La Fontaine (1621 - 1695 / Champagne / France)
IN ev'ry age, at Naples, we are told,
Intrigue and gallantry reign uncontrolled;
With beauteous objects in abundance blessed.
No country round so many has possessed;
Such fascinating charms the FAIR disclose,
That irresistibly soft passion flows.
'MONG these a belle, enchanting to behold,
Was loved by one, of birth and store of gold;
Minutolo (and Richard) was his name,
In Cupid's train a youth of brilliant fame:
'Tween Rome and Paris none was more gallant,
And num'rous hearts were for him known to pant.
CATELLA (thus was called our lady fair,)
So long, howe'er, resisted Richard's snare,
That prayers, and vows, and promises were vain;
A favour Minutolo could not gain.
At length, our hero weary, coldness showed,
And dropt attendance, since no kindness flowed;
Pretended to be cured:--another sought,
And feigned her charms his tender heart had caught:
Catella laughed, but jealousy was nigh;
'Twas for her friend that now He heaved the sigh.
THESE dames together met, and Richard too,
The gay gallant a glowing picture drew,
Of certain husbands, lovers, prudes, and wives;
Who led in secret most lascivious lives.
Though none he named, Catella was amazed;
His hints suspicions of her husband raised;
And such her agitation and affright,
That, anxious to procure more certain light,
In haste she took Minutolo aside,
And begged the names he would not from her hide,
With all particulars, from first to last:--
Her ardent wish to know whate'er had passed.
SO long your reign, said Richard, o'er my mind,
Deny I could not, howsoe'er inclined;
With Mrs. Simon often is your spouse;
Her character no doubt your spleen will rouse;
I've no design, observe to give offence,
But, when I see your int'rest in suspense,
I cannot silent keep; though, were I still
A slave, devoted wholly to your will,
As late I moved, I would not drop a word
Mistrust of lovers may not be absurd;
Besides, you'd fancy other motives led
To tell you of your husband what was said;
But heav'n be praised, of you I nothing want;
My object's plain--no more the fond gallant.
I'VE lately certain information had,
Your spouse (I scarcely thought the man so bad,)
Has with the lady an appointment made;
At Jack's nice bagnio he will meet the jade.
NOW clearly Jack's not rich, and there's no doubt;
A hundred ducats give, and--ALL will out;
Let him but have a handsome sum in view,
And any thing you wish, be sure he'll do;
You then can manage ev'ry way so well,
That, at the place assigned to meet his belle,
You'll take this truant husband by surprise;--
Permit me in this nice affair to advise.
THE lady has agreed, you will remark,
That in a room where ev'ry part is dark,
(Perhaps to 'scape the keeper's prying sight,
Or shame directs exclusion of the light,)
She will receive your gay inconstant spouse;
Now, take her place; the case deceit allows;
Make Jack your friend; nor haggle at the price;
A hundred ducats give, is my advice;
He'll place you in the room where darkness reigns;
Think not too fast, nor suffer heavy chains;
Do what you wish, and utter not a word;
To speak, assuredly would be absurd;
'Twould spoil the whole; destroy the project quite;
Attend, and see if all things be not right.
THE project pleased Catella to the soul;
Her wrath, no longer able to controul,
She Richard stopt; enough, enough, she cried;
I fully understand:--leave me to guide;
I'll play the fellow and his wanton lass
A pretty trick-shall all their art surpass,
Unless the string gives way and spoils my scheme;
What, take me for a nincompoop?--they dream.
THIS said, she sought excuse to get away,
And went in quest of Jack without delay.
The keeper, howsoe'er, a hint had got;
Minutolo had schooled him for the plot;
Oft cash does wonders, and, if such the case
In France or Britain, when conferred a grace,
The bribe is taken, and the truth abused,
In Italy it will not be refused;
There this sole quiver Cupid useful finds,--
A purse well stored--all binds, gunlocks, or blinds:
Jack took the pelf from Richard and the dame;
Had Satan offered--'twould have been the same.
In short, Minutolo had full success,
All came about, and marked the spark's address.
THE lady had at first some warm dispute
To many questions Jack was even mute;
But when he saw the golden charms unmasked,
Far more he promised than Catella asked.
THE time of rendezvous arrived, our spark
To Jack's repaired, and found the room quite dark;
So well arranged, no crevice could he find,
Through which the light might hurt what he designed.
NOT long he waited, ere our jealous dame,
Who longed to find her faithless husband, came,
Most thoroughly prepared his ears to greet.
Jack brought the couple presently to meet.
The lady found, howe'er, not what she sought:
No guilty spouse, nor Mrs. Simon caught;
But wily Richard, who, without alarms,
In silence took Catella in his arms.
