The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio Part 47

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Minuccio marvelled at the greatness of the damsel's soul and at her cruel resolve and was sore concerned for her; then, it suddenly occurring to his mind how he might honourably oblige her, he said to her, 'Lisa, I pledge thee my faith, whereof thou mayst live a.s.sured that thou wilt never find thyself deceived, and after, commending thee of so high an emprise as it is to have set thy mind upon so great a king, I proffer thee mine aid, by means whereof I hope, an thou wilt but take comfort, so to do that, ere three days be past, I doubt not to bring thee news that will be exceeding grateful to thee; and to lose no time, I mean to go about it forthright.' Lisa, having anew besought him amain thereof and promised him to take comfort, bade him G.o.d speed; whereupon Minuccio, taking his leave, betook himself to one Mico da Siena, a mighty good rhymer of those days, and constrained him with prayers to make the following canzonet:

Bestir thee, Love, and get thee to my Sire And tell him all the torments I aby; Tell him I'm like to die, For fearfulness concealing my desire.

Love, with clasped hands I cry thee mercy, so Thou mayst betake thee where my lord doth dwell.

Say that I love and long for him, for lo, My heart he hath inflamed so sadly well; Yea, for the fire wherewith I'm all aglow, I fear to die nor yet the hour can tell When I shall part from pain so fierce and fell As that which, longing, for his sake I dree In shame and fear; ah me, For G.o.d's sake, cause him know my torment dire.

Since first enamoured, Love, of him I grew, Thou hast not given me the heart to dare So much as one poor once my lord unto My love and longing plainly to declare, My lord who maketh me so sore to rue; Death, dying thus, were hard to me to bear.

Belike, indeed, for he is debonair, 'Twould not displease him, did he know what pain I feel and didst thou deign Me daring to make known to him my fire.

Yet, since 'twas not thy pleasure to impart, Love, such a.s.surance to me that by glance Or sign or writ I might make known my heart Unto my lord, for my deliverance I prithee, sweet my master, of thine art Get thee to him and give him souvenance Of that fair day I saw him s.h.i.+eld and lance Bear with the other knights and looking more, Enamoured fell so sore My heart thereof doth perish and expire.

These words Minuccio forthwith set to a soft and plaintive air, such as the matter thereof required, and on the third day he betook himself to court, where, King Pedro being yet at meat, he was bidden by him sing somewhat to his viol. Thereupon he fell to singing the song aforesaid on such dulcet wise that all who were in the royal hall appeared men astonied, so still and attent stood they all to hearken, and the king maybe more than the others. Minuccio having made an end of his singing, the king enquired whence came this song that himseemed he had never before heard. 'My lord,' replied the minstrel, 'it is not yet three days since the words were made and the air.' The king asked for whom it had been made; and Minuccio answered, 'I dare not discover it save to you alone.' The king, desirous to hear it, as soon as the tables were removed, sent for Minuccio into his chamber and the latter orderly recounted to him all that he had heard from Lisa; wherewith Don Pedro was exceeding well pleased and much commended the damsel, avouching himself resolved to have compa.s.sion of so worthful a young lady and bidding him therefore go comfort her on his part and tell her that he would without fail come to visit her that day towards vespers.

Minuccio, overjoyed to be the bearer of such pleasing news, betook himself incontinent, viol and all, to the damsel and bespeaking her in private, recounted to her all that had pa.s.sed and after sang her the song to his viol; whereat she was so rejoiced and so content that she straightway showed manifest signs of great amendment and longingly awaited the hour of vespers, whenas her lord should come, without any of the household knowing or guessing how the case stood.

Meanwhile, the king, who was a debonair and generous prince, having sundry times taken thought to the things heard from Minuccio and very well knowing the damsel and her beauty, waxed yet more pitiful over her and mounting to horse towards vespers, under colour of going abroad for his diversion, betook himself to the apothecary's house, where, having required a very goodly garden which he had to be opened to him, he alighted therein and presently asked Bernardo what was come of his daughter and if he had yet married her. 'My lord,' replied the apothecary, 'she is not married; nay, she hath been and is yet very sick; albeit it is true that since none she hath mended marvellously.'

The king readily apprehended what this amendment meant and said, 'In good sooth, 'twere pity so fair a creature should be yet taken from the world. We would fain go visit her.' Accordingly, a little after, he betook himself with Bernardo and two companions only to her chamber and going up to the bed where the damsel, somedele upraised,[460]

awaited him with impatience, took her by the hand and said to her, 'What meaneth this, my mistress? You are young and should comfort other women; yet you suffer yourself to be sick. We would beseech you be pleased, for the love of us, to hearten yourself on such wise that you may speedily be whole again.' The damsel, feeling herself touched of his hands whom she loved over all else, albeit she was somewhat shamefast, felt yet such gladness in her heart as she were in Paradise and answered him, as best she might, saying, 'My lord, my having willed to subject my little strength unto very grievous burdens hath been the cause to me of this mine infirmity, whereof, thanks to your goodness, you shall soon see me quit.' The king alone understood the damsel's covert speech and held her momently of more account; nay, sundry whiles he inwardly cursed fortune, who had made her daughter unto such a man; then, after he had tarried with her awhile and comforted her yet more, he took his leave.

