CAPPA. He who has not been in a tavern does not know what paradise is. My good friend Rosso brought me here, and we have eaten five lampreys, which have put my throat in heaven. O holy tavern, miraculous tavern — I say holy, because in you there is no pain nor want, and you are miraculous for your spit which are always turning. Surely, good breeding and courtesy are born of the tavern, for the tavern is full of bowings, of signor si and signor no. And the great Turk is never obeyed as is one who dines in a tavern. If taverns were placed beside perfume jars, the civet itself would stink by comparison. O sweet, O gentle, O divine music which comes from those frying pans, trimmed with thrushes, with partridges and with capons! What a consolation you bring my soul! Who doubts that, if I were not always hungry, I should be always sleepy, hearing this music which resounds through the tavern? It is right sweet, but it is not as sweet as the tavern itself, and the reason is this: in a tavern there is no weeping, in a tavern there is no sighing, and in a tavern there is no remorse. And if that Caesar who triumphed under those arches which we see here and there had triumphed in a well-ordered tavern, his soldiers would have adored him, even as I adore these lampreys. I never fought with anyone in my life (so far as I can remember), but for a single lamprey I would commit murder with Bevilacqua; and I am not at all envious when I see one of my fellow grooms come into the inheritance of a thousand scudi, but my soul flies into my teeth when I behold Sire Cordial munching a 190 lamprey. And now, I am going to look for the tailor, for my master will want to dress up tomorrow, or I am a big clown.
AND. You are dressed up like a paladin, with that cloak.
MACO. You make me laugh, you do, indeed.
AND. Your Lordship has well in mind what I have taught him?
MACO. I can cope with the world, I can.
AND. Why don’t you play the duke a little, as every knave does who would be taken for a Cardinal in disguise?
MACO. Like this, with my cloak up to my face?
AND. Yes, Signor.
MACO. Alas, that I should have fallen through not knowing how to play the Duke in the dark.
AND. Brace yourself, my fine ninny.
MACO. Give a couple of looks at my mantilla, if you want me to play the Duke. You know that I have made a vow to rise in the world.
AND. And you did quite right. Now, how do you reply to the Signori?
MACO. Signor si, and Signor no.
AND. Right gallant. And to the Signore?
MACO. I kiss your hand.
AND. Good. And to friends?
MACO. Yes, in faith.
AND. Right gentle. And to prelates?
MACO. I swear to God.
AND. And how do you give commands to servants?
MACO. Bring my mule, lead me my cloak, sweep the bed, and make the room, or by the body of Heaven I’ll beat you to death.
GRILLO. I heard what you said, master. Maestro Andrea, give me some instructions, for I don’t want to associate with such big beasts as these.191
MACO. I have no doubt, Grillo, that I shall end by making you a Courtier.
GRILLO. I am quite reassured.
AND. Suppose we go have a look at the Campo Santo, the obelisk, St. Peter’s, the pine wood, the Banchi and the Tower of Nona.
MACO. Does the Tower of Nona ever ring for vespers?
AND. Yes, when they pull the rope.
MACO. Cazzia. (1)
AND. We will go then to the Ponte Sisto and through all the alleys of Rome.
MACO. And, is there, then, an alley through all Rome?
AND. And through all Italy.
MACO. What church is this?
SAN. St. Peter’s. Enter with devotion.
MACO. Laudaumus te, benedicimus te.
SAN. That’s the way.
MACO. Et in terra pax bonae voluntatis. I enter. Come, Maestro. Osanna in excelsis.
