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

 

TALE III.

OF THE TIMOROUS GUARDIANSHIP OF THE SOUL.

When Trajan reigned, he took great pleasure in gardens. Having constructed one of uncommon beauty, and planted in it trees of every kind, he appointed a gardener with injunctions to defend it vigilantly. But by and by a wild boar broke into the garden, overturned the young trees, and rooted up the flowers. The keeper, whose name was Jonathan, perceiving this, cut off the boar's left ear, and the animal with a loud noise departed. But another day, the same boar re-entered the garden and committed great depredations; upon which Jonathan dismembered his right ear. But notwithstanding this, he entered a third time; and the gardener, provoked at the creature's obstinacy, cut off his tail,—with which ignominious loss he departed, as formerly, making a tremendous uproar. However, he appeared on a fourth occasion, and committed the like injuries; when Jonathan, more and more incensed, caught up a lance and transfixed him upon the spot. He was then sent to the royal kitchen, and prepared for the king's table. Now Trajan, it seems, was especially partial to the heart of any animal; and the cook, observing that the boar's heart was particularly fat and delicate, reserved it for his own tooth. When, therefore, the emperor's dinner was served up, the heart was enquired after; and the servants returned to the cook. "Tell my lord," said the fellow, "that it had no heart; and if he disbelieve it, say that I will adduce convincing reasons for the defect." The servants delivered the cook's message, and the astonished emperor exclaimed, "What do I hear? There is no animal without a heart! But since he offers to prove his assertion we will hear him." The cook was sent for, and spoke thus, "My lord, listen to me. All thought proceeds from the heart. It follows, therefore, that if there be no thought, there is no heart. That boar, in the first instance, entered the garden and committed much injury. The gardener seeing it, cut off his left ear. Now if he had possessed a heart, he would have recollected the loss of so important a member. But he did not, for he entered a second time. Therefore, he had no heart. Moreover, on the abscission of his right ear and of his tail, had he possessed the defective part, he would have thought; but he did not think, for he entered a fourth time and was killed. For these several reasons I am confident that he had no heart." The emperor, satisfied with what he heard, applauded the man's judgment. And thus he escaped.

APPLICATION.

My beloved, the emperor is Christ, who delights in fair gardens; that is, in religious men, in whom our Lord planted many virtues. The gardener is a prelate: the boar is any worldly-minded man, who sins, and is punished for his transgressions. The abscission of the left ear represents the decease of a beloved relation; the right, of a son or daughter; and the tail, of a wife. At last Death, that is Jonathan, transfixes the sinner himself. The heart here emblems the soul, which never would have transgressed had it retained its reason.