So, the three Court-ladies began
Their trial of who judged best
In esteeming the love of a man:
Who preferred with most reason was thereby confessed
Boy-Cupid's exemplary catcher and cager;
An Abbé crossed legs to decide on the wager.
First the Duchess: "Mine for me--
Who were it but God's for Him,
And the King's for--who but he?
Both faithful and loyal, one grace more shall brim
His cup with perfection: a lady's true lover,
He holds--save his God and his king--none above her."
"I require"--outspoke the Marquise--
"Pure thoughts, ay, but also fine deeds:
Play the paladin must he, to please
My whim, and--to prove my knight's service exceeds
Your saint's and your loyalist's praying and kneeling--
Show wounds, each wide mouth to my mercy appealing."
Then the Comtesse: "My choice be a wretch,
Mere losel in body and soul,
Thrice accurst! What care I, so he stretch
Arms to me his sole saviour, love's ultimate goal,
Out of earth and men's noise--names of 'infidel,' 'traitor,'
Cast up at him? Crown me, crown's adjudicator!"
And the Abbé uncrossed his legs,
Took snuff, a reflective pinch,
Broke silence: "The question begs
Much pondering ere I pronounce. Shall I flinch?
The love which to one and one only has reference
Seems terribly like what perhaps gains God's preference."