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As very manifest renown proclaimeth well nigh throughout the whole

world, Messer Cane della Scala, to whom in many things fortune was

favourable, was one of the most notable and most magnificent gentlemen

that have been known in Italy since the days of the Emperor Frederick

the Second. Being minded to make a notable and wonder-goodly

entertainment in Verona, whereunto many folk should have come from

divers parts and especially men of art[59] of all kinds, he of a

sudden (whatever might have been the cause) withdrew therefrom and

having in a measure requited those who were come thither, dismissed

them all, save only one, Bergamino by name, a man ready of speech and

accomplished beyond the credence of whoso had not heard him, who,

having received neither largesse nor dismissal, abode behind, in the

hope that his stay might prove to his future advantage. But Messer

Cane had taken it into his mind that what thing soever he might give

him were far worse bestowed than if it had been thrown into the fire,

nor of this did he bespeak him or let tell him aught.

[Footnote 59: _i.e._ gleemen, minstrels, story-tellers, jugglers and

the like, lit. men of court (_uomini di corte_).]

Bergamino, after some days, finding himself neither called upon nor

required unto aught that pertained to his craft and wasting his

substance, to boot, in the hostelry with his horses and his servants,

began to be sore concerned, but waited yet, himseeming he would not do

well to depart. Now he had brought with him three goodly and rich

suits of apparel, which had been given him of other noblemen, that he

might make a brave appearance at the festival, and his host pressing

for payment, he gave one thereof to him. After this, tarrying yet

longer, it behoved him give the host the second suit, an he would

abide longer with him, and withal he began to live upon the third,

resolved to abide in expectation so long as this should last and then

depart. Whilst he thus fed upon the third suit, he chanced one day,

Messer Cane being at dinner, to present himself before him with a

rueful countenance, and Messer Cane, seeing this, more by way of

rallying him than of intent to divert himself with any of his speech,

said to him, 'What aileth thee, Bergamino, to stand thus disconsolate?

Tell us somewhat.'[60] Whereupon Bergamino, without a moment's

hesitation, forthright, as if he had long considered it, related the

following story to the purpose of his own affairs.

[Footnote 60: _Dinne alcuna cosa._ If we take the affix _ne_ (thereof,

of it), in its other meaning (as dative of _noi_, we), of "to us,"

this phrase will read "Tell somewhat thereof," _i.e._ of the cause of

thy melancholy.]

'My lord,' said he, 'you must know that Primasso was a very learned

grammarian[61] and a skilful and ready verse-maker above all others,

which things rendered him so notable and so famous that, albeit he

might not everywhere be known by sight, there was well nigh none who

knew him not by name and by report. It chanced that, finding himself

once at Paris in poor case, as indeed he abode most times, for that

worth is[62] little prized of those who can most,[63] he heard speak

of the Abbot of Cluny, who is believed to be, barring the Pope, the

richest prelate of his revenues that the Church of God possesseth, and

of him he heard tell marvellous and magnificent things, in that he

still held open house nor were meat and drink ever denied to any who

went whereas he might be, so but he sought it what time the Abbot was

at meat. Primasso, hearing this and being one who delighted in looking

upon men of worth and nobility, determined to go see the magnificence

of this Abbot and enquired how near he then abode to Paris. It was

answered him that he was then at a place of his maybe half a dozen

miles thence; wherefore Primasso thought to be there at dinner-time,

by starting in the morning betimes.

[Footnote 61: _i.e._ Latinist.]

[Footnote 62: Lit. was (_era_); but as Boccaccio puts "can"

(_possono_) in the present tense we must either read _è_ and _possono_

or _era_ and _potevano_. The first reading seems the more probable.]

[Footnote 63: _i.e._ have most power or means of requiting it.]
Accordingly, he enquired the way, but, finding none bound thither, he

feared lest he might go astray by mischance and happen on a part where

there might be no victual so readily to be found; wherefore, in order

that, if this should betide, he might not suffer for lack of food, he

bethought himself to carry with him three cakes of bread, judging that

water (albeit it was little to his taste) he should find everywhere.

