Decameron - Giovanni Boccaccio THE DECAMERON TRANSLATED...

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Unformatted text preview: Giovanni Boccaccio THE DECAMERON TRANSLATED WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY G. B. MCWILLIAM Penguin Books ___.._.W w_____.___ ___‘,_ w - -W _ _ A _ Here begins the book called Decameron, otherwise known as Prince Calahalt, wherein are contained a hundred stories, told in ten days by seven ladies and three young men. PREFACE To take pity on people in distress is a human quality which every man and woman should possess, but it is especially requisite in those who haVe once needed comfort, and found it in others. I number myself as one of these, because if ever anyone required or appreciated comfort, or indeed derived pleasure therefrom, I was that person. For from my earliest youth until the present day, I have been inflamed bayond measure with a most lofty and noble love, far loftier and nobler than might perhaps be thought proper, were I to describe it, in a person of my humble condition. And although people of good judgement, to whose notice it had come, praised me for it and rated me much higher in their esteem, nevertheless it was exceedingly difficult for me to endure. The reason, I hasten to add, was not the cruelty of my lady-love, but the immoderate passion engendered within my mind by a craving that was ill—restrained. This, since it would allow me no proper respite, often caused me an inordinate amount of distress. But in my anguish I have on occasion derived much relief from the agreeable conversation and the admirable ex— pressions of sympathy offered by friends, without which I am firmly convinced that I should have perished. However, the One who is infinite decreed by immutable law that all earthly things should come to an end. And it pleased Him that this love of mine, whose warmth exceeded all others, and which had stood firm and unyielding against all the pressures of good intention, helpful advice, and the risk of danger and open scandal, should in the course of time diminish of its own accord. So that now, all that is left of it in my mind is the delectable feeling which Love habitually reserves for those who refrain from venturing too far upon its deepest waters. And thus What was once a source of pain has now become, having shed all dis- comfort, an abiding sensation of pleasure. 46 PREFACE But though the pain has ceased, I still preserve a clear recollection of the kindnesses I received in the past from people who, prompted by feelings of goodwill towards me, showed a concern for my sufferings. This memory will never, I think, fade for as long as I live. And since it is my conviction that gratitude, of all the virtues, is most highly to be commended and its opposite condemned, I have resolved, in order not to appear ungrateful, to employ what modest talents I possess in making restitution for what I have received. Thus, now that I can claim to have achieved my freedom, I intend to offer some solace, if not to those who assisted me (since their good sense or good fortune will perhaps render such a gift superfluous), at least to those who stand in need of it. And even though my support, or if you prefer, my encouragement, may seem very slight (as indeed it is) to the people concerned, I feel nonetheless that it should for preference be directed where it seems to be most needed, because that is the quarter in which it will be more effective and, at the same time, more readily ap- preciated. And who will deny that such encouragement, however small, should much rather be offered to the charming ladies than to the men? For the ladies, out of fear or shame, conceal the flames of passion within their fragile breasts, and a hidden love is far more potent than one which is worn on the sleeve, as everyone knows who has had experience of these matters. Moreover they are forced to follow the whims, fancies and dictates of their fathers, mothers, brothers and husbands, so that they spend most of their time cooped up within the narrow confines of their rooms, where they sit in apparent idleness, wishing one thing and at the same time Wishing its opposite, and reflecting on various matters, which cannot possibly always be pleasant to contemplate. And if, in the course of their meditations, their minds should be invaded by melancholy arising out of the flames of longing, it will inevitably take root there and make them suffer greatly, unless it be dislodged by new interests. Besides which, their powers of endurance are considerably weaker than those that men possess. When men are in love, they are not affected in this way, as we can see quite plainly. They, whenever they are weighed down by melancholy or ponderous thoughts, have many ways of relieving or .4.- m‘r-I-w— PREFACE 47 expelling them. For if they wish, they can always walk abroad see and hear many things, go fowling, hunting, fishing ridin ’and gambling, or attend to their business afi'airs. Each of these pfrsuits has the power of engaging men’s minds, either wholly or in part and divertuig them from their gloomy meditations, at least for a ceitain pegged: after which, some form of consolation will ensue, or the a ction Will grow less intense. So in order that I may to some extent repair the omissions of Fortune, which (as we may see in the case of the more delicate sex) was always. more sparing of support wherever natural strength was more defiCient, I intend to provide succour and diversion for the ladies, but only for those who are in love, since the others can make do With their needles, their reels and their spindles. I shall narrate a hundred stories or fables or parables or histories or whatever you choose to call them, recited in ten days by a worthy band of seven ladies and-three young men, who assembled together during the which recently took such heavy toll of life. And I shall also u e some son ' ' ' amusement. gs, which these seven ladies sang for their mutual In these tales will be found a variety of love adventures bitter as well as pleasmg, and other exciting incidents, which took plaée in both anCient and modern times. In reading them, the aforesaid ladies will be able to derive, not only pleasure from the entertaining matters therein set forth, but also some useful advice. For they will learn to reco nize :ihat should be avoided and likewise what should be pursued:5 and aifilsiithingfs 1pnly lead, in my opinion, to the removal of their th on. th s s ould happen-(andmay God grant that it should), let em give anks to Love, which, in freeing me from its bonds has granted me the power of making provision for their pleasures. ’ FIRST DAY Here begins the First Day of the Decameron, wherein first of all the author explains the circumstances in which certain persons, who presently make their appearance, were induced to meet for the purpose of conversing together, after which, under the rule of Pampinea, each of them speaks on the subject they find most congenial. Whenever, fairest ladies, I pause to consider how compassionate you all are by nature, Iinvariably become aWare that the present work will seem to you to possess an irksome and ponderous opening. For it carries at its head the painfial memory of the deadly havoc wrought by the recent plague, which, brought so much heartache and misery to those who witnessed, or had experience of it. But I do not want you to be deterred, for this reason, from reading any further, on the assumption that you are to be subjected, as you read, to an endless torrent of tears and sobbing. You will be afl'ected no differently by this grim beginning than Walkers confronted by a steep and rugged hill, beyond which there lies a beautiful and delectable plain. The degree of pleasure they derive from the latter will correspond directly to the difiiculty of the climb and the descent. And just as the end of mirth is heaviness,* so sorrows are dispersed by the advent of within few words) is quickly followed by the sweetness and the pleasure which I have already promised you, and which, unless you were told in advance, you would not perhaps be expecting to find after such a beginning as this. Believe me, if I could decently have taken you whither I desire by some other route, rather than along a path so difficult as this, I would gladly have done so. But since it is impossible without this memoir to show the origin of the events you *Proverbs xiv, I 3. DECAMERON: FIRST DAY (INTRODUCTION) mdAg:lrlnstt:h these maladies, it seemed that all the advice of physicians Perhaps theenftijfg £21: mfiendicme were profitless and unavailing e 1 ess was such that it allowed n 1(1): thiose people vlvho were treating the illness (whos: 2:211:15- se enormousy because the rank f th ' invaded by people both men and S o 6 qualified were I D . , . . . Women, who had never recei d 31:; fin medicare), bemg ignorant of its causes, were it p u ht t e appropriate cure. At all events, few of those who 3:: dart eger recovered, and in most cases death occurred within ys om the appearance of the symptoms we have described, 50 will read about later, I really have no alternative but to address myself to its composition. I say, then, that the sum of thirteen hundred and forty—eight years had elapsed since the fruitful Incarnation of the Son of God, when the noble city of Florence, which for its great beauty excels all others in Italy, was visited by the deadly pestilence. Some say that it descended upon the human race through the influence of the heavenly bodieS, others that it was a punishment signifying God’s righteous anger at our iniquitous way of life. But whatever its cause, it had originated some years earlier in the East, where it had claimed countless lives SI before it unhappily Spread Westward, growing in strength as it swept relentlessly on from one place to the next. In the face of its onrush, all the wisdom and ingenuity of man were unavailing. Large quantities of refuse were cleared out of the city by officials specially appointed for the purpose, all sick persons were forbidden entry, and numerous instructions were issued for safe— guarding the people’s health, but all to no avail. Nor were the countless petitions humbly directed to God by