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Title: The Heroic Enthusiasts (Gli Eroici Furori) Part the First - An Ethical Poem
Author: Bruno, Giordano, 1548-1600
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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An Ethical poem








When this Translation was begun, more than two years ago, for my own
pleasure, in leisure hours, I had no knowledge of the difficulty I
should find in the work, nor any thought of ever having it printed; but
as "Gli Eroici Furori" of Giordano Bruno has never appeared in English,
I decided to publish that portion of it which I have finished.

I wish to thank those friends who have so kindly looked over my work
from time to time, and given me their help in the choice of words and
phrases. I must, moreover, confess that I am keenly alive to the
shortcomings and defects of this Translation.

I have used the word "Enthusiasts" in the title, rather than
"Enthusiasms," because it seemed to me more appropriate.

L. W.

FOLKSTONE, _September 1887_.


Page 3, line 10, _for_ "also mother" _read_ "also my mother."
Page 47, line 9, _for_ "poisons" _read_ "poison."


Nola, a city founded by the Chalcidian Greeks, at a short distance from
Naples and from Vesuvius, was the birth-place of Giordano Bruno. It is
described by David Levi as a city which from ancient times had always
been consecrated to science and letters. From the time of the Romans to
that of the Barbarians and of the Middle Ages, Nola was conspicuous for
culture and refinement, and its inhabitants were in all times remarkable
for their courteous manners, for valour, and for keenness of perception.
They were, moreover, distinguished by their love for and study of
philosophy; so that this city was ever a favourite dwelling-place for
the choice spirits of the Renaissance. It may also be asserted that Nola
was the only city of Magna Græcia which, in spite of the persecutions of
Pagan emperors and Christian princes and clergy, always preserved the
philosophical traditions of the Pythagoreans, and never was the sacred
fire on the altar of Vesta suffered to become entirely extinct. Such was
the intellectual and moral atmosphere in which Bruno passed his
childhood. His paternal home was situated at the foot of Mount Cicada,
celebrated for its fruitful soil. From early youth his pleasure was to
pass the night out on the mountain, now watching the stars, now
contemplating the arid, desolate sides of Vesuvius. He tells how, in
recalling those days--the only peaceful ones of his life--he used to
think, as he looked up at the infinite expanse of heaven and the
confines of the horizon, with the towering volcano, that this must be
the ultimate end of the earth, and it appeared as if neither tree nor
grass refreshed the dreary space which stretched out to the foot of the
bare smoky mountain. When, grown older, he came nearer to it, and saw
the mountain so different from what it had appeared, and the intervening
space that, seen from afar, had looked so bare and sterile, all covered
with fruit-trees and enriched with vineyards, he began to see how
illusory the judgment of the senses may be; and the first doubt was
planted in his young soul as he perceived that, while the mind may grasp
Nature in her grandeur and majesty, the work of the sage must be to
examine her in detail, and penetrate to the cause of things. When he
appeared before the tribunal of the Holy Office at Venice, being asked
to declare who and what he was, he said: "My name is Giordano, of the
family of Bruno, of the city of Nola, twelve miles from Naples. There
was I born and brought up. My profession has been and is that of
letters, and of all the sciences. My father's name was Giovanni, and my
mother was Francesca Savolini; and my father was a soldier. He is dead,
and also mother. I am forty-four years old, having been born in 1548."
He always regarded Nola with patriotic pride, and he received his first
instruction in his father's house and in the public schools. Of a sad
disposition, and gifted with a most lively imagination, he was from his
earliest years given to meditation and to poetry. The early years of
Bruno's life were times of agitation and misfortune, and not propitious
to study. The Neapolitan provinces were disturbed by constant
earthquakes, and devastated by pestilence and famine. The Turks fought,
and ravaged the country, and made slaves of the inhabitants; the
neighbouring provinces were still more harassed by hordes of bandits and
outlaws, who invested Calabria, led by a terrible chief called Marcone.
The Inquisition stood prepared to light its fires and slaughter the
heretic. The Waldensians, who had lately been driven out of Piedmont,
and had sought a shelter in the Calabrian territory, were hunted down
and given over to the executioner.

The convent was the only refuge from violence, and Bruno, either from
religious enthusiasm, or in order to be able to devote himself to study,
became a friar at the age of fifteen. There, in the quiet cloister of
the convent of St. Dominic at Naples, his mind was nourished and his
intellect developed; the cloistral and monkish education failed to
enslave his thought, and he emerged from this tutelage the boldest and
least fettered of philosophers. Everything about this church and this
convent, famous as having been the abode of Thomas Aquinas, was
calculated to fire the enthusiasm of Bruno's soul; the leisure and
quiet, far from inducing habits of indolence, or the sterile practices
of asceticism, were stimulants to austere study, and to the fervour of
mystical speculations. Here he passed nearly thirteen years of early
manhood, until his intellect strengthened by study he began to long for
independence of thought, and becoming, as he said himself, solicitous
about the food of the soul and the culture of the mind, he found it
irksome to go through automatically the daily vulgar routine of the
convent; the pure flame of an elevated religious feeling being kindled
in his soul, he tried to evade the vain exercises of the monks, the
puerile gymnastics, and the adoration of so-called relics. His character
was frank and open, and he was unable to hide his convictions; he put
some of his doubts before his companions, and these hastened to refer
them to the superiors; and thus was material found to institute a cause
against him. It became known, that he had praised the methods used by
the Arians or Unitarians in expounding their doctrines, adding that they
refer all things to the ultimate cause, which is the Father: this, with
other heretical propositions, being brought to the notice of the Holy
Office, Bruno found himself in the position of being first observed and
then threatened. He was warned of the danger that hung over him by some
friends, and decided to quit Naples. He fled from the convent, and took
the road to Rome, and was there received in the monastery of the
Minerva. A few days after his arrival in Rome he learned that
instructions for his arrest had been forwarded from Naples; he tarried
not, but got away secretly, throwing aside the monk's habiliments by the
way. He wandered for some days about the Roman Campagna, his destitute
condition proving a safeguard against the bands of brigands that
infested those lands, until arriving near Civita Vecchia, he was taken
on board a Genoese vessel, and carried to the Ligurian port, where he
hoped to find a refuge from his enemies; but the city of Geneva was
devastated by pestilence and civil war, and after a sojourn of a few
days he pursued once more the road of exile. Seeking for a place wherein
he might settle for a short time and hide from his pursuers, he stayed
his steps at Noli, situated at a short distance from Savona, on the
Riviera: this town, nestled in a little bay surrounded by high hills
crowned by feudal castles and towers, was only accessible on the shore
side, and offered a grateful retreat to our philosopher. At Noli, Bruno
obtained permission of the magistracy to teach grammar to children, and
thus secured the means of subsistence by the small remuneration he
received; but this modest employment did not occupy him sufficiently,
and he gathered round him a few gentlemen of the district, to whom he
taught the science of the Sphere. Bruno also wrote a book upon the
Sphere, which was lost. He expounded the system of Copernicus, and
talked to his pupils with enthusiasm about the movement of the earth and
of the plurality of worlds.

As in that same Liguria Columbus first divined another hemisphere
outside the Pillars of Hercules, so Bruno discovered to those astonished
minds the myriads of worlds which fill the immensity of space. Columbus
was derided and banished by his fellow-citizens, and the fate of our
philosopher was similar to his. In the humble schoolmaster who taught
grammar to the children, the bishop, the clergy, and the nobles, who
listened eagerly to his lectures on the Sphere, began to suspect the
heretic and the innovator. After five months it behoved him to leave
Noli; he took the road to Savona, crossed the Apennines, and arrived at
Turin. In Turin at that time reigned the great Duke Emanuele Filiberto,
a man of strong character--one of those men who know how to found a
dynasty and to fix the destiny of a people; at that time, when Central
and Southern Italy were languishing under home and foreign tyranny, he
laid the foundations of the future Italy.

He was warrior, artist, mechanic, and scholar. Intrepid on the field of
battle, he would retire from deeds of arms to the silence of his study,
and cause the works of Aristotle to be read to him; he spoke all the
European languages; he worked at artillery, at models of fortresses, and
at the smith's craft; he brought together around him, from all sides of
Italy, artisans and scientists to promote industry, commerce, and
science; he gathered together in Piedmont the most excellent compositors
of Italy, and sanctioned a printer's company.

Bruno, attracted to Turin by the favour that was shown to letters and
philosophy, hoped to get occupation as press reader; but it was
precisely at that time that the Duke, instigated by France, was
combating, with every kind of weapon, the Waldensian and Huguenot
heresies, and had invited the Jesuits to Turin, offering them a
substantial subsidy; so that on Bruno's arrival he found the place he
had hoped for, as teacher in the university, occupied by his enemies,
and he therefore moved on with little delay, and embarked for Venice.

Berti, in his Life of Bruno, remarks that when the latter sought refuge
in Turin, Torquato Tasso, also driven by adverse fortune, arrived in the
same place, and he notes the affinity between them--both so great, both
subject to every species of misfortune and persecution in life, and
destined to immortal honours after their death: the light of genius
burned in them both, the fire of enthusiasm flamed in each alike, and on
the forehead of each one was set the sign of sorrow and of pain.

Both Bruno and Tasso entered the cloister as boys: the one joined the
Dominicans, the other the Jesuits; and in the souls of both might be
discerned the impress of the Order to which they belonged. Both went
forth from their native place longing to find a broader field of action
and greater scope for their intellectual powers. The one left Naples
carrying in his heart the Pagan and Christian traditions of the noble
enterprises and the saintly heroism of Olympus and of Calvary, of Homer
and the Fathers, of Plato and St. Ignatius; the other was filled with
the philosophical thought of the primitive Italian and Pythagorean
epochs, fecundated by his own conceptions and by the new age;
philosopher and apostle of an idea, Bruno consecrated his life to the
development of it in his writings and to the propagation of his
principles in Europe by the fire of enthusiasm. The one surprised the
world with the melody of his songs; being, as Dante says, the "dolce
sirena che i marinari in mezzo al mare smaga," he lulled the anguish
that lacerated Italy, and gilded the chains which bound her; the other
tried to shake her; to recall her to life with the vigour of thought,
with the force of reason, with the sacrifice of himself. The songs of
Tasso were heard and sung from one end of Italy to the other, and the
poet dwelt in palaces and received the caress and smile of princes;
while Bruno, discoursing in the name of reason and of science, was
rejected, persecuted, and scourged, and only after three centuries of
ingratitude, of calumny, and of forgetfulness, does his country show
signs of appreciating him and of doing justice to his memory. In Tasso
the poet predominates over the philosopher, in Bruno the philosopher
predominates over and eclipses the poet. The first sacrifices thought to
form; the second is careful only of the idea. Again, both are full of a
conception of the Divine, but the God that the dying Tasso confessed is
a god that is expected and comes not; while the god that Bruno proclaims
he already finds within himself. Tasso dies in his bed in the cloister,
uneasy as on a bed of thorns; Bruno, amidst the flames, stands out as on
a pedestal, and dies serene and calm. We must now follow our fugitive to

At the time Giordano Bruno arrived in Venice that city was the most
important typographical centre of Europe; the commerce in books extended
through the Levant, Germany, and France, and the philosopher hoped that
here he might find some means of subsistence. The plague at that time
was devastating Venice, and in less than one year had claimed forty-two
thousand victims; but Bruno felt no fear, and he took a lodging in that
part of Venice called the Frezzeria, and was soon busy preparing for the
press a work called "Segni del Tempo," hoping that the sale of it would
bring a little money for daily needs. This work was lost, as were all
those which he published in Italy, and which it was to the interest of
Rome to destroy. Disappointed at not finding work to do in Venice, he
next went to Padua, which was the intellectual centre of Europe, as
Venice was the centre of printing and publishing; the most celebrated
professors of that epoch were to be found in the University of Padua,
but at the time of Bruno's sojourn there, Padua, like Venice, was
ravaged by the plague; the university was closed, and the printing-house
was not in operation. He remained there only a few days, lodging with
some monks of the Order of St. Dominic, who, he relates, "persuaded me
to wear the dress again, even though I would not profess the religion it
implied, because they said it would aid me in my wayfaring to be thus
attired; and so I got a white cloth robe, and I put on the hood which I
had preserved when I left Rome." Thus habited he wandered for several
months about the cities of Venetia and Lombardy; and although he
contrived for a time to evade his persecutors, he finally decided to
leave Italy, as it was repugnant to his disposition to live in forced
dissimulation, and he felt that he could do no good either for himself
or for his country, which was then overrun with Spaniards and scourged
by petty tyrants; and with the lower orders sunk in ignorance, and the
upper classes illiterate, uncultivated, and corrupt, the mission of
Giordano Bruno was impossible. "Altiora Peto" was Bruno's motto, and to
realize it he had gone forth with the pilgrim's staff in his hand,
sometimes covered with the cowl of the monk, at others wearing the
simple habit of a schoolmaster, or, again, clothed with the doublet of
the mechanic: he had found no resting-place--nowhere to lay his head, no
one who could understand him, but always many ready to denounce him. He
turned his back at last on his country, crossed the Alps on foot, and
directed his steps towards Switzerland. He visited the universities in
different towns of Switzerland, France, and Germany, and wherever he
went he left behind him traces of his visit in some hurried writings.
The only work of the Nolan, written in Italy, which has survived is "Il
Candelajo," which was published in Paris. Levi, in his Life of Bruno,
passes in review his various works; but it will suffice here to
reproduce what he says of the "Eroici Furori," the first part of which
I have translated, and to note his remarks upon the style of Bruno,
which presents many difficulties to the translator on account of its
formlessness. Goethe says of Bruno's writings: "Zu allgemeiner
Betrachtung und Erhebung der Geistes eigneten sich die Schriften des
Jordanus Brunous von Nola; aber freilich das gediegene Gold and Silber
aus der Masse jener zo ungleich begabten Erzgänge auszuscheiden und
unter den Hammer zu bringen erfordert fast mehr als menschliche Kräfte

I believe that no translation of Giordano Bruno's works has ever been
brought out in English, or, at any rate, no translation of the "Eroici
Furori," and therefore I have had no help from previous renderings. I
have, for the most part, followed the text as closely as possible,
especially in the sonnets, which are frequently rendered line for line.
Form is lacking in the original, and would, owing to the unusual and
often fantastic clothing of the ideas, be difficult to apply in the
translation. He seems to have written down his grand ideas hurriedly,
and, as Levi says, probably intended to retouch the work before

Following the order of Levi's Life of Bruno, we next find the fugitive
at Geneva. He was hardly thirty-one years old when he quitted his
country and crossed the Alps, and his first stopping-place was Chambery,
where he was received in a convent of the Order of Predicatori; he
proposed going on to Lyons, but being told by an Italian priest, whom he
met there, that he was not likely to find countenance or support, either
in the place he was in or in any other place, however far he might
travel, he changed his course and made for Geneva.

The name of Giordano Bruno was not unknown to the Italian colony who had
fled from papal persecution to this stronghold of religious reform. He
went to lodge at an inn, and soon received visits from the Marchese di
Vico Napoletano, Pietro Martire Vermigli, and other refugees, who
welcomed him with affection, inquiring whether he intended to embrace
the religion of Calvin, to which Bruno replied that he did not intend to
make profession of that religion, as he did not know of what kind it
was, and he only desired to live in Geneva in freedom. He was then
advised to doff the Dominican habit, which he still wore; this he was
quite willing to do, only he had no money to buy other clothing, and was
forced to have some made of the cloth of his monkish robes, and his new
friends presented him with a sword and a hat; they also procured some
work for him in correcting press errors.

The term of Bruno's sojourn in Geneva seems doubtful, and the precise
nature of his employment when there is also uncertain; but his
independent spirit brought him into dispute with the rigid Calvinists of
that city, who preached and exacted a blind faith, absolute and
compulsory. Bruno could not accept any of the existing positive
religions; he professed the cult of philosophy and science, nor was his
character of that mould that would have enabled him to hide his
principles. It was made known to him that he must either adopt Calvinism
or leave Geneva: he declined the former, and had no choice as to the
latter; poor he had entered Geneva, and poor he left it, and now turned
his steps towards France.

He reached Lyons, which was also at that time a city of refuge against
religious persecutions, and he addressed himself to his compatriots,
begging for work from the publishers, Aldo and Grifi; but not succeeding
in gaining enough to enable him to subsist, after a few days he left,
and went on his way to Toulouse, where there was a famous university;
and having made acquaintance with several men of intellect, Bruno was
invited to lecture on the Sphere, which he did, with various other
subjects, for six months, when the chair of Philosophy becoming vacant,
he took the degree of Doctor, and competed for it; and he continued for
two years in that place, teaching the philosophy of Aristotle and of
others. He took for the text of his lectures the treatise of Aristotle,
"De Anima," and this gave him the opportunity of introducing and
discussing the deepest questions--upon the Origin and Destiny of
Humanity; The Soul, is it Matter or Spirit? Potentiality or Reality?
Individual or Universal? Mortal or Eternal? Is Man alone gifted with
Soul, or are all beings equally so? Bruno's system was in his mind
complete and mature; he taught that everything in Nature has a soul, one
universal mind, penetrates and moves all things; the world itself is a
_sacrum animal_. Nothing is lost, but all transmutes and becomes. This
vast field afforded him scope for teaching his doctrines upon the world,
on the movement of the earth, and on the universal soul. The novelty and
boldness of his opinions roused the animosity of the clergy against him,
and after living two years and six months at Toulouse, he felt it wise
to retire, and leaving the capital of the Languedoc, he set his face
towards Paris.

The two books--the fruit of his lectures--which he published in
Toulouse, "De Anima" and "De Clavis Magis," were lost.

The title of Doctor, or as he said himself, "Maestro delle Arti," which
Bruno had obtained at Toulouse, gave him the faculty of teaching
publicly in Paris, and he says: "I went to Paris, where I set myself to
read a most unusual lecture, in order to make myself known and to
attract attention." He gave thirty lectures on the thirty Divine
attributes, dividing and distributing them according to the method of
St. Thomas Aquinas: these lectures excited much attention amongst the
scholars of the Sorbonne, who went in crowds to hear him; and he
introduced, as usual, his own ideas while apparently teaching the
doctrines of St. Thomas. His extraordinary memory and his eloquence
caused great astonishment; and the fame of Bruno reached the ears of
King Henry III., who sent for him to the Court, and being filled with
admiration of his learning, he offered him a substantial subsidy.

During his stay at Paris, although he was much at Court, he spent many
hours in his study, writing the works that he afterwards published.

Philosophical questions were discussed at the Sorbonne with much
freedom: Bruno showed himself no partisan of either the Platonic or the
Peripatetic school; he was not exclusive either in philosophy or in
religion; he did not favour the Huguenot faction more than the Catholic
league; and precisely by reason of this independent attitude, which kept
him free of the shackles of the sects, did he obtain the faculty of
lecturing at the Sorbonne. Nor can we ascribe this aloofness to
religious indifference, but to the fact that he sought for higher things
and longed for nobler ones. The humiliating spectacle which the positive
religions, both Catholic and Reformed, presented at that time--the
hatreds, the civil wars, the assassinations which they instigated--had
disgusted men of noble mould, and had turned them against these
so-called religions; so that in Naples, in Tuscany, in Venice, in
Switzerland, France, and England, there were to be found societies of
philosophers, of free-thinkers, and politicians, who repudiated every
positive religion and professed a pure Theism.

In the "Spaccio della Bestia Trionfante" he declares that he cannot ally
himself either to the Catholic or the Lutheran Church, because he
professes a more pure and complete faith than these--to wit, the love of
humanity and the love of wisdom; and Mocenigo, the disciple who
ultimately betrayed and sold him to the Holy Office, declares in his
deposition that Bruno sought to make himself the author of a new
religion under the name of "Philosophy." He was not a man to conceal his
ideas, and in the fervour of his improvisation he no doubt revealed what
he was; some tumult resulted from this free speaking of Bruno's, and he
was forced to discontinue his lectures at the Sorbonne.

Towards the end of the year 1583 the King became enthralled by religious
enthusiasm, and nothing was talked of in Paris but the conversion of
King Henry. This fact changed the aspect of affairs as far as Bruno was
concerned; he judged it prudent to leave Paris, and he travelled to

The principal works published by Bruno during his stay in Paris are "Il
Candelajo" and "Umbrae Idearum." The former, says Levi, is a work of
criticism and of demolition; in this comedy he sets in groups the
principal types of hypocrisy, stupidity, and rascality, and exhibiting
them in their true colours, he lashes them with ridicule. In the "Umbrae
Idearum" he initiates the work of reconstruction, giving colour to his
thought and sketching his idea. The philosophy of Bruno is based upon
that of Pythagoras, whose system penetrates the social and intellectual
history of Italy, both ancient and modern. The method of Pythagoras is
not confined, as most philosophies are, to pure metaphysical
speculations, but connects these with scientific observations and social
practice. Bruno having resuscitated these doctrines, stamps them with a
wider scope, giving them a more positive direction; and he may with
propriety be called the second Pythagoras. The primal idea of
Pythagoras, which Bruno worked out to a more distinct development is
this: numbers are the beginning of things; in other words numbers are
the cause of the existence of material things; they are not final, but
are always changing position and attributes; they are variable and
relative. Beyond and above this mutability there must be the Immutable,
the All, the One.

