CIC. Now show me how I may be able for myself to consider the conditions of these enthusiasts, through that which appears in the order of the warfare here described.
TANS. Behold how they carry the ensign of their affections or fortunes. Let us leave the consideration of their names and habits; enough that we stand upon the meaning of the undertaking and the intelligibility of the writing, alike that which is put for the form of the body of the figure, as well as that which is mostly put as an elucidation of the undertaking.
CIC. Thus will we do. Here then is the first, who carries a shield divided into four colours, and in the crest is depicted a flame under the head of bronze, from the holes in which, issue in great force a smoky wind, and about it is written: "At regna senserunt tria."
TANS. For the explanation of this I would say: that the fire there is that which heats the globe, inside of it is the water, and it happens that this humid element, being rarefied and attenuated by virtue of the heat, and thus resolved into vapour, it requires much greater space to contain it, therefore if it does not find easy exit, it goes on with extreme force, noise, and destruction to break the vessel; but if it finds space and easy exit, so that it can evaporate, it goes out with less violence, little by little, and, according as the water is resolved into vapour, it is dissipated in puffs into the air. Here is signified the heart of the enthusiast where, by a cleverly planned allurement being caught by the amorous flame, it happens that some of the vital substance sparkles with fire, while some in the form of tearful cries rends the bosom, and some other by the expulsion of gusty sighs agitates the air. Therefore he says: "At regna senserunt tria." Now this "at" supposes a difference, or diversity, or opposite; as one might almost say there exists something which might have the same sense, but has it not, which is very well explained in the following rhymes:
From these twin lights of me--a little earth--
My wonted tears stream freely to the sea.p. 123
The greedy air receives from out my breast
No niggard part of all that breast contains;
And from my heart the lightnings are unlocked
That rise to heaven, and yet diminish not.
Thus pay I to the air, the sea, the fire,
The tribute of my sighs, my tears, my zeal.
The sea, the air, the fire, accept a part of me,
But my divinity no favour shows.
Unkind she turns away. Near her
My tears find no response;
My voice she will not hear,
Nor pitifully will she turn to note my zeal.
Here the subject matter signified by "earth" is the substance of the enthusiast, which is poured from the twin lights--that is, from the eyes--in copious tears that flow to the sea; he sends forth from his breast into the wide air sighs in a great multitude, and the lightnings from his heart, not like a little spark or a weak flame, which, cooling itself in the air, smokes, and transmigrates into other beings; but, potent and vigorous--rather acquiring from others than losing of its own--it joins its congenial sphere.
CIC. I understand it all. To the next.
TANS. Close by is portrayed one who has on his shield a crest, also divided into four colours. There is a sun whose rays extend to the back of the earth,
and there is a legend which says: "Idem semper ubique totum."
CIC. I perceive that the interpretation of it will be difficult.
TANS. The more excellent the meaning the less obvious is it, and you will see that it is unequalled, unique, and not strained. You are to consider that the sun, although with regard to the various regions of the earth he is for each one different as to time, place, and degree, yet in respect of the whole globe as such, he always and in every place accomplishes everything, for in whatever part of the ecliptic he is to be found, he makes winter, summer, autumn, and spring, and makes the whole globe of the earth to receive within itself the aforesaid four seasons; for never is it hot at one side unless it is cold on the other; when it is to us very hot in the tropic of Cancer it is very cold in the tropic of Capricorn; so that for the same reason it is winter in that part when it is summer in this, and to those who are in the middle, it is temperate according to the aspect, vernal or autumnal. So the earth always feels the rains, the winds, the heat, the cold; nor would it be damp here if it were not dry in another part, and the sun would not warm it on this side if it had not already left off warming it on the other.
CIC. Even before you have finished, I understand what you would say. You mean that as the sun gives all the impressions to the earth, and this receives them whole and entire, so the Object of the enthusiast, with its active splendour, makes him the passive subject of tears, which are the waters, of ardours, which are the fires, and of sighs, which are certain vapours, which partake of both, which leave the fire, and go to the waters, or leave the waters and go to the fire.
TANS. This is well explained below.
When as the sun towards Capricorn declines,
Then do the rains enrich the streams,
As towards the line he goes, or thence returns,
More felt is each Æolian messenger,
Warming the more with every lengthening day
What time towards burning Cancer he remounts.
And equal to this heat, this cold, this zeal
Are these my tears, my sighs, the ardour that I feel.
My constant sighs, my never waning flames
Are only equal to my tears.
My floods and flames howe'er intense they be,
Are never more so than my sighs;
I burn with fervid heat,
And, firmly fixed, I ever sigh and weep.
Cm. This does not so much declare the meaning
of the coat of arms, as the preceding discourse did, but it rather supplements or accompanies that discourse.
TANS. Say, rather, that the figure is latent in the first part, and the legend is well explained in the second; as both the one and the other are very properly signified in the type of the sun and of the earth.
CIC. Pass on to the third.
TANS. The third bears on his shield a naked child, stretched upon the green turf, who rests his head upon his arm, with his eyes turned towards the sky to certain edifices, towers, gardens, and orchards, which are above the clouds, and there is a castle of which the material is fire, and in the middle is the sign inscribed: "Mutuo fulcimur."
CIC. What does that mean?
TANS. It means that enthusiast, signified by the naked child as simple, pure, and exposed to all the accidents of Nature and of fortune, who at the same time by the force of thought, constructs castles in the air, and amongst other things a tower, of which the architect is Love, the material is the amorous fire, and the builder is himself, who says: "Mutuo fulcimur"--that is, I build and uphold you there with
my thought, and you uphold me here with hope; you would not be in existence were it not for the imagination and the thought with which I form and uphold you, and I should not be alive were it not for the refreshment and comfort that I receive through your means.
CIC. It is true that there is no fancy so vain and so chimerical that may not be a more real and true medicine for an enthusiastic heart than any herb, mineral, oil, or other sort of thing that Nature produces.
