Translation by Paulo Eugene Memmo, Jr., 1964
Tansillo: The frenzies, then, most worthy of being placed in the first rank and considered first are those I present to you in the order that has seemed to me most convenient.
Cicada: Begin to read them then.
Muses, whom I have so often rejected, importunate cohorts of my suffering, alone consoling me in my woes by such verses, rimes, and frenzies
the like of which you never showed to others who boast of the myrtle and the laurel; now let the wind, anchor, and port keep me close to you, if I am forbidden to cruise elsewhere.
Oh mountains, oh goddesses, oh streams, where I live, converse, and nourish myself; where I learn in quiet and find beauty;
through whom I rise, reawaken, adorn my heart, spirit, and brow; maybe you transform death, cypresses and infernos into fire, into laurels, into eternal stars.
One may infer that he rejected the muses often and for many reasons, among which perhaps are these. First, because he was not able to be idle, as the priest of the muses must be; for one cannot be idle who must defend himself against the ministers and servants of envy, ignorance, and malice. Second, because he had received no assistance from worthy protectors and defenders, who might have given him security. As it is said by the poet:
Oh Flaccus, there will be no want for Maros, if there is no lack of Maecenae.
Another reason was that he regarded himself obligated to devote himself to the contemplation and philosophical studies, which if not more advanced in maturity, ought none the less, as mothers to the Muses, to come before them. Moreover, because the tragic Melpomene drew him on the one hand with more matter than talent, and the comic Thalia drew him on the other hand with more talent than matter, it happened that as one took from the other, he stood between the two weak and idle, rather than doubly active. Besides, he had become a victim of the authority of the censors, who, turning him from the more worthy and noble things to which he was naturally inclined, shackled his intellect, in order to enslave him beneath the rule of a most vile and senseless hypocrisy, from the freedom he had under the rule of virtue. But finally, because of the great heat of annoyance into which he fell, it happened that having nothing else from which to draw consolation, he accepted the call of those who are said to have inspired him with certain frenzies, verses, and rimes, the like of which they never shared with anyone else. It is for that reason that this work sparkles with originality more than with imitation.
C. Tell me, what is meant by those who praise themselves by means of the myrtle and the laurel?
T. Those who can and do win praise for themselves by the myrtle are those who sing of love. If these bear themselves nobly, they win the crown of that plant concecrated to Venus who inspires them with her frenzy. Those who can praise themselves by the laurel are those who sing worthily of heroic things, who instruct heroic souls through speculative and moral philosophy, or who celebrate those heroic souls and present them as exemplary mirrors of political and civil action.
C. Are there still other species, then, of poets and awards?
T. There are not only as many as there are Muses, but a great many more besides. For, although one can distinguish certain sorts of poets and awards, one would not know how to define certain modes and species of human genius.
C. I know certain makers of poetic rules who accept with difficulty Homer as a poet, and who reject Virgil, Ovid, Martial, Hesiod, Lucretius, and many other versifiers, after having examined them according to the rules of Aristotle's Poetics.
T. You can be sure, my friend, that these are veritable blockheads, for they do not considered that those rules serve chiefly to make clear the nature of the poetry of Homer, or the nature of some other particular poet. They do not consider that those rules are there only to show us the kind of epic poet Homer was, and not to serve as modes of instruction to other poets who could in other veins, skills, and frenzies be in their several kinds equal, similar, or even greater than Homer.
C. If I understand you correctly, then, Homer in his genre was not a poet who depended upon rules, but he is the cause of the rules which serve others who are more adept at imitating than inventing. And these rules were drawn up by an author who was not a poet of any sort, but who knew how to assemble rules of that particular kind (that is, rules of Homeric poetry) for the benefit of one who would wish to be not another poet with a muse of his own, but an imitator of Homer and the ape of Homer's muse.
T. You conclude well that poetry is not born of the rules, except by the merest chance, but that the rules derived from the poetry. For that reason there are as many genres and species of true rules as there are of true poets.
C. How will the true poets, then, be recognized?
T. By our singing their verses, and by this, that when they are sung, either they will be delightful, or they will be useful, or they will be useful and delightful at the same time.
