Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)/Of the Envy of bad Men towards the good

Gesta Romanorum Vol. I  (1871) 
Anonymous, translated by Charles Swan
Of the Life of Alexius, son of the Senator Eufemian



When Diocletian was emperor, there was a certain noble soldier who had two sons, whom he entirely and truly loved. The younger of them married a harlot, without the knowledge of his father, and the infamy of this proceeding overwhelmed him with the greatest grief. He sternly banished him from his presence, and left him to the rebukes of conscience, and to the agonies of approaching want. Nevertheless, his family increased; and a beautiful but sickly child added to their necessity and despair. In this situation he despatched a messenger to his parent, to supplicate relief; and when his wretchedness was made known, it moved him to compassion, and he forgave him all. After their reconciliation, the son entrusted to his father's protection the child that the harlot bore him, and it was taken to his house and educated as his own. But when the elder brother heard what had happened, he was exceedingly wroth, and said to his father, "Thou art mad, and I will prove it by satisfactory reasons. He is mad who fosters and adopts a son by whom he has been grievously wronged. Now my brother, whose son that child is, did you great injury when he espoused a harlot contrary to your will. Therefore, I am persuaded that you are mad—for you both protect the child, and are at peace with him." Here the father answered, "Son, I am reconciled to thy brother, in consequence of his own contrition, and the urgent entreaties of his friends. Therefore, it becomes me to love my recovered son more than you; because, you have often offended me, but never sought a reconciliation: and since you have not humbly acknowledged your transgressions, you are more ungrateful than your brother has been, whom you would have me banish from my house. You ought rather to rejoice that he is reconciled to me. But because you have exhibited so much ingratitude, you shall not receive the inheritance designed for you. It shall be given to your brother." And so it was done. (5)


My beloved, by this father, we are to understand our heavenly Father: by the two sons, the angelic and human nature. The human nature was united with a harlot,—that is, with humanity, when it ate the fatal apple, contrary to the Divine injunction. Wherefore, it was banished by the heavenly Father. The son of the harlot, is mankind, which had perished in its perverseness, but for the paternal regard. And it is described as sickly, because being the fruit of sin, it is placed in a valley of tears. As in Gen. iii.—"By the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread." But he, by the passion of Christ is reconciled to God the Father, and fully established by the good offices and prayers of holy men, who daily pour forth their petitions to heaven, for all the world. So the Psalmist, "They ask that which they desire." But the other brother, namely, the devil (who is the father of ingratitude) continually attacks us, and murmurs at our reconciliation; alleging that we ought not to obtain our heavenly inheritance because of original sin. But doubtless if we live a holy and pure life in this world, his allegation will nothing avail; nay, we shall obtain his portion—that is, the place which he has lost in heaven.

Note 5.Page 27.

"This story, but with a difference of circumstances, ends like the beautiful apologue of the Prodigal Son."—Warton.