The Bucking-Tub

by Jean de La Fontaine

IF once in love, you'll soon invention find
And not to cunning tricks and freaks be blind;
The youngest 'prentice, when he feels the dart,
Grows wondrous shrewd, and studies wily art.
This passion never, we perceive, remains
In want from paucity of scheming brains.
The god of hearts so well exerts his force,
That he receives his dues as things of course.
A bucking-tub, of which a tale is told,
Will prove the case, and this I'll now unfold;
Particulars I heard some days ago,
From one who seemed each circumstance to know.
WITHIN a country town, no matter where,
Its appellation nothing would declare,
A cooper and his wife, whose name was Nan,
Kept house, and through some difficulties ran.
Though scanty were their means, LOVE thither flew;
And with him brought a friend to take a view;
'Twas Cuckoldom accompanied the boy,
Two gods most intimate, who like to toy,
And, never ceremonious, seek to please
Go where they will, still equally at ease;
'Tis all for them good lodging, fare, or bed;
And, hut or palace, pleasantly they tread.
IT happened then, a spark this fair caressed,
And, when he hoped most fully to be blessed,
When all was ready to complete the scene,
And on a point:--if naught should intervene
Not NAMED howe'er will quite enough suffice,
When suddenly the husband, by surprise,
Returned from drinking at an ale-house near,
just when, just when:--the rest is pretty clear.
THEY curst his coming; trouble o'er them spread;
Naught could be done but hide the lover's head;
Beneath a bucking-tub, in utmost haste,
Within the court, our gay gallant was placed.
THE husband, as he entered, loudly cried,
I've sold our bucking-tub. The wife replied,
What price, I pray?--Three crowns rejoined the man;
Then thou'rt a silly ass, said mistress Nan;
To-day, by my address, I've gained a crown,
And sold the same for twenty shillings down:
My bargain luckily the first was made;
The buyer, (who of flaws is much afraid)
Examines now if ev'ry part is tight;
He's in the tub to see if all be right.
What, blockhead, would'st thou do without thy wife?
Thou huntest taverns while she works for life;
But necessary 'tis for her to act,
When thou art out, or naught would be exact.
No pleasure ever yet received have I;
But take my word, to get it now I'll try.
Gallants are plenty; husbands should have wives;
That, like themselves, lead gay or sober lives.
I PRYTHEE softly, wife, the husband said;
Come, come, sir, leave the tub, there's naught to dread;
When you are out, I'll ev'ry quarter scrape,
Then try if water from it can escape;
I'll warrant it to be as good as nice,
And nothing can be better worth the price.
OUT came the lover; in the husband went;
Scraped here and there, and tried if any vent;
With candle in his hand looked round and round,
Not dreaming once that LOVE without was found.
But nothing he could see of what was done;
And while the cooper sought to overrun
The various parts, and by the tub was hid,
The gods already noticed thither slid;
A job was by the deities proposed,
That highly pleased the couple when disclosed;
A very diff'rent work from what within
The husband had, who scraped with horrid din,
And rubbed, and scrubbed, and beat so very well,
Fresh courage took our gay gallant and belle;
They now resumed the thread so sadly lost,
When, by the cooper's coming, all was crossed.
THE reader won't require to know the rest;
What passed perhaps may easily be guessed.
'Tis quite enough, my thesis I have proved;
The artful trick our pair with raptures moved.
Nor one nor t'other was a 'prentice new;
A lover be:--and wiles you'll soon pursue.

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