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From Il Novellino, The Hundred Old Tales, translated from the Italian by Edward Storer; George Routledge & Sons LTD; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.; pp. 137-180.



Here it is told how Charles of Anjou loved a lady

Charles, the noble king of Sicily and Jerusalem, when he was Count of Anjoy, loved deeply the fair Countess of Teti, who in her turn loved the Count of Nevers1

At that time the King of France2 had forbidden all tourneying under pain of death.


The Count of Anjou, wishing to put it to the proof whether he or the Count of Nevers were more valiant in arms, took thought, and went most beseechfully to Messer Alardo de’ Valleri and told him of his love, saying that he had set his heart on measuring himself with the Count of Nevers, and he begged him by the love he bore him to obtain leave of the King that one sole tourney might be held with his licence. The other sought a pretext.

The Count of Anjou showed him the way. The King is almost a bigot, he said, and because of the great goodness of your nature, he hopes to induce you to put on the habit of a religious, that he may have your company. Therefore in putting this question, let it be asked as a boon, that he allow you to hold a tournament. And you will do whatever he wises.

And the Count replied: I promise you loyally that I will release you from your pledge. And so he did, as I shall tell you later.


Messer Alardo went off to the King of France and said: Sire, when I took arms on the day of your coronation, then all the best knights of the world did bear arms; wherefore, since for love of you, I wish by all means to leave the world, and to don the religious habit, so let it please you to grant me a boon, that a tournament may be held in which all the noble knights bear arms, so that I may forsake my arms in as great a feast as that in which I took them up.

Thereupon, the King gave the leave.

A tournament was ordered.

On one side was the Count of Nevers, and on the other side was the Count of Anjou. The Queen with countesses, ladies and damsels of high lineage were in the tribunes, and the Countess of Teti was with them.

On that day the flower of knighthood was in arms from one end of the world to the other. After much tourneying, the Count of Anjou and he of Never had the field cleared,2 and moved against one another with all the force of their weighty chargers and with great lances in their hands.


Now it chanced that in the midst of the field the steed of the Count of Nevers fell with the Count all in a heap, and the ladies descended from the tribunes, and bore him in their arms most tenderly.

And the Countess of Teti was with them.

The Count of Anjou lamented loudly, saying, alas! why did not my horse fall like that of the Count of Nevers, so that the Countess may have been as close to me as she was to him?

When the tourney was ended, the Count of Anjou went to the Queen, and begged of her a grace: that for love of the noble knights of France she would make a show of being angry with the King, and when they made peace, she would ask him for a boon, and the boon should be this: that it should be the King’s pleasure that the youthful knights of France should not lose so noble a companion as Messer Alardo de’ Valleri.

The Queen did as he said.

She feigned anger with the king, and when they made peace, she asked him her wish.

And the King promised her a boon.


And Messer Alardo was set free of his promise, and remained with the other noble knights tourneying and performing feats of arms, so that his fame spread throughout the world for his great skill and his most wonderful prowess.


1  The king is Louis IX, the saint who forbad tourneys under pain of death. The Count of Anvers or Universa or Anversa or Unvers.

2  The tournament became a jousting bout.


Here it is told of the philosopher Socrates, and how he answered the Greeks

Socrates was a noble Roman philosopher,3 and in his days the Greeks sent a great and noble embassy to the Romans.

The purpose of their embassy was to adduce arguments to free themselves of the tribute they paid to the Romans. And the Sultan gave them these instructions: go and make use of arguments, and if necessary, use money.

The ambassadors reached Rome.

The purpose of their embassy was set forth in the Roman Council.


The Roman Council decided that the reply to the Greeks’ question should be made by the philosopher Socrates; it being decided without any further conditions that Rome would stand by whatever Socrates answered.

The ambassadors went to Socrates’ dwelling, very far from Rome, to set their arguments before him.

They arrived at his house, which was quite unpretending. They found him picking parsley. They caught sight of him from a distance. He was a man of simple appearance. They conversed with one another, and considered the above-mentioned facts. And they said to one another: this man will be an easy bargain for us, for he seemed to them to be poor rather than rich.

They arrived and said: may God save you, O man of great wisdom, for so you must be since the Romans have entrusted so weighty a matter as this to you.

