The Convivio, by Dante Alighieri

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: The Convivio, by Dante Alighieri

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 7:34 am

Part 4 of 5

Chapter 23

Now that the definition of nobility has been sufficiently examined and clarified in all of its parts as far as possible, so that we can now see what constitutes a noble man, it seems appropriate to proceed to that part of the text which begins The soul which this goodness adorns, which identifies the signs by which we may recognize the noble man referred to above. This is divided into two parts: in the first it is affirmed that this nobility shines and gleams openly throughout the entire life of a noble man; in the second it reveals the splendors distinctive of nobility; the second part begins Sweet, obedient, and full of shame.

With regard to the first part it should be known that this divine seed, of which we have spoken above, springs up immediately in our soul, growing and extending itself diversely into each power of the soul according to its need. It springs up, then, in the vegetative, sensitive, and rational powers, and branches out through the virtues of all of these, directing all of them to their perfection and preserving itself in them until the moment when, together with that part of our soul which never dies, it returns to heaven to the highest and most glorious sower. It says this in the first part, which has been spoken of. Then when it says Sweet, obedient, and full of shame, it shows how we may recognize a man who is noble by manifest signs, which constitute the activity of this divine goodness; this part is divided into four, according to its diverse activity in the four ages: that is, in adolescence, maturity, old age, and senility. The second part begins: In maturity she's strong and self-restrained; the third: In old age; the fourth: And then in the fourth phase of life.117 This is the general meaning of this part, regarding which it should be known that every effect, insofar as it is an effect, receives the likeness of its cause to the degree that it is able to retain it. Consequently since our life, as has been said, and the life of every living thing here below is caused by heaven, and heaven discloses itself to all such effects as these not by a complete circling but by a partial circling--and thus its movement above them must necessarily rise somewhat like an arc--all earthly life (and in saying "earthly" I mean both men and the other forms of life), rising upward and descending, must be similar to the image of an arc. Returning, then, to human life, which is our sole concern at present, I say that it takes the likeness of this arc, rising upward and descending.118

It should be observed that this arc here below, like the one above, would be uniform if the material sown into our constitution did not impede the rule of human nature. But since the fundamental humor, being the substance and nutriment of the heat which constitutes our life, varies in degree and in quality, and has greater duration in one effect than in another, it happens that the arc of one man's life has a greater or lesser span than that of another.119 Death is sometimes violent, or is hastened by sudden illness, but only that death which is commonly called natural, and which is natural, constitutes that boundary of which the Psalmist has said: "You have set a boundary which cannot be passed."120 Aristotle, the master of our life, who knew of this arc of which we are now speaking, seems to have believed that our life is nothing but an ascent and a descent, and therefore he says in his book On Maturity and Old Age that maturity is nothing but maturation in life. It is difficult to determine where the highest point of this arc lies, because of the inequality mentioned above, but in most lives I believe it is attained between the thirtieth and fortieth year, and I believe that in those whose nature is perfect it is attained in the thirty-fifth year. My belief is compelled by the argument that our Savior Christ had a perfect nature and desired to die in the thirty-fourth year of his life, because it would not have been fitting for a divinity to enter into such a decline as this. Nor can it be believed that he would not have desired to remain alive until he had reached the highest point of this life of ours, since he had lived here during the low estate of youth. This is made evident by the hour of the day of his death, for he desired to make it conform to his life. As Luke says, it was nearly the sixth hour when he died, which is to say the height of day. Thus we may take this word "nearly" to signify that the thirty-fifth year in the life of Christ was the height of his life.

This arc, however, is not characterized in written works solely by reference to its midpoint, but is divided into four parts, according to the four combinations of the contrary qualities that comprise our composition, to which combinations--I mean to each individually--one part of the course of our life seems to correspond, and these are called the four ages. The first is adolescence, which corresponds to the hot and moist; the second is maturity, which corresponds to the hot and dry; the third is old age, which corresponds to the cold and dry; and the fourth is senility, which corresponds to the dry and moist, as Albert states in the fourth book of the Meteorics.121 These parts of life are likewise characterized by the year, by spring, summer, autumn, and winter; and by the day, that is, up to tierce, and then nones (omitting sext, midway between, for an obvious reason), and then vespers and from vespers onward.122 Therefore the gentiles (that is, the pagans) said that the chariot of the sun had four horses: the first they called Eoüs, the second Pyroïs, the third Aethon, and the fourth Phlegon, as Ovid records in the second book of the Metamorphoses.123

Concerning the parts of the day it should be briefly observed that, as was said above in the sixth chapter of the third book, the Church in distinguishing among the hours of the day makes use of the temporal hours, of which there are twelve in each day, long or short according to the length of the solar day. Because the sixth hour (that is, midday) is the most noble hour of the entire day, and the most virtuous, she draws her offices near to each side of it (that is to say before and after) as much as possible. For this reason the office of the first part of the day, namely tierce, is said at the end of that part of the day, and the offices of the third and the fourth part are said at their beginning.124 And for this reason mid-tierce is said before the bell is rung for that part of the day, and mid-nones after it is rung for that part of the day, and as is mid-vespers.125 It should be clear to everyone, then, that the proper nones must always be rung at the beginning of the seventh hour of the day. And this should suffice for the present digression.

Chapter 24

Returning to the main argument, I say that human life is divided into four ages. The first is called adolescence, which means "increase of life"; the second is called maturity, which means "the age that can be helpful" (that is, that can give perfection, and so it is considered a perfect age, for one can give only what one has); the third is called old age; the fourth is called senility, as has been said above.

Regarding the first age no one is in doubt, for all learned persons are in agreement that it lasts up until the twenty-fifth year. Since up until that time our soul is concerned with the growth and the beauty of the body, when many and great changes occur in one's person, the rational part cannot discriminate with perfection. Consequently the Law directs that prior to reaching this age a person may not do certain things without a guardian of sufficient age.

Regarding the second age, which is truly the highest point of our life, there are many different opinions as to its duration. But leaving aside what the philosophers and physicians have to say about it and referring to the appropriate law, I say that in the majority (on the basis of which every judgment regarding what is natural can and must be made) this age lasts for 20 years. The reasoning which leads me to this conclusion is that if the highest point of our arc is in the thirty-fifth year, this age of life must have a descent and an ascent of equal duration; this ascent and descent are like the handle of a bow in which but little flection is observed. It obtains, then, that maturity is completed in the forty-fifth year. Just as adolescence lasts for the first twenty-five years, ascending toward maturity, so the descent, that is, old age, lasts for the same number of years following maturity; and so old age concludes in the seventieth year. But since adolescence does not begin at the beginning of life, taking it in the sense that has been stated, but nearly eight months later, and since our nature strives to ascend and holds back in descending because the natural heat is decreased, and has little power, and the moisture is condensed--not in quantity but in quality--so that it evaporates and is consumed less quickly, it happens that beyond old age there remains to our life a period of perhaps ten years, a little more or a little less; and this period is called senility.126 Hence it is said of Plato, who may be said to have possessed a supremely excellent nature both for the perfection of its being and for the physiognomic image which Socrates observed in him when he first saw him, that he lived to the age of 81, as Tully affirms in his book On Old Age.127 I believe that if Christ had not been crucified and had lived out the term which his life could have encompassed according to its nature, he would have undergone the change from mortal body to immortal in his eighty-first year.

