Jean De La Fontaine
The Falcon - Poem by Jean De La Fontaine
I RECOLLECT, that lately much I blamed,
The sort of lover, avaricious named;
And if in opposites we reason see,
The liberal in paradise should be.
The rule is just and, with the warmest zeal,
To prove the fact I to the CHURCH appeal.
IN Florence once there dwelled a gentle youth,
Who loved a certain beauteous belle with truth;
O'er all his actions she had full control;--
To please he would have sold his very soul.
If she amusements wished, he'd lavish gold,
Convinced in love or war you should be bold;
The cash ne'er spare:--invincible its pow'rs,
O'erturning walls or doors where'er it show'rs.
The precious ore can every thing o'ercome;
'Twill silence barking curs: make servants dumb;
And these can render eloquent at will:--
Excel e'en Tully in persuasive skill;
In short he'd leave no quarter unsubdued,
Unless therein the fair he could include.
SHE stood th' attack howe'er, and Frederick failed;
His force was vain whenever he assailed;
Without the least return his wealth he spent:
Lands, houses, manors of immense extent,
Were ev'ry now and then to auction brought;
To gratify his love was all he thought.
THE rank of 'squire till lately he had claimed;
Now scarcely was he even mister named;
Of wealth by Cupid's stratagems bereft,
A single farm was all the man had left;
Friends very few, and such as God alone,
Could tell if friendship they might not disown;
The best were led their pity to express;
'Twas all he got: it could not well be less;
To lend without security was wrong,
And former favours they'd forgotten long;
With all that Frederick could or say or do,
His liberal conduct soon was lost to view.
WITH Clytia he no longer was received,
Than while he was a man of wealth believed;
Balls, concerts, op'ras, tournaments, and plays,
Expensive dresses, all engaging ways,
Were used to captivate this lady fair,
While scarcely one around but in despair,
Wife, widow, maid, his fond affection sought;
To gain him, ev'ry wily art was brought;
But all in vain:--by passion overpow'red,
The belle, whose conduct others would have soured,
To him appeared a goddess full of charms,
Superior e'en to Helen, in his arms;
From whence we may conclude, the beauteous dame
Was always deaf to Fred'rick's ardent flame.
ENAMOURED of the belle, his lands he sold;
The family estates were turned to gold;
And many who the purchases had made,
With pelf accumulated by their trade,
Assumed the airs of men of noble birth:--
Fair subjects oft for ridicule and mirth!
RICH Clytia was, and her good spouse, 'tis said,
Had lands which far and wide around were spread;
No cash nor presents she would ever take,
Yet suffered Frederick splendid treats to make,
Without designing recompense to grant,
Or being more than merely complaisant.
ALREADY, if my mem'ry do not fail,
I've said, the youth's estates were put to sale,
To pay for feasts the fair to entertain,
And what he'd left was only one domain,
A petty farm to which he now retired;
Ashamed to show where once so much admired,
And wretched too, a prey to lorn despair,
Unable to obtain by splendid care,
A beauty he'd pursued six years and more,
And should for ever fervently adore.
His want of merit was the cause he thought,
That she could never to his wish be brought,
While from him not a syllable was heard,
Against the lovely belle his soul preferred.
'MID poverty oft Fred'rick sighed and wept;
A toothless hag--his only servant kept;
His kitchen cold; (where commonly he dwelled
A pretty decent horse his stable held;
A falcon too; and round about the grange,
Our quondam 'squire repeatedly would range,
Where oft, to melancholy, he was led,
To sacrifice the game which near him fed;
By Clytia's cruelty the gun was seized,
And feathered victims black chagrin appeased.
'TWAS thus the lover whiled his hours away;
His heart-felt torments nothing could allay;
Blessed if with fortune love he'd also lost,
Which constantly his earthly comforts crossed;
But this lorn passion preyed upon his mind:--
Where'er he rode, BLACK CARE would mount behind.
DEATH took at length the husband of the fair;
An only son appointed was his heir,
A sickly child, whose life, 'twas pretty plain,
Could scarcely last till spring returned again,
Which made the husband, by his will, decree,
His wife the infant's successor should be,
In case the babe at early years should die,
Who soon grew worse and raised the widow's sigh.
TOO much affection parents ne'er can show:--
A mother's feelings none but mothers know.
FAIR Clytia round her child with anxious care,
Watched day and night, and no expense would spare;
Inquired if this or that would please his taste;
What he desired should be procured with haste;
But nothing would he have that she proposed;
An ardent wish howe'er the boy disclosed,
For Fred'rick's Falcon, and most anxious grew:--
Tear followed tear, and nothing else would do.
When once a child has got a whim in brain,
No peace, no rest, till he the boon obtain.
WE should observe our belle, near Fred'rick's cot,
A handsome house and many lands had got;
'Twas there the lovely babe had lately heard,
Most wondrous stories of the bird averred;
No partridge e'er escaped its rapid wing:--
On every morn down numbers it would bring;
No money for it would its owner take;
Much grieved was Clytia such request to make.
