Home  »  library  »  poem  »  The Lady’s Lap-Dog

C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Lady’s Lap-Dog

By Giuseppe Parini (1729–1799)

From ‘The Day,’ from ‘Modern Italian Poets’ by William Dean Howells

SHE recalls the day—

Alas, the cruel day!—what time her lap-dog,

Her beauteous lap-dog, darling of the Graces,

Sporting in youthful gayety, impressed

The light mark of her ivory tooth upon

The rude foot of a menial; he, with bold

And sacrilegious toe, flung her away.

Over and over thrice she rolled, and thrice

Rumpled her silken coat, and thrice inhaled

With tender nostril the thick, choking dust.

Then raised imploring cries, and “Help, help, help!”

She seemed to call, while from the gilded vaults

Compassionate Echo answered her again,

And from their cloistral basements in dismay

The servants rushed, and from the upper rooms

The pallid maidens trembling flew: all came.

Thy lady’s face was with reviving essence

Sprinkled, and she awakened from her swoon.

Anger and grief convulsed her still; she cast

A lightning glance upon the guilty menial,

And thrice with languid voice she called her pet,

Who rushed to her embrace and seemed to invoke

Vengeance with her shrill tenor. And revenge

Thou hadst, fair poodle, darling of the Graces.

The guilty menial trembled, and with eyes

Downcast received his doom. Naught him availed

His twenty years’ desert; naught him availed

His zeal in secret services; for him

In vain were prayer and promise: forth he went,

Spoiled of the livery that till now had made him

Enviable with the vulgar. And in vain

He hoped another lord: the tender dames

Were horror-struck at his atrocious crime,

And loathed the author. The false wretch succumbed

With all his squalid brood, and in the streets,

With his lean wife in tatters at his side,

Vainly lamented to the passer-by.