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Boccaccio

 


see also:
Boccaccio "The Decameron" (Illustrations by Salvador Dali)

 


Decameron, painting by
Sandro Botticelli

 


Boccaccio


born 1313, Paris, Fr.
died Dec. 21, 1375, Certaldo, Tuscany [Italy]


Italian poet and scholar, best remembered as the author of the earthy tales in the Decameron. With Petrarch he laid the foundations for the humanism of the Renaissance and raised vernacular literature to the level and status of the classics of antiquity.

Youth

Boccaccio was the son of a Tuscan merchant, Boccaccio di Chellino (called Boccaccino), and a mother who was probably French. He passed his early childhood rather unhappily in Florence. His father had no sympathy for Boccaccio's literary inclinations and sent him, not later than 1328, to Naples to learn business, probably in an office of the Bardi, who dominated the court of Naples by means of their loans. In this milieu Boccaccio experienced the aristocracy of the commercial world as well as all that survived of the splendours of courtly chivalry and feudalism. He also studied canon law and mixed with the learned men of the court and the friends and admirers of Petrarch, through whom he came to know the work of Petrarch himself.

These years in Naples, moreover, were the years of Boccaccio's love for Fiammetta, whose person dominates all his literary activity up to the Decameron, in which there also appears a Fiammetta whose character somewhat resembles that of the Fiammetta of his earlier works. Attempts to use passages from Boccaccio's writings to identify Fiammetta with a supposedly historical Maria, natural daughter of King Robert and wife of a count of Aquino, are untrustworthy—the more so since there is no documentary proof that this Maria ever existed.


Early works

It was probably in 1340 that Boccaccio was recalled to Florence by his father, involved in the bankruptcy of the Bardi. The sheltered period of his life thus came to an end, and thenceforward there were to be only difficulties and occasional periods of poverty. From Naples, however, the young Boccaccio brought with him a store of literary work already completed. La caccia di Diana (“Diana's Hunt”), his earliest work, is a short poem, in terza rima (an iambic verse consisting of stanzas of three lines), of no great merit. Much more important are two works with themes derived from medieval romances: Il filocolo (c. 1336; “The Love Afflicted”), a prose work in five books on the loves and adventures of Florio and Biancofiore (Floire and Blanchefleur); and Il filostra to (c. 1338; “The Love Struck”), ashort poem in ottava rima (a stanza form composed of eight 11-syllable lines) telling the story of Troilus and the faithless Criseida. The Teseida (probably begun in Naples and finished in Florence, 1340–41) is an ambitious epic of 12 cantos in ottava rima in which the wars of Theseus serve as abackground for the love of two friends, Arcita and Palemone, for the same woman, Emilia; Arcita finally wins her in a tournament but dies immediately.

While the themes of chivalry and love in these works had long been familiar in courtly circles, Boccaccio enriched them with the fruits of his own acute observation of real life and sought to present them nobly and illustriously by a display of learning and rhetorical ornament, so as to make his Italian worthy of comparison with the monuments of Latin literature. It was Boccaccio, too, who raised to literary dignity ottava rima, the verse metre of the popular minstrels,which was eventually to become the characteristic vehicle for Italian verse. Boccaccio's early works had an immediate effect outside Italy: Geoffrey Chaucer drew inspiration from Il filostrato for his own Troilus and Criseyde (as William Shakespeare was later to do for Troilus and Cressida) and from Boccaccio's Teseida for his “Knight's Tale” in The Canterbury Tales.

The 10 or 12 years following Boccaccio's return to Florence are the period of his full maturity, culminating in the Decameron. From 1341 to 1345 he worked on Il ninfale d'Ameto (“Ameto's Story of the Nymphs”), in prose and terza rima; L'amorosa visione (“The Amorous Vision”; 1342–43), amediocre allegorical poem of 50 short cantos in terza rima; the prose Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta (1343–44); and the poem Il ninfale fiesolano (perhaps 1344–45; “Tale of the Fiesole Nymph”), in ottava rima, on the love of the shepherd Africo for the nymph Mensola.

Boccaccio, meanwhile, was trying continually to put his financial affairs in order, though he never succeeded in doing so. Little is known, however, of the detail of his life in the period following his return to Florence. He was at Ravenna between 1345 and 1346, at Forlì in 1347, in Florence during the ravages of the Black Death in 1348, and in Florence again in 1349.


The Decameron

It was probably in the years 1348–53 that Boccaccio composed the Decameron in the form in which it is read today. In the broad sweep of its range and its alternately tragic and comic views of life, it is rightly regarded as his masterpiece. Stylistically, it is the most perfect example of Italian classical prose, and its influence on Renaissance literature throughout Europe was enormous.

The Decameron begins with the flight of 10 young people (7 women and 3 men) from plague-stricken Florence in 1348. They retire to a rich, well-watered countryside, where, in the course of a fortnight, each member of the party has a turn as king or queen over the others, deciding in detail how their day shall be spent and directing their leisurely walks, their outdoor conversations, their dances and songs, and, above all, their alternate storytelling. This storytelling occupies 10 days of the fortnight (the rest being set aside for personal adornment or for religious devotions); hence the title of the book itself, Decameron, or “Ten Days' Work.” The stories thus amount to 100 in all. Each of the days, moreover, ends with a canzone (song) for dancing sung by one of the storytellers, and these canzoni include some of Boccaccio's finest lyric poetry. In addition to the 100 stories, Boccaccio has a master theme, namely, the way of life of the refined bourgeoisie, who combined respect for conventions with an open-minded attitude to personal behaviour.

The sombre tones of the opening passages of the book, in which the plague and the moral and social chaos that accompanies it are described in the grand manner, are in sharp contrast to the scintillating liveliness of Day I, which isspent almost entirely in witty disputation, and to the playful atmosphere of intrigue that characterizes the tales of adventure or deception related on Days II and III. With Day IVand its stories of unhappy love, the gloomy note returns; but Day V brings some relief, though it does not entirely dissipate the echo of solemnity, by giving happy endings to stories of love that does not at first run smoothly. Day VI reintroduces the gaiety of Day I and constitutes the overtureto the great comic score, Days VII, VIII, and IX, which are given over to laughter, trickery, and license. Finally, in Day X, all the themes of the preceding days are brought to a high pitch, the impure made pure and the common made heroic.

The prefaces to the days and to the individual stories and certain passages of especial magnificence based on classical models, with their select vocabulary and elaborate periods, have long held the attention of critics. But there is also another Boccaccio: the master of the spoken word and of the swift, vivid, tense narrative free from the proliferation of ornament. These two aspects of the Decameron made it the fountainhead of Italian literary prose for the following centuries.

The influential 19th-century critic Francesco De Sanctis regarded the Decameron as a “Human Comedy” in succession to Dante's Divine Comedy and Boccaccio as the pioneer of a new moral order superseding that of the European Middle Ages. This view is no longer tenable, however, since the Middle Ages can no longer be presented as having been wholly ascetic or wholly concerned with God and heavenly salvation in contrast with a Renaissance concerned only with the human.

Also, in particular, the whole corpus of Boccaccio's work is basically medieval in subject matter, form, and taste, at least in its point of departure. It is the spirit in which Boccaccio treats his subjects and his forms that is new. For the first time in the Middle Ages, Boccaccio in the Decameron deliberately shows man striving with fortune andlearning to overcome it. To be truly noble, according to the Decameron, man must accept life as it is, without bitterness, must accept, above all, the consequences of his own action, however contrary to his expectation or even tragic they may be. To realize his own earthly happiness, he must confine his desire to what is humanly possible and renounce the absolute without regret. Thus Boccaccio insists both on man's powers and on their inescapable limitations, without reference to the possible intervention of divine grace. A sense of spiritual realities and an affirmation of moral valuesunderlying the frivolity even in the most licentious passages of the Decameron are features of Boccaccio's work that modern criticism has brought to light and that make it no longer possible to regard him only as an obscene mocker or sensual cynic.

During the years in which Boccaccio is believed to have written the Decameron, the Florentines appointed him ambassador to the lords of Romagna in 1350; municipal councillor and also ambassador to Louis, duke of Bavaria, in the Tirol in 1351; and ambassador to Pope Innocent VI in 1354.


Petrarch and Boccaccio's mature years

Of far more lasting importance than official honours was Boccaccio's first meeting with Petrarch, in Florence in 1350,which helped to bring about a decisive change in Boccaccio's literary activity. Boccaccio revered the older man as his master, and Petrarch proved himself a serene andready counselor and a reliable helper. Together, through the exchange of books, news, and ideas, the two men laid the foundations for the humanist reconquest of classical antiquity.

After the Decameron, of which Petrarch remained in ignorance until the very last years of his life, Boccaccio wrote nothing in Italian except Il Corbaccio (1354–55; a satire on a widow who had jilted him), his late writings on Dante, and perhaps an occasional lyric. Turning instead to Latin, he devoted himself to humanist scholarship rather than to imaginative or poetic creation. His encyclopaedic De genealogia deorum gentilium (“On the Genealogy of the Gods of the Gentiles”), medieval in structure but humanist inspirit, was probably begun in the very year of his meeting with Petrarch but was continuously corrected and revised until his death. His Bucolicum carmen (1351–66), a series of allegorical eclogues (short pastoral poems) on contemporary events, follows classical models on lines already indicated by Dante and Petrarch. His other Latin works include De claris mulieribus (1360–74; Concerning Famous Women), a collection of biographies of famous women; and De casibus virorum illustrium (1355–74; “On the Fates of Famous Men”), on the inevitable catastrophe awaiting all who are too fortunate.

The meeting with Petrarch, however, was not the only cause of the change in Boccaccio's writing. A premature weakening of his physical powers and disappointments in love may also have contributed to it. Some such occurrence would explain how Boccaccio, having previously written always in praise of women and love, came suddenly to write the bitterly misogynistic Corbaccio and then turn his genius elsewhere. Furthermore, there are signs that he may have begun to feel religious scruples. Petrarch describes how the Carthusian monk Pietro Petrone, on his deathbed in 1362, sent another Carthusian, Gioacchino Ciani, to exhort Boccaccio to renounce his worldly studies; and it was Petrarch who then dissuaded Boccaccio from burning his own works and selling his library. As early as 1360, moreover, Boccaccio's way of life was regarded as austere enough to justify his being entrusted with a pastoral cure of souls in a cathedral. He had taken minor orders many years earlier, perhaps at first only in the hope of being given benefices.

Boccaccio's circle in Florence was of vital importance as a nucleus of early humanism. Leonzio Pilato, whom Boccaccio housed from 1360 to 1362 and whose nomination as reader in Greek at the Studio (the old University of Florence) he procured, made the rough Latin translation through which Petrarch and Boccaccio became acquainted with Homer's poems—the starting point of Greek studies by the humanists. The recovery of Latin classical texts—Varro, Martial, Apuleius, Seneca, Ovid, and, above all, Tacitus—likewise occupied Boccaccio's admiring attention. Even so, he did not neglect Italian poetry, his enthusiasm for his immediate predecessors, especially Dante, being one of the characteristics that distinguish him from Petrarch. His Vita di Dante Alighieri, or Trattatello in laude di Dante (“Little Tractate in Praise of Dante”), and the two abridged editions of it that he made show his devotion to Dante's memory.


Last years

All these studies were pursued in poverty, sometimes almostin destitution, and Boccaccio had to earn most of his income by transcribing his own works or those of others. In 1363 poverty compelled him to retire to the village of Certaldo. In October 1373, however, he began public readings of Dante's Divina commedia in the Church of San Stefano di Badia in Florence. A revised text of the commentary that he gave with these readings is still extant but breaks off at the point that he had reached when, early in 1374, ill health made him lose heart. Petrarch's death in July 1374 was another grief to him, and he retired again to Certaldo. There Boccaccio died the following year and was buried in the Church of SS. Michele e Jacopo.


Boccaccio and the Renaissance

Boccaccio was a man of the Renaissance in almost every sense. His humanism comprised not only classical studies and the attempt to rediscover and reinterpret ancient texts but also the attempt to raise literature in the modern languages to the level of the classical by setting standards for it and then conforming to those standards. Boccaccio advanced further than Petrarch in this direction not only because he sought to dignify prose as well as poetry but alsobecause, in his Ninfale fiesolano, in his Elegia de Madonna Fiammetta, and in the Decameron, he ennobled everyday experience, tragic and comic alike. Although his Teseida and Ninfale d'Ameto invite comparison with classical genres, his Filocolo and Filostrato raised to the level of learned art the literature of chivalry and love that had fallen to the level of the populace. The same attention to popular and medieval themes characterized Italian culture in the second half of the15th century; without Boccaccio, the literary culmination ofthe Italian Renaissance would be historically incomprehensible.

Umberto Bosco

Encyclopedia Britannica

 

 

 


THE DECAMERON
 


 

Type of work: Tales
Author: Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375)
Types of plots: Romantic tragedy, farce, and folk tradition
Times of plots: Greco-Roman times and the Middle Ages
Locale: Italy
First transcribed: ń 1348-1353
 

This collection of tales is set in 1348, the year of the Black Death. Seven ladies and three gentlemen meet in a Florentine church and decide to escape from the city and spend time in the hills of Fiesole; there they pass the time telling stories for ten days. Bocaccio broke free of past tradition and created a literature about ordinary people, and his novellas range from anecdotes and fabliaux to folk and fairy tales of ancient lineage. All are told with a wit carrying them above the range of the licentious, a term sometimes used unjustly about the tales. Their use and adaptations in literature, plays, operas, and paintings attest to their popularity throughout the ages.
 




