Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door –
Only this, and nothing more.’
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore –
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore –
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door –
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; –
This it is, and nothing more,’
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,’ said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you’ – here I opened wide the door; –
Darkness there, and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!’
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!’
Merely this and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,’ said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore –
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; –
‘Tis the wind and nothing more!’
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door –
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door –
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,’ I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore –
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning – little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door –
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.’
But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered – not a feather then he fluttered –
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before –
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.’
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.’
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,’ said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore –
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore –
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.’
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,’ I cried, `thy God hath lent thee – by these angels he has sent thee
Respite – respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’
`Prophet!’ said I, `thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil! –
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted –
On this home by horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore –
Is there – is there balm in Gilead? – tell me – tell me, I implore!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’
`Prophet!’ said I, `thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us – by that God we both adore –
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore –
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’
`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I shrieked upstarting –
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! – quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’
And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!
O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills; 10
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won; 20
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
My all-time favorite poem. I memorized this while in grad-school. If you are familiar with Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series, then you will certainly recognize the story of Roland.
- My first thought was, he lied in every word,
- That hoary cripple, with malicious eye
- Askance to watch the working of his lie
- On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford
- Suppression of the glee that pursed and scored
- Its edge, at one more victim gained thereby.
- What else should he be set for, with his staff?
- What, save to waylay with his lies, ensnare
- All travellers who might find him posted there,
- And ask the road? I guessed what skull-like laugh
- Would break, what crutch ‘gin write my epitaph
- For pastime in the dusty thoroughfare,
- If at his counsel I should turn aside
- Into that ominous tract which, all agree,
- Hides the Dark Tower. Yet acquiescingly
- I did turn as he pointed: neither pride
- Nor hope rekindling at the end descried,
- So much as gladness that some end might be.
- For, what with my whole world-wide wandering,
- What with my search drawn out thro’ years, my hope
- Dwindled into a ghost not fit to cope
- With that obstreperous joy success would bring,
- I hardly tried now to rebuke the spring
- My heart made, finding failure in its scope.
- As when a sick man very near to death
- Seems dead indeed, and feels begin and end
- The tears and takes the farewell of each friend,
- And hears one bid the other go, draw breath
- Freelier outside (“since all is o’er,” he saith,
- “And the blow fallen no grieving can amend;”)
- While some discuss if near the other graves
- Be room enough for this, and when a day
- Suits best for carrying the corpse away,
- With care about the banners, scarves and staves:
- And still the man hears all, and only craves
- He may not shame such tender love and stay.
- Thus, I had so long suffered in this quest,
- Heard failure prophesied so oft, been writ
- So many times among “The Band” – to wit,
- The knights who to the Dark Tower’s search addressed
- Their steps – that just to fail as they, seemed best,
- And all the doubt was now—should I be fit?
- So, quiet as despair, I turned from him,
- That hateful cripple, out of his highway
- Into the path he pointed. All the day
- Had been a dreary one at best, and dim
- Was settling to its close, yet shot one grim
- Red leer to see the plain catch its estray.
- For mark! no sooner was I fairly found
- Pledged to the plain, after a pace or two,
- Than, pausing to throw backward a last view
- O’er the safe road, ’twas gone; grey plain all round:
- Nothing but plain to the horizon’s bound.
- I might go on; nought else remained to do.
- So, on I went. I think I never saw
- Such starved ignoble nature; nothing throve:
- For flowers – as well expect a cedar grove!
- But cockle, spurge, according to their law
- Might propagate their kind, with none to awe,
- You’d think; a burr had been a treasure trove.
- No! penury, inertness and grimace,
- In some strange sort, were the land’s portion. “See
- Or shut your eyes,” said Nature peevishly,
- “It nothing skills: I cannot help my case:
- ‘Tis the Last Judgment’s fire must cure this place,
- Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.”
- If there pushed any ragged thistle-stalk
- Above its mates, the head was chopped; the bents
- Were jealous else. What made those holes and rents
- In the dock’s harsh swarth leaves, bruised as to baulk
- All hope of greenness? ’tis a brute must walk
- Pashing their life out, with a brute’s intents.
- As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair
- In leprosy; thin dry blades pricked the mud
- Which underneath looked kneaded up with blood.
- One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare,
- Stood stupefied, however he came there:
- Thrust out past service from the devil’s stud!
- Alive? he might be dead for aught I know,
- With that red gaunt and colloped neck a-strain,
- And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane;
- Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe;
- I never saw a brute I hated so;
- He must be wicked to deserve such pain.
- I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart.
- As a man calls for wine before he fights,
- I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights,
- Ere fitly I could hope to play my part.
- Think first, fight afterwards – the soldier’s art:
- One taste of the old time sets all to rights.
- Not it! I fancied Cuthbert’s reddening face
- Beneath its garniture of curly gold,
- Dear fellow, till I almost felt him fold
- An arm in mine to fix me to the place
- That way he used. Alas, one night’s disgrace!
- Out went my heart’s new fire and left it cold.
- Giles then, the soul of honour – there he stands
- Frank as ten years ago when knighted first.
- What honest men should dare (he said) he durst.
- Good – but the scene shifts – faugh! what hangman hands
- Pin to his breast a parchment? His own bands
- Read it. Poor traitor, spit upon and curst!
- Better this present than a past like that;
- Back therefore to my darkening path again!
- No sound, no sight as far as eye could strain.
- Will the night send a howlet or a bat?
