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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Why Speech is Sweet Music to God's Ears: from the Gesta Romanorum

Why Speech is Sweet Music to God’s Ears



Whenever he heard music Kaiser Tiberius was wondrously delighted.  Once it happened that he was out hunting, heard a zither playing and was so pleasantly charmed by its sweetness that he was overcome with emotion. He turned his horse toward the place from where the music emanated and rode on. But when he arrived at the place he saw in some distance a cheerful brook and next to the stream sat an old man with a zither on his lap. From his zither came such unforgettable music that the Kaiser became pleasurably captivated. Kaiser Tiberius spoke to the man: “My dear, tell me why your zither rings so dear?” He answered: “Your Majesty, I have sat here by this brook for thirty years and God has shown me such grace that as soon as I touch the strings of my zither, a beautiful melody breaks forth and the fishes swim toward my hand and jump out of the water. And in this way I feed my wife and family. But alas, it is a shame that now a piper comes to the other side of the water. He plays so sweetly that the fish have left me and swim to him. That is why dear sir, because you are powerful and the Kaiser of the entire kingdom, give me aid and let me prevail against the piper!”  The Kaiser answered “My dear man, I can only help you in one thing, and that must be enough for you.  I have in my bag a golden fishhook. I will give it to you and you can attach it to the tip of your rod. Touch it to the strings of your zither and the fishes will begin to move.  Then pull the hook ashore (the fish will follow) and the piper will withdraw in embarrassment.” The poor man did everything and before the fishes reached the piper, he pulled them with his hook. When the piper saw this he left the place in confusion.



Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Snake, a Fairy Tale from the Gesta Romanorum

The Snake

When wise Theodosius ruled his eyesight deteriorated. He therefore issued an edict: a bell would be installed in his palace and anyone who had a matter to bring before him would ring the bell with his own hand. When the bell rang the judge who was then appointed would come immediately and issue justice.  
It happened that a snake built its nest underneath this bell and within a short time had babies. When these young vipers could slither, the snake made its way with its young to a spot outside the city. While the snake was away, a toad occupied its nest; when the snake returned with its young vipers, it saw how the toad had taken over the nest.  It battled with the toad, but could not remove it on its own and so the toad took possession of its nest.  When the snake realized this, it wrapped its tail around the bell’s rope, pulled it efficiently and rang the bell as if saying “Come down, you judge, and give me justice, for a toad has violated every law and taken possession of my nest.”
When the judge heard the bell ringing he came down but didn’t see anyone so he went upstairs again. When the snake noticed this, it rang a second time.  When the judge  heard this and saw the snake ringing the bell rope, and saw how the toad had occupied its domicile, he climbed the stairs to the palace and told the king everything. The king spoke: “Go down and don’t only drive the toad from the nest, but kill it also, because the snake must assume its rightful place once more.” And so it happened.
One day after this incident, the king was lying in bed; the snake came into his chamber and carried in its mouth a precious stone. And when the king’s servants saw this, they said to their master that a snake had come in.  But Theodosius spoke: “Do not prevent it from entering, because I believe it won’t harm me.”  The snake crept onto his bed and approached his face. And when it stared into his eyes, it dropped the stone and then retreated from the king’s chamber. When the stone touched both of his eyes, the king’s eyesight returned. He rejoiced and had his servants search for the snake. But they could not find it. The king kept the precious stone and lived in peace until his dying day.