[Footnote 460: _Sollevata_, syn. solaced, relieved or (3) agitated, troubled.]

This humanity of the king was greatly commended and attributed for great honour to the apothecary and his daughter, which latter abode as well pleased as ever was woman of her lover, and sustained of better hope, in a few days recovered and became fairer than ever. When she was whole again, the king, having taken counsel with the queen of what return he should make her for so much love, mounting one day to horse with many of his barons, repaired to the apothecary's house and entering the garden, let call Master Bernardo and his daughter; then, the queen presently coming thither with many ladies and having received Lisa among them, they fell to making wonder-merry. After a while, the king and queen called Lisa to them and the former said to her, 'n.o.ble damsel, the much love you have borne us hath gotten you a great honour from us, wherewith we would have you for the love of us be content; to wit, that, since you are apt for marriage, we would have you take him to husband whom we shall bestow on you, purposing, notwithstanding this, to call ourselves still your knight, without desiring aught from you of so much love but one sole kiss.' The damsel, grown all vermeil in the face for shamefastness, making the king's pleasure hers, replied in a low voice on this wise, 'My lord, I am well a.s.sured that, were it known that I had fallen enamoured of you, most folk would account me mad therefor, thinking belike that I had forgotten myself and knew not mine own condition nor yet yours; but G.o.d, who alone seeth the hearts of mortals, knoweth that, in that same hour whenas first you pleased me, I knew you for a king and myself for the daughter of Bernardo the apothecary and that it ill beseemed me to address the ardour of my soul unto so high a place.

But, as you know far better than I, none here below falleth in love according to fitness of election, but according to appet.i.te and inclination, against which law I once and again strove with all my might, till, availing no farther, I loved and love and shall ever love you. But, since first I felt myself taken with love of you, I determined still to make your will mine; wherefore, not only will I gladly obey you in this matter of taking a husband at your hands and holding him dear whom it shall please you to bestow on me, since that will be mine honour and estate, but, should you bid me abide in the fire, it were a delight to me, an I thought thereby to pleasure you.

To have you, a king, to knight, you know how far it befitteth me, wherefore to that I make no farther answer; nor shall the kiss be vouchsafed you, which alone of my love you would have, without leave of my lady the queen. Natheless, of such graciousness as hath been yours towards me and that of our lady the queen here G.o.d render you for me both thanks and recompense, for I have not the wherewithal.'

And with that she was silent.

Her answer much pleased the queen and she seemed to her as discreet as the king had reported her. Don Pedro then let call the girl's father and mother and finding that they were well pleased with that which he purposed to do, summoned a young man, by name Perdicone, who was of gentle birth, but poor, and giving certain rings into his hand, married him, nothing loath, to Lisa; which done, he then and there, over and above many and precious jewels bestowed by the queen and himself upon the damsel, gave him Ceffalu and Calatabellotta, two very rich and goodly fiefs, and said to him, 'These we give thee to the lady's dowry. That which we purpose to do for thyself, thou shalt see in time to come.' This said, he turned to the damsel and saying, 'Now will we take that fruit which we are to have of your love,' took her head in his hands and kissed her on the brow. Perdicone and Lisa's father and mother, well pleased, (as indeed was she herself,) held high festival and joyous nuptials; and according as many avouch, the king very faithfully kept his covenant with the damsel, for that, whilst she lived, he still styled himself her knight nor ever went about any deed of arms but he wore none other favour than that which was sent him of her. It is by doing, then, on this wise that subjects'

hearts are gained, that others are incited to do well and that eternal renown is acquired; but this is a mark at which few or none nowadays bend the bow of their understanding, most princes being presently grown cruel and tyrannical."


[Day the Tenth]


Pampinea having left speaking and all having commended King Pedro, the Ghibelline lady more than the rest, Fiammetta, by the king's commandment, began thus, "Ill.u.s.trious ladies, who is there knoweth not that kings, when they will, can do everything great and that it is, to boot, especially required of them that they be magnificent? Whoso, then, having the power, doth that which pertaineth unto him, doth well; but folk should not so much marvel thereat nor exalt him to such a height with supreme praise as it would behove them do with another, of whom, for lack of means, less were required. Wherefore, if you with such words extol the actions of kings and they seem to you fair, I doubt not anywise but those of our peers, whenas they are like unto or greater than those of kings, will please you yet more and be yet highlier commended of you, and I purpose accordingly to recount to you, in a story, the praiseworthy and magnanimous dealings of two citizens and friends with each other.