ROSSO. Adventures follow me as sorrows did the one who was mad over Beatrice. I do not speak of the ten scudi I have gained nor of the lampreys stolen form the Fisherman, for they are nothing. But there has come to me, thanks to God and my own good deportment, so great a fate that I would not change places with the Bishop. The Signor, my master, is enamoured, and he keeps as close a watch over his love as he does over his pocket-book. Some days ago I overheard him talking to himself and sighing and saw him standing all thoughtful-like, and I perceived that Cupid had made anatomy of his heart. Two or three times, I would have opened my mouth to say, “What is the matter, master?” but I decided to keep still. And then, what do you think happened? Last night I (who am as presumptuous as a 192 Friar at precession) going through the house, put my ear to the door of the master’s room, and standing there, I heard him muttering in his sleep, and it seemed that he was at conclusions with his lady love. He was saying, “Livia, I am dying; Livia, I am burning up; Livia, I am in a spasm.” And then, with a long rigamarole, he went on commending himself to her most foolishly. Then, changing his conversation, he said: “Oh Luzio, how happy you are to have the pleasure of so beautiful a lady”; and coming back to Livia, after he had exclaimed, “My soul, my heart, dear blood, sweet hope, etc.”, I heard such a great shaking of the bedstead that I thought the Hungarians were on us. And when I returned to my own bed, chewing the thing over in my fancy, I tried to think of playing a joke on him which would enable me to get what I wanted from his hands. And here, I had almost forgotten it, being so busy with my own amusement, in making sport of the Fisherman and in eating with Cappa the lampreys in the most reverend tavern. And now the case is this: I shall go find Alvigia, who would corrupt chastity itself, for without her nothing can be done, and with her aid I shall set myself to the magnanimous enterprise of assassinating the old ass, the big wretch, and the arch blockhead of a Signor Mio. Those poltroons, the gran maestri, believed that everything depends on being loved by duchesses and queens; and for this reason, it would be easier for me to pull the wool over his eyes than it would be to come upon evil at court. And now, away to find Alvigia. Oh was a feast day this is going to be!
PAR. This living in the world is a strange madness. When I was in a low state, the spurs of ambition always pricked my flank, and now that I am what might be called fortunate, such a strange fever torments me that neither stones nor herbs nor words can lessen it. O love 193 what can you not do? Surely, nature felt an envy against the peace of mortals when she created you, the irremediable scourge of men and Gods. And what good is it to me, Fortune, to be your friend, if love has taken that heart which, thanks to you, was in Heaven and placed it in the abyss? What is there for me to do except to weep and sigh, in the guise of a woman for a woman? I shall go back to my room which I have just left, and perhaps there I shall find a way out, the same way which thousands of other unfortunate lovers have found.
FLAM. What is your idea in putting Camillo to Court?
SEM. So that he may learn there virtues and good manners and by such means be able to come into some little useful reputation.
FLAM. Good manners and virtues at Court? Oho!
SEM. In my day, virtues and good manners were not to be found anywhere but at Court.
FLAM. In your day, asses kept school. You old men, you always follow the rules of ancient times, and we are living in modern times. I swear it by a hundred pair of devils.
SEM. What’s this I hear?
FLAM. The gospel truth, Sempronio.
SEM. Can it be that the world has gone to the dogs so soon?
FLAM. The world has found it easier to do evil than to do good, that is all I have to say to you.
SEM. I am translated, I am amazed.
FLAM. If you want more light on the subject, tell me about the goodness of your times, and I will tell you a part of the sorrows of mine, for to tell you all would be too great an undertaking.
SEM. To it, then. In my day, scarcely anyone arrived in Rome but a patron was found for him at once; and according to his age, condition, and his own desires, he 194 was given an office, a room for himself, a bed and a groom; the patron paid for his horse, the laundress, the barber, the doctor and medicines; and once or twice a year, he was given a new suit of clothes; and whenever benefices fell vacant, they were divided honourably, and everyone was remunerated in such a manner that throughout the household no complaint was ever heard. Everyone took delight in letters or music, and the expense was paid by the master.
SEM. They lived together in so much love and charity that no inequality of nations was known, and it appeared that all were of one father and one mother; and each one rejoiced in the welfare of his comrade as he did in his own. In case of sickness, one waited upon another, as the religious do.
FLAM. Is there any more to tell?
SEM. That will be enough. The love I had for a life at Court did not deceive me.
FLAM. Hear, then, my reasons, Courtier of Papa Janni. In my day there came to Rome one full of all the qualities which are to be desired in a Courtier. And before they would receive him even in the servants’ hall, he might have gone to Paradise. In my day, one groom was enough for two. How is it possible that half a man should serve a whole man? In my day, five or six persons were lodged in one room, ten feet long and eight feet wide; and he who did not like to sleep on the ground had to buy a bed or rent one. In my day, horses became chameleons, if you did not provide the corn, and hay out of your own purse. In my day, you sold your own household goods to dress yourself, and he who had none of his own went a poor and naked Philosopher. In my day, so soon as anyone fell sick in his master’s service, it was regarded as a great favor to find a place 195 for him in Santo Spirito. (2) In my day, laundresses and barbers were paid by nos otros. And the benefices which fell vacant in my day were given to one who had not been at Court at all, or else were divided up into so many pieces that each was not worth a ducat; and yet, we were better off than the Pope, if that ducat had not had to be lawyered over for ten years. In my day, masters were not paid to teach virtue, but he who taught it at his own expense was persecuted as an enemy; for the Signori do now want about them persons more learned than themselves. And in my day, we are together, one with the other, and we fell upon our bread and wine with a greater hatred than highwaymen show to one who keeps them out of his house.
