The Seven Sages of Rome
IN THIS WAY ARE TREATED THE STORIES QF THE SEVEN WISE MEN OF ROME, FROM THE WORK OF LLEWELYN, THE PRIEST.
I.—Diocletian was Emperor in Rome; and after Eva, his wife, died, leaving one son as their heir, he summoned to him seven of the wise men of Rome, their names being Bantillas, Augustus, Lentillus Malquidas, Catonias, a goodly knight, Jesse, and Martinus. And these men, upon coming, asked the Emperor what was want with them, and why he had summoned them there. This is the reason, quoth the Emperor; I have one son, and I ask you to whom I shall give him to be taught manners and customs, aud poetical measures, and to receive a goodly nurture. Between me and God, said Bau¬tillas, one of the Wise Men of Rome, if thou shouldst give thy son to me to nurture, I would teach him as much as I know, I and my six companions, at the end of the seven years.
II.—Yes, quoth Augustus, let thy son be given to me, and by the end of six years I will make him know as much as we seven know. Then said Cato : According to the measure in which the child receives profit by his bent and teaching, even so do I promise to teach him. If he be given to me to nurture, said Jesse, I will teach him as well as I can. And after each of the six men promised to teach the son as well as they could, then the Emperor found it best in his counsel to give his son to the seven of them to nurture. And an edifice was built them on the banks of river Tiber, outside Rome, in a fair, strong, level, and dry spot. And they wrote the seven arts round about the house, and taught the son until his wit was mature, his parables proper, and his actions slow and sure.
III.—And at that time the Emperor married a wife; and after he took her to his palace, and slept beside her, she asked now of one, now of another, whether the Emperor had an heir. And one day she came to the house of a wicked hag, with but one eye, and without a tooth in her head, and she said to the hag: In God’s name, where are the children of the Emperor? He has none, quoth the hag. Woe is me, said she, that he is childless Thereupon the hag took pity on the other hateful woman, saying : Thou needst not do that: there is a prophecy that he will get children, and perchance it will be that he will get them by thee, since he will not get them by another; and be not sad, he has one son, who is being nurtured by the Wise Men of Rome. And then she came joyful and smiling to the Palace, and said to the Emperor: With what purport dost thou conceal thy children from me? quoth she. I will conceal him no longer, said he and to-morrow I will have him sent for, to show him to thee.
IV.—And that night, as the son and the teachers were walking abroad, they read in the brilliance of the stars and the disturbance of the constellations, that the lad would be destroyed, unless he were properly defended. And the son, too, saw it, and said to the teachers: If you will defend me seven days with your wisdom, I will defend myself on the eighth day. And they promised to defend him. And next day, behold, there came messengers from the Emperor to bid them bring the son, to show him to the new Empress. And after he came to the hall, and was greeted by his father and the company, he said not a word more than if he were dumb. And the Emperor was troubled to see his son dumb, and bade them take him to his stepmother. And she, upon seeing him, was inflamed with love of him, and took him to a hidden chamber, and, holding dalliance, spoke to him with words of love; and the son despised her, and left the chamber to her.
V.—And when she saw that he despised her, she uttered a cry, a loud and shrill wail, and, spoiling her head of her adornment and attire the while, and tearing her yellow hair from the roots, betook her to the chamber of the Emperor; and it was a marvel that the ends of her fingers were not bruised for the quickness with which she beat her hands together. And she went to the King’s chamber, to complain to the Emperor against the son of the rape and violence, and to say that he tried to lay hands on her. And then the Emperor swore in his wrath the greatest oath of all, one for the dumbness of his son, that he did not care more if he died than lived; the second, because of the affront to the Queen, that his life should not remain in him longer than the next day.
VI.—And that night the Empress said to the Emperor : It will happen to thee, about thy son, as it once happened to the great pine-tree, because of the little pine that was near it, a branch from the big tree hindering the smaller from growing. And then the burgess that owned the trees bade his gardener cut down a branch from the old pine that prevented the small one from springing up. And after cutting the branch the whole tree withered; and then he commanded to cut down all. Even so it will happen to thee about thy son, whom thou didst entrust to the seven Wise Masters to nurture, to thy cost. He is covertly seeking to combine the nobles to ruin thee, and to reign himself without hindrance. Then the Emperor waxed wroth, and promised to put him to death next day. And after spending that day and night to give honour and pleasure to the Queen, when the next day was young, the Emperor rose and dressed himself, and repaired to the judgment-hall. And anon he asked the Wise Men what doom should be passed on his son.
VII.—And then arose Bantillas and spoke thus: Lord Emperor, quoth he, if for dumbness thy son is to be put to death, it is fairer to be merciful to him for that reason than to be ruthless, for that defect is more of an affliction to him than to any. If, for the charge of the Queen, thou wilt put him to death, it will happen to thee about thy son even as it befell a mighty and noble knight, touching a greyhound that he had. What was that? quoth the Emperor. By my confession, I will not tell thee, unless thou wilt plight thy faith that thy son shall not be put to death in the course of this day. He shall not be put to death, by my faith, said he, and tell me thy story.
