Part 1 of 2Book 3
1. Love, that speaks to me within my mind
With fervent passion of my lady,
Awakens often thoughts of her such that
My intellect is led astray by them.
His speech is filled with sounds so sweet
That then my soul, which hears and feels him, says:
"Alas, I lack the power to speak
Of what I hear about my lady!"
And surely I must leave aside, if I
Should wish to treat of what I hear of her,
That which my intellect does not conceive,
As well as much of what it understands,
Because I know not how I should express it.
And so if fault is found to mar my verse
Which undertakes the praise of her,
Cast blame on my weak intellect
And on our speech, which lacks the power
To say in words the things that Love relates.
2. The Sun that circles all the world
Sees nothing so gentle as at that time
When it shines upon the place where dwells
The lady of whom Love makes me speak.
Every Intelligence admires her from above,
And those down here who are in love
Still find her in their thoughts
When Love makes felt the peace he brings.
Her being so pleases God who gave it to her
That he endlessly instills in her his power
Beyond the point of nature's measure.
Her pure soul,
Which takes from him this bliss,
Reveals him then in what she brings with her:
For among her beauties such things are seen
That the eyes of those on whom she shines
Send messengers to the heart, full of desire,
Which unite with air and turn to sighs.
3. Into her descends celestial power
As it does into an angel that sees him;
And if some gentle lady disbelieves this,
Let her walk with her and mark her gestures.
Here where she speaks a spirit
Comes down from heaven to testify
That this high worth which she possesses
Transcends whatever is allotted to us.
The graceful gestures that she displays
Contend with each other in calling on Love
In terms of speech that make him listen.
Of her it can be said:
Gentle is in woman what is found in her,
What most resembles her is beauty.
And we may say her countenance helps us
Regard as true what seems a miracle,
By which our faith is fortified:
For this she was ordained by eternity.
4. In her countenance appear such things
As manifest a part of the joy of Paradise.
I mean in her eyes and in her sweet smile,
For here Love draws them, as to himself.
They overwhelm our intellect,
As a ray of sunlight does weak vision;
And since I cannot fix my sight upon them,
I am content to say but little of them.
Her beauty rains down little flames of fire,
Enkindled by a gentle spirit,
Who is the creator of all good thoughts;
And like a lightning bolt they shatter
The inborn vices that make man vile.
And so let every woman who hears her beauty
Slighted for not seeming serene and humble
Gaze on her, the model of humility.
This is she who humbles every haughty person,
Conceived by him who set the heavens in motion.
5. My song, it seems you speak contrary to
Words spoken by a sister whom you have;
For this lady, whom you claim to be so humble,
She calls proud and disdainful.
You know the sky is always bright and clear,
and of itself is never clouded.
And yet our eyes, for many reasons,
Sometimes say a star is dim.
Likewise when she calls her proud,
She views her not according to the truth
But only as she seems to her.
For my soul was full of fear,
And still is, so much that everything I see
Seems proud, when she casts her gaze on me.
So excuse yourself, should the need arise;
And when you can, present yourself to her
And say: "My Lady, if it is your wish,
I will speak of you in every place."
As I explained in the preceding book, my second love took its beginning from the compassionate countenance of a lady. Finding my life disposed toward ardor, this love later blazed up like a fire, from a small to a great flame, so that not only while I was awake but also during my sleep the light of her penetrated my mind. The magnitude of the desire to see her which Love accorded me can neither be told nor understood. I was full of desire in this manner not only of her but of all those who were in any way close to her, whether through acquaintance or kinship. How many were the nights when the eyes of others lay closed in sleep while mine were gazing intently on the dwelling of my love! Just as a spreading fire must also reveal itself externally, since it cannot possibly remain hidden, a wish to speak of love came over me which I was not entirely able to restrain. Although I was able to exercise very little control over my own counsel, nevertheless on several occasions I so nearly achieved it, either through the will of love or my own boldness, that upon reflection I concluded that in speaking of love no discourse was more fair or more profitable than that which sought to praise the person who was loved.
Three reasons brought me to this conclusion, one of which was my own love for myself, which is the beginning of all other loves, as anyone can see. For there is no more acceptable or gracious a way for a person to do honor to himself than by honoring his friend; for since there can be no friendship between those who are unalike, wherever friendship is seen likeness is understood to exist; and wherever likeness is understood to exist praise and blame go in common. From this reasoning two great lessons can be learned. One is that one should not desire any vicious person to present himself as a friend, because in this case no good opinion is formed of the one to whom this person shows himself to be a friend; the other is that no one should blame his friend in public, because he puts his finger in his own eye, if the foregoing reasoning is carefully considered.
The second reason was a desire for this friendship to be lasting. Here we must understand that, as the Philosopher says in the ninth book of the Ethics, in a friendship of persons of unequal rank there must exist, in order to preserve it, a relation between them that in some way transforms the unlikeness into likeness, as, for example, exists between a master and his servant.1 For although the servant cannot render a like benefit to his master when he receives a benefit from him, he must nevertheless render what best he can with so much solicitude and spontaneity that what in itself is dissimilar will make itself similar by the display of good will. Once it is displayed, the friendship becomes strengthened and preserved. Therefore, considering myself inferior to this lady and finding myself benefited by her, I resolved to praise her according to the scope of my power, which, if it is not in itself similar to hers, at least shows my eager desire. For if I were able to do more, I would do so. In this way, then, my power becomes similar to that of this gentle lady.
