Once upon a time, a father said to his three sons:
‘I am growing old and about to die;
I am poor and have no money
But I will give you each a gift.
Go to a place where your gift is unknown
And there you will make your fortune.’
He gave a cockerel to the eldest son,
Who set out immediately,
But in every town on his journey,
He could hear cockerels crowing
And he could see above the trees
A cockerel on a church steeple,
Turning in the breeze:
They were well known to common people.
After some time he arrived on an island
Where cockerels were unknown
And nobody could tell the time.
The young man said ‘I have here a noble knight,
A creature bedecked with a bright
Red crest and spurs; he crows three times
At stated hours every night
Before sunrise and sometimes
He screeches during the day
As a warning that the weather will change.’
The islanders were overjoyed
And stayed awake all night to hear
The strident crow of Chanticleer
At two, four and six o’clock;
They marvelled at the splendid cock
And asked if it could be sold,
Prepared to pay for it in gold,
As much as his donkey could carry.
The son returned home in a hurry,
To the great wonder of his brothers.
The father had given the second son
A scythe, with which he left his home;
Far and wide he had to roam
Until he arrived at an island where
The good people had never seen a scythe;
As soon as the corn was ripe in the field,
They pulled it up in their fists.
The second son started to wield
His scythe, mowing the crop so fast,
The islanders were aghast
And offered to pay for the marvellous thing,
Loading his horse with gold coins and rings.
The third brother was given a cat;
He wondered what he could make of that
And travelled far and wide
In the local countryside,
Where there were plenty of cats.
He arrived on an island so overrun with mice
That they danced upon the table
And the islanders were not able
To rid themselves of the rodents.
Even the palace was full of them:
In every corner they were squeaking
A nightmare for the King, who was willing
To pay in jewels and in gold
To be rid of the infestation.
The cat soon began her chase,
Feasting on mice in the palace,
Until she had reduced their number
And was ready to curl up and slumber.
But she was not only dusty and dirty,
She was also very thirsty,
Demanding a drink with a loud ‘Miaow!’
When the king and his subjects heard the strange cry,
They held a council to decide
What was to be done with the wild creature.
At length an agreement was made
And the King sent a royal page
To ask the cat to leave the palace.
But the thirsty feline could only reply
With her haunting wail, which the page
Misunderstood as the cat’s intention to defy.
He returned with the answer to the king,
Who retaliated with guns ablazing,
Setting the palace on fire.
When the flames reached the cat
That elegantly sat
On the royal throne,
Cleaning her whiskers and paws,
She leapt out of the window without a sound
While the mouse-free palace burned to the ground.
© Kim M. Russell, 2016
Image found on Pinterest