C. Whom then to the rules of Aristotle serve?
T. Those who cannot, as Homer, Hesiod, Orpheus, and others could, be a poet without the aid of Aristotle. And they serve him who, not having a muse of his own, prefers to court the muse of Homer.
C. Then certain dismal pedants of our own day are wrong, who exclude some from the rank of poets because they do not conform their speech and metaphors or the introductions of their books and songs to those of Homer or Virgil, or because they do not observe the traditional use of the invocation, or because they entwine one story with another, or end their songs with summaries of what has been said already, and with announcements of what is to come; and because of other reasons drawn from a thousand methods of examination, of censures and rules in virtue of that text. Therefore it appears that they themselves would be the true poets (should they so decide), and would easily attain the end toward which the others tend only with effort. But, if the truth were known, these pedants are nothing but worms, who do not know how to do anything well, as are born only to gnaw, soil, and hurl their dung upon the studies and labors of others; and being incapable of becoming illustrious through their own talent virtue and talent, they seek to advance themselves through the vices and errors of others.
T. Now to return to the point from which passion has led us to digress to some extent, I say that there are and can be so many kinds of sentiment and human creations, which one can adorn with garlands not only of all sorts and species of plants, but also of all types and species of material. As a result, crowns for poets are made not only of myrtle and laurel but also of the vine branch for scurrilous verses, of ivy for Bacchic verses, of olive for sacrifices and laws, of the poplar, elm and corn for agriculture, of cypress for funerals, and other garlands without number for as many other occasions; and, if you will permit, even of that material which a gallant gentleman designated, when he said:
Oh Brother Porro, poet of flukes, at Milan you girdle yourself with a garland of pudding, tripe, and sausage.
C. Therefore, through various talents which he displays in various meanings and purposes, this poet certainly will be able to adorn himself with branches of various plants, and be able to speak worthily with the muses, because near them he finds the air which comforts him, the anchor which sustained him, and the poet that welcomes him in time of fatigue, turmoil, and tempest. Thus he says, Oh mount Parnassus where I live, Muses with whom I converse, stream of Helicon (or some other) where I nourish myself, mount which gives me tranquil abode, Muses who inspire me with profound doctrine, font which refreshes me and cleanses me of every stain, mount where I lift up my heart as I ascend, Muses conversing with whom I revive my spirit, font reposing under whose shadows I adorn my brow -- change my death into life, my cypresses into laurels, and my infernos into heaven. That is to say, destine me to immortality, make me a poet, render me illustrious, the while I sing of death, cypresses, and infernose. T. Good. Because for those who are favored by heaven, the greatest evils are converted into even greater good; for necessity nourishs labors and studies, and these as a rule nourish the glory of immortal splendor. And so the death of one century brings life to all the others.
T. Next he says:
My heart is in the place and form of Parnassus, which I must ascend for my safety; my muses are the thoughts which at every hour reveal to me their glorious tale;
my fount of Helicon is there, where my eyes often pour forth profuse tears. Through such mountains, through such nymphs and waters, as it pleased heaven, I was born a poet.
Now let no king or favorable hand of any emperor, or highest priest, and sovereign shepherd
give me such favors, honors, and privileges. My heart, my thoughts, and my tears themselves cause the laurel to bear leaves for my adornment.
Here first he declares what his mount is, speaking of it as the lofty passion of his heart; secondly, what his muses are, speaking of them as the beauties and prerogatives of his object; third, what his founts are, and these he speaks of as his tears. Upon that mount his passion is enkindled, out of beauties proceeds his frenzy, and by these tears is made manifest his passion.
In this way he deems himself no less able to be crowned illustriously through his own heart, thoughts and tears, than others who are crowned by the hands of kings, emperors, and popes.
C. Make clear to me what he means when he speaks of the heart in the form of Parnassus.
T. By these words he means that the human heart contains two summits, which rise progressively from one root; and in the spiritual sense, from a single passion of the heart proceed the two contraries of hate and love. For Mount Parnassus has two summits rising from the one foundation.
T. He says:
The Captain summons all is warriors beneath a banner by the sound of the trumpet; where, if it happens that for some of them it sounds in vain, and they come not promptly,
those who are traitors he kills, the madmen he banishes from his camp or he scorns them: so the soul with those of its intentions which come not to assemble under one standard, either it wishes them dead or removed.
