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whom I love the most tenderly, makes me also a good man. Thus, in proportion as the object of your attachment becomes dear to you, as you discover new qualities in it, and as you find a pleasure in making others admire it, it is your interest to preserve it pure from stain. By corrupting the morals, you deform and debase the soul, the perfection of which you would exalt; and this deformity extends to the countenance also. I will not assert that there are two Venuses; but, since I see that there are temples consecrated to the Celestial, and others to the Terrestrial Venus, and that they sacrifice in the first with ceremonies more scrupulous and with victims more pure, I presume that the two goddesses do exist at least in their effects. The vulgar Venus inflames the passions towards the body; the heavenly Venus inspires a love towards the soul, and incites to honest connexions and to virtuous actions*.
III. THE imagination of Plato has apparently seized upon these exhortations to exalt and support an ingenious theory of Love, of
* Εἰκάσαις δ' ἂν καὶ τοὺς ἔρωτας τὴν μεν Πάνδημον τῶν σωμάτων ἐπιπέμπειν· τὴν δ ̓ Οὐρανίαν τῆς ψυχῆς τε καὶ τῆς φιλίας καὶ τῶν καλῶν ἔργων.—XENOPHON, Συμποσιον, sub fine.
which it will be sufficient to notice here that portion which constitutes the machinery of Petrarch's poetry:-" Our souls ́emanate from God, and unto him they return again. They are pre-existent to our bodies in other worlds. The most tender and the most beautiful inhabit Venus, the brightest and the purest of the planets, called the third heaven. They are more or less perfect, and the most perfect love those which are most perfect also. They are connected together in pairs by a predestined and immutable sympathy: without partaking of the sensual perturbations of the body, they are necessitated to follow it blindly, led by fatality or chance, for the procreation of the species. Each soul burns with the desire to find its companion; and, when they do meet together in their pilgrimage on earth, their love becomes so much the more ardent, because the matter by which they are enclosed prevents their re-union. On these occasions their pleasures, their sufferings, their ecstasies, are inexpressible: each endeavours to make itself known to the other; a celestial light burns in the eyes; an immortal beauty beams in the countenance; the heart feels less tendency to earth, and they mutually incite each other to the exaltation and purification of
their virtue. In proportion as they love each other, they are lifted towards God, who is their common origin; and, in proportion as they feel the pains of their exile upon earth, and their captivity in matter, they desire to be freed, in order that they may unite eternally in heaven." Now, since the whole system is founded on the hypothesis, "that each soul has a predestined sympathy towards one other soul only"-and since each person imagines, "that the being to whom he is attached is the most perfect," it follows" that every platonic lover ought to strive always to attain to the highest degree of moral perfection."
IV. THESE Opinions were brought into Italy through the means of the ancient Fathers of the Church; and some of the theologians, amongst others, Giovanni da Fabriano, who died the same year that Laura died, have written treatises to reconcile the doctrines of Plato with the Bible*. The friars turned them to good account, and, in citing the example of celebrated poets, preached that the souls of deceased ladies would be more readily received into heaven, if it were appeased by the
* Fabricius Med. et Inf. Lat. tom. iv. p. 74.
charities and prayers of their lovers.-" Francis Petrarch, who is still living," says a Dominican preacher, "had a spiritual mistress, to whom he owes all his glory: and, since her death, he has spent so much in charities to the church for masses, that, if she had lived as a profligate woman, they would have redeemed her from the hands of the devil: but it is said that she died devout*." Thus philosophy and religion conspired with the chivalrous manners of the times to flatter and embellish the most irresistible of all human propensities. Facility in yielding to love was the least equivocal mark of a benevolent mind: constancy, disinterestedness, and submission to the sex, were the most certain pledge of military valour and of heroism beautiful poetry was no proof of the genius of the poet, but of the force of the pas
"Ma pur Messer Francesco Petrarca, che è oggi vivo, hebe un amante spirituale apelata Laura: però, poichè ella morì, gl'è stato più fedele che mai, et ali data tanta fama, che la sempre nominata, e non morirà mai. Et questo è quanto al corpo; po' li ha fatto tante limosine, et facte dire tante Messe et Orationi con tanta devotione, che s'ella fosse stata la più cattiva femina del mondo, l'avrebbe tratta dalle mani del Diavolo, benchè se raxona, che morì pure santa." -Two manuscript copies of these sermons, bearing the date and orthography of 1372, are quoted by Tiraboschi, Storia della Letteratura Italiana, vol. v. lib. 3.
sion by which he was inspired. Beauty, rank, the domestic virtues, had no merit, except as they were celebrated by the adoration of a lover and the passion of a poet. In the time of Petrarch, Agnese de Navarre, Comtesse de Foix, wrote some love-verses to Guillaume de Machaut, a French poet: he became jealous, and she sent her own confessor to him, to complain of the injustice of his suspicions, and to swear that she was still faithful to him. She required also of her lover to write and to publish in verse the history of their love; and she preserved at the same time, in the eyes her husband and of the world, the character of a virtuous princess*.-The reputation, and perhaps the virtue, of the fair sex were protected by the COURS D'AMOUR, which were held for two ages throughout all France. They were at once the schools and the tribunals, where the prizes were decreed to the best poets and the most faithful lovers, where problems of gallantry were solved, where proceedings were instituted and individuals condemned. There the ladies officiated as judges, and from them there was no appeal. In spite of the ridicule which attaches to such an
* Mémoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions, vol. xx. p. 413.