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monasteries, persuading themselves that what befitteth and is lawful

to others alike sortable and unforbidden unto them,[17] have broken

the laws of obedience and giving themselves to carnal delights,

thinking thus to escape, are grown lewd and dissolute. If thus, then,

it be, as is manifestly to be seen, what do we here? What look we for?

What dream we? Why are we more sluggish and slower to provide for our

safety than all the rest of the townsfolk? Deem we ourselves of less

price than others, or do we hold our life to be bounden in our bodies

with a stronger chain than is theirs and that therefore we need reck

nothing of aught that hath power to harm it? We err, we are deceived;

what folly is ours, if we think thus! As often as we choose to call to

mind the number and quality of the youths and ladies overborne of this

cruel pestilence, we may see a most manifest proof thereof.

[Footnote 17: This phrase may also be read "persuading themselves that

that (_i.e._ their breach of the laws of obedience, etc.) beseemeth

them and is forbidden only to others" (_faccendosi a credere che

quello a lor si convenga e non si disdica che all' altre_); but the

reading in the text appears more in harmony with the general sense and

is indeed indicated by the punctuation of the Giunta Edition of 1527,

which I generally follow in case of doubt.]

Wherefore, in order that we may not, through wilfulness or

nonchalance, fall into that wherefrom we may, peradventure, an we but

will, by some means or other escape, I know not if it seem to you as

it doth to me, but methinketh it were excellently well done that we,

such as we are, depart this city, as many have done before us, and

eschewing, as we would death, the dishonourable example of others,

betake ourselves quietly to our places in the country, whereof each of

us hath great plenty, and there take such diversion, such delight and

such pleasance as we may, without anywise overpassing the bounds of

reason. There may we hear the small birds sing, there may we see the

hills and plains clad all in green and the fields full of corn wave

even as doth the sea; there may we see trees, a thousand sorts, and

there is the face of heaven more open to view, the which, angered

against us though it be, nevertheless denieth not unto us its eternal

beauties, far goodlier to look upon than the empty walls of our city.

Moreover, there is the air far fresher[18] and there at this season is

more plenty of that which behoveth unto life and less is the sum of

annoys, for that, albeit the husbandmen die there, even as do the

townsfolk here, the displeasance is there the less, insomuch as houses

and inhabitants are rarer than in the city.

[Footnote 18: Syn. cooler.]
Here, on the other hand, if I deem aright, we abandon no one; nay, we

may far rather say with truth that we ourselves are abandoned, seeing

that our kinsfolk, either dying or fleeing from death, have left us

alone in this great tribulation, as it were we pertained not unto

them. No blame can therefore befall the ensuing of this counsel; nay,

dolour and chagrin and belike death may betide us, an we ensue it not.

Wherefore, an it please you, methinketh we should do well to take our

maids and letting follow after us with the necessary gear, sojourn

to-day in this place and to-morrow in that, taking such pleasance and

diversion as the season may afford, and on this wise abide till such

time (an we be not earlier overtaken of death) as we shall see what

issue Heaven reserveth unto these things. And I would remind you that

it is no more forbidden unto us honourably to depart than it is unto

many others of our sex to abide in dishonour."

The other ladies, having hearkened to Pampinea, not only commended her

counsel, but, eager to follow it, had already begun to devise more

particularly among themselves of the manner, as if, arising from

their session there, they were to set off out of hand. But Filomena,

who was exceeding discreet, said, "Ladies, albeit that which Pampinea

allegeth is excellently well said, yet is there no occasion for

running, as meseemeth you would do. Remember that we are all women and

none of us is child enough not to know how [little] reasonable women

are among themselves and how [ill], without some man's guidance, they

know how to order themselves. We are fickle, wilful, suspicious,

faint-hearted and timorous, for which reasons I misdoubt me sore, an

we take not some other guidance than our own, that our company will be

far too soon dissolved and with less honour to ourselves than were

seemly; wherefore we should do well to provide ourselves, ere we


"Verily," answered Elisa, "men are the head of women, and without

their ordinance seldom cometh any emprise of ours to good end; but how

may we come by these men? There is none of us but knoweth that of her

kinsmen the most part are dead and those who abide alive are all gone

fleeing that which we seek to flee, in divers companies, some here and

some there, without our knowing where, and to invite strangers would

not be seemly, seeing that, if we would endeavour after our welfare,

it behoveth us find a means of so ordering ourselves that, wherever we

go for diversion and repose, scandal nor annoy may ensue thereof."
Whilst such discourse was toward between the ladies, behold, there

entered the church three young men,--yet not so young that the age of

the youngest of them was less than five-and-twenty years,--in whom

neither the perversity of the time nor loss of friends and kinsfolk,

no, nor fear for themselves had availed to cool, much less to quench,

the fire of love. Of these one was called Pamfilo,[19] another

Filostrato[20] and the third Dioneo,[21] all very agreeable and

well-bred, and they went seeking, for their supreme solace, in such a

perturbation of things, to see their mistresses, who, as it chanced,

were all three among the seven aforesaid; whilst certain of the other

ladies were near kinswomen of one or other of the young men.
[Footnote 19: See ante, p. 8, note.]