They showed him the decision of Rome, and said to him: we shall set our reasonable arguments, which are many, before you. Your own sense will 143 ensure our rights. And know that we obey a rich master; you will take these perperi4 which are many, and yet for our lord are nothing, though to you they may be very useful.

And Socrates answered the ambassadors, and said: first you will dine, and then we will attend to your business.

They accepted the invitation, and dined very poorly without leaving a morsel.

After dinner, Socrates spoke to the ambassadors and said: gentlemen, what is better, one or two things? The ambassadors replied: two. And he said: now go to the Romans with your persons, for if the city of Rome has the persons of the Greeks, it will have their persons and their goods. And if I took the gold, the Romans would lose their trust in me.

Then the ambassadors left the philosopher, full of shame, and obeyed the Romans.


3  Various commentators have observed that this tale is only a garbled version of the story told of Curio by Cicero in his De Senectute, 55. See also Gesta Romanorum, ch. LXI.

4  The perpero was a Byzantine coin.



Here is told a tale of Messer Roberto

Mount Arimini is in Burgundy, and there is a lord called Roberto, and it is a great country.

The countess and her maids had a sottish door-keeper, who was, however, a man of robust build, and his name was Baligante. One of the maids began to lie with him; then she spoke of him to another until the Countess heard of him.

When the Countess heard how robust a man he was, she lay with him too.

The lord found them out. He had the man killed, and made a pie out of his heart, and presented it to the Countess and her maids, and they ate of it.

After the meal, the lord came to the hall, and asked how the pie had been. They all answered: good! Then the lord said: it is no wonder, seeing that you liked Baligante alive, that you should like him dead.

And the Countess and the maids when they heard this, were ashamed, and saw clearly that they had lost their honour in this world.


They became nuns and founded a convent, which is called the Convent of the Nuns of Rimino Monte.

The house grew apace, and became passing rich.

And this tale is told, and it is true. For there they have this custom that whenever any gentleman passes with a great quantity of chattels they invite him, and show him honour.

And the Abbess and the sisters come out to meet him, and after some conversation5 whichever he likes best, serves him and accompanies him to board and to bed.

In the morning, when he rises, he finds water and fine linen, and when he has washed, she prepares a needle for him with a silk thread, and he must pass the thread through the eye of the needle, and if at the third trial he finds he cannot succeed, then the women deprive him of all his chattels, and give him nothing back.

And if at the third trial, he threads the needle, they give him back his arms, and present him with beautiful jewels.


5  Orig. in sul donneare. The meaning is uncertain. The tale is of course to be found in the Decameron, IV, 9.



Of good King Meladius and the Knight Without Fear

Good King Meladius and the Knight Without Fear were mortal enemies in the field.

One day as this Knight Without Fear was wandering about disguised, after the manner of knights-errant, he met his squires who loved him dearly, but who did not recognize him.

And they said: tell us O knight-errant, by the honour of chivalry, which is the better knight, the Knight Without Fear or good King Meladius?

And the knight answered: may God prosper me! King Meladius is the best knight who ever mounted a saddle.

Then the squire, who could not abide King Meladius, for love of their master, took their lord by surprise, and lifted him thus armed from his saddle, and set him on a jade, and said aloud that they were going to hang him.

As they went on their way, they fell in with King Meladius. They found him disguised as 147 a knight-errant on his way to a tournament, and he asked the fellows why they were treating that knight so villainously.

And they replied: Messer, because he has well deserved to die, and if you but knew the reason, you would treat him worse yourself than we do. Ask him of his misdeed.

King Meladius drew nearer and said: knight, what wrong have you done to these fellows that they treat you so knavishly? And the knight replied: naught. No wrong have I done to them unless it be that I favoured the cause of truth.

Said King Meladius: that cannot be. Tell me more narrowly in what way you offended. And he replied: gladly, sir. I was bent on my way, after the fashion of a knight-errant. I came across these squires, and they asked me, by the truth of chivalry to say whether good King Meladius or the Knight Without Fear were the better knight. And I, to favour, as I said before, the cause of truth, said that King Meladius was the better, and I spoke but to tell the truth, considering that King Meladius is my mortal 148 enemy, and I hate him mortally. I do not wish to lie. No other wrong have I done. And therefore they at once treated me so shamefully.