The third reason was an argument arising from foresight. For as Boethius says, "It is not enough to see only what lies before the eyes," that is, the present; and this is why we are given foresight, which looks beyond to what may happen in the future.2 I say that I thought that I might perhaps be criticized for inconstancy of mind by many coming after me upon hearing that I had changed from my first love. To dispel this criticism there was no better argument than to tell who that lady was who had brought about this change in me. For by her manifest excellence we can form some idea of her virtue; and by understanding her great virtue we can perceive how any steadfastness of mind is capable of being changed by it, and consequently how I might not be judged inconstant and unsteadfast. I therefore undertook to praise this lady, and if not in a fitting manner, at least insofar as I was able; and I began by saying Love, that speaks to me within my mind.
This canzone has three principal parts. The first consists of the whole first stanza, which serves as a proem. The second consists of all three of the following stanzas, which concern what is intended to be spoken of, namely, the praise of this gentle one, of which the first begins The Sun that circles all the world. The third part consists of the fifth and last stanza in which, by addressing my words to the canzone, I resolve a certain confusion arising from it. And these three parts must be discussed in order.Chapter 2
Beginning then with the first part, which was devised as a proem to this canzone, I say that it should be divided into three parts. For first it touches on the ineffable quality of the theme. Second, it describes my inadequacy to treat it perfectly, and this second part begins And surely I must leave aside. Finally, I excuse myself for my inadequacy, for which fault should not be found in me, and this I begin when I say And so if fault is found to mar my verse.
I say then Love, that speaks to me within my mind. Here above all we must specify who this speaker is, and the place in which he speaks. Love, taken in its true sense and subtly considered, is nothing but the spiritual union of the soul and the thing which is loved, to which union the soul of its own nature hastens quickly or slowly according to whether it is free or hindered. The reason for this natural tendency may be this: that every substantial form proceeds from its first cause, which is God, as is stated in the book On Causes, and these forms receive their diversity not from it, which is most simple, but from the secondary causes and from the matter into which it descends. Thus in the same book, in treating of the infusion of divine goodness, the following words appear: "And the goodnesses and the gifts are made diverse by the participation of the thing which receives them."3 Consequently, since every effect retains part of the nature of its cause (as Alpetragius says when he affirms that what is caused by a circular body must in some way be circular), every form in some way partakes of the divine nature; not that the divine nature is divided and distributed to them, but that it is shared by them in almost the same way that the nature of the Sun is shared by the other stars.4 The nobler the form, the more it retains of this nature; consequently the human soul, which is the noblest form of all those that are generated beneath the heavens, receives more of the divine nature than any other. And since the will to exist is most natural in God--because, as we read in the book cited above, "being is the first thing, and before that there is nothing"--the human soul by nature desires with all its will to exist; and since its being depends on God and is preserved by him, it naturally longs and desires to be united with God in order to strengthen its being.
Because the divine goodness reveals itself in the goodnesses of nature, it happens that the human soul naturally unites itself with them in a spiritual manner, more quickly and more strongly as they appear the more perfect, which appearance is determined by the degree to which the soul's power of recognition is clear or hindered. This union is what we call love, whereby we are able to know the quality of the soul within by seeing outside it those things which it loves. This love (that is, the union of my mind with this gentle lady in whom so much of the divine light was revealed to me) is that speaker of whom I speak, for thoughts were continually being born of him that would gaze upon and ponder the worth of this lady who spiritually was made one with my soul.
The place in which I say he speaks is the mind. But in saying that it is the mind we gain no better understanding of it than before, and therefore we must see what this word "mind" properly signifies. I say then that in the second book of On the Soul, the Philosopher, in distinguishing its powers, asserts that the soul has three principal powers: namely life, sensation, and reason; he also mentions motion, but this can be included with sensation, since every soul that senses, either with all the senses or with one alone, also has motion, so that motion is a power conjoined with sensation.5 And, as he says, it is perfectly obvious that these powers are interrelated in such a way that one is the basis of the next; and the one that is the basis can exist separately by itself, but the other, which is based upon it, cannot exist separately from it. Thus the vegetative power, by which life is sustained, is the basis upon which sensation--namely sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch--rests; and this vegetative power can exist as a soul by itself, as we see in all the plants. The sensitive soul cannot exist without it: there is nothing that has sensation without being alive. This sensitive power is the basis of the intellectual power, that is, of reason. Therefore in living mortal beings the rational power is not found without the sensitive, but the sensitive is found without the other, as we see in beasts, birds, fish, and every brute animal. The soul that comprehends all these powers, and the one that is the most perfect of them all, is the human soul, which by the nobility of its highest power (that is, reason) participates in the divine nature as an everlasting intelligence. For the soul is so ennobled and divested of matter in this supreme power that the divine light shines in it as in an angel; and therefore man is called a divine living being by the philosophers. In this most noble part of the soul there exist many powers, as the Philosopher says, especially in the third book of On the Soul where he observes that there exists a power in it that is called scientific, and one that is called ratiocinative or deliberative, and with it are found certain powers--as Aristotle says in that same place--such as the inventive and the judicial. And all of these most noble powers, and the others within this excellent power, are called collectively by this name, whose meaning we desired to know: that is, "mind." Thus it is manifest that by mind is meant the highest and noblest part of the soul.