[Footnote 20: _Filostrato_, Greek [Greek: philos], loving, and [Greek:

stratos], army, _met._ strife, war, _i.e._ one who loves strife. This

name appears to be a reminiscence of Boccaccio's poem (_Il

Filostrato_, well known through its translation by Chaucer and the

Senechal d'Anjou) upon the subject of the loves of Troilus and

Cressida and to be in this instance used by him as a synonym for an

unhappy lover, whom no rebuffs, no treachery can divert from his

ill-starred passion. Such a lover may well be said to be in love with

strife, and that the Filostrato of the Decameron sufficiently answers

to this description we learn later on from his own lips.]

[Footnote 21: _Dioneo_, a name probably coined from the Greek [Greek:

Diônê], one of the _agnomina_ of Venus (properly her mother's name)

and intended to denote the amorous temperament of his personage, to

which, indeed, the erotic character of most of the stories told by him

bears sufficient witness.]
No sooner had their eyes fallen on the ladies than they were

themselves espied of them; whereupon quoth Pampinea, smiling, "See,

fortune is favourable to our beginnings and hath thrown in our way

young men of worth and discretion, who will gladly be to us both

guides and servitors, an we disdain not to accept of them in that

capacity." But Neifile, whose face was grown all vermeil for

shamefastness, for that it was she who was beloved of one of the young

men, said, "For God's sake, Pampinea, look what thou sayest! I

acknowledge most frankly that there can be nought but all good said of

which one soever of them and I hold them sufficient unto a much

greater thing than this, even as I opine that they would bear, not

only ourselves, but far fairer and nobler dames than we, good and

honourable company. But, for that it is a very manifest thing that

they are enamoured of certain of us who are here, I fear lest, without

our fault or theirs, scandal and blame ensue thereof, if we carry them

with us." Quoth Filomena, "That skilleth nought; so but I live

honestly and conscience prick me not of aught, let who will speak to

the contrary; God and the truth will take up arms for me. Wherefore,

if they be disposed to come, verily we may say with Pampinea that

fortune is favourable to our going."

The other ladies, hearing her speak thus absolutely, not only held

their peace, but all with one accord agreed that the young men should

be called and acquainted with their project and bidden to be pleased

bear them company in their expedition. Accordingly, without more

words, Pampinea, who was knit by kinship to one of them, rising to her

feet, made for the three young men, who stood fast, looking upon them,

and saluting them with a cheerful countenance, discovered to them

their intent and prayed them, on behalf of herself and her companions,

that they would be pleased to bear them company in a pure and

brotherly spirit. The young men at the first thought themselves

bantered, but, seeing that the lady spoke in good earnest, they made

answer joyfully that they were ready, and without losing time about

the matter, forthright took order for that which they had to do

against departure.

On the following morning, Wednesday to wit, towards break of day,

having let orderly make ready all things needful and despatched them

in advance whereas they purposed to go,[22] the ladies, with certain

of their waiting-women, and the three young men, with as many of their

serving-men, departing Florence, set out upon their way; nor had they

gone more than two short miles from the city, when they came to the

place fore-appointed of them, which was situate on a little hill,

somewhat withdrawn on every side from the high way and full of various

shrubs and plants, all green of leafage and pleasant to behold. On the

summit of this hill was a palace, with a goodly and great courtyard in

its midst and galleries[23] and saloons and bedchambers, each in

itself most fair and adorned and notable with jocund paintings, with

lawns and grassplots round about and wonder-goodly gardens and wells

of very cold water and cellars full of wines of price, things more apt

unto curious drinkers than unto sober and modest ladies. The new

comers, to their no little pleasure, found the place all swept and the

beds made in the chambers and every thing full of such flowers as

might be had at that season and strewn with rushes.

[Footnote 22: _e prima mandato là dove_, etc. This passage is obscure

and may be read to mean "and having first despatched [a messenger] (or

sent [word]) whereas," etc. I think, however, that _mandato_ is a

copyist's error for _mandata_, in which case the meaning would be as

in the text.]
[Footnote 23: Or balconies (_loggie_).]

