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La Fontaine 1621 (Château-Thierry, Champagne) – 1695 (Neuilly-sur-Seine, Île-de-France)
HOW weak is man! how changeable his mind!
His promises are naught, too oft we find;
I vowed (I hope in tolerable verse,)
Again no idle story to rehearse.
And whence this promise?--Not two days ago;
I'm quite confounded; better I should know:
A rhymer hear then, who himself can boast,
Quite steady for--a minute at the most.
The pow'rs above could PRUDENCE ne'er design;
For those who fondly court the SISTERS NINE.
Some means to please they've got, you will confess;
But none with certainty the charm possess.
If, howsoever, I were doomed to find
Such lines as fully would content the mind:
Though I should fail in matter, still in art;
I might contrive some pleasure to impart.
LET'S see what we are able to obtain:--
A bachelor resided in Touraine.
A sprightly youth, who oft the maids beset,
And liked to prattle to the girls he met,
With sparkling eyes, white teeth, and easy air,
Plain russet petticoat and flowing hair,
Beside a rivulet, while Io round,
With little bell that gave a tinkling sound,
On herbs her palate gratified at will,
And gazed and played, and fondly took her fill.
AMONG the rustic nymphs our spark perceived
A charming girl, for whom his bosom heaved;
Too young, however, to feel the poignant smart,
By Cupid oft inflicted on the heart.
I will not say thirteen's an age unfit
The contrary most fully I admit;
The LAW supposes (such its prudent fears)
Maturity at still more early years;
But this apparently refers to towns,
While LOVE was born for groves, and lawns, and downs.
THE youth exerted ev'ry art to please;
But all in vain: he only seemed to teaze:
Whate'er he said, however nicely graced,
Ill-humour, inexperience, or distaste,
Induced the belle, unlearned in Cupid's book;
To treat his passion with a froward look.
BELIEVING ev'ry artifice in love
Was tolerated by the pow'rs above,
One eve he turned a heifer from the rest;
Conducted by the girl his thoughts possessed;
The others left, not counted by the fair,
(Youth seldom shows the necessary care,)
With easy, loit'ring steps the cottage sought,
Where ev'ry night they usually were brought.
HER mother, more experienced than the maid,
Observed, that from the cattle one had strayed;
The girl was scolded much, and sent to find
The heifer indiscreetly left behind.
Fair Isabella gave a vent to tears;
Invoked sweet echo to disperse her fears:
Solicited with fervent, piercing cry,
To tell her where lorn Io she might spy,
Whose little bell the spark deprived of sound;
When he withdrew her from the herd around.
THE lover now the tinkling metal shook;
The path that t'wards it led the charmer took.
The well known note was pleasing to her ear;
Without suspecting treachery was near,
She followed to a wood, both deep and large,
In hopes at least she might regain her charge.
GUESS her surprise, good reader, when she heard,
A lover's voice, who would not be deterred.
Said he, fair maid whene'er the heart's on fire,
'Tis all permitted that can quench desire.
On this, with piercing cries she rent the air;
But no one came:--she sunk to dire despair.
YE beauteous dames avoid the Sylvan shade;
Dread dangers solitary woods pervade.
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