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Poggio Bracciolini and the Perugians at Florence 07/03/2011

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Poggio Bracciolini 124: Pleasantry at the expense of an envoy from Perugia.

At the time when the Florentines were at war with Pope Gregory, the people of Perugia, who had deserted the party of the sovereign pontiff for those of Florence, sent to that city certain ambassadors to demand aid. One of them, who was a Doctor, began a long discourse, and at the start, as an introduction to the matter in hand, pronounced these words: ‘Date vobis de oleo vestro’. ‘Another of the party, a humorous fellow, who detested such circumlocutions, interrupted him: What is this about oil?’ he cried. ‘You ask for oil when it is soldiers that we are in need of. Have you forgotten that we have come here to ask for arms, and not oil?’ ‘But these are the very words of the Scripture,’ replied the Doctor. ‘A fine reason for their use,’ ‘ retorted the other. ‘We are the enemies of the Church, and you call the Holy Scriptures to our aid!’ The humor of this man caused the whole company to laugh; the flow of useless words which the Doctor had prepared was cut short, and they came at once to the point of the negotiation.

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Anecdotes about Dante from Poggio Bracciolini 27/12/2010

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The following two anecdotes appear in the work of Poggio Bracciolini (57-58).

Ingenious retort of Dante, the Florentine poet. Dante Alighieri, our Florentine poet, received for some time at Verona the hospitality of the elder Cane della Scala, a most generous prince. Cane had ever in his company another Florentine, a man without birth, learning or tact, who was good for nothing but to laugh and play the fool. His silly jokes, for they were not worthy the name of wit, so pleased Cane that he made him rich presents. Dante, a man of the greatest learning, modest as he was wise, regarded this person as a stupid beast, as he had reason to. ‘How does it come to pass,’ said one day the Florentine to Dante, ‘that you are poor and needy, you who pass for learned and wise, while I am rich, I who am stupid and ignorant?’ ‘When I shall find,’ replied Dante, ‘a master like myself, and whose tastes are similar to my own, as you have found one, then he will enrich me too.’ Excellent and just reply; for the great are ever pleased with the company of their like.

Witty reply of the same poet. Dante was one time at the table between the elder and the younger of the Cane della Scala. In order to put the joke upon him the attendants of the two lords threw stealthily all the bones at the feet of Dante. On arising from the table the whole company turned toward Dante, astonished to see so great a quantity of bones at his place. But he, quick to take advantage of the situation, said: ‘Surely it is nothing to wonder at if the dogs have eaten their bones. I myself am no dog.’