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- The Tales and Novels, v16: The Amorous Courtesan & Nicaise - 1/4 -
[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
Contains: The Amorous Courtesan Nicaise
THE AMOROUS COURTESAN
DAN CUPID, though the god of soft amour, In ev'ry age works miracles a store; Can Catos change to male coquets at ease; And fools make oracles whene'er he please; Turn wolves to sheep, and ev'ry thing so well, That naught remains the former shape to tell: Remember, Hercules, with wond'rous pow'r, And Polyphemus, who would men devour: The one upon a rock himself would fling, And to the winds his am'rous ditties sing; To cut his beard a nymph could him inspire; And, in the water, he'd his face admire. His club the other to a spindle changed, To please the belle with whom he often ranged.
A hundred instances the fact attest, But sage Boccace has one, it is confessed, Which seems to me, howe'er we search around, To be a sample, rarely to be found. 'Tis Chimon that I mean, a savage youth, Well formed in person, but the rest uncouth, A bear in mind, but Cupid much can do, LOVE licked the cub, and decent soon he grew. A fine gallant at length the lad appeared; From whence the change?--Fine eyes his bosom cheered The piercing rays no sooner reached his sight, But all the savage took at once to flight; He felt the tender flame; polite became; You'll find howe'er, our tale is not the same.
I MEAN to state how once an easy fair, Who oft amused the youth devoid of care, A tender flame within her heart retained, Though haughty, singular, and unrestrained. Not easy 'twas her favours to procure; Rome was the place where dwelled this belle impure; The mitre and the cross with her were naught; Though at her feet, she'd give them not a thought; And those who were not of the highest class, No moments were allowed with her to pass. A member of the conclave, first in rank, To be her slave, she'd scarcely deign to thank; Unless a cardinal's gay nephew came, And then, perhaps, she'd listen to his flame; The pope himself, had he perceived her charms, Would not have been too good to grace her arms. Her pride appeared in clothes as well as air, And on her sparkled gold and jewels rare; In all the elegance of dress arrayed, Embroidery and lace, her taste displayed.
THE god of soft amour beheld her aim; And sought at once her haughty soul to tame; A Roman gentleman, of finest form, Soon in her bosom raised a furious storm; Camillus was the name this youth had got; The nymph's was Constance, that LOVE'S arrow shot: Though he was mild, good humoured, and serene, No sooner Constance had his person seen, And in her breast received the urchin's dart, Than throbs, and trembling fears o'erwhelmed her heart. The flame she durst declare no other way, Than by those sighs, which feelings oft betray. Till then, nor shame nor aught could her retain; Now all was changed:--her bashfulness was plain. As none, howe'er, could think the subtle flame Would lie concealed with such a haughty dame, Camillus nothing of the kind supposed. Though she incessantly by looks disclosed, That something unrevealed disturbed the soul, And o'er her mind had absolute control. Whatever presents Constance might receive, Still pensive sighs her breast appeared to heave: Her tints of beauty too, began to fail, And o'er the rose, the lily to prevail.
ONE night Camillus had a party met, Of youthful beaux and belles, a charming set, And, 'mong the rest, fair Constance was a guest; The evening passed in jollity and jest; For few to holy converse seemed inclined, And none for Methodists appeared designed: Not one, but Constance, deaf to wit was found, And, on her, raillery went briskly round.
THE supper o'er the company withdrew, But Constance suddenly was lost to view; Beside a certain bed she took her seat, Where no one ever dreamed she would retreat, And all supposed, that ill, or spirits weak, She home had run, or something wished to seek.
THE company retired, Camillus said, He meant to write before he went to bed, And told his valet he might go to rest A lucky circumstance, it is confessed. Thus left alone, and as the belle desired; Who, from her soul, the spark so much admired; Yet knew not how the subject to disclose, Or, in what way her wishes to propose; At length, with trembling accents, she revealed; The flame she longer could not keep concealed.
EXCEEDINGLY surprised Camillus seemed, And scarcely could believe but what he dreamed; Why, hey! said he, good lady, is it thus, With favoured friends, you doubtful points discuss? He made her sit, and then his seat regained Who would have thought, cried he, you here remained; Now who this hiding place to you could tell? 'Twas LOVE, fond LOVE! replied the beauteous belle; And straight a blush her lovely cheek suffused, So rare with those to Cyprian revels used; For Venus's vot'ries, to pranks resigned, Another way, to get a colour, find.
CAMILLUS, truly, some suspicions had, That he was loved, though neither fool nor mad; Nor such a novice in the Paphian scene, But what he could at once some notions glean: More certain tokens, howsoe'er, to get, And set the lady's feelings on the fret, By trying if the gloom that o'er her reigned Was only sly pretence, he coldness feigned.
SHE often sighed as if her heart would break; At length love's piercing anguish made her speak: What you will say, cried she, I cannot guess, To see me thus a fervent flame confess. The very thought my face with crimson dyes; My way of life no shield for this supplies; The moment pure affection 's in the soul, No longer wanton freaks the mind control.
MY conduct to excuse, what can I say? O could my former life be done away, And in your recollection naught remain, But what might virtuous constancy maintain At all event, my frankness overlook, Too well I see, the fatal path I took Has such displeasure to your breast conveyed, My zeal will rather hurt than give me aid; But hurt or not, I'll idolize you still: Beat, drive away, contemn me as you will; Or worse, if you the torment can contrive I'm your's alone, Camillus, while alive.
TO this harangue the wary youth replied In truth, fair lady, I could ne'er decide, To criticise what others round may do.- 'Tis not the line I'd willingly pursue; And I will freely say, that your discourse Has much surprised me, though 'tis void of force. To you it surely never can belong, To say variety in love is wrong; Besides, your sex, and decency, 'tis clear, To ev'ry disadvantage you appear. What use this eloquence, and what your aim? Such charms alone as your's could me inflame; Their pow'r is great, but fully I declare, I do not like advances from the FAIR.
To Constance this a thunder-clap appeared; Howe'er, she in her purpose persevered. Said she, this treatment doubtless I deserve; But still, from truth my tongue can never swerve, And if I may presume my thoughts to speak, The plan which I've pursued your love to seek, Had never proved injurious to my cause, If still my beauty merited applause. From what you've said, and what your looks express To please your sight, no charms I now possess. Whence comes this change?--to you i will refer; Till now I was admired, you must aver;
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