rsz pisanello medaglia di sigismondo pandolfo malatesta 1 recto 



In Canto X Pound is recounting a period of seven years, from the siege of Sorano in 1454 to his last major military victory, at Nidastore in 1461. Though short, it is a time marked by calamity.


  1. Sorano – Sigismondo lay siege to the castle of Sorano in the winter of 1454–55, on behalf of the commune of Siena. See IX n.39-41.   
    Apart from Yriarte, Pound had two additional sources, which he mentions below. The first, Broglio’s Cronaca, is the most detailed account of Malatesta’s dealings with the Sienese, told from a point of view favourable to Sigismondo (Broglio 193-206); the second, Luciano Banchi’s article “La Guerra de’ Senesi,” is a hostile account. According to Banchi, Malatesta did not engage, procrastinated, and at the end of December 1454 betrayed Siena, raised the siege, and left in a hurry. As Siena suspected a secret understanding with their enemy, Count Pitigliano, who had occupied Sorano, they raided Sigismondo’s camp and found that he left his letters behind (Banchi 188; Jones 210-11). Though he relied on Banchi’s article and included Pitigliano’s and Trachulo’s letters in his account, Yriarte was still mystified as to the reasons Sigismondo may have had for raising the siege so abruptly. Pound gives some answers he finds in Broglio: the cold and sickness in Sigismondo’s camp and the steady stream of intrigue, rivalry, avarice and calumny that accompanied the siege.        
    Broglio’s account will be the inspiration for Pound’s point of view in canto X, which is that of a loyal follower and friend of Sigismondo.     
    Banchi, La guerra de’ Senesi.     Broglio 193-206.        Yriarte 280-83.
  2. Orsini, Count Pitigliano – Aldobrandino Orsini, Count of Pitigliano (IX n.39) attacked Sienese territory and was besieged by Sigismondo at Sorano in October-December 1454.
  3. Siggy darlint – Pound’s source for Pitigliano’s letter is Luciano Banchi, who quoted from it in his notes, and paraphrased in his main text. Pound presents both quote and paraphrase as quotations and gives the reference in the lines 24-25 below (M n. 2, 79). Banchi 186.      
    The form of address that Pound used was characteristic of Nancy Cunard, who headed her letters to him with “Ezra darlint” (YCAL 43, 11/494).
  4. Trachulo’s damn’d epistle – see IX n. 57-58. Trachulo’s letter is included in Yriarte’s Sources and in Banchi n.3, 186-87.
  5. Careggi – The Venetians had sent in additional troops under the command of Carlo Gonzaga and Piero Brunoro, while the Sienese had asked for the help of Ghiberto da Correggio, Count of Brescello (Banchi 186). The whole force was under Sigismondo’s command (M n.4, 79).
  6. refused an invitation to lunch – this anecdote is related by Pius II: “A little earlier, when the Sienese had been at war with Count Ildebrando of Pitigliano, they had hired two captains notorious for their treachery: Roberto Corrigiano and Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, the prince of all wickedness. Both now promised Piccinino they would desert to his side. Roberto was summoned to the palace, where he was immediately executed, his body flung through a window, onto the piazza. But Sigismondo saved himself by taking flight. The poison of all Italy, he was reserved for greater crimes.” (Commentaries Book I chapter 31 par.2. Meserve I: 151.)        
    This story is not corroborated by other sources.
  7. Carmagnola – Francesco Busone da Carmagnola (1385–1432) was a condottiere in the pay of the Venetians. In the year of his death, his campaign on their behalf was stalling and his patrons found out that he was making secret negotiations for a state of his own. Venice “invited him to lunch,” that is, invited him to come to the city to give a progress report, then grabbed him, tried him for treason, and executed him between the columns of St Mark’s Square (C X: n.7; M n. 5, 79).
  8. Et / anno messo... Sigismondo – ML. “And/ they’ve given Sigismondo the sack.” From a letter by Filippo Strozzi the Elder to Zanobi Lottieri, the Florentine ambassador to Naples, dated 31 December 1454 (Banchi 188 n.3).           
