat in portu ('It floats in port'). Explain what it can mean; if you have resolved the enigma, enlighten me.

MAR. The emblem and the motto have a certain kinship with the preceding emblem and motto, as can be seen easily, if one reflects a little. But let us read the sonnet:

If heroes, gods, and men encourage me not to despair, no fear of death, no pain of the body, no impediments of pleasure
will cause me excess terror, suffering, or desire; and that I may clearly see my path before me, may doubt, pain, and sadness be extinguished by hope, joy, and inner delight.
But if the being who now renders my thoughts so uncertain, my desires so ardent, and my pleas so vain, should deign to look upon those thoughts, fulfill those desires, and listen to those pleas,
no one who dwells in the abode of birth, life, and death would be capable of such happy thoughts, accomplished desires, and pleas granted;
when heaven, earth, and hell stand in the way, if my divinity shine upon me, enkindle me and hold me near, she will give me light, power, and beatitude.

We understand the sentiment expressed here in the light of our explanation in the preceding discourses, especially where we have shown that the sense of inferior things is attenuated and even nullified when the superior powers are valiantly intent upon the more glorious and heroic object. So great is the virtue of contemplation (as Iamblicus notes) that sometimes the soul not only turns itself from inferior acts, but also escapes the body completely. I would understand this only according to the several modes enumerated in the book of The Thirty Seals. This book presents all the varieties of contraction, by which some ignominiously and others heroically arrive at the point of no longer feeling the fear of death, or suffering the pain of the body, or feeling the impediments of pleasure; for hope, joy, and the delights of the higher spirit gather such force, that they abolish all the passions which can engender doubt, pain, and sadness.

CES. But whom does the lover summon to look upon his thoughts rendered so uncertain; whom does he ask to fulfill those desires which have become so ardent; and whom does he ask to listen to those pleas rendered so vain?

MAR. He addresses the object which gazes upon him the moment he shows himself to it; for to see the divinity is to be seen by it, just as to see the sun is to be seen by it. In like manner, to be heard by the divinity is precisely to hear it, and to be favored by it is the same as to offer oneself to it. For the divinity is one, immovable, and always the same, from whom proceeds those uncertain and certain thoughts, tormenting and pleasing desires, pleas which are refused and granted, accordingly as man unworthily or worthily presents himself to it with his intellect, affection, and activity. Similarly, the pilot of a ship is called the occasion either of the sinking or the salvation of the ship, accordingly as he stays with it, or is found to have abandoned it. However, it is by his delinquency or conscientiousness that the pilot ruins or saves the ship, while the divine power, which is all in all does not offer or withdraw itself except by the conversion or aversion of someone else.


MAR. It seems to me, then, that there is a strong connection between this and the following emblem in which we find two stars in the shape of two radiant eyes and the motto, Mors et vita ('Death and life').

CES. Read the sonnet then.

MAR. I shall.

You can see written on my face by the hand of love the history of my pain. But because your pride knows no restraint and I am eternally unhappy,
you allow your beautiful eyelids, so cruel to me, to hide your delightful eyes, so that the murky sky does not clear, and the baneful and inimical shadows do not dissolve.
By your great beauty and by that love of mine which almost equals it, render yourself merciful, goddess, for love of God.
Do not prolong this too intense evil, which is an undeserving penalty for my abundant love. Let not too much austerity accompany such splendor!
If you condescend that I may live, open the gates to your gracious glance. Gaze upon me, oh lovely one, if you wish to give me death.

The face upon which the story of his pain is written is the lover's soul, inasmuch as it is exposed to blessings from on high; with respect to those blessings the soul exists only in potency and aptitude without the accomplishment of that perfect act which awaits the divine dew. Thus was it well said, Anima mea sicut terra sine aqua tibi (Ps. 142:6: '...I stretched forth my hands to thee: my soul is as earth without water unto thee...'). And elsewhere, Os meum aperui et attraxi spiritum, quia mandata tua desiderabam (Ps. 118:131: '...I opened my mouth and panted, because I longed for thy commandments...'). Next that pride which knows no restraint, is a metaphorical allusion. For God is often called jealous, angry, or asleep and the metaphor indicates how difficult God makes it for us to see even his shoulders; that is, to see him even by his vestiges and effects. Thus he shuts out the light with his eyelids, and does not bring calm again to the murky sky of the human mind by removing from it the shadow of enigmas and similitudes. Nevertheless (because he does not believe that what has not yet happened will never happen), the frenzied one begs that the beauty of the divine light be not concealed from everyone, but at least show itself according to the capacity of him who contemplates it. And he begs that beauty in the name of his own love, which is perhaps equal to it (that is, equal to that beauty inasmuch as he can make himself comprehensible to it), to be merciful to him, so that it may make him like those others who are gentle and who, from crude and distant become benign and affable. He entreats that beauty not to prolong the evil that comes from being deprived of it, and asks it not to allow the splendor he desires to please him more than the love by which it can communicate with him; for all the perfections found in the divinity are not only equal one to the other, but are even one and the same.

Finally he pleads again with the divinity not to sadden him any longer by depriving him of itself; for the divinity can bring him death by the light of its eyes and by the same light can give him life; but if it bring him death, he pleads that it be not by shutting out the endearing light with its eyelids.

CES. Does he refer to that death of lovers which proceeds from the supreme joy, called by the Cabalists mors osculi ('the death of the kiss'), the same thing as the eternity to which man can be disposed in this life and realize fully hereafter?

MAR. Precisely.


MAR. Now it is time to consider the next emblem which is similar and related to the preceding ones we have discussed. There is an eagle which flies up to heaven on its two wings; but I do not know how much it finds itself weighed down by a stone tied to one of its feet. Its motto is, Scinditur incertum ('Torn by uncertainty'). Without a doubt the motto refers to the multitude, number, and mass of potencies of the soul; and that famous verse completes its meaning:

Scinditur incertum studia in contraria vulgus. (Virgil, Aenead ii.39: 'The wavering crowd is torn apart by contrary disputes...')

This multitude is generally divided into two factions (although when thus divided their powers are not limited to two); thus, among the potencies of the soul some incite us toward the loftiness of the intelligence and light of justice, while others lead, incite and in a certain fashion force us to baseness, to the filthiness of sensuality, and to the satisfactions of natural instincts. Accordingly, the sonnet says:

I long to do good, but it is denied me; my sun is not with me, although I am with it; for in order to be with it, I am no longer with myself, and the nearer I am to it, the further it is from me.
For one moment of joy, I do much weeping; seeking happiness, I find affliction; because I look too high, I am blinded, and to obtain my good, I lose myself.
Through bitter sweetness and delightful pain, I fall to the center and am drawn up toward the sky; necessity constrains me while the good leads me on; fate draws me to the abyss, while counsel uplifts me; desire spurs me on, while fear bridles me; care burns me and keeps me long in peril.
What straight or devious path will give me peace, and free me from discord, if the one rejects me so, and the other invites me?

The ascent takes place in the soul by the vigor and impulse of the wings which are the intellect and the will. It is by these faculties that the soul naturally turns and fixes its gaze toward God as upon the sovereign good and primary truth, the absolute goodness and beauty; just as every natural thing has a regressive impulse toward its own origin, and a progressive impulse toward its own end and perfection, as Empedocles had well explained, to whose opinion I think the Nolan refers in the following octave:

It happens that the sun returns to its point of departure, and its diffusive light returns to its source; and what belongs to the earth falls back to the earth; and the rivers issuing from the sea flow again to the sea, and desires aspire to the place from which they have drawn their life and breath. In the same way, born from my goddess, my every thought to my goddess must return.

The intellectual faculty is never in repose, is never pleased by any truth it attains, but proceeds onward toward an incomprehensible truth; similarly we see that the will, which follows the cognition, is never satisfied with anything finite. Therefore we conclude that it is the soul's nature to know no other end than the origin of its substance and its entity. But because of the natural potencies that dispose it to the care and government of matter, the soul begins to direct its impulse to serve and communicate its perfection to inferior things, thus bearing witness to its resemblance to the divinity, which communicates itself by its goodness and either produces in an infinite way by giving being to an infinite universe and the innumerable worlds within it, or in a finite way by producing only this universe subject to our eyes and to our mortal reason. Granted that it belongs to the unique essence of the soul to have two kinds of potencies which order it towards its own and toward the lesser good, it is customary to depict it by a pair of wings, whose power impels it toward the object of its prime and immaterial potencies; and by a stone, whose weight re-establishes the aptitude and efficacy it has toward the objects of its secondary and material potencies. That is why the inner affection of the frenzied one is amphibious, divided, afflicted, and more easily inclined toward the base than urged toward the higher things; for the soul, though exiled in an inferior and hostile land where its powers are enfeebled, partially inhabits a region far from its natural abode.

CES. Do you believe this difficulty can be overcome?

MAR. Very well. In the beginning the effort is most trying, but it becomes easier and easier as the progress of contemplation becomes more fruitful. Similarly, he who flies high and is raised farther from the earth will find more air beneath him to sustain him, and consequently will be less impeded by the weight of gravity; in fact, he will be able to fly so high that, having no difficulty in cutting through the air, he will not be able to redescend, even though one may judge it easier to cut through the air's depth toward the earth than the air above toward the stars.

CES. So much so that with this sort of progress he acquires always more and more ease in raising himself?

MAR. Exactly. And Tansillo also says:

The more I feel the air beneath my feet, the more I spread proud pinions to the wind, despise the world, and further my way to heaven.

The more every part of every body, including those of the elements, arrives nearer to its natural place, so much greater is its impetus and force, so that in the end willy-nilly it must reach its destination. Thus, as we see that all the parts of bodies are drawn toward their proper places, so must we judge that things of the intellect are drawn toward their proper objects as toward their own place, home, and end. Now you can easily see the complete meaning intended by the emblem, the motto, and the verses.

CES. So much so that anything that you might add to it would seem to me most superfluous.


CES. Let us see now what is represented by those two burning arrows upon a shield and by the above inscription, Vicit instans ('The moment conquers').

MAR. This emblem represents the war which continues in the soul of the frenzied one. Because of too long an intimacy with matter, his soul was too stubborn and inert for penetration by the rays of the splendor of the divine intelligence and the species of the divine goodness; during all this time, he says, his heart was armored with diamond, meaning that its stubbornness and refusal to become heated and penetrated had protected it from the blows love brought him in its assaults from all sides. He means that he has not been wounded by those blows of eternal life of which the Canticle speaks when it says, Vulnerasti cor meum, o dilecta, vulnerasti cor meum (Cant. 4.9: '...Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse, thou hast wounded my heart with one of thine eyes, and with one hair of thy neck...'). These blows are not caused by iron or other metal by means of some powerful and strenuous force, but are caused by the arrows of Diana or of Phoebus. Goddess of the wilderness where Truth is contemplated, this Diana is the order of the secondary intelligences, who reflects the splendor of the first intelligence in order to communicate it to those who are deprived of its more direct vision. As for Phoebus, he is the principal god Apollo, who with his own unborrowed splendor transmits his arrows, in every direction, that is, his rays, which are the innumerable species and marks of the divine goodness, intelligence, beauty, and wisdom. The frenzies of love will depend upon the way these arrows are received; therefore the adamant subject may cease to reflect the light as it strikes him on the surface, and, on the contrary, softened and conquered by the heat and light, he may become entirely luminous in substance, may become himself all light, because his affection and his intellection have been penetrated. This does not happen at once at the beginning of life, when the soul freshly sets out inebriated of Lethe and is still full of the waters of forgetfulness and confusion; for there the soul is intimately a prisoner of the body and most concerned with the care of its vegetative life; but little by little the soul orders itself to become active in the exercise of its sensitive faculty, until that moment when by its rational and discursive powers it becomes more purely intellective. Then the soul can be raised to the mind and no longer feels beclouded by the murkiness of that humor which, thanks to the exercise of contemplation, is no longer putrefied in the stomach, but has been fully digested.

