[BACK]          [Blueprint]         [NEXT]


[Permission to use this text has been kindly granted by Dr. Hilary Putnam — with profound thanks]

From The Works of Aretino, Translated into English from the original Italian, with a critical and biographical essay by Samuel Putnam, Illustrations by The Marquis de Bayros in Two Volumes; Pascal Covici: Chicago; 1926; Volume II., pp. 80-116.


Black and white lithograph by the Marquis de Bayros, of a nude man carrying a nude girl, with a large angel behind them.



Letters XX-XXXIX



Concerning the New War between Francis I and Charles V.

Having always looked upon Your Majesty as nearer to God than any man that ever was, it being a property of God 82 to give ear to the prayers of servants, as much as to the vows of princes, I hasten to salute the faith, the religion, the piety, the fortune, the mercy, the kindness, the prudence and the valor of Your Highness with this, my own. And if this paper had a soul, I should prefer it to all the glorious ones of antiquity, since it is to be not only read but touched by the trued friend of Christ, Charles the august, to whose merits all the universe must bow. And if it is true that God, to make room for his own merits, enlarged the world, then he ought also to raise the heavens, since there is not room enough in all the air for the flight of your fame. Who can but believe that the divine grace,s reposed in Moses, in Joshua and in David (who conquered with their prayers and with their arms) are infused in your own most lofty breast, as well as lodged in that blind fury which overwhelms the armies that move against you. I, O Caesar, should liken you to a torrent, swollen with rains, snows and sun-melted ice, swallowed by the fields that think they are drinking, while your own superb course is making a bed of them. It ell you that this new onslaught shall disappear, as every one else that is made upon you always does disappear, and as every race, every banner and every name that contends with you shall disappear, for who fights with Caesar fights with God, and who fights with God confounds himself, and he who annuls his own being remains nothing. Since every one who persecutes you falls into the river, why doubt of the happy outcome of your fortunes? I kiss that sacred hand of yours, adored by all who know it through faith, through liberality and through the power of arms.

From Venice, the 10th of March, 1536.



On the Same Subject.

This is the last step, O ardent soul, by which that name of yours shall attain the end of human honors. The hour has 83 now come in which that clear mind of yours, armed with its own proper counsels. Shall teach the army how to fight, in fighting how to conquer, and in conquering how to triumph. You are now at the point where glory may be laid hold of, if you must be immortal. It is a great thing to say, and one almost impossible to believer, that leisure is pain to you and labor is repose! Whose body, except yours, ever languished in peace and grew well in war? God does all things well, and so, he restrains you better than with an indisposition; and if he did not do this, you would be lording it over the kingdom of Mars, whose executor you are. And if any one doubts that there is a man born with such qualities, he has but to regard the results which always issue form your spirited genius. You make the banners of pertinacity and terror tremble, you move peoples with your prudence and your valor, and you open a path through difficulties by the virtue of your arms. It is certain that every victory brings its doubts, but in an imperial victory there is none; and even if there were, they would be reassured by the wise foresight of Your Excellency, who should be greatly rejoiced at the fact that His Majesty, having merely heard of the things you have done in his service, has taken you into the heart of his grace, and so, what reward will he bestow for the works which you shall do in his own high presence? Your good sense will produce the greatest effect in his eyes; that effect, indeed, will appear superhuman, inasmuch as it will be wrought in the face of the strongest obstacles. The fact that you are never relied upon in vain is what feeds the fame of your honors. You are like the lion, which sometimes takes its prey among the smaller animals. This war should be to you as, in ancient times, was the Piazza di Navona, in the middle of which was erected a stake which the Roman youth assailed every day with a stick, for no other purpose than to exercise their robust arms, that they might be able to put a yoke on the world’s neck. One lives, so long as he has a sword in his hand, on the point of which rests promotion, 84 fame and the praises of those who are wise enough to follow in your footsteps — steps which lead to the heavens.

From Venice, the 4th day of June, 1536.




Those warm thanks, sovereign emperor, which one who has attained his desires renders to Christ, I render to the celestial benignity of Your Majesty, who not only have deigned to receive my unworthy letters, but who have, by the integrity of your promises, snatched away the poverty of my hopes. O greatest ruler of the peoples and of kingdoms, truly, you are the only monarch who show that you are made in the image of God; for you are the only one who transcends the stars with the feathers of humility; you alone of kings make inviolable the laws of religion; you alone of princes arm yourself for the honor of Jesus; you alone of lords do not despise human generosity, but, as though each were the nearest of kin, you embrace us and, in doing so, relieve us of that fear in which the most just dagger of your eternal power holds the depravity of the erring. And so it was, Rome, trembling, feared the face of her conqueror; but soon, perceiving that her own virtue and fate lay in a valorous prudence, better armed with simplicity than with steel, she began to adore you, giving, after Jesus, praises and glory to you alone, as did the other cities through which you passed, which you, in grace and in love, made the companions of your mercy, so that they took the palm of affability from all others and gave it to you. It is a great thing that, while the Caesars of old, with all their counsels and arms, sweated five centuries and a half in the pacification of the state of Italy, you have taken possession in a day; and where your strength ends, your kindness begins, by means of which you dominate minds no less than nations. I, O 85 Caesar, who soil your high deeds with my low words, do so that I may boast of having written to one who is elected to immortality; for when you are enshrined among the deities, it will be permitted me to do so no longer, and I shall then have to bring votive offerings, rather than send letters. For, in short, it cannot be denied that Your Majesty merits altars and sacrifices, and that you have your place in the sky with the other gods. Nevertheless, it would seem to writers that your rare deeds can not last throughout the world unless record is made of them, and they say that pens and tongues, armed with a steel and a fire that always cuts and always burns, are adapted, fighting for your honors, to enlarge the confines of your name as much as your captains do the bounds of your empire. Sane and highest, on every occasion, is the judgment of Caesar, but not to bait ink with gifts defeats itself, leaving the duty to those who have need of the preachings of others. Alexander the Great, on viewing the tomb of Achilles, sighed with envy for the hero of song, desiring such an honor for himself and feeling that his own deeds had more fame than glory. And so that first Caesar, who wrote commentaries in his own praise, hiding behind the grandeur of his style many things, may have stolen some of his splendor from those who did not write. But since your Divine Majesty knows that falsehood is the mother of history, which, by its nature, adds to that which was and is, having honors which are enough for all future ages, you should see to it that your miracles, handed down from generation to generation as the legitimate heritage of men, go on living by your own virtues, and not by the say-so of others. And so I look forward to consoling myself with your august courtesy, without which my writings would be obliged to pay you usury. And I here kiss those unconquered hands, destined to place the chains of servitude on the arms of all the Orient.

From Venice, the 4th of June, 1536.


21  Charles V. This, or Augustus, is Aretino’s usual adulatory term.




Descriptions of the Preparations for the Coming of Charles V to Florence.

