(GLI EROICI FURORI)
An Ethical poem
BY GIORDANO BRUNO
PART THE FIRST
WITH AN INTRODUCTION, COMPILED CHIEFLY FROM DAVID LEVI'S GIORDANO BRUNO O LA RELIGIONE DEL PENSIERO
LONDON GEORGE REDWAY YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN 1887
When this Translation was begun, more than two years ago, for my own pleasure, in leisure hours, I had no knowledge of the difficulty I should find in the work, nor any thought of ever having it printed; but as "Gli Eroici Furori" of Giordano Bruno has never appeared in English, I decided to publish that portion of it which I have finished.
I wish to thank those friends who have so kindly looked over my work from time to time, and given me their help in the choice of words and phrases. I must, moreover, confess that I am keenly alive to the shortcomings and defects of this Translation.
I have used the word "Enthusiasts" in the title, rather than "Enthusiasms," because it seemed to me more appropriate.
FOLKSTONE, September 1887.
Page 3, line 10, for "also mother" read "also my mother." Page 47, line 9, for "poisons" read "poison."
Nola, a city founded by the Chalcidian Greeks, at a short distance from Naples and from Vesuvius, was the birth-place of Giordano Bruno. It is described by David Levi as a city which from ancient times had always been consecrated to science and letters. From the time of the Romans to that of the Barbarians and of the Middle Ages, Nola was conspicuous for culture and refinement, and its inhabitants were in all times remarkable for their courteous manners, for valour, and for keenness of perception. They were, moreover, distinguished by their love for and study of philosophy; so that this city was ever a favourite dwelling-place for the choice spirits of the Renaissance. It may also be asserted that Nola was the only city of Magna Graecia which, in spite of the persecutions of Pagan emperors and Christian princes and clergy, always preserved the philosophical traditions of the Pythagoreans, and never was the sacred fire on the altar of Vesta suffered to become entirely extinct. Such was the intellectual and moral atmosphere in which Bruno passed his childhood. His paternal home was situated at the foot of Mount Cicada, celebrated for its fruitful soil. From early youth his pleasure was to pass the night out on the mountain, now watching the stars, now contemplating the arid, desolate sides of Vesuvius. He tells how, in recalling those days—the only peaceful ones of his life—he used to think, as he looked up at the infinite expanse of heaven and the confines of the horizon, with the towering volcano, that this must be the ultimate end of the earth, and it appeared as if neither tree nor grass refreshed the dreary space which stretched out to the foot of the bare smoky mountain. When, grown older, he came nearer to it, and saw the mountain so different from what it had appeared, and the intervening space that, seen from afar, had looked so bare and sterile, all covered with fruit-trees and enriched with vineyards, he began to see how illusory the judgment of the senses may be; and the first doubt was planted in his young soul as he perceived that, while the mind may grasp Nature in her grandeur and majesty, the work of the sage must be to examine her in detail, and penetrate to the cause of things. When he appeared before the tribunal of the Holy Office at Venice, being asked to declare who and what he was, he said: "My name is Giordano, of the family of Bruno, of the city of Nola, twelve miles from Naples. There was I born and brought up. My profession has been and is that of letters, and of all the sciences. My father's name was Giovanni, and my mother was Francesca Savolini; and my father was a soldier. He is dead, and also mother. I am forty-four years old, having been born in 1548." He always regarded Nola with patriotic pride, and he received his first instruction in his father's house and in the public schools. Of a sad disposition, and gifted with a most lively imagination, he was from his earliest years given to meditation and to poetry. The early years of Bruno's life were times of agitation and misfortune, and not propitious to study. The Neapolitan provinces were disturbed by constant earthquakes, and devastated by pestilence and famine. The Turks fought, and ravaged the country, and made slaves of the inhabitants; the neighbouring provinces were still more harassed by hordes of bandits and outlaws, who invested Calabria, led by a terrible chief called Marcone. The Inquisition stood prepared to light its fires and slaughter the heretic. The Waldensians, who had lately been driven out of Piedmont, and had sought a shelter in the Calabrian territory, were hunted down and given over to the executioner.
The convent was the only refuge from violence, and Bruno, either from religious enthusiasm, or in order to be able to devote himself to study, became a friar at the age of fifteen. There, in the quiet cloister of the convent of St. Dominic at Naples, his mind was nourished and his intellect developed; the cloistral and monkish education failed to enslave his thought, and he emerged from this tutelage the boldest and least fettered of philosophers. Everything about this church and this convent, famous as having been the abode of Thomas Aquinas, was calculated to fire the enthusiasm of Bruno's soul; the leisure and quiet, far from inducing habits of indolence, or the sterile practices of asceticism, were stimulants to austere study, and to the fervour of mystical speculations. Here he passed nearly thirteen years of early manhood, until his intellect strengthened by study he began to long for independence of thought, and becoming, as he said himself, solicitous about the food of the soul and the culture of the mind, he found it irksome to go through automatically the daily vulgar routine of the convent; the pure flame of an elevated religious feeling being kindled in his soul, he tried to evade the vain exercises of the monks, the puerile gymnastics, and the adoration of so-called relics. His character was frank and open, and he was unable to hide his convictions; he put some of his doubts before his companions, and these hastened to refer them to the superiors; and thus was material found to institute a cause against him. It became known, that he had praised the methods used by the Arians or Unitarians in expounding their doctrines, adding that they refer all things to the ultimate cause, which is the Father: this, with other heretical propositions, being brought to the notice of the Holy Office, Bruno found himself in the position of being first observed and then threatened. He was warned of the danger that hung over him by some friends, and decided to quit Naples. He fled from the convent, and took the road to Rome, and was there received in the monastery of the Minerva. A few days after his arrival in Rome he learned that instructions for his arrest had been forwarded from Naples; he tarried not, but got away secretly, throwing aside the monk's habiliments by the way. He wandered for some days about the Roman Campagna, his destitute condition proving a safeguard against the bands of brigands that infested those lands, until arriving near Civita Vecchia, he was taken on board a Genoese vessel, and carried to the Ligurian port, where he hoped to find a refuge from his enemies; but the city of Geneva was devastated by pestilence and civil war, and after a sojourn of a few days he pursued once more the road of exile. Seeking for a place wherein he might settle for a short time and hide from his pursuers, he stayed his steps at Noli, situated at a short distance from Savona, on the Riviera: this town, nestled in a little bay surrounded by high hills crowned by feudal castles and towers, was only accessible on the shore side, and offered a grateful retreat to our philosopher. At Noli, Bruno obtained permission of the magistracy to teach grammar to children, and thus secured the means of subsistence by the small remuneration he received; but this modest employment did not occupy him sufficiently, and he gathered round him a few gentlemen of the district, to whom he taught the science of the Sphere. Bruno also wrote a book upon the Sphere, which was lost. He expounded the system of Copernicus, and talked to his pupils with enthusiasm about the movement of the earth and of the plurality of worlds.
As in that same Liguria Columbus first divined another hemisphere outside the Pillars of Hercules, so Bruno discovered to those astonished minds the myriads of worlds which fill the immensity of space. Columbus was derided and banished by his fellow-citizens, and the fate of our philosopher was similar to his. In the humble schoolmaster who taught grammar to the children, the bishop, the clergy, and the nobles, who listened eagerly to his lectures on the Sphere, began to suspect the heretic and the innovator. After five months it behoved him to leave Noli; he took the road to Savona, crossed the Apennines, and arrived at Turin. In Turin at that time reigned the great Duke Emanuele Filiberto, a man of strong character—one of those men who know how to found a dynasty and to fix the destiny of a people; at that time, when Central and Southern Italy were languishing under home and foreign tyranny, he laid the foundations of the future Italy.
He was warrior, artist, mechanic, and scholar. Intrepid on the field of battle, he would retire from deeds of arms to the silence of his study, and cause the works of Aristotle to be read to him; he spoke all the European languages; he worked at artillery, at models of fortresses, and at the smith's craft; he brought together around him, from all sides of Italy, artisans and scientists to promote industry, commerce, and science; he gathered together in Piedmont the most excellent compositors of Italy, and sanctioned a printer's company.
Bruno, attracted to Turin by the favour that was shown to letters and philosophy, hoped to get occupation as press reader; but it was precisely at that time that the Duke, instigated by France, was combating, with every kind of weapon, the Waldensian and Huguenot heresies, and had invited the Jesuits to Turin, offering them a substantial subsidy; so that on Bruno's arrival he found the place he had hoped for, as teacher in the university, occupied by his enemies, and he therefore moved on with little delay, and embarked for Venice.
Berti, in his Life of Bruno, remarks that when the latter sought refuge in Turin, Torquato Tasso, also driven by adverse fortune, arrived in the same place, and he notes the affinity between them—both so great, both subject to every species of misfortune and persecution in life, and destined to immortal honours after their death: the light of genius burned in them both, the fire of enthusiasm flamed in each alike, and on the forehead of each one was set the sign of sorrow and of pain.
