'Pied Piper Of Hamelin, The' by Robert Browning

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(_Written for, and inscribed to, W. M. the Younger._)


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.


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.


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.


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 tombstone!''


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 Csar,
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 b harp or b 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.''


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.
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 for 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!''


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


``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!''


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.


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,
---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 be 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!''


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.


So, Willy, let me and you be wipers
Of scores out with all men---especially pipers!
And, whether they pipe us free frm rats or frm mice,
If we've promised them aught, let us keep our promise!

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Pied Piper of Hamelin: A Masterpiece by Robert Browning

The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a timeless classic, a poem that has survived the test of time and enthralled generations of readers. Written by Robert Browning in 1842, it tells the story of a strange and magical musician who rid the town of Hamelin of its rat infestation but was betrayed by its ungrateful citizens. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, motifs, and symbols in the poem, analyze its structure and language, and uncover the deeper meanings and messages that Browning intended to convey.

Themes and Motifs

One of the main themes of The Pied Piper of Hamelin is the power of music and imagination. The Piper is not just a skilled musician, but a visionary who can enchant and transform reality with his art. His music is not only beautiful but also magical, capable of summoning rats and children alike. Moreover, his imagination is not limited by convention or fear, but is boundless and creative, as evidenced by the wondrous land of the rats and the crystal palace of the children. Through the Piper, Browning celebrates the transformative power of art and the importance of imagination in a world that often values conformity and pragmatism over creativity and wonder.

Another theme of the poem is the danger of greed and ingratitude. The citizens of Hamelin are portrayed as selfish and shortsighted, willing to exploit the Piper's talent for their own benefit but unwilling to honor their promises or show gratitude for his service. They value their possessions and wealth more than their children's lives and happiness, and are willing to betray and deceive the Piper to avoid paying him his due. By contrast, the Piper is a symbol of justice and revenge, who punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous. He is an agent of divine justice, who metes out punishment to those who deserve it and restores harmony and balance to the world.

Symbols and Imagery

The Pied Piper of Hamelin is rich in symbols and imagery, which enhance its meaning and impact. One of the most striking symbols is the rats, which represent the dark and destructive forces that threaten the town. They are not just ordinary pests, but a plague that spreads disease and death, and symbolize the sins and vices of the citizens. By exterminating the rats, the Piper not only cleanses the town of its filth but also purifies its soul and prepares it for a better future.

Another powerful symbol is the children, who represent the hope and innocence of the town. They are not just helpless victims, but active agents who follow the Piper into a new and better world. They symbolize the future generation, who will inherit the legacy of the past and shape the destiny of the world. By leading the children out of Hamelin, the Piper not only saves their lives but also offers them a chance to start anew and create a better society.

The imagery in the poem is also vivid and evocative, creating a rich and immersive world. From the dark and eerie streets of Hamelin to the bright and colorful land of the rats, from the grand and glittering palace of the children to the bleak and barren mountains beyond, Browning paints a vivid and unforgettable picture of a world in flux. His use of sound and rhythm, repetition and rhyme, creates a musical and poetic language that enhances the sensory and emotional impact of the poem.

Structure and Language

The Pied Piper of Hamelin is structured as a narrative poem, told in the third person, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. It begins with the introduction of the Piper, who offers to rid the town of its rat infestation for a fee. It then describes his successful mission and the citizens' refusal to pay him, which leads to his revenge. Finally, it concludes with the disappearance of the children and the town's lament, which echoes the Piper's warning.

The language of the poem is archaic and poetic, with a mix of old and new words, and a complex syntax and vocabulary. It is rich in alliteration, assonance, and other sound devices, which create a musical and rhythmic effect. Moreover, it is full of puns, metaphors, and other literary devices, which add depth and richness to the meaning. Browning's use of language is both playful and profound, as he uses it to explore the human condition and the mysteries of life and death.

Interpretation and Message

The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a complex and nuanced poem, which can be interpreted in various ways. One possible interpretation is that it is a critique of the greed and corruption of human society, and a warning against the consequences of betraying one's promises and ignoring one's obligations. The Piper can be seen as a symbol of justice and morality, who punishes those who violate the social contract and rewards those who uphold it. The rats and the children, on the other hand, represent the consequences of human actions, and the need for redemption and renewal.

Another interpretation is that the poem is a celebration of the power of art and imagination, and a call for creative and visionary thinking. The Piper can be seen as a symbol of the poet or artist, who uses his or her talent to transform reality and inspire others. The rats and the children, in this interpretation, represent the obstacles and challenges that artists face, and the need for perseverance and inspiration. The poem can be read as an invitation to embrace one's creativity and imagination, and to use them to create a better world.

In conclusion, The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a timeless masterpiece of poetry, which combines rich symbolism, vivid imagery, and musical language to create a powerful and moving narrative. It explores themes of justice, morality, imagination, and redemption, and offers a profound and thought-provoking message about the human condition. It is a poem that deserves to be read and appreciated by all those who love literature and seek to understand the mysteries of life and art.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a classic poem written by Robert Browning in 1842. This poem has been a favorite of children and adults alike for over a century. The poem tells the story of a town called Hamelin that is overrun by rats and the mysterious piper who comes to rid the town of its vermin. However, when the town refuses to pay the piper for his services, he takes revenge by leading the town's children away. This poem is a masterpiece of storytelling and has many layers of meaning that are still relevant today.

The poem begins with the town of Hamelin being overrun by rats. The rats are everywhere, and the townspeople are desperate to get rid of them. They try everything, but nothing works. Then, a mysterious piper appears and offers to rid the town of its rats for a fee. The townspeople agree, and the piper plays his magical tune, leading the rats out of the town and into the river where they drown.

However, when the piper goes to collect his fee, the town refuses to pay him. The piper is angry and decides to take revenge. He plays his magical tune again, but this time, he leads the town's children away. The children follow him out of the town and into a mountain, where they are never seen again.

The poem is a cautionary tale about the dangers of greed and the importance of keeping one's promises. The town of Hamelin is punished for its greed and refusal to pay the piper for his services. The piper is also punished for his revenge, as he is left alone with his guilt and the knowledge that he has taken innocent children away from their families.

The poem also has a deeper meaning about the power of music and the importance of art in society. The piper's magical tune is what saves the town from the rats, and it is also what leads the children away. Music has the power to move people and to create change, both for good and for bad. The poem reminds us of the importance of art in our lives and the impact it can have on society.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin is also a commentary on the relationship between adults and children. The town's adults are portrayed as greedy and selfish, while the children are innocent and trusting. The piper is able to lead the children away because they trust him and are willing to follow him. This is a reminder that adults have a responsibility to protect and care for children, and that children are vulnerable and need guidance and support.

The poem is also a reflection on the power of storytelling and the importance of passing down stories from generation to generation. The story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin has been told for centuries, and it continues to captivate audiences today. The poem reminds us of the importance of preserving our cultural heritage and passing down stories that teach important lessons and values.

In conclusion, The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a timeless classic that has captured the hearts and imaginations of generations. The poem is a cautionary tale about the dangers of greed and the importance of keeping one's promises. It is also a reflection on the power of music, the relationship between adults and children, and the importance of storytelling. The poem's themes are still relevant today, and its message is one that we should all take to heart.

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