SEM. If things are like this, Camillo shall stay with me.
FLAM. Let him stay with you, if you do not wish to send him to Court to become a knave.
SEM. How, knave?
FLAM. Knave is an old story; for the least theft the Court ever did was to steal twenty-four years from the life of a good and gentle man like Messer Vincenzio Bovio, who for having grown old in service did not draw as a reward two suits of mourning clothes, even. He who doubts such things will soon learn that he has nothing to expect from his patrons; for only the ignorant, the plebian, parasites and ruffians win advancement. After knave comes traitor. What more? With a hypocritic shuffling of feet, which with them is incurable, they overlook even homicides.
SEM. Let’s speak of something else.
FLAM. But surely, the cruelty of Courts is incomprehensible, and it is true, moreover, that one at Court desires nothing so much as the death of this one or that one among his fellows; and if it happens that he himself escapes, as soon as he has obtained a benefice, he feels 196 all the stomach-turnings, all the side-aches, and all the fevers of the others. And it is a most evil thing to long for the death of one who has never offended you.
SEM. That is the truth.
FLAM. Listen to this. Our patrons provided a meal for us once a day, alleging that two meals were homicidal; and so, each one pretended to make an evening collation solus peregrinus in is room. And this they did not so much to appear sober as to chase away a few virtuous ones whom have come intruding at their table.
SEM. Yet they tell miracles of the Medici.
FLAM. One garland does not make a Spring.
SEM. That’s true.
FLAM. And it is enough to make you split with laughing when they lock themselves in secret under pretense of studying. Ha, ha, ha!
SEM. Why do you laugh?
FLAM. Because they stand in conclave utriusque sexus and pretend to read Philosophy. But suppose we speak of the splendor of their repast. The cook of the Ponzetta, making three eggs an omelet for two persons, in order that the omelets may appear bigger, puts them into those bands where the priests keep their barrettas and stretches them on rungs dirtier than the cloak on the neck of Gulilian Leno; and then comes the wind, and they toss them in the air so that they fall on the heads of the nations in the guise of diadems.
SEM. Ha, ha, ha!
FLAM. The steward of Malfetta (that prodigious prelate who, dying of hunger, left so many thousands of ducats to Leo) having spent four farthings too much on a shad, was constrained by the Reverend Monsignor to report to him; whereupon those in the house made up the money to pay for the shad, and when they were seated at table to enjoy it together, the Bishop, attracted 197 by the odor, came running up, saying: “Where’s my share? Leave some for me!”
SEM. Ha, ha, ha!
FLAM. I have heard, but these are not my own words, that the rivisore of Santa Maria, in the portico, used to measure the soup to his household, and he even counted the mouthfuls, giving so many for white days and so many for black.
SEM. Ha, Ha, Ha!
FLAM. But I have forgotten. In my day, men were masters of the house, and in our day, the masters of the house are the women.
SEM. How, the women?
FLAM. The women, I tell you. In the house of — I don’t want to tell you who it was — it is said that the mothers of some Cardinal or other water the wine, pay salaries, and hunt the servants and do everything. And whenever the most reverend sons are disorderly in their coitus or their eating, they are treated to dog-like rebuffs. And the father of a certain great prelate draws the revenues of his Monsignor son and gives the latter so much a month to live on.
SEM. My God, I understand. It is better then to be in the Inferno than at Court nowadays.
FLAM. A hundred times better; for in the Inferno, the soul it tormented, but at Court soul and body.
SEM. We shall speak of this again. In the meanwhile, I am resolved to choke Camillo with my own hands rather than let him go to Court. And now, I want to go to the bank of Agostino Chigi to draw my salary. Addio.
