Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375)

Il Filocolo, Question IV

(Analogue of the Franklin's Tale)



The fourth question, proposed by Menedon.

THE gentlewoman by her countenance seemed content, when Menedon sitting next unto her saide: Most high and noble Queen, now is it come unto my turn to propound my question heere in your presence. Wherefore by your licence, if in my talke I shall wade very long, yet during the same I shall first of all of you, and nexte of the standers about, pray pardon: Bycause ye cannot be made fully to understande that which I intend to propound, unlesse a tale, that peradventure shall not be short do proceede the same: and after these wordes thus he began to say.


The Story

In the countrey where I was borne, I remember there was a noble knight, surmounting rich, the which loved in most loyall love, a noble gentlewoman, borne likewise there, whome he tooke to wife. Of whome being as she was exceeding fair, an other knight called Tarolfo was after enamored, and with so great good wil loved her, as he saw nothing he more desired than her: and in sundrie sortes, now with passing before her house, now justing, now at the barriers, now with the often sending her messengers, peradventure promising her great gifts, wherby she might know his intent, and now with other like feats he endevoured himselfe to purchase her love. Al which thinges the lady closely supported, without giving signe or good aunswere unto the knight, saying to her selfe: When as this knight shall espie, that he can have neither answere, ne yet good countenaunce of me, perhaps he wil forbeare any further, either to love me, or to give me these allurements.

Now for all this, Tarolfo surceased not, folowing the precepts of Ovid, who saith, that a man must not thorough the hardnesse of a woman leave to persever, bicause with continuance the soft water pierceth the harde stone. The lady doubting lest these things should come to the eares of her husband, and that he shuld conceive that the same hapned through her good will, purposed to let him understand the same. But yet after beeing persuaded through better advisement, she said, I might (if I tel him) move such a broile betwixt them, as I shoulde never after live a mery life, and therefore he would be shaken off by some other means: and so she imagined a trim guile. She sent to Tarolfo, saying, that if he loved her so well as he made shew of, she woulde require one thing at his handes, the which if she received, she sware by her gods, and by that loyalty that ought to be in a gentlewoman, that she woulde accomplish al his desire. And if he would not give her that she required, he should then content himselfe, no further to allure her hereafter, but in what he would be willing she should revele to her husband.

The gift she required was this: She said she would have in that countrie in the moneth of Januarie, a verie faire garden & large, replenished with herbs, floures, and blossomed trees, and fruits, as if it were in the moneth of Maye, saying to herself: This is an impossible thing, so that in this sort I shall rid him from me. Tarolfo hearing this demand, and although it seemed unto him impossible to be doone, and that he knew very well to what ende she required the same, answered, that he woulde never rest, neither yet returne into her presence, untill such time he might give her the demanded gift: and so forthwith departed his countrie with suche a convenient company as plesed him to take with him.

He sought all the west partes for counsel how to attaine his desire, but not finding these he looked for, sought the most hot regions, and so came into Thessaly, as he had been sent by a discreet man for that purpose. And having made his abode there many days, not yet finding that he sought for, it hapned that being now almost desperat of his desire, and rising one morning before the sunne prepared to enter the dawning day, he all alone beganne to wander the miserable plaines that were now all imbrued with Romaine blood: and having travailed a long while uppon the same, he sodenly espyed before him, at the foote of a mountains, a man not yong, nor of too many yeers, bearded, small and very spare of person, whose attire shewed him to be but poore, who romed hither & thither gathering herbs, and with a little knife digged up sundry rootes, whereof he had filled one of the skirts of his cote: whom as Tarolfo saw, he marvelled not a litle, and doubted greatly lest it had been some other thing, but after that his ame [estimation] did certainely assure him to be a man, he drew neere unto him, saluted him, and after asked him who he was, of whense, & what he made there at so timely an houre.

To whom the old man aunswered, I am of Thebes and Theban is my name, & I go up and downe this plaine, gathering of these herbs, to the end that with the juice thereof, I make divers necessarie & profitable things for divers infirmities, wherby I may have wherwithal to live: and to come at this houre, it is neede & not delight that constraineth me. But who are you, that in countenaunce resembleth noble, and walke her al alone solitarie?

