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Title: The Banquet (Il Convito)
Author: Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321
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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              IL  CONVITO

              THE BANQUET



             Translated By

         Elizabeth Price Sayer

   With An Introduction By Henry Morely
LL.D., Professor Of English Literature At
       University College, London



This translation of Dante's Convito--the first in English--is from the
hand of a lady whose enthusiasm for the genius of Dante has made it a
chief pleasure of her life to dwell on it by translating, not his
Divine Comedy only, but also the whole body of his other works. Among
those works the Vita Nuova and the Convito have a distinct place, as
leading up to the great masterpiece. In the New Life, Man starts on
his career with human love that points to the divine. In the Banquet,
he passes to mature life and to love of knowledge that declares the
power and the love of God in the material and moral world about us and
within us. In the Divine Comedy, the Poet passes to the world to come,
and rises to the final union of the love for Beatrice, the beatifier,
with the glory of the Love of God. Of this great series, the crowning
work has, of course, had many translators, and there have been
translators also of the book that shows the youth of love. But the
noble fragment of the Convito that unites these two has, I believe,
never yet been placed within reach of the English reader, except by a
translation of its poems only into unrhymed measure in Mr. Charles
Lyell's "Poems of the Vita Nuova and the Convito," published in 1835.

The Convito is a fragment. There are four books where fifteen were
designed, including three only of the intended fourteen songs. But the
plan is clear, and one or two glances forward to the matter of the
last book, which would have had Justice for its theme, show that all
was to have been brought to a high spiritual close.

Its aim was no less than the lifting of men's minds by knowledge of
the world without them and within them, bound together in creation,
showing forth the Mind of the Creator. The reader of this volume must
not flinch from the ingenious dialectics of the mediæval reasoner on
Man and Nature. Dante's knowledge is the knowledge of his time.
Science had made little advance since Aristotle--who is "the
Philosopher" taken by Dante for his human guide--first laid its
foundations. It is useful, no doubt, to be able in a book like this,
shaped by a noble mind, to study at their best the forms of reasoning
that made the science of the Middle Ages. But the reader is not called
upon to make his mind unhappy with endeavours to seize all the points,
say, of a theory of the heavens that was most ingenious, but in no
part true. The main thing is to observe how the mistaken reasoning
joins each of the seven sciences to one of the seven heavens, and here
as everywhere joins earth to heaven, and bids man lift his head and
look up, Godward, to the source of light. If spiritual truth could
only come from right and perfect knowledge, this would have been a
world of dead souls from the first till now; for future centuries, in
looking back at us, will wonder at the little faulty knowledge that we
think so much. But let the known be what it may, the true soul rises
from it to a sense of the divine mysteries of Wisdom and of Love.
Dante's knowledge may be full of ignorance, and so is ours. But he
fills it as he can with the Spirit of God. He is not content that men
should be as sheep, and look downward to earth for all the food they
need. He bids them to a Banquet of another kind, whose dishes are of
knowledge for the mind and heavenward aspiration for the soul.

Dante's Convito--of which the name was, no doubt, suggested by the
Banquets of Plato and Xenophon--was written at the close of his life,
after the Divine Comedy, and no trace has been found of more of its
songs than the three which may have been written and made known some
time before he began work on their Commentary. Death stayed his hand,
and the completion passed into a song that joined the voice of Dante
to the praise in heaven.


_April_ 1887.



       *       *       *       *       *

The First Treatise.


As the Philosopher says in the beginning of the first Philosophy, "All
men naturally desire Knowledge." The reason of which may be, that each
thing, impelled by the intuition of its own nature, tends towards its
perfection, hence, forasmuch as Knowledge is the final perfection of
our Soul, in which our ultimate happiness consists, we are all
naturally subject to the desire for it.

Verily, many are deprived of this most noble perfection, by divers
causes within the man and without him, which remove him from the use
of Knowledge.

Within the man there may be two defects or impediments, the one on the
part of the Body, the other on the part of the Soul. On the part of
the Body it is, when the parts are unfitly disposed, so that it can
receive nothing as with the deaf and dumb, and their like. On the part
of the Soul it is, when evil triumphs in it, so that it becomes the
follower of vicious pleasures, through which it is so much deceived,
that on account of them it holds everything in contempt.

Without the man, two causes may in like manner be understood, of which
one comes of necessity, the other of stagnation. The first is the
management of the family and conduct of civil affairs, which fitly
draws to itself the greater number of men, so that they cannot live in
the quietness of speculation. The other is the fault of the place
where a person is born and reared, which will ofttimes be not only
without any School whatever, but may be far distant from studious
people. The two first of these causes--the first of the hindrance from
within, and the first of the hindrance from without--are not deserving
of blame, but of excuse and pardon; the two others, although the one
more than the other, deserve blame and are to be detested.

Hence, he who reflects well, can manifestly see that they are few who
can attain to the enjoyment of Knowledge, though it is desired by all,
and almost innumerable are the fettered ones who live for ever
famished of this food.

Oh, blessed are those few who sit at that table where the Bread of
Angels is eaten, and wretched those who can feed only as the Sheep.
But because each man is naturally friendly to each man, and each
friend grieves for the fault of him whom he loves; they who are fed at
that high table are full of mercy towards those whom they see straying
in one pasture with the creatures who eat grass and acorns.

And forasmuch as Mercy is the Mother of Benevolence, those who know
how, do always liberally offer their good wealth to the true poor, and
are like a living stream, whose water cools the before-named natural
thirst. I, then, who sit not at the blessed table, but having fled
from the pasture of the common herd, lie at the feet of those who sit
there and gather up what falls from them, by the sweetness which I
find in that which I collect little by little, I know the wretched
life of those whom I have left behind me; and moved mercifully for the
unhappy ones, not forgetting myself, I have reserved something which I
have shown to their eyes long ago, and for this I have made them
greatly desirous. Wherefore, now wishing to prepare for them, I mean
to make a common Banquet of this which I have shown to them, and of
that needed bread without which food such as this could not be eaten
by them at their feast; bread fit for such meat, which I know, without
it, would be furnished forth in vain. And therefore I desire that no
one should sit at this Banquet whose members are so unfitly disposed
that he has neither teeth, nor tongue, nor palate: nor any follower of
vice; inasmuch as his stomach is full of venomous and hurtful humours,
so that it will retain no food whatever. But let those come to us,
whosoever they be, who, pressed by the management of civil and
domestic life, have felt this human hunger, and at one table with
others who have been in like bondage, let them sit. But at their feet
let us place all those who have been the slaves of sloth, and who are
not worthy to sit higher: and then let these and those eat of my dish,
with the bread which I will cause them to taste and to digest.

The meat at this repast will be prepared in fourteen different ways,
that is, in fourteen Songs, some of whose themes will be of Love and
some of Virtue: which, without the present bread, might have some
shadow of obscurity, so that to many they might be acceptable more on
account of their form than because of their spirit. But this bread is
the present Exposition. It will be the Light whereby each colour of
their design will be made visible.

And if in the present work, which is named "Convito"--the Banquet, the
glad Life Together--I desire that the subject should be discussed more
maturely than in the Vita Nuova--the New Life--I do not therefore mean
in any degree to undervalue that Fresh Life, but greatly to enhance
it; seeing how reasonable it is for that age to be fervid and
passionate, and for this to be mature and temperate. At one age it is
fit to speak and work in one way, and at another age in another way;
because certain manners are fit and praiseworthy at one age which are
improper and blameable at another, as will be demonstrated with
suitable argument in the fourth treatise of this Book. In that first
Book (Vita Nuova) at the entrance into my youth I spoke; and in this
latter I speak after my youth has already passed away. And since my
true meaning may be other than that which the aforesaid songs show
forth, I mean by an allegoric exposition to explain these after the
literal argument shall have been reasoned out: so that the one
argument with the other shall give a relish to those who are the
guests invited to this Banquet. And of them all I pray that if the
feast be not so splendid as befits the proclamation thereof, let them
impute each defect, not to my will but to my means, since my will here
is to a full and loving Liberality.


In preparing for every well-ordered Banquet the servants are wont to
take the proper bread, and see that it is clean from all blemish;
wherefore I, who in the present writing stand in servant's place,
intend firstly to remove two spots from this exposition which at my
repast stands in the place of bread.

The one is, that it appears to be unlawful for any one to speak of
himself; the other, that it seems to be unreasonable to speak too
deeply when giving explanations. Let the knife of my judgment pare
away from the present treatise the unlawful and the unreasonable. One
does not permit any Rhetorician to speak of himself without a
necessary cause. And from this is the man removed, because he can
speak of no one without praise or blame of those of whom he speaks;
which two causes commonly induce a man to speak of himself. And in
order to remove a doubt which here arises, I say that it is worse for
any one to blame than to praise himself, although neither may have to
be done. The reason is, that anything which is essentially wrong is
worse than that which is wrong through accident. For a man openly to
bring contempt on himself is essentially wrong to his friend, because
a man owes it to take account of his fault secretly, and no one is
more friendly to himself than the man himself. In the chamber of his
thoughts, therefore, he should reprove himself and weep over his
faults, and not before the world. Again, a man is but seldom blamed
when he has not the power or the knowledge requisite to guide himself
aright: but he is always blamed when weak of will, because our good or
evil dispositions are measured by the strength of will. Wherefore he
who blames himself proves that he knows his fault, while he reveals
his want of goodness; if, therefore, he know his fault, let him no
more speak evil of himself. If a man praise himself it is to avoid
evil, as it were; inasmuch as it cannot be done except such
self-laudation become in excess dishonour; it is praise in appearance,
it is infamy in substance. For the words are spoken to prove that of
which he has not inward assurance. Hence, he who lauds himself proves
his belief that he is not esteemed to be a good man, and this befalls
him not unless he have an evil conscience, which he reveals by
self-praise, and in so revealing it he blames himself.

And, again, self-praise and self-blame are to be shunned equally, for
this reason, that it is false witnessing. Because there is no man who
can be a true and just judge of himself, so much will self-love
deceive him. Hence it happens that every man has in his own judgment
the measures of the false merchant, who sells with the one, and buys
with the other. Every man weights the scales against his own
wrong-doing, and adds weight to his good deeds; so that the number and
the quantity and the weight of the good deeds appear to him to be
greater than if they were tried in a just balance; and in like manner
the evil appears less. Wherefore speaking of himself with praise or
with blame, either he speaks falsely with regard to the thing of which
he speaks, or he speaks falsely by the fault of his judgment; and as
the one is untruth, so is the other. And therefore, since to acquiesce
is to admit, he is wrong who praises or who blames before the face of
any man; because the man thus appraised can neither acquiesce nor deny
without falling into the error of either praising or blaming himself.
Reserve the way of due correction, which cannot be taken without
reproof of error, and which corrects if understood. Reserve also the
way of due honour and glory, which cannot be taken without mention of
virtuous works, or of dignities that have been worthily acquired.

And in truth, returning to the main argument, I say, as before, that
it is permitted to a man for requisite reasons to speak of himself.
And amongst the several requisite reasons two are most evident: the
one is when a man cannot avoid great danger and infamy, unless he
discourse of himself; and then it is conceded for the reason, that to
take the less objectionable of the only two paths, is to take as it
were a good one. And this necessity moved Boethius to speak of
himself, in order that under pretext of Consolation he might excuse
the perpetual shame of his imprisonment, by showing that imprisonment
to be unjust; since no other man arose to justify him. And this reason
moved St. Augustine to speak of himself in his Confessions; that, by
the progress of his life, which was from bad to good, and from good to
better, and from better to best, he might give example and
instruction, which, from truer testimony, no one could receive.
Therefore, if either of these reasons excuse me, the bread of my
moulding is sufficiently cleared from its first impurity.

The fear of shame moves me; and I am moved by the desire to give
instruction which others truly are unable to give. I fear shame for
having followed passion so ardently, as he may conceive who reads the
afore-named Songs, and sees how greatly I was ruled by it; which shame
ceases entirely by the present speech of myself, which proves that not
passion but virtue may have been the moving cause.

I intend also to demonstrate the true meaning of those Poems, which
some could not perceive unless I relate it, because it is concealed
under the veil of Allegory; and this it not only will give pleasure to
hear, but subtle instruction, both as to the diction and as to the
intention of the other writings.


Much fault is in that thing which is appointed to remove some grave
evil, and yet encourages it; even as in the man who might be sent to
quell a tumult, and, before he had quelled it, should begin another.

And forasmuch as my bread is made clean on one side, it behoves me to
cleanse it on the other, in order to shun this reproof: that my
writing, which one may term, as it were, a Commentary, is appointed to
remove obscurity from the before-mentioned Songs, and is, in fact,
itself at times a little hard to understand. This obscurity is here
intended, in order to avoid a greater defect, and does not occur
through ignorance. Alas! would that it might have pleased the
Dispenser of the Universe that the cause of my excuse might never have
been; that others might neither have sinned against me, nor I have
suffered punishment unjustly; the punishment, I say, of exile and
poverty! Since it was the pleasure of the citizens of the most
beautiful and the most famous daughter of Rome, Florence, to cast me
out from her most sweet bosom (wherein I was born and nourished even
to the height of my life, and in which, with her goodwill, I desire
with all my heart to repose my weary soul, and to end the time which
is given to me), I have gone through almost all the land in which this
language lives--a pilgrim, almost a mendicant--showing forth against
my will the wound of Fortune, with which the ruined man is often
unjustly reproached. Truly I have been a ship without a sail and
without a rudder, borne to divers ports and lands and shores by the
dry wind which blows from doleful poverty; and I have appeared vile in
the eyes of many, who perhaps through some report may have imaged me
in other form. In the sight of whom not only my person became vile,
but each work already completed was held to be of less value than that
might again be which remained yet to be done.

The reason wherefore this happens (not only to me but to all), it now
pleases me here briefly to touch upon. And firstly, it is because
rumour goes beyond the truth; and then, what is beyond the truth
restricts and strangles it. Good report is the first born of kindly
thought in the mind of the friend; which the mind of the foe, although
it may receive the seed, conceives not.

That mind which gives birth to it in the first place, so to make its
gift more fair, as by the charity of friendship, keeps not within
bounds of truth, but passes beyond them. When one does that to adorn a
tale, he speaks against his conscience; when it is charity that causes
him to pass the bounds, he speaks not against conscience.

The second mind which receives this, not only is content with the
exaggeration of the first mind, but its own report adds its own effect
of endeavours to embellish, and so by this action, and by the
deception which it also receives from the goodwill generated in it,
good report is made more ample than it should be; either with the
consent or the dissent of the conscience; even as it was with the
first mind. And the third receiving mind does this; and the fourth;
and thus the exaggeration of good ever grows. And so, by turning the
aforesaid motives in the contrary direction, one can perceive why
ill-fame in like manner is made to grow. Wherefore Virgil says in the
fourth of the Æneid: "Let Fame live to be fickle, and grow as she
goes." Clearly, then, he who is willing may perceive that the image
generated by Fame alone is always larger, whatever it may be, than the
thing imaged is, in its true state.


Having previously shown the reason why Fame magnifies the good and the
evil beyond due limit, it remains in this chapter to show forth those
reasons which make evident why the Presence restricts in the opposite
way, and having shown this I will return to the principal proposition.
I say, then, that for three causes his Presence makes a person of less
value than he is. The first is childishness, I do not say of age, but
of mind; the second is envy; and these are in the judge: the third is
human impurity; and this is in the person judged. The first, one can
briefly reason thus: the greater part of men live according to sense
and not according to reason, after the manner of children, and the
like of these judge things simply from without; and the goodness which
is ordained to a fit end they perceive not, because the eyes of
Reason, which they need in order to perceive it, are closed. Hence,
they soon see all that they can, and judge according to their sight.

And forasmuch as any opinion they form on the good fame of others,
from hearsay, with which, in the presence of the person judged, their
imperfect judgment may dissent, they amend not according to reason,
because they judge merely according to sense, they will deem that
which they have first heard to be a lie as it were, and dispraise the
person who was previously praised. Hence, in such men, and such are
almost all, Presence restricts the one fame and the other. Such men as
these are inconstant and are soon cloyed; they are often gay and often
sad from brief joys and sorrows; speedy friends and speedy foes; each
thing they do like children, without the use of reason.

The second observation from these reasons is, that due comparison is
cause for envy to the vicious; and envy is a cause of evil judgment,
because it does not permit Reason to argue for that which is envied,
and the judicial power is then like the judge who hears only one side.
Hence, when such men as these perceive a person to be famous, they are
immediately jealous, because they compare members and powers; and they
fear, on account of the excellence of such an one, to be themselves
accounted of less worth; and these passionate men, not only judge
evilly, but, by defamation, they cause others to judge evilly.
Wherefore with such men their apprehension restricts the
acknowledgment of good and evil in each person represented; and I say
this also of evil, because many who delight in evil deeds have envy
towards evil-doers.

The third observation is of human frailty, which one accepts on the
part of him who is judged, and from which familiar conversation is not
altogether free. In evidence of this, it is to be known that man is
stained in many parts; and, as says St. Augustine, "none is without
spot." Now, the man is stained with some passion, which he cannot
always resist; now, he is blemished by some fault of limb; now, he is
bruised by some blow from Fortune; now, he is soiled by the ill-fame
of his parents, or of some near relation: things which Fame does not
bear with her, but which hang to the man, so that he reveals them by
his conversation; and these spots cast some shadow upon the brightness
of goodness, so that they cause it to appear less bright and less
excellent. And this is the reason why each prophet is less honoured in
his own country; and this is why the good man ought to give his
presence to few, and his familiarity to still fewer, in order that his
name may be received and not despised. And this third observation may
be the same for the evil as for the good, if we reverse the conditions
of the argument. Wherefore it is clearly evident that by
imperfections, from which no one is free, the seen Presence restricts
right perception of the good and of the evil in every one, more than
truth desires. Hence, since, as has been said above, I myself have
been, as it were, visibly present to all the Italians, by which I
perhaps am made more vile than truth desires, not only to those to
whom my repute had already run, but also to others, whereby I am made
the lighter; it behoves me that with a more lofty style I may give to
the present work a little gravity, through which it may show greater
authority. Let this suffice to excuse the difficulty of my commentary.


Since this bread is now cleared of accidental spots, it remains to
excuse it from a substantial one, that is for being in my native
tongue and not in Latin; which by similitude one may term, of
barley-meal and not of wheaten flour. And from this it is briefly
excused by three reasons which moved me to choose the one rather than
the other. One springs from the avoidance of inconvenient Unfitness:
the second from the readiness of well-adjusted Liberality; the third
from the natural Love for one's own Native Tongue. And these things,
with the grounds for them, to the staying of all possible reproof, I
mean in due order to reason out in this form.

That which most adorns and commends human actions, and which most
directly leads them to a good result, is the use of dispositions best
adapted to the end in view; as the end aimed at in knighthood is
courage of mind and strength of body. And thus he who is ordained to
the service of others, ought to have those dispositions which are
suited to that end; as submission, knowledge and obedience, without
which any one is unfit to serve well. Because if he is not subject to
each of these conditions, he proceeds in his service always with
fatigue and trouble, and but seldom continues in it. If he is not
obedient, he never serves except as in his wisdom he thinks fit, and
when he wills; which is rather the service of a friend than of a
servant. Hence, to escape this disorder, this commentary is fit, which
is made as a servant to the under-written Songs, in order to be
subject to these, and to each separate command of theirs. It must be
conscious of the wants of its lord, and obedient to him, which
dispositions would be all wanting to it if it were a Latin servant,
not a native, since the songs are all in the language of our people.
For, in the first place, if it had been a Latin servant he would be
not a subject but a sovereign, in nobility, in virtue, and in beauty;
in nobility, because the Latin is perpetual and incorruptible; the
language of the vulgar is unstable and corruptible. Hence we see in
the ancient writings of the Latin Comedies and Tragedies that they
cannot change, being the same Latin that we now have; this happens not
with our native tongue, which, being home-made, changes at pleasure.
Hence we see in the cities of Italy, if we will look carefully back
fifty years from the present time, many words to have become extinct,
and to have been born, and to have been altered. But if a little time
transforms them thus, a longer time changes them more. So that I say
that, if those who departed from this life a thousand years ago should
come back to their cities, they would believe those cities to be
inhabited by a strange people, who speak a tongue discordant from
their own. On this subject I will speak elsewhere more completely in a
book which I intend to write, God willing, on the "Language of the

Again, the Latin was not subject, but sovereign, through virtue. Each
thing has virtue in its nature, which does that to which it is
ordained; and the better it does it so much the more virtue it has:
hence we call that man virtuous who lives a life contemplative or
active, doing that for which he is best fitted; we ascribe his virtue
to the horse that runs swiftly and much, to which end he is ordained:
we see virtue of a sword that cuts through hard things well, since it
has been made to do so. Thus speech, which is ordained to express
human thought, has virtue when it does that; and most virtue is in the
speech which does it most. Hence, forasmuch as the Latin reveals many
things conceived in the mind which the vulgar tongue cannot express,
even as those know who have the use of either language, its virtue is
far greater than that of the vulgar tongue.

Again, it was not subject, but sovereign, because of its beauty. That
thing man calls beautiful whose parts are duly proportionate, because
beauty results from their harmony; hence, man appears to be beautiful
when his limbs are duly proportioned; and we call a song beautiful
when the voices in it, according to the rule of art, are in harmony
with each other. Hence, that language is most beautiful in which the
words most fitly correspond, and this they do more in the Latin than
in the present Language of the People, since the beautiful vulgar
tongue follows use, and the Latin, Art. Hence, one concedes it to be
more beautiful, more virtuous and more noble. And so one concludes, as
first proposed; that is, that the Latin Commentary would have been the
Sovereign, not the Subject, of the Songs.


Having shown how the present Commentary could not have been the
subject of Songs written in our native tongue, if it had been in the
Latin, it remains to show how it could not have been capable or
obedient to those Songs; and then it will be shown how, to avoid
unsuitable disorder, it was needful to speak in the native tongue.

I say that Latin would not have been a capable servant for my Lord the
Vernacular, for this reason. The servant is required chiefly to know
two things perfectly: the one is the nature of his lord, because there
are lords of such an asinine nature that they command the opposite of
that which they desire; and there are others who, without speaking,
wish to be understood and served; and there are others who will not
let the servant move to do that which is needful, unless they have
ordered it. And because these variations are in men, I do not intend
in the present work to show, for the digression would be enlarged too
much, except as I speak in general, that such men as these are beasts,
as it were, to whom reason is of little worth. Wherefore, if the
servant know not the nature of his lord, it is evident that he cannot
serve him perfectly. The other thing is, that it is requisite for the
servant to know also the friends of his lord; for otherwise he could
not honour them, nor serve them, and thus he would not serve his lord
perfectly: forasmuch as the friends are the parts of a whole, as it
were, because their whole is one wish or its opposite. Neither would
the Latin Commentary have had such knowledge of those things as the
vulgar tongue itself has. That the Latin cannot be acquainted with the
Vulgar Tongue and with its friends, is thus proved. He who knows
anything in general knows not that thing perfectly; even as he who
knows from afar off one animal, knows not that animal perfectly,
because he knows not if it be a dog, a wolf, or a he-goat. The Latin
knows the Vulgar tongue in general, but not separately; for if it
should know it separately it would know all the Vulgar Tongues,
because it is not right that it should know one more than the other;
and thus, what man soever might possess the complete knowledge of the
Latin tongue, the use of that knowledge would show him all
distinctions of the Vulgar. But this is not so, for one used to the
Latin does not distinguish, if he be a native of Italy, the vulgar
tongue of Provence from the German, nor can the German distinguish the
vulgar Italian tongue from that of Provence: hence, it is evident that
the Latin is not cognizant of the Vulgar. Again, it is not cognizant
of its friends, because it is impossible to know the friends without
knowing the principal; hence, if the Latin does not know the Vulgar,
as it is proved above, it is impossible for it to know its friends.
Again, without conversation or familiarity, it is impossible to know
men; and the Latin has no conversation with so many in any language as
the Vulgar has, to which all are friends, and consequently cannot know
the friends of the Vulgar.

And this, that it would be possible to say, is no contradiction; that
the Latin does converse with some friends of the Vulgar: but since it
is not familiar with all, it is not perfectly acquainted with its
friends, whereas perfect knowledge is required, and not defective.


Having proved that the Latin Commentary could not have been a capable
servant, I will tell how it could not have been an obedient one. He is
obedient who has the good disposition which is called obedience. True
obedience must have three things, without which it cannot be: it
should be sweet, and not bitter; entirely under control, and not
impulsive; with due measure, and not excessive; which three things it
was impossible for the Latin Commentary to have; and, therefore, it
was impossible for it to be obedient. That to the Latin it would have
been impossible, as is said, is evident by such an argument as this:
each thing which proceeds by an inverse order is laborious, and
consequently is bitter, and not sweet; even as to sleep by day and to
wake by night, and to go backwards and not forwards. For the subject
to command the sovereign, is to proceed in the inverse order; because
the direct order is, for the sovereign to command the subject; and
thus it is bitter, and not sweet; and because to the bitter command it
is impossible to give sweet obedience, it is impossible, when the
subject commands, for the obedience of the sovereign to be sweet.
Hence if the Latin is the sovereign of the Vulgar Tongue, as is shown
above by many reasons, and the Songs, which are in place of
commanders, are in the Vulgar Tongue, it is impossible for the
argument to be sweet. Then is obedience entirely commanded, and in no
way spontaneous, when that which the obedient man does, he would not
have done of his own will, either in whole or in part, without
commandment. And, therefore, if it might be commanded to me to carry
two long robes upon my back, and if without commandment I should carry
one, I say that my obedience is not entirely commanded, but is in part
spontaneous; and such would have been that of the Latin Commentary,
and consequently it would not have been obedience entirely commanded.
What such might have been appears by this, that the Latin, without the
command of this Lord, the Vernacular, would have expounded many parts
of his argument (and it does expound, as he who searches well the
books written in Latin may perceive), which the Vulgar Tongue does

Again, obedience is within bounds, and not excessive, when it goes to
the limit of the command, and no further; as Individual Nature is
obedient to Universal Nature when she makes thirty-two teeth in the
man, and no more and no less; and when she makes five fingers on the
hand, and no more and no less; and the man is obedient to Justice when
he does that which the Law commands, and no more and no less.

Neither would the Latin have done this, but it would have sinned not
only in the defect, and not only in the excess, but in each one; and
thus its obedience would not have been within due limit, but
intemperate, and consequently it would not have been obedient. That
the Latin would not have been the executor of the commandment of his
Lord, and that neither would he have been a usurper, one can easily
prove. This Lord, namely, these Songs, to which this Commentary is
ordained for their servant, commands and desires that they shall be
explained to all those whose mind is so far intelligent that when they
hear speech they can understand, and when they speak they can be
understood. And no one doubts, that if the Songs should command by
word of mouth, this would be their commandment. But the Latin would
not have explained them, except to the learned men: and so that the
rest could not have understood. Hence, forasmuch as the number of
unlearned men who desire to understand those Songs may be far greater
than the learned, it follows that it could not have fulfilled its
commandment so well as the Native Tongue, which is understood both by
the Learned and the Unlearned. Again, the Latin would have explained
them to people of another language, as to the Germans, to the English,
and to others; and here it would have exceeded their commandment. For
against their will, speaking freely, I say, their meaning would be
explained there where they could not convey it in all their beauty.

And, therefore, let each one know, that nothing which is harmonized by
the bond of the Muse can be translated from its own language into
another, without breaking all its sweetness and harmony. And this is
the reason why Homer was not translated from Greek into Latin, like
the other writings that we have of the Greeks. And this is the reason
why the verses of the Psalms are without sweetness of music and
harmony; for they were translated from Hebrew into Greek, and from
Greek into Latin, and in the first translation all that sweetness

And, thus is concluded that which was proposed in the beginning of the
chapter immediately before this.


Since it is proved by sufficient reasons that, in order to avoid
unsuitable confusion, it would be right that the above-named Songs be
opened and explained by a Commentary in our Native Tongue and not in
the Latin, I intend to show again how a ready Liberality makes me
select this way and leave the other. It is possible, then, to perceive
a ready Liberality in three things, which go with this Native Tongue,
and which would not have gone with the Latin. The first is to give to
many; the second is to give useful things; the third is to give the
gift without being asked for it.

For to give to and to assist one person is good; but to give to and to
assist many is ready goodness, inasmuch as it has a similitude to the
good gifts of God, who is the Benefactor of the Universe. And again,
to give to many is impossible without giving to one, forasmuch as one
is included in many. But to give to one may be good without giving to
many, because he who assists many does good to one and to the other;
he who assists one does good to one only: hence, we see the imposers
of the laws, especially if they are for the common good, hold the eyes
fixed whilst compiling these laws. Again, to give useless things to
the receiver is also a good, inasmuch as he who gives, shows himself
at least to be a friend; but it is not a perfect good, and therefore
it is not ready: as if a knight should give to a doctor a shield, and
as if the doctor should give to a knight the written aphorisms of
Hippocrates, or rather the technics of Galen; because the wise men say
that "the face of the gift ought to be similar to that of the
receiver," that is, that it be suitable to him, and that it be useful;
and therein it is called ready liberality in him who thus
discriminates in giving.

But forasmuch as moral discourses usually create a desire to see their
origin, in this chapter I intend briefly to demonstrate four reasons
why of necessity the gift (in order that it be ready liberality)
should be useful to him who receives. Firstly, because virtue must be
cheerful and not sad in every action: hence, if the gift be not
cheerful in the giving and in the receiving, in it there is not
perfect nor ready virtue. And this joy can spring only from the
utility, which resides in the giver through the giving, and which
comes to the receiver through the receiving. In the giver, then, there
must be the foresight, in doing this, that on his part there shall
remain the benefit of an inherent virtue which is above all other
advantages; and that to the receiver come the benefit of the use of
the thing given. Thus the one and the other will be cheerful, and
consequently it will be a ready liberality, that is, a liberality both
prompt and well considered.

Secondly, because virtue ought always to move things forwards and
upwards. For even as it would be a blameable action to make a spade of
a beautiful sword, or to make a fair basin of a lovely lute; so it is
wrong to move anything from a place where it may be useful, and to
carry it into a place where it may be less useful. And since it is
blameable to work in vain, it is wrong not merely to put the thing in
a place where it may be less useful, but even in a place where it may
be equally useful. Hence, in order that the changing of the place of a
thing may be laudable, it must always be for the better, because it
ought to be especially praiseworthy; and this the gift cannot be, if
by transformation it become not more precious. Nor can it become more
precious, if it be not more useful to the receiver than to the giver.
Wherefore, one concludes that the gift must be useful to him who
receives it, in order that it may be in itself ready liberality.

Thirdly, because the exercise of the virtue of itself ought to be the
acquirer of friends. For our life has need of these, and the end of
virtue is to make life happy. But that the gift may make the receiver
a friend, it must be useful to him, because utility stamps on the
memory the image of the gift, which is the food of friendship, and the
firmer the impression, so much the greater is the utility; hence,
Martino was wont to say, "Never will fade from my mind the gift
Giovanni made me." Wherefore, in order that in the gift there may be
its virtue, which is Liberality, and that it may be ready, it must be
useful to him who receives it.

Finally, since the act of virtue should be free, not forced, it is
free action, when a person goes willingly to any place; which is shown
by his keeping the face turned thitherward; it is forced action, when
he goes against his will; which is shown by his not looking cheerfully
towards the place whither he goes: and thus the gift looks towards its
appointed place when it addresses itself to the need of the receiver.
And since it cannot address itself to that need except it be useful,
it follows, in order that it may be with free action, that the virtue
be free, and that the gift go freely to its object, which is the
receiver; and consequently the gift must be to the utility of the
receiver, in order that there may be a prompt and reasonable
Liberality therein.

The third respect in which one can observe a ready Liberality, is
giving unasked; because, to give what is asked, is, on one side, not
virtue, but traffic; for, the receiver buys, although the giver may
not sell; and so Seneca says "that nothing is purchased more dearly
than that whereon prayers are expended." Hence, in order that in the
gift there be ready Liberality, and that one may perceive that to be
in it, there must be freedom from each act of traffic, and the gift
must be unasked. Wherefore that which is besought costs us so dear, I
do not mean to argue now, because it will be fully discussed in the
last treatise of this book.


A Latin Commentary would be wanting in all the three above-mentioned
conditions, which must concur, in order that in the benefit conferred
there may be ready Liberality; and our Mother Tongue possesses all, as
it is possible to show thus manifestly. The Latin would not have
served many; for if we recall to memory that which is discoursed of
above, the learned men, without the Italian tongue, could not have had
this service. And those who know Latin, if we wish to see clearly who
they are, we shall find that, out of a thousand one only would have
been reasonably served by it, because they would not have received it,
so prompt are they to avarice, which removes them from each nobility
of soul that especially desires this food. And to the shame of them, I
say that they ought not to be called learned men: because they do not
acquire knowledge for the use of it, but forasmuch as they gain money
or dignity thereby; even as one ought not to call him a harper who
keeps a harp in his house to be lent out for a price, and not to use
it for its music.

Returning, then, to the principal proposition, I say that one can see
clearly how the Latin would have given its good gift to few, but the
Mother Tongue will serve many. For the willingness of heart which
awaits this service, is in those who, through misuse of the world,
have left Literature to men who have made of her a harlot; and these
nobles are princes, barons, knights, and many other noble people, not
only men, but women, whose language is that of the people and
unlearned. Again, the Latin would not have been giver of a useful
gift, as the Mother Tongue will be; forasmuch as nothing is useful
except inasmuch as it is used; nor is there a perfect existence with
inactive goodness. Even so of gold, and pearls, and other treasures
which are subterranean, those which are in the hand of the miser are
in a lower place than is the earth wherein the treasure was concealed.
The gift truly of this Commentary is the explanation of the Songs, for
whose service it is made. It seeks especially to lead men to wisdom
and to virtue, as will be seen by the process of this treatise. This
design those only could have in use in whom true nobility is sown,
after the manner that will be described in the fourth treatise; and
these are almost all men of the people, as those are noble which in
this chapter are named above. And there is no contradiction, though
some learned man may be amongst them; for, as says my Master Aristotle
in the first book of the Ethics, "One swallow does not make the
Spring." It is, then, evident that the Mother Tongue will give the
useful thing where Latin would not have given it. Again, the Mother
Tongue will give that gift unasked, which the Latin would not have
given, because it will give itself in form of a Commentary which never
was asked for by any person. But this one cannot say of the Latin,
which for Commentary and for Expositions to many writings has often
been in request, as one can perceive clearly in the opening of many a

And thus it is evident that a ready Liberality moved me to use the
Mother Tongue rather than Latin.


He greatly needs excuse who, at a feast so noble in its provisions,
and so honourable in its guests, sets bread of barley, not of wheaten
flour: and evident must be the reason which can make a man depart from
that which has long been the custom of others, as the use of Latin in
writing a Commentary. And, therefore, he would make the reason
evident; for the end of new things is not certain, because experience
of them has never been had before: hence, the ways used and observed
are estimated both in process and in the end.

Reason, therefore, is moved to command that man should diligently look
about him when he enters a new path, saying, "that, in deliberating
about new things, that reason must be clear which can make a man
depart from an old custom." Let no one marvel, then, if the digression
touching my apology be long; but, as is necessary, let him bear its
length with patience.

Continuing it, I say that, since it has been shown how, in order to
avoid unsuitable confusion and from readiness of liberality, I fixed
on the Commentary in the Mother Tongue and left the Latin, the order
of the entire apology requires that I now prove how I attached myself
to that through the natural love for my native tongue, which is the
third and last reason which moved me to this. I say that natural love
moves the lover principally to three things: the one is to exalt the
loved object, the second is to be jealous thereof, the third is to
defend it, as each one sees constantly to happen; and these three
things made me adopt it, that is, our Mother Tongue, which naturally
and accidentally I love and have loved.

I was moved in the first place to exalt it. And that I do exalt it may
be seen by this reason: it happens that it is possible to magnify
things in many conditions of greatness, and nothing makes so great as
the greatness of that goodness which is the mother and preserver of
all other forms of greatness. And no greater goodness can a man have
than that of virtuous action, which is his own goodness, by which the
greatness of true dignity and of true honour, of true power, of true
riches, of true friends, of true and pure renown, are acquired and
preserved: and this greatness I give to this friend, inasmuch as that
which he had of goodness in latent power and hidden, I cause him to
have in action and revealed in its own operation, which is to declare

Secondly, I was moved by jealousy of it. The jealousy of the friend
makes a man anxious to secure lasting provision; wherefore, thinking
that, from the desire to understand these Songs, some unlearned man
would have translated the Latin Commentary into the Mother Tongue; and
fearing that the Mother Tongue might have been employed by some one
who would have made it seem ugly, as he did who translated the Latin
of the "Ethics," I endeavoured to employ it, trusting in myself more
than in any other. Again, I was moved to defend it from its numerous
accusers, who depreciate it and commend others, especially the Langue
d'Oc, saying, that the latter is more beautiful and better than this,
therein deviating from the truth. For by this Commentary the great
excellence of our common Lingua di Si will appear, since through it,
most lofty and most original ideas may be as fitly, sufficiently, and
easily expressed as if it were by the Latin itself, which cannot show
its virtue in things rhymed because of accidental ornaments which are
connected therewith--that is, the rhyme and the rhythm, or the
regulated measure; as it is with the beauty of a lady when the
splendour of the jewels and of the garments excite more admiration
than she herself. He, therefore, who wishes to judge well of a lady
looks at her when she is alone and her natural beauty is with her,
free from all accidental ornament. So it will be with this Commentary,
in which will be seen the facility of the syllables, the propriety of
the conditions, and the sweet orations which are made in our Mother
Tongue, which a good observer will perceive to be full of most sweet
and most amiable beauty. But, since it is most determined in its
intention to show the error and the malice of the accuser, I will
tell, to the confusion of those who accuse the Italian language,
wherefore they are moved to do this; and this I shall do in a special
chapter, in order that their shame may be more notable.


To the perpetual shame and abasement of the evil men of Italy who
commend the Mother Tongue of other nations and depreciate their own, I
say that their action proceeds from five abominable causes: the first
is blindness of discretion; the second, mischievous self-justification;
the third, greed of vainglory; the fourth, an invention of envy; the
fifth and last, vileness of mind, that is, cowardice. And each one of
these grave faults has a great following, for few are those who are
free from them.

Of the first, one can reason thus. As the sensitive part of the soul
has its eyes, with which it learns the difference of things, inasmuch
as they are coloured externally; so the rational part has its eye with
which it learns the difference of things, inasmuch as each is ordained
to some end; and this is discretion. And as he who is blind with the
eyes of sense goes always according to the guidance of others judging
evil and good; so he who is blinded from the light of discretion,
always goes in his judgment according to the cry, right or wrong as it
may be. Hence, whenever the guide is blind, it must follow that what
blind man soever leans on him must come to a bad end. Therefore it is
written that, "If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch."
This cry has been long raised against our Mother Tongue, for the
reasons which will be argued below.

After this cry the blind men above mentioned, who are infinite, as it
were with one hand on the shoulder of these false witnesses, have
fallen into the ditch of false opinion, from which they know not how
to escape. From the use of the sight of discretion the mass of the
people are debarred, because each being occupied from the early years
of his life with some trade, he so directs his mind to that, by force
of necessity, that he understands nought else. And forasmuch as the
habit of virtue, moral as well as intellectual, cannot possibly be had
all on a sudden, but it must be acquired through long custom, and as
these people place their custom in some art, and care not to discern
other things, it is impossible to them to have discretion. Wherefore
it happens that often they cry aloud: "Long live Death!" and "Let Life
die!" because some one begins the cry. And this is the most dangerous
defect in their blindness. For this reason Boethius judges glory of
the people vain, because he sees it to be without discernment. These
persons are to be termed sheep and not men; for if a sheep should leap
over a precipice of a thousand feet, all the others would follow after
it; and if one sheep, for some cause or other, in crossing a road,
leaps, all the others leap, even when they see nothing to leap over.
And I once saw many leap into a well, because one had leapt into it,
believing perhaps that it was leaping a wall; notwithstanding that the
shepherd, weeping and shouting, with arms and breast set himself
against them.

The second faction against our Mother Tongue springs from a malicious
self-justification. There are many who would rather be thought masters
than be such; and to avoid the opposite--that is, to be held not to be
such--they always cast blame on the material they work on, or upon the
instrument; as the clumsy smith blames the iron given to him, and the
bad harpist blames the harp, thinking to cast the blame of the bad
blade and of the bad music upon the iron and upon the harp, and to
lift it from themselves. Thus there are some, and not a few, who
desire that a man may hold them to be orators; and to excuse
themselves for not speaking, or for speaking badly, they accuse or
throw blame on the material, that is, their own Mother Tongue, and
praise that of other lands, which they are not required to employ. And
he who wishes to see wherefore this iron is to be blamed, let him look
at the work which good artificers make of it, and he will understand
the malice of those who, in casting blame upon it, think thereby to
excuse themselves. Against such as these, Tullius exclaims in the
beginning of his book, which he names the book "De Finibus," because
in his time they blamed the Roman Latin and praised the Greek grammar.
And thus I say, for like reasons, that these men vilify the Italian
tongue, and glorify that of Provence.

The third faction against our Mother Tongue springs from greed of
vainglory. There are many who, by describing certain things in some
other language, and by praising that language, deem themselves to be
more worthy of admiration than if they described them in their own.
And undoubtedly to learn well a foreign tongue is deserving of some
praise for intellect; but it is a blameable thing to applaud that
language beyond truth, to glorify one's self for such an acquisition.

The fourth springs from an invention of envy. So that, as it is said
above, envy is always where there is equality. Amongst the men of one
nation there is the equality of the native tongue; and because one
knows not how to use it like the other, therefrom springs envy. The
envious man then argues, not blaming himself for not knowing how to
speak like him who does speak as he should, but he blames that which
is the material of his work, in order to rob, by depreciating the work
on that side, him who does speak, of honour and fame; like him who
should find fault with the blade of a sword, not in order to throw
blame on the sword, but on the whole work of the master.

The fifth and last faction springs from vileness of mind. The
magnanimous man always praises himself in his heart; and so the
pusillanimous man, on the contrary, always deems himself less than he
is. And because to magnify and to diminish always have respect to
something, by comparison with which the large-minded man makes himself
great and the small-minded man makes himself small, it results
therefrom that the magnanimous man always makes others less than they
are, and the pusillanimous makes others always greater. And therefore
with that measure wherewith a man measures himself, he measures his
own things, which are as it were a part of himself. It results that to
the magnanimous man his own things always appear better than they are,
and those of others less good; the pusillanimous man always believes
his things to be of little value, and those of others of much worth.
Wherefore many, on account of this vileness of mind, depreciate their
native tongue, and applaud that of others; and all such as these are
the abominable wicked men of Italy who hold this precious Mother
Tongue in vile contempt, which if it be vile in any case, is so only
inasmuch as it sounds in the evil mouth of these adulterers, under
whose guidance go those blind men of whom I spoke in the first


If flames of fire should issue visibly through the windows of a house,
and if any one should ask if there were fire within it, and if another
should answer "Yes" to him, one would not well know how to judge which
of those might be mocking the most. Not otherwise would the question
and the answer pass between me and that man who should ask me if love
for my own language is in me, and if I should answer "Yes" to him,
after the arguments propounded above.

But, nevertheless, it has to be proved that not only love, but the
most perfect love for it exists in me, and again its adversaries must
be blamed. Whilst demonstrating this to him who will understand well,
I will tell how I became the friend of it, and then how my friendship
is confirmed.

I say that (as Tullius writes in his book on Friendship, not
dissenting from the opinion of the Philosopher opened up in the eighth
and in the ninth of the Ethics) Neighbourhood and Goodness are,
naturally, the causes of the birth of Love: Benevolence, Study, and
Custom are the causes of the growth of Love. And there have been all
these causes to produce and to strengthen the love which I bear to my
Native Language, as I shall briefly demonstrate. A thing is so much
the nearer in proportion as it is most nearly allied to all the other
things of its own kind; wherefore, of all men the son is nearest to
the father, and of all the Arts, Medicine is nearest to the Doctor,
and Music to the Musician, because they are more allied to them than
the others. Of all parts of the earth the nearest is that whereon a
man lives, because he is most united to it. And thus his own Native
Language is nearest to him, inasmuch as he is most united to it; for
it, and it alone, is first in the mind before any other. And not only
of itself is it united, but by accident, inasmuch as it is united with
the persons nearest to him, as his parents, and his fellow-citizens,
and his own people. And this is his own Mother Tongue, which is not
only nearest, but especially the nearest to each man. Therefore, if
near neighbourhood be the seed of friendship, as is said above, it is
manifest that it has been one of the causes of the love which I bear
to my Native Language, which is nearer to me than the others. The
above-mentioned cause, whereby that alone which stands first in each
mind is most bound to it, gave rise to the custom of the people, that
the first-born sons should succeed to the inheritance solely as being
the nearest relatives; and because the nearest relatives, therefore
the most beloved.