That this was his meaning is obvious, for this mind is predicated only of man and of the divine substances, as may be clearly seen in Boethius, who predicates it first of men when he says to Philosophy: "You and God, who placed you in the minds of men," and then to God when he says to God: "You produce all things from the supernal exemplar, you, most beautiful, bearing in your mind the beautiful world."6 Not only was it never predicated of brute animals, but in fact it does not seem possible or proper to predicate it of many men who seem lacking in this most perfect part; and therefore in Latin such persons are called "mindless" or "demented" (that is, without mind). So now we may see what is meant by mind, that distinguished and most precious part of the soul which is deity.7 This is the place in which I say Love speaks to me about my lady.Chapter 3
It is not without cause that I say that this love performs its operation in my mind, but with good reason, so that by telling of the place in which it operates we might understand what kind of love this is. Thus we should know that every thing, as has been said above, for the reason shown above, has its own special love. As the simple bodies have within themselves a natural love for their proper place--and this is why earth always inclines toward its center, why fire has a natural love of the circumference above, near the heaven of the Moon, and so always rises toward it--so the first of the compound bodies, such as minerals, have a love for the place where their generation is brought about, and there they grow and there they acquire vigor and power; thus we find that the lodestone always takes its power from the place where it was generated.8 Plants, which are the first of the living things, have a more manifest love for certain places, according to the requirements of their constitution, and so we find that certain plants almost always take root near water, and certain others on summits of mountains, and certain others on slopes and at the foot of hills, which, if transplanted, either wholly perish or live a kind of melancholy life, as things separated from what is friendly to them. Brute animals have a more manifest love not only for places, but we find moreover that they love one another. Men have their proper love for things that are perfectly virtuous. And since man--although his whole form consists of a single substance for its nobility--has in himself a divine nature, he has the power to possess these things and all these loves, and he does possess them all. For by virtue of the nature of the simple body, which predominates in the subject, he naturally loves to move downward; and therefore when he moves his body upward, he grows more weary.9
By virtue of the second nature of the compound body, he loves the place, and also the season, in which he was generated. Everyone therefore is naturally of stronger body in the place where he was generated and in the season of his generation than in any other. Thus we read in the stories of Hercules--both in Ovid the Greater and in Lucan and in other poets--that when he was fighting with the giant Antaeus, whenever the giant grew weary and stretched his body along the ground, whether by his own choice or as a result of Hercules' might, strength and vigor completely surged forth in him anew from the earth in which and from which he had been generated.10 Hercules, perceiving this, finally seized him and, gripping him fast and lifting him off the ground, held him so long aloft without letting him touch the earth again that by overwhelming force he defeated and slew him. This battle took place in Africa, according to the testimony of these writings.
By virtue of the third nature, namely of the plants, man has a love for certain foods, not because they can be sensed, but because they are nutritious. Such foods perfect the operation of this nature, while others do not, but make it imperfect. We find therefore that certain foods make men well-built, strong-limbed, and of a healthy-looking complexion, while others bring about the contrary.
By virtue of the fourth nature, that of the animals, namely the senses, man has another love, by which he loves according to sense perception, like the beasts; and in man it is this love which has the greatest need of being controlled, because of its overwhelming power brought about especially by delight arising from taste and touch.
By virtue of the fifth and last nature, namely the truly human or, to be more precise, the angelic nature, which is to say the rational, man has a love of truth and virtue; and from this love springs true and perfect friendship, derived from what is honorable, something about which the Philosopher speaks in the eighth book of the Ethics where he discusses friendship.
Therefore since this nature is called mind, as has been shown above, I said that Love speaks within my mind, to make known that this was that love which springs from that most noble nature (that is, of truth and of virtue), and to dismiss any false opinion concerning myself on account of which it might have been suspected that my love was for sensual delight. I then say with fervent passion, to make its steadfastness and its fervor known. And I say that it "often stirs thoughts that bewilder the intellect." I speak truly, for in speaking of her my thoughts many times desired to conclude things about her which I could not understand, and I was so bewildered that outwardly I seemed almost beside myself, like one who looks with his sight fixed along a straight line and at first sees clearly those things nearest him; then, proceeding further away, sees them less clearly; and then, still further away, is left in a state of doubt; and finally, proceeding to the furthest point of all, his vision unfocused, sees nothing.
This is one ineffable aspect of what I have taken as my theme; and, subsequently, I speak of the other when I say His speech. I say that my thoughts--which are the words of Love--"have such sweet sounds" that my soul, that is, my affection, burns to be able to tell of it with my tongue; and because I am not able to speak of it, I say that the soul therefore laments, saying Alas, I lack the power. This is the other ineffable aspect: that is, that the tongue cannot completely follow what the intellect perceives. And I say my soul which hears and feels him: "hears" with respect to the words, and "feels" with respect to the sweetness of the sound.Chapter 4
Now that the two ineffable aspects of this subject have been discussed, it is fitting to proceed to a discussion of the words which describe my insufficiency. I say then that my insufficiency derives from a twofold source, just as the grandeur of that lady is transcendent in a twofold manner, in the way that has been mentioned. For because of the poverty of my intellect it is necessary to leave aside much that is true about her and much that shines, as it were, into my mind, which like a transparent body receives it without arresting it; and this I say in the following clause: And surely I must leave aside. Then when I say And of what it understands I assert that my inability extends not only to what my intellect does not grasp but even to what I do understand, because my tongue lacks the eloquence to be able to express what is spoken of her in my thought. Consequently it will be apparent that what I shall say concerning the truth will be quite little. And this, upon close examination, brings great praise to her, which is my principal purpose; and that speech in which every part contributes to the principal purpose can properly be said to come from the workshop of the rhetorician. Then where it says And so if fault is found to mar my verse, I excuse myself for a fault for which I should not be blamed, since others can see that my words are inferior to the dignity of this lady. And I say that if fault is found to mar my verse--that is, in my words which are arranged to treat of her--the blame is due to the weakness of the intellect and the inadequacy of our power of speech, which is so overwhelmed by a thought that it cannot fully follow it, especially where the thought springs from love, because then the soul is stirred in a more profound manner than at other times.
