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Title: Tales and Novels of J. de La Fontaine — Volume 18
Author: La Fontaine, Jean de
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Tales and Novels of J. de La Fontaine — Volume 18" ***

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                     THE TALES AND NOVELS
                      J. DE LA FONTAINE

          Volume 18.

             The Case of Conscience
             The Devil of Pope-fig Island

                   THE CASE OF CONSCIENCE

          THOSE who in fables deal, bestow at ease
          Both names and titles, freely as they please.
          It costs them scarcely any thing, we find.
          And each is nymph or shepherdess designed;
          Some e'en are goddesses, that move below,
          From whom celestial bliss of course must flow.

          THIS Horace followed, with superior art:--
          If, to the trav'ller's bed, with throbbing heart,
          The chambermaid approached, 'twas Ilia found,

          GOD, in his goodness, made, one lovely day,
          Apollo, who directs the lyrick lay,
          And gave him pow'rs to call and name at will,
          Like father Adam, with primordial skill.
          Said he, go, names bestow that please the ear;
          In ev'ry word let sweetest sound appear.
          This ancient law then proves, by right divine,
          WE oft are sponsors to the royal line.

          WHEN pleasing tales and fables I endite,
          I, who in humble verse presume to write,
          May surely use this privilege of old,
          And, to my fancy, appellations mould.
          If I, instead of Anne, should Sylvia say,
          And Master Thomas (when the case I weigh)
          Should change to Adamas, the druid sage,
          Must I a fine or punishment engage?
          No, surely not:--at present I shall choose
          Anne and the Parson for my tale to use.

          WITHIN her village, Anne was thought the belle,
          And ev'ry other charmer to excel.
          As near a river once she chanced to stray,
          She saw a youth in Nature's pure array,
          Who bathed at ease within the gliding stream;
          The girl was brisk, and worthy of esteem,
          Her eyes were pleased; the object gave delight;
          Not one defect could be produced in sight;
          Already, by the shepherdess adored,
          If with the belle to pleasing flights he'd soared,
          The god of love had all they wished concealed
          None better know what should not be revealed.
          Anne nothing feared: the willows were her shade,
          Which, like Venetian blinds, a cov'ring made;
          Her eyes, howe'er, across had easy view,
          And, o'er the youth, each beauty could pursue.

          SHE back four paces drew, at first, through shame;
          Then, led by LOVE, eight others forward came;
          But scruples still arose that ardour foiled,
          And nearly ey'ry thing had truly spoiled.
          Anne had a conscience pure as holy fire;
          But how could she abstain from soft desire?
          If, in the bosom chance a flame should raise,
          Is there a pow'r can then subdue the blaze?
          At first these inclinations she withstood;
          But doubting soon, how those of flesh and blood
          Could sins commit by stepping in advance,
          She took her seat upon the green expanse,
          And there attentively the lad observed,
          With eyes that scarcely from him ever swerved.

          PERHAPS you've seen, from Nature, drawings made?
          Some Eve, or Adam, artists then persuade,
          In birth-attire to stand within their view,
          While they with care and taste each trait pursue;
          And, like our shepherdess, their stations take,
          A perfect semblance ev'ry way to make.

          ANNE in her mem'ry now his image placed;
          Each line and feature thoroughly she traced,
          And even now the fair would there remain,
          If William (so was called this youthful swain)
          Had not the water left; when she retired,
          Though scarcely twenty steps from him admired,
          Who, more alert than usual then appeared,
          And, by the belle, in silence was revered.

          WHEN such sensations once were in the breast,
          Love there we may believe would hardly rest.

          THE favours Anne reserved he thought his own,
          Though expectations oft away have flown.
          The more of this I think, the less I know;
          Perhaps one half our bliss to chance we owe!

          BE this as 'twill, the conscientious Anne
          Would nothing venture to regale her man;
          Howe'er, she stated what had raised her fear,
          And ev'ry thing that made her persevere.

