Sir Thomas Hoby – Castiglione’s “The Courtier”

Bembo gets carried away and practically sings a whole poem to the divine Love. which perpetuates life on earth, gives perfection to the imperfect and likeness to the unlike. He asks God for the grace of being similarly purged with the holy fire of love so that after death he may participate in the feast of angels. He is saying these words standing, with his eyes uplifted to heaven, in a kind of religious trance so that Lady Emilia feels obligated to pluck at his sleeve and gently tell him to be wary, lest his soul should forsake his body. He answers it would not be the first miracle that love has wrought in him. The others ask him to go on, but the spell is broken, the moment of the frenzy (in the Platonic sense) has passed and he has nothing more left to say; moreover, he feels it may not be lawful for him to disclose any more secrets. The Duchess says that if the not-so-young Courtier feels such a love, he really has nothing to envy the younger men. Lord Cesar says that still this ladder of love seems very steep to him, and Lord Gaspar, the resident misogynist at the court, says it could be climbed by few men and no women.


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