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Selections from the Poems and Plays of Robert Browning By Robert Browning Characters: 2011

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Into the street the Piper stepped,

Smiling first a little smile,

As if he knew what magic slept100

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;105

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.110

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,115

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,120

Until they came to the river Weser,

Wh

erein all plunged and perished!

-Save one who, stout as Julius C?sar,

Swam across and lived to carry

(As he, the manuscript he cherished)125

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:130

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 voice135

(Sweeter far than by harp or by psaltery

Is breathed) called out, 'O rats, rejoice!

The world is grown to one vast drysaltery!

So munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon,

Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon!'140

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."145

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