In this disposition this frenzied one shows that he has endured six illuminations, in the course of which he has not yet arrived at the purity of concept which could have made him a fitting abode of those alien species which offer themselves equally everywhere and forever knock at the door of the intelligence. Finally love, who from many sides and on many occasions has assaulted him in vain (just as the sun is said to expend light and heat in vain for those who are in the bowels and obscure depths of the earth), fixed itself in those sacred lights: That is, love revealed itself under the two intelligible species of the divine beauty, bound his intellect by the light of truth, burned his affection by the light of goodness, and conquered the corporeal and vegetative ardors which until that time had seemed to triumph and to remain intact (despite the excellence of the soul). For those lights which reflect the active intellect, the illuminator and intellectual sun, easily penetrated his own lights, the light of truth by the door of the intellectual potency, the light of goodness by the door of the appetitive potency down to his heart, that is, to the substance of the passion in general. This, then, was that double arrow which came from the hand of the irate warrior and was more prompt, efficacious, and more ardent than it had been a little while ago when it had shown itself to be more feeble and neglectful. Thus, when that heat and light of truth illuminated his intellect for the first time, he experienced that victorious moment because of which it was said, vicit instans. Therefore you can understand the sense of the proposed emblem, motto, and the sonnet which says:

Strongly I waxed in virtue under the blows of love, when assaults from many and varied parts were sustained by a heart armored with diamond. Thus my efforts triumphed over those of love.
At last, one day (as the heavens destined it) I found myself so fixed by those sacred lights, which through my eyes, and alone among all the others, found easy entrance to my heart.
Then was hurled upon me that double arrow, which came from the hand of the irate warrior, and for six illuminations had failed to assail me.
It pierced its mark, and there fixed itself firmly, and planted its trophy upon me where it could restrain my fugitive pinions.
And since then with more solemn preparation the anger of my sweet enemy never ceases to wound my heart.

It was a single moment which marked both the beginning and the fulfillment of victory. It was a unique two-fold species, which alone among all other species found easy entrance; for in that two-fold species is contained the efficacy and virtues of all the other species; for what greater and more excellent form can be manifested than that beauty, goodness and truth which is the source of every other truth, goodness and beauty? The two-fold species pierced its mark, took possession of the heart, marked it, impressed its character there, and fixed itself firmly; then it established itself, confirmed itself, and strengthened its position so that it could never be lost; for that reason it is impossible for one to turn to love anything else once he has received the divine beauty within himself; and it is impossible for him not to love it, as it is impossible that the appetite can reach out for anything other than the good or a species of the good. And this must be consummately in accord with the appetite for the highest good. Thus, restrained are the pinions which were formerly fugitive, accustomed to flying below with the weight of matter. Consequently, the sweet anger never ceases to wound the heart, soliciting the affection and reawakening the mind; for the sweet anger is the efficacious assault of the benignant enemy who had been excluded for such a long time as a stranger and an alien. And now that enemy is the sole and complete possessor and disposer of the soul; for the soul does not desire or wish to desire anything but him; nor is it content nor does it wish to be content with anything else, as the poet often says:

Sweet anger, delicious war, sweet darts, Sweet are my afflictions and sweet are my pains.


CES. It seems to me there remains nothing else to consider pertinent to that emblem. Now look at this quiver and bow. That these belong to love is demonstrated by the surrounding sparks, a suspended noose, and the motto, Subito clam ('suddenly and secretly').

MAR. I recall quite well having seen this expressed in the poem. But let us read it first:

Eager to find the prey he covets, the eagle wings his way toward the sky, warning all the animals that at his third flight he prepares for destruction.
And from the deep cavern the vast roar of the ferocious lion brings mortal terror, so that the beasts, foreseeing the evil, scurry their scant breakfast to their caves.
And when the whale leaves the caves of Thetis to assail the mute herd of Proteus, he first makes felt his violent spray.
The eagles of the sky, the lions of the land, and the whales who rule the sea do not come treacherously; but the assaults of love come in secret.
Ah, for me those happy days were shattered by the power of one instant, which made of me an unfortunate lover forever.

There are three regions of animals and these are composed of the major elements of earth, water, and air. These animals are of three genera; wild beasts of prey, fish, and birds. Of these three genera nature has provided three chief species: the lion on land, the whale in the sea, and the eagle in the air. Each one of these, as if to show that it has force and power superior to the other, will go so far as to behave with manifest magnanimity, or at least with a semblance of it. For that reason it is observed that before beginning the chase the lion sends out a powerful roar which makes all the woods resound, as the poet says of the frenzied hunter:

At saeva e speculis tempus dea nocta nocendi,
Ardua tecta petit, stabuli et de culmine summo
Pastorale canit Signurn, cornuque recurvo
Tartaream intendit vocem, qua protinus omne
Contremuit nemus, et silvae intonuere profundae.

(Virgil, Aeneid vii 511-515: '...But the grim goddess, seizing from her watch-tower the moment of mischief, seeks the arduous roof, and sounds the pastoral signal from the highest summit of her abode, and strains her Tartarean voice on the twisted horn, which made the entire forest tremble, and echo through the deep wood...')

We know too that when the eagle wishes to seize its prey, it first flies from its nest toward the sky in a vertical and perpendicular position; but ordinarily, after the third time, it leaps up with great impetus and swiftness as if it would fly along a horizontal plane; in that manner, seeking the advantage of a swift flight and making use of the time to examine its prey from afar, it either rejects it or resolves upon it after having fixed its eye upon it three times.

CES. Can we conjecture the reason why it fails to attack its prey at once when it sees it for the first time?

MAR. Not precisely. But perhaps at this moment the eagle perceives it may be offered a better or an easier prey. Besides, I do not believe it always acts in this way, but only generally. Now to return to our discourse. With respect to the whale, we know that because it is a very large organism, it cannot cut through the waters without making its presence manifest beforehand by the reaction of the waves. Besides, there are found many other species of the same fish whose movement and respiration exhale a windy and tempestuous spray of water. Therefore the inferior animals can take the time to escape from all three species of superior animals, so that these superior animals do not behave as deceivers and traitors. But Love, who is stronger and mightier than these animals, and exercises supreme dominion in heaven, on earth, and in the sea, and, perhaps, like these animals, ought to show a magnanimity the more excellent, the more power it has, nevertheless directs its assaults unexpectedly and wounds suddenly:

Labitar totas furor in medullas,
Igne furtivo populante venas,
Nec habet latam data plaga frontem;
Sed vorat tectas penitus medullas,
Virginum ignoto ferit igne pectus.

(Seneca, Phaedra II.iii: '...Madness slides down into the innermost part of the veins by a furtive, ravaging fire; and it does not wound the wide-open breast; but devours the disguised innermost marrow and destroys the courage of virgins by an unknown flame...')

As you see, this tragic poet calls love furtive fire, unknown flame; Solomon calls it furtive water (Prov.. 9.17). Samuel named it a murmuring of a subtle breath (III Kings 19.12.). The three indicate the sweetness, suavity, and cunning with which love comes to tyrannize over the universe on the sea, on land, and in heaven.

CES. There is no larger kingdom, nor worse tyranny, no better domain, no power more necessary, nothing sweeter and more gentle, no food more sharp and bitter, no god more violent, none more amiable, no agent more perfidious and more feigning, no author more regal and faithful than love. And, finally, it seems to me that love is everything and does everything, and that everything can be said of it and everything can be attributed to it.

MAR. You express it very well. Love, then (something which acts principally through the vision, as through the most spiritual of all the senses, for the vision ascends immediately to the perceptible limits of the world and without delay extends itself to the farthest horizon of the visible) will be ready, furtive, unexpected, and sudden. Besides, we must consider that, according to the ancients, love comes before all the other gods; for that reason there is no need to invent a fable of Saturn who shows love the way, and then is forced to follow it himself. Moreover, why should it be necessary to see if love appears and announces itself externally, if its dwelling is in the soul itself and if its bed is the heart, and if it resides in the composition of our very substance, and is one with the impulse of our potencies? In conclusion, in all things the appetite for the beautiful and the good is natural, and for that reason it is unnecessary to argue or discourse to see how the affection is formed and strengthened; for suddenly and in a single instant the appetite is joined to the desirable, just as the vision is joined to the visible.


CES. Now let us inquire into the meaning of that burning arrow about which the motto, Cui nova plaga loco ('Where does the new wound strike?'), is inscribed. What is this arrow's target? Explain this to me.


That the burning terrors of Lybia and Puglia destroy so much corn or commit so many ears of wheat to the wind; that the orb of the great star emits so many translucent rays;
that this soul, happy in its profound pain and so sad in the joy of its sweet torment, receives burning darts shot from a double star, all sense and reason forbid me to believe.
What more do you attempt, sweet enemy, Love? What zeal moves you to strike me with new blows, now that my whole heart has become one wound?"
Because neither you, nor any other force has a single point left on which to strike another blow, or a single point to pierce or sting me, go, turn your bow elsewhere.
Cease wasting your effort here, for it is wrong, if not vain, oh god of beauty, to kill one who is already dead.

The entire sense of this poem is metaphorical as in the case of the preceding ones, and it is in this sense that it can be understood: the multitude of arrows which wound and have wounded the heart, represent the innumerable individual objects and species of objects which, according to their degrees, reflect the splendor of the divine beauty and therefore kindle the passion for the desired and apprehended good. Both the desired and the apprehended good, inasmuch as the one is goodness in potency and the other is goodness in act, and one is a possible and the other an actual good, crucify and console at the same time, and give at once a sense of the bitter as well as the sweet. But when all the affections are completely converted to God, that it, to the idea of ideas, by the light of intelligible things, the mind is exalted to the suprasensual unity, and is all love, all one, and it no longer feels itself solicited and distracted by diverse objects, but becomes one sole wound, in which all the affections gather to become a single affection. Then it is not the love or appetite of a particular thing that can solicit or even approach the will; for there is nothing more right than justice, nothing more beautiful than beauty, nothing that has more goodness than the good; nothing can be found greater than greatness itself; nothing more luminous than the light which by its presence obscures and effaces all other lights.

CES. To the perfect, if it is perfect, there is nothing that one can add; that is why the will is incapable of any other appetite when it experiences the supreme and sovereign perfection. I can therefore understand his conclusion, when he says to love, cease wasting your efforts here; for, if not in vain, it is wrong (according to a certain analogue and metaphor) to try to kill one who is dead, that is, one who is deprived of life and insensible to other objects, so that he can no longer be stung or pierced by them; for what would it profit him now to be exposed to any other species? And this lament befalls him who, having tasted of the ultimate unity, would become entirely delivered and cut off from the multitude.

MAR. You understand it very well.


