Tales and novels of Jean de La Fontaine

The Devil of Pope-Fig Island

BY master Francis clearly ’tis expressed:

The folks of Papimania are blessed;

True sleep for them alone it seems was made

With US the copy only has been laid;

And by Saint John, if Heav’n my life will spare,

I’ll see this place where sleeping ’s free from care.

E’en better still I find, for naught they do:

’Tis that employment always I pursue.

Just add thereto a little honest love,

And I shall be as easy as a glove.

ON t’other hand an island may be seen,

Where all are hated, cursed, and full of spleen.

We know them by the thinness of their face

Long sleep is quite excluded from their race.

SHOULD you, good reader, any person meet,

With rosy, smiling looks, and cheeks replete,

The form not clumsy, you may safely say,

A Papimanian doubtless I survey.

But if, on t’other side, you chance to view,

A meagre figure, void of blooming hue,

With stupid, heavy eye, and gloomy mien

Conclude at once a Pope-figer, you’ve seen.

POPE-FIG ‘S the name upon an isle bestowed,

Where once a fig the silly people showed,

As like the pope, and due devotion paid:—

By folly, blocks have often gods been made!

These islanders were punished for their crime;

Naught prospers, Francis tells us, in their clime;

To Lucifer was giv’n the hateful spot,

And there his country house he now has got.

His underlings appear throughout the isle,

Rude, wretched, poor, mean, sordid, base, and vile;

With tales, and horns, and claws, if we believe,

What many say who ought not to deceive.

ONE day it happened that a cunning clown

Was by an imp observed, without the town,

To turn the earth, which seemed to be accurst,

Since ev’ry trench was painful as the first.

This youthful devil was a titled lord;

In manners simple:— naught to be abhorred;

He might, so ignorant, be duped at ease;

As yet he’d scarcely ventured to displease:

Said he, I’d have thee know, I was not born,

Like clods to labour, dig nor sow the corn;

A devil thou in me beholdest here,

Of noble race: to toil I ne’er appear.

THOU know’st full well, these fields to us belong:

The islanders, it seems, had acted wrong;

And, for their crimes, the pope withdrew his cares;

Our subjects now you live, the law declares;

And therefore, fellow, I’ve undoubted right,

To take the produce of this field, at sight;

But I am kind, and clearly will decide

The year concluded, we’ll the fruits divided.

What crop, pray tell me, dost thou mean to sow?

The clod replied, my lord, what best will grow

I think is Tousell; grain of hardy fame;

The imp rejoined, I never heard its name;

What is it. Tousell, say’st thou? — I agree,

If good return, ’twill be the same to me;

Work fellow, work; make haste, the ground prepare;

To dig and delve should be the rabble’s care;

Don’t think that I will ever lend a hand,

Or give the slightest aid to till the land;

I’ve told thee I’m a gentleman by birth,

Designed for ease: not doomed to turn the earth.

Howe’er I’ll now the diff’rent parts allot,

And thus divide the produce of the plot:—

What shall above the heritage arise,

I’ll leave to thee; ’twill very well suffice;

But what is in the soil shall be my share;

To this attend, see ev’ry thing is fair.

THIS beardless corn when ripe, with joy was reaped,

And then the stubble by the roots was heaped,

To satisfy the lordly devil’s claim,

Who thought the seed and root were just the same,

And that the ear and stalk were useless parts,

Which nothing made if carried to the marts:

The labourer his produce housed with care;

The other to the market brought his ware,

Where ridicule and laughter he received;

’Twas nothing worth, which much his bosom grieved.

QUITE mortified, the devil quickly went;

To seek our clod, and mark his discontent:

The fellow had discreetly sold the corn,

In straw, unthrashed, and off the money borne,

Which he, with ev’ry wily care, concealed;

The imp was duped, and nothing was revealed.

