The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book III Chapter 33

The next day Ulenspiegel went towards Courtray, going alongside the Lys, the clear river.

Lamme went pitifully along.

Ulenspiegel said to him:

“You whine, cowardly heart, regretting the wife that made you wear the horned crown of cuckoldom.”

“My son,” said Lamme, “she was always faithful, loving me enough as I loved her over well, sweet Jesus. One day, being gone to Bruges, she came back thence changed. From then, when I prayed her of love, she would say to me:

“‘I must live with you as a friend, and not otherwise.’

“Then, sad in my heart:

“‘Beloved darling,’ I would say, ‘we were married before God. Did I not for you everything you ever wished? Did not I many a time clothe myself with a doublet of black linen and a fustian cloak that I might see you clad in silk and brocade despite the royal ordinances? Darling, will you never love me again?’

“‘I love thee,’ she would say, ‘according to God and His laws, according to holy discipline and penance. Yet I shall be a virtuous companion to thee.’

“‘I care naught for thy virtue,’ I replied, ‘’tis thou I want, thou, my wife.’

“Nodding her head:

“‘I know thou art good,’ she said; ‘until to-day thou wast cook in the house to spare me the labour of fricassees; thou didst iron our blankets, ruffs, and shirts, the irons being too heavy for me; thou didst wash our linen, thou didst sweep the house and the street before the door, so as to spare me all fatigue. Now I desire to work instead of you, but nothing more, husband.’

“‘That is all one to me,’ I replied; ‘I will be, as in the past, thy tiring maid, thy laundress, thy cook, thy washwoman, thy slave, thy very own, submissive; but wife, sever not these two hearts and bodies that make but one; break not that soft bond of love that clasped us so tenderly together.’

“‘I must,’ she replied.

“‘Alas!’ I would say, ‘was it at Bruges that thou didst come to this harsh resolve?’

“She replied:

“‘I have sworn before God and His saints.’

“‘Who, then,’ I cried, ‘forced thee to take an oath not to fulfil your duties as a wife?’

“‘He that hath the spirit of God, and ranks me among the number of his penitents,’ said she.

“From that moment she ceased to be mine as much as if she had been the faithful wife of another man. I implored her, tormented her, threatened her, wept, begged, but in vain. One night, coming back from Blanckenberghe, where I had been to receive the rent of one of my farms, I found the house empty. Without doubt fatigued with my entreaties, grieved and sad at my distress, my wife had taken flight. Where is she now?”

And Lamme sat down on the bank of the Lys, hanging his head and looking at the water.

“Ah!” said he, “my dear, how plump, tender, and delicious thou wast! Shall I ever find a lass like thee? Daily bread of love, shall I never eat of thee again? Where are thy kisses, as full of fragrance as thyme; thy delicious mouth whence I gathered pleasure as the bee gathers the honey from the rose; thy white arms that wrapped me round caressing? Where is thy beating heart, thy round bosom, and the sweet shudder of thy fairy body all panting with love? But where are thy old waves, cool river that rollest so joyously thy new waves in the sunshine?”