Of Hearing Good Counsel
An archer, catching a little bird called a nightingale, was about to put her to death. But, being gifted with language, she said to him, “What will it advantage you to kill me? I cannot satisfy your appetite. Let me go, and I will give you three rules, from which you will derive great benefit, if you follow them accurately.”
Astonished at hearing the bird speak, he promised her liberty on the conditions she had stated.
“Hear, then,” said she. “Never attempt impossibilities. Secondly, do not lament an irrecoverable loss. Thirdly, do not credit things that are incredible. If you keep these three maxims with wisdom, they will infinitely profit you.”
The man, faithful to his promise, let the bird escape. Winging her flight through the air, she commenced a most exquisite song, and, having finished, said to the archer, “You are a silly fellow, and have today lost a great treasure. There is in my bowels a pearl bigger than the egg of an ostrich.”
Full of vexation at her escape, he immediately spread his nets and endeavored to take her a second time, but she eluded his art.
“Come into my house, sweet bird,” said he, “and I will show you every kindness. I will feed you with my own hands, and permit you to fly abroad at pleasure.”
The nightingale answered, “Now I am certain you are a fool, and pay no regard to the counsel I gave you: ‘Regret not what is irrecoverable.’ You cannot take me again, yet you have spread your snares for that purpose. Moreover, you believe that my bowels contain a pearl larger than the egg of an ostrich, when I myself am nothing near that size! You are a fool, and a fool you will always remain.”
With this consolatory assurance she flew away. The man returned sorrowfully to his own house, but never again obtained a sight of the nightingale.
Source: Gesta Romanorum, translated by Charles Swan (London: George Bell and Sons, 1877), no. 167, pp. 318-319.