TANS. Magicians can do more by means of faith than physicians by the truth; and in the worst diseases the patients benefit more by believing this or that which the former say, than in understanding that which the latter do. Now let the rhymes be read.
Above the clouds in that high place,
When oft with dreaming I am fired,
For comfort and refreshment of my soul
An airy castle from my fires I build,
And if my adverse fate incline awhile,
And without scorn or ire will understand
This lofty grace for which I die,
Oh happy then my pains, happy my death.
The ardour of those flames she does not feel,
Nor is she hindered by those snares p. 128
With which, oh boy! thou'rt wont to enslave
And lead into captivity both men and gods;
By pity's hand alone, oh Love,
By showing all my woe, thou shalt prevail.
CIC. He shows that which feeds his fancy and bathes his spirit; yet, inasmuch as he is without courage to explain himself and make known his sufferings, although he is so deeply subjected to that anguish, if it should happen that his hard, uncompromising fate should bend a little (as, in the end, fate must soothe him, by showing itself without scorn or anger for the high object), he would consider no happiness so great, no life so blessed, as in such a case would be his happiness in his woes, and his blessedness in his death.
TANS. And with this he comes to declare to Love that the means by which he will gain access to that breast, is not in the ordinary way by the arms with which he usually captivates men and gods, but only by causing the fiery heart and his troubled spirit, to be laid bare, to obtain sight of which it is necessary that compassion open the way, and introduce him to that secret chamber.
CIC. What is the meaning of that butterfly which
flutters round the flame, and almost burns itself? and what means that legend, "Hostis non hostis?"
TANS. The meaning of the butterfly is not difficult, which, seduced by the fascinations of splendour, goes innocently and amicably to meet its death in the devouring flames. Thus, "hostis" stands written for the effect of the fire; "non hostis" for the inclination of the fly. "Hostis," the fly passively; "non hostis," actively. "Hostis," the flame, through its ardour; "non hostis," through its splendour.
CIC. Now what is that which is written on the tablet?
Be it far from me to make complaint of love,
Love, without whom I will not happy be,
And though through him these weary toils I bear.
Yet what is given my will shall not reject.
Be clear the sky or dark, burning or cold,
To that one phoenix e'er the same I'll be,
No fate nor destiny can e'er untie
That knot which death unable is to loose;
To heart, to spirit, and to soul,
No pleasure is, no liberty, no life,
No smile, no rapture, no delight,
So sweet, so grateful, so divine,
As these hard bonds, this death of mine,
To which by fate, by will, by nature I incline.
Here, in the figure, he shows the resemblance
between the enthusiast and the butterfly attracted towards the light; in the sonnet, however, he demonstrates rather difference and dissimilarity; as it is commonly believed, that if the butterfly foresaw its destruction, it would fly from the light more eagerly than it now pursues it, and would consider it an evil to lose its life through being absorbed into that hostile fire. But to him (the enthusiast) it is no less pleasing to perish in the flames of amorous ardour than to be drawn to the contemplation of the beauty of that rare splendour, under which, by natural inclination, by voluntary election, and by disposition of fate, he labours, serves, and dies more gaily, more resolutely, and more courageously than under whatsoever other pleasure which may offer itself to the heart, liberty which may be conceded to the spirit, and life which may be discovered in the soul.
CIC. Tell me why he says, "ever the same I'll be?"
TANS. Because it seems suitable to bring forward a reason for his constancy, seeing that the sage does not change with the moon, although the fool does so. Thus he is unique, as the phoenix is unique.
CIC. But what signifies that branch of palm, around which is the legend, "Cæsar adest?"
TANS. Without further talk, all may be understood by that which is written on the tablet:
Unconquered victor of Pharsalia,
Though all thy warriors be well-nigh spent,
At sight of thee they rise once more;
Their strength returns, they conquer their proud foes;
So does my love--that equals love of heaven--
Become a living presence through my thoughts;
Thoughts that my haughty soul had killed with scorn,
Love brings again stronger than love himself
Thy presence is enough, oh memory!
These to reanimate in all their strength,
And with imperious sov'reignty they rule
And govern each opposing force.
May I be happy in this governance
And with these bonds, and may that light ne'er cease.
There are times when the inferior powers of the soul--like a vigorous and hostile army, which finds itself in its own country practised, expert, and ready--revolt against the foreign adversary, who comes down from the height of the intelligence to curb the people of the valley and of the boggy plains, where, through the baneful presence of the enemies and of such obstacles as deep ditches, advancing they lose themselves, and would be entirely lost, if there were not a certain conversion towards
the splendour of intellectual things through the act of contemplation, by means of which they are converted from inferior degrees to superior ones.
CIC. What degrees are these?
TANS. The degrees of contemplation are like the degrees of light, which exist not at all in the darkness, slightly in shade, more in colours, according to their orders, from one opposite which is black to, the other which is white; but more fully do they exist in the splendour diffused over pure transparent bodies, as in a looking-glass and in the moon, and still more brightly in the rays diffused by the sun, but principally and most brilliantly in the sun itself. Now the perceptive and the affectional powers are ordered in this way; the next following always has affinity for the next preceding, and by means of conversion to that which elevates it, it becomes fortified against the inferior, which lowers it; as the reason, through its conversion to the intellect, is not seduced or vanquished by knowledge or comprehension or by passionate affection, but rather, according to the law of the intellect, it is brought to govern and correct the same. It comes to this, therefore, that when the rational appetite strives against sensual concupiscence, if, by the act of conversion,
the intellectual light is presented to the eyes, it causes the above appetite to take up again the lost virtue, and giving fresh strength to the nerves, it alarms and puts to rout the enemy.
CIC. In what manner do you mean that such a conversion takes place?
TANS. With three preparatives, which are noted by the contemplative Plotinus in the book of "Intellectual Beauty;" and, of these, the first is by proposing to conform himself to a divine pattern, diverting the sight from things which stand between him and his own perfection, and which are common to those things which are equal and inferior. The second is by applying himself, with full intention and attention, to superior things. The third is by bringing into captivity to God the whole will and affection: for from this it comes to pass that, without doubt, the divinity will influence him; who is everywhere present, and ready to come to the aid of whosoever turns to Him through the act of the intelligence, and who unreservedly presents himself with the affection of the will.
