[1.1] I am titled Boncompagnus from [my] composer's name, who, itinerantly ruling the field of eloquence with exalted genius and a solemn style, has published me for the enlightenment of the nations and the glory of the scholastic profession and has instituted me as [his] principal heir, just as is evidently contained in his testament, which he has solemnly promulgated.
[1.2] With a free style and legitimate discretionary power, the author himself has dictated the text of this testament and disposition of a last will, which he has not redacted again, as follows:
[2.1] "I, Boncompagnus, see and consider that man, derived from earth, is subject to vanity. The day of the Lord comes like a thief and ends suddenly, stealing the glory and vain desires of the earthly. For these reasons I forsee the end of a fleeting life, and arrange my testament, as follows."
[2.2] "I institute this book as my heir in the epistolary style, in the invention of themes, in approved customs, and in the variations of speech, wishing that it should remain content with this decision."
[2.3] "Furthermore, I establish and preordain in the text of this testament, that the sister of this book, which shall be called the Rhetoric of Boncompagno, shall advance from the chamber of philosophy, shall be decorated as if in the likeness of the Temple, and shall be crowned with gold and precious jewels. She shall wander among precincts of roses and lilies of the valley, she shall be redolent with a mixture of balsam and amber, she shall reveal the most Secret of Secrets, she shall be empress of the liberal arts and alumnus of both civil and canon law. I have sometimes called her the Book of Assistance for Litigation, sometimes the Candelabra of Eloquence, and sometimes Rhetoric, so that the jealous should not be able to predict her advent . She shall reign indomitably, and shall impose silence on <those> orators who, without common profit, have issued a multitude of precepts."
[3.1] Now I principally turn this speech to you, my heir, ordering you strictly that you should interpose the shield of your protection between me and that most monstrous beast, which has not desisted from persecuting me.
[3.2] Explain to me about the nature and disposition of that beast, against which I should fight.
[3.3] It has nine heads, doubled horns, three tails and four feet. Each of these fights by itself, harms by itself, nor does it strike without pouring out venom. It is also horrible to be seen, it never rests, but surveys the world, tracking down any sort of good fortune, and always it tries to find any sort of excellence, which when it cannot harm, it is confused, grumbles, shrieks, rages, becomes delirious, swallows up, harasses, becomes livid, becomes pale, clamours, becomes nauseated, hides, barks, bites, raves, foams at the mouth, rages, seethes, snarls and groans. It holds its mouth open, it has very, sharp teeth, and tongues like arrows of eternally-burning lightning.
[3.4] The ancient philosophers judged this beast to be the Hydra. But it is more cruel than the Hydra, because it resides in the innards of men, whom it consumes inwardlly and outwardly.
[3.5] But the horrible figure or image of this beast has frequently appeared to mind, thinking about its poisonous bites and lacerations, and disturbing the repose of the animal virtues, it attempted to forcefully snatch you away from my hands.
[3.6] Therefore I have painted and depicted that Tartarean figure in this place, just as I have seen it with my inward eyes, so that contemporaries and future generations might more readily strive to avoid its poisonous darts.
[3.7] O, how terrible and abominable is the sight of this beast, whence I marvel that the soul could tolerate so horrible an effigy in the series of vision. Nevertheless, I ask to be made certain: From whence did it take an orgin? By what name is it called? Where does it live? And whom has it wounded up to now?
[3.8] The mother of this beast was of celestial nature, she was called `Pride'. And that beast is called `Jealousy'; she contained in herself all contagion of vices.
[3.9] I cannot say how often and how many Jealousy has harmed and still harms, but she causes vituperable death and has afflicted with so many types of torments, that I would be as able to number them as I could the sands of the beaches and fixed stars in the course of the firmament.
[3.10] Nevertheless, for your instruction I will name some from the ranks of the infinite. Jealousy indeed spilt the first blood of Abel. She sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites. She burned up the satraps of Babylon in a furnace. She offered poison to the Damascene. She lanced the palate of Homer with an iron nail. She poisoned Socrates with hemlock sap. She slaughtered the children two years of age and older in Bethlehem. She presumed to lay hands on Christ the Lord. She afflicted many prophets, apostles and crusaders with various torments, reaching up to death. Jealousy also killed Julius Caesar on the Capitoline with twenty five wounds. She destroyed Tullius Cicero, mutilated in the tongue. She imprisoned Boethius. She proscribed Ovid to exile. She cast out Vergil from <his> Mantuan home. She forced Seneca to die in bath. She killed Lucan. She sent Juvenal into Egypt to die. She defamed Priscian of heresy. Jealousy smoked my Tables of salutations, so that they would be clad in illusory antiquity. What more? She has persecuted and does not desist to persecute as many as have had or seem to have some good fortune, and she leaves nothing intact except misery alone.