          WHEN Easter came, new difficulties rose
          Then, in confession, ALL she should disclose.
          Anne, passing peccadillos in review,
          This case aside, as an intruder threw;
          But parson Thomas made her all relate;
          And ev'ry circumstance most clearly state;
          That he, by knowing fully each defect,
          Might punishment accordingly direct,
          In which no father-confessor should err,
          Who absolution justly would confer.
          The parson much his penitent abused;
          Said he, with sensual views to be amused,
          Is such a sin, 'tis scarcely worse to steal;
          The sight is just the same as if you feel.

          HOWE'ER, the punishment that he imposed
          Was nothing great:--too slight to be disclosed;
          Enough to say, that in the country round,
          The father-confessors, who there abound,
          As in our own, (perhaps in ev'ry part,)
          Have devotees, who, when they ought to smart,
          A tribute pay, according to their lot,
          And thus indulgences are often got.

          THIS tribute to discharge the current year,
          Much troubled Anne, and filled her breast with fear,
          When William, fishing, chanced a pike to hook,
          And gave it to his dear at once to cook,
          Who, quite delighted, hastened to the priest,
          And begged his rev'rence on the fish to feast.
          The parson with the present much was pleased;
          A tap upon the shoulder care appeased;
          And with a smile he to the bringer said
          This fish, with trifles on the table spread,
          Will all complete; 'twas holyday we find,
          When other clergy with our rector dined.
          Will you still more oblige, the parson cried,
          And let the fish at home by you be fried?
          Then bring it here:--my servant's very new,
          And can't attempt to cook as well as you.
          Anne hastened back; meanwhile the priests arrived,
          Much noise, and rout of course, once these were hived;
          Wines from the vault were brought without delay;
          Each of the quality would something say.

          THE dinner served; the dean at table placed;
          Their conversation various points embraced;
          To state the whole would clearly endless be;
          In this no doubt the reader will agree.
          They changed and changed, and healths went round and round;
          No time for scandal while such cheer was found;
          The first and second course away were cleared,
          Dessert served up, yet still no pike appeared.
          The dinner o'er without th' expected dish,
          Or even a shadow of the promised fish.
          When William learned the present Anne had made,
          His wish, to have it cancelled, with her weighed.
          The rector was surprised, you may suppose,
          And, soon as from the table all arose,
          He went to Anne, and called her fool and knave,
          And, in his wrath, could scarcely secrets wave,
          But nearly her reproached the bathing scene;
          What, treat, said he, your priest like base and mean?

          ANNE archly answered, with expression neat:--
          The sight is just the same as if you eat!

                  THE DEVIL OF POPE-FIG ISLAND

          BY master Francis clearly 'tis expressed:
          The folks of Papimania are blessed;
          True sleep for them alone it seems was made
          With US the copy only has been laid;
          And by Saint John, if Heav'n my life will spare,
          I'll see this place where sleeping 's free from care.
          E'en better still I find, for naught they do:
          'Tis that employment always I pursue.
          Just add thereto a little honest love,
          And I shall be as easy as a glove.

          ON t'other hand an island may be seen,
          Where all are hated, cursed, and full of spleen.
          We know them by the thinness of their face
          Long sleep is quite excluded from their race.

          SHOULD you, good reader, any person meet,
          With rosy, smiling looks, and cheeks replete,
          The form not clumsy, you may safely say,
          A Papimanian doubtless I survey.
          But if, on t'other side, you chance to view,
          A meagre figure, void of blooming hue,
          With stupid, heavy eye, and gloomy mien
          Conclude at once a Pope-figer, you've seen.

          POPE-FIG 'S the name upon an isle bestowed,
          Where once a fig the silly people showed,
          As like the pope, and due devotion paid:--
          By folly, blocks have often gods been made!
          These islanders were punished for their crime;
          Naught prospers, Francis tells us, in their clime;
          To Lucifer was giv'n the hateful spot,
          And there his country house he now has got.
          His underlings appear throughout the isle,
          Rude, wretched, poor, mean, sordid, base, and vile;
          With tales, and horns, and claws, if we believe,
          What many say who ought not to deceive.