Indeed as has been said above, these ages can be longer or shorter according to our temperament and constitution, but whatever they are, it seems to me, as has been said, this proportion must be preserved in all men (that is, to make the ages of life in these men longer or shorter according to the totality of the full term of their natural life).128 Throughout each of these ages the nobility of which we are speaking reveals its effects diversely in the soul that is ennobled, and this is what this stanza, about which I am presently writing, is intended to show.129 Here it should be observed that our nature when good and upright develops in us according to what is reasonable, just as we perceive that the nature of plants develops in them; and therefore some manners and some kinds of behavior are more reasonable at one age than at another, during which the soul that is ennobled develops in an orderly manner along a simple path, employing its activities in the periods and ages of life proper to them accordingly as they are directed to attaining its ultimate fruit.130 Tully voices agreement with this in his book On Old Age.131 Leaving aside the allegorical meaning which Vergil applies to the different ages of human development in the Aeneid, and as well what Egidius the Hermit says about it in the first part of his book The Regimen of Princes, and likewise Tully in his book On Offices, and following only what reason by itself can perceive, I say that this first age is the door and path by which we enter upon this good life of ours.132 This entrance must of necessity provide certain things which the goodness of nature, never failing in things that are necessary, gives to us, as we see that she gives leaves to the vine to protect its fruit, and tendrils by which to defend and bind its weakness so as to bear the weight of the fruit.

The goodness of nature, then, gives to this age of life four things necessary for entering into the city of the good life. The first is obedience, the second sweetness, the third a sense of shame, the fourth loveliness of being, as the text says in the first section.133 We should therefore know that just as someone who has never been in a city would not know how to make his way without guidance from someone who is familiar with it, so an adolescent who enters into the meandering forest of this life would not know how to keep to the right path unless it were shown to him by his elders.134 Nor would it be of any use to point it out if he were not obedient to their commands; and therefore in this age of life obedience is necessary.

Someone might well say: "Can he then be called obedient who obeys commands that are bad as well as he who obeys those that are good?" I reply that this would not be obedience but transgression, for if a king commands one thing and a servant another, the servant is not to be obeyed, for this would constitute disobedience to the king, and therefore a transgression. Therefore Solomon says, in seeking to correct his son (and this is his first command): "Hear, my son, the teaching of your father."135 At once he shields him from the bad advice and teaching of others, saying: "Do not let sinners have the power to beguile you with flatteries or delights so that you will go with them." So as a child clings to the mother's breast as soon as it is born, likewise as soon as some light appears in his mind he ought to turn to the correction of his father, and his father should give him instruction. He should make certain that his own actions do not provide an example that would run counter to his words of correction, for we see that every son naturally looks more to the footprints of his father than to those of anyone else. For this reason the Law, which takes this into account, states and commands that the person of the father should always appear righteous and upstanding to his sons; so it is clear that in this age of life obedience is necessary. Therefore Solomon writes in Proverbs that he who humbly and obediently endures his chastener and his just reproofs "shall be glorified," and he says "shall be," to indicate that he is speaking to an adolescent, one who in the present age of life cannot be glorified.136

If someone should protest that "what is said is said only of the father and not of others," I reply that all other obedience must redound to the father. Thus the Apostle says to the Colossians: "Children, obey your fathers in all things, for this is the will of God."137 If the father is no longer living, it redounds to him who is designated father by the father's last will. Should the father die intestate, it redounds to him to whom the Law entrusts his son's guidance. And next in order teachers and elders should be obeyed, to whom he seems in some way to have been entrusted by the father or by him who stands in the father's place. But since the present chapter has become long on account of the useful digressions which it contains, the other points will be discussed in another chapter.

Chapter 25

Not only is this good soul and nature obedient in adolescence, it is also pleasant, which is the other thing which is necessary in this age of life for passing through the gate of maturity. It is necessary because we cannot have a perfect life without friends, as Aristotle asserts in the eighth book of the Ethics; and the majority of friendships appear to be sown in this first age of life because in this age a man begins to be gracious, or the contrary.138 This graciousness is acquired through pleasant conduct, namely sweet and courteous speech, and sweet and courteous service and action. This is why Solomon says to his adolescent son: "God scorns scorners, and to the meek God will give grace." And elsewhere he says: "Keep far away from you an evil mouth, and let base actions be far from you."139 And so it appears that this pleasantness is necessary, as has been explained.

Furthermore, in this age of life the emotion of shame is necessary, and therefore a good and noble nature displays it in this age, as the text says. Since shame is a very prominent sign of nobility in adolescence, because it is extremely necessary at that time for making a good foundation for our life, to which the noble nature inclines, we must speak of it with some care. I say that by shame I mean three emotions necessary for the foundation of our good life: the first is awe, the second modesty, the third sense of shame, although the common people do not discern this distinction. All three are necessary in this age of life for the reasons: it is necessary to be reverent and eager, in order to learn; to be restrained, in order to avoid transgressing; to be repentant of an error, so as not to fall into the habit of error. All of these things comprise the emotions mentioned above, which together are commonly called shame. For awe is the amazement of the mind at seeing or hearing, or in some way perceiving, great and marvelous things. Insofar as they seem great, they instill reverence for them in him who perceives them; insofar as they seem marvelous they make him yearn for knowledge about them. For this reason the kings of times past would place magnificent works of gold, gems, and works of art in their palaces so that those who saw them would be amazed, and therefore become reverent, and eager to obtain information about the king's state of honor. Thus Statius, the sweet poet, in the first book of the Thebaid, says that when the king of the Argives, Adrastus, saw Polynices clad in a lion's skin, and Tydeus clad in the hide of a wild boar, and recalled the reply which Apollo had given concerning his daughters, he was awestruck, and therefore became more reverent and more eager to gain knowledge.140

Modesty is the recoiling of the mind from things which are ugly for fear of falling into them, as we see in virgins, good women, and adolescents who are so modest that their faces become pallid or tinged with the color of red not only in those instances when they are induced or tempted to commit a fault, but even when some act of sensual pleasure is merely conceived in the imagination. Thus the above-mentioned poet says in the first book of the Thebaid, just cited, that when Aceste, the nurse of Argia and Deiphyle, daughters of King Adrastus, brought them before the eyes of their noble father in the presence of two strangers, namely Polynices and Tydeus, the virgins became pallid and flushed, and their eyes averted the glances of everyone and turned upon their father's face alone, as if reassured.141 O how many faults does this modesty curb! How many dishonorable deeds and entreaties does it silence! How many dishonorable desires does it bridle! How many evil temptations does it check, not only in the person who is modest but in the one who looks on him! How many foul words does it restrain! For as Tully says in the first book of On Offices, "There is no foul act which it is not foul to speak of."142 Therefore a man who is modest and noble never speaks in such a way that his words would be unsuitable for a woman. Ah, how ill it becomes a man who goes in search of honor to speak of things which would be unbecoming on the lips of any woman!

The sense of shame is the fear of being disgraced for a fault that has been committed. From this fear springs repentance for the fault, which consists of a bitterness that acts as a constraint against renewing the fault. Consequently this same poet says in the same passage that when Polynices was asked by King Adrastus about his origin, he hesitated before speaking for shame of the fault he had committed against his father, and also of the faults of his father Oedipus, for they seemed to abide in the shame of the son. He did not name his father, but his ancestors, and his native land and his mother. From this it is quite evident that shame is necessary in this age of life.143

The noble nature in this age of life displays not only obedience, pleasantness, and shame, but also beauty and poise of body, as the text affirms when it says And she adorns her body. The word "adorns" is a verb and not a noun--a verb, I mean, in the present tense indicative of the third person. Here we must observe that this effect is also necessary for the goodness of our life, for a great part of the operations of our soul must be effected by means of the organs of the body, and it effects them well when the body is well ordered and disposed in its parts. When it is well ordered and disposed it is then beautiful as a whole and in its parts; for the due order of our members accords a pleasure of an inexpressibly wonderful harmony, and their proper disposition, namely their health, confers upon them a color that is pleasant to behold. So to say that a noble nature brings beauty to its body and makes it lovely and poised is to say simply that it adorns it with the perfection of order. It is evident that along with the other things that have been discussed, this characteristic is necessary in the age of adolescence. These are the things which the noble soul (that is, the noble nature as a thing which is sown), as has been said, by divine providence, intends for it to have from the beginning.