MAR. Now here beside us is a boy in a boat who is at the point of becoming engulfed by the stormy sea and, faint and languishing, has abandoned the oars. The emblem bears the motto, Fronti nulla fides ('No faith in this face'). Undoubtedly this means that the serene aspect of the waters invited the boy to plough the faithless sea; whose surface became unexpectedly turbulent, and caused him extreme and mortal fear, and because of his inability to resist the impetus of the waves, he was forced to abandon himself, head down, arms stretched out, and all hope lost. But let us read the verse:

Gentle boy, who from the shore let loose the tiny boat, and, longing for the sea, offer an untutored hand to a frail oar, you are suddenly aware of your misfortune.
You see that the treachery of the baneful sea, makes your prow sink too low or rise too high; nor does your soul, overcome by importunate desires, avail against the oblique and surging billows.
Cede the oars to your fierce enemy, and with less disquiet await your death; and that you may not see death, close your eyes.
If some friendly aid is not prompt, any moment you will surely feel the ultimate effect of your most ignorant and curious zeal.
My harsh destinies are comparable to yours, because, longing for Love, I experience the rigor of that lord of traitors.

How and why love is a traitor and fraudulent we have seen a little while ago. But because I see that the following poem is without an emblem and motto, I suppose it might be related to the preceding one. Therefore let us read it:

Having left the shore to try myself and relax a little while from my sober labors, I fell to musing almost playfully, when suddenly I saw the cruel fates.
These have burned me with so violent a fire that in vain do I attempt the more secure shores again, and in vain do I invoke for deliverance a hand of mercy which would promptly carry me aloft to my swift enemy.
Impotent to release myself, hoarse and vanquished, I yield to my destiny, and no longer try to build a useless bulwark against death.
May my cruel destiny deliver me from every other life, and prolong no more the final torment which it has prescribed for me.
Exemplar of my great evil is the improvident boy who abandoned himself as a plaything to the bosom of the enemy.

At this point I am not certain that I understand or explain everything the frenzied one means. However one thing that is very clear is the strange condition of a soul discouraged on the one hand by the awareness of the difficulty of the work, by the great amount of fatigue and the vastness of the undertaking, and on the other hand discouraged by its own ignorance, its lack of skill, weakness of nerves and the danger of death. He is without counsel for his undertaking; he does not know where he must turn or to whom; he perceives no place of flight or of refuge, for the waves menace him from all sides with their frightening and mortal assaults. Ignoranti portum nullus suus ventus est ('To one ignorant of the port, there is no wind to guide him'). This lover realizes he has relied too much on his own good fortune, having prepared for himself only turmoil, captivity, ruin, submersion. He sees how fortune sports with us; the gifts with which she gently fills our hands she causes to fall and break, or she sees that they are taken from us by another's violence, or she makes them suffocate, poison, or disquiet us by arousing in us suspicion, fear, and jealousy to our great loss and ruin. Fortunae an ulla putatis dona carere dolis? ('Do you think any gift of fortune is without pain?') Because strength that cannot prove itself is vain, magnanimity of soul that cannot prevail is nothing, and because labor that bears no fruit is useless, he sees the effect of the fear of evil, which is worse than the evil itself. Peior est morte timor ipse mortis ('The fear of death is worse than death'). Because of fear he already suffers everything he is afraid to suffer: trembling of the limbs, weakness of the nerves, tremors of the body, anguish of the spirit; and he brings upon himself what has not yet befallen him, a thing certainly worse than whatever could overtake him. For what is more witless than to bemoan something in the future, which is not felt in the present?

CES. These considerations explain the superficial aspect and external iconography of the emblem. But it seems to me the argument of the frenzied one refers to the weakness of the human mind, which, completely engaged in the divine enterprises risks finding itself suddenly engulfed in the abyss of an incomprehensible excellence; and therefore the sense and imagination become confused and absorbed, so that not knowing where to turn, equally incapable of going forward or turning back, the human mind vanishes and loses its own existence like a drop of water that loses itself in the sea, or a weak breath dissipated as it loses its substance in the spacious and immense atmosphere.

MAR. Good, but let us go now, and discuss it on the way home, for it is getting dark.


Second Dialogue


MAR. Here is a flaming yoke enfolded by a noose, and around it the inscription, Levius aura ('Lighter than the air'). The emblem means that divine love does not oppress or lead its servant to the shades below as a captive and a slave, but raises, uplifts, and exalts him beyond every freedom.

CES. I beg you, let us read the poem quickly; then in better order, more precisely and with no delay shall we be able to examine its sense and see if we can find even another meaning in it.

MAR. It says:

She who kindled my mind to the higher love, she who rendered every other goddess base and vain to me; she in whom beauty and sovereign goodness are uniquely displayed,
is she whom I saw coming from the forest, huntress of me, my Diana, among the lovely nymphs upon the golden Campania, wherefore I said to Love: -- I surrender myself to this one.
And he to me: -- Oh fortunate lover! Oh spouse favored by your destiny! She who alone among so many
has within her bosom life and death, and adorns the world with holy graces, her you have achieved by labor and by fortune;
captive though I am in her amorous court, I am so highly blessed, that I do not envy the freedom of any man or god.

You notice how content he is under such a yoke, under such a burden, captive of the one he saw proceed from the forest, from the wilderness, and from the wood; that is to say, from those less frequented regions ignored by the multitude, alien to society and apart from the vulgar. Diana, splendor of the intelligible species, is his huntress, because having wounded him by her beauty and grace, she has bound him and holds him under her sway more content than he could have ever been otherwise. She is said to be among the lovely nymphs, that is to say, among the multitude of other species, forms and ideas, and upon the golden Campania, an allusion to that intelligence and spirit that appears in Nola, and lies on the plain of the Campanian horizon. To her he renders himself, to her whom love praised more than he praised any other, desiring that he regard himself most fortunate because of her, who, among all that is visible and invisible to the eyes of mortals, gives the world its noblest attire and makes man glorious and beautiful. That is why he says his mind is enkindled to that highest love and that it recognizes every other goddess, that is, the care and consideration of every other species, as base and vain.

Now in proclaiming that his mind has been kindled by the highest love, he offers us an example of how to raise the heart as high as possible by our thoughts, labors, and works, and how not to divert ourselves with things base and inferior to our faculty, as happens to those who either because of avarice, negligence, or even from some other unfitness, remain in this brief span of life attached to ignoble things.

CES. It is necessary that there be artisans, mechanics, farmers, servants, pedestrians, the ignoble, the base, the poor, the pedants, and others of the Sort; for otherwise there could not be the philosophers, saints, educators, lords, captains, noblemen, illustrious men, wealthy men, wise men, and others who are as heroic as are the gods. Why then, ought we to be forced to corrupt the law of nature which has divided the universe into things that are greater, and things that are less, things superior and things inferior, things illuminating and things obscure, things worthy and unworthy, not only outside of us, but also within us, in our very own substance, even to that part of our substance affirmed as immaterial? It is the same among the intelligences; some are inferior and others are superior, some serve and obey, while others command and govern. But I do not hold that this ought to serve as an example by which the order of things should become perverted and confounded because subjects wish to become rulers and the ignoble wish to become noble with the result that final a certain state of neutrality and bestial equality would follow, a condition one finds in certain solitary and uncultivated republics. Besides see what damage has come to the sciences because the pedants have wished to become philosophers, and while treating of the things of nature have meddled in determining things divine? Who does not realize that harm has come and still comes because not all minds are equally kindled to the highest love? Who has good sense and does not see the profit reaped by Aristotle, Alexander's master of letters, when he used his noble intellect to contradict and make war upon the Pythagorean theory and the theory of the natural philosophers? By the process of logical reasoning he wishes to offer definitions, notions, certain quintessences, and other fragments and miscarriages of fantastic thought as though they were the principles and the substances of things, more concerned as he was with the opinions of the mob and the stupid multitudes who are guided and lead more by means of sophisms and the superficial appearances of things than by the truth hidden in the substance of them, a truth which is the very substance of those things. He alerted his mind not to contemplate but to judge and give an opinion about things he had never studied and of things of which he had not even heard. Therefore so much of the good and of the rare which he offers from the matter of his poetics, logic, and metaphysics, in our day in the hands of other pedants who labor with the same sursum corda becomes formulated in new dialectics and modes of forming the reason, modes inferior to the doctrine of Aristotle, just as perhaps the doctrine of Aristotle is incomparably inferior to that of the ancients. This has already happened because certain grammarians, having worn themselves out upon the rumps of infants and on the anatomies of words and phrases, have wished to set their minds to the creation of a new logic and metaphysics, judging and giving opinions about matters they have not hitherto studied and do not understand now. That is why by the favor of the ignorant multitude (to whose wit they more conform these grammarians can so well give the final blow to the letters and observations of Aristotle, just as Aristotle himself was the hangman of other divine philosophers. See then what ordinarily results from the advice that everyone should pretend to aspire to the holy light and hold all other emprises base and vain.


Ride, si sapis, o puella, ride,
Pelignus, puto, dixerat poeta;
Sed non dixerat omnibus puellis;
Et si dixerit omnibus puellis,
Non dixit tibi. To puella non es.

(Martial, Epigrams II, 1, 1-5: 'Smile, if you are wise, maiden, smile, / Paelignus, the poet said, I believe; / But he spoke not to all the maidens; / And indeed had he spoken to all the maidens, / He did not speak to you. For a maiden you are not.')

Therefore the sursum corda is not meant for everyone, but only for those who have wings. We see quite well that pedantry has never been more exalted for governing the world, than in our day; and it opens toward the true intelligible species and objects of the one infallible truth as many paths as there are pedants. For that reason in this age well born intellects must be awakened to the greatest extent, armed with the truth and illumined by the divine intelligence, in order to take up arms against the darkness of ignorance and to ascend that high rock and eminent tower of contemplation. These are the intellects which must hold every other enterprise as vile and vain.

These intellects must not waste time, whose speed is infinite, on things superfluous and vain; for with astonishing speed the present slips by and the future approaches with equal rapidity. What we have endured is nothing, what we endure now is a point, and what we shall have to endure is not even a point, but can become a point which at the same time will be and will have been. And still one man encumbers his memory with genealogy, another attends to deciphering ancient writings, and still another is occupied with multiplying the sophisms of children. You will see, for example, volumes filled with reasoning such as:

Cor est fons vitae,
Nix est alba;
Ergo cornix est fons alba.

One warbles about whether the noun existed before the verb; the other about whether the sea existed before its source; another desires to revive obsolete words -- because an ancient writer once employed them he would raise them again to the clouds; another obsesses himself with false and true orthography; and still others preoccupy themselves with similar nonsense, more worthily scorned then heeded. For this they fast, become lean, grow consumptive, let their skin dry up, their beards grow, putrefy, and upon this throw down the anchor of the highest good. In the name of these futilities they scorn fortune and by them they build a rampart and a shield against the thrusts of fate. By the grace of these vile notions they think they ascend to the stars and are like the gods, and they think they comprehend the beautiful and the good which philosophy promises.

CES. It is amazing indeed that time, which can not suffice us for things that are necessary, no matter how diligently we guard it, becomes more often wasted on superfluous things, in fact upon things vile and shameful.

It is no laughing matter that the following is attributed to Archimedes (or to certain others who follow him) as a laudable action. At the moment when the city was in ruins and people were scurrying in all directions, when his room was on fire, his enemies in his chamber and at his back, at whose discretion and whim lay the loss of his skill, brain, and life, despite all this, he nevertheless lost the instinct and desire for self preservation and forgot everything in order to find the proportion between the curve and the straight line, the diameter and the circumference of a circle or to solve some other similar problem, all worthy of youths, but unworthy of one who, if he could, should have grown old intent upon things more worthy of the goal of human study.