I regard one object, which absorbs my mind, and it is a single visage. I remain fixed upon one beauty,
which has so pierced my heart, and is a single dart; by one flame only I burn, and know but a single paradise.
The captain is the human will which sits at the stern of the soul and with the little rudder of reason governs the affections of the inferior potencies against the surge of their natural violence. With the sound of the trumpet, that is to say, by determined election, he summons all his warriors; that is, he calls forth all the potencies of the soul (warriors we call them because they are in continuous conflict and opposition), or the effects of those potencies, which are the conflicting thoughts, some of which incline toward one, and others toward the other contrary; and he seeks to assemble them beneath a single banner for a determined end. If it happens that some of these thoughts which are required to present themselves promptly and obediently are called in vain, (especially those which proceed from the natural powers that either do not obey the reason at all or obey it very little), the captain is forced at least to prevent those thoughts from taking action, and if this cannot be accomplished, he condemns them; it is thus that he is shown as one who would put some of them to death and banish the others, proceeding against the former with the sword of anger, and against the latter with the whip of distain.
Here he regards one object to which he is turned by his intention. A single visage pleases him and absorbs his mind. In a single beauty he is delighted and pleased, and is said to remain fixed upon it, because the work of the intelligence is not an operation of motion, but one of rest. And from that beauty only does he conceive the dart which kills him; that is, which summons him to the ultimate end of perfection. He burns by one flame only, that is, he is sweetly consumed by a single love.
C. Why is love symbolized by fire?
T. Putting aside many other reasons for the moment, let this suffice for you now. Love converts the thing loved into the lover, as the fire, among all the most active elements, is able to convert all the other simple and complex elements into itself.
C. Now continue.
T. He knows a paradise, that is, a principal end; because paradise commonly means the end; and here one must distinguish between the end which is absolute in truth and essence, and that end which is so by similitude, shadow, and partipation. According to the first mode, there cannot be more than one end, just as there is only one ultimate and prime good; according to the second mode, there are an infinite number.
Love, fate, the object, and jealousy are for me pleasure, torment, content, and distress.
The senseless boy, the blind and guilty one, the supreme beauty and my one sole death
shows me paradise, and snatches it away, presents me with every good, and withdraws it from me; so much so that the heart, mind, spirit, and soul have joy, have discomfort, have refreshment, and a heavy burden.
Who will rescue me from the conflict? Who will make me enjoy the fruit of my good in peace?
Who will put that which wearies me far from that which delights me, so as to cause my ardors and my tears to become happy ones?
In this verse he shows the cause and the origin whence his frenzy is conceived and his enthusiasm is born -- by ploughing the field of the Muses, by scattering the seeds of his thoughts there, by aspiring to love's harvest, and discovering the fervor of the sun in the heat of his own passions and the humour of the rain in his own tears. He places four things first: love, his fate, the object, and jealousy. Here love is not a base, ignoble and unworthy mover, but a heroic lord and his guide. Fate is nothing else than the fatal disposition and order of mishaps to which he is subjected by his destiny. The object is the lovable thing and the correlative of the lover, and it is clear that jealousy is the zeal of the lover concerning the thing loved; it is not necessary to explain this to him who has tasted love, and in vain shall we strain ourselves to explain it to others. Love pleases because to him who loves it is pleasant to love; and he who truly loves would not wish not to love. Wherefore I do not wish to omit referring to that which I have shown in this sonnet of mine:
Dear, gentle, and revered wound of that sweet dart, which love ever chooses; lofty, gracious, and precious ardor, which makes the soul toss in ever burning delight,
what virtue of herb, or force of magic art, will ever release you from the center of my heart, since the fresh onslaught which strikes there at every hour, delights me the more it torments me?
My sweet pain, new in the world and rare, when shall I ever escape from your burden, since the remedy is weariness to me, and the pain delight?
Eyes, flames, and bow of my lord, twofold fire in the soul, and arrows in the heart, because the languishing is sweet to me, and the fire is dear.