CIC. It is not then corporeal beauty which can allure such an one?
TANS. No, certes; because in that there is no
true nor constant beauty, and for this reason it cannot evoke true nor constant love. That beauty, which is seen in bodies is accidental and transitory, and is like those which are absorbed, changed, and spoiled by the changing of the subject, which very often, from being beautiful, becomes ugly, without any change taking place in the soul. The reason then comprehends the truest beauty, through conversion, to that which makes the beauty of the body, and forms it in loveliness,--it is the soul which has thus built and designed it. Now does the intellect rise still higher, and learns that the soul is incomparably more beautiful than any beauty that may be in bodies; but yet it cannot persuade itself that it is beautiful of itself and primarily, for if it be so, what is the cause of that difference which exists in the quality of souls, by which some are wise, amiable, and beautiful, others stupid, odious, and ugly. We must then raise ourselves to that superior intellect which is beautiful in itself and good in itself. This is that sole supreme captain who alone, placed before the eyes of the militant thoughts, enlivens, encourages, strengthens them, and renders them victorious above the scorn of every other beauty and the repudiation of every other good whatsoever. This is the presence which
causes every difficulty to be overcome and all opposition to be subdued.
CIC. I understand it all; but what is the meaning of, "May I be happy in this governance and with these bonds, and may that light not cease."
TANS. He means, and he proves, that every sort of love, the greater its dominion and the surer its hold, the more tight are the bonds, and the more firm the yoke, and the more ardent the flames that are felt, as compared with the ordinary princes and tyrants, who adopt a greater rigour wherever they see they have less hold.
CIC. Go on.
TANS. Here we see described the idea of a flying phnix, towards which is turned a boy who is burning in the midst of flames; and there is the legend, "Fata obstant." But in order better to understand it, let us read the tablet
Sole bird of the sun, thou wandering phnix!
That measurest thy days as does the world
With lofty summits of Arabia Felix.
Thou art the same thou wast, but I what I was not:
I through the fire of love, unhappy die;
But thee the sun with his warm rays revives; p. 136
Thou burn'st, in one, and I, in every place:
Eros my fire, while thine Apollo gives.
Predestined is the term of thy long life
Short span is mine,
And menaced by a thousand ills.
Nor do I know how I have lived, nor how shall live,
Me does blind fate conduct;
But thou wilt come again, again behold thy light.
From the meaning of these lines, you will see that in the figure is drawn the comparison between the fate of the phnix and that of the enthusiast; and the legend "Fata obstant," does not signify that the fates are adverse either to the boy, or to the phnix, or to both; but that the fatal decrees for each are not the same, but are diverse and opposite. The phnix is that which it was, because the, same matter, by means of the fire, renews itself, and becomes again the body of the phnix, and the same spirit and soul come to inhabit it. The enthusiast is that which he was not, because the subject, which is a man, was first of some other species, according to innumerable differentiations. So that what the phnix was, is known, and what it will be, is known; but this subject cannot return, except through many and uncertain means, to invest the same or a similar natural form. Then the phnix, through the sun's presence, changes
death into life, and that other, by the presence of love, transmutes life into death. The one kindles his fire on the aromatic altar, the other finds it ever present with him and carries it wherever he goes. The one again, has certain conditions of a long life; but the other, through the infinite differences of time and innumerable circumstances, has the mutable conditions of a short life. The one kindles with certainty, the other with doubt as to whether he will see the sun again.
CIC. What do you think that this means?
TANS. It means the difference that exists between the lower intellect called the intellect of power, either possible or passive, which is uncertain, multifarious, and multiform, and the higher intellect, which, perhaps, is like that which is said by the Peripatetics to be the lowest of the intelligences, and which exerts an immediate influence over all the individuals of the human species, and is called the active and acting intellect. This special human intelligence which influences all individuals is like the moon, which partakes of no other species but that one alone which always renews itself by the transmutation caused in it by the sun, which is the primal and universal intelligence; but the human intellect, both individual and collective, turns as do
the eyes towards innumerable and most diverse objects; whence, according to the infinite degrees which exist, it takes on all the natural forms. Hence it is that this particular intellect may be as enthusiastic, vague, and uncertain, as that universal one is quiet, fixed, and certain, whether as regards the desire or the comprehension. Now therefore, as you may very well perceive for yourself, it means that the nature of the comprehension of sense and its varied appetite, is vague, inconstant, and uncertain, and the conception and definite appetite of the intelligence is firm and stable. This is the difference between sensual love, which has no stability nor discretion as to its object, and intellectual love, which aims only at one, sure and fixed, towards which it turns, through which it is illuminated in its conception, by which, being kindled in its affections, it becomes inflamed and brightened, and is maintained in unity and identity of condition.
CIC. But what is the meaning of that figure of the sun, with a circle inside and another outside, with the legend "Circuit."
TANS. The meaning of this I am certain I should never have understood if I had not heard it from
the designer of it himself. Now you must know that "Circuit" has reference to the movement the sun makes round the circle which is drawn inside and outside, in order to signify that the movement both makes and is made; and hence, as a consequence, the sun is to be found in every part of those circles; so that, if he moves and is moved, and is over the whole circumference of the circle equally, then you find in him both movement and rest.
CIC. This I understood in the dialogues on the infinite universe and the innumerable worlds, where it is declared that the divine wisdom is extremely mobile, as Solomon said, and also that the same is most stable, as all those declare who know. Now go on and make me understand the proposition.
TANS. It means that 1his sun is not like this one, which is commonly believed to go round the earth with the daily movement in twenty-four hours, and with the planetary movement in twelve months, and by which he causes the four seasons of the year to be felt, according as he is found to be in the four cardinal points of the zodiac; but he is such an one, that, being the ethereal eternity itself, and consequently an entire and complete totality, he contains the winter, the spring, the summer,
the autumn, together with the day and the night, for he is all and for all, in all points and places.
