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Jean de La Fontaine Poems
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The Magnificent by Jean de La Fontaine
SOME wit, handsome form and gen'rous mind;
A triple engine prove in love we find;
By these the strongest fortresses are gained
E'en rocks 'gainst such can never be sustained.
If you've some talents, with a pleasing face,
Your purse-strings open free, and you've the place.
At times, no doubt, without these things, success
Attends the gay gallant, we must confess;
But then, good sense should o'er his actions rule;
At all events, he must not be a fool.
The stingy, women ever will detest;
Words puppies want;--the lib'ral are the best.

A Florentine, MAGNIFICENT by name,
Was what we've just described, in fact and fame;
The title was bestowed upon the knight,
For noble deeds performed by him in fight.
The honour ev'ry way he well deserved;
His upright conduct (whence he never swerved,)
Expensive equipage, and presents made,
Proclaimed him all around what we've pourtrayed.

WITH handsome person and a pleasing mien,
Gallant, a polished air, and soul serene;
A certain fair of noble birth he sought,
Whose conquest, doubtless, brilliant would be thought;
Which in our lover doubly raised desire;
Renown and pleasure lent his bosom fire.

THE jealous husband of the beauteous fair
Was Aldobrandin, whose suspicious care
Resembled more, what frequently is shown
For fav'rites mistresses, than wives alone.
He watched her every step with all his eyes;
A hundred thousand scarcely would suffice;
Indeed, quite useless Cupid these can make;
And Argus oft is subject to mistake:
Repeatedly they're duped, although our wight,
(Who fancied he in ev'ry thing was right,)
Himself so perfectly secure believed,
By gay gallants he ne'er could be deceived.

TO suitors, howsoe'er, he was not blind;
To covet presents, greatly he inclined.
The lover yet had no occasion found,
To drop a word to charms so much renowned;
He thought his passion was not even seen;
And if it had, would things have better been?
What would have followed? what had been the end?
The reader needs no hint to comprehend.

BUT to return to our forlorn gallant,
Whose bosom for the lady's 'gan to pant;
He, to his doctor, not a word had said;
Now here, now there, he tried to pop his head.
But neither door nor window could he find,
Where he might glimpse the object of his mind,
Or even hear her voice, or sound her name;
No fortress had he ever found the same;
Yet still to conquer he was quite resolved,
And oft the manner in his mind revolved.
This plan at length he thought would best succeed,
To execute it doubtless he had need
Of ev'ry wily art he could devise,
Surrounded as he was by eagle-eyes.

I THINK the reader I've already told,
Our husband loved rich presents to behold;
Though none he made, yet all he would receive;
Whate'er was offered he would never leave.

MAGNIFICENT a handsome horse had got,
It ambled well, or cantered, or would trot;
He greatly valued it, and for its pace,
'Twas called the Pad; it stept with wond'rous grace:
By Aldobrandin it was highly praised;
Enough was this: the knight's fond hopes were raised;
Who offered to exchange, but t'other thought,
He in a barter might perhaps be caught.
'Tis not, said he, that I the horse refuse;
But I, in trucking, never fail to lose.

ON this, Magnificent, who saw his aim;
Replied, well, well, a better scheme we'll frame;
No changing we'll allow, but you'll permit,
That for the horse, I with your lady sit,
You present all the while, 'tis what I want;
I'm curious, I confess, and fort it pant.
Besides, your friends assuredly should know
What mind, what sentiments may from her flow.
Just fifteen minutes, I no more desire:
What! cried the other, you my wife require?
No, no, pray keep your horse, that won't be right.
But you'll be present, said the courteous knight.
And what of that? rejoined the wily spouse.
Why, cried Magnificent, then naught should rouse
Your fears or cares, for how can ill arise,
While watched by you, possessed of eagle-eyes?

THE husband 'gan to turn it in his mind;
Thought he, if present, what can be designed?
The plan is such as dissipates my fears;
The offer advantageous too appears;
He's surely mad; I can't conceive his aim;
But, to secure myself and wife from shame;
Without his knowledge, I'll forbid the fair
Her lips to open, and for this prepare.

COME, cried old Aldobrandin, I'll consent:
But, said the other, recollect 'tis meant,
So distant from us, all the while you stay,
That not a word you hear of what I say.
Agreed, rejoined the husband:--let's begin;
Away he flew, and brought the lady in.

WHEN our gallant the charming belle perceived;
Elysium seemed around, he half believed.
The salutations o'er, they went and sat
Together in a corner, where their chat
Could not be heard, if they to talk inclined;
Our brisk gallant no long harangues designed,
But to the point advanced without delay;
Cried he, I've neither time nor place to say
What I could wish, and useless 'twere to seek
Expressions that but indirectly speak
The sentiments which animate the soul;
In terms direct, 'tis better state the whole.