The Infinite must be one, as one is the absolute number; in the original
One is contained all the numbers; in the One is contained all the
elements of the Universe.

This abstract doctrine required to be elucidated and fixed. From a
hypothesis to concentrate and reduce it to a reality was the great work
of Bruno.

One is the perfect number; it is the primitive monad. As from the One
proceeds the infinite series of numbers which again withdraw and are
resolved into the One; so from Substance, which is one, proceed the
myriads of worlds; from the worlds proceed myriads of living creatures;
and from the union of one with the diverse is generated the Universe.
Hence the progression from ascent to descent, from spirit to that which
we call matter; from the cause to the origin, and the process of
metaphysics, which, from the finite world of sense rises to the
intelligent, passing through the intermediate numbers of infinite
substance to active being and cosmic reason.

From the absolute One, the sun of the sensible and intellectual world,
millions of stars and suns are produced or developed. Each sun is the
centre of as many worlds which are distributed in as many distinct
series in an infinite number of concentric centres and systems. Each
system is attracted, repelled, and moved by an infinite, internal
passion, or attraction; each turns round its own centre, and moves in a
spiral towards the centre of the whole, towards which centre they all
tend with infinite passional ardour. For in this centre resides the sun
of suns, the unity of unities, the temple, the altar of the universe,
the sacred fire of Vesta, the vital principle of the universe.

That which occurs in the world of stars is reflected in the telluric
world; everything has its centre, towards which it is attracted with
fervour. All is thought, passion, and aspiration.

From this unity, which governs variety, from this movement of every
world around its sun, of every sun around its centre sun--the sun of
suns--which informs all with the rays of the spirit, with the light of
thought--is generated that perfect harmony of colours, sounds, forms,
which strike the sight and captivate and enthrall the intellect. That
which in the heavens is harmony becomes, in the individual, morality,
and in companies of human beings, law. That which is light in the
spheres becomes intelligence and science in the world of the spirit and
in humanity. We must study this harmony that rules the celestial worlds
in order to deduce the laws which should govern civil bodies.

In the science of numbers dwells harmony, and therefore it behoves us to
identify ourselves with this harmony, because from it is derived the
harmonic law which draws men together into companies. Through the
revolution of the worlds through space around their suns, from their
order, their constancy and their measure, the mind comprehends the
progress and conditions of men, and their duties towards each other. The
Bible, the sacred book of man, is in the heavens; there does man find
written the word of God.

Human souls are lights, distinct from the universal soul, which is
diffused over all and penetrates everything. A purifying process guides
them from one existence to another, from one form to another, from one
world to another. The life of man is more than an experience or trial;
it is an effort, a struggle to reproduce and represent upon earth some
of that goodness, beauty, and truth which are diffused over the universe
and constitute its harmony.

Long, slow, and full of opposition is this educational process of the
soul. As the terraqueous globe becomes formed, changed, and perfected,
little by little, through the cataclysms and convulsions which, by means
of fire, flood, earthquake, and irruptions, transform the earth, so it
is with humanity. Through struggle is man educated, fortified, and

In the midst of social cataclysms and revolutions humanity has one
guiding star, a beacon which shows its light above the storms and
tempests, a mystical thread running through the labyrinth of
history--namely, the religion of philosophy and of thought. The vulgar
creeds would not, and have not dared to reveal the Truth in its purity
and essence. They covered it with veils with allegories, with myths and
mysteries, which they called sacred; they enshrouded thought with a
double veil, and called it Revelation. Humanity, deceived by a
seductive form, adored the veil, but did not lift itself up to the idea
behind it; it saw the shadow, not the light.

But we must return to our wandering hero.

Bruno was about thirty-six years old when he left Paris and went to
England. He was invited to visit the University of Oxford, and opened
his lectures there with two subjects which, apparently diverse, are in
reality intimately connected with each other--namely, on the Quadruple
Sphere and on the Immortality of the Soul. Speaking of the immortality
of the soul, he maintained that nothing in the universe is lost,
everything changes and is transformed; therefore, soul and body, spirit
and matter, are equally immortal. The body dissolves, and is
transformed; the soul transmigrates, and, drawing round itself atom to
atom, it reconstructs for itself a new body. The spirit that animates
and moves all things is one; everything differentiates according to the
different forms and bodies in which it operates. Hence, of animate
things some are inferior by reason of the meanness of the organ in which
they operate; others are superior through the richness of the same. Thus
we see that Bruno anticipates the doctrine, proclaimed later by Goethe
and by Darwin, of the transformation of species and of the organic unity
of the animal world; and this alternation from segregation to
aggregation, which we call death and life, is no other than mutation of

After having criticised and scourged the religions of chimera, of
ignorance, and hypocrisy, in "Lo Spaccio della Bestia Trionfante" and in
"L'Asino Cillenico," the author, in "Gli Eroici Furori," lays down the
basis for the religion of thought and of science. In place of the
so-called Christian perfections (resignation, devotion, and ignorance),
Bruno would put intelligence and the progress of the intellect in the
world of physics, metaphysics, and morals; the true aim being
illumination, the true morality the practice of justice, the true
redemption the liberation of the soul from error, its elevation and
union with God upon the wings of thought. This idea is developed in the
work in question, which is dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney. After
treating of the infinite universe, and contemplating the innumerable
worlds in other works, he comes, in "Gli Eroici Furori," to the
consideration of virtue in the individual, and demonstrates the potency
of the human faculties. After the Cosmos, the Microcosm; after the
infinitely great, the infinitely small. The body is in the soul, the
soul is in the mind, the mind is in God. The life of the soul is the
true life of the man. Of all his various faculties, that which rules
all, that which exalts our nature, is Thought. By means of it we rise to
the contemplation of the universe, and becoming in our turn creators, we
raise the edifice of science; through the intellect the affections
become purified, the will becomes strengthened. True liberty is
acquired, and will and action becoming one through thought, we become

This education of the soul, or rather this elevation and glory of
thought, which draws with it the will and the affections, not by means
of blind faith or supernatural grace, not through an irrational and
mystical impulse, but by the strength of a reformed intellect and by a
palpable and well-considered enthusiasm, which science and the
contemplation of Nature alone can give, this is the keynote of the poem.
It is composed of two parts, each of which is divided into five
dialogues: the first part, which may be called psychological, shows, by
means of various figures and symbols drawn from Nature, how the divine
light is always present to us, is inherent in man; it presents itself to
the senses and to the comprehension: man constantly rejects and ignores
it; sometimes the soul strives to rise up to it, and the poet describes
the struggle with the opposing affections which are involved in this
effort, and shows how at last the man of intelligence overcomes these
contending powers and fatal impulses which conflict within us, and by
virtue of harmony and the fusion of the opposites the intellect becomes
one with the affections, and man realizes the good and rises to the
knowledge of the true. All conflicting desires being at last united,
they become fixed upon one object, one great intent--the love of the
Divine, which is the highest truth and the highest good. In "Gli Eroici
Furori" we see Bruno as a man, as a philosopher, and as a believer: here
he reveals himself as the hero of thought. Even as Christ was the hero
of faith, and sacrificed himself for it, so Bruno declares himself ready
to sacrifice himself for science. It is also a literary, a
philosophical, and a religious work; form, however, is sacrificed to the
idea--so absorbed is the author in the idea that he often ignores form
altogether. An exile wandering from place to place, he wrote hurriedly
and seldom or ever had he the opportunity of revising what he had
written down. His mind in the impulsiveness of its improvisation was
like the volcano of his native soil, which, rent by subterranean
flames, sends forth from its vortices of fire, at the same time smoke,
ashes, turbid floods, stones, and lava. He contemplates the soul, and
seeks to understand its language; he is a physiologist and a naturalist,
merged in the mystic and the enlightened devotee.

Bruno might have made a fixed home for himself in England, as so many of
his compatriots had done, and have continued to enjoy the society of
such men as Sir Philip Sydney, Fulke Greville, and, perchance, also of
Shakespeare himself, who was in London about that time; but his
self-imposed mission allowed him no rest; he must go forth, and carry
his doctrines to the world, and forget the pleasures of friendship and
the ties of comfort in the larger love of humanity; his work was to
awaken souls out of their lethargy, to inspire them with the love of the
highest good and of truth; to teach that God is to be found in the study
of Nature, that the laws of the visible world will explain those of the
invisible, the union of science and humanity with Nature and with God.

Bruno returned to Paris in 1585, being at that time tutor in the family
of Mauvissier, who had been recalled from England by his Sovereign.
During Bruno's second sojourn in Paris efforts were made by Mendoza,
the Spanish ambassador, and others, to induce him to return to his
allegiance to the Church, and to be reconciled to the Pope; but Bruno
declined these overtures, and soon after left Paris for Germany, where
he arrived on foot, his only burden being a few books.

He visited Marburg and Wurtemburg, remaining in the latter place two
years, earning his bread by teaching.

Prague and Frankfort were next visited; ever the same courage and
boldness characterised his teaching, and ever the same scanty welcome
was accorded to it, although in every city and university crowds of the
intelligent listened to his lectures; but the Church never lost sight of
Bruno, he was always under surveillance, and few dared to show
themselves openly his friends. Absorbed in his studies and intent upon
his work, writing with feverish haste, he observed nothing of the
invisible net which his enemies kept spread about him, and while his
slanderers were busy in doing him injury he was occupied in teaching the
mnemonic art, and explaining his system of philosophy to the young
Lutherans who attended his lectures; in settling the basis of a new and
rational religion, and in writing Latin verses; using ever greater
diligence with his work, almost as if he felt that the time was drawing
near in which he would be no longer at liberty to work and teach.

It was during the early part of the pontificate of Gregory XIV. that
Bruno received letters from Mocenigo in Venice, urging him to return to
Italy, and to go and stay with him in Venice, and instruct him in the
secrets of science. Bruno was beginning to tire of this perpetually
wandering life, and after several letters from Mocenigo, full of fine
professions of friendship and protection, Bruno, longing to see his
country again, turned his face towards Venice.

In those days men of superior intellect were often considered to be
magicians or sorcerers; Mocenigo, after enticing Bruno to Venice,
insisted upon his teaching him "the secret of memory and other things
that he knew."

The philosopher with untiring patience tried to instil into this dull
head the principles of logic, the elements of mathematics, and the
rudiments of the mnemonic art; but the pupil hated study, and had no
faculty of thought; yet he insisted that Bruno should make science
clearly known to him! But this was probably only to initiate a quarrel
with Bruno, whom he intended afterwards to betray, and deliver into the
hands of the Church.

The Holy Office would have laid hands on Bruno immediately on his
arrival in Italy, but being assured by Mocenigo that he could not
escape, they left him a certain liberty, so that he might more surely
compromise himself, while his enemies were busy collecting evidence
against him. When at last his eyes became opened to what was going on
about him, and he could no longer ignore the peril of his position, it
was too late; Bruno could not get away, and was told by Mocenigo that if
he stayed not by his own will and pleasure, he would be compelled to
remain where he was. Bruno, however, made his preparations for
departure, and sent his things on to Frankfort, intending to leave the
next day himself; but in the morning, while he was still in bed,
Mocenigo entered the chamber, pretending that he wished to speak with
him; then calling his servant Bartolo and five or six gondoliers, who
waited without, they forced Bruno to rise, and conducted him to a
garret, and locked him in. There he passed the first day of that
imprisonment which was to last for eight years. The next day he went
over the lagoon in a gondola, in the company of his jailors, who took
him to the prison of the Holy Office, and left him there. Levi devotes
many pages to the accusations brought against Giordano Bruno by the
Inquisitors, and the depositions and denunciations made against him by
his enemies. The Court was opened without delay, and most of the
provinces of Italy were represented by their delegates in the early part
of the trial; Bruno himself, being interrogated, gave an account in
detail of his life, of his wanderings, of his occupations and works:
serene and dignified before this terrible tribunal, he expounded his
doctrine, its principles, and logical consequences. He spoke of the
universe, of the infinite worlds in infinite space, of the divinity in
all things, of the unity of all things, the dependence and
inter-dependence of all things, and of the existence of God in all.
After nine months' imprisonment in Venice, towards the end of January
1593, Bruno, in chains, was conveyed from the Bridge of Sighs through
the lagoons to Ancona, where he remained incarcerated until the prison
of the Roman Inquisition received him. If we look upon "Gli Eroici
Furori" as a prophetical poem, we see that his sufferings in the
loneliness of his prison and in the torture-chamber of the Inquisition
passed by anticipation before his mind in the book written when he was
free and a wanderer in strange lands.

    "By what condition, nature, or fell chance,
    In living death, dead life I live?"

he writes eight years and more before he ever breathed the stifling air
of a dungeon; and again:

    "The soul nor yields nor bends to these rough blows,
    But bears, exulting, this long martyrdom,
    And makes a harmony of these sharp pangs."

Further details of the trial of Giordano Bruno are to be found in Levi's
book. It is well known how he received the sentence of death passed upon
him, saying: "You, O judges! feel perchance more terror in pronouncing
this judgment than I do in hearing it." The day fixed for the burning,
which was to take place in the Campo dei Fiori, was the 17th February in
the year 1600. Rome was full of pilgrims from all parts, come to
celebrate the jubilee of Pope Clement VIII. Bruno was hardly fifty years
old at this time; his face was thin and pale, with dark, fiery eyes; the
forehead luminous with thought, his body frail and bearing the signs of
torture; his hands in chains, his feet bare, he walked with slow steps
in the early morning towards the funeral pile. Brightly shone the sun,
and the flames leapt upwards and mingled with his ardent rays; Bruno
stood in the midst with his arms crossed, his head raised, his eyes
open; when all was consumed, a monk took a handful of the ashes and
scattered them in the wind. A month later, the Bishop of Sidonia
presented himself at the Treasury of the Pope, and demanded two scudi in
payment for having degraded Fra Giordano the heretic.

    "L'incendio è tal, ch'io m'ardo e non mi sfaccio."




=First Dialogue.=


TANS. The enthusiasms most suitable to be first brought forward and
considered are those that I now place before you in the order that seems
to me most fitting.

CIC. Begin, then, to read.



    Ye Muses, that so oft I have repulsed,
    That, now importuned, haste to cure my pain,
    And to console me in my woes
    With verses, rhymes, and exaltation
    Such as to others ye did never show,
    Who yet do vaunt themselves of laurel and of myrtle
    Be near me now, my anchor and my port,
    Lest I for sport should towards some others turn.

    O Mount! O Goddesses! O Fountain!
    Where and with whom I dwell, converse and nourish me,
    Where peacefully I ponder and grow fair;
    I rise, I live: heart, spirit, brows adorn;
    Death, cypresses, and hells
    You change to life, to laurels, and eternal stars!

It is to be supposed that he oftimes and for divers reasons had repulsed
the Muses; first, because he could not be idle as a priest of the Muses
should be, for idleness cannot exist there, where the ministers and
servants of envy, ignorance, and malignity are to be combated. Moreover,
he could not force himself to the study of philosophies, which though
they be not the most mature, yet ought, as kindred of the Muses, to
precede them. Besides which, being drawn on one side by the tragic
Melpomene, with more matter than spirit, and on the other side by the
comic Thalia, with more spirit than matter, it came to pass that,
oscillating between the two, he remained neutral and inactive, rather
than operative. Finally, the dictum of the censors, who, restraining him
from that which was high and worthy, and towards which he was naturally
inclined, sought to enslave his genius, and from being free in virtue
they would have rendered him contemptible under a most vile and stupid
hypocrisy. At last, in the great whirl of annoyances by which he was
surrounded, it happened that, not having wherewith to console him, he
listened to those who are said to intoxicate him with such exaltation,
verses, and rhymes, as they had never demonstrated to others; because
this work shines more by its originality than by its conventionality.

CIC. Say, what do you mean by those who vaunt themselves of myrtle and

TANS. Those may and do boast of the myrtle who sing of love: if they
bear themselves nobly, they may wear a crown of that plant consecrated
to Venus, of which they know the potency. Those may boast of the laurel
who sing worthily of things pertaining to heroes, substituting heroic
souls for speculative and moral philosophy, and praising them and
setting as mirrors and exemplars for political and civil actions.

CIC. There are then many species of poets and crowns?

TANS. Not only as many as there are Muses, but a great many more; for
although genius is to be met with, yet certain modes and species of
human ingenuity cannot be thus classified.

CIC. There are certain schoolmen who barely allow Homer to be a poet,
and set down Virgil, Ovid, Martial, Hesiod, Lucretius, and many others
as versifiers, judging them by the rules of poetry of Aristotle.

TANS. Know for certain, my brother, that such as these are beasts. They
do not consider that those rules serve principally as a frame for the
Homeric poetry, and for other similar to it, and they set up one as a
great poet, high as Homer, and disallow those of other vein, and art,
and enthusiasm, who in their various kinds are equal, similar, or

CIC. So that Homer was not a poet who depended upon rules, but was the
cause of the rules which serve for those who are more apt at imitation
than invention, and they have been used by him who, being no poet, yet
knew how to take the rules of Homeric poetry into service, so as to
become, not a poet or a Homer, but one who apes the Muse of others?

TANS. Thou dost well conclude that poetry is not born in rules, or only
slightly and accidentally so; the rules are derived from the poetry, and
there are as many kinds and sorts of true rules as there are kinds and
sorts of true poets.

CIC. How then are the true poets to be known?

TANS. By the singing of their verses; in that singing they give delight,
or they edify, or they edify and delight together.

CIC. To whom then are the rules of Aristotle useful?

TANS. To him who, unlike Homer, Hesiod, Orpheus, and others, could not
sing without the rules of Aristotle, and who, having no Muse of his own,
would coquette with that of Homer.

CIC. Then they are wrong, those stupid pedants of our days, who exclude
from the number of poets those who do not use words and metaphors
conformable to, or whose principles are not in union with, those of
Homer and Virgil; or because they do not observe the custom of
invocation, or because they weave one history or tale with another, or
because they finish the song with an epilogue on what has been said and
a prelude on what is to be said, and many other kinds of criticism and
censure, from whence it seems they would imply that they themselves, if
the fancy took them, could be the true poets; and yet in fact they are
no other than worms, that know not how to do anything well, but are born
only to gnaw and befoul the studies and labours of others; and not being
able to attain celebrity by their own virtue and ingenuity, seek to put
themselves in the front, by hook or by crook, through the defects and
errors of others.

TANS. Now, to return from this long digression, I say that there are as
many sorts of poets as there are human sentiments and ideas; and to
these it is possible to adapt garlands, not only of every species of
plant, but also of other kinds of material. So the crowns of poets are
made not only of myrtle and of laurel, but of vine leaves for the
white-wine verses, and of ivy for the bacchanals; of olive for sacrifice
and laws; of poplar, of elm, and of corn for agriculture; of cypress for
funerals, and innumerable others for other occasions; and, if it please
you, also of that material signified by a good fellow when he exclaimed:

    O Friar Leek! O Poetaster!
    That in Milan didst buckle on thy wreath
    Composed of salad, sausage, and the pepper-caster.

CIC. Now surely he of divers moods, which he exhibits in various ways,
may cover himself with the branches of different plants, and may hold
discourse worthily with the Muses, for they are his aura or comforter,
his anchor or support, and his harbour, to which he retires in times of
labour, of agitation, and storm. Hence he cries: "O mountain of
Parnassus, where I abide! Muses, with whom I converse! Fountain of
Helicon, where I am nourished. Mountain, that affordest me a quiet
dwelling-place! Muses, that inspire me with profound doctrines.
Fountain, that cleanses me! Mountain, on whose ascent my heart uprises!
Muses, that in discourse revive my spirit. Well, whose arbours cool my
brows! Change my death into life, my cypress to laurels, and my hells
into heavens: that is, give me immortality, make me poet, render me

TANS. Well; because to those whom Heaven favours the greatest evils turn
to greatest good, for needs or necessities bring forth labours and
studies, and these most often bring the glory of immortal splendour.

CIC. For to die in one age makes us live in all the rest. Go on.

TANS. Then follows:


    In form and place like to Parnassus is my heart,
    And up unto this mount for safety I ascend;
    My Muses are my thoughts, and they present to me
    At every hour new beauties counted out.
    The frequent tears that from my eyes do pour,
    These make my fount of Helicon.
    By such a mount, such nymphs, such floods,
    As Heaven did please, was I a poet born.
    No king of any kingdom,
    No favouring hand of emperor,
    No highest priest nor great pastor,
    Has given to me such graces, honours, privileges,
    As are those laurel leaves with which
    O'ershadowed are my heart, my thoughts, my tears.

