LIB. Reclining in the shade of a cypress-tree, the enthusiast finding
his mind free from other thoughts, it happened that the heart and the
eyes spoke together as if they were animals and substances of different
intellects and senses, and they made lament of that which was the
beginning of his torment and which consumed his soul.
LAO. Repeat, if you can recollect, the reasons and the words.
LIB. The heart began the dialogue, which, making itself heard by the
breast, broke into these words:
_First proposition of the heart to the eyes_.
How, eyes of mine, can that so much torment,
Which as an ardent fire from ye derives,
And which this mortal subject so afflicts
With unrelenting burning never spared?
Can ocean floods suffice to mitigate
The ardour of those flames? or slowest star
Within the frozen circle of the north
Offer umbrageous shade?
Ye took me captive, and the self-same hand
Doth hold me and reject me and through you
I in the body am: out of it with the sun.
I am the source of life, yet am I not alive.
I know not what I am, for I belong
Unto this soul; but this soul is not mine.
LAO. Truly the hearing, the seeing, the knowing, is that which kindles
desire, and therefore it is through the operation of the eyes that the
heart becomes inflamed: and the more worthy the object which is present
with them the stronger is the fire, and the more active are the flames.
What then, must that kind be, for which the heart burns in such a way
that the coldest star in the Arctic circle cannot cool it, nor can the
whole body of water of the ocean stop its burning! What must be the
excellence of that object that has made him an enemy to himself, a rebel
to his own soul and content with such hostility and rebellion, although
he be captive to one who despises and will have none of him! But let me
hear whether the eyes made a response, and what they said.
LIB. They, on the other hand, complained of the heart as being the
origin and cause why they shed so many tears, and this was the sum of
_First proposition of the eyes to the heart_.
How, oh my heart, do waters gush from thee
Like to the springs that bathe the Nereids’ brows
Which daily in the sun are born and die?
Like to the double fountain of Amphitrite,
Which pours so great a flood across the earth,
That one might say, the sum of it exceeds
That of the stream which Egypt inundates,
Running its sevenfold course unto the sea.
Nature hath given two lights
To this small earth for governance;
But thou, perverter of eternal law,
Hast turned them into everlasting streams.
But Heaven is not content to see her law
Decline before unbridled violence.
LAO. It is certain that the heart, grieved and stung, causes tears to
spring to the eyes, and while these light the flames in this, that other
dims those with moisture. But I am surprised at such exaggeration which
says that the Nereids raising their wet faces to the eastern sun, is
less than these waters (of the eyes). And more than that, they are equal
to the ocean, not because they do pour, but because these two springing
streams can pour such, and so much, that compared with them the Nile
would appear a tiny stream divided into seven streamlets.
LIB. Be not surprised at that exaggeration nor at that potency without
action! For you will understand all, after having heard the conclusion
of their argument. Now listen how the heart responds to the proposition
of the eyes.
LAO. I pray you, let me hear.
_First response of the heart to the eyes_.
Eyes, if an immortal flame within me burn,
And I no other am than burning fire;
If to come near me is to feel the blaze,
So that the heavens are fervid with my heat;
Why does my blazing flame consume you not,
But only contrary effects you feel?
Why saturated and not roasted ye,
If not of water but of fire I be?
Believe ye, oh ye blind,
That from such ardent burning is derived
The double passage, and those living founts
Have had their elements from Vulcan?
As force sometimes acquires a power
When by its contrary it is opposed.
You see that the heart could not persuade itself that from an opposite
cause and beginning, could proceed a force of an opposite effect. So
that it will not allow the possibility of it, except through
antiperistasis, which means the strength which an opposite acquires from
that which, flying from the other, comes to unite itself, incorporate
itself, insphere itself, or concentrate itself towards the individual,
through its own virtue, which, the farther it is removed from the
dimensions (dimensioni) the more efficacious it becomes.
LAO. Tell me, how did the eyes respond to the heart?
