Translation by Paulo Eugene Memmo, Jr., 1964
CES. They say the best and most noble things in the world take place when the entire universe is in the most perfect harmony with respect to all its parts. And this harmony is believed to occur when all the planets under the sign of Aries in the eighth sphere reach out to become a part of the invisible and superior firmament where the other zodiac is. They maintain that the worst and the most vile things take place when an inverse order and a contrary disposition predominates. Moreover, because of a vicissitudinal force, extreme mutations of things are known to take place between similar and dissimilar and between one contrary disposition and the other. Therefore, the revolution and the great year of the world is that space of time during which there is a return to a certain state of things, after others, definitely varied and opposite, have been traversed; as among the particular years we see in the one called the solar year, that the beginning of one contrary season is the end of the other, and the end of that other is the beginning of a new season. This is why we who today are in the lowest ebb of the sciences, which have bred the scum of opinions, themselves the causes of the vilest habits and works, can certainly expect the return to better conditions.
MAR. Certainly this succession and order of things is most true, my friend. However, as for ourselves, whatever may be our circumstances, the present afflicts us more than the past does, and both present and past together please us less than the future can; for we always hold the future in expectation and hope, as you can see very well represented by this emblem borrowed from ancient Egypt. The Egyptians have left us a particular statue in which three heads rose from the same bust; one of a wolf who looked behind him, the other of a lion who looked to one side, and the third of a dog who looked ahead, in order to indicate that things of the past afflict us by the memory of them, but not as much as things of the present torment us in fact, while the future always promises better things. Accordingly this emblem contains a wolf who howls, a lion who roars and a dog who laughs.
CES. What does the motto written above it express?
MAR. Notice that over the wolf is the word, Iam; over the lion, Modo, and over the dog, Praeterea, words which represent the three parts of time.
CES. Now read what is written on the tablet.
MAR. I intend to do precisely that.
A wolf, a lion, and a dog -- at dawn, in the brightness
of day, and in the dark of evening -- represent the
things I have spent, the things I retain, and the things
I shall gain of all that has been given me, is given to
me, and can be given to me.
For the things I have done, do now, and must do, in
the past, present, and in the future, I repent, am tormented,
and am assured, in regret, in suffering, and in expectation
The harshness of my past experience, the bitterness of its
fruit, and the sweetness of hope are a menace, an affliction, and a solace to me.
The years I have lived, the time I live now, and shall
live, -- the past, present, and future -- make me
tremble, excite me, and sustain me.
What has gone by, what happens now, and what will
follow, holds me in much fear, in too much martyrdom, and
yields me sufficient hope.
CES. This is precisely the head of a frenzied lover; and very likely of all mortals who are afflicted, whatever may be the manner or mode of their affliction; for we cannot say, nor ought we to say that such a destiny corresponds to all in general, but only to those destinies which were or are laborious. For example, it behooves one who has sought a kingdom and now possesses it to feel the fear of losing it; it behooves one who has labored to acquire the fruits of love and to know the special favor of the beloved to feel the bite of jealousy and suspicion. And with respect to our condition in this world, if we find ourselves in darkness and misfortune, we can safely prophecy light and prosperity; if we live in an era of felicity and enlightenment, without doubt we can expect a succession of affliction and ignorance. For example, Mercury Trismegistus saw Egypt in such a great splendor of science and of prophetic wisdom that he esteemed men to be the brothers of both demons and gods, and consequently to be most inspired; nevertheless to Asclepius he made that prophetic lamentation which announced that there must follow a dark age of new religions and cults, and that Egypt's present splendor would become only a fable and a matter for condemnation. Similarly, when the Hebrews were slaves of Egypt and exiled in the desert, they were comforted by their prophets who assured them of liberty and the conquest of a fatherland, but when they enjoyed a state of power and tranquillity, they were menaced by captivity and dispersion. And today there is no evil or dishonor to which we may be subject, that we may not expect honor and goodness tomorrow. The same befalls other generations and states. If these states endure and are not ever annihilated, they must pass from evil to good, from good to evil, from baseness to splendor, from splendor to obscurity by a necessary force of the mutations of things. For this vicissitude occurs in accordance with the natural order. And if one should find another order which would alter or correct the present one, then I would consent to it, and would have no way in which to dispute it, for I judge only by the light of my natural reason.
MAR. We know that you are not a theologian but a philosopher, and that you treat of philosophy, not of theology.
CES. That is the case. But let us see what follows.
CES. Next I see an arm upholding a smoking incense burner, bearing the motto, Illius aram ('His altar'); and following the emblem is the sonnet:
Who would deem that transport of my lofty passion less worthy of the divinity, because it is expressed in the painted flourish of my vows on tablets offered in the temple of fame?
Though I am called to another and more heroic enterprise who will ever deem it less becoming for this beauty to hold me captive of its external worship, when heaven itself so loves and honors it?
Leave me, leave me, other desires, importunate thoughts, leave me in peace! Why do you wish me to withdraw
from the sight of the sun that delights me so? But you, oh my thoughts, filled with pity, say to me: -- Why do you contemplate an object whose contemplation consumes you?
Why are you so smitten by that flame? I reply: Because this torment contents me more than any other pleasure.
MAR. With respect to this verse I tell you that, no matter how much one remains attached to corporeal beauty and to external veneration of it, he may still conduct himself honorably and worthily; for from material beauty, which reflects the splendor of the spiritual form and act and is its vestige and shadow, he will arrive at the contemplation and worship of divine beauty, light, and majesty. Thus from visible things he begins to exalt his heart toward those things which are so much the more excellent in themselves and pleasing to the purged soul, because they are more removed from matter and sense. Oh God, he will say, if a shadowy, cloudy, elusive beauty painted upon the surfaces of corporeal matter pleases me so much and so incites my passion, so influences my spirit with I know not what reverence of majesty, so captivates me and so sweetly binds me and draws me to it, that I find my senses offer nothing so agreeable to me, what would be the effect upon me of that which is the substantial, original, and primal beauty? What would be the effect of that beauty upon my soul, upon a divine intellect, and upon the order of nature? Therefore, the contemplation of this vestige of light must lead me by the purgation of my soul to a resemblance, a conformity, and a participation in that most worthy and most lofty light into which I am transformed and to which I am united. For I am sure that nature, having put this (corporeal) beauty before my eyes and having endowed me with an interior sense through which I can discern the most profound and incomparably superior beauty, wishes that from here below I become elevated to the height and eminence of that most excellent species. Nor do I believe that my true divinity, inasmuch as it is shown to me in its vestige and image, would be offended if I happened to honor it in its vestige and image and to offer sacrifices to it, provided the impulse of my heart remained, ordered and my affection remained intent upon the higher good; for who is that man who can honor the divinity in its essence and its own substance, if in its essence and substance he is unable to comprehend it?