Here he declares his mountain to be the exalted affection of his heart,
his Muses he calls the beauties and attributes of the object of his
affections, and the fountain is his tears. In that mountain affection is
kindled; through those beauties enthusiasm is conceived, and by those
tears the enthusiastic affection is demonstrated; and he esteems himself
not less grandly crowned by his heart, his thoughts, and his tears than
others are by the hand of kings, emperors, and popes.

CIC. Explain to me what he means by his heart being in form like

TANS. Because the human heart has two summits, which terminate in one
base or root; and, spiritually, from one affection of the heart proceed
two opposites, love and hate; and the mountain of Parnassus has two
summits and one base.

CIC. On to the next!


    The captain calls his warriors to arms,
    And at the trumpet's sound they all
    Under one sign and standard come.
    But yet for some in vain the call is heard,
    Heedless and unprepared, they mind it not.
    One foe he kills, and the insane unborn,
    He banishes from out the camp in scorn.
    And thus the soul, when foiled her high designs,
    Would have all those opponents dead or gone;
    One object only I regard,
    One face alone my mind does fill,
    One beauty keeps me fixed and still;
    One arrow pierced my heart, and one
    The fire with which alone I burn,
    And towards one paradise I turn.

This captain is the human will, which dwells in the depths of the soul
with the small helm of reason to govern and guide the interior powers
against the wave of natural impulses. He, with the sound of the
trumpet--that is, by fixed resolve--calls all the warriors or invokes
all the powers; called warriors because they are in continual strife and
opposition; and their affections, which are all contrary thoughts, some
towards one and some towards the other side inclining, and he tries to
bring them all under one flag--one settled end and aim. Some are called
in vain to put in a ready appearance, and are chiefly those which
proceed from the lower instincts, and which obey the reason either not
at all, or very little; and forcing himself to prevent their actions and
condemn those which cannot be prevented, he shows himself as one who
would kill those and banish these, now by the scourge of scorn, now by
the sword of anger. One only is the object of his regards, and on this
he is intently fixed; one prospect delights and fills his imagination,
one beauty pleases, and he rests in that, because the operation of the
intelligence is not a work of movement but of quiet; from thence alone
he derives that barb which, killing him, constitutes the consummation of
perfection. He burns with one fire alone; that is, one affection
consumes him.

CIC. Why is love symbolized by fire?

TANS. For many reasons, but at present let this one suffice thee: that
as love converts the thing loved into the lover, so amongst the elements
fire is active and potent to convert all the others, simple and
composite, into itself.

CIC. Go on.

TANS. He knows one paradise--that is, one consummation, because paradise
commonly signifies the end; which is again distinguished from that which
is absolute in truth and essence from that which is so in appearance and
shadow or form. Of the first there can only be one, as there can be only
one ultimate and one primal good. Of the second the modes are infinite.


    Love, Fate, Love's object, and cold Jealousy,
    Delight me, and torment, content me, and afflict.
    The insensate boy, the blind and sinister,
    The loftiest beauty, and my death alone
    Show to me paradise, and take away,
    Present me with all good, and steal it from me,
    So that the heart, the mind, the spirit, and the soul,
    Have joy, pain, cold, and weight in their control.
    Who will deliver me from war?
    Who give to me the fruit of love in peace?
    And that which vexes that which pleases me
    (Opening the gates of heaven and closing them)
    Who will set far apart
    To make acceptable my fires and tears?

He shows the reason and origin of passion; and whence it is conceived;
and how enthusiasm is born, by ploughing the field of the Muses and
scattering the seed of his thoughts and waiting for the fruitful
harvest, discovering in himself the fervour of the affections instead of
in the sun, and in place of the rain is the moisture of his eyes. He
brings forward four things: Love, Fate, the Object, and Jealousy. Here
love is not a low, ignoble, and unworthy motor, but a noble lord and
chief. Fate is none other than the pre-ordained disposition and order of
casualties to which he is subject by his destiny. The object is the
thing loved and the correlative of the lover. Jealousy, it is clear,
must be the ardour of the lover about the thing loved, of which it boots
not to speak to him who knows what love is, and which it is vain to try
to explain to others. Love delights, because to him who loves it is a
pleasure to love; and he who really loves would not cease from loving.
This is referred to in the following sonnet:


    Beloved, sweet, and honourable wound,
    From fairest dart that love did choose,
    Lofty, most beauteous and potential zeal,
    That makes the soul in its own flames find weal!
    What power or spell of herb or magic art
    Can tear thee from the centre of my heart,
    Since he, who with an ever-growing zest,
    Tormenting most, yet most does make me blest?
    How can I of this weight unburdened be,
    If pain the cure, and joy the sore give me?
    Sweet is my pain: to this world new and rare.
    Eyes! ye are the bow and torches of my lord!
    Double the flames and arrows in my breast,
    For languishing is sweet and burning best.

Fate vexes and grieves by undesirable and unfortunate events, or because
it makes the subject feel unworthy of the object, and out of proportion
with the dignity of the latter, or because a perfect sympathy does not
exist, or for other reasons and obstacles that arise. The object
satisfies the subject, which is nourished by no other, seeks no other,
is occupied by no other, and banishes every other thought. Jealousy
torments, because although she is the daughter of Love, and is derived
from him, and is his companion who always goes with him, and is a sign
of the same, being understood as a necessary consequence wherever love
is found (as may be observed of whole generations who, from the coldness
of the region and lateness of development, learn little, love less, and
of jealousy know nothing), yet, notwithstanding its kinship,
association, and signification, jealousy comes to trouble and poisons
all that it finds of beautiful and of good in Love. Therefore I said in
another sonnet:


    Oh, wicked child of Envy and of Love!
    That turnest into pain thy father's joys,
    To evil Argus-eyed, but blind as mole to good.
    Minister of torment! Jealousy!
    Fetid harpy! Tisiphone infernal!
    Who steals and poisons others' good,
    Under thy cruel breath does languish
    The sweetest flower of all my hopes.
    Proud of thyself, unlovely one,
    Bird of sorrow and harbinger of ill,
    The heart thou visitest by thousand doors;
    If entrance unto thee could be denied,
    The reign of Love would so much fairer be,
    As would this world were death and hate away.

To the above is added, that Jealousy not only is sometimes the ruin and
death of the lover, but often kills Love itself, because Love comes to
be so much under its influence that it is impelled to despise the
object, and in fact becomes alienated from it, especially when it
engenders disdain.

CIC. Explain now the ideas which follow. Why is Love called the
"insensate boy"?

TANS. I will tell you. Love is called the insensate boy, not because he
is so of himself, but because he brings certain ones into subjection,
and dwells in such subjects, since the more intellectual and speculative
one is, the more Love raises the genius and purifies the intellect,
rendering it alert, studious, and circumspect, promoting a condition of
valorous animosity and an emulation of virtues and dignities by the
desire to please and to make itself worthy of the thing loved; others,
and they are the largest number, call him mad and foolish, because he
drives them distracted, and hurries them into excesses, by which the
spirit, soul, and body become sickly, and inept to consider and
distinguish that which is seemly from that which is distorted; thus
rendering them subject to scorn, derision, and reproach.

CIC. It is commonly said that love makes fools of the old and makes the
young wise.

TANS. That drawback does not happen to all the aged, nor that advantage
to all the young; the one is true of the weak, and the other of the
robust. One thing is certain, that he who loves wisely in youth will in
age not go astray. But derision is for those of mature age, into whose
hands Love puts the alphabet.

CIC. Tell me now why Fate is called blind and bad.

TANS. Again, blind and bad is not said of Destiny itself, because it is
of the same order and number and measure as the universe; but as to the
subjects it is said to be blind, for they are blind to fate, she being
so uncertain. So also is Fate said to be evil, because every living
mortal who laments and complains, blames her. As the Apulian poet says:

    How is it, or what means it, Mæcenas,
    That none on earth contented with that fate appear,
    Which Reason or Heaven has assigned to them?

In the same way he calls the object the highest beauty, as it is that
alone which has power of attracting him to itself; and thus he holds it
more worthy, more noble, and feels it predominant and superior as he
becomes subject and captive to it. "My death itself," he says of
Jealousy, because as Love has no more close companion than she, so also
he feels he has no greater enemy; as nothing is more hurtful to iron
than rust, which is produced by it.

CIC. Now, since you have begun so, continue to show bit by bit that
which remains.

TANS. So will I. He says next of Love: he shows me Paradise, in order to
prove that Love himself is not blind, and does not himself render any
lovers blind, except through the ignoble characteristics of the subject;
even as the birds of night become blind in the sunshine. As for himself,
Love brightens, clears, and opens the intellect, permeating all and
producing miraculous effects.

CIC. Much of this, it seems to me, the Nolano demonstrates in another


    Love, through whom high truth I do discern,
    Thou openest the black diamond doors;
    Through the eyes enters my deity, and through seeing
    Is born, lives, is nourished, and has eternal reign;
    Shows forth what heaven holds, earth and hell:
    Makes present true images of the absent;
    Gains strength: and drawing with straight aim,
    Wounds, lays bare and frets the inmost heart.
    Attend now, thou base hind unto the truth,
    Bend down the ear to my unerring word;
    Open, open, if thou canst the eyes, foolish perverted one!
    Thou understanding little, call'st him child,
    Because thou swiftly changest, fugitive he seems,
    Thyself not seeing, call'st him blind.

Love shows Paradise in order that the highest things may be heard,
understood, and accomplished; or it makes the things loved, grand--at
least in appearance. He says, Fate takes love away; because, often in
spite of the lover, it does not concede, and that which he sees and
desires is distant and adverse to him. Every good he sets before me, he
says of the object, because that which is indicated by the finger of
Love seems to him the only thing, the principal, and the whole. "Steals
it from me," he says of Jealousy, not simply in order that it may not be
present to me; removing it from my eyesight, but in order that good may
not be good, but an acute evil; sweet, not sweet, but an agonized
longing; while the heart--that is, the will, has joy by the great force
of love, whatever may be the result; the mind--that is, the intellectual
part, has pain through the Fear of Fate, which fate does not favour the
lover; the spirit--that is, the natural affections, are cold because
they are snatched from the object which gives joy to the heart, and
which might give pleasure to the mind; the soul--that is, the suffering
and sensitive soul, is heavy--that is, finds itself oppressed with the
heavy burden of jealousy which torments it. To this consideration of his
state he adds a tearful lament, and says: "Who will deliver me from
war, and give me peace? or who will separate that which pains and
injures me from that which I so love, and which opens to me the gates of
heaven, so that the fervid flames in my heart may be acceptable, and
fortunate the fountains of my tears?" Continuing this proposition, he


    Ah me! oppress some other, spiteful Fate!
    Jealousy, get thee hence--begone! away!
    These may suffice to show me all the grace
    Of changeful Love, and of that noble face.
    He takes my life, she gives me death,
    She wings, he burns my heart,
    He murders it, and she revives the soul:
    My succour she, my grievous burden he!
    But what say I of Love?
    If he and she one subject be, or form,
    If with one empire and one rule they stamp
    One sole impression in my heart of hearts,
    Then are they two, yet one, on which do wait
    The mirth and melancholy of my state!

Four beginnings and extremes of two opposites he would reduce to two
beginnings and one opposite: he says, then, oppress others--that is, let
it suffice thee, O my Fate! that thou hast so much oppressed me; and
since thou canst not exist without exercise of thyself, turn elsewhere
thy anger. Get thee hence out of the world, thou Jealousy, because one
of those two others which remain can supply your functions and offices;
yet, O Fate! thou art none other than my love; and thou, Jealousy, art
not external to the substance of the same. He alone, then, remains to
deprive me of life, to burn me, to give me death, and to be to me the
burden of my bones; for he delivers me from death--wings, enlivens, and
sustains. Then two beginnings and one opposite he reduces to one
beginning and one result, exclaiming: But what do I say of Love? If this
presence, this object, is his empire, and appears none other than the
empire of Love, the rule of Love and its own rule; the impression of
Love which appears in the substance of my heart, is then no other
impression than its own, and therefore after having said "Noble face,"
replies "Inconstant Love."[A]

[A] Vago amore.

=Second Dialogue.=


Now begins the enthusiast to display the affections and uncover the
wounds which are for a sign in his body, and in substance or essence in
his soul, and he says thus:


    Of Love the standard-bearer I;
    My hopes are ice, and glowing my desires.
    At once I tremble, sparkle, freeze, and burn;
    Am mute, and fill the air with clamorous plaints.
    Water my eyes distil, sparks from my heart.
    I live, I die, make merry and lament.
    Living the waters, the burning never dies,
    For in my eyes is Thetys, and Vulcan in my heart.
    Others I love; myself I hate.
    If I be winged, others are changed to stone;
    They high as heaven, if I be lowly set.
    I cease not to pursue, they ever flee away;
    If I do call, yet none will answer me.
    The more I search, the more is hid from me.

In accordance with this, I will continue with that which just before I
said to thee, that one should not strive so hard to prove that which is
so very evident--namely, that there is nothing pure and unalloyed; and
some have said that no mixed thing is a real entity, as alloyed gold is
not real gold, manufactured wine is not real simple wine. Almost all
things are made up of opposites, whence it comes that the success of our
affections, through the mixture that is in things, can afford no
pleasure without some bitterness; and more than this, I will say, that
were it not for the bitter, there would be no sweet; seeing that it is
through fatigue that we find pleasure in repose; separation is the cause
of our pleasure in union; and, examining generally, we shall ever find
that one opposite is the reason that the other opposite pleases and is

CIC. Then there is no delight without the contrary?

TANS. Certainly not; as without the opposite there is no pain; as is
shown by that golden Pythagorean poet when he says:

    Hinc metuunt cupiuntque, dolent gaudentque, nec
    Respiciunt, clausæ tenebris, e carcere cæco.

This, then, is what the mixture of things causes, and hence it is that
no one is pleased with his own state, except some senseless blockhead,
who is so all the more the deeper is the degree of obscure folly in
which he is sunk; then he has little or no apprehension of pain; he
enjoys the actual present without fearing the future; he enjoys that
which is and that in which he finds himself, and has neither care nor
sorrow for what may be; and, in short, has no sense of that opposition
which is symbolized by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

CIC. From this we see that ignorance is the mother of sensual felicity
and beatitude, and this same is the garden of paradise of the animals;
as is made clear in the dialogues of the Kabala of the horse Pegasus;
and as says the wise Solomon, "Whoso increases knowledge increases

TANS. Hence it appears that heroic love is a torment, because it does
not enjoy the present, as does animal love, but is of the future and the
absent; and, on the contrary, it feels ambition, emulation, suspicion
and dread. One evening, after supper, a certain neighbour of ours said:
"Never was I more jolly than I am now." John Bruno, father of the
Nolano, answered him: "Never wert thou more foolish than now."

CIC. You would imply, then, that he who is sad is wise, and that other
who is more sad is wiser?

TANS. On the contrary, I mean that there is in these another species of
foolishness and a worse.

CIC. Who, then, is wise, if foolish is he who is content, and foolish he
who is sad?

TANS. He who is neither merry nor sad.

CIC. Who? He who sleeps? He who is without feeling--who is dead?

TANS. No; but he who is quick, both seeing and hearing, and who,
considering evil and good, estimating the one and the other as variable,
and consistent in motion, mutation, and vicissitude, in such wise that
the end of one opposite is the commencement of another, and the extreme
of the one is the beginning of the other; whose spirit is neither
depressed nor elated, but is moderate in inclinations and temperate in
desires; to him pleasure is not pleasure, having ever present the end of
it; equally, pain to him is not pain, because by the force of reasoning
he has present the end of that too. So the sage holds all mutable things
as things that are not, and affirms that they are no other than vanity
and nothingness, because time has to eternity the proportion of the
point to the line.

CIC. So that we can never hold the proposition of being contented or
discontented, without holding the proposition of our own foolishness,
which we thereby confess; therefore no one who reasons, and
consequently no one who participates, can be wise; in short, all men are

TANS. I do not intend to infer that; for I will hold of highest wisdom
him who could really say at one time the opposite of what he says at
another--never was I less gay than now; or, never was I less sad than at

CIC. How? Do you not make two contrary qualities where there are two
opposite affections? Why, I say, do you take as two virtues, and not as
one vice and one virtue, the being less gay and the being less sad?

TANS. Because both the contraries in excess--that is, in so far as they
exceed--are vices, because they pass the line; and the same, in so far
as they diminish, come to be virtues, because they are contained within

CIC. How? The being less merry and the being less sad are not one virtue
and one vice, but are two virtues?

TANS. On the contrary, I say they are one and the same virtue; because
the vice is there where the opposite is; the opposite is chiefly there
where the extreme is; the greatest opposite is the nearest to the
extreme; the least or nothing is in the middle, where the opposites
meet, and are one and identical; as between the coldest and hottest and
the hotter and colder, in the middle point is that which you may call
hot and cold, or neither hot nor cold, without contradiction. In that
way whoso is least content and least joyful is in the degree of
indifference, and finds himself in the habitation of temperance, where
the virtue and condition of a strong soul exist, which bends not to the
south wind nor to the north. This, then, to return to the point, is how
this enthusiastic hero, who explains himself in the present part, is
different from the other baser ones--not as virtue from vice, but as a
vice which exists in a subject more divine or divinely, from a vice
which exists in a subject more savage or savagely; so that the
difference is according to the different subjects and modes, and not
according to the form of vice.

CIC. I can very well conceive, from what you have said, the condition of
that heroic enthusiast, who says, "My hopes are ice and my desires are
glowing," because he is not in the temperance of mediocrity, but, in the
excess of contradictions, his soul is discordant, he shivers in his
frozen hopes and burns in his glowing desires; in his eagerness he is
clamorous, and he is mute from fear; his heart burns in its affection
for others, and for compassion of himself he sheds tears from his eyes;
dying in the laughter of others, he is alive in his own lamentations;
and like him who no longer belongs to himself, he loves others and hates
himself; because matter, as say the physicists, with that measure with
which it loves the absent form, hates the present one. And so in the
octave finishes the war which the soul has within itself; and when he
says in the sistina, but if I be winged, others change to stone and that
which follows; he shows his passion for the warfare which he wages with
external contradictions. I remember having read in Jamblichus, where he
treats of the Egyptian mysteries, this sentence: "Impius animam
dissidentem habet: unde nec secum ipse convenire potest, neque cum

TANS. Now listen to another sonnet, as sequel to what has been said:


    By what condition, nature, or fell chance,
    In living death, dead life I live?
    Love has me dead, alack! and such a death,
    That death and life together I must lose.
    Devoid of hope, I reach the gates of hell,
    And laden with desire arrive at heaven:
    Thus am I subject to eternal opposites,
    And, banished both from heaven and from hell,
    No pause nor rest my torments know,
    Because between two running wheels I go,
    Of which one here, the other there compels,
    And like Ixion I pursue and flee;
    For to the double discourse do I fit
    The crosswise lesson of the spur and bit.

He shows how much he suffers from this dislocation and distraction in
himself; while the affections, leaving the mean and middle way of
temperance, tend towards the one and the other extreme, and so are
wafted on high or towards the right, and are also transported downwards
to the left.

CIC. How is it that, not being really of one or the other extreme, it
does not come to be in the conditions or terms of virtue?

TANS. It is then in a state of virtue when it keeps to the middle,
declining from one to the other opposite; but when it leads towards the
extremes, inclining to one or the other of those, it fails so entirely
from being virtue, that it is a double vice, which consists in this,
that the thing recedes from its nature, the perfection of which consists
in unity, and there where the opposites meet, its composition and virtue
exist. This, then, is how he is dead alive, or living dying; whence he
says, "In a living death a dead life I live." He is not dead, because
he lives in the object; not alive, because he is dead in himself;
deprived of death, because he gives birth to thoughts; deprived of life,
because he does not grow or feel in himself. He is now most dejected
through meditating on the high intelligence, and the perceived
feebleness of power; and most elated by the aspiration of heroic
longing, which passes far beyond his limits, and is most exalted by the
intellectual appetite; which has not for its fashion or aim to add
number to number, is most dejected by the violence done to him by the
sensual opposite which drags him down towards hell. So that, finding
himself thus ascending and descending, he feels within his soul the
greatest dissension that is possible to be felt, and he remains in a
state of confusion through this rebellion of the senses, which urge him
thither where reason restrains, and _vice versâ_. This same is
thoroughly demonstrated in the following sentences, where the Reason,
under the name of "Filenio" asks, and the enthusiast replies under the
name of "Shepherd," who labours in the care of the flocks and herds of
his thoughts, which he nourishes in the submission to and service of his
nymph, which is the affection of that object to which he is captive.


FILENIO. Shepherd!

SHEPHERD. What wilt thou?

