The Valiant Little Tailor; or, Seven at One Blow
I'm thinking of a certain land;
And in it, on a summer morn,
A tailor who is deft of hand
But squat of frame, and squat of form
Is sitting, quiet, and forlorn;
The sun shines on his table glowing.
He sits here, busy, sad, and sewing.
This little tailor's fingers going
Faster than a sparrow flies,
His belly growls like cattle lowing.
And though bread in his pantry lies,
Alas! Alack! His spirit dies,
Recalling that (and here he shudders)
He greatly wants for jam and butter.
And deep in consternation utter,
Sighing, his eyes turn outside.
And trudging slowly, pitter-putter
There's something out there that he's spied—
And no, it cannot be denied—
Out from his tailor's chair he leaps.
It's a peasant shouting, "Good jams, cheap!"
His stitching heaved away in heaps,
He's fast forgotten all his cares.
He hails the peasant—from joy he weeps—
"Come, and here unload your wares!"
The peasant sees his hungry stares;
She thinks, "Now here's a lovely score!
I'll sell him half my stock, for sure!"
And up three steps to reach his door
The peasant lugs her heavy basket.
She lays her jars out on the floor,
And removes their lids because he's asked it;
But shortly, now, she blows a gasket—
The tailor says "I'll take four grams
Of these, your most exquisite jams!"
And in her face the door he slams,
While handing her a single penny.
Well off she goes to gentler lands,
Of which, I'd think, there must be many.
The tailor sets his jar down. Then he
Prays "God bless this condiment;
By it, to me, may strength be lent!"
And rosy-cheeked and quite content,
He waddles off toward the pantry,
Mouth a-water, breakfast-bent.
And then to spread the jam began he
With strength and vigor quite uncanny,
Eyeing at it greedily.
"I'll eat my breakfast speedily—
Which, I'm sure, quite sweet'll be—
But first, I think, I'll finish sewing!"
Returning to his tweedery,
He leaves the bread uncovered, knowing
Not to whom his treat is showing.
Now there above the sugared goo
Some hungry fruitflies come accrue.
"Hi-ho! And who invited you?"
The little tailor shouts irately
To this less-than-welcome crew,
Who merely blink and buzz sedately.
None of them have eaten lately.
Also, you might find this singl'ish,
But flies, it seems, do not speak English.
So with his forehead red and tinglish,
The tailor growls, "How now! You'll see!"
And out a piece of cloth he brings, swish!
Out it flies! The flies all flee!
And on the cloth, stone dead, there be
No fewer than a set of seven
Flies who've died and gone to heaven.
And so the tailor's spirit leavens,
As, proudly, he inspects the deed.
"What ho, what ho! News at eleven!
Is this the sort of man I be?
So full of pluck and bravery?
Well all the folk in town must know!"
He takes a sash, and on it sews
Quite bold the words, "SEVEN AT ONE BLOW."
And putting on this decoration,
Straight to the bathroom mirror he goes.
"The town? I think this information
Should be proclaimed from elevation.
The world must hear of this. Ahoy!"
And how his heart now beats for joy,
Upon a quest he must deploy.
(But every quest will want provisions.)
He searches, but is quite annoyed
That through his house, naught greets his vision
Save for some old cheese. He places this in-
Side his pocket. Off he sets!
(He also sees, stuck in some nets,
A sparrow, which he also gets.)
He hums along quite merrily,
And burden-free. He hardly sweats.
He thinks he shortly there'll be.
But up ahead, quite scarily
There lurks a giant on a hill,
A creature wishing creatures ill.
Which ails the tailor nada, nil!
He greets the beast, says "From that perch
You can see the wide world. Will
You join me on a noble search
For fortune, and for fame?" "You lurch!
You vagabond!" the giant growlèd,
"You ugly, stupid, wimpy cow-head!"
The pride-pricked tailor won't allow it!
Unbuttoning his coat, he shows
His belt, whereon his feat's avowèd.
The giant mumbles, "SEVEN AT ONE BLOW..."
The tailor beams, "So now you know
The sort of man, whom at first meeting
You've greeted with this boorish greeting!"
That sets the giant's heart to beating!
Now for this little bumbling man
Respect the giant is conceiving.
(But he would test him, if he can.)
The giant, in his giant hand
Then grasps a rock, and grasps it tighter,
His knuckles growing ever-whiter,
'Til water flows out from the blighter!
"Well now! Can you do the same?"
The giant snarls. The little fighter
Smiles, saying, "That was lame.