If, after Xerxes the king had been conquered, you had been there when Paul sent to the Athenians for a philosopher to teach his sons and a painter to decorate his chariot, he would have invited you and not Metrodorus, for you are historian, poet, philosopher and painter. I am one of those who would not be able to describe to you in a thousand years the order of Caesar’s triumph, nor the pomp of the peoples and the arches, even if I had that dexterity of ornate words with which you have written me. I, for my part, see in your letter the two great colonnades with the “Plus ultra” across them; I see the monsters painted on the bases; I see the epigram, with the eagle above it and that falsehood which bites the tongue while it sustains the arms of His Majesty. I see the edifice of the great gate and the diligenzia of Barticino; I see the tumult which the innumerable princes make as they follow the august Charles. I see the pontifically most reverend ones with our Lord Alexander who go to meet him. I see, also, with what dexterity he dismounts form his horse, presenting the hearts and the keys of Florence. I hear him saying to His Highness; “And this, and this, which I hold, is yours.” I see the throng of pages on the imperial horses and my sight is dazzled by the tremulous gleam of golden aglets with which the drapes of the Florentine youth are bristling. I see the two beadles whose custom it is to remain in front of the Emperor, and the cavalierizzo with the sword of his justice; and I bow to His Excellency as, in my mind’s eye, I see him between the Duke d’ Alba and the count di Benevento. I do not see the prelates who are with Caesar, because I do not have an eye that can see priests, saving the grace of my friend Marzi. I see the arco del Canto at the Cuculia. I see the august hilarity and read the titles on all the equipages. I see all the devices of 87 the mother-in-law of our Lord. I see the figure of Piety with the two fat cherubs upon it. I see the figure of Strength and about it the cuirasses and the helmets; and of all the inventions, I am pleased with the liberality of the horn, from which flows crowns, among them that of the king of the Romans and that of the king of Tunis, but the other, which appears half out, belongs rather to our day. I see Faith with cross in hand and the vase at her feet, and the words are divine; and the arch with the eagle and the inscription appears to me tremendous. I find unique the story in which is figured the flight of the Turks, and the coronation of Ferdinand is very fine, and even more beautiful from the fact that Caesar is present. I see, on the other side, the bound prisoners with their barbarous faces, the strange habits on their heads, and their varied gestures; and I give great thanks to the father and to the son who so graciously have brought together this great mass. But that flight of horse on the facade of San Felice is marvelous. I see Faith and Justice, bare swords in hand, hunting down Barbarossa. I see the dead under the terrible horses. I see the painting which is a design of Asia and the sculpture which is a sketch of Africa. I see on the base the car filled with spoils and trophies. I see the sweating of the lads who, in accordance with ancient usage, bear the litter. I see the king of Tunis in a coronation history. I see victories with their most gracious epigrams, with all the beauty that there is above and below, and it seems to me that I am one of those who have stopped with upturned face to admire the miraculous work. I see the via Maggia, the ponte a Santa Trinita and the strada del Canto and the Cuculia, all filled with crowds in bizarre attitudes. Beyond this, I see being brought to perfection the new fabrica. I see the wood, thanks to your brush, not different from variegated stones. I see Hercules strangling the hydra, and I feel sure that the living one was not so robust, nor so short-necked, nor so full of nerves, nor so thick with muscles as that which has issued from the gifted hands of my friend, 88 Tribolo. I see, near the ponte Santa Trinita the river d’ Arno, like bronze, and I perceive that it is raining the same waters. I see the other rivers, and Bagradas of Africa, and the Iber of Spain. The spoil of the serpent brought to Rome is natural, as are the horns of plenty and the letters; but one should know that they are from the hands of Tribolo. I should like the second palm to be given to Friar de’ Servi, since he is a disciple of the master, and since it is characteristic of most friars to be able to do nothing but kill their soup. Now the Wolf mountain in the river of Germany and of Pannonia is borne by no other than a man of merit, and the bases of this work which are wrought in so delicate a manner, are not new to me. I am sorry the aforesaid exquisite Tribolo did not have time, or he surely would have done such a horse of fate that the one by Leonardo at Milan would be forgotten. I see the Victory, palm in hand and with the bat’s wings, at the corner of the Strozzi; and if I did not have a very good stomach, I would vomit at seeing that bean-faced Victory with the swollen arm. And yet, I tell you, the one who did it is prouder than the emperor, in whose honor such marvels are made. But it’s the truth that the most stupid always get ahead by having more money than reputation. I see the colossus clad in the golden fleece, and his gleaming sword strikes me with fear. I see the trophies and I read the histories painted on the base with the Jason, an impression of His Majesty, but the big fat friar would burst if he did not make it clear to others that he is the friar in this Morgantaccio of his. I see above the portal of Santa Maria del fiore the inscription between the two great eagles with the grotesques; and I know how much praise they merit for having come from Giorgio, the pilgrim intellect. I lose myself, upon entering the church, in the splendor of the lights reverberating in the gold of the draperies. I see the Justice and the Prudence in the via dei Martelli, much maltreated by the one who made them; as is the mondaccio, although it is the best of them. Meanwhile I 89 re-create for myself the view in the Pace in the rear of the palace of the Medici, the arms lighted by the torch; and it was with good reason that in the most worthy place of the city this was the work the most praised. It was a happy thought to adorn with verdure the ornate casa, to make it look like a room of the woodland gods; and the parted foliage has I cannot tell you what appearance of sacredness and religion, which is well suited to the ardor of the heat. And, to conclude, I have seen all this in the sample of your work. To get an idea of the greatness of our leader, one must see such preparations as these. In short, it would not be possible to find more beautiful things nor ones more appropriate to the titles and the distichs in praise of the emperor.

From Venice, the 7th of June, 1536.



In Praise of Friendship and Sincerity.

It has been many a day since I had a letter than moved me more than yours. And the gentle affection which issues from the kindness of your heart is evident to me in the words you write: it is a gift which your gentle blood has conferred upon you. It is a noble thing to love a woman, and it is divine to wish a virtuous man well, for love, directed to virtue, has in it something of the quality of God; it, moreover, endures forever and cannot be diminished by envy or jealousy. It is for this reason that I esteem great the love you bear me, not because my own merit is great, but because you make me worthy of it, since you appear to see in me the qualities of which I have spoken. But with what service, with what labor can I ever repay that cordial benevolence of yours? If I shall be able to repay it otherwise, I shall do so, but if not, good will will have to be paid in good will, and I shall endeavor to feel for you the affection you feel towards me. I thank you for having remembered me to Colonna; you really ought to call him Pompey the Great 90 and to pride yourself also on having been his patron, since in all his deeds your own miraculous greatness shines with the most real splendor; just as I do not doubt will shine one day that bitter honesty with which I have followed the path of truth . . . I can only hope that the goodness of my nature will be confessed, from year to year, in the same manner in which you confess it, although, so far as the world is concerned, I might call myself happy if I could only be satisfied with a lie as I am with the truth. And yet the name which, with the just, I have acquired by being what I am, to me is infinite riches. I am one who will bear poverty sooner than he will a lie. But let him go. He will not find a pretext in the Marchesa di Pescara letter; nor, by rendering me incapable of sending him one with all my accustomed diligence, will he convince me that he is a veracious person. Who will ever believe that I am in the habit of begging? Such a mistake comes from my having judged that they were not worthy of true fame, having written them only upon occasion and familiarly. It is certain that they are deserving of little praise, and if they have any, they should attribute it to the courtesy of others. And I am not proud merely because i do not go to excess when I speak of them. And so, I await your wishes.