The bread he put in his bosom and setting out, was fortunate enough to

reach the Abbot's residence before the eating-hour. He entered and

went spying all about and seeing the great multitude of tables set and

the mighty preparations making in the kitchen and what not else

provided against dinner, said in himself, "Of a truth this Abbot is as

magnificent as folk say." After he had abidden awhile intent upon

these things, the Abbot's seneschal, eating-time being come, bade

bring water for the hands; which being done, he seated each man at

table, and it chanced that Primasso was set right over against the

door of the chamber, whence the Abbot should come forth into the


Now it was the usance in that house that neither wine nor bread nor

aught else of meat or drink should ever be set on the tables, except

the Abbot were first came to sit at his own table. Accordingly, the

seneschal, having set the tables, let tell the Abbot that, whenas it

pleased him, the meat was ready. The Abbot let open the chamber-door,

that he might pass into the saloon, and looking before him as he came,

as chance would have it, the first who met his eyes was Primasso, who

was very ill accoutred and whom he knew not by sight. When he saw him,

incontinent there came into his mind an ill thought and one that had

never yet been there, and he said in himself, "See to whom I give my

substance to eat!" Then, turning back, he bade shut the chamber-door

and enquired of those who were about him if any knew yonder losel who

sat at table over against his chamber-door; but all answered no.

Meanwhile Primasso, who had a mind to eat, having come a journey and

being unused to fast, waited awhile and seeing that the Abbot came

not, pulled out of his bosom one of the three cakes of bread he had

brought with him and fell to eating. The Abbot, after he had waited

awhile, bade one of his serving-men look if Primasso were gone, and

the man answered, "No, my lord; nay, he eateth bread, which it seemeth

he hath brought with him." Quoth the Abbot, "Well, let him eat of his

own, an he have thereof; for of ours he shall not eat to-day." Now he

would fain have had Primasso depart of his own motion, himseeming it

were not well done to turn him away; but the latter, having eaten one

cake of bread and the Abbot coming not, began upon the second; the

which was likewise reported to the Abbot, who had caused look if he

were gone.
At last, the Abbot still tarrying, Primasso, having eaten the second

cake, began upon the third, and this again was reported to the Abbot,

who fell a-pondering in himself and saying, "Alack, what new maggot is

this that is come into my head to-day? What avarice! What despite! And

for whom? This many a year have I given my substance to eat to

whosoever had a mind thereto, without regarding if he were gentle or

simple, poor or rich, merchant or huckster, and have seen it with mine

own eyes squandered by a multitude of ribald knaves; nor ever yet came

there to my mind the thought that hath entered into me for yonder man.

Of a surety avarice cannot have assailed me for a man of little

account; needs must this who seemeth to me a losel be some great

matter, since my soul hath thus repugned to do him honour."

So saying, he desired to know who he was and finding that it was

Primasso, whom he had long known by report for a man of merit, come

thither to see with his own eyes that which he had heard of his

magnificence, was ashamed and eager to make him amends, studied in

many ways to do him honour. Moreover, after eating, he caused clothe

him sumptuously, as befitted his quality, and giving him money and a

palfrey, left it to his own choice to go or stay; whereupon Primasso,

well pleased with his entertainment, rendered him the best thanks in

his power and returned on horseback to Paris, whence he had set out


Messer Cane, who was a gentleman of understanding, right well

apprehended Bergamino's meaning, without further exposition, and said

to him, smiling, 'Bergamino, thou hast very aptly set forth to me thy

wrongs and merit and my niggardliness, as well as that which thou

wouldst have of me; and in good sooth, never, save now on thine

account, have I been assailed of parsimony; but I will drive it away

with that same stick which thou thyself hast shown me.' Then, letting

pay Bergamino's host and clothing himself most sumptuously in a suit

of his own apparel, he gave him money and a palfrey and committed to

his choice for the nonce to go or stay."


[Day the First]


Next Filostrato sat Lauretta, who, after she had heard Bergamino's

address commended, perceiving that it behoved her tell somewhat,

began, without awaiting any commandment, blithely to speak thus: "The

foregoing story, dear companions,[64] bringeth me in mind to tell how

an honest minstrel on like wise and not without fruit rebuked the

covetise of a very rich merchant, the which, albeit in effect it

resembleth the last story, should not therefore be less agreeable to

you, considering that good came thereof in the end.

[Footnote 64: Fem.]

There was, then, in Genoa, a good while agone, a gentleman called

Messer Ermino de' Grimaldi, who (according to general belief) far

overpassed in wealth of lands and monies the riches of whatsoever

other richest citizen was then known in Italy; and like as he excelled

all other Italians in wealth, even so in avarice and sordidness he

outwent beyond compare every other miser and curmudgeon in the world;

for not only did he keep a strait purse in the matter of hospitality,

but, contrary to the general usance of the Genoese, who are wont to

dress sumptuously, he suffered the greatest privations in things

necessary to his own person, no less than in meat and in drink, rather

than be at any expense; by reason whereof the surname de' Grimaldi had

fallen away from him and he was deservedly called of all only Messer

Ermino Avarizia.
It chanced that, whilst, by dint of spending not, he multiplied his