    The letter ran:  
    “Da Siena ci è come ànno messo a saccho el signor Sigismondo, et lui s’è fuggito sulli terreni nostri con poche genti. Ènne venuto verso Campiglia, et qui ha mandato per aver el passo per tornare a casa. Credo l’arà.”        
    “From Siena it’s reported how they’ve given the sack to Signor Sigismondo. He has come toward Campiglia and has sent here requesting ‘a pass’ in order to return home. I think he’ll have it.” (M n.6, 79. Tr. L Rainey.)
  9. Filippo Strozzi – Filippo Strozzi the Elder (1428–1491), Florentine banker and statesman.
  10. Archivio storico – Pound is giving here his source, the bibliographic record of Luciano Banchi’s article, “La Guerra de’ Senesi col Conte di Pitigliano (1454-1455).” This is another instance where Pound verifies Yriarte’s sources.
  11. Carlo Gonzaga – Carlo Gonzaga retired his troops from the Sorano siege and occupied Ortobello, much to the dismay of the Sienese (Banchi 187). Malatesta, wanting to spend the winter there, asked for permission, but Gonzaga, after initially accepting, refused to receive him. Because of this refusal, Sigismondo made an unnecessary detour and took much longer to get home, in bad weather, with no provision, and heavy losses of equipment (Broglio 202-4).
  12. Broglio – Gaspare Broglio Tartaglia (1407–1493), one of Malatesta’s most faithful commanders, who wrote an account of Sigismondo’s life called Cronaca Malatestiana del secolo XV. Pound consulted it in manuscript during his research stint in Rimini in March 1923. See also VIII n.45.
  13. Gorro Lolli – Gregorio Lolli, a prominent Sienese lawyer, was Æneas Silvius Piccolomini’s nephew and later papal secretary when Æneas became Pope Pius II. According to Broglio, Lolli had presented Sigismondo a rich gift from the city of Siena, a horse covered with a cloth of gold brocade. Malatesta accepted the gift, but did not give Lolli a “tip” for his service. As Lolli had always spoken favourably of Sigismondo before this event and always unfavourably after it, Broglio concluded that Lolli must have been insulted. Through his tactlessness Sigismondo had lost someone of good will in the pope’s entourage (Broglio 197).
  14. Piccinino – Count Giacomo Piccinino (1415–1465) – a minor condottiere whose livelihood was threatened by the Treaty of Lodi in 1454. P had an army, but no land. He used it to occupy fortresses in Florentine, Sienese, or even papal territory. Between 1457 and the treaty of Mantua in 1459, P was employed by the Kingdom of Naples to make war on Sigismondo. When Pope Pius wanted to mediate a peace between Naples and Rimini, the position of Ferdinand of Naples was that P should be allowed to carve a state out of Sigismondo’s lands (Jones 214 and ff.). After the treaty, P, seeing that in spite of his conquests he had received no land, allied himself with the Angevins to topple Ferdinand from the throne he had just inherited. Until his death in 1465, P would be a major danger to Italian powers because he was unwilling to respect any peace treaty, continuously switched loyalties and provoked war. See Timeline.
  15. old row with Naples – the old row was based on the events of 1447 (See VIII: n.10 and IX n. 17, 19 and 21). Though Malatesta had reneged on his contract with Alfonso in 1447, he had not given back the money advanced by the king for military operations and troops. Now Alfonso was insisting that Sigismondo gave him back the advanced 27,000 ducats and paid 70,000 extra (Jones n.2, 219). Under the command of Piccinino and Federico da Urbino, Naples invaded Sigismondo’s lands in November 1457. When Alfonso died in 1458, Sigismondo found no relief, as Alfonso’s heir, Ferdinand, did not relinquish his father’s demands, but did his utmost to enforce them.       
