To Promise Is One Thing To Keep It, Another

by Jean de La Fontaine

JOHN courts Perrette; but all in vain;
Love's sweetest oaths, and tears, and sighs
All potent spells her heart to gain
The ardent lover vainly tries:
Fruitless his arts to make her waver,
She will not grant the smallest favour:
A ruse our youth resolved to try
The cruel air to mollify:--
Holding his fingers ten outspread
To Perrette's gaze, and with no dread
"So often," said he, "can I prove,
"My sweet Perrette, how warm my love."
When lover's last avowals fail
To melt the maiden's coy suspicions
A lover's sign will oft prevail
To win the way to soft concessions:
Half won she takes the tempting bait;
Smiles on him, draws her lover nearer,
With heart no longer obdurate
She teaches him no more to fear her-
A pinch,--a kiss,--a kindling eye,--
Her melting glances,--nothing said.--
John ceases not his suit to ply
Till his first finger's debt is paid.
A second, third and fourth he gains,
Takes breath, and e'en a fifth maintains.
But who could long such contest wage?
Not I, although of fitting age,
Nor John himself, for here he stopped,
And further effort sudden dropped.
Perrette, whose appetite increased
just as her lover's vigour ceased,
In her fond reckoning defeated,
Considered she was greatly cheated--
If duty, well discharged, such blame
Deserve; for many a highborn dame
Would be content with such deceit.
But Perrette, as already told,
Out of her count, began to scold
And call poor John an arrant cheat
For promising and not performing.
John calmly listened to her storming,
And well content with work well done,
Thinking his laurels fairly won,
Cooly replied, on taking leave:
"No cause I see to fume and grieve;
"Or for such trifle to dispute;
"To promise and to execute
"Are not the same, be it confessed,
"Suffice it to have done one's best;
"With time I'll yet discharge what's due;
"Meanwhile, my sweet Perrette, adieu!"

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