Then King Meliadus began to beat the servants, and had the knight unbound, and gave him a rich charger with his own arms (worked on the trappings) though they were covered, and he begged him not to raise the cover before reaching his castle: and they departed, and each went his way, King Meladius and the squires and the knight6.

In the evening, the knight reached the castle. He took the cover off the saddle. He found the arms of King Meladius who had set him free so handsomely, and given him a rich gift, and yet was his mortal enemy7.


6  I have changed the punctuation here considerably — to the benefit, I hope, of the sense.

7  This story, according to Manni, is taken from one of the Round Table romances. Meliadus (or Meliodas or Meliardus), King of Lyonesse, was the son of King Felix, and husband of Eliabella, daughter of old King Audrey of Sobis, and sister to King Mark of Cornwall.



A tale told of the Court of Puy in Provence

At the court of Puy-Notre-Dame in Provence, when the son of Count Raymond8 was made knight, a great court was held, to which were invited all good people, and so many came willingly that the robes and silver ran short. And it was necessary to have recourse to the knights of the feud itself that sufficient might be supplied for the knights who came to the court. Some refuse, and some gave with good grace.

The day the feast was ordered a tame hawk was placed on a pole.

Now it was arranged that whosoever felt himself a man of courage and means enough and should take the hawk in his hand, should provide a feast for the court that year.

The knights and squires all joyous and gay, made beautiful songs and poems, and four judges were chosen that those which had merit might be rewarded.


Then they sang and said much good of their lord.

And their sons were noble knights and gentle.

Then it happened that one of those knights (whose name was Messer Alamanno), a man of much valour and goodness, loved a very beautiful woman of Provence who was called Madame Grigia; and he loved her so secretly that none could guess the truth.

It came about that the squires of Puy plotted together to deceive him and make him boast of his love. They spoke thus to certain knights and barons: we pray you that at the first tournament which is held, it be ordered that there be boastings9. For they thought: Messer So and So is a great knight, and will do well on the day of the tourney, and will be exalted with delight. The knights will take up the boasts; and he will not be able to hold himself from boasting of his lady.

Thus it was ordered.

The tournaments took place. The knight won honour and was victorious. He was excited with joy.


In the repose of the evening, the knights began the boasts: such a one of a beautiful castle; another of a fine goshawk; another of a lucky chance.

And the knight could not hold himself from boasting that he had such a beautiful lady.

Then it happened that he returned to pay her homage as was his custom. And the lady dismissed him10.

The knight was all dismayed, and departed from her and the company of the knights and went into a forest, and shut himself up in a hermitage, so secret that none knew of it.

Then anyone who had seen the grief of the knights and the ladies and the damsels who constantly lamented the loss of so noble a knight might well have felt pity.

One day it came about that the young squires of Puy lost their prey and their bearrings during a hunt, and chanced upon the aforesaid hermitage. The knight asked them if they were from Puy. They replied yes. He asked them for news.


And the squires began to tell him how they had sad tidings; how for a small misdeed they had lost the flower of knights, and how this lady had dismissed him, and no one knew what had become of him. But soon, they said, a tournament will be proclaimed at which there will be many good people, and we think that he has so gentle a heart, that wherever he may be, he will come and joust with us11.

Then the hermit wrote to a faithful friend of his to send him secretly on the day of the tournament arms and a horse. And he sent away the squires.

The friend supplied the needs of the hermit, and on the day of the tournament sent him arms and a horse, and it was the day of the challenges between the knights, and he won the prize at the tournament.


The guards saw him and recognized him. They bore him among them in triumph. And the people rejoiced, and lowered his visor, and begged him for love that he would sing. And he replied: I shall never sing unless I am at peace with my lady.

Then the noble knights were persuaded to go to the lady, and begged her that she would pardon him.

The lady replied: tell him I will never pardon him unless a hundred barons and a hundred knights, a hundred ladies and a hundred damsels shall cry to me with one voice for mercy, and know not to whom they cry.

Then the knight, who was a man of great wisdom, bethought himself that the feast of Candlemass was approaching, when there would be great rejoicing in Puy, and all good folk would go to the monastery. And he argued; my will; be there and many good people, such as she (Madonna Grigia) has asked herself shall cry out to her for mercy.

