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    The Fourth Treatise

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    Chapter 4
    Previous Chapter
    Soft rhymes of love I used to find
    Within my thought, I now must leave,
    Not without hope to turn to them again;
    But signs of a disdainful mind
    That in my Lady I perceive
    Have closed the way to my accustomed strain.

    And since time suits me now to wait,
    I put away the softer style
    Proper to love; rhyme subtle and severe
    Shall tell how Nobleman's estate
    Is won by worth, hold false and vile
    The judgment that from wealth derives a Peer.

    First calling on that Lord
    Who dwells within her eyes,
    Containing whom, my Lady learnt
    Herself to love and prize.

    One raised to Empire held,
    As far as he could see,
    Descent of wealth, and generous ways,
    To make Nobility.

    Another, lightly wise,
    That saying turned aside,
    Perchance for want of generous ways
    The second source denied.

    And followers of him
    Are all the men who rate
    Those noble in whose families
    The wealth has long been great.

    And so long among us
    The falsehood has had sway,
    That men call him a Nobleman,
    Though worthless, who can say.

    I nephew am, or son,
    Of one worth such a sum;
    But he who sees the Truth may know
    How vile he has become

    To whom the Truth was shown,
    Who from the Truth has fled,
    And though he walks upon the earth
    Is counted with the dead:

    Whoever shall define
    The man a living tree
    Will speak untruth and less than truth,
    Though more he may not see.

    The Emperor so erred;
    First set the false in view,
    Proceeding, on the other side,
    To what was less than true.

    For riches make not worth
    Although they can defile:
    Nor can their want take worth away:
    They are by nature vile.

    No painter gives a form
    That is not of his knowing;
    No tower leans above a stream
    That far away is flowing.

    How vile and incomplete
    Wealth is, let this declare
    However great the heap may be
    It brings no peace, but care.

    And hence the upright mind,
    To its own purpose true,
    Stands firm although the flood of wealth
    Sweep onward out of view

    They will not have the vile
    Turn noble, nor descent
    From parent vile produce a race
    For ever eminent.

    Yet this, they say, can be,
    Their reason halts behind,
    Since time they suit to noble birth
    By course of time defined.

    It follows then from this
    That all are high or base,
    Or that in Time there never was
    Beginning to our race.

    But that I cannot hold,
    Nor yet, if Christians, they;
    Sound intellect reproves their words
    As false, and turns away.

    And now I seek to tell,
    As it appears to me,
    What is, whence comes, what signs attest
    A true Nobility.

    I say that from one root
    Each Virtue firstly springs,
    Virtue, I mean, that Happiness
    To man, by action, brings.

    This, as the Ethics teach,
    Is habit of right choice
    That holds the means between extremes,
    So spake that noble voice.

    Nobility by right
    No other sense has had
    Than to import its subject's good,
    As vileness makes him bad.

    Such virtue shows its good
    To others' intellect,
    For when two things agree in one,
    Producing one effect.

    One must from other come,
    Or each one from a third,
    If each be as each, and more, then one
    From the other is inferred.

    Where Virtue is, there is
    A Nobleman, although
    Not where there is a Nobleman
    Must Virtue be also.

    So likewise that is Heaven
    Wherein a star is hung,
    But Heaven may be starless; so
    In women and the young

    A modesty is seen,
    Not virtue, noble yet;
    Comes virtue from what's noble, as
    From black comes violet;

    Or from the parent root
    It springs, as said before,
    And so let no one vaunt that him.
    A noble mother bore.

    They are as Gods whom Grace
    Has placed beyond all sin:
    God only gives it to the Soul
    That He finds pure within.

    That seed of Happiness
    Falls in the hearts of few,
    Planted by God within the Souls
    Spread to receive His dew.

    Souls whom this Grace adorns
    Declare it in each breath,
    From birth that joins the flesh and soul
    They show it until death.

    In Childhood they obey,
    Are gentle, modest, heed
    To furnish Virtue's person with
    The graces it may need.

    Are temperate in Youth,
    And resolutely strong,
    Love much, win praise for courtesy,
    Are loyal, hating wrong.

    Are prudent in their Age,
    And generous and just,
    And glad at heart to hear and speak
    When good to man's discussed.

    The fourth part of their life
    Weds them again to God,
    They wait, and contemplate the end,
    And bless the paths they trod.

    How many are deceived! My Song,
    Against the strayers: when you reach
    Our Lady, hide not from her that your end
    Is labour that would lessen wrong,
    And tell her too, in trusty speech,
    I travel ever talking of your Friend.


    Love, according to the unanimous opinion of the wise men who discourse
    of him, and as by experience we see continually, is that which brings
    together and unites the lover with the beloved; wherefore Pythagoras
    says, "In friendship many become one."

    And the things which are united naturally communicate their qualities
    to each other, insomuch that sometimes it happens that one is wholly
    changed into the nature of the other, the result being that the
    passions of the beloved person enter into the person of the lover, so
    that the love of the one is communicated to the other, and so likewise
    hatred, desire, and every other passion; wherefore the friends of the
    one are beloved by the other, and the enemies hated; and so in the
    Greek proverb it is said: "With friends all things ought to be in

    Wherefore I, having made a friend of this Lady, mentioned above in the
    truthful exposition, began to love and to hate according to her love
    and her hatred. I then began to love the followers of Truth, and to
    hate the followers of Error and Falsehood, even as she does. But since
    each thing is to be loved for itself and none are to be hated except
    for excess of evil, it is reasonable and upright to hate not the
    things, but the evil in the things, and to endeavour to distinguish
    between these. And if any person has this intention, my most excellent
    Lady understands especially how to distinguish the evil in anything,
    which is the cause of hate; since in her is all Reason, and in her is
    the fountain-head of all uprightness.

    I, following her as much as I could in her work as in her love,
    abominated and despised the errors of the people with infamy or
    reproach, not cast on those lost in error, but on the errors
    themselves; by blaming which, I thought to create displeasure and to
    separate the displeased ones from those faults in them which were
    hated by me. Amongst which errors one especially I reproved, which,
    because it is hurtful and dangerous not only to those who remain in
    it, but also to others who reprove it, I separate it from them and

    This is the error concerning Human Goodness, which, inasmuch as it is
    sown in us by Nature, ought to be termed Nobility; which error was so
    strongly entrenched by evil custom and by weak intellect that the
    opinion of almost all people was falsified or deceived by it; and from
    the false opinion sprang false judgments, and from false judgments
    sprang unjust reverence and unjust contempt; wherefore the good were
    held in vile disdain, and the evil were honoured and exalted. This was
    the worst confusion in the world; even as he can see who looks subtly
    at that which may result from it. And though it seemed that this my
    Lady had somewhat changed her sweet countenance towards me, especially
    where I gazed and sought to discover whether the first Matter of the
    Elements was created by God, for which reason I strengthened myself to
    frequent her presence a little, as if remaining there with her assent,
    I began to consider in my mind the fault of man concerning the said
    error. And to shun sloth, which is an especial enemy of this Lady, and
    to describe or state this error very clearly, this error which robs
    her of so many friends, I proposed to cry aloud to the people who are
    walking in the path of evil, in order that they might direct their
    steps to the right road; and I began a Song, in the beginning of which
    I said, "Soft rhymes of love I used to find," wherein I intend to lead
    the people back into the right path, the path of right knowledge
    concerning true Nobility, as by the knowledge of its text, to the
    explanation of which I now turn my attention, any one will be able to

    And since the intention of this Song is directed to a remedy so
    requisite, it was not well to speak under any figure of speech; but it
    was needful to prepare this medicine speedily, that speedy might be
    the restoration to health, which, being so corrupted, hastened to a
    hideous death. It will not, then, be requisite in the exposition of
    this Song to unveil any allegory, but simply to discuss its meaning
    according to the letter. By my Lady I always mean her who is spoken of
    in the preceding Song, that is to say, that Light of supreme virtue,
    Philosophy, whose rays cause the flowers of true Nobility to blossom
    forth in mankind and to bear fruit in the sons of men; concerning
    which true Nobility the proposed Song fully intends to treat.


    In the beginning of the explanation now undertaken, in order to render
    the meaning of the proposed Song more clear and distinct, it is
    requisite to divide that first part into two parts, for in the first
    part one speaks in the manner of a Proem or Preface; in the second,
    the subject under discussion is continued; and the second part begins
    in the commencement of the stanza, where it says:

    One raised to Empire held,
    As far as he could see,
    Descent of wealth, and generous ways,
    To make Nobility.

    The first part, again, can be comprehended in three divisions or
    members. In the first it states why I depart from my usual mode of
    speech; in the second, I say of what it is my intention to discourse;
    in the third, I call upon that Helper who most can aid me to establish
    Truth. The second member, clause, or division begins: "And since time
    suits me now." The third begins: "First calling on that Lord." I say
    then that I was compelled to abandon the soft rhymes of Love which I
    was accustomed to search for in my thoughts, and I assign the reason
    or cause; wherefore I say that it is not because I have given up all
    intention of making rhymes of Love, but because new aspects have
    appeared in my Lady which have deprived me of material for present
    speech of Love. Where it is to be known that it does not here say that
    the gestures of this Lady are disdainful and angry according to
    appearance only, as may be seen in the tenth chapter of the preceding
    treatise; for at another time I say that the appearance is contrary to
    the Truth; and how this can be, how one self-same thing can be sweet
    and appear bitter, or rather be clear and appear obscure, may there be
    seen clearly enough.

    Afterwards when I say, "And since time suits," I say, even as has been
    said, what that is whereof I intend to discourse. And that which it
    says in the words "time suits" is not here to be passed over with a
    dry foot, because there is a most powerful reason for my action; but
    it is to be seen how reasonably time must wait on all our acts, and
    especially on speech.

    Time, according to what Aristotle says in the fourth chapter of
    Physics, is the number of movement, first, second, and onwards; and
    the number of the celestial movement, which prepares the things here
    below to receive in various ways any informing power. For the Earth is
    prepared in one way in the beginning of Spring to receive into itself
    the informing power of the herbs and flowers, and the Winter
    otherwise; and in one manner is one season prepared to receive the
    seed, differing from another. And even so our Mind, inasmuch as it is
    founded upon the temper of the body, which has to follow the
    revolution of the Heaven, at one time is disposed in one way, at
    another time in another way; wherefore words, which are, as it were,
    the seeds of actions, ought very discreetly to be withheld or uttered;
    they should be spoken with such sound judgment that they may be well
    received, and good fruit follow from them; not withheld or spent so
    sparingly that barrenness is the result of their defective utterance.
    And therefore a suitable time should be chosen, both for him who
    speaks and for him who must hear: for if the speaker is badly
    prepared, very often his words are injurious or hurtful; and if the
    hearer is ill-disposed, those words which are good are ill received.
    And therefore Solomon says in Ecclesiastes: "There is a time to speak,
    and a time to be silent." Wherefore I, feeling within myself that my
    disposition to speak of Love was disturbed, for the cause which has
    been mentioned in the preceding chapter, it seemed to me that the time
    might suit me now, time which bears with it the fulfilment of every
    desire, and appears in the guise of a generous giver to those who
    grudge not to await him patiently. Wherefore St. James says in his
    Epistle, in the fifth chapter: "Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the
    precious fruit of the Earth, and hath long patience for it, until he
    receive the early and the latter rain." For all our sorrows, or cares,
    or vexations, if we inquire diligently into their origin, proceed, as
    it were, from not knowing the use of time. I say, "since the time
    suits," I will leave my pen alone, that is to say, the sweet or gentle
    style I used when I sang of Love; and I say that I will speak of that
    worth whereby a man is truly noble.

    And as it is possible to understand worth in many ways, here I intend
    to assume worth to be a power of Nature, or rather a goodness bestowed
    by her, as will be seen in what follows; and I promise to discourse on
    this subject with a "rhyme subtle and severe."

    Wherefore it is requisite to know that rhyme may be considered in a
    double sense, that is to say, in a wide and in a narrow sense. In the
    narrow sense, it is understood as that concordance which in the last
    and in the penultimate syllable it is usual to make. In the wide
    sense, it is understood for all that language which, with numbers and
    regulated time, falls into rhymed consonance; and thus it is desired
    that it should be taken and understood in this Proem. And therefore it
    says "severe," with reference to the sound of the style, which to such
    a subject must not be sweet and pleasing; and it says "subtle," with
    regard to the meaning of the words, which proceed with subtle argument
    and disputation.

    And I subjoin: "hold false and vile The judgment;" where again it is
    promised to confute the judgment of the people full of error: false,
    that is, removed from the Truth; and vile, that is to say, affirmed
    and fortified by vileness of mind. And it is to be observed that in
    this Proem I promise, firstly, to treat of the Truth, and then to
    confute the False; and in the treatise the opposite is done, for, in
    the first place, I confute the False, and then treat of the Truth,
    which does not appear rightly according to the promise. And therefore
    it is to be known that, although the intention is to speak of both,
    the principal intention is to handle the Truth; and the intention is
    to reprove the False or Untrue, in so far as by so doing I make the
    Truth appear more excellent.

    And here, in the first place, the promise is to speak of the Truth
    according to the chief intention, which creates in the minds of the
    hearers a desire to hear; for in the first treatise I reprove the
    False of Untrue in order that, the false opinions being chased away,
    the Truth may be received more freely. And this method was adopted by
    the master of human argument, Aristotle, who always in the first place
    fought with the adversaries of Truth, and then, having vanquished
    them, revealed or demonstrated Truth itself.

    Finally, when I say, "First calling on that Lord," I appeal to Truth
    to be with me, Truth being that Lord who dwells in the eyes of
    Philosophy, that is to say, in her demonstrations. And indeed Truth is
    that Lord; for the Soul espoused to Truth is the bride of Truth, and
    otherwise it is a slave or servant deprived of all liberty.

    And it says, "my Lady learnt Herself to love and prize," because this
    Philosophy, which has been said in the preceding treatise to be a
    loving use of Wisdom, beholds herself when the beauty of her eyes
    appears to her. And what else is there to be said, except that the
    Philosophic Soul not only contemplates this Truth, but again
    contemplates her own contemplation and the beauty of that, again
    revolving upon herself, and being enamoured with herself on account of
    the beauty of her first glance?

    And thus ends this which, as a Proem or Preface in three divisions,
    heads the present treatise.


    Having seen the meaning of the Proem, we must now follow the treatise,
    and, to demonstrate it clearly, it must be divided into its chief
    parts, which are three.

    In the first, one treats of Nobility according to the opinion of other
    men; in the second, one treats of it according to the true opinion; in
    the third, one addresses speech to the Song by way of ornament to that
    which has been said. The second part begins: "I say that from one root
    Each Virtue firstly springs." The third begins: "How many are
    deceived! My Song, Against the strayers." And after these general
    parts, it will be right to make other divisions, in order to make the
    meaning of the demonstration clear. Therefore, let no one marvel if it
    proceed with many divisions, since a great and high work is now on my
    hands, and one that is but little entered upon by authors; the
    treatise must be long and subtle into which the reader now enters with
    me, if I am to unfold perfectly the text according to the meaning
    which it bears.

    I say, then, that this first part is now divided into two: for in the
    first, the opinions of others are placed; in the second, those
    opinions are confuted; and this second part begins: "Whoever shall
    define The man a living tree." Again, the first part which remains has
    two clauses: the first is the variation of the opinion of the Emperor;
    the second is the variation of the opinion of the Common People, which
    is naked or void of all reason; and this second clause or division
    begins: "Another, lightly wise." I say then, "One raised to Empire,"
    that is to say, such an one made use of the Imperial Office. Where it
    is to be known that Frederick of Suabia, the last Emperor of the
    Romans (I say last with respect to the present time, notwithstanding
    that Rudolf, and Adolphus, and Albert were elected after his death and
    from his descendants), being asked what Nobility might be, replied
    that "it was ancient wealth, and good manners."

    And I say that there was another of less wisdom, who, pondering and
    revolving this definition in every part, removed the last particle,
    that is, the good manners, and held to the first, that is, to the
    ancient riches. And as he seems to have doubted the text, perhaps
    through not having good manners, and not wishing to lose the title of
    Nobility, he defined it according to that which made himself noble,
    namely, possession of ancient wealth.

    And I say that this opinion is that of almost all, saying that after
    it go all the people who make those men noble who have a long
    pedigree, and who have been rich through many generations; since in
    this cry do almost all men bark.

    These two opinions (although one, as has been said, is of no
    consequence whatever) seem to have two very grave arguments in support
    of them. The first is, that the Philosopher says that whatever appears
    true to the greatest number cannot be entirely false. The second is,
    the authority of the definition by an Emperor. And that one may the
    better see the power of the Truth, which conquers all other authority,
    I intend to argue with the one reason as with the other, to which it
    is a strong helper and powerful aid.

    And, firstly, one cannot understand Imperial authority until the roots
    of it are found. It is our intention to treat or discourse of them in
    an especial chapter.


    The radical foundation of Imperial Majesty, according to the Truth, is
    the necessity of Human Civilization, which is ordained to one end,
    that is, to a Happy Life. Nothing is of itself sufficient to attain
    this without some external help, since man has need of many things
    which one person alone is unable to obtain. And therefore the
    Philosopher says that man is naturally a companionable animal. And as
    a man requires for his sufficient comfort the domestic companionship
    of a family, so a house requires for its sufficient comfort a
    neighbourhood; otherwise there would be many wants to endure which
    would be an obstacle to happiness. And since a neighbourhood cannot
    satisfy all requirements, there must for the satisfaction of men be
    the City. Again, the City requires for its Arts and Manufactures to
    have an environment, as also for its defence, and to have brotherly
    intercourse with the circumjacent or adjacent Cities, and thence the

    But since the human mind in restricted possession of the Earth finds
    no peace, but always desires to acquire Glory, as we see by
    experience, discords and wars must arise between realm and realm.
    These are the tribulation of Cities; and through the Cities, of the
    neighbourhoods; and through the neighbourhoods, of the houses; and
    through the houses, of men; and thus is the happiness of man prevented
    or obstructed. Wherefore, in order to prevent these wars, and to
    remove the causes of them through all the Earth, so far as it is given
    to the Human Race to possess it, there must of necessity be Monarchy,
    that is to say, one sole principality; and there must be one Prince,
    who, possessing all, and not being able to desire more, holds the
    Kings content within the limits of the kingdoms, so that peace may be
    between them, wherein the Cities may repose, and in this rest the
    neighbouring hamlets may dwell together in mutual love; in this love
    the houses obtain all they need, which, being obtained, men can live
    happily, which is that end for which man was born. And to these
    reasons might be applied the words of the Philosopher, for he says, in
    the book On Politics, that when many things are ordained to one end,
    one of those must be the ruling power, and all the others must be
    governed by that. Even as we see in a ship that the different offices
    and the different means to different ends in that ship are ordained to
    one end alone, that is to say, to reach the desired port by a safe
    voyage, where as each officer orders his own work to the proper end,
    even so there is one who considers all these ends, and ordains those
    to the final one; and this is the Pilot, whose voice all must obey.

    We see this also in the religious bodies and in the military bodies,
    in all those things which are ordained to one end, as has been said.
    Wherefore it can plainly be seen that to attain the perfection of the
    Universal Union of the Human Race there must be one Pilot, as it were,
    who, considering the different conditions of the World, and ordaining
    the different and needful offices, may hold or possess over the whole
    the universal and incontestable office of Command. And this office is
    well designated Empire, without any addition, because it is of all
    other governments the government; and so he who is appointed to this
    office is designated Emperor, because of all Governors he is the
    Governor, and what he says is Law to all, and ought by all to be
    obeyed; and every other government derives vigour and authority from
    the government of this man. And thus it is evident that the Imperial
    Majesty and Authority is the most exalted in the Human Family.

    No doubt it would be possible for some one to cavil, saying, that
    although the office of Empire may be required in the World, that does
    not make the authority of the Roman Prince rationally supreme, which
    it is the intention of the treatise to prove; since the Roman Power
    was acquired, not by Reason nor by decree of Universal Election, but
    by Force, which seems to be opposed to Reason. To this one can easily
    reply, that the election of this Supreme Official must primarily
    proceed from that Council which foresees all things, that is, God;
    otherwise the election would not have been of equal benefit for all
    the people, since, before the pre-ordained Official, there was none
    who had the good of all at heart.

    And since a gentler nature in ruling, and a stronger in maintaining,
    and a more subtle in acquiring never was and never will be than that
    of the Latin People, as one can see by experience, and especially that
    of the Holy People, in whom was blended the noble Trojan blood; to
    that office it was elected by God. Wherefore, since, to obtain it, not
    without very great power could it be approached, and to employ it a
    most exalted and most humane benignity was required, this was the
    people which was most fitly prepared for it. Hence not by Force was it
    assumed in the first place by the Roman People but by Divine
    Ordinance, which is above all Reason. And Virgil is in harmony with
    this in the first book of the Æneid, when he says, speaking in the
    person of God: "On these [that is, on the Romans] I impose no limits
    to their possessions, nor to their duration; to them I have given
    boundless Empire." Force, then, was not the moving cause, as he
    believed who was cavilling; but there was an instrumental cause even
    as the blows of the hammer are the cause of the knife, and the soul of
    the workman is the moving and the efficient cause; and thus, not
    force, but a cause, even a Divine Cause, has been the origin of the
    Roman Empire.

