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From Count Lucanor; of the Fifty Pleasant Stories of Patronio, written by the Prince Don Juan Manuel and first done into English by James York, M. D., 1868;; Gibbings & Company, Limited; London; 1899; pp. 185-207.
NE day Count Lucanor said to Patronio, “I happen to have two neighbours; one is a man whom I love very much, and with whom I have much sympathy; nevertheless, he does things at times which cause me much annoyance. Now, with the other man, I have no friendship, although I have often occasion to be grateful to him. This latter also at times, by his proceedings, gives me some trouble. Now, will you advise me, with your usual good sense, how to manage these two men?”
“Count Lucanor,” said Patronio, “what you tell 186 me is not one thing alone, but two things — one being very distinct from the other; and I will, with your permission, exemplify to you, by two narratives, how you should act under these circumstances.”
The Count agreeing to this, Patronio said as follows: —
“Good and Evil agreed once to live together, and Evil, who was soon found to be cunning and rebellious, always seeking some deception or mischief, proposed to Good to purchase a flock of sheep wherewith to maintain themselves. Good, being naturally peaceable and accommodating, agreed. When the sheep had brought forth their young, Evil proposed to Good to shear them; to this, the latter, not agreeing, requested Evil to act upon his own responsibility. Now, as Evil is always ill-disposed and seeking mischief, this sanction pleased him very much, so he proposed to Good to retain for his share the young lambkins and rear them, whilst he, Evil would reserve for himself the milk and the wool of the sheep. To this Good assented without complaining. Evil now proposed that they should rear pigs. To this Good agreed as before. This time Evil, pretending to great ideas of justice, proposed that as Good had on a former occasion taken the young lambkins, and he, Evil the wool and milk of the sheep, they should this time reverse it, he not taking the little pigs, and Good the milk and wool.187
“Again, Evil proposed that they should have a kitchen-garden, in which they cultivated turnips; when these had come to perfection, Evil said to Good, as it was difficult to judge the value of what could not be seen, that Good should take the leaves and he would be contented with what was buried in the earth; and so he did. Again, they planted cabbages, and, when these had grown, Evil said to Good that in justice Good should take this time what was under the earth, and he would take what appeared above it.
“Now Evil thought it would be convenient to have a woman for their household service, and, Good agreeing with him, Evil proposed that Good should have for his share of the servant from the waist upwards, that being the superior and most useful part of the body, whilst he, Evil, would content himself with the inferior half, or, from the waist downwards. Good, who desired nothing better than the help of two strong arms for the work of the house, was perfectly satisfied with this arrangement, but, as the woman thus became the wife of Evil, she had a son. Now, when she wished to nourish her child, Good, resolutely opposed her doing so, saying, that the milk belonged to him.
“When Evil found he had a son he was much pleased, but, on hearing the child cry very much, inquired of the woman why it was so uneasy. To which she replied that it was for want of nourishment; and, hearing this, Evil told her to give the 188 child the food it required. But she said to him that Good had strictly forbidden her to do so, as the milk belonged to him, it being his share.
“Now Evil went to Good and told him he should insist on having the milk given to his son. To which Good simply replied that, as the milk belonged to his share, he would never consent.
“Hearing this, Evil became incensed, and Good, seeing him in this great strait, quietly answered, ‘My friend, surely you did not believe me so foolish as not to have seen how cunningly and for your own exclusive interest you have heretofore divided matters between us. You never considered my wants or necessities, so you should not now feel any surprise that when you require my assistance I am unwilling to grant it. This will serve to remind you of all you made me suffer.’
“Now, whether it was that Evil felt the truth of what Good had said, or that he feared to lose his son through hunger, he prayed of Good that, for the love of God, he would take compassion on the innocent child, and not condemn him to suffer thus for his father’s faults, promising that henceforward he would always do all Good should require of him; and Good, hearing this, praised God, who in His mercy had thus permitted him to bring good out of evil, and replied to Evil that he would agree to the woman’s nourishing the child, on condition that the father should take the child in his arms, and go through the streets of the city, and proclaim 189 aloud that Good had conquered Evil without departing from the paths of virtue.
