Andrea Vitali's Essays

Minchiate in Literature

Minchiate and Germini from the XVth to the XIXth century

 

This essay corresponds in Italian to the text I Tarocchi in Letteratura III. On 'Minchiate in Literature' see also in English Tarot in Literature I and II.

 

 

Translation assistance by Michael S. Howard, June 2014

 

Luigi Pulci - Pietro Aretino - Antonfrancesco Grazzini - Gigio Artemio Giancarli - Brunetto Latini / Chiaro Davanzati - Agnolo Firenzuola - Alessandro Allegri - Michelangelo Buonarroti il Giovane -  Gio. Battista Fagiuoli - Gregorio Bracceschi - Lorenzo Panciatichi - Giovan Santi Saccenti - Carlo Goldoni - Giovanni Maria Lampredi - Filippo Pananti -  Ippolito Neri

 

 

The theme discussed here completes what was described in the essays Tarot in Literature I and II. Specifically, further investigation is carried out on the literary aspects of Minchiate, i.e. the tarot of Tuscany. Here we'll start by saying that in the fifteenth century the term Minchiate (or Sminchiate) designated a game with a certain number of triumphs (we don't know the exact number). For most of the sixteenth century this term was replaced by that of Germini, a corruption of the Latin term Gemini, i.e. the zodiacal sign of Gemini which was also used. Along with the name, the number of triumphs also changed (40 and the Fool in Germini), with the sign of Gemini, card XXXV, as the highest of the added triumphs. From the seventeenth century on, the word Minchiate was recovered to indicate the game. A different name was used in Liguria and Sicily, where it was called the game of Ganellini or Ganellini from the name given to triumph number I, i.e. the Bagatto or Magician, as listed in the most ancient treatise on Minchiate, which was found by us recently. Although the term Sminchiate has been used without any undignified intent since the XVIIth century by Bolognese players to indicate a specific action during the game, the same word, derived from the term Minchiata, originally meant something foolish and worthless (1), coinciding in this sense with the meaning of the word Tarocco (2).

 

Literature

 

One of the first documents - if not the very first - in which the term minchiate appears in reference to a game is in a letter that Luigi Pulci (1432-1484) on August 23, 1466, addressed to the young Lorenzo de' Medici. In it, Pulci, among other things, writes about of how he cannot wait to challenge him in Minchiate, Passadieci and Sbaraglino. Below is the letter in its entirety (3):

 

Original text

 

A Lorenzo

 

Egli è ben vero, che come io mi discosto da te, mio Lauro, mi parto dalla ragione; e, per questo peccato ch' io ti lasciai, Febo indignato con meco, m’à lasciato infermare. Ieri per disperato mi fuggì per una maglia di mano del Bisticci: qui con certi alberelli  e consigli di Salay mi governo. Sarei venuto a te a rendermi in colpa. Ma non vorrei che Cristo si facessi però tanto di casa, che se ne venissi un tratto insino al letto a farmi la mattinata. Pure, se avessi cavallo, ho sì gran voglia di rivederti, ch' io verrei costì per isvisarti alle minchiate, a passadieci, a sbaraglino, come tu sai ch' io ti concio; e anco mi ricordo che s’avea a fare non so che sonetti. Sforzeromi venire presto, se starai costì qualche giorno;  per oggi sono di schiatta di pesello fresco. Ser Mariano mi disse tu dicesti si mandassi per la cornamusa e pel trombone; essi mandato; e credo sieno acconci. La cornamusa feci aconciare prima partissi. Vorrassi pure avergli costì; e s' io fussi stato di miglior forza, gli arei arrecati. Mandai a madonna Lucretia uno sonetto, mandoti la copia. E racomandomi a te, saluta il mio Piero Allarmimi e Sigismondo, e, se v'è, Cosimo Bartoli; e tutti vi ricordate di me. E, se degnassi col nostro aconcio venire un giorno in qua, sai dove è una antica povera casa; e tutti ci rallegrerai. Vale. A dì 23 d'Agosto 1466.

                                                           

                                                                                                         Luigi tuo al Palagio

 

Vorrei mi mandassi un fiasco di vin bianco; ché qui non se ne truova se non forti e cattivi. Fallo dare allo aportatore; e avvisami quanto ci starai, chè vorrei pure vederti.

 

To Lorenzo

 

It is quite true that as soon as I walk away from you, my Lauro, I walk away from reason, and for this sin I have committed in leaving you, Phoebus, indignant with me, allowed me to get sick (1). Yesterday, in desperation, I escaped with difficulty from the hands of Bisticci (2): here I can govern myself (to save myself from the illness) with certain ointments and Salay’s advice (3). I would come to you to excuse me, but I would not want to take the risk that Christ might come near enough to me to sing at night by my bed. I have a great desire to see you again, and if I had a horse I would come to you to challenge you at Minchiate, at Passadieci [literally, Pass ten], at Sbaraglino [literally, Outperform], and you know how I mistreated you (4). I'll try to come soon if you stay there for a few days; today I feel like I'm a fresh pea (5). Ser Mariano told me that you told him to send you the bagpipes and trombone; Mariano sent them (to you); and I believe that they are well settled. I had the pipes fixed before leaving you. I would have liked to have the instruments with me, and if I were stronger, I would have brought them to you. I sent a sonnet to Lady Lucrezia, I'll send you a copy. And, please, send my greetings to Piero Allarmimi and Sigismondo, and, if he is there, Cosimo Bartoli; and remember them all from me. And if you deign to meet our desire to one day to come to us, you know where an old and poor house if found (that of the Pulci). Be well. On the 23rd of August, 1466.

 

                                                   Your Luigi to the Palace (Your Luigi who writes to the Palace, where Lorenzo was).

 

I would like you to send me a bottle of white wine; because here are found only strong and bad wines. Have it given to the courier, and let me know how long you will be (at the palace), because I'd also like to see you.

 

(1)  For this reason Pulci did not go to Lorenzo and apprise him on some small business.

(2) perhaps from the hands of the physician Jacopo Bisticci.

(3) The Arab Beritteo Salyasse Squarciaferro, perhaps so called from the Arabic Salla(y), part of the formula that accompanied the name of Mohammed, understood as the name of the Prophet and thus of power.

(4) Lorenzo almost always lost to Pulci.

(5) that is, without strength.

 

In addition to the term minchiate we are indebted to Pulci for two of its derivatives, namely minchiattarri (in some critical editions also minchiantarri) and minchionacci. We find the two words in some sonnets of which the first (4), presented as an anti-Milanese and anti-vegetarian satire, was composed when he found himself in Milan. Here the term refers not to the card players, but to the Milanese considered minchione, i.e. fools, idiots, coglioni [‘balls’, meaning ‘morons’], compared by the poet to the horned owl, or “chiù,” for the cadence of their speech, displeasing to the poet.

 

Original text

 

Questi magna ravizi, rave, e verzi,
     che ne mangiava un sol per tre giganti,
     tanto che son ravizi tutti quanti,
     e’ non sapranno ricever poi gli scherzi.

 

Ma perch'io gli scudisci un poco o sferzi,
     non è opera umana, ma di santi;
     ma e' bisogna volger dietro a' canti,
     se non ch'è metterien le mani a' berzi.

 

E dicon gniffignèr, e gniffignarri
     le ravizie, e' racimol pinchieruoli,
     da far, non che arrabbiare i cani, i carri.

 

 Milan può far di molti ravïuoli,
     tal ch'io perdono a que' mie’ minchiatarri
     s'e' non facessin chiù come assïuoli.


                                    Qui non è muriccioli;
senza riposo è questa gente vana.
e sa quel che fare' impazzar befana


                                    La zolfa alla 'mbrogiana:
et anco credo che da scarafaggi
non c'è ancor terra, che Milan vantaggi.

 

English Translation, using some explanations by a philologist we have consulted.

 

These people eat broccoli, turnips and cabbage

such that one man ate as much as three giants;

since they all have become the same foods themselves,

they will not even understand my jokes.

