…”But when you speak of such gentility as is descended from ancient wealth–so that you knights should therefore would be gentlemen of breeding–such arrogance is not worth a hen. Look who is always most virtuous, openly and secretly, and most inclines to do what gentle deeds he can; take him for the gentlest man….
For though all their heritage of our ancestors, by reason of which we claim high rank, may descend to us, yet they cannot at all bequeath to any of us their virtuous living, which made them to be called gentle men and to bid us follow to them and do in like manner….
“Here you may well see how nobility hangs not from ancient possessions, since people do not always perform its works, as does the fire, according to its nature. For, God knows, one may often see a lord’s son do vicious and shameful deeds; and he who wishes to be esteemed for his gentility because he was born of a noble house and had virtuous and noble ancestors, and yet himselfwill not perform the deeds of gentility nor follow after his gentle ancestor who is dead, he is not gentle, even if he is a duke or an earl; for base and sinful deeds make a commoner. For gentility then would be nothing but renown of your ancestors for their high worthiness, which is something that has nothing to do with you….
“Think how noble was that Tullius Hostilius, as Valerius tells, who rose out of poverty to high nobility. Read Seneca, and Boethius as well; there you shall see expressly that he who does noble deeds is noble. And therefore, dear husband, I conclude in this way: albeit my ancestors were untutored, yet may the high God–and so I hope–grant me grace to live virtuously. Then I am noble, when I begin to live virtuously and to abandon evil….
Whoever keeps himself content with his poverty, I count as rich, even if he does not have not a shirt! He who covets is a poor creature, for he wishes to have that which is not within his power. But he who has nothing, nor covets things, is rich, albeit you count him as only a serving-lad…
“Now you say I am old and foul: then have no fear that you will be a cuckold. For ugliness and age, upon my life, are great wardens over chastity. But nevertheless, since I know your delight, I shall fulfill your appetite….
“Choose,” she said, “one of these two things: to have me foul and old until I die, and to you a true, humble wife, never in all my days displeasing you; or else to have me young and beautiful, and take your chance on how many visits there will be to your house–or perhaps to some other place–which will be for my sake. Now choose yourself which one you will have.”….
Love. Or, don’t.