Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)/Of Worldly Anxiety

Gesta Romanorum Vol. I  (1871) 
Anonymous, translated by Charles Swan
Of Worldly Anxiety



There formerly lived a king who had three fair daughters. He married them to three dukes; but, unhappily, all their husbands died in the space of one year. The king, being made acquainted with this circumstance, would have had his daughters marry again, and calling the first into his presence, he said:—"My dear daughter, your husband is dead; I will therefore unite you to another." But she would by no means consent, and assigned for it this reason. "If I marry again, I should love my second husband equally with the first; perhaps more, or it might be less. This ought not to be; for my first husband possessed my earliest affection—my virgin troth. Therefore the second ought not to be loved so well. But I might love him more, and this would increase the evil: on the other hand, if I loved him less, there would exist only contention between us. So that I resolve never to be espoused again." The king, satisfied with what he heard, called another of his daughters, and proposed the same thing to her as to her elder sister. She replied, "My lord, I also decline this matter. For should I comply, it must be either for riches, or power, or beauty. Now of riches I have quite enough; my friends are sufficiently numerous to defend me; and as for beauty, I do not believe there was so beautiful a person in the world as my late husband. Therefore, I too resolve upon a single state." The king then applied to the third daughter, and she gave the following reasons for refusing his request. "If," said she, "I marry, my husband must desire me either for my beauty or my wealth. Now it cannot be for the former, because I am not beautiful; then it must be for the latter, and true love never existed which was founded upon mercenary feelings. When wealth flies, love flies with it[1]. Therefore, I would on no account marry again. Moreover, the Sacred Writings say, that a husband and wife are one body but two souls; therefore the body of my husband is my body, and the converse. Every day I visit the sepulchre of my deceased lord, and he is ever present to my mind. For all these causes, I determine to remain as I am." The king, pleased with the virtuous resolutions of his daughters, solicited them no more.


My beloved, the king is God. The three daughters are the soul, which image the Holy Trinity. For God said, "Let us make man in our image; therefore the Trinity in unity is typified by the soul, and the soul represented by three persons. The three dukes are the devil, the world, and the flesh; when they die, that is, when the soul repents of her sins, do not again be united to them.

  1. When Poverty comes in at the door, Love flies out at the window. English Proverb.