the pious, whether by means of formal processions or in any other guise, any less ineffectual. For in the early spring of the year we have mentioned, the plague began, in a terrifying and extraordinary manner, to make its disas- trous effects apparent. It did not take the form it had assumed in the East, where if anyone bled from the nose it was an obvious portent of certain death. On the contrary, its earliest symptom, in men and women alike, was the appearance of certain swellings in the groin or the armpit, some of which were egg—shaped whilst others were roughly the size of the common apple. Sometimes the swellings were large, sometimes not so large, and they were referred to by the populace as gavficcioli. From the two areas already mentioned, this deadly gavbcciolo would begin to spread, and within a short time it would appear at random all over the body. Later on, the symptoms of the disease changed, and many people began to find dark blotches and bruises on their arms, thighs, and other parts of the body, some- times large and few in number, at other times tiny and closely spaced. These, to anyone unfortunate enough to contract them, were just as infallible a sign that he would die as the gavbcciolo had been earlier, and as indeed it still was. some people dying more r 'dl ' ' ' any fever or other complicézliltiionis].tha-u Others, the majomy wnhom thiztsyfiliirrsiangstpestigme eylen more severe was that Whenever I 1 mix wit people who were '11 it would rush upon these with the m unaECCth’ . d of a fire ra ' hr or orly substances that ha spec mg t ough dry . ppened to be placed within ' Was this the full extent of its evil f ' Its read}- Nor , or not only dld it infect h l h ‘ Persons who conversed or had an ' ' ' eat y I ' I _ y dealings With the Sick, kin fee: all or Vismng an equally horrible death upon them, buini: alsg the e bto transfer the Sickness to anyone touching the clothes or o It o Jects which had been handled or used by its victims the ffaagmlarkable story that I have to relate. And Were it not for [guild t alm one of many people who saw it with their own eyes thou h Isiarge y dare to believe it, let alone commit it to paper even P13 guge “13:6 1131:;1'1dd1t flogn a persop whose word I could trust. The I . . . escn mg was 0 so contagious a nature th t pnfteililchshd nfiore than simply pass from one person to axioilfg -,weneverananimalotherthanahumanb' . :lticcrlielciinbelongingto a person who had been strickefindf from it agost :yt onecjlsrp‘asiuit pp]; only caught the sickness, but died _ . o o 's, as I havejust said, 111 ‘ Epognéess on mlprehtlaag one occasion. One day, for might: 63h: V auper w o a ied fiom the disease were thro ' , th fig: whfire they attracted the attention of two pigs. In thtii' film: their :10: t: plfgs firsltn (2; all]1 gave the rags a thorough mauling with a ter w ‘ ey took them betw h ' shook them against their cheeks. And within a shit:1 timedrtligtbeglahi 52 DECAMERON: FIRST DAY to writhe as though they had been poisoned, then they both dropped dead to the ground, spreadeagled upon the rags that had brought about their undoing. These things, and many others of a similar or even worse nature, caused various fears and fantasies to take root in the minds of those who were still alive and well. And almost without exception, they took a single and very inhuman precaution, namely to avoid or run away from the sick and their belongings, by which means they all thought that their own health would be preserved. Some people were of the opinion that a sober and abstemious mode of living considerably reduced the risk of infection. They therefore formed themselves into groups and lived in isolation from everyone else. Having withdrawn to a comfortable abode where there were no sick persons, they locked themselves in and settled down to a peaceable existence, consuming modest quantities of delicate foods and precious wines and avoiding all excesses. They refrained from speaking to outsiders, refused to receive news of the dead or the sick, and enter- tained themselves with music and whatever other amusements they were able to devise. Others took the opposite view, and maintained that an infallible way of warding off this appalling evil was to drink heavily, enjoy life to the full, go round singing and merrymaking, gratify all of one’s cravings Whenever the opportunity offered, and shrug the whole thing off as one enormous joke. Moreover, they practised What they preached to the best of their ability, for they would visit one tavern after another, drinking all day and night to immoderate excess; or alternatively (and this was their more frequent custom), they would do their drinking in various private houses, but only in the ones Where the conversation was restricted to subjects that were pleasant or entertaining. Such places were easy to find, for people behaved as though their days were numbered, and treated their belongings and their own persons with equal abandon. Hence most houses had become common property, and any passing stranger could make . himself at home as naturally as though he were the rightful owner. But for all their riotous manner of living, these people always took good care to avoid any contact with the sick. In the face of so much affliction and misery, all respect for the laws I. (INTRODUCTION) 53 of God and man had virtually broken down and been extinguished in our City. For like eVerybody else, those ministers and executors of the .laws who were not either dead or ill were left with so few sub- ordinates that they were unable to discharge any of their duties Hence everyone was free to behave as he pleased. . There were many other people who steered a middle course be- tween the two already mentioned, neither restricting their diet to the same degree as the first group, nor indulging so freely as the second in drinking and other forms of wantonness, but simply doing no more than satisfy their appetite. Instead of incarcerating themselves these people moved about freely, holding in their hands a pos of flowers, or firagrant herbs, or one of a wide range of spices which they applied at frequent intervals to their nostrils, thinking it an excellent idea to fortify the brain with smells of that particular sort; for the stench of dead bodies, sickness, and m d. . and pollute the whole of the atmosphere. '3 1cmes seemed to fill Some peOple,’.pursuing what was possibly the safer alternative, callome mamtamed that there was no better or more efficacious remedy against a plague than to run away from it. Swayed by this argument, and sparing no thought for anyone but themselves, large numbers of men and women abandoned their city, their homes their relatives, their estates and their belongings, and headed for the countryside, either in Florentine territory or, better still, abroad It was as though they imagined that the wrath of God would not unleash this plague against men for their iniquities irrespective of where they happened to be, but would only be aroused against those who found themselves within the city walls; or possibly they assumed that the whole of the population would be exterminated and that th city’s last hour had come. 6 Of the people who held these various opinions, not all of them died 1‘? or, however, did they all-survive. On the contrary, many of each difl'erent persuasion fell ill here, there, and everywhere and ha ' themselves, when they Were fit and Well, set an example to those :lifi were as yet unaffected, they languished away with virtually no one to nurse them. It was not merely a question of one citizen avoidin another, and of people almost invariably neglecting their neighbourg and rarely or never visiting their relatives, addressing them only 54 DECAMERON: rmsr DAY (INTRODUCTION) from a distance; this scourge had implanted so great a terror in the order to moumi 55 hearts of men and women that brothers abandoned brothers, uncles to him; moreovei'l 1:135:13, off? Women who had been closest their nephews, sisters their brothers, and in many cases wives deserted along with his neighbours and W911 forgad}? in front of his house their husbands. But even worse, and almost incredible, was the fact be a contingent of Priests whvanous on:th citizens, and there would that fathers and mothers refused to nurse and assist their own children, 5 quality of .the deceased' his his: numbers varied according to the as though they did not belong to them. ,- Church in Which he had, Wanted 3’ VEOUId _be taken thence to the Hence the countless numbers of people who fell ill, both male and shoulders ofhjs Peers amidst th fil‘; C buried, being heme. on the female, were entirely dependent upon either the charity of friends ; But as the ferocity ofthe Pla u Cb em] Pomp 0f Candles and dlrges (who were few and far between) or the greed of servants, who i disappeared entirely and Wasgrc legs: to mount, this practice all but remained in short supply despite the attraction of high wages out of only did people die VVltllout haeP gee by different customs. For not all proportion to the services they performed. Furthermore, these great numth (16me d this Mevmg many Women about them but a latter were men and women of coarse intellect and the majority were unused to such duties, and they did little more than hand things to . the invalid when asked to do so and watch over him when he was dying. And in performing this kind of service, they frequently lost their lives as well as their earnings. As a result of this wholesale desertion of the sick by neighbours, relatives and friends, and in view of the scarcity of servants, there grew up a practice almost never previously heard of, whereby when a woman fell ill, no matter how gracious or beautiful or gently bred she might be, she raised no objection to being attended by a male servant, whether he was young or not. Nor did she have any scruples about showing him every part of her body as freely as she would have displayed it to a woman, provided that the nature of her infirmity required her to do so; and this explains Why those women who recovered were possibly less chaste in the period that followed. Moreover a great many people died who would perhaps have survived had they received some