Andrea Vitali's Historical Essays on the Tarot

The Theatre of Brains

Playing cards and gambling


Translation revised by Michael S. Howard, Feb. 2012


by Tomaso Garzoni of Bagnacavallo

And other renaissance documents by Anonymous, Pietro Aretino and  Giovan Batista dell'Ottonajo

To understand the mentality of the men of the Renaissance concerning gambling, it is useful to see the work of Tomaso Garzoni of Bagnacavallo Il Teatro de' vari, e diversi cervelli mondani (The Theatre of various and different  worldly brains)  (Venice, 1585), where in fifty five chapters the author treats a wide variety of "brains" (from the inconstant and lazy ones to the determined and serious ones) investigated in the most varied fields of the knowledge and the professions (astrologers, alchemists, scientists, lettered, etc..) providing this great typology with anecdotes derived essentially from classical antiquity.  

In "Discourse XLI" entitled De’ Cervellazzi dissoluti in giochi, crapule, e dishonestà del mondo (About brains made dissolute in games, crapulence and dishonesty in the world), the author illustrates the opinion of the time regarding gambling and its evaluators, furnishing us a secular vision that coincides in many aspects with the religious one that is offered to us by the anonymous monk who authored the Sermo perutulis de ludo (useful Sermon on the game) of the beginning of the XVI century.

The condemnation of the Church against gambling had already been pronounced many time before:  one of the most ardent preachers in such a sense was St. Bernardino of Siena who precisaly in Bologna held a famous sermon during Lent in 1425.

For a comparison of the two attitudes, secular and religious, here I quote in full the section about players written by Garzoni and some extracts from the Sermo perutilis de ludo, with the addition of a carnival song composed by a certain Batiste or Giovan Batista dell' Ottonajo, from Florence.


 Discourse XLI


Dissolute brains are those that most commonly show their dissoluteness in games, crapulence, and dishonesty in the world. This passage in Exodus speaks about dissolute games: Sedit populusmanducare, & bibere, & surrexerunt ludere. This dissoluteness causes a thousand sins; such as immodest laughs, vain, useless chats, clownish words, & wicked swearwords. Isaiah, after inferring that the people of the game had said Super quem lusistis?, added Super quem aperuistis os, &eiecistis linguam? We are not talking about pleasant & civil games:  because these are honest amusement, & a pleasure for our minds; & they are approved in a sentence of the Philosopher quoting the opinion of Anacarso Scitha, saying that sometimes it was necessary to have fun with games, so that the mind could rest a little; and resuming its vigour, it could then interpret more subtlely the high & difficult things of Philosophy.

But we 're talking of forbidden games, of dice, cards, and of all the kinds, and likewise of all the joys full of lust & lasciviousness; in which the day and the hours partake of a thousand sins. Here cupidity comes in, root of all the evils, also robbery, that wants to strip one's neighbour, ruthlessly taking his shirt if possible; the deception that often goes together with theft; the swearword against God, the contempt towards the Church, the corruption of one's neighbour, the sin of anger, the insult against brothers, & the rudeness;  the inobservance of festivities, & sometimes murder. Here happen oaths, perjuries, often the iniquitous witness claimed significant, the unfair desire of other people's things. Here happen all the foolishness and poppycock that can be imagined. A player becomes servant of the game, rather enslaved, and he is not able to detach from it in any way;  he gets lost in vanity, and knows the illness of the game, and doesn't run away from it, he is damaged by it, & turns his anger against God, prefers the beloved dice to the divine praise; not to be hateful, he will be hateful. St. Bernard said this: Pro vitando otio, otia sectari, ridiculum est. Heconsumes time more precious than gold; plays the game, while walking  nevertheless to death. Whence Job said Ducunt in bonis dies suos, & in puncto to inferna descendunt. He’s not a child, but shows himself to be one on all occasions, dedicating himself to vain and childish things. Oh foolishness, oh great stupidity of gamers. Cabilone the Lacedemonian, an Ambassador sent to Corinth to make an alliance, finding the principals & the elders of the Corinthians playing dice, left scandalized, without doing anything further, saying that he didn't want to stain the glory of the Spartans with this infamy, of making alliances with gamers. Of the King of Parthia it can be read, that he sent gold dice to King Demetrius, only to blame his frivolity. Sarah, daughter of Rachel, in third Tobias, to show that he had fled from all the dissoluteness of games, said a prayer to the Lord: Numquam cum ludentibus me miscui:  neq;  cum his, levitate ambulant (1).

