Short summary - Fiesolan nymphs - Giovanni Boccaccio

Italy literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - Fiesolan nymphs
Giovanni Boccaccio

At the center of the poetic narrative is the touching love story of the shepherd and hunter Afriko and the nymph Menzola.

We learn that in ancient times in Fiesole, women especially honored the goddess Diana, who patronized chastity. Many parents, after the birth of children, some by vow, and some in gratitude, gave them to Diana. The goddess willingly accepted everyone into her forests and groves. At the Fiesolan hills, a virgin community was formed, "everyone there was then called the nymphs / And they appeared with a bow and arrows." The goddess often gathers the nymphs by a bright stream or in the forest shade and talks with them for a long time about the sacred virgin vow, about hunting, catching - their favorite pastimes. Diana was a wise support of the virgins, but she could not always be near them, as she had many different worries - “for the whole earth she tried / To give protection from male insults.” Therefore, when she left, she left her viceroy with the nymphs, to whom they implicitly obeyed.

One day in May, the goddess comes to hold council among her military camp. She once again reminds the nymphs that there should not be men next to them, and each is obliged to observe herself, “the one who is seduced, / That life will be lost by my hand.” The girls are shocked by Diana's threats, but the young man Africa, an accidental witness to this council, is even more shocked. His gaze is riveted to one of the nymphs, he admires her beauty and feels the fire of love in his heart. But it's time for Diana to go, the nymphs follow her, and their sudden disappearance dooms the lover to suffering. The only thing he manages to find out is the name of his beloved - Menzola. At night, in a dream, Venus appears to the young man and blesses him in search of a beautiful nymph, promising him her help and support. Encouraged by a dream, in love, barely dawn, goes to the mountains. But the day passes in vain, Menzola is gone, and a distressed Afriko returns home. The father, guessing the cause of his son's sadness, tells him a family tradition. It turns out that the young man's grandfather died at the hands of Diana. The virgin goddess found him on the river bank with one of her nymphs and, furious, pierced the hearts of both with an arrow, and their blood turned into a wonderful source that merges with the river. The father is trying to free Afriko from the spell of the beautiful nymph, but it's too late: the young man is passionately in love and is not inclined to retreat. He spends all his time at the Fiesolan hills, hoping for a long-awaited meeting, and soon his dream will come true. But Menzola is severe: as soon as she sees the young man, she throws a spear at him, which, fortunately, pierces into a strong oak. The nymph suddenly hides in the forest thicket. Afriko unsuccessfully tries to find her. He spends his days in suffering, nothing pleases him, he refuses food, a youthful blush disappears from his handsome face. One day, the sad Afriko was tending his flock and, bending over the stream, was talking to his own reflection. He cursed his fate, and tears flowed from his eyes like a river: “And I, like brushwood on fire, burn, / And there is no salvation for me, there is no torment to the edge.” But suddenly the young man remembers Venus, who promised to help him, and decides to honor the goddess with a sacrifice, believing in her favor. He divides one sheep from the herd into two parts (one part for himself, the other for Menzola) and lays it on the fire. Then he kneels and prays to the goddess of love - he asks Menzola to reciprocate his

feeling. His words were heard, for the sheep rose up in the fire "and part one with the other was united." The miracle seen inspires hope in the young man, and he, cheered up and calmed down, falls into a dream. Venus, again appearing to him in a dream, advises Afriko to change into a woman's dress and fraudulently enter the nymphs.

The next morning, remembering that her mother has a beautiful outfit, Afriko changes into it and sets off. He manages, under the guise of a girl, to gain confidence in the nymphs, he talks affectionately with them, and then they all go together to the stream. The nymphs undress and enter the water, while Afriko, after much hesitation, also follows their example. There is a desperate squeal, and the girls rush in all directions. And Afriko, triumphant, squeezes Menzola, sobbing with horror, in her arms. Her girlhood was stolen against her will, and the unfortunate woman calls for death, not wanting to accept it at the hands of Diana. Afriko, without ceasing to console and caress her beloved, tells her about his love, promises a happy life together and persuades her not to be afraid of Diana's wrath. Sorrow quietly floats away from Menzola's heart, and love comes to replace it. The lovers agree to meet at the same stream every evening, because they can no longer imagine life without each other. But the nymph, barely left alone, again recalls her shame and spends the whole night in tears. Afriko waits impatiently for her in the evening by the stream, but her beloved does not come. Imagination draws different pictures for him, he is tormented, grieves and decides to wait until the next evening. But a day, a week, a month pass, and Afriko does not see the dear face of his beloved. The second month comes, the lover is driven to despair and, having arrived at the place of the promised meeting, he turns to the river with a request to bear his name from now on, and plunges a spear into his chest. Since then, people in memory of the young man who died of love began to call the river Afriko.

What about Menzola? She, knowing how to be hypocritical, was able to convince her friends that she had struck down the young man with an arrow and saved her honor. And every day she became calmer and stronger. But from the wise nymph Sinedekchia, Menzola learns that she has conceived, and decides to settle separately from everyone in the cave, hoping for the support of Sinedekchia. Meanwhile, Diana arrives in Fiesole, she asks the nymphs where her favorite Menzola is, and hears that she has not been seen in the mountains for a long time and maybe she is sick. The goddess, accompanied by three nymphs, descends to

cave. Menzola has already had a son, and she plays with him by the river. Diana, in anger, turns Menzola into a river, which is named after her, and allows her son to be given to Afriko's parents. They do not have a soul in it, they raise a baby with love and care.

Eighteen years pass. Pruneo (as the grandson of the baby was named) becomes a wonderful young man. In those days, Atlanta appeared in Europe and founded the city of Fiesole. He invited all the surrounding residents to his new city. Pruneo was elected ruler for his exceptional abilities and mind, the people fell in love with him, and he “turned the whole region, constantly cherishing, / Out of savagery to order.” Atlas found a bride for him, and the Afriko family continued in the ten sons of Pruneo. But trouble comes to the city. The Romans destroy the fiesole, all the inhabitants leave it, with the exception of the descendants of Africo, who built houses for themselves there and took refuge in them. Soon peace comes and a new city arises - Florence. Rod Afriko arrived there and was warmly received by the local population. He was surrounded by love, honor and respect, members of the family became related to famous Florentines and turned into indigenous people.

The final stanzas of the poem, in the form of a traditional appeal to the all-powerful lord Amur, sounded like a real hymn of love that transforms life and man.