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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsThe Banquet (il Convito) - The Third Treatise - Chapter I
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The Banquet (il Convito) - The Third Treatise - Chapter I Post by :khiggins Category :Nonfictions Author :Dante Alighieri Date :July 2011 Read :3547

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The Banquet (il Convito) - The Third Treatise - Chapter I

The Third Treatise - CHAPTER I

Love, reasoning of my Lady in my mind
With constant pleasure, oft of her will say
Things over which the intellect may stray;
His words make music of so sweet a kind
That the Soul hears and feels, and cries, Ah, me,
That I want power to tell what thus I see!

If I would tell of her what thus I hear,
First, all that Reason cannot make its own
I needs must leave; and of what may be known
Leave part, for want of words to make it clear.
If my Song fail, blame wit and words, whose force
Fails to tell all I hear in Love's discourse.

The Sun sees not in travel round the earth,
Till it reach her abode, so fair a thing
As she of whom Love causes me to sing.
All minds of Heaven wonder at her worth;
Mortals, enamoured, find her in their thought
When Love his peace into their minds has brought.

Her Maker saw that she was good, and poured,
Beyond our Nature, fulness of His Power
On her pure soul, whence shone this holy dower
Through all her frame, with beauty so adored
That from the eyes she touches heralds fly
Heartward with longings, heavenward with a sigh.

On her fair frame Virtue Divine descends
As on the angel that beholds His face.
Fair one who doubt, go with her, mark the grace
In all her acts. Downward from Heaven bends
An angel when the speaks, who can attest
A power in her by none of us possessed.

The graceful acts that she shows forth to all
Rival in calls to love that love must hear;
Fair in all like her, fairest she'll appear
Who is most like her. We, content to call
Her face a Miracle, have Faith made sure:
For that, He made her ever to endure.

Her aspect shows delights of Paradise,
Seen in her eyes and in her smiling face;
Love brought them there as to his dwelling-place.
They dazzle reason, as the Sun the eyes;
And since I cannot fix on them my gaze
Words must suffice that little speak their praise.

Rain from her beauty little flames of fire,
Made living with a spirit to create
Good thoughts, and crush the vices that innate
Make others vile. Fair one, who may desire
Escape from blame as one not calm or meek,
From her, who is God's thought, thy teaching seek.

My Song, it seems you speak this to oppose
The saying of a sister Song of mine:
This lowly Lady whom you call divine,
Your sister called disdainful and morose.
Though Heaven, you know, is ever bright and pure,
Eyes may have cause to find a star obscure.

So when your sister called this Lady proud
She judged not truly, by what seemed; but fear
Possessed her soul; and still, when I come near
Her glance, there's dread. Be such excuse allowed,
My Song, and when thou canst, approach her, say;
My Lady, take all homage I can pay.


* * * * *


In the preceding treatise is described how my second Love took its
rise from the compassionate countenance of a Lady; which Love, finding
my Soul inclined to its ardour, after the manner of fire, was kindled
from a slight spark into a great flame; so that not only during my
waking hours, but during sleep, its light threw many a vision into my
mind. And how great the desire which Love excited to behold this Lady,
it would be impossible either to tell or to make understood. And not
only of her was I thus desirous, but of all those persons who had any
nearness to her, either as acquaintances or as relations. Oh! how many
were the nights, when the eyes of other persons were closed in sleep,
that mine, wide open, gazed fixedly upon the tabernacle of my Love.

And as the rapidly increasing fire must of necessity be seen, it being
impossible for fire to remain hidden, the desire seized me to speak of
the Love that I could no longer restrain within me. And although I
could receive but little help from my own counsel, yet, inasmuch as,
either from the will of Love or from my own promptness, I drew nigh to
it many times, I deliberated, and I saw that, in speaking of Love,
there could be no more beautiful nor more profitable speech than that
which commends the beloved person. And in this deliberation three
reasons assisted me. One of them was self-love, which is the source of
all the rest, as every one sees. For there is no more lawful nor more
courteous way of doing honour to one's self than by doing honour to
one's friend; and, since friendship cannot exist between the unlike,
wherever one sees friendship, likeness is understood; and wherever
likeness is understood, thither runs public praise or blame. And from
this reason two great lessons may be learnt: the one is, never to wish
that any vicious man should seem your friend, for in that case a bad
opinion is formed of him who has made the evil man his friend; the
other is, that no one ought to blame his friend publicly, because, if
you consider well the aforesaid reason, he but points to himself with
his finger in his eye.

The second reason was the desire for the duration of this friendship;
wherefore it is to be known, as the Philosopher says in the ninth book
of the Ethics, in the friendship of persons of unequal position it is
requisite, for the preservation of that friendship, for a certain
proportion to exist between them, which may reduce the dissimilarity
to a similarity, as between the master and the servant. For, although
the servant cannot render the same benefit to the master that is
conferred on him, yet he ought to render the best that he can, with so
much solicitude and freewill that that which is dissimilar in itself
may become similar through the evidence of good-will, which proves the
friendship, confirms and preserves it. Wherefore I, considering myself
lower than that Lady, and perceiving myself benefited by her,
endeavoured to praise her according to my ability. And, if it be not
similar of itself, my prompt freewill proves at least that if I could
I would do more, and thus it makes its friendship similar to that of
this gentle Lady.

The third reason was an argument of prudence; for, as Boethius says,
"It is not sufficient to look only at that which is before the eyes,
that is, at the Present; and, therefore, Prudence, Foresight, is given
to us, which looks beyond to that which may happen." I say that I
thought that for a long time I might be reproached by many with levity
of mind, on hearing that I had turned from my first Love. Wherefore,
to remove this reproach, there was no better argument than to state
who the Lady was who had thus changed me; that, by her manifest
excellence, they might gain some perception of her virtue; and that,
by the comprehension of her most exalted virtue, they might be able to
see that all stability of mind could be in that mutability: and,
therefore, they should not judge me light and unstable. I then began
to praise this Lady, and if not in the most suitable manner, at least
as well as I could at first; and I began to say: "Love, reasoning of
my Lady in my mind." This Song chiefly has three parts. The first is
the whole of the first two stanzas, in which I speak in a preliminary
manner. The second is the whole of the six following stanzas, in which
is described that which is intended, i.e., the praise of that gentle
Lady; the first of which begins: "The Sun sees not in travel round the
earth." The third part is in the last two stanzas, in which,
addressing myself to the Song, I purify it from all doubtful
interpretation. And these three parts remain to be discussed now in
due order.

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