To whome Tarolfo answered: I am of the extremes of the west, very rich, and vanquished of conceits, pricked forwardes to an enterprise, not being able hitherto to acheeve the same, and therfore to be the better able without impediment to sorrow my hap, I go thus all alone wandring.

To whome Theban saide: Do you not know the qualitie of the place, and what it is? Wherefore have you rather taken your way on the one side? You might easily heere be rebuked with furious spirites.

Tarolfo answered: God can doo heere, as elsewhere; it is he that hath my lyfe and honour in his hands: let him doo with me according to his pleasure: for assuredly death should be to me a rich treasure.

Then said Theban, what is that your enterprise, for the which (not beeing able to performe it) you abide thus sorrowfull?

To whome Tarolfo answered: It is such as seemes unto me impossible to be able ever to attaine, sith hitherto I have here found no counsell.

Then said Theban, Dare ye utter it?

Tarolfo answered, Yea, but what profiteth it?

Peradventure nothing, said Theban, but what dooth it hurt?

Then said Tarolfo, I seeke counsell howe may be had in the coldest moneth, a garden full of floures, fruits, and hearbes, as faire as if it were in the moneth of Maye, neither doo I finde who can therein either helpe me, or give me encouragement that it is possible to be hadde.

Theban stayed a while in a muse without aunswere, and after said: You and many others doo judge the skill and vertue of men according to their garments: if my goods were such as are yours, you would not have lingered so long in discovering your lacke: or if peradventure you had found me neere unto some rich prince, as you have in gathering of hearbes. But many times, under the vilest vesture are hidden the greatest treasures of science: and therefore no one concealeth his lacke, to whome is proffered councell or helpe: and if therefore he open the same it cannot prejudice him at al. But what would ye give him that should bring to effect that which you go about thus seeking for?

Tarolfo beheld him in the face, as he uttered there wordes, and doubted lest he went about to deride him, for that it seemed to him incredible that he shoulde be able to bring the same to pass unlesse he were a God: notwithstanding he answered him thus: I have under my rule in my countrey many castels, and therwithal great tresures, all the which I woulde participate in the middest [i.e., share half] with him that would do me so great a pleasure.

Truly said Theban, if ye would do so much for me, I should no more need to go thus about, in gathering of herbs.

Assuredly, said Tarolfo, if thou be able to give true effect to that thou promisest, and givest me it indeede, thou shalt never neede to carke [be anxious] nor yet to trouble thy selfe to become rich: but howe and when canst thou bring me this to passe?

Then said Theban: the time when shall be at your choise, but for the maner how, trouble not your selfe. And I will go with you, trusting unto the words and promises ye have made me: and when we shall be there, where it pleaseth you to be, command what you would have doone, and I shall without faile performe the same.

Of this fortunat happe Tarolfo was so well contented in himselfe, as little more gladnesse could he have received, if he hadde then helde his lady embraced in his armes, and saide: Freend, unto me it seemeth long untill thou have perfourmed that thou hast promised, wherefore let us depart without further tariance, and go thither where this is to be doone.

Theban cast away his herbs, and tooke his bookes and other things necessarie unto his science, and with Tarolfo tooke his journey, and in short time they bothe came unto the desired citie, verie neere unto the moneth in the which the Garden had been required to be made. Whereas all secret and close they did repose themselves untill the wished time. And now the moneth being entred, Tarolfo commanded the Garden to be made, to the ende he might give the same to his loved lady.

So soone as Theban had received this commandement, he taried the night ensuing, the which being once come he sawe the hornes of the moone gathered into a perfect roundnesse, and to shine upon the frequented earth. Then he went him all alone foorth of the city, leaving his apparell apart, bare legged, and his disheveled lockes hanging upon his naked Shoulders. The restlesse degrees of the night did passe: birds, wild beasts, and men, without any noise did take their rest, the unfallen leaves without moving did hang upon the trees, and the moist aire abode in milde peace: onely the starres did shine, when as he oftentimes went about the groundes, and came unto a place on a rivers side, which it pleased him to choose for his garden.

