The man between two ages, and his two mistresses.





A man of middle age, whose hair
Was bordering on the grey,
Began to turn his thoughts and care
The matrimonial way.
By virtue of his ready,
A store of choices had he
Of ladies bent to suit his taste;
On which account he made no haste.
To court well was no trifling art.
Two widows chiefly gain’d his heart;
The one yet green, the other more mature,
Who found for nature’s wane in art a cure.
These dames, amidst their joking and caressing
The man they long’d to wed,
Would sometimes set themselves to dressing
His party-colour’d head.
Each aiming to assimilate
Her lover to her own estate,
The older piecemeal stole
The black hair from his poll,
While eke, with fingers light,
The young one stole the white.
Between them both, as if by scald,
His head was changed from grey to bald.
‘For these,’ he said, ‘your gentle pranks,
I owe you, ladies, many thanks.
By being thus well shaved,
I less have lost than saved.
Of Hymen, yet, no news at hand,
I do assure ye.
By what I’ve lost, I understand
It is in your way,
Not mine, that I must pass on.
Thanks, ladies, for the lesson.’
From The Fables of La Fontaine by Jean de La Fontaine, illustrated by T. Johannot, 1875
Translation by Elizur Wright, from the electronic book published by Project Gutenberg