Friday, October 16, 2009

The Decameron


Mester de Juglaria
12th and 13th cen
uneducated, popular-themed, simple, un-, uncredited and unwritten
offerering diversions to the public: poetic, theatrical, acrobatic
cantar de gesta "Songs of heroic deeds"
13th, spanish clergymen, Mester de Clerecia
educated compositions in meter
the serious topics
religeous, historical, novelesque
The Book of Good Love one such

"A kindly thing it is to have compassion of the afflicted
and albeit it well beseemeth everyone,
yet of those it is more particularly required
who have erst had need of comfort, and have found it in any, amongst whom, if ever
any had need thereof of held it dear or took pleasure therein aforetimes,
certes, I am one of there."
So begins the book called Decameron and Surnamed Prince Galahalt wherein are contained an hundred stories in the ten days told by seven ladies (not one of them had passed her 28th year nor was less than 18 years old, and each was of descreet and noble blood, fair of favor and well-mannered and full of honest sprightliness) and three young men (yet not so young that the age of the youngest of them was less than 25, in whom neither perversity of the time nor loss of friends and kinsfolk, no, nor fear for themselves had availed to cool, much less to quench, the fire of love.) And glad it was that there were such men availing, for remember that none of these women were child enough not to know how little reasonable women are among themselves and how ill, without some man's guidance, they know how to order themselves. They are fickle, wilful, suspicious, faint-hearted and timorous, for which reasons we might misdoubt them sore, if they take not some other guidance than their own, that their company would be far too soon dissolved and with less honor to themselves than were semely. Men are the head of women, and without their ordinance seldom cometh any enterprise of theirs to good end.
These seven ladies are outset inside a church where they are chatting, and this is in the time of a death-dealing pestilence on Europe sent down upon mankind for their correction by the just wraith of God, which had come from the East, which no wisdom or human forsight might avail. It took evidence in what the vulgar had named plague-boils, and which would take it's course from first appearance of the swellings in armpit or groin, which waxed bigness to the size of an apple or an egg, which then began to grow indifferently on the parts of the body, and change to black or livid blotches, and were a very certain token of coming death to everyone to whom they came, within 30 days. No cure, no medicine, and would take even those who touched even the garments of the diseased, or even the animals who touched them. And all tried to flee, even leaving their children or parents to die alone, whereas the tradition in Italy was to die surrounded by many women. Some tried to escape to the country, but some country villiages were entirely bereft of individuals.
So they were in the church together, some the sole remaining member of their households, and the oldest, Pampinea made a long discourse to the effect that feeling ill at ease there in the notable city of Florence it would be well to leave to, taking pleasance and diversion as the season may afford, and on this wise abide till such a time (an they be not earlier overtaken of death) as they should see what issue Heaven reserveth unto these things. They recruit the three men who enter, and plan to leave.
The next morning, which was a Wednesday, they set out early, and about 2 miles out of the city found a pleasant place well furnished, clean, and bedded. Pampinea suggests that on their trip they each day have a leader, a king or queen of the group, whom the others may honor and obey as chief and whose especial care it would be to dispose them all to live joyously. They will take turns. Much pleased at her words, the party appoint her first queen. She delegates jobs to others, and headed the proceedings of enjoyment.
When she woke them the next day at none (3pm), she furthered suggested that they should pass the sultry part of the day, not in gaming,--wherein the mind of one of the players must of necessity be troubled, without any great pleasure of the other or of those who look on,--but in telling stories, which, one telling, may afford diversion to all the company who hearken, and the story would last until the sun had declined and the heat be abated, and they could then go a-pleasuring whereas it might be most agreeable to them. All approved of her idea. She suggested that the first day each be free to tell of such matters as are most to his liking. Then she turned to Pamfilo and smilingly bade him give beginning to the storytelling with one of his. And so he began the first tale.

No comments:

Post a Comment