Tales and novels of Jean de La Fontaine

The Old Man’s Calendar

OFT have I seen in wedlock with surprise,

That most forgot from which true bliss would rise

When marriage for a daughter is designed,

The parents solely riches seem to mind;

All other boons are left to heav’n above,

And sweet SIXTEEN must SIXTY learn to love!

Yet still in other things they nicer seem,

Their chariot-horses and their oxen-team

Are truly matched; — in height exact are these,

While those each shade alike must have to please;

Without the choice ’twere wonderful to find,

Or coach or wagon travel to their mind.

The marriage journey full of cares appears,

When couples match in neither souls nor years!

An instance of the kind I’ll now detail:

The feeling bosom will such lots bewail!

QUINZICA, (Richard), as the story goes,

Indulged his wife at balls, and feasts, and shows,

Expecting other duties she’d forget,

In which howe’er he disappointment met.

A judge in Pisa, Richard was, it seems,

In law most learned: wily in his schemes;

But silver beard and locks too clearly told,

He ought to have a wife of diff’rent mould;

Though he had taken one of noble birth,

Quite young, most beautiful, and formed for mirth,

Bartholomea Galandi her name;

The lady’s parents were of rank and fame;

Our JUDGE herein had little wisdom shown,

And sneering friends around were often known

To say, his children ne’er could fathers lack:

At giving counsel some have got a knack,

Who, were they but at home to turn their eyes,

Might find, perhaps, they’re not so over-wise.

QUINZICA, then perceiving that his pow’rs

Fell short of what a bird like his devours,

T’excuse himself and satisfy his dear,

Pretended that, no day within the year,

To Hymen, as a saint, was e’er assigned,

In calendar, or book of any kind,

When full ATTENTION to the god was paid:—

To aged sires a nice convenient aid;

But this the sex by no means fancy right;

Few days to PLEASURE could his heart invite

At times, the week entire he’d have a fast;

At others, say the day ‘mong saints was classed,

Though no one ever heard its holy name; —

FAST ev’ry Friday — Saturday the same,

Since Sunday followed, consecrated day;

Then Monday came:— still he’d abstain from play;

Each morning find excuse, but solemn feasts

Were days most sacred held by all the priests;

On abstinence, then, Richard lectures read,

And long before the time, was always led

By sense of right, from dainties to refrain:

A period afterward would also gain;

The like observed before and after Lent;

And ev’ry feast had got the same extent;

These times were gracious for our aged man;

And never pass them was his constant plan.

OF patron saints he always had a list;

Th’ evangelists, apostles, none he miss’d;

And that his scruples might have constant food;

Some days malign, he said, were understood;

Then foggy weather; — dog-days’ fervent heat:

To seek excuses he was most complete,

And ne’er asham’d but manag’d things so well,

Four times a year, by special grace, they tell,

Our sage regal’d his youthful blooming wife,

A little with the sweets of marriage life.

WITH this exception he was truly kind,

Fine dresses, jewels, all to please her mind;

But these are bawbles which alone controul

Those belles, like dolls, mere bodies void of soul.

Bartholomea was of diff’rent clay;

Her only pleasure (as our hist’ries say),

To go in summer to the neighb’ring coast,

Where her good spouse a charming house could boast,

In which they took their lodging once a week;

At times they pleasure on the waves would seek,

As fishing with the lady would agree,

And she was wond’rous partial to the sea,

Though far to sail they always would refuse.

One day it happened better to amuse,

Our couple diff’rent fishing vessels took,

And skimm’d the wave to try who most could hook,

Of fish and pleasure; and they laid a bet,

The greatest number which of them should get.

On board they had a man or two at most.

And each the best adventure hop’d to boast.

A CERTAIN pirate soon observ’d the ship,

In which this charming lady made the trip,

And presently attack’d and seiz’d the same;

But Richard’s bark to shore in safety came;

So near the land, or else he would not brave,

To any great extent, the stormy wave,

Or that the robber thought if both he took,

He could not decently for favours look,

And he preferr’d those joys the FAIR bestow,

To all the riches which to mortals flow.

ALTHOUGH a pirate, he had always shown

Much honour in his acts, as well was known;

But Cupid’s frolicks were his heart’s delight:

None truly brave can ever beauty slight;

A sailor’s always bold and kind and free,

Good lib’ral fellows, such they’ll ever be;

‘Mong saints indeed ’twere vain their names to seek!

The man was good howe’er of whom we speak;

His usual name was Pagamin Montegue;

For hours the lady’s screams were heard a league,

While he each minute anxiously would seize,

To cheer her spirits and her heart to please;

T’attain his wish he ev’ry art combined;

At length the lovely captive all resigned.

’Twas Cupid conquer’d, Cupid with his dart;

A thousand times more pirate in his art,

Than Pagamin; on bleeding hearts he preys,

But little quarter gives, nor grace displays:

To pay her ransom she’d enough of gold;

For this her spouse was truly never cold;

No fast nor festival therein appear’d,

And her captivity he greatly fear’d.

