Thursday, January 1, 2009

Rapier Wit

From Venice Observed (1956) by Mary McCarthy:
'Months after the settlement, when all was supposed to be friendly, Sarpi came close to martyrdom, at the hands of the pope's hired assassins, who set upon him as he was coming home one evening to his monastery near Santa Fosca, accompanied only by a lay brother and an aged nobleman. The streets were empty because the inhabitants of the district at that hour were -- as usual -- at the theatre. Repeated blows were struck at him, and he was left for dead, with a dagger skewered through his head, from the right ear to the cheekbone. But he was carried into his monastery, while some women on a balcony fired harquebuses at the murderers, and eventually he recovered. He was shown the dagger while he still lay between life and death, and he greeted it with a sally as sharp as the weapon itself. "I recognize the style of the Roman Curia," he observed, in Latin, punning on the word, stylum, which means both style and dagger.'
Sic Paolo Sarpi.

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