CES. You have demonstrated quite well how men of heroic spirit convert everything to good and how from captivity they know how to nurture the fruits of a greater liberty, and in the experience of defeat how to find the occasion of the greatest victory. You know very well that to men who are well disposed the love of material beauty not only does not at all delay them from the greater enterprises, but rather gives them wings to accomplish them; for love's constraint is transformed into a virtuous zeal which forces the lover to progress to the point of becoming worthy of the thing loved, and perhaps worthy of some greater and still more beautiful object; so that either he begins to feel content that he has gained his desire, or he is gratified that the particular beauty of his object gives him just reason to scorn any other as a beauty that he has conquered and surpassed; consequently, either he rests in tranquillity, or bestirs himself to aspire to more excellent and more magnificent objects. For this reason the heroic spirit constantly renews its efforts, as long as it does not see itself uplifted toward the desire of the divine beauty in itself, that is, the beauty without similitude, analogy, image, or species, if such a beauty were possible; and if it were possible for the heroic spirit to know how to attain it.
MAR. You see then, Cesarino, how this frenzied one is right in resenting those who reprove him as captive of a base beauty to which he offers vows and tablets. For his captivity does not make him a rebel against the voices which call him to the higher beauties, inasmuch as ignoble objects derive from lofty objects and are dependent upon them, and it is from these base objects that he is able to have access to these higher objects in due degree. Those objects, if not God, are things divine and are living images of God, and he is not in the least offended at seeing himself adored in them, for have we not the command of the supernal spirit who says, Adorate scabellum pedum eius? (Ps.98.5: '...Exalt ye the Lord our God, and adore his footstool, for it is holy') And elsewhere has not the divine ambassador said, Adorabimus ubi steterunt pedes eius? (Ps.131.7: '...We will go into his tabernacle, we will adore in the place where his foot stood...')
CES. God, the divine beauty and splendor, shines and is in all things; but to me it does not seem erroneous to admire him in all things according to his mode of communication. What would certainly be erroneous would be to give others the honor due to him alone. But what does he mean when he says, Leave me, leave me, other desires?
MAR. He banishes certain thoughts from himself, because they present him with other objects which, though not having any power to move him, yet would steal from him the view of the sun, a view he can see through this window more than through any other.
CES. Why, troubled by these thoughts, does he remain constant in gazing on that splendor which ruins him and does not give him any pleasure unaccompanied with severe torment at the same time?
MAR. Because in this discordant life all our consolations are
accompanied by discomforts which are equally abundant. For example,
the fear of a king in the peril of losing his kingdom is greater
than the fear of a beggar who risks the loss of ten farthings;
the solicitude of a prince for his republic is more urgent than
the care of a shepherd for his flock of sheep; but the pleasures
and delights of the king and the prince are perhaps greater than
the pleasures and delights of the shepherd. Therefore to love
and aspire higher is accompanied by the greater glory and majesty,
but is also accompanied by the greater care, sadness, and pain.
I mean that in our present state where one contrary is always
joined to the other, the greatest contrariety is always found
in the same genus, and, consequently, with respect to the same
matter, even though these contraries may not exist simultaneously.
And similarly, in proportion one can apply to the love of superior
Cupid those things which the Epicurean poet affirms of vulgar
and animal love when he says,
Fluctuat incertis erroribus ardor amantum,
Nec constat quid primum oculis manibusque fruantur:
Quod petiere, premunt arte, faciuntque dolorem
Corporis, et dentes inlidunt saepe labellis
Osculaque adfigunt, quia non est pura voluptas
Et stimuli subsunt qui instigant laedere id ipsum,
Quodcunque est, rabies, nude illa haec germina surgunt.
Sed leviter paenas frangit Venus inter amorem,
Blandaque refraenat morsus admixta voluptas;
Namque in eo spes est, unde est ardoris origo,
Restingui quoque posse ab eodem corpore flammam.
(Lucretius, De rerum natura iv. 1077-1087: '... The passions
of lovers fluctuate in wavering uncertainty and they cannot agree
what things to enjoy with their eyes and hands. For as they seek
their joy they press the object of love so tightly that they bring
pain to the body. And they kiss so hard that their teeth drive
into their lips, because their desire is not unmixed. They are
goaded on by an instinct to injure whatever sprouts forth from
this germinating madness. But in love Venus lightens the penalties
she imposes, and moderates the anguish by blending pleasure with
pain; for in love there is the hope that the flame of passion
may be quenched by the same body that fanned it...')
It is by these enticements, then, that nature's power and skill
cause one to be consumed by the pleasure of what destroys him,
bringing him content in the midst of torment and torment in the
midst of every contentment, for nothing results from an absolutely
uncontested principle, but everything results from contrary principles
through the triumph and conquest of one of the contraries. There
is no pleasure of generation on the one hand without the displeasure
of corruption on the other; and where things which are generated
and destroyed are found to be conjoined and as though composed
in the same subject the feeling of delight and sadness is found
at the same time; but more readily is it called delectation rather
than sadness, if it happens that delectation predominates and
solicits the sensibility of the subject with greater impact.
CES. Now let us contemplate the emblem of a phoenix burning in the sun. By its smoke the phoenix almost obscures the splendor of the sun whose fire inflames it; and there is a motto which says, Neque simile, nec par ('Neither similar nor equal to it').
MAR. Let us read the verse first:
This phoenix which kindles itself in the golden sun and bit by bit is consumed, while it is surrounded by splendor, returns a contrary tribute to its star;
because that which ascends from it to the sky, becomes tepid smoke and purple fog, which cause the sun's rays to remain hidden from our eyes, and obscures that by which it glows and shines.
Thus my spirit (which the divine splendor inflames and illumines), while it goes about explaining that which glows so brightly in its thoughts,
sends forth verses from its high conceit, only to obscure the shining sun, while I am completely consumed and dissolved by the effort.
Ah me! This purple and black cloud of smoke darkens by its style what it would exalt, and renders it humble.
CES. This verse tells us then, that as the phoenix, set on fire by the splendor of the sun and accustomed to its light and flame, sends forth to the sky smoke which obscures the very sun that kindled it, so the frenzied one inflamed and illumined by his every effort to offer praises to the brilliant object that has enkindled his heart and enlightened his thought, succeeds more in obscuring the object than in giving it any of his own light; for like the phoenix, he sends up smoke caused by the flames in which his substance is dissolved.
