Book 04

Book Four Canzone: “Le dolci rime d’amor, ch’i’ solìa”


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Chapter 1

Love, according to the unanimous opinion of the sages who have spoken of it and as we see from constant experience, is what joins and unites the lover with the person loved. Consequently Pythagoras says, “Friendship unites the many into one.”(1) Since things that are joined by nature have their qualities in common with one another, to the extent that one is at times completely transformed into the nature of the other, it follows that the passions of the person loved enter into the person who loves, so that the love of the one is communicated to the other, as are hatred and desire and all other passions. Consequently the friends of the one are loved by the other, and the enemies hated; hence the Greek proverb says: “Among friends all things must be shared.”(2)

Thus having become the friend of this lady who was mentioned above in the true explanation, I began to love and hate in accordance with her love and hatred.(3) I therefore began to love the followers of truth and to hate the followers of error and falsehood, as did she. But since everything in itself merits love, and nothing hatred unless malice should overwhelm it, it is reasonable and proper to hate not the things themselves but the malice within them, and to seek to remove it from them. If anyone strives to do this, it is my most excellent lady who strives the most–strives, I mean, to remove the malice in things, which is the cause of their being hated; because in her is found all reason and likewise the source of dignity. Taking her actions as well as her feelings as my example, I sought, as far as I was able, to scorn and despise the errors of mankind, not to defame or denigrate those who err, but rather their errors. By blaming them I sought to render them displeasing, and by rendering them displeasing, to remove them from those persons whom I hated because of them.

Among these errors was one that I condemned more than any other, one which is harmful and dangerous not only to those who are caught up in it but also to those who condemn it, to whom it brings pain and suffering. This is the error concerning human goodness insofar as it is sown in us by nature, and which should be called “nobility,” an error that was so entrenched as a result of evil habit and lack of intelligence that the opinion of almost everyone was thereby rendered fallacious. From this fallacious opinion sprang fallacious judgments, and from fallacious judgments sprang unjust reverence and disdain, with the result that the good were held in base contempt and the bad were honored and exalted. This constituted the worst confusion in the world, as is apparent to anyone who carefully considers what the consequences of such confusion might be. Since this lady of mine had somewhat altered the tenderness of her looks at me, especially in those features at which I would gaze when seeking to learn whether the primal matter of the elements was contained within God–for which reason I refrained for a time from coming into the presence of her countenance–while living, as it were, in her absence, I set about contemplating the shortcoming within man concerning the above-mentioned error. To avoid idleness, which is the greatest enemy of this lady, and to eradicate this error, which robs her of so many friends, I resolved that I would cry out to those who were walking along this evil path so that they might place themselves back on the right way. So I began a canzone commencing with the words The tender rhymes of love, in which I proposed to bring men back to the right way regarding the proper conception of true nobility, as may be perceived by gaining an understanding of the text which I now intend to explain. And since I sought to provide a very necessary remedy in this canzone, I did not consider it effective to employ figurative language, but rather to supply this medicine by the quickest way, so that health, which was already so poisoned that it was hastening toward an ugly death, might be quickly restored.

Therefore in discussing this canzone it will not be necessary to unveil any allegory, but only to explain the literal meaning. By “my lady” I mean the same lady whose meaning I addressed in the previous canzone, namely that most virtuous light, Philosophy, whose rays make flowers bloom and bear the fruit of mankind’s true nobility. Chapter 2

It is proper, at the beginning of the explanation here undertaken, to divide the canzone before us into two parts in order to convey its meaning, for the first part serves as a preface, while the second follows with the treatment of the subject. The second part begins at the beginning of the second stanza, with the wordsOne ruler held that nobility. The first part can be further seen to comprise three sections. The first states why I depart from my accustomed speech; in the second I define my subject; in the third I ask help from what can help me most, namely the truth. The second section begins And since it seems a time for waiting. The third begins And at the outset I call upon the lord.

I say therefore that “I must leave aside the tender rhymes of love which my thoughts once sought out”; and I mark the reason, for I say that it is not because I no longer intend to write of love but because new looks have appeared in my lady which for the present have deprived me of material for speaking of love. Here it must known that the gestures of this lady are not said to be “disdainful and proud” except by their appearance, as may be seen in the tenth chapter of the preceding book where, on another occasion, I said that appearance differed from reality. How it can be that one and the same thing is both sweet and yet seems bitter, or is clear and yet seems dark, is made sufficiently evident in that passage.

Next when I say And since it seems a time for waiting, I specify, as has been said, my intended subject. Here we must not try to skip over with dry foot what is meant by “time for waiting,” since that is the strongest reason for my change of mind, but rather to consider how reasonable it is that we should await the proper moment in all our undertakings, and most of all in speaking.(4) Time, as Aristotle says in the fourth book of the Physics, is “number of motion with respect to before and after,” and “number of celestial movement” is that which disposes things here below to receive the informing powers diversely.(5) For at the beginning of spring the earth is disposed to receive in one manner the power that informs the grasses and the flowers, and in another manner in winter; and one season is disposed to receive the seed differently from another; and likewise our mind, insofar as it is related to the composition of the body which is disposed to respond to the circling of the heavens differently at different times. This is why great discretion must be shown in using or in avoiding the use of words–which are, as it were, the seed of our activity–so that they may be well received and fruitful in effect, so as to avoid any defect of sterility on their part. The right moment must therefore be predetermined, both for the one who speaks as well as the one who must listen; because if the speaker is ill disposed his words are often harmful, and if the hearer is ill disposed even good words will be poorly received. And therefore Solomon says in the book of Ecclesiastes that “There is a time to speak and a time to keep silence.”(6) Consequently feeling that I was too unsettled in disposition to speak of love, for the reason stated in the preceding chapter, it seemed to me right to await the moment that would bring with itself the goal of every desire and make a present of itself, like a benefactor, to those who are not made impatient by waiting. Hence St. James the Apostle says in his Epistle: “Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, patiently abiding until he receives the early and the late.”(7) All our troubles, if we carefully seek out their source, derive in some way from not knowing how to make a proper use of time.

I say that “since it seems a time for waiting, I will put aside,” that is, forgo “my pleasant style,” namely the style to which I’ve kept in speaking of love; and I say that I will speak of that “quality” which makes a person truly noble. Although “quality” can be understood in many different ways, here it is taken as a natural capacity, or a goodness conferred by nature, as will be seen below. And I promise to treat of this matter with harsh and subtle rhymes. Consequently it should be known that “rhyme” can be understood in two ways, either broadly or narrowly. In the narrow sense it means the agreement commonly made by the last and the penultimate syllables, while in the broad sense it means all speech whose cadences are regulated by rhythm and meter to produce rhymed consonances; and here in this preface the latter sense is to be taken and understood. Therefore the preface says harsh with regard to the sound of the words, which should not be sweet with so weighty a subject as this one; and it says subtle with regard to the meaning of the words, which proceed by subtle reasoning and argument. I add By refuting the false and base beliefs, where I promise to refute the beliefs of those who are laden with error; false, that is, removed from the truth, andbase, that is, affirmed and promoted by baseness of mind.

And this is to be remarked: namely that in this preface we promise first to explain what is true and then to refute what is false, while in the book itself I do the opposite; for first I refute what is false and then explain what is true, which seems contrary to my promise. Therefore we must know that although I intend to do both, I intend principally to explain the truth; and I intend to refute what is false only insofar as the truth is made more evident. I promise here to explain the truth as my main concern, which instills in the mind of the listener the desire to listen; in the book itself what is false is first refuted so that when wrong opinions have been put to flight the truth may then be more freely received. This is the method employed by the master of human reason, Aristotle, who always fought first the foes of the truth and then, after overthrowing them, demonstrated the truth.

Finally, when I say And first of all I call upon the lord, I call on truth to be with me, which is the lord that dwells in the eyes (that is, in the demonstrations) of Philosophy. The truth is lord, for when married to the soul, the soul becomes a lady; otherwise she is a servant deprived of all liberty. Then it says And makes this lady love herself, because Philosophy, which, as has been said in the preceding book, is the loving use of wisdom, contemplates herself when the beauty of her eyes is revealed to her. This is but to say that the philosophic soul not only contemplates the truth but, moreover, contemplates its own contemplation and the beauty of that act as well, by turning back its glance upon itself and becoming enamored of itself by reason of the beauty of its first contemplation.

And so ends that which the text of the present book presents, by way of preface, in three sections. Chapter 3

Now that the meaning of the preface has been examined, we must consider the book; and in order to reveal it better it is necessary to divide it into its principal parts, which are three. For in the first part nobility is treated according to the opinions of others; in the second it is treated according to its own opinion; in the third words are addressed to the canzone, to add beauty to what has been said. The second part begins I say that every virtue at its source. The third begins My song Against-the-erring-ones, go forth. After these general divisions other subdivisions must be made in order to understand properly the concept that is to be set forth. No one should therefore be surprised if many subdivisions are made in this manner, because a great and lofty undertaking, little examined by the authorities, is now under hand and because the book which I now enter upon must of necessity be long and subtle in order to unravel the text perfectly according to the meaning which it holds.

I say then that this first part is now divided into two: in the first the opinions of others are put down, and in the second they are refuted; and this second subdivision begins He who claims “Man is a living tree.” Furthermore, the first part, the one which remains, has two parts: the first treats the way in which the opinion of the Emperor goes astray, the second the way in which the opinion of the common people, which is devoid of reason, goes astray. The second part beginsAnd someone else of lesser wit. Then I say: One ruler held, which is to say, one who exercised imperial authority. Here it should be observed that Frederick of Swabia, the last of the Roman emperors (the last, I say, up to the present time, in spite of the fact that Rudolf, Adolf, and Albert were elected after the death of Frederick and his descendants), when asked what nobility was, replied that it was ancestral wealth and fine manners.(8) And I say that there was someone else of lesser wit who, pondering and examining this definition in all its parts, removed the second half, namely “fine manners,” and retained the first, namely “ancestral wealth”; and since the text seems perhaps doubtful of his having fine manners, not wishing to lose the name of nobility, he defined the term as ancestral wealth long possessed simply to suit himself. I state that this opinion is almost universal by saying that there follow in his wake all those who count a man as noble if he comes from stock that has had great wealth for quite some time, since almost everyone barks it out in this manner. These two opinions–although one, as has been said, is of no concern to us–seem to have two very weighty reasons to support them. The first is the Philosopher’s belief that what appears true to the majority cannot be entirely false; the second reasoning stems from the most excellent authority of the Imperial Majesty.(9) In order that the power of truth, which outweighs all authority, may be more clearly seen, I intend to discuss to what extent each of these reasons is useful and valid. Since nothing can be known about the imperial authority unless its roots are found, it is first necessary to discuss them expressly in a special chapter. Chapter 4

The root foundation underlying the Imperial Majesty is, in truth, man’s need for human society, which is established for a single end: namely, a life of happiness, which no one is able to attain by himself without the aid of someone else, since one has need of many things which no single individual is able to provide. Therefore the Philosopher says that man is by nature a social animal.(10) And just as for his well-being an individual requires the domestic companionship provided by family, so for its well-being a household requires a community, for otherwise it would suffer many defects that would hinder happiness. And since a community could not provide for its own well-being completely by itself, it is necessary for this well-being that there be a city.

Moreover, a city requires for the sake of its culture and its defense mutual relations and brotherhood with the surrounding cities, and for this reason kingdoms were created. Since the human mind does not rest content with limited possession of land but always seeks to achieve glory through further conquest, as we see from experience, discord and war must spring up between one kingdom and another. Such things are the tribulations of cities, of the surrounding cities, of the communities, and of the households of individuals; and so happiness is hindered. Consequently, in order to do away with these wars and their causes, it is necessary that the whole earth, and all that is given to the human race to possess, should be a Monarchy–that is, a single principality, having one prince who, possessing all things and being unable to desire anything else, would keep the kings content within the boundaries of their kingdoms and preserve among them the peace in which the cities might rest. Through this peace the communities would come to love one another, and by this love all households would provide for their needs, which when provided would bring man happiness, for this is the end for which he is born.(11)

In regard to this argument we may refer to the words of the Philosopher when he says in the Politics that when many are directed to a single end, one of them should be a governor or a ruler, and all the rest should be ruled or governed. This is what we observe on a ship, where the different offices and objectives are directed to a single end: namely, that of reaching the desired port by a safe route. Just as each officer directs his own activity to its own end, so there is one individual who takes account of all these ends and directs them to their final end: and this is the captain, whose commands all must obey. We see this in religious orders, in armies, and in all things, as has been said, which are directed to an end. Consequently it is evident that, in order to bring to perfection the universal social order of the human species, it is necessary to have a single individual who, like a captain, upon considering the different conditions in the world, should have, in order to direct the different and necessary offices, the universal and indisputable office of complete command. This pre-eminent office is called the Empire, without qualification, because it is the command of all other commands. And thus he who is placed in this office is called the Emperor, since he is the commander of all other commands; and what he says is law for all and ought to be obeyed by all, and every other command gains strength and authority from his. And so it is clear that the imperial majesty and authority are the highest in the fellowship of mankind.

Nevertheless someone might quibble by arguing that although the world requires an imperial office, there is no sound reason why the authority of a Roman prince should be supreme–which is the point we seek to prove–because the power of Rome was acquired neither by reason nor by decree of universal consensus, but by force, which appears to be the opposite of reason. To this we may easily reply that the election of this supreme officer must in the first place derive from that wisdom which provides for all men, namely God; for otherwise the election would not have been made on behalf of everyone, since prior to the officer named above there was no one who attended to the general good. And because no nature ever was or will be more tempered in the exercise of rule, stronger in its preservation, and more clever in acquiring it than that of the Latin race (as can be seen from experience), that sacred people in whom was mingled the lofty blood of the Trojans, namely Rome, God chose this people for that office. Therefore since this office could not be attained without the greatest virtue, and since its exercise required the greatest and most humane kindness, this was the people best disposed to receive it. Consequently the Roman people secured it originally not by force but by divine providence, which transcends all reason.

Vergil concurs in this in the first book of the Aeneidwhen, speaking in the person of God, he says: “To these (namely the Romans) I set no bounds, either in space or time; to these I have given empire without end.”(12) Force was therefore not the moving cause, as our quibbler supposed, but rather the instrumental cause, as the blows of a hammer are the cause of a knife, while the mind of the smith is the efficient and moving cause; and thus not force but reason, and moreover divine reason, must have been the origin of the Roman Empire. Two very distinct reasons may be adduced to prove that this city is imperial and had an origin and progress that were especially arranged by God. But since this subject could not be treated in this chapter without undue length, and long chapters are the foe of memory, I will extend my digression to another chapter to set forth the reasons indicated above, not without profit and much delight. Chapter 5

It is no wonder if divine providence, which wholly transcends angelic and human powers of perception, often proceeds in ways that are hidden to us, inasmuch as human actions frequently conceal their meanings from men themselves. But it is a cause for great wonder when the workings of the eternal counsel are so clearly manifest as to be discerned by our reason. I am therefore at the beginning of this chapter able to recite the words of Solomon who says in Proverbs, in the person of Wisdom: “Listen, for I will speak of great things.”(13)

When the infinite goodness of God willed to bring back into conformity with itself the human creature, who had been deformed by separation from God through the sin of the first man’s transgression, it was decreed, in that most elevated and most united consistory of the Trinity, that the Son of God should descend to earth to bring about this harmony.(14) Since the world (not only heaven, but earth as well) should be properly disposed for his coming–and the earth is properly disposed under a monarchy (that is, when it is fully subject to one prince, as has been said above)–divine providence ordained that those people and that city, namely glorious Rome, should be chosen to accomplish this end. Since even the abode into which the celestial king was to enter should be most clean and pure, it was arranged that a very holy lineage should come into existence, from which after many virtuous descendants a woman finer than any other should be born to become the chamber of the Son of God. This was the lineage of David, from which was born the pride and honor of the human race, namely Mary. Therefore it is written in Isaiah: “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall spring from his root.”(15) Jesse was the father of the David referred to above. All this occurred at one point in time: David was born when Rome was born–that is, when Aeneas came to Italy from Troy, which was the origin of the Roman city, according to written records. As a result the divine choice of the Roman empire is made manifest by the birth of the holy city which was contemporaneous with the root of the family of Mary.

Incidentally, it should be observed that from the time that this heaven began to revolve, it has never been in a better position than when he who created and rules it descended from above, as the mathematicians are still able to ascertain by virtue of their arts. Nor was the world ever, nor will it be, so perfectly disposed as at the time when it was guided by the voice of the one sole prince and commander of the Roman people, as Luke the Evangelist testifies.(16) Since universal peace reigned everywhere, which it never did before nor ever shall again, the ship of human society was speeding on an even course directly toward its proper port. O ineffable and incomprehensible wisdom of God who at the same hour both over in Syria and here in Italy made your preparations so well beforehand! O utterly foolish and vile are you brutes who pasture as if you were men and presume to speak against our faith and, while spinning wool and tilling the soil, seek to know what God through his great foresight has ordained! Accursed be you and your presumption, and those who believe your words!

As has been said above at the end of the preceding chapter of the present book, God gave Rome not only a special birth but a special evolution. For, in brief, from Romulus, who was her first parent, up to the age of her greatest perfection, namely the era of the emperor cited above, her evolution was effected by means not only of human but also divine undertakings.(17) For if we consider the seven kings who first governed her–namely Romulus, Numa, Tullus, Ancus, and the Tarquin kings who were the rulers and the tutors, so to speak, of her youth–we will discover from the records of Roman history, especially from Titus Livius, that these were men whose natures differed according to the requirements of the historical moment. If we then consider her more advanced youth, after she was emancipated from the tutelage of the kings, from the time of Brutus, the first consul, up until Caesar, the first supreme prince, we will find that she was exalted not with human but with godlike citizens whose love of her was inspired not by a human but a divine love. This could not and should not have happened unless there was a special end, conceived for her by God, brought about through a very great infusion of celestial grace.

Who will say that Fabricius was not divinely inspired when he refused to accept an almost infinite amount of gold because he would not abandon his country? Or Curius, whom the Samnites attempted to corrupt, when he refused to accept a huge quantity of gold for love of his country, saying that the citizens of Rome sought to possess not gold but the possessors of the gold? Or Mucius, who set fire to his own hand because the blow by which he thought to deliver Rome fell wide of its mark? Who will say that Torquatus, who sentenced his own son to death out of love for the public good, could have borne his suffering without divine assistance? Similarly the already mentioned Brutus? Who will say this of the Decii and the Drusi who laid down their lives for their country? Who will say that the captive Regulus, having been sent from Carthage to Rome to exchange Cathaginian prisoners for himself and the other Roman prisoners, was moved solely by human and not divine nature when for the love of Rome he gave advice to his own disadvantage after the envoys had withdrawn?

Who will say of Quintus Cincinnatus, who was made dictator and taken from the plough, that he renounced his office after having completed his term and returned of his own accord to the plough? Who will say of Camillus that, after being banished and cast into exile, he returned to free Rome from her enemies, and that after freeing her he went back into exile of his own accord in order not to offend the authority of the Senate, without divine influence? O most hallowed breast of Cato, who will presume to speak of you?(18)Surely we cannot speak of you better than by observing silence and by following the example of Jerome, who says, in his preface to the Bible, where he refers to Paul, that it is better to keep silent than to say too little. Surely it must be evident as we recall the lives of these and all the other godlike citizens that these wondrous events took place, not without some light of the divine goodness over and above their own natural goodness. It must be evident that these men of supreme excellence were the instruments with which divine providence realized the evolution of the Roman empire, where on many occasions the arm of God appeared to be present. For was the hand of God not evident in the battle in which the Albans fought with the Romans, at the beginning, for the control of the Empire, when the liberty of Roman lay in the hands of a single Roman? Was the hand of God not evident when the Gauls, having taken all of Rome, secretly seized the Capitol during the night and only the cry of a goose made it known? Was the hand of God not evident when in the war of Hannibal the Romans, having lost so many citizens that three bushels of rings were taken to Carthage, were ready to abandon their country if that blessed young Scipio had not taken his campaign for the liberation of Rome into Africa? And was the hand of God not evident when a new citizen of small means, namely Tully, defended the liberty of Rome against so great a citizen as Catiline? Most certainly.

Consequently we need seek no further proof in order to see that this holy city had a special birth and a special evolution, conceived and ordained by God. I am most certainly of the firm opinion that the stones lodged in her walls are worthy of reverence and that the soil on which she rests is more worthy than is commonly proclaimed or established. Chapter 6

Above, in the third chapter of this book, a promise was made to discuss the loftiness of the imperial and philosophic authorities. Therefore having discussed the imperial authority, I must continue my digression and take up the subject of the authority of the Philosopher, in keeping with my promise. Here we must first observe what this word “authority” means, for there is a greater necessity to know this in discussing the philosophic as opposed to the imperial authority, which by virtue of its majesty does not seem open to question. It should be known, then, that “authority” is nothing but “the pronouncement of an author.”

This word, namely “auctor” without the third letter c, has two possible sources of derivation. One is a verb that has very much fallen out of use in Latin and which signifies more or less “to tie words together,” that is, “auieo.” Anyone who studies it carefully in its first form will observe that it displays its own meaning, for it is made up only of the ties of words, that is, of the five vowels alone, which are the soul and tie of every word, and is composed of them in a different order, so as to portray the image of a tie.(19) For beginning with A it turns back to U, goes straight through to I and E, then turns back and comes to O, so that it truly portrays this image: A, E, I, O, U, which is the figure of a tie.(20) Insofar as “author” is derived and comes from this verb, it is used only to refer to poets who have tied their words together with the art of poetry; but at present we are not concerned with this meaning. The other source from which “author” derives, as Uguccione attests in the beginning of his bookDerivations, is a Greek word pronounced “autentin” which in Latin means “worthy of faith and obedience.”(21) Thus “author,” in this derivation, is used for any person deserving of being believed and obeyed. From this comes the word which we are presently treating, namely “authority”; hence we can see that authority means “pronouncement worthy of faith and obedience.” Consequently, when I prove that Aristotle is most worthy of faith and obedience, it will be evident that his words are the supreme and highest authority.

That Aristotle is the most worthy of faith and obedience may be proved as follows. Among workmen and craftsmen of various arts and activities which are ordained to a single final activity or art, the craftsman or workman pursuing such an end must above all be obeyed and trusted by everyone as being he alone who considers the final end of all the other ends. Hence the knight should be trusted by the sword-maker, the bridle-maker, the saddle-maker, the shield-maker, and all trades that are established for the purpose of achieving the goals of chivalry. Since all human activities require a final end, namely the end of human life to which man is directed insofar as he is human, the master or the craftsman who studies this and reveals it to us should be obeyed and trusted above all others. That man is Aristotle: he therefore is the most worthy of faith and obedience.(22) In order to perceive how Aristotle is the master and leader of human reason, insofar as it is directed to man’s final activity, we must know that this end of ours, which everyone by nature desires, was sought out in very early times by the sages. Since, however, those who desire this end are very numerous and the desires are almost entirely different in each instance, although they have but a single universal end, it was very difficult to discern this single end in which every human desire should rightly find its peace.

There were then very ancient philosophers, the first and most important of whom was Zeno, who perceived and believed that the end of human life consisted solely of strict integrity–that is, in strictly, unreservedly following truth and justice, in not showing sorrow for anything or joy for anything, in not being responsive to any emotion.(23) And they defined this integrity as “that which apart from utility or profit is for its own sake praiseworthy according to reason.” They and their sect were called Stoics, and to them belonged that glorious Cato of whom I did not dare to speak above.

There were other philosophers whose views and beliefs differed from theirs, and of these the first and most important was a philosopher called Epicurus who, seeing that every living creature as soon as it is born is, as it were, directed by nature toward its proper end, avoiding pain and seeking pleasure, said that this end of ours was pleasure–that is, delight free from pain. Because he did not posit any mean between delight and pain, he claimed that “pleasure” was nothing but the absence of pain,” as Tully seems to relate in the first book of On the End of Goods.(24) To these, who were called Epicurians after Epicurus, belonged Torquatus, a Roman noble descended by blood from the glorious Torquatus whom I mentioned above.

There were others who owe their origin to Socrates and later to his successor Plato, who, examining with greater care and perceiving that in our actions we might commit a wrong and do so through excess or through defect, said that our action when free from excess and defect and in accord with the mean adopted of our own volition, which is to say virtue, was that end of which we are presently speaking. They called it “acting with virtue.” These were the Academics, like Plato and his nephew Speusippus, who were so named for the place in which Plato studied, that is, the Academy. They did not take their name from Socrates because in his philosophy no affirmative statements were made.(25)

Aristotle, however, whose surname was Stagirites, and his companion Xenocrates of Chalcedon, through the singular and almost divine genius which nature conferred on Aristotle, coming to know this end by much the same method as that of Socrates and the Academics, put the finishing touches on moral philosophy and perfected it–especially Aristotle. Because Aristotle initiated the practice of discoursing while walking backwards and forwards they (I mean he and his companions) were called Peripatetics, which means the same as “those who walk about.” And because this moral philosophy was brought to perfection by Aristotle, the name of the Academics faded from memory, and all those who became affiliated with this sect came to be called Peripatetics. This group at present holds universal sway in teaching everywhere, and their doctrine may almost be called universal opinion. Thus it may be seen that Aristotle is the one who directs and guides mankind to this goal; and this is what we wished to show.

Therefore, to sum up, my main point is made clear: namely that the authority of the supreme philosopher with whom we are now concerned is invested with complete power. His authority is not opposed to the imperial authority; but the latter authority without the former creates a danger, and the former authority without the latter creates a weakness, not inherently, but as a result of the lack of harmony among the people. When the one is united with the other they are of the greatest utility and possess the most complete power. Therefore it is written in the book of Wisdom, “Love the light of wisdom, all you who are before the people,” which is to say, “Let the philosophic be united with the imperial authority, for good and perfect government.”(26)

O pitiful are you who rule at present, and most pitiful you who are ruled! For no philosophical authority is united with your governments, whether by virtue of your own study or through the counsel of others, so that to all may be applied the words of Ecclesiastes, “Woe to you, O land whose king is a child and whose princes eat in the morning!”; and to no land may the following words be said: “Blessed is the land whose king is noble and whose princes devote their time to the people’s needs and not to their own wantonness.”(27)Pay attention to what is by your side, you enemies of God who have seized the rods of the governments of Italy. I am speaking to you, Charles and Frederick, and to you other princes and tyrants!(28) Beware who sits by your side and offers advice, and count how many times a day your counselors call your attention to this end of human life. Better would it be for you to fly low like a swallow than to soar aloft like a kite over things that are totally base. Chapter 7

Since we have seen what reverence is owed to the imperial and the philosophical authorities, we must now return to the straight path of our intended course. I say then that this last opinion is so ingrained in the common people that unreservedly, without reasonable inquiry, anyone who is the son or grandson of a worthy person is called noble, even though he is worthless. This is the part which begins And so ingrained Has this false view become among us That one calls another noble If he can say `I am the son, Or grandson, of such and such A famous man,’ despite his lack of worth. Consequently it must be observed that it is extremely dangerous to allow a false opinion to take root through negligence. For just as grass spreads in an uncultivated field and overshoots and covers the spikes of wheat so that when seen from afar the wheat disappears, and the fruit is finally lost, so a false opinion, if left uncensured and uncorrected, grows and spreads in the mind so that the spikes of reason, namely of right opinion, are concealed and, as it were, buried and lost. O how great an enterprise have I undertaken in this canzone by desiring now to weed an overgrown field like that of common opinion, so long deprived of cultivation. Certainly I do not intend to clear the entire field, but only those parts in which the spikes of reason are not completely overtaken; that is to say, I intend to set straight those in whom some glimmer of reason still survives by virtue of their good nature, for the rest deserve no more attention than do the animals; for it seems to me no less a miracle to restore to reason someone in whom the light of reason has been entirely extinguished than to restore to life someone who has been buried in the ground for four days.

After the evil state of this popular opinion has been described, the canzone suddenly smites it with an extraordinary reproof as if it were a horrible thing, by saying: “But he appears the basest, To those who see the truth, in order to reveal its intolerable wickedness by affirming that they are the worst liars; for he who is wicked though descended from good stock is not only base (that is, not noble) but the basest of all; and I give the example of the way that has been pointed out.

To make this clear I must pose a question and then answer it, as follows. Suppose there is a plain with established paths and fields full of hedges, ditches, stones, timber, with obstacles of every kind blocking the way except along the narrow paths. Snow has fallen so that it covers everything and presents the same image in all places, so that no trace of any path can been seen. A man comes from one side of the plain and wishes to go to a dwelling on the other side, and by his own efforts, that is, by using his own power of observation and intelligence, taking himself as guide, he proceeds along the straight way in the direction in which he intends to travel, leaving footprints behind him. After him comes another wishing to travel to this same dwelling, and he has only to follow the footprints left behind; yet although he has been shown the way which the other man was able to find for himself without guidance, by his own fault he wanders and twists among the bramble and brier and goes where he should not. Which of these ought to be called a worthy man? I reply, he who went first. And what should the other be called? I reply, the basest of men. Why is he not called simply unworthy, which is to say merely base? I reply, because that man should be called unworthy, which is to say base, who having no guidance goes astray; but since this one had guidance, his error and fault could not be greater, and therefore he must be called not simply base but basest. Thus he who is descended of noble stock through his father or some ancestor, and is also evil, is not only base but basest and deserving of contempt and scorn more than any other ill-bred person.

So that we might avoid falling into this utter baseness, Solomon, in the twenty-second chapter of Proverbs, exhorts those who have had a man of worth for an ancestor, “Do not transgress the ancient landmarks which your fathers have set.” And in the fourth chapter of the same book he says, “The path of the just,” that is, of men of worth, “leads forward as a shining light, and the way of the wicked is dark; they know not at what they stumble.”(29) Lastly, when it is said, And walks the earth like one who’s dead, I say that this vilest man is dead, though he seems alive, in order to discredit him further.

Here it should be observed that a wicked man may truly be said to be dead, and above all he who strays from the path of his good ancestor. This may be demonstrated as follows. As Aristotle says in the second book of On the Soul, “life is the state of being of living things”; and since life exists in many degrees (as in plants, vegetation; in animals, vegetation, sensation, and movement; in man, vegetation, sensation, movement, and reasoning or intelligence), and things must be named from their noblest part, it is evident that in animals life is sensation–I mean the brutes–and in man it is the use of reason.(30)Therefore if such is the life and state of man’s being, to abandon one’s use of reason is to abandon one’s state of being, which is the same as to be dead. And does a man not abandon his reason when he does not reflect upon the end of his life? Does a man not abandon his reason when he does not reflect upon the path which he must take? Certainly he does, and it is most evident in the person who has footprints before him and does not regard them. For this reason Solomon says in the fifth chapter of Proverbs, “He who lacks instruction dies, and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.”(31) This is to say: He is dead who leaves no disciple and does not follow his master; he is the vilest of all. There are some who might ask: How is it that he is dead and yet walks the earth? I reply that he is dead as man and survives as beast. For, as the Philosopher says in the second book of On the Soul, the powers of the soul stand one above another as the figure of the quadrangle stands above that of the triangle, and the pentagon (that is, a figure having five sides) stands above the quadrangle: so the sensitive power stands above the vegetative power, and the intellectual power stands above the sensitive power.(32) Therefore if what is left by removing the last side of a pentagon is a quadrangle, and no longer a pentagon, then what is left when the last power of the soul is removed is no longer a man but something possessing only a sensitive soul, which is to say, a brute. And this is the meaning of the second stanza of the canzone under examination, in which the opinions of others are expressed. Chapter 8

The fairest branch that springs from the root of reason is discrimination. For as Thomas says at the head of his prologue to the Ethics, “to know the relationship between one thing and another is the proper act of reason,” and this is discrimination. One of the fairest and sweetest fruits of this branch is the reverence which a lesser owes to a greater. Consequently Tully, in the first book of On Offices, speaking of the beauty which shines forth from integrity, says that reverence is a part of it. And just as reverence is one of the beauties of integrity, so its opposite is the defilement and degradation of integrity, and this irreverence in our vernacular may be called arrogance. Therefore Tully himself says in the same place, “To fail to know what others think of us is the mark of one who is not only arrogant but dissolute,” which is simply to say that arrogance and dissoluteness constitute a lack of that self-knowledge which is the source and the measure of all reverence. Therefore since it is my wish, in observing all due reverence to the Prince and to the Philosopher, to remove malice from the minds of some in order to instill there the light of truth, before proceeding to refute the opinions stated above, I will show how in refuting them I argue with irreverence toward neither the imperial authority nor the Philosopher. For if I were to show myself to be irreverent in any part of this work, it could not be more unbecoming than if it were in this book, where by treating of nobility I must show myself to be noble and not base. First I will show that I do not impinge against the authority of the Philosopher; then I will show that I do not impinge against the Imperial Majesty.

I say then that when the Philosopher states that “what appears true to the majority cannot be entirely false,” he does not mean to speak of outward appearances (that is, of what is perceived by the senses) but of what is within (that is, of what is perceived by the mind), because appearances judged by the senses are, with regard to the majority, in many instances completely false, especially in the case of objects which are perceptible to more than one sense, since then the senses are often deceived.(33) Thus we know that to most people the Sun appears to be a foot in diameter, and this is quite false. For according to the research and findings that human reason has made with the aid of its attendant arts, the diameter of the Sun is 5 ½ times that of the Earth, so that if the Earth is 6500 miles in diameter, the diameter of the Sun, which by sense perception appears to measure one foot, is 35,750 miles. Consequently it is evident that Aristotle did not have sense perception in mind; therefore I do not go counter to the Philosopher’s meaning, nor do I offend the reverence which is due to him, if I seek only to refute the issue of sense perception. And that I intend to refute the claims of sense perception is evident. For those who judge in this way judge only by what they perceive of the things which fortune can give or take away; for when they see high connections and marriages made, and marvelous buildings, and extensive possessions, powerful lordships, they believe that these things are the cause of nobility; indeed, they believe them to be the essence of nobility itself. For if they were to judge according to the mind’s perception they would say the opposite, namely that nobility is the cause of these things, as will be seen below in this book.

And just as I do not impugn, as may be seen, the reverence due to the Philosopher in my refutation, so I do not impugn the reverence due to the Empire; and I propose to show the reason why. But because when speaking in the presence of his adversary a speaker must observe great care in his choice of words, so that the adversary does not derive from it material for obscuring the truth, I who speak in this book before a great many adversaries cannot speak with brevity. If consequently my digressions are lengthy, let no one be surprised. I say then that in order to show that I am not irreverent to the majesty of the Empire, we must first see what constitutes “reverence.” I say that reverence is nothing but the confirmation of a due submission by manifest sign. Once this is perceived, we must then distinguish between an “irreverent” person and a person who is “not reverent.” “Irreverent” denotes privation, while “not reverent” denotes negation. Irreverence therefore consists in renouncing a due submission, I mean by manifest sign, while absence of reverence consists in denying a due submission. A man can disavow something in two ways. He can express disavowal in one way by offending against the truth, as when due confirmation is withheld, and this is properly called “renunciation.” He can express disavowal in another way by not offending against the truth, as when he refuses to affirm that which does not exist, and this is properly called “denial,” for when a man disavows that he is wholly mortal, this, properly speaking, constitutes a denial.

Consequently if I deny reverence to the Empire I am not irreverent, but only not reverent, for this is not contrary to reverence since it does not offend against it, just as the absence of life does not offend against life but rather against death, which is the privation of it. Death is one thing and the absence of life is another, for absence of life is found in stones. Since death denotes privation, which cannot obtain in something not endowed with habit, and since stones are not endowed with life, so that they should not be said to be “dead” but “non-living,” likewise I, who in this instance do not owe reverence to the Empire, am not irreverent in disavowing it but rather not reverent, which is not arrogance, nor something to condemn. But to be reverent would constitute arrogance, if it could be called reverence, since one would fall into a real and greater irreverence, namely irreverence toward truth and toward nature, as will be seen below. Aristotle, the master of philosophers, defended himself against this error at the beginning of the Ethics when he said, “If we have two friends and one of them is truth, we must concur with truth.”(34) Nevertheless since I have said that I am not reverent, which denotes the denial of reverence (that is, the denial of due submission by manifest sign), we must see how this is a denial and not a disavowal–that is, how in this instance I am not duly subject to the Imperial Majesty. And since the explanation is of necessity lengthy, I intend to demonstrate it without delay in a separate chapter. Chapter 9

To see how in this case–that is, in refuting or confirming the Emperor’s opinion–I am not obliged to place myself in submission to him, it is necessary to recall to mind what was discussed above in the fourth chapter of this book concerning the imperial office: namely, that the imperial authority was created in order to perfect human life and that it is by right the regulator and the ruler of all our activities, and that consequently the Imperial Majesty has jurisdiction just as broad as our activities extend, and beyond these limits it does not go. But just as every art and office of man is held within fixed limits by the imperial office, so this empire is confined by God within fixed limits; and this is no cause for wonder, because we see that the office and the art of nature is limited in all its operations. For if we wish to consider the universal nature of all things, it has jurisdiction co-extensive with the entire universe, I mean heaven and earth; and the universe exists within a fixed limit, as is proved in the third book of the Physics and in the first of On Heaven and Earth. Therefore the jurisdiction of universal nature is confined within fixed limits, and so consequently is particular nature; and he who is limited by nothing at all sets the limits on nature, that is, the first excellence which is God, who alone comprehends the infinite by his infinite capacity.

In order to perceive the limits of our activities, we must know that only those activities are ours which are subject to reason and to will; for although the digestive activity is found within us, it is not human but natural. We must further know that our reason is related to four kinds of activities, which must be regarded as different. For there are activities which it merely contemplates but does not, and cannot, perform: for example, things natural, supernatural, and mathematical. There are other activities which it contemplates and performs by its own act, and these are called rational, as for example the art of speech. And there are other activities which it contemplates and performs by means of matter external to itself, as for example the mechanical arts.(35) All of these activities, although contemplation of them is dependent on our will, are not in themselves subject to our will. For however much we might wish that heavy things should by nature rise upward, however much we might wish that a syllogism based on false premises should yield a truth by demonstration, and however much we might wish that a house should stand as firmly when leaning as when erect, this could not be, because we are not, properly speaking, the makers of these activities but merely those who have discovered them. It was another who ordained them, and a greater maker who made them. There are also activities which our reason contemplates as an act of the will, as for instance giving offense or assistance, standing ground or fleeing in battle, and remaining chaste or yielding to lust.(36)These are completely subject to our will, and therefore we are considered good or evil, because they are completely of our own making; for as far as our will can reach, so far do our activities extend. Since in all of these voluntary activities justice must be preserved and injustice avoided, and this justice may be lost in two ways (either through not knowing what it is, or through not willing to follow it), written Law was invented in order both to establish it and to administer it. So Augustine says, “If men had known it (namely justice) and, when known, had observed it, there would have been no need of written Law.” Therefore it is written in the beginning of the Old Digest that “Written law is the art of well-doing and justice.”(37) The official of whom we are speaking, namely the Emperor, is appointed to formulate, demonstrate, and enforce precisely this Law, and to him we are subject as far as our own activities extend, which have already been described, and no further. For this reason in every art and in every trade the craftsmen and apprentices are, and should be, subject to the chief and master of the activities within those arts and trades, outside of which the subjection ceases, because the rule of the master ceases. Thus we might say of the Emperor, if we were to describe his office with an image, that he is the one who rides in the saddle of the human will. How this horse pricks across the plain without a rider is more than evident, especially in wretched Italy, which has been left with no means whatsoever to govern herself.(38)

It must be observed that the more a thing is peculiar to an art or a rule, the more complete is the subjection; for if the cause is intensified, so is its effect. Hence we must know that there are some things so purely matters of art that nature becomes an instrument of art, as for example rowing with an oar, where art makes propulsion, which is a natural movement, its instrument; or as in threshing wheat where art makes heat, which is a natural quality, its instrument. Here most of all is subjection due to the chief and master of the particular art. There are things in which the art is the instrument of nature, and these are lesser arts; in these the craftsmen are less subject to their chief, as for example in scattering seed upon the earth (for here we must wait on the will of nature), or in leaving port (for here we must wait on the natural disposition of the weather). Therefore we find that in matters of this kind disputes often arise among the craftsmen, and the superior seeking the advice of the inferior. There are others things which do not pertain to the art but seem to be associated with it, with the result that men are often deceived. In these things the apprentices are not subject to the master, nor are they bound to submit to him with respect to their particular art, as for example fishing seems to be associated with navigation and the knowledge of the virtues of herbs with agriculture. Yet they have no ground in common since fishing falls under the art of hunting and is subject to its authority and the knowledge of the virtues of herbs under medicine or under some higher branch of learning.

