La Fontaine 1621 (Château-Thierry, Champagne) – 1695 (Neuilly-sur-Seine, Île-de-France)
IN life oft ills from self-imprudence spring;
As proof, Candaules' story we will bring;
In folly's scenes the king was truly great:
His vassal, Gyges, had from him a bait,
The like in gallantry was rarely known,
And want of prudence never more was shown.
MY friend, said he, you frequently have seen
The beauteous face and features of the queen;
But these are naught, believe me, to the rest,
Which solely can be viewed when quite undressed.
Some day I'll let you gratify your eyes;
Without her knowledge I'll means devise;
But on condition:--you'll remember well
What you behold, to no one you will tell,
In ev'ry step most cautiously proceed,
And not your mind with silly wishes feed;
No sort of pleasure surely I could take,
To see vain passion you her lover make.
You must propose, this charming form to view,
As if mere marble, though to nature true;
And I'm convinced you'll readily declare,
Beyond nor art can reach, nor thought prepare;
Just now I left her in the bath at ease:
A judge you are, and shall the moment seize;
Come, witness my felicity supreme;
You know her beauties are my constant theme.
AWAY they went, and Gyges much admired;
Still more than that: in truth his breast was fired;
For when she moved astonishment was great,
And ev'ry grace upon her seemed to wait.
Emotion to suppress howe'er he tried,
Since he had promised what he felt to hide;
To hold his tongue he wished, but that might raise
Suspicions of designs and mystick ways.
Exaggeration was the better part,
And from the subject he would never start,
But fully praised each beauty in detail,
Without appearing any thing to veil.
Gods! Gyges cried, how truly, king, you're blessed;
The skin how fair--how charming all the rest!
THIS am'rous conversation by the queen
Was never heard, or she'd enraged have been;
In ancient days of ignorance, we find,
The sex, to show resentment, much inclined;
In diff'rent light at present this appears,
And fulsome praises ne'er offend their ears.
OUR arch observer struggled with his sighs
Those feelings much increased, so fair the prize:
The prince, in doubt, conducted him away;
But in his heart a hundred arrows lay;
Each magick charm directed pointed darts;
To flee were useless: LOVE such pain imparts,
That nothing can at times obstruct its course;
So quick the flight: so truly great the force.
WHILE near the king, much caution Gyges showed;
But soon the belle perceived his bosom glowed;
She learned the cause:--her spouse the tale disclosed,
And laughed and jeered, as he the facts exposed:
A silly blockhead! not to know a queen
Could raillery not bear on such a scene.
But had it pleased her wishes, still 'twere right
(Such honour's dictates) to discover spite;
And this she truly did, while in her mind,
To be revenged she fully was inclined.
FOR once, good reader, I should wish thee wife;
Or otherwise, thou never can'st in life,
Conceive the lengths a woman oft will go,
Whose breast is filled with wrath and secret woe.
A mortal was allowed these charms to view,
Which others' eyes could never dare pursue.
Such treasures were for gods, or rather kings
The privilege of both are beauteous things.
THESE thoughts induced the queen revenge to seek;
Rage moved her breast, and shame possessed her cheek.
E'en Cupid, we are told, assistance gave;
What from his aim effectually can save?
Fair in person was Gyges to behold;
Excuses for her easy 'twere to mould;
To show her charms, what baseness could excel?
And on th' exposer all her hatred fell.
Besides, he was a husband, which is worse
With these each sin receives a double curse.
What more shall I detail?--the facts are plain:
Detested was the king:--beloved the swain;
All was accomplished, and the monarch placed
Among the heroes who with horns are graced;
No doubt a dignity not much desired,
Though in repute, and easily acquired.
SUCH merit had the prince's folly got,
'In petto', Vulcan's brother was his lot;
The distance thence is little to the HAT:
The honour much the same of this or that.
SO far 'twas passing well, but, in the intrigue;
The cruel Parcae now appeared to league;
And soon the lovers, on possession bent,
To black Cocytus' shores the monarch sent;
Too much of certain potions forced to drink,
He quickly viewed the dreary, horrid brink;
While pleasing the objects Gyges' eyes beheld;
And in the palace presently he dwelled,
For, whether love or rage the widow fired,
Her throne and hand she gave, as was required.
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Use the citation below to add this poem to your bibliography:
"King Candaules And The Doctor Of Laws" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 20 Sep. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/25332/king-candaules-and-the-doctor-of-laws>.