VIII.—There was once at Rome a knight, and his palace was by the side of the city. And one day there was a tournament and a con test between the knights. Now, the Empress and family went to the top of the city wall to witness the contest, leaving no one in the palace save the knight’s only son, sleeping in a cradle, and his greyhound lying near him. And by reason of the neighing of the horses, and the excitement of the men, and the din of the lances clashing against the gold-spangled shields, a serpent was aroused from the wall of the castle, and it made for the hall of the knight, and espied the child in the cradle, and made a rush at him. And before it reached him, the fleet and active greyhound leaped upon him, and by their fighting and struggling, both of them, the cradle was overturned with its face downwards, and the child inside; and the fleet, active, noble hound slew the serpent, and left it in small pieces near the cradle.
IX.—And when the lady came in and saw the dog and the cradle bloody, she came towards the knight, calling and shrieking the while, to complain of the dog that had killed his only son. And the knight in his wrath slew the hound, and, to comfort his wife, he came to see his child; and when he came, the child was safe and sound under the cradle, and the serpent in little pieces hard by. And then the knight was troubled that he had slain so good a hound, at the word and instance of his wife. Even so it will happen to thee, by slaying thy son at the accusation and instance of thy wife. And then the Emperor swore his son should not be put to death that day.
X.—And after ending their counsels and arguments they came to the hall. And when the Empress was aware that the Emperor preferred to converse than to eat, she began to talk, asking whether the son had been put to death. No, said he. I know, said she, that it was the Wise Men of Rome that caused this. It will befall thee, from believing them, as it befell the boar of the wood, with regard to the shepherd. How was that? said the Emperor. By my creed, I will not tell thee, unless thou wilt plight thy faith that the lad shall be put to death to-morrow. By my creed, he shall be put to death, quoth he. This is the story, said she.
XI.—There was once in a forest in France a fruitful tree with green branches, and the boar would fain have no other fruit of the tree in the wood than the fruit of that tree. And upon a day the shepherd discovered the tree, and saw that the fruit was fair and lovely, sweet and ripe, and gathered an armful of the fruit. And meanwhile, lo; there was the boar coming; and the shepherd had only time to climb to the branches of the tree from fear of the boar, taking his armful with him. And the boar, failing to find the fruit as he had been wont to do, snorted and gnashed his teeth, and espied the shepherd on the branch of the tree, and began to uproot the tree. And when the shepherd saw that, he dropped the fruit to the boar. And when the boar had had enough, he slept under the branches of the tree. While he slept, the shepherd descended to the ground, and cut the throat of the boar with a knife. Even so will it befall the Roman boar, and the fruit of his empire shall be taken from him. By my creed, quoth the Emperor, he shall not live later than to¬morrow. Next day, in wrath, the Emperor betook him to the judgment-hall and straightway commanded his son to be put to death.
XII.—And then Augustus arose, and spake on this wise: Lord, said he, God will not suffer thee to act towards thy son as Ypocras did concerning his nephew. What was that? By my faith, I will not tell thee, unless thou wilt plight thy faith that the lad shall not be put to death to-day. He shall not be put to death, by my faith, quoth he. Ypocras had a nephew, a sister’s son, and he was the best leech in the world. And when the King of Hungary commanded Ypocras to come to heal a son of his that was sick, he could not go, but sent his nephew there. And the youth, on coming to the palace, cast a look on the King, and on the Queen, and on the son. And not seeing any of the King’s nature in the son, he asked the mother who his father was, because he could not heal him, unless he knew the disposition and nature of the family from which he was descended.
XIII.—And then she said that she had gotten him in intrigue by the Earl of Navarre. And then he caused them to give the soil the flesh of a young ox, until he became quite whole. And after coming home his uncle asked him how he healed the youth. With the flesh of a young ox, said he. If thou tellest the truth, my lad, said he, he was begotten in adultery. It is true, said the youth. And when Ypocras saw his nephew so skilful, he thought to slay him, and bade him come and walk abroad with him. And after coming to a place which was secret and untrodden, he spoke to his nephew. I perceive, said he, the scents of goodly herbs. I smell them, too, said the youth, and wouldst thou fain have them I I would, quoth he. And as the youth was bending down to pluck the herbs, he pierced him through with a knife, until he fell to the ground. And then all execrated Ypocras, and he was cursed. And so, lord Emperor, will it happen to thee, and thou wilt be cursed, if thou wilt cause thy son to be put to death, when he is guiltless. I will not, said he.