Both Bruno and Tasso entered the cloister as boys: the one joined the Dominicans, the other the Jesuits; and in the souls of both might be discerned the impress of the Order to which they belonged. Both went forth from their native place longing to find a broader field of action and greater scope for their intellectual powers. The one left Naples carrying in his heart the Pagan and Christian traditions of the noble enterprises and the saintly heroism of Olympus and of Calvary, of Homer and the Fathers, of Plato and St. Ignatius; the other was filled with the philosophical thought of the primitive Italian and Pythagorean epochs, fecundated by his own conceptions and by the new age; philosopher and apostle of an idea, Bruno consecrated his life to the development of it in his writings and to the propagation of his principles in Europe by the fire of enthusiasm. The one surprised the world with the melody of his songs; being, as Dante says, the "dolce sirena che i marinari in mezzo al mare smaga," he lulled the anguish that lacerated Italy, and gilded the chains which bound her; the other tried to shake her; to recall her to life with the vigour of thought, with the force of reason, with the sacrifice of himself. The songs of Tasso were heard and sung from one end of Italy to the other, and the poet dwelt in palaces and received the caress and smile of princes; while Bruno, discoursing in the name of reason and of science, was rejected, persecuted, and scourged, and only after three centuries of ingratitude, of calumny, and of forgetfulness, does his country show signs of appreciating him and of doing justice to his memory. In Tasso the poet predominates over the philosopher, in Bruno the philosopher predominates over and eclipses the poet. The first sacrifices thought to form; the second is careful only of the idea. Again, both are full of a conception of the Divine, but the God that the dying Tasso confessed is a god that is expected and comes not; while the god that Bruno proclaims he already finds within himself. Tasso dies in his bed in the cloister, uneasy as on a bed of thorns; Bruno, amidst the flames, stands out as on a pedestal, and dies serene and calm. We must now follow our fugitive to Venice.
At the time Giordano Bruno arrived in Venice that city was the most important typographical centre of Europe; the commerce in books extended through the Levant, Germany, and France, and the philosopher hoped that here he might find some means of subsistence. The plague at that time was devastating Venice, and in less than one year had claimed forty-two thousand victims; but Bruno felt no fear, and he took a lodging in that part of Venice called the Frezzeria, and was soon busy preparing for the press a work called "Segni del Tempo," hoping that the sale of it would bring a little money for daily needs. This work was lost, as were all those which he published in Italy, and which it was to the interest of Rome to destroy. Disappointed at not finding work to do in Venice, he next went to Padua, which was the intellectual centre of Europe, as Venice was the centre of printing and publishing; the most celebrated professors of that epoch were to be found in the University of Padua, but at the time of Bruno's sojourn there, Padua, like Venice, was ravaged by the plague; the university was closed, and the printing-house was not in operation. He remained there only a few days, lodging with some monks of the Order of St. Dominic, who, he relates, "persuaded me to wear the dress again, even though I would not profess the religion it implied, because they said it would aid me in my wayfaring to be thus attired; and so I got a white cloth robe, and I put on the hood which I had preserved when I left Rome." Thus habited he wandered for several months about the cities of Venetia and Lombardy; and although he contrived for a time to evade his persecutors, he finally decided to leave Italy, as it was repugnant to his disposition to live in forced dissimulation, and he felt that he could do no good either for himself or for his country, which was then overrun with Spaniards and scourged by petty tyrants; and with the lower orders sunk in ignorance, and the upper classes illiterate, uncultivated, and corrupt, the mission of Giordano Bruno was impossible. "Altiora Peto" was Bruno's motto, and to realize it he had gone forth with the pilgrim's staff in his hand, sometimes covered with the cowl of the monk, at others wearing the simple habit of a schoolmaster, or, again, clothed with the doublet of the mechanic: he had found no resting-place—nowhere to lay his head, no one who could understand him, but always many ready to denounce him. He turned his back at last on his country, crossed the Alps on foot, and directed his steps towards Switzerland. He visited the universities in different towns of Switzerland, France, and Germany, and wherever he went he left behind him traces of his visit in some hurried writings. The only work of the Nolan, written in Italy, which has survived is "Il Candelajo," which was published in Paris. Levi, in his Life of Bruno, passes in review his various works; but it will suffice here to reproduce what he says of the "Eroici Furori," the first part of which I have translated, and to note his remarks upon the style of Bruno, which presents many difficulties to the translator on account of its formlessness. Goethe says of Bruno's writings: "Zu allgemeiner Betrachtung und Erhebung der Geistes eigneten sich die Schriften des Jordanus Brunous von Nola; aber freilich das gediegene Gold and Silber aus der Masse jener zo ungleich begabten Erzgaenge auszuscheiden und unter den Hammer zu bringen erfordert fast mehr als menschliche Kraefte vermoegen."
I believe that no translation of Giordano Bruno's works has ever been brought out in English, or, at any rate, no translation of the "Eroici Furori," and therefore I have had no help from previous renderings. I have, for the most part, followed the text as closely as possible, especially in the sonnets, which are frequently rendered line for line. Form is lacking in the original, and would, owing to the unusual and often fantastic clothing of the ideas, be difficult to apply in the translation. He seems to have written down his grand ideas hurriedly, and, as Levi says, probably intended to retouch the work before printing.
Following the order of Levi's Life of Bruno, we next find the fugitive at Geneva. He was hardly thirty-one years old when he quitted his country and crossed the Alps, and his first stopping-place was Chambery, where he was received in a convent of the Order of Predicatori; he proposed going on to Lyons, but being told by an Italian priest, whom he met there, that he was not likely to find countenance or support, either in the place he was in or in any other place, however far he might travel, he changed his course and made for Geneva.
The name of Giordano Bruno was not unknown to the Italian colony who had fled from papal persecution to this stronghold of religious reform. He went to lodge at an inn, and soon received visits from the Marchese di Vico Napoletano, Pietro Martire Vermigli, and other refugees, who welcomed him with affection, inquiring whether he intended to embrace the religion of Calvin, to which Bruno replied that he did not intend to make profession of that religion, as he did not know of what kind it was, and he only desired to live in Geneva in freedom. He was then advised to doff the Dominican habit, which he still wore; this he was quite willing to do, only he had no money to buy other clothing, and was forced to have some made of the cloth of his monkish robes, and his new friends presented him with a sword and a hat; they also procured some work for him in correcting press errors.
The term of Bruno's sojourn in Geneva seems doubtful, and the precise nature of his employment when there is also uncertain; but his independent spirit brought him into dispute with the rigid Calvinists of that city, who preached and exacted a blind faith, absolute and compulsory. Bruno could not accept any of the existing positive religions; he professed the cult of philosophy and science, nor was his character of that mould that would have enabled him to hide his principles. It was made known to him that he must either adopt Calvinism or leave Geneva: he declined the former, and had no choice as to the latter; poor he had entered Geneva, and poor he left it, and now turned his steps towards France.
He reached Lyons, which was also at that time a city of refuge against religious persecutions, and he addressed himself to his compatriots, begging for work from the publishers, Aldo and Grifi; but not succeeding in gaining enough to enable him to subsist, after a few days he left, and went on his way to Toulouse, where there was a famous university; and having made acquaintance with several men of intellect, Bruno was invited to lecture on the Sphere, which he did, with various other subjects, for six months, when the chair of Philosophy becoming vacant, he took the degree of Doctor, and competed for it; and he continued for two years in that place, teaching the philosophy of Aristotle and of others. He took for the text of his lectures the treatise of Aristotle, "De Anima," and this gave him the opportunity of introducing and discussing the deepest questions—upon the Origin and Destiny of Humanity; The Soul, is it Matter or Spirit? Potentiality or Reality? Individual or Universal? Mortal or Eternal? Is Man alone gifted with Soul, or are all beings equally so? Bruno's system was in his mind complete and mature; he taught that everything in Nature has a soul, one universal mind, penetrates and moves all things; the world itself is a sacrum animal. Nothing is lost, but all transmutes and becomes. This vast field afforded him scope for teaching his doctrines upon the world, on the movement of the earth, and on the universal soul. The novelty and boldness of his opinions roused the animosity of the clergy against him, and after living two years and six months at Toulouse, he felt it wise to retire, and leaving the capital of the Languedoc, he set his face towards Paris.
The two books—the fruit of his lectures—which he published in Toulouse, "De Anima" and "De Clavis Magis," were lost.
The title of Doctor, or as he said himself, "Maestro delle Arti," which Bruno had obtained at Toulouse, gave him the faculty of teaching publicly in Paris, and he says: "I went to Paris, where I set myself to read a most unusual lecture, in order to make myself known and to attract attention." He gave thirty lectures on the thirty Divine attributes, dividing and distributing them according to the method of St. Thomas Aquinas: these lectures excited much attention amongst the scholars of the Sorbonne, who went in crowds to hear him; and he introduced, as usual, his own ideas while apparently teaching the doctrines of St. Thomas. His extraordinary memory and his eloquence caused great astonishment; and the fame of Bruno reached the ears of King Henry III., who sent for him to the Court, and being filled with admiration of his learning, he offered him a substantial subsidy.
During his stay at Paris, although he was much at Court, he spent many hours in his study, writing the works that he afterwards published.
Philosophical questions were discussed at the Sorbonne with much freedom: Bruno showed himself no partisan of either the Platonic or the Peripatetic school; he was not exclusive either in philosophy or in religion; he did not favour the Huguenot faction more than the Catholic league; and precisely by reason of this independent attitude, which kept him free of the shackles of the sects, did he obtain the faculty of lecturing at the Sorbonne. Nor can we ascribe this aloofness to religious indifference, but to the fact that he sought for higher things and longed for nobler ones. The humiliating spectacle which the positive religions, both Catholic and Reformed, presented at that time—the hatreds, the civil wars, the assassinations which they instigated—had disgusted men of noble mould, and had turned them against these so-called religions; so that in Naples, in Tuscany, in Venice, in Switzerland, France, and England, there were to be found societies of philosophers, of free-thinkers, and politicians, who repudiated every positive religion and professed a pure Theism.
