Giordano Bruno


Translation by Paulo Eugene Memmo, Jr., 1964

Fifth Dialogue


C. Let me have a look here, so than by my own effort I may be able to consider the states of these frenzies, according to the arrangement of the militia presented here.

T. Notice how the warriors carry the emblems of their affections and their fortunes. Let us consider their names and their dress. Let it suffice us to give our attention to the meaning of the emblems and to the meaning of what is written, as well as to the motto which accompanies the emblematic figure and the poem which completes the figure by clarifying its sense.

C. This is most agreeable. Here then is the first one. He carries a shield divided in four colors; on the crest of the shield is painted a flame underneath a head of bronze, from whose apertures a smoky wind issues with great force and written above are the words, At regna senserunt tria ('But three realms afflict him').

T. I shall give you some clarification of the above. As one can see, the presence of the flame warms the globe, in which water is contained, and causes this humid element, rendered lighter and less dense by virtue of the heat, to resolve itself into vapor and consequently to demand a much greater space to contain it. If the water does not find an easy exit, it bursts forth with the greatest force and destruction to crack the vessel; but if an easy exit is procured for it, it issues out little by little with less violence and according to the extent of its evaporation exhales and expands into air. This figure represents the frenzied one's heart whose organization has been well disposed to the contact of love's flame, and consequently from its vital substance one part (of the heart) sparkles in flames, another part is transformed into abundant weeping rising from the breast, and still another sends up a wind of sighs to incense the air.

And that is the reason for the words, At regna senserunt tria. Here the word at has the virtue of implying difference, diversity, and opposition, as if to say that there is some one else who is capable of experiencing the same feelings, and yet does not experience them. This is very well explained in the verse placed underneath the emblematic figure:

From my twin lights I, a little earth, am wont to pour forth no sparing humor to the sea; the sighs hidden within my breast the avid winds receive in no small measure;

and the flame loosed from my heart mounts to the sky without diminishing. With tears, sighs, and my ardor I render a tribute to the sea,

to the air and to the fire. Water, air, and fire receive some part of me; but my goddess shows herself so iniquitous and cruel,

that my tears find no solace in her, nor does she hear my cries, nor does she ever turn in pity toward my ardor.

Here the material subject represented by the earth is the substance of the frenzied lover. From twin lights, that is to say, from his eyes, he pours forth copious tears which flow into the sea; from his breast he sends an abundance and multitude of sighs to the immense receptacle of the air; and the fire of his heart does not abate upon the stream of air like a small or weak flame, does not resolve into smoke and transmigrate into another essence, but, powerful and vigorous (rather nourishing itself upon some other substance than abandoning anything of its own), it joins a kindred sphere.

C. I have understood it well. Now to the other.


T. He who comes next has on his shield, also divided into four colors, a crest in which the sun extends its rays upon the back of the earth; and there is the motto, Idem semper ubique totum ('always and everywhere the same.)

C. I see that this cannot be easy to interpret.

T. The meaning is the more excellence, as it is the less vulgar, and you will see that it is single, unified, and not strained. You must consider that although the sun appears different with respect to different regions of the earth according to time and place, nevertheless with respect to the entire globe it acts always and everywhere in the same way, for in whatever point of the ecliptic it may find itself, it causes winter, summer, autumn, and spring, and the entire earthly globe receives these four seasons because of it. For it is never hot in one part but it is cold in an other. When it is hottest for us in the topic of Cancer, it is coldest in the tropic of Capricorn, so that the sun is the cause of the summer here, the winter there, and the cause of the spring and autumn according to the disposition of the middle and temperate regions. Therefore the earth is always subject to rain, wind, heat, cold; in fact the earth would not be wet in one part, if it were not dry in the other, and the sun would not heat it from one side, if it had not withdrawn its heat from the other.

C. Before you complete your argument, I understand what you and the frenzied lover mean. As the sun always directs its impressions upon the earth and as the earth always receives all of them entirely, so does the lover's object by its active splendor render him passively to tears, symbolized by the waters, to passions, symbolized by the flames, and to sighs, symbolized by these intermediate vapors which depart from the fire and proceed to the waters, or depart from the waters and proceed to the fire.

T. It is very well explained in the following sonnet:

When the sun sets in Capricorn, there is no torrent the rains do not enrich; when it returns through the Equinox, then are unleashed the messengers of Aeolus,

and it enkindles us by a more prolific day whenever it reascends to burning Cancer. But my tears, sighs, and ardors do not accord with these frosts, tempests, and hot seasons;

for I am always in tears, no matter how intense my sighs and fires. And though I know too much of water and fire,

never does it happen that I sigh the less, and there is no limit to my burning amid sighs and previous weeping.

C. The meaning of the emblem is explained less by this poem than by the preceding commentary; for the poem follows rather as a consequence and companion of the commentary.

T. Say rather that the emblem is implied in the commentary, and the motto is fully explained in the poem. For both the emblem and the motto are most appropriately represented by the symbol of the sun and the earth.

C. Let us proceed to the third.


T. The third lover carries upon a shield a nude boy lying upon the green meadow. The boy rests his head upon his arm, and turns his eyes to the sky toward certain edifices, houses, towers, landscapes, and gardens set above the clouds; and a castle is also to be found whose walls are made of fire, with the motto, Mutuo fulcimur ('Mutually we are sustained').

C. What does this mean?

T. You are to understand that the nude boy represents the frenzied lover, simple, pure, and exposed to all the accidents of nature and fortune, who with his powerful imagination builds castles in the air and, among other things, a tower, whose architect is love, whose walls are the amorous fires and whose builder is himself who says, Mutuo fulcimur. This is to say, I build and sustain you up there with my thoughts, and you sustain me here below with hope. You would not exist were it not for my imagination and my thought which forms and sustains you; and I would not be alive were it not for the consolation and the comfort I received because of you.

C. It is true that even the most vain and chimerical fancy can be a more real and genuine medicine to a frenzied heart than the herbs, stones, oils, or other products produced by nature.

T. Magicians can do more by means of faith than doctors by means of the truth, and in the gravest illnesses the sick profit more by believing all that the first say, than by understanding all that the second do. Now let us read the verse.

Beyond the clouds, in the highest region, sometimes when I burn in delirium, for the refreshment and deliverance of my spirit I form a castle of fire in the air.

