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The Man And His Image

(Recueil 1, Livre 1, Fable 11)

 

 

A man, who had no rivals in the love

Which to himself he bore,

Esteemed his own dear beauty far above

What earth had seen before.

More than contented in his error,

He lived the foe of every mirror.

Officious fate, resolved our lover

From such an illness should recover,

Presented always to his eyes

The mute advisers which the ladies prize;

Mirrors in parlours, inns, and shops,

Mirrors the pocket furniture of fops,

Mirrors on every lady's zone,

From which his face reflected shone.

What could our dear Narcissus do?

From haunts of men he now withdrew,

On purpose that his precious shape

From every mirror might escape.

But in his forest glen alone,

Apart from human trace,

A watercourse,

Of purest source,

While with unconscious gaze

He pierced its waveless face,

Reflected back his own.

Incensed with mingled rage and fright,

He seeks to shun the odious sight;

But yet that mirror sheet, so clear and still,

He cannot leave, do what he will.

Before this, my story's drift you plainly see.

From such mistake there is no mortal free.

That obstinate self-lover

The human soul does cover;

The mirrors follies are of others,

In which, as all are genuine brothers,

Each soul may see to life depicted

Itself with just such faults afflicted;

And by that charming placid brook,

Needless to say, I mean your Maxim Book.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 1, Fable 11

 

 

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