assistance. And hence, what with the lack of appropriate means for tending the sick, and the virulence of the plague, the number of deaths reported in the city whether by day or night was so enormous that it astonished all who heard tell of it, to say nothing of the people who actually witnessed the carnage. And it was perhaps inevitable that among the citizens who survived there arose certain customs that were quite contrary to established tradition. It had once been customary, as it is again nowadays, for the women relatives and neighbours of a dead man to assemble in his house in , more often ghter and witticisms and women, having for the of.which the houses. Being confined to their fly in their thousands, and since own parts of the city, they fell ill da they had no one to assi 56 DECAMERON: FIRST DAY streets, both by day and by night, whilst a great many others, though dying in their own houses, drew their neighbours’ attention to the fact more by the smell of their rotting corpses than by any other means. And what with these, and the others who were dying all over the city, bodies were here, there and everywhere. Whenever people died, their neighbours nearly always followed a single, set routine, prompted as much by their fear of being con— taminated by the decaying corpse as by any charitable feelings they may have entertained towards the deceased. Either on their own, or with the assistance of bearers whenever these were to be had, they extracted the bodies of the dead from their houses and left them lying outside their front doors, where anyone going about the streets, especially in the early morning, could have observed countless numbers of them. Funeral biers would then be sent for, upon which the dead were taken away, though there were some who, for lack of (INTRODUCTION) 57 cordance with long-established custom. So when all the gr full, huge trenches were excavated in the churchyards Elew arriv’als were placed in their hundreds, stowed tier upon tier ‘e slnps cargo, each layer of corpses being covered over 'th dull; layer 1<1>fsotill1 till the trench was filled to the top W1 3 ut rat er an describe in elaborate detail the cal ' ' :xiiflrliicscdbll: W1thne citiyr at 1time, I must mention that, anvil: g ou orence i ' ' was no less badly affected? In the fortififelcfl, Sirifczhndiifismgm Similar to those in the city itself on a minor scale; biit in the scattvdfdd :lnafinltitSIQIEdmtjlfll: countryside proper, the poor unfortunate peasants th eir a es had no physicians or servants whatever to assist em, and collapsed by the wayside, in their fields and in th ' cottages at all hours of the day and night, dying mofe like anim:l: aves were into which than human be' 5. Like :11 t biers, were carried off on plain boards. It was by no means rare for ' ‘ mg C ownspeople' they too grew 3P3d1€tic more than one of these biers to be seen with two or three bodies upon it at a time; on the contrary, many were seen to contain a husband and wife, two or three brothers and sisters, a father and son, or some other 'pair of close relatives. And times without number it happened that two priests would be on their way to bury someone, holding a cross before them, only to find that bearers carrying three or four additional biers would fall in behind them; so that whereas the priests had thought they had only one burial to attend to, they in fact had six or seven, and sometimes more. Even in these circum- stances, however, there were no tears or candles or mourners to honour the dead; in fact, no more respect was accorded to dead people than would nowadays be shown towards dead goats. For it was quite apparent that the one thing which, in normal times, no wise man had ever learned to accept with patient resignation (even though it struck so seldom and unobtrusively), had now been brought home to the feeble-minded as well, but the scale of the calamity caused them to regard it with indifference. ' Such was the multitude of corpses (of which further consignments were arriving every day and almost by the hour at each of the churches), that there was not sufficient consecrated ground for them -to be buried in, especially if each was to have its own plot in ac- in their ways, disregarded their affairs, and ne 1 ' lSions. Moreover'they all behaved as though eachgdcgiejvatsh t6: b12053; 1ast, and far from making provision for the future by tilling their ands, tending their flocks, and adding to their previous labours the tried In every way they could think of to squander the assets ali'eady in their .possessmn. Thus it came about that oxen, asses shee oatsy pigs, chickens, and even dogs (for all their deep fidelity’to mfri)gwere’ driven away and allowed to roam fre ely throu h the fi lds h thehcrops. lay abandoned and had not even beegn reaped: ldtZlOel’: ga ered in. And after a whole day’s feasting, many of these animals as though possessing the power of reason , _ _ , would return glutted in the ev ' thiflg to the" 0WD quarters. Wlthout any Shepherd to guide But let us leave the countryside and return to the city. What more remains to be said, except that the cruelty of heaven some measure, also that of man) that between March and July of fury of the pestilence and the Inadequater cared for or aband I (and possibly, in was so mnnense and so devastating the year in question, what with the fact that so many of the sick were I oned in their hour of need because th healthy were too terrified to approach them, it is reliably though: that over a hundred thousand human 1' . ives were extin ' h d 'thi the walls of the city of Florence? Yet before this lethgrillliaetastrmoph: 58 DECAMERON: FIRST DAY fell upon the city, it is doubtful whether anyone would have guessed it contained so many inhabitants. Ah, how great a number of splendid palaces, fine houses, and noble dwellings, once filled with retainers, with lords and with ladies, were bereft of all who had lived there, down to the tiniest child! How numerous were the famous families, the vast estates, the notable fortunes, that were seen to be left without a rightful successor! How many gallant gentlemen, fair ladies, and sprightly youths, who would have been judged hale and hearty by Galen, Hippocrates and Aescu- lapius (to say nothing of others), having breakfasted in the morning with their kinsfolk, acquaintances and friends, supped that same evening with their ancestors in the next world! The more I reflect upon all this misery, the deeper my sense of personal sorrow; hence I shall refrain from describing those aspects which can suitably be omitted, and proceed to inform you that these were the conditions prevailing in our city, which was by now almost emptied of its inhabitants, when one Tuesday morning (or so I was told by a person whose word can be trusted) seven young ladies were to be found in the venerable church of Santa Maria Novella, which was otherwise almost deserted. They had been attending divine service, and were dressed in mournful attire appropriate to the times. Each was a friend, a neighbour, or a relative of the other six, none Was older than twenty—seven or younger than eighteen, and all were intelligent, gently bred, fair to look upon, graceful in bearing, and charmingly unaffected. I could tell you their actual names, but refrain from doing so for a good reason, namely that I would not want any of them to feel embarrassed, at any time in the fiiture, on account of the ensuing stories, all of which they either listened to or narrated themselves. For nowadays, laws relating to pleasure are somewhat restrictive, whereas at that time, for the reasons indicated above, they were exceptionally lax, not only for ladies of their own age but also for much older women. Besides, I have no wish to supply envious tongues, ever ready to censure a laudable way of life, with a chance to besmirch the good name of these Worthy ladies with their lewd and filthy gossip. And therefore, so that we may perceive distinctly what each of them had to say, I propose to refer to them by names which are either wholly or partially appropriate to the qualities of each. The (INTRODUCTION) 59 first of them, who was also the eldest, we shall call Pampinea the second Fiammetta, Filomena the third, and the fourth Emilia' ’then we shall name the fifth Lauretta, and the sixth Neifile, whilst io the last, not without reason, We shall give the name of Elissa. Without prior agreement but simply by chance, these seven ladies found themselves sitting, more or less in a circle, in one part of the church, reciting their patemosters. Eventually, they left off and heaved a greatmany sighs, after which they began to talk among themselves on various different aspects of the times through which they were passmg. _But after a little while, they all fell silent except for Pam- pinea, who said: . ‘Dear ladies, you will often have heard it afirmed, as I have, that no man does injury to another in exercising his lawful rights. Every person born into this world has a natural right to sustain, preserve and defend his own life to the best of his ability _ a right so freer acknowledged that men have sometimes killed others in self—defence and no blame whatever has attached to their actions. Now, if this is: permitted by the laws, upon Whose prompt application all mortal creatures depend for their well-being, how can it possibly be wrong, seeing that it harms no one, for us or anyone else to do all in our power to preserve our lives? If I pause to consider what we have been domg this morning, and What we have done on several mornings in the past, if I reflect on the nature and subject of our conversation, I realize, just as you also must realize, that each of us is apprehensive on her own account. This does not surprise me in the least, but what does greatly )surIEe me d(seeindgu:1hat each of us has the natural feelings of a woman 15 t We 0 no ' to re uite ourse ' ' which we are all so justly afi'gaid. q Ives agamst the dung Of 'Here we linger fOr no other purpose, or so it seems to me, than to count .the number of corpses being taken to burial, or to hear whether the friars of the church, very few of Whom are left, chant their offices at the appropriate hours, or to exhibit the quality and quantity