MAR. Without wishing to weigh and compare the labors of this lover, I return to what I was telling you the other day, that praise is one of the greatest sacrifices human passion can offer to its beloved object. And, putting aside matters which touch of the divine, tell me this. Who would know about Achilles, Ulysses, and so many other Greek and Trojan captains, who would guard the memory of so many great soldiers, men of wisdom, and heroes of this world, if they had not been raised to the stars and deified by the sacrifice of praise upon an altar enkindled in the hearts of poets and other illustrious seers, a sacrifice which raises to the sky the celebrant, the victim, and the divine hero, canonized by the band and vow of a legitimate and worthy priest?
CES. You do well to say a worthy and legitimate priest, for there are many false priests in the world today, who, themselves unworthy, usually celebrate others who are as unworthy as they are, just as asini asinos fricant ('... jackasses mock jackasses...'). But according to the will of Providence, instead of both ascending to heaven, both will descend jointly into the darkness of Orcus; so that the glory which both the celebrant and the celebrated receive will be vain, for one has interwoven a statue of straw, or cut a trunk of wood, or cast a piece of cement; and the other, an idol of infamy and baseness, fails to realize that he will not have to wait for the bite of old age or the scythe of Saturn to cut him down, for he will be buried alive by his own panegyrist in the same hour of the eulogy that hails, elects, and exhibits him. A contrary recompense fell to the prudence of that most celebrated Maecenas. If this man had not had any other renown than a spirit inclined to the protection and favor of the Muses, that renown alone would have merited him the respect of so many illustrious poets whose genius set him among the most famous heroes who have walked the face of the earth.
His own studies and his own renown rendered him illustrious and most noble, and not his birth from a race of kings, nor his position as chief secretary and counselor of Augustus. What has made him most illustrious, I say, is to have rendered himself worthy of the fulfillment of the promise of that poet who said,
Fortunati ambo, si quid mea carmina possunt,
Nulla dies nunquam memori vos eximet aevo,
Dum domus Aenae Capitoli immobile saxum,
Accolet, imperiumque pater Romanus habebit.
(Virgil. Aeneid ix, 446-449: '...Both of us are fortunate, for if my verse can mean anything, no length of days shall ever blot you from the memory of time, while the house of Aeneas shall dwell by the steadfast Capitolian rock, and the Roman lord hold sovereignty...')
MAR. I am reminded of what Seneca says in a certain epistle in which he refers one of his friends to the following words of Epicurus: "If it is love of glory that moves your heart, my letters will render you more noteworthy and illustrious than all these other things you honor and which give you honor, and of which you may boast. Homer might have been able to say the same thing to Achilles, or to Ulysses if he could have faced them, and Virgil, the same thing to Aeneas and all his progeny. Therefore, as that moral philosopher well expressed it, "Idomeneus is better known because of the letters of Epicurus than are all the lords, satraps and kings upon whom his title depended, for the memory of those kings is obliterated in the deep darkness of oblivion. Atticus is known not because he was the son-in-law of Agrippa and the progenitor of Tiberius, but because of the letters of Tullius. Drusus, the great-grand-nephew of Caesar, would not be among the number of great men if Cicero had not placed him there. Indeed, the high flood of time submerges us, and above that flood few men of genius will raise their heads". (Seneca, Epistolae 21.3-5)
Now let us return to the argument of this frenzied one who, Seeing a phoenix burning in the sun, is reminded of his own zeal and laments that like the phoenix he returns the light and fire he receives in nothing but an obscure and tepid smoke of praise in the holocaust of his own dissolving substance. As a result, we can never make divine things the subject of our thought without detracting from them rather than adding any glory to them, so that the best thing a man can do with respect to them is to seek rather to ennoble himself in the presence of other men by his own zeal and ardor than to give praise to another by some complete and perfect act. For such an act cannot hope to make progress toward the infinite in which unity and infinity are one and the same, in the pursuit of which one vainly binds himself to any other kind of number; for the infinite is not a unit or any kind of unit, because it is not a number, or any unit of numbers, for no number or unit of numbers can be the same thing as the absolute or the infinite. Accordingly a theologian says well that, inasmuch as the fount of light not only far exceeds our finite intellect but also exceeds divine ones, it is proper to celebrate it not with speeches and discourses, but in silence. (Dionysius the Areopagite, Liber de Trinitate, ed. Ficino (Bale, 1561), p. 1021.)
CES. Yes. But not with the silence of brute animals and those
who have but the image and likeness of men, but with the silence
of those whose silence is more illustrious than all the screeches,
noises, and uproars that can be heard.
MAR. But let us continue and see what the other emblems mean.
CES. Tell me if you have already seen and considered the meaning of this fire in the form of a heart with four wings, two of which have eyes. The entire figure is encircled by luminous rays and by the inscription, Nitimur in cassum? ('Are we searching fruitlessly?')
MAR. I recall well that this must represent the state of mind,
heart, Spirit, and eyes of the frenzied one; but let us read the
As these thoughts aspire to the holy splendor, no sublime effort delivers them of obscurity; and the heart which those thoughts would refresh is unable to withdraw itself from woe.
The Spirit, which would welcome a brief truce, is denied one moment of pleasure; and eyes that would be closed in sleep all the night long are wide with weeping.
Ah me, eyes of mine, by what labor and art can I calm my afflicted senses? Spirit of mine, when and where
shall I temper your intense pain? And you, heart of mine, how shall I offer you the appeasement to compensate for your grave torment?
When will the soul provide you with your due, oh afflicted mind whose heart, spirit, and eyes share your complaint?
Because the mind aspires to the divine splendor it flees association with the crowd and withdraws itself from the multitudes, but it also flees their pursuits, judgments, and opinions; for there is the greater danger of contracting ignorance and vice the greater the multitude with whom one becomes confounded. In public spectacles, says a moral philosopher, in the midst of pleasure the more easy it is to engender vices. (Seneca Epistolae 7.2) If this man desires the highest splendor, he retires as much as he can to the one and withdraws within himself as much as possible, so that he may not be like the multitude of men who constitute the majority; and he would not be their enemy because they are different from him; but he gains the good will of one and another of them if he can; otherwise he interests himself in the one that seems better to him.