In like manner what we have discussed with regard to the other arts may be seen to hold true for the art of imperial rule. For in the art of imperial rule there are certain spheres of regulation which are pure arts, such as laws pertaining to marriage, slavery, military service, succession in office, in which matters we are entirely subject to the Emperor without any possible doubt or question. There are other laws which in a sense follow from the forces of nature, such as determining at what age a man is sufficiently prepared to manage his own affairs, and in these we are not entirely subject. There are many others which seem to be associated with the art of imperial rule, and anyone believing the imperial judgment in such matters to be authoritative was, and still is, deceived. For example, regarding the definitions of maturity and of nobility, the imperial judgment cannot compel assent simply by virtue of the fact that he is Emperor. Therefore let us render unto God that which belongs to God. Consequently we need not submit or assent to the Emperor Nero, who said that maturity is beauty and physical strength, but to him who said that maturity is the pinnacle of the natural life, and that would be the Philosopher. It is therefore evident that defining nobility does not fall within the scope of the art of imperial rule; and if it does not fall within the scope of that art, we are not, in treating of nobility, subject to the Emperor; and if we are not subject to him, we are not bound to reverence him in this matter; and this is precisely the conclusion that we have been in search of. Consequently with full license and with utter conviction we must now strike at the heart of the received opinions and throw them to the earth so that by reason of my victory the true opinion may stand its ground in the minds of those for whom it is a benefit that this light shines strongly. Chapter 10

Now that the opinions of others concerning nobility have been set down and it has been shown that I am free to refute them, I shall proceed to discuss that part of the canzone which refutes them. It begins, as is said above, He who claims “Man is a living tree.” We ought to know, however, that the Emperor’s opinion, although he put it defectively in one phrase, namely where he mentioned fine manners, did touch on the manners of the nobility, and therefore it is not my intention to refute this particular point. The other phrase which is entirely foreign to the nature of nobility I do intend to refute, for it appears to mention two things in speaking of ancestral wealth, namely time and riches, which are entirely foreign to nobility, as has been said and as will be demonstrated below. Consequently the refutation is divided into two parts: first I refute the idea that riches are a cause of wealth, and then that time is. The second part begins: Nor will they grant that one born base may yet in time. We must know that by refuting riches not only is the Emperor’s opinion refuted, in the part where he touches on riches, but also the opinion of the common herd, which was based on wealth alone, in its entirety. The first part is divided into two: in the first it is said in general terms that the Emperor erred in his definition of nobility, and in the second the reason why is shown. The second part begins, For riches, as is generally thought.

I say then He who claims “Man is a living tree” first says what isn’t true (that is, what is false) insofar as he says “tree”; and then he leaves much unsaid (that is, he speaks defectively) insofar as he says “living” and not “rational,” which is what distinguishes man from the beasts. Then I say that in the same way he erred in his definition of the ruler of the Empire; and I do not say “Emperor” but “he who was the ruler of the Empire,” to show, as has been said above, that deciding this issue lies outside the scope of the imperial office. Then I say that he likewise erred by wrongly supposing ancestral wealth to be the subject of nobility, and afterwards he proceeded to embrace a “defective form,” or distinction, namely “fine manners,” which do not comprise each and every formal aspect of nobility but only a very small part, as will be shown below. And though the text is silent on this point, we must not overlook the fact that in this matter the Emperor erred not only in the constituent parts of his definition but also in his method of defining, even though by reputation he was considered a great logician and a very learned man. For the definition of nobility would be more properly derived from its effects than from its sources, since it appears itself to be a kind of source, which cannot be explained by the things that precede it but rather by those that come after. Then when I say For riches, as is generally thought, I show how they cannot be the cause of nobility because they are base; and I show how they cannot take it away because they are quite distinct from nobility. I prove that they are base by one of their greatest and most evident defects, and this I do where I say It’s evident that riches.

Lastly, by virtue of what has been said above, I reach the conclusion that their transformation does not bring about a change in the upright mind, which proves what has been said above: that they are distinct from nobility because no union is effected. Here we must know that, as the Philosopher puts it, all things which produce something must first have perfection of their own being. Hence he says in the seventh book of theMetaphysics, “When one thing is produced by another, it is produced by it by existing in its being.”(39)

Moreover, we should know that everything which decomposes does so by undergoing some change, and each thing that is changed must be connected with the cause of change, as the Philosopher puts it in the seventh book of the Physics and in the first book ofOn Generation. After setting forth these things I go on to say that riches cannot, as others believe, confer nobility; and in order to show that they are wholly distinct from it, I say that they cannot take it away from whoever possesses it. They cannot give it, since by nature they are base, and by virtue of their baseness they are the opposite of nobility. Here baseness means degenerateness, which is the opposite of nobility, since one contrary does not and cannot produce the other contrary, for the above-stated reason which is briefly touched on with the words And further, he who paints a form. No painter could depict any form if he did not first conceive in his imagination how he wishes it to be. Moreover, they cannot take it away because they are remote from nobility, and for the reason stated above that whatever changes or decomposes anything must be connected with it. Therefore I add Nor can an upright tower be made to bend by a river flowing far away, which is meant only as a analogy to what has been said above, namely that riches cannot take away nobility, by saying that this nobility is like an upright tower and that riches are like a river flowing far away. Chapter 11

It now remains simply to prove in what way riches are base and how they are distinct and remote from nobility, and this is proved in two brief sections of the text to which we presently must turn. After they have been explained, what I have said will become clear: that is, that riches are base and remote from nobility, and thereby the arguments already directed against riches will be completely proved.

I say then, It’s evident that riches are imperfect, And base as well. To make clear what is meant by these words, we must know that the baseness of each thing derives from its imperfection, and likewise its nobility from its perfection, so that the more a thing is perfect, the nobler is its nature; the more imperfect, the baser. Consequently if riches are imperfect, it is evident that there are base. That they are imperfect is briefly proved by the text when it says, for however great they are, They bring no peace, but rather grief. Here not only is their imperfection made evident but their state shown to be most imperfect, and therefore completely base. Lucan attests to this when he addresses them by saying, “Without a fight the laws have perished, and you riches, the basest part of things, have led the battle.”(40) Their imperfection may clearly be seen briefly in three things: first, in the lack of discretion attending their appropriation; second, in the danger that accompanies their increment; thirdly, in the ruin resulting from their possession. Before I demonstrate this, a doubt which seems to arise must be cleared up: for since gold, pearls, and property have in their essence a perfect form and actuality, it does not seem correct to claim that they are imperfect. Therefore it must be understood that insofar as they are considered in themselves, they are perfect things, and are not riches but gold or pearls; but insofar as they are conceived as a possession of man, they are riches, and in this sense they are full of imperfection. For it is not incongruous for one thing to be both perfect and imperfect when it is perceived from different perspectives.

I say that their imperfection may be observed first in the lack of discretion attending their appropriation, in which no distributive justice is present, while injustice, which is the effect characteristic of imperfection, almost always is. For if we consider the ways in which riches are acquired, they may all be summarized under three headings. They are acquired either purely by chance, as for example when they are acquired without design or unexpectedly by virtue of some unplanned event; or they are acquired by chance aided by reason, as for example by means of testaments and inheritance; or they are acquired by chance aiding reason, as in the case of acquiring lawful or unlawful gain. By lawful gain I mean gain deriving from a respectable craft, commerce, or service; by unlawful gain I mean gain deriving from theft or robbery. In each of these three ways the injustice of which I speak is evident, for buried wealth which is discovered or recovered presents itself more often to the bad than to the good; and this is so evident that it requires no proof.

Indeed I once saw the place, on the side of a mountain named Falterona, in Tuscany, where the basest peasant of the entire region found, while digging about, more than a bushel of Santelenas of the finest silver which had been waiting for him for perhaps 2000 years or more.(41) It was because he had observed this injustice that Aristotle remarked that “the more man is subject to intelligence, the less he is subject to fortune.”(42) I claim that inheritance by bequest or by succession comes more often to the bad than to the good, though I do not intend to submit any evidence for this. Rather, let everyone cast his eyes about to discover what it is that I pass over in silence in order to avoid accusing anyone in particular. Would that it had been God’s pleasure that what the Provençal requested had come to pass, namely that he who does not inherit goodness should forfeit the inheritance of possessions!(43) It is my claim that the recovery of wealth comes more often precisely to the bad than to the good, for unlawful gain never comes to the good, because they refuse it. What good man would ever seek gain by means of force or fraud? That would be an impossibility, for by the very choice of undertaking an unlawful act he would cease to be good. And lawful gain rarely comes to the good, because given the fact that it requires a great deal of attention and the good man’s attention is directed to more important matters, rarely does he devote sufficient attention to it.

Consequently it is evident that the appropriation of these riches in whatever way results in injustice, and therefore Our Lord called them unrighteous when he said, “Make to yourselves friends of the money of iniquity,” thereby inviting and encouraging men to render acts of liberality through benefactions, which engender friendships.(44) How fair an exchange does he make who gives of these most imperfect things in order to have and acquire things that are perfect, such as are the hearts of worthy men! This market is open every day. Indeed, this kind of commerce is different from all others, for when a man believes he is buying one person with a benefaction, thousands and thousands are bought with it. Who does not still keep a place in his heart for Alexander because of his royal acts of benevolence? Who does not keep a place for the good King of Castile, or Saladin, or the good Marquis of Monferrato, or the good Count of Toulouse, or Bertran de Born, or Galeazzo of Montefeltro?(45)When mention is made of their gifts, certainly not only those who would willingly do the same, but those as well who would sooner die than do the same, retain in their memory a love for these men. Chapter 12

The imperfection of riches, as has been said, may be observed not only by the fact of their appropriation but also in the danger that accompanies their increment; and since more of their defect may be perceived in the latter, the text makes mention of that alone, saying that for however great they are, they not only do not bring peace, they bring more thirst and make men more defective and less self-sufficient. Here we should understand that defective things may bear their defects in such a way that they do not appear on the surface, but are concealed beneath the guise of perfection; or they may bear them entirely exposed, so that the imperfection is recognized openly on the surface. Those things that do not reveal their defects at first are more dangerous, since we often cannot place ourselves on guard against them, as we see in the instance of a traitor who on the surface shows himself as a friend, so that he compels us to have faith in him, while beneath the guise of friendship he conceals the defect of enmity. In this way riches are dangerously imperfect in their increment, for by subverting what they promise they bring about the very opposite.(46)

These false traitresses always promise to bring complete satisfaction to the person who gathers them in sufficient quantity, and by this promise they lead the human will into the vice of avarice. For this reason Boethius in his book The Consolation of Philosophycalls them dangerous, saying, “Alas! who was it that first unearthed the masses of hidden gold and the gems, those precious perils, which sought to remain hidden?”(47) The false traitresses, if one looks closely, promise to take away all thirst and feeling of want and to supply complete satiety and a feeling of sufficiency. This is what they do at first for every man, by guaranteeing the fulfillment of this promise when they have increased to a certain amount; and then when they have been accumulated to this point, instead of satiety and refreshment they produce and instill an intolerable and burning thirst in the breast; and in place of sufficiency they set up a new goal: that is, a greater quantity to be desired, and once this has been realized, they instill a great fear and concern for what has been acquired.

Consequently they do not bring peace, but rather grief, which before, in their absence, was not present. Therefore Tully, in his book On Paradox, says in denouncing riches, “Never have I ever considered either the money of these men, or their magnificent mansions, or their riches, or their lordships, or the delights by which they are altogether captivated, to be found among things good and desirable, since I have certainly seen men who abound in these things covet the very things in which they abound. For never is the thirst of cupidity satisfied or satiated; and not only are they tormented by a desire to increase the quantity of those things which they possess, but they are also tormented by a fear of losing them.”(48) These are the very words of Tully, as they are put down in the book which has been mentioned. Evidence of even greater importance bearing on this imperfection is found in these words spoken by Boethius in his book The Consolation of Philosophy: “Even if the goddess of wealth were to lavish riches equal to the amount of sand tossed by the wind-driven sea or to the number of stars that shine, the human race would not cease their lament.”(49)

Since further evidence is required to establish proof on this point, let us summon up all that Solomon and his father cry out against them, all that Seneca, especially in his letters to Lucilius, all that Horace, all that Juvenal, and, in brief, all that every writer, every poet, and all that truthful Holy Scripture cries out against these false harlots who are steeped in every defect. In order that our belief may be supported by what we see, let us consider the lives of those who chase after them, and how securely they live when they have amassed them, how satisfied they are, how untroubled! And what imperils and destroys cities, territories, and individuals day by day more than the accumulation of wealth by some new person? Such an accumulation uncovers new desires which cannot be satiated without causing injury to someone. What else were the two categories of Law, namely Canon Law and Civil Law, intended to curb if not the surge of greed brought about by the amassing of wealth? Certainly both categories of Law make this quite evident if we read their beginnings (that is, the beginnings of their written record). O how evident it is, indeed how exceedingly evident, that riches are rendered fully imperfect through by their being increased, since nothing but imperfection can come from them, however great their quantity! This is what the text says.

Nevertheless a doubt arises here from a question which cannot be passed over without being brought up and answered. Someone bent on distorting the truth by splitting hairs might object that since riches are rendered imperfect and consequently base by virtue of the fact that their acquisition increases a desire for them, knowledge for the same reason is imperfect and base, since the desire for it always increases with its acquisition. Hence Seneca says, “If I had one foot in the grave I would still wish to go on learning.”(50) But it is not true that knowledge is made base by imperfection: therefore, by refuting the consequence of the premise, the increase of desire does not make riches base.(51) The fact that knowledge is something perfect is made evident by the Philosopher in the sixth book of the Ethics, which states that knowledge is the perfect record of things which are certain.

This question requires a brief answer, but first we must see whether desire is increased by the acquisition of knowledge, as is proposed in the question, and whether this is for a reason. And so I say that human desire is increased not only by the acquisition of knowledge and of riches, but by every kind of acquisition, although in different ways. The reason is this: that the supreme desire of each thing, and the one that is first given to it by nature, is to return to its first cause. Now since God is the cause of our souls and has created them like himself (as it is written, “Let us make man in our own image and likeness”), the soul desires above all else to return to him.(52) And just as the pilgrim who walks along a road on which he has never traveled before believes that every house which he sees from afar is an inn, and finding it not so fixes his expectations on the next one, and so moves from house to house until he comes to the inn, so our soul, as soon as it enters upon this new and never travelled road of life, fixes its eyes on the goal of its supreme good, and therefore believes that everything it sees which seems to possess some good in it is that supreme good.(53) Because its knowledge is at first imperfect through lack of experience and instruction, small goods appear great, and so from these it conceives its first desires. Thus we see little children setting their desire first of all on an apple, and then growing older desiring to possess a little bird, and then still later desiring to possess fine clothes, then a horse, and then a woman, and then modest wealth, then greater riches, and then still more. This comes about because in none of these things does one find what one is searching after, but hopes to find it further on. Consequently it may be seen that one object of desire stands in front of another before the eyes of our soul very much in the manner of a pyramid, where the smallest object at first covers them all and is, as it were, the apex of the ultimate object of desire, namely God, who is, as it were, the base of all the rest. And so the further we move from the apex toward the base, the greater the objects of desire appear; this is the reason why acquisition causes human desires to become progressively inflated.

We may, however, lose this path through error, just as we may the roads of the earth. For just as from one city to another there is only one road which is of necessity the best and most direct, and another which leads completely away (namely the one which goes in the opposite direction), and many others, some leading away from it and some moving toward it, so in human life there are different paths, among which only one is the truest way and another the falsest, and some less true and some less false. And just as we see that the path which leads most directly to the city fulfills desire and provides rest when work is finished, while the one which goes in the opposite direction never fulfills it nor provides rest, so it is with our life. A wise traveler reaches his goal and rests; the wanderer never reaches it, but with great lethargy of mind forever directs his hungry eyes before him. Thus although this explanation does not entirely answer the question raised above, it at least opens the way for an answer because it shows that our desires do not all increase in the same way. But since this chapter has become somewhat protracted, an answer to the question must be given in a new chapter, and here the entire argument which I presently intend to make against riches will be brought to a close. Chapter 13

In answer to this question, I affirm that the desire for knowledge cannot properly be said to increase, although, as has been said, it grows in a certain way. For whatever grows, properly speaking, is always one; the desire for knowledge, however, is not always one but many; and when one desire ends, another begins; so that, properly speaking, its increase is not a growth but a progression from small things to great things. For if I desire to know the principles of natural things, as soon as I know them this desire is fulfilled and brought to an end. If I then desire to know what each of these principles is and how each exists, this is a new and separate desire. Nor by the appearance of this desire am I dispossessed of the perfection to which I was brought by the other; and this growth is not the cause of imperfection but of greater perfection.

However, the desire for riches is, properly speaking, an increment, for it remains always one, so that no progression of goals reached or perfection attained is found here. If someone were to object that just as the desire to know the principles of natural objects is one thing and the desire to know what these principles are is another, so the desire for a hundred marks is one thing and the desire for a thousand another, I would reply that this is not true. For a hundred is part of a thousand and is related to it, just as a part of a line is to the whole line along which there is a single continuous motion, with no progression nor any movement brought to completion at any point. But knowing the principles of natural objects and knowing the nature of each individual principle are not parts of each other, but are related to each other as different lines along which there is no single continuous movement, so that when the motion of the one is completed, it is succeeded by the motion of the other. Thus it appears, as raised in the question, that knowledge may not be called imperfect because of the desire for knowledge, the way riches are imperfect because of the desire for them. For in the desire for knowledge desires are progressively satisfied and brought to completion, while in the desire for riches they are not. Hence the question is answered and has no ground for existence.

This person bent on splitting hairs might well still object by claiming that although many desires are satisfied by the acquisition of knowledge, yet the ultimate desire is never attained, which is almost like the imperfection of a desire which, though remaining one and the same, never comes to an end. Here again we reply that the objection is not true–that is, that the ultimate desire is never attained; for our natural desires, as has been shown above in the third book, are satisfied within a certain limit; and the desire for knowledge is a natural desire, so that a certain limit satisfies it, even though few, because they take the wrong path, complete the journey.(54) Anyone who understands the Commentator’s discussion of the third book of The Soul has learned this from him.(55)Therefore Aristotle in the tenth book of the Ethics, speaking against the poet Simonides, says that “A man should be drawn as far as possible to divine things,” by which he shows that our faculty contemplates a certain end.(56) Furthermore, in the first book of the Ethics he says that “the trained student seeks to know the certainty of things, to the degree that their nature admits of certainty.”(57) By this he shows that one must contemplate an end not only on the part of man who desires knowledge, but as well on the part of the object of knowledge which is desired. And therefore Paul says, “Do not seek to know more than is fitting, but to know in measure.”(58)So that in whatever way the desire for knowledge is understood, whether in general or in particular, it attains to perfection.(59) Therefore perfect knowledge is a noble perfection, and its perfection is not lost by the desire for it, as is the case with detestable riches.

It must now briefly be shown how the possession of riches makes them harmful, and this is the third sign of their imperfection. Their possession may be seen to be harmful for two reasons: first, that it is the cause of evil; second, that it is the privation of good. It is the cause of evil because it makes the possessor fearful and hateful by mere preoccupation with them. How great is the fear of one who is aware of having wealth about him, while either traveling or taking lodging, not only when waking but when sleeping, a fear not only of losing his possessions but his life because of his possessions. The contemptible merchants who travel about the world know this full well, for the leaves swept by the wind make them tremble when they are carrying riches with them; and when they are not, they shorten their journey with songs and conversation, being full of a sense of security. Therefore the Sage says, “If a traveler entered upon his journey empty-handed, he would sing in the face of the thieves.”(60)This is what Lucan means in the fifth book when he praises poverty for the security it offers with the words, “O secure ease of the poor man’s life! O constricted dwellings and furnishings! oh not yet understood riches of the Gods! In what temples, within what walls could this ever happen without their shaking with fear when the hand of Caesar knocks?”(61) This is said by Lucan when he tells how Caesar came by night to the cottage of the fisherman Amyclas in order to cross the Adriatic Sea. How great is the hatred that everyone bears the possessor of riches, whether out of envy or out of a desire to seize his possessions! So great is it that often a son, acting contrary to the love he owes, contrives to kill his father; indeed the Italians, both in the region of the Po and in the region of the Tiber, have witnessed the most striking and obvious examples of this behavior. Therefore Boethius says, in the second book of his Consolation, “Truly avarice makes men hateful.”(62)

The possession of riches is also the privation of good, for by their possession generosity, which is a virtue, cannot exist; and this virtue brings about good and makes men illustrious and beloved, which cannot come to pass through the possession of riches but only through their surrender. Thus Boethius says, in the same book, “Money, then, is good when, having been transferred to others through generosity, it is no longer possessed.” Consequently the baseness of riches is quite obvious from all of this evidence, and therefore a man of right desire and of true knowledge never loves them; and in not loving them he does not unite himself to them but always wishes to keep them at a distance, except insofar as they are used to perform some necessary service. This is reasonable, because what is perfect cannot be united with what is imperfect. Hence we see that a crooked line never joined with a straight line, and if there is any joining to speak of, it is not of line with line but of point with point. Therefore it follows that the mind which isupright (that is, in its appetite) and true (that is, in knowledge) is not undone by having lost riches, as the text states at the end of this section.(63) In reaching this conclusion the text seeks to prove that riches are a river flowing far away from the upright tower of reason, or nobility, and that for this reason riches cannot deprive anyone of the nobility he possesses. In this way the present canzone moves arguments and proofs against riches. Chapter 14

Now that the error of others has been refuted, insofar as it is present in that section which addresses riches, we must proceed to refute it insofar as it is present in the section in which time is said to be a cause of nobility with the words ancestral wealth. This refutation is made in the part that begins Nor will they grant that one born base may yet be noble. First this is refuted by an argument which those who err themselves advance; then, to their greater confusion, their argument is itself destroyed, and this is accomplished where it says It further follows from what was said above. Last of all, it concludes that their error is manifest and that therefore it is time to attend to the truth, and this is accomplished where it saysConsequently it is clear to every healthy mind. I say, then, Nor will they grant that one born base may yet be noble. Here we must know that it is the opinion of these wrong-headed men that one born base can never be called noble, and that the son of a man born base can likewise never be called noble. This, however, destroys the very claim of theirs in which, by use the term “ancestral,” they say that nobility requires time, since it is impossible by the passage of time to arrive at the moment when nobility is engendered, according to their reasoning already mentioned, which precludes the possibility that a man born base can ever become noble through his acts, or by chance, and precludes the possibility of a change from a father born base to a noble son. For if the son of a man base born is indeed basely born, then his son is also the son of a man basely born, and his son too, and so on ad infinitum, so that it is never possible in the passage of time to discover the point at which nobility begins. If those holding the opposing view should say by way of defense that nobility will begin at that time when the low state of his forebears will have been forgotten, I reply that they contradict themselves since even at that point there would be a change from baseness to nobility, from one man into another or from father to son, which is contrary to what they maintain.

If those of the opposing view should defend themselves tenaciously by arguing that they agree that this change can take place when the forebears’ low state is no longer recollected (though the text does not address this), it is proper that this gloss should offer a reply. Therefore I give the following reply, that four extremely serious fallacies arise out of what they say, so that their reasoning cannot be right. The first is that the better human nature became, the harder and slower would the creation of nobility become, which is the greatest fallacy since by nature the better a thing is the more it is a cause of good; and nobility is counted among the things that are good. That this is true is proved as follows. If noble being or nobility, which I understand to be one and the same, were created by lack of remembrance, then the sooner lack of remembrance occurs the sooner nobility is created, and the more absent-minded that men were, so much the more quickly would lack of remembrance occur. Therefore, the more absent-minded that they were, the more noble would they be; and conversely the better their memory, the more slowly would they become noble.

The second fallacy is that this distinction between noble and base could not be made with respect to anything except men, which is highly illogical for the reason that we find the traits of nobility or baseness in every species of thing. Hence we often speak of a noble or base horse, a noble or base falcon, and a noble or base pearl. That this distinction cannot be made is proved as follows. If lack of remembrance of ancestral baseness is a cause of nobility, and if where there was no baseness in ancestors, there could be no lack of remembrance of them–inasmuch as this lack is a deterioration of the memory, and in the other animals, plants, and minerals baseness and loftiness are not distinguished, since each of these occupies the same and equivalent grade of nature–then there can be no creation of nobility in them, nor any baseness, since both are to be regarded as habit and privation, which are predicable of one and the same subject; therefore in these things no distinction could obtain between the one and the other trait. If those holding the opposing view should say that in other things nobility signifies the goodness of the thing but in man it signifies that the memory of their base condition is absent, one would wish to reply not with words but with a blade to such asininity as that of attributing the cause of nobility in other things to goodness, while in the case of men to loss of memory.

The third fallacy is that often what is engendered would come before that which engenders, which is entirely impossible, and this can be shown as follows. Suppose that Gherardo da Cammino had been the grandson of the basest peasant who ever drank of the Sile or the Cagnano, and lack of remembrance of his grandfather had not yet occurred. Who would dare to say that Gherardo da Cammino was a base man? Who would not agree with me and say that he was noble? No one, surely, as presumptuous as he might be, for he was noble, and so will his memory be forever.(64) If lack of remembrance of his base ancestor had not occurred, as assumed in the objection, and he had been a great noble and nobility had been perceived in him as clearly then as it is now, it would have been in him before that which engendered it had come into being. This is altogether impossible.

The fourth fallacy is that a man should be considered noble after death who was not noble while alive, something that could not be more illogical. This can be demonstrated as follows. Suppose that during the lifetime of Dardanus the memory of his base ancestors survived, and suppose that during the lifetime of Laomedon this memory had faded and lack of remembrance ensued. According to those who oppose us, during their lives Laomedon was noble and Dardanus was base. We, to whom the memory of their ancestors–I mean those prior to Dardanus–has not survived, ought to say that Dardanus was base while alive and noble after death. The claim that Dardanus was the son of Jove does not contradict this, for that is a fable which, in discussions of a philosophical nature, ought to be disregarded.(65) Even if those who oppose us should wish to endorse this fable, certainly what the fable conceals undoes all of their arguments. Thus it is evident that the argument that established lack of remembrance as the cause of nobility is false and erroneous. Chapter 15

After my canzone has proved by their very own doctrine that time is not a requirement for nobility, it proceeds immediately to overturn their previously stated opinion so that their false reasoning does not taint the mind that is disposed toward the truth. It accomplishes this when it says, It further follows from what was said above.

Here we must understand that if a man cannot change from base to noble, nor a noble son be born of a base father, as was stated in their opinion, one of two fallacies must obtain. One is that there is no such thing as nobility; the other is that there have always been a great many men in the world, so that the human race is not descended from a single man alone. And this can be demonstrated. If nobility is not engendered anew, as their opinion has many times been said to affirm (that is, its not being engendered by a base man in himself, nor by a base father in his son), a man always remains what he was at the time of his birth, and at birth he is like his father. Hence the evolution of this single condition has continued from our first parent: for as was the first progenitor, namely Adam, so must the whole human race be, because by this reasoning it is not possible to discover any change of condition between Adam and those living in modern times. Therefore if Adam himself was noble, we are all noble, and if he was base, we are all base, which eradicates any distinction between these conditions and so eradicates the conditions themselves. This means that from what has been said above it follows That each of us is noble or each base.

If this is not true, still some people must of necessity be called noble and some base: for since the change from baseness to nobility has been eradicated, the human race must have descended from different origins–that is, from one that is noble and from one that is base. My canzone says this when it states Or else that mankind had no origin, meaning no single one, for it does not say “origins.” This is utterly false according to the Philosopher, according to our Faith which cannot lie, and according to the law and ancient doctrines of the Gentiles.(66) For although the Philosopher does not posit human evolution from a single individual, he nevertheless considers that there is but one essence in all men, which different origins could not produce. Plato believes that all men depend for their existence on only one Idea and not on many, which is the same as giving them a single origin.(67)Aristotle would most certainly laugh aloud if he heard talk of two species of the human race, like those of horses and asses; for (with apologies to Aristotle) they who have this thought might well be considered asses.

That it is utterly false according to our faith, which must be completely upheld, is clear from Solomon who, in distinguishing between mankind and the brute animals, speaks of the former as sons of Adam with the following words: “Who knows if the spirits of the sons of Adam ascend above and those of the beasts descend below?”(68) That the Gentiles considered this to be false is made evident by the first book of Ovid’sMetamorphoses, where he discusses the creation of the world according to pagan, or Gentile, beliefs, saying, “Man is born” (he did not say “men”: he said “born” and “man”), “whether the maker of things made him of divine seed or whether the newly made earth, just lately separated from the noble body of ether, retained the seeds of the kindred heaven.(69) This earth, mixed with the water of the river, the son of Iapetus, namely Prometheus, fashioned in the likeness of the gods who govern all.” Here he plainly states that the first man was one alone; and thus my canzone says But this I do not grant (that is, that man had no origin). The canzone adds Nor do they either, if they are Christian. It says “Christian” and not “philosophers” or “Gentiles” (even their opinions are not to the contrary) because Christian doctrine has greater strength and destroys all calumny, by virtue of the supreme light of the heaven which illuminates it.

Then when I say Thus it is clear to every mind that’s sound, I draw the conclusion that their error is refuted and say that it is time for our eyes to be opened to the truth. I affirm this where I say And now I wish to say, as I do feel. I say, then, that from what has been said it is evident to sound minds that these assertions of theirs are empty (that is, they lack the marrow of truth). It is not without reason that I say “sound.” For we must understand that our intellect may be said to be sound or sick; and by “intellect” I mean the noble part of our soul, to which the common term “mind” may be said to refer. It may be called sound when illness of mind or of body does not impede its activity, which consists of knowing what things are, as Aristotle asserts in the third book of On the Soul.(70)

For with regard to the sickness of the soul, I have observed three terrible infirmities of the human mind. One is caused by arrogance of nature, for there are many who are so presumptuous as to think that they know everything, and they therefore take for certain what is uncertain. Tully execrates this vice above all in the first book of On Offices, as does Thomas in his book Against the Gentiles where he says, “Many are so presumptuous of intellect as to believe that all things can be measured with their intellect, considering true whatever seems to them true and false whatever seems to them false.”(71)Consequently it comes to pass that they never reach true learning; and believing themselves to be sufficiently learned, they never ask questions, never listen, seek only to have questions asked of them, and before a question has even been completed, they give the wrong answer. It is with them in mind that Solomon says in Proverbs, “Have you seen a man who is too quick in his answer? From him can be expected more folly than correction.”(72)

The second is caused by weak-mindedness of nature, for there are many so stubborn in their baseness that they cannot believe that they may be brought to know anything either by themselves or by others. These are men who never seek out knowledge or take positions in arguments and never concern themselves with what others have to say. Aristotle speaks against them in the first book of the Ethics, calling them incompetent hearers of moral philosophy.(73) Dull-witted men such as these live perpetually like beasts, without hope of obtaining any learning.

The third is caused by natural capriciousness of mind, for there are many whose fancy is so capricious that they always jump about in their reasoning and reach their conclusion before establishing the terms of their syllogism, then jumping from one conclusion to another, all the while fancying that they have conducted their arguments with great subtlety, while departing from no established principle, and never truly perceiving in their imagination any one thing as it really is. The Philosopher says that we should not concern ourselves with them nor have anything to do with them, stating in the first book of the Physics that “it is not proper to enter into argumentation with whoever denies the established principles.”(74) Among these are to be found many uneducated individuals who have scarcely learned the letters of the alphabet but are nevertheless willingly enter into discussions of geometry, astrology, and physics.

By reason of sickness or bodily defect, the mind may be unsound sometimes because of a defect arising from childbirth, as in the case of idiots, and sometimes by a disturbance of the mind, as in the case of maniacs. It is this infirmity of mind that the law refers to when the Infortiatum states “In anyone who makes a will soundness of mind, not of body, is required at the time when the will is made.”(75)Consequently to those intellects who are not sick through infirmity of mind or body but are free, unimpeded, and sound in the light of truth, I say that it is evident that the common opinion referred to is empty (that is, worthless).

Subsequently I add that I therefore judge them to be false and empty, and so I refute them; and this is done where it says And hence I claim their words are false. Then I say that we must proceed to demonstrate the truth, which means, namely, that we must show what nobility is and how the man in whom it exists can be recognized. I say this with the words And now I wish to say, as I do feel. Chapter 16

“The King shall rejoice in God, and all those who swear by him shall be praised, because the mouth of those who speak unjust things is shut tight.”(76)These words may rightly serve here as a beginning because every true king must love truth above all. Consequently 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 truth itself.(77) I say then that every king shall rejoice because that most false and harmful opinion of evil and deceived men, who have up to now spoken unjustly of nobility, has been refuted.

We must now proceed to the part which treats of the truth, according to the division made above in the third chapter of the present book. This second part, which begins I say that every virtue, at its source, proposes to establish the limits of this nobility according to the truth. This part is divided into two, for in the first we intend to show what this nobility is, and in the second to show how the one in whom it exists may be recognized. The second part begins The soul which this goodness adorns.The first part is again divided into two, for in the first certain things are examined which are necessary for clarifying the definition of nobility; in the second the definition itself is examined. And the second part begins Nobility resides wherever virtue is.

To open a thorough discussion of this subject, two things must first be examined: first, what is meant by the word “nobility,” considered in and of itself; second, what road must be taken in searching out the definition mentioned above. I say then that if we should take into consideration the common manner of speech, the word “nobility” means the perfection of the nature proper to each thing. It is predicated not only of man but also of all things, for a stone, plant, horse, or falcon is called noble whenever perfection is perceived in its nature. Therefore Solomon say in Ecclesiastes, “Blessed is the land whose kind is noble,” which is to say “whose king is perfect according to the perfection of mind and of body.”(78) This is evident from what he says earlier: “Woe to you, O land, whose king is a child,” that is, a man who has not reached perfection; and a man is a child not simply because of age but because of disorderly conduct or congenital defects, as the Philosopher teaches us in the first book of theEthics.(79) There are some fools, it is true, who believe that the word “noble” means “to be acclaimed and known by many,” and they argue that it derives from a verb that signifies to know, namely nosco. This is utterly false, for if it were true those things that were most acclaimed and best known of their kind would be the most noble of their kind. And so the obelisk of St. Peter would be the most noble stone in the world; Asdente the cobbler of Parma would be nobler than any of his fellow citizens; Albuino de la Scala would be nobler than Guido da Castello of Reggio; yet each of these things is utterly false.(80) Therefore it is utterly false to say that “noble” comes from “to know.” It comes, rather, from non vile, and consequently “noble” is the same as “not base.”

It is this perfection that the Philosopher refers to in the seventh book of the Physics when he says, “Each thing is most completely perfect when it reaches and attains its own proper virtue, and it is then most completely perfect according to its nature. Hence a circle can then be called perfect when it is truly a circle,” that is, when it attains to its own proper virtue; and then it exists in its nature to the fullest extent, and then it may be called a noble circle.(81) This occurs when there is within the circle a point equidistant from the circumference, which is the virtue particular to it. Therefore the circle that has the shape of an egg is not noble, nor is the one that has nearly the shape of a full moon, because its nature is not perfect in it. Thus we may clearly see that in general this word, namely “nobility,” means in all things perfection of their own nature. This is what we were in search of in the first place, in order best to open our discussion of the part under examination.

In the second place we must see how to proceed in order to find the definition of nobility in man, which is the goal of our present argument. Since we cannot define the highest perfection in those beings that are of one species (for example, the human race) by referring to essential principles which they have in common, it must be defined and known by the effects of those principles. Therefore we read in the Gospel of St. Matthew Christ’s words, “Beware of false prophets . . .; you shall know them by their fruits.”(82) So the straight way leads us to find the definition which we are searching after “in their fruits”–that is, the moral and intellectual virtues of which our very nobility is the seed, as its definition will make fully clear. These are the two things that required examination before proceeding to others, as was stated above in this chapter. Chapter 17

Now that these two things have been examined, which it seemed useful to examine before proceeding with the text of the canzone, we must proceed with it. It begins by saying, I say that every virtue, at its source, Comes from a single root: Virtue, I mean, which makes man happy In his actions. And it continues,This is, as stated in the Ethics, A chosen habit, setting down the full definition of moral virtue as it is defined by the Philosopher in the second book of theEthics. He emphasizes two things of primary importance: one is that every virtue comes from a single source; the second is that the phrase “every virtue” refers to the moral virtues, which are our subject. This becomes evident when it says, This is, as stated in the Ethics. Here we must know that the moral virtues are the fruits most proper to us, since they lie in every respect within our own power. They are defined and enumerated in different ways by different philosophers, but since in matters on which the divine opinion of Aristotle has been voiced it seems best to leave aside the opinions of others, and intending to say what they are, I will briefly run through a discussion of them according to his opinion.

The following are the eleven virtues enumerated by the Philosopher named above.(83) The first is called Courage, which is the weapon and bridle for regulating our boldness and timidity in things which threaten to destroy our lives. The second is Temperance, which is the control and bridle of our gluttony and excessive abstinence in things which preserve our lives. The third is Liberality, which regulates us in the giving and receiving of temporal goods. The fourth is Munificence, which regulates great expenditures, in administering them and setting limits to their size. The fifth is Magnanimity, which regulates and procures great honor and renown.(84) The sixth is Love of Honor, which regulates and prepares us with respect to the honors of this world. The seventh is Gentleness, which regulates our wrath and our excessive patience with regard to evils that confront us. The eighth is Affability, which enables us to live in agreement with others. The ninth is called Truth, which restrains us in our speech from vaunting ourselves as greater than we are and from deprecating ourselves as less than we are. The tenth is called Good Disposition, which regulates us in our amusements, enabling us to use them properly. The eleventh is Justice, which disposes us to love and conduct ourselves with rectitude in all things.

Each of these virtues has two related enemies, that is, vices, one through excess and the other through shortfall. These virtues constitute the mean between them, and they spring from a single source, namely from our habit of good choice. Hence we may say generally of all of them that they are a chosen habit residing in the mean. It is through the exercise of these virtues that a man is made content or happy, as the Philosopher says in the first book of the Ethicswhere he defines Happiness by saying that “Happiness is activity in accordance with virtue in a perfect life.”(85) Many place Prudence, or good judgment, rightly among the moral virtues, but Aristotle numbers it among the intellectual virtues, even though it is the guide of the moral virtues and shows how they are interrelated and how without it they could not exist.

We must know, however, that we may have two kinds of happiness in this life, according to two different paths, one good and the other best, which lead us there. One is the active life, the other the contemplative life; and although by the active, as has been said, we may arrive at a happiness that is good, the other leads us to the best happiness and state of bliss, as the Philosopher proves in the tenth book of the Ethics. Christ affirms this with words from his own lips in the Gospel of Luke, when speaking to Martha and replying to her: “Martha, Martha, you are distressed and trouble yourself about many things; truly one thing alone is necessary,” that is, `what you are doing.’ He adds: “Mary has chosen the best part, which shall not be taken from her.”(86)

As made clear in the verses just preceding these words of the Gospel, Mary, who was sitting at the feet of Christ, showed no concern for domestic affairs, but simply listened to the words of the Savior. The moral sense of these words is that our Savior sought thereby to show that the contemplative life was the best, even though the active life was good. This is evident to anyone who considers well these words of the evangelist. Some, however, might oppose me by objecting that “Since happiness of the contemplative life is more excellent than the active life, and both can be and are the fruit and end of nobility, why not proceed first with the intellectual rather than with the moral virtues?”(87) To this I would briefly reply that in every kind of teaching the capacity of the learner must be taken into consideration, and he should be led along the path which is most easy for him. Therefore since the moral virtues seem to be and are more common and better known, and more sought after than the others, and more imitated through outward demonstration, it was useful and fitting to proceed by this path rather than by the other; for we would not gain so good a knowledge of bees by speaking about how they produce wax rather than about how they produce honey, although bees produce both of these things.