You must know, then, that at the time when Octavia.n.u.s Caesar (not yet styled Augustus) ruled the Roman empire in the office called Triumvirate, there was in Rome a gentleman called Publius Quintius Fulvus,[461] who, having a son of marvellous understanding, by name t.i.tus Quintius Fulvus, sent him to Athens to study philosophy and commended him as most he might to a n.o.bleman there called Chremes, his very old friend, by whom t.i.tus was lodged in his own house, in company of a son of his called Gisippus, and set to study with the latter, under the governance of a philosopher named Aristippus. The two young men, coming to consort together, found each other's usances so conformable that there was born thereof a brotherhood between them and a friends.h.i.+p so great that it was never sundered by other accident than death, and neither of them knew weal nor peace save in so much as they were together. Entering upon their studies and being each alike endowed with the highest understanding, they ascended with equal step and marvellous commendation to the glorious alt.i.tudes of philosophy; and in this way of life they continued good three years, to the exceeding contentment of Chremes, who in a manner looked upon the one as no more his son than the other. At the end of this time it befell, even as it befalleth of all things, that Chremes, now an old man, departed this life, whereof the two young men suffered a like sorrow, as for a common father, nor could his friends and kinsfolk discern which of the twain was the more in need of consolation for that which had betided them.

[Footnote 461: Sic, _Publio Quinzio Fulvo_; but _quaere_ should it not rather be _Publio Quinto Fulvio_, _i.e._ Publius Quintus Fulvius, a form of the name which seems more in accordance with the genius of the Latin language?]

It came to pa.s.s, after some months, that the friends and kinsfolk of Gisippus resorted to him and together with t.i.tus exhorted him to take a wife, to which he consenting, they found him a young Athenian lady of marvellous beauty and very n.o.ble parentage, whose name was Sophronia and who was maybe fifteen years old. The term of the future nuptials drawing nigh, Gisippus one day besought t.i.tus to go visit her with him, for that he had not yet seen her. Accordingly, they being come into her house and she seated between the twain, t.i.tus proceeded to consider her with the utmost attention, as if to judge of the beauty of his friend's bride, and every part of her pleasing him beyond measure, what while he inwardly commended her charms to the utmost, he fell, without showing any sign thereof, as pa.s.sionately enamoured of her as ever yet man of woman. After they had been with her awhile, they took their leave and returned home, where t.i.tus, betaking himself alone into his chamber, fell a-thinking of the charming damsel and grew the more enkindled the more he enlarged upon her in thought; which, perceiving, he fell to saying in himself, after many ardent sighs, 'Alack, the wretchedness of thy life, t.i.tus! Where and on what settest thou thy mind and thy love and thy hope? Knowest thou not that it behoveth thee, as well for the kindness received from Chremes and his family as for the entire friends.h.i.+p that is between thee and Gisippus, whose bride she is, to have yonder damsel in such respect as a sister? Whom, then, lovest thou? Whither lettest thou thyself be carried away by delusive love, whither by fallacious hope?

Open the eyes of thine understanding and recollect thyself, wretch that thou art; give place to reason, curb thy carnal appet.i.te, temper thine unhallowed desires and direct thy thoughts unto otherwhat; gainstand thy l.u.s.t in this its beginning and conquer thyself, whilst it is yet time. This thou wouldst have is unseemly, nay, it is dishonourable; this thou art minded to ensue it behoveth thee, even wert thou a.s.sured (which thou art not) of obtaining it, to flee from, an thou have regard unto that which true friends.h.i.+p requireth and that which thou oughtest. What, then, wilt thou do, t.i.tus? Thou wilt leave this unseemly love, an thou wouldst do that which behoveth.'

Then, remembering him of Sophronia and going over to the contrary, he denounced all that he had said, saying, 'The laws of love are of greater puissance than any others; they annul even the Divine laws, let alone those of friends.h.i.+p; how often aforetime hath father loved daughter, brother sister, stepmother stepson, things more monstrous than for one friend to love the other's wife, the which hath already a thousand times befallen! Moreover, I am young and youth is altogether subject to the laws of Love; wherefor that which pleaseth Him, needs must it please me. Things honourable pertain unto maturer folk; I can will nought save that which Love willeth. The beauty of yonder damsel deserveth to be loved of all, and if I love her, who am young, who can justly blame me therefor? I love her not because she is Gisippus's; nay, I love her for that I should love her, whosesoever she was. In this fortune sinneth that hath allotted her to Gisippus my friend, rather than to another; and if she must be loved, (as she must, and deservedly, for her beauty,) Gisippus, an he came to know it, should be better pleased that I should love her, I, than another.' Then, from that reasoning he reverted again to the contrary, making mock of himself, and wasted not only that day and the ensuing night in pa.s.sing from this to that and back again, but many others, insomuch that, losing appet.i.te and sleep therefor, he was constrained for weakness to take to his bed.

Gisippus, having beheld him several days full of melancholy thought and seeing him presently sick, was sore concerned and with every art and all solicitude studied to comfort him, never leaving him and questioning him often and instantly of the cause of his melancholy and his sickness. t.i.tus, after having once and again given him idle tales, which Gisippus knew to be such, by way of answer, finding himself e'en constrained thereunto, with tears and sighs replied to him on this wise, 'Gisippus, had it pleased the G.o.ds, death were far more a-gree to me than to live longer, considering that fortune hath brought me to a pa.s.s whereas it behoved me make proof of my virtue and that I have, to my exceeding shame, found this latter overcome; but certes I look thereof to have ere long the reward that befitteth me, to wit, death, and this will be more pleasing to me than to live in remembrance of my baseness, which latter, for that I cannot nor should hide aught from thee, I will, not without sore blus.h.i.+ng, discover to thee.' Then, beginning from the beginning, he discovered to him the cause of his melancholy and the conflict of his thoughts and ultimately gave him to know which had gotten the victory and confessed himself peris.h.i.+ng for love of Sophronia, declaring that, knowing how much this misbeseemed him, he had for penance thereof resolved himself to die, whereof he trusted speedily to make an end.

