If neighbors engage in a bellicose race,
Mind that you choose a definite place.
For if you should lose you have gained you a friend,
And if you should win then they’ll both to you bend.
If you have weak neighbors, don’t conquer them—wait;
Perhaps they’re ’twixt you and a powerful state.
Never try more than you yourself can do;
Use your own troops, not others’, or they’ll conquer you.
You may use cruelty when you gain new land
To teach power comes from only your hand.
Ravage the nobles and land in one sweep,
But make sure your cruelty then becomes obsolete.
Be sure that you punish your opponents quite swift,
But take their lives, not their land, or you’ll deepen the rift.
For the dead are forgotten once their lilies have died,
But memory burns deep in those children deprived.
If you would be generous, why, that is grand,
But mind that you seem not like an open hand.
If you would be frugal, then you are all the wiser,
Just mind that you don’t appear as a miser.
If it is power that you wish to keep,
Then the goodwill of subjects is what you must reap.
To ensure that they’ll need you, rule just and well.
These are the words of Machiavel.