THIS calendar o’erspread with rubrick days;

She soon forgot and learn’d the pirate’s ways;

The matrimonial zone aside was thrown,

And only mentioned where the fact was known:

OUR lawyer would his fingers sooner burn;

Than have his wife but virtuous home return;

By means of gold he entertain’d no doubt,

Her restoration might be brought about.

A passport from the pirate he obtain’d,

Then waited on him and his wish explain’d;

To pay he offer’d what soe’er he’d ask;

His terms accept, though hard perhaps the task;

THE robber answer’d, if my name around,

Be not for honourable acts renown’d,

’Tis quite unjust:— your partner I’ll restore

In health, without a ransom:— would you more?

A friendship so respect’d, heav’n forefend!

Should ever, by my conduct, have an end.

The fair, whom you so ardently admire,

Shall to your arms return as you desire,

Such pleasure to a friend I would not sell;

Convince me that she’s your’s, and all is well;

For if another I to you should give,

(And many that I’ve taken with me live,)

I surely should incur a heavy blame;

I lately captur’d one, a charming dame,

With auburn locks, a little fat, tall, young;

If she declare she does to you belong,

When you she’s seen, I will the belle concede;

You’ll take her instantly; I’ll not impede.

THE sage replied, your conduct’s truly wise;

Such wond’rous kindness fills me with surprise;

But since ’tis said that every trade must live,

The sum just mention:— I’ll the ransom give;

No compliment I wish, my purse behold

You know the money presently is told;

Consider me a stranger now I pray;

With you I’d equal probity display,

And so will act, I swear, as you shall see;

There ’s not a doubt the fair will go with me;

My word for this I would not have you take:—

You’ll see how happy ’twill the lady make

To find me here; to my embrace she’ll fly;

My only fears — that she of joy will die.

To them the charmer now was instant brought,

Who eyed her husband as beneath a thought;

Received him coldly, just as if he’d been

A stranger from Peru, she ne’er had seen.

LOOK, said Quinzica, she’s ashamed ’tis plain

So many lookers on her love restrain;

But be assured, if we were left alone,

Around my neck her arms would soon be thrown.

IF this, replied the pirate, you believe,

Attend her toilet:— naught can then deceive.

Away they went, and closely shut the door;

When Richard said, thou darling of my store,

How can’st thou thus behave? my pretty dove,

’Tis thy Quinzica, come to seek his love,

In all the same, except about his wife;

Dost in this face a change observe my life?

’Tis grieving for thy loss that makes me ill;

Did ever I in aught deny thy will?

In dress or play could any thee exceed?

And had’st thou not whatever thou might’st need?

To please thee, oft I made myself a slave;

Such thou art now; but thee again I crave.

Then what dost think about thy honour, dear? —

Said she, with ire, I neither know nor fear;

Is this a time to guard it, do you say?

What pain was shown by any one, I pray;

When I was forc’d to wed a man like you,

Old, impotent, and hateful to the view,

While I was young and blooming as the morn,

Deserving truly, something less forlorn,

And seemingly intended to possess

What Hymen best in store has got to bless;

For I was thought by all the world around,

Most worthy ev’ry bliss in wedlock found.

YET things took quite another turn with me

In tune my husband never proved to be,

Except a feast or two throughout the year;

From Pagamin I met a diff’rent cheer;

Another lesson presently he taught;

The life’s sweet pleasures more the pirate brought,

In two short days, than e’er I had from you

In those four years that only you I knew.

PRAY leave me husband:— let me have my will

Insist not on my living with you still;

No calendars with Pagamin are seen —

Far better treated with the man I’ve been.

My other friends and you much worse deserved:

The spouse, for taking me when quite unnerved,

And they, for giving preference base to gold,

To those pure joys — far better thought than told.

But Pagamin in ev’ry way can please;

And though no code he owns, yet all is ease;

Himself will tell you what has passed this morn,

His actions would a sov’reign prince adorn.

Such information may excite surprise,

But now the truth, ’twere useless to disguise,

Nothing will gain belief, we’ve no one near

To witness our discourse:— adieu, my dear,

To all your festivals — I’m flesh and blood:—

Gems, dresses, ornaments, do little good;

You know full well, betwixt the head and heel,

Though little’s said, yet much we often feel.

On this she stopt, and Richard dropt his chin,

Rejoiced to ‘scape from such unwelcome din.

BARTHOLOMEA, pleased with what had passed;

No disposition showed to hold him fast;

The downcast husband felt such poignant grief,

With ills where age can scarcely hope relief,

That soon he left this busy stage of life,

And Pagamin the widow took to wife.

The deed was just, for neither of the two

E’er felt what oft in Richard rose to view;

From feeling proof arose their mutual choice;

And ‘tween them ne’er was heard the jarring voice.

BEHOLD a lesson for the aged man;

Who thinks, when old, to act as he began;

But, if the sage a yielding dotard seems,

His work is done by those the wife esteems;

Complaints are never heard; no thrilling fears;

And ev’ry one around at ease appears.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/l/la_fontaine/jean_de/tales/chapter9.html

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