I, then, for these reasons will discourse in due order of each Song, firstly upon its Literal meaning, and after that I will discourse of its Allegory, that is, the hidden Truth, and sometimes I will touch incidentally on the other meanings as may be convenient to place and time.
Beginning, then, I say that the star of Venus had twice revolved in that circle which causes the evening and the morning to appear, according to the two varying seasons, since the death of that blessed Beatrice, who lives in Heaven with the Angels, and on Earth with my soul; when that gentle Lady, of whom I made mention at the end of the “Vita Nuova,” first appeared before my eyes, accompanied by Love, and assumed a position in my mind. And, as has been stated by me in the little book referred to, more because of her gentle goodness than from choice of mine, it befell that I consented to be her servant. For she appeared impassioned with such sorrow for my sad widowed life that the spirits of my eyes became especially friendly to her; and, so disposed, they then depicted her to be such that my good-will was content to espouse itself to that image. But because Love is not born suddenly, nor grows great nor comes to perfection in haste, but desires time and food for thought, especially there where there are antagonistic thoughts which impede it, there must needs be, before this new Love could be perfect, a great battle between the thought of its food and of that which was antagonistic to it, which still held the fortress of my mind for that glorious Beatrice. For the one was succoured on one side continually by the ever-present vision, and the other on the opposite side by the memory of the past. And the help of the ever-present sight increased each day, which memory could not do, in opposing that which to a certain degree prevented me from turning the face towards the past. Wherefore it seemed to me so wonderful, and also so hard to endure, that I could not support it, and with a loud cry (to excuse myself from the struggle, in which it seemed to me that I had failed in courage) I lifted up my voice towards that part whence came the victory of the new thought, which was full of virtuous power, even the power of celestial virtue; and I began to say: “You! who the third Heaven move, intent of thought.” For the intelligent understanding of which Song, one must first know its divisions well, so that it will then be easy to perceive its meaning.
In order that it may no longer be necessary to preface the explanations of the others, I say that the order which will be taken in this Treatise I intend to keep through all the others. I say, then, that the proposed Song is contained within three principal parts. The first is the first verse of that, in which certain Intelligences are induced to listen to what I intend to say, or rather by a more usual form of speech we should call them Angels, who are in the revolution of the Heaven of Venus, as the movers thereof. The second is in the lines which follow after the first, in which is made manifest that which I felt spiritually amidst various thoughts. The third is in the last lines, wherein the man begins to speak to the work itself, as if to comfort it, as it were, and all these three parts are in due order to be demonstrated, as has been said above.