If my fatal destiny incline a little, so that the sovereign grace bend without scorn and anger toward the flame which kills me, O happy my pain and my death!

Oh, youth, of your flames and of your snares -- because of which men and gods sigh and become slaves --

I do not feel the ardor, nor the burden, but, you, O love, can cause them to possess me, if your merciful hand will lead you to uncover my torment.

C. The lover in this poem shows that what nourishes his fancy and revives his spirit is the belief (for he lacks the boldness to explain and make known his pain to himself, profoundly subject as he is to martyrdom) that, if severe and rebellious fate bend somewhat (and finally decide to smile upon him) by making the lofty object reveal itself to him without scorn and anger, such good fortune would make him deem no joy so happy, no life so blessed as the happiness he would find in his pain and the blessedness he would find in death.

T. And thus he begins to explain to Love that, if it can ever have access to his heart, it will never be by using the armed might whereby he usually triumphs over men and gods; but only by uncovering his burning heart and tormented spirit; for only by such a sight will compassion be able to open the way to him and introduce him to that difficult abode.


C. What is the meaning of that fly which flies around the flame and is almost at the point of being burned, and the meaning of the motto, Hostis non hostis ('an enemy yet not an enemy')?

T. It is not difficult to understand that the fly, which is seduced by the beauty of the dazzling light, throws itself innocent and full of love into the deadly flame. For that reason hostis refers to the scalding effect of the flame; non hostis refers to the desire of the fly. Thus hostis, the fly as passive; non hostis (the fly) as active. Hostis, the flame because of its fire; non hostis, because of its splendor.

C. Now what is that written on the tablet?


May it never be that I lament of love, without which I do not wish felicity. Even if it be true that I toil for it in pain, I can only desire what it grants me.

Whether the sky is clear or obscured, cold or burning, I shall ever be a true phoenix, for another destiny or fate can hardly untie that knot which death cannot untied.

For the heart, for the spirit, and for the soul there is no pleasure, liberty, or life which smiles so much, rejoices, and is so welcomed,

is so sweet, so gracious, and so excellent as the hardship, yoke, and death provided for me by nature, will, and destiny.

This emblem shows the similarity between the frenzied lover and the fly drawn toward the light. But then the poem makes apparent their difference more than their similarity. For one ordinarily believes that if the fly could foresee its own ruin, it would rather flee the flame than pursue it as it does now, for it would hold it evil to lose itself by dissolving in the inimical fire. But the frenzied one would like to perish in a flames of love no less than he would like rapturously to contemplate the beauty of that rare splendor beneath whose sway by the inclination of nature, his own free choice and the disposition of fate he toils, serves, and dies, more joyful, more resolved, and more valiant than the influence of any other pleasure offered to his heart, liberty offered to his spirit, and life reawakened in his soul.

C. Tell me, why does he say, I shall ever be one?

T. Because he thinks it worthy to explain that the reason for his constancy is that the wise man does not change like the moon. It is the stupid man who changes as the moon does, but this lover is one and immovable, like the Phoenix.


C. Good. But what does that branch of palm mean, accompanied by the motto, Caesar adest ('Caesar is here')?

T. Without too much discussion all may be understood by reference to the writing on the tablet:

Unconquered hero of Pharsalia, although your warriors were almost extinct when they saw you, they rose again most potent in battle and subdued your haughty enemies.

Thus does my good, which is equal to heaven's blessedness, in revealing itself to the sight of my thoughts whose light was obscured by my scornful soul, revive them so that they are more powerful than love.

Its sole presence, or the memory of it, so revives them, that with sway and divine power

they reduce every contrary violence. My good governs me in peace, but does not abandon its snare nor its torch.

The inferior powers of the soul, like a valiant and inimical army which one finds disciplined, skilled, and well provided in its own country, sometimes turn against the foreign enemy, who descends from the high summit of the intelligence to dominate the people of the valley and the swampy plains. It happens that, because of the harassing presence of the enemy and the difficulty of the precipitous swamps, these people find themselves almost lost, and in fact would be lost, were it not for a certain conversion by the act of contemplation to the splendor of the intelligible species; for the act of contemplation there is a conversion from the inferior to the superior degrees.

C. What are these degrees?

T. The degrees of contemplation are like the degrees of light. Light, which is never in darkness but sometimes appears shadowy, is seen better in colors in the order of their progression from one extreme, black, to the opposite extreme, white; is more efficaciously in the refulgence diffused upon refined and transparent bodies as in the reflection of a mirror or the moon; is more vividly in the rays scattered from the sun, and in the highest and most principal degree, is seen in the sun itself. Now the potencies of comprehension and affection are ordered in such a way that a potency always has an affinity for the one immediately above it, and each potency by a conversion toward the one which raises it reinforces itself against the inferior one that draws it down (as the reason, converted to the intellect, is not seduced or conquered by the sensitive powers); consequently, when the rational appetite clashes with the sensual concupiscence and by the act of contemplation confronts the intellectual light, then it retrieves its lost virtue, reinforces its nerves, frightens the enemy and puts him to rout.

C. In what way do you mean that this conversion takes place?

T. By three preparations which the contemplative Plotinus notes in his book Of the Divine Intelligence [Enneads 5.8]. The first is by resolving to conform the vision to the divine likeness by turning the sight from things equal or inferior to its own perfection; the second is by applying the vision with every purpose and attention to the superior species; the third is by submitting the entire world and affection to God. For he who behaves in this way is beyond a doubt infused with the divinity, present everywhere and ready to penetrate him who turns himself to it by an intellectual act and offers himself to it by the will's affection without reserve.

C. Then it is not corporeal beauty which this lover longs for?

T. Certainly not; because not being true or constant, corporeal beauty cannot be the cause of true or constant love. The beauty one sees in a body is an accident and a shadow, and is like other things that are altered, tainted, and wasted by the mutation of the subject, which from beautiful often becomes ugly without any alteration taking place in the soul. The reason then apprehends the truest beauty by converting itself to the thing which gives the body its beauty and its form; and this thing is the soul, the modeller and sculptor of the body. After this, the intellect rises further and well understands that the beauty of the soul is incomparably superior to the beauty found in bodies; but it is not persuaded that the soul is beautiful essentially and in itself; for if it were, there would not be the differences one sees within the genus of souls, some of which are wise, amiable, and lovely, others stupid, odious, and ugly. It is necessary, then, to be raised to that superior intellect which is beautiful in itself and good in itself. This is that one and supreme captain, who alone, placed in the sight of militant thoughts, illuminates them, encourages them, reinforces them, and assures them of victory through scorn for every other beauty and the repudiation of every other good. This, then, is the presence which overcomes every difficulty and conquers every violence.