 

And if I whip or scourge them a little,

it does not seem the work of a man, but a saint! [since my satire is educational, beneficial]

But I have to be cautious

because they could play around with their feet [i.e. could give me some kicks] [Philologist’s comment: that could kick me. Berzi are the feet, but the expression is obscure. It would be a better explanation to interpret 'Berze' as whips, lashes]

 

They call broccoli gniffigner and

gniffignarri, and raisins pinchieruoli,

a thing that would anger dogs and wagons. (1)

 

Milan can make a lot of ravioli, 

and for this I could forgive these minchiattarri [Philologist’s comment: players of the game of tarot, but also in a malicious sense]

if they didn’t say "chiù" like horned owls [reference to the cadence of Milanese speech]

 

Here there are no low walls; [on which to sit and laze as in Florence];

these people with no sense never rest,

and (Milanese people) know what would make Bethany crazy. [Philologist’s comment: Befana: also a puppet]

   

chanting in the Ambrosian way: (Philologist’s comment:  reference to both the cadence of spoken Milanese and their manner of life. Ambrose is the saint of Milan].

and I think also that for cockroaches

there is no place better than Milan.

 

(1) Since gniffigner and gniffignarri, are in assonance with sgraffignare, that is, stealing, and pincheruoli with mariuoli, rogues, in this passage Pulci calls the Milanese thieves, which angers both dogs - barking when some stranger comes into the house - and wagons, which are filled to the brim, so that if they could talk they would express anger for the excess weight with which they were loaded. In any case, it is typically Italian expression that could be replaced with "dogs and pigs", that is to say, that could anger everyone.

 

A similar criticism is directed by the author at the city of Naples, where, during his stay, he composed a sonnet (5) sent to Lorenzo de Medici: the Neapolitans, like the Milanese and Naples are called minchiattarri, a nice pigsty.

 

Luigi Pulci a Loreno de’ Medici sendo a Napoli

 

 Sonetto LXXXXIII

 

 Chi levassi la foglia, il maglio, e ‘l loco

     A questi minchiattar Napoletani,

     O traessi del Seggio i Capovani,

     Parrebbon Salamandre fuor del fuoco.

Imbiza Janni lo’ngegno allo joco,

     Ch’ho già sentito meglio abbaia cani

     E tutti i gran mercianti son marrani

     E tal Signor, che non fare’ buon cuoco.

Que’ huogli dicer di Napoli jentile?

     La gentilezza sta ne’ cantarelli,

     Rispondo presto, e parmi un bel porcile.

Ah questi Fiorentin gran joctoncelli:

      Ch’hanno tutti lo tratto sì sottile:

     Così si pascon questi minchiattelli.

                                      Se tu cerchi baccelli,

Rispondon tutti come gente pazza.

Gongoli vuoi accattar: loco alla chiazza!

 

Luigi Pulci to Lorenzo staying in Naple

 

If we took the vegetables, the mallet (used for playing a ball game), and the “loco” (meaning “that place”, instead of “li”, meaning “there”; also a Spanish-based expression meaning “crazy”)

from these Neapolitan minchiattari (people of little value)

or took the Parliament away from the Capuans (where they can shout and argue).

they would seem salamanders out of the fire (i.e. people out of their element).

Pay attention, Giovanni, to the game,

I have heard dogs barking better (I have seen dogs barking in a better way than you give attention)

and all the great merchants are pigs ("marrano” is from the Arabic for “forbidden” and in Spanish meant “pig”; it later acquired other meanings). 

and those who have great reputations from the gentry, we would not even value as cooks 

What would you (want to) say against the nobility of Naples?

I respond quickly that its nobility is in its pots of the night (its nobility is in the containers used for physiological needs, which were emptied at night in the streets)

and it seems quite a pigsty.

Ah, these Florentines (the Neapolitans say), people very refined (also, such boasters)

all of whom are so delicate:

so they spend their lives, these minchiattelli (people of little value)

If you are looking for fava (with ambiguous meaning because the fava bean is also the sexual organ of women)

they all respond as if they were crazy.

Want to buy some shellfish (1) ? There, in the bottom of the square.

 

(1) - With double meaning referring to femminielli (feminine men)

 

In the third sonnet (6), again composed on the occasion of a visit of the author to Milan, we have the term minchionacci, which we can interpret as fools, superficial people, good for nothings, "balls" [morons], etc. Pulci, who undoubtedly could not stand spoken Milanese and its cadence, as we saw in the first sonnet, outlines here the talk of the street vendors, making an almost onomatopoeic picture. His conclusion is always ferocious, as he wishes to the Milanese, defined as despicable 'rogues” (manigoldi),to be hanged 'hot hot', that is, still alive (7).

 

The author imitates the spoken Milanese of those who go yelling through the streets selling their goods. A counterfeit obtained by inserting Tuscan-like expressions that aim to create, through onomatopoeia, satirical puns tending to mock the people of Milan.

 

In reporting the sonnet we used the critical edition of Paolo Orvieto (8), based on the manuscript of Benedetto Dei (9), coeval with Pulci, and subsequent print editions.

 

Luigi Pulci sendo a Milano

 

Sonetto LXXXXIV

 

 «O ti dia Iddio zaine e bocchè!»

    « I ofel, i ofel : i’ò mal che Dio ti dia!

    « Cazzu, incu gh’è: quel primo al cul ti sia!

    « O scove, o sprelle; o venga pure a te!

 «O schiappalegne: o che ti schiappi el pé!

    « O concie zibre : o serba a befanía!

    « Palpé, palpé: ti palpi la moria!

    « O fusalocchio: e ’n capo «el convercé».

«O castem peste»: o pesto ti sia ‘l core!

    « O lacc im b(r)och: o preso sie’ tu a’ lacci!

    « O chi l’ha rotto, donne, o chi ha le more».

« O pití peli, peccini, e burracci»

    « O ravinculo», e sian le foglie fuore!

    « Navon: pur(l)ì», ti forin ferri, e stracci!

                             «O verzi, o minchionacci!

     Cazzi, melat, ravize, e manigoldi»:

o che v’inpicchin tucci coldi coldi!

 

Luigi Pulci staying in Milan

 

«O ti dia Iddio zaine e bocchè!»

Oh, may God give you jugs and glasses!

 

«I ofel, i ofel (1): i’ò mal che Dio ti dia!

I have doughnuts, I have doughnuts: may God send you to hell!

(1) The Ophel was a kind of doughnut, and "The Ophel, the Ophel" was the cry of the pastryman, but we must consider the inevitable misunderstanding that the cry produced in the ear of the Florentines, for them meaning “io ho fiele, io ho fiele”:”I have gall, I have gall" (jaundice).

 

«Cazzu, incu gh’è (2): quel primo al cul ti sia!

Cookware today we have: the first for you will be put in the ass!

(2) cazzu, incu gh'è: “Today we have the mixing spoon” [mescolo, also ladle or mixing pot] (cry of the mestichiere), with assonance to “cazzo in culo”, signifying "fuck in the ass". 

 

«O scove, o sprelle (3); o venga pure a te!

Oh brushes, oh sperella grass: oh, that comes even to you!

(3) "O scove, o sprelle" was the cry of the mestichiereSperella was a grass used to clean dishes. In Tuscan spelle meant illness (probably of the skin).

 

«O schiappalegne (4): o che ti schiappi el pé!

O log splitter, oh, that you split your foot!

(4) Schiappalegna = cry of one who cuts wood for other people, with a Tuscan Adaptation of s'cepalegn, which, abbreviated and altered to s'ceppin, would have known semantic degradation, passing from the original meaning of 'lumberjack' to that suggesting "incapacitated person, disable". 

 

«O concie zibre: o serba a befanía! (5)

O tile fitter: oh, save them for the hag!

(5) The conscia zibre was the fitter of tiles. O serba befania! = save them for the hag [i.e., for when you're old].

 

«Palpé, palpé (6): ti palpi la moria!

Paper, paper:  maya deadly epidemic touch you.

 (6) Palpe = Milanese term for paper. In the Tuscan dialect palpe is reminiscent of the verb palpare = feel, touch.

 

«O fusalocchio: e ’n capo «el convercé» (7).

O spindle-maker: and over your head the bag!

 (7) Fusalocchio = Tuscan adaptation of the Milanese füserocch, which is fusaio, spindle-maker, together with the cry of the fusaiofus e rocch, spindle and distaff, with the semantic duplicity of fus a l’occhio = spindle in the eye. Among the possible interpretations of convercè we believe that the most plausible is that it refers to a page of parchment with which he covered the spindles and distaffs in the manner of a bag; so the meaning of the phrase would be "and over your head is put the bag".

