Filomena, having despatched her story, was now silent, whereupon Dioneo, who sat next her, knowing already, by the ordinance begun, that it fell to his turn to tell, proceeded, without awaiting farther commandment from the queen, to speak on this wise: "Lovesome ladies, if I have rightly apprehended the intention of you all, we are here to divert ourselves with story-telling; wherefore, so but it be not done contrary to this our purpose, I hold it lawful unto each (even as our queen told us a while agone) to tell such story as he deemeth may afford most entertainment. Accordingly having heard how, by the good counsels of Jehannot de Chevigné, Abraham had his soul saved and how Melchizedek, by his good sense, defended his riches from Saladin's ambushes, I purpose, without looking for reprehension from you, briefly to relate with what address a monk delivered his body from a very grievous punishment.

There was in Lunigiana, a country not very far hence, a monastery whilere more abounding in sanctity and monks than it is nowadays, and therein, among others, was a young monk, whose vigour and lustiness neither fasts nor vigils availed to mortify. It chanced one day, towards noontide, when all the other monks slept, that, as he went all alone round about the convent,[48] which stood in a very solitary place, he espied a very well-favoured lass, belike some husbandman's daughter of the country, who went about the fields culling certain herbs, and no sooner had he set eyes on her than he was violently assailed by carnal appetite. Wherefore, accosting her, he entered into parley with her and so led on from one thing to another that he came to an accord with her and brought her to his cell, unperceived of any; but whilst, carried away by overmuch ardour, he disported himself with her less cautiously than was prudent, it chanced that the abbot arose from sleep and softly passing by the monk's cell, heard the racket that the twain made together; whereupon he came stealthily up to the door to listen, that he might the better recognize the voices, and manifestly perceiving that there was a woman in the cell, was at first minded to cause open to him, but after bethought himself to hold another course in the matter and, returning to his chamber, awaited the monk's coming forth.

The latter, all taken up as he was with the wench and his exceeding pleasure and delight in her company, was none the less on his guard and himseeming he heard some scuffling of feet in the dormitory, he set his eye to a crevice and plainly saw the abbot stand hearkening unto him; whereby he understood but too well that the latter must have gotten wind of the wench's presence in his cell and knowing that sore punishment would ensue to him thereof, he was beyond measure chagrined. However, without discovering aught of his concern to the girl, he hastily revolved many things in himself, seeking to find some means of escape, and presently hit upon a rare device, which went straight to the mark he aimed at. Accordingly, making a show of thinking he had abidden long enough with the damsel, he said to her, 'I must go cast about for a means how thou mayest win forth hence, without being seen; wherefore do thou abide quietly until my return.'

Then, going forth and locking the cell door on her, he betook himself straight to the abbot's chamber and presenting him with the key, according as each monk did, whenas he went abroad, said to him, with a good countenance, 'Sir, I was unable to make an end this morning of bringing off all the faggots I had cut; wherefore with your leave I will presently go to the wood and fetch them away.' The abbot, deeming the monk unaware that he had been seen of him, was glad of such an opportunity to inform himself more fully of the offence committed by him and accordingly took the key and gave him the leave he sought. Then, as soon as he saw him gone, he fell to considering which he should rather do, whether open his cell in the presence of all the other monks and cause them to see his default, so they might after have no occasion to murmur against himself, whenas he should punish the offender, or seek first to learn from the girl herself how the thing had passed; and bethinking himself that she might perchance be the wife or daughter of such a man that he would be loath to have done her the shame of showing her to all the monks, he determined first to see her and after come to a conclusion; wherefore, betaking himself to the cell, he opened it and, entering, shut the door after him.

The girl, seeing the abbot enter, was all aghast and fell a-weeping for fear of shame; but my lord abbot, casting his eyes upon her and seeing her young and handsome, old as he was, suddenly felt the pricks of the flesh no less importunate than his young monk had done and fell a-saying in himself, 'Marry, why should I not take somewhat of pleasure, whenas I may, more by token that displeasance and annoy are still at hand, whenever I have a mind to them? This is a handsome wench and is here unknown of any in the world. If I can bring her to do my pleasure, I know not why I should not do it. Who will know it? No one will ever know it and a sin that's hidden is half forgiven. Maybe this chance will never occur again. I hold it great sense to avail ourselves of a good, whenas God the Lord sendeth us thereof.'

So saying and having altogether changed purpose from that wherewith he came, he drew near to the girl and began gently to comfort her, praying her not to weep, and passing from one word to another, he ended by discovering to her his desire. The girl, who was neither iron nor adamant, readily enough lent herself to the pleasure of the abbot, who, after he had clipped and kissed her again and again, mounted upon the monk's pallet and having belike regard to the grave burden of his dignity and the girl's tender age and fearful of irking her for overmuch heaviness, bestrode not her breast, but set her upon his own and so a great while disported himself with her.

Meanwhile, the monk, who had only made believe to go to the wood and had hidden himself in the dormitory, was altogether reassured, whenas he saw the abbot enter his cell alone, doubting not but his device should have effect, and when he saw him lock the door from within, he held it for certain. Accordingly, coming forth of his hiding-place, he stealthily betook himself to a crevice, through which he both heard and saw all that the abbot did and said. When it seemed to the latter that he had tarried long enough with the damsel, he locked her in the cell and returned to his own chamber, whence, after awhile, he heard the monk stirring and deeming him returned from the wood, thought to rebuke him severely and cast him into prison, so himself might alone possess the prey he had gotten; wherefore, sending for him, he very grievously rebuked him and with a stern countenance and commanded that he should be put in prison.

The monk very readily answered, 'Sir, I have not yet pertained long enough to the order of St. Benedict to have been able to learn every particular thereof, and you had not yet shown me that monks should make of women a means of mortification,[49] as of fasts and vigils; but, now that you have shown it me, I promise you, so you will pardon me this default, never again to offend therein, but still to do as I have seen you do.' The abbot, who was a quick-witted man, readily understood that the monk not only knew more than himself, but had seen what he did; wherefore, his conscience pricking him for his own default, he was ashamed to inflict on the monk a punishment which he himself had merited even as he. Accordingly, pardoning him and charging him keep silence of that which he had seen, they privily put the girl out of doors and it is believed that they caused her return thither more than once thereafterward."

Footnotes

[48] Lit. his church (sua chiesa); but the context seems to indicate that the monastery itself is meant.

[49] Lit. a pressure or oppression (priemere, hod. premere, to press or oppress, indicative used as a noun). The monk of course refers to the posture in which he had seen the abbot have to do with the girl, pretending to believe that he placed her on his own breast (instead of mounting on hers) out of a sentiment of humility and a desire to mortify his flesh ipsâ in voluptate.
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Decameron (Day The Fourth) Lyrics

Giovanni Boccaccio – Decameron (Day The Fourth) Lyrics