Gisippus, hearing this and seeing his tears, abode awhile irresolute, as one who, though more moderately, was himself taken with the charms of the fair damsel, but speedily bethought himself that his friend's life should be dearer to him than Sophronia. Accordingly, solicited to tears by those of his friend, he answered him, weeping, 't.i.tus, wert thou not in need as thou art of comfort, I should complain of thee to thyself, as of one who hath transgressed against our friends.h.i.+p in having so long kept thy most grievous pa.s.sion hidden from me; since, albeit it appeared not to thee honourable, nevertheless dishonourable things should not, more than honourable, be hidden from a friend; for that a friend, like as he rejoiceth with his friend in honourable things, even so he studieth to do away the dishonourable from his friend's mind; but for the present I will refrain therefrom and come to that which I perceive to be of greater urgency. That thou lovest Sophronia, who is betrothed to me, I marvel not: nay, I should marvel, indeed, if it were not so, knowing her beauty and the n.o.bility of thy mind, so much the more susceptible of pa.s.sion as the thing that pleaseth hath the more excellence. And the more reason thou hast to love Sophronia, so much the more unjustly dost thou complain of fortune (albeit thou expressest this not in so many words) in that it hath awarded her to me, it seeming to thee that thy love for her had been honourable, were she other than mine; but tell me, if thou be as well advised as thou usest to be, to whom could fortune have awarded her, whereof thou shouldst have more cause to render it thanks, than of having awarded her to me? Whoso else had had her, how honourable soever thy love had been, had liefer loved her for himself[462] than for thee,[463] a thing which thou shouldst not fear[464] from me, an thou hold me a friend such as I am to thee, for that I mind me not, since we have been friends, to have ever had aught that was not as much thine as mine. Now, were the matter so far advanced that it might not be otherwise, I would do with her as I have done with my other possessions;[465] but it is yet at such a point that I can make her thine alone; and I will do so, for that I know not why my friends.h.i.+p should be dear to thee, if, in respect of a thing that may honourably be done, I knew not of a desire of mine to make thine. True it is that Sophronia is my promised bride and that I loved her much and looked with great joyance for my nuptials with her; but, since thou, being far more understanding than I, with more ardour desirest so dear a thing as she is, live a.s.sured that she shall enter my chamber, not as my wife, but as thine. Wherefore leave thought-taking, put away melancholy, call back thy lost health and comfort and allegresse and from this time forth expect with blitheness the reward of thy love, far worthier than was mine.'

[Footnote 462: Or "his" (_a se_).]

[Footnote 463: Or "thine" (_a te_).]

[Footnote 464: Lit. "hope" (_sperare_). See note, p. 5.]

[Footnote 465: _i.e._ I would have her in common with thee.]

When t.i.tus heard Gisippus speak thus, the more the flattering hopes given him of the latter afforded him pleasure, so much the more did just reason inform him with shame, showing him that, the greater was Gisippus his liberality, the more unworthy it appeared of himself to use it; wherefore, without giving over weeping, he with difficulty replied to him thus, 'Gisippus, thy generous and true friends.h.i.+p very plainly showeth me that which it pertaineth unto mine to do. G.o.d forfend that her, whom He hath bestowed upon thee as upon the worthier, I should receive from thee for mine! Had He judged it fitting that she should be mine, nor thou nor others can believe that He would ever have bestowed her on thee. Use, therefore, joyfully, thine election and discreet counsel and His gifts, and leave me to languish in the tears, which, as to one undeserving of such a treasure, He hath prepared unto me and which I will either overcome, and that will be dear to thee, or they will overcome me and I shall be out of pain.' 't.i.tus,' rejoined Gisippus, 'an our friends.h.i.+p might accord me such license that I should enforce thee to ensue a desire of mine and if it may avail to induce thee to do so, it is in this case that I mean to use it to the utmost, and if thou yield not to my prayers with a good grace, I will, with such violence as it behoveth us use for the weal of our friends, procure that Sophronia shall be thine. I know how great is the might of love and that, not once, but many a time, it hath brought lovers to a miserable death; nay, unto this I see thee so near that thou canst neither turn back nor avail to master thy tears, but, proceeding thus, wouldst pine and die; whereupon I, without any doubt, should speedily follow after. If, then, I loved thee not for otherwhat, thy life is dear to me, so I myself may live. Sophronia, therefore, shall be thine, for that thou couldst not lightly find another woman who would so please thee, and as I shall easily turn my love unto another, I shall thus have contented both thyself and me. I should not, peradventure, be so free to do this, were wives as scarce and as uneath to find as friends; however, as I can very easily find me another wife, but not another friend, I had liefer (I will not say _lose_ her, for that I shall not lose her, giving her to thee, but shall transfer her to another and a better self, but) transfer her than lose thee. Wherefore, if my prayers avail aught with thee, I beseech thee put away from thee this affliction and comforting at once thyself and me, address thee with good hope to take that joyance which thy fervent love desireth of the thing beloved.'

