Omniana/Volume 1/Magnanimity

129. Magnanimity.

The following ode was written by Giordano Bruno, under prospect of that martyrdom which he soon after suffered at Rome, for atheism: i. e. as is proved by all his works, for a lofty and enlightened piety, which was of course unintelligible to bigots, and dangerous to an apostate hierarchy. If the human mind be, as it assuredly is, the sublimest object, which nature affords to our contemplation, these lines, which pourtray the human mind under the action of its most elevated affections, have a fair claim to the praise of sublimity. The work, from which they are extracted, is exceedingly rare, (as are, indeed, all the works of the Nolan Philosopher,) and I have never seen them quoted.

Dædalias vacuis plumas nectere humeris
Concupiant alii; aut vi suspendi nubium
Alis, ventorumve appetant remigium;
Aut orbitæ flammantis raptari alveo;
Bellerophontisve alitem.

Nos vero illo donati sumas genio,
Ut fatum intrepidi objectasque umbras cernimus,
Ne cæci ad lumen solis, ad perspicuas
Naturæ voces surdi, ad Divum munera
Ingrato adsimus pectore.

Non curamus stultorum quid opinio
De nobis ferat, aut queis dignetur sedibus
Alis ascendimus sursum melioribus!
Quid nubes ultra, ventorum ultra est semita
Vidimus, quantum satis est.

Illuc conscendent plurimi, nobis ducibus,
Per scalam proprio erectam et firmam in pectore,
Quam Deus, et vegeti sors dabit Ingeni,
Non manes, pluma, ignis, ventus, nubes, spiritus,
Divinantum phantasmata!
Non sensus vegetans, non me Ratio arguet
Non indoles exculti clara Ingenii;
Sed perfidi Sycophantæ supercilium
Absque Lance, Staterâ, Trutinâ, Oculo,
Miraculum armati se_ete.

Versificantis Grammatistæ eucomium,
Buglossæ Græcissantum, et Epistolia
Lectorem libri salutantum a limine,
Latrantum adversum Zoilos, Momos, Mastiges,
Hinc absint Testimonia!
Procedat nudus, quem non ornant Nubilæ,
Sol! Non conveniunt Quadrupedum phaleræ
Ilumano dorso! Porro Veri Species
Quæsita, inventa, et patefacta me efferat!
Etsi nullus intolligat,
Si cum Natura sapio, et sub Numine,
Id vere plusquam satis est.

The conclusion alludes to a charge of impenetrable obscurity, in which Bruno shares one and the same fate with Plato, Aristotle Kant, and in truth with every great discoverer and benefactor of the human race; excepting only when the discoveries have been capable of being rendered palpable to the outward senses, and have therefore come under the cognizance of our "sober judicious critics," the men of "sound common sense;" i.e. of those snails in intellect, who wear their eyes at the tips of their feelers, and cannot even see unless they at the same time touch.—When these finger-philosophers affirm that Plato, Bruno, &c. must have been "out of their senses" the just and proper retort is: "Gentlemen! it is still worse with you! you have lost your reason."

By the bye, Addison in the Spectator has grossly misrepresented the design and tendency of Bruno's Bestia Triomphante; the object of which was to shew of all the theologies and theogonies, which have been conceived for the mere purpose of solving problems in the material universe, that as they originate in the fancy, so they all end in delusion, and act to the hindrance or prevention of sound knowledge and actual discovery. But the principal and more important truth taught in this allegory, is, that in the concerns of morality, all pretended knowledge of the will of heaven, which is not revealed to man through his conscience; that all commands, which do not consist in the unconditional obedience of the will to the pure reason, without tampering with consequences (which are in God's power not in our's); in short, that all motives of hope and fear from invisible powers, which are not immediately derived from, and absolutely coincident with, the reverence due to the supreme reason of the universe, are all alike dangerous superstitions. The worship founded on them, whether offered by the catholic to St. Francis, or by the poor African to his Fetish, differ in form only, not in substance. Herein Bruno speaks not only as a philosopher but as an enlightened christian: the evangelists and apostles every where representing their moral precepts, not as doctrines then first revealed, but as truths implanted in the hearts of men, which their vices only could have obscured.