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The Prince
by Niccolo Machiavelli
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But Fortune growing envious of the glory of Castruccio took away his life just at the time when she should have preserved it, and thus ruined all those plans which for so long a time he had worked to carry into effect, and in the successful prosecution of which nothing but death could have stopped him. Castruccio was in the thick of the battle the whole of the day; and when the end of it came, although fatigued and overheated, he stood at the gate of Fucecchio to welcome his men on their return from victory and personally thank them. He was also on the watch for any attempt of the enemy to retrieve the fortunes of the day; he being of the opinion that it was the duty of a good general to be the first man in the saddle and the last out of it. Here Castruccio stood exposed to a wind which often rises at midday on the banks of the Arno, and which is often very unhealthy; from this he took a chill, of which he thought nothing, as he was accustomed to such troubles; but it was the cause of his death. On the following night he was attacked with high fever, which increased so rapidly that the doctors saw it must prove fatal. Castruccio, therefore, called Pagolo Guinigi to him, and addressed him as follows:

"If I could have believed that Fortune would have cut me off in the midst of the career which was leading to that glory which all my successes promised, I should have laboured less, and I should have left thee, if a smaller state, at least with fewer enemies and perils, because I should have been content with the governorships of Lucca and Pisa. I should neither have subjugated the Pistoians, nor outraged the Florentines with so many injuries. But I would have made both these peoples my friends, and I should have lived, if no longer, at least more peacefully, and have left you a state without a doubt smaller, but one more secure and established on a surer foundation. But Fortune, who insists upon having the arbitrament of human affairs, did not endow me with sufficient judgment to recognize this from the first, nor the time to surmount it. Thou hast heard, for many have told thee, and I have never concealed it, how I entered the house of thy father whilst yet a boy—a stranger to all those ambitions which every generous soul should feel—and how I was brought up by him, and loved as though I had been born of his blood; how under his governance I learned to be valiant and capable of availing myself of all that fortune, of which thou hast been witness. When thy good father came to die, he committed thee and all his possessions to my care, and I have brought thee up with that love, and increased thy estate with that care, which I was bound to show. And in order that thou shouldst not only possess the estate which thy father left, but also that which my fortune and abilities have gained, I have never married, so that the love of children should never deflect my mind from that gratitude which I owed to the children of thy father. Thus I leave thee a vast estate, of which I am well content, but I am deeply concerned, inasmuch as I leave it thee unsettled and insecure. Thou hast the city of Lucca on thy hands, which will never rest contented under they government. Thou hast also Pisa, where the men are of nature changeable and unreliable, who, although they may be sometimes held in subjection, yet they will ever disdain to serve under a Lucchese. Pistoia is also disloyal to thee, she being eaten up with factions and deeply incensed against thy family by reason of the wrongs recently inflicted upon them. Thou hast for neighbours the offended Florentines, injured by us in a thousand ways, but not utterly destroyed, who will hail the news of my death with more delight than they would the acquisition of all Tuscany. In the Emperor and in the princes of Milan thou canst place no reliance, for they are far distant, slow, and their help is very long in coming. Therefore, thou hast no hope in anything but in thine own abilities, and in the memory of my valour, and in the prestige which this latest victory has brought thee; which, as thou knowest how to use it with prudence, will assist thee to come to terms with the Florentines, who, as they are suffering under this great defeat, should be inclined to listen to thee. And whereas I have sought to make them my enemies, because I believed that war with them would conduce to my power and glory, thou hast every inducement to make friends of them, because their alliance will bring thee advantages and security. It is of the greatest important in this world that a man should know himself, and the measure of his own strength and means; and he who knows that he has not a genius for fighting must learn how to govern by the arts of peace. And it will be well for thee to rule they conduct by my counsel, and to learn in this way to enjoy what my life-work and dangers have gained; and in this thou wilt easily succeed when thou hast learnt to believe that what I have told thee is true. And thou wilt be doubly indebted to me, in that I have left thee this realm and have taught thee how to keep it."