XIV.—And that night, after finishing their meal, the Empress asked whether the son had been put to death. No, said the Emperor. It will befall thee, through believing the Wise Men of Rome, even as it once befell a man whose son cut off his head and buried it in the jakes. How was that? quoth he. I will not tell thee, unless thou wilt pledge thy faith to put thy son to death to-morrow. There, I give thee my word he shall be put to death. I have beard that there was once an Emperor in Rome, and he was the most covetous man of all worldly goods in the world. And when he had gathered and collected a towerful of gold and silver and right precious jewels, he placed a miser, timid and wealthy as guardian over his goods. Now, there was in the city a man somewhat poor, but courageous. And he had a young man, his son, lusty and nimble. And the man and his son came during the night on the top of the tower, and broke through, and took of the goods as much as they listed. And next day, when the guardian came to look at the tower,
XV.—A quantity beyond measure had been stolen. And thereupon the guardian subtly and craftily bethought him, and placed a tub of warm glue before the tower, where it was broken through, if haply he might catch the robbers, to show them to the Emperor, to prevent his doubting him. And the robbers, after spending those goods with their booty on estates, and land, and mansions, and at their pleasure, came again towards the tower. And when they were coming out with their booty, the father was not at all aware, until he was up to his girdle in the tubful of glue. And then he asked counsel of his son. I know none, said the son, except to cut off thy head with a sword, and hide it in a secret place for if they come upon thee with thy life in thee, thou wilt be afflicted and tortured, until thou wilt confess the goods, and then thou wilt declare. O my lord and son, said he, not so wouldst thou do to me. The Emperor is the most. merciful man in the world, and the goods are ready, and I shall have my life back again. By Him on whom I believe, said the son, I shall not adventure these three things, rather than cut off thy head from thee. What three things are they? said the father. The present goods I have, and my own life, and the land and chattels that thou hast bought. And savagely and barbarously he cut off his father’s head. Even so will thy son cause thee to be slain, from a desire for thy kingdom, which is better than the treasure. By my faith, said he, his soul shall not remain in him later than to-morrow. And next day, when he saw the daylight, he betook him to the judgment—hall and commanded to put his son to death.
XVI.—And then Lentillus arose and spake as follows: Lord Emperor, quoth he, it will befall thee, if thou wilt cause thy son to he put to death, even as it once befell a good and wealthy old man about a fair young wife, whom he loved dearly. What was that? quoth the Emperor. By God, I will not tell thee, unless thou wilt pledge thy faith that thy son shall not be put to death today. He shall not be put to death to-day said he, and tell me thy story. There was once a good and noble old man, and he married a noble damsel. And no long time passed after their coming together, before she set her love secretly upon a youth from the palace of her lord, and she made tryst with him. And about the first part of the night, when her husband was sleeping soundest, she rose and came to her paramour. And not long after she left, her husband awoke and turned in his bed ; and it seemed strange to find his bed without his partner. And in displeasure and jealonsy he got up and searched the house for her; and when lie did not find her he came back towards the door, and shut the door firmly, anul swore in his wrath that she should not set foot in that house so long as she lived.
XVII.—And when she had her fill of pleasure with her paramour, a little before daylight she came to the door. And not finding the door open, she bade him open. By my creed, said the husband, this house shall not be opened for thee so long as thou livest: and to-morrow, before thy family, I shall cause thee to be stoned with stones. By my creed, quoth she, ere that, I would rather leap from the place where I am into this fish-pond, to drown myself, than wait for that doom to come upon me. And she found a big stone near her, and raised it on her shoulder, and threw it into the pool until the fall was heard over the whole palace. And he took it as ill as ill could be, and came ont to see whether he could find her life still in her. And she quickly ran in, and shut the door firmly after her, and threatened him for violating the marriage, and leaving his house and bed at that time of night. And next day, before the judges of the city and the officers, the husband had to hear the pains and penalties that she ought to have met with for her naughtiness. And so will thy wife deceive thee in the matter of thy son, and it is she that is wicked and blameworthy, while thy son is in the right. He shall not be put to death to-day, said he.
XVIII.—And after their meal, the Queen said: I know that the Wise Men of Rome did not let thy son be put to death to-day. No, quoth he. It will happen to thee through believing them about thy son, even as it once befell one of the citizens of Rome, about a fruitful tree, with green branches, that he held dear. What was that? quoth the Emperor. I will not tell thee, unless thou wilt pledge thy faith to put thy son to death to-morrow. He shall be put to death, by my faith. This is the story, then, said she. A man of Rome had a tree, with sweet fruit, growing in his garden, with a fine straight branch rising from the stock of the tree, and reaching to the sky. And if the man held the tree and its fruit dear, still dearer was the branch because of its loveliness. Between me and God, said the gardener, if thou wouldst follow my advice, thou wouldst order the branch to be cut down from off the tree. Why I said he. Because it is not sure whether thou wilt obtain the fruit of the tree, so long as yonder branch is a step for one to ascend, and to support evil persons and thieves; and there is no way to climb the tree or get the fruit save by yonder branch. By my faith, said he, for all that, none of the branch shall be cut off, any more than before. Be it so, said the gardener. And that night thieves caine to the tree, and plundered the tree of its fruit, and left it quite bare, with broken branches, by the next morning. Even as bare of the fruit of thy kingdom will the Wise Men of Rome leave thee, unless thou wilt cut off a branch from thy son. To-morrow morning he shall be slain, by my faith, said he, and they every one of them.
XIX.—And next day, in wrath, and at the instance of the Queen, the Emperor betook him to the judgment—hall, and commanded that his son should be put to death, and the Wise Men of Rome with him. And then rose up Malquidas (a gentle and sober man was he), and spake thus: Lord Emperor, if, at the instance of thy wife, thou wilt cause thy son to be put to death, thou wilt he deceived even as the shepherd was deceived by the wolf. In what way was that? quoth the Emperor. I will not tell thee, unless thou wilt pledge thy faith that thy son shall not be put to death to-day. By my faith he shall not be put to death; and tell me thy story. This is the story, said he. There was a wealthy and strong city in the East, and seven proper and wise men were keeping and governing the city. And it was not in the garrison, nor in the citizens, that the strength of the city lay, but in the learning and cleverness of the men. And meanwhile there came a cruel and mighty king, to try to subdue the city. And after sitting before the town, and planting engines against it, the king did not prosper, because of tbe cleverness of the men within, guarding their city. And when the subtle king saw that the town was not taken by fighting, he at once promised to retire from it, saying he would not fight the multitude in the city, on condition thuat they would send him the seven men aforesaid. And the senseless people, without seeing the treachery and the smart that was hidden underneath the leaves, believed the lie and deceit of the king’s promises, and took the men, and put them in bonds, thinking to send them out to him.
XX.—And then rose up one of the wise men and spake thus, Good sirs, said he, it will befall you through believing yonder cruel king, after giving us into his power as the wolf formerly cheated the shepherd. How was that? said they. A cruel and wicked wolf was seeking occasion and opportunity against the shepherds and animals, to slay them, but fleet mastiffs, which the shepherd had, allowed him no rest, either in forest or field. And when the wolf saw this, he promised peace and quiet everlastingly to the shepherd and his beasts, if he caught the dogs and bound them, and gave them over to him. And the foolish shepherd believed the wolf’s lying words, and sent the dogs to the wolf, and he quickly killed, first, the dogs, then the beasts, and at last the shepherd. Right so will ye all be put to death by yonder cruel king, if ye believe him, after he has slain us. As God lives, we will not believe him, nor ever give you up into his power And then by their counsel they overcame him, and slew him. Thus, Lord, I tell thee soothly; as he would have slain them, if they had believed him, and as the wolf slew the shepherd, through his believing him, so thy wife will slay thee, through believing her, and if thou wilt cause us to be slain at her instance. I will not, by my faith, said he.
XXI.—And then, after finishing their meal, the Queen spoke to the Emperor on this wise: Even as the smell on the leaves and blossoms draws the sleuth-hound off the scent, until he loses the fawn, so the Wise Men of Rome draw thee away by fair words, and gilded parables, about thy son, until thou wilt lose thy kingdom and riches. For it will huappen to thee, through believing in them, as it once befell the Emperor Gracian. What was that? said he. By my faith, quoth she, I will not tell thee, unless thou wilt give thy word to put thy son to death to-morrow. He shall be put to death, said he. Thus is the story, said she: Au alchemist placed a pillar in the heart of Rome, and on the top of the Pillar a mirror of the art of necromancy. And in the mirror the senators of Rome could see that, whatever kingdom they sought, no one could withstand them; and then at once they would attack any kingdom they liked, and subject it to their yoke. And the pillar and mirror made every kingdom fear the men of Rome, more than before. And then the King of Poland offered boundless riches to anyone who would take upon him to uproot the pillar and break the mirror.
XXII.—And then rose up two brothers born of one mother, and spake thus: O lord the king, said they, if we had two things, we would uproot the pillar. How is this? said hue. Our elevation to dignity, and still higher honour, and our present needs now. What are they? said he. Two barrels of gold, said they, for Gracian is the greediest man in the world. That ye shall have, said the king. And gold was ordered them; and they betook them with time gold towards Rome, and they buried the two barrles at night near the town by a highroad. And next day they came to the palace, and greeted the Emperor, and Offered themselves as his men. What good service, what art do ye know, if I take you as my servants? We know, said they, what gold and silver is hidden in thy kingdom and we will cause thee to get it all. Go to-night, said he, after taking your food, to your lodging, and look by to—morrow what gold is concealed in my possessions, and if there is, inform me, and if I get it, verily I will take you into my hove.
XXIII. —And they went away to their lodging. And next day the youngest came before the Emperor and said that he had found in his divination that a barrelful was hidden near the city gate. Then at once the Emperor ordered it to be fetched. And after it was got and brought to him he took him into his hove. and next day the other youth came, and said that he too had learnt in a dream that a barrelful of gold was hidden in the other city-gate. And after proving this, the servants were believed and beloved from henceforth and taken to his love. And then they said that there was gold under the pillar that guarded the kingdom for ever. And then the senators of Rome said that, if the pillar were uprooted, Rome would not be as strong thereafter as afore. And the thirst for gold and silver did not suffer the Emperor to abide by the counsel of these men; he ordered the Pillar to be uprooted, and thus broke the mirror. And the senators of Rome bore it ill and they qniekly fell upon him, and caught him, and bound him, and forced him to drink molten gold, addressing him thus : Gold thou didst desire, gold thou shalt drink. Even so let not thy desire suffer thee to listen to the Wise Men of Rome, who with gilded parables prevent thee from trusting to my counsels about putting thy son to death, until they work thy death and doom By my creed, said he, he shall not live but till to-morrow. And next morning he commanded his son to be put to death.