Although t.i.tus was ashamed to consent to this, namely, that Sophronia should become his wife, and on this account held out yet awhile, nevertheless, love on the one hand drawing him and Gisippus his exhortations on the other urging him, he said, 'Look you, Gisippus, I know not which I can say I do most, my pleasure or thine, in doing that whereof thou prayest me and which thou tellest me is so pleasing to thee, and since thy generosity is such that it overcometh my just shame, I will e'en do it; but of this thou mayst be a.s.sured that I do it as one who knoweth himself to receive of thee, not only the beloved lady, but with her his life. The G.o.ds grant, an it be possible, that I may yet be able to show thee, for thine honour and thy weal, how grateful to me is that which thou, more pitiful for me than I for myself, dost for me!' These things said, 't.i.tus,' quoth Gisippus, 'in this matter, an we would have it take effect, meseemeth this course is to be held. As thou knowest, Sophronia, after long treaty between my kinsfolk and hers, is become my affianced bride; wherefore, should I now go about to say that I will not have her to wife, a sore scandal would ensue thereof and I should anger both her kinsfolk and mine own.

Of this, indeed, I should reck nothing, an I saw that she was thereby to become thine; but I mis...o...b.. me that, an I renounce her at this point, her kinsfolk will straightway give her to another, who belike will not be thyself, and so wilt thou have lost that which I shall not have gained. Wherefore meseemeth well, an thou be content, that I follow on with that which I have begun and bring her home as mine and hold the nuptials, and thou mayst after, as we shall know how to contrive, privily lie with her as with thy wife. Then, in due place and season, we will make manifest the fact, which, if it please them not, will still be done and they must perforce be content, being unable to go back upon it.'

The device pleased t.i.tus; wherefore Gisippus received the lady into his house, as his, (t.i.tus being by this recovered and in good case,) and after holding high festival, the night being come, the ladies left the new-married wife in her husband's bed and went their ways. Now t.i.tus his chamber adjoined that of Gisippus and one might go from the one room into the other; wherefore Gisippus, being in his chamber and having put out all the lights, betook himself stealthily to his friend and bade him go couch with his mistress. t.i.tus, seeing this, was overcome with shame and would fain have repented and refused to go; but Gisippus, who with his whole heart, no less than in words, was minded to do his friend's pleasure, sent him thither, after long contention. Whenas he came into the bed, he took the damsel in his arms and asked her softly, as if in sport, if she chose to be his wife. She, thinking him to be Gisippus, answered, 'Yes'; whereupon he set a goodly and rich ring on her finger, saying, 'And I choose to be thy husband.' Then, the marriage consummated, he took long and amorous pleasance of her, without her or others anywise perceiving that other than Gisippus lay with her.

The marriage of Sophronia and t.i.tus being at this pa.s.s, Publius his father departed this life, wherefore it was written him that he should without delay return to Rome, to look to his affairs, and he accordingly took counsel with Gisippus to betake himself thither and carry Sophronia with him; which might not nor should aptly be done without discovering to her how the case stood. Accordingly, one day, calling her into the chamber, they thoroughly discovered to her the fact and thereof t.i.tus certified her by many particulars of that which had pa.s.sed between them twain. Sophronia, after eying the one and the other somewhat despitefully, fell a-weeping bitterly, complaining of Gisippus his deceit; then, rather than make any words of this in his house, she repaired to that of her father and there acquainted him and her mother with the cheat that had been put upon her and them by Gisippus, avouching herself to be the wife of t.i.tus and not of Gisippus, as they believed. This was exceeding grievous to Sophronia's father, who made long and sore complaint thereof to her kinsfolk and those of Gisippus, and much and great was the talk and the clamour by reason thereof. Gisippus was held in despite both by his own kindred and those of Sophronia and every one declared him worthy not only of blame, but of severe chastis.e.m.e.nt; whilst he, on the contrary, avouched himself to have done an honourable thing and one for which thanks should be rendered him by Sophronia's kinsfolk, having married her to a better than himself.

