Daphnis And Alcimadure.

A poem by Jean de La Fontaine

An Imitation Of Theocritus.[1]

To Madame De La Mésangère.[2]

Offspring of her to whom, to-day,
While from thy lovely self away,
A thousand hearts their homage pay,
Besides the throngs whom friendship binds to please,
And some whom love presents thee on their knees!
A mandate which I cannot thrust aside
Between you both impels me to divide
Some of the incense which the dews distil
Upon the roses of a sacred hill,
And which, by secret of my trade,
Is sweet and most delicious made.
To you, I say, ... but all to say
Would task me far beyond my day;
I need judiciously to choose;
Thus husbanding my voice and muse,
Whose strength and leisure soon would fail.
I'll only praise your tender heart, and hale,
Exalted feelings, wit, and grace,
In which there's none can claim a higher place,
Excepting her whose praise is your entail.
Let not too many thorns forbid to touch
These roses - I may call them such -
If Love should ever say as much.
By him it will be better said, indeed;
And they who his advices will not heed,
Scourge fearfully will he,
As you shall shortly see.

A blooming miracle of yore
Despised his godship's sovereign power;
They call'd her name Alcimadure.
A haughty creature, fierce and wild,
She sported, Nature's tameless child.
Rough paths her wayward feet would lead
To darkest glens of mossy trees;
Or she would dance on daisied mead,
With nought of law but her caprice.
A fairer could not be,
Nor crueller, than she.
Still charming in her sternest mien, -
E'en when her haughty look debarr'd, -
What had she been to lover in
The fortress of her kind regard!
Daphnis, a high-born shepherd swain,
Had loved this maiden to his bane.
Not one regardful look or smile,
Nor e'en a gracious word, the while,
Relieved the fierceness of his pain.
O'erwearied with a suit so vain,
His hope was but to die;
No power had he to fly.
He sought, impell'd by dark despair,
The portals of the cruel fair.
Alas! the winds his only listeners were!
The mistress gave no entrance there -
No entrance to the palace where,
Ingrate, against her natal day,
She join'd the treasures sweet and gay
In garden or in wild-wood grown,
To blooming beauty all her own.
'I hoped,' he cried,
'Before your eyes I should have died;
But, ah! too deeply I have won your hate;
Nor should it be surprising news
To me, that you should now refuse
To lighten thus my cruel fate.
My sire, when I shall be no more,
Is charged to lay your feet before
The heritage your heart neglected.
With this my pasturage shall be connected,
My trusty dog, and all that he protected;
And, of my goods which then remain,
My mourning friends shall rear a fane.
There shall your image stand, midst rosy bowers,
Reviving through the ceaseless hours
An altar built of living flowers.
Near by, my simple monument
Shall this short epitaph present:
"Here Daphnis died of love. Stop, passenger,
And say thou, with a falling tear,
This youth here fell, unable to endure
The ban of proud Alcimadure."'

He would have added, but his heart
Now felt the last, the fatal dart.
Forth march'd the maid, in triumph deck'd,
And of his murder little reck'd.
In vain her steps her own attendants check'd,
And plead
That she, at least, should shed,
Upon her lover dead,
Some tears of due respect.
The rosy god, of Cytherea born,
She ever treated with the deepest scorn:
Contemning him, his laws, and means of damage,
She drew her train to dance around his image,
When, woful to relate,
The statue fell, and crush'd her with its weight!
A voice forth issued from a cloud, -
And echo bore the words aloud
Throughout the air wide spread, -
"Let all now love - the insensible is dead."
Meanwhile, down to the Stygian tide
The shade of Daphnis hied,
And quaked and wonder'd there to meet
The maid, a ghostess, at his feet.
All Erebus awaken'd wide,
To hear that beauteous homicide
Beg pardon of the swain who died -
For being deaf to love confess'd,
As was Ulysses to the prayer
Of Ajax, begging him to spare,
Or as was Dido's faithless guest.[3]

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