The Tenth Story

Alibech, Turning Hermit, Is Taught By Rustico, A Monk, To Put The Devil In Hell, And Being After Brought Away Thence, Becometh Neerbale His Wife

Dioneo, who had diligently hearkened to the queen's story, seeing that it was ended and that it rested with him alone to tell, without awaiting commandment, smilingly began to speak as follows: "Charming ladies, maybe you have never heard tell how one putteth the devil in hell; wherefore, without much departing from the tenor of that whereof you have discoursed all this day, I will e'en tell it you. Belike, having learned it, you may catch the spirit[202] thereof and come to know that, albeit Love sojourneth liefer in jocund palaces and luxurious chambers than in the hovels of the poor, yet none the less doth he whiles make his power felt midmost thick forests and rugged mountains and in desert caverns; whereby it may be understood that all things are subject to his puissance.

To come, then, to the fact, I say that in the city of Capsa in Barbary there was aforetime a very rich man, who, among his other children, had a fair and winsome young daughter, by name Alibech. She, not being a Christian and hearing many Christians who abode in the town mightily extol the Christian faith and the service of God, one day questioned one of them in what manner one might avail to serve God with the least hindrance. The other answered that they best served God who most strictly eschewed the things of the world, as those did who had betaken them into the solitudes of the deserts of Thebais. The girl, who was maybe fourteen years old and very simple, moved by no ordered desire, but by some childish fancy, set off next morning by stealth and all alone, to go to the desert of Thebais, without letting any know her intent. After some days, her desire persisting, she won, with no little toil, to the deserts in question and seeing a hut afar off, went thither and found at the door a holy man, who marvelled to see her there and asked her what she sought. She replied that, being inspired of God, she went seeking to enter into His service and was now in quest of one who should teach her how it behoved to serve Him.

The worthy man, seeing her young and very fair and fearing lest, an he entertained her, the devil should beguile him, commended her pious intent and giving her somewhat to eat of roots of herbs and wild apples and dates and to drink of water, said to her, 'Daughter mine, not far hence is a holy man, who is a much better master than I of that which thou goest seeking; do thou betake thyself to him'; and put her in the way. However, when she reached the man in question, she had of him the same answer and faring farther, came to the cell of a young hermit, a very devout and good man, whose name was Rustico and to whom she made the same request as she had done to the others. He, having a mind to make a trial of his own constancy, sent her not away, as the others had done, but received her into his cell, and the night being come, he made her a little bed of palm-fronds and bade her lie down to rest thereon. This done, temptations tarried not to give battle to his powers of resistance and he, finding himself grossly deceived by these latter, turned tail, without awaiting many assaults, and confessed himself beaten; then, laying aside devout thoughts and orisons and mortifications, he fell to revolving in his memory the youth and beauty of the damsel and bethinking himself what course he should take with her, so as to win to that which he desired of her, without her taking him for a debauched fellow.

Accordingly, having sounded her with sundry questions, he found that she had never known man and was in truth as simple as she seemed; wherefore he bethought him how, under colour of the service of God, he might bring her to his pleasures. In the first place, he showeth her with many words how great an enemy the devil was of God the Lord and after gave her to understand that the most acceptable service that could be rendered to God was to put back the devil into hell, whereto he had condemned him. The girl asked him how this might be done; and he, 'Thou shalt soon know that; do thou but as thou shalt see me do.' So saying, he proceeded to put off the few garments he had and abode stark naked, as likewise did the girl, whereupon he fell on his knees, as he would pray, and caused her abide over against himself.[203]