_First response of the eyes to the heart._
Thy passion does confuse thee, on my heart,
The path of truth thou hast entirely lost;
That which in us is seen–that which is hid–
Is seed of oceans. Neptune, if by fate
His kingdom he should lose, would find it here entire.
How does the burning flame from us derive
Who of the sea the double parent are?
So senseless thou’rt become!
Dost thou believe the flame will pass
And leave the doors all wet behind
That thou may’st feel the ardour of the same?
As splendour through a glass, dost thou
Believe that it through us will penetrate?
Now I will not begin to philosophize about the identity of opposites
which I have studied in the book De Principio ed uno, and I will
suppose that which is usually received, that the opposites in the same
genus are quite separate (distantissimi), so that the meaning of this
response is more easily learned where the eyes call themselves the seed
or founts in the virtual potentiality of which is the sea; so that if
Neptune should lose all the waters, he could recall them into action by
their own potentiality, where they are as in the beginning, medium and
material. But it is not urged as a necessity, when they say it cannot
be, that the flame passes over to the heart through their room (stanza e
cortile) and courtyard leaving so many waters behind, for two reasons.
First, because such an impediment cannot exist in action, if (equally?)
violent opposition is not put into action; second, because in so far
as the waters are actually in the eyes, they can give passage to the
heat as to the light; for, experience proves that the luminous ray
kindles, by means of reflection, any material that becomes opposed to
it, without heating the glass; and the ray passes through a glass,
crystal or other vase, full of water, and heats an object placed under
it, without heating the thick intervening body. As it is also true that
it causes dry and dusty impressions in the caves of the deep sea.
Therefore by analogy, if not by the same sort of reasons, we may see how
it is possible that, through the lubricant and dark passage of the eyes,
the affection may be kindled and inflamed by that light, the which for
the same reason cannot be in the middle. As the light of the sun,
according to other reasoning, is in the middle air, or again in the
nearer sense, and again in the common sense, or again in the intellect,
notwithstanding that from one mode proceeds the other mode of being.
LAO. Are there any more discourses?
LIB. Yes; because both the one and the other are trying to find out in
what way it is that it (the heart) contains so many flames and those
(the eyes) so many waters. The heart then makes the next proposition.
_Second proposition of the heart to the eyes_.
If to the foaming sea the rivers run,
And pour their streams into the sea’s dark gulf,
How does the kingdom of the water-gods,
Fed by the double torrent of these eyes,
Increase not; since the earth
Must lose the glorious overflow?
How is it that we do not see the day,
When from the mount Deukalion returns?
Where are the lengthening shores,
Where is the torrent to put out my flame,
Or, failing this, to give it greater power?
Does drop of water ever fall to earth
In such a way as leads me to suppose
It is not as the senses show it?
It asks, what power is this, which is not put into action? If the waters
are so many, why does Neptune not come to tyrannize over the kingdoms of
the other elements? Where are the inundated banks? Where is he who will
give coolness to the ardent fire? Where is the drop of water by which I
may affirm through the eyes that which the senses deny? But the eyes in
the same way ask another question.
_Second proposition of the eyes to the heart_.
If matter changed and turned to fire acquires
The movement of a lighter element,
Rising aloft unto the highest heaven;
Wherefore, ignited by the fire of love,
Swifter than wind, dost thou not rise and flash.
Into the sun and be incorporate there?
Why rather stay a pilgrim here below
Than open through the air and us a way?
No spark of fire from that heart
Goes out through the wide atmosphere.
Body of dust and ashes is not seen,
Nor water-laden smoke ascends on high.
All is contained entire within itself,
And not of flame, is reason, sense, or thought.
LAO. This proposition is neither more nor less conclusive than the
other. But let us come at once to the answers if there be any.
LIC. There are some certainly and full of sap. Listen.
_Second response of the heart to the eyes_.
He is a fool, who that alone believes,
Which to the sense appears, who reason scorns.
My flame could never wing its way above.
The conflagration infinite remains unseen.
