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The Way of a Virgin/Take Time by the Forelock


Of a young wife who was made a fool of by her old husband.

A native of Florence, already old, espoused a young maid, whom the matrons had instructed to resist the first of her husband on the wedding night, and to yield herself as reluctanly as possible. She refused, therefore, point-blank, to accede to his desires.

The husband, 'decks cleared for action and with all sail furled,' was astonished by this refusal, and asked why she would not give way to his wishes. The virgin replied that she had a pain in her head; whereupon the husband 'disarmed,' lay down on his side, and slept till morn.

The young wife, when she perceived that her husband left her alone, felt remorse in that she had followed the counsels of the gossips; she aroused her husband, and told him that she no longer had a pain in the head.

"Ah!" quoth the husband. "I, now, have a another part."[2] And he left his wife virgin as before.

'Tis a good plan, therefore, to accept what may be profitable and pleasant when 'tis offered.


Quoting from Mérard de Saint-Just, (Sspiègleries Joyeusetés), Poggio's translator gives a variant in verse of the foregoing story. We reproduce it in less ambitious English prose:—

"Pierre the Red, wrapped in his bed-clothes, felt himself stimulated by the burning flame of the god of love, and he invited his wife to come straightway to his arms. It chanced that she was praying, and she made reply: 'Wait a while.' And whilst her Paters and her Agnus' and her Aves were accomplished, Pierre's ardour had had time to grow cold. She entered the bed, but the chilled husband maintained his pretence. She drew near him; he did not budge. 'Beloved, what dost wish? I have said my prayers.'—'Good,' quoth Pierre the Red. 'But I have grown soft.'"

  1. Les Faceties de Pogge (Poggio) Florentin: Translated by Pierre des Brandes: Paris: Garnier Fréres, n.d. The English rendering is, of course, our own.
  2. "The text has a play upon words," says the translator "which could be translated if the French words had the same meaning as the Latin:—Dixit (puella) se non amplius dolere caput. Turn ille: 'At ego nunc doleo caudam.' (The girl said that she no longer had a pain in the head. Said the husband: 'But I have a pain in my tail.')" This note, we must confess, is a source of some mystification to us, since the relationship between the French and Latin words is both simple and direct. Cauda, of course, is the Latin word for tail: in the erotic sense it designates the penis. (C.f. Blondeau: Dictionaire érotique de la langue française: Liseux: Paris, 1885.) The Italians use the word coda in a similar sense. Tail, in French, is queue; in erotic literature it is also a highly common term for the membrum virile. (C.f. Landes: Glossaire érotique de la langue française, and Farmer: Slang and its Analogues.) Again, in English, tail is a slang synonym either for the penis or the female pudendum. C.f. Farmer: Slang and its Aanalogue, who gives numerous examples of the use of the word in this sense. We append a few of his quotations: (1) Chaucer, Cant. Tales, 1047-8: "For al so siker as cold engendreth hayl, A likerous mouth must han a likerous TLYL." (2) Rochester, Poems: "Then pulling out the rector of the females, Nine times he hath'd him in their piping tails." (3) Motteux, Rabelais, V., xxi.: "They were pulling and hauling the man like mad, telling him that it is the most grievious...thing in nature for the TAIL to be on fire. ..."