F. What doest thou?

S. I suffer.

F. Wherefore?

S. Because neither life has me for his own, nor death.

F. Who's to blame?

S. Love.

F. That rascal?

S. That rascal.

F. Where is he?

S. He holds me tight in my heart's core.

F. What does he?

S. Wounds me.

F. Who?

S. Me.

F. Thee?

S. Yes.

F. With what?

S. With the eyes, the gates of heaven and of hell.

F. Dost hope?

S. I hope.

F. For pity?

S. For pity.

F. From whom?

S. From him who racks me night and day.

F. Has he any?

S. I know not.

F. Thou art a fool.

S. How if such folly be pleasing to my soul?

F. Does he promise?

S. No.

F. Does he deny?

S. Not at all.

F. Is he silent?

S. Yes, for so much purity (_onestà_) robs me of my boldness.

F. Thou ravest.

S. How so?

F. In vain efforts.

S. His scorn more than my torments do I fear.

Here he says that he craves for love, and he complains of it, yet not
because he loves--seeing that to no true lover can love be displeasing;
but because he loves unhappily, whilst those beams which are the rays of
those lights, and which themselves, according as they are perverse and
antagonistic, or really kind and gracious, become the gates which lead
towards heaven or towards hell. In this way he is kept in hope of future
and uncertain mercy, but actually in a state of present and certain
torment, and although he sees his folly quite clearly, nevertheless he
does not care to correct himself in it, or even to feel displeased with
it, but rather does he feel satisfied with it, as he shows when he says:

    Never let me of Love complain,
    For Love alone can ease my pain.

Here is shown another species of enthusiasm born from the light of
reason, which excites fear and suppresses the aforesaid reason in order
not to commit any action which might vex or irritate the thing loved.
He says, then, that hope rests in the future, without anything being
promised or denied; therefore, he is silent and asks nothing, for fear
of offending purity (_l'onestade_). He does not venture to explain
himself and make a proposition, lest he be rejected with repugnance or
accepted with reserve; for he thinks the evil that there might be in the
one would be over-balanced by the good in the other. He shows himself,
then, ready to suffer for ever his own torment, rather than to open the
door to an opportunity through which the thing loved might be perturbed
and saddened.

CIC. Herein he proves that his love is truly heroic; because he proposes
to himself as the chief aim, not corporeal beauty, but rather the grace
of the spirit, and the inclination of the affections in which, rather
than in the beauty of the body, that love that has in it the divine, is

TANS. Thou knowest that, as the Platonic ideas are divided into three
species, of which one tends to the contemplative or speculative life,
one to active morality, and the third to the idle and voluptuous, so are
there three species of love, of which one raises itself from the
contemplation of bodily form to the consideration of the spiritual and
divine; the other only continues in the delight of seeing and
conversing; the third from seeing proceeds to precipitate into the
concupiscence of touch. Of these three modes others are composed,
according as the first may be coupled with the second or the third, or
as all the three modes may combine together, of which one and all may be
divided into others, according to the affections of the enthusiast, as
these tend more towards the spiritual object, or more towards the
corporeal, or equally towards the one and the other. Hence it comes,
that of those who find themselves in this warfare, and are entangled in
the meshes of love, some aim at enjoying, and they are incited to pluck
the apple from the tree of corporeal beauty, without which acquisition,
or at least the hope of it, they hold vain and worthy only of derision
every amorous care; and in such-wise run all those who are of a
barbarous nature, who neither do nor can seek to exalt themselves by
loving worthy things, and aspiring to illustrious things, and higher
still to things divine, by suitable studies and exercises, to which
nothing can more richly and easily supply the wings than heroic love;
others put before themselves the fruit of delight, which they take in
the aspect of the beauty and grace of the spirit, which glitters and
shines in the beauty of the body, and certain of these, although they
love the body and greatly desire to be united to it, bewailing its
absence and being afflicted by separation, at the same time fear, lest
presuming in this they may be deprived of that affability, conversation,
friendship, and sympathy which are most precious to them; because to
attempt this there cannot be more guarantee of success than there is
risk of forfeiting that favour, which appears before the eyes of thought
as a thing so glorious and worthy.

CIC. It is a worthy thing, oh Tansillo! for its many virtues and
perfections, and it behoves human genius to seek, accept, nourish, and
preserve a love like that; but one should take great care not to bow
down or become enslaved to an object unworthy and base, lest we become
sharers of the baseness and unworthiness of the same: appositely the
Ferrarese poet says

    Who sets his foot upon the amorous snare,
    Lest he besmear his wings, let him beware.

TANS. To say the truth, that object, which beyond the beauty of the body
has no other splendour, is not worthy of being loved otherwise than to
make the race; and it seems to me the work of a pig or a horse to
torment one's self about it, and as to myself, never was I more
fascinated by such things than I am now fascinated by some statue or
picture to which I am indifferent. It would then be a great dishonour to
a generous soul, if, of a foul, vile, loose, and ignoble nature,
although hid under an excellent symbol, it should be said: "I fear his
scorn more than my torment."

=Third Dialogue.=


There are several varieties of enthusiasts, which may all be reduced to
two kinds. While some only display blindness, stupidity, and irrational
impetuosity, which tend towards savage madness, others by divine
abstraction become in reality superior to ordinary men. And these again
are of two kinds, for some having become the habitation of gods or
divine spirits, speak and perform wonderful things, without themselves
understanding the reason. Many such have been uncultured and ignorant
persons, into whom, being void of spirit and sense of their own, as into
an empty chamber, the divine spirit and sense intrude, as it would have
less power to show itself in those who are full of their own reason and
sense. This divine spirit often desires that the world should know for
certain, that those do not speak from their own knowledge and
experience, but speak and act through some superior intelligence; for
such, the mass of men vouchsafe more admiration and faith, while others,
being skilful in contemplation and possessing innately a clear
intellectual spirit, have an internal stimulus and natural fervour,
excited by the love of the divine, of justice, of truth, of glory, and
by the fire of desire and the breath of intention, sharpen their senses,
and in the sulphur of the cogitative faculty, these kindle the rational
light, with which they see more than ordinarily; and they come in the
end to speak and act, not as vessels and instruments, but as chief
artificers and experts.

CIC. Of these two which dost thou esteem higher?

TANS. The first have more dignity, power, and efficacy within
themselves, because they have the divinity; the second _are_ themselves
worthy, potential, and efficacious, and _are_ divine. The first are
worthy, as is the ass which carries the sacraments; the second are as a
sacred thing. In the first is contemplated and seen in effect the
divinity, and that is beheld, adored, and obeyed; in the second is
contemplated and seen the excellency of humanity itself. But now to the
question. These enthusiasms of which we speak, and which we see
exemplified in these sentences, are not oblivion, but a memory; they
are not neglect of one's self, but love and desire of the beautiful and
good, by means of which we are able to make ourselves perfect, by
transforming and assimilating ourselves to it. It is not a
precipitation, under the laws of a tyrannous fate, into the noose of
animal affections, but a rational impetus, which follows the
intellectual apprehension of the beautiful and the good, which knows
whom it wishes to obey and to please, so that, by its nobility and
light, it kindles and invests itself with qualities and conditions
through which it appears illustrious and worthy. He (the enthusiast)
becomes a god by intellectual contact with the divine object, and he has
no thought for other than divine things, and shows himself insensible
and impassive towards those things which are commonly felt, and about
which others are mostly tormented; he fears nothing, and for love of the
divine he despises other pleasures and gives no thought to this life. It
is not a fury of black bile which sends him drifting outside of
judgment, reason, and acts of prudence, and tossed by the discordant
tempest, like those who, having violated certain laws of the divine
Adrastia, are condemned to be scourged by the Furies, in order that they
may be excited by a dissonance as corporeal through seditions,
destructions, and plagues, as it is spiritual, through the forfeiture of
harmony between the perceptive and enjoying powers; but it is aglow
kindled by the intellectual sun in the soul, and a divine impetus which
lends it wings, with which, drawing nearer and nearer to the
intellectual sun, and ridding itself of the rust of human cares, it
becomes a gold tried and pure, has the perception of divine and internal
harmony, and its thoughts and acts accord with the symmetry of the law,
innate in all things. Not, as drunk from the cups of Circe, does he go
dashing and stumbling, now in this and then in that ditch, now against
this or that rock, or like a shifting Proteus, changing now to this, now
to the other aspect, never finding place, fashion, or ground to stay and
settle in; but, without spoiling the harmony, conquers and overcomes the
horrid monsters, and however much he may swerve, he easily returns to
himself[B] by means of those inward instincts that, like the nine Muses,
dance and sing round the splendours of the universal Apollo, and under
tangible images and material things, he comes to comprehend divine laws
and counsels. It is true that sometimes, having love for his trusty
escort, who is double, and because sometimes through occasional
impediments he finds himself defrauded of his strength, then, as one
insane and furious, he squanders away the love of that which he cannot
comprehend; whence, confused by the obscurity of the divinity, he
sometimes abandons the work, and then again returns, to force himself
with his will thither, where he cannot arrive with the intellect. It is
true also that he commonly wanders, and transports himself, now into
one, now into another form of the double Eros; therefore, the principal
lesson that Love gives to him is, that he contemplate the divine beauty
in shadow, when he cannot do so in the mirror, and, like the suitors of
Penelope, he entertain himself with the maids when he is not permitted
to converse with the mistress. Now, in conclusion, you can comprehend,
from what has been said, what is this enthusiast whose picture is put
forth, when it is said:


    If towards the shining light the butterfly,
    Winging his way knows not the burning flame,
    And if the thirsty stag, unmindful of the dart,
    Runs fainting to the brook,
    Or unicorn, unto the chaste breast running,
    Ignores the snare that is for him prepared,
    I, in the light, the fount, the bosom of my love
    Behold the flames, the arrows, and the chains.
    If it be sweet in plaintiveness to droop,
    Why does that lofty splendour dazzle me?
    Wherefore the sacred arrow sweetly wound?
    Why in this knot is my desire involved?
    And why to me eternal irksomeness
    Flames to my heart, darts to my breast and snares unto my soul?

[B] Facilmente ritorna al sesso.

Here he shows his love not to be like that of the butterfly, of the
stag, and of the unicorn, who would flee away if they had knowledge of
the fire, of the arrow, and of the snares, and who have no other sense
than that of pleasure; but he is moved by a most sensible and only too
evident passion, which forces him to love that fire more than any
coolness; more that wound than any wholeness; more those fetters than
any liberty. For this evil is not absolutely evil, but, through
comparison with good (according to opinion), it is deceptive, like the
sauce that old Saturn gets when he devours his own sons; for this evil
absolutely in the eye of the Eternal, is comprehended either for good,
or for guide which conduces to it, since this fire is the ardent desire
of divine things, this arrow is the impression of the ray of the beauty
of supernal light, these snares are the species of truth which unite our
mind to the primal verity, and the species of good which unite and join
to the primal and highest good. To that meaning I approached when I


    With such a fire and such a noble noose,
    Beauty enkindles me, and pureness binds,
    So that in flames and servitude I take delight,
    Liberty takes flight and dreads the ice.
    Such is the heat, that though I burn yet am I not destroyed,
    The tie is such, the world with me gives praise.
    Fear cannot freeze, nor pain unshackle me;
    For soothing is the ardour, sweet the smart.
    So high the light that burns me I discern,
    And of so rich a thread the noose contrived
    That, thought being born, the longing dies.
    And since, within my heart shines such pure flames,
    And so supreme a tie compels my will,
    Let my shade serve, and let my ashes burn.

All the loves, if they be heroic and not purely animal, or what is
called natural, and slaves to generation, as instruments of nature in a
certain way, have for object the divinity, tend towards divine beauty,
which first is communicated to souls and shines in them, and from them,
or rather through them, it is communicated to bodies; whence it is that
well-ordered affection loves the body or corporeal beauty, insomuch as
it is an indication of beauty of spirit. Thus that which causes the
attraction of love to the body is a certain spirituality which we see in
it, and which is called beauty, and which does not consist in major or
minor dimensions, nor in determined colours or forms, but in harmony and
consonance of members and colours. This shows an affinity between the
spirit and the most acute and penetrative senses; whence it follows that
such become more easily and intensely enamoured, and also more easily
and intensely disgusted, which might be through a change of the deformed
spirit, which in some gesture and expressed intention reveals itself in
such wise that this deformity extends from the soul to the body, and
makes it appear no longer beautiful as before. The beauty, then, of the
body has power to kindle, but not to bind, and the lover, unless aided
by the graces of the spirit, such as purity, gratitude, courtesy,
circumspection, is unable to escape. Therefore, said I, beautiful is
that fire which burns me, and noble that tie which binds.

CIC. I do not believe it is always like that, Tansillo; because,
sometimes, notwithstanding that we discover the spirit to be vicious, we
remain heated and entangled; so that, although reason perceives the evil
and unworthiness of such a love, it yet has not power to alienate the
disordered appetite. In this disposition, I believe, was the Nolano when
he said:


    Woe's me! my fury forces me
    To union with the bad within,
    And makes it seem a love supreme and good.
    Wearied, my soul cares nought
    That I opposing counsels entertain,
    And with the savage tyrant
    Nourished with want,
    And made to put myself in exile,
    More than with liberty contented am.
    I spread my sails to the wind,
    To draw me forth from this detested bliss,
    And to reclaim me from the cloying hurt.

TANS. This occurs when spirits are vicious and tinged as with the same
hue; since, through conformity, love is excited, enkindled, and
confirmed. Thus the vicious easily concur in acts of the same vice; and
I will not refrain from repeating that which I know by experience, for
although I may have discovered in a soul vices very much abominated by
me--as, for instance, filthy avarice, base greediness for money,
ingratitude for favours and courtesies received, or a love of quite vile
persons, of which this last most displeases, because it takes away the
hope from the lover, that by becoming or making himself more worthy he
may become more acceptable--in spite of all this, it is true that I did
burn for corporeal beauty. But how? I loved against my will; for, were
it not so, I should have been more saddened than cheered by troubles and

CIC. It is a very proper and nice distinction that is made between
loving and liking.

TANS. Truly; because we like many--that is, we desire that they be wise
and just; but we love them not because they are unjust and ignorant;
many we love because they are beautiful, but we do not like them,
because they do not deserve it; and amongst other things of which the
lover deems the loved one undeserving, the first is, being loved; and
yet, although he cannot abstain from loving, nevertheless he regrets it,
and shows his regret like him who said, "Woe is me! who am compelled by
passion to coalesce with evil." In the opposite mood was he, either
through some corporeal object in similitude or through a divine subject
in reality, when he said:


    Although to many pains thou dost subject me,
    Yet do I thank thee, love, and owe thee much,
    That thou my breast dost cleave with noble wound,
    And then dost take my heart and master it.
    Thus true it is, that I, on earth, adore
    A living object, image most beautiful of God.
    Let him who will think that my fate is bad
    That kills in hope and quickens in desire.
    My pasture is the high emprise,
    And though the end desired be not attained,
    And though my soul in many thoughts is spent,
    Enough that she enkindle noble fire,
    Enough that she has lifted me on high,
    And from the ignoble crowd has severed me.

Here his love is entirely heroic and divine, and as such, I wish it to
be understood; although he says that through it he is subject to many
pangs, every lover who is separated from the thing loved (to which being
joined by affection he would also wish to be actually), being in anguish
and pain, he torments himself, not forsooth because he loves, since he
feels his love is engaged most worthily and most nobly, but because he
feels deprived of that fruition which he would obtain if he arrived at
that end to which he tends. He suffers, not from the desire which
animates him, but from the difficulty in the cultivation of it which so
tortures him. Others esteem him unhappy through this appearance of an
evil destiny, as being condemned to these pangs, for he will never cease
from acknowledging the obligation he is under to love, nor cease from
rendering thanks to him because he has presented before the eyes of his
mind such an intelligible conception through which, in this earthly
life, shut in this prison of the flesh, wrapped in these nerves and
supported by these bones, it is permitted to him to contemplate the
divinity in a more suitable manner than if other conceptions and
similitudes than these had offered themselves.

CIC. The divine and living object, then, of which he speaks, is the
highest intelligible conception that he has been able to form to himself
of the divinity, and is not some corporeal beauty which might overshadow
his thought and appear superficially to the senses.

TANS. Even so; because no tangible thing nor conception of such can
raise itself to so much dignity.

CIC. Why, then, does he mention that conception as the object, if, as
appears to me, the true object is the divinity itself?

TANS. The divinity is the final object, the ultimate and most perfect,
but not in this state, where we cannot see God except as in a shadow or
a mirror, and therefore He cannot be the object except in some
similitude, but not in such as may be extracted or acquired from
corporeal beauty and excellence, by virtue of the senses, but such as
may be formed in the mind, by virtue of the intellect. In which state,
finding himself, he comes to lose the love and affection for every other
thing senseful as well as intellectual, because this, conjoined to that
light, itself also becomes light, and in consequence becomes a god:
because it contracts the divinity into itself, it being in God through
the intention with which it penetrates into the divinity so far as it
can, and God being in it, so that after penetrating, it comes to
conceive, and so far as it can, receive and comprehend the divinity in
its conception. Now in such conceptions and similitudes the human
intellect of this lower world nourishes itself, till such time as it
will be lawful to behold with purer eye the beauty of the divinity. As
happens to him, who, absorbed in the contemplation of some elaborate
architectural work, goes on examining one thing after another in it,
enchanted and feeding in a wonder of delight; but if it should happen
that he sees the lord of all those pictures, who is of a beauty
incomparably greater, leaving all care and thought of them, he is turned
intently to the examination of him. Here, then, is the difference
between that state where we see divine beauty in intelligible
conceptions apart from the effects, labours, works, shadows, and
similitudes of it, and that other state in which it is lawful to behold
it in real presence. He says: "My pasture is the high emprise," because
as the Pythagoreans remark, "The soul moves and turns round God, as the
body round the soul."

CIC. Then the body is not the habitation of the soul?

TANS. No; because the soul is not in the body locally, but as intrinsic
form and extrinsic framer, as that which forms the limbs indicates the
internal and external composition. The body, then, is in the soul, the
soul in the mind, the mind either is God or is in God, as Plotinus said.
As in its essence it is in God who is its life, similarly through the
intellectual operation, and the will consequent upon such operation, it
agrees with its bright and beatific object. Fitly, therefore, this
rapture of heroic enthusiasm feeds on such "high emprise." For the
object is infinite, and in action most simple, and our intellectual
power cannot apprehend the infinite except in speech or in a certain
manner of speech, so to say in a certain potential or relative
inference, as one who proposes to himself the infinity, so that he may
constitute for himself a finality where no finality is.

CIC. Fitly so, because the ultimate ought not to have an end seeing
that it is ultimate. For it is infinite in intention, in perfection, in
essence, and in any other manner whatsoever of being final.

TANS. Thou sayest truly. Now in this life, that food is such that
excites more than it can appease, as that divine poet shows when he
says: "My soul is wearied, longing for the living God," and in another
place; "Attenuati sunt oculi mei suspicientes in excelsa." Therefore he
says, "And though the end desired be not attained, And that my soul in
many thoughts is spent, Enough that she enkindle noble fire:" meaning to
say that the soul comforts itself, and receives all the glory which it
is able in that state to receive, and that it is a participator in that
ultimate enthusiasm of man, in so far as he is a man in this present
condition, as we see him.

CIC. It appears to me that the Peripatetics, as explained by Averroes,
mean this, when they say that the highest felicity of man consists in
perfection through the speculative sciences.

TANS. It is true, and they say well; because we, in this state, cannot
desire nor obtain greater perfection than that in which we are, when our
intellect, by means of some noble and intelligible conception, unites
itself either to the substance of things hoped for, as those say, or to
the divine mind, as it is the fashion to say of the Platonists. For the
present, I will leave reasoning about the soul, or man in another state
or mode of being than he can find himself or believe himself to be in.

CIC. But what perfection or satisfaction can man find in that knowledge
which is not perfect?

TANS. It will never be perfect, so far as understanding the highest
object is concerned; but in so far as our intellect can understand it.
Let it suffice that in this and other states there be present to him the
divine beauty so far as the horizon of his vision extends.

CIC. But all men cannot arrive at that, which one or two may reach.

TANS. Let it suffice that all "run well," and that each does his utmost,
for the heroic nature is content and shows its dignity rather in
falling, or in failing worthily in the high undertaking, in which it
shows the dignity of its spirit, than in succeeding to perfection in
lower and less noble things.

CIC. Truly a dignified and heroic death is better than a mean, low

TANS. On that theme I made this sonnet:


    Since I have spread my wings to my desire,
    The more I feel the air beneath my feet,
    So much the more towards the wind I bend
    My swiftest pinions,
    And spurn the world and up towards heaven I go.
    Not the sad fate of Daedalus's son
    Does warn me to turn downwards,
    But ever higher will I rise.
    Well do I see, I shall fall dead to earth;
    But what life is there can compare with this my death?
    Out on the air my heart's voice do I hear:
    "Whither dost thou carry me, thou fearless one?
    Turn back. Such over-boldness rarely grief escapes."
    "Fear not the utmost ruin then," I said,
    "Cleave confident the clouds and die content,
    That heaven has destined thee to such illustrious death."

