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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. 21-42.
NE day Count Lucanor having called Patronio, said to him, “Patronio, I have great faith in your understanding, and believe that in any matter which you could not comprehend or give advice about no other man could succeed; I beg therefore that you will advise me as best you can on that which I am now going to tell you.”
“You know very well that I am no longer young and that I have been engaged all my life in one war 22 or another; sometimes against the Christians, at other times the Moors, or kings to whom I owe allegiance, and again, with my more powerful neighbours. Now, whenever I chanced to be engaged against the Christians I always carefully avoided, as far as possible, being the aggressor; nevertheless, it was difficult to act without sometimes inflicting serious damage on many who did not deserve it. Now, for these and the other sins which I have committed, I know I shall one day have to answer; and as death is certain, and at my age cannot be very far distant, I desire, while I have yet time, to obliterate by good works and deeds of penance my numerous offences, so that, when I appear in the presence of God, I may be worthy of His mercy and a place in Paradise. I pray you, Patronio, as you know how I have hitherto lived, to counsel me now how to act, so as to make reparation for past errors, and attain the happy end I so ardently desire.”
“My lord,” said Patronio, “I am much pleased at all you have just told me, particularly for the permission you have given me to advise you concerning your present state of life; had I less confidence in your friendship I might think you merely sought to prove me as the king did his favourite, the history of which I related to you the other day. But I am most pleased to see you really desire to make reparation for the sins you have committed against God, without however renouncing your duties or 23 sacrificing your honour; for certainly, were you to retire from the world and become a monk, you would be guilty of one or both of the above-named faults.
“Firstly, people would say that you were deficient in judgment or courage to be contented merely to live useless amongst the good men of this century; and secondly, it would surprise me very much if you could endure the continued asperities of a monkish life, which, if you were afterwards to forsake or continue to live therein, careless o fulfilling or forgetful of the duties of your state, it would be a very serious injury to your soul, a dishonour to your name, and a blot on your reputation.
“But since you have formed the good resolution to save your soul, permit me to recount to you what God revealed to a very holy hermit, as also what happened to him and King Richard of England.”
“I pray you,” replied the Count, “to inform me of these particulars.”
“My lord,” said Patronio, “there was a hermit who led a very good life, and who laboured much, enduring many hardships for the glory of God, insomuch that God in His great mercy and grace promised him that he should be admitted to the glory of Paradise.
“The hermit thanked God very sincerely and on this point was well satisfied, but prayed that yet another favour might be granted him, which was that he might see who was to be his companion in 24 Paradise. The Lord made known to him by an angel that he ought not to ask these questions; but so earnest were his prayers, that God thought well to send one of his heavenly spirit’s a second time to inform him that he should have Richard, King of England, for his companion in Paradise.
“Although this revelation pleased the hermit, yet it very much astonished him, for he knew King Richard, and also that he was a great warrior, causing the death of many innocent people, and pillaging towns and driving the inhabitants into exile; now that this man was to be his companion in Paradise, having always led a life so contrary to his, appeared passing strange, as he had always thought King Richard very far removed from the road to salvation.
“The Lord seeing his little faith, again sent an angel to tell him not to doubt, but to believe implicitly that which had been revealed to him.
“ ‘Know you not,’ said the angel, ‘that King Richard has done no less service to God than yourself, and equally merits Paradise in reward for his leap, as you do for all the good works performed during your life.’ Now this information only increased the astonishment of the hermit, who wondered what this could be.
“The angel replied thus, ‘The Kings of France, of Navarre, and of England joined in the crusade beyond seas; when they arrived at the port they saw, as they prepared to land, so large a multitude of 25 Moors on the coast that they feared being able to disembark. It was then that the King of France sent to the King of England who was already on horseback. On hearing what the envoy had to say, and that the King of France desired his presence on board his ship to counsel together as to what was best to be done, he replied, That for his part his resolution was taken, come what might; feeling very sensible that he had often failed in the due performance of his duty to God, and had committed many sins in this world, nevertheless he had always prayed for forgiveness and that an opportunity might be granted him during his life to make amends; now he praised God, for he saw the way he had long hoped for, since, if he was killed, being truly penitent, he felt certain that for what he was about to do God would pardon his manifold sins; and if, on the contrary, the Moors were conquered, it would be rendering a great service to God; so that, come what would, all was for the best.
