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Giovanni Boccaccio - Decameron (Day the Twenty Fifth) lyrics

The Third Story

Under Colour Of Confession And Of Exceeding Niceness Of Conscience, A Lady, Being Enamoured Of A Young Man, Bringeth A Grave Friar, Without His Misdoubting Him Thereof, To Afford A Means Of Giving Entire Effect To Her Pleasure

Pampinea being now silent and the daring and subtlety of the horsekeeper having been extolled by several of the company, as also the king's good sense, the queen, turning to Filomena, charged her follow on; whereupon she blithely began to speak thus, "I purpose to recount to you a cheat which was in very deed put by a fair lady upon a grave friar and which should be so much the more pleasing to every layman as these [—friars, to wit—], albeit for the most part very dull fools and men of strange manners and usances, hold themselves to be in everything both better worth and wiser than others, whereas they are of far less account than the rest of mankind, being men who, lacking, of the meanness of their spirit, the ability to provide themselves, take refuge, like swine, whereas they may have what to eat. And this story, charming ladies, I shall tell you, not only for the ensuing of the order imposed, but to give you to know withal that even the clergy, to whom we women, beyond measure credulous as we are, yield overmuch faith, can be and are whiles adroitly befooled, and that not by men only, but even by certain of our own s**.

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In our city, the which is fuller of cozenage than of love or faith, there was, not many years agone, a gentlewoman adorned with beauty and charms and as richly endowed by nature as any of her s** with engaging manners and loftiness of spirit and subtle wit, whose name albeit I know, I purpose not to discover it, no, nor any other that pertaineth unto the present story, for that there be folk yet alive who would take it in despite, whereas it should be pa**ed over with a laugh. This lady, then, seeing herself, though of high lineage, married to a wool-monger and unable, for that he was a craftsman, to put off the haughtiness of her spirit, whereby she deemed no man of mean condition, how rich soever he might be, worthy of a gentlewoman and seeing him moreover, for all his wealth, to be apt unto nothing of more moment than to lay a warp for a piece of motley or let weave a cloth or chaffer with a spinster anent her yarn, resolved on no wise to admit of his embraces, save in so far as she might not deny him, but to seek, for her own satisfaction, to find some one who should be worthier of her favours than the wool-monger appeared to her to be, and accordingly fell so fervently in love with a man of very good quality and middle age, that, whenas she saw him not by day, she could not pa** the ensuing night without unease. The gentleman, perceiving not how the case stood, took no heed of her, and she, being very circumspect, dared not make the matter known to him by sending of women nor by letter, fearing the possible perils that might betide. However, observing that he companied much with a churchman, who, albeit a dull lump of a fellow, was nevertheless, for that he was a man of very devout life, reputed of well nigh all a most worthy friar, she bethought herself that this latter would make an excellent go-between herself and her lover and having considered what means she should use, she repaired, at a fitting season, to the church where he abode, and letting call him to her, told him that, an he pleased, she would fain confess herself to him. The friar seeing her and judging her to be a woman of condition, willingly gave ear to her, and she, after confession, said to him, 'Father mine, it behoveth me have recourse to you for aid and counsel anent that which you shall hear. I know, as having myself told you, that you know my kinsfolk and my husband, who loveth me more than his life, nor is there aught I desire but I have it of him incontinent, he being a very rich man and one who can well afford it; wherefore I love him more than mine own self and should I but think, let alone do, aught that might be contrary to his honour and pleasure, there were no woman more wicked or more deserving of the fire than I. Now one, whose name in truth I know not, but who is, meseemeth, a man of condition, and is, if I mistake not, much in your company,—a well-favoured man and tall of his person and clad in very decent sad-coloured raiment,—unaware belike of the constancy of my purpose, appeareth to have laid siege to me, nor can I show myself at door or window nor go without the house, but he incontinent presenteth himself before me, and I marvel that he is not here now; whereat I am sore concerned, for that such fashions as these often bring virtuous women into reproach, without their fault. I have whiles had it in mind to have him told of this by my brothers; but then I have bethought me that men oftentimes do messages on such wise that ill answers ensue, which give rise to