All highlighted words are directly linked to the Glossary    
           
Verse One Verse Six Verse Eleven
Verse Two Verse Seven Verse Twelve
Verse Three Verse Eight Verse Thirteen
Verse Four Verse Nine Verse Fourteen
Verse Five Verse Ten Verse Fifteen

 

 

Verse 1

Hamelin Town's in Brunswick,
By famous Hanover city;
The river Weser, deep and wide,
Washes its wall on the southern side;
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.

 

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Verse 2

Rats!
They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the
vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles,
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.

 

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Verse 3

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 packing!''
At this the Mayor and Corporation
Quaked with a mighty
consternation.

 

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Verse 4

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!''

 

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Verse 5

``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 smile 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 tombstone!''

 

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Verse 6

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.

 

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Verse 7

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 Caesar,
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, `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.''

 

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Verse 8

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!''

 

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Verse 9

A thousand guilders! The Mayor looked blue;
So did the
Corporation too.
For council dinners made rare havoc
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 gipsy 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 to 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!''

 

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Verse 10

The Piper's face fell, and he cried,
``No
trifling! I can't wait, beside!
I've promised to visit by dinner-time
Baghdad, 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 after another fashion.''

 

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Verse 11

``How?'' cried the Mayor, ``d'ye think I 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!''

 

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Verse 12

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.

 

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Verse 13

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 roll’d 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-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 hand,
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!''

 

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Verse 14

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 'twas a lost
endeavour,
And Piper and dancers were gone for ever,
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 July,
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 labour.
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 who
ascribe
The
outlandish ways and dress
On which their neighbours 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.

 

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Verse 15

So, Willy, let me and you 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!

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The Pied Piper of Hamelin he Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning   
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