MAR. I approve of what you yourself said a little while ago about this subject, that the world must be full of all sorts of people and the number of imperfect, ugly, poor, unworthy, and nefarious ones must be in the majority; in conclusion, it ought not be otherwise than it is. The long life of Archimedes, Euclid, of Priscian, of Donatus, and of others, who until their deaths were occupied with numbers, lines, verbal forms, grammatical convention, orthography, dialectics, syllogisms, methods, modes of thought, rudiments of speech, and other isagoges, has been ordained for the profit of youth and children, who may learn and receive the fruits of the mature years of those men; fruits which they may eat appropriately in their green age, so that once adult they may find themselves apt and prepared for greater pursuits without difficulty.

CES. I still maintain what I said a little while ago about those who on the one hand, labor to purloin the position and reputation of the ancients by producing new works, inferior or no better than those already produced, and spend their lives observing the skin of a goat or the shadow of an ass, and others who, on the other hand, as long as they live, labor to excel in exercises fit for children, and these for the most part without profit to themselves or to anyone else.

MAR. Now we have said enough about those who either cannot or ought not presume to have the mind kindled to the higher love. Let us consider now the voluntary captivity and delightful yoke beneath the sway of the mentioned Diana; I mean that yoke without which the soul is incapable of ascending to the loftiness from which it fell; for that yoke renders the soul lighter and more agile, and the noose gives it greater dispatch and liberty.

CES. Then explain.

MAR. To begin, continue and conclude in order, I consider that everything that lives, in whatever mode it lives, must in some manner nourish and feed itself. But to the intellectual nature only intellectual food is necessary, just as to the body only corporeal food is necessary; for nourishment is taken for no other purpose than to be absorbed into the substance of the thing nourished. Besides, the body can no more be transmuted into spirit than the spirit into the body; for a transmutation is possible only if the matter previously in the form of the one passes over to the form of the other; but the spirit and the body do not have a common matter which makes it possible for the subject of one domain to become the subject of the other.

CES. Surely if the soul drew nourishment from the body, it would bear itself better where it found an abundance of matter (as Iamblicus argues), so that when we see a big and fat body, we may believe it to be the vehicle of a valiant soul, firm, ready, heroic, and say, oh fat soul, oh fecund spirit, oh beautiful mind, oh divine intelligence, oh illustrious intellect, oh blessed hypostasis which would make a banquet for lions, or for dogs. In the same way an old man appearing half-decayed, weak and diminished in strength, would have to be deemed of little spirit, discourse, and reason. But continue.

MAR. The nourishment of the spirit, then, can be only the thing the spirit has always longed for, searched for, embraced and relished more willingly than any thing else, an object through which the soul is fulfilled, pleased, benefited, and grows; and that object is the truth toward which man aspires at every moment, in every age, and in whatever condition he finds himself, and for which he usually scorns all fatigue, undertakes every zeal, counts his body for nothing and holds this life in contempt. For the truth is something incorporeal; and no truth, whether it be physical, metaphysical, or mathematical is found in the body, for you know very well that the eternal human essence is not to be found in the individuals who are born and die. It is the specifically one, Plato said, not the numerical multitude, which bears the substance of things. For that reason he calls the idea one and many, stable and mobile; because as incorruptible species it is intelligible and one; and as it communicates itself to the corporeal and is subject to motion and generation, it is something sensible and many. In this second mode it has more of non-being than of being, for it is always one thing and another and its privation imposes an eternal course upon it. You see, moreover, that the mathematicians have agreed that perfect figures are not found in natural bodies, and they cannot exist either by the power of nature or art. Besides, you know that the truth of supersensual substances is beyond the corporeal.

One concludes, then, that he who seeks the truth must ascend above the order of corporeal things. Besides, it must be considered that everyone who is nourished has a certain notion and natural memory of his food, and always (especially when his nourishment becomes more necessary) retains the similitude and species of that food, and retains it the more nobly, the more noble he is who seeks, and the more glorious the object sought. Every one has innate knowledge of things which assure the conservation of his individuality and his species, and therefore his ultimate perfection; and this is the reason why every being industriously seeks nourishment through some species of prey.

Thus it is necessary that the human soul have the light, the ingenuity, and instruments adopted to possess its own prey. Toward such an end the contemplation gives assistance and toward this end logic is used, the organ most adept for the acquisition of the truth, for distinguishing, exploring, and making judgments. Then the soul will proceed to traverse the forest of natural phenomena where so many objects are hidden under a shadow and cloak; for in a thick, dense, and deserted solitude the truth voluntarily seeks cavernous retreats, interwoven with thickets, and surrounded by wooden, rugged, and leafy plants, and there for the most worthy and excellent reasons she conceals, veils, and buries herself with the greatest vigilance; just as we are accustomed to conceal most diligently our greater treasures, so that the multitude and variety of hunters (some having more skill and practice than others) cannot discover them without great pain. To that forest Pythagoras proceeded, seeking the truth by following its traces and vestiges in nature, that is, in the numbers which in a certain way make the progress, considerations, modes, and operations of the truth apparent; for it is in number insofar as it applies to the many, to measurements, to time, and to weight that the truth and essence of all things is found. There Anaxagoras and Empedocles proceeded, who, considering that the omnipotent and omnipresent divinity encompassed the universe, found nothing so minute which could not have the divinity concealed beneath it, in accordance with every argument; yet they never failed to proceed to that region in which the divinity was predominant and expressed by the most noble and magnificent argument. There the Chaldeans searched for the divinity by way of abstraction, not knowing what to affirm about it; and they advanced without demonstrations and syllogisms, and tried to penetrate further by brushing aside obstacles, furrowing the field, and clearing the forest, by a forceful denial of every species and predicate whether comprehensible or secret. Plato searched for it by alternately tearing down and building up barriers, so that the inconsistent and fleeting species would remain as in a network held in a row of definitions; for he considered that superior things exist by participation, similitude, and reflection in inferior things, and that inferior things according to their greater degree of dignity and excellence exist by their participation in superior things; and he considered that the truth is in the one and the other according to a certain analogy, order and scale in which the lowest degree of the superior order joins the highest degree in the inferior order. In this way, by traversing the intermediary degrees, he contributed a progression from the lowest in nature to the highest, a progression from evil to good, from darkness to light, from pure potency to pure act. Even Aristotle boasted of being able to arrive at the desired prey by means of the footprints and vestiges that could be traced when from effect he wished to reascend to cause. However most of the time (and more than all the others who preoccupied themselves in such a chase) he lost the way, hardly knowing how to distinguish between the vestiges.

Finally, some theologians, nurtured in the doctrines of various sects, seek the truth of nature in all its natural and specific forms; and they consider that it is through these forms that the eternal essence specifically and substantially perpetuates the everlasting generation and mutation of things called into existence by those who create and build them; and that over those who build them reigns the form of forms, the source of light, the truth of truths, the god of gods, by whom everything is filled with divinity, truth, being, and goodness. Therefore truth is sought as something inaccessible, an object beyond objectivity and beyond all comprehension. For that reason it is impossible for anyone to see the sun, the universal Apollo and absolute light as the supreme and most excellent species; but very possible to see its shadow, its Diana, the world, the universe, the nature which is in things, the light shining through the obscurity of matter, and so resplendent in the darkness. Therefore of all those who in the ways mentioned speculate much in this deserted wood, very few are those who arrive at the font of Diana. Many remain happy with chasing the wild and less illustrious beasts, and most of them find nothing to catch, for they have aimed their nets at the wind, and have remained with a handful of flies. I say very few are the Actaeons to whom destiny gives the power to contemplate Diana naked, and the power to become so enamored of the beautiful harmony of the body of nature, so fallen beneath the gaze of those two lights of the dual splendor of goodness and beauty, that they are transformed into deer, inasmuch as they are no longer the hunters but the hunted. For the ultimate and last end of this chase is the capture of a fugitive and wild prey, through which the hunter becomes the hunted, the pillager becomes the pillaged. Because in all the other species of the chase undertaken for particular things, it is the hunter who seeks to capture those things for himself, absorbing them through the mouth of his particular intelligence; but in that divine and universal chase he comes to apprehend that it is himself who necessarily remains captured, absorbed, and united Therefore, from the vulgar, ordinary, civil, and ordinary man he was, he becomes as free as a deer, and an inhabitant of the wilderness; he lives like a god under the protection of the woods in the unpretentious rooms of the cavernous mountains, where he contemplates the sources of the great rivers, vigorous as a plant, intact and pure, free of ordinary lusts, and converses most freely with the divinity, to which so many men have aspired, who in their desire to taste the celestial life on earth have cried with one voice, Ecce elongavi fugiens, et mansi in solitudine (Ps.54.8: 'Lo, I have gone far off flying away; and I abode in the wilderness.').

The result is that the dogs, as thoughts bent upon divine things, devour this Actaeon and make him dead to the vulgar, to the multitude, free him from the snares of the perturbing senses and the fleshly prison of matter, so that he no longer sees his Diana as through a glass or a window, but having thrown down the earthly walls, he sees a complete view of the whole horizon. And now he sees everything as one, not any longer through distinctions and numbers, according to the diversity of the senses, or as varied fissures are seen and apprehended in confusion. He sees the Amphitrite, the source of all numbers, of all species, the monad, the true essence of the being of all things; and if he does not see it in its own essence and absolute light, he sees it in its germination which is similar to it and is its image: for from the monad, the divinity, proceeds this monad, nature, the universe, the world; where it is contemplated and gazed upon as the sun is through the moon, which is illuminated by it, inasmuch as he finds himself in the hemisphere of intellectual substances. She is Diana, she who is the being and truth of intelligible nature, in which is infused the sun and the splendor of a superior nature, according as the unity is distinct in that which is generated and that which generates, or that which produces and that which is produced. Therefore you will be able to draw your own conclusions about the mode of the chase, the dignity of the hunter and the most worthy result of his effort. That is why the frenzied lover boasts of becoming the prey of Diana to whom he renders himself, of whom he is esteemed a worthy consort, and so happy a captive under his yoke, that he has no reason to envy any man. For no other man has been given so much advantage as he. Nor has he reason to envy any god. For the species of a divinity cannot be obtained by an inferior nature, and consequently must not be desired, or even become the object of our appetite.

CES. I have understood well what you have said, and have been more than moderately satisfied. Now it is time to return home.

MAR. Agreed.


Third Dialogue


LIB. While the frenzied one lay beneath the shadow of a cypress tree, and other thoughts allowed his soul to relax somewhat (a remarkable thing), it happened that his heart and his eyes (as though they were living beings and separate substances whose sense and reason were distinct from each other) engaged in a debate; and each one complained that the other was the cause of the laborious torment that consumed his soul.

LAO. If you remember their arguments, tell them to me.

LIB. The dialogue was begun by the heart, which let the following accents burst forth from the depth of its breast:


How is it, eyes of mine, that I am tormented so powerfully by that ardent flame which derives from you?
How can my mortal substance continue to be fed by so great a fire,
that I believe all of the ocean's moisture and the most frozen part of the slowest star of the Arctic to be inadequate to curb my fire even for a moment and give me a shadow of refuge?
You made me captive of a hand that holds me, yet wants me not; because of you I am at once buried in the body and exposed to the sun.
I am a principle of life, and yet, there is no life in me. I do not know what I am, for I belong to this soul, yet it does not belong to me.

LAO. Understanding, knowledge, and vision enkindle the desire, and therefore through the ministry of the eyes the heart becomes inflamed. The more lofty and worthy the object that presents itself to the eyes, the more powerful the fire and the more blazing the flames. Now what object could so enflame the heart that it dares not hope the coldest and most distant star of the arctic can temper its ardor, nor hope that all the waters of the ocean can appease its flames? How excellent must the object be to have made the heart an enemy of its own self, a rebel against the soul, and contented in such enmity and rebellion, the captive of a hand that scorns it and wants it not? But tell me whether or not the eyes reply and what they have to say.