Between the eyes their waters are contained,
One infinite encroaches not upon another.
Nature wills not that all should perish.
If so much fire’s enough for so much sphere,
Say, say, oh eyes,
What shall we do? how act
In order to make known, or I, or you,
For its deliverance, the sad plight of the soul?
If one and other of us both be hid,
How can we move the beauteous god to pity?
LAS. If it is not true it is very well imagined: if it is not so, it is
yet a very good excuse the one for the other; because where there are
two forces, of the which one is not greater than the other, the
operation of both must cease, for one resists as much as the other
insists, and one assails while the other defends. If therefore the sea
is infinite and the force of tears in the eyes is immense, it never can
be made apparent by speech, nor the impetus of the fire concealed in the
heart break forth, nor can they (the eyes) send forth the twin torrent
to the sea if the heart shelters them with equal tenacity. Therefore the
beautiful deity cannot be expected to be pitiful towards the afflicted
soul because of the exhibition of tears which distil from the eyes, or
speech which breaks forth from the breast.
LIB. Now note the answer of the eyes to this proposition:–
_Second response of the eyes to the heart_.
Alas! we poured into the wavy sea,
The strength of our two founts in vain,
For two opposing powers hold it concealed,
Lest it go rolling aimlessly adown.
The strength unmeasured of the burning heart,
Withholds a passage to the lofty streams;
Barring their twofold course unto the sea,
Nature abhors the covered ground.
Now say, afflicted heart, what canst thou bring
To oppose against us with an equal force?
Oh, where is he, will boast himself to be
Exalted by this most unhappy love,
If of thy pain and mine it can be said,
The greater they, the less it may be seen.
Both these evils being infinite, like two equally vigorous opposites
they curb and suppress each other: it could not be so if they were both
finite, seeing that a precise equality does not belong to natural
things, nor would it be so if the one were finite, the other infinite;
for of a certainty the one would absorb the other, and they would both
be seen, or, at least one, through the other. Beneath these sentences,
there lies hidden, ethical and natural philosophy, and I leave it to be
searched for, meditated upon and understood, by whosoever will and can.
This alone I will not leave (unsaid) that it is not without reason that
the affection of the heart is said to be the infinite sea by the
apprehension of the eyes. For the object of the mind being infinite,
and no definite object being proposed to the intellect, the will cannot
be satisfied by a finite good, but if besides that, something else is
found, it is desired and sought for; for, as is commonly said, the apex
of the inferior species is the beginning of the superior species,
whether the degrees are taken according to the forms, the which we
cannot consider as being infinite, or according to the modes and reasons
of those, in which way, the highest good being infinite, it would be
supposed to be infinitely communicated, according to the condition of
the things, over which it is diffused. However, there is no definite
species of the universe. I speak according to the figure and mass; there
is no definite species of the intellect; the affections are not a
LAO. These two powers of the soul, then, never are nor can be perfect
for the object, if they refer to it infinitely?
LIB. So it would be if this infinite were by negative privation or
privative negation of the end, as it is for a more positive affirmation
of the end, infinite and endless.
LAO. You mean, then, two kinds of affinity; the one privative, the which
may be towards something which is power, as, infinite is darkness, the
end of which is the position of light; the other perfecting, which tends
to the act and perfection, as infinite is the light, the end of which
would be privation and darkness. In this, then, the intellect
conceives the light, the good, the beautiful, in so far as the horizon
of its capacity extends, and the soul, which drinks of Divine nectar and
the fountain of eternal life in so far as its own vessel allows, and one
sees that the light is beyond the circumference of his horizon, where it
can go and penetrate more and more, and the nectar and fount of living
water is infinitely fruitful, so that it can become ever more and more
LIB. From this it does not follow that there is imperfection in the
object, nor that there is little satisfaction in the potency, but that
the power is included in the object and beatifically absorbed by it.
