[ 001 ] A thousand times or more had Dioneo's story brought the laugh to the lips of the honourable ladies, so quaint and curiously entertaining found they the fashion of it. And now at its close the queen, seeing the term of her sovereignty come, took the laurel wreath from her head, and with mien most debonair, set it on the brow of Filostrato, saying: “ We shall soon see whether the wolf will know better how to guide the sheep than the sheep have yet succeeded in guiding the wolves. ” [ 002 ] Whereat Filostrato said with a laugh: “ Had I been hearkened to, the wolves would have taught the sheep to put the Devil in hell even as Rustico taught Alibech. Wherefore call us not wolves, seeing that you have not shewn yourselves sheep: however, as best I may be able, I will govern the kingdom committed to my charge. ” [ 003 ] Whereupon Neifile took him up: “ Hark ye, Filostrato, ” she said, “ while you thought to teach us, you might have learnt a lesson from us, as did Masetto da Lamporecchio from the nuns, and have recovered your speech when the bones had learned to whistle without a master. ” [ 004 ] Filostrato, perceiving that there was a scythe for each of his arrows, gave up jesting, and addressed himself to the governance of his kingdom. He called the seneschal, and held him strictly to account in every particular; he then judiciously ordered all matters as he deemed would be best and most to the satisfaction of the company, while his sovereignty should last; and having so done, he turned to the ladies, and said: [ 005 ] “ Loving ladies, as my ill luck would have it, since I have had wit to tell good from evil, the charms of one or other of you have kept me ever a slave to Love: and for all I shewed myself humble and obedient and conformable, so far as I knew how, to all his ways, my fate has been still the same, to be discarded for another, and go ever from bad to worse; and so, I suppose, 'twill be with me to the hour of my death. [ 006 ] Wherefore I am minded that to-morrow our discourse be of no other topic than that which is most germane to my condition, to wit, of those whose loves had a disastrous close: because mine, I expect, will in the long run be most disastrous; nor for other cause was the name, by which you address me, given me by one that well knew its signification. ” Which said, he arose, and dismissed them all until supper-time.
[ 007 ] So fair and delightsome was the garden that none saw fit to quit it, and seek diversion elsewhere. Rather--for the sun now shone with a tempered radiance that caused no discomfort--some of the ladies gave chase to the kids and conies and other creatures that haunted it, and, scampering to and fro among them as they sate, had caused them a hundred times, or so, some slight embarrassment. [ 008 ] Dioneo and Fiammetta fell a singing of Messer Guglielmo and the lady of Vergiù. Filomena and Pamfilo sat them down to a game of chess and, as thus they pursued each their several diversions, time sped so swiftly that the supper-hour stole upon them almost unawares: whereupon they ranged the tables round the beautiful fountain, and supped with all glad and festal cheer.
[ 009 ] When the tables were removed, Filostrato, being minded to follow in the footsteps of his fair predecessors in sway, bade Lauretta lead a dance and sing a song. She answered: “ My lord, songs of others know I none, nor does my memory furnish me with any of mine own that seems meet for so gay a company; but, if you will be content with what I have, gladly will I give you thereof. ” [ 010 ] “ Nought of thine, ” returned the king, “ could be other than goodly and delectable. Wherefore give us even what thou hast. ” [ 011 ] So encouraged, Lauretta, with dulcet voice, but manner somewhat languishing, raised the ensuing strain, to which the other ladies responded:
[ 012 ] What dame disconsolateMay so lament as I,That vainly sigh, to Love still dedicate?
[ 013 ] He that the heaven and every orb doth moveFormed me for His delightFair, debonair and gracious, apt for love;That here on earth each soaring spirit mightHave foretaste how, above,That beauty shews that standeth in His sight.Ah! but dull wit and slight,For that it judgeth ill,Liketh me not, nay, doth me vilely rate.
[ 014 ] There was who loved me, and my maiden graceDid fondly clip and strain,As in his arms, so in his soul's embrace,And from mine eyes Love's fire did drink amain,And time that glides apaceIn nought but courting me to spend was fain;Whom courteous I did deignEv'n as my peer to entreat;But am of him bereft! Ah! dolorous fate!
[ 015 ] Came to me next a gallant swol'n with prideBrave, in his own conceit,And no less noble eke. Whom woe betideThat he me took, and holds in all unmeetSuspicion, jealous-eyed!And I, who wot that me the world should greetAs the predestined sweetOf many men, well-nighDespair, to be to one thus subjugate.
[ 016 ] Ah! woe is me! cursed be the luckless day,When, a new gown to wear,I said the fatal ay; for blithe and gayIn that plain gown I lived, no whit less fair;While in this rich arrayA sad and far less honoured life I bear!Would I had died, or e'erSounded those notes of joy(Ah! dolorous cheer!) my woe to celebrate!
[ 017 ] So list my supplication, lover dear,Of whom such joyance I,As ne'er another, had. Thou that in clearLight of the Maker's presence art, denyNot pity to thy fere,Who thee may ne'er forget; but let one sighBreathe tidings that on highThou burnest still for me;And sue of God that He me there translate.
[ 018 ] So ended Lauretta her song, to which all hearkened attentively, though not all interpreted it alike. Some were inclined to give it a moral after the Milanese fashion, to wit, that a good porker was better than pretty quean. Others construed it in a higher, better and truer sense, which 'tis not to the present purpose to unfold. [ 019 ] Some more songs followed by command of the king, who caused torches not a few to be lighted and ranged about the flowery mead; and so the night was prolonged until the last star that had risen had begun to set. Then, bethinking him that 'twas time for slumber, the king bade all good-night, and dismissed them to their several chambers.← PreviousNext →