There he stretched foorth his arme three times towardes the starres, and turning himselfe unto them, he as often bathed his white lockes in the running streame, craving as many times with a most high voice their helpe, and after setting his knees to the hard earth began thus to say: O night, most faithfull secreter of high things, and you, oh ye starres, the which together with the moone, do succeed the splendant day: and thou oh singular Hecates, become a helper to this my begun enterprise, & thou oh holy Ceres, the renewer of the ample face of the earth. And you whatsoever verses either arts, or herbs, and thou whatsoever erth bringing forth vertuous plants and thou oh aire, windes, mountaines, rivers and lakes, and eche God of the woods, and of the secret night, by whose helpe I have heretofore made the running streames to recule, enforcing them to returne to their springs, and thinges running to become firm, & things firme to become running, and that hast also given power to my verses to drie up the seas, that I at my plesure might search the botome therof, and to make the cloudie times cleare, and (at my will) to fill the cleare hevens with obscure clouds, to make the winds to ceasse, and to turn as it seemed me best: breaking therwith the hard jawes of the feareful dragons, making also the standing woods to moove, and the haut mountaines to tremble, & to returne to their bodies out of the lake Styx those their shadows, and alive to come forth of their sepultures: and somtimes thee, O moone, to draw to thy perfect roundnesse: the attaining wherunto a ring of basins was woont to be an helpe, making also the cleere face of the sunne many times to become pale, be ye all present, & aid me with your help.

I have at this instant neede of the sappe and juice of herbs: through the whiche I may make in part, the dry earth fastned through Autumne, and after thorough the withering colde winter, spoiled of his floures, fruits, and hearbes, to become flouring, and to spring before the due terme.

And having thus saide, he said after many other things softlie, whiche he added unto his prayers. And these being ended, and he a while silent, the starres gave not their light in vaine. For more swifter than the flight of the wightest bird there appeered before him a chariot drawen by two dragons, whereupon he mounted, and taking the reines of the bridles of the two brideled dragons in his hand, was caried into the aire.

He then leaving Spain & all Affrica, tooke his journey by other regions, and first sought for the Ile of Creete, & from thence after with short course he sought Pelion, Othrys, & Offa, mount Neriurn, Pachinus, Pelorus & Appennine. Upon them al plucking up, & with a sharp sikle cutting downe such rootes & herbs as best liked him, neither forgat he those whiche he had before gathered when as he was found by Tarolfo in Thessalia. He tooke stones also upon the mount Casacus, and of the sands of Ganges: & out of Lybia he broght lungs of venomous serpents. He searched the watry banks of Rodanus, of Seina at Paris, of the great Po, of Arnus, of the imperiall Tyber, of Niseus, of Tana, & Danuby: on those eke gathering such herbs as seemed to him most necessary for his purpose, putting these togither with the others, gathered on the tops of the savage mountains. He also sought the Ilands of Lesbos & Patmos, & every other, wher in he perceived any profitable thing to be had for his attempt.

With al the which things he came (the third day being not yet past) to that place from whence he departed, and the dragons that onelye had felt the odour of the gathered herbs did cast off their old hides of many yeers, and were with new renewed and become yong. There he dismounted from his chariot, and of the green earth he made two altars, on his right hand that of Hecates, and on the left that of the running goddesse: that being doon, & devout fires kindled therupon, with lockes disperpled [scattered] upon his old shoulders, he began with a murmuring voice to go about the same, and with reached blood oftentimes he besprit the blazing brands. After he placed the same blood upon the altars, somtimes softning therewithal the ground apointed for his garden: and after that, he softned again the self same three times, with fire, water, and sulphur, setting after a great vessel ful of blood, milke, and water, upon the burning brandes, which he caused to boile a good space, & put thereto the hearbs and roots, gathered in strange places, mingling therewith also divers seeds and floures of unknowne herbs: he added thereto stones, sought in the extreme partes of the east, and dew gathered the nights past, togither with the flesh of infamous witches, the stones of a woolfe, the hinder part of a fat Cinyphis, and the skin of a Chilinder. And lastly, a liver, with the whole lungs of an exceeding old hart: and herewithall a thousand other thinges bothe without name, and so straunge as my memorie cannot againe tell them.