As soon as they had seated themselves, Dioneo, who was the merriest

springald in the world and full of quips and cranks, said, "Ladies,

your wit, rather than our foresight, hath guided us hither, and I know

not what you purpose to do with your cares; as for my own, I left them

within the city gates, whenas I issued thence with you awhile agone;

wherefore, do you either address yourselves to make merry and laugh

and sing together with me (in so far, I mean, as pertaineth to your

dignity) or give me leave to go back for my cares and abide in the

afflicted city." Whereto Pampinea, no otherwise than as if in like

manner she had banished all her own cares, answered blithely, "Dioneo,

thou sayst well; it behoveth us live merrily, nor hath any other

occasion caused us flee from yonder miseries. But, for that things

which are without measure may not long endure, I, who began the

discourse wherethrough this so goodly company came to be made, taking

thought for the continuance of our gladness, hold it of necessity that

we appoint some one to be principal among us, whom we may honour and

obey as chief and whose especial care it shall be to dispose us to

live joyously. And in order that each in turn may prove the burden of

solicitude, together with the pleasure of headship; and that, the

chief being thus drawn, in turn, from one and the other sex, there may

be no cause for jealousy, as might happen, were any excluded from the

sovranty, I say that unto each be attributed the burden and the honour

for one day. Let who is to be our first chief be at the election of us

all. For who shall follow, be it he or she whom it shall please the

governor of the day to appoint, whenas the hour of vespers draweth

near, and let each in turn, at his or her discretion, order and

dispose of the place and manner wherein we are to live, for such time

as his or her seignory shall endure."

Pampinea's words pleased mightily, and with one voice they elected her

chief of the first day; whereupon Filomena, running nimbly to a

laurel-tree--for that she had many a time heard speak of the honour

due to the leaves of this plant and how worship-worth they made whoso

was deservedly crowned withal--and plucking divers sprays therefrom,

made her thereof a goodly and honourable wreath, which, being set upon

her head, was thenceforth, what while their company lasted, a manifest

sign unto every other of the royal office and seignory.

Pampinea, being made queen, commanded that every one should be silent;

then, calling the serving-men of the three young gentlemen and her own

and the other ladies' women, who were four in number, before herself

and all being silent, she spoke thus: "In order that I may set you a

first example, by which, proceeding from good to better, our company

may live and last in order and pleasance and without reproach so long

as it is agreeable to us, I constitute, firstly, Parmeno, Dioneo's

servant, my seneschal and commit unto him the care and ordinance of

all our household and [especially] that which pertaineth to the

service of the saloon. Sirisco, Pamfilo's servant, I will shall be

our purveyor and treasurer and ensue the commandments of Parmeno.

Tindaro shall look to the service of Filostrato and the other two

gentlemen in their bed chambers, what time the others, being occupied

about their respective offices, cannot attend thereto. Misia, my

woman, and Filomena's Licisca shall still abide in the kitchen and

there diligently prepare such viands as shall be appointed them of

Parmeno. Lauretta's Chimera and Fiammetta's Stratilia it is our

pleasure shall occupy themselves with the ordinance of the ladies'

chambers and the cleanliness of the places where we shall abide; and

we will and command all and several, as they hold our favour dear, to

have a care that, whithersoever they go or whencesoever they return

and whatsoever they hear or see, they bring us from without no news

other than joyous." These orders summarily given and commended of all,

Pampinea, rising blithely to her feet, said, "Here be gardens, here be

meadows, here be store of other delectable places, wherein let each go

a-pleasuring at will; and when tierce[24] soundeth, let all be here,

so we may eat in the cool."

[Footnote 24: _i.e._ Nine o'clock a.m. Boccaccio's habit of measuring

time by the canonical hours has been a sore stumbling-block to the

ordinary English and French translator, who is generally terribly at

sea as to his meaning, inclining to render _tierce_ three, _sexte_ six

o'clock and _none_ noon and making shots of the same wild kind at the

other hours. The monasterial rule (which before the general

introduction of clocks was commonly followed by the mediæval public in

the computation of time) divided the twenty-four hours of the day and

night into seven parts (six of three hours each and one of six), the

inception of which was denoted by the sound of the bells that summoned

the clergy to the performance of the seven canonical offices _i.e._

_Matins_ at 3 a.m., _Prime_ at 6 a.m., _Tierce_ at 9 a.m., _Sexte_ or

Noonsong at noon, _None_ at 3 p.m., _Vespers_ or Evensong at 6 p.m.

and _Complines_ or Nightsong at 9 p.m., and at the same time served

the laity as a clock.]

