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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.


II. Unacknowledged and Uncollected Translations. Praise of Little Women

By Juan Ruiz de Hita

I WISH to make my sermon brief,—to shorten my oration,—

For a never-ending sermon is my utter detestation:

I like short women,—suits at law without procrastination,—

And am always most delighted with things of short duration.

A babbler is a laughing-stock; he’s a fool who’s always grinning;

But little women love so much, one falls in love with sinning.

There are women who are very tall, and yet not worth the winning,

And in the change of short for long repentance finds beginning.

To praise the little women Love besought me in my musing;

To tell their noble qualities is quite beyond refusing:

So I’ll praise the little women, and you ’ll find the thing amusing:

They are, I know, as cold as snow, whilst flames around diffusing.

They ’re cold without, whilst warm within the flame of Love is raging;

They ’re gay and pleasant in the street,—soft, cheerful, and engaging;

They ’re thrifty and discreet at home,—the cares of life assuaging:

All this and more;—try, and you ’ll find how true is my presaging.

In a little precious stone what splendor meets the eyes!

In a little lump of sugar how much of sweetness lies!

So in a little woman love grows and multiplies:

You recollect the proverb says,—A word unto the wise.

A pepper-corn is very small, but seasons every dinner

More than all other condiments, although ’t is sprinkled thinner:

Just so a little woman is, if Love will let you win her,—

There ’s not a joy in all the world you will not find within her.

And as within the little rose you find the richest dyes,

And in a little grain of gold much price and value lies,

As from a little balsam much odor doth arise,

So in a little woman there ’s a taste of paradise.

Even as the little ruby its secret worth betrays,

Color, and price, and virtue, in the clearness of its rays,—

Just so a little woman much excellence displays,

Beauty, and grace, and love, and fidelity always.

The skylark and the nightingale, though small and light of wing,

Yet warble sweeter in the grove than all the birds that sing:

And so a little woman, though a very little thing,

Is sweeter far than sugar, and flowers that bloom in spring.

The magpie and the golden thrush have many a thrilling note,

Each as a gay musician doth strain his little throat,—

A merry little songster in his green and yellow coat:

And such a little woman is, when Love doth make her dote.

There ’s naught can be compared to her, throughout the wide creation;

She is a paradise on earth,—our greatest consolation,—

So cheerful, gay, and happy, so free from all vexation:

In fine, she ’s better in the proof than in anticipation.

If as her size increases are woman’s charms decreased,

Then surely it is good to be from all the great released.

Now of two evils choose the less,—said a wise man of the East:

By consequence, of womankind be sure to choose the least.