First, you must contrive to build or buy
A palazzo, something on the very largest lines,
Built to instil a basic sense
Of all that’s orgulous and opulent.
Not for themselves do Princes pile
Block upon block for half a mile,
But for the rabble whose admiration
Is thus to be compelled, who learn
From such stony sermons that beauty is
The gift we’re all most grateful
To receive, most blessed to give.
That done, live on a scale
Proportional, as, for instance, Galeazzo did;
Yet not without exceeding caution, for
Princes breed poisoners as the sun dew.
As to the arts, so-called, of self-defense,
It would be wiser not to seek to be admired
For a physique acquired by hours practising
Parry and thrust, thrust and parry.
Place your trust in bravos you can hire,
Not in those that must be earned.
Since you will, no matter what, excite envy,
You must judiciously provoke
Just that degree of resentment
That gets things done. One aims at
A state in which all men strive
To look terrific and to resonate
With your resplendent pride. But do not live
So that your heirs must pass strict sumptuary laws.
In this, as in all, a Prince must moderate
His vainglory. Think of your luxuries
As like those golden clouds that artists paint
On the ceilings of basilicas –
A way of inspiring faith in what,
Though known not to be exactly true,
Is needful to the ordering of the Many and the Few.
- Tom Disch