| General Poetry
posted October 23, 2016
A Native American folk tale set to rhyme
The Rattlesnake's Promise
Around the campfire's flickering spell,
There was a story the elders would tell.
As the young ones listened to every word,
Here is the story that they heard.
Once a lad who was put to the test,
Ventured out on a vision quest.
High in the hills he was instructed to go,
Leaving the warmth of the valley below.
With only a blanket to ward off the chill,
Bravely he traveled up the hill.
The air grew colder as upward he plod,
There were signs of snow on the trail he trod.
Suddenly to his surprise,
A rattlesnake appeared before his eyes.
Almost frozen, the snake lay still,
Blocking his way up the hill.
“Help me oh help me,” the lad heard it plea.
“This frosted land is killing me,
I must find warmth to save my life,
This frozen earth is like a knife.
Please wrap me in the cloth you wear,
There’s warmth in there for us to share.”
Backing away, the boy shook his head,
“You're a poisonous snake,” is what he said.
“One bite from you and I will die,
I'd like to help but I'm afraid to try.
I know too well what you can do,
I'm sorry to say I can't help you.”
“Please oh please, you don't understand,
I'd never bite a helping hand.
My gratitude would ever shine,
I'll spare your life if you save mine.
This is the promise I give you,
Please believe me, my word is true.”
The promise he heard was so sincere,
The boy took a chance and ventured near.
His tender heart could not bear to see,
Any creature in such misery.
Placing the snake in the blanket he wore,
He continued on up the path once more.
At the top of the hill a fire he made,
Beside the fire the serpent was laid.
Then he prepared his own bed,
A mattress of pine to rest his head.
As he watched the setting sun,
He knew his quest had begun.
When morning came the message was clear,
He spoke to the snake curled up near.
“I carried you here and your promise you kept,
But I had a dream while I slept.
The spirits told me to go home alone,
I'm sorry to say, you're on your own.”
“No! You can't do that, I won't survive,
It's because of you I'm still alive.
What will I do when you go?
How will I survive another snow?
Don’t leave me here - take me down from this hill,
The promise I made is my promise still.”
The promise and pleas tore the boy apart,
Perhaps the spirits were testing his heart.
This pitiful creature had become his friend,
He couldn't let his life just end.
Torn with confusion he picked up the snake,
Together the journey home they'd make.
Feeling the warmth when they left the hill,
There was no more mission to fulfill.
The boy laid the snake on the ground,
When suddenly the viper spun around,
Sinking his venom deep and sure,
Breaking the promise the lad thought pure.
“Why have you done this, why did you lie?
You broke your promise and now I'll die."
The creature answered with a voice like the devil,
His evil tone harsh and level,
In a manner oh so hellishly sly,
He gleefully rasped his reply -
“Foolish child, you silly young pup,
You knew what I was when you picked me up.”
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