The Convivio, Book 3

Book Three
Canzone: “Amor, che ne la mente mi ragiona”

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Chapter 1

As I explained in the preceding book, my second love took its beginning from the compassionate countenance of a lady. Finding my life disposed toward ardor, this love later blazed up like a fire, from a small to a great flame, so that not only while I was awake but also during my sleep the light of her penetrated my mind. The magnitude of the desire to see her which Love accorded me can neither be told nor understood. I was full of desire in this manner not only of her but of all those who were in any way close to her, whether through acquaintance or kinship. How many were the nights when the eyes of others lay closed in sleep while mine were gazing intently on the dwelling of my love! Just as a spreading fire must also reveal itself externally, since it cannot possibly remain hidden, a wish to speak of love came over me which I was not entirely able to restrain. Although I was able to exercise very little control over my own counsel, nevertheless on several occasions I so nearly achieved it, either through the will of love or my own boldness, that upon reflection I concluded that in speaking of love no discourse was more fair or more profitable than that which sought to praise the person who was loved.

Three reasons brought me to this conclusion, one of which was my own love for myself, which is the beginning of all other loves, as anyone can see. For there is no more acceptable or gracious a way for a person to do honor to himself than by honoring his friend; for since there can be no friendship between those who are unalike, wherever friendship is seen likeness is understood to exist; and wherever likeness is understood to exist praise and blame go in common. From this reasoning two great lessons can be learned. One is that one should not desire any vicious person to present himself as a friend, because in this case no good opinion is formed of the one to whom this person shows himself to be a friend; the other is that no one should blame his friend in public, because he puts his finger in his own eye, if the foregoing reasoning is carefully considered.

The second reason was a desire for this friendship to be lasting. Here we must understand that, as the Philosopher says in the ninth book of the Ethics, in a friendship of persons of unequal rank there must exist, in order to preserve it, a relation between them that in some way transforms the unlikeness into likeness, as, for example, exists between a master and his servant.(1) For although the servant cannot render a like benefit to his master when he receives a benefit from him, he must nevertheless render what best he can with so much solicitude and spontaneity that what in itself is dissimilar will make itself similar by the display of good will. Once it is displayed, the friendship becomes strengthened and preserved. Therefore, considering myself inferior to this lady and finding myself benefited by her, I resolved to praise her according to the scope of my power, which, if it is not in itself similar to hers, at least shows my eager desire. For if I were able to do more, I would do so. In this way, then, my power becomes similar to that of this gentle lady.

The third reason was an argument arising from foresight. For as Boethius says, “It is not enough to see only what lies before the eyes,” that is, the present; and this is why we are given foresight, which looks beyond to what may happen in the future.(2) I say that I thought that I might perhaps be criticized for inconstancy of mind by many coming after me upon hearing that I had changed from my first love. To dispel this criticism there was no better argument than to tell who that lady was who had brought about this change in me. For by her manifest excellence we can form some idea of her virtue; and by understanding her great virtue we can perceive how any steadfastness of mind is capable of being changed by it, and consequently how I might not be judged inconstant and unsteadfast. I therefore undertook to praise this lady, and if not in a fitting manner, at least insofar as I was able; and I began by saying Love, that speaks to me within my mind.

This canzone has three principal parts. The first consists of the whole first stanza, which serves as a proem. The second consists of all three of the following stanzas, which concern what is intended to be spoken of, namely, the praise of this gentle one, of which the first begins The Sun that circles all the world. The third part consists of the fifth and last stanza in which, by addressing my words to the canzone, I resolve a certain confusion arising from it. And these three parts must be discussed in order.

Chapter 2

Beginning then with the first part, which was devised as a proem to this canzone, I say that it should be divided into three parts. For first it touches on the ineffable quality of the theme. Second, it describes my inadequacy to treat it perfectly, and this second part begins And surely I must leave aside. Finally, I excuse myself for my inadequacy, for which fault should not be found in me, and this I begin when I say And so if fault is found to mar my verse.

I say then Love, that speaks to me within my mind. Here above all we must specify who this speaker is, and the place in which he speaks. Love, taken in its true sense and subtly considered, is nothing but the spiritual union of the soul and the thing which is loved, to which union the soul of its own nature hastens quickly or slowly according to whether it is free or hindered. The reason for this natural tendency may be this: that every substantial form proceeds from its first cause, which is God, as is stated in the book On Causes, and these forms receive their diversity not from it, which is most simple, but from the secondary causes and from the matter into which it descends. Thus in the same book, in treating of the infusion of divine goodness, the following words appear: “And the goodnesses and the gifts are made diverse by the participation of the thing which receives them.”(3)Consequently, since every effect retains part of the nature of its cause (as Alpetragius says when he affirms that what is caused by a circular body must in some way be circular), every form in some way partakes of the divine nature; not that the divine nature is divided and distributed to them, but that it is shared by them in almost the same way that the nature of the Sun is shared by the other stars.(4) The nobler the form, the more it retains of this nature; consequently the human soul, which is the noblest form of all those that are generated beneath the heavens, receives more of the divine nature than any other. And since the will to exist is most natural in God–because, as we read in the book cited above, “being is the first thing, and before that there is nothing”–the human soul by nature desires with all its will to exist; and since its being depends on God and is preserved by him, it naturally longs and desires to be united with God in order to strengthen its being.

Because the divine goodness reveals itself in the goodnesses of nature, it happens that the human soul naturally unites itself with them in a spiritual manner, more quickly and more strongly as they appear the more perfect, which appearance is determined by the degree to which the soul’s power of recognition is clear or hindered. This union is what we call love, whereby we are able to know the quality of the soul within by seeing outside it those things which it loves. This love (that is, the union of my mind with this gentle lady in whom so much of the divine light was revealed to me) is that speaker of whom I speak, for thoughts were continually being born of him that would gaze upon and ponder the worth of this lady who spiritually was made one with my soul.

The place in which I say he speaks is the mind. But in saying that it is the mind we gain no better understanding of it than before, and therefore we must see what this word “mind” properly signifies. I say then that in the second book of On the Soul, the Philosopher, in distinguishing its powers, asserts that the soul has three principal powers: namely life, sensation, and reason; he also mentions motion, but this can be included with sensation, since every soul that senses, either with all the senses or with one alone, also has motion, so that motion is a power conjoined with sensation.(5) And, as he says, it is perfectly obvious that these powers are interrelated in such a way that one is the basis of the next; and the one that is the basis can exist separately by itself, but the other, which is based upon it, cannot exist separately from it. Thus the vegetative power, by which life is sustained, is the basis upon which sensation–namely sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch–rests; and this vegetative power can exist as a soul by itself, as we see in all the plants. The sensitive soul cannot exist without it: there is nothing that has sensation without being alive. This sensitive power is the basis of the intellectual power, that is, of reason. Therefore in living mortal beings the rational power is not found without the sensitive, but the sensitive is found without the other, as we see in beasts, birds, fish, and every brute animal. The soul that comprehends all these powers, and the one that is the most perfect of them all, is the human soul, which by the nobility of its highest power (that is, reason) participates in the divine nature as an everlasting intelligence. For the soul is so ennobled and divested of matter in this supreme power that the divine light shines in it as in an angel; and therefore man is called a divine living being by the philosophers. In this most noble part of the soul there exist many powers, as the Philosopher says, especially in the third book of On the Soul where he observes that there exists a power in it that is called scientific, and one that is called ratiocinative or deliberative, and with it are found certain powers–as Aristotle says in that same place–such as the inventive and the judicial. And all of these most noble powers, and the others within this excellent power, are called collectively by this name, whose meaning we desired to know: that is, “mind.” Thus it is manifest that by mind is meant the highest and noblest part of the soul.

That this was his meaning is obvious, for this mind is predicated only of man and of the divine substances, as may be clearly seen in Boethius, who predicates it first of men when he says to Philosophy: “You and God, who placed you in the minds of men,” and then to God when he says to God: “You produce all things from the supernal exemplar, you, most beautiful, bearing in your mind the beautiful world.”(6) Not only was it never predicated of brute animals, but in fact it does not seem possible or proper to predicate it of many men who seem lacking in this most perfect part; and therefore in Latin such persons are called “mindless” or “demented” (that is, without mind). So now we may see what is meant by mind, that distinguished and most precious part of the soul which is deity.(7) This is the place in which I say Love speaks to me about my lady.

Chapter 3

It is not without cause that I say that this love performs its operation in my mind, but with good reason, so that by telling of the place in which it operates we might understand what kind of love this is. Thus we should know that every thing, as has been said above, for the reason shown above, has its own special love. As the simple bodies have within themselves a natural love for their proper place–and this is why earth always inclines toward its center, why fire has a natural love of the circumference above, near the heaven of the Moon, and so always rises toward it–so the first of the compound bodies, such as minerals, have a love for the place where their generation is brought about, and there they grow and there they acquire vigor and power; thus we find that the lodestone always takes its power from the place where it was generated.(8)Plants, which are the first of the living things, have a more manifest love for certain places, according to the requirements of their constitution, and so we find that certain plants almost always take root near water, and certain others on summits of mountains, and certain others on slopes and at the foot of hills, which, if transplanted, either wholly perish or live a kind of melancholy life, as things separated from what is friendly to them. Brute animals have a more manifest love not only for places, but we find moreover that they love one another. Men have their proper love for things that are perfectly virtuous. And since man–although his whole form consists of a single substance for its nobility–has in himself a divine nature, he has the power to possess these things and all these loves, and he does possess them all. For by virtue of the nature of the simple body, which predominates in the subject, he naturally loves to move downward; and therefore when he moves his body upward, he grows more weary.(9)

By virtue of the second nature of the compound body, he loves the place, and also the season, in which he was generated. Everyone therefore is naturally of stronger body in the place where he was generated and in the season of his generation than in any other. Thus we read in the stories of Hercules–both in Ovid the Greater and in Lucan and in other poets–that when he was fighting with the giant Antaeus, whenever the giant grew weary and stretched his body along the ground, whether by his own choice or as a result of Hercules’ might, strength and vigor completely surged forth in him anew from the earth in which and from which he had been generated.(10) Hercules, perceiving this, finally seized him and, gripping him fast and lifting him off the ground, held him so long aloft without letting him touch the earth again that by overwhelming force he defeated and slew him. This battle took place in Africa, according to the testimony of these writings.

