THE FLEA
Day 1, Tale #5 of Giambattista Basile’s “Il Pentamerone”
retold in narrative verse by Laura J. Bobrow


A king, one day, was bitten by a flea.
He picked it off with great dexterity.
But as he was about to squash it dead,
he saw how strongly built it was.  Instead

he placed it in a jar, quite safe from harm,
and fed it bloody droplets from his arm.
No flea has ever grown so big, so fast.
He sacrificed the lamb-sized thing at last.

He had it skinned and, when the skin was dressed,
sent out the word:  If anybody guessed
what hide this was  he would receive as wife
his daughter, who was in the prime of life

and pretty, too.  Most everybody tried
to win dear Porziella for his bride.
A crocodile?  Some kind of monster cat?
They guessed at this or else they guessed at that

until an ogre, hideous to see,
sniffed at the hide and promptly said, “A flea,
The Lord of Fleas!”  What was a king to do?
A promise made became a promise due.