The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio Part 31

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[Footnote 329: _i.e._ paying their way with fine words, instead of coin.]

[Footnote 330: _i.e._ making sausages of them.]

[Footnote 331: _Bachi_, drones or maggots. _Pastinaca_ means "parsnip"

and is a meaningless addition of Fra Cipolla's fashion.]

[Footnote 332: A play of words upon the primary meaning (winged things) of the word _pennate_, hedge-bills.]

Being unable to find that which I went seeking, for that thence one goeth thither by water, I turned back and arrived in those holy countries, where, in summer-years, cold bread is worth four farthings a loaf and the hot goeth for nothing. There I found the venerable father my lord Blamemenot Anitpleaseyou, the very worshipful Patriarch of Jerusalem, who, for reverence of the habit I have still worn of my lord Baron St. Anthony, would have me see all the holy relics that he had about him and which were so many that, an I sought to recount them all to you, I should not come to an end thereof in several miles.

However, not to leave you disconsolate, I will tell you some thereof.

First, he showed me the finger of the Holy Ghost, as whole and sound as ever it was, and the forelock of the seraph that appeared to St.

Francis and one of the nails of the Cherubim and one of the ribs of the Verb.u.m Caro[333] Get-thee-to-the-windows and some of the vestments of the Holy Catholic Faith and divers rays of the star that appeared to the Three Wise Men in the East and a vial of the sweat of St.

Michael, whenas he fought with the devil, and the jawbone of the death of St. Lazarus and others. And for that I made him a free gift of the Steeps[334] of Monte Morello in the vernacular and of some chapters of the Caprezio,[335] which he had long gone seeking, he made me a sharer in his holy relics and gave me one of the teeth of the Holy Rood and somewhat of the sound of the bells of Solomon's Temple in a vial and the feather of the Angel Gabriel, whereof I have already bespoken you, and one of the pattens of St. Gherardo da Villa Magna, which not long since at Florence I gave to Gherardo di Bonsi, who hath a particular devotion for that saint; and he gave me also of the coals wherewith the most blessed martyr St. Lawrence was roasted; all which things I devoutly brought home with me and yet have. True it is that my superior hath never suffered me to show them till such time as he should be certified if they were the very things or not. But now that, by certain miracles performed by them and by letters received from the patriarch, he hath been made certain of this, he hath granted me leave to show them; and I, fearing to trust them to others, still carry them with me.

[Footnote 333: _i.e._ The Word [made] flesh. Get-thee-to-the-windows is only a patter tag.]

[Footnote 334: Or Slopes or Coasts (_piaggie_).]

[Footnote 335: ?]

Now I carry the Angel Gabriel's feather, so it may not be marred, in one casket, and the coals wherewith St. Lawrence was roasted in another, the which are so like one to other, that it hath often happened to me to take one for the other, and so hath it betided me at this present, for that, thinking to bring hither the casket wherein was the feather, I have brought that wherein are the coals. The which I hold not to have been an error; nay, meseemeth certain that it was G.o.d's will and that He Himself placed the casket with the coals in my hands, especially now I mind me that the feast of St. Lawrence is but two days hence; wherefore G.o.d, willing that, by showing you the coals wherewith he was roasted, I should rekindle in your hearts the devotion it behoveth you have for him, caused me take, not the feather, as I purposed, but the blessed coals extinguished by the sweat of that most holy body. So, O my blessed children, put off your bonnets and draw near devoutly to behold them; but first I would have you knew that whoso is scored with these coals, in the form of the sign of the cross, may rest a.s.sured, for the whole year to come, that fire shall not touch him but he shall feel it.'

Having thus spoken, he opened the casket, chanting the while a canticle in praise of St. Lawrence, and showed the coals, which after the simple mult.i.tude had awhile beheld with reverent admiration, they all crowded about Fra Cipolla and making him better offerings than they were used, besought him to touch them withal. Accordingly, taking the coals in hand, he fell to making the biggest crosses for which he could find room upon their white smocks and doublets and upon the veils of the women, avouching that how much soever the coals diminished in making these crosses, they after grew again in the casket, as he had many a time proved. On this wise he crossed all the people of Certaldo, to his no small profit, and thus, by his ready wit and presence of mind, he baffled those who, by taking the feather from him, had thought to baffle him and who, being present at his preachment and hearing the rare shift employed by him and from how far he had taken it and with what words, had so laughed that they thought to have cracked their jaws. Then, after the common folk had departed, they went up to him and with all the mirth in the world discovered to him that which they had done and after restored him his feather, which next year stood him in as good stead as the coals had done that day."