The merry company, being thus dismissed by the new queen, went

straying with slow steps, young men and fair ladies together, about a

garden, devising blithely and diverting themselves with weaving goodly

garlands of various leaves and carolling amorously. After they had

abidden there such time as had been appointed them of the queen, they

returned to the house, where they found that Parmeno had made a

diligent beginning with his office, for that, entering a saloon on the

ground floor, they saw there the tables laid with the whitest of

cloths and beakers that seemed of silver and everything covered with

the flowers of the broom; whereupon, having washed their hands, they

all, by command of the queen, seated themselves according to Parmeno's

ordinance. Then came viands delicately drest and choicest wines were

proffered and the three serving-men, without more, quietly tended the

tables. All, being gladdened by these things, for that they were fair

and orderly done, ate joyously and with store of merry talk, and the

tables being cleared away,[25] the queen bade bring instruments of

music, for that all the ladies knew how to dance, as also the young

men, and some of them could both play and sing excellent well.

Accordingly, by her commandment, Dioneo took a lute and Fiammetta a

viol and began softly to sound a dance; whereupon the queen and the

other ladies, together with the other two young men, having sent the

serving-men to eat, struck up a round and began with a slow pace to

dance a brawl; which ended, they fell to singing quaint and merry

ditties. On this wise they abode till it seemed to the queen time to

go to sleep,[26] and she accordingly dismissed them all; whereupon the

young men retired to their chambers, which were withdrawn from the

ladies' lodging, and finding them with the beds well made and as full

of flowers as the saloon, put off their clothes and betook themselves

to rest, whilst the ladies, on their part, did likewise.
[Footnote 25: The table of Boccaccio's time was a mere board upon

trestles, which when not in actual use, was stowed away, for room's

sake, against the wall.]
[Footnote 26: _i.e._ to take the siesta or midday nap common in hot


None[27] had not long sounded when the queen, arising, made all the

other ladies arise, and on like wise the three young men, alleging

overmuch sleep to be harmful by day; and so they betook themselves to

a little meadow, where the grass grew green and high nor there had the

sun power on any side. There, feeling the waftings of a gentle breeze,

they all, as their queen willed it, seated themselves in a ring on the

green grass; while she bespoke them thus, "As ye see, the sun is high

and the heat great, nor is aught heard save the crickets yonder among

the olives; wherefore it were doubtless folly to go anywhither at this

present. Here is the sojourn fair and cool, and here, as you see, are

chess and tables,[28] and each can divert himself as is most to his

mind. But, an my counsel be followed in this, we shall pass away this

sultry part of the day, not in gaming,--wherein the mind of one of the

players must of necessity be troubled, without any great pleasure of

the other or of those who look on,--but in telling stories, which, one

telling, may afford diversion to all the company who hearken; nor

shall we have made an end of telling each his story but the sun will

have declined and the heat be abated, and we can then go a-pleasuring

whereas it may be most agreeable to us. Wherefore, if this that I say

please you, (for I am disposed to follow your pleasure therein,) let

us do it; and if it please you not, let each until the hour of vespers

do what most liketh him." Ladies and men alike all approved the

story-telling, whereupon, "Then," said the queen, "since this pleaseth

you, I will that this first day each be free to tell of such matters

as are most to his liking." Then, turning to Pamfilo, who sat on her

right hand, she smilingly bade him give beginning to the story-telling

with one of his; and he, hearing the commandment, forthright began

thus, whilst all gave ear to him.

[Footnote 27: _i.e._ three o'clock p.m.]
[Footnote 28: _i.e._ backgammon.]


[Day the First]




"It is a seemly thing, dearest ladies, that whatsoever a man doth, he

give it beginning from the holy and admirable name of Him who is the

maker of all things. Wherefore, it behoving me, as the first, to give

commencement to our story-telling, I purpose to begin with one of His

marvels, to the end that, this being heard, our hope in Him, as in a

thing immutable, may be confirmed and His name be ever praised of us.

It is manifest that, like as things temporal are all transitory and

mortal, even so both within and without are they full of annoy and

anguish and travail and subject to infinite perils, against which it

is indubitable that we, who live enmingled therein and who are indeed

part and parcel thereof, might avail neither to endure nor to defend

ourselves, except God's especial grace lent us strength and foresight;

which latter, it is not to be believed, descendeth unto us and upon us

by any merit of our own, but of the proper motion of His own benignity

and the efficacy of the prayers of those who were mortals even as we

are and having diligently ensued His commandments, what while they

were on life, are now with Him become eternal and blessed and unto

whom we,--belike not daring to address ourselves unto the proper

presence of so august a judge,--proffer our petitions of the things

which we deem needful unto ourselves, as unto advocates[29] informed

by experience of our frailty. And this more we discern in Him, full as

He is of compassionate liberality towards us, that, whereas it

chanceth whiles (the keenness of mortal eyes availing not in any wise

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