Giordano Bruno Poems >>
The Heroic Enthusiasts: Part 2: Second Dialogue

MARICONDO. Here you see a flaming yoke enveloped in knots round which is
written: Levius aura; which means that Divine love does not weigh down,
nor carry his servant captive and enslaved to the lowest depths, but
raises him, supports him and magnifies him above all liberty whatsoever.

CES. Prithee, let us read the sonnet, so that we may consider the sense
of it in due order with propriety and brevity.

MAR. It says thus:--

54.

  She who my mind to other love did move,
  To whom all others vile and vain appear,
  In whom alone is sovereign beauty seen,
  And excellence Divine is manifest.
  She from the forest coming, I beheld,
  Huntress of myself, beloved Artemis,
  'Midst beauteous nymphs, with air of nascent bells.
  Then said I unto Love: See, I am hers.
  And he to me: Oh, happy lover thou!
  Delectable companion of thy fate!
  That she alone of all the numberless,
  That hold within their bosom life and death,
  Who most with virtues high the world adorns,
  Thou didst obtain, through will and destiny,
  Within the Court of Love.
  So happy thou in thy captivity
  Thou enviest not the liberty of man or God.

See how contented he is under that yoke, that marriage which has joined
him to her whom he saw issuing from the forest, from the desert, from
the woods, that is, from parts removed from the crowd, and from the
conversation of the vulgar who have but small enlightenment. Diana, the
splendour of the intelligible species, and huntress; because with her
beauty and grace she first wounded him, and then bound him and holds him
in her power, more contented than otherwise he could possibly have been.
He speaks of her "amidst beauteous nymphs," that is, the multitude of
other species, forms and ideas, and "air of bells," that is the genius
and the spirit which displayed itself at Nola, which lies on the plain
of the Campanian horizon. He acknowledges her, and she, more than any
other, is praised by Love, who considers him so fortunate, because
amongst all those present or absent to mortal eyes, she does more highly
adorn the world, and makes man glorious and beautiful. Hence he says
that his mind is raised towards the highest love, and that it learns to
consider "every other goddess," that is, the care or observation of
every other kind, as vile and vain. Now, in saying that she has
roused his mind to high love, he takes occasion to magnify the heart
through the thoughts, desires and works, as much as possible, and (to
say) that we ought not to be entertained with low things which are
beneath our faculties, as happens to those who, through avarice or
through negligence, or indolence, become in this brief life attached to
unworthy things.


CES. There must be artisans, mechanics, agriculturists, servants,
trotters, ignoble, low, poor, pedants and such like, for otherwise there
could not be philosophers, meditators, cultivators of souls, masters,
captains, nobles, illustrious ones, rich, wise, and the rest who may be
heroes like to gods. Now why should we force ourselves to corrupt the
state of nature which has separated the universe into things major and
minor, superior and inferior, illustrious and obscure, worthy and
unworthy, not only outside ourselves but also inside in the substance of
us, even to that part of us which is said to be immaterial?

So of the intelligences: some are low, others are pre-eminent, some
serve and some obey, some command and govern. I believe, however, that
this ought not to be brought forward as an example, so that subjects
wishing to be superiors, and the ignoble to equal the noble, the order
of things would become perverted and confounded, so that a sort of
neutrality would supervene, and a brutal equality, such as is found in
certain deserts and uncultured republics. Do you not see what damage has
been done to science through this: _i.e._ pedants wishing to be
philosophers; to treat of natural things, and mix themselves with and
decide about things Divine? Who does not see how much evil has happened,
and does happen, through the mind having been moved through similar
facts to exalted affections? Who is there, of good sense, who cannot see
what a fine thing Aristotle made of it, when, being a master of belles
lettres at Alexandria, he set himself to oppose and make war against the
Pythagorean doctrine, and that of natural philosophy; seeking by means
of his logical ratiocination to propose definitions and notions,
certain fifth entities and other abortive portions of fantastical
cogitations, as principles and substance of things, more anxious about
the esteem of the vulgar stupid crowd, which is influenced and governed
by sophisms and appearances which are found in the superficies of things
rather than by the Truth, which is occult and hidden in the substance of
them, and is the substance itself of them? He roused his mind, not to
make himself a mediator, but judge and censor of things which he had
never studied, nor well understood. Thus in our day, that little which
Aristotle can bring, is peculiar for its inventive reasoning, its
suggestiveness, its metaphysics, and is useful for other pedants, who
work with the same "Sursum corda," who institute new dialectics and
modes of forming the reason (judgment?) which are as much viler than
those of Aristotle, as may be the philosophy of Aristotle is
incomparably viler than that of the ancients. And it has been caused by
this, that certain grammarians having grown old in the birching of
children, and in anatomizing phrases and words, have sought to rouse the
mind to the formation of new logic and metaphysics, judging and
sentencing those which they had never studied nor understood: as also
these by the approbation of the ignorant multitude, with whose mind
they have most affinity, can easily demolish the humanities and
ratiocination of Aristotle, as the latter was the executioner of the
Divine philosophies of others. See, then, what it comes to, if all
should aspire to the sacred splendour, and yet are occupied about things
low and vain.

