Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Interpretive Reading (Project 2) - The Pied Piper of Hamelin

 (Abridged Version of the Poem by Robert Browing)


Hamelin’s Town in Brunswick, By famous Hanover city;
To see the townsfolk suffer so From a vermin, was a pity.

They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
 And Bit the babies in their cradles,

And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
 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:
 ``It’s clear,'' cried they, ``our Mayor's a noddy;
 ``And as for our Corporation -- shocking ! ``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:

``It's easy to bid one rack one's brain --
 ``I've scratched it so, and all in vain
 ``Oh for a trap, a trap, a trap!''
 Just as he said this, At the chamber door was a gentle tap

 ``Come in!'' -- the Mayor cried, looking bigger
 And in did come the strangest figure!

 He advanced to the council-table:
 ``Please your honours,'' said he, People call me the Pied Piper.''
 ``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,

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,
 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 Where all plunged and perished!

 You should have heard the Hamelin people

Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple
 -- 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.
Said the Mayor with a knowing wink
“Friend, we're not the folks to shrink ``
From the duty of giving you something to 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!
 ``Folks who put me in a passion 

 ``May find me pipe after another fashion.''

 ``How?'' cried the Mayor ``You threaten us, fellow?

Do your worst,  ``Blow your pipe there till you burst!''

 Once more the Piper stept into the street,
 And to his lips again Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane;
 And ere he blew three notes
 There was a rustling that seemed like a bustling
 Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling,
 Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes came clattering,
 Little hands clapping and little tongues chattering,
 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.

That joyous crowd at the Piper's back,
 When, lo, as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide.
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.

Alas, for Hamelin! 

The Piper and the children were gone for ever.

[Date delivered: February 16 2013

Advanced Communication Manual - Interpretive Reading
Project 2 - Interpreting Poetry
  •  To understand the differences between poetry and prose.
  • To recognize how poets use imagery, rhythm, meter, cadence, and rhyme to convey the meanings and emotions of their poetry.
  • To apply vocal techniques that will aid in the effectiveness of the reading.
Time:  Six  to Eight  Minutes


I chose this poem for interpretation for the following reasons:
a) It is based on a very well known fairy tale which I thought audience would remember and relate to.
b) The language is simple and quite contemporary considering the fact that it was written way back in 1842.
c) It is known for its  vivid imagery, wordplay and jingling rhymes, thus meeting almost all the criteria for this project.
d) Has a very simple yet powerful message - Keep up your promises; else face dire consequences. (Some Toastmasters expect every project speech to have a message !)

The original poem is three times longer than what I read out. I edited it to conform to the time limits specified for this project. 
The unabridged version is available at http://www.indiana.edu/~librcsd/etext/piper/text.html

I also found an audio rendering of this poem at http://media.libsyn.com/media/blogrelations/Audio__Pied_Piper_of_Hamelin.mp3. 
It was very useful  for my preparation for this project.

To convey the mood of the poem ,I began and ended my reading by whistling three notes.
These notes are actually the opening notes of Richard Strauss's composition "Also Sprach Zarathushtra" (1896) which was inspired by  Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical treatise of the same name. This tune was also used as the opening theme for  the movie 2001: Space Odyssey.
You can hear this musical piece (from 0:20 onwards) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLuW-GBaJ8k
 Incidentally these are the very notes (Sa-Pa-Sa) which a beginner in Carnatic Classical Music learns. Take a look at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQNbME26SrI

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Interpretive Reading Project 1 - Four Wives

[I have came out of  the one-and-half year hiatus and have resumed delivering project speeches. My goal is to achieve Advanced Communicator Silver (ACS) by mid -2014. This speech is the first step towards this goal.]

