Machiavelli & friends: “the food which only is mine”

On the coming of evening, I return to my house and enter my study; and at the door I take off the day’s clothing, covered with mud and dust, and put on garments regal and courtly; and re-clothed appropriately, I enter the ancient courts of ancient men, where, received by them with affection, I feed on that food which only is mine and which I was born for, where I am not ashamed to speak with them and to ask them the reason for their actions; and they in their kindness answer me; and for four hours of time I do not feel boredom, I forget every trouble, I do not dread poverty, I am not frightened by death; entirely I give myself over to them.

And because Dante says it does not produce knowledge when we hear but do not remember, I have noted everything in their conversation which has profited me . . . .

Of my honesty there should be no doubt, because having always preserved my honesty, I shall hardly now learn to break it; he who has been honest and good for forty-three years, as I have, cannot change his nature; as a witness to my honesty and goodness I have my poverty.

—From Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), “Letter to Francesco Vettori.” Tr. Allan Gilbert


The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! . . .

—William Wordsworth


It was the dream itself enchanted me: . . .
Players and painted stage took all my love
And not those things that they were emblems of.

—W. B. Yeats, “The Circus Animals’ Desertion”

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