ROSSO. Where are you going in such fury?
ALV. Here and there in tribulation.
ROSSO. Oh, in tribulation. One who governs Rome?
ALV. No, but you see, my mistress . . .
ROSSO. What is the matter with your mistress?198
ALV. She is on fire.
ROSSO. Who the devil set her on fire?
ALV. Alas, a misfortune.
ROSSO. What has she done?
ROSSO. Do they set folks on fire for nothing then?
ALV. It’s only a drop of poison which she gave to her Godfather out of love for her Godmother, and this is the reason Rome is going to lose such a fine old lady.
ROSSO. People don’t know how to take jokes.
ALV. She threw a little girl baby into the river which a certain friend of hers had given birth to, as her habit is.
ROSSO. These are words.
ALV. She put some kind of beans on a stair and made a jealous lover break his neck.
ROSSO. A pistachio would have been no joke.
ALV. My, but you’re a straight-speaking man. and so she left me heir to all she has.
ROSSO. That’s fine. But what did she leave you, if you don’t mind telling me.
ALV. Alembics for distilling herbs grown in the light of the new Moon, waters for washing away freckles, ointments for removing spots from the face, an ampulla of lover’s tears, oil for reviving . . . I don’t want to tell you.
ROSSO. Tell me, foolish girl.
ALV. Flesh . . .
ROSSO. What flesh?
ALV. On the . . . you understand.
ROSSO. On the . . . ?
ALV. She left me bands for my breasts, which are pendulous, she left me an electuary against pregnancy and childbed; she left me a flask of maiden’s wine.199
ROSSO. What’s that good for?
ALV. It is good for mothers on fast days and is especially good for marchionesses. She left me the rope of one who was wrongly hanged, powder for killing jealous men, incantations for producing madness, prayers for producing sleep and recipes for rejuvenation. She left me also a spirit confined —
ALV. In a thunder-mug.
ROSSO. Ha, ha!
ALV. What do you mean, ha, ha, big stupid? In a thunder-mug, I tell you, and it is a familiar spirit that knows how to find stolen property and tells you whether your lady friend loves you or not. It is called Il Folletto; and she left me an unguent which carries me above wind and water to the walnut tree of Benevento.
ROSSO. God give your soul all she has left you.
ALV. God will do it.
ROSSO. Don’t weep, weeping won’t help.
ALV. I am in despair, my heart is breaking; it is not a thousand years ago that she was drinking six kinds of wine at the Pavone, always from the decanter and without a thought of any reputation in the world.
ROSSO. God bless her, for at least she wasn’t one of those refuse-a-drops.
ALV. There never was an old lady who was so healthy an eater and so light a worker.
ROSSO. You don’t say.
ALV. At the butcher’s, at the delicatessen keeper’s, at the baker’s, at the stove, at the fair, at the Ponte Santa Maria, at the Ponte Quattro Capre and at the Ponte Sisto, folks always, always stopped to talk to her, and she was regarded as a Solomon, a Sybil, and a Chronicle by constables, innkeepers, porters, cooks, friars and all the world; and she would stalk like a dragon among the gallows, cutting out the eyes of a hanged men, and 200 like a female paladin through the cemeteries, tearing off the claws of the dead on some fine midnight.
ROSSO. And so Death wanted her for his own.
ALV. And what a conscience was hers! On the eve of Pentecost she would not eat meat. On Christmas eve she fasted on bread and wine, and in Lent, beyond a few fresh eggs, she led the life of a lady hermit.
ROSSO. In short, every day she ought to have been hanged and burned; she was neither a good man nor a good woman.
ALV. You speak evil, but you speak the truth.
ROSSO. If they had plugged up her ears and made a sign on her forehead, she might have gone on living.
ALV. So she might, and she might now be wearing the mitre which she wore three years ago on the day of St. Peter Martyr; and she would just as soon ride on the ass as on the cart; and she was not at all concerned with the paintings on the mitre, so the neighbors could not say she did it out of vain glory.
ROSSO. He who is humble shall be exalted.
ALV. Poor woman, she was the sworn sister of the priests of good wine, God knows.
ROSSO. That was another sin of hers.
ALV. And so it was.
ROSSO. And now let’s leave these sorrowful things and speak of pleasant ones, for as soon as you give the word, we shall be out of the mud. My master is all minced chicken (3) for Livia, the wife of Livio.