 

«O castem peste» (8): o pesto ti sia ‘l core!

O dried chestnuts: oh, you have crushed the heart!

(8) Castem peste = dried chestnuts, where peste, plague, is reminiscent also of pestare, "crush".

 

«O lacc im b(r)och (9): o preso sie’ tu a’ lacci!

O milk in a jug, o may strings [or, traps] be put in your mouth!

 (9) lacc im b(r)och = milk in a jug, fresh milk (cry of the milkman). By assonance, lacc im broch means by resemblance “lacci im broch”, "string or trap in the mouth [to prevent speaking]".

 

«O chi l’ha rotto, donne, o chi ha le more» (10).

O, one who has broken things, women, oh, those who do not have them.

(10) One who has broken things = cry of the fixer of everything, with obvious sarcastic sense (one whose ass is broken). O chi ha le more = those who do not have lovers (more from morosità, in default. The author here refers to those who, not having paid for lack of money, have needs. Extension to "those who do not have what they need", i.e. sex).

 

«O pití peli, peccini, e burracci» (11)

O small skins, rags, and feathers

(11) Cry of the scavengers.

 

«O ravinculo» (12), e sian le foglie fuore!

O small turnips, and the leaves are out! [so that you see that you have taken it in the ass]

(12) O ravinculo = cry of the sellers of small turnips, of course Tuscanized and adapted to an equivocating possibility, as assonant with rave in culo = “turnips in the ass”.

 

«Navon (13): pur(l)ì», ti forin ferri, e stracci!

Cooked roots:  that iron things and rags be drilled into you

(13) Navon puri =  cooked roots / Navon pur li = roots even there, that is, always in that place (in the ass, as in the previous verse) 

 

«O verzi (14), o minchionacci!

O cabbages, o minchionacci!

(14) O verzi = o cabbage eaters (such as to become one with the cabbage - See the poem Questi magana ravizi quoted above).

 

Cazzi, melat, ravize, e manigoldi»: (15)

Sellers of wooden spoons, apples, turnips and beets:

(15) cazzi, melat, ravize, e manigoldi = sellers of wooden-spoons, apples, turnips and beets [“Cazzzi” also means “penises”, here in a derogatory sense, i.e. “pricks”].

 

o che v’inpicchin tucci coldi coldi! (16)

O you can all be hanged hot hot!

(16) che v'inpicchin tucci coldi coldi! = you can all be hanged hot hot (alive, given that in many cases people already dead were also hanged). In this case it also means "May you be hanged while you are still working".

 

In some literary compositions, especially comedies, we find the expression “far gemini dei tarocchi” (to do the Gemini of tarot), meaning a carnal coupling or an exchange of affection. In the comedy La Cortigiana (The Cortisan) by Pietro Aretino (10), Scene 11, Act Five, with the sentence “poco starete a far gemini dei tarocchi con Livia" (you stay a little to do the gemini of tarot with Livia) the recipient of these words was notified that he would have had little opportunity to couple with that lady. To clearly inform us of the meaning of this expression is a passage in the comedy La Pinzochera (The Bigot) by Antonfrancesco Grazzini called il Lasca (1503-1584) (11). During a dialogue between an old man and his servant, the words of the latter turn out to be enlightening in this regard: “Giannino. Cosi come il trentacinque de' germini si dipingon due ignudi abbracciati insieme; cosi vuol significare che starete voi con la Diamante vostra” (Giannino: Just as the thirty-five of germini depicts two who are naked embracing together, so does it signify how you'll be with your Diamante).

 

La Pinzochera- Act II - Scene VI

 

Gerozzo, old man

Giannino, servant

 

Giannino. Adagio, disse il Fibbia: egli ci è la madre, che bisogna contentarla, la prima cosa.
Gerozzo. Che vuol ella?
Giannino. Danari.
Gerozzo. Come danari!
Giannino. Al comando vostro.
Gerozzo. E quanti ?
Giannino. Io non ho ancora fatto i patti.
Gerozzo. Dunque, che vuoi tu ch' io faccia?
Giannino. Che voi ve ne andiate in casa; intanto io andrò a trovarla, e rimarrò seco d'accordo: a voi basta innanzi sera contrafare il trentacinque dei germini.
Gerozzo. Che diavolo hai tu detto?
Giannino. Non vi meravigliate, che se io non intendo i vostri latini, voi non intenderete anche i miei.
Gerozzo. Oh, è cotesta grammatica?
Giannino. Messer no, anzi è cifera; ed ècci sotto il più bel segreto di Maremma.
Gerozzo. Deh fa' di grazia ch' io l'intenda un poco.
Giannino. Cosi come il trentacinque de' germini si dipingon due ignudi abbracciati insieme; cosi vuol significare che starete voi con la Diamante vostra.
Gerozzo. Tògli! oh che dolce, saporoso e onnipotente motto! lo vo' portare scritto addosso.
Giannino. Si, padron mio da bene: or fate quel ch'io v'ho detto, e io andrò a fare il mercato.

 

Giannino. Slow, called Fibbia [Buckle], is at his mother’s; he must please her, first thing.

Gerozzo. What does she want?

Giannino. Money.

Gerozzo. What, money!

Giannino. At your command.

Gerozzo. And how much?

Giannino. I have not yet come to terms with her.

Gerozzo. So what do you want me to do?

Giannino. That you go into the house while I go to find her, and I will remain with her as agreed: and just before evening you will make the thirty-five of Germini.

Gerozzo. What the devil did you say?

Giannino. Do not be surprised, if I do not understand your Latin, that you do not understand mine either.

Gerozzo. Oh, this is grammar?

Giannino. No, sir, indeed it is cypher and here below the most beautiful secret of Maremma.

Gerozzo. Do me the grace that I understand it a little.

Giannino. Just as the thirty-five of tGermini depicts two naked people embracing together, so does it signify how you will be with your Diamante.

Gerozzo. Remove yourself! oh what a sweet, savory and powerful motto! I want to carry it in writing near me.

Giannino. Yes, my honest master: now do what I have told you, and I will do the market.

 

We find such an expression in a passage from La Zingana (The Gypsy), a comedy by Gigio Artemio Giancarli of Rovigo (? - after 1561), a painter, playwright and actor in various Venetian shows, considered a precursor of the Commedia dell' Arte for his use of many dialects in composing his two comedies, La Capraria (The Goatherd) (1544) and La Zingana (1545). In the latter, the dizzying mixture of dialects, from Venice, Pavia, Bergamo, Dalmatia, etc., forms a counterpoint to the variety of the story-line, structured in a clever combination of four different stories.

 

La Zingana

 

Cassandro. Voi avete ordinato benissimo il tutto; onde chiedete qual grazia vi piace, che l'amore e l'obligazione ch'io vi ho, farà lecito l'illecito.
Agata. E ve domando donca, che avanti che vu fè el gemini con madonna Anzelica, che vu la dobbiè sposar e tuorla per mogier, azò che la poveretta non fosse po sforzà a deventar femena del mondo danando l'anema soa e la vostra e la mia insieme, e cusì anche ghe ho promesso.

 

The Gypsy

 

Cassandro. You have arranged everything very well, so ask what favor you want, that the love and obligation I owe you will make lawful the unlawful.

Agata. Then I ask of you, that before you do the gemini with Madonna Anzelica, you need to marry her and take her as your wife, so that the poor girl should not become a woman of all men, whose soul is damned, along with yours and mine; and it’s also what I promised her.

 

The origin of this expression must be traced back to the poem Mare Amoroso (Amorous Sea), written 1240-1246 and attributed to Brunetto Latini or Chiaro Davanzati (12). In this work, consisting of 333 hendecasyllables [lines eleven syllables long], the author asks for mercy from his wife, having been caught like a fish on a hook. He would not meet the kind of death that Ceyx and Alcyone incurred, as described by the great Ovid, but since the first kiss he received had made him mad, he cannot do without seeking in his beloved woman his life or his death. Then he describes the beauty of this lady, alluding to what heaven and earth have that is most wonderful. He would finally enter with her in Merlin’s magic boat and then cross the arm of a certain sea, from which there is no return. But as the poet well knows that this would not have ever been granted, nothing remains but the surf in a bitter sea, only to die the death of the Knights of the Round Table.