Chapter 26

Now that we have discussed the first section of this part, which shows how we can recognize a man who is noble by manifest signs, we must proceed to the second part, which begins: At maturity strong and self-restrained. It says, then, that as the noble nature in adolescence shows itself obedient, pleasant and full of shame, adorning its own person, so in maturity it is strong, self-restrained, loving, courteous, and honest, five qualities which appear to be, and are, necessary for our perfection insofar as we regard it with reference to ourselves. Concerning this we should observe that all that noble nature prepares in the first age of life is set forth and ordered by the foresight of universal Nature, which orders particular nature to its perfection.144 This perfection of ours can be considered in two ways. It can be considered with reference to ourselves, and this perfection must be achieved in our maturity, which is the fullness of our life. It can be considered with reference to others; and because it is first necessary to be perfect, and then to communicate this perfection to others, this secondary perfection must be achieved in the following age of life, namely in old age, as will be explained below.

Here, then, we must recall what was discussed above in the twenty-second chapter of this book concerning the appetite which is inborn in us from our beginning. This appetite never does anything except pursue and flee; and whenever it pursues what is proper in the right degree and flees what is proper in the right degree, one keeps within the boundaries of one's perfection. Nevertheless this appetite must be ridden by reason, for just as a horse set loose, however noble it may be by nature, cannot act as its own guide without a good rider, so the appetite, which is called irascible or concupiscible, however noble it may be, must obey reason, which guides it with bridle and spurs like a good horseman.145 It uses the bridle when appetite is in pursuit, and this bridle is called temperance, which marks the limit up to which something may be pursued; it uses the spur when the appetite is in flight, to make it turn back to the place from which it seeks to flee, and this spur is called courage, or magnanimity, a virtue which marks the place where one must take a stand and fight. Vergil, our greatest poet, shows that Aeneas was unrestrained in this way in that part of the Aeneid in which this age of life is allegorized, the part comprising the fourth, fifth, and sixth books of the Aeneid. How great was his restraint when, having experienced so much pleasure with Dido, as will be recounted below in the seventh book, and having derived from her so much gratification, he took his departure from her to follow an honorable, praiseworthy and profitable path, as is recorded in the fourth book of the Aeneid! What spurring was felt when this same Aeneas mustered the courage to enter into Hell alone with the Sibyl in search of the soul of his father Anchises, in the face of so many perils, as is described in the sixth book of the same history. From this it is evident that for us to achieve perfection in the age of maturity it is necessary to be "strong and self-restrained." This is what goodness of nature accomplishes and demonstrates, as the text expressly states.

Moreover, it is necessary to be loving in this age of life for its perfection, because it is appropriate for it to look backward and forward, like something that lies on the meridian circle. It is appropriate for one to love one's elders, from whom one has received being, nurture, and education, so as not to seem ungrateful. It is appropriate for one to love one's juniors, so that by loving them it may give them some of its benefits by which it may later, when its prosperity diminishes, derive support and honor from them. As the previously named poet shows in the fifth book mentioned above, this is the love that Aeneas had when he left the aged Trojans behind in Sicily, entrusting them to the care of Acestes, and released them from their labors, and when in this same site he prepared his young son Ascanius, with the other youths, for tournament games.146 From this it is evident that love is necessary in this age of life, as the text states.

Moreover, it is necessary in this age of life to be courteous, for although courteous manners are becoming in all ages of life, in this age they are especially necessary, because in adolescence absence of courtesy readily deserves to be excused because of tenderness of age, and because conversely in old age courtesy is not possible by reason of the seriousness and sternness which it is required to show; and still more so in senility. Our most exalted poet shows in the sixth book previously mentioned that Aeneas had this courtesy when he says that King Aeneas, to honor the lifeless body of Misenus, who had been Hector's trumpeter and had afterwards placed himself in Aeneas' trust, made preparations and took up his ax to help hew the wood for the fire that would be used to burn the body, in keeping with their custom.147 From this it is quite evident that courtesy is necessary in maturity, and therefore the noble soul displays it in that age of life, as has been said.

Moreover, it is necessary in this age of life to be loyal. Loyalty consists of following and putting into practice what the laws decree, and this is especially appropriate in one who is mature; for an adolescent, as has been said, readily deserves to be excused because of tenderness of age; an elder ought to be just by reason of his greater experience, and he ought to conduct himself in a just manner, not as a follower of the law, except insofar as his own right judgment and the law are virtually in conformity, but almost independently of any law, which someone in the age of maturity cannot do. It should suffice for him to follow the law and to take delight in following it, as the previously cited poet in the above-mentioned fifth book says that Aeneas did when he held the games in Sicily on the anniversary of his father's death, for he loyally awarded to each victor what he had promised for victory, according to their longstanding custom, which was their law. From this it is evident that in this age of life loyalty, courtesy, love, courage, and temperance are necessary, as the text presently under discussion states; and therefore the soul that is noble displays them all.

Chapter 27

We have quite sufficiently examined and discussed that section of the text which displays the attributes which the noble nature confers on maturity. Consequently it seems proper to take up the third part which begins In old age, in which the text seeks to show those things which the noble nature displays and ought to possess in the third age of life, namely old age. It says that in old age the noble soul is prudent, just, liberal, and takes delight in speaking well of others' virtues, and of hearing them well spoken of (that is to say, that it is affable). These four virtues are indeed extremely suitable to this age of life.

In order to perceive this we must know that, as Tully says in his book On Old Age: "Our life has a fixed course and our good nature has but a single path; and in each part of our life a season has been given for certain things."148 Consequently just as to adolescence is given that which will bring us to perfection and ripeness, as has been said above, so to maturity perfection and ripeness are given so that the sweetness of its fruit may prove profitable both to itself and to others; for as Aristotle says, man is a social animal, and thus it is required of him that he be useful not merely to himself but to others.149 Hence we read of Cato that he thought of himself as born not for himself, but for his country and for the whole world. Therefore following upon our own perfection, which we acquire in the age of maturity, should come that perfection which illuminates not only ourselves but others; one should open out like a rose that can no longer remain closed, and disperse the fragrance which is produced within; and this should take place in the third age of life, which is our present concern. One should therefore be prudent (that is, wise), and being wise requires a good memory of things seen, a good knowledge of things present, and a good foresight of things future. For as the Philosopher says in the sixth book of the Ethics, "It is impossible for a man to be wise without being good," and therefore one who proceeds with subterfuge and deceit is not to be called wise but astute; for just as no one would call a man wise for knowing how to pierce the pupil of an eye with the point of a dagger, so a man who knows how to perform some evil act should not be called wise, since in performing it he always harms himself before harming others.150

If we look more closely, from prudence comes good counsel, which guides a man himself and others to a good end in human affairs and actions. This is the gift that Solomon asked of God upon finding himself placed at the helm of the government of the people, as is written in the third book of Kings.151 Nor does a prudent man such as this wait until someone summons him with the words "Counsel me," but, making provision for him, without being asked, he counsels him, just as a rose offers its fragrance not only to one who approaches it for this reason but also to whoever passes near to it. Here some doctor or lawyer might say: "Am I then to carry my counsel and offer it even though it has not been asked for, and make no profit from my art?" I reply as our Lord has said: "Freely have you received, freely give."152 I say, therefore, my dear lawyer, that those counsels which are unrelated to your art and which proceed only from the common sense which God has given to you (and this is that prudence of which we are now speaking) you should not sell to the children of him who gave it to you: those that are related to your art, which you have purchased, you may sell, but not such that it is not fitting at times to pay a tithe and make an offering to God (that is, to those unfortunates to whom nothing is left but the gratitude of God).

