Alibech and Rustico
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Alibech and Rustico" is the tenth tale on the third day in the Decamerone. In the tale Alibech becomes a female hermit, and is taught by Rustico, a monk, how the Devil is put in hell. She is afterwards conveyed thence, and becomes the wife of Neerbale.
Of course, Dioneo narrates what is by far the most obscene and bawdy tale in the Decameron. Because of its graphic nature, this tale has at times been translated incompletely, as in John Payne's translation, where Alibech's sexual awakening is left untranslated and is accompanied with this footnote: "The translators regret that the disuse into which magic has fallen, makes it impossible to render the technicalities of that mysterious art into tolerable English; they have therefore found it necessary to insert several passages in the original Italian." No known earlier versions of it exist.
Full text from the John Payne translation
Alibech, a young convert to Christianity, goes into the desert of the Thebaid, where Rustico, a pious hermit, teaches her how to put the devil in hell.
Dioneo, who had listened attentively to the queen's novel, seeing it was now his own turn, did not wait to be called on, but began at once with a smile. " Perhaps you never heard, fair ladies, how the devil is to be put into hell ? I will, therefore, without departing much from the tenor of all that has been said to-day, tell you how the thing is done. Peradventure it may be for the good of your souls to know it ; and at the same time you will learn that although Love more willingly abides in gay palaces and luxurious chambers than in the hovels of the poor, yet none the less doth he whiles make his power felt midmost thick forests and rugged mountains and in desert caverns ; whereby it may be under- stood that all things are subject to his puissance.
To come, then, to the fact, I say that in the city of Capsa in Barbary there was aforetime a very rich man, who, among his other children, had a fair and winsome young daughter, by name Alibech. She, not being a Christian and hearing many Christians who abode in the town mightily extol the Christian faith and the service of God, one day questioned one of them in what manner one might avail 'to serve God with the least hindrance. The other answered that they best served God who most strictly eschewed* the things of the world, as those did who had betaken them into the solitudes of the deserts of Thebais. The girl, who was maybe four- teen years old and very simple, moved by no ordered desire, but by some childish fancy, set off next morning by stealth and all alone, to go to the desert of Thebais, without letting any know her intent. After some days, her desire persist- ing, she won, with no little toil, to the deserts in question and seeing a hut afar off, went thither and found at the door a holy man, who marvelled to see her there and asked her what she sought. She replied that, being inspired ofGod, she went seeking to enter into His service and was now in quest of one who should teach her how It behoved to serve Him.
The worthy man, seeing her young and very fair and fear- ing lest, an he entertained her, the devil should beguile him, commended her pious intent and giving her somewhat to eat of roots of herbs and wild apples and dates and to drink of water, said to her, " Daughter mine, not far hence is a holy man, who is a much better master than I of that which thou goest seeking ; do thou betake thyself to him ; *' and put her in the way. However, when she reached the man in ques- tion, she had of him the same answer and faring farther, came to the cell of a young hermit, a very devout and good man, whose name was Rustico and to whom she made the same request as she had done to the others. He, having a mind to make a trial of his own constancy, sent her not away, as the others had done, but received her into his cell, and the night being come, he made her a little bed of palm- fronds a»!*^; bade her lie down to rest thereon. This done, temptations tarried not to give battle to his powers of resist- ance and he, finding himself grossly deceived by these latter, turned tail, without awaiting many assaults, and confessed himself beaten ; then, laying aside devout thoughts and orisons and mortifications, he fell to revolving in his memory the youth and beauty of the damsel and bethinking himself what course he should take with her, so as to win to that which he desired of her, without her taking him for a de- bauched fellow.
Accordingly, having sounded her with sundry questions, he found that she had never known man and was in truth as simple as she seemed ; wherefore he bethought him how, under color of the service of God, he might bring her to his pleasures. In the first place, he showed her with many words how great an enemy the devil was of God the Lord and after gave her to understand that the most acceptable service that could be rendered to God was to put back the devil into hell, whereto He had condemned him. The girl asked him how this might be done ; and he, * Thou shalt soon know that ; do thou but as thou shalt see me do.* So saying, he proceeded to put off the few garments he had and abode stark naked, as likewise did the girl, whereupon he fell on his knees, as he would pray, and caused her abide over against himself.*
- La jeunette lui demanda comment cela se faìsoit. A laquelle Rustique dit : ** Tu le S9auras tantost ; et pour ce tu feras ce que tu me verras faire." Si commen9a à dépouiller ce peu d'habillemens qu'il avoit vestus, et demeura tout nud, et autant en fit la filette, puis se mit à fenoux comme s*il Teust voulu adorer, et tit mettre tout incontinent la fille vis-a-vis de lui. £n estant ainsi Rustique échauffé, et brùlant plus que de van t, pour la voir ainsi toute nue et belle, la resurrection eie la chair va venir, laquelle regardant Alibech toute émerveillée, dit : " Rustique, quelle chose est-ce que ie te vois qui pousse si fort en avant, et je ne l'ai point ? " " O, ma fille, dit Rustique, " ceci est le diable, dont le t*sd parie, et vois-tu maintenant, il me donne tei tourment qu'à peine le puis-je soufifrir." Alors dit la jeune fille : " Ho, loué soit Dieu que je vois que je suis mieux que toi de n'avoir point ce diable.*' Rustique dit : *' Tu dis vrai, mais tu as une autre chose que je n'ai pas, et Tas en échange de cette-ci." " Eh, auoi ? " dit Alibech. Rustique repondit : " Tu as l'enfer, et je te veux oien dire que je croi que nostre Seieneur t'sdt ici envoyée pour le salut de mon ame, parce <^ue si ce diable me veut toujours donner cet ennui, et qu'il te plaise avoir tant de compassion de moi, que de souffrir que je le remette en enfer, tu me donneras, une très-granae consolation, et feras un très-grande service à Dieu, et grand plaisir, au moins si tu es venue ici pour faire ce que tu dis." La jeune nlle à la bonne foi repondit : " O mon pére, puisque j'ai Penfer, mettez-y le diable quand il vous plaira." Alors dit Rustique : " Ma fille, tu sois de Dieu benite, allons done et Vy mettons, afin qu'il me labse en paix : " et ceci dit, mena la fille sur un de leurs petits lits, et lui enseigna comme elle se devoit mettre pour imprìspnner ce maudit diable. La jeune fille, qui jamais n'avoit mis aucun diable en enfer, sentit pour la première fois un peu de mal : par quoi elle dit à Rustique : '* Pour
Matters standing thus and Rustico being more than ever inflamed in his desires to see her so fair, there came the resurrection of the flesh, which Alibech observing and marvelling, " Rustico," quoth she, " what is that I see on thee which thrusteth forth thus and which I have not ? '* " Faith, daughter mine," answered he, " this is the devil thereof I bespoke thee ; and see now, he giveth me such sore annoy that I can scarce put up with it." Then said the girl, " Now praised be God ! I see I fare better than thou, in that I have none of yonder devil." *'True," rejoined Rustico; " but thou hast other what that I have not, and thou hast it instead of this." "What is that?" asked Alibech; and he, " Thou hast hell, and I tell thee methinketh God hath sent thee hither for my souls health, for that, whenas this
- certain, mon pere, ce diable doit estre une mau valse chose, el véritablement ennemie de Dieu, puisqu'à I'enfer mesme il fait mal quand on Vy remet." Rustique repondit : " II n*en adviendra pas toiijours ainsi," et pour faire au'il n*advint plus, ils I'y remirent par six fois avant de descendre de aessus de lit, tant que pour cette nuit ils lui tirerent tellement I'orgueil de la teste, qu*il demeura volontiers en paix. Mais y retournant plusieurs fois less jours suivans, et la jeune fille obéissante toujours à le lui tirer, advint c|ue le jeu lui commen9a à plaire : par quoi elle dit : ** Rustique, bien voi-ie qu'il est vrai ce que disoient ces gens de bien de Capse, que le servir a Dieu estoit si douce chose, et pour certain je n^ai aucune souvenance que rien que je fìsse jamais fust si plaisant, comma de remettre le diable en enfer, et par ce je juge que toute personne qui pense à autre chose qu'à servir Dieu, est une grande beste : " par quoi elle alloit souvent à Rustique, et lui disoit : ** Mon pére, je suis ici venue pour servir à Dieu et non pour demeurer oisive. Allons remettre le diable en enter." Faisant laquelle chose, elle disoit aucune fois : " Rustique, je ne S9ai pourquoi le diable s'enfruit d'enfer, car s*il y demeuroit aussi volontiers comme Tenfer le re9oit et le tient, il n*en sortiroit jamais." Ainsi done la jeune fille invitant souventefois Rustique et le confo rtant au service de Dieu, lui secoua tellement la bourse de son pelisson, que telle heure il se sentoit froid ou un autre eust sue ; et par ainsi commen9a à dire à la fille, qu'il ne falloit point chastierle diable, ni le remettre en enfer, sinon quana par orgueil il levoit la teste ; et par la grace de Dieu ils Tavoient tant chastie, qu*il prioit nostre Seigneur qu'on le laissast en paix ; et ainsi il imposa un peu de silence à la jeune fille, laquelle quand elle vit que Rustique ne la requeroit plus de remettre le diable en enfer, lui dit un jour : " Rustique, pourtant si ton diable est chastié, et ne te donne plus d'ennui, mon enfer ne me laisse point en paix ; par quoi je te prie qu*avec ton diable tu aides à oster la ra^e à mon enfer, comme j*ai aide avec lui à tirer Torgueil du tien." Rustic^ue qui ne vivoit que de racines, d'herbes, et d'eau, pouvoit très-mal satisfaire à la poste de la jeune fille, et lui dit qu*il fauclroit trop de tables pour oster la rage à un enfer, mais qu'il feroit ce qu'il pourroit ; et ainsi aucunefois la contentoit, mais c'estoit si peu, que ce n'estoit autre chose que jetter une febve en la gueule d'un lion, dont la jeune fille (lui estant avis qu'elle ne servoit pas à Dieu autant comme elle eust bien vanlu) murmuroit.
devil doth me this annoy, an it please thee have so much compassion on me as to suffer me put him back into hell, thou wilt give me the utmost solacement and wilt do God a very great pleasure and service, so indeed thou be come into these parts to do as thou sayst."
The girl answered in good faith, "Marry, father mine, since I have hell, be it whensoever it pleaseth thee ; " whereupon quoth Rustico, " Daughter, blessed be thou ; let us go then and put him back there, so he may after leave me in peace." So saying, he laid her on one of their little beds and taught her how she should do to imprison that accursed one of God. The girl, who had never yet put any devil in hell, for the first time felt some little pain ; wherefore she said to Rustico, " Certes, father mine, this same devil must be an ill thing and an enemy in very deed of God, for that it irketh hell itself, let be otherwhat, when he is put back therein." " Daughter," answered Rustico, ** it will not always happen thus ; " and to the end that this should not happen, six times, or ever they stirred from the bed, they put him in hell again, insomuch that for the nonce they so took the conceit out of his head that he willingly abode at peace. But, it returning to him again and again the ensuing days and the obedient girl still lending herself to take it out of him, it befell that the sport began to please her and she said to Rustico, " I see now that those good people in Capsa spoke sooth, when they avouched that it was so sweet a thing to serve God ; for, certes, I remember me not to have ever done aught that afforded me such pleasance and delight as putting the devil in hell ; wherefore methinketh that who so applieth himself unto aught other than God His service is a fool."
Accordingly, she came ofttimes to Rustico and said to him, " Father mine, I came here to serve God and not to abide idle ; let us go put the devil in hell.*' Which doing, she said whiles, " Rustico, I know not why the devil fleeih away from hell ; for, and he abode there as willingly as hell receiveth him and holdeth him, he would never come forth therefrom." The girl, then, on this wise often inviting Rustico and exhorting him to the service of God, so took the bombast out of his doublet that he felt cold what time another had sweated ; wherefore 'he fell to telling her that the devil was not to be chastised nor put into hell, save whenas he should lift up his head for pride ; " and we," added he, "by God's grace, have so baffled him that he prayeth our Lord to suffer him abide in peace ; " and on this wise he for awhile imposed silence on her. However, when she saw that he required her not of putting the devil into hell, she said to him one day, " Rustico, and thy devil be chastened and give thee no more annoy, my hell letteth me not be ; wherefore thou wilt do well to aid me with thy devil in abating the raging of my hell, even as with my hell I have helped thee take the conceit out of thy devil."
Rustico, who lived on roots and water, could ill avail to answer her calls and told her that it would need overmany devils to appease hell, but he would do what he might thereof. Accordingly he satisfied her bytimes, but so seldom it was but casting a bean into the lion's mouth ; whereat the girl, herseeming she served not God as diligently as she would fain have done, murmured somewhat. But, whilst this debate was toward between Rustico his devil and Ali- bech her hell, for overmuch desire on the one part and lack of power on the other, it befell that a fire broke out in Capsa and burnt Alibech's father in his own house, with as many children and other family as he had ; by reason whereof she abode heir to all his good. Thereupon, a young man called Neerbale, who had spent all his substance in gallantry, hear- ing that she was alive, set out in search of her and finding her, before the court had laid hands upon her father's estate as that of a man dying without heir, to Rustico's great satis- faction, but against her own will, brought her back to Capsa, where he took her to wife and succeeded, in her right, to the ample inheritance of her father.
There, being asked by the women at what she served Go'd in the desert, she answered (Neerbale having not yet lain with her) that she served Him at putting the devil in hell and that Neerbale had done a grievous sin in that he had taken her from such service. The ladies asked, " How putteth one the devil in hell ? " And the girl, what with words and what with gestures, expounded it to them ; whereat they set up so great a laughing that they laugh yet and said, " Give yourself no concern, my child ; nay, for that is done here also and Neerbale will serve our Lord full well with thee at this." Thereafter, telling it from one to another throughout the city, they brought it to a common saying there that the most acceptable service one could render to God was to put the devil in hell, which byword, having passed the sea hither, is yet current here. Where- fore do all you young ladies, who desire to have the grace of God, learn to put the devil in hell, because it is very a<y>;pN able to God, highly agreeable to both parties concerned, and much good may grow out of it and follow it.
Dioneo having finished his story, and the queen knowing her sovereignty to be now at an end, took the crown from her heady and placed it on that of Filostrato, saying, " We shall soon see whether the wolves govern the sheep, bettei than the sheep have hitherto governed the wolves." He re- plied, with a smile, "If my advice had been taken, the wolves would have taught the sheep to put the devil in hell, just a» Rustico taught Alibech ; so do not call us wolves, since you yourselves have not been sheep. However, I take upon me the command." Givirfg the proper orders, then, to the stew- ard, as to what he would have done, he turned to the ladies, and said : — " It has beei my misfortune, ever since I was able to judge of anything, to be always in love with one or other of you ladies ; nor has it availed me in the least that I have been humble, obedient, and desirous of pleasing to the utmost of my power ; for I have constantly been dis- carded at last for some other lover, going still from bad to worse, and so I expect to continue till I go to my grave. Therefore I intend that our subject for to-morrow shall be something suitable to my own case ; namely, concerning per- sons whose amours have had an unfortunate conclusion." Having said this, he gave them leave to depart. The gar- den was so pleasant, that every one chose to walk thither, especially as the sun was going down, where some diverted themselves with observing and running after the kids, rab- bits, and other creatures, that were skipping about them. Dioneo and Fiammetta sat singing together the song of Guilielmo and the Lady of Vergiù. Filomena and Pamfilo played at chess. And thus they were all differently employed till the time of supper, which came upon them a little unex- pectedly ; when, the table being spread by the side of the fountain, they supped with a great deal of pleasure. As soon as the cloth was taken away. Filostrato, not to go out of the path which had been followed by the queens who had gone before him, commanded Lauretta to begin a dance with a song. She replied, " May it please your majesty, I know nothing of other people's songs, nor any of my own at present, which would please so agreeable a company ; but, if you will accept of such a one as I can call to mind, I will sing it with a great deal of pleasure." The king made an- swer, " Nothing of yours can be disagreeable : sing such as you have." She then began, with a musical voice, but ia a desponding manner, thus : —