Rate this poem:0.0 / 0 votes

The Spectacles

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

I LATELY vowed to leave the nuns alone,
So oft their freaks have in my page been shown.
The subject may at length fatigue the mind;
My Muse the veil howe'er is still inclined,
Conspicuously to hold to publick view,
And, 'mong the sisters, scene and scene pursue.
Is this too much?--the nicest tricks they play;
Through soft amours oft artfully they stray,
And these in full I'd readily detail,
If I were sure the subject would not fail;
And that's impossible I must admit,
'Twould endless be, the tales appear so fit;
There's not a clerk so expeditious found,
Who could record the stories known around.
The sisters to forget, were I to try,
Suspicions might arise that, by and by,
I should return: some case might tempt my pen;
So oft I've overrun the convent-den,
Like one who always makes, from time to time,
The conversation with his feelings chime.
But let us to an end the subject bring,
And after this, of other matters sing.

IN former times was introduced a lad
Among the nuns, and like a maiden clad;
A charming girl by all he was believed;
Fifteen his age; no doubts were then conceived;
Coletta was the name the youth had brought,
And, till he got a beard, was sister thought.

THE period howsoe'er was well employed,
And from it Agnes profit had enjoyed;
What profit?--truly better had I said,
That sister Agnes by him was misled,
And store of ills received; misfortune dire
Obliged the nun more girdle to require,
And ultimately to produce (in spite
Of ev'ry wish to guard the fact from light)
A little creature that our hist'ries say,
Was found Coletta's features to display.

GREAT scandal quickly through the convent ran:
How could this child arrive?--the sisters 'gan
To laugh and ask, if in an evil hour,
The mushroom could have fallen with a show'r?
Or self-created was it not supposed?
Much rage the abbess presently disclosed;
To have her holy mansion thus disgraced!
Forthwith the culprit was in prison placed.

THE father to discover next they tried;
How could he enter, pass, escape, or hide;
The walls were high; the grate was double too;
Quite small the turning-box appeared to view,
And she who managed it was very old:--
Perhaps some youthful spark has been so bold,
Cried she who was superior to the rest,
To get admitted, like a maiden dressed,
And 'mong our flock (if rightly I surmise)
A wicked wolf is lurking in disguise.
Undress, I say, I'll verify the fact;
No other way remains for me to act.

THE lad disguised was terrified to death;
Each plan was dissipated with a breath;
The more he thought of means from thence to get,
The greater were the obstacles he met.
At length NECESSITY (the parent found
Of stratagems and wiles, so much renowned,)
Induced the youth . . . (I scarcely can proceed)
To tie . . . expression here I clearly need;
What word will decently express the thought?
What book has got it?--where should it be sought?
You've heard, in days of yore that human kind,
With windows in their bosoms were designed,
Through which 'twas easy all within to see,
And suited those of medical degree.

BUT if these windows useful were believed;
'Twas inconvenient in the heart perceived,
And women thoroughly disliked the scheme:--
They could not find the means to hide a dream.
Dame Nature howsoe'er contrived a plan:--
One lace she gave the woman, one the man,
Of equal length, and each enough no doubt,
By proper care to shut the ope throughout.
The woman much too thick her eyelets placed;
And consequently, ne'er was closely laced;
The fault was all her own: herself the cause;
The man as little merited applause,
For coarsely working, soon the hole was shut,
From which the remnant lace was left to jut;
In fact, on either side, whate'er was done,
The laces never equally would run,
And we are told, both sexes acted wrong:
The woman's was too short; the man's too long.

FROM this 'tis easy, it should seem to guess:
What by the youth was tied in this distress
The end of lace that by the men was left,
When nature ordered them to close the cleft:
With thread he fastened it so very well,
That all was flat as any nun or belle;
But thread or silk, you cannot find a string
To hold, what soon I fear will give a spring,
And get away, in spite of all you do;
Bring saints or angels such a scene to view,
As twenty nuns in similar array,
Strange creatures I should think them:--merely clay,
If they should at the sight unmoved remain;
I speak of nuns, howe'er, whose charms maintain
Superior rank, a
Font size:
Collection  PDF     

Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:07 min read

Quick analysis:

Scheme Text too long
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,334
Words 805
Stanzas 8
Stanza Lengths 22, 6, 10, 8, 12, 14, 18, 15

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

0 fans

Discuss this La Fontaine poem with the community:



    Find a translation for this poem in other languages:

    Select another language:

    • - Select -
    • 简体中文 (Chinese - Simplified)
    • 繁體中文 (Chinese - Traditional)
    • Español (Spanish)
    • Esperanto (Esperanto)
    • 日本語 (Japanese)
    • Português (Portuguese)
    • Deutsch (German)
    • العربية (Arabic)
    • Français (French)
    • Русский (Russian)
    • ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)
    • 한국어 (Korean)
    • עברית (Hebrew)
    • Gaeilge (Irish)
    • Українська (Ukrainian)
    • اردو (Urdu)
    • Magyar (Hungarian)
    • मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
    • Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Italiano (Italian)
    • தமிழ் (Tamil)
    • Türkçe (Turkish)
    • తెలుగు (Telugu)
    • ภาษาไทย (Thai)
    • Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
    • Čeština (Czech)
    • Polski (Polish)
    • Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Românește (Romanian)
    • Nederlands (Dutch)
    • Ελληνικά (Greek)
    • Latinum (Latin)
    • Svenska (Swedish)
    • Dansk (Danish)
    • Suomi (Finnish)
    • فارسی (Persian)
    • ייִדיש (Yiddish)
    • հայերեն (Armenian)
    • Norsk (Norwegian)
    • English (English)


    Use the citation below to add this poem to your bibliography:


    "The Spectacles" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 29 Mar. 2023. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/25385/the-spectacles>.

    Become a member!

    Join our community of poets and poetry lovers to share your work and offer feedback and encouragement to writers all over the world!

    March 2023

    Poetry Contest

    Enter our monthly contest for the chance to win cash prizes and gain recognition for your talent.

    Browse Poetry.com


    Are you a poetry master?

    Who wrote the poem ״Invictus״?
    • A. William Ernest Henley
    • B. Thomas Hardy
    • C. Oscar Wilde
    • D. Sylvia Plath