Someone might object, "You excuse and accuse yourself at the same time," for the present argument is proof of a fault and not a purging of it since the fault is laid to the power of the intellect and of speech, which are mine; for just as I must be praised for it if it is good, to the extent that it is good, so must I be blamed if it is found faulty. To this it may be answered that I do not accuse myself but rather, in fact, do excuse myself. Therefore we should know that, according to the opinion of the Philosopher in the third book of the Ethics, man is deserving of praise or blame only for those things which it is in his power to do or not to do; but in those things in which he has no power, he deserves neither blame nor praise, since both must be attributed to another person, even though these things be part of the man himself.11 So we must not blame a man because he was born with an ugly shape, since it was not in his power to make himself attractive; we should rather blame the faulty disposition of the matter of which he is made, which was the source of nature's fault. Likewise we should not praise a man for the attractiveness of his body which he possesses by his birth, for he was not its maker; we should rather praise the artisan (namely, human nature), which produces so much beauty in its matter when it is not hindered by it. For this reason the priest spoke aptly to the Emperor who laughed and scoffed at the ugliness of his body: "God is our Lord: He made us and not we ourselves." These are the Prophet's words put down in a verse of the Psalter, not a word more or less than was spoken by the priest in his response.12 Therefore let those deformed at birth who devote their attention to adorning their person and not to perfecting their character, which dignity absolutely requires, know that this is nothing but to ornament the work of another and to neglect one's own.
Returning then to the subject, I say that our intellect, by defect of that faculty from which it draws what it perceives, which is an organic power, namely the fantasy, cannot rise to certain things (because the fantasy cannot assist it, since it lacks the means), such as the substances separate from matter. And if we are able to have any concept of these substances, we can nevertheless neither apprehend nor comprehend them perfectly.13 Man is not to be blamed for this, for as I say he was not the maker of this defect; rather universal nature was, that is, God, who willed that in this life we be deprived of that light. Why he should do this would be presumptuous to discuss. Consequently if my contemplation has transported me to a region where my fantasy has failed my intellect, I am not to blame for being unable to understand.
Furthermore, a limit is placed on our intelligence, on each of its operations, not by us but by universal nature; and here we should know that the bounds of our intelligence are wider for thought than for speech, and wider for speech than for signs. Therefore if our thought surpasses our speech--not only that which does not reach perfect understanding but also that which results in perfect understanding--we are not to blame, because it is not of our doing. And so I portray myself as excused when I say Cast blame on my weak intellect And on our speech, which lacks the power To say in words the things that Love relates. For good will, which is what we must consider in judging human merit, must be quite clearly visible. And this is the sense in which the first principal part of the canzone, which is at hand, should be understood.Chapter 5
Now that a discussion of the first part has disclosed its meaning, we may properly proceed to the second, which, for the sake of clarity, will be divided into three parts, corresponding to the three stanzas which it comprises. For in the first part I praise this lady in her entirety and in general terms, regarding both her soul and her body; in the second I proceed to praise specifically the soul; in the third to praise specifically the body. The first part begins: The Sun that circles all the world; the second begins: Into her descends celestial power; the third begins: In her countenance appear such things; and these parts will be discussed in order.
It says then The Sun that circles all the world; here, in order to have a perfect understanding, we should know how the world is circled by the Sun. First I say that by the term "world" I do not here mean the whole body of the universe but only the part which, according to common parlance, consists of land and sea, for so it is usually called, just as the phrase "that man has seen the whole world" means the part consisting of land and sea. Pythagoras and his followers maintained that this world was one of the stars and that there was another opposite it that was identical, which he called Antichthon;14 and he claimed that both were on a single sphere which turned from west to east, and that because of this revolution the Sun circled around us, and was alternately visible and invisible. He also claimed that fire was present between these two masses, asserting that it was nobler than both water and earth, and that the center was the noblest among the places of the four simple bodies; and therefore he said that fire while seeming to rise was in reality descending toward its own center. Plato, coming later, was of a different opinion and wrote, in a book of his called Timaeus, that the earth with the sea was indeed the center of everything, but that its whole globe circled its center, following the primary movement of the heavens, but very slowly because of its dense matter and its extreme distance from that movement. These opinions are repudiated in the second book of Heaven and Earth as false by that glorious philosopher to whom nature most revealed her secrets; and there he proves that this world, that is the earth, stands in itself still and forever fixed. It is not my intention here to relate the proofs that Aristotle gives in order to refute those men and affirm the truth, because it is quite enough for those whom I am addressing to know on his great authority that this earth is fixed and does not turn, and that with the sea it is the center of heaven.
