Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MADAME TALLEYRAND AND THE TRAVELLER, by HORACE SMITH

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MADAME TALLEYRAND AND THE TRAVELLER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The famous talleyrand, who knew
Last Line: Robinson crusoe by mistake!
Alternate Author Name(s): Smith, Horatio
Subject(s): Napoleon Iii (1808-1873); Revolutions; Robinson Crusoe

THE famous Talleyrand, who knew
The secret of avoiding execution,
And kept his head upon his shoulders, through
All the convulsions of the Revolution,
When heads were cropped by the prevailing powers,
Like cauliflowers,
Till they themselves endured the keen
Infliction of the Guillotine,
And made way for another faction,
To undergo the same reaction: --
This Talleyrand possessed a wife,
Selected in his humbler life --
A rich bourgeois of homely breeding,
Neither bas bleu, nor femme savante,
But rather, as I freely grant,
Deficient in her general reading.

One day -- 'twas when he stood elate,
Napoleon's minister of state --
Having invited to his house
Some literati to confer
With a great foreign traveller,
The husband thus addressed his spouse:
"My dear, at dinner you will meet
A foreigner, a man of note.
These authors like that you should quote
From their own works; therefore, to greet
Our guest, suppose you learn by rote
A sentence here and there, that when
He prates, like other travelled men,
Of his exploits on land and ocean,
You may not be completely gravelled,
But have at least some little notion
Of how, and when, and where he travelled.
Take down his book, you'll find it yonder;
Its dull contents you need not ponder;
Read but the headings of the chapters,
Refer to them with praise and wonder,
And our vain guest will be in raptures."

Madame, resolved to play her part
So as to win the stranger's heart,
Studied the book; but far from dull,
She found it quite delightful; -- full
Of marvellous adventures, fraught
With perilous escapes, which wrought
So deep an interest in her mind,
She really was surprised to find,
As to the dinner-room she tripped,
How rapidly the time had slipped.

The more to flatter and delight her,
When at the board she took her place,
The famous traveller and writer
Was seated by her side; -- the grace
Was hardly said, or soup sent round,
'Ere with a shrug and a grimace,
Eager to show her lore profound,
A la Francaise, she raised her eyes,
And hands, and voice, in ecstacies --
"Eh, Monsieur Robinson, mon Dieu,
Voila un conte merveilleux!
Ah, par exemple! it appals
The mind to think of your attacks
On those terrific cannibals --
Those horrid savages and blacks,
Who, if they once had gained the upper
Hand, had eaten you for supper,
And so prevented your proceeding
With that sweet book I've just been reading.
Mais, quel bonheur! to liberate
Poor FRIDAY from the murderous crew,
And gain in your deserted state,
So lonely and disconsolate
A servant and companion too!"

The visitants were all astounded;
The stranger stared aghast, dumfounded:
Poor Talleyrand blushed red as flame,
Till having catechised the dame,
The mystery was quickly cleared;
The simple woman it appeared,
Instead of the intended book
In which she had been urged to look,
From the same shelf contrived to take
Robinson Crusoe by mistake!

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