The Unhappily Married Man (Prose Fable)

A poem by Jean de La Fontaine

If goodness were always the comrade of beauty I would seek a wife to-morrow; but as divorce between these two is no new thing, and as there are so few lovely forms that enshrine lovely souls, thus uniting both one and the other delight, do not take it amiss that I refrain from seeking such a rare combination.

I have seen many marriages, but not one of them has held out allurements for me. Nevertheless, nearly the whole four quarters of mankind courageously expose themselves to this the greatest of all hazards, and - the whole four quarters usually repent it.

I will tell you of one who, having repented, found that there was nothing for it but to send home again his quarrelsome, avaricious, and jealous spouse. She was one whom nothing pleased; for her, nothing was right. For her, one rose too late; one retired too early. First it was this, then it was that, and then again 'twas something else. The servants raged. The husband was at his wit's end. "You think of nothing, sir." "You spend too much." "You gad about, sir." "You are idle." Indeed she had so much to say that, in the end, tired of hearing such a termagant, he sent her to her parents in the country. There she mixed with those who minded the turkeys and pigs until she was thought to be somewhat tamed, when the husband sent for her again.

"Well, my dear, how have you been getting on? How did you spend your time? Did you like the simple life of the country?"

"Oh, pretty well!" she said, "but what annoyed me was to see the laziness of those people. They are worse there than here. They showed no care whatever for the herds and flocks they were supposed to mind. I didn't forget to let them know what I thought of them. Of course, they didn't like it, and they all hated me in the end."

"Ah! my dear. If you fell foul of people whom you saw for but a moment or so in the day and when they returned in the evening - if you made them tired of you; what will the servants in this house become, who must have you railing at them the whole day long? And what will your poor husband do whom you expected to have near you all day and night too? Return to the village, my dear. Adieu! and if during my life the idea should possess me to have you back again, may I, for my sins, have two such as you for ever at my elbows in the world to come."

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