The Project Gutenberg ebook of The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio, by

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queen told us a while agone) to tell such story as he deemeth may

afford most entertainment. Accordingly having heard how, by the good

counsels of Jehannot de Chevigné, Abraham had his soul saved and how

Melchizedek, by his good sense, defended his riches from Saladin's

ambushes, I purpose, without looking for reprehension from you,

briefly to relate with what address a monk delivered his body from a

very grievous punishment.

There was in Lunigiana, a country not very far hence, a monastery

whilere more abounding in sanctity and monks than it is nowadays, and

therein, among others, was a young monk, whose vigour and lustiness

neither fasts nor vigils availed to mortify. It chanced one day,

towards noontide, when all the other monks slept, that, as he went all

alone round about the convent,[48] which stood in a very solitary

place, he espied a very well-favoured lass, belike some husbandman's

daughter of the country, who went about the fields culling certain

herbs, and no sooner had he set eyes on her than he was violently

assailed by carnal appetite. Wherefore, accosting her, he entered into

parley with her and so led on from one thing to another that he came

to an accord with her and brought her to his cell, unperceived of

any; but whilst, carried away by overmuch ardour, he disported himself

with her less cautiously than was prudent, it chanced that the abbot

arose from sleep and softly passing by the monk's cell, heard the

racket that the twain made together; whereupon he came stealthily up

to the door to listen, that he might the better recognize the voices,

and manifestly perceiving that there was a woman in the cell, was at

first minded to cause open to him, but after bethought himself to hold

another course in the matter and, returning to his chamber, awaited

the monk's coming forth.
[Footnote 48: Lit. his church (_sua chiesa_); but the context seems to

indicate that the monastery itself is meant.]

The latter, all taken up as he was with the wench and his exceeding

pleasure and delight in her company, was none the less on his guard

and himseeming he heard some scuffling of feet in the dormitory, he

set his eye to a crevice and plainly saw the abbot stand hearkening

unto him; whereby he understood but too well that the latter must have

gotten wind of the wench's presence in his cell and knowing that sore

punishment would ensue to him thereof, he was beyond measure

chagrined. However, without discovering aught of his concern to the

girl, he hastily revolved many things in himself, seeking to find some

means of escape, and presently hit upon a rare device, which went

straight to the mark he aimed at. Accordingly, making a show of

thinking he had abidden long enough with the damsel, he said to her,

'I must go cast about for a means how thou mayest win forth hence,

without being seen; wherefore do thou abide quietly until my return.'

Then, going forth and locking the cell door on her, he betook himself

straight to the abbot's chamber and presenting him with the key,

according as each monk did, whenas he went abroad, said to him, with a

good countenance, 'Sir, I was unable to make an end this morning of

bringing off all the faggots I had cut; wherefore with your leave I

will presently go to the wood and fetch them away.' The abbot, deeming

the monk unaware that he had been seen of him, was glad of such an

opportunity to inform himself more fully of the offence committed by

him and accordingly took the key and gave him the leave he sought.

Then, as soon as he saw him gone, he fell to considering which he

should rather do, whether open his cell in the presence of all the

other monks and cause them to see his default, so they might after

have no occasion to murmur against himself, whenas he should punish

the offender, or seek first to learn from the girl herself how the

thing had passed; and bethinking himself that she might perchance be

the wife or daughter of such a man that he would be loath to have done

her the shame of showing her to all the monks, he determined first to

see her and after come to a conclusion; wherefore, betaking himself to

the cell, he opened it and, entering, shut the door after him.

The girl, seeing the abbot enter, was all aghast and fell a-weeping

for fear of shame; but my lord abbot, casting his eyes upon her and

seeing her young and handsome, old as he was, suddenly felt the pricks

of the flesh no less importunate than his young monk had done and fell

a-saying in himself, 'Marry, why should I not take somewhat of

pleasure, whenas I may, more by token that displeasance and annoy are

still at hand, whenever I have a mind to them? This is a handsome

wench and is here unknown of any in the world. If I can bring her to

do my pleasure, I know not why I should not do it. Who will know it?

No one will ever know it and a sin that's hidden is half forgiven.

Maybe this chance will never occur again. I hold it great sense to

avail ourselves of a good, whenas God the Lord sendeth us thereof.'

So saying and having altogether changed purpose from that wherewith he

came, he drew near to the girl and began gently to comfort her,

praying her not to weep, and passing from one word to another, he

ended by discovering to her his desire. The girl, who was neither iron

nor adamant, readily enough lent herself to the pleasure of the abbot,

who, after he had clipped and kissed her again and again, mounted upon

the monk's pallet and having belike regard to the grave burden of his

dignity and the girl's tender age and fearful of irking her for

overmuch heaviness, bestrode not her breast, but set her upon his own

and so a great while disported himself with her.