Chapter 18

In the preceding chapter we determined how every moral virtue springs from one source, namely good and habitual choice, and this is dealt with by the present text up to the part which begins Nobility, I say, by definition. In this part, then, we proceed by inference based on probability to discover that every virtue named above, whether considered separately or all together, proceeds from nobility, as does an effect from a cause.(88) This is founded on a philosophical proposition which states that when two things are observed to have any one aspect in common they both must be referred to some third thing, or else one of them to the other, in the manner of effect with respect to cause; because any one aspect, possessed primarily and essentially, can have as its cause but one thing; and if both were not the effect of some third thing, nor one the effect of the other, both would possess this aspect primarily and essentially, which is impossible.(89) Therefore the text says that nobility and virtue, so defined, namely moral virtue, have in common this: Each term implies praise of the person to whom it is applied. This is stated in the words So that within a single exegesis The two agree, by having one effect: that is, praising and commending him who others say possesses nobility. Then it draws a conclusion based on the proposition noted above and says that therefore one must proceed from the other, or both from a third; and it adds that it is to be presumed that the one comes from the other rather than both from the third, if it appears that the one equals or is greater in worth than the other; and it says this in the line But if one has the value of the other.

It should be observed that here we do not proceed by necessary demonstration, as we would by arguing “if cold generates moisture and we observe clouds generating moisture then cold generates clouds,” but rather by an agreeable and fitting induction, for if there are in us many things worthy of praise and the source of the praise we merit is found within us, it is reasonable to attribute these things to that source; and it is more reasonable to consider that which comprises several things to be their source than to consider them to be its source.(90) For the base of a tree, which comprises all of its limbs, must be called the source and cause of them, and not they of it. Thus nobility, which comprises every virtue as cause does effect, and many of our other praiseworthy activities as well, must be considered such that virtue is referred to it rather than to a third thing that is in us.(91)

Finally, it says that what has been said (namely, that every moral virtue derives from a single source, and that such virtue and nobility have one thing in common, as said above; and that one must therefore be referred to the other or both to a third; and that if one equals or is greater than the other it proceeds more likely from the other than from a third) must allbe taken for granted, that is, conceived and set down with what follows in mind. So ends this stanza and this present section. Chapter 19

Since in the preceding section certain points have been thoroughly treated and defined, which was necessary in order to perceive how we might define this good thing about which we are speaking, we must proceed to the following section which begins Nobility resides wherever virtue is. This may be divided into two parts. In the first a certain thing is proved which was touched on earlier and left unproved; in the second, by way of conclusion, the definition which we have been in search of is found. The second part begins And just as perse derives from black.

In order to clarify the first part, we must commit to memory what has been said above: that if nobility equals and extends beyond virtue, virtue will rather proceed from it. This claim, namely that nobility extends beyond it, is proved in the present section, and it offers the heavens as an example, saying that wherever there is virtue there is nobility.

Here it should be observed that, as it is stated in theDigest and is held as a rule of Law, there is no need of proof regarding those things which are self-evident; nothing is more evident than that nobility exists where virtue exists, and we see that it is commonly understood that everything after its own nature may be called noble. The text then says Just as wherever there’s a star is heaven, though the converse is not true: that wherever there is heaven there is a star. Likewise nobility is present wherever there exits virtue, though virtue does not always exist wherever nobility is present; and this is an agreeable and fitting comparison, for truly nobility is a heaven in which many diverse stars shine forth. In her shine forth the intellectual and moral virtues, in her shine forth good dispositions conferred by nature, for example piety and religion, and praiseworthy emotions, for example modesty and mercy and many others; in her shine forth the perfections of the body, for example beauty, strength and all but everlasting health.

So many are the stars that spread across the heavens that it surely cannot surprise us if many diverse fruits are produced by human nobility, so many are their natures and their powers, brought together and united in one simple substance; and on them as on diverse branches she bears fruit in diverse ways. Indeed, I would indeed dare say that human nobility, with respect to its many fruits, surpasses that of the angels, although the nobility of the angels is more divine in its unity. The Psalmist had in mind this nobility of ours, which has produced so many and such various fruits, when he composed that Psalm which begins: “O Lord our God, how wonderful is your name in all the earth!”, where he praises man, as though marveling at the divine affection for the human creature, saying: “What is man, that you, God, do visit him? You have made him a little lower than the angels, have crowned him with glory and honor, and have set him above the works of your hands.”(92) Therefore the comparison of human nobility with heaven was truly agreeable and fitting.

Then when the text says In women and in those of tender age, it proves what I say, showing that nobility extends to places where virtue does not reside. Then it says we perceive this state of well-being, referring to nobility, which is indeed a state of true well-being, to be wherever there is shame (that is, fear of dishonor) as it exists in women and in young people, in whom shame is good and praiseworthy, although this shame is not a virtue but a certain kind of good emotion. It says In women and in those of tender age (that is, in the young people) because as the Philosopher maintains in the fourth book of the Ethics, “shame is not praiseworthy or suitable in the elderly or in the virtuous,” since it is necessary for them to keep themselves from those things which cause them to feel shame.(93) Young people and women have less need for caution, and therefore the fear of being dishonored through some fault is praiseworthy in them; for this feeling comes from nobility, and in them it may be viewed as and given the name of nobility, just as shamelessness may be viewed as and given the name of baseness and absence of nobility. Thus it is a good and perfect sign of nobility in children and in those not fully grown when after a fault shame is painted on their faces, for then it is the fruit of true nobility. Chapter 20

Then in the words that follow, And just as perse derives from black, the text proceeds to the definition of nobility, which we are seeking and which will allow us to perceive the essence of this nobility, about which so many speak incorrectly. It says then, drawing a conclusion from what was said earlier, that every virtue, Or class of virtues (that is, the chosen habit occupying the mean), will derive from this, namely nobility. It provides an analogy based on colors, saying that just as perse derives from black, so does this, namely virtue, derive from nobility. Perse is a color composed of purple and black, but black predominates, and so it takes its name from black. Likewise virtue is a thing composed of nobility and passion, but because nobility predominates in it, virtue takes its name from it and is called goodness. Then afterwards the text argues, from what has been said, that no one should think himself to be of nobility simply because he can say “I belong to her by race,” if in fact these fruits are not in him. It provides an immediate explanation, saying that those who have this grace, namely this divine thing, are almost likegods, untainted by vice. No one can grant this gift but God alone, with whom there is no choice of persons, as the divine Scriptures make clear.(94) It should not appear too lofty for the text to use the words For they are almost gods, for as was stated above in the seventh chapter of the third book, just as there exist men who are most base and bestial, so there are men who are most noble and divine, as Aristotle proves in the seventh book of the Ethics by citing the words of the poet Homer.(95) So let none of the Uberti of Florence or the Visconti of Milan say “Because I am of such a race I am noble,” for the divine seed does not fall upon a race (that is, family stock) but on individuals; and as will be proved below, family stock does not make individuals noble, although individuals make family stock noble.

Then when it says For God alone bestows it on that soul, it refers to the one who receives (that is, the subject upon whom this divine gift descends), for it is truly a divine gift according to the words of the Apostle: “Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above, descending from the Father of lights.”(96) It then says that God alone bestows this grace on the soul of that human being whom he sees dwelling perfectly within his own person, prepared and disposed to receive this divine act. For according to what the Philosopher affirms in the second book of On the Soul, “Things must be well disposed to their agents if they are to receive their acts.”(97) Hence if the soul dwells imperfectly in a person, it is not well disposed to receive this blessed and divine infusion, just as if a precious stone is not well disposed or is imperfect, it cannot receive the celestial virtue, as the noble Guido Guinizelli said in a canzone of his that begins “Love hastens ever to the gentle heart.”(98) The soul, therefore, may dwell without vigor in a person because of a defect of temperament, or perhaps because of a defect of age, and the divine radiance is never reflected by a soul such as this.(99) Individuals such as these, whose souls are deprived of this light, may say that they are like valleys pointing to the north or underground caves, where the light of the Sun never descends unless it is reflected from some other place which is illumined by it.

Finally the text draws a conclusion and states, according to what has been said before (namely, that the virtues are the fruit of nobility which God places in the well disposed soul), that to some, namely to those few who have understanding, it is clear that human nobility is nothing but “the seed of happiness,” instilled by God Within the soul that’s properly disposed (that is, the soul whose body is perfectly disposed in every part). For if the virtues are the fruit of nobility, and happiness is the sweetness attained, it is clear that this nobility is the seed of happiness, as has been said. Careful consideration will reveal that this definition comprises all four causes, namely the material, the formal, the efficient, and the final: the material in saying the soul that’s properly disposed, which is the material and subject of nobility; the formal in saying that it is the seed; the efficient in sayinginstilled by God Within the soul; the final in saying of happiness.(100) So now we have defined the nature of our human goodness, which descends into us from the supreme spiritual virtue as virtue descends into a stone from the noblest celestial body.(101) Chapter 21

In order to have a more perfect understanding of the human goodness which is called nobility, as the source of all good in us, we must clarify in this special chapter how this goodness descends into us, first by way of nature and then by way of theology, that is, by way of the divine and the spiritual. We must first of all know that man is composed of soul and body, but it is in the soul, as has been said, that nobility resides as the seed of the divine virtue.

Different philosophers, it is true, have held different opinions regarding the difference of our souls. For Avicenna and Algazel maintained that they were noble or vile in and of themselves from their beginning. Plato and others maintained that they issued from the stars and were more or less noble according to the nobility of their star. Pythagoras maintained that all souls were of the same nobility, not only human souls but those of the brute animals and the plants, and the forms of minerals; and he said that the only difference lay between their matter and their form.(102) If each were to defend his own opinion, truth might be seen to exist in all of them. But since upon first consideration they appear somewhat removed from the truth, it is better to proceed not according to them but according to the opinion of Aristotle and the Peripatetics. Therefore I say that when the seed of man falls into its receptacle, namely the matrix, it carries with it the virtue of the generative soul, and the virtue of heaven, and the virtue of the combined elements, namely temperament.(103)It matures and disposes the material to receive the formative virtue given by the soul of the generator, and the formative virtue prepares the organs to receive the celestial virtue, which brings the soul from the potentiality of the seed into life.(104) As soon as it is produced it receives from the virtue of the celestial mover the possible intellect, which draws into itself in potentiality all of the universal forms as they are found in its maker, to an ever lesser degree the more it is removed from the primal Intelligence.(105)

No one should be surprised if I speak in a way that seems difficult to understand, for it seems to me indeed a marvel how such a process can be fully described and perceived by the intellect. It is something that cannot be expressed in words–words, I mean, in the vernacular. Consequently I would say in the words of the Apostle, “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom of God, how unfathomable are your judgments and your ways past finding out!”(106) Since the temperament of the seed may be more or less good, and the disposition of the sower may be more or less good, and the disposition of Heaven for the effect may be good, better, or best (varying in accordance with the constellations which undergo continuous change), it comes to pass that a soul is created more or less pure from the seed of man and from these virtues. According to its purity the possible intellectual virtue, mentioned above, descends into it, in the manner mentioned. If it happens that because of the purity of the recipient soul the intellectual virtue is quite free of and withdrawn from every bodily darkness, the divine goodness increases in it as in a substance suited to receive it; hence it increases this intelligence in the soul, according to its capacity for receiving it. This is that seed of happiness of which we are presently speaking.

This accords with the opinion expressed by Tully in his book On Old Age where he says, speaking in the person of Cato, “Therefore a celestial soul descended into us coming from the highest dwelling into a place which is contrary to the divine nature and to eternity.”(107) In a soul such as this there exists its own virtue, the intellectual virtue, and the divine (that is, the influence mentioned above). Therefore it is written in the book On Causes, “Every noble soul has three activities, namely animal, intellectual, and divine.”(108)There are some who would even claim that if all of the preceding virtues in their best disposition were brought into agreement in the creation of a soul, so much of the Deity would descend into it that it would almost become another God incarnate. This is virtually all that can be said according to the principles of philosophy.

According to the principles of theology it may be said that when the supreme deity (that is, God) sees his creature prepared to receive his benefaction, he endows it with as great a gift as it is prepared to receive. Since these gifts come from ineffable Love, and divine Love is a attribute of the Holy Spirit, they are called the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts, as Isaiah distinguishes them, are seven in number: namely Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Strength, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of God.(109) O happy harvest, O happy and wondrous seed! O admirable and generous sower, who waits only for human nature to prepare the earth to be sown! Blessed are they who rightly cultivate such seed! Here we should know that the first and most noble shoot to bear fruit which sprouts from this seed is the appetite of the mind, which in Greek is called hormen.(110) If this is not cultivated correctly and preserved properly through good habit, the seed is worth little, and it would have been better if it had never been sown. Therefore St. Augustine asserts, as does Aristotle in the second book of the Ethics, that one should make a habit of doing well and of restraining one’s passions in order that this sprout of which we spoke may grow strong through good habit and be strengthened in its uprightness, so that it may bear fruit and from this fruit bring forth the sweetness of human happiness. Chapter 22

It is a precept of the moral philosophers who have spoken about giving that one should devote thought and care to making one’s gifts as useful as possible in presenting them to the recipient. Thus, out of a desire to obey this rule, I intend to make my Convivio as useful as I possibly can in each of its parts. Since in this part the opportunity to speak at some length about human happiness presents itself, I intend to speak about its sweetness, for no other discussion would be more useful to those who have no knowledge of it. For as the Philosopher says in the first book of the Ethics, and Tully in his book on The End of Good, he who does not see the mark aims poorly, and in the same way he who does not perceive this sweetness cannot attain it properly.(111) Therefore, since it is our final solace, for the sake of which we live and devote ourselves to what we undertake to do, it is most useful and necessary to perceive this mark, in order to direct the bow of our activity toward it, for he is most highly regarded who points it out to those who do not perceive it.

Leaving aside, then, the opinions held in this matter by the philosopher Epicurus and by Zeno, I intend to proceed directly to the true opinion of Aristotle and the other Peripatetics. As has been said above, there springs from the divine goodness, sown and infused into us from the beginning of our generation, a shoot which the Greeks call hormen (that is, natural appetite of the mind). Just as the various grains which at first, when springing up, look alike in the grass, and then as they grow come to lose their similarity, so this natural appetite, which issues from the divine grace, seems at first not unlike that which comes simply from nature, but is similar to it, just as the first blades of the different grains are similar to one another. This similarity is found not only in men, but in men and in animals; and this is apparent, for every animal, as soon as it is born, rational as well as brute, loves itself and fears and flees those things which are opposed to it, and hates them. Then as this appetite evolves, a dissimilarity, as has been said above, begins to develop in the course of this appetite, for one takes one path and another another. Just as the Apostle says, “Many run for the prize, but one alone is he who captures it,” so these human appetites proceed from the beginning along different paths, and there is but one path alone that leads us to our peace.(112)Therefore, leaving aside all the others, we must follow in our present book the one that makes a good beginning.

I say, then, that this appetite loves itself from the beginning, although in a general sense; then it begins to make distinctions among those things that it enjoys the most and the least, and hates the most and the least, and it follows or flees them either more or less, to the degree that its understanding of them permits it to make distinctions not only among those things, which it loves secondarily, but to make distinctions within itself, which it loves primarily. Recognizing different parts within itself, it loves those in it most which are most noble; and since the mind is a more noble part of man than the body, it loves that part more. And so loving first itself and all other things for the sake of itself, and loving to a greater degree the better part of itself, it is evident that it loves the mind more than the body or anything else, the mind which it ought by nature to love more than anything else. Therefore if the mind always delights in the use of the thing that is loved, which is the fruit of love, and if in that thing which is loved most of all is found the most delightful use of all, the use of our mind is most of all delightful to us. And whatever is most of all delightful to us constitutes our happiness and our blessedness, beyond which there is no greater delight, nor any equal, as anyone can see who carefully considers the preceding argument.

Let no one say that every appetite is of the mind, for by mind I mean here only that which relates to the rational part (that is, the will and the intellect). Thus if anyone should wish to call the sensitive appetite “mind,” the proposition would not and could not be admissible, for no one doubts that the rational appetite is more noble than the sensitive appetite and is therefore more deserving of love. So it is with this appetite of which we are presently speaking. In point of fact the use of our mind is twofold, namely practical and speculative (“practical” signifying “operative”), each of which is most delightful, although that of contemplation is more so, as has been explained above.(113) The practical use of the mind consists in our acting in accordance with virtue (that is, uprightly), with prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice; the speculative use consists not in our acting but in reflecting upon the works of God and nature. This together with the other constitutes our blessedness and supreme happiness, as may be seen. This is the sweetness of the seed mentioned above, as is now clearly evident, sweetness to which the seed often does not attain because it has been poorly cultivated or its growth has gone astray. Similarly this may occur by means of much correction and cultivation, for as the seed sprouts some part of its growth may extend to a place where it does not originally fall, so that it may attain to this fruit. This procedure constitutes a kind of grafting of one nature onto a different root. Therefore there is no one who can be excused, for if a person does not acquire this seed from his own natural roots, he may well acquire it by means of a graft. Would in fact that those who have acquired a graft were as many as those who allow themselves to go astray from the good root!

One of these uses is indeed more full of blessedness than the other–namely the speculative which, being inviolate, is the use of the most noble part of our mind which, by reason of that love rooted in us which has been spoken of, is most of all deserving of love, namely the intellect. In this life this part cannot have its perfect use, which consists of seeing God, who is the supreme object of intelligence, except insofar as it contemplates and beholds him through his effects. We will find, if we look closely, that the Gospel of St. Mark teaches us to seek out this blessedness as being the highest, and not the other, namely that of the active life.(114) Mark says that Mary Magdalene, Mary of James, and Mary Salome went to the sepulcher to find the Savior and did not find him. But they found a young man dressed in white who said to them: “You seek the Savior, and I tell you that he is not here; and do not therefore have fear, but go and say to his disciples and to Peter that he will go before them into Galilee, and there you shall see him, as he said unto you.” By these three ladies may be understood the three schools of the active life: namely the Epicureans, the Stoics, and the Peripatetics, who go to the sepulcher (that is, the present world, which is a receptacle of corruptible things) and seek out the Savior (that is, blessedness) and do not find him. But they find a young man in white garments who, according to the testimony of Matthew and others as well, was an angel of God. Therefore Matthew said: “The angel of God descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone and sat upon it. And his countenance was like lightning, and his garments were white as snow.”(115)

This angel is our nobility which comes from God, as has been said, and speaks within our faculty of reason and says to each one of these schools (that is, to everyone who goes in search of blessedness in the active life) that it is not here, but that they should go and tell the disciples and Peter (that is, those who go seeking him and those who have gone astray, like Peter who had denied him) that he will go before them into Galilee, that is, that blessedness will go before us into Galilee (that is, into contemplation). Galilee means the same as whiteness, and whiteness is a color more imbued with material light than any other; and likewise contemplation is more imbued with spiritual light than anything else found here below.(116) And the angel says: “He will go before you,” and not “He will be with you,” to have us understand that God is always in advance of our contemplation, and that here below we can never reach him who is our supreme blessedness. And he says: “There you will see him, as he said unto you” (that is, there you will possess his sweetness, namely happiness, just as it has been promised to you here, that is, as it has been decreed that you shall be able to possess it). And so it appears that we are first able to find our blessedness (this happiness of which we are speaking) imperfectly, as it were, in the active life (that is, in the exercise of the moral virtues), and later almost perfectly in the exercise of the intellectual virtues. These two kinds of activities are the quickest and most direct paths leading to the supreme blessedness, which cannot be possessed here, as is quite apparent from what has been said. Chapter 23

Now that the definition of nobility has been sufficiently examined and clarified in all of its parts as far as possible, so that we can now see what constitutes a noble man, it seems appropriate to proceed to that part of the text which begins The soul which this goodness adorns, which identifies the signs by which we may recognize the noble man referred to above. This is divided into two parts: in the first it is affirmed that this nobility shines and gleams openly throughout the entire life of a noble man; in the second it reveals the splendors distinctive of nobility; the second part begins Sweet, obedient, and full of shame.

With regard to the first part it should be known that this divine seed, of which we have spoken above, springs up immediately in our soul, growing and extending itself diversely into each power of the soul according to its need. It springs up, then, in the vegetative, sensitive, and rational powers, and branches out through the virtues of all of these, directing all of them to their perfection and preserving itself in them until the moment when, together with that part of our soul which never dies, it returns to heaven to the highest and most glorious sower. It says this in the first part, which has been spoken of. Then when it says Sweet, obedient, and full of shame, it shows how we may recognize a man who is noble by manifest signs, which constitute the activity of this divine goodness; this part is divided into four, according to its diverse activity in the four ages: that is, in adolescence, maturity, old age, and senility. The second part begins: In maturity she’s strong and self-restrained; the third: In old age; the fourth: And then in the fourth phase of life.(117) This is the general meaning of this part, regarding which it should be known that every effect, insofar as it is an effect, receives the likeness of its cause to the degree that it is able to retain it. Consequently since our life, as has been said, and the life of every living thing here below is caused by heaven, and heaven discloses itself to all such effects as these not by a complete circling but by a partial circling–and thus its movement above them must necessarily rise somewhat like an arc–all earthly life (and in saying “earthly” I mean both men and the other forms of life), rising upward and descending, must be similar to the image of an arc. Returning, then, to human life, which is our sole concern at present, I say that it takes the likeness of this arc, rising upward and descending.(118)

It should be observed that this arc here below, like the one above, would be uniform if the material sown into our constitution did not impede the rule of human nature. But since the fundamental humor, being the substance and nutriment of the heat which constitutes our life, varies in degree and in quality, and has greater duration in one effect than in another, it happens that the arc of one man’s life has a greater or lesser span than that of another.(119) Death is sometimes violent, or is hastened by sudden illness, but only that death which is commonly called natural, and which is natural, constitutes that boundary of which the Psalmist has said: “You have set a boundary which cannot be passed.”(120) Aristotle, the master of our life, who knew of this arc of which we are now speaking, seems to have believed that our life is nothing but an ascent and a descent, and therefore he says in his book On Maturity and Old Age that maturity is nothing but maturation in life. It is difficult to determine where the highest point of this arc lies, because of the inequality mentioned above, but in most lives I believe it is attained between the thirtieth and fortieth year, and I believe that in those whose nature is perfect it is attained in the thirty-fifth year. My belief is compelled by the argument that our Savior Christ had a perfect nature and desired to die in the thirty-fourth year of his life, because it would not have been fitting for a divinity to enter into such a decline as this. Nor can it be believed that he would not have desired to remain alive until he had reached the highest point of this life of ours, since he had lived here during the low estate of youth. This is made evident by the hour of the day of his death, for he desired to make it conform to his life. As Luke says, it was nearly the sixth hour when he died, which is to say the height of day. Thus we may take this word “nearly” to signify that the thirty-fifth year in the life of Christ was the height of his life.

This arc, however, is not characterized in written works solely by reference to its midpoint, but is divided into four parts, according to the four combinations of the contrary qualities that comprise our composition, to which combinations–I mean to each individually–one part of the course of our life seems to correspond, and these are called the four ages. The first is adolescence, which corresponds to the hot and moist; the second is maturity, which corresponds to the hot and dry; the third is old age, which corresponds to the cold and dry; and the fourth is senility, which corresponds to the dry and moist, as Albert states in the fourth book of the Meteorics.(121) These parts of life are likewise characterized by the year, by spring, summer, autumn, and winter; and by the day, that is, up to tierce, and then nones (omitting sext, midway between, for an obvious reason), and then vespers and from vespers onward.(122) Therefore the gentiles (that is, the pagans) said that the chariot of the sun had four horses: the first they called Eoüs, the second Pyroïs, the third Aethon, and the fourth Phlegon, as Ovid records in the second book of the Metamorphoses.(123)

Concerning the parts of the day it should be briefly observed that, as was said above in the sixth chapter of the third book, the Church in distinguishing among the hours of the day makes use of the temporal hours, of which there are twelve in each day, long or short according to the length of the solar day. Because the sixth hour (that is, midday) is the most noble hour of the entire day, and the most virtuous, she draws her offices near to each side of it (that is to say before and after) as much as possible. For this reason the office of the first part of the day, namely tierce, is said at the end of that part of the day, and the offices of the third and the fourth part are said at their beginning.(124)And for this reason mid-tierce is said before the bell is rung for that part of the day, and mid-nones after it is rung for that part of the day, and as is mid-vespers.(125) It should be clear to everyone, then, that the proper nones must always be rung at the beginning of the seventh hour of the day. And this should suffice for the present digression. Chapter 24

Returning to the main argument, I say that human life is divided into four ages. The first is called adolescence, which means “increase of life”; the second is called maturity, which means “the age that can be helpful” (that is, that can give perfection, and so it is considered a perfect age, for one can give only what one has); the third is called old age; the fourth is called senility, as has been said above.

Regarding the first age no one is in doubt, for all learned persons are in agreement that it lasts up until the twenty-fifth year. Since up until that time our soul is concerned with the growth and the beauty of the body, when many and great changes occur in one’s person, the rational part cannot discriminate with perfection. Consequently the Law directs that prior to reaching this age a person may not do certain things without a guardian of sufficient age.

Regarding the second age, which is truly the highest point of our life, there are many different opinions as to its duration. But leaving aside what the philosophers and physicians have to say about it and referring to the appropriate law, I say that in the majority (on the basis of which every judgment regarding what is natural can and must be made) this age lasts for 20 years. The reasoning which leads me to this conclusion is that if the highest point of our arc is in the thirty-fifth year, this age of life must have a descent and an ascent of equal duration; this ascent and descent are like the handle of a bow in which but little flection is observed. It obtains, then, that maturity is completed in the forty-fifth year. Just as adolescence lasts for the first twenty-five years, ascending toward maturity, so the descent, that is, old age, lasts for the same number of years following maturity; and so old age concludes in the seventieth year. But since adolescence does not begin at the beginning of life, taking it in the sense that has been stated, but nearly eight months later, and since our nature strives to ascend and holds back in descending because the natural heat is decreased, and has little power, and the moisture is condensed–not in quantity but in quality–so that it evaporates and is consumed less quickly, it happens that beyond old age there remains to our life a period of perhaps ten years, a little more or a little less; and this period is called senility.(126) Hence it is said of Plato, who may be said to have possessed a supremely excellent nature both for the perfection of its being and for the physiognomic image which Socrates observed in him when he first saw him, that he lived to the age of 81, as Tully affirms in his book On Old Age.(127) I believe that if Christ had not been crucified and had lived out the term which his life could have encompassed according to its nature, he would have undergone the change from mortal body to immortal in his eighty-first year.

Indeed as has been said above, these ages can be longer or shorter according to our temperament and constitution, but whatever they are, it seems to me, as has been said, this proportion must be preserved in all men (that is, to make the ages of life in these men longer or shorter according to the totality of the full term of their natural life).(128) Throughout each of these ages the nobility of which we are speaking reveals its effects diversely in the soul that is ennobled, and this is what this stanza, about which I am presently writing, is intended to show.(129) Here it should be observed that our nature when good and upright develops in us according to what is reasonable, just as we perceive that the nature of plants develops in them; and therefore some manners and some kinds of behavior are more reasonable at one age than at another, during which the soul that is ennobled develops in an orderly manner along a simple path, employing its activities in the periods and ages of life proper to them accordingly as they are directed to attaining its ultimate fruit.(130) Tully voices agreement with this in his book On Old Age.(131) Leaving aside the allegorical meaning which Vergil applies to the different ages of human development in the Aeneid, and as well what Egidius the Hermit says about it in the first part of his book The Regimen of Princes, and likewise Tully in his book On Offices, and following only what reason by itself can perceive, I say that this first age is the door and path by which we enter upon this good life of ours.(132) This entrance must of necessity provide certain things which the goodness of nature, never failing in things that are necessary, gives to us, as we see that she gives leaves to the vine to protect its fruit, and tendrils by which to defend and bind its weakness so as to bear the weight of the fruit.

The goodness of nature, then, gives to this age of life four things necessary for entering into the city of the good life. The first is obedience, the second sweetness, the third a sense of shame, the fourth loveliness of being, as the text says in the first section.(133) We should therefore know that just as someone who has never been in a city would not know how to make his way without guidance from someone who is familiar with it, so an adolescent who enters into the meandering forest of this life would not know how to keep to the right path unless it were shown to him by his elders.(134) Nor would it be of any use to point it out if he were not obedient to their commands; and therefore in this age of life obedience is necessary.

Someone might well say: “Can he then be called obedient who obeys commands that are bad as well as he who obeys those that are good?” I reply that this would not be obedience but transgression, for if a king commands one thing and a servant another, the servant is not to be obeyed, for this would constitute disobedience to the king, and therefore a transgression. Therefore Solomon says, in seeking to correct his son (and this is his first command): “Hear, my son, the teaching of your father.”(135) At once he shields him from the bad advice and teaching of others, saying: “Do not let sinners have the power to beguile you with flatteries or delights so that you will go with them.” So as a child clings to the mother’s breast as soon as it is born, likewise as soon as some light appears in his mind he ought to turn to the correction of his father, and his father should give him instruction. He should make certain that his own actions do not provide an example that would run counter to his words of correction, for we see that every son naturally looks more to the footprints of his father than to those of anyone else. For this reason the Law, which takes this into account, states and commands that the person of the father should always appear righteous and upstanding to his sons; so it is clear that in this age of life obedience is necessary. Therefore Solomon writes in Proverbs that he who humbly and obediently endures his chastener and his just reproofs “shall be glorified,” and he says “shall be,” to indicate that he is speaking to an adolescent, one who in the present age of life cannot be glorified.(136)

If someone should protest that “what is said is said only of the father and not of others,” I reply that all other obedience must redound to the father. Thus the Apostle says to the Colossians: “Children, obey your fathers in all things, for this is the will of God.”(137) If the father is no longer living, it redounds to him who is designated father by the father’s last will. Should the father die intestate, it redounds to him to whom the Law entrusts his son’s guidance. And next in order teachers and elders should be obeyed, to whom he seems in some way to have been entrusted by the father or by him who stands in the father’s place. But since the present chapter has become long on account of the useful digressions which it contains, the other points will be discussed in another chapter. Chapter 25

Not only is this good soul and nature obedient in adolescence, it is also pleasant, which is the other thing which is necessary in this age of life for passing through the gate of maturity. It is necessary because we cannot have a perfect life without friends, as Aristotle asserts in the eighth book of the Ethics; and the majority of friendships appear to be sown in this first age of life because in this age a man begins to be gracious, or the contrary.(138) This graciousness is acquired through pleasant conduct, namely sweet and courteous speech, and sweet and courteous service and action. This is why Solomon says to his adolescent son: “God scorns scorners, and to the meek God will give grace.” And elsewhere he says: “Keep far away from you an evil mouth, and let base actions be far from you.”(139) And so it appears that this pleasantness is necessary, as has been explained.

Furthermore, in this age of life the emotion of shame is necessary, and therefore a good and noble nature displays it in this age, as the text says. Since shame is a very prominent sign of nobility in adolescence, because it is extremely necessary at that time for making a good foundation for our life, to which the noble nature inclines, we must speak of it with some care. I say that by shame I mean three emotions necessary for the foundation of our good life: the first is awe, the second modesty, the third sense of shame, although the common people do not discern this distinction. All three are necessary in this age of life for the reasons: it is necessary to be reverent and eager, in order to learn; to be restrained, in order to avoid transgressing; to be repentant of an error, so as not to fall into the habit of error. All of these things comprise the emotions mentioned above, which together are commonly called shame. For awe is the amazement of the mind at seeing or hearing, or in some way perceiving, great and marvelous things. Insofar as they seem great, they instill reverence for them in him who perceives them; insofar as they seem marvelous they make him yearn for knowledge about them. For this reason the kings of times past would place magnificent works of gold, gems, and works of art in their palaces so that those who saw them would be amazed, and therefore become reverent, and eager to obtain information about the king’s state of honor. Thus Statius, the sweet poet, in the first book of theThebaid, says that when the king of the Argives, Adrastus, saw Polynices clad in a lion’s skin, and Tydeus clad in the hide of a wild boar, and recalled the reply which Apollo had given concerning his daughters, he was awestruck, and therefore became more reverent and more eager to gain knowledge.(140)

Modesty is the recoiling of the mind from things which are ugly for fear of falling into them, as we see in virgins, good women, and adolescents who are so modest that their faces become pallid or tinged with the color of red not only in those instances when they are induced or tempted to commit a fault, but even when some act of sensual pleasure is merely conceived in the imagination. Thus the above-mentioned poet says in the first book of the Thebaid, just cited, that when Aceste, the nurse of Argia and Deiphyle, daughters of King Adrastus, brought them before the eyes of their noble father in the presence of two strangers, namely Polynices and Tydeus, the virgins became pallid and flushed, and their eyes averted the glances of everyone and turned upon their father’s face alone, as if reassured.(141) O how many faults does this modesty curb! How many dishonorable deeds and entreaties does it silence! How many dishonorable desires does it bridle! How many evil temptations does it check, not only in the person who is modest but in the one who looks on him! How many foul words does it restrain! For as Tully says in the first book of On Offices, “There is no foul act which it is not foul to speak of.”(142) Therefore a man who is modest and noble never speaks in such a way that his words would be unsuitable for a woman. Ah, how ill it becomes a man who goes in search of honor to speak of things which would be unbecoming on the lips of any woman!

The sense of shame is the fear of being disgraced for a fault that has been committed. From this fear springs repentance for the fault, which consists of a bitterness that acts as a constraint against renewing the fault. Consequently this same poet says in the same passage that when Polynices was asked by King Adrastus about his origin, he hesitated before speaking for shame of the fault he had committed against his father, and also of the faults of his father Oedipus, for they seemed to abide in the shame of the son. He did not name his father, but his ancestors, and his native land and his mother. From this it is quite evident that shame is necessary in this age of life.(143)

The noble nature in this age of life displays not only obedience, pleasantness, and shame, but also beauty and poise of body, as the text affirms when it saysAnd she adorns her body. The word “adorns” is a verb and not a noun–a verb, I mean, in the present tense indicative of the third person. Here we must observe that this effect is also necessary for the goodness of our life, for a great part of the operations of our soul must be effected by means of the organs of the body, and it effects them well when the body is well ordered and disposed in its parts. When it is well ordered and disposed it is then beautiful as a whole and in its parts; for the due order of our members accords a pleasure of an inexpressibly wonderful harmony, and their proper disposition, namely their health, confers upon them a color that is pleasant to behold. So to say that a noble nature brings beauty to its body and makes it lovely and poised is to say simply that it adorns it with the perfection of order. It is evident that along with the other things that have been discussed, this characteristic is necessary in the age of adolescence. These are the things which the noble soul (that is, the noble nature as a thing which is sown), as has been said, by divine providence, intends for it to have from the beginning. Chapter 26

Now that we have discussed the first section of this part, which shows how we can recognize a man who is noble by manifest signs, we must proceed to the second part, which begins: At maturity strong and self-restrained. It says, then, that as the noble nature in adolescence shows itself obedient, pleasant and full of shame, adorning its own person, so in maturity it isstrong, self-restrained, loving, courteous, and honest, five qualities which appear to be, and are, necessary for our perfection insofar as we regard it with reference to ourselves. Concerning this we should observe that all that noble nature prepares in the first age of life is set forth and ordered by the foresight of universal Nature, which orders particular nature to its perfection.(144) This perfection of ours can be considered in two ways. It can be considered with reference to ourselves, and this perfection must be achieved in our maturity, which is the fullness of our life. It can be considered with reference to others; and because it is first necessary to be perfect, and then to communicate this perfection to others, this secondary perfection must be achieved in the following age of life, namely in old age, as will be explained below.

Here, then, we must recall what was discussed above in the twenty-second chapter of this book concerning the appetite which is inborn in us from our beginning. This appetite never does anything except pursue and flee; and whenever it pursues what is proper in the right degree and flees what is proper in the right degree, one keeps within the boundaries of one’s perfection. Nevertheless this appetite must be ridden by reason, for just as a horse set loose, however noble it may be by nature, cannot act as its own guide without a good rider, so the appetite, which is called irascible or concupiscible, however noble it may be, must obey reason, which guides it with bridle and spurs like a good horseman.(145) It uses the bridle when appetite is in pursuit, and this bridle is called temperance, which marks the limit up to which something may be pursued; it uses the spur when the appetite is in flight, to make it turn back to the place from which it seeks to flee, and this spur is called courage, or magnanimity, a virtue which marks the place where one must take a stand and fight. Vergil, our greatest poet, shows that Aeneas was unrestrained in this way in that part of the Aeneid in which this age of life is allegorized, the part comprising the fourth, fifth, and sixth books of the Aeneid. How great was his restraint when, having experienced so much pleasure with Dido, as will be recounted below in the seventh book, and having derived from her so much gratification, he took his departure from her to follow an honorable, praiseworthy and profitable path, as is recorded in the fourth book of the Aeneid! What spurring was felt when this same Aeneas mustered the courage to enter into Hell alone with the Sibyl in search of the soul of his father Anchises, in the face of so many perils, as is described in the sixth book of the same history. From this it is evident that for us to achieve perfection in the age of maturity it is necessary to be “strong and self-restrained.” This is what goodness of nature accomplishes and demonstrates, as the text expressly states.

Moreover, it is necessary to be loving in this age of life for its perfection, because it is appropriate for it to look backward and forward, like something that lies on the meridian circle. It is appropriate for one to love one’s elders, from whom one has received being, nurture, and education, so as not to seem ungrateful. It is appropriate for one to love one’s juniors, so that by loving them it may give them some of its benefits by which it may later, when its prosperity diminishes, derive support and honor from them. As the previously named poet shows in the fifth book mentioned above, this is the love that Aeneas had when he left the aged Trojans behind in Sicily, entrusting them to the care of Acestes, and released them from their labors, and when in this same site he prepared his young son Ascanius, with the other youths, for tournament games.(146) From this it is evident that love is necessary in this age of life, as the text states.

Moreover, it is necessary in this age of life to be courteous, for although courteous manners are becoming in all ages of life, in this age they are especially necessary, because in adolescence absence of courtesy readily deserves to be excused because of tenderness of age, and because conversely in old age courtesy is not possible by reason of the seriousness and sternness which it is required to show; and still more so in senility. Our most exalted poet shows in the sixth book previously mentioned that Aeneas had this courtesy when he says that King Aeneas, to honor the lifeless body of Misenus, who had been Hector’s trumpeter and had afterwards placed himself in Aeneas’ trust, made preparations and took up his ax to help hew the wood for the fire that would be used to burn the body, in keeping with their custom.(147) From this it is quite evident that courtesy is necessary in maturity, and therefore the noble soul displays it in that age of life, as has been said.

Moreover, it is necessary in this age of life to be loyal. Loyalty consists of following and putting into practice what the laws decree, and this is especially appropriate in one who is mature; for an adolescent, as has been said, readily deserves to be excused because of tenderness of age; an elder ought to be just by reason of his greater experience, and he ought to conduct himself in a just manner, not as a follower of the law, except insofar as his own right judgment and the law are virtually in conformity, but almost independently of any law, which someone in the age of maturity cannot do. It should suffice for him to follow the law and to take delight in following it, as the previously cited poet in the above-mentioned fifth book says that Aeneas did when he held the games in Sicily on the anniversary of his father’s death, for he loyally awarded to each victor what he had promised for victory, according to their longstanding custom, which was their law. From this it is evident that in this age of life loyalty, courtesy, love, courage, and temperance are necessary, as the text presently under discussion states; and therefore the soul that is noble displays them all. Chapter 27

We have quite sufficiently examined and discussed that section of the text which displays the attributes which the noble nature confers on maturity. Consequently it seems proper to take up the third part which begins In old age, in which the text seeks to show those things which the noble nature displays and ought to possess in the third age of life, namely old age. It says that in old age the noble soul is prudent, just, liberal, and takes delight in speaking well of others’ virtues, and of hearing them well spoken of (that is to say, that it is affable). These four virtues are indeed extremely suitable to this age of life.

