Fragment IV (Group E)

The Student's Tale

PROLOGUE

"Sir Oxford Student," said our Host, "you ride As still and quiet as a brand-new bride Who's sitting at the table. I have heard Throughout this day from your tongue not a word. Some sophism, I think, you're pondering; 5 But Solomon said, 'A time for everything.' "For God's sake, can't you be of better cheer? Now's not the time to do your studies here. Tell us a story, by your faith, that's merry! When one joins in a game, he mustn't vary 10 From that game's rules, to which he gave assent. But don't preach like the friars during Lent Who over our old sins would make us weep, Nor tell a tale that puts us all to sleep. "Tell of adventures, have a merry say; 15 Your colors, terms, and figures store away Until you need them for composing things In lofty style, as when men write to kings. For now use only your plain words, we pray, That we may understand all that you say." 20 This worthy Student answered courteously: "I am under your rule, Sir Host," said he, "You have us all under your governance, And therefore I will show obedience, Within the bounds of reason, certainly. 25 I'll tell a story that was taught to me By a scholar of Padua rightly known As worthy, as his words and works have shown. He's dead now, nailed inside his coffin. May The Lord grant that his soul's at rest, I pray! 30 "Named Francis Petrarch, poet laureate, This scholar's sweetest rhetoric has set All Italy alight by poetry, As did Legnano with philosophy And law and certain other arts as well. 35 But death, that won't allow us here to dwell For longer than the twinkling of an eye, Has slain them both, and all of us must die. "But telling further of this worthy man Who taught to me this tale, as I began: 40 He first composed in high style, I should note, Before the body of his tale he wrote, An introduction in which Petrarch speaks Of Piedmont, of Saluzzo, and those peaks The Appenines, which so majestically 45 Comprise the border of West Lombardy; Especially he speaks of Mount Viso, The place at which the river known as Po Originates, a little spring its source, And keeps on going on its eastward course: 50 Emilia, Ferrera, Venice too-- It would take too long to describe to you. And truthfully to speak, I do not sense That it's a matter that's of relevance Save that he had to preface things somehow. 55 But here's his tale and you may hear it now."

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