After this there came to Castruccio those citizens of Pisa, Pistoia, and Lucca, who had been fighting at his side, and whilst recommending Pagolo to them, and making them swear obedience to him as his successor, he died. He left a happy memory to those who had known him, and no prince of those times was ever loved with such devotion as he was. His obsequies were celebrated with every sign of mourning, and he was buried in San Francesco at Lucca. Fortune was not so friendly to Pagolo Guinigi as she had been to Castruccio, for he had not the abilities. Not long after the death of Castruccio, Pagolo lost Pisa, and then Pistoia, and only with difficulty held on to Lucca. This latter city continued in the family of Guinigi until the time of the great-grandson of Pagolo.

From what has been related here it will be seen that Castruccio was a man of exceptional abilities, not only measured by men of his own time, but also by those of an earlier date. In stature he was above the ordinary height, and perfectly proportioned. He was of a gracious presence, and he welcomed men with such urbanity that those who spoke with him rarely left him displeased. His hair was inclined to be red, and he wore it cut short above the ears, and, whether it rained or snowed, he always went without a hat. He was delightful among friends, but terrible to his enemies; just to his subjects; ready to play false with the unfaithful, and willing to overcome by fraud those whom he desired to subdue, because he was wont to say that it was the victory that brought the glory, not the methods of achieving it. No one was bolder in facing danger, none more prudent in extricating himself. He was accustomed to say that men ought to attempt everything and fear nothing; that God is a lover of strong men, because one always sees that the weak are chastised by the strong. He was also wonderfully sharp or biting though courteous in his answers; and as he did not look for any indulgence in this way of speaking from others, so he was not angered with others did not show it to him. It has often happened that he has listened quietly when others have spoken sharply to him, as on the following occasions. He had caused a ducat to be given for a partridge, and was taken to task for doing so by a friend, to whom Castruccio had said: "You would not have given more than a penny." "That is true," answered the friend. Then said Castruccio to him: "A ducat is much less to me." Having about him a flatterer on whom he had spat to show that he scorned him, the flatterer said to him: "Fisherman are willing to let the waters of the sea saturate them in order that they make take a few little fishes, and I allow myself to be wetted by spittle that I may catch a whale"; and this was not only heard by Castruccio with patience but rewarded. When told by a priest that it was wicked for him to live so sumptuously, Castruccio said: "If that be a vice than you should not fare so splendidly at the feasts of our saints." Passing through a street he saw a young man as he came out of a house of ill fame blush at being seen by Castruccio, and said to him: "Thou shouldst not be ashamed when thou comest out, but when thou goest into such places." A friend gave him a very curiously tied knot to undo and was told: "Fool, do you think that I wish to untie a thing which gave so much trouble to fasten." Castruccio said to one who professed to be a philosopher: "You are like the dogs who always run after those who will give them the best to eat," and was answered: "We are rather like the doctors who go to the houses of those who have the greatest need of them." Going by water from Pisa to Leghorn, Castruccio was much disturbed by a dangerous storm that sprang up, and was reproached for cowardice by one of those with him, who said that he did not fear anything. Castruccio answered that he did not wonder at that, since every man valued his soul for what is was worth. Being asked by one what he ought to do to gain estimation, he said: "When thou goest to a banquet take care that thou dost not seat one piece of wood upon another." To a person who was boasting that he had read many things, Castruccio said: "He knows better than to boast of remembering many things." Someone bragged that he could drink much without becoming intoxicated. Castruccio replied: "An ox does the same." Castruccio was acquainted with a girl with whom he had intimate relations, and being blamed by a friend who told him that it was undignified for him to be taken in by a woman, he said: "She has not taken me in, I have taken her." Being also blamed for eating very dainty foods, he answered: "Thou dost not spend as much as I do?" and being told that it was true, he continued: "Then thou art more avaricious than I am gluttonous." Being invited by Taddeo Bernardi, a very rich and splendid citizen of Luca, to supper, he went to the house and was shown by Taddeo into a chamber hung with silk