It is also fitting in this age of life to be just, so that one's judgments and authority may be a light and a law to others. Because this singular virtue, namely justice, was perceived by philosophers in ancient times to display itself to perfection in this age of life, they entrusted the rule of the cities to those who were in this age of life; and therefore the council of rulers was called the "Senate."153 O my miserable, miserable homeland! What pity for you constrains me whenever I read or whenever I write anything that has to do with civil government! But since justice will be treated in the penultimate book of this work, let it suffice for the present to have touched on it briefly here.

It is also fitting in this age of life to be generous, because a thing is fitting when it most satisfies the requisites of its own nature, nor can the requisites of generosity ever be so satisfied as in this age of life. For if we but carefully consider Aristotle's reasoning in the fourth book of the Ethics, and Tully's in his book On Offices, generosity should occur at a time and a place in which the generous man injures neither himself nor another.154 This is something that cannot be possessed without prudence and justice, virtues which it is impossible to possess in their perfection by the way of nature prior to this age of life. Ah, you ill-fated and misbegotten men who defraud widows and wards, who steal from the very weakest, who rob and seize by force the rights of others, and with these gains arrange banquets, make gifts of horses and arms, goods and money, dress in striking attire, erect wondrous buildings, and believe yourselves to be acting with generosity! What is this but to act like the thief who takes the cloth from the altar to cover his own table? We should mock your gifts, you tyrants, like the thief who would invite guests into his house and spread upon his table the cloth stolen from the altar with the ecclesiastical signs still upon it, and think that others would take no notice. Listen, you stubborn men, to what Tully has to say against you in his book On Offices: "There are many wishing to be impressive and famous who take from some in order to give to others, believing that they will be well regarded, and make them rich for whatever reason they so choose. But nothing is more contrary to what is proper than this."155

It is also fitting in this age of life to be affable, to speak of what is good and to hear it spoken of willingly, because it is good to speak of what is good when it has an audience. This age of life even carries with it an air of authority, because men seem more inclined in this age to listen to authority than in any earlier age; and it seems that this age brings with it knowledge of many fine and pleasant stories because of the long experience of life. Consequently Tully says in his book On Old Age, in the person of Cato the Elder: "The joy and pleasure I take from conversation is greater now than in the past."156

Ovid teaches us, in the seventh book of the Metamorphoses, that all four of these things are fitting to this age of life by citing the myth of how Cephalus of Athens came to King Aeacus for help in the war that Athens was waging against the Cretans. He shows how old Aeacus was prudent when, having lost almost all of his people to a plague caused by a contamination of the air, he wisely turned to God and asked him to restore his dead people. Because of his wisdom, which enabled him to sustain his patience and turn to God, his people were restored to him in greater numbers than before.157 Ovid shows how he was just when he says that Aeacus divided and distributed his forsaken lands to his new people. He shows that Aeacus was generous, by having him say to Cephalus after his request for aid: "O Athens, do not ask our aid, but take it; do not think that the forces of this island, along with all that is in my possession, are uncertain: forces are not lacking, indeed there are more than are needed; the adversary is mighty, and the time for being generous is opportune and without excuse."158

Ah, how many things there are to note in this reply! But to one who understands it well it will suffice to set it down here just as Ovid sets it down.159 He shows that he was affable when he tells and diligently recounts, in a long speech to Cephalus, the story of the plague of his people and their restoration. Consequently it is quite evident that in this age of life four things are fitting, which is why the nature that is noble displays them in this age, as the text states. So that the example that is given might be the more memorable, he says of King Aeacus that he was the father of Telamon, of Peleus, and of Phocus, and that from Telamon Ajax was born, and from Peleus Achilles.

Chapter 28

After the section previously discussed we must proceed to the last one: that is, to the one which begins And then in the fourth phase of life, by which the text proposes to show how the noble soul acts in the last age of life (that is, in senility). It says that the noble soul does two things: first, that it returns to God as to that port from which it departed when it came to enter into the sea of this life; second, that it blesses the journey that it has made, because it has been straight and good and without bitterness of storm.

Here it should be observed that a natural death, as Tully says in his book On Old Age, is, as it were, a port and site of repose after our long journey. This is quite true, for just as a good sailor lowers his sails as he approaches port and, pressing forward lightly, enters it gently, so we must lower the sails of our worldly preoccupations and return to God with all our mind and heart, so that we may reach that port with perfect gentleness and perfect peace. Here our own nature accords us a great lesson in gentleness, for in such a death as this there is no suffering or any harshness; but just as a ripe apple drops from its bough gently and without violence, so without suffering our soul separates itself from the body in which it has dwelled. Hence in his book On Youth and Old Age Aristotle says that "death that takes place in old age is without sadness."160 And just as a man returning from a long journey is met by the citizens of his city as he enters its gates, so the noble soul is met, as it should be, by the citizens of the eternal life. This they do by means of their good works and thoughts: for having already surrendered itself to God and disengaged itself from worldly matters and preoccupations, the soul seems to see those whom it believes to be with God. Hear what Tully says, in the person of Cato the Elder: "I seem to see already, and I lift myself with the greatest longing to see your fathers, whom I loved, and not only them, but also those of whom I have heard speak."161 The noble soul, then, surrenders itself to God in this age of life and awaits the end of this life with great desire, and seems to be leaving an inn and returning to its proper dwelling, seems to be coming back from a journey and returning to the city, seems to be coming in from the sea and returning to port.

O you miserable and debased beings who speed into this port with sails raised high! Where you should take your rest, you shipwreck yourselves against the force of the wind and perish at the very place to which you have so long been journeying! Certainly the knight Lancelot did not wish to enter with his sails raised high, nor the most noble of our Italians, Guido of Montefeltro.162 These noble men did indeed lower the sails of their worldly preoccupations and late in life gave themselves to religious orders, forsaking all worldly delights and affairs. No one can be excused because of the bond of marriage, which may still bind him late in life; for not only those who conform to the life and ways of St. Benedict, St. Augustine, St. Francis, and St. Dominic dedicate themselves to living a religious life, but even those who are married can dedicate themselves to living a life that is good and truly religious, for it is in our hearts that God wishes us to be religious. This is why St. Paul says to the Romans: "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outwardly manifested in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in spirit and not in the letter, whose praise comes not from men but from God."163

The noble soul in this age of life blesses times past, and well may it bless them, because by turning its memory to them it recalls its virtuous actions, without which it could not come to port, to which it draws near, with so much prosperity and so much gain. It acts like the good merchant who, as he draws near to his port, examines his profits and says: "If I had not made my journey along this road, I would not have this treasure, nor would I have anything in which to take delight in my city, to which I am drawing near"; and so he blesses the way he has taken. The great poet Lucan, in the second book of his Pharsalia, shows us by way of an allegory that these two things are appropriate to this age of life. There he says that Marcia returned to Cato and begged and implored him to take her back in her old age.164 Here Marcia signifies the noble soul. And we may translate the figure of the allegory as follows. Marcia was a virgin, and in that state she signifies adolescence; she later married Cato, and in that state she signifies maturity; then she bore children, and they signify the virtues which are said above to be fitting for those who are young; she then left Cato and married Hortensius, signifying the departure from maturity and the onset of old age; she also bore this man's children, who signify the virtues which are said above to be fitting in old age. Hortensius died, by which is signified the end of old age; and having become a widow--which widowhood signifies senility--Marcia returned at the beginning of her widowhood to Cato, signifying that the noble soul returns to God at the beginning of senility. What man on earth was more worthy to signify God than Cato? Surely none.