After he tooke a dry bough of an Olive tree, & therwith began to mingle al these things together. In doing whereof, the dry bough began to wax green, and within a while after to beare leaves, and not long after the new aparelling therof, it was laden with blacke olives. As Theban sawe this, he tooke the boiling liquors, and began therwithal to sprinkle and water in every place the chosen soile, wherein he had set slippes of so many woods, as he would have trees, & of as many sorts as could be found. The which licour the earth had no sooner tasted, but that it began to spring, yeelding floures & new hearbs, and the drie sets beganne to become all greene and fruitfull plants.

All this being doon Theban entring the citie, returned to Tarolfo, whom he found al in a muse, fearing to be scorned thorow his long abode, to whome he saide, Tarolfo, the thing thou requiredst is doon to thy liking. These news pleased Tarolfo not a litle, & hapning the day folowing to be a great solemnitie in the city, he went into the presence of his loved lady, that had not now seene him of a long time past: and thus he said to her: Madam, after a long and tedious travaile, I have performed that which you have commanded, and when as it shal please you to see it, or to take it, it is ready at your pleasure.

She in seeing him, marvelled much, & the more, hearing what he said, and not beleeving the same to be true, made him this answere: It pleaseth me right wel, ye shall let me see it to morowe.

The second day was come, & Tarolfo went againe to his lady and said: Madam may it please you to walke to the Garden the which you required to have this cold moneth? She then being accompanyed with many others, was moved to see the same. And they al being come to the Garden, entred therein by a faire portal, wheras they felt not the like cold as abrode, but the same to have a sweete temperat aire. The lady went about the same, & into every corner therof, gathering both hearbs and floures, whereof she sawe it very plentifull. And thus much more also had the vertue of the spersed[scattered] licours wrought, that the fruits which August was accustomed to bring forth, the trees there in this savage time did yeeld them very faire, whereof sundry did eate, that accompanyed the lady thither.

This Garden seemed to the lady exceeding faire and admirable, neither did she thinke to have ever seen the like: and sith she sundry wayes knewe it to be a true garden, and the knight to have perfourmed her request: she turned towards him and saide: Without doubt sir knight, ye have deserved my love, & I am ready to stand to my promise. But I would pray you of this favour, that it would please you to tary the time or ever ye require me to your desire, that my knight be gone a hunting, or into some other place out of the citie, to the ende ye may the more safely, and without any suspicion take your delight.

This contented Tarolfo who left her the garden, and so departed. This garden was manifest to the whole countrie although never a one knewe of a long time, how it came to passe. And the ladie that had now received it, all sorrowfull departed from the same, returning to her chamber full of noisome care and greefe, bethinking her in what sort she might returne backe according to her promise: and as not finding any lawful excuse, so much more increased her care.

The which thing her husband espying, began many times and often to marvel thereat, and to aske the cause of that her greefe, to whome she answered, that she ailed nothing, being bashfull to discover to him her given promise for her craved gift, doubting lest in so doing, he shuld account her for lewd. Lastly, she being unable to withstand the continuall instigations of her husband, that now still importunately desired to knowe the cause of annoy, discoursed the same unto him, from the beginning to the end, and that therefore she abode thus pensive.

The husband hearing this, of long time suspected no lesse, and therby knowing in his conceit the purity of the lady, thus saide unto her: Go and covertly keepe thine othe, and liberally perform to Tarolfo, what thou hast promised. For he hath with his great toile of right deserved the same. And having thus saide the lady began to weepe, and to say unto him: the gods sever me far from such a fault: in no wise will I so doo, I will rather rid my self of life, than do any thing displeasant to you, or dishonor to your person.

To whom the knight replied saying: Wife, for this matter I will that ye doo no injurie to your selfe, neither yet conceive any greef therfore, for in no wise shall it displease me, go therefore & performe what ye have promised: for ye shall be never a whit the lesse deare to me; but as ye have performed this your promise, so take ye better heed hereafter of such like, although a demanded gift may seeme unto you impossible to be had.

As the lady perceved the will of her husband, she decked & trimmed her and made herself very faire, took company with her, and so went to Tarolfo's lodging, & bepainted [colored over] with bashfulnesse, presented herselfe unto him.

