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1When God (who is to mercy most inclined)
2To punish or to
3A people, each reptile or insect
4Or basest animal
will not neglect3,
5But will their habitation so annoy,
Without a countermand, they’ll all destroy4.
Thus5Spain by rabbits,
moles made Thessaly6,
8Locusts made Africa a desert lie;
Amyclæ7serpents, did destroy;
10Flies, lice, and frogs, all Egypt did annoy;
Gyaros8, rats; and too, too many more
12Their sufferings (though not sins) did then
13This made the town of
stand in doubt11,
of those vermin they had such a rout12.
15They tried all ways,
as13poisons, traps, and cats,
16Yet still their houses pestered were with rats.
17At last a piper chanced to come that way,
18With whom they bargained, for a certain pay,
Their town of these base loathsome beasts to free14.
20The fruits of curséd avarice now see.
21This fellow piping went to
22And all the rats ran dancing after him;
23Then instantly they skipped into the stream.
24Though some may
think’t16a fiction or a dream,
25Yet true it is, for drowning was their fate;
26But how ’twas done, no story doth relate.
27For whether a
talisman17he did take,
Five such of gold the Philistines did make18,
29Or what he did, I think no man can say;
30But when he came and askéd for his pay,
burghers19in their gravity refused
32To pay the same; the piper, thus abused,
33Did vow revenge; they bid him do his worst.
34Now see how breach of promise is accursed.
35The fellow piping went away again,
36A hundred and thirty children in his train;
37Into a hill he led these pretty boys,
38And thus their parents lost their hopes and joys;
39Which, with sad hearts, they now too late
40For they, nor he, were ever heard of more.
41By these, their grievous suff’rings, you may see
42That breach of promise punished sure will be.
43Then keep your word, for better or for worse,
44Lest with these
Saxons21you partake like curse.