First Prison Sonnet by Niccolò Machiavelli

I have, Giuliano, a pair of shackles on my legs
With six hoists of the rope on my shoulders:
My other miseries I do not want to talk about,
As this is the way poets are to be treated!
These walls exude lice
Sick with the heaves no less, that (are as big as) butterflies,
Nor was there ever a stench in (the massacre of) Roncesvalles.
Or among those groves in Sardinia,
As there is in my dainty inn;
With a noise that sounds just as if at the earth
Jove was striking lightning, and all Mount Etna (too).
One man is being chained and the other shackled
With a clattering of keyholes, keys, and latches;
Another shouts that he is (pulled) too high off the ground
What disturbed me most
Was that close to dawn while sleeping
I heard chanting: “Per voi s’ora.”
Now they can go their own way;
If only your mercy may turn toward me,
Good father, and these criminal bonds be untied.

From: Landon, William J., Politics, Patriotism and Language: Niccolò Machiavelli’s “Secular Patria” and the Creation of an Italian National Identity, 2005, Peter Lang: New York, p. 94.

Date: 1513 (original in Italian); 1971 (translation in English)

By: Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)

Translated by: Quintin Hoare (19??- ) and Geoffrey Nowell-Smith (19??- )

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