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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Theodosius the Emperoure
Gesta Romanorum
 
THEODOSIUS 1 reigned a wise emperour in the cite of Rome, and mighty he was of power; the which emperoure had three doughters. So it liked to this emperour to knowe which of his doughters loved him best; and then he said to the eldest doughter, “How much lovest thou me?” “Forsoth,” quoth she, “more than I do myself.” “Therefore,” quoth he, “thou shalt be heighly advanced;” and married her to a riche and mighty kyng. Then he came to the second, and said to her, “Doughter, how muche lovest thou me?” “As muche forsoth,” she said, “as I do myself.” So the emperoure married her to a duke. And then he said to the third doughter, “How much lovest thou me?” “Forsoth,” quoth she, “as muche as ye be worthy, and no more.” Then said the emperoure, “Doughter, since thou lovest me no more, thou shalt not be married so richely as thy sisters be.” And then he married her to an earl.  1
  After this it happened that the emperour held battle against the Kyng of Egipt, and the kyng drove the emperour oute of the empire, in so muche that the emperour had no place to abide inne. So he wrote lettres ensealed with his ryng to his first doughter that said that she loved him more than her self, for to pray her of succoring in that great need, bycause he was put out of his empire. And when the doughter had red these lettres she told it to the kyng her husband. Then quoth the kyng, “It is good that we succor him in his need. I shall,” quoth he, “gather an host and help him in all that I can or may; and that will not be done withoute great costage.” “Yea,” quoth she, “it were sufficiant if that we would graunt him V knyghtes to be fellowship with him while he is oute of his empire.” And so it was done indeed; and the doughter wrote again to the fader that other help might he not have, but V knyghtes of the kynges to be in his fellowship, at the coste of the kyng her husband.  2
  And when the emperour heard this he was hevy in his hert and said, “Alas! alas! all my trust was in her; for she said she loved me more than herself, and therefore I advanced her so high.”  3
  Then he wrote to the second, that said she loved him as much as her self. And when she had herd his lettres she shewed his erand to her husband, and gave him in counsel that he should find him mete and drink and clothing, honestly as for the state of such a lord, during tyme of his nede; and when this was graunted she wrote lettres agein to hir fadir.  4
  The Emperour was hevy with this answere, and said, “Since my two doughters have thus grieved me, in sooth I shall prove the third.”  5
  And so he wrote to the third that she loved him as muche as he was worthy; and prayed her of succor in his nede, and told her the answere of her two sisters. So the third doughter, when she considered the mischief of her fader, she told her husbond in this fourme: “My worshipful lord, do succor me now in this great nede; my fadir is put out of his empire and his heritage.” Then spake he, “What were thy will I did thereto?” “That ye gather a great host,” quoth she, “and help him to fight against his enemys.” “I shall fulfill thy will,” said the earl; and gathered a greate hoste and wente with the emperour at his owne costage to the battle, and had the victorye, and set the emperour again in his heritage.  6
  And then said the emperour, “Blessed be the hour I gat my yonest doughter! I loved her lesse than any of the others, and now in my nede she hath succored me, and the others have failed me, and therefore after my deth she shall have mine empire.” And so it was done in dede; for after the deth of the emperour the youngest doughter reigned in his sted, and ended peacefully.  7
 
MORALITE

  Dere Frendis, this emperour may be called each worldly man, the which hath three doughters. The first doughter, that saith, “I love my fadir more than my self,” is the worlde, whom a man loveth so well that he expendeth all his life about it; but what tyme he shall be in nede of deth, scarcely if the world will for all his love give him five knyghtes, scil. v. boards for a coffin to lay his body inne in the sepulcre. The second doughter, that loveth her fader as muche as her selfe, is thy wife or thy children or thy kin, the whiche will haply find thee in thy nede to the tyme that thou be put in the erthe. And the third doughter, that loveth thee as muche as thou art worthy, is our Lord God, whom we love too little. But if we come to him in tyme of oure nede with a clene hert and mynd, withoute doute we shall have help of him against the Kyng of Egipt, scil. the Devil; and he shall set us in our owne heritage, scil. the kyngdome of heven. Ad quod nos [etc.].
  8
 
Note 1. The story of King Lear and his three daughters. [back]
 
 
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