 

The Story

A terrible plague was ravaging Florence, Italy. To flee from it, a group of seven young women and three young men, who had met by chance in a church, decided to go to a villa out of town. There they set up a working arrangement whereby each would be king or queen for a day. During the ten days they stayed in the country, each told a story following certain stipulations laid down by the daily ruler. The stories range from romance to farce, from comedy to tragedy.
Pampinea, for example, told a tale of three young men. When Messer Tedaldo died, he left all of his goods and chattels to his three sons. With no thought for the future, they lived so extravagantly that they soon had little left. The oldest son suggested that they sell what they could, leave Florence, and go to London, where they were unknown.
In London they lent money at a high rate of interest, and in a few years, they had a small fortune. Then they returned to Florence. There they married and began to live extravagantly again, while depending on the monies still coming to them from England.
A nephew named Alessandro took care of their business in England. At that time, there were such differences between the king and a son that Alessandro's business was ruined. He stayed in England, however, in hopes that peace would come and his business would recover. Finally he returned to Italy with a group of monks who were taking their young abbot to the pope to get a dispensation for him and a confirmation of the youthful cleric's election.
On the way, Alessandro discovered that the abbot was a girl, and he married her in the sight of God. In Rome, the girl had an audience with the pope. Her father, the king of England, wished the pope's blessing on her marriage to the old king of Scotland, but she asked the pope's blessing on her marriage to Alessandro instead.
After the wedding, Alessandro and his bride went to Florence, where she paid his uncles' debts. Two knights preceded the couple to England and urged the king to forgive his daughter. After the king had knighted Alessandro, the new knight reconciled the king and his rebellious son.
One of Fiammetta's stories had to do with Tancred, prince of Salerno, who loved his daughter Ghismonda so much that when she was widowed soon after her marriage he did not think to provide her with a second husband, and she was too modest to ask him to do so. Being a lively girl, however, she decided to have as her lover the most valiant man in her father's court. His name was Guiscardo. His only fault was that he was of humble birth.
Ghismonda noticed that Guiscardo returned her interest, and they met secretly in a cave, one entrance to which was through a door in the young widow's bedroom. Soon she was taking her lover into her bedroom, where they enjoyed each other frequently.
Tancred was in the habit of visiting his daughter's room at odd times. One day, when he went to visit, she was not there. He sat down to wait in a place where he was by accident hidden by the bed curtains from his daughter and her lover, who soon came in to use the bed.
Tancred remained hidden, but that night he had Guis--cardo arrested. When he berated his daughter for picking so humble a lover, she defied him for letting so brave a man remain poor in his court. She begged nothing from Tancred except that he kill her and her lover with the same stroke.
The prince did not believe Ghismonda would be as resolute as she sounded. When her lover was killed, Tancred had his heart cut from his body and sent to her in a golden cup. Ghismonda thanked her father for his noble gift. After repeatedly kissing the heart, she poured poison in the cup and drank it. Then she lay down upon her bed with Guiscardo's heart upon her own. Tancred's own heart was touched when he saw her cold in death, and he obeyed her last request that she and Guiscardo be buried together.
Another of the storytellers was Filomena. Her heroine, Isabetta, lived in Messina with her three merchant brothers and a young man named Lorenzo, who attended to their business affairs. Isabetta and Lorenzo fell in love. One night, as she went to Lorenzo's room, her oldest brother saw her. He said nothing until the next morning, when the three brothers conferred to see how they could settle the matter so that no shame should fall upon them or upon Isabetta. Not long afterward, the three brothers set out with Lorenzo, claiming that they were going partway with him on a journey. Secretly, however, they killed and buried the young man.
After their return home, the brothers answered none of Isabetta's questions about Lorenzo. She wept and refused to be consoled in her grief. One night Lorenzo came to her in a dream and told her what had happened and where he was buried. Without telling her brothers, she went to the spot indicated in her dream and found her lover's body there. She cut off his head and wrapped it in a cloth to take home. She buried the head in a large flowerpot and planted basil over it. The basil flourished, watered by her tears.
She wept so much over the plant that her brothers took away the pot of basil and hid it. Because she asked about it often, the brothers grew curious. At last they investigated and found Lorenzo's head. Abashed, they left the city. Isabetta died of a broken heart.
Pamfilo wove a tale of Cimone, who became civilized through love. Galeso was the tallest and handsomest of Aristippo's children, but he was so stupid that the people of Cyprus called him Cimone, which means Brute. Cimone's stupidity embarrassed his father until the old man set the boy to the country to live. There Cimone was contented until one day he came upon a sleeping girl, Efigenia, whose beauty completely changed him.
He told his father that he intended to live in town. The news worried his father for a while, but Cimone bought fine clothes and associated only with worthy young men. In four years he was the most accomplished and virtuous young man on the island.
Although he knew she was promised to Pasimunda of Rhodes, Cimone asked Efigenia's father for her hand in marriage. He was refused. When Pasimunda sent for his bride, Cimone and his friends pursued the ship and took Efigenia off the vessel, after which they let the ship's crew go free to return to Rhodes. In the night, a storm arose and blew Cimone's ship to the very harbor in Rhodes where Efigenia was supposed to go. Cimone and his men were arrested.
Pasimunda had a brother who had been promised a wife, but this girl was loved by Lisimaco, a youth of Rhodes, as Efigenia was loved by Cimone. The brothers planned a double wedding.
Lisimaco made plans with Cimone. At the double wedding feast, Lisimaco and Cimone with many of their friends snatched the brides away from their prospective husbands. The young men carried their loved ones to Crete, where they lived happily in exile for a time until their fathers interceded for them. Then Cimone took Efigenia home to Cyprus, and Lisimaco took his wife back to Rhodes.
A story by Fiammetta concerned Federigo degli Alber-ighi, who was famed in Florence for his courtesy and his prowess in arms. He fell in love with Monna Giovanna, a woman who cared nothing for him, though he spent his fortune trying to please her. Finally he was so poor that he went to the country to live on his farm. There he entertained himself only by flying his falcon, which was considered the best in the world.
Monna's husband died, leaving her to enjoy his vast estates with one young son. The son struck up an acquaintance with Federigo and particularly admired the falcon. When the boy became sick, he thought he might get well if he could own Federigo's bird.
Monna, as a last resort, swallowed her pride and called upon Federigo. She told him she would stay for supper, but Federigo, desperately poor as he was, had nothing to serve his love except the falcon, which he promptly killed and roasted for her.
After the meal, with many apologies, Monna told her host that her son, thinking he would get well if he had the falcon, desired Federigo's bird. Federigo wept to think that Monna had asked for the one thing he could not give her.
The boy died soon after, and Monna was bereft. When her brothers urged her to remarry, she finally agreed to do so, but she would marry no one but the generous Federigo, who had killed his pet falcon to do her honor. So Federigo married into great riches.
Filostrato entertained his companions by telling them of Peronella, a Neapolitan wool comber married to a poor bricklayer. Together they made enough to live comfortably. Peronella had a lover named Strignario, who came to the house each day after the husband went to work.
One day, when the husband returned unexpectedly, Peronella hid Strignario in a butt. Her husband had brought home a man to buy the butt for five florins. Thinking quickly, Peronella told her husband that she already had a buyer who had offered seven florins for the butt and that he was at that moment inside the butt inspecting it.
Strignario came out, complaining that the butt was dirty. The husband offered to clean it. While the husband was inside scraping, Strignario cuckolded him again, paid for the butt, and went away.
According to another of Filostrato's tales, there was once in Cathay a very rich and generous old man named Nathan. He had a splendid palace and many servants, and he entertained lavishly anyone who came his way.
In a country nearby lived Mitridanes, who was not nearly so old as Nathan but just as rich. Since he was jealous of Nathan's fame, he built a palace and entertained handsomely everyone who visited. One day a woman came thirteen times asking alms. Furious when Mitridanes called her to task, she told him that she had once asked alms of Nathan forty-two times in one day without reproof. Mitridanes decided that he would have to kill Nathan before his own fame could grow.
Riding near Nathan's palace, Mitridanes discovered Nathan walking alone. When he asked to be directed secretly to Nathan's palace, Nathan cheerfully took him there and established him in a fine apartment. Still not realizing Nathan's identify, Mitridanes revealed his plan to kill his rival. Nathan arranged matters so that Mitridanes came upon him alone in the woods.
Mitridanes, curious to see Nathan, caught hold of him before piercing him with a sword. When he discovered that Nathan was the old man who had first directed him to the palace, made him comfortable, and then arranged the meeting in the woods, Mitridanes realized that he could never match Nathan's generosity, and he was greatly ashamed.
Nathan offered to go to Mitridanes' home and become known as Mitridanes, while Mitridanes would remain to be known as Nathan. By that time, however, Mitridanes thought his own actions would tarnish Nathan's fame, and he went home humbled.
A tale of the Middle East was told by Pamfilo. who explained that in the time of Emperor Frederick the First, all Christendom united in a crusade for the recovery of the Holy Land. To see how the Christians were preparing themselves and to learn to protect himself against them, Saladin, the sultan of Babylon, took two of his best knights and made a tour through Italy to Paris. The travelers were disguised as merchants.
Outside the little town of Pavia, they came upon Messer Torello, who was on his way to his country estate. When they asked him how far they were from Pavia, he told them quickly that the town was too far to be reached that night and sent his servants with them to an inn. Messer Torello sensed that the three men were foreign gentlemen and wanted to honor them; he had the servants take them by a roundabout way to his own estate. Meanwhile he rode directly home. The travelers were surprised when they saw him in his own place, but, realizing that he meant only to honor them, they graciously consented to spend the night.
The next day, Messer Torello sent word to his wife in town to prepare a banquet. The preparations were made, and both Torellos honored the merchants that day. Before they left, the wife gave them handsome suits of clothes like those her husband wore.

When Messer Torello became one of the crusaders, he asked his wife to wait a year and a month before remarrying if she heard nothing from him. She gave him a ring with which to remember her. Soon afterward, a great plague broke out among the Christians at Acre and killed many men. Most of the survivors were imprisoned by the sultan. Messer Torello was taken to Alexandria, where he trained hawks for Saladin and was called Saladin's Christian. Neither man recognized the other for a long time, until at last Saladin recognized a facial gesture in Torello and made himself known as one of the traveling merchants. Torello was freed and lived happily as Saladin's guest. He expected daily to hear from his wife, to whom he had sent word of his adventures. His messenger had been shipwrecked, however, and the day approached when his wife would be free to remarry.
At last Torello told Saladin of the arrangement he and his wife had made. The sultan took pity on him and had Torello put to sleep on a couch heaped with jewels and gold. Then the couch, whisked off to Italy by magic, was set down in the church of which his uncle was abbot. Torello and the abbot went to the marriage feast prepared for Torello's wife and her new husband. No one recognized Torello because of his strange beard and oriental clothing until he displayed the ring his wife had given him. Then with great rejoicing they were reunited, a reward for their early generosity.
Dioneo embarked upon a tale of the patience of Gri-selda. Gualtieri. eldest son of the marquess of Saluzzo, was a bachelor whose subjects begged him to marry. Though he was not anxious to take a wife, he decided to wed poor Griselda. who lived in a nearby hamlet. When he went with his friends to bring Griselda home, he asked her if she would always be obedient and try to please him and never be angry. Upon her word that she would do so, Gualtieri had her stripped of her poor gown and dressed in finery becoming her new station.
With her new clothes, Griselda changed so much in appearance that she seemed to be a true noblewoman, and Gualtieri's subjects were pleased. She bore him a daughter and a son, both of whom Gualtieri took from her. In order to test her devotion, he pretended to have the children put to death, but Griselda sent them off cheerfully since that was her husband's wish.
When their daughter was in her early teens. Gualtieri sent Griselda home, clad only in a shift, after telling her that he intended to take a new wife. His subjects were sad, but Griselda remained composed. A short time later he called Griselda back to his house and ordered her to prepare it for his wedding, saying that no one else knew so well how to arrange it. In her ragged dress, she prepared everything for the wedding feast. Welcoming the guests, she was particularly thoughtful of the new bride.
By that time Gualtieri thought he had tested Griselda in every possible way. He introduced the supposed bride as her daughter and the little boy who had accompanied
the girl as her son. Then he had Griselda dressed in her best clothes, and everyone rejoiced.
With such tales the ten young people made their retreat in the country pass quickly and happily.

 




 

Critical Evaluation

Giovanni Boccaccio, Dante, and Petrarch were the leading lights in a century that is considered the beginning of the Italian Renaissance. Dante died while Boccaccio was a child, but Petrarch was Boccaccio's friend during his middle and later life. Dante's work was essentially of the spirit; Petrarch's was that of the literary man; Boccaccio's broke free of all tradition and created a living literature about ordinary people. The Decameron is his most famous work. Since its composition, readers and critics have made much of The Decameron's hundred entertaining and worldly tales, comic and tragic, bawdy and courteous, satiric and serious. Unfortunately, much early criticism was moralistic, and Boccaccio was faulted for devoting his mature artistic skill to a collection of "immoral" stories. The Decameron has fared better in the latter half of the twentieth century, with more solid critical inquiries into the work's literary significance and style. Boccaccio's collection has been considered representative of the Middle Ages; it has also been viewed as a product of the Renaissance. The work is both. The Decameron not only encompasses literary legacies of the medieval world but also goes far beyond Boccaccio's own time, transcending in tone and style artistic works of previous as well as later periods.
The structure with its frame characters has many analogs in medieval literature; the frame story (a group of tales within an enclosing narrative) was a device known previously, in the Orient, as well as in the West. Two twelfth century examples are the collections The Seven Sages of Rome and the Disciplina clericalis. The material for many of Boccaccio's stories was gleaned from Indian, Arabic, Byzantine, French, Hebrew, and Spanish tales.
Although The Decameron is not escapist literature, the idea and nature of the framework have much in common with medieval romance. There is the idealistic, pastoral quality of withdrawal into the "pleasant place" or garden, away from the ugly, harsh reality of the surrounding world. The ten young people who leave Florence—a dying, corrupt city which Boccaccio describes plainly in all of its horrors—find only momentary respite from the charnel house of reality; but their existence for ten days is that of the enchanted medieval dreamworld: a paradise of flowers, ever-flowing fountains, shade trees, soft breezes, where all luxuries of food and drink abound. Furthermore, virtue reigns along with medieval gentilesse in its finest sense. There is no cynicism or lust in the various garden settings, where the pastimes are strolling, weaving garlands, or playing chess. Even Dioneo, who tells the most salacious stories, is as chaste in his conduct as Pampinea, Filomena, Filostrato, and the others. One critic has even seen in these frame characters a progression of virtues, their stories groups of exempla praising such qualities as wisdom, prudence, or generosity.
Against this refined and idealized medieval framework are the stories themselves, the majority marked by intense realism in a world where dreams and enchanted gardens have little place. The locale of each novella is usually that of actual geography; the Italian cities of Pisa, Siena, and especially Florence figure largely as settings. The entire Mediterranean is represented with its islands of Sicily, Corfu, Rhodes, Cyprus, and Ischia. France, England, and Spain also serve as backgrounds. In one Oriental story, the Seventh Tale on the Second Day, beautiful Altiel, the Sultan of Babylon's daughter, after being kidnapped, travels in the spaces of four years over most of the Mediterranean, the islands, Greece, Turkey, and Alexandria. Boccaccio is also concerned with restricted spatial reality, and he sketches in close detail internal settings of abbeys, bedrooms, churches, marketplaces, castles, and inns. Different social classes are shown with their own language and clothing. Ciappelletto, living in profanation of the world; Rinaldo, abandoned in nakedness and cold by his fellowmen; Peronella, the deceitful Neapolitan wool comber cuckolding her husband; the whole convent of nuns eagerly lying with the youth Masetto—these characters Boccaccio describes in believable human conflicts.
Although he draws upon the entire arsenal of medieval rhetoric, the author of these one hundred novellas goes beyond figures of speech and linguistic tools in his modern paradoxical style and cynical tone. Although his satire often bites deep, his comic mood generally embraces evil and holiness alike with sympathy and tolerance. His treatment of theme, situation, and character is never didactic. Like Chaucer, he is indulgent, exposing moral and social corruption but leaving guilty characters to condemn themselves.
A novella like the comic tale of Chichibio, told on the Sixth Day, is pure farce, moving rapidly by question and answer, playfully rollicking to a surprise ending brought about by this impulsive, foolish cook. The story of Ros-siglione and Guardastagno, Ninth Tale of the Fourth Day, has a tragic plot, but the narrators draw no moral in either case. The interaction of character, scene, and plot brings into relief forces that motivate the world of humanity and allow the reader to judge if he must. Again and again, characters in the tales are relieved from moral responsibility by the control of Fortune.
Throughout The Decameron, Boccaccio concerns himself primarily with presenting a very human world as he observed and understood it. In this presentation, there is no pedantry or reticence; he paints men and women in all of their rascality, faithlessness, nobility, and suffering, changing his Italian prose to suit the exigency of purpose, whether that results in a serious or comic, refined or coarse, descriptive or analytical style. Boccaccio has command of many styles; in fact, his "Commedia Umana" comprehends most, and its author changes easily from one to another.
It is true that in utilizing fables and anecdotes from many medieval sources, in employing figurative and rhythmic devices from books on medieval rhetoric, in structuring his framework according to the chivalric world of valor and courtesy, his work is a product of the Middle Ages. In its frank, open-minded treatment of flesh as flesh, its use of paradox, cynicism, and realistic handling of character, however, The Decameron transcends the medieval period and, going beyond the Renaissance, takes its place as universal art.

