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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsThe Banquet (il Convito) - The Third Treatise - Chapter XV
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The Banquet (il Convito) - The Third Treatise - Chapter XV Post by :sharonski Category :Nonfictions Author :Dante Alighieri Date :July 2011 Read :2427

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

The Third Treatise - CHAPTER XV

In the preceding chapter this glorious Lady is praised according to
one of her component parts, that is, Love. In this chapter I intend to
explain that passage which begins, "Her aspect shows delights of
Paradise," and here it is requisite to discuss and praise her other
part, Wisdom.

The text then says that in the face of this Lady things appear which
show us joys of Paradise; and it distinguishes the place where this
appears, namely, in the eyes and the smile. And here it must be known
that the eyes of Wisdom are her demonstrations, whereby one sees the
Truth most certainly; but her persuasions are in her smile, in which
persuasions the inner Light of Wisdom reveals itself without any veil
or concealment. And in these two is felt that most exalted joy which
is the supreme good in Paradise. This joy cannot be in any other thing
here below, except in gazing into these eyes and upon that smile. And
the reason is this, that since each thing naturally desires its
perfection, without which it cannot be at peace, to have that is to be
blessed. For although it might possess all other things, yet, being
without that, there would remain in it desire, which cannot consist
with perfect happiness, since perfect happiness is a perfect thing,
and desire is a defective thing. For one desires not that which he
has, but that which he has not, and here is a manifest defect. And in
this form solely can human perfection be acquired, as the perfection
of Reason, on which, as on its principal part, our essential being all
depends. All our other actions, as to feel or hear, to take food, and
the rest, are through this one alone; and this is for itself, and not
for others. So that, if that be perfect, it is so perfect that the
man, inasmuch as he is a man, sees each desire fulfilled, and thus he
is happy. And therefore it is said in the Book of Wisdom: "Whoso
casteth away Wisdom and Knowledge is unhappy," that is to say, he
suffers the privation of happiness. From the habit of Wisdom it
follows that a man learns to be happy and content, according to the
opinion of the Philosopher. One sees, then, how in the aspect of this
Lady joys of Paradise appear, and therefore one reads in the Book of
Wisdom quoted above, when speaking of her, "She is a shining whiteness
of the Eternal Light; a Mirror without blemish, of the Majesty of
God." Then when it says, "Things over which the intellect may stray,"
I excuse myself, saying that I can say but little concerning these, on
account of their overpowering influence. Where it is to be known that
in any way these things dazzle our intellect, inasmuch as they affirm
certain things to be, which our intellect is unable to comprehend,
that is, God and Eternity, and the first Matter which most certainly
they do not see, and with all faith they believe to be. And even what
they are we cannot understand; and so, by not denying things, it is
possible to draw near to some knowledge of them, but not otherwise.

Truly here it is possible to have some very strong doubt how it is
that Wisdom can make the man completely happy without being able to
show him certain things perfectly; since the natural desire for
knowledge is in the man, and without fulfilment of the desire he
cannot be fully happy. To this it is possible to reply clearly, that
the natural desire in each thing is in proportion to the possibility
of reaching to the thing desired; otherwise it would pass into
opposition to itself, which is impossible; and Nature would have
worked in vain, which also is impossible.

It would pass into opposition, for, desiring its perfection, it would
desire its imperfection, since he would desire always to desire, and
never fulfil his desire. And into this error the cursed miser falls,
and does not perceive that he desires always to desire, going
backwards to reach to an impossible amount.

Nature also would have worked in vain, since it would not be ordained
to any end; and, in fact, human desire is proportioned in this life to
that knowledge which it is possible to have here. One cannot pass that
point except through error, which is outside the natural intention.
And thus it is proportioned in the Angelic, and it is limited in Human
Nature, and it finds its end in that Wisdom in proportion as the
nature of each can apprehend it.

