Meet us on:
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    The First Treatise

    • Rate it:
    • Average Rating: 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
    • 2 Favorites on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

    This will be that barley-bread with which a thousand will satisfy
    themselves; and my full baskets shall overflow with it. This will be
    that new Light, that new Sun, which shall rise when the sun of this
    our day shall set, and shall give light to those who are in darkness
    and in gloom because the sun of this our day gives light to them no
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 1
    If you're writing a Dante Alighieri essay and need some advice, post your Dante Alighieri essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?