Gather round and listen here,
To my tale of pain and fear,
Father good, stepmother sordid,
Children with a fate quite horrid,
Quickly dear, avert your eyes!
Silence while I summarize.
CANTO THE FIRST
Elisa dear was the youngest of twelve,
As princess the kingdom was hers to delve,
Spent days reading a picture book,
And playing with brothers she never forsook.
Good and kind, she melted all hearts.
Beautiful, yes, but also possessing
The villager’s carts clattered on by,
The eleven young princes were on the fly.
Just another day since their mother passed,
Her substitute always felt harassed,
In front of the king she behaved herself well;
A poor frazzled woman, wrecked by a swell,
“These kids. My God. There are so many!”
In secret, a witch with cunning plenty.
The old king’s mind and wits were fading,
His kids, she said, were always charading:
Rude and vain -- ne’er do well snobs,
They cared nothing for Father, his kingdom or cobs.
So convincing a tale did she spin,
The king wished never to see them again.
The evil queen found a plan to hatch,
A way to empty her nest with a splash,
Her visage wrapped in a dark velvet cowl,
Her lips, they uttered a spell most fowl.
Into swans the calm boys were turned,
By the jealous heart accidently spurned.
Poor Elisa, she knew not what to do,
As her brothers through the window flew.
This transformation was not meant to be seen,
For one word. One mouth. One silent plea
Would cost that queen so dearly.
The princess must live (the Queen saw clearly)
As the child of peasants doing all they could,
To stay alive in the endless wood.
CANTO THE SECOND
Many years passed and the maiden, grown,
Walked off in search of seeds she had sown.
She learned from the best, how termites make cities,
How geese know seasons, how magpies guard pretties.
Into her forest many birds migrated,
They reminded her of brothers, ill fated;
A void time had not satiated.
She toiled long and quested far,
Checked every coast and sandy bar.
“Fair stranger have you perchance seen,
The royal princes with eyes so keen?
By day, swans each with a golden crown,
By night they’re men with faces brown.”
She found her brothers eventually,
The spell had maintained its consistency.
Fairies came as Eliza dreamed,
She had more power than it seemed,
To save her brothers and show her mettle,
She must knit them shirts of stinging nettle.
But if one word she spoke, or even a sigh,
The fairies said, they would all
The task looked nigh on impossible,
Had Elisa been found by a con sibyl?
Questioning faeries would be all in vain,
To save her brothers, she committed to pain.
Pounding in her head as her fingers bled,
The girl’s whole life was bathed in red.
She collected supplies and lived in yurts,
All day working on those shirts,
A king found her alone, unable to speak,
To him, her prospects looked quite bleak.
He placed her upon his palfrey white,
Who quickly cantered out of sight.
CANTO THE THIRD
Elisa was back to living in a castle,
But to her, their customs were a royal hassle,
She must find some nettle, even a shard,
Plucked it from the tombs in the old graveyard.
Was arrested on charges of being a witch:
And entered her cell without a flinch.
With ten shirts done and one in progress,
The courts begged the poor girl to confess.
Try as they might, not one word would she utter --
“Burn at the stake” was said with a shudder.
Appointed day came and the crowds saw a sight,
Around the poor girl eleven swans were in flight,
She threw shirts on them, approaching the flame,
Watched as the swans become princes of fame.
The youngest man’s shirt was missing a sleeve,
Elsa cried out “I’m so sorry Steve.”
Although a swan’s wing he retained,
A kind man's heart he did maintain.
The flames burst into flowers,
The crowed was shaken by higher powers.
No one knew how to proceed,
The executioner saw he must concede.
Her newly freed brothers did Elisa address,
“You can be knights or land possess,
Fathers, chiefs -- you’re men now, come:
Let me have the keys to our father’s kingdom.”
The boys considered their sister’s wish,
Gratefully freed, they agreed with a flourish.
Suddenly the air ‘twas all in a flutter,
The king married Steve, Elisa’s youngest brother.
Saying goodbyes, she trotted down the lane,
Returning to her father, a kingdom for to reign.
Gentle reader, remember well,
Even when you’ve up and fell,
Look around, learn what you can,
Prepare yourself to make a stand.
Things improve, it’s not mere folly,
Don’t fall into melancholy.