Again, Goodness made me a friend to it. And here it is to be known
that all goodness inherent in anything is loveable in that thing; as
in manhood to be well bearded, and in womanhood to be all over the
face quite free from hair; as in the setter to have good scent, and as
in the greyhound to be swift. And in proportion as it is native, so
much the more is it delightful. Hence, although each virtue is
loveable in man, that is the most loveable in him which is most human:
and this is Justice, which alone is in the rational part, or rather in
the intellectual, that is, in the Will. This is so loveable that as
says the Philosopher in the fifth book of the Ethics, its enemies love
it, such as thieves and robbers; and, therefore, we see that its
opposite, that is, Injustice, is especially hated; such as treachery,
ingratitude, falsehood, theft, rapine, deceit, and their like; the
which are such inhuman sins, that, in order to excuse himself from the
infamy of such, it is granted through long custom that a man may speak
of himself, as has been said above, and may say if he be faithful and
loyal. Of this virtue I shall speak hereafter more fully in the
fourteenth treatise; and here quitting it, I return to the
proposition. Having proved, then, that the goodness of a thing is
loved the more the more it is innate, the more it is to be loved and
commended for itself, it remains to see what that goodness is. And we
see that, in all speech, to express a thought well and clearly is the
thing most to be admired and commended. This, then, is its first
goodness. And forasmuch as this is in our Mother Tongue, as is made
evident in another chapter, it is manifest that it has been the cause
of the love which I bear to it; since, as has been said, "Goodness is
the producer of Love."


Having said how in the Mother Tongue there are those two things which
have made me its friend, that is, nearness to me and its innate
goodness, I will tell how by kindness and union in study, and through
the benevolence of long use, the friendship is confirmed and grows.
Firstly, I say that I for myself have received from it the greatest
benefits. And, therefore, it is to be known that, amongst all
benefits, that is the greatest which is most precious to him who
receives it; and nothing is so precious as that through which all
other things are wished; and all the other things are wished for the
perfection of him who wishes. Wherefore, inasmuch as a man may have
two perfections, one first and one second (the first causes him to be,
the second causes him to be good), if the Native Language has been to
me the cause of the one and of the other, I have received from it the
greatest benefit. And that it may have been the cause of this
condition in me can be shown briefly. The efficient cause for the
existence of things is not one only, but among many efficient causes
one is the chief of the others, hence the fire and the hammer are the
efficient causes of the sword-blade, although the workman is
especially so. This my Mother Tongue was the bond of union between my
forefathers, who spoke with it, even as the fire is the link between
the iron and the smith who makes the knife; therefore it is evident
that it co-operated in my birth, and so it was in some way the cause
of my being. Again, this my Mother Tongue was my introducer into the
path of knowledge, which is the ultimate perfection, inasmuch as with
it I entered into the Latin Language, and with it I was taught; the
which Latin was then the way of further advancement for me. And so it
is evident and known by me that this my language has been my great
benefactor. Also it has been engaged with me in one self-same study,
and this I can thus prove. Each thing naturally studies its
self-preservation; hence, if the Mother Tongue could seek anything of
itself, it would seek that; and that would be to secure for itself a
position of the greatest stability: but greater stability it could not
secure than by uniting itself with number and with rhyme.

And this self-same study has been mine, as is so evident that it
requires no testimony; therefore its study and mine have been one and
the same, whereby the harmony of friendship is confirmed and
increased. Also between us there has been the benevolence of long use:
for from the beginning of my life I have had with it kind fellowship
and conversation, and have used it, when deliberating, interpreting,
and questioning; wherefore, if friendship increases through long use,
as in all reason appears, it is manifest that in me it has increased
especially, for with this my Mother Tongue I have spent all my time.
And thus one sees that to the shaping of this friendship there have
co-operated all causes of birth and growth. Therefore, let it be
concluded that not only Love, but the most Perfect Love, is that which
I have for it. So it is, and ought to be.

Thus, casting the eyes backwards and gathering up the afore-stated
reasons, one can see that this Bread, with which the Meat of the
under-written Poems ought to be eaten, is made clear enough of
blemishes, and of fault in the nature of its grain. Wherefore, it is
time to attend to and serve up the viands.

This will be that barley-bread with which a thousand will satisfy
themselves; and my full baskets shall overflow with it. This will be
that new Light, that new Sun, which shall rise when the sun of this
our day shall set, and shall give light to those who are in darkness
and in gloom because the sun of this our day gives light to them no

       *       *       *       *       *

The Second Treatise.

    Ye who the third Heaven move, intent of thought,
      Hear reasoning that is within my heart,
      Thoughts that to none but you I can impart:
    Heaven, that is moved by you, my life has brought
      To where it stands, therefore I pray you heed
      What I shall say about the life I lead.

    To you I tell the heart's new cares: always
      The sad Soul weeps within it, and there hears
      Voice of a Spirit that condemns her tears,
    A Spirit that descends in your star's rays.
      Thought that once fed the grieving heart was sweet,
      Thought that oft fled up to your Father's feet.

    There it beheld a Lady glorified,
      Of whom so sweetly it discoursed to me
      That the Soul said, "With her I long to be!"
    Now One appears that drives the thought aside,
      And masters me with so effectual might
      That my heart quivers to the outward sight.

    This on a Lady fixes my regard
      And says, "Who seeks where his salvation lies
      Must gaze intently in this Lady's eyes,
    Nor dread the sighs of anguish!" O, ill-starred!
      Such opposite now breaks the humble dream
      Of the crowned angel in the glory beam.

    Still, therefore, the Soul weeps, "The tender stir,"
      It says, "of thought that once consoled me flies!"
      That troubled one asks, "When into thine eyes
    Looked she? Why doubted they my words of her?"
      I said, "Her eyes bear death to such as I:
      Yet, vainly warned, I gaze on her and die.

    "Thou art not dead, but in a vain dismay,
      Dear Soul of ours so lost in thy distress,"
      Whispers a spirit voice of tenderness.
    "This Lady's beauty darkens all your day,
      Vile fear possesses you; see, she is lowly
      Pitiful, courteous, though so wise and holy.

    "Think thou to call her Mistress evermore:
      Save thou delude thyself, then shall there shine
      High miracles before thee, so divine
    That thou shalt say, O Love, when I adore,
      True Lord, behold the handmaid of the Lord,
      Be it unto me according to thy Word!"

    My song, I do believe there will be few
      Who toil to understand thy reasoning;
      But if thou pass, perchance, to those who bring
    No skill to give thee the attention due,
      Then pray I, dear last-born, let them rejoice
      To find at least a music in my voice.


Since I, the servant, with preliminary discourse in the preceding
Treatise, have with all due care prepared my bread, the time now
summons, and requires my ship to leave the port: wherefore, having
trimmed the mizen-mast of reason to the wind of my desire, I enter the
ocean with the hope of an easy voyage, and a healthful happy haven to
be reached at the end of my supper. But in order that my food may be
more profitable, before the first dish comes on the table I wish to
show how it ought to be eaten. I say then, as is narrated in the first
chapter, that this exposition must be Literal and Allegorical; and to
make this explicit one should know that it is possible to understand a
book in four different ways, and that it ought to be explained chiefly
in this manner.

The one is termed Literal, and this is that which does not extend
beyond the text itself, such as is the fit narration of that thing
whereof you are discoursing, an appropriate example of which is the
third Song, which discourses of Nobility.

Another is termed Allegorical, and it is that which is concealed under
the veil of fables, and is a Truth concealed under a beautiful
Untruth; as when Ovid says that Orpheus with his lute made the wild
beasts tame, and made the trees and the stones to follow him, which
signifies that the wise man with the instrument of his voice makes
cruel hearts gentle and humble, and makes those follow his will who
have not the living force of knowledge and of art; who, having not the
reasoning life of any knowledge whatever, are as the stones. And in
order that this hidden thing should be discovered by the wise, it will
be demonstrated in the last Treatise. Verily the theologians take this
meaning otherwise than do the poets: but, because my intention here is
to follow the way of the poets, I shall take the Allegorical sense
according as it is used by the poets.

The third sense is termed Moral; and this is that which the readers
ought intently to search for in books, for their own advantage and for
that of their descendants; as one can espy in the Gospel, when Christ
ascended the Mount for the Transfiguration, that, of the twelve
Apostles, He took with Him only three. From which one can understand
in the Moral sense that in the most secret things we ought to have but
little company.

The fourth sense is termed Mystical, that is, above sense,
supernatural; and this it is, when spiritually one expounds a writing
which even in the Literal sense by the things signified bears express
reference to the Divine things of Eternal Glory; as one can see in
that Song of the Prophet which says that by the exodus of the people
of Israel from Egypt Judæa is made holy and free. That this happens to
be true according to the letter is evident. Not less true is that
which it means spiritually, that in the Soul's liberation from Sin (or
in the exodus of the Soul from Sin) it is made holy and free in its

But in demonstrating these, the Literal must always go first, as that
in whose sense the others are included, and without which it would be
impossible and irrational to understand the others. Especially is it
impossible in the Allegorical, because, in each thing which has a
within and a without, it is impossible to come to the within if you do
not first come to the without. Wherefore, since in books the Literal
meaning is always external, it is impossible to reach the others,
especially the Allegorical, without first coming to the Literal.
Again, it is impossible, because in each thing, natural and
artificial, it is impossible to proceed to the form without having
first laid down the matter upon which the form should be. Thus, it is
impossible for the form of the gold to come, if the matter, that is,
its subject, is not first laid down and prepared; or for the form of
the ark to come, if the material, that is, the wood, be not first laid
down and prepared. Therefore, since the Literal meaning is always the
subject and the matter of the others, especially of the Allegorical,
it is impossible to come first to the meaning of the others before
coming to it. Again, it is impossible, because in each thing, natural
and artificial, it is impossible to proceed unless the foundation be
first laid, as in the house, so also in the mind. Therefore, since
demonstration must be the building up of Knowledge, and Literal
demonstration must be the foundation of the other methods of
interpreting, especially of the Allegorical, it is impossible to come
first to the others before coming to that. Again, if it were possible
that it could be so ordered, it would be irrational, that is, out of
order; and, therefore, one would proceed with, much fatigue and with
much error. Hence, as the Philosopher says in the first book of the
Physics, Nature desires that we proceed in due order in our search for
knowledge, that is, by proceeding from that which we know well to that
which we know not so well; so I say that Nature desires it, inasmuch
as this way to knowledge is innate in us; and therefore, if the other
meanings, apart from the Literal, are less understood--which they are,
as evidently appears--it would be irrational to demonstrate them if
the Literal had not first been demonstrated.

I, then, for these reasons will discourse in due order of each Song,
firstly upon its Literal meaning, and after that I will discourse of
its Allegory, that is, the hidden Truth, and sometimes I will touch
incidentally on the other meanings as may be convenient to place and


Beginning, then, I say that the star of Venus had twice revolved in
that circle which causes the evening and the morning to appear,
according to the two varying seasons, since the death of that blessed
Beatrice, who lives in Heaven with the Angels, and on Earth with my
soul; when that gentle Lady, of whom I made mention at the end of the
"Vita Nuova," first appeared before my eyes, accompanied by Love, and
assumed a position in my mind. And, as has been stated by me in the
little book referred to, more because of her gentle goodness than from
choice of mine, it befell that I consented to be her servant. For she
appeared impassioned with such sorrow for my sad widowed life that the
spirits of my eyes became especially friendly to her; and, so
disposed, they then depicted her to be such that my good-will was
content to espouse itself to that image. But because Love is not born
suddenly, nor grows great nor comes to perfection in haste, but
desires time and food for thought, especially there where there are
antagonistic thoughts which impede it, there must needs be, before
this new Love could be perfect, a great battle between the thought of
its food and of that which was antagonistic to it, which still held
the fortress of my mind for that glorious Beatrice. For the one was
succoured on one side continually by the ever-present vision, and the
other on the opposite side by the memory of the past. And the help of
the ever-present sight increased each day, which memory could not do,
in opposing that which to a certain degree prevented me from turning
the face towards the past. Wherefore it seemed to me so wonderful, and
also so hard to endure, that I could not support it, and with a loud
cry (to excuse myself from the struggle, in which it seemed to me that
I had failed in courage) I lifted up my voice towards that part whence
came the victory of the new thought, which was full of virtuous power,
even the power of celestial virtue; and I began to say: "You! who the
third Heaven move, intent of thought." For the intelligent
understanding of which Song, one must first know its divisions well,
so that it will then be easy to perceive its meaning.

In order that it may no longer be necessary to preface the
explanations of the others, I say that the order which will be taken
in this Treatise I intend to keep through all the others. I say, then,
that the proposed Song is contained within three principal parts. The
first is the first verse of that, in which certain Intelligences are
induced to listen to what I intend to say, or rather by a more usual
form of speech we should call them Angels, who are in the revolution
of the Heaven of Venus, as the movers thereof. The second is in the
lines which follow after the first, in which is made manifest that
which I felt spiritually amidst various thoughts. The third is in the
last lines, wherein the man begins to speak to the work itself, as if
to comfort it, as it were, and all these three parts are in due order
to be demonstrated, as has been said above.


That we may more easily perceive the Literal meaning of the first
division, to which we now attend, it is requisite to know who and what
are those who are summoned to my audience, and what is that third
Heaven which I say is moved by them. And firstly I will speak of the
Heaven; then I will speak of those whom I address And although with
regard to the truth concerning those things it is possible to know but
little, yet so much as human reason can discern gives more delight
than the best known and most certain of the things judged by the
sense; according to the opinion of the Philosopher in his book on

I say, then, that concerning the number of the Heavens and their site,
different opinions are held by many, although the truth at last may be
found. Aristotle believed, following merely the ancient foolishness of
the Astrologers, that there might be only eight Heavens, of which the
last one, and which contained all, might be that where the fixed stars
are, that is, the eighth sphere, and that beyond it there could be no
other. Again, he believed that the Heaven of the Sun might be
immediate with that of the Moon, that is, second to us. And this
opinion of his, so erroneous, he who wishes can see in the second book
on Heaven and the World, which is in the second of the Books on
Natural History. In fact, he excuses himself for this in the twelfth
book of the Metaphysics, where he clearly proves himself to have
followed also another opinion where he was obliged to speak of
Astrology. Ptolemy, then, perceiving that the eighth sphere is moved
by many movements, seeing its circle to depart from the right circle,
which turns from East to West, constrained by the principles of
Philosophy, which of necessity desires a Primum Mobile, a most simple
one, supposed another Heaven to be outside the Heaven of the fixed
stars, which might make that revolution from East to West which I say
is completed in twenty-four hours nearly, that is, in twenty-three
hours, fourteen parts of the fifteen of another, counting roughly.
Therefore, according to him, and according to that which is held in
Astrology and in Philosophy since those movements were seen, there are
nine moveable Heavens; the site of which is evident and determined,
according to an Art which is termed Perspective, Arithmetical and
Geometrical, by which and by other sensible experiences it is visibly
and reasonably seen, as in the eclipses of the Sun it appears
sensibly, that the Moon is below the Sun; and as by the testimony of
Aristotle, who saw with his own eyes, according to what he says in the
second book on Heaven and the World, the Moon, being new, to enter
below Mars, on the side not shining, and Mars to remain concealed so
long that he re-appeared on the other bright side of the Moon, which
was towards the West.


And the order of the houses is this, that the first that they
enumerate is that where the Moon is; the second is that where Mercury
is; the third is that where Venus is; the fourth is that where the Sun
is; the fifth is that where Mars is; the sixth is that where Jupiter
is; the seventh is that where Saturn is; the eighth is that of the
Stars; the ninth is that which is not visible except by that movement
which is mentioned above, which they designate the great Crystalline
sphere, diaphanous, or rather all transparent. Truly, beyond all
these, the Catholics place the Empyrean Heaven, which is as much as to
say, the Heaven of Flame, or rather the Luminous Heaven; and they
assign it to be immoveable, in order to have in itself, according to
each part, that which its material desires. And this is why that first
moved--the Primum Mobile--has such extremely rapid motion. For,
because of the most fervent appetite which each part of it has to be
united with each part of that most Divine Heaven of Peace, in which it
revolves with so much desire, its velocity is almost incomprehensible.
And this quiet and peaceful Heaven is the place of that Supreme Deity
who from above beholds the whole. This is the place of the blessed
Spirits, according as Holy Church teaches, which cannot speak falsely;
and even Aristotle seems to feel this, to him who understands him
well, in the first book of Heaven and the World. This is the highest
bound of the World, within which the whole World is included, and
beyond which there is nothing. And it is in no place, but was formed
alone in the First Mind, which the Greeks term Protonoe. This is that
magnificence of which the Psalmist spoke when he sang to God: "Thy
glory is raised above the Heavens."

So, then, gathering together this which is discussed, it seems that
there may be ten Heavens, of which the Heaven of Venus may be the
third; whereof mention is made in that part which I intend to
demonstrate. And it is to be known that each Heaven below the
Crystalline has two firm poles as to itself; and the ninth has them
firm and fixed, and not mutable in any respect. And each one, the
ninth even as the others, has a circle, which one may term the equator
of its own Heaven; which equally, in each part of its revolution, is
remote from one pole and from the other, as he who rolls an apple or
any other round thing can sensibly perceive. And this circle has more
swiftness in its movement than any other part of its Heaven, in each
Heaven, as he may perceive who considers well. And each part, in
proportion as it is nearer to it, moves so much the more swiftly; so
much the slower in proportion as it is more remote and nearer to the
pole; since its revolution is less, and it must of necessity be in one
self-same time with the greater. I say again, that in proportion as
the Heaven is nearer to the equatorial circle, so much the more noble
is it in comparison to its poles; since it has more motion and more
actuality and more life and more form and more touch from that which
is above itself, and consequently has more virtue. Hence the stars in
the Heaven of the fixed stars are more full of power amongst
themselves in proportion as they are nearer to that circle.

And upon the back of this circle in the Heaven of Venus, of which I
now speak, is a little sphere, which revolves by itself in this
Heaven, the circle of which Astrologers call Epicycle; and as the
great sphere revolves about two poles, so does this little sphere: and
so has this little sphere the equatorial circle; and so much the more
noble it is in proportion as it is nearer to those: and in the arc, or
rather back, of this circle is fixed the most brilliant star of Venus.
And, although it may be said that there are ten Heavens according to
strict Truth, this number does not comprehend them all: for that of
which mention is made, the Epicycle, in which the star is fixed, is a
Heaven by itself, or rather sphere; and it has not one essence with
that which bears it, although it may be more like to it than to the
others, and with it is called one Heaven, and they name the one and
the other from the star. How the other Heavens and the other stars may
be is not for present discussion; let it suffice that the nature of
the third Heaven, with which I am at present concerned, has been told,
and concerning which all that is at present needful has been shown.


Since it has been shown in the preceding chapter what this third
Heaven is, and how it is ordered in itself, it remains to show who
those are who move it. It is then to be known, in the first place,
that the movers thereof are substances apart from material, that is,
Intelligences, which the common people term Angels: and of these
creatures, as of the Heavens, different persons have had different
ideas, although the truth may be found. There were certain
Philosophers, of whom Aristotle appears to be one in his Metaphysics,
although in the first book on Heaven and Earth incidentally he appears
to think otherwise, who only believed these to be so many as there are
revolutions in the Heavens, and no more; saying, that the others would
have been eternally in vain, without operation, which was impossible,
inasmuch as their being is their operation. There were others, like
Plato, a most excellent man, who place not only so many Intelligences
as there are movements in Heaven, but even as there are species of
things, that is, manners of things; as of one species are all mankind,
and of another all the gold, and of another all the silver, and so
with all: and they are of opinion that as the Intelligences of the
Heavens are generators of those movements each after his kind, so
these were generators of the other things, each one being a type of
its species: and Plato calls them _Ideas_, which is as much as to
say, so many universal forms and natures.

The Gentiles called them Gods and Goddesses, although they could not
understand those so philosophically as Plato did; and they adored
their images, and built large temples to them, as to Juno, whom they
called the Goddess of Power; as to Vulcan, whom they called the God of
Fire; as to Pallas, or rather Minerva, whom they called the Goddess of
Wisdom; and to Ceres, whom they called the Goddess of Corn. Opinions
such as these the testimony of the Poets makes manifest, for they
describe to a certain extent the mode of the Gentiles both in their
sacrifices and in their faith; and it is testified also in many names,
remains of antiquity, or in names of places and ancient buildings, as
he who will can easily find. And although these opinions above
mentioned might be built upon a good foundation by human reason and by
no slight knowledge, yet the Truth was not seen by them, either from
defect of reason or from defect of instruction. Yet even by reason it
was possible to see that very numerous were the creatures above
mentioned who are not such as men can understand. And the one reason
is this: no one doubts, neither Philosopher, nor Gentile, nor Jew, nor
Christian, nor any one of any sect, that they are either the whole or
the greater part full of all Blessedness, and that those blessed ones
are in a most perfect state. Therefore, since that which is here Human
Nature may have not only one Beatitude, but two Beatitudes, as that of
the Civil Life and that of the Contemplative, it would be irrational
if we should see these Celestial Beings to have the Beatitude of the
Active Life, that is, the Civil, in the government of the World, and
not to have that of the Contemplative, which is the most excellent and
most Divine.

But since that which has the Beatitude of the Civil government cannot
have the other, because their intellect is one and perpetual, there
must be others beyond this ministry, who live only in contemplation.
And because this latter life is more Divine--and in proportion as the
thing is more Divine so much the more is it in the image of God--it is
evident that this life is more beloved of God: and if it be more
beloved, so much the more vast has its Beatitude been; and if it has
been more vast, so much the more vivifying power has He given to it
rather than to the other; therefore one concludes that there may De a
much larger number of those creatures than the effects tend to show.
And this is not opposed to that which Aristotle seems to state in the
tenth book of the Ethics, that to the separate substances the
Contemplative Life must be requisite; as also the Active Life must be
imperative to them. Nevertheless, in the contemplation of certain
truths the revolution of the Heaven follows, which is the government
of the World; which is, as it were, a Civil government ordained and
comprehended in the contemplation of the movers, that is, the ruling
Intelligences. The other reason is, that no effect is greater than the
cause, because the cause cannot give that which it has not; wherefore,
since the Divine Intellect is the cause of all, especially of the
Human Intellect, it follows that the Human Intellect does not dominate
the Divine, but is dominated by it in proportion to the superior power
of the Divine. Hence, if we, by the reason above stated, and by many
others, understand God to have been able to create Spiritual Creatures
almost innumerable, it is quite evident that He has made them in this
great number. Many other reasons it were possible to see: but let
these suffice for the present. Nor let any one marvel if these and
other reasons which we could adduce concerning this are not fully
demonstrated; since likewise we ought to wonder at their excellence,
which overpowers the eyes of the Human Mind, as the Philosopher says
in the second book of the Metaphysics, and he affirms their existence.
Though we have not any perception of them from which our knowledge can
begin, yet some light from their most vivacious essence shines upon
our intellect, inasmuch as we perceive the above-mentioned reasons and
many others, even as he who has the eyes closed affirms the air to be
luminous, because of some little brightness or ray of light which
passes through the pupils; as it is with the bat, for not otherwise
are the eyes of the intellect closed, so long as the soul is bound and
prisoned by the organs of our body.


It has been said that, through defective instruction, the ancients saw
not the Truth concerning the Spiritual Creatures, although the people
of Israel were in part instructed by their Prophets, through whom by
many modes of speech and in many ways God had spoken to them, as the
Apostle says. But we are therein instructed by Him who came from God,
by Him who made them, by Him who preserves them, that is, by the
Emperor of the Universe, who is Christ the Son of the Supreme God, and
the Son of the Virgin Mary, a woman truly, and the daughter of Joseph
and Anna--very Man, who was slain by us in order that He might bring
us Life; who was the Light which enlightens us in the Darkness, even
as John the Evangelist says; and He told us the Truth of those things
which we could not have known without Him, nor seen truly. The first
thing and the first secret which He showed us was one of the
before-mentioned Beings or creatures. This was that one, His great
Legate, the Angel Gabriel, who came to Mary, a young damsel of
thirteen years, on the part of the Heavenly Saviour. This our Saviour,
with His own mouth, said, that the Father could give Him many Legions
of Angels. This He denied not, when it was said to Him that the Father
had commanded His Angels that they should minister unto Him and should
serve Him. Wherefore, it is evident to us that these creatures are in
a very great number; since His Spouse and Secretary, Holy Church, of
whom Solomon says: "Who is this that cometh forth from the Desert,
full of those things which give delight, leaning upon her friend?"
says, believes, and preaches these most noble creatures to be almost
innumerable; and She divides them into three Hierarchies, that is to
say, three holy, or rather Divine, Principalities: and each Hierarchy
has three orders, so that nine orders of spiritual creatures the
Church holds and affirms.

The first is that of the Angels, the second of the Archangels, the
third of the Thrones; and these three orders make the first
Hierarchy--not first as to nobility, nor as to creation, for the
others are more noble, and all were created together, but first in
degree, according to our perception of their exaltation.

Then there are the Dominations; after them the Virtues; then the
Principalities; and these make the second Hierarchy.

Above these are the Powers and the Cherubim, and above all are the
Seraphim; and these make the third Hierarchy.

And the most potent reason for their contemplation is the number in
which the Hierarchies are, and that in which the orders are. For,
since the Divine Majesty is in Three Persons, which have one
substance, it is possible to contemplate them triply. For it is
possible to contemplate the Supreme Power of the Father, which the
first Hierarchy gazes upon, namely, that which is first by nobility,
and which we enumerate last. And it is possible to contemplate the
Supreme Wisdom of the Son; and upon this the second Hierarchy gazes.
And it is possible to contemplate the Supreme and most fervent Charity
of the Holy Spirit; and upon this the third Hierarchy gazes, which,
being nearest to us, gives of the gifts which it receives.

And, since it is possible to regard each person in the Divine Trinity
triply, so in each Hierarchy there are three orders which contemplate
diversely. It is possible to consider the Father having regard to none
but Him; and this is the contemplation of the Seraphim, who see more
of the First Cause than any other Angelic Nature. It is possible to
consider the Father according as He has relation to the Son, that is,
how He is apart from Him, and how united with Him; and this is the
contemplation of the Cherubim. It is possible again to consider the
Father according as from Him proceeds the Holy Spirit, and how it is
apart from Him and how united with Him; and this is the contemplation
of the Powers.

And in like way it is possible to contemplate the Son and the Holy

Wherefore, there must be nine orders of contemplative Spirits to gaze
into the Light, which alone beholds itself completely. And this is not
the place to be silent so much as one word. I say, that of all these
orders some were lost as soon as they were created, perhaps in number
of the tenth part, to restore which Human Nature was created. The
numbers, the orders, the Hierarchies, declare the glory of the movable
Heavens, which are nine; and the tenth announces this Unity and
stability of God. And therefore the Psalmist says: "The Heavens
declare the glory of God, and the Firmament showeth His handiwork."
Wherefore it is reasonable to believe that the movers of the Heaven of
the Moon are of the order of the Angels, and those of Mercury may be
the Archangels, and those of Venus may be the Thrones, in whom the
Love of the Holy Spirit being innate, they do their work conformably
to it, which means that the revolution of that Heaven is full of Love.
The form of the said Heaven takes from this a virtue by whose glow
souls here below are kindled to love according to their disposition.

And because the ancients perceived that Heaven to be here below the
cause of Love, they said that Love was the son of Venus, as Virgil
testifies in the first book of the Æneid, where Venus says to Love:
"Oh! son, my virtue, son of the great Father, who takest no heed of
the darts of Typhoeus." And Ovid so testifies in the fifth book of
his Metamorphoses, when he says that Venus said to Love: "Son, my
arms, my power." And there are Thrones which are ordered to the
government of this Heaven in number not great, concerning which the
Philosophers and the Astrologers have thought differently, according
as they held different opinions concerning its revolutions. But all
may be agreed, as many are, in this, as to how many movements it
makes. Of this, as abbreviated in the book of the Aggregation of the
Stars, you may find in the better demonstration of the Astrologers
that there are three: one, according as the star moves towards its
Epicycle; the other, according as the Epicycle moves with its whole
Heaven equally with that of the Sun; the third, according as the whole
of that Heaven moves, following the movement of the starry sphere from
West to East in one hundred years one degree. So that to these Three
Movements there are Three Movers. Again, if the whole of this Heaven
moves and turns with the Epicycle from East to West once in each
natural day, that movement, whether it be caused by some Intelligence
or whether it be through the rapid movement of the Primum Mobile, God
knows, for to me it seems presumptuous to judge. These Movers produce,
caring for that alone, the revolution proper to that sphere which each
one moves. The most noble form of the Heaven, which has in itself the
principle of this passive Nature, revolves, touched by the Moving
Power, which cares for this; and I say touched, not by a bodily touch,
but by a Power which directs itself to that operation. And these
Movers are those to whom I begin to speak and to whom I put my


According to that which is said above in the third chapter of this
treatise, in order to understand well the first part of the Song I
comment on, it is requisite to discourse of those Heavens, and of
their Movers; and in the three preceding chapters this has been
discussed. I say, then, to those whom I proved to be Movers of the
Heaven of Venus: "Ye who, with thought intent" (_i.e._, with the
intellect alone, as is said above), "the third Heaven move, Hear
reasoning that is within my heart;" and I do not say "Hear" because
they hear any sound, for they have no sense of hearing; but I say
"Hear," meaning with that hearing which they have, which is of the
understanding through the intellect. I say, "Hear reasoning that is
within my heart," within me, which as yet has not appeared externally.
It is to be known that throughout this Song, according to the one
sense (the Literal), and the other sense (the Allegorical), the Heart
is concerned with the secret within, and not any other special part of
the soul or body. When I have called them to hear that which I wish to
say, I assign two reasons why I ought fitly to speak to them. One is
the novelty of my condition, which, from not having been experienced
by other men, would not be so understood by them as by those who
superintend such effects in their operation. And this reason I touch
upon when I say: "To you alone its new thoughts I impart." The other
reason is: when a man receives a benefit or injury, he ought first to
relate it to him who bestows or inflicts it, if he can, rather than to
others; in order that, if it be a benefit, he who receives it may show
himself grateful towards the benefactor, and, if it be an injury, let
him lead the doer thereof to gentle mercy with sweet words. And this
reason I touch upon when I say: "Heaven, that is moved by you, my life
has brought To where it stands;" that is to say, your operation,
namely, your revolution, is that which has drawn me into the present
condition; therefore I conclude and say that my speech ought to be to
them, such as is said; and I say here: "Therefore to you 'tis need
That I should speak about the life I lead." And after these reasons
assigned, I beseech them to listen when I speak.

But, because in each manner of speech the speaker especially ought to
look to persuasion, that is, to the pleasing of the audience, as that
which is the beginning of all other persuasions, as do the
Rhetoricians, and the most powerful persuasion to render the audience
attentive is to promise to say new and wonderful things, I add to the
prayer made for attention, this persuasion, or embellishment,
announcing to them my intention to speak of new things, that is, the
division which is in my mind; and great things, namely, the power of
their star; and I say this in those last words of this first part:

    To you I'll tell the heart's new cares: always
      The sad Soul weeps within it, and there hears
      Voice of a Spirit that condemns her tears,
    A Spirit that descends through your star's rays.

And to the full understanding of these words, I say that this Spirit
is no other than a frequent thought how to commend and beautify this
new Lady. And this Soul is no other than another thought, accompanied
with acquiescence, which, repudiating that Spirit, commends and
beautifies the memory of that glorious Beatrice. But, again, because
the last sentiment of the mind, acquiescence, is held by that thought
which memory assisted, I call it the Soul, and the other the Spirit;
as we are accustomed to call the City those who hold it, and not those
who fight it, although the one and the other may be citizens. I say
also, that this Spirit comes on the rays of the star, because one
desires to know that the rays of each Heaven are the way by which
their virtue descends into things here below. And since the rays are
no other than a light which comes from the source of Light through the
air even to the thing illuminated, and the light has no source except
the star, because the other Heaven is transparent, I say not that this
Spirit, this thought, comes from their Heaven entirely, but from their
star. And their star, through the nobility of its Movers, is of such
virtue that in our souls, and in other things, it has very great
power, notwithstanding that it is so far from us, about one hundred
and sixty-seven times farther than it is to the centre of the Earth,
which is three thousand two hundred and fifty miles. And this is the
Literal exposition of the first part of the Song.


What I have said shows clearly enough the Literal meaning of the first
part. In the second, there is to be understood how it makes manifest
what I experienced from the struggle within me; and this part has two
divisions. In the first place it describes the quality of these
oppositions, according as their cause was within me. Then I narrate
what the one and the other voice of opposition said; and upon that
firstly which described what was being lost, in the passage which is
the second of that part and the third of the Song. In evidence, then,
of the meaning of the first division, it is to be known that things
must be named by that part of their form which is the noblest and
best, as Man by Reason, and not by Sense, nor by aught else which is
less noble; therefore, when one speaks of the living man, one should
understand the man using Reason, which is his especial Life, and is
the action of his noblest part. And, therefore, whoso departs from
Reason and uses only the Senses is not a living man, but a living
beast, as says that most excellent Boethius, "Let the Ass live."

Rightly I speak, because thought is the right act of reason, wherefore
the beasts who have it not do not think; and I speak not only of the
lesser beasts, but of those who have a human appearance with the
spirit of a sheep or of some other abominable beast. I say then:
"Thought that once fed my grieving heart"--thought, that is, of the
inner life--"was sweet" (sweet, insomuch as it is persuasive, that is,
pleasing, or beautiful, gentle, delightful); this thought often sped
away to the feet of the Father of those Spirits to whom I speak, that
is, God; that is to say, that I in thought contemplated the realm of
the Blessed. "Thought that once fled up to the Father's feet." And I
name the final cause immediately, because I ascended there above in
thought when I say, "There I beheld a Lady glorified," to let you
understand that I was certain, and am certain by its gracious
revelation, that she was in Heaven; wherefore I, thinking many times
how this was possible for me, went thither, rapt, as it were. Then
subsequently I speak of the effect of this thought, in order to let
you understand its sweetness, which was such that it made me desirous
of Death, that I also might go where she was gone. And of this I speak
there: "Of whom so sweetly it discoursed to me That the Soul said,
'With her would I might be!'" And this is the root of one of the
struggles which was in me. And it is to be known that here one terms
Thought, and not Soul, that which ascended to see that Blessed Spirit,
because it was an especial thought sent on that mission; the Soul is
understood, as is stated in the preceding chapter, as thought in
general, with acquiescence.

Then, when I say, "Now One appears that drives the thought aside," I
touch the root of the other struggle, saying how that previous thought
was wont to be the life of me, even as another appears, which makes
that one cease to be. I say, "drives the thought aside," in order to
show that one to be antagonistic, for naturally the opposing one
drives aside the other, and that which is driven appears to yield
through want of power. And I say that this thought, which newly
appears, is powerful in taking hold of me and in subduing my Soul,
saying that it "masters me with such effectual might" that the heart,
that is, my inner life, trembles so much that my countenance shows it
in some new appearance.

Subsequently I show the power of this new thought by its effect,
saying that it makes me "fix my regard" on a Lady, and speaks to me
words of allurement, that is to say, it reasons before the eyes of my
intelligent affection, in order the better to induce me, promising me
that the sight of her eyes is its salvation. And in order to make this
credible to the Soul experienced in love, it says that it is for no
one to gaze into the eyes of this woman who fears the anguish of
laboured sighs. And it is a beautiful mode of rhetoric when externally
it appears that you disembellish a thing, and yet really embellish it
within. This new thought of love could not induce my mind to consent,
except by discoursing of the virtue of the eyes of this fair Lady so


Now that it is shown how and whereof Love is born, and the antagonist
that fought with me, I must proceed to open the meaning of that part
in which different thoughts contend within me. I say that, firstly,
one must speak on the part of the Soul, that is, of the former
thought, and then of the other; for this reason, that always that
which the speaker intends most especially to say he ought to reserve
in the background, because that which is said finally, remains most in
the mind of the hearer. Therefore, since I mean to speak further, and
to discourse of that which performs the work of those to whom I speak,
rather than of that which undoes this work, it was reasonable first to
mention and to discourse of the condition of the part which was
undone, and then of that which was generated by the other.

But here arises a doubt, which is not to be passed over without
explanation. It would be possible for any one to say: Since Love is
the effect of these Intelligences, to whom I speak, and that of the
first Love might be the same as that of the new Love, why should their
virtue destroy the one, and produce the other? since it ought to
preserve the first, for the reason that each cause loves its effect,
and ought to protect what it loves. To this question one can easily
reply, that the effect of those Spirits, as has been said, is Love:
and since they could not save it except in those who are subject to
their revolution, they transfer it from that part which is beyond
their power to that which is within reach, from the soul departed out
of this life, into that which is yet living; as human nature transfers
in the human form its preservation of the father to the son, because
it cannot in this father preserve perpetually its effect: I say effect
in as far as soul and body are united, and not effect in as far as
that soul, which is divided from the body, lasts for ever, in a nature
more than human. And thus is the question solved.

But since the immortality of the Soul is here touched upon, I will
make a digression upon that; because to discourse of that will make a
fit conclusion to the mention I have made of that living and blessed
Beatrice, of whom I do not intend to speak further in this book.

For proposition I say that, amongst all the bestialities, that is the
most foolish, the most vile, and most damnable which believes no other
life to be after this life; wherefore, if we turn over all books,
whether of philosophers or of the other wise writers, all agree in
this, that in us there is some everlasting principle. And this
especially Aristotle seems to desire in that book on the Soul; this
especially each stoic seems to desire; this Tullius seems to desire,
especially in that book on Old Age. This each of the Poets who have
spoken according to the faith of the Gentiles seems to desire; this
the law seems to desire, among Jews, Saracens, and Tartars, and all
other people who live according to some civil law. And if all these
could be deceived, there would result an impossibility which even to
describe would be horrible. Each man is certain that human nature is
the most perfect of all natures here below. This no one denies: and
Aristotle affirms it when he says, in the twelfth book On Animals,
that man is the most perfect of all the animals. Therefore, since many
who live are entirely mortal, as are the brute animals, and all may
be, whilst they live, without that hope of the other life; if our hope
should be in vain, our want would be greater than that of any other
animal. There have been many who have given this life for that: and
thus it would follow that the most perfect animal, man, would be the
most imperfect, which is impossible; and that that part, namely,
reason, which is his chief perfection, would be in him the cause of
the chief defect: which seems strange to say of the whole. And again
it would follow that Nature, in contradiction to herself, could have
put this hope in the human mind; since it is said that many have
hastened to death of the body that they might live in the other life;
and this also is impossible. Again, we have continual experience of
our immortality in the divination of our dreams, which could not be if
there were no immortal part in us, since immortal must be the
revelation. This part may be either corporeal or incorporeal if one
think well and closely. I say corporeal or incorporeal, because of the
different opinions which I find concerning this. That which is moved,
or rather informed, by an immediate informer, ought to have proportion
to the informer; and between the mortal and the immortal there is no
proportion. Again, we are assured of it by the most truthful doctrine
of Christ, which is the Way, the Truth, and the Light: the Way,
because by it without impediment we go to the happiness of that
immortality; the Truth, because it endures no error; the Light,
because it enlightens us in the darkness of worldly ignorance. This
doctrine, I say, which above all other reasons makes us certain of it;
for it has been given to us by Him who sees and measures our
immortality, which we cannot perfectly see whilst our immortal is
mingled with the mortal. But we see it by faith perfectly; and by
reason we see it with the cloud of obscurity which grows from the
mixture of the mortal with the immortal. This ought to be the most
powerful argument that both are in us: and I thus believe, thus
affirm; and I am equally certain, after this life, to pass to that
other and better life--there where that glorious Lady lives, with whom
my soul was enamoured when it was struggling, as will be set forth in
the next chapter.


Returning to the proposition, I say that in that verse which begins "A
foe so strong I find him that he destroys," I intend to make manifest
that which was discoursing in my Soul, the ancient thought against the
new; and first briefly I show the cause of its lamentation, when I
say: "This opposite now breaks the humble dream Of the crowned angel
in the glory-beam." This one is that especial thought of which it is
said above that it was wont to be the life of the sorrowing heart.
Then when I say, "Still, therefore, my Soul weeps," it is evident that
my Soul is still on its side, and speaks with sadness; and I say that
it speaks words of lamentation, as if it might wonder at the sudden
transformation, saying: "'The tender star,' It says, 'that once was my
consoler, flies.'" It can well say consoler, for in the great loss
which I sustained in the death of Beatrice this thought, which
ascended into Heaven, had given to my Soul much consolation.

Then afterwards I say, that all my thought, my Soul, of which I say,
"That troubled one," turns in excuse of itself, and speaks against the
eyes; and this is made evident there: "That troubled one asked, 'When
into thine eyes Looked she?'" And I say that she speaks of them and
against them three things: the first is, she blasphemes the hour when
this woman saw them. And here you must know, that although many things
in one hour can come into the eyes, truly that which comes by a
straight line into the point of the pupil, that truly one sees, and
that only is sealed in the imaginative part. And this is, because the
nerve by which the visible spirit runs is directed to that part, and
thereupon truly one eye cannot look on the eye of another so that it
is not seen by it; for as that which looks receives the form of the
pupil by a right line, so by that same line its form passes into that
eye which gazes. And many times in the direction of that line a shaft
flies from the bow of Love, with whom each weapon is light. Therefore,
when I ask, "When first into mine eyes looked she?" it is as much as
to ask, "When did her eyes and mine look into each other?"

The second point is in that which reproves their disobedience, when it
says, "Of her, why doubted they my words?" Then it proceeds to the
third thing and says that it is not right to reprove them for
precaution, but for their disobedience; for it says that, sometimes,
when speaking of this woman, it might be said, "Her eyes bear death to
such as I," if she could have opened the way of approach. And indeed
one ought to believe that my Soul knew of its own inclination ready to
receive the operation of this power, and therefore dreaded it; for the
act of the agent takes full effect in the patient who has the
inclination to receive it, as the Philosopher says in the second book
on the Soul. And, therefore, if wax could have the spirit of fear, it
would fear most to come into the rays of the Sun, which would not turn
it into stone, since its disposition is to yield to that strong

Lastly, the Soul reveals in its speech that their presumption had been
dangerous when it says, "Yet vainly warned, I gazed on her and die."
And thus it closes its speech, to which the new thought replies, as
will be declared in the following chapter.


The meaning of that part in which the Soul speaks, that is, the old
thought which is undone, has been shown. Now, in due order, the
meaning must be shown of the part in which the new antagonistic
thought speaks; and this part is contained entirely in the verse or
stanza which begins, "Thou art not dead," which part, in order to
understand it well, I will divide into two; that in the first part,
which begins "Thou art not dead," it then says, continuing its last
words, "It is not true that thou art dead; but the cause wherefore
thou to thyself seemest to be dead is a deadly dismay into which thou
art vilely fallen because of this woman who has appeared to thee." And
here it is to be observed that, as Boethius says in his Consolation,
each sudden change of things does not happen without some flurry of
mind. And this is expressed in the reproof of that thought which is
called "the spirit voice of tenderness," when it gave me to understand
that my consent was inclining towards it; and thus, one can easily
comprehend this, and recognize its victory, when it already says,
"Dear Soul of ours," therein making itself familiar. Then, as is
stated, it commands where it ought to rebuke that Soul, in order to
induce it to come to her; and therefore it says to her: "See, she is
lowly, Pitiful, courteous, though so wise and holy."

These are two things which are a fit remedy for the fear with which
the Soul appeared impassioned; for, firmly united, they cause the
individual to hope well, and especially Pity, which causes all other
goodness to shine forth by its light. Wherefore Virgil, speaking of
Æneas, in his greater praise calls him compassionate, pitiful; and
that is not pity such as the common people understand it, which is to
lament over the misfortunes of others; nay, this is an especial effect
which is called Mercy, Pity, Compassion; and it is a passion. But
compassion is not a passion; rather a noble disposition of mind,
prepared to receive Love, Mercy, and other charitable passions. Then
it says: "See also how courteous, though so wise and holy."

