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The Maid

(Recueil 2, Livre 7, Fable 6)



A certain maid, as proud as fair,

A husband thought to find

Exactly to her mind

Well formed and young, genteel in air,

Not cold nor jealous; mark this well.

Whoever would wed this dainty belle

Must have, besides rank, wealth, and wit,

And all good qualities to fit

A man it were difficult to get.

Kind Fate, however, took great care

To grant, if possible, her prayer.

There came a wooing men of note;

The maiden thought them all,

By half, too mean and small.

"They marry me! the creatures dote:

Alas! poor souls! their case I pity."

(Here mark the bearing of the beauty.)

Some were less delicate than witty;

Some had the nose too short or long;

In others something else was wrong;

Which made each in the maiden's eyes

An altogether worthless prize.

Profound contempt is aye the vice

Which springs from being over nice,

Thus were the great dismissed; and then

Came offers from inferior men.

The maid, more scornful than before,

Took credit to her tender heart

For giving then an open door.

"They think me much in haste to part

With independence! God be thanked

My lonely nights bring no regret;

Nor shall I pine, or greatly fret,

Should I with ancient maids be ranked."

Such were the thoughts that pleased the fair:

Age made them only thoughts that were.

Adieu to lovers: passing years

Awaken doubts and chilling fears.

Regret, at last, brings up the train.

Day after day she sees, with pain,

Some smile or charm take final flight,

And leave the features of a "fright."

Then came a hundred sorts of paint:

But still no trick, nor ruse, nor feint,

Availed to hide the cause of grief,

Or bar out Time, that graceless thief.

A house, when gone to wreck and ruin,

May be repaired and made a new one.

Alas! for ruins of the face

No such rebuilding ever takes place.

Her daintiness now changed its tune;

Her mirror told her, "Marry soon!"

So did a certain wish within,

With more of secrecy than sin,

A wish that dwells with even prudes,

Annihilating solitudes.

This maiden's choice was past belief,

She soothing down her restless grief,

And smoothing it of every ripple,

By marrying a cripple.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 7, Fable 6



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