What does Marcia say to Cato? "While there was blood in me," that is, in maturity, "while I had the power to bear children," namely in old age, which is truly the mother of the other virtues, as has been shown above, "I," says Marcia, "carried out and accomplished all of your commands"--this is to say that the soul remained committed to civic duties. She says: "I took two husbands," that is, "I was fertile in two ages. Now that my womb is worn-out and I have lost the capacity to bear children," says Marcia, "I return to you, being unable to serve another spouse"; that is to say that the noble soul, perceiving that it no longer has a womb for bearing fruit (that is, when the soul's members feel that they have grown weak), turns to God, who has no need of bodily members. And Marcia says: "Give me the rights of our ancient marital chamber; give me only the name of marriage." This is to say that the noble soul says to God: "My Lord, now give me your peace; grant me at least that in the little of life that remains to me I may be called yours." And Marcia says: "Two reasons move me to say this: one is that after my death it may be said that I died as the wife of Cato; the other, that after my death it may be said that you did not spurn me, but through your good will you took my hand in marriage." The noble soul is moved by these two reasons, and it desires to depart from this life as the spouse of God, and desires to show that its activity has been pleasing to God. O you unhappy and misbegotten beings who wish to depart from this life under the name of Hortensius rather than that of Cato! It is good to bring to a close what I have had to say about the signs of nobility with the name of this man, because in him nobility displays them all in every age of life.

Chapter 29

Now that the text has shown the signs which appear in every age of life in the noble man, by which he may be recognized and without which he could not exist, any more than the Sun without light or fire without heat, the text, at the end of what is said about nobility, cries out to all and says: "O you who have listened to me, see how many there are who are deceived!": that is, those who believe themselves noble because they are of famous and ancient lineage and are descended from excellent fathers, although they have no nobility in themselves.

Here two questions arise which it is good to consider at the end of the present book. Manfred da Vico, who now calls himself Pretor and Prefect, might say: "Whatever I may be, I recall to mind and represent my ancestors, who on the basis of their nobility earned the office of Prefect, merited their participation in the coronation of the Emperor, and deserved to receive the rose from the Roman Pastor: to me are due the honor and the reverence of the people." This is the first question. The second is that one of the family of San Nazzaro of Pavia, or one of the Piscitelli of Naples might say: "If nobility is such as has been said, namely, a divine seed graciously planted in the human soul, and if the lineage or race has no soul, as is evident, no lineage or race could be called noble; and this is contrary to the opinion held by those who say that our lineage is the most noble to be found their cities."

To the first question Juvenal replies in his eighth satire, where he begins as if exclaiming: "Of what benefit are these honors which derive from men of earlier times if he who would clothe himself with them lives an evil life, if he who speaks of his ancestors and describes their great and wondrous deeds dedicates himself to wretched and base acts?" "Will he," says this same satirist, "become noble because of his family, who is not worthy of that family? This is but to call a dwarf a giant."165 Then afterwards he says to a man of this sort: "Between you and the statue erected in memory of your ancestor there is no difference except that his head is made of marble and yours is alive." Here, with all due respect, I disagree with this poet, for a statue of marble, wood, or metal left as a memorial to some worthy man differs greatly in effect from his worthless descendants. This is because a statue always confirms the good opinion of those who have heard tell of the great renown of him whose statue it is, and engenders it in others. A worthless son or grandson does quite the reverse, for he weakens the good opinion of those who have heard his ancestors well spoken of; for one of his thoughts will be: "It is not possible for the renown of his ancestors to be as great as it is said to be, since from their seed we see spring such a plant." Consequently he who bears false witness against the good should receive not honor but dishonor. For this reason Tully says that "the son of a worthy man must strive to speak well of his father."166 Therefore, in my judgment, just as he who defames a worthy man deserves to be shunned and ignored by everyone, so a worthless man descended from good ancestors deserves to be cast out by all, and a good man should close his eyes so as to avoid witnessing the disgrace perpetrated on goodness, of which the memory alone remains. This should suffice for the present concerning the first question that was raised.

To the second question we may reply that lineage has no soul in and of itself, and yet it is quite true that it is called noble and in a certain way is noble. It should be observed here that every whole is composed of its parts. There are some wholes which possess together with their parts a single essence, as a single man comprises a single essence in common with all his parts; what is said to exist in a part is said to exist in the same way in the whole. There are other wholes which do not have their essence in common with their parts, for example a heap of grain; this kind of essence is secondary, resulting from the many grains which have a true and primary essence in themselves. In a whole such as this the qualities of the parts are said to exist in this way, secondarily, as does its essence; and so a heap is called white because the grains that comprise it are white. This whiteness, however, resides first in the grains and secondarily as a result in the heap as a whole, and so in a secondary sense it may be called white. In the same way a race or a lineage may be called noble. Hence it should be observed that just as the white grains must be predominant in order for a heap to be white, so in order for a lineage to be noble those who are noble must be predominant in it (I say "predominant" meaning greater in number), so that their goodness by its renown may obscure and conceal the presence of the contrary among them. Just as in a white heap of grain the wheat grain could be removed grain by grain and each grain replaced by red millet until the color of the whole heap had changed, so in a noble lineage the good might die off one by one, and the bad be born into it in sufficient number to bring about a change in its name, so that it would deserve to be called not noble but base. This should suffice in reply to the second question.

Chapter 30

As has been shown above in the third chapter of this book, this canzone has three principal divisions. Therefore, since two of them have been discussed (the first beginning with the previously mentioned chapter, and the second with the sixteenth, so that the first is completed in thirteen chapters and the second in fourteen, not counting the two chapters that comprise the preface to the book on the canzone), we must briefly discuss, in this thirtieth and final chapter, the third principal division, which was composed as a tornata to this canzone by way of adornment and which begins My song Against-the-erring-ones, go forth. Here it should first be observed that every good craftsman at the end of his work should ennoble and embellish it as much as he can, so that it may become more praiseworthy and more precious when it has left his hands. This I intend to do in this part, not that I am a good craftsman, but because I follow his example.

I say then: My song Against-the-erring-ones, go forth. Against-the-erring-ones is a single word, and is the title of this canzone, after the example of our good brother Thomas Aquinas, who gave the title Against the Gentiles to a book of his which he wrote to confound all those who stray from our Faith.167 I say, then, "go forth" as if to say: "You are now perfect, and it is no longer time to stand still but to go forth, for your undertaking is great." And when you come To where our lady is, tell her your purpose. Here it should be noted that, as our Lord has said, one should do not cast pearls before swine, for it does them no good and brings harm to the pearls; and as the poet Aesop says in his first fable, a grain is worth more than a pearl to a cock, and he therefore leaves the one and takes the other.168 Considering this, as a precaution I direct my canzone to reveal its purpose where this lady, namely Philosophy, is to be found. This most noble lady shall then be found when her dwelling-place is found, that is, the soul in which she dwells. And Philosophy does not dwell in the wise alone, but also, as has been above proved in another book, wherever the love of her dwells. To each of these I tell it to disclose its purpose, so that her meaning will prove useful to them, and be received by them.

I say to my canzone: Tell this lady, "I speak about a friend of yours." Truly nobility is her friend, for one loves the other so much that nobility endlessly calls upon her, and Philosophy never turns her most pleasing gaze on any other. O how great and how beautiful an adornment is this which is given to her in the closing verses of this canzone, where she is called the friend of her whose perfection dwells in the most secret recess of the divine mind!
Site Admin
Posts: 32364
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Convivio, by Dante Alighieri

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 7:35 am

Part 5 of 5



1. Pythagoras Attributed to Pythagoras by Cicero in De officiis I, 17, 56.

2. the Greek proverb Dante's source is again Cicero, De officiis I, 16, 51.

