The Banquet (Il Convito)
Dante Alighieri

Part 2 out of 5

is not seen by it; for as that which looks receives the form of the
pupil by a right line, so by that same line its form passes into that
eye which gazes. And many times in the direction of that line a shaft
flies from the bow of Love, with whom each weapon is light. Therefore,
when I ask, "When first into mine eyes looked she?" it is as much as
to ask, "When did her eyes and mine look into each other?"

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

* * * * *

The Third Treatise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

There is no visible thing in all the world more worthy to serve as a


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