Tag: A King in Disguise
Unbounded was the joy and congratulation of the courtiers on thus meeting with him safe and uninjured. The king then turning round to the poor fisherman, informed him that he was the monarch wltom he had so much praised, and whom he had so humanely and hoporably received the foregoing evening, and that he might rely upon him that his singular courtesy and good-will should not go unrewarded.
Now, there were certain hunting-lodges which the king had erected in those parts for the convenience which they afforded in his excursions, and several of his nobles had likewise adorned the surrounding country with various seats and other dwellings, so as to give a pleasing relief to the prospect. With the view of bestowing a handsome remuneration upon the good fisherman, the grateful monarch gave orders that the pools and marshes adjacent to these dwellings should be drained.
Cesar Elcabir or the Great Palace
He then circumscribed the limits of a noble city, comprehending the palaces and houses already erected, and after conferring upon it various rich immunities, by which it shortly became both very populous and powerful, he named the place Cesar Elcabir or the Great Palace, and presented it as a token of his gratitude to the honest fisherman.
At the period when his sons succeeded to it, no city throughout the king’s dominions was to be compared with it in point of splendor and beauty of appearance. During the time I remained there it was filled with merchants and artisans of every description. The mosques were extremely grand, nor were the colleges and hospitals less worthy of admiration.
As they have but few good wells, the cisterns and other public conduits are very large and numerous. The inhabitants of the places I visited are in general liberal and kind-hearted men, of simple manners, and neat and plain in their dress and appearance. The gardens are at once spacious and beautiful, abounding in all kinds of fruits, which supply a weekly market, the emporium of all the surrounding country. It is situated not above eighteen miles distant from Azella, now called Arzilla, in the possession of the Portuguese.
Now, simple as the whole of this story may appear, it will at least be found to inculcate one beautiful moral: it teaches us to behave with courtesy towards every one, courtesy being, like virtue, its own reward, and sure of meeting sooner or later, as in the instance of the poor fisherman, that reward here below.
Even I, a poor fisherman, with a wife and little family, am not forgotten, and enjoy my poverty in peace. He permits me to fish for eels wherever I please, and take them afterwards to the best market I can find, in order to provide for my little ones. At any hour, night or day, I go out or I come in just as I like, to or fro, in my humble dwelling; and there is not a single person in all these neighboring woods and valleys who has ever dared to do me wrong. To whom am I indebted for all this, but to him for whom I daily offer up my prayers to God and our holy prophet to watch over his preservation? But why do I talk, when I see you, Sir Knight, before me, dripping from the pelting of this pitiless storm ? Deign to come within, and receive what shelter my poor cabin will afford; to-morrow I will conduct you to the king, or wherever else you please.”
Mansor now freely availed himself of the invitation, and dismounting from his horse, sought refuge from the still raging storm. The poor steed likewise shared the accommodation prepared in a little outhouse for the good man’s ass, partaking of the corn and hay. Seated by the side of a good fire, the king was employed in drying himself and recruiting his exhausted strength, while the wife was busily cooking the eels for his royal supper.
Anxiously inquired whether
When they were served, having a decided distaste for fish, he somewhat anxiously inquired whether there was no kind of meat for which he might exchange them. The fisherman very honestly declared that it was true he had a she-goat with a kid; and perceiving that his guest was no unworthy personage, he directly offered to serve it up to table; which having done, he presented the king with those parts generally esteemed the best and the most delicious. After supper, the monarch retiring to his rustic couch, reposed his wearied limbs and slumbered until the sun was up.
At the appointed hour he once more mounted his steed, attended by his kind host, who now took upon himself the office of a guide. They had scarcely proceeded beyond the confines of the marshes, when they encountered several of the king’s party, calling aloud in the utmost anxiety and searching for their royal master in every direction.
As he thus stood, listening to the distant thunder and the raving of the storm, he stretched his view in vain to discover some signs of human existence; until, on proceeding a few more steps, a light suddenly appeared at only a short distance from him. It was from the window of a poor fisherman’s hut, who earned his livelihood by catching eels in the adjacent pools and marshes.
On hearing the voice of the king, who rushed forward with a shout of joy on beholding a human habitation, the fisherman hastened to the assistance of the bewildered traveler, whom he believed to have lost his way in the storm. Inquiring who called, King Mansor approached near, and entreated him, if he possessed the least charity, to direct him the shortest path to the residence of the monarch. “The king’s court,” replied the poor man, “is distant from this place above ten long miles.”