                                                                         SERMO PERUTILIS DE LUDO CUM ALIIS

An anonymous monk at the beginning of the XVI century in this writing of his on the games attacked furiously the Triumphs that he considered, together with cards and dice, a game of chance created by the devil, according to the sayings of Saint Thomas amd many others (Genera ludorum fortunae. Que omnia secundum Thom. & c. et multos  alios a dyabolo inventa sunt). He justified his declaration by affirming that the inventor of this game, to drag men to vice, had deliberately used such solemn figures as the Pope, the emperor, the Christian virtues and even God. Beyond this examination of gambling, the document is important for the history of tarot, as the good monk brought into it the first known list of Triumphs ever. (About this read The Celestial Harmony in the essay The History of Tarots. We remind the reader as well of the essay Symbolic Suits in which are reported the meanings of the four suits as described in the manuscript).

These are his words: “Nam in primitiva ecclesia per omnes civitates fuerunt hedificati episcopatus, ecclesie parochiales, et capelle, et ordinaverunt episcopum et sacerdotes parochiales et capellanos et sacristas retinentes reliquias sanctorum et altaria et calices et hostias. Et omnes fideles concurrebant ad ecclesias et maxime in Navitate Domini. Et tanta erat laus divina cum canticis organis &c. quod totus mundus et aer replebantur laudibus. Et exinde demones fugerunt ad infernum. Quos interrogavit magnus Lucifer qua de causa fugissent. Tunc surrexit quidam dyabolus nomine Azarus et dixit totum ordinem dicte fuge parabolice. ' Sed si tu vis mihi obtemperare, ego faciam pervertere quicquid illi fecerunt in contumeliam dei et tui ipsius amorem' . 'Et quid facies,' inquit ille? ' Constituam' ait, ' in civitatibus et castris et villis episcopatum seu baratariam, et episcopum baraterium verum. Et in nocte Navitatis Domini plus veniret ad ecclesiam nostram quam ad ecclesiam Dei. Et ecclesie nostre parochiales erunt taberne. Et sacerdotes erunt tabernarii, et capelle nostre erunt apothece, et capellani erunt apothecarii. Et sacristie nostre erunt domus macellariorum ubi stabunt reliquie nostre, seu taxilli, ossa nostrarum sanctarum bestiarum. Et carte erunt ymagines. Altare erit banchum. Lapis consecratus erit tabulerium. Calix erit cyathus vini. Hostia erit ducatus aureus. Missale nostrum erit taxillus: carte hujus missalis erunt cartule et triumphi” (For in the early church the Bishop of a community formed parish churches and chapels, so that each community had its bishop and parish priests and chaplains and collected holy relics of the Saints and consecrated the altars and the chalices and the hosts. And all the faithful congregated together at the churches in large numbers to celebrate Christ’s birth. And of such magnitude was their divine praise, that by their songs and organs the air and the whole universe was filled with praises. And from thence the spirits fled to the lower regions where the great Lucifer asked them why so many had fled the light. Thereupon a demon named Azarus arose and explained why they had fled. But”, he added, “If you have the strength to obey me, I shall overturn them to forswear God and love yourself”. “And what will you do?" Lucifer asked. “I shall set up”, Azarus replied, “in the castles and the village the bishopric of the gambling house, and for bishop a gambling house keeper. On the night of the Nativity more people will come to our church than to God’s. Our parishes will be the tavern, the tavern keeper our priests, the wine cellar our chapel, the cellar man our chaplain. Our sacristy will be the house bank, dice made of animal bones our holy relics, the cards our images, the bench our altar, the playing table our holy paten, the goblet of wine our chalice, a gold coin our host, the dice will be the Missal, whose pages are the cards and triumphs) (2)


For the good religious man the points number on every face of the dice are as many rooms created by the devils, in which they put infernal games.

Qui quidem taxillus habet 21 punctos dyabolo consecratos. Qui quidem puncti 21 sunt gradus unius scale descendentis in inferum. Et nota quod quilibet taxillus habet 6 stantias: in quibus collocati sunt isti gradus; qui designant 21 ludos fortunae quibus utitur lusor, et sunt nomina demonum.

