« PreviousContinue »
divided them, the whole kingdom would be annihilated. The emperor, duly considering what had been said, directed letters, impressed with the royal signet, to be sent to the fair occasion of the war; by which, without delay, she was commanded to appear before him. A herald bore the mandate, but before he could deliver it, she died. The herald, therefore, returned, and the emperor, very much regretting that he had lost sight of so beautiful a woman, caused all the best artists in the kingdom to be summoned into his presence. When they were assembled, he spoke as follows:
My friends, the reason that I have sent for you is this. There was a very beautiful woman, named Florentina, for whose love a great number of men have lost their lives. She died before I had an opportunity of seeing her.' Do ye go, therefore; paint her to the life, as she was in all her beauty. Thus shall I discover wherefore so many were sacrificed.” The artists answered, “ Your majesty wishes a thing which is very difficult to execute. Her beauty was so surpassing, that not all the artists in the world, save one, would be able to do her
justice; and he hides himself amongst the mountains. But he alone can perfectly fulfil your desires.” On receiving this information, messengers were despatched in pursuit of him. He was soon found, and brought before the curious monarch, who commanded him to paint Florentina as she appeared when living ; and if he did it, his reward should be royal. “ Your request is extremely difficult,” said the painter,“ nevertheless, cause all the beautiful women in your kingdom to come before me for an hour at least, and I will do as you desire.” The emperor complied, and made them stand in his presence. From these the artist selected four, and permitted the rest to return home. Then he commenced his labours. First, he laid on a coat of red colour; and whatever was exquisitely beautiful in the four women, that he copied in his painting. In this manner it received its completion; and when the emperor beheld it, he said, “Oh, Florentina, had you lived to eternity, you ought to have loved that painter who has represented you in so much beauty.”
My beloved, the emperor is God; the beau. tiful Florentina is the soul. The three kings, the devil, the world, and the flesh. The nobles are the patriarchs and prophets, who were the mediators between God and man. ters are the angels and men, amongst whom there was found no one who would rescue the soul from death. The artist who came from the mountains is Christ. The red colour is blood; the four women are existence, growth, feeling, and understanding.
OF THE PLEASURES OF THIS WORLD.
The Emperor Vespasian had a daughter called Aglaes, whose loveliness was greater than that of all other women. It happened that as she stood opposite to him on a certain occasion, he considered her very attentively, and then addressed her as follows: “My beloved daughter, thy beauty merits a loftier title than thou hast yet received. I will change thy name: henceforward, be thou called the LADY OF COMFORT, in sign that whosoever looks upon thee in sorrow, may depart in joy."
Now the emperor possessed, near his palace, a delicious garden, in which he frequently walked. Proclamation was made, that whosoever wished to marry his daughter, should come to the palace and remain in this garden the space of three or four days; when they quitted it, the ceremony should take place. Immense crowds were allured by the apparently easy terms of the notice; they entered the garden, but were never again seen. Not one of them returned. But a certain knight, who dwelt in some remote country, hearing of the conditions by which the daughter of a great king might be espoused, came to the gate of the palace and demanded entrance. On being introduced to the emperor, he spoke thus: “I hear it
commonly reported, my lord, that whoever enters your garden shall espouse your daughter. For this purpose I come.”
« Enter then," said the emperor ;
on thy return thou shall marry her.” “But,” added the knight, “ I solicit one boon of your majesty. Before I enter the garden, I would entreat an opportunity of conversing a short time with the lady.” “I have no objection to that,” said the emperor. She was called, and the knight accosted her in these words. “ Fair damsel, thou hast been called the Lady of Comfort, because every one who enters thy présence sorrowful, returns contented and happy. I, therefore, approach thee sad and desolategive me the means to leave thee in happiness: many have entered the garden, but never any re-appeared. If the same chance happen to me--alas ! that I should have sought thee in marriage.” “I will tell thee the truth,” said the lady, “ and convert thy unhappiness into pleasure. In that garden there is an enormous lion which devours every one who enters with the hope of marrying me. Arm thyself, therefore, cap-a-pee, and cover your