The sixteenth century oral fairy tales collected in Naples by Giambattista Basile and published as
“Il Pentamerone,” are familiar in their original and derivative prose forms, but they have yet, to my
knowledge, been told in English in narrative verse.
Translations of Basile tend to replicate the baroque flourishes and colloquial dialect with
which the author embellished his work, with the result that flamboyance and hyperbole often overshadow
the stories themselves. My purpose in putting the stories into verse is to retrieve the original tales from
which Basile’s work derived.
Speaking of the use of poetic form Frederick Turner in his epic novel Genesis says, “These rigidities compel
the action again and again to come to a point, a focus, to collapse the wave function of possibility, to
choose one path of plot.”
You will find many archetypical elements in the stories. Keep in mind that Basile's collection predated those
of Perrault and the Grimm Brothers.
The poems adhere strictly to the story motifs. I have allowed myself a little playfulness at the end of each
story when the original morals appended appeared to be incomprehensible in our time.
I have necessarily worked from translation, principally those of Nancy L. Canepa in “Giambattista Basile’s
The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones” Wayne State University Press, Detroit 2007, and those
by John Edward Taylor, 1848.
There are ten stories for each day. Click on the buttons to read and listen to the tales.