No Comment, Quotation — July 12, 2009, 5:39 am

Campanella – Il mondo è il libro


Il mondo è il libro dove il Senno Eterno
scrisse i proprii concetti, e vivo tempio
dove, pingendo i gesti e ‘l proprio esempio,
di statue vive ornò l’imo e ‘l superno;

perch’ogni spirto qui l’arte e ‘l governo
leggere e contemplar, per non farsi empio,
debba, e dir possa: – Io l’universo adempio,
Dio contemplando a tutte cose interno. -

Ma noi, strette alme a’ libri e tempii morti,
copiati dal vivo con più errori,
gli anteponghiamo a magistero tale.

O pene, del fallir fatene accorti,
liti, ignoranze, fatiche e dolori:
deh, torniamo, per Dio, all’originale!

The world’s the book where the eternal Sense
Wrote his own thoughts; the living temple where,
Painting his very self, with figures fair
He filled the whole immense circumference.

Here then should each man read, and gazing find
Both how to live and govern, and beware
Of godlessness; and, seeing God all-where,
Be bold to grasp the universal mind.

But we tied down to books and temples dead,
Copied with countless errors from the life, -
These nobler than that school sublime we call.

O may our senseless souls at length be led
To truth by pain, grief, anguish, trouble, strife!
Turn we to read the one original!

Tommaso Campanella, Modo di filosofare (ca. 1620) (J.A. Symonds transl. 1899)

This sonnet by Galileo’s contemporary and fervent defender, Tommaso Campanella, is clearly derived from a reading of some of the great astronomer’s texts that I discussed yesterday about how to “read” the “book of nature,” and can easily be understood through reference to them.

Listen to the Sonata Quarta of Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, from his Sonatae unarum fidium (1664) and then to a brief excerpt from his sonata marking the relief of the Turkish siege of Vienna, Victori der Christen (1683). Schmelzer was an Austrian composer who wrote in the stylus fantasticus that had been pioneered by Giorlamo Frescobaldi a generation earlier and carried north of the Alps by Frescobaldi’s student Johann Jakob Froberger. The son of an army officer, Schmelzer grew up with first-hand experience of the religious wars that plagued Middle Europe in the first half of the seventeenth century. The experience is said to have helped shape his introspective style which stresses the pursuit of a highly personalized vision of harmony. Athanasius Kircher, the great Baroque polymath who sought to develop Galileo’s ideas about the possibility of a universal language, was fascinated by the stylus fantasticus. Here is how he described it: “It is especially suited to instruments. It is the most free and unrestrained method of composing, it is bound to nothing, neither to any words nor to a melodic subject, it was instituted to display genius and to teach the hidden design of harmony and the ingenious composition of harmonic phrases and fugues.” The style found some of its best expression in Schmelzer’s work.

Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada



November 2016

Coming Apart

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Swat Team

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Escape from The Caliphate

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In This One

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In The Hollow

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


Swat Team·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As we shall see, for the sort of people who write and edit the opinion pages of the Post, there was something deeply threatening about Sanders and his political views."
Illustration by John Ritter
Escape from The Caliphate·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"When Matti invited me on a tour of the neighborhood, I asked about security. 'The message has already been passed to ISIS that you’re here,' he said. 'But don’t worry. I guarantee I could bring even you in and out of the Islamic State.'"
Photograph by Alice Martins
In This One·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Years ago, I lived in Montana, a land of purple sunsets, clear streams, and snowflakes the size of silver dollars drifting through the cold air. There were no speed limits and you could legally drive drunk. My small apartment in Missoula had little privacy. In order to write, I rented an off-season fishing cabin on Rock Creek, a one-room place with a bed and a bureau. I lacked the budget for a desk. My idea was to remove a sliding door from a closet in my apartment and place it over a couple of hastily cobbled-together sawhorses.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae
“Don’t Touch My Medicare!”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Medicare’s popularity, however, comes with almost no understanding of what the program is and how it works."
Illustration by Nate Kitch
In The Hollow·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"I’m a gun owner, drive a pickup, and fish from a johnboat. I also recycle, believe in women’s reproductive rights, and own a Prius as a second car. Politically, I don’t fit in anywhere, either."
photographs by Stacy Kranitz

Annual premium on a $6,000 life insurance policy for a champion German shepherd:


Astronomers discovered a pulsar called a superbubble, which spins 716 times per second.

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari told reporters that his wife “belonged to” his kitchen.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


Mississippi Drift


Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today