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The Quid Pro Quo; Or The Mistakes

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

DAME FORTUNE often loves a laugh to raise,
And, playing off her tricks and roguish ways,
Instead of giving us what we desire,
Mere quid pro quo permits us to acquire.
I've found her gambols such from first to last,
And judge the future by experience past.
Fair Cloris and myself felt mutual flame;
And, when a year had run, the sprightly dame
Prepared to grant me, if I may be plain,
Some slight concessions that would ease my pain.
This was her aim; but whatsoe'er in view,
'Tis opportunity we should pursue;
The lover, who's discreet, will moments seize;
And ev'ry effort then will tend to please.

ONE eve I went this charming fair to see;
The husband happened (luckily for me)
To be abroad; but just as it was night
The master came, not doubting all was right;
No Cloris howsoe'er was in the way;
A servant girl, of disposition gay,
Well known to me, with pretty smiling face,
'Tis said, was led to take her lady's place.
The mistress' loss for once was thus repaid;
The barter mutual:--wife against the maid.

WITH many tales like this the books abound;
But able hands are necessary found,
To place the incidents, arrange the whole,
That nothing may be forced nor feel control.
The urchin blind, who sees enough to lay
His num'rous snares, such tricks will often play.
The CRADLE in Boccace excels the most,
As to myself I do not mean to boast,
But fear, a thousand places, spite of toil,
By him made excellent, my labours spoil.
'Tis time howe'er with preface to have done,
And show, by some new turn, or piece of fun,
(While easy numbers from my pencil flow,)
Of Fortune and of Love the quid pro quo.
In proof, we'll state what happened at Marseilles:
The story is so true, no doubt prevails.

THERE Clidamant, whose proper name my verse,
Prom high respect, refuses to rehearse,
Lived much at ease: not one a wife had got,
Throughout the realm, who was so nice a lot,
Her virtues, temper, and seraphick charms,
Should have secured the husband to her arms;
But he was not to constancy inclined;
The devil's crafty; snares has often twined
Around and round, with ev'ry subtle art,
When love of novelty he would impart.

THE lady had a maid, whose form and size,
Height, easy manners, action, lips, and eyes,
Were thought to be so very like her own,
That one from t'other scarcely could be known;
The mistress was the prettiest of the two;
But, in a mask where much escapes the view,
'Twas very difficult a choice to make,
And feel no doubts which better 'twere to take.

THE Marseillesian husband, rather gay,
With mistress Alice was disposed to play;
(For such was called the maid we just have named
To show coquettish airs the latter aimed,
And met his wishes with reproof severe;
But to his plan the lover would adhere,
And promised her at length a pretty sum:
A hundred crowns, if to his room she'd come.
To pay the girl with kindness such as this,
In my opinion, was not much amiss.
At that rate what should be the mistress' price?
Perhaps still less: she might not be so nice.
But I mistake; the lady was so coy,
No spark, whatever art he could employ,
How cleverly soe'er he laid the snare,
Would have succeeded, spite of ev'ry care.
Nor presents nor attentions would have swayed;
Should I have mentioned presents as an aid?
Alas! no longer these are days of old!
By Love both nymph and shepherdess are sold;
He sets the price of many beauties rare;
This was a god;--now nothing but a mayor.

O ALTERED times! O customs how depraved!
At first fair Alice frowardly behaved;
But in the sequel 'gan to change her way,
And said, her mistress, as the foll'wing day,
A certain remedy to take designed;
That, in the morning then, if so inclined,
They could at leisure in the cavern meet;--
The plan was pleasing: all appeared discreet.

THE servant, having to her mistress said,
What projects were in view: what nets were spread;
The females, 'tween themselves, a plot contrived,
Of Quid pro quo, against the hour arrived.
The husband of the trick was ne'er aware,
So much the mistress had her servant's air;
But if he had, what then? no harm of course;
She might have lectured him with double force.

NEXT day but one, gay Clidamant, whose joy
Appeared so great, 'twas free from all alloy,
By hazard met a friend, to whom he told
(Most indiscreetly) what to him was sold;
How Cupid favoured what he most required,
And freely granted all he had desired.
Though large the blessing, yet he grudged the cost;
The sum gave pain: a hundred cro
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:08 min read

Quick analysis:

Scheme Text too long
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,334
Words 811
Stanzas 9
Stanza Lengths 14, 10, 16, 10, 8, 22, 8, 8, 8

La Fontaine

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

All La Fontaine poems | La Fontaine Books

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