 

Engaging all the signs of the zodiac in his poetic inspiration in praise of his beloved, the author uses the sign of Gemini to remind the woman of the single moment when she embraced him, then suddenly withdrawing (verses 171-172). The text is taken from an examination of the original located in codex 2908 of the Riccardi Library in Florence:

 

160   Quando vi fece allo 'ncominciamento,

              Guardando l'anno, il mese, e la semana,

              E 'l giorno, e l'ora, il punto e lo quadrante

              Del più gentil pianeta, cioè il sole,

              Che cerca dozi segni ciascuno anno:

 

160   When it did at the beginning,

              Looking at the year, month, and week,

              And the day, and hour, the moment and the quarter

              Of  the gentlest planet, that is, the sun,

              Which circles a dozen signs each year:

 

165    Cioè l'agnello, e 'l toro, e gemini,

              E 'l gambero, e 'l leone, e la pulzella,

              La libra, e scarpione, e 'l sagittario,

              E 'l capricorno, e l'aquario, e li pesci.

              Cosi mi siete agnello d'umiltade;

 

165   That is, the lamb [Aries], and the bull [Taurus], and the twins [Gemini],

              And the crayfish [Cancer], and the lion [Leo], and the maiden [Virgo],

              The scales [Libra], and scorpion [Scorpio], and archer [Sagittarius],

              And the goat [Capricorn], and water-bearer [Aquarius] and the fish [Pisces].

              So you are my lamb of humility;

 

170    Toro mi foste a sofferir pesanza;

               E gemini mi feste una fiata,

               Quando voi m'abbracciaste strettamente;

               Ma gambero mi foste incontenente,

               Quando tornare mi faceste addietro.

 

170   Bull, you make me suffer heaviness;

               And Gemini, once you feasted me,

               When you [singular] embraced me closely;

               But Crayfish , you made me unchaste [chastity=self-containment],

               When you made me turn back.

 

175    Di gran sollazzo in gran malaventura.

              Usando segnoria di leone.

              Or mi tenete dritta lastadera!

              E non mi siate come lo scarpione,

              Che prima gratta e poi fer della coda malamente.

 

175   With great solace in large misadventure.

              Using lordship of the lion.

              Now you keep me straight as a scales!

              And  you are not to me like the scorpion,

              Which first scratches and then does dreadfully with the tail.

 

180    Ancor mi siete dritto sagettario;

               E sonv' io stato come capricorno

               Umiliando il mio core inver voi;

               E non mi val, che non mi siate aquario,

               Poi che mi fate stare in pianto amaro,

 

180    And you still hit me like Sagittarius

              And I have been for you like the Goat [i.e. cuckold] (13)

              Humbling my heart for you.

              And you do not value me, you who in me are an aquarium

              Because you make me cry bitterly,

 

185    Siccome'1 pesce che sta indel gran mare.

              Questo mastro pianeta e gli altri sei

              Hanno messo in voi tutta la lor possanza

              Per farvi stella e specchio degli amanti.

              Che 'l Sol vi diè piagenza e cor gentile,

 

185   Like the fish that are in the great sea.

              This master planet and the other six

              Have put in you all their might.

              To make you the star and mirror of lovers.

              The sun gave you pleasingness and a gentle heart,

 

190    La Luna temperanza ed umiltade,

               Satorno argoglio ed alti pensamenti.

               E Giupiter ricchezza e segnoria,

               E Marte la franchezza e l'arditanza,

               E Mercurio il gran senno e la scienza,

 

190  The Moon temperance and humility,

             Saturn pride and high thoughts.

             And Jupiter wealth and lordship,

             And Mars frankness and courage,

             And Mercury great wisdom and science,

 

195    Venus benivoglienza e gran beltade:

               Che la vostra persona sie nomata

               La gioia sopra gioia d'ammirare,

               Piagenza somma, e'l cor valenza fina.

                er ciò in voi si trae ciascun core,

 

195   Venus good will and great beauty

              That your person be considered

              The joy above joy to admire,

              The highest pleasingness, and a core of fine worth.

              Which therefore is what draws you into each heart.

 

200    Siccome il ferro inver la calamita.

               Onde i' sono siccome il camaleone

               Che si trasforma e toglie simiglianza

               D'ogne color, che vede, per temenza.

               Ch'io triemo più che non fa foglia al vento

 

200   Like iron to the magnet

              So am I like a chameleon

              That turns and changes its appearance

              Based on the colors it sees, out of fear.

              I tremble more than a leaf in the wind

 

205    Di gran paura che aggio e di temenza.

               Che voi non mi gittiate'n non calere;

               Ed aggio di voi maggior gelosia,

               Veggendo chi vi parla o chi vi mira,

               Che non ha il pappagallo di bambezza.

 

205.  For the great fear that I have and the fear;

              You  throw me down;

              And I feel for you a bigger jealousy,

              Seeing who is speaking to you and who is watching you,

              Than a parrot of the children [parrots being very jealous]

 

210    Ed io vorrei bene, s'esser potesse,

               Che voi pareste a tutta l'altra gente

              Sì com' paria la Pulzella Laida.

              E se potesse avere una barchetta,

              Tal com'fu quella che donò Merlino

              A la valente donna d'Avalona.....

 

210  And I would gladly wish, if it were a thing that could be,

             That you would appear to all the other people

             Just as appeared the Maid Laida (Laida = ugly). (1)

             And if I could have a small boat,

             As was that which gave Merlin

             To the valiant woman of Avalon

 

(1)  The poet wants his lady to be like the "Maid Laida" (who looked beautiful to her lover, and repugnant to others, in order to avoid jealousy);

 

Of Agnolo Firenzuola, or Michelangelo Gerolamo Giovannini of Firenzuola (1493-1534), Tuscan poet, friend of Aretino, and for a certain period also Vallombrosan friar, have survived two comedies, La Trinuzia and I Lucidi, both published in Florence in 1549, a set of ten short stories collected under the title Ragionamenti d'Amore (Arguments of Love), some poetry, one dialogue and a discourse, as well as the novel La prima veste dei discorsi degli animali  (The first appearance of the speech of the animals). Besides these compositions, his vernacular version of the Asino d’Oro (Golden Ass) by Apuleius was famous. In the comedy La Trinuzia the phrase "voi avete accennato in coppe e dato in bastoni" (you have mentioned cups and given batons) is taken from the game of Minchiate to mean "to say one thing and do another".

 

La Trinuzia. Act I - Scene II

 

Uguccione, a young lover

Golpe, a servant

 

Golpe. Come perché? Le v'aspettavan questa sera a cena, e avevan messo in ordine ogni cosa, e voi avete accennato in coppe e dato in bastoni.
Uguccione. Parla chiaro, che vuo' tu dire in tutto in tutto? Io non t'intendo, io.

 

Golpe. Why? They waited for you at dinner tonight, and they’ve put everything in order, and you have mentioned cups and given batons.

Uguccione. Speak clearly, what exactly do you want to say? I do not understand.

 

Of Alessandro Allegri (c.1560-1629), Florentine, "scholar, courtier, soldier and priest" as a friend described him, tutor in a new Academy called della Borra, there remains his Rime piacevoli (Nice Rhymes), published in various places and times, from 1605 in Verona to the same city in 1613. Allegri cites the gemini game in the dedication to Sr. Francesco Niccoli, known as a time waster, to whom Allegri had directed some of his rhymes, in a passage in which Allegri advised that he would be more useful “to get busy in spite of the world, the trumpets, the fool, the devil, and the whole pack of germini” (e' corra a dispetto del mondo, delle trombe del matto del diavolo, e di tutto 'i mazzo de germini....." (14).

 

Al Signor Francesco Niccoli

 

"Gli è tanto malagevole il fare, che una Donna che fa di molti figliuoli, non ne faccia qualcun che in qual cosa non la somigli, che io sto quasi per dire, che e' sia cosa impossibile; e questo perche io veggo, che la stessa madre Natura nei gran far che ella ha fatto delle tante bazzecole, ella n'ha fatto un bel monte, che la somiglian, che è un barbaglio, e infra l'altre la natura mia pare egli a me che dia s'assomigli al bue, più che a qual si voglia altra cosa moderna; percioche fruga a tua posta (che egli è pigro questo animal per ordinario) e' non uscirebbe del suo passo in disgrazia: con tutto ciò, se per avventura gli vien l'assillo, e' bisogna, che quasi fattosi barbero imbriaco e' corra a dispetto del mondo, delle trombe del matto del diavolo, e di tutto 'i mazzo de germini.....".

