Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > Italian & Spanish
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vol. XIII: Italian—Spanish
 
Living in Bed
By Francesco Berni (1497/8–1535)
 
From “Roland Enamored”

YET field-sports, dice, cards, balls, and such like courses,
  Things which he might be thought to set store by,
Gave him but little pleasure. He liked horses,
  But was content to let them please his eye—
Buying them, not squaring with his resources.        5
  Therefore his summum bonum was to lie
Stretch’d at full length—yea, frankly be it said,
To do no single thing but lie in bed.
 
’Twas owing all to that infernal writing.
  Body and brains had borne such grievous rounds        10
Of kicks, cuffs, floors, from copying and inditing,
  That he could find no balsam for his wounds,
No harbor for his wreck half so inviting
  As to lie still, far from all sights and sounds,
And so, in bed, do nothing on God’s earth        15
But try and give his senses a new birth.
 
“Bed—bed’s the thing, by Heaven!” thus would he swear.
  “Bed is your only work, your only duty.
Bed is one’s gown, one’s slippers, one’s armchair,
  Old coat; you’re not afraid to spoil its beauty.        20
Large you may have it, long, wide, brown, or fair,
  Down-bed or mattress, just as it may suit ye.
Then take your clothes off, turn in, stretch, lie double;
Be but in bed, you’re quit of earthly trouble!”
 
Borne to the fairy palace then, but tired        25
  Of seeing so much dancing, he withdrew
Into a distant room, and there desired
  A bed might be set up, handsome and new,
With all the comforts that the case required:
  Mattresses huge, and pillows not a few        30
Put here and there, in order that no ease
Might be found wanting to cheeks, or arms, or knees.
 
The bed was eight feet wide, lovely to see,
  With white sheets, and fine curtains, and rich loops—
Things vastly soothing to calamity;        35
  The coverlet hung light in silken droops;
It might have held six people easily;
  But he disliked to lie in bed by groups.
A large bed to himself, that was his notion,
With room enough to swim in—like the ocean.        40
 
In this retreat there joined him a good soul,
  A Frenchman, one who had been long at court,
An admirable cook—though, on the whole,
  His gains of his deserts had fallen short.
For him was made, cheek, as it were, by jowl,        45
  A second bed of the same noble sort,
Yet not so close but that the folks were able
To set between the two a dinner-table.
 
Here was served up, on snow-white table-cloths,
  Each daintiest procurable comestible        50
In the French taste (all others being Goths),
  Dishes alike delightful and digestible.
Only our scribe chose sirups, soups, and broths,
  The smallest trouble being a detestable
Bore, into which not ev’n his dinner led him.        55
Therefore the servants always came and fed him.
 
Nothing at these times but his head was seen;
  The coverlet came close beneath his chin;
And then, from out the bottle or tureen,
  They fill’d a silver pipe, which he let in        60
Between his lips, all easy, smooth, and clean,
  And so he filled his philosophic skin.
And not a finger all the while he stirred,
Nor, lest his tongue should tire, scarce uttered word.
 
The name of that same cook was Master Pierre;        65
  He told a tale well—something short and light.
Quoth scribe, “Those people who keep dancing there
  Have little wit.” Quoth Pierre, “You’re very right.”
And then he told a tale, or hummed an air;
  Then took a sip of something, or a bite;        70
And then he turned himself to sleep; and then
Awoke and ate. And then he slept again.
*        *        *        *        *
One more thing I may note that made the day
  Pass well—one custom, not a little healing,
Which was, to look above him, as he lay,        75
  And count the spots and blotches in the ceiling;
Noting what shapes they took to, and which way,
  And where the plaster threatened to be peeling;
Whether the spot looked new, or old, or what—
Or whether ’twas, in fact, a spot or not.        80
 
 
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