Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)/Of Ingratitude

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Gesta Romanorum Vol. I  (1871) 
Anonymous, translated by Charles Swan
Of Ingratitude



A certain noble lady suffered many injuries from a tyrannical king, who laid waste her domains. When the particulars of it were communicated to her, her tears flowed fast, and her heart was oppressed with bitterness. It happened that a pilgrim visited her, and remained there for some time. Observing the poverty to which she had been reduced, and feeling compassion for her distresses, he offered to make war in her defence; on condition that, if he fell in battle, his staff and scrip should be retained in her private chamber, as a memorial of his valour, and of her gratitude. She faithfully promised compliance with his wishes; and the pilgrim, hastening to attack the tyrant, obtained a splendid victory. But in the heat of the contest, he was transfixed by an arrow, which occasioned his death. The lady aware of this, did as she promised: the staff and scrip were suspended in her chamber. Now when it was known that she had recovered all her lost possessions, three kings made large preparations to address, and, as they hoped, incline her to become the wife of one of them. The lady, forewarned of the intended honour, adorned herself with great care, and walked forth to meet them. They were received according to their dignity; and whilst they remained with her, she fell into some perplexity, and said to herself, "If these three kings enter my chamber, it will disgrace me to suffer the pilgrim's staff and scrip to remain there." She commanded them to be taken away; and thus forgot her vows, and plainly evinced her ingratitude.


My beloved, the lady is the human soul, and the tyrant is the devil, who spoils us of our heavenly inheritance. The pilgrim is Christ, who fights for and redeems us; but, forgetful of his services, we receive the devil, the world, and the flesh, into the chamber of our souls, and put away the memorials of our Saviour's love.