E cosí stando, essendo Rustico, piú che mai, nel suo disidero acceso, per lo vederla cosí bella, venue la resurrezion della carne; la quale riguardando Alibech, e maravigliatasti, disse: Rustico, quella che cosa è, che io ti veggio, che cosí si pigne in fuori, e non l' ho io? O figliuola mia, disse Rustico, questo è il diavolo, di che io t'ho parlato, e vedi tu ora: egli mi dà grandissima molestia, tanta, che io appena la posso sofferire. Allora disse la giovane. O lodato sia Iddio, ché io veggio, che io sto meglio, che non stai tu, ché io non ho cotesto diavolo io. Disse Rustico, tu di vero; ma tu hai un' altra cosa, che non l'ho io, et haila in iscambio di questo. Disse Alibech: O che? A cui Rustico disse: Hai l'inferno; e dicoti, che io mi credo, che Dio t'abbia qui mandata per la salute dell' anima mia; perciòche, se questo diavolo pur mi darà questa noia, ove tu cogli aver di me tanta pietà, e sofferire, che io in inferno il rimetta; tu mi darai grandissima consolazione, et a Dio farai grandissimo piacere, e servigio; se tu per quello fare in queste parti venuta se; che tu di. La giovane di buona fede rispose O padre mio, poscia che io ho l'inferno, sia pure quando vi piacerà mettervi il diavolo. Disse allora Rustico: Figliuola mia benedetta sia tu: andiamo dunque, e rimettiamlovi sí, che egli poscia mi lasci stare. E cosí detto, menate la giovane sopra uno de' loro letticelli, le 'nsegnò, come star si dovesse a dover incarcerare quel maladetto da Dio. La giovane, che mai piú non aveva in inferno messo diavolo alcuno, per la prima volta sentí un poco di noia; perché ella disse a Rustico.

Per certo, padre mio, mala cosa dee essere questo diavolo, e veramente nimico di Iddio ché ancora all'inferno, non che altrui duole quando, egli v'è dentro rimesso. Disse Rustico: Figliuola, egli non averrà sempre cosí: e per fare, che questo non avvenisse, da sei volte anziche di su il letticel si movesero, ve 'l rimisero; tantoche per quella volta gli trasser sí la superbia del capo, che egli si stette volentieri in pace. Ma ritornatagli poi nel seguente tempo piú volte, e la giovane ubbidente sempre a trargliela si disponesse, avvenne, che il giuoco le cominciò a piacere; e cominciò a dire a Rustico. Ben veggio, che il ver dicevano que valenti uomini in Capsa, che il servire a Dio era cosí dolce cosa, e per certo io non mi ricordo, che mai alcuna altra ne facessi, che di tanto diletto, e piacere mi fosse, quanto è il rimettere il diavolo in inferno; e perciò giudico ogn' altra persona, che ad altro che a servire a Dio attende, essere una bestia. Per la qual cosa essa spesse volte andava a Rustico, e gli diceva. Padre mio, io son qui venuta per servire a Dio, e non per istare oziosa; andiamo a rimittere il diavolo in inferno. La qual cosa faccendo, diceva ella alcuna volta. Rustico, io non so perché il diavolo si fugga di ninferno, ché s' egli vi stesse cosí volentiere, come l'inferno il riceve, e tiene; agli non sene uscirebbe mai. Cosí adunque invitando spesso la giovane Rustico, et al servigio di Dio confortandolo, se la bambagia del farsetto tratta gli avea, che egli a talora sentiva freddo, che un' altro sarebbe sudato; e perciò egli incominciò a dire alla giovane, che il diavolo non era da gastigare, né da rimettere in inferno, se non quando egli per superbia levasse il capo; e noi, per la grazia, di Dio, l'abbiamo sí sgannato, che egla priega Iddio di starsi in pace: e cosí alquanto impose di silenzio alla giovane. La qual, poiche vide che Rustico non la richiedeva a dovere il diavolo rimittere in inferno, gli disse un giorno. Rustico, se il diavolo tuo è gastigato, e piú non ti dà noia me il mio ninferno non lascia stare: perché tu farai bene, che tu col tuo diavolo aiuti ad attutare la rabbia al mio inferno; come io col mio ninferno ho ajutato a trarre la superbia al tuo diavolo.