Tarolfo, as soone as he saw her, all marvelling rose from Theban and encountred her with great gladnesse, and very honorably received her, demaunding the cause of her coming. To whome she answered, I am come to be wholy at your will, doo with me as it pleaseth you. Then said Tarolfo, ye make me to muse above measure, considering the time and the company wherewith ye are come: this can not be without some great alteration betweene you and your husbande, tell me therefore I pray you how the matter goeth.

The lady then shewed Tarolfo fully in order the whole matter & how it went: the which Tarolfo hearing, he began then to enter into a farre greater admiration than he had ever doon before, and greatly to bethinke him hereof, and so in the ende to conceive the great liberalitie of the husband, that had sent his wife unto him: whereupon he said to himselfe: Whatsoever he be that shoulde so much as but thinke villany towardes such a knight, were surely worthy of great blame: and so taking and talking with the lady, he thus said unto her: Madam, like a worthy lady, ye have performed that to me due is: For the which cause I account that received of your hands that I have of you desired, and therefore when it shall please you, you may returne unto your husband, and thanke him I pray you on my behalfe, for this his so great a pleasure doone unto me, and excuse me of the follie I have heretofore committed towardes him, assuring him, that heereafter I shall never put the like in practise, The lady giving great thanks to Tarolfo for that his so great curtesie, merily departed thence & returned to her husband, to whom she recited in order all that had been hapned.

But Theban now coming to Tarolfo demanded how the case stoode. Tarolfo declared unto him the whole discourse. To whom Theban then said: and I, shal I then lose that which thou hast promised me?

Tarolfo answered: no, but when it pleaseth thee, take thou halfe of al the castels and treasures I have in sort heeretofore promised thee. For I acknowledge, that thou hast fully served my turne.

To whome Theban answered: it may never please the gods, sith the knight was so liberall to thee of his wife, and thou againe wast not a villaine to him in that his offer, that I become lesse than curteous. For above all things in the world it contenteth me, in that I have served thy turne: and therefore I will, that all that I ought to receive in guerdon of my travaile remaine all thine, in such sort as it hath ever been heeretofore; neither would he take of that was Tarolfo's any thing at all.


The Question Posed

It is now douted, in whether [which] of these was the greatest liberalitie, either in the knight that had given libertie to his wife to go to Tarolfo, either in Tarolfo, who sent the ladie (whom he had always desired, and for whose sake he had doon so much, to come to that jumpe, whereunto he was come, when as she came unto him) backe unto her husband free: or in Theban, who having abandoned his countries being now old, for to gaine the promised rewards, and being come thither, toiled himselfe to bring that to an ende, which he had promised, whereby he justly deserved the same, did now remit the whole to Tarolfo, & remained poore as he was at the first.


The Question Debated


Very excellent is both the tale and the demaund, saide the queene. Of truth eche one was very liberall, considering the first of his honour, the second of his lascivious desire, and the third that of his rewarded riches was very courteous.

Now if we will knowe which of them used the greatest liberalitie or curtesie: it is meet we consider whether of the three deedes is most acceptable, the whiche being well weighed, we shall manifestly know the most liberal, bycause who most giveth, is to be helde most liberall: of the which three, the one is deere, that is Honour, the which Paulus Aemilius, vanquishing Perses king of Macedonia, rather desired than the gained tresures. The second is to be fled, that is, the wanton delights of Venus, according to the sentence of Sophocles, and of Xenocrates, saying, that lust is to be fled as a furious governement. The third is not to be desired, that is, riches: forsomuch as the most times they are noisome to a vertuous life, and to such a one as can vertuously live with moderate povertie, as lived Marcus Curtius, Attilius Regulus, & Valerius Publicola, as by their workes is manifest.

If then of these three, onely Honour is to be held deere, and the others not, he used the greatest liberalitie that gave his wife to another, althogh he did lesse than wisely therein. He was also the cheefest in liberalitie, wherein the others folowed him: therefore according to our Judgement he that gave his wife in whome consisted his honor, was above the rest the most liberall.