There was a rich merchant who had 4 wives.
He loved his 4th wife the most and adorned her with rich robes and treated her to delicacies. He took great care of her and gave her nothing but the best.
He also loved his 3rd wife very much. He was very proud of her and always wanted to show her off to his friends. However, the merchant was always in great fear that she might run away with some other man.
He loved his 2nd wife too. She was a very considerate person, always patient and in fact was the merchant's confidante. Whenever the merchant faced some problems, he always turned to his 2nd wife and she would always help him out and tide him through difficult times.
However, the merchant did not love his first wife. She loved him deeply, but he hardly took notice of her and neglected her totally. 

One day, the merchant fell very ill. He knew that he was going to die soon. He thought about his luxurious life and said to himself, "Now I have 4 wives with me. But when I die, I'll be alone. How lonely I'll be after my death!" 

He asked the 4th wife, "I loved you the most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company wherever I go after I die?" He expected her to say yes. But she answered, “My dear husband, I know you always loved me. But you are going to die. Now it is time for me to separate from you. Goodbye, my dear”. The answer cut like a sharp knife right into the merchant's heart.

He called his third wife to his sickbed and begged her to follow him in death. He said, “My dear, you know how much I loved you. Sometimes I was afraid that you might leave me, but I held on to you strongly. My dear, please come with me.' "No! Dear husband, how can I follow you? You loved me only for your own selfish sake. Life is so good over here! I'm going to remarry when you die!” replied the 3rd wife. The merchant's heart sank and turned cold. 

He then asked the 2nd wife, "I always turned to you for help and you've always helped me out. Now I need your help again. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?"  The 2nd wife replied, with tears in her eyes, “My dear, I pity you and I feel sad for myself. But I'm sorry; I can't help you out this time! I can only accompany you till the graveyard.” The answer came like a bolt of thunder and the merchant was devastated. 

Three wives had refused to follow him after his death. Now he recalled that he had another wife, his first wife. He had not cared for her very much. He had treated her like a slave and had always showed much displeasure with her. He now thought that if he asked her to follow him to death, she would certainly say no. 

But his loneliness and fear were so severe that he made the effort to ask her to accompany him to the other world.
The first wife gladly accepted her husband's request. 'My dear husband,' she said, 'I will go with you. Whatever happens, I am determined to be with you forever. I cannot be separated from you”.
The merchant looked at his first wife closely. She looked sick from neglect and malnutrition. Greatly grieved, the merchant regretted, "I should have taken much better care of you!”

And then he died! 

Actually, we all have 4 wives in our lives. 

The 4th wife is our body. We love our body day and night. We keep it clean, well dressed and well fed in the same manner the merchant kept his fourth wife.  But unfortunately, at the end of our life, the body, the 4th wife cannot follow us to the next world.  No matter how much time and effort we spend in making it look good, it'll leave us when we die. 

Our 3rd wife?  The third 'wife' stands for our fortune, our material things, money, property, fame, position, and job that we worked hard to attain. We are attached to them. We are afraid to lose them and wish to possess much more. There is no limit. At the end of our life these material possessions cannot follow us to death. When we die, they all go to others just as the third wife told her husband “I'm going to remarry when you die!'

The 2nd wife represents all our near and dear ones - parents, sisters, brothers, wife or husband, relatives, friends. They are all helpful and sympathetic to us when we are alive. But no matter how close they were to us when we were alive, when we die at the most what these people can do is to go as far as the graveyard or cremation ground with tears in their eyes.

The 1st wife is in fact our soul, often neglected in our pursuit of material, wealth and sensual pleasure. Guess what? It is actually the only thing that follows us wherever we go.  Let us cultivate and strengthen our soul NOW rather than to wait till we're on our deathbed.

[Date delivered: January 19 2013

Advanced Communication Manual - Interpretive Reading
Project 1 - Read a Story


  •  To understand the elements of interpretive reading.
  • To learn how to analyze a narrative and plan for effective interpretation.
  • To learn and apply vocal techniques that will aid in the effectiveness of the reading.
Time:  Eight  to Ten Minutes

I chose to read this story  because its message closely resonates with my own views about life.
The author of the story is anonymous.
There are many versions of this story available on the internet. I combined the following two versions and  I created the content for my speech by combining two such versions. These two versions are available at: