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- The Tales and Novels, v14: The Hermit &c. - 1/3 -


[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 OF J. DE LA FONTAINE

Volume 14.

Contains: The Countryman Who Sought His Calf Hans Carvel's Ring The Hermit The Convent Gardener of Lamporechio

THE COUNTRYMAN WHO SOUGHT HIS CALF

A COUNTRYMAN, one day, his calf had lost, And, seeking it, a neighbouring forest crossed; The tallest tree that in the district grew, He climbed to get a more extensive view. Just then a lady with her lover came; The place was pleasing, both to spark and dame; Their mutual wishes, looks and eyes expressed, And on the grass the lady was caressed. At sights of charms, enchanting to the eyes, The gay gallant exclaimed, with fond surprise:-- Ye gods, what striking beauties now I see! No objects named; but spoke with anxious glee. The clod, who, on the tree had mounted high, And heard at ease the conversation nigh, Now cried:--Good man! who see with such delight; Pray tell me if my calf be in your sight?

HANS CARVEL'S RING

HANS CARVEL took, when weak and late in life; A girl, with youth and beauteous charms to wife; And with her, num'rous troubles, cares and fears; For, scarcely one without the rest appears. Bab (such her name, and daughter of a knight) Was airy, buxom: formed for am'rous fight. Hans, holding jeers and cuckoldom in dread, Would have his precious rib with caution tread, And nothing but the Bible e'er peruse; All other books he daily would abuse; Blamed secret visits; frowned at loose attire; And censured ev'ry thing gallants admire. The dame, howe'er, was deaf to all he said; No preaching pleased but what to pleasure led, Which made the aged husband hold his tongue. And wish for death, since all round went wrong. Some easy moments he perhaps might get; A full detail in hist'ry's page is met. One night, when company he'd had to dine, And pretty well was fill'd with gen'rous wine, Hans dreamed, as near his wife he snoring lay, The devil came his compliments to pay, And having on his finger put a ring, Said he, friend Hans, I know thou feel'st a sting; Thy trouble 's great: I pity much thy case; Let but this ring, howe'er, thy finger grace, And while 'tis there I'll answer with my head, THAT ne'er shall happen which is now thy dread: Hans, quite delighted, forced his finger through; You drunken beast, cried Bab, what would you do? To love's devoirs quite lost, you take no care, And now have thrust your finger God knows where!

THE HERMIT

WHEN Venus and Hypocrisy combine, Oft pranks are played that show a deep design; Men are but men, and friars full as weak: I'm not by Envy moved these truths to speak. Have you a sister, daughter, pretty wife? Beware the monks as you would guard your life; If in their snares a simple belle be caught: The trap succeeds: to ruin she is brought. To show that monks are knaves in Virtue's mask; Pray read my tale:--no other proof I ask.

A HERMIT, full of youth, was thought around, A saint, and worthy of the legend found. The holy man a knotted cincture wore; But, 'neath his garb:--heart-rotten to the core. A chaplet from his twisted girdle hung, Of size extreme, and regularly strung, On t'other side was worn a little bell; The hypocrite in ALL, he acted well; And if a female near his cell appeared, He'd keep within as if the sex he feared, With downcast eyes and looks of woe complete, You'd ne'er suppose that butter he could eat.

NOT far from where the hermit's cell was placed, Within a village dwelled a widow chaste; Her residence was at the further end And all her store--a daughter as a friend, Who candour, youth, and charms supreme possessed; And still a virgin lived, howe'er distressed. Though if the real truth perhaps we name, 'Twas more simplicity than virtuous aim; Not much of industry, but honest heart; No wealth, nor lovers, who might hope impart. In Adam's days, when all with clothes were born, She doubtless might like finery have worn; A house was furnished then without expense; For sheets or mattresses you'd no pretence; Not e'en a bed was necessary thought No blankets, pillowbiers, nor quilts were bought. Those times are o'er; then Hymen came alone; But now a lawyer in his train is shown.

OUR anchorite, in begging through the place; This girl beheld,--but not with eyes of grace. Said he, she'll do, and, if thou manag'st right, Lucius, at times, with her to pass the night. No time he lost, his wishes to secure: The means, we may suppose, not over pure.

QUITE near the open fields they lived, I've said; An humble, boarded cottage o'er their head. One charming night--no, I mistake 'tis plain, Our hermit, favoured much by wind and rain, Pierced in the boarding, where by time 'twas worn; A hole through which he introduced a horn; And loudly bawled:--attend to what I say, Ye women, my commands at once obey. This voice spread terror through the little cot; Both hid their heads and trembled for their lot; But still our monk his horn would sound aloud Awake! cried he; your favour God has vowed; My faithful servant, Lucius, haste to seek; At early dawn go find this hermit meek To no one say a word: 'tis Heav'n ordains; Fear nothing, Lucius ever blessed remains; I'll show the way myself: your daughter place, Good widow, with this holy man of grace; And from their intercourse a pope shall spring, Who back to virtue christendom will bring.

HE spoke to them so very loud and clear, They heard, though 'neath the clothes half dead with fear. Some time howe'er the females lay in dread; At length the daughter ventured out her head, And, pulling hastily her parent's arm, Said she, dear mother, (not suspecting harm) Good Heav'ns! must I obey and thither go? What would the holy man on me bestow? I know not what to say nor how to act; Now cousin Anne would with him be exact, And better recollect his sage advice:-- Fool! said the mother, never be so nice; Go, nothing fear, and do whate'er's desired; Much understanding will not be required; The first or second time thou'lt get thy cue, And cousin Anne will less know what to do. Indeed? the girl replied; well, let's away, And we'll return to bed without delay. But softly, cried the mother with a smile; Not quite so fast, for Satan may beguile; And if 'twere so, hast taken proper care? I think he spoke like one who would ensnare. To be precipitate, in such a case, Perhaps might lead at once to dire disgrace. If thou wert terrified and did'st not hear, Myself I'm sure was quite o'ercome with fear. No, no, rejoined the daughter, I am right: I clearly heard, dear mother, spite of fright. Well then, replied the widow, let us pray, That we by Satan be not led astray.

AT length they both arose when morning came, And through the day the converse was the same. At night howe'er the horn was heard once more, And terrified the females as before.


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