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The Snow Child

by michwo 

Posted: 07 September 2016
Word Count: 597
Summary: A fabliau or medieval French verse tale which will probably be the last thing I post in this group for a while. It may not be everybody's cup of tea.

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                                                            The Snow Child

                                                Once a merchant, conscientious
                                                And not in the least licentious,
                                                Making money found quite easy.
                                                Travel did not make him queasy.
                                                His fair wife could not him soften
                                                And he was away quite often.
                                                Two years of this it came about
                                                His wife was rendered up the spout
                                                By someone she could not resist.
                                                A son came from their furtive tryst.
                                                Back from his long expedition –
                                                What?  How’s this?  A new addition? –
                                                The merchant chose to play it cool.
                                                “Think not I’ve made of you a fool,”
                                                His wife said.  “One day, missing you,
                                                The balcony I went up to
                                                And I was sad and close to tears
                                                And full of vague, distressing fears.
                                                And it was winter, heavy snow.
                                                I looked up from the earth below
                                                Towards the sky.  Then it befell
                                                Some snowflakes into my mouth fell.
                                                That snow reminded me of you
                                                And I conceived.  I swear it’s true.”
                                                The worthy fellow in reply
                                                Had this to say:  “Without a lie,
                                                No longer do I find it odd,
                                                This love of our Creator God
                                                In giving us a son and heir.
                                                We did not have one to be fair
                                                And if it pleases Him he’ll be
                                                A fine upstanding man, you’ll see.”
                                                And to the child he promptly knelt…
                                                He hid though what he really felt.
                                                The child was well brought up and grew.
                                                The man thought:  I’ll get rid of you.
                                                And once the child had reached fifteen,
                                                The merchant, prone to bile and spleen,
                                                Came in one day to see his wife:
                                                “Fret not, my lady, I love life.
                                                I must take ship abroad again
                                                No later than tomorrow.  Fain
                                                Would I take Agravain, our son
                                                To teach him how these things are done.
                                                A grounding he’ll have to succeed
                                                In business.  While he’s young, there’s need.
                                                Pack our cases.  Wake us early.
                                                Say for us a Hail Mary.”
                                                The lady, who would rather keep
                                                Her son at home, wants him to reap
                                                The benefits of life abroad
                                                And not be, like so many, bored.
                                                To this voyage she gives permission,
                                                To this latest expedition.
                                                At dawn the man gets out of bed
                                                No longer with a heart like lead.
                                                His wife though feels a kind of grief,
                                                A worry that’s without relief.
                                                Perhaps her son will not return.
                                                What will he from this journey learn?
                                                Through Lombardy they make their way,
                                                In a Genoan inn they stay
                                                And Agravain, like Joseph now,
                                                To an Egyptian down must bow
                                                And into slavery must go
                                                To a far land he does not know.
                                                The merchant, having sold the lad,
                                                Sees there are bargains to be had
                                                And he must make the most of them.
                                                Imagine his wife’s sorrow when
                                                She sees that he’s come back alone.
                                                You’d need to have a heart of stone
                                                To watch her faint, not sympathize.
                                                Her son.  What’s happened?  Has he died?
                                                The merchant tries to calm her down:
                                                “Well, life goes on, they say.  Don’t frown.
                                                It serves no useful purpose to.
                                                Liguria, hot like a flue,
                                                Was basking in the noonday heat
                                                And both of us were hot, dead beat.
                                                We’d walked up to a plateau high.
                                                The sun was ardent, that’s no lie,
                                                And burned us with its burning rays.
                                                I watched your son through the heat haze,
                                                As if he were a block of ice,
                                                Melt in the sunshine, pay the price
                                                Of being a child made of snow.
                                                Such sad things happen here below.”
                                                In a pool of tears she listed,
                                                Twisting like a twister twisted.

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Comments by other Members

Cliff Hanger at 09:14 on 08 September 2016  Report this post
Hi Michael,

What a brilliant story. To begin with I thought it was just like a simple limerick but it quickly developed into something very complex and held my attention all the way through. That's definitely the definition of revenge best served cold. Did you write it or translate it? Either way, I loved it although I don't feel qualified to comment on the technicalities of the structure, style or translation.


Freebird at 15:22 on 08 September 2016  Report this post
Wow, I'm not part of this group, but checked on your profie because of the complex thing you wrote about Laura's tomb (which I confess I didn't really understand), and followed the trail to this poem. It's very clever indeed - original or translation? Either way, you've done a super job. Very impressed :)

James Graham at 19:51 on 10 September 2016  Report this post
Well, there’s no doubt this is a good story. Its best feature is the way the snow-child fiction is maintained between the husband and wife. Neither the truth about the wife’s pregnancy nor the truth about the son’s fate is ever told. Even though we are in the superstitious Middle Ages, the husband knows full well how she got pregnant, and the wife probably suspects that the boy has been got rid of in a less magical manner – but nothing is said. The last line is a little tour de force, and sums it all up in the neatest possible way. (I wonder how this line reads in Middle French?)

You’ve certainly made us aware of the merits of medieval French fabliaux. I’m sorry you won’t be posting in the group in the near future, but if you wish to return at any time you will be very welcome.


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