In order to perceive this we must know that, as Tully says in his book On Old Age: “Our life has a fixed course and our good nature has but a single path; and in each part of our life a season has been given for certain things.”(148) Consequently just as to adolescence is given that which will bring us to perfection and ripeness, as has been said above, so to maturity perfection and ripeness are given so that the sweetness of its fruit may prove profitable both to itself and to others; for as Aristotle says, man is a social animal, and thus it is required of him that he be useful not merely to himself but to others.(149) Hence we read of Cato that he thought of himself as born not for himself, but for his country and for the whole world. Therefore following upon our own perfection, which we acquire in the age of maturity, should come that perfection which illuminates not only ourselves but others; one should open out like a rose that can no longer remain closed, and disperse the fragrance which is produced within; and this should take place in the third age of life, which is our present concern. One should therefore be prudent (that is, wise), and being wise requires a good memory of things seen, a good knowledge of things present, and a good foresight of things future. For as the Philosopher says in the sixth book of the Ethics, “It is impossible for a man to be wise without being good,” and therefore one who proceeds with subterfuge and deceit is not to be called wise but astute; for just as no one would call a man wise for knowing how to pierce the pupil of an eye with the point of a dagger, so a man who knows how to perform some evil act should not be called wise, since in performing it he always harms himself before harming others.(150)

If we look more closely, from prudence comes good counsel, which guides a man himself and others to a good end in human affairs and actions. This is the gift that Solomon asked of God upon finding himself placed at the helm of the government of the people, as is written in the third book of Kings.(151) Nor does a prudent man such as this wait until someone summons him with the words “Counsel me,” but, making provision for him, without being asked, he counsels him, just as a rose offers its fragrance not only to one who approaches it for this reason but also to whoever passes near to it. Here some doctor or lawyer might say: “Am I then to carry my counsel and offer it even though it has not been asked for, and make no profit from my art?” I reply as our Lord has said: “Freely have you received, freely give.”(152) I say, therefore, my dear lawyer, that those counsels which are unrelated to your art and which proceed only from the common sense which God has given to you (and this is that prudence of which we are now speaking) you should not sell to the children of him who gave it to you: those that are related to your art, which you have purchased, you may sell, but not such that it is not fitting at times to pay a tithe and make an offering to God (that is, to those unfortunates to whom nothing is left but the gratitude of God).

It is also fitting in this age of life to be just, so that one’s judgments and authority may be a light and a law to others. Because this singular virtue, namely justice, was perceived by philosophers in ancient times to display itself to perfection in this age of life, they entrusted the rule of the cities to those who were in this age of life; and therefore the council of rulers was called the “Senate.”(153) O my miserable, miserable homeland! What pity for you constrains me whenever I read or whenever I write anything that has to do with civil government! But since justice will be treated in the penultimate book of this work, let it suffice for the present to have touched on it briefly here.

It is also fitting in this age of life to be generous, because a thing is fitting when it most satisfies the requisites of its own nature, nor can the requisites of generosity ever be so satisfied as in this age of life. For if we but carefully consider Aristotle’s reasoning in the fourth book of the Ethics, and Tully’s in his bookOn Offices, generosity should occur at a time and a place in which the generous man injures neither himself nor another.(154) This is something that cannot be possessed without prudence and justice, virtues which it is impossible to possess in their perfection by the way of nature prior to this age of life. Ah, you ill-fated and misbegotten men who defraud widows and wards, who steal from the very weakest, who rob and seize by force the rights of others, and with these gains arrange banquets, make gifts of horses and arms, goods and money, dress in striking attire, erect wondrous buildings, and believe yourselves to be acting with generosity! What is this but to act like the thief who takes the cloth from the altar to cover his own table? We should mock your gifts, you tyrants, like the thief who would invite guests into his house and spread upon his table the cloth stolen from the altar with the ecclesiastical signs still upon it, and think that others would take no notice. Listen, you stubborn men, to what Tully has to say against you in his book On Offices: “There are many wishing to be impressive and famous who take from some in order to give to others, believing that they will be well regarded, and make them rich for whatever reason they so choose. But nothing is more contrary to what is proper than this.”(155)

It is also fitting in this age of life to be affable, to speak of what is good and to hear it spoken of willingly, because it is good to speak of what is good when it has an audience. This age of life even carries with it an air of authority, because men seem more inclined in this age to listen to authority than in any earlier age; and it seems that this age brings with it knowledge of many fine and pleasant stories because of the long experience of life. Consequently Tully says in his bookOn Old Age, in the person of Cato the Elder: “The joy and pleasure I take from conversation is greater now than in the past.”(156)

Ovid teaches us, in the seventh book of theMetamorphoses, that all four of these things are fitting to this age of life by citing the myth of how Cephalus of Athens came to King Aeacus for help in the war that Athens was waging against the Cretans. He shows how old Aeacus was prudent when, having lost almost all of his people to a plague caused by a contamination of the air, he wisely turned to God and asked him to restore his dead people. Because of his wisdom, which enabled him to sustain his patience and turn to God, his people were restored to him in greater numbers than before.(157) Ovid shows how he was just when he says that Aeacus divided and distributed his forsaken lands to his new people. He shows that Aeacus was generous, by having him say to Cephalus after his request for aid: “O Athens, do not ask our aid, but take it; do not think that the forces of this island, along with all that is in my possession, are uncertain: forces are not lacking, indeed there are more than are needed; the adversary is mighty, and the time for being generous is opportune and without excuse.”(158)

Ah, how many things there are to note in this reply! But to one who understands it well it will suffice to set it down here just as Ovid sets it down.(159) He shows that he was affable when he tells and diligently recounts, in a long speech to Cephalus, the story of the plague of his people and their restoration. Consequently it is quite evident that in this age of life four things are fitting, which is why the nature that is noble displays them in this age, as the text states. So that the example that is given might be the more memorable, he says of King Aeacus that he was the father of Telamon, of Peleus, and of Phocus, and that from Telamon Ajax was born, and from Peleus Achilles. Chapter 28

After the section previously discussed we must proceed to the last one: that is, to the one which begins And then in the fourth phase of life, by which the text proposes to show how the noble soul acts in the last age of life (that is, in senility). It says that the noble soul does two things: first, that it returns to God as to that port from which it departed when it came to enter into the sea of this life; second, that it blesses the journey that it has made, because it has been straight and good and without bitterness of storm.

Here it should be observed that a natural death, as Tully says in his book On Old Age, is, as it were, a port and site of repose after our long journey. This is quite true, for just as a good sailor lowers his sails as he approaches port and, pressing forward lightly, enters it gently, so we must lower the sails of our worldly preoccupations and return to God with all our mind and heart, so that we may reach that port with perfect gentleness and perfect peace. Here our own nature accords us a great lesson in gentleness, for in such a death as this there is no suffering or any harshness; but just as a ripe apple drops from its bough gently and without violence, so without suffering our soul separates itself from the body in which it has dwelled. Hence in his book On Youth and Old AgeAristotle says that “death that takes place in old age is without sadness.”(160) And just as a man returning from a long journey is met by the citizens of his city as he enters its gates, so the noble soul is met, as it should be, by the citizens of the eternal life. This they do by means of their good works and thoughts: for having already surrendered itself to God and disengaged itself from worldly matters and preoccupations, the soul seems to see those whom it believes to be with God. Hear what Tully says, in the person of Cato the Elder: “I seem to see already, and I lift myself with the greatest longing to see your fathers, whom I loved, and not only them, but also those of whom I have heard speak.”(161) The noble soul, then, surrenders itself to God in this age of life and awaits the end of this life with great desire, and seems to be leaving an inn and returning to its proper dwelling, seems to be coming back from a journey and returning to the city, seems to be coming in from the sea and returning to port.

O you miserable and debased beings who speed into this port with sails raised high! Where you should take your rest, you shipwreck yourselves against the force of the wind and perish at the very place to which you have so long been journeying! Certainly the knight Lancelot did not wish to enter with his sails raised high, nor the most noble of our Italians, Guido of Montefeltro.(162) These noble men did indeed lower the sails of their worldly preoccupations and late in life gave themselves to religious orders, forsaking all worldly delights and affairs. No one can be excused because of the bond of marriage, which may still bind him late in life; for not only those who conform to the life and ways of St. Benedict, St. Augustine, St. Francis, and St. Dominic dedicate themselves to living a religious life, but even those who are married can dedicate themselves to living a life that is good and truly religious, for it is in our hearts that God wishes us to be religious. This is why St. Paul says to the Romans: “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outwardly manifested in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in spirit and not in the letter, whose praise comes not from men but from God.”(163)

The noble soul in this age of life blesses times past, and well may it bless them, because by turning its memory to them it recalls its virtuous actions, without which it could not come to port, to which it draws near, with so much prosperity and so much gain. It acts like the good merchant who, as he draws near to his port, examines his profits and says: “If I had not made my journey along this road, I would not have this treasure, nor would I have anything in which to take delight in my city, to which I am drawing near”; and so he blesses the way he has taken. The great poet Lucan, in the second book of his Pharsalia, shows us by way of an allegory that these two things are appropriate to this age of life. There he says that Marcia returned to Cato and begged and implored him to take her back in her old age.(164) Here Marcia signifies the noble soul. And we may translate the figure of the allegory as follows. Marcia was a virgin, and in that state she signifies adolescence; she later married Cato, and in that state she signifies maturity; then she bore children, and they signify the virtues which are said above to be fitting for those who are young; she then left Cato and married Hortensius, signifying the departure from maturity and the onset of old age; she also bore this man’s children, who signify the virtues which are said above to be fitting in old age. Hortensius died, by which is signified the end of old age; and having become a widow–which widowhood signifies senility–Marcia returned at the beginning of her widowhood to Cato, signifying that the noble soul returns to God at the beginning of senility. What man on earth was more worthy to signify God than Cato? Surely none.

What does Marcia say to Cato? “While there was blood in me,” that is, in maturity, “while I had the power to bear children,” namely in old age, which is truly the mother of the other virtues, as has been shown above, “I,” says Marcia, “carried out and accomplished all of your commands”–this is to say that the soul remained committed to civic duties. She says: “I took two husbands,” that is, “I was fertile in two ages. Now that my womb is worn-out and I have lost the capacity to bear children,” says Marcia, “I return to you, being unable to serve another spouse”; that is to say that the noble soul, perceiving that it no longer has a womb for bearing fruit (that is, when the soul’s members feel that they have grown weak), turns to God, who has no need of bodily members. And Marcia says: “Give me the rights of our ancient marital chamber; give me only the name of marriage.” This is to say that the noble soul says to God: “My Lord, now give me your peace; grant me at least that in the little of life that remains to me I may be called yours.” And Marcia says: “Two reasons move me to say this: one is that after my death it may be said that I died as the wife of Cato; the other, that after my death it may be said that you did not spurn me, but through your good will you took my hand in marriage.” The noble soul is moved by these two reasons, and it desires to depart from this life as the spouse of God, and desires to show that its activity has been pleasing to God. O you unhappy and misbegotten beings who wish to depart from this life under the name of Hortensius rather than that of Cato! It is good to bring to a close what I have had to say about the signs of nobility with the name of this man, because in him nobility displays them all in every age of life.

Chapter 29

Now that the text has shown the signs which appear in every age of life in the noble man, by which he may be recognized and without which he could not exist, any more than the Sun without light or fire without heat, the text, at the end of what is said about nobility, cries out to all and says: “O you who have listened to me, see how many there are who are deceived!”: that is, those who believe themselves noble because they are of famous and ancient lineage and are descended from excellent fathers, although they have no nobility in themselves.

Here two questions arise which it is good to consider at the end of the present book. Manfred da Vico, who now calls himself Pretor and Prefect, might say: “Whatever I may be, I recall to mind and represent my ancestors, who on the basis of their nobility earned the office of Prefect, merited their participation in the coronation of the Emperor, and deserved to receive the rose from the Roman Pastor: to me are due the honor and the reverence of the people.” This is the first question. The second is that one of the family of San Nazzaro of Pavia, or one of the Piscitelli of Naples might say: “If nobility is such as has been said, namely, a divine seed graciously planted in the human soul, and if the lineage or race has no soul, as is evident, no lineage or race could be called noble; and this is contrary to the opinion held by those who say that our lineage is the most noble to be found their cities.”

To the first question Juvenal replies in his eighth satire, where he begins as if exclaiming: “Of what benefit are these honors which derive from men of earlier times if he who would clothe himself with them lives an evil life, if he who speaks of his ancestors and describes their great and wondrous deeds dedicates himself to wretched and base acts?” “Will he,” says this same satirist, “become noble because of his family, who is not worthy of that family? This is but to call a dwarf a giant.”(165) Then afterwards he says to a man of this sort: “Between you and the statue erected in memory of your ancestor there is no difference except that his head is made of marble and yours is alive.” Here, with all due respect, I disagree with this poet, for a statue of marble, wood, or metal left as a memorial to some worthy man differs greatly in effect from his worthless descendants. This is because a statue always confirms the good opinion of those who have heard tell of the great renown of him whose statue it is, and engenders it in others. A worthless son or grandson does quite the reverse, for he weakens the good opinion of those who have heard his ancestors well spoken of; for one of his thoughts will be: “It is not possible for the renown of his ancestors to be as great as it is said to be, since from their seed we see spring such a plant.” Consequently he who bears false witness against the good should receive not honor but dishonor. For this reason Tully says that “the son of a worthy man must strive to speak well of his father.”(166) Therefore, in my judgment, just as he who defames a worthy man deserves to be shunned and ignored by everyone, so a worthless man descended from good ancestors deserves to be cast out by all, and a good man should close his eyes so as to avoid witnessing the disgrace perpetrated on goodness, of which the memory alone remains. This should suffice for the present concerning the first question that was raised.

To the second question we may reply that lineage has no soul in and of itself, and yet it is quite true that it is called noble and in a certain way is noble. It should be observed here that every whole is composed of its parts. There are some wholes which possess together with their parts a single essence, as a single man comprises a single essence in common with all his parts; what is said to exist in a part is said to exist in the same way in the whole. There are other wholes which do not have their essence in common with their parts, for example a heap of grain; this kind of essence is secondary, resulting from the many grains which have a true and primary essence in themselves. In a whole such as this the qualities of the parts are said to exist in this way, secondarily, as does its essence; and so a heap is called white because the grains that comprise it are white. This whiteness, however, resides first in the grains and secondarily as a result in the heap as a whole, and so in a secondary sense it may be called white. In the same way a race or a lineage may be called noble. Hence it should be observed that just as the white grains must be predominant in order for a heap to be white, so in order for a lineage to be noble those who are noble must be predominant in it (I say “predominant” meaning greater in number), so that their goodness by its renown may obscure and conceal the presence of the contrary among them. Just as in a white heap of grain the wheat grain could be removed grain by grain and each grain replaced by red millet until the color of the whole heap had changed, so in a noble lineage the good might die off one by one, and the bad be born into it in sufficient number to bring about a change in its name, so that it would deserve to be called not noble but base. This should suffice in reply to the second question. Chapter 30

As has been shown above in the third chapter of this book, this canzone has three principal divisions. Therefore, since two of them have been discussed (the first beginning with the previously mentioned chapter, and the second with the sixteenth, so that the first is completed in thirteen chapters and the second in fourteen, not counting the two chapters that comprise the preface to the book on the canzone), we must briefly discuss, in this thirtieth and final chapter, the third principal division, which was composed as atornata to this canzone by way of adornment and which begins My song Against-the-erring-ones, go forth. Here it should first be observed that every good craftsman at the end of his work should ennoble and embellish it as much as he can, so that it may become more praiseworthy and more precious when it has left his hands. This I intend to do in this part, not that I am a good craftsman, but because I follow his example.

I say then: My song Against-the-erring-ones, go forth.Against-the-erring-ones is a single word, and is the title of this canzone, after the example of our good brother Thomas Aquinas, who gave the title Against the Gentiles to a book of his which he wrote to confound all those who stray from our Faith.(167) I say, then, “go forth” as if to say: “You are now perfect, and it is no longer time to stand still but to go forth, for your undertaking is great.” And when you come To where our lady is, tell her your purpose. Here it should be noted that, as our Lord has said, one should do not cast pearls before swine, for it does them no good and brings harm to the pearls; and as the poet Aesop says in his first fable, a grain is worth more than a pearl to a cock, and he therefore leaves the one and takes the other.(168) Considering this, as a precaution I direct my canzone to reveal its purpose where this lady, namely Philosophy, is to be found. This most noble lady shall then be found when her dwelling-place is found, that is, the soul in which she dwells. And Philosophy does not dwell in the wise alone, but also, as has been above proved in another book, wherever the love of her dwells. To each of these I tell it to disclose its purpose, so that her meaning will prove useful to them, and be received by them.

I say to my canzone: Tell this lady, “I speak about a friend of yours.” Truly nobility is her friend, for one loves the other so much that nobility endlessly calls upon her, and Philosophy never turns her most pleasing gaze on any other. O how great and how beautiful an adornment is this which is given to her in the closing verses of this canzone, where she is called the friend of her whose perfection dwells in the most secret recess of the divine mind!

 


1. Pythagoras     Attributed to Pythagoras by Cicero inDe officiis I, 17, 56.

2. the Greek proverb     Dante’s source is again Cicero, De officiis I, 16, 51.

3. this lady who was mentioned above in the true explanation     Philosophy, as described in the allegorical exposition of the preceding book.

4. not . . . skip over with dry foot     The metaphor translates roughly into our expression “need to get one’s feet wet.” In other words, further discussion, is required.

5. Time     Physics IV, 1. The “number of motion” is the movement of the Primum Mobile, the highest of the physical spheres.

6. Solomon     Ecclesiastes 3:7 and 20:6-7.

7. St. James the Apostle     James 5:7.

8. the last of the Roman emperors     Frederick II of Swabia (1194-1250), the “last” of the Holy Roman Emperors because the others in Dante’s list, while elected, were never crowned.

9. the Philosopher’s belief     Aristotle’s opinion may be found in St. Thomas’ Commentary on the EthicsVII, 13, 1509.

10. man is by nature a social animal     Aristotle,Politics I, 2.

11. should be a Monarchy     The concept of monarchy as the ideal form of government will be more fully developed in the Latin treatise Monarchia (1312), where Dante will reiterate the notion that the monarchy, being exempt from greed by virtue of its possessing universal jurisdiction on earth, is founded on absolute justice.

12. Vergil concurs in this     Aeneid I, 278.

13. the words of Solomon     Proverbs 8:6.

14. the Son of God should descend to earth     Dante will treat the theology of the redemption more fully inParadiso VII.

15. it is written in Isaiah     Isaiah 11:1.

16. as Luke the Evangelist testifies     Luke 2:1 ff.

17. the emperor cited above     Augustus, the first Roman emperor.

18. O most hallowed breast of Cato     Cato of Utica (95-46 B.C) has a special place in Dante’s imagination. He is the guardian of Purgatory and the symbol of human freedom, a pagan endowed with a “santo petto” [holy breast] (Purg. I, 80). In theMonarchia, Dante speaks of “the unspeakable sacrifice of Marcus Cato, the strictest champion of true liberty” (II, 5), words that identify him as a type of Christ.

19. its first form     According to Uguccione, from whom Dante takes this fanciful etymology, the Latin verb aueio, or avieo, means “to tie,” as does the other form, vieo (from viere). The verbs do not in fact exist. For Uguccione (died 1210), see the note below.

20. the figure of a tie     The image Dante is trying to convey is of a hand-drawn line that encircles these letters in their alphabetical order. The “arte musaica” symbolized by this image is the art of the Muses, or poetry (and not of music, as Wicksteed, for example, mistranslates the phrase).

21. as Uguccione attests     The Latin title of this work is Liber de derivationibus verborum, also known simply as Derivationes.

22. That man is Aristotle     Throughout the Convivio it will be quite evident to the reader that Aristotle Dante’s guide in this world, “the master and leader of human reason” for all men. This is a role that Dante will give to Vergil in the Divine Comedy, a change which derives from Dante’s increased emphasis, in part, on the role of the poet, as opposed to philosopher, as moral guide.

23. Zeno     Placed among the pagan philosophers in Limbo (Inf. IV, 138), Zeno of Cithium was the leader of the Stoics.

24. as Tully seems to relate     Cicero, De finibus I, 9-11.

25. no affirmative statements     Socrates’ philosophy, that is, was essentially based on negatives or unresolved dialectic.

26. in the book of Wisdom     Wisdom 6:23.

27. the words of Ecclesiastes     Ecclesiastes 10:16 and 17.

28. Charles and Frederick     Charles II, the Cripple, King of Naples (1248-1309), and Frederick II of Aragon, King of Sicily (1296-1337), both referred to in ParadisoXIX, 127 and 130-135.

29. Solomon     Proverbs 22:28 and 4:18.

30. As Aristotle says     On the Soul II, 4, 7 and I, 18, 2.

31. “He who lacks instruction dies . . .”     Proverbs 5:23.

32. the powers of the soul stand one above another     Each succeeding geometric figure contains the previous one, i.e., the triangle’s three sides are contained within the quadrangle which has four sides. The reference is to On the Soul II, 3, 5.

33. the Philosopher states     Ethics I, 8, and passim.

34. “If we have two friends . . .”     Ethics I, 4.

35. there are activities     There are the speculative uses of the mind, for example, mathematics, in which man discovers truths but does not create them. A second category involves the use of logic, which is creative, as in the example of the art of speech. Finally, there is the use of the practical intellect applied to external objects, for example, the art of sculpture, which Dante, following St. Thomas’ schema, calls the “mechanical arts.”

36. as an act of the will     This is the fourth of the activities, and the one that involves the moral use of reason.

37. “Written Law . . .”     The Corpus iuris (mentioned in I, 10 above). The source for the passage in Augustine has not been discovered. The second is taken from the Digestum vetus de Iustitia et Iure, tit. I.

38. in the saddle of the human will     Dante will elaborate this equestrian image in his famous diatribe against a meretricious and wayward Italy in Purg. VI, where the saddle is empty (“la sella è vòta” [89]).

39. “When one thing is produced . . .”     MetaphysicsVII, 8.

40. “Without a fight the laws . . .”     Lucan, PharsaliaIII, 118.

41. bushel of Santelenas     Coins bearing the effigy of Sant’Elena, the mother of Constantine, made in Byzantium, but a popular term for any ancient coin.

42. Aristotle remarked     Physics II, 8, probably cited from St. Thomas’ commentary on that text.

43. the Provençal     This is believed to be either Cadenet or possibly Giraut de Borneil.

44. Our Lord called them unrighteous     Luke 16:9, in the Douay Version, reads: “Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity.” The King James supplies “the mammon of unrighteousness.”

45. Who does not still keep a place in his heart     Alexander the Great is the only one of the seven examples of liberality from ancient history. Toynbee has identified the King of Castile as Alfonso VIII (1155-1214), son-in-law of Henry II of England; the Count of Toulouse as Raymond V (1134-1194); and the Marquis of Monferrato as Boniface II (1192-1207). Saladin (1137-1193), well known throughout the Middle Ages for his generosity, appears among the virtuous pagans in Dante’s Limbo (Inf. IV). Dante places Bertran de Born (1140-1215) among the Schismatics in Inf.XXVIII. Galeazzo of Montefeltro (d. 1300) was the head of a Ghibelline faction and cousin to Guido da Montefeltro who appears in Inf. XXVII.

46. by subverting what they promise     The sense is that riches, by their appearance, offer the promise of satisfaction and thereby diminish the strength of the desire for riches. But once they are possessed, they take away the promise of satisfaction which first appeared, and create anew a desire for their possession.

47. “Alas! who was it . . .”      De consolatione philosophiae, II, meter 5, verse 27.

48. “Never have I ever considered . . .”     On ParadoxI.

49. “Even if the goddess of wealth . . .”      The Consolation of Philosophy, II, meter 2, verses 1-8.

50. “If I had one foot in the grave . . .”     This saying is not found in Seneca.

51. by refuting the consequence     I follow the edition of Busnelli-Vandelli, which gives the reading “distruzione” (also accepted by Vasoli in the Ricciardi edition); the Simonelli text reads “distinzione.” Both are technical terms in Scholastic logic.

52. “Let us make man in our own image and likeness.”     Genesis 1:26.

53. just as the pilgrim     See Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:6. The medieval topos of the pilgrim on the road of life will reappear, of course, in the opening verse of the Divine Comedy. Chaucer employs the topos as well in hisCanterbury Tales, and it should be noted parenthetically that his discussion of gentilesse in theWife of Bath’s Tale owes much to Dante’s definition of nobility in Convivio IV.

54. in the third book     See above III, 15, 8-10.

55. The Commentator     Averroes (1126-1198), whom Dante refers to in Inf. IV, 144 similarly as the one “che ‘l gran comento feo” [made the great commentary].

56. Therefore Aristotle     Dante derives the citation not from Aristotle directly, who does not mention Simonides in the passage indicated, but from St. Thomas’ Summa contra Gentiles I, 5.

57. “the trained student . . .”      Ethics I, 2.

58. And therefore Paul says     Romans 12:3.

59. whether in general or in particular     That is, knowledge in general or with respect to specific fields or disciplines of knowledge.

60. Therefore the Sage says     Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy II, prose 5.

61. Lucan     Pharsalia V, 527-31.

62. “Truly avarice makes men hateful.”     Perhaps suggested from passages in II, prose 5.

63. at the end of this section     That is, loss of wealth does not cause the mind to lose its nature. Dante here concludes his gloss of the third stanza of the canzone.

64. Suppose that Gherardo da Cammino     Gherardo’s death in March, 1306, is almost certain evidence that Dante could not have composed this part and the rest of the Convivio before this date.

65. Dardanus     According to myth, Dardanus was the son of Jove and Electra, and ancestor of the Trojans. Laomedon, his descendant, was the father of Priam.

66. according to the Philosopher     See St. Thomas’ commentary on Politics II, 12.

67. Plato believes     See St. Thomas, Commentary to the Metaphysics I, 14, 209 and 214.

68. Solomon     Ecclesiastes 3:21.

69. the creation of the world      Metamorphoses I, 78 ff.

70. in the third book of On the Soul     This reference probably derives from St. Thomas’ Commentary on the Ethics VI, 5, 1179, and not directly from De anima.

71. “Many are so presumptuous of intellect . . .”    Summa contra Gentiles I, 5.

72. Solomon     Proverbs 29:20.

73. Aristotle     Nicomachean Ethics I, 3.

74. in the first book of the Physics     St. Thomas’Commentary to the Physics I, 2.

75. Infortiatum     This is the second part of theCorpus iuris civilis, by Justinian.

76. “The King shall rejoice . . .”     Psalms 63:11 (King James).

77. “Love the light of wisdom . . .”     Wisdom 6:23.

78. Solomon     Ecclesiastes 10:16-17.

79. as the Philosopher teaches us     Ethics I, 2.

80. Asdente the cobbler of Parma     An illiterate known for making predictions, he is placed among the soothsayers in Hell (see Inf. XX, 118-120). Albuino was brother to Can Grande della Scala, Dante’s patron, and ruled Verona from 1304-1311. The poet pays tribute to Guido da Castello as “the candid Lombard” in Purg. XVI, 124-126.

81. the Philosopher     Physics VII, 6.

82. Christ’s words     Matthew 7:15-16.

83. the eleven virtues     See the Ethics II, 7.

84. The fifth is Magnanimity     Magnanimity means nobleness of mind, awareness of greatness or superiority over others in a person who is truly superior to others. It does not include the modern sense of being magnanimous with gifts or praise.

85. where he defines Happiness     Dante is again referring to St. Thomas, Commentary to the Ethics I, 10, 128-130.

86. Christ affirms     Luke 10:41-42.

87. “why not proceed first . . .”     The reasoning is based on the understanding that the intellectual virtues regulate the contemplative life, the moral virtues the active life.

88. we proceed by inference based on probability     This type of argument, which is not demonstrative but inductive, proceeds by syllogistic reasoning in which one of the premisses is probable in nature.

89. possessed primarily and essentially     Dante means by these terms that aspect or quality which is inherent in a thing as part of its prime essence, as opposed to one which is the result of incidental circumstances (the Scholastic concept of accident).

90. by an agreeable and fitting induction     In other words, it is more reasonable to consider nobility to be the source of goodness and the various classes of virtues (e.g., the intellectual, the moral, etc.) than to consider these virtues and goodness as the source of nobility, since they are many and diverse, while nobility is one. By induction, Dante means syllogistic reasoning, as can be deduced from the example he gives in this sentence. I follow the Busnelli-Vandelli text in this passage.

91. Thus nobility     Rather than both nobility and virtue to a third thing in man, by implication.

92. The Psalmist had in mind     Psalm 8:1, 8:4-6 (King James version).

93. as the Philosopher maintains     Ethics IV, 9. The term studiosi signifies virtuosi, as is apparent from St. Thomas’ commentary on the text.

94. no choice of persons     Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6, and elsewhere (King James version). The biblical phrase is “no respect of persons.”

95. Aristotle     Ethics VII, 1, with reference to theIliad, Book XXIV.

96. “Every good gift . . .”     James 1:17.

97. in the second book of On the Soul     De anima II, 2.

98. the noble Guido Guinizelli     Born in Bologna, Guinizelli developed the dolce stil novo and became the inspiration for Dante’s poetic style. He is venerated in Purg. XXVI, 92 as “il padre mio.” Dante echoes the famous line cited here in the Vita Nuova, XX, in the sonnet “Amor e ‘l cor gentil sono una cosa” [Love and the gentle heart are a single thing].

99. defect of age     It is not entirely clear what Dante means by this phrase, which has been taken diversely to refer to the lack of perfection in a fetus before it is born, to those who are young, as well as to those who are old and in some way incapacitated. In any case, the souls of these individuals do not reflect God’s divine light.

100. all four causes     Aristotle’s discussion of these causes is found in Metaphysics I.3. The efficient cause is the agent that brings about change; the final cause is the end for which a change is made; the material cause is that thing in which a change is made; and the formal cause is that which something is changed into.

101. supreme spiritual virtue     God, who is present in all virtues.

102. between their matter and their form     Dante, in paraphrasing Pythagoras’ theory, means that all of these beings are equally noble with respect to their form; but with respect to their material or matter, they are noble in different degrees.

103. combined elements, namely temperament     Earth, water, fire, and air, combined in different measure in different individuals, produce one of the four traditional characteristic temperaments or dispositions: the choleric, the phlegmatic, the sanguine, and the melancholic.

104. celestial virtue     This is the divine power which actualizes the potentiality for life within the seed, thereby bringing to life the vegetative and sensitive souls.

105. the possible intellect     This is the rational, or intellectual, power of the soul, which possesses the capacity of understanding all truths as they are conveyed by the universal forms. The intellectual soul possesses this capacity “in potentiality,” that is, as a power that can be realized or actualized when universal forms are perceived.

106. the words of the Apostle     Paul, Romans 11:33.

107. the opinion of Tully     Cicero, De senectute XXI, 77.

108. in the book On Causes     Aristotle, De causis III, 27-33.

109. These gifts . . . are seven in number     Isaiah 11:2.

110. the appetite of the mind     The intellect and the will.

111. he who does not see the mark     Aristotle,Ethics I, 1, and Cicero De finibus V, 6, 15.

112. as the Apostle says     Paul, I Corinthians 9:24.

113. the use of our mind is twofold     Dante returns to the discussion of the active and contemplative lives, which were treated in Chapter 17 above.

114. the Gospel of St. Mark     Mark 16:1 ff.

115. “The angel of God . . .”     Matthew 28:2-3.

116. Galilee means the same as whiteness     Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae XIV, 3, 23, derives the word Galilee from the Greek word for milk (gala), a derivation to which Dante had access through Uguccione da Pisa, who carries over Isidore’s etymology verbatim in his Derivationes.

117. the four ages     Dante derives the division of life into four ages from Albert the Great, De aetate sive de iuventute et senectute I, 2.

118. the likeness of this arc     The flow of this passage is made somewhat problematic by numerous textual uncertainties, but its general meaning is clear, as is the ruling image of life as bearing similarity to an arc, or portion of a circle, rather than to a circle, which, being a perfect form, represents a perfection to which human life cannot attain. All living things are conceived and born under the influence of the revolving spheres, during which time a sphere completes only a portion of its full revolution about the earth. This portion, or segment of a circle, is conceived by Dante as an arc whose beginning point initiates a curved line that first rises and then, after cresting, falls. Human life imitates this movement of ascent and descent, that is, of growth and decline, in the four ages described below.

119. and of better or worse quality     I follow the Busnelli-Vandelli text here, as does Chiappelli-Fenzi. Simonelli deletes the phrase “or worse,” arguing that it is unnecessary to the sense.

120. “You have set a boundary . . .”     Psalm 104:9 (King James).

121. as Albert states     Dante’s passage appears to derive very little from the fourth book of Albert the Great’s De meteoris to which he refers here. The passage, in fact, is taken in its entirety from another work by Albert, his De aetate sive iuventute et senectute, mentioned above.

122. (omitting sext, midway between . . .)     The “obvious reason” why Dante omits the sext, which corresponds to noon, may be that the middle of the day is evident to all by the position of the sun, whereas all the other temporal hours are not so evident because they vary, are “long or short,” according to the time of the year. See Dante’s previous discussion regarding temporal hours, Conv. III, 6, 3. In the canonical hours, tierce corresponds roughly to 9 a.m., sext to noon, nones to 3 p.m., and vespers to 6 p.m.

123. four horses     Metamorphoses II, 153 ff.

124. the office of the first part of the day     The office of tierce is said toward the end of tierce, that is, just before the beginning of sext which runs from 9 a.m. to noon, whereas the offices for the third and fourth periods, nones and vespers, are said toward the beginning of those periods. In other words, the offices are said at the hours which incline toward noon, the most noble part of the day.

125. And for this reason mid-tierce     Mid-tierce (7:30 a.m.) is said before the bell is rung for tierce, which occurs toward the end of tierce; mid-nones (1:30 p.m.) and mid-vespers (4:30 p.m.) are said after the bell is rung for those hours, since it is rung toward the beginning of those hours (noon and 3:00 p.m. respectively). Proper nones signifies the very beginning of nones, which is noon, the beginning of the seventh hour of the day, as Dante stresses in the next sentence.

126. but nearly eight months later     Simonelli’s text reads “months” (mesi), which I follow here (as does the most recent Chiappelli-Fenzi). The Busnelli-Vandelli reads “years” (anni). The case for mesi was sustained by Moore (Studies, IV, 110) who notes its appearance in twenty-two manuscripts, as opposed to only five with anni, and by Pézard (Dante, Oeuvres complètes, p. 250). The conceptual argument turns on the meaning of Dante’s phrase “the beginning of life.” Busnelli-Vandelli take it to mean, literally, the moment of birth. Moore and Simonelli take it to refer to the moment of conception, occurring eight months before parturition. For Simonelli the phrase “taking it [i.e., life] in the way that has been stated” refers the reader back to Chapter 21, 4-5, where Dante discusses the process of the conception of a fetus. But while Dante does delineate the soul’s acquisition of its various powers, he does not state clearly that life is conceived to begin at this point. The phrase might logically refer back to the opening of this chapter where he defines adolescence as the “increase of life.” Nevertheless the logic of the Busnelli-Vandelli is not compelling, since it leaves eight years of life unaccounted for by name, which, given Dante’s Scholastic love of completeness (“natura abhorret vaccuum”), is an improbability.

127. as Tully affirms     Cicero, De senectute V, 13.

128. longer or shorter     The various ages of each individual man, that is, will vary according to the full term of his life. The age of maturity in someone who dies at a younger age, for example, would therefore be shorter than the age specified in the ideal paradigm, whereas in someone who lives longer each of the four ages would extend, in each age, for a longer period of time.

129. about which I am presently writing     The seventh stanza of the canzone is referred to.

130. its ultimate fruit     The fruit is, as Dante has previously explained, happiness.

131. Tully     De senectute IV, 5.

132. Leaving aside     The references are to the allegorical interpretation of the Aeneid of Fulgentius, Egidius Colonna’s De regimine principum I, 4, 1 ff, and Cicero’s De officiis I, 34, 122.

133. as the text says     Again, of the seventh stanza of the canzone.

134. the meandering forest of this life     The metaphor of the forest as life and the path that leads to goodness will return, of course, in the first terza rimaof the Divine Comedy.

135. “Hear, my son . . .”     A somewhat free adaptation of Proverbs 1:8-15.

136. Solomon     Proverbs 15:31 and 13:18.

137. the Apostle     Paul, Colossians 3:20.

138. as Aristotle asserts     Ethics VIII, 1.

139. Solomon says     Proverbs 3:34.

140. Statius     Thebaid I, 395 ff. and 482 ff.

141. the above mentioned poet     Statius, Thebaid I, 527 ff.

142. as Tully says     Cicero, On Offices I, 35, 127.

143. in the same passage     Thebaid I, 671 ff.

144. the foresight of universal Nature     That is, God.

145. irascible or concupiscible     Scholastic philosophy divided all passions, or desires, into one of two opposing categories. The concupiscible appetite, which is not to be identified solely with the desire for sexual gratification, seeks to acquire or merge itself with some object of desire. The irascible appetite, which likewise is not to be thought of as relating to anger or wrath, seeks to avoid contact or propinquity with an object that repels the soul. Neither of these two kinds of appetites–and two is all that there are–should be thought of as pertaining to specific sins, for the appetite is in itself neither good nor evil. Good and evil are determined by action consequent to the enactment of the will in conjunction with the particular appetites. The image of the horseman appears repeatedly in Dante’s works: see Purg. XVIII, 95-96;Monarchia III, 16.

146. the games in Sicily     Aeneid V, 70 and 304 ff.

147. as was their custom     Aeneid VI, 166 ff.

148. as Tully says     Cicero, De senectute X, 33.

149. as Aristotle says     Dante takes this concept from St. Thomas’ Commentary on the Ethics I, 9, 112, where he says: “Homo naturaliter est animal civile.”

150. as the Philosopher says     Ethics VI, 13.

151. the gift which Solomon asked     1 Kings 3:9.

152. “Freely have you received . . .”     Matthew 10:8.

153. the council of rulers     “Senate” is derived fromsenes, “old men,” and is referred to by Cicero in De senectute VI, 19.

154. if we but carefully consider     Ethics IV, 2; De officiis I, 14, 42.

155. Tully     De officiis I, 14, 42 ff.

156. Consequently Tully     De senectute XIV, 46.

157. his people were restored     Ovid, MetamorphosesVII, 523-660, tells the story of how Aeacus appealed to Jupiter to provide restitution for his lost people and was granted his wish when Jupiter created a new race of people by turning ants into men.

158. Aeacus was generous     Metamorphoses VII, 507-511. Dante’s rendering of this passage does not square well with the original text in several places, possibly because the manuscript he was working from contained different readings, as Moore surmises (Studies in Dante, First Series [Oxford, 1896], p. 219).

159. just as Ovid sets it down     That is, without any further commentary.

160. Aristotle says     On Youth and Old Age, 17, 479a, 20-23.

161. Tully     De senectute XXIII, 83. The full title of the book is Cato Maior de senectute.

162. the most noble of the Italians     Guido da Montefeltro will later find himself placed among the fraudulent counselors in the eighth bolgia of the eighth circle of Hell (Inf. XXVII). Lancelot is consigned to the Lustful in the first circle (Inf. V).

163. St. Paul says     Romans 2:28-29.

164. Marcia returned to Cato     Pharsalia II, 326 ff.

165. call a dwarf a giant     Juvenal, Satires VIII, 1-5, 9-12, 19-20, 30-32, 51-55.

166. For this reason Tully says     The source of this aphorism, which does not appear in any of Cicero’s works, is uncertain.

167. Thomas Aquinas     This is the short title for hisSumma de veritate catholicae fidei contra Gentiles.

168. as our Lord has said     Matthew 7:6.