MAR.

  Ride, si sapis, o puella, ride,
  Pelignus, puto, dixerat poeta;
  Sed non dixerat omnibus puellis;
  Et si dixerat omnibus puellis,
  Non dixit tibi. Tu puella non es.

Thus the "Sursum corda" is not the measure for all; but for those that
have wings. We see that pedantry has never been held in such esteem for
the government of the world as in our times, and it offers as many paths
of the true intelligible species and objects of infallible and sole
truth as there are individual pedants. Therefore in this present time it
is proper that noble spirits equipped with truth and enlightened with
the Divine intelligence, should arm themselves against dense ignorance
by climbing up to the high rock and tower of contemplation.


To them it is seemly that they hold every other object as vile and vain.
Nor should these spend their time in light and vain things; for time
flies with infinite velocity; the present rushes by with the same
swiftness with which the future draws near. That which we have lived is
nothing; that which we live is a point; that which we have to live is
not yet a point, but may be a point which, together, shall be and shall
have been. And with all this we crowd our memories with genealogies:
this one is intent upon the deciphering of writings, that other is
occupied in multiplying childish sophisms, and we shall see, for
example, a volume full of: Cor est fons vitae. Nix est alba, ergo cornix
est fons vitae alba, and one prattles about the noun; was it first, or
the verb; the other, whether the sea was first or the springs; again,
another tries to revive obsolete vocabularies which, because they were
once used and approved by some old writer, must now be exalted to the
stars. Yet another takes his stand upon the false or the true
orthography, and so on, with various similar nonsense only worthy of
contempt. They fast, they become thin and emaciated, they scourge the
skin, and lengthen the beard, they rot, and in these things they place
the anchor of their highest good. They despise fortune, and put up
these as shield and refuge against the strokes of fate. With such-like
most vile thoughts they think to mount to the stars, to be equal to
gods, and to understand the good and the beautiful which philosophy
promises.

CES. A grand thing, indeed, that time, which does not suffice for
necessary things, however carefully we use it, should come to be chiefly
consumed about superfluous things, and things vile and shameful.

Is it not rather a thing to laugh at than to praise in Archimedes, that
at the time when the city was in confusion, everything in ruins, fire
broken out in his room, enemies there at his back who had it in their
power to make him lose his brain, his life, his art; that he, meanwhile,
having abandoned all desire or intention of saving his life, lost it
while he was inquiring, perhaps, into the proportion of the curve to the
straight line, of the diameter to the circle, or other similar mathesis,
as suitable for youth, as it were unsuitable for one who, being old,
should be intent upon things more worthy of being put as the end of
human desires?

MAR. In connection with this I like what you said just now, that there
must be all sorts of persons in the world, and that the number of the
imperfect, the ugly, the poor, the unworthy and the villanous, should
be the greater, and, in short, it ought not to be otherwise than as it
is. The long life of Archimedes, of Euclid, of Priscian, of Donato, and
others, who were found up to their death occupied with numbers, lines,
diction, concordances, writings, dialectics, syllogisms, forms, methods,
systems of science, organs, and other preambles, is ordained for the
service of youth, so that they may learn to receive the fruits of the
mature age of those (sages) and be full of the same even in their green
age, so that when they are older they may be fit and ready to arrive
without hindrance to higher things.

CES. I am not wrong in the proposition I moved just now when I spoke of
those who make it their study to appropriate to themselves the place and
the fame of the ancients with new works which are neither better nor
worse than those already existing, and spend their life in considering
how to turn wheat into tares, and find the work of their life in the
elaboration of those studies which are suited for children and are
generally profitable to no one, not even to themselves.

MAR. But enough has been said about those who neither can nor dare to
have their mind roused to highest love. Let us now come to the
consideration of the voluntary captivity and of the pleasant yoke under
the dominion of the said Diana; that yoke, I say, without which, the
soul is impotent to rise to that height from which it fell, and which
renders it light and agile, while the noose renders it more active and
disengaged.