          ONE day it happened that a cunning clown
          Was by an imp observed, without the town,
          To turn the earth, which seemed to be accurst,
          Since ev'ry trench was painful as the first.
          This youthful devil was a titled lord;
          In manners simple:--naught to be abhorred;
          He might, so ignorant, be duped at ease;
          As yet he'd scarcely ventured to displease:
          Said he, I'd have thee know, I was not born,
          Like clods to labour, dig nor sow the corn;
          A devil thou in me beholdest here,
          Of noble race: to toil I ne'er appear.

          THOU know'st full well, these fields to us belong:
          The islanders, it seems, had acted wrong;
          And, for their crimes, the pope withdrew his cares;
          Our subjects now you live, the law declares;
          And therefore, fellow, I've undoubted right,
          To take the produce of this field, at sight;
          But I am kind, and clearly will decide
          The year concluded, we'll the fruits divided.
          What crop, pray tell me, dost thou mean to sow?
          The clod replied, my lord, what best will grow
          I think is Tousell; grain of hardy fame;
          The imp rejoined, I never heard its name;
          What is it. Tousell, say'st thou?--I agree,
          If good return, 'twill be the same to me;
          Work fellow, work; make haste, the ground prepare;
          To dig and delve should be the rabble's care;
          Don't think that I will ever lend a hand,
          Or give the slightest aid to till the land;
          I've told thee I'm a gentleman by birth,
          Designed for ease: not doomed to turn the earth.
          Howe'er I'll now the diff'rent parts allot,
          And thus divide the produce of the plot:--
          What shall above the heritage arise,
          I'll leave to thee; 'twill very well suffice;
          But what is in the soil shall be my share;
          To this attend, see ev'ry thing is fair.

          THIS beardless corn when ripe, with joy was reaped,
          And then the stubble by the roots was heaped,
          To satisfy the lordly devil's claim,
          Who thought the seed and root were just the same,
          And that the ear and stalk were useless parts,
          Which nothing made if carried to the marts:
          The labourer his produce housed with care;
          The other to the market brought his ware,
          Where ridicule and laughter he received;
          'Twas nothing worth, which much his bosom grieved.

          QUITE mortified, the devil quickly went;
          To seek our clod, and mark his discontent:
          The fellow had discreetly sold the corn,
          In straw, unthrashed, and off the money borne,
          Which he, with ev'ry wily care, concealed;
          The imp was duped, and nothing was revealed.
          Said he, thou rascal?--pretty tricks thou'st played;
          It seems that cheating is thy daily trade;
          But I'm a noble devil of the court,
          Who tricking never knew, save by report.
          What grain dost mean to sow th' ensuing year?
          The labourer replied, I think it clear,
          Instead of grain, 'twill better be to chop,
          And take a carrot, or a turnip crop;
          You then, my lord, will surely plenty find;
          And radishes, if you are so inclined.

          THESE carrots, radishes, and turnips too,
          Said t'other, I am led to think will do;
          My part shall be what 'bove the soil is found:
          Thine, fellow, what remains within the ground;
          No war with thee I'll have, unless constrained,
          And thou hast never yet of me complained.
          I now shall go and try to tempt a nun,
          For I'm disposed to have a little fun.

          THE time arrived again to house the store;
          The labourer collected as before;
          Leaves solely to his lordship were assigned,
          Who sought for those a ready sale to find,
          But through the market ridicule was heard,
          And ev'ry one around his jest preferred:--
          Pray, Mister Devil, where d'ye grow these greens?
          How treasure up returns from your demesnes?

