Page images

offer." They did so; and in the morning the angel calling their host, said, “ My friend, I give you this cup;" and he presented to him the stolen goblet. The hermit more and more astonished at what he saw, said to himself, “ Now I am certain this is the devil. The good man who received us with all kindness, he despoiled, and gives the plunder to this fellow who refused us a lodging.” Turning to the angel, he exclaimed, "I will travel with you no longer. I commend you to God.” * Dear friend," answered the angel, “ First hear me, and then go thy way.


When thou wert in thy hermitage, the owner of the flock unjustly put to death his servant. True it is he died innocently, and therefore was in a fit state to enter another world. God permitted him to be slain, foreseeing, that if he lived he would commit a sin, and die before repentance followed. But the guilty man who stole the sheep will suffer eternally, while the owner of the flock

will repair, by alms and good works, that which he ignorantly committed. As for the son of the hospitable soldier, whom I strangled in the cradle, know, that before the boy was born, he performed numerous works of charity and mercy; but afterwards grew parsimonious and covetous, in order to enrich the child, of which he was inordinately fond. This was the cause of its death; and now its distressed parent is again become a devout Christian. Then, for the cup which I purloined from him who received us so kindly, know, that before the cup was made, there was not a more abstemious person in the world; but afterwards he took such pleasure in it, and drank from it so often, that he was intoxicated twice or thrice during the day. I took away the cup, and he has returned to his former sobriety. Again, I cast the pilgrim into the river; and know, that he whom I drowned was a good Christian, but had he proceeded much further, he would have fallen into a mortal sin. Now he is saved, and reigns in celestial glory. Then, that I bestowed the cup upon the inhospitable citizen, know, nothing is done without reason. He suffered us to occupy the swine-house, and I gave him a valuable consideration. But he will hereafter reign in hell. Put a guard, therefore, on thy lips, and detract not from the Almighty. For He knoweth all things.” The hermit, hearing this, fell at the feet of the angel and entreated pardon. He returned to his hermitage, and became a good and pious Christian. (68)


Note 1. Page 4.

“The latter part of this story is evidently oriental. The feudal manners, in a book which professes to record the achievements of the Roman people, are remarkable in the introductory circumstances. But of this mixture we shall see many striking instances.”_WARTON.

NOTE 2. Page 6.

Precious skin."

Attempts, like the present, to strain every thing into an allegory, are very frequent in these “mystical and moral applications.” It is for this reason, among others, that I thought it right to abridge them; for while the reader's patience was exhausted, his feelings would revolt, as well at the absurdity, as at the apparent impiety of the allusion.

NOTE 3. Page 19.


The deliverance of the youth by the lady, resembles the 236th Night of the Arabian tales.—The Gest is mentioned by Warton as the second tale in his analysis; and two or three other variations occur. What edition he followed I know not. I have examined five*. --The sentiment conveyed by this tale, (p. 18), that she who has deceived her father will deceive her husband, is thus expressed by Shakspeare “ Look to her, Moor; have a quick eye to see; She has deceived her father, and may thee."

Othello, Act I. Sc. 3.

* In an 18mo. edition of the GESTA ROMANORUM, published at Leyden, 1555, there is prefixed to the fourth tale, by way of argument, the following remarkable passage. “ Justitia nempe et misericordia Deorum maximè est: ad quos non possumus expeditius et proprius accedere, qudm his ducibus.This is literally what Shakspeare makes Portia observe in the " Merchant of Venice."

“ But Mercy is above this sceptered sway,

It is an attribute of God himself ;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's,
When mercy seasons justice.—Act IV. Sc. 1.

« PreviousContinue »