Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of worldly Evil and Distress

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Gesta Romanorum Vol. II  (1871) 
Anonymous, translated by Charles Swan
Of worldly Evil and Distress



We read of a certain man, named Ganter, who wished that his pleasures might never end. He got up one morning, and walked until he came to a kingdom in which the prince was lately deceased. The noblemen observing that he was a bold man, chose him for their king. (8) He was, of course, much elevated with the election. But at night, when the servants brought him into his chamber, he perceived at the head of the bed a very fierce lion; a dragon was at the foot; on the right side, a huge bear; and serpents and toads on the left. "What is all this?" asked Ganter; "am I to sleep in company with all these beasts?" "Yes, my lord," was the reply; "for all the former kings have done so, and by these beasts have been devoured." "That is all very fine," returned Ganter, "but as I feel no relish for either the bed or the beasts, I will not be your king." He therefore went his way, and came into another kingdom, where, in like manner, he was called to the throne. At night he entered the bed-chamber, and beheld a very superb couch full of sharp razors "What!" exclaimed he, "am I to sleep in this bed!" "Even so, my lord," replied the attendants; "for in this bed all our kings have laid, and have perished." "Why," said Ganter; "every thing is excellent, and this bed most excellent of all; but because of this I will not be your sovereign." In the morning he again departed, and travelled for three days alone. On the way, he saw an old man sitting above a fountain. His hand contained a staff; and when our traveller approached, he said, "My dear Ganter, whence come you?" "I come," he replied, "from foreign countries." "And where are you going?" "To seek three things which I cannot find." "What are they?" "The first," said Ganter, "is unfailing plenty; the second, joy without sorrow: and the third, light without darkness." "Take this staff," said the old man, "and go thy way. Before you is a high mountain, and at its foot a ladder with six steps. Go up it, and when you have attained the sixth, you will be at the top of the mountain. There you will discover a magnificent palace; strike three times at the gate, and the porter will answer you. Shew him the staff, and say, The master of the staff commands you to admit me. When you have gained admittance, you will find the three things which you seek." Ganter did as the old man desired; and the porter, seeing the staff, permitted him to enter. He found what he had sought, and much more; and there he continued during the residue of his life.


My beloved, Ganter is any good Christian, who seeks eternal life. The first bed is human life, with its various attendant evils; do not rest there: the second, is hell, with its torments—and, oh! avoid that. Take the staff of penitence, and climb by the ladder of holiness into a heavenly palace, whose porter is divine goodness. (9)

Note 8.Page 62.

Perhaps this part of the story may arise in the classical tale of Gordius, who was similarly raised to the throne. See Justin II. c. 7.

Note 9.Page 65.

"In a more confined sense, the first part of this apologue may be separately interpreted to signify, that a king, when he enters on his important charge, ought not to suppose himself to succeed to the privilege of an exemption from care, and to be put into the immediate possession of the highest pleasures, conveniences, and felicities of life; but to be sensible, that from that moment, he begins to encounter the greatest dangers and difficulties."—Warton.