“To this Evil consented, too glad, at any sacrifice, to be able to save the life of his son; and hence we know that good has ever conquered evil with good.
“But it happened otherwise with the good man and the madman. Now it chanced that a good man kept some baths, and a neighbour, a madman, was the first to come daily to this bath; afterwards awaiting the arrival of the people to bathe, he commenced, as soon as he saw them, to beat them with sticks or throw stones at them, so that the proprietor of the baths soon lost all his customers. The good man, seeing this, determined to rise very early one day, undressed himself, and went into the bath before the madman arrived, having at hand a pail full of very hot water and a wooden club. When the madman came to the bath, determined, as usual, to attack all who came in his way, the good man, seeing him enter, allowed him to approach, when he suddenly upset the pail of hot water over his head, attacking him at the same time with the club. The madman now gave himself up for dead; nevertheless, he managed to escape, and, running away, he told every one he met to be careful, for there was a madman in the bath.
“And you, Count Lucanor, since chance has given you two neighbours who may occasionally abuse your friendship, yet be friendly with them; 190 heed not their small faults, and give them to understand you seek not revenge, but desire to act kindly towards them, helping them in their necessities, showing them that, though you need not their good services, yet you desire their friendship and esteem, not as an obligation but through good will.”
The Count, liking this advice, followed it with success. And Don Juan, taking this to be a good example, ordered it to be written in this book, and composed the following lines: —
Don Manuel, in illustrating, as we see in this apologue, that good arises out of evil, had a more enlightened and philosophical view of the subject than he was probably aware of.
In this chapter we have two examples, but La Fontaine, who was only acquainted with the first part, as he found it in Rabelais, has made the former the subject of one of his least commendable tales. Had he been able to read Don Manuel’s apologue in its integrity, he would doubtless have constructed from it a fable more edifying.
OUNT LUCANOR, speaking with Patronio, said to him as follows: —
“Know, Patronio, that I am in great trouble and confusion, in consequence of some men who, having no regard for me, take every opportunity, by treachery and lying, to injure my reputation, never failing, at the same time, to turn these lies to their own advantage. It is true I could retaliate upon them in the same manner, but I have such a hatred of deception and lying that I cannot allow myself to adopt the same line of conduct, I beg, therefore, you will advise me how best to deal with these men.”
“Count Lucanor,” said Patronio, “Falsehood and Truth once entered into an agreement to keep company together. After a time Falsehood proposed to Truth that they should plant a tree, so that when it was very hot they might enjoy the shade thereof, to which Truth, being always straightforward, agreed. As soon as the tree had taken root and begun to show signs of life, Falsehood proposed to Truth that, to avoid disputation each should take a portion of 192 the tree as his own; Falsehood at the same time, suggesting that Truth should take the root, giving as a reason with much colouring and argument, that it was the most desirable part; ‘For,’ said he, ‘it is well protected by the earth, while the part out of the ground is liable to be damaged and even destroyed by evil-disposed men cutting it down, to be gnawed by beasts, or injured by birds with their claws and beaks; the great heat may dry it up, or the frost destroy it, but from all these dangers the root is protected.’
“When Truth heard all these reasons, being confiding by nature, and believing all she heard to be true, she accepted the offer made by Falsehood, thanking him for his consideration.
“Falsehood was greatly pleased at the success of his deception and coloured representations.
“Truth, having accepted the root of the trees as her portion, had to reside there, under the earth; while Falsehood remained above, taking up his abode amongst men and things, where he prospered.