In the "Spaccio della Bestia Trionfante" he declares that he cannot ally himself either to the Catholic or the Lutheran Church, because he professes a more pure and complete faith than these—to wit, the love of humanity and the love of wisdom; and Mocenigo, the disciple who ultimately betrayed and sold him to the Holy Office, declares in his deposition that Bruno sought to make himself the author of a new religion under the name of "Philosophy." He was not a man to conceal his ideas, and in the fervour of his improvisation he no doubt revealed what he was; some tumult resulted from this free speaking of Bruno's, and he was forced to discontinue his lectures at the Sorbonne.
Towards the end of the year 1583 the King became enthralled by religious enthusiasm, and nothing was talked of in Paris but the conversion of King Henry. This fact changed the aspect of affairs as far as Bruno was concerned; he judged it prudent to leave Paris, and he travelled to England.
The principal works published by Bruno during his stay in Paris are "Il Candelajo" and "Umbrae Idearum." The former, says Levi, is a work of criticism and of demolition; in this comedy he sets in groups the principal types of hypocrisy, stupidity, and rascality, and exhibiting them in their true colours, he lashes them with ridicule. In the "Umbrae Idearum" he initiates the work of reconstruction, giving colour to his thought and sketching his idea. The philosophy of Bruno is based upon that of Pythagoras, whose system penetrates the social and intellectual history of Italy, both ancient and modern. The method of Pythagoras is not confined, as most philosophies are, to pure metaphysical speculations, but connects these with scientific observations and social practice. Bruno having resuscitated these doctrines, stamps them with a wider scope, giving them a more positive direction; and he may with propriety be called the second Pythagoras. The primal idea of Pythagoras, which Bruno worked out to a more distinct development is this: numbers are the beginning of things; in other words numbers are the cause of the existence of material things; they are not final, but are always changing position and attributes; they are variable and relative. Beyond and above this mutability there must be the Immutable, the All, the One.
The Infinite must be one, as one is the absolute number; in the original One is contained all the numbers; in the One is contained all the elements of the Universe.
This abstract doctrine required to be elucidated and fixed. From a hypothesis to concentrate and reduce it to a reality was the great work of Bruno.
One is the perfect number; it is the primitive monad. As from the One proceeds the infinite series of numbers which again withdraw and are resolved into the One; so from Substance, which is one, proceed the myriads of worlds; from the worlds proceed myriads of living creatures; and from the union of one with the diverse is generated the Universe. Hence the progression from ascent to descent, from spirit to that which we call matter; from the cause to the origin, and the process of metaphysics, which, from the finite world of sense rises to the intelligent, passing through the intermediate numbers of infinite substance to active being and cosmic reason.
From the absolute One, the sun of the sensible and intellectual world, millions of stars and suns are produced or developed. Each sun is the centre of as many worlds which are distributed in as many distinct series in an infinite number of concentric centres and systems. Each system is attracted, repelled, and moved by an infinite, internal passion, or attraction; each turns round its own centre, and moves in a spiral towards the centre of the whole, towards which centre they all tend with infinite passional ardour. For in this centre resides the sun of suns, the unity of unities, the temple, the altar of the universe, the sacred fire of Vesta, the vital principle of the universe.
That which occurs in the world of stars is reflected in the telluric world; everything has its centre, towards which it is attracted with fervour. All is thought, passion, and aspiration.
From this unity, which governs variety, from this movement of every world around its sun, of every sun around its centre sun—the sun of suns—which informs all with the rays of the spirit, with the light of thought—is generated that perfect harmony of colours, sounds, forms, which strike the sight and captivate and enthrall the intellect. That which in the heavens is harmony becomes, in the individual, morality, and in companies of human beings, law. That which is light in the spheres becomes intelligence and science in the world of the spirit and in humanity. We must study this harmony that rules the celestial worlds in order to deduce the laws which should govern civil bodies.
In the science of numbers dwells harmony, and therefore it behoves us to identify ourselves with this harmony, because from it is derived the harmonic law which draws men together into companies. Through the revolution of the worlds through space around their suns, from their order, their constancy and their measure, the mind comprehends the progress and conditions of men, and their duties towards each other. The Bible, the sacred book of man, is in the heavens; there does man find written the word of God.
Human souls are lights, distinct from the universal soul, which is diffused over all and penetrates everything. A purifying process guides them from one existence to another, from one form to another, from one world to another. The life of man is more than an experience or trial; it is an effort, a struggle to reproduce and represent upon earth some of that goodness, beauty, and truth which are diffused over the universe and constitute its harmony.
Long, slow, and full of opposition is this educational process of the soul. As the terraqueous globe becomes formed, changed, and perfected, little by little, through the cataclysms and convulsions which, by means of fire, flood, earthquake, and irruptions, transform the earth, so it is with humanity. Through struggle is man educated, fortified, and raised.
In the midst of social cataclysms and revolutions humanity has one guiding star, a beacon which shows its light above the storms and tempests, a mystical thread running through the labyrinth of history—namely, the religion of philosophy and of thought. The vulgar creeds would not, and have not dared to reveal the Truth in its purity and essence. They covered it with veils with allegories, with myths and mysteries, which they called sacred; they enshrouded thought with a double veil, and called it Revelation. Humanity, deceived by a seductive form, adored the veil, but did not lift itself up to the idea behind it; it saw the shadow, not the light.
But we must return to our wandering hero.
Bruno was about thirty-six years old when he left Paris and went to England. He was invited to visit the University of Oxford, and opened his lectures there with two subjects which, apparently diverse, are in reality intimately connected with each other—namely, on the Quadruple Sphere and on the Immortality of the Soul. Speaking of the immortality of the soul, he maintained that nothing in the universe is lost, everything changes and is transformed; therefore, soul and body, spirit and matter, are equally immortal. The body dissolves, and is transformed; the soul transmigrates, and, drawing round itself atom to atom, it reconstructs for itself a new body. The spirit that animates and moves all things is one; everything differentiates according to the different forms and bodies in which it operates. Hence, of animate things some are inferior by reason of the meanness of the organ in which they operate; others are superior through the richness of the same. Thus we see that Bruno anticipates the doctrine, proclaimed later by Goethe and by Darwin, of the transformation of species and of the organic unity of the animal world; and this alternation from segregation to aggregation, which we call death and life, is no other than mutation of form.
After having criticised and scourged the religions of chimera, of ignorance, and hypocrisy, in "Lo Spaccio della Bestia Trionfante" and in "L'Asino Cillenico," the author, in "Gli Eroici Furori," lays down the basis for the religion of thought and of science. In place of the so-called Christian perfections (resignation, devotion, and ignorance), Bruno would put intelligence and the progress of the intellect in the world of physics, metaphysics, and morals; the true aim being illumination, the true morality the practice of justice, the true redemption the liberation of the soul from error, its elevation and union with God upon the wings of thought. This idea is developed in the work in question, which is dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney. After treating of the infinite universe, and contemplating the innumerable worlds in other works, he comes, in "Gli Eroici Furori," to the consideration of virtue in the individual, and demonstrates the potency of the human faculties. After the Cosmos, the Microcosm; after the infinitely great, the infinitely small. The body is in the soul, the soul is in the mind, the mind is in God. The life of the soul is the true life of the man. Of all his various faculties, that which rules all, that which exalts our nature, is Thought. By means of it we rise to the contemplation of the universe, and becoming in our turn creators, we raise the edifice of science; through the intellect the affections become purified, the will becomes strengthened. True liberty is acquired, and will and action becoming one through thought, we become heroes.
This education of the soul, or rather this elevation and glory of thought, which draws with it the will and the affections, not by means of blind faith or supernatural grace, not through an irrational and mystical impulse, but by the strength of a reformed intellect and by a palpable and well-considered enthusiasm, which science and the contemplation of Nature alone can give, this is the keynote of the poem. It is composed of two parts, each of which is divided into five dialogues: the first part, which may be called psychological, shows, by means of various figures and symbols drawn from Nature, how the divine light is always present to us, is inherent in man; it presents itself to the senses and to the comprehension: man constantly rejects and ignores it; sometimes the soul strives to rise up to it, and the poet describes the struggle with the opposing affections which are involved in this effort, and shows how at last the man of intelligence overcomes these contending powers and fatal impulses which conflict within us, and by virtue of harmony and the fusion of the opposites the intellect becomes one with the affections, and man realizes the good and rises to the knowledge of the true. All conflicting desires being at last united, they become fixed upon one object, one great intent—the love of the Divine, which is the highest truth and the highest good. In "Gli Eroici Furori" we see Bruno as a man, as a philosopher, and as a believer: here he reveals himself as the hero of thought. Even as Christ was the hero of faith, and sacrificed himself for it, so Bruno declares himself ready to sacrifice himself for science. It is also a literary, a philosophical, and a religious work; form, however, is sacrificed to the idea—so absorbed is the author in the idea that he often ignores form altogether. An exile wandering from place to place, he wrote hurriedly and seldom or ever had he the opportunity of revising what he had written down. His mind in the impulsiveness of its improvisation was like the volcano of his native soil, which, rent by subterranean flames, sends forth from its vortices of fire, at the same time smoke, ashes, turbid floods, stones, and lava. He contemplates the soul, and seeks to understand its language; he is a physiologist and a naturalist, merged in the mystic and the enlightened devotee.