Each die has twenty-one points consecrated to the devil. These twenty-one points are the twenty-one steps that descend to hell. We have to notice that every die has six rooms (the six faces of the die) where these steps are, which signify twenty-one games of chance and they are names of demons.

Nam in prima stantia est unus punctus quod dicitur As nomen dyabolicum. Et quando vocat "as," vocat dyabolum ut adjuvet se frangere spatulas.
In the first room there is a point, called As, a demonic name. When someone calls “As” the devil is called to help you to break your back. 

In secunda stantia sunt duo puncti, designantes duos ludos quorum primus dicitur Scartago, secundus Assobini, duo nomina demonum.
In the second room there are two points, which signify with two games; the first is called Scartago, the second one Assobini, both are  names of devils. 

In tertia stantia tres sunt puncti, quorum primus dicitur Sozo (vel ydiomate nostro Scartabellare, ludus cartularum valde damnosus), nomen illius demonis sic vocati. Et quando barateus potest, dicit "Tra a quilli" Et tunc socius ait, ' Sozo, diavolo' honorando auctorem suum. Et socius respondit ' Chel te possa portare et cavarte uno ochio, et strascinarte per questa scala'
In the third room there are three points, the first one called Sozo, (in our language Scartabellare, a very dangerous card game), from the name of their demon. And when the gambler can, he says “Tra a quilli”. So the companion says, honoring his master “Sozo, devil” (both Italian phrases in quotation marks are not translatable into English). And the companion answers “May it take you and extract an eye away, and drag you down this staircase”.

Secundus punctus dicitur Azaro (vel potius, La Basseta, ludus cartularum qui ponit lusorem al basso). Tertius Sequentia. Iste ludus fit cum tabulis.
The second point is called Azaro (or better, La Bassetta, a card game that puts the player on the ground). The third Sequenza. This game is to be played with a table.


In quarta stantia sunt quatuor puncti qui significant quatuor ludos. Quorum primus dicitur Menoretto curto, id est, ad furchas ante senectutem. Secundus dicitur Menoretto longo, id est, ad hospitale toto tempore vite sue. Tertius dicitur Sbaraglio, id est tutta la roba. Quartus Sbaraglino, id est, lain en lo corpo.
In the fourth room there are four points that signify four games. Of which the first is called Menoretto corto meaning to the pitchfork before old age. The second one is called Menoretto lungo, that means in the hospital all life long. The third is called Sbaraglio, or all the stuff. The fourth Sbaraglino, or you’ve got it in your body.


In quinta stantia sunt quinque puncti figurantes quinque ludos. Quorum primus dicitur Perdi o vinci. Secundus dicitur Sette o sey. Tertius Buffa Aragiato, aut Ronfa, id est desconza hay la borsa (del buffa aragiato). Et est crudelis ludus, quia multos ducit ad paupertatem. Quartus dicitur Scarga lasino, id est quicquid habet in domo. Et remansit nudus et levis. Quintus A uno tracto e mezo.
In the fifth room there are five points representing  five games. The first one is Perdi o vinci, you lose or win. The second is called Sette o sei, seven or six. The third one Buffa Aragiato, or Ronfa, that means you have a broken bag (of the angry clown). It is a cruel game that reduced many to poverty. The fourth is called Scarica l’asino that means everything you’ve got in your house. And you remain naked and weak. The fifth A un tratto e mezzo, in a moment and a half.

Aliter in quinta sunt Ronfa, ludus cartularum, Crica ludus trium cartularum. ('Cruca' melius sonaret. Nam in lingua sclava dicitur panis; quia ludit panem filiorem. Et ludit hoc ludo dando cartulas a 3 a 3.) Milaneso; vel al 50, (ad quem numerum qui citius pervenerint cum cartulis lucrantur), ludus cartularum novus. Falcinelle (sive, A la terza a la quarta) ludus cartularum. Fuxo, volve cartam in principio. (Ludus cartularum noviter inventus. Sed interpone l post f, quid est fluxus. Et significat instabilitatem denariorum, quia sicut fluxus emittat sanguinem hominis sic ludus, & c.)
Otherwise in the fifth room there are Ronfa, card game, Cricca, game of three cards (Better say Crucca. Really in Slavic Language it means bread, because it gambles away the children's bread. And the game is to be played giving three cards at one time) Milaneso; or al 50 (the first one who reaches this number wins), new game of cards. Falcinelle(or Alla terza alla quarta, to the third to the fourth), card game. Fuxo, turn the card to the beginning. (Card game recently invented. If you put an L after the F the game becomes the game of flux. And it means instability in money, since as the flow spreads human blood, so does the game, etc)