Transcriber's Note: The following is a 1903 translation of this passage by J.M. Rigg (from Project Gutenberg Etext No. 3726):

Whereupon Rustico, seeing her so fair, felt an accession of desire, and therewith came an insurgence of the flesh, which Alibech marking with surprise, said:—"Rustico, what is this, which I see thee have, that so protrudes, and which I have not?" "Oh! my daughter," said Rustico, "'tis the Devil of whom I have told thee: and, seest thou? he is now tormenting me most grievously, insomuch that I am scarce able to hold out." Then:—"Praise be to God," said the girl, "I see that I am in better case than thou, for no such Devil have I." "Sooth sayst thou," returned Rustico; "but instead of him thou hast somewhat else that I have not." "Oh!" said Alibech, "what may that be?" "Hell," answered Rustico: "and I tell thee, that 'tis my belief that God has sent thee hither for the salvation of my soul; seeing that, if this Devil shall continue to plague me thus, then, so thou wilt have compassion on me and permit me to put him in hell, thou wilt both afford me great and exceeding great solace, and render to God an exceeding most acceptable service, if, as thou sayst, thou art come into these parts for such a purpose." In good faith the girl made answer:—"As I have hell to match your Devil, be it, my father, as and when you will." Whereupon:—"Bless thee, my daughter," said Rustico, "go we then, and put him there, that he leave me henceforth in peace." Which said, he took the girl to one of the beds and taught her the posture in which she must lie in order to incarcerate this spirit accursed of God. The girl, having never before put any devil in hell, felt on this first occasion a twinge of pain: wherefore she said to Rustico:—

"Of a surety, my father, he must be a wicked fellow, this devil, and in very truth a foe to God; for there is sorrow even in hell—not to speak of other places—when he is put there." "Daughter," said Rustico, "'twill not be always so." And for better assurance thereof they put him there six times before they quitted the bed; whereby they so thoroughly abased his pride that he was fain to be quiet. However, the proud fit returning upon him from time to time, and the girl addressing herself always obediently to its reduction, it so befell that she began to find the game agreeable, and would say to Rustico:—"Now see I plainly that 'twas true, what the worthy men said at Capsa, of the service of God being so delightful: indeed I cannot remember that in aught that ever I did I had so much pleasure, so much solace, as in putting the Devil in hell; for which cause I deem it insensate folly on the part of any one to have a care to aught else than the service of God." Wherefore many a time she would come to Rustico, and say to him:—"My father, 'twas to serve God that I came hither, and not to pass my days in idleness: go we then, and put the Devil in hell." And while they did so, she would now and again say:—"I know not, Rustico, why the Devil should escape from hell; were he but as ready to stay there as hell is to receive and retain him, he would never come out of it." So, the girl thus frequently inviting and exhorting Rustico to the service of God, there came at length a time when she had so thoroughly lightened his doublet that he shivered when another would have sweated; wherefore he began to instruct her that the Devil was not to be corrected and put in hell, save when his head was exalted with pride; adding, "and we by God's grace have brought him to so sober a mind that he prays God he may be left in peace;" by which means he for a time kept the girl quiet. But when she saw that Rustico had no more occasion for her to put the Devil in hell, she said to him one day:—"Rustico, if thy Devil is chastened and gives thee no more trouble, my hell, on the other hand, gives me no peace; wherefore, I with my hell have holpen thee to abase the pride of thy Devil, so thou wouldst do well to lend me the aid of thy Devil to allay the fervent heat of my hell."

Rustico, who lived on roots and water, could ill avail to answer her calls and told her that it would need overmany devils to appease hell, but he would do what he might thereof. Accordingly he satisfied her bytimes, but so seldom it was but casting a bean into the lion's mouth; whereas the girl, herseeming she served not God as diligently as she would fain have done, murmured somewhat. But, whilst this debate was toward between Rustico his devil and Alibech her hell, for overmuch desire on the one part and lack of power on the other, it befell that a fire broke out in Capsa and burnt Alibech's father in his own house, with as many children and other family as he had; by reason whereof she abode heir to all his good. Thereupon, a young man called Neerbale, who had spent all his substance in gallantry, hearing that she was alive, set out in search of her and finding her, before the court[204] had laid hands upon her father's estate, as that of a man dying without heir, to Rustico's great satisfaction, but against her own will, brought her back to Capsa, where he took her to wife and succeeded, in her right, to the ample inheritance of her father.

