Monday, 14 September 2015

“Let your yes mean yes, your no, no, and otherwise, just shut it.”

John Lydon used to say why talk in riddles when straight-talking will do. “Pardon me for being direct,” he’d say.

Good advice.

Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Always good advice.

A friend was telling me recently about a fellow figure from the Renaissance character, one Pietro Aretino, author, playwright, poet, satirist, and blackmailer (apparently) – who gained a reputation for straight-talking even when arse-licking might have been more to his advantage.

“I love you, and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies.”

“Why should I be ashamed to describe what nature was not ashamed to create?”

A high heart ought to bear calamities and not flee them, since in bearing them appears the grandeur of the mind and in fleeing them the cowardice of the heart.

“I am, indeed, a king, because I know how to rule myself.”

Truth-telling however is not a universally-liked occupation.

“If you want to annoy your neighbours, tell the truth about them.”

His advice, was always and everywhere to always say what you mean, and mean what you say, even (perhaps especially anatomically…

“Antonia: I meant to tell you, and then forgot: call a spade a spade, and say 'arse', 'prick', 'cunt', and 'fuck', otherwise the only people who'll understand you will be the scholars of the Capranica think tank - you and your 'rose in the ring', your 'obelisk in the arsenal' your 'leek in the garden', your 'bolt in the door', your 'key in the lock', your 'pestle in the mortar', your 'nightingale in the nest', your 'sapling in the ditch', your 'syringe in the flap-valve', your 'sword in the sheath'; and the same goes for 'the stake', 'the crozier', the parsnip', 'the little monkey', 'his thingummy', 'her thingummy', 'the apples', 'the leaves of the mass book', 'that thingy', 'the graceful whatyamacallit', 'that whatsit', 'that doings', 'that latest news', 'the handle', 'the dart', 'that carrot', 'the root' and all the other shit that comes out of your mouth, but there you go, pussyfooting around. Let your yes mean yes, your no, no, and otherwise, just shut it.” (advice to a young female acolyte from his novel/dialogue The Secret Life of Nuns)

… and be ready to bear the consequences, both bad …

“A high heart ought to bear calamities and not flee them, since in bearing them appears the grandeur of the mind and in fleeing them the cowardice of the heart.”

… and good:

8lustsongs.jpg“Nothing, it appears to me is of greater value in a man than the power of judgment; and the man who has it may be compared to a chest filled with books, for he is the son of nature and the father of art.”

It might be said things for Aretino ended badly. He is said to have died of suffocation from "laughing too much.” So it might also be said they ended well.

It will be no surprise to learn that his work was frequently banned. And in this age of new puritanism and book banning it might be no surprise either to discover that as recently as 2008, a production of  8 Lust Songs based on his erotic poetry had the printed programmes banned on the grounds of obscenity.

Maybe a good reason to begin learning Renaissance Italian?

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