Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of Wisdom, which excels Strength

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There was a king who promoted a poor man to great wealth, and committed to him the custody of one of his castles. Thus elevated, he became proud to an excess, and conspired against the king, and surrendered his castle into the hands of the enemy. This conduct, in one whom he had raised from the ground, gave the king great concern; and he deliberated upon the best means of regaining what he had lost. But he was told that this could not be done but by the possession of three things, viz. bravery, wisdom, and the love of his subjects. Now there was at that time in the kingdom three knights, of whom the first was the bravest of all men; the second, the wisest; and the third, the most attached to the king. These knights were severally sent with large arnies to besiege the castle. The bravest knight conducted his troops through a forest, in which the king's enemies awaited him; but while he was performing prodigies of valour an arrow from a cross-bow struck him in the lower part of the body, and he died of the wound. In the mean time the wise knight brought up his forces and began to propose terms, hoping by these means to draw them to surrender the castle. But while he spoke, an arrow penetrated between the lungs and the stomach, and killed him. The third knight perceiving the death of his comrades, entered the forest, and spoke so eloquently and wittily to the insurgents, that they listened gladly, and at last permitted him to enter the castle. And he so ordered matters that the opposing armies confederated with his troops and gave him entire possession; so that he planted his standard on the top. When the king understood how prudently he had obtained the disputed fortress, he promoted him to great honours.


My beloved, the king is Christ; the poor man who was raised to honour is Adam, appointed the Seneschal of a castle, that is, of Paradise. The first and bravest knight is the rich and powerful of the world, whom the arrow of pride spiritually slays. The second knight denotes the wise or prudent of this world, and they are slain by the arrow of avarice. The third knight is any Christian who loves God with all his heart; and who, in his simplicity, is often a match for the more cunning of mankind.