Then he composed a very beautiful song; and in the morning early went up into the pulpit 154 and began to sing his song as best he knew, and well he knew how to sing it, and thus it ran:

Like the stag which as run a great course and comes to die ’mid the sound of the hunters’ cries, so, lady, to your pity, I turn . . 12

Then all the folk who were in the church cried out mercy, and the lady pardoned him.

And he entered into her good grace as he had been before.


8  Raimondo Berlinghieri, father-in-law of St. Louis, King of France, referred to in Novella XII.

9  The boasts formed a usual part of tournaments.

10  Sent him away in disgrace.

11  The narrative changes abruptly into the direct form here as in several other places. I have kept to the original form here as elsewhere.

12  The original of the “song” runs: —.

Aissi co’l sers que cant a fait lonc cors
Torna murir als crit del chassadors,
Aissi torn eu, dompna, en vostra mersé.


Here it is told of Queen Iseult and Messer Tristan of Lyonesse

Messer Tristan of Cornwall loved Iseult the fair ,13 who was King Mark’s wife, and between them they fashioned a love signal in this wise: that when Messer Tristan wished to speak to her, 155 he went to a garden of the king where there stood a fountain, and he muddied the water of the rivulet made by the fountain: which rivulet passed by the palace where the lady Iseult lived.

So when she saw the water disturbed, she knew that Messer Tristan was at the fountain.

Now it happened that an inquisitive gardener14 perceived the plan in such a manner that the two lovers could in no way be aware of his knowledge.

He ordered a hunt, and separated from his knights as though he had lost his way. The knights searched for him, wandering about the forest. King Mark climbed up the pine tree which stood above the fountain where Tristan spoke with the queen.

And King Mark staying in the pine-tree at night, Messer Tristan came to the fountain and disturbed the water.

A little while after, the queen came to the fountain. And by chance she had a happy 156 thought to look at the pine-tree. And she saw that its shadow was deeper than usual. Then the queen became afraid, and being afraid, she stopped and spoke with Tristan in this manner and said: disloyal knight, I have made you come here to complain of your misdeed, for never was such disloyalty in a knight as you have shown by your words which have dishonoured me, and your uncle king Mark who has loved you so much. And you have been saying things about me among the wandering knights that could never have place in my heart. I would give myself to the flames should I dishonour so noble a king as my lord the king Mark. Therefore I no longer recognise you as my knight, and I dismiss you as an unloyal knight with all my force and with no respect.

Tristan, hearing these words, doubted strongly, and said: my lady, if some malicious knights of Cornwall speak of me in this fashion, I say first of all that I was never guilty of such things. May it please your ladyship, but by the Lord, these knights are envious of me. I have never said or done anything that meant dishonour for you or 157 for my uncle, the king Mark. But since it is your pleasure, I will obey your commands. I will go away to other parts to end my days., And maybe before I die, the malicious knights of Cornwall will have felt need of me as they did at the time of Amoraldo,15 when I delivered them and their lands from a vile and painful servitude.

And he went away without saying another word.

King Mark who was above the two when he heard this, grew glad with a great gladness.

When morning came, Tristan made feint to go riding. He had horses and pack mules shod. Valets ran to and fro, some carrying saddles, others bridles. The commotion was great.

The king grew angry at Tristan’s departure, and summoned his barons and knights. He sent an order to Tristan not to depart without his leave under pain of incurring his displeasure. Thus ordered the king, and so vigorously, that 158 the queen sent to Tristan and bade him not to go.

And so Tristan remained there, and did not depart.

Nor was he surprised or deceived again owing to the shrewd circumspection that grew up between the two.


13  Iseult la bionda, to distinguish her from Iseult dalla bianca mano “of the white hand.”

14  Biagi has “an ill-disposed knight”.

15  Amoraldo, King of Ireland, who, in order to extort a tribute from King Mark, laid siege to one of his towns, and was killed by Tristan.


Here it is told of a philosopher who was called Diogenes

There was a very wise philosopher whose name was Diogenes. This philosopher had been taking a bath in a pool and was standing by a cave in the sun. Alexander of Macedon passed with a great force of cavalry. He saw the philosopher, spoke to him and said: O man of miserable existence, ask me something, and whatever you will I will give it to you.

And the philosopher replied: I beg of you to remove yourself from my light.



