by Jean de La Fontaine
IN Eastern climes, by means considered new;
The Mount's old-man, with terrors would pursue;
His large domains howe'er were not the cause,
Nor heaps of gold, that gave him such applause,
But manners strange his subjects to persuade;
In ev'ry wish, to serve him they were made.
Among his people boldest hearts he chose,
And to their view would Paradise disclose
Its blissful pleasures:--ev'ry soft delight,
Designed to gratify the sense and sight.
So plausible this prophet's tale appeared,
Each word he dropt was thoroughly revered.
Whence this delusion?--DRINK deranged the mind;
And, reason drowned, to madness they resigned.
Thus void of knowing clearly what they did,
They soon were brought to act as they were bid;
Conveyed to places, charming to the eye,
Enchanting gardens 'neath an azure sky,
With twining shrubs, meandring walks, and flow'rs,
And num'rous grottos, porticoes and bow'rs.
When they chanced to pass where all was gay,
From wine's inebriating pow'rful sway,
They wondered at the frolicking around,
And fancied they were got on fairy ground,
Which Mahomet pretended was assigned,
For those to his doctrine were inclined.
To tempt the men and girls to seek the scene,
And skip and play and dance upon the green,
To murm'ring streams, meandering along,
And lutes' soft notes and nightingales' sweet song:
No earthly pleasure but might there be viewed,
The best of wines and choicest fruits accrued,
To render sense bewildered at the sight,
And sink inebriated with delight.
THEN back they bore them motionless to sleep,
And wake with wishes further joys to reap.
From these enjoyments many fully thought,
To such enchanting scenes they should be brought,
In future times, eternal bliss to taste,
If death and danger valiantly they faced,
And tried the prophet Mahomet to please,
And ev'ry point to serve their prince would seize.
THE Mount's old man, by means like these, could say;
He'd men devoted to support his sway;
Upon the globe no empire more was feared,
Or king or potentate like him revered.
These circumstances I've minutely told,
To show, our tale was known in days of old.
FERONDE, a rich, but awkward, vulgar clown,
A ninny was believed throughout the town;
He had the charge of revenues not slight,
Which he collected for a friar white.
Of these I've known as good as any black,
When husbands some assistance seemed to lack,
And had so much to do, they monks might need;
Or other friends, their work at home to speed.
This friar for to-morrow never thought,
But squandered ev'ry thing as soon as brought;
No saint-apostle less of wealth retained;
Good cheer o'er ev'ry wish triumphant reigned,
Save now and then to have a little fun,
(Unknown to others) with a pretty nun.
FERONDE had got a spouse of pleasing sight,
Related nearly to our friar white,
Whose predecessor, uncle, sponsor kind,
Now gone to realms of night, had her consigned,
To be this silly blockhead's lawful wife,
Who thought her hand the honour of his life.
'Tis said that bastard-daughters oft retain
A disposition to the parent-train;
And this, the saying, truly ne'er bellied,
Nor was her spouse so weak but he descried,
Things clearer than was requisite believed,
And doubted much if he were not deceived.
THE wife would often to the prelate go,
Pretending business, proper he should know;
A thousand circumstances she could find;
'Twas then accounts: now sev'ral things combined;
In short no day nor hour within the week,
But something at the friar's she would seek.
The holy father then was always prone,
To send the servants off and be alone.
Howe'er the husband, doubting tricks were played;
Got troublesome; his wife would much upbraid
When she returned, and often beat her too;
In short,--he unaccommodating grew.
THE rural mind by nature jealous proves;
Suspicion shows of ev'ry thing that moves;
Unused to city ways, perverse appears,
And, undismayed, to principle adheres:
THE friar found his situation hard;
He loved his ease?--all trouble would discard;
As priests in gen'ral anxiously desire;
Their plan howe'er I never can admire,
And should not choose at once to take the town,
But by the escalade obtain the crown;
In LOVE I mean; to WAR I don't allude:
No silly bragging I would here intrude,
Nor be enrolled among the martial train:
'Tis Venus' court that I should like to gain.
Let t'other custom be the better way:
It matters not; no longer I'll delay,
But to my tale return, and fully state,
How our receiver, who misused his mate;
Was put in purgatory to be cured,
And, for a time, most thoroughly immured.
BY means of opiate powders, much renowned,
The friar plunged him in a sleep profound.
