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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. 165-185.

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The advice which Patronio gave to Count Lucanor, when he said he wished to enjoy himself, illustrated by the example of that which happened to the Ants.

manuscript letter C OUNT LUCANOR, speaking one day with Patronio, said to him, “Thanks be to God, my friend, I am now rich enough, and am advised by my friends to give myself no more anxiety about the concerns of this world, but, as I am in a position to do so, to eat, drink, and enjoy myself; which I can do without infringing on the interests of my children. Having a high opinion of your judgment, I would first seek your advice before acting.”

“My lord,” said Patronio, “although it is pleasant enough to live for one’s own enjoyment, yet it is first advisable that you should hear what the ants did for their own support.”

“Willingly,” said the Count.

“My lord, seeing what a little thing the ant is, you might be led to suppose it is possessed of little understanding; but remark, how in the harvest season they quit their ant-hills, go to the fields, and return laden with as much corn as they are able to carry, 166 which they deposit in their granaries, to be taken out when the first rain falls. It is supposed they do this to dry it, but that is not the case, as the ants also take the corn out at the beginning of winter, when there is little or no sun to dry it. But were they to take it out every time it rained their labour would be incessant. The reason why they bring out their corn after the first rain is that they find it begin to grow, when it would take up so much room in their granaries, that instead of supporting, it would suffocate them. So they eat the dry grain, leaving the other to ferment outside; and, knowing that this fermentation lasts only a short time, they have no fear in doing so of losing their provisions. Nevertheless, during all this time, they do not cease adding to their stores, either from a dislike to idleness, or an unwillingness to despise the gifts of Providence.

“And how can you Count Lucanor — seeing the prudent foresight and economy displayed by the little ant, in providing for his own wants — charged, as you are, with the care of a large property, and responsible for the well-being of so many of your fellow-creatures, think only of living in idleness and ease, which shows a littleness of spirit; forgetting also, that by constant expenditure, with no regard to the augmentation of your means, you must ultimately bring yourself to ruin? My advice to you is, enjoy yourself as much as you like, but do not do so at the expense of your honour and fortune. Be you ever so rich, you will never lack occasions to increase the 167 lustre of your name and enhance the happiness of your fellow-men.”

The Count was much pleased with the advice given by Patronio, and acted upon it.

And as Don Juan found this also a good example, he ordered it to be written in this book, with these lines: —

Let not thy lavish hand expend thy hard-earned gains,
Live so that honour’d life and death reward thy pains.


The advice which Don Manuel gives us in his fable, when he introduces the ants, is more noble than that of La Fontaine, in whose fables we find three examples where the ant is introduced. The one most resembling Don Manuel’s is “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” indeed this is an exact transcript in verse of Æsop’s fable bearing the same name, both inculcating industry, and reproving a life of sensuality and pleasure.

The industry and foresight of the ant have been alluded to by the Great Eastern philosopher in the following well-known passage: — “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” — Proverbs of Solomon vi. 6-8.



Of that which happened to a good Man and his Son, who boasted of having many Friends.

manuscript letter S PEAKING again, on another occasion, Count Lucanor said to Patronio, “I have, as you know, many friends. Well, they give me to understand that they are all most sincerely devoted to my interests, and that, happen what may, nothing shall induce them to desert me. Now tell me, I pray you, what is your opinion as to how far I may depend upon their sincerity and trust them?”

“My lord,” said Patronio, “good friends are the best things this world has to give. I always, however, feel some doubt of the sincerity of him who makes great professions, and wait for an opportunity to prove the value of his declarations. But that you may know how to judge a real friend, hear, I pray you, what happened to a good man and his son, who told him he had many friends.

“Willingly,” said the Count.

“My lord, a good man had a son, whom he advised, among other things, to always endeavour to make many good friends.

“In compliance with this advice, he liberally 169 dispensed his goods amongst many men, with the view of cultivating their friendship, and these vowed to him their readiness to risk their souls and bodies in his service.

“One day the father inquired of the son how he progressed in the cultivation of his friendships.

“ ‘I have many friends,’ replied the son, ‘and amongst them I am certain of ten who would lay down their lives in my service, and who now only want an opportunity to prove their sincerity.’

“The father marvelled much at this, and could not conceive how his son, in so short a time, had made so many and such friends; for, in the course of his long life, he had never been able to make more than one friend and a half.

