(Recueil 3, Livre 12, Fable 24)
An Imitation Of Theocritus.
To Madame De La Mesangere.
Offspring of her to whom, today,
While from your lovely self away,
A thousand hearts their homage pay,
Besides the throngs whom friendship binds to please,
And some whom love presents you on their knees!
A mandate which I cannot thrust aside
Between you both impels me to divide
Some of the incense which the dews distil
On the roses of a sacred hill,
And which, by secret of my trade,
Is sweet and most delicious made.
To you, I say, ... but all to say
Would task me far beyond my day;
I need judiciously to choose;
Thus husbanding my voice and muse,
Whose strength and leisure soon would fail.
I'll only praise your tender heart, and hale,
Exalted feelings, wit, and grace,
In which there's none can claim a higher place,
Excepting her whose praise is your entail.
Let not too many thorns forbid to touch
These roses I may call them such
If Love should ever say as much.
By him it will be better said, indeed;
And they who his advices will not heed,
Scourge fearfully will he,
As you shall shortly see.
A blooming miracle of yore
Despised his godship's sovereign power;
They called her name Alcimadure.
A haughty creature, fierce and wild,
She sported, Nature's tameless child.
Rough paths her wayward feet would lead
To darkest glens of mossy trees;
Or she would dance on daisied mead,
With nothing of law but her caprice.
A fairer could not be,
Nor crueller, than she.
Still charming in her sternest mien,
Even when her haughty look debarred,
What had she been to lover in
The fortress of her kind regard!
Daphnis, a high born shepherd swain,
Had loved this maiden to his bane.
Not one regardful look or smile,
Nor even a gracious word, the while,
Relieved the fierceness of his pain.
Overwearied with a suit so vain,
His hope was but to die;
No power had he to fly.
He sought, impelled by dark despair,
The portals of the cruel fair.
Alas! the winds his only listeners were!
The mistress gave no entrance there
No entrance to the palace where,
Ingrate, against her natal day,
She joined the treasures sweet and gay
In garden or in wild-wood grown,
To blooming beauty all her own.
"I hoped," he cried,
"Before your eyes I should have died;
But, ah! too deeply I have won your hate;
Nor should it be surprising news
To me, that you should now refuse
To lighten thus my cruel fate.
My sire, when I shall be no more,
Is charged to lay your feet before
The heritage your heart neglected.
With this my pasturage shall be connected,
My trusty dog, and all that he protected;
And, of my goods which then remain,
My mourning friends shall rear a fane.
There shall your image stand, midst rosy bowers,
Reviving through the ceaseless hours
An altar built of living flowers.
Near by, my simple monument
Shall this short epitaph present:
"Here Daphnis died of love. Stop, passenger,
And say you, with a falling tear,
This youth here fell, unable to endure
The ban of proud Alcimadure.
He would have added, but his heart
Now felt the last, the fatal dart.
Forth marched the maid, in triumph decked,
And of his murder little recked.
In vain her steps her own attendants checked,
That she, at least, should shed,
On her lover dead,
Some tears of due respect.
The rosy god, of Cytherea born,
She ever treated with the deepest scorn:
Contemning him, his laws, and means of damage,
She drew her train to dance around his image,
When, woful to relate,
The statue fell, and crushed her with its weight!
A voice forth issued from a cloud,
And echo bore the words aloud
Throughout the air wide spread,
"Let all now love the insensible is dead."
Meanwhile, down to the Stygian tide
The shade of Daphnis hied,
And quaked and wondered there to meet
The maid, a ghostess, at his feet.
All Erebus awakened wide,
To hear that beauteous homicide
Beg pardon of the swain who died
For being deaf to love confessed,
As was Ulysses to the prayer
Of Ajax, begging him to spare,
Or as was Dido's faithless guest.
Jean de La Fontaine