Here it says three things which, according as they can be acquired by
us, make the person especially pleasing. It says Wise. Now, what is
more beautiful in a woman than knowledge? It says Courteous. Nothing
in a woman can be more excellent than courtesy. And neither are the
wretched common people deceived even in this word, for they believe
that courtesy is no other than liberality; for liberality is an
especial, and not a general courtesy. Courtesy is all one with
honesty, modesty, decency; and because the virtues and good manners
were the custom in Courts anciently, as now the opposite is the
custom, this word was taken from the Courts; which word, if it should
now be taken from the Courts, especially of Italy, would and could
express no other than baseness. It says Holy. The greatness which is
here meant is especially well accompanied with the two afore-mentioned
virtues; because it is that light which reveals the good and the evil
of the person clearly. And how much knowledge and how much virtuous
custom does there not seem to be wanting by this light! How much
madness and how much vice are seen to be by this light! Better would
it be for the wretched madmen high in station, stupid and vicious, to
be of low estate, that neither in the world nor after this life they
should be so infamous. Truly for such Solomon says in Ecclesiastes:
"There is a sore evil that I have seen under the Sun; namely, riches
kept for the owners thereof to their hurt."

Then subsequently it lays a command on it, that is, on my Soul, that
it should now call this one its Lady: "Think thou to call her Mistress
evermore," promising my Soul that it will be quite content with her
when it shall have clear perception of all her wonderful
accomplishments; and then this one says: "Save thou delude thyself,
then shall there shine High miracles before thee;" neither does it
speak otherwise even to the end of that stanza. And here ends the
Literal meaning of all that which I say in this Song, speaking to
these Celestial Intelligences.


Finally, according to that which the letter of this Commentary said
above, when I divided the principal parts of this Song, I turn back
with the face of my discourse to the same Song, and I speak to that.
And in order that this part may be understood more fully, I say that
generally in each Song there is what is called a Tornata, because the
Reciters, who originally were accustomed to compose it, so contrived
that when the song was sung, with a certain part of the song they
could return to it. But I have rarely done it with that intention;
and, in order that others may perceive, this I have seldom placed it
with the sequence of the Song, so long as it is in the rhythm which is
necessary to the measure. But I have used it when it was requisite to
express something independent of the meaning of the Song, and which
was needful for its embellishment, as it will be possible to perceive
in this and in the other Songs.

And, therefore, I say at present, that the goodness and the beauty of
each discourse are parted and divided; for the goodness is in the
meaning, and the beauty in the ornament of the words. And the one and
the other are with delight, although the goodness is especially
delightful. Wherefore, since the goodness of this Song might be
difficult to perceive, because of the various persons who are led to
speak in it, where so many distinctions are required; and the beauty
would be easy to see, it seemed to me, of the nature of the Song that
by some men more attention might be paid to the beauty of the words
than to the goodness of matter. And this is what I say in that part.

But, because it often happens that to admonish seems presumptuous in
certain conditions, it is usual for the Rhetorician to speak
indirectly to others, directing his words, not to him for whom he
speaks, but towards another. And truly this method is maintained here;
for to the Song the words go, and to the men the meaning of them. I
say then: "My Song, I do believe there will be few Who toil to
understand thy reasoning." And I state the cause, which is double.
First, because thou speakest with fatigue--with fatigue, I say, for
the reason which is stated; and then because thou speakest with
difficulty--with difficulty, I say, as to the novelty of the meaning.
Now afterwards I admonish it, and say:

      But if thou pass perchance by those who bring
    No skill to give thee the attention due,
      Then pray I, dear last-born, let them rejoice
      At least to find a music in my voice.

For in this I desire to say no other according to what is said above,
except "Oh, men, you who cannot see the meaning of this Song, do not
therefore refuse it; but pay attention to its beauty, which is great,
both for construction, which belongs to the Grammarians; and for the
order of the discourse, which belongs to the Rhetoricians; as well as
for the rhythm of its parts, which belongs to the Musicians." For
which things he who looks well can see that there may be beauty in it.
And this is the entire Literal meaning of the first Song which is
prepared for the first dish in my Banquet.


Since the Literal meaning has been sufficiently explained, we must now
proceed to the Allegorical and true exposition. And, therefore,
beginning again from the first head, I say that when I had lost the
chief delight of my Soul in former time, I was left so stung with
sadness that no consolation whatever availed me. Nevertheless, after
some time, my mind, reasoning with itself to heal itself, took heed,
since neither my own nor that of another availed to comfort it, to
turn to the method which a certain disconsolate one had adopted when
he looked for Consolation. And I set myself to read that book of
Boethius, not known to many, in which, when a captive exile, he had
consoled himself. And, again, hearing that Tullius had written another
book, in which, treating of Friendship, he had spoken words for the
consolation of Lælius, a most excellent man, on the death of his
friend Scipio, I set myself to read it. And although at first it was
difficult to me to enter into their meaning, yet, finally, I entered
into it so much as the knowledge of grammar that I possessed, together
with some slight power of intellect, enabled me to do: by which power
of intellect I formerly beheld many things almost like a person in a
dream, as may be seen in the Vita Nuova. And as it is wont to be that
a man goes seeking for silver, and beyond his purpose he finds gold,
whose hidden cause appears not perhaps without the Divine Will; I, who
sought to console myself, found not only a remedy for my tears, but
words of authors and of sciences and of books; reflecting on which I
judged well that Philosophy, who was the Lady of these authors, of
these sciences, and of these books, might be a supreme thing. And I
imagined her in the form of a gentle Lady; and I could imagine her in
no other attitude than a compassionate one, because if willingly the
sense of Truth beheld her, hardly could it turn away from her. And
with this imagination I began to go where she is demonstrated
truthfully, that is, to the Schools of the Religious, and to the
disputations of the Philosophers; so that in a short time, perhaps of
thirty months, I began to feel her sweetness so much that my love for
her chased away and destroyed all other thought. Wherefore I, feeling
myself to rise from the thought of the first Love to the virtue of
this new one, as if wondering at myself, opened my mouth in the speech
of the proposed Song, showing my condition under the figure of other
things: for of the Lady with whom I was enamoured, no rhyme of any
Vernacular was worthy to speak openly, neither were the hearers so
well prepared that they could have easily understood the words without
figure: neither would faith have been given by them to the true
meaning, as to the figurative; since if the truth of the whole was
believed, that I was inclined to that love, it would not be believed
of this. I then begin to speak: "Ye who, intent of thought, the third
Heaven move."

And because, as has been said, this Lady was the daughter of God, the
Queen of all, the most noble and most beautiful Philosophy, it remains
to be seen who these Movers were, and what this third Heaven. And
firstly of the third Heaven, according to the order which has been
gone through. And here it is not needful to proceed to division, and
to explanation of the letter, for, having turned the fictitious speech
away from that which it utters to that which it means, by the
exposition just gone through, this meaning is sufficiently made


In order to see what is meant by the "third Heaven," one has in the
first place to perceive what I desire to express by this word Heaven
alone: and then one will see how and why this third Heaven was needful
to us. I say that by Heaven I mean Science, and by the Heavens "the
Sciences," from three resemblances which the Heavens have with the
Sciences, especially by the order and number in which they must
appear; as will be seen by discussing that word Third. The first
similitude is the revolution of the one and the other round one fixed
centre. For each movable Heaven revolves round its centre, which, on
account of its movement, moves not; and thus each Science moves round
its subject, which itself moves not; for no Science demonstrates its
own foundation, but presupposes that. The second similitude is the
illumination of the one and the other. For each Heaven illuminates
visible things; and thus each Science illuminates the things
intelligible. And the third similitude is the inducing of perfection
in the things so inclined. Of which induction, as to the first
perfection, that is, of the substantial generation, all the
philosophers agree that the Heavens are the cause, although they
attribute this in different ways: some from the Movers, as Plato,
Avicenna, and Algazel; some from the stars themselves, especially the
human souls, as Socrates, and also Plato and Dionysius the
Academician; and some from celestial virtue which is in the natural
heat of the seed, as Aristotle and the other Peripatetics. Thus the
Sciences are the cause in us of the induction of the second
perfection; by the use of which we can speculate concerning the Truth,
which is our ultimate perfection, as the Philosopher says in the sixth
book of the Ethics, when he says that Truth is the good of the
intellect. Because of these and many other resemblances, it is
possible to call Science, Heaven.

Now it remains to see why it is called the third Heaven. Here it is
requisite to reflect somewhat with regard to a comparison which exists
between the order of the Heavens and that of the Sciences Wherefore,
as has been previously described, the Seven Heavens next to us are
those of the Planets; then there are two Heavens above these, the
Mobile, and one above all, Quiet. To the Seven first correspond the
Seven Sciences of the _Trivium_ and of the _Quadrivium_,
namely, Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, and
Astrology. To the eighth Sphere, i.e., to the starry, correspond
Natural Science, which is termed Physics, and the first Science, which
is termed Metaphysics. To the ninth Sphere corresponds Moral Science;
and to the Quiet Heaven corresponds Divine Science, which is
designated Theology.

And the reason why this is, remains briefly to be seen. I say that the
Heaven of the Moon is likened unto Grammar because it is possible to
find a comparison to it. For if you look at the Moon well, two things
are seen to be proper to it which are not seen in the other stars: the
one is the shadow which is in it, which is no other than the rarity of
its body, in which the rays of the Sun can find no end wherefrom to
strike back again as in the other parts; the other is the variation of
its brightness, which now shines on one side, and now on the other,
according as the Sun sees it. And these two properties Grammar has:
for, because of its infinity, the rays of reason can find no end in it
in parts, especially of the words; and it shines now on this side, now
on that, inasmuch as certain words, certain declensions, certain
constructions, are in use which were not formerly, and many formerly
were which again will be; as Horace says in the beginning of his book
on the art of Poetry, when he says: "Many words will spring up again
which have now fallen out of use."

And the Heaven of Mercury may be compared to Logic because of two
properties: that Mercury is the smallest star in Heaven, that the
amount of its diameter is no more than two hundred and thirty-two
miles, according as Alfergano puts it, who says that it is one
twenty-eighth part of the diameter of the Earth, which is six thousand
five hundred miles; the other property is, that it is more concealed
by the rays of the Sun than any other star. And these two properties
are in Logic: for Logic is less in substance than any other Science,
for it is perfectly compiled and terminated in so much text as is
found in the old Art and the new; and it is more concealed than any
other Science, inasmuch as it proceeds with more sophistical and
probable arguments than any other.

And the Heaven of Venus may be compared to Rhetoric because of two
properties: the one is the brightness of its aspect, which is most
sweet to behold, far more than any other star; the other is its
appearance, now in the morning, now in the evening. And these two
properties are in Rhetoric: for Rhetoric is the sweetest of all
Sciences, since it principally aims at sweetness. It appears in the
morning, when the Rhetorician speaks before the face of the hearer; it
appears in the evening, that is, afterwards, when it speaks by Letters
in distant parts.

And the Heaven of the Sun may be compared to Arithmetic because of two
properties: the one is, that with his light all the other stars are
informed; the other is that the eye cannot gaze at it. And these two
properties are in Arithmetic, which with its light illuminates all its
Sciences: for their subjects are all considered under some Number, and
with Number one always proceeds in the consideration of these; as in
Natural Science the movable body is the subject, which movable body
has in itself three reasons of continuity, and this has in itself
reason of infinite number. And of Natural Science its first and
chiefest consideration is to consider the principles of natural
objects, which are three, that is, matter, privation, and form; in
which this Number is seen, and not only in all together, but again in
each one, as he who considers subtly may perceive. Wherefore,
Pythagoras, according to what Aristotle says in the first book of the
Physics, established as the principles of natural things, the equal
and the unequal; considering all things to be Number. The other
property of the Sun is again seen in Number, of which Number is the
Science of Arithmetic, that the eye of the intellect cannot gaze at
it. For Number, inasmuch as it is considered in itself, is infinite;
and this we cannot, understand.

And the Heaven of Mars may be compared to Music because of two
properties. One is its most beautiful relative position; for, when
enumerating the movable Heavens, from which one soever you may begin,
either from the lowest or from the highest, this Heaven of Mars is the
fifth; it is the central one of all, that is, of the first, of the
second, of the third, and of the fourth. The other is, that this Mars
dries up and burns things, because his heat is like to that of fire;
and this is why it appears flaming in colour, sometimes more and
sometimes less, according to the density and rarity of the vapours
which follow it, which of themselves are often kindled, as is
determined in the first book on Meteors. And, therefore, Albumassar
says that the kindling of these vapours signifies the death of Kings
and the change of Kingdoms; for they are the effects of the dominion
of Mars. And, therefore, Seneca says that, on the death of Augustus,
he beheld on high a ball of fire. And in Florence, at the beginning of
its destruction, there was seen in the air, in the form of a cross, a
great quantity of these vapours following the planet Mars. And these
two properties are in Music, which is all relative, as is seen in
harmonized words and in songs, from which the sweeter harmony results
in proportion as the relation is more beautiful, which in this Science
is especially beautiful, because there is in it a special harmony.
Again, Music attracts to itself human spirits, which are as it were
chiefly vapours from the heart, so that they almost cease from all
labour; so is the whole soul when it hears it, and the power of all
those spirits flies as it were to the spirit of sense, which receives
the sound.

And the Heaven of Jupiter can be compared to Geometry because of two
properties. The one is, that it moves between two Heavens, repugnant
to its good tempering, namely, that of Mars and that of Saturn. Hence
Ptolemy says, in the book alluded to, that Jupiter is a star of a
temperate complexion, midway between the cold of Saturn and the heat
of Mars. The other is, that amongst all the stars it appears white, as
if silvered. And these things are in the Science of Geometry. Geometry
moves between two things antagonistic to it; as between the point and
the circle, and I term circle freely anything that is round, either a
body or superfices; for, as Euclid says, the point is the beginning of
Geometry, and, according to what he says, the circle is the most
perfect figure in it, which must therefore have reason for its end; so
that between the point and the circle, as between the beginning and
the end, Geometry moves. And these two are antagonistic to its
certainty; for the point by its indivisibility is immeasurable, and
the circle, on account of its arc, it is impossible to square
perfectly, and therefore it is impossible to measure precisely. And
again, Geometry is most white, inasmuch as it is without spot of
error, and it is most certain in itself, and by its handmaid, called

And the Heaven of Saturn has two properties because of which it can be
compared to Astrology. One is the slowness of its movement through the
twelve signs; for twenty-nine years and more, according to the
writings of the Astrologers, is the time that it requires in its
orbit. The other is, that above all the other planets it is highest.
And these two properties are in Astrology, for in completing its
circle, as in the acquirement of this Science, the greatest space of
time is revolved, because its demonstrations are more than any other
of the aforementioned Sciences, and long experience is requisite to
those who would acquire good judgment in it. And again, it is the
highest of all the others, because, as Aristotle says in the
commencement of his book on the Soul, the Science is high, because of
its nobility, and because of the nobleness of its subject and its
certainty. And this Science more than any other of those mentioned
above is noble and high, for noble and high is its subject, which is
the movement of the Heavens; and high and noble, because of its
certainty, which is without any defect, even as that which springs
from the most perfect and most regular principle. And if any one
believe that there is defect in it, it is not on the part of the
Science, but, as Ptolemy says, it is through our negligence, and to
that it must be imputed.


After the comparisons which I have made of the seven first Heavens, we
must now proceed to the others, which are three, as has been often

I say that the Starry Heaven may be compared to Physics because of
three properties, and to Metaphysics because of three others. For it
shows us of itself two visible things, such as the multitude of stars
and such as the Galaxy, that white circle which the common people call
the Path of St. James. It shows to us also one of the poles, and keeps
the other hidden from us. And it shows to us one movement alone from
East to West; and another, which it makes from West to East, it keeps
almost, as it were, hidden from us. Therefore, in due order are to be
seen, first the comparison with the Physical and then that with the

I say that the Starry Heaven shows us many stars; for, according to
what the wise men of Egypt have seen, even to the last star which
appeared to them in the Meridian, they place there twenty-two thousand
bodies of stars, of which I speak. And in this it has the greatest
similitude with Physics, if these three numbers, namely, Two, and
Twenty, and Thousand, are regarded well and subtly. For by the two is
meant the local movement, which is of necessity from one point to
another; and by the twenty is signified the movement of the
alteration, for, since from the ten upwards one advances not except by
altering this ten with the other nine and with itself; and the most
beautiful alteration which it receives is its own with itself, and the
first which it receives is the twenty; reasonably by this number the
said movement is signified. And by the thousand is signified the
movement of increase, which in name, that is, this thousand, is the
greater number, and to increase still more is not possible except by
multiplying this. And these three movements alone are observed in
Physics, as it is demonstrated in the fifth chapter of his first book.

And because of the Milky Way, this Heaven has a great similitude with
Metaphysics. Wherefore, it is to be known that concerning this Galaxy
the Philosophers have had different opinions. For the followers of
Pythagoras said that the Sun at some time or other went astray from
his path, and, passing through other parts not suitable to his fervent
heat, he burnt the place through which he passed, and there remained
that appearance of the conflagration. And I believe that they were
moved by the fable of Phaeton, which Ovid relates in the beginning of
the second part of his Metamorphoses. Others said, such as Anaxagoras
and Democritus, that it was the light of the Sun reflected into that
part. And these opinions, with demonstrative reasons, they proved over
and over again. What Aristotle may have said of this is not so easy to
learn, because his opinion is not found to be the same in one
translation as in the other; and I believe that it might be due to the
error of the translators, for in the new one he seems to say that the
Galaxy is a collection of vapours under the stars of that part which
always attract them; and this does not seem to be the true reason. In
the old translation he says that the Galaxy is no other than a
multitude of fixed stars in that part, so small that we cannot
distinguish them from here below, but that they cause the whiteness
which we call the Milky Way. And it may be that the Heaven in that
part is more dense, and therefore retains and represents that light;
and this opinion Avicenna and Ptolemy seem to share with Aristotle.
Therefore, since the Galaxy is an effect of those stars which we
cannot see, if we understand those things by their effect alone, and
Metaphysics treats of the first substances, which we cannot similarly
understand except by their effects, it is evident that the Starry
Heaven has a great similitude to Metaphysics.

Again, by the pole which we see is signified the things known to our
senses, concerning which, taking them universally, the Science of
Physics treats; and by the pole which we do not see is signified the
things which are without matter, which are not sensible, concerning
which Metaphysics treats; and therefore the said Heaven has a great
similitude with the one Science and with the other.

Again, by the two movements it signifies these two Sciences: for by
the movement in which every day revolves, and makes a new revolution
from point to point, it signifies things natural and corruptible which
daily complete their path, and their material is changed from form to
form; and of this the Science of Physics treats. And by the almost
insensible movement which it makes from West to East by one degree in
a hundred years, it signifies things incorruptible, which received
from God the beginning of their creation, and will have no end; but of
these Metaphysics treats. Therefore I say that this movement signifies
those things, for it began this revolution which will have no end; the
end of the revolution being to return to one self-same point, to which
this Heaven will not return by this movement, which has revolved a
little more than the sixth part from the commencement of the world;
and we are now in the last age of the world, and verily we wait the
consummation of the celestial movement. Thus it is evident that the
Starry Heaven, on account of many properties, may be compared to the
Science of Physics and Metaphysics.

The Crystalline Heaven, which, as the Primum Mobile, has been
previously counted, has a sufficiently evident comparison to Moral
Philosophy; for Moral Philosophy, according to what Tommaso says upon
the second book of the Ethics, teaches us method in the other

For as the Philosopher says in the fifth book of the Ethics, legal
Justice requires the Sciences to be learnt, and commands, in order
that they may not be abandoned, that they be learnt and taught: thus,
the said Heaven rules with its movement the daily revolution of all
the others; from which revolution every day all those receive and send
below the virtues of their several parts. For, if the revolution of
this Heaven could not rule over that, but little of their power would
descend below, and little of their aspect. Wherefore we hold that, if
it could be possible for this ninth Heaven not to move, the third part
of the Heaven would not again be seen in any part from the Earth:
Saturn would be for fourteen years and a half concealed from any place
on the Earth, Jupiter would be hidden for six years, and Mars for
almost a whole year, and the Sun for one hundred and eighty-two days
and fourteen hours (I say days, meaning so much time as so many days
measure); and Venus and Mercury, almost like the Sun, would be hidden
and would reappear, and the Moon for the space of fourteen days and a
half would be hidden from all people. Verily, here below there would
be neither generation, nor the life of animals, nor of plants; there
would be no night, nor day, nor week, nor month, nor year; but the
whole Universe would be disordered, and the movement of the stars
would be in vain. Not otherwise, should Moral Philosophy cease to be,
would the other Sciences be hidden for some time, and there would be
no generation nor life of happiness, and all books would be in vain,
and all discoveries of old. Therefore it is sufficiently evident that
there is a comparison between this Heaven and Moral Philosophy.

Again, the Empyrean Heaven, because of its Peace, bears a similitude
to the Divine Science, which is full of all Peace; which endures no
conflict of opinion or of sophistical arguments, on account of the
most excellent certainty of its subject, which is God. And of this He
Himself speaks to His disciples: "My peace I give to you: My peace I
leave unto you," giving and leaving to them His doctrine, which is
this Science whereof I speak.

Solomon says of this Science: "Sixty are the queens, and eighty the
friendly concubines; and youthful virgins without number; but one is
my dove and my perfect one." All the Sciences he terms queens, and
friends, and virgins; and he calls this one dove, because it is
without blemish of strife; and he calls this one perfect, because it
causes us to see perfectly the Truth in which our Soul finds Peace.

And therefore the comparison of the Heavens to the Sciences having
been thus reasoned out, it is easy to see that by the Third Heaven I
mean Rhetoric, which has been likened unto the Third Heaven, as
appears above.


By the similitudes spoken of it is possible to see who these Movers
are to whom I speak; what are the Movers of that Heaven; even as
Boethius and Tullius, who by the sweetness of their speech sent me, as
has before been stated, to the Love, which is the study of that most
gentle Lady, Philosophy, by the rays of their star, which is the
written word of that fair one. Therefore in each Science the written
word is a star full of light, which that Science reveals And, this
being made manifest, it is easy to see the true meaning of the first
verse of the purposed Poem by means of the exposition, Figurative and
Literal. And by means of this self-same exposition one can
sufficiently understand the second verse, even to that part where it
says, This Spirit made me look on a fair Lady: where it should be
known that this Lady is Philosophy; which truly is a Lady full of
sweetness, adorned with modesty, wonderful for wisdom, the glory of
freedom, as in the Third Treatise, where her Nobility will be
described, it is made manifest. And then where it says: "Who seeks
where his Salvation lies, Must gaze intently in this Lady's eyes;" the
eyes of this Lady are her demonstrations, which look straight into the
eyes of the intellect, enamour the Soul, and set it free from the
trammels of circumstance. Oh, most sweet and ineffable forms, swift
stealers of the human mind, which appear in these demonstrations, that
is, in the eyes of Philosophy, when she discourses to her faithful
friends! Verily in you is Salvation, whereby he is made blessed who
looks at you, and is saved from the death of Ignorance and Vice. Where
it says, "Nor dread the sighs of anguish, joys debarred," the wish is
to signify, if he fear not the labour of study and the strife of
conflicting opinions, which flow forth ever multiplying from the
living Spring in the eyes of this Lady, and then her light still
continuing, they fall away, almost like little morning clouds before
the Sun. And now the intellect, become her friend, remains free and
full of certain Truth, even as the atmosphere is rendered pure and
bright by the shining of the midday Sun.

The third passage again is explained by the Literal exposition as far
as to where it says, "Still therefore the Soul weeps." Here it is
desirable to attend to a certain moral sense which may be observed in
these words: that a man ought not for the sake of the greater friend
to forget the service received from the lesser; but if one must follow
the one and leave the other, the greater is to be followed, with
honest lamentation for desertion of the other, whereby he gives
occasion to the one whom he follows to bestow more love on him. Then
there where it says, "Of my eyes," has no other meaning except that
bitter was the hour when the first demonstration of this Lady entered
into the eyes of my intellect, which was the cause of this most close
attachment. And there where it says, "My peers," it means the Souls
set free from miserable and vile pleasures, and from vulgar habits,
endowed with understanding and memory. And then it says, "Her eyes
bear death," and then it says, "I gazed on her and die," which appears
contrary to that which is said above of Salvation by this Lady. And
therefore it is to be known that one Spirit speaks here on one side
and the other speaks there on the other; which two dispute
contrariwise, according to that which is made evident above. Wherefore
it is no wonder if here the one Spirit says Yes, and there the other
Spirit says No. Then in the stanza where it says, "A sweet voice of
tenderness," a thought is meant which was born of my deep
contemplation; wherefore it is to be known that by Love, in this
Allegory, is always meant that deep contemplation which is the earnest
application of the enamoured mind to that object wherewith it is
enamoured. Then when it says, "There shall shine High miracles before
thee," it announces that through her the adornments of the miracles
will be seen; and it speaks truly, that the adornment of the miracles
is to see the cause of the same, which she demonstrates; as in the
beginning of the book on Metaphysics the Philosopher seems to feel,
saying that, through the contemplation of these adornments, men began
to be enamoured with this Lady. And concerning this word, i.e.,
miracle, in the following treatise I shall speak more fully. What then
follows of this Song is sufficiently explained by the other

And thus at the end of this Second Treatise, I say and affirm that the
Lady with whom I became enamoured after the first Love was the most
beautiful and most excellent daughter of the Ruler of the Universe, to
which daughter Pythagoras gave the name of Philosophy. And here ends
the Second Treatise, which is brought in for the first dish at my

       *       *       *       *       *

The Third Treatise.

    Love, reasoning of my Lady in my mind
      With constant pleasure, oft of her will say
      Things over which the intellect may stray;
    His words make music of so sweet a kind
      That the Soul hears and feels, and cries, Ah, me,
      That I want power to tell what thus I see!

    If I would tell of her what thus I hear,
      First, all that Reason cannot make its own
      I needs must leave; and of what may be known
    Leave part, for want of words to make it clear.
      If my Song fail, blame wit and words, whose force
      Fails to tell all I hear in Love's discourse.

    The Sun sees not in travel round the earth,
      Till it reach her abode, so fair a thing
      As she of whom Love causes me to sing.
    All minds of Heaven wonder at her worth;
      Mortals, enamoured, find her in their thought
      When Love his peace into their minds has brought.

    Her Maker saw that she was good, and poured,
      Beyond our Nature, fulness of His Power
      On her pure soul, whence shone this holy dower
    Through all her frame, with beauty so adored
      That from the eyes she touches heralds fly
      Heartward with longings, heavenward with a sigh.

    On her fair frame Virtue Divine descends
      As on the angel that beholds His face.
      Fair one who doubt, go with her, mark the grace
    In all her acts. Downward from Heaven bends
      An angel when the speaks, who can attest
      A power in her by none of us possessed.

    The graceful acts that she shows forth to all
      Rival in calls to love that love must hear;
      Fair in all like her, fairest she'll appear
    Who is most like her. We, content to call
      Her face a Miracle, have Faith made sure:
      For that, He made her ever to endure.

    Her aspect shows delights of Paradise,
      Seen in her eyes and in her smiling face;
      Love brought them there as to his dwelling-place.
    They dazzle reason, as the Sun the eyes;
      And since I cannot fix on them my gaze
      Words must suffice that little speak their praise.

    Rain from her beauty little flames of fire,
      Made living with a spirit to create
      Good thoughts, and crush the vices that innate
    Make others vile. Fair one, who may desire
      Escape from blame as one not calm or meek,
      From her, who is God's thought, thy teaching seek.

    My Song, it seems you speak this to oppose
      The saying of a sister Song of mine:
      This lowly Lady whom you call divine,
    Your sister called disdainful and morose.
      Though Heaven, you know, is ever bright and pure,
      Eyes may have cause to find a star obscure.

    So when your sister called this Lady proud
      She judged not truly, by what seemed; but fear
      Possessed her soul; and still, when I come near
    Her glance, there's dread. Be such excuse allowed,
      My Song, and when thou canst, approach her, say;
      My Lady, take all homage I can pay.


In the preceding treatise is described how my second Love took its
rise from the compassionate countenance of a Lady; which Love, finding
my Soul inclined to its ardour, after the manner of fire, was kindled
from a slight spark into a great flame; so that not only during my
waking hours, but during sleep, its light threw many a vision into my
mind. And how great the desire which Love excited to behold this Lady,
it would be impossible either to tell or to make understood. And not
only of her was I thus desirous, but of all those persons who had any
nearness to her, either as acquaintances or as relations. Oh! how many
were the nights, when the eyes of other persons were closed in sleep,
that mine, wide open, gazed fixedly upon the tabernacle of my Love.

And as the rapidly increasing fire must of necessity be seen, it being
impossible for fire to remain hidden, the desire seized me to speak of
the Love that I could no longer restrain within me. And although I
could receive but little help from my own counsel, yet, inasmuch as,
either from the will of Love or from my own promptness, I drew nigh to
it many times, I deliberated, and I saw that, in speaking of Love,
there could be no more beautiful nor more profitable speech than that
which commends the beloved person. And in this deliberation three
reasons assisted me. One of them was self-love, which is the source of
all the rest, as every one sees. For there is no more lawful nor more
courteous way of doing honour to one's self than by doing honour to
one's friend; and, since friendship cannot exist between the unlike,
wherever one sees friendship, likeness is understood; and wherever
likeness is understood, thither runs public praise or blame. And from
this reason two great lessons may be learnt: the one is, never to wish
that any vicious man should seem your friend, for in that case a bad
opinion is formed of him who has made the evil man his friend; the
other is, that no one ought to blame his friend publicly, because, if
you consider well the aforesaid reason, he but points to himself with
his finger in his eye.

The second reason was the desire for the duration of this friendship;
wherefore it is to be known, as the Philosopher says in the ninth book
of the Ethics, in the friendship of persons of unequal position it is
requisite, for the preservation of that friendship, for a certain
proportion to exist between them, which may reduce the dissimilarity
to a similarity, as between the master and the servant. For, although
the servant cannot render the same benefit to the master that is
conferred on him, yet he ought to render the best that he can, with so
much solicitude and freewill that that which is dissimilar in itself
may become similar through the evidence of good-will, which proves the
friendship, confirms and preserves it. Wherefore I, considering myself
lower than that Lady, and perceiving myself benefited by her,
endeavoured to praise her according to my ability. And, if it be not
similar of itself, my prompt freewill proves at least that if I could
I would do more, and thus it makes its friendship similar to that of
this gentle Lady.

The third reason was an argument of prudence; for, as Boethius says,
"It is not sufficient to look only at that which is before the eyes,
that is, at the Present; and, therefore, Prudence, Foresight, is given
to us, which looks beyond to that which may happen." I say that I
thought that for a long time I might be reproached by many with levity
of mind, on hearing that I had turned from my first Love. Wherefore,
to remove this reproach, there was no better argument than to state
who the Lady was who had thus changed me; that, by her manifest
excellence, they might gain some perception of her virtue; and that,
by the comprehension of her most exalted virtue, they might be able to
see that all stability of mind could be in that mutability: and,
therefore, they should not judge me light and unstable. I then began
to praise this Lady, and if not in the most suitable manner, at least
as well as I could at first; and I began to say: "Love, reasoning of
my Lady in my mind." This Song chiefly has three parts. The first is
the whole of the first two stanzas, in which I speak in a preliminary
manner. The second is the whole of the six following stanzas, in which
is described that which is intended, i.e., the praise of that gentle
Lady; the first of which begins: "The Sun sees not in travel round the
earth." The third part is in the last two stanzas, in which,
addressing myself to the Song, I purify it from all doubtful
interpretation. And these three parts remain to be discussed now in
due order.


Turning, then, to the First Part, which was composed as a Proem or
Preface to the Song or Poem, I say that it is fitly divided into three
parts. In the first place, it alludes to the ineffable condition of
this theme; secondly, it describes my insufficiency to speak of it in
a perfect manner; and this second part begins: "If I would tell of her
what thus I hear." Finally, I excuse myself for my insufficiency, for
which they ought not to lay blame to my charge; and I commence this
part when I say: "If my Song fail."

I begin, then: "Love, reasoning of my Lady in my mind," where in the
first place it is to be seen who this speaker is, and what this place
is in which I say that he is speaking. Love, taking him in his true
sense, and considering him subtly, is no other than the spiritual
union of the Soul with the beloved object; into which union, of its
own nature, the Soul hastens sooner or later, according as it is free
or impeded. And the reason for that natural disposition may be this:
each substantial form proceeds from its First Cause, which is God, as
is written in the book of Causes; and they receive not diversity from
that First Cause, which is the most simple, but from the secondary
causes, and from the material into which it descends. Wherefore, in
the same book it is written, when treating of the infusion of the
Divine Goodness: "The bounties and good gifts make diverse things,
through the concurrence of that which receives them." Wherefore, since
each effect retains somewhat of the nature of its cause, as Alfarabio
says when he affirms that that which has been the first cause of a
round body has in some way an essentially round form, so each form in
some way has the essence of the Divine Nature in itself; not that the
Divine Nature can be divided and communicated to these, but
participated in by these, almost in the same way that the other stars
participate in the nature of the Sun. And the nobler the form, the
more does it retain of that Divine Nature.

Wherefore the human Soul, which is the noblest form of all those which
are generated under Heaven, receives more from the Divine Nature than
any other. And since it is most natural to wish to be in God, for as
in the book quoted above one reads, the first thing is to exist, and
before that there is nothing, the human Soul desires to exist
naturally with all possible desire. And since its existence depends
upon God, and is preserved by Him, it naturally desires and longs to
be united to God, and so add strength to its own being. And since, in
the goodness of Human Nature, Reason gives us proof of the Divine, it
follows that, naturally, the Human Soul is united therewith by the
path of the spirit so much the sooner, and so much the more firmly, in
proportion as those good qualities appear more perfect; which
appearance of perfection is achieved according as the power of the
Soul to produce a good impression is strong and clear, or is
trammelled and obscure. And this union is that which we call Love,
whereby it is possible to know that which is within the Soul, by
looking at those whom it loves in the world without. This Love, which
is the union of my Soul with that gentle Lady in whom so much of the
Divine Light was revealed to me, is that speaker of whom I speak;
since from him continuous thoughts were born, whilst gazing at and
considering the wondrous power of this Lady who was spiritually made
one with my Soul.

The place in which I say that he thus speaks is the Mind. But in
saying that it is the Mind, one does not attach more meaning to this
than before; and therefore it is to be seen what this Mind properly
signifies. I say, then, that the Philosopher, in the second book on
the Soul, when speaking of its powers, says that the Soul principally
has three powers, which are, to Live, to Feel, and to Reason: and he
says also to Move, but it is possible to make this one with feeling,
since every Soul moves that feels, either with all the senses or with
one alone; for the power to move is conjoined with feeling. And
according to that which he says, it is most evident that these powers
are so entwined that the one is a foundation of the other; and that
which is the foundation can of itself be divided; but the other, which
is built upon it, cannot be apart from its foundation. Therefore, the
Vegetative power, whereby one lives, is the foundation upon which one
feels, that is, sees, hears, tastes, smells, and touches; and this
vegetative power of itself can be the Soul, vegetative, as we see in
all the plants. The Sensitive cannot exist without that. We find
nothing that feels, and does not live. And this Sensitive power is the
foundation of the Intellectual, that is, of the Reason; so that, in
animate mortals, the Reasoning power is not found without the
Sensitive. But the Sensitive is found without Reason, as in the
beasts, and in the birds, and in the fishes, and in any brute animal,
as we see. And that Soul which contains all these powers is the most
perfect of all. And the Human Soul possessing the nobility of the
highest power, which is Reason, participates in the Divine Nature,
after the manner of an eternal Intelligence: for the Soul is ennobled
and denuded of matter by that Sovereign Power in proportion as the
Divine Light of Truth shines into it, as into an Angel; and Man is
therefore called by the Philosophers the Divine Animal.

In this most noble part of the Soul are many virtues, as the
Philosopher says, especially in the third chapter of the Soul, where
he says that there is in it a virtue which is called Scientific, and
one which is called Ratiocinative, or rather deliberative; and with
this there are certain virtues, as Aristotle says in that same place,
such as the Inventive and the Judging. And all these most noble
virtues, and the others which are in that excellent power, are
designated by that one word, which we sought to understand, that is,
Mind. Wherefore it is evident that by Mind is meant the highest,
noblest part of a man's Soul.

And it is seen to be so, for only of man and of the Divine substances
is this Mind predicated, as can plainly be seen in Boethius, who first
predicates it of men, where he says to Philosophy: "Thou, and God who
placed thee in the mind of men;" then he predicates it of God, when he
says: "Thou dost produce everything from the Divine Model, Thou most
beautiful One, bearing the beautiful World in Thy mind." Neither was
it ever predicated of brute animals; nay, of many men who appear
defective in the most perfect part, it does not seem that it ought to
be, or that it could be, predicated; and therefore such as these are
termed in the Latin Tongue _amenti_ and _dementi_, that is,
without mind. Hence one can now perceive that it is Mind which is the
perfect and most precious part of the Soul in which is God.

And that is the place where I say that Love discourses to me of my


Not without cause do I say that this Love was at work in my mind; but
it is said reasonably, in order to explain what this Love is, by the
place in which it works. Wherefore, it is to be known that each thing,
as is said above, for the reason shown above, has its especial Love,
as the simple bodies have Love, innate, each in its proper place.
Therefore the Earth always descends to the centre, the fire to the
circumference above near the Heaven of the Moon, and always ascends
towards that. The bodies first composed, such as are the minerals,
have love for the place where their generation is ordained, and in
which they increase, and from which they have vigour and power.
Wherefore, we see the loadstone always receive power from the place of
its generation. Each of the plants which are first animated, that is,
first animated with a vegetative soul has most evident love for a
particular place, according as its nature may require; and therefore
we see certain plants almost always grow by the side of the streams,
and certain others upon the mountain tops, and certain others grow by
the sea-shore, or at the foot of hills, which, if they are
transplanted, either die entirely or live a sad life, as it were, like
a being separated from his friend. The brute beasts have a most
evident love, not only for places, but we see also their love towards
each other. Men have their own love for things perfect and excellent;
and since Man, although his Soul is one substance alone, because of
his nobility, partakes of the nature of each of these things, he can
possess all these affections, and he does possess them all. By his
part in the nature of the simple body, as earth, naturally it tends
downwards; therefore, when he moves his body upwards, he becomes more

Because of the second nature, of the mixed body, it loves the place of
its generation, and even the time; and therefore each one naturally is
of more power in his own place and in his own time than in any other.
Wherefore, one reads in the History of Hercules, and in the greater
Ovid, and in Lucan, and in other Poets, that when fighting with the
Giant who was named Antæus, every time that the Giant was weary, and
laid his body down on the earth at full length, either by the will or
strength of Hercules, new strength and vigour then surged up in him,
drawn wholly from the Earth, in which and from which he was produced;
Hercules, perceiving this, at last seized him, and having compressed
and raised him above the Earth, he held him so tightly, without
allowing him to touch the Earth again, that he conquered Antæus by
excess of strength, and killed him. According to the testimony of the
books, this battle took place in Africa.

And because of the third nature, that is, of the plants, Man has a
love for a certain food, not inasmuch as it affects the senses, but in
so much as it is nutritious; and that particular food does the work of
that most perfect Nature, while certain other food, dissimilar, acts
but imperfectly. And therefore we see that certain food will make men
handsome, and strong-limbed, and very brightly coloured, and certain
other food will do the opposite of this.

And by the fourth nature, of the animals, that is, the sensitive, Man
has the other love, by which he loves according to the sensible
appearance, like the beasts; and this love in Man especially has need
of control, because of its excessive operation in the delights given,
especially through sight and touch.

And because of the fifth and last nature, which is the true Human
Nature, and, to use a better phrase, the Angelic, namely, the
Rational, Man has by it the Love of Truth and Virtue; and from this
Love is born true and perfect friendship from the honest intercourse
of which the Philosopher speaks in the eighth book of the Ethics, when
he treats of Friendship.

Wherefore, since this nature is termed Mind, as is proved above, I
spoke of Love as discoursing in my Mind in order to explain that this
Love was the Friendship which is born of that most noble nature, that
is, of Truth and Virtue, and to exclude each false opinion, by which
my Love might be suspected to spring from pleasure of the Senses.

I then say, "With constant pleasure," to make people understand its
continuance and its fervour. And I say that it often whispers "Things
over which the intellect may stray." And I speak truth, because my
thoughts, when reasoning of her, often sought to draw conclusions of
her, which I could not comprehend, and I was alarmed, so that I seemed
almost like one dazed, even as he who, looking with the eye along a
direct line, sees first the nearest things clearly; then, proceeding,
it sees them less clearly; then, further on, doubtfully; then,
proceeding an immense way, the sight is divided from the object, and
sees nothing. And this is one unspeakable thing of that which I have
taken for a theme; and consequently I relate the other when I say:

    His words make music of so sweet a kind
      That the Soul hears and feels, and cries, Ah, me,
      That I want power to tell what thus I see!

And because I know not how to tell it, I say that my soul laments,
saying, "Ah, me, that I want power." And this is the other unspeakable
thing, that the tongue is not a complete and perfect follower of all
that the intellect sees. And I say, "That the Soul hears and feels;"
hearing, as to the words, and feeling, as to the sweetness of the


Now that the two ineffable parts of this matter have been discussed,
we must proceed to discuss words that describe my insufficiency.

I say, then, that my insufficiency arises from a double cause, even as
in a twofold manner the exalted nature of my Lady surpasses all, in
the way which has been told. For I am compelled, by the poverty of my
intellect, to omit much of the truth concerning her which shone into
my mind like rays of light, but which my mind receives like a
transparent body, unable to gather up the ends thereof and reflect
them back. And this I express in that following part: "First, all that
Reason cannot make its own I needs must leave." Then, when I say, "And
of what can be known," I say that not even to that which I do
understand am I sufficient, because my tongue is not so eloquent that
it could tell that which is discoursed in my thoughts concerning her.
It may be seen, therefore, that, with respect to the Truth, it is very
little that I shall say; and this redounds to her great praise, if
well considered, in that which was the main intention. And it is
possible to say that this form of speech came indeed from the workshop
of Rhetoric, which on every side lays its hand upon the main
intention. Then, when it says, "If my Song fail," I excuse myself for
my fault, which ought not, then, to be blamed when others see that my
words are far below the dignity of this Lady. And I say that, if the
defect is in my rhymes, that is, in my words, which are appointed to
discourse of her, for this are to be blamed the weakness of the
intellect and the abruptness of our speech: "blame wit and words,"
which are overpowered by the thought, so that they cannot follow it
entirely, especially there where the thought is born of love, because
there the Soul searches more deeply than elsewhere. It would be quite
possible for any one to say: Thou dost excuse and accuse thyself all
in one breath, which is a reason for blame, not for escape from blame,
inasmuch as the blame, which is mine, is cast on the intellect and on
the speech; for, if it be good, I ought to be praised for it in so
much as it is so; and if it be defective, I ought to be blamed. To
this it is possible to reply, briefly, that I do not accuse myself,
but that I excuse myself in truth. And therefore it is to be known,
according to the opinion of the Philosopher in the third book of the
Ethics, that man is worthy of praise or of blame only in those things
which it is in his power to do or not to do; but in those things over
which he has no power he deserves neither blame nor praise, since
either the praise or blame is to be attributed to some other, although
the things may be parts of the man himself. Therefore, we ought not to
blame the man because his body, from his birth, may be ugly, since it
was not in his power to make it beautiful; but our blame should fall
on the evil disposition of the matter whereof he is made, whose source
was a defect of Nature. And even so we ought not to praise the man for
the beauty of form which he may have from his birth, for he was not
the maker of it; but we ought to praise the artificer, that is, Human
Nature, who shapes her material into so much beauty when she is not
impeded. And therefore the priest said well to the Emperor who laughed
and scoffed at the ugliness of his body: "The Lord, He is God: It is
He that hath made us, and not we ourselves;" and these are the words
of the Prophet in a verse of the Psalms, written neither more nor less
than according to the reply of the Priest.

And therefore let the wicked evil-born ones perceive that, if they put
their chief care in the adornment of their persons, it must be with
all modesty; for to do that is no other than to adorn the work of
another, that is, Nature, and to abandon their own proper work.

Returning, then, to the proposition, I say that our intellect, through
defect of the power through which it sees organic power, that is, the
imagination, is not able to ascend to certain things, because the
imagination cannot help it and has not the wherewithal, such as are
the substances apart from matter, which (if we can have any knowledge
of them) we cannot fully comprehend.