He converses with those whom he can make better, or those who can make him better, by the light he can give them, or the light they can give him. He is happier with one worthy individual than with an inept multitude. Nor does he believe he has achieved little when he has become wise in himself, for he remembers the words of Democritus, Unus mihi pro populo est, et populus pro uno (Seneca Epistolae 7.10.: '...I prefer the one to the multitude, and so do the people...'); and those words which Epicurus wrote to a fellow student, Haec tibi, non multis; satis enim magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus (Seneca Epistolae 7.11: '...These things belong to you, not to the many; indeed we are a sufficiently magnificent mirror to each other...').
The mind, then, which aspires to raise itself first turns from the multitude, considering that the light above us scorns our strife and is to be found only where the intelligence is, and not where every intelligence is but that one which, of those that are few, principal, and first, is the unique, prime, principal, and one.
CES. How do you understand that the mind aspires to raise itself? For example, would it be by turning towards the stars, or the empyrean, or the crystalline heaven?
MAR. Certainly not, but by proceeding to the depths of the mind; and in order to accomplish this, it is not at all necessary to gaze wide-eyed toward the sky, to raise one's hands, to direct one's steps toward the temple, wearying the ears of statues with the sounds we make; but it is necessary to descend more intimately within the self and to consider that God is near, that each one has Him with him and within himself more than he himself can be within himself, for God is the soul of souls, the life of all lives, the essence of essences; and the planets you see above and below the canopy of heaven (as it pleases you to call it), are only bodies, creations similar to our earth, in which the divinity is present neither more nor less than it is present in this body which is our earth as well as in our very selves. These are the reasons why one must first of all leave the multitude and withdraw within himself. Then he must reach the state in which he no longer regards but scorns each struggle, so that the more passion and vice fight him from within and vicious enemies from without the more will he recover his breath and rise again, and with one exhalation (if possible) surmount the steep ascent. Then he is in no need of arms and shields other than the greatness of an unconquered soul and the endurance of spirit capable of maintaining his life in equilibrium and continuity, a spirit which proceeds from knowledge and is regulated by the art of speculating upon things lofty as well as base, upon things divine as well as human; and it is in this speculation that the highest good consists. Consequently a moral philosopher said, writing to Lucilius, that it was not necessary to pass through the straits of Scylla and Charybdis, or to penetrate the deserts of Candavia and the Appenines, or to leave the Syrtes behind; for our path is as secure and pleasant as nature herself could arrange. And he said that it is not gold or silver which makes man similar to God, because God does not amass such treasures; it is not adornments, for God is naked; it is not ostentation or fame, for very few are those to whom he exhibits himself, and perhaps no one knows him, and, indeed, many and more than many have a false idea of him; neither is it the possession of so many things we ordinarily admire, for it is not the desire for the abundance of these things that makes us rich, but our contempt for them.
CES. Good. But tell me now in what way our poet will calm his senses, and temper his spirit's pain, appease his heart, and give his mind its due, so that in his aspiration and zeal he shall not have to ask, are we searching fruitlessly?
MAR. He may accomplish all these things by realizing that his soul is in his body in such a way that its superior part may be removed to join and attach itself to divine things as by an indissoluble vow. In that state he will feel neither hate nor love of mortal things, for he will prefer to be the master rather than the servant and slave of a body he regards as nothing more than a prison which holds his liberty in chains, a snare which entangles his wings, a chain which holds fast his hands, shackles which have fixed his feet, and a veil which obscures his vision. But at the same time he will not feel himself a servant, captive, ensnared, enchained, impotent, impenetrable, and blind, because his body will not tyrannize over him any more than he himself allows it to, for now his body will be subjected to his spirit in the same way that matter and the corporeal world are subject to the divinity and to nature. Therefore, he will render himself strong against fortune, magnanimous before injuries, dauntless against poverty, diseases, and persecutions.
CES. Then this heroic frenzy is well integrated.
CES. Let us look at the following emblem which depicts a wheel of time moving about its own center, with the motto, Manens moveor ('While standing fixed, I am moved'). How do you understand this?
MAR. It means that the wheel turns upon itself, so that motion and rest concur, for the spherical motion of a body upon its own axis and its own center implies the rest and immobility associated with rectilinear motion; or, one may say, there is a certain repose of the whole and a motion of its parts; and the parts which are moved in a circle have two kinds of alternate movement, inasmuch as some parts ascend to the summit, while others in turn descend to the bottom; some parts remain in an intermediate position, and some remain in the extreme position either at the top or bottom. And it appears that all this has to do with the subject of the following sonnet:
That which my heart holds both clear and obscure, beauty engraves in me, but humility erases. Zeal sustains me, but another care brings me to the source of all the labors of my soul.
When I think of tearing myself away from the pain, hope revives me, (while) the vigor of another thought binds me; while love raises me, reverence debases me as I aspire to the noblest and the highest good.
Lofty thought, holy desire, and intense zeal of mind, heart, and labor, to the immortal, divine but immense object
join me, enwrap me in it, and cause it to nourish me. No longer may my mind, reason, and sense strive elsewhere, discourse, or become elsewhere entangled.
So that one may say of me: This one who has now fixed his eyes upon the sun, and, become a rival of Endymion, is grieved.
Therefore, the continual motion of the one part of the wheel supposes
and leads with it the motion of the whole, and the hurling down
of the upper parts causes a drawing up of the lower parts; thus,
the impulsion given by the superior parts necessarily results
in the inducement of the inferior ones, and from the descent of
a potency follows the ascent of the opposite potency. At this
point the heart (which represents all the affections in general)
becomes obscure and translucent, restrained by its zeal, raised
by magnificent thoughts, reinforced with hope, weakened by fear.
And in this state and condition those who find themselves subject
to the destiny of generation will ever be seen.
CES. Very good. Let us pass to the emblem which follows. I see a ship inclined upon the sea; its ropes are attached to the shore and it bears the motto, Fluctuat in portu ('It floats in port'). Explain what it can mean; if you have resolved the enigma, enlighten me.
MAR. The emblem and the motto have a certain kinship with the preceding emblem and motto, as can be seen easily, if one reflects a little. But let us read the sonnet:
If heroes, gods, and men encourage me not to despair, no fear of death, no pain of the body, no impediments of pleasure
will cause me excess terror, suffering, or desire; and that I may clearly see my path before me, may doubt, pain, and sadness be extinguished by hope, joy, and inner delight.
But if the being who now renders my thoughts so uncertain, my desires so ardent, and my pleas so vain, should deign to look upon those thoughts, fulfill those desires, and listen to those pleas,
no one who dwells in the abode of birth, life, and death would be capable of such happy thoughts, accomplished desires, and pleas granted;
when heaven, earth, and hell stand in the way, if my divinity shine upon me, enkindle me and hold me near, she will give me light, power, and beatitude.