    And that this is so it is possible to see by two most evident reasons,
    which prove that City to be the Empress, and to have from God an
    especial birth, and to have from God an especial success. But since in
    this chapter without too great length it would not be possible to
    discuss this subject, and long chapters are the enemies of Memory, I
    will again make a digression in another chapter in order to prove the
    reasons here alluded to, which are not without and may give great


    It is no cause for wonder if the Divine Providence, which surpasses
    beyond measure all angelic and human foresight, often appears to us to
    proceed mysteriously, since many times human actions conceal their
    motives from men. But there is great cause for wonder when the
    execution of the Eternal Counsel proceeds so evidently that our reason
    can discern it. And therefore in the beginning of this chapter I can
    speak with the mouth of Solomon, who, in the person of Wisdom, says in
    his Proverbs: "Hear, for I will speak of excellent things!"

    The Divine Goodness unmeasureable, desiring to conform again to Itself
    the Human Creature, which, through the sin of the prevarication of the
    first Man, was separated from God and deformed thereby, it was
    decided, in that most exalted and most united Divine Consistory of the
    Trinity, that the Son of God should descend to the Earth to accomplish
    this union. And since at His advent into the world, not only Heaven,
    but Earth, must be in the best disposition; and the best disposition
    of the Earth is when it is a Monarchy, that is to say, all subject to
    one Prince, as has been said above, by Divine Providence it was
    ordained what people and what city should fulfil this, and that people
    was the Roman nation, and that city was glorious Rome. And since the
    Inn also wherein the Heavenly King must enter must of necessity be
    most cleanly and most pure, there was ordained a most Holy Race, from
    which, after many excellent or just ancestors, there should be born a
    Woman more perfect than all others, who should be the abode of the Son
    of God. And this race was the Race of David, from which was born the
    glory and honour of the Human Race, that is to say, Mary. And
    therefore it is written in Isaiah: "A virgin shall be born of the stem
    of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." And Jesse was the
    father of the aforesaid David. And it happened at one period of time
    that when David was born, Rome was born, that is to say, Æneas then
    came from Troy to Italy, which was the origin of the most noble Roman
    City, even as the written word bears witness. Evident enough,
    therefore, is the Divine election of the Roman Empire by the birth of
    the Holy City, which was contemporaneous with the root of the race
    from which Mary sprang.

    And incidentally it is to be mentioned that, since this Heaven began
    to revolve, it never was in a better disposition than when He
    descended from on high, He who had made it and who is its Ruler, even
    as again by virtue of their arts the Mathematicians may be able to
    discover. The World never was nor ever will be so perfectly prepared
    as then, when it was governed by the voice of one man alone, Prince
    and Commander of the Roman people, even as Luke the Evangelist bears
    witness. And therefore there was Universal Peace, which never was
    again nor ever will be, for the Ship of the Human Family rightly by a
    sweet pathway was hastening to its rightful haven. Oh, ineffable and
    incomprehensible Wisdom of God, which in Heaven above didst prepare,
    so long beforehand, for Thy advent into Syria and here in Italy at the
    same time! And oh, most foolish and vile beasts who pasture in the
    guise of men--you who presume to speak against our Faith, and profess
    to know, as ye spin and dig, what God has ordained with so much
    forethought--curses be on you and your presumption, and on him who
    believes in you!

    And, as has been said above, at the end of the preceding chapter, the
    Roman People had from God not only an especial birth, but an especial
    success; for, briefly, from Romulus, who was the first father of Rome,
    even to its most perfect era, that is, to the time of its predicted
    Emperor, its success was achieved not only by human, but by Divine
    means. For if we consider the Seven Kings who first governed
    it--Romulus, Numa, Tullus, Ancus Martius, Servius Tullius, and the
    Tarquins, who were, as it were, the nurses and tutors of its
    Childhood--we shall be able to find, by the written word of Roman
    History, especially by Titus Livius, those to have been of different
    natures, according to the opportunity of the advancing tract of time.
    If we consider, then, its Adolescence, when it was emancipated from
    the regal tutorship by Brutus, the first Consul, even to Cæsar, its
    first supreme Prince, we shall find it exalted, not with human, but
    with Divine citizens, into whom, not human, but Divine love was
    inspired in loving Rome; and this neither could be nor ought to be,
    except for an especial end intended by God through such infusion of a
    heavenly spirit. And who will say that there was no Divine inspiration
    in Fabricius when he rejected an almost infinite amount of gold
    because he was unwilling to abandon his country? or in Curius, whom
    the Samnites attempted to corrupt, who said, when refusing a very
    large quantity of gold for love of his country, that the Roman
    citizens did not desire to possess gold, but the possessors of the
    gold? Who will say there was no Divine inspiration in Mutius burning
    his own hand because it had failed in the blow wherewith he had
    thought to deliver Rome? Who will say of Torquatus, who sentenced his
    own son to death from love to the Public Good, that he could have
    endured this without a Divine Helper? Who will say this of the Brutus
    before mentioned? Who will say it of the Decii and of the Drusi, who
    laid down their lives for their country? Who will say of the captive
    Regulus of Carthage, sent to Rome to exchange the Carthaginian
    prisoners for Roman prisoners of war, who, after having explained the
    object of his embassy, gave counsel against himself; through pure love
    to Rome, that he was moved to do this by the impulse of Human Nature
    alone? Who will say it of Quinctius Cincinnatus, who, taken from the
    plough and made dictator, after the time of office had expired,
    spontaneously refusing its continuance, followed his plough again? Who
    will say of Camillus, banished and chased into exile, who, having come
    to deliver Rome from her enemies, and having accomplished her
    liberation, spontaneously returned into exile in order not to offend
    against the authority of the Senate, that he was without Divine
    inspiration? O, most sacred heart of Cato, who shall presume to speak
    of thee? Truly, to speak freely of thee is not possible; it were
    better to be silent and to follow Jerome, when, in the Preface of the
    Bible where he alludes to Paul, he says that it were better to be
    silent than say little. Certainly it must be evident, remembering the
    lives of these men and of the other Divine citizens, that such wonders
    could not have been without some light of the Divine Goodness, added
    to their own goodness of nature. And it must be evident that these
    most excellent men were instruments with which Divine Providence
    worked in the building up of the Roman Empire, wherein many times the
    arm of God appeared to be present. And did not God put His own hand to
    the battle wherein the Albans fought with the Romans in the beginning
    for the chief dominion, when one Roman alone held in his hands the
    liberty of Rome? And did not God interfere with His own hands when the
    Franks, having taken all Rome, attacked by stealth the Capitol by
    night, and the voice alone of a goose caused this to be known? And did
    not God interfere with His own hands when, in the war with Hannibal,
    having lost so many citizens that three bushels of rings were carried
    into Africa, the Romans wished to abandon the land, if the blessed
    Scipio the younger had not undertaken his expedition into Africa for
    the recovery of freedom? And did not God interfere with His own hands
    when a new citizen of humble station, Tullius, defended, against such
    a citizen as Catiline, the Roman liberty? Yes, surely. Wherefore one
    should not need to inquire further to see that an especial birth and
    an especial success were in the Mind of God decreed to that holy City.
    And certainly I am of a firm opinion that the stones which remain in
    her walls are worthy of reverence; and it is asserted and proved that
    the ground whereon she stands is worthy beyond all other that is
    occupied by man.


    Above, in the third chapter of this treatise, a promise was made to
    discourse of the supremacy of the Imperial Authority and of the
    Philosophic Authority. And since the Imperial Authority has been
    discussed, my digression must now proceed further in order to consider
    that of the Philosopher, according to the promise made.

    And here we must first see what is the meaning of this word; since
    here there is a greater necessity to understand it than there was
    above in the argument on the Imperial Authority, which, on account of
    its Majesty, does not seem to be doubted. It is then to be known that
    Authority is no other than the act of the Author.

    This word, that is to say, Auctore, without this third letter,
    _c_, can be derived from two roots. One is from a verb, whose use
    in grammar is much abandoned, which signifies to bind or to tie words
    together, that is, A U I E O; and whoso looks well at it in its first
    vowel or syllable will clearly perceive that it demonstrates it
    itself, for it is constituted solely of a tie of words, that is, of
    five vowels alone, which are the soul and bond of every word, and
    composed of them in a twisted way, to figure the image of a ligature;
    for beginning with the A, then it twists round into the U, and comes
    straight through the I into the E, then it revolves and turns round
    into the O: so that truly this figure represents A, E, I, O, U, which
    is the figure or form of a tie; and how much _Autore_ (Author)
    derives its origin from this word, one learns from the poets alone,
    who have bound their words together with the art of harmony; but on
    this signification we do not at present dwell. The other root from
    which the word "Autore" (Author) is derived, as Uguccione testifies in
    the beginning of his Derivations, is a Greek word, "Autentim," which
    in Latin means "worthy of faith and obedience." And thus "Autore"
    (Author), derived from this, is taken for any person worthy to be
    believed and obeyed; and thence comes this word, of which one treats
    at the present moment, that is to say, Authority. Wherefore one can
    see that Authority is equivalent to an act worthy of faith and

    [Here is a small break in the original, containing some such words
    as--Worthy, nay, most worthy, of obedience and of faith is Aristotle:]
    hence it is evident that his words are a supreme and chief Authority.
    That Aristotle is most worthy of faith and obedience, one can thus
    prove. Amongst workmen and artificers of different Arts and
    Manufactures, which are all directed to one final work of Art, or to
    one building, the Artificer or Designer of that work must be
    completely believed in, and implicitly obeyed by all, as the man who
    alone beholds the ultimate end of all the other ends. Hence the
    sword-cutler must believe in the knight, so must the bridle-maker and
    saddle-maker and the shield-maker, and all those trades which are
    appointed to the profession of knighthood. And since all human actions
    require an aim, which is that of human life, to which man is appointed
    inasmuch as he is man, the master and artificer who considers that aim
    and demonstrates it ought especially to be believed in and obeyed; and
    he is Aristotle; wherefore he is most worthy of faith and obedience.
    And in order to see how Aristotle is the master and leader of Human
    Reason in so far as it aims at its final operation, it is requisite to
    know that this our aim of life, which each one naturally desires, in
    most ancient times was searched for by the Wise Men; and since those
    who desire this end are so numerous, and their desires are as it were
    all singularly different, although they exist in us universally, it
    was nevertheless very difficult to discern that end whereon rightly
    each human appetite or desire might repose.

    There were then many ancient philosophers, the first and the chief of
    whom was Zeno, who saw and believed this end of human life to be
    solely a rigid honesty, that is to say, rigid without regard to any
    one in following Truth and Justice, to show no sorrow, to show no joy,
    to have no sense of any passion whatever. And they defined thus this
    honest uprightness, as that which, without bearing fruit, is to be
    praised for reason of itself. And these men and their sect were called
    Stoics; and that glorious Cato was one of them, of whom in the
    previous chapter I had not courage enough to speak.

    Other philosophers there were who saw and believed otherwise; and of
    these the first and chief was a philosopher, who was named Epicurus,
    who, seeing that each animal as soon as it is born is as it were
    directed by Nature to its right end, which shuns pain and seeks for
    pleasure, said that this end or aim of ours was enjoyment. I do not
    say greedy enjoyment, voluntade, but I write it with a _p_,
    voluptate, that is, delight or pleasure free from pain; and therefore
    between pleasure and pain no mean was placed. He said that pleasure
    was no other than no pain; as Tullius seems to say in the first
    chapter De Finibus. And of these, who from Epicurus are named
    Epicureans, was Torquatus, a noble Roman, descended from the blood of
    the glorious Torquatus mention of whom I made above. There were
    others, and they had their rise from Socrates, and then from his
    successor, Plato, who, looking more subtly, and seeing that in our
    actions it was possible to sin, and that one sinned in too much and in
    too little, said that our action, without excess and without defect,
    measured to the due mean of our own choice, is virtue, and virtue is
    the aim of man; and they called it action with virtue. And these were
    called Academicians, as was Plato and Speusippus, his nephew; they
    were thus called from the place where Plato taught, that is, the
    Academy; neither from Socrates did they take or assume any word,
    because in his Philosophy nothing was affirmed. Truly Aristotle, who
    had his surname from Stagira, and Xenocrates of Chalcedon, his
    companion, through the genius, almost Divine, which Nature had put
    into Aristotle, knowing this end by means of the Socratic method, with
    the Academic file, as it were, reduced Moral Philosophy to perfection,
    and especially Aristotle. And since Aristotle began to reason while
    walking hither and thither, they were called, he, I say, and his
    companions, Peripatetics, which means the same as walkers about. And
    since the perfection of this Morality by Aristotle was attained, the
    name of Academician became extinct, and all those who attached
    themselves to this sect are called Peripatetics, and these people hold
    the doctrine of the government of the World through all its parts: and
    it may be termed a catholic opinion, as it were. Wherefore it is
    possible to see that Aristotle was the Indicator and the Leader of the
    people to this mark. And this is what I wished to prove.

    Wherefore, collecting all together, the principal intention is
    manifest, that is to say, that the authority of him whom we understand
    to be the supreme Philosopher is full of complete vigour, and in no
    way repugnant to Imperial Authority. But the Imperial without the
    Philosopher is dangerous; and this without that is weak, not of
    itself, but through the disorder of the people: but when one is united
    with the other they are together most useful and full of all vigour;
    and therefore it is written in that Book of Wisdom: "Love the Light of
    Wisdom, all you who are before the people," that is to say, unite
    Philosophic Authority with the Imperial, in order to rule well and
    perfectly. O, you miserable ones, who rule at the present time! and O,
    most miserable ones, you who are ruled! For no Philosophic Authority
    is united with your governments, neither through suitable study nor by
    counsel; so that to all it is possible to repeat those words from
    Ecclesiastes: "Woe to thee, O land, when thy King is a child, and thy
    Princes eat in the morning;" and to no land is it possible to say that
    which follows: "Blessed art thou, O land, when thy King is the son of
    nobles, and thy Princes eat in due season, for strength and not for

    Ye enemies of God, look to your flanks, ye who have seized the
    sceptres of the kingdoms of Italy. And I say to you, Charles, and to
    you, Frederick, Kings, and to you, ye other Princes and Tyrants, see
    who sits by the side of you in council, and count how many times a day
    this aim of human life is indicated to you by your councillors. Better
    would it be for you, like swallows, to fly low down than, like kites,
    to make lofty circles over carrion.


    Since it is seen how much the Imperial Authority and the Philosophic
    are to be revered, which must support the opinions propounded, it is
    now for us to return into the straight path to the intended goal. I
    say, then, that this last opinion of the Common People has continued
    so long that without other cause, without inquiry into any reason,
    every man is termed Noble who may be the son or nephew of any brave
    man, although he himself is nothing. And this is what the Song says:

    And so long among us
    This falsehood has had sway,
    That men call him a Nobleman,
    Though worthless, who can say,

    I nephew am, or son,
    Of one worth such a sum.

    Wherefore it is to be observed that it is most dangerous negligence to
    allow this evil opinion to take root; for even as weeds multiply in
    the uncultivated field, and surmount and cover the ear of the corn, so
    that, looking at it from a distance, the wheat appears not, and
    finally the corn is lost; so the evil opinion in the mind, neither
    chastised nor corrected, increases and multiplies, so that the ear of
    Reason, that is, the true opinion, is concealed and buried as it were,
    and so it is lost. O, how great is my undertaking in this Song, for I
    wish now to weed the field so full of wild and woody plants as is this
    field of the common opinion so long bereft of tillage! Certainly I do
    not intend to cleanse all, but only those parts where the ears of
    Reason are not entirely overcome; that is, I intend to lift up again
    those in whom some little light of Reason still lives through the
    goodness of their nature; the others need only as much care as the
    brute beasts: wherefore it seems to me that it would not be a less
    miracle to lead back to Reason him in whom it is entirely extinct than
    to bring back to Life him who has been four days in the grave.

    Then the evil quality of this popular opinion is narrated suddenly, as
    if it were a horrible thing; it strikes at that, springing forth from
    the order of the confutation, saying, "But he who sees the Truth will
    know How vile he has become," in order to make people understand its
    intolerable wickedness, saying, that those men lie especially, for not
    only is the man vile, that is, not Noble, who, although descended from
    good people, is himself wicked, but also he is most vile; and I quote
    the example of the right path being indicated, where, to prove this,
    it is fit for me to propound a question, and to reply to that question
    in this way.

    There is a plain with certain paths, a field with hedges, with
    ditches, with rocks, with tanglewood, with all kinds of obstacles;
    with the exception of its two straight paths. And it has snowed so
    much that the snow covers everything, and presents one smooth
    appearance on every side, so that no trace of any path is to be seen.
    Here comes a man from one part of the country, and he wishes to go to
    a house which is on the other side; and by his industry, that is,
    through prudent foresight and through the goodness of genius, guided
    solely by himself, he goes through the right path whither he meant to
    go, leaving the prints of his footsteps behind him. Another comes
    after this man, and he wishes to go to that mansion, and to him it is
    only needful to follow the footprints left there; but through his own
    fault this man strays from the path, which the first man without a
    guide has known how to keep; this man, though it is pointed out to
    him, loses his way through the brambles and the rocks, and he goes not
    to the place whither he is bound.

    Which of these men ought to be termed excellent, brave, or worthy? I
    reply: He who went first. How would you designate that other man? I
    reply: "As most vile." Why is he not called unworthy or cowardly, that
    is to say, vile? I reply: Because unworthy, that is, vile, he should
    be called who, having no guide, might have failed to walk
    straightforward; but since this man had a guide, his error and his
    fault can rise higher; and therefore he is to be called, not vile, but
    most vile. And likewise he who, by his father or by some elder of his
    race is ennobled, and does not continue in a noble course, not only is
    he vile, but he is most vile, and deserving of as much contempt and
    infamy as any other villain, if not of more. And because a man may
    preserve himself from this vile baseness, Solomon lays this command on
    him who has had a brave and excellent ancestor, in the twenty-second
    chapter of Proverbs: "Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy
    fathers have set," And previously he says, in the fourth chapter of
    the said book: "The path of the Just," that is, of the worthy men, "is
    as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day;
    the way of the wicked is as darkness, and they know not at what they

    Finally, when it says, "And though he walks upon the earth Is counted
    with the dead," to his greater disgrace I say that this most
    worthless man is dead, seeming still alive. Where it is to be known
    that the wicked man may be truly said to be dead, and especially he
    who goes astray from the path trodden by his good ancestor. And this
    it is possible to prove thus: as Aristotle says in the second book On
    the Soul, to live is to be with the living; and since there are many
    ways of living--as in the plants to vegetate; in the animals to
    vegetate and to feel and to move; in men to vegetate, to feel, to
    move, and to reason, or rather to understand; and since things ought
    to be denominated by the noblest part, it is evident that in animals
    to live is to feel--in the brute animals, I say; in man, to live is to
    use reason. Wherefore, if to live is the life or existence of man, and
    if thus to depart from the use of Reason, which is his life, is to
    depart from life or existence, even thus is that man dead.

    And does he not depart from the use of Reason who does not reason or
    think concerning the aim of his life? And does he not depart from the
    use of Reason who does not reason or think concerning the path which
    he ought to take? Certainly he does so depart; and this is evident
    especially in him who has the footprints before him, and looks not at
    them; and therefore Solomon says in the fifth chapter of Proverbs: "He
    shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he
    shall go astray," that is to say, he is dead who becomes a disciple,
    and who does not follow his master; and such an one is most vile.

    And of him it would be possible for some one to say: How is he dead
    and yet he walks? I reply, that as a man he is dead, but as a beast he
    has remained alive; for as the Philosopher says in the second book On
    the Soul, the powers of the Soul stand upon itself, as the figure of
    the quadrangle stands upon the triangle, and the pentagon stands upon
    the quadrangle; so the sensitive stands upon the vegetative, and the
    intellectual stands upon the sensitive. Wherefore, as, by removing the
    last side of the pentagon, the quadrangle remains, so by removing the
    last power of the Soul, that is, Reason, the man no longer remains,
    but a thing with a sensitive soul only, that is, the brute animal.

    And this is the meaning or intention of the second part of the devised
    Song, in which are placed the opinions of others.


    The most beautiful branch which grows up from the root of Reason is
    Discretion. For as St. Thomas says thereupon in the prologue to the
    book of Ethics, to know the order of one thing to another is the
    proper act of Reason; and this is Discretion. One of the most
    beautiful and sweetest fruits of this branch is the reverence which
    the lesser owes to the greater. Wherefore Tullius, in the first
    chapter of the Offices, when speaking of the beauty which shines forth
    in Uprightness, says that reverence is part of that beauty; and thus
    as this reverence is the beauty of Uprightness, so its opposite is
    baseness and want of uprightness; which opposite quality it is
    possible to term irreverence, or rather as impudent boldness, in our
    Vulgar Tongue.

    And therefore this Tullius in the same place says: "To treat with
    contemptuous indifference that which others think of one, not only is
    the act of an arrogant, but also of a dissolute person," which means
    no other except that arrogance and dissolute conduct show want of
    self-knowledge, which is the beginning of the capacity for all
    reverence. Wherefore I, desiring (and bearing meanwhile all reverence
    both to the Prince and to the Philosopher) to remove the infirmity
    from the minds of some men, in order afterwards to build up thereupon
    the light of truth, before I proceed to confute the opinions
    propounded, will show how, whilst confuting those opinions, I argue
    with irreverence neither against the Imperial Majesty nor against the
    Philosopher. For if in any part of this entire book I should appear
    irreverent, it would not be so bad as in this treatise; in which,
    whilst treating of Nobility, I ought to appear Noble, and not vile.