Bruno might have made a fixed home for himself in England, as so many of his compatriots had done, and have continued to enjoy the society of such men as Sir Philip Sydney, Fulke Greville, and, perchance, also of Shakespeare himself, who was in London about that time; but his self-imposed mission allowed him no rest; he must go forth, and carry his doctrines to the world, and forget the pleasures of friendship and the ties of comfort in the larger love of humanity; his work was to awaken souls out of their lethargy, to inspire them with the love of the highest good and of truth; to teach that God is to be found in the study of Nature, that the laws of the visible world will explain those of the invisible, the union of science and humanity with Nature and with God.
Bruno returned to Paris in 1585, being at that time tutor in the family of Mauvissier, who had been recalled from England by his Sovereign. During Bruno's second sojourn in Paris efforts were made by Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador, and others, to induce him to return to his allegiance to the Church, and to be reconciled to the Pope; but Bruno declined these overtures, and soon after left Paris for Germany, where he arrived on foot, his only burden being a few books.
He visited Marburg and Wurtemburg, remaining in the latter place two years, earning his bread by teaching.
Prague and Frankfort were next visited; ever the same courage and boldness characterised his teaching, and ever the same scanty welcome was accorded to it, although in every city and university crowds of the intelligent listened to his lectures; but the Church never lost sight of Bruno, he was always under surveillance, and few dared to show themselves openly his friends. Absorbed in his studies and intent upon his work, writing with feverish haste, he observed nothing of the invisible net which his enemies kept spread about him, and while his slanderers were busy in doing him injury he was occupied in teaching the mnemonic art, and explaining his system of philosophy to the young Lutherans who attended his lectures; in settling the basis of a new and rational religion, and in writing Latin verses; using ever greater diligence with his work, almost as if he felt that the time was drawing near in which he would be no longer at liberty to work and teach.
It was during the early part of the pontificate of Gregory XIV. that Bruno received letters from Mocenigo in Venice, urging him to return to Italy, and to go and stay with him in Venice, and instruct him in the secrets of science. Bruno was beginning to tire of this perpetually wandering life, and after several letters from Mocenigo, full of fine professions of friendship and protection, Bruno, longing to see his country again, turned his face towards Venice.
In those days men of superior intellect were often considered to be magicians or sorcerers; Mocenigo, after enticing Bruno to Venice, insisted upon his teaching him "the secret of memory and other things that he knew."
The philosopher with untiring patience tried to instil into this dull head the principles of logic, the elements of mathematics, and the rudiments of the mnemonic art; but the pupil hated study, and had no faculty of thought; yet he insisted that Bruno should make science clearly known to him! But this was probably only to initiate a quarrel with Bruno, whom he intended afterwards to betray, and deliver into the hands of the Church.
The Holy Office would have laid hands on Bruno immediately on his arrival in Italy, but being assured by Mocenigo that he could not escape, they left him a certain liberty, so that he might more surely compromise himself, while his enemies were busy collecting evidence against him. When at last his eyes became opened to what was going on about him, and he could no longer ignore the peril of his position, it was too late; Bruno could not get away, and was told by Mocenigo that if he stayed not by his own will and pleasure, he would be compelled to remain where he was. Bruno, however, made his preparations for departure, and sent his things on to Frankfort, intending to leave the next day himself; but in the morning, while he was still in bed, Mocenigo entered the chamber, pretending that he wished to speak with him; then calling his servant Bartolo and five or six gondoliers, who waited without, they forced Bruno to rise, and conducted him to a garret, and locked him in. There he passed the first day of that imprisonment which was to last for eight years. The next day he went over the lagoon in a gondola, in the company of his jailors, who took him to the prison of the Holy Office, and left him there. Levi devotes many pages to the accusations brought against Giordano Bruno by the Inquisitors, and the depositions and denunciations made against him by his enemies. The Court was opened without delay, and most of the provinces of Italy were represented by their delegates in the early part of the trial; Bruno himself, being interrogated, gave an account in detail of his life, of his wanderings, of his occupations and works: serene and dignified before this terrible tribunal, he expounded his doctrine, its principles, and logical consequences. He spoke of the universe, of the infinite worlds in infinite space, of the divinity in all things, of the unity of all things, the dependence and inter-dependence of all things, and of the existence of God in all. After nine months' imprisonment in Venice, towards the end of January 1593, Bruno, in chains, was conveyed from the Bridge of Sighs through the lagoons to Ancona, where he remained incarcerated until the prison of the Roman Inquisition received him. If we look upon "Gli Eroici Furori" as a prophetical poem, we see that his sufferings in the loneliness of his prison and in the torture-chamber of the Inquisition passed by anticipation before his mind in the book written when he was free and a wanderer in strange lands.
"By what condition, nature, or fell chance, In living death, dead life I live?"
he writes eight years and more before he ever breathed the stifling air of a dungeon; and again:
"The soul nor yields nor bends to these rough blows, But bears, exulting, this long martyrdom, And makes a harmony of these sharp pangs."
Further details of the trial of Giordano Bruno are to be found in Levi's book. It is well known how he received the sentence of death passed upon him, saying: "You, O judges! feel perchance more terror in pronouncing this judgment than I do in hearing it." The day fixed for the burning, which was to take place in the Campo dei Fiori, was the 17th February in the year 1600. Rome was full of pilgrims from all parts, come to celebrate the jubilee of Pope Clement VIII. Bruno was hardly fifty years old at this time; his face was thin and pale, with dark, fiery eyes; the forehead luminous with thought, his body frail and bearing the signs of torture; his hands in chains, his feet bare, he walked with slow steps in the early morning towards the funeral pile. Brightly shone the sun, and the flames leapt upwards and mingled with his ardent rays; Bruno stood in the midst with his arms crossed, his head raised, his eyes open; when all was consumed, a monk took a handful of the ashes and scattered them in the wind. A month later, the Bishop of Sidonia presented himself at the Treasury of the Pope, and demanded two scudi in payment for having degraded Fra Giordano the heretic.
"L'incendio e tal, ch'io m'ardo e non mi sfaccio."
TANS. The enthusiasms most suitable to be first brought forward and considered are those that I now place before you in the order that seems to me most fitting.
CIC. Begin, then, to read.
Ye Muses, that so oft I have repulsed, That, now importuned, haste to cure my pain, And to console me in my woes With verses, rhymes, and exaltation Such as to others ye did never show, Who yet do vaunt themselves of laurel and of myrtle Be near me now, my anchor and my port, Lest I for sport should towards some others turn.
O Mount! O Goddesses! O Fountain! Where and with whom I dwell, converse and nourish me, Where peacefully I ponder and grow fair; I rise, I live: heart, spirit, brows adorn; Death, cypresses, and hells You change to life, to laurels, and eternal stars!
It is to be supposed that he oftimes and for divers reasons had repulsed the Muses; first, because he could not be idle as a priest of the Muses should be, for idleness cannot exist there, where the ministers and servants of envy, ignorance, and malignity are to be combated. Moreover, he could not force himself to the study of philosophies, which though they be not the most mature, yet ought, as kindred of the Muses, to precede them. Besides which, being drawn on one side by the tragic Melpomene, with more matter than spirit, and on the other side by the comic Thalia, with more spirit than matter, it came to pass that, oscillating between the two, he remained neutral and inactive, rather than operative. Finally, the dictum of the censors, who, restraining him from that which was high and worthy, and towards which he was naturally inclined, sought to enslave his genius, and from being free in virtue they would have rendered him contemptible under a most vile and stupid hypocrisy. At last, in the great whirl of annoyances by which he was surrounded, it happened that, not having wherewith to console him, he listened to those who are said to intoxicate him with such exaltation, verses, and rhymes, as they had never demonstrated to others; because this work shines more by its originality than by its conventionality.
CIC. Say, what do you mean by those who vaunt themselves of myrtle and laurel?
TANS. Those may and do boast of the myrtle who sing of love: if they bear themselves nobly, they may wear a crown of that plant consecrated to Venus, of which they know the potency. Those may boast of the laurel who sing worthily of things pertaining to heroes, substituting heroic souls for speculative and moral philosophy, and praising them and setting as mirrors and exemplars for political and civil actions.
CIC. There are then many species of poets and crowns?
TANS. Not only as many as there are Muses, but a great many more; for although genius is to be met with, yet certain modes and species of human ingenuity cannot be thus classified.
CIC. There are certain schoolmen who barely allow Homer to be a poet, and set down Virgil, Ovid, Martial, Hesiod, Lucretius, and many others as versifiers, judging them by the rules of poetry of Aristotle.
TANS. Know for certain, my brother, that such as these are beasts. They do not consider that those rules serve principally as a frame for the Homeric poetry, and for other similar to it, and they set up one as a great poet, high as Homer, and disallow those of other vein, and art, and enthusiasm, who in their various kinds are equal, similar, or greater.
CIC. So that Homer was not a poet who depended upon rules, but was the cause of the rules which serve for those who are more apt at imitation than invention, and they have been used by him who, being no poet, yet knew how to take the rules of Homeric poetry into service, so as to become, not a poet or a Homer, but one who apes the Muse of others?
TANS. Thou dost well conclude that poetry is not born in rules, or only slightly and accidentally so; the rules are derived from the poetry, and there are as many kinds and sorts of true rules as there are kinds and sorts of true poets.
CIC. How then are the true poets to be known?
TANS. By the singing of their verses; in that singing they give delight, or they edify, or they edify and delight together.
CIC. To whom then are the rules of Aristotle useful?
TANS. To him who, unlike Homer, Hesiod, Orpheus, and others, could not sing without the rules of Aristotle, and who, having no Muse of his own, would coquette with that of Homer.
