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  • Il Novellino

    V
    How a king committed a reply to a young son of his who had to bear it to the ambassadors of Greece.

    There was a king in the parts of Egypt who had a first-born son who would wear the crown after him. The father began from the son's very earliest years to give him instruction at the hands of wise men of mature age, and never had it happened to the boy to know the games and follies of childhood.

    It chanced one day that his father committed to him an answer for the ambassadors of Greece.

    The youth stood in the place of discourse to make answer to the ambassadors, and the weather was unsettled and rainy. The boy turned his eyes to one of the palace windows, and perceived some lads gathering the rain water into little troughs and making mud pies.

    The youth, on seeing this, left the platform, and running quickly down the palace stairs, went and joined the other lads who were gathering up the water, and took part in the game. The barons and knights followed him quickly, and brought him back to the palace. They closed the window, and the youth gave an answer such as was satisfactory to the ambassadors.1

    After the council, the people went away. The father summoned philosophers and men of learning, and laid the point before them.

    Some of the sages reputed it to be a matter of the lad's nature ; others suggested it portended a weakness of spirit; some went so far as to hint it betokened an infirmity of the mind.

    Thus one gave one opinion, and another another, according to their art and science.

    But one philosopher said : tell me how the youth has been brought up. And they told him the lad had been brought up with sages and men of ripe age, with nothing of childishness in them.

    Then the wise man answered : do not marvel if nature ask for what she has lost, for it is right for childhood to play, as it is right for age to reflect.

    1 lit. : "gave a sufficient reply ".

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    Il Novellino : The Hundred Old Tales
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    Storer, Edward, trans. Il Novellino: The Hundred Old Tales. London: G. Routledge & Sons Ltd.; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., [1925]. 48-50

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