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Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571).  Autobiography.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
LVIII
 
 
THE POPE came back from Bologna, and sent at once for me, because the Cardinal had written the worst he could of my affairs in his despatches. He was in the hottest rage imaginable, and bade me come upon the instant with my piece. I obeyed. Now, while the Pope was staying at Bologna, I had suffered from an attack of inflammation in the eyes, so painful that I scarce could go on living for the torment; and this was the chief reason why I had not carried out my work. The trouble was so serious that I expected for certain to be left without my eyesight; and I had reckoned up the sum on which I could subsist, if I were blind for life. Upon the way to the Pope, I turned over in my mind what I should put forward to excuse myself for not having been able to advance his work. I thought that while he was inspecting the chalice, I might tell him of my personal embarrassments. However, I was unable to do so; for when I arrived in the presence, he broke out coarsely at me: “Come here with your work; is it finished?” I displayed it; and his temper rising, he exclaimed: “In God’s truth I tell thee, thou that makest it thy business to hold no man in regard, that, were it not for decency and order, I would have thee chucked together with thy work there out of windows.” Accordingly, when I perceived that the Pope had become no better than a vicious beast, my chief anxiety was how I could manage to withdraw from his presence. So, while he went on bullying, I tucked the piece beneath my cape, and muttered under my breath: “The whole world could not compel a blind man to execute such things as these.” Raising his voice still higher, the Pope shouted: “Come here; what say’st thou?” I stayed in two minds, whether or not to dash at full speed down the staircase; then I took my decision and threw myself upon my knees, shouting as loudly as I could, for he too had not ceased from shouting: “If an infirmidy has blinded me, am I bound to go on working?” He retorted: “You saw well enough to make your way hither, and I don’t believe one word of what you say.” I answered, for I noticed he had dropped his voice a little: “Let your Holiness inquire of your physician, and you will find the truth out.” He said: “So ho! softly; at leisure we shall hear if what you say is so.” Then, perceiving that he was willing to give me hearing, I added: “I am convinced that the only cause of this great trouble which has happened to me is Cardinal Salviati; for he sent to me immediately after your holiness’ departure, and when I presented myself, he called my work a stew of onions, and told me he would send me to complete it in a galley; and such was the effect upon me of his knavish words, that in my passion I felt my face in flame, and so intolerable a heat attacked my eyes that I could not find my own way home. Two days afterwards, cataracts fell on both my eyes; I quite lost my sight, and after your holiness’ departure I have been unable to work at all.”  1
  Rising from my knees, I left the presence without further license. It was afterwards reported to me that the Pope has said: “One can give commissions, but not the prudence to perform them. I did not tell the Cardinal to go so brutally about this business. 1 If it is true that he is suffering from his eyes, of which I shall get information through my doctor, one ought to make allowance for him.” A great gentleman, intimate with the Pope, and a man of very distinguished parts, happened to be present. He asked who I was, using terms like these: “Most blessed Father, pardon if I put a question. I have seen you yield at one and the same time to the hottest anger I ever observed, and then to the warmest compassion; so I beg your Holiness to tell me who the man is; for if he is a person worthy to be helped, I can teach him a secret which may cure him of that infirmity.” The Pope replied: “He is the greatest artist who was ever born in his own craft; one day, when we are together, I will show you some of his marvellous works, and the man himself to boot; and I shall be pleased if we can see our way toward doing something to assist him.” Three days after this, the Pope sent for me after dinnertime, and I found that great noble in the presence. On my arrival, the Pope had my cope-button brought, and I in the meantime drew forth my chalice. The nobleman said, on looking at it, that he had never seen a more stupendous piece of work. When the button came, he was still more struck with wonder: and looking me straight in the face, he added: “The man is young, I trow, to be so able in his art, and still apt enough to learn much.” He then asked me what my name was. I answered: “My name is Benvenuto.” He replied: “And Benvenuto shall I be this day to you. Take flower-de-luces, stalk, blossom, root, together; then decoct them over a slack fire; and with the liquid bathe your eyes several times a day; you will most certainly be cured of that weakness; but see that you purge first, and then go forward with the lotion.” The Pope gave me some kind words, and so I went away half satisfied.  2
 
Note 1. Che mettessi tanta mazza. [back]
 

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