CES. Speak on then!

MAR. To begin, to continue, and to conclude in order; I consider that
all which lives must feed itself and nourish itself in a manner suitable
to the way in which it lives. Therefore, nothing squares with the
intellectual nature but the intellectual, as with the body nothing but
the corporeal; seeing that nourishment is taken for no other reason, but
that it should go to the substance of him who is to be nourished. As
then the body does not transmute into spirit, nor the spirit into
body,--for every transmutation takes place, when matter, which was in
one form, comes to be in another,--so the spirit and the body are not
the same matter; in that that, which was subject to one should come to
be subject to the other.

CES. Surely, if the soul should be nourished with body, it would carry
itself better there, where the fecundity of the material is, (as
Jamblichus argues); so that when a large fat body presents itself, we
should imagine that it were the habitation of a strong soul, firm, ready
and heroic, and we should say: Oh, fat soul, oh, fecund spirit, oh, fine
nature, oh, divine intelligence, oh, clear mind, oh, blessed repast, fit
to spread before lions, or verily for a banquet for dogs. On the other
hand, an old man shrivelled, weak, of failing strength, would be held to
be of little savour and of small account. But go on.

MAR. Now, it must be said that the outcome of the mind is that alone
which is always by it desired, sought for, and embraced, and that which
is more enjoyed than anything else, with which it is filled, comforted
and becomes better,--that is Truth, towards which, in all times, in
every state, and in whatsoever condition man finds himself, he always
aspires, and for the which he despises every fatigue, attempts every
study, makes no account of the body, and hates this life. Therefore
Truth is an incorporeal thing; and neither physics, metaphysics, nor
mathematics can be found in the body, because we see that the eternal
human essence is not in individuals, who are born and die. It (Truth) is
specific unity, said Plato, not the numerical multitude that holds the
substance of things. Therefore he called Idea one and many, movable and
immovable because as incorruptible species it is intelligible and one,
and as it communicates itself to matter and is subject to movement and
generation, it is sensible and many. In this second mode it has more of
non-entity than of entity; seeing that it is one and another and is ever
running but never diminishes. In the first mode it is an entity, and
true. See now, the mathematicians take it for granted, that the true
figures are not to be found in natural bodies, nor can they be there
through the power either of nature or of art. You know, besides, that
the truth (reality) of supernatural substances is above matter. We must
therefore conclude that he who seeks the truth must rise above the
reason of corporeal things. Besides which it must be considered, that he
who feeds has a certain natural memory of his food, especially when it
is most required; it leaves in the mind the likeness and species of it,
in an elevated manner, according to the elevation and glory of him who
aims, and of that which is aimed at. Hence it is that everything has,
innate, the intelligence of those things which belong to the
conservation of the individual and species, and furthermore its final
perfection depends upon efforts to seek its food through some kind of
hunting or chase. Therefore it is necessary that the human soul should
have the light, the genius, and the instruments suitable for its
pursuit. And here contemplation comes to aid, and logic, the fittest
mode for the pursuit of truth, to find it, to distinguish it, and to
judge of it. So that one goes rambling amongst the wild woods of natural
things, where there are many objects under shadow and mantle, for it is
in a thick, dense, and deserted solitude that Truth most often has its
secret cavernous retreat, all entwined with thorns and covered with
bosky, rough and umbrageous plants; it is hidden, for the most part, for
the most excellent and worthy reasons, buried and veiled with utmost
diligence, just as we hide with the greatest care the greatest
treasures, so that, sought by a great variety of hunters, of whom some
are more able and expert, some less, it cannot be discovered without
great labour.

Pythagoras went seeking for it with his imprints and vestiges impressed
upon natural objects, which are numbers, the which display its
progress, reasons, modes and operations in a certain manner, because in
the number (of) multitude, the number (of) measures, and the number (of)
moment or weight, the truth and Being are found in all things.

Anaxagoras and Empedocles considered that the omnipotent and
all-producing divinity fills all things, and with them nothing was so
small that it did not contain within it the occult in every respect,
although they were always progressing onwards to where it was
predominant, and where it found a more magnificent and elevated
expression.

The Chaldeans sought for Truth by means of subtraction, not knowing how
to affirm anything about it; and proceeded without these dogs of
demonstrations and syllogisms, but solely forcing themselves to
penetrate by removing and digging and clearing away by means of
negations of every kind and discourses both open and secret.