In sexta stantia sunt sex puncti, significantes sex alios ludos. Quorum primus dicitur Spagnolo reverso, et est ludus alearum. Secundus dicitur Al trenta per forza. Tertius, Ochaba cha (or da) lasso. Quartus, Lo imperiale. Quintus, Passa el diece. Sextus, A chi non piace la volta la dia al compayno. (Vel. Ha un tracto e mezo). Et omnia ista sunt nomina demonum.
In the sixth room there are six points, meaning six other games. The first is called Spagnolo reverso, and it is a dice game. The second one is called Al trenta per forza, to thirty by force. The third, Ochaba, that has (or gives) the Ace. The fourth,Lo imperiale., the imperial one.The fifth, Passa il dieci. pass the ten. The sixth, A chi non piace la volta la dia al compagno, whoever doesn't like the time gives it to his companion (or A un tratto e mezzo, in a moment and a half). And they all are devils' names.


Et ista est ratio quod homines plus blasfemant in ludis quam in aliis, quia tot demones vocant ad sui ruinam quot puncti sunt in dadis. Et quum omnes perdant in ludo, opinio est quod illi denarii - ubi est sanguis viscerum Dei, Christi, et sanctorum - reserventur in manibus dyabolorum, qui eos distribuunt desperatis petentibus pecunias a demonibus.
And this is the reason for which men swear much more while playing than in other circumstances, because all the demons invoke their ruins according to how many points are on the dice. And when they all lose in the game, it is the opinion that these moneys - in which there is the blood of Christ and of the Saints - go into the devils' hands, who give them to  the desperate ones who ask the devils for them.

                                                                                     LE CARTE PARLANTI

                                                                                       (The Talking Cards)
                                                                                          by Pietro Aretino

Elsewhere, talking about the meaning of the suits of playing cards (please read the article Symbolic Suits) there is a reference to the work The Talking Cards by Pietro Aretino (Venice, 1543), composed in the form of a dialogue between the "talking" cards, and an artist who depicted them called "Paduvano", i.e. "the Paduan." In this work, which in the beginning bore the title "Dialogue of the divine Aretino in which he speaks of the games with an agreeable morality," Aretino also proposes an examination of the meaning of the tarot Trumps, in which transpires, accented with an evident sarcasm, an attitude of respectful homage towards cards and games, if used in proper moderation. His interpretation of the Trumps is inspired by the emotions of the players and the consequences that the game induces in its practitioners.

The resulting interpretations are sometimes very interesting, with content of a nearly doctrinal character; for example we find proposals about the heavenly bodies (Sun, Moon, Stars), Justice, the Angel, the Tower and the Popess. Regarding the three luminaries and the zodiacal signs, the interpretation, here as elsewhere in the Trumps, is consistent for the most part with what is presented in the Florentine tarots (in this case that the game can be played at every hour of the day and night); we even find the concept that "no glass can be broken down on earth if that which is above doesn't allow it", the reason for which is that "Heaven intervenes in the whole group" of the cards.

The presence of Justice and the Angel is defined as a necessity, the first to avoid deception even in things almost impossible to do without fraud, and the second as the beatitude reserved for those who have lived in suffering. Concerning the Tower, here called "Mansion of Pluto", the author's interpretation underlines what I have expressed about this Trump (please read the essay concerned), where the God of Hell "drags to the accursed house everyone who lacks the prudence, the temperance and the strength portrayed on the cards". Of interest also is the evaluation of the Popess, from which results an unequivocal relation with Popess Joan. Aretino actually writes that she "is there for the shrewdness of those who defraud our being with falsehoods that falsify us". Even if nowadays we give to the Popess card the meaning of Christian faith, referring to the Mystical Staircase that the whole 22 Trumps signify, it is evident how much the myth of Popess Joan was present in the collective imagination of the Renaissance.

