by: Voltaire (François Marie Arouet, 1694-1778)

      HILLIS, how much the times are changed,
      Since in a hack the town you ranged,
      Since without finery or train you shone,
      Conspicuous for your charms alone;
      When though you supped on sorry fare,
      You nectar seemed with gods to share.
      You foolishly to one consigned
      Beauty which might charm all mankind:
      A desperate lover, who for life
      Engaged you when he made his wife.
      You then no treasure did inherit,
      Your beauty was your only merit,
      Your bosom charms divine displayed;
      There Cupid still an ambush laid;
      Your heart was tender, and your mind
      To youthful frolics much inclined.
      With so many charms endued,
      What woman e'er could be a prude?
      That fault, oh! beauty all divine,
      Was very far from being thine;
      Because of favors you were free,
      You were the better liked by me.
      How differently you live, grown great,
      Your life is but the farce of state;
      The hoary porter, who still plies
      At your own door, and tells such lies,
      Is a just emblem of the age,
      His very looks ill-luck presage;
      He thinks the duty of his place is
      To drive away the loves and graces.
      The tender swain's abashed, afraid
      Your pompous palace to invade.
      When you were young, to my amazement
      I've seen them enter at the casement;
      I've seen them enter every day,
      And in your chamber nimbly play.
      Not all your carpets, and your plate,
      Not all your proud parade of state,
      Those goblets which so brightly shine,
      Graved by Germain with art divine;
      Those closets nobly furnished, where
      Martin's exceeds the China ware,
      Your vases of Japan, and all
      The brittle wonders of your hall;
      Your diamond pendants which appear
      With such bright lustre at each ear;
      Your solitaires so dazzling bright,
      Your pomp which strikes the gazer's sight,
      Are worth one quarter of that bliss,
      Which once you imparted by a kiss.

This English translation by William F. Fleming of 'To a Lady very well Known to the Whole Town' is reprinted from The Works of Voltaire, Volume XXXVI. Trans. William F. Fleming. New York: E.R. DuMONT, 1901.




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