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[Q]uando io mi viddi dar certe sentenzie per mano di questi avvocati, non vedendo modo alcuno di potermi aiutare, ricorsi per mio aiuto a una gran daga che io avevo, perché sempre mi son dilettato di tener belle armi; e il primo che io cominciai a
intaccare si fu quel principale che m’aveva mosso la ingiusta lite; e una sera gli detti tanti
colpi, pur guardando di non lo ammazzare, innelle gambe e innelle braccia, che di tutt’a due le gambe io lo privai. Di poi ritrovai quell’altro che aveva compro la lite, e anche lui toccai di sorte che tal lite si fermò.
When certain decisions of the court were sent me by those lawyers, and I perceived that my cause had been unjustly lost, I had recourse for my defense to a great dagger I carried; for I have always taken pleasure in keeping fine weapons. The first man I attacked was a plaintiff who had sued me; and one evening I wounded him in the legs and arms so severely, taking care, however, not to kill him, that I deprived him of the use of both his legs. Then I sought out the other fellow who had brought the suit, and used him also such wise that he dropped it.
–Benvenuto Cellini, La vita, ch. xxviii (1558-66)(J.A. Symonds transl. 1880)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”