His fate torments because of the unhappy and unwished for events, or because it causes the subject to be esteemed less worthy of enjoying its object, and less proportioned to its dignity; or because it does not permit reciprocal relation between the lover and his object; or for other reasons and obstacles which confront him. The object makes the subject content, who does not nourish himself with anything else, who seeks nothing else, occupies himself with nothing else and because of that objects banishes every other thought. Jealousy distresses inasmuch as it is the daughter of that love from which it derives, the inseparable companion and sign of that love, -- and where love manifests itself jealousy is understood as a necessary consequence, a counter-proof of which one can find among generations which, from the frigidity of the climate and backwardness of spirit, comprehend less, love little and thus know nothing of jealousy -- inasmuch, I say, as it is the daughter of love, its companion and its sign, it never ceases to disturb and poisons everything found beautiful and good in loves. Therefore as I have said in another one of my sonnets:
Oh daughter so guilty of love and envy, that you turn the joys of your father into pain, the adroit Argus to disaster, and the blind idiot to well being, minister of torment, Jealousy,
infernal Tisiphone, fetid harpy, who seizes and poisons the sweets of others; cruel Auster, through whom the loveliest flower of my hope must languish;
wild beast odious to yourself, bird foreboding of nothing but mourning, pain which enters the heart through a thousand gates,
if one could deny you entrance, the kingdom of love would be as sweet as a world without hate and without death.
Add to what has been said that Jealousy is not only sometimes the death and ruin of the lover, but on many occasions kills love itself, especially when it nurtures contempt; for then jealousy becomes so dominated by its offspring that it extinguishes love and puts the object to scorn; in fact, makes it no longer the object.
C. Now explain the other particulars which follow; that is, the reason why love is called the senseless boy.
T. I shall explain everything. Love is called the senseless boy, not because it is foolish of itself, but because it makes most lovers foolish and in such lovers is a foolish thing. But in those who are the more intellectual and speculative, love raises the mind the more and purifies the intellect the more, awakening it, filling it with zeal and prudence, developing a heroic ardor of the soul, and an emulation of virtue and magnanimity in the desire to please and become worthy of the thing loved. By the majority love is understood as crazy and stupid, for love makes most men pour forth their peciliar sentiments and urges them on in exaggeration, because it finds their spirit, soul, and body badly constituted and incapable of considering and distinguishing what has is fitting for them from what renders them more deformed, and thus makes them subjects of scorn, laughter, and vituperation.
C. They say commonly and proverbially that love makes old men mad, and young men sages.
T. The former unseemliness does not fall to all old men, nor does the latter advantage fall to all young men; but it is true of the latter who are well constituted, and of the former who are badly constituted. And therefore it is certain that whoever is accustomed in youth to love with discernment, in old age will love without going astray. But derision and laughter belong to those who at a mature age would, as it were, begin to learn their alphabet.
C. Now tell me, why is his destiny or fate called blind and guilty?
T. Fate is called blind and even guilty not of itself, for it is the very number and measured order of the universe; but with respect to its subjects it is called blind and is blind because it renders them blind to its view by being itself most uncertain. And similarly fate is called guilty because there is no mortal whose lamentations and complaints do not accuse it in some way. Thus the Apulian poet said:
How is it Maecenas, that no one in the world seems happy with the lot he has chosen or that heaven reserved for him? (Horace, Satires i. 1. 1-3)
He then calls the object supreme beauty because to him it is unique and most eminent and efficacious for drawing him to itself, and for that reason does he deem it most worthy and most noble; and yet he feels the object to be dominant and superior over him, as he is rendered subject and enslaved by it. My one sole death he says of jealousy because just as love has no more inseparable companion than jealousy, so love has no sense of any greater enemy; just as nothing is more an enemy to iron than rust, though that rust is generated of the same iron.
C. Now since you have begun by this method, proceed to show point by point what remains.
T. I shall do so. Next he says of love, It shows me paradise. By this he means that love is not blind of itself, and renders certain lovers blind not because of its nature, but because of the ignoble dispositions of the subject as it happens that the nocturnal birds become blind in the presence of the sun. With respect to itself, therefore, love illumines, makes clear, opens the intellect, makes all things penetrate and spurs miraculous impulses toward the good.
T. I'm quite certain the Nolan shows this in another one of his sonnets:
Love who shows me so high a truth that it opens black portals of diamond, enters its deity through the eyes and by the sight is born, lives, is nourished, and reigns eternally
and makes me perceive how much heaven, earth, and hell conceal. Love brings to light the true forms of absent things, regains force and with a sure dart stabs and ever wounds the heart, uncovers what is within.
