Federigo's Falcon

from The Decameron Giovanni Boccaccio translated by G. H. McWilliam Once Filomena had finished, the queen, finding that there as no one left to s!ea" a!art from herself #$ioneo being e%cluded from the rec"oning because of his !rivilege& smiled cheerfully and said' (t is no my o n turn to address you and ( shall gladly do so, dearest ladies, ith a story similar in some res!ects to the one e have )ust heard. *his ( have chosen, not only to acquaint you ith the !o er of your beauty over men of noble s!irit, but so that you may learn to choose for yourselves, henever necessary, the !erson on hom to besto your largesse, instead of al ays leaving these matters to be decided for you by Fortune, ho, as it ha!!ens, nearly al ays scatters her gifts ith more abundance than discretion. +ou are to "no , then, that ,o!!o di Borghese $omenichi, ho once used to live in our city and !ossibly lives there still, one of the most highly res!ected men of our century, a !erson orthy of eternal fame, ho achieved his !osition of !re-eminence by dint of his character and abilities rather than by his noble lineage, frequently too" !leasure during his declining years in discussing incidents from the !ast ith his neighbors and other fol". (n this !astime he e%celled all others, for he as more coherent, !ossessed a su!erior memory, and s!o"e ith greater eloquence He had a fine re!ertoire, including a tale he frequently told concerning a young Florentine called Federigo, the son of Messer Fili!!o .lberighi, ho for his deeds of chivalry and courtly manners as more highly s!o"en of than any other squire in *uscany. (n the manner of most young men of gentle breeding, Federigo lost his heart to a noble lady, hose name as Monna Giovanna, and ho in her time as considered one of the loveliest and most adorable omen to be found in Florence. .nd ith the ob)ect of inning her love, he rode at the ring, tilted, gave sum!tuous banquets, and distributed a large number of gifts, s!ending money ithout any restraint hatsoever. But since she as no less chaste than she as fair, the lady too" no notice, either of the things that ere done in her honor, or of the !erson ho did them. (n this ay, s!ending far more than he could afford and deriving no !rofit in return, Federigo lost his entire fortune #as can easily ha!!en& and reduced himself to !overty, being left ith nothing other than a tiny little farm, hich !roduced an income )ust sufficient for him to live very frugally, and one falcon of the finest breed in the hole orld. /ince he as as dee!ly in love as ever, and felt unable to go on living the sort of life in Florence to hich he as!ired, he moved out to ,am!i, here his little farm ha!!ened to be situated. Having settled in the country, he ent hunting as often as !ossible ith his falcon, and, ithout see"ing assistance from anyone, he !atiently resigned himself to a life of !overty. 0o one day, hile Federigo as living in these straitened circumstances, the husband of Monna Giovanna ha!!ened to fall ill, and, reali1ing that he as about to die, he dre u! his ill. He as a very rich man, and in his ill he left everything to his son, ho as )ust gro ing u!, further sti!ulating that, if his son should die ithout legitimate issue, his estate should go to Monna Giovanna, to hom he had al ays been dee!ly devoted. /hortly after ard he died, leaving Monna Giovanna a ido , and every summer, in accordance ith Florentine custom2 she ent a ay ith her son to a country estate of theirs, hich as very near Federigo's farm. ,onsequently, this you lad of hers ha!!ened to become friendly ith Federigo, acquiring a !assion for birds and dogs2 and, having often seen Federigo's falcon in flight, he became fascinated by it and longed to o n it, but since he could see that Federigo as dee!ly attached to the bird, he never ventured to as" him for it. .nd there the matter rested, hen, to the consternation of his mother, the boy ha!!ened to be ta"en ill. Being her only child, he as the a!!le of his mother's eye, and she sat beside his bed the hole day long, never ceasing to comfort him. 3very so often she as"ed him hether there as anything he anted, im!loring him to tell her hat it as, because if it ere !ossible to acquire it, she ould move heaven and earth to obtain it for him.

made her ay to Federigo's little cottage. her maternal instincts gained the u!!er hand. . to satisfy the child by going in !erson to Federigo to collect the bird. /o ithout thin"ing t ice about it he rung the bird's nec" and !rom!tly handed it over to his house"ee!er to be !luc"ed. Federigo74 *hen she continued' 4( have come to ma"e amends for the harm you have suffered on my account. the e%tent to hich he had squandered his ealth had not yet been fully borne home to Federigo2 but on this !articular morning. he silently cursed his bad luc" and rushed all over the house li"e one !ossessed. to as" him for this falcon. since there as no one else he could call u!on to cha!eron her. hich as sitting on its !erch in the little room here it as "e!t. his mother left the house as though intending to go for a al".t length. 4( cannot recall ever having suffered any harm on your account.4 On hearing this request. ho is the ife of the farmer here ill "ee! you com!any hilst ( go and see about setting the table. ( can assure you that this visit hich you have been generous enough to !ay me is orth more to me than all the money ( ever !ossessed. or even send anyone.. the lady as some hat ta"en abac". he as still determined to entertain the gentle oman to some sort of meal. that it as nice and !lum!. come hat may.nd ho can ( be so heartless as to de!rive so noble a man of his one remaining !leasure64 Her mind filled ith reflections of this sort. Moreover. so Federigo as attending to one or t o little )obs in his garden. as there is nobody else available. by loving me more than you ought to have done. dressed. but you must not !ut yourself to any trouble. if you could arrange for me to have Federigo's falcon. hich to )udge from all ( have heard is he finest that ever fle .fter hearing this offer re!eated for the um!teenth time. ta"ing another lady ith her for com!any. he ha!!ily rushed there to greet her. my son. On the contrary ( have gained so much that if ever attained any "ind of e%cellence. she advanced ith omanly grace to meet him. ho ever. and she resolved. together ith my com!anion here. of hich he still had a certain amount in his .4 /o saying. finding that he had nothing to set before the lady hose love he had entertained so lavishly in the !ast.4 0e%t morning. ( believe ( should soon get better. the eather had been unsuitable for ha "ing. By no the morning as ell advanced. on !ic"ing it u!. 5no ing that Federigo had been in love ith her for a long time. and bring it bac" to him. she remained silent. his ga1e alighted on his !recious falcon.s a to"en of my esteem. he said' 4My lady. . hereu!on she said' 4Greetings. as ell as being the only thing that "ee!s him alive6 . he led her unassumingly into the house and thence into his garden.nd having discovered. this good oman. not "no ing hat ans er to ma"e to her son's request. to his utter astonishment. and. and began to consider hat she could do about it. his eyes ere ell and truly o!ened to the fact. that Monna Giovanna as at the front door and ished to s!ea" to him. When she sa him coming.nd so she re!lied' 4Bear u!. and as"ed to see him. and that she had never deigned to cast so much as a single glance in his direction she said to herself' 4Ho can ( !ossibly go to him. . not ishing to beg assistance from his o n farmer #or from anyone else.4 *hough his !overty as acute. and hen he heard. he decided that since he ha no here else to turn. for that matter&. and see hether you can start feeling any better. though ( fear that my hos!itality ill not amount to very much. it as entirely because of your o n great orth and the love ( bore you.4 re!lied Federigo in all humility. ( should li"e to ta"e brea"fast ith you this morning. the boy said' 4Mother. Federigo received her ith a dee! bo . it ould ma"e a orthy dish for such a lady as this. ( give you my ord that ( shall go and fetch it for you first thing tomorro morning. here. *hen he covered the table ith s!otless linen. and even though she as quite certain that the falcon as hers for the as"ing. $istressed beyond all measure.4 4My lady. but could find no trace of either money or valuables. For several days. . and roasted carefully on a s!it.

. ( had it roasted and served to you on the trencher this morning.4 he said. talons. hich eventually he did. not to your love. and returned in high s!irits to the garden. so that ( may claim that through your generosity ( have saved my son's life. contrary to my o n ishes and to all the rules of decorum and !ro!riety. *he reason is sim!le. hereby you have !roved yourself su!erior to all others in the !ractice of courtesy.t first the lady thought his tears stemmed more from his grief at having to !art ith his fine falcon than from any other motive. ( am forced. $o me this favor. and as on the !oint of telling him that she ould !refer not to have it.hich is only natural. ( re!uted it a orthy dish to set before you. ho aited on them ith the utmost deference. to as" you for something to hich ( "no you are very dee!ly attached-. the fact that you have no children of your o n does not e%em!t me. for you are under no obligation to me on that account. (n im!loring you to give me this falcon. es!ecially hen you recall your former mode of living and my virtue. hether through his disa!!ointment in not being able to have the falcon.nd being bound to obey those la s. and that you desire from me a trifling favor hich she has made it im!ossible for me to concede. that if ( fail to ta"e it to him ( fear that he ill succumb to the illness from hich he is suffering. ( am so distressed by my inability to grant your request that ( shall never forgive myself for as long as ( live. But if you had ever had any children to ma"e you a!!reciate the !o er of !arental love. ( considered it right and !ro!er. My thoughts therefore turned to the falcon you have as"ed me for and "no ing its quality. or because he as in any case suffering from a mortal illness. and returned to the child. 4ever since God decreed that you should become the ob)ect of my love. 4Ho ever. the lady re!roached him at first for "illing so fine a falcon. But no that her ho!es of obtaining the falcon had vanished she began to feel seriously concerned for the health of her son. hich you never deigned to visit hen it as rich. hich you !ossibly mistoo" for harshness and cruelty. and ( shall e%!lain it in fe ords.nd together ith Federigo. the only !leasure. Federigo burst into teas in her !resence before being able to utter a single ord in re!ly. ( a!!eal. and bea" to be cast on the table before her. On seeing and hearing all this. loo"ing all des!ondent. But on second thoughts she said nothing. such as had been able to !re!are. On leaving the table they engaged their host in !leasant conversation for a hile. from the la s common to all other mothers. *he gift ( am see"ing is your falcon. seeing that it is the only consolation. Federigo caused the feathers. as no ready. . hen ( reflect that you have come to my !oor d elling. 0or shall ( ever be able to forgive her. ( have re!eatedly had cause to com!lain of Fortune's hostility to ards me. ( should thin" it certain that you ould to some e%tent forgive me. to do everything ithin my !o er to !re!are a more sum!tuous dish than those ( ould offer to my ordinary guests. /o. But all her !revious blo s ere slight by com!arison ith the one she has dealt me no . they made a meal of the !ri1e falcon ithout "no ing hat they ere eating. that you ill be astonished at my im!ertinence hen you discover my !rinci!al reason for coming here. and aited for Federigo to sto! crying and giver her his ans er. she too" her leave of him. she turned to Federigo and addressed him affably as follo s' 4( do not doubt for a moment. and ( could not have ished for a better ay of dis!osing of it. . the only recreation remaining to you in your !resent e%tremity of fortune.4 When he heard hat it as that she anted. 4When you did me the "indness of telling me that you ished to brea"fast ith me.4 (n confirmation of his ords. having regard to your e%cellence and merit.nd to his mother's indescribable sorro ithin the s!ace of a fe days. a mother. and after than"ing Federigo for his hos!itality and good intentions. nor ever ould. then. But no that ( discover that you anted it in a different form. and consequently ( shall lose him. *he lady and her com!anion rose from here they ere sitting and made their ay to the table. and serving it u! for a oman to eat2 but then she became lost in admiration for his magnanimity of s!irit. . to hich my son has ta"en so !o erful a li"ing. and reali1ed that he could not oblige her because he had given her the falcon to eat. here he announced to his lady that the meal. and hen the lady thought it time to broach the sub)ect she had gone there to discuss. but rather to your noble heart. Federigo. . the child !assed from this life. hich no amount of !overty had managed to diminish.!ossession. thus !lacing him forever in your debt. 4My lady.

and lived ith her in ha!!iness to the end of his days. Questions 8. and very rich into the bargain. along ith her immense fortune. 4( am ell a are of that. . Ho is this a story about loss and restoration. #a& Ho does Monna Giovanna vie Federigo's love for her6 #b& What is the difference bet een saying that she 4too" no notice4 of his love and saying that she did not notice it6 #c& Why is this distinction im!ortant6 9.4 Her brothers made fun of her. don't tal" such nonsense7 Ho can you marry a man ho hasn't a !enny ith hich to bless himself64 4My brothers.ns ers ill vary. ( should illingly remain as ( am2 but since you are so eager or me to ta"e a husband. than riches ithout a gentleman. since not only had she been left ith a vast fortune but she as still a young oman.ns ers ill vary. . for both Monna and Federigo6 =. $id you find it disa!!ointing that Monna Giovanna 4 ould have !referred to remain a ido 4 after her husband died instead of marrying Federigo immediately6 3%!lain.lberighi. *henceforth. she said to her brothers' 4(f only it ere !leasing you. >. #a& (n hat ay are the t o main characters models of behavior6 #b& $o they have any faults6 3%!lain. #a& What social and moral !roblems arise hen Monna Giovanna's son as"s her to obtain Federigo's falcon6 #b& What does her resolution of these !roblems reveal about her character6 :. namely to have "illed such a fine falcon in her honor. . Federigo managed his affairs more !rudently. and "no ing Federigo to be a gentleman of great merit even though he as !oor. Ho do the ideals of love e%!ressed in this story differ from current notions of romantic love6 . her brothers fell in ith her ishes and handed her over to him. <. the lady as re!eatedly urged by her brothers to remarry. you may be certain that ( shall never marry any other man e%ce!t Federigo degli . #a& Ho is Federigo's decision to "ill his falcon similar to Monna's decision to as" him for it6 #b& Ho do both these actions relate to the theme of sacrifice6 . But ( ould sooner have a gentleman ithout riches.4 she re!lied. finding himself married to this great lady ith hom he as so dee!ly in love. saying' 4/illy girl.nd though she ould have !referred to remain a ido ..4 /eeing that her mind as made u!. they gave her so little !eace in the end.fter a !eriod of bitter mourning and continued ee!ing.. recalling Federigo's high merits and his latest act of generosity.