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Poem: "A Princely Abode" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "A Princely Abode"

This is the free epic, selected in an audience poll, for the September 4, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl reaching the $200 goal.  It came out of the January 17, 2012 bonus fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from rix_scaedu.  This poem belongs to the series Fiorenza the Wisewoman, and you can find out more about that via the Serial Poetry page.

A Princely Abode

One fine spring morning,
Fiorenza and Mad Ercole
went to the herb garden to pull weeds.
Then Fiorenza took the wilting weeds to the compost heap
while Mad Ercole went to fetch some manure.

He came back without the manure
and something cupped in his hands.
"I found him asleep in the manure pile,"
Mad Ercole said, opening his hands
to reveal a large green frog.

"That's nice," said Fiorenza.
"Put him down in the herb garden."

"WHAT?" shrieked the frog.
"You are supposed to KISS me, princess,
so as to break this terrible curse
that a witch put upon me!"

Fiorenza burst out laughing.
"I may be the best gardener
and the best herbalist
and the best cook
and the village wisewoman,
but I am surely no princess!"
she told the frog.

"You mean ... I'm not in the palace anymore?"
the frog asked in a tiny voice.
"Sorry, no," said Fiorenza.
"You're in the village of Nocciolaia.
I'm afraid we have no princesses here."

"It was such a fine palace,"
the frog mourned.
"It had fountains in the gardens,
and tapestries on all the walls,
and flags snapping from the turrets."

"I have no palace to offer you,"
Fiorenza said to the frog,
"but I can put a broken flowerpot in the garden."

"That will have to do,"
said the frog.
"When I find that witch, though,
I shall have her head cut off!"

So Fiorenza made a home for the frog
in a damp shady corner of her garden,
with a broken flowerpot and a dish of water.
She spoke to Sienna the potter
about replacement flowerpots and other essentials.
She sent a message to Urbino,
asking if Duke Francesco could recommend a princess.

The frog lived in the garden,
eating worms and insects,
and grumbling about how low he had fallen.
One day he said to Fiorenza,
"Your servant is tolerable company,
but he is quite mad.
He says that the plants speak to him!"

"Perhaps they do," Fiorenza said.
"Ercole is no servant, though.
He is a war veteran who served
in the siege of Fermo.  He lives here
because a cannonball cracked his skull
and made it hard for him to mind his own needs."

"Oh," said the frog.
"He mentioned nothing of that."
"He rarely does," Fiorenza said.

Sienna the potter arrived the next day
with her rust-colored hair tied up in a rag
and her brown dress splattered with pink mud,
and a large basket on her back.
"Fiorenza!" shouted the frog.
"A beggar has come into your garden!"

Fiorenza leaned out of the cottage,
looked at Sienna, and laughed.
"Silly prince, this is no beggar,"
said Fiorenza.  "This is our potter Sienna,
come to deliver my flowerpots
and your new palace."

Fiorenza gave Sienna a bundle of herbs
and a jar of ash for coloring glazes.
Sienna unpacked several green-gold flowerpots
and a peculiar clay thing the size of a beehive,
then went on her way.

Fiorenza showed the strange clay thing to the frog
as she carefully packed its rooms with compost,
manure, wet straw, and wood from a rotted stump.
The central chamber remained open
with its little half-circle door.
Fiorenza planted the frog palace in her garden
where its mottled green walls blended right in.
She attached a tiny flagpole to the top
with a flapping yellow handkerchief to frighten birds.

"What do you think of your new palace?"
Fiorenza asked the frog.
"It is a princely abode," he said solemnly,
"for a frog."

"Well, you would shrivel up or starve
in a palace built for humans," she replied,
"so in you go."
And in he went, the frog prince,
because it was after all a splendid palace for a frog,
which he was now.

The little boys of the village
learned that the frog prince would tell stories
about famous people, and jewels, and other exciting things
if you brought him a gift of live worms.
The little girls of the village
learned that he would kiss anyone, once,
just in case it might break the spell,
although that stopped after a while.
They still giggled about it.

Don Candido the priest
stopped by and gave little sermons,
though he suggested the frog prince
might just as well attend church with everyone else.
So Fiorenza packed the frog prince
in a basket of wet moss and took him to church.

When the letter arrived from Duke Francesco,
Fiorenza read it to the frog prince.
"There are three princesses on this list.
Surely one of them will agree to kiss you
and break the witch's spell," she said.

The prince shuffled his green webbed feet
and looked at his ceramic palace.
"If it's all the same to you, Fiorenza," he said,
I think I would prefer to remain a frog."

"Are you quite certain?" Fiorenza asked,
thinking of all his earlier complaints.
"Yes," said the frog prince.
"At home I had a large palace and rich furnishings,
but my brothers quarreled with me
and my parents only talked about marrying me off,
possibly to some woman who was old or ugly
or shrewish or otherwise horrible."

"So you like it better here," Fiorenza said.
"Here I have a fine clay palace,
all the food I can eat -- even if it's alive! --
villagers who like my stories,
and a priest who gives quite excellent sermons,"
said the frog prince.
"Though I suppose you don't believe me."

Fiorenza just chuckled.
"Stay as long as you like, my prince,"
she said to him.  "I believe you!
For I have seen the Palazzo Ducale,
and I too prefer my garden in the village of Nocciolaia."

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4 comments or Leave a comment
ellenmillion From: ellenmillion Date: September 11th, 2012 03:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Ha ha! I'm with the frog prince - I'd stay in her garden, too.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 11th, 2012 04:21 am (UTC) (Link)


I'm glad you enjoyed this.

>>Ha ha! I'm with the frog prince - I'd stay in her garden, too.<<

I probably would too.
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: September 11th, 2012 07:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
This reminds me of Zhuangzi: "Now would this tortoise rather be dead and have its bones left behind and honored? Or would it rather be alive and dragging its tail in the mud?"


One could say that the cursed prince has grown quite a lot.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 11th, 2012 07:12 pm (UTC) (Link)


>> This reminds me of Zhuangzi: "Now would this tortoise rather be dead and have its bones left behind and honored? Or would it rather be alive and dragging its tail in the mud?" <<

Better the mud, heh heh.

>> One could say that the cursed prince has grown quite a lot. <<

Sometimes a curse is a blessing in disguise. And now we've got a matched set of magic pointing in opposite directions of its intent.
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