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Don Tarquinio
A Kataleptic Phantasmatic

Chapter IX


While we washed our fingers on entering, Ippolito threw aside his writing, making room for us on the big black heap of cushions. He was too grand a prince to be a bad host.

As soon as the servitors were gone, Gioffredo began again to recite his adventures with much noise and gesture. I let him talk; and sat a little apart, in silence, thinking my proper thoughts, wishing for the time when I might consult Ippolito thereon. A twice-told tale is not always very amusing: but the Borgia boy gabbled so insistently and so incessantly that I at last was compelled to listen. I will not set down his words: for they were of no importance whatever, but merely as bright and as sharp and as pleasant and also as ephemeral as the foam of the sea. He omitted no singular particular of his exploits. Had the matter been


an Easter shrift, it could not have been more explicit. He was exquisitely droll, frankly shameless.

Ippolito gradually lapsed into gloom: a species of distaste affected him. But I, for want of something better, began to be amused. The thing was infectious. And anon, when I also began to speak in the same strain, the cardinal revolted against us both, crying:

“Is woman all? Is there naught else in Total Christendom to serve you in passing time? Thou, o Prince of Squillace, hast tried war: men name thee fearless. It can be seen that thou hast lively wits as well as robust sinews. Canst thou not use these for Madonna Sancia thy wife, or for thy Most Holy Father in His need, leaving vulgar adventures to pages or apprentices? And thou, o Sideynes, hast hyperexcellent parts. We never have seen an adolescent more godlike in white splendour of body and mind, though thou knowest that We keep xl merchants travelling over the orb of the earth solely to seek and to purchase for Us


such monstrosities. There is not a man, there is not a sovereign, equal to thee in birth. Th’ art healthy, strong. With the sword thou hast not a peer: also, Messeri Claudio and Pierettore Arrivabene both say that thy written Greek might be the Greek of an archangel. And they should know, having been the friends of the Divine Poliziano, on whom be peace. It is true that We could kill thee with one hand. Domeniddio so made Us: putting into these limbs that which, after mature consideration, He might have put into Our head. Different calamities oppress different persons.1 Of advantages also each hath his own: to Us, Our purple and Our strength of body: to the Prince of Squillace, lusty sinews and a daring mind and an opportunity: to thee, o Sideynes, splendid wits, adolescence full of grace, and the aspect of one nourished on the marrow and

1. συμφορὰ [δ’] ἑτέρους ἑτέρα πιέζει (Eyripides) [sumphora [d’] heterous hetera piezei: Alcestis, 393–4]. These conversations are interesting, as showing the taste of the times for displaying acquaintance with the Greek writers, if on no other account. [It is curious, though, that they only display an acquaintance with the standard Greek authors a schoolboy might learn and never dive into obscurities…]


nerves of lions. And ye ij are content to squander these gifts on women.”

Thus he spoke; and the speech was a very memorable one. The sudden outburst and the pungent force of it set me striding to and fro, with my fists clenched and my brows drawn straight to the upright furrow above dilated eyes, sea-blue, glittering. And now my mind was in a whirl: for I knew that this was my chance for speaking unwinged words, which should lie and germinate and bear fruit there where I flung them. I could not ask for boons. I could not propose plans. But, with certain furious selected speeches, I might disclose the intimate root of mine unhappiness, of my despair.

But Gioffredo instantly had taken him up, saying:

“Where is Our opportunity, o prudent Purpled Person? Give Us Our Sancia; and she shall swoon with joy. Give Us Our free-lances; and We will lead them against devils. But, when there is neither wife nor war for Us,


when Sancia is yet in the straw, and the Keltic army is about to take flight, and our Most Holy Father sitteth silent and solemn in the Castle, what else can We do but accept such adventures as We find?”

But I stopped in my fierce striding; and inveighed, saying:

“Hear Us also, o Hebe, Us, thy Sideynes, descended from Zeys not only on the spade but also on the distaff side.1 Thou well knowst how We are: Our house being under the Great Ban, Our palace razed, Our princes bandits, Madonno Marcantonio a meek student in exile, Madonno Francesco in exile with a price upon his head, Madonno Giorgio in exile, hunted for his life since he slew Colonna. Why should We not amuse Ourself with the Prince of Squillace, seeing that no better way lieth open to Us? Why dost thou decry such pleasures, when thine own hero Herakles married

1. οὐ μόνον πρὸς πατρὸς ἀλλὰ καὶ πρὸς μητρὸς ἀπὸ Διὸς γεγονότες (Isokrates) [ou monon pros patros alla kai pros mêtros apo Dios gegonotes (sic), Helenae Encomium, 43].


the most women that ever one man did?1 Know that Our adolescence burneth like a furnace vij times heated. It must have vent. Where can we vent it? We are tolerated in this place only by cause of thy protection and of Our Own insignificance. What advantage is life to Us?2 What chance of a career have We?”