[3.11] You have instructed me concerning the nature and disposition of the beast. But now I ask, where did you learn and how long did you study and who gave you the magisterium of the oratorical faculty?
[3.12] Although it does not pertain to the matter to say where I learned, and who was my professor, yet you may rest assured that I suckled the milk of first knowledge from the breasts of the flowering city of Florence. But this whole period of study under a professor did not exceed sixteen months.
[3.13] Many persons believe that you have received knowledge from the favor of unclean spirits, because of the fact that you radiate marvelous genius and unfailing memory and because you seem to handle every type of faculty, as if you were trained in each of them.
[3.14] Credulity and will have from nature the privilege to be so free, that they do not fear any law or decretal nor can they be restrained by a chain or bond.
[3.15] Again I ask, what should I to do about those furtive plagarists and manifest excoriators, who presume to excoriate me, attempting to ascribe to themselves the praise due to your labors?
[3.16] You know that books are invented through natural artifice, for some people books are like mirrors and candelabras radiating light and for others books are like cadavers among crows. Some people take from them like bees and others gnaw at them like dogs.
[3.17] But if anyone should presume to excoriate you, you will appeal to the magistracy and you will able to bring legal actions against them for theft and injuries, legitimately alleging the crime of a plundered inheritance.
[3.18] At last, in order to confer perpetual validity to the institution already made, I place a laurel crown over your head.
[3.19] I ask to be instructed by you, how I should respond to those poisoned by the venom of jealousy, who say that I am too prolix and confused?
[3.20] You should rein in their cheek with bit and bridle, and you should say that you may be probably likened to the Nile, which irrigates scattered islands and lands by its adjacent rivulets and everywhere makes them germinate and yet the depth of the riverbend does not change.
[3.21] It is certain and the effect of the matter shows, that you could be divided into a thousand particles and more, each of which might irrigate the arid heart with the liquid of doctrine and bring forth a sprout of meaning like a rivulet derived from a river.
[3.22] Thus divide your water in the streets, and do not care what the envious may say, who burn with inextinguishable fire on account of others' happiness, who see that I have produced light from smoke, that I have demonstrated a path of rectitude for those wandering in the path of errors and that I have not read through the errors of others for any other reason, except that by <noting> contrasts I might more clearly see the truth.
[3.23] Some things seem to be lacking for me to exhibit the doctrine of epistolary style.
[3.24] You should subtly consider those things which are not here. Thus you should know and not doubt that I have subjugated to your dominium those books which I first edited, considering that nothing is contained in you from those things which I placed in them. Nevertheless, they are dispersed and diffused throughout the world.
[3.25] Now specify the names of the books, and distinguish briefly the doctrines placed in them.
[3.26] There are eleven books which I first edited. I specify their names in this manner, and I distinguish the doctrines which are contained in them, as follows:
[3.27] The Quinque tabula salutationum confer a doctrine for salutation.
[3.28] The Palma is proven to show initial rules.
[3.29] The Tractatus virtutum expounds the virtes and vices of speech.
[3.30] In the Notule auree is the truth and vices of speech.
[3.31] In the book called the Oliva is fully contained a dogma of privileges and of confirmations.
[3.32] The Cedrus gives a knowledge of general statutes.
[3.33] The Mirra teaches how testaments are made.
[3.34] The Breviloquium offers a doctrine for beginning.
[3.35] In the Ysagoge are written the introductions of letters.
[3.36] The Liber amicitie distinguishes with pure truthfulness twenty-six types of friends.
[3.37] The Rota veneris demonstrates laxiva et amantium gestus demonstrat.
[4.1] This work is divided by regular order into six books.
[4.2] The first book is about the form of letters of the scholastic condition.
[4.3] The second book briefly and summarily touches the form of the Roman church, since a plenitude does not require augmentation.
[4.4] The third book contains the form of letters which may be sent to the pope.
[4.5] The fourth book is about letters of emperors, kings and queens, and about missives and responses which can be made by those inferior to them.
[4.6] The fifth book is about prelates and subjects and about ecclesiatical affairs.
[4.7] The sixth book is about letters of noblemen, cities and peoples.
© Steven M. Wight, Los Angeles 1998
Scrineum © Universitą di Pavia 1999