Oh, therefore, vile herd, heed the truth, lend your ear to my words that are not fallacious, senseless and squint-eyed ones, open, open your eyes, if you can.
You believe the boy, because you understand little; because you change swiftly, to you he seems fleeting; in your blindness, you call him blind.
Love therefore shows him paradise because it makes him know, understand, and accomplish the highest things, or because it gives grandeur at least in appearance to the things loved. Fate snatches paradise away he says, for often fate does not concede to the deceived lover all love has shown him, inasmuch as what he sees and longs for is distant and opposed to him. It presents me with every good, he says of the object, because the thing which love points out to him seems to him unique, principal, and ultimate. It withdraws it from me, he says of Jealousy, not because it actually wrings every good from his presence and from his view, but because it makes the good no longer a good but an agonizing evil; the sweet no longer sweet but an agonizing languor. Therefore the heart, that is to say, the will find joy, and finds it in that very will through the power of love regardless of the outcome. The mind, in that part that recognizes that it partakes of an ungracious fate has grief. The spirit, otherwise called the natural affection, finds refreshment in being captivated by that object which gives joy to the heart and can satisfy the intellect. The soul as the passive and sensitive substance has a heavy burden because it finds itself oppressed by the heavy weight of the jealousy which torments it.
After a consideration of his state, he adds a woeful lament, and says, Who will rescue me from the conflict and give me peace; who will separate that which wearies me and condemns me from that which pleases me, and open heaven's gates to me, so that the burning flames of my heart may be sweet and my tears be happy? Then, continuing his proposal, he adds:
O, Destiny, my enemy, go torment others. And you, Jealousy, go forth from the world. That noble visage and insatiable Love alone, assisted by their royal attendants can accomplish everything;
for love snatches me from life, she from death, she gives me wings, he burns my heart; he kills my soul; she revives it; she is my systainer and he is my bereaved burden.
But what have I to say of Love, if Love and her noble visage are only one being or one form, if by the same command and law
they leave one imprint in the center of my heart? They are not two then. They are one which make my lot joyous and melancholy.
Four principles and extremes of two contraries he would reduce to two principles and one contrariety. This is why he says, Ah me, torment the others, which is to say, it is enough, oh my destiny, that you have oppressed me to this extent, and (since you cannot exist without activity) turn your fury elsewhere. And you, Jealousy, go forth from the world, because one of the other two which remain will be able to take your vicissitudes and functions upon itself: for you, my destiny, are not other than my Love, and you, Jealousy, are not foreign to Love's substance. Therefore it is Love that remains to deprive me of life, to burn me, to give me death and to put all its weight upon my bones. As for her noble visage, it remains there to snatch me from death, to give me wings, to revise and sustain me. Finally, these two principles and one contrariety he reduces to a single principal and to a single efficacy, when he says: but what have I to say of Love? If her visage belongs to his empire, which is none other than that of Love; if then the law of Love is the same as her law; if the impression of Love sealed in my heart is certainly none other than her impression, what need is there, then, having called it a noble visage, to speak of it again as an insatiable Love?
T. Here the frenzied one begins to reveal his passions and disclose the wounds which are represented as wounds of the body, but are substantially or essentially wounds of the soul; and he speaks thus:
I who carry the lofty banner of love, have frozen hopes and burning desires: at one and the same time I tremble, freeze, burn, and sparkle, I am dumb, and I fill the sky with ardent shrieks.
My heart throws off sparks, while my eyes distil water; and I live and die, laugh and lament; the waters remain living, and the fire does not die, because I have Thetis in my eyes and Vulcan in my heart.
I love another and despise myself; but if by spread my wings, the other is changed to stone; the other is raised to heaven, if I am thrust below;
the other always flees, if I ceaselessly pursue; if I call, there is no reply, and the more I seek, the more is hidden from me.