XXIV.—Then rose up old Cato, a proper man, and spake thus: Lord Emperor, thou shouldst not judge by the deceitful and lying discourse that thy ears hear, but by patience and after seeking truth, judge righteously between young and old. And thy wife, whom thou lovest, will prove as faithless to thee as was the wife of the Sheriff of Lsodonia. Cato, how was this? quoth the Emperor. By my faith, I will not tell thee, unless thou wilt give thy word that thy son shall not be put to death to-day. He shall not be put to death, by my creed, said he. A young man of Rome was once Sheriff of Lesodonia; and one day he was cutting a spear-shaft, and his wife was frolicking with him, and as he played with her, the point of the knife came in contact with her hand until the blood gushed forth. And he took it so ill, that he pierced himself through under the top of the breast with his knife, until he fell dead to the ground. And after performing the rites and services in his palace, he was taken to the church to be buried.
XXV.—And it was a marvel that the tips of her fingers were not bruised by the quickness wherewith she beat her hands together, as she made mourning for her husband. Every cry she uttered was louder than that of any horn or bell over the whole city. And after her husband was buried and everyone retired from the church, her mother bade the princess come with her home. And she swore by Him above that she would not heave until she died. Thou canst not fufil those words, said her mother; and therefore it is better for thee to come to thy palace, to make mourning for thy husband, than to abide in such a dreadful and strange place, so lonely as this. I will prove whether I can, said she. Therewith she bade her mother kindle a huge bright fire before her, and leave food and drink to be consumed when hunger came upon her for hunger may not be borne. And that night, a complete brave knight from the camp was watching an outlaw that was hanged that day. And as he turned his eyes far and near he saw nigh him a clear bright light where he never saw any before, and he pricked his steed to see where the fire was, and why it had been lit. And when he came, he saw a wall, and graveyard, and a chuch, and a fire high and bright in the church. And he tethered his steeh, and let him graze at the gate of the churchyard. And then and there in his arms he rushed to the church and looked to see who was therein, and when he came, there was no one save a young damsel sitting over a grave fresh dug, with a bright smokeless fire before her, and a portion of food and drink at her side. And he asked what so young a person of such a tender age, of so frail a body and gentle disposition, did in such a dreadful place by herself. And then she said that she had no fear whether death came to her soon or late.
XXVI.—And the knight inquired of her why that was. Because, said she, I have buried the man I loved best in my life, and shall love as long as I live, in this place to-day. Surely he also loved me more than any when he took away his own life for my sake. O princess, said the knight, if thou wouldst follow my advice thou wouldst turn from that thought, and wouldst take a husband who might be its good as thy own, or might be better. No, by Him that is above, I will not take a husband after him. And after they had con¬versed a while, the knight went towards the gibbet, and when he came, lo, one of the robbers had been taken away; and he bore it ill, because it was the knight’s service, for his ground and land, to keep gentle folk that had been hanged from being taken by their famihy to be buried.
XXVII.—And he came back again to the princess and told her of the conflict and the misfortune. If thou wouldst plight thy faith, quoth she, that thou wouldst marry me, I would free thee from that matter. There I give my word, said he, I will marry thee. This is how thou shalt do, said she. Dig up my husband that lies here, and hang him up instead of the robber, and no one will know it save us two alone. So dig up the hole he did until he came to the body. Here he is, said he. Throw him up, said she. By my confession, said he, it were easier far me to fight with three living men than set my hand upon one dead. I will put mine, said she, and she leapt lightly and nimbly into the hole, and threw the body up on the edge of the grave. Take him to the gibbet, said she. God knows, quoth be, how I or my steed can journey, but with difficulty, for the quantity of harness upon me. I can, said she; lift him upon my shoulder. And when she got him upon her shoulder she walked with long strides and with stout heart, carrying him until she came to the gibbet. Alack, quoth the knight, what good is that? There was the stroke of a sword upon the outlaw’s head. Do thou strike a blow on his head. No, by my confession, I will not strike, quoth he. By my confession, said she, I will strike him.
XXVIII.—And she dealt her husband's head a heavy stroke with a sword. Yes, quoth the knight, what good is that? The robber was toothless. I will make this one toothless, said she. And she got a big stone and raised her hand against him until his lips were distorted, and his teeth were bruised to pieces by the force and strength of the blow. Yes, said the knight then, the robber was bald. I will make him bald, said she; and she took her husband’s head between her knees with her two feet on his two shoulders. No woman shearing or man shaving ever was as quick as she in plucking her husband's head. and quickly from his forehead to the crown of his head she left not a hair without plucking it away more than the parchment-maker leaves on parchment. And after she had finished, she bade the knight hang him up. By my creed I will not hang him, and thou shalt not hang him up either, and if thou wert the only woman in the world, I would have none of thee, because, when thou wert so faithless towards the man that married thee when a maiden, and took his life for love of thee, a faithless thing wouldst thou be to me, never having set eyes on me until to-night. And therefore go thy way, where thou listest, for I will never have thee. By my confession to God, Lord Emperor, as unfaithful as this henceforward will thy wife he, for whose sake thou art now causing thy son to be put to death. By my creed, he shall not be put to death, said he.
