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,
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.
Thyrsis And Amaranth by Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables in Book 8
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