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[NOTE: These sample chapters are currently just plain text from the work in question. They do not include the formatting, footnotes, or illustrations (where appropriate) of the actual, published books. I hope to get more representative samples up here eventually, but these will have to do for now.]
On the right hande of the Quene sat Philocopo, to whome shee sayde: Noble Sir, you shall begin to propounde your Question, to the ende that the rest orderly, as we are here placed, maye after you, with more suertie propounde theire also. To whom Philocopo thus made answere: Most noble Lady, without my following, I shall obey your commaundement, and thus sayd: I remember that in the Citie, wherin I was borne, there was one day made a bountifull great Feast, wherat, to honor the same, were many Gentlemen & Gentlewomen: And I that was likewise there roming about, and beholding them that were in the place, espied among the rest .ij. yong men very gracious to behold, that earnestly eyed an exceeding faire yong woman. Neither was I any ways able to discerne whether of them hir beautie had most inflamed. And as she in like sorte had a good space beheld them, not making greater sembläce to the one than to the other, they betwene themselues began to reason of hir: and among the other wordes that I vnderstoode of their talke, was that eche one sayde, that hee was hir best beloued: and for proofe thereof, either of them alleaged in the furtherance of himself, diuers gestures then before done by the yong woman. And they thus remaining in this contention a long time, being now thorowe many words at daggers drawing, they acknowledged, that herein they did very euill, bicause in thus doing, they wrought hurt and shame to themselues, and displeasure to the woman. Wherfore (moued of an equall agreement) both two went to the mother of the maide, who was also at the same Feast, and thus sayd vnto hir: That forsomuch as aboue all other women of the worlde, either of them best liked hir daughter, and that they were at contention whether of them was best liked of hir, it would therefore please hir to graunt them this fauor, to the end no greater inconueniëce might spring therof, as to will hir daughter, that she either by worde or deede, would shewe whether of them shee best loued. The intreated Gentlewomä smiling, thus aunswered: Willingly. And so calling hir daughter to hir, sayd: My faire daughter, eche one of these preferreth the loue of thee aboue the loue of him selfe, & in this contention they are: whether of them is best beloued of thee: and they seeke of me this fauour, that thou either by signes or words, resolue them herein: And therefore to the end that Loue, from whome all peace and goodnesse ought alwayes to spring, breede not now the contrary, content them in this, and with semblable curtesie, shew towardes which of them thy mynde is most bent. The yong damsell sayd: It liketh mee right well. And so beholding them both a while, she saw the one of them to haue vpon his head a faire garlande of fresh floures, and the other to stand without any garlande at all. Then she that had likewise vpon hir head a garlande of greene leaues, first tooke the same from hir head, and set it vpon his, that stode before hir without a garland. And after she toke that which the other yong man had vpon his heade, and set the same vpon hirs: and so leauing them, shee returned to the Feast, saying that she had both performed the commaundement of hir mother, as eke their desire. The yong men being thus left, returned also to their former contention, ech one affirming that she loued him best. And he whose garlande shee tooke and set vpon hir head, sayde: Assuredly she loueth me best, bicause she hath taken my garland to none other ende, but for that what myne is, pleaseth hir, and to giue occasion to bee beholding vnto me. But to thee, she hath giuen hirs, as it were in place of hir last fare well: vnwilling that (like a countrey girle) the loue which thou bearest hir, be without requital, and therfore lastly she giueth thee that garlande thou haddest merited. The other replying with the contrary, thus answered: Truly she loueth that thine is, better than thee, and that may be sene in taking therof. And me she loueth better than what myne is, in as much as she hath gyuen me of hirs: And therefore it is no token of hir last deserued gift, as thou affirme it, but rather a beginning of amitie and loue: A gifte maketh the receiuer a subiecte to the giuer: and bicause shee peraduenture vncertaine of me, to the ende she might be more certaine to haue me hir subiect, wil binde me (if perhaps I were not bounde vnto hir before) to bee hirs by gift. But how mayst thou thinke, if she at the first take away from thee that rose she may vouchesafe to giue thee? And thus they abode a long time cötending, and in the end departed without any definition at all. Now say I most puissant Queene, if you shoulde bee demaunded of the laste sentence of such a contention, what would ye iudge?