XXIX.—And after finishing her meal tbe Queen asked the Enmperor whether he had put his son to death. No, said he. Nor wilt thou ever, said she, so long as the Wise Men of Rome live, for as the nurse draws the child from his anger and fright, by singing and chanting in his ears, or shewing him silly and trivial things; so the Wise Men of Rome are drawing thee from thy alarm, for the dishonour and shame I met with at thy son’s hands, by their talk and discourse of the same complexion as the lies they showed thee. And it will befall thee at last, by believing them, as it once befell the king who saw himself blinded in his dreams each night. How was that? quoth the Emperor. I will not tell thee unless thou wilt pledge thy faith to destroy thy son to-morrow. By my faith, he shall be destroyed, said he.
XXX.—There was once, said she, a king over one of the cities of Rome, and he placed seven men to rule the city. And the men devoted themselves to amassing gold, and silver, and jewels, until the poorest of them was richer than the king in present goods. And this they did by common counsel, that they might slay the king, and divide the kingdom between them, and that too by the might and strength of their goods. And each night the king saw in his sleep a cauldron with seven feet and vapour rising therefrom, just as though there had been a mighty fire beneath; and sparks, it seemed to him, came from them about his eyes and blinded him, as he thought. And then he sent messengers to fetch diviners of dreams and visions of things that should come to pass everywhere hereafter far ever and ever. And the messengers happed upon a young man who had received his excellence from God, of the spirit of divination, to interpret dreams. And the youth was brought before the face of the king. And when he came, the king told him his dreams. Yes, said the youth, I will interpret for thee thy dream, and give thee advice about it; and unless thou wilt take counsel, thy dream will come to pass outside thy sleep, even as thou seest it in thy sleep. This is thy dream, said the youth. The cauldron that thou seest in thy sleep betokens this city; the seven feet that thou seest are the seven men that govern it, brimming over with too much riches and working treason against thee, unless they are at once slain.
XXXI.—And the king did not follow the counsel of the youth, until they slew him and took his kingdom from him. Even so will it happen to thee about thy son and the Wise Men of Rome, who now betray thee and deceive thee with their words until they get an opportunity to slay thee and take from thee thy kingdom unless thou wilt slay them quickly. By my faith, said he, they shall be killed to-morrow. And next day he went, in wrath, to the judgment-hall and commanded his son to be hanged, and the seven Wise Men of Rome with him. And then arose Jesse and spoke before all the company on this wise: A lord should not be fickle nor suffer deceit and untruths to turn him aside; and even as the queen deceived the king about the knight, so thy wife will deceive thee. How was that? said he. By God, I will not tell thee, unless thou wilt pledge thy faith that thy son shall not be put to death to-day. He shall not be put to death, said the Emperor.
XXXII.—This is the story, said he. There was once a knight who saw himself each night within a lofty tower, holding dalliance with a fair young lady on whom he had never set eyes, save only in his dreams, and he pined away sadly for love of the princess. Now he found it best in his counsel to go and roam worlds and cities in quest of her. And as he fared, he saw a large fortress with embrasures amid a strong castle, mighty and conspicuous beside it, and a strong and tall tower in the castle, in colour and shape like the one in which in his dream each night, hr saw himself with the lady he loved best. And towards the tower he went, and paced ahong the high road beneath the castle until he came opposite the tower. and he cast a glance at the tower and beheld therein the lady he loved best. And he was joyful and glad to see her and he came to the city and lochged thuere thmat night. And next day, in pride, he came towards the gate of the castle and called the gatekeeper to him, and made him go and ask the king whether he wanted a young knight, trustworthy and industrious, to be his man. And he went to the king and told him so. Let him be admitted, said he, to see whether he can be good to use. And the knight came to the palace, and his arrival found favour with many, and soon he was highly praised, and was placed by the king in high positiomm over his riches.
XXXIII.—And then he told the king that he must have a retired place to think how many duties and accounts he had. Seek out a place to thy liking and take it, said the king. This is what I should like, Lord, said he, that thou shouldst allow me to build a room under the tower, for no man sets foot there. Good, said the king. And after the knigh ordered a fume chamber to be built for him near the tower. And he caused the man to make a secret way for him to go to the tower to the king’s wife. And the nmascmm made the way until he got hold of the queen to do what he liked with her. And as one day he was eating with the same board as the king, the king observed the ring that he prized most in his possessioum on the finger of the knight, and, in anger and jealousy, he asked him what his ring did on the knight’s finger.
XXXIV.—And the knight swore craftily that no man ever possessed it besides himself, and spoke : Therefore, Lord, said he, recollect thyself and look where thou didst keep thy rimug, for this never belonged to thee. And the king held his peace, and ate, and amarvelled at the worth of the ring. And after eating, the king started towards the tower to ask the queen for his ring. And the knight by his own way took the ring to her, to shew the king, when he asked for it. And when the king came, he asked for the ring, and she shewed it him. And then the king reproached himself in his heart for grieving the knight, and for suspecting his wife, when she was innocent, as he thought. And then the knight said to the queem: I will go to hunt with the king to-morrow, and I will invite him to take his food in my chamber, when he returns from the chase, and I will tell him that the lady I hove most has come from another country after me. Be thou there to receive us with a different robe; and though he might appear to know thee, do not pretend to know him, or to have ever seen him until then. And so she did. And next day he went to hunt. And after the horn sounded the death, and the cries ended, the knight begged the king to come and take food in his chamber that day.