“ ‘And, having said this, he commended his body and soul to God, and praying for His holy protection, made the sign of the Cross, and ordering his soldiers to follow him, stuck his spurs into his horse and jumped into the sea facing the coast where the Moors were assembled; this being near the port, the sea was very deep, yet the king and his horse did not disappear.
“ ‘But God, as a merciful Lord and full of power, remembering what He had said in the Gospel, “That 26 He did not desire the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live,” helped the King of England, and saved him from the death of this world, so that he escaped the perils of the sea. The English, seeing this brave act of their king, followed him into the water and joined him in battle against the Moors.
“ ‘When the Navarrais and French saw this they felt ashamed to remain on board their ships, and, not being accustomed to endure disgrace, jumped also into the sea and joined in the conflict. The Moors seeing them approach, and admiring this brave contempt of danger, durst not wait for them, but abandoned the port and fled towards the country, but many were overtaken and killed. The Christians were very prosperous and gained much glory for God, all of which resulted from the brave leap made by King Richard of England!’
“When the hermit heard this he was well pleased, and saw how that God favoured him in permitting him to be the companion in Paradise of a man who had done so well in the service of God and in exalting the Catholic Faith.
“And you, Count Lucanor, if you wish to serve God and obtain forgiveness of your sins, try, before you leave this earth, to make amends for the wrongs which you have done to others, be penitent for your sins without taking thought for the things of this world, which are but vanity. Take no heed of those who may say your acts are but to obtain worldly 27 credit, nor of those who would engage you in unworthy enterprises to gratify your self-love, by which much evil is committed; for, after all, what is ambition? Far from following such a course, full of peril, direct your energies so that you may merit eternal life, and as it has pleased God to place you in a country where you can fight against the Moors, both by sea and land, so also let all you efforts be directed to the service of your country, being sure that, having made amends to God for the sins you have committed, and being truly penitent, you will undoubtedly receive the reward for the good which you have done and will do, together with complete forgiveness, so that you can rest satisfied in the service of God even to the end of your days. This, I think, is the best plan you can adopt for the salvation of your soul and the preservation of your estates and honour; and should you be slain while in the service of God, your death will be that of a martyr: also, should you die when in the enjoyment of peace, you will be blessed for the good works you have done; nor could any man speak ill of you, for all would know that you have done everything required of an honourable knight and a faithful servant of God, and that you had ceased to be a slave of the devil, abstaining from all the vanities of this world, which are so deceitful.
“And now, Count Lucanor, I have given you my advice as you have demanded, and have instructed you how to save your soul in your present state of 28 life; hold fast your good resolutions, and you will resemble King Richard of England in the leap which he made.”
And the Count was well pleased with the counsels which Patronio gave him, and prayed that an opportunity might be granted him in like manner to serve God as he desired in his heart.
And Don Juan saw that this example was very good, and ordered it to be written in this book, and composed the following lines: —
The wild project of Peter the Hermit, which roused all Europe to arms in the 11th century, has been a fruitful source of laudatory prose and verse even to the present day; nor has it, as we see, escaped the versatile genius of our author, Don Manuel, who, in this chapter, has not only illustrated the heroism and self-devotion of the age, but has also depicted the Pharisaism of the hermit, recalling to our minds also, in the record of the heroic leap of Richard Cœur de Lion, the parable of Jesus, wherein the householder rewards the workman of the eleventh hour, saying to him who murmured, “Take that thine is, and go thy way; I will give unto this last even as unto thee.”
OUNT LUCANOR, conversing one day with his counsellor Patronio, said, “I have two brothers who are married and maintain in their establishments a conduct entirely different. One is so enamoured of his wife as to be unable to leave her a single minute; he does only that which she wishes, and never decides on anything whatever without first having taken her advice. The other, on the contrary, allows nothing to be done but what he wishes; we cannot persuade him to live with his wife, or even take any notice of her. I am afflicted, equally, to find so much weakness in the one and so much aversion in the other. Tell me, then, I pray you, the means, if there be any, to remedy such a state of things.”
