The Heptameron, by Marguerite de Navarre

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Tale xliv.(A).

In reward for not having concealed the truth, the Lord of Sedan doubled the alms of a Grey Friar, who thus received two pigs instead of one. 1

To the castle of Sedan once came a Grey Friar to ask my Lady of Sedan, who was of the house of Crouy, 2 for a pig, which she was wont to give to his Order every year as alms.

1 This tale, though it figures in all the MSS., does not appear in Gruget’s edition of the Heptameron, but is there replaced by the one that follows, XLIV. (B). — Ed.

2 This Lady of Sedan is Catherine de Croï, daughter of Philip VI. de Croï, Count of Chimay. In 1491 she married Robert II. do la Marck, Duke of Bouillon, Lord of Sedan, Fleuranges, &c., who was long the companion in arms of Bayard and La Trémoïlle. Robert II. lost the duchy of Bouillon through the conquests of Charles V., and one of the clauses of the treaty of Cambrai (the “Ladies’ Peace”) was that Francis I. would in no wise assist him to regain it. His eldest son by Catherine de Croï was the celebrated Marshal de Fleuranges, “the young adventurer,” who left such curious memoirs behind him. Robert II. died in 1535, his son surviving him a couple of years. — Anselme’s Histoire Généalogique, vol. vii. p. 167. — L. and B. J.

My Lord of Sedan, who was a prudent man and a merry talker, had the good father to eat at his table, and in order to put him on his mettle said to him, among other things —

“Good father, you do well to make your collection while you are yet unknown. I greatly fear that, if once your hypocrisy be found out, you will no longer receive the bread of poor children, earned by the sweat of their fathers.”

The Grey Friar was not abashed by these words, but replied —

“Our Order, my lord, is so securely founded that it will endure as long as the world exists. Our foundation, indeed, cannot fail so long as there are men and women on the earth.”

My Lord of Sedan, being desirous of knowing on what foundation the existence of the Grey Friars was thus based, urgently begged the father to tell him.

After making many excuses, the Friar at last replied —

“Since you are pleased to command me to tell you, you shall hear. Know, then, my lord, that our foundation is the folly of women, and that so long as there be a wanton or foolish woman in the world we shall not die of hunger.”

My Lady of Sedan, who was very passionate, was in such wrath on hearing these words, that, had her husband not been present, she would have dealt harshly with the Grey Friar; and indeed she swore roundly that he should not have the pig that she had promised him; but the Lord of Sedan, finding that he had not concealed the truth, swore that he should have two, and caused them to be sent to his monastery.


“You see, ladies, how the Grey Friar, being sure that the favour of the ladies could not fail him, contrived, by concealing nothing of the truth, to win the favour and alms of men. Had he been a flatterer and dissembler, he would have been more pleasing to the ladies, but not so profitable to himself and his brethren.”

The tale was not concluded without making the whole company laugh, and especially such among them as knew the Lord and Lady of Sedan. And Hircan said — “The Grey Friars, then, should never preach with intent to make women wise, since their folly is of so much service to the Order.”

“They do not preach to them,” said Parlamente, “with intent to make them wise, but only to make them think themselves so. Women who are altogether worldly and foolish do not give them much alms; nevertheless, those who think themselves the wisest because they go often to monasteries, and carry paternosters marked with a death’s head, and wear caps lower than others, must also be accounted foolish, for they rest their salvation on their confidence in the holiness of wicked men, whom they are led by a trifling semblance to regard as demigods.”

“But who could help believing them,” said Enna-suite, “since they have been ordained by our prelates to preach the Gospel to us and rebuke our sins?”

“Those who have experienced their hypocrisy,” said Parlamente, “and who know the difference between the doctrine of God and that of the devil.”

“Jesus!” said Ennasuite. “Can you think that these men would dare to preach false doctrine?”

“Think?” replied Parlamente. “Nay, I am sure that they believe anything but the Gospel. I speak only of the bad among them; for I know many worthy men who preach the Scriptures in all purity and simplicity, and live without reproach, ambition, or covetousness, and in such chastity as is unfeigned and free. However, the streets are not paved with such as these, but are rather distinguished by their opposites; and the good tree is known by its fruit.”

“In very sooth,” said Ennasuite, “I thought we were bound on pain of mortal sin to believe all they tell us from the pulpit as truth, that is, when they speak of what is in the Holy Scriptures, or cite the expositions of holy doctrines divinely inspired.”

“For my part,” said Parlamente, “I cannot but see that there are men of very corrupt faith among them. I know that one of them, a Doctor of Theology and a Principal in their Order, 3 sought to persuade many of the brethren that the Gospel was no more worthy of belief than Cæsar’s Commentaries or any other histories written by learned men of authority; and from the hour I heard that I would believe no preacher’s word unless I found it in harmony with the Word of God, which is the true touchstone for distinguishing between truth and falsehood.”

3 In MS. No. 1520 this passage runs, “a Doctor of Theology named Colimant, a great preacher and a Principal in their Order.” However, none of the numerous works on the history of the Franciscans makes any mention of a divine called Colimant. — B. J.

“Be assured,” said Oisille, “that those who read it constantly and with humility will never be led into error by deceits or human inventions; for whosoever has a mind filled with truth cannot believe a lie.”

“Yet it seems to me,” said Simontault, “that a simple person is more readily deceived than another.”

“Yes,” said Longarine, “if you deem foolishness to be the same thing as simplicity.”

“I affirm,” replied Simontault, “that a good, gentle and simple woman is more readily deceived than one who is wily and wicked.”

“I think,” said Nomerfide, “that you must know of one overflowing with such goodness, and so I give you my vote that you may tell us of her.”

“Since you have guessed so well,” said Simontault, “I will indeed tell you of her, but you must promise not to weep. Those who declare, ladies, that your craftiness surpasses that of men would find it hard to bring forward such an instance as I am now about to relate, wherein I propose to show you not only the exceeding craftiness of a husband, but also the simplicity and goodness of his wife.”


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57