homeabouttestimonialspublicationsCDs poetry pagessculpture

Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Tale of Tales Day Five

  a poetic rendition of
                                                             Day 5, Tale 3
The Stolen Groom

A merchant had a daughter who refused to settle down.
She would not hear of marriage. Once, when he went off to town
he asked her, Betta, what shall I bring home when I come back?
A hundredweight of sugar and some almonds in a sack,
six flasks of scented water which give off a pleasant smell,
a little musk and ambergris, and forty pearls as well,
and two bright sapphires. Rubies, too, and garnets, she cajoled,
a mixing trough and scraper, and some thread spun out of gold.

Her father was amazed at her extravagant request,
but as he loved his child he answered, I will do my best.
He managed to obtain them all.Then Betta, in her room
began to mix ingredients all sweetened by perfume.
She made a batch of almond paste and from it shaped a youth.
The sapphires were his two bright eyes. Each pearl became a tooth.
The rubies were his lips. His hair was made of golden thread.
The only grace he lacked was speech. But Betta once had read

about a king of Cyprus who transformed a girl of clay
into a living being by his prayers alone. That day
she prayed and begged the God of Love that such she could achieve.
She prayed so hard and long, at last the youth began to breathe.
He spoke some words and gradually his limbs began to stir.
He rose. She gasped to see the gift her prayers had earned for her,
for there he was.The two embraced. Her rapture was profound.
Next morning she said, Father, here’s my groom. Her father frowned.

There stood a youth, a handsome youth as ever there had been.
He saw him leave his daughter’s room, but when had he gone in?
No matter. His was beauty some would pay a lot to see.
If he’s the object of your heart then, Betta, I agree.
They named him Pintosmalto and they held a wedding feast
to which there came an unknown queen who took one look and ceased
to care for anything save how to get that youth alone.
She loved him at first sight, and she must have him for her own. 

Pintosmalto was naive. He thought the queen at play,
but she enticed him to her coach and stole him clean away.
When Betta could not find him she at once correctly guessed 
he’d been purloined. No need to say that Betta was distressed.
When proclamations did no good, she dressed in beggar’s clothes
and swore to search the world. Where will I find him? Heaven knows.
The months went by and on she trudged. A kind crone saw her plight  
and said, You’re pregnant, I can see. Come in, and spend the night.

When it was time to leave the crone said, Here’s my gift. Pay heed.
Three sayings that will help you when you feel in direst need.
The first is ‘Pozzolana, in the house it rains.’ And say
the second when you want it. ‘Presto, watch the fountain play.’
The third time say, ‘Varlacche, fritters, drums and seeds and beans.’  
I’ll try hard to remember, though I don’t know what it means.
And thank you, Betta said. It seemed like such a useless gift.
And yet, she thought, one cannot tell.The fickle winds might shift.

She journeyed on. A royal palace came into her view.
She begged for shelter there. A lowly stable room will do.
The ladies of the court said,Take this room. It’s small but dry.
She’d not been there an hour when Pintosmalto wandered by.
When Betta saw that he’d been made the King, she nearly died.
It’s time, she said. The first gift of the crone must now be tried.
She said the words. A tiny coach completely made of gold
ran all about her room. It was a marvel to behold.

The ladies of the court soon brought the message to the queen.
That little beggar girl has something wondrous to be seen.
I’ll buy it, said the queen. How much?   Oh, do not be misled.  
I do not want your gold, said Betta. What I want instead
is one full night to spend asleep alongside of the king.
What folly! She a girl in rags to ask for such a thing?
The queen agreed. One night is yours, you silly little maid.
And Betta did not realize that she’d be poorly paid,

for though the queen delivered what she’d promised she would do
she first gave him a potion so he’d sleep the whole night through.
Poor Betta tried to wake him up with pleading words and cries,
but Pintosmalto did not hear nor open up his eyes.
Betta told the queen next day when asked, Are you content?
I wish that all your nights like mine would be so poorly spent!
But then she spoke the second words. A cage was seen to hang.
Within it was a bird made out of precious stones. It sang.

The queen was so enthralled with it, she asked just as before
what Betta wanted in return, and Betta said once more,
Your gold is of no use to me. Grant me another chance.
It’s yours. Again throughout the night he lay as in a trance.
I fashioned you, I gave you life, I loved you, Betta wept.
I’ve searched for you these many months. And still her bedmate slept.
But right next door to Betta’s room, partitioned by a wall,
there lived a cobbler who, awake each night, had heard it all.

He told to Pintosmalto everything that Betta said.
Don’t drink the drink that’s offered you before you go to bed.
Meanwhile, My life is over, Betta wailed. I’ve one more spell.
She spoke the words and soon appeared, magnificent to tell,
a quantity of goods and cups and jewels beyond compare.
A treasure so immense belongs to her? It isn’t fair,
the queen declared. And so the whole was bargained for and bought.
That silly girl! To think that all this fortune costs me naught.

At night the queen prepared his drink. You’ll sleep this time, no doubt.
And he pretended to comply but turned and spat it out.
He lay down next to Betta and he heard her cry, Alas!
as she once again recounted how her troubles came to pass,
how she’d fashioned him of almond paste and prayed to give him life,
how the God of Love rewarded her and she became his wife,
and how the queen had stolen him, and now her goods were gone
and how two nights she’d lain with him and how he’d slumbered on. 

Pintosmalto called to mind the trials she retraced
as if it were a dream. He rose, and fondly they embraced.
Then he crept into the queen’s rooms to retrieve what they were due:
the gifts she stole from Betta plus the queen’s possessions too.
They left at once and traveled unperceived by anyone.
Then they rested at an inn while Betta bore a healthy son.
They went on to her father’s house. For days he could be seen
so filled with joy he pranced just like a youngster of fifteen. 

The queen awoke to find them gone and saw how she’d been served.
But we must not lament for her. She got what she deserved.
When she discovered all was lost, she threw a thousand fits.
She shrieked and she turned purple and she tore herself to bits.