La Fontaine (1621 - 1695 / Champagne / France)
Friar Philip's Geese
IF these gay tales give pleasure to the FAIR,
The honour's great conferred, I'm well aware;
Yet, why suppose the sex my pages shun?
Enough, if they condemn where follies run;
Laugh in their sleeve at tricks they disapprove,
And, false or true, a muscle never move.
A playful jest can scarcely give offence:
Who knows too much, oft shows a want of sense.
From flatt'ry oft more dire effects arise,
Enflame the heart and take it by surprise;
Ye beauteous belles, beware each sighing swain,
Discard his vows:--my book with care retain;
Your safety then I'll guarantee at ease.--
But why dismiss?--their wishes are to please:
And, truly, no necessity appears
For solitude:--consider well your years.
I HAVE, and feel convinced they do you wrong,
Who think no virtue can to such belong;
White crows and phoenixes do not abound;
But lucky lovers still are sometimes found;
And though, as these famed birds, not quite so rare,
The numbers are not great that favours share;
I own my works a diff'rent sense express,
But these are tales:--mere tales in easy dress.
To beauty's wiles, in ev'ry class, I've bowed;
Fawned, flattered, sighed, e'en constancy have vowed
What gained? you ask--but little I admit;
Howe'er we aim, too oft we fail to hit.
My latter days I'll now devote with care,
To guard the sex from ev'ry latent snare.
Tales I'll detail, and these relate at ease:
Narrations clear and neat will always please;
Like me, to this attention criticks pay;
Then sleep, on either side, from night till day.
If awkward, vulgar phrase intervene,
Or rhymes imperfect o'er the page be seen,
Condemn at will; but stratagems and art,
Pass, shut your eyes, who'd heed the idle part?
Some mothers, husbands, may perhaps be led,
To pull my locks for stories white or red;
So matters stand: a fine affair, no doubt,
And what I've failed to do--my book makes out.
THE FAIR my pages safely may pursue,
And this apology they'll not refuse.
What recompense can I presume to make?
A tale I'll give, where female charms partake,
And prove resistless whatsoe'er assail:
Blessed BEAUTY, NATURE ever should prevail.
HAD Fate decreed our YOUTH, at early morn,
To view the angel features you adorn,
The captivating pow'rs AURORA bless,
Or airy SPRING bedecked in beauteous dress,
And all the azure canopy on high
Had vanished like a dream, once you were nigh.
And when his eyes at length your charms beheld,
His glowing breast with softest passion swelled;
Superior lustre beamed at ev'ry view;
No pleasures pleased: his soul was fixed on you.
Crowns, jewels, palaces, appeared as naught.
'Twas solely beauteous woman now he sought.
A WOOD, from earliest years, his home had been,
And birds the only company he'd seen,
Whose notes harmonious often lulled his care,
Beguiled his hours, and saved him from despair;
Delightful sounds! from nightingale and dove
Unknown their tongue, yet indicant of love.
THIS savage, solitary, rustick school,
The father chose his infancy to rule.
The mother's recent death induced the sire,
To place the son where only beasts retire;
And long the forest habitants alone
Were all his youthful sight had ever known.
TWO reasons, good or bad, the father led
To fly the world:--all intercourse to dread
Since fate had torn his lovely spouse from hence;
Misanthropy and fear o'ercame each sense;
Of the world grown tired, he hated all around:--
Too oft in solitude is sorrow found.
His partner's death produced distaste of life,
And made him fear to seek another wife.
A hermit's gloomy, mossy cell he took,
And wished his child might thither solely look.
AMONG the poor his little wealth he threw,
And with his infant son alone withdrew;
The forest's dreary wilds concealed his cell;
There Philip (such his name) resolved to dwell.
BY holy motives led, and not chagrin,
The hermit never spoke of what he'd seen;
But, from the youth's discernment, strove to hide,
Whate'er regarded love, and much beside,
The softer sex, with all their magick charms,
That fill the feeling bosom with alarms.
As years advanced, the boy with care he taught;
What suited best his age before him brought;
At five he showed him animals and flow'rs,
The birds of air, the beasts, their sev'ral pow'rs;
And now and then of hell he gave a hint,
Old Satan's wrath, and what might awe imprint,
How formed, and doomed to infamy below;
In childhood FEAR 's the lesson first we know!
THE years had passed away, when Philip tried,
In matters more profound his son to guide;
He spoke of Paradise and Heav'n above;
But not a word of woman,--nor of LOVE.
Fifteen arrived, the sire with anxious care,
Of NATURE'S works declaimed,--but not the FAIR:
An age, when those, for solitude designed,
Should be to scenes of seriousness confined,
Nor joys of youth, nor soft ideas praised
The flame soon spreads when Cupid's torch is raised.
AT length, when twenty summers time had run,
The father to the city brought his son;
With years weighed down, the hermit scarcely knew
His daily course of duty to pursue;
And when Death's venomed shaft should on him fall;
On whom could then his boy for succour call?
How life support, unknowing and unknown?
Wolves, foxes, bears, ne'er charity have shown;
And all the sire could give his darling care,
A staff and wallet, he was well aware
Fine patrimony, truly, for a child!
To which his mind was no way reconciled.
Bread few, 'twas clear, the hermit would deny,
And rich he might have been you may rely;
When he drew near, the children quickly cried
Here's father Philip--haste, the alms provide;
And many pious men his friends were found,
But not one female devotee around:
None would he hear; the FAIR he always fled
Their smiles and wiles the friar kept in dread.
OUR hermit, when he thought his darling youth;
Well fixed in duty and religious truth,
Conveyed him 'mong his pious friends, to learn
How food to beg, and other ways discern.
In tears he viewed his son the forest quit,
And fain would have him for the world unfit.
THE city's palaces and lofty spires,
Our rustick's bosom filled with new desires.
The prince's residence great splendour showed,
And lively pleasure on the youth bestowed.
What's here? said he; The court, his friends replied:--
What there?--The mansions where the great reside:--
And these?--Fine statues, noble works of art:
All gave delight and gratitude his heart.
But when the beauteous FAIR first caught his view,
To ev'ry other sight he bade adieu;
The palace, court, or mansions he admired,
No longer proved the objects he desired;
Another cause of admiration rose,
His breast pervaded, and disturbed repose.
What's this, he cried, so elegantly neat?
O tell me, father; make my joy complete!
WHAT gave the son such exquisite delight,
The parent filled with agonizing fright.
To answer, howsoe'er he'd no excuse,
So told the youth--a bird they call a goose.
O BEAUTEOUS bird, exclaimed th' enraptured boy,
Sing, sound thy voice, 'twill fill my soul with joy;
To thee I'd anxiously be better known;
O father, let me have one for my own!
A thousand times I fondly ask the boon;
Let's take it to the woods: 'tis not too soon;
Young as it is, I'll feed it morn and night,
And always make it my supreme delight.
Comments about this poem (Friar Philip's Geese by La Fontaine )
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