C. I understand completely. But what is the significance of, there it governs me in peace, but does not abandon its snare, nor its torch?

T. It means and proves that love of whatever sort, the stronger its empire and the more certain its power, makes its bonds more tight, its yoke more firm, and flames more ardent, unlike the ordinary prince or tyrant who uses the greatest force and constraint when his power is weakest.

C. Let us go to the next one.


T. Here I see an image of a flying phoenix toward which a little boy is turned who burns in the midst of flames, and I see the motto, Fata obstant ('Their fates run contrary'). But in order to understand this better, let us read the tablet:

Unique bird of the sun, lovely Phoenix, who are as old as the world in happy Arabia, you are still what you always were, while I am no longer the same.

Because of the fire of love I die unhappy, while you the sun revives with its rays. You burn in one, but I in every place. I from Cupid, but you from Phoebus have your flame.

You have predestined for you the term of a long life, and I have a brief one, whose end is offered me in ruins without number.

I know neither the life I shall live, nor the life I have lived. A blind destiny leads me, while you, assured of yours, turn once again toward your heart.

The sense of the verse shows us that the emblem represents the antithesis between the fate of the phoenix and the fate of the frenzied one, and that the motto, Fata obstant, does not mean the fates are contrary either to the boy or to the phoenix, or to the two of them, but that for each one of them the decrees of fate, far from being the same are different and opposite. For the phoenix is what it was, inasmuch as by the fire the body of the phoenix is renewed in the same material, and its form is renewed by the same spirit and soul. The frenzied one is what he was not, because as a human subject he belonged previously to some other species, separated from the human species by differences without number. Therefore one knows what the phoenix was and knows what it shall be, but only in terms of many and uncertain metamorphoses shall this lover be able to clothe himself again in a natural form identical or similar to the one which is his today. Besides, the phoenix in the presence of the sun changes death for life, and this subject in the presence of love changes life for death. And further, the phoenix consumes itself on the aromatic altar, and the lover finds his fire everywhere and takes it with him wherever he goes. Moreover the phoenix is assured of the terms of a long life, but the lover because of infinite vicissitudes of time and innumerable reasons of circumstance has only the uncertain term of a short life. The phoenix enkindles itself with certainty, the lover burns in the doubt of ever seeing the sun again.

C. What do you suppose this emblem represents?

T. It represents the difference between the inferior intellect (commonly called the intellect in potency, or the possible or passive intellect), which is uncertain, diverse, and multiform, and the superior intellect, the one perhaps called by the Peripatetics the lowest in the hierarchy of the intelligences, which, they say, immediately influences every individual of the human species and is the active and actual intellect. This intellect, unique for the human species, influences every individual and is comparable to the moon which is always of the same species and whose aspect ever renews itself as it turns toward the sun, the first and universal intelligence. However, the human intellect, individual and multiple, is turned like the eyes toward countless and most diverse objects, so that it is informed according to an infinity of degrees and an infinity of natural forms. That is why it happens that this particular intellect is frenzied, wandering, and uncertain, while the universal intellect is tranquil, stable, and certain with respect to the appetite as well as to the apprehension. Therefore (as you can easily decipher for yourself), this figure symbolizes the nature of the sensitive appetite and apprehension, changing, shifting, inconsistent, and uncertain, and the nature of the intellectual appetite and its concept, firm, stable, and definite. The figure also symbolizes the difference between sensual love, uncertain and undiscerning of its objects, and intellectual love which sees only a single object toward which it turns, whereby its thought is illumined, its passion enkindled, inflamed, illuminated, and maintained in unity, identity, and position.


C. But what is the meaning of that figure of the sun with a circle inside it and another circle outside of it, and of the motto, Circuit ('It revolves in a circle')?

T. I'm sure I would never have understood the meaning of the figure if the author himself had not explained it to me. Now it must be understood that Circuit refers to the motion the sun makes around the double circle drawn inside it and around it to signify that the sun both moves itself and is moved at the same time. Therefore, the sun is always found to be in every point of the traversed circle, for in the single instant of time, it both moves and is moved simultaneously and is equally present in the entire circumference of the circle in which motion and rest converge and become one.

C. This I have understood in the dialogues Of the Infinite Universe and Innumerable Worlds, where it is explained that the divine wisdom (as Solomon said) is movable to the highest degree and at the same time most stable, as it is declared and understood by all those who know. Now proceed to your explanation of it.

T. The author of the emblem means that his sun is not like that sun which (as is commonly believed) circles the earth in the daily motion of twenty-four hours and completes its planetary motion in twelve months, affecting the earth by the four distinct seasons of the year according to the regions in which it finds itself in the four cardinal points of the Zodiac. But his sun is such that, representing eternity itself and therefore in perfect possession of all, it comprises the winter, spring, summer, the autumn, the day, and the night together, for it is wholly everywhere and in all points and places.

C. Now apply your statement to the emblem.

T. Because it is impossible to design the whole sun at each point in the circle, two circles have been drawn here. One circle is drawn around the sun to show that the sun moves itself through it. The other circle is drawn inside the sun, to show that the sun is moved by it.

C. But this figuration seems to me obscure and not precise.

T. It is sufficient that it is as clear and precise as he was able to make it. If you can find a better one, you are given every authority to remove this one and replace it with one of your own. For this was presented only in order that the idea might not be without some concrete form.

C. What do you say about the word circuit?

T. That motto, according to its fullest meaning, represents as much as can be represented; for by the sun's revolving itself and being revolved in a circle is signified its present and perfect motion.

C. Most excellent. Granted that those circles express poorly the coexistence of movement and rest, we can nevertheless say that they have been put there to signify a single revolution. And so I am content with the subject and form of the heroic emblem. Now let us read the rime.


