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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Tales of a Wayside Inn

Part Third. Interlude

“SIGNOR LUIGI,” said the Jew,

When the Sicilian’s tale was told,

“The were-wolf is a legend old,

But the were-ass is something new,

And yet for one I think it true.

The days of wonder have not ceased;

If there are beasts in forms of men,

As sure it happens now and then,

Why may not man become a beast,

In way of punishment at least?

“But this I will not now discuss;

I leave the theme, that we may thus

Remain within the realm of song.

The story that I told before,

Though not acceptable to all,

At least you did not find too long.

I beg you, let me try again,

With something in a different vein,

Before you bid the curtain fall.

Meanwhile keep watch upon the door,

Nor let the Landlord leave his chair,

Lest he should vanish into air,

And so elude our search once more.”

Thus saying, from his lips he blew

A little cloud of perfumed breath,

And then, as if it were a clew

To lead his footsteps safely through,

Began his tale as followeth.