LIB. The eyes, on the other hand, complain against the heart for having been the principle and cause of the tears they have shed.

They reply to its lament with the following complaint.


How is it, oh heart, that you pour forth waters as great as the sea from which the Nereids ever raise their heads who die and are reborn every day in the sun? Like Amphitrite, the two-fold font,
(you) can pour forth such immense rivers upon the world, that you may say the river overflowing Egypt becomes a meager stream flowing into the sea through seven double shores.
Nature provided twin lights to govern this tiny world. But you, perverter of that eternal order,
turned them into everlasting rivers. And the heavens allow nature to be violated and violence to endure.

LAO. Naturally, fire and affliction in the heart cause the eyes to fill with tears; and, of course, if the eyes enkindle the flame in the heart, it is the heart that causes the eye to fill with tears. But I marvel at so great an exaggeration, when the eyes say that the heads of the Nereids do not emerge to the sun bathed in more abundant waters. And besides these waters are compared to the ocean not because they are diffuse, but because their two sources are able to pour forth so many kinds of rivers, that compared to them the Nile would appear as a small inlet divided into seven streams.

LIB. Do not be surprised at this exaggeration or at this potency deprived of its act, for you shall understand it all when you have heard the conclusion of this argument. Now hear how the heart first replies to the complaint of the eyes.

LAO. I beg you, let me hear it.


Eyes, if an immortal flame is ignited in me, and I am nothing else but a blazing fire; if everything that approaches me burns up in smoke, so that I even see heaven burning in my flames,
why does my great fire not consume you, but produce in you a contrary effect? Why do I moisten you and not burn you instead, if fire and not moisture is my substance?
Blind ones, do you believe a two-fold stream derives from so ardent a fire and that those two living streams
derive their elements from Vulcan -- as sometimes of two contraries the one acquires force, if the other resists?

See how impossible it is for the heart to persuade itself that from one contrary cause and principle proceeds the force of a contrary effect; it goes so far as to refuse to admit any such possibility, even by way of antiperistasi. This word refers to the vigor acquired by one contrary while it flees the other contrary and becomes united, self-enveloped, condensed, and concentrated toward the individual substance of its own virtue, which gains in efficacy what it loses in extension.

LAO. Tell me how the eyes reply to the heart.


Oh heart, your passion so confounds you, you have lost the way to all truth. Whatever is revealed or concealed in us has its origin in the seas. Therefore, from us
and from nowhere else Neptune must be able to recover his vast empire should fate decree to take it from him. How can we be the source of your ardent flame, we who are the twin parents of the sea?
Are you so mad as to believe that fire traverses us, leaving behind it these two watery portals,
so that you might feel its immense flame? Will you believe, as light penetrates glass, that fire penetrates us?

It is not my intention here to philosophize upon the coincidence of contraries, which I have worked out in my book, Of the Principle and the One. I will suppose what is commonly supposed, that the contraries in the same category are as far apart as possible; thus we shall more easily understand the sense of this reply in which the eyes call themselves the origins or fonts in whose virtual potency is the sea; so that, from their potency, should Neptune lose all the waters of the ocean, he could recall them into action, for they are in that potency as in their principle and material agent. However, when the eyes say that the flame cannot pass through their rooms and portals to the heart leaving so much water behind it, their argument is not without reply, and this is true for two reasons. First, because such an impediment could not actually be present unless certain barriers were set up which were actually insurmountable; second, because if the waters were actually in the eyes, they could make way for heat just as they could for light. For experience shows that without burning the mirror a reflected ray will light a material object exposed to it; moreover, a ray of light will pass through a pane of glass, a crystal, or a vase full of water, illumine the thing it strikes and will not burn the liquid mass it has traversed; thus is it a similitude and even true that light produces impressions of dryness and burning in the concavities of the deep sea. Consequently, by a certain similitude, if not by an analogous consideration, one may see how it is possible that through the deceptive and obscure organ of the eyes the affection will be enkindled and enflamed by a light which does not produce the same effect wherever it penetrates. For the action of the sun's light as it traverses the air is one thing, another as it approaches the senses, another as it penetrates everyone's sense, and still another as it penetrates the intellect; and thus it proceeds from one mode to another mode of being.

LAO. Does the debate between the heart and the eyes continue?

LIB. Yes, because the eyes and the heart try to discover how it is that the heart contains so many flames and the eyes so much water. Therefore, the heart makes its second demand.


If all the rivers run their course toward the foamy sea and proceed to fill the blind abyss, how is it, oh my eyes, that a two-fold torrent proceeding from you is not discharged upon the world
to extend the reign of the sea gods, diminishing the glorious charge of the other deities? Why may one not see again the day when Deucalion returned to his mountains?
Where are the many overflowing rivers? Where is the torrent to extinguish my flame, or, if not to extinguish it, to enrage it the more?
Does not one drop descend to earth to diffuse itself there, that I may be allowed to doubt what my appearance obliges me to believe?

What kind of potency is this that does not translate itself into act? This is what it would know. If the waters are so numerous, why does not Neptune come to tyrannize over the power of the other elements? Where are the overflowing rivers? Where is the freshness fitted to cool the ardor of my flame? Is there not one drop from the eyes to permit me to affirm what all appearance denies? But the eyes, in their turn, have another question to ask.


If all matter is converted to fire and then, like fire, mobile and light, is raised to the lofty heaven, how is it that
tormented by so great a fire of love you are not swept away swiftly as the wind in one instant to the sun? Why do you wander a pilgrim here below, and not find the path toward us through the air?
No spark is seen flashing forth from that breast; nothing appears which resembles a body singed or reduce a to ashes,
no smoke rises upward to make us weep: each faultlessly guards its own state; and neither the reason, sensation nor thought are enflamed.

LAO. This argument has the same value as the one before it, no more, no less. But let us come now to the replies, if there are any.

LIB. There certainly are and they are full of substance. Listen.


He is foolish who believes only in appearances, and will not believe his reason; my fire cannot take flight and no infinite flame is seen, because
the ocean of the eyes has descended upon it, and one infinite does not exceed the other. If the fire and the sphere are counterbalanced, it is because nature does not wish all to perish.
Tell me, by heaven, oh my eyes, which path shall we ever take thanks to which you or I will be able to render apparent the cruel fate of our soul, that it may be rescued?
If our torments remain concealed, how shall we render this god of beauty merciful to us?

LAO. If this argument is not true, it is most original; and if not original, it is excused in any case; for when two forces exist, one of which is not stronger than the other, both forces must stop functioning; because the resistance of one is equal to the persistence of the other, inasmuch as the one can attack as much as the other can repulse the attack. Therefore, if in the eyes the ocean of tears is infinite and the force of tears is infinite, they must forever manifest themselves by setting aflame or fanning the impulse of the fire hidden within the breast, and the eyes will never be able to dispatch their twin currents to the sea, if the heart puts an obstacle of equal force in their way. This is why no appearance of tears flowing from the eyes or flames flashing forth from the heart can invite the beautiful deity to show mercy to the afflicted soul.

LIB. Now observe the following reply of the eyes:


Ah, the impetuous force of our fonts is wholly vain to pour forth their rivers to the sea, for a contrary power keeps them hidden, so that they send no rolling waters below.
The infinite vigor of the burning heart denies passage to the torrents that are only too high; thus, our two-fold stream does not flow into the sea, for nature abhors an earth submerged.
Tell me, now, afflicted heart, you who can oppose us with another force as great, who would ever boast
of being the herald of so hapless a love as ours, if your woe and ours can be so much the less useful, the greater it is?

Just as two contraries of equal force are neutralized, one and the other evil, being infinite, cancel out; and such could not be the case were both of the contraries finite, for in the natural order a perfect parity is never realized, nor would such be the case if one contrary were finite and the other infinite, for the infinite contrary would certainly absorb the one which was finite, and both contraries would manifest themselves, or at least one would manifest itself by the other. I leave the natural and moral philosophy concealed beneath these statements to be sought, considered, and understood by him who will and can. But one thing I will not omit, that not without reason is the heart's passion called an infinite sea by the apprehension of the eyes. Because the object of the mind is infinite and no definite object is proposed to the intellect, the will cannot be appeased by a limited good. Beyond this good the will finds a still higher good for itself, which it then desires and seeks, for, as it is commonly said, the highest of the inferior species is also the lowest and first of the superior species, whether this gradation ascends according to forms (whose infinity we cannot estimate), or according to the modes and reasons of those forms; and the highest good being infinite, we believe it communicates itself infinitely according to the condition of the things in which it is diffused. Therefore, no definite species is assigned to the universe (I mean according to shape or mass), no definite species to the intellect, nor to the affection.

LAO. Thus, these two potencies of the soul are never, and can never be, satisfied in their object, because they pursue it infinitely.

LIB. This would be so if the object were infinite through a negative privation of an end, whereas it is infinite because of a positive affirmation of an end, infinite and without limit.

LAO. Therefore, you distinguish between two species of the infinite, one privative, which can tend toward something, for it is potency; just as darkness is infinite and ends when light appears; the other is perfective and is related to action and completion; just as light is infinite whose end would be darkness and privation. Thus, the intellect conceives the light, the good and the beautiful as far as the horizon of its capacity is extended, and the soul drinks divine nectar, and from the fount of eternal life as much as its own vessel permits; it is evident that the light is beyond the circumference of the soul's horizon, but the soul will always be able to penetrate it more and more; similarly, nectar is infinite and the source of living water is inexhaustible, so that the soul can become ever more and more intoxicated.

LIB. Then, any imperfection in the object or a lack of satisfaction in the potency does not follow; but instead, the potency is seized by the object and beatifically absorbed by it. Thus the eyes make their imprint upon the heart, that is, upon the intelligence, and excite in the will an infinite torment of gentle love, in which the pain of not having the thing desired is absent, and present is the joy of ever finding the thing sought; and in the meantime satiety never arrives, because the appetite and consequently the taste never cease to desire. This is not the case with the nourishment taken by the body, which, after it has been filled up, loses the taste of the food so that it enjoys it neither before nor after indulging, but only at the moment of eating, and beyond a certain limit will feel nothing but discomfort and nausea.

You see, then, according to a certain similitude, how the highest good must be infinite, and how the impulse of the affection toward it must also be infinite, so that it will never cease to be a good -- unlike the nourishment which is good for the body and becomes a poison when used immoderately. This is why the moisture of the ocean does not extinguish that flame, and why the rigor of the Arctic Circle never tempers that ardor. That is why the heart is captive of a hand which holds it and wants it , holds it, because it belongs to it; wants it not, because, as though to flee from it, that hand escapes the more the heart aspires toward it; and the more the heart pursues it, the more it appears remote because of its most eminent excellence, according to the words, Accedet homo ad cor altum, et exaltabitur Deus (Ps. 63.7: '... Man shall come to a deep heart, and God shall be exalted...').

Such happiness of the affection begins in this life, and in this state has its own mode of being. Therefore one might say the heart is sheltered within the body and yet leaves it to be with the sun, meaning that the soul in the exercise of its two-fold faculty performs two functions, one of vivifying and activating a potentially animate body, the other of contemplating superior things; for just as the soul is in a receptive potency from what is superior to it, so is it in potential activity toward the body which is inferior to it. The body is as though dead and privative for the soul, which is its life and perfection; and the soul is as though dead and privative for the illuminating intelligence whereby the human intellect receives its proper character and actual form, For that reason the heart is said to be the principle of life and yet dead; to belong to a living soul when that soul does not belong to it. Because the heart is enflamed by the divine love, it is finally converted to fire and can enkindle whatever comes in contact with it; for having contracted the divinity to itself it becomes god-like, and consequently its aspect has the power to inspire love, just as in the moon the splendor of the sun can be contemplated and glorified.

