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The Banquet (Il Convito) online

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imagination, is not able to ascend to certain things, because the
imagination cannot help it and has not the wherewithal, such as are
the substances apart from matter, which (if we can have any knowledge
of them) we cannot fully comprehend.

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

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

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




CHAPTER V.


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

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

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

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

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




CHAPTER VI.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




CHAPTER VII.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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




CHAPTER VIII.


Amongst the Works of Divine Wisdom, Man is the most wonderful,
considering how in one form the Divine Power joined three natures; and
in such a form how subtly harmonized his body must be. It is organized
for all his distinct powers; wherefore, because of the great concord


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