I (said Menedon) agree, that in as muche as ye have thus said, it be as you say: but yet ech one of the other seemeth to me to be more liberall, and ye shal heare howe. It is very true, that the first graunted his wife, but he used therein not so great a liberalitie as ye speak of, bicause if he would have denied her, he might not justly have doon it, by reason of the othe she made, the which was convenient for her to keepe: and therefore who giveth that he may not deny, dooth but well in making himselfe liberall thereof, & it was but a trifle he gave: and therefore (as I have saide) eche one of the other was more curteous. And for that (as it is already said) Tarolfo had now a long time desired this lady, and loved her farre above all others, he for to attaine her, had of long time abode great troubles, offering himselfe to satisfie her request, to seeke foorth things almost impossible to be had, the which now obtained he deserved (through her promised faith) to obtaine her also, whome (as we say) being obtained, there is no doubt, but that the honour of the husband, and the release of that she had promised (the which he released) was in his hand. Then was he, to conclude, liberall both of the honor of the husband, of the othe of his ladie, and of his owne long desire. It is a great matter to have endured long thirst, & to come to a plesant fountain, and not to drinke, but to suffer others to drinke.

The third was also very liberall, considering that povertie is one of the most lothsome thinges of the world to bear, for so much as it is the chaser away both of mirth and rest, a flyer of honours, a frequenter of vertue, and the inducer of crabbed care, so that every one naturally endevour themselves with a fiery desire to flee the same, the which desire is so kindled in manie, to the end to live very splendantly in rest, as they give themselves no lesse to dishonest gaine, than to disordinate expenses, peradventure not knowing, or not otherways being able to feed that their desire: which is cause many times either of death or exile. Howe much then ought the riches to please and to be acceptable unto them that in due sorte doo both gaine and possesse them?

And who will doubt that Theban was not most poore if he beholde howe he abandoning his nights rest, went gathering of herbes, and digging up of roots in doubtfull places for the better sustentation of his poore life? And that this povertie did occupy his vertu, may be also beleeved, in hearing how Tarolfo deemed to be by him deceved, when he beheld him apparelled in vile vesture, & seeing him desirous to shake off the misery to become rich, knowing he came as far as from Thessaly to Spaine, hazarding himself to perillous chances through doubtfull journies, and uncertaine aire, to the end to performe the promise he had made, and to receive the like from an other. Also it may be evidently seene, that without dout who gives himselfe to such and so many miseries, to the end to flee povertye, knoweth the same to be full of all greefe and troubles. And howe muche the more he hath shaken off the greatest povertie, and is entred a rich life, so muche the more is the same life acceptable unto him.

Then who that is become of poore, rich, if therewith his life dooth delight him, how great, and what manner of liberalitie doth he use, if he give the same away, and consenteth to returne to that state, the which he hath with so many troubles fled? Assuedly he dooth a thing exceeding great & liberall. And this seemeth far greater than the rest, considering also of the age of the giver, that was now olde: forasmuch as avarice was wont to be continualye of greater force in old men than in yong: whereupon I gather, that ech one of the two folowing, hath used a greater liberalitie than hath the first, so muche commended by you, and the third farre more than either of the others.

In howe much your reason might be well by any one defended, so well is the same defended by you (said the queene) but we minde to shew unto you breefly how our Judgement rather than yours ought to take place. Ye will fay, that he shewed no liberalitie at all, granting the use of his wife to another, bycause of reason it was convenient through the othe made by the lady, that he shuld so do, the which ought to be in deede if the othe might holde. But the wife forsomuch as she is a member of her husband, or rather one body with him, could not justly make such an oth, without the will of her husband: and yet if she did make suche an oth, it was nothng, bicause the first oth lawfully made, could not with reason be derogate by any following, cheefly not by those that are not duly made for a necessarie cause. And the maner is in matrimonicall unitings the man to sweare to be content with the woman, and the woman with the man, and never to change the one the other for an other. Now then the woman cannot sweare, and if she doo sweare (as we have saide) she sweareth for a thing unlawfull, and so contrarie to the former othe, it ought not to prevaile, and not prevailing, otherwise than for his pleasure he ought not to commit his wife to Tarolfo, & if he do commit her to him, then is he liberall of his honour, and not Tarolfo, as you hold opinion. Neither could he be liberall of his oth in releasing it, forasmuch as the othe was nothing.