    And firstly I will prove that I do not presume against the authority
    of the Philosopher; then I will prove that I do not presume against
    Imperial Majesty.

    I say, then, that when the Philosopher says, "that which appears to
    the most is impossible to be entirely false," I do not mean to speak
    of the external appearance, that is, the sensual, but of that which
    appears within, the rational; since the sensual appearance, according
    to most people, is many times most false, especially in the common
    things appreciable by the senses, wherein the sense is often deceived.
    Thus we know that to most people the Sun appears of the width of a
    foot in diameter; and this is most false, for, according to the
    inquiry and the discovery which human reason has made with its skill,
    the diameter of the body of the Sun is five times as much as that of
    the Earth and also one-half time more, since the Earth in its diameter
    is six thousand five hundred miles, the diameter of the Sun, which to
    the sense of sight presents the appearance of the width of one foot,
    is thirty-five thousand seven hundred and fifty miles. Wherefore it is
    evident that Aristotle did not understand or judge it by the
    appearance which it presents to the sense of sight. And therefore, if
    I intend only to oppose false trust in appearance according to the
    senses, that is not done against the intention of the Philosopher, and
    therefore I do not offend against the reverence which is due to him.

    And that I intend to confute the appearance according to the sense is
    manifest; for those people who judge thus, judge only by what they
    feel or think of those things which fortune can give and take away.
    For, because they see great alliances made and high marriages to take
    place, and the wonderful palaces, the large possessions, great
    lordships, they believe that all those things are the causes of
    Nobility--nay, they believe them to be Nobility itself. For if they
    could judge with any appearance of reason, they would say the
    contrary, that is, that Nobility is the cause of these things, as will
    be seen in the sequel of this treatise. And even as it may be seen
    that I speak not against the reverence due to the Philosopher whilst
    confuting this error, so I speak not against the reverence due to the
    Empire; and the reason I intend to show. But when he reasons or argues
    before the adversary, the Rhetorician ought to use much caution in his
    speech, in order that the adversary may not derive thence material
    wherewith to disturb the Truth. I, who speak in this treatise in the
    presence of so many adversaries, cannot speak briefly; wherefore, if
    my digressions should be long, let no one marvel.

    I say, then, that, in order to prove that I am not irreverent to the
    Majesty of the Empire, it is requisite, in the first place, to see
    what reverence is. I say that reverence is no other than a confession
    of due submission by an evident sign; and, having seen this, it
    remains to distinguish between them. Irreverent expresses privation,
    not reverent expresses negation; and, therefore, irreverence is to
    disavow the due submission by a manifest sign. The want of reverence
    is to refuse submission as not due. A man can deny or refuse a thing
    in a double sense. In one way, the man can deny offending against the
    Truth when he abstains from the due confession, and this properly is
    to disavow. In another way, the man can deny offending against the
    Truth when he does not confess that which is not, and this is proper
    negation; even as for the man to deny that he is entirely mortal is to
    deny properly speaking. Wherefore, if I deny or refuse reverence due
    to the Imperial Authority, I am not irreverent, but I am not reverent;
    which is not against reverence, forasmuch as it offends not that
    Imperial Authority; even as not to live does not offend Life, but
    Death, which is privation of that Life, offends; wherefore, to die is
    one thing and not to live is another thing, for not to live is in the
    stones. And since Death expresses privation, which cannot be except in
    decease of the subject, and the stones are not the subject of Life,
    they should not be called dead, but not living. In like manner, I, who
    in this case ought not to have reverence to the Imperial Authority, am
    not irreverent if I deny or refuse it, but I am not reverent, which is
    neither boldness, nor presumption, nor a thing to be blamed. But it
    would be presumption to be reverent, if it could be called reverence,
    since it would fall into greater and more true irreverence, that is,
    into irreverence of Nature and of Truth, as will be seen in the
    sequel. Against this error that Master of Philosophers, Aristotle,
    guards, in the beginning of the book of Ethics, when he says: "If the
    friends are two, and one is the Truth, their one mind is the Truth's."
    If I have said that I am not reverent, that is, to deny reverence, or
    by a manifest sign to deny or refuse a submission not due. It is to be
    seen how this is to deny and not to disavow, that is to say, it
    remains to be seen how, in this case, I am not rightfully subject to
    the Imperial Majesty. It must be a long argument wherewith I intend to
    prove this in the chapter next following.


    To see how in this case, that is, in approving or in not approving the
    opinion of the Emperor, I am not held in subjection to him, it is
    necessary to recall to mind that which has been argued previously
    concerning the Imperial Office, in the fourth chapter of this
    treatise, namely, that to promote the perfection of human Life,
    Imperial Authority was designed; and that it is the director and ruler
    of all our operations, and justly so, for however far our operations
    extend themselves, so far the Imperial Majesty has jurisdiction, and
    beyond those limits it does not reach. But as each Art and Office of
    mankind is restricted by the Imperial Office within certain limits, so
    this Imperial Office is confined by God within certain bounds. And it
    is not to be wondered at, for the Office and the Arts of Nature in all
    her operations we see to be limited. For if we wish to take Universal
    Nature, it has jurisdiction as far as the whole World, I say as far as
    Heaven and Earth extend; and this within a certain limit, as is proved
    by the third chapter of the book on Physics, and by the first chapter,
    of Heaven and the World. Then the jurisdiction of Universal Nature is
    limited within a certain boundary, and consequently the individual; of
    which also He is the Limiter who is limited by nothing, that is, the
    First Goodness, that is, God, who alone with infinite capacity
    comprehends the Infinite. And, that we may see the limits of our
    operations, it is to be known that those alone are our operations
    which are subject to Reason and to Will; for, if in us there is the
    digestive operation, that is not human, but natural. And it is to be
    known that our Reason is ordained to four operations, separately to be
    considered; for those are operations which Reason only considers and
    does not produce, neither can produce, any one of them, such as are
    the Natural facts and the Supernatural and the Mathematics. And those
    are operations which it considers and does in its own proper act which
    are called rational, such as are the arts of speech. And those are
    operations which it considers and does in material beyond itself, such
    as are the Mechanical Arts. And all these operations, although the
    considering them is subject to our will, they in their essential form
    are not subject to our will; for although we might will that heavy
    things should mount upwards naturally, they would not be able to
    ascend; and although we might will that the syllogism with false
    premisses should conclude with demonstration of the Truth, it could
    not so conclude; and although we might will that the house should
    stand as firmly when leaning forward as when upright, it could not be;
    since of those operations we are not properly the factors, we are
    their discoverers; Another ordained them and made them, the great
    Maker, who alone can Will and Do All--God.

    There also are operations which our Reason considers and which lie in
    the act of the Will, such as to offend and to rejoice; such as to
    stand firm in the battle and to fly from it; such as to be chaste and
    to be lewd; these are entirely subject to our will, and therefore we
    are called from them good and evil, because such acts are entirely our
    own; for so far as our will can obtain power, so far do our operations
    extend. And since in all these voluntary operations there is some
    equity to preserve and some iniquity to shun--which equity may be lost
    through two causes, either through not knowing what it is, or through
    not wishing to follow it--the written Reason, the Law, was invented,
    both to point it out to us and to command its observance. Wherefore
    Augustine says: "If men could know this, that is, Equity, and knowing
    it would obey it, the written Reason, the Law, would not be needful."
    And therefore it is written in the beginning of the old Digests or
    Books of the Civil Law: "The written Reason is the Art of Goodness and
    of Equity." To write this, to show forth and to enforce this, is the
    business of that Official Post of which one speaks, that of the
    Emperor, to whom, as has been said, in so far as our own operations
    extend, we are subject, and no farther. For this reason in each Art
    and in each trade the artificers and the scholars are and ought to be
    subject to the chief and to the master of their trades and Art: beyond
    their callings the subjection ceases, because the superiority ceases.
    So that it is possible to speak of the Emperor in this manner, if we
    will represent his office figuratively, and say that he may be the
    rider of the Human Will, of which horse how it goes without its rider
    through the field is evident enough, and especially in miserable
    Italy, left without any means for its right government. And it is to
    be considered that in proportion as a thing is more fit for the
    Master's art, so much the greater is the subjection; for the cause
    being multiplied, so is the effect multiplied. Wherefore it is to be
    known that there are things which are such pure or simple Arts that
    Nature is their instrument; even as rowing with an oar, where the Art
    makes its instrument by impulsion, which is a natural movement; as in
    the threshing of the corn, where the Art makes its instrument, which
    is a natural quality. And in this especially a man ought to be subject
    to the chief and master of the Art. And there are things in which Art
    is the instrument of Nature, and these are lesser Arts; and in these
    the artificers are less subject to their chief, as in giving the seed
    to the Earth, where one must await the will of Nature; as to sail out
    of the harbour or port, where one must await the natural disposition
    of the weather; and therefore we often see in these things contention
    amongst the artificers, and the greater to ask counsel of the lesser.
    And there are other things which are not Arts, but appear to have some
    relationship with them; and therefore men are often deceived; and in
    these the scholars are not subject to a master, neither are they bound
    to believe in him so far as regards the Art. Thus, to fish seems to
    have some relationship with navigation; and to know the virtue of the
    herb or grass seems to have some relationship with agriculture; for
    these Arts have no general rule, since fishing may be below the Art of
    hunting, and beneath its command; to know the virtue of the herb may
    be below the science of medicine, or rather below its most noble

    Those things which have been argued concerning the other Arts in like
    manner may be seen in the Imperial Art, for there are rules in those
    Arts which are pure or simple Arts, as are the laws of marriage, of
    servants, of armies, of successors in offices of dignity; and in all
    these we may be entirely subject to the Emperor without doubt and
    without any suspicion whatever. There are other laws which are the
    followers of Nature, such as to constitute a man of sufficient age to
    fill some office in the administration; and to such a law as this we
    are entirely subject; there are many others which appear to have some
    relationship with the Imperial Art; and here he was and is deceived
    who believes that the Imperial judgment in this part may be authentic,
    as of youth, whose nature is laid down by no Imperial judgment, as it
    were, of the Emperor. Render, therefore, unto God that which is God's.
    Wherefore it is not to be believed, nor to be allowed, because it was
    said by Nero the Emperor that youth is beauty and strength of body;
    but credit would be given to the philosopher who should say that youth
    is the crown or summit of the natural life. And therefore it is
    evident that to define Nobility is not the function of the Art
    Imperial; and if it is not in the nature of the Art, when we are
    treating of Nobility we are not subject to it; and if we are not
    subject, we are not bound to yield reverence therein; and this is the
    conclusion we have sought.

    Now, therefore, with all freedom, with all liberty of mind, it remains
    to strike to the heart the vicious opinions, thereby causing them to
    fall to earth, in order that the Truth by means of this my victory may
    hold the field in the mind of him for whom it is good that this Light
    should shine clear.


    Since the opinions of others concerning Nobility have now been brought
    forward, and since it has been shown that it is lawful for me to
    confute those opinions, I shall now proceed to discourse concerning
    that part of the Song which confutes those opinions, beginning, as has
    been said above: "Whoever shall define The man a living tree." And
    therefore it is to be known that in the opinion of the Emperor,
    although it states it defectively in one part, that is, where he spoke
    of "generous ways," he alluded to the manners of the Nobility; and
    therefore the Song does not intend to reprove that part: the other
    part, which is entirely opposed to the nature of Nobility, it does
    intend to confute, which cites two things when it says: "Descent of
    wealth," "The wealth has long been great," that is, time and riches,
    which are entirely apart from Nobility, as has been said, and as will
    be shown farther on; and, therefore, in this confutation two divisions
    are made: in the first we deny the Nobility of riches, then confute
    the idea that time can cause Nobility. The second part begins: "They
    will not have the vile Turn noble."

    It is to be known that, riches being reproved, not only is the opinion
    of the Emperor reproved in that part which alludes to the riches, but
    also entirely that opinion of the common people, which was founded
    solely upon riches. The first part is divided into two: in the first
    it says in a general way that the Emperor was erroneous in his
    definition of Nobility; secondly, it shows the reason why or how that
    is; and this begins that second part, "For riches make no Nobleman."

    I say, then, "Whoever shall define The man a living tree," that,
    firstly, he will speak untruth, inasmuch as he says "tree," and "less
    than truth," inasmuch as he says "living," and does not say rational,
    which is the difference whereby Man is distinguished from the Beast.
    Then I say that in this way he was erroneous in his definition, he who
    held Imperial Office, not saying Emperor, but "one raised to Empire,"
    to indicate, as has been said above, that this question is beyond the
    bounds of the Imperial Office. In like manner I say that he errs who
    places a false subject under Nobility, that is, "descent of wealth,"
    and then proceeds to a defective form, or rather difference, that is,
    "generous ways," which do not contain any essential part of Nobility,
    but only a small part, as will appear below. And it is not to be
    omitted, although the text may be silent, that my Lord the Emperor in
    this part did not err in the parts of the definition, but only in the
    mode of the definition, although, according to what fame reports of
    him, he was a logician and a great scholar; that is to say, the
    definition of Nobility can be made more sufficiently by the effects
    than by the principles or premisses, since it appears to have the
    place of a first principle or premiss, which it is not possible to
    notify by first things, but by subsequent things. Then, when I say,
    "For riches make not worth," I show how they cannot possibly be the
    cause of Nobility, because they are vile. And I prove that they have
    not the power to take it away, because they are disjoined so much from
    Nobility. And I prove these to be vile by an especial and most evident
    defect; and I do this when I say, "How vile and incomplete." Finally,
    I conclude, by virtue of that which is said above:

    And hence the upright mind,
    To its own purpose true,
    Stands firm although the flood of wealth
    Sweep onward out of view;

    which proves that which is said above, that those riches are disunited
    from Nobility by not following the effect of union with it. Where it
    is to be known that, as the Philosopher expresses it, all the things
    which make anything must first exist perfectly within the being of the
    thing out of which that other thing is made. Wherefore he says in the
    seventh chapter of the Metaphysics: "When one thing is generated from
    another, it is generated of that thing by being in that Being."

    Again, it is to be known that each thing which becomes corrupt is thus
    corrupted by some change or alteration, and each thing which is
    changed or altered must be conjoined with the cause of the change,
    even as the Philosopher expresses it in the seventh chapter of the
    book on Physics and in the first chapter on Generation. These things
    being propounded, I proceed thus, and I say that riches, as another
    man believed, cannot possibly bestow Nobility, and to prove how great
    is the difference between them I say that they are unable to take
    Nobility away from him who possesses it. To bestow it they have not
    the power, since by nature they are vile, and because of their
    vileness they are opposed to Nobility. And here by vileness one means
    baseness, through degeneracy, which is directly opposite to Nobility:
    for the one opposite thing cannot be the maker of the other, neither
    is it possible to be, for the reason given above, which is briefly
    added to the text, saying, "No painter gives a form That is not of his
    knowing." Wherefore no painter would be able to depict any figure or
    form if he could not first design what such figure or form ought to

    Again, riches cannot take it away, because they are so far from
    Nobility; and, for the reason previously narrated, that which alters
    or corrupts anything must be conjoined with that thing, and therefore
    it is subjoined: "No tower leans above a stream That far away is
    flowing," which means nothing more than to accord with that which has
    been previously said, that riches cannot take Nobility away, saying
    that Nobility is, as it were, an upright tower and riches a river
    flowing swiftly in the distance.


    It now remains only to prove how vile riches are, and how disjoined
    and far apart they are from Nobility; and this is proved in two little
    parts of the text, to which at present it is requisite to pay
    attention, and then, those being explained, what I have said will be
    evident, namely, that riches are vile and far apart from Nobility, and
    hereby the reasons stated above against riches will be perfectly

    I say then, "How vile and incomplete Wealth is," and to make evident
    what I intend to say it is to be known that the vileness or baseness
    of each thing is derived from the imperfection of that thing, and
    Nobility from its perfection: wherefore in proportion as a thing is
    perfect, it is noble in its nature; in proportion as it is imperfect,
    it is vile. And therefore, if riches are imperfect, it is evident that
    they are vile or base. And that they are imperfect, the text briefly
    proves when it says: "However great the heap may be, It brings no
    peace, but care;" in which it is evident, not only that they are
    imperfect, but most imperfect, and therefore they are most vile; and
    Lucan bears witness to this when he says, speaking of those same
    riches: "Without strife or contention or opposition, the Laws would
    perish, and you, Riches, the basest part of things, you move or are
    the cause of Battles." It is possible briefly to see their
    imperfection in three things quite clearly: firstly, in the
    indiscriminate manner in which they fall to a person's lot; secondly,
    in their dangerous increase; thirdly, in their hurtful possession.

    And, firstly, that which I demonstrate concerning this is to clear up
    a doubt which seems to arise, for, since gold, pearls, and lands, may
    have in their essential being perfect form and act, it does not seem
    true to say that they are imperfect. And therefore one must
    distinguish that inasmuch as by themselves, of them it is considered,
    they are perfect things, and they are not riches, but gold and pearls;
    but inasmuch as they are appointed to the possession of man they are
    riches, and in this way they are full of imperfection; which is not an
    unbecoming or impossible thing, considered from different points of
    view, to be perfect and imperfect. I say that their imperfection
    firstly may be observed in the indiscretion, or unwisdom, or folly, of
    their arrival, in which no distributive Justice shines forth, but
    complete iniquity almost always; which iniquity is the proper effect
    of imperfection. For if the methods or ways by which they come are
    considered, all may be gathered together in three methods, or kinds of
    ways: for, either they come by simple chance, as when without
    intention or hope they come upon some discovery not thought of; or
    they come by fortune which is aided by law or right, as by will, or
    testament, or succession; or they come by fortune, the helper of the
    Law, as by lawful or unlawful provision; lawful, I say, when by art,
    or skill, or by trade, or deserved kindness; unlawful, I say, when
    either by theft or rapine. And in each one of these three ways, one
    sees that inequitable character of which I speak, for more often to
    the wicked than to the good the hidden treasures which are discovered
    present themselves; and this is so evident, that it has no need of
    proof. I saw the place in the side of a hill, or mountain, in Tuscany,
    which is called Falterona, where the most vile peasant of all the
    country, whilst digging, found more than a bushel of the finest
    Santèlena silver, which had awaited him perhaps for more than a
    thousand years. And in order to see this iniquity, Aristotle said that
    in proportion as the Man is subject to the Intellect, so much the less
    is he the slave of Fortune. And I say that oftener to the wicked than
    to the good befall legal inheritance and property by succession; and
    concerning this I do not wish to bring forward any proof, but let each
    one turn his eyes round his own immediate neighbourhood, and he will
    see that concerning which I am silent that I may not offend or bring
    shame to some one. Would to God that might be which was demanded by
    the Man of Provence, namely, that the man who is not the heir of
    goodness should lose the inheritance of wealth. And I say that many
    times to the wicked more than to the good comes rich provision, for
    the unlawful never comes to the good, because they refuse it; and what
    good man ever would endeavour to enrich himself by force or fraud?
    That would be impossible, for by the mere choice of the enterprise he
    would no more be good. And the lawful gains of wealth but rarely fall
    to the lot of the good, because, since much anxiety or anxious care is
    required therein, and the solicitude of the good is directed to
    greater things, the good man is rarely solicitous enough to seek them.
    Wherefore it is evident that in each way these riches fall unjustly or
    inequitably; and therefore our Lord called them wicked or unrighteous
    when He said, "Make to yourselves friends of the Mammon of
    unrighteousness," inviting and encouraging men to be liberal with good
    gifts, which are the begetters of friends. And what a beautiful
    exchange he makes who gives freely of these most imperfect things in
    order to have and to acquire perfect things, such as are the hearts of
    good and worthy men! This exchange it is possible to make every day.
    Certainly this is a new commerce, different from the others, which,
    thinking to win one man by generosity, has won thereby thousands and
    thousands. Who lives not again in the heart of Alexander because of
    his royal beneficence? Who lives not again in the good King of
    Castile, or Saladin, or the good Marquis of Monferrat, or the good
    Count of Toulouse, or Beltramo dal Bornio, or Galasso da Montefeltro,
    when mention is made of their noble acts of courtesy and liberality?
    Certainly not only those who would do the same willingly, had they the
    power, but those even who would die before they would do it, bear love
    to the memory of these good men.


    As has been said, it is possible to see the imperfection of riches not
    only in their indiscriminate advent, but also in their dangerous
    increase; and that in this we may perceive their defect more clearly,
    the text makes mention of it, saying of those riches, "However great
    the heap may be It brings no peace, but care;" they create more thirst
    and render increase more defective and insufficient. And here it is
    requisite to know that defective things may fail in such a way that on
    the surface they appear complete, but, under pretext of perfection,
    the shortcoming is concealed. But they may have those defects so
    entirely revealed that the imperfection is seen openly on the surface.
    And those things which do not reveal their defects in the first place
    are the most dangerous, since very often it is not possible to be on
    guard against them; even as we see in the traitor who, before our
    face, shows himself friendly, so that he causes us to have faith in
    him, and under pretext of friendship, hides the defect of his
    hostility. And in this way riches, in their increase, are dangerously
    imperfect, for, submitting to our eyes this that they promise, they
    bring just the contrary. The treacherous gains always promise that, if
    collected up to a certain amount, they will make the collector full of
    every satisfaction; and with this promise they lead the Human Will
    into the vice of Avarice. And, for this reason, Boethius calls them,
    in his book of Consolations, dangerous, saying, "Oh, alas! who was
    that first man who dug up the precious stones that wished to hide
    themselves, and who dug out the loads of gold once covered by the
    hills, dangerous treasures?"