words and from words they come to deeds; wherefore, lest mischief spring therefrom and scandal, I have kept silence of the matter and have determined to discover it to yourself rather than to another, at once because meseemeth you are his friend and for that it beseemeth you to rebuke not only friends, but strangers, of such things. I beseech you, therefore, for the one God's sake, that you rebuke him of this and pray him leave these his fashions. There be women enough, who incline belike to these toys and would take pleasure in being dogged and courted by him, whereas to me, who have no manner of mind to such matters, it is a very grievous annoy.' So saying, she bowed her head as she would weep. The holy friar understood incontinent of whom she spoke and firmly believing what she said to be true, greatly commended her righteous intent and promised her to do on such wise that she should have no farther annoy from the person in question; and knowing her to be very rich, he commended to her works of charity and almsdeeds, recounting to her his own need. Quoth the lady, 'I beseech you thereof for God's sake, and should he deny, prithee scruple not to tell him that it was I who told you this and complained to you thereof.' Then, having made her confession and gotten her penance, recalling the friar's exhortations to works of almsgiving, she stealthily filled his hand with money, praying him to say ma**es for the souls of her dead kinsfolk; after which she rose from his feet and taking leave of him, returned home. Not long after up came the gentleman, according to his won't, and after they had talked awhile of one thing and another, the friar, drawing his friend aside, very civilly rebuked him of the manner in which, as he believed, he pursued and spied upon the lady aforesaid, according to that which she had given him to understand. The other marvelled, as well he might, having never set eyes upon her and being used very rarely to pa** before her house, and would have excused himself; but the friar suffered him not to speak, saying, 'Now make no show of wonderment nor waste words in denying it, for it will avail thee nothing; I learnt not these matters from the neighbours; nay, she herself told them to me, complaining sore of thee. And besides that such toys beseem not a man of thine age, I may tell thee this much of her, that if ever I saw a woman averse to these follies, it is she; wherefore, for thine own credit and her comfort, I prithee desist therefrom and let her be in peace.' The gentleman, quicker of wit than the friar, was not slow to apprehend the lady's device and feigning to be somewhat abashed, promised to meddle no more with her thenceforward; then, taking leave of the friar, he betook himself to the house of the lady, who still abode await at a little window, so she might see him, should he pa** that way. When she saw him come, she showed herself so rejoiced and so gracious to him, that he might very well understand that he had gathered the truth from the friar's words, and thenceforward, under colour of other business, he began with the utmost precaution to pa** continually through the street, to his own pleasure and to the exceeding delight and solace of the lady. After awhile, perceiving that she pleased him even as he pleased her and wishful to inflame him yet more and to certify him of the love she bore him, she betook herself again, choosing her time and place, to the holy friar and seating herself at his feet in the church, fell a-weeping. The friar, seeing this, asked her affectionately what was to do with her anew. 'Alack, father mine,' answered she, 'that which aileth me is none other than yonder God-accursed friend of yours, of whom I complained to you the other day, for that methinketh he was born for my especial torment and to make me do a thing, such that I should never be glad again nor ever after dare to seat myself at your feet.' 'How?' cried the friar. 'Hath he not given over annoying thee?' 'No, indeed,' answered she; 'nay, since I complained to you of him, as if of despite, maybe taking it ill that I should have done so, for every once he used to pa** before my house, I verily believe he hath pa**ed seven times. And would to God he were content with pa**ing and spying upon me! Nay, he is grown so bold and so malapert that but yesterday he despatched a woman to me at home with his idle tales and toys and sent me a purse and a girdle, as if I had not purses and girdles galore; the which I took and take so ill that I believe, but for my having regard to the sin of it and after for the love of you, I had played the devil. However, I contained myself and would not do or say aught whereof I should not first have let you know. Nay, I had already returned the purse and the girdle to the baggage who brought them, that she might carry them back to him, and had given her a rough dismissal, but after, fearing she might keep them for herself and tell him that I had accepted them, as I hear women of her fashion do whiles, I called her back and took them, full of