Page images
PDF
EPUB

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.”

XCI. — SAME SUBJECT CONCLUDED.

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 guilder.!"

A thousand guilders! The mayor looked blue;
So did the corporation too.
To pay this sum to a wandering fellow
With a gypsy 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 cau 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 farm yard, when barley is scatterings
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,
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 hand,
Where waters gushed and fruit trees grew,
And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
And every thing 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 endeavor,
For piper and dancers were gone forever

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 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.

« PreviousContinue »