ALV. He ought to look a little higher.
ROSSO. And while he tried to keep his love secret, he has revealed it to me.
ROSSO. In a dream.
ALV. Aha! Tell me right away.
ROSSO. I gave him to understand, pretending to know nothing 201 of his secret, that Livia was so bestially inflamed for him that she had been forced to confide in you, and that you are her nurse.
ALV. I get you. No more words. Come on, let’s get them on the turf. (4)
ROSSO. You get my meaning better than the rump of one who has taken a pill.
ALV. Come on, foolish lad.
ROSSO. One kiss, queen of queens. (He attempts to kiss her.)
ALV. Let me go, silly!
MACO. Where do those big bronze pine cones come from?
AND. From the pine wood of Ravenna.
MACO. Whose ship is that with the suffocating saints?
MACO. Where do they make those obelisks?
AND. At Pisa.
MACO. That Campo Santo is full of dead men, you mean to tell me?
AND. I don’t know.
MACO. I have a thirst.
AND. God be praised, you’ve taken the word out of my mouth.
MACO. Venite, adoremus.
PAR. Shall I be silent? Or shall I speak? In silence is my death, and in speech is her disdain, since when I write her how much I love her, she is likely to hold it a vile thing to be loved by so base a person; and if I restrain my fire, the concealing of so great a passion will be the death of me.
VAL. Not to employ the presumption of a courtier, but to 202 fulfill the office of a faithful servant, I should like to know the reason of your languishment and to find the remedy with my own blood, if needs be.
PAR. Is that you, Valerio?
VAL. It is I, who, perceiving that love does to you what it does to every gentle person, desire to know everything in order that my faith may be an aid to your desires.
PAR. You do not understand.
VAL. If I do not understand, why hide it from me, who holds your contentment more dear than the eyes in my own head? And if it is Love, are you so lacking in spirit as to place difficulties in the way of enjoying a lady? If that is the case, what should they do who, being in love, are as poor in everything as you are most rich?
PAR. If the plasters of wise words could cure another’s pain, you would have healed my own.
VAL. Alas, Signor mio, rid yourself of such a novel error, and do not suffer those who envy your greatness to rejoice in your affliction; for when the rumor of the melancholy which consumes you spreads, what joy will your friends have, what benefit your servants, and what glory your country?
PAR. Let us suppose I were in love, what remedy would you suggest?
VAL. That you find a procuress.
PAR. And then?
VAL. By means of her, send a letter to the one you love so much.
PAR. And if she will have none of it?
VAL. Neither letters nor presents are refused by women.
PAR. What would you have me write her?
VAL. Whatever love dictates.
PAR. If she takes me for a bad man?
VAL. For a bad man? Oh, they are not so cruel. There was a time already when one had to think ten years about getting a word, and to get a letter to his mistress had 203 to resort even to necromancy and, finally, concealing his identity, was forced to cling to roofs at the peril of breaking his neck, or to stand a day and a night in some cold cellar in the heart of winter, or under a mountain of hay when the world was burning with heat; and the sound of a foot, a fart, a cat, a nothing was enough to ruin everything. Not to speak of those rope ladders which make my hair stand on end to think of them.
PAR. What do you mean to imply by that?
VAL. I mean to imply that now one enters by the door, in the light of day, and lovers are so lucky that they are even shown courtesies by husbands. For war, plague, famine and these times, which are inclined toward pleasure, have made a whore out of all Italy, to such an extent that cousins and relatives, brothers, and sisters mingle indiscriminately, without any shame or conscience in the world. And if it were not for my blushes, I could give you the names of as many guilty ones as there are hairs in your head. No, Signor, do not despair of attaining your desire, for you have more right to hope for it than the Scourge of Princes (5) had to hope for the courtesy of the Emperor’s general in Italy.
PAR. This security you offer does not diminish my pain in the least.
VAL. You have but to revive that ardor which in the past has brought you through the most difficult enterprises. Let us go home and think of some manner of dispatching the letter, and perhaps I shall be able to add a few amorous lines in your favor.
PAR. Come then, for neither at home nor abroad is there any peace for my heart.