Thought dead; the fun'ral obsequies achieved,
He was surprised, and doubtless sorely grieved,
When he awoke and saw where he was placed,
With folks around, not much to suit his taste;
For in the coffin he at large was left,
And of the pow'r to move was not bereft,
But might arise and walk about the tomb,
Which opened to another vaulted room,
The gloomy, hollow mansion of the dead:
Fear quickly o'er his drooping spirits spread.
What's here? cried he: is't sleep, or is it death;
Some charm or spell perhaps withdraws their breath.
Our wight then asked their names and business there;
And why he was retained in such a snare?
In what had he offended God or man?--
Said one, console thyself:--past moments scan;
When thou hast rested here a thousand years,
Thou'lt then ascend amid the Heav'nly spheres;
But first in holy purgatory learn,
To cleanse thyself from sins that we discern;
One day thy soul shall leave this loathsome place,
And, pure as ice, repair to realms of grace.
Then this consoling Angel gave a thwack,
And ten or dozen stripes laid on his back:--
'Tis thy unruly, jealous mind, said he,
Displeases God, and dooms thee here to be.
A MOURNFUL sigh the lorn receiver heaved,
His aching shoulders rubbed, and sobbed and grieved;
A thousand years, cried he, 'tis long indeed!
My very soul with horror seems to bleed.
WE should observe, this Angel was a wag,
A novice-friar and a convent fag;
Like him the others round had parts to act,
And were disguised in dresses quite exact.
Our penitent most humbly pardon sought;
Said he, if e'er to life again I'm brought,
No jealousy, suspicion's hateful bane,
Shall ever enter my distracted brain.
May I not have this grace, this wished for boon?
Some hopes they gave, but it could not be soon;
In short a year he lay upon the floor:
Just food for life received, and nothing more,
Each day on bread and water he was fed,
And o'er his back the cat-o'nine-tails spread:
Full twenty lashes were the number set,
Unless the friar should from Heav'n first get
Permission to remit at times a part,
For charity was glowing in his heart.
WE, must not doubt, he often offered prayers,
To ease the culprit's sufferings and cares.
The Angel likewise made a long discourse;
Said he, those vile suspicions were the source,
Of all thy sorrow, wretchedness, and pain:
Think'st thou such thoughts the clergy entertain?
A friar white!--too bad in ev'ry sense:
Ten strokes to one, if black, for such offence.
Repent, I say:--the other this desired,
Though scarcely he could tell what was required.
MEANWHILE the prelate with the fav'rite dame,
No time to lose, made ev'ry hour the same.
The husband, with a sigh, was heard to say:
I wonder what my wife's about to-day?
About?--whate'er it be 'tis doubtless right;
Our friar, to console her, takes delight;
Thy business too is managed as before,
And anxious care bestowed upon thy store.
HAS she as usual matters that demand
Attendance at the cloister to be scanned?--
No doubt was the reply, for having now
The whole affair upon her feeble brow,
Poor woman! be her wishes what they will,
She more assistance wants thy loss to fill.
DISCOURSE like this no pleasure gave the soul:
To call him so seems best upon the whole,
Since he'd not pow'r like others here to feed:--
Mere earthly shadow for a time decreed.
A MONTH was passed in fasting, pains, and prayer;
Some charity the friar made him share,
And now and then remission would direct;
The widow too he never would neglect,
But, all the consolation in his pow'r,
Bestowed upon her ev'ry leisure hour,
His tender cares unfruitful were not long;
Beyond his hopes the soil proved good and strong;
In short our Pater Abbas justly feared,
To make him father many signs appeared.
SINCE 'twere improper such a fact were known;
When proofs perhaps too clearly might be shown,
So many prayers were said and vigils kept,
At length the soul from purgatory crept,
So much reduced, and ev'ry way so thin
But little more he seemed than bones and skin.
A THING so strange filled numbers with surprise,
Who scarcely would believe their ears and eyes.
The friar passed for saint:--Feronde his fruit;
None durst presume to doubt nor to dispute;
A double miracle at once appeared
The dead's return: the lady's state revered.
With treble force Te Deum round was sung;
Sterility in marriage oft was rung,
And near the convent many offered prayers,
In hopes their fervent vows would gain them heirs.
THE humble spouse and wife we now shall leave
Let none, howe'er, suppose that we conceive,
Each husband merits, as our soul, the same,
To cure the jealous fears his breast inflame.
Last updated May 02, 2015