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Poem Post: The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Of all the poets I’ve read recently, William Blake, Robert Browning, and T.S. Eliot are my favorites.

I had read some Browning in previous years, namely “My Last Duchess.” That particular poem I hadn’t much care for, but after recently reading “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” I decided to revise my opinion on the poet.

The story goes that in 1384 a Piper came and stole away the children of Hamelin. Many theories ranging from famine to disease to emigration have been put forth to explain this unlikely story that is both tragic and ridiculous.

When I came across Browning’s poem, I remembered the Piper from Shrek 4. The scene where he captures all of the fearsome ogres by making them dance is my favorite scene. I was also reminded of Hartley Rathaway/Pied Piper and the Music Meister from The Flash, who are undoubtedly the coolest villains (besides Captain Cold) I’ve seen in the DC universe.

What was I saying about poetry? Oh, yeah.

Full of lyrically pleasing rhymes and clever plays on words, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” is quite amusing, despite the dark nature of the story itself. My favorite stanzas are the following:

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!”

In its humor and rhyming schemes, the poem brings to mind “The Jumblies” by Edward Lear, which I really got a kick out of when I was younger.

I definitely recommend that you improve “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” experience by listening to it as well as reading it. THIS recording is pretty good in my opinion.piper.jpg

As a side note: After reading this poem, I read the Jay Asher’s graphic novel Piper, and I was seriously disappointed. Enjoying graphic novels is a trial for me. I don’t know why. I enjoy action-packed stories and illustration, but graphic novels are just something I’ve never gotten into that much.

That being said, I really felt that Asher and Freeburg could’ve done a much better job with the story. There were a lot of good details the authors used to round out the tale, but there wasn’t nearly enough of the Piper. He was more like a secondary character than the main antagonist (or protagonist). I did like the illustrations, but overall I wouldn’t really recommend reading it.

Conclusion: 1) The Pied Piper is an intriguing character who has a lot of unrecognized much story potential. 2) I want to read more Robert Browning.

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