From Venice, the 10th of March, 1536.



In Which He Celebrates Antonio da Leva, Dead at Marseilles.

Since your great father has known so well how to live and how to die, put from you all overplus of grief, which merely places upon the shoulders of the heart the compassion of the flesh. And since his end has made room for your principality, commence, then, to exercise in the field of his merits the thoughts which he exercised in the pursuit of fame, with whose wings he has taken flight for all time over 91 all the world. Bringing on his own death by going to France, he has willed to die at the peak of glory, as a thing that is blessed. Though God many years before had taken him from the commonalty of men, while consenting that his wonderful spirit should lodge in his members; for he, abandoning his body in the presence of his most lofty emperor, gave completely the last happy touch of his measureless virtues — those virtues which, with invincible hands, have wreathed laurel crowns for all the victories of Caesar. What life was ever more deserving of the death that the great Antonio met, who spent himself in the sight of Augustus and in the bosom of the most famous and most glorious of armies that the sun of our day ever saw? And that nothing might be lacking his praises, his honors, his fame and his glory have drawn tears from the eyes of Charles’ great Majesty. And his bones, surrounded by friendly armies, disdaining enemy soil, with terrible pomp, as though in the triumph that was his due, have been brought back to Italy as true relics by an ardent soldiery, all of which was a miracle to those generous souls who, with sane mind, recalled how even in the loss of his natural forces he had been able to win so many hopeless wars. Surely, future centuries will have cause for astonishment, when they hear from history how every prince who was revered and feared, revered and feared him. And I do not know if Alexander, raising himself from a base so low, attained a greater height. There is no confine in the summit of the heavens which has not heard his name. His effigy remains in the hearts of his soldiers who, laden with spoils and adorned with prayers, have borne his death with the same patience with which he supported his labors. Death could bring no fear to the intrepid heart of so great a captain, because he, used to meeting death in battle and at every hour, did not dread the latter’s terrors.

And now, let us speak of myself who, losing my genius in the infinity of his praise, am still unable to praise him; and hence, although I have been elevated by his beneficences, 92 I am unable to get up the heat to speak of them, and I am ashamed not to speak of them. Surely, I should like to sculpt with my pen those virtues of his which never sighted anything so terrifying of aspect that they recoiled from doing what he thought to be useful and honorable. I should like also to paint a picture showing how the insolence of unexpected circumstance was never able to oppress him, circumstance being rather itself perturbed. He not only saw what was to come and what was to be fled, but perceiving it, he could not be deterred by any labor or peril from carrying out the work he had begun. It is well known that, in the course of military discipline, there was no task looked upon as difficult or impossible which he did not overcome; but always, with an invincible superiority, he removed enemies and fears from his path. His foresight, wrapped in its own proper spirit, took the palm from the readiest hands, the most audacious minds and the most robust beings that ever were.

From Venice, the 15th of November, 1536.



In Which He Describes the Delusion of the Venetians over the Delayed Arrival of the Duke.

If, the minds of men being like the wind, the wind had a form like men, I, Signor, would teach it to crucify those good folks who are awaiting your coming with the same bounding heart with which cardinals draw on the stockings of the Pope. How cruel it was on Sunday to see, on all the balconies of the Grand Canal, angels and archangels consuming themselves over the arrival of Your Excellency! And what compassion I felt at seeing myself there with all the tribes of Israel at table! My own fate was enough, which had kept me for a year and a half fixed in the hope of Your Highness’ coming; this was enough without any more. I survived the crush at the appearance of the queen and her consort, the 93 duchess; but I was not able to do so at your entrance, for the uncomfortable and cursing crowd kept crying, “He’s coming!” and “He won’t come!” and “There he is! There he is!” like loafers at a race track. But above all, you brought anger to the legion of lads who were turning the synagogues upside-down, not to speak of the Jews who were trying to put them in order, the expense of which left wounds in their purses like those a friend leaves in the flesh. But if Aeolus, the cheat, who was the cause of all this, had not been possessed of the discretion of a priest, he would have had the good sense to quiet down and let you reach this paradise. I say paradise, for here you will not encounter any of those looks with which avaricious and insatiable Rome eats you alive; here, they will, rather, look at you with the light of kindness as they reverently place you in the seat of honor. You will see here not the bucentaur, but a theatre encircled, in the form of firm and lofty columns, by most just Brutuses and Catos; they court the serenity of their prince who, placed in the middle, appears to be the architect of feeling, and with the altitude of their countenances, they give laws and liberty to the world. You will see all this of which I am telling you, and we shall see, for once, a lord and not a mere executor of exequies, as a great master appears to me to be, who, with his balanced pomps, enters a city not to rejoice it but to render it disconsolate with his funereal shows. And perhaps you have found it necessary to draw the rapier or to lay a price on the head of subjects in order to re-embellish your court, as kings have to do? Certainly, Your Most Excellent Lordship has the favor of God, of fortune and of nature, which has lost no time in making you happy, before cold blood turns the generous mind of youth into a mercenary. Ah, well! come and, coming, accompany the superb pomp of your arrival with the splendor of liberality, for it is the breath of that voice which announces to all the world that you are here. Have no doubt of it, a triumph without the adornment of courtesy is not 94 worth as much as one of those fine fellows in the piazza with a velvet coat on his back, a ragged jerkin and a rag-tag-and-bobtail of a family at his heels. For my part, I am more inclined to praise the brocade and fine cloth which with you appear to be the rooms and chambers of the mind, than those who in the ducal palace cause wonderment to be astonished. And so, come, whether the wind wills it or not.

From Venice, the 24th of January, 1537.



In Which He Thanks Him for a Distinguished Gift.