And the man is not to blame for this, because he was not the maker of
this defect; nay, Universal Nature did this, which is God, who wills
that in this life we be without this light. And because He was the
cause, it would be presumptuous to argue concerning it. So that if my
earnest thought transported me into a place where my imagination
failed my intellect, I was not to blame if I could not possibly

Again, a bound is set to our understanding in each operation thereof;
but not by us, but by Universal Nature; and therefore it is to be
known that the bounds of the understanding are wider in thought than
in speech, and wider in speech than in signs. Hence, if our thought,
not only that which fails in a perfect intellect, but also that which
in a perfect intellect attains its end, is the conqueror of speech, we
are not to blame, because we are not the makers of it. And therefore I
prove that I do truthfully excuse myself when I say: "Blame wit and
words, whose force Fails to tell all that I hear Love discourse;" for,
sufficiently clear ought to appear the good-will, which alone we
should regard in respect to merits that are human.

And thus is now explained the first principal part of this Song which
flows from my hand.


Discourse on the first part of the Song has now made its meaning open
and clear, and it is needful to proceed to the second; for the clearer
perception of which, three divisions are desirable, according as it is
contained in three sections. For in the first part I praise that Lady
entirely and generally, as in the Soul so in the body; in the second
part I descend to especial commendation of the Soul; and in the third,
to especial praise of the body. The first part begins: "The Sun sees
not in travel round the earth;" the second begins: "Her Maker saw that
she was good;" the third begins: "Rain from her beauty little flames
of fire," and these parts or divisions in due order are to be

I say then: "The Sun sees not in travel round the earth;" where it is
to be known, in order to have perfect understanding thereof, how the
Earth is circled round by the Sun. In the first place, I say that by
the Earth I do not here mean the whole body of the Universe, but only
that part of the sea and land, following the common speech, which is
thus wont to designate it, whereupon some one exclaims, "This man has
seen all the World," meaning "this part of the sea and land." This
World Pythagoras and his followers asserted to be one of the stars,
and they also said that there was another opposite to it, similar to
it: and they called that one Antictona; and he said that both were in
one sphere which revolved from East to West, and by this revolution
the Sun was circled round us, and now he was seen, and now he was not
seen. And he said that the fire was in the centre of these,
considering the fire to be a more noble body than the water and than
the Earth, and giving the noblest centre to the four simple bodies; he
said that the fire, when it appeared to ascend, according to strict
truth descended to the centre. Then Plato was of another opinion, and
he wrote in a book of his, which he called Timæus, that the Earth with
the sea was indeed the centre of all, but that its whole sphere
revolved round its centre, following the first movement of the
Heavens, but much slower on account of its gross material, and because
of the immense distance from that first moved. These opinions are
confuted in the second chapter, Of Heaven and the World, by that
glorious Philosopher, to whom Nature opened her secrets most freely;
and by him it is therein proved that this World, the Earth, is of
itself stable and fixed to all eternity. And his reasons, which
Aristotle states in order to break those other opinions and to affirm
the truth, it is not my intention here to narrate; therefore, let it
be enough for those to whom I speak, to know, upon his great
authority, that this Earth is fixed, and does not revolve, and that
it, with the sea, is the centre of the Heavens. These Heavens revolve
round this centre continuously, even as we see; in which revolution
there must of necessity be two fixed Poles, and a circle equally
distant from these round which all especially revolves. Of these two
Poles, the one is visible to almost all the discovered Earth, that is,
the Northern Pole; the other is hidden from almost all the discovered
Earth, that is, the Southern Pole. The circle spread from them is that
part of Heaven under which the Sun revolves when it is in Aries and
Libra. Wherefore, it is to be known that if a stone could fall from
this Pole of ours, it would fall there beyond into the sea precisely
upon that surface of the sea, where, if a man could be, he would
always have the Sun above the middle of his head; and I believe that
from Rome to that place, going in a straight line to the North, the
distance may be almost two thousand seven hundred miles, or a little
more or less. Imagining, then, in order to understand better what I
say, that there is in that place a city, and that its name may be
Maria, I say again that if from the other Pole, that is, the Southern,
a stone could fall, that it would fall upon that part of the ocean
which is precisely on this ball opposite to Maria; and I believe that
from Rome to where this second stone would fall, going in a direct
line to the South, the distance may be seven thousand five hundred
miles, a little more or less. And here let us imagine another city,
which may have the name of Lucia; and the distance, from whatever part
one draws the line, is ten thousand two hundred miles between the one
and the other, that is, half the circumference of this ball, so that
the citizens of Maria hold the soles of the feet opposite the soles of
the feet of the citizens of Lucia. Let us imagine also a circle upon
this ball which is in every part equi-distant from Maria as from
Lucia. I believe that this circle, according to what I understand by
the assertions of the Astrologers, and by that of Albertus Magnus in
his book On the Nature of Places and on the Properties of the
Elements, and also by the testimony of Lucan in his ninth book, would
divide this Earth uncovered by the sea in the Meridian, almost through
all the extreme end of the first climate, where there are amongst the
other people the Garamanti, who are almost always naked; to whom came
Cato with the people of Rome when flying from the dominion of Cæsar.
Having marked out these three places upon this ball, one can easily
see how the Sun circles round it.

I say, then, that the Heaven of the Sun revolves from West to East,
not directly against the diurnal movement, that is, of the day and
night, but obliquely against that, so that its mid-circle, which is
equally between its Poles, in which is the body of the Sun, cuts into
two opposite parts the circle of the two first Poles, in the beginning
of Aries and in the beginning of Libra; and it is divided by two arcs
from it, one towards the North and one towards the South; the points
of these two said arcs are equi-distant from the first circle in every
part by twenty-three degrees and one point more, and the one point is
the tropic of Cancer, and the other is the tropic of Capricorn;
therefore it must be that Maria in the sign of Aries can see, when the
Sun sinks below the mid-circle of the first Poles, this Sun to revolve
round the Earth below, or rather the sea, like a millstone, of which
only one half of its body appears, and can see this come rising up
after the manner of the screw of a vine-press, so much so that it
completes ninety-one rotations, or a little more. When these rotations
are completed, its ascension is to Maria almost as much in proportion
as it ascends to us in the half-third, that is, of the equal day and
night; and if a man could stand in Maria, with his face always turned
to the Sun, he would see that Sun pass by on the right. Then by the
same way it seems to descend another ninety-one rotations, or a little
more, so much so that it circles round below the Earth, or rather sea,
not showing the whole of itself; and then it is hidden, and Lucia
begins to see it, which, the same as Maria, then sees it to ascend and
to descend around itself with the same number of rotations. And if a
man could stand in Lucia, with his face always turned towards the Sun,
he would see it pass to the left. Therefore, it is possible to see
that these places have in the year one day of six months' duration,
and one night of the same length of time; and when one has the day the
other has the night.

It must be also that the circle where the Garamanti are, as has been
said above, upon this ball, can see the Sun revolve precisely above
them, not after the fashion of a mill-stone, but of a wheel, which
cannot in any part be seen except the centre, when it goes under
Aries. And then it is seen to depart from its place immediately above
and go towards Maria ninety-one days, or a little more, and by so many
to return to its position; and then, when it has turned back, it goes
before Libra, and even so departs and goes towards Lucia ninety-one
days, or a little more, and in so many returns to its position. And
this place always has the day equal with the night, either on this
side or on that, as the Sun goes, and twice a year it has the summer
of intense heat, and two little winters. It must also be that the two
distances, which are midway from the two imaginary Cities and the
mid-circle, see the Sun variously, according as they are remote from,
and near to, these places.

Now, by what has been said, this can be seen by him who has good
understanding, to which it is well to give a little fatigue. He can
now perceive that, by the Divine Providence, the World is so ordained
that the sphere of the Sun, being revolved and turned round to one
point, this ball whereon we are in every part receives an equal share
of light and darkness. Oh, ineffable Wisdom, Thou which didst thus
ordain! Oh, how poor and feeble is our mind when seeking to comprehend
Thee! And you, O men, for whose benefit and pleasure I write, in what
fearful blindness do you live if you never raise your eyes upwards to
these things, but keep them fixed in the mud of your foolishness.


In the preceding chapter is shown after what manner the Sun travels
round the Earth; so that now one can proceed to demonstrate the
meaning of the part to which this thought belongs. I say, then, that
in that first part I begin to praise that Lady by comparison with
other things. And I say that the Sun, circling round the Earth, sees
nothing so gentle as that Lady; wherefore it follows that she is,
according to the letter, the most gentle of all things that the sun
shines upon. And it says: "Till the hour;" wherefore it is to be known
that "hour" is understood in two ways by the Astrologers. The one is,
that of the day and of the night they make twenty-four hours--twelve
of the day, twelve of the night, however long or short the day may be.
And these hours are short and long in the day and night according as
the day and night increase and diminish. And these hours the Church
uses when it says, Prima, Tertia, Sexta, and Nona--first, third,
sixth, and ninth; and these are termed hours temporal. The other mode
is, that, making of the day and of the night twenty-four hours, the
day sometimes has fifteen hours and the night nine; and sometimes the
night has sixteen and the day eight, according as the day and night
increase and diminish; and they term these hours equal at the
Equinox, and those that are termed temporal are always the same,
because, the day being equal to the night, it must happen thus.

Then when I say, "All Minds of Heaven wonder at her worth," I praise
her, not having respect to any other thing. And I say that the
Intelligences of Heaven behold her, and that the people here below
think of that gentle Lady when they have more of that peace which
delights them. And here it is to be known that each Mind or Intellect
in Heaven above, according to that which is written in the book Of
Causes, knows that which is above itself and that which is below
itself; therefore it knows God as its Cause; therefore it knows that
which is below itself as its effect.

And since God is the most universal cause of everything, to know Him
is to know all, according to the degree of the Intelligence; wherefore
all the Intelligences know the human form in as far as it is by
intention fixed or determined in the Divine Mind. The moving
Intelligences especially know it; since they are the most especial
causes of it, and of every kind of form; and they know the most
perfect, as far as they can know it, as their rule and pattern.

And if this human form, copied and individualized, is not perfect, it
is not the fault of the said copy or image, but of the matter from
which the individual is formed. Therefore when I say, "All Minds in
Heaven wonder at her worth," I wish to express no other than that she
is thus made, even as the express image of the human form in the
Divine Mind. And each Mind there above beholds her by virtue of that
quality which exists especially in those angelic Minds which build up
and shape, with Heaven, things that exist below. And to confirm this,
I subjoin when I say, "Mortals, enamoured, find her in their thought
When Love his peace into their minds has brought," where it is to be
known that each thing especially desires its perfection, and in that
its every desire finds peace and calm, and for that peace each thing
is desired.

And this is that desire which always makes every pleasure appear
incomplete, for there is no joy or pleasure so great in this life that
it can quench the thirst in our Soul, for always the desire for that
perfection remains in the Mind. And since this Lady is truly that
perfection, I say that people here below receive great delight when
they have most peace; for she abides then in their thoughts. For this
Lady, I say, is perfect in as high a degree as it is possible for
Human Nature to be.

Then when I say, "Her Maker saw that she was good," I prove that not
only this Lady is the most perfect in the human race, but more than
the most perfect, inasmuch as she receives from the Divine Goodness
more than human dues. Wherefore one can reasonably believe that as
each Master loves most his best work far more than the other work, so
God loves the good human being far above the rest. And forasmuch as
His Bounty is of necessity not restricted by any limit, His love has
no regard to the amount due to him who receives, but it overflows in
gifts, and in the blessings of power and grace. Wherefore I say here,
that this God, who gave life or being to this Lady, through love or
charity for her perfection pours into her of His Bounty beyond the
limits of the amount due to our nature.

Then when I say, "On her pure soul," I prove this that has been said
with reasonable testimony, which gives us to know that, as the
Philosopher says in the second chapter, On the Soul, the Soul is the
act of the Body; and if it be its act, it is its Cause; and as it is
written in the book before, quoted, On Causes, each Cause infuses into
its effect some of the goodness which it receives from its own Cause,
which is "God." Wherefore, since in her are seen wonderful things, so
much so on the part of the body that they make each beholder desirous
to see those things, it is evident that her form, which is her Soul,
guides it as its proper Cause and receives miraculously the gracious
goodness of God.

And thus is proved, by that appearance, which exceeds the due
appointment of our nature, which in her is most perfect, as has been
said above, that this Lady is by God endowed with good gifts and made
a noble thing. And this is the whole Literal meaning of the first
section of the second principal part.


Having commended this Lady generally, both according to the Soul and
according to the Body, I proceed to praise her specially according to
the Soul.

And first I praise her Soul for its goodness, that is great in itself;
then I commend it for a goodness that is great in others, and useful
to the World. And that second part begins when I say, firstly, "On her
fair frame Virtue Divine descends;" where it is to be known that the
Divine Goodness descends into all things, and otherwise they could not
exist; but, although this goodness springs from the First Cause, it is
received diversely, according to the more or less of virtue in the
recipients. Wherefore it is written in the book Of Causes: "The First
Goodness sends His good gifts forth upon things in one stream. Verily
each thing receives from this stream according to the manner of its
virtue and its being." And we can have a sensible, living example of
this in the Sun. We see the light of the Sun, which is one thing,
derived from one fountain, to be variously received by material
substances; as Albertus Magnus says in his book On the Intellect, that
certain bodies, through having mixed in themselves an excess of
transparent brightness, so soon as the Sun sees them they become so
bright that, by the multiplication of light within them, their aspect
is hardly discernible, and from themselves they render back to others
great splendour or brilliancy, such as is gold and any gem. Sure I am
that by being entirely transparent, not only do they receive the
light, but that they do not intercept it; nay, they pass it on, like
stained glass, coloured with their own colour, to other things. And
there are certain other bodies so overpowering in the purity of the
transparency that they become so radiant as to overpower the
adjustments of the eye, and you cannot look at them without fatigue of
sight; such as are the mirrors. Certain others are so free from
transparency, that but little light can they receive; as is the Earth.
Thus the Goodness of God is received in sundrywise by the sundry
substances, that is, in one way by the Angels, who are without
grossness of matter, as if transparent through their purity of form;
and otherwise by the human Soul, which although on one side it may be
free from matter, on another side it is impeded: even as the man who
is all in the water but his head, of whom one cannot say that he is
entirely in the water, or entirely out of it. Again otherwise it is
received by the animals, whose soul is wholly comprised in matter; but
I say that the soul of animals receives of the Goodness of God in
proportion as it is ennobled. Again otherwise is it received by the
minerals; and otherwise by the Earth, than by the others, because the
Earth is most material, and therefore most remote, and most out of all
proportion to the First most simple and most high Cause, which is
alone Intellectual, that is to say, God.

And although here below there may be placed general degrees of
excellence, nevertheless, singular degrees of excellence may also be
placed; that is to say, that amongst human Souls one Soul may receive
more bountifully than another. And since in the intellectual order of
the Universe one ascends and descends by degrees almost continuous
from the lowest form to the highest, and from the highest to the
lowest, as we see in the visible order of things; and between the
Angelic Nature, which is intellectual, and the Human Soul there may be
no step, but the one rise to the other as it were continuously through
the height of the degrees; and from the Human Soul and the most
perfect soul of the brute animals, again, there may not be any break
in the descent. For as we see many men so vile and of such low
condition that it seems almost that it can be no other than bestial,
so it is to be asserted and firmly believed that there may be some men
so noble and of a condition so exalted that it can be no other than
that of the Angel. Otherwise the human species could not be continued
on every side, which cannot be. Such as these Aristotle calls, in the
seventh book of the Ethics, Divine; and such a one I say that this
Lady is, so that the Divine Virtue, after the manner that it descends
into the Angel, descends into her.

Then when I say, "Fair one who doubt," I prove this by the experience
that it is possible to have of it in those operations which are proper
to the rational Soul, wherein the Divine Light shines forth more
quickly, that is, in the speech and in the actions, which are wont to
be termed conduct and deportment. Wherefore it is to be known that
only man amongst the animals speaks, and has conduct and acts which
are called rational, because he alone has Reason in himself. And if
any one might wish to say, in contradiction, that a certain bird can
speak, as appears true, especially of the magpie and of the parrot;
and that some beast performs acts, or rather things, by rule, as
appears in the ape and in some other; I reply that it is not true that
they speak, nor that they have rules, because they have not Reason,
from which these things must proceed; neither is there in them the
principle of these operations; neither do they know what that is;
neither do they understand that by those acts something is intended;
but that only which they see and hear they represent, even as the
image of somebody may be reflected in a glass. Wherefore, as in the
mirror the corporal image which the mirror shows is not true, so the
image of Reason, in the acts and the speech which the brute soul
represents, or rather shows, is not true. I say that what gentle Lady
soever doubts should "go with her, mark the grace In all her acts." I
do not say man, because one can derive experience more modestly from
the woman than from the man; and I say she will find that "Downward
from Heaven bends An angel when she speaks." For her speech, because
of its exalted character and because of its sweetness, kindles in the
mind of him who hears it a thought of Love, which I call a celestial
Spirit; since from Heaven is the source and from Heaven the intention
thereof, as has been already narrated. From which thought I pass to a
firm opinion that this Lady is of miraculous power, that there is "A
power in her by none of us possessed." Her actions, by their suavity
and by their moderation, "Rival in calls to Love that Love must hear."
They cause Love to awaken and again to hear whenever he is sown by the
power of bountiful Nature. Which natural seed acts as in the next
treatise is shown.

Then when I say, "Fair in all like her, fairest she'll appear Who is
most like her," I intend to narrate how the goodness and the power of
her soul are good and useful to others; and, firstly, how useful it is
to other women, saying that she is "Fair in all like her," where I
present a clear or bright example to the women, from gazing at which
they can make their beauty seem gentle in following the same.
Secondly, I relate how useful she is to all people, saying that her
aspect assists our faith, which is more useful to the whole Human Race
than all other things beside; for it is that by which we escape from
Eternal Death and acquire Eternal Life; and she assists our Faith, for
the first foundation of our Faith is on the miracles performed by Him
who was crucified, who created our Reason, and willed that it should
be less than His power. He performed these miracles, then, in His own
name for His saints; and many men are so obstinate that they are in
doubt of those miracles if there be the least mist or cloud around
them; and they cannot believe any miracle unless they have visible
experience of the same; and this Lady is a thing visibly miraculous,
of which the eyes of men daily can have experience, and which can make
the other miracles appear possible to us. Wherefore it is manifest
that this Lady, with her marvellous aspect, assists our Faith. And,
therefore, finally I say:

                           We, content to call
    Her face a Miracle, have Faith made sure:
    For that God made her ever to endure.

And thus ends the second section of the second principal part of the
Song according to its Literal meaning.


Amongst the Works of Divine Wisdom, Man is the most wonderful,
considering how in one form the Divine Power joined three natures; and
in such a form how subtly harmonized his body must be. It is organized
for all his distinct powers; wherefore, because of the great concord
there must be, among so many organs, to secure their perfect response
to each other, in all the multitude of men but few are perfect. And if
this Creature is so wonderful, certainly it is a dread thing to
discourse of his conditions, not only in words, but even in thought.
So that to this apply those words of Ecclesiastes: "I beheld all the
Work of God, that a Man cannot find out the Work that is done under
the Sun." And those other words there, where he says: "Let not thine
heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in Heaven, and
thou upon Earth: therefore let thy words be few." I, then, who in this
third section intend to speak of a certain condition of such a
creature, inasmuch as, through the goodness of the Soul, visible
beauty appears in his body, I begin timorously uncertain, intending,
if not fully, at least partially, to untie such a knot as this. I say,
then, that since the meaning of that section is clear, wherein this
Lady is praised on the part of the Soul, we are now to proceed and to
see how it is when I say: "Her aspect shows delights of Paradise." I
praise her on the part of the body, and I say that in her aspect
bright gleams appear which show us pleasant things, and amongst others
those of Paradise.

The most noble state of all, and that which is the crown of every
good, is to be at peace within one's self; and this is to be happy.
And this content is truly (although in another manner) in her aspect;
so that, by looking at her, the people find peace, so sweetly does her
Beauty feed the eyes of the beholders; but in another way, for the
Peace that is perpetual in Paradise is not attainable by any man.

And since some one might ask where this wonderful content appears in
this Lady, I distinguish in her person two parts, in which human
pleasure and displeasure most appear. Wherefore it is to be known that
in whatever part the Soul most fulfils its office, it strives most
earnestly to adorn that part, and there it does its work most subtly.
Wherefore we see that in the Face of Man, where it fulfils its office
more than in any other outward part, it works so subtly that, by
making itself subtle therein as much as its material permits, it
causes that no face is like another, because its utmost power over
matter, which is dissimilar in almost all, is there brought into
action; and because in the face the Soul works especially in two
places, as if in those two places all the three Natures of the Soul
had jurisdiction, that is, in the Eyes and in the Mouth, these it
chiefly adorns, and there it spends its care to make all beautiful if
it can. And in these two places I say that those pleasures of content
appear, saying: "Seen in her eyes and in her smiling face;" the which
two places, by means of a beautiful comparison, may be designated the
balconies of the woman who dwells in the house of the body, she being
the Soul; because there, although veiled, as it were, the Soul often
shows itself. The Soul shows itself so evidently in the eyes that it
is possible to know its present passion if you look attentively.

Six passions are proper to the human Soul of which the Philosopher
makes mention in his Rhetoric, namely, Grace, Zeal, Mercy, Envy, Love,
and Shame; and with whichever of these the Soul is impassioned, there
comes into the window of the Eyes the semblance of it, unless it be
repressed within, and shut from view by great power of will. Wherefore
some one formerly plucked out his eyes that an inward shame should not
appear without, as Statius the Poet says of the Theban Oedipus when he
says that with eternal night he loosed his damnèd shame.

It reveals itself in the Mouth, like colour behind glass as it were.
And what is a smile or a laugh except a coruscation of the Soul's
delight, a light shot outwardly from that which shines within? And
therefore it is right for a man to reveal his Soul by a well-tempered
cheerfulness, smiling moderately with a due restraint, and with slight
movement of the limbs; so that the Lady, that is, the Soul, which
then, as has been said, shows herself, may appear modest, and not
dissolute. Therefore the book on the Four Cardinal Virtues commands us
thus: "Let thy smile be without loud laughter, that is, without
cackling like a hen."

Ah, the sweet wonder of my Lady's smile, which is never seen but in
the eyes!

And I say of these delights seen in her eyes and smile: "Love brought
them there as to his dwelling place;" where it is possible to consider
Love in a twofold form. First, the Love of the Soul, peculiar or
proper to these places; secondly, universal Love, which inclines
things to love and to be loved, which ordains the Soul to rule these

Then, when I say, "They dazzle Reason," I excuse myself for this, that
it appears of such exceeding beauty that I can tell but little, owing
to its overpowering force; and I say that I can say but little
concerning it for two reasons. The one is, that those things which
appear in her aspect overpower our intellect; and I tell how this
conquest is made: that "They dazzle Reason, as sunbeams our eyes,"
when the Sun overpowers our feeble sight, if not also the healthy and
the strong. The other is, that the man cannot look fixedly at it,
because the Soul becomes inebriate therein; so that incontinently,
after gazing thereat, it fails in all its operations.

Then, when I say, "Rain from her beauty little flames of fire," I
recur to discourse of its effect, since to discourse entirely of it is
not possible. Wherefore it is to be known that all those things which
subdue our intellect, so that it is unable to see what they are, are
most suitably to be discussed in their effects; wherefore of God, and
of His separate substances, and of the first matter we can thus have
some knowledge. And therefore I say that the beauty of that Lady rains
little flames of fire, meaning the ardour of Love and of Charity,
"Made living with a spirit," that is, Love informed by a gentle
spirit, which is direct desire, through which and from which "to
create Good thoughts;" and it not only does this, but it crushes and
destroys its opposite, the innate vices which are especially the foes
of all good thoughts.

And here it is to be known that there are certain vices in the Man to
which he is naturally disposed; as certain men of a choleric
complexion are disposed to anger: and such vices as these are innate,
that is, natural. Others are the vices of habit, for which not the
complexion, but habit, or custom, is to blame; such as intemperance,
and especially intemperance in wine. But these vices are subdued and
put to flight by good habits, and the man is made virtuous thereby
without finding fatigue in his moderation, as the Philosopher says in
the second book of the Ethics. Truly there is this difference between
the natural passions and the habitual, that through use of good morals
the habitual entirely vanish, because their origin, the evil habit, is
destroyed by its opposite; but the natural, the source of which is in
the complexion of the passionate man, although they may be made much
lighter by good morals, yet they do not entirely disappear as far as
regards the first cause, but they almost wholly disappear in act,
because custom is not equal to nature, which is the source of such a
passion. And therefore the man is more praiseworthy who guides himself
and rules himself when he is of an evil disposition by nature, in
opposition to natural impulse, than he who, being gifted with a good
disposition by nature, carries himself naturally well; as it is more
praiseworthy to control a bad horse than one that is not troublesome.
I say, then, that those little flames which rain down from her beauty
destroy the innate, or the natural, vices, to make men understand that
her beauty has power to renew Nature in those who behold it, which is
a miraculous thing. And this confirms that which is observed above in
the other chapter when I say that she is the helper of our Faith.

Finally, when I say, "Lady, who may desire Escape from blame," I
infer, under pretext of admonishing another, the end for which so much
beauty was made. And I say that what lady believes her beauty to be
open to blame through some defect, let her look on this most perfect
example; where it is understood that it is designed not only to
improve and raise the good, but also to convert evil to good. And,
finally, it is subjoined that she is "God's thought," that is, from
the Mind of God. And this to make men understand that, by design of
the Creator, Nature is made to produce such an effect.

And thus ends the whole of the second chief part of the Song.


The order of the present treatise requires, after these two parts of
the Song have been discussed, according to my intention, that we now
proceed to the third, in which I intend to purify the Song from a
reproof which might be unfavourable to it.

And it is this, that before I composed it, this Lady seeming to me to
be somewhat fierce and haughty against me, I made a little ballad, in
which I called her proud and angry, which appears to be contrary to
that which is here reasoned; and therefore I turn to the Song, and,
under colour of teaching it how it is proper that it should excuse
itself, I make an excuse for that which came before. And this, when
one addresses inanimate things, is a figure which is called by
rhetoricians, Prosopopoeia, and the Poets often use it. "My Song, it
seems you speak this to oppose," The intention of which address, to
make it more easy of understanding, it behoves me to divide into three
sections: first, one affirms wherefore excuse is necessary; then, one
proceeds with the excuse, when I say, "Though Heaven, you know;"
finally, I speak to the Song as to a person well skilled in that which
it is right to do when I say, "Be such excuse allowed."

I say, then, in the first place: "My Song, it seems you speak this to
oppose The saying of a sister Song of mine." For the sake of
similitude, I say sister; for as that woman is called a sister who is
born of the same father, so may a man call that work a sister which is
wrought by the same worker; for our work is in some degree a thing
begotten. And I say why it seems opposed or contrary to that sister
Song, saying: "This lovely Lady whom you count divine, Your sister
called disdainful and morose." This accusation being affirmed, I
proceed to the excuse, by quoting an example, wherein the Truth is
quite opposite to the appearance of Truth, and it is quite possible to
take the false semblance of Truth for Truth itself, regarding Truth
itself as Falsehood. I say: "Though Heaven, you know, is ever high and
pure, Men's eyes may fail, and find a star obscure;" where it is shown
that it is the property of colour and light to be visible, as
Aristotle affirms in the second book Of the Soul and in the book on
Sense and Sensation. Other things, indeed, are visible, but it is not
their property to be so, nor to be tangible, as in form, height,
number, motion, and rest, which are said to be subject to the Common
Sense, and which we comprehend by union of many senses; but of colour
and light it is the property to be visible, because with the sight
only we comprehend them. These visible things, both those of which it
is the property and those subject to the Common Sense, inasmuch as
they are visible, come within the eye; I do not say the things, but
their form; through the transparent medium, not really, but by
intention, as it were through transparent glass. And in the humour
which is in the pupil of the eye this current which makes the form
visible is completed, because that humour is closed behind like a
mirror which has its glass backed with lead; so that it cannot pass
farther on, but strikes there, after the manner of a ball, and stops;
so that the form which does not appear in the transparent medium,
having reached the disc behind, shines brightly thereon; and this is
the reason why the image appears only in the glass which has lead at
the back.

From this pupil the visual spirit, which is continued from it to the
part of the Brain, the anterior, where the sensitive power is,
suddenly, without loss of time, depicts it as in the clear spring of a
fountain; and thus we see. Wherefore, in order that its vision be
truthful, that is, such as the visible thing is in itself, the medium
through which the form comes to the eye must be without any colour,
and so also the humour of the pupil; otherwise the visible form would
be stained of the colour of the medium and of that of the pupil. And
this is the reason why they who wish to make things appear of a
certain colour in a mirror interpose that colour between the glass and
the lead, the glass being pressed over it.

Plato and other Philosophers said, indeed, that our sight was not
because the visible came into the eye, but because the visual virtue
went out to the visible form. And this opinion is confuted by the
Philosopher in that book of his on Sense and Sensation. Having thus
considered this law of vision, one can easily perceive how, although
the star is always in one way bright, clear, and resplendent, and
receives no change whatever except that of local movement, as is
proved in that book on Heaven and the World, yet from many causes it
may appear dim and obscure; since it may appear thus on account of the
medium, the atmosphere, that changes continually. This medium changes
from light to darkness, according to the presence or absence of the
Sun; and during the presence of the Sun the medium, which is
transparent, is so full of light that it overpowers the star, and
therefore it no longer appears brilliant. This medium also changes
from rare to dense, from dry to moist, because of the vapours of the
Earth which rise continually. The medium, thus changed, changes by its
density the image of the star, which passes through it, makes it
appear dim, and by its moisture or dryness changes it in colour. In
like manner it may thus appear through the visual organ, that is, the
eye, which on account of some infirmity, or because of fatigue, is
changed into some degree of dimness or into some degree of weakness.
So it happens very often, owing to the membrane of the pupil becoming
suffused with blood, on account of some corruption produced by
weakness, that things all appear of a red colour; and therefore the
star appears so coloured. And owing to the sight being weakened, there
results in it some dispersion of the spirit, so that things do not
appear united, but scattered, almost in the same way as our writing
does on a wet piece of paper. And this is the reason why many persons,
when they wish to read, remove the paper to some distance from the
eyes, in order that the image thereof may come within the eye more
easily and more subtly, and thereby the lettering is left impressed on
the sight more distinctly and connectedly. For like reason the star
also may appear blurred; and I had experience of this in the same year
in which this Song was born, for, by trying the eyes very much in the
labour of reading, the visual spirits were so weakened that the stars
all appeared to me to be blurred by some white mist: and by means of
long repose in shady and cool places, and by cooling the ball of the
eye with spring water, I re-united the scattered powers, which I
restored to their former good condition.

And thus, for the reasons mentioned above, there are many visible
causes why the star can appear to us different to what it really is.


Leaving this digression, which has been needful for seeing the Truth,
I return to the proposition, and I say that, as our eyes call, that
is, judge, the star other than it really is as to its true condition,
so this little ballad judged this Lady according to appearance, other
than the Truth, through infirmity of the Soul, which was impassioned
with too much desire. And this I make evident when I say that "fear
possessed her soul." For this which I saw in her presence appeared
fierce or proud to me. Where it is to be known that in proportion as
the agent is more closely united to the patient, so much the more
powerful is the passion, as may be understood from the opinion of the
Philosopher in his book On Generation. Wherefore in proportion as the
desired thing draws nigh to the person who desires it, so much the
greater is the desire; and the Soul, more impassioned, unites itself
more closely to the carnal part, and abandons reason more and more; so
that the individual no longer judges like a man, but almost like some
other animal, even according to appearance, not discerning the Truth.
And this is the reason why the countenance, modest according to the
truth, appears disdainful and proud in her.

And that little ballad spoke, according to that judgment, as sensual
and irrational at once. And herein it is sufficiently understood that
this Song judges this Lady according to Truth, by the disagreement
which it has with that other Song of harmony between it and that
ballad. And not without reason I say, "When I come near to her
glance," and not when she comes within mine. But in this I wish to
express the great power which her eyes had over me; for, as if I had
been transparent, through every part their light shone through me. And
here it would be possible to assign reasons natural and supernatural,
but let it suffice here to have said as much as I have; elsewhere I
will discourse of it more suitably. Then when I say, "Be such excuse
allowed," I impose on the Song instruction how, by the assigned
reasons, it may excuse itself there where that is needful, namely,
where there may be any suspicion of this opposition; for there is no
more to say, except that whoever may feel doubtful as to the matter
wherein this Song differs from the other, let him look at the reason
which has been here stated. And such a figure as this is quite
laudable in Rhetoric, and even necessary when the words are to one
person and the intention is to another; because it is always
praiseworthy to admonish and necessary also; but it is not always
suitable in the mouth of every one. Wherefore, when the son is aware
of the vice of the father, and when the subject is aware of the vice
of the lord, and when the friend knows that the shame of his friend
would be increased to him by admonition from him, when he knows that
it would detract from his honour, or when he knows that his friend
would not be patient, but enraged at the admonition, this figure is
most beautiful and most useful. You may term it dissimulation; it is
similar to the work of that wise warrior who attacked the castle on
one side in order to draw off the defence from the other, for the
attack and the design of the commander are not aimed at one and the
same part.

Also, I lay a command on this Song, that it ask permission of this
Lady to speak of her; whereby one may infer that a man ought not to be
presumptuous in praising another, ought not to take it for granted in
his own mind that it is pleasing to the person praised, because often,
when some one believes he is bestowing praise, it is taken as blame,
either through defect of the speaker or through defect of him who
hears. Wherefore it is requisite to have much discretion in this
matter; which discretion is tantamount to asking permission, in the
way in which I say that this Song or Poem should ask for it.

And thus ends the whole Literal meaning of this treatise; wherefore
the order of the work now requires the Allegorical exposition,
following the Truth, to be proceeded with.


Returning now, as the order requires, to the beginning of the Song, I
say that this Lady is that Lady of the Intellect who is called
Philosophy. But naturally praise excites a desire to know the person
praised; and to know the thing may be to know what it is considered to
be in itself, and in all that pertains to it, as the Philosopher says
in the beginning of the book On Physics; and the name may reveal this
when it bears some meaning, as he says in the fourth chapter of the
Metaphysics, where it is said that the definition is that reason which
the name signifies. Here, therefore, it is necessary, before
proceeding farther with her praises, to prove and to say what this is
that is called Philosophy, what this name signifies; and when this has
been demonstrated, the present Allegory will be more efficaciously
discussed. And first of all I will state who first gave this name;
then I shall proceed to its signification.

I say, then, that anciently in Italy, almost from the beginning of the
foundation of Rome, which was seven hundred and fifty years, a little
more or less, before the advent of the Saviour, according as Paul
Orosius writes, about the time of Numa Pompilius, second king of the
Romans, there lived a most noble Philosopher, who was named
Pythagoras. And that he might be living about that time appears from
something to which Titus Livius alludes incidentally in the first part
of his History. And before him they were called the followers of
Science, not Philosophers but Wise Men such as were those Seven most
ancient Wise Men, who still live in popular fame. The first of them
had the name of Solon, the second Chilon, the third Periander, the
fourth Talus, the fifth Cleobulus, the sixth Bias, the seventh
Pittacus. Pythagoras, being asked if he were considered to be a Wise
Man, rejected this name, and stated himself to be not a Wise Man, but
a Lover of Wisdom. And from this circumstance it subsequently arose
that any man studious to acquire knowledge, was called a Lover of
Wisdom, that is, a Philosopher; for inasmuch as "Philo" in Greek is
equivalent to "Love" and "sophia" is equivalent to Wisdom, therefore,
"Philo and sophia" mean the same as Love of Wisdom. Wherefore it is
possible to see that those two words make that name Philosopher, which
is as much as to say Lover of Wisdom. Therefore it may be observed
that it is not a term of arrogance, but of humility.

From this sprang naturally the word philosophy, as from the word
friend springs naturally the word friendship. Wherefore it is possible
to see, considering the signification of the first and second word,
that philosophy is no other than friendship to wisdom, or rather to
knowledge; wherefore to a certain degree it is possible to call every
man a philosopher, according to the natural love which generates a
desire for knowledge in each individual.

But since the natural passions are common to all men, we do not
specify those passions by some distinctive word, applied to some
individual who shares our common nature, as when we say, John is the
friend of Martin, we do not mean to signify merely the natural love
which all men bear to all men, but we mean the friendship founded upon
the natural love which is distinct and peculiar to certain
individuals. Thus we do not term any one a philosopher because of the
love common to us all. It is the intention or meaning of Aristotle, in
the eighth book of the Ethics, that that man may be called a friend
whose friendship is not concealed from the person beloved, and to whom
also the beloved person is a friend, so that the attachment is mutual;
and this must be so either for mutual benefit, or for pleasure, or for
credit's sake. And thus, in order that a man may be a philosopher, it
must be love to Wisdom which makes one of the sides friendly; it must
be study and care which make the other side also friendly, so that
familiarity and manifestation of benevolence may spring up between
them; because without love and without study one cannot be called a
philosopher, but there must be both the one and the other.

And as friendship for the sake of pleasure given or for profit is not
true friendship, but accidental, as the Ethics demonstrate, so
philosophy for delight or profit is not true philosophy, but
accidental. Wherefore one ought not to call him a true philosopher who
for some pleasure or other may be a friend of Wisdom in some degree;
even as there are many who take delight in repeating songs and in
studying the same, and who delight in studying Rhetoric and Music, and
who avoid and abandon the other Sciences, which are all members of
Wisdom's body. One ought not to call him a true philosopher who is the
friend of Wisdom for the sake of profit; such as are the Lawyers,
Doctors, and almost all the Religious Men, who do not study for the
sake of knowledge, but to acquire money or dignity; and if any one
would give them that which they seek to acquire, they would not
continue to study. And as amongst the various kinds of friendship,
that which is for profit may be called the meanest friendship, so such
men as these have less share in the name of Philosopher than any other

Wherefore as the friendship conceived through honest affection is true
and perfect and perpetual, so is that philosophy true and perfect
which is generated by upright desire for knowledge, without regard to
aught else, and by the goodness of the friendly soul; which is as much
as to say, by right appetite and right reason. And it is possible to
say here that as true friendship amongst men is, that each love each
entirely, so the true Philosopher loves each part of Wisdom, and
Wisdom each part of the Philosopher, so as to draw him wholly to
herself, and to allow no thought of his to stray away to other things.
Wherefore Wisdom herself says in the Proverbs of Solomon, "I love
those who love me." And as true friendship of the mind, considered in
itself alone, has for its subject the knowledge of good effects, and
for its form the desire for the same, even so Philosophy considered in
itself alone, apart from the Soul, has understanding for its subject,
and for its form an almost divine love to intellect.

And as the efficient cause of true friendship is Virtue, so the
efficient cause of Philosophy is Truth. And as the end of true
friendship is true affection, which proceeds from the intercourse
proper to Humanity, that is, according to the dictates of Reason, as
Aristotle seems to think in the ninth book of the Ethics, so the end
of Philosophy is that most excellent affection which suffers no
intermission or defect, that is, the true happiness which is acquired
by the contemplation of Truth.

And thus it is now possible to see who this my Lady is, in all her
causes and in her whole reason, and why she is called Philosophy; and
who is a true Philosopher, and who is one by accident.

But in some fervour or heat of mind the one and the other end of the
acts and of the passions are called by the word for the act itself or
the passion; as Virgil does in the second book of the Æneid, where he
calls Hector, "Oh, light" (which was the act) "and hope" (which is the
passion) "of the Trojans:" for he was neither the light nor the hope,
but he was the end whence came to them their light in council, and he
was the end in which was reposed their hope of safety; as Statius
writes in the fifth book of the Thebaid, when Hypsipyle says to
Archemorus, "Oh, consolation of things and of the lost country! oh,
honour of my servitude!" even as we say daily, showing the friend,
"See my friendship;" and the father says to the son, "My love;" and so
it is that, through long custom, the Sciences, in which most fervently
Philosophy finds the end to which she looks, are called by her name,
such as the Natural Science, the Moral Science, and the Metaphysical
Science, which last, because most necessarily she looks to her end in
that chiefly and most fervently, is called the First Philosophy.

Now, therefore, since it has been seen what the true Philosophy is in
its essence; which is that Lady of whom I speak; how her noble name
through custom is communicated to the Sciences, and the first science
is called the First Philosophy, I may proceed further with her praise.


In the first chapter of this treatise the reason which moved me to
this Song is so fully discussed that it is no longer necessary to
discuss it further, for one can easily enough recall to mind what has
been said in this exposition: and therefore, following the divisions
made for the Literal meaning, I shall run through the Song, turning
back to the sense of the letter where it may be needful. I say, "Love,
reasoning of my Lady in my mind." By Love I mean the labour and pains
I took to acquire the love of this Lady. If one wishes to know what
labour, it can be here considered in two ways. There is one study
which leads the man to the daily use of Art and Science; there is
another study which he will employ in the acquired use. The first is
that which I call Love, which fills my mind continually with new and
most exalted ideas of this Lady: even as the anxious pains which one
takes to acquire a friendship are wont to do; for, when desiring that
friendship, a man is wont to take anxious thought concerning it. This
is that study and that affection which usually precedes in men the
begetting of the friendship, when already on one side Love is born,
and desires and strives that it may be on the other; for, as is said
above, Philosophy is born when the Soul and Wisdom have become
friends, so that the one is loved by the other.

Neither is it again needful to discuss that first stanza in the
present explanation, which was reasoned out as the Proem in the
Literal exposition; since, from the first argument thereof, it is easy
enough to make out the meaning in this the second one.

We may proceed, then, to the second part, which begins the treatise,
and to that place where I say, "The Sun sees not in travel round the
Earth." Here it is to be known that as, when discoursing of a sensible
thing, one handles it suitably by means of an insensible thing, so of
an intelligible thing, one fitly argues by means of an unintelligible.
In the Literal sense one speaks of the Sun as a substantial and
sensible body; so now it is fit, by image of the Sun, to discourse of
the Spiritual and Unintelligible, that is, God.

There is no visible thing in all the world more worthy to serve as a
type of God than the Sun, which illuminates with visible light itself
first, and then all the celestial and elemental bodies. Thus, God
illuminates Himself first with intellectual light, and then the
celestial and other intelligible beings. The Sun vivifies all things
with his heat, and if anything is destroyed thereby, it is not by the
intention of the cause, but it is an accidental effect: thus God
vivifies all things in His Goodness, and, if any suffer evil, it is
not by the Divine intention, but the effect is accidental. For, if God
made the Angels good and evil, He did not make both by intention, but
He made the good only; there followed afterwards, beyond His
intention, the wickedness of the evil ones; but not so far beyond His
intention that God could not foreknow in Himself their wickedness; but
so great was the loving desire to produce the Spiritual creature that
the foreknowledge that some would come to a bad end neither could nor
should prevent God from continuing the production; as it would not be
to the praise of Nature if, knowing of herself that the flowers of a
tree in a certain part must perish, she should refuse to produce
flowers on that tree, and should abandon the production of
fruit-bearing trees as vain and useless. I say, then, that God, who
encircles and understands all, in His encircling and His understanding
sees nothing so gentle, so noble, as He sees when He shines on this
Philosophy. For, although God Himself, beholding, may see all things
together, inasmuch as the distinction of things is in Him in the same
way as the effect is in the cause, yet He sees those things also apart
and distinct. He sees, then, this Lady the most noble of all
absolutely, inasmuch as most perfectly He sees her in Himself and in
her essence. If what has been said above be recalled to mind,
Philosophy is a loving use of Wisdom; which especially is in God,
because in Him is Supreme Wisdom, and Supreme Love, and Supreme
Action; which cannot be elsewhere except inasmuch as it proceeds from
Him. It is, then, the Divine Philosophy of the Divine Being, since in
Him nothing can be that is not part of His Essence; and it is most
noble, because the Divine Essence is most noble, and it is in Him in a
manner perfect and true, as if by eternal wedlock; it is in the other
Intelligences in a less degree, as if platonic, as if a virgin love
from whom no lover receives full and complete joy, but contents
himself by gazing on the beauty of her countenance. Wherefore it is
possible to say that God sees not, that He does not intently regard,
anything so noble as this Lady; I say anything, inasmuch as He sees
and distinguishes the other things, as has been said, seeing Himself
to be the cause of all. Oh, most noble and most excellent heart, which
is at peace in the bride of the Ruler of Heaven; and not bride only,
but sister, and the daughter beloved above all others.


