The Bell of Atri part 2

With the beginning of the Nineteenth Century came the Romanticists, Manzoni, Foscolo and the rest. These were poets and novelists, to whom the Novela meant very little. Their influence extended far into the century, and only with the advent of the naturalist Verga was there a return to the short story. And then it had no relation whatsoever to the art practised by Boccaccio. With Verga, De Amicis, Serao, Fogazzaro, and D’Annunzio, we are in the midst of the modern European literary movement.

The notation “no title in the original,” made in several instances after the notes on Boccaccio, Ser Giovanni, Sacchetti, Masuccio, Bandello, Firenzuola, Grazzini, Cinthio, and Gozzi, means that the title given in this collection is furnished by the editors. The Italian editions usually offer a lengthy synopsis of the story.

The Bell of Atri (Anonymous: 13th or 14th Century)

The Hundred Ancient Tales is a collection of short stories containing the earliest e

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The Bell of Atri part 1

Gabriele D’annunzio (1863-1938)

D’annunzio was born at Pescara in the Abruzzi in 1863. His first literary work was a volume of verses, published when he was only sixteen. His first novel appeared in 1889, and he afterwards became famous also as a poet and dramatist. His short stories, of which he wrote a number, are memorable pictures of the half-savage peasant- folk in the mountains of his native district. He excelled in the description of vivid landscapes, and in the delineation of elemental types on the one hand, and of decadent overcivilized moderns on the other.

The present version is translated by Louis Lozowick. It appeared originally in the Pagan magazine, and is here reprinted by permission of the editor.

The Hero

The big banners of St. Gonselvo, brought upon the square, floated heavily in the wind. Men of herculean stature, with faces flushed and necks strained, carried them gingerly.

After the victory over the peop

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The Peasant’s Will part 4

The sons were white with rage, the witnesses shrunk away in terror, and mother and daughter glared at one another with a look of hatred and menace, but no one dared utter a word as X furiously tore the will into fragments.

All of a sudden the daughter started forward, and without hindrance from any one went straight to where the dying man lay, and put the babe down by his side.

“Pare!” she cried. “Pare! do you want me to die of hunger? At least leave me a bowl of‘polenta’ for my child!” A scowl passed over the face of the old man, and unable to show any other sign of hostility he closed his one remaining eye.

I shall never forget the picture of the two heads on the pillow: the beginning and the end of life. One with the laughing eyes and dimpled rosy cheeks of the “bambino,” and the other a dying man’s contracted features, with hollow face darkened by the shadow of death. The idea that the evil spirit was hovering above both, ready to

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The Peasant’s Will part 3

While she seemed agitated and spoke in an excited manner, she was to all appearances telling the truth, and had no intention of deceiving the lawyer in her answers to his questions concerning the heirs and the amount of property. According to her statements there were only the t hree children, the sons now present, and the property consisted of about fifty acres of good farm land, part at Polegge and part in Rettorgole, another house, live-stock, farm implements, and numerous small articles.

What the old woman had said was confirmed by her sons, and also by the other witnesses. The lawyer suggested that the estate be divided in some general manner among the heirs, but this was objected to by all: wife, sons and witnesses as well. They insisted that it was the wish of the old man to assign everything specifically.

One of the witnesses, a man of rather better appearance and manners than the rest, came forward, and offering his snuff-box to the lawyer with an eviden

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The Peasant’s Will part 2

X immediately flew in a passion at the idea of such indignity, and declared it preposterous to expect him to mount a ladder of that sort; he said he would rather return to town. The young peasant who was holding the ladder below kept assuring him that it was entirely safe, and another peasant who, attracted by the talk, had come to the opening into the loft, also took hold of the ladder, and shouted— “Come up, Signore, don’t be afraid! It’s strong.”

Being younger, and accustomed to feats of mountain climbing, besides being urged on by curiosity, I determined upon the ascent, and moving cautiously, succeeded in reaching the loft without mishap. X, emboldened by my success, finally changed his mind and followed.

