Quixotic Mademoiselle La Maupin- Famous Women (Poem)

My father trained court pages

I learnt dancing, reading, drawing, fencing

With them

Dressed like them too

Beat them all at fencing

When I was fourteen

I became the Count d’Armaganac’s mistress

He married me to Sieur de Maupin

My husband was in the south of France

I was with the count in Paris

My love was fencing master Serannes

We ran away to Marseille

We got by with fencing exhibitions

Singing in taverns

I dressed as a man

But it was clear I was a woman

In Marseille I joined an opera company

When I wearied of my lover

A young woman took my fancy

Her parents put her in a convent

I followed her there

Stole the body of a dead nun

Put it in my lover’s bed

Set the room on fire

So that we could escape undetected.

We lasted three months

I was charged

As a man

With kidnapping, body snatching, arson

To escape death by fire

I left for Paris

Dressed as a man, naturally.

On my way there

A young nobleman insulted me

We fought a duel

I drove my blade through his shoulder

Like a good duellist

I asked about his health on the morrow

I learnt he was a duke’s son

He sent a friend to apologize

We became lovers

Then better still, lifelong friends.

I continued to Paris

Paused to pick up a new love

A fellow opera singer

What’s the point of friends in high places

If they can’t help you

I asked the Count to help

Remove the charge on my head

He got the King to pardon me

So that I could sing with the opera.

Famous Women

The audience loved my voice, acting, man dress

I doffed my helmet at my debut

Letting my long blond hair down

The audience clapped even harder

Offstage, I beat a singer who dared eve tease

The women in our troupe

I went as a man to a court ball

Kissed a woman three noblemen were courting

They all challenged me to fight

I defeated all three in fencing duels

Since duelling was illegal

I was on the run again

In Brussels, doing a suicide scene

I stabbed myself with a dagger

Intentionally

I was the Elector of Bavaria’s mistress

He was not man enough for me

Offered me 40,000 francs to leave

I did

But I left the money too.

Back to Paris for another pardon

I bit my lover Thevenard’s ear in a fight

Namby pamby soprano roles didn’t suit me

A contralto, I was best as a

Goddess or a strong woman who fought.

Fell in love with a soprano though

Tried to commit suicide when she cold shouldered me

Lived for two years with one of France’s greatest beauties

When fever took her, my heart broke

I retired from the stage.

“I was made for perils as well as for

Tenderness.”

Here’s the previous poem in my Famous Women series.

Read more about the flamboyant Mademoiselle La Maupin here.


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