We understand the sentiment expressed here in the light of our explanation in the preceding discourses, especially where we have shown that the sense of inferior things is attenuated and even nullified when the superior powers are valiantly intent upon the more glorious and heroic object. So great is the virtue of contemplation (as Iamblicus notes) that sometimes the soul not only turns itself from inferior acts, but also escapes the body completely. I would understand this only according to the several modes enumerated in the book of The Thirty Seals. This book presents all the varieties of contraction, by which some ignominiously and others heroically arrive at the point of no longer feeling the fear of death, or suffering the pain of the body, or feeling the impediments of pleasure; for hope, joy, and the delights of the higher spirit gather such force, that they abolish all the passions which can engender doubt, pain, and sadness.
CES. But whom does the lover summon to look upon his thoughts rendered so uncertain; whom does he ask to fulfill those desires which have become so ardent; and whom does he ask to listen to those pleas rendered so vain?
MAR. He addresses the object which gazes upon him the moment he
shows himself to it; for to see the divinity is to be seen by
it, just as to see the sun is to be seen by it. In like manner,
to be heard by the divinity is precisely to hear it, and to be
favored by it is the same as to offer oneself to it. For the divinity
is one, immovable, and always the same, from whom proceeds those
uncertain and certain thoughts, tormenting and pleasing desires,
pleas which are refused and granted, accordingly as man unworthily
or worthily presents himself to it with his intellect, affection,
and activity. Similarly, the pilot of a ship is called the occasion
either of the sinking or the salvation of the ship, accordingly
as he stays with it, or is found to have abandoned it. However,
it is by his delinquency or conscientiousness that the pilot ruins
or saves the ship, while the divine power, which is all in all
does not offer or withdraw itself except by the conversion or
aversion of someone else.
MAR. It seems to me, then, that there is a strong connection between this and the following emblem in which we find two stars in the shape of two radiant eyes and the motto, Mors et vita ('Death and life').
CES. Read the sonnet then.
MAR. I shall.
You can see written on my face by the hand of love the history of my pain. But because your pride knows no restraint and I am eternally unhappy,
you allow your beautiful eyelids, so cruel to me, to hide your delightful eyes, so that the murky sky does not clear, and the baneful and inimical shadows do not dissolve.
By your great beauty and by that love of mine which almost equals it, render yourself merciful, goddess, for love of God.
Do not prolong this too intense evil, which is an undeserving penalty for my abundant love. Let not too much austerity accompany such splendor!
If you condescend that I may live, open the gates to your gracious glance. Gaze upon me, oh lovely one, if you wish to give me death.
The face upon which the story of his pain is written is the lover's soul, inasmuch as it is exposed to blessings from on high; with respect to those blessings the soul exists only in potency and aptitude without the accomplishment of that perfect act which awaits the divine dew. Thus was it well said, Anima mea sicut terra sine aqua tibi (Ps. 142:6: '...I stretched forth my hands to thee: my soul is as earth without water unto thee...'). And elsewhere, Os meum aperui et attraxi spiritum, quia mandata tua desiderabam (Ps. 118:131: '...I opened my mouth and panted, because I longed for thy commandments...'). Next that pride which knows no restraint, is a metaphorical allusion. For God is often called jealous, angry, or asleep and the metaphor indicates how difficult God makes it for us to see even his shoulders; that is, to see him even by his vestiges and effects. Thus he shuts out the light with his eyelids, and does not bring calm again to the murky sky of the human mind by removing from it the shadow of enigmas and similitudes. Nevertheless (because he does not believe that what has not yet happened will never happen), the frenzied one begs that the beauty of the divine light be not concealed from everyone, but at least show itself according to the capacity of him who contemplates it. And he begs that beauty in the name of his own love, which is perhaps equal to it (that is, equal to that beauty inasmuch as he can make himself comprehensible to it), to be merciful to him, so that it may make him like those others who are gentle and who, from crude and distant become benign and affable. He entreats that beauty not to prolong the evil that comes from being deprived of it, and asks it not to allow the splendor he desires to please him more than the love by which it can communicate with him; for all the perfections found in the divinity are not only equal one to the other, but are even one and the same.
Finally he pleads again with the divinity not to sadden him any longer by depriving him of itself; for the divinity can bring him death by the light of its eyes and by the same light can give him life; but if it bring him death, he pleads that it be not by shutting out the endearing light with its eyelids.
CES. Does he refer to that death of lovers which proceeds from the supreme joy, called by the Cabalists mors osculi ('the death of the kiss'), the same thing as the eternity to which man can be disposed in this life and realize fully hereafter?
MAR. Now it is time to consider the next emblem which is similar and related to the preceding ones we have discussed. There is an eagle which flies up to heaven on its two wings; but I do not know how much it finds itself weighed down by a stone tied to one of its feet. Its motto is, Scinditur incertum ('Torn by uncertainty'). Without a doubt the motto refers to the multitude, number, and mass of potencies of the soul; and that famous verse completes its meaning:
Scinditur incertum studia in contraria vulgus. (Virgil, Aenead ii.39: 'The wavering crowd is torn apart by contrary disputes...')
This multitude is generally divided into two factions (although when thus divided their powers are not limited to two); thus, among the potencies of the soul some incite us toward the loftiness of the intelligence and light of justice, while others lead, incite and in a certain fashion force us to baseness, to the filthiness of sensuality, and to the satisfactions of natural instincts. Accordingly, the sonnet says:
I long to do good, but it is denied me; my sun is not with me, although I am with it; for in order to be with it, I am no longer with myself, and the nearer I am to it, the further it is from me.
For one moment of joy, I do much weeping; seeking happiness, I find affliction; because I look too high, I am blinded, and to obtain my good, I lose myself.
Through bitter sweetness and delightful pain, I fall to the center and am drawn up toward the sky; necessity constrains me while the good leads me on; fate draws me to the abyss, while counsel uplifts me; desire spurs me on, while fear bridles me; care burns me and keeps me long in peril.
What straight or devious path will give me peace, and free me from discord, if the one rejects me so, and the other invites me?
The ascent takes place in the soul by the vigor and impulse of the wings which are the intellect and the will. It is by these faculties that the soul naturally turns and fixes its gaze toward God as upon the sovereign good and primary truth, the absolute goodness and beauty; just as every natural thing has a regressive impulse toward its own origin, and a progressive impulse toward its own end and perfection, as Empedocles had well explained, to whose opinion I think the Nolan refers in the following octave:
It happens that the sun returns to its point of departure, and its diffusive light returns to its source; and what belongs to the earth falls back to the earth; and the rivers issuing from the sea flow again to the sea, and desires aspire to the place from which they have drawn their life and breath. In the same way, born from my goddess, my every thought to my goddess must return.