There, being asked by the women at what she served God in the desert, she answered (Neerbale having not yet lain with her) that she served Him at putting the devil in hell and that Neerbale had done a grievous sin in that he had taken her from such service. The ladies asked, 'How putteth one the devil in hell?' And the girl, what with words and what with gestures, expounded it to them; whereat they set up so great a laughing that they laugh yet and said, 'Give yourself no concern, my child; nay, for that is done here also and Neerbale will serve our Lord full well with thee at this.' Thereafter, telling it from one to another throughout the city, they brought it to a common saying there that the most acceptable service one could render to God was to put the devil in hell, which byword, having passed the sea hither, is yet current here. Wherefore do all you young ladies, who have need of God's grace, learn to put the devil in hell, for that this is highly acceptable to Him and pleasing to both parties and much good may grow and ensue thereof."

A thousand times or more had Dioneo's story moved the modest ladies to laughter, so quaint and comical did his words appear to them; then, whenas he had made an end thereof, the queen, knowing the term of her sovranty to be come, lifted the laurel from her head and set it merrily on that of Filostrato, saying: "We shall presently see if the wolf will know how to govern the ewes better than the ewes have governed the wolves." Filostrato, hearing this, said, laughing, "An I were hearkened to, the wolves had taught the ewes to put the devil in hell, no worse than Rustico taught Alibech; wherefore do ye not style us wolven, since you yourselves have not been ewen. Algates, I will govern the kingdom committed to me to the best of my power." "Harkye, Filostrato," rejoined Neifile, "in seeking to teach us, you might have chanced to learn sense, even as did Masetto of Lamporecchio of the nuns, and find your tongue what time your bones should have learnt to whistle without a master."

Filostrato, finding that he still got a Roland for his Oliver,[205] gave over pleasantry and addressed himself to the governance of the kingdom committed to him. Wherefore, letting call the seneschal, he was fain to know at what point things stood all and after discreetly ordained that which he judged would be well and would content the company for such time as his seignory should endure. Then, turning to the ladies, "Lovesome ladies," quoth he, "since I knew good from evil, I have, for my ill fortune, been still subject unto Love for the charms of one or other of you; nor hath humility neither obedience, no, nor the assiduous ensuing him in all his usances, in so far as it hath been known of me, availed me but that first I have been abandoned for another and after have still gone from bad to worse; and so I believe I shall fare unto my death; wherefore it pleaseth me that it be discoursed to-morrow of none other matter than that which is most conformable to mine own case, to wit, OF THOSE WHOSE LOVES HAVE HAD UNHAPPY ENDING, for that I in the long run look for a most unhappy [issue to mine own]; nor was the name by which you call me conferred on me for otherwhat by such an one who knew well what it meant."[206] So saying, he rose to his feet and dismissed every one until supper-time.

The garden was so goodly and so delightsome that there was none who elected to go forth thereof, in the hope of finding more pleasance elsewhere. Nay, the sun, now grown mild, making it nowise irksome to give chase to the fawns and kids and rabbits and other beasts which were thereabout and which, as they sat, had come maybe an hundred times to disturb them by skipping through their midst, some addressed themselves to pursue them. Dioneo and Fiammetta fell to singing of Messer Guglielmo and the Lady of Vergiu,[207] whilst Filomena and Pamfilo sat down to chess; and so, some doing one thing and some another, the time passed on such wise that the hour of supper came well nigh unlooked for; whereupon, the tables being set round about the fair fountain, they supped there in the evening with the utmost delight.