Your Highness, my lord, who excels every other prince in intellect and humanity, must for that very reason excuse me for not having come to make my reverence in your palace; since this has not been due to pride nor ingratitude nor ignorance, but purely to modesty and a knowledge of my own lowliness, which, while you were here, always succeeded in cooling the heat of my ardor, inspired by the obligations I feel toward you and the affection that I have for you, though my impulse was to run to your feet. And in any case, without merit as I am, I should have broken the bonds of respect if I had not restrained myself and been restrained by the multitude of your occupations, as well as by the fact that there was no one at hand properly to introduce me into your sight. Messer Nicolo Buonleo and Messer Agostin da Mosto will tell you faithfully with what submission I besought them that, when the proper time for kissing your hand had come, they would let me know; and when this was not done, I was convinced that my virtue was not dear to you. But the hundred gold ducats brought me by your ambassador here have fastened on me the snare of my servitude, and I shall ever after be faithful to you. And my faith has grown since it has been made clear to me that only the duke of Ferrara can equal the signor Ercole. For with all the glories which he may have acquired, a true prince ought to 95 be master of himself and ought to propose and carry out those intentions which are in accord with his own will; he ought to receive into his grace those whom his own judgment selects, and with the gift of his own fantasy, he ought to do that which receives his own approbation, not that which is approved by his favorites. But to do tacit benefits to men is a pure act of God. Behold, his Caesarean Majesty made me a present six months before we were acquainted, and now Your Excellency has three times rewarded me, without knowing me at all. For my part, I esteem it a disgrace for one who knows to trumpet a century in the face of a villainous courtesy which slays the hope that expects but never receives it; and so, all too sweet is the pleasure which presents not hoped for give one. I have experienced this through your own tempered liberality, which I shall compensate with memories that may be eternal. As to the medallion, I am not sending it because a lord like you would deign to honor it with his eyes, but because it is a marvel of the miraculous workmanship of Lione, your lordship’s servant, and this should make the gift more innocently valuable, as well as the fact that he is a countryman of mine. The crowd cries you wrong to your back, but such calumny is the privilege of virtue, which is always trampled on by ignorance. Should, then, a spirit that is comparable to the ancients be hunted out of the place where he is more than necessary and which he adorns with his presence? He fled, but who would not have fled, having good comfort? For it is wise foresight to flee the plenitude of fury, since the envy of enemies, most of the time, overcomes the goodness of justice, for justice, altered by the indictments of the calumniator, in the first severe and rigid moves it makes, so terrifies the slandered one that, confounding the pretext in the quarrel, he comes to lose all reason and the one who has committed no sin at all appears a criminal. And then pardon comes, when the virtue of the accused is greater than the vice and able to punish the 96 latter with its own ammunition. Without saying any more of this, I kiss the hand of Your Excellency.

From Venice, the 5th of February, 1537.


          (Gian Pietro Carafa, Bishop of Chieti).

          He Promises Him Public Praises.

Most just man, in you I do not enjoy the kindness of the cardinalate, for the reason that where the thought never was, the rank is not; but, being a Christian, I join with you in thanking God who has clothed your will in such a habit for the interest of the Church, that Church which Paul III. sustains, whose merits in the presence of his modest life will win for him all the days which Peter’s gained for him. And whoever doubts that the choice of so many servants of Jesus is preceded by divine inspirations has but to observe the virtue which his judgment has displayed in the selection of these. O saint of old, if glory were to be acquired by adding ornaments to the sacredness of the Vatican, what would Your Holiness merit who, besides surrounding yourself with such worthy cardinals, and overcoming invincible avarice with your generous mind, have filled that same mind with the treasures which those interpreters of the word have preserved who, in the profundity of their senses, keep the secrets of God; whence it is the false doctrines of Luther shall be drowned in the froth of their own foam, for even while they bark, the fire of malignity boils up in their mouths. Let us, then, exult in Christ because our religion, thanks to His true vicar and your own kind and true example, continues to reprove his venerable princes. Your example restores its chastity, its simplicity and its humility. Your example clothes it with your own charity, your own justice and your own mercy. Your example teaches it your own truth, your own zeal and your own sincerity. She finds in you that order, those offices and those prayers which used 97 to be her weapons when her servants found their riches in her poverty and, like all good pastors, guarded their flocks from the itch and from the bewitchment of heresies which, breathing poison and spitting madness, would have caused them to perish. They correct their flocks with the rod of faith delighting them with the sound of the gospel and covering them with the shadow of the name of Christ, taking away their thirst and their hunger at the fountain of his grace and in the meadows of his precepts; and as they do this, their faith throughout the entire world raises altars and offers sacrifices in accordance with the example which you have set the followers of that religion of which I speak. You teach them to purify their minds and to temper their wills and to quiet their spirits: so that the divine will, transformed in you, appears that of a cardinal. It works and executes in your stead all the things pertaining to one who, by such a path, has reached such a position. And since things are thus, the virtuously wretched, who on all sides have fallen a prey to their necessities, now look for relief and they hope, by means of your piety, to obtain sustenance from the best of pontiffs. And when they do obtain it, they will have reason to give breath to the trumpets of the Holy Scriptures, no longer, with the voice of despair, having to sound the horn to the defects of others. What miracles may we not hope for from that genius and that intellect, manifesting itself not in episcopacies, which others have given to persons deprived of good custom, of nobility and of doctrine, but providing an honest asylum and a sober convenience, by means of which God may be studied, and adored with studied labors. And what more pious office could you perform than that of moving His Holiness to offer his hand to the best and wisest, who are trampled under foot by malice and by ignorance? In the field, in the hospital, in the stalls, at the stirrup and at the shrine they are outdistanced by the debauchery of the unjust. And why not take the crosses and seals from the barbers and tailors and adorn the lettered 98 ones? Why not give them to these? And yet, we wonder that others bite back. Whoever does so, do you cut out his tongue with courtesy and stop his mouth with charity, by taking from the infamous and giving to the famous. Take the example of Caesar, who saw the gifts that heaven had given me and, seeing at the same time that those gifts were going begging, consoled me. And His Majesty, who is, without any deception, a celestial man, a column of the holy laws, a paragon of clemency, the hero of Christ and the enemy of demerit, has done all this as an honor to my own free virtue, giving me good cause to write and speak well of him. What more? Our Redeemer entered into the heart of Saul in such a manner that Saul became the trumpet of His name; even as I shall become a trumpet to the ministers of his temple, being an imitator of august charity. All of which I do not believe and do not hope, because there is nothing to hope and nothing to believe.

From Venice, the 7th of February, 1537.



He Blames Lorenzino for the Assassination of Alessandro de’ Medici.