despite, from her hands and have brought them to you, so you may return them to him and tell him I want none of his trash, for that, thanks to God and my husband, I have purses and girdles enough to smother him withal. Moreover, if hereafter he desist not from this, I tell you, as a father, you must excuse me, but I will tell it, come what may, to my husband and my brothers; for I had far liefer he should brook an affront, if needs he must, than that I should suffer blame for him; wherefore let him look to himself.' So saying, still weeping sore, she pulled out from under her surcoat a very handsome and rich purse and a quaint and costly girdle and threw them into the lap of the friar, who, fully crediting that which she told him and incensed beyond measure, took them and said to her, 'Daughter, I marvel not that thou art provoked at these doings, nor can I blame thee therefor; but I much commend thee for following my counsel in the matter. I rebuked him the other day and he hath ill performed that which he promised me; wherefore, as well for that as for this that he hath newly done, I mean to warm his ears[158] for him after such a fashion that methinketh he will give thee no farther concern; but do thou, God's benison on thee, suffer not thyself to be so overcome with anger that thou tell it to any of thy folk, for that overmuch harm might ensue thereof unto him. Neither fear thou lest this blame anywise ensue to thee, for I shall still, before both God and men, be a most constant witness to thy virtue.' The lady made believe to be somewhat comforted and leaving that talk, said, as one who knew his greed and that of his fellow-churchmen, 'Sir, these some nights past there have appeared to me sundry of my kinsfolk, who ask nought but almsdeeds, and meseemeth they are indeed in exceeding great torment, especially my mother, who appeareth to me in such ill case and affliction that it is pity to behold. Methinketh she suffereth exceeding distress to see me in this tribulation with yonder enemy of God; wherefore I would have you say me forty ma**es of Saint Gregory for her and their souls, together with certain of your own prayers, so God may deliver them from that penitential fire.' So saying, she put a florin into his hand, which the holy father blithely received and confirming her devoutness with fair words and store of pious instances, gave her his benison and let her go. The lady being gone, the friar, never thinking how he was gulled, sent for his friend, who, coming and finding him troubled, at once divined that he was to have news of the lady and awaited what the friar should say. The latter repeated that which he had before said to him and bespeaking him anew angrily and reproachfully, rebuked him severely of that which, according to the lady's report, he had done. The gentleman, not yet perceiving the friar's drift, faintly enough denied having sent her the purse and the girdle, so as not to undeceive the friar, in case the lady should have given him to believe that he had done this; whereat the good man was sore incensed and said, 'How canst thou deny it, wicked man that thou art? See, here they are, for she herself brought them to me, weeping; look if thou knowest them.' The gentleman feigned to be sore abashed and answered, 'Yes, I do indeed know them and I confess to you that I did ill; but I swear to you, since I see her thus disposed, that you shall never more hear a word of this.' Brief, after many words, the numskull of a friar gave his friend the purse and the girdle and dismissed him, after rating him amain and beseeching him occupy himself no more with these follies, the which he promised him. The gentleman, overjoyed both at the a**urance that himseemed he had of the lady's love and at the goodly gift, was no sooner quit of the friar than he betook himself to a place where he made shift to let his mistress see that he had the one and the other thing; whereat she was mightily rejoiced, more by token that herseemed her device went from good to better. She now awaited nought but her husband's going abroad to give completion to the work, and it befell not long after that it behoved him repair to Genoa on some occasion or other. No sooner had he mounted to horse in the morning and gone his way, than the lady betook herself to the holy man and after many lamentations, said to him, weeping, 'Father mine, I tell you now plainly that I can brook no more; but, for that I promised you the other day to do nought, without first telling you, I am come to excuse myself to you; and that you may believe I have good reason both to weep and to complain, I will tell you what your friend, or rather devil incarnate, did to me this very morning, a little before matins. I know not what ill chance gave him to know that my husband was to go to Genoa yestermorn; algates, this morning, at the time I tell you, he came into a garden of mine and climbing up by a tree to the window of my bedchamber, which giveth upon the garden, had already opened the lattice and was for entering, when I of a sudden