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Giovanni Boccaccio - Decameron (Day the Twenty First) lyrics

The Tenth Story

Paganino Of Monaco Stealeth Away The Wife Of Messer Ricciardo Di Chinzica, Who, Learning Where She Is, Goeth Thither And Making Friends With Paganino, Demandeth Her Again Of Him. The Latter Concedeth Her To Him, An She Will; But She Refuseth To Return With Him And Messer Ricciardo Dying, She Becometh The Wife Of Paganino

Each of the honourable company highly commended for goodly the story told by their queen, especially Dioneo, with whom alone for that present day it now rested to tell, and who, after many praises bestowed upon the preceding tale, said, "Fair ladies, one part of the queen's story hath caused me change counsel of telling you one that was in my mind, and determine to tell you another,—and that is the stupidity of Bernabo (albeit good betided him thereof) and of all others who give themselves to believe that which he made a show of believing and who, to wit, whilst going about the world, diverting themselves now with this woman and now with that, imagine that the ladies left at home abide with their hands in their girdles, as if we knew not, we who are born and reared among the latter, unto what they are fain. In telling you this story, I shall at once show you how great is the folly of these folk and how greater yet is that of those who, deeming themselves more potent than nature herself, think by dint of sophistical inventions[140] to avail unto that which is beyond their power and study to bring others to that which they themselves are, whenas the complexion of those on whom they practise brooketh it not.

