THE TALES AND NOVELS - V18
THE TALES AND NOVELS - V18
JEAN DE LA FONTAINE
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks or pointers at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]
THE TALES AND NOVELS
J. DE LA FONTAINE
The Case of Conscience
The Devil of Pope-fig Island
THE CASE OF CONSCIENCE
THOSE who in fables deal bestow at ease
Both names and titles freely as they please.
It costs them scarcely any thing we find.
And each is nymph or shepherdess designed;
Some e'en are goddesses that move below
From whom celestial bliss of course must flow.
THIS Horace followed with superior art:--
If to the trav'ller's bed with throbbing heart
The chambermaid approached 'twas Ilia found
Or fair Egeria or some nymph renowned.
GOD in his goodness made one lovely day
Apollo who directs the lyrick lay
And gave him pow'rs to call and name at will
Like father Adam with primordial skill.
Said he go names bestow that please the ear;
In ev'ry word let sweetest sound appear.
This ancient law then proves by right divine
WE oft are sponsors to the royal line.
WHEN pleasing tales and fables I endite
I who in humble verse presume to write
May surely use this privilege of old
And to my fancy appellations mould.
If I instead of Anne should Sylvia say
And Master Thomas (when the case I weigh)
Should change to Adamas the druid sage
Must I a fine or punishment engage?
No surely not:--at present I shall choose
Anne and the Parson for my tale to use.
WITHIN her village Anne was thought the belle
And ev'ry other charmer to excel.
As near a river once she chanced to stray
She saw a youth in Nature's pure array
Who bathed at ease within the gliding stream;
The girl was brisk and worthy of esteem
Her eyes were pleased; the object gave delight;
Not one defect could be produced in sight;
Already by the shepherdess adored
If with the belle to pleasing flights he'd soared
The god of love had all they wished concealed
None better know what should not be revealed.
Anne nothing feared: the willows were her shade
Which like Venetian blinds a cov'ring made;
Her eyes howe'er across had easy view
And o'er the youth each beauty could pursue.
SHE back four paces drew at first through shame;
Then led by LOVE eight others forward came;
But scruples still arose that ardour foiled
And nearly ey'ry thing had truly spoiled.
Anne had a conscience pure as holy fire;
But how could she abstain from soft desire?
If in the bosom chance a flame should raise
Is there a pow'r can then subdue the blaze?
At first these inclinations she withstood;
But doubting soon how those of flesh and blood
Could sins commit by stepping in advance
She took her seat upon the green expanse
And there attentively the lad observed
With eyes that scarcely from him ever swerved.
PERHAPS you've seen from Nature drawings made?
Some Eve or Adam artists then persuade
In birth-attire to stand within their view
While they with care and taste each trait pursue;
And like our shepherdess their stations take
A perfect semblance ev'ry way to make.
ANNE in her mem'ry now his image placed;
Each line and feature thoroughly she traced
And even now the fair would there remain
If William (so was called this youthful swain)
Had not the water left; when she retired
Though scarcely twenty steps from him admired
Who more alert than usual then appeared
And by the belle in silence was revered.
WHEN such sensations once were in the breast
Love there we may believe would hardly rest.
THE favours Anne reserved he thought his own
Though expectations oft away have flown.
The more of this I think the less I know;
Perhaps one half our bliss to chance we owe!
BE this as 'twill the conscientious Anne
Would nothing venture to regale her man;
Howe'er she stated what had raised her fear
And ev'ry thing that made her persevere.
WHEN Easter came new difficulties rose
Then in confession ALL she should disclose.
Anne passing peccadillos in review
This case aside as an intruder threw;
But parson Thomas made her all relate;
And ev'ry circumstance most clearly state;
That he by knowing fully each defect
Might punishment accordingly direct
In which no father-confessor should err
Who absolution justly would confer.
The parson much his penitent abused;
Said he with sensual views to be amused
Is such a sin 'tis scarcely worse to steal;
The sight is just the same as if you feel.
HOWE'ER the punishment that he imposed
Was nothing great:--too slight to be disclosed;
Enough to say that in the country round
The father-confessors who there abound
As in our own (perhaps in ev'ry part)
Have devotees who when they ought to smart
A tribute pay according to their lot
And thus indulgences are often got.
THIS tribute to discharge the current year
Much troubled Anne and filled her breast with fear
When William fishing chanced a pike to hook
And gave it to his dear at once to cook
Who quite delighted hastened to the priest
And begged his rev'rence on the fish to feast.
The parson with the present much was pleased;
A tap upon the shoulder care appeased;
And with a smile he to the bringer said
This fish with trifles on the table spread
Will all complete; 'twas holyday we find
When other clergy with our rector dined.
Will you still more oblige the parson cried
And let the fish at home by you be fried?
Then bring it here:--my servant's very new
And can't attempt to cook as well as you.