awoke and starting up, offered to cry out, nay, would a**uredly have cried out, but that he, who was not yet within, besought me of mercy in God's name and yours, telling me who he was; which when I heard, I held my peace for the love of you and naked as I was born, ran and shut the window in his face; whereupon I suppose he took himself off (ill-luck go with him!), for I heard no more of him. Look you now if this be a goodly thing and to be endured. For my part I mean to bear with him no more; nay, I have already forborne him overmuch for the love of you.' The friar, hearing this, was the wrathfullest man alive and knew not what to say, except to ask again and again if she had well certified herself that it was indeed he and not another; to which she answered, 'Praised be God! As if I did not yet know him from another! I tell you it was himself, and although he should deny it, credit him not.' Then said the friar, 'Daughter, there is nothing to be said for it but that this was exceeding effrontery and a thing exceeding ill done, and in sending him off, as thou didst, thou didst that which it behoved thee to do. But I beseech thee, since God hath preserved thee from shame, that, like as thou hast twice followed my counsel, even so do thou yet this once; to wit, without complaining to any kinsman of thine, leave it to me to see an I can bridle yonder devil broke loose, whom I believed a saint. If I can make shift to turn him from this lewdness, well and good; if not, I give thee leave henceforth to do with him that which thy soul shall judge best, and my benison go with thee.' 'Well, then,' answered the lady, 'for this once I will well not to vex or disobey you; but look you do on such wise that he be ware of annoying me again, for I promise you I will never again return to you for this cause.' Thereupon, without saying more, she took leave of the friar and went away, as if in anger. Hardly was she out of the church when up came the gentleman and was called by the friar, who, taking him apart, gave him the soundest rating ever man had, calling him disloyal and forsworn and traitor. The other, who had already twice had occasion to know to what the monk's reprimands amounted, abode expectant and studied with embarra**ed answers to make him speak out, saying, at the first, 'Why all this pa**ion, Sir? Have I crucified Christ?' Whereupon, 'Mark this shameless fellow!' cried the friar. 'Hear what he saith! He speaketh as if a year or two were pa**ed and he had for lapse of time forgotten his misdeeds and his lewdness! Hath it then escaped thy mind between this and matinsong that thou hast outraged some one this very morning? Where wast thou this morning a little before day?' 'I know not,' answered the gentleman; 'but wherever it was, the news thereof hath reached you mighty early.' Quoth the friar, 'Certes, the news hath reached me. Doubtless thou supposedst because her husband was abroad, that needs must the gentlewoman receive thee incontinent in her arms. A fine thing, indeed! Here's a pretty fellow! Here's an honourable man! He's grown a nighthawk, a garden-breaker, a tree-climber! Thinkest thou by importunity to overcome this lady's chastity, that thou climbest up to her windows anights by the trees? There is nought in the world so displeasing to her as thou; yet must thou e'en go essaying it again and again. Truly, thou hast profited finely by my admonitions, let alone that she hath shown thee her aversion in many ways. But this I have to say to thee; she hath up to now, not for any love she beareth thee, but at my instant entreaty, kept silence of that which thou hast done; but she will do so no more; I have given her leave to do what seemeth good to her, an thou annoy her again in aught. What wilt thou do, an she tell her brothers?' The gentleman having now gathered enough of that which it concerned him to know, appeased the friar, as best he knew and might, with many and ample promises, and taking leave of him, waited till matinsong[159] of the ensuing night, when he made his way into the garden and climbed up by the tree to the window. He found the lattice open and entering the chamber as quickliest he might, threw himself into the arms of his fair mistress, who, having awaited him with the utmost impatience, received him joyfully, saying, 'Gramercy to my lord the friar for that he so well taught thee the way hither!' Then, taking their pleasure one of the other, they solaced themselves together with great delight, devising and laughing amain anent the simplicity of the dolt of a friar and gibing at wool-hanks and teasels and carding-combs. Moreover, having taken order for their future converse, they did on such wise that, without having to resort anew to my lord the friar, they foregathered in equal joyance many another night, to the like whereof I pray God, of His holy mercy, speedily to conduct me and all Christian souls who have a mind thereto."


[158] Lit. (riscaldare gli orecchi).

[159] i.e. three a.m. next morning.

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