Following In Their Ink Stains

Angelo Poliziano, Letter to Paolo Cortesi:

I beg you, don’t bind yourself to that superstition which would allow nothing of your own to delight you, and force you never to turn your eyes away from Cicero. But when you have read Cicero and other good authors much and often, and have worn out their pages, learned them, cooked them down, and filled your heart with the knowledge of many things, and now you will prepare to compose something, it is now that I would have you swim without a life preserver (as they say). You should occasionally be your own adviser, and set aside that fretful and anxious solicitude of writing only Cicero – make a trial of your own strength! For those who only contemplate with astonishment those ridiculous things which you all call lineaments are neither able to imitate them well enough (believe me), and at the same time, they slow the action of one’s own intelligence, and as it were stand in the runner’s way and make (to use the expression from Plautus) a delay. But as one cannot run well if they strive only to place their foot in other people’s tracks, so no one can write well if they do not dare to depart from what has been written before. Finally, you should consider that it is the mark of an unlucky intellect to bring nothing forth of its own, but always to imitate others.

Angelo Poliziano

quaeso, ne superstitione ista te alliges, ut nihil delectet quod tuum plane sit, et ut oculos a Cicerone deicias. Sed cum Ciceronem, cum bonos alios multum diuque legeris, contriveris, edidiceris, concoxeris et rerum multarum cognitione pectus impleveris, ac iam componere aliquid ipse parabis, tum demum velim (quod dicitur) sine cortice nates, atque ipse tibi sis aliquando in consilio, sollicitudinemque illam morosam nimis et anxiam deponas effingendi tantummodo Ciceronem tuasque denique vires universas pericliteris. Nam qui tantum ridicula ista quae vocatis liniamenta contemplantur attoniti, nec illa ipsa (mihi crede) satis repraesentant, et impetum quodammodo retardant ingenii sui, currentique velut obstant, et(ut utar Plautino verbo) remoram faciunt. Sed ut bene currere non potest qui pedem ponere studet in alienis tantum vestigiis, ita nec bene scribere qui tamquam de praescripto non audet egredi. Postremo scias infelicis esse ingenii nihil a se promere, semper imitari.

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