          ENRAGED at what was said, he hurried back,
          And, on the clown, proposed to make attack,
          Who, full of joy, was laughing with his wife,
          And tasting pleasantly the sweets of life.
          By all the pow'rs of Hell, the demon cried,
          He shall the forfeit pay, I now decide;
          A pretty rascal truly, master Phil:
          Here, pleasures you expect at will,
          Well, well, proceed; gallant it while allowed;
          For present I'll remit what I had vowed;
          A charming lady I'm engaged to meet;
          She's sometimes willing: then again discreet;
          But soon as I, in cuckold's row, have placed
          Her ninny husband, I'll return in haste,
          And then so thoroughly I'll trim you o'er,
          Such wily tricks you'll never practise more;
          We'll see who best can use his claws and nails,
          And from the fields obtain the richest sales.
          Corn, carrots, radishes, or what you will:--
          Crop as you like, and show your utmost skill
          No stratagems howe'er with culture blend;
          I'll take my portion from the better end;
          Within a week, remember, I'll be here,
          And recollect:--you've every thing to fear.

          AMAZED at what the lordly devil said,
          The clod could naught reply, so great his dread;
          But at the gasconade Perretta smiled,
          Who kept his house and weary hours beguiled,
          A sprightly clever lass, with prying eye,
          Who, when a shepherdess, could more descry,
          Than sheep or lambs she watched upon the plain,
          If other views or points she sought to gain.
          Said she, weep not, I'll undertake at ease,
          To gull this novice-devil as I please;
          He's young and ignorant; has nothing seen;
          Thee; from his rage, I thoroughly will skreen;
          My little finger, if I like can show
          More malice than his head and body know.

          THE day arrived, our labourer, not brave,
          Concealed himself, but not in vault nor cave;
          He plunged within a vase extremely large,
          Where holy-water always was in charge;
          No demon would have thought to find him there,
          So well the clod had chosen his repair;
          In sacred stoles he muffled up his skin,
          And, 'bove the water, only kept his chin;
          There we will leave him, while the priests profound
          Repeated Vade retro round and round.

          PERRETTA at the house remained to greet
          The lordly devil whom she hoped to cheat.
          He soon appeared; when with dishevelled hair,
          And flowing tears, as if o'erwhelmed with care,
          She sallied forth, and bitterly complained,
          How oft by Phil she had been scratched and caned;
          Said she, the wretch has used me very ill;
          Of cruelty he has obtained his fill;
          For God's sake try, my lord, to get away:
          Just now I heard the savage fellow say,
          He'd with his claws your lordship tear and slash:
          See, only see, my lord, he made this gash;
          On which she showed:--what you will guess, no doubt,
          And put the demon presently to rout,
          Who crossed himself and trembled with affright:
          He'd never seen nor heard of such a sight,
          Where scratch from claws or nails had so appeared;
          His fears prevailed, and off he quickly steered;
          Perretta left, who, by her friends around,
          Was complimented on her sense profound,
          That could so well the demon's snares defeat;
          The clergy too pronounced her plan discrete.


          IN Eastern climes, by means considered new;
          The Mount's old-man, with terrors would pursue;
          His large domains howe'er were not the cause,
          Nor heaps of gold, that gave him such applause,
          But manners strange his subjects to persuade;
          In ev'ry wish, to serve him they were made.
          Among his people boldest hearts he chose,
          And to their view would Paradise disclose
          Its blissful pleasures:--ev'ry soft delight,
          Designed to gratify the sense and sight.
          So plausible this prophet's tale appeared,
          Each word he dropt was thoroughly revered.
          Whence this delusion?--DRINK deranged the mind;
          And, reason drowned, to madness they resigned.
          Thus void of knowing clearly what they did,
          They soon were brought to act as they were bid;
          Conveyed to places, charming to the eye,
          Enchanting gardens 'neath an azure sky,
          With twining shrubs, meandring walks, and flow'rs,
          And num'rous grottos, porticoes and bow'rs.
          When they chanced to pass where all was gay,
          From wine's inebriating pow'rful sway,
          They wondered at the frolicking around,
          And fancied they were got on fairy ground,
          Which Mahomet pretended was assigned,
          For those to his doctrine were inclined.
          To tempt the men and girls to seek the scene,
          And skip and play and dance upon the green,
          To murm'ring streams, meandering along,
          And lutes' soft notes and nightingales' sweet song:
          No earthly pleasure but might there be viewed,
          The best of wines and choicest fruits accrued,
          To render sense bewildered at the sight,
          And sink inebriated with delight.

