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- The Tales and Novels, v5: The Princess Bethrothed to Garba - 1/5 -
[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
THE PRINCESS BETROTHED TO THE KING OF GARBA
WHAT various ways in which a thing is told Some truth abuse, while others fiction hold; In stories we invention may admit; But diff'rent 'tis with what historick writ; Posterity demands that truth should then Inspire relation, and direct the pen.
ALACIEL'S story's of another kind, And I've a little altered it, you'll find; Faults some may see, and others disbelieve; 'Tis all the same:--'twill never make me grieve; Alaciel's mem'ry, it is very clear, Can scarcely by it lose; there's naught to fear. Two facts important I have kept in view, In which the author fully I pursue; The one--no less than eight the belle possessed, Before a husband's sight her eyes had blessed; The other is, the prince she was to wed Ne'er seemed to heed this trespass on his bed, But thought, perhaps, the beauty she had got Would prove to any one a happy lot.
HOWE'ER this fair, amid adventures dire, More sufferings shared than malice could desire; Though eight times, doubtless, she exchanged her knight No proof, that she her spouse was led to slight; 'Twas gratitude, compassion, or good will; The dread of worse;--she'd truly had her fill; Excuses just, to vindicate her fame, Who, spite of troubles, fanned the monarch's flame: Of eight the relict, still a maid received ;-- Apparently, the prince her pure believed; For, though at times we may be duped in this, Yet, after such a number--strange to miss! And I submit to those who've passed the scene, If they, to my opinion, do not lean.
THE king of Alexandria, Zarus named, A daughter had, who all his fondness claimed, A star divine Alaciel shone around, The charms of beauty's queen were in her found; With soul celestial, gracious, good, and kind, And all-accomplished, all-complying mind.
THE, rumour of her worth spread far and wide, The king of Garba asked her for his bride, And Mamolin (the sov'reign of the spot,) To other princes had a pref'rence got.
THE fair, howe'er, already felt the smart Of Cupid's arrow, and had lost her heart; But 'twas not known: princesses love conceal, And scarcely dare its whispers fond reveal; Within their bosoms poignant pain remains, Though flesh and blood, like lasses of the plains.
THE noble Hispal, one of zarus' court, A handsome youth, as histories report, Alaciel pleased; a mutual flame arose, Though this they durst not venture to disclose Or, if expressed, 'twas solely by the eyes:-- Soul-speaking language, nothing can disguise!
AFFIANCED thus, the princess, with a sigh, Prepared to part, and fully to comply. The father trusted her to Hispal's care, Without the least suspicion of the snare; They soon embarked and ploughed the briny main; With anxious hopes in time the port to gain.
WHEN they, from Egypt's coast had sailed a week; To gain the wind they saw a pirate seek, Which having done, he t'wards them bore in haste, To take the ship in which our fair was placed.
THE battle quickly raged; alike they erred; The pirates slaughter loved, and blood preferred, And, long accustomed to the stormy tide, Were most expert, and on their skill relied. In numbers, too, superior they were found; But Hisipal's valour greatly shone around, And kept the combat undecided long; At length Grifonio, wond'rous large and strong; With twenty sturdy, pirates got on board, And many soon lay gasping by the sword. Where'er he trod, grim death and horrour reigned; At length, the round the noble Hispal gained. His nervous arm laid many wretches low Rage marked his eyes, whene'er he dealt a blow:
BUT, while the youth was thus engaged in fight, Grifonio ran to gain a sweeter sight; The princess was on board full well he knew; No time he lost, but to her chamber flew; And, since his pleasures seemed to be her doom; He bore her like a sparrow from the room: But not content with such a charming fair, He took her diamonds, ornaments for hair, And those dear pledges ladies oft receive, When they a lover's ardent flame believe. Indeed, I've heard it hinted as a truth, (And very probable for such a youth,) That Hispal, while on board, his flame revealed; And what chagrin she felt was then concealed, The passage thinking an improper time, To shew a marked displeasure at his crime.
THE pirate-chief who carried off his prey, Had short-lived joy, for, wishing to convey His charming captive from the ship with speed; One vessel chanced a little to recede, Although securely fastened by the crew, With grappling hooks, as usually they do, When quite intent to pass, young Hispal made A blow, that dead at once the ruffian laid; His head and shoulders, severed from the trunk; Fell in the sea, and to the bottom sunk, Abjuring Mahomet, and all the tribe Of idle prophets, Catholics proscribe; Erect the rest upon the legs remained; The very posture as before retained; This curious sight no doubt a laugh had raised,-- But in the moment, she, so lately praised, With dread Grifonio, fell beyond their view; To save her, straight the gallant Hispal flew. The ships, for want of pilots at the helm, At random drifted over Neptune's realm.
GRIM death the pirate forced to quit his slave; Buoyed up by clothes, she floated on the wave, 'Till Hispal succour lent, who saw 'twas vain To try with her the vessel to regain. He could, with greater ease, the fair convey To certain rocks, and thither bent his way; Those rocks to sailors oft destruction proved, But now the couple saved, who thither moved: 'Tis even said the jewels were not lost, But sweet Alaciel, howsoever tost, Preserved the caskets, which with strings were tied; And seizing these, the treasure drew aside.
OUR swimmer on his back the princess bore; The rock attained; but hardships were not o'er; Misfortunes dire the noble pair pursued And famine, worst of ills, around was viewed. No ship was near; the light soon passed away; The night the same; again appeared the day; No vessel hove in sight; no food to eat; Our couple's wretchedness seemed now complete; Hope left them both, and, mutual passion moved, Their situation more tormenting proved.
LONG time in silence they each other eyed At length, to speak the lovely charmer tried Said she, 'tis useless, Hispal, to bewail: Tears, with the cruel Parcae, naught avail; Each other to console be now our aim; Grim death his course will follow still the same. To mitigate the smart let's try anew; In such a place as this few joys accrue.
CONSOLE each other, say you? Hispal cried; What can console when forced one's love to hide? Besides, fair princess, ev'ry way 'tis clear, Improper 'twere for you to love while here; I equally could death or famine brave; But you I tremble for, and wish to save.
THESE words so pained the fair, that gushing tears Bedewed Alaciel's cheeks, her looks spoke fears; The ardent flame which she'd so long concealed; Burst forth in sighs, and all its warmth revealed; While such emotion Hispal's eyes expressed, That more than words his anxious wish confessed. These tender scenes were followed by a kiss, The prelude sweet of soft enchanting bliss; But whether taken, or by choice bestowed,
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