men while they live, & never good when they be dead. So much only set he by his
learning in how much he knew that it was profitable to the church & to the
extermination of errors. And over that: he was come to that prick of perfect humility
that he little forced whether his works went out under his own name or not so that
they might as much profit as if they were given out under his name. And now set he
little by any other books save only the Bible, in the only study of which he had
appointed himself to spend the residue of his life, saving that the common profit
pricked him when he considered so many & so great works as he had conceived &
long travailed upon how they were of every man by and by desired and looked
HOW MUCH HE SET MORE BY DEVOTION THAN CUNNING.
The little affection of an old man or an old woman to Godward (were it never
so small) he set more by: than by all his own knowledge as well of natural things as
godly. And oftentimes in communication he would admonish his familiar friends how
greatly these mortal things bow and draw to an end, how slippery & how falling it is
that we live in now: how firm how stable it shall be that we shall hereafter live in,
whether we be thrown down into hell or lifted up into heaven. Wherefore he exhorted
them to turn up their minds to love God, which was a thing far excelling all the
cunning it is possible for us in this life to obtain. The same thing also in his book
which he entitled "De Ente et Uno" lightsomely he treateth where he interrupteth the
course of his dispicion and turning his words to Angelo Politiano (to whom he
dedicateth that book) he writeth in this wise. But now behold O my wellbeloved
Angelo what madness holdeth us. Love God (while we be in this body) we rather
may: than either know him or by speech utter him. In loving him also we more profit
ourselves, we labour less & serve him more, & yet had we lever alway by knowledge
never find that thing that we seek: than by love to possess that thing which also
without love were in vain found.
OF HIS LIBERALITY & CONTEMPT OF RICHES.
Liberality only in him passed measure: for so far was he from the beginning of
negligence. His friends oftentimes admonished him that he should not all utterly
despise riches, showing him that it was his dishonesty and rebuke when it was
reported (were it true or false) that his negligence & setting nought by money gave his
servants occasion of deceit & robbery. Nevertheless that mind of his (which evermore
on high cleaved fast in contemplation & in th'ensearching of nature's counsel) could
never let down itself to the consideration and overseeing of these base abject and vile
earthly trifles. His high steward came on a time to him & desired him to receive his
account of such money as he had in many years received of him: and brought forth his
books of reckoning. Pico answered him in this wise, my friend (saith he) I know well
ye have mought oftentimes and yet may deceive me an ye list, wherefore the
examination of these expenses shall not need. There is no more to do, if I be ought in
your debt I shall pay you by & by, & if ye be in mine pay me: either now if ye
have it: or hereafter if ye be now not able.
His lovers and friends with great benignity & courtesy he entreated, whom he
so effectually wrought in the hearers that where a cunning man (but not so good as
cunning) came to him on a day for the great fame of his learning to commune with
him, as they fell in talking of virtue he was with the words of Pico so thoroughly
pierced that forthwith all he forsook his accustomed vice and reformed his conditions.
The words that he said unto him were these: if we had evermore before our eyes the
painful death of Christ which he suffered for the love of us: and then if we would
again think upon our death: we should well beware of sin. Marvellous benignity &
courtesy he showed unto them: not whom strength of body or goods of fortune
magnified but to them whom learning & conditions bound him to favour: for
similitude of manners is a cause of love & friendship. A likeness of conditions is (as
Appollonius saith) an affinity.
WHAT HE HATED AND WHAT HE LOVED.
There was nothing more odious nor more intolerable to him than as
he fled almost alike: notwithstanding when he was asked once in sport whether of
those two burdens seemed lighter & which he would choose if he should of necessity
be driven to that one and at his election: which he sticked thereat a while but at the
last he shook his head and a little smiling he answered that he had lever take him to
marriage, as that thing in which was less servitude & not so much jeopardy. Liberty
above all thing he loved, to which both his own natural affection & the study of
philosophy inclined him: & for that was he always wandering & flyting & would
never take himself to any certain dwelling.
OF HIS FERVENT LOVE TO GOD.
Of outward observances he gave no very great force: we speak not of those
diligent: but we speak of those ceremonies which folk bring up setting the very
service of God aside, which is (as Christ saith) to be worshipped in spirit & in truth.
But in the inward affects of the mind he cleaved to God with very fervent love and
devotion: some time that marvellous alacrity languished and almost fell, and eft again
with great strength rose up into God. In the love of whom he so fervently burned that
on a time as he walked with Giovanni Francesco his nephew in an orchard at Ferrara,
in the talking of the love of Christ he brake out into these words, nephew, said he, this
will I show thee, I warn thee keep it secret: the substance that I have left after certain
books of mine finished I intend to give out to poor folk, & fencing myself with the
crucifix, barefoot walking about the world, in every town and castle I purpose to
preach of Christ. Afterward I understand by the special commandment of God he
changed that purpose and appointed to profess him self in the order of friars
OF HIS DEATH.