Tales and novels of Jean de La Fontaine

The Cudgelled and Contented Cuckold

SOME time ago from Rome, in smart array,

A younger brother homeward bent his way,

Not much improved, as frequently the case

With those who travel to that famous place.

Upon the road oft finding, where he stayed,

Delightful wines, and handsome belle or maid,

With careless ease he loitered up and down. —

One day there passed him in a country town,

Attended by a page, a lady fair,

Whose charming form and all-engaging air,

At once his bosom fired with fond desire;

And nearer still, her beauties to admire.

He most gallantly saw her safely home;

Attentions charm the sex where’er we roam.

OUR thoughtless rambler pleasures always sought:

From Rome this spark had num’rous pardons brought;

But — as to virtues (this too oft we find),

He’d left them — with his HOLINESS behind!

THE lady was, by ev’ry one, confessed,

Of beauty, youth, and elegance possessed;

She wanted naught to form her bliss below,

But one whose love would ever fondly flow.

INDEED so fickle proved this giddy youth,

That nothing long would please his heart or tooth;

Howe’er he earnestly inquired her name,

And ev’ry other circumstance the same.

She’s lady, they replied, to great ‘squire Good,

Who’s almost bald from age ’tis understood;

But as he’s rich, and high in rank appears,

Why that’s a recompense you know for years.

THESE facts our young gallant no sooner gained,

But ardent hopes at once he entertained;

To wily plots his mind he quickly bent,

And to a neighb’ring town his servants sent;

Then, at the house where dwelled our noble ‘squire,

His humble services proposed for hire.

PRETENDING ev’ry sort of work he knew,

He soon a fav’rite with old Square-toes grew,

Who (first advising with his charming mate),

Chief falc’ner made him o’er his fine estate.

THE new domestick much the lady pleased;

He watched and eagerly the moment seized,

His ardent passion boldly to declare,

In which he showed a novice had no share.

’TWAS managed well, for nothing but the chase,

Could Square-toes tempt to quit her fond embrace,

And then our falc’ner must his steps attend:—

The very time he wished at home to spend.

The lady similar emotions showed;

For opportunity their bosoms glowed;

And who will feel in argument so bold,

When this I say, the contrary to hold?

At length with pity Cupid saw the case,

And kindly lent his aid to their embrace.

ONE night the lady said, with eager eyes,

My dear, among our servants, which d’ye prize,

For moral conduct most and upright heart?

To this her spouse replied, the faithful part

Is with the falc’ner found, I must decide:

To him my life I’d readily confide.

THEN you are wrong, said she — most truly so,

For he’s a good-for-nothing wretch I know;

You’ll scarcely credit it, but t’other day,

He had the barefaced impudence to say,

He loved me much, and then his passion pressed:

I’d nearly fallen, I was so distressed.

To tear his eyes out, I designed at first,

And e’en to choke this wretch, of knaves the worst;

By prudence solely was I then restrained,

For fear the world should think his point was gained.

THE better then to prove his dark intent,

I feigned an inclination to consent,

And in the garden, promised as to-night,

I’d near the pear-tree meet this roguish wight.

Said I, my husband never moves from hence;

No jealous fancy, but to show the sense

He entertains of my pure, virtuous life,

And fond affection for a loving wife.

Thus circumstanced, your wishes see are vain,

Unless when he’s asleep a march I gain,

And softly stealing from his torpid side,

With trembling steps I, to my lover, glide.

So things remain, my dear; an odd affair:—

On this Square-toes ‘gan to curse and swear;

But his fond rib most earnestly besought,

His rage to stifle, as she clearly thought,

He might in person, if he’d take the pain,

Secure the rascal and redress obtain

You know, said she, the tree is near the door,

Upon the left and bears of fruit great store;

But if I may my sentiments express,

In cap and petticoats you’d best to dress;

His insolence is great, and you’ll be right,

To give your strokes with double force to night;

Well work his back; flat lay him on the ground:—

A rascal! honourable ladies round,

No doubt he many times has served the same;

’Tis such impostors characters defame.

To rouse his wrath the story quite sufficed;

The spouse resolved to do as she advised.

Howe’er to dupe him was an easy lot;

The hour arrived, his dress he soon had got,

Away he ran with anxious fond delight.

In hopes the wily spark to trap that night.

But no one there our easy fool could see,

And while he waited near the fav’rite tree,

Half dead with cold, the falc’ner slyly stole,

To her who had so well contrived the whole;

Time, place, and disposition, all combined

The loving pair to mutual joys resigned.

When our expert gallant had with the dame,

An hour or more indulged his ardent flame,

Though forced at length to quit the loving lass,

’Twas not without the favourite parting glass;

He then the garden sought, where long the ‘squire,

Upon the knave had wished to vent his ire.

NO sooner he the silly husband spied,

But feigning ’twas the wily wife he eyed,

At once he cried — ah, vilest of the sex!

Are these thy tricks, so good a man to vex?

Oh shame upon thee! thus to treat his love,

As pure as snow, descending from above.

I could not think thou hadst so base a heart,

But clear it is, thou need’st a friendly part,

And that I’ll act: I asked this rendezvous

With full intent to see if thou wert true;

And, God be praised, without a loose design,

To plunge in luxuries pronounced divine.

Protect me Heav’n! poor sinner that I’m here!

To guard thy honour I will persevere.

My worthy master could I thus disgrace?

Thou wanton baggage with unblushing face,

Thee on the spot I’ll instantly chastise,

And then thy husband of the fact advise.

THE fierce harangue o’er Square-toes pleasure spread,

Who, mutt’ring ‘tween his teeth, with fervour said:

O gracious Lord! to thee my thanks are due —

To have a wife so chaste — a man so true!

But presently he felt upon his back

The falc’ner’s cudgel vigorously thwack,

Who soundly basted him as on he ran,

To gain the house, with terror, pale and wan.

THE squire had wished his trusty man, no doubt,

Had not, at cudgelling, been quite so stout;

But since he showed himself so true a friend,

And with his actions could such prudence blend,

The master fully pardoned what he knew,

And quickly to his wife in bed he flew,

When he related every thing that passed

Were we, cried he, a hundred years to last,

My lovely dear, we ne’er on earth could find

A man so faithful, and so well inclined.

I’d have him take within our town a wife,

And you and I’ll regard him during life.

In that, replied the lady, we agree,

And heartily thereto I pledged will be.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38