XXXV.—And the king came. The first person he saw in the knight’s chamber was his wife; and he asked her what she did there, and by what way she came thither. Full hard, said she, is it for me to tell thee all the watery ways I followed, from my country here. I know no better place for me to be than in the chamber of the man I love best; and if thou dost suppose thou dost recognise me according to likeness, look thee out where the person is whomsoever thou dost seek, for thou hast never set eyes cmi me up to this day. And then the king held his peace, and reflected that he had never seen a lady so like his own wife, or a ring so like his wife’s as that of the knight. The meal done, the king went towards the tower to obtain certainty in the matter of his wife, as he did about the ring. And she went before him by another way, and doffed her robe, and put on her house garment. And when he came, he reproached himself in his heart for mistaking the knight.
XXXVI.—And at the end of a space of time, the knight saw that it was not witimont danger to intrigue with the king’s wife in the same country as the kimug, still worse in his own palace and castle. And hue found it best in his counsel to get him ready a ship, and flu it with all kinds of goods. And then he asked leave of the king to go to his fatherland, since he had not been for a long time in his country. And the king gave hiumu leave. And next day he came, before starting, with his mistress to the king, where he was hearing mass, and begged the king to cause his own priest to join the two together inn the bond of wedlock. And the king went towards time tower; and when he came, thme tower was empty, and his wife gone with the knight. Even so, Lord Emperor, thy wife will deceive thee from believing her and causing thy son to be put to death for her sake. Verily, I shall not, said he.
XXXVII.—And that night the Empress spoke to the Emperor, sobbing the whiles and in sadness: It will befall thee,as it befell the steward of the King of Germany. What was that? quoth the Emperor. I will not tell thee, unless thou wilt plight thy troth that thou wilt put thy son to death to-morrow. Verily, he shall be slain, said he. This is my story, said she. That king contracted a disease and swelled; and after he was fully healed, the leech ordered him to get a bedfellow. And he commanded his steward to hire one for nine marks. Now, what the steward did, from desire of the money, was to offer his own wedded wife. And when they had spent that night, the husband came next day to bid her rise. And the king would not let her. And he stated his wrong and his crinme before the king; and he was banished the realm, and the wife received plenty of maint enance from the king. Even so will it befall thee. Through believing the words of the Seven Wise Men thou wilt be banished thy realm, while I shall have possessmons enough from my family. And then the king waxed wroth at that word, and swore that his son shouhd be slain the next day. And on the morrow, without the counsel of his noblemen, he commanded his son to be hanged.
XXXVIII.—And then came Martinus and spake to the Emperor on this wise. If, at the instance of the Empress, without law and without the judgment of nobles, thou wilt slay thy son, it will befall thee as it once befell and old sage in the matter of his wife. And he would not tell the story until he gave the son security until the next day. And then he said: A good old man married a young maiden, and she remained true to him for one year; and afterwards she conversed with her mother in church, saying that she had but little pleasure of her lord, and therefore she loved a young man. Yes, said her mother, first prove the temper of thy husband, and break the little plane tree, fair and fruitful, that grows in the garden and is dearer to him than any of the other trees. And she did so. And after she broke it, and put it on the fire, her lord came home from hawking, and noticed the tree. And when he asked who cut the tree, his wife said that she had done it for want of fire, to get him fire by his return. And next day she met her mother in church and related to her the whole incident, and told her that she loved a young man.
XXXIX.—And still, at her mother’s instance, she tried, her lord a second time. As her lord was returning from hunting, a hound that he had, and loved more than all the pack, ran on to the fur of her mantle. So what she did was to snatch the knife of one of the men and kill the bitch. And when her husband rebuked her for doing it in his presence, she said that it was from ill-temper, that she did it because it had spoilt her new fur, and that she would not do the same again. And then he said no more to her. And next day, when her mother spoke to her, she said she loved a young man. And after her mother asked her whom she loved, she said that he was not a knight but the parish-priest. Yes, said her mother, bethink thee first, lest the vengeance of the old man, when he is wroth, be severer than thuat of a young man, and try him a third time.
XL.—At her mother's instance she proved him thus; as he hap¬peued to be making a feast one day for the nobles and chiefs of the city, after putting all to sit down, and serving them from the first course, she tied the key of her coffer to the cloth that was on the table, and rose, and ran towards the other end of the house, and pulled the cloth, until all the food and drink, and other things thereon, fell to the floor. And she excused herself, and said that it was because she went to fetch a better knife for her lord that this accident happened to her. And then, at her lord’s command, cloths were placed afresh on the tables, and food and liquor thereon. And next morning her husband got up and caused a large fire to be lit, and remonstrated with his wife for the three deeds she had done. And, against her will, he made her warm her arm by the fire, and made them let her blood until she swooned. And then they bound her two hands, and put her in bed; and she sent to her mother to say that she was killed. And her mother came to her, and said to her: Did I not tell thee that there was no heavier avenger than an old man when wroth? And again she said to her: Wilt thou put trust again in the young man? Soothly, I never will, said she. And so long as she lived she was chaste and constant.