The intellectual faculty is never in repose, is never pleased by any truth it attains, but proceeds onward toward an incomprehensible truth; similarly we see that the will, which follows the cognition, is never satisfied with anything finite. Therefore we conclude that it is the soul's nature to know no other end than the origin of its substance and its entity. But because of the natural potencies that dispose it to the care and government of matter, the soul begins to direct its impulse to serve and communicate its perfection to inferior things, thus bearing witness to its resemblance to the divinity, which communicates itself by its goodness and either produces in an infinite way by giving being to an infinite universe and the innumerable worlds within it, or in a finite way by producing only this universe subject to our eyes and to our mortal reason. Granted that it belongs to the unique essence of the soul to have two kinds of potencies which order it towards its own and toward the lesser good, it is customary to depict it by a pair of wings, whose power impels it toward the object of its prime and immaterial potencies; and by a stone, whose weight re-establishes the aptitude and efficacy it has toward the objects of its secondary and material potencies. That is why the inner affection of the frenzied one is amphibious, divided, afflicted, and more easily inclined toward the base than urged toward the higher things; for the soul, though exiled in an inferior and hostile land where its powers are enfeebled, partially inhabits a region far from its natural abode.
CES. Do you believe this difficulty can be overcome?
MAR. Very well. In the beginning the effort is most trying, but it becomes easier and easier as the progress of contemplation becomes more fruitful. Similarly, he who flies high and is raised farther from the earth will find more air beneath him to sustain him, and consequently will be less impeded by the weight of gravity; in fact, he will be able to fly so high that, having no difficulty in cutting through the air, he will not be able to redescend, even though one may judge it easier to cut through the air's depth toward the earth than the air above toward the stars.
CES. So much so that with this sort of progress he acquires always more and more ease in raising himself?
MAR. Exactly. And Tansillo also says:
The more I feel the air beneath my feet, the more I spread proud pinions to the wind, despise the world, and further my way to heaven.
The more every part of every body, including those of the elements, arrives nearer to its natural place, so much greater is its impetus and force, so that in the end willy-nilly it must reach its destination. Thus, as we see that all the parts of bodies are drawn toward their proper places, so must we judge that things of the intellect are drawn toward their proper objects as toward their own place, home, and end. Now you can easily see the complete meaning intended by the emblem, the motto, and the verses.
CES. So much so that anything that you might add to it would seem
to me most superfluous.
CES. Let us see now what is represented by those two burning arrows upon a shield and by the above inscription, Vicit instans ('The moment conquers').
MAR. This emblem represents the war which continues in the soul of the frenzied one. Because of too long an intimacy with matter, his soul was too stubborn and inert for penetration by the rays of the splendor of the divine intelligence and the species of the divine goodness; during all this time, he says, his heart was armored with diamond, meaning that its stubbornness and refusal to become heated and penetrated had protected it from the blows love brought him in its assaults from all sides. He means that he has not been wounded by those blows of eternal life of which the Canticle speaks when it says, Vulnerasti cor meum, o dilecta, vulnerasti cor meum (Cant. 4.9: '...Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse, thou hast wounded my heart with one of thine eyes, and with one hair of thy neck...'). These blows are not caused by iron or other metal by means of some powerful and strenuous force, but are caused by the arrows of Diana or of Phoebus. Goddess of the wilderness where Truth is contemplated, this Diana is the order of the secondary intelligences, who reflects the splendor of the first intelligence in order to communicate it to those who are deprived of its more direct vision. As for Phoebus, he is the principal god Apollo, who with his own unborrowed splendor transmits his arrows, in every direction, that is, his rays, which are the innumerable species and marks of the divine goodness, intelligence, beauty, and wisdom. The frenzies of love will depend upon the way these arrows are received; therefore the adamant subject may cease to reflect the light as it strikes him on the surface, and, on the contrary, softened and conquered by the heat and light, he may become entirely luminous in substance, may become himself all light, because his affection and his intellection have been penetrated. This does not happen at once at the beginning of life, when the soul freshly sets out inebriated of Lethe and is still full of the waters of forgetfulness and confusion; for there the soul is intimately a prisoner of the body and most concerned with the care of its vegetative life; but little by little the soul orders itself to become active in the exercise of its sensitive faculty, until that moment when by its rational and discursive powers it becomes more purely intellective. Then the soul can be raised to the mind and no longer feels beclouded by the murkiness of that humor which, thanks to the exercise of contemplation, is no longer putrefied in the stomach, but has been fully digested.
In this disposition this frenzied one shows that he has endured six illuminations, in the course of which he has not yet arrived at the purity of concept which could have made him a fitting abode of those alien species which offer themselves equally everywhere and forever knock at the door of the intelligence. Finally love, who from many sides and on many occasions has assaulted him in vain (just as the sun is said to expend light and heat in vain for those who are in the bowels and obscure depths of the earth), fixed itself in those sacred lights: That is, love revealed itself under the two intelligible species of the divine beauty, bound his intellect by the light of truth, burned his affection by the light of goodness, and conquered the corporeal and vegetative ardors which until that time had seemed to triumph and to remain intact (despite the excellence of the soul). For those lights which reflect the active intellect, the illuminator and intellectual sun, easily penetrated his own lights, the light of truth by the door of the intellectual potency, the light of goodness by the door of the appetitive potency down to his heart, that is, to the substance of the passion in general. This, then, was that double arrow which came from the hand of the irate warrior and was more prompt, efficacious, and more ardent than it had been a little while ago when it had shown itself to be more feeble and neglectful. Thus, when that heat and light of truth illuminated his intellect for the first time, he experienced that victorious moment because of which it was said, vicit instans. Therefore you can understand the sense of the proposed emblem, motto, and the sonnet which says:
Strongly I waxed in virtue under the blows of love, when assaults from many and varied parts were sustained by a heart armored with diamond. Thus my efforts triumphed over those of love.
At last, one day (as the heavens destined it) I found myself so fixed by those sacred lights, which through my eyes, and alone among all the others, found easy entrance to my heart.
Then was hurled upon me that double arrow, which came from the hand of the irate warrior, and for six illuminations had failed to assail me.
It pierced its mark, and there fixed itself firmly, and planted its trophy upon me where it could restrain my fugitive pinions.
And since then with more solemn preparation the anger of my sweet enemy never ceases to wound my heart.
