Day 1, Tale 4
retold in rhyme by Laura J. Bobrow
There lived a widow, poor in goods but rich in common sense.
The folk for miles around knew of her sweet benevolence.
She had one son, Vardiello, who, unfortunately so,
was the greatest sort of simpleton you’d ever want to know.
Vardiello, son, I’m off to town on these old bandy legs.
Now you stay home and mind the hen. She has a clutch of eggs.
We’ll have a bit of money once the little chicks are sold.
But see that she stays on the nest. The eggs must not grow cold.
And one thing more, take warning, in the cupboard there’s a pot.
Inside are poisoned walnuts. You will die, so touch them not!
In truth it was but pickled nuts the little pot contained,
but she feared that he would eat them until not a nut remained.
No sooner had she left than Vardiello saw the hen
run from the house. He tried and tried to shoo her back again.
He stamped his feet and shouted. And when nothing worked, instead
he threw a brick at her. And, oh! It struck and killed her dead.
The eggs must not get cold, Vardiello muttered to himself.
He rushed into the hen house where he climbed up on the shelf.
He sat himself down awkwardly upon the little nest.
But when he felt the gooey wet ... Ah well. You know the rest.
Vardiello was in trouble. Trouble made him think of food.
I’d best go eat the hen, he said. She will not have a brood.
He plucked her, then he cooked her, and he laid her on a plate
and was about to eat her when he thought of something. Wait.
He went into the cellar where he opened up a tap
to pour himself a glass of beer. But then he heard, Yap-yap!
He rushed upstairs in time to see the dog had grabbed the hen.
He chased the dog, retrieved the bird, and brought it back again.
By now beer from the open tap had poured out on the floor.
He tried to sop it up with flour. The mess grew even more.
He feared to face his mother when she found out what he’d done,
so he took that pot of poisoned nuts and ate them, every one.
He hid inside the oven and he waited there to die.
He heard his mother’s footsteps and he heard her shriek, Oh, my!
The hen, the mess, the walnuts, and Vardiello not in sight....
Where are you son? she sighed. Come out. You’re going to be all right.
It wasn’t really poison. But the hen and chicks are dead.
You meant no harm, but now we’ll have to sell this cloth instead.
Take it to town. Get what you can. Be careful what you do
or folk who use too many words will get the best of you.
I know what I’m about, Vardiello said, and I’ll do well.
He went into the town and cried, I have some cloth to sell.
But whenever someone asked, How much? or even, Let me see.
Vardiello said, Too many words. You’re not the man for me.
When soon his legs grew tired, he found a bench to occupy
in the courtyard of an empty house. A statue stood nearby.
Good day, my friend, he said. This is a mansion. Who lives here?
The statue did not answer. You’re a silent man, it’s clear.
In fact, Vardiello said, you’re just the man to fit the bill.
Would you like to buy my cloth? And you may pay me what you will.
I’ll leave it here. Examine it. Tomorrow I’ll return.
No need to rush. I trust you and you need have no concern.
This time his mother scolded him. You’ve lost the cloth, I fear.
But wait a while, Vardiello said. Tomorrow’s not yet here.
He ran back to the statue just as soon as it was light.
The statue still was silent. And the cloth was not in sight.
No money? asked Vardiello. Would you cheat a poor man so?
Give me my money now. He shook the statue to and fro.
He shook so hard the head fell off. And there, lo and behold,
inside the statue was a pot completely filled with gold.
He rushed right home. Just look! he cried. We’ve lots of money now.
His mother was amazed. She wished to keep the gold, but how?
Someone would surely claim it if the town folk found it out,
and her son would soon reveal it all. Of that she had no doubt.
Vardiello, said his mother, sit outside, there, by the door.
When the milkman passes by, we’ll buy some cream which you adore.
He took his seat. And she, that clever woman, quickly fled
to thrust a window open just above Vardiello’s head.
She threw down figs and raisins. Bring some bowls! Vardiello cried.
It’s raining figs and raisins. Quickly mother! Come outside!
They picked up all the fruit. His mother said, Vardiello, dear,
I think that you should go to town to hear what you can hear.
In the square a judge was holding court. A crowd had grown.
Two men had found a piece of gold. Each claimed it for his own.
Vardiello spoke right up. What fools to argue over one!
I found a pot of gold or I am not my mother’s son.
Indeed, inquired the judge, you say you found a gold-filled pot?
That’s a marvelous occurrence, young Vardiello, is it not?
The crowd had gathered near.They punched each other as he spoke.
They knew Vardiello well.They were prepared to have a joke.
Tell us when and where you found it. It was earlier today,
in a dumb man, at a palace. Whose it was he would not say,
but it made my mother happy. Then it started raining fruit.
Well then, of course you did, Vardiello. Those are facts we can’t dispute.
Now everyone was laughing. They guffawed and slapped their knees.
The judge was smiling too, but he said, People. Silence, please.
Vardiello is a simpleton. He can’t help telling lies.
But I have told the truth, Vardiello said. Tears filled his eyes.
He ran home to his mother. Mother, I don’t understand!
His mother stroked his head. It was exactly as she’d planned.
A clever woman knows her child. And I am pleased to tell
they got to keep the gold. And after that they lived quite well.
Copyright © 2019 Laura J. Bobrow. All rights reserved