CIC. Then they are wrong, those stupid pedants of our days, who exclude from the number of poets those who do not use words and metaphors conformable to, or whose principles are not in union with, those of Homer and Virgil; or because they do not observe the custom of invocation, or because they weave one history or tale with another, or because they finish the song with an epilogue on what has been said and a prelude on what is to be said, and many other kinds of criticism and censure, from whence it seems they would imply that they themselves, if the fancy took them, could be the true poets; and yet in fact they are no other than worms, that know not how to do anything well, but are born only to gnaw and befoul the studies and labours of others; and not being able to attain celebrity by their own virtue and ingenuity, seek to put themselves in the front, by hook or by crook, through the defects and errors of others.
TANS. Now, to return from this long digression, I say that there are as many sorts of poets as there are human sentiments and ideas; and to these it is possible to adapt garlands, not only of every species of plant, but also of other kinds of material. So the crowns of poets are made not only of myrtle and of laurel, but of vine leaves for the white-wine verses, and of ivy for the bacchanals; of olive for sacrifice and laws; of poplar, of elm, and of corn for agriculture; of cypress for funerals, and innumerable others for other occasions; and, if it please you, also of that material signified by a good fellow when he exclaimed:
O Friar Leek! O Poetaster! That in Milan didst buckle on thy wreath Composed of salad, sausage, and the pepper-caster.
CIC. Now surely he of divers moods, which he exhibits in various ways, may cover himself with the branches of different plants, and may hold discourse worthily with the Muses, for they are his aura or comforter, his anchor or support, and his harbour, to which he retires in times of labour, of agitation, and storm. Hence he cries: "O mountain of Parnassus, where I abide! Muses, with whom I converse! Fountain of Helicon, where I am nourished. Mountain, that affordest me a quiet dwelling-place! Muses, that inspire me with profound doctrines. Fountain, that cleanses me! Mountain, on whose ascent my heart uprises! Muses, that in discourse revive my spirit. Well, whose arbours cool my brows! Change my death into life, my cypress to laurels, and my hells into heavens: that is, give me immortality, make me poet, render me illustrious!"
TANS. Well; because to those whom Heaven favours the greatest evils turn to greatest good, for needs or necessities bring forth labours and studies, and these most often bring the glory of immortal splendour.
CIC. For to die in one age makes us live in all the rest. Go on.
TANS. Then follows:
In form and place like to Parnassus is my heart, And up unto this mount for safety I ascend; My Muses are my thoughts, and they present to me At every hour new beauties counted out. The frequent tears that from my eyes do pour, These make my fount of Helicon. By such a mount, such nymphs, such floods, As Heaven did please, was I a poet born. No king of any kingdom, No favouring hand of emperor, No highest priest nor great pastor, Has given to me such graces, honours, privileges, As are those laurel leaves with which O'ershadowed are my heart, my thoughts, my tears.
Here he declares his mountain to be the exalted affection of his heart, his Muses he calls the beauties and attributes of the object of his affections, and the fountain is his tears. In that mountain affection is kindled; through those beauties enthusiasm is conceived, and by those tears the enthusiastic affection is demonstrated; and he esteems himself not less grandly crowned by his heart, his thoughts, and his tears than others are by the hand of kings, emperors, and popes.
CIC. Explain to me what he means by his heart being in form like Parnassus.
TANS. Because the human heart has two summits, which terminate in one base or root; and, spiritually, from one affection of the heart proceed two opposites, love and hate; and the mountain of Parnassus has two summits and one base.
CIC. On to the next!
The captain calls his warriors to arms, And at the trumpet's sound they all Under one sign and standard come. But yet for some in vain the call is heard, Heedless and unprepared, they mind it not. One foe he kills, and the insane unborn, He banishes from out the camp in scorn. And thus the soul, when foiled her high designs, Would have all those opponents dead or gone; One object only I regard, One face alone my mind does fill, One beauty keeps me fixed and still; One arrow pierced my heart, and one The fire with which alone I burn, And towards one paradise I turn.
This captain is the human will, which dwells in the depths of the soul with the small helm of reason to govern and guide the interior powers against the wave of natural impulses. He, with the sound of the trumpet—that is, by fixed resolve—calls all the warriors or invokes all the powers; called warriors because they are in continual strife and opposition; and their affections, which are all contrary thoughts, some towards one and some towards the other side inclining, and he tries to bring them all under one flag—one settled end and aim. Some are called in vain to put in a ready appearance, and are chiefly those which proceed from the lower instincts, and which obey the reason either not at all, or very little; and forcing himself to prevent their actions and condemn those which cannot be prevented, he shows himself as one who would kill those and banish these, now by the scourge of scorn, now by the sword of anger. One only is the object of his regards, and on this he is intently fixed; one prospect delights and fills his imagination, one beauty pleases, and he rests in that, because the operation of the intelligence is not a work of movement but of quiet; from thence alone he derives that barb which, killing him, constitutes the consummation of perfection. He burns with one fire alone; that is, one affection consumes him.
CIC. Why is love symbolized by fire?
TANS. For many reasons, but at present let this one suffice thee: that as love converts the thing loved into the lover, so amongst the elements fire is active and potent to convert all the others, simple and composite, into itself.
CIC. Go on.
TANS. He knows one paradise—that is, one consummation, because paradise commonly signifies the end; which is again distinguished from that which is absolute in truth and essence from that which is so in appearance and shadow or form. Of the first there can only be one, as there can be only one ultimate and one primal good. Of the second the modes are infinite.
Love, Fate, Love's object, and cold Jealousy, Delight me, and torment, content me, and afflict. The insensate boy, the blind and sinister, The loftiest beauty, and my death alone Show to me paradise, and take away, Present me with all good, and steal it from me, So that the heart, the mind, the spirit, and the soul, Have joy, pain, cold, and weight in their control. Who will deliver me from war? Who give to me the fruit of love in peace? And that which vexes that which pleases me (Opening the gates of heaven and closing them) Who will set far apart To make acceptable my fires and tears?
He shows the reason and origin of passion; and whence it is conceived; and how enthusiasm is born, by ploughing the field of the Muses and scattering the seed of his thoughts and waiting for the fruitful harvest, discovering in himself the fervour of the affections instead of in the sun, and in place of the rain is the moisture of his eyes. He brings forward four things: Love, Fate, the Object, and Jealousy. Here love is not a low, ignoble, and unworthy motor, but a noble lord and chief. Fate is none other than the pre-ordained disposition and order of casualties to which he is subject by his destiny. The object is the thing loved and the correlative of the lover. Jealousy, it is clear, must be the ardour of the lover about the thing loved, of which it boots not to speak to him who knows what love is, and which it is vain to try to explain to others. Love delights, because to him who loves it is a pleasure to love; and he who really loves would not cease from loving. This is referred to in the following sonnet:
Beloved, sweet, and honourable wound, From fairest dart that love did choose, Lofty, most beauteous and potential zeal, That makes the soul in its own flames find weal! What power or spell of herb or magic art Can tear thee from the centre of my heart, Since he, who with an ever-growing zest, Tormenting most, yet most does make me blest? How can I of this weight unburdened be, If pain the cure, and joy the sore give me? Sweet is my pain: to this world new and rare. Eyes! ye are the bow and torches of my lord! Double the flames and arrows in my breast, For languishing is sweet and burning best.
Fate vexes and grieves by undesirable and unfortunate events, or because it makes the subject feel unworthy of the object, and out of proportion with the dignity of the latter, or because a perfect sympathy does not exist, or for other reasons and obstacles that arise. The object satisfies the subject, which is nourished by no other, seeks no other, is occupied by no other, and banishes every other thought. Jealousy torments, because although she is the daughter of Love, and is derived from him, and is his companion who always goes with him, and is a sign of the same, being understood as a necessary consequence wherever love is found (as may be observed of whole generations who, from the coldness of the region and lateness of development, learn little, love less, and of jealousy know nothing), yet, notwithstanding its kinship, association, and signification, jealousy comes to trouble and poisons all that it finds of beautiful and of good in Love. Therefore I said in another sonnet:
Oh, wicked child of Envy and of Love! That turnest into pain thy father's joys, To evil Argus-eyed, but blind as mole to good. Minister of torment! Jealousy! Fetid harpy! Tisiphone infernal! Who steals and poisons others' good, Under thy cruel breath does languish The sweetest flower of all my hopes. Proud of thyself, unlovely one, Bird of sorrow and harbinger of ill, The heart thou visitest by thousand doors; If entrance unto thee could be denied, The reign of Love would so much fairer be, As would this world were death and hate away.
To the above is added, that Jealousy not only is sometimes the ruin and death of the lover, but often kills Love itself, because Love comes to be so much under its influence that it is impelled to despise the object, and in fact becomes alienated from it, especially when it engenders disdain.
CIC. Explain now the ideas which follow. Why is Love called the "insensate boy"?
TANS. I will tell you. Love is called the insensate boy, not because he is so of himself, but because he brings certain ones into subjection, and dwells in such subjects, since the more intellectual and speculative one is, the more Love raises the genius and purifies the intellect, rendering it alert, studious, and circumspect, promoting a condition of valorous animosity and an emulation of virtues and dignities by the desire to please and to make itself worthy of the thing loved; others, and they are the largest number, call him mad and foolish, because he drives them distracted, and hurries them into excesses, by which the spirit, soul, and body become sickly, and inept to consider and distinguish that which is seemly from that which is distorted; thus rendering them subject to scorn, derision, and reproach.