and paved with fine stones representing flowers and foliage of the most beautiful colouring. Castruccio gathered some saliva in his mouth and spat it out upon Taddeo, and seeing him much disturbed by this, said to him: "I knew not where to spit in order to offend thee less." Being asked how Caesar died he said: "God willing I will die as he did." Being one night in the house of one of his gentlemen where many ladies were assembled, he was reproved by one of his friends for dancing and amusing himself with them more than was usual in one of his station, so he said: "He who is considered wise by day will not be considered a fool at night." A person came to demand a favour of Castruccio, and thinking he was not listening to his plea threw himself on his knees to the ground, and being sharply reproved by Castruccio, said: "Thou art the reason of my acting thus for thou hast thy ears in thy feet," whereupon he obtained double the favour he had asked. Castruccio used to say that the way to hell was an easy one, seeing that it was in a downward direction and you travelled blindfolded. Being asked a favour by one who used many superfluous words, he said to him: "When you have another request to make, send someone else to make it." Having been wearied by a similar man with a long oration who wound up by saying: "Perhaps I have fatigued you by speaking so long," Castruccio said: "You have not, because I have not listened to a word you said." He used to say of one who had been a beautiful child and who afterwards became a fine man, that he was dangerous, because he first took the husbands from the wives and now he took the wives from their husbands. To an envious man who laughed, he said: "Do you laugh because you are successful or because another is unfortunate?" Whilst he was still in the charge of Messer Francesco Guinigi, one of his companions said to him: "What shall I give you if you will let me give you a blow on the nose?" Castruccio answered: "A helmet." Having put to death a citizen of Lucca who had been instrumental in raising him to power, and being told that he had done wrong to kill one of his old friends, he answered that people deceived themselves; he had only killed a new enemy. Castruccio praised greatly those men who intended to take a wife and then did not do so, saying that they were like men who said they would go to sea, and then refused when the time came. He said that it always struck him with surprise that whilst men in buying an earthen or glass vase would sound it first to learn if it were good, yet in choosing a wife they were content with only looking at her. He was once asked in what manner he would wish to be buried when he died, and answered: "With the face turned downwards, for I know when I am gone this country will be turned upside down." On being asked if it had ever occurred to him to become a friar in order to save his soul, he answered that it had not, because it appeared strange to him that Fra Lazerone should go to Paradise and Uguccione della Faggiuola to the Inferno. He was once asked when should a man eat to preserve his health, and replied: "If the man be rich let him eat when he is hungry; if he be poor, then when he can." Seeing on of his gentlemen make a member of his family lace him up, he said to him: "I pray God that you will let him feed you also." Seeing that someone had written upon his house in Latin the words: "May God preserve this house from the wicked," he said, "The owner must never go in." Passing through one of the streets he saw a small house with a very large door, and remarked: "That house will fly through the door." He was having a discussion with the ambassador of the King of Naples concerning the property of some banished nobles, when a dispute arose between them, and the ambassador asked him if he had no fear of the king. "Is this king of yours a bad man or a good one?" asked Castruccio, and was told that he was a good one, whereupon he said, "Why should you suggest that I should be afraid of a good man?"

I could recount many other stories of his sayings both witty and weighty, but I think that the above will be sufficient testimony to his high qualities. He lived forty-four years, and was in every way a prince. And as he was surrounded by many evidences of his good fortune, so he also desired to have near him some memorials of his bad fortune; therefore the manacles with which he was chained in prison are to be seen to this day fixed up in the tower of his residence, where they were placed by him to testify for ever to his days of adversity. As in his life he was inferior neither to Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander, nor to Scipio of Rome, so he died in the same year of his age as they did, and he would doubtless have excelled both of them had Fortune decreed that he should be born, not in Lucca, but in Macedonia or Rome.

THE END

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