What further passed between the easy pair,
Think what you will, I mean not to declare;
The lover certainly received delight
The lady showed no terror nor affright;
On neither side a syllable was dropt
With care Minutolo his laughter stopt;
Though difficult, our spark succeeded well;
No words of mine can Richard's pleasure tell.
His fav'rite beauteous belle he now possessed,
And triumphed where so oft he'd been repressed,
Yet fondly hoped her pardon he should get,
Since they together had so gaily met.
AT length, the fair could no longer contain:
Vile wretch, she cried, I've borne too much 'tis plain;
I'm not the fav'rite whom thou had'st in view:
To tear thy eyes out justly were thy due,
'Tis this, indeed, that makes thee silent keep,
Each morn feign sickness, and pretend to sleep,
Thyself reserving doubtless for amours:--
Speak, villain! say, of charms have I less stores?
Or what has Mrs. Simon more than I?
A wanton wench, in tricks so wondrous sly!
Where my love less? though truly now I hate;
Would that I'd seen thee hung, thou wretch ingrate!
MINUTOLO, while thus Catella spoke,
Caressed her much, but silence never broke;
A kiss e'en tried to gain, without success;
She struggled, and refused to acquiesce;
Begone! said she, nor treat me like a child;
Stand off!--away!--thy taction is defiled;
My tears express an injured woman's grief;
No more thy wife I'll be, but seek relief;
Return my fortune--go:--thy mistress seek;
To be so constant:--How was I so weak?
It surely would be nothing more than right,
Were Richard I to see this very night,
Who adoration constantly has paid:--
You much deserve to be a cuckold made;
I'm half inclined, I vow, to do the worst.
At this our arch gallant with laughter burst.
What impudence!--You mock me too? she cried
Let's see, with blushes if his face be dyed?
When from his arms she sprang, a window sought;
The shutters ope'd, and then a view she caught;
Minutolo, her lover! what surprise!
Pale, faint, she instant grew, and closed her eyes:
Who would have thought, said she, thou wert so base?
I'm lost! for ever sunk in dire disgrace!
WHO'LL, know it? Richard earnestly replied;
In Jack's concealment we may both confide;
Excuse the trick I've played and ne'er repine;
Address, force, treachery, in love combine;
All are permitted when intrigue 's the word;
To hold the contrary were quite absurd.
Till stratagem was used I naught could gain,
But looks and darts from eyes, for all my pain.
I've paid myself;--Would you have done it?--No;
'Tis all as might be wished;--come, smiles bestow;
I'm satisfied, the fault was not with you.
In this, to make you wretched, naught I view;
Why sigh and groan?--What numbers could I name,
Who would be happy to be served the same.
HIS reas'ning yet could not the belle appease;
She wept, and sought by tears her mind to ease;
Affliction highly added to her charms;
Minutolo still gave her new alarms;
He took her hand, which she at once withdrew:
Away, she cried; no longer me pursue;
Be satisfied; you surely don't desire
That I assistance from the house require,
Or rouse the neighbours with my plaintive cries
I'll ev'ry thing declare without disguise.
SUCH folly don't commit, replied the spark;
Your wisest plan is nothing to remark:
The world at present is become so vile,
If you the truth divulge, they'll only smile;
Not one a word of treachery would believe,
But think you came--and money to receive:
Suppose, besides, it reached your husband's ears;
Th' effect has reason to excite your fears;
'Twould give displeasure and occasion strife:
Would you in duels wish to risk his life?
Whatever makes you with him disagree,
At all events, I'm full as bad as he.
THESE reasons with Catella greatly weighed
Since things, continued he, are thus displayed;
And cannot be repaired, console your mind;
A perfect being never was designed.
If, howsoe'er you will * but say no more;
Such thoughts for ever banish, I implore.
'Mid all my perseverance, zeal, and art,
I nothing got but frowns that pierced the heart:
'Twill now on you depend if pleasure prove
This day imperfect, ere from hence we move.
What more remains to do? the worst is past;
'Tis step the first that costs, however classed.
So well Minutolo preferred his suit,
The lady with him more would not dispute,
With downcast eyes she listened to his prayer,
And looked disposed to tranquilize his care;
From easy freedom soon he 'gan to soar;
A smile received:--a kiss bestowed and more:
At length, the lady passed resistance by,
And all conceded, e'en without a sigh.
OUR hero felt a thousand times more blessed
Than when he first the beauteous fair caressed;
For when a flame reciprocal is raised,
The bliss redoubles, and by all is praised.
THUS Richard pleasantly employed his time,
Contented lived, concentring joys sublime.
A sample, now, we have given of his pow'rs,
And who would wish for more delightful hours?
O grant, kind heav'n! that I the like may meet,
And ever prove so wary and discreet.
Comments about this poem (Richard Minutolo by La Fontaine )
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