 


 


THE DECAMERON
 

 

Translated by John Florio

 



The First Day, The First Novell


 

Wherein Is Contained, How Hard A Thing It Is, To Distinguish Goodnesse From Hypocrisie; And How (Under The Shadow Of Holinesse) The Wickednesse Of One Man, May Deceive Many.

Messire Chappelet du Prat, by making a false confession, beguyled an holy Religious man, and after dyed. And having (during his life time) bene a very bad man, at his death, was reputed for a saint, and called S. Chappelet.

It is a matter most convenient (deare Ladies) that a man ought to begin whatsoever he doth, in the great and glorious name of him, who was the Creator of all things. Wherefore, seeing that I am the man appointed, to begin this your invention of discoursing Novelties: I intend to begin also with one of his wonderfull workes. To the end, that this being heard, our hope may remaine on him, as the thing onely permanent, and his name for ever to be praised by us. Now, as there is nothing more certaine, but that even as temporall things are mortall and transitory, so are they both in and out of themselves, full of sorrow, paine, and anguish, and subjected to infinite dangers: So in the same manner, we live mingled among them, seeming as part of them, and cannot (without some error) continue or defend our selves, if God by his especiall grace and favour, give us not strength and good understanding. Which power we may not beleeve, that either it descendeth to us, or liveth in us, by any merites of our owne; but of his onely most gracious benignity. Mooved neverthelesse and entreated by the intercessions of them, who were (as we are) mortals; and having diligently observed his commandements, are now with him in eternall blessednes. To whom (as to advocates and procurators, informed by the experience of our frailty) wee are not to present our prayers in the presence of so great a Judge; but onely to himselfe, for the obtaining of all such things as his wisedome knoweth to be most expedient for us. And well may we credit, that his goodnesse is more fully enclined towards us, in his continuall bounty and liberality; then the subtilty of mortall eye, can reach into the secret of so divine a thought: and sometimes therefore we may be beguiled in opinion, by electing such and such as our intercessors before his high Majesty, who perhaps are farre off from him, or driven into perpetuall exile, as unworthy to appeare in so glorious a presence. For he, from whom nothing can be hidden, more regardeth the sincerity of him that prayeth, then ignorant devotion, committed to the trust of a heedlesse intercessor; and such prayers have alwaies gracious acceptation in his sight. As manifestly will appeare, by the Novell which I intend to relate; manifestly (I say) not as in the judgement of God, but according to the apprehension of men.

There was one named, Musciatto Francesi, who from beeing a most rich and great Merchant in France, was become a Knight, and preparing to goe into Tuscany, with Mounsieur Charles without Land, Brother to the King of France (who was desired and incited to come thither by Pope Boniface) found his affaires greatly intricated heere and there (as oftentimes the matters of Merchants fall out to bee) and that very hardly hee should sodainly unintangle them, without referring the charge of them to divers persons. And for all he tooke indifferent good order, onely he remained doubtfull, whom he might sufficiently leave, to recover his debts among many Burgundians. And the rather was his care the more heerein, because he knew the Burgundians to be people of badde nature, rioters, brablers, full of calumny, and without any faithfulnesse: so that he could not bethinke himselfe of any man (how wicked soever he was) in whom he might repose trust to meete with their lewdnesse. Having a long while examined his thoughts upon this point, at last hee remembred one Master Chappelet du Prat, who ofttimes had resorted to his house in Paris. And because he was a man of little stature, yet handsome enough, the French not knowing what this word Chappelet might meane, esteeming he should be called rather (in their tongue) Chappell; imagined, that in regard of his small stature, they termed him Chappelet, and not Chappell, and so by the name of Chappelet he was every where known, and by few or none acknowledged for Chappell.

This Master Chappelet, was of so good and commendable life; that, being a Notarie, he held it in high disdaine, that any of his Contractes (although he made but few) should be found without falshoode. And looke how many soever hee dealt withall, he would be urged and required thereto, offering them his paines and travaile for nothing, but to bee requited otherwise then by money; which prooved to bee his much larger recompencing, and returned to him the farre greater benefit. Hee tooke the onely pleasure of the world, to beare false witnesse, if hee were thereto entreated, and (oftentimes) when hee was not requested at all. Likewise because in those times, great trust and beleefe was given to an oath, he making no care or conscience to be perjured: greatly advantaged himselfe by Law suites, in regard that many matters relyed upon his oath, and delivering the truth according to his knowledge.

He delighted (beyond measure) and addicted his best studies, to cause enmities and scandals betweene kindred and friends, or any other persons, agreeing well together; and the more mischiefe he could procure in this kind, so much the more pleasure and delight tooke he therein. If he were called to kill any one, or to do any other villanous deede, he never would make deniall, but go to it very willingly; and divers times it was well knowen, that many were cruelly beaten, ye slaine by his hands. Hee was a most horrible blasphemer of God and his Saints, upon the very least occasion, as being more addicted to choller, then any other man could be. Never would he frequent the Church, but basely contemned it, with the Sacraments and religious rites therein administred, accounting them for vile and unprofitable things: but very voluntarily would visit Tavernes, and other places of dishonest accesse, which were continually pleasing unto him, to satisfie his lust and inordinate lubricitie. Hee would steale both in publike and private, even with such a conscience, as if it were given to him by nature so to do. He was a great glutton and a drunkarde, even he was not able to take any more: being also a continuall gamester, and carrier of false Dice, to cheate with them the very best Friends he had.

But why do I waste time in such extent of words? When it may suffice to say, that never was there a worse man borne; whose wickednesse was for long time supported, by the favour, power, and Authoritie of Monsieur Musciatto, for whose sake many wrongs and injuries were patiently endured, as well by private persons (whom hee would abuse notoriously) as others of the Court, betweene whom he made no difference at all in his vile dealing. This Master Chappelet, being thus remembred by Musciatto (who very well knew his life and behaviour) he perfectly perswaded himselfe, that this was a man apt in all respects, to meete with the treachery of the Burgundians: whereupon, having sent for him, thus he beganne.

Chappelet, thou knowest how I am wholly to retreate my selfe from hence, and having some affaires among the Burgundians, men full of wickednesse and deceite; I can bethinke my selfe of no meeter a man then Chappelet, to recover such debts as are due to mee among them. And because it falleth out so well, that thou art not now hindered by any other businesse; if thou wilt undergoe this office for me, I will procure thee favourable Letters from the Court, and give thee a reasonable portion in all thou recoverest. Master Chappelet, seeing himselfe idle, and greedy after worldly goods, considering that Mounsieur Musciatto (who had beene alwayes his best buckler) was now to depart from thence, without any dreaming on the matter, and constrained thereto (as it were) by necessity, set downe his resolution, and answered, that hee would gladly doe it.

Having made their agreement together, and received from Musciatto his expresse procuration, and also the Kings gracious Letters; after that Musciatto was gone on his journey, Master Chappelet went to Dijon, where he was unknowne (well-neere) of any. And there (quite from his naturall disposition) he beganne benignely and graciously, in recovering the debts due; which course he tooke the rather, because they should have a further feeling of him in the end. Being lodged in the house of two Florentine brethren, that living on their monies usance; and (for Mounsieur Musciattoes sake) using him with honour and respect: it fortuned that he fell sicke, and the two brethren sent for Physitions to attend him, allowing their servants to be diligent about him, making no spare of any thing, which gave the best likelyhood of restoring his health. But all their paines proved to no purpose, because he (honest man) being now growne aged, and having lived all his life time very disorderly, fell day by day (according to the Physicions judgement) from bad to worse, as no other way appeared but death, whereat the brethren greatly grieved.

Upon a day, neere to the Chamber where the sicke man lay, they entred into this communication. What shall we doe (quoth the one to the other) with this man? We are much hindered by him: for to send him away (sicke as he is) we shall be greatly blamed thereby, and it will be a manifest note of our weake wisedome; the people knowing that first of all we gave him entertainement, and have allowed him honest physicall attendance, and he not having any way injuried or offended us, to let him be suddenly expulsed our house (sicke to death as he is) it can be no way for our credit.

On the other side, we are to consider also, that hee hath bin so badde a man, as he will not now make any confession thereof, neither receive the blessed Sacrament of the Church, and dying so without confession; there is no Church that will accept his body, but it must be buried in prophane ground, like to a Dogge. And yet if hee would confesse himselfe, his sinnes are so many and monstrous, as the like case also may happen, because there is not any Priest or Religious person, that can or will absolve him. And being not absolved, he must be cast into some ditch or pit, and then the people of the Towne, as well in regard of the account we carry heere, (which to them appeareth so little pleasing, as we are daily pursued with their worst words) as also coveting our spoile and overthrow, upon this accident will cry out and mutiny against us; Behold these Lombard dogs, which are not to be received into the Church, why should we suffer them to live heere among us? In furious madnesse will they come upon us, and our house, where (peradventure) not contended with robbing us of our goods, our lives will remaine in their mercy and danger; so that, in what sort soever it happen, this mans dying here, must needs be banefull to us.

Master Chappelet, who (as we have formerly saide) was lodged neere to the place where they thus conferred, having a subtle attention (as oftentimes we see sicke persons to be possessed withall) heard all these speeches spoken of him, and causing them to bee called unto him, thus hee spake.

I would not have you to be any way doubtfull of me; neither that you should receive the least damage by me: I have heard what you have said, and am certaine, that it will happen according to your words, if matters should fall out as you conceite; but I am minded to deale otherwise. I have committed so many offences against our Lord God, in the whole current of my life; that now I intend one action at the houre of my death, which I trust will make amends for all. Procure therefore, I pray you, that the most holy and religious man that is to be found (if there bee any one at all) may come unto me, and referre the case then to me, for I will deale in such sort for you and my selfe, that all shall be well, and you no way discontented.

The two Brethren, although they had no great hope in his speeches, went yet to a Monastery of Gray-Friars, and requested; that some one holy and learned man, might come to heare the confession of a Lombard, that lay very weake and sicke in their house. And one was granted unto them, being an aged religious Frier, a great read master in the sacred Scripture, a very venerable person, who being of good and sanctified life, all the Citizens held him in great respect and esteeme, and on hee went with them to their house. When he was come up into the Chamber where Master Chappelet lay, and being there seated downe by him; he beganne first to comfort him very lovingly, demanding also of him, how many times he had bin at confession? Whereto Master Chappelet (who never had bin shrived in all his life time) thus replied.

Holy Father, I alwayes used (as a common custome) to bee confessed once (at the least) every weeke, albeit sometimes much more often; but true it is, that being falne into this sicknesse, now eight daies since I have not beene confest, so violent hath bene the extremity of my weaknesse. My sonne (answered the good old man) thou hast done well, and so keep thee still hereafter in that minde: but I plainly perceive, seeing thou hast so often confessed thy selfe, that I shall take the lesse labour in urging questions to thee.

Master Chappelet replyed; Say not so good Father, for albeit I have bene so oftentimes confessed, yet am I willing now to make a generall confession, even of all sinnes comming to my remembrance, from the very day of my birth, until this instant houre of my shrift. And therefore I entreat you (holy Father) to make a particular demand of everie thing, even as if I had never bene confessed at all, and to make no respect of my sicknesse: for I had rather be offensive to mine owne flesh, then by favoring or allowing it ease, to hazard the perdition of my soule, which my Redeemer bought with so precious a price.

These words were highly pleasing to the holy Friar, and seemed to him as an argument of a good conscience: Wherefore, after hee had much commended this forwardnesse in him, he began to demand of him if he had never offended with any Woman? Whereunto master Chappelet (breathing forth a great sigh) answered.

Holy Father, I am halfe ashamed to tell you the truth in this case, as fearing least I should sinne in vaine-glory. Whereto the Confessor replyed; Speake boldly sonne, and feare not, for in telling the truth, bee it in confession or otherwise, a man can never sinne. Then sayde Maister Chappelet, Father, seeing you give me so good an assurance, I will resolve you faithfully heerein. I am so true a Virgin-man in this matter, even as when I issued forth of my mothers Wombe. O sonne (quoth the Friar) how happy and blessed of God art thou? Well hast thou lived, and therein hast thou not meanly merited, having had so much libertie to doe the contrary if thou wouldest, wherein verie few of us can so answer for our selves.

Afterward, he demanded of him, how much displeasing to God hee had beene in the sinne of Gluttony? When (sighing againe greatly) hee answered: Too much, and too often, good Father. For, over and beside the Fasts of our Lent season, which everie yeare ought to bee duely observed by devout people, I brought my selfe to such a customarie use, that I could fast three dayes in every Weeke, with Bread and Water. But indeede (holy Father) I confesse, that I have drunke water with such a pleasing appetite and delight (especially in praying, or walking on pilgrimages) even as greedy drunkards doe, in drinking good Wine. And many times I have desired such Sallades of small hearbes, as Women do gather abroad in the open fields, and feeding onely upon them, without coveting after any other kinde of sustenance, hath seemed much more pleasing to me, then I thought to agree with the nature of Fasting, especially, when as it swerveth from devotion, or is not done as it ought to bee.

Sonne, Sonne, replied the Confessour, these sinnes are naturall, and very light, and therefore I would not have thee to charge thy conscience with them, more then is needfull. It happeneth to every man (how holy soever he be) that after he hath fasted overlong, feeding will be welcome to him, and drinking good drinke after his travaile. O Sir, (said Maister Chappelet) never tell me this to comfort me, for well you know, and I am not ignorant therein, that such things as are done for the service of God, ought all to be performed purely, and without any blemish of the minde; what otherwise is done, savoureth of sinne. The Friar being well contented with his words, said: It is not amisse that thou understandest it in this manner, and thy conscience thus purely cleared, is no little comfort to me. But tell me now concerning Avarice, hast thou sinned therein, by desiring more then was reasonable, or withholding from others, such things as thou oughtst not to detaine? Wherein Maister Chappelet answered. Good Father, I would not have you to imagine, because you see me lodged heere in the house of two Usurers, that therefore I am of any such disposition. No truely Sir, I came hither to no other end, but onely to chastise and admonish them in friendly manner, to clense their mindes from such abhominable profit: And assuredly, I should have prevailed therein, had not this violent sicknesse hindered mine intention. But understand (holy Father) that my parents left me a rich man, and immediatly after my Fathers death, the greater part of his goods I gave away for Gods sake, and then, to sustaine mine owne life, and to helpe the poore members of Jesus Christ, I betooke my selfe to a meane estate of Merchandise, desiring none other then honest gaine thereby, and evermore whatsoever benefit came to me; I imparted halfe thereof to the poore, converting mine owne small portion about my necessary affaires, which that other part would scarcely serve to supply: yet alwayes God gave thereto such a mercifull blessing, that my businesse dayly thrived more and more, arising still from good to better.