Here it is told of Papirius and how his father brought him to the council

Papirius was a Roman, a powerful man, wise and very fond of war. And the Romans wishing to defend themselves against Alexander, put their trust in the valour of this Papirius.

When Papirius was a child, his father took him with him to the council. One day the council ordered that its sittings should be kept secret. And his mother, who wanted to know what the Romans had been discussing, plied him with many questions.

Papirius perceiving the desire of his mother, concocted a splendid lie, and said thus: the Romans were discussing which was better: for the men to have tow wives, or the women two husbands, so that the race may multiply to meet those who are rebellious against Rome. The council decided that it was better and more convenient that the men should have two wives.


The mother, who had promised the boy to keep the matter a secret, told the thing to another woman, who told it to yet another.

Thus it went from one to another until all Rome knew of it. The women came together and went to the senators, and made great complaint. And they feared still greater novelties. Hearing the complaints, they courteously dismissed the women, and commended Papirius for his wisdom.

And then the commune of Rome decided that no father should take his son with him to council16


16  See Aulus Gelius, Macrobius, and Polibius.


Of a question which a young man proposed to Aristotle

Aristotle was a great philosopher.

There came to him one day a young man with a singular question. Master, he said, I have seen a thing which much displeases my mind. I have seen an old man ripe in years doing wanton follies. Now if the cause of such things be age, 161 I have decided to die young. Therefore for the love of God give me counsel, if you can.

Aristotle replied: I cannot do other than tell you that when the nature of man grows old, the good natural heat changes into weakness, while the reasonable virtue fails and alters17. For your instruction I will teach you what I can. Do so that in your youth you practice all beautiful, pleasant and honest things, and guard yourself from indulging in what is contrary to these; so when you are old, you will live without evil, not from nature or from reason, but owing to the long pleasant and noble habit you have formed.


17  This passage is obscure and defective.


Here it is told of the great justice of the Emperor Trajan

The Emperor Trajan was a most just lord.

Going one day with his host of cavalry against his enemies, a widow woman came before him, and taking hold of his stirrup said: Sire, render me justice against those who have wrongfully put 162 my son to death. And the Emperor answered: I will give you satisfaction when I return. And the woman said:18 and if you do not return? To which he replied: my successor will give you satisfaction. And if your successor should fail me, you will be my debtor. And supposing that he give me satisfaction, the fact of anotehr man rendering me justice will not absolve you of blame. Moreover, your successor, may have enough to do to think of himself.

Then the Emperor got down from his horse, and did justice on those who had killed the woman’s son, and then rode off and defeated his enemies.

And not a long time after his death19 there came holy Saint Gregory the pope, and learning of his work of justice, went to his monument. And with tears in his eyes, he honoured the Emperor with mighty praise and had him disinterred. If was found that all the body had turned to dust save the bones and the tongue.


And this showed how just a man he had been, and how justly he had spoken.

And Saint Gregory prayed to God for him. And it is related that by evident miracle, owing to the prayers of this holy pope, the soul of the Emperor was freed from the torments of hell and passed into eternal life, pagan though he had been20.


18  “she said”.

19  The compilator is considerably out of his reckoning here, as, of course, pope Gregory lived more than four centuries after Trajan. He was elected Pope in 570.

20  The story probably originated from an episode mentioned by Dion Cassius.


Here it is told how Hercules went into the forest

Hercules was a very strong man beyond other men’s strength, and he had a wife who caused him much trouble.

One day he went off suddenly and entered a great forest where he found bears and lions and very fierce wild beasts. He tore them apart, and killed them all with his mighty strength. No beast did he find strong enough to be able to protect itself from him.

And he remained a long time in this forest.


He returned to his wife and house with his garments all torn and wearing lion skins on his back. His wife came forward to meet him, making great festivity, and began to say: welcome, my lord, what news have you?

And Hercules replied: I come from the forest. I have found all the wild beasts more gentle than you, for I have subdued all those I have come across save you. Indeed it is you who have subdued me. You are therefore the strongest thing21 I have ever encountered, for you have conquered him who has conquered all the others.


21  The text is subject to various readings. Biagi has “thing” (cosa) while other versions give “woman” and “wild beast", femina and fiera.


