A man that loved,—and loved his wife,—
Still led an almost joyless life.
No tender look, nor gracious word,
Nor smile, that, coming from a bride,
Its object would have deified,
Ever told her doting lord
The love with which he burned
Was in its kind returned.
Still unrepining at his lot,
This man, thus tied in Hymen’s knot,
Thanked God for all the good he got.
But why? If love does fail to season
Whatever pleasures Hymen gives,
I’m sure I cannot see the reason
Why one for him the happier lives.
However, since his wife
Had never caressed him in her life,
He made complaint of it one night.
The entrance of a thief
Cut short his tale of grief,
And gave the lady such a fright,
She shrunk from dreaded harms
Within her husband’s arms.
“Good thief,” cried he,
“This joy so sweet, I owe to you:
Now take, as your reward,
Of all that owns me lord,
Whatever suits you save my spouse;
Ay, if you pleasest, take the house.”
As thieves are not remarkably
Overstocked with modesty,
This fellow made quite free.
From this account it does appear,
The passions all are ruled by fear.
Aversion may be conquered by it,
And even love may not defy it.
But still some cases there have been
Where love has ruled the roast, I believe.
That lover, witness, highly bred,
Who burnt his house above his head,
And all to clasp a certain dame,
And bear her harmless through the flame.
This transport through the fire,
I own, I much admire;
And for a Spanish soul, reputed coolish,
I think it grander even than It was foolish.
The Husband, the Wife, and the Thief by Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables in Book 9