By virtue of the third nature, namely of the plants, man has a love for certain foods, not because they can be sensed, but because they are nutritious. Such foods perfect the operation of this nature, while others do not, but make it imperfect. We find therefore that certain foods make men well-built, strong-limbed, and of a healthy-looking complexion, while others bring about the contrary.

By virtue of the fourth nature, that of the animals, namely the senses, man has another love, by which he loves according to sense perception, like the beasts; and in man it is this love which has the greatest need of being controlled, because of its overwhelming power brought about especially by delight arising from taste and touch.

By virtue of the fifth and last nature, namely the truly human or, to be more precise, the angelic nature, which is to say the rational, man has a love of truth and virtue; and from this love springs true and perfect friendship, derived from what is honorable, something about which the Philosopher speaks in the eighth book of the Ethics where he discusses friendship.

Therefore since this nature is called mind, as has been shown above, I said that Love speaks within my mind, to make known that this was that love which springs from that most noble nature (that is, of truth and of virtue), and to dismiss any false opinion concerning myself on account of which it might have been suspected that my love was for sensual delight. I then say with fervent passion, to make its steadfastness and its fervor known. And I say that it “often stirs thoughts that bewilder the intellect.” I speak truly, for in speaking of her my thoughts many times desired to conclude things about her which I could not understand, and I was so bewildered that outwardly I seemed almost beside myself, like one who looks with his sight fixed along a straight line and at first sees clearly those things nearest him; then, proceeding further away, sees them less clearly; and then, still further away, is left in a state of doubt; and finally, proceeding to the furthest point of all, his vision unfocused, sees nothing.

This is one ineffable aspect of what I have taken as my theme; and, subsequently, I speak of the other when I say His speech. I say that my thoughts–which are the words of Love–“have such sweet sounds” that my soul, that is, my affection, burns to be able to tell of it with my tongue; and because I am not able to speak of it, I say that the soul therefore laments, sayingAlas, I lack the power. This is the other ineffable aspect: that is, that the tongue cannot completely follow what the intellect perceives. And I say my soul which hears and feels him: “hears” with respect to the words, and “feels” with respect to the sweetness of the sound.

Chapter 4

Now that the two ineffable aspects of this subject have been discussed, it is fitting to proceed to a discussion of the words which describe my insufficiency. I say then that my insufficiency derives from a twofold source, just as the grandeur of that lady is transcendent in a twofold manner, in the way that has been mentioned. For because of the poverty of my intellect it is necessary to leave aside much that is true about her and much that shines, as it were, into my mind, which like a transparent body receives it without arresting it; and this I say in the following clause: And surely I must leave aside. Then when I say And of what it understands I assert that my inability extends not only to what my intellect does not grasp but even to what I do understand, because my tongue lacks the eloquence to be able to express what is spoken of her in my thought. Consequently it will be apparent that what I shall say concerning the truth will be quite little. And this, upon close examination, brings great praise to her, which is my principal purpose; and that speech in which every part contributes to the principal purpose can properly be said to come from the workshop of the rhetorician. Then where it says And so if fault is found to mar my verse, I excuse myself for a fault for which I should not be blamed, since others can see that my words are inferior to the dignity of this lady. And I say that if fault is found to mar my verse–that is, in my words which are arranged to treat of her–the blame is due to the weakness of the intellect and the inadequacy of our power of speech, which is so overwhelmed by a thought that it cannot fully follow it, especially where the thought springs from love, because then the soul is stirred in a more profound manner than at other times.

Someone might object, “You excuse and accuse yourself at the same time,” for the present argument is proof of a fault and not a purging of it since the fault is laid to the power of the intellect and of speech, which are mine; for just as I must be praised for it if it is good, to the extent that it is good, so must I be blamed if it is found faulty. To this it may be answered that I do not accuse myself but rather, in fact, do excuse myself. Therefore we should know that, according to the opinion of the Philosopher in the third book of the Ethics, man is deserving of praise or blame only for those things which it is in his power to do or not to do; but in those things in which he has no power, he deserves neither blame nor praise, since both must be attributed to another person, even though these things be part of the man himself.(11) So we must not blame a man because he was born with an ugly shape, since it was not in his power to make himself attractive; we should rather blame the faulty disposition of the matter of which he is made, which was the source of nature’s fault. Likewise we should not praise a man for the attractiveness of his body which he possesses by his birth, for he was not its maker; we should rather praise the artisan (namely, human nature), which produces so much beauty in its matter when it is not hindered by it. For this reason the priest spoke aptly to the Emperor who laughed and scoffed at the ugliness of his body: “God is our Lord: He made us and not we ourselves.” These are the Prophet’s words put down in a verse of the Psalter, not a word more or less than was spoken by the priest in his response.(12) Therefore let those deformed at birth who devote their attention to adorning their person and not to perfecting their character, which dignity absolutely requires, know that this is nothing but to ornament the work of another and to neglect one’s own.

Returning then to the subject, I say that our intellect, by defect of that faculty from which it draws what it perceives, which is an organic power, namely the fantasy, cannot rise to certain things (because the fantasy cannot assist it, since it lacks the means), such as the substances separate from matter. And if we are able to have any concept of these substances, we can nevertheless neither apprehend nor comprehend them perfectly.(13) Man is not to be blamed for this, for as I say he was not the maker of this defect; rather universal nature was, that is, God, who willed that in this life we be deprived of that light. Why he should do this would be presumptuous to discuss. Consequently if my contemplation has transported me to a region where my fantasy has failed my intellect, I am not to blame for being unable to understand.

Furthermore, a limit is placed on our intelligence, on each of its operations, not by us but by universal nature; and here we should know that the bounds of our intelligence are wider for thought than for speech, and wider for speech than for signs. Therefore if our thought surpasses our speech–not only that which does not reach perfect understanding but also that which results in perfect understanding–we are not to blame, because it is not of our doing. And so I portray myself as excused when I say Cast blame on my weak intellect And on our speech, which lacks the power To say in words the things that Love relates. For good will, which is what we must consider in judging human merit, must be quite clearly visible. And this is the sense in which the first principal part of the canzone, which is at hand, should be understood.

Chapter 5

Now that a discussion of the first part has disclosed its meaning, we may properly proceed to the second, which, for the sake of clarity, will be divided into three parts, corresponding to the three stanzas which it comprises. For in the first part I praise this lady in her entirety and in general terms, regarding both her soul and her body; in the second I proceed to praise specifically the soul; in the third to praise specifically the body. The first part begins: The Sun that circles all the world; the second begins: Into her descends celestial power; the third begins: In her countenance appear such things; and these parts will be discussed in order.

It says then The Sun that circles all the world; here, in order to have a perfect understanding, we should know how the world is circled by the Sun. First I say that by the term “world” I do not here mean the whole body of the universe but only the part which, according to common parlance, consists of land and sea, for so it is usually called, just as the phrase “that man has seen the whole world” means the part consisting of land and sea. Pythagoras and his followers maintained that this world was one of the stars and that there was another opposite it that was identical, which he called Antichthon;(14) and he claimed that both were on a single sphere which turned from west to east, and that because of this revolution the Sun circled around us, and was alternately visible and invisible. He also claimed that fire was present between these two masses, asserting that it was nobler than both water and earth, and that the center was the noblest among the places of the four simple bodies; and therefore he said that fire while seeming to rise was in reality descending toward its own center. Plato, coming later, was of a different opinion and wrote, in a book of his called Timaeus, that the earth with the sea was indeed the center of everything, but that its whole globe circled its center, following the primary movement of the heavens, but very slowly because of its dense matter and its extreme distance from that movement. These opinions are repudiated in the second book ofHeaven and Earth as false by that glorious philosopher to whom nature most revealed her secrets; and there he proves that this world, that is the earth, stands in itself still and forever fixed. It is not my intention here to relate the proofs that Aristotle gives in order to refute those men and affirm the truth, because it is quite enough for those whom I am addressing to know on his great authority that this earth is fixed and does not turn, and that with the sea it is the center of heaven.

The heavens revolve around this center continuously, as we observe; in this revolution there must necessarily be two fixed poles and one circle equidistant from them which revolves with the greatest speed. Of these two poles one, namely the northern one, is visible to almost all the uncovered land; the other, namely the southern one, is hidden from almost all the uncovered land. The circle that is understood to lie midway between them is that part of the heavens beneath which the sun revolves when it moves with the Ram and with the Scales. Thus we should know that if a stone were dropped from our pole it would fall precisely out there in the ocean on a crest of the sea in such a way that were an observer present, the polar star would always be directly above his head (and I believe that the distance from Rome to this spot, moving due north, would be almost 2600 miles, or a little less).

In order to visualize this more clearly, let us imagine, then, that a city lies on the spot that I have mentioned and that its name is Mary. I say further that if a stone were dropped from the other pole (that is, the southern one), it would fall on a crest of the ocean which is exactly opposite Mary on this globe (and I believe that the distance from Rome to the place where this second stone would fall, moving due south, would be 7500 miles, or a little less). And here let us imagine another city, with the name of Lucy. The distance between the one and the other, from whichever side the cord is drawn, would be 10,200 miles–half the circumference of this entire globe, so that the inhabitants of Mary would consequently have their feet opposite those of the inhabitants of Lucy. Let us also imagine a circle on this globe which is at every point as far from Mary as from Lucy. I believe that this circle–as I understand from the teachings of the astrologers, and from those of Albert the Great in his book Of the Nature of Places and the Properties of the Elements, and also from the testimony of Lucan in his ninth book–would divide this uncovered land from the Ocean on the southern side, almost along the entire extremity of the first climatic zone where, among other people, the Garamantes dwell (who are almost always naked), to whom Cato came with the people of Rome when he fled the rule of Caesar.(15)

Having marked out these three places on this globe, we can easily see how the Sun circles it.(16) I say then that the heaven of the Sun revolves from west to east, not directly counter to the diurnal movement (that is, that of day and night) but obliquely counter to it; so that this ecliptic, which lies equidistantly from its poles, on which is situated the body of the Sun, cuts the equator of the two primary poles into two opposing regions, that is, at the beginning point of the Ram and at the beginning point of the Scales, and diverges from it along two arcs, one toward the north and the other toward the south. The points marking the centers of these arcs are equidistant from the first circle on either side by 23 � degrees; and one point is the beginning point of Cancer, and the other is the beginning point of Capricorn. Therefore when the Sun passes beneath the equator of the primary poles, Mary must necessarily see the Sun, at the beginning point of the Ram, circling around the world, below the earth, or rather the Ocean, like a millstone not more than half of whose mass can be seen; and this she sees rising upward like the screw of a press, until it completes a little more than 91 revolutions.(17) When these revolutions are completed, its elevation with respect to Mary is almost the same as it is with respect to us on earth in between, when day and night are equal.

