THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN
ListenI. 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 soFrom vermin, was a pity.
ListenII. 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 cook's 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 speakingWith shrieking and squeakingIn fifty different sharps and flats.
ListenIII. At last the people in a bodyTo the Town Hall came flocking:"Tis clear," cried they, "our Mayor's a noddy;And as for our Corporation—shockingTo think we buy gowns lined with ermineFor dolts that can't or won't determineWhat'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 rackingTo find the remedy we're lacking,Or, sure as fate, we'll send you packing!"At this the Mayor and CorporationQuaked with a mighty consternation.
ListenIV. An hour they sate 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 vainOh for a trap, a trap, a trap!"Just as he said this, what should hapAt 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 moisterThan a too-long-opened oyster,Save when at noon his paunch grew mutinousFor a plate of turtle green and glutinous)"Only a scraping of shoes on the mat?Anything like the sound of a ratMakes my heart go pit-a-pat!"
ListenV. "Come in!"—the Mayor cried, looking bigger:And in did come the strangest figure!His queer long coat from heel to headWas 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 skinNo 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 admireThe 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!"
ListenVI. He advanced to the council-table:And, "Please your honours," said he, "I'm able,By means of a secret charm, to drawAll 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 charmOn 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 neckA 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 strayingAs if impatient to be playingUpon his pipe, as low it dangledOver 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 NizamOf a monstrous brood of vampyre-bats:And as for what your brain bewilders,If I can rid your town of ratsWill you give me a thousand guilders?""One?...