t.i.tus, on his part, heard and suffered everything with no little annoy and knowing it to be the usance of the Greeks to press on with clamours and menaces, till such times as they found who should answer them, and then to become not only humble, but abject, he bethought himself that their clamour was no longer to be brooked without reply and having a Roman spirit and an Athenian wit, he adroitly contrived to a.s.semble Gisippus his kinsfolk and those of Sophronia in a temple, wherein entering, accompanied by Gisippus alone, he thus bespoke the expectant folk: 'It is the belief of many philosophers that the actions of mortals are determined and foreordained of the immortal G.o.ds, wherefore some will have it that all that is or shall ever be done is of necessity, albeit there be others who attribute this necessity to that only which is already done. If these opinions be considered with any diligence, it will very manifestly be seen that to blame a thing which cannot be undone is to do no otherwhat than to seek to show oneself wiser than the G.o.ds, who, we must e'en believe, dispose of and govern us and our affairs with unfailing wisdom and without any error; wherefore you may very easily see what fond and brutish overweening it is to presume to find fault with their operations and eke how many and what chains they merit who suffer themselves be so far carried away by hardihood as to do this. Of whom, to my thinking, you are all, if that be true which I understand you have said and still say for that Sophronia is become my wife, whereas you had given her to Gisippus, never considering that it was foreordained from all eternity that she should become not his, but mine, as by the issue is known at this present. But, for that to speak of the secret foreordinance and intention of the G.o.ds appeareth unto many a hard thing and a grievous to apprehend, I am willing to suppose that they concern not themselves with aught of our affairs and to condescend to the counsels[466] of mankind, in speaking whereof, it will behove me to do two things, both very contrary to my usances, the one, somedele to commend myself, and the other, in some measure to blame or disparage others; but, for that I purpose, neither in the one nor in the other, to depart from the truth and that the present matter requireth it, I will e'en do it.

[Footnote 466: Or "arguments" (_consigli_).]

Your complainings, dictated more by rage than by reason, upbraid, revile and condemn Gisippus with continual murmurs or rather clamours, for that, of his counsel, he hath given me to wife her whom you of yours[467] had given him; whereas I hold that he is supremely to be commended therefor, and that for two reasons, the one, for that he hath done that which a friend should do, and the other, for that he hath in this wrought more discreetly than did you. That which the sacred laws of friends.h.i.+p will that one friend should do for the other, it is not my intention at this present to expound, being content to have recalled to you this much only thereof, to wit, that the bonds of friends.h.i.+p are far more stringent than those of blood or of kindred, seeing that the friends we have are such as we choose for ourselves and our kinsfolk such as fortune giveth us; wherefore, if Gisippus loved my life more than your goodwill, I being his friend, as I hold myself, none should marvel thereat. But to come to the second reason, whereanent it more instantly behoveth to show you that he hath been wiser than yourselves, since meseemeth you reck nothing of the foreordinance of the G.o.ds and know yet less of the effects of friends.h.i.+p:--I say, then, that you of your judgment, of your counsel and of your deliberation, gave Sophronia to Gisippus, a young man and a philosopher; Gisippus of his gave her to a young man and a philosopher; your counsel gave her to an Athenian and that of Gisippus to a Roman; your counsel gave her to a youth of n.o.ble birth and his to one yet n.o.bler; yours to a rich youth, his to a very rich; yours to a youth who not only loved her not, but scarce knew her, his to one who loved her over his every happiness and more than his very life. And to show you that this I say is true and that Gisippus his action is more commendable than yours, let us consider it, part by part. That I, like Gisippus, am a young man and a philosopher, my favour and my studies may declare, without more discourse thereof. One same age is his and mine and still with equal step have we proceeded studying. True, he is an Athenian and I am a Roman. If it be disputed of the glory of our native cities, I say that I am a citizen of a free city and he of a tributary one; I am of a city mistress of the whole world and he of a city obedient unto mine; I am of a city most ill.u.s.trious in arms, in empery and in letters, whereas he can only commend his own for letters. Moreover, albeit you see me here on lowly wise enough a student, I am not born of the dregs of the Roman populace; my houses and the public places of Rome are full of antique images of my ancestors and the Roman annals will be found full of many a triumph led by the Quintii up to the Roman Capitol; nor is the glory of our name fallen for age into decay, nay, it presently flourisheth more splendidly than ever. I speak not, for shamefastness, of my riches, bearing in mind that honourable poverty hath ever been the ancient and most ample patrimony of the n.o.ble citizens of Rome; but, if this be condemned of the opinion of the vulgar and treasures commended, I am abundantly provided with these latter, not as one covetous, but as beloved of fortune.[468] I know very well that it was and should have been and should be dear unto you to have Gisippus here in Athens to kinsman; but I ought not for any reason to be less dear to you at Rome, considering that in me you would have there an excellent host and an useful and diligent and powerful patron, no less in public occasions than in matters of private need.

[Footnote 467: _i.e._ of your counsel.]

[Footnote 468: _i.e._ my riches are not the result of covetous ama.s.sing, but of the favours of fortune.]

Who then, letting be wilfulness and considering with reason, will commend your counsels above those of my Gisippus? Certes, none.

