Friday, July 18, 2014

Decameron: Girolamo and Salvestra (end)

You may think things could not really get any worse, but events are going to reach even more tragic proportions by the time you get to the end of this story which may, in the end, remind you of a certain play by Shakespeare. You might also be interested in comparing Boccaccio's story to the Spanish tragedy of the Lovers of Teruel. You can read more about those famous lovers at Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Decameron unit. Story source: The Decameron by Boccaccio, translated by J. M. Rigg (1903).

Girolamo and Salvestra (end)
(see previous page for audio)

The good man answered that he should deem it best to take the dead man privily home and there leave him, bearing no grudge against the lady, who seemed to have done no wrong.

"And even so," said his wife, "it is for us to do," and taking his hand, she laid it on the corpse. Whereat he started up in consternation and struck a light, and, without further parley with his wife, clapped the dead man's clothes upon him and forthwith (confident in his own innocence) raised him on his shoulders and bore him to the door of his house, where he set him down and left him.

Day came, and the dead man being found before his own door, there was a great stir made, particularly by his mother; the body was examined with all care from head to foot and, no wound or trace of violence being found on it, the physicians were on the whole of opinion that, as the fact was, the man had died of grief.

So the corpse was borne to a church, and thither came the sorrowing mother and other ladies, her kinswomen and neighbours, and began to wail and mourn over it without restraint after our Florentine fashion. And when the wailing had reached its height, the good man, in whose house the death had occurred, said to Salvestra: "Go wrap a mantle about thy head, and hie thee to the church whither Girolamo has been taken, and go about among the women and list what they say of this matter, and I will do the like among the men, that we may hear if aught be said to our disadvantage."

The girl assented, for with tardy tenderness she now yearned to look on him dead whom living she would not solace with a single kiss, and so to the church she went. Ah! How marvellous to whoso ponders it, is the might of Love, and how unsearchable his ways! That heart, which, while Fortune smiled on Girolamo, had remained sealed to him, opened to him now that he was fordone, and, kindling anew with all its old flame, melted with such compassion that no sooner saw she his dead face, as there she stood wrapped in her mantle, than, edging her way forward through the crowd of women, she stayed not till she was beside the corpse, and there, uttering a piercing shriek, she threw herself upon the dead youth and, as her face met his and before she might drench it with her tears, grief that had reft life from him had even so reft it from her.

The women strove to comfort her and bade her raise herself a little, for as yet they knew her not; then, as she did not arise, they would have helped her, but found her stiff and stark, and so, raising her up, they in one and the same moment saw her to be Salvestra and dead. Whereat all the women that were there, overborne by a redoubled pity, broke forth in wailing new and louder far than before.

From the church the bruit spread itself among the men and reached the ears of Salvestra's husband, who, deaf to all that offered comfort or consolation, wept a long while, after which he told to not a few that were there what had passed in the night between the youth and his wife, and so 'twas known of all how they came to die, to the common sorrow of all.

So they took the dead girl, and arrayed her as they are wont to array the dead, and laid her on the same bed beside the youth, and long time they mourned her: then were they both buried in the same tomb, and thus those, whom love had not been able to wed in life, were wedded by death in indissoluble union.


(600 words)








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