Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of the triple State of the World

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A certain knight had three sons, and on his death-bed he bequeathed the inheritance to his first-born; to the second, a treasure; and to the third, a very valuable ring, of more worth indeed than all he had left to the others. But the two former had also rings; and they were all apparently the same. After their father's death the first son said, "I possess that precious ring of my father." The second said, "You have it not, I have." To this the third son answered, "That is not true. The elder of us hath the estate, the second the treasure, and therefore it is but meet that I should have the most valuable ring." The first son answered, "Let us prove, then, whose claims to it have the pre-eminence." They agreed, and several sick men were made to resort to them for the purpose. The two first rings had no effect, but the last cured all their infirmities. (5)


My beloved, the knight is Christ: the three sons are the Jews, Sacarens, and Christians. The most valuable ring is faith, which is the property only of the younger, that is, of the Christians.



Note 5.Page 42.

This story is in the Decameron, first day, Nov. 3, with some considerable variations.

"There was a very wealthy man who, among other precious jewels of his own, had a goodly ring of great value; the beauty and estimation whereof made him earnestly desirous to leave it as a perpetual memory and honour to his successors. Whereupon, he willed and ordained, that he among his male children, with whom this ring (being left by the father) should be found in custody, after his death, he, and none other, was to be reputed his heir, and to be honoured and reverenced by all the rest, as being the prime and worthiest person."

In process of time the ring fell to one who had three sons, and doubtful who should have it, he caused two other rings to be constructed exactly similar. "Lying upon his death-bed, and his sons then plying him by their best opportunities, he gave to each of them a ring. And they (after his death) presuming severally upon their right to the inheritance and honour, grew to great contradiction and square; each man producing then his ring, which were so truly all alike in resemblance, as no one could know the right ring from the other. "In like manner, my very good lord, concerning those three laws given by God the Father, to three such people as you have propounded," (the Jews, Saracens, and Christians) "each of them do imagine that they have the heritage of God, and his true law, and also duly perform his commandments, but which of them do so, indeed, the question (as of the three rings) is yet remaining."

It also occurs in the Cento Novelle Antiche, Nov. 71, and perhaps in Swift's Tale of a Tub. Tyrwhitt, however, thinks otherwise.