    Upon his accession in 1458, Pius tried to mediate among the interests of Naples, Federico da Montefeltro, Piccinino and his own, at Malatesta’s expense (Commentaries Book III chapter 24. Meserve II: 95).          
    At the peace conference in Mantua in April 1459, it was decided that Sigismondo had to pay 50,000 ducats to Ferdinando, and surrender fortresses into the custody of the pope, who would administer the debt. He also had to return to Federico da Urbino castles he had taken in the Montefeltro. Sigismondo initially accepted the onerous terms, because the agreement included him among the regional powers protected by the Lodi peace. But then, seeing that the pope’s plan was “imperfectly executed and only partially fulfilled” he broke away from his agreement and looked for a solution in an alliance with the Angevins, who were attempting to gain the Kingdom of Naples (Jones 223-25; M n.12, 80). They furnished him with money and troops to defend his territory, whereas he would provide assistance with their conquest of the kingdom of Naples from Ferdinand.
    See also the Timeline.
  16. all right in Mantua – Pound refers to a European conference held in Mantua in August 1459, where Pius II invited the major powers of Italy to discuss how best to stop the progression of the Ottoman empire. While other generals urged attack by sea and by land and consolidating alliances with the countries first hit by the Turks, Sigismondo said:      
    "Most Holy Father, I will say nothing about naval operations, about which I confess I know not a thing. I leave that to Venice. My own experience has been on the battlefield. Everyone so far has said we should arm the countries that border on the Turks and know their ways. I say otherwise. The countries nearest Turkey - Hungary, Wallachia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Epirus, and Greece- have gone down in battle before them. They can't look them in the eye. If I were to wage this war I would mobilize a sufficient force of Italian cavalry and infantry. Then victory would not be in doubt. Our soldiers and officers are the best in the world; what is more, we have superior horses and kit. The fact that we are unfamiliar with Turkish tactics is not a problem, since they don't know ours either, and we can dodge their traps more easily than they can dodge ours, because we are cleverer. So I say let others find the money and let Italians fight the war." (Pius II Commentaries Book III: chapter 34 par 5. Meserve II: 146-47.)
    Pound would repeat the line further down X: 135.
  17. Borso – Borso d’Este (1413–1471), Duke of Ferrara. The Este family was friendly to the Malatesta and B was known for his diplomatic efforts on behalf of peace: he invited the arch–enemies, Sigismondo Malatesta and Federico da Urbino to his Belfiore “delizia” (“house in the country”) to settle their differences. Neither Sigismund nor Federico were willing to lay aside old grudges and reconcile. According to Soranzo, they almost came to blows instead.        
    In the conflicts that followed, Federico would lead military interventions against Sigismondo both in his war with Naples (1457-59) and his war with the pope (1460-1463) and be victorious (Soranzo 26. C X n. 20–21; M 80; Jones 216).
  18. Te cavero … te – “I’ll tear your guts out.” (Federico) the count standing up: “I’ll tear your pluck out.”
  19. Cosimo – Cosimo de Medici, also called the Elder (1389–1464), Florentine banker and statesman.
  20. Drusiana – Drusiana Sforza (1437–1474), Francesco Sforza’s illegitimate daughter. Sforza married her to Giacomo Piccinino in 1464 after a ten-year engagement.
  21. un sorriso malizioso – I. “a naughty smile.” Pound’s source, Giovanni Soranzo, commented that it made no difference to Cosimo if Piccinino would get a “state” in Malatesta’s territory after his marriage to Drusiana, as long as he did not station his troops too near Tuscany (Soranzo n.4, 73-74).
  22. Ferdinando of Naples – Ferdinando (Ferrante) of Naples (1458–1494), the son of Alfonso de Aragon, succeeded his father to the throne of Naples in 1458. Piccinino had been Ferdinand’s condottiere in Naples’ war against Sigismondo, but after the peace of Mantua in 1459, he turned against Naples, allying himself with the House of Anjou. One year after Cosimo’s death, in July 1465, Ferdinand “invited Piccinino to lunch” and had him murdered.