    The treacherous ones promise, if we will but look, to remove every
    want, to quench all thirst, to bring satisfaction and sufficiency; and
    this they do to every man in the beginning, confirming promise to a
    certain point in their increase, and then, as soon as their pile
    rises, in place of contentment and refreshment they bring on an
    intolerable fever-thirst; and beyond sufficiency, they extend their
    limit, create a desire to amass more, and, with this, fear and anxiety
    far in excess of the new gain.

    Then, truly, they bring no peace, but more care, more trouble, than a
    man had in the first place when he was without them. And therefore
    Tullius says, in that book on Paradoxes, when execrating riches: "I at
    no time firmly believed the money of those men, or magnificent
    mansions, or riches, or lordships, or voluptuous joys, with which
    especially they are shackled, to be amongst things good or desirable,
    since I saw certain men in the abundance of them especially desire
    those wherein they abounded; because at no time is the thirst of
    cupidity quenched; not only are they tormented by the desire for the
    increase of those things which they possess, but also they have
    torment in the fear of losing them." And all these are the words of
    Tullius, and even thus they stand in that book which has been

    And, as a stronger witness to this imperfection, hear Boethius,
    speaking in his book of Consolation: "If the Goddess of Riches were to
    expand and multiply riches till they were as numerous as the sands
    thrown up by the sea when tost by the tempest, or countless as the
    stars that shine, still Man would weep."

    And because still further testimony is needful to reduce this to a
    proof, note how much Solomon and his father David exclaim against
    them, how much against them is Seneca, especially when writing to
    Lucilius, how much Horace, how much Juvenal, and, briefly, how much
    every writer, every poet, and how much Divine Scripture. All Truthful
    cries aloud against these false enticers to sin, full of all defect.
    Call to mind also, in aid of faith, what your own eyes have seen, what
    is the life of those men who follow after riches, how far they live
    securely when they have piled them up, what their contentment is, how
    peacefully they rest.

    What else daily endangers and destroys cities, countries, individual
    persons, so much as the fresh heaping up of wealth in the possession
    of some man? His accumulation wakens new desires, to the fulfilment of
    which it is not possible to attain without injury to some one.

    And what else does the Law, both Canonical and Civil, intend to
    rectify except cupidity or avarice, which grows with its heaps of
    riches, and which the Law seeks to resist or prevent. Truly, the
    Canonical and the Civil Law make it sufficiently clear, if the first
    sections of their written word are read. How evident it is, nay, I say
    it is most evident, that these riches are, in their increase, entirely
    imperfect; when, being amassed, naught else but imperfection can
    possibly spring forth from them. And this is what the text says.

    But here arises a doubtful question, which is not to be passed over
    without being put and answered. Some calumniator of the Truth might be
    able to say that if, by increasing desire in their acquisition, riches
    are imperfect and therefore vile, for this reason science or knowledge
    is imperfect and vile, in the acquisition of which the desire steadily
    increases, wherefore Seneca says, "If I should have one foot in the
    grave, I should still wish to learn."

    But it is not true that knowledge is vile through imperfection. By
    distinction of the consequences, increase of desire is not in
    knowledge the cause of vileness. That it is perfect is evident, for
    the Philosopher, in the sixth book of the Ethics, says that science or
    knowledge is the perfect reason of certain things. To this question
    one has to reply briefly; but in the first place it is to be seen
    whether in the acquisition of Knowledge the desire for it is enlarged
    in the way suggested by the question, and whether the argument be
    rational. Wherefore I say that not only in the acquisition of
    knowledge and riches, but in each and every acquisition, human desire
    expands, although in different ways; and the reason is this: that the
    supreme desire of each thing bestowed by Nature in the first place is
    to return to its first source. And since God is the First Cause of our
    Souls, and the Maker of them after His Own Image, as it is written,
    "Let us make Man in Our Image, after Our likeness," the Soul
    especially desires to return to that First Cause. As a pilgrim, who
    goes along a path where he never journeyed before, may believe every
    house that he sees in the distance to be his inn, and, not finding it
    to be so, may direct his belief to the next, and so travel on from
    house to house until he reach the inn, even so our Soul, as soon as it
    enters the untrodden path of this life, directs its eyes to its
    supreme good, the sum of its day's travel to good; and therefore
    whatever thing it sees which seems to have in itself some goodness, it
    thinks to be the supreme good. And because its knowledge at first is
    imperfect, owing to want of experience and want of instruction, good
    things that are but little appear great to it; and therefore in the
    first place it begins to desire those. So we see little children
    desire above all things an apple; and then, growing older, they desire
    a little bird; and then, being older, desire a beautiful garment; and
    then a horse, and then a wife, and then moderate wealth, and then
    greater wealth, and then still more. And this happens because in none
    of these things that is found for which search is made, and as we live
    on we seek further. Wherefore it is possible to see that one desirable
    thing stands under the other in the eyes of our Soul in a way almost
    pyramidal, for the least first covers the whole, and is as it were the
    point of the desirable good, which is God, at the basis of all; so
    that the farther it proceeds from the point towards the basis, so much
    the greater do the desirable good things appear; and this is the
    reason why, by acquisition, human desires become broader the one after
    the other.

    But, thus this pathway is lost through error, even as in the roads of
    the earth; for as from one city to another there is of necessity an
    excellent direct road, and often another which branches from that, the
    branch road goes into another part, and of many others some do not go
    all the way, and some go farther round; so in Human Life there are
    different roads, of which one is the truest, and another the most
    misleading, and some are less right, and some less wrong. And as we
    see that the straightest road to the city satisfies desire and gives
    rest after toil, and that which goes in the opposite direction never
    satisfies and never can give rest, so it happens in our Life. The man
    who follows the right path attains his end, and gains his rest. The
    man who follows the wrong path never attains it, but with much fatigue
    of mind and greedy eyes looks always before him.

    Wherefore, although this argument does not entirely reply to the
    question asked above, at least it opens the way to the reply, which
    causes us to see that each desire of ours does not proceed in its
    expansion in one way alone. But because this chapter is somewhat
    prolonged, we will reply in a new chapter to the question, wherein may
    be ended the whole disputation which it is our intention to make
    against riches.


    In reply to the question, I say that it is not possible to affirm
    properly that the desire for knowledge does increase, although, as has
    been said, it does expand in a certain way. For that which properly
    increases is always one; the desire for knowledge is not always one,
    but is many; and one desire fulfilled, another comes; so that,
    properly speaking, its expansion is not its increase, but it is
    advance of a succession of smaller things into great things. For if I
    desire to know the principles of natural things, as soon as I know
    these, that desire is satisfied and there is an end of it. If I then
    desire to know the why and the wherefore of each one of these
    principles, this is a new desire altogether. Nor by the advent of that
    new desire am I deprived of the perfection to which the other might
    lead me. Such an expansion as that is not the cause of imperfection,
    but of new perfection. That expansion of riches, however, is properly
    increased which is always one, so that no succession is seen therein,
    and therefore no end and no perfection.

    And if the adversary would say, that if the desire to know the first
    principles of natural things is one thing, and the desire to know what
    they are is another, so is the desire for a hundred marks one thing,
    and the desire for a thousand marks is another, I reply that it is not
    true; for the hundred is part of the thousand and is related to it, as
    part of a line to the whole of the line along which one proceeds by
    one impulse alone; and there is no succession there, nor completion of
    motion in any part. But to know what the principles of natural things
    are is not the same as to know what each one of them is; the one is
    not part of the other, and they are related to each other as diverging
    lines along which one does not proceed by one impulse, but the
    completed movement of the one succeeds the completed movement of the
    other. And thus it appears that, because of the desire for knowledge,
    knowledge is not to be called imperfect in the same way as riches are
    to be called imperfect, on account of the desire for them, as the
    question put it; for in the desire for knowledge the desires terminate
    successively with the attainment of their aims; and in the desire for
    riches, NO; so that the question is solved.

    Again, the adversary may calumniate, saying that, although many
    desires are fulfilled in the acquisition of knowledge, the last is
    never attained, which is the imperfection of that one desire, which
    does not gain its end; and that will be both one and imperfect.

    Again one here replies that it is not a truth which is brought forward
    in opposition, that is, that the last desire is never attained; for
    our natural desires, as is proved in the third treatise of this book,
    are all tending to a certain end; and the desire for knowledge is
    natural, so that this desire compasses a certain end, although but
    few, since they walk in the wrong path, accomplish the day's journey.
    And he who understands the Commentator in the third chapter, On the
    Soul, learns this of him; and therefore Aristotle says, in the tenth
    chapter of the Ethics, against Simonides the Poet, that man ought to
    draw near to Divine things as much as is possible; wherein he shows
    that our power tends towards a certain end. And in the first book of
    the Ethics he says that the disciplined Mind demands certainty in its
    knowledge of things in proportion as their nature received certainty,
    in which he proves that not only on the side of the man desiring
    knowledge, but on the side of the desired object of knowledge,
    attention ought to be given; and therefore St. Paul says: "Not much
    knowledge, but right knowledge in moderation." So that in whatever way
    the desire for knowledge is considered, either generally or
    particularly, it comes to perfection.

    And since knowledge is a noble perfection, and through the desire for
    it its perfection is not lost, as is the case with the accursed
    riches, we must note briefly how injurious they are when possessed,
    and this is the third notice of their imperfection. It is possible to
    see that the possession of them is injurious for two reasons: one,
    that it is the cause of evil; the other, that it is the privation of
    good. It is the cause of evil, which makes the timid possessor
    wakeful, watchful, and suspicious or hateful.

    How great is the fear of that man who knows he carries wealth about
    him, when walking abroad, when dwelling at home, when not only wakeful
    or watching, but when sleeping, not only the fear that he may lose his
    property, but fear for his life because he possesses these riches!
    Well do the miserable merchants know, who travel through the World,
    that the leaves which the wind stirs on the trees cause them to
    tremble when they are bearing their wealth with them; and when they
    are without it, full of confidence they go singing and talking, and
    thus make their journey shorter! Therefore the Wise Man says: "If the
    traveller enters on his road empty, he can sing in the presence of
    thieves." And this Lucan desires to express in the fifth book, when he
    praises the safety of poverty: "O, the safe and secure liberty of the
    poor Life! O, narrow dwelling-places and thrift! O, not again deem
    riches to be of the Gods! In what temples and within what palace walls
    could this be, that is to have no fear, in some tumult or other, of
    striking the hand of Cæsar?"

    And Lucan says this when he depicts how Cæsar came by night to the
    little house of the fisher Amyclas to cross the Adriatic Sea. And how
    great is the hatred that each man bears to the possessor of riches,
    either through envy, or from the desire to take possession of his
    wealth! So true it is, that often and often, contrary to due filial
    piety, the son meditates the death of the father; and most great and
    most evident experience of this the Italians can have, both on the
    banks of the Po and on the banks of the Tiber. And therefore Boethius
    in the second chapter of his Consolations says: "Certainly Avarice
    makes men hateful."

    Nay, their possession is privation of good, for, possessing those
    riches, a man does not give freely with generosity, which is a virtue,
    which is a perfect good, and which makes men magnificent and beloved;
    which does not lie in possession of those riches, but in ceasing to
    possess them. Wherefore Boethius in the same book says: "Then money is
    good when, bartered for other things, by the use of generosity one no
    longer possesses it." Wherefore the baseness of riches is sufficiently
    proved by all these remarks of his; and therefore the man with an
    upright desire and true knowledge never loves them; and, not loving
    them, he does not unite himself to them, but always desires them to be
    far from himself, except inasmuch as they are appointed to some
    necessary service; and it is a reasonable thing, since the perfect
    cannot be united with the imperfect. So we see that the curved line
    never joins the straight line, and if there be any conjunction, it is
    not of line to line, but of point to point. And thus it follows that
    the Mind which is upright in desire, and truthful in knowledge, is not
    disheartened at the loss of wealth: as the text asserts at the end of
    that part. And by this the text intends to prove that riches are as a
    river flowing in the distance past the upright tower of Reason, or
    rather of Nobility; and that these riches cannot take Nobility away
    from him who has it. And in this manner in the present Song it is
    argued against riches.


    Having confuted the error of other men in that part wherein it was
    advanced in support of riches, it remains now to confute it in that
    part where Time is said to be a cause of Nobility, saying, "Descent of
    wealth;" and this reproof or confutation is made in that part which
    begins: "They will not have the vile Turn noble." And in the first
    place one confutes this by means of an argument taken from those men
    themselves who err in this way; then, to their greater confusion, this
    their argument is also destroyed; and it does this when it says, "It
    follows then from this." Finally it concludes, their error being
    evident, and it being therefore time to attend to the Truth; and it
    does this when it says, "Sound intellect reproves."

    I say, then, "They will not have the vile Turn noble." Where it is to
    be known that the opinion of these erroneous persons is, that a man
    who is a peasant in the first place can never possibly be called a
    Nobleman; and the man who is the son of a peasant in like manner can
    never be Noble; and this breaks or destroys their own argument when
    they say that Time is requisite to Nobility, adding that word
    "descent." For it is impossible by process of Time to come to the
    generation of Nobility in this way of theirs, which declares it to be
    impossible for the humble peasant to become Noble by any work that he
    may do, or through any accident; and declares the mutation of a
    peasant father into a Noble son to be impossible. For if the son of
    the peasant is also a peasant, and his son again is also a peasant,
    and so always, it will never be possible to discover the place where
    Nobility can begin to be established by process of Time.

    And if the adversary, wishing to defend himself, should say that
    Nobility will begin at that period of Time when the low estate of the
    ancestors will be forgotten, I reply that this goes against
    themselves, for even of necessity there will be a transmutation of
    peasant into Noble, from one man into another, or from father to son,
    which is against that which they propound.

    And if the adversary should defend himself pertinaciously, saying that
    indeed they do desire that it should be possible for this
    transmutation to take place when the low estate of the ancestors
    passes into oblivion, although the text takes no notice of this, it is
    right that the Commentary should reply to it. And therefore I reply
    thus: that from this which they say there follow four very great
    difficulties, so that it cannot possibly be a good argument. One is,
    that in proportion as Human Nature might become better, the slower
    would be the generation of Nobility, which is a very great
    inconvenience; since in proportion as a thing is honoured for its
    excellence, so much the more is it the cause of goodness; and Nobility
    is reckoned amongst the good. What this means is shown thus: If
    Nobility, which I understand as a good thing, should be generated by
    oblivion, Nobility would be generated in proportion to the speediness
    with which men might be forgotten, for so much the sooner would
    oblivion descend upon all. Hence, in proportion as men might be
    forgotten, so much the sooner would they be Noble; and, on the
    contrary, in proportion to the length of time during which they were
    held in remembrance, so much the longer it would be before they could
    be ennobled.

    The second difficulty is, that in nothing apart from men would it be
    possible to make this distinction, that is to say, Noble or Vile,
    which is very inconvenient; since, in each species of things we see
    the image of Nobility or of Baseness, wherefore we often call one
    horse noble and one vile; and one falcon noble and one vile; and one
    pearl noble and one vile. And that it would not be possible to make
    this distinction is thus proved; if the oblivion of the humble
    ancestors is the cause of Nobility, or rather the baseness of the
    ancestors never was, it is not possible for oblivion of them to be,
    since oblivion is a destruction of remembrance, and in those other
    animals, and in plants, and in minerals, lowness and loftiness are not
    observed, since in one they are natural or innate and in an equal
    state, and Nobility cannot possibly be in their generation, and
    likewise neither can vileness nor baseness; since one regards the one
    and the other as habit and privation, which are possible to occur in
    the same subject; and therefore in them it would not be possible for a
    distinction to exist between the one and the other.

    And if the adversary should wish to say, that in other things Nobility
    is represented by the goodness of the thing, but in a man it is
    understood because there is no remembrance of his humble or base
    condition, one would wish to reply not with words, but with the sword,
    to such bestiality as it would be to give to other things goodness as
    a cause for Nobility, and to found the Nobility of men upon
    forgetfulness or oblivion as a first cause.

    The third difficulty is, that often the person or thing generated
    would come before the generator, which is quite impossible; and it is
    possible to prove this thus: Let us suppose that Gherardo da Cammino
    might have been the grandson of the most vile peasant who ever drank
    of the Sile or of the Cagnano, and that oblivion had not yet overtaken
    his grandfather; who will be bold enough to say that Gherardo da
    Cammino was a vile man? and who will not agree with me in saying that
    he was Noble? Certainly no one, however presumptuous he may wish to
    be, for he was so, and his memory will always be treasured. If
    oblivion had not yet overtaken his ancestor, as is proposed in
    opposition, so that he might be great through Nobility, and the
    Nobility in him might be seen so clearly, even as one does see it,
    then it would have been first in him before the founder of his
    Nobility could have existed; and this is impossible in the extreme.

    The fourth difficulty is, that such a man, the supposed grandfather,
    would have been held Noble after he was dead who was not Noble whilst
    alive; and a more inconvenient thing could not be. One proves it thus:
    Let us suppose that in the age of Dardanus there might be a
    remembrance of his low ancestors, and let us suppose that in the age
    of Laomedon this memory might have passed away, and that oblivion had
    overtaken it. According to the adverse opinion, Laomedon was Noble and
    Dardanus was vile, each in his lifetime. We, to whom the remembrance
    of the ancestors of Dardanus has not come, shall we say that Dardanus
    living was vile, and dead a Noble? And is not this contrary to the
    legend which says that Dardanus was the son of Jupiter (for such is
    the fable, which one ought not to regard whilst disputing
    philosophically); and yet if the adversary might wish to find support
    in the fable, certainly that which the fable veils destroys his
    arguments. And thus it is proved that the argument, which asserted
    that oblivion is the cause of Nobility, is false.


    Since, by their own argument, the Song has confuted them, and proved
    that Time is not requisite to Nobility, it proceeds immediately to
    confound their premisses, since of their false arguments no rust
    remains in the mind which is disposed towards Truth; and this it does
    when it says, "It follows then from this." Where it is to be known
    that if it is not possible for a peasant to become a Noble, or for a
    Noble son to be born of a humble father, as is advanced in their
    opinion, of two difficulties one must follow.

    The first is, that there can be no Nobility; the other is, that the
    World may have been always full of men, so that from one alone the
    Human Race cannot be descended; and this it is possible to prove.

    If Nobility is not generated afresh, and it has been stated many times
    that such is the basis of their opinion, the peasant man not being
    able to beget it in himself, or the humble father to pass it on to his
    son, the man always is the same as he was born; and such as the father
    was born, so is the son born; and so this process from one condition
    onwards is reached even by the first parent; for such as was the first
    father, that is, Adam, so must the whole Human Race be, because from
    him to the modern nations it will not be possible to find, according
    to that argument, any change whatever. Then, if Adam himself was
    Noble, we are all Noble; if he was vile, we are all vile or base;
    which is no other than to remove the distinction between these
    conditions, and thus it is to remove the conditions.

    And the Song states this, which follows from what is advanced, saying,
    "That all are high or base." And if this is not so, then any nation is
    to be called Noble, and any is to be called vile, of necessity.
    Transmutation from vileness into Nobility being thus taken away, the
    Human Race must be descended from different ancestors, that is, some
    from Nobles and some from vile persons, and so the Song says, "Or that
    in Time there never was Beginning to our race," that is to say, one
    beginning; it does not say beginnings. And this is most false
    according to the Philosopher, according to our Faith, which cannot
    lie, according to the Law and ancient belief of the Gentiles. For
    although the Philosopher does not assert the succession from one first
    man, yet he would have one essential being to be in all men, which
    cannot possibly have different origins. And Plato would have that all
    men depend upon one idea alone, and not on more or many, which is to
    give them only one beginning. And undoubtedly Aristotle would laugh
    very loudly if he heard of two species to be made out of the Human
    Race, as of horses and asses; and (may Aristotle forgive me) one might
    call those men asses who think in this way. For according to our Faith
    (which is to be preserved in its entirety) it is most false, as
    Solomon makes evident where he draws a distinction between men and the
    brute animals, for he calls men "all the sons of Adam," and this he
    does when he says: "Who knows if the spirits of the sons of Adam mount
    upwards, and if those of the beasts go downwards?" And that it is
    false according to the Gentiles, let the testimony of Ovid in the
    first chapter of his Metamorphoses prove, where he treats of the
    constitution of the World according to the Pagan belief, or rather
    belief of the Gentiles, saying: "Man is born "--he did not say "Men;"
    he said, "Man is born," or rather, "that the Artificer of all things
    made him from Divine seed, or that the new earth, but lately parted
    from the noble ether, retained seeds of the kindred Heaven, which,
    mingled with the water of the river, formed the son of Japhet into an
    image of the Gods, who govern all." Where evidently he asserts the
    first man to have been one alone; and therefore the Song says, "But
    that I cannot hold," that is, to the opinion that man had not one
    beginning; and the Song subjoins, "Nor yet if Christians they." And it
    says Christians, not Philosophers, or rather Gentiles, whose opinion
    also is adverse, because the Christian opinion is of greater force,
    and is the destroyer of all calumny, thanks to the supreme light of
    Heaven, which illuminates it.

