La Fontaine

Here you will find the Long Poem The Ear-Maker And The Mould-Mender of poet La Fontaine

The Ear-Maker And The Mould-Mender

WHEN William went from home (a trader styled):
Six months his better half he left with child,
A simple, comely, modest, youthful dame,
Whose name was Alice; from Champaign she came.
Her neighbour Andrew visits now would pay;
With what intention, needless 'tis to say:
A master who but rarely spread his net,
But, first or last, with full success he met;
And cunning was the bird that 'scaped his snare;
Without surrendering a feather there.

QUITE raw was Alice; for his purpose fit;
Not overburdened with a store of wit;
Of this indeed she could not be accused,
And Cupid's wiles by her were never used;
Poor lady, all with her was honest part,
And naught she knew of stratagem or art.

HER husband then away, and she alone,
This neighbour came, and in a whining tone,
To her observed, when compliments were o'er:--
I'm all astonishment, and you deplore,
To find that neighbour William's gone from hence,
And left your child's completing in suspense,
Which now you bear within, and much I fear,
That when 'tis born you'll find it wants an ear.
Your looks sufficiently the fact proclaim,
For many instances I've known the same.
Good heav'ns! replied the lady in a fright;
What say you, pray?--the infant won't be right!
Shall I be mother to a one-eared child?
And know you no relief that's certain styled?
Oh yes, there is, rejoined the crafty knave,
From such mishap I can the baby save;
Yet solemnly I vow, for none but you
I'd undertake the toilsome job to do.
The ills of others, if I may be plain,
Except your husband's, never give me pain;
But him I'd serve for ever, while I've breath;
To do him good I'd e'en encounter death.
Now let us see, without more talk or fears,
If I know how to forge the bantling ears.
Remember, cried the wife, to make them like.
Leave that to me, said he, I'll justly strike.
Then he prepared for work; the dame gave way;
Not difficult she proved:--well pleased she lay;
Philosophy was never less required,
And Andrew's process much the fair admired,
Who, to his work extreme attention paid;
'Twas now a tendon; then a fold he made,
Or cartilage, of which he formed enough,
And all without complaining of the stuff.
To-morrow we will polish it, said he:
Then in perfection soon the whole will be;
And from repeating this so oft, you'll get
As perfect issue as was ever met.
I'm much obliged to you, the wife replied,
A friend is good in whom we may confide.

NEXT day, when tardy Time had marked the hour;
That Andrew hoped again to use his pow'r,
He was not plunged in sleep, but briskly flew,
His purpose with the charmer to pursue.
Said he, all other things aside I've laid,
This ear to finish, and to lend you aid.
And I, the dame replied, was on the eve,
To send and beg you not the job to leave;
Above stairs let us go:--away they ran,
And quickly recommenced as they began.
The work so oft was smoothed, that Alice showed
Some scruples lest the ear he had bestowed
Should do too much, and to the wily wight,
She said, so little you the labour slight,
'Twere well if ears no more than two appear;
Of that, rejoined the other, never fear;
I've guarded thoroughly against defects,
Mistake like that shall ne'er your senses vex.

THE ear howe'er was still in hand the same,
When from his journey home the husband came.
Saluted Alice, who with anxious look,
Exclaimed,--your work how finely you forsook,
And, but for neighbour Andrew's kindness here,
Our child would incomplete have been--an ear,
I could not let a thing remain like this,
And Andrew would not be to friends remiss,
But, worthy man, he left his thriving trade,
And for the babe a proper ear has made.

THE husband, not conceiving how his wife,
Could be so weak and ignorant of life,
The circumstances made her fully tell,
Repeat them o'er and on each action dwell.
Enraged at length, a pistol by the bed
He seized and swore at once he'd shoot her dead.
The belle with tears replied, howe'er she'd swerved,
Such cruel treatment never she deserved.
Her innocence, and simple, gentle way,
At length appeared his frantick rage to lay.
What injury, continued she, is done?
The strictest scrutiny I would not shun;
Your goods and money, ev'ry thing is right;
And Andrew told me, nothing he would slight;
That you would find much more than you could want;
And this I hope to me you'll freely grant;
If falsehood I advance, my life I'll lose;
Your equity, I trust, will me excuse.

A LITTLE cooled, then William thus replied,
We'll say no more; you have been drawn aside;
What passed you fancied acting for the best,
And I'll consent to put the thing at rest;
To nothing good such altercations tend;
I've but a word: to that attention lend;
Contrive to-morrow t