This story afforded unto all the company alike the utmost pleasure and solace, and it was much laughed of all at Fra Cipolla, and particularly of his pilgrimage and the relics seen and brought back by him. The queen, seeing the story and likewise her sovantry at an end, rose to her feet and put off the crown, which she set laughingly on Dioneo's head, saying, "It is time, Dioneo, that thou prove awhile what manner charge it is to have ladies to govern and guide; be thou, then, king and rule on such wise that, in the end, we may have reason to give ourselves joy of thy governance." Dioneo took the crown and answered, laughing, "You may often enough have seen much better kings than I, I mean chess-kings; but, an you obey me as a king should in truth be obeyed, I will cause you enjoy that without which a.s.suredly no entertainment is ever complete in its gladness. But let that talk be; I will rule as best I know."

Then, sending for the seneschal, according to the wonted usance, he orderly enjoined him of that which he should do during the continuance of his seignory and after said, "n.o.ble ladies, it hath in divers manners been devised of human industry[336] and of the various chances [of fortune,] insomuch that, had not Dame Licisca come hither a while agone and found me matter with her prate for our morrow's relations, I mis...o...b.. me I should have been long at pains to find a subject of discourse. As you heard, she avouched that she had not a single gossip who had come to her husband a maid and added that she knew right well how many and what manner tricks married women yet played their husbands. But, letting be the first part, which is a childish matter, methinketh the second should be an agreeable subject for discourse; wherefore I will and ordain it that, since Licisca hath given us occasion therefor, it be discoursed to-morrow OF THE TRICKS WHICH, OR FOR LOVE OR FOR THEIR OWN PRESERVATION, WOMEN HAVE HERETOFORE PLAYED THEIR HUSBANDS, WITH OR WITHOUT THE LATTER'S COGNIZANCE THEREOF."

[Footnote 336: _Industria_ in the old sense of ingenuity, skilful procurement, etc.]

It seemed to some of the ladies that to discourse of such a matter would ill beseem them and they prayed him, therefore, to change the theme proposed; wherefore answered he, "Ladies, I am no less cognizant than yourselves of that which I have ordained, and that which you would fain allege to me availed not to deter me from ordaining it, considering that the times are such that, provided men and women are careful to eschew unseemly actions, all liberty of discourse is permitted. Know you not that, for the malignity of the season, the judges have forsaken the tribunals, that the laws, as well Divine as human, are silent and full licence is conceded unto every one for the preservation of his life? Wherefore, if your modesty allow itself some little freedom in discourse, not with intent to ensue it with aught of unseemly in deeds, but to afford yourselves and others diversion, I see not with what plausible reason any can blame you in the future.

Moreover, your company, from the first day of our a.s.sembling until this present, hath been most decorous, nor, for aught that hath been said here, doth it appear to me that its honour hath anywise been sullied. Again, who is there knoweth not your virtue? Which, not to say mirthful discourse, but even fear of death I do not believe could avail to shake. And to tell you the truth, whosoever should hear that you shrank from devising bytimes of these toys would be apt to suspect that you were guilty in the matter and were therefore unwilling to discourse thereof. To say nothing of the fine honour you would do me in that, I having been obedient unto all, you now, having made me your king, seek to lay down the law to me, and not to discourse of the subject which I propose. Put off, then, this mis...o...b..ance, apter to mean minds than to yours, and good luck to you, let each of you bethink herself of some goodly story to tell." When the ladies heard this, they said it should be as he pleased; whereupon he gave them all leave to do their several pleasures until supper-time.

The sun was yet high, for that the discours.e.m.e.nt[337] had been brief; wherefor Dioneo having addressed himself to play at tables with the other young men, Elisa called the other ladies apart and said to them, "Since we have been here, I have still wished to carry you to a place very near at hand, whither methinketh none of you hath ever been and which is called the Ladies' Valley, but have never yet found an occasion of bringing you thither unto to-day; wherefore, as the sun is yet high, I doubt not but, an it please you come thither, you will be exceeding well pleased to have been there." They answered that they were ready and calling one of their maids, set out upon their way, without letting the young men know aught thereof; nor had they gone much more than a mile, when they came to the Ladies' Valley. They entered therein by a very strait way, on one side whereof ran a very clear streamlet, and saw it as fair and as delectable, especially at that season whenas the heat was great, as most might be conceived.