Ippolito threw up his grand head; and sturdily injuncted, saying:

“Make a career with that thine intellect, o dear Sideynes. Where the will is, there will be a way.3 In spite of thy words, thou knowst that the pleasures of sense are inferior to the pleasures of the intellect. Let thy mind be thy ruler and governour. As Messer Lionardo4 saith, Make thine own life as thou wouldst make any other work of art: the life

1. πλείστας ἀνὴρ εἷς ῾Ηρακλῆς ἔγημε δή (Sophokles) [pleistas anêr heis Hêraklês egême dê, Trachiniae, 460].

2. τί μοι ζῆν κύδιον (Eyripides) [ti moi zên kudion, Alcestis, 960].

3. θάρσει παρέσται μηχανὴ δραστήριος. (Aischylos) [tharsei parestai mêchanê drastêrios, Septem, 1041].

4. This is Lionardo da Vinci.


of intellect should be of intellect’s own design: to have but not to be had,1 is the rule from which intellect must not swerve. Further, trust in thy splendid stars; and take no count of Fortune, whose name is not in any martyrologium.2 She hath, indeed, no Divine Creator, for any man may make her at his will: of whom Messer Decimus Junius Juvenalis hath written, Thou, o Fortune, art not divine where prudence is, for it is we, we, who make thee a goddess and place thee in heaven.3 Why dost thou pause to play the fool? By cause that thou art not free to work out thine own salvation? So. Now mark me well and closely, o Sideynes. Be it known to thee that Alexander, magnificent, invincible, loveth beauty, loveth wit; and

1. Habere non haberi.

2. The Roman Martyrology is the official roll of sanctity.

3. Nullum numen habes, si sit prudentia: nos te, nos facimus, Fortuna, deam; cœloque locamus. (Satura X.)


those twain in one person need not lack His favour for a paltry disability, such as the Great Ban. Wilt thou serve Him with thy body, with thy mind? With the last, thou wilt have a chance of shewing thy goodness.1 Know also that on the morrow We ride to Vatican, where We shall render a certain account. This done, it will be Our privilege to demand a boon. Thou wilt go with Us, o Sideynes?”

Gioffredo wagged a long leg, plump, carnation-coloured, out of his brown fur nightgown; and yelped, saying:

“No, no, go not, o Tarquinio: for Our Most Holy Father starveth Himself and His guests. But We and thou will ride to Vatican with the lord cardinal; and there part peacefully. He will proceed by Lo Andare to render his said account: but we ij will cross to Our palace of Traspontina, where food is,

1. κινδυνεύσεις ἐπιδεῖξαι χρηστὸς εἶναι (Xenophon) [kinduneuseis epideixai chrêstos einai, Memorabilia, 2.3.17].


and wine, and many maids-of-honour to be tickled.”

Ippolito angrily ejaculated:

“Women again!”

To whom the pert prince responded, saying:

“But only for passing the afternoon pleasantly, which is the point of Our argument.”

The noble strong young cardinal gravely said:

“Thy Venus We totally disregard.1 The point of the whole argument is the salvation of Our well-beloved friend, Prince Tarquinio.”

Thus he spoke; and it was enough. I kneeled to him, kissing his sapphire, and saying:

“We accede to the Lord Cardinal of Ferrara:2 for thou, o Hebe, art not only grand

1. τὴν σὴν δὲ Κύπριν πόλλ’ ἐγὼ χαίρειν λέγω (Eyripides) [tên sên de Kuprin poll’ egô chairein legô, Hippolytus, 113].

2. This is a witty misuse of the formula employed in the Conclave, when cardinals elect the Paparch by the way of accession after the way of scrutiny has failed.


but also good. Nevertheless We will not dine with our Lord the Paparch: for food, and food in bulk, We must have lest Our wits wither and Our sinews shrivel. Neither will We consent to ask a favour, nor to accept thy mediation: but We will that Alexander, magnificent, invincible, should see Us as We shall shew Ourself to Him, and that He should hear Us as it were by accident. If that can be contrived, well. If not, let Us have a chance of serving Him, so that We may compel Him to deal fairly by Us. If neither of these things can be done now, bear them in mind. Now that thou knowst Our desire, We are content to wait patiently for some benignant affection of Our stars; and We no more will meddle with base matters.”

Thus I spoke: for the genuine loving-kindness of Ippolito cheered me. I knew not, at that moment, anything save that I was happier in my mind; and, being at length desirous of turning the conversation away from myself, I continued, saying:


“But tell Us, o Hebe, hast thou never amused thyself as we ij have been amusing ourselves? Sometimes We have thought.”

Ippolito instantly demanded:

“What hast thou thought?”

I responded to him, saying:

“That thou at some time hast been like the rest of us, loving a woman: that thou hast lost her, and cherish but the wreck of thy love.”

He smiled; and his whole being seemed to open, blossoming like a rose. He, with full breath, said:

“We have loved: but We have had no lover; and We very greatly love.”

Gioffredo gabbled:

“Oh, oh, oh! And whom? Madonna Lucrezia? Yes: so it must be: for all men love Our sister.”

