Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Une Marquise
By Henry Austin Dobson (1840–1921)
A Rhymed Monologue in the Louvre

  “Belle Marquise, vos beaux yeux me font mourir d’amour.”

AS you sit there at your ease,
                O Marquise!
And the men flock round your knees
                Thick as bees,
Mute at every word you utter,        5
Servants to your least frill-flutter,
                “Belle Marquise!”
As you sit there, growing prouder,
  And your ringed hands glance and go,
And your fan’s frou-frou sounds louder,        10
  And your “beaux yeux” flash and glow;—
Ah, you used them on the Painter,
                As you know,
For the Sieur Larose spoke fainter,
                Bowing low,        15
Thanked Madame and Heaven for Mercy
That each sitter was not Circe,—
  Or at least he told you so;
Growing proud, I say, and prouder
  To the crowd that come and go,        20
Dainty Deity of Powder,
  Fickle Queen of Fop and Beau,
As you sit where lustres strike you,
                Sure to please,
Do we love you most, or like you,        25
                “Belle Marquise!”
You are fair; oh yes, we know it
                Well, Marquise;
For he swore it, your last poet,
                On his knees;        30
And he called all heaven to witness
Of his ballad and its fitness,
                “Belle Marquise!”
You were everything in ère
(With exception of sévère),—        35
You were cruelle and rebelle,
With the rest of rhymes as well;
You were “Reine” and “Mère d’Amour”;
  You were “Vénus à Cythère”;
“Sappho mise en Pompadour,”        40
  And “Minerve en Parabère”;
You had every grace of heaven
  In your most angelic face,
With the nameless finer leaven
  Lent of blood and courtly race;        45
And he added, too, in duty,
Ninon’s wit and Boufflers’s beauty;
And La Vallière’s yeux veloutés
                Followed these;
And you liked it, when he said it        50
                (On his knees),
And you kept it, and you read it,
                “Belle Marquise!”
Yet with us your toilet graces
                Fail to please,        55
And the last of your last faces,
                And your mise;
For we hold you just as real,
                “Belle Marquise!”
As your Bergers and Bergères,        60
Tes d’Amour and Batelières;
As your pares, and your Versailles,
Gardens, grottoes, and socailles;
As your Naiads and your trees;—
Just as near the old ideal        65
                Calm and ease,
As the Venus there by Coustou,
  That a fan would make quite flighty,
Is to her the gods were used to,—
  Is to grand Greek Aphroditè,        70
                Sprung from seas.
You are just a porcelain trifle,
                “Belle Marquise!”
Just a thing of puffs and patches
Made for madrigals and catches,        75
Not for heart wounds, but for scratches,
                O Marquise!
Just a pinky porcelain trifle,
                “Belle Marquise!”
Wrought in rarest rose-Dubarry,        80
Quick at verbal point and parry,
Clever, doubtless;—but to marry,
                No, Marquise!
For your Cupid, you have clipped him,
Rouged and patched him, nipped and snipped him,        85
And with chapeau-bras equipped him,
                “Belle Marquise!”
Just to arm you through your wife-time,
And the languors of your lifetime,
                “Belle Marquise!”        90
Say, to trim your toilet tapers
Or—to twist your hair in papers,
Or—to wean you from the vapors;—
                As for these,
You are worth the love they give you,        95
Till a fairer face outlive you,
  Or a younger grace shall please;
Till the coming of the crows’-feet,
And the backward turn of beaux’ feet,
                “Belle Marquise!”        100
Till your frothed-out life’s commotion
Settles down to Ennui’s ocean,
Or a dainty sham devotion,
                “Belle Marquise!”
No: we neither like nor love you,
                “Belle Marquise!”
Lesser lights we place above you,—
  Milder merits better please.
We have passed from Philosophe-dom
  Into plainer modern days,—        110
Grown contented in our oafdom,
  Giving grace not all the praise;
And, en partant, Arsinoé.
  Without malice whatsoever,—
We shall counsel to our Chloë        115
  To be rather good than clever;
For we find it hard to smother
  Just one little thought, Marquise!
Wittier perhaps than any other,—
You were neither Wife nor Mother.        120
                “Belle Marquise!”

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