Well hast thou done therein good Sonne, said the Confessour: but how oftentimes hast thou beene angry? Oh Sir (said Maister Chappelet) therein I assure yee, I have often transgressed. And what man is able to forbeare it; beholding the dayly actions of men to be so dishonest? No care of keeping Gods Commandements, nor any feare of his dreadfull judgements. Many times in a day, I have rather wished my selfe dead then living, beholding youth pursuing idle vanities, to sweare and forsweare themselves, tipling in Tavernes, and never haunting Churches; but rather affecting the worlds follies, then any such duties as they owe to God. Alas Sonne (quoth the Friar) this is a good and holy anger, and I can impose no penance on thee for it. But tell me, hath not rage or furie at any time so over-ruled thee, as to commit murther or man-slaughter, or to speake evill of any man, or to doe any other such kinde of injurie? Oh Father (answered Maister Chappelet) you that seeme to be a man of God, how dare you use any such vile words? If I had had the very least thought, to doe any such act as you speake, doe you thinke that God would have suffered me to live? These are deeds of darknesse, fit for villaines and wicked livers, of which hellish crew, when at any time I have happened to meet with some one of them, I have said; God, God convert thee.

Worthy, and charitable words, replied the Friar: but tell me Sonne, Didst thou ever beare false witnes against any man, or hast spoken falsly, or taken ought from any one, contrary to the will of the owner? Yes indeed Father, said Maister Chappelet, I have spoken ill of another, because I have sometime seene one of my neighbors, who with no meane shame of the world, would do nothing else but beat his wife: and of him once I complained to the poore mans parents, saying, that he never did it but when he was overcome with drinke. Those were no ill words, quoth the Friar; but I remember you said, that you were a Merchant: Did you ever deceive any, as some Merchants use to doe? Truely Father, answered M. Chappelet, I thinke not any, except one man, who one day brought me money which he owed me for a certaine peece of cloath I sold him, and I put it into a purse without accounting it. About a moneth afterward, I found that there were foure small pence more then was due to mee: and never happening to meete with the man againe, after I had kept them the space of a whole yeare, I then gave them away unto foure poore people, for Gods sake.

A small matter, said the Friar, and truly payed backe againe to the owner, in bestowing them on the poore. Many other questions he demanded of him, whereto still he answered in the same manner. But before he proceeded to absolution, Master Chappelet spake thus: I have yet one sinne more, which I have not revealed to you: when being urged by the Friar to confesse it, he said. I remember, that I should afford one day in the weeke, to cleanse the house of my soule, for better entertainement to my Lord and Saviour, and yet I have done no such reverence to the Sunday or Sabbath, as I ought to have done. A small fault Sonne, replyed the Friar. O no (quoth Master Chappelet) doe not terme it a small fault, because Sunday being a holy day, is highly to be reverenced: for as on that day, our blessed Lord arose from death to life. But (quoth the Confessor) hast thou done nothing else on that day? Yes, said he, being forgetfull of my selfe, once I did spet in Gods Church. The Friar smiling, said: Alas Sonne, that is a matter of no moment; for wee that are Religious persons, doe use to spet there every day. The more is your shame, answered Master Chappelet, for no place ought to bee kept more pure and cleane then the sacred Temple, wherein our daily sacrifices are offered up to God.

In this manner he held on an houre and more, uttering the like transgressions as these; and at last began to sigh very passionately, and to shed a few teares, as one that was skilfull enough in such dissembling pranks: whereat the Confessor being much mooved, saide: Alas Sonne, what aylest thou? Oh Father (quoth Chappelet) there remaineth yet one sinne more upon my conscience, wherof I never at any time made confession, so shamefull it appeareth to mee to disclose it; and I am partly perswaded, that God will never pardon me for that sinne. How now Sonne? said the Friar, never say so; for if all the sinnes that ever were committed by men, or shall be committed so long as the World endureth, were onely in one man, and he repenting them, and being so contrite for them, as I see thou art; the grace and mercy of God is so great, that upon penitent confession, he will freely pardon him, and therefore spare not to speake it boldly. Alas Father (said Chappelet, still in pretended weeping) this sinne of mine is so great, that I can hardly beleeve (if your earnest prayers do not assist me) that ever I shall obtaine remission for it. Speake it Sonne, said the Friar, and feare not, I promise that I will pray to God for thee.

Master Chappelet still wept and sighed, and continued silent, notwithstanding all the Confessors comfortable perswasions; but after hee had helde him a long while in suspence, breathing forth a sighe, even as if his very heart would have broken, he saide; Holy Father, seeing you promise to pray to God for me, I will reveale it to you: Know then, that when I was a little boy, I did once curse my Mother; which he had no sooner spoken, but he wrung his hands, and greeved extraordinarily. Oh good Son, saide the Friar: doth that seeme so great a sinne to thee? Why, men doe daily blaspheme our Lord God, and yet neverthelesse, upon their hearty repentance, he is alwayes ready to forgive them; and wilt not thou beleeve to obtaine remission, for a sinne so ignorantly committed? Weepe no more deare Sonne, but comfort thy selfe and rest resolved, that if thou wert one of them, who nayled our blessed Saviour to his Crosse; yet being so truly repentant, as I see thou art, he would freely forgive thee. Say you so Father? quoth Chappelet. What mine owne deare Mother? that bare me in her wombe nine moneths, day and night, and afterwards fed me with her breasts a thousand times, can I be pardoned for cursing her? Oh no, it is too haynous a sinne, and except you pray to God very instantly for me, he will not forgive me.

When the religious man perceived, that nothing more was to bee confessed by Master Chappelet; he gave him absolution, and his owne benediction beside, reputing him to be a most holy man, as verily beleeving all that hee had said. And who would not have done the like, hearing a man to speake in this manner, and being upon the very point of death? Afterward, he saide unto him, Master Chappelet, by Gods grace you may be soone restored to health, but if it so come to passe, that God doe take your blessed and well disposed soule to his mercy, will it please you to have your body buried in our Convent? Whereto Master Chappelet answered; I thanke you Father for your good motion, and sorry should I be, if my friends did bury me any where else, because you have promised to pray to God for me; and beside, I have alwayes carried a religious devotion to your Order. Wherefore, I beseech you, so soone as you are come home to your Convent, prevaile so much by your good meanes, that the holy Eucharist, consecrated this morning on your high Altar, may be brought unto me: for although I confesse my selfe utterly unworthy, yet I purpose (by your reverend permission) to receive it, as also your holy and latest unction, to this ende, that having lived a greevous sinner, I may yet (at the last) die a Christian. These words were pleasing to the good olde man, and he caused every thing to be performed, according as Master Chappelet had requested.

The two Brethren, who much doubted the dissembling of Chappelet, being both in a small partition, which sundered the sicke mans Chamber from theirs, heard and understood the passage of all, betweene him and the ghostly Father, being many times scarcely able to refraine from laughter, at the fraudulent course of his confession. And often they said within themselves, What manner of man is this, whom neither age, sickenesse, nor terror of death so neere approaching, and sensible to his owne soule, nor that which is much more, God, before whose judgement he knowes not how soone he shall appeare, or else be sent to a more fearefull place; none of these can alter his wicked disposition, but that he will needes die according as he hath lived? Notwithstanding, seeing he had so ordered the matter, that he had buriall freely allowed him, they cared for no more.

After that Chappelet had received the Communion, and the other Ceremonies appointed for him; weakenesse encreasing on him more and more, the very same day of his goodly confession, he died (not long after) towards the evening. Whereupon the two Brethren tooke order, that all needefull things should be in a readinesse, to have him buried honourably; sending to acquaint the Fathers of the Convent therewith, that they might come to say their Vigilles, according to precedent custome, and then on the morrow to fetch the body. The honest Friar that had confessed him, hearing he was dead, went to the Prior of the Convent, and by sound of the house Bell, caused all the Brethren to assemble together, giving them credibly to understand, that Master Chappelet was a very holy man, as appeared by all the parts of his confession, and made no doubt, but that many miracles would be wrought by his sanctified body, perswading them to fetch it thither with all devoute solemnity and reverence: whereto the Prior, and all the credulous Brethren presently condiscended very gladly.

When night was come, they went all to visit the dead body of Master Chappelet, where they used an especiall and solemne Vigill; and on the morrow, apparelled in their richest Coapes and Vestiments, with bookes in their hands, and the Crosse borne before them, singing in the forme of a very devoute procession, they brought the body pompeously into their Church, accompanied with all the people of the Towne, both men and women. The Father Confessor, ascending up into the Pulpit, preached wonderfull things of him, and the rare holinesse of his life; his fastes, his virginity, simplicity, innocency, and true sanctity, recounting also (among other especiall observations) what Chappelet had confessed, as this most great and greevous sinne, and how hardly he could be perswaded, that God would grant him pardon for it. Whereby he tooke occasion to reprove the people then present, saying; And you (accursed of God) for the verie least and trifling matter hapning, will not spare to blaspheme God, his blessed Mother, and the whole Court of heavenly Paradise: Oh, take example by this singular man, this Saint-like man, nay, a very Saint indeede.

Many additions more he made, concerning his faithfulnesse, truth, and integrity; so that, by the vehement asseveration of his words (whereto all the people there present gave credible beleefe) he provoked them unto such zeale and earnest devotion; that the Sermon was no sooner ended, but (in mighty crowds and throngs) they pressed about the Biere, kissing his hands and feete, and all the garments about him were torne in peeces, as precious Reliques of so holy a person, and happy they thought themselves, that could get the smallest peece or shred of any thing that came neere to his body: and thus they continued all the day, the body lying still open, to be visited in this manner.

When night was come, they buried him in a goodly Marble tombe, erected in a faire Chappell purposely; and for many dayes after following, it was most strange to see, how the people of the Country came thither on heapes, with holy Candles and other offerings, with Images of waxe fastened to the Tombe, in signe of Sacred and solemne Vowes, to this new created Saint. And so farre was spread the fame and renowne of his sanctity, devotion, and integrity of life, maintained constantly by the Fathers of the Convent; that if any one fell sicke in neede, distresse, or adversity, they would make their Vowes to no other Saint but him: naming him (as yet to this day they do) Saint Chappelet, affirming upon their Oathes, that infinite miracles were there daily performed by him, and especially on such, as came in devotion to visit his shrine.

In this manner lived and died Master Chappelet du Prat, who before he became a Saint, was as you have heard: and I will not deny it to be impossible, but that he may bee at rest among other blessed bodies. For although he lived lewdly and wickedly, yet such might be his contrition in the latest extreamity, that (questionlesse) he might finde mercie. But, because such things remaine unknowne to us, and speaking by outward appearance, vulgar judgement will censure otherwise of him, and thinke him to be rather in perdition, then in so blessed a place as Paradice. But referring that to the Omnipotents appointment, whose clemencie hath alwayes beene so great to us, that he regards not our errors, but the integrity of our Faith, making (by meanes of our continuall Mediator) of an open enemy, a converted sonne and servant. And as I began in his name, so will I conclude, desiring that it may evermore be had in due reverence, and referre we our selves thereto in all our necessities, with this setled assurance, that he is alwayes ready to heare us. And so he ceased.

 

 

The First Day, The Second Novell

 

Wherein Is Contained And Expressed, The Liberality And Goodnesse Of God, Extended To The Christian Faith

Abraham a Jew, being admonished or advised by a friend of his, named Jehannot de Chevigny, travailed from Paris unto Rome: And beholding there the wicked behaviour of men in the Church, returned backe to Paris againe, where yet (neverthelesse) he became a Christian.

The Novell recited by Pamphilus, was highly pleasing to the company, and much commended by the Ladies: and after it had beene diligently observed among them, the Queene commanded Madam Neiphila (who was seated neerest to Pamphilus) that, in relating another of hers, she should follow on in the pastime thus begun. She being no lesse gracious in countenance, then merrily disposed; made answere, that shee would obey her charge, and began in this manner.

Pamphilus hath declared to us, by his Tale, how the goodnesse of God regardeth not our errors, when they proceede from things which wee cannot discerne. And I intend to approove by mine, what argument of infallible truth, the same benignity delivereth of it selfe, by enduring patiently the faults of them, that (both in word and worke) should declare unfaigned testimony of such gracious goodnesse, and not to live so dissolutely as they doe. To the end, that others illumined by their light of life, may beleeve with the stronger constancy of minde.

As I have heeretofore heard (Gracious Ladies) there lived a wealthy Marchant in Paris, being a Mercer, or seller of Silkes, named Jehannot de Chevigny, a man of faithfull, honest, and upright dealing; who held great affection and friendship with a very rich Jew, named Abraham, that was a Merchant also, and a man of very direct conversation. Jehannot well noting the honesty and loyall dealing of this Jew, began to have a Religious kinde of compassion in his soule, much pittying that a man so good in behaviour, so wise and discreete in all his actions, should be in danger of perdition thorow want of Faith. In which regard, lovingly he began to intreate him, that he would leave the errors of his Jewish beleefe, and follow the truth of Christianity, which he evidently saw (as being good and holy) daily to prosper and enlarge it selfe, whereas on the contrary, his profession decreased, and grew to nothing.

The Jew made answer, that he beleeved nothing to be so good and holy, as the Jewish Religion, and having beene borne therein, therein also he purposed to live and dye, no matter whatsoever being able to remove him from that resolution. For all this stiffe deniall, Jehannot would not so give him over; but pursued him still day by day, reitterating continually his former speeches to him: delivering infinite excellent and pregnant reasons, that Merchants themselves were not ignorant, how farre the Christian faith excelled the Jewish falshoods. And albeit the Jew was a very learned man in his owne Law, yet notwithstanding the intire amity he bare to Jehannot, or (perhaps) his words fortified by the blessed Spirit, were so prevailant with him, that the Jew felt a pleasing apprehension in them, though as yet his obstinacie stoode farre off from Conversion. But as he thus continued strong in opinion, so Jehannot lefte not hourely to labour him: insomuch, that the Jew being conquered by such earnest and continuall importunity, one day spake to Jehannot, saying.