    Then when I say, "Sound intellect reproves their words As false, and
    turns away," I conclude this error to be confuted, and I say that it
    is time to open the eyes to the Truth; and this is expressed when I
    say, "And now I seek to tell, As it appears to me." It is now evident
    to sound minds that the words of those men are vain, that is, without
    a crumb or particle of Truth; and I say sound not without cause. Our
    intellect may be said to be sound or unsound. And I say intellect for
    the noble part of our Soul, which it is possible to designate by the
    common word "Mind." It may be called sound or healthy, when it is not
    obstructed in its action by sickness of mind or body, which is to know
    what things are, as Aristotle expresses it in the third chapter on the

    For, owing to the sickness of the Soul, I have seen three horrible
    infirmities in the minds of men.

    One is caused by natural vanity, for many men are so presumptuous that
    they believe they know everything, and, owing to this, they assert
    things to be facts which are not facts. Tullius especially execrates
    this vice in the first chapter of the Offices, and St. Thomas in his
    book against the Gentiles, saying: "There are many men, so
    presumptuous in their conceit, who believe that they can compass all
    things with their intellect, deeming all that appears to them to be
    true, and count as false that which does not appear to them." Hence it
    arises that they never attain to any knowledge; believing themselves
    to be sufficiently learned, they never inquire, they never listen;
    they desire to be inquired of, and when a question is put, bad enough
    is their reply. Of those men Solomon speaks in Proverbs: "Seest thou a
    man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of

    Another infirmity of mind is caused by natural weakness or smallness,
    for many men are so vilely obstinate or stubborn that they cannot
    believe that it is possible either for them or for others to know
    things; and such men as these never of themselves seek knowledge, nor
    ever reason; for what other men say, they care not at all. And against
    these men Aristotle speaks in the first book of the Ethics, declaring
    those men to be insufficient or unsatisfactory hearers of Moral
    Philosophy. Those men always live, like beasts, a life of grossness,
    the despair of all learning.

    The third infirmity of mind is caused by the levity of nature; for
    many men are of such light fancy that in all their arguments they go
    astray, and even when they make a syllogism and have concluded, from
    that conclusion they fly off into another, and it seems to them most
    subtle argument. They start not from any true beginning, and truly
    they see nothing true in their imagination. Of those men the
    Philosopher says that it is not right to trouble about them, or to
    have business with them, saying, in the first book of Physics, that
    against him who denies the first postulate it is not right to dispute.
    And of such men as these are many idiots, who may not know their A B
    C, and who would wish to dispute in Geometry, in Astrology, and in the
    Science of Physics.

    Also through sickness or defect of body, it is possible for the Mind
    to be unsound or sick; even as through some primal defect at birth, as
    with those who are born fools, or through alteration in the brain, as
    with the madmen. And of this mental infirmity the Law speaks when it
    says: "In him who makes a Will or Testament, at the time when he makes
    the Will or Testament, health of mind, not health of body, is

    But to those intellects which from sickness of mind or body are not
    infirm, but are free, diligent, and whole in the light of Truth, I say
    it must be evident that the opinion of the people, which has been
    stated above, is vain, that is, without any value whatever, worthless.

    Afterwards the Song subjoins that I thus judge them to be false and
    vain; and this it does when it says, "Sound intellect reproves their
    words As false, and turns away." And afterwards I say that it is time
    to demonstrate or prove the Truth; and I say that it is now right to
    state what kind of thing true Nobility is, and how it is possible to
    know the man in whom it exists; and I speak of this where I say:

    And now I seek to tell
    As it appears to me,
    What is, whence comes, what signs attest
    A true Nobility.


    "The King shall rejoice in God, and all those shall be praised who
    swear by him, for closed is the mouth of those who speak wicked
    things." These words I can here propound in all truth; because each
    true King ought especially to love the Truth. Wherefore it is written
    in the Book of Wisdom, "Love the Light of Wisdom, you, who stand
    before, the people," and the Light of Wisdom is this same Truth. I
    say, then, every King shall rejoice that the most false and most
    injurious opinion of the wicked and deceitful men who have up to this
    time spoken iniquitously of Nobility is confuted.

    It is now requisite to proceed to the discussion of the Truth
    according to the division made above, in the third chapter of the
    present treatise. This second part, then, which begins, "I say that
    from one root Each Virtue firstly springs," intends to describe this
    Nobility according to the Truth, and this part is divided into two:
    for in the first the intention is to prove what this Nobility is; and
    in the second how it is possible to recognize him in whom it dwells,
    and this second part begins, "Such virtue shows its good." The first
    part, again, has two parts; for in the first certain things are sought
    for which are needful in order to perceive the definition of Nobility;
    in the second, one looks for its definition, and this second part
    begins, "Where virtue is, there is A Nobleman."

    That we may enter perfectly into the treatise, two things are to be
    considered in the first place. The one is, what is meant by this word
    Nobility, taken alone, in its simple meaning; the other is, in what
    path it is needful to walk in order to search out the before-named
    definition. I say, then, that, if we will pay attention to the common
    use of speech, by this word Nobility is understood the perfection of
    its own nature in each thing; wherefore it is predicated not only of
    the man, but also of all things; for the man calls a stone noble, a
    plant or tree noble, a horse noble, a falcon noble, whatever is seen
    to be perfect in its nature. And therefore Solomon says in
    Ecclesiastes, "Blessed is the land whose King is Noble;" which is no
    other than saying, whose King is perfect according to the perfection
    of the mind and body; and he thus makes this evident by that which he
    says previously, when he writes, "Woe unto the land whose King is a
    child." For that is not a perfect man, and a man is a child, if not by
    age, yet by his disordered manners and by the evil or defect of his
    life, as the Philosopher teaches in the first book of the Ethics.

    There are some foolish people who believe that by this word Noble is
    meant that which is to be named and known by many men; and they say
    that it comes from a verb which stands for _to know_, that is,
    _nosco_. But this is most false, for, if this could be, those
    things which were most named and best known in their species would in
    their species be the most noble. Thus the obelisk of St. Peter would
    be the most noble stone in the world; and Asdente, the shoemaker of
    Parma, would be more Noble than any one of his fellow-citizens; and
    Albuino della Scala would be more Noble than Guido da Castello di
    Reggio. Each one of those things is most false, and therefore it is
    most false that _nobile_ (noble) can come from _cognoscere_,
    to know. It comes from _non vile_ (not vile); wherefore
    _nobile_ (noble) is as it were _non vile_ (not vile).

    This perfection the Philosopher means in the seventh chapter of
    Physics, when he says: "Each thing is especially perfect when it
    touches and joins its own proper or relative virtue; and then it is
    especially perfect according to its nature. It is, then, possible to
    call the circle perfect when it is truly a circle, that is, when it is
    joined with its own proper or relative virtue, it is then complete in
    its nature, and it may then be called a noble circle." This is when
    there is a point in it which is equally distant from the
    circumference. That circle which has the figure of an egg loses its
    virtue and it is not Noble, nor that circle which has the form of an
    almost full moon, because in that its nature is not perfect. And thus
    evidently it is possible to see that commonly, or in a general sense,
    this word Nobility, expresses in all things perfection of their
    nature, and this is that for which one seeks primarily in order to
    enter more clearly into the discussion of that part which it is
    intended to explain.

    Secondly, it remains to be seen how one must proceed in order to find
    the definition of Human Nobility to which the present argument leads.
    I say, then, that since in those things which are of one species, as
    are all men, it is not possible by essential first principles to
    define their highest perfection, it is necessary to know and to define
    that by their effects. Therefore one reads in the Gospel of St.
    Matthew, when Christ speaks, "Beware of false prophets: by their
    fruits ye shall know them." And in a direct way the definition we seek
    is to be seen by the fruits, which are the moral and intellectual
    virtues of which this Nobility is the seed, as in its definition will
    be fully evident.

    And these are those two things we must see before one can proceed to
    the others, as is said in the previous part of this chapter.


    Since those two things which it seemed needful to understand before
    the text could be proceeded with have been seen and understood, it now
    remains to proceed with the text and to explain it, and the text then

    I say that from one root
    Each Virtue firstly springs,
    Virtue, I mean, that Happiness
    To man, by action, brings

    And I subjoin:

    This, as the Ethics teach,
    Is habit of right choice;

    placing the whole definition of the Moral Virtues as it is defined by
    the Philosopher in the second book of Ethics, in which two things
    principally are understood. One is, that each Virtue comes from one
    first principle or original cause; the other is, that by "Each Virtue"
    I mean the Moral Virtues, and this is evident from the words, "This,
    as the Ethics teach"

    Hence it is to be known that our most right and proper fruits are the
    Moral Virtues, since on every side they are in our power; and these
    are differently distinguished and enumerated by different
    philosophers. But it seems to me right to omit the opinion of other
    men in that part where the divine opinion of Aristotle is stated by
    word of mouth, and therefore, wishing to describe what those Moral
    Virtues are, I will pass on, briefly discoursing of them according to
    his opinion.

    There are eleven Virtues named by the said Philosopher. The first is
    called Courage, which is sword and bridle to moderate our boldness and
    timidity in things which are the ruin of our life. The second is
    Temperance, which is the law and bridle of our gluttony and of our
    undue abstinence in those things requisite for the preservation of our
    life. The third is Liberality, which is the moderator of our giving
    and of our receiving things temporal. The fourth is Magnificence,
    which is the moderator of great expenditures, making and supporting
    those within certain limits. The fifth is Magnanimity, which is the
    moderator and acquirer of great honours and fame. The sixth is the
    Love of Honour, which is the moderator and regulator to us of the
    honours of this World. The seventh is Mildness, which moderates our
    anger and our excessive or undue patience against our external
    misfortunes. The eighth is Affability, which makes us live on good
    terms with other men. The ninth is called Truth, which makes us
    moderate in boasting ourselves over and above what we are, and in
    depreciating ourselves below what we are in our speech. The tenth is
    called Eutrapelia, pleasantness of intercourse, which makes us
    moderate in joys or pleasures, causing us to use them in due measure.
    The eleventh is Justice, which teaches us to love and to act with
    uprightness in all things.

    And each of these Virtues has two collateral enemies, that is to say,
    vices; one in excess and one in defect. And these Moral Virtues are
    the centres or middle stations between them, and those Virtues all
    spring from one root or principle, that is to say, from the habit of
    our own good choice. Wherefore, in a general sense, it is possible to
    say of all, that they are a habit of choice standing firm in due
    moderation; and these are those which make a man happy in their active
    operation, as the Philosopher says in the first book of the Ethics
    when he defines Happiness, saying that Happiness is virtuous action in
    a perfect life.

    By many, Prudence, that is, good, judgment or wisdom, is well asserted
    to be a Moral Virtue. But Aristotle numbers that amongst the
    Intellectual Virtues, although it is the guide of the moral, and
    points out the way by which they are formed, and without it they could
    not be. Verily, it is to be known that we can have in this life two
    happinesses or felicities by following two different roads, both good
    and excellent, which lead us to them: the one is the Active Life and
    the other is the Contemplative Life, which (although by the Active
    Life one may attain, as has been said, to a good state of Happiness)
    leads us to supreme Happiness, even as the Philosopher proves in the
    tenth book of the Ethics; and Christ affirms it with His own Lips in
    the Gospel of Luke, speaking to Martha, when replying to her: "Martha,
    Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things: verily, one
    thing alone is needful," meaning, that which thou hast in hand; and He
    adds: "Mary has chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away
    from her." And Mary, according to that which is previously written in
    the Gospel, sitting at the feet of Christ, showed no care for the
    service of the house, but listened only to the words of the Saviour.

    For if we will explain this in the moral sense, our Lord wished to
    show thereby that the Contemplative Life was supremely good, although
    the Active Life might be good; this is evident to him who will give
    his mind to the words of the Gospel.

    It would be possible, however, for any one to say, in argument against
    me: Since the happiness of the Contemplative Life is more excellent
    than that of the Active Life, and both may be, and are, the fruit and
    end of Nobility, why not rather have proceeded in the argument along
    the line of the Intellectual Virtues than of the Moral? To this it is
    possible to reply briefly, that in all instruction it is desirable to
    have regard to the capability of the learner, and to lead him by that
    path which is easiest to him. Wherefore, since the Moral Virtues
    appear to be, and are, more general and more required than the others,
    and are more seen in outward appearances, it was more convenient and
    more useful to proceed along that path than by the other; for thus
    indeed we shall attain to the knowledge of the bees by arguing of
    profit from the wax, as well as by arguing of profit from the honey,
    for both the one and the other proceed from them.


    In the preceding chapter has been determined how each Moral Virtue
    comes from one root, or first principle, that is, a good habit of
    choice; and the present text bears upon that, until the part which
    begins: "Nobility by right." In this part, then, it proceeds, by a way
    that is allowable, to teach that each Virtue mentioned above, taken
    singly, or otherwise generally, proceeds from Nobility as an effect
    from its cause, and it is founded upon a philosophical proposition,
    which says that, when two things are found to meet in one, both these
    things must be reduced to a third, or one to the other, as an effect
    to a cause: because one thing having stood first and of itself, it
    cannot exist except it be from one; and if those two could not be both
    the effect of a third, or else one the effect of the other, each would
    have had a separate first cause, which is impossible. It says, then,

    Such virtue shows its good
    To others' intellect,
    For when two things agree in one,
    Producing one effect,

    One must from other come,
    Or each one from a third,
    If each be as each, and more, then one
    From the other is inferred.

    Where it is to be known that here one does not proceed by an evident
    demonstration; as it would be to say that the cold is the generative
    principle of water, when we see the clouds; but certainly by a
    beautiful and suitable induction. For if there are many laudable
    things in us, and one is the principle or first cause of them all,
    reason requires each to be reduced to that first cause, which
    comprehends more things; and this ought more reasonably to be called
    the principle of those things than that which comprehends in itself
    less of their principle. For as the trunk of a tree, which contains or
    encloses all the other branches, ought to be called the first
    beginning and cause of those branches, and not those branches the
    cause of the trunk, so Nobility, which comprehends each and every
    Virtue (as the cause contains the effect) and many other actions or
    operations of ours which are praiseworthy, it ought to be held for
    such; that the Virtue may be reduced to it, rather than to the other
    third which is in us. Finally it says that the position taken (namely,
    that each Moral Virtue comes from one root, and that such Virtue and
    Nobility unite in one thing, as is stated above, and that therefore it
    is requisite to reduce the one to the other, or both to a third; and
    that if the one contains the value of the other and more, from that it
    proceeds rather than from the other third) may be considered as a rule
    established and set forth, as was before intended.

    And thus ends this passage and this present part.


    Since in the preceding part are discussed three certain definite
    things which were necessary to be seen before we define, if possible,
    this good thing of which we speak, it is right to proceed to the
    following part, which begins: "Where Virtue is, there is A Nobleman."
    And it is desirable to reduce this into two parts. In the first a
    certain thing is proved, which before has been touched upon and left
    unproved; in the second, concluding, the definition sought is found;
    and this second part begins; "Comes virtue from what's noble, as From
    black comes violet."

    In evidence of the first part, it is to be recalled to mind that it
    says previously that, if Nobility is worth more and extends farther
    than Virtue, Virtue rather will proceed from it, which this part now
    proves, namely, that Nobility extends farther, and produces a copy of
    Heaven, saying that wherever there is Virtue there is Nobility. And
    here it is to be known that (as it is written in the Books of the Law,
    and is held as a Rule of the Law) in those things which of themselves
    are evident there is no need of proof; and nothing is more evident
    than that Nobility exists wherever there is Virtue, and each thing,
    commonly speaking, that we see perfect according to its nature is
    worthy to be called Noble. It says then: "So likewise that is Heaven
    Wherein a star is hung, But Heaven may be starless." So there is
    Nobility wherever there is Virtue, and not Virtue wherever there is
    Nobility. And with a beautiful and suitable example; for truly it is a
    Heaven in which many and various stars shine. In this Nobility there
    shine the Moral and the Intellectual Virtues: there shine in it the
    good dispositions bestowed by nature, piety, and religion; the
    praiseworthy passions, as Modesty and Mercy and many others; there
    shine in it the good gifts of the body, that is to say, beauty,
    strength, and almost perpetual health; and so many are the stars which
    stud its Heaven that certainly it is not to be wondered at if they
    produce many and divers effects in Human Nobility; such are the
    natures and the powers of those stars, assembled and contained within
    one simple substance, through the medium of which stars, as through
    different branches, it bears fruit in various ways. Certainly, with
    all earnestness, I make bold to say that Human Nobility, so far as
    many of its fruits are considered, excels that of the Angel, although
    the Angelic may be more Divine in its unity.

    Of this Nobility of ours, which fructifies into such fruits and so
    numerous, the Psalmist had perception when he composed that Psalm
    which begins: "O Lord our God, how admirable is Thy Name through all
    the Earth!" where he praises man, as if wondering at the Divine
    affection for this Human Creature, saying: "What is man, that Thou,
    God, dost visit him? Thou hast made him a little lower than the
    Angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour, and placed him
    over the works of Thy hands." Then, truly, it was a beautiful and
    suitable comparison to compare Heaven with Human Nobility.

    Then, when the Song says, "In women and the young A modesty is seen,
    Not virtue, noble yet," it proves that Nobility extends into parts
    where Virtue is not; and it says, "noble yet," alluding to Nobility as
    indeed a true safeguard, being where there is shame or modesty, that
    is to say, fear of dishonour, as it is in maidens and youths, where
    shame or modesty is good and praiseworthy; which shame or modesty is
    not virtue, but a certain good passion. And it says, "In women and the
    young," that is to say, in youths; because, as the Philosopher
    expresses it in the fourth book of the Ethics, shame, bashfulness,
    modesty, is not praiseworthy nor good in the old nor in men of
    studious habits, because to them it is fit that they beware of those
    things which would lead them to shame. In youths and maidens such
    caution is not so much required, and therefore in them the fear of
    receiving dishonour through some fault is praiseworthy. It springs
    from Nobility, and it is possible to account their timid bashfulness
    to be Nobility. Baseness and ignoble ways produce impudence: wherefore
    it is a good and excellent sign of Nobility in children and persons of
    tender years when, after some fault, their shame is painted in their
    face, which blush of shame is then the fruit of true Nobility.


    When it proceeds to say, "Comes virtue from what's noble, as From
    black comes violet," the text advances to the desired definition of
    Nobility, by which one may see what this Nobility is of which so many
    people speak erroneously. It says then, drawing a conclusion from that
    which has been said before, that each Virtue, or rather its generator,
    that is to say, the habit of right choice, which stands firm in due
    moderation, will spring forth from this, that is, Nobility. And it
    gives an example in the colours, saying, as from the black the violet,
    so this Virtue springs from Nobility. The violet is a mixed colour of
    purple and black, but the black prevails, and the colour is named from
    it. And thus the Virtue is a mixed thing of Nobility and Passion; but,
    because Nobility prevails, the Virtue takes its name from it, and is
    called Goodness. Then afterwards it argues, by that which has been
    said, that no man ought to say boastfully, "I am of such and such a
    race or family;" nor ought he to believe that he is of this Nobility
    unless the fruits of it are in him. And immediately it renders a
    reason, saying that those who have this Grace, that is to say, this
    Divine thing, are almost Gods as it were, without spot of vice, and no
    one has the power to bestow this except God alone, with whom there is
    no respect of persons, even as Divine Scripture makes manifest. And it
    does not appear too extravagant when it says, "They are as Gods," for
    as it is argued previously in the seventh chapter of the third
    treatise, even as there are men most vile and bestial so are men most
    Noble and Divine. And this Aristotle proves in the seventh chapter of
    Ethics by the text of Homer the poet; therefore, let not those men who
    are of the Uberti of Florence, nor those of the Visconti of Milan,
    say, "Because I am of such a family or race, I am Noble," for the
    Divine seed falls not into a race of men, that is, into a family; but
    it falls into individual persons, and, as will be proved below, the
    family does not make individual persons Noble, but the individual
    persons make the family Noble.

    Then when it says, "God only gives it to the Soul," the argument is of
    the susceptive, that is, of the subject whereon this Divine gift
    descends, which is indeed a Divine gift, according to the word of the
    Apostle: "Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above,
    proceeding from the Father of Light." It says then that God alone
    imparts this Grace to the Soul that He sees pure, within the Soul of
    that man whom He sees to be perfectly prepared and fit to receive in
    his own proper person this Divine action; for, according as the
    Philosopher says in the second chapter Of the Soul, things must be
    prepared for their agents and qualified to receive their acts;
    wherefore if the Soul is imperfectly prepared, it is not qualified to
    receive this blessed and Divine infusion, even as a precious stone, if
    it is badly cut or prepared, wherever it is imperfect, cannot receive
    the celestial virtue; even as that noble Guido Guinizzelli said, in a
    Song of his which begins: "To gentle hearts Love ever will repair." It
    is possible for the Soul to be unqualified through some defect of
    temper, or perhaps through some sinister circumstances of the time in
    which the person lives, and into a Soul so unhappy as this the Divine
    radiance never shines. And it may be said of such men as these, whose
    Souls are deprived of this Light, that they are as deep valleys turned
    towards the North, or rather subterranean caves wherein the light of
    the Sun never enters unless it be reflected from another part which
    has caught its rays.

