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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsThe Banquet (il Convito) - The Fourth Treatise - Chapter XXVIII
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The Banquet (il Convito) - The Fourth Treatise - Chapter XXVIII Post by :Janet_Combs Category :Nonfictions Author :Dante Alighieri Date :July 2011 Read :510

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The Banquet (il Convito) - The Fourth Treatise - Chapter XXVIII

The Fourth Treatise - CHAPTER XXVIII

Following the section which has been discussed, we have now to proceed
to the last, that is, to that which begins, "The fourth part of their
life Weds them again to God," by which the text intends to show what
the noble Soul does in the last age, that is, in Extreme Old Age, that
is, Senility. And it says that it does two things: the one, that it
returns to God as to that port or haven whence it departed when it
issued forth to enter into the sea of this life; the other is, that it
blesses the voyage which it has made, because it has been upright,
straight, and good, and without the bitterness of storm and tempest.

And here it is to be known that, even as Tullius says in that book On
Old Age, the natural death is, as it were, a port or haven to us after
our long voyage and a place of rest. And the Virtuous Man who dies
thus is like the good mariner; for, as he approaches the port or
haven, he strikes his sails, and gently, with feeble steering, enters
port. Even thus we ought to strike the sails of our worldly affairs,
and turn to God with all our heart and mind, so that one may come into
that haven with all sweetness and all peace.

And in this we have from our own proper nature great instruction in
gentleness, for in such a death as this there is no pain nor
bitterness, but even as a ripe apple easily and without violence
detaches itself from its branch, so our Soul without grief separates
itself from the body wherein it has dwelt.

Aristotle, in his book On Youth and Old Age, says that the death which
overtakes us in old age is without sadness. And as to him who comes
from a long journey, before he enters into the gate of his city, the
citizens thereof go forth to meet him, so do those citizens of the
Eternal Life go forth to meet the noble Soul; and they do thus because
of his good works and acts of contemplation, which were of old
rendered unto God and withdrawn from worldly affairs and thoughts.
Hear what Tullius says in the person of Cato the elder: "It seems to
me that already I see, and I uplift myself in the greatest desire to
see, your fathers, whom I loved, and not only those whom I knew
myself, but also those of whom I have heard spoken." In this age,
then, the noble Soul renders itself unto God, and awaits the end of
this life with much desire; and to itself it seems that it goes out
from the Inn to return home to the Father's mansion; to itself it
seems to have reached the end of a long journey and to have reached
the City; to itself it seems to have crossed the wide sea and returned
into the port. O, miserable men and vile, who run into this port with
sails unfurled; and there where you should find rest, are broken by
the fury of the wind and wrecked in the harbour. Truly the Knight
Lancelot chose not to enter it with sails unfurled, nor our most noble
Italian Guido da Montefeltro. These noble Spirits indeed furled the
sails after the voyage of this World, whose cares were rendered to
Religion in their long old age, when they had laid down each earthly
joy and labour. And it is not possible to excuse any man because of
the bond of matrimony, which may hold him in his old age, from turning
to Religion, even as he who adopts the habit of St. Benedict and St.
Augustine and St. Francis and St. Dominic and the like mode of life,
but also it is possible to turn to a good and true Religion whilst
remaining in the bonds of matrimony, for God asks of us no more than
the religious heart. And therefore St. Paul says to the Romans: "For
he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision
which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly;
and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the
letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."

And the Noble Soul in this age blesses likewise the time that is past,
and it may well bless it; because when Memory turns back to them, the
Noble Soul remembers her upright deeds, without which it were not
possible for her to come to the port whither she is hastening with
such wealth nor with such gain. And the Noble Soul does like the good
merchant, who, when he draws near to his port, examines his cargo, and
says: "If I had not passed along such a highway as that, I should not
possess this treasure, and I should not have wherewith to rejoice in
my city, to which I am approaching;" and therefore he blesses the
voyage he has made.