Sun, you send down temperate rays from Taurus, from Leo you ripen and burn all, and when you shed light from stinging Scorpio much of your fiery vigor you abandon,

until from proud Aquarius you consume everything with cold, and harden the humid bodies. -- But I in spring, summer, autumn, and in winter am eternally warmed, burned, inflamed, and enkindled.

So hot is my desire, that I am easily moved to contemplate that lofty object for which I burn so much,

that my ardor throws off sparks to the stars. The years have no moment which see any change in my anguish.

Notice here that the four seasons of the year are indicated not by the four movable signs of Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn, but by the four which are called fixed, that is to say, Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius, in order to represent the perfection, stability, and fervor of those four seasons. Note also that by virtue of those apostrophes found in the eighth verse, you may read mi scaldo, accendo, ardo, avvampo; or, scaldi, accendi, ardi, avvampi; or also, scalda, accende, arde, avvampa. Besides, you must consider, these are not four synonyms but four diverse terms which express so many degrees of the effects produced by the fire; for first, the fire warms, second, it inflames, third, it burns, fourth, it enkindles or sets him on fire who has been warmed, inflamed, and burned. And therefore are denoted in the frenzied one desire, intention, zeal, and the affection of love which he feels at every moment.

C. Why do you give it the name of anguish?

T. Because the divine light is in this life more an object of laborious emptiness than of tranquil fruition, since our minds move toward that light like birds of the night toward the sun.

C. Let us proceed. I have now heard enough to grasp everything.


T. The following crest presents a full moon with the motto, Talis mihi semper et astro ('Such is it always to me and to the sun'). It means that to the star, that is, to the sun and to him the moon is always such as it is here, full and free clear in the entire circumference of its circle. So that you may understand this better, I would have you read the poem written upon the tablet:

Inconstant moon, fickle moon, you who emerge from the horizon with your horns now empty, now full, your orb reascends now white, now dark; now you illuminate Boreas and the valleys of the Caucasus,

now you turn along your usual path to give light to the south and the last confines of Lybia. So the moon of my sky for my continual torment is ever steady, and is ever full.

And my sun is the same, which forever ravishes and restores me, which ever burns and is so resplendent,

always so cruel and so beautiful. This my noble torch ever martyrs me, and still it delights me.

It seems to me that this lover's particular intelligence is always thus with regard to the universal intelligence. In other words, the universal intelligence illumines the entire hemisphere, even though that intelligence appears sometimes obscure, sometimes more or less luminous, according to the impressions it makes upon the inferior potencies. Or perhaps it would mean that his speculative intellect (invariably in act) is always turned and drawn toward that human intelligence represented by the moon. For as the moon is called the lowest among all the planets and is found nearest to us, so the intelligence which illuminates all of us (in our present state) is the lowest in the hierarchy of intelligences, as Averroes and other more subtle Peripatetics note. With respect to the intellect in potency, the human intelligence represented by the moon sometimes seems to decline, insofar as it does not display itself in act, and sometimes it seems to rise from the valley, that is, from the bottom of the concealed hemisphere; sometimes it displays itself vacant and sometimes full, accordingly as it gives more or less light; sometimes its orb is obscure, sometimes brilliant, because sometimes it dispenses only a shadow, similitude, and vestige, or sometimes it pours out the light more openly; sometimes it declines toward the south, sometimes to the north; that is, sometimes it retires and alienates itself more and more from us, sometimes it returns and approaches. But the active intellect by incessant labor (for it is foreign to human nature and the human condition which is wearied, beaten, incited, solicited, distracted, and as though torn by the inferior potencies) always sees its object immobile, fixed and constant, and always in plenitude, and in the same splendor of beauty. Therefore the object always ravishes him insofar as he fails to offer himself to it, and always restores him insofar as he succeeds in offering himself to it. It always enflames his passion as much as it is resplendent in his thought; it is always as cruel to him by withdrawing itself as he similarly withdraws himself, and always so beautiful in communicating itself to the degree that he offers himself to it. It always martyrs him separated from him by space; and it always delights him because he is conjoined to it in his affection.

C. Now apply the meaning to the motto. T. He says then, Talis mihi semper; that is to say, by means of the constant application of my intellect, memory and will (for they alone do I remember, understand and desire), it is always such to me, and insofar as I can understand, it is entirely present and is never separated from me by distraction of my thought, never obscured by any deficiency of attention, for there is no thought that turns me from its light, no natural necessity that compels me to attend it less. Talis mihi semper, means further that, on its own part, the moon is itself invariable in substance, virtue, beauty, and efficacy with respect to all that shows and invariable constancy toward it. He says, then, et astro because with respect to the face of the sun which illumines it, the moon is always equally luminous inasmuch as it is equally turned to the sun and the sun equally diffuses its rays upon it. Although that moon which we see with our eyes appears to this earth sometimes dark and sometimes light, sometimes less brilliant and sometimes more brilliant, it nevertheless receives an equal measure of the sun's illumination, because it always receives the sun's rays at least upon the entire surface of its hemisphere. Similarly this earth is equally illuminated upon the surface of its hemisphere, even though from time to time from its watery area it sends up its light to the moon according to the variability of the light it receives from it. (We think of the moon, as well as each of the innumerable stars, as another earth). Thus both the earth and the moon change their positions toward one another as each one finds itself nearer to the sun.

C. How is this intelligence represented by the moon, which shines from its entire hemisphere?

T. All the intelligences are represented by the moon, inasmuch as they participate in potentiality and act, and inasmuch, I say, as they have the light unrefined and according to participation because they receive it from another. And these intelligences do not have the light of themselves and by their nature but have it by the view of the sun, the first intelligence, pure and absolute light, pure and absolute act.

C. Then everything dependent and not prime act and first cause is as though composed of darkness and light, matter and form, potency and act?

T. Exactly. Besides, our soul in its entire substance is symbolized by the moon. It shines through the hemisphere of the superior potencies when turned toward the light of the intelligible world; and it is darkened on the side of the inferior potencies when occupied with the government of matter.


C. It seems to me the emblem I see on the following shield may contain some issue and symbol relevant to what has already been said. The emblem is a rugged, branchy oak tree blown by the wind and is circumscribed by the motto, Ut robori robur ("strong as an oak"); and on the tablet attached to the emblem is the following poem:

Ancient oak which spreads its branches to the air and fixes its roots in the earth, neither the trembling of the earth, nor the powerful spirits the sky lets loose from the bitter north wind,

nor whatever the dreadful winter may send, can ever uproot you from the place where you stand firm; you demonstrate the true semblance of my faith, for which no external accident has ever shaken.