“The tree began to grow, throwing out branches well covered with leaves and flowers of brilliant and attractive colours, giving altogether a most delightful shade and protection from the heat. When the people saw this they sought the shade of the tree of Falsehood, so that it became the resort of all the idle and others from the villages round, who sought its protection, and were there taught by Falsehood the art of deception and untruthfulness. In this manner, 193 he taught some the art of telling the lie simple, as making promises, saying, ‘Dear sir, I will do so and so,’ never intending, at the same time, to do it. To others, the lie double, as swearing homage and promise of service, knowing at the time that they are uttering a falsehood, and practising deception. Also the lie malicious, which is the most fatal of all, as it is falsehood and deceit under the very colour of truth. In this art Falsehood was very learned, and so skilfully did he convey his instruction to all those who took shelter under his tree, that there was scarcely a man who was not an adept in this art; so attractive indeed, was this to the people, either from the beauty of the tree or the protections which it afforded, that nearly every one became subservient to this master, so that, in the end, people who were really honest scarcely dared to speak the truth or esteem themselves.
“Now Falsehood, finding himself so flattered and honoured, began to despise Truth, who still remained hidden under the earth, so that no man living knew where to find her, or thought of seeking her.
“Truth, finding in the end that she had nothing but the roots of the tree apportioned to her by Falsehood, began gnawing and tearing them; and although the tree had, as before mentioned, fine branches, luxuriant foliage, and brilliant flowers — affording a grateful shade, with ever promise — still it perished without bearing fruit, from Truth eating the root thereof.
“One day, when Falsehood and his disciples 194 were quietly reposing beneath the shade of his tree, a gust of wind blew it down, the root thereof being destroyed, and, falling on Falsehood, it seriously injured him, besides wounding many of his companions. It was then that Truth issued from her subterranean abode, and standing by the wreck of the fallen tree, proclaimed aloud how all the treachery of Falsehood had only tended, as they saw, to his own destruction.
“And you, Count Lucanor, observe well that falsehood, like the tree, has wide-spreading branches, with its flowers, representing its sayings, its thoughts, its deceptive pleasures, enticing many under its shade, waiting for the fruit which never comes to perfection, and, if perchance it should, is never enjoyed. Now, if your enemies make use of the deceptive wisdom of falsehood, your only alternative is to be on your guard against them. Never be led to be one of their companions in this art, envy not their apparent success, which can only end in disgrace and discomfort to themselves. Flattering as it may appear, it will end, like the tree of falsehood, in the destruction of those who seek its protection; and, although truth may be despised and hidden for a time, yet esteem her, and attach yourself to her as the only good whereby you can succeed in this world and obtain salvation and the grace of God in the other.”
Count Lucanor was much pleased with the advice which Patronio gave him, and acted upon it.195
Don Juan, liking the example, had it written in this book, and made the following verses: —
OUNT LUCANOR, upon another occasion, sought the advice of Patronio, informing him that he had a relation in a distant land, whose possessions were so very small that he could scarcely defend himself against his more powerful neighbours, “who, feeling their superiority, leave no means untried to vex and annoy him; and he is so wearied of this daily suffering, that he is willing, at any cost, to free himself therefrom. I, too, am anxious to see him at ease.”
To which Patronio replied: “My lord, in order that you may best know how to advise your relation in this serious difficulty, allow me to relate to you what happened to a fox who feigned death.
“A fox one night entered a hen-house, and, after causing much destruction amongst the fowls, found, when he was about to return to cover, that it was already daylight and that the people were about. 196 Seeing that he could no longer conceal himself, he furtively went into the street, where he lay down, feigning death.
“When the people saw him lying there apparently dead they paid no attention to him, until a man who passed shortly after, observing, as he thought, a dead fox, remarked that hair from the forehead of a fox was an excellent remedy against convulsions in children. So, taking out his scissors he clipped some hair from the forehead of the fox. Others, passing by, had a notion that the fur from the back and loins of a fox was good in some other complaint, and so on, until they nearly deprived him of all his fur. Still, the fox never moved, feeling that his loss was comparatively trifling. Others came, saying that the nails of a fox’s foot were an infallible remedy against sudden fear, and tore them off. Still the fox gave no signs of life. Another, believing a fox’s tooth to be a cure for the toothache, drew one of his teeth. At last a man came, saying a fox’s heart was infallible in heart disease, and took out his knife to cut out the fox’s heart, which the animal perceiving, and knowing that he should now lose his life if he delayed, resolved, no matter at what risk, to endeavour to save himself; and he succeeded and escaped.
“And you, Count Lucanor, will, by this example, see how you should advise your friend not to heed slight infringements, but to let them pass by unnoticed, unless, indeed, his honour is impugned. A man 197 need never blush at not being as strong as his neighbours, so long as he is contented. He only need feel shame who knows not how to suffer or to resist; but, when there is real danger, then he should risk everything in defence of his right and honour, for this is of greater value than life itself.”
And the Count approved of this good advice. Don Juan, also considering this a good example, desire that it should be written in this book, and composed the following verses: —
Don Manuel anticipated by some few years the archpriest of Hita, in whose poems we find the above tale recited (see Sanchez, “Poesias anteriores al Siglo, xv.” 1795). The details, however, differ from Don Manuel in some respects, insomuch as that it is a cobbler who cuts off the tail of the fox to make a pair of soft shoes, or some such thing. Then a surgeon takes away a part of his jaw, as a cure for the toothache; an old woman then deprives him of an eye, to cure the pallor of young girls; a doctor next cuts off his ear, as a remedy for ear complaints. The fox, however, in the same manner as told by Don Manuel, preserves his life by a resolute escape.
T another time when Count Lucanor was conversing with his friend Patronio, he said to him, “I have a relation in whom I have great confidence, and I am certain that he is much attached to me. Now he wishes me to undertake an expedition with him. I am myself by no means desirous of joining him, as I have doubts of its success; but he assures me I have nothing to fear, and that he would rather suffer death than that I should receive any injury. I beg, therefore, you will give me your opinion as to my proceeding.”
“My lord, said Patronio, “for this purpose it is desirable you should hear what happened to two blind men travelling together.”
The Count desiring to know what that was, Patronio continued as follows: —
“A blind man, who lived in a city, was, upon one occasion, visited by a man likewise blind, who proposed that they should both go to a neighbouring town, and endeavour to maintain themselves by 199 charity, when the other remarked that the road was so hilly and dangerous that he feared to go.
“ ‘But,’ replied the other, ‘have no fear, for I will go with you and take care of you,’ pointing out to him, at the same time, so many advantages that would accrue from going there, that he trusted in his companion, and they both went.
“It was not long after they had arrived at the dangerous part of the road, when the blind man who led the way fell, bringing down with him his companion who had feared to undertake the journey.
“And you, Count Lucanor, if your fears are well founded, and the expedition is really dangerous, do not allow your friend to persuade you to join in the undertaking, for his dying for you would, under misfortune, benefit you nothing.”
The Count followed the advice with advantage, and Don Juan, thinking well of the example, had it written in this book, and composed the following couplet to be placed at the end: —
This narrative may be considered as founded on the wise parable of Jesus, wherein He said to His disciples, “Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?” This same precaution to avoid being led physically by incapable, or morally by designing persons, to the ruin of your estate here or your salvation hereafter, has been proverbialized by all nations.
ONE day Count Lucanor was talking to Patronio his counsellor, and said to him, “Patronio, one of my dependants tells me he can make a very advantageous marriage with a woman much richer and more honourable than himself; but there is one difficulty in the way, which is this, he tells me he has been informed that she is of a very violent and impetuous temper. Now I beg you to counsel me whether I should allow him to marry this woman, knowing such to be her disposition, or whether I should forbid it.”
“Count Lucanor,” replied Patronio, “if this man is like the son of a good man, a Moor, advise the marriage by all means; but if such be not the case, forbid it.”
The Count begged of him to relate the narrative.