of our sorrows, by means of the clothes we are wearing, to all those Whom we meet in this place. And if we go outside, we shall see the dead and the sick being carried hither and thither, or we shall see people, once condemned to exile by the courts for their misdeeds careermg wildly about the streets in open defiance of the law, well 6o DECAMERON: rmsr DAY (INTRODUCTION) 61 deluded and mistaken. We have only to recall the names and the condition of the young men and women who have fallen victim to this cruel pestilence, in order to realize clearly the foolishness of such notions. ‘And so, lest by pretending to be above such things or by becoming complacent we should succumb to that which we might possibly avoid if we so desired, I would think it an excellent idea (though I do not know whether you would agree with me) for us all to get away that those appointed to enforce it are either dead or dying; or else we shall find ourselves at the mercy of the scum of our city who, having scented our blood, call themselves sextons and go prancing and bustling all over the place, singing bawdy sp‘ngs that add insult to our injuries. Moreover, all we ever hear 1s So—and—so 5 dead” and “So-and—so’s dying”; and if there were anyone left to mourn, the whole place would be filled with sounds of wailing and weeping. knowing homes, what happens? I know not whether your own experience is similar to mine, but my house was once full 0: servants, and now that there is no one left apart from my mald an myself, I am filled with foreboding and feel as 1f every hair of my; head is standing on end. Wherever I go in the house, Whereverc1 pause to rest, I seem to be haunted by the shades of the departe , whose faces no longer appear as I remember them but w1th strange and horribly twisted expressions that frighten me out of my senses. ‘Accordingly, whether I am here in church or out in the streets or I always feel ill at ease, the more so because 1t seems ssing private means and a place to retreat to 15 a art from ourselves. But even if such people are Stlll to be iiirilcirfheil draw no distinction, as I have frequently heard and seer; for myself, between what is honest and what 15- dishonest,.uaré provided only that they are prompted by their appetites, they W1 bo whatever affords them the greatest pleasure, whether by day or ky night, alone or in company. It' is not only of lay people that I spea (i but also of those enclosed in monasteries, who, havrngtconvmce themselves that such behaviour is suitable for them and IS only.un— becoming in others, have broken the rules of 'obedlence and glveg themselves over to carnal pleasures, thereby thinking to escape, an d lascivious and dissolute. . haYIef :hiilebe so (and we plainly perceive that it is), what are we domg here? What are we waiting for? What are we dreaming abgut. Why do we lag so far behind all the rest of the anzens 1n prov1 mg for our safety? Do we rate ourselves lower.than all other t1women. Or do We suppose that our own lives, unlike those of o. ers, arfi bound to our bodies by such strong chains that we may 1gnore a those things which have the power to harm them? In that case we are ‘And if we return to our sitting at home, to me that no one posse from this city, just as many others have done before us, and as indeed they are doing still. We could go and stay together on one of our various country estates, shunning at all costs the lewd practices of our fellow citizens and feasting and merrymaking as best we may without in any way overstepping the bounds of what is reasonable. ‘There we shall hear the birds singing, We shall see fresh green hills and plains, fields of corn undulating like the sea, and trees of at least a thousand different species; and we shall have a clearer view of the heavens, which, troubled though they are, do not however deny us their eternal beauties, so much more fair to look upon than the desolate walls of our city. Moreover the country air is much more refreshing, the necessities of life in such a time as this are more abundant, and there are fewer obstacles to contend with. For al— though the farmworkers are dying there in the same way as the townspeople here in Florence, the spectacle is less harrowing inas— much as the houses and people are more widely scattered. Besides, unless I am mistaken we shall not be abandoning anyone by going away from here; on the contrary, we may fairly claim that we are the ones who have been abandoned, for our kinsfolk are either dead or fled, and have left us to fend for ourselves in the midst of all this afiliction, as though disowning us completely. ‘Hence no one can reproach us for taking the course I have advocated, whereas if we do nothing we shall inevitably be con— fronted with distress and mourning, and possibly forfeit our lives into the bargain. Let us therefore do as I suggest, taking our maid— servants with us and seeing to the dispatch of all the things we shall need. We can move from place to place, spending one day here and another there, pursuing whatever pleasures and entertainments the present times will afford. In this way of life we shall continue until 62 DECAMERON: FIRST DAY such time as we discover (provided we are spared from early death) the end decreed by Heaven for these terrible events. You must remember, after all, that it is no more unseemly for us to go away and thus preserve our own honour than it is for most other women to remain here and forfeit theirs.’ - I Having listened to Pampinea’s suggestionithe other ladies not o}r111y applauded it but were so_ eager to carry it into effect that they a: already begun to work out the details amongst themselves, as tnoudg they wanted to rise from their pews and set off w1thout. further a 0. But Filomena, being more prudent than the others, said: ‘Pampinea’s arguments, ladies, are most conv1nc1ng, but we should not follow her advice as hastily as you appear to Wish. You-must remember that we are all women, and every one of us is sufficiently adult to acknowledge that women, when left to themselves-are not the most rational of creatures, and that without the superwsion of some man or other their capacity for getting things done 15 somewhat restricted. We are fickle, quarrelsome, suspicious, cowardly, and easily frightened; and hence I greatly fear that if we have none but ourselves to guide us, our little band Will break up much more swiftly, and with far less credit to ourselves, than would otherw15e be the case. We would be well advised to resolve this problem before our departure.’ Then Elissa said: ‘It is certainly true that man is the head of woman, and that without a man to guide us it rarely happens that any enterprise of our: is brought to a worthy conclusion. But where are We to find these men. As we all know, most of our own menfolk are dead, and those few that are still alive are fleeing in scattered little groups from that which we too are intent upon avoiding. Yet we cannot very well go away with total strangers, for if self-preservation is our aim, we must so arrange our affairs that wherever we go for our pleasure and repose, no trouble or scandal should come of it.’ _ Whilst the talk of the ladies was proceeding along these lines, there came into the church three young men, in whom neither the horrors of the times nor the loss of friends or relatives nor concern for their own safety had dampened theflames of love, much less extingulshed them completely. I have called them young, but none in fact was less (INTRODUCTION) 63 than twenty-five years of age, and the first was called Panfilo, the second Filostrato, and the last Dioneo. Each of them was most agree- able and gently bred, and by way of sweetest solace amid all this turmoil they were seeking to catch a glimpse of their lady—loves, all three of whom, as it happened, were among the seven we have mentioned, whilst some of the remaining four were closely related to one or other of the three. No sooner did they espy the young ladies than they too were espied, whereupon Pampinea smiled and said: ‘See how Fortune favours us right from the beginning, in setting before us three young men of courage and intelligence, who will readily act as our guides and servants if we are not too proud to accept them for such duties.’ Then Neifile, whose face had turned all scarlet with confusion since she was the object of one of the youth’s affections, said: ‘For goodness’ sake do take care, Pampinea, of what you are saying! To my certain knowledge, nothing but good can be said of any one of them, and I consider them more than competent to fulfil the office of which we were speaking. Ialso think they would be good, honest company, not only for us, but for ladies much finer and fairer than ourselves. But since it is perfectly obvious that they are in love with certain of the ladies here present, I am apprehensive lest, by taking them with us, through no fault either of theirs or of our own, we should bring disgrace and censure on ourselves.’ ’That is quite beside the point,’ said Filomena. ‘If I live honestly and my conscience is clear, then people may say whatever they like; God and Truth will take up arms in my defence. Now, if only they were prepared to accompany us, we should truly be able to claim, as Pampinea has said, that Fortune favours our enterprise.’ ’ Filomena’s words reassured the other ladies, who not only with— drew their objections but unanimously agreed to call the young men over, explain their intentions, and inquire whether they would be willing to join their expedition. And so, without any further dis- cussion, Pampinea, who was a blood relation to one of the young men, got up and walked towards them. They were standing there gazing at the young ladies, and Pampinea, having offered them a cheerful greeting, told them what they were proposing to do, and asked them on behalf of all her companions whether they would be 64 DECAMERON: FIRST DAY prepared to join them in a spirit of chaste and brotherly affection. The young men thought at first that she was making mock of them, but when they realized she was speaking inearnest, they gladly agreed to place themselves at the young ladies’ disposal. So that there should be no delay in putting the plan into effect, they made provision there and then for the various matters that would have to be attended to before their departure.