Here we report the passages concerning what has been expressed above:

PADUAN: He (the Paduan's confessor) says that in playing with you, I put on the table swearwords, thefts, frauds, crapulence, lust, perjuries, falsehoods, lies, troubles, enmity, cruelties, the devil, the female adversary [the devil's wife], were-cats, and storms.
CARDS: We would want the fool to tell us, which are those occupations that have no such sadness and ravings? Here, the stuff suggests murder, knavery, craftiness, theft, duplicity, obstinacy [or false tenacity], assininity, arrogance, incivility, betrayal, inhumanity, cowardice, Jewishness, mendacity, and rascality; nevertheless, it must be good to practice this stuff, if good people desire it.
PAD: Good words.
CAR: Who will deny that prudence is not one of the first virtues? And being so, who will affirm that it is the most important among all us cards: does it trouble itself with the precipices of others? The ones who by playing lose and tear their hearts out are beasts, not noble creatures. When the merchant loses his ship, after shrugging his shoulders he tries to recover with new business; if by chance the sea swallows his capital, making do with patience is to his credit: and with this example anyone should stay in peace who loses everything, putting the loss to advantage; and more so, because the one who plays also has some pleasure, while the merchant lacks all amusement. 
PAD: So you want to say that one who has enjoyed once has never stinted, and that one who has always stinted has never enjoyed.
CAR: You have corrected us jokingly, wanting us to infer that it would be better to be a changeable player than a failed merchant, because the cards, in ruining the one, sometimes have a cheerful appearance, but trade, in destroying the other, never shows a good face.
PAD. You have expounded it very well. 
PAD: You did explain very well.
CAR: Certainly our images comfort one's sight, as they head him toward destruction.
PAD: But is it more profitable to play than to trade?
CAR: There is no doubt!
PAD: I’m thinking.
CAR: About what?
PAD: About what I have not thought about you anymore.
CAR: Good.
PAD: This is what I have understood less about you.
The heart of one who disputes about important matters exults in the efficacy of the mind, which creates thoughts, which form things that language then distinguishes, so the one who listens to him can pick out, with the intelligence of understanding, the senses of the concepts he expresses.
PAD: Did you take this exquisite language from some learned player?
CAR: You guessed it.

CAR: Now to the reason, why Heaven intervenes in our whole group, it is clear that no glass can be broken down on earth if that which is up there does not allow it.
PAD: Why so?
CAR: Go and ask Cancer, Sagittarius, Pisces, Leo, Libra, Capricorn, Gemini, Taurus, Virgo, Aries, Scorpio and Aquarius, well painted in Germini (Florentine tarots) and in tarots, maybe because the brains of those who handle them…..
PAD: They receive of the heavens of heaven... 
CAR: Yes.
PAD: Ah, ah, ah,ah
CAR: Even the sun, even the moon, even the stars wanted to be painted to show that the game can be played during the day or night, and at every side.
PAD: Since you deign to reveal everything to me, clarify for me why Justice and the Angel afflict in a similar intrigue……..
CAR: Justice and the Angel, of which you speak, are located among us in great mystery; since the former means the necessity of avoiding deception even in things that almost cannot be executed without fraud: and this latter means the beatitude that is purchased in the suffering of things submitted to the force of misfortunes."

Then Aretino, always through the talking cards, presents evidence that as an isolated person, a hermit does not have the same physical and mental strength as a gentleman who plays cards from morning to night and from night to morning.

PAD: Do you want me to believe that the martyrdom of one who whips his own flesh is equal to that of one who stays sitting?
CAR: No.
PAD: And therefore?
CAR: You don’t have to judge jokingly the assiduousness of one who never gets up for half weeks and whole ones; so that scabies do not gnaw at him and fleas do not bite him, because he does not feel biting or gnawing (as happens to the hermit a. e. ). And also I say that they don’t spit or blow their nose, not to take time away from the game.
PAD: This is a player’s old habit.
CAR: It would be a new one if I told you of having seen a hermit whipping himself for the same amount of time.
PAD: Where, dear sisters, is the blood of those tormented by the game?
CAR: Don’t you know that the French illness [i.e. syphilis] with inner pains is crueler than that with external blisters?
PAD: I know.
CAR: So consider, if you can imagine, the greater pain of one who has not time to empty out his abdomen or bladder, even if he’s dying from desire.
PAD: It’s not a fable.
CAR: If the hermit in his discipline were provoked by such a stimulus, I am certain that with no reservation he would put a basket on the floor and say “Pardon me, brother, as I do my business." But the player would stand there stiffly with the suffering of an insensible statue, unless nature, to get relief, didn't dare to run by the usual streets. 
PAD: Poor little thing.