A propos of this poem I would like to return to what I was saying a little while ago. It is not necessary to tire one's self out proving what is so evident:
nothing is pure and unmixed (and, as some used to say, nothing that is a composite is a true entity; for composite gold is not pure gold and mixed wine is not true and pure wine); moreover, all things are made of contraries, and because of this composition in all things never do the affections which engage us bring us delight without also bringing something bigger. In fact, I shall go further; if it were not for the bitter in things there would not be delight, just as hard labor makes us find delight in rest; separation is the cause of our finding pleasure in union; and if we investigate the matter generally, it will always be found that one contrary is the occasion for the other contrary's desirability and pleasure.
C. Then there is no delight without its contrary?
T. Definitely not, just as without its opposite there is no pain, as the Pythagorean poet expresses it when he says:
They fear and desire, sorrow and rejoice; nor do their eyes pierce the air while barred in the blind darkness of their prison house (Virgil, Aeneid vi. 733-734)
Such are the consequences of the composition of things. This is how it happens that none is satisfied with his lot, except some insensate and stupid person, satisfied so much the more as he finds himself in the last degree of the obscure phase of his folly; for then he has little or no apprehension of his evil, he enjoys the present without fear of the future, he is fully content with himself and with the world which surrounds him, and he has no remorse or care for what is or may be; and finally, he as no sense of the contrariety represented by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
C. From this we see that ignorance is the mother of felicity and sensuous happiness; and this same happiness is the garden of paradise of the animals, as it is made clear in the dialogues of the Cabala of the Pegasian Horse and in that which the wise Solomon says: Who increases wisdom, increases sorrow (Eccl. 1.18).
T. From this we learn that heroic love is a torment, because it does not rejoice in the present as animal love does but in the future and the absent; and its contrary awakens in it ambition, emulation, suspicion, and fear. Thus one of our neighbors said one evening after dinner: Never was I so happy as I am now; -- Giouanni Bruno, father of the Nolan, replied: -- Neither were you ever more mad than now. --
C. Do you mean then, that he who is sad, is wise, and he who is sadder is even wiser?
T. No, in fact I mean that in these is another species of madness, and one much worse.
C. If he who is content is mad, and he is who is sad is mad, then who has wisdom?
T. He who is neither content nor sad.
C. Who then? He who sleeps? He who has no feeling? He who is dead?
T. No; but he who endures, observes, and understands; who, considering the evil and the good, holding the one and the other as something variable and subject to movement, mutation, and change (so that the end of one contrary is the beginning of the other, and the extreme stage of one is the commencement of the other), takes care neither to humiliation himself, nor becomes puffed up with pride, moderates his inclinations and tempers his desires; for him it is an established fact that pleasures not pleasure, because he is ever aware of its limits, and in the same way pain to him is not pain, because he is aware of its limits by the power of reflection. In this manner the wise holds all mutable things as things which do not exist, and he believes these are nothing else but vanity and nothingness, because the same proportion exists between finite time and eternity that exists between mere point and the line.
C. So that never can we appropriately hold the view that we are content or discontent without also holding that we are mad and without expressly confessing it; and no one who debates the question and thus participates in it will be wise. Consequently in the end everyone will be mad.
T. I do not intend this conclusion; for I would call him most wise who could truly express one of his contrary states occasionally by means of the other: -- Never have I been less happy than now; -- or again: -- Never have I been less sad than now --.
C. But where two contrary feelings are evident, how is it that you do not see two contrary qualities? I mean, why do you understand the minimum happiness and the minimum sadness and two virtues and not as one vice and one virtue?
T. For the reason that both contraries in excess (that is, when they begin to go beyond their limits) are vices, for they exceed their range; and inasmuch as these move toward the lesser degree they become virtue because they are contained and enclosed within their extremes.
C. How is the state of lesser content and the state of lesser sadness not one virtue and one vice, but two virtues?
T. I say further that they are one and the same virtue; for where there is contrariety there is vice; and contrariety is there above all where the extreme is; the greater contrariety is nearest to the extreme, and least contrary or no contrary at all is in the middle where the extremes meet and become one and indifferent. For example, between the extremes of hot and cold is the more cold, and in the middle is the point you can call either hot or cold, or neither hot nor cold, a point at which no extremes are found. In the same way he who is the least content and the least happy is at the degree of indifference, and finds himself in the house of temperance where virtue resides and the condition of a strong soul, which does not give way to the south wind for the north.