‘ Meticulous care was taken to see that all necessary preparations were put in hand, supplies were sent on in advance to the place at which they intended to stay, and as dawn was breaking on the morning of the next day, which was a Wednesday, the ladies and the three young men, accompanied by one or two of the maids and all three manservants, set out from the city. And scarcely had they travelled two miles from Florence before they reached the place at which they had agreed to stay. The spot in question was some distance away from any road, on a small hill that was agreeable to behold for its abundance of shrubs and _ trees, all bedecked in green leaves. Perched on its summit was a palace, built round a fine, spacious courtyard, and containing loggias, halls, and sleeping apartments, which were not only excellently pro~ portioned but richly embellished with paintings depicting scenes of gaiety. Delectable gardens and meadows lay all around, and there were Wells of cool, refreshing water. The cellars were stocked with precious wines, more suited to the palates of connoisseurs than to sedate and respectable ladies. And on their arrival the company discovered, to their no small pleasure, that the place had been cleaned from top to bottom, the beds in the rooms were made up, the whole house was adorned with seasonable flowers of every description, and the floors had been carpeted with rushes. Soon after reaching the palace, they all sat down, and Dioneo, a youth of matchless charm and readiness of wit, said: ‘It is not our foresight, ladies, but rather your own good sense, that has led us to this spot. I know not what you intend to do with your troubles; my own I left inside the city gates when I departed thence a short while ago in your company. Hence you may either prepare to join with me in as much laughter, song and merriment as your sense of decorum will allow, or else you may give me leave to go back for my troubles and live in the afilicted city.’ (INTRODUCTION) 65 Pampinea, as though she too had drive answered him in the same carefree vein. ‘There is much sense in wh . at you sa , Dion ’ - s merry life should be our aim, since it waslfo 60’ She replied. A r no other reason th were at we .prompted to run away from the sorrows of the city Ho nothing Will last for ve ' wever’ Since it I h ry long unless it possesses a definite form. And h S was 17:60 led the discussions from which this fair company a come into ing, I have give n some thou ht to th ' of our happiness, and ' ' g e contmuance consrder it necessa fo drawn fro ry r us to choose a leader m our own ranks, whom We Would honour and obey as our: superior, and whose sole concern will be that of devising the mean 3 :glfirqby v: may pass our time agreeably. But so that none of us will p am at he or she has had no opportunity to experience the leasure of command ' With sovereign power, I propose that the burden and militide I . turn for a sin le da . It '11 all of us to decrde who IS to be our first ruler, aftegr whiZh ittrlilllb: to each successoliler, when the hour ofvespers approaches, to elect his or her rom among the ladies and gentlemen present. The Person chos ' ' en to govern Will be at liberty to make whatever arrangements he likes for the period covered by his rule, and to prescribe the place and the manner in which we are to live.’ Pampinea’s proposal was . greatly to eve one’s liki unanimously elected her as their queen for 1the first day:1 ngigleuttiZZ " Filomena quickly ran over to a laurel bush, for she had fi-equently - heard it said that laurel leaves Were especially worthy of veneration and that they confe d who were crownedHCat honour upon those PeoPle 0f merit I them. Havin luck d ' $20? ire fashioned them into a splendicf aid v:ner:bE:a§;$ becacIn d: set upon Pampinea’s brow, and which thenceforth e e outward symbol of sovereign power and authority to all the memb f' together. as o the company’ for as long as they remained ' Upon her el ' ' mm ection as their ueen P ' am servants of the three q ’ Pmea su (med the "4th own maids young men to appear before her together with ' “V3113. who Were four ' . ‘_— called upon everyone to be silent, she said: 111 number. And havmg n away all her troubles, 66 DECAMERON: FIRST DAY ‘50 that I may begin by setting you all a good example, through which, proceeding from good to better, our company will be enabled to live an ordered and agreeable existence for as long as we choose to remain together, I first of all appoint Dioneo’s manservant, Parmeno, as my steward, and to him I commit the management and care of our household, together with all that appertains to the service of the hall. I desire that Panfilo’s servant, Sirisco, should act as our buyer and treasurer, and carry out the instructions of Parmeno. As well as attending to the needs of Filostrato, Tindaro will look after the other two gentlemen in their rooms whenever their own man- servants are prevented by their offices from performing such duties. My own maidservant, Misia, will be employed full-time in the kitchen along with Filomena’s maidservant, Licisca, and they will prepare with diligence whatever dishes are prescribed by Parmeno. Chimera and Stratilia, the servants of Lauretta and Fiammetta, are required to act as chambermaids to all the ladies, as well as seeing that the places we frequent are neatly and tidin maintained. And unless they wish to incur our royal displeasure, we desire and command that each and every one of the servants should take good care, no matter what they should hear or observe in their comings and goings, to bring us no tidings of the world outside these walls unless they are tidings of happiness.’ - Her orders thus summarily given, and commended by all her companions, she rose gaily to her feet, and said: ‘There are gardens here, and meadows, and other places of great charm and beauty, through which we may now wander in search of our amusement, each of us being free to do whatever he pleases. But on the stroke of tierce*, let us all return to this spot, so that we may breakfast together in the shade.’ The merry company having thus been dismissed by their newly elected queen, the young men and their fair companions sauntered slowly through a garden, conversing on pleasant topics, weaving fair garlands for each other from the leaves of various trees, and singing songs of love. After spending as much time there as the queen had allotted them, ".r‘* g E (INTRODUCTION) 67 1:31;; nil-pitsmted filo ttllie house to find that Parmeno had made a zealous g o s uties, for as the entered th h 11 floor, they saw the tables read ' y ' e a on the ground ' y laid, With pure whit t bl with goblets shining bri h ' ' e a CCIOIhS and I g t as Silver, wlulst the h l fisciqrfiiildwith broomthblossom. At the queen’s bdheft eth:;n:in:v;s Sm water, ens td ' ’ ' Pam-acne had aSSigned themea e themselves in the places to which 11552:;tfiilytprepareg,tgve:1eubrought in, excellent wines were at i , ou a soun e ee manservants rom tl b gag}: 2:51:11 them.dEv§wone was delighted that theEe thifigZh:§l3:i:: ng yan e iciently arranged and durin , g the meal th 213:2: etalk and merry laughter from all sides. Afterwarlee fl: that one orretr;1011(ofV_/'tt:}:ll,Iand thbe queen sent for musical instruments so - ' eir num er, Well versed in musi ld Sing, whilst the rest, ladies and entl lik C, cou Play and At the queen’s request Dioneo g emen a e, could dance a carole. , I 00k a lute and Fiammetta ' 1 3:36:23: up; melofdious tune, whereupon the queen thlifg’ 5:1: 5 o to eat, ormed a ring with the other ladi ’ es and th young!2h men, and sedater began to dance. And when the (lane: :20 ovIer, hiety sang a number of gay and charming little songs 5 hadn cto us“l (psi-him:h they continued until the queen decided that the time WhOIC co or em to retire to rest, whereupon she dismissed the were mpagy. The young men went away to their rooms which they t5:):parate gfimglfiose of the ladies, and found that like the hall were 0 owers and that th ' b ds ’ ’ The ladies made a siij di ' ' 6-H C were neatly made. they lay down to rest. ar scovery 1n theirs, and, havmg undressed, begssqgeen rlose shortly after nones", and caused the other ladies to mUCh dirk: :hspdtahe flung linen; declljaring it was harmful to sleep too y. eyt ere ore etook them I where the grass bein SC ves to a meadow, , g protected from the he f h ' d H atotesun, rwth k :hne gigs: and where, perceivmg that a gentle breeze wisestirrirli; drdq Andsuwghgestehd that they should all sit on the green grass in a i ‘ . en t ey were seated she addressed them as f {I I ' , oll : As you can see, the sun 15 high in the sky, it is very hot anodvasll is 9 *The canonical ofiice recited at the third hour of the day, in other words at ., *T I_ he fourth of the day oflices of the Church, corresponding to 3 p m about 9 a.m. 68 DECAMERON: FIRST DAY would surely be foolish of us to venture abroad, this being such a cool and pleasant spot in which to linger. Besides, as you will observe, there are chessboards and other games here, and so we are free to amuse ourselves in whatever way we please. But if you were to follow my advice, this hotter part of the day would be spent, not in playing games (which inevitably bring anxiety to one of the players, without offering very much pleasure either to his opponent or to the spec- tators), but in telling stories - an activity that may afford some amusement both to the narrator and to the company at large. By the time each one of you has narrated a little tale of his own or her own, the sun will be setting, the heat will have abated, and we shall be able to go and amuse ourselves wherever you choose. Let us, then, if the idea appeals to you, carry this proposal of mine into effect. But I am willing to follow your own wishes in this matter, and if you diSagree with my suggestion, let us all go and occupy our time in whatever way we please until the hour of vespers.’ The whole company, ladies and gentlemen alike, were in favour of telling stories. ‘Then if it is agreeable to you,’ said the queen, ‘I desire that on this first day each of us should be free to speak upon whatever topic he prefers.’ I -And turning to Panfilo, who was seated on her right, she graciously asked him to introduce the proceedings with one of his stories. No sooner did he receive this invitation than Panfilo began as follows, with everyone listening intently: FIRST STORY Ser Cepperello deceives a holyfriar with a false confession, then he dies; and although in ii e he was a most wicked man, in death he is reputed to be a Saint, and is called Saint Ciappelletto. It is proper, dearest ladies, that everything done by man should begin with the sacred and adJnirable name of Him that was maker of all things. And therefore, since I am the first and must make a beginning to our story-telling, I propose to begin by telling you of one of His --a'u- wrung-mu 1- FIRST STORY 69 marvellous works, so that, when we have heard it out our ho es will rest in Him as in something immutable, and we shall forei:er Praise H15 name. It is obvious that since all temporal things are tran51ent and mortal, so they are filled and surrounded by troubles trials and tribulations, and fraught with infinite dangers which we, who live with them and are part of them, could without a shadow of a doubt neither endure, nor defend ourselves against if God’s special grace did not lend us strength and discernment. N,or should we suppose that His grace descends upon and within us throu h an merit of our own, for it is set in motion by His own loving kifdnessy and 15 obtained by the pleas of people who like ourselves were mortal, and who, firmly doing His pleasure whilst they were in this life, have now J0med Him in eternal blessedness. To these, as to advocates made aware, through experience, of our frailty (perhaps because we have not the courage to submit our pleas personally in the presence of so great a judge) we present whatever we think is relevant to our cause. And our regard for Him, who is so compassionate and ener- ous towards us, is all the greater when, the human eye bein g uite unath to penetrate the secrets ofdivine intelligence, common ogpiiiion deceives us and perhaps we appoint as our advocate in His ma'estic presence one who has been cast by Him into eternal exile Yelt He from whom nothing is hidden, paying more attention to the purit of ie suppllcant's motives than to his ignorance or to the banishment of e intercessor, answers those who pray to Him exactly as if the advocate Were blessed in His sight. All of which can clearly be seen in the tale I propose to relate' and I 53 . . . . . a y Clearl bcca t not With theJudgement of God, but with thay t 03:36:21.ls concerned, It is said, then, that Musciatto Franzesi, having become a fine entle- man after acquiring enormous wealth and fame as a merchgant in France, was obliged to come to Tuscany with the brother of th French king, the Lord Charles Stateless, who had been urged and encouraged to come by Pope Boniface. But finding that his affairs as is usually the case with merchants, were entangled here, there a,nd Everywhere, and being. unable quickly or easily to unravel them he ceded to place them in the .hands of a number of different 60’ I All this he succeeded in arranging, except that he was left with El: '70 DECAMERON: FIRST DAY problem of finding someone capable of recovering certain loans which he had made to various people in Burgundy. The reason for his dilemma was that he had been told the Burgundians were a quarrelsome, thoroughly bad and unprincipled set of people; and he was quite unable to think of anyone he could trust, who was at the same time sufiiciently villainous to match the villainy of the Bur- gundians. After devoting much thought to this problem, he suddenly recalled a man known as Ser Cepperello, of Prato, who had been a frequent visitor to his house in Paris. This man was short in stature and used to dress very neatly, and the French, who did not know the meaning of the word Cepperello, thinking that it signified chapel, which in their language means ‘garland’, and because as we have said he was a little man, used to call him, not Ciappello, but Ciappelletto: and everywhere in that part of the world, where few people knew him as Ser Cepperello, he was known as Ciappelletto.* This Ciappelletto was a man of the following sort: a notary by profession, he would have taken it as a slight upon his honour if one of his legal deeds (and he drew up very few of them) were discovered to be other than false. In fact, he would have drawn up free of charge as many false documents as were requested of him, and done it more willingly than one who was highly paid for his services. He would take great delight in giving false testimony, whether asked for it or not. In those days, great reliance was placed in France upon sworn declarations, and since he had no scruples about swearing falsely, he used to win, by these nefarious means, every case in which he was required to swear upon his faith to tell the truth. He would take par- ticular pleasure, and a great amount of trouble, in stirring up enmity, discord and bad blood between friends, relatives and anybody else; and the more calamities that ensued, the greater would be his rapture. If he were invited to witness a murder or any other criminal act, he would never refuse, but willingly go along; and he often found *In order to follow this long—winded explanation of the character’s name, the English reader should bear_ in mind that -etto, like —ello, is a diminutive sufiix, and that Boccaccio probably thought the name Cepperello was derived from ceppo (‘log’), whereas it was almost certainly a diminutive form of Ciapo, or Jacopo. The point is that Cepperello (‘little log’) was a far more appropriate name for this incorrigible ruflian than Ciappelletto (‘chaplet'). Ir v-«v-v —- FIRST STORY 7]: himself cheerfully assaulting or killing people with his own hands. He was a mighty blasphemer of God and His Saints, losing his temper on the tiniest pretext, as if he were the most hot-blooded man alive. He never went to church, and he would use foul language to pour scorn on all of her sacraments, declaring them repugnant. On the other hand, he would make a point of visiting taverns and other places of ill repute, and supplying them with his custom. Of women he was as fond as dogs are fond of a good stout stick; in their opposite, he took greater pleasure than the most depraved man on earth. He would rob and pilfer as conscientiously as if he were a saintly man making an offering. He was such a prize glutton and heavy drinker, that he would occasionally suffer for his over-indulgence in a manner that was highly indecorous. He was a gambler and a card-sharper of the first order. But why do I lavish so many words upon him? He was perhaps the worst man ever born. Yet for all his villainy, he had long been protected by the power and influence of Messer Musciatto, on whose account he was many a time treated with respect, both by private individuals, whom he frequently abused, and by the courts of law, which he was forever abusing. So that when Musciatto, who was well acquainted with his way of living, called this Ser Ciappelletto to mind, he judged him to be the very man that the perverseness‘ of the Burgundians required. He therefore sent for him and addressed him as follows: - ‘ Ser Ciappelletto, as you know, I am about to go away from here altogether, but Ihave some business to settle, amongst others with the Burgundians. These people are full of tricks, and I know of no one better fitted than yotirself to recover what they owe me. And so, slnce you are not otherwise engaged at present, if you will attend to this matter I propose to obtain favours for you at court, and allow you a reasonable portion of the money you recover.’ Ser Ciappelletto, who was out of a job at the time and ill-supplied with worldly goods, seeing that the man who had long been his prop and stay was about to depart, made up his mind without delay and said (for he really had no alternative) that he would do it willingly. So that when they had agreed on terms, Ser Ciappelletto received powers of attorney from Musciatto and letters of introduction from the King, and after Musciatto’s departure he went to Burgundy, 72 DECAMERON: FIRST DAY scarcel an bod knew him. And there, in a gentle and :vrrlifiljle fashioyn ch: ranycontrary to his nature, as though he wege holding his anger in reserve as a last resort, he Issued his first deman s and began to do what he had gone there to do. Before long, however, while lodging in the house of two Florentine brothers whofralp Ia money-lending business there and did him great honour out o t elr respect for Musciatto, he happened to fall 111; whereupon thehtyvo brothers promptly summoned doctors and servants to attend imh, and provided him with everything he needed to recover hIS heat . But all their assistance was unavailing, because the good man, who was already advanced in years and had lived a disordered eXistence, was reported by his doctors to be going each day from bad to worse, like one who was suffering from a fatal illness. The two brothers were filled with alarm, and one day, alongside the room in which S_er Ciappelletto was lying, they began talking together. [h 'What are we to do about the fellow? said one to the 0 er. ‘We’ve landed ourselves in a fine mess on his account, because to turn him away from our house in his present condition would arouse a lot of adverse comment and show us to be seriously lacking in common sense. What would people say if they suddenly saw us evicting a dying man after giving him hospitality in the place, and taking so much trouble to have him nursed and wait: 11130:, when he couldn’t possibly have done anything to-ofi‘end us. on e other hand, he has led such a wicked life that he Will never be Willing to make his confession or receive the sacraments of the (Shurch; and if he dies unconfessed, no church will want to accept his body apd he’ll be flung into the moat like a dog. But even if he makes. is confession, his sins are so many and so appalling that the same thing will happen, because there will be neither friar nor priest who is e1t elti willing or able to give him absolution; in which case,_s1nce he w1 not have been absolved, he will be flung into the moat Just, the same. And when the townspeople see what has happened, they 11 create a cormnotion, not only because of our profession which they conSIder iniquitous and never cease to condemn, but also because they long to get their hands on our money, and they Will go about shoutng “Away with these Lombard dogs that the Church refuses to accept , and they’ll come running to our lodgings and perhaps, not content . . “'qu "nu-.