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Thyrsis And Amaranth

(Recueil 2, Livre 8, Fable 13)



For Mademoiselle De Sillery.

I had the Phrygian quit,

Charmed with Italian wit;

But a divinity

Would on Parnassus see

A fable more from me.

Such challenge to refuse,

Without a good excuse,

Is not the way to use

Divinity or muse.

Especially to one

Of those who truly are,

By force of being fair,

Made queens of human will.

A thing should not be done

In all respects so ill.

For, be it known to all,

From Sillery the call

Has come for bird, and beast,

And insects, to the least;

To clothe their thoughts sublime

In this my simple rhyme.

In saying Sillery,

All's said that need to be.

Her claim to it so good,

Few fail to give her place

Above the human race:

How could they, if they would?

Now come we to our end:

As she opines my tales

Are hard to comprehend

For even genius fails

Some things to understand

So let us take in hand

To make unnecessary,

For once, a commentary.

Come shepherds now, and rhyme we afterwards

The talk between the wolves and fleecy herds.

To Amaranth, the young and fair,

Said Thyrsis, once, with serious air,

"O, if you knew, like me, a certain ill,

With which we men are harmed,

As well as strangely charmed,

No boon from Heaven your heart could like it fill!

Please let me name it in your ear,

A harmless word, you need not fear.

Would I deceive you, you, for whom I bear

The tenderest sentiments that ever were?"

Then Amaranth replied,

"What is its name? I beg you, do not hide"

"It's LOVE. The word is beautiful! reveal

Its signs and symptoms, how it makes one feel."

"Its pains are ecstacies. So sweet its stings,

The nectar cups and incense pots of kings,

Compared, are flat, insipid things.

One strays all lonely in the wood

Leans silent over the placid flood,

And there with great complacency,

A certain face can see

It's not one's own but image fair,





Following everywhere.

For all the rest of human kind,

One is as good, in short, as blind.

There is a shepherd wight, I believe,

Well known on the village green,

Whose voice, whose name, whose turning of the hinge

Excites on the cheek a richer tinge

The thought of whom is signal for a sigh

The breast that heaves it knows not why

Whose face the maiden fears to see,

Yet none so welcome still as he."

Here Amaranth cut short his speech:

"O! O! is that the evil which you preach?

To me I think it is no stranger;

I must have felt its power and danger."

Here Thrysis thought his end was gained,

When further thus the maid explained:

"It's just the very sentiment

Which I have felt for Clidamant!"

The other, vexed and mortified,

Now bit his lips, and nearly died.

Like him are multitudes, who when

Their own advancement they have meant,

Have played the game of other men.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 8, Fable 13



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