And now for that which pertains to a consideration of the eyes, note that the present discourse attributes two functions to them, one of impressing the heart, the other of receiving an impression from the heart. Similarly the heart has two functions, one of receiving an impression from the eyes, and the other of making its impression upon them. The eyes apprehend the species and propose them to the heart; and the heart desires them and transmits its desire to the eyes; these conceive the light, diffuse it and enkindle the fire in the heart; the heart, burned and inflamed, sends its humour on the way to the eyes so that they may digest it. Thus in the first place the cognition moves the affection which in turn moves the cognition. When the eyes act as stimulants they are cold, for they function as mirrors and transmitters of images; but when they are themselves moved, they are turbulent and altered, and they act as zealous performers, inasmuch as at first the speculative intellect sees the beautiful and the good, then the will longs for it, and in turn the diligent intellect becomes anxious about it, pursues and seeks it. The weeping eyes symbolize the difficult separation of the thing desired from him who desires it, which, because it does not satiate or weary him, offers itself as an infinite effort, and therefore is always with him and is something for which he never stops searching. Similarly, the felicity of the gods is described by their drinking of nectar and not by their having drunk it, by their tasting and not by their having tasted ambrosia, by their ceaselessly desiring food and drink and not by their having been gorged so that they have no desire for them. Therefore) the gods hold satiety to be a state of movement and apprehension and not a state of repose and comprehension; their satiety is never without appetite, nor do they experience appetite without being in some way satiated.

LAO. Esuries satiata, satietas esuriens. ('A satiated hunger, and a hungry satiety.')

LIB. Precisely that.

LAO. From this I can now understand how it has been said without reproach but with much intelligence and truth that the divine love weeps in inexpressible groans, for possessing all, it loves all, and loving all, it possesses all.

LIB. But many a gloss would be necessary in order to make us understand the divine love which is the deity itself; whereas it is easy to understand divine love as it manifests itself in its effects and in inferior nature; I do not speak of the love that is diffused from the divinity among things, but of that love which from things aspires to the divinity.

LAO. We shall have every leisure to return to this and other subjects. Let us depart.


Fourth Dialogue


SEV. Let us hear the discourses of nine blind men, who give nine reasons and particular causes of their blindness, although all of them agree that the general cause is the frenzy they have in common.

MIN. Start with the first one.

SEV. Although the first one is blind by nature, he none the less utters a love complaint and tells the others he cannot persuade himself that nature has been more uncivil to them than it has been to him; for even though they no longer see, they nevertheless have once experienced sight and have experienced the dignity of the sense and the excellence of sensible things which caused them to become blind; but he has come into the world like a mole, to be seen while he himself does not see and to long for things he has never seen.

MIN. Many are found smitten by love, if we credit the rumor.
SEV. He says that they at least have the happiness of retaining that divine image in their mind's eye, so that, no matter how blind they are, they nevertheless maintain within their fantasy that which for him it is impossible to have. Then in the sestet he turns to his guide and begs to be led to some precipice so that he may no longer be a horrid spectacle of nature's disdain.

Listen to his plea.


Oh happy ones who at one time have been able to see, though now you weep for the lost light, my companions, you once knew the two illuminations. For me these were neither enkindled, nor extinguished.
Thus a heavier misfortune than you believe is mine, and is worthy of greater lamentation. Nothing convinces me that nature has been more harsh with you than with me.
Oh guide, if you wish to bring me content, lead me to the precipice, so that my torment find a remedy.
To be seen and yet not to see the light, like a mole I came forth into the world to be a useless burden to the earth.

The next one follows, who, bitten by the serpent of jealousy, has become infected in the visual organs. He goes without any guide, unless we may call jealousy the only guide he has. Because there is no remedy for his misfortune, he begs one of those around him to pity him and make him lose all sense of his evil by burying him with it, thus making him so hidden from himself, as the light of his eyes is now hidden from him. Then he says:


From her terrible tresses Alecto has torn the infernal serpent, whose fierce bite has so cruelly infected my spirit, that of my senses, the most noble has perished,
depriving my intellect of its guide. That mad rage of jealousy makes me stumble so on every path, that in vain does my soul ask anyone for aid.
if no magic chant, or sacred herb, or virtue of precious stone, or divine aid offer me release,
may one of you, in the name of God, be so merciful as to remove me from my own sight by burying me without delay with my misfortune.

Next, one follows who says he has become blind by having unexpectedly emerged from the darkness into a great light; for accustomed to contemplating ordinary beauties, suddenly he was presented with one celestial beauty, a divine sun. As a result his sight was destroyed and extinguished was the twofold light which illumines the prow of his soul (for the eyes are like two light-houses guiding the ship); and his fate was similar to that of one who, nurtured in Cimmerian obscurity, suddenly fixed his eyes upon the sun. And in the sestet he begs that he may be given passage to the inferno, because darkness only is suitable for so dark a being.


If the sun suddenly appears to a man nourished in profound darkness or under the sky of the Cimmerian people, where the great star diffuses a distant glow,
this inimical sun extinguishes the two-fold light resplendent at the prow of the soul and renders itself invisible. So was my sight extinguished, for it was accustomed to gazing upon vulgar beauties.
Let me descend into hell! Why do I, a dead man, go wandering through the world? Why do I, an infernal clog, among you who are living
go mingling with others? Why do I taste the air in pain? Why am I put to so many pains for having seen the supreme good?

The fourth blind man in his turn exposes the reason for his blindness, a reason similar, though not identical with the preceding one. This blind man did not suddenly find himself beneath the ray of light; it is for having gazed upon it too often or for having fixed his eyes upon it too much, that he has cease to be aware of any other light; thus one cannot say that the ray of that unique light was the cause of his blindness. And he says the same thing happened to his sense of sight that happened to his sense of hearing; for they who have accustomed their ears to great uproars do not hear minor noises, as in the famous example of the people of Cataduppia, who live where the great Nile river descends precipitously from a very high mountain upon the plain below.

MIN. Therefore all those who have accustomed their body and soul to the most difficult and the greatest things, usually do not concern themselves with minor difficulties. And this one ought not to be unhappy because of his blindness.

SEV. No, indeed. And he is called willingly blind, since he prefers that all other objects be hidden from him, for they could only annoy him by turning his view from that object alone which he desires to contemplate.

And in the meantime, he begs the wayfarers to aid in preventing him from falling upon some evil fortune, as he goes forth intent and wholly captivated by his chief object.

MIN. Refer us to his words.


Falling precipitously from its height the Nile has abolished the sense of every other sound for the hapless Cataduppian people. So do I remain with spirit all intent
upon the most living light which illumines the world, and I am insensible toward all lesser splendors; and while this light shines upon the world, it willingly pays attention to no others.
I beg of you, warn me of running against some stone, or wild beast, and (tell me) if I must descend or ascend,
so that these wretched bones may not fall into some open ditch, while I make my way deprived of guidance.

It befalls the blind man who follows that because of the excessive weeping which has darkened his eyes, he cannot extend their visual rays to the visible species, and above all to that light again which, in spite of himself and at the cost of his great pain, he once saw. Moreover, he does not deem that his blindness is any longer a passing disposition, but habitual, and privative in the highest degree; for the luminous flame which enkindles the soul through the pupil of the eye has been too long and too vigorously repressed and oppressed by a contrary humour; so that, no matter how much he may cease from weeping, he is not persuaded that the desired sight will be given him. And hear what he says to his companions, so that they might give him free passage.


Eyes of mine, forever so pregnant of water, when will the spark of your visual ray be thrust forth over so many and so dense obstacles,
that I may see those sacred lights again, the sources of my sweet pain? But ah! I believe that visual ray is forever extinct, so long has it been oppressed and vanquished by its contrary humour.
Let this blind one pass, and turn your eyes to these founts, which overcome all other rivers combined in one.
And if there is anyone who dares to dispute it with me, I have reason to render it certain that my two eyes contain an ocean!

The sixth blind man is in darkness, because by excessive weeping he has poured forth so many tears that all the moisture in him has been dried up, even to the humid crystal of the eye, the diaphanous body traversed by the visual ray which had formerly introduced the external light and visible species; from that moment his heart was so afflicted that all the humid substance (whose function it is to maintain the unity of his diverse and contrary elements) was consumed in him; and love's affection remained in him without causing any tears, because his organism was dissolved by the victory of the other elements; as a result, he lost his sight and at the same time the cohesion of the parts of his body. Listen to the complaint he addresses to those around him:


Eyes not eyes; fountains no longer, you have poured out all the moisture which holds the body, the spirit and the soul together. And you, crystal of the eye, which made
so many external objects known to the soul, even you are consumed by my afflicted heart. Therefore, arid and blind I lead my steps toward the dark infernal cavern.
Ah, do not be niggardly in your mercy toward me, make me go promptly; I who in those dark days took pleasure only in my tears
and was the source of so many streams; now that every humour in me is dried up, toward profound oblivion give me passage.

The next blind one has lost his sight from the intense flame which, issuing from his heart, has first consumed his eyes, then licked u p all the remaining moisture of his body, so that, reduced to ashes, the lover is no longer himself; for the fire, whose virtue dissolves bodies into their atoms, has converted him into dust -- an irremediable desegregation, inasmuch as water alone reassembles and combines the atoms of other bodies to make one subsistent composite. Nevertheless, he continues to experience the most intense fire. For that reason in the sestet he asks that a large passage be opened for him, for if anyone should be touched by his flame, he would become so insensible of the infernal fires, that he would no longer distinguish heat from cold snow. Therefore he says:


Beauty, rushing from my eyes to the heart, formed in my breast a high furnace which, sending its relentless flame to the sky, absorbed the moisture of my eyes;
then to appease its ardor it devoured all my body's liquid elements, so that I should remain ever disjoined and reduced to separate atoms of dust.
If you have horror of an infinite evil, stay away from me, oh people! Beware of my scorching flame, for if the contagion of its fire assails you, you would seek winter in hell's flames.

The eighth blind one follows, whose blindness was caused by the arrow Love sent through his eyes to penetrate his heart. As a result, he complains not only of being blind, but also of being wounded, and more profoundly burned than he believes any one could be. His meaning is understood without difficulty in this poem:


Vile assault, cruel blow, unjust palm, acute point, devouring bait, strong sinew, bitter wound, pitiless ardor, harsh burden, arrow, fire and noose of that insolent god,
who pierced my eyes, burned my heart, bound my soul and made me blind at one stroke, a lover and a slave, so that in my deep blindness every moment, everywhere and in every way I feel my wound, my fire and my noose.
Men, heroes, and gods who inhabit the earth, the inferno or Olympus, tell me, I beg you, how, when, and where
have you, among the oppressed, the damned -- among lovers, ever experienced, seen or heard those who give vent to such complaints and to so many of them?

The last blind one finally approaches, and he is also mute; for, lacking the boldness to say the thing he most desires without giving offense or invoking scorn, he is unable to say anything at all. He is silent, but he who guides him speaks in his place. Because his discourse is without difficulty, I shall not comment on it, but simply report it.


You other blind lovers are fortunate, for you can explain the reason for your blindness. And the virtue of your tears can win you the favor of gracious and chaste acceptance.
But the blind man I guide, torn with desire more than all the others, keeps his flame hidden, mute perhaps for lack of boldness to make clear his torment to his goddess.
And you, oh people unaware of these sad obstacles, have compassion for this face become extinct, provide a path
for this afflicted body, consumed by fatigue, which goes knocking at the door of a less painful and more profound death.

