Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of Sloth

Gesta Romanorum Vol. II  (1871) 
Anonymous, translated by Charles Swan
Of Sloth



The emperor Pliny had three sons, to whom he was extremely indulgent. He wished to dispose of his kingdom, and calling the three into his presence, spoke thus—"The most slothful of you shall reign after my decease." "Then," answered the elder, "the kingdom must be mine; for I am so lazy, that sitting once by the fire, I burnt my legs, because I was too indolent to withdraw them." The second son observed, "The kingdom should properly be mine, for if I had a rope round my neck, and held a sword in my hand, my idleness is such, that I should not put forth my hand to cut the rope." "But I," said the third son, "ought to be preferred to you both; for I outdo both in indolence. While I lay upon my bed, water dropped from above upon my eyes; and though, from the nature of the water, I was in danger of becoming blind, I neither could nor would turn my head ever so little to the right hand or to the left." The emperor, hearing this, bequeathed the kingdom to him, thinking him the laziest of the three.


My beloved, the king is the devil; and the three sons, different classes of corrupt men.

Note IV.

Tale XI.  Vol. II. p. 45.

There is in the Latin Esop, a story of a "Father and his three Children," of which the latter part resembles the present tale.

"And the mill, how was it demised by your father, to be parted among you three? They answered the judge, he that shall be the most lyar, most evil, and most slow, ought to have it. Then said the eldest son, I am most slothful, for many years past I have dwelled in a great house, and lay under the conduits of the same, where fell upon me all the foul waters, as dish-water and other filth, that most wonderfully stank, insomuch that all my flesh was rotten therewith, and mine eyes blind, and the durt under my back was a foot high, and yet by sloth I had rather abide there than rise up. The second said [I] suppose, that the mill shall be mine, for if I came to a table covered with all manner of delicate meats, whereof I might eat if I would take of the best; I am so slothful that I may not eat, unless one should put the meat in my mouth. The third sayd, the mill shall be mine, for I am yet a greater lyar, and more slothful than any of you both, for if I had thirst unto the death, and if I found then myselfe within a fair water up to the neck, I would rather dye, than move myselfe to drink one drop thereof. Then said the judge, Ye wot not what ye say; for neither I, nor any other, may well understand you; but the cause I remit among you."