Here it is told how Seneca consoled a woman whose son had died

Seneca wishing to console a woman whose son had died, as we read in the Book of Consolation,22 he said these words: if you were a woman 165 like other women, I should not speak to you as I am going to speak. But for the fact that you, though woman, have the intellect of a man, I will speak to you so. There were two women in Rome, and the son of each of them died. One was one of the dearest lads in the world, and the other was most lovable, too. One woman let herself receive consolation, and was content to be consoled; the other woman hid herself in a corner of the house and refused every consolation, and gave herself to tears. Which of these two women acted the more wisely? If you say she who was willing to be consoled, you say rightly. Therefore, why weep? If you tell me: I weep for my son, because his goodness did me honour, I tell you you are not mourning for him, but rather your own loss, whence it is for yourself you are weeping, and it is a very ugly thing to weep over oneself. And if you will say to me: my heart is weeping because I loved him so much, it is not true, for you love him less now that he is dead, than when he was alive. And if your grief be for love, why did you not weep when he was alive, knowing that he had to die? Hence, do not excuse yourself: 166 cease your tears. If your son is dead, it cannot be otherwise. Death is second nature, and therefore a thing meet and necessary for all.

And so he consoled her.

We read further of Seneca that being Nero’s master, he beat him when he was young and his scholar, and when Nero was made emperor, he remembered the beatings received from Seneca, and he had him taken and condemned to death.

But he did him the favour of letting him choose what kind of death he would have.

And Seneca chose to have his veins opened in a hot bath.

And his wife wept and cried out: alas! my lord, what grief that you should die for no fault of yours.

And Seneca replied: it is better that I should die without fault than through some fault of mine. For then he who kills me wrongfully would be excused.


22  A book of Seneca’s.



Here is told how Cato lamented against fortune

Cato the philosopher, one of Rome’s greatest men, being in prison and in poverty, rallied against his fate, and was sorely grieved and said: why have you taken so much away from me? Then he answered himself in the place of fate and said: my son, how finely have I not brought you up and educated you. I have given you all you have asked me. I have given you the lordship of Rome. I have made you master of many delights, of great palaces, of much gold, fine horses and beautiful accoutrements. O my son, why do you complain? Is it because I leave you?

And Cato answered: yes, I grieve for this. And fate replied: my son, you are a wise man. Do you not remember that I have other little sons, whom I must take care of? Do you want me to abandon them? That would not be right. Ah! what a host of children I have to support! My son, I cannot stay longer with you. Do not complain, for I have taken away from you nothing, since what you have lost was not yours. For 168 what can be lost is not one’s own. And what is not personal to you is not yours.


How the Sultan being in need of money, sought to find occasion to proceed against a Jew

The Sultan, being in need of money, was advised to proceed against a rich Jew, who lived in his country, and to try to take away his substance from him.

The Sultan sent for this Jew and asked him what was the best religion, thinking he will say surely the Jewish faith, when I will tell him that he sins against mine. And if he says the Saracen, I will ask him why he is a Jew.

The Jew, hearing the question, replied: Sire, there was a father who had three sons, and he had a ring with a precious stone, one of the finest in the world. Each of the sons begged this father that he should leave him this ring at his death. The father, seeing that each of them desired it, sent for a good jeweller and said to him: master, make me two rings just like this one, and set in 169 each of them a stone resembling this one. The jeweller made the rings so that no one knew the real gem apart save the father. He sent for his sons one by one, and to each he gave a ring in secret, and each believed he had the true ring, and no one knew the truth save the father. And so I tell you of the faiths which are three. God above knows best of all, and his sons who are ourselves each of us thinks he has the true one.

Then the Sultan hearing the man get out of the difficulty in this manner, did not know how to entrap him, and let him go23.


23  The story derives from Jewish sources, and appeared for what was probably the first time in the Scebet Jehuda. It is to be found in several other places in slightly different forms. See Gesta Romanorum, Avventuroso Ciciliano of Busone da Gubbio, etc.


The story of a vassal and a lord

A vassal of a lord who held his lands, it being at the season of the new figs, and the lord walking through his land, saw a fine ripe fig at the top of a fig-tree. The lord told the vassal to pluck it for him.


The vassal then thought: since he likes them, I will keep them for him. So he tended the tree and watched it carefully.

When the figs were ripe, he brought the lord a basketful, thinking so to win his favour. But when the brought them, the season was past, and there was such an abundance of figs that they were almost given to the swine.