“My lord,” replied Patronio, “you are right in saying your brothers are equally to blame; but what can you do? The influence of women is very powerful, and often urges us to do wrong to please them. Nevertheless, I would desire you to hear what happened to the Emperor Frederick and to Don Alvar Fañez with their wives, which I think you will find not to be without application to this case.”30
“Willingly,” said the Count. And Patronio proceeded as follows: —
“As I have two histories to recount, and cannot tell you both at once, I will first relate that of the Emperor Frederick, and then pass on to that of Don Alvar Fañez. The Emperor Frederick married a lady of very high position and birth, suitable to his rank; but still they were not happy, for he knew not before the marriage her real character. But after their union (although she was a very virtuous woman), she became the most daring, violent, and perverse person in the world; for if the Emperor desired to eat, she desired to fast; if he wished to sleep, it would be her wish to arise; everything in which the Emperor took pleasure was to her an object of aversion, and all his desires she opposed by doing exactly the contrary. The Emperor suffered this state of things a long time, and felt that he was unable to better his position; for neither prayers, persuasions, nor even threats, availed anything: good and bad treatment were alike unsuccessful His whole life was made miserable, and he became perplexed as to what he should do, as much for his people as for himself. At last he resolved to appeal to the Pope, and related to him all this troubles respecting the conduct of the Empress, begging that he would agree to their separation.
“ ‘I see,” said the Pope, ‘that, according to the Christian religion, a separation cannot be permitted; 31 yet, on the other hand, it is impossible to live with the Empress, in consequence of her violent temper. What can be done? The Supreme Law does not permit me to inflict penance unless actual sin has been committed; but I leave you at liberty to act as you consider most wise and convenient.’
“The Emperor, after hearing the Pope’s opinion, was very much concerned how to act; whether by persuasion, reasoning, or kindness, so as to remedy the present state of things. But still he found all his efforts of no avail; the more he strove to obtain peace, the more perverse the Empress became.
“Now, as the Emperor saw that nothing could be done, he one day expressed a wish to go stag-hunting, and made a poisonous preparation of herbs to put on the arrows, thereby rendering the wound fatal. Putting away a part of this preparation to be in readiness for another hunt, he requested the Empress not to touch it on any account whatever, whether for the itch or any unhealed eruption; for, said he, ‘it is so very poisonous that it would destroy any living thing; but here is another ointment, very excellent and much approved of.’ The Emperor then applied some of the latter to heal some spots which he had, so that all present might bear witness to its utility in curing such complaints. All this was done in the presence of the knights and ladies there assembled, after which he departed for the chase.
“Now, the Empress, who had heard him in silence, laughed, and said, ‘What deceit; I know 32 well that our ailments our different, and he has recommended me to use this ointment which he employs because it cannot cure me; but I am not so foolish, I will use the forbidden ointment, and on his return he will find me well, and this, I know, will enrage him; so much the better — it is another reason for my using it.’
“All who were present tried to dissuade the Empress, both by their tears and supplications. ‘Your death is certain,’ said they, ‘if that poison is used.’ But all without avail. For scarcely had she applied the ointment when her agony — and with it, her regret — commenced. But it was too late; nothing could save her. Thus she died, a victim to her own perverse disposition.
“But to Don Alvar Fañez it happened quite otherwise. And, in order that you may understand the whole, I will now recount his history to you.
“Alvar Fañez was a very good man, and was much honoured. He colonized the village of Ysca, where he resided, together with Count Pero Anzurez, who had with him three daughters.
“One day Don Alvar Fañez paid an unexpected visit to the Count, who, nevertheless. expressed himself much gratified, and, after they had dined together, desired to be informed the cause of his unexpected visit. Don Alvar Fañez replied that he came to demand one of his daughters in marriage, and requested permission to see the three ladies, that he might speak to each of them separately, when he 33 would select the one he should desire in marriage. Now the Count, feeling that God would bless that proposition, agreed to it.
“So Don Alvar Fañez, taking aside the eldest daughter, said that, if it was agreeable to her, he desired to marry her; but, before pursuing his suit, begged to recount to her something concerning himself which she ought to know. ‘I am,’ said he, ‘not very young, and, in consequence of many wounds received by me in various conflicts, my intellects have become weakened; when I drink a little wine, I know not what I say or do, and am often very violent, but regret all this very sincerely on coming to my senses; also I am much troubled in my sleep, and suffer from various other causes; indeed, so much so that few women would consent to marry me.’ When he had said this, the daughter of the Count replied, ‘The marriage does not depend on me, but on my parents.’
“On hearing this reply Don Alvar Fañez returned to her father, who inquired of his daughter, if the proposed alliance was agreeable to her, and found that, since the interview, she would rather die than marry him. The Count, not wishing to explain the cause, simply said his daughter did not wish to marry.
