THE CONVIVIO, BOOK 2 Chapter 2 BY DANTE ALIGHIERI
by Dante Alighieri
translated by Richard Lansing
To begin, then, I say that after the passing of that blessed Beatrice who lives in heaven with the angels and on earth with my soul, the star of Venus had twice revolved in that circle of hers, which at different times of the year makes her appear in the evening or in the morning,(5) when that gentle lady, of whom I made mention at the end of the New Life, first appeared before my eyes, accompanied by Love, and took a place within my mind.(6)
As I have recounted in the above-mentioned little book, it came to pass that I consented to be hers more because of her gentleness than through choice of my own; for she showed herself to be impassioned by so great a pity for my widowed life that the spirits of my eyes became most friendly toward her. And having accomplished this, they then so fashioned her within me that my pleasure was content to wed itself to that image. But because love is not born and does not grow and reach perfection in a moment but requires time and nourishment of thought, especially where there are opposing thoughts that impede it, it was necessary before this new love could become perfect that there be much strife between the thought that nourished it and the one that opposed it, which still held the citadel of my mind on behalf of that glorious Beatrice.(7) For the one was continually reinforced by the part of the memory in front, and the other by the part of the memory in back; and the support in front, being that which hindered me from turning my gaze in any way backward, increased with each day, which the other could not do; hence it seemed to me so wonderful and also so hard to endure that I could not bear it. And almost crying out aloud, to excuse myself for the change in which I seemed to show a lack of strength, I directed my voice to that quarter from which the victory of the new thought emerged, which was most powerful, like celestial virtue; and I began by saying You whose intellect the third sphere moves.(8)
To apprehend the meaning of this canzone properly it is first necessary to know its parts, so that afterwards it will be easy to perceive its meaning. And so that there should be no need of placing these words in front of the expositions of the other canzoni, I say that the order which will be adopted in this book I intend to maintain also for the others.
I say then that the canzone before us is composed of three principal parts. The first is the first stanza of the canzone: here certain Intelligences, or Angels, as we are more accustomed to call them, which preside over the revolution of the heaven of Venus as its movers, are invited to listen to what I intend to say. The second comprises the three stanzas which follow the first: here is shown what was heard within, spiritually, between the different thoughts. The third is the fifth and last stanza: here one generally addresses the work itself, as if to encourage it. All three of these parts, as has been indicated above, will be explicated in order.
5. the star of Venus . . . that circle of hers The planets were considered stars that wandered through the heavens, in distinction to the Fixed Stars which were immovable and always appeared in the same position in the sky at all times of the year. Venus is a moving “star,” and the circle or orbit in which she moves in Dante’s description is her epicycle, a circle whose center lies on the main orbit which circles the earth, according to the Ptolemaic system.
6. when that gentle lady The “gentle lady” at the window who consoled Dante during his period of grief after the loss of Beatrice (see the Vita Nuova, XXXIV). The planet Venus circles the earth in 584 days, so that the period referred to is at least three years and two months after the death of Beatrice, which occurred on 8 June 1290.
7. which still held the citadel of my mind The struggle is between the old love for Beatrice and the new thought, his emergent love for Lady Philosophy, which assails it.
8. to excuse myself for the change The text here is defective. Simonelli reads per iscusare me de la [novi]tade, Busnelli-Vandelli has v[a]ri[e]tade, and Chiappelli-Fenzi have recently returned to the reading veritade (truth). Simonelli notes that Dante uses the very word novitade in the canzone’s first stanza, verse ten.