The Fables of Florian (tr. Phelps)/The Monkey with the Magic Lantern
THE MONKEY WITH A MAGIC LANTERN
All gentlemen who verses write,
In style magnificent and grand,
But who can ne'er a line indite,
Which common folks may understand,
Please listen to the tale I tell,
And on its meaning ponder well.
A man whose business 'twas to show
A magic lantern round,
Had a fine monkey, hight Jacqueau,
The nicest trickster ever found.
He could dance, and leap, and spring;
Was great at tight-rope balancing;
A thousand tricks this Jacqueau knew,
Which custom to his master drew.
One day his master went away,
To celebrate some holiday,
And left him at the inn to stay.
There entered then this monkey's head,
The strangest fancy ever bred:
For what does he but straightway go,
To cats and dogs,
To hens and hogs,
To geese and ducks,
To come and see the magic show.
"Walk in, Messieurs; I nothing ask;
Believe me, 'tis a pleasing task!"
They take their seats; the lantern's brought;
He makes a speech most highly wrought,
Which—as we say in modern lore—
Was welcom'd with a perfect roar.
Encouraged by the warm applause,
The window shutters then he draws,
Into the lantern puts a screen
As he had oft his master seen—
"Here you may see," said he, "the sun,
His pristine glory just begun;
And presently the moon you'll see,
And the first pair's felicity,
Adam and Eve, and all our race—
Behold what beauty! and what grace!
Was ever anything so fine?
And here you'll see a sight divine."
But how could they behold the sight,
Where all was close and dark as night?
However much their eyes they strain,
And strive to see, they strive in vain.
"My faith!" th' impatient cat exclaim'd,
"Of all the wonders he has nam'd—
Of all the sights he's dwelt upon,
I have not seen a single one."
"Neither have I," the dog replied;
"I've not a single thing descried."
The turkey something saw, he thought,
But could not tell exactly what.
Yet little this concern'd Jacqueau,
Who rattled on like Cicero.
His style was good and masterly;
His language choice, and diction free;
But one thing he'd forgotten quite—
Although he work'd his lantern right,
He had not put therein a light!