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- The Tales and Novels, v4: The Old Man's Calendar and Others - 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 4.

Contains: The Old Man's Calendar The Avaricious Wife and Tricking Galant The Jealous Husband The Gascon Unpunished]

THE OLD MAN'S CALENDAR

OFT have I seen in wedlock with surprise, That most forgot from which true bliss would rise When marriage for a daughter is designed, The parents solely riches seem to mind; All other boons are left to heav'n above, And sweet SIXTEEN must SIXTY learn to love! Yet still in other things they nicer seem, Their chariot-horses and their oxen-team Are truly matched;--in height exact are these, While those each shade alike must have to please; Without the choice 'twere wonderful to find, Or coach or wagon travel to their mind. The marriage journey full of cares appears, When couples match in neither souls nor years! An instance of the kind I'll now detail: The feeling bosom will such lots bewail!

QUINZICA, (Richard), as the story goes, Indulged his wife at balls, and feasts, and shows, Expecting other duties she'd forget, In which howe'er he disappointment met. A judge in Pisa, Richard was, it seems, In law most learned: wily in his schemes; But silver beard and locks too clearly told, He ought to have a wife of diff'rent mould; Though he had taken one of noble birth, Quite young, most beautiful, and formed for mirth, Bartholomea Galandi her name; The lady's parents were of rank and fame; Our JUDGE herein had little wisdom shown, And sneering friends around were often known To say, his children ne'er could fathers lack: At giving counsel some have got a knack, Who, were they but at home to turn their eyes, Might find, perhaps, they're not so over-wise.

QUINZICA, then perceiving that his pow'rs Fell short of what a bird like his devours, T'excuse himself and satisfy his dear, Pretended that, no day within the year, To Hymen, as a saint, was e'er assigned, In calendar, or book of any kind, When full ATTENTION to the god was paid:-- To aged sires a nice convenient aid; But this the sex by no means fancy right; Few days to PLEASURE could his heart invite At times, the week entire he'd have a fast; At others, say the day 'mong saints was classed, Though no one ever heard its holy name;-- FAST ev'ry Friday--Saturday the same, Since Sunday followed, consecrated day; Then Monday came:--still he'd abstain from play; Each morning find excuse, but solemn feasts Were days most sacred held by all the priests; On abstinence, then, Richard lectures read, And long before the time, was always led By sense of right, from dainties to refrain: A period afterward would also gain; The like observed before and after Lent; And ev'ry feast had got the same extent; These times were gracious for our aged man; And never pass them was his constant plan.

OF patron saints he always had a list; Th' evangelists, apostles, none he miss'd; And that his scruples might have constant food; Some days malign, he said, were understood; Then foggy weather;--dog-days' fervent heat: To seek excuses he was most complete, And ne'er asham'd but manag'd things so well, Four times a year, by special grace, they tell, Our sage regal'd his youthful blooming wife, A little with the sweets of marriage life.

WITH this exception he was truly kind, Fine dresses, jewels, all to please her mind; But these are bawbles which alone controul Those belles, like dolls, mere bodies void of soul. Bartholomea was of diff'rent clay; Her only pleasure (as our hist'ries say), To go in summer to the neighb'ring coast, Where her good spouse a charming house could boast, In which they took their lodging once a week; At times they pleasure on the waves would seek, As fishing with the lady would agree, And she was wond'rous partial to the sea, Though far to sail they always would refuse. One day it happened better to amuse, Our couple diff'rent fishing vessels took, And skimm'd the wave to try who most could hook, Of fish and pleasure; and they laid a bet, The greatest number which of them should get. On board they had a man or two at most. And each the best adventure hop'd to boast.

A CERTAIN pirate soon observ'd the ship, In which this charming lady made the trip, And presently attack'd and seiz'd the same; But Richard's bark to shore in safety came; So near the land, or else he would not brave, To any great extent, the stormy wave, Or that the robber thought if both he took, He could not decently for favours look, And he preferr'd those joys the FAIR bestow, To all the riches which to mortals flow.

ALTHOUGH a pirate, he had always shown Much honour in his acts, as well was known; But Cupid's frolicks were his heart's delight: None truly brave can ever beauty slight; A sailor's always bold and kind and free, Good lib'ral fellows, such they'll ever be; 'Mong saints indeed 'twere vain their names to seek! The man was good howe'er of whom we speak; His usual name was Pagamin Montegue; For hours the lady's screams were heard a league, While he each minute anxiously would seize, To cheer her spirits and her heart to please; T'attain his wish he ev'ry art combined; At length the lovely captive all resigned. 'Twas Cupid conquer'd, Cupid with his dart; A thousand times more pirate in his art, Than Pagamin; on bleeding hearts he preys, But little quarter gives, nor grace displays: To pay her ransom she'd enough of gold; For this her spouse was truly never cold; No fast nor festival therein appear'd, And her captivity he greatly fear'd.

THIS calendar o'erspread with rubrick days; She soon forgot and learn'd the pirate's ways; The matrimonial zone aside was thrown, And only mentioned where the fact was known:

OUR lawyer would his fingers sooner burn; Than have his wife but virtuous home return; By means of gold he entertain'd no doubt, Her restoration might be brought about. A passport from the pirate he obtain'd, Then waited on him and his wish explain'd; To pay he offer'd what soe'er he'd ask; His terms accept, though hard perhaps the task;

THE robber answer'd, if my name around, Be not for honourable acts renown'd, 'Tis quite unjust:--your partner I'll restore In health, without a ransom:--would you more? A friendship so respect'd, heav'n forefend! Should ever, by my conduct, have an end. The fair, whom you so ardently admire, Shall to your arms return as you desire, Such pleasure to a friend I would not sell; Convince me that she's your's, and all is well; For if another I to you should give, (And many that I've taken with me live,) I surely should incur a heavy blame; I lately captur'd one, a charming dame, With auburn locks, a little fat, tall, young; If she declare she does to you belong, When you she's seen, I will the belle concede; You'll take her instantly; I'll not impede.

THE sage replied, your conduct's truly wise; Such wond'rous kindness fills me with surprise; But since 'tis said that every trade must live, The sum just mention:--I'll the ransom give; No compliment I wish, my purse behold You know the money presently is told; Consider me a stranger now I pray; With you I'd equal probity display, And so will act, I swear, as you shall see; There 's not a doubt the fair will go with me; My word for this I would not have you take:--


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