“There lived in a city,” said Patronio, “a Moor who was much respected, and who had a son, the most promising youth in the world; but, not being rich enough to accomplish the great deeds which he felt 201 in his heart equal to, he was greatly troubled, having the will and not the power.
“Now in the same town there lived another Moor, who held a higher position, and was very much richer than his father, and who had an only daughter, the very reverse in character and appearance of the young man, she being of so very violent a temper that no one could be found willing to marry such a virago.
“One day the young man came to his father, and said, ‘You know that your means will not allow you to put me in a position to live honourably,’ adding that, as he desired to live an easy and quiet life, he thought it better to seek to enrich himself by an advantageous marriage, or to leave that part of the country.
“The father told him that he would be very happy if he could succeed in such a union. On this, the son proposed, if it were agreeable to his father, to seek the daughter of their neighbour in marriage. Hearing this, the father was much astonished, and asked how he could think of such a thing, when he knew that no man, however poor, could be induced to marry her.
“Nevertheless, the son insisted; and, although the father thought it a strange whim, in the end he gave his consent. The good man then visited his neighbour, telling him the wish of his son.
“When the good man heard what his friend said, he answered, ‘By heaven, my friend, were I to do 202 such a thing I should prove myself a very false friend, for you have a worthy son, and it would be base in me to consent to his injury or death; and I know for certain that, were he to live with my daughter, he would soon die, or death, at least, would be preferable to life. Do not think I say this from any objection to your alliance, for I should only be too grateful to any man who would take her out of my house.’
“The young man’s father was much pleased at this, as his son was so intent on the marriage. All being ultimately arranged, they were in the end married, and the bride taken home, according to the Moorish fashion, to the house of her husband, and left to supper; the friends and relations returning to their respective homes, waiting anxiously for the following day, when they feared to find the bridegroom either dead or seriously injured.
“Now, being left alone, the young couple sat down to supper, when the bridegroom, looking behind him, saw his mastiff and said to him, ‘Bring me water wherewith to wash my hands.’ The dog, naturally taking no notice of this command, the young man became irritated, and ordered the animal more angrily to bring him water for his hands, which the latter not heeding, the young man arose in a great rage, and, drawing his sword, commenced a savage attack on the dog, who, to avoid him ran away; but, finding no retreat, jumped on the table, then to the fireplace, his master still pursuing 203 him, who, having caught him, first cut off his head, then his paws, hewing him to pieces, covering everything with blood. Thus furious and blood-stained, he returned to the table, and, looking round, saw a cat. ‘Bring me water for my hands,’ said he to him. The animal not noticing the command, the master cried out, ‘How, false traitor, did you not see how I treated the mastiff for disobeying me? If you do not do as I tell you this instant you shall share his fate.’ The poor little harmless cat continuing motionless, the master seized him by the paws and dashed him to pieces against the wall. His fury increasing, he again placed himself at the table, looking about on all sides as if for something to attack next. His wife, seeing this, and supposing he had lost his senses, held her peace. At length he espied his horse, the only one he had, and called to him fiercely to bring him water to wash his hands. The animal not obeying, he cried out in a rage, ‘How is this? Think you that because you are the only horse I have that you dare thus to disobey my orders? Know then that your fate shall be the same as the others, and that anyone living who dares to disobey me shall not escape my vengeance.’ Saying this, he seized the horse, cut off his head, and hacked him to pieces.
“And when the wife saw this, and knowing he had no other horse, felt that he was really in earnest, she became dreadfully alarmed.204
He again sat down to table, raging and all bloody as he was, swearing he would kill a thousand horses, or even men or women, if they dared to disobey him. Holding at the same time his bloody sword in his hand, he looked around with glaring eyes until, fixing them on his wife, he ordered her to bring him water to wash his hands.
“The wife, expecting no other fate than to be cut to pieces if she demurred, immediately arose and brought him the water.
“ ‘Ha! thank God you have done so,’ said he, ‘otherwise, I am so irritated by these senseless brutes that I should have done by you as by them.’ He afterwards commanded her to help him to meat. She complied; but he told her, in a fearful tone of voice, to beware, as he felt as if he was going mad.