    Finally, it deduces, from that which has been previously said, that
    the Virtues are the fruit of Nobility, and that God places that
    Nobility in the Soul which has a good foundation. For to some, that
    is, to those who have intellect, who are but few, it is evident that
    human Nobility is no other than the seed of Happiness

    That seed of Happiness
    Falls in the hearts of few,
    Planted by God within the Souls
    Spread to receive His dew;

    that is to say, whose body is in every part perfectly prepared,
    ordered, or qualified.

    For if the Virtues are the fruit of Nobility, and Happiness is
    pleasure or sweetness acquired through or by them, it is evident that
    this Nobility is the seed of Happiness, as has been said. And if one
    considers well, this definition comprehends all the four arguments,
    that is to say, the material, the formal, the efficient, and the
    final: material, inasmuch as it says, "to the Soul spread to receive,"
    which is the material and subject of Nobility; formal, inasmuch as it
    says, "That seed;" efficient, inasmuch as it says, "Planted by God
    within the Soul;" final, inasmuch as it says, "of Happiness," Heaven's
    blessing. And thus is defined this our good gift, which descends into
    us in like manner from the Supreme and Spiritual Power, as virtue into
    a precious stone from a most noble celestial body.


    That we may have more perfect knowledge of Human Goodness, as it is
    the original cause in us of all good that can be called Nobility, it
    is requisite to explain clearly in this especial chapter how this
    Goodness descends into us.

    In the first place, it comes by the Natural way, and then by the
    Theological way, that is to say, the Divine and Spiritual. In the
    first place, it is to be known that man is composed of Soul and body;
    but that Goodness or Nobility is of the Soul, as has been said, and is
    after the manner of seed from the Divine Virtue. By different
    philosophers it has been differently argued concerning the difference
    in our Souls; for Avicenna and Algazel were of opinion that Souls of
    themselves and from their beginning were Noble or Base. Plato and some
    others were of opinion that they proceeded by the stars, and were
    Noble more or less according to the nobility of the star. Pythagoras
    was of opinion that all were of one nobility, not only human Souls,
    but with human Souls those of the brute animals and of the trees and
    the forms of minerals; and he said that all the difference in the
    bodies is form. If each one were to defend his opinion, it might be
    that Truth would be seen to be in all. But since on the surface they
    seem somewhat distant from the Truth, one must not proceed according
    to those opinions, but according to the opinion of Aristotle and of
    the Peripatetics. And therefore I say that when the human seed falls
    into its receptacle, that is, into the matrix, it bears with it the
    virtue or power of the generative Soul, and the virtue or power of
    Heaven, and the virtue or power of the aliments united or bound
    together, that is the involution or complex nature of the seed. It
    matures and prepares the material for the formative power or virtue
    which the generating Soul bestows; and the formative power or virtue
    prepares the organs for the celestial virtue or power, which produces,
    from the power of the seed, the Soul in life; which, as soon as
    produced, receives from the power of the Mover of the Heaven the
    passive intellect or mind, which potentially brings together in itself
    all the universal forms according as they are in its producer, and so
    much the less in proportion as it is farther removed from the first

    Let no one marvel if I speak what seems difficult to understand; for
    to myself it seems a miracle how it is possible even to arrive at a
    conclusion concerning it, and to perceive it with the intellect. It is
    not a thing to reveal in language, especially the language of the
    Vulgar Tongue; wherefore I will say, even as did the Apostle: "Oh,
    great is the depth of the riches of Wisdom of God: how incomprehensible
    are Thy judgments, and Thy ways past finding out!" And since the
    complex nature of the seed may be better and less good, and the
    disposition of the receiver of the seed may be better and less good,
    and the disposition of the dominant Heaven to this effect may be good
    and better and best, which varies in the constellations, which are
    continually transformed; it befalls that from the human seed and from
    these virtues or powers the Soul is produced more or less pure; and
    according to its purity there descends into it the virtue or power of
    the possible or passive intellect, as it is called, and as it has been
    spoken of. And if it happen that through the purity of the receptive
    Soul the intellectual power is indeed separate and absolute, free from
    all corporeal shadow, the Divine Goodness multiplies in it, as in a
    thing sufficient to receive that good gift; and then it multiplies in
    the Soul of this intelligent being, according as it can receive it;
    and this is that seed of Happiness of which we speak at present. And
    this is in harmony with the opinion of Tullius in that book on Old Age
    when, speaking personally of Cato, he says: "For this reason a
    celestial spirit descended into us from the highest habitation, having
    come into a place which is adverse to the Divine Nature and to
    Eternity." And in such a Soul as this there is its own individual
    power, and the intellectual power, and the Divine power; that is to
    say, that influence which has been mentioned. Therefore it is written
    in the book On Causes: "Each Noble Soul has three operations, that is
    to say, the animal, the intellectual, and the Divine." And there are
    some men who hold such opinions that they say, if all the preceding
    powers were to unite in the production of a Soul in their best
    disposition, arrangement, order, that into that Soul would descend so
    much of the Deity that it would be as it were another God Incarnate;
    and this is almost all that it is possible to say concerning the
    Natural way.

    By the Theological way it is possible to say that, when the Supreme
    Deity, that is, God, sees His creature prepared to receive His good
    gift, so freely He imparts it to His creature in proportion as it is
    prepared or qualified to receive it. And because these gifts proceed
    from ineffable Love, and the Divine Love is appropriate to the Holy
    Spirit, therefore it is that they are called the gifts of the Holy
    Spirit, which, even as the Prophet Isaiah distinguishes them, are
    seven, namely, Wisdom, Intelligence, Counsel, Courage, Knowledge,
    Pity, and the Fear of God. O, good green blades, and good and
    wonderful the seed!

    And O, admirable and benign Sower of the seed, who dost only wait for
    human nature to prepare the ground for Thee wherein to sow! O, blessed
    are those who till the land to fit it to receive such seed!

    Here it is to be known that the first noble shoot which germinates
    from this seed that it may be fruitful, is the desire or appetite of
    the mind, which in Greek is called "hormen;" and if this is not well
    cultivated and held upright by good habits, the seed is of little
    worth, and it would be better if it had not been sown.

    And therefore St. Augustine urges, and Aristotle also in the second
    book of Ethics, that man should accustom himself to do good, and to
    bridle in his passions, in order that this shoot which has been
    mentioned may grow strong through good habits, and be confirmed in its
    uprightness, so that it may fructify, and from its fruit may issue the
    sweetness of Human Happiness.


    It is the commandment of the Moral Philosophers that, of the good
    gifts whereof they have spoken, Man ought to put his thought and his
    anxious care into the effort to make them as useful as possible to the
    receiver. Wherefore I, wishing to be obedient to such a mandate,
    intend to render this my BANQUET [Convito] as useful as possible in
    each one of its parts. And because in this part it occurs to me to be
    able to reason somewhat concerning the sweetness of Human Happiness, I
    consider that there could not be a more useful discourse, especially
    to those who know it not; for as the Philosopher says in the first
    book of Ethics, and Tullius in that book Of the Ends of Good and Evil,
    he shoots badly at the mark who sees it not. Even thus a man can but
    ill advance towards this sweet joy who does not begin with a
    perception of it. Wherefore, since it is our final rest for which we
    live and labour as we can, most useful and most necessary it is to see
    this mark in order to aim at it the bow of this our work. And it is
    most essential to make it inviting to those who do not see the mark
    when simply pointed out. Leaving alone, then, the opinion which
    Epicurus the philosopher had concerning it, and that which Zeno
    likewise had, I intend to come summarily to the true opinion of
    Aristotle and of the other Peripatetics. As it is said above, of the
    Divine Goodness sown and infused in us, from the original cause of our
    production, there springs up a shoot, which the Greeks term "hormen,"
    that is to say, the natural appetite of the soul.

    And as it is with the blades of corn which, when they first shoot
    forth, have in the beginning one similar appearance, being in the
    grass-like stage, and then, by process of time, they become unlike, so
    this Natural appetite, which springs from the Divine Grace, in the
    beginning appears as it were not unlike that which comes nakedly from
    Nature; but with it, even as the herbage born of various grains of
    corn, it has the same appearance, as it were: and not only in the
    blades of corn, but in men and in beasts there is the same similitude.
    And it appears that every animal, as soon as it is born, both rational
    and brute beast, loves itself, and fears and flies from those things
    which are adverse to it, and hates them, then proceeding as has been
    said. And there begins a difference between them in the progress of
    this Natural appetite, for the one keeps to one road, and the other to
    another; even as the Apostle says: "Many run to the goal, but there is
    but one who reaches it." Even thus these Human appetites from the
    beginning run through different paths, and there is one path alone
    which leads us to our peace; and therefore, leaving all the others
    alone, it is for the treatise to follow the course of that one who
    begins well.

    I say, then, that from the beginning a man loves himself, although
    indistinctly; then comes the distinguishing of those things which to
    him are more or less; to be more or less loved or hated; and he
    follows after and flies from either more or less according as the
    right habit distinguishes, not only in the other things which he loves
    in a secondary manner, for he even distinguishes in himself which
    thing he loves principally; and perceiving in himself divers parts,
    those which are the noblest in him he loves most. But, since the
    noblest part of man is the Mind, he loves that more than the Body; and
    thus, loving himself principally, and through himself other things,
    and of himself loving the better part most, it is evident that he
    loves the Mind more than the Body or any other thing; and the Mind it
    is that, naturally, more than any other thing he ought to love.

    Then, if the Mind always delights in the use of the beloved thing,
    which is the fruit of love, the use of that thing which is especially
    beloved is especially delightful: the use of our Mind is especially
    delightful to us, and that which is especially delightful to us
    becomes our Happiness and our Beatitude, beyond which there is no
    greater delight or pleasure, nor any equal to it, as may be seen by
    him who looks well at the preceding argument.

    And no one ought to say that every appetite is Mind; for here one
    understands Mind solely as that which belongs to the Rational part,
    that is, the Will and the Intellect; so that if any one should wish to
    call Mind the appetite of the Senses, here it has no place, nor can it
    have any abiding; for no one doubts that the Rational appetite is more
    noble than the Sensual, and therefore more to be loved; and so is this
    of which we are now speaking.

    The use of our Mind is double, that is to say, Practical and
    Speculative (it is Practical insomuch as it has the power of acting);
    both the one and the other are delightful in their use, but that of
    Contemplation is the most pleasing, as has been said above. The use of
    the Practical is to act in or through us virtuously, that is to say,
    honestly or uprightly, with Prudence, with Temperance, with Courage,
    and with Justice. The use of the Speculative is not to work or act
    through us, but to consider the works of God and of Nature. This and
    the other form our Beatitude and Supreme Happiness, which is the
    sweetness of the before-mentioned seed, as now clearly appears. To
    this often such seed does not attain, through being ill cultivated, or
    through its tender growing shoots being perverted. In like manner it
    is quite possible, by much correction and cultivation of him into whom
    this seed does not fall primarily, to induce it by the process of
    steady endeavour after goodness, so that it may attain to the power of
    bearing this fruit. And it is, as it were, a method of grafting the
    nature of another upon a different stock.

    No man, therefore, can hold himself excused; for if from his natural
    root the man does not produce sweet fruit, it is possible for him to
    have it by the process of grafting; and in fact there would be as many
    who should be grafted as those are who, sprung from a good root, allow
    themselves to grow degenerate.

    Of the two ways of goodness, one is more full of bliss than the other,
    as is the Speculative, which is the use of our noblest part without
    any alloy, and which, for the root, Love, as has been said, is
    especially to be loved as the intellect. And in this life it is not
    possible to have the use of this part perfectly, which is to see God,
    who is the Supreme Being to be comprehended by the Mind, except
    inasmuch as the intellect considers Him and beholds Him through His
    effects, His Works. And that we may seek this Beatitude as the
    supreme, and not the other, that is, that of the Active Life, the
    Gospel of St. Mark teaches us, if we will look at it well.

    Mark says that Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Mary
    Salome went to find the Saviour in the Tomb, and they found Him not,
    but they found a youth clothed in white, who said to them: "You seek
    the Saviour, and I tell you that He is not here; and therefore be not
    affrighted, but go and tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth
    before you into Galilee; and there ye shall see Him, as He said unto
    you." By these three women may be understood the three sects of the
    Active Life, that is to say, the Epicureans, the Stoics, and the
    Peripatetics, who go to the Tomb, that is to say, to the present
    World, which is the receptacle of corruptible things, and seek for the
    Saviour, that is, Beatitude, and they find it not; but they find a
    youth in white garments, who, according to the testimony of Matthew,
    and also of the other Evangelists, was an Angel of God. And therefore
    Matthew said: "The Angel of the Lord descended from Heaven, and came
    and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His
    countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow." The
    Angel is this Nobility of ours which comes from God, as it has been
    said, of which our argument speaks, and says to each one of these
    sects, that is, to whoever seeks perfect Happiness in the Active Life,
    that it is not here; but go and tell the disciples and Peter, that is,
    tell those who seek for it and those who are gone astray like Peter,
    who had denied Him, that He will go before them into Galilee; meaning
    that the Beatitude or Happiness will go before us into Galilee, that
    is, into Contemplation; Galilee is as much as to say, Whiteness.
    Whiteness is a colour full of material light, more so than any other;
    and thus, Contemplation is more full of Spiritual light than any other
    thing which is below.

    And it says, "He will go before you," but it does not say, "He will be
    with you," to make us understand that in our contemplation God always
    goes before. Nor is it ever possible to us to attain to Him here, to
    Him, our Supreme Bliss. And it says, "There shall ye see Him, as He
    said unto you;" that is to say, there you will receive of His
    Sweetness, that is, of the Happiness as it is promised to you here, as
    it is established that you may receive it.

    And thus it appears that our Beatitude, this Happiness of which we
    speak, first we are able to find imperfect in the Active Life, that
    is, in the operations of the Moral Virtues, and then almost perfect in
    the operations of the Intellectual Virtues; which two operations are
    speedy and most direct ways to lead to the Supreme Bliss, which it is
    not possible to have here below, even as appears by that which has
    been said.


    Since the definition of Nobility is sufficiently demonstrated, and
    since in all its parts it has been made as explicit as possible, so
    that we can now see who is the Nobleman, it seems right to proceed to
    the part of the text which begins, "Souls whom this Grace adorns," in
    whom appear the signs by which it is possible to know the Noble Man.

    This part is divided into two. In the first it affirms that this
    Nobility is resplendent, and that it shines forth manifestly during
    the whole life of the Noble Man; in the second it appears specifically
    in its glory, and this second part begins, "In Childhood they obey."
    With regard to the first part, it is to be known that this Divine
    seed, which has been previously spoken of, germinates immediately in
    our Soul, combining with and changing its form with each form of the
    Soul, according to the exigency of that power. It germinates, then, as
    the Vegetative, as the Sensitive, and as the Rational, and it branches
    out through the virtues or powers of all of them, guiding all those to
    their perfection, and sustaining itself in them always, even to the
    point when, with that part of our Soul which never dies, it returns to
    the highest and the most glorious Sower of the seed in Heaven; and it
    expresses this in that first part which has been mentioned. Then when
    it says, "In Childhood they obey, Are gentle, modest," it shows how we
    can recognize the Noble Man by the apparent signs, which are the
    Divine operation of this goodness. And this part is divided into four,
    as it is made to represent four different ages, such as Adolescence,
    Youth, Old Age, and Extreme Old Age. The second part begins, "Are
    temperate in Youth;" the third begins, "Are prudent in their Age;" the
    fourth begins, "The fourth part of their life." Herein is contained
    the purpose of this part in general, with regard to which it is
    desirable to know that each effect, inasmuch as it is an effect,
    receives the likeness of its cause in proportion as it is capable of
    retaining it.

    Wherefore, since our life, as has been said, and also the life of
    every living creature here below, is caused by Heaven, Heaven is
    revealed in all such effects as these, not, indeed, with the complete
    circle, but with part of it, in them. Thus its movement must be not
    only with them, but beyond them, and as one arch of life retains (and
    I say retains, not only of men, but also of other living creatures)
    almost all the lives, ascending and descending, they must be, as it
    were, similar in appearance to the form of the arch. Returning, then,
    to our course of life which at present we are seeking to understand, I
    say that it proceeds after the manner of this arch, ascending and
    descending. And it is to be known that the ascent of this arch should
    be equal to its descent, if the material of the seed from which we
    spring, so complex in its nature, did not impede the law of Human
    Nature. But since the humid root is of better quality more or less,
    and stronger to endure in one effect more than in another, being
    subject to the nutriment of the heat, which is our life, it happens
    that the arch of the life of one man is of less or of greater extent
    than that of another, life being shortened by a violent death or by
    some accidental injury; but that which is called natural by the people
    is that span of which it is said by the Psalmist, "Thou settest up a
    boundary which it is not possible to pass." And since the Master among
    those here living, Aristotle, had perception of this arch of which we
    now speak, and seems to be of opinion that our life should be no other
    than one ascent and one descent, therefore he says, in that chapter
    where he treats of Youth and of Old Age, that Youth is no other than
    an increase of life. Where the top of this arch may be, it is
    difficult to know, on account of the inequality which has been spoken
    of above, but for the most part I believe between the thirtieth and
    the fortieth year, and I believe that in the perfectly natural man it
    is at the thirty-fifth year. And this reason has weight with me: that
    our Saviour Jesus Christ was a perfect natural man, who chose to die
    in the thirty-fourth year of His age; for it was not suitable for the
    Deity to have place in the descending segment; neither is it to be
    believed that He would not wish to dwell in this life of ours even to
    the summit of it, since He had been in the lower part even from
    childhood. And the hour of the day of His death makes this evident,
    for He willed that to conform with His life; wherefore Luke says that
    it was about the sixth hour when He died, that is to say, the height
    or supreme point of the day; wherefore it is possible to comprehend by
    that, as it were, that at the thirty-fifth year of Christ was the
    height or supreme point of His age. Truly this arch is not half
    distinguished in the Scriptures, but if we follow the four connecting
    links of the differing qualities which are in our composition, to each
    one of which appears to be appropriated one part of our age, it is
    divided into four parts, and they are called the four ages. The first
    is Adolescence, which is appropriated to the hot and moist; the second
    is Youth, which is appropriated to the hot and dry; the third is Old
    Age, which is appropriated to the cold and dry; the fourth is Extreme
    Old Age, which is appropriated to the cold and moist, as Albertus
    Magnus writes in the fourth chapter of the Metaura. And these parts or
    divisions are made in a similar manner in the year--in Spring, in
    Summer, in Autumn, and in Winter. And it is the same in the day even
    to the third hour, and then even to the ninth, leaving the sixth in
    the middle of this part, or division, for the reason which is
    understood, and then even to vespers, and from vespers onwards. And
    therefore the Gentiles said that the chariot of the Sun had four
    horses; they called the first Eoo, the second Piroi, the third Eton,
    the fourth Phlegon, even as Ovid writes in the second book of the
    Metamorphoses concerning the parts or divisions of the day.

    And, briefly, it is to be known that, as it has been said above in the
    sixth chapter of the third treatise, the Church makes use of the hours
    temporal in the division of the day, which hours are twelve in each
    day, long or short according to the amount of sunlight; and because
    the sixth hour, that is, the midday, is the most noble of the whole
    day, and has in it the most virtue, the Offices of the Church are
    approximated thereto in each side, that is, from the prime, and thence
    onwards as much as possible; and therefore the Office of prime, that
    is, the tertius, is said at the end of that part, and that of the
    third part and of the fourth is said at the beginning; and therefore,
    before the clock strikes in a division of the day, it is termed
    half-third or mid-tertius; or mid-nones, when in that division the
    clock has struck, and thus mid-vespers.

    And, therefore, let each one know that the right and lawful nones
    ought always to strike or sound at the beginning of the seventh hour
    of the day, and let this suffice to the present digression.


    Returning to the proposition, I say that Human Life is divided into
    four ages or stages. The first is called Adolescence, that is, the
    growth or increase of life; the second is called Youth, that is, the
    age which can give perfection, and for this reason one understands
    this Youth to be perfect, because no man can give except of that which
    he has; the third is called Old Age; the fourth is called Senility,
    Extreme Old Age, as has been said above.

    Of the first no one doubts, but each wise man agrees that it lasts
    even to the twenty-fifth year; and up to that time our Soul waits for
    the increase and the embellishment of the body. While there are many
    and very great changes in the person, the rational part cannot possess
    perfectly the power of discretion; wherefore, the Civil Law wills
    that, previous to that age, a man cannot do certain things without a
    guardian of perfect age.

    Of the second, which is the height of our life, the time is variously
    taken by many. But leaving that which philosophers and medical men
    write concerning it, and returning to the proper argument, we may say
    that, in most men in whom one can and ought to be guided by natural
    judgment, that age lasts for twenty years. And the reason which leads
    me to this conclusion is, that the height or supreme point of our arc
    or bow is in the thirty-fifth year; just so much as this age has of
    ascent, so much it ought to have of descent; and this ascent passes
    into descent, as it were, at the point, the centre, where one would
    hold the bow in the hand, at which place a slight flexion may be
    discerned. We are of opinion, then, that Youth is completed in the
    forty-fifth year.