Book Four Canzone: “Le dolci rime d’amor, ch’i’ solìa”


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Chapter 1

Love, according to the unanimous opinion of the sages who have spoken of it and as we see from constant experience, is what joins and unites the lover with the person loved. Consequently Pythagoras says, “Friendship unites the many into one.”(1) Since things that are joined by nature have their qualities in common with one another, to the extent that one is at times completely transformed into the nature of the other, it follows that the passions of the person loved enter into the person who loves, so that the love of the one is communicated to the other, as are hatred and desire and all other passions. Consequently the friends of the one are loved by the other, and the enemies hated; hence the Greek proverb says: “Among friends all things must be shared.”(2)

Thus having become the friend of this lady who was mentioned above in the true explanation, I began to love and hate in accordance with her love and hatred.(3) I therefore began to love the followers of truth and to hate the followers of error and falsehood, as did she. But since everything in itself merits love, and nothing hatred unless malice should overwhelm it, it is reasonable and proper to hate not the things themselves but the malice within them, and to seek to remove it from them. If anyone strives to do this, it is my most excellent lady who strives the most–strives, I mean, to remove the malice in things, which is the cause of their being hated; because in her is found all reason and likewise the source of dignity. Taking her actions as well as her feelings as my example, I sought, as far as I was able, to scorn and despise the errors of mankind, not to defame or denigrate those who err, but rather their errors. By blaming them I sought to render them displeasing, and by rendering them displeasing, to remove them from those persons whom I hated because of them.

Among these errors was one that I condemned more than any other, one which is harmful and dangerous not only to those who are caught up in it but also to those who condemn it, to whom it brings pain and suffering. This is the error concerning human goodness insofar as it is sown in us by nature, and which should be called “nobility,” an error that was so entrenched as a result of evil habit and lack of intelligence that the opinion of almost everyone was thereby rendered fallacious. From this fallacious opinion sprang fallacious judgments, and from fallacious judgments sprang unjust reverence and disdain, with the result that the good were held in base contempt and the bad were honored and exalted. This constituted the worst confusion in the world, as is apparent to anyone who carefully considers what the consequences of such confusion might be. Since this lady of mine had somewhat altered the tenderness of her looks at me, especially in those features at which I would gaze when seeking to learn whether the primal matter of the elements was contained within God–for which reason I refrained for a time from coming into the presence of her countenance–while living, as it were, in her absence, I set about contemplating the shortcoming within man concerning the above-mentioned error. To avoid idleness, which is the greatest enemy of this lady, and to eradicate this error, which robs her of so many friends, I resolved that I would cry out to those who were walking along this evil path so that they might place themselves back on the right way. So I began a canzone commencing with the words The tender rhymes of love, in which I proposed to bring men back to the right way regarding the proper conception of true nobility, as may be perceived by gaining an understanding of the text which I now intend to explain. And since I sought to provide a very necessary remedy in this canzone, I did not consider it effective to employ figurative language, but rather to supply this medicine by the quickest way, so that health, which was already so poisoned that it was hastening toward an ugly death, might be quickly restored.

Therefore in discussing this canzone it will not be necessary to unveil any allegory, but only to explain the literal meaning. By “my lady” I mean the same lady whose meaning I addressed in the previous canzone, namely that most virtuous light, Philosophy, whose rays make flowers bloom and bear the fruit of mankind’s true nobility. Chapter 2

It is proper, at the beginning of the explanation here undertaken, to divide the canzone before us into two parts in order to convey its meaning, for the first part serves as a preface, while the second follows with the treatment of the subject. The second part begins at the beginning of the second stanza, with the wordsOne ruler held that nobility. The first part can be further seen to comprise three sections. The first states why I depart from my accustomed speech; in the second I define my subject; in the third I ask help from what can help me most, namely the truth. The second section begins And since it seems a time for waiting. The third begins And at the outset I call upon the lord.

I say therefore that “I must leave aside the tender rhymes of love which my thoughts once sought out”; and I mark the reason, for I say that it is not because I no longer intend to write of love but because new looks have appeared in my lady which for the present have deprived me of material for speaking of love. Here it must known that the gestures of this lady are not said to be “disdainful and proud” except by their appearance, as may be seen in the tenth chapter of the preceding book where, on another occasion, I said that appearance differed from reality. How it can be that one and the same thing is both sweet and yet seems bitter, or is clear and yet seems dark, is made sufficiently evident in that passage.

Next when I say And since it seems a time for waiting, I specify, as has been said, my intended subject. Here we must not try to skip over with dry foot what is meant by “time for waiting,” since that is the strongest reason for my change of mind, but rather to consider how reasonable it is that we should await the proper moment in all our undertakings, and most of all in speaking.(4) Time, as Aristotle says in the fourth book of the Physics, is “number of motion with respect to before and after,” and “number of celestial movement” is that which disposes things here below to receive the informing powers diversely.(5) For at the beginning of spring the earth is disposed to receive in one manner the power that informs the grasses and the flowers, and in another manner in winter; and one season is disposed to receive the seed differently from another; and likewise our mind, insofar as it is related to the composition of the body which is disposed to respond to the circling of the heavens differently at different times. This is why great discretion must be shown in using or in avoiding the use of words–which are, as it were, the seed of our activity–so that they may be well received and fruitful in effect, so as to avoid any defect of sterility on their part. The right moment must therefore be predetermined, both for the one who speaks as well as the one who must listen; because if the speaker is ill disposed his words are often harmful, and if the hearer is ill disposed even good words will be poorly received. And therefore Solomon says in the book of Ecclesiastes that “There is a time to speak and a time to keep silence.”(6) Consequently feeling that I was too unsettled in disposition to speak of love, for the reason stated in the preceding chapter, it seemed to me right to await the moment that would bring with itself the goal of every desire and make a present of itself, like a benefactor, to those who are not made impatient by waiting. Hence St. James the Apostle says in his Epistle: “Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, patiently abiding until he receives the early and the late.”(7) All our troubles, if we carefully seek out their source, derive in some way from not knowing how to make a proper use of time.

I say that “since it seems a time for waiting, I will put aside,” that is, forgo “my pleasant style,” namely the style to which I’ve kept in speaking of love; and I say that I will speak of that “quality” which makes a person truly noble. Although “quality” can be understood in many different ways, here it is taken as a natural capacity, or a goodness conferred by nature, as will be seen below. And I promise to treat of this matter with harsh and subtle rhymes. Consequently it should be known that “rhyme” can be understood in two ways, either broadly or narrowly. In the narrow sense it means the agreement commonly made by the last and the penultimate syllables, while in the broad sense it means all speech whose cadences are regulated by rhythm and meter to produce rhymed consonances; and here in this preface the latter sense is to be taken and understood. Therefore the preface says harsh with regard to the sound of the words, which should not be sweet with so weighty a subject as this one; and it says subtle with regard to the meaning of the words, which proceed by subtle reasoning and argument. I add By refuting the false and base beliefs, where I promise to refute the beliefs of those who are laden with error; false, that is, removed from the truth, andbase, that is, affirmed and promoted by baseness of mind.

And this is to be remarked: namely that in this preface we promise first to explain what is true and then to refute what is false, while in the book itself I do the opposite; for first I refute what is false and then explain what is true, which seems contrary to my promise. Therefore we must know that although I intend to do both, I intend principally to explain the truth; and I intend to refute what is false only insofar as the truth is made more evident. I promise here to explain the truth as my main concern, which instills in the mind of the listener the desire to listen; in the book itself what is false is first refuted so that when wrong opinions have been put to flight the truth may then be more freely received. This is the method employed by the master of human reason, Aristotle, who always fought first the foes of the truth and then, after overthrowing them, demonstrated the truth.

Finally, when I say And first of all I call upon the lord, I call on truth to be with me, which is the lord that dwells in the eyes (that is, in the demonstrations) of Philosophy. The truth is lord, for when married to the soul, the soul becomes a lady; otherwise she is a servant deprived of all liberty. Then it says And makes this lady love herself, because Philosophy, which, as has been said in the preceding book, is the loving use of wisdom, contemplates herself when the beauty of her eyes is revealed to her. This is but to say that the philosophic soul not only contemplates the truth but, moreover, contemplates its own contemplation and the beauty of that act as well, by turning back its glance upon itself and becoming enamored of itself by reason of the beauty of its first contemplation.

And so ends that which the text of the present book presents, by way of preface, in three sections. Chapter 3

Now that the meaning of the preface has been examined, we must consider the book; and in order to reveal it better it is necessary to divide it into its principal parts, which are three. For in the first part nobility is treated according to the opinions of others; in the second it is treated according to its own opinion; in the third words are addressed to the canzone, to add beauty to what has been said. The second part begins I say that every virtue at its source. The third begins My song Against-the-erring-ones, go forth. After these general divisions other subdivisions must be made in order to understand properly the concept that is to be set forth. No one should therefore be surprised if many subdivisions are made in this manner, because a great and lofty undertaking, little examined by the authorities, is now under hand and because the book which I now enter upon must of necessity be long and subtle in order to unravel the text perfectly according to the meaning which it holds.

I say then that this first part is now divided into two: in the first the opinions of others are put down, and in the second they are refuted; and this second subdivision begins He who claims “Man is a living tree.” Furthermore, the first part, the one which remains, has two parts: the first treats the way in which the opinion of the Emperor goes astray, the second the way in which the opinion of the common people, which is devoid of reason, goes astray. The second part beginsAnd someone else of lesser wit. Then I say: One ruler held, which is to say, one who exercised imperial authority. Here it should be observed that Frederick of Swabia, the last of the Roman emperors (the last, I say, up to the present time, in spite of the fact that Rudolf, Adolf, and Albert were elected after the death of Frederick and his descendants), when asked what nobility was, replied that it was ancestral wealth and fine manners.(8) And I say that there was someone else of lesser wit who, pondering and examining this definition in all its parts, removed the second half, namely “fine manners,” and retained the first, namely “ancestral wealth”; and since the text seems perhaps doubtful of his having fine manners, not wishing to lose the name of nobility, he defined the term as ancestral wealth long possessed simply to suit himself. I state that this opinion is almost universal by saying that there follow in his wake all those who count a man as noble if he comes from stock that has had great wealth for quite some time, since almost everyone barks it out in this manner. These two opinions–although one, as has been said, is of no concern to us–seem to have two very weighty reasons to support them. The first is the Philosopher’s belief that what appears true to the majority cannot be entirely false; the second reasoning stems from the most excellent authority of the Imperial Majesty.(9) In order that the power of truth, which outweighs all authority, may be more clearly seen, I intend to discuss to what extent each of these reasons is useful and valid. Since nothing can be known about the imperial authority unless its roots are found, it is first necessary to discuss them expressly in a special chapter. Chapter 4

The root foundation underlying the Imperial Majesty is, in truth, man’s need for human society, which is established for a single end: namely, a life of happiness, which no one is able to attain by himself without the aid of someone else, since one has need of many things which no single individual is able to provide. Therefore the Philosopher says that man is by nature a social animal.(10) And just as for his well-being an individual requires the domestic companionship provided by family, so for its well-being a household requires a community, for otherwise it would suffer many defects that would hinder happiness. And since a community could not provide for its own well-being completely by itself, it is necessary for this well-being that there be a city.

Moreover, a city requires for the sake of its culture and its defense mutual relations and brotherhood with the surrounding cities, and for this reason kingdoms were created. Since the human mind does not rest content with limited possession of land but always seeks to achieve glory through further conquest, as we see from experience, discord and war must spring up between one kingdom and another. Such things are the tribulations of cities, of the surrounding cities, of the communities, and of the households of individuals; and so happiness is hindered. Consequently, in order to do away with these wars and their causes, it is necessary that the whole earth, and all that is given to the human race to possess, should be a Monarchy–that is, a single principality, having one prince who, possessing all things and being unable to desire anything else, would keep the kings content within the boundaries of their kingdoms and preserve among them the peace in which the cities might rest. Through this peace the communities would come to love one another, and by this love all households would provide for their needs, which when provided would bring man happiness, for this is the end for which he is born.(11)

In regard to this argument we may refer to the words of the Philosopher when he says in the Politics that when many are directed to a single end, one of them should be a governor or a ruler, and all the rest should be ruled or governed. This is what we observe on a ship, where the different offices and objectives are directed to a single end: namely, that of reaching the desired port by a safe route. Just as each officer directs his own activity to its own end, so there is one individual who takes account of all these ends and directs them to their final end: and this is the captain, whose commands all must obey. We see this in religious orders, in armies, and in all things, as has been said, which are directed to an end. Consequently it is evident that, in order to bring to perfection the universal social order of the human species, it is necessary to have a single individual who, like a captain, upon considering the different conditions in the world, should have, in order to direct the different and necessary offices, the universal and indisputable office of complete command. This pre-eminent office is called the Empire, without qualification, because it is the command of all other commands. And thus he who is placed in this office is called the Emperor, since he is the commander of all other commands; and what he says is law for all and ought to be obeyed by all, and every other command gains strength and authority from his. And so it is clear that the imperial majesty and authority are the highest in the fellowship of mankind.

Nevertheless someone might quibble by arguing that although the world requires an imperial office, there is no sound reason why the authority of a Roman prince should be supreme–which is the point we seek to prove–because the power of Rome was acquired neither by reason nor by decree of universal consensus, but by force, which appears to be the opposite of reason. To this we may easily reply that the election of this supreme officer must in the first place derive from that wisdom which provides for all men, namely God; for otherwise the election would not have been made on behalf of everyone, since prior to the officer named above there was no one who attended to the general good. And because no nature ever was or will be more tempered in the exercise of rule, stronger in its preservation, and more clever in acquiring it than that of the Latin race (as can be seen from experience), that sacred people in whom was mingled the lofty blood of the Trojans, namely Rome, God chose this people for that office. Therefore since this office could not be attained without the greatest virtue, and since its exercise required the greatest and most humane kindness, this was the people best disposed to receive it. Consequently the Roman people secured it originally not by force but by divine providence, which transcends all reason.

Vergil concurs in this in the first book of the Aeneidwhen, speaking in the person of God, he says: “To these (namely the Romans) I set no bounds, either in space or time; to these I have given empire without end.”(12) Force was therefore not the moving cause, as our quibbler supposed, but rather the instrumental cause, as the blows of a hammer are the cause of a knife, while the mind of the smith is the efficient and moving cause; and thus not force but reason, and moreover divine reason, must have been the origin of the Roman Empire. Two very distinct reasons may be adduced to prove that this city is imperial and had an origin and progress that were especially arranged by God. But since this subject could not be treated in this chapter without undue length, and long chapters are the foe of memory, I will extend my digression to another chapter to set forth the reasons indicated above, not without profit and much delight. Chapter 5

It is no wonder if divine providence, which wholly transcends angelic and human powers of perception, often proceeds in ways that are hidden to us, inasmuch as human actions frequently conceal their meanings from men themselves. But it is a cause for great wonder when the workings of the eternal counsel are so clearly manifest as to be discerned by our reason. I am therefore at the beginning of this chapter able to recite the words of Solomon who says in Proverbs, in the person of Wisdom: “Listen, for I will speak of great things.”(13)

When the infinite goodness of God willed to bring back into conformity with itself the human creature, who had been deformed by separation from God through the sin of the first man’s transgression, it was decreed, in that most elevated and most united consistory of the Trinity, that the Son of God should descend to earth to bring about this harmony.(14) Since the world (not only heaven, but earth as well) should be properly disposed for his coming–and the earth is properly disposed under a monarchy (that is, when it is fully subject to one prince, as has been said above)–divine providence ordained that those people and that city, namely glorious Rome, should be chosen to accomplish this end. Since even the abode into which the celestial king was to enter should be most clean and pure, it was arranged that a very holy lineage should come into existence, from which after many virtuous descendants a woman finer than any other should be born to become the chamber of the Son of God. This was the lineage of David, from which was born the pride and honor of the human race, namely Mary. Therefore it is written in Isaiah: “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall spring from his root.”(15) Jesse was the father of the David referred to above. All this occurred at one point in time: David was born when Rome was born–that is, when Aeneas came to Italy from Troy, which was the origin of the Roman city, according to written records. As a result the divine choice of the Roman empire is made manifest by the birth of the holy city which was contemporaneous with the root of the family of Mary.

Incidentally, it should be observed that from the time that this heaven began to revolve, it has never been in a better position than when he who created and rules it descended from above, as the mathematicians are still able to ascertain by virtue of their arts. Nor was the world ever, nor will it be, so perfectly disposed as at the time when it was guided by the voice of the one sole prince and commander of the Roman people, as Luke the Evangelist testifies.(16) Since universal peace reigned everywhere, which it never did before nor ever shall again, the ship of human society was speeding on an even course directly toward its proper port. O ineffable and incomprehensible wisdom of God who at the same hour both over in Syria and here in Italy made your preparations so well beforehand! O utterly foolish and vile are you brutes who pasture as if you were men and presume to speak against our faith and, while spinning wool and tilling the soil, seek to know what God through his great foresight has ordained! Accursed be you and your presumption, and those who believe your words!

As has been said above at the end of the preceding chapter of the present book, God gave Rome not only a special birth but a special evolution. For, in brief, from Romulus, who was her first parent, up to the age of her greatest perfection, namely the era of the emperor cited above, her evolution was effected by means not only of human but also divine undertakings.(17) For if we consider the seven kings who first governed her–namely Romulus, Numa, Tullus, Ancus, and the Tarquin kings who were the rulers and the tutors, so to speak, of her youth–we will discover from the records of Roman history, especially from Titus Livius, that these were men whose natures differed according to the requirements of the historical moment. If we then consider her more advanced youth, after she was emancipated from the tutelage of the kings, from the time of Brutus, the first consul, up until Caesar, the first supreme prince, we will find that she was exalted not with human but with godlike citizens whose love of her was inspired not by a human but a divine love. This could not and should not have happened unless there was a special end, conceived for her by God, brought about through a very great infusion of celestial grace.

Who will say that Fabricius was not divinely inspired when he refused to accept an almost infinite amount of gold because he would not abandon his country? Or Curius, whom the Samnites attempted to corrupt, when he refused to accept a huge quantity of gold for love of his country, saying that the citizens of Rome sought to possess not gold but the possessors of the gold? Or Mucius, who set fire to his own hand because the blow by which he thought to deliver Rome fell wide of its mark? Who will say that Torquatus, who sentenced his own son to death out of love for the public good, could have borne his suffering without divine assistance? Similarly the already mentioned Brutus? Who will say this of the Decii and the Drusi who laid down their lives for their country? Who will say that the captive Regulus, having been sent from Carthage to Rome to exchange Cathaginian prisoners for himself and the other Roman prisoners, was moved solely by human and not divine nature when for the love of Rome he gave advice to his own disadvantage after the envoys had withdrawn?

Who will say of Quintus Cincinnatus, who was made dictator and taken from the plough, that he renounced his office after having completed his term and returned of his own accord to the plough? Who will say of Camillus that, after being banished and cast into exile, he returned to free Rome from her enemies, and that after freeing her he went back into exile of his own accord in order not to offend the authority of the Senate, without divine influence? O most hallowed breast of Cato, who will presume to speak of you?(18)Surely we cannot speak of you better than by observing silence and by following the example of Jerome, who says, in his preface to the Bible, where he refers to Paul, that it is better to keep silent than to say too little. Surely it must be evident as we recall the lives of these and all the other godlike citizens that these wondrous events took place, not without some light of the divine goodness over and above their own natural goodness. It must be evident that these men of supreme excellence were the instruments with which divine providence realized the evolution of the Roman empire, where on many occasions the arm of God appeared to be present. For was the hand of God not evident in the battle in which the Albans fought with the Romans, at the beginning, for the control of the Empire, when the liberty of Roman lay in the hands of a single Roman? Was the hand of God not evident when the Gauls, having taken all of Rome, secretly seized the Capitol during the night and only the cry of a goose made it known? Was the hand of God not evident when in the war of Hannibal the Romans, having lost so many citizens that three bushels of rings were taken to Carthage, were ready to abandon their country if that blessed young Scipio had not taken his campaign for the liberation of Rome into Africa? And was the hand of God not evident when a new citizen of small means, namely Tully, defended the liberty of Rome against so great a citizen as Catiline? Most certainly.

Consequently we need seek no further proof in order to see that this holy city had a special birth and a special evolution, conceived and ordained by God. I am most certainly of the firm opinion that the stones lodged in her walls are worthy of reverence and that the soil on which she rests is more worthy than is commonly proclaimed or established. Chapter 6

Above, in the third chapter of this book, a promise was made to discuss the loftiness of the imperial and philosophic authorities. Therefore having discussed the imperial authority, I must continue my digression and take up the subject of the authority of the Philosopher, in keeping with my promise. Here we must first observe what this word “authority” means, for there is a greater necessity to know this in discussing the philosophic as opposed to the imperial authority, which by virtue of its majesty does not seem open to question. It should be known, then, that “authority” is nothing but “the pronouncement of an author.”

This word, namely “auctor” without the third letter c, has two possible sources of derivation. One is a verb that has very much fallen out of use in Latin and which signifies more or less “to tie words together,” that is, “auieo.” Anyone who studies it carefully in its first form will observe that it displays its own meaning, for it is made up only of the ties of words, that is, of the five vowels alone, which are the soul and tie of every word, and is composed of them in a different order, so as to portray the image of a tie.(19) For beginning with A it turns back to U, goes straight through to I and E, then turns back and comes to O, so that it truly portrays this image: A, E, I, O, U, which is the figure of a tie.(20) Insofar as “author” is derived and comes from this verb, it is used only to refer to poets who have tied their words together with the art of poetry; but at present we are not concerned with this meaning. The other source from which “author” derives, as Uguccione attests in the beginning of his bookDerivations, is a Greek word pronounced “autentin” which in Latin means “worthy of faith and obedience.”(21) Thus “author,” in this derivation, is used for any person deserving of being believed and obeyed. From this comes the word which we are presently treating, namely “authority”; hence we can see that authority means “pronouncement worthy of faith and obedience.” Consequently, when I prove that Aristotle is most worthy of faith and obedience, it will be evident that his words are the supreme and highest authority.

That Aristotle is the most worthy of faith and obedience may be proved as follows. Among workmen and craftsmen of various arts and activities which are ordained to a single final activity or art, the craftsman or workman pursuing such an end must above all be obeyed and trusted by everyone as being he alone who considers the final end of all the other ends. Hence the knight should be trusted by the sword-maker, the bridle-maker, the saddle-maker, the shield-maker, and all trades that are established for the purpose of achieving the goals of chivalry. Since all human activities require a final end, namely the end of human life to which man is directed insofar as he is human, the master or the craftsman who studies this and reveals it to us should be obeyed and trusted above all others. That man is Aristotle: he therefore is the most worthy of faith and obedience.(22) In order to perceive how Aristotle is the master and leader of human reason, insofar as it is directed to man’s final activity, we must know that this end of ours, which everyone by nature desires, was sought out in very early times by the sages. Since, however, those who desire this end are very numerous and the desires are almost entirely different in each instance, although they have but a single universal end, it was very difficult to discern this single end in which every human desire should rightly find its peace.

There were then very ancient philosophers, the first and most important of whom was Zeno, who perceived and believed that the end of human life consisted solely of strict integrity–that is, in strictly, unreservedly following truth and justice, in not showing sorrow for anything or joy for anything, in not being responsive to any emotion.(23) And they defined this integrity as “that which apart from utility or profit is for its own sake praiseworthy according to reason.” They and their sect were called Stoics, and to them belonged that glorious Cato of whom I did not dare to speak above.

There were other philosophers whose views and beliefs differed from theirs, and of these the first and most important was a philosopher called Epicurus who, seeing that every living creature as soon as it is born is, as it were, directed by nature toward its proper end, avoiding pain and seeking pleasure, said that this end of ours was pleasure–that is, delight free from pain. Because he did not posit any mean between delight and pain, he claimed that “pleasure” was nothing but the absence of pain,” as Tully seems to relate in the first book of On the End of Goods.(24) To these, who were called Epicurians after Epicurus, belonged Torquatus, a Roman noble descended by blood from the glorious Torquatus whom I mentioned above.

There were others who owe their origin to Socrates and later to his successor Plato, who, examining with greater care and perceiving that in our actions we might commit a wrong and do so through excess or through defect, said that our action when free from excess and defect and in accord with the mean adopted of our own volition, which is to say virtue, was that end of which we are presently speaking. They called it “acting with virtue.” These were the Academics, like Plato and his nephew Speusippus, who were so named for the place in which Plato studied, that is, the Academy. They did not take their name from Socrates because in his philosophy no affirmative statements were made.(25)

Aristotle, however, whose surname was Stagirites, and his companion Xenocrates of Chalcedon, through the singular and almost divine genius which nature conferred on Aristotle, coming to know this end by much the same method as that of Socrates and the Academics, put the finishing touches on moral philosophy and perfected it–especially Aristotle. Because Aristotle initiated the practice of discoursing while walking backwards and forwards they (I mean he and his companions) were called Peripatetics, which means the same as “those who walk about.” And because this moral philosophy was brought to perfection by Aristotle, the name of the Academics faded from memory, and all those who became affiliated with this sect came to be called Peripatetics. This group at present holds universal sway in teaching everywhere, and their doctrine may almost be called universal opinion. Thus it may be seen that Aristotle is the one who directs and guides mankind to this goal; and this is what we wished to show.

Therefore, to sum up, my main point is made clear: namely that the authority of the supreme philosopher with whom we are now concerned is invested with complete power. His authority is not opposed to the imperial authority; but the latter authority without the former creates a danger, and the former authority without the latter creates a weakness, not inherently, but as a result of the lack of harmony among the people. When the one is united with the other they are of the greatest utility and possess the most complete power. Therefore it is written in the book of Wisdom, “Love the light of wisdom, all you who are before the people,” which is to say, “Let the philosophic be united with the imperial authority, for good and perfect government.”(26)

O pitiful are you who rule at present, and most pitiful you who are ruled! For no philosophical authority is united with your governments, whether by virtue of your own study or through the counsel of others, so that to all may be applied the words of Ecclesiastes, “Woe to you, O land whose king is a child and whose princes eat in the morning!”; and to no land may the following words be said: “Blessed is the land whose king is noble and whose princes devote their time to the people’s needs and not to their own wantonness.”(27)Pay attention to what is by your side, you enemies of God who have seized the rods of the governments of Italy. I am speaking to you, Charles and Frederick, and to you other princes and tyrants!(28) Beware who sits by your side and offers advice, and count how many times a day your counselors call your attention to this end of human life. Better would it be for you to fly low like a swallow than to soar aloft like a kite over things that are totally base. Chapter 7

Since we have seen what reverence is owed to the imperial and the philosophical authorities, we must now return to the straight path of our intended course. I say then that this last opinion is so ingrained in the common people that unreservedly, without reasonable inquiry, anyone who is the son or grandson of a worthy person is called noble, even though he is worthless. This is the part which begins And so ingrained Has this false view become among us That one calls another noble If he can say `I am the son, Or grandson, of such and such A famous man,’ despite his lack of worth. Consequently it must be observed that it is extremely dangerous to allow a false opinion to take root through negligence. For just as grass spreads in an uncultivated field and overshoots and covers the spikes of wheat so that when seen from afar the wheat disappears, and the fruit is finally lost, so a false opinion, if left uncensured and uncorrected, grows and spreads in the mind so that the spikes of reason, namely of right opinion, are concealed and, as it were, buried and lost. O how great an enterprise have I undertaken in this canzone by desiring now to weed an overgrown field like that of common opinion, so long deprived of cultivation. Certainly I do not intend to clear the entire field, but only those parts in which the spikes of reason are not completely overtaken; that is to say, I intend to set straight those in whom some glimmer of reason still survives by virtue of their good nature, for the rest deserve no more attention than do the animals; for it seems to me no less a miracle to restore to reason someone in whom the light of reason has been entirely extinguished than to restore to life someone who has been buried in the ground for four days.

After the evil state of this popular opinion has been described, the canzone suddenly smites it with an extraordinary reproof as if it were a horrible thing, by saying: “But he appears the basest, To those who see the truth, in order to reveal its intolerable wickedness by affirming that they are the worst liars; for he who is wicked though descended from good stock is not only base (that is, not noble) but the basest of all; and I give the example of the way that has been pointed out.

To make this clear I must pose a question and then answer it, as follows. Suppose there is a plain with established paths and fields full of hedges, ditches, stones, timber, with obstacles of every kind blocking the way except along the narrow paths. Snow has fallen so that it covers everything and presents the same image in all places, so that no trace of any path can been seen. A man comes from one side of the plain and wishes to go to a dwelling on the other side, and by his own efforts, that is, by using his own power of observation and intelligence, taking himself as guide, he proceeds along the straight way in the direction in which he intends to travel, leaving footprints behind him. After him comes another wishing to travel to this same dwelling, and he has only to follow the footprints left behind; yet although he has been shown the way which the other man was able to find for himself without guidance, by his own fault he wanders and twists among the bramble and brier and goes where he should not. Which of these ought to be called a worthy man? I reply, he who went first. And what should the other be called? I reply, the basest of men. Why is he not called simply unworthy, which is to say merely base? I reply, because that man should be called unworthy, which is to say base, who having no guidance goes astray; but since this one had guidance, his error and fault could not be greater, and therefore he must be called not simply base but basest. Thus he who is descended of noble stock through his father or some ancestor, and is also evil, is not only base but basest and deserving of contempt and scorn more than any other ill-bred person.

So that we might avoid falling into this utter baseness, Solomon, in the twenty-second chapter of Proverbs, exhorts those who have had a man of worth for an ancestor, “Do not transgress the ancient landmarks which your fathers have set.” And in the fourth chapter of the same book he says, “The path of the just,” that is, of men of worth, “leads forward as a shining light, and the way of the wicked is dark; they know not at what they stumble.”(29) Lastly, when it is said, And walks the earth like one who’s dead, I say that this vilest man is dead, though he seems alive, in order to discredit him further.

Here it should be observed that a wicked man may truly be said to be dead, and above all he who strays from the path of his good ancestor. This may be demonstrated as follows. As Aristotle says in the second book of On the Soul, “life is the state of being of living things”; and since life exists in many degrees (as in plants, vegetation; in animals, vegetation, sensation, and movement; in man, vegetation, sensation, movement, and reasoning or intelligence), and things must be named from their noblest part, it is evident that in animals life is sensation–I mean the brutes–and in man it is the use of reason.(30)Therefore if such is the life and state of man’s being, to abandon one’s use of reason is to abandon one’s state of being, which is the same as to be dead. And does a man not abandon his reason when he does not reflect upon the end of his life? Does a man not abandon his reason when he does not reflect upon the path which he must take? Certainly he does, and it is most evident in the person who has footprints before him and does not regard them. For this reason Solomon says in the fifth chapter of Proverbs, “He who lacks instruction dies, and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.”(31) This is to say: He is dead who leaves no disciple and does not follow his master; he is the vilest of all. There are some who might ask: How is it that he is dead and yet walks the earth? I reply that he is dead as man and survives as beast. For, as the Philosopher says in the second book of On the Soul, the powers of the soul stand one above another as the figure of the quadrangle stands above that of the triangle, and the pentagon (that is, a figure having five sides) stands above the quadrangle: so the sensitive power stands above the vegetative power, and the intellectual power stands above the sensitive power.(32) Therefore if what is left by removing the last side of a pentagon is a quadrangle, and no longer a pentagon, then what is left when the last power of the soul is removed is no longer a man but something possessing only a sensitive soul, which is to say, a brute. And this is the meaning of the second stanza of the canzone under examination, in which the opinions of others are expressed. Chapter 8

The fairest branch that springs from the root of reason is discrimination. For as Thomas says at the head of his prologue to the Ethics, “to know the relationship between one thing and another is the proper act of reason,” and this is discrimination. One of the fairest and sweetest fruits of this branch is the reverence which a lesser owes to a greater. Consequently Tully, in the first book of On Offices, speaking of the beauty which shines forth from integrity, says that reverence is a part of it. And just as reverence is one of the beauties of integrity, so its opposite is the defilement and degradation of integrity, and this irreverence in our vernacular may be called arrogance. Therefore Tully himself says in the same place, “To fail to know what others think of us is the mark of one who is not only arrogant but dissolute,” which is simply to say that arrogance and dissoluteness constitute a lack of that self-knowledge which is the source and the measure of all reverence. Therefore since it is my wish, in observing all due reverence to the Prince and to the Philosopher, to remove malice from the minds of some in order to instill there the light of truth, before proceeding to refute the opinions stated above, I will show how in refuting them I argue with irreverence toward neither the imperial authority nor the Philosopher. For if I were to show myself to be irreverent in any part of this work, it could not be more unbecoming than if it were in this book, where by treating of nobility I must show myself to be noble and not base. First I will show that I do not impinge against the authority of the Philosopher; then I will show that I do not impinge against the Imperial Majesty.

I say then that when the Philosopher states that “what appears true to the majority cannot be entirely false,” he does not mean to speak of outward appearances (that is, of what is perceived by the senses) but of what is within (that is, of what is perceived by the mind), because appearances judged by the senses are, with regard to the majority, in many instances completely false, especially in the case of objects which are perceptible to more than one sense, since then the senses are often deceived.(33) Thus we know that to most people the Sun appears to be a foot in diameter, and this is quite false. For according to the research and findings that human reason has made with the aid of its attendant arts, the diameter of the Sun is 5 ½ times that of the Earth, so that if the Earth is 6500 miles in diameter, the diameter of the Sun, which by sense perception appears to measure one foot, is 35,750 miles. Consequently it is evident that Aristotle did not have sense perception in mind; therefore I do not go counter to the Philosopher’s meaning, nor do I offend the reverence which is due to him, if I seek only to refute the issue of sense perception. And that I intend to refute the claims of sense perception is evident. For those who judge in this way judge only by what they perceive of the things which fortune can give or take away; for when they see high connections and marriages made, and marvelous buildings, and extensive possessions, powerful lordships, they believe that these things are the cause of nobility; indeed, they believe them to be the essence of nobility itself. For if they were to judge according to the mind’s perception they would say the opposite, namely that nobility is the cause of these things, as will be seen below in this book.

And just as I do not impugn, as may be seen, the reverence due to the Philosopher in my refutation, so I do not impugn the reverence due to the Empire; and I propose to show the reason why. But because when speaking in the presence of his adversary a speaker must observe great care in his choice of words, so that the adversary does not derive from it material for obscuring the truth, I who speak in this book before a great many adversaries cannot speak with brevity. If consequently my digressions are lengthy, let no one be surprised. I say then that in order to show that I am not irreverent to the majesty of the Empire, we must first see what constitutes “reverence.” I say that reverence is nothing but the confirmation of a due submission by manifest sign. Once this is perceived, we must then distinguish between an “irreverent” person and a person who is “not reverent.” “Irreverent” denotes privation, while “not reverent” denotes negation. Irreverence therefore consists in renouncing a due submission, I mean by manifest sign, while absence of reverence consists in denying a due submission. A man can disavow something in two ways. He can express disavowal in one way by offending against the truth, as when due confirmation is withheld, and this is properly called “renunciation.” He can express disavowal in another way by not offending against the truth, as when he refuses to affirm that which does not exist, and this is properly called “denial,” for when a man disavows that he is wholly mortal, this, properly speaking, constitutes a denial.

Consequently if I deny reverence to the Empire I am not irreverent, but only not reverent, for this is not contrary to reverence since it does not offend against it, just as the absence of life does not offend against life but rather against death, which is the privation of it. Death is one thing and the absence of life is another, for absence of life is found in stones. Since death denotes privation, which cannot obtain in something not endowed with habit, and since stones are not endowed with life, so that they should not be said to be “dead” but “non-living,” likewise I, who in this instance do not owe reverence to the Empire, am not irreverent in disavowing it but rather not reverent, which is not arrogance, nor something to condemn. But to be reverent would constitute arrogance, if it could be called reverence, since one would fall into a real and greater irreverence, namely irreverence toward truth and toward nature, as will be seen below. Aristotle, the master of philosophers, defended himself against this error at the beginning of the Ethics when he said, “If we have two friends and one of them is truth, we must concur with truth.”(34) Nevertheless since I have said that I am not reverent, which denotes the denial of reverence (that is, the denial of due submission by manifest sign), we must see how this is a denial and not a disavowal–that is, how in this instance I am not duly subject to the Imperial Majesty. And since the explanation is of necessity lengthy, I intend to demonstrate it without delay in a separate chapter. Chapter 9

To see how in this case–that is, in refuting or confirming the Emperor’s opinion–I am not obliged to place myself in submission to him, it is necessary to recall to mind what was discussed above in the fourth chapter of this book concerning the imperial office: namely, that the imperial authority was created in order to perfect human life and that it is by right the regulator and the ruler of all our activities, and that consequently the Imperial Majesty has jurisdiction just as broad as our activities extend, and beyond these limits it does not go. But just as every art and office of man is held within fixed limits by the imperial office, so this empire is confined by God within fixed limits; and this is no cause for wonder, because we see that the office and the art of nature is limited in all its operations. For if we wish to consider the universal nature of all things, it has jurisdiction co-extensive with the entire universe, I mean heaven and earth; and the universe exists within a fixed limit, as is proved in the third book of the Physics and in the first of On Heaven and Earth. Therefore the jurisdiction of universal nature is confined within fixed limits, and so consequently is particular nature; and he who is limited by nothing at all sets the limits on nature, that is, the first excellence which is God, who alone comprehends the infinite by his infinite capacity.

In order to perceive the limits of our activities, we must know that only those activities are ours which are subject to reason and to will; for although the digestive activity is found within us, it is not human but natural. We must further know that our reason is related to four kinds of activities, which must be regarded as different. For there are activities which it merely contemplates but does not, and cannot, perform: for example, things natural, supernatural, and mathematical. There are other activities which it contemplates and performs by its own act, and these are called rational, as for example the art of speech. And there are other activities which it contemplates and performs by means of matter external to itself, as for example the mechanical arts.(35) All of these activities, although contemplation of them is dependent on our will, are not in themselves subject to our will. For however much we might wish that heavy things should by nature rise upward, however much we might wish that a syllogism based on false premises should yield a truth by demonstration, and however much we might wish that a house should stand as firmly when leaning as when erect, this could not be, because we are not, properly speaking, the makers of these activities but merely those who have discovered them. It was another who ordained them, and a greater maker who made them. There are also activities which our reason contemplates as an act of the will, as for instance giving offense or assistance, standing ground or fleeing in battle, and remaining chaste or yielding to lust.(36)These are completely subject to our will, and therefore we are considered good or evil, because they are completely of our own making; for as far as our will can reach, so far do our activities extend. Since in all of these voluntary activities justice must be preserved and injustice avoided, and this justice may be lost in two ways (either through not knowing what it is, or through not willing to follow it), written Law was invented in order both to establish it and to administer it. So Augustine says, “If men had known it (namely justice) and, when known, had observed it, there would have been no need of written Law.” Therefore it is written in the beginning of the Old Digest that “Written law is the art of well-doing and justice.”(37) The official of whom we are speaking, namely the Emperor, is appointed to formulate, demonstrate, and enforce precisely this Law, and to him we are subject as far as our own activities extend, which have already been described, and no further. For this reason in every art and in every trade the craftsmen and apprentices are, and should be, subject to the chief and master of the activities within those arts and trades, outside of which the subjection ceases, because the rule of the master ceases. Thus we might say of the Emperor, if we were to describe his office with an image, that he is the one who rides in the saddle of the human will. How this horse pricks across the plain without a rider is more than evident, especially in wretched Italy, which has been left with no means whatsoever to govern herself.(38)

It must be observed that the more a thing is peculiar to an art or a rule, the more complete is the subjection; for if the cause is intensified, so is its effect. Hence we must know that there are some things so purely matters of art that nature becomes an instrument of art, as for example rowing with an oar, where art makes propulsion, which is a natural movement, its instrument; or as in threshing wheat where art makes heat, which is a natural quality, its instrument. Here most of all is subjection due to the chief and master of the particular art. There are things in which the art is the instrument of nature, and these are lesser arts; in these the craftsmen are less subject to their chief, as for example in scattering seed upon the earth (for here we must wait on the will of nature), or in leaving port (for here we must wait on the natural disposition of the weather). Therefore we find that in matters of this kind disputes often arise among the craftsmen, and the superior seeking the advice of the inferior. There are others things which do not pertain to the art but seem to be associated with it, with the result that men are often deceived. In these things the apprentices are not subject to the master, nor are they bound to submit to him with respect to their particular art, as for example fishing seems to be associated with navigation and the knowledge of the virtues of herbs with agriculture. Yet they have no ground in common since fishing falls under the art of hunting and is subject to its authority and the knowledge of the virtues of herbs under medicine or under some higher branch of learning.