Anne hastened back; meanwhile the priests arrived
Much noise and rout of course once these were hived;
Wines from the vault were brought without delay;
Each of the quality would something say.
THE dinner served; the dean at table placed;
Their conversation various points embraced;
To state the whole would clearly endless be;
In this no doubt the reader will agree.
They changed and changed and healths went round and round;
No time for scandal while such cheer was found;
The first and second course away were cleared
Dessert served up yet still no pike appeared.
The dinner o'er without th' expected dish
Or even a shadow of the promised fish.
When William learned the present Anne had made
His wish to have it cancelled with her weighed.
The rector was surprised you may suppose
And soon as from the table all arose
He went to Anne and called her fool and knave
And in his wrath could scarcely secrets wave
But nearly her reproached the bathing scene;
What treat said he your priest like base and mean?
ANNE archly answered with expression neat:--
The sight is just the same as if you eat!
THE DEVIL OF POPE-FIG ISLAND
BY master Francis clearly 'tis expressed:
The folks of Papimania are blessed;
True sleep for them alone it seems was made
With US the copy only has been laid;
And by Saint John if Heav'n my life will spare
I'll see this place where sleeping 's free from care.
E'en better still I find for naught they do:
'Tis that employment always I pursue.
Just add thereto a little honest love
And I shall be as easy as a glove.
ON t'other hand an island may be seen
Where all are hated cursed and full of spleen.
We know them by the thinness of their face
Long sleep is quite excluded from their race.
SHOULD you good reader any person meet
With rosy smiling looks and cheeks replete
The form not clumsy you may safely say
A Papimanian doubtless I survey.
But if on t'other side you chance to view
A meagre figure void of blooming hue
With stupid heavy eye and gloomy mien
Conclude at once a Pope-figer you've seen.
POPE-FIG 'S the name upon an isle bestowed
Where once a fig the silly people showed
As like the pope and due devotion paid:--
By folly blocks have often gods been made!
These islanders were punished for their crime;
Naught prospers Francis tells us in their clime;
To Lucifer was giv'n the hateful spot
And there his country house he now has got.
His underlings appear throughout the isle
Rude wretched poor mean sordid base and vile;
With tales and horns and claws if we believe
What many say who ought not to deceive.
ONE day it happened that a cunning clown
Was by an imp observed without the town
To turn the earth which seemed to be accurst
Since ev'ry trench was painful as the first.
This youthful devil was a titled lord;
In manners simple:--naught to be abhorred;
He might so ignorant be duped at ease;
As yet he'd scarcely ventured to displease:
Said he I'd have thee know I was not born
Like clods to labour dig nor sow the corn;
A devil thou in me beholdest here
Of noble race: to toil I ne'er appear.
THOU know'st full well these fields to us belong:
The islanders it seems had acted wrong;
And for their crimes the pope withdrew his cares;
Our subjects now you live the law declares;
And therefore fellow I've undoubted right
To take the produce of this field at sight;
But I am kind and clearly will decide
The year concluded we'll the fruits divided.
What crop pray tell me dost thou mean to sow?
The clod replied my lord what best will grow
I think is Tousell; grain of hardy fame;
The imp rejoined I never heard its name;
What is it. Tousell say'st thou?--I agree
If good return 'twill be the same to me;
Work fellow work; make haste the ground prepare;
To dig and delve should be the rabble's care;
Don't think that I will ever lend a hand
Or give the slightest aid to till the land;
I've told thee I'm a gentleman by birth
Designed for ease: not doomed to turn the earth.
Howe'er I'll now the diff'rent parts allot
And thus divide the produce of the plot:--
What shall above the heritage arise
I'll leave to thee; 'twill very well suffice;
But what is in the soil shall be my share;
To this attend see ev'ry thing is fair.
THIS beardless corn when ripe with joy was reaped
And then the stubble by the roots was heaped
To satisfy the lordly devil's claim
Who thought the seed and root were just the same
And that the ear and stalk were useless parts
Which nothing made if carried to the marts:
The labourer his produce housed with care;
The other to the market brought his ware
Where ridicule and laughter he received;
'Twas nothing worth which much his bosom grieved.
QUITE mortified the devil quickly went;
To seek our clod and mark his discontent:
The fellow had discreetly sold the corn
In straw unthrashed and off the money borne
Which he with ev'ry wily care concealed;
The imp was duped and nothing was revealed.
Said he thou rascal?--pretty tricks thou'st played;
It seems that cheating is thy daily trade;
But I'm a noble devil of the court
Who tricking never knew save by report.
What grain dost mean to sow th' ensuing year?
The labourer replied I think it clear
Instead of grain 'twill better be to chop
And take a carrot or a turnip crop;
You then my lord will surely plenty find;
And radishes if you are so inclined.
THESE carrots radishes and turnips too
Said t'other I am led to think will do;
My part shall be what 'bove the soil is found:
Thine fellow what remains within the ground;
No war with thee I'll have unless constrained
And thou hast never yet of me complained.