    And as Adolescence is in the twenty-five years which proceed mounting
    upwards to Youth: so the descent, that is, Old Age, is an equal amount
    of time which succeeds to Youth; and thus Old Age terminates in the
    seventieth year.

    But because Adolescence does not begin at the beginning of
    life--taking it in the way which has been said--but about eight months
    from birth; and because our life strives to ascend, and curbs itself
    in the descent; because the natural heat is lessened and can do
    little, and the moist humour is increased, not in quantity, but in
    quality, so that it is less able to evaporate and be consumed; it
    happens that beyond Old Age there remains of our life an amount,
    perhaps, of about ten years, a little more or a little less; and this
    time of life is termed Extreme Old Age, or Senility. Wherefore we know
    of Plato (of whom one may well say that he was a son of Nature, both
    because of his perfection and because of his countenance, which caused
    Socrates to love him when first he saw him), that he lived eighty and
    one years, according to the testimony of Tullius in that book On Old
    Age. And I believe that if Christ had not been crucified, and if He
    might have lived the length of time which His life according to nature
    could have passed over, at eighty and one years He would have been
    transformed from the mortal body into the eternal.

    Truly, as has been said above, these ages may be longer or shorter
    according to our complexion or temper and our constitution or
    composition; but, as they are, it seems to me that I observe this
    proportion in all men, as has been said, that is to say, that in such
    men the ages may be made longer or shorter according to the integrity
    of the whole term of the natural life.

    Throughout all these ages this Nobility of which we speak manifests
    its effects in different ways in the ennobled Soul; and it is that
    which this part of the Song, concerning which we write at present,
    intends to demonstrate. Where it is to be known that our good and
    upright nature makes forward progress in us in the reasoning powers,
    as we see the nature of the plants make forward progress; and
    therefore it is that different manners and different deportment are to
    be held reasonable at one age rather than at another. The ennobled
    Soul proceeds in due order along a single path, employing each of its
    powers in its time and season, or even as they are all ordained to the
    final production of the perfect fruit. And Tullius is in harmony with
    this in his book On Old Age. And putting aside the figurative sense
    which Virgil holds in the Æneid concerning this different progress of
    the ages, and letting that be which Egidius the hermit mentions in the
    first part On the Government of Princes, and letting that be to which
    Tullius alludes in his book Of Offices, and following that alone which
    Reason can see of herself, I say that this first age is the door and
    the path through which and along which we enter into our good life,
    And this entrance must of necessity have certain things which the good
    Nature, which fails not in things necessary, gives to us; as we see
    that she gives to the vine the leaves for the protection of the fruit,
    and the little tendrils which enable it to twine round its supports,
    and thus bind up its weakness, so that it can sustain the weight of
    its fruit. Beneficent Nature gives, then, to this age four things
    necessary to the entrance into the City of the Good Life. The first is
    Obedience, the second Suavity, the third Modesty, the fourth Beauty of
    the Body, even as the Song says in the first section of this part. It
    is, then, to be known that like one who has never been in a city, who
    would not know how to find his way about the streets without
    instruction from one who is accustomed to them, even so the adolescent
    who enters into the Wood of Error of this life would not know how to
    keep to the good path if it were not pointed out to him by his elders.
    Neither would the instruction avail if he were not obedient to their
    commands, and therefore at this age obedience is necessary. Here it
    might be possible for some one to speak thus: Then, is that man to be
    called obedient who shall follow evil guidance as well as he who shall
    believe the good? I reply that this would not be obedience, but
    transgression. For if the King should issue a command in one way and
    the servant give forth the command in another, it would not be right
    to obey the servant, for that would be to disobey the King; and thus
    it would be transgression. And therefore Solomon says, when he intends
    to correct his son, and this is his first commandment: "Listen, my
    son, to the instruction of thy father." And then he seeks to remove
    him immediately from the counsel and teaching of the wicked man,
    saying, "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not."

    Wherefore, as soon as he is born, the son clings to the breast of the
    mother; even so soon as some light of the Mind appears in him, he
    ought to turn to the correction of the father, and the father to
    instruction. And let the father take heed that he himself does not set
    him an example in work or action that is contrary to the words of the
    correction; for naturally we see each son look more to the footprints
    of the paternal feet than to those of other men. And therefore the
    Law, which provides for this, says and commands that the life of the
    father should appear to his sons always honourable and upright. Thus
    it appears that obedience was necessary in this age; and therefore
    Solomon writes in the Book of Proverbs, that he who humbly and
    obediently sustains his just reproofs from the corrector shall be
    glorious. And he says "shall be," to cause men to understand that he
    speaks to the adolescent, who cannot be so in his present age. And if
    any one should reflect on me because I have said obedience is due to
    the father and not to other men, I say that to the father all other
    obedience ought to be referred; wherefore the Apostle says to the
    Colossians: "Sons, obey your fathers in all things, for such is the
    will of God." And if the father be not in this life, the son ought to
    refer to that which is said by the father in his last Will as a
    father; and if the father die intestate, the son ought to refer to him
    to whom the Law commits his authority; and then ought the masters and
    elders to be obeyed, for this appears to be a reasonable charge laid
    upon the son by the father, or by him who stands in the father's

    But because this present chapter has been long, on account of the
    useful digressions which it contains, in another chapter other things
    shall be discussed.


    Not only this Soul, naturally good in Adolescence, is obedient, but
    also gentle; which is the other thing necessary in this age to make a
    good entrance through the portal of Youth.

    It is necessary, since we cannot have a perfect life without friends,
    as Aristotle expresses it in the eighth book of Ethics; and the seed
    of the greater number of friendships seems to be sown in the first age
    of life, because in it a man begins to be gracious or the contrary.
    Such graciousness is acquired by gentle rules of conduct, as are sweet
    and courteous speech, gentle service courteously rendered, and actions
    kindly done or performed. And therefore Solomon says to the adolescent
    son: "Surely God scorneth the scorners; but He giveth grace unto the
    lowly." And elsewhere he says: "Put away from thee a forward mouth,
    and perverse lips put far from thee." Wherefore it appears that, as
    has been said, this suavity or affability is necessary.

    Likewise to this age the passion of modesty is necessary; and
    therefore the nature which is good and noble shows it in this age,
    even as the Song says. And since modesty is the clearest sign, in
    Adolescence, of Nobility, because there it is especially necessary to
    the good foundation of our life, at which the noble nature aims, it is
    right to speak of it somewhat. By modesty I mean three passions or
    strong feelings necessary to the foundation of our good life: the one
    is wonder, the next is modesty, the third is shame, although the
    common people do not discern this distinction. And all three of these
    are necessary to this life, for this reason: at this age it is
    requisite to be reverent and desirous for knowledge; at this age it is
    necessary or requisite to be self-controlled, so as not to transgress
    or pass beyond due bounds; at this age it is necessary to be penitent
    for a fault, so as not to grow accustomed to doing wrong. And all
    these things the aforesaid passions or strong feelings do, which
    vulgarly are called shame; for wonder is an amazement of the mind at
    beholding great and wonderful things, at hearing them, or feeling them
    in some way or other; for, inasmuch as they appear great, they excite
    reverence in him who sees them; inasmuch as they appear wonderful,
    they make him who perceives them desirous of knowledge concerning
    them. And therefore the ancient Kings in their palaces or habitations
    set up magnificent works in gold and in marble and works of art, in
    order that those who should see them should become astonished, and
    therefore reverent inquirers into the honourable conditions of the
    King. Therefore Statius, the sweet Poet, in the first part of the
    Theban History, says that, when Adrastus, King of the Argives, saw
    Polynices covered with the skin of a lion, and saw Tydeus covered with
    the hide of a wild boar, and recalled to mind the reply that Apollo
    had given concerning his daughters, he became amazed, and therefore
    more reverent and more desirous for knowledge. Modesty is a shrinking,
    a drawing-back of the mind from unseemly things, with the fear of
    falling into them; even as we see in virgins and in good women, and in
    adolescent or young men, who are so modest that not only when they are
    tempted to do wrong, and urged to do so, but even when some fancied
    joy flashes across the mind, the feeling is depicted in the face,
    which either grows pale with fear, or flushes rosy-red. Wherefore the
    before-mentioned poet, in the first book of the Thebaid already
    quoted, says that when Acesta the nurse of Argia and Deiphile, the
    daughters of King Adrastus, led them before the eyes of their holy
    father into the presence of the two pilgrims, that is to say,
    Polynices and Tydeus, the virgins grew pale and blushed rosy-red, and
    their eyes shunned the glance of any other person, and they kept them
    fixed on the paternal face alone, as if there were safety. This
    modesty--how many errors does it bridle in, or repress? On how many
    immodest questions and impure things does it impose silence! How much
    dishonest greed does it repress! In the chaste woman, against how many
    evil temptations does it rouse mistrust, not only in her, but also in
    him who watches over her! How many unseemly words does it restrain!
    for, as Tullius says in the first chapter of the Offices: "No action
    is unseemly which is not unseemly in the naming." And furthermore, the
    Modest and Noble Man never could speak in such a manner that to a
    woman his words would not be decent and such as she could hear. Alas,
    how great is the evil in every man who seeks for honour, to mention
    things which would be deemed evil in the mouth of any woman!

    Shame is a fear of dishonour through fault committed, and from this
    fear there springs up a penitence for the fault, which has in itself a
    bitter sorrow or grief, which is a chastisement and preservative
    against future wrong-doing. Wherefore this same poet says, in that
    same part, that when Polynices was questioned by King Adrastus
    concerning his life, he hesitated at first through shame to speak of
    the crime which he had committed against his father, and also for the
    sins of Oedipus, his father, which appeared to remain in the shame of
    the son; therefore he named not his father, but his ancestors, and his
    country, and his mother; and therefore it does indeed appear that
    shame is necessary to that age. And the noble nature reveals in this
    age, not only obedience, gentleness, affability, and modesty, but it
    shows beauty and agility of body, even as the Song expresses: "To
    furnish Virtue's person with The graces it may need." Here it is to be
    known that this work of beneficent Nature is also necessary to our
    good life, for our Soul must work in the greater part of all its
    operations with a bodily organ; and then it works well when the body
    through all its parts is well proportioned and appointed. And when it
    is well proportioned and appointed, then it is beautiful throughout
    and in all its parts; for the due ordering or proportion of our limbs
    produces a pleasing impression of I know not what of wonderful
    harmony; and the good disposition, that is to say, the health of mind
    and body, throws over all a colouring sweet to behold. And thus to say
    that the noble nature takes heed for the graces of the body, and makes
    it fair and harmonious, is tantamount to saying that it prepares it
    and renders it fit to attain the perfection ordained for it: and those
    other things which have been discussed seem to be requisite to
    Adolescence, which the noble Mind, that is to say, the noble Nature,
    furnishes forth to it in the first years of life, as growth of the
    seed sown therein by the Divine Providence.


    Since the first section of this part, which shows how we can recognize
    the Noble Man by apparent signs, is reasoned out, it is right to
    proceed to the second section, which begins: "Are temperate in Youth,
    And resolutely strong."

    It says, then, that as the noble Nature in Adolescence or the
    Spring-time of Youth appears obedient, gentle, and modest, the
    beautifier of its person, so in Youth it is temperate, strong, and
    loving, courteous and loyal; which five things appear to be, and are,
    necessary to our perfection, inasmuch as we have respect unto
    ourselves. And with regard to this it is desirable to know that just
    as the noble Nature prepares in the first age, it is prepared and
    ordained by the care or foresight of Universal Nature, which ordains
    and appoints the particular Nature where-ever existing, to attain its

    This perfection of ours may be considered in a double sense. It is
    possible to consider it as it has respect to ourselves, and we ought
    to possess this in our Youth, which is the culminating point of our
    life. It is possible to consider it as it has respect to others, and
    since in the first place it is necessary to be perfect, and then to
    communicate the perfection to others, it is requisite to possess this
    secondary perfection after this age, that is to say, in Old Age, as
    will be said subsequently. Here, then, it is needful to recall to mind
    that which was argued in the twenty-second chapter of this treatise
    concerning the appetite or impulse which is born in us. This appetite
    or impulse never does aught else but to pursue and to flee, and
    whenever it pursues that which is to be pursued, and as far as is
    right, and flies from that which is to be fled from, and as much as is
    right, then is the man within the limits of his perfection. Truly,
    this appetite or natural impulse must have Reason for its rider; for
    as a horse at liberty, however noble it may be by nature, by itself
    without the good rider does not conduct itself well, even thus this
    appetite, however noble it may be, must obey Reason, which guides it
    with the bridle and spur, as the good knight uses the bridle when he
    hunts. And that bridle is termed Temperance, which marks the limit up
    to which it is lawful to pursue; he uses the spur in flight to turn
    the horse away from the place from which he would flee away; and this
    spur is called Courage, or rather Magnanimity, a Virtue that points
    out the place at which it is right to stop, and to resist evil even to
    mortal combat. And thus Virgil, our greatest Poet, represents Æneas as
    under the influence of powerful self control in that part of the Æneid
    wherein this age is typified, which part comprehends the fourth and
    the fifth and the sixth books of the Æneid. And what self-restraint
    was that when, having received from Dido so much pleasure, as will be
    spoken of in the seventh treatise, and enjoying so much delectation
    with her, he departed, in order to follow the upright and praiseworthy
    path fruitful of good works, even as it is written in the fourth book
    of the Æneid! What impetus was that when Æneas had the fortitude alone
    with Sybilla to enter into Hades, to search for the Soul of his father
    Anchises, in the face of so many dangers, as it is shown in the sixth
    book of the Æneid. Wherefore it appears that in our Youth, in order to
    be in our perfection, we must be Temperate and Brave. The good
    disposition secures this for us, even as the Song expressly states.

    Again, at this age it is necessary to its perfection to be Loving;
    because at this age it is requisite to look behind and before, as
    being midway over the arch. The youth ought to love his elders, from
    whom he has received his being, and his nutriment, and his
    instruction, so that he may not appear ungrateful. He ought to love
    his juniors, since, in loving them, he gives them of his good gifts,
    for which in after-years, when the younger friends are prospering, he
    may be supported and honoured by them. And the poet named above, in
    the fifth book before-mentioned, makes it evident that Æneas possessed
    this loving disposition, when he left the aged Trojans in Sicily,
    recommended to Acestes, and set them free from the fatigues of the
    voyage; and when he instructed, in the same place, Ascanius his son,
    with the other young men, in jousting or in feats of arms; wherefore
    it appears that to this age Love is necessary, even as the Song says.

    Again, to this age Courtesy is necessary, for, although to every age
    it is right or beautiful to be possessed of courteous manners, to this
    age it is especially necessary, because, on the contrary, Old Age,
    with its gravity and its severity, cannot possess courtesy, if it has
    been wanting in this youthful period of life; and with Extreme Old Age
    it is the same in a greater degree. And that most noble poet, in the
    sixth book before-mentioned, proves that Æneas possessed this
    courtesy, when he says that Æneas, then King, in order to pay honour
    to the dead body of Misenus, who had been the trumpeter of Hector, and
    afterwards accompanied Æneas, made himself ready and took the axe to
    assist in cutting the logs for the fire which must burn the dead body,
    as was their custom. Wherefore this courtesy does indeed appear to be
    necessary to Youth; and therefore the noble Soul reveals it in that
    age, as has been said.

    Again, it is necessary to this age to be Loyal. Loyalty is to follow
    and to put in operation that which the Laws command, and this
    especially is necessary in the young man; because the adolescent, as
    it has been said, on account of his minority, merits ready pardon; the
    old man, on account of greater experience, ought to be just, but not a
    follower of the Law except inasmuch as his upright judgment and the
    Law are at one as it were; and almost without any Law he ought to be
    able to follow the dictates of his own just mind. The young man is not
    able to do this, and it is sufficient that he should obey the Law, and
    take delight in that obedience; even as the before-said poet says, in
    the fifth book previously mentioned, that Æneas did when he instituted
    the games in Sicily on the anniversary of his father's death, for what
    he promised for the victories he loyally gave to each victor,
    according to their ancient custom, which was their Law.

    Wherefore, it is evident that, to this age, Loyalty, Courtesy, Love,
    Courage, and Temperance are necessary, even as the Song says, which at
    present I have reasoned out; and therefore the noble Soul reveals them


    That section which the text puts forward having been reasoned out and
    made sufficiently clear, showing the qualities of uprightness which
    the noble Soul puts into Youth, we go on to pay attention to the third
    part, which begins, "Are prudent in their Age," in which the Song
    intends to show those qualities which the noble Nature reveals and
    ought to possess in the third age, that is to say, Old Age. And it
    says that the noble Soul in Old Age is prudent, is just, is liberal
    and cheerful, willing to speak kindly and for the good of others, and
    ready to listen for the same reason, that is to say, that it is
    affable. And truly these four Virtues are most suitable to this age.
    And, in order to perceive this, it is to be known that, as Tullius
    says in his book On Old Age, "Our life has a certain course, and one
    simple path, that of natural moral goodness; and to each part of our
    age there is given a season for certain things." Wherefore, as to
    Adolescence is given, as has been said above, that by means of which
    it may attain perfection and maturity, so to youth is given perfection
    and maturity in order that the sweetness of its perfect fruit may be
    profitable to the man himself and to others; for, as Aristotle says,
    man is a civil or polite animal, because it is required of him to be
    useful, not only to himself, but to others as well. Wherefore one
    reads of Cato, that he believed himself to be born not only to
    himself, but to his country and to all the world. Then after our own
    perfection, which is acquired in Youth, there must follow that which
    may give light not only to one's self, but to others as well; and a
    man ought to open and broaden like a rose as it were, which can no
    longer remain closed, and spread abroad the sweet odour which is bred
    within; and this ought to be the case in that third age which we have
    now in hand.

    Then it must be Prudent, that is to say, Wise. And, in order to be
    this, a good memory of the things which have been seen is requisite,
    and a good knowledge of present things, and good foresight for things
    of the future. And, as the Philosopher says in the sixth book of
    Ethics, it is impossible for the man who is not good to be wise; and
    therefore he is not to be called a wise man who acts with cunning and
    with deception, but he is to be called an astute man. As no one would
    call him a wise man who might indeed know how to draw with the point
    of a knife in the pupil of the eye, even so he is not to be called a
    wise man who knows how to do a bad thing well, in the doing of which
    he must always first injure some other person. If we consider well,
    good counsel springs from Prudence, which leads or guides a man, and
    other men, to a good end in human affairs. And this is that gift which
    Solomon, perceiving himself to be placed as ruler over the people,
    asked of God, even as it is written in the Third Book of Kings; nor
    does the prudent man wait for counsel to be asked of him; but of
    himself, foreseeing the need for it, unasked he gives counsel or
    advice; like the rose, which not only to him who goes to her for her
    sweet odour freely gives it, but also to any one who passes near.

    Here it would be possible for any doctor or lawyer to say: Then shall
    I carry my counsel or advice, and shall I give it even before it be
    asked of me, and shall I not reap fruit from my art or skill? I reply
    in the words of our Saviour: "Freely ye have received, freely give." I
    say, then, Master Lawyer, that those counsels which have no respect to
    thine art, and which proceed alone from that good sense or wisdom
    which God gave thee (which is the prudence of which we speak), thou
    oughtest not to sell to the sons or children of Him who has given it
    to thee. But those counsels which belong to the art which thou hast
    purchased, thou mayst sell; but not in such a way but that at any time
    the tenth part of them may be fitly set apart and given unto God, that
    is, to those unhappy ones to whom the Divine protection is all that is

    Likewise at this age it is right to be Just, in order that the
    judgments and the authority of the man may be a light and a law to
    other men. And because this particular Virtue, that is to say,
    Justice, was seen by the ancient philosophers to appear perfect in men
    of this age, they entrusted the government of the cities to those men
    who had attained that age; and therefore the college of Rectors was
    called the Senate. Oh, my unhappy, unhappy country! how my heart is
    wrung with pity for thee whenever I read, whenever I write, anything
    which may have reference to Civil Government! But since in the last
    treatise of this book Justice will be discussed, to the present let
    this slight notice of it suffice.

    Also at this age a man ought to be liberal, because a thing is then
    most suitable when it gives most satisfaction to the due requirements
    of its nature: nor to the due requirements of Liberality is it ever
    possible to give more satisfaction than at this age. For if we will
    look well at the argument of Aristotle in the fourth book of Ethics,
    and at that of Tullius in his book Of Offices, Liberality desires to
    be seasonable in place and time; so that the liberal man may not
    injure himself nor other men; which thing it is not possible to have
    without Prudence and without Justice, Virtues that previous to this
    age it is impossible to have or possess in perfection in the Natural

    Alas! ye base-born ones, born under evil stars, ye who rob the widows
    and orphans, who ravish or despoil those who possess least, who steal
    from and occupy or usurp the homes of other men, and with that spoil
    you furnish forth feasts, women, horses, arms, robes, money; you wear
    wonderful garments, you build marvellous palaces; and you believe that
    you do deeds of great liberality: and this is no other than to take
    the cloth from the altar and to cover therewith the thief and his
    table! Not otherwise one ought to laugh, O tyrants, at your bounteous
    liberality than at the thief who should lead the invited guests into
    his house to his feast, and place upon his table the cloth stolen from
    the altar, with the ecclesiastical signs inwoven, and should not
    believe that other men might perceive the sacrilege. Hear, O ye
    obstinate men, what Tullius says against you in the book Of Offices:
    "Certainly there are many, desirous of being great and glorious, who
    rob some that they may give to others, believing themselves to be
    esteemed good men if they enrich their friends with what the Law
    allows. But this is so opposite or contrary to that which ought to be
    done, that nothing is more wrong."

