Tales and novels of Jean de La Fontaine

The River Scamander

I’M now disposed to give a pretty tale;

Love laughs at what I’ve sworn and will prevail;

Men, gods, and all, his mighty influence know,

And full obedience to the urchin show.

In future when I celebrate his flame,

Expressions not so warm will be my aim;

I would not willingly abuses plant,

But rather let my writings spirit want.

If in these verses I around should twirl,

Some wily knave and easy simple girl,

’Tis with intention in the breast to place;

On such occasions, dread of dire disgrace;

The mind to open, and the sex to set

Upon their guard ‘gainst snares so often met.

Gross ignorance a thousand has misled,

For one that has been hurt by what I’ve said.

I’VE read that once, an orator renowned

In Greece, where arts superior then were found,

By law’s severe decree, compelled to quit

His country, and to banishment submit,

Resolved that he a season would employ,

In visiting the site of ancient Troy.

His comrade, Cymon, with him thither went,

To view those ruins, we so oft lament.

A hamlet had been raised from Ilion’s wall,

Ennobled by misfortune and its fall;

Where now mere names are Priam and his court;

Of all devouring Time the prey and sport.

O TROY! for me thy very name has got

Superior charms:— in story fruitful spot;

Thy famed remains I ne’er can hope to view,

That gods by labour raised, and gods o’erthrew;

Those fields where daring acts of valour shone;

So many fights were lost:— so many won.

BUT to resume my thread, and not extend

Too much the subjects which our plan suspend;

This Cymon, who’s the hero of our tale,

When walking near the banks that form the dale

Through which Scamander’s waters freely flow,

Observed a youthful charmer thither go,

To breathe the cool refreshing breeze around;

That on its verdant borders oft she’d found.

Her veil was floating, and her artless dress,

A shepherdess seemed clearly to express.

Tall, elegantly formed, with beauteous mien,

And ev’ry feature lovely to be seen,

Young Cymon felt emotion and surprise,

And thought ’twas Venus that had caught his eyes,

Who on the river’s side her charms displayed,

Those wondrous treasures all perfection made.

A GROT was nigh, to which the simple fair,

Not dreaming ills, was anxious to repair;

The heat, some evil spirit, and the place,

Invited her the moment to embrace,

To bathe within the stream that near her ran;

And instantly her project she began.

THE spark concealed himself; each charm admired;

Now this, now that, now t’other feature fired;

A hundred beauties caught his eager sight;

And while his bosom felt supreme delight,

He turned his thoughts advantages to take,

And of the maiden’s error something make;

Assumed the character, and dress; and air;

That should a wat’ry deity declare;

Within the gliding flood his vestments dipt:

A crown of rushes on his head he slipt;

Aquatick herbs and plants around he twined:

Then Mercury intreated to be kind,

And Cupid too, the wily god of hearts;

How could the innocent resist these arts?

AT length a foot so fair the belle exposed,

E’en Galatea never such disclosed;

The stream, that glided by, received the prize;

Her lilies she beheld with downcast eyes,

And, half ashamed, herself surveyed at ease,

While round the zephyrs wantoned in the breeze.

WHEN thus engaged, the lover near her drew;

At whose approach away the damsel flew,

And tried to hide within the rocky cell;

Cried Cymon, I beneath these waters dwell,

And o’er their course a sov’reign right maintain;

Be goddess of the flood, and with me reign;

Few rivers could with you like pow’rs divide;

My crystal’s clear: in me you may confide;

My heart is pure; with flow’rs I’ll deck the stream,

If worthy of yourself the flood you deem;

Too happy should this honour you bestow,

And with me, ‘neath the current, freely go.

Your fair companions, ev’ry one I’ll make

A nymph of fountains, hill, or grove, or lake;

My pow’r is great, extending far around

Where’er the eye can reach, ’tis fully found.

THE eloquence he used, her fears and dread;

Lest she might give offence by what she said,

In spite of bashfulness that bliss alloys,

Soon all concluded with celestial joys.

’Tis even said that Cupid lent supplies;

From superstition many things arise.

THE spark withdrew, delighted by success;

Return said he:— we’ll mutually caress;

But secret prove: let none our union learn;

Concealment is to me of high concern;

To make it publick would improper be,

Till on Olympus’ mount the gods we see,

In council met, to whom I’ll state the case;

On this the new-made goddess left the place,

In ev’ry thing contented as a dove,

And fully witnessed by the god of love.

Two months had passed, and not a person knew

Their frequent meetings, pleasure to pursue.

O mortals! is it true, as we are told,

That ev’ry bliss at last is rendered cold?

The sly gallant, though not a word he said,

The grot to visit now was rarely led.

AT length a wedding much attention caught;

The lads and lasses of the hamlet sought,

To see the couple pass: the belle perceived

The very man for whom her bosom heaved,

And loudly cried, behold Scamander’s flood!

Which raised surprise; soon numbers round her stood,

Astonishment expressed, but still the fair,

Whate’er was asked, would nothing more declare,

Than, in the spacious, blue, ethereal sky,

Her marriage would be soon, they might rely.

A laugh prevailed; for what was to be done?

The god with hasty steps away had run,

And none with stones pursued his rapid flight:

The deity was quickly ought of sight.

WERE this to happen now, Scamander’s stream

Would not so easily preserve esteem;

But crimes like these (whoever was abused),

In former days, were easily excused.

With time our maxims change, and what was then,

Though wrong at present, may prevail agen.

Scamander’s spouse some raillery received;

But in the end she fully was relieved:

A lover e’en superior thought her charms,

(His taste was such) and took her to his arms.

The gods can nothing spoil! but should they cause

A belle to lose a portion of applause,

A handsome fortune give, and you’ll behold,

That ev’ry thing can be repaired by gold.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/l/la_fontaine/jean_de/tales/chapter59.html

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