Thus nine reasons have been indicated why the human intelligence is blind with regard to the divine object upon which it is unable to fix its eyes.

Of these reasons, the first personified by the first blind man, is that the nature of our species, according to the rank in which it finds itself, always aspires higher than it can attain.

MIN. Because no natural desire is vain, we may be sure that there is outside the body a more excellent state to which the soul can be united when it is raised nearer to its object.

SEV. As you point out very well, no natural potency or impulse is without its reason for being, which is, in fact, the rule of nature which orders things. Therefore it is absolutely true for every well disposed mind that the human soul (such as it appears while residing in the body) shows by everything it expresses that it is a stranger in this country, for it aspires to the universal truth and good, and is not satisfied with what is offered to it for the use and profit of its natural species.

The second reason, personified by the second blind man, proceeds from the disturbance of the affection which, when one is in love, is jealousy, and jealousy is like a worm for whom the same subject is enemy and progenitor, for it nibbles at the cloth or wood from which it is generated.

MIN. It seems to me that such jealousy has no place in heroic love.

SEV. No, not for the same reason it is found in vulgar love; but I understand jealousy in a different though corresponding way, according as it is manifest among lovers of the true and the good when they are incensed against those who would adulterate, waste, or corrupt the true and the good, or in one way or another treat them with indignity. And they are incensed against them to such an extent, that, should they fall into the hands of those men, they are tormented, done to death, and treated ignominiously by the ignorant populace and vulgar sects.

MIN. Certainly, no one sincerely loves the true and the good without becoming irate against the multitude, just as no one experiences vulgar love without being jealous and fearful for the thing loved.

SEV. And thus he will be truly blind to many things, and according to the common opinion, stupid and mad in the highest degree.

MIN. I have noted a passage which says that all those are stupid and mad who have any sense beyond and above the universal sense of ordinary men. But this madness is of two kinds, accordingly as some surpass or mount above the limit to which all or a majority of men ascend or can ascend (such men are thus inspired by the divine frenzy), or as some descend lower, falling to the level of those who lack sense and reason, and lack them more than the multitude of ordinary men. This last species of madness, lunacy and blindness will not attain heroic jealousy.

SEV. The third reason, personified by the third blind man, proceeds from this, that the divine truth, in the mode of the supernatural, called metaphysics, is revealed to the rare spirits whom it favors, and does not submit its arrival to measurements of movement and of time, as is the case in the physical sciences (those acquired by the light of nature which proceed from a thing known by sense and reason to a thing still unknown, in the discursive mode one calls argumentation), but, on the contrary, arrives suddenly and unexpectedly according to the mode appropriate to its activity. For that reason the sage said, Attenuati stint oculi mei suspicientes in excelsum (Isa. 38.14: '...My eyes are weakened as they gaze into the heavens...'). Therefore a vain length of time, laborious study, and effort of research are not required for obtaining divine truth, but it allows itself to be absorbed as promptly as the light of the sun renders itself present to him who turns and opens himself to it.

MIN. Would you say then, that scholars and philosophers are not more apt to receive this light than the ignorant are?

SEV. That might be true in one sense, and might not be true in another. It does not make any difference when the divine spirit, by its own providence, communicates itself without any special disposition of the subject who receives it; that is, when it communicates itself because it seeks out and elects the subject of its own accord. But it makes a great difference when the divine spirit waits and wishes to be sought, and then at its good pleasure would be discovered. In this mode it does not appear to everyone, nor can it appear to anyone unless he seeks it. And so it is said, Qui quaerunt me invenient me (Luke, 11.9-10: '...Ask and it shall be given you: seek and you shall find: knock and it shall be opened to you.'); and elsewhere, Qui sitit, veniat et bibat (John, 7.37: '...If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.').

MIN. It cannot be denied that the apprehension of the second mode comes with time.

SEV. You are not distinguishing between disposing oneself to the divine light and apprehending it. Certainly I do not deny that in order to dispose oneself to it, time, discourse, zeal and labor are required; but, alteration, as we say, comes with time, and generation, in an instant; or further, as anyone can see, it takes time to open a window, but the sun enters in a moment The same thing applies to what we have been saying.

The fourth reason, personified by the fourth blind man, is entirely without the indignity belonging to the habit of sharing the errors of the mob -- errors which can either be far removed from all philosophical opinion, or derived from the study of vulgar philosophies esteemed true by the mob the more they conform to the mob's view. This is one of the greatest and most unseemly habits into which one can fall; for as Al-Gazeli and Averroës have shown us by examples, there are those who from infancy and youth have accustomed themselves to digesting poisons, so that in the long run these poisons have become to them sweet and appropriate nourishment for their organisms, while they hold in abomination things truly sweet and good for normal beings. The blindness of the fourth lover has a most worthy reason, for it comes from the habit of gazing upon the true light (a habit which, as it has been said, cannot be practiced by the many). This blindness is heroic and appropriate for the worthy satisfaction of our blind lover, who, far from finding any remedy for it, truly arrives at the point of scorning every other sight, and asks nothing of the human community but free passage and progress toward contemplation, because too frequently he is a victim of snares and is usually jostled against mortal obstacles.

The fifth reason, personified by the fifth blind man, proceeds from the lack of proportion between the means of our intellect and the intelligible object; for to contemplate divine things we must consider them by means of symbols, similitudes and other ambiguities which the Peripatetics call phantasms; moreover, we must proceed by the agency of the creature to the speculation of its essence, by the way of the effect to the notion of cause; all means so inadequate for attaining such an end, that they would seem rather to be obstacles, if one must believe that the highest and most profound knowledge of divine things is negative and not affirmative, knowing that the divine beauty and goodness is not something which can fall and submit itself to our concept, but something completely beyond our comprehension, especially in this mortal state, called by the philosopher a speculation of phantasms, and by the theologian, a vision only by similitude, mirror, and enigma. For we do not truly see the effects and the true forms of things, or the substances of ideas, but we see only the shadows, vestiges and images of them, for we are like those who are inside the cave and from birth turn their backs to the light and their faces to the dark, so that they never see that which truly is, but the shadows of those things whose substance is to be found outside the cave.

That is why a spirit comparable to Plato, if not superior, weeps for the clear vision he has lost, and desires to exit from the cave, in order to see his light again not by reflection, but by an immediate conversion.

MIN. What this blind man deplores, it seems to me, is not the difficulty caused by the reflected vision, but the difficulty caused by the intermediary interposed between his visible potency and the object.

SEV. Although these two modes are distinct in the sensitive cognition or the sensitive sight, they suddenly concur in one rational or intellective cognition.

MIN. I believe I have read and understood that every vision requires an intermediary between its potency and the object. For, just as by means of light diffused in the air, and by the image of an object which proceeds in some way from the thing seen to him who sees it, the act of vision becomes effective, so in the intellectual sphere where the sun of the active intellect shines, by means of the intelligible species which receives its form from the object, and so to speak, proceeds from it, our intellect or some other inferior one begins to comprehend something of the divinity. For, just as our eye, when we see, does not receive the light of fire or of gold in substance, but in similitude, so our intellect, in whatever state it is found, does not receive the divinity in substance (for then there would be as many gods as there are separate intelligences), but receives it in similitude; and this is why these intelligences are not formally gods, but may be designated divine things, the divinity and the divine beauty remaining one and exalted above them all.

SEV. You explain it very well; but this explanation does not oblige me to retract anything, for I have not said the contrary. It is necessary only that I explain myself. Thus first I declare that the immediate vision about which we have spoken and have understood each other does not exclude those intermediaries such as the intelligible species or the light, but excludes rather those which correspond to the thickness and density of a diaphanous mean or even to the opacity of a body interposed, as it happens to him who looks through more or less turbid water, or cloudy and murky air, that he would desire to see without an intermediary, if permitted to gaze through pure, lucid and clear air. All of which you have more or less explained by the words, thrust forth over so many dense obstacles. But let us return to our discourse.

The sixth reason, personified by the sixth blind man, is none other than the weakness and inconsistency of the body which is in continual motion, change, and alteration, and where operations must conform to the aptitudes resulting from the condition of its nature and being. For how would you have immobility, persistence, entity and truth belong to a thing which changes every moment from one thing to another, and is ever in the process of becoming something else? What reality, what image can be retained, depicted and impressed up on the eye, when the pupils are dispersed in water, when the water turns into vapor, vapor into flame, the flame into air, and so on, while a sensible and knowing subject endlessly perambulates the wheel of metamorphoses?

MIN. The movement is one of alteration; he who is moved is always another, and he who is another always bears himself and behaves otherwise than he did before, for intellection and affection conform to the reason and the condition of the subject. And he who is always another, who forever changes his vision, can only be completely blind with respect to the beauty which is always unique and one, which is unity itself, entity and identity.

SEV. Exactly.

The seventh reason, allegorically contained in the complaint of the seventh blind man, derives from the fire of the affection, from which some become impotent and incapable of apprehending the truth, inasmuch as their affection overcomes their intellect. Such are those who place love before understanding, so that everything appears to them colored by their affection; for it is an established fact that for those who would attain the truth by way of contemplation a perfect purification of the thought is necessary.

MIN. We know very well that there is a great diversity among those who contemplate and those who seek. Some (following the habits of primary and elementary disciplines) advance by way of numbers, others progress by way of figures; some advance by the rules or without the rules, others progress by way of composition and division; some by way of separating into parts and assembling them again, others by inquiry and disputation; some by discourse and definition, others by the interpretation and deciphering of terms, vocabularies and dialects; in other words, some are mathematical philosophers, and others are metaphysicians, logicians, or grammarians. The same diversity exists among those for whom to contemplate is to study written opinions and to apply their attention to them; so that it comes to this that the same light of truth expressed in the same book and by the same words could serve the designs of numerous sects, diverse and hostile among themselves.

SEV. That is why the affections have such power to impede the apprehension of the truth, inasmuch as those who submit to them are incapable of perceiving it, as those who attribute to the food the bitterness of their mouth submit to the malady of stupidity.

Now such a species of blindness is noted in this blind man, whose eyes are altered and deprived of their natural power by that which has been sent from the heart and impressed upon them, altering not only their sight, but all the other faculties of the soul besides, as the present allegory demonstrates.

With regard to the meaning of the eighth blind man, as he has lost his sense of sight by the impact of a sensible object, so has his intellect been blinded by the excellence of the intelligible object. Thus it happens that he who sees Jove in his majesty loses his life, and consequently loses his sense. So does it occur that he who so gazes on high sometimes becomes overwhelmed by majesty. Besides, when he would penetrate the divine species, it pierces him like an arrow.

Therefore, the theologians say that the divine word is more penetrating than the point of a sword or knife. Wherever it forms and impresses its image, no other form can be impressed or sealed; for where such an impression has been made, a new mark cannot replace it without the first one having yielded; consequently it may be said that a being no longer has the faculty of receiving another form, even if there is anyone who attempts to change or transform it through a necessary alteration of proportion.

The ninth reason is personified by the ninth man who is blind because of lack of confidence and humility of spirit, both of which are caused by great love, for he fears his ardor may give offense. With reference to which the Canticle says, Averte oculos tuos a me quia ipsi me avolare fecere (Cant. 6.4: 'Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have made me flee away. Thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from Galaad.'). And, therefore, he curbs his eyes from seeing what he most would desire and enjoy, as he holds his tongue from speaking to whom he most longs to speak, for fear that some defect of his glance or of his word might debase him, or in some way cause him disgrace. And this is what happens when the excellence of the object is so far superior to the power of apprehension. For this reason the more profound and divine theologians say God is honored and adored more by silence than by words, and that to see him better one must close one's eyes to the species represented than open them. This is why the negative theology of Pythagoras and Dionysius is so highly renowned above the demonstrative theology of Aristotle and the schoolmen.