According to that which one of them after told me, the plain that was in the valley was as round as if it had been traced with the compa.s.s, albeit it seemed the work of nature and not of art, and was in circuit a little more than half a mile, encompa.s.sed about with six little hills not over-high, on the summit of each of which stood a palace builded in guise of a goodly castle. The sides of these hills went sloping gradually downward to the plain on such wise as we see in amphitheatres, the degrees descend in ordered succession from the highest to the lowest, still contracting their circuit; and of these slopes those which looked toward the south were all full of vines and olives and almonds and cherries and figs and many another kind of fruit-bearing trees, without a span thereof being wasted; whilst those which faced the North Star[338] were all covered with thickets of dwarf oaks and ashes and other trees as green and straight as might be. The middle plain, which had no other inlet than that whereby the ladies were come thither, was full of firs and cypresses and laurels and various sorts of pines, as well arrayed and ordered as if the best artist in that kind had planted them; and between these little or no sun, even at its highest, made its way to the ground, which was all one meadow of very fine gra.s.s, thick-sown with flowers purpurine and others. Moreover, that which afforded no less delight than otherwhat was a little stream, which ran down from a valley that divided two of the hills aforesaid and falling over cliffs of live rock, made a murmur very delectable to hear, what while it showed from afar, as it broke over the stones, like so much quicksilver jetting out, under pressure of somewhat, into fine spray. As it came down into the little plain, it was there received into a fair channel and ran very swiftly into the middest thereof, where it formed a lakelet, such as the townsfolk made whiles, by way of fishpond, in their gardens, whenas they have a commodity thereof. This lakelet was no deeper than a man's stature, breast high, and its waters being exceeding clear and altogether untroubled with any admixture, it showed its bottom to be of a very fine gravel, the grains whereof whoso had nought else to do might, an he would, have availed to number; nor, looking into the water, was the bottom alone to be seen, nay, but so many fish fleeting hither and thither that, over and above the pleasure thereof, it was a marvel to behold; nor was it enclosed with other banks than the very soil of the meadow, which was the goodlier thereabout in so much as it received the more of its moisture. The water that abounded over and above the capacity of the lake was received into another channel, whereby, issuing forth of the little valley, it ran off into the lower parts.

[Footnote 337: _i.e._ the tale-telling.]

[Footnote 338: Lit. the northern chariot (_carro di tramontana_); _quaere_ the Great Bear?]

Hither then came the young ladies and after they had gazed all about and much commended the place, they took counsel together to bathe, for that the heat was great and that they saw the lakelet before them and were in no fear of being seen. Accordingly, bidding their serving maid abide over against the way whereby one entered there and look if any should come and give them notice thereof, they stripped themselves naked, all seven, and entered the lake, which hid their white bodies no otherwise than as a thin gla.s.s would do with a vermeil rose. Then, they being therein and no troubling of the water ensuing thereof, they fell, as best they might, to faring hither and thither in pursuit of the fish, which had uneath where to hide themselves, and seeking to take them with the naked hand. After they had abidden awhile in such joyous pastime and had taken some of the fish, they came forth of the lakelet and clad themselves anew. Then, unable to commend the place more than they had already done and themseeming time to turn homeward, they set out, with soft step, upon their way, discoursing much of the goodliness of the valley.

They reached the palace betimes and there found the young men yet at play where they had left them; to whom quoth Pampinea, laughing. "We have e'en stolen a march on you to-day." "How?" asked Dioneo. "Do you begin to do deeds ere you come to say words?"[339] "Ay, my lord,"

answered she and related to him at large whence they came and how the place was fashioned and how far distant thence and that which they had done. The king, hearing tell of the goodliness of the place and desirous of seeing it, caused straightway order the supper, which being dispatched to the general satisfaction, the three young men, leaving the ladies, betook themselves with their servants to the valley and having viewed it in every part, for that none of them had ever been there before, extolled it for one of the goodliest things in the world. Then, for that it grew late, after they had bathed and donned their clothes, they returned home, where they found the ladies dancing a round, to the accompaniment of a song sung by Fiammetta.

[Footnote 339: Alluding to the subject fixed for the next day's discourse, as who should say, "Have you begun already to play tricks upon us men in very deed, ere you tell about them in words?"]

The dance ended, they entered with them into a discourse of the Ladies' Valley and said much in praise and commendation thereof.