In like manner what we have discussed with regard to the other arts may be seen to hold true for the art of imperial rule. For in the art of imperial rule there are certain spheres of regulation which are pure arts, such as laws pertaining to marriage, slavery, military service, succession in office, in which matters we are entirely subject to the Emperor without any possible doubt or question. There are other laws which in a sense follow from the forces of nature, such as determining at what age a man is sufficiently prepared to manage his own affairs, and in these we are not entirely subject. There are many others which seem to be associated with the art of imperial rule, and anyone believing the imperial judgment in such matters to be authoritative was, and still is, deceived. For example, regarding the definitions of maturity and of nobility, the imperial judgment cannot compel assent simply by virtue of the fact that he is Emperor. Therefore let us render unto God that which belongs to God. Consequently we need not submit or assent to the Emperor Nero, who said that maturity is beauty and physical strength, but to him who said that maturity is the pinnacle of the natural life, and that would be the Philosopher. It is therefore evident that defining nobility does not fall within the scope of the art of imperial rule; and if it does not fall within the scope of that art, we are not, in treating of nobility, subject to the Emperor; and if we are not subject to him, we are not bound to reverence him in this matter; and this is precisely the conclusion that we have been in search of. Consequently with full license and with utter conviction we must now strike at the heart of the received opinions and throw them to the earth so that by reason of my victory the true opinion may stand its ground in the minds of those for whom it is a benefit that this light shines strongly. Chapter 10

Now that the opinions of others concerning nobility have been set down and it has been shown that I am free to refute them, I shall proceed to discuss that part of the canzone which refutes them. It begins, as is said above, He who claims “Man is a living tree.” We ought to know, however, that the Emperor’s opinion, although he put it defectively in one phrase, namely where he mentioned fine manners, did touch on the manners of the nobility, and therefore it is not my intention to refute this particular point. The other phrase which is entirely foreign to the nature of nobility I do intend to refute, for it appears to mention two things in speaking of ancestral wealth, namely time and riches, which are entirely foreign to nobility, as has been said and as will be demonstrated below. Consequently the refutation is divided into two parts: first I refute the idea that riches are a cause of wealth, and then that time is. The second part begins: Nor will they grant that one born base may yet in time. We must know that by refuting riches not only is the Emperor’s opinion refuted, in the part where he touches on riches, but also the opinion of the common herd, which was based on wealth alone, in its entirety. The first part is divided into two: in the first it is said in general terms that the Emperor erred in his definition of nobility, and in the second the reason why is shown. The second part begins, For riches, as is generally thought.

I say then He who claims “Man is a living tree” first says what isn’t true (that is, what is false) insofar as he says “tree”; and then he leaves much unsaid (that is, he speaks defectively) insofar as he says “living” and not “rational,” which is what distinguishes man from the beasts. Then I say that in the same way he erred in his definition of the ruler of the Empire; and I do not say “Emperor” but “he who was the ruler of the Empire,” to show, as has been said above, that deciding this issue lies outside the scope of the imperial office. Then I say that he likewise erred by wrongly supposing ancestral wealth to be the subject of nobility, and afterwards he proceeded to embrace a “defective form,” or distinction, namely “fine manners,” which do not comprise each and every formal aspect of nobility but only a very small part, as will be shown below. And though the text is silent on this point, we must not overlook the fact that in this matter the Emperor erred not only in the constituent parts of his definition but also in his method of defining, even though by reputation he was considered a great logician and a very learned man. For the definition of nobility would be more properly derived from its effects than from its sources, since it appears itself to be a kind of source, which cannot be explained by the things that precede it but rather by those that come after. Then when I say For riches, as is generally thought, I show how they cannot be the cause of nobility because they are base; and I show how they cannot take it away because they are quite distinct from nobility. I prove that they are base by one of their greatest and most evident defects, and this I do where I say It’s evident that riches.

Lastly, by virtue of what has been said above, I reach the conclusion that their transformation does not bring about a change in the upright mind, which proves what has been said above: that they are distinct from nobility because no union is effected. Here we must know that, as the Philosopher puts it, all things which produce something must first have perfection of their own being. Hence he says in the seventh book of theMetaphysics, “When one thing is produced by another, it is produced by it by existing in its being.”(39)

Moreover, we should know that everything which decomposes does so by undergoing some change, and each thing that is changed must be connected with the cause of change, as the Philosopher puts it in the seventh book of the Physics and in the first book ofOn Generation. After setting forth these things I go on to say that riches cannot, as others believe, confer nobility; and in order to show that they are wholly distinct from it, I say that they cannot take it away from whoever possesses it. They cannot give it, since by nature they are base, and by virtue of their baseness they are the opposite of nobility. Here baseness means degenerateness, which is the opposite of nobility, since one contrary does not and cannot produce the other contrary, for the above-stated reason which is briefly touched on with the words And further, he who paints a form. No painter could depict any form if he did not first conceive in his imagination how he wishes it to be. Moreover, they cannot take it away because they are remote from nobility, and for the reason stated above that whatever changes or decomposes anything must be connected with it. Therefore I add Nor can an upright tower be made to bend by a river flowing far away, which is meant only as a analogy to what has been said above, namely that riches cannot take away nobility, by saying that this nobility is like an upright tower and that riches are like a river flowing far away. Chapter 11

It now remains simply to prove in what way riches are base and how they are distinct and remote from nobility, and this is proved in two brief sections of the text to which we presently must turn. After they have been explained, what I have said will become clear: that is, that riches are base and remote from nobility, and thereby the arguments already directed against riches will be completely proved.

I say then, It’s evident that riches are imperfect, And base as well. To make clear what is meant by these words, we must know that the baseness of each thing derives from its imperfection, and likewise its nobility from its perfection, so that the more a thing is perfect, the nobler is its nature; the more imperfect, the baser. Consequently if riches are imperfect, it is evident that there are base. That they are imperfect is briefly proved by the text when it says, for however great they are, They bring no peace, but rather grief. Here not only is their imperfection made evident but their state shown to be most imperfect, and therefore completely base. Lucan attests to this when he addresses them by saying, “Without a fight the laws have perished, and you riches, the basest part of things, have led the battle.”(40) Their imperfection may clearly be seen briefly in three things: first, in the lack of discretion attending their appropriation; second, in the danger that accompanies their increment; thirdly, in the ruin resulting from their possession. Before I demonstrate this, a doubt which seems to arise must be cleared up: for since gold, pearls, and property have in their essence a perfect form and actuality, it does not seem correct to claim that they are imperfect. Therefore it must be understood that insofar as they are considered in themselves, they are perfect things, and are not riches but gold or pearls; but insofar as they are conceived as a possession of man, they are riches, and in this sense they are full of imperfection. For it is not incongruous for one thing to be both perfect and imperfect when it is perceived from different perspectives.

I say that their imperfection may be observed first in the lack of discretion attending their appropriation, in which no distributive justice is present, while injustice, which is the effect characteristic of imperfection, almost always is. For if we consider the ways in which riches are acquired, they may all be summarized under three headings. They are acquired either purely by chance, as for example when they are acquired without design or unexpectedly by virtue of some unplanned event; or they are acquired by chance aided by reason, as for example by means of testaments and inheritance; or they are acquired by chance aiding reason, as in the case of acquiring lawful or unlawful gain. By lawful gain I mean gain deriving from a respectable craft, commerce, or service; by unlawful gain I mean gain deriving from theft or robbery. In each of these three ways the injustice of which I speak is evident, for buried wealth which is discovered or recovered presents itself more often to the bad than to the good; and this is so evident that it requires no proof.

Indeed I once saw the place, on the side of a mountain named Falterona, in Tuscany, where the basest peasant of the entire region found, while digging about, more than a bushel of Santelenas of the finest silver which had been waiting for him for perhaps 2000 years or more.(41) It was because he had observed this injustice that Aristotle remarked that “the more man is subject to intelligence, the less he is subject to fortune.”(42) I claim that inheritance by bequest or by succession comes more often to the bad than to the good, though I do not intend to submit any evidence for this. Rather, let everyone cast his eyes about to discover what it is that I pass over in silence in order to avoid accusing anyone in particular. Would that it had been God’s pleasure that what the Provençal requested had come to pass, namely that he who does not inherit goodness should forfeit the inheritance of possessions!(43) It is my claim that the recovery of wealth comes more often precisely to the bad than to the good, for unlawful gain never comes to the good, because they refuse it. What good man would ever seek gain by means of force or fraud? That would be an impossibility, for by the very choice of undertaking an unlawful act he would cease to be good. And lawful gain rarely comes to the good, because given the fact that it requires a great deal of attention and the good man’s attention is directed to more important matters, rarely does he devote sufficient attention to it.

Consequently it is evident that the appropriation of these riches in whatever way results in injustice, and therefore Our Lord called them unrighteous when he said, “Make to yourselves friends of the money of iniquity,” thereby inviting and encouraging men to render acts of liberality through benefactions, which engender friendships.(44) How fair an exchange does he make who gives of these most imperfect things in order to have and acquire things that are perfect, such as are the hearts of worthy men! This market is open every day. Indeed, this kind of commerce is different from all others, for when a man believes he is buying one person with a benefaction, thousands and thousands are bought with it. Who does not still keep a place in his heart for Alexander because of his royal acts of benevolence? Who does not keep a place for the good King of Castile, or Saladin, or the good Marquis of Monferrato, or the good Count of Toulouse, or Bertran de Born, or Galeazzo of Montefeltro?(45)When mention is made of their gifts, certainly not only those who would willingly do the same, but those as well who would sooner die than do the same, retain in their memory a love for these men. Chapter 12

The imperfection of riches, as has been said, may be observed not only by the fact of their appropriation but also in the danger that accompanies their increment; and since more of their defect may be perceived in the latter, the text makes mention of that alone, saying that for however great they are, they not only do not bring peace, they bring more thirst and make men more defective and less self-sufficient. Here we should understand that defective things may bear their defects in such a way that they do not appear on the surface, but are concealed beneath the guise of perfection; or they may bear them entirely exposed, so that the imperfection is recognized openly on the surface. Those things that do not reveal their defects at first are more dangerous, since we often cannot place ourselves on guard against them, as we see in the instance of a traitor who on the surface shows himself as a friend, so that he compels us to have faith in him, while beneath the guise of friendship he conceals the defect of enmity. In this way riches are dangerously imperfect in their increment, for by subverting what they promise they bring about the very opposite.(46)

These false traitresses always promise to bring complete satisfaction to the person who gathers them in sufficient quantity, and by this promise they lead the human will into the vice of avarice. For this reason Boethius in his book The Consolation of Philosophycalls them dangerous, saying, “Alas! who was it that first unearthed the masses of hidden gold and the gems, those precious perils, which sought to remain hidden?”(47) The false traitresses, if one looks closely, promise to take away all thirst and feeling of want and to supply complete satiety and a feeling of sufficiency. This is what they do at first for every man, by guaranteeing the fulfillment of this promise when they have increased to a certain amount; and then when they have been accumulated to this point, instead of satiety and refreshment they produce and instill an intolerable and burning thirst in the breast; and in place of sufficiency they set up a new goal: that is, a greater quantity to be desired, and once this has been realized, they instill a great fear and concern for what has been acquired.

Consequently they do not bring peace, but rather grief, which before, in their absence, was not present. Therefore Tully, in his book On Paradox, says in denouncing riches, “Never have I ever considered either the money of these men, or their magnificent mansions, or their riches, or their lordships, or the delights by which they are altogether captivated, to be found among things good and desirable, since I have certainly seen men who abound in these things covet the very things in which they abound. For never is the thirst of cupidity satisfied or satiated; and not only are they tormented by a desire to increase the quantity of those things which they possess, but they are also tormented by a fear of losing them.”(48) These are the very words of Tully, as they are put down in the book which has been mentioned. Evidence of even greater importance bearing on this imperfection is found in these words spoken by Boethius in his book The Consolation of Philosophy: “Even if the goddess of wealth were to lavish riches equal to the amount of sand tossed by the wind-driven sea or to the number of stars that shine, the human race would not cease their lament.”(49)

Since further evidence is required to establish proof on this point, let us summon up all that Solomon and his father cry out against them, all that Seneca, especially in his letters to Lucilius, all that Horace, all that Juvenal, and, in brief, all that every writer, every poet, and all that truthful Holy Scripture cries out against these false harlots who are steeped in every defect. In order that our belief may be supported by what we see, let us consider the lives of those who chase after them, and how securely they live when they have amassed them, how satisfied they are, how untroubled! And what imperils and destroys cities, territories, and individuals day by day more than the accumulation of wealth by some new person? Such an accumulation uncovers new desires which cannot be satiated without causing injury to someone. What else were the two categories of Law, namely Canon Law and Civil Law, intended to curb if not the surge of greed brought about by the amassing of wealth? Certainly both categories of Law make this quite evident if we read their beginnings (that is, the beginnings of their written record). O how evident it is, indeed how exceedingly evident, that riches are rendered fully imperfect through by their being increased, since nothing but imperfection can come from them, however great their quantity! This is what the text says.

Nevertheless a doubt arises here from a question which cannot be passed over without being brought up and answered. Someone bent on distorting the truth by splitting hairs might object that since riches are rendered imperfect and consequently base by virtue of the fact that their acquisition increases a desire for them, knowledge for the same reason is imperfect and base, since the desire for it always increases with its acquisition. Hence Seneca says, “If I had one foot in the grave I would still wish to go on learning.”(50) But it is not true that knowledge is made base by imperfection: therefore, by refuting the consequence of the premise, the increase of desire does not make riches base.(51) The fact that knowledge is something perfect is made evident by the Philosopher in the sixth book of the Ethics, which states that knowledge is the perfect record of things which are certain.

This question requires a brief answer, but first we must see whether desire is increased by the acquisition of knowledge, as is proposed in the question, and whether this is for a reason. And so I say that human desire is increased not only by the acquisition of knowledge and of riches, but by every kind of acquisition, although in different ways. The reason is this: that the supreme desire of each thing, and the one that is first given to it by nature, is to return to its first cause. Now since God is the cause of our souls and has created them like himself (as it is written, “Let us make man in our own image and likeness”), the soul desires above all else to return to him.(52) And just as the pilgrim who walks along a road on which he has never traveled before believes that every house which he sees from afar is an inn, and finding it not so fixes his expectations on the next one, and so moves from house to house until he comes to the inn, so our soul, as soon as it enters upon this new and never travelled road of life, fixes its eyes on the goal of its supreme good, and therefore believes that everything it sees which seems to possess some good in it is that supreme good.(53) Because its knowledge is at first imperfect through lack of experience and instruction, small goods appear great, and so from these it conceives its first desires. Thus we see little children setting their desire first of all on an apple, and then growing older desiring to possess a little bird, and then still later desiring to possess fine clothes, then a horse, and then a woman, and then modest wealth, then greater riches, and then still more. This comes about because in none of these things does one find what one is searching after, but hopes to find it further on. Consequently it may be seen that one object of desire stands in front of another before the eyes of our soul very much in the manner of a pyramid, where the smallest object at first covers them all and is, as it were, the apex of the ultimate object of desire, namely God, who is, as it were, the base of all the rest. And so the further we move from the apex toward the base, the greater the objects of desire appear; this is the reason why acquisition causes human desires to become progressively inflated.

We may, however, lose this path through error, just as we may the roads of the earth. For just as from one city to another there is only one road which is of necessity the best and most direct, and another which leads completely away (namely the one which goes in the opposite direction), and many others, some leading away from it and some moving toward it, so in human life there are different paths, among which only one is the truest way and another the falsest, and some less true and some less false. And just as we see that the path which leads most directly to the city fulfills desire and provides rest when work is finished, while the one which goes in the opposite direction never fulfills it nor provides rest, so it is with our life. A wise traveler reaches his goal and rests; the wanderer never reaches it, but with great lethargy of mind forever directs his hungry eyes before him. Thus although this explanation does not entirely answer the question raised above, it at least opens the way for an answer because it shows that our desires do not all increase in the same way. But since this chapter has become somewhat protracted, an answer to the question must be given in a new chapter, and here the entire argument which I presently intend to make against riches will be brought to a close. Chapter 13

In answer to this question, I affirm that the desire for knowledge cannot properly be said to increase, although, as has been said, it grows in a certain way. For whatever grows, properly speaking, is always one; the desire for knowledge, however, is not always one but many; and when one desire ends, another begins; so that, properly speaking, its increase is not a growth but a progression from small things to great things. For if I desire to know the principles of natural things, as soon as I know them this desire is fulfilled and brought to an end. If I then desire to know what each of these principles is and how each exists, this is a new and separate desire. Nor by the appearance of this desire am I dispossessed of the perfection to which I was brought by the other; and this growth is not the cause of imperfection but of greater perfection.

However, the desire for riches is, properly speaking, an increment, for it remains always one, so that no progression of goals reached or perfection attained is found here. If someone were to object that just as the desire to know the principles of natural objects is one thing and the desire to know what these principles are is another, so the desire for a hundred marks is one thing and the desire for a thousand another, I would reply that this is not true. For a hundred is part of a thousand and is related to it, just as a part of a line is to the whole line along which there is a single continuous motion, with no progression nor any movement brought to completion at any point. But knowing the principles of natural objects and knowing the nature of each individual principle are not parts of each other, but are related to each other as different lines along which there is no single continuous movement, so that when the motion of the one is completed, it is succeeded by the motion of the other. Thus it appears, as raised in the question, that knowledge may not be called imperfect because of the desire for knowledge, the way riches are imperfect because of the desire for them. For in the desire for knowledge desires are progressively satisfied and brought to completion, while in the desire for riches they are not. Hence the question is answered and has no ground for existence.

This person bent on splitting hairs might well still object by claiming that although many desires are satisfied by the acquisition of knowledge, yet the ultimate desire is never attained, which is almost like the imperfection of a desire which, though remaining one and the same, never comes to an end. Here again we reply that the objection is not true–that is, that the ultimate desire is never attained; for our natural desires, as has been shown above in the third book, are satisfied within a certain limit; and the desire for knowledge is a natural desire, so that a certain limit satisfies it, even though few, because they take the wrong path, complete the journey.(54) Anyone who understands the Commentator’s discussion of the third book of The Soul has learned this from him.(55)Therefore Aristotle in the tenth book of the Ethics, speaking against the poet Simonides, says that “A man should be drawn as far as possible to divine things,” by which he shows that our faculty contemplates a certain end.(56) Furthermore, in the first book of the Ethics he says that “the trained student seeks to know the certainty of things, to the degree that their nature admits of certainty.”(57) By this he shows that one must contemplate an end not only on the part of man who desires knowledge, but as well on the part of the object of knowledge which is desired. And therefore Paul says, “Do not seek to know more than is fitting, but to know in measure.”(58)So that in whatever way the desire for knowledge is understood, whether in general or in particular, it attains to perfection.(59) Therefore perfect knowledge is a noble perfection, and its perfection is not lost by the desire for it, as is the case with detestable riches.

It must now briefly be shown how the possession of riches makes them harmful, and this is the third sign of their imperfection. Their possession may be seen to be harmful for two reasons: first, that it is the cause of evil; second, that it is the privation of good. It is the cause of evil because it makes the possessor fearful and hateful by mere preoccupation with them. How great is the fear of one who is aware of having wealth about him, while either traveling or taking lodging, not only when waking but when sleeping, a fear not only of losing his possessions but his life because of his possessions. The contemptible merchants who travel about the world know this full well, for the leaves swept by the wind make them tremble when they are carrying riches with them; and when they are not, they shorten their journey with songs and conversation, being full of a sense of security. Therefore the Sage says, “If a traveler entered upon his journey empty-handed, he would sing in the face of the thieves.”(60)This is what Lucan means in the fifth book when he praises poverty for the security it offers with the words, “O secure ease of the poor man’s life! O constricted dwellings and furnishings! oh not yet understood riches of the Gods! In what temples, within what walls could this ever happen without their shaking with fear when the hand of Caesar knocks?”(61) This is said by Lucan when he tells how Caesar came by night to the cottage of the fisherman Amyclas in order to cross the Adriatic Sea. How great is the hatred that everyone bears the possessor of riches, whether out of envy or out of a desire to seize his possessions! So great is it that often a son, acting contrary to the love he owes, contrives to kill his father; indeed the Italians, both in the region of the Po and in the region of the Tiber, have witnessed the most striking and obvious examples of this behavior. Therefore Boethius says, in the second book of his Consolation, “Truly avarice makes men hateful.”(62)

The possession of riches is also the privation of good, for by their possession generosity, which is a virtue, cannot exist; and this virtue brings about good and makes men illustrious and beloved, which cannot come to pass through the possession of riches but only through their surrender. Thus Boethius says, in the same book, “Money, then, is good when, having been transferred to others through generosity, it is no longer possessed.” Consequently the baseness of riches is quite obvious from all of this evidence, and therefore a man of right desire and of true knowledge never loves them; and in not loving them he does not unite himself to them but always wishes to keep them at a distance, except insofar as they are used to perform some necessary service. This is reasonable, because what is perfect cannot be united with what is imperfect. Hence we see that a crooked line never joined with a straight line, and if there is any joining to speak of, it is not of line with line but of point with point. Therefore it follows that the mind which isupright (that is, in its appetite) and true (that is, in knowledge) is not undone by having lost riches, as the text states at the end of this section.(63) In reaching this conclusion the text seeks to prove that riches are a river flowing far away from the upright tower of reason, or nobility, and that for this reason riches cannot deprive anyone of the nobility he possesses. In this way the present canzone moves arguments and proofs against riches. Chapter 14

Now that the error of others has been refuted, insofar as it is present in that section which addresses riches, we must proceed to refute it insofar as it is present in the section in which time is said to be a cause of nobility with the words ancestral wealth. This refutation is made in the part that begins Nor will they grant that one born base may yet be noble. First this is refuted by an argument which those who err themselves advance; then, to their greater confusion, their argument is itself destroyed, and this is accomplished where it says It further follows from what was said above. Last of all, it concludes that their error is manifest and that therefore it is time to attend to the truth, and this is accomplished where it saysConsequently it is clear to every healthy mind. I say, then, Nor will they grant that one born base may yet be noble. Here we must know that it is the opinion of these wrong-headed men that one born base can never be called noble, and that the son of a man born base can likewise never be called noble. This, however, destroys the very claim of theirs in which, by use the term “ancestral,” they say that nobility requires time, since it is impossible by the passage of time to arrive at the moment when nobility is engendered, according to their reasoning already mentioned, which precludes the possibility that a man born base can ever become noble through his acts, or by chance, and precludes the possibility of a change from a father born base to a noble son. For if the son of a man base born is indeed basely born, then his son is also the son of a man basely born, and his son too, and so on ad infinitum, so that it is never possible in the passage of time to discover the point at which nobility begins. If those holding the opposing view should say by way of defense that nobility will begin at that time when the low state of his forebears will have been forgotten, I reply that they contradict themselves since even at that point there would be a change from baseness to nobility, from one man into another or from father to son, which is contrary to what they maintain.

If those of the opposing view should defend themselves tenaciously by arguing that they agree that this change can take place when the forebears’ low state is no longer recollected (though the text does not address this), it is proper that this gloss should offer a reply. Therefore I give the following reply, that four extremely serious fallacies arise out of what they say, so that their reasoning cannot be right. The first is that the better human nature became, the harder and slower would the creation of nobility become, which is the greatest fallacy since by nature the better a thing is the more it is a cause of good; and nobility is counted among the things that are good. That this is true is proved as follows. If noble being or nobility, which I understand to be one and the same, were created by lack of remembrance, then the sooner lack of remembrance occurs the sooner nobility is created, and the more absent-minded that men were, so much the more quickly would lack of remembrance occur. Therefore, the more absent-minded that they were, the more noble would they be; and conversely the better their memory, the more slowly would they become noble.

The second fallacy is that this distinction between noble and base could not be made with respect to anything except men, which is highly illogical for the reason that we find the traits of nobility or baseness in every species of thing. Hence we often speak of a noble or base horse, a noble or base falcon, and a noble or base pearl. That this distinction cannot be made is proved as follows. If lack of remembrance of ancestral baseness is a cause of nobility, and if where there was no baseness in ancestors, there could be no lack of remembrance of them–inasmuch as this lack is a deterioration of the memory, and in the other animals, plants, and minerals baseness and loftiness are not distinguished, since each of these occupies the same and equivalent grade of nature–then there can be no creation of nobility in them, nor any baseness, since both are to be regarded as habit and privation, which are predicable of one and the same subject; therefore in these things no distinction could obtain between the one and the other trait. If those holding the opposing view should say that in other things nobility signifies the goodness of the thing but in man it signifies that the memory of their base condition is absent, one would wish to reply not with words but with a blade to such asininity as that of attributing the cause of nobility in other things to goodness, while in the case of men to loss of memory.

The third fallacy is that often what is engendered would come before that which engenders, which is entirely impossible, and this can be shown as follows. Suppose that Gherardo da Cammino had been the grandson of the basest peasant who ever drank of the Sile or the Cagnano, and lack of remembrance of his grandfather had not yet occurred. Who would dare to say that Gherardo da Cammino was a base man? Who would not agree with me and say that he was noble? No one, surely, as presumptuous as he might be, for he was noble, and so will his memory be forever.(64) If lack of remembrance of his base ancestor had not occurred, as assumed in the objection, and he had been a great noble and nobility had been perceived in him as clearly then as it is now, it would have been in him before that which engendered it had come into being. This is altogether impossible.

The fourth fallacy is that a man should be considered noble after death who was not noble while alive, something that could not be more illogical. This can be demonstrated as follows. Suppose that during the lifetime of Dardanus the memory of his base ancestors survived, and suppose that during the lifetime of Laomedon this memory had faded and lack of remembrance ensued. According to those who oppose us, during their lives Laomedon was noble and Dardanus was base. We, to whom the memory of their ancestors–I mean those prior to Dardanus–has not survived, ought to say that Dardanus was base while alive and noble after death. The claim that Dardanus was the son of Jove does not contradict this, for that is a fable which, in discussions of a philosophical nature, ought to be disregarded.(65) Even if those who oppose us should wish to endorse this fable, certainly what the fable conceals undoes all of their arguments. Thus it is evident that the argument that established lack of remembrance as the cause of nobility is false and erroneous. Chapter 15

After my canzone has proved by their very own doctrine that time is not a requirement for nobility, it proceeds immediately to overturn their previously stated opinion so that their false reasoning does not taint the mind that is disposed toward the truth. It accomplishes this when it says, It further follows from what was said above.

Here we must understand that if a man cannot change from base to noble, nor a noble son be born of a base father, as was stated in their opinion, one of two fallacies must obtain. One is that there is no such thing as nobility; the other is that there have always been a great many men in the world, so that the human race is not descended from a single man alone. And this can be demonstrated. If nobility is not engendered anew, as their opinion has many times been said to affirm (that is, its not being engendered by a base man in himself, nor by a base father in his son), a man always remains what he was at the time of his birth, and at birth he is like his father. Hence the evolution of this single condition has continued from our first parent: for as was the first progenitor, namely Adam, so must the whole human race be, because by this reasoning it is not possible to discover any change of condition between Adam and those living in modern times. Therefore if Adam himself was noble, we are all noble, and if he was base, we are all base, which eradicates any distinction between these conditions and so eradicates the conditions themselves. This means that from what has been said above it follows That each of us is noble or each base.

If this is not true, still some people must of necessity be called noble and some base: for since the change from baseness to nobility has been eradicated, the human race must have descended from different origins–that is, from one that is noble and from one that is base. My canzone says this when it states Or else that mankind had no origin, meaning no single one, for it does not say “origins.” This is utterly false according to the Philosopher, according to our Faith which cannot lie, and according to the law and ancient doctrines of the Gentiles.(66) For although the Philosopher does not posit human evolution from a single individual, he nevertheless considers that there is but one essence in all men, which different origins could not produce. Plato believes that all men depend for their existence on only one Idea and not on many, which is the same as giving them a single origin.(67)Aristotle would most certainly laugh aloud if he heard talk of two species of the human race, like those of horses and asses; for (with apologies to Aristotle) they who have this thought might well be considered asses.

That it is utterly false according to our faith, which must be completely upheld, is clear from Solomon who, in distinguishing between mankind and the brute animals, speaks of the former as sons of Adam with the following words: “Who knows if the spirits of the sons of Adam ascend above and those of the beasts descend below?”(68) That the Gentiles considered this to be false is made evident by the first book of Ovid’sMetamorphoses, where he discusses the creation of the world according to pagan, or Gentile, beliefs, saying, “Man is born” (he did not say “men”: he said “born” and “man”), “whether the maker of things made him of divine seed or whether the newly made earth, just lately separated from the noble body of ether, retained the seeds of the kindred heaven.(69) This earth, mixed with the water of the river, the son of Iapetus, namely Prometheus, fashioned in the likeness of the gods who govern all.” Here he plainly states that the first man was one alone; and thus my canzone says But this I do not grant (that is, that man had no origin). The canzone adds Nor do they either, if they are Christian. It says “Christian” and not “philosophers” or “Gentiles” (even their opinions are not to the contrary) because Christian doctrine has greater strength and destroys all calumny, by virtue of the supreme light of the heaven which illuminates it.

Then when I say Thus it is clear to every mind that’s sound, I draw the conclusion that their error is refuted and say that it is time for our eyes to be opened to the truth. I affirm this where I say And now I wish to say, as I do feel. I say, then, that from what has been said it is evident to sound minds that these assertions of theirs are empty (that is, they lack the marrow of truth). It is not without reason that I say “sound.” For we must understand that our intellect may be said to be sound or sick; and by “intellect” I mean the noble part of our soul, to which the common term “mind” may be said to refer. It may be called sound when illness of mind or of body does not impede its activity, which consists of knowing what things are, as Aristotle asserts in the third book of On the Soul.(70)

For with regard to the sickness of the soul, I have observed three terrible infirmities of the human mind. One is caused by arrogance of nature, for there are many who are so presumptuous as to think that they know everything, and they therefore take for certain what is uncertain. Tully execrates this vice above all in the first book of On Offices, as does Thomas in his book Against the Gentiles where he says, “Many are so presumptuous of intellect as to believe that all things can be measured with their intellect, considering true whatever seems to them true and false whatever seems to them false.”(71)Consequently it comes to pass that they never reach true learning; and believing themselves to be sufficiently learned, they never ask questions, never listen, seek only to have questions asked of them, and before a question has even been completed, they give the wrong answer. It is with them in mind that Solomon says in Proverbs, “Have you seen a man who is too quick in his answer? From him can be expected more folly than correction.”(72)

The second is caused by weak-mindedness of nature, for there are many so stubborn in their baseness that they cannot believe that they may be brought to know anything either by themselves or by others. These are men who never seek out knowledge or take positions in arguments and never concern themselves with what others have to say. Aristotle speaks against them in the first book of the Ethics, calling them incompetent hearers of moral philosophy.(73) Dull-witted men such as these live perpetually like beasts, without hope of obtaining any learning.

The third is caused by natural capriciousness of mind, for there are many whose fancy is so capricious that they always jump about in their reasoning and reach their conclusion before establishing the terms of their syllogism, then jumping from one conclusion to another, all the while fancying that they have conducted their arguments with great subtlety, while departing from no established principle, and never truly perceiving in their imagination any one thing as it really is. The Philosopher says that we should not concern ourselves with them nor have anything to do with them, stating in the first book of the Physics that “it is not proper to enter into argumentation with whoever denies the established principles.”(74) Among these are to be found many uneducated individuals who have scarcely learned the letters of the alphabet but are nevertheless willingly enter into discussions of geometry, astrology, and physics.

By reason of sickness or bodily defect, the mind may be unsound sometimes because of a defect arising from childbirth, as in the case of idiots, and sometimes by a disturbance of the mind, as in the case of maniacs. It is this infirmity of mind that the law refers to when the Infortiatum states “In anyone who makes a will soundness of mind, not of body, is required at the time when the will is made.”(75)Consequently to those intellects who are not sick through infirmity of mind or body but are free, unimpeded, and sound in the light of truth, I say that it is evident that the common opinion referred to is empty (that is, worthless).

Subsequently I add that I therefore judge them to be false and empty, and so I refute them; and this is done where it says And hence I claim their words are false. Then I say that we must proceed to demonstrate the truth, which means, namely, that we must show what nobility is and how the man in whom it exists can be recognized. I say this with the words And now I wish to say, as I do feel. Chapter 16

“The King shall rejoice in God, and all those who swear by him shall be praised, because the mouth of those who speak unjust things is shut tight.”(76)These words may rightly serve here as a beginning because every true king must love truth above all. Consequently 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 truth itself.(77) I say then that every king shall rejoice because that most false and harmful opinion of evil and deceived men, who have up to now spoken unjustly of nobility, has been refuted.

We must now proceed to the part which treats of the truth, according to the division made above in the third chapter of the present book. This second part, which begins I say that every virtue, at its source, proposes to establish the limits of this nobility according to the truth. This part is divided into two, for in the first we intend to show what this nobility is, and in the second to show how the one in whom it exists may be recognized. The second part begins The soul which this goodness adorns.The first part is again divided into two, for in the first certain things are examined which are necessary for clarifying the definition of nobility; in the second the definition itself is examined. And the second part begins Nobility resides wherever virtue is.

To open a thorough discussion of this subject, two things must first be examined: first, what is meant by the word “nobility,” considered in and of itself; second, what road must be taken in searching out the definition mentioned above. I say then that if we should take into consideration the common manner of speech, the word “nobility” means the perfection of the nature proper to each thing. It is predicated not only of man but also of all things, for a stone, plant, horse, or falcon is called noble whenever perfection is perceived in its nature. Therefore Solomon say in Ecclesiastes, “Blessed is the land whose kind is noble,” which is to say “whose king is perfect according to the perfection of mind and of body.”(78) This is evident from what he says earlier: “Woe to you, O land, whose king is a child,” that is, a man who has not reached perfection; and a man is a child not simply because of age but because of disorderly conduct or congenital defects, as the Philosopher teaches us in the first book of theEthics.(79) There are some fools, it is true, who believe that the word “noble” means “to be acclaimed and known by many,” and they argue that it derives from a verb that signifies to know, namely nosco. This is utterly false, for if it were true those things that were most acclaimed and best known of their kind would be the most noble of their kind. And so the obelisk of St. Peter would be the most noble stone in the world; Asdente the cobbler of Parma would be nobler than any of his fellow citizens; Albuino de la Scala would be nobler than Guido da Castello of Reggio; yet each of these things is utterly false.(80) Therefore it is utterly false to say that “noble” comes from “to know.” It comes, rather, from non vile, and consequently “noble” is the same as “not base.”

It is this perfection that the Philosopher refers to in the seventh book of the Physics when he says, “Each thing is most completely perfect when it reaches and attains its own proper virtue, and it is then most completely perfect according to its nature. Hence a circle can then be called perfect when it is truly a circle,” that is, when it attains to its own proper virtue; and then it exists in its nature to the fullest extent, and then it may be called a noble circle.(81) This occurs when there is within the circle a point equidistant from the circumference, which is the virtue particular to it. Therefore the circle that has the shape of an egg is not noble, nor is the one that has nearly the shape of a full moon, because its nature is not perfect in it. Thus we may clearly see that in general this word, namely “nobility,” means in all things perfection of their own nature. This is what we were in search of in the first place, in order best to open our discussion of the part under examination.

In the second place we must see how to proceed in order to find the definition of nobility in man, which is the goal of our present argument. Since we cannot define the highest perfection in those beings that are of one species (for example, the human race) by referring to essential principles which they have in common, it must be defined and known by the effects of those principles. Therefore we read in the Gospel of St. Matthew Christ’s words, “Beware of false prophets . . .; you shall know them by their fruits.”(82) So the straight way leads us to find the definition which we are searching after “in their fruits”–that is, the moral and intellectual virtues of which our very nobility is the seed, as its definition will make fully clear. These are the two things that required examination before proceeding to others, as was stated above in this chapter. Chapter 17

Now that these two things have been examined, which it seemed useful to examine before proceeding with the text of the canzone, we must proceed with it. It begins by saying, I say that every virtue, at its source, Comes from a single root: Virtue, I mean, which makes man happy In his actions. And it continues,This is, as stated in the Ethics, A chosen habit, setting down the full definition of moral virtue as it is defined by the Philosopher in the second book of theEthics. He emphasizes two things of primary importance: one is that every virtue comes from a single source; the second is that the phrase “every virtue” refers to the moral virtues, which are our subject. This becomes evident when it says, This is, as stated in the Ethics. Here we must know that the moral virtues are the fruits most proper to us, since they lie in every respect within our own power. They are defined and enumerated in different ways by different philosophers, but since in matters on which the divine opinion of Aristotle has been voiced it seems best to leave aside the opinions of others, and intending to say what they are, I will briefly run through a discussion of them according to his opinion.

The following are the eleven virtues enumerated by the Philosopher named above.(83) The first is called Courage, which is the weapon and bridle for regulating our boldness and timidity in things which threaten to destroy our lives. The second is Temperance, which is the control and bridle of our gluttony and excessive abstinence in things which preserve our lives. The third is Liberality, which regulates us in the giving and receiving of temporal goods. The fourth is Munificence, which regulates great expenditures, in administering them and setting limits to their size. The fifth is Magnanimity, which regulates and procures great honor and renown.(84) The sixth is Love of Honor, which regulates and prepares us with respect to the honors of this world. The seventh is Gentleness, which regulates our wrath and our excessive patience with regard to evils that confront us. The eighth is Affability, which enables us to live in agreement with others. The ninth is called Truth, which restrains us in our speech from vaunting ourselves as greater than we are and from deprecating ourselves as less than we are. The tenth is called Good Disposition, which regulates us in our amusements, enabling us to use them properly. The eleventh is Justice, which disposes us to love and conduct ourselves with rectitude in all things.

Each of these virtues has two related enemies, that is, vices, one through excess and the other through shortfall. These virtues constitute the mean between them, and they spring from a single source, namely from our habit of good choice. Hence we may say generally of all of them that they are a chosen habit residing in the mean. It is through the exercise of these virtues that a man is made content or happy, as the Philosopher says in the first book of the Ethicswhere he defines Happiness by saying that “Happiness is activity in accordance with virtue in a perfect life.”(85) Many place Prudence, or good judgment, rightly among the moral virtues, but Aristotle numbers it among the intellectual virtues, even though it is the guide of the moral virtues and shows how they are interrelated and how without it they could not exist.

We must know, however, that we may have two kinds of happiness in this life, according to two different paths, one good and the other best, which lead us there. One is the active life, the other the contemplative life; and although by the active, as has been said, we may arrive at a happiness that is good, the other leads us to the best happiness and state of bliss, as the Philosopher proves in the tenth book of the Ethics. Christ affirms this with words from his own lips in the Gospel of Luke, when speaking to Martha and replying to her: “Martha, Martha, you are distressed and trouble yourself about many things; truly one thing alone is necessary,” that is, `what you are doing.’ He adds: “Mary has chosen the best part, which shall not be taken from her.”(86)

As made clear in the verses just preceding these words of the Gospel, Mary, who was sitting at the feet of Christ, showed no concern for domestic affairs, but simply listened to the words of the Savior. The moral sense of these words is that our Savior sought thereby to show that the contemplative life was the best, even though the active life was good. This is evident to anyone who considers well these words of the evangelist. Some, however, might oppose me by objecting that “Since happiness of the contemplative life is more excellent than the active life, and both can be and are the fruit and end of nobility, why not proceed first with the intellectual rather than with the moral virtues?”(87) To this I would briefly reply that in every kind of teaching the capacity of the learner must be taken into consideration, and he should be led along the path which is most easy for him. Therefore since the moral virtues seem to be and are more common and better known, and more sought after than the others, and more imitated through outward demonstration, it was useful and fitting to proceed by this path rather than by the other; for we would not gain so good a knowledge of bees by speaking about how they produce wax rather than about how they produce honey, although bees produce both of these things.

Chapter 18

In the preceding chapter we determined how every moral virtue springs from one source, namely good and habitual choice, and this is dealt with by the present text up to the part which begins Nobility, I say, by definition. In this part, then, we proceed by inference based on probability to discover that every virtue named above, whether considered separately or all together, proceeds from nobility, as does an effect from a cause.(88) This is founded on a philosophical proposition which states that when two things are observed to have any one aspect in common they both must be referred to some third thing, or else one of them to the other, in the manner of effect with respect to cause; because any one aspect, possessed primarily and essentially, can have as its cause but one thing; and if both were not the effect of some third thing, nor one the effect of the other, both would possess this aspect primarily and essentially, which is impossible.(89) Therefore the text says that nobility and virtue, so defined, namely moral virtue, have in common this: Each term implies praise of the person to whom it is applied. This is stated in the words So that within a single exegesis The two agree, by having one effect: that is, praising and commending him who others say possesses nobility. Then it draws a conclusion based on the proposition noted above and says that therefore one must proceed from the other, or both from a third; and it adds that it is to be presumed that the one comes from the other rather than both from the third, if it appears that the one equals or is greater in worth than the other; and it says this in the line But if one has the value of the other.

It should be observed that here we do not proceed by necessary demonstration, as we would by arguing “if cold generates moisture and we observe clouds generating moisture then cold generates clouds,” but rather by an agreeable and fitting induction, for if there are in us many things worthy of praise and the source of the praise we merit is found within us, it is reasonable to attribute these things to that source; and it is more reasonable to consider that which comprises several things to be their source than to consider them to be its source.(90) For the base of a tree, which comprises all of its limbs, must be called the source and cause of them, and not they of it. Thus nobility, which comprises every virtue as cause does effect, and many of our other praiseworthy activities as well, must be considered such that virtue is referred to it rather than to a third thing that is in us.(91)

Finally, it says that what has been said (namely, that every moral virtue derives from a single source, and that such virtue and nobility have one thing in common, as said above; and that one must therefore be referred to the other or both to a third; and that if one equals or is greater than the other it proceeds more likely from the other than from a third) must allbe taken for granted, that is, conceived and set down with what follows in mind. So ends this stanza and this present section. Chapter 19

Since in the preceding section certain points have been thoroughly treated and defined, which was necessary in order to perceive how we might define this good thing about which we are speaking, we must proceed to the following section which begins Nobility resides wherever virtue is. This may be divided into two parts. In the first a certain thing is proved which was touched on earlier and left unproved; in the second, by way of conclusion, the definition which we have been in search of is found. The second part begins And just as perse derives from black.

In order to clarify the first part, we must commit to memory what has been said above: that if nobility equals and extends beyond virtue, virtue will rather proceed from it. This claim, namely that nobility extends beyond it, is proved in the present section, and it offers the heavens as an example, saying that wherever there is virtue there is nobility.

Here it should be observed that, as it is stated in theDigest and is held as a rule of Law, there is no need of proof regarding those things which are self-evident; nothing is more evident than that nobility exists where virtue exists, and we see that it is commonly understood that everything after its own nature may be called noble. The text then says Just as wherever there’s a star is heaven, though the converse is not true: that wherever there is heaven there is a star. Likewise nobility is present wherever there exits virtue, though virtue does not always exist wherever nobility is present; and this is an agreeable and fitting comparison, for truly nobility is a heaven in which many diverse stars shine forth. In her shine forth the intellectual and moral virtues, in her shine forth good dispositions conferred by nature, for example piety and religion, and praiseworthy emotions, for example modesty and mercy and many others; in her shine forth the perfections of the body, for example beauty, strength and all but everlasting health.

So many are the stars that spread across the heavens that it surely cannot surprise us if many diverse fruits are produced by human nobility, so many are their natures and their powers, brought together and united in one simple substance; and on them as on diverse branches she bears fruit in diverse ways. Indeed, I would indeed dare say that human nobility, with respect to its many fruits, surpasses that of the angels, although the nobility of the angels is more divine in its unity. The Psalmist had in mind this nobility of ours, which has produced so many and such various fruits, when he composed that Psalm which begins: “O Lord our God, how wonderful is your name in all the earth!”, where he praises man, as though marveling at the divine affection for the human creature, saying: “What is man, that you, God, do visit him? You have made him a little lower than the angels, have crowned him with glory and honor, and have set him above the works of your hands.”(92) Therefore the comparison of human nobility with heaven was truly agreeable and fitting.

Then when the text says In women and in those of tender age, it proves what I say, showing that nobility extends to places where virtue does not reside. Then it says we perceive this state of well-being, referring to nobility, which is indeed a state of true well-being, to be wherever there is shame (that is, fear of dishonor) as it exists in women and in young people, in whom shame is good and praiseworthy, although this shame is not a virtue but a certain kind of good emotion. It says In women and in those of tender age (that is, in the young people) because as the Philosopher maintains in the fourth book of the Ethics, “shame is not praiseworthy or suitable in the elderly or in the virtuous,” since it is necessary for them to keep themselves from those things which cause them to feel shame.(93) Young people and women have less need for caution, and therefore the fear of being dishonored through some fault is praiseworthy in them; for this feeling comes from nobility, and in them it may be viewed as and given the name of nobility, just as shamelessness may be viewed as and given the name of baseness and absence of nobility. Thus it is a good and perfect sign of nobility in children and in those not fully grown when after a fault shame is painted on their faces, for then it is the fruit of true nobility. Chapter 20

Then in the words that follow, And just as perse derives from black, the text proceeds to the definition of nobility, which we are seeking and which will allow us to perceive the essence of this nobility, about which so many speak incorrectly. It says then, drawing a conclusion from what was said earlier, that every virtue, Or class of virtues (that is, the chosen habit occupying the mean), will derive from this, namely nobility. It provides an analogy based on colors, saying that just as perse derives from black, so does this, namely virtue, derive from nobility. Perse is a color composed of purple and black, but black predominates, and so it takes its name from black. Likewise virtue is a thing composed of nobility and passion, but because nobility predominates in it, virtue takes its name from it and is called goodness. Then afterwards the text argues, from what has been said, that no one should think himself to be of nobility simply because he can say “I belong to her by race,” if in fact these fruits are not in him. It provides an immediate explanation, saying that those who have this grace, namely this divine thing, are almost likegods, untainted by vice. No one can grant this gift but God alone, with whom there is no choice of persons, as the divine Scriptures make clear.(94) It should not appear too lofty for the text to use the words For they are almost gods, for as was stated above in the seventh chapter of the third book, just as there exist men who are most base and bestial, so there are men who are most noble and divine, as Aristotle proves in the seventh book of the Ethics by citing the words of the poet Homer.(95) So let none of the Uberti of Florence or the Visconti of Milan say “Because I am of such a race I am noble,” for the divine seed does not fall upon a race (that is, family stock) but on individuals; and as will be proved below, family stock does not make individuals noble, although individuals make family stock noble.

Then when it says For God alone bestows it on that soul, it refers to the one who receives (that is, the subject upon whom this divine gift descends), for it is truly a divine gift according to the words of the Apostle: “Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above, descending from the Father of lights.”(96) It then says that God alone bestows this grace on the soul of that human being whom he sees dwelling perfectly within his own person, prepared and disposed to receive this divine act. For according to what the Philosopher affirms in the second book of On the Soul, “Things must be well disposed to their agents if they are to receive their acts.”(97) Hence if the soul dwells imperfectly in a person, it is not well disposed to receive this blessed and divine infusion, just as if a precious stone is not well disposed or is imperfect, it cannot receive the celestial virtue, as the noble Guido Guinizelli said in a canzone of his that begins “Love hastens ever to the gentle heart.”(98) The soul, therefore, may dwell without vigor in a person because of a defect of temperament, or perhaps because of a defect of age, and the divine radiance is never reflected by a soul such as this.(99) Individuals such as these, whose souls are deprived of this light, may say that they are like valleys pointing to the north or underground caves, where the light of the Sun never descends unless it is reflected from some other place which is illumined by it.

Finally the text draws a conclusion and states, according to what has been said before (namely, that the virtues are the fruit of nobility which God places in the well disposed soul), that to some, namely to those few who have understanding, it is clear that human nobility is nothing but “the seed of happiness,” instilled by God Within the soul that’s properly disposed (that is, the soul whose body is perfectly disposed in every part). For if the virtues are the fruit of nobility, and happiness is the sweetness attained, it is clear that this nobility is the seed of happiness, as has been said. Careful consideration will reveal that this definition comprises all four causes, namely the material, the formal, the efficient, and the final: the material in saying the soul that’s properly disposed, which is the material and subject of nobility; the formal in saying that it is the seed; the efficient in sayinginstilled by God Within the soul; the final in saying of happiness.(100) So now we have defined the nature of our human goodness, which descends into us from the supreme spiritual virtue as virtue descends into a stone from the noblest celestial body.(101) Chapter 21

In order to have a more perfect understanding of the human goodness which is called nobility, as the source of all good in us, we must clarify in this special chapter how this goodness descends into us, first by way of nature and then by way of theology, that is, by way of the divine and the spiritual. We must first of all know that man is composed of soul and body, but it is in the soul, as has been said, that nobility resides as the seed of the divine virtue.

Different philosophers, it is true, have held different opinions regarding the difference of our souls. For Avicenna and Algazel maintained that they were noble or vile in and of themselves from their beginning. Plato and others maintained that they issued from the stars and were more or less noble according to the nobility of their star. Pythagoras maintained that all souls were of the same nobility, not only human souls but those of the brute animals and the plants, and the forms of minerals; and he said that the only difference lay between their matter and their form.(102) If each were to defend his own opinion, truth might be seen to exist in all of them. But since upon first consideration they appear somewhat removed from the truth, it is better to proceed not according to them but according to the opinion of Aristotle and the Peripatetics. Therefore I say that when the seed of man falls into its receptacle, namely the matrix, it carries with it the virtue of the generative soul, and the virtue of heaven, and the virtue of the combined elements, namely temperament.(103)It matures and disposes the material to receive the formative virtue given by the soul of the generator, and the formative virtue prepares the organs to receive the celestial virtue, which brings the soul from the potentiality of the seed into life.(104) As soon as it is produced it receives from the virtue of the celestial mover the possible intellect, which draws into itself in potentiality all of the universal forms as they are found in its maker, to an ever lesser degree the more it is removed from the primal Intelligence.(105)

No one should be surprised if I speak in a way that seems difficult to understand, for it seems to me indeed a marvel how such a process can be fully described and perceived by the intellect. It is something that cannot be expressed in words–words, I mean, in the vernacular. Consequently I would say in the words of the Apostle, “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom of God, how unfathomable are your judgments and your ways past finding out!”(106) Since the temperament of the seed may be more or less good, and the disposition of the sower may be more or less good, and the disposition of Heaven for the effect may be good, better, or best (varying in accordance with the constellations which undergo continuous change), it comes to pass that a soul is created more or less pure from the seed of man and from these virtues. According to its purity the possible intellectual virtue, mentioned above, descends into it, in the manner mentioned. If it happens that because of the purity of the recipient soul the intellectual virtue is quite free of and withdrawn from every bodily darkness, the divine goodness increases in it as in a substance suited to receive it; hence it increases this intelligence in the soul, according to its capacity for receiving it. This is that seed of happiness of which we are presently speaking.

This accords with the opinion expressed by Tully in his book On Old Age where he says, speaking in the person of Cato, “Therefore a celestial soul descended into us coming from the highest dwelling into a place which is contrary to the divine nature and to eternity.”(107) In a soul such as this there exists its own virtue, the intellectual virtue, and the divine (that is, the influence mentioned above). Therefore it is written in the book On Causes, “Every noble soul has three activities, namely animal, intellectual, and divine.”(108)There are some who would even claim that if all of the preceding virtues in their best disposition were brought into agreement in the creation of a soul, so much of the Deity would descend into it that it would almost become another God incarnate. This is virtually all that can be said according to the principles of philosophy.

According to the principles of theology it may be said that when the supreme deity (that is, God) sees his creature prepared to receive his benefaction, he endows it with as great a gift as it is prepared to receive. Since these gifts come from ineffable Love, and divine Love is a attribute of the Holy Spirit, they are called the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts, as Isaiah distinguishes them, are seven in number: namely Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Strength, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of God.(109) O happy harvest, O happy and wondrous seed! O admirable and generous sower, who waits only for human nature to prepare the earth to be sown! Blessed are they who rightly cultivate such seed! Here we should know that the first and most noble shoot to bear fruit which sprouts from this seed is the appetite of the mind, which in Greek is called hormen.(110) If this is not cultivated correctly and preserved properly through good habit, the seed is worth little, and it would have been better if it had never been sown. Therefore St. Augustine asserts, as does Aristotle in the second book of the Ethics, that one should make a habit of doing well and of restraining one’s passions in order that this sprout of which we spoke may grow strong through good habit and be strengthened in its uprightness, so that it may bear fruit and from this fruit bring forth the sweetness of human happiness. Chapter 22

It is a precept of the moral philosophers who have spoken about giving that one should devote thought and care to making one’s gifts as useful as possible in presenting them to the recipient. Thus, out of a desire to obey this rule, I intend to make my Convivio as useful as I possibly can in each of its parts. Since in this part the opportunity to speak at some length about human happiness presents itself, I intend to speak about its sweetness, for no other discussion would be more useful to those who have no knowledge of it. For as the Philosopher says in the first book of the Ethics, and Tully in his book on The End of Good, he who does not see the mark aims poorly, and in the same way he who does not perceive this sweetness cannot attain it properly.(111) Therefore, since it is our final solace, for the sake of which we live and devote ourselves to what we undertake to do, it is most useful and necessary to perceive this mark, in order to direct the bow of our activity toward it, for he is most highly regarded who points it out to those who do not perceive it.

Leaving aside, then, the opinions held in this matter by the philosopher Epicurus and by Zeno, I intend to proceed directly to the true opinion of Aristotle and the other Peripatetics. As has been said above, there springs from the divine goodness, sown and infused into us from the beginning of our generation, a shoot which the Greeks call hormen (that is, natural appetite of the mind). Just as the various grains which at first, when springing up, look alike in the grass, and then as they grow come to lose their similarity, so this natural appetite, which issues from the divine grace, seems at first not unlike that which comes simply from nature, but is similar to it, just as the first blades of the different grains are similar to one another. This similarity is found not only in men, but in men and in animals; and this is apparent, for every animal, as soon as it is born, rational as well as brute, loves itself and fears and flees those things which are opposed to it, and hates them. Then as this appetite evolves, a dissimilarity, as has been said above, begins to develop in the course of this appetite, for one takes one path and another another. Just as the Apostle says, “Many run for the prize, but one alone is he who captures it,” so these human appetites proceed from the beginning along different paths, and there is but one path alone that leads us to our peace.(112)Therefore, leaving aside all the others, we must follow in our present book the one that makes a good beginning.

I say, then, that this appetite loves itself from the beginning, although in a general sense; then it begins to make distinctions among those things that it enjoys the most and the least, and hates the most and the least, and it follows or flees them either more or less, to the degree that its understanding of them permits it to make distinctions not only among those things, which it loves secondarily, but to make distinctions within itself, which it loves primarily. Recognizing different parts within itself, it loves those in it most which are most noble; and since the mind is a more noble part of man than the body, it loves that part more. And so loving first itself and all other things for the sake of itself, and loving to a greater degree the better part of itself, it is evident that it loves the mind more than the body or anything else, the mind which it ought by nature to love more than anything else. Therefore if the mind always delights in the use of the thing that is loved, which is the fruit of love, and if in that thing which is loved most of all is found the most delightful use of all, the use of our mind is most of all delightful to us. And whatever is most of all delightful to us constitutes our happiness and our blessedness, beyond which there is no greater delight, nor any equal, as anyone can see who carefully considers the preceding argument.

Let no one say that every appetite is of the mind, for by mind I mean here only that which relates to the rational part (that is, the will and the intellect). Thus if anyone should wish to call the sensitive appetite “mind,” the proposition would not and could not be admissible, for no one doubts that the rational appetite is more noble than the sensitive appetite and is therefore more deserving of love. So it is with this appetite of which we are presently speaking. In point of fact the use of our mind is twofold, namely practical and speculative (“practical” signifying “operative”), each of which is most delightful, although that of contemplation is more so, as has been explained above.(113) The practical use of the mind consists in our acting in accordance with virtue (that is, uprightly), with prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice; the speculative use consists not in our acting but in reflecting upon the works of God and nature. This together with the other constitutes our blessedness and supreme happiness, as may be seen. This is the sweetness of the seed mentioned above, as is now clearly evident, sweetness to which the seed often does not attain because it has been poorly cultivated or its growth has gone astray. Similarly this may occur by means of much correction and cultivation, for as the seed sprouts some part of its growth may extend to a place where it does not originally fall, so that it may attain to this fruit. This procedure constitutes a kind of grafting of one nature onto a different root. Therefore there is no one who can be excused, for if a person does not acquire this seed from his own natural roots, he may well acquire it by means of a graft. Would in fact that those who have acquired a graft were as many as those who allow themselves to go astray from the good root!

One of these uses is indeed more full of blessedness than the other–namely the speculative which, being inviolate, is the use of the most noble part of our mind which, by reason of that love rooted in us which has been spoken of, is most of all deserving of love, namely the intellect. In this life this part cannot have its perfect use, which consists of seeing God, who is the supreme object of intelligence, except insofar as it contemplates and beholds him through his effects. We will find, if we look closely, that the Gospel of St. Mark teaches us to seek out this blessedness as being the highest, and not the other, namely that of the active life.(114) Mark says that Mary Magdalene, Mary of James, and Mary Salome went to the sepulcher to find the Savior and did not find him. But they found a young man dressed in white who said to them: “You seek the Savior, and I tell you that he is not here; and do not therefore have fear, but go and say to his disciples and to Peter that he will go before them into Galilee, and there you shall see him, as he said unto you.” By these three ladies may be understood the three schools of the active life: namely the Epicureans, the Stoics, and the Peripatetics, who go to the sepulcher (that is, the present world, which is a receptacle of corruptible things) and seek out the Savior (that is, blessedness) and do not find him. But they find a young man in white garments who, according to the testimony of Matthew and others as well, was an angel of God. Therefore Matthew said: “The angel of God descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone and sat upon it. And his countenance was like lightning, and his garments were white as snow.”(115)

This angel is our nobility which comes from God, as has been said, and speaks within our faculty of reason and says to each one of these schools (that is, to everyone who goes in search of blessedness in the active life) that it is not here, but that they should go and tell the disciples and Peter (that is, those who go seeking him and those who have gone astray, like Peter who had denied him) that he will go before them into Galilee, that is, that blessedness will go before us into Galilee (that is, into contemplation). Galilee means the same as whiteness, and whiteness is a color more imbued with material light than any other; and likewise contemplation is more imbued with spiritual light than anything else found here below.(116) And the angel says: “He will go before you,” and not “He will be with you,” to have us understand that God is always in advance of our contemplation, and that here below we can never reach him who is our supreme blessedness. And he says: “There you will see him, as he said unto you” (that is, there you will possess his sweetness, namely happiness, just as it has been promised to you here, that is, as it has been decreed that you shall be able to possess it). And so it appears that we are first able to find our blessedness (this happiness of which we are speaking) imperfectly, as it were, in the active life (that is, in the exercise of the moral virtues), and later almost perfectly in the exercise of the intellectual virtues. These two kinds of activities are the quickest and most direct paths leading to the supreme blessedness, which cannot be possessed here, as is quite apparent from what has been said. Chapter 23

Now that the definition of nobility has been sufficiently examined and clarified in all of its parts as far as possible, so that we can now see what constitutes a noble man, it seems appropriate to proceed to that part of the text which begins The soul which this goodness adorns, which identifies the signs by which we may recognize the noble man referred to above. This is divided into two parts: in the first it is affirmed that this nobility shines and gleams openly throughout the entire life of a noble man; in the second it reveals the splendors distinctive of nobility; the second part begins Sweet, obedient, and full of shame.

With regard to the first part it should be known that this divine seed, of which we have spoken above, springs up immediately in our soul, growing and extending itself diversely into each power of the soul according to its need. It springs up, then, in the vegetative, sensitive, and rational powers, and branches out through the virtues of all of these, directing all of them to their perfection and preserving itself in them until the moment when, together with that part of our soul which never dies, it returns to heaven to the highest and most glorious sower. It says this in the first part, which has been spoken of. Then when it says Sweet, obedient, and full of shame, it shows how we may recognize a man who is noble by manifest signs, which constitute the activity of this divine goodness; this part is divided into four, according to its diverse activity in the four ages: that is, in adolescence, maturity, old age, and senility. The second part begins: In maturity she’s strong and self-restrained; the third: In old age; the fourth: And then in the fourth phase of life.(117) This is the general meaning of this part, regarding which it should be known that every effect, insofar as it is an effect, receives the likeness of its cause to the degree that it is able to retain it. Consequently since our life, as has been said, and the life of every living thing here below is caused by heaven, and heaven discloses itself to all such effects as these not by a complete circling but by a partial circling–and thus its movement above them must necessarily rise somewhat like an arc–all earthly life (and in saying “earthly” I mean both men and the other forms of life), rising upward and descending, must be similar to the image of an arc. Returning, then, to human life, which is our sole concern at present, I say that it takes the likeness of this arc, rising upward and descending.(118)

It should be observed that this arc here below, like the one above, would be uniform if the material sown into our constitution did not impede the rule of human nature. But since the fundamental humor, being the substance and nutriment of the heat which constitutes our life, varies in degree and in quality, and has greater duration in one effect than in another, it happens that the arc of one man’s life has a greater or lesser span than that of another.(119) Death is sometimes violent, or is hastened by sudden illness, but only that death which is commonly called natural, and which is natural, constitutes that boundary of which the Psalmist has said: “You have set a boundary which cannot be passed.”(120) Aristotle, the master of our life, who knew of this arc of which we are now speaking, seems to have believed that our life is nothing but an ascent and a descent, and therefore he says in his book On Maturity and Old Age that maturity is nothing but maturation in life. It is difficult to determine where the highest point of this arc lies, because of the inequality mentioned above, but in most lives I believe it is attained between the thirtieth and fortieth year, and I believe that in those whose nature is perfect it is attained in the thirty-fifth year. My belief is compelled by the argument that our Savior Christ had a perfect nature and desired to die in the thirty-fourth year of his life, because it would not have been fitting for a divinity to enter into such a decline as this. Nor can it be believed that he would not have desired to remain alive until he had reached the highest point of this life of ours, since he had lived here during the low estate of youth. This is made evident by the hour of the day of his death, for he desired to make it conform to his life. As Luke says, it was nearly the sixth hour when he died, which is to say the height of day. Thus we may take this word “nearly” to signify that the thirty-fifth year in the life of Christ was the height of his life.

This arc, however, is not characterized in written works solely by reference to its midpoint, but is divided into four parts, according to the four combinations of the contrary qualities that comprise our composition, to which combinations–I mean to each individually–one part of the course of our life seems to correspond, and these are called the four ages. The first is adolescence, which corresponds to the hot and moist; the second is maturity, which corresponds to the hot and dry; the third is old age, which corresponds to the cold and dry; and the fourth is senility, which corresponds to the dry and moist, as Albert states in the fourth book of the Meteorics.(121) These parts of life are likewise characterized by the year, by spring, summer, autumn, and winter; and by the day, that is, up to tierce, and then nones (omitting sext, midway between, for an obvious reason), and then vespers and from vespers onward.(122) Therefore the gentiles (that is, the pagans) said that the chariot of the sun had four horses: the first they called Eoüs, the second Pyroïs, the third Aethon, and the fourth Phlegon, as Ovid records in the second book of the Metamorphoses.(123)

Concerning the parts of the day it should be briefly observed that, as was said above in the sixth chapter of the third book, the Church in distinguishing among the hours of the day makes use of the temporal hours, of which there are twelve in each day, long or short according to the length of the solar day. Because the sixth hour (that is, midday) is the most noble hour of the entire day, and the most virtuous, she draws her offices near to each side of it (that is to say before and after) as much as possible. For this reason the office of the first part of the day, namely tierce, is said at the end of that part of the day, and the offices of the third and the fourth part are said at their beginning.(124)And for this reason mid-tierce is said before the bell is rung for that part of the day, and mid-nones after it is rung for that part of the day, and as is mid-vespers.(125) It should be clear to everyone, then, that the proper nones must always be rung at the beginning of the seventh hour of the day. And this should suffice for the present digression. Chapter 24

Returning to the main argument, I say that human life is divided into four ages. The first is called adolescence, which means “increase of life”; the second is called maturity, which means “the age that can be helpful” (that is, that can give perfection, and so it is considered a perfect age, for one can give only what one has); the third is called old age; the fourth is called senility, as has been said above.

Regarding the first age no one is in doubt, for all learned persons are in agreement that it lasts up until the twenty-fifth year. Since up until that time our soul is concerned with the growth and the beauty of the body, when many and great changes occur in one’s person, the rational part cannot discriminate with perfection. Consequently the Law directs that prior to reaching this age a person may not do certain things without a guardian of sufficient age.

Regarding the second age, which is truly the highest point of our life, there are many different opinions as to its duration. But leaving aside what the philosophers and physicians have to say about it and referring to the appropriate law, I say that in the majority (on the basis of which every judgment regarding what is natural can and must be made) this age lasts for 20 years. The reasoning which leads me to this conclusion is that if the highest point of our arc is in the thirty-fifth year, this age of life must have a descent and an ascent of equal duration; this ascent and descent are like the handle of a bow in which but little flection is observed. It obtains, then, that maturity is completed in the forty-fifth year. Just as adolescence lasts for the first twenty-five years, ascending toward maturity, so the descent, that is, old age, lasts for the same number of years following maturity; and so old age concludes in the seventieth year. But since adolescence does not begin at the beginning of life, taking it in the sense that has been stated, but nearly eight months later, and since our nature strives to ascend and holds back in descending because the natural heat is decreased, and has little power, and the moisture is condensed–not in quantity but in quality–so that it evaporates and is consumed less quickly, it happens that beyond old age there remains to our life a period of perhaps ten years, a little more or a little less; and this period is called senility.(126) Hence it is said of Plato, who may be said to have possessed a supremely excellent nature both for the perfection of its being and for the physiognomic image which Socrates observed in him when he first saw him, that he lived to the age of 81, as Tully affirms in his book On Old Age.(127) I believe that if Christ had not been crucified and had lived out the term which his life could have encompassed according to its nature, he would have undergone the change from mortal body to immortal in his eighty-first year.

Indeed as has been said above, these ages can be longer or shorter according to our temperament and constitution, but whatever they are, it seems to me, as has been said, this proportion must be preserved in all men (that is, to make the ages of life in these men longer or shorter according to the totality of the full term of their natural life).(128) Throughout each of these ages the nobility of which we are speaking reveals its effects diversely in the soul that is ennobled, and this is what this stanza, about which I am presently writing, is intended to show.(129) Here it should be observed that our nature when good and upright develops in us according to what is reasonable, just as we perceive that the nature of plants develops in them; and therefore some manners and some kinds of behavior are more reasonable at one age than at another, during which the soul that is ennobled develops in an orderly manner along a simple path, employing its activities in the periods and ages of life proper to them accordingly as they are directed to attaining its ultimate fruit.(130) Tully voices agreement with this in his book On Old Age.(131) Leaving aside the allegorical meaning which Vergil applies to the different ages of human development in the Aeneid, and as well what Egidius the Hermit says about it in the first part of his book The Regimen of Princes, and likewise Tully in his book On Offices, and following only what reason by itself can perceive, I say that this first age is the door and path by which we enter upon this good life of ours.(132) This entrance must of necessity provide certain things which the goodness of nature, never failing in things that are necessary, gives to us, as we see that she gives leaves to the vine to protect its fruit, and tendrils by which to defend and bind its weakness so as to bear the weight of the fruit.

The goodness of nature, then, gives to this age of life four things necessary for entering into the city of the good life. The first is obedience, the second sweetness, the third a sense of shame, the fourth loveliness of being, as the text says in the first section.(133) We should therefore know that just as someone who has never been in a city would not know how to make his way without guidance from someone who is familiar with it, so an adolescent who enters into the meandering forest of this life would not know how to keep to the right path unless it were shown to him by his elders.(134) Nor would it be of any use to point it out if he were not obedient to their commands; and therefore in this age of life obedience is necessary.

Someone might well say: “Can he then be called obedient who obeys commands that are bad as well as he who obeys those that are good?” I reply that this would not be obedience but transgression, for if a king commands one thing and a servant another, the servant is not to be obeyed, for this would constitute disobedience to the king, and therefore a transgression. Therefore Solomon says, in seeking to correct his son (and this is his first command): “Hear, my son, the teaching of your father.”(135) At once he shields him from the bad advice and teaching of others, saying: “Do not let sinners have the power to beguile you with flatteries or delights so that you will go with them.” So as a child clings to the mother’s breast as soon as it is born, likewise as soon as some light appears in his mind he ought to turn to the correction of his father, and his father should give him instruction. He should make certain that his own actions do not provide an example that would run counter to his words of correction, for we see that every son naturally looks more to the footprints of his father than to those of anyone else. For this reason the Law, which takes this into account, states and commands that the person of the father should always appear righteous and upstanding to his sons; so it is clear that in this age of life obedience is necessary. Therefore Solomon writes in Proverbs that he who humbly and obediently endures his chastener and his just reproofs “shall be glorified,” and he says “shall be,” to indicate that he is speaking to an adolescent, one who in the present age of life cannot be glorified.(136)

If someone should protest that “what is said is said only of the father and not of others,” I reply that all other obedience must redound to the father. Thus the Apostle says to the Colossians: “Children, obey your fathers in all things, for this is the will of God.”(137) If the father is no longer living, it redounds to him who is designated father by the father’s last will. Should the father die intestate, it redounds to him to whom the Law entrusts his son’s guidance. And next in order teachers and elders should be obeyed, to whom he seems in some way to have been entrusted by the father or by him who stands in the father’s place. But since the present chapter has become long on account of the useful digressions which it contains, the other points will be discussed in another chapter. Chapter 25

Not only is this good soul and nature obedient in adolescence, it is also pleasant, which is the other thing which is necessary in this age of life for passing through the gate of maturity. It is necessary because we cannot have a perfect life without friends, as Aristotle asserts in the eighth book of the Ethics; and the majority of friendships appear to be sown in this first age of life because in this age a man begins to be gracious, or the contrary.(138) This graciousness is acquired through pleasant conduct, namely sweet and courteous speech, and sweet and courteous service and action. This is why Solomon says to his adolescent son: “God scorns scorners, and to the meek God will give grace.” And elsewhere he says: “Keep far away from you an evil mouth, and let base actions be far from you.”(139) And so it appears that this pleasantness is necessary, as has been explained.

Furthermore, in this age of life the emotion of shame is necessary, and therefore a good and noble nature displays it in this age, as the text says. Since shame is a very prominent sign of nobility in adolescence, because it is extremely necessary at that time for making a good foundation for our life, to which the noble nature inclines, we must speak of it with some care. I say that by shame I mean three emotions necessary for the foundation of our good life: the first is awe, the second modesty, the third sense of shame, although the common people do not discern this distinction. All three are necessary in this age of life for the reasons: it is necessary to be reverent and eager, in order to learn; to be restrained, in order to avoid transgressing; to be repentant of an error, so as not to fall into the habit of error. All of these things comprise the emotions mentioned above, which together are commonly called shame. For awe is the amazement of the mind at seeing or hearing, or in some way perceiving, great and marvelous things. Insofar as they seem great, they instill reverence for them in him who perceives them; insofar as they seem marvelous they make him yearn for knowledge about them. For this reason the kings of times past would place magnificent works of gold, gems, and works of art in their palaces so that those who saw them would be amazed, and therefore become reverent, and eager to obtain information about the king’s state of honor. Thus Statius, the sweet poet, in the first book of theThebaid, says that when the king of the Argives, Adrastus, saw Polynices clad in a lion’s skin, and Tydeus clad in the hide of a wild boar, and recalled the reply which Apollo had given concerning his daughters, he was awestruck, and therefore became more reverent and more eager to gain knowledge.(140)

Modesty is the recoiling of the mind from things which are ugly for fear of falling into them, as we see in virgins, good women, and adolescents who are so modest that their faces become pallid or tinged with the color of red not only in those instances when they are induced or tempted to commit a fault, but even when some act of sensual pleasure is merely conceived in the imagination. Thus the above-mentioned poet says in the first book of the Thebaid, just cited, that when Aceste, the nurse of Argia and Deiphyle, daughters of King Adrastus, brought them before the eyes of their noble father in the presence of two strangers, namely Polynices and Tydeus, the virgins became pallid and flushed, and their eyes averted the glances of everyone and turned upon their father’s face alone, as if reassured.(141) O how many faults does this modesty curb! How many dishonorable deeds and entreaties does it silence! How many dishonorable desires does it bridle! How many evil temptations does it check, not only in the person who is modest but in the one who looks on him! How many foul words does it restrain! For as Tully says in the first book of On Offices, “There is no foul act which it is not foul to speak of.”(142) Therefore a man who is modest and noble never speaks in such a way that his words would be unsuitable for a woman. Ah, how ill it becomes a man who goes in search of honor to speak of things which would be unbecoming on the lips of any woman!

The sense of shame is the fear of being disgraced for a fault that has been committed. From this fear springs repentance for the fault, which consists of a bitterness that acts as a constraint against renewing the fault. Consequently this same poet says in the same passage that when Polynices was asked by King Adrastus about his origin, he hesitated before speaking for shame of the fault he had committed against his father, and also of the faults of his father Oedipus, for they seemed to abide in the shame of the son. He did not name his father, but his ancestors, and his native land and his mother. From this it is quite evident that shame is necessary in this age of life.(143)

The noble nature in this age of life displays not only obedience, pleasantness, and shame, but also beauty and poise of body, as the text affirms when it saysAnd she adorns her body. The word “adorns” is a verb and not a noun–a verb, I mean, in the present tense indicative of the third person. Here we must observe that this effect is also necessary for the goodness of our life, for a great part of the operations of our soul must be effected by means of the organs of the body, and it effects them well when the body is well ordered and disposed in its parts. When it is well ordered and disposed it is then beautiful as a whole and in its parts; for the due order of our members accords a pleasure of an inexpressibly wonderful harmony, and their proper disposition, namely their health, confers upon them a color that is pleasant to behold. So to say that a noble nature brings beauty to its body and makes it lovely and poised is to say simply that it adorns it with the perfection of order. It is evident that along with the other things that have been discussed, this characteristic is necessary in the age of adolescence. These are the things which the noble soul (that is, the noble nature as a thing which is sown), as has been said, by divine providence, intends for it to have from the beginning. Chapter 26

Now that we have discussed the first section of this part, which shows how we can recognize a man who is noble by manifest signs, we must proceed to the second part, which begins: At maturity strong and self-restrained. It says, then, that as the noble nature in adolescence shows itself obedient, pleasant and full of shame, adorning its own person, so in maturity it isstrong, self-restrained, loving, courteous, and honest, five qualities which appear to be, and are, necessary for our perfection insofar as we regard it with reference to ourselves. Concerning this we should observe that all that noble nature prepares in the first age of life is set forth and ordered by the foresight of universal Nature, which orders particular nature to its perfection.(144) This perfection of ours can be considered in two ways. It can be considered with reference to ourselves, and this perfection must be achieved in our maturity, which is the fullness of our life. It can be considered with reference to others; and because it is first necessary to be perfect, and then to communicate this perfection to others, this secondary perfection must be achieved in the following age of life, namely in old age, as will be explained below.

Here, then, we must recall what was discussed above in the twenty-second chapter of this book concerning the appetite which is inborn in us from our beginning. This appetite never does anything except pursue and flee; and whenever it pursues what is proper in the right degree and flees what is proper in the right degree, one keeps within the boundaries of one’s perfection. Nevertheless this appetite must be ridden by reason, for just as a horse set loose, however noble it may be by nature, cannot act as its own guide without a good rider, so the appetite, which is called irascible or concupiscible, however noble it may be, must obey reason, which guides it with bridle and spurs like a good horseman.(145) It uses the bridle when appetite is in pursuit, and this bridle is called temperance, which marks the limit up to which something may be pursued; it uses the spur when the appetite is in flight, to make it turn back to the place from which it seeks to flee, and this spur is called courage, or magnanimity, a virtue which marks the place where one must take a stand and fight. Vergil, our greatest poet, shows that Aeneas was unrestrained in this way in that part of the Aeneid in which this age of life is allegorized, the part comprising the fourth, fifth, and sixth books of the Aeneid. How great was his restraint when, having experienced so much pleasure with Dido, as will be recounted below in the seventh book, and having derived from her so much gratification, he took his departure from her to follow an honorable, praiseworthy and profitable path, as is recorded in the fourth book of the Aeneid! What spurring was felt when this same Aeneas mustered the courage to enter into Hell alone with the Sibyl in search of the soul of his father Anchises, in the face of so many perils, as is described in the sixth book of the same history. From this it is evident that for us to achieve perfection in the age of maturity it is necessary to be “strong and self-restrained.” This is what goodness of nature accomplishes and demonstrates, as the text expressly states.

Moreover, it is necessary to be loving in this age of life for its perfection, because it is appropriate for it to look backward and forward, like something that lies on the meridian circle. It is appropriate for one to love one’s elders, from whom one has received being, nurture, and education, so as not to seem ungrateful. It is appropriate for one to love one’s juniors, so that by loving them it may give them some of its benefits by which it may later, when its prosperity diminishes, derive support and honor from them. As the previously named poet shows in the fifth book mentioned above, this is the love that Aeneas had when he left the aged Trojans behind in Sicily, entrusting them to the care of Acestes, and released them from their labors, and when in this same site he prepared his young son Ascanius, with the other youths, for tournament games.(146) From this it is evident that love is necessary in this age of life, as the text states.

Moreover, it is necessary in this age of life to be courteous, for although courteous manners are becoming in all ages of life, in this age they are especially necessary, because in adolescence absence of courtesy readily deserves to be excused because of tenderness of age, and because conversely in old age courtesy is not possible by reason of the seriousness and sternness which it is required to show; and still more so in senility. Our most exalted poet shows in the sixth book previously mentioned that Aeneas had this courtesy when he says that King Aeneas, to honor the lifeless body of Misenus, who had been Hector’s trumpeter and had afterwards placed himself in Aeneas’ trust, made preparations and took up his ax to help hew the wood for the fire that would be used to burn the body, in keeping with their custom.(147) From this it is quite evident that courtesy is necessary in maturity, and therefore the noble soul displays it in that age of life, as has been said.

Moreover, it is necessary in this age of life to be loyal. Loyalty consists of following and putting into practice what the laws decree, and this is especially appropriate in one who is mature; for an adolescent, as has been said, readily deserves to be excused because of tenderness of age; an elder ought to be just by reason of his greater experience, and he ought to conduct himself in a just manner, not as a follower of the law, except insofar as his own right judgment and the law are virtually in conformity, but almost independently of any law, which someone in the age of maturity cannot do. It should suffice for him to follow the law and to take delight in following it, as the previously cited poet in the above-mentioned fifth book says that Aeneas did when he held the games in Sicily on the anniversary of his father’s death, for he loyally awarded to each victor what he had promised for victory, according to their longstanding custom, which was their law. From this it is evident that in this age of life loyalty, courtesy, love, courage, and temperance are necessary, as the text presently under discussion states; and therefore the soul that is noble displays them all. Chapter 27

We have quite sufficiently examined and discussed that section of the text which displays the attributes which the noble nature confers on maturity. Consequently it seems proper to take up the third part which begins In old age, in which the text seeks to show those things which the noble nature displays and ought to possess in the third age of life, namely old age. It says that in old age the noble soul is prudent, just, liberal, and takes delight in speaking well of others’ virtues, and of hearing them well spoken of (that is to say, that it is affable). These four virtues are indeed extremely suitable to this age of life.