You ever embrace, nourish, and contain the same ground in whose depths you spread agreeable roots upon a generous bosom:

Upon one has single object I have fixed my spirit, sense, and intellect.

T. The motto is clear. The frenzied one is proud that he has the strength in robustness of the oak tree; like one of the lovers before him he is proud to be one and the same with the unique phoenix, and like the one who immediately precedes him, proud to be able to conform to the moon in its everlasting brilliance and beauty. Moreover, he is proud that he does not resemble the moon insomuch as it is variable to our eyes, but insomuch as it always receives an equal measure of the solar splendor. Therefore, he is proud of having remained so constant and firm against the north wind and the tempestuous winters, so strong in the unshakable attachment which fixes him to his sun where his desire and purpose root him, like the oak tree whose roots intertwine with the veins of the earth.

C. For my part I regard it better to remain in peace and free from any onslaught than to find myself in circumstances of such vigorous endurance.

T. There is an aphorism of Epicurus which, if understood properly, would not be judged so profane as the ignorant think it; for it does not deny virtue to be such as I have defined it and takes nothing from the perfection of constancy, but rather adds something to that protection which the vulgar comprehend; for he believes the true and complete virtue of sturdiness and constancy is not the constancy which resists discomforts and puts up with them, but the constancy which takes them upon oneself without feeling them. He does not hold perfect, divine, and heroic the love which feels the spur, the bit, remorse, or pain caused by that vulgar kind of love, but heroic that love which abolishes any sense of other affections, so that he attains the degree of pleasure which has no power to annoy him by diverting him or by making him stumble upon some obstacle; and this is to reach the highest beatitude in this state, to have desire and not to have any sense of pain.

C. The common opinion does not accept this interpretation of Epicurus.

T. That is because one does not read his books, nor read those books which report his arguments without prejudice, but those who read the story of his life and the circumstances of his death will understand his meaning in the words he dictated as the exordium to his testament: Having come to the last and most happy day of our live, we have planned for that day peace, health, and tranquillity of mind; for no matter how much, on the one hand, the greatest pain has tormented us with obstacles, that torment, on the other hand, has become completely absorbed by the pleasure we have taken in our creations and in the consideration of our end. And it is clear that he did not find more happiness than pain in eating, drinking, sleeping, and generating. His happiness consisted in feeling no hunger, no thirst, nor fatigue, nor sexual appetite. Consider, then, what we hold to be the perfection of constancy. Constancy does not consist in this, that the tree does not allow itself to be shattered, bend, or broken; but in this, that it does not even stir. In the likeness of that oak our hero holds fast his spirit, sense, and intellect, at that point where no tempestuous onslaught can move him.

C. Do you mean then that to put up with torment is a desirable thing because it is a sign of strength?

T. To put up with torment, as you say, is a part of constancy, but it is not its complete virtue; and I call it putting up with it with hardiness, and Epicurus calls it, torment without feeling it. This privation of feeling results from this that everything has been entirely absorbed in the cultivation of virtue, the true good and happiness. Such was the insensibility of Regulus toward the tomb, of Lucrezia toward the dagger, of Socrates toward poison, of Anaxarcus toward the mortar (which bruised him), of Mucius Scaevola toward the fire, of Horatius Cocles toward the abyss of the Tiber, and of other virtuous men toward the things which greatly torment and horrify those who are ordinary and vile.

C. Now proceed.


T. Look at this other emblem which contains the image of an anvil and hammer and has the motto, Ab Aetna ('from Aetna'). But before we consider it, let us read the poem in which the prosopopoeia of Vulcan is introduced:

To my Sicilian mount where I may temper the thunderbolts of Jove now I shall not return. Here I shall remain, I, scabrous Vulcan, for here a prouder giant rebels,

a giant who is enflamed against the sky and rages in vain, as he attempts new labors and trials. A better forger of Aetna, a better smith, anvil, and hammer do I find

here in this breast which exhales sighs and whose bellows vivify the furnace, where the soul lies prostrate from so many assaults

of such long tortures and great martyrdoms, and brings a concert which divulges so bitter and cruel a torment.

This poem shows the pains and afflictions inherent in love, especially in vulgar love, which is nothing else than the smith's shop of Vulcan who forges the thunderbolts of Jove to torment delinquent souls. For disordered love bears within itself the germ of its own pain, inasmuch as God is near us, with us and inside us. There is found in us a certain consecrated mind and divine intelligence served by a peculiar passion, the vindicator of the intelligence, which with a certain remorse of conscience strikes the transgressive soul as with a heavy hammer. This intelligence observes our actions and passions, and as we treat it so are we treated in turn. I say that every lover has his Vulcan, for there is no man or lover who does not have God within him. God is most certainly in everyone, but the kind of god in everyone is not so easily known; and if it were at all possible to probe the question and shed light upon it, nothing I believe would clarify it for us more than love; for love is as one who pushes the oars, inflates the sail, and tempers this composite (which we are) to the end that it becomes affected for the better or for the worse.

I say affected for the better or for the worse inasmuch as love operates through moral or contemplative acts, and because there are common afflictions by which all lovers are wounded. For inasmuch as things come in mixtures, there is no intelligible or sensible good to which evil is not joined or opposed, nor is there any truth to which falsehood is not joined or opposed; similarly, there is no love without fear, zeal, jealousy, rancor, and the other passions proceeding from the one contrary which disturbs us, while the other contrary pleases us. Therefore, as the soul desires to recover its natural beauty, it seeks to purge itself, heal and reform itself; and for this purpose the soul uses fire, for like gold mixed with earth and shapeless, it wishes by a vigorous trial to liberate itself from impurities, and this end is achieved when the intellect, the true smith of Jove, sets to work actively exercising the intellectual powers.

C. This I believe is related to the passage in Plato's Symposium where it is said that Love from his mother Penury inherited aridity, leanness, pallor, destitution, submission, and homelessness, circumstances which represent the torment of the afflicted soul wearied by contrary passions.