“The son did not like his father’s questioning the truth of his statement, and insisted that what he said was true.

“ ‘Try them, then,’ said the father, ‘and in this manner. Kill a pig and put it into a sack, and carry it to the house of one of these friends, telling him it is a man you have slain, that you are in great dread of its being discovered, and, as it is quite certain that neither you nor those in any way cognisant of the fact can escape the death which awaits such a deed, beseech him, as a friend, to conceal the bad action, and, if need be, to help you in your defence.’

“In this way the son did as the father suggested, visiting each friend in turn. All alike told him that, under any other circumstances, they were willing to 170 make any sacrifice for him, but in this case they were afraid to venture, and besought him for the love of God to tell no one he had been to their house. Some went so far as to tell him they should never help him more, but they would pray for him; others said they would not forsake him on the scaffold, and would procure him honourable burial.

“When the young man had thus proved his friends, and could find none to assist him, he returned to his father and told him what had happened.

“ ‘You now see,’ said the father, ‘that those who have lived longest know best how difficult it is to procure a sincere friend. As I said to you before, I have only one friend and a half; go, try this last.’

“The young man did so. Arriving at the house of this half-friend late at night, carrying the dead pig on his shoulders, he knocked at the door, and told him of his misfortunes, and how he had been treated by his friends, begging of him for the love he bore his father to help him.

“The half-friend told him that, although between them there existed neither love nor friendship, yet, for his father’s sake he would conceal him. He then took the sack carefully from the shoulders of the son, thinking it contained a dead man, and conveyed it into his garden, where he buried it amongst the cabbages, carefully arranging them afterwards, and then sent away the young man contented.


“When this latter came home to his father, he related all that had happened.

“ ‘So far good,’ said the father; ‘now when next you meet this man dispute with him so as to lead to a quarrel, then strike him a blow on the face.’

“This the young man did; and when he had struck the blow, the half-friend said, ‘My son, you act badly; nevertheless I shall never reveal the secret which is between us.’

“And when the young man told this to his father he sent him to try his other friend. When he arrived at the house of his friend, and had told him, as before, all that had happened, he promised to guard him from death and danger.

“Now it came to pass that about this time a man had in reality been killed in the city, but no one knew by whom, and as the young man had been noticed going about at night, carrying a loaded sack, he was immediately suspected, judged, and sentenced to death. The friend of his father, seeing no possibility of his escape, determined to sacrifice his own son in the stead of his friend’s, and went to the judge, saying he knew the prisoner was not guilty, as it was his own and only son who committed the deed — the son acknowledging what the father had said, and thus, by his own death, saving the life of the son of his father’s friend.

“And now, Count Lucanor, having told you how friends are proved, I hold this for a good example to find out who are indeed your friends, and how to 172 know if they will risk danger in your defence. There may be many good friends, but there are many who cannot be depended upon in adversity, for friends too often only grow with good fortune.

“Again, this example may be taken in a spiritual sense, in this manner: — although men may think they have many friends, yet, when on the point of death they are often destined to see the vanity of worldly friendship in the professions of friends, who say that they are willing but cannot help them; and of the clergy, who can only say they will pray to God for them. The wife and children may express their readiness to go with them to the tomb, or promise a sumptuous interment; nevertheless, none aid them to escape death, as did the son of the good man, who gave his life to save his friend. The dying man finds he must turn to God as his only resource.

“Now the sinner, seeing he cannot escape the death of his soul, unless he turns to God, who — like a merciful Father and true Friend, remembering the love which He bears to man, the work of His hands — like the good friend, sent His own Son, Christ Jesus, to suffer and die, He being innocent, to redeem sinful man. So did Jesus, like an obedient son, do His Father’s will. He, being true God and true Man, sought and suffered death, and redeemed sinners by His blood.

“And now, Count Lucanor, it is desirable that you reflect and find out which of these friends is 173 best and truest, and whose friendship is most worthy of confidence.”

The Count was much moved by this exhortation, and acted with advantage upon its suggestions.

And Don Juan, liking so good an example, caused it to be written in this book, and composed the following lines: —

Never can man find out a friend so good
As God, who sought to save him by His blood.


