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Neighbour Peter's Mare

La Fontaine 1621 (Château-Thierry, Champagne) – 1695 (Neuilly-sur-Seine, Île-de-France)



A CERTAIN pious rector (John his name),
But little preached, except when vintage came;
And then no preparation he required
On this he triumphed and was much admired.
Another point he handled very well,
Though oft'ner he'd thereon have liked to dwell,
And this the children of the present day,
So fully know, there's naught for me to say:
John to the senses things so clearly brought,
That much by wives and husbands he was sought,
Who held his knowledge of superior price,
And paid attention to his sage advice.
Around, whatever conscience he might find,
To soft delights and easy ways inclined,
In person he would rigidly attend,
And seek to act the confessor and friend;
Not e'en his curate would he trust with these;
But zealously he tried to give them ease,
And ev'ry where would due attention show,
Observing that divines should always know
Their flocks most thoroughly and visit round;
To give instruction and the truth expound.

AMONG the folks, to whom he visits paid,
Was neighbour Peter, one who used the spade;
A villager that God, in lieu of lands,
Had furnished only with a pair of hands,
To dig and delve, and by the mattock gain
Enough his wife and children to maintain.
Still youthful charms you in his spouse might trace;
The weather injured solely had her face,
But not the features which were perfect yet:
Some wish perhaps more blooming belles to get;
The rustick truly me would ne'er have pleased;
But such are oft by country parsons seized,
Who low amours and dishes coarse admire,
That palates more refined would not desire.

THE pastor John would often on her leer,
just as a cur, when store of bones are near,
That would good pickings for his teeth afford,
Attentively behold the precious hoard,
And seem uneasy; move his feet and tail;
Now prick his ears; then fear he can't prevail,
The eyes still fixed upon the bite in sight,
Which twenty times to these affords delight,
Ere to his longing jaws the boon arrives,
However anxiously the suitor strives.

SELF-TORMENTS solely parson John obtained;
By seeing her that o'er his senses reigned.
The village-wife was innocent of this,
And never dreamed of any thing amiss;
The pastor's mystick looks, nor flatt'ring ways;
Nor presents, aught in Magdalene could raise;
But nosegays made of thyme, and marj'ram too,
Were dropt on ground, or never kept in view;
A hundred little cares appeared as naught
'Twas Welch to her, and ne'er conveyed a thought.
A pleasant stratagem he now contrived,
From which, he hoped, success might be derived.

MOST clearly Peter was a heavy lout,
Yet truly I could never have a doubt,
That rashly he would ne'er himself commit,
Though folly 'twere from him to look for wit,
Or aught expect by questioning to find
'Yond this to reason, he was not designed.

THE rector to him said, thou'rt poor, my friend,
And hast not half enough for food to spend,
With other things that necessary prove,
If we below with comfort wish to move.
Some day I'll show thee how thou may'st procure
The means that will thy happiness insure,
And make thee feel contented as a king.
To me what present for it wilt thou bring?

ZOOKS! Peter answered, parson, I desire,
You'll me direct to do as you require;
My labour pray command; 'tis all I've got;
Our pig howe'er to you we can allot,
We want it not; and truly it has eat
More bran than thrice this vessel would complete;
The cow you'll take besides, from which my wife
A calf expects, to raise the means of life.
No, no, the pastor with a smile replied,
A recompense for this thou'lt not provide;
My neighbour to oblige is all I heed;
And now I'll tell thee how thou must proceed;
Thy spouse, by magick, I'll transform each day,
And turn her to a mare for cart or dray,
And then again restore her ev'ry night,
To human form to give thy heart delight.
From this to thee great profit will arise;
Thy ass, so slow is found, that when supplies,
It carries to the market, 'tis so late,
The hour is almost past ere at the gate,
And then thy cabbages, and herbs, and roots,
Provisions, provender, and wares and fruits,
Remain unsold, and home to spoil are brought,
Since rarely far from thence such things are sought.
But when thy wife's a mare, she'll faster go:
Strong, active, ev'ry way her worth she'll show,
And home will come without expense in meat:
No soup nor bread, but solely herbs she'll eat:

SAID Peter, parson, clearly you are wise;
From learning, what advantages arise!
Is this pray sold?--If I'd much money got,
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:08 min read
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La Fontaine

Jean de La Fontaine was a French fabulist and one of the most widely read French poets of the 17th century. more…

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