wealth, there came to Genoa a worthy minstrel,[65] both well-bred and

well-spoken, by name Guglielmo Borsiere, a man no whit like those[66]

of the present day, who (to the no small reproach of the corrupt and

blameworthy usances of those[67] who nowadays would fain be called and

reputed gentlefolk and seigniors) are rather to be styled asses,

reared in all the beastliness and depravity of the basest of mankind,

than [minstrels, bred] in the courts [of kings and princes]. In those

times it used to be a minstrel's office and his wont to expend his

pains in negotiating treaties of peace, where feuds or despites had

befallen between noblemen, or transacting marriages, alliances and

friendships, in solacing the minds of the weary and diverting courts

with quaint and pleasant sayings, ay, and with sharp reproofs,

father-like, rebuking the misdeeds of the froward,--and this for

slight enough reward; but nowadays they study to spend their time in

hawking evil reports from one to another, in sowing discord, in

speaking naughtiness and obscenity and (what is worse) doing them in

all men's presence, in imputing evil doings, lewdnesses and knaveries,

true or false, one to other, and in prompting men of condition with

treacherous allurements to base and shameful actions; and he is most

cherished and honoured and most munificently entertained and rewarded

of the sorry unmannerly noblemen of our time who saith and doth the

most abominable words and deeds; a sore and shameful reproach to the

present age and a very manifest proof that the virtues have departed

this lower world and left us wretched mortals to wallow in the slough

of the vices.

[Footnote 65: _Uomo di corte._ This word has been another grievous

stumbling block to the French and English translators of Boccaccio,

who render it literally "courtier." The reader need hardly be reminded

that the minstrel of the middle ages was commonly jester, gleeman and

story-teller all in one and in these several capacities was allowed

the utmost license of speech. He was generally attached to the court

of some king or sovereign prince, but, in default of some such

permanent appointment, passed his time in visiting the courts and

mansions of princes and men of wealth and liberty, where his talents

were likely to be appreciated and rewarded; hence the name _uomo di

corte_, "man of court" (not "courtier," which is _cortigiano_).]
[Footnote 66: _i.e._ those minstrels.]
[Footnote 67: _i.e._ the noblemen their patrons.]

But to return to my story, from which a just indignation hath carried

me somewhat farther astray than I purposed,--I say that the aforesaid

Guglielmo was honoured by all the gentlemen of Genoa and gladly seen

of them, and having sojourned some days in the city and hearing many

tales of Messer Ermino's avarice and sordidness, he desired to see

him. Messer Ermino having already heard how worthy a man was this

Guglielmo Borsiere and having yet, all miser as he was, some tincture

of gentle breeding, received him with very amicable words and blithe

aspect and entered with him into many and various discourses. Devising

thus, he carried him, together with other Genoese who were in his

company, into a fine new house of his which he had lately built and

after having shown it all to him, said, 'Pray, Messer Guglielmo, you

who have seen and heard many things, can you tell me of something that

was never yet seen, which I may have depictured in the saloon of this

my house?' Guglielmo, hearing this his preposterous question,

answered, 'Sir, I doubt me I cannot undertake to tell you of aught

that was never yet seen, except it were sneezings or the like; but, an

it like you, I will tell you of somewhat which me thinketh you never

yet beheld.' Quoth Messer Ermino, not looking for such an answer as he

got, 'I pray you tell me what it is.' Whereto Guglielmo promptly

replied, 'Cause Liberality to be here depictured.'

When Messer Ermino heard this speech, there took him incontinent such

a shame that it availed in a manner to change his disposition

altogether to the contrary of that which it had been and he said,

'Messer Guglielmo, I will have it here depictured after such a fashion

that neither you nor any other shall ever again have cause to tell me

that I have never seen nor known it.' And from that time forth (such

was the virtue of Guglielmo's words) he was the most liberal and the

most courteous gentleman of his day in Genoa and he who most

hospitably entreated both strangers and citizens."


[Day the First]



The Queen's last commandment rested with Elisa, who, without awaiting

it, began all blithely, "Young ladies, it hath often chanced that what

all manner reproofs and many pains[68] bestowed upon a man have not

availed to bring about in him hath been effected by a word more often

spoken at hazard than of purpose aforethought. This is very well shown

in the story related by Lauretta and I, in my turn, purpose to prove

to you the same thing by means of another and a very short one; for

that, since good things may still serve, they should be received with

a mind attent, whoever be the sayer thereof.

[Footnote 68: Syn. penalties, punishments (_pene_).]