This graphically written tale, which is intended to show the difficulty of acquiring a true friend, is of early date, its invention not being due to Don Manuel. There is but little doubt of its being of Arabic or eastern origin. We first find it in a work, entitled, “Disciplina Clericalis,” written by Pedro Alfonso, who originally was a converted Jewish rabbi named Moses Sephardi, born in the year 1062, at Huesca, in the kingdom of Arragon. He was a man of much learning; and at the age of forty-four embraced Christianity, when he was appointed by Alphonso XV., king of Castile and Leon, physician to his palace. The tale alluded to in this work is the “Lesson given by a Father to his Son,” and commences, “Arabs moriturus,” — “An Arab dying.” We find some of the fables from this “Disciplina Clericalis” in the “Arabian Nights;” indeed, this narrative, in various forms, has been translated into all languages. The French have many versions of this tale; it has been published in Germany, in the “Imitations of Oriental Tales,” by Herder; and we see it in Boccaccio, the tenth day, eighth novel.

The scarcity of true friends, a truth so generally accepted, is noticed in an old collection of Greek fables, where a friend of Socrates remonstrating with him for building so small a house, 174 the philosopher replied that, “Little as it is, he were a happy man that had but true friends enough to fill it.” The allusions made by our English writers to pretended friendships are too well known to render any mention of them necessary, yet I cannot but remark that it forms the subject of one of Gay’s best fables, “The Hare with many Friends.”


Relates to what happened to the Lion and the Bull.

manuscript letter A T another time, when Count Lucanor was conversing with Patronio, he said to him, “Patronio, I have a very powerful and honourable friend, of whom, up to this time, I have never had occasion to complain; but now, from various circumstances which have occurred, it is clear to me that he is not so well-disposed towards me as before, and he appears to be seeking for an opportunity to quarrel with me, from whence I see two causes of uneasiness: the one is, that if he openly declares himself my enemy it will cause me serious injury; the other is, if he suspects that I mistrust him he will in turn lose confidence in me, and thus, this feeling increasing by degrees, will bring about an open rupture. Knowing 175 your great prudence and foresight, I beg of you to advise me how to act under these circumstances.”

“My lord,” said Patronio, “that you know how to protect yourself I have no doubt; I shall tell you, however, what happened to the lion and the bull, to illustrate your present situation.

“The lion and the bull were very great friends; being both powerful and strong they lorded it over all the other animals; so the lion, with the help of the bull, drove off all carnivorous animals, and the bull, with the aid of the lion, drove away all other animals that ate grass.

“The animals, seeing how the combined influence of the lion and the bull caused them so much injury, consulted together how best to free themselves from this strait. With that view they resolved to cause, if possible, some ill-feeling or want of trust between them; and, knowing that the fox and the sheep were most in the confidence of their enemies, desired to bring them over to their cause, succeeding in which, the fox, who was the lion’s counsellor, commenced by telling the bear that he was the strongest of all the carnivorous animals after the lion, and induced him to insinuate to the lion that the bull was playing him false, assuring him that he had spoken something unfavourable of him some few days since. The sheep also, who was the adviser of the bull, induced the horse, the most powerful of all graminivorous animals after the bull, to cause the bull to doubt the friendship of the lion.


“Now neither the bull nor the lion believed exactly what the bear and the horse had told them, although they were ranked next to themselves, yet the mutual confidence which previously existed was shaken, they became more distant, trusting more to their respective counsellors; which the other animals seeing, spoke out more boldly, and said the lion and the bull were jealous of each other, and felt in their hearts unfriendly.

“Now the fox and the sheep, thinking only of their own interests and future safety, took no trouble to undeceive their lords, so that the love and friendship which previously existed between them turned to distrust and hatred. The other animals, seeing this, united together to increase the ill-feeling which now existed between the lion and the bull. The result in the end was, that they found themselves deprived of the power which they enjoyed when united, and were subjected to the insults of the combined animals, who, now acting together, would not allow themselves to be again subjected to the dominion of their lords, who found out, but too late, that they were the victims of calumny.