Moreover, the king, sending for the seneschal, bade him look that the dinner be made ready there on the following morning and have sundry beds carried thither, in case any should have a mind to lie or sleep there for nooning; after which he let bring lights and wine and confections and the company having somedele refreshed themselves, he commanded that all should address themselves to dancing. Then, Pamfilo having, at his commandment, set up a dance, the king turned to Elisa and said courteously to her, "Fair damsel, thou has to-day done me the honour of the crown and I purpose this evening to do thee that of the song; wherefore look thou sing such an one as most liketh thee." Elisa answered, smiling, that she would well and with dulcet voice began on this wise:

Love, from thy clutches could I but win free, Hardly, methinks, again Shall any other hook take hold on me.

I entered in thy wars a youngling maid, Thinking thy strife was utmost peace and sweet, And all my weapons on the ground I laid, As one secure, undoubting of defeat; But thou, false tyrant, with rapacious heat, Didst fall on me amain With all the grapnels of thine armoury.

Then, wound about and fettered with thy chains, To him, who for my death in evil hour Was born, thou gav'st me, bounden, full of pains And bitter tears; and syne within his power He hath me and his rule's so harsh and dour No sighs can move the swain Nor all my wasting plaints to set me free.

My prayers, the wild winds bear them all away; He hearkeneth unto none and none will hear; Wherefore each hour my torment waxeth aye; I cannot die, albeit life irks me drear.

Ah, Lord, have pity on my heavy cheer; Do that I seek in vain And give him bounden in thy chains to me.

An this thou wilt not, at the least undo The bonds erewhen of hope that knitted were; Alack, O Lord, thereof to thee I sue, For, an thou do it, yet to waxen fair Again I trust, as was my use whilere, And being quit of pain Myself with white flowers and with red besee.

Elisa ended her song with a very plaintive sigh, and albeit all marvelled at the words thereof, yet was there none who might conceive what it was that caused her sing thus. But the king, who was in a merry mood, calling for Tindaro, bade him bring out his bagpipes, to the sound whereof he let dance many dances; after which, a great part of the night being now past, he bade each go sleep.


_Day the Seventh_


Every star was already fled from the parts of the East, save only that which we style Lucifer and which shone yet in the whitening dawn, when the seneschal, arising, betook himself, with a great baggage-train, to the Ladies' Valley, there to order everything, according to commandment had of his lord. The king, whom the noise of the packers and of the beasts had awakened, tarried not long after his departure to rise and being risen, caused arouse all the ladies and likewise the young men; nor had the rays of the sun yet well broken forth, when they all entered upon the road. Never yet had the nightingales and the other birds seemed to them to sing so blithely as they did that morning, what while, accompanied by their carols, they repaired to the Ladies' Valley, where they were received by many more, which seemed to them to make merry for their coming. There, going round about the place and reviewing it all anew, it appeared to them so much fairer than on the foregoing day as the season of the day was more sorted to its goodliness. Then, after they had broken their fast with good wine and confections, not to be behindhand with the birds in the matter of song, they fell a-singing and the valley with them, still echoing those same songs which they did sing, whereto all the birds, as if they would not be outdone, added new and dulcet notes. Presently, the dinner-hour being come and the tables spread hard by the fair lakelet under the thickset laurels and other goodly trees, they seated themselves there, as it pleased the king, and eating, watched the fish swim in vast shoals about the lake, which gave bytimes occasion for talk as well as observation. When they had made an end of dining and the meats and tables were removed, they fell anew to singing more blithely than ever; after which, beds having been spread in various places about the little valley and all enclosed about by the discreet seneschal with curtains and canopies of French serge, whoso would might with the king's permission, go sleep; whilst those who had no mind to sleep might at their will take pleasure of their other wonted pastimes. But, after awhile, all being now arisen and the hour come when they should a.s.semble together for story-telling, carpets were, at the king's commandment, spread upon the gra.s.s, not far from the place where they had eaten, and all having seated themselves thereon hard by the lake, the king bade Emilia begin; whereupon she blithely proceeded to speak, smiling, thus:


[Day the Seventh]


"My Lord, it had been very agreeable to me, were such your pleasure, that other than I should have given a beginning to so goodly a matter as is that whereof we are to speak; but, since it pleaseth you that I give all the other ladies a.s.surance by my example, I will gladly do it. Moreover, dearest ladies, I will study to tell a thing that may be useful to you in time to come, for that, if you others are as fearful as I, and especially of phantoms, (though what manner of thing they may be G.o.d knoweth I know not, nor ever found I any woman who knew it, albeit all are alike adread of them,) you may, by noting well my story, learn a holy and goodly orison of great virtue for the conjuring them away, should they come to you.