And that these two things are suitable to this age that great poet
Lucan represents to us in the second book of his Pharsalia, when he
says that Marcia returned to Cato, and entreated him that he would
take her back in his fourth and Extreme Old Age, by which Marcia the
Noble Soul is meant, and we can thus depict the symbol of it in all
Truth. Marcia was a virgin, and in that state typifies Adolescence;
she then espoused Cato, and in that state typifies Youth; she then
bore sons, by whom are typified the Virtues which are becoming to
young men, as previously described; and she departed from Cato and
espoused Hortensius, by which it is typified that she quitted Youth
and came to Old Age. She bore sons to this man also, by whom are
typified the Virtues which befit Old Age, as previously said.
Hortensius died, by which is typified the end of Old Age, and Marcia,
made a widow, by which widowhood is typified Extreme Old Age, returned
in the early days of her widowhood to Cato, whereby is typified the
Noble Soul turning to God in the beginning of Extreme Old Age. And
what earthly man was more worthy to typify God than Cato? None, of a
certainty. And what does Marcia say to Cato? "Whilst there was blood
in me (that is to say, Youth), whilst the maternal power was in me
(that is, Age, which is indeed the Mother of all other Virtues or
Powers, as has been previously shown or proved), I," says Marcia,
"fulfilled all thy commandments (that is to say, that the Soul stood
firm in obedience to the Civil Laws)." She says: "And I took two
husbands," that is to say, I have been in two fruitful periods of
life. "Now," says Marcia, "that I am weary, and that I am void and
empty, I return to thee, being no longer able to give happiness to the
other husband;" that is to say, that the Noble Soul, knowing well that
it has no longer the power to produce, that is, feeling all its
members to have grown feeble, turns to God, that is, to Him who has no
need of members of the body. And Marcia says, "Give me the ancient
covenanted privileges of the beds; give me the name alone of the
Marriage Tie;" that is to say, the Noble Soul says to God, "O my Lord,
give me now repose and rest;" the Soul says, "Give me at least
whatsoever I may have called Thine in a life so long." And Marcia
says, "Two reasons move or urge me to say this; the one is, that they
may say of me, after I am dead, that I was the wife of Cato; the other
is, that it may be said after me that thou didst not drive me away,
but didst espouse me heartily." By these two causes the Noble Soul is
stirred and desires to depart from this life as the spouse of God, and
wishes to show that God was gracious to the creature that He made. O
unhappy and baseborn men! you who prefer to depart from this life
under the name of Hortensius rather than of Cato!

From Cato's name a grace comes into the close of the discourse which
it was fit to make touching the signs of Nobility; because in him
Nobility reveals them all, through all the ages of his life.

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NEXT BOOKS

The Banquet (il Convito) - The Fourth Treatise - Chapter XXIX The Banquet (il Convito) - The Fourth Treatise - Chapter XXIX

The Banquet (il Convito) - The Fourth Treatise - Chapter XXIX
The Fourth Treatise - CHAPTER XXIXSince the Song has demonstrated those signs which in each age orperiod of life appear in the Noble Man, and by which it is possible toknow him, and without which he cannot be, even as the Sun cannot bewithout light or the fire without heat, the text cries aloud to thePeople in the concluding part of this treatise on Nobility, and itsays: "How many are deceived!" They are deceived who, because they areof ancient and famous lineage, and because they are descended ofexcellent and Noble fathers, believe themselves to be Noble, yet havein themselves no Nobility.
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The Banquet (il Convito) - The Fourth Treatise - Chapter XXVII The Banquet (il Convito) - The Fourth Treatise - Chapter XXVII

The Banquet (il Convito) - The Fourth Treatise - Chapter XXVII
The Fourth Treatise - CHAPTER XXVIIThat section which the text puts forward having been reasoned out andmade sufficiently clear, showing the qualities of uprightness whichthe noble Soul puts into Youth, we go on to pay attention to the thirdpart, which begins, "Are prudent in their Age," in which the Songintends to show those qualities which the noble Nature reveals andought to possess in the third age, that is to say, Old Age. And itsays that the noble Soul in Old Age is prudent, is just, is liberaland cheerful, willing to speak kindly and for the good of others, andready to listen
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