Meanwhile, the monk, who had only made believe to go to the wood and

had hidden himself in the dormitory, was altogether reassured, whenas

he saw the abbot enter his cell alone, doubting not but his device

should have effect, and when he saw him lock the door from within, he

held it for certain. Accordingly, coming forth of his hiding-place, he

stealthily betook himself to a crevice, through which he both heard

and saw all that the abbot did and said. When it seemed to the latter

that he had tarried long enough with the damsel, he locked her in the

cell and returned to his own chamber, whence, after awhile, he heard

the monk stirring and deeming him returned from the wood, thought to

rebuke him severely and cast him into prison, so himself might alone

possess the prey he had gotten; wherefore, sending for him, he very

grievously rebuked him and with a stern countenance and commanded that

he should be put in prison.

The monk very readily answered, 'Sir, I have not yet pertained long

enough to the order of St. Benedict to have been able to learn every

particular thereof, and you had not yet shown me that monks should

make of women a means of mortification,[49] as of fasts and vigils;

but, now that you have shown it me, I promise you, so you will pardon

me this default, never again to offend therein, but still to do as I

have seen you do.' The abbot, who was a quick-witted man, readily

understood that the monk not only knew more than himself, but had seen

what he did; wherefore, his conscience pricking him for his own

default, he was ashamed to inflict on the monk a punishment which he

himself had merited even as he. Accordingly, pardoning him and

charging him keep silence of that which he had seen, they privily put

the girl out of doors and it is believed that they caused her return

thither more than once thereafterward."

[Footnote 49: Lit. a pressure or oppression (_priemere_, hod.

_premere_, to press or oppress, indicative used as a noun). The monk

of course refers to the posture in which he had seen the abbot have to

do with the girl, pretending to believe that he placed her on his own

breast (instead of mounting on hers) out of a sentiment of humility

and a desire to mortify his flesh _ipsâ in voluptate_.]

[Day the First]




The story told by Dioneo at first pricked the hearts of the listening

ladies with somewhat of shamefastness, whereof a modest redness

appearing in their faces gave token; but after, looking one at other

and being scarce able to keep their countenance, they listened,

laughing in their sleeves. The end thereof being come, after they had

gently chidden him, giving him to understand that such tales were not

fit to be told among ladies, the queen, turning to Fiammetta, who sat

next him on the grass, bade her follow on the ordinance. Accordingly,

she began with a good grace and a cheerful countenance, "It hath

occurred to my mind, fair my ladies,--at once because it pleaseth me

that we have entered upon showing by stories how great is the efficacy

of prompt and goodly answers and because, like as in men it is great

good sense to seek still to love a lady of higher lineage than

themselves,[50] so in women it is great discretion to know how to keep

themselves from being taken with the love of men of greater condition

than they,--to set forth to you, in the story which it falleth to me

to tell, how both with deeds and words a noble lady guarded herself

against this and diverted another therefrom.

[Footnote 50: An evident allusion to Boccaccio's passion for the

Princess Maria, _i.e._ Fiammetta herself.]

The Marquis of Monferrato, a man of high worth and gonfalonier[51] of

the church, had passed beyond seas on the occasion of a general

crusade undertaken by the Christians, arms in hand, and it being one

day discoursed of his merit at the court of King Phillippe le

Borgne,[52] who was then making ready to depart France upon the same

crusade, it was avouched by a gentleman present that there was not

under the stars a couple to match with the marquis and his lady, for

that, even as he was renowned among knights for every virtue, so was

she the fairest and noblest of all the ladies in the world. These

words took such hold upon the mind of the King of France that, without

having seen the marchioness, he fell of a sudden ardently in love with

her and determined to take ship for the crusade, on which he was to

go, no otherwhere than at Genoa, in order that, journeying thither by

land, he might have an honourable occasion of visiting the

marchioness, doubting not but that, the marquis being absent, he might

avail to give effect to his desire.

