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The Man Between Two Ages, And His Two Mistresses

(Recueil 1, Livre 1, Fable 17)



A man of middle age, whose hair

Was bordering on the grey,

Began to turn his thoughts and care

The matrimonial way.

By virtue of his ready,

A store of choices had he

Of ladies bent to suit his taste;

On which account he made no haste.

To court well was no trifling art.

Two widows chiefly gained his heart;

The one yet green, the other more mature,

Who found for nature's wane in art a cure.

These dames, amidst their joking and caressing

The man they longed to wed,

Would sometimes set themselves to dressing

His party-coloured head.

Each aiming to assimilate

Her lover to her own estate,

The older piecemeal stole

The black hair from his poll,

While eke, with fingers light,

The young one stole the white.

Between them both, as if by scald,

His head was changed from grey to bald.

"For these," he said, "your gentle pranks,

I owe you, ladies, many thanks.

By being thus well shaved,

I less have lost than saved.

Of Hymen, yet, no news at hand,

I do assure you.

By what I have lost, I understand

It is in your way,

Not mine, that I must pass on.

Thanks, ladies, for the lesson."

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 1, Fable 17



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