Ippolito said:

“Nay. Our lady is of Gaul, not of Spain.”

We both stammered:

“Of Gaul?”


We gritted our teeth: for the saying was a terrible one, akin to treachery.

Ippolito proclaimed, with tremendous magnificent unfolding:

“She is the unique illumination which hath lighted Gaul, and through all ages still shall light that land from the throne where she sitteth beyond the stars.”

We waited: for the moment was one of revelation.

His great black eyes became deliberate and grave. He continued, saying:

“Our Lord Alexander Himself made Us to know her ij years ago. The Holiness of Him saw Us to be lusty and froward, unworthy of the purple which Our father Duke Ercole sent Us to have of Him. Wherefore He questioned Us concerning Our loves; and, finding that insatiate desire and strenuous strife had failed to cheer, He told Us, oh but gently, as we walked in the court under the Borgia Tower, – (the cardinal was speaking, o my Prospero, of the court where the


Paparch Julius placed the image of that mediocre anisopod which He called the Apollo of the Belvedere1) – He told Us of a maid so sympathetic that the mere name of her put Our heart in chains. She was well-grown, strong-limbed, young, of the age of xvij years, He said. Her land was distracted by more than a century of years of war. Her sovereign was a slave. Came to her for strength, the god Michael Archangel: came to her for wisdom and for maiden charm, the goddesses Katharine and Margaret, all in an orchard of apple-bloom. These divine ones brought word that she must go to save her fatherland and to crown her king. Many times they came. And she went. She gave news that she was of divine sending; and

1. “Anisopode mediocre” in the original holograph. “The Unequal-legged one,” or “The Limper,” is an exquisite name for that silly, stupid, utterly vulgar caricature of Phoibos Apollôn, the Bright, the Pure, which the nineteenth century regarded as a work of art.


shewed tokens. That little girl commanded armies, strove with sword, took blows and gave. In ij years, she brought to her country that deliverance which men had failed to compass in an hundred. Her crowned king ennobled her: she had given him the means. But anon she was captured treacherously by the flying foe: they traded her to foes of her own country who of envy sought her life. The chief of these last, and he was a bishop, bought her: fraudulently adjudged her Heretic, Heretic by cause that she was urged by heavenly voices, fraudulently by cause that she stated an appeal to God’s Vicegerent here on earth, thus soaring far above merely episcopal jurisdiction. But that foul prelate had might. The girl had only right. And he was promised an archbishopric for her death. He suppressed her appeal. He laid the Great Ban on her. She most miserably died for a most glorious deed:1

1. κάκιστ’ ἀπ’ ἔργων εὐκλεεστάτων φθίνει (Sophokles) [kakist’ ap’ ergôn eukleestatôn phthinei, Antigone, 695].


for he afflicted her with natural death by fire. Wait. Her king who owed her a crown, her countrymen who owed her their liberty, were craven cowards having the bowels and brains of apes from Barbary. They minced and gibbered and grimaced; and they let her burn. They were Keltic dogs. What could ye expect? But, after xx years, that Christian King1 found that he held his crown from a girl whom Holy Church (ill-served by that satanic bishop) had burned as bandit and heretic; and for his crown he trembled most exceedingly. Wherefore, after those xx years, he let Rome have that holy maid’s appeal. Our Lord the Paparch all incontinently preconized new judges, who, having examined the whole case, pronounced her to be all that they would desire their own sisters to be, videlicet holy, maiden, favourite and ambassador of Divine Ones inhabiting olympian mansions. This their decree was confirmed

1. “The Christian King” is the official style of the Kings of France.


in form. That marvel, that miracle, that adorable sweet child, that most courageous palatine, Madame Jehane de Lys by her king’s creation, called The Maid by Christendom, so foully killed and slain, was named by God’s Vicegerent as one of the blessed carrying lilies in paradise, wearing an immortal diadem. She is the lady of Our love and worship. As ivy clingeth to oak, so will We cling to her memory. It was the Lord Alexander who made us to know her, as We have said. He Himself had her history when, in His Own youth, He entered the Sacred College with that self-same Bishop of Constance, Archpresbyter of the Vatican basilica, the Lord Richart de Longvevil Olivier, Cardinal-presbyter of the Title of Santa Susanna, who had been one of the judges of the Maid. Moreover, ye shall know that it was the said Lord Alexander’s Own uncle and creator, the Paparch Calixtus the Third, Who decreed her rehabilitation.”

Thus Ippolito spoke: but we bestowed


favour on our tongues, revolving the whole matter in our minds.

Sitting erect on the black cushions, he murmured these words in an undertone:

“Saincte Vierge et Martyre, dictée Jehane d’Arcques, priez toulzjours pour moy et pour toulz tes serviteurs.”

Gioffredo eyed him, decorously waiting for licence to speak. I was hugging mine own bare arms in the sleeves of my nightgown; and my glance was directed to the toes of my slippers which were stretched out straight together in front of me.

But my mind was wandering far away to a live love, yearning for her who was sleeping over there in the dark.