As soon as the tables were taken away, Filostrato, not to depart from the course holden of those who had been queens before him, commanded Lauretta to lead up a dance and sing a song. "My lord," answered she, "I know none of other folk's songs, nor have I in mind any of mine own which should best beseem so joyous a company; but, an you choose one of those which I have, I will willingly sing it." Quote the king, "Nothing of thine can be other than goodly and pleasing; wherefore sing us such as thou hast." Lauretta, then, with a sweet voice enough, but in a somewhat plaintive style, began thus, the other ladies answering:

No maid disconsolate
Hath cause as I, alack!
Who sigh for love in vain, to mourn her fate.

He who moves heaven and all the stars in air
Made me for His delight
Lovesome and sprightly, kind and debonair,
E'en here below to give each lofty spright
Some inkling of that fair
That still in heaven abideth in His sight;
But erring men's unright,
Ill knowing me, my worth
Accepted not, nay, with dispraise did bate.

Erst was there one who held me dear and fain
Took me, a youngling maid,
Into his arms and thought and heart and brain,
Caught fire at my sweet eyes; yea time, unstayed
Of aught, that flits amain
And lightly, all to wooing me he laid.
I, courteous, nought gainsaid
And held[208] him worthy me;
But now, woe's me, of him I'm desolate.

Then unto me there did himself present
A youngling proud and haught,
Renowning him for valorous and gent;
He took and holds me and with erring thought[209]
To jealousy is bent;
Whence I, alack! nigh to despair am wrought,
As knowing myself,—brought
Into this world for good
Of many an one,—engrossed of one sole mate.

The luckless hour I curse, in very deed,
When I, alas! said yea,
Vesture to change,—so fair in that dusk wede
I was and glad, whereas in this more gay
A weary life I lead,
Far less than erst held honest, welaway!
Ah, dolorous bridal day,
Would God I had been dead
Or e'er I proved thee in such ill estate!

O lover dear, with whom well pleased was I
Whilere past all that be,—
Who now before Him sittest in the sky
Who fashioned us,—have pity upon me
Who cannot, though I die,
Forget thee for another; cause me see
The flame that kindled thee
For me lives yet unquenched
And my recall up thither[210] impetrate.

Here Lauretta made an end of her song, wherein, albeit attentively followed of all, she was diversely apprehended of divers persons, and there were those who would e'en understand, Milan-fashion, that a good hog was better than a handsome wench;[211] but others were of a loftier and better and truer apprehension, whereof it booteth not to tell at this present. Thereafter the king let kindle store of flambeaux upon the grass and among the flowers and caused sing divers other songs, until every star began to decline, that was above the horizon, when, deeming it time for sleep, he bade all with a good night betake themselves to their chambers.


[202] Guadagnare l'anima, lit. gain the soul (syn. pith, kernel, substance). This passage is ambiguous and should perhaps be rendered "catch the knack or trick" or "acquire the wish."

[203] The translators regret that the disuse into which magic has fallen, makes it impossible to render the technicalities of that mysterious art into tolerable English; they have therefore found it necessary to insert several passages in the original Italian.

[204] i.e. the government (corte).

[205] Lit. that scythes were no less plenty that he had arrows (che falci si trovavano non meno che egli avesse strali), a proverbial expression the exact bearing of which I do not know, but whose evident sense I have rendered in the equivalent English idiom.

[206] Syn. what he said (che si dire). See ante, p. 11, note.

[207] Apparently the well-known fabliau of the Dame de Vergy, upon which Marguerite d'Angoulême founded the seventieth story of the Heptameron.

[208] Lit. made (Di me il feci digno).

[209] i.e. false suspicion (falso pensiero).

[210] i.e. to heaven (e costa su m'impetra la tornata).

[211] The pertinence of this allusion, which probably refers to some current Milanese proverbial saying, the word tosa, here used by Boccaccio for "wench," belonging to the Lombard dialect, is not very clear. The expression "Milan-fashion" (alla melanese) may be supposed to refer to the proverbial materialism of the people of Lombardy.

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