Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bruno on fire

It is indeed a base, ugly and contaminated wit that is constantly occupied and curiously obsessed with the beauty of a female body! What spectacle, oh good God, more vile and ignoble can be presented to a mind of clear sensibilities than a rational man afflicted, tormented, gloomy, melancholic, who becomes now hot, now cold and trembling, now pale, now flushed, now confused, or now resolute;
one who spends most of his time and the choice fruits of his life letting fall drop by drop the elixir of his brain by putting into conceits and in writing, and sealing on public monuments those continual tortures, dire torments, those persuasive speeches, those laborious complaints and most bitter labours inevitable beneath the tyranny of an unworthy, witless, stupid and odoriferous foulness!
What a tragicomedy! What act, I say, more worthy of pity and laughter can be presented to us upon this world's stage, in this scene of our consciousness, than of this host of individuals who became melancholy, meditative, unflinching, firm, faithful, lovers, devotees, admirers and slaves of a thing without trustworthiness, a thing deprived of all constancy, destitute of any talent, vacant of any merit, without acknowledgment or any gratitude, as incapable of sensibility, intelligence or goodness, as a statue or image painted on a wall; a thing containing more haughtiness, arrogance, insolence, contumely, anger, scorn, hypocrisy, licentiousness, avarice, ingratitude and other ruinous vices, more poisons and instruments of death than could have issued from the box of Pandora?
For such are the poisons which have only too commodious an abode in the brain of that monster! Here we have written down on paper, enclosed in books, placed before the eyes and sounded in the ear a noise, an uproar, a blast of symbols, of emblems, of mottoes, of epistles, of sonnets, of epigrams, of prolific notes, of excessive sweat, of life consumed, shrieks which deafen the stars, laments which reverberate in the caves of hell, tortures which affect living souls with stupor, sighs which make the gods swoon with compassion,
and all this for those eyes,
for those cheeks,
for that breast,
for that whiteness,
for that vermilion,
for that speech,
for those teeth,
for those lips,
that hair,
that dress,
that robe,
that glove,
that slipper,
that shoe,
that reserve,
that little smile,
that wryness,
that window-widow,
that eclipsed sun,
that scourge,
that disgust,
that stink,
that tomb,
that latrine,
that menstruum,
that carrion,
that quartan ague,
that excessive injury and distortion of nature,
which with surface appearance, a shadow, a phantasm, a dream, a Circean enchantment put to the service of generation, deceives us as a species of beauty.
This is a beauty which comes and goes, is born and dies, blooms and decays; and is eternally beautiful for so very short a moment..
But what am I doing? What am I thinking? Do I perhaps despise the sun? Do I regret perhaps my own and others having come into this world? Do I perhaps wish to restrict men from gathering the sweetest fruit which the garden of our earthly paradise can produce? Am I perhaps for impeding nature's holy institution?

Must I attempt to withdraw myself or any other from the beloved sweet yoke which divine providence has placed about our necks? Have I perhaps to persuade myself and others that our predecessors were born for us, but that we were not born for our descendents? No, may God not desire that this thought should ever come into my head! In fact, I add, that for all the kingdoms and beatitudes which might ever be proposed or chosen for me, never was I so wise and good that there could come to me the desire to castrate myself or to become a eunuch.
In fact I should be ashamed, whatever may be my appearance, if I should desire ever to be second to any one who worthily breaks bread in the service of nature and the blessed God. And that such participation can be of assistance to one's good intentions I leave for the consideration of him who can judge for himself.
But I do not believe I am caught. For I am certain that all the snares and nooses which those people devise and have devised who specialize in knotting snares and entanglements will never suffice for my enemies to ensnare and entangle me. They would avail themselves (if I dare say it) of death itself, in order to do me mischief. Nor do I believe myself to be frigid, for I do not think that the snows of Mt. Caucusus or Ripheus would suffice to cool my passion.

What then do I mean? What conclusion do I wish to arrive at? What do I wish to decide?
What I would conclude and say is that what belongs to Caesar be rendered unto Caesar and what belongs to God be rendered unto God.
I mean that although there are cases when not even divine honors and adoration suffice for women, yet this does not mean that we owe them divine honors and worship.
I desire that women should be honored and loved as women ought to be loved and honored. Loved and honored for such cause, I say, and for so much, and in the measure due for the little they are, at that time and occasion when they show the natural virtue peculiar to them.
That natural virtue is the beauty, the splendor, and the humility without which one would esteem them to have been born in this world more vainly than a poisonous fungous occupying the earth to the detriment of better plants, more odious than any snake or viper which lifts its head from the dust.
I mean that everything in the universe, in order that it have stability and constancy, has its own weight, number, order and measure, so that it may be ordered and governed with all justice and reason.
Therefore Silenus, Bacchus, Pomona, Vertunnus, the god of Lampsacus and similar gods of the drinking hall, gods of strong beer, and humble wine, do not sit in heaven to drink nectar and taste ambrosia at the banquet of Jove, Saturn, Pallus, Phoebus and similar gods;
their vestments, temples, sacrifices and rites must differ from those of the great gods.
Finally, I mean that these heroic frenzies have a heroic subject and object, and therefore can no more be esteemed as vulgar and physical loves than one can see dolphins in the trees of the forests or savage bears under the rocks of the sea.

 February 17,1600

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