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

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