The heavens revolve around this center continuously, as we observe; in this revolution there must necessarily be two fixed poles and one circle equidistant from them which revolves with the greatest speed. Of these two poles one, namely the northern one, is visible to almost all the uncovered land; the other, namely the southern one, is hidden from almost all the uncovered land. The circle that is understood to lie midway between them is that part of the heavens beneath which the sun revolves when it moves with the Ram and with the Scales. Thus we should know that if a stone were dropped from our pole it would fall precisely out there in the ocean on a crest of the sea in such a way that were an observer present, the polar star would always be directly above his head (and I believe that the distance from Rome to this spot, moving due north, would be almost 2600 miles, or a little less).
In order to visualize this more clearly, let us imagine, then, that a city lies on the spot that I have mentioned and that its name is Mary. I say further that if a stone were dropped from the other pole (that is, the southern one), it would fall on a crest of the ocean which is exactly opposite Mary on this globe (and I believe that the distance from Rome to the place where this second stone would fall, moving due south, would be 7500 miles, or a little less). And here let us imagine another city, with the name of Lucy. The distance between the one and the other, from whichever side the cord is drawn, would be 10,200 miles--half the circumference of this entire globe, so that the inhabitants of Mary would consequently have their feet opposite those of the inhabitants of Lucy. Let us also imagine a circle on this globe which is at every point as far from Mary as from Lucy. I believe that this circle--as I understand from the teachings of the astrologers, and from those of Albert the Great in his book Of the Nature of Places and the Properties of the Elements, and also from the testimony of Lucan in his ninth book--would divide this uncovered land from the Ocean on the southern side, almost along the entire extremity of the first climatic zone where, among other people, the Garamantes dwell (who are almost always naked), to whom Cato came with the people of Rome when he fled the rule of Caesar.15
Having marked out these three places on this globe, we can easily see how the Sun circles it.16 I say then that the heaven of the Sun revolves from west to east, not directly counter to the diurnal movement (that is, that of day and night) but obliquely counter to it; so that this ecliptic, which lies equidistantly from its poles, on which is situated the body of the Sun, cuts the equator of the two primary poles into two opposing regions, that is, at the beginning point of the Ram and at the beginning point of the Scales, and diverges from it along two arcs, one toward the north and the other toward the south. The points marking the centers of these arcs are equidistant from the first circle on either side by 23 ½ degrees; and one point is the beginning point of Cancer, and the other is the beginning point of Capricorn. Therefore when the Sun passes beneath the equator of the primary poles, Mary must necessarily see the Sun, at the beginning point of the Ram, circling around the world, below the earth, or rather the Ocean, like a millstone not more than half of whose mass can be seen; and this she sees rising upward like the screw of a press, until it completes a little more than 91 revolutions.17 When these revolutions are completed, its elevation with respect to Mary is almost the same as it is with respect to us on earth in between, when day and night are equal.
If a man were standing upright in Mary, with his face turned continually to the sun, he would see it moving toward his righthand side. Then along the same path it seems to descend another ninety-one revolutions and a little more, until it has circled entirely around, below the earth, or rather the Ocean, only partially showing itself; and then it is hidden and Lucy begins to see it, and sees it rising and descending around her with just as many revolutions as Mary sees. And if a man were standing upright in Lucy, with his face turned continually toward the Sun, he would see it moving toward his lefthand side. Thus it can be perceived that these places have a day six months long each year and a night of the same length; and when one has day, the other has night.
It also obtains, as has been said, that the circle on which the Garamantes dwell on this globe must see the Sun circling directly above it, not like a millstone but like a wheel, only half of which it can see from any given point as it passes beneath the Ram. And then it sees it moving away from itself and approaching Mary for a little more than 91 days, and return toward itself in the same period; and then, when it has returned, it passes beneath the Scales, and again moves away and approaches Lucy for a little more than 91 days, and returns in as many. This place, which encompasses the entire globe, always has its day equal to its night, whether the Sun passes on this or on that side of it; and twice a year it has an extremely hot summer, and two mild winters.
It further obtains that the two spaces which lie between the two imaginary cities and the equator must see the Sun differently according as they are further from or closer to these places, as may now, by what has been said, be evident to anyone who has a noble mind, of which it is well to demand some little effort. Thus we may now see that by divine provision the world is so ordered that when the sphere of the Sun has revolved and returned to its starting place this globe on which we dwell receives in every place an equal time of light and darkness.
O ineffable wisdom who has so ordained, how poorly does our mind comprehend you! And you, for whose benefit and delight I am writing, in what blindness do you live, not lifting your eyes up to these things but rather fixing them in the mire of your foolish ignorance!Chapter 6
In the preceding chapter it has been shown in what manner the Sun makes its revolution, so that now we may proceed to explain the meaning of the part with which we are concerned. I say then that in this part I begin first to praise this lady in comparison to other things; and I say that the Sun, circling the world, sees nothing so noble as she, from which it follows that she is, according to these words, the noblest of all the things on which the Sun shines. I say in that hour; here we must know that the word "hour" is understood by the astrologers in two ways. One is when day and night make 24 hours, that is, 12 for day and 12 for night, whether the day is long or short; and these hours become short or long during day or night as day and night wax and wane. The church uses these hours when it speaks of Prime, Tierce, Sext, and Nones, and they are called the temporal hours. The other is when, in allotting 12 hours for day and night, the day at times has 15 hours and the night 9, and at times the night has 16 and the day 8, according to how day and night wax and wane; and these are called equal hours. At the equinox both these hours and those which are called temporal are one and the same, because with day being equal to night such must be the case.