Sophronia, then, is well and duly married to t.i.tus Quintius Fulvus, a n.o.ble, rich and long-descended citizen of Rome and a friend of Gisippus; wherefore whoso complaineth or maketh moan of this doth not that which he ought neither knoweth that which he doth. Some perchance will say that they complain not of Sophronia being the wife of t.i.tus, but of the manner wherein she became his wife, to wit, in secret and by stealth, without friend or kinsman knowing aught thereof; but this is no marvel nor thing that betideth newly. I willingly leave be those who have aforetime taken husbands against their parents' will and those who have fled with their lovers and have been mistresses before they were wives and those who have discovered themselves to be married rather by pregnancy or child-bearing than with the tongue, yet hath necessity commended it to their kinsfolk; nothing of which hath happened in Sophronia's case; nay, she hath orderly, discreetly and honourably been given by Gisippus to t.i.tus. Others will say that he gave her in marriage to whom it appertained not to do so; but these be all foolish and womanish complaints and proceed from lack of advis.e.m.e.nt. This is not the first time that fortune hath made use of various means and strange instruments to bring matters to foreordained issues. What have I to care if it be a cordwainer rather than a philosopher, that hath, according to his judgment, despatched an affair of mine, and whether in secret or openly, provided the issue be good? If the cordwainer be indiscreet, all I have to do is to look well that he have no more to do with my affairs and thank him for that which is done. If Gisippus hath married Sophronia well, it is a superfluous folly to go complaining of the manner and of him. If you have no confidence in his judgment, look he have no more of your daughters to marry and thank him for this one.

Nevertheless I would have you to know that I sought not, either by art or by fraud, to impose any stain upon the honour and ill.u.s.triousness of your blood in the person of Sophronia, and that, albeit I took her secretly to wife, I came not as a ravisher to rob her of her maidenhead nor sought, after the manner of an enemy, whilst shunning your alliance, to have her otherwise than honourably; but, being ardently enkindled by her lovesome beauty and by her worth and knowing that, had I sought her with that ordinance which you will maybe say I should have used, I should not (she being much beloved of you) have had her, for fear lest I should carry her off to Rome, I used the occult means that may now be discovered to you and caused Gisippus, in my person, consent unto that which he himself was not disposed to do.

Moreover, ardently as I loved her, I sought her embraces not as a lover, but as a husband, nor, as she herself can truly testify, did I draw near to her till I had first both with the due words and with the ring espoused her, asking her if she would have me for husband, to which she answered ay. If it appear to her that she hath been deceived, it is not I who am to blame therefor, but she, who asked me not who I was. This, then, is the great misdeed, the grievous crime, the sore default committed by Gisippus as a friend and by myself as a lover, to wit, that Sophronia hath secretly become the wife of t.i.tus Quintius, and this it is for which you defame and menace and plot against him. What more could you do, had he bestowed her upon a churl, a losel or a slave? What chains, what prison, what gibbets had sufficed thereunto?

But let that be for the present; the time is come which I looked not for yet, to wit, my father is dead and it behoveth me return to Rome; wherefore, meaning to carry Sophronia with me, I have discovered to you that which I should otherwise belike have yet kept hidden from you and with which, an you be wise, you will cheerfully put up, for that, had I wished to cheat or outrage you, I might have left her to you, scorned and dishonored; but G.o.d forfend that such a baseness should ever avail to harbour in a Roman breast! She, then, namely Sophronia, by the consent of the G.o.ds and the operation of the laws of mankind, no less than by the admirable contrivance of my Gisippus and mine own amorous astuteness, is become mine, and this it seemeth that you, holding yourselves belike wiser than the G.o.ds and than the rest of mankind, brutishly condemn, showing your disapproval in two ways both exceedingly noyous to myself, first by detaining Sophronia, over whom you have no right, save in so far as it pleaseth me to allow it, and secondly, by entreating Gisippus, to whom you are justly beholden, as an enemy. How foolishly you do in both which things I purpose not at this present to make farther manifest to you, but will only counsel you, as a friend, to lay by your despites and altogether leaving your resentments and the rancours that you have conceived, to restore Sophronia to me, so I may joyfully depart your kinsman and live your friend; for of this, whether that which is done please you or please you not, you may be a.s.sured that, if you offer to do otherwise, I will take Gisippus from you and if I win to Rome, I will without fail, however ill you may take it, have her again who is justly mine and ever after showing myself your enemy, will cause you know by experience that whereof the despite of Roman souls is capable.'

t.i.tus, having thus spoken, rose to his feet, with a countenance all disordered for anger, and taking Gisippus by the hand, went forth of the temple, shaking his head threateningly and showing that he recked little of as many as were there. The latter, in part reconciled by his reasonings to the alliance and desirous of his friends.h.i.+p and in part terrified by his last words, of one accord determined that it was better to have him for a kinsman, since Gisippus had not willed it, than to have lost the latter to kinsman and gotten the former for an enemy. Accordingly, going in quest of t.i.tus, they told him that they were willing that Sophronia should be his and to have him for a dear kinsman and Gisippus for a dear friend; then, having mutually done each other such honours and courtesies as beseem between kinsmen and friends, they took their leaves and sent Sophronia back to him. She, like a wise woman, making a virtue of necessity, readily transferred to t.i.tus the affection she bore Gisippus and repaired with him to Rome, where she was received with great honour.

