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The Young Widow

(Recueil 1, Livre 6, Fable 21)



A husband's death brings always sighs;

The widow sobs, sheds tears—then dries.

Of Time the sadness borrows wings;

And Time returning pleasure brings.

Between the widow of a year

And of a day, the difference

Is so immense,

That very few who see her

Would think the laughing dame

And weeping one the same.

The one puts on repulsive action,

The other shows a strong attraction.

The one gives up to sighs, or true or false;

The same sad note is heard, whoever calls.

Her grief is inconsolable,

They say. Not so our fable,

Or, rather, not so says the truth.

To other worlds a husband went

And left his wife in prime of youth.

Above his dying couch she bent,

And cried, "My love, O wait for me!

My soul would gladly go with you!"

(But yet it did not go.)

The fair one's sire, a prudent man,

Checked not the current of her woe.

At last he kindly thus began:

"My child, your grief should have its bound.

What boots it him beneath the ground

That you should drown your charms?

Live for the living, not the dead.

I don't propose that you be led

At once to Hymen's arms;

But give me leave, in proper time,

To rearrange the broken chime

With one who is as good, at least,

In all respects, as the deceased."

"Alas!" she sighed, "the cloister vows

Befit me better than a spouse."

The father left the matter there.

About one month thus mourned the fair;

Another month, her weeds arranged;

Each day some robe or lace she changed,

Till mourning dresses served to grace,

And took of ornament the place.

The frolic band of loves

Came flocking back like doves.

Jokes, laughter, and the dance,

The native growth of France,

Had finally their turn;

And thus, by night and morn,

She plunged, to tell the truth,

Deep in the fount of youth.

Her sire no longer feared

The dead so much endeared;

But, as he never spoke,

Herself the silence broke:

"Where is that youthful spouse," said she,

"Whom, sir, you lately promised me?"

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 6, Fable 21



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