Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE WIFE'S REVENGE, by                    
First Line: Once on a time' there flourished in madrid
Last Line: Without remembering to invite his wife!


"ONCE on a time" there flourished in Madrid
A painter, clever, and the pet of Fame,
Don Jose, -- but the rest were better hid;
So please accept the simple Christian name,
Only, to keep my verse from being prosy,
Pray mind your Spanish, and pronounce it, Hozy.


Don Jose, -- who, it seems, had lately won
Much praise and cash, -- to crown a lucky week,
Resolved for once to have a little fun,
To ease him of his easel, -- so to speak;
And so, in honor of his limning labors,
He gave a party to his artist-neighbors.


A strange affair; for not a woman came
To grace the table; e'en the painter's spouse,
Donna Casilda, a most worthy dame,
Was, rather roughly, told to quit the house,
And go and gossip, for the evening, down
Among her cousins in the lower town.


The lady went; but presently came back,
For mirth or mischief, with a jolly cousin,
And sought a closet, where an ample crack
Revealed the revelers, sitting by the dozen,
Discussing wine and -- Art? -- No, "women folks!"
In senseless satire and indecent jokes.


"Women?" said Jose, "what do women know
Of poetry or painting?" ("Hear him talk!"
Whispered the list'ners.) "When did woman show
A ray of genius in the higher walk
Of either? No; to them the gods impart
Arts, -- quite enough, -- but deuce a bit of Art!"


("Wretch!" cried the ladies.) "Yes," said Jose, "take
Away from women love-intrigues and all
The cheap disguises they are wont to make
To hide their spots, -- they'd sing extremely small!"
("Fool!" said his spouse, "we'll settle, by and by,
Who sings the smallest, villain, -- you or I!")


To make the matter worse, the jovial guests
Were duly mindful not to be exceeded
In coarse allusions and unsavory jests,
But -- following Jose -- talked, of course, as he did;
I've been, myself, to many a bachelorparty,
And found them, mainly, less refined than hearty.


The party over, full of inward ire,
Casilda plotted, silently and long,
Some fitting vengeance. Women seldom tire
In their resentments, whether right or wrong:
In classic authors we are often warned
There's nought so savage as a woman scorned."


Besides, Casilda, be it known, had much
Of what the French applaud -- and not amiss --
As savoir-faire (I do not know the Dutch);
The literal Germans call it Mutterwiss,
The Yankees gumption, and the Grecians nous, --
A useful thing to have about the house.


At length the lady hit upon a plan
Worthy of Hermes for its deep disguise;
She got a carpenter, -- a trusty man, --
To make a door, and of a certain size,
With curious carvings and heraldic bands,
And bade him wait her ladyship's commands.


Then falling sick, -- as gentle ladies know
The ready art, unless romances lie, --
She groaned aloud, and bade Don Jose go
And quickly, too, -- or she should surely die, --
And fetch her nurse, -- a woman who abode
Some three miles distant by the near est road.


With many a frown and many a bitter curse
He heard the summons. 'T was a pretty hour,
He said, to go a-gadding for a nurse!
At twelve at night! -- and in a drenching shower!
He'd never go, -- unless the devil sent, --
And then Don Jose took his hat and went!


A long, long hour he paced the dirty street
Where dwelt the nurse, but could n't find the place;
For he had lost the number; and his feet,
Though clad in leather, made a bootless chase;
He fain had questioned some one; all in vain, --
The very thieves were fearful of the rain!


Returning homeward from his weary tramp,
He reached his house, -- or where his house should be;
When, by the glimmer of the entrylamp,
Don Jose saw -- and marveled much to see --
An ancient, strange, and most fantastic door,
The like whereof he'd never seen before!


"Now, by Our Lady! this is mighty queer!"
Cried Jose, staring at the graven wood,
"I know my dwelling stands exactly here;
At least, I'm certain here is where it stood
Two hours ago, when (here he gave a curse)
Donna Casilda sent me for the nurse.


"I know the houses upon either side;
There stands the dwelling of the undertaker;
Here my good friend Morena lived and died;
And here's the shop of old Trappal, the baker;
And yet, as sure as iron is n't brass,
'T is not my door, or I'm a precious ass!


"However, I will knock"; and so he did,
And called, "Casilda!" loud enough to rouse
The very dullest watchman in Madrid;
But woke, instead, the porter of the house,
Who rudely asked him, where he got his beer?
And bade him, "Go! -- there's no Casilda here!"


Don Jose crossed himself in dire dismay,
Lest he had lost his reason, or his sight;
At least 't was certain he had lost his way;
And, hoping sleep might set the matter right,
He sought and found the dwelling of a friend
Who lived in town, -- quite at the other end.


Next morning Jose, rising with the sun,
Returned, once more, to seek the missing house;
And there it stood, as it had always done,
And there stood also his indignant spouse
With half her city cousins at her back,
Waiting to put poor Jose on the rack.


"A charming husband, you!" the dame began,
"To leave your spouse in peril of her life,
For tavern revelers! You're a pretty man,
Thus to desert your lawful, wedded wife,
And spend your nights -- O villain! -- don't explain,
I'll be revenged if there is law in Spain!"


"Nay, Madam, hear me! -- just a single word" --
And then he told her of his fruitless search
To find the beldam; and of what occurred, --
How his own house had left him in the lurch!
Here such a stream of scorn came pouring in,
Don Jose's voice was smothered in the din.


"Nay," said Casilda, "that will never do;
Your own confession plainly puts you down!
Say you were tipsy (it were nothing new),
And spent the night carousing through the town
With other topers; that may be received;
But, faith! your tale will never be believed!"


Crazed with the clamor of the noisy crew
All singing chorus to the injured dame,
Say, what the deuce could poor Don Jose do? --
He prayed for pardon, and confessed his shame;
And gave no dinners, in his future life,
Without remembering to invite his wife!

Discover our Poem Explanations and Poet Analyses!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net