My worthy friend Jehannot, thou art extremely desirous, that I should convert to Christianitie, and I am well contented to doe it; onely upon this condition: That first I wil journey to Rome, to see him whom thou sayest, is Gods general Vicar here on earth, and to consider on the course of his life and manners, and likewise of his Colledge of Cardinals. If he and they doe appeare such men to mee, as thy speeches affirme them to be, and thereby I may comprehend that thy Faith and Religion is better then mine, as with no meane paines thou endevourest to perswade mee, I will become a Christian as thou art: but if I finde it otherwise, I will continue as I am, a Jew.

Jehannot hearing these words, became exceeding sorrowfull, and sayd within himselfe; I have lost all the paines which I did thinke to be well employed, as hoping to have this man converted heere. For, if he go to the Court of Rome, and behold there the wickednes of the Priests lives, farewell all hope in me, of ever seeing him to become a Christian. But rather, were he already a Christian, without all question he would turne a Jew. And so going neerer to Abraham, he said. Alas my loving friend, why shouldst thou undertake such a tedious travel, and so great a charge, as thy journey from hence to Rome will cost thee? Consider, that to a rich man (as thou art) travaile by land or Sea is full of infinite dangers. Doest thou not thinke, that here are Religious men enow, who wil gladly bestow Baptisme upon thee? To mee therefore it plainely appeareth, that such a voyage is to no purpose. If thou standest upon any doubt or scruple, concerning the faith whereto I wish thee; where canst thou desire conference with greater Doctours, or men more learned in all respects, then this famous Cittie doth affoord thee, to resolve thee in any questionable case? Thou must thinke, that the Prelates are such there, as heere thou seest them to be, and yet they must needes be in much better condition at Rome, because they are neere to the principall Pastor. And therefore, if thou wilt credit my counsell, reserve this journey to some time more convenient, when the Jubilee of generall Pardon happeneth, and then (perchance) I will beare thee company, and go along with thee as in vowed Pilgrimage.

Whereto the Jew replyed: I beleeve Jehannot that all which thou hast said, may be so. But, to make short with thee, I am fully determined (if thou wouldst have me a Christian, as thou instantly urgest me to bee) to goe thither, for otherwise, I will continue as I am. Jehannot perceyving his setled purpose, said: Goe then in Gods name. But perswaded himselfe, that hee would never become a Christian, after he had once seene the Court of Rome: neverthelesse, he counted his labour not altogither lost, in regard he bestowed it to a good end, and honest intentions are to be commended.

The Jew mounted on horse-backe, and made no lingering in his journey to Rome; where being arrived, he was very honourably entertained by other Jewes dwelling in Rome. And during the time of his abiding there (without revealing to any one the reason of his comming thither) very heedfully he observed the maner of the Popes life, of the Cardinals, Prelates, and all the Courtiers. And being a man very discreet and judicious, hee apparantly perceived, both by his owne eye, and further information of friends; that from the highest to the lowest (without any restraint, remorse of conscience, shame, or feare of punishment) all sinned in abhominable luxurie, and not naturally onely, but in foule Sodomie, so that the credite of Strumpets and Boyes was not small, and yet might be too easily obtayned. Moreover, drunkards, belly-Gods, and servants of the paunch, more then of any thing else (even like brutish beasts after their luxury) were every where to be met withall. And upon further observation, hee saw all men so covetous and greedie of Coyne, that every thing was bought and solde for ready money, not onely the blood of men, but (in plaine termes) the faith of Christians, yea, and matters of divinest qualities, how, or to whomsoever appertaining, were it for Sacrifices or Benefices, whereof was made no mean merchandize, and more Brokers were there to be found (then in Paris attending upon all Trades) of manifest Symonie, under the nice name of Negotiation, and for gluttony, not sustentation: even as if God had not knowne the signification of vocables, nor the intentions of wicked hearts, but would suffer himselfe to bee deceived by the outward names of things, as wretched men commonly use to doe.

These things, and many more (fitter for silence, then for publication) were so deepely displeasing to the Jew, being a most sober and modest man; that he had soone seene enough, resolving on his returne to Paris, which very speedily he performed. And when Jehannot heard of his arrivall, crediting much rather other newes from him, then ever to see him a converted Christian; he went to welcome him, and kindly they feasted one another. After some few dayes of resting, Jehannot demanded of him; what he thought of our holy Father the Pope and his Cardinals, and generally of all the other Courtiers? Whereto the Jew readily answered; It is strange Jehannot, that God should give them so much as he doth. For I will truely tell thee, that if I had beene able to consider all those things, which there I have both heard and seene: I could then have resolved my selfe, never to have found in any Priest, either sanctity, devotion, good worke, example of honest life, or any good thing else beside. But if a man desire to see luxury, avarice, gluttony, and such wicked things, yea, worse, if worse may be, and held in generall estimation of all men; let him but goe to Rome, which I thinke rather to be the forge of damnable actions, then any way leaning to grace or goodnesse. And, for ought I could perceive, me thinkes your chiefe Pastour, and (consequently) all the rest of his dependants, doe strive so much as they may (with all their engine arte and endevour) to bring to nothing, or else to banish quite out of the world, Christian Religion, whereof they should be the support and foundation.

But because I perceive, that their wicked intent will never come to passe, but contrariwise, that your faith enlargeth it selfe, shining every day much more cleare and splendant: I gather thereby evidently, that the blessed Spirit is the true ground and defence thereof, as being more true and holy then any other. In which respect, whereas I stood stiffe and obstinate against the good admonitions, and never minded to become a Christian: now I freely open my heart unto thee, that nothing in the world can or shall hinder me, but I will be a Christian, as thou art. Let us therefore presently goe to the Church, and there (according to the true custome of your holy faiths) helpe me to be baptized.

Jehannot, who expected a farre contrary conclusion then this, hearing him speake it with such constancy; was the very gladdest man in the world, and went with him to the Church of Nostre Dame in Paris, where he requested the Priests there abiding, to bestow baptisme on Abraham, which they joyfully did, hearing him so earnestly to desire it. Jehannot was his Godfather, and named him John, and afterward, by learned Divines he was more fully instructed in the grounds of our faith; wherein he grew of great understanding, and led a very vertuous life.

 

 

The First Day, The Third Novell

 

Whereby The Author, Approving The Christian Faith, Sheweth, How Beneficiall A Sodaine And Ingenious Answere May Fall Out To Bee, Especially When A Man Finds Himselfe In Some Evident Danger

Melchisedech a Jew, by recounting a Tale of three Rings, to the great Soldan, named Saladine, prevented a great danger which was prepared for him.

 

Madame Neiphila having ended her Discourse, which was well allowed of by all the company; it pleased the Queene, that Madame Philomena should next succeede in order, who thus began.

The Tale delivered by Neiphila, maketh mee remember a doubtfull case, which sometime hapned to another Jew. And because that God, and the truth of his holy Faith, hath bene already very well discoursed on: it shall not seeme unfitting (in my poore opinion) to descend now into the accidents of men. Wherefore, I will relate a matter unto you, which being attentively heard and considered; may make you much more circumspect, in answering to divers questions and demands, then (perhaps) otherwise you would be. Consider then (most woorthy assembly) that like as folly or dulnesse, many times hath overthrowne some men from place of eminencie, into most great and greevous miseries: even so, discreet sense and good understanding, hath delivered many out of irksome perils, and seated them in safest security. And to prove it true, that folly hath made many fall from high authority, into poore and despised calamity; may be avouched by infinite examples, which now were needelesse to remember: But, that good sense and able understanding, may proove to be the occasion of great desolation, without happy prevention, I will declare unto you in very few words, and make it good according to my promise.

Saladine, was a man so powerfull and valiant, as not onely his very valour made him Soldan of Babylon, and also gave him many signall victories, over Kings of the Sarrazens, and of Christians likewise. Having in divers Warres, and other magnificent employments, of his owne, wasted all his treasure, and (by reason of some sodaine accident happening to him) standing in neede to use some great summe of money, yet not readily knowing where, or how to procure it; he remembred a rich Jew named Melchisedech, that lent out money to use or interest in the City of Alexandria. This man he imagined best able to furnish him, if he could be won to do it willingly: but he was knowne to be so gripple and miserable, that hardly any meanes would drawe him to it. In the end, constrained by necessity, and labouring his wits for some apt device whereby he might have it: he concluded, though hee might not compell him to do it, yet by a practise shadowed with good reason to ensnare him. And having sent for him, entertained him very familiarly in his Court, and sitting downe by him, thus began.

Honest man, I have often heard it reported by many, that thou art very skilfull, and in cases concerning God, thou goest beyond all other of these times: wherefore, I would gladly bee informed by thee, which of those three Lawes or Religions, thou takest to be truest; that of the Jew, the other of the Sarazen, or that of the Christian? The Jew, being a very wise man, plainely perceived, that Saladine sought to entrap him in his answere, and so to raise some quarrell against him. For, if he commended any one of those Lawes above the other, he knew that Saladine had what he aymed at. Wherefore, bethinking himselfe to shape such an answere, as might no way trouble or entangle him: summoning all his sences together, and considering, that dallying with the Soldane might redound to his no meane danger, thus he replied.

My Lord, the question propounded by you, is faire and worthy, and to answere my opinion truely thereof, doth necessarily require some time of consideration, if it might stand with your liking to allow it: but if not, let me first make entrance to my reply, with a pretty tale, and well worth the hearing. I have oftentimes heard it reported, that (long since) there was a very wealthy man, who (among other precious Jewels of his owne) had a goodly Ring of great valew; the beauty and estimation whereof, made him earnestly desirous to leave it as a perpetuall memory and honour to his successors. Whereupon, he willed and ordained, that he among his male children, with whom this Ring (being left by the Father) should be found in custody after his death; hee and none other, was to bee reputed his heire, and to be honoured and reverenced by all the rest, as being the prime and worthiest person. That Sonne, to whom this Ring was left by him, kept the same course to his posterity, dealing (in all respects) as his predecessor had done; so that (in short time) the Ring (from hand to hand) had many owners by Legacie.

At length, came to the hand of one, who had three sonnes, all of them goodly and vertuous persons, and verie obedient to their Father: in which regard, he affected them all equally, without any difference or partiall respect. The custome of this Ring being knowne to them, each one of them (coveting to beare esteeme above the other) desired (as hee could best make his meanes) his Father, that in regard he was now growne very old, he would leave that Ring to him, whereby he should bee acknowledged for his heire. The good man, who loved no one of them more then the other, knew not how to make his choise, nor to which of them he should leave the Ring: yet having past his promise to them severally, he studied by what meanes to satisfie them all three. Wherefore, secretly having conferred with a curious and excellent Goldsmith, hee caused two other Rings to bee made, so really resembling the first made Ring, that himselfe (when he had them in his hand) could not distinguish which was the right one.

Lying upon his death-bed, and his Sonnes then plying him by their best opportunities, he gave to each of them a Ring. And they (after his death) presuming severally upon their right to the inheritance and honor, grew to great contradiction and square: each man producing then his Ring, which were so truely all alike in resemblance, as no one could know the right Ring from the other. And therefore, suite in Law, to distinguish the true heire to his Father, continued long time, and so it dooth yet to this very day. In like manner my good Lord, concerning those three Lawes given by God the Father, to three such people as you have propounded: each of them do imagine that they have the heritage of God, and his true Law, and also duely to performe his Commandements; but which of them do so indeede, the question (as of the three Rings) is yet remaining.

Saladine well perceyving, that the Jew was too cunning to bee caught in his snare, and had answered so well, that to doe him further violence, would redound unto his perpetuall dishonour; resolved to reveale his neede and extremity, and try if hee would therein friendly sted him. Having disclosed the matter, and how he purposed to have dealt with him, if he had not returned so wise an answere; the Jew lent him so great a sum of money as hee demanded, and Saladine repayed it againe to him justly, giving him other great gifts beside: respecting him as his especiall friend, and maintaining him in very honourable condition, neere unto his owne person.

 

 

The First Day, The Fourth Novell

 

Wherein May Bee Noted, That Such Men As Will Reprove Those Errours In Others, Which Remaine In Themselves, Commonly Are The Authors Of Their Owne Reprehension

A Monke having committed an offence, deserving to be very greevously punished, freed himselfe from the paine to be inflicted on him, by wittily reprehending his
Abbot, with the very same fault.
 

So ceased Madame Philotnena, after the conclusion of her Tale: when Dioneus sitting next unto her, (without tarrying for any other command from the Queene, knowing by the order formerly begun, that hee was to follow in the same course) spake in this manner.

Gracious Ladies, if I faile not in understanding your generall intention, we are purposely assembled heere to tell Tales; and especially such as may please our selves. In which respect, because nothing shold be done disorderly, I hold it lawfull for every one (as our Queene decreed before her Dignity) to relate such a Noveltie, as in their owne judgement may cause most contentment. Wherefore having heard that by the good admonitions of Jehannot de Chevigny, Abraham the Jew was advised to the salvation of his soule, and Melchisedech (by his witty understanding) defended his riches from the traines of Saladine: I now purpose to tell you in a few plaine words, without feare of receiving any reprehension, how cunningly a Monke compassed his deliverance, from a punishment intended towards him.

There was in the Country of Lunigiana (which is not far distant from our owne) a Monastery, which sometime was better furnished with holinesse and Religion, then now adayes they are: wherein lived (among divers other) a yong Novice Monke, whose hot and lusty disposition (being in the vigour of his yeeres) was such, as neither Fasts nor prayers had any great power over him. It chanced on a fasting day about high noon, when all the other Monkes were asleep in their Dormitaries or Dorters, this frolicke Friar was walking alone in their Church, which stoode in a very solitarie place, where ruminating on many matters by himselfe, hee espyed a prettie handsome Wench (some Husbandmans daughter in the Countrey, that had beene gathering rootes and hearbes in the field) upon her knees before in Altar; whom he had no sooner seene, but immediately hee felt effeminate temptations, and such as ill fitted with his profession.

Lascivious desire, and no religious devotion, made him draw neere her, and whether under shrift (the onely cloake to compasse carnal affections) or some other as close conference to as pernitious and vile a purpose, I know not: but so farre he prevailed upon her frailety, and such a bargaine passed betweene them, that from the Church, he wonne her to his Chamber, before any person could perceive it. Now, while this yong lusty Monke (transported with overfond affection) was more carelesse of his dalliance, then he should have bene: the Lord Abbot being newly arisen from sleepe, and walking softly about the Cloyster, came to the Monkes Dorter doore, where hearing what noyse was made betweene them, and a feminine voyce more strange then hee was wont to heare; he layed his eare close to the Chamber doore, and plainly perceived, that a woman was within. Wherewith being much moved, he intended sodainly to make him open the doore; but (upon better consideration) hee conceyved it farre more fitting for him, to returne backe to his owne Chamber, and tarry till the Monke should come forth.

