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TIRCIS AND AMARANTH. Jean de La Fontaine

TIRCIS AND AMARANTH. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

TIRCIS AND AMARANTH. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

I quitted Æsop, long ago,
For pleasant old Boccaccio;
But now a fair Divinity
Would once more from Parnassus see
Fables in my poor manner; so
To answer with a boorish "No,"
Without a valid, stout excuse,
To goddesses would be no use;
Divinities need more than this,
And belles especially, I wis.
Her wishes are all queens, you see;
She rules us all, does Sillery;
Who wishes once again to know
Of Master Wolf, and Master Crow.
Who can refuse her majesty?
None can deny her. How can I?
Well, to her mind my stories are
Obscure, and too mysterious far;
For, sometimes, even beaux esprits
Are puzzled and astray, you see.
Let us, then, write in plainer tune,
That she may so decipher soon.
I′ll sing of simple shepherds, then,
Before I rhyme of wolves again.

Tircis to youthful Amaranth, one day,
Said, "Ah! but if you knew the griefs that slay!
Pleasing enchantments! Heaven-kindled woe!
The greatest joy of earth you then would know.
Oh, let me picture them! you need not fear.
Could I deceive you? Stay, then, sweet, and hear.
What! I betray?—I, whose poor heart is cleft
By fondest hopes that cruel Love has left?"
Then Amaranth exclaimed, "What is this pain?
How call you it?—now, tell me once again!"
"′Tis Love!" "A pretty word, its symptoms tell:
How shall I know it—I, who am so well?"
"A malady, to which all pleasant things—
Yes, even all the pleasures of great kings—
Seem poor and faded. Lovers thus are known:
In gloomy forests they will walk alone;
Muse by the river, watch the stream beside,
Yet their own faces rise not from the tide;
One image only in the flood shows day by day;
This lovely shadow comes, but to betray:
To other things they′re blind. A shepherd speaks;
His voice, his name, raise blushes on your cheeks:
You like to think of him, yet know not why;
You wonder at the wish, and yet you sigh;
You fear to see him, and yet, absent, cry."
Amaranth leaped for joy: "Is this, then, love?
Is that the pain you rank all things above?
It is not new to me: I think I know it."
Tircis thought he was safe, but dared not show it.
The maid said, "Yes, and that, I freely grant,
Is what I feel for dear, dear Clidamant."
Then Tircis almost burst with rage and spite;
But yet it served the cheating fellow right.
Thinking to gain the prize, he lost the game,
And only cleared the road for him who came.

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