In order to perceive this we must know that, as Tully says in his book On Old Age: “Our life has a fixed course and our good nature has but a single path; and in each part of our life a season has been given for certain things.”(148) Consequently just as to adolescence is given that which will bring us to perfection and ripeness, as has been said above, so to maturity perfection and ripeness are given so that the sweetness of its fruit may prove profitable both to itself and to others; for as Aristotle says, man is a social animal, and thus it is required of him that he be useful not merely to himself but to others.(149) Hence we read of Cato that he thought of himself as born not for himself, but for his country and for the whole world. Therefore following upon our own perfection, which we acquire in the age of maturity, should come that perfection which illuminates not only ourselves but others; one should open out like a rose that can no longer remain closed, and disperse the fragrance which is produced within; and this should take place in the third age of life, which is our present concern. One should therefore be prudent (that is, wise), and being wise requires a good memory of things seen, a good knowledge of things present, and a good foresight of things future. For as the Philosopher says in the sixth book of the Ethics, “It is impossible for a man to be wise without being good,” and therefore one who proceeds with subterfuge and deceit is not to be called wise but astute; for just as no one would call a man wise for knowing how to pierce the pupil of an eye with the point of a dagger, so a man who knows how to perform some evil act should not be called wise, since in performing it he always harms himself before harming others.(150)

If we look more closely, from prudence comes good counsel, which guides a man himself and others to a good end in human affairs and actions. This is the gift that Solomon asked of God upon finding himself placed at the helm of the government of the people, as is written in the third book of Kings.(151) Nor does a prudent man such as this wait until someone summons him with the words “Counsel me,” but, making provision for him, without being asked, he counsels him, just as a rose offers its fragrance not only to one who approaches it for this reason but also to whoever passes near to it. Here some doctor or lawyer might say: “Am I then to carry my counsel and offer it even though it has not been asked for, and make no profit from my art?” I reply as our Lord has said: “Freely have you received, freely give.”(152) I say, therefore, my dear lawyer, that those counsels which are unrelated to your art and which proceed only from the common sense which God has given to you (and this is that prudence of which we are now speaking) you should not sell to the children of him who gave it to you: those that are related to your art, which you have purchased, you may sell, but not such that it is not fitting at times to pay a tithe and make an offering to God (that is, to those unfortunates to whom nothing is left but the gratitude of God).

It is also fitting in this age of life to be just, so that one’s judgments and authority may be a light and a law to others. Because this singular virtue, namely justice, was perceived by philosophers in ancient times to display itself to perfection in this age of life, they entrusted the rule of the cities to those who were in this age of life; and therefore the council of rulers was called the “Senate.”(153) O my miserable, miserable homeland! What pity for you constrains me whenever I read or whenever I write anything that has to do with civil government! But since justice will be treated in the penultimate book of this work, let it suffice for the present to have touched on it briefly here.

It is also fitting in this age of life to be generous, because a thing is fitting when it most satisfies the requisites of its own nature, nor can the requisites of generosity ever be so satisfied as in this age of life. For if we but carefully consider Aristotle’s reasoning in the fourth book of the Ethics, and Tully’s in his bookOn Offices, generosity should occur at a time and a place in which the generous man injures neither himself nor another.(154) This is something that cannot be possessed without prudence and justice, virtues which it is impossible to possess in their perfection by the way of nature prior to this age of life. Ah, you ill-fated and misbegotten men who defraud widows and wards, who steal from the very weakest, who rob and seize by force the rights of others, and with these gains arrange banquets, make gifts of horses and arms, goods and money, dress in striking attire, erect wondrous buildings, and believe yourselves to be acting with generosity! What is this but to act like the thief who takes the cloth from the altar to cover his own table? We should mock your gifts, you tyrants, like the thief who would invite guests into his house and spread upon his table the cloth stolen from the altar with the ecclesiastical signs still upon it, and think that others would take no notice. Listen, you stubborn men, to what Tully has to say against you in his book On Offices: “There are many wishing to be impressive and famous who take from some in order to give to others, believing that they will be well regarded, and make them rich for whatever reason they so choose. But nothing is more contrary to what is proper than this.”(155)

It is also fitting in this age of life to be affable, to speak of what is good and to hear it spoken of willingly, because it is good to speak of what is good when it has an audience. This age of life even carries with it an air of authority, because men seem more inclined in this age to listen to authority than in any earlier age; and it seems that this age brings with it knowledge of many fine and pleasant stories because of the long experience of life. Consequently Tully says in his bookOn Old Age, in the person of Cato the Elder: “The joy and pleasure I take from conversation is greater now than in the past.”(156)

Ovid teaches us, in the seventh book of theMetamorphoses, that all four of these things are fitting to this age of life by citing the myth of how Cephalus of Athens came to King Aeacus for help in the war that Athens was waging against the Cretans. He shows how old Aeacus was prudent when, having lost almost all of his people to a plague caused by a contamination of the air, he wisely turned to God and asked him to restore his dead people. Because of his wisdom, which enabled him to sustain his patience and turn to God, his people were restored to him in greater numbers than before.(157) Ovid shows how he was just when he says that Aeacus divided and distributed his forsaken lands to his new people. He shows that Aeacus was generous, by having him say to Cephalus after his request for aid: “O Athens, do not ask our aid, but take it; do not think that the forces of this island, along with all that is in my possession, are uncertain: forces are not lacking, indeed there are more than are needed; the adversary is mighty, and the time for being generous is opportune and without excuse.”(158)

Ah, how many things there are to note in this reply! But to one who understands it well it will suffice to set it down here just as Ovid sets it down.(159) He shows that he was affable when he tells and diligently recounts, in a long speech to Cephalus, the story of the plague of his people and their restoration. Consequently it is quite evident that in this age of life four things are fitting, which is why the nature that is noble displays them in this age, as the text states. So that the example that is given might be the more memorable, he says of King Aeacus that he was the father of Telamon, of Peleus, and of Phocus, and that from Telamon Ajax was born, and from Peleus Achilles. Chapter 28

After the section previously discussed we must proceed to the last one: that is, to the one which begins And then in the fourth phase of life, by which the text proposes to show how the noble soul acts in the last age of life (that is, in senility). It says that the noble soul does two things: first, that it returns to God as to that port from which it departed when it came to enter into the sea of this life; second, that it blesses the journey that it has made, because it has been straight and good and without bitterness of storm.

Here it should be observed that a natural death, as Tully says in his book On Old Age, is, as it were, a port and site of repose after our long journey. This is quite true, for just as a good sailor lowers his sails as he approaches port and, pressing forward lightly, enters it gently, so we must lower the sails of our worldly preoccupations and return to God with all our mind and heart, so that we may reach that port with perfect gentleness and perfect peace. Here our own nature accords us a great lesson in gentleness, for in such a death as this there is no suffering or any harshness; but just as a ripe apple drops from its bough gently and without violence, so without suffering our soul separates itself from the body in which it has dwelled. Hence in his book On Youth and Old AgeAristotle says that “death that takes place in old age is without sadness.”(160) And just as a man returning from a long journey is met by the citizens of his city as he enters its gates, so the noble soul is met, as it should be, by the citizens of the eternal life. This they do by means of their good works and thoughts: for having already surrendered itself to God and disengaged itself from worldly matters and preoccupations, the soul seems to see those whom it believes to be with God. Hear what Tully says, in the person of Cato the Elder: “I seem to see already, and I lift myself with the greatest longing to see your fathers, whom I loved, and not only them, but also those of whom I have heard speak.”(161) The noble soul, then, surrenders itself to God in this age of life and awaits the end of this life with great desire, and seems to be leaving an inn and returning to its proper dwelling, seems to be coming back from a journey and returning to the city, seems to be coming in from the sea and returning to port.

O you miserable and debased beings who speed into this port with sails raised high! Where you should take your rest, you shipwreck yourselves against the force of the wind and perish at the very place to which you have so long been journeying! Certainly the knight Lancelot did not wish to enter with his sails raised high, nor the most noble of our Italians, Guido of Montefeltro.(162) These noble men did indeed lower the sails of their worldly preoccupations and late in life gave themselves to religious orders, forsaking all worldly delights and affairs. No one can be excused because of the bond of marriage, which may still bind him late in life; for not only those who conform to the life and ways of St. Benedict, St. Augustine, St. Francis, and St. Dominic dedicate themselves to living a religious life, but even those who are married can dedicate themselves to living a life that is good and truly religious, for it is in our hearts that God wishes us to be religious. This is why St. Paul says to the Romans: “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outwardly manifested in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in spirit and not in the letter, whose praise comes not from men but from God.”(163)

The noble soul in this age of life blesses times past, and well may it bless them, because by turning its memory to them it recalls its virtuous actions, without which it could not come to port, to which it draws near, with so much prosperity and so much gain. It acts like the good merchant who, as he draws near to his port, examines his profits and says: “If I had not made my journey along this road, I would not have this treasure, nor would I have anything in which to take delight in my city, to which I am drawing near”; and so he blesses the way he has taken. The great poet Lucan, in the second book of his Pharsalia, shows us by way of an allegory that these two things are appropriate to this age of life. There he says that Marcia returned to Cato and begged and implored him to take her back in her old age.(164) Here Marcia signifies the noble soul. And we may translate the figure of the allegory as follows. Marcia was a virgin, and in that state she signifies adolescence; she later married Cato, and in that state she signifies maturity; then she bore children, and they signify the virtues which are said above to be fitting for those who are young; she then left Cato and married Hortensius, signifying the departure from maturity and the onset of old age; she also bore this man’s children, who signify the virtues which are said above to be fitting in old age. Hortensius died, by which is signified the end of old age; and having become a widow–which widowhood signifies senility–Marcia returned at the beginning of her widowhood to Cato, signifying that the noble soul returns to God at the beginning of senility. What man on earth was more worthy to signify God than Cato? Surely none.

What does Marcia say to Cato? “While there was blood in me,” that is, in maturity, “while I had the power to bear children,” namely in old age, which is truly the mother of the other virtues, as has been shown above, “I,” says Marcia, “carried out and accomplished all of your commands”–this is to say that the soul remained committed to civic duties. She says: “I took two husbands,” that is, “I was fertile in two ages. Now that my womb is worn-out and I have lost the capacity to bear children,” says Marcia, “I return to you, being unable to serve another spouse”; that is to say that the noble soul, perceiving that it no longer has a womb for bearing fruit (that is, when the soul’s members feel that they have grown weak), turns to God, who has no need of bodily members. And Marcia says: “Give me the rights of our ancient marital chamber; give me only the name of marriage.” This is to say that the noble soul says to God: “My Lord, now give me your peace; grant me at least that in the little of life that remains to me I may be called yours.” And Marcia says: “Two reasons move me to say this: one is that after my death it may be said that I died as the wife of Cato; the other, that after my death it may be said that you did not spurn me, but through your good will you took my hand in marriage.” The noble soul is moved by these two reasons, and it desires to depart from this life as the spouse of God, and desires to show that its activity has been pleasing to God. O you unhappy and misbegotten beings who wish to depart from this life under the name of Hortensius rather than that of Cato! It is good to bring to a close what I have had to say about the signs of nobility with the name of this man, because in him nobility displays them all in every age of life.

Chapter 29

Now that the text has shown the signs which appear in every age of life in the noble man, by which he may be recognized and without which he could not exist, any more than the Sun without light or fire without heat, the text, at the end of what is said about nobility, cries out to all and says: “O you who have listened to me, see how many there are who are deceived!”: that is, those who believe themselves noble because they are of famous and ancient lineage and are descended from excellent fathers, although they have no nobility in themselves.

Here two questions arise which it is good to consider at the end of the present book. Manfred da Vico, who now calls himself Pretor and Prefect, might say: “Whatever I may be, I recall to mind and represent my ancestors, who on the basis of their nobility earned the office of Prefect, merited their participation in the coronation of the Emperor, and deserved to receive the rose from the Roman Pastor: to me are due the honor and the reverence of the people.” This is the first question. The second is that one of the family of San Nazzaro of Pavia, or one of the Piscitelli of Naples might say: “If nobility is such as has been said, namely, a divine seed graciously planted in the human soul, and if the lineage or race has no soul, as is evident, no lineage or race could be called noble; and this is contrary to the opinion held by those who say that our lineage is the most noble to be found their cities.”

To the first question Juvenal replies in his eighth satire, where he begins as if exclaiming: “Of what benefit are these honors which derive from men of earlier times if he who would clothe himself with them lives an evil life, if he who speaks of his ancestors and describes their great and wondrous deeds dedicates himself to wretched and base acts?” “Will he,” says this same satirist, “become noble because of his family, who is not worthy of that family? This is but to call a dwarf a giant.”(165) Then afterwards he says to a man of this sort: “Between you and the statue erected in memory of your ancestor there is no difference except that his head is made of marble and yours is alive.” Here, with all due respect, I disagree with this poet, for a statue of marble, wood, or metal left as a memorial to some worthy man differs greatly in effect from his worthless descendants. This is because a statue always confirms the good opinion of those who have heard tell of the great renown of him whose statue it is, and engenders it in others. A worthless son or grandson does quite the reverse, for he weakens the good opinion of those who have heard his ancestors well spoken of; for one of his thoughts will be: “It is not possible for the renown of his ancestors to be as great as it is said to be, since from their seed we see spring such a plant.” Consequently he who bears false witness against the good should receive not honor but dishonor. For this reason Tully says that “the son of a worthy man must strive to speak well of his father.”(166) Therefore, in my judgment, just as he who defames a worthy man deserves to be shunned and ignored by everyone, so a worthless man descended from good ancestors deserves to be cast out by all, and a good man should close his eyes so as to avoid witnessing the disgrace perpetrated on goodness, of which the memory alone remains. This should suffice for the present concerning the first question that was raised.

To the second question we may reply that lineage has no soul in and of itself, and yet it is quite true that it is called noble and in a certain way is noble. It should be observed here that every whole is composed of its parts. There are some wholes which possess together with their parts a single essence, as a single man comprises a single essence in common with all his parts; what is said to exist in a part is said to exist in the same way in the whole. There are other wholes which do not have their essence in common with their parts, for example a heap of grain; this kind of essence is secondary, resulting from the many grains which have a true and primary essence in themselves. In a whole such as this the qualities of the parts are said to exist in this way, secondarily, as does its essence; and so a heap is called white because the grains that comprise it are white. This whiteness, however, resides first in the grains and secondarily as a result in the heap as a whole, and so in a secondary sense it may be called white. In the same way a race or a lineage may be called noble. Hence it should be observed that just as the white grains must be predominant in order for a heap to be white, so in order for a lineage to be noble those who are noble must be predominant in it (I say “predominant” meaning greater in number), so that their goodness by its renown may obscure and conceal the presence of the contrary among them. Just as in a white heap of grain the wheat grain could be removed grain by grain and each grain replaced by red millet until the color of the whole heap had changed, so in a noble lineage the good might die off one by one, and the bad be born into it in sufficient number to bring about a change in its name, so that it would deserve to be called not noble but base. This should suffice in reply to the second question. Chapter 30

As has been shown above in the third chapter of this book, this canzone has three principal divisions. Therefore, since two of them have been discussed (the first beginning with the previously mentioned chapter, and the second with the sixteenth, so that the first is completed in thirteen chapters and the second in fourteen, not counting the two chapters that comprise the preface to the book on the canzone), we must briefly discuss, in this thirtieth and final chapter, the third principal division, which was composed as atornata to this canzone by way of adornment and which begins My song Against-the-erring-ones, go forth. Here it should first be observed that every good craftsman at the end of his work should ennoble and embellish it as much as he can, so that it may become more praiseworthy and more precious when it has left his hands. This I intend to do in this part, not that I am a good craftsman, but because I follow his example.

I say then: My song Against-the-erring-ones, go forth.Against-the-erring-ones is a single word, and is the title of this canzone, after the example of our good brother Thomas Aquinas, who gave the title Against the Gentiles to a book of his which he wrote to confound all those who stray from our Faith.(167) I say, then, “go forth” as if to say: “You are now perfect, and it is no longer time to stand still but to go forth, for your undertaking is great.” And when you come To where our lady is, tell her your purpose. Here it should be noted that, as our Lord has said, one should do not cast pearls before swine, for it does them no good and brings harm to the pearls; and as the poet Aesop says in his first fable, a grain is worth more than a pearl to a cock, and he therefore leaves the one and takes the other.(168) Considering this, as a precaution I direct my canzone to reveal its purpose where this lady, namely Philosophy, is to be found. This most noble lady shall then be found when her dwelling-place is found, that is, the soul in which she dwells. And Philosophy does not dwell in the wise alone, but also, as has been above proved in another book, wherever the love of her dwells. To each of these I tell it to disclose its purpose, so that her meaning will prove useful to them, and be received by them.

I say to my canzone: Tell this lady, “I speak about a friend of yours.” Truly nobility is her friend, for one loves the other so much that nobility endlessly calls upon her, and Philosophy never turns her most pleasing gaze on any other. O how great and how beautiful an adornment is this which is given to her in the closing verses of this canzone, where she is called the friend of her whose perfection dwells in the most secret recess of the divine mind!

 


1. Pythagoras     Attributed to Pythagoras by Cicero inDe officiis I, 17, 56.

2. the Greek proverb     Dante’s source is again Cicero, De officiis I, 16, 51.

3. this lady who was mentioned above in the true explanation     Philosophy, as described in the allegorical exposition of the preceding book.

4. not . . . skip over with dry foot     The metaphor translates roughly into our expression “need to get one’s feet wet.” In other words, further discussion, is required.

5. Time     Physics IV, 1. The “number of motion” is the movement of the Primum Mobile, the highest of the physical spheres.

6. Solomon     Ecclesiastes 3:7 and 20:6-7.

7. St. James the Apostle     James 5:7.

8. the last of the Roman emperors     Frederick II of Swabia (1194-1250), the “last” of the Holy Roman Emperors because the others in Dante’s list, while elected, were never crowned.

9. the Philosopher’s belief     Aristotle’s opinion may be found in St. Thomas’ Commentary on the EthicsVII, 13, 1509.

10. man is by nature a social animal     Aristotle,Politics I, 2.

11. should be a Monarchy     The concept of monarchy as the ideal form of government will be more fully developed in the Latin treatise Monarchia (1312), where Dante will reiterate the notion that the monarchy, being exempt from greed by virtue of its possessing universal jurisdiction on earth, is founded on absolute justice.

12. Vergil concurs in this     Aeneid I, 278.

13. the words of Solomon     Proverbs 8:6.

14. the Son of God should descend to earth     Dante will treat the theology of the redemption more fully inParadiso VII.

15. it is written in Isaiah     Isaiah 11:1.

16. as Luke the Evangelist testifies     Luke 2:1 ff.

17. the emperor cited above     Augustus, the first Roman emperor.

18. O most hallowed breast of Cato     Cato of Utica (95-46 B.C) has a special place in Dante’s imagination. He is the guardian of Purgatory and the symbol of human freedom, a pagan endowed with a “santo petto” [holy breast] (Purg. I, 80). In theMonarchia, Dante speaks of “the unspeakable sacrifice of Marcus Cato, the strictest champion of true liberty” (II, 5), words that identify him as a type of Christ.

19. its first form     According to Uguccione, from whom Dante takes this fanciful etymology, the Latin verb aueio, or avieo, means “to tie,” as does the other form, vieo (from viere). The verbs do not in fact exist. For Uguccione (died 1210), see the note below.

20. the figure of a tie     The image Dante is trying to convey is of a hand-drawn line that encircles these letters in their alphabetical order. The “arte musaica” symbolized by this image is the art of the Muses, or poetry (and not of music, as Wicksteed, for example, mistranslates the phrase).

21. as Uguccione attests     The Latin title of this work is Liber de derivationibus verborum, also known simply as Derivationes.

22. That man is Aristotle     Throughout the Convivio it will be quite evident to the reader that Aristotle Dante’s guide in this world, “the master and leader of human reason” for all men. This is a role that Dante will give to Vergil in the Divine Comedy, a change which derives from Dante’s increased emphasis, in part, on the role of the poet, as opposed to philosopher, as moral guide.

23. Zeno     Placed among the pagan philosophers in Limbo (Inf. IV, 138), Zeno of Cithium was the leader of the Stoics.

24. as Tully seems to relate     Cicero, De finibus I, 9-11.

25. no affirmative statements     Socrates’ philosophy, that is, was essentially based on negatives or unresolved dialectic.

26. in the book of Wisdom     Wisdom 6:23.

27. the words of Ecclesiastes     Ecclesiastes 10:16 and 17.

28. Charles and Frederick     Charles II, the Cripple, King of Naples (1248-1309), and Frederick II of Aragon, King of Sicily (1296-1337), both referred to in ParadisoXIX, 127 and 130-135.

29. Solomon     Proverbs 22:28 and 4:18.

30. As Aristotle says     On the Soul II, 4, 7 and I, 18, 2.

31. “He who lacks instruction dies . . .”     Proverbs 5:23.

32. the powers of the soul stand one above another     Each succeeding geometric figure contains the previous one, i.e., the triangle’s three sides are contained within the quadrangle which has four sides. The reference is to On the Soul II, 3, 5.

33. the Philosopher states     Ethics I, 8, and passim.

34. “If we have two friends . . .”     Ethics I, 4.

35. there are activities     There are the speculative uses of the mind, for example, mathematics, in which man discovers truths but does not create them. A second category involves the use of logic, which is creative, as in the example of the art of speech. Finally, there is the use of the practical intellect applied to external objects, for example, the art of sculpture, which Dante, following St. Thomas’ schema, calls the “mechanical arts.”

36. as an act of the will     This is the fourth of the activities, and the one that involves the moral use of reason.

37. “Written Law . . .”     The Corpus iuris (mentioned in I, 10 above). The source for the passage in Augustine has not been discovered. The second is taken from the Digestum vetus de Iustitia et Iure, tit. I.

38. in the saddle of the human will     Dante will elaborate this equestrian image in his famous diatribe against a meretricious and wayward Italy in Purg. VI, where the saddle is empty (“la sella è vòta” [89]).

39. “When one thing is produced . . .”     MetaphysicsVII, 8.

40. “Without a fight the laws . . .”     Lucan, PharsaliaIII, 118.

41. bushel of Santelenas     Coins bearing the effigy of Sant’Elena, the mother of Constantine, made in Byzantium, but a popular term for any ancient coin.

42. Aristotle remarked     Physics II, 8, probably cited from St. Thomas’ commentary on that text.

43. the Provençal     This is believed to be either Cadenet or possibly Giraut de Borneil.

44. Our Lord called them unrighteous     Luke 16:9, in the Douay Version, reads: “Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity.” The King James supplies “the mammon of unrighteousness.”

45. Who does not still keep a place in his heart     Alexander the Great is the only one of the seven examples of liberality from ancient history. Toynbee has identified the King of Castile as Alfonso VIII (1155-1214), son-in-law of Henry II of England; the Count of Toulouse as Raymond V (1134-1194); and the Marquis of Monferrato as Boniface II (1192-1207). Saladin (1137-1193), well known throughout the Middle Ages for his generosity, appears among the virtuous pagans in Dante’s Limbo (Inf. IV). Dante places Bertran de Born (1140-1215) among the Schismatics in Inf.XXVIII. Galeazzo of Montefeltro (d. 1300) was the head of a Ghibelline faction and cousin to Guido da Montefeltro who appears in Inf. XXVII.

46. by subverting what they promise     The sense is that riches, by their appearance, offer the promise of satisfaction and thereby diminish the strength of the desire for riches. But once they are possessed, they take away the promise of satisfaction which first appeared, and create anew a desire for their possession.

47. “Alas! who was it . . .”      De consolatione philosophiae, II, meter 5, verse 27.

48. “Never have I ever considered . . .”     On ParadoxI.

49. “Even if the goddess of wealth . . .”      The Consolation of Philosophy, II, meter 2, verses 1-8.

50. “If I had one foot in the grave . . .”     This saying is not found in Seneca.

51. by refuting the consequence     I follow the edition of Busnelli-Vandelli, which gives the reading “distruzione” (also accepted by Vasoli in the Ricciardi edition); the Simonelli text reads “distinzione.” Both are technical terms in Scholastic logic.

52. “Let us make man in our own image and likeness.”     Genesis 1:26.

53. just as the pilgrim     See Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:6. The medieval topos of the pilgrim on the road of life will reappear, of course, in the opening verse of the Divine Comedy. Chaucer employs the topos as well in hisCanterbury Tales, and it should be noted parenthetically that his discussion of gentilesse in theWife of Bath’s Tale owes much to Dante’s definition of nobility in Convivio IV.

54. in the third book     See above III, 15, 8-10.

55. The Commentator     Averroes (1126-1198), whom Dante refers to in Inf. IV, 144 similarly as the one “che ‘l gran comento feo” [made the great commentary].

56. Therefore Aristotle     Dante derives the citation not from Aristotle directly, who does not mention Simonides in the passage indicated, but from St. Thomas’ Summa contra Gentiles I, 5.

57. “the trained student . . .”      Ethics I, 2.

58. And therefore Paul says     Romans 12:3.

59. whether in general or in particular     That is, knowledge in general or with respect to specific fields or disciplines of knowledge.

60. Therefore the Sage says     Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy II, prose 5.

61. Lucan     Pharsalia V, 527-31.

62. “Truly avarice makes men hateful.”     Perhaps suggested from passages in II, prose 5.

63. at the end of this section     That is, loss of wealth does not cause the mind to lose its nature. Dante here concludes his gloss of the third stanza of the canzone.

64. Suppose that Gherardo da Cammino     Gherardo’s death in March, 1306, is almost certain evidence that Dante could not have composed this part and the rest of the Convivio before this date.

65. Dardanus     According to myth, Dardanus was the son of Jove and Electra, and ancestor of the Trojans. Laomedon, his descendant, was the father of Priam.

66. according to the Philosopher     See St. Thomas’ commentary on Politics II, 12.

67. Plato believes     See St. Thomas, Commentary to the Metaphysics I, 14, 209 and 214.

68. Solomon     Ecclesiastes 3:21.

69. the creation of the world      Metamorphoses I, 78 ff.

70. in the third book of On the Soul     This reference probably derives from St. Thomas’ Commentary on the Ethics VI, 5, 1179, and not directly from De anima.

71. “Many are so presumptuous of intellect . . .”    Summa contra Gentiles I, 5.

72. Solomon     Proverbs 29:20.

73. Aristotle     Nicomachean Ethics I, 3.

74. in the first book of the Physics     St. Thomas’Commentary to the Physics I, 2.

75. Infortiatum     This is the second part of theCorpus iuris civilis, by Justinian.

76. “The King shall rejoice . . .”     Psalms 63:11 (King James).

77. “Love the light of wisdom . . .”     Wisdom 6:23.

78. Solomon     Ecclesiastes 10:16-17.

79. as the Philosopher teaches us     Ethics I, 2.

80. Asdente the cobbler of Parma     An illiterate known for making predictions, he is placed among the soothsayers in Hell (see Inf. XX, 118-120). Albuino was brother to Can Grande della Scala, Dante’s patron, and ruled Verona from 1304-1311. The poet pays tribute to Guido da Castello as “the candid Lombard” in Purg. XVI, 124-126.

81. the Philosopher     Physics VII, 6.

82. Christ’s words     Matthew 7:15-16.

83. the eleven virtues     See the Ethics II, 7.

84. The fifth is Magnanimity     Magnanimity means nobleness of mind, awareness of greatness or superiority over others in a person who is truly superior to others. It does not include the modern sense of being magnanimous with gifts or praise.

85. where he defines Happiness     Dante is again referring to St. Thomas, Commentary to the Ethics I, 10, 128-130.

86. Christ affirms     Luke 10:41-42.

87. “why not proceed first . . .”     The reasoning is based on the understanding that the intellectual virtues regulate the contemplative life, the moral virtues the active life.

88. we proceed by inference based on probability     This type of argument, which is not demonstrative but inductive, proceeds by syllogistic reasoning in which one of the premisses is probable in nature.

89. possessed primarily and essentially     Dante means by these terms that aspect or quality which is inherent in a thing as part of its prime essence, as opposed to one which is the result of incidental circumstances (the Scholastic concept of accident).

90. by an agreeable and fitting induction     In other words, it is more reasonable to consider nobility to be the source of goodness and the various classes of virtues (e.g., the intellectual, the moral, etc.) than to consider these virtues and goodness as the source of nobility, since they are many and diverse, while nobility is one. By induction, Dante means syllogistic reasoning, as can be deduced from the example he gives in this sentence. I follow the Busnelli-Vandelli text in this passage.

91. Thus nobility     Rather than both nobility and virtue to a third thing in man, by implication.

92. The Psalmist had in mind     Psalm 8:1, 8:4-6 (King James version).

93. as the Philosopher maintains     Ethics IV, 9. The term studiosi signifies virtuosi, as is apparent from St. Thomas’ commentary on the text.

94. no choice of persons     Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6, and elsewhere (King James version). The biblical phrase is “no respect of persons.”

95. Aristotle     Ethics VII, 1, with reference to theIliad, Book XXIV.

96. “Every good gift . . .”     James 1:17.

97. in the second book of On the Soul     De anima II, 2.

98. the noble Guido Guinizelli     Born in Bologna, Guinizelli developed the dolce stil novo and became the inspiration for Dante’s poetic style. He is venerated in Purg. XXVI, 92 as “il padre mio.” Dante echoes the famous line cited here in the Vita Nuova, XX, in the sonnet “Amor e ‘l cor gentil sono una cosa” [Love and the gentle heart are a single thing].

99. defect of age     It is not entirely clear what Dante means by this phrase, which has been taken diversely to refer to the lack of perfection in a fetus before it is born, to those who are young, as well as to those who are old and in some way incapacitated. In any case, the souls of these individuals do not reflect God’s divine light.

100. all four causes     Aristotle’s discussion of these causes is found in Metaphysics I.3. The efficient cause is the agent that brings about change; the final cause is the end for which a change is made; the material cause is that thing in which a change is made; and the formal cause is that which something is changed into.

101. supreme spiritual virtue     God, who is present in all virtues.

102. between their matter and their form     Dante, in paraphrasing Pythagoras’ theory, means that all of these beings are equally noble with respect to their form; but with respect to their material or matter, they are noble in different degrees.

103. combined elements, namely temperament     Earth, water, fire, and air, combined in different measure in different individuals, produce one of the four traditional characteristic temperaments or dispositions: the choleric, the phlegmatic, the sanguine, and the melancholic.

104. celestial virtue     This is the divine power which actualizes the potentiality for life within the seed, thereby bringing to life the vegetative and sensitive souls.

105. the possible intellect     This is the rational, or intellectual, power of the soul, which possesses the capacity of understanding all truths as they are conveyed by the universal forms. The intellectual soul possesses this capacity “in potentiality,” that is, as a power that can be realized or actualized when universal forms are perceived.

106. the words of the Apostle     Paul, Romans 11:33.

107. the opinion of Tully     Cicero, De senectute XXI, 77.

108. in the book On Causes     Aristotle, De causis III, 27-33.

109. These gifts . . . are seven in number     Isaiah 11:2.

110. the appetite of the mind     The intellect and the will.

111. he who does not see the mark     Aristotle,Ethics I, 1, and Cicero De finibus V, 6, 15.

112. as the Apostle says     Paul, I Corinthians 9:24.

113. the use of our mind is twofold     Dante returns to the discussion of the active and contemplative lives, which were treated in Chapter 17 above.

114. the Gospel of St. Mark     Mark 16:1 ff.

115. “The angel of God . . .”     Matthew 28:2-3.

116. Galilee means the same as whiteness     Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae XIV, 3, 23, derives the word Galilee from the Greek word for milk (gala), a derivation to which Dante had access through Uguccione da Pisa, who carries over Isidore’s etymology verbatim in his Derivationes.

117. the four ages     Dante derives the division of life into four ages from Albert the Great, De aetate sive de iuventute et senectute I, 2.

118. the likeness of this arc     The flow of this passage is made somewhat problematic by numerous textual uncertainties, but its general meaning is clear, as is the ruling image of life as bearing similarity to an arc, or portion of a circle, rather than to a circle, which, being a perfect form, represents a perfection to which human life cannot attain. All living things are conceived and born under the influence of the revolving spheres, during which time a sphere completes only a portion of its full revolution about the earth. This portion, or segment of a circle, is conceived by Dante as an arc whose beginning point initiates a curved line that first rises and then, after cresting, falls. Human life imitates this movement of ascent and descent, that is, of growth and decline, in the four ages described below.

119. and of better or worse quality     I follow the Busnelli-Vandelli text here, as does Chiappelli-Fenzi. Simonelli deletes the phrase “or worse,” arguing that it is unnecessary to the sense.

120. “You have set a boundary . . .”     Psalm 104:9 (King James).

121. as Albert states     Dante’s passage appears to derive very little from the fourth book of Albert the Great’s De meteoris to which he refers here. The passage, in fact, is taken in its entirety from another work by Albert, his De aetate sive iuventute et senectute, mentioned above.

122. (omitting sext, midway between . . .)     The “obvious reason” why Dante omits the sext, which corresponds to noon, may be that the middle of the day is evident to all by the position of the sun, whereas all the other temporal hours are not so evident because they vary, are “long or short,” according to the time of the year. See Dante’s previous discussion regarding temporal hours, Conv. III, 6, 3. In the canonical hours, tierce corresponds roughly to 9 a.m., sext to noon, nones to 3 p.m., and vespers to 6 p.m.

123. four horses     Metamorphoses II, 153 ff.

124. the office of the first part of the day     The office of tierce is said toward the end of tierce, that is, just before the beginning of sext which runs from 9 a.m. to noon, whereas the offices for the third and fourth periods, nones and vespers, are said toward the beginning of those periods. In other words, the offices are said at the hours which incline toward noon, the most noble part of the day.

125. And for this reason mid-tierce     Mid-tierce (7:30 a.m.) is said before the bell is rung for tierce, which occurs toward the end of tierce; mid-nones (1:30 p.m.) and mid-vespers (4:30 p.m.) are said after the bell is rung for those hours, since it is rung toward the beginning of those hours (noon and 3:00 p.m. respectively). Proper nones signifies the very beginning of nones, which is noon, the beginning of the seventh hour of the day, as Dante stresses in the next sentence.

126. but nearly eight months later     Simonelli’s text reads “months” (mesi), which I follow here (as does the most recent Chiappelli-Fenzi). The Busnelli-Vandelli reads “years” (anni). The case for mesi was sustained by Moore (Studies, IV, 110) who notes its appearance in twenty-two manuscripts, as opposed to only five with anni, and by Pézard (Dante, Oeuvres complètes, p. 250). The conceptual argument turns on the meaning of Dante’s phrase “the beginning of life.” Busnelli-Vandelli take it to mean, literally, the moment of birth. Moore and Simonelli take it to refer to the moment of conception, occurring eight months before parturition. For Simonelli the phrase “taking it [i.e., life] in the way that has been stated” refers the reader back to Chapter 21, 4-5, where Dante discusses the process of the conception of a fetus. But while Dante does delineate the soul’s acquisition of its various powers, he does not state clearly that life is conceived to begin at this point. The phrase might logically refer back to the opening of this chapter where he defines adolescence as the “increase of life.” Nevertheless the logic of the Busnelli-Vandelli is not compelling, since it leaves eight years of life unaccounted for by name, which, given Dante’s Scholastic love of completeness (“natura abhorret vaccuum”), is an improbability.

127. as Tully affirms     Cicero, De senectute V, 13.

128. longer or shorter     The various ages of each individual man, that is, will vary according to the full term of his life. The age of maturity in someone who dies at a younger age, for example, would therefore be shorter than the age specified in the ideal paradigm, whereas in someone who lives longer each of the four ages would extend, in each age, for a longer period of time.

129. about which I am presently writing     The seventh stanza of the canzone is referred to.

130. its ultimate fruit     The fruit is, as Dante has previously explained, happiness.

131. Tully     De senectute IV, 5.

132. Leaving aside     The references are to the allegorical interpretation of the Aeneid of Fulgentius, Egidius Colonna’s De regimine principum I, 4, 1 ff, and Cicero’s De officiis I, 34, 122.

133. as the text says     Again, of the seventh stanza of the canzone.

134. the meandering forest of this life     The metaphor of the forest as life and the path that leads to goodness will return, of course, in the first terza rimaof the Divine Comedy.

135. “Hear, my son . . .”     A somewhat free adaptation of Proverbs 1:8-15.

136. Solomon     Proverbs 15:31 and 13:18.

137. the Apostle     Paul, Colossians 3:20.

138. as Aristotle asserts     Ethics VIII, 1.

139. Solomon says     Proverbs 3:34.

140. Statius     Thebaid I, 395 ff. and 482 ff.

141. the above mentioned poet     Statius, Thebaid I, 527 ff.

142. as Tully says     Cicero, On Offices I, 35, 127.

143. in the same passage     Thebaid I, 671 ff.

144. the foresight of universal Nature     That is, God.

145. irascible or concupiscible     Scholastic philosophy divided all passions, or desires, into one of two opposing categories. The concupiscible appetite, which is not to be identified solely with the desire for sexual gratification, seeks to acquire or merge itself with some object of desire. The irascible appetite, which likewise is not to be thought of as relating to anger or wrath, seeks to avoid contact or propinquity with an object that repels the soul. Neither of these two kinds of appetites–and two is all that there are–should be thought of as pertaining to specific sins, for the appetite is in itself neither good nor evil. Good and evil are determined by action consequent to the enactment of the will in conjunction with the particular appetites. The image of the horseman appears repeatedly in Dante’s works: see Purg. XVIII, 95-96;Monarchia III, 16.

146. the games in Sicily     Aeneid V, 70 and 304 ff.

147. as was their custom     Aeneid VI, 166 ff.

148. as Tully says     Cicero, De senectute X, 33.

149. as Aristotle says     Dante takes this concept from St. Thomas’ Commentary on the Ethics I, 9, 112, where he says: “Homo naturaliter est animal civile.”

150. as the Philosopher says     Ethics VI, 13.

151. the gift which Solomon asked     1 Kings 3:9.

152. “Freely have you received . . .”     Matthew 10:8.

153. the council of rulers     “Senate” is derived fromsenes, “old men,” and is referred to by Cicero in De senectute VI, 19.

154. if we but carefully consider     Ethics IV, 2; De officiis I, 14, 42.

155. Tully     De officiis I, 14, 42 ff.

156. Consequently Tully     De senectute XIV, 46.

157. his people were restored     Ovid, MetamorphosesVII, 523-660, tells the story of how Aeacus appealed to Jupiter to provide restitution for his lost people and was granted his wish when Jupiter created a new race of people by turning ants into men.

158. Aeacus was generous     Metamorphoses VII, 507-511. Dante’s rendering of this passage does not square well with the original text in several places, possibly because the manuscript he was working from contained different readings, as Moore surmises (Studies in Dante, First Series [Oxford, 1896], p. 219).

159. just as Ovid sets it down     That is, without any further commentary.

160. Aristotle says     On Youth and Old Age, 17, 479a, 20-23.

161. Tully     De senectute XXIII, 83. The full title of the book is Cato Maior de senectute.

162. the most noble of the Italians     Guido da Montefeltro will later find himself placed among the fraudulent counselors in the eighth bolgia of the eighth circle of Hell (Inf. XXVII). Lancelot is consigned to the Lustful in the first circle (Inf. V).

163. St. Paul says     Romans 2:28-29.

164. Marcia returned to Cato     Pharsalia II, 326 ff.

165. call a dwarf a giant     Juvenal, Satires VIII, 1-5, 9-12, 19-20, 30-32, 51-55.

166. For this reason Tully says     The source of this aphorism, which does not appear in any of Cicero’s works, is uncertain.

167. Thomas Aquinas     This is the short title for hisSumma de veritate catholicae fidei contra Gentiles.

168. as our Lord has said     Matthew 7:6.