Vittorio Alfieri: Thousands immolated on the altar of despotism, slaves born but to fertilize the soil
Anonymous translation of 1810
I visited Zorndorff, a spot rendered famous by the sanguinary battle fought between the Russians and the Prussians, where thousands of men on both sides were immolated on the altar of despotism and thus escaped the galling yoke which oppressed them. The place of their interment was easily recognised by its greater verdure and by yielding more abundant corn than the barren and unproductive soil in its immediate vicinity. On this occasion I reflected with sorrow that slaves seemed everywhere only born to fertilize the soil on which they vegetate.
The trade of arms and the life of a soldier were never conformable to me character; but I relished them still less in a country where liberty and freedom are altogether unknown.
I would rather, I affirm, be unknown to my contemporaries than write in the deaf-mute French and English languages though their cannons and their armies have rendered these languages fashionable. I would rather write good Italian verses, even with the certainty of seeing them despised and neglected for the moment, than write in either English, French, or any other tyrant jargon, though assured that my productions would be immediately read, admired, and applauded. There is a great difference to our own ears in sounding a fine tuned harp even when no one is present to listen, and blowing a detestable bagpipe, however much an ignorant audience might applaud the performance.
Very few of our friends dared to visit us and that extremely seldom, lest it might awaken the suspicions of our legalistic military despotism, which of all monsters is the truly most ridiculous, cruel, and insupportable. It is a tiger led by a hare.