Dummett’s translation of Flavio Alberto Lollio’s (1508 – 1568) Invettiva contra il Giuoco del Taroco, from the last line of p.276 to the last line of p. 297 in the 1550 (1st) edition, from the chapter entitled The Early Italian Game in The Game of Tarot. Dummett calls it “…illuminating and puzzling.”
See, the cards are beginning to be dealt. The first hand looks good to you, so that you hold the invitation (reading l’invito in view of the invitata that comes later), and make it again. Those (cards) that come next show a different state of affairs; they no longer have your chances in mind. You therefore remain in suspense; and on it goes (?). That other player who seems to expect their favour (the favour of the cards) will increase the stake; then, wounded by shame, pain, envy and anger, you go a monte, with face downcast.
A Captain who thinks he has won the battle, and, while he cries, ‘Victory, victory!’, sees his people crushed or dispersed by an unexpected new attack, does not feel so great an anguish as does this (player).
There then come two other hands of cards, first fortunate, then miserable: and when you are expecting the last (cards) to give you some help, having invited them (reading Havendogli invitate) from the stock (?), you see arrive (oh, bitter pain) hideous cards to make you die, quite the contrary of what you need. You are therefore inflamed with vexation, and, full, of an evil disposition, you begin scolding the remainder of your cards, which are twenty.
These fill your hands, and for a long time they give you trouble and worry to arrange Coins, Cups, Batons, Swords and Trumps, because it is useful to put them in order one by one; to do with them as a good shepherd would do, if he had many flocks, preparing different folds for each. Then if you have four or five carte di ronfa, you fear that the king will die, with the court cards; and therefore your heart aches and your mind is racked, standing in balance between hope and fear.
That is the exhaustion and the heartbreak, when you are forced to keep before your eyes, as in a mirror, some low cards that make you droop. And, as if you were a urinal, you must be at the disposal of the two other players, having to respond suit by suit to each; and if, by ignorance or mistake, you play a card which does not fit, you hear their voices go up to the skies.
Do not think that your sufferings are at an end here. You must take account of every least card that is played, otherwise everything goes to ruin. You therefore often long for the memory of Mithridates, of Caesar, or of Cyrus.
And if it sometimes happens that you have a good hand, you will play it so badly that you will lose one or two dozens; sometimes you lose them all.
How many times are you unable to cover the Matto? Whence you feel that, against your will, you are deprived of the good you have; and you look like the crow that lost its feathers, among the other birds. Therefore, if you were an Aristides, a Socrates, a Zeno, a Job, a stone, you would despise the curb of patience, and would tear the tarocchi in a thousand pieces, cursing the first person who put the cards in your hands and taught you to play.
Where do I leave that tedious counting of each trump that comes out? How much annoyance you have from being unable to discuss anything or say even a single word: One must keep greater silence than one does at a sermon or at Mass.
He who invented such nonsense showed himself to have little to do, and truly to have diarrhoea of the mind; we must suppose that he was a worthless painter, out of work and penniless, who, in order to earn his bread, started making such childish gibberish.
What else do the Bagatella and the Matto mean, save that he was a trickster and a cheat? What else can they signify, the Popess, the Chariot, the Traitor, the Wheel, the Hunchback, Fortitude, the Star, the Sun, the Moon, Death, Hell and all the rest of this revolving bizarrerie, save that he (the inventor) had an empty head full of smoke, caprices and idle tales? The woman who empties the wine bottles (Temperance) clearly shows that it is also true that he was a drunkard. And that whimsical and bizarre name ‘Tarocco’, lacking an etymology, makes it manifest to everyone that his fantasies had damaged and ruined his brain.