Here the eyes imprint upon the heart, that is upon the intelligence, and
rouse in the will an infinite torment of love, where there is no pain
because nothing is sought which is not obtained; but it is happiness,
because that which is there sought is always found, and there is no
satiety, inasmuch as there is always appetite, and therefore enjoyment;
in this it is not like the food of the body, the which with satiety
loses enjoyment, has no pleasure before the enjoyment, nor after
enjoyment, but only in the enjoyment itself, and where it passes certain
limits it comes to feel annoyance and disgust. Behold, then, in a
certain analogy, how the highest good ought to be also infinite, in
order that it should not some time turn to evil; as food, which is good
for the body, if it is not limited, may come to be poison. Thus it is
that the water of the ocean does not extinguish that flame, and the
rigour of the Arctic circle does not mitigate that ardour. Therefore it
is bad through (the) one hand, which holds him and rejects him; it holds
him, because it has him for its own; it rejects him because, flying
from him, the higher it makes itself the more he ascends upwards to it;
the more he follows it, the further off it appears, by reason of its
high excellence, according as it is said: Accedit homo ad cor altum, et
exaltabitur Deus. Such blessedness of affection begins in this life, and
in this state it has its mode of being. Hence the heart can say that it
is within with the body, and without with the sun, in so far as the soul
with its twin faculty, puts into operation two functions: the one to
vivify and realize the animal body, the other to contemplate superior
things; so that it is in receptive potentiality from above, as it is in
re-active potentiality below, towards the body. The body is, as it were,
dead, and as it were apart from the soul, the which is its life and its
perfection; and the soul is as it were dead, and a thing apart from the
superior illuminating intelligence, from which the intellect is derived
as to its nature and acts. Therefore, the heart is said to be the
beginning of life, and not to be alive, it is said to belong to the
animating soul, and that this does not belong to it; because it is
inflamed by Divine love, and finally converted into fire, which can set
on fire that which comes near it, seeing that it has contracted into
itself the divinity; it is made god, and consequently in its kind it can
inspire others with love; as the splendour of the sun may be seen and
admired in the moon. And as for that which belongs to the consideration
of the eyes, know, that in the present discourse they have two
functions; one to impress the heart, the other to receive the impression
of the heart; as this also has two functions, one to receive the
impressions from the eyes, the other to impress them. The eyes study the
species and propose them to the heart; the heart desires them, and
presents his desire to the eyes; these conceive the light, diffuse it,
and kindle the fire in the heart, which heated and kindled, sends its
waters (umore) to them, so that they may dispose of them
(digeriscano). Thus, firstly, cognition moves the affection, and soon
the affection moves the cognition. The eyes, when they move (the heart),
are dry, because they perform the office of a looking-glass, and of a
representer; when they are moved, however, they become troubled and
perturbed, because they perform the office of a diligent executer,
seeing that with the speculating intellect, the beautiful and the good
is first seen, then the will desires it; and later the industrious
intellect procures it, follows it, and seeks it. Tearful eyes signify
the difficulty of separating the thing wished for from, the wisher, the
which in order that it should not pall, nor disgust, presents itself as
an infinite longing (studio) which ever has, and ever seeks; seeing that
the delight of the gods is ascribed to drinking, not to having tasted
ambrosia, and to the continual enjoyment of food and drink, and not in
being satiated and without desire for them. Hence they have satiety as
it were in movement and apprehension, not in quiet and comprehension;
they are not satiated without appetite, nor are they in a state of
desire, without being in a certain way satiated.
LAO. Esuries satiata, satietas esuriens.
LIB. Precisely so.
LAO: From this I can comprehend how, without blame, but with great truth
and understanding, it has been said that Divine love weeps with
indescribable groans, because having all it loves all, and loving all
LIB. But many comments would be necessary if we would understand that
Divine love which is deity itself; and one easily understands Divine
love, so far as it is to be found in its effects and in the inferior
nature. I do not say that which from the divinity is diffused into
things, but that of things which aspires to the divinity.
LAO. Now of this and of other matters we will discourse more at our ease
presently. Let us go.
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