Of what nature is that enmity which fortune bears the felicity of men, Your Lordship has had a chance to judge in the case of our duke, and you have also seen what happens to a man who is subjected to her caprices. There are two ends which a ruler may expect of her instability: high station and a precipitous fall, although, as the fall is greater than the climb, so the number of those who fall is greater than those who mount. And all this comes about because she, who is neither constant nor reasonable, is in continual conflict with constancy and reason; and so, any one who leans on her is ruined. What happiness would be his who rules, did not this fate always hold him by the hair? As to her origin, the Platonists and Aristotelians babble their own opinions, but I, 99 in the science of my ignorance, am convinced that this fate is a humor of the stars, combined with the caprices of the heavens, and it seems to me that this wicked world is merely a ball with which they play, bouncing, now up, now down, in accordance with their suggestions. I confess that more evils come from our own faults than by reason of her, and I am certain that His Excellency might have been able to guard himself against her. He had too limitless a faith in himself, in his parentage and in the great wife whom he had secured. But what sort of humanity is this to which we belong who will permit one who strikes his own prince down to be praised? Is it possible that the words of Cicero have supplanted the example of God, who always sees to it that such a one imitates the end of Brutus and of Cassius? Oh! if only minds could be seen as plainly as works, how many judges would change their opinions, calling that “infamy” which now appears to every one to be glory; for ambition and the worst heat of envy soil their sword in the generosity of others’ blood, and these are the more audacious in their attempts, the more eager they are for position. But since others are not ashamed to follow ambitious and envious counsels, vileness has given the name of “glorious” to disgrace. Read well and see with what fine proems Cicero exalted Caesar as soon as he saw him at the summit of his greatness. I am sure he knew how to convert eloquence into adulation; and the discourses which he formerly pronounced on tyranny were but snares which, even as he breathed those speeches, he was holding over the heads of those who were to cut off his head for this. There is no doubt that one who became a Tiberius or a Caligula carved a statue to the one he had put under the ground. But for one who rules the people with an unheard of justice, his days should grow with his days. I speak the truth, and not out of hatred I bear the one who has taken away my benefactor. Certain it is one who was not ashamed to accept benefits from such a man, ought not to be ashamed to render 100 him obedience, and if he is ashamed, let him eat his own bread or another's and then kill him, for that would be a more praiseworthy thing. Fine honor those persons acquire who attempt to cast down those who have raised them up! But since it is a custom common to the seed of the Medici to do good to those who do them evil, I, saying no more, kiss the hand of Your Most Illustrious Lordship.

From Venice, the 10th of February, 1537.



In Which He Defends Himself against the Charge of Having Written against Charles V.

Justice, Monsignore, which does not wish to be held injustice, concedes to every malefactor the right to defend himself against the accusations which are heaped on his head, nor would he even then be sentenced by you if you had not first verified the crimes to which he had confessed; this procedure is observed by the authorities and the constables in every bailiwick. But my innocence, on the other hand, is condemned by the great majority of persons in very respectable places, even before I myself know what the thing is for which I am blamed. As witness to this, take the volume, not a mere letter, which others would like to make appear was written by me to the most illustrious Count Guido Rangone in prejudice to Caesar, whose praise can neither be increased nor diminished. And inasmuch as the author of that ribaldry has endeavored to color the face of his lies with the brush of my truths, without any further certification, it is sent to Don Lope, as a reproof to him for the offices which his Mercy has done me, just as though it were not the honest thing for one who pretends to have the honor of His Majesty at heart to do what he can to aid him. Patron of mine, if calumny did not find the ears of princes open to its feigned exclamations, the suspicion and ignorance which follow it would not be able to make you believe what 101 is not so and what could not be so. I am convinced that at least the Cardinal Caracciolo, with his long experience, would have recognized the fact that it is envy that brings libel, if it had not been that fraud and intrigue kept him absorbed, and that as soon as he read the poisonous slanders he would have experienced from the hand of truth the lash of penitence. However, I have been more offended by the credence which the slender judgment of others has given him than by the attempt to break the bonds of that good will conceded to me by august kindness. A certain Fragnano relates to me that, although many foolish things come out in Milan under my name, practically every one knows that they are not mine; which goes to show that the people are better judges than the senators. I, when I launch this or that thunderbolt, go ahead and do it, without reflecting that, after the deed, the humility of penitence may absolve me from indignation or from peril. My nature demands the privilege of speaking fully and freely, nor is my mouth ever to be sewed up; and heaven, which made me like this, assures me at the same time of the fear of men. But let us turn to the count, who is not so far removed from the world that we may not enlighten him. If he should affirm that I have written him that which Christ himself cannot say I have written, but which it may be believed I have written, then who carried the letter? Who copied it? From where did it come? And where is it now? If he says no, you will be satisfied. I speak of this to you for the reason that you take precedence over all the rest, not because I think you believe that I am in the wrong. In which case, quiet yourself, for Your Lordship is not the person to accept vituperations composed in so vile a manner, nor did you ever see a letter from me which exceeded a folio in size. But suppose we let that go. If money well falsified and diamonds well counterfeited are discovered by the keeper of the mint and the jeweler, who can doubt that those who know will be able to say whether malignity has succeeded in imitating the pith of my pen or not? And, 102 I may tell you, the count told his consort there was one in Carmigliola who had defamed Fregoso under my name; and in witness of this, there is a note from the hand of the countess to the ambassador Soria. And when the signor Luigi Gonzaga was asked about it, he, upon hearing of the affair, wrote to me: “I cannot believe that you would have used such terms toward my kinsman; and besides, it is not merely difficult, but next to impossible to imitate you.” So you see, the prudence of his accurate foresight did not flame up in anger against me, for where gratitude is concerned, I do not yield first place to any one; and if the glory of the great Charles could be made greater, I should be the one to increase it. Even the stars do not see the devotion I have to the merits of the divine emperor. And the memory of the eternal Antonio da Leva has left such roots in my heart that I hope I shall not die without having paid the debt I owe him. Read what I wrote to the two of them in Sivigliano, and then you may talk. Read my letter thanking His Majesty for the pension, and see in what honor I hold His Highness. But since reason sometimes does not understand, where the pertinacity of incredulity is minister to minds bearing the stamp of first impressions, the good Castaldo, cavalier without flaw, shall plead my cause. O Christ! I who, not to cast any shadow upon my service to His Highness, have not consented, either for promises or for gifts, to salute with the winds that blow toward France, must I be sworn on a Bible for a trifle with the others? But without further argument, upon seeing that their most serene lordships are touched in the matter, whoever affirms such a thing ought to be ashamed; for since they, by the unmeasured greatness of their free laws, have let me make a place for myself in life in this unique and nourishing city, I am thereby dedicated to the service of them all. And as the good folk know, I, for ten years, have always celebrated the day on which I was taken under the hem of Venetian clemency. But I have no desire, in justifying myself, to make such 103 liberty my shield. I will come to you, if you wish me to do so; I will enter into prison and make my deposition to the Cesarean pleader, who shall have no cause to repent the fact that he has been my benefactor; and these tests to which I am willing to put myself shall drive away the clouds of malignity from the sun of my faith. And so, may you forget my contumacy, which I hope has been purged in the sincerity of my excuses. Sift the truth, the simple and innocent truth, and it will verify all that I say, and change your ill will to good, for it would be too insolent a temerity, if I were to be punished for the defects of others. I have not the type of mind which pays attention to whatever others may say or write, who do not perceive that I always proceed against the vicious with a sharp reprehension and not in cold malice; for a pure malice is the sustenance of those who, very wrongly, would load me with blame. Nor will it be too much for you to believe things to be as I swear to you they are.

