Her Maker saw that she was
good, and poured,
Beyond our Nature, fulness of His Power
On her pure Soul, whence shone this holy dower
Through all her frame.
For the capacity of our Nature is subdued by it, which it makes beautiful and virtuous. Wherefore, although into the habit of that Lady one may somewhat come, it is not possible to say that any one who enters thereinto properly has that habit; since the first study, that whereby the habit is begotten, cannot perfectly acquire that philosophy. And here one sees her lowly praise; for, perfect or imperfect, she never loses the name of perfection. And because of this her surpassing excellence, it says that the Soul of Philosophy “shone Through all her frame,” that is, that God ever imparts to her of His Light.
Here we may recall to mind what is said above, that Love is a form of Philosophy, and therefore here is called her Soul; which Love is manifest in the use of Wisdom, and such use brings with it a wonderful beauty, that is to say, contentment under any condition of the time, and contempt for those things which other men make their masters.
Wherefore it happens that those other unhappy ones who gaze thereon, and think over their own defects from the desire for perfection, fall into the weariness of sighs; and this is meant where it says: “That from the eyes she touches heralds fly Heartward with longings, heavenward with a sigh.”
As in the Literal exposition, after the general praises one descends to the especial, firstly on the part of the Soul, then on the part of the body, so now the text proceeds after the general encomium to descend to the especial commendation. As it is said above, Philosophy here has Wisdom for its material subject and Love for its form, and the habit of contemplation for the union of the two. Wherefore in this passage which subsequently begins, “On her fair form Virtue Divine descends,” I mean to praise Love, which is part of Philosophy. Here it is to be known that for a virtue to descend from one thing into another there is no other way than to reduce that thing into its own similitude; as we see evidently in the natural agents, for their virtue descending into the things that are the patients, they bring those things into their similitude as far as they are able to attain it.
We see that the Sun, pouring his rays down on this Earth, reduces the things thereon to his own similitude of light in proportion as they by their own disposition are able to receive light of his light. Thus, I say that God reduces this Love to His own Similitude as much as it is possible for it to bear likeness to Him. And it alludes to the nature of the creative act, saying, “As on the Angel that beholds His face.” Where again it is to be known that the first Agent, who is God, paints His Virtue on some things by means of direct radiance, and on some things by means of reflected splendour; wherefore into the separate Intelligences the Divine Light shines without any interposing medium; into the others it is reflected from those Intelligences which were first illumined.