CIC. I understand when you say: "Enough that thou hast lifted me on
high;" but not: "And from the ignoble crowd hast severed me;" unless it
means his having come out from the Platonic groove on account of the
stupid and low condition of the crowd; for those that find profit in
this contemplation cannot be numerous.

TANS. Thou understandest well; but thou mayst also understand, by the
"ignoble crowd," the body, and sensual cognition, from which he must
arise and free himself who would unite with a nature of a contrary

CIC. The Platonists say there are two kinds of knots which link the soul
to the body. One is a certain vivifying action which from the soul
descends into the body, like a ray; the other is a certain vital
quality, which is produced from that action in the body. Now this active
and most noble number, which is the soul, in what way do you understand
that it may be severed from the ignoble number, which is the body?

TANS. Certainly it was not understood according to any of these modes,
but according to that mode whereby those powers which are not
comprehended and imprisoned in the womb of matter, sometimes as if
inebriated and stupefied, find that they also are occupied in the
formation of matter and in the vivification of the body; then, as if
awakened and brought to themselves, recognizing its principle and
genius, they turn towards superior things and force themselves on the
intelligible world as to their native abode, and from thence, through
their conversion to inferior things, they are thrust into the fate and
conditions of generation. These two impulses are symbolized in the two
kinds of metamorphosis expressed in the following:


    That god who shakes the sounding thunder,
    Asteria as a furtive eagle saw;
    Mnemosyne as shepherd; Danae gold;
    Alcmene as a fish; Antiope a goat;
    Cadmus and his sister a white bull;
    Leda as swan, and Dolida as dragon;
    And through the lofty object I become,
    From subject viler still, a god.
    A horse was Saturn;
    And in a calf and dolphin Neptune dwelt;
    Ibis and shepherd Mercury became;
    Bacchus a grape; Apollo was a crow;
    And I by help of love,
    From an inferior thing, do change me to a god.

In Nature is one revolution and one circle, by means of which, for the
perfection and help of others, superior things lower themselves to
things inferior, and, by their own excellence and felicity, inferior
things raise themselves to superior ones. Therefore the Pythagoreans and
Platonists say it is given to the soul that at certain times, not only
by spontaneous will, which turns it towards the comprehension of Nature,
but also by the necessity of an internal law, written and registered by
the destined decree, they seek their own justly determined fate; and
they also say that souls, not so much by determination of their own will
as through a certain order, by which they become inclined towards
matter, decline as rebels from divinity; wherefore, not by free
intention, but by a certain occult consequence, they fall. And this is
the inclination that they have to generation, as towards a minor good.
Minor, I say, in so far as it appertains to that particular nature; not
in so far as it appertains to the universal nature, where nothing
happens without the highest aim, and which disposes of all things
according to justice. In which generation finding themselves once more
through the changes which permutably succeed, they return again to the
superior forms.

CIC. So that they mean, that souls are impelled by the necessity of
fate, and have no proper counsel which guides them at all.

TANS. Necessity, fate, nature, counsel, will, those things, justly and
rightfully ordained, all agree in one. Besides which, as Plotinus
relates, some believe that certain souls can escape from their own evil,
if knowing the danger, they seek refuge in the mind before the corporeal
habit is confirmed; because the mind raises to things sublime, as the
imagination lowers to inferior things. The mind always understands one,
as the imagination is one in movement and in diversity; the mind always
understands one, as the imagination is always inventing for itself
various images. In the midst is the rational faculty, which is a
mixture of all, like that in which the one agrees with the many,
sameness with variety, movement with fixedness, the inferior with the
superior. Now these transmutations and conversions are symbolized in the
wheel of metamorphosis, where man sits on the upper part, a beast lies
at the bottom, a half-man, half-beast descends from the left, and a
half-beast, half-man ascends from the right. This transmutation is shown
where Jove, according to the diversity of the affections and the
behaviour of those towards inferior things, invests himself with divers
figures, entering into the form of beasts; and so also the other gods
transmigrate into base and alien forms. And, on the contrary, through
the knowledge of their own nobility, they re-take their own divine form;
as the passionate hero, raising himself through conceived kinds of
divine beauty and goodness, with the wings of the intellect and rational
will, rises to the divinity, leaving the form of the lower subject. And
therefore he said, "I become from subject viler still, a god. From an
inferior thing do change me to a god."

=Fourth Dialogue.=


Thus is described the discourse of heroic love, in all which tends to
its own object, which is the highest good; and heroic intellect, which
devotes itself to the study of its own object, which is the primal
verity, or absolute truth. Now the first discourse holds the sum of this
and the intention, the order of which is described in five others


    To the woods, the mastiffs and the greyhounds young Actæon leads,
    When destiny directs him into the doubtful and neglected way,
    Upon the track of savage beasts in forests wild.
    And here, between the waters, he sees a bust and face more beautiful
          than e'er was seen
    By mortal or divine, of scarlet, alabaster, and fine gold;
    He sees, and the great hunter straight becomes that which he hunts.
    The stag, that towards still thicker shades now goes with lighter
    His own great dogs swiftly devour.
    So I extend my thoughts to higher prey, and these
    Now turning on me give me death with cruel savage bite.

Actæon signifies the intellect, intent on the pursuit of divine wisdom
and the comprehension of divine beauty. He lets loose the mastiffs and
the greyhounds, of whom the latter are more swift and the former more
strong, because the operation of the intellect precedes that of the
will; but this is more vigorous and effectual than that; seeing that, to
the human intellect, divine goodness and beauty are more loveable than
comprehensible, and love it is that moves and urges the intellect, and
precedes it as a lantern. The woods, uncultivated and solitary places,
visited and penetrated by few, and where there are few traces of men.
The youth of little skill and practice, as of one of short life and of
wavering enthusiasm. In the doubtful road of uncertain and distorted
reason--a disposition assigned to the character of Pythagoras--where you
see the most thorny, uncultivated, and deserted to be the right and
difficult path, where he lets loose the greyhounds and the mastiffs upon
the track of savage beasts, that is, the intelligible kinds of ideal
conceptions, which are occult, followed by few, visited but rarely, and
which do not disclose themselves to all those who seek them. Here,
amongst the waters,--that is, in the mirror of similitude, in those
works where shines the brightness of divine goodness and splendour,
which works are symbolized by the waters superior and inferior, which
are above and below the firmament, he sees the most beautiful bust and
face--that is, external power and operation, which it is possible to
see, by the habit and act of contemplation and the application of mortal
or divine mind, of man or any god.

CIC. I do not believe that he makes a comparison, nor puts as the same
kind the divine and the human mode of comprehending, which are very
diverse, but as to the subject they are the same.

TANS. So it is. He says "of red and alabaster and gold," because that
which in bodily beauty is red, white, and fair, in divinity signifies
the scarlet of divine vigorous power, the gold of divine wisdom, the
alabaster of divine beauty, through the contemplation of which the
Pythagoreans, Chaldeans, Platonists, and others, strive in the best way
that they can to elevate themselves. "The great hunter saw," he
understood as much as was possible, and became the hunted. He went out
for prey, and this hunter became himself the prey, by the operation of
the intellect converting the things learned into itself.

CIC. I understand. He forms intelligible conceptions in his own way and
proportions them to his capacity, so that they are received according to
the manner of the recipient.

TANS. And does he hunt through the operation of the will, by the act of
which he converts himself into the object?

CIC. As I understand: because love transforms and converts into the
thing loved.

TANS. Well dost thou know that the intellect learns things
intelligibly--_i.e._, in its own way, and the will pursues things
naturally, that is, according to the reason that is in themselves. So
Actæon with those thoughts--those dogs--which hunted outside themselves
for goodness, wisdom, and beauty, thus came into the presence of the
same, and ravished out of himself by so much splendour, he became the
prey, saw himself converted into that for which he was seeking, and
perceived, that of his dogs or thoughts, he himself came to be the
longed-for prey; for having absorbed the divinity into himself it was
not necessary to search outside himself for it.

CIC. For this reason it is said "the kingdom of Heaven is in us;"
divinity dwells within through the reformed intellect and will.

TANS. It is so. See then, Actæon hunted by his own dogs--pursued by his
own thoughts--runs and directs these novel paces, invigorated so as to
proceed divinely and "more easily," that is, with greater facility and
with refreshed vigour "towards the denser places," to the deserts and
the region of things incomprehensible. From being such as he first was,
a common ordinary man, he becomes rare and heroic, his habits and ideas
are strange, and he leads an unusual life. Here his great dogs "give him
death," and thus ends his life according to the mad, sensual, blind, and
fantastic world, and he begins to live intellectually; he lives the life
of the gods, fed on ambrosia and drunk with nectar.

Next we see under the form of another similitude the manner in which he
arms himself to obtain the object. He says:


    My solitary bird! away unto that region
    Which overshadows and which occupies my thought,
    Go swiftly, and there nestle; there every
    Need of thine be strengthened,
    There all thy industry and art be spent!
    There be thou born again, and there on high,
    Gather and train up thy wandering fledglings
    Since adverse fate has drawn away the bars
    With which she ever sought to block thy way.
    Go! I desire for thee a nobler dwelling-place,
    And thou shalt have for guide a god,
    Who is called blind by him who nothing sees.
    Go! and ever be by thee revered,
    Each deity of that wide sphere,
    And come not back to me till thou art mine.

The progress symbolized above by the hunter who excites his dogs, is
here illustrated by a winged heart, which is sent out of the cage, in
which it lived idle and quiet, to make its nest on high and bring up its
fledglings, its thoughts, the time being come in which those impediments
are removed, which were caused, externally, in a thousand different
ways, and internally by natural feebleness. He dismisses his heart then
to make more magnificent surroundings, urging him to the highest
propositions and intentions, now that those powers of the soul are more
fully fledged, which Plato signifies by the two wings, and he commits
him to the guidance of that god, who, by the unseeing crowd, is
considered insane and blind, that is Love, who, by the mercy and favour
of heaven, has power to transform him into that nature towards which he
aspires, or into that state from which, a pilgrim, he is banished.
Whence he says, "Come not back to me till thou art mine," and not
unworthily may I say with that other--

    Thou has left me, oh, my heart,
    And thou, light of my eyes, art no more with me.

Here he describes the death of the soul, which by the Kabbalists is
called the death by kisses, symbolized in the Song of Solomon, where the
friend says:

    Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth,
    For, when he wounds me,
    I suffer with a cruel love.

By others it is called sleep; the Psalmist says:

    It shall be, that I give sleep unto mine eyes,
    And mine eyelids shall slumber,
    And I shall have in him peaceful repose.

The soul then is said to be faint, because it is dead in itself, and
alive in the object:


    Give heed, enthusiasts, unto the heart!
    For mine condemns me to a life apart,
    Bound by unmerciful and cruel ties,
    He dwells with joy, there where he faints and dies.
    At every hour I call him back by thoughts:
    A rebel he, like gerfalcon insane,
    He feels no more the hand that did restrain,
    And is gone forth not to return again.
    Thou beauteous beast that dost in punishment
    Knit up the soul, spirit and heart content'st
    With pricks, with lightnings, and with chains!
    From looks, from accents, and from usages,
    Which faint and burn and keep thee bound,
    Where shall he that heals, that cools, and loosens thee be found?

Here the soul, sorrowful, not from real discontent, but on account of
pains which she suffers, directs the discourse to those who are affected
by passions similar to her own: as if she had not of her own free will
and of her own desire dismissed her heart, which goes running whither it
cannot arrive, stretches out to that which it cannot reach, and tries to
enfold that which it cannot comprehend, and with this, because he vainly
separates from her, ever more and more goes on aspiring towards the

CIC. Whence comes it, oh Tansillo, that the soul in such progression
delights in its own torments? Whence comes that spur which urges it ever
beyond that which it possesses?

TANS. From this, which I will tell thee now. The intellect being
developed to the comprehension of a certain definite and specific form,
and the will to a love commensurate with such comprehension; the
intellect does not stop there, but by its own light it is prompted to
think of this: that it contains within itself the germ of everything
intelligible and desirable, until it comes to comprehend with the
intellect the depth of the fountain of ideas, the ocean of every truth
and goodness. So that it happens, that whatever conception is presented
to the mind, and becomes understood by it, from that which is so
presented and comprehended it judges, that above it, is other greater
and greater, and finds itself ever in a certain way discoursing and
moving with it. Because it sees that all which it possesses is only a
limited thing, and therefore cannot be sufficient of itself, nor good of
itself, nor beautiful of itself; because it is not the universal nor the
absolute entity; but contracted into being this nature, this species,
this form, represented to the intellect and present to the soul. Then
from the beautiful that is understood, and consequently limited, and
therefore beautiful through participation, it progresses towards that
which is really beautiful, which has no margin, nor any boundaries.

CIC. This progression appears to me useless.

TANS. Not so. For it is not natural nor suitable that the infinite be
restricted, nor give itself definitely, for it would not then be
infinite. To be infinite, it must be infinitely pursued with that form
of pursuit which is not incited physically, but metaphysically, and is
not from imperfect to perfect, but goes circulating through the grades
of perfection to arrive at that infinite centre which is not form, and
is not formed.

CIC. I should like to know how, by circumambulating, one is to arrive at
the centre?

TANS. I cannot know that.

CIC. Why do you say it?

TANS. I can say it, and leave it to you to consider.

CIC. If you do not mean that he who pursues the infinite is like him who
talks about the circumference when he is seeking for the centre, I do
not know what you mean.

TANS. Quite the contrary.

CIC. Now if you will not explain yourself, I cannot understand you; but
tell me, prythee, what he means by saying the heart is bound by cruel,
spiteful bonds.

TANS. He speaks in similitude or metaphor; as you would say, cruel was
one who did not allow a full enjoyment, and who lives more in the desire
than in possession, and who, partially possessing, is not content, but
desires, faints, and dies.

CIC. What are those thoughts that call him back from the noble

TANS. The sensual and natural affections, which regard the government of
the body.

CIC. What have they to do with it, that in no way can either help or
favour it?

TANS. They have not to do with it, but with the soul, which, being so
absorbed in one work or study, becomes remiss and careless in others.

CIC. Why does he call him insane?

TANS. Because he surpasses in knowledge.

CIC. It is usual to call insane those who know nothing.

TANS. On the contrary. Those are called insane who know not in the
ordinary way, or who rise above the ordinary from having more intellect.

CIC. I perceive that thou sayest truly. Now tell me what are the pricks,
the lightnings, and the chains?

TANS. Pricks are those experiences that stimulate and awaken the
affection, to make it on the alert; lightnings are the rays of the
present beauty, which enlighten those who watch and wait for them;
chains are those effects and circumstances which keep fixed the eyes of
attention and unite together the object and the powers.

CIC. What are the looks, the accents, and the customs?

TANS. Looks are the means by which the object is made present to us;
accents are the means through which we are inspired and informed;
customs are the circumstances which are most pleasant and agreeable to
us. So that the heart that gently suffers, patiently burns and
constantly perseveres in the work, fears that its hurt will heal, its
fire be extinguished, and its bands be loosened.

CIC. Now relate that which follows.



    Lofty, profound, and stirring thoughts of mine,
    Ye long to sever the maternal ties
    Of the afflicted soul, and like to proud
    And able bowmen, draw at the mark,
    Which is the germ of all your high conceits.
    In those steep paths where cruel beasts may be,
    Let not heaven leave ye!
    Remember to return, and summon back
    The heart that tarries with the wild wood nymph;
    Arm ye with love,
    Warm with the flame of domesticity,
    And with strong repression guard thy sight,
    That strangers keep thee not companioned with my heart;
    At least bring news of that,
    Which unto him is such delight and joy.

Here he describes the natural solicitude of the attentive soul on the
subject, of its inclination towards generation, which it has contracted
with matter. She dispatches the armed thoughts, which, solicited and
urged by disagreement with the inferior nature, are sent to recall the
heart. The soul instructs them how they should conduct themselves, so
that, being allured and attracted by the object, they do not become
induced to remain, they also, captive and companions of the heart. She
says, then, they are to arm themselves with love, with that love that is
fired by the domestic flame; that is, the friend of generation, to whom
they are bound, and in whose jurisdiction, ministry, and warfare they
find themselves. Anon she orders them to repress their eyesight and to
close their eyes, so that they may not behold other beauty or goodness
than that which is present, friend and mother; and concludes at last
with this, that if no other reason will cause them to return, they
should at least do so, to give account of the discourse and of the state
of the heart.

CIC. Before you proceed further, I would understand from you what is
that which the soul means when she tells the thoughts to repress the
sight vigorously.

TANS. I will tell thee. All love proceeds from seeing: intelligent love,
from seeing intelligently; sensuous love, from seeing sensuously. Now
this seeing has two meanings: either it means the visual power, that is
the sight, which is the intellect, or truly the sense; or it means the
act of that power, that is, that application which the eye or the
intellect makes to the material or intellectual object. When the
thoughts are counselled to repress the sight, it is not the first, but
the second, mode that is meant, because that is the father of the
subsequent affection of the sensuous or intellectual desire.

CIC. This is what I wished to hear from you. Now, if the act of the
visual power is the cause of the evil or good which proceed from seeing,
whence comes it that in things divine we have more love than knowledge?

TANS. We desire to see, because in some way we perceive the value of
seeing. We are aware that, through the act of seeing, beautiful things
offer themselves to us; and therefore we desire beautiful things.

CIC. We desire the beautiful and the good; but seeing is not beautiful
nor good; rather is it the touchstone or light by which we see, not only
the beautiful and good, but also the evil and bad. Therefore it seems to
me that seeing may be equally beautiful or good, as the thing seen may
be white or black. If, then, the sight, which is an act, is not
beautiful nor good, how can it fall into desire?

TANS. If not for itself, yet certainly for some other reason, it is
desired, seeing that there can be no apprehension of that other without

CIC. What wilt thou say, if that other is not within the knowledge of
the senses nor of the intellect? How, I say, can that be desired which
is not seen, if there is no knowledge whatever of it--if towards it
neither the intellect nor the sense has exercised any act whatever; but,
on the contrary, it is even dubious whether it be intellectual or
sensuous, whether a thing corporeal or incorporeal, whether it be one or
two or more, or of one fashion or of another?

TANS. I answer, that in the sense and the intellect there is one desire
and one impulse to the sensuous in general; because the intellect will
hear the whole truth, so that it may learn all that is beautiful or good
intelligently; the power of the senses will inform itself of all that is
sensuous, so that it may know all that is good and beautiful in the
world of the senses. Hence it follows that not less do we desire to see
things unknown and unseen than those known and seen. And from this it
does not follow that the desire does not proceed from cognition, and
that we desire something that is not known; but I say that it is certain
and sure that we do not desire unknown things. Because, if they be
occult as to particulars, they are not occult as to generals; as in the
entire visual power is found the whole of the visible appositely, and in
the intellect all the intelligible. Therefore, as the inclination to the
act lies in its appropriateness, the result is that both these powers
incline towards the universal action, as to a thing naturally
comprehended as good. The soul, then, did not speak to the deaf or the
blind when she counselled her thoughts to repress the sight, which,
although it may not be the immediate cause of the will, is yet the
primal and principal cause.

CIC. What do you mean by this last saying?

TANS. I mean that it is not the figure or the conception, sensibly or
intelligently represented, which of itself moves us; because while one
stands beholding the figure manifested to the eyes, he does not yet
arrive at loving; but from that instant that the soul conceives within
itself that figure, not visible, but thinkable; no longer dividual, but
individual; no longer classed among things in general, but among things
good and beautiful; then immediately love is born. Now this is the
seeing, from which the soul desires to divert the eyes of her thoughts.
Here the sight usually moves the affection to a greater love than the
love of that which is seen; for, as I have just said, it always
considers, through the universal knowledge that it holds of the
beautiful and the good, that, besides the degrees of known conceptions
of goodness and beauty, there are others and yet others _ad infinitum_.

CIC. How is it that after we become informed of that conception of the
beautiful which is begotten in the soul, we yet desire to satisfy the
exterior vision?

TANS. From this, that the soul would ever love that which it loves, and
ever see that which it sees. Therefore she wills that, the conception
which has been produced in her through seeing, should not become
weakened, enervated and lost; but would ever see more and more, and that
which becomes obscure in the interior affection, should be frequently
brightened by the exterior aspect, which as it is the principle of
being, must also be the principle of conservation. This results
proportionately in the act of understanding and of considering, for as
the sight has reference to visible things, so has the intellect to
intelligible things. I believe now that you understand to what end and
in what manner the soul tends, when she says "repress the sight."

CIC. I understand very well. Now continue to unfold what happens to
these thoughts.

TANS. Now follows the disagreement between the mother and the aforesaid
children, who having, contrary to her orders, opened their eyes, and,
having fixed them on the splendour of the object, they remained in
company with the heart.