CIC. It is commonly said that love makes fools of the old and makes the young wise.
TANS. That drawback does not happen to all the aged, nor that advantage to all the young; the one is true of the weak, and the other of the robust. One thing is certain, that he who loves wisely in youth will in age not go astray. But derision is for those of mature age, into whose hands Love puts the alphabet.
CIC. Tell me now why Fate is called blind and bad.
TANS. Again, blind and bad is not said of Destiny itself, because it is of the same order and number and measure as the universe; but as to the subjects it is said to be blind, for they are blind to fate, she being so uncertain. So also is Fate said to be evil, because every living mortal who laments and complains, blames her. As the Apulian poet says:
How is it, or what means it, Maecenas, That none on earth contented with that fate appear, Which Reason or Heaven has assigned to them?
In the same way he calls the object the highest beauty, as it is that alone which has power of attracting him to itself; and thus he holds it more worthy, more noble, and feels it predominant and superior as he becomes subject and captive to it. "My death itself," he says of Jealousy, because as Love has no more close companion than she, so also he feels he has no greater enemy; as nothing is more hurtful to iron than rust, which is produced by it.
CIC. Now, since you have begun so, continue to show bit by bit that which remains.
TANS. So will I. He says next of Love: he shows me Paradise, in order to prove that Love himself is not blind, and does not himself render any lovers blind, except through the ignoble characteristics of the subject; even as the birds of night become blind in the sunshine. As for himself, Love brightens, clears, and opens the intellect, permeating all and producing miraculous effects.
CIC. Much of this, it seems to me, the Nolano demonstrates in another sonnet:
Love, through whom high truth I do discern, Thou openest the black diamond doors; Through the eyes enters my deity, and through seeing Is born, lives, is nourished, and has eternal reign; Shows forth what heaven holds, earth and hell: Makes present true images of the absent; Gains strength: and drawing with straight aim, Wounds, lays bare and frets the inmost heart. Attend now, thou base hind unto the truth, Bend down the ear to my unerring word; Open, open, if thou canst the eyes, foolish perverted one! Thou understanding little, call'st him child, Because thou swiftly changest, fugitive he seems, Thyself not seeing, call'st him blind.
Love shows Paradise in order that the highest things may be heard, understood, and accomplished; or it makes the things loved, grand—at least in appearance. He says, Fate takes love away; because, often in spite of the lover, it does not concede, and that which he sees and desires is distant and adverse to him. Every good he sets before me, he says of the object, because that which is indicated by the finger of Love seems to him the only thing, the principal, and the whole. "Steals it from me," he says of Jealousy, not simply in order that it may not be present to me; removing it from my eyesight, but in order that good may not be good, but an acute evil; sweet, not sweet, but an agonized longing; while the heart—that is, the will, has joy by the great force of love, whatever may be the result; the mind—that is, the intellectual part, has pain through the Fear of Fate, which fate does not favour the lover; the spirit—that is, the natural affections, are cold because they are snatched from the object which gives joy to the heart, and which might give pleasure to the mind; the soul—that is, the suffering and sensitive soul, is heavy—that is, finds itself oppressed with the heavy burden of jealousy which torments it. To this consideration of his state he adds a tearful lament, and says: "Who will deliver me from war, and give me peace? or who will separate that which pains and injures me from that which I so love, and which opens to me the gates of heaven, so that the fervid flames in my heart may be acceptable, and fortunate the fountains of my tears?" Continuing this proposition, he adds:
Ah me! oppress some other, spiteful Fate! Jealousy, get thee hence—begone! away! These may suffice to show me all the grace Of changeful Love, and of that noble face. He takes my life, she gives me death, She wings, he burns my heart, He murders it, and she revives the soul: My succour she, my grievous burden he! But what say I of Love? If he and she one subject be, or form, If with one empire and one rule they stamp One sole impression in my heart of hearts, Then are they two, yet one, on which do wait The mirth and melancholy of my state!
Four beginnings and extremes of two opposites he would reduce to two beginnings and one opposite: he says, then, oppress others—that is, let it suffice thee, O my Fate! that thou hast so much oppressed me; and since thou canst not exist without exercise of thyself, turn elsewhere thy anger. Get thee hence out of the world, thou Jealousy, because one of those two others which remain can supply your functions and offices; yet, O Fate! thou art none other than my love; and thou, Jealousy, art not external to the substance of the same. He alone, then, remains to deprive me of life, to burn me, to give me death, and to be to me the burden of my bones; for he delivers me from death—wings, enlivens, and sustains. Then two beginnings and one opposite he reduces to one beginning and one result, exclaiming: But what do I say of Love? If this presence, this object, is his empire, and appears none other than the empire of Love, the rule of Love and its own rule; the impression of Love which appears in the substance of my heart, is then no other impression than its own, and therefore after having said "Noble face," replies "Inconstant Love."[A]
[A] Vago amore.
Now begins the enthusiast to display the affections and uncover the wounds which are for a sign in his body, and in substance or essence in his soul, and he says thus:
Of Love the standard-bearer I; My hopes are ice, and glowing my desires. At once I tremble, sparkle, freeze, and burn; Am mute, and fill the air with clamorous plaints. Water my eyes distil, sparks from my heart. I live, I die, make merry and lament. Living the waters, the burning never dies, For in my eyes is Thetys, and Vulcan in my heart. Others I love; myself I hate. If I be winged, others are changed to stone; They high as heaven, if I be lowly set. I cease not to pursue, they ever flee away; If I do call, yet none will answer me. The more I search, the more is hid from me.
In accordance with this, I will continue with that which just before I said to thee, that one should not strive so hard to prove that which is so very evident—namely, that there is nothing pure and unalloyed; and some have said that no mixed thing is a real entity, as alloyed gold is not real gold, manufactured wine is not real simple wine. Almost all things are made up of opposites, whence it comes that the success of our affections, through the mixture that is in things, can afford no pleasure without some bitterness; and more than this, I will say, that were it not for the bitter, there would be no sweet; seeing that it is through fatigue that we find pleasure in repose; separation is the cause of our pleasure in union; and, examining generally, we shall ever find that one opposite is the reason that the other opposite pleases and is desired.
CIC. Then there is no delight without the contrary?
TANS. Certainly not; as without the opposite there is no pain; as is shown by that golden Pythagorean poet when he says:
Hinc metuunt cupiuntque, dolent gaudentque, nec Respiciunt, clausae tenebris, e carcere caeco.
This, then, is what the mixture of things causes, and hence it is that no one is pleased with his own state, except some senseless blockhead, who is so all the more the deeper is the degree of obscure folly in which he is sunk; then he has little or no apprehension of pain; he enjoys the actual present without fearing the future; he enjoys that which is and that in which he finds himself, and has neither care nor sorrow for what may be; and, in short, has no sense of that opposition which is symbolized by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
CIC. From this we see that ignorance is the mother of sensual felicity and beatitude, and this same is the garden of paradise of the animals; as is made clear in the dialogues of the Kabala of the horse Pegasus; and as says the wise Solomon, "Whoso increases knowledge increases sorrow."
TANS. Hence it appears that heroic love is a torment, because it does not enjoy the present, as does animal love, but is of the future and the absent; and, on the contrary, it feels ambition, emulation, suspicion and dread. One evening, after supper, a certain neighbour of ours said: "Never was I more jolly than I am now." John Bruno, father of the Nolano, answered him: "Never wert thou more foolish than now."
CIC. You would imply, then, that he who is sad is wise, and that other who is more sad is wiser?
TANS. On the contrary, I mean that there is in these another species of foolishness and a worse.
CIC. Who, then, is wise, if foolish is he who is content, and foolish he who is sad?
TANS. He who is neither merry nor sad.
CIC. Who? He who sleeps? He who is without feeling—who is dead?
TANS. No; but he who is quick, both seeing and hearing, and who, considering evil and good, estimating the one and the other as variable, and consistent in motion, mutation, and vicissitude, in such wise that the end of one opposite is the commencement of another, and the extreme of the one is the beginning of the other; whose spirit is neither depressed nor elated, but is moderate in inclinations and temperate in desires; to him pleasure is not pleasure, having ever present the end of it; equally, pain to him is not pain, because by the force of reasoning he has present the end of that too. So the sage holds all mutable things as things that are not, and affirms that they are no other than vanity and nothingness, because time has to eternity the proportion of the point to the line.
CIC. So that we can never hold the proposition of being contented or discontented, without holding the proposition of our own foolishness, which we thereby confess; therefore no one who reasons, and consequently no one who participates, can be wise; in short, all men are fools.
TANS. I do not intend to infer that; for I will hold of highest wisdom him who could really say at one time the opposite of what he says at another—never was I less gay than now; or, never was I less sad than at present.
CIC. How? Do you not make two contrary qualities where there are two opposite affections? Why, I say, do you take as two virtues, and not as one vice and one virtue, the being less gay and the being less sad?
TANS. Because both the contraries in excess—that is, in so far as they exceed—are vices, because they pass the line; and the same, in so far as they diminish, come to be virtues, because they are contained within limits.
