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Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of the Care of the Soul




The emperor Gorgonius had a beautiful wife, who was delivered of a son. The boy grew up a universal favorite; but on attaining his tenth year the mother died, and was splendidly interred. By the advice of his counsellors, the emperor took another wife, who conceived a dislike for her son-in-law, and did him many injuries. (23) When this was communicated to the king, being desirous of gratifying his new spouse, he banished the young man from the kingdom. Thus driven from his home and destitute of the usual accompaniments of regal birth, he turned his attention to physic, and became, in course of time, a great and perfect physician. The emperor, who had so unnaturally discarded him, hearing of his celebrity, was much pleased at it; and happening a short time afterwards to fall sick, sent letters to recall him. When the son understood his father's pleasure, he made haste to comply with it; and by his skill in medicine soon restored him to convalescence. The fame of this cure spread through the whole kingdom. Now it chanced that his step-mother sickened even to death, and physicians from every place were summoned to attend her. They all, however, unanimously declared, that death was inevitable; and full of grief at the intelligence, the emperor desired his son to undertake the cure. "No, my lord," said he, "I cannot comply with your wishes." "If you deny me," returned the father, "I will again banish you the kingdom." "Then," he replied, "you will act with the greatest injustice. You acknowledged yourself my father, yet banished me from you through this very woman's suggestion. My absence occasioned your sickness and sorrow; and my presence produces a like effect upon the queen, my unkind step-mother: therefore, I will not cure her, but will immediately depart." "The queen," returned the father, "is afflicted with the same infirmity that I was, and which you so effectually dispelled: let me entreat you to preserve her also." "My beloved father," answered he, "although she has the same infirmity, her complexion is different. When I entered the palace, the joy you felt at my return contributed to your speedy recovery; but the reverse happens to my step-mother. If I speak, she is full of grief; if I touch her, she is carried beyond herself. Now nothing is more beneficial to the sick, than compliance with their wishes. She cannot bear my presence, and why should you wish it?" By these excuses the son evaded the matter, and his step-mother died.


My beloved, the emperor is our first parent Adam; the first wife is the soul; and the son is Christ, who cures our infirmities. The step-mother is the devil.



Note 23.Page 121.

"Warton says, in his analysis of this story, "The son of king Gorgonius is beloved by his step-mother." This is a mistake. The Latin text is, "Rex, aliam uxorem duxit, quæ filium primæ uxoris non dilexit, sed opprobria multa sibi intulit." Nothing can be plainer.