“Don Alvar Fañez then had an interview with the second daughter, when he spoke in the same manner as he had done to the first; and it produced the same result. He then repeated to the youngest 34 daughter all he had said to the two others. She replied, however, that she thanked God very much that Don Alvar Fañez desired to marry her; and as to what he had said about the wine making him ill, should it happen at any time when he was apart from his attendants, she would assist him better than any other person in the world. With respect to his age, she would not decline on that account, but was satisfied with the honour of being his wife. And as to his being furious and rough with his people, she would take care not to excite him, and if hurt herself she knew how to suffer. And to all the things which Don Alvar Fañez said, she replied so favourably that he was very well satisfied, and thanked God that he had found a woman with such an understanding, and told the Count, her father, that he desired to marry this his youngest daughter, whose name was Vascuñana. The Count and his wife were much gratified at this announcement, and quickly made arrangements for the marriage.
“After the marriage, Don Alvar Fañez returned home with his wife, whom he found to be so good a housekeeper and so prudent that he considered himself very fortunate in marrying her, and therefore resolved to do only that which was agreeable to her, because God had given her so many good qualities and an excellent understanding. She, on her part, loved her husband very much, and felt that all he did or said was right and for the best. She never disapproved of or contradicted him in that which she 35 knew to be agreeable to him; nor did he think she flattered, or acted with a view to deceive him, and so gain his esteem. For this reason, Don Alvar Fañez loved his wife, and regarded her as one whose honour and care for his interests he had no reason to doubt.
“It happened one day when Don Alvar Fañez was at home, there came to visit him a nephew of his who was attached to the King’s household. After he had been in the house some days, he said to Don Alvar Fañez, ‘You are a good and accomplished man, but there is one fault I find with you.’ His uncle desired to know what it was. To which the nephew replied, ‘It may be but a small fault, but it is this, you study your wife too much, and make her too great a mistress of you and your affairs.’
“ ‘As to that,’ Don Alvar Fañez replied, ‘I will give you an answer in a few days.’
“After this, Don Alvar Fañez made a journey on horseback to a distant part of the country, taking with him his nephew, where he remained some time, and then sent for his wife Vascuñana to meet him on the road as he returned. When they had journeyed some time without conversing, Don Alvar Fañez being in advance, they chanced to meet a large drove of cows, when Don Alvar said to his nephew, ‘See what famous mares we have in this country.’
“The nephew, on hearing this, was surprised, and though he said it in jest, and asked him how he >36 could say so when they were but cows. At this, his uncle feigned to be quite astonished, saying, ‘You are mistaken, or have lost your wits, for they certainly are mares.’ The nephew, seeing his uncle persist in what he had said, and that, too, with so much energy, became alarmed and thought his uncle had lost his understanding. The dispute, however, continued in this manner until they met Doña Vascuñana, who was now seen on the road approaching them. No sooner did Don Alvar Fañez perceive his wife, than he said to his nephew, “Here is my wife, Vascuñana, who will be able to settle our dispute.’
“The nephew was glad of this opportunity, and no sooner did she meet them than he said, “Aunt, my uncle and I have a dispute. He says that those cows are mares; I say they are cows. And we have so long contended this point, that he considers me as mad, while I think he is but little better. So we beg you will settle our dispute.’
“Now when Doña Vascuñana heard this, although they appeared to her to be cows, yet, as her husband had said to the contrary, and she new that no one was better able than he to distinguish one from the other, and that he never erred, she, trusting entirely to his judgment, declared they were, beyond all doubt, mares, and not cows. ‘It grieves me much, nephew,’ continued Vascuñana, ‘to hear you contest the point; and God knows it is a great pity you have not better judgment, with all the advantages 37 you have had in living in the King’s household, where you have been so long, than not to be able to distinguish mares from cows.’ She then began to show how, both in their colour and form, and in many other points, they were mares and not cows; and that what Don Alvar had said was true. And so strongly did she affirm this, that not only her nephew, but those who were with them began to think they were themselves mistaken.
“After this Don Alvar Fañez and his nephew proceeded. They had not, however, journeyed long before they saw a large drove of mares. ‘Now these,’ said Don Alvar Fañez, ‘are cows, but those we have seen, which you call cows, were not so.’
“When the nephew heard this, he exclaimed, ‘Uncle, for God’s sake! if what you say be true, the devil has brought me to this country; for certainly, if these are cows, then have I lost my senses, for in all parts of the world these are mares, and not cows.’ But Don Alvar persisted that he was right in saying they were cows and not mares. And thus they argued until Vascuñana came up to them, when they related to her what had been said between them.