“Thus passed the night; she not daring to speak, but strictly obeying all his orders. After letting her sleep for a short time, he said to her, ‘Get up, I have been so annoyed that I cannot sleep; take care that nothing disturbs me, and in the meanwhile prepare me a good and substantial meal.’
“While it was yet early the following morning, the fathers, mothers, and other relatives came stealthily to the door of the young people, and, hearing no movement, feared the bridegroom was either dead or wounded; and, seeing the bride approach the door alone, were still more alarmed.
“She, seeing them, went cautiously and tremblingly towards them, and exclaimed: ‘Traitors, 205 what are you doing? How dare you approach this gate? Speak not — be silent, or all of us, you as well as I, are dead.’
“When they heard this they were much astonished, and, on learning what had taken place the night previous, they esteemed the young man very much who had made so good a commencement in the management of his household; and from that day forward his wife became tractable and complaisant, so that they led a very happy life.
“A few days later, his father-in-law, wishing to follow the example of his son, likewise killed a horse in order to intimidate his wife, but she said to him, ‘My friend, it is too late to begin now; it would not avail you to kill a hundred horses: we know each other too well.’
“And you, Count Lucanor, if your dependant wishes to marry such a woman, if he be like this young man, advise him that he may do it with safety, for he will know how to rule his house: but if he be not likely to act with resolute determination at the beginning, and to sustain his position in his household, advise him to have nothing to do with her. As also I would counsel you in all cases where you have dealings with men to act with that decision which will leave them no room to think that you can be imposed upon.”
The Count thought this a very good example, and Don Juan had it written in this book, and made these lines, saying: —206
Who would not for life be a henpeck’d fool
Must show, from the first, that he means to rule.
A translation of the above story, by Mr. F. W. Cosens, was separately printed a short time since, and was copied into the Athæneum of June 29, 1867, with some preliminary remarks calling attention to its remarkable resemblance in general idea to the “Taming of the Shrew” — a resemblance which Ticknor was the first to point out in 1848 (“History of Spanish Literature,” vol. i. p. 66), and which had escaped the notice of all the Shakespearian editors and commentators.
As the Editio Princeps of “El Conde Lucanor” was published at Madrid in 1575, it is, of course, possible that Shakespeare may have seen the book, or, if not, that he may have heard the story from one of the wits and poets of Elizabeth’s court.
In a French work, entitled, “La Collection de Legrand D’Aussy,” will be found a similar tale to Don Manuel’s — “La Dame qui fût corrigée,” where the same remedies are employed, but with greater brutality, as the husband, not content with killing his dogs and his horse, beats his wife and knocks out the eye of a disobedient servant. Again, we find the same subject in two Italian works; one is in the fourth volume “Novelliero Italiano,” which has been prettily arranged for the French stage, under the title of “La Jeune Femme Colère;” and again, there is the same tale found in the “Notti Piacevole di Straparola.” Two brothers, having married two sisters, on leaving the church for their respective homes, one brother presented his wife with a pair of trowsers and two sticks, proposing to her that she should decide which was to be master. She immediately acknowledged his superior right. He then led her to the stables, under the pretext of showing her his horses, and, finding one that was restive, beat him and killed him. The wife profiting by this example, 207 the husband had ever after only to extol her mildness and obedience. The other began very differently; being too much in love with his wife, he allowed her to gain a complete ascendency over him, and thus caused his misery. At length he went to consult his brother, who informed him of what he had done. On returning home, this foolish husband led his wife to the stable, and killed a horse in her presence; he then offered her the trowsers and two sticks, requesting her to choose, but she laughed at him; so that he only lost a horse for his pains.
From the resemblance of this and the like tales to Don Manuel’s account of “What happened to a Young Man on his Wedding Day,” written in the fourteenth century, it is pretty clear that he was the originator of the idea.