If a man were standing upright in Mary, with his face turned continually to the sun, he would see it moving toward his righthand side. Then along the same path it seems to descend another ninety-one revolutions and a little more, until it has circled entirely around, below the earth, or rather the Ocean, only partially showing itself; and then it is hidden and Lucy begins to see it, and sees it rising and descending around her with just as many revolutions as Mary sees. And if a man were standing upright in Lucy, with his face turned continually toward the Sun, he would see it moving toward his lefthand side. Thus it can be perceived that these places have a day six months long each year and a night of the same length; and when one has day, the other has night.

It also obtains, as has been said, that the circle on which the Garamantes dwell on this globe must see the Sun circling directly above it, not like a millstone but like a wheel, only half of which it can see from any given point as it passes beneath the Ram. And then it sees it moving away from itself and approaching Mary for a little more than 91 days, and return toward itself in the same period; and then, when it has returned, it passes beneath the Scales, and again moves away and approaches Lucy for a little more than 91 days, and returns in as many. This place, which encompasses the entire globe, always has its day equal to its night, whether the Sun passes on this or on that side of it; and twice a year it has an extremely hot summer, and two mild winters.

It further obtains that the two spaces which lie between the two imaginary cities and the equator must see the Sun differently according as they are further from or closer to these places, as may now, by what has been said, be evident to anyone who has a noble mind, of which it is well to demand some little effort. Thus we may now see that by divine provision the world is so ordered that when the sphere of the Sun has revolved and returned to its starting place this globe on which we dwell receives in every place an equal time of light and darkness.

O ineffable wisdom who has so ordained, how poorly does our mind comprehend you! And you, for whose benefit and delight I am writing, in what blindness do you live, not lifting your eyes up to these things but rather fixing them in the mire of your foolish ignorance!

Chapter 6

In the preceding chapter it has been shown in what manner the Sun makes its revolution, so that now we may proceed to explain the meaning of the part with which we are concerned. I say then that in this part I begin first to praise this lady in comparison to other things; and I say that the Sun, circling the world, sees nothing so noble as she, from which it follows that she is, according to these words, the noblest of all the things on which the Sun shines. I say in that hour; here we must know that the word “hour” is understood by the astrologers in two ways. One is when day and night make 24 hours, that is, 12 for day and 12 for night, whether the day is long or short; and these hours become short or long during day or night as day and night wax and wane. The church uses these hours when it speaks of Prime, Tierce, Sext, and Nones, and they are called the temporal hours. The other is when, in allotting 12 hours for day and night, the day at times has 15 hours and the night 9, and at times the night has 16 and the day 8, according to how day and night wax and wane; and these are called equal hours. At the equinox both these hours and those which are called temporal are one and the same, because with day being equal to night such must be the case.

Then when I say Every Intelligence admires her from above, I praise her without reference to anything else. I say that the Intelligences of heaven admire her and that those who are noble down here think of her when they must have that which delights them. Here we must know that every Intelligence above, according to what is written in the book Of Causes, knows what is above itself and what is below itself.(18) It therefore knows God as its cause and it knows what is below itself as its effect; and because God is the most universal cause of all things, by knowing him it knows all things, according to the measure of its intelligence. Hence all the Intelligences know the human form insofar as it is determined by intention within the divine mind. The Intelligences who move the spheres know it best because they are the most immediate cause of it and of every generated form, and they know the most perfect divine form, insofar as possible, as their paradigm and exemplar. And if the human form is not perfect when reproduced in individual beings, it is not the fault of the exemplar but of the material which furnishes individuality. Therefore when I say Every Intelligence admires her from above, I mean only that she is created as the intentional exemplar of the human essence which is in the divine mind, and hence in all other minds, above all in these angelic minds which along with the heavens fashion these things here below.

To confirm this, I add by way of saying And those down here who are in love. Here it should be known that each thing most of all desires its own perfection, and in this it satisfies all of its desires, and for the sake of this each thing is desired. It is this desire that always makes every delight seem defective to us, for no delight in this life is so great as to be able to take away the thirst such that the desire just mentioned does not still remain in our thought. Since this lady is indeed that perfection, I say that those who here below receive the greatest delight when they are most at peace find this lady then in their thought, because she is, I affirm, as supremely perfect as the human essence can be. Then when I say Her being so pleases God who gave it to her, I show that not only is this lady the most perfect in the realm of human beings, but perfect more than most in that she receives more of the divine goodness than what is due to man. Consequently we may reasonably believe that just as every craftsman loves his best work more than any other, so God loves the best human being more than any other. Since his generosity is not restricted by the necessity of any limitation, his love does not consider what is due to him who receives, but surpasses it through the gift and benefaction of virtue and of grace. This is why I say here that God himself, who gives being to her for the love of her perfection, infuses a part of his goodness in her beyond the limits of what is due to our nature.

Then when I say Her pure soul, I give proof of what has been said by testimony provided by the senses. Here we should know that, as the Philosopher says in the second book of On the Soul, the soul actualizes the body;(19) and if it actualizes the body, it is its cause. Since every cause, as is stated in the book Of Causes already cited, infuses into its effect a part of the goodness which it receives from its own cause, the soul infuses into and gives to its body a part of the goodness of its own cause, which is God.(20) Consequently since wonderful things are perceived in her, as regards her bodily part, to the point that they make all those who look on her desirous to see these things, it is evident that her form (that is, her soul), which directs the body as its proper cause, miraculously receives the goodness of God’s grace. Thus outward appearance provides proof that this lady has been endowed and ennobled by God beyond what is due to our nature, which as has been said above is most perfect in her. This is the entire literal meaning of the first part of the second principal section.

Chapter 7

Having praised this lady in a general way with respect to her soul as well as her body, I proceed to praise her in particular with respect to her soul, and first I praise her according as her goodness is great in itself, and then I praise her according as her goodness is great in affecting others and in bringing benefit to the world. This second part begins where I say Of her it can be said. So first I say Into her descends celestial power.

Here we should know that the divine goodness descends into all things, for otherwise they could not exist. But although this goodness springs from the simplest principle, it is received diversely, in greater or lesser measure, by those things which receive it. Thus it is written in the book Of Causes: “The primal goodness makes his goodnesses flow upon all things with a single flowing.”(21) Each thing indeed receives of this flowing forth according to the measure of its virtue and of its being, and we find visible evidence of this in the Sun. We see the Sun’s light, derived from one source, received diversely by diverse bodies, as Albert says in his book On the Intellect.(22) For certain bodies, because of the high degree of transparent clearness instilled within them, become so luminous as soon as the sun sees them that by multiplying the light within themselves and in their aspect they cast forth a great splendor upon other bodies, as do gold and other stones.

There are others which, because they are entirely transparent, not only receive the light but do not impede it, and rather transmit it to other things, colored with their own color. And there are others so surpassing in the purity of their transparency as to become so radiant that they overwhelm the eye’s equilibrium and cannot be looked upon without their causing discomfort to one’s eyesight, as is the case with mirrors. Still others are so lacking in transparency that they receive scarcely any light at all, as is the case with the earth. Thus God’s goodness is received in one way by the separate substances (that is, by the Angels), who have no material dimension and are, as it were, transparent by virtue of the purity of their form; and in another way by the human soul, which is partly free from matter and partly impeded by it, like a man who is entirely in the water except for his head, of whom it cannot be said that he is entirely in the water or entirely out of it; and in another by the animals, whose souls are entirely confined to matter, but are nevertheless somewhat ennobled; and in another by the plants; and in another by the minerals; and by the earth in a way different from that of the other elements, because it is the most material, and therefore the most remote from and the most out of proportion with the first, most simple, and most noble virtue, which alone is intellectual, namely, God.

Although only the general gradations are set down here, we could nevertheless set down the particular gradations: that is, that among human souls one receives goodness differently from another. And since in the intellectual order of the universe the ascent and descent are almost by continuous gradations from the lowest form to the highest and from the highest to the lowest, as we see in the order of beings capable of sensation; and since between the angelic nature, which is intellectual being, and the human nature there is no gradation but rather the one is, as it were, continuous with the other by the order of gradation; and since between the human soul and the most perfect soul of the brute animals there is also no intermediary gradation, so it is that we see many men so vile and in such a state of baseness that they seem to be almost nothing but beasts. Consequently it must be stated and firmly believed that there are some so noble and so lofty in nature that they are almost nothing but angels, for otherwise the human species would not be continuous in both directions, which is impossible. Beings like these Aristotle, in the seventh book of the Ethics, calls divine, and such, I say, is this lady, for the divine virtue descends into her just as it descends into an angel.(23)

Then when I say And if some gentle lady disbelieves this, I substantiate this by the experience that may be had of her in those operations that are proper to the rational soul, into which the divine light radiates most freely: that is, in speech and in those gestures which are customarily called bearing and conduct. Here we should know that among the animals man alone speaks and has conduct and gestures which are called rational, because he alone has reason within himself. If anyone were to speak to the contrary by claiming that certain birds speak, as seems true of some, especially the magpie and the parrot, and that certain beasts perform gestures or possess bearing, as seems the case with the ape and some others, I reply that it is not true that they speak or that they possess bearing because they do not possess reason, from which these things must necessarily proceed; nor is the principle of these operations within them, nor do they know what they are, nor do they intend to signify anything by them, but rather only reproduce what they see and hear. Hence just as an image of bodies is reproduced in some shining body, as for instance in a mirror, and hence the corporeal image which the mirror displays is not real, so the image of reason, namely the gestures and speech which the brute animal reproduces or displays, is not real.