T. It is exactly so; because the spirit affected by this frenzy is distracted by profound thoughts, tortured by pressing cares, burned by fervent longings, and solicited on occasions without number. As a result, because it finds itself suspended, the soul necessarily becomes less diligent and operative with respect to the government of the body and the activity of the vegetative potency. Consequently, the body becomes lean, undernourished, extenuated, deficient in blood, and overcome by melancholy humors; and if these humors do not become the instruments of a well disciplined soul and of a clear and lucid spirit, they lead to insanity, to stupidity, and to a bestial frenzy, or at least they lead to a negligence of the self and self-disdain which Plato represents by the figure of bare feet. Love becomes debased and flies close to the ground when it is attached to base things; it flies high when it is intent upon the more noble enterprises. In conclusion, then, whatever it may be, love is always afflicted and tortured, so that it cannot avoid becoming material for the furnace of Vulcan; for the soul, a divine thing and by its nature not the slave but the lord of the material body, is thrown into painful disturbance while it voluntarily serves the body where it does not find that which satisfies it. And no matter how much it may fix itself upon the beloved object, the soul cannot avoid being sometimes agitated and shaken by hopeful sighs, by fears, doubts, zeal, troubles of conscience, remorse, willfulness, contrition, and other tormentors represented by the bellowings, coals, anvils, hammers, pincers, and the other tools found in the workshop of this sordid and squalid spouse of Venus.

C. Now a good deal has been said of this subject. Be so good as to see what follows next.


T. Here is a golden apple tree which richly enameled with a variety of the most precious fruits, and this emblem is circumscribed by a motto which says, Pulchrioro detur ('it shall be given to the more beautiful one'). The allusion to the story of the three goddesses who submitted themselves to the judgment of Paris is most familiar. But let us read the verse which will inform us more precisely of the intention of this frenzied one.

Venus, goddess of the third sphere and mother of the blind archer, subduer of all men; that other, sprung from the forehead of Jove, and the proud wife of Jove, Juno,

call the Trojan shepherd to judge which of them, most beautiful, deserves the golden fruit. If my goddess were set among them, it would be awarded neither to Venus, Athena, or Juno.

The Cyprian goddess is beautiful by reason of lovely limbs, Minerva through her intellect, and Juno pleases by that worthy splendor

of majesty, which satisfies the Thunderer; but my goddess contains within herself all that is requisite of beauty, intelligence, and majesty.

In this poem the frenzied one compares his object, which contains and unites the qualities, characteristics, and species of beauty to other objects which can only offer one, and, besides, each one distributed among diverse individuals. For example, in the category of corporeal beauty Apollo cannot find every species united in one virgin but distributed among many. Now it happens that here there are three species of beauty, although all three are found in each of the three goddesses; for Venus is not deficient in wisdom and majesty, and Juno is not wanting in beauty and wisdom any more than Athena is wanting in majesty and beauty. Nevertheless, in each of the three goddesses one of these qualities happens to surpass the others and for that reason is considered proper to her, while the other qualities are considered mere accidents; moreover, with respect to the quality which predominates in her, each goddess appears sovereign and outweighs her rivals. And the reason for this difference is that certain qualities do not belong to each goddess primarily and according to its essence, but according to participation and derivation. Just as in all contingent things perfections exist more or less only according to inferior or superior degrees.

But in the simplicity of the divine essence all exists in all and not according to measure; and thus in the divine essence wisdom is not superior to beauty and majesty any more than goodness is superior to power. In fact all the attributes of the divine essence are not only equal, but they are even identical and are one simple thing. In a similar way all the dimensions of a sphere are not only equal (length being equal to depth and breadth) but even identical, because in a sphere that which you call depth you may at the same time call length and breadth. Analogously, in the divine essence the height of wisdom is one with depth of power and breadth of goodness. All these projections are equal because they are infinite. One must therefore measure the greatness of the one according to the greatness of the other. But where these things are finite, wisdom may surpass beauty and goodness, goodness and beauty may surpass wisdom, wisdom and goodness may surpass power and power may surpass both goodness and wisdom. But where there is infinite wisdom that wisdom can not exist without infinite power, otherwise that wisdom would not possess the power to know infinitely. Where there is infinite goodness that goodness must have infinite wisdom, otherwise that goodness would not know how to be infinitely good. Where there is infinite power that power must also have infinite goodness and wisdom, for the infinite power must have power to know as well as the knowledge of power. You see, then, how the beloved object of this frenzied one to is inebriated with drinking the divine nectar is incomparably higher than any other object. You see, I mean to say, how the intelligible species of the divine essence possesses the perfection of all the other species in the highest degree, so that the degree of participation in the form he can attain will give him the appropriate degree of potential comprehension and action and the appropriate degree of love for this single beauty and disregard and disdain for every other. Therefore, to that one alone who is all in all must the golden apple be consecrated; and it must not be consecrated to beautiful Venus whom Minerva surpasses in wisdom and whom Juno surpasses in majesty; not to Athene whom Venus surpasses in beauty and Juno in majesty; not even to Juno, who is neither the goddess of intelligence nor of love.

C. Certainly just as there are degrees in nature and in essences, so are there degrees of intelligible species and degrees of magnanimity in the affections and frenzies of love.


C. The following emblem has a head with four faces which blow toward the four corners of the sky. Four winds issue from that single head, and above those winds two stars are seen to rise. The emblem bears the motto, Novae ortae Aeoliae ('a new Aeolus is born'). I should like to know what this means.

T. It seems to me that the sense of the emblem follows that of the one just preceding; for, as the former emblem presented an infinite beauty as the object of love, this one presents a very great aspiration, zeal, affection, and desire for that infinite beauty; for that reason I believe these winds are meant to represent sighs, as we shall understand if we look and read the verse:

Zephyrs of the Titan Astraeus and of Aurora, who trouble the sky, the sea, and the land, as if discord had hurled you forth into space for having made proud war against the gods,

you no longer make your home in the Aeolian cave, where my power refrains and bridles you, but are confined within that breast I see constricted by so much sighing.

Turbulent cohorts of the tempests of one and the other sea, nothing else avails to assuage you

but those murderous and innocent lights. Those lights when clear, will render you tranquil; when dark, will render you bold.