CIC. How? The being less merry and the being less sad are not one virtue and one vice, but are two virtues?
TANS. On the contrary, I say they are one and the same virtue; because the vice is there where the opposite is; the opposite is chiefly there where the extreme is; the greatest opposite is the nearest to the extreme; the least or nothing is in the middle, where the opposites meet, and are one and identical; as between the coldest and hottest and the hotter and colder, in the middle point is that which you may call hot and cold, or neither hot nor cold, without contradiction. In that way whoso is least content and least joyful is in the degree of indifference, and finds himself in the habitation of temperance, where the virtue and condition of a strong soul exist, which bends not to the south wind nor to the north. This, then, to return to the point, is how this enthusiastic hero, who explains himself in the present part, is different from the other baser ones—not as virtue from vice, but as a vice which exists in a subject more divine or divinely, from a vice which exists in a subject more savage or savagely; so that the difference is according to the different subjects and modes, and not according to the form of vice.
CIC. I can very well conceive, from what you have said, the condition of that heroic enthusiast, who says, "My hopes are ice and my desires are glowing," because he is not in the temperance of mediocrity, but, in the excess of contradictions, his soul is discordant, he shivers in his frozen hopes and burns in his glowing desires; in his eagerness he is clamorous, and he is mute from fear; his heart burns in its affection for others, and for compassion of himself he sheds tears from his eyes; dying in the laughter of others, he is alive in his own lamentations; and like him who no longer belongs to himself, he loves others and hates himself; because matter, as say the physicists, with that measure with which it loves the absent form, hates the present one. And so in the octave finishes the war which the soul has within itself; and when he says in the sistina, but if I be winged, others change to stone and that which follows; he shows his passion for the warfare which he wages with external contradictions. I remember having read in Jamblichus, where he treats of the Egyptian mysteries, this sentence: "Impius animam dissidentem habet: unde nec secum ipse convenire potest, neque cum aliis."
TANS. Now listen to another sonnet, as sequel to what has been said:
By what condition, nature, or fell chance, In living death, dead life I live? Love has me dead, alack! and such a death, That death and life together I must lose. Devoid of hope, I reach the gates of hell, And laden with desire arrive at heaven: Thus am I subject to eternal opposites, And, banished both from heaven and from hell, No pause nor rest my torments know, Because between two running wheels I go, Of which one here, the other there compels, And like Ixion I pursue and flee; For to the double discourse do I fit The crosswise lesson of the spur and bit.
He shows how much he suffers from this dislocation and distraction in himself; while the affections, leaving the mean and middle way of temperance, tend towards the one and the other extreme, and so are wafted on high or towards the right, and are also transported downwards to the left.
CIC. How is it that, not being really of one or the other extreme, it does not come to be in the conditions or terms of virtue?
TANS. It is then in a state of virtue when it keeps to the middle, declining from one to the other opposite; but when it leads towards the extremes, inclining to one or the other of those, it fails so entirely from being virtue, that it is a double vice, which consists in this, that the thing recedes from its nature, the perfection of which consists in unity, and there where the opposites meet, its composition and virtue exist. This, then, is how he is dead alive, or living dying; whence he says, "In a living death a dead life I live." He is not dead, because he lives in the object; not alive, because he is dead in himself; deprived of death, because he gives birth to thoughts; deprived of life, because he does not grow or feel in himself. He is now most dejected through meditating on the high intelligence, and the perceived feebleness of power; and most elated by the aspiration of heroic longing, which passes far beyond his limits, and is most exalted by the intellectual appetite; which has not for its fashion or aim to add number to number, is most dejected by the violence done to him by the sensual opposite which drags him down towards hell. So that, finding himself thus ascending and descending, he feels within his soul the greatest dissension that is possible to be felt, and he remains in a state of confusion through this rebellion of the senses, which urge him thither where reason restrains, and vice versa. This same is thoroughly demonstrated in the following sentences, where the Reason, under the name of "Filenio" asks, and the enthusiast replies under the name of "Shepherd," who labours in the care of the flocks and herds of his thoughts, which he nourishes in the submission to and service of his nymph, which is the affection of that object to which he is captive.
SHEPHERD. What wilt thou?
F. What doest thou?
S. I suffer.
S. Because neither life has me for his own, nor death.
F. Who's to blame?
F. That rascal?
S. That rascal.
F. Where is he?
S. He holds me tight in my heart's core.
F. What does he?
S. Wounds me.
F. With what?
S. With the eyes, the gates of heaven and of hell.
F. Dost hope?
S. I hope.
F. For pity?
S. For pity.
F. From whom?
S. From him who racks me night and day.
F. Has he any?
S. I know not.
F. Thou art a fool.
S. How if such folly be pleasing to my soul?
F. Does he promise?
F. Does he deny?
S. Not at all.
F. Is he silent?
S. Yes, for so much purity (onesta) robs me of my boldness.
F. Thou ravest.
S. How so?
F. In vain efforts.
S. His scorn more than my torments do I fear.
Here he says that he craves for love, and he complains of it, yet not because he loves—seeing that to no true lover can love be displeasing; but because he loves unhappily, whilst those beams which are the rays of those lights, and which themselves, according as they are perverse and antagonistic, or really kind and gracious, become the gates which lead towards heaven or towards hell. In this way he is kept in hope of future and uncertain mercy, but actually in a state of present and certain torment, and although he sees his folly quite clearly, nevertheless he does not care to correct himself in it, or even to feel displeased with it, but rather does he feel satisfied with it, as he shows when he says:
Never let me of Love complain, For Love alone can ease my pain.
Here is shown another species of enthusiasm born from the light of reason, which excites fear and suppresses the aforesaid reason in order not to commit any action which might vex or irritate the thing loved. He says, then, that hope rests in the future, without anything being promised or denied; therefore, he is silent and asks nothing, for fear of offending purity (l'onestade). He does not venture to explain himself and make a proposition, lest he be rejected with repugnance or accepted with reserve; for he thinks the evil that there might be in the one would be over-balanced by the good in the other. He shows himself, then, ready to suffer for ever his own torment, rather than to open the door to an opportunity through which the thing loved might be perturbed and saddened.
CIC. Herein he proves that his love is truly heroic; because he proposes to himself as the chief aim, not corporeal beauty, but rather the grace of the spirit, and the inclination of the affections in which, rather than in the beauty of the body, that love that has in it the divine, is eternal.
TANS. Thou knowest that, as the Platonic ideas are divided into three species, of which one tends to the contemplative or speculative life, one to active morality, and the third to the idle and voluptuous, so are there three species of love, of which one raises itself from the contemplation of bodily form to the consideration of the spiritual and divine; the other only continues in the delight of seeing and conversing; the third from seeing proceeds to precipitate into the concupiscence of touch. Of these three modes others are composed, according as the first may be coupled with the second or the third, or as all the three modes may combine together, of which one and all may be divided into others, according to the affections of the enthusiast, as these tend more towards the spiritual object, or more towards the corporeal, or equally towards the one and the other. Hence it comes, that of those who find themselves in this warfare, and are entangled in the meshes of love, some aim at enjoying, and they are incited to pluck the apple from the tree of corporeal beauty, without which acquisition, or at least the hope of it, they hold vain and worthy only of derision every amorous care; and in such-wise run all those who are of a barbarous nature, who neither do nor can seek to exalt themselves by loving worthy things, and aspiring to illustrious things, and higher still to things divine, by suitable studies and exercises, to which nothing can more richly and easily supply the wings than heroic love; others put before themselves the fruit of delight, which they take in the aspect of the beauty and grace of the spirit, which glitters and shines in the beauty of the body, and certain of these, although they love the body and greatly desire to be united to it, bewailing its absence and being afflicted by separation, at the same time fear, lest presuming in this they may be deprived of that affability, conversation, friendship, and sympathy which are most precious to them; because to attempt this there cannot be more guarantee of success than there is risk of forfeiting that favour, which appears before the eyes of thought as a thing so glorious and worthy.
CIC. It is a worthy thing, oh Tansillo! for its many virtues and perfections, and it behoves human genius to seek, accept, nourish, and preserve a love like that; but one should take great care not to bow down or become enslaved to an object unworthy and base, lest we become sharers of the baseness and unworthiness of the same: appositely the Ferrarese poet says
Who sets his foot upon the amorous snare, Lest he besmear his wings, let him beware.
TANS. To say the truth, that object, which beyond the beauty of the body has no other splendour, is not worthy of being loved otherwise than to make the race; and it seems to me the work of a pig or a horse to torment one's self about it, and as to myself, never was I more fascinated by such things than I am now fascinated by some statue or picture to which I am indifferent. It would then be a great dishonour to a generous soul, if, of a foul, vile, loose, and ignoble nature, although hid under an excellent symbol, it should be said: "I fear his scorn more than my torment."
There are several varieties of enthusiasts, which may all be reduced to two kinds. While some only display blindness, stupidity, and irrational impetuosity, which tend towards savage madness, others by divine abstraction become in reality superior to ordinary men. And these again are of two kinds, for some having become the habitation of gods or divine spirits, speak and perform wonderful things, without themselves understanding the reason. Many such have been uncultured and ignorant persons, into whom, being void of spirit and sense of their own, as into an empty chamber, the divine spirit and sense intrude, as it would have less power to show itself in those who are full of their own reason and sense. This divine spirit often desires that the world should know for certain, that those do not speak from their own knowledge and experience, but speak and act through some superior intelligence; for such, the mass of men vouchsafe more admiration and faith, while others, being skilful in contemplation and possessing innately a clear intellectual spirit, have an internal stimulus and natural fervour, excited by the love of the divine, of justice, of truth, of glory, and by the fire of desire and the breath of intention, sharpen their senses, and in the sulphur of the cogitative faculty, these kindle the rational light, with which they see more than ordinarily; and they come in the end to speak and act, not as vessels and instruments, but as chief artificers and experts.
