Day 3 Tale 8
retold in rhyme by Laura J. Bobrow
There once lived a man who was rich as the sea,
but his son, Moscione, was trouble, for he
was worthless and idle and dumb-witted too.
His father cried, What will become of you?
Here’s money. Some travel might sharpen your brain.
Moscione at once left his father’s domain.
He first met a man at the foot of a tree.
You look like a strapping young fellow to me.
What do they call you and what is your trade?
If I find that you’re useful your fortune is made.
My name, Sir, is Lightning. I’m faster than fast.
There isn’t a deer that I cannot run past.
I’d like you to prove it. Along came a hart.
Lightning let it run by him to get a head start,
and then, in four leaps, he had left it behind.
Come with me. I will pay you. Let’s see what we find.
They next met a man with his ear to the ground.
Hello, said Moscione, who is this we’ve found?
What do they call you? And what do you hear?
I can hear everything, and my name is Quick-ear.
Can you tell me, good man, what is said at my house?
An old man is speaking. That sluggard, that louse,
I am finally rid of the poor infidel.
All right! You may join us, and I’ll pay you well.
Ten miles further on stood a man with a bow.
Your name and your trade is what we’d like to know.
My name is Shoot-straight. I can splinter a pea.
I can hit any target though small it may be.
If you prove it, you may become one of our flock.
Some distance away sat a pea on a rock.
Shoot-straight loosed an arrow and cut it in two.
You’re skillful.Join us and your penury’s through.
Some masons were working beneath a hot sun.
The heat was so fierce it would kill anyone,
but they labored right on without breaking a sweat.
How do you stay cool? You’ve a secret I bet.
We’re enabled because of that lad standing there.
He blows us the west wind and freshens the air.
Moscione said, Son, will you tell us your name?
What skill do you practice? What’s your claim to fame?
My name is Blow-blast. I can make with my mouth
all the winds that exist from the north to the south.
I will pay you quite well if you prove what you spoke.
Blow-blast blew a breeze, then he blew down an oak
and he joined the companions. The next man they saw
had shoulders so massive they all stared in awe.
What do they call you? And what do you do?
Strong-back is my name, and I’m stronger than you.
I can carry a mountain. It feels like three birds.
I will pay you a fortune if you prove your words.
Whereupon Strong-back picked up a huge load
of boulders and tree trunks and strode down the road.
A thousand strong wagons could not hold the same.
Come join us, they said, You’ve lived up to your name.
They soon reached a castle alongside a spring
and learned of a challenge proclaimed by the king.
His daughter, it seemed, ran as swift as a hare.
Whoever can race her and win, I declare,
can have her for wife. But if not, the king said,
he’ll lose not just glory but also his head.
Moscione said, King, I am eager to race
but I’m not feeling well. Let my friend take my place.
Whoever. I don’t care a fig, said the girl,
be he miser or minstrel or peasant or churl,
I’ve never been beaten and never will be.
I don’t have to worry. He’ll not marry me.
The princess was haughty, but lovely and pert.
She stood next to Lightning and tucked up her skirt.
With a tarantara of the horns they began.
Lightning beat the king’s daughter by more than a span.
The girl was chagrined. She was red in the face.
But just wait, for tomorrow the next heat takes place.
She and her father put magical charms
on a ring. He who wore it could not move his arms
nor have use of his legs. This she sent with a note.
Dear Lightning. Please wear this for love’s sake, she wrote.
When the horns blew once more the crowd was abuzz.
Poor Lightning was numb and he stood where he was.
Shoot-straight, Quick-ear said, I have heard everything.
Make haste. You must shoot the stone out of that ring.
Shoot-straight loosed an arrow. It flew straight and true
and it shattered the stone. Lightning quickly came to.
He ran after the girl and he soon passed her by.
That he was the victor no one could deny.
But the king could not bear to think what would occur.
That oaf, Moscione, would get to wed her?
He called into council wise men of his court.
They thought, and they found a solution. In short:
You’ve never gone back on your word in your life.
But offer him riches instead of a wife.
He’ll take it. We’re sure. The king gladly agreed.
He said, Now Moscione, how much will you need
to forget her. Well, king, since it’s money I lack,
as much as my friend can support on his back!
The king was delighted. He ordered a chest
filled with ducats and jewelry and fine goods, the best,
to be handed to Strong-back right there where he stood.
It wasn’t enough, so then caskets of wood
filled with huge sacks of coins were employed. He said, More.
And then plates made of silver and trinkets galore
and iron and copper and fine earthenware
were added until the king’s coffers were bare.
Not loaded, but restless and eager to leave,
they left with such riches one cannot believe.
Off they marched. It’s a trick! We can’t let them take all.
Have the army pursue. The king issued the call.
Quick-ear heard them coming. Blow-blast with a smile
blew them flat on their faces and back for a mile.
Moscione’s whole troupe reached his home late that day.
The friends shared the booty and went on their way.
He stayed with his father from then on, we’re told,
still the world’s greatest booby, but rolling in gold
Copyright © 2019 Laura J. Bobrow. All rights reserved.