We'll see who wins your little game."
And listen closely, if you please,
The tailor takes that hunk of cheese
And gives it such a hearty squeeze
That from his fingers, liquid oozes!
The giant mumbles "Feats like these
Bestud my tender heart with bruises."
Well then! Another test he chooses.
Stooping down, he picks a stone;
In half a second, up it's thrown;
And up, and up, aloft it's flown,
A tiny dot that's drowned in sunlight!
The giant grins, the tailor groans.
The giant thinks the contest won, right?
But the tailor isn't yet outdone quite.
"The rock you threw at last did fall.
Mine will not come back at all!"
Reminded by its plaintive call,
The tailor takes that baby sparrow,
Fragile, homesick, very small;
He gently tosses it up there. "Go,"
He whispers. Like an arrow,
Off, and up, and far away,
The sparrow flies. And I would say
It stayed up there for half the day.
The giant stammers, "What a toss!"
"A decent effort, anyway,"
The tailor smugly gives him sauce.
He, eager to recoup the loss,
Marshalling his meager guile,
Conceives this final feat and trial.
"Let's see you lift a tree, you vile
Human!" "Oh? With gusto, friend!
You lift up the roots there, while
I lift up the other end—
Like so!" Heave-ho! And off they wend,
Except the giant, with the tree
Upon his shoulders, cannot see
The tailor humming merrily
While perched, relaxing in the branches!
Well on they go a mile or three
Before the giant breaks and blanches.
"A likely moment this perchance is
For a rest?" the giant heaves.
The tailor hops down from the leaves
Says, "Well now, this I can't believe's!
So big you are, and yet this oak
Your strength so soon so deeply grieves!
Well put it down, you chinless bloke."
The giant merely gasps and chokes,
And falls upon the green grass, panting,
His recent boasts with shame recanting.
After that they keep meand'ring.
At last, the giant tells the tailor,
"Let us cease this stale philand'ring.
Let's go home. We'll feel much haler,
Heartier, and much less paler,
With some sleep our minds adorning.
We'll journey onward in the morning."
The tailor, though, receives no warning
Of one truth the giant's hiding.
What the giant's not informing's
That, within his cave's residing
Another six, quite huge and striding
Giants. Each, within his hand,
Clutching half a roasted lamb.
The tailor greets this gruesome clan,
Whose spirit, looking at him, sours.
The tailor, such a chipper man
Ignores these great infernal powers,
Inspecting their lofts and rooms and bowers.
He thinks out loud, "My goodness gracious!
This cave of yours is mighty spacious!"
The giants show him where his place is.
He climbs into their giant bed.
But, being smaller than the space is,
He cannot sleep; and so, instead,
He finds a corner to rest his head.
(It's just as well. That night, the horde
Of giants, armed with giant swords
Did cleave that bed to tiny boards!
They thought the tailor quite annoying.)
The sun rose. With his death assured
The giants went outside, enjoying
Morning with their spirits buoying.
Those giants didn't care 'bout nuttin'.
'Til walking up, his coat unbuttoned,
They see the risen tailor struttin',
"SEVEN AT ONE BLOW" emblazoned
Proudly on his girdle! "What in
Loki's name?!" The gawk amaze-ened.
Their courage grows all shrivelled, raisin-ed.
So off they flee, their feathers flappin'...
Seven giants, as it happens.
Victorious, the tailor, cap in
Hand goes marching further onward.
He finds a castle, and starts nappin'
Splayed out in its castle courtyard.
And don't you know, the tailor snores hard;
Like a hurricane he blusters.
Soon a crowd around him clusters
Of courtly hangers-on and shucksters.
Full of awe, they read the belt
Whose message all their spirits flusters.
And the phrase that's thereon spelt
Describing the type of blow that's dealt
By the hand that there lay sleeping
Leaves them with a kind of creeping
Doubt. In troupe they head off leaping,
Seeking counsel with the king
Who in that castle court is keeping.
"Sire, it's a funny thing—
But listen to this news we bring—
Some crazy man, with valor teeming
Is out there in our courtyard, dreaming!"
Out to see him they go streaming.
The king, who's wise, then calculates
They do not want this man careening
Through their lines if 'tis their fate
To fight him at some later date.
"My loyal court! Here's my decision.
Let's give this man a full commission
To champion our brave divisions!"
Collectively they breathe a sigh.
They then adopt the right positions
For this ceremony high.
The tailor wakes. They tell him why
They've clustered 'round him. As he yawns
The sudden truth upon him dawns—
An entire court upon him fawns!