It was a single moment which marked both the beginning and the fulfillment of victory. It was a unique two-fold species, which alone among all other species found easy entrance; for in that two-fold species is contained the efficacy and virtues of all the other species; for what greater and more excellent form can be manifested than that beauty, goodness and truth which is the source of every other truth, goodness and beauty? The two-fold species pierced its mark, took possession of the heart, marked it, impressed its character there, and fixed itself firmly; then it established itself, confirmed itself, and strengthened its position so that it could never be lost; for that reason it is impossible for one to turn to love anything else once he has received the divine beauty within himself; and it is impossible for him not to love it, as it is impossible that the appetite can reach out for anything other than the good or a species of the good. And this must be consummately in accord with the appetite for the highest good. Thus, restrained are the pinions which were formerly fugitive, accustomed to flying below with the weight of matter. Consequently, the sweet anger never ceases to wound the heart, soliciting the affection and reawakening the mind; for the sweet anger is the efficacious assault of the benignant enemy who had been excluded for such a long time as a stranger and an alien. And now that enemy is the sole and complete possessor and disposer of the soul; for the soul does not desire or wish to desire anything but him; nor is it content nor does it wish to be content with anything else, as the poet often says:
Sweet anger, delicious war, sweet darts, Sweet are my afflictions and sweet are my pains.
CES. It seems to me there remains nothing else to consider pertinent to that emblem. Now look at this quiver and bow. That these belong to love is demonstrated by the surrounding sparks, a suspended noose, and the motto, Subito clam ('suddenly and secretly').
MAR. I recall quite well having seen this expressed in the poem. But let us read it first:
Eager to find the prey he covets, the eagle wings his way toward the sky, warning all the animals that at his third flight he prepares for destruction.
And from the deep cavern the vast roar of the ferocious lion brings mortal terror, so that the beasts, foreseeing the evil, scurry their scant breakfast to their caves.
And when the whale leaves the caves of Thetis to assail the mute herd of Proteus, he first makes felt his violent spray.
The eagles of the sky, the lions of the land, and the whales who rule the sea do not come treacherously; but the assaults of love come in secret.
Ah, for me those happy days were shattered by the power of one instant, which made of me an unfortunate lover forever.
There are three regions of animals and these are composed of the major elements of earth, water, and air. These animals are of three genera; wild beasts of prey, fish, and birds. Of these three genera nature has provided three chief species: the lion on land, the whale in the sea, and the eagle in the air. Each one of these, as if to show that it has force and power superior to the other, will go so far as to behave with manifest magnanimity, or at least with a semblance of it. For that reason it is observed that before beginning the chase the lion sends out a powerful roar which makes all the woods resound, as the poet says of the frenzied hunter:
At saeva e speculis tempus dea nocta nocendi,
Ardua tecta petit, stabuli et de culmine summo
Pastorale canit Signurn, cornuque recurvo
Tartaream intendit vocem, qua protinus omne
Contremuit nemus, et silvae intonuere profundae.
(Virgil, Aeneid vii 511-515: '...But the grim goddess, seizing from her watch-tower the moment of mischief, seeks the arduous roof, and sounds the pastoral signal from the highest summit of her abode, and strains her Tartarean voice on the twisted horn, which made the entire forest tremble, and echo through the deep wood...')
We know too that when the eagle wishes to seize its prey, it first flies from its nest toward the sky in a vertical and perpendicular position; but ordinarily, after the third time, it leaps up with great impetus and swiftness as if it would fly along a horizontal plane; in that manner, seeking the advantage of a swift flight and making use of the time to examine its prey from afar, it either rejects it or resolves upon it after having fixed its eye upon it three times.
CES. Can we conjecture the reason why it fails to attack its prey at once when it sees it for the first time?
MAR. Not precisely. But perhaps at this moment the eagle perceives it may be offered a better or an easier prey. Besides, I do not believe it always acts in this way, but only generally. Now to return to our discourse. With respect to the whale, we know that because it is a very large organism, it cannot cut through the waters without making its presence manifest beforehand by the reaction of the waves. Besides, there are found many other species of the same fish whose movement and respiration exhale a windy and tempestuous spray of water. Therefore the inferior animals can take the time to escape from all three species of superior animals, so that these superior animals do not behave as deceivers and traitors. But Love, who is stronger and mightier than these animals, and exercises supreme dominion in heaven, on earth, and in the sea, and, perhaps, like these animals, ought to show a magnanimity the more excellent, the more power it has, nevertheless directs its assaults unexpectedly and wounds suddenly:
Labitar totas furor in medullas,
Igne furtivo populante venas,
Nec habet latam data plaga frontem;
Sed vorat tectas penitus medullas,
Virginum ignoto ferit igne pectus.
(Seneca, Phaedra II.iii: '...Madness slides down into the
innermost part of the veins by a furtive, ravaging fire; and it
does not wound the wide-open breast; but devours the disguised
innermost marrow and destroys the courage of virgins by an unknown
As you see, this tragic poet calls love furtive fire, unknown flame; Solomon calls it furtive water (Prov.. 9.17). Samuel named it a murmuring of a subtle breath (III Kings 19.12.). The three indicate the sweetness, suavity, and cunning with which love comes to tyrannize over the universe on the sea, on land, and in heaven.
CES. There is no larger kingdom, nor worse tyranny, no better domain, no power more necessary, nothing sweeter and more gentle, no food more sharp and bitter, no god more violent, none more amiable, no agent more perfidious and more feigning, no author more regal and faithful than love. And, finally, it seems to me that love is everything and does everything, and that everything can be said of it and everything can be attributed to it.
MAR. You express it very well. Love, then (something which acts
principally through the vision, as through the most spiritual
of all the senses, for the vision ascends immediately to the perceptible
limits of the world and without delay extends itself to the farthest
horizon of the visible) will be ready, furtive, unexpected, and
sudden. Besides, we must consider that, according to the ancients,
love comes before all the other gods; for that reason there is
no need to invent a fable of Saturn who shows love the way, and
then is forced to follow it himself. Moreover, why should it be
necessary to see if love appears and announces itself externally,
if its dwelling is in the soul itself and if its bed is the heart,
and if it resides in the composition of our very substance, and
is one with the impulse of our potencies? In conclusion, in all
things the appetite for the beautiful and the good is natural,
and for that reason it is unnecessary to argue or discourse to
see how the affection is formed and strengthened; for suddenly
and in a single instant the appetite is joined to the desirable,
just as the vision is joined to the visible.
CES. Now let us inquire into the meaning of that burning arrow
about which the motto, Cui nova plaga loco ('Where does
the new wound strike?'), is inscribed. What is this arrow's target?