  23. Et – The following Latin text is being here presented with the lineation Pound stipulated for the printer in the galley proofs dated “April 1923.” The galleys show that Pound did not intend a run-on text, but lineated it, requesting wide left margin, double spaces between words and double rows of dots top and bottom. The printers of The Criterion disregarded these indications and printed as prose with no left indent. This procedure was followed in all subsequent editions of The Cantos resulting in variations due to page width. The only edition where Pound’s stipulation was respected was the 1925 edition of A Draft of XVI Cantos.           
    Due to the ambiguity and great variation among the various editions of the text, I have not numbered it as poetry but reserved a single number for it.
  24. Interea… flagravit – This is a leap to events in spring 1462 when Sigismondo was formally excommunicated by Pius II and burnt in effigy in Rome (see also Timeline). Pound quotes from Pius’s Commentaries as he finds them in Yriarte in the original Latin (n.22, 87-88):
    “Meantime, in front of the steps of St. Peter’s there was built a great pyre of dry wood on top of which was placed an effigy of Sigismondo imitating the wicked and accursed man’s features and dress so exactly that it seemed a real person rather than an image. But that no one should make any mistake about it, an inscription issued from the figure’s mouth, which read, ‘Sigismondo Malatesta, son of Pandolfo, king of traitors, hated of God and man, condemned to the flames by vote of the holy senate.’ This writing was read by many. Then while the populace stood by, fire was applied to the pyre and the image, which at once blazed up.” (Pius Commentaries 7: 504-505. Tr. Florence A. Gragg; C X n.25.)
  25. Andreas Benzi – a Sienese lawyer in the papal treasury. On 16 January 1461, B delivered an oration in which he accused Sigismondo of many crimes, some of which are detailed below. That was the first event leading to the burning in effigy a year later and referred to above. See Timeline.
  26. Papa Pio Secundo – Pope Pius II (1405-1464), began life as Æneas Silvius Piccolomini in Corsignano, a small town near Siena. After a successful political career, he took orders in 1447 and became bishop of Siena in 1450. He was elected cardinal in 1456 and became Pope Pius II in 1458 (Pope Pius II).      
    Pius was Sigismondo’s mortal enemy and his characterisation of Malatesta lasted through the centuries as the only “accurate” description of a monster. Pius’s Commentaries, the only work of memoirs written by a pope, contain the full measure of his hatred of Sigismondo and his family. At the time of the Sorano siege, Aeneas was bishop of Siena and his animosity may have had to do with this episode.     
    According to other authors, the enmity was fed by Pius’s preference for and trust in Federico da Urbino, whose letter to Sigismondo of 1444 is the source of the calumny in Benzi’s oration (Pernis and Schneider Adams 29).
  27. Stupro… concubinarius – L. ML. “Ravisher, butcher, adulterer/ murderer, parricide, and perjurer/ killer of priests, reckless (one), lecher,/ … fornicator and assassin/ traitor, rapist, committer of incest, arsonist and keeper of concubines.” See Benzi's oration.
  28. nisi forsitan epicureae – L. “Unless perhaps that of the epicureans” (Benzi col 713). The epicureans were thought to be the most dangerous and immoral school of pagan thought (M n.18, 82).
  29. And that he did… indication – See Benzi col. 712. (M n.19, 82).
  30. Whence… pewk – loosely translated from Benzi col 704 (M n.20 82).
  31. Lussurioso, incestuoso …uxoricido – I. “Lecherous, incestuous, perfidious, filthpot and glutton, / assassin, greedy, grabbing, arrogant, untrustworthy/ counterfeiter, sodomite, wife–killer.”           
    Pound adapted from a longer list in Soranzo:    
    “lussurioso, incestuso, crapulone, efferato assassino, uxoricida, egli frodolento, ladro, bugiardo, spergiuro, avaro, ingordo, egli superbo, presuntuoso, ambizioso, bestemmiatore, erretico, infedele, disprezzatore dell’ autorità ecclesiastica, inpudente beffegiatore dei religiosi e tiranno dei suoi popoli” (Soranzo 227; M n.21, 83).