The Monke, though his delight with the Damosell was extraordinary, yet feare and suspition followed upon it; for, in the very height of all his wantonnesse, he heard a soft treading about the doore. And prying thorow a small crevice in the same dore, perceived apparantly, that the Abbot himselfe stood listening there, and could not be ignorant but that the Maide was with him in the Chamber. As after pleasure ensueth paine, for the veniall Monke knew well enough (though wanton heate would not let him heede it before) that most greevous punishment must bee inflicted on him, which made him sad beyond all measure: Neverthelesse, without disclosing his dismay to the yong Maiden, he began to consider with himselfe on many meanes, whereby to find out one that might best fit his turne. And suddenly conceited an apt stratagem, which sorted to such effect as he would have it: whereupon, seeming satisfied for that season, he tolde the Damosell, that (being carefull of her credit) as hee had brought her in unseene of any, so he would free her from thence againe, desiring her to tarrie there (without making any noyse at all) untill such time as he returned to her.

Going forth of the chamber, and locking it fast with the key, he went directly to the Lord Abbots lodging, and delivering him the saide key (as every Monke used to doe the like, when he went abroade out of the Convent) setting a good countenance on the matter, boldly saide; My Lord, I have not yet brought in all my part of the wood, which lieth ready cut downe in the Forrest; and having now convenient time to doe it, if you please to give me leave, I will goe and fetch it. The Abbot perswading himselfe, that he had not beene discovered by the Monke, and to be resolved more assuredly in the offence committed; being not a little jocund of so happy an accident, gladly tooke the key, and gave him leave to fetch the wood.

No sooner was he gone, but the Abbot beganne to consider with himselfe, what he were best to doe in this case, either (in the presence of all the other Monkes) to open the Chamber doore, that so the offence being knowne to them all, they might have no occasion of murmuring against him, when he proceeded in the Monkes punishment; or rather should first understand of the Damosell her selfe, how, and in what manner shee was brought thither. Furthermore, he considered, that shee might be a woman of respect, or some such mans daughter, as would not take it well, to have her disgraced before all the Monkes. Wherefore hee concluded, first to see (himselfe) what shee was, and then (afterward) to resolve upon the rest. So going very softly to the Chamber, and entring in, locked the doore fast with the key, when the poore Damosell thinking it had beene the gallant young Monke; but finding it to be the Lord Abbot, shee fell on her knees weeping, as fearing now to receive publike shame, by being betrayed in this unkinde manner.

My Lord Abbot looking demurely on the Maide, and perceiving her to be faire, feate, and lovely; felt immediately (although he was olde) no lesse spurring on to fleshly desires, then the young Monke before had done; whereupon he beganne to conferre thus privately with himselfe. Why should I not take pleasure, when I may freely have it? Cares and molestations I endure every day, but sildome find such delights prepared for me. This is a delicate sweete young Damosell, and here is no eye that can discover me. If I can enduce her to doe as I would have her, I know no reason why I should gaine-say it. No man can know it, or any tongue blaze it abroade; and sinne so concealed, is halfe pardoned. Such a faire fortune as this is, perhaps hereafter will never befall me; and therefore I hold it wisedome, to take such a benefit when a man may enjoy it.

Upon this immodest meditation, and his purpose quite altered which he came for; he went neerer to her, and very kindly began to comfort her, desiring her to forbeare weeping: and (by further insinuating speeches) acquainted her with his amorous intention. The Maide, who was made neither of yron nor diamond, and seeking to prevent one shame by another, was easily wonne to the Abbots will, which caused him to embrace and kisse her often.

Our lusty young novice Monke, whom the Abbot imagined to bee gone for wood, had hid himselfe aloft upon the roofe of the Dorter, where, when he saw the Abbot enter alone into the Chamber, he lost a great part of his former feare, promising to himselfe a kinde of perswasion, that somewhat would ensue to his better comfort; but when he beheld him lockt into the Chamber, then his hope grew to undoubted certainty. A little chincke or crevice favoured him, whereat he could both heare and see, whatsoever was done or spoken by them: so, when the Abbot thought hee had staide long enough with the Damosell, leaving her still there, and locking the doore fast againe, hee returned thence to his owne Chamber.

Within some short while after, the Abbot knowing the Monke to be in the Convent, and supposing him to be lately returned with the wood, determined to reprove him sharpely, and to have him closely imprisoned, that the Damosell might remaine solie to himselfe. And causing him to be called presently before him, with a very stearne and angry countenance, giving him many harsh and bitter speeches, commanded, that he should be clapt in prison.

The Monke very readily answered, saying. My good Lord, I have not yet beene so long in the Order of Saint Benedict, as to learne all the particularities thereto belonging. And beside Sir, you never shewed mee or any of my Brethren, in what manner we young Monkes ought to use women, as you have otherwise done for our custome of prayer and fasting. But seeing you have so lately therein instructed mee, and by your owne example how to doe it: I heere solemnely promise you, if you please to pardon me but this one error, I will never faile therein againe, but dayly follow what I have seene you doe.

The Abbot, being a man of quicke apprehension, perceived instantly by this answere; that the Monke not onely knew as much as he did, but also had seene (what was intended) that hee should not. Wherefore, finding himselfe to be as faulty as the Monke, and that hee could not shame him, but worthily had deserved as much himselfe; pardoning him, and imposing silence on eithers offence: they convayed the poore abused Damosell forth of their doores, she purposing (never after) to transgresse in the like manner.

 

 

The First Day, The Fift Novell
 

Declaring, That Wise And Vertuous Ladies, Ought To Hold Their Chastitie In More Esteeme, Then The Greatnesse And Treasures Of Princes: And That A Discreete Lord Should Not Offer Modestie Violence.

The Lady Marquesse of Montferrat, with a Banquet of Hennes, and divers other gracious speeches beside, repressed the fond love of the King of France.
 

The Tale reported by Dioneus, at the first hearing of the Ladies, began to rellish of some immodestie, as the bashfull blood mounting up into their faces, delivered by apparant testimonie. And beholding one another with scarse-pleasing lookes, during all the time it was in discoursing, no sooner had he concluded: but with a few milde and gentle speeches, they gave him a modest reprehension, and meaning to let him know that such tales ought not to be tolde among women. Afterward, the Queene commaunded Madam Fiammetta, (sitting on a banke of flowers before her) to take her turne as next in order; and she, smiling with such a virgin blush, as very beautifully became her, began in this manner.

It is no little joy to mee, that we understand so well (by the discourses already past) what power consisteth in the delivery of wise and readie answeres; And because it is a great part of sence and judgement in men, to affect women of greater birth and quality then themselves, as also an admirable fore-sight in women, to keepe off from being surprized in love, by Lords going beyond them in degree: a matter offereth it selfe to my memory, well deserving my speech and your attention, how a Gentlewoman (both in word and deede) should defend her honor in that kind, when importunity laboureth to betray it.

The Marquesse of Montferrat was a worthy and valiant Knight, who being Captaine Generall for the Church, the necessary service required his company on the Seas, in a goodly Army of the Christians against the Turkes. Upon a day, in the Court of King Philip, sirnamed the one eyed King (who likewise made preparation in France, for a royall assistance to that expedition) as many speeches were delivered, concerning the valour and manhoode of this Marquesse: it fortuned, that a Knight was then present, who knew him very familiarly, and he gave an addition to the former commendation, that the whole world contained not a more equall couple in marriage, then the Marquesse and his Lady. For, as among all knights, the Marquesse could hardly be paraleld for Armes and Honour; even so his wife, in comparison of all other Ladies, was scarcely matchable for beauty and vertue. Which words were so weighty in the apprehension of King Philip, that sodainly (having as yet never seen her) he began to affect her very earnestly, concluding to embarke himselfe at Gennes or Genoua, there to set forward on the intended voyage, and journying thither by land, hee would shape some honest excuse to see the Lady Marquesse, whose Lord being then from home, opinion perswaded him over fondly, that he should easily obtaine the issue of his amorous desire.

When hee was come within a dayes journey, where the Ladie Marquesse then lay; he sent her word that she should expect his company on the morrow at dinner. The Lady, being singularly wise and judicious, answered the Messenger, that she reputed the Kings comming to her, as an extraordinary grace and favour, and that he should bee most heartily welcome. Afterward, entring into further consideration with her selfe, what the King might meane by his private visitation, knowing her Husband to be from home, and it to bee no meane barre to his apter entertainement: at last she discreetly conceited (and therin was not deceived) that babling report of her beauty and perfections, might thus occasion the Kings comming thither, his journey lying else a quite contrary way. Notwithstanding, being a Princely Lady, and so loyal a wife as ever lived shee intended to give him her best entertainement: summoning the chiefest Gentlemen in the Country together, to take due order (by their advice) for giving the King a gracious Welcome. But concerning the dinner, and diet for service to his Table, that remained onely at her own disposing.

Sending presently abroad, and buying all the Hennes that the Country affoorded, shee commaunded her Cookes, that onely of them (without any other provision beside) they should prepare all the services that they could devise. On the morrow, the King came according to his promise, and was most honourably welcomed by the Lady, who seemed in his eye (far beyond the Knights speeches of her) the fairest creature that ever he had seene before; whereat he mervailed not a little, extolling her perfections to be peerelesse, which much the more enflamed his affections, and (almost) made his desires impatient. The King beeing withdrawne into such Chambers, as orderly were prepared for him, and as beseemed so great a Prince: the houre of dinner drawing on, the King and the Lady Marquesse were seated at one Table, and his attendants placed at other tables, answerable to their degrees of honour.

Plenty of dishes being served in, and the rarest Wines that the Countrey yeelded, the King had more minde to the faire Lady Marques, then any meate that stood on the Table. Neverthelesse, observing each service after other, and that all the Viands (though variously cooked, and in divers kindes) were nothing else but Hennes onely, he began to wonder; and so much the rather, because he knew the Country to be of such quality, that it afforded all plenty both of Fowles and Venison: beside, after the time of his comming was heard, they had respite enough, both for hawking and hunting; and therefore it encreased his marvell the more, that nothing was provided for him, but Hennes onely: wherein to be the better resolved, turning a merry countenance to the Lady, thus he spake. Madam, are Hennes onely bred in this Country, and no Cockes? The Lady Marquesse, very well understanding his demand, which fitted her with an apt opportunity, to thwart his idle hope, and defend her owne honour; boldly returned the King this answere. Not so my Lord, but women and wives, howsoever they differ in garments and graces one from another; yet notwithstanding, they are all heere as they bee in other places.

When the King heard this reply, he knew well enough the occasion of his Henne dinner, as also, what vertue lay couched under her answere; perceiving apparantly, that wanton words would prove but in vaine, and such a woman was not easily to be seduced; wherefore, as hee grew enamored on her inconsiderately, so he found it best fitting for his honour, to quench this heate with wisedome discreetly. And so, without any more words, or further hope of speeding in so unkingly a purpose, dinner being ended, by a sudden departing, he smoothly shadowed the cause of his comming, and thanking her for the honour shee had done him, commended her to her chaste disposition, and posted away with speede to Gennes.

 

 

The First Day, The Sixt Novell
 

Declaring, That In Few, Discreete, And Well Placed Words, The Covered Craft Of Church-Men May Bee Justly Reproved, And Their Hypocrisie Honestly Discovered.

An honest plaine meaning man, (simply and conscionably) reprehended the malignity, hypocrisie, and misdemeanour of many Religious persons.

Madam Aemilia sitting next to the gentle Lady Fiammetta, perceiving the modest chastisement, which the vertuous Lady Marquesse had given to the King of France, was generally graced by the whole Assembly; began (after the Queene had thereto appointed her) in these words. Nor will I conceale the deserved reprehension, which an honest simple lay-man, gave to a covetous holy Father, in very few words; yet more to be commended, then derided.

Not long since (worthy Ladies) there dwelt in our owne native City, a Friar Minor, an Inquisitor after matters of Faith; who, although he laboured greatly to seeme a sanctified man, and an earnest affecter of Christian Religion, (as all of them appeare to be in outward shew;) yet he was a much better Inquisitor after them that had their purses plenteously stored with money, then of such as were slenderly grounded in Faith. By which diligent continued care in him, he found out a man, more rich in purse, then understanding; and yet not so defective in matters of faith, as misguided by his owne simple speaking, and (perhaps) when his braine was well warmed with wine, words fell more foolishly from him, then in better judgement they could have done.

Being on a day in company, (very little differing in quality from him selfe) he chanced to say; that he had beene at such good wine, as God himselfe did never drinke better. Which words (by some Sicophant then in presence) being carried to this curious Inquisitor, and he well knowing, that the mans faculties were great, and his bagges swolne up full with no meane abundance: Cum gladijs et fustibus; With Booke, Bell, and Candle, he raysed an hoast of execrations against him, and the Sumner cited him with a solemne Processe to appeare before him, understanding sufficiently, that this course would sooner fetch money from him, then amend any misbeliefe in the man; for no further reformation did he seeke after.

The man comming before him, hee demanded, if the accusation intimated against him, was true or no? Whereto the honest man answered, that he could not denie the speaking of such words, and declared in what manner they were uttered. Presently the Inquisitor, most devoutly addicted to Saint John with the golden beard, saide; What? Doest thou make our Lord a drinker, and a curious quaffer of wines, as if he were a glutton, a belly-god, or a Taverne haunter, as thou, and other drunkards are. Being an hypocrite, as thou art, thou thinkest this to be but a light matter, because it may seeme so in thine owne opinion: but I tell thee plainely, that it deserveth fire and faggot, if I should proceede in justice to inflict it on thee: with these, and other such like threatning words, as also a very stearne and angry countenance, he made the man beleeve himselfe to be an Epicure, and that hee denied the eternity of the soule; whereby he fell into such a trembling feare, as doubting indeede, least he should be burned; that, to be more mercifully dealt withal, he rounded him in the eare, and by secret meanes, so annointed his hands with Saint Johns golden grease (a verie singular remedie against the Disease Pestilentiall in covetous Priests, especially Friars Minors, that dare touch no money) as the case became very quickly altered.

This soveraigne Unction was of such vertue (though Galen speakes not a word thereof among all his cheefest Medicines) and so farre prevailed, that the terrible threatning words of fire and faggot, became meerly frozen up, and gracious language blew a more gentle and calmer ayre; the Inquisitor delivering him an hallowed Crucifixe, creating him a Soldier of the Crosse (because he had payed Crosses good store for it,) and even as if he were to travell under that Standard to the holy Land; so did hee appoint him a home-paying pennance, namely, to visit him thrice every weeke in his Chamber, and to annoint his hands with the selfe-same yellow unguent, and afterward, to heare Masse of the holy Crosse, visiting him also at dinner time, which being ended, to do nothing all the rest of the day, but according as he directed him.

The simple man, yet not so simple, but seeing that this weekely greazing the Inquisitors hands, would in time graspe away all his gold, grew weary of this annointing, and began to consider with himselfe, how to stay the course of this chargeable penance. And comming one morning (according to his injunction) to heare Masse, in the Gospell he observed these words; You shall receive an hundred for one, and so possesse eternall life; which saying, he kept perfectly in his memory: and as he was commanded, at dinner time, he came to the Inquisitor, finding him (among his fellowes) seated at the Table. The Inquisitor presently demaunded of him, whether he had heard Masse that morning, or no? Yes Sir, replyed the man very readily. Hast thou heard any thing therein (quoth the Inquisitor) whereof thou art doubtfull, or desirst to be further informed? Surely Sir, answered the plaine-meaning man, I make no doubt of any thing I have heard, but do beleeve all constantly: onely one thing troubleth me much, and maketh me very compassionate of you, and of all these holy Fathers your brethren, perceiving in what wofull and wretched estate you will be, when you shall come into another world. What words are these, quoth the Inquisitor? And why art thou moved to such compassion of us? O good Sir, saide the man, do you remember the wordes in the Gospell this morning, You shall receive an hundred for one? That is verie true replyed the Inquisitor, but what mooveth thee to urge those words?