    At this age also a man ought to be Affable, to speak for the good of
    others, and to listen to such speech willingly, since it is good for a
    man to discourse kindly at an age when he is listened to. And this age
    also has with it a shadow of authority, for which reason it appears
    that the aged man is more likely to be listened to than a person in a
    younger period of life. And of most good and beautiful Truths it seems
    that a man ought to have knowledge after the long experience of life.
    Wherefore Tullius says, in that book On Old Age, in the person of Cato
    the elder: "To me is increased the desire and the delight to remain in
    conversation longer than I am wont." And that all four of these things
    are right and proper to this age, Ovid teaches, in the seventh chapter
    of Metamorphoses, in that fable where he writes how Cephalus of Athens
    came to Æacus the King for help in the war which Athens had with the
    Cretans. He shows that Æacus, an old man, was prudent when, having,
    through pestilence caused by corruption of the air, lost almost all
    his people, he wisely had recourse to God, and besought of Him the
    restoration of the dead; and for his wisdom, which in patience
    possessed him and caused him to turn to God, his people were restored
    to him in greater number than before. He shows that he was just, when
    he says that Æacus was the divider and the distributor of his deserted
    land to his new people. He shows that Æacus was generous or liberal
    when he said to Cephalus, after his request for aid: "O Athens! ask me
    not to render assistance, but take it yourself; doubt not the strength
    of the forces which this island possesses, nor the power of my state
    and realm; troops are not wanting to us, nay, we have them in excess
    for offence and defence; it is indeed a happy time to give you aid,
    and without excuse."

    Alas, how many things are to be observed in this reply! but to a good,
    intelligent man it is sufficient for it to be placed here, even as
    Ovid puts it. He shows that Æacus was affable when he described, in a
    long speech to Cephalus, the history of the pestilence which destroyed
    his people, and the restoration of the same, which he tells readily.

    It is clear enough, then, that to this age four things are suitable,
    because the noble Nature reveals them in it, even as the Song says.
    And that the example given may be the more memorable, Æacus says that
    he was the father of Telamon and Peleus and of Phocus, from which
    Telamon sprang Ajax and from Peleus Achilles.


    Following the section which has been discussed, we have now to proceed
    to the last, that is, to that which begins, "The fourth part of their
    life Weds them again to God," by which the text intends to show what
    the noble Soul does in the last age, that is, in Extreme Old Age, that
    is, Senility. And it says that it does two things: the one, that it
    returns to God as to that port or haven whence it departed when it
    issued forth to enter into the sea of this life; the other is, that it
    blesses the voyage which it has made, because it has been upright,
    straight, and good, and without the bitterness of storm and tempest.

    And here it is to be known that, even as Tullius says in that book On
    Old Age, the natural death is, as it were, a port or haven to us after
    our long voyage and a place of rest. And the Virtuous Man who dies
    thus is like the good mariner; for, as he approaches the port or
    haven, he strikes his sails, and gently, with feeble steering, enters
    port. Even thus we ought to strike the sails of our worldly affairs,
    and turn to God with all our heart and mind, so that one may come into
    that haven with all sweetness and all peace.

    And in this we have from our own proper nature great instruction in
    gentleness, for in such a death as this there is no pain nor
    bitterness, but even as a ripe apple easily and without violence
    detaches itself from its branch, so our Soul without grief separates
    itself from the body wherein it has dwelt.

    Aristotle, in his book On Youth and Old Age, says that the death which
    overtakes us in old age is without sadness. And as to him who comes
    from a long journey, before he enters into the gate of his city, the
    citizens thereof go forth to meet him, so do those citizens of the
    Eternal Life go forth to meet the noble Soul; and they do thus because
    of his good works and acts of contemplation, which were of old
    rendered unto God and withdrawn from worldly affairs and thoughts.
    Hear what Tullius says in the person of Cato the elder: "It seems to
    me that already I see, and I uplift myself in the greatest desire to
    see, your fathers, whom I loved, and not only those whom I knew
    myself, but also those of whom I have heard spoken." In this age,
    then, the noble Soul renders itself unto God, and awaits the end of
    this life with much desire; and to itself it seems that it goes out
    from the Inn to return home to the Father's mansion; to itself it
    seems to have reached the end of a long journey and to have reached
    the City; to itself it seems to have crossed the wide sea and returned
    into the port. O, miserable men and vile, who run into this port with
    sails unfurled; and there where you should find rest, are broken by
    the fury of the wind and wrecked in the harbour. Truly the Knight
    Lancelot chose not to enter it with sails unfurled, nor our most noble
    Italian Guido da Montefeltro. These noble Spirits indeed furled the
    sails after the voyage of this World, whose cares were rendered to
    Religion in their long old age, when they had laid down each earthly
    joy and labour. And it is not possible to excuse any man because of
    the bond of matrimony, which may hold him in his old age, from turning
    to Religion, even as he who adopts the habit of St. Benedict and St.
    Augustine and St. Francis and St. Dominic and the like mode of life,
    but also it is possible to turn to a good and true Religion whilst
    remaining in the bonds of matrimony, for God asks of us no more than
    the religious heart. And therefore St. Paul says to the Romans: "For
    he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision
    which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly;
    and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the
    letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."

    And the Noble Soul in this age blesses likewise the time that is past,
    and it may well bless it; because when Memory turns back to them, the
    Noble Soul remembers her upright deeds, without which it were not
    possible for her to come to the port whither she is hastening with
    such wealth nor with such gain. And the Noble Soul does like the good
    merchant, who, when he draws near to his port, examines his cargo, and
    says: "If I had not passed along such a highway as that, I should not
    possess this treasure, and I should not have wherewith to rejoice in
    my city, to which I am approaching;" and therefore he blesses the
    voyage he has made.

    And that these two things are suitable to this age that great poet
    Lucan represents to us in the second book of his Pharsalia, when he
    says that Marcia returned to Cato, and entreated him that he would
    take her back in his fourth and Extreme Old Age, by which Marcia the
    Noble Soul is meant, and we can thus depict the symbol of it in all
    Truth. Marcia was a virgin, and in that state typifies Adolescence;
    she then espoused Cato, and in that state typifies Youth; she then
    bore sons, by whom are typified the Virtues which are becoming to
    young men, as previously described; and she departed from Cato and
    espoused Hortensius, by which it is typified that she quitted Youth
    and came to Old Age. She bore sons to this man also, by whom are
    typified the Virtues which befit Old Age, as previously said.
    Hortensius died, by which is typified the end of Old Age, and Marcia,
    made a widow, by which widowhood is typified Extreme Old Age, returned
    in the early days of her widowhood to Cato, whereby is typified the
    Noble Soul turning to God in the beginning of Extreme Old Age. And
    what earthly man was more worthy to typify God than Cato? None, of a
    certainty. And what does Marcia say to Cato? "Whilst there was blood
    in me [that is to say, Youth], whilst the maternal power was in me
    [that is, Age, which is indeed the Mother of all other Virtues or
    Powers, as has been previously shown or proved], I," says Marcia,
    "fulfilled all thy commandments [that is to say, that the Soul stood
    firm in obedience to the Civil Laws]." She says: "And I took two
    husbands," that is to say, I have been in two fruitful periods of
    life. "Now," says Marcia, "that I am weary, and that I am void and
    empty, I return to thee, being no longer able to give happiness to the
    other husband;" that is to say, that the Noble Soul, knowing well that
    it has no longer the power to produce, that is, feeling all its
    members to have grown feeble, turns to God, that is, to Him who has no
    need of members of the body. And Marcia says, "Give me the ancient
    covenanted privileges of the beds; give me the name alone of the
    Marriage Tie;" that is to say, the Noble Soul says to God, "O my Lord,
    give me now repose and rest;" the Soul says, "Give me at least
    whatsoever I may have called Thine in a life so long." And Marcia
    says, "Two reasons move or urge me to say this; the one is, that they
    may say of me, after I am dead, that I was the wife of Cato; the other
    is, that it may be said after me that thou didst not drive me away,
    but didst espouse me heartily." By these two causes the Noble Soul is
    stirred and desires to depart from this life as the spouse of God, and
    wishes to show that God was gracious to the creature that He made. O
    unhappy and baseborn men! you who prefer to depart from this life
    under the name of Hortensius rather than of Cato!

    From Cato's name a grace comes into the close of the discourse which
    it was fit to make touching the signs of Nobility; because in him
    Nobility reveals them all, through all the ages of his life.


    Since the Song has demonstrated those signs which in each age or
    period of life appear in the Noble Man, and by which it is possible to
    know him, and without which he cannot be, even as the Sun cannot be
    without light or the fire without heat, the text cries aloud to the
    People in the concluding part of this treatise on Nobility, and it
    says: "How many are deceived!" They are deceived who, because they are
    of ancient and famous lineage, and because they are descended of
    excellent and Noble fathers, believe themselves to be Noble, yet have
    in themselves no Nobility. And here arise two questions, to which it
    is right to attend at the end of this treatise. It would be possible
    for Manfredi da Vico, who but now is called Praetor and Prefect, to
    say: "Whatever I may be, I recall to mind and I represent my elders,
    who deserved the Office of Prefecture because of their Nobility, and
    they merited the honour of investiture at the coronation of the
    Emperor, and they merited the honour of receiving the Rose of Gold
    from the Roman Pontiff: I ought to receive from the People honour and
    reverence." And this is one question. The other is, that it would be
    possible for the scions of the families of San Nazzaro di Pavia and of
    the Piscitelli of Naples to say: "If Nobility is that which has been
    described, that is, that it is Divine seed graciously cast into the
    human Soul, and the progeny, or offshoots, have, as is evident, no
    Soul, it would not be possible to term any of its progeny or offshoots
    Noble; but this is opposed to the opinion of those who assert that our
    race is the most Noble in these cities."

    To the first question Juvenal replies in the eighth Satire, when he
    begins with exclaiming, as it were: "What is the use of all these
    honours and of this glory which remain from the past, except that they
    serve as a mantle or cloak to him who may wish to cover himself with
    them, badly as he may live; except for him who talks of his ancestors,
    and points out their great and wonderful works, giving his own mind to
    miserable and vile actions?" And this satirical poet asks: "Who will
    call that man Noble, because of his good race, who is not worthy of
    his race? It is no other than to call the Dwarf a Giant." Then
    afterwards he says to such an one as this: "Between thee and the
    statue erected in memory of thine ancestor there is no other
    dissimilarity except that its head is of marble and thine is alive."
    And in this (with reverence I say it) I disagree with the poet, for
    the statue of marble or of wood or of metal, which has remained in
    memory of some worthy brave man, differs much in effect from the
    wicked descendant: because the statue always confirms a good opinion
    in those who have heard of the good renown or fame of him whose statue
    it is, and it begets good opinion in others. But the wicked son or
    nephew does quite the contrary: he weakens the good opinion of those
    who have heard of the goodness of his ancestors. For some one says to
    himself in his thought: "It cannot possibly be true, all this that has
    been said about this man's ancestors, since from their seed one sees
    an offshoot such as that." Wherefore he ought to receive not honour,
    but dishonour, who bears false or evil witness against the good. And
    therefore Tullius says that the son of the brave man ought to strive
    to bear good witness to the father. Wherefore, in my judgment, even as
    he who defames an excellent man deserves to be shunned by all people
    and not listened to, even so the vile man descended from good
    ancestors deserves to be banned by all; and the good man ought to
    close his eyes in order not to see that infamous man casting infamy
    upon the goodness which remains in Memory alone. And let this suffice
    at present to the first question that was moved.

    To the second question it is possible to reply that a race of itself
    has no Soul; and indeed it is true that it is called Noble, but it is
    in a certain way. Wherefore it is to be known that every whole is
    composed of its parts, and there is a certain whole which has a simple
    essence in its parts, as in one man there is one essence in all and in
    each individual part; and this which is said to be in the part is said
    in the same way to be in the whole. There is another whole which has
    not a common essential form or essence with the parts, as a heap of
    corn; but there is a secondary essence which results from many grains,
    which possess in themselves a true and primary essence. And in such a
    whole as this they are said to be the qualities of the parts in a
    secondary way; wherefore it is called a white heap, because the grains
    whereof the heap is made are white. Truly this white appearance is
    more in the grains in the first place, and in the second place it
    results in the whole heap, and thus secondarily it is possible to call
    it white; and in such a way it is possible to call a race Noble.
    Wherefore it is to be known, that as in order to make a white heap the
    white grains must be most numerous, so to make a Noble race the Noble
    Men must be more numerous than the others, so that their goodness,
    with its good fame or renown, may cover the opposite quality which is
    within. And as from a white heap of corn it would be possible to pick
    up the wheat grain by grain, and substitute, grain by grain, red
    maize, till, finally, the whole heap or mass would change colour, so
    would it be possible for the good men of the Noble race to die out one
    by one, and the wicked ones to spring up therein, who would so change
    the name or fame thereof, that it would have to be called, not Noble,
    but vile, or base.

    And let this be a sufficient answer to the second question.


    As it has been shown previously in the third chapter of this treatise,
    this Song has three principal parts, whereof two have been reasoned or
    argued out, the first of which begins in the aforesaid chapter, and
    the second in the sixteenth (so that the first through thirteen, and
    the second through fourteen chapters, passes on to an end, without
    counting the Proem of the treatise on the Song, which is comprised in
    two chapters), in this thirtieth and last chapter we must briefly
    discuss the third principal part, which was made as a refrain and as a
    species of ornament for this Song; and it begins: "My Song, Against
    the strayers."

    Here it is chiefly to be known that every good workman, at the end of
    his work, ought to ennoble and embellish it as much as possible, that
    it may leave his hands so much the more precious, and more worthy of
    fame. And this I endeavour to do in this part, not as a good workman,
    but as the follower of one.

    I say, then, "My Song, Against the strayers." "Against the strayers"
    is a phrase, as, for example, from the good friar, Thomas of Aquinas,
    who, to a book of his, which he wrote to the confusion of all those
    who go astray from our Faith, gave the title "Contra Gentili," Against
    the Heathen. I say, then, that thou shalt go, which is as much as to
    say: "Thou art now perfect, and it is now time, not to stand still,
    but to go forward, for thy enterprise is great. And 'when you reach
    Our Lady, hide not from her that your end Is labour that would lessen
    wrong.'" Where it is to be observed that, as our Lord says, "We ought
    not to cast pearls before swine," because it is not to their
    advantage, and it is injury to the pearls; and, as Aesop the poet says
    in the first fable, a little grain of corn is of far more worth to a
    cock than a pearl, and therefore he leaves the pearl and picks up the
    grain of corn: reflecting on this, as a caution, I speak and give
    command to the Song that it reveal its high office where this Lady,
    that is, where Philosophy, will be found. And that most noble Lady
    will be found when her dwelling-place is found, that is, the Soul in
    which she finds her Inn. And this Philosophy dwells not in wise men
    alone, but likewise, as is proved above in another treatise, wherever
    the love for her inhabits, she is there. "And to such as these," I say
    to the Song, "thou mayst reveal thine office, because to them the
    purpose thereof will be useful, and by them its thoughts will be
    gathered in."

    And I bid it say to this Lady, "I travel ever talking of your Friend."

    Nobility is her Friend. For so much does the one love the other, that
    Nobility always seeks her, and Philosophy does not turn aside her most
    sweet glance to any other.

    O, what a great and beautiful ornament is this which is given to her
    in the last part of this Song, by giving to her the title of Friend,
    the Friend of her whose own abode is in the most secret depths of the
    Divine Mind.

    * * * * *



    It is natural to suppose that Dante's death at Ravenna in 1321 caused
    the Convito, a work of his latter years, to be left unfinished. But
    there are arguments that have been especially dwelt upon by writers
    who regard the Convito as a work begun before the conception of the
    Divine Comedy, and dropped when the Poet's mind became intent upon
    that masterpiece.

    One argument is that the Divine Comedy is nowhere mentioned or alluded
    to in the Convito. But as the place designed for the Convito is midway
    between the Vita Nuova, which preceded it, and the Divine Comedy,
    which was to follow, references to the poem which was not yet before
    the reader would have been a fault in art.

    Another argument is drawn from the fourteenth chapter of the Second
    Treatise, where (on page 84 in this volume) the shadow in the Moon is
    ascribed to "the rarity of its body, in which the rays of the Sun can
    find no end wherefrom to strike back again as in the other parts." In
    the second canto of the Purgatorio, Beatrice opposes that opinion,
    whence it may be inferred that Dante had learnt better, and he speaks
    of this again in a later canto (the twenty-second) as a former
    opinion. This leads to an inference that the Second Treatise was
    written before 1300.

    Attention is due also to a passage in the third chapter of the First
    Treatise (on pages 16 and 17 in this volume), in which Dante speaks of
    his long exile and poverty. The exile and the wanderings of Dante
    began after the year 1300. He was befriended by Guido da Polenta in
    Ravenna, by Uguccione della Faggiola in Lucca, by Malaspina in the
    Lunigiana, by Can Grande della Scala in Verona, by Bosone de'
    Raffaelli in Gubbio, by the Patriarch Pagano della Torre in Udine. In
    1311, when the Emperor Henry of Luxembourg went to Italy, Dante had
    some hope of return, which passed away in 1313 when that Emperor died
    in Buonconvento. Dante remained in exile. In 1321 his patron, Guido
    Novello da Polenta, sent him on an embassy to Venice, in which he was
    unsuccessful. The sea way being blocked, he had to return by land, and
    he was struck by the malaria which caused his death by fever on the
    14th of September in that year, 1321. This reference to long exile
    leads to an inference that the First Treatise was written much later
    than 1300.

    But, again, there is a passage in the third chapter of the Fourth
    Treatise (on page 171 of this volume) that points to an earlier date.
    Frederick of Suabia is named as the Emperor who

    As far as he could see,
    Descent of wealth, and generous ways,
    To make Nobility.

    Dante calls him "the last Emperor of the Romans," and adds, "I say
    last with respect to the present time, notwithstanding that Rudolf,
    and Adolphus, and Albert were elected after his death and from his
    descendants." This last of the Romans was that famous Frederick II.,
    who died in 1250, and of whom Dante said in his Treatise on the
    Language of the People: "The illustrious heroes, Frederick Caesar and
    his son Manfredi, followed after elegance and scorned what was mean;
    so that all the best compositions of the time came out of their Court.
    Thus, because their royal throne was in Sicily, all the poems of our
    predecessors in the Vulgar Tongue were called Sicilian." Rudolf I. of
    Hapsburg, founder of the Imperial House of Austria, was elected
    Emperor in 1273, after a time of confusion and nominal rule. He died
    in 1291, and, instead of his son Albert, Adolphus of Nassau was next
    elected Emperor. But in June 1298 Albert obtained election; Adolphus
    was deposed, and was soon afterwards killed in battle with his rival.
    Albert was murdered on the 6th of May, 1308, and, after an interregnum
    of seven months, he was succeeded by Henry VII. of Luxembourg. Now,
    Dante's list does not go on from Albert to Henry. It is assumed,
    therefore, that this passage must have been written before the end of
    the year 1308.

    There is another passage at the close of chapter vi. of the Fourth
    Treatise (on page 186 in this volume) that points to a like inference
    of date. Dante writes: "Ye enemies of God, look to your flanks, ye who
    have seized the sceptres of the kingdoms of Italy. And I say to you,
    Charles, and to you, Frederick, Kings, and to you, ye other Princes
    and Tyrants, see who sits by the side of you in council." The Charles
    and Frederick here addressed were Charles II. of Anjou, King of
    Naples, and Frederick of Aragon, King of Sicily; and King Charles died
    in the year 1310.

    It has been inferred, therefore, that the four treatises of the
    Convito were not written consecutively. The Second Treatise may have
    been begun some time after the death of Beatrice, in 1290, time being
    allowed after 1290 for the completion of the Vita Nuova and a period
    of devotion to philosophic studies. That Second Treatise having been
    first written, the Treatise on Nobility, the Fourth, may have next
    followed; and this may have been written before the end of the year
    1298. The Third Treatise may have been written later, and made to
    connect the Second and the Fourth. The First Treatise, or General
    Introduction, which has in it clear indication of a later date, may
    have been written last, when the whole design was brought into shape.
    Various reasons have been used for dating this final arrangement of
    the plan for an Ethical survey of human knowledge in fifteen
    treatises, and the suggested date is the year 1314. The whole work
    seems to have been planned. Besides the references to the Fifteenth
    Treatise, there is a glance forward to the matter of the Seventh
    Treatise in the twenty-sixth chapter of the Fourth.

    The question of date is not of great importance, and this may console
    us though we know that it can never be settled. Here it is only
    touched upon to show the significance of one or two historical
    allusions in the book.
    Chapter 4
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