  32. Orationem Elegantissimam… filii –L. “We have heard a most elegant and highly ornate speech of our revered brother in Christ and most beloved son.” This passage is not to be found in Pius’ account of the consistory in the Commentaries (Book V: 374-76). It could be Pound’s own pastiche of the tenor of Pius’s attitude in the Discipula Veritatis and Commentaries. The passage could also be derived from Soranzo, who included a comment by Benedetto Reguardati, saying that this oration was “la piu elegante e luculenta che mai se recorde in simile loco” and that it could not have been written by Benzi but by Pius himself “el quale nella nostra etate è ornatissimo et excellentissimo oratore” (n.2, 229). Benzi received 300 ducats from the pope for his oration.    
  33. testibus idoneis – L. “With appropriate witnesses.” The “appropriate witnesses” were Sigismondo’s arch–enemies, Federico de Urbino and Alessandro Sforza. See IX: n.24. The phrase is taken from Pius II’s Discipula Veritatis, referring to the private consistory on 14 October, 1461, where Nicolaus Cusanus presented his conclusions to the investigation he had made to verify Benzi’s allegations.   
    “He [Cusanus] recounted to us that all the crimes and all the excesses in which Sigismondo had indulged were proved either by appropriate witnesses or by public rumour, that in truth they were confirmed to be worse and more atrocious than vulgar or popular rumour supposed, that they were manifest and notorious, from which facts being so well known we have returned still more certain that Sigismondo is no different from the description that was given by the lawyer of the treasury” (M n.23, 83. Tr. L Rainey).   
  34. il cardinale di San Pietro in Vincoli – Niccolò da Cusa, [Nicolaus Cusanus] was appointed by Pius to conduct another trial where Sigismondo could defend himself. As instructed by the Pope, Cusano sent a summons to Malatesta that he should come to Rome within thirty days. Sigismondo ignored it. A month later Sigismondo defeated the papal troops [at Nidastore July 1461] and Pius told Niccolò to hurry. A secret consistory composed only of cardinals and Cusano was established. The trial records are unavailable but the accusations were repeated and two papal bulls were issued depriving Sigismondo of Rimini (Pernis and Schneider Adams 33-34).
  35. tanta novità – I. “such novelties.” Borso d’Este was a friend of the Malatesta family and one of the outspoken critics of the burning in effigy. To his speakers in Rome, he wrote that Sigismondo was desperate because of the papal persecution, adding that:
    “la quale se d’alcuno fosse laudata, non era ancora che non fosse da molti biasmata, perche a questi tempi non pareva savio consiglio fare tanta novità” (quoted in Soranzo 231). 
    "which [persecution] if it was praised by some, it was not the case that it was not criticized by many, for in these times it does not seem wise counsel to make such innovations.” (See also M n.26, 83.)
    Soranzo adds that the pope was furious and wanted to admonish Borso in the severest terms. Borso had visited Venice in January 1461 to enlist its help and did not refrain from insinuating that the Pope wanted to give other people the lands of the Malatesta. (231).
  36. stuprum, raptum – L. “rape, theft.” From Benzi’s oration.
  37. I.N.R.I… Proditorum – L. “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum” (Jesus Christ, King of the Jews). Emperor Sigismund, King of Traitors.” When the Roman soldiers crucified Jesus, they placed the written charge against him above his head: “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews” (Matthew 27: 37). They also mocked him before and after the crucifixion (Matthew 27: 27-44). By adding INRI, Pound is thus making a parallel between the ordeal of Christ and that of Sigismondo. “Rex Proditorum” was written on an inscription issuing from the mouth of the effigy. See n. 23. 
  38. old Pills – Ugolino de Pilli served Pandolfo III as ambassador and condottiere. He was the guardian of his three sons and Sigismondo’s former tutor. Benzi alleged that Sigismondo had murdered him. Sigismondo had imprisoned him for treason, but Pilli was still alive and emerged from prison in 1469.         