CIC. Now apply that which you have said to the figure.
TANS. It being impossible here to design the entire sun in every point of the circle, two circles are delineated; one which contains the sun to signify that the movement is made through him, the other which is contained by the sun to show that he is moved by it.
CIC. But this explanation is not very clear and appropriate.
TANS. Suffice it that it is the clearest and most appropriate that he was able to make. If you can make a better one, you shall have permission to remove this one and put it in its place, for this has only been put in, so that the soul should not be without a body.
CIC. What do you say about that "Circuit?"
TANS. That legend contains all the meaning of the thing in so far as it can be explained, for it means that he turns and is turned, that is to say movement present and accomplished.
CIC. Excellent! And therefore those circles which so ill explain the circumstance of movement and rest, we can say are placed there to
signify the circulation only. Thus am I satisfied with the subject and with the form of the heroic device. Now read the lines.
Mild are thy rays, oh, Sol! from Taurus sent,
And from the Lion thy beams mature and burn,
And when thy light from pungent Scorpion darts
Transcendent is the ardour of thy flames.
From fierce Deucalion all is struck with cold,
Stiffened the lakes and locked the running streams.
With spring, with summer, autumn, and with winter,
I warm, I kindle, burn and blaze for ever.
So ardent my desire,
The object so supreme for which I burn;
Glowing and unencumbered I behold,
And make my lightnings flash unto the stars.
No moment can I count in all the year
To change the 1 inexorable cross I bear.
Here observe that the four seasons of the year are signified, not by four movable signs, which are Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn, but by the four which are called fixed--namely, Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius, to signify the condition, fervour, and perfection of those seasons. Note further, that in virtue of those apostrophes, which are in the eighth line, you can read: I warm, kindle, burn, blaze; or, be thou warmed, kindled, burning, blazing; or, let him warm, kindle, burn, blaze.
You have further to consider that these are not four synonyms, but four different terms, which signify so many degrees of the effects of the fire which first warms, secondly kindles, thirdly burns, and fourthly blazes or inflames that which it has warmed, kindled, and burnt. And thus are denoted in the enthusiast, desire, attention, study, affection, in which he never for a moment feels any change.
CIC. Why does he put them under the title of a cross?
TANS. Because the object, which is the divine light, is, in this life, more felt as a painful longing than in quiet fruition, because our mind is towards that, as the eyes of night birds to the sun.
CIC. Proceed; for from what you have said I understand all.
TANS. On the next crest there is painted a full moon and the legend: "Talis mihi semper ut astro," which means that to the star--that is, to the sun--she is ever such as she here shows herself, full and clear in the entire circumference of the circle, which, in order that you may better understand, I will let you hear that which is written on the tablet.
Oh, changeful moon, inconstant moon!
With horns now full, now void, thou wanderest.
Mounting, thy sphere now white now dark appears.
The mountains and the valleys of the north thou brightenest,
And turning by thy dust-encumbered steps,
Thou lightest in the south the Lybian heights.
My moon for my continual pain
Is constant ever, ever full.
So is my star,
Which ever from me takes and nothing gives,
For ever burns and ever shines,
Cruel always yet always beautiful.
This noble light of mine
Torments me still and still delights me.
It seems to me, that it means that his particular intelligence is to the universal intelligence ever the same--that is to say, the one is ever illuminated by the other, over the whole hemisphere; notwithstanding that to the inferior powers, and according to the influence of his actions, it appears now dark, and now more and less clear. Or perhaps it means that his speculative intellect, which is ever invariable in its action, is always turned and affected towards the human intelligence signified by the moon. Because, as this is said to be the lowest of all the stars, and is nearest to us, so the illuminating intelligence of all of us in this state is
the last in order of the other intelligences, as Averroes and the more subtle Peripatetics say. That intelligence, in so far as it is not in any act, goes down before, or sets to the potential intellect, or as if so to say, it emerged from the bottom of the occult hemisphere, and showed itself now void, now full, according as it gives more or less light of intelligence. Now its sphere is dark, now light, because sometimes it shows itself as a shadow, a semblance, and a vestige, and sometimes more and more openly: now it declines towards the south, now it mounts towards the north--that is, now it removes farther and farther away, and now it approaches nearer and nearer. But the intellect, active with its continual grief--seeing that it is not through its human condition and nature that it Ends itself so wretched, so opposed, courted, solicited, distracted, and, as it were, torn by the inferior powers--sees its object stable, fixed and constant, and ever full, and in the same splendour of beauty. Thus it ever takes away, in so far as it does not concede, and ever gives, in so far as it concedes. It ever burns in the affection in so far as it shines in thoughts, and is always cruel in withdrawing itself through that which withdraws itself; as it is always beautiful in communication with that to
which it presents itself. Always does it torment when it is divided from him by difference of locality, as always it delights him being joined to it by affection.
CIC. Now apply your intelligence to the legend.
TANS. he says then, "talis mihi semper;" that is, because of the continual application of my intellect, my memory, and my will, because, I will remember, understand and desire no other; she is ever the same to me, and in so far as I can understand her, she is entirely present, and is not separated from me by any distraction of my thoughts, nor does she become darkened to me through any want of attention, for there is no thought that can divert me from that light nor any necessity of nature which forces me to a less constant attention; "talis mihi semper" on her side, because she is invariable in substance, in virtue, in beauty, and in effect, towards those things that are constant and invariable towards her. She says further, "ut astro," because in respect of the sum, the illuminator of her, she is ever equally luminous, seeing that she is ever turned equally towards him, and he at the same time diffuses his rays equally. As, physically, this moon that we see with the eyes, although towards the earth she appears now dark, now
shining, now more, now less illuminated and illuminating, yet is she ever equally irradiated by the sun, because she always reflects his rays over at least the whole of her hemisphere. So also is the hemisphere of this earth ever equally irradiated, although from the watery surfaces she from time to time sends her splendours unequally to the moon,--which like innumerable other stars we consider as another earth--in the same manner, she also sends hers to the earth, on account of the periodical changes which both experience in finding themselves now the one, now the other, nearer to the sun.
