At the end of Day 3 of the Decameron, Lauretta sings the following song after dinner, at the request of the new "king" Filostrato:

What dame disconsolate
May so lament as I,
That vainly sigh, to
Love still dedicate?

He that the heaven and every orb doth move
Formed me for His delight
Fair, debonair and gracious, apt for love;
That here on earth each soaring spirit might
Have foretaste how, above,
That beauty shews that standeth in His sight.
Ah! but dull wit and slight,
For that it judgeth ill,
Liketh me not, nay, doth me vilely rate.

There was who loved me, and my maiden grace
Did fondly clip and strain,
As in his arms, so in his soul's embrace,
And from mine eyes Love's fire did drink amain,
And time that glides apace
In nought but courting me to spend was fain;
Whom courteous I did deign
Ev'n as my peer to entreat;
But am of him bereft! Ah! dolorous fate!

Came to me next a gallant swol'n with pride
Brave, in his own conceit,
And no less noble eke. Whom woe betide
That he me took, and holds in all unmeet
Suspicion, jealous-eyed!
And I, who wot that me the world should greet
As the predestined sweet
Of many men, well-nigh
Despair, to be to one thus subjugate.

Ah! woe is me! cursed be the luckless day,
When, a new gown to wear,
I said the fatal ay; for blithe and gay
In that plain gown I lived, no whit less fair;
While in this rich array
A sad and far less honoured life I bear!
Would I had died, or e'er
Sounded those notes of joy
(Ah! dolorous cheer!) my woe to celebrate!

So list my supplication, lover dear,
Of whom such joyance I,
As ne'er another, had. Thou that in clear
Light of the Maker's presence art, deny
Not pity to thy fere,
Who thee may ne'er forget; but let one sigh
Breathe tidings that on high
Thou burnest still for me;
And sue of God that He me there translate.

More interesting than the song itself, to me, is the reaction to it among the others:

So ended Lauretta her song, to which all hearkened attentively, though not all interpreted it alike. Some were inclined to give it a moral after the Milanese fashion, to wit, that a good porker was better than pretty quean. Others construed it in a higher, better and truer sense, which 'tis not to the present purpose to unfold.

What does it mean "that a good porker was better than pretty quean"? Was this really a Milanese proverb, and what is its relevance to the song? Is it possible for us to figure out what is meant by the "higher, better and truer sense" of interpreting the song?


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