    Cruel sons are ye to me, me whom ye left
    Still farther to exasperate my pain;
    And ever without cease ye weary me,
    Taking away from me my every hope!
    Why should the sense remain? oh, grasping heavens!
    Wherefore these broken ruined powers, if not
    To make me subject and exemplar
    Of such heavy martyrdom, such lengthened pain?
    Leave, dear sons, my winged fire enchained,
    And let me, some of you once more behold,
    Come back to me from those retaining claws!
    Oh, weariness! not one returns
    To bring a late refreshment to my pains.

Behold me, miserable one, deprived of heart, abandoned of thoughts, left
by hope, I, who had fixed my all in them. Nothing is left to me but the
sense of my poverty, my unhappiness and misery; why does not this too
leave me? Why does not death succour me, now that I am deprived of life?
To what use do I possess these natural powers if I be deprived of the
use of them? How can I alone nourish myself with intelligible
conceptions as with intellectual bread, if the substance of this bread
be composed of this contingency. How can I linger in the intimacy of
these friendly and dear members which I have woven round me, adjusting
them with the symmetry of the elementary conditions, if my thoughts and
all my affections abandon me, intent upon the care of the bread that is
immaterial and divine? Up, up; oh my flying thoughts; up, oh my rebel
heart; let live the sense of things that are felt, and the understanding
of things intelligible, come to the succour of the body with matter and
corporeal subject, and let the understanding delight in its own objects,
to the end that this composition of the body may be realized, that this
machine dissolve not, in which, by means of the spirit, the soul is
united to the body. Why, unhappy as I am (more through domestic
circumstances than through external violence), am I doomed to see this
horrible divorce between my parts and members? Why does the intellect
trouble itself to give laws to the sense and yet deprive it of its food?
and this, on the other hand, resists; desiring to live according to its
own decrees, and not according to the decree of others; for these and
not those are able to maintain and bless it, therefore it ought to
attend to its own comfort and life, and not to that of others. There is
no harmony and concord where there is only one, where one individual
absorbs the whole being, but where there is order and analogy in things
diverse; where each thing serves its own nature. Therefore let the sense
feed according to the law of things that can be felt, the flesh be
obedient to the law of the spirit, the reason to its own law. Let them
not be confounded nor mixed. Enough that one neither mar nor prejudice
the law of the other, since it is not just that the sense outrage the
law of reason. And verily it is a shameful thing that one should
tyrannize over the other, particularly where the intellect is a pilgrim
and strange, and the sense is more domesticated and at home. I am forced
by you, my thoughts, to remain at home in charge of the house, while
others may wander wherever they will. This is a law of Nature, and
therefore a law of the author and originator of Nature. Sin on then, now
that all of you, seduced by the charm of the intellect, leave the other
part of me to the peril of death. How have you gotten this melancholy
and perverse humour, which breaks the certain and natural laws of the
true life, and which is in your own hands, for one, uncertain, and which
has no existence except in shadow, beyond the limits of fantastic
thought? Seems it to you a natural thing that they should live divinely
and not as animals and humanly, they being not gods, but men and
animals? It is a law of fate and Nature that everything should adapt
itself to the condition of its own being, wherefore then, while you
follow after the niggard nectar of the gods, do you lose that which is
present and is your own, and trouble yourself about the vain hopes of
others? Ought not Nature to refuse to give you the other good, if that
which she at present offers to you, you stupidly despise?

    Heaven the second gift denies,
    To him who does the first despise.

With these and similar reasons the soul, taking part with the weakest,
seeks to recall the thoughts to the care of the body. And these,
although late, come and show themselves, but not in that form in which
they departed, but only to declare their rebellion, and force her to
follow. And the sorrowing one thus laments:


    Ah, dogs of Actæon, ah, proud ingrates!
    Whom to the abode of my divinity I sent;
    Without hope do ye return to me;
    And, coming to the mother's side, ye bring
    Back unto me a too unhappy boon;
    Ye mangle me, and will that I live not.
    Leave me, life, that I may mount up to my sun,
    A double streamlet, mad, without my fount!
    When shall this ponderous mass of me dissolve?
    When shall it be, that, taking myself hence,
    And swiftly rising to the heights above,
    Together with my heart I may abide,
    And with my thoughts I may be deified?

The Platonists say that the soul, as to its superior part, always
consists in the intellect, in which it has more of understanding than of
soul, seeing that it is called soul only in so far as it vivifies the
body and sustains it. So here, the same essence which nourishes and
maintains the thoughts on high, together with the exalted heart, is
induced by the inferior part to afflict itself, and recall them as

CIC. So that they are not two contrary existences, but one, subject to
two contradictory terms?

TANS. So it is, precisely. As the ray of the sun which touches the
earth, and is joined to obscure and to inferior things, which it
brightens, vivifies, and kindles, and is then joined to the element of
fire--that is, to the star, whence it proceeds, and has its beginning,
and is diffused, and in which it has its own and original
subsistence--so the soul, which is in the horizon of Nature, is
corporeal and incorporeal, and contains that with which it rises to
superior things and declines to things inferior. And this, you may
perceive, does not happen by reason and order of local motion, but
solely through the impulse of one and of another power or faculty. As
when the sense rises to the imagination, the imagination to the reason,
the reason to the intellect, the intellect to the mind, then the whole
soul is converted into God, and inhabits the intelligible world; whence,
on the other hand, she descends in an inverse manner to the world of
feeling, through the intellect, reason, imagination, sense, vegetation.

CIC. It is true that I have heard that the soul, in order to put itself
in the ultimate degree of divine things, descends into the mortal body,
and from this goes up again to the divine degrees, which are three
degrees of intelligence. For there are others in which the intellectual
surpasses the animal, which are said to be the celestial intelligences;
and others in which the animal surpasses the intellectual, which are the
human intelligences; others there are, of which those things are equal,
as those of demons or heroes.

TANS. The mind then cannot desire except that which is near, close,
known, and familiar. The pig cannot desire to be a man, nor wish for
those things that are suitable to the human appetite. He likes better
to turn about in mud than in a bed of linen, he would prefer a sow to
the most beautiful of women, because the affection follows the reason of
the species. And amongst men the same thing is seen, according as some
resemble one species of brute beast and some another: these having
something of the quadruped, and those of birds, and, may be, some
affinity, which I will not explain, but through which those have been
known who are affected by certain sorts of beasts. Now, it is lawful for
the mind which finds itself oppressed by the material conjunction of the
soul, to raise itself to the contemplation of another state, to which
the soul may arrive, comparing the two, and so through the future
despise the present. If a beast had a sense of the difference which
exists between his own condition and that of man, and the meanness of
his own state with the nobility of the human state, which he would deem
it not impossible to be able to reach, he would love death, which would
open to him that road, more than that life which keeps him in the
present state of being. When the soul complains, saying, "Ah! dogs of
Actæon!" she is represented as a thing which appears only in the
inferior powers, and against which the mind rebels for having taken away
the heart with it; that is to say, the entire affections, with all the
army of the thoughts. So that, having a knowledge of the present state,
and being ignorant of every other, and not believing that others exist
about which she can have any knowledge, she complains of her thoughts,
which, tardily turning towards her, come rather to draw her up than to
make themselves accepted by her. And through the distraction which she
endures on account of the ordinary love of the material and of things
intelligible, she feels herself lacerated and mangled, so that at last
she is forced to yield to the more vigorous impulse. And if, by virtue
of contemplation, she rises or is caught up above the horizon of the
natural affections, whence with purer eye she learns the difference
between the one life and the other, then, vanquished by the lofty
thoughts, and, as if dead to the body, she aspires to that which is
elevated, and, although alive in the body, she vegetates there as if
dead, being present as an animating principle and absent in operative
activity; not because she does not act while the body is alive, but that
the actions of this mass are intermittent, weak, and, as it were,

CIC. Thus a certain theologian, who was said to be transported to the
third heaven and enchanted with the view of it, said that what he
desired was the dissolution of his body.

TANS. So; first complaining of the heart and quarrelling with the
thoughts, she now desires to rise on high with them, and exhibits her
regret for the connection and familiarity contracted with corporeal
matter, and says: "Leave me life (corporeal), and do not impede my
progress upwards to my native home, to my sun. Leave me now, for no
longer do my eyes weep tears; neither because I cannot succour them (the
thoughts), nor because I cannot remain divided from my happiness. Leave
me, for it is not fit nor possible that these two streams should run
without their source, that is, without the heart. I will not, I say,
make two rivers of tears here below, while my heart, which is the source
of such rivers, is flown away on high with its nymphs, which are my
thoughts." Thus, little by little, from dislike and regret, she proceeds
to the hatred of inferior things, which she partly shows, saying, "When
shall this ponderous mass of me dissolve?" and that which follows.

CIC. This I understand right well, and also that which you would infer
about the principal intention; that is to say, that these are the
degrees of the loves, of the affections, and of the enthusiasms,
according to the degrees of greater and lesser light, of cognition, and
of intelligence.

TANS. Thou understandest rightly. From this thou oughtest to learn that
doctrine taken from the Pythagoreans and Platonists, which is, that the
soul makes the two progressions of ascent and descent, by the care that
it has of itself and of matter; being moved by its own proper love of
good, and being urged by the providence of fate.

CIC. But, prythee, tell me briefly what you mean about the soul of the
world, if she can neither ascend nor descend?

TANS. If you ask of the world, according to the common
signification--that is, in so far as it signifies what is called the
universe--I say that, being infinite, it has no dimension or measure, is
immobile, inanimate, and without form, notwithstanding it is the place
of infinite moving worlds and is infinite space, in which are so many
large animals that are called stars. If you ask according to the
signification held by the true philosophers--that is, in so far as it
signifies every globe, every star, such as this earth, the body of the
sun, moon, and others--I say that such soul does not ascend nor descend,
but turns in a circle. Thus, being compounded of superior and inferior
powers, with the superior it turns round the divinity, and with the
inferior, towards the mass of the worlds, which is by it vivified and
maintained between the tropics of generation and the corruption of
living things in those worlds, serving its own life eternally; because
the act of the divine providence, always preserves it with divine heat
and light, with the same order and measure, in the ordinary and
self-same being.

CIC. I have now heard enough upon this subject.

TANS. It happens then that individual souls come to be influenced
differently as to their habits and inclinations, according to the
diverse degrees of ascension and descension, and come to display various
kinds and orders of enthusiasms, of loves, and of senses, not only in
the scale of Nature according to the orders of diverse lives which the
soul takes up in different bodies, as is expressly declared by the
Pythagoreans, Saduchimi and others, and by implication, Plato, and those
who dive more profoundly into it, but still more in the scale of human
affections, which has as many degrees as the scale of Nature; for man,
in all his powers, displays every species of being.

CIC. Therefore from the affections one may know souls, whether they are
going up or down, or whether they are from above or from below, whether
they are going on towards becoming beasts or towards divine beings,
according to the specific being as the Pythagoreans understood it; or
according to the similitude of the affections only, as is commonly
believed, the human soul not being able, (so long as it is truly human)
to become soul of a brute, as Plotinus and other Platonists well said,
on account of the quality of its beginning.

TANS. Now to come to the proposition: From animal enthusiasm, this soul,
as described, is promoted to heroic enthusiasm, saying, "When shall it
be that I rise up to the height of the object, there to dwell in company
with my heart and with my fledglings[C] and his?" This same proposition
he continues when he says:


    Destiny, when, shall I that mountain mount,
    Which, blissful to the high gates bringing, bring,
    Where those rare beauties I shall counting, count,
    When _he_ my pain with comfort comforting,
    Who my disjointed members joined,
    And leaves my dying powers not dead?
    My spirit's rival more than rivalled is
    If, far from sin, it unassailed may sail,
    If thither tending, it may waiting, wait,
    And up with that high object rising, rise,
    And if my good alone, alone I take,
    For which I sure remove of each defect effect,
    And so at last may come to enjoy with joy,
    As he who all foretells can tell.

[C] Pulcini.

O Destiny! O Fate! O divine immutable Providence! when shall it be that
I shall climb that mount--that is, that I may arrive at such altitude of
mind, as transporting me shall bring me into those outer and inner
courts where I may behold and count those rare beauties? When shall it
be, that he will effectually comfort my pain, loosening me from the
tightened bonds of those cares in which I find myself, he, who formed
and united my members, which before were disunited and disjoined: that
is Love; he who has joined together these corporeal parts, which were as
far divided as one opposite is divided from another; so that these
intellectual powers which, through his action he has extinguished,
should not be left quite dead, but be again re-animated and made to
aspire on high? When, I say, will he fully comfort me, and give my
powers free and speedy flight, by which means my substance may go and
nestle there, where, by my efforts, I may make amends and correct my
defects, and where (if I arrive) my spirit will be made effectual or
prevail over my rival, because there, no excess will oppose, no
opposition overcome, no error assail? Oh! if by force he may arrive
there, at that height which he is waiting to reach, he will remain on
high, at the elevation of his object, and he will take that good that
cannot be comprehended by any other than one, that is, by himself,
seeing that every other has it in the measure of his own capacity, and
this one alone has it in all its fulness. Then will happiness come to me
in that manner which he says, "who all foretells"; that is, at that
elevation in which the saying all and the doing all is the same thing;
in that manner that he says and does who all foretells, that is, who is
sufficient for all things and primary, and whose word and pre-ordaining
is the true doing and beginning. This is how, in the scale of things
superior and inferior, the affection of Love proceeds, as the intellect
or sentiment proceeds from these intelligible or knowable objects, to
those, or from those to these.

CIC. Thus the greater number of sages believe that Nature delights in
this changeful circulation which is seen in the whirling of her wheel.

=Fifth Dialogue.=


CIC. Now show me how I may be able for myself to consider the conditions
of these enthusiasts, through that which appears in the order of the
warfare here described.

TANS. Behold how they carry the ensign of their affections or fortunes.
Let us leave the consideration of their names and habits; enough that we
stand upon the meaning of the undertaking and the intelligibility of the
writing, alike that which is put for the form of the body of the figure,
as well as that which is mostly put as an elucidation of the

CIC. Thus will we do. Here then is the first, who carries a shield
divided into four colours, and in the crest is depicted a flame under
the head of bronze, from the holes in which, issue in great force a
smoky wind, and about it is written: "At regna senserunt tria."

TANS. For the explanation of this I would say: that the fire there is
that which heats the globe, inside of it is the water, and it happens
that this humid element, being rarefied and attenuated by virtue of the
heat, and thus resolved into vapour, it requires much greater space to
contain it, therefore if it does not find easy exit, it goes on with
extreme force, noise, and destruction to break the vessel; but if it
finds space and easy exit, so that it can evaporate, it goes out with
less violence, little by little, and, according as the water is resolved
into vapour, it is dissipated in puffs into the air. Here is signified
the heart of the enthusiast where, by a cleverly planned allurement
being caught by the amorous flame, it happens that some of the vital
substance sparkles with fire, while some in the form of tearful cries
rends the bosom, and some other by the expulsion of gusty sighs agitates
the air. Therefore he says: "At regna senserunt tria." Now this "at"
supposes a difference, or diversity, or opposite; as one might almost
say there exists something which might have the same sense, but has it
not, which is very well explained in the following rhymes:


    From these twin lights of me--a little earth--
    My wonted tears stream freely to the sea.
    The greedy air receives from out my breast
    No niggard part of all that breast contains;
    And from my heart the lightnings are unlocked
    That rise to heaven, and yet diminish not.
    Thus pay I to the air, the sea, the fire,
    The tribute of my sighs, my tears, my zeal.
    The sea, the air, the fire, accept a part of me,
    But my divinity no favour shows.
    Unkind she turns away. Near her
    My tears find no response;
    My voice she will not hear,
    Nor pitifully will she turn to note my zeal.

Here the subject matter signified by "earth" is the substance of the
enthusiast, which is poured from the twin lights--that is, from the
eyes--in copious tears that flow to the sea; he sends forth from his
breast into the wide air sighs in a great multitude, and the lightnings
from his heart, not like a little spark or a weak flame, which, cooling
itself in the air, smokes, and transmigrates into other beings; but,
potent and vigorous--rather acquiring from others than losing of its
own--it joins its congenial sphere.

CIC. I understand it all. To the next.


TANS. Close by is portrayed one who has on his shield a crest, also
divided into four colours. There is a sun whose rays extend to the back
of the earth, and there is a legend which says: "Idem semper ubique

CIC. I perceive that the interpretation of it will be difficult.

TANS. The more excellent the meaning the less obvious is it, and you
will see that it is unequalled, unique, and not strained. You are to
consider that the sun, although with regard to the various regions of
the earth he is for each one different as to time, place, and degree,
yet in respect of the whole globe as such, he always and in every place
accomplishes everything, for in whatever part of the ecliptic he is to
be found, he makes winter, summer, autumn, and spring, and makes the
whole globe of the earth to receive within itself the aforesaid four
seasons; for never is it hot at one side unless it is cold on the other;
when it is to us very hot in the tropic of Cancer it is very cold in the
tropic of Capricorn; so that for the same reason it is winter in that
part when it is summer in this, and to those who are in the middle, it
is temperate according to the aspect, vernal or autumnal. So the earth
always feels the rains, the winds, the heat, the cold; nor would it be
damp here if it were not dry in another part, and the sun would not warm
it on this side if it had not already left off warming it on the other.

CIC. Even before you have finished, I understand what you would say. You
mean that as the sun gives all the impressions to the earth, and this
receives them whole and entire, so the Object of the enthusiast, with
its active splendour, makes him the passive subject of tears, which are
the waters, of ardours, which are the fires, and of sighs, which are
certain vapours, which partake of both, which leave the fire, and go to
the waters, or leave the waters and go to the fire.

TANS. This is well explained below.


    When as the sun towards Capricorn declines,
    Then do the rains enrich the streams,
    As towards the line he goes, or thence returns,
    More felt is each Æolian messenger,
    Warming the more with every lengthening day
    What time towards burning Cancer he remounts.
    And equal to this heat, this cold, this zeal
    Are these my tears, my sighs, the ardour that I feel.
    My constant sighs, my never waning flames
    Are only equal to my tears.
    My floods and flames howe'er intense they be,
    Are never more so than my sighs;
    I burn with fervid heat,
    And, firmly fixed, I ever sigh and weep.

CIC. This does not so much declare the meaning of the coat of arms, as
the preceding discourse did, but it rather supplements or accompanies
that discourse.

TANS. Say, rather, that the figure is latent in the first part, and the
legend is well explained in the second; as both the one and the other
are very properly signified in the type of the sun and of the earth.

CIC. Pass on to the third.


TANS. The third bears on his shield a naked child, stretched upon the
green turf, who rests his head upon his arm, with his eyes turned
towards the sky to certain edifices, towers, gardens, and orchards,
which are above the clouds, and there is a castle of which the material
is fire, and in the middle is the sign inscribed: "Mutuo fulcimur."

CIC. What does that mean?

TANS. It means that enthusiast, signified by the naked child as simple,
pure, and exposed to all the accidents of Nature and of fortune, who at
the same time by the force of thought, constructs castles in the air,
and amongst other things a tower, of which the architect is Love, the
material is the amorous fire, and the builder is himself, who says:
"Mutuo fulcimur"--that is, I build and uphold you there with my
thought, and you uphold me here with hope; you would not be in existence
were it not for the imagination and the thought with which I form and
uphold you, and I should not be alive were it not for the refreshment
and comfort that I receive through your means.

CIC. It is true that there is no fancy so vain and so chimerical that
may not be a more real and true medicine for an enthusiastic heart than
any herb, mineral, oil, or other sort of thing that Nature produces.

TANS. Magicians can do more by means of faith than physicians by the
truth; and in the worst diseases the patients benefit more by believing
this or that which the former say, than in understanding that which the
latter do. Now let the rhymes be read.


    Above the clouds in that high place,
    When oft with dreaming I am fired,
    For comfort and refreshment of my soul
    An airy castle from my fires I build,
    And if my adverse fate incline awhile,
    And without scorn or ire will understand
    This lofty grace for which I die,
    Oh happy then my pains, happy my death.
    The ardour of those flames she does not feel,
    Nor is she hindered by those snares
    With which, oh boy! thou'rt wont to enslave
    And lead into captivity both men and gods;
    By pity's hand alone, oh Love,
    By showing all my woe, thou shalt prevail.

CIC. He shows that which feeds his fancy and bathes his spirit; yet,
inasmuch as he is without courage to explain himself and make known his
sufferings, although he is so deeply subjected to that anguish, if it
should happen that his hard, uncompromising fate should bend a little
(as, in the end, fate must soothe him, by showing itself without scorn
or anger for the high object), he would consider no happiness so great,
no life so blessed, as in such a case would be his happiness in his
woes, and his blessedness in his death.

TANS. And with this he comes to declare to Love that the means by which
he will gain access to that breast, is not in the ordinary way by the
arms with which he usually captivates men and gods, but only by causing
the fiery heart and his troubled spirit, to be laid bare, to obtain
sight of which it is necessary that compassion open the way, and
introduce him to that secret chamber.