Having seen in the beginning of the praises of this Lady how subtly it
is said that she is of the Divine Substance, as was first to be
considered, we proceed now to consider her as she is in the
Intelligences that proceed thence. "All minds of Heaven wonder at her
worth," where it is to be known that I say, "minds of Heaven," making
that allusion to God which has been mentioned above; and from this one
excludes the Intelligences who are exiled from the eternal country,
who can never study Philosophy, because love in them is entirely
extinct, and for the study of Philosophy, as has been already said,
Love is necessary. One sees, therefore, that the spirits of Hell are
deprived of the sight of this most beautiful Lady; and, since she is
the blessing of the intellect, the deprivation of her is most bitter
and full of every sadness.

Then, when I say, "Mortals, enamoured, find her in their thought," I
descend to show how she also may come into the Human Intelligence in a
secondary degree; with which Human Philosophy I then proceed through
the treatise, praising it. I say, then, that the mortals who "find her
in their thought" in this life do not always find her there, but only
"When Love his peace into their hearts has brought;" wherein there are
to be seen three points which are alluded to in this text.

The first is when one says, "Mortals, enamoured," because it seems to
make a distinction in the human race, and of necessity it must be
made; for, according to what manifestly appears, and which in the
following treatise will be specially reasoned out, the greatest part
of men live more according to the Sense than according to Reason; and
those who live according to the Sense can never be enamoured of this
Lady, since of her they can have no apprehension whatever.

The second point is when it says, "When Love his peace into their
minds has brought," where it appears to make a distinction of time.
And that is necessary; for, although the separate Intelligences gaze
at this Lady continually, the Human Intelligence cannot do so; since
Human Nature, besides that which gives delight to the Intellect and
the Reason, has need of many things requisite for its support which
contemplation cannot furnish forth. Therefore our Wisdom is sometimes
habitual only, and not actual; and this does not happen to the other
Intelligences, which alone are perfect in their intellectual nature.
And so, when our soul is not in the act of contemplation, one cannot
truly say that it is in Philosophy, except inasmuch as it has the
habit of it, and the power of being able to arouse it; sometimes,
therefore, she is with the people who are enamoured of her here below,
and sometimes not.

The third point is, when it speaks of the time when those people are
with her, namely, when Love has brought into their minds his peace;
which means no other than when the man is in the act of contemplation,
since he does not strive to feel the peace of that Lady except in the
act of contemplation.

And thus one sees how this Lady is firstly in the Mind of God,
secondly in the other separate Intelligences through continual
contemplation, and afterwards in the human intellect through
interpreted contemplation. But the man who has her for his Lady is
ever to be termed a Philosopher, notwithstanding that he may not be
always in the final act of Philosophy, for it is usual to name other
men after their habits. Wherefore we call any man virtuous, not merely
when performing virtuous actions, but from having the habit or custom
of virtue. And we call a man eloquent, even when he is not speaking,
from his habit of eloquence, that is, of speaking well.

And of this Philosophy, in which Human Intelligence has part, there
will now be the following encomiums to prove how great a part of her
good gifts is bestowed on Human Nature. I say, then, afterwards:

    Her Maker saw that she was good, and poured,
      Beyond our Nature, fulness of His Power
      On her pure Soul, whence shone this holy dower
    Through all her frame.

For the capacity of our Nature is subdued by it, which it makes
beautiful and virtuous. Wherefore, although into the habit of that
Lady one may somewhat come, it is not possible to say that any one who
enters thereinto properly has that habit; since the first study, that
whereby the habit is begotten, cannot perfectly acquire that
philosophy. And here one sees her lowly praise; for, perfect or
imperfect, she never loses the name of perfection. And because of this
her surpassing excellence, it says that the Soul of Philosophy "shone
Through all her frame," that is, that God ever imparts to her of His

Here we may recall to mind what is said above, that Love is a form of
Philosophy, and therefore here is called her Soul; which Love is
manifest in the use of Wisdom, and such use brings with it a wonderful
beauty, that is to say, contentment under any condition of the time,
and contempt for those things which other men make their masters.

Wherefore it happens that those other unhappy ones who gaze thereon,
and think over their own defects from the desire for perfection, fall
into the weariness of sighs; and this is meant where it says: "That
from the eyes she touches heralds fly Heartward with longings,
heavenward with a sigh."


As in the Literal exposition, after the general praises one descends
to the especial, firstly on the part of the Soul, then on the part of
the body, so now the text proceeds after the general encomium to
descend to the especial commendation. As it is said above, Philosophy
here has Wisdom for its material subject and Love for its form, and
the habit of contemplation for the union of the two. Wherefore in this
passage which subsequently begins, "On her fair form Virtue Divine
descends," I mean to praise Love, which is part of Philosophy. Here it
is to be known that for a virtue to descend from one thing into
another there is no other way than to reduce that thing into its own
similitude; as we see evidently in the natural agents, for their
virtue descending into the things that are the patients, they bring
those things into their similitude as far as they are able to attain

We see that the Sun, pouring his rays down on this Earth, reduces the
things thereon to his own similitude of light in proportion as they by
their own disposition are able to receive light of his light. Thus, I
say that God reduces this Love to His own Similitude as much as it is
possible for it to bear likeness to Him. And it alludes to the nature
of the creative act, saying, "As on the Angel that beholds His face."
Where again it is to be known that the first Agent, who is God, paints
His Virtue on some things by means of direct radiance, and on some
things by means of reflected splendour; wherefore into the separate
Intelligences the Divine Light shines without any interposing medium;
into the others it is reflected from those Intelligences which were
first illumined.

But since mention is here made of Light and Splendour, for the more
perfect understanding thereof I will show the difference between those
words, according to the opinion of Avicenna. I say that it is the
custom of Philosophers to speak of Heaven as Light, inasmuch as Light
is there in its primeval Spring, or its first origin. They speak of it
as a ray of Light while it passes through the medium from its source
into the first body in which it has its end; they call it Splendour
where it is reflected back from some part that has received
illumination. I say, then, that the Divine Virtue or Power draws this
Love into Its Own Similitude without any interposing medium.

And it is possible to make this evident, especially in this, that as
the Divine Love is Eternal, so must its object of necessity be
eternal, so that those things are eternal which He loves. And thus it
makes this Love to love, for the Wisdom into which this Love strikes
is eternal. Wherefore it is written of her: "From the beginning,
before Time was created, I am: and in the Time to come I shall not
fail." And in the Proverbs of Solomon this Wisdom says: "I am
established for ever." And in the beginning of the Gospel of John, her
eternity is openly alluded to, as it is possible to observe. And
therefore it results that there, where this Love shines, all the other
Loves become obscure and almost extinct, since its eternal object
subdues and overpowers all other objects in a manner beyond all
comparison; and therefore the most excellent Philosophers in their
actions openly demonstrate it, whereby we know that they have treated
all other things with indifference except Wisdom. Wherefore
Democritus, neglecting all care of his own person, trimmed neither his
beard, nor the hair of his head, nor his nails. Plato, indifferent to
the riches of this world, despised the royal dignity, for he was the
son of a king. Aristotle, caring for no other friend, combated with
his own best friend, even with the above-named Plato, his dearest
friend after Philosophy. And why do we speak of these, when we find
others who, for these thoughts, held their life in contempt, such as
Zeno, Socrates, Seneca, and many more? It is evident, therefore, that
in this Love the Divine Power, after the manner of an Angel, descends
into men; and to give proof of this, the text presently exclaims:
"Fair one who doubt, go with her, mark the grace In all her acts." By
"Fair one" is meant the noble soul of judgment, free in its own power,
which is Reason; hence the other souls cannot be called Ladies, but
handmaids, since they are not for themselves, but for others; and the
Philosopher says, in the first book of Metaphysics, that that thing is
free which is a cause of itself and not for others. It says, "go with
her, mark the grace In all her acts," that is, make thyself the
companion of this Love, and look at that which will be found within
it; and in part it alludes to this, saying, "Downward from Heaven
bends An Angel when she speaks," meaning that where Philosophy is in
action a celestial thought stoops down, in which this being reasons or
discourses beyond the power of Human Nature.

The Song says "from Heaven," to give people to understand that not
only Philosophy, but the thoughts friendly to it, are abstracted from
all low and earthly things. Then afterwards it says how she
strengthens and kindles love wherever she appears with the sweet
persuasions of her actions, which are in all her aspects modest,
gentle, and without any domineering assumption. And subsequently, by
still greater persuasion to induce a desire for her company, it says:
"Fair in all like her, fairest she'll appear Who is most like her."
Again it adds: "We, content to call Her face a Miracle," find help in
it, where it is to be known that the regard of this Lady was freely
ordained to arouse a desire in us for its acquisition, not only in her
countenance, which she reveals to sight, but also in the things which
she keeps hidden. Wherefore as, through her, much of that which is
hidden is seen by means of Reason (and consequently to see by Reason
without her seems a miracle), so, through her, one believes each
miracle in the action of a higher intellectual Power to have reason,
and therefore to be possible. From whence true Faith has its origin,
from which comes the Hope to desire the Future, and from that are born
the works of Charity, by which three Virtues we mount to become
Philosophers in that celestial Athens where Stoics, Peripatetics, and
Epicureans, by the practice of Eternal Truth, concur harmoniously in
one desire.


In the preceding chapter this glorious Lady is praised according to
one of her component parts, that is, Love. In this chapter I intend to
explain that passage which begins, "Her aspect shows delights of
Paradise," and here it is requisite to discuss and praise her other
part, Wisdom.

The text then says that in the face of this Lady things appear which
show us joys of Paradise; and it distinguishes the place where this
appears, namely, in the eyes and the smile. And here it must be known
that the eyes of Wisdom are her demonstrations, whereby one sees the
Truth most certainly; but her persuasions are in her smile, in which
persuasions the inner Light of Wisdom reveals itself without any veil
or concealment. And in these two is felt that most exalted joy which
is the supreme good in Paradise. This joy cannot be in any other thing
here below, except in gazing into these eyes and upon that smile. And
the reason is this, that since each thing naturally desires its
perfection, without which it cannot be at peace, to have that is to be
blessed. For although it might possess all other things, yet, being
without that, there would remain in it desire, which cannot consist
with perfect happiness, since perfect happiness is a perfect thing,
and desire is a defective thing. For one desires not that which he
has, but that which he has not, and here is a manifest defect. And in
this form solely can human perfection be acquired, as the perfection
of Reason, on which, as on its principal part, our essential being all
depends. All our other actions, as to feel or hear, to take food, and
the rest, are through this one alone; and this is for itself, and not
for others. So that, if that be perfect, it is so perfect that the
man, inasmuch as he is a man, sees each desire fulfilled, and thus he
is happy. And therefore it is said in the Book of Wisdom: "Whoso
casteth away Wisdom and Knowledge is unhappy," that is to say, he
suffers the privation of happiness. From the habit of Wisdom it
follows that a man learns to be happy and content, according to the
opinion of the Philosopher. One sees, then, how in the aspect of this
Lady joys of Paradise appear, and therefore one reads in the Book of
Wisdom quoted above, when speaking of her, "She is a shining whiteness
of the Eternal Light; a Mirror without blemish, of the Majesty of
God." Then when it says, "Things over which the intellect may stray,"
I excuse myself, saying that I can say but little concerning these, on
account of their overpowering influence. Where it is to be known that
in any way these things dazzle our intellect, inasmuch as they affirm
certain things to be, which our intellect is unable to comprehend,
that is, God and Eternity, and the first Matter which most certainly
they do not see, and with all faith they believe to be. And even what
they are we cannot understand; and so, by not denying things, it is
possible to draw near to some knowledge of them, but not otherwise.

Truly here it is possible to have some very strong doubt how it is
that Wisdom can make the man completely happy without being able to
show him certain things perfectly; since the natural desire for
knowledge is in the man, and without fulfilment of the desire he
cannot be fully happy. To this it is possible to reply clearly, that
the natural desire in each thing is in proportion to the possibility
of reaching to the thing desired; otherwise it would pass into
opposition to itself, which is impossible; and Nature would have
worked in vain, which also is impossible.

It would pass into opposition, for, desiring its perfection, it would
desire its imperfection, since he would desire always to desire, and
never fulfil his desire. And into this error the cursed miser falls,
and does not perceive that he desires always to desire, going
backwards to reach to an impossible amount.

Nature also would have worked in vain, since it would not be ordained
to any end; and, in fact, human desire is proportioned in this life to
that knowledge which it is possible to have here. One cannot pass that
point except through error, which is outside the natural intention.
And thus it is proportioned in the Angelic, and it is limited in Human
Nature, and it finds its end in that Wisdom in proportion as the
nature of each can apprehend it.

And this is the reason why the Saints have no envy amongst themselves,
since each one attains the end of his desire, and the desire of each
is in due proportion to the nature of his goodness. Wherefore, since
to know God and certain other things, as Eternity and the first
Matter, is not possible to our Nature, naturally we have no desire for
that knowledge, and hereby is this doubtful question solved.

Then when I say, "Rain from her beauty little flames of fire," I
proceed to another joy of Paradise, that is, from the secondary
felicity, happiness, to this first one, which proceeds from her
beauty, where it is to be known that Morality is the beauty of
Philosophy. For as the beauty of the body is the result of its members
in proportion as they are fitly ordered, so the beauty of Wisdom,
which is the body of Philosophy, as has been said, results from the
order of the Moral Virtues which visibly make that joy. And therefore
I say that her beauty, which is Morality, rains down little flames of
fire, meaning direct desire, which is begotten in the pleasure of the
Moral Doctrine; which desire removes it again from the natural vices,
and not only from the others. And thence springs that happiness which
Aristotle defined in the first book of Ethics, saying, that it is Work
according to Virtue in the Perfect Life.

And when it says, "Fair one, who may desire Escape from blame," it
proceeds in praise of Philosophy. I cry aloud to the people that they
should follow her, telling them of her good gifts, that is to say,
that by following her each one may become good. Therefore it says to
each Soul, that feels its beauty is to blame because it does not
appear what it ought to appear, let her look at this example. Where it
is to be known that the Morals are the beauty of the Soul, that is to
say, the most excellent virtues, which sometimes through vanity or
through pride are made less beautiful or less agreeable, as in the
last treatise it was possible to perceive. And therefore I say that,
in order to shun this, one looks at that Lady, Philosophy, there where
she is the example of Humility, namely, in that part of herself which
is called Moral Philosophy. And I subjoin that by gazing at her (I
say, at Wisdom) in that part, every vicious man will become upright
and good. And therefore I say she has "a spirit to create Good
thoughts, and crush the vices." She turns gently back him who has gone
astray from the right course.

Finally, in highest praise of Wisdom, I say of her that she is the
Mother of every good Principle, saying that she is "God's thought,"
who began the World, and especially the movement of the Heaven by
which all things are generated, and wherein each movement has its
origin, that is to say, that the Divine Thought is Wisdom. She was,
when God made the World; whence it follows that she could make it, and
therefore Solomon said in the Book of Proverbs, in the person of
Wisdom: "When He prepared the Heavens, I was there: when He set a
compass upon the face of the depth; when He established the clouds
above; when He strengthened the fountains of the deep; when He gave to
the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment;
when He appointed the foundations of the Earth: then I was by Him, as
one brought up with Him, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always
before Him." O, ye Men, worse than dead, who fly from the friendship
of Wisdom, open your eyes, and see that before you were she was the
Lover of you, preparing and ordaining the process of your being! Since
you were made she came that she might guide you, came to you in your
own likeness; and, if all of you cannot come into her presence, honour
her in her friends, and follow their counsels, as of them who announce
to you the will of this eternal Empress! Close not your ears to
Solomon, who tells you "the path of the Just is as a shining Light,
which goeth forth and increaseth even to the day of salvation." Follow
after them, behold their works, which ought to be to you as a beacon
of light for guidance in the path of this most brief life.

And here we may close the Commentary on the true meaning of the
present Song. The last stanza, which is intended for a refrain, can be
explained easily enough by the Literal exposition, except inasmuch as
it says that I there called this Lady "disdainful and morose." Where
it is to be known that at the beginning this Philosophy appeared to me
on the part of her body, which is Wisdom, morose, for she smiled not
on me, insomuch that as yet I did not understand her persuasions; and
she seemed to me disdainful, for she turned not her glance to me, that
is to say, I could not see her demonstrations. But the defect was
altogether on my side. From this, and from that which is given in the
explanation of the Literal meaning of the Song, the Allegory of the
refrain is evident. It is time, therefore, that we proceed farther,
and this treatise end.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Fourth Treatise

      Soft rhymes of love I used to find
        Within my thought, I now must leave,
    Not without hope to turn to them again;
      But signs of a disdainful mind
        That in my Lady I perceive
    Have closed the way to my accustomed strain.

      And since time suits me now to wait,
        I put away the softer style
    Proper to love; rhyme subtle and severe
      Shall tell how Nobleman's estate
        Is won by worth, hold false and vile
    The judgment that from wealth derives a Peer.

        First calling on that Lord
          Who dwells within her eyes,
        Containing whom, my Lady learnt
          Herself to love and prize.

        One raised to Empire held,
          As far as he could see,
        Descent of wealth, and generous ways,
          To make Nobility.

        Another, lightly wise,
          That saying turned aside,
        Perchance for want of generous ways
          The second source denied.

        And followers of him
          Are all the men who rate
        Those noble in whose families
          The wealth has long been great.

        And so long among us
          The falsehood has had sway,
        That men call him a Nobleman,
          Though worthless, who can say.

        I nephew am, or son,
          Of one worth such a sum;
        But he who sees the Truth may know
          How vile he has become

        To whom the Truth was shown,
          Who from the Truth has fled,
        And though he walks upon the earth
          Is counted with the dead:

        Whoever shall define
          The man a living tree
        Will speak untruth and less than truth,
          Though more he may not see.

        The Emperor so erred;
          First set the false in view,
        Proceeding, on the other side,
          To what was less than true.

        For riches make not worth
          Although they can defile:
        Nor can their want take worth away:
          They are by nature vile.

        No painter gives a form
          That is not of his knowing;
        No tower leans above a stream
          That far away is flowing.

        How vile and incomplete
          Wealth is, let this declare
        However great the heap may be
          It brings no peace, but care.

        And hence the upright mind,
          To its own purpose true,
        Stands firm although the flood of wealth
          Sweep onward out of view

        They will not have the vile
          Turn noble, nor descent
        From parent vile produce a race
          For ever eminent.

        Yet this, they say, can be,
          Their reason halts behind,
        Since time they suit to noble birth
          By course of time defined.

        It follows then from this
          That all are high or base,
        Or that in Time there never was
          Beginning to our race.

        But that I cannot hold,
          Nor yet, if Christians, they;
        Sound intellect reproves their words
          As false, and turns away.

        And now I seek to tell,
          As it appears to me,
        What is, whence comes, what signs attest
          A true Nobility.

        I say that from one root
          Each Virtue firstly springs,
        Virtue, I mean, that Happiness
          To man, by action, brings.

        This, as the Ethics teach,
          Is habit of right choice
        That holds the means between extremes,
          So spake that noble voice.

        Nobility by right
          No other sense has had
        Than to import its subject's good,
          As vileness makes him bad.

        Such virtue shows its good
          To others' intellect,
        For when two things agree in one,
          Producing one effect.

        One must from other come,
          Or each one from a third,
        If each be as each, and more, then one
          From the other is inferred.

        Where Virtue is, there is
          A Nobleman, although
        Not where there is a Nobleman
          Must Virtue be also.

        So likewise that is Heaven
          Wherein a star is hung,
        But Heaven may be starless; so
          In women and the young

        A modesty is seen,
          Not virtue, noble yet;
        Comes virtue from what's noble, as
          From black comes violet;

        Or from the parent root
          It springs, as said before,
        And so let no one vaunt that him.
          A noble mother bore.

        They are as Gods whom Grace
          Has placed beyond all sin:
        God only gives it to the Soul
          That He finds pure within.

        That seed of Happiness
          Falls in the hearts of few,
        Planted by God within the Souls
          Spread to receive His dew.

        Souls whom this Grace adorns
          Declare it in each breath,
        From birth that joins the flesh and soul
          They show it until death.

        In Childhood they obey,
          Are gentle, modest, heed
        To furnish Virtue's person with
          The graces it may need.

        Are temperate in Youth,
          And resolutely strong,
        Love much, win praise for courtesy,
          Are loyal, hating wrong.

        Are prudent in their Age,
          And generous and just,
        And glad at heart to hear and speak
          When good to man's discussed.

        The fourth part of their life
          Weds them again to God,
        They wait, and contemplate the end,
          And bless the paths they trod.

      How many are deceived! My Song,
        Against the strayers: when you reach
    Our Lady, hide not from her that your end
      Is labour that would lessen wrong,
        And tell her too, in trusty speech,
    I travel ever talking of your Friend.


Love, according to the unanimous opinion of the wise men who discourse
of him, and as by experience we see continually, is that which brings
together and unites the lover with the beloved; wherefore Pythagoras
says, "In friendship many become one."

And the things which are united naturally communicate their qualities
to each other, insomuch that sometimes it happens that one is wholly
changed into the nature of the other, the result being that the
passions of the beloved person enter into the person of the lover, so
that the love of the one is communicated to the other, and so likewise
hatred, desire, and every other passion; wherefore the friends of the
one are beloved by the other, and the enemies hated; and so in the
Greek proverb it is said: "With friends all things ought to be in

Wherefore I, having made a friend of this Lady, mentioned above in the
truthful exposition, began to love and to hate according to her love
and her hatred. I then began to love the followers of Truth, and to
hate the followers of Error and Falsehood, even as she does. But since
each thing is to be loved for itself and none are to be hated except
for excess of evil, it is reasonable and upright to hate not the
things, but the evil in the things, and to endeavour to distinguish
between these. And if any person has this intention, my most excellent
Lady understands especially how to distinguish the evil in anything,
which is the cause of hate; since in her is all Reason, and in her is
the fountain-head of all uprightness.

I, following her as much as I could in her work as in her love,
abominated and despised the errors of the people with infamy or
reproach, not cast on those lost in error, but on the errors
themselves; by blaming which, I thought to create displeasure and to
separate the displeased ones from those faults in them which were
hated by me. Amongst which errors one especially I reproved, which,
because it is hurtful and dangerous not only to those who remain in
it, but also to others who reprove it, I separate it from them and

This is the error concerning Human Goodness, which, inasmuch as it is
sown in us by Nature, ought to be termed Nobility; which error was so
strongly entrenched by evil custom and by weak intellect that the
opinion of almost all people was falsified or deceived by it; and from
the false opinion sprang false judgments, and from false judgments
sprang unjust reverence and unjust contempt; wherefore the good were
held in vile disdain, and the evil were honoured and exalted. This was
the worst confusion in the world; even as he can see who looks subtly
at that which may result from it. And though it seemed that this my
Lady had somewhat changed her sweet countenance towards me, especially
where I gazed and sought to discover whether the first Matter of the
Elements was created by God, for which reason I strengthened myself to
frequent her presence a little, as if remaining there with her assent,
I began to consider in my mind the fault of man concerning the said
error. And to shun sloth, which is an especial enemy of this Lady, and
to describe or state this error very clearly, this error which robs
her of so many friends, I proposed to cry aloud to the people who are
walking in the path of evil, in order that they might direct their
steps to the right road; and I began a Song, in the beginning of which
I said, "Soft rhymes of love I used to find," wherein I intend to lead
the people back into the right path, the path of right knowledge
concerning true Nobility, as by the knowledge of its text, to the
explanation of which I now turn my attention, any one will be able to

And since the intention of this Song is directed to a remedy so
requisite, it was not well to speak under any figure of speech; but it
was needful to prepare this medicine speedily, that speedy might be
the restoration to health, which, being so corrupted, hastened to a
hideous death. It will not, then, be requisite in the exposition of
this Song to unveil any allegory, but simply to discuss its meaning
according to the letter. By my Lady I always mean her who is spoken of
in the preceding Song, that is to say, that Light of supreme virtue,
Philosophy, whose rays cause the flowers of true Nobility to blossom
forth in mankind and to bear fruit in the sons of men; concerning
which true Nobility the proposed Song fully intends to treat.


In the beginning of the explanation now undertaken, in order to render
the meaning of the proposed Song more clear and distinct, it is
requisite to divide that first part into two parts, for in the first
part one speaks in the manner of a Proem or Preface; in the second,
the subject under discussion is continued; and the second part begins
in the commencement of the stanza, where it says:

    One raised to Empire held,
      As far as he could see,
    Descent of wealth, and generous ways,
      To make Nobility.

The first part, again, can be comprehended in three divisions or
members. In the first it states why I depart from my usual mode of
speech; in the second, I say of what it is my intention to discourse;
in the third, I call upon that Helper who most can aid me to establish
Truth. The second member, clause, or division begins: "And since time
suits me now." The third begins: "First calling on that Lord." I say
then that I was compelled to abandon the soft rhymes of Love which I
was accustomed to search for in my thoughts, and I assign the reason
or cause; wherefore I say that it is not because I have given up all
intention of making rhymes of Love, but because new aspects have
appeared in my Lady which have deprived me of material for present
speech of Love. Where it is to be known that it does not here say that
the gestures of this Lady are disdainful and angry according to
appearance only, as may be seen in the tenth chapter of the preceding
treatise; for at another time I say that the appearance is contrary to
the Truth; and how this can be, how one self-same thing can be sweet
and appear bitter, or rather be clear and appear obscure, may there be
seen clearly enough.

Afterwards when I say, "And since time suits," I say, even as has been
said, what that is whereof I intend to discourse. And that which it
says in the words "time suits" is not here to be passed over with a
dry foot, because there is a most powerful reason for my action; but
it is to be seen how reasonably time must wait on all our acts, and
especially on speech.

Time, according to what Aristotle says in the fourth chapter of
Physics, is the number of movement, first, second, and onwards; and
the number of the celestial movement, which prepares the things here
below to receive in various ways any informing power. For the Earth is
prepared in one way in the beginning of Spring to receive into itself
the informing power of the herbs and flowers, and the Winter
otherwise; and in one manner is one season prepared to receive the
seed, differing from another. And even so our Mind, inasmuch as it is
founded upon the temper of the body, which has to follow the
revolution of the Heaven, at one time is disposed in one way, at
another time in another way; wherefore words, which are, as it were,
the seeds of actions, ought very discreetly to be withheld or uttered;
they should be spoken with such sound judgment that they may be well
received, and good fruit follow from them; not withheld or spent so
sparingly that barrenness is the result of their defective utterance.
And therefore a suitable time should be chosen, both for him who
speaks and for him who must hear: for if the speaker is badly
prepared, very often his words are injurious or hurtful; and if the
hearer is ill-disposed, those words which are good are ill received.
And therefore Solomon says in Ecclesiastes: "There is a time to speak,
and a time to be silent." Wherefore I, feeling within myself that my
disposition to speak of Love was disturbed, for the cause which has
been mentioned in the preceding chapter, it seemed to me that the time
might suit me now, time which bears with it the fulfilment of every
desire, and appears in the guise of a generous giver to those who
grudge not to await him patiently. Wherefore St. James says in his
Epistle, in the fifth chapter: "Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the
precious fruit of the Earth, and hath long patience for it, until he
receive the early and the latter rain." For all our sorrows, or cares,
or vexations, if we inquire diligently into their origin, proceed, as
it were, from not knowing the use of time. I say, "since the time
suits," I will leave my pen alone, that is to say, the sweet or gentle
style I used when I sang of Love; and I say that I will speak of that
worth whereby a man is truly noble.

And as it is possible to understand worth in many ways, here I intend
to assume worth to be a power of Nature, or rather a goodness bestowed
by her, as will be seen in what follows; and I promise to discourse on
this subject with a "rhyme subtle and severe."

Wherefore it is requisite to know that rhyme may be considered in a
double sense, that is to say, in a wide and in a narrow sense. In the
narrow sense, it is understood as that concordance which in the last
and in the penultimate syllable it is usual to make. In the wide
sense, it is understood for all that language which, with numbers and
regulated time, falls into rhymed consonance; and thus it is desired
that it should be taken and understood in this Proem. And therefore it
says "severe," with reference to the sound of the style, which to such
a subject must not be sweet and pleasing; and it says "subtle," with
regard to the meaning of the words, which proceed with subtle argument
and disputation.

And I subjoin: "hold false and vile The judgment;" where again it is
promised to confute the judgment of the people full of error: false,
that is, removed from the Truth; and vile, that is to say, affirmed
and fortified by vileness of mind. And it is to be observed that in
this Proem I promise, firstly, to treat of the Truth, and then to
confute the False; and in the treatise the opposite is done, for, in
the first place, I confute the False, and then treat of the Truth,
which does not appear rightly according to the promise. And therefore
it is to be known that, although the intention is to speak of both,
the principal intention is to handle the Truth; and the intention is
to reprove the False or Untrue, in so far as by so doing I make the
Truth appear more excellent.

And here, in the first place, the promise is to speak of the Truth
according to the chief intention, which creates in the minds of the
hearers a desire to hear; for in the first treatise I reprove the
False of Untrue in order that, the false opinions being chased away,
the Truth may be received more freely. And this method was adopted by
the master of human argument, Aristotle, who always in the first place
fought with the adversaries of Truth, and then, having vanquished
them, revealed or demonstrated Truth itself.

Finally, when I say, "First calling on that Lord," I appeal to Truth
to be with me, Truth being that Lord who dwells in the eyes of
Philosophy, that is to say, in her demonstrations. And indeed Truth is
that Lord; for the Soul espoused to Truth is the bride of Truth, and
otherwise it is a slave or servant deprived of all liberty.

And it says, "my Lady learnt Herself to love and prize," because this
Philosophy, which has been said in the preceding treatise to be a
loving use of Wisdom, beholds herself when the beauty of her eyes
appears to her. And what else is there to be said, except that the
Philosophic Soul not only contemplates this Truth, but again
contemplates her own contemplation and the beauty of that, again
revolving upon herself, and being enamoured with herself on account of
the beauty of her first glance?

And thus ends this which, as a Proem or Preface in three divisions,
heads the present treatise.


Having seen the meaning of the Proem, we must now follow the treatise,
and, to demonstrate it clearly, it must be divided into its chief
parts, which are three.

In the first, one treats of Nobility according to the opinion of other
men; in the second, one treats of it according to the true opinion; in
the third, one addresses speech to the Song by way of ornament to that
which has been said. The second part begins: "I say that from one root
Each Virtue firstly springs." The third begins: "How many are
deceived! My Song, Against the strayers." And after these general
parts, it will be right to make other divisions, in order to make the
meaning of the demonstration clear. Therefore, let no one marvel if it
proceed with many divisions, since a great and high work is now on my
hands, and one that is but little entered upon by authors; the
treatise must be long and subtle into which the reader now enters with
me, if I am to unfold perfectly the text according to the meaning
which it bears.

I say, then, that this first part is now divided into two: for in the
first, the opinions of others are placed; in the second, those
opinions are confuted; and this second part begins: "Whoever shall
define The man a living tree." Again, the first part which remains has
two clauses: the first is the variation of the opinion of the Emperor;
the second is the variation of the opinion of the Common People, which
is naked or void of all reason; and this second clause or division
begins: "Another, lightly wise." I say then, "One raised to Empire,"
that is to say, such an one made use of the Imperial Office. Where it
is to be known that Frederick of Suabia, the last Emperor of the
Romans (I say last with respect to the present time, notwithstanding
that Rudolf, and Adolphus, and Albert were elected after his death and
from his descendants), being asked what Nobility might be, replied
that "it was ancient wealth, and good manners."

And I say that there was another of less wisdom, who, pondering and
revolving this definition in every part, removed the last particle,
that is, the good manners, and held to the first, that is, to the
ancient riches. And as he seems to have doubted the text, perhaps
through not having good manners, and not wishing to lose the title of
Nobility, he defined it according to that which made himself noble,
namely, possession of ancient wealth.

And I say that this opinion is that of almost all, saying that after
it go all the people who make those men noble who have a long
pedigree, and who have been rich through many generations; since in
this cry do almost all men bark.

These two opinions (although one, as has been said, is of no
consequence whatever) seem to have two very grave arguments in support
of them. The first is, that the Philosopher says that whatever appears
true to the greatest number cannot be entirely false. The second is,
the authority of the definition by an Emperor. And that one may the
better see the power of the Truth, which conquers all other authority,
I intend to argue with the one reason as with the other, to which it
is a strong helper and powerful aid.

And, firstly, one cannot understand Imperial authority until the roots
of it are found. It is our intention to treat or discourse of them in
an especial chapter.


The radical foundation of Imperial Majesty, according to the Truth, is
the necessity of Human Civilization, which is ordained to one end,
that is, to a Happy Life. Nothing is of itself sufficient to attain
this without some external help, since man has need of many things
which one person alone is unable to obtain. And therefore the
Philosopher says that man is naturally a companionable animal. And as
a man requires for his sufficient comfort the domestic companionship
of a family, so a house requires for its sufficient comfort a
neighbourhood; otherwise there would be many wants to endure which
would be an obstacle to happiness. And since a neighbourhood cannot
satisfy all requirements, there must for the satisfaction of men be
the City. Again, the City requires for its Arts and Manufactures to
have an environment, as also for its defence, and to have brotherly
intercourse with the circumjacent or adjacent Cities, and thence the

But since the human mind in restricted possession of the Earth finds
no peace, but always desires to acquire Glory, as we see by
experience, discords and wars must arise between realm and realm.
These are the tribulation of Cities; and through the Cities, of the
neighbourhoods; and through the neighbourhoods, of the houses; and
through the houses, of men; and thus is the happiness of man prevented
or obstructed. Wherefore, in order to prevent these wars, and to
remove the causes of them through all the Earth, so far as it is given
to the Human Race to possess it, there must of necessity be Monarchy,
that is to say, one sole principality; and there must be one Prince,
who, possessing all, and not being able to desire more, holds the
Kings content within the limits of the kingdoms, so that peace may be
between them, wherein the Cities may repose, and in this rest the
neighbouring hamlets may dwell together in mutual love; in this love
the houses obtain all they need, which, being obtained, men can live
happily, which is that end for which man was born. And to these
reasons might be applied the words of the Philosopher, for he says, in
the book On Politics, that when many things are ordained to one end,
one of those must be the ruling power, and all the others must be
governed by that. Even as we see in a ship that the different offices
and the different means to different ends in that ship are ordained to
one end alone, that is to say, to reach the desired port by a safe
voyage, where as each officer orders his own work to the proper end,
even so there is one who considers all these ends, and ordains those
to the final one; and this is the Pilot, whose voice all must obey.

We see this also in the religious bodies and in the military bodies,
in all those things which are ordained to one end, as has been said.
Wherefore it can plainly be seen that to attain the perfection of the
Universal Union of the Human Race there must be one Pilot, as it were,
who, considering the different conditions of the World, and ordaining
the different and needful offices, may hold or possess over the whole
the universal and incontestable office of Command. And this office is
well designated Empire, without any addition, because it is of all
other governments the government; and so he who is appointed to this
office is designated Emperor, because of all Governors he is the
Governor, and what he says is Law to all, and ought by all to be
obeyed; and every other government derives vigour and authority from
the government of this man. And thus it is evident that the Imperial
Majesty and Authority is the most exalted in the Human Family.

No doubt it would be possible for some one to cavil, saying, that
although the office of Empire may be required in the World, that does
not make the authority of the Roman Prince rationally supreme, which
it is the intention of the treatise to prove; since the Roman Power
was acquired, not by Reason nor by decree of Universal Election, but
by Force, which seems to be opposed to Reason. To this one can easily
reply, that the election of this Supreme Official must primarily
proceed from that Council which foresees all things, that is, God;
otherwise the election would not have been of equal benefit for all
the people, since, before the pre-ordained Official, there was none
who had the good of all at heart.

And since a gentler nature in ruling, and a stronger in maintaining,
and a more subtle in acquiring never was and never will be than that
of the Latin People, as one can see by experience, and especially that
of the Holy People, in whom was blended the noble Trojan blood; to
that office it was elected by God. Wherefore, since, to obtain it, not
without very great power could it be approached, and to employ it a
most exalted and most humane benignity was required, this was the
people which was most fitly prepared for it. Hence not by Force was it
assumed in the first place by the Roman People but by Divine
Ordinance, which is above all Reason. And Virgil is in harmony with
this in the first book of the Æneid, when he says, speaking in the
person of God: "On these [that is, on the Romans] I impose no limits
to their possessions, nor to their duration; to them I have given
boundless Empire." Force, then, was not the moving cause, as he
believed who was cavilling; but there was an instrumental cause even
as the blows of the hammer are the cause of the knife, and the soul of
the workman is the moving and the efficient cause; and thus, not
force, but a cause, even a Divine Cause, has been the origin of the
Roman Empire.

And that this is so it is possible to see by two most evident reasons,
which prove that City to be the Empress, and to have from God an
especial birth, and to have from God an especial success. But since in
this chapter without too great length it would not be possible to
discuss this subject, and long chapters are the enemies of Memory, I
will again make a digression in another chapter in order to prove the
reasons here alluded to, which are not without and may give great


It is no cause for wonder if the Divine Providence, which surpasses
beyond measure all angelic and human foresight, often appears to us to
proceed mysteriously, since many times human actions conceal their
motives from men. But there is great cause for wonder when the
execution of the Eternal Counsel proceeds so evidently that our reason
can discern it. And therefore in the beginning of this chapter I can
speak with the mouth of Solomon, who, in the person of Wisdom, says in
his Proverbs: "Hear, for I will speak of excellent things!"

The Divine Goodness unmeasureable, desiring to conform again to Itself
the Human Creature, which, through the sin of the prevarication of the
first Man, was separated from God and deformed thereby, it was
decided, in that most exalted and most united Divine Consistory of the
Trinity, that the Son of God should descend to the Earth to accomplish
this union. And since at His advent into the world, not only Heaven,
but Earth, must be in the best disposition; and the best disposition
of the Earth is when it is a Monarchy, that is to say, all subject to
one Prince, as has been said above, by Divine Providence it was
ordained what people and what city should fulfil this, and that people
was the Roman nation, and that city was glorious Rome. And since the
Inn also wherein the Heavenly King must enter must of necessity be
most cleanly and most pure, there was ordained a most Holy Race, from
which, after many excellent or just ancestors, there should be born a
Woman more perfect than all others, who should be the abode of the Son
of God. And this race was the Race of David, from which was born the
glory and honour of the Human Race, that is to say, Mary. And
therefore it is written in Isaiah: "A virgin shall be born of the stem
of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." And Jesse was the
father of the aforesaid David. And it happened at one period of time
that when David was born, Rome was born, that is to say, Æneas then
came from Troy to Italy, which was the origin of the most noble Roman
City, even as the written word bears witness. Evident enough,
therefore, is the Divine election of the Roman Empire by the birth of
the Holy City, which was contemporaneous with the root of the race
from which Mary sprang.

And incidentally it is to be mentioned that, since this Heaven began
to revolve, it never was in a better disposition than when He
descended from on high, He who had made it and who is its Ruler, even
as again by virtue of their arts the Mathematicians may be able to
discover. The World never was nor ever will be so perfectly prepared
as then, when it was governed by the voice of one man alone, Prince
and Commander of the Roman people, even as Luke the Evangelist bears
witness. And therefore there was Universal Peace, which never was
again nor ever will be, for the Ship of the Human Family rightly by a
sweet pathway was hastening to its rightful haven. Oh, ineffable and
incomprehensible Wisdom of God, which in Heaven above didst prepare,
so long beforehand, for Thy advent into Syria and here in Italy at the
same time! And oh, most foolish and vile beasts who pasture in the
guise of men--you who presume to speak against our Faith, and profess
to know, as ye spin and dig, what God has ordained with so much
forethought--curses be on you and your presumption, and on him who
believes in you!

And, as has been said above, at the end of the preceding chapter, the
Roman People had from God not only an especial birth, but an especial
success; for, briefly, from Romulus, who was the first father of Rome,
even to its most perfect era, that is, to the time of its predicted
Emperor, its success was achieved not only by human, but by Divine
means. For if we consider the Seven Kings who first governed
it--Romulus, Numa, Tullus, Ancus Martius, Servius Tullius, and the
Tarquins, who were, as it were, the nurses and tutors of its
Childhood--we shall be able to find, by the written word of Roman
History, especially by Titus Livius, those to have been of different
natures, according to the opportunity of the advancing tract of time.
If we consider, then, its Adolescence, when it was emancipated from
the regal tutorship by Brutus, the first Consul, even to Cæsar, its
first supreme Prince, we shall find it exalted, not with human, but
with Divine citizens, into whom, not human, but Divine love was
inspired in loving Rome; and this neither could be nor ought to be,
except for an especial end intended by God through such infusion of a
heavenly spirit. And who will say that there was no Divine inspiration
in Fabricius when he rejected an almost infinite amount of gold
because he was unwilling to abandon his country? or in Curius, whom
the Samnites attempted to corrupt, who said, when refusing a very
large quantity of gold for love of his country, that the Roman
citizens did not desire to possess gold, but the possessors of the
gold? Who will say there was no Divine inspiration in Mutius burning
his own hand because it had failed in the blow wherewith he had
thought to deliver Rome? Who will say of Torquatus, who sentenced his
own son to death from love to the Public Good, that he could have
endured this without a Divine Helper? Who will say this of the Brutus
before mentioned? Who will say it of the Decii and of the Drusi, who
laid down their lives for their country? Who will say of the captive
Regulus of Carthage, sent to Rome to exchange the Carthaginian
prisoners for Roman prisoners of war, who, after having explained the
object of his embassy, gave counsel against himself; through pure love
to Rome, that he was moved to do this by the impulse of Human Nature
alone? Who will say it of Quinctius Cincinnatus, who, taken from the
plough and made dictator, after the time of office had expired,
spontaneously refusing its continuance, followed his plough again? Who
will say of Camillus, banished and chased into exile, who, having come
to deliver Rome from her enemies, and having accomplished her
liberation, spontaneously returned into exile in order not to offend
against the authority of the Senate, that he was without Divine
inspiration? O, most sacred heart of Cato, who shall presume to speak
of thee? Truly, to speak freely of thee is not possible; it were
better to be silent and to follow Jerome, when, in the Preface of the
Bible where he alludes to Paul, he says that it were better to be
silent than say little. Certainly it must be evident, remembering the
lives of these men and of the other Divine citizens, that such wonders
could not have been without some light of the Divine Goodness, added
to their own goodness of nature. And it must be evident that these
most excellent men were instruments with which Divine Providence
worked in the building up of the Roman Empire, wherein many times the
arm of God appeared to be present. And did not God put His own hand to
the battle wherein the Albans fought with the Romans in the beginning
for the chief dominion, when one Roman alone held in his hands the
liberty of Rome? And did not God interfere with His own hands when the
Franks, having taken all Rome, attacked by stealth the Capitol by
night, and the voice alone of a goose caused this to be known? And did
not God interfere with His own hands when, in the war with Hannibal,
having lost so many citizens that three bushels of rings were carried
into Africa, the Romans wished to abandon the land, if the blessed
Scipio the younger had not undertaken his expedition into Africa for
the recovery of freedom? And did not God interfere with His own hands
when a new citizen of humble station, Tullius, defended, against such
a citizen as Catiline, the Roman liberty? Yes, surely. Wherefore one
should not need to inquire further to see that an especial birth and
an especial success were in the Mind of God decreed to that holy City.
And certainly I am of a firm opinion that the stones which remain in
her walls are worthy of reverence; and it is asserted and proved that
the ground whereon she stands is worthy beyond all other that is
occupied by man.


Above, in the third chapter of this treatise, a promise was made to
discourse of the supremacy of the Imperial Authority and of the
Philosophic Authority. And since the Imperial Authority has been
discussed, my digression must now proceed further in order to consider
that of the Philosopher, according to the promise made.

And here we must first see what is the meaning of this word; since
here there is a greater necessity to understand it than there was
above in the argument on the Imperial Authority, which, on account of
its Majesty, does not seem to be doubted. It is then to be known that
Authority is no other than the act of the Author.