From Venice, the 25th of March, 1537.



On the Same Subject.

Putting together, my brother, all the pains I have ever endured, I could not make them equal what I have suffered at Don Lope’s not being able to understand that the letters handed to him by the cardinal and written against the emperor and Antonio da Leva, whose great kindness to me has so usurped the affection of my soul, did not come from me; so that I actually appear ungrateful to you, my other benefactors. The one who gave credence to this, with two blows, has attempted to mar the face of my honor: one, by attempting to make me appear ungrateful for the gifts of His Majesty and Your Highness; the other, by conveying the impression that I am not what I am, but some sort of dullard, for that is what the composition of the letter which I have spoken of 104 would indicate. Look at the copy written to his eminence, which I am sending you with this letter, and then compare the intellect of the one who, out of envy, has tried to counterfeit me. May God never come to my aid, if a stripling of fifteen, who had asked me for an amorous letter, which I caused to be composed by a youth who was rarely versed in doctrine and poetry, did not recognize the things as not being mine. It is the truth that courtezans have better insight than great lords. It will soon be known who is the author of such outrages, for treason and conspiracy cannot remain underground. And when the villain has been found who, by falsifying virtue, deserves a punishment other than does he who falsifies the coin of the mint, I only ask that he be left to my anger. For where my fame is concerned, I will not bear it, since a man who permits his honor to be taken, permits his life to be taken,22 and who does not resent such an affront as this is a beast in the form of a man. Nor have I anything else to say to Your Lordship.

From Venice, the 25th of March, 1537.


22  Cf. Shakespeare’s “Who steals my purse,” etc.



In Praise of Himself.

My happiness, virtuous man, would be too great, if only every one who doubts that golden virtue which I have of God would but put it to the test; for I am certain that all then would employ the same office which you have employed in the letter which you have been pleased to send me. Hence, I bless the reason that led you in the past to deign to read my writings, since by that means I have acquired such a friend as you. Certainly, my compositions deserve not to be read on account of their low and little spirit, and not because they contain no malice. I laugh at the public which finds fault with them, because it is its custom to blame laudable things while praising the disgraceful ones, and it is also its 105 nature to seek to make a hue and cry by every means in its power. You see, it is like this, I happen to touch one of the great ones and as I do so, this and that ruffianly courtier begins to whisper and, with his studied insults, baptizes me in his own manner, thinking that he is robbing me of favor. Some one else does it in order to appear to be one of us, and not because there is in him either goodness or good judgment; and so it is, the innumerable disciples of ignorance with sinister intent kick under heel the honors of others. I have written what I have written for the sake of virtue, whose glory had been captured by the darkness of the avarice of lords. And before I commenced to lacerate those lords, the virtuous were begging the honest commodities of life, and if any one retrieved himself from the vexations of necessity, he achieved it as a buffoon and not as a person of merit, whence it is, my pen, armed with its own terrors, has so affected the great ones that they, coming to their senses, have taken in the fine intellects with a forced courtesy more hateful than want. The good, then, ought to hold me dear, since with my blood I have always fought for virtue, and it is by me alone, in this our day, that virtue wears a brocaded vest, drinks from golden cups, is adorned with gems, has collars and money, rides in cavalcade with the queen and is served by the empress and revered as a goddess; and it would be impious not to say that I have restored it to its antique state. And since I am its redeemer, what are envy and the mob babbling about? My brother, I do not make this boast out of pride, but merely to reply to the one who may affirm that my gospels are no more than slander. My gifts come to me by the street which my own safe arms have made, making sport of intrigues and lordly ambuscades; and then they turn to the praise of God, as I turn myself, since it all has been wrought by His grace and not through my own genius. And this shall be my effort for the future, so to live that when I die, even those who in the past would have laughed at my death will weep for me. Let there be between us a 106 contract of perpetual friendship, and let the punishment which, with so many warm words, you say you wish me to give you for your past incredulity — let that punishment be the bond of brotherhood which I here pledge you.

From Venice, the 3rd of April, 1537.



In Which He Reminds him of the Promise of the Gift of a Kid.

Your promising me a kid, my good fellow, was the act of a lord, and your not having kept that promise is characteristic of a priest. I hope you will decide, having been a priest, to be a lord, the title which I must in any event give you when I write to you, whether the kid comes or not. As the morality of the philosophers continues to wash our lives with the waters of truth, it is always wiping out the stains stamped on our members by vice; and our infected clothes, locked in their trunks, always keep the disease of the one who wore them. And it is the very devil to touch so cursed a habit. I do not deny that you are good; but you would have been perfect, if you had not put on your back the domestic habit of Leo. Certainly, you might do worse than, not keeping your word with me, to give as an excuse, “I am a priest”; this, if one admitted it, would be excuse enough, for their truth is lies, their faith deceit and their friendship hatred. And blessed are you who stopped being a priest in time! And if the nobility of your blood and the magnanimity of your nature were any the less in you, woe to Your Lordship! for the lineage of Collalto, both by its antiquity and its virtue, is such that it would be able to make the best if a worse generation than the one I speak of, if a worse could be found. But begging you to take all I have said in good sport, I, with this, salute you.

From Venice, the 6th of April, 1537.




Counsels on the Mode of Governing.

