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Friday, July 22, 2016

Poetry Friday--Ratcatcher's Day!

It's Ratcatcher's Day! Or, a remembrance of the day, in 1376 (or 1284?), on which the Pied Piper of Hamelin reportedly lured more than 100 children from their homes in response to the townspeople not wanting to pay for ratcatching services rendered.

Poet Robert Browning wrote a poem titled "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," a lengthy detailing of the incident. Here are the first three stanzas (out of 15 total):

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 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," 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.

Here's the first part of a two-part video rendition of the poem (illustrations are by Kate Greenaway):

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  1. The rhyming patterns in this are really interesting. I haven't looked at this poem in a loooong time. Thank you for reminding me.

  2. This was such fun to read and I'm sure I've never read it before, though I know the story. Such clever rhymes--ermine, determine, vermin! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Rats! Eeewww! What a great story poem. If only people had the attention span for epic poetry that they used to, before TV, radio, DVDs and video games.

  4. I'm not sure which detail I like better, that the rats "licked the soup from the cooks’ own ladles" or that they shrieked and squeaked in "fifty different sharps and flats." Quite a ruckus!