A certain maid, as proud as fair,
A husband thought to find
Exactly to her mind—
Well-formed and young, genteel in air,
Not cold nor jealous;—mark this well.
Whoever would wed this dainty belle
Must have, besides rank, wealth, and wit,
And all good qualities to fit—
A man it were difficult to get.
Kind Fate, however, took great care
To grant, if possible, her prayer.
There came a-wooing men of note;
The maiden thought them all,
By half, too mean and small.
“They marry me! the creatures dote:
Alas! poor souls! their case I pity.”
(Here mark the bearing of the beauty.)
Some were less delicate than witty;
Some had the nose too short or long;
In others something else was wrong;
Which made each in the maiden’s eyes
An altogether worthless prize.
Profound contempt is aye the vice
Which springs from being over-nice,
Thus were the great dismissed; and then
Came offers from inferior men.
The maid, more scornful than before,
Took credit to her tender heart
For giving then an open door.
“They think me much in haste to part
With independence! God be thanked
My lonely nights bring no regret;
Nor shall I pine, or greatly fret,
Should I with ancient maids be ranked.”
Such were the thoughts that pleased the fair:
Age made them only thoughts that were.
Adieu to lovers: passing years
Awaken doubts and chilling fears.
Regret, at last, brings up the train.
Day after day she sees, with pain,
Some smile or charm take final flight,
And leave the features of a “fright.”
Then came a hundred sorts of paint:
But still no trick, nor ruse, nor feint,
Availed to hide the cause of grief,
Or bar out Time, that graceless thief.
A house, when gone to wreck and ruin,
May be repaired and made a new one.
Alas! for ruins of the face
No such rebuilding ever takes place.
Her daintiness now changed its tune;
Her mirror told her, “Marry soon!”
So did a certain wish within,
With more of secrecy than sin,—
A wish that dwells with even prudes,
This maiden’s choice was past belief,
She soothing down her restless grief,
And smoothing it of every ripple,
By marrying a cripple.
The Maid by Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables in Book 7