In the loft was a miserable and filthy straw bed, and lying upon it was an old man in rags, with features like wrinkled parchment, one eye entirely closed, and the other almost devoid of life. Though he breathed with difficulty, he did not appear

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The Peasant’s Will part 1

Antonio Fogazzaro (1842-1911)

Born at Vicenza in northern Italy, Fogazzaro led a very active life, both as senator and writer. Though he studied at first for the law, he was soon able to devote himself largely to writing. His novels (and in particular The Saint) brought him international fame. During his most prolific period he wrote a few volumes of exquisite short stories, among which one of the best is The Peasant’s Will. It is wholly representative of this writer’s art, serene, sympathetic, natural.

The present version is translated by Walter Brooks, and is reprinted from his volume, Retold in English. Copyright, 1905, by Brentano s, by whose permission it is here included.

The Peasant’s Will

In my earlier days I was the assistant of Lawyer X, of Vincenza, when one day in August, about ten o’clock in the morning, a young peasant of Rettorgole came into the office and begged the lawyer to go with him to his home for the purpose

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The Last Lesson part 4

Then he opened a grammar and read us our lesson. I was amazed to see how well I understood it. All he said seemed so easy, so easy! I think, too, that I had never listened so carefully, and that he had never explained everything with so much patience. It seemed almost as if the poor man wanted to give us all he knew before going away, and to put it all into our heads at one stroke.

After the grammar, we had a lesson in writing. That day M. Hamel had new copies for us, written in a beautiful round hand: France, Alsace, France, Alsace. They looked like little flags floating everywhere in the school-room, hung from the rod at the top of our desks.

You ought to have seen how every one set to work, and how quiet it was! The only sound was the scratching of the pens over the paper. Once some beetles flew in; but nobody paid any attention to them, not even the littlest ones, who worked right on tracing their fish-hooks, as if that was French, too. On the roof the pigeo

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The Last Lesson part 3

Poor man! It was in honor of this last lesson that he had put on his fine Sunday clothes, and now I understood why the old men of the village were sitting there in the back of the room. It was because they were sorry, too, that they had not gone to school more. It was their way of thanking our master for his forty years of faithful service and of showing their respect for the country that was theirs no more.

Heart beating

While I was thinking of all this, I heard my name called. It was my turn to recite. What would I not have, given to be able to say that dreadful rule for the participle all through, very loud and clear, and without one mistake? But I got mixed up on the first words and stood there, holding on to my desk, my heart beating, and not daring to look up. I heard M. Hamel say to me:

“I won’t scold you, little Franz; you must feel bad enough. See how it is! Every day we have said to ourselves: ‘Bah! I’ve plenty of time. I’ll learn

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The Last Lesson part 2

I had counted on the commotion to get to my desk without being seen; but, of course, that day everything had to be as quiet as Sunday morning. Through the window I saw my classmates, already in their places, and M. Hamel walking up and down with his terrible iron ruler under his arm. I had to open the door and go in before everybody. You can imagine how I blushed and how frightened I was.

But nothing happened. M. Hamel saw me and said very kindly: “Go to your place quickly, little Franz. We were beginning without you.”

I jumped over the bench and sat down at my desk. Not till then, when I had got a little over my fright, did I see that our teacher had on his beautiful green coat, his frilled shirt, and the little black silk cap, all embroidered, that he never wore except on inspection and prize days. Besides, the whole school seemed so strange and solemn.

But the thing that surprised me most was to see, on the back benches that were always empty, t

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The Last Lesson part 1

Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897)

Alphonse Daudet, one of the masters of the Naturalistic School of modern France, was bom at Nimes in 1840. He made his literary debut in 1858 with a volume of verse. He was both novelist and short story writer, but the Contes du Lundi and Lettres de mon Moulin are now read in preference to Sappho and Jack. The Tartarin books are perhaps an exception: they are little masterpieces of humour and observation. The Contes du Lundi (1873) contain some of Daudet’s most delicate and appealing stories. In The Last Lesson there is a spontaneity and feeling which is characteristic of all his best work.

The present version, anonymously translated, is reprinted from Great Short Stories, P. F. Collier Sons, New York, 1909. Copyright, 1909, by the Frank A. Munsey Co., by whose permission it is here used.

The Last Lesson

I started for school very late that morning and was in great dread of a scolding, especially because M. Ham

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The Shipwreck of Simonides

Phaedrus (15 B.C.?—55 A.D.?)

It was the chief distinction of this writer to have collected the Fables of Jesop (or whoever it was who wrote Alsop’s works) and rewritten them for the Romans. His collection is the earliest of its kind which has survived. Not all his Fables, however, are based upon Tsop. The Shipwreck of Simonides is either an original composition or was taken from another source. Phaedrus was a Thracian slave, and later a freedman, in the service of the Emperor Augustus. He once declared that the fable was invented as a “device whereby slavery could find a voice,” a definition which throws considerable light on Phaedrus’ life, even if it fails to explain the origin of the Fable form.

The present text was first published in the Bohn edition of Phaedrus in 1848.

The Shipwreck of Simonides

A lerned man has always a fund of riches in himself.

Simonides, who wrote such excellent lyric poems, the more easily to

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The Dream

Apuleius (Born ca. 125 A.D.)

Lucius Apuleius, author of The Golden Ass, was born and educated in northern Africa. He practised law, was an indefatigable traveller, a ceaseless investigator into religious ceremonies and mysteries, and a writer of considerable skill and imagination. Many stories, including Cupid and Psyche and The Dream, are introduced into the rambling narrative of his celebrated romance. Like many other literary men, he was publicly accused of writing indecent literature. Like Pliny s Haunted House, The Dream is one of those lurid ghost-stories which apparently pleased the readers of the early Christian era. They continue to do so.

The present text is a modernized version of the classic translation by Adlington, which first appeared in 1566. There is no title in the original.

The Dream (From The Golden Ass)

But I could in no wise sleep for the great fear which was in my heart, until it was about midnight, and then I began

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Rabbi Akiva

The Talmud is a great collection of law, ritual, precept, and example, which was composed during the period extending from the First Century B.C. to the Fourth Century A.D. The work was the result of a vast amount of compilation begun, so far as the actual writing is concerned, in the year 219 A.D. by Rabbi Jehudah Hanassi. About the year 500 A.D. it was complete, having been combined with a good deal of material brought together since the first parts were written down. The colossal work is interspersed throughout with parables, like Rabbi Akiva and The Jewish Mother, all of which were used for purposes of illustration.
The texts of these stories are based, by the editors, upon two early translations. There are no titles to the stories in the original.

Rabbi Akiva

The Rabbis tell us that once the Roman Government made a decree forbidding Israel to study the law. Thereupon Pappus, son of Yehudah, one day found Rabbi Akiva teaching it openly to many whom he ha

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The Robbers of Egypt

Heliodorus (3rd Century, A.D.)

Heliodorus was one of the earliest writers of the novel, or romance. Though he lived long after the close of the Golden Age of Greek lit-erature, he is (together with Longus) the initiator of the novel form. But like many novelists (even modern novelists, who are supposed to know better), he interspersed his romance with episodes which are in themselves short stories. The very first chapter of the Ethiopian Romance, which is here reprinted, is such a story.

The present version is slightly modified and modernized from the early English translation by Thomas Underdowne. There is no title to the story in the original.

The Robbers of Egypt

At the first smile of day, when the sun was just beginning to shine on the summits of the hills, men whose custom was to live by rapine and violence ran to the top of a cliff and stretched toward that mouth of the Nile which is called Heracleot. Standing awhile, they viewed the

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A Newyear’s Eve Confession part 4

“The devil!” exclaimed the old soldier in surprise; “then you were the cause of that touching farewell letter that Bianca sent me—in which she declared that she must give me up—although her heart would break? “Yes, I was the cause of it,” said his friend. “But listen, there is more to tell. I had thought to purchase peace with that money, but the peace did not come. The wild thoughts ran riot all the more madly in my brain. I buried myself in my work—it was just about that time that I was working out the plan of my book on the ‘Immortality of the Idea’—but still could not find peace.

And thus the year passed and New Year’s Eve came round again. Again we sat together here, she and I. You were at home this time, but you lay sleeping on the sofa in the next room. A merry Casino dinner had tired you. And as I sat beside her, and my eyes rested on her pale face, then memory came over me with irresistible power. Once more I would feel her head on my bre

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