THE MERCHANT
Day 1, Tale #7 of Giambattista Basile’s “Il Pentamerone”
retold in narrative verse by Laura J. Bobrow



A merchant had two sons and so alike in looks were they,
when seen together which was which was difficult to say.
The eldest boy, Cienzo, and Meo, the younger son
one day were throwing stones, a game they often played for fun,

when Cienzo, by mistake, threw way too hard and broke the head
of the King of Naple’s boy.  “Your life is through,” his father said.
“The king will have his vengeance.  He will surely make you pay.
To escape his wrath you’ll have to leave our home this very day.

In my stable are two horses.  They’re enchanted, as you know.
Take one, and an enchanted dog along with you.  Now go!”
Reluctantly Cienzo, shedding many, many tears,
rode off.  He knew he would not see his home again for years.

The first night he sought shelter in a wood where stood a tower.
The owner would not open, fearing thieves at that late hour,
so Cienzo laid on straw in an abandoned barn next door.
At midnight came the sound of footsteps shuffling on the floor.

He took his sword and flailed about.  He only hit the air.
But something grabbed his shoe which proved that somebody was there.
“Come show yourself!” Cienzo called.  “I’m not afraid of you.”
“We’re in the cellar.  Come downstairs if what you say is true.”