Then when I say Every Intelligence admires her from above, I praise her without reference to anything else. I say that the Intelligences of heaven admire her and that those who are noble down here think of her when they must have that which delights them. Here we must know that every Intelligence above, according to what is written in the book Of Causes, knows what is above itself and what is below itself.18 It therefore knows God as its cause and it knows what is below itself as its effect; and because God is the most universal cause of all things, by knowing him it knows all things, according to the measure of its intelligence. Hence all the Intelligences know the human form insofar as it is determined by intention within the divine mind. The Intelligences who move the spheres know it best because they are the most immediate cause of it and of every generated form, and they know the most perfect divine form, insofar as possible, as their paradigm and exemplar. And if the human form is not perfect when reproduced in individual beings, it is not the fault of the exemplar but of the material which furnishes individuality. Therefore when I say Every Intelligence admires her from above, I mean only that she is created as the intentional exemplar of the human essence which is in the divine mind, and hence in all other minds, above all in these angelic minds which along with the heavens fashion these things here below.
To confirm this, I add by way of saying And those down here who are in love. Here it should be known that each thing most of all desires its own perfection, and in this it satisfies all of its desires, and for the sake of this each thing is desired. It is this desire that always makes every delight seem defective to us, for no delight in this life is so great as to be able to take away the thirst such that the desire just mentioned does not still remain in our thought. Since this lady is indeed that perfection, I say that those who here below receive the greatest delight when they are most at peace find this lady then in their thought, because she is, I affirm, as supremely perfect as the human essence can be. Then when I say Her being so pleases God who gave it to her, I show that not only is this lady the most perfect in the realm of human beings, but perfect more than most in that she receives more of the divine goodness than what is due to man. Consequently we may reasonably believe that just as every craftsman loves his best work more than any other, so God loves the best human being more than any other. Since his generosity is not restricted by the necessity of any limitation, his love does not consider what is due to him who receives, but surpasses it through the gift and benefaction of virtue and of grace. This is why I say here that God himself, who gives being to her for the love of her perfection, infuses a part of his goodness in her beyond the limits of what is due to our nature.
Then when I say Her pure soul, I give proof of what has been said by testimony provided by the senses. Here we should know that, as the Philosopher says in the second book of On the Soul, the soul actualizes the body;19 and if it actualizes the body, it is its cause. Since every cause, as is stated in the book Of Causes already cited, infuses into its effect a part of the goodness which it receives from its own cause, the soul infuses into and gives to its body a part of the goodness of its own cause, which is God.20 Consequently since wonderful things are perceived in her, as regards her bodily part, to the point that they make all those who look on her desirous to see these things, it is evident that her form (that is, her soul), which directs the body as its proper cause, miraculously receives the goodness of God's grace. Thus outward appearance provides proof that this lady has been endowed and ennobled by God beyond what is due to our nature, which as has been said above is most perfect in her. This is the entire literal meaning of the first part of the second principal section.Chapter 7
Having praised this lady in a general way with respect to her soul as well as her body, I proceed to praise her in particular with respect to her soul, and first I praise her according as her goodness is great in itself, and then I praise her according as her goodness is great in affecting others and in bringing benefit to the world. This second part begins where I say Of her it can be said. So first I say Into her descends celestial power.
Here we should know that the divine goodness descends into all things, for otherwise they could not exist. But although this goodness springs from the simplest principle, it is received diversely, in greater or lesser measure, by those things which receive it. Thus it is written in the book Of Causes: "The primal goodness makes his goodnesses flow upon all things with a single flowing."21 Each thing indeed receives of this flowing forth according to the measure of its virtue and of its being, and we find visible evidence of this in the Sun. We see the Sun's light, derived from one source, received diversely by diverse bodies, as Albert says in his book On the Intellect.22 For certain bodies, because of the high degree of transparent clearness instilled within them, become so luminous as soon as the sun sees them that by multiplying the light within themselves and in their aspect they cast forth a great splendor upon other bodies, as do gold and other stones.
There are others which, because they are entirely transparent, not only receive the light but do not impede it, and rather transmit it to other things, colored with their own color. And there are others so surpassing in the purity of their transparency as to become so radiant that they overwhelm the eye's equilibrium and cannot be looked upon without their causing discomfort to one's eyesight, as is the case with mirrors. Still others are so lacking in transparency that they receive scarcely any light at all, as is the case with the earth. Thus God's goodness is received in one way by the separate substances (that is, by the Angels), who have no material dimension and are, as it were, transparent by virtue of the purity of their form; and in another way by the human soul, which is partly free from matter and partly impeded by it, like a man who is entirely in the water except for his head, of whom it cannot be said that he is entirely in the water or entirely out of it; and in another by the animals, whose souls are entirely confined to matter, but are nevertheless somewhat ennobled; and in another by the plants; and in another by the minerals; and by the earth in a way different from that of the other elements, because it is the most material, and therefore the most remote from and the most out of proportion with the first, most simple, and most noble virtue, which alone is intellectual, namely, God.
