If worth, were not a thing more rare
Than beauty in this planet fair,
There would be then less need of care
About the contracts Hymen closes.
But beauty often is the bait
To love that only ends in hate;
And many hence repent too late
Of wedding thorns from wooing roses.
My tale makes one of these poor fellows,
Who sought relief from marriage vows,
Send back again his tedious spouse,
Contentious, covetous, and jealous,
With nothing pleased or satisfied,
This restless, comfort-killing bride
Some fault in every one descried.
Her good man went to bed too soon,
Or lay in bed till almost noon.
Too cold, too hot,—too black, too white,—
Were on her tongue from morn till night.
The servants mad and madder grew;
The husband knew not what to do.
“Twas, “Dear, you never think or care;”
And, “Dear, that price we cannot bear;”
And, “Dear, you never stay at home;”
And, “Dear, I wish you would just come;”
Till, finally, such ceaseless dearing
On her husband’s patience wearing,
Back to her sire’s he sent his wife,
To taste the sweets of country life,
To dance at will the country jigs,
And feed the turkeys, geese, and pigs.
In course of time, he hoped his bride
Might have her temper mollified;
Which hope he duly put to test.
His wife recalled, said he,
“How went with you your rural rest,
From vexing cares and fashions free?
Its peace and quiet did you gain,—
Its innocence without a stain?”
“Enough of all,” said she; “but then
To see those idle, worthless men
Neglect the flocks, it gave me pain.
I told them, plainly, what I thought,
And thus their hatred quickly bought;
For which I do not care—not I.”
“Ah, madam,” did her spouse reply,
“If still your temper’s so morose,
And tongue so virulent, that those
Who only see you morn and night
Are quite grown weary of the sight,
What, then, must be your servants’ case,
Who needs must see you face to face,
Throughout the day?
And what must be the harder lot
Of him, I pray,
Whose days and nights
With you must be by marriage rights?
Return you to your father’s cot.
If I recall you in my life,
Or even wish for such a wife,
Let Heaven, in my hereafter, send
Two such, to tease me without end!”
The Ill-Married by Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables in Book 7