The Pied Piper

Concept Album, 2013

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After the poem "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" by Robert Browning.

Prologue


Hamelin Town's in Brunswick,
By 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,
five hundred years ago,
To see the townsfolk suffer so
From vermin, was a pity.

Rats / Town Hall Meeting


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 cooks' own ladle's,
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," they cried, 'our Mayor's a noddy;
And as for our Corporation--shocking
To think we buy gowns lined with ermine
For dolts who can't or won't determine
What's best to rid us of our vermin!

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?"
"Only the scraping of shoes on the mat.
Anything like the sound of a rat
Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!"

The Pied Piper


"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.

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 noone could enough admire
The tall man and his quaint attire.
He advanced to the council-table:
"Please your honors," he said, "I'm able,
By means of a secret charm, to draw
All creatures 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, the newt and viper;
And people call me the Pied Piper."

Here they noticed round his neck
A scarf of red and yellow stripe,
To match with his coat of the self-same check;
And at the scarf's end hung a pipe;
And his fingers, they noticed, were ever straying
As if impatient to be playing on this pipe.

"Yet," said he, "poor piper as I am,
In Tartary I freed the Cham,
Last June, from his huge swarm 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 one thousand guilders?"

"One? Fifty thousand!" - was the exclamation
Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.

Disinfestation


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 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, gray 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 river Weser
Wherein all plunged and perished!
Save one who, stout as Julius Caesar,
Swam across and lived to carry
(As the manuscript he cherished)
To Rat-land home his commentary:
"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 it seemed as if a voice
called out, 'Oh rats, rejoice!
Munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon,
Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon!'
As a bulky sugar-puncheon,
ready staved, like a great sun shone
Glorious scarce an inch before me,
Just as methought it said 'Come bore me!'
-- I found the river rolling o'er me."

Day Of Reckoning


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:
"First, if you please, my thousand guilders!"
The Mayor looked blue;
And so did the Corporation too.
"Well," quoth the Mayor with a knowing wink,
"Our business was done at the river's brink;
We saw with our own 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.

But as for the money, what we spoke,
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 dinnertime
Bagdad, 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."

"You threaten us? Do your worst,
Blow your pipe there till you burst!"

The Piper's Revenge


Once more he stept into the street
And to his lips again
He laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane;
And ere he blew three notes so sweet
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.
It was a rustling, an ant-like bustling
Of merry crowds jostling, a pitching and hustling.
Those small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering,
Little hands clapping, and little tongues chattering.

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 only could 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 river rolled its waters
Right in the way of their sons and daughters!
However he turned from South to West.
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, as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed.
The Piper advanced. The children followed.

Promised Land


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 cannot 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,
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 cured,
The music stopped
And I found myself outside the hill,
Left alone against my will,
To go limping now just as before,
And never hear of that country no more!

Epilogue


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
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
But in Transylvania there's a tribe
Of alien people who 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 time ago in a mighty band
Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick land,
But how or why they don't understand.

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