The Italian Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529) was said to be “one of the finest gentlemen in the world.
Over many years he wrote out the code of the Renaissance patrician. The ideal courtier should know Greek and Latin, the Italian poets, horsemanship and military skills, music and painting. He should excel in sport, like the knight of old, should hunt, wrestle, swim, “play at tennis.” He should also receive a good education in “orators and historiographers, and also in writing both rhyme and prose, and especially in this our vulgar tongue.” The following is an excerpt from Castiglione’s work, The Courtier.
It is not unreasonable to say also that the old can love without blame, and more happily than the young; taking this word old, however, not in the sense of decrepit or as meaning that the organs of the body have already become so weak that the soul cannot perform its operations through them, but as meaning when knowledge in us in its true prime.
I will not refrain from saying this also: I think that, although sensual love is bad at every age, yet in the young it deserves to be excused, and in some sense is per¬haps permitted. For although it brings them afflictions, dangers, toils, and the woes we have said, still there are many, who, to win the good graces of the ladies they love, do worthy acts, which (although not directed to a good end) are in themselves good; and thus from that great bitterness they extract a little sweetness, and through the adversities which they endure they finally recognize their error.
Hence, even as I consider those youths divine who master their appetites and love according to reason, I like¬wise excuse those who allow themselves to be overcome by sensual love, to which they are so much inclined by human weakness: provided that in such love they show gentleness, courtesy, and worth, and the other noble qualities which these gentlemen have mentioned; and provided that when they are no longer youthful, they abandon it altogether, leaving this sensual desire behind as the lowest rung of that ladder by which we ascend to true love.
But if, even when they are old, they keep the fire of the appetites in their cold hearts, and subject strong reason to weak sense, it is not possible to say how much they should be blamed. For like senseless fools they deserve with perpetual infamy to be numbered among the unreasoning animals, because the thoughts and ways of sensual love are most unbecoming to a mature age.