Aesthetic Realism Online Library Poetry


The Milkmaid and the Pot of Milk, By Jean de La Fontaine
                                                                Translation by Eli Siegel

Perrette, having a pot of milk on her head,
Well-placed on a little cushion,
Thought how she would come without hindrance to the town.
In a light and short dress, she went with long strides,
Having put on that day, so that she would be more nimble,
A simple petticoat and flat shoes.
Our milkmaid so attired
Counted already in her thought
The price she got for her milk; used the money;
Bought a hundred eggs; had a triple brood of chickens.
Everything went well because of her constant care.
It is, she said, easy for me
To raise chickens about my house.
The fox will be very clever
If he doesn't leave me enough to have a pig.
The porker to become fat won't take much bran;
He was, when I got him, of reasonable weight:
I will have, when I sell him, fine and good money.
And who can stop me from putting in our stable,
Seeing how much money I will have, a cow and her calf,
Whom I will see leap about in the midst of a herd?
Perrette, as she thought this, leaps also, carried away:
The milk falls; goodbye calf, cow, pig, brood of chickens.
The lady-owner of all these good things, leaving with troubled eye
Her fortune so spread out,
Goes to excuse herself to her husband,
With a good chance of getting some blows.
The story was made into a little comedy:
It was called the Pot of Milk.
What mind doesn't wander over meadows?
Who does not build castles in Spain?
Picrochole, Pyrrhus, the milkmaid, everybody,
Wise men as well as fools.
Everybody dreams awake; there is nothing sweeter:
A soothing error carries away our minds,
All the riches of the world are ours,
All the honors, all the women.
When I am alone, I defy the most formidable person,
I travel, I put the Persian King off his throne,
I am elected King, my people love me;
Crowns are raining on my head.
Something happens, and I come back to myself:
I am John Smith as before.

The Milkmaid and the Pot of Milk, By Jean de La Fontaine. 1949. Jean de La Fontaine is a good narrator, as he chooses the taking and musical word. The way he has the milkmaid become a property owner (somewhat like the Landlord in the preceding poem) is some of the charm of the seventeenth century in France. There is soliloquy in the poem, marked by events. The French girl's mind has animals in it: there are useful animals in the girl's mind as she walks. She argues with herself and wins, all within true French poetry. The catastrophe is within true French poetry, likewise.

Aesthetic Realism Online Library Seal

From Hail, American Development (Definition Press)
© 1968 by Eli Siegel

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