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Pentamerone Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five

                                            THE MERCHANT
                                                      Day 1, Tale 7
                                      retold in rhyme 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.

Cienzo found the staircase and descended in the gloom.
There sat three ugly ogres in the middle of the room.
To his surprise he found that they were crying bitter tears.
Our lovely treasure. Now we lose it after all these years.

Because you’re brave the treasure now belongs to you instead.
Then they vanished into smoke before Cienzo turned his head.
He couldn’t find the stairs, so he began to call and shout.
At dawn the tower owner heard and came to let him out.

The rays of sun revealed a treasure lying on a board.
Take all you want, the owner said. It’s yours as a reward.
But Cienzo wanted none of it. He whistled for his horse
and he and his enchanted dog continued on their course.

They came to still another wood. This one was deep and dark.
A gang of youths were threatening a fairy for a lark.
They would have had her honor. Seeing what would soon befall,
Cienzo took his sword and in a thrice he killed them all.

You’ve rescued me! For thanks, she said, I’ll lead you to my glen
where you may have your will of me. Cienzo smiled. But then,
I’ve many miles to go, he said. Perhaps another day.
And he and his enchanted dog continued on their way.

He next came to a palace which was draped in cloth of black.
The courtiers were weeping. Why? he asked. Alas, alack,
our land has been invaded by a dragon fierce and wild
and every day, as sacrifice, he gobbles down a child.

His seven heads are hideous. Brave men are stunned with fright.
And the king’s own daughter, Menechella, goes to him tonight.
As they spoke the lovely girl approached, as to her grave.
At sight of her the loathsome beast erupted from his cave.

Cienzo swung his blade and one head rolled upon the ground.
The dragon stooped and picked a certain herb that he had found.
He rubbed it on his neck. It had the quality of glue.
He stuck his head back on again. It was as good as new.

Cienzo clenched his teeth and this time swung so huge a blow
that seven heads went toppling off and lay there in a row.
He ripped the tongues from each of them and put them in his pack.
Then he hurled the heads away. The dragon couldn’t get them back.

You may go home to Daddy, Cienzo told her with a grin.
He picked a handful of the herb and rode off to an inn.
The king was filled with joy. I do not know who saved her life,
but whoever did, proclaimed the king, may have her for his wife!

A peasant gathered up the heads and took them to the king.
Here is the proof that it was I who did the valiant thing.
The king took off his crown and put it on the peasant’s head
and arrangements were begun that day to have the princess wed.

The news was quickly spread and soon it reached Cienzo’s ears.
He said, I’ve been a fool, and now I’m swindled, it appears.
I lost a fortune, and I lost a fairy favor, too.
But to lose the princess Menechella? No, that will not do.

He sat right down and penned a note. To she whose life was spared,
most precious princess, don’t be fooled. I was the one who dared
to face the fearsome dragon. Tell the king what I have said.
I kiss your tender hand. He signed and sealed it with some bread.

He told the dog, who was enchanted and could understand,
Take this letter to the princess. Put it only in her hand.
The dog approached the castle, and evading all who tried
to take it from her, gave the note to the unwilling bride

who showed it to her father. Who is he, do you suppose?
We’ll send two men to track the dog and see which way she goes.
The dog then led them to the inn. Cienzo was found out
and had to stand before the king. Young man, I have my doubt

that you have done as you pretend. The heads are here as proof.
But open up their mouths. You’ll see that underneath each roof
the tongue is missing. See, my lord, I’ve brought them here with me.
Then jail the peasant, cried the king, for such duplicity!

No. Pardon him, Cienzo said. His crime was not that great.
But I will wear the crown with Menechella as my mate.
The feasts were held. The marriage bed was duly occupied.
But as he dressed next day Cienzo chanced to glance outside.

A beautiful young lady could be seen across the way.
Who is that striking creature?   One day wed and you would stray?
Do not go near her! cried his wife. Remember, you’re my spouse.
But with lowered head Cienzo slipped into the other’s house.

She truly was delectable. Cienzo did but stare
when this artful witch, for such she was, entwined him in her hair,
and, thus entrapped, he was her slave. Now, Meo all this while
was concerned about his brother, and he told the merchant, I’ll

go forth and seek him.   Very well, his father said, I, too
am worried. Take that other horse and dog along with you.
When Meo reached the barn, the owner showered him with praise,
and tried to give him money Meo knew his brother’s ways

and would not take the offer. He was pleased enough to know
that Cienzo had been here. And now he knew which way to go.
Next he met up with the fairy who at once was warm and kind
and who would have kept him with her. Love was not on Meo’s mind.

Perhaps when I return, he said, and rode off to the west.
When he rode up to the palace he was welcomed not as guest,
but as Menechella’s husband. Why were you so long away?
Come to bed, my dear. Poor Meo could do nothing but obey,

but not to touch Cienzo’s bride, he so arranged the sheet
that instead of one bed there were two, and those two head to feet.
Menechella first objected. Doctor’s orders. Meo said,
and persuaded her that he was tired, and so they went to bed. 

In the morning Meo saw the flirt. He asked, Who can she be?
Again? she said. So that is why you would not sleep with me.
That is not true, said Meo. Then he muttered, I suspect
that I will find Cienzo there, if my guess is correct.

 He left the palace eagerly and knocked and went inside.
 At once the witch said to her hair, Be quick and get him tied.
 But before it could, he told the dog, Go fetch for me that bone.
 The dog gulped down the witch. Cienzo stood there like a stone,

 but Meo placed two dog hairs on his brother’s head and then
 Cienzo seemed to wake from sleep and was himself again.
 How did it happen you came here in time to save my life?
 I found it out, his brother said, by sleeping with your wife.

 Before he could explain about the sheets, Cienzo cried,
 You treacherous rogue! and struck off Meo’s head, and so he died.
 The king and Menechella heard the noise and rushed within.
 They found Cienzo, sword in hand, and near him lay his twin.

 Cienzo, are you mad? You’ve killed your brother. Tell us why!
 For sleeping with my wife, Cienzo said, he had to die. 
 You are wrong, said Menechella, and she told about the bed.
 Alas, you foolish man, you used your sword before your head!

 Cienzo knelt and sobbed. My life is now a total wreck!
 Then he thought about the herb. He rubbed some on his brother’s neck.
 It worked. His head stuck back again, Meo stood tall and true.
 Cienzo’s tears were now of joy. Could I have doubted you?

 Some demon made me strike you. Pray, take me in your embrace.
 Come with me to the palace where you’ll have an honored place.
 The boys sent for the merchant. He was welcomed by the king.
 and there they lived so happily that every day was Spring.

Copyright © 2019 Laura J. Bobrow. All rights reserved.