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- The Tales and Novels, v6: The Magick Cup - 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
THE MAGICK CUP
THE worst of ills, with jealousy compared, Are trifling torments ev'ry where declared.
IMAGINE, to yourself a silly fool, To dark suspicion grown an easy tool; No soft repose he finds, by night or day; But rings his ear, he's wretched ev'ry way! Continually he dreams his forehead sprouts; The truth of reveries he never doubts. But this I would not fully guaranty, For he who dreams, 'tis said, asleep should be; And those who've caught, from time to time, a peep, Pretend to say--the jealous never sleep.
A MAN who has suspicions soon will rouse; But buz a fly around his precious spouse, At once he fancies cuckoldom is brought, And nothing can eradicate the thought; In spite of reason he must have a place, And numbered be, among the horned race; A cuckold to himself he freely owns, Though otherwise perhaps in flesh and bones.
GOOD folks, of cuckoldom, pray what's the harm, To give, from time to time, such dire alarm? What injury 's received, and what 's the wrong, At which so many sneer and loll their tongue? While unacquainted with the fact, 'tis naught; If known:--e'en then 'tis scarcely worth a thought. You think, however, 'tis a serious grief; Then try to doubt it, which may bring relief, And don't resemble him who took a sup, From out the celebrated magick cup. Be warned by others' ills; the tale I'll tell; Perhaps your irksomeness it may dispel.
BUT first, by reason let me prove, I pray, That evil such as this, and which you say, Oft weighs you down with soul-corroding care; Is only in the mind:--mere spright of air: Your hat upon your head for instance place, Less gently rather than's your usual case; Pray, don't it presently at ease remain? And from it do you aught amiss retain? Not e'en a spot; there's nothing half so clear; The features, too, they as before appear? No difference assuredly you see? Then how can cuckoldom an evil be? Such my conclusion, spite of fools or brutes, With whose ideas reason never suits.
YES, yes, but honour has, you know, a claim: Who e'er denied it?--never 'twas my aim. But what of honour?--nothing else is heard; At Rome a different conduct is preferred; The cuckold there, who takes the thing to heart, Is thought a fool, and acts a blockhead's part; While he, who laughs, is always well received And honest fellow through the town believed. Were this misfortune viewed with proper eyes, Such ills from cuckoldom would ne'er arise.
THAT advantageous 'tis, we now will prove: Folks laugh; your wife a pliant glove shall move; But, if you've twenty favourites around, A single syllable will ne'er resound. Whene'er you speak, each word has double force; At table, you've precedency of course, And oft will get the very nicest parts; Well pleased who serves you!--all the household smarts No means neglect your favour to obtain; You've full command; resistance would be vain. Whence this conclusion must directly spring: To be a cuckold is a useful thing.
AT cards, should adverse fortune you pursue; To take revenge is ever thought your due; And your opponent often will revoke, That you for better luck may have a cloak: If you've a friend o'er head and ears in debt: At once, to help him numbers you can get. You fancy these your rind regales and cheers She's better for it; more beautiful appears; The Spartan king, in Helen found new charms, When he'd recovered her from Paris' arms.
YOUR wife the same; to make her, in your eye, More beautiful 's the aim you may rely; For, if unkind, she would a hag be thought, Incapable soft love scenes to be taught. These reasons make me to my thesis cling,-- To be a cuckold is a useful thing.
IF much too long this introduction seem, The obvious cause is clearly in the theme, And should not certainly be hurried o'er, But now for something from th' historick store.
A CERTAIN man, no matter for his name, His country, rank, nor residence nor fame, Through fear of accidents had firmly sworn, The marriage chain should ne'er by him be worn; No tie but friendship, from the sex he'd crave: If wrong or right, the question we will wave. Be this as 't will, since Hymen could not find Our wight to bear the wedded knot inclined, The god of love, to manage for him tried, And what he wished, from time to time supplied; A lively fair he got, who charms displayed, And made him father to a little maid; Then died, and left the spark dissolved in tears: Not such as flow for wives, (as oft appears) When mourning 's nothing more than change of dress: His anguish spoke the soul in great distress.
THE daughter grew in years, improved in mien, And soon the woman in her air was seen; Time rolls apace, and once she's ridded of her bib, Then alters daily, and her tongue gets glib, Each year still taller, till she's found at length; A perfect belle in look, in age, in strength. His forward child, the father justly feared, Would cheat the priest of fees so much revered; The lawyer too, and god of marriage-joys; Sad fault, that future prospects oft destroys: To trust her virtue was not quite so sure; He chose a convent, to be more secure, Where this young charmer learned to pray and sew; No wicked books, unfit for girls to know, Corruption's page the senses to beguile Dan Cupid never writes in convent style:
OF nothing would she talk but holy-writ; On which she could herself so well acquit, That oft the gravest teachers were confused; To praise her beauty, scarcely was excused; No flatt'ry pleasure gave, and she'd reply: Good sister stay!--consider, we must die; Each feature perishes:--'tis naught but clay; And soon will worms upon our bodies prey: Superior needle-work our fair could do; The spindle turn at ease:--embroider too; Minerva's skill, or Clotho's, could impart; In tapestry she'd gained Arachne's art; And other talents, too, the daughter showed; Her sense, wealth, beauty, soon were spread abroad: But most her wealth a marked attention drew; The belle had been immured with prudent view, To keep her safely till a spouse was found, Who with sufficient riches should abound. From convents, heiresses are often led Directly to the altar to be wed.
SOME time the father had the girl declared His lawful child, who all his fondness shared. As soon as she was free from convent walls, Her taste at once was changed from books to balls; Around Calista (such was named our fair) A host of lovers showed attentive care; Cits, courtiers, officers, the beau, the sage, Adventurers of ev'ry rank and age.
FROM these Calista presently made choice, Of one for whom her father gave his voice; A handsome lad, and thought good humoured too Few otherwise appear when first they woo. Her fortune ample was; the dow'r the same; The belle an only child; the like her flame. But better still, our couple's chief delight, Was mutual love and pleasure to excite.
TWO years in paradise thus passed the pair, When bliss was changed to Hell's worst cank'ring care; A fit of jealousy the husband grieved, And, strange to tell, he all at once believed, A lover with success his wife addressed, When, but for him, the suit had ne'er been pressed; For though the spark, the charming fair to gain,
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