CIC. How can this intelligence be signified by the moon which lights up the hemisphere?
TANS. All the intelligences are signified by the moon, in so far as they are sharers in act and in power, in so far as they have the light materially and by participation, receiving it from another; I say that, as not being lights of themselves, nor by their own nature, but by reflection from the sun, which is the first intelligence, which is pure and absolute light, as it is also pure and absolute action.
CIC. All those things, then, that are dependent, and are not the first act and cause, are they composed
of light and shade, of matter and form, of power and action?
TANS. It is so. Furthermore, this soul of ours, in all its substance, is signified by the moon which shines through the hemisphere of the superior powers, by which it is turned towards the light of the intelligible world, and is dark through the inferior powers, by which it is occupied with material things.
CIC. It seems to me that what has just been said has some connection and analogy with the impression that I see on the next shield, where stands a gnarled and rugged oak, against which the wind is raging, and it is circumscribed by the legend, "ut robori robur," and here is the tablet, which says:
Old oak, that spread'st thy branches to the air,
And firmly in the earth dost fix thy roots;
No shifting of the land, no mighty elements,
Which Heaven from the stormy north unlocks;
Nor whatso'er the gruesome winter sends,
Can tear thee from the spot where thou art chained.
Thou art the veritable portrait of my faith,
Which, fixed, remains 'gainst every casual chance.
Ever the self-same ground dost thou p. 148
Grasp, cultivate and comprehend; and stretch
Thy grateful roots unto the generous breast.
Upon one only object I
Have fixed my spirit, sense, and intellect.
TANS. The legend is clear, by which the enthusiast boasts of having the strength and vigour of the oak, and as before said of being ever the same in respect to the one only phoenix, and in the next preceding one, conforming himself to that moon which ever shines so brightly and is so beautiful, and also in that he does not resemble this antichthon between our earth and the sun in so far as it changes to our eyes, but in that it ever receives within itself an equal amount of the solar splendour, and through this remains constant and firm against the rough winds and tempests of winter, through the stability that he has in his star, in which he is planted by affection and intention, as the roots of the oak twist and weave themselves into the veins of the earth.
CIC. I hold it better worth living in quiet and without vexation than to be forced to endure so much.
TANS. That is a maxim of the Epicureans which, being well understood, would not be considered so unworthy as the ignorant hold it to be, seeing that
it does not detract from what I have called virtue, nor does it impair the perfection of firmness, but it rather adds to that perfection as it is understood by the vulgar, for Epicurus does not hold that, a true and complete strength and firmness which feels and bears inconveniences, but that which bears them and feels them not. He does not consider him perfect in divine heroic love, who feels the spur, the, cheek, or remorse or trouble about other love; but him who has no feeling of other affections; so that being fixed in one pleasure, there is no displeasure that has any power to jostle him c,. dislodge him from his place. And this it is to touch the highest blessedness of this state, to have rapture and no sense of pain.
CIC. The ignorant do not believe in this meaning of Epicurus.
TANS. Because they neither read his own books, nor those that report his maxims without invidiousness, but there are those who read the course of his life and the conditions of his death, where with these words he dictated the beginning of his testament: "Being in the last, and at the same time, the happiest day of our life, we have ordained this with a healthy, tranquil mind at rest; for whatever acute sorrow may torment us from one side, that
torment is entirely annulled by the pleasure of our own inventions and the consideration of our end." And it is manifest that he no longer felt more pleasure than sorrow in eating, drinking, repose, and in generating, but in not feeling hunger, nor thirst, nor fatigue, nor sensuality. From this may be understood what is according to us the perfection of firmness; not in this, that the tree neither bends nor breaks, nor is rent, but in that it does not so much as stir, and its prototype keeps spirit, sense, and intellect, fixed there, where the shock of the tempest is not felt.
CIC. Do you then think it is a thing to be desired, to bear shocks in order to prove that you are strong?
TANS. You say "to bear;" and this is a part of firmness, but it is not the whole of that virtue, which consists in bearing strongly, as I say, or in not feeling, as Epicurus said. Now this loss of feeling is caused by being entirely absorbed in the cultivation of virtue, or of real good and felicity, in such wise that Regulus did not feel the chest, Lucretia the dagger, Socrates the poison, Anaxagoras the mortar, Scævola the fire, Cocles the abyss, and other worthies felt not those things
which would torment and fill with terror the vulgar crowd.
CIC. Now pass on.
TANS. Look at this other who bears the device of an anvil and a hammer, round which is the legend "ab Aetna!" But here Vulcan is introduced:
Not now to my Sicilian mount I turn,
Where thou dost forge the thunderbolts of Jove,
Here, rugged Vulcan will I stay;
Here, where a prouder giant moves,
Who burns and rages against Heaven in vain,
Soliciting new cares and divers trials.
Here is a better smith and Mongibello 1
A better anvil, better forge and hammer;
For here behold a bosom full of sighs,
Which blows the furnace and the fire revives.
The soul nor yields nor bends to these rough blows,
But bears exulting this long martyrdom,
And makes a harmony from these sharp pangs.
Here are shown the pains and troubles which beset love, principally love of a low kind, which is no other than the forge of Vulcan, that smith who makes the bolts of Jove which torment offending souls.