          THEN back they bore them motionless to sleep,
          And wake with wishes further joys to reap.
          From these enjoyments many fully thought,
          To such enchanting scenes they should be brought,
          In future times, eternal bliss to taste,
          If death and danger valiantly they faced,
          And tried the prophet Mahomet to please,
          And ev'ry point to serve their prince would seize.

          THE Mount's old man, by means like these, could say;
          He'd men devoted to support his sway;
          Upon the globe no empire more was feared,
          Or king or potentate like him revered.
          These circumstances I've minutely told,
          To show, our tale was known in days of old.

          FERONDE, a rich, but awkward, vulgar clown,
          A ninny was believed throughout the town;
          He had the charge of revenues not slight,
          Which he collected for a friar white.
          Of these I've known as good as any black,
          When husbands some assistance seemed to lack,
          And had so much to do, they monks might need;
          Or other friends, their work at home to speed.
          This friar for to-morrow never thought,
          But squandered ev'ry thing as soon as brought;
          No saint-apostle less of wealth retained;
          Good cheer o'er ev'ry wish triumphant reigned,
          Save now and then to have a little fun,
          (Unknown to others) with a pretty nun.

          FERONDE had got a spouse of pleasing sight,
          Related nearly to our friar white,
          Whose predecessor, uncle, sponsor kind,
          Now gone to realms of night, had her consigned,
          To be this silly blockhead's lawful wife,
          Who thought her hand the honour of his life.
          'Tis said that bastard-daughters oft retain
          A disposition to the parent-train;
          And this, the saying, truly ne'er bellied,
          Nor was her spouse so weak but he descried,
          Things clearer than was requisite believed,
          And doubted much if he were not deceived.

          THE wife would often to the prelate go,
          Pretending business, proper he should know;
          A thousand circumstances she could find;
          'Twas then accounts: now sev'ral things combined;
          In short no day nor hour within the week,
          But something at the friar's she would seek.
          The holy father then was always prone,
          To send the servants off and be alone.
          Howe'er the husband, doubting tricks were played;
          Got troublesome; his wife would much upbraid
          When she returned, and often beat her too;
          In short,--he unaccommodating grew.

          THE rural mind by nature jealous proves;
          Suspicion shows of ev'ry thing that moves;
          Unused to city ways, perverse appears,
          And, undismayed, to principle adheres:

          THE friar found his situation hard;
          He loved his ease?--all trouble would discard;
          As priests in gen'ral anxiously desire;
          Their plan howe'er I never can admire,
          And should not choose at once to take the town,
          But by the escalade obtain the crown;
          In LOVE I mean; to WAR I don't allude:
          No silly bragging I would here intrude,
          Nor be enrolled among the martial train:
          'Tis Venus' court that I should like to gain.
          Let t'other custom be the better way:
          It matters not; no longer I'll delay,
          But to my tale return, and fully state,
          How our receiver, who misused his mate;
          Was put in purgatory to be cured,
          And, for a time, most thoroughly immured.

          BY means of opiate powders, much renowned,
          The friar plunged him in a sleep profound.
          Thought dead; the fun'ral obsequies achieved,
          He was surprised, and doubtless sorely grieved,
          When he awoke and saw where he was placed,
          With folks around, not much to suit his taste;
          For in the coffin he at large was left,
          And of the pow'r to move was not bereft,
          But might arise and walk about the tomb,
          Which opened to another vaulted room,
          The gloomy, hollow mansion of the dead:
          Fear quickly o'er his drooping spirits spread.
          What's here? cried he: is't sleep, or is it death;
          Some charm or spell perhaps withdraws their breath.
          Our wight then asked their names and business there;
          And why he was retained in such a snare?
          In what had he offended God or man?--

          Said one, console thyself:--past moments scan;
          When thou hast rested here a thousand years,
          Thou'lt then ascend amid the Heav'nly spheres;
          But first in holy purgatory learn,
          To cleanse thyself from sins that we discern;
          One day thy soul shall leave this loathsome place,
          And, pure as ice, repair to realms of grace.
          Then this consoling Angel gave a thwack,
          And ten or dozen stripes laid on his back:--
          'Tis thy unruly, jealous mind, said he,
          Displeases God, and dooms thee here to be.