[Footnote 51: Or standard-bearer.]
[Footnote 52: _i.e._ the One-eyed (syn. le myope, the short-sighted,

the Italian word [_Il Bornio_] having both meanings), _i.e._ Philip

II. of France, better known as Philip Augustus.]

As he had bethought himself, so he put his thought into execution;

for, having sent forward all his power, he set out, attended only by

some few gentlemen, and coming within a day's journey of the

marquis's domains, despatched a vauntcourier to bid the lady expect

him the following morning to dinner. The marchioness, who was well

advised and discreet, replied blithely that in this he did her the

greatest of favours and that he would be welcome and after bethought

herself what this might mean that such a king should come to visit her

in her husband's absence, nor was she deceived in the conclusion to

which she came, to wit, that the report of her beauty drew him

thither. Nevertheless, like a brave lady as she was, she determined to

receive him with honour and summoning to her counsels sundry gentlemen

of those who remained there, with their help, she let provide for

everything needful. The ordinance of the repast and of the viands she

reserved to herself alone and having forthright caused collect as many

hens as were in the country, she bade her cooks dress various dishes

of these alone for the royal table.
The king came at the appointed time and was received by the lady with

great honour and rejoicing. When he beheld her, she seemed to him fair

and noble and well-bred beyond that which he had conceived from the

courtier's words, whereat he marvelled exceedingly and commended her

amain, waxing so much the hotter in his desire as he found the lady

overpassing his foregone conceit of her. After he had taken somewhat

of rest in chambers adorned to the utmost with all that pertaineth to

the entertainment of such a king, the dinner hour being come, the king

and the marchioness seated themselves at one table, whilst the rest,

according to their quality, were honourably entertained at others. The

king, being served with many dishes in succession, as well as with

wines of the best and costliest, and to boot gazing with delight the

while upon the lovely marchioness, was mightily pleased with his

entertainment; but, after awhile, as the viands followed one upon

another, he began somewhat to marvel, perceiving that, for all the

diversity of the dishes, they were nevertheless of nought other than

hens, and this although he knew the part where he was to be such as

should abound in game of various kinds and although he had, by

advising the lady in advance of his coming, given her time to send

a-hunting. However, much as he might marvel at this, he chose not to

take occasion of engaging her in parley thereof, otherwise than in the

matter of her hens, and accordingly, turning to her with a merry air,

'Madam,' quoth he, 'are hens only born in these parts, without ever a

cock?' The marchioness, who understood the king's question excellent

well, herseeming God had vouchsafed her, according to her wish, an

opportune occasion of discovering her mind, turned to him and answered

boldly, 'Nay, my lord; but women, albeit in apparel and dignities they

may differ somewhat from others, are natheless all of the same fashion

here as elsewhere.'

The King, hearing this, right well apprehended the meaning of the

banquet of hens and the virtue hidden in her speech and perceived that

words would be wasted upon such a lady and that violence was out of

the question; wherefore, even as he had ill-advisedly taken fire for

her, so now it behoved him sagely, for his own honour's sake, stifle

his ill-conceived passion. Accordingly, without making any more words

with her, for fear of her replies, he dined, out of all hope; and the

meal ended, thanking her for the honourable entertainment he had

received from her and commending her to God, he set out for Genoa, so

by his prompt departure he might make amends for his unseemly visit."

[Day the First]


Emilia, who sat next after Fiammetta,--the courage of the marchioness

and the quaint rebuke administered by her to the King of France having

been commended of all the ladies,--began, by the queen's pleasure,

boldly to speak as follows: "I also, I will not keep silence of a

biting reproof given by an honest layman to a covetous monk with a

speech no less laughable than commendable.

There was, then, dear lasses, no great while agone, in our city, a

Minor friar and inquisitor of heretical pravity, who, for all he

studied hard to appear a devout and tender lover of the Christian

religion, as do they all, was no less diligent in enquiring of who had

a well-filled purse than of whom he might find wanting in the things

of the Faith. Thanks to this his diligence, he lit by chance upon a

good simple man, richer, by far in coin than in wit, who, of no lack

of religion, but speaking thoughtlessly and belike overheated with

wine or excess of mirth, chanced one day to say to a company of his

friends that he had a wine so good that Christ himself might drink

thereof. This being reported to the inquisitor and he understanding

that the man's means were large and his purse well filled, ran in a

violent hurry _cum gladiis et fustibus_[53] to clap up a right

grievous suit against him, looking not for an amendment of misbelief

in the defendant, but for the filling of his own hand with florins to

ensue thereof (as indeed it did,) and causing him to be cited, asked

him if that which had been alleged against him were true.

[Footnote 53: _i.e._ with sword and whips, a technical term of

ecclesiastical procedure, about equivalent to our "with the strong arm

of the law."]
The good man replied that it was and told him how it chanced;

whereupon quoth the most holy inquisitor, who was a devotee of St.

John Goldenbeard,[54] 'Then hast thou made Christ a wine-bibber and

curious in wines of choice, as if he were Cinciglione[55] or what not

other of your drunken sots and tavern-haunters; and now thou speakest

lowly and wouldst feign this to be a very light matter! It is not as

thou deemest; thou hast merited the fire therefor, an we were minded

to deal with thee as we ought.' With these and many other words he

bespoke him, with as menacing a countenance as if the poor wretch had

been Epicurus denying the immortality of the soul, and in brief so

terrified him that the good simple soul, by means of certain

intermediaries, let grease his palm with a good dose of St. John

Goldenmouth's ointment[56] (the which is a sovereign remedy for the

pestilential covetise of the clergy and especially of the Minor

Brethren, who dare not touch money), so he should deal mercifully with

[Footnote 54: _i.e._ a lover of money.]

[Footnote 55: A notorious drinker of the time.]
[Footnote 56: _i.e._ money.]

This unguent, being of great virtue (albeit Galen speaketh not thereof

in any part of his Medicines), wrought to such purpose that the fire

denounced against him was by favour commuted into [the wearing, by way

of penance, of] a cross, and to make the finer banner, as he were to

go a crusading beyond seas, the inquisitor imposed it him yellow upon

black. Moreover, whenas he had gotten the money, he detained him about

himself some days, enjoining him, by way of penance, hear a mass every

morning at Santa Croce and present himself before him at dinner-time,

and after that he might do what most pleased him the rest of the day;

all which he diligently performed.

One morning, amongst others, it chanced that at the Mass he heard a

Gospel, wherein these words were chanted, 'For every one ye shall

receive an hundred and shall possess eternal life.'[57] This he laid

fast up in his memory and according to the commandment given him,

presented him at the eating hour before the inquisitor, whom he found

at dinner. The friar asked him if he had heard mass that morning,

whereto he promptly answered, 'Ay have I, sir.' Quoth the inquisitor,

'Heardest thou aught therein whereof thou doubtest or would question?'

'Certes,' replied the good man, 'I doubt not of aught that I heard,

but do firmly believe all to be true. I did indeed hear something

which caused and yet causeth me have the greatest compassion of you

and your brother friars, bethinking me of the ill case wherein you

will find yourselves over yonder in the next life.' 'And what was it

that moved thee to such compassion of us?' asked the inquisitor.

'Sir,' answered the other, 'it was that verse of the Evangel, which

saith, "For every one ye shall receive an hundred." 'That is true,'

rejoined the inquisitor; 'but why did these words move thee thus?'

'Sir,' replied the good man, 'I will tell you. Since I have been used

to resort hither, I have seen give out every day to a multitude of

poor folk now one and now two vast great cauldrons of broth, which had

been taken away from before yourself and the other brethren of this

convent, as superfluous; wherefore, if for each one of these cauldrons

of broth there be rendered you an hundred in the world to come, you

will have so much thereof that you will assuredly all be drowned


[Footnote 57: "And every one that hath forsaken houses or brethren or

sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for my name's

sake shall receive an hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting

life."--Matthew xix. 29. Boccaccio has garbled the passage for the

sake of his point.]

All who were at the inquisitor's table fell a-laughing; but the

latter, feeling the hit at the broth-swilling[58] hypocrisy of himself

and his brethren, was mightily incensed, and but that he had gotten

blame for that which he had already done, he would have saddled him

with another prosecution, for that with a laughable speech he had

rebuked him and his brother good-for-noughts; wherefore, of his

despite, he bade him thenceforward do what most pleased him and not

come before him again."

[Footnote 58: Syn. gluttonous (_brodajuola_).]


[Day the First]




Emilia's pleasantness and her story moved the queen and all the rest

to laugh and applaud the rare conceit of this new-fangled crusader.

Then, after the laughter had subsided and all were silent again,

Filostrato, whose turn it was to tell, began to speak on this wise:

"It is a fine thing, noble ladies, to hit a mark that never stirreth;

but it is well-nigh miraculous if, when some unwonted thing appeareth

of a sudden, it be forthright stricken of an archer. The lewd and

filthy life of the clergy, in many things as it were a constant mark

for malice, giveth without much difficulty occasion to all who have a

mind to speak of, to gird at and rebuke it; wherefore, albeit the

worthy man, who pierced the inquisitor to the quick touching the

hypocritical charity of the friars, who give to the poor that which it

should behove them cast to the swine or throw away, did well, I hold

him much more to be commended of whom, the foregoing tale moving me

thereto, I am to speak and who with a quaint story rebuked Messer Cane

della Scala, a magnificent nobleman, of a sudden and unaccustomed

niggardliness newly appeared in him, figuring, in the person of

another, that which he purposed to say to him concerning themselves;

the which was on this wise.

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