Il Pentamerone;


The Tale of Tales.

Being a translation by the Late

Sir Richard Burton, K.C.M.G.,


Il Pentamerone;

Overo Lo Cunto de li Cunte,

Trattenemiento de li Peccerille,


Giovanni Battista Basile,

Count of Torone

(Gian Alessio Abbattutis).

London: Henry and Co.,


Publisher's Note.

In issuing "Il Pentamerone" to the subscribers, the Publishers desire to say that the manuscript was placed in their possession by Lady Burton in pursuance of agreement. In no respect has the text been abbreviated; it represents a faithful and unexpurgated rendering of these Neapolitan tales. The reading of the proofs has fallen to the Publishers; and if there be aught amiss in the work, it should be attributed to the reverential spirit in which they have attempted to fulfil the duty committed to their care.

To The Virtuous Neapolitan Readers!

Masillo Reppone.

Most illustrious gentlemen, and my most reverend patrons. The what-do-you-call-it is so full of pulp and solid, that it hath thrust the pen into my hand, and maketh me write without shame this scrawl in form of a petition, so that in your mercy ye may defend a poor man, who, being a foreigner, hath gone from door to door seeking for alms of some Neapolitan words.

Therefore be ye informed that a certain printer, who hath become a foe to Naples, although he was born ten hundred miles distant therefrom, would once more print the Tale of Tales for the Diversion of Little Ones by Cav. John the Baptist Basile, who would call himself Gian Alessio Abbatutis: and, knowing not whom he should chance to meet, laid hold of me, so that I should correct it, because the ink in the last print had daubed it in such a manner that not even the father (and may Heaven receive him in glory), if he were alive, would have recognised it for his own son. Now I, who am possessed of an heart like the lungs, and a door to my will, which, if any one knocks at it, at once is opened wide, promised with every charity at a simple opening of the mouth to do him this service: and so much the more in that it concerned a poor pupil, son of such a very learned father, awakened about an hundred miles behind by the evil practice of the players. I have done my best and all, that I might to force into its body what was missing, so that it should be mended, and be known again even as when it was born.

And what have I not done? I have put myself in torments all the night and the day, to rid him of so much filthiness. But after having done this, and many more charitable fatigues, certain young masters, who wear glasses upon their noses, and believe they can carry all the world behind them, have gone about with a twist of the muzzle, and a casting up of the eyes, saying, 'And how can one who hath been born in the ice have dared to come and be the corrector in this city, and set a price upon a cabbage stump? The presumptuous man would deserve a most cruel stripping. A Pugliese flat-cap wanting to make fine love in a Naples where are to be found folk who weigh a ton each, and perhaps more. Look ye if he knoweth how to write, and if he wanteth to pass for learned in the Partenopean language? Here two m's are lacking, again two s's are missing, and here two other e's, and so on!'

Now these folk believe that they have found me alone, broken down, and mournful, with no friends on my side. And therefore I will scorn and affront them, and let them know they speak at random, and they know naught of tum and bus,[*In the old a. b. c. books the alphabet ended in cyphers 'et, con, rum, bus,' like those that very often are used in the ancient Latin books. And from that the last of these cyphers was thought of great importance, like a full stop at the end.] and of this quarrel I appeal myself straightly to the just tribunal of your genius: and so that ye may give me reason if I am wrong, I present to you these writings as proof of these facts. And first and foremost know ye, O most illustrious gentlemen, that I, although I am not a Neapolitan, neglected naught to learn well this language, for when I came to this country (that with another eight will be nineteen years), I fell in love with these pretty words, and they seemed to me as so many coins with which I could enrich my brain, and the much more so in that I bethought me of having read in Cicerone's Epistles to Atticus that Pompeius, the great Roman emperor, left off speaking the Latin language and would speak the Neapolitan, as that great man Sommonte found out, and noted down in the History of Naples, Chap. VI., Book I., because the Neapolitan language being half Greek and half Latin, it seemed to him a more tasteful mixture. Now I, who have always followed after the Greek to fill myself to bursting with itI have not left quarters, squares, warehouses, streets, little streets and even those without an issue: and although the washerman speaketh one way, and washeth worse, he hath changed in all the way of speaking, and he of the little pier in another way: but, thanks be to Heaven! I have eaten cabbage-stumps and broccoli, that is to say, I have read good authors, and I understand them a little. And I will now say that I know also how wrote those men of ancient date, and how the moderns write. But because the Neapolitan speech carrieth not dictionaries with it as do the other languagesviz., the Latin hath Colapino, the Tuscan hath la Crusca, the Greek studieth the Lexicon, and thus do also all the other nationsit seemed to me most convenient to let this poor pupil rest with that orthography which his father had left him, that is to say, as I found it in the first book, and as it was printed by several printers, day by day, when it came forth. And his good father liked not the superfluous, which breaketh the lid, nor the two m's, and two n's, and other such things, which were sought by the sages. Those words, therefore, that it has not by nature I have signed with a sign, which a Greek would call spirit, so that they could gently hit them, in the same way that these folk do hit us with so many m's and n's. And without that only one who is a Neapolitan can well read it, and who is a foreigner let him add as many letters as he liketh, for never will he read it well, if he cloth not hear it read by a Neapolitan, or by some other who is an expert in this language. And besides, the other languages would spoil it, because they pronounce an hundred miles distant of what they write. But this is a ball which if I would unwind there would be enough for tomorrow, and after to-morrow, and the day after, and the day thereafter. Enough: another day, if time carrieth away certain sickness from mine head and certain scab from my neck, I will prove this to you with an hundred rules of orthography, and perhaps I will let you read the phenomena and the phrases of the Neapolitan speech that I have gathered until now, with an hundred thousand observations, and I will make you say, 'Oh, 'tis good indeed: this man deserveth great praise, because he hath done things that our countrymen cared not to do.'