I say that “if some gentle lady disbelieves what I say let her walk with her and mark her gestures”–I do not say “any man,” because experience can be acquired more decorously from the example of women than from that of men–and I tell what she will hear concerning her, by describing the effect of her speech and the effect of her bearing. For her speech, by its loftiness and its sweetness, engenders in the mind of him who hears it a thought of love, which I call a celestial spirit because its origin is from above and from above comes its meaning, as has already been related, from which thought proceeds the firm conviction that this is a miraculous lady of virtue. And her gestures, by their sweetness and their gracefulness, cause love to awaken and be felt wherever some part of its power is sown in a good nature. This natural sowing is performed as is shown in the following book.(24)

Then when I say Of her it can be said I mean to describe how the goodness and the virtue of her soul are good and of benefit to others, and first how she is of benefit to other ladies, adding, Gentle is in woman what is found in her, where I present a manifest example to women, by gazing upon which they may make themselves, by following it, appear gentle. Secondly, I relate how she is of benefit to all people, saying that her countenance aids our faith, which more than any other thing is of benefit to the human race, since it is that by which we escape eternal death and gain eternal life. It helps our faith, for since the principal foundation of our faith consists of the miracles performed by him who was crucified–who created our reason and willed it to be less than his power–and performed later in his name by his saints; and since many are so stubborn that they are doubtful of these miracles, owing to their beclouded vision, and cannot believe in any miracle without having visible proof of it, and since this lady is visibly a miraculous thing, of which the eyes of men may have daily proof, and which makes it possible for us to believe in the other miracles, it is evident that this lady, with her wonderful countenance, aids our faith. Therefore I say, lastly, that by eternity (that is, eternally), she was ordained in the mind of God in testimony of the faith to those who live in these times.

And so ends the second part of the second principal section according to the literal meaning.

Chapter 8

Among all the creations of divine wisdom man is the most wonderful, if we consider how the divine power has conjoined three natures in a single form and how subtly his body must be harmonized, having within that form organs for almost all of its powers.(25) Consequently, because of the great degree of harmony required for so many organs to be in proper accord with each other, there are few within the great number of men that exist who are perfect. If this created being is so wonderful, we ought certainly to approach the treatment of its conditions with fear, not only in words but even in thought.

Here these words from Ecclesiasticus stand as a warning: “Who has sought out the wisdom of God that goes before all things?” as do those that admonish: “Do not seek the things that are too high for you, nor search into things that lie beyond your ken, but rather think upon the things that God has commanded, and further about his works do not be curious” (that is, inquisitive).(26) I, therefore, who intend in this third section to speak of some of the conditions of this being (insofar as sensible beauty appears in her body by virtue of the goodness in her soul), propose with fear and lack of confidence to begin to untie, if not entirely, at least some part of this great knot. I say then that since we have explained the meaning of the section in which this lady is praised with respect to her soul, we must proceed to consider how, when saying In her countenance appear such things, I praise her with respect to her body. And I say that in her countenance appear things which reveal some of the delights of Paradise. Among them the most noble and the one that is established as the end of all of the others is to achieve happiness, and this is the same as to be blessed. This delight is truly found in the countenance of this lady, although in another way; for, by gazing upon her people become happy, so sweetly does her beauty feed the eyes of those who behold her, although in another way than by the happiness of Paradise that is everlasting, which this cannot be for anyone.

Since someone might ask where this wonderful delight appears in her, I distinguish in her person two parts in which the expression of human pleasure and displeasure are most evident. And so we must know that in whatever part the soul most performs its work, it is this that it is most determined to adorn and at which it works most subtly. So we find that in human faces, where it performs more of its work than in any other external part, it shapes so subtly that, by refining there as much as the material will permit, no one face is like any other, because the ultimate power of the material, which is somewhat different in everyone, is here reduced to actuality.(27) And since in the face the soul operates principally in two places (because in those two places all three natures have jurisdiction, each in its own way)–that is, in the eyes and in the mouth–it adorns these most of all and directs its full attention to creating beauty there, as far as possible. It is in these two places that I maintain these delights appear, saying in her eyes and in her sweet smile.

These two places may be called, by way of a charming metaphor, the balconies of the lady who dwells in the edifice of the body, which is to say the soul, because here, though in a veiled manner, she often reveals herself. She reveals herself in the eyes so clearly that the emotion present in her may be recognized by anyone who gazes at them intently. Consequently given that there are six emotions proper to the human soul, of which the Philosopher makes mention in his book on Rhetoric (namely, grace, zeal, pity, envy, love, and shame), by none of these can the soul become impassioned without its semblance appearing at the window of the eyes, unless by exercise of great force it is kept closed within.(28) For this reason some in times past have put out their eyes, so that their shame within should not appear without, as the poet Statius remarks of Oedipus of Thebes when he states that “with eternal night he freed himself from his guilty shame.”(29)

The soul reveals herself in the mouth, almost like a color behind glass. What is laughter if not a coruscation of the soul’s delight–that is, a light appearing outwardly just as it is within? It is therefore fitting that in order to show one’s soul to be of moderate cheer one should laugh in moderation, with proper reserve and little movement of the lips, so that the lady who then reveals herself, as has been said, may appear modest and not wanton. Consequently the Book of the Four Cardinal Virtues charges us: “Do not let your laughter become strident,” that is, like the cackling of a hen. Ah, wonderful smile of my lady of whom I speak, which has never been perceived except by the eye!(30)

I say that Love brings these things to her there as to their proper place.(31) Here love can be considered in two ways. First, as the special love of the soul for these places; second, as the universal love which disposes things to be loved and which disposes the soul to adorn these parts. Then when I say They overwhelm our intellect, I excuse myself for seeming to say little about such great excellence of beauty when treating of it; and I say that I observe little about it for two reasons. One is that these things which appear in her countenance overwhelm our intellect (the human one, that is); and I tell how this overwhelming occurs, which is in the same way that the sun overwhelms feeble vision, but not a strong and healthy one. The other is that our intellect cannot gaze on it intently, because by so doing the soul becomes intoxicated, so that immediately after gazing it goes astray in all of its operations.

Then when I say Her beauty rains down little flames of fire, I undertake to describe beauty’s effect, since it is impossible to describe the beauty itself completely. Here we must know that all those things which surpass our intellect, so that it cannot perceive what they are, are most suitably described by means of their effects; and thus by approaching God, the separate substances, and the first matter in this way, we can gain some understanding of them. This is why I say that the beauty of this lady rains down little flames of fire (that is, the ardor of love and of charity) enkindled by a gentle spirit (that is, an ardor taking the form of a gentle spirit, namely right appetite, by and from which springs the origin of good thoughts). And it does not do only this, but also undoes and destroys its opposite, namely the innate vices that are the principal enemies of good thoughts.

Here we must understand that there are certain vices in man to which he is by nature predisposed–as, for instance, certain men of choleric temperament are predisposed to wrath–and such vices as these are innate (that is, part of our nature). Others are vices of habit, for which habit and not temperament is to blame, as, for instance, intemperance, especially in wine; these vices are avoided and overcome by good habit, and by it a man becomes virtuous so that his moderation requires no effort, as the Philosopher says in the second book of the Ethics.(32) However, there is this difference between the natural passions and those of habit: those of habit disappear completely by exercise of good habit, because their source, namely bad habit, is destroyed by its opposite; but the natural passions, whose source lies in the nature of the person who experiences the passion, though they are much lightened by good habit, do not disappear completely so far as regards their first movement, but do completely disappear so far as their permanence is concerned, because habit is not equivalent to nature, within which these passions have their source. Therefore the man who directs himself and governs his bad nature against the impulse of nature is more praiseworthy than one who, having a good nature, maintains his good conduct or returns to the right way after straying from it, just as it is more praiseworthy to control a bad horse than one that has no vice.

I say then that these little flames which rain down from her beauty, as has been said, destroy the innate vices (that is, those that are part of our nature), to make it understood that her beauty has the power to renew nature in those who gaze upon it, which is a miraculous thing. And this confirms what has been said above in the other chapter, when I say that she is an aid to our faith.

Finally, when I say And so let every woman who hears her beauty, I disclose, under the pretense of admonishing someone else, the end for which such beauty was made. And I say that any lady who hears her beauty slighted for some defect should gaze upon this most perfect example, for it is understood that such beauty was created there not only to improve the good, but even to turn something bad into something good. At the end I add Conceived by him who set the heavens in motion, that is, God, to make it understood that nature produced such an effect by divine intention. And so ends the entire second main section of this canzone.

Chapter 9

Now that the two parts of this canzone have first been explained, as was my intention, the order of the present book requires that we proceed to the third part, in which I intend to clear the canzone of an allegation that might have been unfavorable to it. What I am speaking of is this: that before I came to compose it, when it seemed to me that this lady had become somewhat proud and haughty toward me, I wrote a little ballata in which I called this lady proud and pitiless, which appears to contradict what is said of her above.(33) Therefore I turn to the canzone and under the pretense of teaching her how she must excuse herself, I excuse her; to address inanimate things in this way is a figure of speech, one which the rhetoricians call prosopopoeia and which the poets use quite frequently. This third part begins My song, it seems you speak contrary. In order for the meaning of this part to be more easily understood, I will divide it into three sections. For first is stated what requires excusing; then we proceed to the excuse, when I say You know the sky; finally I address the canzone as a person who is instructed in what to do, when I say So excuse yourself, should the need arise.

So first I say: “My song, who speak of this lady with so much praise, it seems that you are contrary to one of your sisters.” I use the word “sister” as a metaphor: for just as we call sister a woman who is born of the same parent, so may one call sister a work that is made by the same maker, for our work is, in a certain sense, begotten. And I explain why she seems contrary to her, saying: “You present her as humble, and the other presents her as proud,” that is, proud and disdainful, which is the same thing.