There was, then, in Pisa a judge, by name Messer Ricciardo di Chinzica, more gifted with wit than with bodily strength, who, thinking belike to satisfy a wife by the same means which served him to despatch his studies and being very rich, sought with no little diligence to have a fair and young lady to wife; whereas, had he but known to counsel himself as he counselled others, he should have shunned both the one and the other. The thing came to pass according to his wish, for Messer Lotto Gualandi gave him to wife a daughter of his, Bartolomea by name, one of the fairest and handsomest young ladies of Pisa, albeit there be few there that are not very lizards to look upon. The judge accordingly brought her home with the utmost pomp and having held a magnificent wedding, made shift the first night to hand her one venue for the consummation of the marriage, but came within an ace of making a stalemate of it, whereafter, lean and dry and scant of wind as he was, it behoved him on the morrow bring himself back to life with malmsey and restorative confections and other remedies. Thenceforward, being now a better judge of his own powers than he was, he fell to teaching his wife a calendar fit for children learning to read and belike made afore time at Ravenna,[141] for that, according to what he feigned to her, there was no day in the year but was sacred not to one saint only, but to many, in reverence of whom he showed by divers reasons that man and wife should abstain from carnal conversation; and to these be added, to boot, fast days and Emberdays and the vigils of the Apostles and of a thousand other saints and Fridays and Saturdays and Lord's Day and all Lent and certain seasons of the moon and store of other exceptions, conceiving belike that it behoved to keep holiday with women in bed like as he did bytimes whilst pleading in the courts of civil law. This fashion (to the no small chagrin of the lady, whom he handled maybe once a month, and hardly that) he followed a great while, still keeping strait watch over her, lest peradventure some other should teach her to know working-days, even as he had taught her holidays. Things standing thus, it chanced that, the heat being great and Messer Ricciardo having a mind to go a-pleasuring to a very fair country-seat he had, near Monte Nero, and there abide some days to take the air, he betook himself thither, carrying with him his fair lady. There sojourning, to give her some diversion, he caused one day fish and they went out to sea in two boats, he in one with the fishermen, and she in another with other ladies. The sport luring them on, they drifted some miles out to sea, well nigh without perceiving it, and whilst they were intent upon their diversion, there came up of a sudden a galliot belonging to Paganino da Mare, a famous corsair of those days. The latter, espying the boats, made for them, nor could they flee so fast but he overtook that in which were the women and seeing therein the judge's fair lady, he carried her aboard the galliot, in full sight of Messer Ricciardo, who was now come to land, and made off without recking of aught else. When my lord judge, who was so jealous that he misdoubted of the very air, saw this, it booteth not to ask if he was chagrined; and in vain, both at Pisa and otherwhere, did he complain of the villainy of the corsairs, for that he knew not who had taken his wife from him nor whither he had carried her. As for Paganino, finding her so fair, he deemed himself in luck and having no wife, resolved to keep her for himself. Accordingly, seeing her weeping sore, he studied to comfort her with soft words till nightfall, when, his calendar having dropped from his girdle and saints' days and holidays gone clean out of his head, he fell to comforting her with deeds, himseeming that words had availed little by day; and after such a fashion did he console her that, ere they came to Monaco, the judge and his ordinances had altogether escaped her mind and she began to lead the merriest of lives with Paganino. The latter carried her to Monaco and there, over and above the consolations with which he plied her night and day, he entreated her honourably as his wife. After awhile it came to Messer Ricciardo's ears where his wife was and he, being possessed with the most ardent desire to have her again and bethinking himself that none other might thoroughly suffice to do what was needful to that end, resolved to go thither himself, determined to spend any quantity of money for her ransom. Accordingly he set out by sea and coming to Monaco, there both saw and was seen of the lady, who told it to Paganino that same evening and acquainted him with her intent. Next morning Messer Ricciardo, seeing Paganino, accosted him and quickly clapped up a great familiarity and friendship with him, whilst the other feigned not to know him and waited to see at what he aimed. Accordingly, whenas it seemed to him time, Messer Ricciardo discovered to him, as best and most civilly he knew, the occasion of his coming and prayed him take what he pleased and restore him the lady. To which Paganino made answer with a cheerful countenance, 'Sir, you are welcome, and to answer you briefly, I say thus; it is true I have a young lady in my house, if she be your wife or another's I know not, for that I know you not nor indeed her, save in so much as she hath abidden awhile with me. If you be, as you say, her husband, I will, since you seem to me a civil gentleman, carry you to her and I am assured that she will know you right well. If she say it is as you avouch and be willing to go with you, you shall, for the sake of your civility, give me what you yourself will to her ransom; but, an it be not so, you would do ill to seek to take her from me, for that I am a young man and can entertain a woman as well as another, and especially such an one as she, who is the most pleasing I ever saw.' Quoth Messer Ricciardo, 'For certain she is my wife, an thou bring me where she is, thou shalt soon see it; for she will incontinent throw herself on my neck; wherefore I ask no better than that it be as thou proposest.' 'Then,' said Paganino, 'let us be going.' Accordingly they betook themselves to the corsair's house, where he brought the judge into a saloon of his and let call the lady, who issued forth of a chamber, all dressed and tired, and came whereas they were, but accosted Messer Ricciardo no otherwise than as she would any other stranger who might have come home with Paganino. The judge, who looked to have been received by her with the utmost joy, marvelled sore at this and fell a-saying in himself, 'Belike the chagrin and long grief I have suffered, since I lost her, have so changed me that she knoweth me not.' Wherefore he said to her, 'Wife, it hath cost me dear to carry thee a-fishing, for that never was grief felt like that which I have suffered since I lost thee, and now meseemeth thou knowest me not, so distantly dost thou greet me. Seest thou not that I am thine own Messer Ricciardo, come hither to pay that which this gentleman, in whose house we are, shall require to thy ransom and to carry thee away? And he, of his favour, restoreth thee to me for what I will.' The lady turned to him and said, smiling somewhat, 'Speak you to me, sir? Look you mistake me not, for, for my part, I mind me not ever to have seen you.' Quoth Ricciardo, 'Look what thou sayest; consider me well; an thou wilt but recollect thyself, thou wilt see that I am thine own Ricciardo di Chinzica.' 'Sir,' answered the lady, 'you will pardon me; belike it is not so seemly a thing as you imagine for me to look much on you. Nevertheless I have seen enough of you to know that I never before set eyes on you.' Ricciardo, concluding that she did this for fear of Paganino and chose not to confess to knowing him in the latter's presence, besought him of his favour that he might speak with her in a room alone. Paganino replied that he would well, so but he would not kiss her against her will, and bade the lady go with him into a chamber and there hear what he had to say and answer him as it should please her. Accordingly the lady and Messer Ricciardo went into a room apart and as soon as they were seated, the latter began to say, 'Alack, heart of my body, sweet my soul and my hope, knowest thou not thy Ricciardo, who loveth thee more than himself? How can this be? Am I so changed? Prithee, fair mine eye, do but look on me a little.' The lady began to laugh and without letting him say more, replied, 'You may be assured that I am not so scatterbrained but that I know well enough you are Messer Ricciardo di Chinzica, my husband; but, what time I was with you, you showed that you knew me very ill, for that you should have had the sense to see that I was young and lusty and gamesome and should consequently have known that which behoveth unto young ladies, over and above clothes and meat, albeit for shamefastness they name it not; the which how you performed, you know. If the study of the laws was more agreeable to you than your wife, you should not have taken her, albeit it never appeared to me that you were a judge; nay, you seemed to me rather a common crier of saints' days and sacraments and fasts and vigils, so well you knew them. And I tell you this, that, had you suffered the husbandmen who till your lands keep as many holidays as you allowed him who had the tilling of my poor little field, you would never have reaped the least grain of corn. However, as God, having compassion on my youth, hath willed it, I have happened on yonder man, with whom I abide in this chamber, wherein it is unknown what manner of thing is a holiday (I speak of those holidays which you, more assiduous in the service of God than in that of the ladies, did so diligently celebrate) nor ever yet entered in at this door Saturday nor Friday nor vigil nor Emberday nor Lent, that is so long; nay, here swink we day and night and thump our wool; and this very night after matinsong, I know right well how the thing went, once he was up. Wherefore I mean to abide with him and work; whilst I am young, and leave saints' days and jubilees and fasts for my keeping when I am old; so get you gone about your business as quickliest you may, good luck go with you, and keep as many holidays as you please, without me.' Messer Ricciardo, hearing these words, was distressed beyond endurance and said, whenas he saw she had made an end of speaking. 'Alack, sweet my soul, what is this thou sayest? Hast thou no regard for thy kinsfolk's honour and thine own? Wilt thou rather abide here for this man's whore and in mortal sin than at Pisa as my wife? He, when he is weary of thee, will turn thee away to thine own exceeding reproach, whilst I will still hold thee dear and still (e'en though I willed it not) thou shalt be mistress of my house. Wilt thou for the sake of a lewd and disorderly appetite, forsake thine honour and me, who love thee more than my life? For God's sake, dear my hope, speak no more thus, but consent to come with me; henceforth, since I know thy desire, I will enforce myself [to content it;] wherefore, sweet my treasure, change counsel and come away with me, who have never known weal since thou wast taken from me.' Whereto answered the lady, 'I have no mind that any, now that it availeth not, should be more tender of my honour than I myself; would my kinsfolk had had regard thereto, whenas they gave me to you! But, as they had then no care for my honour, I am under no present concern to be careful of theirs; and if I am herein mortar[142] sin, I shall abide though it be in pestle[142] sin. And let me tell you that here meseemeth I am Paganino's wife, whereas at Pisa meseemed I was your whore, seeing that there, by season of the moon and quadratures of geometry, needs must be planets concur to couple betwixt you and me, whereas here Paganino holdeth me all night in his arms and straineth me and biteth me, and how he serveth me, let God tell you for me. You say forsooth you will enforce yourself; to what? To do it in three casts and cause it stand by dint of cudgelling? I warrant me you are grown a doughty cavalier since I saw you last! Begone and enforce yourself to live, for methinketh indeed you do but sojourn here below upon sufferance, so peaked and scant o' wind you show to me. And yet more I tell you, that, should he leave me (albeit meseemeth he is nowise inclined thereto, so I choose to stay,) I purpose not therefor ever to return to you, of whom squeeze you as I might, there were no making a porringer of sauce; for that I abode with you once to my grievous hurt and loss, wherefore in such a case I should seek my vantage elsewhere. Nay, once again I tell you, here be neither saints' days nor vigils; wherefore here I mean to abide; so get you gone in God's name as quickliest you may, or I will cry out that you would fain force me.' Messer Ricciardo, seeing himself in ill case and now recognizing his folly in taking a young wife, whenas he was himself forspent, went forth the chamber tristful and woebegone, and bespoke Paganino with many words, that skilled not a jot. Ultimately, leaving the lady, he returned to Pisa, without having accomplished aught, and there for chagrin fell into such dotage that, as he went about Pisa, to whoso greeted him or asked him of anywhat, he answered nought but 'The ill hole[143] will have no holidays;'[144] and there, no great while after, he died. Paganino, hearing this and knowing the love the lady bore himself, espoused her to his lawful wife and thereafter, without ever observing saints' day or vigil or keeping Lent, they wrought what while their legs would carry them and led a jolly life of it. Wherefore, dear my ladies, meseemeth Bernabo, in his dispute with Ambrogiuolo, rode the she-goat down the steep."[145]