He says, "It was to serve your highness
That to your castle I was drawn."
They give him paper, tell him, "Sign this,"
Pointing where the dotted line is.
They make him duke over a manor,
"SEVEN AT ONE BLOW" his banner.
But the soldiers, of which he's commander
Do not like this new arrangement.
"Should we quarrel, and with our clamor
Lead our leader to enragement,
In the ensuing engagement
We would fall by sevens 'til
Not one remained, for good or ill!"
So to the king they speak their fill
Who (strangely, I would say) agrees.
"But we must needs be sly a li'l
And this fearsome man appease;
For he can strike, not twos and threes
But sevens at a blow," he moaned.
"What if he would seize the throne?!"
The king bee and his courtly drones
Betake themselves right then to plotting.
And when, at last, their course is known,
Toward the tailor they go trotting.
"Hero, half the land is rotting
As two giants slake their thirsts
Upon our homes and flocks. What's worse,
All the men we've sent who dur'st
To go were slain in fearsome fashion.
Lift our laden kingdom's curse!
Take those giants' skulls. Start bashin'!
Heal this land that's waste and ashen.
And take a hundred men and horse!"
The cheerful tailor says, "Of course.
But do not sweat the hundred horse!
Sevens are my specialty.
What need have I to fear the force
Of two?" The king says, "Blessed'll be
Our kingdom, and quite vexed'll be
Its foes. Redress our peoples' woes.
If all ends well, I will propose
A marriage to my daughter!" "Those
Are terms that sit quite well with me!"
Off the valiant tailor goes.
Armorèd, the hundred free
Horses keep him company,
Toddling along behind him.
"Humph, and may disaster find him!"
Says the king. The tailor, windin'
Further onward down the road
At last a little copse is findin'
Wherein his giant foes are stowed.
He has the horses' courses slowed,
Asking all the shining knights
To kindly just sit out this fight.
And off he creeps into the night,
Toward the giants' fearful snoring.
Filling up his pockets right
With pebbles found around the flooring,
Himself within a tree's immuring.
And one by one, he takes those pebbles
And tosses them upon the devils.
Slowly this their sleep unsettles.
After quite a long bombardment
Of the one, his eyes are levelled,
Fixed upon his pal's compartment.
"What's this wanton disregardment
For a brother try'n' ta sleep?
You pussy-footed, rank, dumb, -bleep-!"
Well he collapses in a heap,
Snoring loudly, leaving baffled
The pussy-footed, rank, dumb -bleep-
Whose sleep he lately rudely rattled.
(But thus has just begun the battle!)
Next the tailor takes some stones
And throws them at the sleeping bones
Of the OTHER! Loud he groans,
Then grabs his brother, shaking him!
They quarrel like two rival crones,
Then try to get to sleep again.
The tailor shimmies off the limb
Whereon he sits, and seeks the very
Largest rock that he can carry,
Dragging it with him up there. He
Plots. He waits. He listens closely.
He daren't drop it on them, dare he?
Then he dares! And thumf, there goes the
Stone, which strikes a giant closely.
The giants wake. They pick up trees
And beat each others' brains with these.
It's no holds barred! They beat the knees,
They beat the brains, they beat the skulls,
All the while roaring. Flees
The tailor, branch-to-branch, while fall
The trees about this free-for-all;
Maple, oak, willow, yew,
Ash all crash. The giants, too.
The tailor to the fallen two
Comes creeping to confirm their deaths.
He takes a sword and runs them through
A couple times, and breathes some breaths,
And pride resides within his breast.
He smooths a cowlick, briefly tidies
Up, and smiling, back outside he
Goes. He hails the knights residing
All about the bush. "But... oh...
The giants—slain?!" "Of course," replied he,
"In two sevenths of a blow!
Of course, it was a frightful row—
Those monsters came at me with tree trunks,
Half-mad, maybe rabid, me-thunks;
But what of it? Thing is, these lunks
Stood no chance when, clearly, seven
At a blow's my cup of tea." Shrunk
The horsemens' hearts eleven
Sizes, as they prayed to Heaven.
(For, you see, they were detailed to
Slay him if the giants failed to.
They figured they were much too frail to.)
So the lot went wending homeward.
The knights were pale. The king was pale too.
Determined not to keep his own word,
He beckons the terrible tailor throne-ward.
"Our deal, I fear, I cannot honor...
Until this other beast's a goner!
Lurking (and there lurks no stronger)
In the woods is a Unicorn.