 

To Mr. Francesco Niccoli

 

“For him it is so hard to do things [differently]; a woman who makes many children does not make any who does not look like her in anything,--but I would say that this is not an impossible thing; and this is because I see that mother nature herself, who in doing great things, does among them many trifles, she who has made a beautiful mountain, a dazzling thing resembling her; among other things, to my nature [as I am] he seems to me to be more similar to an ox than any other modern thing [which changes to fit the need]; so try as it wants (since this animal is lazy by nature] it would not depart from its [usual] way even in misfortune; with all this, if by chance it is in torment, it feels the need, as if it had become a drunk Berber horse, to race in spite of the world, the trumpets, the fool, the devil, and the whole pack of germini ..... "

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger (c.1568 - c.1646), mentioned elsewhere (15), was the author of various satires. One of these, entitled Sopra una Maschera (On a Mask), contains a reference to the game of Minchiate where the writer takes a critical attitude in confronting the Academicians of the Crusca, who had attacked him about some his writings regarding the "matter of figures of speech".

 

"…..laonde ne sarà almen di mestieri, acciocchè la materia e lo stile sian corrispondenti all'occasione, che noi frastorniamo in un certo modo il tempo, e che noi ci facciamo a credere di esser quindici o venti giorni indietro, e che usciti, quali di noi dal bagnarsi in Arno, e quali toltisi de' proprj terreni dal giuoco delle tavole e delle minchiate, ci ritroviamo nella gran loggia dell'Accademico innominato Canigiano, e quivi avendo udite le belle dicerie degli Arciconsoli vecchio e novello, e poscia postici a tavola e lietamente cenato, io ascenda qui dove io sono, e senza il dovuto cimento della memoria aprendo questa leggenda, e messami agli occhi questa spiacevol necessità, io incominci e dica primieramente a questi nuovi Accademici, siccome il mio ragionar loro di cotali figure di favellare sarà non altrimenti che un modello imperfetto e molto affrettato, ovvero uscito di sesto e rappezzato, nella cui architettura alcuna delle parti manchino, altre non sian poste al lor luogo, ed altre per altro difetto degne d'essere accusate e riprese, per doversi ad altra occasione compiersi da voi l'opera interamente con vie maggior pompa e con più giustificati argomenti, e che io segua appresso in questa maniera, cioè.

 

".......  whereby it will be at least necessary, so that the matter and style correspond to the occasion, that we deceive time in a certain way, pretending to believe ourselves to be fifteen or twenty days back, and that some of us having come from bathing in the River Arno, and others having left our board games and Minchiate, we find ourselves in the Grand Lodge of the unnamed Academician Canigiano, and here, having heard the good news of the old and new Archconsuls, and then  ourselves placed at table and happily dined, I express myself, here where I am without the need to resort to memory, opening this book (diary of memories), and put before my eyes this unpleasant necessity (ie, resorting to reading the agenda), and I begin to say at first to these new Academicians, why my reasoning on how to talk to them about these figures is no more than an imperfect model, very rushed, which came out of the binary (logic) and adjusted, in which the architecture (construction) is missing some parts, other parts placed out of order, and others for further defect worthy of being criticized and denigrated, needing you at another time (opportunity) to do the work in ways more solemn and more proven by arguments, and then I will follow closely (personally) in this way (i.e. as an assistant and not as an author)”.

 

Of  Giovanni Battista Fagiuoli (1660-1742), of whom we treated in Tarot in Literature II, we quote a passage from the comedy L'Avaro Punito ovvero I Genitori corretti da' figliuoli (The Miser Punished, or Parents corrected by sons) of particular interest for the enunciation of some aspects of the game of Minchiate.

 

The Miser Punished - Act. Three - Scene XVI

The Scene is set in a village near Florence

 

Lena, a widow

Ciapo, a farmer, Lena’s father

Meo, a servant

Anselmo, an old miser

 

Lena. Ma me padre, che volete voi, che campi questo vecchio? io credo che gli abbaia ottant'anni.
Ciapo. Tieni a mente, che vuol morir dopo di mene; almanco perch'io non abbia questa consolazione.
Meo. Da voi non è venuto, che non sballi ogni volta.
Ciapo. T'hai ragione; e s'io davo più forte, potevo vincere il giuoco marcio.
Lena. Che giuoco? che giuocavi con Anselmo?
Meo. Si, e' giocava alle minchiate, e dette l'asso di bastoni a tempo: e il vecchio non ebbe da rispondere.
Ciapo. Così mi parve, perch' e'cominciò a taroccare malamente.
Meo. O se tu venisti con tutta la sequenza!
Ciapo
. Ma n'ugni modo, non s' è cavo di mano nulla di buono; i' voleo, che ghi uscissi coil tredici, s'egghi era possiole.
Meo. S'è' pigliava la vostra figliuola; poteva venir col ventotto.
Ciapo
. Senti, e se lo sarebbe meritato, di perder tutta la verzicola.
Lena
. Che gioco è questo, mio padre?
Ciapo. Di grazia non lo 'mparare.
Meo. E oggidi s'impara a chius' occhi;
Lena. O vo' potete star sicuro, a questo giuoco non ci ho il capo.

 

Lena: But father, what do you think, is this old man alive? I think he is eighty years old.

Ciapo. Bear in mind that he wants to die after me, so that I won’t have this consolation.

Meo. He never came to see you  without going bust [i.e. losing] (1).

Ciapo. You are right, and if I were smarter, I could win the game rotten (2)

Lena. What game? Were you playing a game with Anselmo?

Meo. Yes, we played Minchiate, and he gave at the time the ace of batons: and the old man did not have a response.

Ciapo. So it seemed to me, because he began to quarrel [taroccare] badly.

Meo. Oh, if only you had come with the whole sequence! (3)

Ciapo. Anyway, it didn’t win anything good; I wanted him to come out with the thirteen (4), if possible

Meo.  If your daughter had played, she could come with the twenty-eight. (5)

Ciapo. Listen, he would have deserved to lose the whole verzicola. (6)

Lena. What game is this, my father?

Ciapo. Please do not learn it.

Meo. These days people learn it with their eyes closed.

Lena. Oh, you can rest assured, I understand nothing of this game.

 

(1) sballere = in some card games, going over the maximum and so losing the trick.

(2) to win the game rotten = to  achieve a shutout [i.e., where the other person gets no points at all]

(3) sequence =  succession of cards consecutively numbered

(4) with the thirteen = with Death

(5) with the twenty-eight = with the zodiacal sign of  Capricorn

(6) combination of cards declared by the players before and after the actual start of the hand. The most important was to have cards of consecutive triumphs, starting from Triumph XXVIII.

 

In the work Scritti vari di Lorenzo Panciatichi, Accademico della Crusca raccolti da Cesare Guasti (Miscellaneous writings of Lorenzo Panciatichi, Crusca Academician collected by Cesare Guasti) (Florence, 1856) we find a very interesting essay that demonstrates how one could be inspired by Minchiate for interpretations of a literary character. We are informed on the life of Lorenzo Panciatichi (1635-1676) directly from Guasti: “Although he lived only forty years, those honours that a writer could hope to receive in Florence did not fail him. He sat as a consul for the year 1643 in the Florentine Academy, and the following year held the Crusca archconsulate: which, almost renewed in 1640, had its seat in Piero de' Bardi’s palace, then near the magistrate of Orsammichele, and then in Badia, in the houses of the printers Giunti - but only thanks to Panciatichi he got to settle in the Florentine Studio, in the same room where Evangelista Torricelli read mathematics. Then Ginevra, his mother, was the daughter of Senator Jacopo Soldani ... ".

 

Below is the whole sonnet written by Gregory Bracceschi, academician of the Crusca, after which we give that part of the comment by Panciatichi on the "arcani del cielo" (mysteries of heaven) and the verse explained by recourse to the game of Minchiate.

