THE LITTLE SLAVE GIRL
Day 2, Tale # 8 of Giambattista Basile’s
retold in narrative verse by Laura J. Bobrow
A baron had a maiden sister, Lilla was her name.
She played with friends among the gardens. Once they played a game.
Whoever jumped a rosebush without touching it at all
would win a prize. When Lilla jumped she made one petal fall.
She picked it up and swallowed it before the rest had seen
and so she won the prize, and for that day they called her “queen.”
But another prize she won was this: She soon was big with child.
She wondered, “How?” Some fairy friends with whom she often wiled
away her lonely hours said, “Posh. The petal is the cause.
We’ll see that she’s endowed with all the best of nature’s laws.
Just bring her to us when she’s born.” In secret Lilla bore
a lovely daughter, Lisa. When she brought the girl before
her friends, the fairies, all of them came rushing in to see.
They gave her grace and full as many favors as there be.
But one of them was late and in her running tripped and fell.
She cursed the pain and put upon the baby’s head a spell.
“When Lisa is but seven while her mother combs her hair,
a comb will be forgotten and remain embedded there.
The child will die.” It happened. Seven caskets made of glass
were made and in the seventh Lilla put her lovely lass.