Having set forth this allegation, I proceed to the excuse by means of an example in which the truth is at times in conflict with appearance and at others can be viewed from different perspectives. I say You know the sky is always bright and clear (that is, it always possesses brightness), but for certain reasons we are sometimes allowed to speak of it as being dark. Here we should know that properly speaking only color and light are visible, as Aristotle asserts in the second book of On the Soul and in On Sense and Sensibles.(34) It is true that other things are visible, but not properly speaking, because some other sense perceives them, so that they cannot properly be said to be visible, nor, properly, tangible; and such are shape, size, number, movement, and state of rest, which we call common sensibles, things that we perceive by more than one sense. But color and light are, properly speaking, visible because we apprehend them by sight alone and by no other sense. These visible things, the proper as well as the common, insofar as they are visible, enter into the eye–I do not mean the things themselves but their forms–through the diaphanous medium, not as matter but as an image, just as through transparent glass.(35) The passage that the visible form makes through this medium is completed in the water within the pupil of the eye, because that water has a boundary–almost like a mirror, which is glass backed by lead–so that it cannot pass beyond but is arrested there like a ball that is stopped when struck, so that the form, which cannot be seen in the transparent medium, here appears lucid where it is arrested. This is why an image is seen in leaded glass, and not in any other kind of glass. The visual spirit, which passes from the pupil to the front part of the brain where the principal source of the sensitive power resides, instantaneously reproduces the form, without any lapse of time, and thus we see. And so for vision to be true (that is to say, to be able to see a thing precisely as it is in itself), the medium through which the form reaches the eye must be colorless, and so too the water of the eye; otherwise the visible form would be tinged with the color of the medium as well as that of the pupil. For this reason those who want to make things appear to take on a particular color in a mirror place something having that color between the glass and the lead, so that the glass is suffused by it. Plato and other philosophers, however, said that our sight was not a result of the visible entering the eye but of the visual power going out to the visible, but this opinion is rejected as false by the Philosopher in his book On Sense and Sensibles.

Now that we have examined the way in which vision takes place, it may easily be seen that although a star is uniformly bright and shining and undergoes no change except that of local movement, as is proved in the book Of Heaven and Earth, for many reasons it may have the appearance of not being bright and shining. It may have this appearance by reason of the medium, which is continually changing. This medium changes from greater light to lesser light, as with the presence or absence of the sun; and with its presence the medium, which is diaphanous, is so full of light that it overpowers the star and therefore no longer appears to shine. This medium also changes from rare to dense and from dry to moist, by reason of the vapors which are continually rising from the earth. By these effects, this medium changes the image of the star which comes through it, creating darkness when dense and color when moist or dry.

It may have this appearance also by reason of the visual organ (namely the eye), which because of illness or fatigue undergoes change, acquiring a certain coloration and a certain feebleness, as when it often happens that because the membrane of the pupil has become thoroughly bloodshot as a result of some impairment brought about by illness, things have the appearance of being completely red, and so that star seems to acquire color. And because the sight is weakened, some deterioration of the visual spirit takes place, so that things do not seem in focus but blurred, almost as our writing does on damp paper. This is why many, when they wish to read, hold the writing at a distance from their eyes, so that the image may enter the eye more easily and more sharply; in this way writing is made clearer to their vision. And so a star may likewise seem blurred. I had experience of this in the very year in which this canzone was born, for by greatly straining my vision through assiduous reading I weakened my visual spirits so much that the stars seemed to me completely overcast by a kind of white haze.(36) But by resting at length in dark and cool places and by cooling the surface of my eyes with clear water, I regained that power which had undergone deterioration, so that I returned to my former state of healthy vision. And so we see that there are may causes, for the reasons noted above, why a star may appear otherwise than it is.

Chapter 10

Leaving behind this digression, which was necessary to clarify the truth, I return to the subject and say that just as our eyes “call” (that is, judge) a star at times otherwise than it is in its true state, so this little ballata considered this lady according to her appearance, which was not in accord with the truth by reason of the infirmity of the soul, which was impassioned by excessive desire. I make this clear when I say For my soul was full of fear, so much so that what I saw in her presence seemed frightening to me. Here we must know that the more closely the agent is united with the patient the stronger is the passion, as may be understood from statements made by the Philosopher in his book On Generation;(37) thus the nearer the object desired comes to him who desires it, the stronger is his desire; and the more the soul is impassioned, the more closely it is united with the concupiscible appetite, and the more it abandons reason, so that it then judges a person not as a human being but almost as a lower animal, according to appearances only, without discerning the truth. This is why a countenance which in truth is noble can seem to us disdainful and proud. It was according to a judgment of the senses of this kind that this little ballata spoke. Thus it may be clearly understood that this canzone, by being in disagreement with the little ballata, considers this lady according to the truth. It is not without reason that I say when she casts her gaze on me, and not when I cast my gaze on her. In saying this I wish to make evident the great power that her eyes had over me, for their rays passed through every part of me as if I had been transparent. Natural and supernatural reasons might be cited to explain this. But let suffice what has been said here: I shall speak about this further in a more appropriate place.

Then when I say So excuse yourself, should the need arise, I compel the canzone, for the reasons mentioned above, “to excuse itself where it is necessary” (that is, wherever anyone is in doubt because of this contradiction). This is to say only that whoever finds himself in doubt about this–about the disagreement between this canzone and the little ballata–should reflect on the reason that has been given. A rhetorical figure of this kind is highly praiseworthy and even necessary, namely when the words are addressed to one person and the meaning to another; for words of admonition are always praiseworthy and necessary, though not always becoming on the lips of everyone. Thus when a son is aware of his father’s vice, and when a subject is aware of his master’s vice, and when a friend knows that by admonishing him he would increase his friend’s shame or diminish his reputation, or knows that his friend loses his patience and becomes incensed when admonished, this figure is extremely beautiful and useful and may be called “dissimulation.” It is like the action of an experienced soldier who attacks a fortress on one side in order to dislodge the defense from the other, for the relief is not applied to the site of the battle.

I also compel this canzone to ask permission of this lady to speak of her. Here we should understand that one ought not to be so presumptuous as to praise another without first carefully considering whether it would please the person praised; for often a person, either through fault of the speaker or through that of the listener, believes he is conferring praise on someone when in fact he is laying blame. Therefore in this matter it is necessary to use great discretion; and this discretion is, as it were, an asking of permission, in the way in which I summon this canzone to ask for it.

This brings to a close the entire literal meaning of this book. The arrangement of the work requires therefore that we now proceed, in search of truth, to the allegorical exposition.

Chapter 11

Returning again to the beginning, as the order requires, I say that this lady is that lady of the intellect who is called Philosophy. But since praise naturally instills one with a desire to know the person praised, and since to know a thing means to understand what it is, considered in itself and with respect to all of its causes, as the Philosopher says at the beginning of the Physics, and since this is not made explicit by the name, although this is what it signifies, as is stated in the fourth book of the Metaphysics, where it is said that a definition is that conception which a name signifies, it is necessary at this point, before proceeding with further demonstrations of her praises, to say what this thing is which is called philosophy–that is to say, what this name signifies.(38) Later, after this has been made explicit, we will be able to treat the present allegory more effectively. I will first say who first gave this name; then I will proceed to its meaning.

I say then that long ago in Italy, around the beginning of the foundation of Rome, which as Paul Orosius states was more or less 750 years before the coming of our Saviour, about the time of Numa Pompilius, second king of the Romans, there lived a very noble philosopher by the name of Pythagoras. That he lived in this period Titus Livy seems incidentally to indicate in the first part of his book.(39) Before him those who sought knowledge were not called philosophers but wise men, as were the seven sages of antiquity, whose fame is still renowned, the first of whom was called Solon, the second Chilon, the third Periander, the fourth Cleobulus, the fifth Lindius, the sixth Bias, and the seventh Prieneus. When Pythagoras was asked whether he considered himself a wise man, refused to accept the appellation for himself and said that he was not a wise man but a lover of wisdom. So it came to pass after this that everyone dedicated to wisdom was called a “lover of wisdom,” that is, a “philosopher,” for philos in Greek means the same as “love” in Latin, and so we say philos for lover and sophos for wisdom, from which we can perceive that these two words make up the name of “philosopher,” meaning “lover of wisdom,” which, we might note, is not a term of arrogance but of humility. From this word was derived the name of the act proper to it, “philosophy,” just as from “friend” was derived the name of the act proper to it, namely “friendship.” Thus we may see, considering the meaning of the first and second words, that philosophy is nothing but “friendship for wisdom” or “for knowledge”; consequently in a certain sense everyone can be called a “philosopher,” according to the natural love which engenders in everyone the desire to know.

But since the essential passions are common to all mankind, we do not speak of them by using a term that distinguishes one person from another on the basis of his participation in that essence.(40) Consequently when we speak of John as a friend of Martin, we do not intend to signify simply the natural friendship by which everyone is a friend to everyone but the friendship which is engendered over and above that which is natural, and which is proper and characteristic of individual persons. Thus no one is called a philosopher by reason of the common love of knowledge. According to Aristotle’s definition in the eighth book of the Ethics, one is called a friend whose friendship is not hidden from the person loved, and to whom the person loved is also a friend, so that good will is present on both sides; and this must spring from utility, pleasure, or worthiness.(41) And so for someone to be a philosopher there must be a love of wisdom which engenders good will on the one side, and there must be devotion and dedication which engender goodwill on the other side too, so that intimacy and a demonstration of good will can arise between them. This is why anyone lacking love and devotion cannot be called a philosopher, for both must be present. And just as friendship founded on pleasure or utility is not true friendship but friendship by accident, as the Ethics demonstrates, so philosophy founded on pleasure or utility is not true philosophy but philosophy by accident. We must therefore not give the name of philosopher to anyone who for the sake of pleasure is a friend of wisdom with respect to only one of its parts, as are many who take pleasure in listening to canzoni and in devoting their time to them, and who take pleasure in studying Rhetoric or Music but shun and abandon the other sciences, all of which are branches of wisdom. Nor should we give the name of true philosopher to anyone who is a friend of wisdom for the sake of utility, as are jurists, physicians, and almost all those belonging to religious orders, who study not in order to gain knowledge but to secure financial rewards or high office; and if anyone were to give them what they seek to gain, they would not persevere in their study. And just as among the kinds of friendship that which exists for the sake of utility can least of all be called friendship, so these I have mentioned share the name of philosopher less than any of the others. Consequently just as friendship founded on worthiness is true, perfect, and lasting, so true and perfect philosophy is that which is engendered by worthiness alone, without ulterior motives, and by the goodness of the friendly soul, which is to say, by right desire and right reason.