For ill-ordered love has in itself the beginning of its
own pain, seeing that there is a God near us, in us, and with us. There is in us a certain sacred mind and intelligence, which supplies an affection of its own, which has its own avenger, which, through remorse for certain shortcomings, flagellates the transgressing spirit as with a hammer. It notes our actions and our affections, and as it is treated by us, so are we treated by it. In every lover I say there is this smith Vulcan, and as there is no man that has not a god within him, so there is no lover that has not a god within him, and no lover within whom this god is not. Most certainly there is a god in every man, but what god it is in each one is not so easy to know. And even though we should examine and distinguish, yet do I believe that none other than Love could declare it, he being the one who pulls the oars, and fills the sails, and modifies this compound, so that it comes to be well or ill affected. I say well or ill affected as to that which it puts in execution through the moral actions and through contemplation; for the rest, all lovers are apt to experience some difficulties, things being as they are, so entangled; there being no good whatever, either of conception or of the affections, which is not joined to or stands in opposition to evil, as there is no truth which is not
joined or opposed to what is false, so there is no love without fear, ardour, jealousy, rancour, and other passions, which proceed from their opposites, and which disturb us, as the other opposite causes satisfaction. Thus the soul striving to recover its natural beauty seeks to purify itself, to heal itself, and to reform itself, and to this end it uses fire, because, being like gold, mixed with earth and crude, with a certain rigour it tries to liberate itself from defilement, and this result is obtained when the intellect, the real smith of Jove, puts itself to the work and causes an active exercise of the intellectual powers.
CIC. It seems to me that this is referred to in the "Banquet" of Plato, where it says that Love has inherited from his mother, Poverty, that dried-up, thin, pale, bare-footed, and submissive condition without a home, without anything, and through these is signified the torture of the soul that is torn with contrary affections.
TANS. So it is; because the spirit, full of this enthusiasm, becomes absorbed in profound thoughts, stricken with urgent cares, kindled with fervent desires, excited by frequent crises: whence the soul, finding itself in suspense, becomes less diligent and active in the government of the body through the
acts of the vegetative power; thus the body becomes lean, ill-nourished, attenuated, poor in blood, and rich in melancholy humours, and these, if they do not administer to the disciplined soul, or to a clear and lucid spirit, may lead to insanity, folly, and brutal fury, or at least to a certain disregard of self, and a contempt of its own being, which is symbolized by Plato in the bare feet. Love becomes subjected and flies suddenly down to earth when it is attached to low things, but flies high when it is fixed upon more worthy enterprises. In conclusion, whatever love it may be, it is ever afflicted and tormented in such a way that it cannot fail to supply material for the forge of Vulcan; because the soul, being a divine thing, and by nature, not a servant but the mistress of corporeal matter, she becomes troubled in that she voluntarily serves the body, wherein she finds nothing to satisfy her, and albeit, fixed in the thing loved, yet now and then she becomes agitated, and fluctuates amidst the waves of hope, fear, doubt, ardour, conscience, remorse, determination, repentance, and other scourges, which are the bellows, the coals, the forge, the hammer, the pincers, and other instruments which are found in the workshop of the sordid grimy consort of Venus.
CIC. Enough has been said upon this subject. Let us see what follows.
TANS. Here is a golden apple, rich with various kinds of precious enamel, and there is a legend about it which says, "Pulchriori detur."
CIC. The allusion to the fact of the three goddesses who submitted themselves to the judgment of Paris is very common. But read the lines which more specifically disclose the meaning of the present enthusiast.
Venus, the goddess of the third heaven
(Mother of the archer blind, who conquers all),
She whose father is the head of Zeus,
And Juno, most majestic wife of Jove,
These call the Trojan shepherd to be judge,
And to the fairest give the ruddy sphere.
Compared with Venus, Pallas, and the Queen of Heaven,
My perfect goddess bears away the palm.
The Cyprian queen may boast her royal limbs,
Minerva charm with her transcendent wit,
And Juno with a majesty supreme;
But she who holds my heart all these excels
In wisdom, majesty, and loveliness.
Here he makes a comparison between his object (or ideal) which comprises all circumstances, all conditions, and all kinds of beauty, in one subject, and others which exhibit each only one, and that through various hypotheses, as with corporeal beauty, all the conditions of which Apelles could not find in one, but in many virgins. Now here, where there are three kinds of the beautiful, although it seems that all of these exist in each of the three goddesses--Venus not being found wanting in wisdom and majesty, Juno not lacking loveliness and wisdom, and Pallas being full of majesty and beauty, in each case it is a fact that one quality exceeds the others, so that it comes to be held as distinctive of the one, and the other as incidental to all, seeing that of those three gifts, one predominates in each and proclaims her sovereign over the others. And the cause of this difference lies in the fact of possessing these qualities, not primarily and in their essence, but by participation and derivation; as in all things which are dependent, their perfection depends upon the degrees of major and minor and more and less. But in the simplicity of the divine essence, all exists in totality, and not according to any measure, and therefore wisdom is not greater than beauty and
majesty, and goodness is not greater than strength: not only are all the attributes equal, they are one and the same thing. As in the sphere all the dimensions are not only equal, the length being equal to the depth and breadth, but are also identical, seeing that what in a sphere is called deep, may also be called long and wide. Likewise is it, as to height in divine wisdom, which is the same as the depth of power and the breadth of goodness. All these perfections are equal, because they are infinite. Of necessity, one is according to the sum of the other, seeing that where things are finite it may result in this, that it is more wise than beautiful or good, more good and beautiful than wise, more wise and good than powerful, and more powerful than good or wise. But where there is infinite wisdom there cannot be other than infinite power, otherwise there would be no infinite knowledge. Where there is infinite goodness there must be infinite wisdom, otherwise there would be no infinite goodness. Where there is infinite power there must be infinite goodness and wisdom, because there is the being able to know and the, knowing to be able. Now, observe how the object of this enthusiast, who is, as it were, inebriated with the drink of the gods, is incomparably higher than
others which are different. I mean to say that the divine essence comprehends in the very highest degree perfection of all kinds, so that according to the degree in which this particular form may have participated, he can understand all, do all, and be such an attached friend to one that he may come to feel contempt and indifference towards every other beauty. Therefore to her should be consecrated the spherical apple as to her who seems to be all in all; not to Venus, who is beautiful but is surpassed in wisdom by Minerva, and by Juno in majesty; not to Pallas than whom Venus is more beautiful, and the other more magnificent; not to Juno, who is not the goddess of intelligence or of love.
CIC. Truly, as are the degrees of Nature and of the essences, so in proportion are the degrees of the intelligible orders and the glories of the amorous affections and enthusiasms.