The wretched end, my lord, of His Excellency, and the happy beginning which Your Highness has made have been to me like two thunderbolts which fall upon the shepherd at one time, one of which deprives him of his senses, while the other restores his senses to him. Hearing of his fate tore my heart, and learning of your success has ravished me; whence it is, I have discovered at one stroke the nature of grief and gladness. Surely, the death of no duke could have caused me more sorrow than did that of Alessandro, nor is there any duke living who could possibly have pleased me more than does Cosimo. For I am he who served that great father of yours living and buried him when he was dead. I am he who in Mantua caused him to be honored and wept by those who perhaps would not have honored or wept for him. I am he who took his praises out of the mouths of those who blamed him from envy. I am he who has placed in the hands of the incredulous the torches of his glory. I am he who loved and celebrated him more than all others in the degree to which I, better than others, knew him worthy of love and memory. I amused his labors, comforted his pains and tempered his anger. I to him was father, brother, friend and servant. And when God, to punish the errors of Italy with the scourge of the barbarians, took him away, my virtue kept his name company as my person had kept him company in life, and in my adoration, I have always said that the true honor of the most lofty house of Medici came from his arms and not from the mitres of the Popes. The fruit of his merits is that high station in which heaven perpetuated you on that day on which you were chosen, thanks to the providence of the stars and the good faith of friends. Only a few here and there did injury to their own power and their own will by not voting for you, for you have adorned presence and mind with such graces and virtues that, I hasten 108 to tell you, they have few if any gifts to bring you. But as to your own future, you should endeavor to enlarge the confines of your State, and since you have learned neither to rule nor to live by chance, one may say that you have learned how to rule and how to live. By God, the name and soul of a man deserve to die who holds his appetites dearer than himself and for this cause puts his city and his people to great risk. But his death is the example which shall always be your life, because, under the fear of God and the shadow of Caesar, I am sure you will always guard that continence in which lies more faith and security than there is in armies; for she sleeps in her own bed, eats at her own table, walks in her own halls and, standing on her own honesty, does not betray secrets or favor or money or person to the poisonous darts of others, nor, as she lies alone at night in her bedroom, is her throat cut by that sword which the worst will of envy and ambition lend to the hand of deceit, bringing ruin on the one who was well seated.23 Make your home with those who wear their hearts on their foreheads,24 and let the valorous Signora Maria, your mother, stand near by to give you support and repose. Eat and drink in accordance with your own taste, and not that of buffoons and adulators. May the honor of the Vitellescan seed, valorous and sincere, always stand by your side. Put on the eyes of the good Ottaviano, and be always awake to all who would take your foot to snare it. Let the counsels of Cardinal Cibo be especially grateful to you, for there is in his clarity none of the designs of those who would counsel you to leave the city, for these are merely working for whatever their own liberty desires, and hope and fate open to them whatever paths promise to lead to ascendancy. For who does not want to be a lord deserves to be a slave, and it is better to be patron of Florence than to be good fellow to the world. It was cheapness and not sanity of mind that led Celestino to refuse the 109 papacy. Since you have come to power without violence of any sort, you ought all the more to endeavor to strengthen yourself in your dominion. Who is offended, who is robbed, who is hunted down, who is vituperated, and who is threatened by you? It is the evil-minded who will not confess that God has placed you on high as the legitimate heir to that grandeur in which the son-in-law of Augustus lived and reigned. That ferocity with which your tremendous sire fought for you should make you feared, even as you are loved. And as your own great qualities grow with the years, you will be sought out by all who flee you; and then that clemency, which is your ornament, will have a chance to make itself known to those who have not willed to know it. In the meanwhile, I commend myself to you as your humble servant.

From Venice, the 5th of May, 1537.


23  Che ben siede: cf. our “sitting pretty.”

24  Cicero again.



He Philosophizes on the Desire to Learn.

My ignorance, wise man, vaunted by your learning, is like a vile man praised by a courageous one, who remains an object of scorn despite all the noise he makes to give the impression that he is what a lie has made him out to be. Your asking me whence comes the desire to learn, which leads the wise over all the seas and lands of the world, implies that I am able to give you the reason; and since I am not what I seem to be in this case, in attempting to give you the reason, I remain as foolish as the coward of whom I have spoken. Our souls, created among the intelligences of heaven, upon being infused into those bodies which their stars, by God’s power, have chosen, are no sooner locked in their prison of flesh than, through the life which lodges them, they give birth to spirits, and these spirits, on account of their origin, burn continually with a desire to understand those things which their Master, who endows the angels, has to teach them; and then, these spirits 110 which I have told you, enamored of their own desire, find their greatest pleasure in attempting to discover the secrets of God and of nature. It was, I believe, just such a passion as this that moved Daedalus, Melampus, Pythagoras, Homer, Museus, Plato, Democritus, Apollo, Dionysus, Hercules and the other god-like ones. But it is to be noted that this tempered will to know is not to be perceived in all, although the soul may be of equal virtue in them all, and this comes from the mortal wall, which is more or less rugged. When souls (which are a spark of divine simplicity and pure goodness) enter the vases prescribed by their Creator, the spirits foretold discover outside a great desire to learn, and this desire is greater or less as the mansion which houses them is more or less transparent; and for this reason, the soul showed in Demosthenes effects other than in Thersites. You may laugh, if you like, at my rustic philosophy, and, indeed, I have written it to make you laugh, but it was the profound letter which, with your accustomed courtesy, you directed to me that started me off on these ravings, which are but the shadow of shadows. If my fate had willed that you should know me in person, as you display a desire to do, you would have learned to speak only the truth; and I should have been pleased, for you would not then have been praising me with fictions. I am not worthy enough for a man like you to put himself out to know me, but perhaps such a one may be permitted to entertain the remote thought. But all my concern is for Messer Giulio Cesare, my son no less than yours, who is all too dear to us. And he, in his affection, only spoke the truth when he told you how I had praised your compositions and in what reverence I held you; the rest are but flowers to adorn the conversational garland which you are pleased to pluck for me. But I am grateful to him above all for the fact that my name has been honored by the tongue and the pen of Pietrasanta, the happy interpreter of sacred writings. And hereafter, may Your Lordship make such disposition of me as of yourself, 111 for I am become yours; and write to me, as I shall write to you, with the same affection with which I write to the emperor.

From Venice, the 11th of May, 1537.



Virtuous Counsels.

The rich and brazen audacity of the evil ones is the cause of that buzzing of tongues which others raise against you; fame also is the cause of that error into which those fall who, proud in their own faculties, hold that all they do and say is well done and well said. Is it possible that you would not want to know at least a particle of yourself, giving material to envy to proceed against you with calumny and with malediction? Regard a little the peril of honor and the damage of the soul. Look at God, who has established the institution of matrimony in order that the human species might multiply and one take another's place, so that each generation, being conscious of the gift of life from His goodness, may keep the seats of paradise filled with spirits. And nature has placed the desire of coitus in different sexes in order that, the limits of life being brief, we may be renewed in our sons; for this reason, the joining of the male and the female has been found to be nature, a providence which, by its unbroken succession, has preserved the race to our times. What injury could be worse and one bringing with it more cruelty than that which would take from one’s self and one’s wife the titles of father and mother; for these names are worthy of all veneration, and all honors are their due. It is a fine thing to follow the good way of life, adorning with one’s own modesty that virtue which is neighbor to God, observing natural decrees, copulating at the proper times, becoming fathers of a noble seed and confirming them in the orderings of that prudence which he who first created us gave, to the end that the consciousness of having done 112 otherwise may have no cause to heap reproach upon us for our own sin. Turn, then, to the love of your companion, in whom shines the grace of color. Her tresses, falling over her shoulders, her temples and her neck, are as brilliant as hyacinths entwined with the subtlety of art, the skill of which, on the side, by her ears, and at the summit of her forehead, makes her as rich as are the bees of the meadow. And crystal is not so clear as is her inviolable chastity, a miraculous treasure in these shameless times. And so, you should lead a life full of rejoicing and in it bring up the heir to your patrimony. You are healthy, young, rich and most prudent; whence, if you but hold in reign your precipitous inclinations, life will be a great happiness for you. Free yourself of false friends and consort with the true, seek the intimacy of honorable persons and not of infamous ones, for the former give reputation and the latter take it away. Otherwise, your wealth, your reputation and your life will always be in great risk. I look upon you as a companion and a son, and age and duty inspire the affection with which I write to you. And I would rather have you goaded with reproofs than greased with adulations.