This word, that is to say, Auctore, without this third letter,
_c_, can be derived from two roots. One is from a verb, whose use
in grammar is much abandoned, which signifies to bind or to tie words
together, that is, A U I E O; and whoso looks well at it in its first
vowel or syllable will clearly perceive that it demonstrates it
itself, for it is constituted solely of a tie of words, that is, of
five vowels alone, which are the soul and bond of every word, and
composed of them in a twisted way, to figure the image of a ligature;
for beginning with the A, then it twists round into the U, and comes
straight through the I into the E, then it revolves and turns round
into the O: so that truly this figure represents A, E, I, O, U, which
is the figure or form of a tie; and how much _Autore_ (Author)
derives its origin from this word, one learns from the poets alone,
who have bound their words together with the art of harmony; but on
this signification we do not at present dwell. The other root from
which the word "Autore" (Author) is derived, as Uguccione testifies in
the beginning of his Derivations, is a Greek word, "Autentim," which
in Latin means "worthy of faith and obedience." And thus "Autore"
(Author), derived from this, is taken for any person worthy to be
believed and obeyed; and thence comes this word, of which one treats
at the present moment, that is to say, Authority. Wherefore one can
see that Authority is equivalent to an act worthy of faith and

[Here is a small break in the original, containing some such words
as--Worthy, nay, most worthy, of obedience and of faith is Aristotle:]
hence it is evident that his words are a supreme and chief Authority.
That Aristotle is most worthy of faith and obedience, one can thus
prove. Amongst workmen and artificers of different Arts and
Manufactures, which are all directed to one final work of Art, or to
one building, the Artificer or Designer of that work must be
completely believed in, and implicitly obeyed by all, as the man who
alone beholds the ultimate end of all the other ends. Hence the
sword-cutler must believe in the knight, so must the bridle-maker and
saddle-maker and the shield-maker, and all those trades which are
appointed to the profession of knighthood. And since all human actions
require an aim, which is that of human life, to which man is appointed
inasmuch as he is man, the master and artificer who considers that aim
and demonstrates it ought especially to be believed in and obeyed; and
he is Aristotle; wherefore he is most worthy of faith and obedience.
And in order to see how Aristotle is the master and leader of Human
Reason in so far as it aims at its final operation, it is requisite to
know that this our aim of life, which each one naturally desires, in
most ancient times was searched for by the Wise Men; and since those
who desire this end are so numerous, and their desires are as it were
all singularly different, although they exist in us universally, it
was nevertheless very difficult to discern that end whereon rightly
each human appetite or desire might repose.

There were then many ancient philosophers, the first and the chief of
whom was Zeno, who saw and believed this end of human life to be
solely a rigid honesty, that is to say, rigid without regard to any
one in following Truth and Justice, to show no sorrow, to show no joy,
to have no sense of any passion whatever. And they defined thus this
honest uprightness, as that which, without bearing fruit, is to be
praised for reason of itself. And these men and their sect were called
Stoics; and that glorious Cato was one of them, of whom in the
previous chapter I had not courage enough to speak.

Other philosophers there were who saw and believed otherwise; and of
these the first and chief was a philosopher, who was named Epicurus,
who, seeing that each animal as soon as it is born is as it were
directed by Nature to its right end, which shuns pain and seeks for
pleasure, said that this end or aim of ours was enjoyment. I do not
say greedy enjoyment, voluntade, but I write it with a _p_,
voluptate, that is, delight or pleasure free from pain; and therefore
between pleasure and pain no mean was placed. He said that pleasure
was no other than no pain; as Tullius seems to say in the first
chapter De Finibus. And of these, who from Epicurus are named
Epicureans, was Torquatus, a noble Roman, descended from the blood of
the glorious Torquatus mention of whom I made above. There were
others, and they had their rise from Socrates, and then from his
successor, Plato, who, looking more subtly, and seeing that in our
actions it was possible to sin, and that one sinned in too much and in
too little, said that our action, without excess and without defect,
measured to the due mean of our own choice, is virtue, and virtue is
the aim of man; and they called it action with virtue. And these were
called Academicians, as was Plato and Speusippus, his nephew; they
were thus called from the place where Plato taught, that is, the
Academy; neither from Socrates did they take or assume any word,
because in his Philosophy nothing was affirmed. Truly Aristotle, who
had his surname from Stagira, and Xenocrates of Chalcedon, his
companion, through the genius, almost Divine, which Nature had put
into Aristotle, knowing this end by means of the Socratic method, with
the Academic file, as it were, reduced Moral Philosophy to perfection,
and especially Aristotle. And since Aristotle began to reason while
walking hither and thither, they were called, he, I say, and his
companions, Peripatetics, which means the same as walkers about. And
since the perfection of this Morality by Aristotle was attained, the
name of Academician became extinct, and all those who attached
themselves to this sect are called Peripatetics, and these people hold
the doctrine of the government of the World through all its parts: and
it may be termed a catholic opinion, as it were. Wherefore it is
possible to see that Aristotle was the Indicator and the Leader of the
people to this mark. And this is what I wished to prove.

Wherefore, collecting all together, the principal intention is
manifest, that is to say, that the authority of him whom we understand
to be the supreme Philosopher is full of complete vigour, and in no
way repugnant to Imperial Authority. But the Imperial without the
Philosopher is dangerous; and this without that is weak, not of
itself, but through the disorder of the people: but when one is united
with the other they are together most useful and full of all vigour;
and therefore it is written in that Book of Wisdom: "Love the Light of
Wisdom, all you who are before the people," that is to say, unite
Philosophic Authority with the Imperial, in order to rule well and
perfectly. O, you miserable ones, who rule at the present time! and O,
most miserable ones, you who are ruled! For no Philosophic Authority
is united with your governments, neither through suitable study nor by
counsel; so that to all it is possible to repeat those words from
Ecclesiastes: "Woe to thee, O land, when thy King is a child, and thy
Princes eat in the morning;" and to no land is it possible to say that
which follows: "Blessed art thou, O land, when thy King is the son of
nobles, and thy Princes eat in due season, for strength and not for

Ye enemies of God, look to your flanks, ye who have seized the
sceptres of the kingdoms of Italy. And I say to you, Charles, and to
you, Frederick, Kings, and to you, ye other Princes and Tyrants, see
who sits by the side of you in council, and count how many times a day
this aim of human life is indicated to you by your councillors. Better
would it be for you, like swallows, to fly low down than, like kites,
to make lofty circles over carrion.


Since it is seen how much the Imperial Authority and the Philosophic
are to be revered, which must support the opinions propounded, it is
now for us to return into the straight path to the intended goal. I
say, then, that this last opinion of the Common People has continued
so long that without other cause, without inquiry into any reason,
every man is termed Noble who may be the son or nephew of any brave
man, although he himself is nothing. And this is what the Song says:

    And so long among us
      This falsehood has had sway,
    That men call him a Nobleman,
      Though worthless, who can say,

    I nephew am, or son,
      Of one worth such a sum.

Wherefore it is to be observed that it is most dangerous negligence to
allow this evil opinion to take root; for even as weeds multiply in
the uncultivated field, and surmount and cover the ear of the corn, so
that, looking at it from a distance, the wheat appears not, and
finally the corn is lost; so the evil opinion in the mind, neither
chastised nor corrected, increases and multiplies, so that the ear of
Reason, that is, the true opinion, is concealed and buried as it were,
and so it is lost. O, how great is my undertaking in this Song, for I
wish now to weed the field so full of wild and woody plants as is this
field of the common opinion so long bereft of tillage! Certainly I do
not intend to cleanse all, but only those parts where the ears of
Reason are not entirely overcome; that is, I intend to lift up again
those in whom some little light of Reason still lives through the
goodness of their nature; the others need only as much care as the
brute beasts: wherefore it seems to me that it would not be a less
miracle to lead back to Reason him in whom it is entirely extinct than
to bring back to Life him who has been four days in the grave.

Then the evil quality of this popular opinion is narrated suddenly, as
if it were a horrible thing; it strikes at that, springing forth from
the order of the confutation, saying, "But he who sees the Truth will
know How vile he has become," in order to make people understand its
intolerable wickedness, saying, that those men lie especially, for not
only is the man vile, that is, not Noble, who, although descended from
good people, is himself wicked, but also he is most vile; and I quote
the example of the right path being indicated, where, to prove this,
it is fit for me to propound a question, and to reply to that question
in this way.

There is a plain with certain paths, a field with hedges, with
ditches, with rocks, with tanglewood, with all kinds of obstacles;
with the exception of its two straight paths. And it has snowed so
much that the snow covers everything, and presents one smooth
appearance on every side, so that no trace of any path is to be seen.
Here comes a man from one part of the country, and he wishes to go to
a house which is on the other side; and by his industry, that is,
through prudent foresight and through the goodness of genius, guided
solely by himself, he goes through the right path whither he meant to
go, leaving the prints of his footsteps behind him. Another comes
after this man, and he wishes to go to that mansion, and to him it is
only needful to follow the footprints left there; but through his own
fault this man strays from the path, which the first man without a
guide has known how to keep; this man, though it is pointed out to
him, loses his way through the brambles and the rocks, and he goes not
to the place whither he is bound.

Which of these men ought to be termed excellent, brave, or worthy? I
reply: He who went first. How would you designate that other man? I
reply: "As most vile." Why is he not called unworthy or cowardly, that
is to say, vile? I reply: Because unworthy, that is, vile, he should
be called who, having no guide, might have failed to walk
straightforward; but since this man had a guide, his error and his
fault can rise higher; and therefore he is to be called, not vile, but
most vile. And likewise he who, by his father or by some elder of his
race is ennobled, and does not continue in a noble course, not only is
he vile, but he is most vile, and deserving of as much contempt and
infamy as any other villain, if not of more. And because a man may
preserve himself from this vile baseness, Solomon lays this command on
him who has had a brave and excellent ancestor, in the twenty-second
chapter of Proverbs: "Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy
fathers have set," And previously he says, in the fourth chapter of
the said book: "The path of the Just," that is, of the worthy men, "is
as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day;
the way of the wicked is as darkness, and they know not at what they

Finally, when it says, "And though he walks upon the earth Is counted
with the dead," to his greater disgrace I say that this most
worthless man is dead, seeming still alive. Where it is to be known
that the wicked man may be truly said to be dead, and especially he
who goes astray from the path trodden by his good ancestor. And this
it is possible to prove thus: as Aristotle says in the second book On
the Soul, to live is to be with the living; and since there are many
ways of living--as in the plants to vegetate; in the animals to
vegetate and to feel and to move; in men to vegetate, to feel, to
move, and to reason, or rather to understand; and since things ought
to be denominated by the noblest part, it is evident that in animals
to live is to feel--in the brute animals, I say; in man, to live is to
use reason. Wherefore, if to live is the life or existence of man, and
if thus to depart from the use of Reason, which is his life, is to
depart from life or existence, even thus is that man dead.

And does he not depart from the use of Reason who does not reason or
think concerning the aim of his life? And does he not depart from the
use of Reason who does not reason or think concerning the path which
he ought to take? Certainly he does so depart; and this is evident
especially in him who has the footprints before him, and looks not at
them; and therefore Solomon says in the fifth chapter of Proverbs: "He
shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he
shall go astray," that is to say, he is dead who becomes a disciple,
and who does not follow his master; and such an one is most vile.

And of him it would be possible for some one to say: How is he dead
and yet he walks? I reply, that as a man he is dead, but as a beast he
has remained alive; for as the Philosopher says in the second book On
the Soul, the powers of the Soul stand upon itself, as the figure of
the quadrangle stands upon the triangle, and the pentagon stands upon
the quadrangle; so the sensitive stands upon the vegetative, and the
intellectual stands upon the sensitive. Wherefore, as, by removing the
last side of the pentagon, the quadrangle remains, so by removing the
last power of the Soul, that is, Reason, the man no longer remains,
but a thing with a sensitive soul only, that is, the brute animal.

And this is the meaning or intention of the second part of the devised
Song, in which are placed the opinions of others.


The most beautiful branch which grows up from the root of Reason is
Discretion. For as St. Thomas says thereupon in the prologue to the
book of Ethics, to know the order of one thing to another is the
proper act of Reason; and this is Discretion. One of the most
beautiful and sweetest fruits of this branch is the reverence which
the lesser owes to the greater. Wherefore Tullius, in the first
chapter of the Offices, when speaking of the beauty which shines forth
in Uprightness, says that reverence is part of that beauty; and thus
as this reverence is the beauty of Uprightness, so its opposite is
baseness and want of uprightness; which opposite quality it is
possible to term irreverence, or rather as impudent boldness, in our
Vulgar Tongue.

And therefore this Tullius in the same place says: "To treat with
contemptuous indifference that which others think of one, not only is
the act of an arrogant, but also of a dissolute person," which means
no other except that arrogance and dissolute conduct show want of
self-knowledge, which is the beginning of the capacity for all
reverence. Wherefore I, desiring (and bearing meanwhile all reverence
both to the Prince and to the Philosopher) to remove the infirmity
from the minds of some men, in order afterwards to build up thereupon
the light of truth, before I proceed to confute the opinions
propounded, will show how, whilst confuting those opinions, I argue
with irreverence neither against the Imperial Majesty nor against the
Philosopher. For if in any part of this entire book I should appear
irreverent, it would not be so bad as in this treatise; in which,
whilst treating of Nobility, I ought to appear Noble, and not vile.

And firstly I will prove that I do not presume against the authority
of the Philosopher; then I will prove that I do not presume against
Imperial Majesty.

I say, then, that when the Philosopher says, "that which appears to
the most is impossible to be entirely false," I do not mean to speak
of the external appearance, that is, the sensual, but of that which
appears within, the rational; since the sensual appearance, according
to most people, is many times most false, especially in the common
things appreciable by the senses, wherein the sense is often deceived.
Thus we know that to most people the Sun appears of the width of a
foot in diameter; and this is most false, for, according to the
inquiry and the discovery which human reason has made with its skill,
the diameter of the body of the Sun is five times as much as that of
the Earth and also one-half time more, since the Earth in its diameter
is six thousand five hundred miles, the diameter of the Sun, which to
the sense of sight presents the appearance of the width of one foot,
is thirty-five thousand seven hundred and fifty miles. Wherefore it is
evident that Aristotle did not understand or judge it by the
appearance which it presents to the sense of sight. And therefore, if
I intend only to oppose false trust in appearance according to the
senses, that is not done against the intention of the Philosopher, and
therefore I do not offend against the reverence which is due to him.

And that I intend to confute the appearance according to the sense is
manifest; for those people who judge thus, judge only by what they
feel or think of those things which fortune can give and take away.
For, because they see great alliances made and high marriages to take
place, and the wonderful palaces, the large possessions, great
lordships, they believe that all those things are the causes of
Nobility--nay, they believe them to be Nobility itself. For if they
could judge with any appearance of reason, they would say the
contrary, that is, that Nobility is the cause of these things, as will
be seen in the sequel of this treatise. And even as it may be seen
that I speak not against the reverence due to the Philosopher whilst
confuting this error, so I speak not against the reverence due to the
Empire; and the reason I intend to show. But when he reasons or argues
before the adversary, the Rhetorician ought to use much caution in his
speech, in order that the adversary may not derive thence material
wherewith to disturb the Truth. I, who speak in this treatise in the
presence of so many adversaries, cannot speak briefly; wherefore, if
my digressions should be long, let no one marvel.

I say, then, that, in order to prove that I am not irreverent to the
Majesty of the Empire, it is requisite, in the first place, to see
what reverence is. I say that reverence is no other than a confession
of due submission by an evident sign; and, having seen this, it
remains to distinguish between them. Irreverent expresses privation,
not reverent expresses negation; and, therefore, irreverence is to
disavow the due submission by a manifest sign. The want of reverence
is to refuse submission as not due. A man can deny or refuse a thing
in a double sense. In one way, the man can deny offending against the
Truth when he abstains from the due confession, and this properly is
to disavow. In another way, the man can deny offending against the
Truth when he does not confess that which is not, and this is proper
negation; even as for the man to deny that he is entirely mortal is to
deny properly speaking. Wherefore, if I deny or refuse reverence due
to the Imperial Authority, I am not irreverent, but I am not reverent;
which is not against reverence, forasmuch as it offends not that
Imperial Authority; even as not to live does not offend Life, but
Death, which is privation of that Life, offends; wherefore, to die is
one thing and not to live is another thing, for not to live is in the
stones. And since Death expresses privation, which cannot be except in
decease of the subject, and the stones are not the subject of Life,
they should not be called dead, but not living. In like manner, I, who
in this case ought not to have reverence to the Imperial Authority, am
not irreverent if I deny or refuse it, but I am not reverent, which is
neither boldness, nor presumption, nor a thing to be blamed. But it
would be presumption to be reverent, if it could be called reverence,
since it would fall into greater and more true irreverence, that is,
into irreverence of Nature and of Truth, as will be seen in the
sequel. Against this error that Master of Philosophers, Aristotle,
guards, in the beginning of the book of Ethics, when he says: "If the
friends are two, and one is the Truth, their one mind is the Truth's."
If I have said that I am not reverent, that is, to deny reverence, or
by a manifest sign to deny or refuse a submission not due. It is to be
seen how this is to deny and not to disavow, that is to say, it
remains to be seen how, in this case, I am not rightfully subject to
the Imperial Majesty. It must be a long argument wherewith I intend to
prove this in the chapter next following.


To see how in this case, that is, in approving or in not approving the
opinion of the Emperor, I am not held in subjection to him, it is
necessary to recall to mind that which has been argued previously
concerning the Imperial Office, in the fourth chapter of this
treatise, namely, that to promote the perfection of human Life,
Imperial Authority was designed; and that it is the director and ruler
of all our operations, and justly so, for however far our operations
extend themselves, so far the Imperial Majesty has jurisdiction, and
beyond those limits it does not reach. But as each Art and Office of
mankind is restricted by the Imperial Office within certain limits, so
this Imperial Office is confined by God within certain bounds. And it
is not to be wondered at, for the Office and the Arts of Nature in all
her operations we see to be limited. For if we wish to take Universal
Nature, it has jurisdiction as far as the whole World, I say as far as
Heaven and Earth extend; and this within a certain limit, as is proved
by the third chapter of the book on Physics, and by the first chapter,
of Heaven and the World. Then the jurisdiction of Universal Nature is
limited within a certain boundary, and consequently the individual; of
which also He is the Limiter who is limited by nothing, that is, the
First Goodness, that is, God, who alone with infinite capacity
comprehends the Infinite. And, that we may see the limits of our
operations, it is to be known that those alone are our operations
which are subject to Reason and to Will; for, if in us there is the
digestive operation, that is not human, but natural. And it is to be
known that our Reason is ordained to four operations, separately to be
considered; for those are operations which Reason only considers and
does not produce, neither can produce, any one of them, such as are
the Natural facts and the Supernatural and the Mathematics. And those
are operations which it considers and does in its own proper act which
are called rational, such as are the arts of speech. And those are
operations which it considers and does in material beyond itself, such
as are the Mechanical Arts. And all these operations, although the
considering them is subject to our will, they in their essential form
are not subject to our will; for although we might will that heavy
things should mount upwards naturally, they would not be able to
ascend; and although we might will that the syllogism with false
premisses should conclude with demonstration of the Truth, it could
not so conclude; and although we might will that the house should
stand as firmly when leaning forward as when upright, it could not be;
since of those operations we are not properly the factors, we are
their discoverers; Another ordained them and made them, the great
Maker, who alone can Will and Do All--God.

There also are operations which our Reason considers and which lie in
the act of the Will, such as to offend and to rejoice; such as to
stand firm in the battle and to fly from it; such as to be chaste and
to be lewd; these are entirely subject to our will, and therefore we
are called from them good and evil, because such acts are entirely our
own; for so far as our will can obtain power, so far do our operations
extend. And since in all these voluntary operations there is some
equity to preserve and some iniquity to shun--which equity may be lost
through two causes, either through not knowing what it is, or through
not wishing to follow it--the written Reason, the Law, was invented,
both to point it out to us and to command its observance. Wherefore
Augustine says: "If men could know this, that is, Equity, and knowing
it would obey it, the written Reason, the Law, would not be needful."
And therefore it is written in the beginning of the old Digests or
Books of the Civil Law: "The written Reason is the Art of Goodness and
of Equity." To write this, to show forth and to enforce this, is the
business of that Official Post of which one speaks, that of the
Emperor, to whom, as has been said, in so far as our own operations
extend, we are subject, and no farther. For this reason in each Art
and in each trade the artificers and the scholars are and ought to be
subject to the chief and to the master of their trades and Art: beyond
their callings the subjection ceases, because the superiority ceases.
So that it is possible to speak of the Emperor in this manner, if we
will represent his office figuratively, and say that he may be the
rider of the Human Will, of which horse how it goes without its rider
through the field is evident enough, and especially in miserable
Italy, left without any means for its right government. And it is to
be considered that in proportion as a thing is more fit for the
Master's art, so much the greater is the subjection; for the cause
being multiplied, so is the effect multiplied. Wherefore it is to be
known that there are things which are such pure or simple Arts that
Nature is their instrument; even as rowing with an oar, where the Art
makes its instrument by impulsion, which is a natural movement; as in
the threshing of the corn, where the Art makes its instrument, which
is a natural quality. And in this especially a man ought to be subject
to the chief and master of the Art. And there are things in which Art
is the instrument of Nature, and these are lesser Arts; and in these
the artificers are less subject to their chief, as in giving the seed
to the Earth, where one must await the will of Nature; as to sail out
of the harbour or port, where one must await the natural disposition
of the weather; and therefore we often see in these things contention
amongst the artificers, and the greater to ask counsel of the lesser.
And there are other things which are not Arts, but appear to have some
relationship with them; and therefore men are often deceived; and in
these the scholars are not subject to a master, neither are they bound
to believe in him so far as regards the Art. Thus, to fish seems to
have some relationship with navigation; and to know the virtue of the
herb or grass seems to have some relationship with agriculture; for
these Arts have no general rule, since fishing may be below the Art of
hunting, and beneath its command; to know the virtue of the herb may
be below the science of medicine, or rather below its most noble

Those things which have been argued concerning the other Arts in like
manner may be seen in the Imperial Art, for there are rules in those
Arts which are pure or simple Arts, as are the laws of marriage, of
servants, of armies, of successors in offices of dignity; and in all
these we may be entirely subject to the Emperor without doubt and
without any suspicion whatever. There are other laws which are the
followers of Nature, such as to constitute a man of sufficient age to
fill some office in the administration; and to such a law as this we
are entirely subject; there are many others which appear to have some
relationship with the Imperial Art; and here he was and is deceived
who believes that the Imperial judgment in this part may be authentic,
as of youth, whose nature is laid down by no Imperial judgment, as it
were, of the Emperor. Render, therefore, unto God that which is God's.
Wherefore it is not to be believed, nor to be allowed, because it was
said by Nero the Emperor that youth is beauty and strength of body;
but credit would be given to the philosopher who should say that youth
is the crown or summit of the natural life. And therefore it is
evident that to define Nobility is not the function of the Art
Imperial; and if it is not in the nature of the Art, when we are
treating of Nobility we are not subject to it; and if we are not
subject, we are not bound to yield reverence therein; and this is the
conclusion we have sought.

Now, therefore, with all freedom, with all liberty of mind, it remains
to strike to the heart the vicious opinions, thereby causing them to
fall to earth, in order that the Truth by means of this my victory may
hold the field in the mind of him for whom it is good that this Light
should shine clear.


Since the opinions of others concerning Nobility have now been brought
forward, and since it has been shown that it is lawful for me to
confute those opinions, I shall now proceed to discourse concerning
that part of the Song which confutes those opinions, beginning, as has
been said above: "Whoever shall define The man a living tree." And
therefore it is to be known that in the opinion of the Emperor,
although it states it defectively in one part, that is, where he spoke
of "generous ways," he alluded to the manners of the Nobility; and
therefore the Song does not intend to reprove that part: the other
part, which is entirely opposed to the nature of Nobility, it does
intend to confute, which cites two things when it says: "Descent of
wealth," "The wealth has long been great," that is, time and riches,
which are entirely apart from Nobility, as has been said, and as will
be shown farther on; and, therefore, in this confutation two divisions
are made: in the first we deny the Nobility of riches, then confute
the idea that time can cause Nobility. The second part begins: "They
will not have the vile Turn noble."

It is to be known that, riches being reproved, not only is the opinion
of the Emperor reproved in that part which alludes to the riches, but
also entirely that opinion of the common people, which was founded
solely upon riches. The first part is divided into two: in the first
it says in a general way that the Emperor was erroneous in his
definition of Nobility; secondly, it shows the reason why or how that
is; and this begins that second part, "For riches make no Nobleman."

I say, then, "Whoever shall define The man a living tree," that,
firstly, he will speak untruth, inasmuch as he says "tree," and "less
than truth," inasmuch as he says "living," and does not say rational,
which is the difference whereby Man is distinguished from the Beast.
Then I say that in this way he was erroneous in his definition, he who
held Imperial Office, not saying Emperor, but "one raised to Empire,"
to indicate, as has been said above, that this question is beyond the
bounds of the Imperial Office. In like manner I say that he errs who
places a false subject under Nobility, that is, "descent of wealth,"
and then proceeds to a defective form, or rather difference, that is,
"generous ways," which do not contain any essential part of Nobility,
but only a small part, as will appear below. And it is not to be
omitted, although the text may be silent, that my Lord the Emperor in
this part did not err in the parts of the definition, but only in the
mode of the definition, although, according to what fame reports of
him, he was a logician and a great scholar; that is to say, the
definition of Nobility can be made more sufficiently by the effects
than by the principles or premisses, since it appears to have the
place of a first principle or premiss, which it is not possible to
notify by first things, but by subsequent things. Then, when I say,
"For riches make not worth," I show how they cannot possibly be the
cause of Nobility, because they are vile. And I prove that they have
not the power to take it away, because they are disjoined so much from
Nobility. And I prove these to be vile by an especial and most evident
defect; and I do this when I say, "How vile and incomplete." Finally,
I conclude, by virtue of that which is said above:

    And hence the upright mind,
      To its own purpose true,
    Stands firm although the flood of wealth
      Sweep onward out of view;

which proves that which is said above, that those riches are disunited
from Nobility by not following the effect of union with it. Where it
is to be known that, as the Philosopher expresses it, all the things
which make anything must first exist perfectly within the being of the
thing out of which that other thing is made. Wherefore he says in the
seventh chapter of the Metaphysics: "When one thing is generated from
another, it is generated of that thing by being in that Being."

Again, it is to be known that each thing which becomes corrupt is thus
corrupted by some change or alteration, and each thing which is
changed or altered must be conjoined with the cause of the change,
even as the Philosopher expresses it in the seventh chapter of the
book on Physics and in the first chapter on Generation. These things
being propounded, I proceed thus, and I say that riches, as another
man believed, cannot possibly bestow Nobility, and to prove how great
is the difference between them I say that they are unable to take
Nobility away from him who possesses it. To bestow it they have not
the power, since by nature they are vile, and because of their
vileness they are opposed to Nobility. And here by vileness one means
baseness, through degeneracy, which is directly opposite to Nobility:
for the one opposite thing cannot be the maker of the other, neither
is it possible to be, for the reason given above, which is briefly
added to the text, saying, "No painter gives a form That is not of his
knowing." Wherefore no painter would be able to depict any figure or
form if he could not first design what such figure or form ought to

Again, riches cannot take it away, because they are so far from
Nobility; and, for the reason previously narrated, that which alters
or corrupts anything must be conjoined with that thing, and therefore
it is subjoined: "No tower leans above a stream That far away is
flowing," which means nothing more than to accord with that which has
been previously said, that riches cannot take Nobility away, saying
that Nobility is, as it were, an upright tower and riches a river
flowing swiftly in the distance.


It now remains only to prove how vile riches are, and how disjoined
and far apart they are from Nobility; and this is proved in two little
parts of the text, to which at present it is requisite to pay
attention, and then, those being explained, what I have said will be
evident, namely, that riches are vile and far apart from Nobility, and
hereby the reasons stated above against riches will be perfectly

I say then, "How vile and incomplete Wealth is," and to make evident
what I intend to say it is to be known that the vileness or baseness
of each thing is derived from the imperfection of that thing, and
Nobility from its perfection: wherefore in proportion as a thing is
perfect, it is noble in its nature; in proportion as it is imperfect,
it is vile. And therefore, if riches are imperfect, it is evident that
they are vile or base. And that they are imperfect, the text briefly
proves when it says: "However great the heap may be, It brings no
peace, but care;" in which it is evident, not only that they are
imperfect, but most imperfect, and therefore they are most vile; and
Lucan bears witness to this when he says, speaking of those same
riches: "Without strife or contention or opposition, the Laws would
perish, and you, Riches, the basest part of things, you move or are
the cause of Battles." It is possible briefly to see their
imperfection in three things quite clearly: firstly, in the
indiscriminate manner in which they fall to a person's lot; secondly,
in their dangerous increase; thirdly, in their hurtful possession.

And, firstly, that which I demonstrate concerning this is to clear up
a doubt which seems to arise, for, since gold, pearls, and lands, may
have in their essential being perfect form and act, it does not seem
true to say that they are imperfect. And therefore one must
distinguish that inasmuch as by themselves, of them it is considered,
they are perfect things, and they are not riches, but gold and pearls;
but inasmuch as they are appointed to the possession of man they are
riches, and in this way they are full of imperfection; which is not an
unbecoming or impossible thing, considered from different points of
view, to be perfect and imperfect. I say that their imperfection
firstly may be observed in the indiscretion, or unwisdom, or folly, of
their arrival, in which no distributive Justice shines forth, but
complete iniquity almost always; which iniquity is the proper effect
of imperfection. For if the methods or ways by which they come are
considered, all may be gathered together in three methods, or kinds of
ways: for, either they come by simple chance, as when without
intention or hope they come upon some discovery not thought of; or
they come by fortune which is aided by law or right, as by will, or
testament, or succession; or they come by fortune, the helper of the
Law, as by lawful or unlawful provision; lawful, I say, when by art,
or skill, or by trade, or deserved kindness; unlawful, I say, when
either by theft or rapine. And in each one of these three ways, one
sees that inequitable character of which I speak, for more often to
the wicked than to the good the hidden treasures which are discovered
present themselves; and this is so evident, that it has no need of
proof. I saw the place in the side of a hill, or mountain, in Tuscany,
which is called Falterona, where the most vile peasant of all the
country, whilst digging, found more than a bushel of the finest
Santèlena silver, which had awaited him perhaps for more than a
thousand years. And in order to see this iniquity, Aristotle said that
in proportion as the Man is subject to the Intellect, so much the less
is he the slave of Fortune. And I say that oftener to the wicked than
to the good befall legal inheritance and property by succession; and
concerning this I do not wish to bring forward any proof, but let each
one turn his eyes round his own immediate neighbourhood, and he will
see that concerning which I am silent that I may not offend or bring
shame to some one. Would to God that might be which was demanded by
the Man of Provence, namely, that the man who is not the heir of
goodness should lose the inheritance of wealth. And I say that many
times to the wicked more than to the good comes rich provision, for
the unlawful never comes to the good, because they refuse it; and what
good man ever would endeavour to enrich himself by force or fraud?
That would be impossible, for by the mere choice of the enterprise he
would no more be good. And the lawful gains of wealth but rarely fall
to the lot of the good, because, since much anxiety or anxious care is
required therein, and the solicitude of the good is directed to
greater things, the good man is rarely solicitous enough to seek them.
Wherefore it is evident that in each way these riches fall unjustly or
inequitably; and therefore our Lord called them wicked or unrighteous
when He said, "Make to yourselves friends of the Mammon of
unrighteousness," inviting and encouraging men to be liberal with good
gifts, which are the begetters of friends. And what a beautiful
exchange he makes who gives freely of these most imperfect things in
order to have and to acquire perfect things, such as are the hearts of
good and worthy men! This exchange it is possible to make every day.
Certainly this is a new commerce, different from the others, which,
thinking to win one man by generosity, has won thereby thousands and
thousands. Who lives not again in the heart of Alexander because of
his royal beneficence? Who lives not again in the good King of
Castile, or Saladin, or the good Marquis of Monferrat, or the good
Count of Toulouse, or Beltramo dal Bornio, or Galasso da Montefeltro,
when mention is made of their noble acts of courtesy and liberality?
Certainly not only those who would do the same willingly, had they the
power, but those even who would die before they would do it, bear love
to the memory of these good men.


As has been said, it is possible to see the imperfection of riches not
only in their indiscriminate advent, but also in their dangerous
increase; and that in this we may perceive their defect more clearly,
the text makes mention of it, saying of those riches, "However great
the heap may be It brings no peace, but care;" they create more thirst
and render increase more defective and insufficient. And here it is
requisite to know that defective things may fail in such a way that on
the surface they appear complete, but, under pretext of perfection,
the shortcoming is concealed. But they may have those defects so
entirely revealed that the imperfection is seen openly on the surface.
And those things which do not reveal their defects in the first place
are the most dangerous, since very often it is not possible to be on
guard against them; even as we see in the traitor who, before our
face, shows himself friendly, so that he causes us to have faith in
him, and under pretext of friendship, hides the defect of his
hostility. And in this way riches, in their increase, are dangerously
imperfect, for, submitting to our eyes this that they promise, they
bring just the contrary. The treacherous gains always promise that, if
collected up to a certain amount, they will make the collector full of
every satisfaction; and with this promise they lead the Human Will
into the vice of Avarice. And, for this reason, Boethius calls them,
in his book of Consolations, dangerous, saying, "Oh, alas! who was
that first man who dug up the precious stones that wished to hide
themselves, and who dug out the loads of gold once covered by the
hills, dangerous treasures?"

The treacherous ones promise, if we will but look, to remove every
want, to quench all thirst, to bring satisfaction and sufficiency; and
this they do to every man in the beginning, confirming promise to a
certain point in their increase, and then, as soon as their pile
rises, in place of contentment and refreshment they bring on an
intolerable fever-thirst; and beyond sufficiency, they extend their
limit, create a desire to amass more, and, with this, fear and anxiety
far in excess of the new gain.

Then, truly, they bring no peace, but more care, more trouble, than a
man had in the first place when he was without them. And therefore
Tullius says, in that book on Paradoxes, when execrating riches: "I at
no time firmly believed the money of those men, or magnificent
mansions, or riches, or lordships, or voluptuous joys, with which
especially they are shackled, to be amongst things good or desirable,
since I saw certain men in the abundance of them especially desire
those wherein they abounded; because at no time is the thirst of
cupidity quenched; not only are they tormented by the desire for the
increase of those things which they possess, but also they have
torment in the fear of losing them." And all these are the words of
Tullius, and even thus they stand in that book which has been

And, as a stronger witness to this imperfection, hear Boethius,
speaking in his book of Consolation: "If the Goddess of Riches were to
expand and multiply riches till they were as numerous as the sands
thrown up by the sea when tost by the tempest, or countless as the
stars that shine, still Man would weep."

And because still further testimony is needful to reduce this to a
proof, note how much Solomon and his father David exclaim against
them, how much against them is Seneca, especially when writing to
Lucilius, how much Horace, how much Juvenal, and, briefly, how much
every writer, every poet, and how much Divine Scripture. All Truthful
cries aloud against these false enticers to sin, full of all defect.
Call to mind also, in aid of faith, what your own eyes have seen, what
is the life of those men who follow after riches, how far they live
securely when they have piled them up, what their contentment is, how
peacefully they rest.

What else daily endangers and destroys cities, countries, individual
persons, so much as the fresh heaping up of wealth in the possession
of some man? His accumulation wakens new desires, to the fulfilment of
which it is not possible to attain without injury to some one.

And what else does the Law, both Canonical and Civil, intend to
rectify except cupidity or avarice, which grows with its heaps of
riches, and which the Law seeks to resist or prevent. Truly, the
Canonical and the Civil Law make it sufficiently clear, if the first
sections of their written word are read. How evident it is, nay, I say
it is most evident, that these riches are, in their increase, entirely
imperfect; when, being amassed, naught else but imperfection can
possibly spring forth from them. And this is what the text says.

But here arises a doubtful question, which is not to be passed over
without being put and answered. Some calumniator of the Truth might be
able to say that if, by increasing desire in their acquisition, riches
are imperfect and therefore vile, for this reason science or knowledge
is imperfect and vile, in the acquisition of which the desire steadily
increases, wherefore Seneca says, "If I should have one foot in the
grave, I should still wish to learn."

But it is not true that knowledge is vile through imperfection. By
distinction of the consequences, increase of desire is not in
knowledge the cause of vileness. That it is perfect is evident, for
the Philosopher, in the sixth book of the Ethics, says that science or
knowledge is the perfect reason of certain things. To this question
one has to reply briefly; but in the first place it is to be seen
whether in the acquisition of Knowledge the desire for it is enlarged
in the way suggested by the question, and whether the argument be
rational. Wherefore I say that not only in the acquisition of
knowledge and riches, but in each and every acquisition, human desire
expands, although in different ways; and the reason is this: that the
supreme desire of each thing bestowed by Nature in the first place is
to return to its first source. And since God is the First Cause of our
Souls, and the Maker of them after His Own Image, as it is written,
"Let us make Man in Our Image, after Our likeness," the Soul
especially desires to return to that First Cause. As a pilgrim, who
goes along a path where he never journeyed before, may believe every
house that he sees in the distance to be his inn, and, not finding it
to be so, may direct his belief to the next, and so travel on from
house to house until he reach the inn, even so our Soul, as soon as it
enters the untrodden path of this life, directs its eyes to its
supreme good, the sum of its day's travel to good; and therefore
whatever thing it sees which seems to have in itself some goodness, it
thinks to be the supreme good. And because its knowledge at first is
imperfect, owing to want of experience and want of instruction, good
things that are but little appear great to it; and therefore in the
first place it begins to desire those. So we see little children
desire above all things an apple; and then, growing older, they desire
a little bird; and then, being older, desire a beautiful garment; and
then a horse, and then a wife, and then moderate wealth, and then
greater wealth, and then still more. And this happens because in none
of these things that is found for which search is made, and as we live
on we seek further. Wherefore it is possible to see that one desirable
thing stands under the other in the eyes of our Soul in a way almost
pyramidal, for the least first covers the whole, and is as it were the
point of the desirable good, which is God, at the basis of all; so
that the farther it proceeds from the point towards the basis, so much
the greater do the desirable good things appear; and this is the
reason why, by acquisition, human desires become broader the one after
the other.

But, thus this pathway is lost through error, even as in the roads of
the earth; for as from one city to another there is of necessity an
excellent direct road, and often another which branches from that, the
branch road goes into another part, and of many others some do not go
all the way, and some go farther round; so in Human Life there are
different roads, of which one is the truest, and another the most
misleading, and some are less right, and some less wrong. And as we
see that the straightest road to the city satisfies desire and gives
rest after toil, and that which goes in the opposite direction never
satisfies and never can give rest, so it happens in our Life. The man
who follows the right path attains his end, and gains his rest. The
man who follows the wrong path never attains it, but with much fatigue
of mind and greedy eyes looks always before him.

Wherefore, although this argument does not entirely reply to the
question asked above, at least it opens the way to the reply, which
causes us to see that each desire of ours does not proceed in its
expansion in one way alone. But because this chapter is somewhat
prolonged, we will reply in a new chapter to the question, wherein may
be ended the whole disputation which it is our intention to make
against riches.


In reply to the question, I say that it is not possible to affirm
properly that the desire for knowledge does increase, although, as has
been said, it does expand in a certain way. For that which properly
increases is always one; the desire for knowledge is not always one,
but is many; and one desire fulfilled, another comes; so that,
properly speaking, its expansion is not its increase, but it is
advance of a succession of smaller things into great things. For if I
desire to know the principles of natural things, as soon as I know
these, that desire is satisfied and there is an end of it. If I then
desire to know the why and the wherefore of each one of these
principles, this is a new desire altogether. Nor by the advent of that
new desire am I deprived of the perfection to which the other might
lead me. Such an expansion as that is not the cause of imperfection,
but of new perfection. That expansion of riches, however, is properly
increased which is always one, so that no succession is seen therein,
and therefore no end and no perfection.

And if the adversary would say, that if the desire to know the first
principles of natural things is one thing, and the desire to know what
they are is another, so is the desire for a hundred marks one thing,
and the desire for a thousand marks is another, I reply that it is not
true; for the hundred is part of the thousand and is related to it, as
part of a line to the whole of the line along which one proceeds by
one impulse alone; and there is no succession there, nor completion of
motion in any part. But to know what the principles of natural things
are is not the same as to know what each one of them is; the one is
not part of the other, and they are related to each other as diverging
lines along which one does not proceed by one impulse, but the
completed movement of the one succeeds the completed movement of the
other. And thus it appears that, because of the desire for knowledge,
knowledge is not to be called imperfect in the same way as riches are
to be called imperfect, on account of the desire for them, as the
question put it; for in the desire for knowledge the desires terminate
successively with the attainment of their aims; and in the desire for
riches, NO; so that the question is solved.

Again, the adversary may calumniate, saying that, although many
desires are fulfilled in the acquisition of knowledge, the last is
never attained, which is the imperfection of that one desire, which
does not gain its end; and that will be both one and imperfect.

Again one here replies that it is not a truth which is brought forward
in opposition, that is, that the last desire is never attained; for
our natural desires, as is proved in the third treatise of this book,
are all tending to a certain end; and the desire for knowledge is
natural, so that this desire compasses a certain end, although but
few, since they walk in the wrong path, accomplish the day's journey.
And he who understands the Commentator in the third chapter, On the
Soul, learns this of him; and therefore Aristotle says, in the tenth
chapter of the Ethics, against Simonides the Poet, that man ought to
draw near to Divine things as much as is possible; wherein he shows
that our power tends towards a certain end. And in the first book of
the Ethics he says that the disciplined Mind demands certainty in its
knowledge of things in proportion as their nature received certainty,
in which he proves that not only on the side of the man desiring
knowledge, but on the side of the desired object of knowledge,
attention ought to be given; and therefore St. Paul says: "Not much
knowledge, but right knowledge in moderation." So that in whatever way
the desire for knowledge is considered, either generally or
particularly, it comes to perfection.

And since knowledge is a noble perfection, and through the desire for
it its perfection is not lost, as is the case with the accursed
riches, we must note briefly how injurious they are when possessed,
and this is the third notice of their imperfection. It is possible to
see that the possession of them is injurious for two reasons: one,
that it is the cause of evil; the other, that it is the privation of
good. It is the cause of evil, which makes the timid possessor
wakeful, watchful, and suspicious or hateful.

How great is the fear of that man who knows he carries wealth about
him, when walking abroad, when dwelling at home, when not only wakeful
or watching, but when sleeping, not only the fear that he may lose his
property, but fear for his life because he possesses these riches!
Well do the miserable merchants know, who travel through the World,
that the leaves which the wind stirs on the trees cause them to
tremble when they are bearing their wealth with them; and when they
are without it, full of confidence they go singing and talking, and
thus make their journey shorter! Therefore the Wise Man says: "If the
traveller enters on his road empty, he can sing in the presence of
thieves." And this Lucan desires to express in the fifth book, when he
praises the safety of poverty: "O, the safe and secure liberty of the
poor Life! O, narrow dwelling-places and thrift! O, not again deem
riches to be of the Gods! In what temples and within what palace walls
could this be, that is to have no fear, in some tumult or other, of
striking the hand of Cæsar?"

And Lucan says this when he depicts how Cæsar came by night to the
little house of the fisher Amyclas to cross the Adriatic Sea. And how
great is the hatred that each man bears to the possessor of riches,
either through envy, or from the desire to take possession of his
wealth! So true it is, that often and often, contrary to due filial
piety, the son meditates the death of the father; and most great and
most evident experience of this the Italians can have, both on the
banks of the Po and on the banks of the Tiber. And therefore Boethius
in the second chapter of his Consolations says: "Certainly Avarice
makes men hateful."

Nay, their possession is privation of good, for, possessing those
riches, a man does not give freely with generosity, which is a virtue,
which is a perfect good, and which makes men magnificent and beloved;
which does not lie in possession of those riches, but in ceasing to
possess them. Wherefore Boethius in the same book says: "Then money is
good when, bartered for other things, by the use of generosity one no
longer possesses it." Wherefore the baseness of riches is sufficiently
proved by all these remarks of his; and therefore the man with an
upright desire and true knowledge never loves them; and, not loving
them, he does not unite himself to them, but always desires them to be
far from himself, except inasmuch as they are appointed to some
necessary service; and it is a reasonable thing, since the perfect
cannot be united with the imperfect. So we see that the curved line
never joins the straight line, and if there be any conjunction, it is
not of line to line, but of point to point. And thus it follows that
the Mind which is upright in desire, and truthful in knowledge, is not
disheartened at the loss of wealth: as the text asserts at the end of
that part. And by this the text intends to prove that riches are as a
river flowing in the distance past the upright tower of Reason, or
rather of Nobility; and that these riches cannot take Nobility away
from him who has it. And in this manner in the present Song it is
argued against riches.