- I asked: when something on the dismal flat
- Came to arrest my thoughts and change their train.
- A sudden little river crossed my path
- As unexpected as a serpent comes.
- No sluggish tide congenial to the glooms;
- This, as it frothed by, might have been a bath
- For the fiend’s glowing hoof – to see the wrath
- Of its black eddy bespate with flakes and spumes.
- So petty yet so spiteful! All along
- Low scrubby alders kneeled down over it;
- Drenched willows flung them headlong in a fit
- Of mute despair, a suicidal throng:
- The river which had done them all the wrong,
- Whate’er that was, rolled by, deterred no whit.
- Which, while I forded, – good saints, how I feared
- To set my foot upon a dead man’s cheek,
- Each step, or feel the spear I thrust to seek
- For hollows, tangled in his hair or beard!
- —It may have been a water-rat I speared,
- But, ugh! it sounded like a baby’s shriek.
- Glad was I when I reached the other bank.
- Now for a better country. Vain presage!
- Who were the strugglers, what war did they wage,
- Whose savage trample thus could pad the dank
- Soil to a plash? Toads in a poisoned tank,
- Or wild cats in a red-hot iron cage—
- The fight must so have seemed in that fell cirque.
- What penned them there, with all the plain to choose?
- No foot-print leading to that horrid mews,
- None out of it. Mad brewage set to work
- Their brains, no doubt, like galley-slaves the Turk
- Pits for his pastime, Christians against Jews.
- And more than that – a furlong on – why, there!
- What bad use was that engine for, that wheel,
- Or brake, not wheel – that harrow fit to reel
- Men’s bodies out like silk? with all the air
- Of Tophet’s tool, on earth left unaware,
- Or brought to sharpen its rusty teeth of steel.
- Then came a bit of stubbed ground, once a wood,
- Next a marsh, it would seem, and now mere earth
- Desperate and done with; (so a fool finds mirth,
- Makes a thing and then mars it, till his mood
- Changes and off he goes!) within a rood—
- Bog, clay and rubble, sand and stark black dearth.
- Now blotches rankling, coloured gay and grim,
- Now patches where some leanness of the soil’s
- Broke into moss or substances like boils;
- Then came some palsied oak, a cleft in him
- Like a distorted mouth that splits its rim
- Gaping at death, and dies while it recoils.
- And just as far as ever from the end!
- Nought in the distance but the evening, nought
- To point my footstep further! At the thought,
- A great black bird, Apollyon’s bosom-friend,
- Sailed past, nor beat his wide wing dragon-penned
- That brushed my cap—perchance the guide I sought.
- For, looking up, aware I somehow grew,
- ‘Spite of the dusk, the plain had given place
- All round to mountains – with such name to grace
- Mere ugly heights and heaps now stolen in view.
- How thus they had surprised me, – solve it, you!
- How to get from them was no clearer case.
- Yet half I seemed to recognise some trick
- Of mischief happened to me, God knows when—
- In a bad dream perhaps. Here ended, then,
- Progress this way. When, in the very nick
- Of giving up, one time more, came a click
- As when a trap shuts – you’re inside the den!
- Burningly it came on me all at once,
- This was the place! those two hills on the right,
- Crouched like two bulls locked horn in horn in fight;
- While to the left, a tall scalped mountain… Dunce,
- Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce,
- After a life spent training for the sight!
- What in the midst lay but the Tower itself?
- The round squat turret, blind as the fool’s heart
- Built of brown stone, without a counterpart
- In the whole world. The tempest’s mocking elf
- Points to the shipman thus the unseen shelf
- He strikes on, only when the timbers start.
- Not see? because of night perhaps? – why, day
- Came back again for that! before it left,
- The dying sunset kindled through a cleft:
- The hills, like giants at a hunting, lay
- Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay,—
- “Now stab and end the creature – to the heft!”
- Not hear? when noise was everywhere! it tolled
- Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears
- Of all the lost adventurers my peers,—
- How such a one was strong, and such was bold,
- And such was fortunate, yet each of old
- Lost, lost! one moment knelled the woe of years.
- There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met
- To view the last of me, a living frame
- For one more picture! in a sheet of flame
- I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
- Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
- And blew “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.“
It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an agèd wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades2
Vexed the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honoured of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy3.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles4,
And see the great Achilles5, whom we knew
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
conveying us all
to that enigmatic center
lifeless as an aborted premonition
A Mile Above Street-Level
your noise fades to the horizon.
The dream’s derailment become
a vicious nightmare of unfulfilled potential.
Savages in strange lands
beat their chests
and gnash their teeth.
At the moment of conception
the moment of departure
wherein the penitent soul resides unseen.
I hear your voice
and feel your silence say
by Seth Hunter Perkins
In the House of Silent Voices,
Dust has settled on the floor
Obscuring all footprints but mine.
The living room photographs of our youth’s ambition
distorted by the ravages of neglect :
That which is unseen does not shine.
The Dining Room table is set
its last meal untouched where it was left
and the centerpiece token
unrevealed, undisclosed, unspoken,
Lies untouched, nevertheless broken.
The Bedroom heart which once dreamed,
in eyes captured in reflections between:
with lightning and thunder,
the gaping wound healing never
condemning to dust.
While the Silent Voices in the basement speak
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 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 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 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 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 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 honors,” 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 selfsame 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 vampire-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 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 the 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.”
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 gypsy 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 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 bait 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 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 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 the 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 endeavor,
And Piper and dancers were gone forever,
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 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 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 you and me 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.