“And you, my lord, take care, that those who would create in your mind suspicions against your friends do not lead you into trouble, as did the animals the lion and the bull. Now I would advise you, if you have always found your friend loyal and true, to trust in him as you would in a good son or brother. Shut your eyes to trifling circumstances, 177 for, be assured, if he intends doing you a serious injury, you will always see some indications of it before hand. If your friend be merely a time-server, carefully avoid giving him cause to believe that you suspect him; but, if once you find that his dishonourable intentions admit of no doubt, then, instead of quarrelling with him, endeavour first to persuade him not to desert you and forfeit your friendship — endeavour to convince him that mutual harmony is essential to the well-being of both. By these means, and by not allowing yourself to be led away by false representations, you will avoid falling into the error of the lion and the bull.”

The Count was well pleased with what Patronio had related. And Don Juan, approving of this example, caused it to be inscribed in this book, and composed the following lines: —

To lying slanders ne’er attend
Against a tried and proven friend.


This apologue, like many others written at the same period, has not only a general but also a political moral. It warns us against losing our friends by the misrepresentations of others, as also it cautions those in power against that treason and perfidy which would divide them from their allies and most sincere dependants.

This tale is very ancient; it is found in the Sanscrit work “Pantcha Tantra,” the first chapter of which is entitled “Mitra-Bhèda,” or “The Rupture of Friendship.” The 178 personages of this Indian apologue figure as the king lion, Pingalaca; the bull and his friend, Sandjivaca. The confidants of the lion and the bull are two jackals, named Carataca and Damanaca. In this case, the two jackals, jealous of the friendship existing between the lion and the bull, unite, and, by misrepresentations, endeavour to destroy this amity. Differing from Don Manuel’s tale this results only in the death of the favourite by his master.


Relates to the advice which Patronio gave to Count Lucanor, when he expressed a desire to obtain a good reputation; and the example was what happened to a Philosopher who was suffering from a severe illness.

manuscript letter P ATRONIO,” said Count Lucanor, “the thing a man should most desire to acquire in this world is a good reputation, and, having gained it, to be ever watchful, lest it be sullied by any act of his own or others. As I know that no one can counsel me better than you, I beg of you to advise how best to increase and guard my good name.”

“My lord,” said Patronio, “it will afford me great pleasure to give you my opinion, and illustrate it by what happened to an aged philosopher.”


The Count expressing a desire to know what that was, Patronio commenced by saying, “A well-known philosopher lived once in a town in the kingdom of Morocco, who suffered from an ailment affecting his sight. His physicians forbade his leaving the house, and ordered him not to expose his eyes too much to the light.

“One day, however, thinking his sight sufficiently restored, he ventured to walk alone into the town, where he had many disciples, but the glare of day so increased his defect of vision that he accidentally strayed into a narrow street close at hand, and which happened to be one inhabited by most disreputable characters, of which fact he was not aware; but, being seen issuing therefrom by some of his friends and disciples, he was immediately suspected of having belied in a moment all his former virtuous life and professions.

“So it is that men occupying certain positions are judged without pity, their slightest failings being criticised; whilst others, whose position calls for but little attention, appear to escape notice, although guilty of much greater errors. So it was with the philosopher, against whom a general outcry was raised. When he arrived at his house, he was waited upon by many of his disciples, who in great grief demanded why he should have so sacrificed his former reputation, bringing scandal on himself and them likewise.

“When the philosopher heard this he was 180 astounded, and demanded to know what evil he had done, and where.

“They replied that he had been publicly seen to leave the street occupied only by disreputable people.

“When the philosopher heard this he was in great trouble, and said to his disciples, ‘Do not be uneasy; I will give you an answer in eight days.’ And, shutting himself up in his study, he composed a very good and useful little book, in the form of questions and answers between him and two of his disciples, on good and bad fortune. ‘My sons,’ said he, ‘good fortune often comes to us unsought as well as sought, and, unfortunately, the world is too apt to judge from the result of an action, being unconscious of the motive which guided it; so also we find men without ability or energy blessed by good fortune undeserved; whilst others, more really meritorious, meet only with misfortune. Again, disasters are not always of our own seeking, as a man may, in the street, unintentionally have his head broken by a stone thrown at a bird: this accident is not of his own seeking, but the result of ill chance. Know, my sons, both in good and ill fortune two things are necessary; the one is, that we should thank God for the good we have received and the evil we have been enabled to avoid, the other is that rarely or never does any good action pass without its reward, as evil deeds also bear their penalty. Again, we should ever pray to God to deliver us 181 from evil and false judgment, as happened to me the other day, when, through the infirmity of a bodily ailment, I, without harm in thought or deed, unknowingly entered a street of ill fame, and thereby forfeited my good reputation.’