AND. While Master Dunce was drinking, he fell enamoured of Camilla Pisana, having caught a glimpse of her from 204 a window of his room. This is once when Cupid becomes a doctor, that is, a blockhead. And it would make a weeping man laugh to hear him improvising over her; he has all the style of the Abbott of Gieta, crowned on an elephant; he has composed a number of the most awful verses that were ever heard, so awful that Cinotto and Casto da Bologna and even Marco da Lodi are Virgils and Homers by the side of him; and if any other proof were needed, this letter in prose would give it. I’m going to see what the old baboon has written to Signora Camilla.
Salve Regina, have mercy on us, for your odoriferous eyes and your marble forehead, which distils a mellifluous manna, have so slain me that, therefore and thusly, gold and pearls subtract me to love you. And there were never seen anywhere erst such cheeks of emerald and hair of milk and purple which lithesomely disport themselves with your little bosom, where lodge two breasts in the guise of harmonious melons. And I have come here to make me a Cardinal, and then a Courtier, by your leave. Therefore, choose the time and name the place, so that I may be able to tell you the cruelty my heart feels, which will be comforted in the liquid crystal of your little sweetbread mouth, et fiat voluntas tua, for omnia vincit Amor.
Maco is all minced chicken over you,
So do your duty, and do it quickly too.
These words would turn the stomach of a friar who was used to eating barrettas; and what is this written underneath? Can it be that God has turned his world contrary? Now, who would ever believe that out of Sienna, a good, noble, and courteous city and one filled with genius, should have come such a great blockhead as Messer Maco? It breaks my heart to think he comes from so splendid a province. For, not to speak of the 205 famous men who have lived there and live there yet, its two Academies, la Grande and la Intronata, have made poetry beautiful and given the language a new gentility. I was astonished to hear what Jacopo Eterno, who in letters Greek, Latin, and Vulgate displays the highest excellence, had to tell me of this yesterday. But there are madmen everywhere, though there is none worse than this snail-sheller who has set out to get himself canonized as a fool. Here he comes now.
MACO. With whom are you confabulating, Maestro?
AND. With your stupidity.
MACO. With my Poetry?
AND. Signor, si.
MACO. What do you think of it?
AND. Caecus non iudicat de coloris.
MACO. Take this little Roundelay again; read it in a loud voice.
AND. By your leave.
O star of love, O angel of my garden,
Face of wood and visage oriental,
I am a ship, begging your pardon,
Braving at night a tempest temperamental:
Your beauty comes from France, I swear,
Like that of Giuda who was strangled,
For love of you I will a courtier be,
Such love as mine I never did see.
MACO. What do you say to it?
AND. Oh what sententious verses, full, slippery, gentle, learned, sweet, sharp, pleasant, bright, clear, agreeable, terse, sonorous, novel, and divine.
MACO. They astonish you, eh?
AND. They astonish me, translate me, and drive me to despair; but there is a false Latinity in them.
MACO. Which one? The one about the ship?
MACO. That’s a poetic license, is it not?
AND. The fact of a horse does not depend on the cruppers, you mean to say?
MACO. Yes, master. And now, I must off to my lady-love.
AND. I am of the opinion that this fellow, being a dunce, a very rich simpleton and a twenty-four carat clown, will end up by becoming the favorite of this Court. It was wisely that Giannozzo Pandolfini exclaimed: “I am happy to be praised by Leo as a madman,” implying that with Princes one must be mad, feign madness and life the life of a madman. Messer Gimignano da Modena, the Doctor, was wise when, desiring to win a suit at Mantua from Giannino da Correggio, who has as much right in equity as the Doctor had in law, he played the part of the hedgebill in front of the Duke. We may make up our minds, then, to believe that one cannot do a greater injury to a Signor than by spreading the report that he is a wise man. And now, coming back to our Poet, he is first to become a Cardinal. Then, to find Zoppino and bring him to the Master as an ambassador to the Signora. Zoppino will congratulate him over his marvelous letter and that stupendous Roundelay.
ROSSO. Alvigia, eh? Oh what a trimming! She has more spirit than Desiderio who, while he was being torn with red-hot pincers, kept on smiling; suppose she had said, “I don’t want to,” “I can’t,” or “I’m afraid of the risk in betraying so great a personage”? But she understood me before I told her how things were. She’s put me on the right track. We shall see her going to the Signor with Livia’s message. There’s Parabolano now. Oh what a face! He looks like one who is hungry and ashamed to eat in the servant’s hall. God content him.207
PAR. Only death can content me, for these women, who flee when one pursues them and pursue when one flees them, will be the death of me yet.