CIC. What is the meaning of that butterfly which flutters round the
flame, and almost burns itself? and what means that legend, "Hostis non

TANS. The meaning of the butterfly is not difficult, which, seduced by
the fascinations of splendour, goes innocently and amicably to meet its
death in the devouring flames. Thus, "hostis" stands written for the
effect of the fire; "non hostis" for the inclination of the fly.
"Hostis," the fly passively; "non hostis," actively. "Hostis," the
flame, through its ardour; "non hostis," through its splendour.

CIC. Now what is that which is written on the tablet?



    Be it far from me to make complaint of love,
    Love, without whom I will not happy be,
    And though through him these weary toils I bear.
    Yet what is given my will shall not reject.
    Be clear the sky or dark, burning or cold,
    To that one phoenix e'er the same I'll be,
    No fate nor destiny can e'er untie
    That knot which death unable is to loose;
    To heart, to spirit, and to soul,
    No pleasure is, no liberty, no life,
    No smile, no rapture, no delight,
    So sweet, so grateful, so divine,
    As these hard bonds, this death of mine,
    To which by fate, by will, by nature I incline.

Here, in the figure, he shows the resemblance between the enthusiast
and the butterfly attracted towards the light; in the sonnet, however,
he demonstrates rather difference and dissimilarity; as it is commonly
believed, that if the butterfly foresaw its destruction, it would fly
from the light more eagerly than it now pursues it, and would consider
it an evil to lose its life through being absorbed into that hostile
fire. But to him (the enthusiast) it is no less pleasing to perish in
the flames of amorous ardour than to be drawn to the contemplation of
the beauty of that rare splendour, under which, by natural inclination,
by voluntary election, and by disposition of fate, he labours, serves,
and dies more gaily, more resolutely, and more courageously than under
whatsoever other pleasure which may offer itself to the heart, liberty
which may be conceded to the spirit, and life which may be discovered in
the soul.

CIC. Tell me why he says, "ever the same I'll be?"

TANS. Because it seems suitable to bring forward a reason for his
constancy, seeing that the sage does not change with the moon, although
the fool does so. Thus he is unique, as the phoenix is unique.


CIC. But what signifies that branch of palm, around which is the legend,
"Cæsar adest?"

TANS. Without further talk, all may be understood by that which is
written on the tablet:


    Unconquered victor of Pharsalia,
    Though all thy warriors be well-nigh spent,
    At sight of thee they rise once more;
    Their strength returns, they conquer their proud foes;
    So does my love--that equals love of heaven--
    Become a living presence through my thoughts;
    Thoughts that my haughty soul had killed with scorn,
    Love brings again stronger than love himself;
    Thy presence is enough, oh memory!
    These to reanimate in all their strength,
    And with imperious sov'reignty they rule
    And govern each opposing force.
    May I be happy in this governance
    And with these bonds, and may that light ne'er cease.

There are times when the inferior powers of the soul--like a vigorous
and hostile army, which finds itself in its own country practised,
expert, and ready--revolt against the foreign adversary, who comes down
from the height of the intelligence to curb the people of the valley and
of the boggy plains, where, through the baneful presence of the enemies
and of such obstacles as deep ditches, advancing they lose themselves,
and would be entirely lost, if there were not a certain conversion
towards the splendour of intellectual things through the act of
contemplation, by means of which they are converted from inferior
degrees to superior ones.

CIC. What degrees are these?

TANS. The degrees of contemplation are like the degrees of light, which
exist not at all in the darkness, slightly in shade, more in colours,
according to their orders, from one opposite which is black to the other
which is white; but more fully do they exist in the splendour diffused
over pure transparent bodies, as in a looking-glass and in the moon, and
still more brightly in the rays diffused by the sun, but principally and
most brilliantly in the sun itself. Now the perceptive and the
affectional powers are ordered in this way; the next following always
has affinity for the next preceding, and by means of conversion to that
which elevates it, it becomes fortified against the inferior, which
lowers it; as the reason, through its conversion to the intellect, is
not seduced or vanquished by knowledge or comprehension or by passionate
affection, but rather, according to the law of the intellect, it is
brought to govern and correct the same. It comes to this, therefore,
that when the rational appetite strives against sensual concupiscence,
if, by the act of conversion, the intellectual light is presented to
the eyes, it causes the above appetite to take up again the lost virtue,
and giving fresh strength to the nerves, it alarms and puts to rout the

CIC. In what manner do you mean that such a conversion takes place?

TANS. With three preparatives, which are noted by the contemplative
Plotinus in the book of "Intellectual Beauty;" and, of these, the first
is by proposing to conform himself to a divine pattern, diverting the
sight from things which stand between him and his own perfection, and
which are common to those things which are equal and inferior. The
second is by applying himself, with full intention and attention, to
superior things. The third is by bringing into captivity to God the
whole will and affection: for from this it comes to pass that, without
doubt, the divinity will influence him; who is everywhere present, and
ready to come to the aid of whosoever turns to Him through the act of
the intelligence, and who unreservedly presents himself with the
affection of the will.

CIC. It is not then corporeal beauty which can allure such an one?

TANS. No, certes; because in that there is no true nor constant beauty,
and for this reason it cannot evoke true nor constant love. That beauty,
which is seen in bodies is accidental and transitory, and is like those
which are absorbed, changed, and spoiled by the changing of the subject,
which very often, from being beautiful, becomes ugly, without any change
taking place in the soul. The reason then comprehends the truest beauty,
through conversion, to that which makes the beauty of the body, and
forms it in loveliness--it is the soul which has thus built and designed
it. Now does the intellect rise still higher, and learns that the soul
is incomparably more beautiful than any beauty that may be in bodies;
but yet it cannot persuade itself that it is beautiful of itself and
primarily, for if it be so, what is the cause of that difference which
exists in the quality of souls, by which some are wise, amiable, and
beautiful, others stupid, odious, and ugly. We must then raise ourselves
to that superior intellect which is beautiful in itself and good in
itself. This is that sole supreme captain who alone, placed before the
eyes of the militant thoughts, enlivens, encourages, strengthens them,
and renders them victorious above the scorn of every other beauty and
the repudiation of every other good whatsoever. This is the presence
which causes every difficulty to be overcome and all opposition to be

CIC. I understand it all; but what is the meaning of, "May I be happy in
this governance and with these bonds, and may that light not cease?"

TANS. He means, and he proves, that every sort of love, the greater its
dominion and the surer its hold, the more tight are the bonds, and the
more firm the yoke, and the more ardent the flames that are felt, as
compared with the ordinary princes and tyrants, who adopt a greater
rigour wherever they see they have less hold.

CIC. Go on.


TANS. Here we see described the idea of a flying phoenix, towards which
is turned a boy who is burning in the midst of flames; and there is the
legend, "Fata obstant." But in order better to understand it, let us
read the tablet:


    Sole bird of the sun, thou wandering phoenix!
    That measurest thy days as does the world
    With lofty summits of Arabia Felix.
    Thou art the same thou wast, but I what I was not:
    I through the fire of love, unhappy die;
    But thee the sun with his warm rays revives;
    Thou burn'st in one, and I, in every place;
    Eros my fire, while thine Apollo gives.
    Predestined is the term of thy long life;
    Short span is mine,
    And menaced by a thousand ills.
    Nor do I know how I have lived, nor how shall live,
    Me does blind fate conduct;
    But thou wilt come again, again behold thy light.

From the meaning of these lines, you will see that in the figure is
drawn the comparison between the fate of the phoenix and that of the
enthusiast; and the legend, "Fata obstant," does not signify that the
fates are adverse either to the boy, or to the phoenix, or to both; but
that the fatal decrees for each are not the same, but are diverse and
opposite. The phoenix is that which it was, because the same matter, by
means of the fire, renews itself, and becomes again the body of the
phoenix, and the same spirit and soul come to inhabit it. The enthusiast
is that which he was not, because the subject, which is a man, was first
of some other species, according to innumerable differentiations. So
that what the phoenix was, is known, and what it will be, is known; but
this subject cannot return, except through many and uncertain means, to
invest the same or a similar natural form. Then the phoenix, through the
sun's presence, changes death into life, and that other, by the
presence of love, transmutes life into death. The one kindles his fire
on the aromatic altar, the other finds it ever present with him and
carries it wherever he goes. The one again, has certain conditions of a
long life; but the other, through the infinite differences of time and
innumerable circumstances, has the mutable conditions of a short life.
The one kindles with certainty, the other with doubt as to whether he
will see the sun again.

CIC. What do you think that this means?

TANS. It means the difference that exists between the lower intellect
called the intellect of power, either possible or passive, which is
uncertain, multifarious, and multiform, and the higher intellect, which,
perhaps, is like that which is said by the Peripatetics to be the lowest
of the intelligences, and which exerts an immediate influence over all
the individuals of the human species, and is called the active and
acting intellect. This special human intelligence which influences all
individuals is like the moon, which partakes of no other species but
that one alone which always renews itself by the transmutation caused in
it by the sun, which is the primal and universal intelligence; but the
human intellect, both individual and collective, turns as do the eyes
towards innumerable and most diverse objects; whence, according to the
infinite degrees which exist, it takes on all the natural forms. Hence
it is that this particular intellect may be as enthusiastic, vague, and
uncertain, as that universal one is quiet, fixed, and certain, whether
as regards the desire or the comprehension. Now therefore, as you may
very well perceive for yourself, it means that the nature of the
comprehension of sense and its varied appetite, is vague, inconstant,
and uncertain, and the conception and definite appetite of the
intelligence is firm and stable. This is the difference between sensual
love, which has no stability nor discretion as to its object, and
intellectual love, which aims only at one, sure and fixed, towards which
it turns, through which it is illuminated in its conception, by which,
being kindled in its affections, it becomes inflamed and brightened, and
is maintained in unity and identity of condition.


CIC. But what is the meaning of that figure of the sun, with a circle
inside and another outside, with the legend "Circuit."

TANS. The meaning of this I am certain I should never have understood if
I had not heard it from the designer of it himself. Now you must know
that "Circuit" has reference to the movement the sun makes round the
circle which is drawn inside and outside, in order to signify that the
movement both makes and is made; and hence, as a consequence, the sun is
to be found in every part of those circles; so that, if he moves and is
moved, and is over the whole circumference of the circle equally, then
you find in him both movement and rest.

CIC. This I understood in the dialogues on the infinite universe and the
innumerable worlds, where it is declared that the divine wisdom is
extremely mobile, as Solomon said, and also that the same is most
stable, as all those declare who know. Now go on and make me understand
the proposition.

TANS. It means that [D]his sun is not like this one, which is commonly
believed to go round the earth with the daily movement in twenty-four
hours, and with the planetary movement in twelve months, and by which he
causes the four seasons of the year to be felt, according as he is found
to be in the four cardinal points of the zodiac; but he is such an one,
that, being the ethereal eternity itself, and consequently an entire and
complete totality, he contains the winter, the spring, the summer, the
autumn, together with the day and the night, for he is all and for all,
in all points and places.

[D] Il suo sole.

CIC. Now apply that which you have said to the figure.

TANS. It being impossible here to design the entire sun in every point
of the circle, two circles are delineated; one which contains the sun to
signify that the movement is made through him, the other which is
contained by the sun to show that he is moved by it.

CIC. But this explanation is not very clear and appropriate.

TANS. Suffice it that it is the clearest and most appropriate that he
was able to make. If you can make a better one, you shall have
permission to remove this one and put it in its place, for this has only
been put in, so that the soul should not be without a body.

CIC. What do you say about that "Circuit?"

TANS. That legend contains all the meaning of the thing in so far as it
can be explained, for it means that he turns and is turned, that is to
say movement present and accomplished.

CIC. Excellent! And therefore those circles which so ill explain the
circumstance of movement and rest, we can say are placed there to
signify the circulation only. Thus am I satisfied with the subject and
with the form of the heroic device. Now read the lines.



    Mild are thy rays, oh, Sol! from Taurus sent,
    And from the Lion thy beams mature and burn,
    And when thy light from pungent Scorpion darts
    Transcendent is the ardour of thy flames.
    From fierce Deucalion all is struck with cold,
    Stiffened the lakes and locked the running streams.
    With spring, with summer, autumn, and with winter,
    I warm, I kindle, burn and blaze for ever.
    So ardent my desire,
    The object so supreme for which I burn;
    Glowing and unencumbered I behold,
    And make my lightnings flash unto the stars.
    No moment can I count in all the year
    To change the[E] inexorable cross I bear.

Here observe that the four seasons of the year are signified, not by
four movable signs, which are Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn, but
by the four which are called fixed--namely, Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and
Aquarius, to signify the condition, fervour, and perfection of those
seasons. Note further, that in virtue of those apostrophes, which are in
the eighth line, you can read: I warm, kindle, burn, blaze; or, be thou
warmed, kindled, burning, blazing; or, let him warm, kindle, burn,

[E] Sordi affanni.

You have farther to consider that these are not four synonyms, but four
different terms, which signify so many degrees of the effects of the
fire, which first warms, secondly kindles, thirdly burns, and fourthly
blazes or inflames that which it has warmed, kindled, and burnt. And
thus are denoted in the enthusiast, desire, attention, study, affection,
in which he never for a moment feels any change.

CIC. Why does he put them under the title of a cross?

TANS. Because the object, which is the divine light, is, in this life,
more felt as a painful longing than in quiet fruition, because our mind
is towards that, as the eyes of night birds to the sun.

CIC. Proceed; for from what you have said I understand all.


TANS. On the next crest there is painted a full moon and the legend:
"Talis mihi semper ut astro," which means that to the star--that is, to
the sun--she is ever such as she here shows herself, full and clear in
the entire circumference of the circle, which, in order that you may
better understand, I will let you hear that which is written on the


    Oh, changeful moon, inconstant moon!
    With horns now full, now void, thou wanderest.
    Mounting, thy sphere now white now dark appears.
    The mountains and the valleys of the north thou brightenest,
    And turning by thy dust-encumbered steps,
    Thou lightest in the south the Lybian heights.
    My moon for my continual pain.
    Is constant ever, ever full.
    So is my star,
    Which ever from me takes and nothing gives,
    For ever burns and ever shines,
    Cruel always yet always beautiful.
    This noble light of mine
    Torments me still and still delights me.

It seems to me, that it means that his particular intelligence is to the
universal intelligence ever the same--that is to say, the one is ever
illuminated by the other, over the whole hemisphere; notwithstanding
that to the inferior powers, and according to the influence of his
actions, it appears now dark, and now more and less clear. Or perhaps it
means that his speculative intellect, which is ever invariable in its
action, is always turned and affected towards the human intelligence
signified by the moon. Because, as this is said to be the lowest of all
the stars, and is nearest to us, so the illuminating intelligence of all
of us in this state is the last in order of the other intelligences, as
Averroes and the more subtle Peripatetics say. That intelligence, in so
far as it is not in any act, goes down before, or sets to the potential
intellect, or as if so to say, it emerged from the bottom of the occult
hemisphere, and showed itself now void, now full, according as it gives
more or less light of intelligence. Now its sphere is dark, now light,
because sometimes it shows itself as a shadow, a semblance, and a
vestige, and sometimes more and more openly: now it declines towards the
south, now it mounts towards the north--that is, now it removes farther
and farther away, and now it approaches nearer and nearer. But the
intellect, active with its continual grief--seeing that it is not
through its human condition and nature that it finds itself so wretched,
so opposed, courted, solicited, distracted, and, as it were, torn by the
inferior powers--sees its object stable, fixed and constant, and ever
full, and in the same splendour of beauty. Thus it ever takes away, in
so far as it does not concede, and ever gives, in so far as it concedes.
It ever burns in the affection in so far as it shines in thoughts, and
is always cruel in withdrawing itself through that which withdraws
itself; as it is always beautiful in communication with, that to which
it presents itself. Always does it torment when it is divided from him
by difference of locality, as always it delights him being joined to it
by affection.

CIC. Now apply your intelligence to the legend.

TANS. He says then, "talis mihi semper;" that is, because of the
continual application of my intellect, my memory, and my will, because I
will remember, understand and desire no other; she is ever the same to
me, and in so far as I can understand her, she is entirely present, and
is not separated from me by any distraction of my thoughts, nor does she
become darkened to me through any want of attention, for there is no
thought that can divert me from that light nor any necessity of nature
which forces me to a less constant attention; "talis mihi semper" on her
side, because she is invariable in substance, in virtue, in beauty, and
in effect, towards those things that are constant and invariable towards
her. She says further, "ut astro," because in respect of the sun, the
illuminator of her, she is ever equally luminous, seeing that she is
ever turned equally towards him, and he at the same time diffuses his
rays equally. As, physically, this moon that we see with the eyes,
although towards the earth she appears now dark, now shining, now more,
now less illuminated and illuminating, yet is she ever equally
irradiated by the sun, because she always reflects his rays over at
least the whole of her hemisphere. So also is the hemisphere of this
earth ever equally irradiated, although from the watery surfaces she
from time to time sends her splendours unequally to the moon,--which
like innumerable other stars we consider as another earth--in the same
manner, she also sends hers to the earth, on account of the periodical
changes which both experience in finding themselves now the one, now the
other, nearer to the sun.

CIC. How can this intelligence be signified by the moon which lights up
the hemisphere?

TANS. All the intelligences are signified by the moon, in so far as they
are sharers in act and in power, in so far as they have the light
materially and by participation, receiving it from another; I say that,
as not being lights of themselves, nor by their own nature, but by
reflection from the sun, which is the first intelligence, which is pure
and absolute light, as it is also pure and absolute action.

CIC. All those things, then, that are dependent, and are not the first
act and cause, are they composed of light and shade, of matter and
form, of power and action?

TANS. It is so. Furthermore this soul of ours, in all its substance, is
signified by the moon which shines through the hemisphere of the
superior powers, by which it is turned towards the light of the
intelligible world, and is dark through the inferior powers, by which it
is occupied with material things.


CIC. It seems to me that what has just been said has some connection and
analogy with the impression that I see on the next shield, where stands
a gnarled and rugged oak, against which the wind is raging, and it is
circumscribed by the legend, "ut robori robur," and here is the tablet,
which says:


    Old oak, that spread'st thy branches to the air,
    And firmly in the earth dost fix thy roots;
    No shifting of the land, no mighty elements,
    Which Heaven from the stormy north unlocks;
    Nor whatso'er the gruesome winter sends,
    Can tear thee from the spot where thou art chained.
    Thou art the veritable portrait of my faith,
    Which, fixed, remains 'gainst every casual chance.
    Ever the self-same ground dost thou
    Grasp, cultivate and comprehend; and stretch
    Thy grateful roots unto the generous breast.
    Upon one only object I
    Have fixed my spirit, sense, and intellect.

TANS. The legend is clear, by which the enthusiast boasts of having the
strength and vigour of the oak, and as before said of being ever the
same in respect to the one only phoenix, and in the next preceding one,
conforming himself to that moon which ever shines so brightly and is so
beautiful, and also in that he does not resemble this antichthon between
our earth and the sun in so far as it changes to our eyes, but in that
it ever receives within itself an equal amount of the solar splendour,
and through this remains constant and firm against the rough winds and
tempests of winter, through the stability that he has in his star, in
which he is planted by affection and intention, as the roots of the oak
twist and weave themselves into the veins of the earth.

CIC. I hold it better worth living in quiet and without vexation than to
be forced to endure so much.

TANS. That is a maxim of the Epicureans which, being well understood,
would not be considered so unworthy as the ignorant hold it to be,
seeing that it does not detract from what I have called virtue, nor
does it impair the perfection of firmness, but it rather adds to that
perfection as it is understood by the vulgar, for Epicurus does not hold
that, a true and complete strength and firmness which feels and bears
inconveniences, but that which bears them and feels them not. He does
not consider him perfect in divine heroic love, who feels the spur, the
check, or remorse or trouble about other love; but him who has no
feeling of other affections; so that being fixed in one pleasure, there
is no displeasure that has any power to jostle him or dislodge him from
his place. And this it is to touch the highest blessedness of this
state, to have rapture and no sense of pain.

CIC. The ignorant do not believe in this meaning of Epicurus.

TANS. Because they neither read his own books, nor those that report his
maxims without invidiousness, but there are those who read the course of
his life and the conditions of his death, where with these words he
dictated the beginning of his testament: "Being in the last, and at the
same time, the happiest day of our life, we have ordained this with a
healthy, tranquil mind at rest; for whatever acute sorrow may torment us
from one side, that torment is entirely annulled by the pleasure of our
own inventions and the consideration of our end." And it is manifest
that he no longer felt more pleasure than sorrow in eating, drinking,
repose, and in generating, but in not feeling hunger, nor thirst, nor
fatigue, nor sensuality. From this may be understood what is according
to us the perfection of firmness; not in this, that the tree neither
bends nor breaks, nor is rent, but in that it does not so much as stir,
and its prototype keeps spirit, sense, and intellect, fixed there, where
the shock of the tempest is not felt.