This story gave such occasion for laughter to all the company that there was none whose jaws ached not therefor, and all the ladies avouched with one accord that Dioneo spoke sooth and that Bernabo had been an ass. But, after the story was ended and the laughter abated, the queen, observing that the hour was now late and that all had told and seeing that the end of her seignory was come, according to the ordinance commenced, took the wreath from her own head and set it on that of Neifile, saying, with a blithe aspect, "Henceforth, companion dear, be thine the governance of this little people"; and reseated herself. Neifile blushed a little at the honour received and became in countenance like as showeth a new-blown rose of April or of May in the breaking of the day, with lovesome eyes some little downcast, sparkling no otherwise than the morning-star. But, after the courteous murmur of the bystanders, whereby they gladsomely approved their goodwill towards the new-made queen, had abated and she had taken heart again, she seated herself somewhat higher than of won't and said, "Since I am to be your queen, I will, departing not from the manner holden of those who have foregone me and whose governance you have by your obedience commended, make manifest to you in few words my opinion, which, an it be approved by your counsel, we will ensue. To-morrow, as you know, is Friday and the next day is Saturday, days which, by reason of the viands that are used therein,[146] are somewhat irksome to most folk, more by token that Friday, considering that He who died for our life on that day suffered passion, is worthy of reverence; wherefore I hold it a just thing and a seemly that, in honour of the Divinity, we apply ourselves rather to orisons than to story-telling. As for Saturday, it is the usance of ladies on that day to wash their heads and do away all dust and all uncleanliness befallen them for the labours of the past week; and many, likewise, use, in reverence of the Virgin Mother of the Son of God, to fast and rest from all manner of work in honour of the ensuing Sunday. Wherefore, we being unable fully to ensue the order of living taken by us, on like wise methinketh we were well to rest from story-telling on that day also; after which, for that we shall then have sojourned here four days, I hold it opportune, an we would give no occasion for newcomers to intrude upon us, that we remove hence and get us gone elsewhither; where I have already considered and provided. There when we shall be assembled together on Sunday, after sleeping,—we having to-day had leisure enough for discoursing at large,[147]—I have bethought myself,—at once that you may have more time to consider and because it will be yet goodlier that the license of our story-telling be somewhat straitened and that we devise of one of the many fashions of fortune,—that our discourse shall be OF SUCH AS HAVE, BY DINT OF DILIGENCE,[148] ACQUIRED SOME MUCH DESIRED THING OR RECOVERED SOME LOST GOOD. Whereupon let each think to tell somewhat that may be useful or at least entertaining to the company, saving always Dioneo his privilege." All commended the speech and disposition of the queen and ordained that it should be as she had said. Then, calling for her seneschal, she particularly instructed him where he should set the tables that evening and after of what he should do during all the time of her seignory; and this done, rising to her feet, she gave the company leave to do that which was most pleasing unto each. Accordingly, ladies and men betook themselves to a little garden and there, after they had disported themselves awhile, the hour of supper being come, they supped with mirth and pleasance; then, all arising thence and Emilia, by the queen's commandment, leading the round, the ditty following was sung by Pampinea, whilst the other ladies responded:

