Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sir John Hawkwood and the Friars

This was the merry answer which Messer Giovanni Augut gave to two minor friars who, going to him on some business at one of his castles where he happened to be, and coming into his presence, said, as was their custom: "God give you peace, my lord." To which he replied instantly: "May God take away your alms." The friars in alarm said: "Signor, why do you speak so to us?" Hawkwood replied: "Why did you then speak so to me?" The friars replied: "We thought to be kind." And Hawkwood said: "How could you mean to be kind when you come to me and say: 'May God make you die of hunger'? Do you not know that I live by war, and that peace would be my undoing, and that as I live by war so you live by alms, and that the answer I made to you was the same as your salutation!"

The friars shrugged their shoulders and said: "You are right; forgive us. We are stupid men." . . . And certainly it is true that this man fought in Italy longer than any other man ever did—he fought sixty years, and nearly every part became his tributary. So well did he manage his affairs that there was little peace in Italy in his days. And woe to those men and peoples who believe too much in his kind, because peoples and cities live and grow by peace, and these men live and grow by war. —

Sacchetti: Novelle, 181.

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