CIC. Of these two which dost thou esteem higher?
TANS. The first have more dignity, power, and efficacy within themselves, because they have the divinity; the second are themselves worthy, potential, and efficacious, and are divine. The first are worthy, as is the ass which carries the sacraments; the second are as a sacred thing. In the first is contemplated and seen in effect the divinity, and that is beheld, adored, and obeyed; in the second is contemplated and seen the excellency of humanity itself. But now to the question. These enthusiasms of which we speak, and which we see exemplified in these sentences, are not oblivion, but a memory; they are not neglect of one's self, but love and desire of the beautiful and good, by means of which we are able to make ourselves perfect, by transforming and assimilating ourselves to it. It is not a precipitation, under the laws of a tyrannous fate, into the noose of animal affections, but a rational impetus, which follows the intellectual apprehension of the beautiful and the good, which knows whom it wishes to obey and to please, so that, by its nobility and light, it kindles and invests itself with qualities and conditions through which it appears illustrious and worthy. He (the enthusiast) becomes a god by intellectual contact with the divine object, and he has no thought for other than divine things, and shows himself insensible and impassive towards those things which are commonly felt, and about which others are mostly tormented; he fears nothing, and for love of the divine he despises other pleasures and gives no thought to this life. It is not a fury of black bile which sends him drifting outside of judgment, reason, and acts of prudence, and tossed by the discordant tempest, like those who, having violated certain laws of the divine Adrastia, are condemned to be scourged by the Furies, in order that they may be excited by a dissonance as corporeal through seditions, destructions, and plagues, as it is spiritual, through the forfeiture of harmony between the perceptive and enjoying powers; but it is aglow kindled by the intellectual sun in the soul, and a divine impetus which lends it wings, with which, drawing nearer and nearer to the intellectual sun, and ridding itself of the rust of human cares, it becomes a gold tried and pure, has the perception of divine and internal harmony, and its thoughts and acts accord with the symmetry of the law, innate in all things. Not, as drunk from the cups of Circe, does he go dashing and stumbling, now in this and then in that ditch, now against this or that rock, or like a shifting Proteus, changing now to this, now to the other aspect, never finding place, fashion, or ground to stay and settle in; but, without spoiling the harmony, conquers and overcomes the horrid monsters, and however much he may swerve, he easily returns to himself[B] by means of those inward instincts that, like the nine Muses, dance and sing round the splendours of the universal Apollo, and under tangible images and material things, he comes to comprehend divine laws and counsels. It is true that sometimes, having love for his trusty escort, who is double, and because sometimes through occasional impediments he finds himself defrauded of his strength, then, as one insane and furious, he squanders away the love of that which he cannot comprehend; whence, confused by the obscurity of the divinity, he sometimes abandons the work, and then again returns, to force himself with his will thither, where he cannot arrive with the intellect. It is true also that he commonly wanders, and transports himself, now into one, now into another form of the double Eros; therefore, the principal lesson that Love gives to him is, that he contemplate the divine beauty in shadow, when he cannot do so in the mirror, and, like the suitors of Penelope, he entertain himself with the maids when he is not permitted to converse with the mistress. Now, in conclusion, you can comprehend, from what has been said, what is this enthusiast whose picture is put forth, when it is said:
If towards the shining light the butterfly, Winging his way knows not the burning flame, And if the thirsty stag, unmindful of the dart, Runs fainting to the brook, Or unicorn, unto the chaste breast running, Ignores the snare that is for him prepared, I, in the light, the fount, the bosom of my love Behold the flames, the arrows, and the chains. If it be sweet in plaintiveness to droop, Why does that lofty splendour dazzle me? Wherefore the sacred arrow sweetly wound? Why in this knot is my desire involved? And why to me eternal irksomeness Flames to my heart, darts to my breast and snares unto my soul?
[B] Facilmente ritorna al sesso.
Here he shows his love not to be like that of the butterfly, of the stag, and of the unicorn, who would flee away if they had knowledge of the fire, of the arrow, and of the snares, and who have no other sense than that of pleasure; but he is moved by a most sensible and only too evident passion, which forces him to love that fire more than any coolness; more that wound than any wholeness; more those fetters than any liberty. For this evil is not absolutely evil, but, through comparison with good (according to opinion), it is deceptive, like the sauce that old Saturn gets when he devours his own sons; for this evil absolutely in the eye of the Eternal, is comprehended either for good, or for guide which conduces to it, since this fire is the ardent desire of divine things, this arrow is the impression of the ray of the beauty of supernal light, these snares are the species of truth which unite our mind to the primal verity, and the species of good which unite and join to the primal and highest good. To that meaning I approached when I said:
With such a fire and such a noble noose, Beauty enkindles me, and pureness binds, So that in flames and servitude I take delight, Liberty takes flight and dreads the ice. Such is the heat, that though I burn yet am I not destroyed, The tie is such, the world with me gives praise. Fear cannot freeze, nor pain unshackle me; For soothing is the ardour, sweet the smart. So high the light that burns me I discern, And of so rich a thread the noose contrived That, thought being born, the longing dies. And since, within my heart shines such pure flames, And so supreme a tie compels my will, Let my shade serve, and let my ashes burn.
All the loves, if they be heroic and not purely animal, or what is called natural, and slaves to generation, as instruments of nature in a certain way, have for object the divinity, tend towards divine beauty, which first is communicated to souls and shines in them, and from them, or rather through them, it is communicated to bodies; whence it is that well-ordered affection loves the body or corporeal beauty, insomuch as it is an indication of beauty of spirit. Thus that which causes the attraction of love to the body is a certain spirituality which we see in it, and which is called beauty, and which does not consist in major or minor dimensions, nor in determined colours or forms, but in harmony and consonance of members and colours. This shows an affinity between the spirit and the most acute and penetrative senses; whence it follows that such become more easily and intensely enamoured, and also more easily and intensely disgusted, which might be through a change of the deformed spirit, which in some gesture and expressed intention reveals itself in such wise that this deformity extends from the soul to the body, and makes it appear no longer beautiful as before. The beauty, then, of the body has power to kindle, but not to bind, and the lover, unless aided by the graces of the spirit, such as purity, gratitude, courtesy, circumspection, is unable to escape. Therefore, said I, beautiful is that fire which burns me, and noble that tie which binds.
CIC. I do not believe it is always like that, Tansillo; because, sometimes, notwithstanding that we discover the spirit to be vicious, we remain heated and entangled; so that, although reason perceives the evil and unworthiness of such a love, it yet has not power to alienate the disordered appetite. In this disposition, I believe, was the Nolano when he said:
Woe's me! my fury forces me To union with the bad within, And makes it seem a love supreme and good. Wearied, my soul cares nought That I opposing counsels entertain, And with the savage tyrant Nourished with want, And made to put myself in exile, More than with liberty contented am. I spread my sails to the wind, To draw me forth from this detested bliss, And to reclaim me from the cloying hurt.
TANS. This occurs when spirits are vicious and tinged as with the same hue; since, through conformity, love is excited, enkindled, and confirmed. Thus the vicious easily concur in acts of the same vice; and I will not refrain from repeating that which I know by experience, for although I may have discovered in a soul vices very much abominated by me—as, for instance, filthy avarice, base greediness for money, ingratitude for favours and courtesies received, or a love of quite vile persons, of which this last most displeases, because it takes away the hope from the lover, that by becoming or making himself more worthy he may become more acceptable—in spite of all this, it is true that I did burn for corporeal beauty. But how? I loved against my will; for, were it not so, I should have been more saddened than cheered by troubles and misfortunes.
CIC. It is a very proper and nice distinction that is made between loving and liking.
TANS. Truly; because we like many—that is, we desire that they be wise and just; but we love them not because they are unjust and ignorant; many we love because they are beautiful, but we do not like them, because they do not deserve it; and amongst other things of which the lover deems the loved one undeserving, the first is, being loved; and yet, although he cannot abstain from loving, nevertheless he regrets it, and shows his regret like him who said, "Woe is me! who am compelled by passion to coalesce with evil." In the opposite mood was he, either through some corporeal object in similitude or through a divine subject in reality, when he said:
Although to many pains thou dost subject me, Yet do I thank thee, love, and owe thee much, That thou my breast dost cleave with noble wound, And then dost take my heart and master it. Thus true it is, that I, on earth, adore A living object, image most beautiful of God. Let him who will think that my fate is bad That kills in hope and quickens in desire. My pasture is the high emprise, And though the end desired be not attained, And though my soul in many thoughts is spent, Enough that she enkindle noble fire, Enough that she has lifted me on high, And from the ignoble crowd has severed me.
Here his love is entirely heroic and divine, and as such, I wish it to be understood; although he says that through it he is subject to many pangs, every lover who is separated from the thing loved (to which being joined by affection he would also wish to be actually), being in anguish and pain, he torments himself, not forsooth because he loves, since he feels his love is engaged most worthily and most nobly, but because he feels deprived of that fruition which he would obtain if he arrived at that end to which he tends. He suffers, not from the desire which animates him, but from the difficulty in the cultivation of it which so tortures him. Others esteem him unhappy through this appearance of an evil destiny, as being condemned to these pangs, for he will never cease from acknowledging the obligation he is under to love, nor cease from rendering thanks to him because he has presented before the eyes of his mind such an intelligible conception through which, in this earthly life, shut in this prison of the flesh, wrapped in these nerves and supported by these bones, it is permitted to him to contemplate the divinity in a more suitable manner than if other conceptions and similitudes than these had offered themselves.