The man, for her, of wealth had been bereft;
How ask the only treasure he had left?
And him if she were led to importune,
Could she expect that he'd accord the boon?
Alas! ungratefully she oft repaid,
His liberal treats, his concerts, serenade,
And haughtily behaved from first to last:
How be so bold, (reflecting on the past,)
To see the man that she so ill had used?
And ask a favour?--could she be excused?
But then her child!--perhaps his life 'twould save;
Naught would he take; the falcon she must crave.
THAT her sweet babe might be induced to eat,
So meant the bird of Fred'rick to intreat;
Her boy was heard continually to cry,
Unless he had the falcon, he should die.
THESE reasons strongly with the mother weighed;
Her visit to the 'squire was not delayed;
With fond affection for her darling heir,
One morn, alone she sought the lorn repair.
TO Fred'rick's eye an angel she appeared;
But shame he felt, that she, his soul revered,
Should find him poor:--no servants to attend,
Nor means to give a dinner to a friend.
The poverty in which he now was viewed,
Distressed his mind and all his griefs renewed.
Why come? said he; what led you thus to trace,
An humble slave of your celestial face?
A villager, a wretched being here;
Too great the honour doubtless must appear;
'Twas somewhere else you surely meant to go?
The lady in a moment answered no.
Cried he, I've neither cook nor kettle left;
Then how can I receive you, thus bereft?
But you have bread, said Clytia:--that will do;--
The lover quickly to the poultry flew,
In search of eggs; some bacon too he found;
But nothing else, except the hawk renowned,
Which caught his eye, and instantly was seized,
Slain, plucked, and made a fricassee that pleased.
MEANWHILE the house-keeper for linen sought;
Knives, forks, plates, spoons, cups, glass and chairs she
The fricassee was served, the dame partook,
And on the dish with pleasure seemed to look.
THE dinner o'er, the widow then resolved,
To ask the boon which in her mind resolved.
She thus begun:--good sir, you'll think me mad,
To come and to your breast fresh trouble add;
I've much to ask, and you will feel surprise,
That one, for whom your love could ne'er suffice,
Should now request your celebrated bird;
Can I expect the grant?--the thought 's absurd
But pardon pray a mother's anxious fear;
'Tis for my child:--his life to me is dear.
The falcon solely can the infant save;
Yet since to you I nothing ever gave,
For all your kindness oft on me bestowed;
Your fortune wasted:--e'en your nice abode,
Alas! disposed of, large supplies to raise,
To entertain and please in various ways:
I cannot hope this falcon to obtain;
For sure I am the expectation's vane;
No, rather perish child and mother too;
Than such uneasiness should you pursue:
Allow howe'er this parent, I beseech,
Who loves her offspring 'yond the pow'r of speech,
Or language to express, her only boy,
Sole hope, sole comfort, all her earthly joy,
True mother like, to seek her child's relief,
And in your breast deposit now her grief.
Affection's pow'r none better know than you,--
How few to love were ever half so true!
From such a bosom I may pardon crave
Soft pity's ever with the good and brave!
ALAS! the wretched lover straight replied,
The bird was all I could for you provide;
'Twas served for dinner.--Dead?--exclaimed the dame,
While trembling terror overspread her frame.
No jest, said he, and from the soul I wish,
My heart, instead of that, had been the dish;
But doomed alas! am I by fate, 'tis clear,
To find no grace with her my soul holds dear:
I'd nothing left; and when I saw the bird,
To kill it instantly the thought occurred;
Those naught we grudge nor spare to entertain,
Who o'er our feeling bosoms sov'reign reign:
All I can do is speedily to get,
Another falcon: easily they're met;
And by to-morrow I'll the bird procure.
No, Fred'rick, she replied, I now conjure
You'll think no more about it; what you've done
Is all that fondness could have shown a son;
And whether fate has doomed the child to die,
Or with my prayers the pow'rs above comply;
For you my gratitude will never end--
Pray let us hope to see you as a friend.
THEN Clytia took her leave, and gave her hand;
A proof his love no more she would withstand.
He kissed and bathed her fingers with his tears;
The second day grim death confirmed their fears:
THE mourning lasted long and mother's grief;
But days and months at length bestowed relief;
No wretchedness so great, we may depend,
But what, to time's all-conqu'ring sithe will bend:
TWO famed physicians managed with such care;
That they recovered her from wild despair,
And tears gave place to cheerfulness and joy:-
The one was TIME the other Venus' Boy.
Her hand fair Clytia on the youth bestowed,
As much from love as what to him she owed.
LET not this instance howsoe'r mislead;
'Twere wrong with hope our fond desires to feed,
And waste our substance thus:--not all the FAIR,
Possess of gratitude a decent share.
With this exception they appear divine;
In lovely WOMAN angel-charms combine;
The whole indeed I do not here include;
Alas; too many act the jilt and prude.
When kind, they're ev'ry blessing found below:
When otherwise a curse we often know.
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