I say, then, that in the days of the first King of Cyprus, after the

conquest of the Holy Land by Godefroi de Bouillon, it chanced that a

gentlewoman of Gascony went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre and

returning thence, came to Cyprus, where she was shamefully abused of

certain lewd fellows; whereof having complained, without getting any

satisfaction, she thought to appeal to the King for redress, but was

told that she would lose her pains, for that he was of so abject a

composition and so little of worth that, far from justifying others of

their wrongs, he endured with shameful pusillanimity innumerable

affronts offered to himself, insomuch that whose had any grudge

[against him] was wont to vent his despite by doing him some shame or


The lady, hearing this and despairing of redress, bethought herself,

by way of some small solacement of her chagrin, to seek to rebuke the

king's pusillanimity; wherefore, presenting herself in tears before

him, she said to him, 'My lord, I come not into thy presence for any

redress that I expect of the wrong that hath been done me; but in

satisfaction thereof, I prithee teach me how thou dost to suffer those

affronts which I understand are offered unto thyself, so haply I may

learn of thee patiently to endure mine own, the which God knoweth, an

I might, I would gladly bestow on thee, since thou art so excellent a

supporter thereof.'
The King, who till then had been sluggish and supine, awoke as if from

sleep and beginning with the wrong done to the lady, which he cruelly

avenged, thenceforth became a very rigorous prosecutor of all who

committed aught against the honour of his crown."

[Day the First]



Elisa being now silent, the last burden of the story-telling rested

with the queen, who, with womanly grace beginning to speak, said,

"Noble damsels, like as in the lucid nights the stars are the ornament

of the sky and as in Spring-time the flowers of the green meadows,

even so are commendable manners and pleasing discourse adorned by

witty sallies, which latter, for that they are brief, are yet more

beseeming to women than to men, inasmuch as much and long speech,

whenas it may be dispensed with, is straitlier forbidden unto women

than to men, albeit nowadays there are few or no women left who

understand a sprightly saying or, if they understand it, know how to

answer it, to the general shame be it said of ourselves and of all

women alive. For that virtue,[69] which was erst in the minds of the

women of times past, those of our day have diverted to the adornment

of the body, and she on whose back are to be seen the most motley

garments and the most gaudily laced and garded and garnished with the

greatest plenty of fringes and purflings and broidery deemeth herself

worthy to be held of far more account than her fellows and to be

honoured above them, considering not that, were it a question of who

should load her back and shoulders with bravery, an ass would carry

much more thereof than any of them nor would therefore be honoured for

more than an ass.

[Footnote 69: _Virtù_, in the old Roman sense of strength, vigour,

I blush to avow it, for that I cannot say aught against other women

but I say it against myself; these women that are so laced and purfled

and painted and parti-coloured abide either mute and senseless, like

marble statues, or, an they be questioned, answer after such a fashion

that it were far better to have kept silence. And they would have you

believe that their unableness to converse among ladies and men of

parts proceedeth from purity of mind, and to their witlessness they

give the name of modesty, as if forsooth no woman were modest but she

who talketh with her chamberwoman or her laundress or her bake-wench;

the which had Nature willed, as they would have it believed, she had

assuredly limited unto them their prattle on other wise. It is true

that in this, as in other things, it behoveth to have regard to time

and place and with whom one talketh; for that it chanceth bytimes that

women or men, thinking with some pleasantry or other to put another to

the blush and not having well measured their own powers with those of

the latter, find that confusion, which they thought to cast upon

another, recoil upon themselves. Wherefore, so you may know how to

keep yourselves and that, to boot, you may not serve as a text for the

proverb which is current everywhere, to wit, that women in everything

still take the worst, I would have you learn a lesson from the last of

to-day's stories, which falleth to me to tell, to the intent that,

even as you are by nobility of mind distinguished from other women, so

likewise you may show yourselves no less removed from them by

excellence of manners.

It is not many years since there lived (and belike yet liveth) at

Bologna a very great and famous physician, known by manifest renown to

well nigh all the world. His name was Master Alberto and such was the

vivacity of his spirit that, albeit he was an old man of hard upon

seventy years of age and well nigh all natural heat had departed his

body, he scrupled not to expose himself to the flames of love; for

that, having seen at an entertainment a very beautiful widow lady,

called, as some say, Madam Malgherida[70] de' Ghisolieri, and being

vastly taken with her, he received into his mature bosom, no otherwise

than if he had been a young gallant, the amorous fire, insomuch that

himseemed he rested not well by night, except the day foregone he had

looked upon the delicate and lovesome countenance of the fair lady.

Wherefore he fell to passing continually before her house, now afoot

and now on horseback, as the occasion served him, insomuch that she

and many other ladies got wind of the cause of his constant passings

to and fro and oftentimes made merry among themselves to see a man

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