Although only the general gradations are set down here, we could nevertheless set down the particular gradations: that is, that among human souls one receives goodness differently from another. And since in the intellectual order of the universe the ascent and descent are almost by continuous gradations from the lowest form to the highest and from the highest to the lowest, as we see in the order of beings capable of sensation; and since between the angelic nature, which is intellectual being, and the human nature there is no gradation but rather the one is, as it were, continuous with the other by the order of gradation; and since between the human soul and the most perfect soul of the brute animals there is also no intermediary gradation, so it is that we see many men so vile and in such a state of baseness that they seem to be almost nothing but beasts. Consequently it must be stated and firmly believed that there are some so noble and so lofty in nature that they are almost nothing but angels, for otherwise the human species would not be continuous in both directions, which is impossible. Beings like these Aristotle, in the seventh book of the Ethics, calls divine, and such, I say, is this lady, for the divine virtue descends into her just as it descends into an angel.23
Then when I say And if some gentle lady disbelieves this, I substantiate this by the experience that may be had of her in those operations that are proper to the rational soul, into which the divine light radiates most freely: that is, in speech and in those gestures which are customarily called bearing and conduct. Here we should know that among the animals man alone speaks and has conduct and gestures which are called rational, because he alone has reason within himself. If anyone were to speak to the contrary by claiming that certain birds speak, as seems true of some, especially the magpie and the parrot, and that certain beasts perform gestures or possess bearing, as seems the case with the ape and some others, I reply that it is not true that they speak or that they possess bearing because they do not possess reason, from which these things must necessarily proceed; nor is the principle of these operations within them, nor do they know what they are, nor do they intend to signify anything by them, but rather only reproduce what they see and hear. Hence just as an image of bodies is reproduced in some shining body, as for instance in a mirror, and hence the corporeal image which the mirror displays is not real, so the image of reason, namely the gestures and speech which the brute animal reproduces or displays, is not real.
I say that "if some gentle lady disbelieves what I say let her walk with her and mark her gestures"--I do not say "any man," because experience can be acquired more decorously from the example of women than from that of men--and I tell what she will hear concerning her, by describing the effect of her speech and the effect of her bearing. For her speech, by its loftiness and its sweetness, engenders in the mind of him who hears it a thought of love, which I call a celestial spirit because its origin is from above and from above comes its meaning, as has already been related, from which thought proceeds the firm conviction that this is a miraculous lady of virtue. And her gestures, by their sweetness and their gracefulness, cause love to awaken and be felt wherever some part of its power is sown in a good nature. This natural sowing is performed as is shown in the following book.24
Then when I say Of her it can be said I mean to describe how the goodness and the virtue of her soul are good and of benefit to others, and first how she is of benefit to other ladies, adding, Gentle is in woman what is found in her, where I present a manifest example to women, by gazing upon which they may make themselves, by following it, appear gentle. Secondly, I relate how she is of benefit to all people, saying that her countenance aids our faith, which more than any other thing is of benefit to the human race, since it is that by which we escape eternal death and gain eternal life. It helps our faith, for since the principal foundation of our faith consists of the miracles performed by him who was crucified--who created our reason and willed it to be less than his power--and performed later in his name by his saints; and since many are so stubborn that they are doubtful of these miracles, owing to their beclouded vision, and cannot believe in any miracle without having visible proof of it, and since this lady is visibly a miraculous thing, of which the eyes of men may have daily proof, and which makes it possible for us to believe in the other miracles, it is evident that this lady, with her wonderful countenance, aids our faith. Therefore I say, lastly, that by eternity (that is, eternally), she was ordained in the mind of God in testimony of the faith to those who live in these times.
And so ends the second part of the second principal section according to the literal meaning.Chapter 8
Among all the creations of divine wisdom man is the most wonderful, if we consider how the divine power has conjoined three natures in a single form and how subtly his body must be harmonized, having within that form organs for almost all of its powers.25 Consequently, because of the great degree of harmony required for so many organs to be in proper accord with each other, there are few within the great number of men that exist who are perfect. If this created being is so wonderful, we ought certainly to approach the treatment of its conditions with fear, not only in words but even in thought.
Here these words from Ecclesiasticus stand as a warning: "Who has sought out the wisdom of God that goes before all things?" as do those that admonish: "Do not seek the things that are too high for you, nor search into things that lie beyond your ken, but rather think upon the things that God has commanded, and further about his works do not be curious" (that is, inquisitive).26 I, therefore, who intend in this third section to speak of some of the conditions of this being (insofar as sensible beauty appears in her body by virtue of the goodness in her soul), propose with fear and lack of confidence to begin to untie, if not entirely, at least some part of this great knot. I say then that since we have explained the meaning of the section in which this lady is praised with respect to her soul, we must proceed to consider how, when saying In her countenance appear such things, I praise her with respect to her body. And I say that in her countenance appear things which reveal some of the delights of Paradise. Among them the most noble and the one that is established as the end of all of the others is to achieve happiness, and this is the same as to be blessed. This delight is truly found in the countenance of this lady, although in another way; for, by gazing upon her people become happy, so sweetly does her beauty feed the eyes of those who behold her, although in another way than by the happiness of Paradise that is everlasting, which this cannot be for anyone.