From Venice, the 12th of May, 1537.



Of Things Properly Literary.

I, courteous friend, who held that I had been excluded from your memory, was greatly rejoiced to hear that I am still alive to you and, thanks to you, still have a part in the life of others. You are, indeed, honored, since, while remembering old friends, you are constantly acquiring new ones, and in acquiring them you observe the conduct of a gentleman and satisfy the behests of your nature, which always finds pleasure in friendship. It is certain that no one can know what is gentleness or true familiarity who has not practiced it with you; and the most grateful amusement 113 which eligible foreigners find in that city is the entertainment afforded by your pleasant manners. Since this is so, do not wonder if I am constantly jealous of losing you; I would rather be forgotten by a prince than by such a person as you. And in this, our Don Antonio concurs with me, in whose Croniche my name stands at the head of the table of contents, smiling out from that sonnet that killed Broccardo. But what would I have done to him with deeds, if I killed him with words? My cavalier Bucchi ought to make mention of this in his Annali, which you say he is doing, di Bologna. Your Lordship has taken a load off your own back, since no other than a Bolognese would be suited to write the deeds of this and that count. I am grieved, as I am at the life of one who does not deserve to live, by the fact that, having no new compositions, I am not able to appease the desire of prelates and nobles who would like them. Old age makes my genius grow lazy, and Love, which ought to keep it awake, puts it to sleep in my case. I used to turn out forty stanzas every morning; now I scarcely produce one. In seven mornings I composed the Psalms, in ten the Courtezan and the Marescalco, in forty-eight the two Dialogues, in thirty the Life of Christ. I suffered six months in the production of the Sirena. I swear to you, by that truth, which is my guide, that, beyond a few letters, I write nothing. For this may Monsignor di Parenza, to whom I owe much for the pleasure he takes in my stories, di Mairoica, di Santa Severina and their nephews pardon me; as soon as I produce something worthy of them, they shall have it. In the meanwhile, I kiss the hands of their most reverent lordships. Nor is it news to me that the archbishop Cornaro and the bishop of Vercelli hold the court which cardinals ought to keep, giving shelter to all sorts of virtuousi, because they are real persons and of illustrious origin. Commend me to the good count Corenelio Lambertini, whose peace has been perturbed by the sweet and puissant desire for glory of his young son, who is not suspicious enough of the faith which 114 war keeps with the most valorous. Salute for me Messer Oppici Guidotti, from whose house poets go as sinners do from a church. Say to my good friend, Girolamo da Travigi, the painter, and to Giovanni, the sculptor, that I am utterly theirs. Finally, I beseech you, if my prayers are as powerful with you as your commandments are with me, offer my services to the signor Mario Bandini, who is elegance, courtesy and gentleness itself.

From Venice, the 15th of May, 1537.



Striking a Balance.

I am glad, most learned son, that wretches blame me; for if they praised me, it would seem that I was like them. The envious, when they offend my virtue, think they are making me sad, when as a matter of fact, they delight me, because I know that I am beginning to become glorious when I am envied. I implore God that he who envies me may have eyes in all the places from which my happiness comes, so that he may see it bursting forth by a thousand paths. The ribald hold me a villain, because I am not a flatterer, and they call me a pauper to injure me, but they honor me by doing so, for he who is poor is good. I only desire what I need to keep from being odious, and not so little as to move others to have compassion on me; and I shall have it, in any manner. My hope promises me this, which is just, because it springs from some merit. But if the greatest faculty in the world is the ability to give to friends, who has more than I, who have given everything in order that I might not be like the princes, who are avaricious of gold and liberal with glory? I, to the shame of those who say I have nothing, may tell you that I have had ten thousand scudi from 1527 to the present day, not counting the cloth of gold and silk which has been worn on my own back and those of others; a pen and a little paper have drawn these out of the heart of avarice. I am, indeed, a 115 king, because I know how to rule myself. In short, let others say of me what they will, I know how to conquer perversity with patience and with kindness, qualities which I employ in making myself praised. As you know, Ambrogio25 up to now has done marvels; indeed, for a mere lad, he is doing miraculously well, and there is an excess of judgment and style in those verses of his, which he always has in his bosom or up his sleeve, as if he were the ass of his own muses. Pretty soon, since hope is a habit that sits well on the back of everybody, he will be hoping to satisfy his desires with a woman so that he can make sport of Narcissus.

From Venice, the 10th of May, 1537.


25  Ambrogio degli Eusebii, his secretary.




Your Majesty, sovereign emperor, has such a destiny that, if the greatness of the heavens were only a little less, you would equal or come near equalling it; and the world which takes your measure regards as immeasurable the power of Charles. And yet, combining all that you have ever been and all that you have ever done, one does not arrive at what you are or what you do, when the mob reflects that you have taken the king26 and made the pope27 prisoner and hunted down the infidels of Hungary and, in conquering Africa, have liberated eighteen thousand Christians from their chains and have entered the heart of France with your army. The miracle with which you astonish and terrify the peoples is the universe itself, which bends itself almost wholly to rendering you impotent, and which only succeeds in making you omnipotent, as, in the preparations which you make, your tremendous power becomes apparent. Behold the millions of gold which you have taken from the viscera of Gaul, behold the throngs of asses and the infinite number of 116 horses, behold the innumerable ships, and behold the Turk. But what is, and what is to be, the state of affairs? What are others doing and what are they going to do? But those who threaten the emperor, who all the while keeps his immobile back to them, are like the gigantic fools who pile mountains on mountains; they are like Nimrod who built the tower, presuming to think he could lift God from his throne, whose power, silent and self-keeping, looks down upon the temerity of pride and disperses it with those thunderbolts in which are concealed the claws of the eagle that Jove gave to Caesar. But the monsters who dared make war on God are less insolent than those chimaera-ridden ones who would combat Caesar; for the former, in what they do are repugnant merely to nature; while the latter are repugnant both to nature and to God. To nature, in that they would force her to do what she is not able; to God, by believing that, in doing wrong, they are not circumventing the watch which His goodness keeps over your goodness. I speak with the tongue of the just, who look to Christ as the one who arms the legions of angels; for you, who are the support of your faith, overcome all who, out of envy for your glory, would conquer you. In the meanwhile, the report which was given you of many things in Italy, upon your departure from Genoa, has proved false, and none have turned their backs on Your Majesty, while Florence, in hand with Fortune, does not repent having loved you. But if God and Fate are with Your Highness, who is not with you?

From Venice, the 20th of May, 1537.


26  Francis I.

27  Clement VII.

[Letters XL-LIX]


[BACK]          [Blueprint]         [NEXT]