3. this lady who was mentioned above in the true explanation Philosophy, as described in the allegorical exposition of the preceding book.

4. not . . . skip over with dry foot The metaphor translates roughly into our expression "need to get one's feet wet." In other words, further discussion, is required.

5. Time Physics IV, 1. The "number of motion" is the movement of the Primum Mobile, the highest of the physical spheres.

6. Solomon Ecclesiastes 3:7 and 20:6-7.

7. St. James the Apostle James 5:7.

8. the last of the Roman emperors Frederick II of Swabia (1194-1250), the "last" of the Holy Roman Emperors because the others in Dante's list, while elected, were never crowned.

9. the Philosopher's belief Aristotle's opinion may be found in St. Thomas' Commentary on the Ethics VII, 13, 1509.

10. man is by nature a social animal Aristotle, Politics I, 2.

11. should be a Monarchy The concept of monarchy as the ideal form of government will be more fully developed in the Latin treatise Monarchia (1312), where Dante will reiterate the notion that the monarchy, being exempt from greed by virtue of its possessing universal jurisdiction on earth, is founded on absolute justice.

12. Vergil concurs in this Aeneid I, 278.

13. the words of Solomon Proverbs 8:6.

14. the Son of God should descend to earth Dante will treat the theology of the redemption more fully in Paradiso VII.

15. it is written in Isaiah Isaiah 11:1.

16. as Luke the Evangelist testifies Luke 2:1 ff.

17. the emperor cited above Augustus, the first Roman emperor.

18. O most hallowed breast of Cato Cato of Utica (95-46 B.C) has a special place in Dante's imagination. He is the guardian of Purgatory and the symbol of human freedom, a pagan endowed with a "santo petto" [holy breast] (Purg. I, 80). In the Monarchia, Dante speaks of "the unspeakable sacrifice of Marcus Cato, the strictest champion of true liberty" (II, 5), words that identify him as a type of Christ.

19. its first form According to Uguccione, from whom Dante takes this fanciful etymology, the Latin verb aueio, or avieo, means "to tie," as does the other form, vieo (from viere). The verbs do not in fact exist. For Uguccione (died 1210), see the note below.

20. the figure of a tie The image Dante is trying to convey is of a hand-drawn line that encircles these letters in their alphabetical order. The "arte musaica" symbolized by this image is the art of the Muses, or poetry (and not of music, as Wicksteed, for example, mistranslates the phrase).

21. as Uguccione attests The Latin title of this work is Liber de derivationibus verborum, also known simply as Derivationes.

22. That man is Aristotle Throughout the Convivio it will be quite evident to the reader that Aristotle Dante's guide in this world, "the master and leader of human reason" for all men. This is a role that Dante will give to Vergil in the Divine Comedy, a change which derives from Dante's increased emphasis, in part, on the role of the poet, as opposed to philosopher, as moral guide.

23. Zeno Placed among the pagan philosophers in Limbo (Inf. IV, 138), Zeno of Cithium was the leader of the Stoics.

24. as Tully seems to relate Cicero, De finibus I, 9-11.

25. no affirmative statements Socrates' philosophy, that is, was essentially based on negatives or unresolved dialectic.

26. in the book of Wisdom Wisdom 6:23.

27. the words of Ecclesiastes Ecclesiastes 10:16 and 17.

28. Charles and Frederick Charles II, the Cripple, King of Naples (1248-1309), and Frederick II of Aragon, King of Sicily (1296-1337), both referred to in Paradiso XIX, 127 and 130-135.

29. Solomon Proverbs 22:28 and 4:18.

30. As Aristotle says On the Soul II, 4, 7 and I, 18, 2.

31. "He who lacks instruction dies . . ." Proverbs 5:23.

32. the powers of the soul stand one above another Each succeeding geometric figure contains the previous one, i.e., the triangle's three sides are contained within the quadrangle which has four sides. The reference is to On the Soul II, 3, 5.

33. the Philosopher states Ethics I, 8, and passim.

34. "If we have two friends . . ." Ethics I, 4.

35. there are activities There are the speculative uses of the mind, for example, mathematics, in which man discovers truths but does not create them. A second category involves the use of logic, which is creative, as in the example of the art of speech. Finally, there is the use of the practical intellect applied to external objects, for example, the art of sculpture, which Dante, following St. Thomas' schema, calls the "mechanical arts."

36. as an act of the will This is the fourth of the activities, and the one that involves the moral use of reason.

37. "Written Law . . ." The Corpus iuris (mentioned in I, 10 above). The source for the passage in Augustine has not been discovered. The second is taken from the Digestum vetus de Iustitia et Iure, tit. I.

38. in the saddle of the human will Dante will elaborate this equestrian image in his famous diatribe against a meretricious and wayward Italy in Purg. VI, where the saddle is empty ("la sella è vòta" [89]).

39. "When one thing is produced . . ." Metaphysics VII, 8.

40. "Without a fight the laws . . ." Lucan, Pharsalia III, 118.

41. bushel of Santelenas Coins bearing the effigy of Sant'Elena, the mother of Constantine, made in Byzantium, but a popular term for any ancient coin.

42. Aristotle remarked Physics II, 8, probably cited from St. Thomas' commentary on that text.

43. the Provençal This is believed to be either Cadenet or possibly Giraut de Borneil.

44. Our Lord called them unrighteous Luke 16:9, in the Douay Version, reads: "Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity." The King James supplies "the mammon of unrighteousness."

45. Who does not still keep a place in his heart Alexander the Great is the only one of the seven examples of liberality from ancient history. Toynbee has identified the King of Castile as Alfonso VIII (1155-1214), son-in-law of Henry II of England; the Count of Toulouse as Raymond V (1134-1194); and the Marquis of Monferrato as Boniface II (1192-1207). Saladin (1137-1193), well known throughout the Middle Ages for his generosity, appears among the virtuous pagans in Dante's Limbo (Inf. IV). Dante places Bertran de Born (1140-1215) among the Schismatics in Inf. XXVIII. Galeazzo of Montefeltro (d. 1300) was the head of a Ghibelline faction and cousin to Guido da Montefeltro who appears in Inf. XXVII.

46. by subverting what they promise The sense is that riches, by their appearance, offer the promise of satisfaction and thereby diminish the strength of the desire for riches. But once they are possessed, they take away the promise of satisfaction which first appeared, and create anew a desire for their possession.

47. "Alas! who was it . . ." De consolatione philosophiae, II, meter 5, verse 27.

48. "Never have I ever considered . . ." On Paradox I.

49. "Even if the goddess of wealth . . ." The Consolation of Philosophy, II, meter 2, verses 1-8.

50. "If I had one foot in the grave . . ." This saying is not found in Seneca.

51. by refuting the consequence I follow the edition of Busnelli-Vandelli, which gives the reading "distruzione" (also accepted by Vasoli in the Ricciardi edition); the Simonelli text reads "distinzione." Both are technical terms in Scholastic logic.

52. "Let us make man in our own image and likeness." Genesis 1:26.

53. just as the pilgrim See Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:6. The medieval topos of the pilgrim on the road of life will reappear, of course, in the opening verse of the Divine Comedy. Chaucer employs the topos as well in his Canterbury Tales, and it should be noted parenthetically that his discussion of gentilesse in the Wife of Bath's Tale owes much to Dante's definition of nobility in Convivio IV.

54. in the third book See above III, 15, 8-10.