XLI.—Thou, too, lord Emperor said Martinns nmust needs take heed against falling into sin, so for as to slay thy son, for the calumny of thy wife; and be sure thy son will speak to-morrow. I will not believe that, said the King. And when the King told the Queen that the son would speak the next day, then she was much troubled, and knew no device thenceforth. And next day, when the sun rose, and the world was light and cloudless, the Emperor, and the nobles, and the Wise Men, went to the church; and, after hearing mass piously, they went outside the churchyard, to sit on a stone in a conspiculous place
XLII.—And then the son came before the Emperor between two of the Wise Men; and after making obeisance to his lord and father, and beseeching his love, for that he had not deserved his wrath and displeasure he said: And He above, Who knows everything that has been and will be, showed it to me and to my teachers clearly, by the sign in the moon, and the clear bright star by its side, that, if I said one word on one of the seven days, I should not escape from death. And then, lord and father, said the son, because of that vision I held my peace, lord, while the Empress slandered and impeached me as if I were a foe to thee, and were trying to take thy empire, and to destroy destroy thee. And her position towards thee about myself is like that of the noble knight and his only son on the sea. What was that? quoth the Emperor. A knight and his son were in a boat on the sea; and two crows came and cawed above their heads, and swooped on the edge of the boat, cawing by turns. This surprised the knight much. And the son told his father that the crows said that his father would be glad to be allowed to hold the ends of his sleeves, while he washed and his mother held him a towel.
XLIII.—And the knight waxed wroth at those words, and seized his son, and threw him iluto the sea, head foreamost, and wemut away with the boat. And by Divine destiny the son dragged him¬self on his hands and feet, until he reached a stone between a cliff and the sea; and there he abode three days and three nights, with out food and without drink. And there a fisherman found the son and sold him to a steward from a far country for twenty marks. And from the gentleness of his character, and the goodness of his manners, and his service, he found great honour at the hands of the lord. And at that time the king of that country was sorely troubled, because three crows were cawing over his head day and night. And he called together all his nobles and learned men, and promised to give his only daughter and half his kingdom to whosoever should interpret for him the croaking of the crows, and would scare them away from him for good. And when no one was found who could do this, or that knew it, by the steward’s leave a young man rose up and spake to the king, and confirmed his promise, that he would do all the king commanded him. And after he granted leave, the lad spoke thus: Ten years ago and more, there was famine upon the birds and the other animals. The eldest of the crows left his wife in danger of death from hunger, and went to a foreign country to get food; and yonder crow was younger than he, and he remainmed with her from that day to this. And now that the food has increased, the old crow has come back again and claims his wife from the other, while the other crow withholds her from him; and, further, by agreement they leave it to thy judgment to end their dispute, for thou art highest.
XLIV.—And then, with the accord of the nobles, the king adjudged the wife to the one that saved her from death by hunger, saying that the one that left her ought to have none of her. And when. the king did that, the two crows flew together in joy and gladness, and the old crow flew away crying and shrieking the while. And then the youth received honour fronm the king, and he was judged a wise man. And by common counsel the king’s daughter was given to the youth, with half of the kingdom. And one day, as the son was passing through the city, be saw his father and mother lodging at a burgess’ house, having left their country for want of goods and came as far as there to find goods. And about evensong he sent a squire to the burgess' house to tell him that the young king would dine with him next day. And the burgess, in joy, said he: Welcome he shall have, and the best that can be given him. And next day, when the king’s tme came, he went to the knight's lodging. And when he came, the knight took a jug and layer to offer the young king water to wash; but he would not suffer him, and spoke, smiling for joy: Lord and father, behold, that has come about which I told thee at the time the crows formerly were cawing on the boat, when thou didst throw me into the sea, and I did not so choose, because God turned it to my luck; and henceforth do thou and mother share my kingdom so long as ye live. Right so, lord and father, even as he was obedient and submissive to his father, so shalt thou find me obedient to thee, to the best of my power in this life. And for God’s sake believe not that I tried to ravish thy wife. Thou knowest thou didst thyself, at her request before the nobles, cause me to go to her chamber, and she made advances to me, such as were not right for her; and when she was rejected by me, she swore to take my life, and marred herself, and drew blood from her face and her hair from her head. And for all that, lord and father, I will bear thy judgment upon me, and that of thy nobility. And then the Empress was called upon to answer before him ; and she said she had done so to prevent the son from taking his father’s realm and herself. And by the judgment of the Emperor and his nobles, the body of the Empress was burnt, as well as by the judgment of the Supreme Judge, to wit, the Lord God, the Just and Merciful, and the Protection of the guiltless from evil, Who brougbt him to supreme dignity, and to an end of honour and glory. And. so ends the story of the Seven Wise Men of Rome, from the work of Llewelyn.
Selections from the Hengwrt Mss. Preserved in the Peniarth Library. Williams, Robert, ed. & trans. London: Thomas Richards, 1892.
The manuscript (or scripts) used by Williams is not identified in his translation, nor in the Welsh edition in his book. However, I know that the text is in the Red Book of Hergest, in an edition which closely follows the Rhydderch edition. Thus, I felt it only useful to put up this version, as I know of no other translation of this text.