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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, “O 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.
To pay this sum to a wandering fellow
With a gipsy coat of red and yellow!
“Besides," 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.
Besides, 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 stepped 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 farmyard, 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 rolled its waters,
Pight 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's 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 !”
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 soon they saw 'twas a lost endeavour,
For piper and dancers were gone for ever.
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, that ascribe
The outlandish ways and dress,
On which their neighbours lay such stress,
To their fathers and mothers having risen
Out of some subterranean prison
Into which they were trepanned,
Long ago, in a mighty band,
Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick land;
But how, or why, they don't understand.
THE SULIOTE MOTHER.
SAE stood upon the loftiest peak,
Amidst the dark-blue sky;
A bitter smile was on her cheek,
And a dark flash in her eye. “Dost thou see them, boy ? through the dusky pines, Dost thou see where the foemen's armour shines ? Hast thou caught the gleam of the conqueror's crest ! My babe! that I cradled on my breast ! Wouldst thou spring from thy mother's arms with joy? – That sight hath cost thee a father, boy !"
For in the rocky strait beneath
Lay Suliote sire and son;
They had heaped high the piles of death,
Before the pass was won.
“They have crossed the torrent, and on they come !
Woe for the mountain hearth and home!
There, where the hunter laid by his spear;
There, where the lyre hath been sweet to hear;