What lady aye should sing, and if not I,
Who'm blest with all for which a maid can sigh?
Come then, O Love, thou source of all my weal,
All hope and every issue glad and bright
Sing ye awhile yfere
Of sighs nor bitter pains I erst did feel,
That now but sweeten to me thy delight,
Nay, but of that fire clear,
Wherein I, burning, live in joy and cheer,
And as my God, thy name do magnify.

Thou settest, Love, before these eyes of mine
Whenas thy fire I entered the first day,
A youngling so beseen
With valour, worth and loveliness divine,
That never might one find a goodlier, nay,
Nor yet his match, I ween.
So sore I burnt for him I still must e'en
Sing, blithe, of him with thee, my lord most high.

[Lyrics from: https:/]
And that in him which crowneth my liesse
Is that I please him, as he pleaseth me,
Thanks to Love debonair;
Thus in this world my wish I do possess
And in the next I trust at peace to be,
Through that fast faith I bear
To him; sure God, who seeth this, will ne'er
The kingdom of His bliss to us deny.

After this they sang sundry other songs and danced sundry dances and played upon divers instruments of music. Then, the queen deeming it time to go to rest, each betook himself, with torches before him, to his chamber, and all on the two following days, whilst applying themselves to those things whereof the queen had spoken, looked longingly for Sunday.


[140] Lit. fabulous demonstrations (dimostrazioni favolose), casuistical arguments, founded upon premises of their own invention.

[141] According to one of the commentators of the Decameron, there are as many churches at Ravenna as days in the year and each day is there celebrated as that of some saint or other.

[142] A trifling jingle upon the similarity in sound of the words mortale (mortal), mortaio (mortar), pestello (pestle), and pestilente (pestilential). The same word-play occurs at least once more in the Decameron.

[143] Il mal foro, a woman's commodity (Florio).

[144] i.e. Cunnus nonvult feriari. Some commentators propose to read il mal furo, the ill thief, supposing Ricciardo to allude to Paganino, but this seems far-fetched.

[145] i.e. semble ran headlong to destruction. The commentators explain this proverbial expression by saying that a she-goat is in any case a hazardous mount, and a fortiori when ridden down a precipice; but this seems a somewhat "sporting" kind of interpretation.

[146] i.e. Friday being a fast day and Saturday a jour maigre.

[147] i.e. generally upon the vicissitudes of Fortune and not upon any particular feature.

[148] Industria, syn. address, skilful contrivance.

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