Explain this to me.
That the burning terrors of Lybia and Puglia destroy so much corn or commit so many ears of wheat to the wind; that the orb of the great star emits so many translucent rays;
that this soul, happy in its profound pain and so sad in the joy of its sweet torment, receives burning darts shot from a double star, all sense and reason forbid me to believe.
What more do you attempt, sweet enemy, Love? What zeal moves you to strike me with new blows, now that my whole heart has become one wound?"
Because neither you, nor any other force has a single point left on which to strike another blow, or a single point to pierce or sting me, go, turn your bow elsewhere.
Cease wasting your effort here, for it is wrong, if not vain, oh god of beauty, to kill one who is already dead.
The entire sense of this poem is metaphorical as in the case of the preceding ones, and it is in this sense that it can be understood: the multitude of arrows which wound and have wounded the heart, represent the innumerable individual objects and species of objects which, according to their degrees, reflect the splendor of the divine beauty and therefore kindle the passion for the desired and apprehended good. Both the desired and the apprehended good, inasmuch as the one is goodness in potency and the other is goodness in act, and one is a possible and the other an actual good, crucify and console at the same time, and give at once a sense of the bitter as well as the sweet. But when all the affections are completely converted to God, that it, to the idea of ideas, by the light of intelligible things, the mind is exalted to the suprasensual unity, and is all love, all one, and it no longer feels itself solicited and distracted by diverse objects, but becomes one sole wound, in which all the affections gather to become a single affection. Then it is not the love or appetite of a particular thing that can solicit or even approach the will; for there is nothing more right than justice, nothing more beautiful than beauty, nothing that has more goodness than the good; nothing can be found greater than greatness itself; nothing more luminous than the light which by its presence obscures and effaces all other lights.
CES. To the perfect, if it is perfect, there is nothing that one can add; that is why the will is incapable of any other appetite when it experiences the supreme and sovereign perfection. I can therefore understand his conclusion, when he says to love, cease wasting your efforts here; for, if not in vain, it is wrong (according to a certain analogue and metaphor) to try to kill one who is dead, that is, one who is deprived of life and insensible to other objects, so that he can no longer be stung or pierced by them; for what would it profit him now to be exposed to any other species? And this lament befalls him who, having tasted of the ultimate unity, would become entirely delivered and cut off from the multitude.
MAR. You understand it very well.
MAR. Now here beside us is a boy in a boat who is at the point of becoming engulfed by the stormy sea and, faint and languishing, has abandoned the oars. The emblem bears the motto, Fronti nulla fides ('No faith in this face'). Undoubtedly this means that the serene aspect of the waters invited the boy to plough the faithless sea; whose surface became unexpectedly turbulent, and caused him extreme and mortal fear, and because of his inability to resist the impetus of the waves, he was forced to abandon himself, head down, arms stretched out, and all hope lost. But let us read the verse:
Gentle boy, who from the shore let loose the tiny boat, and, longing for the sea, offer an untutored hand to a frail oar, you are suddenly aware of your misfortune.
You see that the treachery of the baneful sea, makes your prow sink too low or rise too high; nor does your soul, overcome by importunate desires, avail against the oblique and surging billows.
Cede the oars to your fierce enemy, and with less disquiet await your death; and that you may not see death, close your eyes.
If some friendly aid is not prompt, any moment you will surely feel the ultimate effect of your most ignorant and curious zeal.
My harsh destinies are comparable to yours, because, longing for Love, I experience the rigor of that lord of traitors.
How and why love is a traitor and fraudulent we have seen a little while ago. But because I see that the following poem is without an emblem and motto, I suppose it might be related to the preceding one. Therefore let us read it:
Having left the shore to try myself and relax a little while from my sober labors, I fell to musing almost playfully, when suddenly I saw the cruel fates.
These have burned me with so violent a fire that in vain do I attempt the more secure shores again, and in vain do I invoke for deliverance a hand of mercy which would promptly carry me aloft to my swift enemy.
Impotent to release myself, hoarse and vanquished, I yield to my destiny, and no longer try to build a useless bulwark against death.
May my cruel destiny deliver me from every other life, and prolong no more the final torment which it has prescribed for me.
Exemplar of my great evil is the improvident boy who abandoned himself as a plaything to the bosom of the enemy.
At this point I am not certain that I understand or explain everything the frenzied one means. However one thing that is very clear is the strange condition of a soul discouraged on the one hand by the awareness of the difficulty of the work, by the great amount of fatigue and the vastness of the undertaking, and on the other hand discouraged by its own ignorance, its lack of skill, weakness of nerves and the danger of death. He is without counsel for his undertaking; he does not know where he must turn or to whom; he perceives no place of flight or of refuge, for the waves menace him from all sides with their frightening and mortal assaults. Ignoranti portum nullus suus ventus est ('To one ignorant of the port, there is no wind to guide him'). This lover realizes he has relied too much on his own good fortune, having prepared for himself only turmoil, captivity, ruin, submersion. He sees how fortune sports with us; the gifts with which she gently fills our hands she causes to fall and break, or she sees that they are taken from us by another's violence, or she makes them suffocate, poison, or disquiet us by arousing in us suspicion, fear, and jealousy to our great loss and ruin. Fortunae an ulla putatis dona carere dolis? ('Do you think any gift of fortune is without pain?') Because strength that cannot prove itself is vain, magnanimity of soul that cannot prevail is nothing, and because labor that bears no fruit is useless, he sees the effect of the fear of evil, which is worse than the evil itself. Peior est morte timor ipse mortis ('The fear of death is worse than death'). Because of fear he already suffers everything he is afraid to suffer: trembling of the limbs, weakness of the nerves, tremors of the body, anguish of the spirit; and he brings upon himself what has not yet befallen him, a thing certainly worse than whatever could overtake him. For what is more witless than to bemoan something in the future, which is not felt in the present?
CES. These considerations explain the superficial aspect and external iconography of the emblem. But it seems to me the argument of the frenzied one refers to the weakness of the human mind, which, completely engaged in the divine enterprises risks finding itself suddenly engulfed in the abyss of an incomprehensible excellence; and therefore the sense and imagination become confused and absorbed, so that not knowing where to turn, equally incapable of going forward or turning back, the human mind vanishes and loses its own existence like a drop of water that loses itself in the sea, or a weak breath dissipated as it loses its substance in the spacious and immense atmosphere.
MAR. Good, but let us go now, and discuss it on the way home,
for it is getting dark.
END OF THE FIRST DIALOGUE
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