This is the reason why, to come to our point, the heroic frenzy, which our present discourse somewhat clarifies, differs from other more ignoble frenzies not as virtue differs from vice, but as vice practiced in a divine way by a more divine subject differs from vice practiced in a bestial way by a more bestial subject. Therefore, the difference is not according to the form of vice itself, but according to the subjects who practice it in different ways.
C. From what you have said, I can very will infer the state of this frenzied lover who says, I have frozen hopes, and burning desires, because he is not in the temperance of indifference, but in the excess of contraries, his soul in discord; if he trembles in frigid hopes, he burns in hot desires; and if his insatiability wrings shrieks from him, fear renders him dumb; he throws off sparks from his heart for the love of another, and in compassion for himself tears flow from his eyes; he dies in the laughter of another, lives in his own complaints; and as one who no longer belongs to himself, he loves another and despises himself. Similarly physicians say that matter hates its present form in proportion to its love of the form that it does not have. And thus the eighth verse concludes with the war which the soul has within itself; and then, when the poet says in the sestet, but if I spread my wings, the other is changed to stone, and in what follows, he shows the suffering imposed upon him by the war he wages with the contraries external to him.
I recall having read this sentence in Iamblicus, where the Egyptian mysteries are treated, Impiously he has a divided will; therefore he can live neither with himself nor with others.
T. Now listen to another sonnet whose import follows upon what has been said:
Ah, what a condition, what a nature, or what a destiny is mine! I endure a living death, and a dead life! Ah me! love has killed me by such a death, so that I am deprived of both life and death.
Drained of hope at the gates of hell, overflowing with desire, I reach out to heaven; and as an eternal slave to two contraries, I am banished from heaven and from hell.
There is no respite for my pain, because between two burning wheels, one which draws me here, the other there,
like Ixion, I must pursue myself and escape myself, because the spur and the bit provide a contrary lesson to my doubtful fifth discourse.
He shows how he endures the division and discord within himself. The discord occurs when the affection, leaving the middle region and final goal of temperance, tends to one and the other extreme; and when the affection is transported high or to the right, it is also transported below and to the left.
C. How does that affection which is neither exactly at one or the other extreme fail to come within the state or bounds of virtue?
C. Affection is in the state of virtue when it establishes itself in the mean, departing from the one and the other extreme; when it tends to be extremes, inclining to one or the other of them, it falls short of virtue so much that it becomes a double vice; and vice consists in this, that a thing deviates from its own nature whose perfection consists in unity; and the composition of virtue is at the point where the contraries unite.
Here, then, is how he is dead though living, and alive while dying; as when he says, I endure a living death and a dead life. He is not dead, because he lives in the object, he is not alive, because he is dead to himself; he is deprived of death, because he nurtures thoughts in the object; he is deprived of life, because in himself he neither can vegetate nor sense anything. Besides, he is most base when he considers the loftiness of the intelligible object and realizes the weakness of his power. He is most lofty through the aspiration of the heroic desire that carries him far above the limit of his own nature, most lofty through the intellectual appetite whose operation and design is not to join his desire to its object; and he is most base because of the violence brought upon him by the contrary sensuality weighing down toward the inferno. Therefore, finding himself rising and falling, in his soul he feels the greatest discord possible, and he remains confused by the rebellion of the sensuality which spurs him to the point where reason, acting in a contrary way, restraints him. This is precisely what is shown in the following dialogue. Here reason interrogates in the name of Filenio, and the frenzied lover replies in the name of Pastore, who labors to watch over the flock of his thoughts, which he feeds in the homage and service of his nymph, that is, in the service of the affection of that object to which he has become enslaved.