Then onely remained Tarolfo liberall of his wanton desire: the which thing of proper duetie is convenient for everie man to do, bicause we all through reason are bound to banish vice, and to follow vertue. And who that dooth that, wherunto he is of reason bound, is (as ye have said) nothing at all liberall, but that which is doone more than duetie requireth, may well and justly be termed liberalitie. But bicause you peradventure in silence argue in your mind what honour may that be of a chast woman to her husband, which ought to be so deare: we will prolong somwhat our talke, in shewing you, to the ende that ye may the more clearely see that Tarolfo and Theban of whom we intend next to speake, used no liberalitie at all in respect of the knight.

Ye shall know that chastitie together with the other vertues, yeeld no other reward to the possessors thereof, than honour, the which honour among vertuous men, makes the least vertuous the most excellent. This honour if men with humility seeke to supporte it, it makes them frends to God, and so by convenent to live, and after death to possesse the goods eternall: the which if the woman conserveth from her husband, he may live merily and certaine of his ofspring, and frequent in open sight among the people content to see her for such her vertues honoured among the most high and cheefest dames, and in his mind it is a manifest token that she is good, feareth God, and loveth him, whiche is no small plesure, seeing she is given him for an everlasting companion indivisible saving by death: he through this obtained favour is seene continually to encrease, both in spirituall and worldly wealth.

And so on the contrary, he whose wife hath default of such vertues can never passe one houre with true consolation, nothing is acceptable unto him, and continually the one desires the death of the other, he perceiveth himselfe through this disordred voice to be carried in the mouths of the veryest misers, neither seemeth it unto him, that such a fault should not be beleeved, of whomesoever it is heard: And if she were largely endowed with al other vertues, yet this vice seemeth to have such a force as to bring her in contempt and to utter ruine. Then is this honour that maketh the woman both chaste and good to her husband, a most great gift, and so is to be held most dearely. Blessed may he be called, to whome through grace is graunted such a gift, although we beleeve they are but few, towardes whome is borne envie, for so great a benefit.

But to returne unto our purpose, it is to be seene how much the knight did give. It is not fled our memorie when as ye said, that Theban was of the rest most liberall, who being with trouble enriched, hath not doubted to returne into the miserie of poore estate, in giving away that which he had gotten. It apparently appeereth, that ye are evill acquainted with povertie, who if she come unto us merie, surmounteth all riches. Theban now peradventure through the attained wealth, felt himselfe replet of sundrie soure cares. He did now imagine that it seemed Tarolfo to have doon verie evill, and therefore would practise by murdring him, to recover againe his castles. He abode in feare to be peradventure betraied of his tenants. He was entred into care touching the government of his landes. He now knewe all the prepared guiles to be doone unto his copartners. He saw himselfe greatly envied for his riches, & doubted lest theeves should secretly spoile him thereof. He was stuffed with so many riche and sundrie thoughts and cares, as all quietnesse was fled from him. Through the which occasions, calling to minde his former life, and that without so manie cares he passed the same merily, said to himselfe: I desired to growe rich, to the ende to attaine quiet rest, but I see it is the increaser of troubles and cogitations: so is it the flyer of quietness: and therefore desirous to be in his former estate, he rendred them all to him, by whom they were given.

Povertie is the refused riches, a goodnesse unknowne, a fire of provocations, the which was of Diogenes fully understood. As much sufficeth povertie, as nature requireth. He lives safe from every deceit that patiently approcheth therewith, neither is he disabled to attaine to great honours, that (as we have saide) vertuously liveth therewith: and therefore as Theban rejected this allurement he was not liberall but wise. So gracious he was to Tarolfo in that it pleased him to give the same rather to him than to an other, whereas he might have bestowed the same uppon many others.

Then to conclude, the knight was more liberall that granted his honour than any of the others: and thinke this one thing, that the honour he gave was not to be againe recovered, the whiche happeneth not in many other thinges, as of battels, prowesse, and others like: for if they are at one time lost, they are recovered at an other, and the same is possible. Therefore this may suffice for answere unto your demaund.


Thirteen most pleasant and delectable questions of love, entitled a disport of diverse noble personages. London, 1566. [PQ4272.E5 F4 1974].


Back to Geoffrey Chaucer Page | (Or use your browser's back button to return to the previous page.)

Last modified: June 5, 2006
Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Gold Texts on this page prepared and maintained by L. D. Benson (