 

Sonnet by Signor Gregorio Bracceschi

 

poet, military engineer, sculptor, draftsman, killer of men in spirit, in Rome scribe, Pharisee, and famous calculator, etc. Made in the doctorate of Signor Angiolone Angioloni my nephew, who was born on the Tiber, thought of going to Rome, and makes for arms a gentle lamb.

                                                                              

With Comment by Lorenzo Panciatichi

 

Read on the evening of Gluttony, September 6, 1651, after the Satire of the Spolverato [= Dusted]).

 

Spirto del ciel, che tra noi in terra

   Indori il crin dell'aurate fronde,

   Per solcar del Tebro l'incert' onde,

   Dove l ' uom più s'aggira et erra;

 

Col tuo agno umil, che non vuol guerra,

   Cedesti a Marte, e a Bellona, e a' profondi;

   Negli arcani del cielo ti tuffi e infondi,

   Per godere del cielo fra noi in terra.

 

Tu Angiolo fra noi in vero in tutto sei :

   E sei un Angiolon fra gli Angiolon

   Sì che in Asia desïar potrei.

 

Dunque tu sei come i Catoni,

   Che tracannaron sempre gli spruzzoli pimplei;

   Ma consumi di Pegaso gli arcioni.

 

 

Spirit of heaven, who among us on earth

   Gilds the hair with aureate fronds,

   To sail the uncertain waves of the Tebrus,

   Where man prowls and wanders more;

 

With your humble lamb, that does not want war,

   Surrendered to Mars and Bellona, and to the deep;

   In the mysteries of heaven you dive and infuse,

   To enjoy some heaven among us on earth.

 

 In truth you're completely an Angel among us:

   And you're an Angel among Angels

   So that I might want to live in Asia

 

 So you are like the Catos,

   Who always drink from the spouts of pimples;

   But consume the saddles of Pegasus.

 

Comment on the Preceding Sonnet

 

                                                         Negli arcani del cielo ti tuffi e infondi

 

                                                        In the arcana of heaven you dive and infuse

 

The poet shows in this verse, that his nephew knows how to be adventurous, diving into the mysteries of heaven, like Achereo [priest of Isis], of whom the learned Humanist sang:                                      

 

                                                       Erno Achereo gentil, saggio scoprente

                                                            Gli arcani di natura e dell'Egitto

 

                                                      Gentle Erno Achereo, sage uncovering

                                                       the mysteries of nature and of Egypt

 

Reflect how politely he uses the word “dive”, to show that those who are too concerned with astrology fall into gullibility [minchione]. About that “infuse” it means that he is to drop the Angeloni’s water [Angeloni means big Angels], much more fragrant than that of the angels.

 

To enjoy some heaven among us on earth 

 

i.e., to do the whole verzicola (1) of the arie in Minchiate, taking  heaven as the air, and only desiring the star, the moon, and the sun; having the world already, because on earth he says:  he doesn't lack the trumpets, so as to be a big angel.

 

(1) About the meaning of verzicola in Minchiate, see note 4 regarding The Miser Punished by Gio. Battista Fagiuoli.  The “arie” in Minchiate are the five unnumbered cards at the high end of the sequence.  

 

We find references to Minchiate in two other poems by Panciatichi:

 

Contraccicalata alla cicalata dell'Imperfetto sopra la lingua Ionadattica (1662)

 

Il giovane è fatto pe' balì, non per voi, amabilissimo Grezzo: Il giuoco è fatto pe' balordi. Le carbonate fanno bere: Le carte fanno bestemmiare. Mi fate un capitan come un Cerbero: Mi fate un capo come un cestone. Ed in giocando alle minchiate, per dire: Il compagno manda sotto: Il compar mangia sodo. Egli è sudato com' un porco: Egli è sudicio com' un povero. Egli è più ladro d' un procuratore: Egli è più laido d'un proposto.Come non avresti fregiato col grazioso ricamo di tua facondia, quel giocondo accidente occorsomi a' Bagni di San Casciano con un auditore di questa Ruota; a cui, mentre giocava a sbaraglino, e si doleva che per aver un cattivo giuoco per l'innanzi, non lo poteva nè meno cavare; risposi io in lingua Ionadattica: Vostra Signoria eccellentissima non s'alteri, perchè i Canossi difficilmente lo cavano.

 

Counter-satire to the satire by L’Imperfetto [The Imperfect] on Ianodattic language (1662) (16)

 

A youth is suitable [as secretary] for a man of importance, not for you, lovable Grezzo (1): The game is suitable for crooks. Broiled pork leads to drinking: Cards lead to blaspheming. You make my captain like a Cerberus. You make my head like a basket. And in playing Minchiate, to say: my partner sends us under [sotto] [i.e. makes me lose the game]: the gossiper eats heartily [sodo] (2). He is sweating like a pig: He is filthy as a poor man. He is more a thief than a procurer: He is uglier than aproposto  [In Italian a 'proposto' can be either a commander - captain - or a provost or rather the head of the judiciary].As you would not be adorned with the pretty embroidery of your eloquence, this amusingaccident happened to me at the Baths of San Casciano with a hearer of this wheel, to whom, while playing at Sbaraglino, he complained of having a bad game at first, he could not do not do the cavata worse (cavare = from ‘cavata’, name of a type of trick in the game of Sbaraglino), I replied in Ionadattic language: your most excellent Lordship don’t be irritated, because  the Canossi (3) could hardly do it.

 

(1) Among the members of the Crusca Academy the Senator for Bali, Ugo della Stufa, was called Grezzo.

(2) Giovanni Canigiani, who was a great eater and nicknamed Il Compare, the Gossiper.

(3) The author, a little further on in the writing, will say that the Canossi are dogs, and that  "as everyone knows, playing is difficult for dogs ”

 

Ditirambo d'uno che per febbre deliri

 

S' allettan le galline

Con bille bille, e non con sciò isciò.

Lo dica il Mantenuto,

Se seco m'è accaduto

D' aver due Soli contro alle minchiate:

E al gemino splendor di doppia luce

Freddato, veddi (oh casi stravaganti!)

Grandinar resti, e diluviar sessanti.

 

Dithyramb about a man who due to fever raves

 

Chickens are called

With bille bille, and not with shoo shoo.

The Mantained says this, (1)

If with him as happened to me

To have two Suns  in Minchiate:

And when the Gemini card shining with double light (2)

Cooled, I saw (oh extravagant cases!)

It hailing remainders, and pouring sixties. (3)

 

(1) Baldassarre Suarez, the balì, among the Crusca Academicians called Il Mantenuto [The Maintained]

(2) The Gemini card, whose radiance was dual because of the presence of two sunny persons.

(3) Particular kinds of tricks in the game of Minchiate.

 

From Giovanni Santi Saccenti (1687-1749), of whom we have spoken in Tarot in Literature I, we report a passage from one of his Rhymes entitled Sopra la notizia avuta, che N. N. aveva preso Moglie in età molto avanzata (On the news, that N. N. had taken a Wife at a very advanced age) (17), in which the author pokes fun at the number 28 in Minchiate, i.e. Capricorn, here called the Goat (13).

 

Capitolo XI

 

Jer l’altro quando vidi il vostro foglio

In data de’ ventotto, tra me stesso

Subito dissi: qui v’è dell’imbroglio.

Ma dalle nuove, che mi dare in esso

Restò sciolto l’enigma, e quel che oscuro

Mi parve allora, è troppo chiaro adesso.

 

Chapter XI

 

The other day when I saw your letter

On day 28, to myself

Immediately I thought: here is trouble. (1)

But by the latest news that you give me of it

The riddle was solved, and what earlier seemed obscure

Is now all too clear...

 

(1) He joked about the number 28, wanting to allude to card number 28 in Minchiate, which is the Goat [Capricorn], because he thinks it is a bad omen to see in writing the news of a Marriage written on day 28 of the month.

 

We dedicated a special space to Carlo Goldoni in Tarot in Literature II. We add that in a passage of the three act comedy Le Avventure della Villeggiatura (The Adventures of the Holiday) he has a character in the comedy named Ferdinando talk of his winnings at cards, in which list Minchiate is also included. The scene is in Montenero, a vacation spot for people of Livorno, a few miles from Livorno.

 

The Adventures of the holiday. Act I - Scene IV

 

Ground floor hall of Filippo’s house, with card-tables, chairs, couches, etc.. A large open door at the end, by which one can pass into the Garden.