CIC. The following bears a head with four faces, which blow towards the four corners of the heavens, and are four winds in one subject; above these stand two stars, and in the centre the legend
[paragraph continues] "Novae ortae aeoliae." I would like to know what that signifies.
TANS. I think that the meaning of this device is consequent upon that which precedes it, for, as there the object is declared to be infinite beauty, so here is proposed what may be called a similar aspiration, study, affection, and desire. I believe that these winds are set to signify sighs; but this we shall see when we come to read the lines:
Sons of the Titan Astræus and Aurora,
Who trouble heaven, earth, and the wide sea,
Leave now this stormy war of elements,
And fight anon with the high gods.
No more in my Æolian caves ye dwell,
No more does my restraining power compel;
But caught are ye and closed within that breast,
With moans and sobs and bitter sighs opprest.
Turbulent brothers of the stars,
Companions of the tempests of the seas,
Those lights are all that may avail
Peace to restore; murderous yet innocent;
Which, open or concealed,
Will bless with calm, or curse with pride.
Evidently, here, Æolus is introduced as speaking to the winds, which he declares are no longer tempered by him in the Æolian caverns, but by two stars in the breast of this enthusiast. Here,
the two stars do not mean the two eyes which are in the forehead, but the two appreciable kinds of divine beauty and goodness, of that infinite splendour, which so influences intellectual and rational desire, that it brings him to a condition of infinite aspiration, according to the way and the degree with which he comes to comprehend that glorious light. For love, while it is finite, contented, and fixed in a certain measure, is not in the form of the species of divine beauty, but as it goes on with ever higher aspirations, it may be said to verge towards the infinite.
CIC. How is breathing, made to mean aspiring? What relation has desire with the winds?
TANS. Whosoever in this present condition aspires, also sighs, and the same breathes; and therefore the vehemence of the aspiration is noted by the hieroglyph of strong breathing.
CIC. But there is a difference between sighing and breathing.
TANS. Therefore it is not put as if one stood for the other, or as being identical, but as being similar.
CIC. Go on then with our proposition.
TANS. The infinite aspiration then, indicated by the sighs and symbolized by the winds, is not under the dominion of Æolus in the Æolic caverns,
but of the aforementioned two lights, which are, not only blameless, but benevolent in killing the enthusiast, inasmuch as they cause him to die to every other thing, except the absorbing affection; at the same time, they, being closed and concealed, render him unquiet, and being open, they will tranquillize him, because at this time, when the eyes of the human mind in this body are covered with a nebulous veil, the soul, through such studies, becomes troubled and harassed, and he being thus torn and goaded, will attain only that amount of quiet as will satisfy the condition of his nature.
CIC. How can our finite intellect follow after the infinite ideal?
TANS. Through the infinite potency it possesses.
CIC. This would be useless, if ever it came into effect.
TANS. It would be useless, if it had to do with a finite action, where infinite potency would be wanting, but not with the infinite action where infinite potency is positive, perfection.
CIC. If the human intellect is finite in nature and in act, how can it have an infinite potency?
TANS. Because it is eternal, and in this ever has delight, so that it enjoys happiness without end or
measure; and because, as it is finite in itself, so it may be infinite in the object.
CIC. What difference is there between the infinity of the object and the infinity of the potentiality?
TANS. This is finitely infinite, and that infinitely infinite. But to return to ourselves. The legend there says: "Novae Liparææ æoliæ," because it seems as if we are to believe that all the winds which are in the abysmal caverns of Æolus were converted into sighs, if we include those which proceed from the affection, which aspires continually to the highest good and to the infinite beauty.
CIC. Here we see the signification of that burning light around which is written: "Ad vitam; non ad horam."
TANS. Persistence in such a love and ardent desire of true goodness, by which in this temporal state the enthusiast is consumed. This, I think, is shown in the following tablet
1What time the day removes the orient vault,
The rustic peasant leaves his humble home,
And when the sun with fiercer tangent strikes,
Fatigued and parched, he sits him in the shade;
p. 163 Then plods again with hard, laborious toil,
Until black night the hemisphere enshrouds.
And then he rests. But I must ever chafe
At morning, noon-day, evening, and at night.
These fiery rays
Which stream from those two arches of my sun,
Ne'er fade from the horizon of my soul.
So wills my fate;
But blazing every hour
From their meridian they burn the afflicted heart.
CIC. This tablet expresses with greater truth than perspicacity the sense of the figure.
TANS. It is not necessary for me to make any effort to point out to you the appropriateness, as it only requires a little attentive consideration. The rays of the sun are the ways in which the divine beauty and goodness manifest themselves to us; and they are fiery because they cannot be comprehended by the intellect without at the same time kindling the affections. The two arches of the sun are the two kinds of revelation, that scholastic theologians call early and late, whence our illuminating intelligence, as an airy medium, deduces that species, either in virtue, which it contemplates in itself, or in efficacy, which it beholds in its effects. The horizon of the soul, in this place, is that part of the superior potentialities where the vigorous impulse of the affection comes to aid the lively comprehension of the intellect,
being signified by the heart, which, burning at all hours, torments itself; because all those fruits of love that we can gather in this state are not so sweet that they have not united with them a certain affliction, which proceeds from the fear of imperfect fruition: as especially occurs in the fruits of natural affection, the condition of which I cannot do better than explain in the words of the Epicurean poet:
Ex hominis vera facie, pulchroque colore
Nil datur in corpus præter simulacra fruendum
Tenuia, quæ vento spes captat sæpe misella.
Ut bibere in somnis sitiens cum quærit, et humor
Non datur, ardorem in membris qui stinguere possit,
Sed laticum simulacra petit, frustraque laborat,
In medioque sitit torrenti flumine potans:
Sic in amore Venus simulacris ludit amantis,
Nec satiare queunt spectando corpora coram,
Nec manibus quicquam teneris abradere membris
Possunt, errantes incerti corpore toto.