There was once in Florence, in the quarter of San Brancazio, a wool-comber called Gianni Lotteringhi, a man more fortunate in his craft than wise in other things, for that, savoring of the simpleton, he was very often made captain of the Laudsingers[340] of Santa Maria Novella and had the governance of their confraternity, and he many a time had other little offices of the same kind, upon which he much valued himself. This betided him for that, being a man of substance, he gave many a good pittance to the clergy, who, getting of him often, this a pair of hose, that a gown and another a scapulary, taught him in return store of goodly orisons and gave him the paternoster in the vulgar tongue, the Song of Saint Alexis, the Lamentations of Saint Bernard, the Canticles of Madam Matilda and the like trumpery, all which he held very dear and kept very diligently for his soul's health. Now he had a very fair and lovesome lady to wife, by name Mistress Tessa, who was the daughter of Mannuccio dalla Cuculia and was exceeding discreet and well advised. She, knowing her husband's simplicity and being enamoured of Federigo di Neri Pegolotti, a brisk and handsome youth, and he of her, took order with a serving-maid of hers that he should come speak with her at a very goodly country house which her husband had at Camerata, where she sojourned all the summer and whither Gianni came whiles to sup and sleep, returning in the morning to his shop and bytimes to his Laudsingers.

[Footnote 340: See p. 144, note 2.]

Federigo, who desired this beyond measure, taking his opportunity, repaired thither on the day appointed him towards vespers and Gianni not coming thither that evening, supped and lay the night in all ease and delight with the lady, who, being in his arms, taught him that night a good half dozen of her husband's lauds. Then, neither she nor Federigo purposing that this should be the last, as it had been the first time [of their foregathering], they took order together on this wise, so it should not be needful to send the maid for him each time, to wit, that every day, as he came and went to and from a place he had a little farther on, he should keep his eye on a vineyard that adjoined the house, where he would see an a.s.s's skull set up on one of the vine poles, which whenas he saw with the muzzle turned towards Florence, he should without fail and in all a.s.surance betake himself to her that evening after dark; and if he found the door shut he should knock softly thrice and she would open to him; but that, whenas he saw the a.s.s's muzzle turned towards Fiesole, he should not come, for that Gianni would be there; and doing on this wise, they foregathered many a time.

But once, amongst other times, it chanced that, Federigo being one night to sup with Mistress Tessa and she having let cook two fat capons, Gianni, who was not expected there that night, came thither very late, whereat the lady was much chagrined and having supped with her husband on a piece of salt pork, which she had let boil apart, caused the maid wrap the two boiled capons in a white napkin and carry them, together with good store of new-laid eggs and a flask of good wine, into a garden she had, whither she could go, without pa.s.sing through the house, and where she was wont to sup whiles with her lover, bidding her lay them at the foot of a peach-tree that grew beside a lawn there. But such was her trouble and annoy that she remembered not to bid the maid wait till Federigo should come and tell him that Gianni was there and that he should take the viands from the garden; wherefore, she and Gianni betaking themselves to bed and the maid likewise, it was not long before Federigo came to the door and knocked softly once. The door was so near to the bedchamber that Gianni heard it incontinent, as also did the lady; but she made a show of being asleep, so her husband might have no suspicion of her. After waiting a little, Federigo knocked a second time, whereupon Gianni, marvelling, nudged his wife somewhat and said, 'Tessa, hearest thou what I hear? Meseemeth there is a knocking at our door.'

The lady, who had heard it much better than he, made a show of awaking and said, 'Eh? How sayst thou?' 'I say,' answered Gianni, 'that meseemeth there is a knocking at our door.' 'Knocking!' cried she.

'Alack, Gianni mine, knowst thou not what it is? It is a phantom, that hath these last few nights given me the greatest fright that ever was, insomuch that, whenas I hear it, I put my head under the clothes and dare not bring it out again until it is broad day.' Quoth Gianni, 'Go to, wife; have no fear, if it be so; for I said the _Te Lucis_ and the _Intemerata_ and such and such other pious orisons, before we lay down, and crossed the bed from side to side, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, so that we have no need to fear, for that, what power soever it have, it cannot avail to harm us.'

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The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio Part 31 summary

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