King Mansor himself
“Yet I will make it worth your trouble, friend, to guide me thither; consent to oblige me, arid you shall have no reason to complain,” said the king. “Though you were King Mansor himself,” returned the fisherman, “who entreated as much, I would not venture upon it at this hour of the night, and such a night as this is; for I should render myself guilty, perhaps, of leading our honored monarch into destruction. The night is dark, and the waters are out around us.” “But why should you, friend, be so very solicitous about the safety of the king?” “Oh,” replied the good man, “because I honor him more than I do any one else, and love him more than myself.”
“But what good has he ever done you, asked the king, “that you should hold him in such high esteem? Methinks you would be rather more comfortably lodged and clothed were you any extraordinary favorite of his.” “Not so,” answered the fisherman; “for tell me, Sir Knight, what greater favor can I receive from my honored king, in my humble sphere, than to be protected in the enjoyment of my house and goods, and the little earnings which I make! All I have I owe to his kindness, to the wisdom and justice with which he rules over his subjects, preserving us in peace or protecting us in war from the inroads of the Arabs, as well as all other enemies.
Residing there during several years, I acquired an excellent knowledge of the language, manners, and peculiar practices of the people, when I was at length prevailed upon to join a party of Oranese merchants, to whom I had been recommended, through Cattanio’s influence, by their king. They were men of approved worth and of the kindest manners, and with them I prepared to make a commercial tour through the country, visiting various regions of Africa, in which we discovered many great and populous cities.’In several of these countries we met with seminaries of instruction, with their regular professors of different sciences, paid and appointed by the people.
There are, moreover, different hospitals instituted for the relief of the impoverished and distressed, who are there supplied with a regular subsistence, it being a principle of their religion to bestow alms, as pleasing in the sight of God. And I solemnly aver that I have met with more instances of true charity and kindness’ from what are termed these uncivilized people than I ever had the good fortune to do among those who are called Christians. Among other splendid places, I visited a noble city, built in the age of King Mansor, who had likewise been supreme pontifex or high priest of Morocco.
Times of King Mans
Some of their national chronicles were here exhibited to me, composed in the Arabic character, which bore ample witness to the diligence with which they record the most remarkable public events. Being very well versed in the language, I amused myself with perusing various portions of them, but more particularly those relating to the times of King Mansor. I thence learned that among other amusements he was immoderately fond of the chase; and it one day so happened, that being on a hunting excursion, he was surprised by a terrific storm, which, with irresistible fury laying waste both com and woodlands, soon dispersed his courtiers on all sides in search of shelter.
Mistaking his way in the confusion which ensued, King Mansor, separated at length from his companions, wandered through the forest until nightfall, and such was the tempestuous raging of the winds, that, almost despairing of finding shelter, he checked his steed, doubtful which way he should venture to proceed. From the terrific darkness of the sky, relieved only by sheets of flashing light shooting across the far horizon, he was fearful of going farther, lest he should incur still greater danger, cither by riding into pitfalls or the deep marshes bordering the forest grounds.
Matteo Bandello (1480 – 1560)
Bandello, a Lombard noble by birth, is, next to Boccaccio, the most celebrated of the Italian story-tellers, and he, like his predecessor, furnished Shakespeare with plots and ideas. He resided both in Milan and Mantua, as a member of an ecclesiastical order and later was made a Bishop by Henry II of France, in which country he spent the latter part of his life.
His adventurous life is, in Symonds’ words, an exciting novela in itself. The Novelle, a collection of stories placed in a fictious framework, is characterized by what appears to the Anglo- Saxon a certain exaggerated violence. Many of his stories are discreditable anecdotes about the church, and were used with considerable effect as weapons by the leaders of the Reformation.
A King in Disguise is characteristic of Bandello’s art, if not of his violence. The story has been traced to Oriental sources, and has, since Bandello wrote it, been used by several other writers.
The present version is translated by Thomas Roscoe and reprinted from his Italian Novelists, London, no date. The story has no title in the original.
A King in Disguise
It is really superfluous, my noble friends and patrons, to use so many kind entreaties, when a single word from you would be enough, by’ way of command, to induce me, as you seem to wish, to give you some account of my most remarkable adventures, in addition to what you have already heard of my travels in Africa.
With the manners and customs of the people, as well as with their peculiar religious opinions, I believe you are now pretty well acquainted, insomuch that I no longer need to dwell upon these. You are aware that I have been a traveler from the time I was a boy of fifteen, when I set out from my native city of Genoa, in company with Messer Niccolo Gattanio, whose extensive mercantile connections induced him to visit various parts of Barbary.
With him I first arrived at the city of Orano, situated on the shores of the Mediterranean, and belonging to the kingdom of the same name. Numbers of the Genoese were accustomed to resort thither, and there is a large place of traffic named from that circumstance the Lodge of the Genoese. My friend Cattanio was highly respected there, and even in great credit with the king; so much so as to have obtained various privileges from him, in consideration of the able and beneficial manner in which he promoted the commerce of his subjects.