F. Shepherd boy!
P. What do you wish?
F. What are you doing?
P. I suffer.
P. Because both life and death reject me.
F. Who is responsible?
F. That mischievous one?
P. That mischievous one.
F. Where is he?
P. In the center of my heart, strongly fixed.
F. What does he do there?
P. He stabs.
F. With what means?
P. With her eyes, portals of heaven and hell.
F. Do you have hope?
P. I do.
F. The pity of whom?
P. Of her who tortures me night and day.
F. Does she have it too?
P. I don't know.
F. You're mad.
P. But what if such madness is pleasant to the soul?
F. Does she promised anything?
F. Does she refuse?
P. Not even that.
F. Is she silent?
P. Yes, because decorum has taken the boldness from me.
F. Your raving.
F. Because you suffer.
P. I fear her disdain more than I do my torments.
He tells of his intense pain, he laments of his love certainly not because he loves (for new no lover really dislikes loving) but because he loves unhappily and has submitted to the arrows which are the rays of those eyes, which, accordingly as they express disdain and refusal, or on the contrary as they express benevolence and favor, become the portals which lead to heaven, or, on the other hand, to hell. Therefore he is maintained in the hope of future and uncertain mercy, and in the condition of present and certain martyrdom. And even though his own madness may be clearly evident to him, never does he managed to correct himself of it is at any point; nor can he even conceive of it as unpleasant; and the more he errs because of that madness the more he delights in it, and he shows us where he says:
May it never be that I lament of love, for without love I never would be happy.
Next he shows another species of frenzy, nourished by a certain light of reason, a species which excites fear and destroys the madness already mentioned, so that it does not lead to any act that would irritates or disdain the thing loved. Therefore, he says his hope is founded upon the future, although nothing is promised or denied him; for he is silent and asks nothing for fear of offending chastity. He does not dare explain himself or make any proposal which could avail to exclude him by a rejection, or assure him by a promise; for in his mind the evil that could come to him in the one case weighs more than the good that could come to him in the other. He shows himself, then, more readily dispose to suffer his particular torment forever than to risk opening the door to what might be an occasion of trouble and sadness to his beloved object.
C. This proves his love is truly heroic, for he wishes for himself the favor of her spirit and the good will of affection as objects more important than her corporeal beauty, a beauty in which the love he has for the divine is not satisfied.
T. You know very well that there are three species of Platonic raptures. One tends to the contemplative or the speculative life; one toward the active or moral life and the last toward the life of idleness and voluptuousness; similarly there are three species of love: one which from the aspect of the corporeal form rises to a consideration of the spiritual and the divine; another which perserveres only in the delight of the sight and in conversation; and finally another which descends from a sight to the concupiscence of the touch. Of these three modes others are composed, accordingly as the first is accompanied by the second or by the third, or as all three concur together; and beyond this each one of these is multiplied into others besides, according to the affections of the frenzied lovers which tend either more to the spiritual or more toward the corporeal object or toward both of them equally. As a result, among those who are found in this band, imprisoned as they all are in love's snare, some propose for the accomplishment of their desire to gather the fruit of the tree of corporeal beauty, and, failing in this satisfaction (or at least in some hope of it), they deem decisive and vain every other amorous labor. This is the way of those who are of a barbarous mind, who neither can nor desire to attain greater dignity for themselves by loving worthy things, by aspiring toward illustrious things, and higher still, by applying their ardors and their deeds to divine things; for to such ardors and deeds nothing but heroic love can more generously and efficaciously supply the wings. The goal others propose for themselves is the fruit of gratification they take from the aspect of beauty and grace of spirit which shines and radiates in bodily charm; and although some of these love the body and long very much for union with a body, lament its inaccessibility and are saddened by separation from it, they always fear their claim to it might deprive them of the affability, conversation, friendship, and concord most important to them; for the assurance of the success of their efforts could not be greater than the fear of losing the favor they looked upon as a thing so glorious and worthy.
C. Because of the many virtues and perfection found in the human mind, Tansillo, it is worthy to seek, accept, nourish, and preserve such a love; but one must still take great care not to debase himself by becoming obligated to an unworthy and degraded object, lest he participate in its ignobility and indignity. I believe this was the significance of the counsel given by the poet of Ferarra:
Seek to rescue him who steps into love's snare without having your wings entangled.
T. To tell the truth, an object of no greater splendor than beauty of the body is not worthy of being loved for any other purpose than to propagate the species (as they say); and it seems to me proper to the swine and the horse to be tormented for that purpose; as for myself never have I been more fascinated by such a beauty than I am now over some statue or painting, for these, it seems to me, are things of the same order. It would be then a great shame for a noble spirit to say, speaking of a filthy, vile, sluggish, and ignoble soul (no matter how excellent its corporeal dress), I fear her scorn more than my torment.
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