MIN. Let us depart and discourse on the way home.

SEV. As you like.


Fifth Dialogue


LAOD. Some other time, oh sister, you will understand the significance of the complete story of these nine blind men. They were nine most handsome and loving youths and so ardently smitten by the graciousness of your sight, that, having lost hope of gathering love's longed for fruition, and fearing that such despair would reduce them to ultimate ruin, they departed from the happy Campanian fields; and (they who were rivals) commonly agreed to swear by your beauty never to separate until they had tried everything to find one more beautiful than you, or at least, one similar to you and, besides, adorned with that mercy and pity of which your cruel heart was destitute; for they believed this was the only remedy that could release them from their cruel captivity. On the third day after their departure, as they passed not far from the mount of Circe, it pleased them to go and see those antique caves and sight consecrated to that goddess. When they arrived there, because of the majesty of that solitary and windy place, and the majesty of the high and resounding rocks, and of the murmuring sea waves which broke into those caves, and owing to other circumstances which the place and season offered, all of them became as though inspired and one among them (who it was I shall tell you), more impassioned than the others, spoke these words: "Oh would that heaven would be pleased to present us at this time, as happened in other happier centuries, with that magician, Circe, who by virtue of plants, minerals, venoms and incantations was able to seize control of nature. Implacable as she may be, I firmly believe that she would be merciful to us in our misfortune. Solicited by our supplication and complaints, she would condescend to provide us with a remedy and to accord us the favor of vengeance against our cruel enemy. Hardly had he finished speaking these words, when suddenly before the eyes of everyone, a palace appeared which anyone with any notion of human accomplishment could easily see was no work of man or nature, whose aspect I shall describe at another time. Stricken by that great marvel and moved by hope that some propitious deity (the cause of this apparition) would explain the state of their fortune, they cried out together that nothing could befall them worse than death, which they deemed less evil than to go on living in such intense suffering. This is why, not finding the door closed to them or any porter who inquired what their business was, they entered, and found themselves in a most rich and ornate room, where, in that regal majesty in which Apollo was discovered by Phaeton, appeared she who is called his daughter, at whose appearance they saw disappear the images of many other deities who used to minister to her. Received and encouraged by her gracious visage, they advanced, and overcome by the splendor of that majesty they fell upon their knees, and all together in varied strains dictated by their diverse talents, offered prayers to the goddess. To conclude, they were treated by her in such a way, that blind, wandering and miserably belabored, they traversed all the seas, passed every river, overcame every mount, traversed every plain for a period of ten years, after which beneath the temperate sky of the island of Britain, they found themselves in the presence of the lovely and gracious nymphs of Father Thames. After they had performed acts of appropriate humility, which were received with gestures of the most chaste courtesy, one among them, their chief, whose name I shall give you another time, expressed the common cause in a tragic and lamenting tone as follows:

Noble ladies, the bearers of a closed vessel present themselves before you, their hearts pierced through, not by an error of nature, but by a cruel fate which tortured them with this living death, and they remain in blindness.
We are nine spirits who, wandering for many years because of the desire to understand, have traveled many countries, and we were one day victims of a severe and sudden disaster, which, if you listen to our story, will cause you to say, O worthy ones, and unhappy lovers!
A cruel Circe, who boasts of having this beautiful sun her progenitor, received us after a long and adventurous voyage; she opened a vessel and sprinkled us with water, and to that gesture joined her incantation.
Awaiting the consummation of such action, we were in silence and mute attention, until she spoke: -- O, you sorrowing ones, depart, blind as you are in all things; go gather the fruit that falls to those who direct their gaze too high. -
Then suddenly the blind men -- Daughter and mother of darkness and horror (we said with one voice) does it please you, then, to treat wretched lovers so cruelly who submit themselves before you, willing perhaps to consecrate their hearts to you?
But when the frenzy suddenly excited by so strange a mishap was somewhat appeased, each one collected himself, and as rage yielded to pain, all implored mercy, mixing the following words with their tears:
-- Now, if it pleases you, oh noble enchantress, that zeal for glory may pierce your heart, or that your heart be anointed and soothed by the waters of compassion, have pity upon us with your remedies, and close the wound inflicted upon our hearts.
If your lovely hand be pleased to aid us, do not delay that some sad one of us may reach death before your gesture give us the right to say, a great torment was caused by her, but a much greater consolation.
And she replied: -- O curious spirits, take this other fatal vessel which my hand is powerless to open; and go far and wide on a pilgrimage through the world, seeking out all the numerous kingdoms,
for destiny wishes that this vase remain closed until lofty wisdom and noble chastity and beauty together apply their bands to it; all other labors are fruitless to pour forth this water.
But if it happens that those gracious hands with this water besprinkle whoever approaches them for a cure, you will be able to experience divine virtue, for your cruel torment being changed to remarkable joy, you will see the two most beautiful stars in the world.
May none of you be saddened, no matter how long so much of the firmament may be concealed in profound darkness; for no pain is so great that will render you worthy of so great a good.
For the prize to which your blindness leads you, hold vile every other gain and esteem every torture as so much joy, for the hope of contemplating these unique and rare graces will incline you to scorn every other light. -
Alas! Too long have our limbs gone wandering through the whole terrestrial earth, so that finally we have come to believe a sagacious beast has filled our hearts with false hope by its promises.
Henceforth (although we know it is late) we perceive that this enchantress, for our greater woe, strives to keep us in eternal expectation. For she believes that no lady of so many virtues can be seen beneath the cloak of heaven.
Now, although we know every hope vain, we yield to our destiny and are content not to retreat from painful labors, and are content to advance (though trembling and weary), without ever halting our steps, and to suffer for as long a time as life remains in us.
Lovely nymphs who sojourn on the verdant shores of the gentle Thames, ah, in God's name, lovely ones, hold it not beneath you, even if it is in vain, to lend your white hands to disclose what our vase conceals.
Who knows? Perhaps on these shores where one sees this torrent, with its nymphs, so rapidly rising as it rewinds itself to its source, heaven has destined that she whom we seek may be found.

One of the nymphs took the vase in her hand, and without essaying further, offered it to each one of the others, but none could be found who dared to open it first. But all of them by common agreement, after merely looking at it, referred and proposed it in deference and reverence to only one among them; who seized it finally, not so much from a desire to demonstrate her glory, but though pity and the desire to bring succor to these hapless men; and although uncertain, she clasped it in her hand, and almost spontaneously, opened it herself. How would you have me relate how great was the applause of the nymphs? Do you imagine I can express the excessive joy of the nine blind men, who, having heard that the vase was opened, felt themselves sprinkled with the longed for water, opened their eyes, saw the twin suns and were overwhelmed by a two-fold felicity, that of having recovered the light formerly lost and that of having newly discovered the other light which alone could show them the image of the supreme good on earth? How, I ask, would you have me express that happiness and jubilance of voice, that thrill of spirit and body which they themselves were incapable of expressing? For a moment they appeared to be in frenzied intoxication; they thought they were dreaming and seemed not to believe what they manifestly beheld. But when the excess of that frenzy finally became somewhat subdued, they took their places in a circle, where

The first sang and played the guitar in this tone

O rocks, O trenches, oh thorns, oh twigs, oh stones, oh mountains, oh plains, oh valleys, oh rivers, oh seas, how you reveal yourselves gracious and sweet, for heaven has discovered to us your mercy and your worth! Oh steps spent for good fortune!

The second played and sang with his mandolin

Oh steps spent for good fortune, oh goddess Circe, oh glorious afflictions! Oh, how the pains of so many months and years are so many divine graces, if this is our recompense after so much torment and misery!

The third played and sang with his lyre

After so much torment and misery, this is the port prescribed by our tempests, there remains nothing else for us but to thank heaven for having placed before our eyes this veil, through which this light has been finally revealed.

The fourth sang with his viol

Through which this light has been finally revealed, blindness more worthy than any other sight, cares more sweet than any other pleasures; for to the most excellent light you have led us, making less worthy objects useless to the soul.

The fifth one sang with his Spanish timbrel

Making less worthy objects useless to the soul, nourishing a noble thought with hope, was one who spurred us toward that unique path, which showed us the most beautiful creation of God. In this way fate will show itself propitious.

The sixth one sang with his lute

Fate will show itself propitious in this way. For fate does not wish that good follow good, or pain be the presage of pain; but making the wheel turn, it raises, then it hurls down, as in mutability, the day gives itself to night.

The seventh sang with his Spanish harp

As in mutability, the day gives itself to night, when the great cloak of the nocturnal torches obscures the flaming chariot of the sun, so he who governs by eternal decree crashes the great and raises the humble.

The eighth one with bow and viol

He crushes the great and raises the humble, who sustains his infinite schemes, and by a rapid, moderate, or slow rotation he distributes in the immense creation all that is hidden and all that remains seen.

The ninth with a three-stringed viol

Oh, may all that is hidden and all that remains seen not deny, but confirm the incomparable end of our labors, whose witnesses are the fields and mountains, ponds, rivers, seas, rocks, trenches, thorns, twigs, and stones.

After each one in this form and in his turn, had played his instrument and sung his sestet, they danced together in a circle, and, playing in a most sweet accord to the praise of the unique nymph, sang a song which I think I shall remember well enough.

GIU. Don't fail, I pray you, sister, to let me hear as much as you may recall.


"I no longer envy, O Jove, your firmament", says Father Ocean with raised brow, "for I have so much joy in what my empire offers".
"How haughty you are!" Jove replies. "What else do you have beside your wealth? Oh lord of the senseless waters, why do you so inflate yourself with such foolish boldness?"
"You have", said the god of the waters, In your power the blazing heavens, where the fiery zone is, in which you can see the eminent chorus of your stars,
"and through them the whole world gazes upon the sun. But, I say, even the sun shines with less brightness than She who makes me the most glorious god of the great creation of worlds.
"And I hold in my vast bosom, among all the others that nation where the happy Thames is seen, which has the pleasing chorus of the most beautiful nymphs.
"Among these I possess one who is unique among all beautiful ones, who will make you a lover of the sea more than of the sky, oh loud thundering Jove, for your sun shines with less splendor among the stars."
And Jove replies: "O, god of the tossing seas, that any one be found more blessed than I is not permitted by fate, but my treasures and yours run their course together.
"The sun prevails among your nymphs through this one, and by the force of eternal laws and of the alternate abodes, she is valued as the sun among my stars."

I believe I have reported it to you completely.

GIU. You may be assured of it, for there is no lack of perfection in their argument, nor lack of art in the perfection of the strophes. As for myself, if by heaven's grace I have achieved any beauty, I believe I have been granted even a greater grace and favor; for whatever my beauty may have been, it was in some way responsible for the discovery of that unique and divine beauty. I am thankful to the gods, for in my youth when I was so young that the flames of love could not enkindle my heart, my cruelty and intractability, though simple and innocent, was the occasion and means of according my lovers graces incomparably higher than they could otherwise have obtained whatever might have been my benevolence.

LAOD. With respect to the souls of those lovers, I assure you that, just as they are not ungrateful to their enchantress, Circe, for their dark blindness, calamitous labors, and their bitter afflictions which brought them to so great a good, so will they not be less appreciative of you.

GIU. This is my desire and hope.




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