So now we can say here that as true friendship among men exists when each person loves the other in full measure, so the true philosopher loves every part of wisdom, and wisdom every part of the philosopher, since she draws him to herself in full measure and does not allow his thoughts to stray to other things. This is why wisdom herself says in the Proverbs of Solomon: “I love those who love me.”(42) And just as true friendship, conceived abstractly apart from the mind and considered solely in itself, has as its subject the knowledge of virtuous action and as its form the desire for it, so philosophy, apart from the soul, considered in itself, has as its subject understanding, and as its form an almost divine love for what is to be understood. And just as the efficient cause of true love is virtue, so the efficient cause of philosophy is truth; and just as the end of true friendship is delight in what is good, which proceeds from living together according to what is proper to humanity (that is, according to reason, as Aristotle seems to hold in the ninth book of the Ethics), so the end of philosophy is that most excellent delight which suffers no cessation or imperfection, namely true happiness, which is acquired through the contemplation of truth. So it may now be seen who this lady of mine is, by means of all her causes and her objective reality, and why she is called Philosophy, and who is the true philosopher and who the philosopher by accident.(43)

But since sometimes when the mind is excited by a certain fervor the subject in which both the actions and passions terminate is called by the name of the action or passion itself–as Vergil does in the second book of the Aeneid when he has Aeneas call Hector “O light” (which is an action) and “the hope of the Trojans” (which is a passion), even though he was neither a light nor a hope but rather the source from which the light of counsel came to them and the object in which they placed all their hope of salvation; and Statius does when he says in the fifth book of the Thebaid, where Hypsipyle speaks to Archemorus: “O comfort of my estate and of my lost fatherland, O honor of my servitude”; and we do ourselves daily when, pointing to a friend, we say “See my friendship,” or when a father calls his son “My love”–by longstanding custom the sciences on which Philosophy most fervently fixes her gaze are called by her name, as, for example, Natural Science, Ethics, and Metaphysics, the last of which is called the First Philosophy because she fixes her gaze on it out of the greatest necessity and with the greatest fervor.(44) Thus we can see how the sciences are in a secondary sense called Philosophy.

Since we have seen what the primary and true Philosophy is in her very essence–which is the lady of whom I speak–and how her noble name has by custom been extended to encompass the sciences, I will proceed with her praises.

Chapter 12

The cause which moved me to compose this canzone has been so fully explained in the first chapter of this book that there is no need to explain it further, because it may very easily be deduced from the exposition that has already been given. Therefore I will go through the literal exposition, according to the divisions already made, translating the literal meaning into the allegorical where necessary.

I say Love that speaks to me within my mind. By “love” I mean the study which I gave to acquiring the love of this lady. Here we should know that “study” may be considered in two ways: one is the study that leads a man to acquire the habit of an art or a science, the other the study that he employs, by making use of it, once the habit is acquired. And it is the former which I here call “love,” which formed in my mind unceasing, novel, and very profound reflections on this lady who has been the subject of the demonstration above; for this is what study, which sets about acquiring a friendship, is accustomed to do, because by virtue of desiring it study from the beginning reflects on the great things of friendship. This is that study and affection which in men customarily precede the birth of friendship, when love has already been born on one side and desires and seeks to engender it on the other; for, as has been said above, Philosophy exists when the soul and wisdom have become such friends that each is wholly loved by the other, as in the manner stated above. Nor is it necessary in the present exposition to continue to explain the first stanza, which was explained as a proem in the literal exposition, because by means of the first explanation it is very easy to arrive at an understanding of the second.

Hence we must proceed to the second stanza, which constitutes the beginning of the book, where I say The Sun that circles all the world. Here we should know that just as it is appropriate to treat of things not perceptible by the senses by way of things that are perceptible, so it is appropriate to treat of things that are not intelligible by way of things that are intelligible. And so just as in the literal exposition we began by speaking of the material and perceptible Sun, so now we must begin by speaking of the spiritual and intelligible Sun, which is God.

Nothing in the universe perceptible by the senses is more worthy to be made the symbol of God than the Sun, which illuminates with perceptible light first itself and then all the celestial and elemental bodies; therefore God illuminates with intellectual light first himself and then the celestial creatures and all other intelligent beings. The Sun with its heat gives life to all things, and if some are destroyed by it, this does not result from the intention of the cause but is, rather, an accidental effect. Likewise God gives life to all things in goodness, and if any is evil, this does not result from the divine intention, but must, because this is so, come about as accident in the unfolding of the intended effect. For if God made the good angels and the bad, he did not make them both by intention, but only the good angels. The malice of the bad came afterwards, outside of his intention, yet not so far outside of his intention that God was not able to foreknow their malice within himself. But so great was his affection in bringing forth spiritual creatures that the foreknowledge that some must come to a bad end did not and could not turn God from this act of creation. For Nature would merit no praise if, knowing in advance that a certain portion of the flowers of some tree were destined to perish, she should allow it to bring forth no flowers, and on account of the barren flowers should forsake the production of the fruitful.

I say, then, that God, whose understanding embraces everything (for his “circling” is his “understanding”), sees nothing so noble as he sees when he gazes upon the place where this Philosophy dwells. For although God, gazing upon himself, sees all things collectively, yet he sees them discretely insofar as the discreteness of things exists in him in such manner that the effect exists within the cause. He sees then this most noble of things absolutely, insofar as he sees her perfectly in himself and in his essence. For if we recall what has been said above, Philosophy is a loving use of the wisdom which exists in the greatest measure in God, since supreme wisdom, supreme love, and supreme actuality are found in him; for it could not exist elsewhere, except insofar as it proceeds from him. Divine Philosophy is therefore of the divine essence because in him nothing can be added to his essence; and she is most noble because the divine essence is most noble; and she exists in him in a true and perfect manner, as if by eternal marriage. In the other intelligences she exists in a less perfect manner, like a mistress of whom no lover has complete enjoyment; but on her countenance they satisfy their longing. Thus it may be said that God sees (that is, understands) nothing so noble as she is. I say “nothing” since he sees and distinguishes all other things, as said above, by seeing himself as the cause of being in all things. O most noble and excellent is that heart which directs its love toward the bride of the Emperor of heaven, and not the bride alone but the sister and the most beloved daughter!

Chapter 13

Having seen how in beginning the praises of this lady it has been carefully observed that insofar as she is primarily considered she exists within the divine substance, we must go on to see how I affirm that she exists secondarily within the created intelligences. I say, then, Every Intelligence admires her from above, where we must observe that I say “from above” to establish her relation to God, who has been mentioned earlier; and here I exclude the Intelligences that are exiled from their heavenly home who cannot philosophize because love in them is entirely extinguished; for as has already been said, to philosophize requires that love be present. Thus we can see that the Intelligences in Hell are deprived of the sight of this most beautiful lady; and since she constitutes the blessedness of the intellect, to be deprived of her is most bitter and full of all sadness.

Then when I say And those down here who are in love, I descend to show how she also comes in a secondary manner into the human intelligence, and this human philosophy I then proceed to discuss throughout the book by praising it. I say then that those who are in love “here” (that is, in this life) perceive her in their thoughts, not at all times, but when Love makes them feel her peace. We must here take note of three things that are touched upon in this text. The first is when it says those down here who are in love, where a distinction appears to be made within the human race; and it must necessarily be made, for as is clearly evident and as it is our intention to explain, a vast proportion of mankind lives more according to the senses than to reason; and those who live according to the senses cannot possibly be in love with this lady since they cannot apprehend her.

The second is when it says When Love makes felt, where a distinction of time seems to be made. And this likewise must be made, for although the separate Intelligences gaze continuously upon this lady, the human intelligence is unable do this because human nature–apart from the act of speculation, by which the intellect and reason are satisfied–requires many things for its sustenance; as a result our wisdom is sometimes only in habit and not in act, which is not the case with the other Intelligences, whose perfection consists solely of an intellectual nature.(45) When our soul is not in the act of speculation it cannot truly be said to be joined with Philosophy except insofar as it has the habit of Philosophy and the power to awaken her; and therefore sometimes she is found with those who are in love here, and sometimes not.

The third is when it speaks of the hour when they are with her (that is, when Love makes them feel her peace), which simply means when one is in the act of speculation, because study does not make the peace of this lady felt except through the act of speculation. So we can see how this lady exists primarily in God and secondarily in the other separate Intelligences, through their continuous contemplation of her, and afterwards in the human intelligence through its discontinuous contemplation of her. Nevertheless one who takes her as his lady should always be called a philosopher even though he is not at all times engaged in the final act of philosophy, because one is named principally according to one’s habit. And so we call someone virtuous not only when performing a virtuous action but for having the habit of virtue; and we call a man eloquent even when he is not speaking because he has the habit of eloquence (that is, of speaking well). Regarding this Philosophy, insofar as the human intelligence partakes of her, the following praises are given to show how a great part of her goodness is bestowed upon human nature.

I say then “her being so pleases God who gives it to her”–from whom it derives, as from the primal source–“that it always attracts the capacity of our nature,” and makes it beautiful and virtuous. Thus although some attain to the habit of Philosophy, no one so attains to it that it can properly be called a habit, because the initial study (that is, the study through which the habit is engendered) cannot acquire it perfectly. Here we see her praised in a humble manner: for whether perfect or imperfect, she does not lose the name of perfection. And because her perfection is boundless it is said that the soul of Philosophy makes it manifest in what she brings with her (that is, that God forever instills in her his light). Here we must call to mind what has been said above: namely, that love is the form of Philosophy and therefore is here called her soul. This love is manifest in the exercise of wisdom, which brings with it wonderful beauties, namely contentment in every temporal circumstance and contempt for all those things which others make their lords. So it happens that the other forlorn beings who perceive this, reflecting on their shortcomings, collapse as a result of yearning for perfection out of a weariness of sighs. This is what is meant by the words That the eyes of those on whom she shines Send messengers to the heart, full of desire, Which unite with air and turn to sighs.