It is easy to see that Aeolus is introduced as speaking to the winds, which he says are no longer governed by him in his cavern, but are now governed by two stars in the breast of frenzied one. Here the two stars do not represent the two eyes of a beautiful face but the two intelligible species of the divine beauty and goodness of the infinite splendor which influence the intellectual and rational desire and cause it to aspire infinitely to the extent that it understands the grandeur, beauty, and infinite goodness of that excellent light. For if love is finite, content, and fixed upon a certain limit, it will not approach the species of divine beauty but a species other than the divine beauty; but if love aspires higher and higher, one may say that it will expand toward the infinite.

C. How can the aspiration be appropriately represented by puffing out? How is desire symbolized by the winds?

T. He among us who aspires to this state, sighs, and also puffs out. And therefore the vehemence of aspiration is conveyed to that hieroglyphic of a powerful puffing out.

C. But there is a difference between sighing and puffing out.

T. The one is not meant to be identical to the other. There is only a similarity between them.

C. Then proceed with your argument.

T. The infinite aspiration, then, expressed by the sighs and symbolized by the winds is not under the government of Aeolus in the Aeolian caves but is under the government of the lights that are mentioned, which murder the frenzied one not only by their innocence but by their supreme benignity, for they make him die to all other things because of his zealous affection. Moreover, if these lights go out or conceal themselves, they render a tempest within him, and, if they are clear, they render him tranquil. Similarly, in a season when a veil of clouds darkens the eyes of the human body, then the zealous soul feels only turbulence and affliction; but if the veil is torn and thrown aside, the soul will enjoy a tranquillity noble enough to satisfy its nature.

C. But how can our finite intellect pursue an infinite object?

T. By the intellect's infinite potency.

C. A vain potency if it must remain unfulfilled.

T. The intellectual potency would be vain, if it moved toward a finite act in which its infinite potency would remain in privation; but it would not be vain if it moved toward an infinite act in which its infinite potency enjoys perfect fulfillment.

C. If the human intellect and action are finite by nature, how and why is the intellect endowed with infinite potency?

T. Because it is eternal and because its delight is not limited by time, it knows no end or limit of delight; and because, although finite in itself, it is infinite with respect to its object.

C. What is the difference between the infinity of the object and infinity of the potency?

T. The potency is finitely infinite, and the object is infinitely infinite. But to return to our discourse. The motto says, Novae ortae Aeoliae because we may believe that all the winds enclosed in the deep caves of Aeolus are converted into the lover's sighs, if we consider that these sighs are caused by the affection which ceaselessly aspires to the supreme good in infinite beauty.


C. Next let us see what the meaning is of that burning torch whose motto is, Ad vitam, non ad horam ('For always, not just for an hour').

T. It signifies the perseverance and love and the burning desire for the true good in which the frenzied one burns while in this temporal state. This, I believe, is what the following tablet teaches:

The peasant leaves his lodging when the day breaks from the bosom of the Orient, and when the sun strikes more intensely, tired and smitten by the heat he sits down in the shade.

Then he works and tires himself until a dark gloom covers the hemisphere; then he rests. But I am exposed to continual blows morning, noon, evening, and night.

Those fierce rays which issue from the two arcs of my sun (as my destiny wills) from the horizon of my soul

never depart, burning my afflicted heart at every hour from its meridian.

C. This verse interprets the emblem in a general way without explaining its meaning and detail.

T. And I do not have to strain to show you its precise meanings, for these can be understood if you give them a little consideration. The sun's rays are the forms whereby the divine beauty and goodness are manifest to us; and they are fiery because they cannot be apprehended by the intellect without consequently enkindling the desire. The two arcs of the sun are the two species of knowledge called by the scholastic theologians matins and vespers; so that the intelligence which illumines us through the medium of the air leads the species to us, either in virtue of our admiration of it for itself, or of our admiration for the efficacy contemplated in its effects. The horizon of the soul is the region of the superior potencies; and in this region the valiant intellectual apprehension is aided by the vigorous impulse of the affection represented by the heart, which is afflicted because it burns at every hour; for all the fruits of love we can gather in this (mortal) state are not so sweet that they are not mingled with certain affliction; at least the affliction that comes from the consciousness of fruition without plenitude. This is particularly the case in the fruits of natural love, whose condition I should not know how to express better than the Epicurean poet has:

Ex hominis vero facile pulchroque colore
Nil datur in corpus preater simulacra fruendum
Tenuia, qaue vento spes captat saepe misella.
Ut bibere in somnis sitiens cum quaerit, et humor
Non datur, ardorem in membris qui stinguere possit;
Sed laticum simulacra petit frustraque laborat
In medioque sitit torrenti flumine potans:
Sic in armore Venus simulacris ludit amantes,
Nec satiare queunt spectando corpora coram,
Nec manibus quicquam teneris abradere membris
Possunt, errantes incerti corpore toto.
Denique cum membris conlatis flore fruuntur
Aetatis; dum iam praesagit gaudia corpus,
Atque in eo est Vewnus, et muliebria conserat arva,
Adfigunt avide corpus iunguntque salivas
Oris et inspirant pressantes dentibus ora,
Nequicquam, quoniam nihil inde abradere possunt,
Nec penetrare et abire in corpus corpore toto.

(Lucretius De rerum natura iv. 1094-1111: '...The body is given nothing to enjoy by a pretty face or a pleasant complexion but tenuous images which all too often fond hope scatters to the wind. When a thirsty man tries to drink in his dreams, the liquid which can quench the fire in his limbs is not given him. But he seeks images of spring water with fruitless effort and thirsts nightly in the midst of torrential rivers. Even so in the midst of love Venus mocks her lovers with images, for they cannot satisfy their sight by looking upon her bodily form, nor can they snatch anything of her tender limbs with their hands, as they wander aimlessly over her whole body. Finally they pluck the fruit of life with their joined limbs. But even while their bodies thrill in the presentiment of joy, and unite in a fertile union, as they join the saliva of their mouths and press and breath with their tongues, it is all in vain. For they can glean nothing from the other, and they cannot penetrate and be wholly absorbed body in body...')