The lord, seeing the figs, grew indignant, and ordered his servants to bind the vassal and take the figs from him and to throw them one by one in his face. And when a fig came near his eye, he cried out: my lord, I thank you.

The servants owing to the strangeness of this, went and told their lord who said: why did he say so? And the man answered: Sire, because I had in mind to bring peaches, and if I had brought them, I should now be blind.

Then the lord began to laugh, and had the man unbound and gave him wherewith to dress himself again, and made him a present for the novel thing he had said24.


24  Suetonius (Vita Tiber.) has a somewhat similar story of the Emperor Tiberius.



How the Lord entered into partnership with a minstrel

The Lord once formed a partnership with a minstrel.

Now it befell one day that it had been made known that wedding festivities were to be held, and it had also been made known that a rich man had died. The minstrel said: I will go to the wedding, and you shall go to the funeral. The Lord went to the funeral, and succeeded in raising the dead man. He received a reward of one hundred ducats.

The minstrel went to the wedding, and ate his fill. And he returned home, and found his companion, who had earned his reward. He praised him. The Lord had eaten nothing. The minstrel obtained some money from him, and bought a fat kid, and roasted it. And as he roasted it, he drew out the kidneys, and ate them.

When it was set before his companion, the latter asked for the kidneys. The minstrel replied: the kids in his region have no kidneys.


Now it befell, on another occasion, that another wedding was announced, and another rich man died. And God said: this time I wish to go to the wedding, and do you go to the funeral; and I will show you how to raise the dead man. You shall make the sign of the cross on him, and you shall bid him to rise, and he will rise. But first of all, let them promise you a reward. The minstrel said: indeed, so I will.

He went, and promised to raise him; but he did not rise, for all his signing.

The dead man was the son of a great lord.

The father waxed wroth, seeing that this man was making a mock of him. He sent him away to be hanged by the neck.

The Lord went out to meet him, and said: Do not fear, for I will raise him; but tell me, on your honour, who did eat the kidneys of the kid? The minstrel replied: By that holy world whither I must go, oh my partner, I did not eat them. The Lord, seeing that he could not make him confess, had pity on him. So he went, and raised the dead man. And the other was set free, and received the recompense that he had been 173 promised. They returned home. The Lord said: O my partner, I wish to leave you, because I have not found you to be as loyal as I thought you were.

And he, seeing that it must be so perforce, said: I am content. Do you divide, and I will take my share. The Lord divided the money into three parts. And the minstrel said: What are you doing? We are but two. Said the Lord: That is indeed so; but this one part shall belong to him who ate the kidneys, and the others shall be, one yours and one mine.

Then the minstrel said: By my faith, since you speak thus, I must indeed tell you that I did eat them. I am so old, that I may tell no more lies. And so such things can be proved for money, which a man will confess who would not confess them in order to save his own life25.


25  This tale was widely known throughout Europe and a part of Asia during the Middle Ages, and is still frequently found on the lips of popular tellers of tales. The oldest version of it is to be found in the Persian poet Ferid-ed-din-’Attar: see translation by Ruckert in Zeitschrift deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschraft, XIV, 280.



Here it is told of the great killing done by King Richard

Good King Richard of England once crossed the seas with his barons, counts and brave and valiant knights, but he brought no horses, and so he arrived in the land of the Sultan.

And it came about that he gave the order for battle, and made such a great killing of the Saracens that the nurses say there to the children when they cry: Here comes King Richard, for like death was he feared.

They tell that the Sultan seeing his men fly, asked: how many are these Christians who do such great slaughter, and they answered him: Sire, there is only King Richard with his folk. Then the Sultan said: May God forbid that so noble a man as King Richard should go on foot. He ordered a fine steed to be sent to him.

The messenger brought the fine steed and said: Sire, the Sultan sends you this horse so that you need not remain on foot.


But the King was wise, and ordered a squire of his to mount the horse that he might try it.

And this the squire did. The horse was trained to come back to the Sultan’s camp. The horseman could not hold it in, for it raced with all its might to the Sultan’s pavilion. The Sultan had been expecting to see King Richard, but he did not come.

Thus we see that we should have little trust in the kind offers of our enemies.