Having confuted the error of other men in that part wherein it was
advanced in support of riches, it remains now to confute it in that
part where Time is said to be a cause of Nobility, saying, "Descent of
wealth;" and this reproof or confutation is made in that part which
begins: "They will not have the vile Turn noble." And in the first
place one confutes this by means of an argument taken from those men
themselves who err in this way; then, to their greater confusion, this
their argument is also destroyed; and it does this when it says, "It
follows then from this." Finally it concludes, their error being
evident, and it being therefore time to attend to the Truth; and it
does this when it says, "Sound intellect reproves."

I say, then, "They will not have the vile Turn noble." Where it is to
be known that the opinion of these erroneous persons is, that a man
who is a peasant in the first place can never possibly be called a
Nobleman; and the man who is the son of a peasant in like manner can
never be Noble; and this breaks or destroys their own argument when
they say that Time is requisite to Nobility, adding that word
"descent." For it is impossible by process of Time to come to the
generation of Nobility in this way of theirs, which declares it to be
impossible for the humble peasant to become Noble by any work that he
may do, or through any accident; and declares the mutation of a
peasant father into a Noble son to be impossible. For if the son of
the peasant is also a peasant, and his son again is also a peasant,
and so always, it will never be possible to discover the place where
Nobility can begin to be established by process of Time.

And if the adversary, wishing to defend himself, should say that
Nobility will begin at that period of Time when the low estate of the
ancestors will be forgotten, I reply that this goes against
themselves, for even of necessity there will be a transmutation of
peasant into Noble, from one man into another, or from father to son,
which is against that which they propound.

And if the adversary should defend himself pertinaciously, saying that
indeed they do desire that it should be possible for this
transmutation to take place when the low estate of the ancestors
passes into oblivion, although the text takes no notice of this, it is
right that the Commentary should reply to it. And therefore I reply
thus: that from this which they say there follow four very great
difficulties, so that it cannot possibly be a good argument. One is,
that in proportion as Human Nature might become better, the slower
would be the generation of Nobility, which is a very great
inconvenience; since in proportion as a thing is honoured for its
excellence, so much the more is it the cause of goodness; and Nobility
is reckoned amongst the good. What this means is shown thus: If
Nobility, which I understand as a good thing, should be generated by
oblivion, Nobility would be generated in proportion to the speediness
with which men might be forgotten, for so much the sooner would
oblivion descend upon all. Hence, in proportion as men might be
forgotten, so much the sooner would they be Noble; and, on the
contrary, in proportion to the length of time during which they were
held in remembrance, so much the longer it would be before they could
be ennobled.

The second difficulty is, that in nothing apart from men would it be
possible to make this distinction, that is to say, Noble or Vile,
which is very inconvenient; since, in each species of things we see
the image of Nobility or of Baseness, wherefore we often call one
horse noble and one vile; and one falcon noble and one vile; and one
pearl noble and one vile. And that it would not be possible to make
this distinction is thus proved; if the oblivion of the humble
ancestors is the cause of Nobility, or rather the baseness of the
ancestors never was, it is not possible for oblivion of them to be,
since oblivion is a destruction of remembrance, and in those other
animals, and in plants, and in minerals, lowness and loftiness are not
observed, since in one they are natural or innate and in an equal
state, and Nobility cannot possibly be in their generation, and
likewise neither can vileness nor baseness; since one regards the one
and the other as habit and privation, which are possible to occur in
the same subject; and therefore in them it would not be possible for a
distinction to exist between the one and the other.

And if the adversary should wish to say, that in other things Nobility
is represented by the goodness of the thing, but in a man it is
understood because there is no remembrance of his humble or base
condition, one would wish to reply not with words, but with the sword,
to such bestiality as it would be to give to other things goodness as
a cause for Nobility, and to found the Nobility of men upon
forgetfulness or oblivion as a first cause.

The third difficulty is, that often the person or thing generated
would come before the generator, which is quite impossible; and it is
possible to prove this thus: Let us suppose that Gherardo da Cammino
might have been the grandson of the most vile peasant who ever drank
of the Sile or of the Cagnano, and that oblivion had not yet overtaken
his grandfather; who will be bold enough to say that Gherardo da
Cammino was a vile man? and who will not agree with me in saying that
he was Noble? Certainly no one, however presumptuous he may wish to
be, for he was so, and his memory will always be treasured. If
oblivion had not yet overtaken his ancestor, as is proposed in
opposition, so that he might be great through Nobility, and the
Nobility in him might be seen so clearly, even as one does see it,
then it would have been first in him before the founder of his
Nobility could have existed; and this is impossible in the extreme.

The fourth difficulty is, that such a man, the supposed grandfather,
would have been held Noble after he was dead who was not Noble whilst
alive; and a more inconvenient thing could not be. One proves it thus:
Let us suppose that in the age of Dardanus there might be a
remembrance of his low ancestors, and let us suppose that in the age
of Laomedon this memory might have passed away, and that oblivion had
overtaken it. According to the adverse opinion, Laomedon was Noble and
Dardanus was vile, each in his lifetime. We, to whom the remembrance
of the ancestors of Dardanus has not come, shall we say that Dardanus
living was vile, and dead a Noble? And is not this contrary to the
legend which says that Dardanus was the son of Jupiter (for such is
the fable, which one ought not to regard whilst disputing
philosophically); and yet if the adversary might wish to find support
in the fable, certainly that which the fable veils destroys his
arguments. And thus it is proved that the argument, which asserted
that oblivion is the cause of Nobility, is false.


Since, by their own argument, the Song has confuted them, and proved
that Time is not requisite to Nobility, it proceeds immediately to
confound their premisses, since of their false arguments no rust
remains in the mind which is disposed towards Truth; and this it does
when it says, "It follows then from this." Where it is to be known
that if it is not possible for a peasant to become a Noble, or for a
Noble son to be born of a humble father, as is advanced in their
opinion, of two difficulties one must follow.

The first is, that there can be no Nobility; the other is, that the
World may have been always full of men, so that from one alone the
Human Race cannot be descended; and this it is possible to prove.

If Nobility is not generated afresh, and it has been stated many times
that such is the basis of their opinion, the peasant man not being
able to beget it in himself, or the humble father to pass it on to his
son, the man always is the same as he was born; and such as the father
was born, so is the son born; and so this process from one condition
onwards is reached even by the first parent; for such as was the first
father, that is, Adam, so must the whole Human Race be, because from
him to the modern nations it will not be possible to find, according
to that argument, any change whatever. Then, if Adam himself was
Noble, we are all Noble; if he was vile, we are all vile or base;
which is no other than to remove the distinction between these
conditions, and thus it is to remove the conditions.

And the Song states this, which follows from what is advanced, saying,
"That all are high or base." And if this is not so, then any nation is
to be called Noble, and any is to be called vile, of necessity.
Transmutation from vileness into Nobility being thus taken away, the
Human Race must be descended from different ancestors, that is, some
from Nobles and some from vile persons, and so the Song says, "Or that
in Time there never was Beginning to our race," that is to say, one
beginning; it does not say beginnings. And this is most false
according to the Philosopher, according to our Faith, which cannot
lie, according to the Law and ancient belief of the Gentiles. For
although the Philosopher does not assert the succession from one first
man, yet he would have one essential being to be in all men, which
cannot possibly have different origins. And Plato would have that all
men depend upon one idea alone, and not on more or many, which is to
give them only one beginning. And undoubtedly Aristotle would laugh
very loudly if he heard of two species to be made out of the Human
Race, as of horses and asses; and (may Aristotle forgive me) one might
call those men asses who think in this way. For according to our Faith
(which is to be preserved in its entirety) it is most false, as
Solomon makes evident where he draws a distinction between men and the
brute animals, for he calls men "all the sons of Adam," and this he
does when he says: "Who knows if the spirits of the sons of Adam mount
upwards, and if those of the beasts go downwards?" And that it is
false according to the Gentiles, let the testimony of Ovid in the
first chapter of his Metamorphoses prove, where he treats of the
constitution of the World according to the Pagan belief, or rather
belief of the Gentiles, saying: "Man is born "--he did not say "Men;"
he said, "Man is born," or rather, "that the Artificer of all things
made him from Divine seed, or that the new earth, but lately parted
from the noble ether, retained seeds of the kindred Heaven, which,
mingled with the water of the river, formed the son of Japhet into an
image of the Gods, who govern all." Where evidently he asserts the
first man to have been one alone; and therefore the Song says, "But
that I cannot hold," that is, to the opinion that man had not one
beginning; and the Song subjoins, "Nor yet if Christians they." And it
says Christians, not Philosophers, or rather Gentiles, whose opinion
also is adverse, because the Christian opinion is of greater force,
and is the destroyer of all calumny, thanks to the supreme light of
Heaven, which illuminates it.

Then when I say, "Sound intellect reproves their words As false, and
turns away," I conclude this error to be confuted, and I say that it
is time to open the eyes to the Truth; and this is expressed when I
say, "And now I seek to tell, As it appears to me." It is now evident
to sound minds that the words of those men are vain, that is, without
a crumb or particle of Truth; and I say sound not without cause. Our
intellect may be said to be sound or unsound. And I say intellect for
the noble part of our Soul, which it is possible to designate by the
common word "Mind." It may be called sound or healthy, when it is not
obstructed in its action by sickness of mind or body, which is to know
what things are, as Aristotle expresses it in the third chapter on the

For, owing to the sickness of the Soul, I have seen three horrible
infirmities in the minds of men.

One is caused by natural vanity, for many men are so presumptuous that
they believe they know everything, and, owing to this, they assert
things to be facts which are not facts. Tullius especially execrates
this vice in the first chapter of the Offices, and St. Thomas in his
book against the Gentiles, saying: "There are many men, so
presumptuous in their conceit, who believe that they can compass all
things with their intellect, deeming all that appears to them to be
true, and count as false that which does not appear to them." Hence it
arises that they never attain to any knowledge; believing themselves
to be sufficiently learned, they never inquire, they never listen;
they desire to be inquired of, and when a question is put, bad enough
is their reply. Of those men Solomon speaks in Proverbs: "Seest thou a
man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of

Another infirmity of mind is caused by natural weakness or smallness,
for many men are so vilely obstinate or stubborn that they cannot
believe that it is possible either for them or for others to know
things; and such men as these never of themselves seek knowledge, nor
ever reason; for what other men say, they care not at all. And against
these men Aristotle speaks in the first book of the Ethics, declaring
those men to be insufficient or unsatisfactory hearers of Moral
Philosophy. Those men always live, like beasts, a life of grossness,
the despair of all learning.

The third infirmity of mind is caused by the levity of nature; for
many men are of such light fancy that in all their arguments they go
astray, and even when they make a syllogism and have concluded, from
that conclusion they fly off into another, and it seems to them most
subtle argument. They start not from any true beginning, and truly
they see nothing true in their imagination. Of those men the
Philosopher says that it is not right to trouble about them, or to
have business with them, saying, in the first book of Physics, that
against him who denies the first postulate it is not right to dispute.
And of such men as these are many idiots, who may not know their A B
C, and who would wish to dispute in Geometry, in Astrology, and in the
Science of Physics.

Also through sickness or defect of body, it is possible for the Mind
to be unsound or sick; even as through some primal defect at birth, as
with those who are born fools, or through alteration in the brain, as
with the madmen. And of this mental infirmity the Law speaks when it
says: "In him who makes a Will or Testament, at the time when he makes
the Will or Testament, health of mind, not health of body, is

But to those intellects which from sickness of mind or body are not
infirm, but are free, diligent, and whole in the light of Truth, I say
it must be evident that the opinion of the people, which has been
stated above, is vain, that is, without any value whatever, worthless.

Afterwards the Song subjoins that I thus judge them to be false and
vain; and this it does when it says, "Sound intellect reproves their
words As false, and turns away." And afterwards I say that it is time
to demonstrate or prove the Truth; and I say that it is now right to
state what kind of thing true Nobility is, and how it is possible to
know the man in whom it exists; and I speak of this where I say:

    And now I seek to tell
      As it appears to me,
    What is, whence comes, what signs attest
      A true Nobility.


"The King shall rejoice in God, and all those shall be praised who
swear by him, for closed is the mouth of those who speak wicked
things." These words I can here propound in all truth; because each
true King ought especially to love the Truth. Wherefore it is written
in the Book of Wisdom, "Love the Light of Wisdom, you, who stand
before, the people," and the Light of Wisdom is this same Truth. I
say, then, every King shall rejoice that the most false and most
injurious opinion of the wicked and deceitful men who have up to this
time spoken iniquitously of Nobility is confuted.

It is now requisite to proceed to the discussion of the Truth
according to the division made above, in the third chapter of the
present treatise. This second part, then, which begins, "I say that
from one root Each Virtue firstly springs," intends to describe this
Nobility according to the Truth, and this part is divided into two:
for in the first the intention is to prove what this Nobility is; and
in the second how it is possible to recognize him in whom it dwells,
and this second part begins, "Such virtue shows its good." The first
part, again, has two parts; for in the first certain things are sought
for which are needful in order to perceive the definition of Nobility;
in the second, one looks for its definition, and this second part
begins, "Where virtue is, there is A Nobleman."

That we may enter perfectly into the treatise, two things are to be
considered in the first place. The one is, what is meant by this word
Nobility, taken alone, in its simple meaning; the other is, in what
path it is needful to walk in order to search out the before-named
definition. I say, then, that, if we will pay attention to the common
use of speech, by this word Nobility is understood the perfection of
its own nature in each thing; wherefore it is predicated not only of
the man, but also of all things; for the man calls a stone noble, a
plant or tree noble, a horse noble, a falcon noble, whatever is seen
to be perfect in its nature. And therefore Solomon says in
Ecclesiastes, "Blessed is the land whose King is Noble;" which is no
other than saying, whose King is perfect according to the perfection
of the mind and body; and he thus makes this evident by that which he
says previously, when he writes, "Woe unto the land whose King is a
child." For that is not a perfect man, and a man is a child, if not by
age, yet by his disordered manners and by the evil or defect of his
life, as the Philosopher teaches in the first book of the Ethics.

There are some foolish people who believe that by this word Noble is
meant that which is to be named and known by many men; and they say
that it comes from a verb which stands for _to know_, that is,
_nosco_. But this is most false, for, if this could be, those
things which were most named and best known in their species would in
their species be the most noble. Thus the obelisk of St. Peter would
be the most noble stone in the world; and Asdente, the shoemaker of
Parma, would be more Noble than any one of his fellow-citizens; and
Albuino della Scala would be more Noble than Guido da Castello di
Reggio. Each one of those things is most false, and therefore it is
most false that _nobile_ (noble) can come from _cognoscere_,
to know. It comes from _non vile_ (not vile); wherefore
_nobile_ (noble) is as it were _non vile_ (not vile).

This perfection the Philosopher means in the seventh chapter of
Physics, when he says: "Each thing is especially perfect when it
touches and joins its own proper or relative virtue; and then it is
especially perfect according to its nature. It is, then, possible to
call the circle perfect when it is truly a circle, that is, when it is
joined with its own proper or relative virtue, it is then complete in
its nature, and it may then be called a noble circle." This is when
there is a point in it which is equally distant from the
circumference. That circle which has the figure of an egg loses its
virtue and it is not Noble, nor that circle which has the form of an
almost full moon, because in that its nature is not perfect. And thus
evidently it is possible to see that commonly, or in a general sense,
this word Nobility, expresses in all things perfection of their
nature, and this is that for which one seeks primarily in order to
enter more clearly into the discussion of that part which it is
intended to explain.

Secondly, it remains to be seen how one must proceed in order to find
the definition of Human Nobility to which the present argument leads.
I say, then, that since in those things which are of one species, as
are all men, it is not possible by essential first principles to
define their highest perfection, it is necessary to know and to define
that by their effects. Therefore one reads in the Gospel of St.
Matthew, when Christ speaks, "Beware of false prophets: by their
fruits ye shall know them." And in a direct way the definition we seek
is to be seen by the fruits, which are the moral and intellectual
virtues of which this Nobility is the seed, as in its definition will
be fully evident.

And these are those two things we must see before one can proceed to
the others, as is said in the previous part of this chapter.


Since those two things which it seemed needful to understand before
the text could be proceeded with have been seen and understood, it now
remains to proceed with the text and to explain it, and the text then

    I say that from one root
      Each Virtue firstly springs,
    Virtue, I mean, that Happiness
      To man, by action, brings

And I subjoin:

    This, as the Ethics teach,
      Is habit of right choice;

placing the whole definition of the Moral Virtues as it is defined by
the Philosopher in the second book of Ethics, in which two things
principally are understood. One is, that each Virtue comes from one
first principle or original cause; the other is, that by "Each Virtue"
I mean the Moral Virtues, and this is evident from the words, "This,
as the Ethics teach"

Hence it is to be known that our most right and proper fruits are the
Moral Virtues, since on every side they are in our power; and these
are differently distinguished and enumerated by different
philosophers. But it seems to me right to omit the opinion of other
men in that part where the divine opinion of Aristotle is stated by
word of mouth, and therefore, wishing to describe what those Moral
Virtues are, I will pass on, briefly discoursing of them according to
his opinion.

There are eleven Virtues named by the said Philosopher. The first is
called Courage, which is sword and bridle to moderate our boldness and
timidity in things which are the ruin of our life. The second is
Temperance, which is the law and bridle of our gluttony and of our
undue abstinence in those things requisite for the preservation of our
life. The third is Liberality, which is the moderator of our giving
and of our receiving things temporal. The fourth is Magnificence,
which is the moderator of great expenditures, making and supporting
those within certain limits. The fifth is Magnanimity, which is the
moderator and acquirer of great honours and fame. The sixth is the
Love of Honour, which is the moderator and regulator to us of the
honours of this World. The seventh is Mildness, which moderates our
anger and our excessive or undue patience against our external
misfortunes. The eighth is Affability, which makes us live on good
terms with other men. The ninth is called Truth, which makes us
moderate in boasting ourselves over and above what we are, and in
depreciating ourselves below what we are in our speech. The tenth is
called Eutrapelia, pleasantness of intercourse, which makes us
moderate in joys or pleasures, causing us to use them in due measure.
The eleventh is Justice, which teaches us to love and to act with
uprightness in all things.

And each of these Virtues has two collateral enemies, that is to say,
vices; one in excess and one in defect. And these Moral Virtues are
the centres or middle stations between them, and those Virtues all
spring from one root or principle, that is to say, from the habit of
our own good choice. Wherefore, in a general sense, it is possible to
say of all, that they are a habit of choice standing firm in due
moderation; and these are those which make a man happy in their active
operation, as the Philosopher says in the first book of the Ethics
when he defines Happiness, saying that Happiness is virtuous action in
a perfect life.

By many, Prudence, that is, good, judgment or wisdom, is well asserted
to be a Moral Virtue. But Aristotle numbers that amongst the
Intellectual Virtues, although it is the guide of the moral, and
points out the way by which they are formed, and without it they could
not be. Verily, it is to be known that we can have in this life two
happinesses or felicities by following two different roads, both good
and excellent, which lead us to them: the one is the Active Life and
the other is the Contemplative Life, which (although by the Active
Life one may attain, as has been said, to a good state of Happiness)
leads us to supreme Happiness, even as the Philosopher proves in the
tenth book of the Ethics; and Christ affirms it with His own Lips in
the Gospel of Luke, speaking to Martha, when replying to her: "Martha,
Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things: verily, one
thing alone is needful," meaning, that which thou hast in hand; and He
adds: "Mary has chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away
from her." And Mary, according to that which is previously written in
the Gospel, sitting at the feet of Christ, showed no care for the
service of the house, but listened only to the words of the Saviour.

For if we will explain this in the moral sense, our Lord wished to
show thereby that the Contemplative Life was supremely good, although
the Active Life might be good; this is evident to him who will give
his mind to the words of the Gospel.

It would be possible, however, for any one to say, in argument against
me: Since the happiness of the Contemplative Life is more excellent
than that of the Active Life, and both may be, and are, the fruit and
end of Nobility, why not rather have proceeded in the argument along
the line of the Intellectual Virtues than of the Moral? To this it is
possible to reply briefly, that in all instruction it is desirable to
have regard to the capability of the learner, and to lead him by that
path which is easiest to him. Wherefore, since the Moral Virtues
appear to be, and are, more general and more required than the others,
and are more seen in outward appearances, it was more convenient and
more useful to proceed along that path than by the other; for thus
indeed we shall attain to the knowledge of the bees by arguing of
profit from the wax, as well as by arguing of profit from the honey,
for both the one and the other proceed from them.


In the preceding chapter has been determined how each Moral Virtue
comes from one root, or first principle, that is, a good habit of
choice; and the present text bears upon that, until the part which
begins: "Nobility by right." In this part, then, it proceeds, by a way
that is allowable, to teach that each Virtue mentioned above, taken
singly, or otherwise generally, proceeds from Nobility as an effect
from its cause, and it is founded upon a philosophical proposition,
which says that, when two things are found to meet in one, both these
things must be reduced to a third, or one to the other, as an effect
to a cause: because one thing having stood first and of itself, it
cannot exist except it be from one; and if those two could not be both
the effect of a third, or else one the effect of the other, each would
have had a separate first cause, which is impossible. It says, then,

    Such virtue shows its good
      To others' intellect,
    For when two things agree in one,
      Producing one effect,

    One must from other come,
      Or each one from a third,
    If each be as each, and more, then one
      From the other is inferred.

Where it is to be known that here one does not proceed by an evident
demonstration; as it would be to say that the cold is the generative
principle of water, when we see the clouds; but certainly by a
beautiful and suitable induction. For if there are many laudable
things in us, and one is the principle or first cause of them all,
reason requires each to be reduced to that first cause, which
comprehends more things; and this ought more reasonably to be called
the principle of those things than that which comprehends in itself
less of their principle. For as the trunk of a tree, which contains or
encloses all the other branches, ought to be called the first
beginning and cause of those branches, and not those branches the
cause of the trunk, so Nobility, which comprehends each and every
Virtue (as the cause contains the effect) and many other actions or
operations of ours which are praiseworthy, it ought to be held for
such; that the Virtue may be reduced to it, rather than to the other
third which is in us. Finally it says that the position taken (namely,
that each Moral Virtue comes from one root, and that such Virtue and
Nobility unite in one thing, as is stated above, and that therefore it
is requisite to reduce the one to the other, or both to a third; and
that if the one contains the value of the other and more, from that it
proceeds rather than from the other third) may be considered as a rule
established and set forth, as was before intended.

And thus ends this passage and this present part.


Since in the preceding part are discussed three certain definite
things which were necessary to be seen before we define, if possible,
this good thing of which we speak, it is right to proceed to the
following part, which begins: "Where Virtue is, there is A Nobleman."
And it is desirable to reduce this into two parts. In the first a
certain thing is proved, which before has been touched upon and left
unproved; in the second, concluding, the definition sought is found;
and this second part begins; "Comes virtue from what's noble, as From
black comes violet."

In evidence of the first part, it is to be recalled to mind that it
says previously that, if Nobility is worth more and extends farther
than Virtue, Virtue rather will proceed from it, which this part now
proves, namely, that Nobility extends farther, and produces a copy of
Heaven, saying that wherever there is Virtue there is Nobility. And
here it is to be known that (as it is written in the Books of the Law,
and is held as a Rule of the Law) in those things which of themselves
are evident there is no need of proof; and nothing is more evident
than that Nobility exists wherever there is Virtue, and each thing,
commonly speaking, that we see perfect according to its nature is
worthy to be called Noble. It says then: "So likewise that is Heaven
Wherein a star is hung, But Heaven may be starless." So there is
Nobility wherever there is Virtue, and not Virtue wherever there is
Nobility. And with a beautiful and suitable example; for truly it is a
Heaven in which many and various stars shine. In this Nobility there
shine the Moral and the Intellectual Virtues: there shine in it the
good dispositions bestowed by nature, piety, and religion; the
praiseworthy passions, as Modesty and Mercy and many others; there
shine in it the good gifts of the body, that is to say, beauty,
strength, and almost perpetual health; and so many are the stars which
stud its Heaven that certainly it is not to be wondered at if they
produce many and divers effects in Human Nobility; such are the
natures and the powers of those stars, assembled and contained within
one simple substance, through the medium of which stars, as through
different branches, it bears fruit in various ways. Certainly, with
all earnestness, I make bold to say that Human Nobility, so far as
many of its fruits are considered, excels that of the Angel, although
the Angelic may be more Divine in its unity.

Of this Nobility of ours, which fructifies into such fruits and so
numerous, the Psalmist had perception when he composed that Psalm
which begins: "O Lord our God, how admirable is Thy Name through all
the Earth!" where he praises man, as if wondering at the Divine
affection for this Human Creature, saying: "What is man, that Thou,
God, dost visit him? Thou hast made him a little lower than the
Angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour, and placed him
over the works of Thy hands." Then, truly, it was a beautiful and
suitable comparison to compare Heaven with Human Nobility.

Then, when the Song says, "In women and the young A modesty is seen,
Not virtue, noble yet," it proves that Nobility extends into parts
where Virtue is not; and it says, "noble yet," alluding to Nobility as
indeed a true safeguard, being where there is shame or modesty, that
is to say, fear of dishonour, as it is in maidens and youths, where
shame or modesty is good and praiseworthy; which shame or modesty is
not virtue, but a certain good passion. And it says, "In women and the
young," that is to say, in youths; because, as the Philosopher
expresses it in the fourth book of the Ethics, shame, bashfulness,
modesty, is not praiseworthy nor good in the old nor in men of
studious habits, because to them it is fit that they beware of those
things which would lead them to shame. In youths and maidens such
caution is not so much required, and therefore in them the fear of
receiving dishonour through some fault is praiseworthy. It springs
from Nobility, and it is possible to account their timid bashfulness
to be Nobility. Baseness and ignoble ways produce impudence: wherefore
it is a good and excellent sign of Nobility in children and persons of
tender years when, after some fault, their shame is painted in their
face, which blush of shame is then the fruit of true Nobility.


When it proceeds to say, "Comes virtue from what's noble, as From
black comes violet," the text advances to the desired definition of
Nobility, by which one may see what this Nobility is of which so many
people speak erroneously. It says then, drawing a conclusion from that
which has been said before, that each Virtue, or rather its generator,
that is to say, the habit of right choice, which stands firm in due
moderation, will spring forth from this, that is, Nobility. And it
gives an example in the colours, saying, as from the black the violet,
so this Virtue springs from Nobility. The violet is a mixed colour of
purple and black, but the black prevails, and the colour is named from
it. And thus the Virtue is a mixed thing of Nobility and Passion; but,
because Nobility prevails, the Virtue takes its name from it, and is
called Goodness. Then afterwards it argues, by that which has been
said, that no man ought to say boastfully, "I am of such and such a
race or family;" nor ought he to believe that he is of this Nobility
unless the fruits of it are in him. And immediately it renders a
reason, saying that those who have this Grace, that is to say, this
Divine thing, are almost Gods as it were, without spot of vice, and no
one has the power to bestow this except God alone, with whom there is
no respect of persons, even as Divine Scripture makes manifest. And it
does not appear too extravagant when it says, "They are as Gods," for
as it is argued previously in the seventh chapter of the third
treatise, even as there are men most vile and bestial so are men most
Noble and Divine. And this Aristotle proves in the seventh chapter of
Ethics by the text of Homer the poet; therefore, let not those men who
are of the Uberti of Florence, nor those of the Visconti of Milan,
say, "Because I am of such a family or race, I am Noble," for the
Divine seed falls not into a race of men, that is, into a family; but
it falls into individual persons, and, as will be proved below, the
family does not make individual persons Noble, but the individual
persons make the family Noble.

Then when it says, "God only gives it to the Soul," the argument is of
the susceptive, that is, of the subject whereon this Divine gift
descends, which is indeed a Divine gift, according to the word of the
Apostle: "Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above,
proceeding from the Father of Light." It says then that God alone
imparts this Grace to the Soul that He sees pure, within the Soul of
that man whom He sees to be perfectly prepared and fit to receive in
his own proper person this Divine action; for, according as the
Philosopher says in the second chapter Of the Soul, things must be
prepared for their agents and qualified to receive their acts;
wherefore if the Soul is imperfectly prepared, it is not qualified to
receive this blessed and Divine infusion, even as a precious stone, if
it is badly cut or prepared, wherever it is imperfect, cannot receive
the celestial virtue; even as that noble Guido Guinizzelli said, in a
Song of his which begins: "To gentle hearts Love ever will repair." It
is possible for the Soul to be unqualified through some defect of
temper, or perhaps through some sinister circumstances of the time in
which the person lives, and into a Soul so unhappy as this the Divine
radiance never shines. And it may be said of such men as these, whose
Souls are deprived of this Light, that they are as deep valleys turned
towards the North, or rather subterranean caves wherein the light of
the Sun never enters unless it be reflected from another part which
has caught its rays.

Finally, it deduces, from that which has been previously said, that
the Virtues are the fruit of Nobility, and that God places that
Nobility in the Soul which has a good foundation. For to some, that
is, to those who have intellect, who are but few, it is evident that
human Nobility is no other than the seed of Happiness

    That seed of Happiness
      Falls in the hearts of few,
    Planted by God within the Souls
      Spread to receive His dew;

that is to say, whose body is in every part perfectly prepared,
ordered, or qualified.

For if the Virtues are the fruit of Nobility, and Happiness is
pleasure or sweetness acquired through or by them, it is evident that
this Nobility is the seed of Happiness, as has been said. And if one
considers well, this definition comprehends all the four arguments,
that is to say, the material, the formal, the efficient, and the
final: material, inasmuch as it says, "to the Soul spread to receive,"
which is the material and subject of Nobility; formal, inasmuch as it
says, "That seed;" efficient, inasmuch as it says, "Planted by God
within the Soul;" final, inasmuch as it says, "of Happiness," Heaven's
blessing. And thus is defined this our good gift, which descends into
us in like manner from the Supreme and Spiritual Power, as virtue into
a precious stone from a most noble celestial body.


That we may have more perfect knowledge of Human Goodness, as it is
the original cause in us of all good that can be called Nobility, it
is requisite to explain clearly in this especial chapter how this
Goodness descends into us.

In the first place, it comes by the Natural way, and then by the
Theological way, that is to say, the Divine and Spiritual. In the
first place, it is to be known that man is composed of Soul and body;
but that Goodness or Nobility is of the Soul, as has been said, and is
after the manner of seed from the Divine Virtue. By different
philosophers it has been differently argued concerning the difference
in our Souls; for Avicenna and Algazel were of opinion that Souls of
themselves and from their beginning were Noble or Base. Plato and some
others were of opinion that they proceeded by the stars, and were
Noble more or less according to the nobility of the star. Pythagoras
was of opinion that all were of one nobility, not only human Souls,
but with human Souls those of the brute animals and of the trees and
the forms of minerals; and he said that all the difference in the
bodies is form. If each one were to defend his opinion, it might be
that Truth would be seen to be in all. But since on the surface they
seem somewhat distant from the Truth, one must not proceed according
to those opinions, but according to the opinion of Aristotle and of
the Peripatetics. And therefore I say that when the human seed falls
into its receptacle, that is, into the matrix, it bears with it the
virtue or power of the generative Soul, and the virtue or power of
Heaven, and the virtue or power of the aliments united or bound
together, that is the involution or complex nature of the seed. It
matures and prepares the material for the formative power or virtue
which the generating Soul bestows; and the formative power or virtue
prepares the organs for the celestial virtue or power, which produces,
from the power of the seed, the Soul in life; which, as soon as
produced, receives from the power of the Mover of the Heaven the
passive intellect or mind, which potentially brings together in itself
all the universal forms according as they are in its producer, and so
much the less in proportion as it is farther removed from the first

Let no one marvel if I speak what seems difficult to understand; for
to myself it seems a miracle how it is possible even to arrive at a
conclusion concerning it, and to perceive it with the intellect. It is
not a thing to reveal in language, especially the language of the
Vulgar Tongue; wherefore I will say, even as did the Apostle: "Oh,
great is the depth of the riches of Wisdom of God: how incomprehensible
are Thy judgments, and Thy ways past finding out!" And since the
complex nature of the seed may be better and less good, and the
disposition of the receiver of the seed may be better and less good,
and the disposition of the dominant Heaven to this effect may be good
and better and best, which varies in the constellations, which are
continually transformed; it befalls that from the human seed and from
these virtues or powers the Soul is produced more or less pure; and
according to its purity there descends into it the virtue or power of
the possible or passive intellect, as it is called, and as it has been
spoken of. And if it happen that through the purity of the receptive
Soul the intellectual power is indeed separate and absolute, free from
all corporeal shadow, the Divine Goodness multiplies in it, as in a
thing sufficient to receive that good gift; and then it multiplies in
the Soul of this intelligent being, according as it can receive it;
and this is that seed of Happiness of which we speak at present. And
this is in harmony with the opinion of Tullius in that book on Old Age
when, speaking personally of Cato, he says: "For this reason a
celestial spirit descended into us from the highest habitation, having
come into a place which is adverse to the Divine Nature and to
Eternity." And in such a Soul as this there is its own individual
power, and the intellectual power, and the Divine power; that is to
say, that influence which has been mentioned. Therefore it is written
in the book On Causes: "Each Noble Soul has three operations, that is
to say, the animal, the intellectual, and the Divine." And there are
some men who hold such opinions that they say, if all the preceding
powers were to unite in the production of a Soul in their best
disposition, arrangement, order, that into that Soul would descend so
much of the Deity that it would be as it were another God Incarnate;
and this is almost all that it is possible to say concerning the
Natural way.

By the Theological way it is possible to say that, when the Supreme
Deity, that is, God, sees His creature prepared to receive His good
gift, so freely He imparts it to His creature in proportion as it is
prepared or qualified to receive it. And because these gifts proceed
from ineffable Love, and the Divine Love is appropriate to the Holy
Spirit, therefore it is that they are called the gifts of the Holy
Spirit, which, even as the Prophet Isaiah distinguishes them, are
seven, namely, Wisdom, Intelligence, Counsel, Courage, Knowledge,
Pity, and the Fear of God. O, good green blades, and good and
wonderful the seed!

And O, admirable and benign Sower of the seed, who dost only wait for
human nature to prepare the ground for Thee wherein to sow! O, blessed
are those who till the land to fit it to receive such seed!

Here it is to be known that the first noble shoot which germinates
from this seed that it may be fruitful, is the desire or appetite of
the mind, which in Greek is called "hormen;" and if this is not well
cultivated and held upright by good habits, the seed is of little
worth, and it would be better if it had not been sown.

And therefore St. Augustine urges, and Aristotle also in the second
book of Ethics, that man should accustom himself to do good, and to
bridle in his passions, in order that this shoot which has been
mentioned may grow strong through good habits, and be confirmed in its
uprightness, so that it may fructify, and from its fruit may issue the
sweetness of Human Happiness.


It is the commandment of the Moral Philosophers that, of the good
gifts whereof they have spoken, Man ought to put his thought and his
anxious care into the effort to make them as useful as possible to the
receiver. Wherefore I, wishing to be obedient to such a mandate,
intend to render this my BANQUET [Convito] as useful as possible in
each one of its parts. And because in this part it occurs to me to be
able to reason somewhat concerning the sweetness of Human Happiness, I
consider that there could not be a more useful discourse, especially
to those who know it not; for as the Philosopher says in the first
book of Ethics, and Tullius in that book Of the Ends of Good and Evil,
he shoots badly at the mark who sees it not. Even thus a man can but
ill advance towards this sweet joy who does not begin with a
perception of it. Wherefore, since it is our final rest for which we
live and labour as we can, most useful and most necessary it is to see
this mark in order to aim at it the bow of this our work. And it is
most essential to make it inviting to those who do not see the mark
when simply pointed out. Leaving alone, then, the opinion which
Epicurus the philosopher had concerning it, and that which Zeno
likewise had, I intend to come summarily to the true opinion of
Aristotle and of the other Peripatetics. As it is said above, of the
Divine Goodness sown and infused in us, from the original cause of our
production, there springs up a shoot, which the Greeks term "hormen,"
that is to say, the natural appetite of the soul.

And as it is with the blades of corn which, when they first shoot
forth, have in the beginning one similar appearance, being in the
grass-like stage, and then, by process of time, they become unlike, so
this Natural appetite, which springs from the Divine Grace, in the
beginning appears as it were not unlike that which comes nakedly from
Nature; but with it, even as the herbage born of various grains of
corn, it has the same appearance, as it were: and not only in the
blades of corn, but in men and in beasts there is the same similitude.
And it appears that every animal, as soon as it is born, both rational
and brute beast, loves itself, and fears and flies from those things
which are adverse to it, and hates them, then proceeding as has been
said. And there begins a difference between them in the progress of
this Natural appetite, for the one keeps to one road, and the other to
another; even as the Apostle says: "Many run to the goal, but there is
but one who reaches it." Even thus these Human appetites from the
beginning run through different paths, and there is one path alone
which leads us to our peace; and therefore, leaving all the others
alone, it is for the treatise to follow the course of that one who
begins well.

I say, then, that from the beginning a man loves himself, although
indistinctly; then comes the distinguishing of those things which to
him are more or less; to be more or less loved or hated; and he
follows after and flies from either more or less according as the
right habit distinguishes, not only in the other things which he loves
in a secondary manner, for he even distinguishes in himself which
thing he loves principally; and perceiving in himself divers parts,
those which are the noblest in him he loves most. But, since the
noblest part of man is the Mind, he loves that more than the Body; and
thus, loving himself principally, and through himself other things,
and of himself loving the better part most, it is evident that he
loves the Mind more than the Body or any other thing; and the Mind it
is that, naturally, more than any other thing he ought to love.

Then, if the Mind always delights in the use of the beloved thing,
which is the fruit of love, the use of that thing which is especially
beloved is especially delightful: the use of our Mind is especially
delightful to us, and that which is especially delightful to us
becomes our Happiness and our Beatitude, beyond which there is no
greater delight or pleasure, nor any equal to it, as may be seen by
him who looks well at the preceding argument.

And no one ought to say that every appetite is Mind; for here one
understands Mind solely as that which belongs to the Rational part,
that is, the Will and the Intellect; so that if any one should wish to
call Mind the appetite of the Senses, here it has no place, nor can it
have any abiding; for no one doubts that the Rational appetite is more
noble than the Sensual, and therefore more to be loved; and so is this
of which we are now speaking.

The use of our Mind is double, that is to say, Practical and
Speculative (it is Practical insomuch as it has the power of acting);
both the one and the other are delightful in their use, but that of
Contemplation is the most pleasing, as has been said above. The use of
the Practical is to act in or through us virtuously, that is to say,
honestly or uprightly, with Prudence, with Temperance, with Courage,
and with Justice. The use of the Speculative is not to work or act
through us, but to consider the works of God and of Nature. This and
the other form our Beatitude and Supreme Happiness, which is the
sweetness of the before-mentioned seed, as now clearly appears. To
this often such seed does not attain, through being ill cultivated, or
through its tender growing shoots being perverted. In like manner it
is quite possible, by much correction and cultivation of him into whom
this seed does not fall primarily, to induce it by the process of
steady endeavour after goodness, so that it may attain to the power of
bearing this fruit. And it is, as it were, a method of grafting the
nature of another upon a different stock.

No man, therefore, can hold himself excused; for if from his natural
root the man does not produce sweet fruit, it is possible for him to
have it by the process of grafting; and in fact there would be as many
who should be grafted as those are who, sprung from a good root, allow
themselves to grow degenerate.

Of the two ways of goodness, one is more full of bliss than the other,
as is the Speculative, which is the use of our noblest part without
any alloy, and which, for the root, Love, as has been said, is
especially to be loved as the intellect. And in this life it is not
possible to have the use of this part perfectly, which is to see God,
who is the Supreme Being to be comprehended by the Mind, except
inasmuch as the intellect considers Him and beholds Him through His
effects, His Works. And that we may seek this Beatitude as the
supreme, and not the other, that is, that of the Active Life, the
Gospel of St. Mark teaches us, if we will look at it well.

Mark says that Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Mary
Salome went to find the Saviour in the Tomb, and they found Him not,
but they found a youth clothed in white, who said to them: "You seek
the Saviour, and I tell you that He is not here; and therefore be not
affrighted, but go and tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth
before you into Galilee; and there ye shall see Him, as He said unto
you." By these three women may be understood the three sects of the
Active Life, that is to say, the Epicureans, the Stoics, and the
Peripatetics, who go to the Tomb, that is to say, to the present
World, which is the receptacle of corruptible things, and seek for the
Saviour, that is, Beatitude, and they find it not; but they find a
youth in white garments, who, according to the testimony of Matthew,
and also of the other Evangelists, was an Angel of God. And therefore
Matthew said: "The Angel of the Lord descended from Heaven, and came
and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His
countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow." The
Angel is this Nobility of ours which comes from God, as it has been
said, of which our argument speaks, and says to each one of these
sects, that is, to whoever seeks perfect Happiness in the Active Life,
that it is not here; but go and tell the disciples and Peter, that is,
tell those who seek for it and those who are gone astray like Peter,
who had denied Him, that He will go before them into Galilee; meaning
that the Beatitude or Happiness will go before us into Galilee, that
is, into Contemplation; Galilee is as much as to say, Whiteness.
Whiteness is a colour full of material light, more so than any other;
and thus, Contemplation is more full of Spiritual light than any other
thing which is below.

And it says, "He will go before you," but it does not say, "He will be
with you," to make us understand that in our contemplation God always
goes before. Nor is it ever possible to us to attain to Him here, to
Him, our Supreme Bliss. And it says, "There shall ye see Him, as He
said unto you;" that is to say, there you will receive of His
Sweetness, that is, of the Happiness as it is promised to you here, as
it is established that you may receive it.

And thus it appears that our Beatitude, this Happiness of which we
speak, first we are able to find imperfect in the Active Life, that
is, in the operations of the Moral Virtues, and then almost perfect in
the operations of the Intellectual Virtues; which two operations are
speedy and most direct ways to lead to the Supreme Bliss, which it is
not possible to have here below, even as appears by that which has
been said.


Since the definition of Nobility is sufficiently demonstrated, and
since in all its parts it has been made as explicit as possible, so
that we can now see who is the Nobleman, it seems right to proceed to
the part of the text which begins, "Souls whom this Grace adorns," in
whom appear the signs by which it is possible to know the Noble Man.

This part is divided into two. In the first it affirms that this
Nobility is resplendent, and that it shines forth manifestly during
the whole life of the Noble Man; in the second it appears specifically
in its glory, and this second part begins, "In Childhood they obey."
With regard to the first part, it is to be known that this Divine
seed, which has been previously spoken of, germinates immediately in
our Soul, combining with and changing its form with each form of the
Soul, according to the exigency of that power. It germinates, then, as
the Vegetative, as the Sensitive, and as the Rational, and it branches
out through the virtues or powers of all of them, guiding all those to
their perfection, and sustaining itself in them always, even to the
point when, with that part of our Soul which never dies, it returns to
the highest and the most glorious Sower of the seed in Heaven; and it
expresses this in that first part which has been mentioned. Then when
it says, "In Childhood they obey, Are gentle, modest," it shows how we
can recognize the Noble Man by the apparent signs, which are the
Divine operation of this goodness. And this part is divided into four,
as it is made to represent four different ages, such as Adolescence,
Youth, Old Age, and Extreme Old Age. The second part begins, "Are
temperate in Youth;" the third begins, "Are prudent in their Age;" the
fourth begins, "The fourth part of their life." Herein is contained
the purpose of this part in general, with regard to which it is
desirable to know that each effect, inasmuch as it is an effect,
receives the likeness of its cause in proportion as it is capable of
retaining it.