“Now, although she thought her nephew right, yet, for the same reasons as before, she said so much in support of her husband, and that, too, with such apparent truth and inward conviction, that the nephew and those with the mares began to think that their sight and judgment erred and that what Don Alvar had said was true; and so the debate ended.38
“Again Don Alvar and his nephew proceeded on their road homewards, and had proceeded a considerable distance when they arrived at a river, on the banks of which were a number of mills. While their horses were drinking, Don Alvar remarked that the river ran in the direction from which it flowed, and that the mills received their water from the contrary point. When the nephew heard this, he though to a certainty he himself had lost his senses, for as he appeared to be wrong with respect to the mares and cows, so might he be in error here also, and the river might really run towards and not from its source. Nevertheless he contended the point. When Vascuñana, on her arrival, found them again warmly disputing, she begged to know the cause. They then informed her; when, although, as before, it appeared to her that the nephew was right, yet she could not be persuaded that her husband was wrong, and so again supported his opinion; and this time with so many good arguments, that the nephew and those present felt they must have been in error. And it remains a proverb to this day that, ‘If the husband affirms that the river runs up to its source, the good-wife ought to believe it, and say that it is true.’
“Now when the nephew had heard all this, supposing that Don Alvar Fañez must be right, he began to feel very unhappy, and to suspect that he was losing his senses.
“Still pursuing their journey Don Alvar Fañez 39 observed his nephew to be very sad and depressed, so said to him, ‘Now, nephew, understand that I have given you an answer to what you said to me the other day, when you and others blamed me for having so much confidence in my wife Vascuñana. All that you have seen to-day I have done in order that you might become acquainted with her real character, and that consequently my trust in her is not misplaced. I knew very well that the animals we first found, and which I called mares, were really cows, as you said; and when Doña Vascuñana arrived and heard that I said they were mares I knew certainly that she thought you were right, but because she had confidence in me, and thought it impossible for me to err, gave it as her opinion that you were wrong respecting the animals and the river, and that too with such apparent good reasons. And I tell you truly that, from the day we were married, she has not done one thing to disoblige me; she believes that I always judge and act for the best, wishes all the people to understand that I am the master, and arranges all things so that I may take pleasure in them. So now, nephew, you have the answer which I promised you the other day, when you reproached me with the fault of confiding too much in my wife.’
“The nephew, having heard these reasons, declared himself much pleased; and seeing how trusting Doña Vascuñana was, and in what esteem she held her husband, he acknowledged Don Alvar was not on 40 his part too considerate and loving. Thus you see how different were the wives of the Emperor and Don Alvar Fañez.
“And so, Count Lucanor, if your brothers are so different, the one doing all his wife desires and the other doing quite the contrary, it is perhaps because their wives are like the Empress and Doña Vascuñana. And, if such is the case, you cannot wonder at nor blame them for their conduct; but if it is not so, then indeed your brothers are wrong, one for conceding too much to his wife, who does not merit it, the other for estranging himself from his wife, who deserves his affection. But there is a limit to even this, no man should so indulge his wife in all her desires as to forsake his duty or honour. His love must be tempered with discretion, and not the one sacrificed to the other. Again, he should carefully avoid being too fastidious in that which is unimportant or of no concern to him, for it is wrong to be too particular about trifles and foster a spirit of irritation and annoyance; also, the frequent necessity of arranging these ridiculous quarrels tends only to injure the honourable feelings and reputation of both. Also, if any man should have such a wife as the Emperor’s, and, like him, be unable to remedy his position, to him I can give no advice but to place his trust in Providence. But you know it is important to both that a man, from the day of his marriage, should give his wife to understand that he 41 himself is the master, so that she may know the life she has to pass.
“And you, Count Lucanor, after what I have related, will be able now to advise your brothers how to act with their wives.”
The Count was much pleased with what Patronio had told him, and found that what he had said was true and much to the purpose.
And Don Juan, considering these as good examples and worthy to be retained, ordered them to be written in this book; and made these lines, which say, —
The Count Don Alvar Fañez Minaya, referred to in this narrative, was cousin to the famous Cid, Ruy Diaz de Vivar. His mother was Doña Ximena Nunez, who married Fernan Laynez, brother of Diego Laynez, father of the Cid.
Pero Anzurés was the founder of the Church of Valladolid in 1095. — Nobleza de Andalusia, p. 104.