Meanwhile, Gisippus abode in Athens, held in little esteem of well nigh all, and no great while after, through certain intestine troubles, was, with all those of his house, expelled from Athens, in poverty and misery, and condemned to perpetual exile. Finding himself in this case and being grown not only poor, but beggarly, he betook himself, as least ill he might, to Rome, to essay if t.i.tus should remember him. There, learning that the latter was alive and high in favour with all the Romans and enquiring for his dwelling-place, he stationed himself before the door and there abode till such time as t.i.tus came, to whom, by reason of the wretched plight wherein he was, he dared not say a word, but studied to cause himself be seen of him, so he might recognize him and let call him to himself; wherefore t.i.tus pa.s.sed on, [without noting him,] and Gisippus, conceiving that he had seen and shunned him and remembering him of that which himself had done for him aforetime, departed, despiteful and despairing. It being by this night and he fasting and penniless, he wandered on, unknowing whither and more desirous of death than of otherwhat, and presently happened upon a very desert part of the city, where seeing a great cavern, he addressed himself to abide the night there and presently, forspent with long weeping, he fell asleep on the naked earth and ill in case. To this cavern two, who had gone a-thieving together that night, came towards morning, with the booty they had gotten, and falling out over the division, one, who was the stronger, slew the other and went away. Gisippus had seen and heard this and himseemed he had found a way to the death so sore desired of him, without slaying himself; wherefore he abode without stirring, till such time as the Serjeants of the watch, who had by this gotten wind of the deed, came thither and laying furious hands of him, carried him off prisoner. Gisippus, being examined, confessed that he had murdered the man nor had since availed to depart the cavern; whereupon the praetor, who was called Marcus Varro, commanded that he should be put to death upon the cross, as the usance then was.

Now t.i.tus was by chance come at that juncture to the praetorium and looking the wretched condemned man in the face and hearing why he had been doomed to die, suddenly knew him for Gisippus; whereupon, marvelling at his sorry fortune and how he came to be in Rome and desiring most ardently to succour him, but seeing no other means of saving him than to accuse himself and thus excuse him, he thrust forward in haste and cried out, saying, 'Marcus Varro, call back the poor man whom thou hast condemned, for that he is innocent. I have enough offended against the G.o.ds with one crime, in slaying him whom thine officer found this morning dead, without willing presently to wrong them with the death of another innocent.' Varro marvelled and it irked him that all the praetorium should have heard him; but, being unable, for his own honour's sake, to forbear from doing that which the laws commanded, he caused bring back Gisippus and in the presence of t.i.tus said to him, 'How camest thou to be so mad that, without suffering any torture, thou confessedst to that which thou didst not, it being a capital matter? Thou declaredst thyself to be he who slew the man yesternight, and now this man cometh and saith that it was not thou, but he that slew him.'

Gisippus looked and seeing that it was t.i.tus, perceived full well that he did this to save him, as grateful for the service aforetime received from him; wherefore, weeping for pity, 'Varro,' quoth he, 'indeed it was I slew him and t.i.tus his solicitude for my safety is now too late.' t.i.tus on the other hand, said, 'Praetor, do as thou seest, this man is a stranger and was found without arms beside the murdered man, and thou mayst see that his wretchedness giveth him occasion to wish to die; wherefore do thou release him and punish me, who have deserved it.' Varro marvelled at the insistence of these two and beginning now to presume that neither of them might be guilty, was casting about for a means of acquitting them, when, behold, up came a youth called Publius Ambustus, a man of notorious ill life and known to all the Romans for an arrant rogue, who had actually done the murder and knowing neither of the twain to be guilty of that whereof each accused himself, such was the pity that overcame his heart for the innocence of the two friends that, moved by supreme compa.s.sion, he came before Varro and said, 'Praetor, my fates impel me to solve the grievous contention of these twain and I know not what G.o.d within me spurreth and importuneth me to discover to thee my sin. Know, then, that neither of these men is guilty of that whereof each accuseth himself. I am verily he who slew yonder man this morning towards daybreak and I saw this poor wretch asleep there, what while I was in act to divide the booty gotten with him whom I slew. There is no need for me to excuse t.i.tus; his renown is everywhere manifest and every one knoweth him to be no man of such a condition. Release him, therefore, and take of me that forfeit which the laws impose on me.'

By this Octavia.n.u.s had notice of the matter and causing all three be brought before him, desired to hear what cause had moved each of them to seek to be the condemned man. Accordingly, each related his own story, whereupon Octavia.n.u.s released the two friends, for that they were innocent, and pardoned the other for the love of them. Thereupon t.i.tus took his Gisippus and first reproaching him sore for lukewarmness[469] and diffidence, rejoiced in him with marvellous great joy and carried him to his house, where Sophronia with tears of compa.s.sion received him as a brother. Then, having awhile recruited him with rest and refreshment and reclothed him and restored him to such a habit as sorted with his worth and quality, he first shared all his treasures and estates in common with him and after gave him to wife a young sister of his, called Fulvia, saying, 'Gisippus, henceforth it resteth with thee whether thou wilt abide here with me or return with everything I have given thee into Achaia.' Gisippus, constrained on the one hand by his banishment from his native land and on the other by the love which he justly bore to the cherished friends.h.i.+p of t.i.tus, consented to become a Roman and accordingly took up his abode in the city, where he with his Fulvia and t.i.tus with his Sophronia lived long and happily, still abiding in one house and waxing more friends (an more they might be) every day.

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The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio Part 47 summary

You're reading The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Giovanni Boccaccio. Already has 145 views.

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