CIC. Do you then think it is a thing to be desired, to bear shocks in
order to prove that you are strong?

TANS. You say "to bear;" and this is a part of firmness, but it is not
the whole of that virtue, which consists in bearing strongly, as I say,
or in not feeling, as Epicurus said. Now this loss of feeling is caused
by being entirely absorbed in the cultivation of virtue, or of real good
and felicity, in such wise that Regulus did not feel the chest, Lucretia
the dagger, Socrates the poison, Anaxagoras the mortar, Scævola the
fire, Cocles the abyss, and other worthies felt not those things which
would torment and fill with terror the vulgar crowd.

CIC. Now pass on.


TANS. Look at this other who bears the device of an anvil and a hammer,
round which is the legend "ab Aetna!" But here Vulcan is introduced:


    Not now to my Sicilian mount I turn,
    Where thou dost forge the thunderbolts of Jove,
    Here, rugged Vulcan will I stay;
    Here, where a prouder giant moves,
    Who burns and rages against Heaven in vain,
    Soliciting new cares and divers trials.
    Here is a better smith and Mongibello[F]
    A better anvil, better forge and hammer;
    For here behold a bosom full of sighs,
    Which blows the furnace and the fire revives.
    The soul nor yields nor bends to these rough blows,
    But bears exulting this long martyrdom,
    And makes a harmony from these sharp pangs.

[F] Mount Etna.

Here are shown the pains and troubles which beset love, principally love
of a low kind, which is no other than the forge of Vulcan, that smith
who makes the bolts of Jove which torment offending souls. For
ill-ordered love has in itself the beginning of its own pain, seeing
that there is a God near us, in us, and with us. There is in us a
certain sacred mind and intelligence, which supplies an affection of its
own, which has its own avenger, which, through remorse for certain
shortcomings, flagellates the transgressing spirit as with a hammer. It
notes our actions and our affections, and as it is treated by us, so are
we treated by it. In every lover I say there is this smith Vulcan, and
as there is no man that has not a god within him, so there is no lover
that has not a god within him, and no lover within whom this god is not.
Most certainly there is a god in every man, but what god it is in each
one is not so easy to know. And even though we should examine and
distinguish, yet do I believe that none other than Love could declare
it, he being the one who pulls the oars, and fills the sails, and
modifies this compound, so that it comes to be well or ill affected. I
say well or ill affected as to that which it puts in execution through
the moral actions and through contemplation; for the rest, all lovers
are apt to experience some difficulties, things being as they are, so
entangled; there being no good whatever, either of conception or of the
affections, which is not joined to or stands in opposition to evil, as
there is no truth which is not joined or opposed to what is false, so
there is no love without fear, ardour, jealousy, rancour, and other
passions, which proceed from their opposites, and which disturb us, as
the other opposite causes satisfaction. Thus the soul striving to
recover its natural beauty seeks to purify itself, to heal itself, and
to reform itself, and to this end it uses fire, because, being like
gold, mixed with earth and crude, with a certain rigour it tries to
liberate itself from defilement, and this result is obtained when the
intellect, the real smith of Jove, puts itself to the work and causes an
active exercise of the intellectual powers.

CIC. It seems to me that this is referred to in the "Banquet" of Plato,
where it says that Love has inherited from his mother, Poverty, that
dried-up, thin, pale, bare-footed, and submissive condition without a
home, without anything, and through these is signified the torture of
the soul that is torn with contrary affections.

TANS. So it is; because the spirit, full of this enthusiasm, becomes
absorbed in profound thoughts, stricken with urgent cares, kindled with
fervent desires, excited by frequent crises: whence the soul, finding
itself in suspense, becomes less diligent and active in the government
of the body through the acts of the vegetative power; thus the body
becomes lean, ill-nourished, attenuated, poor in blood, and rich in
melancholy humours, and these, if they do not administer to the
disciplined soul, or to a clear and lucid spirit, may lead to insanity,
folly, and brutal fury, or at least to a certain disregard of self, and
a contempt of its own being, which is symbolized by Plato in the bare
feet. Love becomes subjected and flies suddenly down to earth when it is
attached to low things, but flies high when it is fixed upon more worthy
enterprises. In conclusion, whatever love it may be, it is ever
afflicted and tormented in such a way that it cannot fail to supply
material for the forge of Vulcan; because the soul, being a divine
thing, and by nature, not a servant but the mistress of corporeal
matter, she becomes troubled in that she voluntarily serves the body
wherein she finds nothing to satisfy her, and albeit, fixed in the thing
loved, yet now and then she becomes agitated, and fluctuates amidst the
waves of hope, fear, doubt, ardour, conscience, remorse, determination,
repentance, and other scourges, which are the bellows, the coals, the
forge, the hammer, the pincers, and other instruments which are found in
the workshop of the sordid grimy consort of Venus.

CIC. Enough has been said upon this subject. Let us see what follows.


TANS. Here is a golden apple, rich with various kinds of precious
enamel, and there is a legend about it which says, "Pulchriori detur."

CIC. The allusion to the fact of the three goddesses who submitted
themselves to the judgment of Paris is very common. But read the lines
which more specifically disclose the meaning of the present enthusiast.



    Venus, the goddess of the third heaven
    (Mother of the archer blind, who conquers all),
    She whose father is the head of Zeus,
    And Juno, most majestic wife of Jove,
    These call the Trojan shepherd to be judge,
    And to the fairest give the ruddy sphere.
    Compared with Venus, Pallas, and the Queen of Heaven,
    My perfect goddess bears away the palm.
    The Cyprian queen may boast her royal limbs,
    Minerva charm with her transcendent wit,
    And Juno with a majesty supreme;
    But she who holds my heart all these excels
    In wisdom, majesty, and loveliness.

Here he makes a comparison between his object (or ideal) which comprises
all circumstances, all conditions, and all kinds of beauty, in one
subject, and others which exhibit each only one, and that through
various hypotheses, as with corporeal beauty, all the conditions of
which Apelles could not find in one, but in many virgins. Now here,
where there are three kinds of the beautiful, although it seems that all
of these exist in each of the three goddesses--Venus not being found
wanting in wisdom and majesty, Juno not lacking loveliness and wisdom,
and Pallas being full of majesty and beauty, in each case it is a fact
that one quality exceeds the others, so that it comes to be held as
distinctive of the one, and the other as incidental to all, seeing that
of those three gifts, one predominates in each and proclaims her
sovereign over the others. And the cause of this difference lies in the
fact of possessing these qualities, not primarily and in their essence,
but by participation and derivation; as in all things which are
dependent, their perfection depends upon the degrees of major and minor
and more and less. But in the simplicity of the divine essence, all
exists in totality, and not according to any measure, and therefore
wisdom is not greater than beauty and majesty, and goodness is not
greater than strength: not only are till the attributes equal, they are
one and the same thing. As in the sphere all the dimensions are not only
equal, the length being equal to the depth and breadth, but are also
identical, seeing that what in a sphere is called deep, may also be
called long and wide. Likewise is it, as to height in divine wisdom,
which is the same as the depth of power and the breadth of goodness. All
these perfections are equal, because they are infinite. Of necessity,
one is according to the sum of the other, seeing that where things are
finite it may result in this, that it is more wise than beautiful or
good, more good and beautiful than wise, more wise and good than
powerful, and more powerful than good or wise. But where there is
infinite wisdom there cannot be other than infinite power, otherwise
there would be no infinite knowledge. Where there is infinite goodness
there must be infinite wisdom, otherwise there would be no infinite
goodness. Where there is infinite power there must be infinite goodness
and wisdom, because there is the being able to know and the knowing to
be able. Now, observe how the object of this enthusiast, who is, as it
were, inebriated with the drink of the gods, is incomparably higher
than others which are different. I mean to say that the divine essence
comprehends in the very highest degree perfection of all kinds, so that
according to the degree in which this particular form may have
participated, he can understand all, do all, and be such an attached
friend to one that he may come to feel contempt and indifference towards
every other beauty. Therefore to her should be consecrated the spherical
apple as to her who seems to be all in all; not to Venus, who is
beautiful but is surpassed in wisdom by Minerva, and by Juno in majesty;
not to Pallas than whom Venus is more beautiful, and the other more
magnificent; not to Juno, who is not the goddess of intelligence or of

CIC. Truly, as are the degrees of Nature and of the essences, so in
proportion are the degrees of the intelligible orders and the glories of
the amorous affections and enthusiasms.


CIC. The following bears a head with four faces, which blow towards the
four corners of the heavens, and are four winds in one subject; above
these stand two stars, and in the centre the legend "Novae ortae
aeoliae." I would like to know what that signifies.

TANS. I think that the meaning of this device is consequent upon that
which precedes it, for, as there the object is declared to be infinite
beauty, so here is proposed what may be called a similar aspiration,
study, affection, and desire. I believe that these winds are set to
signify sighs; but this we shall see when we come to read the lines:


    Sons of the Titan Astræus and Aurora,
    Who trouble heaven, earth, and the wide sea,
    Leave now this stormy war of elements,
    And fight anon with the high gods.
    No more in my Æolian caves ye dwell,
    No more does my restraining power compel;
    But caught are ye and closed within that breast,
    With moans and sobs and bitter sighs opprest.
    Turbulent brothers of the stars,
    Companions of the tempests of the seas,
    Those lights are all that may avail
    Peace to restore; murderous yet innocent;
    Which, open or concealed,
    Will bless with calm, or curse with pride.

Evidently, here, Æolus is introduced as speaking to the winds, which he
declares are no longer tempered by him in the Æolian caverns, but by two
stars in the breast of this enthusiast. Here, the two stars do not mean
the two eyes which are in the forehead, but the two appreciable kinds of
divine beauty and goodness, of that infinite splendour, which so
influences intellectual and rational desire, that it brings him to a
condition of infinite aspiration, according to the way and the degree
with which he comes to comprehend that glorious light. For love, while
it is finite, contented, and fixed in a certain measure, is not in the
form of the species of divine beauty, but as it goes on with ever higher
aspirations, it may be said to verge towards the infinite.

CIC.. How is breathing made to mean aspiring? What relation has desire
with the winds?

TANS. Whosoever in this present condition aspires, also sighs, and the
same breathes; and therefore the vehemence of the aspiration is noted by
the hieroglyph of strong breathing.

CIC. But there is a difference between sighing and breathing.

TANS. Therefore it is not put as if one stood for the other, or as being
identical, but as being similar.

CIC. Go on then with our proposition.

TANS. The infinite aspiration then, indicated by the sighs and
symbolized by the winds, is not under the dominion of Æolus in the Æolic
caverns, but of the aforementioned two lights, which are not only
blameless, but benevolent in killing the enthusiast, inasmuch as they
cause him to die to every other thing, except the absorbing affection;
at the same time, they, being closed and concealed, render him unquiet,
and being open, they will tranquillize him, because at this time, when
the eyes of the human mind in this body are covered with a nebulous
veil, the soul, through such studies, becomes troubled and harassed, and
he being thus torn and goaded, will attain only that amount of quiet as
will satisfy the condition of his nature.

CIC.. How can our finite intellect follow after the infinite ideal?

TANS. Through the infinite potency it possesses.

CIC. This would be useless, if ever it came into effect.

TANS. It would be useless, if it had to do with a finite action, where
infinite potency would be wanting, but not with the infinite action
where infinite potency is positive perfection.

CIC. If the human intellect is finite in nature and in act, how can it
have an infinite potency?

TANS. Because it is eternal, and in this ever has delight, so that it
enjoys happiness without end or measure; and because, as it is finite
in itself, so it may be infinite in the object.

CIC. What difference is there between the infinity of the object and the
infinity of the potentiality?

TANS. This is finitely infinite, and that infinitely infinite. But to
return to ourselves. The legend there says: "Novæ Liparææ æoliæ,"
because it seems as if we are to believe that all the winds which are in
the abysmal caverns of Æolus were converted into sighs, if we include
those which proceed from the affection, which aspires continually to the
highest good and to the infinite beauty.


CIC. Here we see the signification of that burning light around which is
written: "Ad vitam, non ad horam."

TANS. Persistence in such a love and ardent desire of true goodness, by
which in this temporal state the enthusiast is consumed. This, I think,
is shown in the following tablet:

37.[Transcribers Note: Original source said 34]

    [G]What time the day removes the orient vault,
    The rustic peasant leaves his humble home,
    And when the sun with fiercer tangent strikes,
    Fatigued and parched, he sits him in the shade;
    Then plods again with hard, laborious toil,
    Until black night the hemisphere enshrouds.
    And then he rests. But I must ever chafe
    At morning, noon-day, evening, and at night.
    These fiery rays
    Which stream from those two arches of my sun,
    Ne'er fade from the horizon of my soul.
    So wills my fate;
    But blazing every hour
    From their meridian they burn the afflicted heart.

[G] Quando il sen d'oriente il giorno sgombra.

CIC. This tablet expresses with greater truth than perspicacity the
sense of the figure.

TANS.. It is not necessary for me to make any effort to point out to you
the appropriateness, as it only requires a little attentive
consideration. The rays of the sun are the ways in which the divine
beauty and goodness manifest themselves to us; and they are fiery
because they cannot be comprehended by the intellect without at the same
time kindling the affections. The two arches of the sun are the two
kinds of revelation, that scholastic theologians call early and late,
whence our illuminating intelligence, as an airy medium, deduces that
species, either in virtue, which it contemplates in itself, or in
efficacy, which it beholds in its effects. The horizon of the soul, in
this place, is that part of the superior potentialities where the
vigorous impulse of the affection comes to aid the lively comprehension
of the intellect, being signified by the heart, which, burning at all
hours, torments itself; because all those fruits of love that we can
gather in this state are not so sweet that they have not united with
them a certain affliction, which proceeds from the fear of imperfect
fruition: as especially occurs in the fruits of natural affection, the
condition of which I cannot do better than explain in the words of the
Epicurean poet:

    Ex hominis vera facie, pulchroque colore
    Nil datur in corpus præter simulacra fruendum
    Tenuia, quæ vento spes captat sæpe misella.
    Ut bibere in somnis sitiens cum quærit, et humor
    Non datur, ardorem in membris qui stinguere possit,
    Sed laticum simulacra petit, frustraque laborat,
    In medioque sitit torrenti flumine potans:
    Sic in amore Venus simulacris ludit amantis,
    Nec satiare queunt spectando corpora coram,
    Nec manibus quicquam teneris abradere membris
    Possunt, errantes incerti corpore toto.
    Denique cum membris conlatis flore fruuntur
    Ætatis, dum jam præsagit gaudia corpus,
    Atque in eo est Venus, ut muliebria conserat arva,
    Adfigunt avide corpus, iunguntque salivas
    Oris, et inspirant pressantes dentibus ora,
    Necquiquam, quoniam nihil inde abradere possunt,
    Nec penetrare, et abire in corpus corpore toto.

In the same way, he judges as to the kind of taste that we can have of
divine things, which, while we force ourselves to penetrate, and unite
with them, we find that we have more pain in the desire than pleasure
in the realization. And this may have been the reason why that wise
Hebrew said that he who increases knowledge increases pain; because
from, the greater comprehension grows the greater desire. And this is
followed by greater vexation and grief for the deprivation of the thing
desired. So the Epicurean, who led a most tranquil life, said

    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 ærumna gravescit.
    Nec Veneris fructu caret is, qui vitat amorem,
    Sed potius, quæ sunt, sine poena, commoda sumit.

CIC. What is meant by the meridian of the heart?

TANS. That part or region of the will which is highest and most exalted,
and where it becomes most strongly, clearly, and effectually kindled. He
means that such affection is not as in its beginning, where it stirs,
nor as at the end, where it reposes, but as in the middle, where it
becomes fervid.


CIC. But what means that glowing arrow, which has flames in place of a
hard point, around which is encircled a noose with the legend: "Amor
instat ut instans"? Say, what does it mean?

TANS. It seems to me to mean that love never leaves him, and at the same
time eternally afflicts him.

CIC. I see the noose, the arrow, and the fire. I understand that which
is written: "Amor instat"; but that which follows I cannot
understand--that is, that love as an instant, or persisting, persists;
which has the same poverty of idea as if one said: "This undertaking he
has feigned as a feint; he bears it as he bears it, understands it as he
understands it, values it as he values it, and esteems it as he who
esteems it."

TANS. It is easy for him to decide and condemn who does not even
consider. That "instans" is not an adjective from the verb "instare,"
but it is a noun substantive used for the instant of time.

CIC. Now, what is the meaning of the phrase "love endures as an

TANS.. What does Aristotle mean in his book on Time, when he says that
eternity is an instant, and that all time is no more than an instant?

CIC. How can this be, seeing that there is no time so short that it
cannot be divided into seconds? Perhaps he would say that in one instant
there is the Flood, the Trojan war, and we who exist now; I should like
to know how this instant is divided into so many centuries and years,
and whether, by the same rule, we might not say that the line is a

TANS. If time be one, but in different temporal subjects, so the instant
is one in different and all parts of time. As I am the same I was, am,
and shall be; so I myself am always the same in the house, in the
temple, in the field, and wheresoever I am.

CIC. Why do you wish to make out that the instant is the whole of time?

TANS. Because if it were not an instant, it would not be time; therefore
time in essence and substance is no other than an instant, and let this
suffice, if you understand it, because I do not intend to perorate upon
the entire physics; so that you must understand that he means to say
that the whole of love is no less present than the whole of time;
because this "instans" does not mean a moment of time.

CIC. This meaning must be specified in some way, if we do not wish to
see the motto invalidated by equivocation, by which we are free to
suppose that he meant to say that his love was but for an instant--that
is, for an atom of time, and of nothing more, or that he means that it
is as you interpret it, everlasting.

TANS. Surely, if these two contrary meanings were implied, the legend
would be nonsense. But it is not so, if you consider well, for it cannot
be that in one instant, which is an atom or point, love persists or
endures; therefore one must of necessity understand the instant in
another signification. And for the sake of getting out of the mesh, read
the stanza:


    One time scatters and one gathers;
    One builds, one breaks; one weeps, one laughs;
    One time to sadness, one to gaiety inclines;
    One labours and one rests; one stands, one sits;
    One proffers and one takes away;
    One stays and one removes; one animates, one kills.
    In all the years, the months, the days, the hours,
    Love waits on me, strikes, binds, and burns.
    To me continual dissolution,
    Continual weeping holds me and destroys.
    All times to me are full of woe;
    All things time takes from me,
    And gives me naught, not even death.

CIC. I understand the meaning quite perfectly, and confess that all
things agree very well. It is time to proceed to the next.


TANS. Here behold a serpent languishing in the snow, where a labourer
has thrown it, and a naked child burning in the midst of the fire, with
certain other details and circumstances, with the legend which says:
"Idem, itidem non idem." This seems more like an enigma than anything
else, and I do not feel sure that I can explain it at all; yet I do
believe that it means that the same fate vexes, and the same torments
both the one and the other--that is, immeasurably, without mercy and
unto death, by means of various instruments or contrary principles,
showing itself the same whether cold or hot. But this, it seems to me,
requires longer and special consideration.

CIC. Some other time. Read the lines:


    Limp snake, that writhest in the snow,
    Twisting and turning here and there
    To find some ease from the tormenting cold,
    If the congealing ice could know thy pain,
    Or had the sense to feel thy smart,
    And thou couldst find a voice for thy complaint,
    I do believe thy argument would make it pitiful.
    I with eternal fire am scourged, am burnt, and bitten,
    And in the iciness of my divinity find no deliverance,
    No pity does she feel, nor can she know, alas!
    The rigorous ardour of my flames.


    Serpent, thou fain wouldst flee, but canst not;
    Try for thy hiding-place, it is no more;
    Recall thy strength, 'tis spent;
    Wait for the sun, behind thick fog he hides;
    Cry mercy of the hind, he fears thy tooth.
    Fortune invoke, she hears thee not, the jade!
    Nor flight, nor place, nor star, nor man, nor fate
    Can bring to thee deliverance from death.
    Thou dost become congealed. Melting am I.
    I like thy rigours, thee my ardour pleases;
    Help have I none for thee, and thou hast none for me.
    Clear is our evil fate--all hope resign.

CIC. Let us go, and by the way we will seek to untie this knot--if

TANS. So be it.



    O lovely, graceful nymphs of England!
    Not in repugnance nor in scorn
    Our spirit holds you,
    Nor would our pen abase you
    More than it must--to call you feminine!
    Exemption I am sure you would not claim,
    Being subject to the common influence;
    Shining on earth as do the stars in heaven.
    Your sov'reign beauty, ladies, our austerity
    Cannot depreciate, nor would do so,
    For we have not in view a superhuman kind,
    Such poison,[H] therefore, far from you be set,
    For here we see the one, the great Diana,
    Who is to you as sun amongst the stars.
    Wit, words, learning and art,
    And whatsoe'er is mine of scribbling faculty,
    I humbly place before you.

[H] Arsenico.

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