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Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
Families by tens and dozens, Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives Followed the Piper for their lives. From street to street he piped advancing, And step for step they followed dancing, Until they came to the river Weser Wherein all plunged and perished, - Save one who, stout as Julius Cæsar, Swam across and lived to carry (As he the manuscript he cherished) To Rat-land home his commentary, Which was, “ At the first shrill notes of the pipe, I heard a sound as of scraping tripe, And putting apples, wondrous ripe, Into a cider-press's gripe : And a moving away of pickle-tub-boards, And a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards, And a drawing the corks of train-oil-flasks, And a breaking the hoops of butter-casks ; And it seemed as if a voice (Sweeter far than by harp or by psaltery Is breathed) called out, 0 rats, rejoice! The world is grown to one vast drysaltery! So munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon, Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon! And just as a bulky sugar-puncheon, All ready staved, like a great sun shone Glorious scarce an inch before me, Just as methought it said, Come, bore me !
I found the Weser rolling o'er me.”
You should have heard the Hamelin people
Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple;
“Go,” cried the Mayor, “ and get long poles !
Poke out the nests and block up the holes !
Consult with carpenters' and builders,
And leave in our town not even a trace
Of the rats!” when suddenly up the face
Of the Piper perked in the market-place,
With a, “ First if you please, my thousand guilders!”
A thousand guilders! The Mayor looked blue;
So did the Corporation too.
For council dinners made rare harock
With Claret, Moselle, Vin-de-Grave, Hock;
And half the money would replenish
Their cellar's biggest butt with Rhenish.
To pay this sum to a wandering fellow
With a gypsy coat of red and yellow!
“Beside,” quoth the Mayor with a knowing wink,
“Our business was done at the river's brink;
We saw with our eyes the vermin sink,
And what's dead can't come to life I think.
So, friend, we ’re not the folks to shrink
From the duty of giving you something for drink,
And a matter of money to put in your poke;
But, as for the guilders, what we spoke
Of them, as you very well know, was in joke.
Beside, our losses have made us thrifty;
A thousand guilders! Come, take fifty!”
The Piper's face fell, and he cried,
“No trifling! I can't wait, beside!
I've promised to visit by dinner time
Bagdat, and accept the prime
Of the Head Cook’s pottage, all he's rich in,
For having left, in the Caliph's kitchen,
Of a nest of scorpions no survivor, —
With him I proved no bargain-driver,
With you, don't think I'll bate a stiver !
And folks who put me in a passion
May find me pipe to another fashion.”
“ How.?” cried the Mayor, “d'ye think I 'll brook
Being worse treated than a Cook?
Insulted by a lazy ribald
With idle pipe and vesture piebald ?
You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst,
Blow your pipe there till you burst!
Once more he stept into the street;
And to his lips again
Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane;
And ere he blew three notes (such sweet
Soft notes as yet musician's cunning
Never gave the enraptured air) There was a rustling, that seemed like a bustling Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling, Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering, Little hands clapping, and little tongues chattering, And, like fowls in a farm-yard when barley is scattering, Out came the children running. All the little boys and girls, With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls, And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls, Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after The wonderful music with shouting and laughter. The Mayor was dumb, and the Council stood As if they were changed into blocks of wood, Unable to move a step, or cry To the children merrily skipping by, – And could only follow with the eye That joyous crowd at the Piper's back. But how the Mayor was on the rack, And the wretched Council's bosoms beat, As the Piper turned from the High Street To where the Weser volled its waters Right in the way of their sons and daughters ! However he turned from South to West, And to Koppelberg Hill his steps addressed, And after him the children pressed ; Great was the joy in every breast. “ He never can cross that mighty top! He's forced to let the piping drop, And we shall see our children stop!”
When, lo! as they reached the mountain's side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain side shut fast.
Did I say all ? No. One was lame,
And could not dance the whole of the way;
And in after years, if you would blame
His sadness, he was used to say,-
“It's dull in our town since my playmates left !
I can't forget that I'm bereft
Of all the pleasant sights they see,
Which the Piper also promised me;
For he led us, he said, to a joyous land,
Joining the town and just at band,
Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew,
And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
And everything was strange and new;
The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
And honey-bees had lost their stings,
And horses were born with eagles' wings;
And just as I became assured
My lame foot would be speedily cured,
The music stopped and I stood still,
And found myself outside the Hill,
Left alone against my will,
To go now limping as before,
And never hear of that country more!”
Alas! alas for Hamelin !
There came into many a burgher's pate
A text which says, that Heaven's Gate
Opes to the Rich at as easy rate
As the needle's eye takes a camel in !
The Mayor sent East, West, North, and South
To offer the Piper by word of mouth,
Wherever it was men's lot to find him,
Silver and gold to his heart's content,
If he 'd only return the way he went,
And bring the children behind him.
But when they saw 't was a lost endeavor,
And Piper and dancers were gone forever,
They made a decree that lawyers never
Should think their records dated duly
If, after the day of the month and year,
These words did not as well appear,
“And so long after what happened here
On the Twenty-second of Júly,
Thirteen hundred and Seventy-six":
And the better in memory to fix
The place of the Children's last retreat;
They called it, the Pied Piper's Street, —
Where any one playing on pipe or tabor
Was sure for the future to lose his labor.
Nor suffered they Hostelry or Tavern
To shock with mirth a street so solemn;
But opposite the place of the cavern
They wrote the story on a column,
And on the Great Church Window painted
The same, to make the world acquainted
How their children were stolen away ;
And there it stands to this very day.
And I must not omit to say
That in Transylvania there's a tribe
Of alien people that ascribe
The outlandish ways and dress
On which their neighbors lay such stress,
To their fathers and mothers having risen
Out of some subterraneous prison
Into which they were trepanned
Long time ago in a mighty band
Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick land,
But how or why, they don't understand.
So, Willy, let you and me be wipers
Of scores out with all men especially pipers :
And, whether they pipe us free from rats or from mice,
If we've promised them aught, let us keep our promise.