CAR:  . ...after Heaven interested itself in our affairs, it also turned us to intriguing in the world.
PAD: That follows.
CAR: The world you portray on us testifies to the universality of gamers and the quality of their frenzies.
PAD: Who would have thought? 
CAR: Allegorically we paint on us Pluto and his mansion, but he drags anyone into the accursed house who lacks the prudence, the temperance and the strength painted on the cards 
PAD: Right.
CAR: The triumphal Chariot denotes the victory that comes from the games' battles.
PAD: What a thing!
CAR: Death signifies the anguish of one who in playing loses everything.
PAD: It goes like that.
CAR: The fool is for the stupidity of those who despair on that account.
PAD: It is really foolishness.
CAR: The Betrayer means the deaths of those who have been targeted. 
PAD: I thought as much!
CAR: The Pope represents faithfulness in the game, and the sincerity of one who plays as he should. 
PAD: Good for him.
CAR:  The Popess means the shrewdness of those who defraud our being with falsehoods that falsify us.
PAD: Maybe they’re neglected.
CAR: The emperor has laws that that pertain to all. And also the dignity needed for everyone to take care about himself.
PAD: Sensible interpretations.
CAR: The wheel moved by fortune's turns is set with a mystery that many people see and few people understand, and even if we believe it dominates everything,in us she doesn’t have any power.
PAD: I see.
CAR: The queen denotes that we are the Ladies of gamers' souls.
PAD: Reasonable.


PAD: Now to the old man 
CAR: With the lantern he holds in his hand, he shows that seeing requires illumination, and that with the candle of intellect lit, the skill of entering into the game is always that of the wisdom of a mature man. 
PAD: What about the Empress of Tarots?
CAR: Her significance is not as in words of verse, to make the rhyme, but in the imperiousness of the other players' cards. 
PAD: The Magician?
CAR: The chicanery he has inside and outside himself is a warning for everyone not to leave one's hand to those who have shuffled and cut in his way.
PAD: And Love?
CAR: This deceiver, this mischief-maker, this hook, is the prompt that moves the gamer's will and devours him. So people run after us, although we are not ungrateful on that point.

                                                                                        THE SONG OF THE GAMERS 
                                                                                      by Giovan Batista dell’Ottonajo

The motivations for the condemnations resulting  from both the work by Garzoni and that by the anonymous monk can be found in the verses of the Herald of the Signory in Florence, a certain Batista or Giovan Batista dell'Ottonajo (1482-1527), composer of carnival songs. His composition Canto de Giuocatori (Song of the Gamers) is presented as a true and proper warning against gaming, a denunciation that shows all the deficiencies which a gamer could incur in following this vice: against himself, against friends, family and finally against God (3).

It is sure that the game of tarots was much too pleasant to be put aside, and the allusion by Giovan Batista pointing out that it was practiced also by members of religious orders, finds confirmation in the Answer of Vincent Imperiali to the famous Invective against the Game of Tarot by Flavio Alberto Lollio of Ferrara, where in rhyme he turns to his friend, indignant to have lost "three pairs of scudos", exhorting him instead to sing its praises and to appreciate the dignity of his gaming companions, the Podesta and Giulio Cardinale (4).


Love, that Heaven, Florence, today brings to you
Has the same clothes and bones we already wear.
And it sees everything of us, that we are lent,
And the infernal door
Where we are damned forever
And pulled out just for today;
So that we can tell you,
We were all gamers,
And lost our clothes, lives, souls and honour.

We were so blind in this vice,
That of this the rich respected merchant,
Despaired in prison, died a failure,
Who gamed with his wealth,
Who gave death to himself, and from that disowned
Was Christ, and betrayed;
Who there was hung;
That at the end of the game, win or lose,
Is poverty, despair and death.

With a thousand pairs of dice and false cards,
We involved our dearest friends,
We won, and sometimes stole,
But nothing was of value to us.
More sums, sooner, from more cheaters,
were lost by us, or taken away,
and in order to have money
we put aside every virtue, and Heaven,
Since dice and cads have always been our God.

Many times we left our babies
Upon straw, naked and barefoot,
In the cold and wind,
And our poor wives with no clothes.
We have always grabbed by hook or by crook.
We have always tied our friends and relatives
With thefts, pledges, and deceptions.
Ever hidden and unhappy
We stayed in desperation, howling, noises,
Curses, swearwords, hate, and pains.