 

Ferdinando. Il signor Filippo è un buonissimo galantuomo. Ma non sa farsi servire. Tutta volta si sta meglio qui, che in ogni altro luogo. Si gode più libertà, si mangia meglio, e vi è migliore conversazione. E stato bene per me, che mi sia accompagnato in calesse colla cameriera di casa; con questo pretesto sono restato qui, in luogo di andar dal signor Leonardo. Colà pure non si sta male, ma qui si sta egregiamente. In somma tutto va bene, e per colmo di buona sorte, quest'anno il giuoco non mi va male. Facciamo un po'  di bilancio; veggiamo in che stato si trova la nostra cassa, (siede ad un tavolino, e cava un libretto di tasca) A minchiate vincita lire diciotto. A primiera vincita lire sessantadue. Al trentuno vincita lire novantasei; a faraone vincita zecchini sedici, fanno in tutto .. (conteggia) in tutto sarò in avvantaggio di trenta zecchini incirca. Eh! se continua così.... Ma che diavolo fate? Mi portate questa cioccolata? Venite mai, che siate maledetti? (grida forte)

 

Ferdinand. Mr. Philip is a very good gentleman. But he doesn’t know how to be served. The whole time you're better off here than in any other place. You enjoy more freedom, you eat better, and there is no better conversation. It was good for me that I've made the trip in a carriage with the ;;on this pretext [needing to wait until she is ready to go] I have remained here, instead of going to Sig. Leonardo. In short, all goes well, and at the top of the good fortune, this year's game did not go badly. We do some budgeting; we see what state our patrimony is in, (he sits at a table and gets out a booklet from his pocket). At Minchiate won eighteen lire. At primero won sixty-two lire. At thirty-one, won ninety-six lire; at pharaoh won sixteen sequins, it all amounts to .. (counts) in all I am ahead by about thirty sequins. Eh! if it continues in this way .... But what the devil are you doing? Have you brought me that chocolate? Come to me, are you accursed? (yelling loudly).

 

Giovanni Maria Lampredi (1732-1793) was professor of Canon and Public Law at the University of Pisa, an expert in natural law destined to have an international reputation for his attempts to modernize the laws of the sea and of war.

 

From Saggio sopra gli scritti dell'Avvocato Gio. Maria Lampredi già Pubblico Professore dell'Università di Pisa del Sig. Avv. Francesco Poggi, P. Professore di Diritto Canonico nell'Università medesima (Essay on the Attorney Gio. Maria Lampredi’s writings, already Public Professor at the University of Pisa, by Sr. Dr. Francesco Poggi, P. Professor of Canon Law at the same University) (18) we are aware that Lampredi worked to keep alive and uncorrupted the Tuscan language in a period of apparent obscurantism. His election in 1780 in Florence as professor of the Tuscan language rescued that noble institution. Indeed, he remarked to the Minister of Education in those years «that the chair, was not created to teach the language using the pure precepts of grammar, but to read and explain Dante, the most famous work of whom (he said): "can still properly be deemed a closet of pilgrims’ fantasies, and of happy, strong and robust expressions, worthy of being kept alive, as long as Tuscan speech will live”».

 

From a letter of Lampredi’s reported by the editor of his writings, we chose a close examination by the learned linguist on card games (including Minchiate), known by him and to which he at times was dedicated, but only for fun any possibility of considering this type of game as a serious matter being foreign to him, by his character and intellectual conceptions,

 

"Intendo quasi tutti i giuochi di carte e dadi, e son capace anche di far la mia parte ad un tavolino di scioperati. Ma siccome non sono avaro, non ho mai sentito il minimo trasporto per quel genere d'occupazione, e non l'ho potuto riguardare altrimenti, che come uno scherzo. Quattro uomini, che con estrema serietà giuocano alle minchiate, o a quadriglio, e con viso burbero e pensieroso percorrono le loro carte, e s'agitano e gridan tra loro, ed altercano e disputano insieme con tanto calore, con quanto il farebbero quattro ministri de' più gran principi, che trattassero di dar la pace all'Europa, mi hanno sempre fatto rider di cuore. Una bella donna, che in quel tempo sospende le sue vezzose attrattive, i suoi piacevoli sorrisi e la sua natural cortesia, e diventa seria, disputatrice, agitata ed inquieta, mi ha fatto compassione. Ella perde nel tempo del giuoco la metà della sua bellezza, e scuopre tutti i suoi difetti, che in altri tempi o l'arte, o la civiltà le faceva tener nascosti; non si cura più di piacere, si scorda cioè d'esser femmina; e diventa per conseguenza una figura mostruosa con la faccia di femmina, e con i costumi ed i vizj de' maschi. Queste riflessioni mi hanno fatto fin da' primi anni della mia vita aborrire il giuoco preso come una cosa seria, né ho potuto vincere quest'abituale aborrimento”.

 

"I mean almost all the card and dice games, and I am also able to do my part at an idle table. But since I'm not avaricious, I have never felt the slightest enthusiasm for that kind of activity, and have not been able to relate to it otherwise than as a joke. Four men with extreme seriousness, with gruff and thoughtful faces, playing Minchiate or Quadrille, running through their cards, getting upset, shouting at each other, quarreling and arguing with as much fervor as four ministers of the greatest princes would treat giving peace to Europe, have always made me laugh heartily. A beautiful woman, who for that time suspends her charming attractions, her nice smiles and natural courtesy, and becomes serious, disputing, agitated and restless, fills me with compassion. She loses in the time of the game half her beauty, and makes all her faults clear, which at other times, art and civility keeps hidden; no longer does she take care to please, forgetting her femininity, and consequently becomes a monstrous figure with a feminine face, with the manners and vices of men. These reflections have made me, since the early years of my life, abhor games that are considered a serious matter, nor I have been able to achieve victory over this common abhorrence”.

 

The poet Filippo Pananti (1766-1837), forced into voluntary exile because of his liberal ideas, suffered hard times, so much so that during a trip by sea he was kidnapped by pirates, enslaved and then freed by intercession of the British consul. He reported his experience in Avventure e osservazioni sopra le coste di Barberia (Adventures and observations on the Barbary Coasts), published in 1817 in Florence, a work which enjoyed numerous reprints throughout the nineteenth century. His best known poem remains Poeta di Teatro (Poet of the Theatre) (1808), an autobiographical work that he managed with skill to fictionalize, inserting, among other humorous features, inspirations in particular from Laurence Sterne. He also wrote several Epigrams, of which the one with the title Sopra un povero che affogò (On a poor man who drowned), is worthy of our attention for the explicit statement of “thing of little value” or “absolute nullity” attributed to the game of Minchiate. An attribution that we find in the past expressed for the first time in the comedy Farsa Satyra Morale (Satirical Moral Farce) by Venturino Venturino of Pesaro at the beginning of the XVIth century (19).

 

Sopra un povero che affogò - Epigramma

Above a poor man who drowned - Epigram

 

Qui giace un pover'uomo derelitto,

   Che non avendo da pagar Caronte,

   A nuoto fece l'ultimo tragitto.

 

Here lies a poor forlorn one,

   Who had nothing to pay Charon,

   Who swimming made the last journey.

 

Chi ha poco senno, e dovria starsi ignoto

   Vuol far tutte le carte in compagnia.

   In simile maniera un carro vuoto

   Fa il fracasso più grande per la via.

 

Who has little sense, and ought to remain unknown

   Wants to take all the cards in the company.

   In like manner an empty wagon

   Makes the biggest noise in the street.

 

Un tenore a una bella cantatrice

   Offre la man di sposo. Ella gli dice;

   Io mi son messa insieme dei tesori;

   Metti ancor tu le tue ricchezze fuori.

   Ed ei: poteva averne accumulate,

   Ma le ho spese ove tu le hai guadagnate.

 

A tenor to a beautiful singer

   Offers the hand of the groom. She tells him;

   I am putting together my treasures;

   Put also your wealth out.

   And he: I could have accumulated,

   But I spend where you have earned.

 

Rombo, che al giuoco avea somma disdetta

   Dei moccoli attaccava

   E le carte mordea dalla saetta

   Un collo torto si scandalizzava,

   E gli dicea: per te soffro vergogna.

   Perchè tanto stizzirsi?

