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    The Third Treatise

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    Chapter 3
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    Love, reasoning of my Lady in my mind
    With constant pleasure, oft of her will say
    Things over which the intellect may stray;
    His words make music of so sweet a kind
    That the Soul hears and feels, and cries, Ah, me,
    That I want power to tell what thus I see!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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