Chapter 14

As in the literal exposition we descended from the general praises to the particular, first with respect to the soul and then with respect to the body, so now the text will descend from the general commendations to the particular. As has been said above, Philosophy here has wisdom as her material subject, love as her form, and the exercise of speculation as the combination of the one and the other. Therefore in the stanza that begins with the words Into her descends celestial power, I intend to praise love, which is a part of philosophy. Here we must observe that the descent of virtue from one thing into another is nothing but the causing of the latter to take on the likeness of the former; just as in natural agents we clearly see that when their virtue descends into things that are receptive, they cause those things to take on their likeness to the extent that they are capable of attaining to it. Thus we see that the Sun, as its rays descend here below, causes things to take on the likeness of its light to the extent that by their disposition they are capable of receiving light from its virtue.(46)

So I say that God causes this love to take on his own likeness to the extent that it is possible for it to resemble him. And the nature of that causation is indicated by saying As it does into an angel that sees him. Here we must further know that the first agent, namely God, instills his power into things by means of direct radiance or by means of reflected light. Thus the divine light rays forth into the Intelligences without mediation, and is reflected into the other things by these Intelligences which are first illuminated. But since light and reflected light have been mentioned here, I will, in order to be perfectly clear, clarify the difference between these terms according to the opinion of Avicenna. I say that it is customary for philosophers to call luminosity light as it exists in its original source, to call it radiance as it exists in the medium between its source and the first body which it strikes, and to call it reflected light as it is reflected into another place that becomes illuminated.

I say therefore that without mediation the divine power draws this love into resemblance with itself.(47) This can be made evident above all as follows: since divine love is in all respects eternal, so its object must of necessity be eternal, so that those things which it loves are eternal; and in the same way he makes this love enact its loving, for wisdom, on which this love strikes, is eternal. Consequently of her it is written, “I was ordained for all time,” and her eternity may clearly be noted at the beginning of the Gospel of John.(48)

And so it arises that where this love shines all other loves grow dim and are almost extinguished since the eternal object of this love immeasurably overwhelms and surpasses all other objects. The most eminent philosophers have clearly shown this by their actions, which is how we know that they are indifferent to all things except wisdom. Thus Democritus, being indifferent to his own person, did not cut his beard, hair, or nails. Plato, being indifferent to worldly goods, was unconcerned with royal dignity, even though he was the son of a king.(49) Aristotle, being indifferent to all friends except philosophy, fought against his own best friend (after wisdom), namely against the just mentioned Plato. But why speak of these when we find others such as Zeno, Socrates, Seneca, and many more who despised their lives for these very ideas. It is therefore evident that the divine power descends by this love into men just as it does into the angels. As proof of this the text further on declares And if some gentle lady disbelieves this, Let her walk with her and mark her gestures. By “gentle lady” is meant an intellectual soul both noble and free in the exercise of the power proper to it, which is reason. Thus other souls must not be called ladies, but handmaidens, since they do not exist for their own sake but for the sake of others; as the Philosopher says in the second book of the Metaphysics, that thing is free which exists for its own sake and not for the sake of another.(50)

It says Let her walk with her and mark her gestures–that is, let her join company with this love and look upon what she shall find within it. The text touches on this in part when it says Here where she speaks a spirit comes down–that is, where Philosophy is in act, a celestial thought comes down which claims that she is more than human activity; and it says “from heaven,” to indicate that not only she but the thoughts friendly to her are remote from base and earthly things. Subsequently it tells how she strengthens and kindles love wherever she appears with the sweetness of her gestures, for all her expressions are becoming, sweet, and free from all excess. As greater inducement to join her company, it goes on to say Gentle is in woman what is found in her, What most resembles her is beauty.

It adds further And we may say her countenance helps; here we must observe that the sight of this lady was so generously granted to us in order not only that we might see her face, which she reveals to us, but that we might desire to acquire those things which she keeps hidden from us. For just as because of her much is perceived by our reason, and consequently it becomes comprehensible, which without her would seem miraculous, so because of her it becomes believable that every miracle can be perceived by a superior intellect to have a reasonable cause and, consequently, to have the power to exist. Our good faith has its origin in this, from which comes the hope that longs for things foreseen; and from this springs the activity of charity. By these three virtues we ascend to philosophize in that celestial Athens where Stoics and Peripatetics and Epicureans, by the light of eternal truth, join ranks in a single harmonious will.(51)

Chapter 15

In the preceding chapter this glorious lady is praised according to one of her constituent parts, namely love. Now in the present one, in which I intend to explain the stanza that begins In her countenance appear such things, it is necessary to take up the praise of the other part, namely wisdom. The text says then “that in her face there appear things which manifest some part of the joy of Paradise,” and it identifies the place where it appears, namely her eyes and her smile.

Here it is necessary to know that the eyes of wisdom are her demonstrations, by which truth is seen with the greatest certainty, and her smiles are her persuasions, in which the inner light of wisdom is revealed behind a kind of veil; and in each of them is felt the highest joy of blessedness, which is the greatest good of Paradise. This joy cannot be found in anything here below except by looking into eyes and upon her smile.

The reason for this is that since everything by nature desires its own perfection, without this perfection man could not be happy, that is to say, could not be blessed; for even if he had every other thing, by lacking this perfection desire would still be present in him, and desire is something that cannot coexist with blessedness since blessedness is something perfect and desire something defective; for no one desires what he has but rather what he does not have, which is an obvious deficiency. It is in this gaze alone that human perfection is acquired (that is, the perfection of reason), on which, since it is our foremost part, all our being depends; and all of our other activities (feeling, nutrition, and the rest) exist only for the sake of this, and this exists for its own sake and not for the sake of anything else. Therefore if this is perfect, so is the other, to the extent that man, insofar as he is man, sees all his desires brought to their end and is thereby blessed. This is why it is said in the book of Wisdom: “He who casts away wisdom and learning is unhappy,” for that is the deprivation of the state of happiness.(52) This state is attained, it follows, through the habit of wisdom; and to be happy is to be content, in the opinion of the Philosopher. Consequently we see how some of the things of Paradise appear in her countenance. So we read in the book of Wisdom just cited, where it speaks of her: “She is the brightness of the eternal light and the flawless mirror of the majesty of God.”

Then when it says They overwhelm our intellect, I excuse myself by saying that I can say little about these things because of their transcendency. Here we must observe that in a certain way these things dazzle our intellect, insofar as certain things are affirmed to exist which our intellect cannot perceive (namely God, eternity, and primal matter), things which most certainly are known to exist and are with full faith believed to exist. But given the nature of their essence we cannot understand them: only by negative reasoning can we approach an understanding of these things, and not otherwise.

Nevertheless some might have serious doubts here about how it can be that wisdom is able to make a man happy without its being able to reveal certain things to him perfectly, given that man has a natural desire to know, without fulfillment of which he cannot be blessed. To this we may simply reply that the natural desire within all things is proportionate to the capacity within that thing which has desire; otherwise desire would run counter to itself, which is impossible, and nature would have created it in vain, which is likewise impossible. It would run counter to itself because by desiring its perfection it would desire its imperfection, since it would always desire to continue desiring and would never fulfill its desire (and it is into this error that the accursed miser falls, by failing to perceive that he desires to continue desiring by seeking to realize an infinite gain). Nature would also have created it in vain because it would not have been directed to any specific end. Therefore human desire within this life is proportionate to the wisdom which can be acquired here, and this limit is not transgressed except through an error which lies outside of Nature’s intention. Likewise it is proportionate within the angelic nature and limited by the quantity of that wisdom which the nature of each can apprehend. This is the reason why the saints do not envy one another, because each attains to the end of his desire, which desire is proportionate to the nature of his goodness.(53) This is why, since it is not within the power of our nature to know what God is (and what certain other things are), we do not by nature desire to have this knowledge. And in this way our doubts are dispelled.

Then when it says Her beauty rains down little flames of fire, it descends to another joy of Paradise, namely to the happiness secondary to the primary happiness, which derives from her beauty.(54) Here we must know that morality is the beauty of Philosophy, for just as the beauty of the body derives from the degree to which its members are properly ordered, so the beauty of wisdom, which, as has been said, is the body of Philosophy, derives from the order of the moral virtues which enable her to give pleasure perceptible to the senses. Therefore I say that her beauty (that is, morality) rains down flames of fire (that is, right appetite), which is engendered by the pleasure imparted by moral teaching, an appetite that removes us from even the natural vices, not to speak of the others. From this is born that happiness which Aristotle defines in the first book of the Ethics, where he says that it consists in “acting in accordance with virtue throughout one’s entire life.”(55) And when it says And so let every woman who hears her beauty, it continues with her praise, imploring others to follow her by telling them how she brings benefit to them, namely that everyone who follows her becomes good. Therefore it says that every woman (that is, every soul) who hears her beauty slighted for not appearing as it ought to appear should gaze upon this example.

Here we must observe that the beauty of the soul consists in its actions, above all the virtues which sometimes are rendered less beautiful and less pleasing by vanity or pride, as will be seen in the last book.(56) Therefore I say that in order to avoid this we should look at her, namely at that place where she is the example of humility (that is, on that part of her which is called moral philosophy). And I add that by gazing upon that part of her (I mean wisdom), every vicious person will become upright and good. Therefore I say This is she who humbles every haughty person–that is, who gently turns back whoever inclines away from the proper course.