Of this tar is stained everyone,
Of every grade, status, and condition;
Apprentices game with their cashiers,
And every worthy prelate
Of gaming nowadays makes his profession.
Bishops and knights
Follow the same banner.
So also the Secular [cleric], the Priest, and the Friar game
and as well the Abbot with his Monks

Are you therefore not ungrateful, you who in life stand
With such example, that never was, nor ever will be
Allowed by grateful Heaven to mortal man?
Young and old, do you love
Holy virtue and true goods?
Regret then doesn't count;
That admitted, no gaming is right,
In it is so much war,
That there begins a hell on earth.

                                                                                      Il CANTO DEI GIOCATORI
                                                                                by Giovan Batista dell'Ottonajo 
                                                                                       (Original Italian version)

L’Amor, che ’l Ciel, Fiorenza, oggi ti porta
Ci ha l’ossa, e’ panni , che quà già portiamo,
Qual vede ognun, per questo dì prestati,
E della infernal porta,
Ove dannati in sempiterno siamo,
Sol per oggi cavati;
Acciò dir ti possiamo,
Ch' al mondo ognun di noi fu giuocatore,
E perdè roba, vita, alma, ed onore .


Noi fummo tanto ciechi in questo vizio,
Che quel di ricco mercante onorato,
Disperato in prigion morì fallito;
Quel giocò il benefizio,
Quel si diè morte, e da quel rinnegato
Ne fu  Cristo, e tradito;
Quel là ne fu impiccato;
Chè ’l fin del giuoco, o trista , o buona sorte,
È povertà, disperazione, e morte .


Con mille doppj dadi, e carte false,
Mettemmo in mezzo gli amici più cari,
Vincemmo, anz’ imbolammo qualche volta;
Ma niente ci valse,
Chè più somma, più presto, e da’ più bari
Ci fu vinta, e ritolta;
E per aver danari ,
Ponemmo ogni virtù, e ’l Ciel da parte,
Chè sempre il nostro Dio fu dadi, e carte.


Più volte in sù la paglia nudi, e scalzi
Lasciammo i figliuolini a’ freddi, e a’ venti,
E le povere mogli senza panni:
Sempre stemmo in trabalzi;
Sempre giuntammo gli amici, e parenti
Con furti, pegni, e ’nganni;
Sempre ascosi, e scontenti
Stemmo tra disperati, urla, e romori,
Sagramenti, bestemmie, odj, e dolori.


Di questa pece è ciaschedun macchiato
D’ogni qualità, stato, e condizione;
Giuocano i marruffin co i lor cassieri,
E ogni degno Prelato
Del giuoco oggidì fa professione;
Vescovi, e Cavalieri
Seguon tal gonfalone;
E giuoca il Secolare, il Prete, e ’l Frate;
E ’nfino co’ suoi Monaci l’Abate.


Non dunque ingrati voi, che ’n vita state
A tanto esempio, che mai fu, né fia
Dal grato Ciel permesso all’uom mortale?
Giovani, e vecchi amate
La virtù santa, e real mercanzìa?
Che ’l pentir poi non vale;
Che posto, che non sia
Giusto alcun giuoco mai, vi è tanta guerra,
Che si comincia aver l’inferno in terra.


-  Tomaso Garzoni of Bagnacavallo, Il Theatro de' vari, e diversi cervelli mondani,Printed in  Reggio in 1585.
- The so called manuscript Sermo perutilis de ludo was edited by Robert Steele in «Archaeologia or Miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity», London; Second series, vol. VII, 1900, pp. 185 - 200.
- Anton Francesco Grazzini, Tutti i Trionfi, Carri, Mascherate, o Canti carnascialeschi, andati per Firenze dal tempo del Magnifico Lorenzo vecchio de' Medici, quando egli ebbero prima cominciamento, per infino a questo presente anno 1559, Florence, 1750, p. 407. The first edition appeared in 1559.
4- Lollio - Imperiali,
Invettiva di F. Alberto Lollio accademico Philareto contra il giuoco del tarocco e Risposta di M. Vincenzo Imperiali, ms. 257, Ferrara, Biblioteca Ariostea, ca. 1550.  

 Copyright  by Andrea Vitali  - © All rights reserved 2003