Similarly does that wise Hebrew judge the manner in which we can enjoy divine things here below. As we force ourselves to penetrate and unite with those divine things, we find we are more afflicted by our desire for them than pleased by our conception of them. And therefore that wise Hebrew [Eccl. 1:18] could say that he who increases wisdom increases pain, for the greater comprehension nurtures the greater and loftier desire, and the greater desire brings the greater scorn and pain because of the deprivation of the thing desired. Therefore Epicurus, who pursues the most tranquil life, says with respect to vulgar love:

Sed fugitare decet simulacra et pabula amoris
Abstergere sibi atque alio convertere mentem,
Nec servare sibi curam certumque dolorem:
Ulcus enim virescit et inveterascit alendo,
Inque dies gliscit furor atque aerumna gravescit,
Nec Veneris fructu caret is qui vitat amorem,
Sed potius quae sunt sine paena commoda sumit.

(Lucretius De rerum natura iv. 1055-1066: '...But one must fly from love's image and nourishment and deny oneself and divert the mind elsewhere and not become enslaved to sorrow and inevitable pain. For an ulcer grows and festers with nourishing, and, in time, the frenzy increases and burdens us with calamity. And he who avoids this passion does not miss the delights of Venus, but, instead, he reaps those profits which carry no burden with them...')

C. What does the meridian of the heart mean?

T. The meridian of the heart refers to the highest and most eminent part of the will which the strongest, most direct, and most luminous rays enflame. It means that the affection in question is not as though, in its initial movement, nor as though in its final repose, but is in a point between the two, when its fervor is most intense.


C. But what is the meaning of that arrow aglow with flames at the iron point, around which a noose is twisted, and of the motto, Amor instat ut instans ('Love persists as does the instant'). How do you understand it?

T. I would say it means that love never leaves him, and eternally afflicts him with invariable pain.

C. I well understand the noose, arrow, and the flame and I understand the words, Amor instat, but I cannot understand what follows: that love persists because it is both of one instant and is also insistent. This lacks as much sense as if one would say, -- he had imagined this emblem as he had imagined it, carries it as he carries it; I understand it as I understand it; it is worth what it is worth; or, I esteem it as I esteem it --.

T. The less one considers the more easily is he apt to judge quickly and condemn. Instans is not to be taken as the adjective which comes from the verb instare. It is to be understood as a substantive which means an instant of time.

C. Then what does he wish to express when he says that love persists as the instant persists?

T. What does Aristotle mean in his book on Time [Physics iv. 217b, 224a.], when he says that eternity is an instant and the whole of time is nothing but an instant?

C. How can this be, if there is no time so brief that does not have many instants? Would he mean to imply that a single instant encompasses the deluge, the Trojan war, and this very hour of our lives? I would like to know how this instant can be divided into so many centuries and years. I would also like to know why we could not affirm by a similar measurement that the line is no more than a point?

T. As time is one and yet is divided into diverse temporal subjects, so the instant is one in all the diverse parts of time. As I am the same one who was, who exists now, and who will exist in the future, so am I the same person here at home, in church, in the fields, and everywhere.

C. But why would you have the instant to be the whole of time?

T. Because if there were not the instant, there would not be time, which time in essence and substance is nothing more but an instant. And this will suffice -- if you have the wherewithal to grasp it (for I have no time to give you a pedantic discourse on the fourth book of the Physics) -- to make you understand that he means that love attends him by a presence which lasts for no less than the whole of time; for the word instans here is not to be taken to mean a mere atom of time.

C. This meaning ought to be specified one way or another, if we wish to avoid the motto's being viciously equivocal. Thus we ought to be free to understand him to mean either that his love is the love of one instant, that is, of one atom of time and of no consequence, or, on the contrary, as you interpret it, that his love is eternal.

T. Indeed if these two contrary senses had been implied, the motto would be a farce. But it is not a farce, if you consider it well; for it is impossible that love in one instant, if instant means a point or an atom of time, should persist with him forever; it is necessary, therefore, to understand the instant in another sense. In order to end this debate, let us read the verse:

One time it expands, another time it reassembles; one time it builds, another time it destroys; one time it weeps, at another it laughs; one time it is sad, at another it reposes; one time it stands upright, at another, it sinks down.

One time it lends a hand, another, it withdrawals itself; one time it moves us on, another, stops us; one time it brings life, another, death. Through all the years, months, days, and hours love is present, strikes, burns, and binds me.

Continually it shatters me, ever destroys me and keeps me in tears. It is my doleful languor in each and every hour.

It forever harasses and uplifts me, and is too powerful in despoiling me. There is no instant when it does not harass me, no instant when it does not bring me death.

C. I have understood the meaning perfectly; and I confess that everything corresponds very well. But I think it time to proceed to the next one.


T. Here you see a serpent languishing in the snow where a laborer has thrown it, a nude boy burning in the midst of flames, and some other details and circumstances, all accompanied by the motto, Idem, itidem, non idem ('The same, in the same way, yet not the same'). This emblem seems to me more enigmatic than the one before it. Thus I shall not flatter myself that I can give a perfect explanation of it. However, I should think it meant that the same molesting fate torments both the boy and the serpent in a similar way (with intensity, without mercy, and to the point of death) by those diverse and contrary principles of heat and cold. But I believe this requires longer and more detailed consideration.

C. Once again, read the verse.


Languid serpent, you writhe, shrink, rise, and sink in that dense humour; and to ease your intense pain, you move from one part of the cold to another.

If the ice had ears to hear you, you a voice to speak or to reply, I believe you would have an efficacious argument to render it merciful to your torment.

I am tossed, consumed, burned, scorched in the eternal fire, and in the ice of my goddess neither love of me nor pity finds any place for my delivery. Ah me, because she does not feel how great is the rigor of my ardent flame!

Snake, you seek to escape, but you are powerless. You cling to your shelter, but it is dissolved. You call back your own forces, but they are spent. Your hope is turned to the sun, but a dense midst conceals it.

You ask mercy of the laborer, and he hates your sting. You invoke fortune, but senseless, she does not hear you. Neither flight, refuge, force, the stars, man, nor fate can save you from death.

You are hardened by the cold, while I am liquefied by the heat; I wonder at your rigor, you wonder at my ardor; you lust after the evil I suffer, and I, after your desire.

Neither can I relieve your distress, nor can you relieve mine. Now, aware enough of our cruel fate, let us abandoned all hope.

C. Let us go now, so that as we walk we shall find a way to untie this knot, if possible.

T. Good.

End of the Fifth Dialogue
And the First Part of

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