ROSSO. Don’t despair.
PAR. I will despair. I wish God would transform you into me and me into you.
ROSSO. Oh Christ, what a thing to say, and why don’t you do us the favor?
PAR. You would not want me to do so, if you knew how I feel.
ROSSO. Those are words.
PAR. They are not.
ROSSO. And now, I am going to tell you something that would cheer a priest’s servant.
ROSSO. Smile a little or I will repent of my intentions. Look at me. One of the most gentle, richest and most beautiful (what more do you want?) women on this earth is so love-sick over your Lordship that, to keep from dying, she has revealed her love to her Nurse, and her Nurse out of compassion has told me.
PAR. Tell me who it is.
ROSSO. No, you must divine it.
PAR. Does her name begin with an A?
ROSSO. No, Signor.
PAR. With a G?
ROSSO. You’re wrong.
PAR. With an N?
ROSSO. You’re cold.
PAR. With an S?
ROSSO. You’re as far-off as the man in the moon.
PAR. With a B?
ROSSO. I see I shall have to tell you.
PAR. Tell away.208
ROSSO. Do you know you’re A B C’s?
PAR. By God, I hope so.
ROSSO. That’s a miracle.
ROSSO. Because you Lords are not in the habit of delighting in such pedagogicalisms. And now say over you’re A B C’s, and when you come to that letter, which it the one her name begins with, I will tell you ; otherwise, I’ll never be able to remember. Begin.
PAR. A B C D E F G: is it any one of those?
ROSSO. Go on.
PAR. Where was I?
ROSSO. In the A B C’s. Collect your wits.
PAR. A B C D E F G H I K.
ROSSO. Steady now, you’re coming to it. Proceed.
PAR. M N O.
ROSSO. What would you say to an L?
PAR. Ah, Rosso, divine, celestial, immortal!
ROSSO. That’s all right; compose a book in my honor.
PAR. So it’s my Livia.
ROSSO. Was I right, or wasn’t I?
PAR. Where am I?
ROSSO. In Emmaus.
PAR. Am I asleep?
ROSSO. Yes, you’re just calling me out of the servant’s hall.
PAR. Let’s go home, honored Rosso.
ROSSO. A little while ago I was a traitor.
PAR. That’s not so.
AND. Of all the jokes that ever were, there never was one like this.
ZOPP. I shall tell him that the Signora Camilla has sent me to him, and that if it were not out of respect to Don Diego di Lainis, who out of jealousy keeps a watch on her house, he might come to her in his own garb, but 209 that for this reason, it is necessary that he come dressed as a porter. Be quiet, the blockhead appears. What a good time fools have.
The Signora Camilla, my mistress, kisses the hand of your Lordship.
MACO. They tell me she’s ill over me; is that true?
ZOPP. I cannot tell you how ill.
MACO. If she gives me a son, I’ll pay for the cradle.
AND. You think so?
ZOPP. Now that I see him close up, I think she spoke the truth when she said he would be the death of her.
MACO. How many kisses did she give my letters?
ZOPP. Oh, more than a thousand!
MACO. Gluttoness! Traitress! And the Roundelay, what did she do with it?
ZOPP. She put it up on the wall.
MACO. By the hand of whom?
ZOPP. By the hand of her tailor. And now she’s going to replace the poet laureate who curries her horses and give drinks and hay to the asinine Pegasus, instead; so you’ll have plenty of manure to regale yourself with.
MACO. I made it up out of my head.
ZOPP. Oh what a madman!
MACO. I am I.
AND. You do yourself all possible honor.
MACO. O you, who come from the Signor, do you know what I’m going to say to you?
ZOPP. No, Signor.
MACO. When I get the next batch of honey cakes and sweetbreads from Sienna, I’m going to give you a couple.
AND. Didn’t I tell you, he was liberal as a Pope or an Emperor? And now, let’s go plan the means of sending this gentleman to the Signora.210
MACO. Let’s hurry. Oh, Grillo, Grillo, come to the window.
GRILLO. What do you want?
MACO. Nothing. Yes, I do. Oh, Grillo.
GRILLO. Here I am. What do you want?