The faire Lady somewhat smiling, turned towardes Philocopo, (hir eyes sparkling with an amorous light) and after a soft sigh, thus made answere: Most noble youth, proper is your question: And truely, as very wisely the yong woman behaued hir selfe, so eche one of the yong men right well defended his cause: But bicause ye require what we lastly will iudge therof, thus we make you answere: It seemeth vnto vs, & so it ought to seeme to eche one that taketh good heede, that the woman had in hate neither the one nor the other: but to keepe hir intent couert dyd two contrary actes, as apeareth, and not without occasion. And to the end she might get more assured the loue of him whom she loued. as not to lose the loue of the other, whom she hated not, it was but wisely done: But to come to our Question, which is, to whether of the two greatest loue was shewed. We saye: that she loued him best, and he chiefest in hir fauour, to whome shee gaue hir garlande: and this seemeth to be the reason: What so euer man or woman that loueth any person, eche one thorowe force of the loue they beare, is so strongly bound to the person loued, that aboue al other things they desire to please the same, neither to bynde him or hir more strögly that thus loueth, needeth either gifts or seruices, and this is manifest. And yet we see, that who so loueth, though he endeuour him selfe sundry wayes, is not able to make the person loued, in any sorte benigne and subiect vnto hym, whereby he may bryng it to his pleasure, and so with a more bold face demaunde his desire. And that this is in suche sorte as we say, the inflamed Dido with hir doings, doth very well manifest the same vnto vs, who burning in the loue of Æneas, so long, as it seemed hir neither with honours nor with gifts able to winne him, had not the courage to attempt the doubtfull waye of asking the question: So that then the yong woman sought to make him most beholding vnto hir, whom she best loued. And thus we say, that he that receyued the gift of the Garlande, was hir best beloued.
As the Queene became silent, Philocopo answered: Discrete Lady, greatly is your answere to be cömended: but for all that, you doe bring me into a greate admiration of that the haue defined, touching the propounded question, bycause I woulde haue iudged rather the contrary. For so much as generally among louers, this was the wonted custome, that is, to desire to beare vppon them some Iewell, or some other thing of the persons loued, to thende that most times they might glorie them selues more therein, than in all the remnant they had, and perceiuing the same aboute them, therewith to glad their mindes, as ye haue heard. Parys seldome times or neuer entred into the bloudie battailes against the Greekes, without bearing some token vpon him, that had ben gyuen him by his Helene, beleuing better to preuaile therwith, than if he had gone without the same. And truely in my opinion, his thoughte was not vaine: therfore I shoulde thus say, that (as you sayde) the yong woman did very wysely, not defining it for all that as you haue done, but in this maner: She knowing that she was very wel loued of two yong men, and that she coulde not loue moe than one, for that Loue is an indeuisable thing, she would rewarde the one for the loue he bare hir, to the end that such good Will should not be vnrewarded, and so gaue him hir Garland as requitall therof. To the other whom she loued, she thought she would giue courage and assured hope of hir loue, taking his Garlande, and decking hir selfe therwith, in token wherof, she plainly shewed to be beholding vnto him for the same: And therfore in my Iudgement she loued better him from whom she toke, than him to whom she gaue:
to whom the Queene thus made aunswere: Youre argument should haue pleased vs right wel, if your self in your tale had not condemned the same. See howe pillage and perfect loue can agree together? How can ye shew me, that we loue him whome we spoile, better than him to whome we giue? According to the Question propoüded, to the one she gaue a Garland, and from the other she tooke a Garland: neyther had she from whom she gaue, ought giuen hir: and that which we see euery day for example may here suffise, as is commonly sayde. They are of Gentlemen farre better loued, on whome they bestowe fauor and giftes, than those that are by them depriued of them. And for that cause we lastely holde opinion, concluding that he is better loued, to whome is giuen, than hee from whome is taken. We know very well, that in these our reasonings much might be obiected against this oure definition, and much also aunswered to the contrary reasons: But lastly such determination shall remaine true.
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