Here it is told of Messer Rinieri, a knight of the Court

Messer Rinieri of Monte Nero,26 a knight of the court, went to Sardinia, and dwelt with the lord of Alborea, and fell in love with a Sardinian lady who was very beautiful. He lay with her. The husband found them out. He did them no harm, but went to his lord, and made great complaint.

The Lord loved this Sardinian. He sent for Messer Rinieri; he spoke to him words of severe 176 menace. And Messer Rinieri begged his pardon, and told him to send for the woman, and to ask her, whether what she had done was for aught but for love. The lord did not like to be made fun of. He ordered him to leave the country under penalty of his life. And not having yet been rewarded for his services, Messer Rinieri said: May it please you to send to Pisa to your seneschal to provide for me. That will I do right gladly. He wrote him a letter and gave it to him.

Now when he had reached Pisa, and went to the aforesaid seneschal, and sat at table with many noble persons, he narrated what had happened, and then gave this letter to the seneschal. This man read it, and found that he was to give him a pair of linen hose without feet, and nothing else. And he wished to receive them before all the knights present.

When he had them, there was great merriment and much laughter. He was not at all angered by this, for he was an exceedingly gentle knight.

Now it befell that he entered into a boat with a horse and a servant of his, and returned to Sardinia.


One day when his lord was riding out with other knights, he met Messer Rinieri who was tall and had long legs, and was sitting on a worn jade, and had these linen hose on his legs. The lord recognised him, and with angry mien sent for him, to come before him, and said: What does this mean, Messer Rinieri, why have you not left Sardinia? Certes, said Messer Rinieri. I did but return for the feet of the hose. He stretched out his legs and showed his feet.

Then the lord was amused, and laughed, and forgave him, and presented him with the robe that he wore, and said: Messer Rinieri, you have been wiser than I, and know more than I taught you. And he rejoined: Messer, that redounds to your honour.


26  Monte Nero is a little hill-town near Leghorn, with a famous sanctuary of the Madonna. Rinieri, or rather Ranieri, is the name of the patron-saint of Pisa.


Here it is told of a philosopher much given to the vulgarisation of science

There was once a philosopher, who was much given to vulgarising science, to please some lords and other persons.


One night he saw in a vision the Goddesses of science, in the form of beautiful women, in a bawdy-house. And seeing this, he wondered much, and said: What is this? Are you not the Goddesses of Science? And they replied: Of a surety we are. How is this that you are in a bawdy-house? And they rejoined: Indeed, it is true, for you are he who makes us to be here.

He awoke, and considered that to vulgarise science is to lower the divinity. He ceased to do so, and repented sorely.

So know that not all things are adapted to all persons.


Here it is told of a Court player who adored a lord

There was a lord who had a player at his court, and this player adored his lord as though he were his god.

Another player of the court, seeing this, spoke ill of him and said: who is this man whom you call your god? He is nobody. And the first, 179 being bold for the favour he enjoyed of his lord, beat the other fellow unmercifully. This man, being unable to defend himself, went to complain to the lord and related the whole event

The lord made a jest of the matter.

The beaten jongleur went away, and hid himself among people of mean rank, for he feared to remain among better folk for the shame that had come to him.

Now it happened that the lord heard of this and was displeased, so that he decided to dismiss his player and send him away.

It was the custom in this court that when a man received a present from his lord he knew himself dismissed from service. The lord took a great deal of money and placed it in a tart, and when his jongleur came before him, he gave it him, saying to himself: since I am constrained to discharge him, I want him to be a wealthy man.

When the jongleur saw the tart, he became distressed. He thought and said to himself: I have eaten; I will keep it and give it to my landlady.


Taking it with him to the inn, he found there the man whom he had beaten, and he was wretched and sad. The player feeling pity for him, went towards him, and gave him the tart. And he took it, and went off with it, and was well repaid for the punishment he had taken from the other.

Then the jongleur going back to his lord to take farewell of him, the lord said: what, you are still here? Did you not have the tart? Sir, I had it. What did you do with it? Sir, I had eaten then. I gave it to a poor court player, who spoke ill of me because I called you my god.

Then the lord said; go and bad fortune go with you, for certainly his god is a better one than yours.

And he told him all about the tart.

The jongleur felt himself lost, and did not know what to do. He separated from his lord and had nothing further from him.

And he went out to seek for the man to whom he had given the tart.

Nor was it true that he ever found him.


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