55. The Commentator Averroes (1126-1198), whom Dante refers to in Inf. IV, 144 similarly as the one "che 'l gran comento feo" [made the great commentary].

56. Therefore Aristotle Dante derives the citation not from Aristotle directly, who does not mention Simonides in the passage indicated, but from St. Thomas' Summa contra Gentiles I, 5.

57. "the trained student . . ." Ethics I, 2.

58. And therefore Paul says Romans 12:3.

59. whether in general or in particular That is, knowledge in general or with respect to specific fields or disciplines of knowledge.

60. Therefore the Sage says Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy II, prose 5.

61. Lucan Pharsalia V, 527-31.

62. "Truly avarice makes men hateful." Perhaps suggested from passages in II, prose 5.

63. at the end of this section That is, loss of wealth does not cause the mind to lose its nature. Dante here concludes his gloss of the third stanza of the canzone.

64. Suppose that Gherardo da Cammino Gherardo's death in March, 1306, is almost certain evidence that Dante could not have composed this part and the rest of the Convivio before this date.

65. Dardanus According to myth, Dardanus was the son of Jove and Electra, and ancestor of the Trojans. Laomedon, his descendant, was the father of Priam.

66. according to the Philosopher See St. Thomas' commentary on Politics II, 12.

67. Plato believes See St. Thomas, Commentary to the Metaphysics I, 14, 209 and 214.

68. Solomon Ecclesiastes 3:21.

69. the creation of the world Metamorphoses I, 78 ff.

70. in the third book of On the Soul This reference probably derives from St. Thomas' Commentary on the Ethics VI, 5, 1179, and not directly from De anima.

71. "Many are so presumptuous of intellect . . ." Summa contra Gentiles I, 5.

72. Solomon Proverbs 29:20.

73. Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics I, 3.

74. in the first book of the Physics St. Thomas' Commentary to the Physics I, 2.

75. Infortiatum This is the second part of the Corpus iuris civilis, by Justinian.

76. "The King shall rejoice . . ." Psalms 63:11 (King James).

77. "Love the light of wisdom . . ." Wisdom 6:23.

78. Solomon Ecclesiastes 10:16-17.

79. as the Philosopher teaches us Ethics I, 2.

80. Asdente the cobbler of Parma An illiterate known for making predictions, he is placed among the soothsayers in Hell (see Inf. XX, 118-120). Albuino was brother to Can Grande della Scala, Dante's patron, and ruled Verona from 1304-1311. The poet pays tribute to Guido da Castello as "the candid Lombard" in Purg. XVI, 124-126.

81. the Philosopher Physics VII, 6.

82. Christ's words Matthew 7:15-16.

83. the eleven virtues See the Ethics II, 7.

84. The fifth is Magnanimity Magnanimity means nobleness of mind, awareness of greatness or superiority over others in a person who is truly superior to others. It does not include the modern sense of being magnanimous with gifts or praise.

85. where he defines Happiness Dante is again referring to St. Thomas, Commentary to the Ethics I, 10, 128-130.

86. Christ affirms Luke 10:41-42.

87. "why not proceed first . . ." The reasoning is based on the understanding that the intellectual virtues regulate the contemplative life, the moral virtues the active life.

88. we proceed by inference based on probability This type of argument, which is not demonstrative but inductive, proceeds by syllogistic reasoning in which one of the premisses is probable in nature.

89. possessed primarily and essentially Dante means by these terms that aspect or quality which is inherent in a thing as part of its prime essence, as opposed to one which is the result of incidental circumstances (the Scholastic concept of accident).

90. by an agreeable and fitting induction In other words, it is more reasonable to consider nobility to be the source of goodness and the various classes of virtues (e.g., the intellectual, the moral, etc.) than to consider these virtues and goodness as the source of nobility, since they are many and diverse, while nobility is one. By induction, Dante means syllogistic reasoning, as can be deduced from the example he gives in this sentence. I follow the Busnelli-Vandelli text in this passage.

91. Thus nobility Rather than both nobility and virtue to a third thing in man, by implication.

92. The Psalmist had in mind Psalm 8:1, 8:4-6 (King James version).

93. as the Philosopher maintains Ethics IV, 9. The term studiosi signifies virtuosi, as is apparent from St. Thomas' commentary on the text.

94. no choice of persons Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6, and elsewhere (King James version). The biblical phrase is "no respect of persons."

95. Aristotle Ethics VII, 1, with reference to the Iliad, Book XXIV.

96. "Every good gift . . ." James 1:17.

97. in the second book of On the Soul De anima II, 2.

98. the noble Guido Guinizelli Born in Bologna, Guinizelli developed the dolce stil novo and became the inspiration for Dante's poetic style. He is venerated in Purg. XXVI, 92 as "il padre mio." Dante echoes the famous line cited here in the Vita Nuova, XX, in the sonnet "Amor e 'l cor gentil sono una cosa" [Love and the gentle heart are a single thing].

99. defect of age It is not entirely clear what Dante means by this phrase, which has been taken diversely to refer to the lack of perfection in a fetus before it is born, to those who are young, as well as to those who are old and in some way incapacitated. In any case, the souls of these individuals do not reflect God's divine light.

100. all four causes Aristotle's discussion of these causes is found in Metaphysics I.3. The efficient cause is the agent that brings about change; the final cause is the end for which a change is made; the material cause is that thing in which a change is made; and the formal cause is that which something is changed into.

101. supreme spiritual virtue God, who is present in all virtues.

102. between their matter and their form Dante, in paraphrasing Pythagoras' theory, means that all of these beings are equally noble with respect to their form; but with respect to their material or matter, they are noble in different degrees.

103. combined elements, namely temperament Earth, water, fire, and air, combined in different measure in different individuals, produce one of the four traditional characteristic temperaments or dispositions: the choleric, the phlegmatic, the sanguine, and the melancholic.

104. celestial virtue This is the divine power which actualizes the potentiality for life within the seed, thereby bringing to life the vegetative and sensitive souls.

105. the possible intellect This is the rational, or intellectual, power of the soul, which possesses the capacity of understanding all truths as they are conveyed by the universal forms. The intellectual soul possesses this capacity "in potentiality," that is, as a power that can be realized or actualized when universal forms are perceived.

106. the words of the Apostle Paul, Romans 11:33.

107. the opinion of Tully Cicero, De senectute XXI, 77.

108. in the book On Causes Aristotle, De causis III, 27-33.

109. These gifts . . . are seven in number Isaiah 11:2.

110. the appetite of the mind The intellect and the will.

111. he who does not see the mark Aristotle, Ethics I, 1, and Cicero De finibus V, 6, 15.

112. as the Apostle says Paul, I Corinthians 9:24.

113. the use of our mind is twofold Dante returns to the discussion of the active and contemplative lives, which were treated in Chapter 17 above.

114. the Gospel of St. Mark Mark 16:1 ff.

115. "The angel of God . . ." Matthew 28:2-3.

116. Galilee means the same as whiteness Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae XIV, 3, 23, derives the word Galilee from the Greek word for milk (gala), a derivation to which Dante had access through Uguccione da Pisa, who carries over Isidore's etymology verbatim in his Derivationes.

117. the four ages Dante derives the division of life into four ages from Albert the Great, De aetate sive de iuventute et senectute I, 2.

118. the likeness of this arc The flow of this passage is made somewhat problematic by numerous textual uncertainties, but its general meaning is clear, as is the ruling image of life as bearing similarity to an arc, or portion of a circle, rather than to a circle, which, being a perfect form, represents a perfection to which human life cannot attain. All living things are conceived and born under the influence of the revolving spheres, during which time a sphere completes only a portion of its full revolution about the earth. This portion, or segment of a circle, is conceived by Dante as an arc whose beginning point initiates a curved line that first rises and then, after cresting, falls. Human life imitates this movement of ascent and descent, that is, of growth and decline, in the four ages described below.