You must place a yoke upon her.
Hero, if you're true to form
Then soon the boon to you was sworn
I promise will be granted shortly."
The tailor, now, quite curt and portly
Leaves behind his chambers courtly,
Out upon this second sally.
"What's one little Unicorn?" he
Muses, winding down the valley.
"Shan't give me much trouble, shall she?"
On he walks with yoke in hand,
The blithest bloke that you could stand.
Well then, here is what he planned.
He finds the mystic creature's glade,
A hidden plot of holy land
In which the creature often stayed.
He meets its eyes. The faery brays.
Then as its eyes brim up with bloodlust,
Overflowing as a flood must,
Its hooves go thudding, central stud thrust
Straight between the tailor's ribs!
The tailor, sprightly as a wind gust
Finds where the nearest oak tree is;
And glibber than a schoolboy's glib,
He hops behind it, meanwhile taunting
The unicorrn that's at him vaunting
In a manner rather daunting!
Sure enough, the horn's embedded
In the oak! Now nothing's wanting
Save the yoke, which on its head is
Placed. So now this daemon dreaded
With the entire tree in train
Is ferried back to the king's domain.
The horse and king feel equal shame
To note the tailor's strange success.
He asks about the deal again—
The king replies—well, can you guess?—
"Our kingdom has just one more mess!
Please save us from the Giant Boar!"
"One Giant Boar? You cannot lure
For me, to fight, say, six boars more?"
The king, well, laughs. Nervously.
Very nervously, for sure.
The tailor toddles off to see
The huntsmen thereabouts who be.
He finds that half have arms in slings,
Bandages, and other things,
Like bruises, welts, and wounds and stings.
They've met the Boar before and grappled.
The tailor tells them, "Tell the king
To bring a roasting spit and apple,
And gather there, about that chapel."
And then the cheery tailor bungles,
Whistling, into this jungle
Overgrown and deeply fungal.
Then suddenly, and at a pace
To make a lesser man cry "Uncle!"
Snorting, slashing, foamy-faced
The Giant Boar does at him race.
It tumbles, seeking soon to gore him!
But just when it thinks its tusks just tore him—
"Wake up, piggly! Quit your snorin'!"
Shouts the tailor, fast retreating
Out from where he'd heretofore been.
But sure as its four hooves are beating,
The boar, the tailor's somewhere leading...
And once they reach the forest border,
The Boar gives chase, and swears no quarter...
The tailor sees its brick and mortar
And leaps in through the chapel's window!
The Boar does likewise, in short order,
And its heavy bulk does in go.
It finds the tailor's not within though—
He leaps back out and locks the door,
Trapping therein the Giant Boar!
How loud the cheerful people roar,
For now, the tailor's getting married.
The hero's happy to the core,
But otherwise, opinions vary.
The king himself is loathe and wary
To see this man he failed to slaughter
Marrying his precious daughter.
So all the peoples' eyes now water,
'Cuz everybody cries at weddings—
Although not always why they ought 'ter.
The newly-weds now set their headings
For their honeymoon and beddings.
(At which this poem daren't gawk.)
But in his sleep, the tailor talks—
"Stitch those pantaloons and socks,
Or I'll wrap you with my yard-stick!" softly
He intones. His bride just balks—
Freaks, more like it—"What, is not he
From a family high and lofty?"
As you'd guess, it very ails her
To learn her husband's just a tailor.
The king and she, from pale to paler
Go. They hatch one final ploy.
Tonight, they'll have some soldiers trail her,
And right outside her room deploy;
And when the tailor sleep enjoys,
In they'll sneak and quickly bind him;
Locked up in a box he'll find him,
In a secret carriage windin'
To a ship, who which they'll throw him
(As a box of cheese they'll sign him,
And in the ballast low they'll stow him);
And so, nevermore they'll know him.
Well, let's see how that turns out!
Where it goes, and by what route.
The soldiers all night sneak about,
Hidden just outside the room.
The "sleeping" tailor gives a shout,
"Stitch those socks, and pantaloons!
So help me, seven meet their dooms
Each time I blink. How many giants
Have I brought to meek compliance!
And by my might, and also science,
I yoked the Unicorn, and tamed
The Giant Boar's insane defiance.
My list of feats cannot be named.
And shall I fear this motley gang
Which trembles NOW OUTSIDE MY DOOR?"
And, shaken to their manly cores,
The soldiers flee.
And happy be
The tailor in this tale I tell.
A king is he,
Quite rich and free,
And may you be as well!