MACO. I’ve forgotten.
AND. Enter, Signor Zoppino.
ZOPP. You first, your Highness.
AND. I beg your Highness, you first.
ZOPP. No, your Highness must go first.
MACO. I’ll go first myself; you follow me.
ROSSO. All the titles which were given by Norcia and by Todi to their ambassadors, Rosso’s master has given him. He wants to make me rich, right off, to give me a place in the world; he wants me to advice, govern, and command him. Run up an alley, you who only know how to make pretty reverences, with a platter in your hand or, it may be, a well-washed beaker, and to speak on the tips of your wooden shoes, entertaining the Signori by composing music and poems in their honor, thinking thereby to get into their good graces. You don’t know your business. To take affairs in hand, that is the whole thing; and when things begin to fall into the master’s mouth, he will carry you in the crupper all over Rome; he will caress you, flatter you and load you with gifts. Look at this barretta with a medallion and with the egrets of aurum sitisti which he has given me as a sign of his love. But I must go fetch Alvigia. If this hoax is discovered, I am lost. But I know all the brothels in Italy and outside of Italy, and the Calendar which finds the feast days of the year will not be able to find me. But I don’t think we shall be found out, for the master has more business on his hands than a tradesman.
AND. We cannot do any better than to dress Grillo in his clothes and him in a Burgamask habit.
ZOPP. And when he comes to the Signora’s door, in those clothes, I will pretend to believe that he is a porter and ask him if he wants to carry a dead one to the Campo Santo. You will appear then and urge him to do it. And Grillo will pretend that I do not know him.
ZOPP. In the meanwhile, I shall tell him there has gone out an order for the arrest of a certain Messer Maco, who is being sought by the Sheriff. You have all his friends be there; I shall be close at hand, and you may leave the rest to me.
AND. Come on out. Ha, ha, ha!
GILLO. How do I look in velvet?
MACO. How do I look, Maestro?
AND. Ha, ha! Ho, ho! A navigation chart wouldn’t recognize you. And now, keep your wits about you, and if you see anyone, pretend that you have come to carry a trunk of the Signora’s; and if you don’t see anyone, go on in the house, attend to your business, and don’t let your imagination run away with you.
MACO. It seems to me like a thousand years, it does.
AND. Follow him, Grillo, a little way behind, and if any ruffian meets him, step in front so that it will seem you are Messer Maco and that Messer Maco is the porter. In that way we shall not be suspected.
MACO. Stay close to me and see to it that some Spanish gentleman doesn’t break me in pieces. Alas! Look at that one, I’m afraid, I’m trembling,
AND. Don’t be afraid. Go on. Oh what a subtle gallows-bird is this Zoppino. From his gestures, the way he struts and wears his cloak and sword, you would swear he was a very by-God to the life.212
ZOPP. Do you want to carry a dead one to the Campo Santo?
MACO. I’m a dead one already.
ZOPP. Just because bread is cheap, you beggars don’t want to work.
MACO. I don’t want to do any work except carry the Signora’s trunk.
AND. Serve this gentleman, porter.
MACO. Don’t you recognize me, Maestro?
AND. A cancer take you! Who are you!
MACO. O God, I’m lost! I’m translated in these clothes! Grillo, am I not your master? By God, I won’t stand for that, pesas dios; I’ll have you flogged.
ZOPP. Let the ass alone. I’ll see that he carries it if he splits. An order has just gone out that whoever knows the whereabouts of one Maco Sanese, who has come to Rome without passport as a spy, should report it at once to the Governor under pain of death, and it is thought they are going to have him castrated.
AND. Don’t be afraid. We’ll put your clothes on this porter, and the Sheriff, thinking he is Messer Maco, will take him and castrate him in your place.
MACO. I am a porter! I am a porter, and not Messer Maco. Help me! help me!
ZOPP. Take him! Stop him! He’s a spy! He’s a deceiver! Ha, ha! Run after him, Grillo, and see that he doesn’t run into trouble. It will be good sport to see him strutting like an absurd fop among the Banchi with a throng of ragamuffins at his heels howling over the joke.
1 Untranslatable exclamation.
2 That is, in the public hospital.
3 pollo pesto.
4 vieni dietro, che la farem andar al palio. Cf our “ let’s get going!”.
5 Aretino himself, of course.