Plato went twisting and turning and tearing to pieces and placing
embankments so that the volatile and fugacious species should be as it
were caught in a net and held behind the hedges of definitions, and he
considered that superior things were, by participation, and according to
similitude, reflected in those inferior, and these in those according to
their greater dignity and excellence, and that the truth was in both the
one and the other, according to a certain analogy, order and scale, in
which the lowest of the superior order agrees with the highest of the
inferior order. So that progress was from the lowest of nature to the
highest, as from evil to good, from darkness to light, from the simple
power to the simple action.

Aristotle boasts of being able to arrive at the desired booty by means
of the imprints of tracks and vestiges, while he believes the effects
will lead to the cause, although he, above all others who have occupied
themselves with this sort of chase, has most deviated from the path, so
as to be able hardly to distinguish the footsteps. Theologians there
are, who, nourished in certain sects, seek the truth of nature in all
her specific natural forms in which they see the eternal essence, the
specific substantial perpetuator of the eternal generation and mutation
of things, which are called after their founders and builders and above
them all presides the form of forms, the fountain of light, very
truth of very truth, God of gods, through whom all is full of divinity,
truth, entity, goodness. This truth is sought as a thing inaccessible,
as an object not to be objectized, incomprehensible. But yet, to no one
does it seem possible to see the sun, the universal Apollo, the absolute
light through supreme and most excellent species; but only its shadow,
its Diana, the world, the universe, nature, which is in things, light
which is in the opacity of matter, that is to say, so far as it shines
in darkness.

Many then wander amongst the aforesaid paths of this deserted wood, very
few are those who find the fountain of Diana. Many are content to hunt
for wild beasts and things less elevated, and the greater number do not
understand why, having spread their nets to the wind, they find their
hands full of flies. Rare, I say, are the Actaeons to whom fate has
granted the power of contemplating the nude Diana and who, entranced
with the beautiful disposition of the body of nature, and led by those
two lights, the twin splendour of Divine goodness and beauty become
transformed into stags; for they are no longer hunters, but that which
is hunted. For the ultimate and final end of this sport, is to arrive at
the acquisition of that fugitive and wild body, so that the thief
becomes the thing stolen, the hunter becomes the thing hunted; in all
other kinds of sport, for special things, the hunter possesses himself
of those things, absorbing them with the mouth of his own intelligence;
but in that Divine and universal one, he comes to understand to such an
extent, that he becomes of necessity included, absorbed, united. Whence,
from common, ordinary, civil, and popular, he becomes wild, like a stag,
an inhabitant of the woods; he lives god-like under that grandeur of the
forest; he lives in the simple chambers of the cavernous mountains,
whence he beholds the great rivers; he vegetates intact and pure from
ordinary greed, where the speech of the Divine converses more freely, to
which so many men have aspired who longed to taste the Divine life while
upon earth, and who with one voice have said: Ecce elongavi fugiens, et
mansi in solitudine. Thus the dogs--thoughts of Divine things--devour
Actaeon, making him dead to the vulgar and the crowd, loosened from the
knots of perturbation of the senses, free from the fleshly prison of
matter, whence they no longer see their Diana as through a hole or a
window, but having thrown down the walls to the earth, the eye opens to
the view of the whole horizon. So that he sees all as one; he sees no
more by distinctions and numbers, which, according to the different
senses, as through various cracks, cause to be seen and understood in
confusion.

He sees Amphitrite, the source of all numbers, of all species, of all
reasons, which is the monad, the real essence of the being of all, and
if he does not see it in its essence, in absolute light, he sees it in
its seed, which is like unto it, which is its image; for from the monad,
which is the divinity, proceeds this monad which is nature, the
universe, the world, where it is beheld and reflected, as the sun is in
the moon by means of which it is illuminated; he finding himself in
the hemisphere of intellectual substances. This is that Diana, that one
who is the same entity, that entity which is comprehensible nature, in
which burns the sun and the splendour of the higher nature, according to
which, unity is both the generated and the generating, the producer and
produced. Thus you can of yourself determine the mode, the dignity, and
the success, which are most worthy of the hunter and the hunted.
Therefore the enthusiast boasts of being the prey of Diana, to whom he
rendered himself, and of whom he considers himself the accepted consort,
and happy as a captive and a subject. Why, he envies no man (for there
is none that can have more) or any other god that can have that species
which is impossible to be obtained by an inferior nature, and therefore
is not worthy to be desired, nor can one hunger after it.

CES. I have well understood all that you have said, and you have more
than satisfied me. Now it is time to return home.

MAR. Well.