Since someone might ask where this wonderful delight appears in her, I distinguish in her person two parts in which the expression of human pleasure and displeasure are most evident. And so we must know that in whatever part the soul most performs its work, it is this that it is most determined to adorn and at which it works most subtly. So we find that in human faces, where it performs more of its work than in any other external part, it shapes so subtly that, by refining there as much as the material will permit, no one face is like any other, because the ultimate power of the material, which is somewhat different in everyone, is here reduced to actuality.27 And since in the face the soul operates principally in two places (because in those two places all three natures have jurisdiction, each in its own way)--that is, in the eyes and in the mouth--it adorns these most of all and directs its full attention to creating beauty there, as far as possible. It is in these two places that I maintain these delights appear, saying in her eyes and in her sweet smile.
These two places may be called, by way of a charming metaphor, the balconies of the lady who dwells in the edifice of the body, which is to say the soul, because here, though in a veiled manner, she often reveals herself. She reveals herself in the eyes so clearly that the emotion present in her may be recognized by anyone who gazes at them intently. Consequently given that there are six emotions proper to the human soul, of which the Philosopher makes mention in his book on Rhetoric (namely, grace, zeal, pity, envy, love, and shame), by none of these can the soul become impassioned without its semblance appearing at the window of the eyes, unless by exercise of great force it is kept closed within.28 For this reason some in times past have put out their eyes, so that their shame within should not appear without, as the poet Statius remarks of Oedipus of Thebes when he states that "with eternal night he freed himself from his guilty shame."29
The soul reveals herself in the mouth, almost like a color behind glass. What is laughter if not a coruscation of the soul's delight--that is, a light appearing outwardly just as it is within? It is therefore fitting that in order to show one's soul to be of moderate cheer one should laugh in moderation, with proper reserve and little movement of the lips, so that the lady who then reveals herself, as has been said, may appear modest and not wanton. Consequently the Book of the Four Cardinal Virtues charges us: "Do not let your laughter become strident," that is, like the cackling of a hen. Ah, wonderful smile of my lady of whom I speak, which has never been perceived except by the eye!30
I say that Love brings these things to her there as to their proper place.31 Here love can be considered in two ways. First, as the special love of the soul for these places; second, as the universal love which disposes things to be loved and which disposes the soul to adorn these parts. Then when I say They overwhelm our intellect, I excuse myself for seeming to say little about such great excellence of beauty when treating of it; and I say that I observe little about it for two reasons. One is that these things which appear in her countenance overwhelm our intellect (the human one, that is); and I tell how this overwhelming dispoccurs, which is in the same way that the sun overwhelms feeble vision, but not a strong and healthy one. The other is that our intellect cannot gaze on it intently, because by so doing the soul becomes intoxicated, so that immediately after gazing it goes astray in all of its operations.
Then when I say Her beauty rains down little flames of fire, I undertake to describe beauty's effect, since it is impossible to describe the beauty itself completely. Here we must know that all those things which surpass our intellect, so that it cannot perceive what they are, are most suitably described by means of their effects; and thus by approaching God, the separate substances, and the first matter in this way, we can gain some understanding of them. This is why I say that the beauty of this lady rains down little flames of fire (that is, the ardor of love and of charity) enkindled by a gentle spirit (that is, an ardor taking the form of a gentle spirit, namely right appetite, by and from which springs the origin of good thoughts). And it does not do only this, but also undoes and destroys its opposite, namely the innate vices that are the principal enemies of good thoughts.
Here we must understand that there are certain vices in man to which he is by nature predisposed--as, for instance, certain men of choleric temperament are predisposed to wrath--and such vices as these are innate (that is, part of our nature). Others are vices of habit, for which habit and not temperament is to blame, as, for instance, intemperance, especially in wine; these vices are avoided and overcome by good habit, and by it a man becomes virtuous so that his moderation requires no effort, as the Philosopher says in the second book of the Ethics.32 However, there is this difference between the natural passions and those of habit: those of habit disappear completely by exercise of good habit, because their source, namely bad habit, is destroyed by its opposite; but the natural passions, whose source lies in the nature of the person who experiences the passion, though they are much lightened by good habit, do not disappear completely so far as regards their first movement, but do completely disappear so far as their permanence is concerned, because habit is not equivalent to nature, within which these passions have their source. Therefore the man who directs himself and governs his bad nature against the impulse of nature is more praiseworthy than one who, having a good nature, maintains his good conduct or returns to the right way after straying from it, just as it is more praiseworthy to control a bad horse than one that has no vice.
I say then that these little flames which rain down from her beauty, as has been said, destroy the innate vices (that is, those that are part of our nature), to make it understood that her beauty has the power to renew nature in those who gaze upon it, which is a miraculous thing. And this confirms what has been said above in the other chapter, when I say that she is an aid to our faith.
Finally, when I say And so let every woman who hears her beauty, I disclose, under the pretense of admonishing someone else, the end for which such beauty was made. And I say that any lady who hears her beauty slighted for some defect should gaze upon this most perfect example, for it is understood that such beauty was created there not only to improve the good, but even to turn something bad into something good. At the end I add Conceived by him who set the heavens in motion, that is, God, to make it understood that nature produced such an effect by divine intention. And so ends the entire second main section of this canzone.