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Pietro Aretino: Overjoyed at statue of Peace and her flames burning up arms of war

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Italian writers on war and militarism

Pietro Aretino: Proper task, the giving of a beginning to peace and an end to wars

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Pietro Aretino
From his letters
Translated by Samuel Putnam

I, you big madman, was forced the other day to put out of your head, with threats of excommunication, the fancy of taking a wife; and now, I have to set to work to disabuse you of the whim of going to camp. It is gospel truth that bread and soldiers are not worth much in the end; although you might reply, “What are you going to do in time of famine or time of war?” It seems to me you are mad even to think of going, and madder still to adhere to the purpose; for the art of war is like the art of the courtezan – indeed, they might be called sisters, since both are the slaves of desperation and the step-daughters of that swinish fortune which never tires of crucifying us at every turn. Certainly, the court and the field may be embraced together, since in the one you will find want, envy, old age and the hospital, while in the other you have only to gain wounds, prison and fame.

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To Messer Ambrogio Eusebia
In Which He Advises Him Against the Army

I like such crazy dreaming, because a man in such thoughts appears to himself a very Trojan; but I very much disapprove of putting those thoughts into action, for if you do, in two months you will be eating your own clothes, your servant and your pony, having made an enemy of your patron and of paradise, in case you go there. That martial and fulminating manner you should regard as a bizarre and bestial gesture, that bragging of what you did and said to the French, as, giving yourself a thousand followers and two hundred helmets, you proceed to take castles, burn villages, plunder peoples and seize treasures; and if you merely wish to cut a couple of capers on your charger in front of your lady love, with your head all decked out in feathers, stay at home; you can do is just as well here! For a gaudeamus in front of a hen-roost, you go without bread for supper for a week, and for a bundle of rags, which is your booty, and a prison, which is yours whenever God wills it, you have as recompense the right to come home with a staff in your hand and to sell everything you have, even to your vineyard, in order to keep put of the domo Petri.

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I am overjoyed at the statue of Peace and her flames burning up the arms of war which was placed on the Medici palace, and it is right that this most admirable work should be set up in the worthiest spot in the city. [Translated by Thomas Caldecot Chubb]

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