Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)/Of maintaining Truth to the last

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Gesta Romanorum Vol. I  (1871) 
Anonymous, translated by Charles Swan
Of maintaining Truth to the last



In the reign of Gordian, there was a certain noble soldier who had a fair but vicious wife. It happened that her husband, having occasion to travel, the lady sent for her gallant, and rioted in every excess of wickedness. Now, one of her handmaids, it seems, was skilful in interpreting the song of birds; and in the court of the castle there were three cocks. (65) During the night, while the gallant was with his mistress, the first cock began to crow. The lady heard it, and said to her servant, "Dear friend, what says yonder cock?" She replied, "That you are grossly injuring your husband." "Then," said the lady, "kill that cock without delay." They did so; but soon after, the second cock crew, and the lady repeated her question. "Madam," said the handmaid, "he says, 'My companion died for revealing the truth, and for the same cause, I am prepared to die.'" "Kill him," cried the lady, which they did. After this, the third cock crew; "What says he?" asked she again. "Hear, see, and say nothing, if you would live in peace." "Oh, oh!" said the lady, "don't kill him."


My beloved, the emperor is God, the soldier, Christ; and the wife, the soul. The gallant is the devil. The handmaid is conscience. The first cock is our Saviour, who was put to death; the second is the martyrs; and the third is a preacher who ought to be earnest in declaring the truth, but being deterred by menaces, is afraid to utter it.

Note 65.Page 239.

The interpretation of the language of birds, is clearly an oriental fiction; several instances of which are furnished by the Arabian Tales. It has since been made the vehicle of many instructive fables. See Spectator, Vol. VII. No. 512. which is copied from the "Story of the two Owls," in the Turkish Tales.