I now shall go and try to tempt a nun
For I'm disposed to have a little fun.
THE time arrived again to house the store;
The labourer collected as before;
Leaves solely to his lordship were assigned
Who sought for those a ready sale to find
But through the market ridicule was heard
And ev'ry one around his jest preferred:--
Pray Mister Devil where d'ye grow these greens?
How treasure up returns from your demesnes?
ENRAGED at what was said he hurried back
And on the clown proposed to make attack
Who full of joy was laughing with his wife
And tasting pleasantly the sweets of life.
By all the pow'rs of Hell the demon cried
He shall the forfeit pay I now decide;
A pretty rascal truly master Phil:
Here pleasures you expect at will
Well well proceed; gallant it while allowed;
For present I'll remit what I had vowed;
A charming lady I'm engaged to meet;
She's sometimes willing: then again discreet;
But soon as I in cuckold's row have placed
Her ninny husband I'll return in haste
And then so thoroughly I'll trim you o'er
Such wily tricks you'll never practise more;
We'll see who best can use his claws and nails
And from the fields obtain the richest sales.
Corn carrots radishes or what you will:--
Crop as you like and show your utmost skill
No stratagems howe'er with culture blend;
I'll take my portion from the better end;
Within a week remember I'll be here
And recollect:--you've every thing to fear.
AMAZED at what the lordly devil said
The clod could naught reply so great his dread;
But at the gasconade Perretta smiled
Who kept his house and weary hours beguiled
A sprightly clever lass with prying eye
Who when a shepherdess could more descry
Than sheep or lambs she watched upon the plain
If other views or points she sought to gain.
Said she weep not I'll undertake at ease
To gull this novice-devil as I please;
He's young and ignorant; has nothing seen;
Thee; from his rage I thoroughly will skreen;
My little finger if I like can show
More malice than his head and body know.
THE day arrived our labourer not brave
Concealed himself but not in vault nor cave;
He plunged within a vase extremely large
Where holy-water always was in charge;
No demon would have thought to find him there
So well the clod had chosen his repair;
In sacred stoles he muffled up his skin
And 'bove the water only kept his chin;
There we will leave him while the priests profound
Repeated Vade retro round and round.
PERRETTA at the house remained to greet
The lordly devil whom she hoped to cheat.
He soon appeared; when with dishevelled hair
And flowing tears as if o'erwhelmed with care
She sallied forth and bitterly complained
How oft by Phil she had been scratched and caned;
Said she the wretch has used me very ill;
Of cruelty he has obtained his fill;
For God's sake try my lord to get away:
Just now I heard the savage fellow say
He'd with his claws your lordship tear and slash:
See only see my lord he made this gash;
On which she showed:--what you will guess no doubt
And put the demon presently to rout
Who crossed himself and trembled with affright:
He'd never seen nor heard of such a sight
Where scratch from claws or nails had so appeared;
His fears prevailed and off he quickly steered;
Perretta left who by her friends around
Was complimented on her sense profound
That could so well the demon's snares defeat;
The clergy too pronounced her plan discrete.
IN Eastern climes by means considered new;
The Mount's old-man with terrors would pursue;
His large domains howe'er were not the cause
Nor heaps of gold that gave him such applause
But manners strange his subjects to persuade;
In ev'ry wish to serve him they were made.
Among his people boldest hearts he chose
And to their view would Paradise disclose
Its blissful pleasures:--ev'ry soft delight
Designed to gratify the sense and sight.
So plausible this prophet's tale appeared
Each word he dropt was thoroughly revered.
Whence this delusion?--DRINK deranged the mind;
And reason drowned to madness they resigned.
Thus void of knowing clearly what they did
They soon were brought to act as they were bid;
Conveyed to places charming to the eye
Enchanting gardens 'neath an azure sky
With twining shrubs meandring walks and flow'rs
And num'rous grottos porticoes and bow'rs.
When they chanced to pass where all was gay
From wine's inebriating pow'rful sway
They wondered at the frolicking around
And fancied they were got on fairy ground
Which Mahomet pretended was assigned
For those to his doctrine were inclined.
To tempt the men and girls to seek the scene
And skip and play and dance upon the green
To murm'ring streams meandering along
And lutes' soft notes and nightingales' sweet song:
No earthly pleasure but might there be viewed
The best of wines and choicest fruits accrued
To render sense bewildered at the sight
And sink inebriated with delight.
THEN back they bore them motionless to sleep
And wake with wishes further joys to reap.
From these enjoyments many fully thought
To such enchanting scenes they should be brought
In future times eternal bliss to taste
If death and danger valiantly they faced
And tried the prophet Mahomet to please
And ev'ry point to serve their prince would seize.
THE Mount's old man by means like these could say;
He'd men devoted to support his sway;
Upon the globe no empire more was feared
Or king or potentate like him revered.