Now, my most reverend, these are my writings in the style of Rome, brief and to the point, and if ye will judge it spurious and will call me to good purpose, be sure that I shall not prove myself contumacious. And with this I expect the sentence in my favour, and if for naught else, only because I have been charitable so readily that from a maimed book I have made it cast away its crutches: and with this I take my leave. May your lordships well maintain yourselves, whilst I pray Heaven, to pour upon you a deluge of happy days. I give myself peace.

Ye Are Invited to Read
Corrected by Master Masillo Reppone.
By M.R S.D.

Rest ye for a little, and a-pleasuring we'll go:
Come my merry little ones and hasten with all speed;
Gossiping Masillo hath a fairy book to show,
Written and re-written so that all the world may read.

Know, both youths and maidens, an ye yield ye to my wiles
Whether ye be churlish or light laughter is your cheer
Not e'en Master Grillo with his smirking and his smiles
At your new-found knowledge can himself afford to sneer.

But no bush for my wine's needed. Here's enjoyment with good fruit
In the vineyard of my narratives no weed hath taken root;
Tuneful, always tuneful' is the music of my lute.

Last of all, ye elders, with your growing weight of years,
Smile the smile of comfort through the tempest of your tears,
And listen as in childhood with your childhood's hopes and fears!


Publishers Note
To the Virtuous Neapolitan Readers: Masillo Reppone
Introduction to the Diversion of the Little Ones
First Day
          First Diversion--Story of the Ghul
          Second Diversion--The Myrtle-Tree
          Third Diversion--Peruonto
          Fourth Diversion--Vardiello
          Fifth Diversion--The Flea
          Sixth Diversion--The Cat Cinderella
          Seventh Diversion--The Merchant
          Eighth Diversion--Goat-Face
          Ninth Diversion--The Charmed Hind
          Tenth Diversion--The Old Woman Discovered
Eclogue--The Crucible
Second Day
          First Diversion--Petrosinella
          Second Diversion--Verde Prato
          Third Diversion--Viola
          Fourth Diversion--Gagliuso
          Fifth Diversion--The Serpent
          Sixth Diversion--The She-Bear
          Seventh Diversion--The Dove
          Eighth Diversion--The Young-Slave
          Ninth Diversion--The Padlock
          Tenth Diversion--The Gossip
Eclogue--The Dye
Third Day
          First Diversion--Cannetella
          Second Diversion--Penta the Handless
          Third Diversion--The Face
          Fourth Diversion--Sapia the Glutton
          Fifth Diversion--The Large Crab-louse
          Sixth Diversion--The Wood of Garlic
          Seventh Diversion--Corvetto
          Eighth Diversion--The Ignorant Youth
          Ninth Diversion--Rosella
          Tenth Diversion--The Three Fairies
Eclogue--The Stove
Fourth Day
          First Diversion--The Cock's Stone
          Second Diversion--The Two Brothers
          Third Diversion--The Three Anamal Kings
          Fourth Diversion--The Seven Pieces of Pork-Skin
          Fifth Diversion--The Dragon
          Sixth Diversion--The Three Crowns
          Seventh Diversion--The Two Cakes
          Eighth Diversion--The Seven Pigeons
          Ninth Diversion--The Crow
          Tenth Diversion--Pride Punished
Eclogue--The Hook
Fifth Day
          First Diversion--The Goose
          Second Diversion--The Months
          Thirth Diversion--Pinto-Smauto
          Fourth Diversion--The Golden Root
          Fifth Diversion--Sun, Moon, and Talia
          Sixth Diversion--The Wise Woman
          Seventh Diversion--The Five Sons
          Eighth Diversion--Nennillo and Nennella
          Ninth Diversion--The Three Citrons
          Tenth Diversion--End of the Tale of Tales

Il Pentamerone Contents

Publishers' Note

First Day
  1. Story of the Ghul
  2. The Myrtle-Tree
  3. Peruonto
  4. Vardiello
  5. The Flea
  6. The Cat Cinderella
  7. The Merchant
  8. Goat-Face
  9. The Charmed Hind
  10. The Old Woman Discovered
Eclogue--The Crucible

Second Day
  1. Petrosinella
  2. Verde Prato
  3. Viola
  4. Gagliuso
  5. The Serpent
  6. The She-Bear
  7. The Dove
  8. The Young-Slave
  9. The Padlock
  10. The Gossip
Eclogue--The Dye

Third Day
  1. Cannetella
  2. Penta the Handless
  3. The Face
  4. Sapia the Glutton
  5. The Large Crab-louse
  6. The Wood of Garlic
  7. Corvetto
  8. The Ignorant Youth
  9. Rosella
  10. The Three Fairies
Eclogue--The Stove

Fourth Day
  1. The Cock's Stone
  2. The Two Brothers
  3. The Three Anamal Kings
  4. The Seven Pieces of Pork-Skin
  5. The Dragon
  6. The Three Crowns
  7. The Two Cakes
  8. The Seven Pigeons
  9. The Crow
  10. Pride Punished
Eclogue--The Hook

Fifth Day
  1. The Goose
  2. The Months
  3. Pinto-Smauto
  4. The Golden Root
  5. Sun, Moon, and Talia
  6. The Wise Woman
  7. The Five Sons
  8. Nennillo and Nennella
  9. The Three Citrons
  10. End of the Tale of Tales