Wherefore, since our life, as has been said, and also the life of
every living creature here below, is caused by Heaven, Heaven is
revealed in all such effects as these, not, indeed, with the complete
circle, but with part of it, in them. Thus its movement must be not
only with them, but beyond them, and as one arch of life retains (and
I say retains, not only of men, but also of other living creatures)
almost all the lives, ascending and descending, they must be, as it
were, similar in appearance to the form of the arch. Returning, then,
to our course of life which at present we are seeking to understand, I
say that it proceeds after the manner of this arch, ascending and
descending. And it is to be known that the ascent of this arch should
be equal to its descent, if the material of the seed from which we
spring, so complex in its nature, did not impede the law of Human
Nature. But since the humid root is of better quality more or less,
and stronger to endure in one effect more than in another, being
subject to the nutriment of the heat, which is our life, it happens
that the arch of the life of one man is of less or of greater extent
than that of another, life being shortened by a violent death or by
some accidental injury; but that which is called natural by the people
is that span of which it is said by the Psalmist, "Thou settest up a
boundary which it is not possible to pass." And since the Master among
those here living, Aristotle, had perception of this arch of which we
now speak, and seems to be of opinion that our life should be no other
than one ascent and one descent, therefore he says, in that chapter
where he treats of Youth and of Old Age, that Youth is no other than
an increase of life. Where the top of this arch may be, it is
difficult to know, on account of the inequality which has been spoken
of above, but for the most part I believe between the thirtieth and
the fortieth year, and I believe that in the perfectly natural man it
is at the thirty-fifth year. And this reason has weight with me: that
our Saviour Jesus Christ was a perfect natural man, who chose to die
in the thirty-fourth year of His age; for it was not suitable for the
Deity to have place in the descending segment; neither is it to be
believed that He would not wish to dwell in this life of ours even to
the summit of it, since He had been in the lower part even from
childhood. And the hour of the day of His death makes this evident,
for He willed that to conform with His life; wherefore Luke says that
it was about the sixth hour when He died, that is to say, the height
or supreme point of the day; wherefore it is possible to comprehend by
that, as it were, that at the thirty-fifth year of Christ was the
height or supreme point of His age. Truly this arch is not half
distinguished in the Scriptures, but if we follow the four connecting
links of the differing qualities which are in our composition, to each
one of which appears to be appropriated one part of our age, it is
divided into four parts, and they are called the four ages. The first
is Adolescence, which is appropriated to the hot and moist; the second
is Youth, which is appropriated to the hot and dry; the third is Old
Age, which is appropriated to the cold and dry; the fourth is Extreme
Old Age, which is appropriated to the cold and moist, as Albertus
Magnus writes in the fourth chapter of the Metaura. And these parts or
divisions are made in a similar manner in the year--in Spring, in
Summer, in Autumn, and in Winter. And it is the same in the day even
to the third hour, and then even to the ninth, leaving the sixth in
the middle of this part, or division, for the reason which is
understood, and then even to vespers, and from vespers onwards. And
therefore the Gentiles said that the chariot of the Sun had four
horses; they called the first Eoo, the second Piroi, the third Eton,
the fourth Phlegon, even as Ovid writes in the second book of the
Metamorphoses concerning the parts or divisions of the day.

And, briefly, it is to be known that, as it has been said above in the
sixth chapter of the third treatise, the Church makes use of the hours
temporal in the division of the day, which hours are twelve in each
day, long or short according to the amount of sunlight; and because
the sixth hour, that is, the midday, is the most noble of the whole
day, and has in it the most virtue, the Offices of the Church are
approximated thereto in each side, that is, from the prime, and thence
onwards as much as possible; and therefore the Office of prime, that
is, the tertius, is said at the end of that part, and that of the
third part and of the fourth is said at the beginning; and therefore,
before the clock strikes in a division of the day, it is termed
half-third or mid-tertius; or mid-nones, when in that division the
clock has struck, and thus mid-vespers.

And, therefore, let each one know that the right and lawful nones
ought always to strike or sound at the beginning of the seventh hour
of the day, and let this suffice to the present digression.


Returning to the proposition, I say that Human Life is divided into
four ages or stages. The first is called Adolescence, that is, the
growth or increase of life; the second is called Youth, that is, the
age which can give perfection, and for this reason one understands
this Youth to be perfect, because no man can give except of that which
he has; the third is called Old Age; the fourth is called Senility,
Extreme Old Age, as has been said above.

Of the first no one doubts, but each wise man agrees that it lasts
even to the twenty-fifth year; and up to that time our Soul waits for
the increase and the embellishment of the body. While there are many
and very great changes in the person, the rational part cannot possess
perfectly the power of discretion; wherefore, the Civil Law wills
that, previous to that age, a man cannot do certain things without a
guardian of perfect age.

Of the second, which is the height of our life, the time is variously
taken by many. But leaving that which philosophers and medical men
write concerning it, and returning to the proper argument, we may say
that, in most men in whom one can and ought to be guided by natural
judgment, that age lasts for twenty years. And the reason which leads
me to this conclusion is, that the height or supreme point of our arc
or bow is in the thirty-fifth year; just so much as this age has of
ascent, so much it ought to have of descent; and this ascent passes
into descent, as it were, at the point, the centre, where one would
hold the bow in the hand, at which place a slight flexion may be
discerned. We are of opinion, then, that Youth is completed in the
forty-fifth year.

And as Adolescence is in the twenty-five years which proceed mounting
upwards to Youth: so the descent, that is, Old Age, is an equal amount
of time which succeeds to Youth; and thus Old Age terminates in the
seventieth year.

But because Adolescence does not begin at the beginning of
life--taking it in the way which has been said--but about eight months
from birth; and because our life strives to ascend, and curbs itself
in the descent; because the natural heat is lessened and can do
little, and the moist humour is increased, not in quantity, but in
quality, so that it is less able to evaporate and be consumed; it
happens that beyond Old Age there remains of our life an amount,
perhaps, of about ten years, a little more or a little less; and this
time of life is termed Extreme Old Age, or Senility. Wherefore we know
of Plato (of whom one may well say that he was a son of Nature, both
because of his perfection and because of his countenance, which caused
Socrates to love him when first he saw him), that he lived eighty and
one years, according to the testimony of Tullius in that book On Old
Age. And I believe that if Christ had not been crucified, and if He
might have lived the length of time which His life according to nature
could have passed over, at eighty and one years He would have been
transformed from the mortal body into the eternal.

Truly, as has been said above, these ages may be longer or shorter
according to our complexion or temper and our constitution or
composition; but, as they are, it seems to me that I observe this
proportion in all men, as has been said, that is to say, that in such
men the ages may be made longer or shorter according to the integrity
of the whole term of the natural life.

Throughout all these ages this Nobility of which we speak manifests
its effects in different ways in the ennobled Soul; and it is that
which this part of the Song, concerning which we write at present,
intends to demonstrate. Where it is to be known that our good and
upright nature makes forward progress in us in the reasoning powers,
as we see the nature of the plants make forward progress; and
therefore it is that different manners and different deportment are to
be held reasonable at one age rather than at another. The ennobled
Soul proceeds in due order along a single path, employing each of its
powers in its time and season, or even as they are all ordained to the
final production of the perfect fruit. And Tullius is in harmony with
this in his book On Old Age. And putting aside the figurative sense
which Virgil holds in the Æneid concerning this different progress of
the ages, and letting that be which Egidius the hermit mentions in the
first part On the Government of Princes, and letting that be to which
Tullius alludes in his book Of Offices, and following that alone which
Reason can see of herself, I say that this first age is the door and
the path through which and along which we enter into our good life,
And this entrance must of necessity have certain things which the good
Nature, which fails not in things necessary, gives to us; as we see
that she gives to the vine the leaves for the protection of the fruit,
and the little tendrils which enable it to twine round its supports,
and thus bind up its weakness, so that it can sustain the weight of
its fruit. Beneficent Nature gives, then, to this age four things
necessary to the entrance into the City of the Good Life. The first is
Obedience, the second Suavity, the third Modesty, the fourth Beauty of
the Body, even as the Song says in the first section of this part. It
is, then, to be known that like one who has never been in a city, who
would not know how to find his way about the streets without
instruction from one who is accustomed to them, even so the adolescent
who enters into the Wood of Error of this life would not know how to
keep to the good path if it were not pointed out to him by his elders.
Neither would the instruction avail if he were not obedient to their
commands, and therefore at this age obedience is necessary. Here it
might be possible for some one to speak thus: Then, is that man to be
called obedient who shall follow evil guidance as well as he who shall
believe the good? I reply that this would not be obedience, but
transgression. For if the King should issue a command in one way and
the servant give forth the command in another, it would not be right
to obey the servant, for that would be to disobey the King; and thus
it would be transgression. And therefore Solomon says, when he intends
to correct his son, and this is his first commandment: "Listen, my
son, to the instruction of thy father." And then he seeks to remove
him immediately from the counsel and teaching of the wicked man,
saying, "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not."

Wherefore, as soon as he is born, the son clings to the breast of the
mother; even so soon as some light of the Mind appears in him, he
ought to turn to the correction of the father, and the father to
instruction. And let the father take heed that he himself does not set
him an example in work or action that is contrary to the words of the
correction; for naturally we see each son look more to the footprints
of the paternal feet than to those of other men. And therefore the
Law, which provides for this, says and commands that the life of the
father should appear to his sons always honourable and upright. Thus
it appears that obedience was necessary in this age; and therefore
Solomon writes in the Book of Proverbs, that he who humbly and
obediently sustains his just reproofs from the corrector shall be
glorious. And he says "shall be," to cause men to understand that he
speaks to the adolescent, who cannot be so in his present age. And if
any one should reflect on me because I have said obedience is due to
the father and not to other men, I say that to the father all other
obedience ought to be referred; wherefore the Apostle says to the
Colossians: "Sons, obey your fathers in all things, for such is the
will of God." And if the father be not in this life, the son ought to
refer to that which is said by the father in his last Will as a
father; and if the father die intestate, the son ought to refer to him
to whom the Law commits his authority; and then ought the masters and
elders to be obeyed, for this appears to be a reasonable charge laid
upon the son by the father, or by him who stands in the father's

But because this present chapter has been long, on account of the
useful digressions which it contains, in another chapter other things
shall be discussed.


Not only this Soul, naturally good in Adolescence, is obedient, but
also gentle; which is the other thing necessary in this age to make a
good entrance through the portal of Youth.

It is necessary, since we cannot have a perfect life without friends,
as Aristotle expresses it in the eighth book of Ethics; and the seed
of the greater number of friendships seems to be sown in the first age
of life, because in it a man begins to be gracious or the contrary.
Such graciousness is acquired by gentle rules of conduct, as are sweet
and courteous speech, gentle service courteously rendered, and actions
kindly done or performed. And therefore Solomon says to the adolescent
son: "Surely God scorneth the scorners; but He giveth grace unto the
lowly." And elsewhere he says: "Put away from thee a forward mouth,
and perverse lips put far from thee." Wherefore it appears that, as
has been said, this suavity or affability is necessary.

Likewise to this age the passion of modesty is necessary; and
therefore the nature which is good and noble shows it in this age,
even as the Song says. And since modesty is the clearest sign, in
Adolescence, of Nobility, because there it is especially necessary to
the good foundation of our life, at which the noble nature aims, it is
right to speak of it somewhat. By modesty I mean three passions or
strong feelings necessary to the foundation of our good life: the one
is wonder, the next is modesty, the third is shame, although the
common people do not discern this distinction. And all three of these
are necessary to this life, for this reason: at this age it is
requisite to be reverent and desirous for knowledge; at this age it is
necessary or requisite to be self-controlled, so as not to transgress
or pass beyond due bounds; at this age it is necessary to be penitent
for a fault, so as not to grow accustomed to doing wrong. And all
these things the aforesaid passions or strong feelings do, which
vulgarly are called shame; for wonder is an amazement of the mind at
beholding great and wonderful things, at hearing them, or feeling them
in some way or other; for, inasmuch as they appear great, they excite
reverence in him who sees them; inasmuch as they appear wonderful,
they make him who perceives them desirous of knowledge concerning
them. And therefore the ancient Kings in their palaces or habitations
set up magnificent works in gold and in marble and works of art, in
order that those who should see them should become astonished, and
therefore reverent inquirers into the honourable conditions of the
King. Therefore Statius, the sweet Poet, in the first part of the
Theban History, says that, when Adrastus, King of the Argives, saw
Polynices covered with the skin of a lion, and saw Tydeus covered with
the hide of a wild boar, and recalled to mind the reply that Apollo
had given concerning his daughters, he became amazed, and therefore
more reverent and more desirous for knowledge. Modesty is a shrinking,
a drawing-back of the mind from unseemly things, with the fear of
falling into them; even as we see in virgins and in good women, and in
adolescent or young men, who are so modest that not only when they are
tempted to do wrong, and urged to do so, but even when some fancied
joy flashes across the mind, the feeling is depicted in the face,
which either grows pale with fear, or flushes rosy-red. Wherefore the
before-mentioned poet, in the first book of the Thebaid already
quoted, says that when Acesta the nurse of Argia and Deiphile, the
daughters of King Adrastus, led them before the eyes of their holy
father into the presence of the two pilgrims, that is to say,
Polynices and Tydeus, the virgins grew pale and blushed rosy-red, and
their eyes shunned the glance of any other person, and they kept them
fixed on the paternal face alone, as if there were safety. This
modesty--how many errors does it bridle in, or repress? On how many
immodest questions and impure things does it impose silence! How much
dishonest greed does it repress! In the chaste woman, against how many
evil temptations does it rouse mistrust, not only in her, but also in
him who watches over her! How many unseemly words does it restrain!
for, as Tullius says in the first chapter of the Offices: "No action
is unseemly which is not unseemly in the naming." And furthermore, the
Modest and Noble Man never could speak in such a manner that to a
woman his words would not be decent and such as she could hear. Alas,
how great is the evil in every man who seeks for honour, to mention
things which would be deemed evil in the mouth of any woman!

Shame is a fear of dishonour through fault committed, and from this
fear there springs up a penitence for the fault, which has in itself a
bitter sorrow or grief, which is a chastisement and preservative
against future wrong-doing. Wherefore this same poet says, in that
same part, that when Polynices was questioned by King Adrastus
concerning his life, he hesitated at first through shame to speak of
the crime which he had committed against his father, and also for the
sins of Oedipus, his father, which appeared to remain in the shame of
the son; therefore he named not his father, but his ancestors, and his
country, and his mother; and therefore it does indeed appear that
shame is necessary to that age. And the noble nature reveals in this
age, not only obedience, gentleness, affability, and modesty, but it
shows beauty and agility of body, even as the Song expresses: "To
furnish Virtue's person with The graces it may need." Here it is to be
known that this work of beneficent Nature is also necessary to our
good life, for our Soul must work in the greater part of all its
operations with a bodily organ; and then it works well when the body
through all its parts is well proportioned and appointed. And when it
is well proportioned and appointed, then it is beautiful throughout
and in all its parts; for the due ordering or proportion of our limbs
produces a pleasing impression of I know not what of wonderful
harmony; and the good disposition, that is to say, the health of mind
and body, throws over all a colouring sweet to behold. And thus to say
that the noble nature takes heed for the graces of the body, and makes
it fair and harmonious, is tantamount to saying that it prepares it
and renders it fit to attain the perfection ordained for it: and those
other things which have been discussed seem to be requisite to
Adolescence, which the noble Mind, that is to say, the noble Nature,
furnishes forth to it in the first years of life, as growth of the
seed sown therein by the Divine Providence.


Since the first section of this part, which shows how we can recognize
the Noble Man by apparent signs, is reasoned out, it is right to
proceed to the second section, which begins: "Are temperate in Youth,
And resolutely strong."

It says, then, that as the noble Nature in Adolescence or the
Spring-time of Youth appears obedient, gentle, and modest, the
beautifier of its person, so in Youth it is temperate, strong, and
loving, courteous and loyal; which five things appear to be, and are,
necessary to our perfection, inasmuch as we have respect unto
ourselves. And with regard to this it is desirable to know that just
as the noble Nature prepares in the first age, it is prepared and
ordained by the care or foresight of Universal Nature, which ordains
and appoints the particular Nature where-ever existing, to attain its

This perfection of ours may be considered in a double sense. It is
possible to consider it as it has respect to ourselves, and we ought
to possess this in our Youth, which is the culminating point of our
life. It is possible to consider it as it has respect to others, and
since in the first place it is necessary to be perfect, and then to
communicate the perfection to others, it is requisite to possess this
secondary perfection after this age, that is to say, in Old Age, as
will be said subsequently. Here, then, it is needful to recall to mind
that which was argued in the twenty-second chapter of this treatise
concerning the appetite or impulse which is born in us. This appetite
or impulse never does aught else but to pursue and to flee, and
whenever it pursues that which is to be pursued, and as far as is
right, and flies from that which is to be fled from, and as much as is
right, then is the man within the limits of his perfection. Truly,
this appetite or natural impulse must have Reason for its rider; for
as a horse at liberty, however noble it may be by nature, by itself
without the good rider does not conduct itself well, even thus this
appetite, however noble it may be, must obey Reason, which guides it
with the bridle and spur, as the good knight uses the bridle when he
hunts. And that bridle is termed Temperance, which marks the limit up
to which it is lawful to pursue; he uses the spur in flight to turn
the horse away from the place from which he would flee away; and this
spur is called Courage, or rather Magnanimity, a Virtue that points
out the place at which it is right to stop, and to resist evil even to
mortal combat. And thus Virgil, our greatest Poet, represents Æneas as
under the influence of powerful self control in that part of the Æneid
wherein this age is typified, which part comprehends the fourth and
the fifth and the sixth books of the Æneid. And what self-restraint
was that when, having received from Dido so much pleasure, as will be
spoken of in the seventh treatise, and enjoying so much delectation
with her, he departed, in order to follow the upright and praiseworthy
path fruitful of good works, even as it is written in the fourth book
of the Æneid! What impetus was that when Æneas had the fortitude alone
with Sybilla to enter into Hades, to search for the Soul of his father
Anchises, in the face of so many dangers, as it is shown in the sixth
book of the Æneid. Wherefore it appears that in our Youth, in order to
be in our perfection, we must be Temperate and Brave. The good
disposition secures this for us, even as the Song expressly states.

Again, at this age it is necessary to its perfection to be Loving;
because at this age it is requisite to look behind and before, as
being midway over the arch. The youth ought to love his elders, from
whom he has received his being, and his nutriment, and his
instruction, so that he may not appear ungrateful. He ought to love
his juniors, since, in loving them, he gives them of his good gifts,
for which in after-years, when the younger friends are prospering, he
may be supported and honoured by them. And the poet named above, in
the fifth book before-mentioned, makes it evident that Æneas possessed
this loving disposition, when he left the aged Trojans in Sicily,
recommended to Acestes, and set them free from the fatigues of the
voyage; and when he instructed, in the same place, Ascanius his son,
with the other young men, in jousting or in feats of arms; wherefore
it appears that to this age Love is necessary, even as the Song says.

Again, to this age Courtesy is necessary, for, although to every age
it is right or beautiful to be possessed of courteous manners, to this
age it is especially necessary, because, on the contrary, Old Age,
with its gravity and its severity, cannot possess courtesy, if it has
been wanting in this youthful period of life; and with Extreme Old Age
it is the same in a greater degree. And that most noble poet, in the
sixth book before-mentioned, proves that Æneas possessed this
courtesy, when he says that Æneas, then King, in order to pay honour
to the dead body of Misenus, who had been the trumpeter of Hector, and
afterwards accompanied Æneas, made himself ready and took the axe to
assist in cutting the logs for the fire which must burn the dead body,
as was their custom. Wherefore this courtesy does indeed appear to be
necessary to Youth; and therefore the noble Soul reveals it in that
age, as has been said.

Again, it is necessary to this age to be Loyal. Loyalty is to follow
and to put in operation that which the Laws command, and this
especially is necessary in the young man; because the adolescent, as
it has been said, on account of his minority, merits ready pardon; the
old man, on account of greater experience, ought to be just, but not a
follower of the Law except inasmuch as his upright judgment and the
Law are at one as it were; and almost without any Law he ought to be
able to follow the dictates of his own just mind. The young man is not
able to do this, and it is sufficient that he should obey the Law, and
take delight in that obedience; even as the before-said poet says, in
the fifth book previously mentioned, that Æneas did when he instituted
the games in Sicily on the anniversary of his father's death, for what
he promised for the victories he loyally gave to each victor,
according to their ancient custom, which was their Law.

Wherefore, it is evident that, to this age, Loyalty, Courtesy, Love,
Courage, and Temperance are necessary, even as the Song says, which at
present I have reasoned out; and therefore the noble Soul reveals them


That section which the text puts forward having been reasoned out and
made sufficiently clear, showing the qualities of uprightness which
the noble Soul puts into Youth, we go on to pay attention to the third
part, which begins, "Are prudent in their Age," in which the Song
intends to show those qualities which the noble Nature reveals and
ought to possess in the third age, that is to say, Old Age. And it
says that the noble Soul in Old Age is prudent, is just, is liberal
and cheerful, willing to speak kindly and for the good of others, and
ready to listen for the same reason, that is to say, that it is
affable. And truly these four Virtues are most suitable to this age.
And, in order to perceive this, it is to be known that, as Tullius
says in his book On Old Age, "Our life has a certain course, and one
simple path, that of natural moral goodness; and to each part of our
age there is given a season for certain things." Wherefore, as to
Adolescence is given, as has been said above, that by means of which
it may attain perfection and maturity, so to youth is given perfection
and maturity in order that the sweetness of its perfect fruit may be
profitable to the man himself and to others; for, as Aristotle says,
man is a civil or polite animal, because it is required of him to be
useful, not only to himself, but to others as well. Wherefore one
reads of Cato, that he believed himself to be born not only to
himself, but to his country and to all the world. Then after our own
perfection, which is acquired in Youth, there must follow that which
may give light not only to one's self, but to others as well; and a
man ought to open and broaden like a rose as it were, which can no
longer remain closed, and spread abroad the sweet odour which is bred
within; and this ought to be the case in that third age which we have
now in hand.

Then it must be Prudent, that is to say, Wise. And, in order to be
this, a good memory of the things which have been seen is requisite,
and a good knowledge of present things, and good foresight for things
of the future. And, as the Philosopher says in the sixth book of
Ethics, it is impossible for the man who is not good to be wise; and
therefore he is not to be called a wise man who acts with cunning and
with deception, but he is to be called an astute man. As no one would
call him a wise man who might indeed know how to draw with the point
of a knife in the pupil of the eye, even so he is not to be called a
wise man who knows how to do a bad thing well, in the doing of which
he must always first injure some other person. If we consider well,
good counsel springs from Prudence, which leads or guides a man, and
other men, to a good end in human affairs. And this is that gift which
Solomon, perceiving himself to be placed as ruler over the people,
asked of God, even as it is written in the Third Book of Kings; nor
does the prudent man wait for counsel to be asked of him; but of
himself, foreseeing the need for it, unasked he gives counsel or
advice; like the rose, which not only to him who goes to her for her
sweet odour freely gives it, but also to any one who passes near.

Here it would be possible for any doctor or lawyer to say: Then shall
I carry my counsel or advice, and shall I give it even before it be
asked of me, and shall I not reap fruit from my art or skill? I reply
in the words of our Saviour: "Freely ye have received, freely give." I
say, then, Master Lawyer, that those counsels which have no respect to
thine art, and which proceed alone from that good sense or wisdom
which God gave thee (which is the prudence of which we speak), thou
oughtest not to sell to the sons or children of Him who has given it
to thee. But those counsels which belong to the art which thou hast
purchased, thou mayst sell; but not in such a way but that at any time
the tenth part of them may be fitly set apart and given unto God, that
is, to those unhappy ones to whom the Divine protection is all that is

Likewise at this age it is right to be Just, in order that the
judgments and the authority of the man may be a light and a law to
other men. And because this particular Virtue, that is to say,
Justice, was seen by the ancient philosophers to appear perfect in men
of this age, they entrusted the government of the cities to those men
who had attained that age; and therefore the college of Rectors was
called the Senate. Oh, my unhappy, unhappy country! how my heart is
wrung with pity for thee whenever I read, whenever I write, anything
which may have reference to Civil Government! But since in the last
treatise of this book Justice will be discussed, to the present let
this slight notice of it suffice.

Also at this age a man ought to be liberal, because a thing is then
most suitable when it gives most satisfaction to the due requirements
of its nature: nor to the due requirements of Liberality is it ever
possible to give more satisfaction than at this age. For if we will
look well at the argument of Aristotle in the fourth book of Ethics,
and at that of Tullius in his book Of Offices, Liberality desires to
be seasonable in place and time; so that the liberal man may not
injure himself nor other men; which thing it is not possible to have
without Prudence and without Justice, Virtues that previous to this
age it is impossible to have or possess in perfection in the Natural

Alas! ye base-born ones, born under evil stars, ye who rob the widows
and orphans, who ravish or despoil those who possess least, who steal
from and occupy or usurp the homes of other men, and with that spoil
you furnish forth feasts, women, horses, arms, robes, money; you wear
wonderful garments, you build marvellous palaces; and you believe that
you do deeds of great liberality: and this is no other than to take
the cloth from the altar and to cover therewith the thief and his
table! Not otherwise one ought to laugh, O tyrants, at your bounteous
liberality than at the thief who should lead the invited guests into
his house to his feast, and place upon his table the cloth stolen from
the altar, with the ecclesiastical signs inwoven, and should not
believe that other men might perceive the sacrilege. Hear, O ye
obstinate men, what Tullius says against you in the book Of Offices:
"Certainly there are many, desirous of being great and glorious, who
rob some that they may give to others, believing themselves to be
esteemed good men if they enrich their friends with what the Law
allows. But this is so opposite or contrary to that which ought to be
done, that nothing is more wrong."

At this age also a man ought to be Affable, to speak for the good of
others, and to listen to such speech willingly, since it is good for a
man to discourse kindly at an age when he is listened to. And this age
also has with it a shadow of authority, for which reason it appears
that the aged man is more likely to be listened to than a person in a
younger period of life. And of most good and beautiful Truths it seems
that a man ought to have knowledge after the long experience of life.
Wherefore Tullius says, in that book On Old Age, in the person of Cato
the elder: "To me is increased the desire and the delight to remain in
conversation longer than I am wont." And that all four of these things
are right and proper to this age, Ovid teaches, in the seventh chapter
of Metamorphoses, in that fable where he writes how Cephalus of Athens
came to Æacus the King for help in the war which Athens had with the
Cretans. He shows that Æacus, an old man, was prudent when, having,
through pestilence caused by corruption of the air, lost almost all
his people, he wisely had recourse to God, and besought of Him the
restoration of the dead; and for his wisdom, which in patience
possessed him and caused him to turn to God, his people were restored
to him in greater number than before. He shows that he was just, when
he says that Æacus was the divider and the distributor of his deserted
land to his new people. He shows that Æacus was generous or liberal
when he said to Cephalus, after his request for aid: "O Athens! ask me
not to render assistance, but take it yourself; doubt not the strength
of the forces which this island possesses, nor the power of my state
and realm; troops are not wanting to us, nay, we have them in excess
for offence and defence; it is indeed a happy time to give you aid,
and without excuse."

Alas, how many things are to be observed in this reply! but to a good,
intelligent man it is sufficient for it to be placed here, even as
Ovid puts it. He shows that Æacus was affable when he described, in a
long speech to Cephalus, the history of the pestilence which destroyed
his people, and the restoration of the same, which he tells readily.

It is clear enough, then, that to this age four things are suitable,
because the noble Nature reveals them in it, even as the Song says.
And that the example given may be the more memorable, Æacus says that
he was the father of Telamon and Peleus and of Phocus, from which
Telamon sprang Ajax and from Peleus Achilles.


Following the section which has been discussed, we have now to proceed
to the last, that is, to that which begins, "The fourth part of their
life Weds them again to God," by which the text intends to show what
the noble Soul does in the last age, that is, in Extreme Old Age, that
is, Senility. And it says that it does two things: the one, that it
returns to God as to that port or haven whence it departed when it
issued forth to enter into the sea of this life; the other is, that it
blesses the voyage which it has made, because it has been upright,
straight, and good, and without the bitterness of storm and tempest.

And here it is to be known that, even as Tullius says in that book On
Old Age, the natural death is, as it were, a port or haven to us after
our long voyage and a place of rest. And the Virtuous Man who dies
thus is like the good mariner; for, as he approaches the port or
haven, he strikes his sails, and gently, with feeble steering, enters
port. Even thus we ought to strike the sails of our worldly affairs,
and turn to God with all our heart and mind, so that one may come into
that haven with all sweetness and all peace.

And in this we have from our own proper nature great instruction in
gentleness, for in such a death as this there is no pain nor
bitterness, but even as a ripe apple easily and without violence
detaches itself from its branch, so our Soul without grief separates
itself from the body wherein it has dwelt.

Aristotle, in his book On Youth and Old Age, says that the death which
overtakes us in old age is without sadness. And as to him who comes
from a long journey, before he enters into the gate of his city, the
citizens thereof go forth to meet him, so do those citizens of the
Eternal Life go forth to meet the noble Soul; and they do thus because
of his good works and acts of contemplation, which were of old
rendered unto God and withdrawn from worldly affairs and thoughts.
Hear what Tullius says in the person of Cato the elder: "It seems to
me that already I see, and I uplift myself in the greatest desire to
see, your fathers, whom I loved, and not only those whom I knew
myself, but also those of whom I have heard spoken." In this age,
then, the noble Soul renders itself unto God, and awaits the end of
this life with much desire; and to itself it seems that it goes out
from the Inn to return home to the Father's mansion; to itself it
seems to have reached the end of a long journey and to have reached
the City; to itself it seems to have crossed the wide sea and returned
into the port. O, miserable men and vile, who run into this port with
sails unfurled; and there where you should find rest, are broken by
the fury of the wind and wrecked in the harbour. Truly the Knight
Lancelot chose not to enter it with sails unfurled, nor our most noble
Italian Guido da Montefeltro. These noble Spirits indeed furled the
sails after the voyage of this World, whose cares were rendered to
Religion in their long old age, when they had laid down each earthly
joy and labour. And it is not possible to excuse any man because of
the bond of matrimony, which may hold him in his old age, from turning
to Religion, even as he who adopts the habit of St. Benedict and St.
Augustine and St. Francis and St. Dominic and the like mode of life,
but also it is possible to turn to a good and true Religion whilst
remaining in the bonds of matrimony, for God asks of us no more than
the religious heart. And therefore St. Paul says to the Romans: "For
he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision
which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly;
and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the
letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."

And the Noble Soul in this age blesses likewise the time that is past,
and it may well bless it; because when Memory turns back to them, the
Noble Soul remembers her upright deeds, without which it were not
possible for her to come to the port whither she is hastening with
such wealth nor with such gain. And the Noble Soul does like the good
merchant, who, when he draws near to his port, examines his cargo, and
says: "If I had not passed along such a highway as that, I should not
possess this treasure, and I should not have wherewith to rejoice in
my city, to which I am approaching;" and therefore he blesses the
voyage he has made.

And that these two things are suitable to this age that great poet
Lucan represents to us in the second book of his Pharsalia, when he
says that Marcia returned to Cato, and entreated him that he would
take her back in his fourth and Extreme Old Age, by which Marcia the
Noble Soul is meant, and we can thus depict the symbol of it in all
Truth. Marcia was a virgin, and in that state typifies Adolescence;
she then espoused Cato, and in that state typifies Youth; she then
bore sons, by whom are typified the Virtues which are becoming to
young men, as previously described; and she departed from Cato and
espoused Hortensius, by which it is typified that she quitted Youth
and came to Old Age. She bore sons to this man also, by whom are
typified the Virtues which befit Old Age, as previously said.
Hortensius died, by which is typified the end of Old Age, and Marcia,
made a widow, by which widowhood is typified Extreme Old Age, returned
in the early days of her widowhood to Cato, whereby is typified the
Noble Soul turning to God in the beginning of Extreme Old Age. And
what earthly man was more worthy to typify God than Cato? None, of a
certainty. And what does Marcia say to Cato? "Whilst there was blood
in me [that is to say, Youth], whilst the maternal power was in me
[that is, Age, which is indeed the Mother of all other Virtues or
Powers, as has been previously shown or proved], I," says Marcia,
"fulfilled all thy commandments [that is to say, that the Soul stood
firm in obedience to the Civil Laws]." She says: "And I took two
husbands," that is to say, I have been in two fruitful periods of
life. "Now," says Marcia, "that I am weary, and that I am void and
empty, I return to thee, being no longer able to give happiness to the
other husband;" that is to say, that the Noble Soul, knowing well that
it has no longer the power to produce, that is, feeling all its
members to have grown feeble, turns to God, that is, to Him who has no
need of members of the body. And Marcia says, "Give me the ancient
covenanted privileges of the beds; give me the name alone of the
Marriage Tie;" that is to say, the Noble Soul says to God, "O my Lord,
give me now repose and rest;" the Soul says, "Give me at least
whatsoever I may have called Thine in a life so long." And Marcia
says, "Two reasons move or urge me to say this; the one is, that they
may say of me, after I am dead, that I was the wife of Cato; the other
is, that it may be said after me that thou didst not drive me away,
but didst espouse me heartily." By these two causes the Noble Soul is
stirred and desires to depart from this life as the spouse of God, and
wishes to show that God was gracious to the creature that He made. O
unhappy and baseborn men! you who prefer to depart from this life
under the name of Hortensius rather than of Cato!

From Cato's name a grace comes into the close of the discourse which
it was fit to make touching the signs of Nobility; because in him
Nobility reveals them all, through all the ages of his life.


Since the Song has demonstrated those signs which in each age or
period of life appear in the Noble Man, and by which it is possible to
know him, and without which he cannot be, even as the Sun cannot be
without light or the fire without heat, the text cries aloud to the
People in the concluding part of this treatise on Nobility, and it
says: "How many are deceived!" They are deceived who, because they are
of ancient and famous lineage, and because they are descended of
excellent and Noble fathers, believe themselves to be Noble, yet have
in themselves no Nobility. And here arise two questions, to which it
is right to attend at the end of this treatise. It would be possible
for Manfredi da Vico, who but now is called Praetor and Prefect, to
say: "Whatever I may be, I recall to mind and I represent my elders,
who deserved the Office of Prefecture because of their Nobility, and
they merited the honour of investiture at the coronation of the
Emperor, and they merited the honour of receiving the Rose of Gold
from the Roman Pontiff: I ought to receive from the People honour and
reverence." And this is one question. The other is, that it would be
possible for the scions of the families of San Nazzaro di Pavia and of
the Piscitelli of Naples to say: "If Nobility is that which has been
described, that is, that it is Divine seed graciously cast into the
human Soul, and the progeny, or offshoots, have, as is evident, no
Soul, it would not be possible to term any of its progeny or offshoots
Noble; but this is opposed to the opinion of those who assert that our
race is the most Noble in these cities."

To the first question Juvenal replies in the eighth Satire, when he
begins with exclaiming, as it were: "What is the use of all these
honours and of this glory which remain from the past, except that they
serve as a mantle or cloak to him who may wish to cover himself with
them, badly as he may live; except for him who talks of his ancestors,
and points out their great and wonderful works, giving his own mind to
miserable and vile actions?" And this satirical poet asks: "Who will
call that man Noble, because of his good race, who is not worthy of
his race? It is no other than to call the Dwarf a Giant." Then
afterwards he says to such an one as this: "Between thee and the
statue erected in memory of thine ancestor there is no other
dissimilarity except that its head is of marble and thine is alive."
And in this (with reverence I say it) I disagree with the poet, for
the statue of marble or of wood or of metal, which has remained in
memory of some worthy brave man, differs much in effect from the
wicked descendant: because the statue always confirms a good opinion
in those who have heard of the good renown or fame of him whose statue
it is, and it begets good opinion in others. But the wicked son or
nephew does quite the contrary: he weakens the good opinion of those
who have heard of the goodness of his ancestors. For some one says to
himself in his thought: "It cannot possibly be true, all this that has
been said about this man's ancestors, since from their seed one sees
an offshoot such as that." Wherefore he ought to receive not honour,
but dishonour, who bears false or evil witness against the good. And
therefore Tullius says that the son of the brave man ought to strive
to bear good witness to the father. Wherefore, in my judgment, even as
he who defames an excellent man deserves to be shunned by all people
and not listened to, even so the vile man descended from good
ancestors deserves to be banned by all; and the good man ought to
close his eyes in order not to see that infamous man casting infamy
upon the goodness which remains in Memory alone. And let this suffice
at present to the first question that was moved.

To the second question it is possible to reply that a race of itself
has no Soul; and indeed it is true that it is called Noble, but it is
in a certain way. Wherefore it is to be known that every whole is
composed of its parts, and there is a certain whole which has a simple
essence in its parts, as in one man there is one essence in all and in
each individual part; and this which is said to be in the part is said
in the same way to be in the whole. There is another whole which has
not a common essential form or essence with the parts, as a heap of
corn; but there is a secondary essence which results from many grains,
which possess in themselves a true and primary essence. And in such a
whole as this they are said to be the qualities of the parts in a
secondary way; wherefore it is called a white heap, because the grains
whereof the heap is made are white. Truly this white appearance is
more in the grains in the first place, and in the second place it
results in the whole heap, and thus secondarily it is possible to call
it white; and in such a way it is possible to call a race Noble.
Wherefore it is to be known, that as in order to make a white heap the
white grains must be most numerous, so to make a Noble race the Noble
Men must be more numerous than the others, so that their goodness,
with its good fame or renown, may cover the opposite quality which is
within. And as from a white heap of corn it would be possible to pick
up the wheat grain by grain, and substitute, grain by grain, red
maize, till, finally, the whole heap or mass would change colour, so
would it be possible for the good men of the Noble race to die out one
by one, and the wicked ones to spring up therein, who would so change
the name or fame thereof, that it would have to be called, not Noble,
but vile, or base.

And let this be a sufficient answer to the second question.


As it has been shown previously in the third chapter of this treatise,
this Song has three principal parts, whereof two have been reasoned or
argued out, the first of which begins in the aforesaid chapter, and
the second in the sixteenth (so that the first through thirteen, and
the second through fourteen chapters, passes on to an end, without
counting the Proem of the treatise on the Song, which is comprised in
two chapters), in this thirtieth and last chapter we must briefly
discuss the third principal part, which was made as a refrain and as a
species of ornament for this Song; and it begins: "My Song, Against
the strayers."

Here it is chiefly to be known that every good workman, at the end of
his work, ought to ennoble and embellish it as much as possible, that
it may leave his hands so much the more precious, and more worthy of
fame. And this I endeavour to do in this part, not as a good workman,
but as the follower of one.

I say, then, "My Song, Against the strayers." "Against the strayers"
is a phrase, as, for example, from the good friar, Thomas of Aquinas,
who, to a book of his, which he wrote to the confusion of all those
who go astray from our Faith, gave the title "Contra Gentili," Against
the Heathen. I say, then, that thou shalt go, which is as much as to
say: "Thou art now perfect, and it is now time, not to stand still,
but to go forward, for thy enterprise is great. And 'when you reach
Our Lady, hide not from her that your end Is labour that would lessen
wrong.'" Where it is to be observed that, as our Lord says, "We ought
not to cast pearls before swine," because it is not to their
advantage, and it is injury to the pearls; and, as Aesop the poet says
in the first fable, a little grain of corn is of far more worth to a
cock than a pearl, and therefore he leaves the pearl and picks up the
grain of corn: reflecting on this, as a caution, I speak and give
command to the Song that it reveal its high office where this Lady,
that is, where Philosophy, will be found. And that most noble Lady
will be found when her dwelling-place is found, that is, the Soul in
which she finds her Inn. And this Philosophy dwells not in wise men
alone, but likewise, as is proved above in another treatise, wherever
the love for her inhabits, she is there. "And to such as these," I say
to the Song, "thou mayst reveal thine office, because to them the
purpose thereof will be useful, and by them its thoughts will be
gathered in."

And I bid it say to this Lady, "I travel ever talking of your Friend."

Nobility is her Friend. For so much does the one love the other, that
Nobility always seeks her, and Philosophy does not turn aside her most
sweet glance to any other.

O, what a great and beautiful ornament is this which is given to her
in the last part of this Song, by giving to her the title of Friend,
the Friend of her whose own abode is in the most secret depths of the
Divine Mind.

       *       *       *       *       *



It is natural to suppose that Dante's death at Ravenna in 1321 caused
the Convito, a work of his latter years, to be left unfinished. But
there are arguments that have been especially dwelt upon by writers
who regard the Convito as a work begun before the conception of the
Divine Comedy, and dropped when the Poet's mind became intent upon
that masterpiece.

One argument is that the Divine Comedy is nowhere mentioned or alluded
to in the Convito. But as the place designed for the Convito is midway
between the Vita Nuova, which preceded it, and the Divine Comedy,
which was to follow, references to the poem which was not yet before
the reader would have been a fault in art.

Another argument is drawn from the fourteenth chapter of the Second
Treatise, where (on page 84 in this volume) the shadow in the Moon is
ascribed to "the rarity of its body, in which the rays of the Sun can
find no end wherefrom to strike back again as in the other parts." In
the second canto of the Purgatorio, Beatrice opposes that opinion,
whence it may be inferred that Dante had learnt better, and he speaks
of this again in a later canto (the twenty-second) as a former
opinion. This leads to an inference that the Second Treatise was
written before 1300.

Attention is due also to a passage in the third chapter of the First
Treatise (on pages 16 and 17 in this volume), in which Dante speaks of
his long exile and poverty. The exile and the wanderings of Dante
began after the year 1300. He was befriended by Guido da Polenta in
Ravenna, by Uguccione della Faggiola in Lucca, by Malaspina in the
Lunigiana, by Can Grande della Scala in Verona, by Bosone de'
Raffaelli in Gubbio, by the Patriarch Pagano della Torre in Udine. In
1311, when the Emperor Henry of Luxembourg went to Italy, Dante had
some hope of return, which passed away in 1313 when that Emperor died
in Buonconvento. Dante remained in exile. In 1321 his patron, Guido
Novello da Polenta, sent him on an embassy to Venice, in which he was
unsuccessful. The sea way being blocked, he had to return by land, and
he was struck by the malaria which caused his death by fever on the
14th of September in that year, 1321. This reference to long exile
leads to an inference that the First Treatise was written much later
than 1300.

But, again, there is a passage in the third chapter of the Fourth
Treatise (on page 171 of this volume) that points to an earlier date.
Frederick of Suabia is named as the Emperor who

      As far as he could see,
    Descent of wealth, and generous ways,
      To make Nobility.

Dante calls him "the last Emperor of the Romans," and adds, "I say
last with respect to the present time, notwithstanding that Rudolf,
and Adolphus, and Albert were elected after his death and from his
descendants." This last of the Romans was that famous Frederick II.,
who died in 1250, and of whom Dante said in his Treatise on the
Language of the People: "The illustrious heroes, Frederick Caesar and
his son Manfredi, followed after elegance and scorned what was mean;
so that all the best compositions of the time came out of their Court.
Thus, because their royal throne was in Sicily, all the poems of our
predecessors in the Vulgar Tongue were called Sicilian." Rudolf I. of
Hapsburg, founder of the Imperial House of Austria, was elected
Emperor in 1273, after a time of confusion and nominal rule. He died
in 1291, and, instead of his son Albert, Adolphus of Nassau was next
elected Emperor. But in June 1298 Albert obtained election; Adolphus
was deposed, and was soon afterwards killed in battle with his rival.
Albert was murdered on the 6th of May, 1308, and, after an interregnum
of seven months, he was succeeded by Henry VII. of Luxembourg. Now,
Dante's list does not go on from Albert to Henry. It is assumed,
therefore, that this passage must have been written before the end of
the year 1308.

There is another passage at the close of chapter vi. of the Fourth
Treatise (on page 186 in this volume) that points to a like inference
of date. Dante writes: "Ye enemies of God, look to your flanks, ye who
have seized the sceptres of the kingdoms of Italy. And I say to you,
Charles, and to you, Frederick, Kings, and to you, ye other Princes
and Tyrants, see who sits by the side of you in council." The Charles
and Frederick here addressed were Charles II. of Anjou, King of
Naples, and Frederick of Aragon, King of Sicily; and King Charles died
in the year 1310.

It has been inferred, therefore, that the four treatises of the
Convito were not written consecutively. The Second Treatise may have
been begun some time after the death of Beatrice, in 1290, time being
allowed after 1290 for the completion of the Vita Nuova and a period
of devotion to philosophic studies. That Second Treatise having been
first written, the Treatise on Nobility, the Fourth, may have next
followed; and this may have been written before the end of the year
1298. The Third Treatise may have been written later, and made to
connect the Second and the Fourth. The First Treatise, or General
Introduction, which has in it clear indication of a later date, may
have been written last, when the whole design was brought into shape.
Various reasons have been used for dating this final arrangement of
the plan for an Ethical survey of human knowledge in fifteen
treatises, and the suggested date is the year 1314. The whole work
seems to have been planned. Besides the references to the Fifteenth
Treatise, there is a glance forward to the matter of the Seventh
Treatise in the twenty-sixth chapter of the Fourth.

The question of date is not of great importance, and this may console
us though we know that it can never be settled. Here it is only
touched upon to show the significance of one or two historical
allusions in the book.

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