Finally, expressing supreme praise of Wisdom, I say that she is the mother of all things and the origin of each and every motion by affirming that together with her God created the universe and especially the movement of the heavens which generates all things and from which every other movement takes its origin and its impetus, adding Conceived by him who set the heavens in motion. I mean that she existed in the divine thought, which is intellect itself, when he made the universe, from which it follows that she made it.(57) This is why Solomon said in the book of Proverbs, in the person of Wisdom: “When God prepared the heavens, I was there; when he set a circle on the face of the deep with a fixed law and a fixed circuit, when he made firm the skies above and set on high the fountains of the waters, when he enclosed the sea within its boundary and decreed that the waters should not transgress their bounds, when he laid the foundations of the earth, I was with him, ordering all things, and I took pleasure every day.”(58)

O worse than dead are you who flee her friendship! Open your eyes and gaze forth! For she loved you before you existed, preparing and ordering your coming; and after you were made, she came to you in your own likeness in order to place you on the straight way. If not all of you can come into her presence, honor her through the person of her friends and follow their commandments like those who proclaim the will of this eternal empress–do not close your ears to Solomon, who commands this of you with the words “the way of the just is like a shining light that endures and increases until the day of blessedness”–follow after them and study their works, which ought to be a light to you along the way of this most brief life.(59)

Here we may bring to a close the true meaning of the present canzone. For indeed the last stanza, appended as an envoi, may here very easily be inferred from the literal explanation, except insofar as it says that I called this lady proud and disdainful. Here it should be known that from the beginning Philosophy itself seemed to me proud, as far as regards her body (that is, wisdom), for she did not smile at me because I did not yet understand her persuasions; and disdainful, because she did not turn her eyes toward me, which is to say that I could not perceive her demonstrations. In all of this the fault was my own. By these words and by what has been supplied in the literal meaning, the allegory of the envoi is manifest, so that it is now time, in order to make further progress, to bring this book to a close.

1. in the ninth book of the Ethics     Aristotle,Nicomachean Ethics IX, 1260 ff; see as well VIII, 3.

2. For as Boethius says     Consolation of PhilosophyII, 1, 10.

3. as is written in the book On Causes     This work was erroneously attributed to Aristotle. Dante refers to St. Thomas’ commentary on it in the passage he cites.

4. Alpetragius     An Arabic astronomer who flourished in the twelfth century and wrote a work on the heavens frequently cited by Albert the Great.

5. the soul has three principal powers     Aristotle, On the Soul II, 3, 2.

6. as may be clearly seen in Boethius     Consolation of Philosophy I, 5 and III, meter 9, 6-8.

7. that . . . part of the soul which is deity     Dante does not mean to imply that this part of the soul is itself divine, but rather, as he says at the beginning of the discussion on soul, that it is the part which most possesses, or participates in, the divine nature of God.

8. the simple bodies     These are the four elements–earth, water, air, and fire–which are found in nature in precisely that hierarchical order: water covers earth, air is above water and earth, and fire ascends above air, water, and earth. Fire has a natural tendency to ascend and was thought to inhabit a sphere of space just below the moon, beyond which none of the four elements was to be found.

9. he naturally loves to move downward     The force of gravity naturally pulls an individual toward the ground.

10. the stories of Hercules     See Ovid,Metamorphoses IX, 183-184 and Lucan, Pharsalia IV, 598-660.

11. the third book of the Ethics     Dante cites St. Thomas, Commentary on the Ethics III, 1.

12. These are the Prophet’s words     Psalm 100:3.

13. an organic power, namely the fantasy     The fantasy is the power that receives and organizes into a comprehensible image the data of sense perception. Unlike the intellect, which is immaterial, it has an organ within the brain and hence is called by Dante an “organic power.” Dante stresses here, as he will also throughout the Divine Comedy, that humans have no access to perception of purely spiritual realities, for example the nature of the “separate substances” (i.e., the angels), and hence cannot truly comprehend their nature.

14. Antichthon     The term signifies “anti-world.”

15. I believe that this circle     The equator of the earth. The references are to Albert the Great, De natura locorum I, 9, and Lucan, Pharsalia IX, 438 ff.

16. these three places on this globe     The two poles and the earth’s equator.

17. it completes 91 revolutions     A period of three months (91.25 = 365 � 4). Each revolution is one terrestrial day of twenty-four hours.

18. in the book Of Causes     The reference is to St. Thomas’ Commentary on the Book of Causes VIII.

19. the soul actualizes the body     Aristotle, De animaII, 1 ff. A body without a soul is only a body in potentiality. The presence of the soul actualizes, or animates, the body.

20. in the book Of Causes     De causis I.

21. the book Of Causes     De causis XX, 2.

22. Albert says in his book On the Intellect     Albert the Great, De intellectu et intelligibili I, 3, 2.

23. Beings like these Aristotle . . . calls divine     Ethics VII, 1.

24. as is shown in the following book     Convivio IV, 21.

25. three natures in a single form     These natures or powers are the vegetative, sensitive, and the intellectual, discussed above in Chapters 2 and 3. The vegetative and sensitive are governed by specific organs, but the intellect (which perceives what is true) and the will (which brings about action) are spiritual in essence and consequently have no corresponding organs.

26. Here these words from Ecclesiasticus     Ecclesiasticus 1:3 and 3:22.

27. the ultimate power of the material     The maximum or greatest power, which is “reduced to actuality,” that is, actualized in an individual example.

28. of which the Philosopher makes mention     Rhetoric II, 1. Indeed, Aristotle makes mention of eleven passions, but Dante finds that only six are manifest externally, in the eyes.

29. the poet Statius     Thebaid I, 46-48, lines which Dante mistranslates.

30. Book of the Four Cardinal Virtues     The Liber de quatuor virtutibus, also known by the title Formula honestae vitae, attributed to St. Martin of Dumio, a Portuguese archbishop who died in 580. Dante erroneously attributes it to Seneca in his Monarchia (II, 5, 3).

31. Love brings these things to her there     Dante is still referring to her eyes and mouth.

32. in the second book of the Ethics     Ethics II, 1 and 2.

33. I wrote a little ballata     Rime 29 (LXXX), “Voi che savete ragionar d’Amore,” a poem that addresses Lady Philosophy as a cold, cruel, and disdainful mistress.

34. as Aristotle asserts     De anima II, 14, 7; De sensu et sensato II.

35. through the diaphanous medium     Through the atmosphere, which is transparent. The notion that objects do not physically enter into the eye in order to produce vision may seem a rather primitive philosophical conception, being obvious to the point of absurdity. But it was a stock notion in Scholastic philosophy and the foundation of the medieval theory of perception. The expression “by their forms” is not used in this instance in the Scholastic sense of the term “form” as non-material; it simply means “shape.”

36. I had experience of this in the very year     The canzone was written between 1294 and 1298, so that Dante was about 30 years old when his vision was temporarily weakened as a result of an intense period of reading. These are the early years of his study of philosophy, shortly after the completion of the Vita Nuova (1292-93).

37. from statements made by the Philosopher     See St. Thomas’ commentary De generatione et corruptione I, 23.

38. in the fourth book of the Metaphysics     Metaphysics IV, 16; the previous reference is to Physics I, 1.

39. I say then that long ago in Italy     Rome was founded, according to tradition, on 21 April 753 B.C. For the references see Orosius, Historiarum adversus paganos libri septem VII, 3 and Livy, History of RomeI, 18, a passage which Dante either did not read carefully or misremembered, since it explicitly discredits the notion that Pythagoras lived in the time of Numa Pompilius (717-673 B.C.).

40. the essential passions     Dante is not referring here to the specific passions inherent in the sensitive appetite but to the tendencies common to all human beings, for example, the tendency to be sociable. Consequently one cannot distinguish one person from another on the basis of these passions or tendencies.

41. According to Aristotle’s definition     Ethics VIII, 2, and VI, 9-11.

42. in the Proverbs of Solomon     Proverbs 8:17.

43. her causes and her objective reality     In this passage Dante explicates the nature of true friendship according to Scholastic reasoning, employing its formal terminology. Friendship has as its subject, or matter, knowledge of good actions on the part of some person, who is the friend, and it has as its form the desire, or love, for these actions to take place. Theefficient cause of friendship is virtue, and its end is mutual delight in these actions as a result of virtue. The reference to Aristotle appears in Ethics IX, 11.

44. by the name of the action or passion itself     Vergil, Aeneid II, 281; Statius, Thebaid V, 608.

45. in habit and not in act     There are times, that is, when the mind is not engaged in speculation; hence it is not in act but only in habit, that is, it has the power to speculate but that power is potential, not actual.

46. from its virtue     The term virtude and its alternate form virtù both signify power, which communicates the subject’s moral qualities to the object. “Virtue” and “power” are interchangeable expressions.

47. without mediation     The divine power descends upon Lady Philosophy directly, without being mediated through the Angels.

48. the beginning of the Gospel of John     John 1:1; see also Proverbs 8:23 and Ecclesiasticus 24:14.

49. he was the son of a king     Plato was not the son of a king, and Dante’s source for this notion is not known.

50. as the Philosopher says     Metaphysics I, 2, 3, not in book two; the passage reappears in Monarchia I, 12, 8.

51. these three virtues     The theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity, the first generating the second, and the second the third. By these virtues one ascends into the “celestial Athens,” which represents the City of God, Paradise, and symbolizes the happiness of eternal life, the “beatitudinem vite eterne” of which Dante speaks at the close of the Monarchia (XVI, 7).

52. the book of Wisdom     Wisdom 3:11; the second citation is from Wisdom 7:26.

53. desire is proportionate to the nature of his goodness     This is the principle defining the happiness of the saved in Paradiso, as explained by Piccarda, and summed up in the celebrated verse “E ‘n la sua volontade è nostra pace” (Par. III, 85).

54. the happiness secondary to the primary happiness     The primary happiness in this life consists in the possession of wisdom or knowledge, and the second, derivative happiness consists of leading a moral life.

55. in the first book of the Ethics     The reference is to St. Thomas’ Commentary on the Ethics I, 10, 128-130.

56. in the last book     This would have been the fifteenth book of the Convivio, according to Dante’s original plan.

57. from which it follows that she made it     In saying that wisdom made the universe, Dante clearly identifies wisdom with God, as a part of his being, in the same way that Christ, as the Logos, is God himself.

58. in the person of Wisdom     Proverbs 8:27-30.

59. through the person of her friends     Those who are wise, namely the philosophers, apostles, and saints. For the reference to Solomon, Proverbs 4:18.

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