Слике страница

A pleasanter spot you never spied;

But, when begins my ditty,
Almost five hundred years ago,
To see the townsfolk suffer so

From vermin, was a pity.
They fought the dogs and killed the cats,

And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheese out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks' own

Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women's chats

By drowning their speaking

With shrieking and squeaking In fifty different sharps and flats.

At last the people in a body

To the Town Hall came flocking: “'Tis clear,” cried they,“our Mayor's a noddy;

“And as for our Corporation-shocking “To think we buy gowns lined with ermine “For dolts that can't or won't determine “What's best to rid us of our vermin! You hope, because you're old and obese, “To find in the furry civic robe ease? “Rouse up, sirs ! Give your brains a racking “To find the remedy we're lacking, “Or, sure as fate, we'll send you packin At this the Mayor and Corporation Quaked with a mighty consternation.

An hour they sat in council

At length the Mayor broke silence: “For a guilder I'd my ermine gown sell,

“I wish I were a mile hence!

“It's easy to bid one rack one's brain“I'm sure my poor head aches again, “I've scratched it so, and all in vain. “Oh for a trap, a trap, a trap!" Just as he said this, what should hap At the chamber door but a gentle tap? “Bless us," cried the Mayor, “what's that?” (With the Corporation as he sat, Looking little though wondrous fat; Nor brighter was his eye, nor moister Than a too-long-opened oyster, Save when at noon his paunch grew mutinous For a plate of turtle green and glutinous) “Only a scraping of shoes on the mat? Anything like the sound of a rat “Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!" “Come in!"—the Mayor cried, looking bigger: And in did come the strangest figure! His queer long coat from heel to head Was half of yellow and half of red, And he himself was tall and thin, With sharp blue eyes, each like a pin, And light loose hair, yet swarthy skin, No tuft on cheek nor beard on chin, But lips where smiles went out and in; There was no guessing his kith and kin: And nobody could enough admire The tall man and his quaint attire. Quoth one:“It's as my great-grandsire, “Starting up at the Trump of Doom's tone, “Had walked this way from his painted tomb


He advanced to the council-table: And,“ Please your honours," said he, “ I'm able, “By means of a secret charm, to draw

“All creatures living beneath the sun,

“That creep or swim or fly or run, “After me so as you never saw! “And I chiefly use my charm “On creatures that do people harm, “The mole and toad and newt and viper; “And people call me the Pied Piper. (And here they noticed round his neck

A scarf of red and yellow stripe, To match with his coat of the self-same cheque;

And at the scarf's end hung a pipe; And his fingers, they noticed, were ever straying As if impatient to be playing Upon this pipe, as low it dangled Over his vesture so old-fangled.) “Yet," said he, “poor piper as I am, “In Tartary I freed the Cham,

“Last June, from his huge swarms of gnats; “I eased in Asia the Nizam

“Of a monstrous brood of vampyre-bats : “And as for what your brain bewilders,

“If I can rid your town of rats “Will you give me a thousand guilders ?" “One? fifty thousand!”—was the exclamation Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.

Into the street the Piper stept,

Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept

In his quiet pipe the while;
Then, like a musical adept,
To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled,
Like a candle-flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling.

Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats, Brown rats, black rats, grey rats, tawny rats, Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,

Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
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 bý harp or bý psaltery “ Is breathed) called out, 'Oh 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.”

And putting press's gripe: Ile-tub-board's

You should have heard the Hamelin people Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple.

[graphic][subsumed][merged small]
« ПретходнаНастави »