Said he, thou rascal? — pretty tricks thou’st played;

It seems that cheating is thy daily trade;

But I’m a noble devil of the court,

Who tricking never knew, save by report.

What grain dost mean to sow th’ ensuing year?

The labourer replied, I think it clear,

Instead of grain, ’twill better be to chop,

And take a carrot, or a turnip crop;

You then, my lord, will surely plenty find;

And radishes, if you are so inclined.

THESE carrots, radishes, and turnips too,

Said t’other, I am led to think will do;

My part shall be what ‘bove the soil is found:

Thine, fellow, what remains within the ground;

No war with thee I’ll have, unless constrained,

And thou hast never yet of me complained.

I now shall go and try to tempt a nun,

For I’m disposed to have a little fun.

THE time arrived again to house the store;

The labourer collected as before;

Leaves solely to his lordship were assigned,

Who sought for those a ready sale to find,

But through the market ridicule was heard,

And ev’ry one around his jest preferred:—

Pray, Mister Devil, where d’ye grow these greens?

How treasure up returns from your demesnes?

ENRAGED at what was said, he hurried back,

And, on the clown, proposed to make attack,

Who, full of joy, was laughing with his wife,

And tasting pleasantly the sweets of life.

By all the pow’rs of Hell, the demon cried,

He shall the forfeit pay, I now decide;

A pretty rascal truly, master Phil:

Here, pleasures you expect at will,

Well, well, proceed; gallant it while allowed;

For present I’ll remit what I had vowed;

A charming lady I’m engaged to meet;

She’s sometimes willing: then again discreet;

But soon as I, in cuckold’s row, have placed

Her ninny husband, I’ll return in haste,

And then so thoroughly I’ll trim you o’er,

Such wily tricks you’ll never practise more;

We’ll see who best can use his claws and nails,

And from the fields obtain the richest sales.

Corn, carrots, radishes, or what you will:—

Crop as you like, and show your utmost skill

No stratagems howe’er with culture blend;

I’ll take my portion from the better end;

Within a week, remember, I’ll be here,

And recollect:— you’ve every thing to fear.

AMAZED at what the lordly devil said,

The clod could naught reply, so great his dread;

But at the gasconade Perretta smiled,

Who kept his house and weary hours beguiled,

A sprightly clever lass, with prying eye,

Who, when a shepherdess, could more descry,

Than sheep or lambs she watched upon the plain,

If other views or points she sought to gain.

Said she, weep not, I’ll undertake at ease,

To gull this novice-devil as I please;

He’s young and ignorant; has nothing seen;

Thee; from his rage, I thoroughly will skreen;

My little finger, if I like can show

More malice than his head and body know.

THE day arrived, our labourer, not brave,

Concealed himself, but not in vault nor cave;

He plunged within a vase extremely large,

Where holy-water always was in charge;

No demon would have thought to find him there,

So well the clod had chosen his repair;

In sacred stoles he muffled up his skin,

And, ‘bove the water, only kept his chin;

There we will leave him, while the priests profound

Repeated Vade retro round and round.

PERRETTA at the house remained to greet

The lordly devil whom she hoped to cheat.

He soon appeared; when with dishevelled hair,

And flowing tears, as if o’erwhelmed with care,

She sallied forth, and bitterly complained,

How oft by Phil she had been scratched and caned;

Said she, the wretch has used me very ill;

Of cruelty he has obtained his fill;

For God’s sake try, my lord, to get away:

Just now I heard the savage fellow say,

He’d with his claws your lordship tear and slash:

See, only see, my lord, he made this gash;

On which she showed:— what you will guess, no doubt,

And put the demon presently to rout,

Who crossed himself and trembled with affright:

He’d never seen nor heard of such a sight,

Where scratch from claws or nails had so appeared;

His fears prevailed, and off he quickly steered;

Perretta left, who, by her friends around,

Was complimented on her sense profound,

That could so well the demon’s snares defeat;

The clergy too pronounced her plan discrete.

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