119. and of better or worse quality I follow the Busnelli-Vandelli text here, as does Chiappelli-Fenzi. Simonelli deletes the phrase "or worse," arguing that it is unnecessary to the sense.

120. "You have set a boundary . . ." Psalm 104:9 (King James).

121. as Albert states Dante's passage appears to derive very little from the fourth book of Albert the Great's De meteoris to which he refers here. The passage, in fact, is taken in its entirety from another work by Albert, his De aetate sive iuventute et senectute, mentioned above.

122. (omitting sext, midway between . . .) The "obvious reason" why Dante omits the sext, which corresponds to noon, may be that the middle of the day is evident to all by the position of the sun, whereas all the other temporal hours are not so evident because they vary, are "long or short," according to the time of the year. See Dante's previous discussion regarding temporal hours, Conv. III, 6, 3. In the canonical hours, tierce corresponds roughly to 9 a.m., sext to noon, nones to 3 p.m., and vespers to 6 p.m.

123. four horses Metamorphoses II, 153 ff.

124. the office of the first part of the day The office of tierce is said toward the end of tierce, that is, just before the beginning of sext which runs from 9 a.m. to noon, whereas the offices for the third and fourth periods, nones and vespers, are said toward the beginning of those periods. In other words, the offices are said at the hours which incline toward noon, the most noble part of the day.

125. And for this reason mid-tierce Mid-tierce (7:30 a.m.) is said before the bell is rung for tierce, which occurs toward the end of tierce; mid-nones (1:30 p.m.) and mid-vespers (4:30 p.m.) are said after the bell is rung for those hours, since it is rung toward the beginning of those hours (noon and 3:00 p.m. respectively). Proper nones signifies the very beginning of nones, which is noon, the beginning of the seventh hour of the day, as Dante stresses in the next sentence.

126. but nearly eight months later Simonelli's text reads "months" (mesi), which I follow here (as does the most recent Chiappelli-Fenzi). The Busnelli-Vandelli reads "years" (anni). The case for mesi was sustained by Moore (Studies, IV, 110) who notes its appearance in twenty-two manuscripts, as opposed to only five with anni, and by Pézard (Dante, Oeuvres complètes, p. 250). The conceptual argument turns on the meaning of Dante's phrase "the beginning of life." Busnelli-Vandelli take it to mean, literally, the moment of birth. Moore and Simonelli take it to refer to the moment of conception, occurring eight months before parturition. For Simonelli the phrase "taking it [i.e., life] in the way that has been stated" refers the reader back to Chapter 21, 4-5, where Dante discusses the process of the conception of a fetus. But while Dante does delineate the soul's acquisition of its various powers, he does not state clearly that life is conceived to begin at this point. The phrase might logically refer back to the opening of this chapter where he defines adolescence as the "increase of life." Nevertheless the logic of the Busnelli-Vandelli is not compelling, since it leaves eight years of life unaccounted for by name, which, given Dante's Scholastic love of completeness ("natura abhorret vaccuum"), is an improbability.

127. as Tully affirms Cicero, De senectute V, 13.

128. longer or shorter The various ages of each individual man, that is, will vary according to the full term of his life. The age of maturity in someone who dies at a younger age, for example, would therefore be shorter than the age specified in the ideal paradigm, whereas in someone who lives longer each of the four ages would extend, in each age, for a longer period of time.

129. about which I am presently writing The seventh stanza of the canzone is referred to.

130. its ultimate fruit The fruit is, as Dante has previously explained, happiness.

131. Tully De senectute IV, 5.

132. Leaving aside The references are to the allegorical interpretation of the Aeneid of Fulgentius, Egidius Colonna's De regimine principum I, 4, 1 ff, and Cicero's De officiis I, 34, 122.

133. as the text says Again, of the seventh stanza of the canzone.

134. the meandering forest of this life The metaphor of the forest as life and the path that leads to goodness will return, of course, in the first terza rima of the Divine Comedy.

135. "Hear, my son . . ." A somewhat free adaptation of Proverbs 1:8-15.

136. Solomon Proverbs 15:31 and 13:18.

137. the Apostle Paul, Colossians 3:20.

138. as Aristotle asserts Ethics VIII, 1.

139. Solomon says Proverbs 3:34.

140. Statius Thebaid I, 395 ff. and 482 ff.

141. the above mentioned poet Statius, Thebaid I, 527 ff.

142. as Tully says Cicero, On Offices I, 35, 127.

143. in the same passage Thebaid I, 671 ff.

144. the foresight of universal Nature That is, God.

145. irascible or concupiscible Scholastic philosophy divided all passions, or desires, into one of two opposing categories. The concupiscible appetite, which is not to be identified solely with the desire for sexual gratification, seeks to acquire or merge itself with some object of desire. The irascible appetite, which likewise is not to be thought of as relating to anger or wrath, seeks to avoid contact or propinquity with an object that repels the soul. Neither of these two kinds of appetites--and two is all that there are--should be thought of as pertaining to specific sins, for the appetite is in itself neither good nor evil. Good and evil are determined by action consequent to the enactment of the will in conjunction with the particular appetites. The image of the horseman appears repeatedly in Dante's works: see Purg. XVIII, 95-96; Monarchia III, 16.

146. the games in Sicily Aeneid V, 70 and 304 ff.

147. as was their custom Aeneid VI, 166 ff.

148. as Tully says Cicero, De senectute X, 33.

149. as Aristotle says Dante takes this concept from St. Thomas' Commentary on the Ethics I, 9, 112, where he says: "Homo naturaliter est animal civile."

150. as the Philosopher says Ethics VI, 13.

151. the gift which Solomon asked 1 Kings 3:9.

152. "Freely have you received . . ." Matthew 10:8.

153. the council of rulers "Senate" is derived from senes, "old men," and is referred to by Cicero in De senectute VI, 19.

154. if we but carefully consider Ethics IV, 2; De officiis I, 14, 42.

155. Tully De officiis I, 14, 42 ff.

156. Consequently Tully De senectute XIV, 46.

157. his people were restored Ovid, Metamorphoses VII, 523-660, tells the story of how Aeacus appealed to Jupiter to provide restitution for his lost people and was granted his wish when Jupiter created a new race of people by turning ants into men.

158. Aeacus was generous Metamorphoses VII, 507-511. Dante's rendering of this passage does not square well with the original text in several places, possibly because the manuscript he was working from contained different readings, as Moore surmises (Studies in Dante, First Series [Oxford, 1896], p. 219).

159. just as Ovid sets it down That is, without any further commentary.

160. Aristotle says On Youth and Old Age, 17, 479a, 20-23.

161. Tully De senectute XXIII, 83. The full title of the book is Cato Maior de senectute.

162. the most noble of the Italians Guido da Montefeltro will later find himself placed among the fraudulent counselors in the eighth bolgia of the eighth circle of Hell (Inf. XXVII). Lancelot is consigned to the Lustful in the first circle (Inf. V).

163. St. Paul says Romans 2:28-29.

164. Marcia returned to Cato Pharsalia II, 326 ff.

165. call a dwarf a giant Juvenal, Satires VIII, 1-5, 9-12, 19-20, 30-32, 51-55.

166. For this reason Tully says The source of this aphorism, which does not appear in any of Cicero's works, is uncertain.

167. Thomas Aquinas This is the short title for his Summa de veritate catholicae fidei contra Gentiles.

168. as our Lord has said Matthew 7:6.
Site Admin
Posts: 32364
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Return to Ancien Regime

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests