ALREADY the golden-haired Apollo in his radiant chariot had sped away from this hemisphere of ours, and, having sunk beyond the distant line of sea, had betaken himself to the antipodes, and all those who had been labouring in the fields, now weary with their hard toil, felt no desire for aught save to re pose quietly in their beds, when the worshipful and highborn company assembled themselves joyfully once more in the accustomed spot. And after the ladies and gentlemen had spent a short time in mirthful converse, the Signora Lucretia, when silence had been restored, bade them bring forth the golden vase. Then having written with her own hand the names of five of the ladies and cast them into the vase, she called to the Signor Vangelista and directed him to draw out of the vase the names one by one, in order that they might clearly know to which of their companions the duty of story-telling on that same night would be assigned. Then Signor Vangelista, rising from his seat, and breaking off the pleasant discourse he was holding with Lodovica, went obediently towards the Signora, and, having sunk down upon his knees reverently at her feet, he put his hand in the vase, and drew out first the name Fiordiana, then that of Vicenza, then that of Lodovica, next that of Isabella, and last the name of Lionora. But before they made a beginning of their story-telling the Signora gave the word to Molino and to the Trevisan that they should take their lutes and sing a ballad. The two gentlemen did not wait for any further command, but forthwith tuned their instruments and sang to a joyous strain the following verse:
There is a face which is my sun of love,
In whose kind warmth I breathe and move,
Or faint beneath its scorching ray
And when it shines amongst the fairest fair,
My lady reigns beyond compare,
And all around her bend beneath her sway.
Happy, thrice happy, is that favoured one,
Who sees no face but hers alone,
And passion’s nectar eager sips,
Who listens to the music of her tongue,
More sweet than lay by seraphs sung,
In words that fall like jewels from her lips.
But happier still were I if she benign
Would place her lily hand in mine,
And mark me worthy such a prize to claim.
Dull clod of earth although I be,
Then should I full fruition see
Of every hope and end of every aim.
The song was attentively listened to and warmly commended by every one of the company. And when the Signora saw that it had come to an end she directed Fiordiana, to whom had been assigned the first turn of story-telling on this the fourth night, that she should begin hers straightway, and follow the order which had been observed since the beginning of their entertainment; and the damsel, who was no less eager to speak than the rest of the company were to listen, thus began her fable.