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Life and Death

Another passage from the Autobiography of Cellini. It’s stuffed with footnotes like this, after Cellini talks to Messer Sforza: Sforza Almeni from Perugia was Duke Cosimo’s chamberlain; the Duke murdered him with his own hands on 22 May 1566, in a fit of rage after Almeni had revealed the details of his affair with Eleonora degli Albizzi. I’m not sure if it would have been exciting or terrifying to live then, or both. Then again, I had a kidney malfunction when I was young that probably would have killed me.

I mounted a nice horse, put a hundred crowns in my purse, and went to Fiesole to visit a natural son of mine there, who was with a nurse I was paying, the wife of one of my workpeople. When I reached the house, I found the boy in good health, and as unhappy as I was, I kissed him. When I wanted to leave he would not let me go, but held me with his little hands and with a storm of cries and tears. Considering that he was only about two years old, the child’s grief was astonishing. And since I had decided that if I ran into Bandinelli, who was accustomed to go every evening to that farm of his above San Domenico, I [would] kill him, I detached myself from my baby boy, leaving him to his wild weeping.

Travelling toward Florence, when I arrived at the square of San Domenico, Bandinelli himself entered from the other side of the piazza. I decided at once to commit bloodshed but when I reached the man and raised my eyes, I saw him unarmed, riding a mule that looked like a donkey, with a boy of about ten years old. As soon as he spotted me he turned the color of death and trembled from head to toe. Realizing at once what I vile act it would be, I said: “Don’t be afraid, you filthy coward, for I don’t consider you worthy of my blows.” He looked at me submissively and said nothing. I regained control of my faculties and thanked God, who through His true power had not wanted me to commit such an intemperate act. Then, set free from that fiendish fury, my spirits rose, and I said to myself: “If God grants me sufficient grace to finish my Perseus, I hope with this work to overcome all my enemies; I shall, in this way, take far greater and more glorious revenge than if I had taken it out on one man alone.”

Having this excellent resolve in heart, I reached my home. At the end of three days news was brought me that my only son had been accidentally smothered by his nurse, which gave me greater grief than I had ever felt in my whole life. However, I knelt upon the ground, and, not without tears I thanked my God, as was my custom, exclaiming, “My Lord, you gave him to me and now you have taken him away from me, but I thank you for everything with all my heart.” Although this great sorrow almost stripped me of my reason, I made a virtue of necessity, and, as best I could, resigned myself to it.

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