    “Sometime in 1443 or 1444 the eminent citizen of Fano, Ugolino de' Pili, and his sons suffered imprisonment and confiscation of goods for traitorous relations with the pope. The punishment seems to have been merited, but this did not prevent Pius II from accusing Sigismondo of having put them barbarously to death” (Jones n.5, 189).
  39. Et les angloys ... venin de hayne – MF. “And the English unable to eradicate… venom of hatred.”
  40. Gisors – fortress at the border with Normandy which had been given as dowry to Margaret, the daughter of Louis VIII on occasion of her marriage to Henry the young King, the son of Henry II. As Henry died without issue in 1183, Gisors was to revert to the French crown. Yet Henry II did all he could not to give it back and caused a long series of wars with Louis’ son, Philippe Auguste IV. Normandy was finally secured for the French crown only after the end of the War of the Roses in 1453.        
    Pound mentions the key role of Gisors and other border provinces and castles in Canto VI and suggests a parallel between the wars for the control of borders between the Plantagenets and the Capetians in the 12th century and the constant warfare for fortresses in the Montefeltro and Le Marche between Sigismondo Malatesta and his neighbour and antagonist, Federico da Urbino.
  41. Angevins – The Plantagenet family was of the house of Anjou and fought with the French crown over Normandy in the 12th century. In Malatesta’s time, two hundred years later, a branch of the house of Anjou laid claims to Sicily and Naples. Malatesta made an early agreement and alliance with Jean d’Anjou in 1456 (Jones 215). In the effort to resist the Pope, he involved himself in the war of the Angevins against the Kingdom of Naples after 1460. See Timeline.
  42. Louis Eleventh – Louis XI (1423–1483), King of France. He supported the Angevin claim to the throne of Naples (M n.32, 84).
  43. tiers Calixte – Pope Calixtus III died in 1458.
  44. struck alum at Tolfa – In his Commentaries, Pius II recounts that his godson Giovanni da Castro discovered alum in the mountains around Tolfa, on papal land. Alum was used in the dyeing of wool and procured with great expense from Asia. Now seeing that there was abundant ore, the pope gained a great source of income, which he could use in the war against Malatesta (Commentaries Book 7: 505-507).
  45. mal hecho – S. “badly done.” The episode is recounted in Soranzo 289: A witty Florentine present at the spectacle of Malatesta’s burning in effigy in Campo dei Fiori exclaimed aloud: “per Dio, è mal fatto!” He was almost arrested, until he explained that he did not mean any heresy but that there was no resemblance between the effigy and Sigismondo (M n.38, 84).
  46. Pasti – Matteo da Pasti (1420–1467), artist resident in Rimini and especially known for his medals. He collaborated with Leon Battista Alberti for the building of the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini. Sigismondo commissioned him to paint a portrait of Mehmet II, the Turkish Sultan, and sent him to Constantinople in November 1461. Matteo also carried with him incriminating documents like a map of the Italian coast and a copy of Valturio’s treatise, De Re Militari. He was detained in Crete and sent back to Venice under suspicion that he was a messenger of treason (D’Elia 128). He was ultimately released and returned to Rimini without having reached Constantinople.
  47. Novvy’ll sell any manGiacomo – Malatesta Novello, Sigismondo’s younger brother, lord of Cesena, and Giacomo Piccinino were friends and Malatesta allowed Piccinino’s armies to winter in his lands. This was the case in the winter of 1460 when the Malatesta and Count Giacomo reached an understanding, whereby from former enemies they would become allies in the war against Frederic of Naples. See also Timeline.
  48. E gradment li antichi cavaler romanj... anutii – L. “E grandment li antichi cavaler romanj davano fed a questi anuntii” (“The ancient Roman knights put great faith in such auguries.”) Excerpt from Malatesta’s speech to his troops before the battle of Nidastore, on 2 July 1461. The augury he was referring to was an eagle that had alighted on a pole of his tent.