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‘ [82] By which it may be seen that one desirable stands before another in the eyes of our soul in a fashion as it were pyramidal, for the smallest at first covers the whole of them, and is as it were the apex of the highest desirable, which is God, as it were the base of all; so that the further we go from the apex toward the base the desirables appear greater; and this is the reason why human desires become wider one after the other. Verily this way is lost through error as the roads of earth are; for as from one city to another there is of necessity one best and straightest way, and one that always leads farther from it, that is, the one which goes elsewhere, and many others, some less roundabout and some less direct, so in human life are divers roads whereof one is the truest and another the most deceitful, and certain ones less deceitful, and certain less true. And as we see that that which goes most directly to the city fulfils desire and gives repose after weariness, and that which goes the other way never fulfils it and never can give repose, so it falls out in our life. The good traveller arrives at the goal and repose, the erroneous never arrives thither, but with much weariness of mind, always with greedy eyes looks before him.’1 If we may apply Dante's own method of exposition to this passage, we find him telling us that he first sought felicity in knowledge,

That apple sweet which through so many branches
The care of mortals goeth in pursuit of,

Purgatorio, XXII. 115, 116.

then in fame, a bird that flits before us as we follow,2

1 Convito, Tr. I. c. 12.

2 That Dante loved fame we need not be told. He several times confesses it, especially in the De Vulgari Eloquio, I. 17. ‘How glorious she [the Vulgar Tongue] makes her intimates [familiares, those of her household], we ourselves have known, who in the sweetness of this glory put our exile behind our backs.’

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Pietro Di Dante (2)
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