THE SERPENT
Day 2, Tale # 5 of Giambattista Basile’s “Il Pentamerone”
retold in narrative verse by Laura J. Bobrow



A country couple did not have a child.  They wished they could.
“Our time will come,” the husband soothed, and went to gather wood.
A little serpent coiled within the branches that he brought.
“Just look.  The snakes have babies.  Why can’t we?”  the woman thought.

“I see you have no son,” the snake spoke up.  “Perhaps I’ll do.
Don’t be afraid.  You’ll find there’s love and fortune here for you.”
The woman said, “All rightl!”  She made a cozy little nest
in a corner of the house and there they fed him on the best.

He reached his full size rapidly.  “It’s time,” the serpent said,
“for me to marry.”  “Fine.  We’ll find a snake for you to wed,”
his folks agreed.  “A snake?  Oh no!  Whatever’s wrong with you? 
I want the king’s own daughter.  No one else but she will do.

Go to the king this very day and ask him for her hand,
and tell him it’s a serpent who pays suit, you understand.”
The countryman went to the king.  “A message, sire,” he sighed.
“My son, a snake, declares he wants your daughter for his bride.”

The king first laughed, and then he roared, “Your snake son must be told
he’ll have her when he turns the palace gardens into gold.”
The snake said, “Father, gather all the pits that can be found.
Tomorrow in the gardens strew the pits along the ground.”