          A MOURNFUL sigh the lorn receiver heaved,
          His aching shoulders rubbed, and sobbed and grieved;
          A thousand years, cried he, 'tis long indeed!
          My very soul with horror seems to bleed.

          WE should observe, this Angel was a wag,
          A novice-friar and a convent fag;
          Like him the others round had parts to act,
          And were disguised in dresses quite exact.
          Our penitent most humbly pardon sought;
          Said he, if e'er to life again I'm brought,
          No jealousy, suspicion's hateful bane,
          Shall ever enter my distracted brain.
          May I not have this grace, this wished for boon?
          Some hopes they gave, but it could not be soon;
          In short a year he lay upon the floor:
          Just food for life received, and nothing more,
          Each day on bread and water he was fed,
          And o'er his back the cat-o'nine-tails spread:
          Full twenty lashes were the number set,
          Unless the friar should from Heav'n first get
          Permission to remit at times a part,
          For charity was glowing in his heart.

          WE, must not doubt, he often offered prayers,
          To ease the culprit's sufferings and cares.
          The Angel likewise made a long discourse;
          Said he, those vile suspicions were the source,
          Of all thy sorrow, wretchedness, and pain:
          Think'st thou such thoughts the clergy entertain?
          A friar white!--too bad in ev'ry sense:
          Ten strokes to one, if black, for such offence.
          Repent, I say:--the other this desired,
          Though scarcely he could tell what was required.

          MEANWHILE the prelate with the fav'rite dame,
          No time to lose, made ev'ry hour the same.
          The husband, with a sigh, was heard to say:
          I wonder what my wife's about to-day?
          About?--whate'er it be 'tis doubtless right;
          Our friar, to console her, takes delight;
          Thy business too is managed as before,
          And anxious care bestowed upon thy store.

          HAS she as usual matters that demand
          Attendance at the cloister to be scanned?--
          No doubt was the reply, for having now
          The whole affair upon her feeble brow,
          Poor woman! be her wishes what they will,
          She more assistance wants thy loss to fill.

          DISCOURSE like this no pleasure gave the soul:
          To call him so seems best upon the whole,
          Since he'd not pow'r like others here to feed:--
          Mere earthly shadow for a time decreed.

          A MONTH was passed in fasting, pains, and prayer;
          Some charity the friar made him share,
          And now and then remission would direct;
          The widow too he never would neglect,
          But, all the consolation in his pow'r,
          Bestowed upon her ev'ry leisure hour,
          His tender cares unfruitful were not long;
          Beyond his hopes the soil proved good and strong;
          In short our Pater Abbas justly feared,
          To make him father many signs appeared.

          SINCE 'twere improper such a fact were known;
          When proofs perhaps too clearly might be shown,
          So many prayers were said and vigils kept,
          At length the soul from purgatory crept,
          So much reduced, and ev'ry way so thin
          But little more he seemed than bones and skin.

          A THING so strange filled numbers with surprise,
          Who scarcely would believe their ears and eyes.
          The friar passed for saint:--Feronde his fruit;
          None durst presume to doubt nor to dispute;
          A double miracle at once appeared
          The dead's return: the lady's state revered.
          With treble force Te Deum round was sung;
          Sterility in marriage oft was rung,
          And near the convent many offered prayers,
          In hopes their fervent vows would gain them heirs.

          THE humble spouse and wife we now shall leave
          Let none, howe'er, suppose that we conceive,
          Each husband merits, as our soul, the same,
          To cure the jealous fears his breast inflame.


Perhaps one half our bliss to chance we owe
The more of this I think, the less I know
Though expectations oft away have flown
When husbands some assistance seemed to lack

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ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.