“And you, Count Lucanor, in order to increase and perpetuate your reputation, three things are essential; firstly, let your good actions be done solely with the motive of pleasing God, regardless of the opinion of mankind, keeping unsullied your honour and position, seeking not fame undeserved by good works; secondly, pray to God to strengthen you, and inspire you to perform such good actions and from a motive so pure as will even gain for you the esteem of all good men; thirdly, never by word or deed, give cause for a shadow of suspicion to rest on you, as the world is too apt to misconstrue and misjudge the best intentions. Still, ever remember that the only infallible judge of your actions is God and your own conscience.”

The Count thought this good advice, and prayed to God to help him so to act as to save his souls and increase his honour.

And Don Juan, finding it a good example, had it written in this book, and made the following lines: —

Let all thy acts be clear of blame,
That slander breathe not on thy fame.



Of what happened to a man who was made Governor of a large territory.

manuscript letter C OUNT LUCANOR, speaking another time with Patronio, said, “Patronio, many tell me that, being very powerful and much honoured, there now only remains for me one thing which is most essential, and that is to acquire riches. And, as I know that you have always advised me for the best, and that you will still continue to do so, I beg of you to tell me what is most incumbent on me.”

“My lord,” said Patronio, “the advice which you require of me demands grave consideration, for two reasons. Firstly, that my ideas may be apparently contrary to your interest; and, secondly, it is difficult for me to give advice having the semblance of indifference. Nevertheless, as all loyal advice is meant only to benefit those to whom it is given, I will tell you honestly and without flattery what I think, seeking only your well-being. Now there is much truth and much falsehood in what has been told you; to convince you of which I have only to relate what happened to a man who had been made governor of a large territory.”


The Count asked him what that was.

“My lord,” replied Patronio, “it was customary in a certain territory to elect every year a governor who, during the twelve months that his command lasted, was implicitly obeyed, and treated with all due reverence; but, at the expiration of the year, he was deprived of his command, position, and everything, even to his clothes, and left to perish in a desolate island. It once happened that a man who was so appointed, having more foresight and a clearer understanding, and knowing that they would treat him in the same manner as his predecessors, prepared beforehand for what he knew would inevitably happen. During the year of his supreme command, he ordered a house to be secretly built on the island where he knew he was to be placed, and had it furnished and provisioned so as to leave him in no want of the comforts and necessaries of life, and arranged with his friends and relations that they should send him anything he might have forgotten. When the year of his command was completed and he was left, like the previous governors, naked to perish on the island, he quietly sought his secret abode, where he lived to enjoy the advantage of his precautions.

“And you, Count Lucanor, if you wish to be well-advised, remember that you are not destined to live for ever; the day will assuredly arrive when you must leave this world naked as you came into it, taking nothing with you; all that remains to 184 you are the good or bad deeds you may have performed. Take care, therefore, so to act as to procure for your soul a happy abode in the kingdom where life is counted not by years, but is everlasting; remembering that your soul is not mortal, and can never perish, and that your good or evil actions in this world will be rewarded or punished in the next according to their deserts. I advise you, therefore, never to forget that power, honour, and riches are perishable, and how unwise it is to sacrifice to them the certainty of eternal life. And again, seek not to exalt yourself by publishing your good works before men. At the same time, let your actions be such as to deserve the prayers of your friends, when you are no longer able to intercede for yourself. Yet, when you have duly provided for the future happiness of your soul, when your duties here on earth are accomplished, you may look for the promotion of your honour and prosperity in this world.”

And the Count, finding this very good advice, prayed to God to help him put it into practice.

And Don Juan, approving of it also, caused it to be inscribed in this book, and composed the following verses: —

In quest of this world’s fleeting pleasure,
Lose not the more enduring treasure.



We find in the “Imitations of Oriental Tales,” by Herder, a similar story to the above, called, “The Desert Island,” but the religious allegory is not reproduced in the German work. This beautiful production remains a monument to the Spanish moralist who has succeeded in raising this fable and some others to the rank of an evangelical parable.

Herder’s version of “The Cid,” which was long a bone of contention among critics — some saying that he had naturalised these grand old ballads into German, others that he had distorted and disfigured them — has lately been discovered to be a literal translation of a French prose version.

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