And this is the reason why the Saints have no envy amongst themselves,
since each one attains the end of his desire, and the desire of each
is in due proportion to the nature of his goodness. Wherefore, since
to know God and certain other things, as Eternity and the first
Matter, is not possible to our Nature, naturally we have no desire for
that knowledge, and hereby is this doubtful question solved.

Then when I say, "Rain from her beauty little flames of fire," I
proceed to another joy of Paradise, that is, from the secondary
felicity, happiness, to this first one, which proceeds from her
beauty, where it is to be known that Morality is the beauty of
Philosophy. For as the beauty of the body is the result of its members
in proportion as they are fitly ordered, so the beauty of Wisdom,
which is the body of Philosophy, as has been said, results from the
order of the Moral Virtues which visibly make that joy. And therefore
I say that her beauty, which is Morality, rains down little flames of
fire, meaning direct desire, which is begotten in the pleasure of the
Moral Doctrine; which desire removes it again from the natural vices,
and not only from the others. And thence springs that happiness which
Aristotle defined in the first book of Ethics, saying, that it is Work
according to Virtue in the Perfect Life.

And when it says, "Fair one, who may desire Escape from blame," it
proceeds in praise of Philosophy. I cry aloud to the people that they
should follow her, telling them of her good gifts, that is to say,
that by following her each one may become good. Therefore it says to
each Soul, that feels its beauty is to blame because it does not
appear what it ought to appear, let her look at this example. Where it
is to be known that the Morals are the beauty of the Soul, that is to
say, the most excellent virtues, which sometimes through vanity or
through pride are made less beautiful or less agreeable, as in the
last treatise it was possible to perceive. And therefore I say that,
in order to shun this, one looks at that Lady, Philosophy, there where
she is the example of Humility, namely, in that part of herself which
is called Moral Philosophy. And I subjoin that by gazing at her (I
say, at Wisdom) in that part, every vicious man will become upright
and good. And therefore I say she has "a spirit to create Good
thoughts, and crush the vices." She turns gently back him who has gone
astray from the right course.

Finally, in highest praise of Wisdom, I say of her that she is the
Mother of every good Principle, saying that she is "God's thought,"
who began the World, and especially the movement of the Heaven by
which all things are generated, and wherein each movement has its
origin, that is to say, that the Divine Thought is Wisdom. She was,
when God made the World; whence it follows that she could make it, and
therefore Solomon said in the Book of Proverbs, in the person of
Wisdom: "When He prepared the Heavens, I was there: when He set a
compass upon the face of the depth; when He established the clouds
above; when He strengthened the fountains of the deep; when He gave to
the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment;
when He appointed the foundations of the Earth: then I was by Him, as
one brought up with Him, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always
before Him." O, ye Men, worse than dead, who fly from the friendship
of Wisdom, open your eyes, and see that before you were she was the
Lover of you, preparing and ordaining the process of your being! Since
you were made she came that she might guide you, came to you in your
own likeness; and, if all of you cannot come into her presence, honour
her in her friends, and follow their counsels, as of them who announce
to you the will of this eternal Empress! Close not your ears to
Solomon, who tells you "the path of the Just is as a shining Light,
which goeth forth and increaseth even to the day of salvation." Follow
after them, behold their works, which ought to be to you as a beacon
of light for guidance in the path of this most brief life.

And here we may close the Commentary on the true meaning of the
present Song. The last stanza, which is intended for a refrain, can be
explained easily enough by the Literal exposition, except inasmuch as
it says that I there called this Lady "disdainful and morose." Where
it is to be known that at the beginning this Philosophy appeared to me
on the part of her body, which is Wisdom, morose, for she smiled not
on me, insomuch that as yet I did not understand her persuasions; and
she seemed to me disdainful, for she turned not her glance to me, that
is to say, I could not see her demonstrations. But the defect was
altogether on my side. From this, and from that which is given in the
explanation of the Literal meaning of the Song, the Allegory of the
refrain is evident. It is time, therefore, that we proceed farther,
and this treatise end.

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