I will tell you Sir, answered the plain fellow, so it might please you not to be offended. Since the time of my resorting hither, I have daily seene many poore people at your doore, and (out of your abundance) when you and your Brethren have fed sufficiently, every one hath had a good messe of Pottage: now Sir, if for every dishfull given, you are sure to receive an hundred againe, you will all be meerely drowned in pottage. Although the rest (sitting at the Table with the Inquisitor) laughed heartily at this jest; yet he found himselfe toucht in another nature, having hypocritically received for one poore offence, above three hundred peeces of Gold, and not a mite to be restored againe. But fearing to be further disclosed, yet threatning him with another Processe in law, for abusing the words of the Gospel, he was content to dismisse him for altogither, without any more golden greasing in the hand.

 

 

The First Day, The Seventh Novell

Approving, That It Is Much Unfitting For A Prince, Or Great Person, To Bee Covetous; But Rather To Be Liberall To All Men.

Bergamino, by telling a tale of a skilfull man, named Primasso, and of an Abbot of Clugni; honestly checked a new kinde of Covetousnesse, in Mayster Can de la Scala.

The courteous demeanor of Madam Aemilia, and the quaintnesse of her discourse, caused both the Queene, and the rest of the company, to commend the invention of carrying the Crosse, and the golden oyntment appointed for pennance. Afterward, Philostratus, who was in order to speake next, began in this manner.

It is a commendable thing (faire Ladies) to hit a But that never stirreth out of his place: but it is a matter much more admirable, to see a thing suddainely appearing, and sildome or never frequented before, to bee as suddenly hit by an ordinary Archer. The vicious and polluted lives of Priests, yeeldeth matter of it selfe in many things, deserving speech and reprehension, as a true But of wickednes, and well worthy to be sharply shot at. And therefore, though that honest meaning man did wisely, in touching Master Inquisitor to the quicke, with the hypocriticall charity of Monkes and Friars, in giving such things to the poore, as were more meete for Swine, or to be worse throwne away, yet I hold him more to be commended, who (by occasion of a former tale, and which I purpose to relate) pleasantly reprooved Master Can de la Scala, a Magnifico and mighty Lord, for a sudden and unaccustomed covetousnesse appearing in him, figuring by other men, that which hee intended to say of him, in manner following.

Master Can de la Scala, as fame ranne abroad of him in all places, was (beyond the infinite favours of Fortune towards him) one of the most notable and magnificent Lords that ever lived in Italy, since the daies of Fredericke the second, Emperor. He determining to procure a very solemne assembly at Verona, and many people being met there from divers places, especially Gentlemen of all degrees; suddenly (upon what occasion I know not) his minde altred, and hee would not goe forward with his intention. Most of them he partly recompenced which were come thither, and they dismissed to depart at their pleasure, one onely man remained unrespected, or in any kinde sort sent away, whose name was Bergamino, a man very pleasantly disposed, and so wittily readie in speaking and answering, as none could easily credit it, but such as heard him; and although his recompence seemed over-long delayed, yet hee made no doubt of a beneficiall ending.

By some enemies of his, Master Can de la Scala was incensed, that whatsoever he gave or bestowed on him, was as ill imployed and utterly lost, as if it were throwne into the fire, and therefore he neither did or spake any thing to him. Some few dayes being passed over, and Bergamino perceiving, that hee was neither called, nor any account made of, notwithstanding many manly good parts in him; observing beside, that hee found a shrewd consumption in his purse, his Inne, horses, and servants, being chargeable to him, he began to grow extremely melancholly, and yet hee attended in expectation day by day, as thinking it farre unfitting for him, to depart before he was bidden farewell.

Having brought with him thither three goodly rich garments, which had beene given him by sundrie Lords, for his more sightly appearance at this great meeting; the importunate Host being greedie of payment, first he delivered him one of them, and yet not halfe the score being wiped off, the second must needes follow; and beside, except he meant to leave his lodging, hee must live upon the third so long as it would last, till hee saw what end his hopes would sort too. It fortuned, during the time of living thus upon his last refuge, that hee met with Maister Can one day at dinner, where he presented himselfe before him, with a discontented countenance: which Maister Can well observing, more to distaste him, then take delight in any thing that could come from him, he sayd. Bergamino, how cheerest thou? Thou art very melancholly, I prythee tell us why? Bergamino suddenly, without any premeditation, yet seeming as if he had long considered thereon, reported this Tale.

Sir, I have heard of a certaine man, named Primasso, one skilfully learned in the Grammar, and (beyond all other) a very witty and ready versifier: in regard whereof, he was so much admired, and farre renowned, that such as never saw him, but onely heard of him, could easily say, this is Primasso. It came to passe, that being once at Paris, in poore estate, as commonly he could light on no better fortune (because vertue is slenderly rewarded, by such as have the greatest possessions) he heard much fame of the Abbot of Clugni, a man reputed (next to the Pope) to be the richest Prelate of the Church. Of him he heard wonderfull and magnificent matters, that he alwayes kept an open and hospitable Court, and never made refusall of any (from whence soever hee came or went) but they did eate and drinke freely there; provided, that they came when the Abbot was set at the Table. Primasso hearing this, and being an earnest desirer to see magnificent and vertuous men, hee resolved to goe see this rare bounty of the Abbot, demanding how far he dwelt from Paris? Being answered, about some three Leagues thence. Primasso made account, that if he went on betimes in the morning, he should easily reach thither before the houre for dinner.

Being instructed in the way, and not finding any to walke along with him; fearing, if he went without some furnishment, and should stay long there for his dinner, he might (perhaps) complaine of hunger: he therefore carried three loaves of bread with him, knowing that he could meet with water every where, albeit he used to drinke but little. Having aptly conveyed his bread about him, he went on his journy, and arrived at the Lord Abbots Court, an indifferent while before dinner time: wherefore entering into the great Hall, and so from place to place, beholding the great multitude of Tables, bountifull preparation in the Kitchin, and what admirable provision there was for dinner, he said to himselfe; Truly this man is more magnificent then fame hath made him, because shee speakes too sparingly of him.

While thus he went about, considering on all these things very respectively, he saw the Maister of the Abbots Houshold (because then it was the houre of dinner) command water to be brought for washing hands, so everie one sitting down at the Tatle, it fell to the lot of Primasso, to sit directly against the doore, whereat the Abbot must enter into the Hall. The custome in this Court was such, that no manner of Foode should be served to any of the Table, untill such time as the Lord Abbot was himselfe set: whereupon, every thing being fit and ready, the Master of the Houshold went to tell his Lord, that nothing now wanted but his onely presence.

The Abbot comming from his Chamber to enter the Hall, looking about him, as hee was wont to doe; the first man hee saw was Primasso, who being but in homely habite, and he having not seene him before to his remembrance, a present bad conceite possessed his braine, that he never saw an unworthier person, saying within himselfe: See how I give my goods away to bee devoured. So returning backe to his Chamber againe; commaunded the doore to be made fast, demaunding of every man neere about him, if they knew the base Knave that sate before his entrance into the Hall, and all his servants answered no. Primasso being extreamely hungry, with travailing on foote so farre, and never used to fast so long; expecting still when meate would be served in, and that the Abbot came not at all: drew out one of his loaves which hee brought with him, and very heartily fell to feeding.

My Lord Abbot, after hee had stayed within an indifferent while, sent forth one of his men, to see if the poore fellow was gone, or no. The servant told him, that he stayed there, and fed upon dry bread, which it seemed he had brought thither with him. Let him feede on his owne (replyed the Abbot) for he shall taste of none of mine this day. Gladly wold the Abbot, that Primasso should have gone thence of himselfe, and yet held it scarsely honest in his Lordship, to dismisse him by his owne command. Primasso having eaten one of his Loaves, and yet the Abbot was not come; began to feede upon the second: the Abbot still sending to expect his absence, and answered as he was before. At length, the Abbot not comming, and Primasso having eaten up his second loafe, hunger compeld him to begin with the third.

When these newes were carried to the Abbot, sodainly he brake forth and saide. What new kinde of needy tricke hath my braine begotte this day? Why do I grow disdainfull against any man whatsoever? I have long time allowed my meate to be eaten by all commers that did please to visit me, without exception against any person, Gentleman, Yeoman, poore or rich, Marchant or Minstrill, honest man or knave, never refraining my presence in the Hall, by basely contemning one poore man. Beleeve me, covetousnesse of one mans meate, doth ill agree with mine estate and calling. What though he appeareth a wretched fellow to me? He may be of greater merit then I can imagine, and deserve more honor then I am able to give him.

Having thus discoursed with himselfe, he would needs understand of whence, and what he was, and finding him to be Primasso, come onely to see the magnificence which he had reported of him, knowing also (by the generall fame noysed every where of him) that he was reputed to be a learned, honest, and ingenious man: he grew greatly ashamed of his owne folly, and being desirous to make him an amends, strove many waies how to do him honor. When dinner was ended, the Abbot bestowed honorable garments on him, such as beseemed his degree and merit, and putting good store of money in his purse, as also giving him a good horse to ride on, left it at his owne free election, whether he would stay there still with him, or depart at his pleasure. Wherewith Primasso being highly contented, yeelding him the heartiest thankes he could devise to do, returned to Paris on horse-backe, albeit he came poorely thether on foot.

Master Can de la Scala, who was a man of good understanding, perceived immediately (without any further interpretation) what Bergamino meant by this morall, and smiling on him, saide: Bergamino, thou hast honestly expressed thy vertue and necessities, and justly reprooved mine avarice, niggardnesse, and base folly. And trust me Bergamino, I never felt such a fit of covetousnesse come upon me, as this which I have dishonestly declared to thee: and which I will now banish from me, with the same correction as thou hast taught mee. So, having payed the Host all his charges, redeeming also his robes or garments, mounting him on a good Gelding, and putting plenty of Crownes in his purse, he referd it to his owne choise to depart, or dwell there still with him.

 

 

The First Day, The Eight Novell

Which Plainly Declareth, That A Covetous Gentleman, Is Not Worthy Of Any Honor Or Respect.

Guillaume Boursier, with a few quaint and familiar words, checkt the miserable covetousnesse of Signior Herminio de Grimaldi.

Madam Lauretta, sitting next to Philostratus, when she had heard the witty conceite of Bergamino; knowing, that she was to say somewhat, without injunction or command, pleasantly thus began.

This last discourse (faire and vertuous company) induceth me to tell you, how an honest Courtier reprehended in like manner (and nothing unprofitably) base covetousnesse in a Merchant of extraordinary wealth. Which Tale, although (in effect) it may seeme to resemble the former; yet perhaps, it will prove no lesse pleasing to you, in regard it sorted to as good an end.

It is no long time since, that there lived in Genes or Geneway, a Gentleman named Signior Herminio de Grimaldo, who (as every one wel knew) was more rich in inheritances, and ready summes of currant money then any other knowne Citizen in Italy. And as hee surpassed other men in wealth, so did he likewise excell them in wretched Avarice, being so miserably greedy and covetous, as no man in the world could be more wicked that way; because, not onely he kept his purse lockt up from pleasuring any, but denied needfull things to himselfe, enduring many miseries onely to avoid expences, contrary to the Genewayes generall custom, who alwayes delighted to be decently cloathed, and to have their dyet of the best. By reason of which most miserable basenesse, they tooke away from him the Sirname of Grimaldi, whereof he was in right descended, and called him master Herminio the covetous Mizer, a nickname very notably agreeing with his gripple nature.

It came to passe, that in this time of his spending nothing, but multiplying daily by infinite meanes, that a civill honest Gentleman (a Courtier of ready wit, and discoursive in Languages) came to Geneway, being named Guillaume Boursier. A man very farre differing from divers Courtiers in these dayes, who for soothing shamefull and gracelesse maners in such as allow them maintenance, are called and reputed to bee Gentlemen, yea speciall favourites: whereas much more worthily, they should be accounted as knaves and villaines, being borne and bred in all filthinesse, and skilfull in every kinde of basest behaviour, not fit to come in Princes Courts. For, whereas in passed times, they spent their dayes and paines in making peace, when Gentlemen were at warre or dissention, or treating on honest marriages, betweene friends and familiars, and (with loving speeches) would recreate disturbed mindes, desiring none but commendable exercises in Court, and sharpely reprooving (like Fathers) disordred life, or ill actions in any, albeit with recompence little, or none at all; these upstarts now adayes, employ all their paines in detractions, sowing questions and quarrels betweene one another, making no spare of lyes and falshoods. Nay which is worse, they wil do this in the presence of any man, upbraiding him with injuries, shames, and scandals (true or not true) upon the very least occasion. And by false and deceitful flatteries and villanies of their owne inventing, they make Gentlemen to become as vile as themselves. For which detestable qualities, they are better beloved and respected of their misdemeanored Lords, and recompenced in more bountifull maner, then men of vertuous carriage and desert. Which is an argument sufficient, that goodnesse is gone up to heaven, and hath quite forsaken these loathed lower Regions, where men are drowned in the mud of all abhominable vices.

But returning where I left (being led out of my way by a just and religious anger against such deformity) this Gentleman, Master Guillaume Boursier, was willingly seene, and gladly welcommed by all the best men in Geneway. Having remained some few daies in the City, and amongst other matters, heard much talke of the miserable covetousnesse of master Herminio, he grew very desirous to have a sight of him. Master Herminio had already understood, that this Gentleman, Master Guillaume Boursier was vertuously disposed, and (how covetously soever hee was inclined) having in him some sparkes of noble nature, gave him very good words, and gracious entertainment, discoursing with him on divers occasions.

In company of other Genewayes with him, he brought him to a new erected house of his, a building of great cost and beauty; where, after he had shewne him all the variable rarieties, he beganne thus. Master Guillaume, no doubt but you have heard and seene many things, and you can instruct me in some queint conceit or device, to be fairly figured in painting, at the entrance into the great Hall of my House. Master Guillaume hearing him speake so simply, returned him this answer: Sir, I cannot advise you in any thing, so rare or unseene as you talk of: but how to sneeze (after a new manner) upon a full and over-cloyed stomacke, to avoyde base humours that stupifie the braine, or other matters of the like quality. But if you would be taught a good one indeede, and had a disposition to see it fairely effected, I could instruct you in an excellent Emblem, wherwith (as yet) you never came acquainted.