 

Rombo, who at the game had lost a sum

   Had an attack of swearing

   And the cards biting by lightning

   A twisted neck [i.e. an onlooker] was scandalized,

   And said to him: I suffer shame for you.

   Why so much getting hungry?

 

Solamente bisogna

   Giuocar per divertirsi.

   E quei: per divertirmi io giuoco certo,

   Ma quando perdo non mi ci diverto.

 

You only need

   To play to have fun.

   And that: for fun I play certainly,

   But when I lose I don’t enjoy it.

 

Fece compra un villan d'un barbagianni,

   Dicendo: un dotto assicurato m'ha

   Che tali bestie vivono mill'anni,

   Voglio veder se l'è la verità.

 

A peasant  bought a barn owl,

   Saying: a scholar assured me

   That these animals live a thousand years,

   I want to see if it is the truth.

 

Mentre messa un canonico dicea,

   Quasi un mezzo mercato

   Da certe donnicciuole si facea;

   Eì disse, rivoltandosi arrabbiato

   Peggio di un can mastino;

   Ma che dice la messa uno spazzino?

 

While performing a mass a canon was saying,

   Almost half the market

   By certain silly women is made;

   And he said, turning angry,

   Worse than a mastiff;

   But who says mass a scavenger?

 

Giocavano due dame alle minchiate;

   Chiesi lor, di che fate?

   Ed esse, dell'onor. Sicuramente,

   Diss'io, fate di niente.

 

Two ladies played at Minchiate;

   I asked them, what do you do?

   And they told me, something of honour. Surely,

   I said, you do something of nothing.

 

Son io la prima nel tuo cor? la bionda

   Fille mi domandò;

   La prima, io dissi, no:

   Il dir prima suppone una seconda.

 

Am I the first in your heart? the blonde

   Girl asked me;

   The first, I said, no:

   To say first supposed a second.

 

La presa di Saminiato (The Taking of Saminiato), published in Florence in 1827 for the series "Bellezze della Letteratura Italiana" (Beauties of Italian Literature) is a playful poem by Ippolito Neri (1652-1709). Although he was a doctor, he cultivated poetry so much as to enter into esteemed relationships with the most influential writers and scholars of the time, including Francesco Redi, Antonio Maria Salvini, Mario Crescimbeni and Antonio Magliabechi. His Presa was hailed as a real masterpiece that merited the following appraisal: "The subject of Neri’s poem, if at first glance it appears sterile, is enlivened by his fervent and warm fancy, ornamented with many picaresque episodes. so that you are induced  reasonably to consider it among the most splendid and famous mock-heroic compositions that honour Italian poetry”.

 

The work, composed in octaves, recounts  "an  event of our national history of ancient tradition, that is, the 1397 Conquest of Saminiato al Tedesco, mainly done by people from Empoli, when, because of felonious treachery, Benedetto di Bartolommeo Mangiadori with a band of people assaulted it and took possession of the fortress, throwing into the public square from the praetorian window Davanzato Davanzati, vicar of the Florentine Republic, who on Jan. 9, 1370, subjected the city to Florentine rule, and maintained this land, strong because of its military position, in peace over the course of 27 consecutive years, with his moderate regime  ..... ") (20).

 

In the following Octave, Captain Manicheo Pierligi, a great player of Minchiate, is described as advancing on his horse with a banner dominated by the Devil and Hope, the latter called Prega (Prayer), since the virtue is portrayed by a kneeling woman in the act of praying (figure 1 -- Hope, from a deck of the Etrurian Minchiate, hand-painted etching, c.1725. Coll. Le Tarot).

 

Canto Five - Octave 36

 

Poi passa uno squadron d'archibusieri,

Che gli conduce Manicheo Pierligi,

Capitan de' più bravi, e de' più fieri,

Che con la spada in man vuol far prodigi.

Un cavallo più speco de' levrieri

Cavalca che fu già di Malagigi;

Fa spesso alle minchiate, e però spiega

Nel suo stendardo il diavol colla prega.

 

Then a squadron of musketeers passes

Commanded by Manicheo Pierligi, (1)

Captain among the best and proudest,

Who with his sword in hand wants to do wonders.

He rides a horse faster than the greyhounds

That were formerly owned by Malagigi;

He plays often at Minchiate, which explains

In his standard the Devil with Hope.

 

(1) Piero Micheli, who had as his personal wish to play at Minchiate the fourteen and the sixteen, depicting the Devil and Hope (Editor's Note) 

 

Notes

 

1 - See, on the subject, the essay Farsa Satyra Morale.

2 - See the essay About the etymology of Tarot.

3 - Luigi Pulci, Morgante, Opere Minori,Torino, Utet, 2013, LetteraVI (VII).

4 - Our edition of reference: I Sonetti di Mattia Franco e di Luigi Pulci, assieme con la Confessione: Stanze in lode della BECA, ed altre Rime del medesimo Pulci. Nuovamente date alla luce con la sua vera lezione da un Manoscritto Originale di Carlo Dati dal marchese Filippo De Rossi [The Sonnets of Mattia Franco and Luigi Pulci, together with the Confession: Stanzas in praise of BECA, and other Verses of the same Pulci. Newly given to light with the true reading from an Original Manuscript of Carlo Dati by the Marquese Filippo De Rossi], 1759, p. 87.

5 - Ibid., p. 94.

6 - Ibid., p. 95.

7 - Very often people already killed earlier were exposed hanged in a public place as a warning to the people. Please read in this regard the essay A Gang of Traitors.

8 - Paolo Orvieto, Analisi del sonetto “Oh, ti dia Iddio zaine a bocché”[Analysis of the sonnet “Oh, may God give you jugs and glasses”, in “Pulci Medievale. Studio sulla poesia volgare fiorentina del Quattrocento” [Medieval Pulci. A Study on Florentine vernacular poetry of the 15th Century], Collana/Serie Studi e Saggi (Collection/Series, Studies and Essays], Roma, Salerno Editrice, 1978, pp. 13-47.

9 - Benedetto Dei, Cronaca [Chronicle], ms, 119, Archivio di Stato, Firenze, cc.1r-2v.

10 - About Aretino, see the essays Tarot in Literature I, Triumphs, Trionfini and Trionfetti, Symbolic Suits and The Theatre of Brains.

11 - By this author we reported his famous composition In lode della Rovescina (In praise of the Rovescina), in the essay Triumphs, Trionfini and Trionfetti.

12 - By Giusto Grion it is attributed to Brunetto Latini. The work Mare Amoroso (Amorous Sea) is composed of 333 heroic verses, of which 321 are without rhyme; verses 45-46 and 319-320 are related because they form puns, and four other pairs (29-30, 172-173, 246-247, 285-286) rhyme by chance and not by the poet’s choice. It should be said that the ambiguity of some verses could lead to the hypothesis that the recipient of the writing is a man rather than a woman, and so to identify Brunetto Latini as the author of the verse.

13 - A man is a "goat" when he is betrayed by his wife, who gave her husband the horns of a cuckold. About the attribute "horned", in Italy now we refer to Aries and not Capricorn, but here the author refers to the latter mythological animal, still with horns. It is possible that in the era in which the author lived, people made reference to this one.

14 - Rime piacevoli (Nice rhymes) Part IV. Its four parts were reissued along with Rhymes and Prose in 1754. Franco Pratesi pointed out this poem in “Italian Cards: New Discoveries, no. 5”, The Playing Card, Vol. XVI, 1988.

15 - See the essays Tarot in Literature II and Triumphs, Trionfini and Trionfetti.

16 - Ianodattica language = Burlesque way of speaking, consisting in the substitution of one word with another that starts with the same letter or sound (for example: Pheasant for Phoenix)

17 - Le Rime di Giovan Santi Saccenti da Cerreto Guidi, Accademico Sepolto (The Rhymes of Giovan Santi Saccenti of Cerreto Guidi, member of the Sepolto Academy), Second Edition, with notes by the U. P. D. C., Volume Two, in Cerreto Guidi, by the Society of the Occult, 1781, p. 84.

18 - In “Atti della Accademia Italiana” (Acts of the Italian Academy), Volume One, Florence, 1808.

19 - See our examination in the essay Farsa Satyra Morale.

20 - Preface by Vincenzo Batelli, the Florentine editor.

 

Copyright  by Andrea Vitali  © All rights reserved 2005