Denique cum membris conlatis flore fruuntur,
Ætatis, dum jam præsagit gaudia corpus,
Atque in eo est Venus, ut muliebria conserat arva,
Adfigunt avide corpus, iunguntque salivas
Oris, et inspirant pressantes dentibus ora,
Necquiquam, quoniam nihil inde abradere possunt,
Nec penetrare, et abire in corpus corpore tote.
In the same way, he judges as to the kind of taste that we can have of divine things, which, while we force ourselves to penetrate, and unite with them, we find that we have more pain in the desire than
pleasure in the realization. And this may have been the reason why that wise Hebrew said that he who increases knowledge increases pain; because from the greater comprehension grows the greater desire. And this is followed by greater vexation and grief for the deprivation of the thing desired. So the Epicurean, who led a most tranquil life, said opportunely:
Sed fugitare decet simulacra, et pabula amoris
Abstergere sibi, atque alio convertere mentem,
Nec servare sibi curam certumque dolorem:
Ulcus enim virescit, A inveterascit alendo,
Inque dies gliscit furor, atque ærumna gravescit.
Nee Veneris fructu caret is, qui vitat amorem,
Sed potius, quæ sunt, sine poena, commoda sumit.
CIC. What is meant by the meridian of the heart?
TANS. That part or region of the will which is highest and most exalted, and where it becomes most strongly, clearly, and effectually kindled. He means that such affection is not as in its beginning, where it stirs, nor as at the end, where it reposes, but as in the middle, where it becomes fervid.
CIC. But what means that glowing arrow, which has flames in place of a hard point, around which
is encircled a noose with the legend: "Amor instat ut instans"? Say, what does it mean?
TANS. It seems to me to mean that love never leaves him, and at the same time eternally afflicts him.
CIC. I see the noose, the arrow, and the fire. I understand that which is written: "Amor instat"; but that which follows I cannot understand--that is, that love as an instant, or persisting, persists; which has the same poverty of idea as if one said: "This undertaking he has feigned as a feint; he bears it as he bears it, understands it as he understands it, values it as he values it, and esteems it as he who esteems it."
TANS. It is easy for him to decide and condemn who does not even consider. That "instans" is not an adjective from the verb "instare," but it is a noun substantive used for the instant of time.
CIC. Now, what is the meaning of the phrase "love endures as an instant?"
TANS. What does Aristotle mean in his book on Time, when he says that eternity is an instant, and that all time is no more than an instant?
CIC. How can this be, seeing that there is no time so short that it cannot be divided into seconds? Perhaps he would say that in one instant there is
the Flood, the Trojan war, and we who exist now; I should like to know how this instant is divided into so many centuries and years, and whether, by the same rule, we might not say that the line is a point?
TANS. If time be one, but in different temporal subjects, so the instant is one in different and all parts of time. As I am the same I was, am, and shall be; so I myself am always the same in the house, in the temple, in the field, and wheresoever I am.
CIC. Why do you wish to make out that the instant is the whole of time?
TANS. Because if it were not an instant, it would not be time; therefore time in essence and substance is no other than an instant, and let this suffice, if you understand it, because I do not intend to perorate upon the entire physics; so that you must understand that he means to say that the whole of love is no less present than the whole of time; because this "instans" does not mean a moment of time.
CIC. This meaning must be specified in some way, if we do not wish to see the motto invalidated by equivocation, by which we are free to suppose that he meant to say that his love was but for an
instant--that is, for an atom of time, and of nothing more, or that he means that it is as you interpret it, everlasting.
TANS. Surely, if these two contrary meanings were implied, the legend would be nonsense. But it is not so, if you consider well, for it cannot be that in one instant, which is an atom or point, love persists or endures; therefore one must of necessity understand the instant in another signification. And for the sake of getting out of the mesh, read the stanza:
One time scatters and one gathers;
One builds, one breaks; one weeps, one laughs;
One time to sadness, one to gaiety inclines;
One labours and one rests; one stands, one sits;
One proffers and one takes away;
One stays and one removes; one animates, one kills.
In all the years, the months, the days, the hours,
Love waits on me, strikes, binds, and burns.
To me continual dissolution,
Continual weeping holds me and destroys.
All times to me are full of woe;
All things time takes from me,
And gives me naught, not even death.
CIC. I understand the meaning quite perfectly, and confess that all things agree very well. It is time to proceed to the next.
TANS. Here behold a serpent languishing in the snow, where a labourer has thrown it, and a naked child burning in the midst of the fire, with certain other details and circumstances, with the legend which says: "Idem, itidem non idem." This seems more like an enigma than anything else, and I do not feel sure that I can explain it at all; yet I do believe that it means that the same fate vexes, and the same torments both the one and the other--that is, immeasurably, without mercy and unto death, by means of various instruments or contrary principles, showing itself the same whether cold or hot. But this, it seems to me, requires longer and special consideration.
CIC. Some other time. Read the lines:
Limp snake, that writhest in the snow,
Twisting and turning here and there
To find some ease from the tormenting cold,
If the congealing ice could know thy pain,
Or had the sense to feel thy smart,
And thou couldst find a voice for thy complaint,
I do believe thy argument would make it pitiful.
I with eternal fire am scourged, am burnt, and bitten,
And in the iciness of my divinity find no deliverance,
No pity does she feel, nor can she know, alas!
The rigorous ardour of my flames.
Serpent, thou fain wouldst flee, but canst not
Try for thy hiding-place, it is no more;
Recall thy strength, 'tis spent;
Wait for the sun, behind thick fog he hides;
Cry mercy of the hind, he fears thy tooth.
Fortune invoke, she hears thee not, the jade!
Nor flight, nor place, nor star, nor man, nor fate
Can bring to thee deliverance from death.
Thou dost become congealed. Melting am I.
I like thy rigours, thee my ardour pleases;
Help have I none for thee, and thou hast none for me.
Clear is our evil fate--all hope resign.
CIC. Let us go, and by the way we will seek to untie this knot--if possible.
TANS. So be it.
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139:1 Il suo sole.
141:1 Sordi affanni.
151:1 Mount Etna.
162:1 Quando il sen d'oriente il giorno sgombra.