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A Folktale-Poem from Mimekor Yisrael

I was reading Mimekor Yisrael, Micha bin Gorion’s collection of folktales, and came across a story. Its introductory text says the original was written in verse. I don’t know if it was bin Gorion or the translator, but it was rendered in quite clunky prose. I rewrote it so that it rhymes (and changed the ending). Sharing it here cuz I’m not sure what else to do with it:

Once upon a time, King Solomon had a friend

Who visited every year, just at the end.

One year, the friend brought him gift,

So large that only the strongest could lift.

The king wished to return the favor.

The friend scratched his chin, and said he’d save it for later.

He thought and he stewed.

He ruminated and reviewed.

When he realized how Solomon

Could express gratitude

“My king,” the friend said

“If you’d help me, at least

Teach me the chirping of birds,

The chatter of beasts”

“My friend,” said the king

“I can’t refuse your request.

Yet know what you ask,

May not be for the best.

If you share what you hear

From the chatter of beasts,

Why that very day

You’ll be struck dead—deceased!”

Responded the friend

“Give some wisdom to me.

If God wills me dead,

Then dead I shall be!”

Later he sat,

On the porch with his spouse.

When out came his ox

Passing by the house.

As they tied the ox up

By the ass, his workmate,

The friend heard him sigh

And say “Ass, you ingrate!

I toil and moil

I work and I labor

While you sit on your butt

Enjoying the manger!”

Brayed the ass

“My good ox,

I wish you had ease.

Heed my wise words,

Then do as you please.

Eat nothing tonight.

No straw and no fodder.

Take not one bite

And drink you no water.

Our master will then

Think you are ill.

He won’t yoke a sick beast

And force you to till.”

The king’s friend rose at night

And what did he see?

The ass eating the food

Of the ox, fast asleep

Seeing the trick,

He laughed a great laugh.

His wife, unamused, asked

“Are you simple or daft?!”

“No, my dear wife!”

Said the king’s friend, so fast

“I only remembered,

A joke of the past.”

Next morning he went

And said to his man

“The ox cannot work.

He’s peaky and wan.

Take the donkey instead,

He’s healthy and strong.”

So the donkey was worked

From dawn until dusk.

Working his piece,

And that of the ox.

Ruing his lot,

the ass said with a tear

“Oh ox, I’ve bad news.

You’ll hate it,

I fear.

Out there, in the field,

I heard the men say

‘That ox is no use,

Let’s eat him today.’”

The ox, hearing this,

Arose from his place.

He ran to a bale

And began stuffing his face.

Now the man had heard

The ass and his wiles.

He tried to conceal it,

But his wife saw his smile.

“That’s how you laughed

Last night when I asked!

Don’t tell me this is

But a joke of the past.”

The husband, he begged

He implored and he pled

“Do not ask me, my wife.

Or I’ll surely be dead!”

“Fine,” said the wife

“Then hear as I swear:

Keep your secrets,

I’m leaving!… So there!”

The man tore out his hair,

How he filled with remorse!

The next day would see

His funeral or divorce

So warned the wise Solomon

Our king and high priest

What ills may be borne

From the chatter of beasts!

submitted by /u/topoi
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Source: Reditt

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