Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
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T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
 
The Husband-Confessor
By Jean de La Fontaine (1621–1695)
 
(From Tales and Novels, 1764)

WHEN Francis (named the first) o’er Frenchmen reigned,
In Italy young Arthur laurels gained,
And oft such daring valour showed in fight,
With ev’ry honour he was made a knight;
The monarch placed the spur upon his heel,        5
That all around his proper worth might feel.
Then household deities at home he sought,
Where—not at prayers his beauteous dame he caught.
He’d left her, truly, quite dissolv’d in tears;
But now the belle had bid adieu to fears;        10
And oft was dancing joyously around,
With all the company that could be found.
 
  Gallants in crowds Sir Arthur soon perceived;
At sight of these the knight was sorely grieved;
And, turning in his mind how best to act;        15
Cried he, Can this be truly held a fact,
That I’ve been worthy, while I’d fame in view,
Of cuckoldom at home, and knighthood too?
It ought to be but half:—the truth let’s know;
From constancy the purest blessings flow.        20
Then like a father-confessor he dressed,
And took his seat where priests their flock confessed.
 
  His lady absolution sought that day,
And on her knees before him ’gan to pray;
The minor sins were told with downcast eyes,        25
And then for hearing those of larger size,
The husband-confessor prepared his ears:—
Said she, Good father, (’mid a flood of tears),
My bed received, (the fault I fear’s not slight,)
A gentleman, a parson, and a knight.        30
Still more had followed, but, by rage o’ercome,
Sir Arthur cut the thread, and she was mum;
Though, doubtless, had the fair been let proceed,
Quite long her Litany had been decreed.
 
  The husband, in a rage, exclaimed, thou jade,        35
A parson, say’st thou? t’whom dost think thou’st made
This curst confession?—To my spouse, cried she,
I saw you enter here, and came with glee,
Supposing you’d a trick to raise surprise;
Howe’er, ’tis strange that one so very wise,        40
The riddle should not fully comprehend:—
A KNIGHT, the king created you, my friend;
A GENTLEMAN, your rank was long ago;
A PARSON, you have made yourself you know.
 
  Good heav’ns! exclaimed the knight, ’tis very clear,        45
And I a blockhead surely must appear.
 
 
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