Master Herminio hearing him say so, and expecting no such answer as he had, saide, Good Master Guillaume, tell me what it is, and on my faith I will have it fairely painted. Whereto Master Guillaume suddenly replied; Do nothing but this Sir: Paint over the Portall of your Halles enterance, the lively picture of Liberality, to bid all your friends better welcome, then hitherto they have beene. When Master Herminio heard these words, he becam possessed with such a sudden shame, that his complexion changed from the former palenesse, and answered thus. Master Guillaume, I will have your advice so truly figured over my gate, and shee shall give so good welcome to all my guests, that both you, and all these Gentlemen shall say, I have both seene her, and am become reasonably acquainted with her. From that time forward, the words of Master Guillaume were so effectuall with Signior Herminio, that he became the most bountifull and best house-keeper, which lived in his time in Geneway: no man more honouring and friendly welcoming both strangers and Citizens, then he continually used to do.

 

 

The First Day, The Ninth Novell

Giving All Men To Understand, That Justice Is Necessary N A King Above Al Things Else Whatsoever.

The King of Cyprus was wittily reprehended, by the words of a Gentlewoman of Gascoignie, and became vertuously altered from his vicious disposition.

The last command of the Queene, remained upon Madam Elissa, or Eliza, who (without any delaying) thus beganne. Young Ladies, it hath often beene seene, that much paine hath beene bestowed, and many reprehensions spent in vaine, till a word happening at adventure, and perhaps not purposely determined, hath effectually done the deede: as appeareth by the Tale of Madame Lauretta, and another of mine owne, where with I intend briefly to acquaint you, approving that when good words are discreetly observed, they are of soveraigne power and vertue.

In the dayes of the first King of Cyprus, after the Conquest made in the holy Land by Godfrey of Bullen, it fortuned that a Gentlewoman of Gascoignie, travelling in pilgrimage to visit the sacred Sepulcher in Jerusalem, returning home againe, arrived at Cyprus, where shee was villanously abused by certaine base wretches. Complaining thereof, without any comfort or redresse, shee intended to make her moane to the King of the Country. Whereupon it was tolde her, that therein shee should but loose her labour, because hee was so womanish, and faint-hearted; that not onely he refused to punish with justice the offence of others, but also suffered shamefull injuries done to himselfe. And therefore, such as were displeased by his negligence, might easily discharge their spleene against him, and doe him what dishonour they would.

When the Gentlewoman heard this, despairing of any consolation, or revenge for her wrongs, shee resolved to checke the Kings deniall of justice, and comming before him weeping, spake in this manner. Sir, I presume not into your presence, as hoping to have redresse by you, for divers dishonourable injuries done unto me; but, as full satisfaction for them, doe but teach me how you suffer such vile abuses, as daily are offered to your selfe. To the end, that being therein instructed by you, I may the more patiently beare mine owne; which (as God knoweth) I would bestow on you very gladly, because you know so well how to endure them.

The King, who (till then) had beene very bad, dull, and slothfull, even as sleeping out his time of governement; beganne to revenge the wrongs done to this Gentlewoman very severely, and (thence forward) became a most sharpe Justicer, for the least offence offered against the honour of his Crowne, or to any of his subjects beside.

 

 

The First Day, The Tenth Novell

Wherein Is Declared, That Honest Love Agreeth With People Of All Ages.

Master Albert of Bullen, honestly made a Lady to blush, that thought to have done as much to him, because shee perceived him, to be amorously affected towards her.

After that Madam Eliza sate silent, the last charge and labour of the like employment, remained to the Queene her selfe; whereupon shee beganne thus to speake: Honest and vertuous young Ladies, like as the Starres (when the Ayre is faire and cleere) are the adorning and beauty of Heaven, and flowers (while the Spring time lasteth) doe graciously embellish the Meadowes; even so sweete speeches and pleasing conferences, to passe the time with commendable discourses, are the best habit of the minde, and an outward beauty to the body: which ornaments of words, when they appeare to be short and sweete, are much more seemely in women, then in men; because long and tedious talking (when it may be done in lesser time) is a greater blemish in women, then in men.

Among us women, this day, I thinke few or none have therein offended, but as readily have understood short and pithy speeches, as they have beene quicke and quaintly delivered. But when answering suteth not with understanding, it is generally a shame in us, and all such as live; because our moderne times have converted that vertue, which was within them who lived before us, into garments of the body, and shew whose habites were noted to bee most gaudy, fullest of imbroyderies and fantastick fashions: she was reputed to have most matter in her, and therefore to be more honoured and esteemed. Never considering, that whosoever loadeth the backe of an Asse, or puts upon him the richest braverie; he becommeth not thereby a jot the wiser, or meriteth any more honor then an Asse should have. I am ashamed to speake it, because in detecting other, I may (perhaps) as justly taxe my selfe.

Such imbroydered bodies, tricked and trimmed in such boasting bravery, are they any thing else but as Marble Statues, dumbe, dull, and utterly insensible? Or if (perchaunce) they make an answere, when some question is demanded of them; it were much better for them to be silent. For defence of honest devise and conference among men and women, they would have the world to thinke, that it proceedeth but from simplicity and precise opinion, covering their owne folly with the name of honesty: as if there were no other honest woman, but shee that conferres onely with her Chambermaide, Laundresse, or Kitchin-woman: as if nature had allowed them, (in their owne idle conceite) no other kinde of talking.

Most true it is, that as there is a respect to be used in the action of things; so, time and place are necessarily to be considered, and also whom we converse withall; because sometimes it happeneth, that a man or woman, intending (by a word of jest and merriment) to make another body blush or be ashamed: not knowing what strength of wit remaineth in the opposite, doe convert the same disgrace upon themselves. Therefore, that we may the more advisedly stand upon our owne guard, and to prevent the common proverbe, That Women (in all things) make choyse of the worst: I desire that this dayes last tale, which is to come from my selfe, may make us all wise. To the end, that as in gentlenesse of minde we conferre with other; so by excellency in good manners, we may shew our selves not inferiour to them.

It is not many yeares since (worthy assembly) that in Bulloigne there dwelt a learned Physitian, a man famous for skill, and farre renowned, whose name was Master Albert, and being growne aged, to the estimate of threescore and tenne yeares: hee had yet such a sprightly disposition, that though naturall heate and vigour had quite shaken hands with him, yet amorous flames and desires had not wholly forsaken him. Having seene (at a Banquet) a very beautifull woman, being then in the estate of widdowhood, named (as some say) Madam Margaret de Chisolieri, shee appeared so pleasing in his eye; that his sences became no lesse disturbed, then as if he had beene of farre younger temper, and no night could any quietnesse possesse his soule, except (the day before) he had seene the sweet countenance of this lovely widdow. In regard whereof, his dayly passage was by her doore, one while on horsebacke, and then againe on foot; as best might declare his plaine purpose to see her.

Both shee and other Gentlewomen, perceiving the occasion of his passing and repassing; would privately jest thereat together, to see a man of such yeares and discretion, to be amorously addicted, or overswayed by effeminate passions. For they were partly perswaded, that such wanton Ague fits of Love, were fit for none but youthfull apprehensions, as best agreeing with their chearefull complexion. Master Albert continuing his dayly walkes by the widdowes lodging, it chaunced upon a Feastivall day, that shee (accompanied with divers other women of great account) being sitting at her doore; espied Master Albert (farre off) comming thitherward, and a resolved determination among themselves was set downe, to allow him favourable entertainement, and to jest (in some merry manner) at his loving folly, as afterward they did indeede.

No sooner was he come neere, but they all arose, and courteously invited him to enter with them, conducting him into a goodly Garden, where readily was prepared choyse of delicate wines and banquetting. At length, among other pleasant and delightfull discourses, they demanded of him; how it was possible for him, to be amorously affected towards so beautifull a woman, both knowing and seeing, how earnestly she was sollicited by many gracious, gallant, and youthfull spirits, aptly suting with her yeares and desires? Master Albert perceiving, that they had drawne him in among them, onely to scoffe and make a mockery of him; set a merry countenance on the matter, and honestly thus answered.

Beleeve mee Gentlewoman (speaking to the widdowe her selfe) it should not appeare strange to any of wisedome and discretion, that I am amorously enclined, and especially to you, because you are well worthy of it. And although those powers, which naturally appertaine to the exercises of Love, are bereft and gone from aged people; yet good will thereto cannot be taken from them, neither judgement to know such as deserve to be affected: for, by how much they exceede youth in knowledge and experience, by so much the more hath nature made them meet for respect and reverence. The hope which incited me (being aged) to love you, that are affected of so many youthfull Gallants, grew thus. I have often chaunced into divers places, where I have seene Ladies and Gentlwomen, being disposed to a Collation or rerebanquet after dinner, to feede on Lupines, and young Onions or Leekes, and although it may be so, that there is little or no goodnesse at all in them; yet the heads of them are least hurtfull, and most pleasing in the mouth. And you Gentlewomen generally (guided by unreasonable appetite) will hold the heads of them in your hands, and feede upon the blades or stalkes: which not onely are not good for any thing, but also are of very bad savour. And what know I (Lady) whether among the choise of friends, it may fit your fancy to doe the like? For, if you did so, it were no fault of mine to be chosen of you, but thereby were all the rest of your suters the sooner answered.

The widdowed Gentlewoman, and all the rest in her company, being bashfully ashamed of her owne and their folly, presently said. Master Albert, you have both well and worthily chastised our over-bold presumption, and beleeve me Sir, I repute your love and kindnesse of no meane merrit, comming from a man so wise and vertuous: And therefore (mine honour reserved) commaund my uttermost, as alwayes ready to do you any honest service. Master Albert, arising from his seat, thanking the faire widdow for her gentle offer; tooke leave of her and all the company, and she blushing, as all the rest were therein not much behinde her, thinking to checke him, became chidden her selfe, whereby (if we be wise) let us all take warning.

The Sunne was now somewhat farre declined, and the heates extremity well worne away: when the Tales of the seaven Ladies and three Gentlemen were thus finished, whereupon their Queene pleasantly said. For this day (faire company) there remaineth nothing more to be done under my regiment, but onely to bestow a new Queene upon you, who (according to her judgement) must take her turne, and dispose what next is to be done, for continuing our time in honest pleasure. And although the day should endure till darke night; in regard, that when some time is taken before, the better preparation may bee made for occasions to follow, to the end also, that whatsoever the new Queene shall please to appoint, may be the better fitted for the morrow: I am of opinion, that at the same houre as we now cease, the following dayes shall severally begin. And therefore, in reverence to him that giveth life to all things, and in hope of comfort by our second day; Madam Philomena, a most wise young Lady, shall governe as Queene this our Kingdome.

So soone as she had thus spoken, arising from her seate of dignity, and taking the Lawrell Crowne from off her owne head; she reverently placed it upon Madam Philomenaes, shee first of all humbly saluting her, and then all the rest, openly confessing her to be their Queene, made gracious offer to obey whatsoever she commanded. Philomena, her cheekes delivering a scarlet tincture, to see her selfe thus honoured as their Queene, and well remembring the words, so lately uttered by Madam Pampinea; that dulnesse or neglect might not be noted in her, tooke cheerefull courage to her, and first of all, she confirmed the officers, which Pampinea had appointed the day before, then she ordained for the morrowes provision, as also for the supper so neere approiching, before they departed away from thence, and then thus began.

Lovely Companions, although that Madam Pampinea, more in her owne courtesie, then any matter of merit remaining in me, hath made me your Queene: I am not determined, to alter the forme of our intended life, nor to be guided by mine owne judgement, but to associate the same with your assistance. And because you may know what I intend to do, and so (consequently) adde or diminish at your pleasure; in very few words, you shall plainly understand my meaning. If you have well considered on the course, which this day hath bene kept by Madam Pampinea, me thinkes it hath bene very pleasing and commendable; in which regard, untill by over-tedious continuation, or other occasions of irkesome offence, it shall seeme injurious, I am of the minde, not to alter it. Holding on the order then as we have begun to doe, we will depart from hence to recreate our selves a while, and when the Sun groweth towards setting, we will sup in the fresh and open ayre; afterward, with Canzonets and other pastimes, we will out-weare the houres till bed time. To morrow morning, in the fresh and gentle breath thereof, we will rise and walke to such places, as every one shall finde fittest for them, even as already this day we have done; untill due time shall summon us hither againe, to continue our discoursive Tales, wherein (me thinkes) consisteth both pleasure and profit, especially by discreete observation.

Very true it is, that some things which Madam Pampinea could not accomplish, by reason of her so small time of authority, I will begin to undergo, to wit, in restraining some matters whereon we are to speake, that better premeditation may passe upon them. For, when respite and a little leysure goeth before them, each discourse will savour of the more formality; and if it might so please you, thus would I direct the order. As since the beginning of the world, all men have bene guided (by Fortune) thorow divers accidents and occasions: so beyond all hope and expectation, the issue and successe hath bin good and successful, and accordingly should every one of our arguments be chosen.

The Ladies, and the yong Gentlemen likewise, commended her advice, and promised to imitate it; onely Dioneus excepted, who when every one was silent, spake thus. Madam, I say as all the rest have done, that the order by you appointed, is most pleasing and worthy to bee allowed. But I intreate one speciall favour for my selfe, and to have it confirmed to mee, so long as our company continueth; namely, that I may not be constrained to this Law of direction, but to tell my Tale at liberty, after mine owne minde, and according to the freedome first instituted. And because no one shall imagine, that I urge this grace of you, as being unfurnished of discourses in this kinde, I am well contented to bee the last in every dayes exercise.

The Queene, knowing him to be a man full of mirth and matter, began to consider very advisedly, that he would not have mooved this request, but onely to the end, that if the company grew wearied by any of the Tales re-counted, hee would shut up the dayes disport with some mirthfull accident. Wherefore willingly, and with consent of all the rest he had his suite granted. So, arising all, they walked to a Christall river, descending downe a little hill into a valley, graciously shaded with goodly Trees; where washing both their hands and feete, much pretty pleasure passed among them; till supper time drawing neere, made them returne home to the Palace. When supper was ended, and bookes and instruments being laide before them, the Queene commanded a dance, and that Madam Aemilia, assisted by Madam Lauretta and Dioneus, should sing a sweet ditty. At which command, Lauretta undertooke the dance, and led it, Aemilia singing this song ensuing.

THE SONG

So much delight my beauty yeelds to mee,
That any other Love,
To wish or prove;
Can never sute it selfe with my desire.

Therein I see, upon good observation,
What sweet content due understanding lends:
Old or new thoughts cannot in any fashion
Rob me of that, which mine owne soule commends.

What object then,
(mongst infinites of men)
> Can I never finde
to dispossesse my minde,
And plaint therein another new desire?
So much delight, etc.

But were it so, the blisse that I would chuse,
Is, by continuall sight to comfort me:
So rare a presence never to refuse,
Which mortall tongue or thought, what ere it be

Must still conceale,
not able to reveale,
Such a sacred sweete,
for none other meete,
But hearts enflamed with the same desire.
So much delight, etc.

The Song being ended, the Chorus whereof was answered by them all, it passed with generall applause: and after a few other daunces, the night being well run on, the Queene gave ending to this first dayes Recreation. So, lights being brought, they departed to their severall Lodgings, to take their rest till the next morning.

 

 

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