THUS circumstanced, fair lady, let me, pray;
To you at once, my adoration pay;
No words my admiration can express;
Your charms enslave my senses, I confess;
Can you suppose to answer would be wrong?
Too much good sense to you should now belong;
Had I the leisure, I'd in form disclose
The tender flame with which my bosom glows;
Each horrid torment; but by Fate denied
Blessed opportunities, let me not hide,
While moments offer, what pervades my heart,
And openly avow the burning smart
Few minutes I have got to travel o'er
What gen'rally requires six months or more.
Cold is that lover who will not pursue,
With ev'ry ardour, beauty, when in view.
But why this silence?--not a word you say!
You surely will not send me thus away!
That heav'n, an angel made you, none deny;
But still, to what is asked you should reply.
Your husband this contrived I plainly see,
Who fancies that replies were not to be,
Since in our bargain they were never named;
For shuffling conduct he was ever famed;
But I'll come round him, spite of all his art;
I can reply for you, and from the heart,
Since I can read your wishes in your eyes;
'Tis thus to say--Good, sir, I would advise
That you regard me, not as marble cold;
Your various tournaments and actions bold,
Your serenades, and gen'ral conduct prove,
What tender sentiments your bosom move.

YOUR fond affection constantly I praised,
And quickly felt a flame within me raised;
Yet what avails?--Oh, that I'll soon disclose;
Since we agree, allow me to propose,
Our mutual wishes we enjoy to-night;
And turn to ridicule that jealous Wight;
In short, reward him for his wily fear,
In watching us so very closely here.
Your garden will be quite the thing, I guess;
Go thither, pray, and never fear success;
Depend upon it, soon his country seat
Your spouse will visit:--then the hunks we'll cheat.
When plunged in sleep the grave duennas lie,
Arise, furred gown put on, and quickly fly;
With careful steps you'll to the garden haste;
I've got a ladder ready to be placed
Against the wall which joins your neighbour's square:
I've his permission thither to repair;
'Tis better than the street:--fear naught my dove.--
Ah! dear Magnificent, my fondest love;
As you desire, I'll readily proceed;
My heart is your's: we fully are agreed.
'T's you who speaks, and, would that in my arms
Permission I had got to clasp your charms!

MAGNIFICENT (for her he now replied,)
This flame you'll soon no reason have to hide
Through dread or fear of my old jealous fool,
Who wisely fancies he can woman rule.

THE lover, feigning rare, the lady left,
And grumbling much, as if of hope bereft,
Addressed the husband thus: you're vastly kind;
As well with no-one converse I might find;
If horses you so easily procure,
You Fortune's frowns may very well endure.
Mine neighs, at least, but this fair image seems,
Mere pretty fish; I've satisfied my schemes;
What now of precious minutes may remain,
If any one desire my chance to gain,
A bargain he shall have:--most cheap the prize;
The husband laughed till tears bedewed his eyes.
Said he, these youths have always in their head
Some word'rous fancies; follies round them spread.
Friend, from pursuit you much too soon retire:
With time we oft obtain our fond desire.
But I shall always keep a watchful eye;
Some knowing tricks methinks I yet can spy;
Howe'er, the horse must now be clearly mine,
And you'll the pad of course to me resign;
To you no more expense; and from to-day,
Be not displeased to see me on it, pray;
At ease I'll ride my country house to view;--
That very night he to the mansion flew,
And our good folks immediately repaired,
Where gay Magnificent no pains had spared
To get access; what passed we won't detail;
Soft scenes, you'll doubtless guess, should there prevail.

THE dame was lively, beautiful, and young;
The lover handsome, finely formed, and strong;
Alike enchanted with each other's charms,
Three meetings were contrived without alarms;
A fair so captivating to possess,
What mortal could be satisfied with less?
In golden dreams the sage duennas slept;
A female sentinel to watch was kept.

A SUMMER-HOUSE was at the garden end,
Which to the pair much ease was found to lend;
Old Aldobrandin, when he built the same,
Ne'er fancied LOVE, would in it freak and game.
In cuckoldom he took his full degrees;
The horse he daily mounted at his ease,
And so delighted with his bargain seemed,
Three days, to prove it, requisite he deemed.
The country house received him ev'ry night;
At home he never dreamed but all was right.

WHAT numbers round, whom Fortune favours less;
Have got a wife, but not a horse possess;
And, what yet still more wond'rous may appear,
Know ey'ry thing that passes with their dear.
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