- - UF‘ :1 FIRST STORY 73 with stealing our goods, they’ll take away our lives into the bargain. So we shall be in a pretty fix either way, if this fellow dies.’ Ser Ciappelletto, who as we have said was lying near the place where they were talking, heard everything they were saying about him, for he was sharp of hearing, as invalids invariably are. So he called them. in to him, and said: ‘I don’t want you to worry in the slightest on my account, not to fear that I will cause you to suffer any harm. I heard what you were saying about me and I agree entirely that what you predict will actually come to pass, if matters take the course you anticipate; but they will do nothing of the kind. I have done our good Lord so many injuries whilst I lived, that to do Him another now that I am dying will be neither here nor there. So go and bring me the holiest and ablest friar you can find, if there is such a one, and leave everything to me, for I shall set your affairs and my own neatly in order, so that all will be well and you’ll have nothing to complain of.’ Whilst deriving little comfort from all this, the two brothers nevertheless went off to a friary and asked for a wise and holy man to come and hear the confession of a Lombard who was lying ill in their house. They were given an ancient friar of good and holy ways who was an expert in the Scriptures and a most venerable man, towards whom all the townspeople were greatly and specially devoted, and they conducted him to their house. On reaching the room where Ser Ciappelletto was lying, he sat down at his bedside, and first he began to comfort him with kindly words, then he asked him how long it was since he had last been to confession. Whereupon Ser Ciappelletto, who had never been to confession in his life, replied: ‘Father, it has always been my custom to go to confession at least once every Week, except that there are many Weeks in which I go more often. But to tell the truth, since I fell ill, nearly a week ago, my illness has caused me so much discomfort that I haven’t been to confession at all.’ ‘My son,’ said the friar, ‘you have done well, and you should persevere in this habit of yours. Since you go so often to confession, I can see that there will be little for me to hear or to ask.’ ‘Master friar,’ said Ser Ciappelletto, ‘do not speak thus, for how— 74 DECAMERON: FIRST DAY tl or re larl I confess, it is always my WlSl1 that I :hELISenEEEZ aygeneralg:onf:ssion of all the sins I can rememlper com; mitting from the day I was born till the day of my con Simon. t therefore beg you, good father, to question me about everytb ng,_}usI as closely as if I had never been confessed. Do not spare ftineh egausie happen to be ill, for I would much rather mortify this es hi0 mhne than that, by treating it‘with lenience, I.should do .anyt :lig t a; could lead to the perdition of my soul, which my Sav1our re eeme with His precious blood.’ These words were greatly pleasing to the holy friar, and seemed to ' ' ' l commended Ser h'm roof of a well-disposed mmd. Hav1ng warm . Ciiapgelletto for this practice of his, he began by asking him whitth he had ever committed the sin of lust with any woman. To w 1c , ' sioh, Ser Ciappelletto replied: _ . magic: IDam loath to tell you the truth on tlus matter, in case I should sin by way of vainglory.’ To which the holy friar replied: - “Speak out freely, for no man ever smned either in confession or otherwise. I , ‘Since you assure me that this 15 so, tell you. I am a virgin as pure as on the clay I c th ’ omb.’ - . ‘ r1190: hijy God give you His blessing!’ said the friar. How nobly ' ' ' deserving of praise h 1 ed! And your restraint 15 all the more _ isrhafvliadvyou wished, you would have had greater hberty to do the opposite than those who, like ourselves, are expressly forbidden by rule.’ Next he asked him whether he had displeased God by committing the sin of gluttony; to which, fetching a deep sigh, Ser Ciappelletto ‘ ad, and on man occasions. For although, apart from :ltigllefribhdst (1)1; flzisting normally dbserved in the course of the year by the 1devout, he was accustomed to fasting on bread and waiter forgt least three days every week, he had drunk the water as p easura y and avidly (especially when he had been fatigued-from;1 pfla')cllingfi:rrl going on a pilgrimage) as any great bibber of wing; be {adsotmt experienced a craving for those dainty little w11d der saa S the women eat when they go away to the country; an sometime by telling the truth, said Ser Ciappelletto, ‘1 will ame forth from my FIRST STORY 75 thought of food had been more attractive to him than he considered proper in one who, like himself, was fasting out of piety. Whereupon the friar said: ‘My son, these sins are natural and they are very trivial, and there— fore I would not have you burden your conscience with them more than necessary. No matter how holy a man may be, he will be attracted by the thought of food after a long period of fasting, and by the thought of drink when he is fatigued.’ ‘Oh!’ said Ser Ciappelletto. ‘Do not tell me this to console me, father. As you are aware, I know that things done in the service of God must all be done honestly and without any grudge; and if any— one should do otherwise, he is committing a sin.’ The friar, delighted, said to him: ‘I am contented to see you taking such a view, and it pleases me greatly that you should have such a good and pure conscience in this matter. But tell me, have you ever been guilty of avarice, by desiring to have more than was proper, or keeping what you should not have kept?’ To which Ser Ciappelletto replied: ‘Father, I would not wish you to judge me ill because I am in the house of these money-lenders. I have nothing to do with their business; indeed I had come here with the express intention of warning and reproaching them, and dissuading them from this abominable form of money-making; and I think I would have suc— ceeded, if God had not stricken me in this manner. However, I would have you know that my father left me a wealthy man, and when he was dead, I gave the greater part of his fortune to charity. Since then, in order to support myself and enable me to assist the Christian poor,I have done a small amount of trading, in the course of which I have desired to gain, and I have always shared what I have gained with the poor, allocating one half to my own needs and giving the other half to them. And in this I have had so much help from my Creator that I have continually gone from strength to strength in the management of my aflairs.’ ‘You have done well,’ said the friar, ‘but tell me, how often have you lost your temper?’ ‘Oh!’ said Ser Ciappelletto, ‘I can assure you I have done that 76 DECAMERON: FIRST DAY very often. But who is there who could restrain himself, when the whole day long he sees men doing disgusting things, and failing to observe God’s commandments, or to fear His terrible wrath? There have been many times in the space of a single day when I would rather have been dead than alive, looking about me and seeing young people frittering away their time, telling lies, going drinking in taverns, failing to go to church, and following the ways of the world rather than those of God.’ ‘My son,’ said the friar, ‘ this kind of anger is justified, and for my part I could not require you to do penance for it. But has it ever happened that your anger has led you to commit murder or to pour abuse on anyone or do them any other form of injury?’ To which Ser Ciappelletto replied: ‘Oh, sir, however could you, that appear to be a man of God, say such a thing? If I had thought for a single moment of doing any of the things you mention, do you suppose I imagine that God would have treated me so generously? Those things are the business of cut- throats and evildoers, and whenever I have chanced upon one of their number, I have always sent him packing, and offered up a prayer for his conversion!’ ‘May God give you His blessing,’ said the friar, ‘but now, tell me, my son: have you ever borne false Witness against any man, or spoken ill of people, or taken what belonged to others without seeking their permission?’ ‘Never, sir, except on one occasion,’ replied Ser Ciappelletto, ‘when I spoke ill of someone. For I once had a neighbour who, without the slightest cause, was forever beating his wife, so that on this one occasion I spoke ill of him to his wife’s kinsfolk, for I felt ex— tremely sorry for that unfortunate woman. Whenever the fellow had had too much to drink, God alone could tell you how he hammered her.’ ' Then the friar said: ‘Let me see now, you tell me you were a merchant. Did you ever deceive anyone, as merchants do?’ ‘Faith, sir, I did,’ said Ser Ciappelletto. ‘But all I know about him is that he was a man who brought me some money that he owed me for a length of cloth I had sold him. I put the money away in a box FIRST STORY 77 without counting it and a Whole m , onth passed before I d' ghere fwere four pennies more than there should have beeiicikarectl em . or a year With the intention of giving them back but-I new/Er saw him again, so I gave them away to a beggar.’ ’ ‘That was a trivial matter ’ said th fr' ‘ ' dispplse of the money as you did.’ 6 m, and you dld well to T e holy friar questioned him on m . O I . any other matters, but 1 heinswired in Similar vein, and hence the friar was ready to piov::d Wl‘ S.out uither ado to give him absolution. But Ser Ciappelletto said' 1.11131 still have one or two sins I have not yet told you about ’ ’ T e friar asked him what they were, and he said: ’ sablbrgialll) that 1Idlcince failed to show a proper respect for the Holy on a gating? g one of my servants sweep the house after nones ‘gh !; s2lilid the friar. ‘This, my son, is a trifling matter.’ th Soébather, said Ser Ciappelletto, ‘you must not call it trifling, for e a. at has to be greatly honoured, seeing that this was the da on which our Lord rose from the dead.’ y Then the friar said: Have you done anything else?’ ‘Yes, sir ’ replied Ser Cia ll ‘ ' , . ppe etto, forIon , th ' ' what I was domg, spat in the house of God.’ cc W1 out thmkmg The friar began to smile, and said: ‘ M . . . l. .y son, this is not a thing to worry about. We members of re igious orders spit there continually.’ ‘That is very Wicked of ’ ' ’ you, said Ser Cia elletto ‘f hin should be I: t PP‘ " or net g offered up tc:;pG::p’re clean than the holy temple in wluch sacrifice is In brief he told’the friar man ' ' I ,' y things of this sort, and fin ll began to Sigh, and then to wail loudly, as he was well ablea’ty d1 6 whenever he pleased. 0 0 ‘My son,’ said the holy friar. ’What is the matter?’ I h Oh alas, sir,’ replied Ser Ciappelletto, ‘I have one sin left to which ’ c:livehnever confessed, so great is my shame in having to reveal it- an w enever I remember it, I cry as you see me doing now, and feel quite certain that God will ' ' Sin: never have mercy on me for this terrible 78 DECAMERON: FIRST DAY ‘Come now, my son,’ said the holy friar, ‘what are you saying? If all the sins that were ever committed by the whole of mankind, together with those that men will yet commit till the end of the world, were concentrated in one single man, and he was as truly repentant and contrite as I see you to be, God is so benign and merci- ful that He would freely remit them on their being confessed to Him; and therefore you may safely reveal it.’ Then Ser Ciappelletto said, still weeping loudly: ‘Alas, father, my sin is too great, and I can scarcely believe that G’od will ever forgive me for it, unless you intercede with your prayers. To which the friar replied: ‘You may safely reveal it, for I promise that I will pray to God on your behalf.’ . . . Ser Ciappelletto went on weeping, Without saying anything, and the friar kept encouraging him to speak. But after Ser Ciappelletto, by weeping in this manner, had kept the friar for a very long time on tenterhooks, he heaved a great sigh, and said: . ‘Father, since you promise that you will pray to God for me, I Will tell you. You are to know then that once, when I was a little boy,I cursed my mother.’ And having said this, he began to weep loudly all over again. ’ i ‘There now, my son,’ said the friar, ‘does this seem so great a 5m to you? Why, people curse God the whole day long, and yet He willingly forgives those who repent for having cursed Why then should you suppose He will not forgive you for this? Take heart and do not weep, for even if you had been one of those who set Him on the cross, I can see that you have so much contrition that He would certame forgive you.’ ‘Oh alas, father,’ said Ser Ciappelletto, ‘what are you saying? My dear, sweet mother, who carried mc day and night for nine months in her body, and held me more than a hundred times in her arms! It was too wicked of me to curse her, and the sin is too great; and if you do not pray to God for me, it will never be forgiven me.’ Perceiving that Ser Ciappelletto had nothing more to say, the friar absolved him and gave him his blessing. He took him for a very saintly man indeed, being fully convinced that what Ser Ciappelletto had said was true; but then, who is there who would not have been FIRST STORY 79 convinced, on hearing a dying man talk in this fashion? Finally, when all this was done, he said. to him: ‘Ser Ciappelletto, with God’s help you will soon be well again. But in case it were to happen that God should summon your blessed and well-disposed soul to His presence, are you willing for your body to be buried in our convent?’ To which Ser Ciappelletto replied: ‘Yes, father. In fact, I would not wish to be elsewhere, since you have promised that you will pray to God for me. Besides, I have always been especially devoted to your Order. So when you return to your convent, I beg you to see that I am sent that true body of Christ which you consecrate every morning on the altar. For although I am unworthy of it, I intend with your permission to take it, and after- wards to receive the holy Extreme Unction, so that, having lived as a sinner, *I shall at least die as a Christian.’ The holy man said that he was greatly pleased, that the words were well spoken, and that he would see it was brought to him at once; and so it was. The two brothers, who strongly suspected that Ser Ciappelletto was going to deceive them, had posted themselves behind a wooden partition which separated the room where Ser Ciappelletto was lying from another, and as they stood there listening they could easily follow what Ser Ciappelletto was saying to the friar. When they heard the things he confessed to having done, they were so amused that every so often they nearly exploded with mirth, and they said to each other: ‘What manner of man is this, whom neither old age nor illness, nor fear of the death which he sees so close at hand, nor even the fear of God, before whose judgement he knows he must shortly appear, have managed to turn from his evil ways, or persuade him to die any differently from the way he has lived?’ ' Seeing, however, that he had said all the right things to be received for burial in a church, they cared nothing for the rest. Shortly thereafter Ser Ciappelletto made his communion, and, failing rapidly, he received Extreme Unction. Soon after vespers on the very day that he had made his fine confession, he died. Whereupon the two brothers made all necessary arrangements, using his own 80 DECAMERON: FIRST DAY money to see that he had an honourable funeral, and sending news of his death to the friars and asking them to come that evening to observe the customary vigil, and the following morning to take aWay the body. On hearing that he had passed away, the holy friar who had received his confession arranged with the prior for the chapter-house bell to be rung, and to the assembled friars he showed that set Ciappelletto had been a saintly man, as his confession had amply proved. He expressed the hope that through him the Lord God would work many miracles, and persuaded them that his body should be received with the utmost reverence and loving care. Credulous to a man, the prior and the other friars agreed to do so, and that evening they went to the place where Ser Ciappelletto’s body lay, and celebrated a great and solemn vigil over it; and in the morning, dressed in albs and copes, carrying books in their hands and bearing crosses before them, singing as they went, they all came for the body, which they then carried back to their church with tre- mendous pomp and ceremony, followed by nearly all the people of the town, men and women alike. And when it had been set down in the church, the holy friar who had confessed him climbed into the pulpit and began to preach marvellous things about Ser Ciappelletto’s life, his fasts, his virginity, his simplicity and innocence and saintliness, relating among other things what he had tearftu confessed to him as his greatest sin, and describing how he had barely been able to convince him that God would forgive him, at which point he turned to reprimand his audience, saying: ‘And yet you miserable sinners have only to catch your feet in a wisp of straw for you to curse God and the Virgin and all the Saints in heaven.’ Apart from this, he said much else about his loyalty and his purity of heart. And in brief, with a torrent of words that the people of the town believed implicitly, he fixed Ser Ciappelletto so firmly in the minds and affections of all those present that when the service was over, everyone thronged round the body to kiss his feet and his hands, all the clothes were torn from his back, and those who suc- ceeded in grabbing so much as a tiny fragment felt they were in Paradise itself. He had to be kept lying there all day, so that everyone FIRST STORY 8r could come and gaze upon him, and on that same night he was buried _ with honour in a marble tomb in one’of the chapels. From the next day forth, people began to go there to light candles and pray to him, and later they began to make votive offerings and to decorate the Chapel with figures made of wax, in fulfilment of promises they had ven. g1 The fame of his saintliness, and of the veneration in which he was held, grew to such proportions that there was hardly anyone who did not pray for his assistance in time of trouble, and they called him, and call him still, Saint Ciappelletto. Moreover it is claimed that through him God has wrought many miracles, and that He continues to work them on behalf of whoever commends himself devoutly to this particular Saint. It was thus, then, that Ser Cepperello of Prato lived and died, becoming a Saint in the way you have heard. Nor would I wish to deny that perhaps God has blessed and admitted him to His presence. For albeit he led a Wicked, sinful life, it is possible that at the eleventh hour he was so sincerely repentant that God had mercy upon him and received him into His kingdom. But since this is hidden from us, I speak only with regard to the outward appearance, and I say that this fellow should rather be in Hell, in the hands of the devil, than in Paradise. And if this is the case, we may recogniZe how very great is God’s loving kindness towards us, in that it takes account, not of our error, but of the purity of our faith, and grants our prayers even when we appoint as our emissary one who is His enemy, thinking him -to be His friend, as though we were appealing to one who was truly holy as our intercessor for His favour. And therefore, so that we, the members of this joyful company, may be guided safely and securely by His grace through these present adversities, let us praise the name of Him with whom we began our storytelling, let us hold Him in reverence, and let us commend ourselves to Him in the hour of our need, in the certain knowledge that we shall be heard. And there the narrator fell silent. ...
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Decameron - Giovanni Boccaccio THE DECAMERON TRANSLATED...

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